Square and happy

It’s a good thing I took some time to rest yesterday, because my schedule is pretty full today. I’m excited, though, because there’s a big holiday square dance going on, full of many other dancers I’ve never met. My group is planning to dance among them. It should be a really good time, whirling around in the Seattle Center and celebrating the season. I hope you all are going to have some fun today, too.

See you tomorrow!

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A substitution I support

Today is Friday, my favorite day of the week. This is not because I am happy to see the work week go—I’m currently unemployed, so I’m looking for work most days of the week. I am happy it’s Friday, because I am happy to see Friday come. On Friday nights, I go out country dancing. I do a lot of different dancing throughout the week, and I love it all. I love Fridays best, because I go to a bar where I get to do a whole mix of things—line dancing, two-step, waltz, and many more. I’ve made lots of friends amongst the other regulars, and I love the classes they give at the beginning of the evening. It’s one of the ways I improve my skills.

Sometimes dancing is hard for me. My joints don’t always behave, and I’m sometimes so sore I can barely stand it. On Saturday mornings I find it hard to start moving, but I still cannot wait to go out and do it again. The great thing about this is that I’ve finally found an exercise plan that works for me—I’m getting in better shape all the time, and there is no willpower involved. I cannot wait until the next opportunity comes up to go dancing. I’d go seven days a week if the venues were available.

I’m trying to keep this in mind as I start making the rounds of holiday parties. It seems almost effortless for me to exercise because I have made the most joyful choice. I’m trying to remember to think that way about what I eat, too. If I go for things I really love, I won’t be focusing as much on what I need to avoid. There are, of course, some things that fall into both categories, but the unhealthy foods cause after effects that are less than joyful. I’m trying to remember that. In the meantime I’ve found some lovely Christmas tea that is fat-free, sugar-free, and flat out yummy. I’ll drink to that.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

208. As you face the inevitable health challenges of the holidays, try to let joy be your guide. It’s much more fun than guilt ever was.

The brain loves new things

Dancing has been a little awkward lately, and it’s not just me that’s having difficulty. Several of my square dancing friends are learning the opposite gender roles from the ones they are currently dancing. Boys are becoming girls and vice versa. Their brains understand the differences, but muscle memory reverts to the parts they already know so well.

My problem is similar to theirs. Now that I’ve been dancing two-step for about six months, I’m trying to learn to lead. Following comes naturally at this point, and I can do all sorts of fancy maneuvers with the right lead.

I’m finding the switch a tricky proposition. Leaders have more details to keep in mind—they have to plan the moves a bit ahead of time, while making sure they don’t steer their partners into someone on a crowded and constantly shifting dance floor. The hardest part, for me, is fighting that tricky muscle memory. Follows start on the right foot while leads start on the left. My feet tend to shift while I dance, forgetting that I have now changed roles. It can be frustrating.

I sometimes wonder why I am putting myself through this torture. I actually prefer to follow, but I know I’ll be a better dancer if I learn both roles. I want to be flexible enough to dance with everyone, and I also have a stubborn streak. Once I find something to be difficult, I don’t like to quit until I get it mastered. I want to choose to follow, not remain locked into one role because I am unable to lead. Perhaps I’ll even end up preferring it. I won’t know until I improve.

I was discussing this with my friend the other night. He was frustrated because he could not remember which hand to use on a square dance call in his new role as a boy. I reminded him that he is only having this difficulty because he’s learning new things, because he’s challenging himself. I think it’s more important to keep learning that it is to be perfect, and I told him so. I think he felt better.

As for me, I led a partner in a complex move on the dance floor last Friday, and she didn’t break. She even enjoyed it. That’s worth all the funky turns and confused footwork it took me to get there.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

186. Try something more advanced in a skill you’ve already acquired, or try doing a familiar task in an entirely new way.

Twirling around the room

I had a lesson this weekend in the power of ceremony and tradition. Saturday night I went to my club’s monthly square dance, and the theme was graduation. The twenty-week class which I took had just finished, certifying a bunch of us as mainstream dancers. This means that we have learned all of the calls in that level, although we still need lots of practice. During the dance, they held a small graduation ceremony for us, but first they gave us a final exam. During this examination dance we received some very silly hazing. I won’t tell you what it was, because rituals like this should remain secret. The fun is in the surprise, and I wouldn’t want any of the new dancers to learn of it before their time comes. I won’t forget the graduation dance, and that’s what matters.

We also received humorous diplomas and our official club name tags. I enjoyed the whole thing, because it felt like we were being welcomed into the group even further, and that’s a great feeling to have. Our group is full of incredibly fun and friendly people. That’s one of the reasons I love square dancing so much. I love the laid-back nature of it all, the silly noises we make as we dance and the way everyone in a square jokes around with each other. I also love that some of our dancers dress up for the monthly dance.

Now that I’ve completed the mainstream level of classes, I am attending the same class again as an “angel.”  Angels are people who come to the classes to help the new students with their experience, and also to help fill out the squares. I’m glad that I can give back to the club while I practice, and it gives me more chances to dance, too. It’s a win-win situation, and I know that I’ll become a better dancer as I help the new people. I’ll also get to know the newest members of our club. Square dancing is very social. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn its lessons for a long time.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

180. Are you part of organizations that add joy to your life? How can you give back to those groups? Consider your options.

And lots of songs about trucks

I had a strange moment on Friday evening, and I’d like to share it with you. I was out country dancing, and had taken a break for a moment because I’d just done two really fast line dances in a row. As I caught my breath and watched the other dancers doing the two-step, I sang along with the music. This is when the weirdness occurred. I realized I was singing about farm equipment, and that I knew all the words. I thought about it a little more that evening, and I know the words to lots of songs about farm equipment.

I grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York. The state has plenty of rural regions, but the area I am from is not one of them. I’d never seen a combine or a grain elevator before I moved to Minnesota, and I certainly could not have told you what they were for. As I’ve learned to love country music, I’ve gotten even more familiar with these things. I think that’s great. I think that writers ought to know at least a little about a lot of things, and it’s interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone who has grown up with a different experience than your own. The song I was singing along with is called International Harvester, and it’s sung by Craig Morgan. It’s a great two-step song, and I think the lyrics are intriguing. The singer talks about how it feels to be driving down the highway at five miles per hour on his combine and have all the cars honking at him when he’s only trying to do his job.

I’d never thought about it from that perspective before. I’ve done a lot of driving on back roads, and I’ve gotten behind some of those slow-moving farm vehicles. I’ve also been stuck behind Amish buggies. I realized they couldn’t go any faster, but I never thought about how frustrating it must be to have angry drivers behind them. I love to have my world expanded like this. I can’t wait to see what next new perspective will cross my path. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

146. When was the last time you were exposed to a new perspective on life? Seek one out. One idea is to page through specialty or trade magazines. You can learn a lot by seeing what others focus on.

Mixing it up

Special Note: My blog is veering from its usual format for a few days as I take time to attend the Emerald City Hoedown, a three day celebration of country music and dancing. I’m going to be really busy dancing and socializing—it’s like a mini-vacation right here in Seattle. Yay! Pigeons will return to its usual format on Tuesday, April 29th. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the change of pace.

I don’t read very many blogs, although I am busily at work creating my own. There are many reasons for this, chief among them that I’m too busy doing other things. The world is too marvelous a place to spend all one’s time staring at a computer screen. While I’m off dancing, I thought I’d share with you some of the blogs I do find particularly wonderful.

Today I’d like to recommend Winter in Asheville. It’s written by my best friend, Laurel Winter, who is an excellent writer and artist. Her blog features some of her lovely artwork and photos as well as joyful essays on what she’s doing with her time. It’s a fun and uplifting read. Best of all, Laurie includes an ongoing list of things to do instead of reading blogs. Enjoy this excerpt here, and follow the link to the rest!

How the cello acquired me  (from Winter in Asheville by Laurel Winter)

What a week it has been since last I posted. Humming & sparkly & chocolaty good. GeeWhizBang & all that. I’d take it apart & give you all the details, but then it might stop working. (Who am I kidding? That’s just an excuse to give you the highlights & get on to the rest of the beauty of the here & now.)  Continued at  http://laurelwinter.blogspot.com/2008/03/how-cello-acquired-me.html

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about Quizno’s, dentists and sheep. Stay tuned!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

88. Read the rest of the blog post above, and maybe enjoy some others. Did you ever play a musical instrument? Tell someone that story.

Mine are black

Today I want to talk about boots. Boots are one of those things that most people don’t think about very often. You pull them on, you pull them off. It starts snowing and you grab for them to keep your feet warm. Unless you’re a shoe fiend who lusts for a new pair of thigh-highs or lace-ups, you may not think about boots very often at all. 

I am not a shoe fiend. I can’t afford to be, but more to the point, my feet do not cooperate with most footwear. I have wide flat feet and muscular calves. I have trouble finding regular shoes, and snow boots are hard to come by. Luckily, in Seattle, I no longer need them.

This weekend I went out to buy cowboy boots for all the country dancing I’ve been doing. I needed their ankle support, their slippery bottoms, and their solid heels. A girl wants to make a proper stomp while she’s line dancing, and it’s much easier to glide and spin in the proper soles.

I turned myself over to the capable guidance of Renton Western Wear. I explained what I wanted the boots for, and what some of the issues might be with the fit. Then I started to try on boots. It was such a surprise! You know those loops on the sides of cowboy boots? I found out what those are for. Those are to put the hooks into. Hooks, you ask? Yes, hooks. You take a handled hook into each hand, slip it through the boot loops and yank your boot on. Want the boots off? There’s equipment for that, too. You place one foot on an angled board and hook your heel into an indent. Voila—you are ready to yank your boot off.

I ended up buying a much simpler pair. They come up to mid-calf and lace all the way there. No tools are required, and they’ve got a lovely heel and suitably slippery bottom. I’ll dance a lot of miles in these shoes, but more than that, I’ll always have the memory of buying them. I’ll never look at those little boot loops the same way again. I am now a person who notices boots. All this in one morning—it was a very productive trip.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

78. Find out about something you’ve never encountered. Ask a friend about an unusual hobby or visit a factory to see how something is made. Does it change your perspective on things?