Thursday, January 25, 2007

I've started swing dance club, and I'm really enjoying it. I don't know what I'm doing, but I feel like it's something I could really be good at and have a lot of fun, too. And I miss dancing. Oh, I miss dancing.

I started dance when I was two- almost three- years old. Mom enrolled me in a class at the YWCA, and she said she was pretty sure I'd be good because I was really graceful as a kid. I don't even remember starting dance, I was so young. I do remember some lessons in the room of the YWCA, watching myself in the mirror while I danced, holding the barre-on-wheels in my leotard, tights, and tiny black ballet shoes (only beginners generally wear black shoes). I loved dance. At one point I tried a session of gymnastics, and I liked it, but my parents tried to limit each kid to one major activity when we were little, and I decided to stick with dance. I learned ballet and tap from a lady named Heather for a few years, until her student clientèle got so small (me and one other student) that she quit teaching.

Heather recommended two studios in town- one owned by her former teacher, and one owned by a lady she had studied with under the first teacher. Both were strong proponents of proper technique, and she knew both to be very good teachers. I went to the first studio for a lesson, but the class was terrible. The other girls were talking and misbehaving, and the dance teacher got so mad that she screamed at them and cracked her clipboard in half. I think I was about six at the time, and I was terrified of the old lady.

I visited the second studio with caution, but liked it much better. The teacher was younger, but obviously very experienced, and had a nice studio. She seemed like a good teacher, and very nice, and I started to take lessons there, from Kristie. (If you visit her website, which I just found, I'm in the second picture in the slideshow! So are a million other girls, but I'm still happy.)

I continued to take lessons from Kristie for about ten years, and during that time I met lots of friends from both my school and others. One, in particular, later joined my class in school, and is one of my best friends today despite living across the country (yay for Dominique!). I saw most of the same girls, who were about my level, at least twice a week for rehearsals. My honorary grandmother had always promised to buy my first pair of pointe shoes; apparently she'd danced when she was young and then quit, and had always regretted it. Finally, my dance teacher said I was ready to move up on pointe, and I was thrilled. Grandma Fran sent a check, and I was off to get fitted for my first pair of pointe shoes. After learning just the basics, my parents filmed a short video clip of me dancing on pointe to send to my grandma, and shortly thereafter, she died of cancer. Maybe not in person, but she did get to see me dance on pointe before she died, and that makes me happy. I danced on pointe as well as flat from then on.

One year I was in Stage Struck, the performing group. Quite a few of my dances were taken to the Indiana State Dance Championships (less of a competition, more of a place to get feedback from judges). We had recitals every two years. For about a year, I helped with a dance class for 3-year-olds. At one point, I started taking jazz (fast-paced, more modern dance... usually to pop music)... at one point, I stopped taking tap (it met on another night, and I couldn't drive yet, and Mom said three nights a week was just too much). I took a class in Cecchetti (a specific method and technique) and passed the grade 1 exam.

This isn't to brag; I honestly wasn't especially great at dance. Sure, I had some idea what I was doing and I wasn't bad, but... I took lessons for 13 years. If I completely sucked after that long, it'd be pretty sad. I had very few things in which I really excelled-- my back was very flexible, though, and my arabesques were occasionally used as an example (and, believe me, it was a high compliment to even be complimented, much less used as an example for others). Pretty much, though, I was the average to low-ability dance student in the oldest class, and I was okay with that.

Slowly, some of my friends left dance for one reason or another. The class mainly had older people I didn't know as well, and younger people who I got along with, but... probably one of my best friends in dance around the time I quit was 3 or 4 years younger than me. It wasn't an ideal situation, and as I added more and more activities to my schedule in high school, I started to dread dance rather than look forward to it. Eventually, I joined winterguard (where, ironically, my dance skills were praised to high heaven and I was utilized- my first year, at least- almost exclusively for dance parts, including a massive solo). Winterguard practices ended up meaning a lot of missed dance classes during a year where we were learning dances for an upcoming recital.

Finally, my dance teacher pulled me aside and told me that she didn't think I'd been there enough to be in the dances in the recital, despite coming sometimes and having already purchased costumes (which are usually about $50 each). She had a point; I'd missed a lot, and it would take a lot of time to learn the dances and get good enough to perform them. Still, it was a tough decision- like I said, as long as I could remember, I'd been in dance. But between having less friends in dance and not as much time and not enjoying it as much anymore and this... I decided to quit.

I don't really regret it-- I think it was best for me. But that doesn't mean I don't miss it sometimes.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

puppy love

I wrote a cheesy, very short story the other day for my class. I had to write a "narrative" about anything I wanted, and since my first text example in that class had been about my pirate dog stuffed animal, I stuck with that. It's nothing I'm really proud of, but I figure I'll share it anyway. Enjoy.


Wesley sighed. He crumpled up the note in his paw and shoved it into his desk, along with the four others he’d written and rejected that day.

Wesley had desperately wanted to ask Adelaide, the prettiest puppy in his class, to the Valentine’s Dance... but it soon became apparent that he wasn’t the only one. Adelaide had been approached by no less than three other guy puppies that afternoon, and each time she smiled and giggled so much that Wesley could only assume she was accepting an offer to go to the dance.

“Oh, come on,” the girl next to Wesley said. Rachel was never afraid to point out anyone’s wrongs; however, she actually was pretty observant and had a good idea of whatever was going on in the classroom at all times.

“What?” Wesley feigned innocence, but Rachel was not easily fooled.

“Just ask her already!” Rachel urged, rolling her eyes.

“Rachel, I have no chance. Besides, I’m sure she already has a date,” Wesley said.

“No way,” Rachel retorted. “She would’ve written a note to her best friend if she’d said yes to someone already.” Rachel had a point, and while she was often a pain, Wesley knew that he could trust her advice.

Wesley grabbed the last note he’d squished and did his best to flatten it out. He carefully wrote Adelaide’s name on top of the small, folded note, and he stood up to sneak it to her desk.

Wesley stood up too fast, though, and tripped over his backpack. The note spilled out of Wesley’s hand, and the teacher scooped it up almost immediately.

“Wesley?” she asked, looking at the shy, studious pup with surprise. “I’m sorry, but you know the policy on passing notes in class.”

Mrs. Buttercream, a sweet older dog who would’ve never expected Wesley, one of her brightest and most obedient students to be caught passing a note. Nevertheless, her long-standing policy was strict, and she reluctantly unfolded the note. “Adelaide,” she read, “Even though I don’t know you well, I think you are beautiful and sweet as a cupcake. Would you please go to the dance with me?”

Wesley, now back in his seat, lowered his head to the desk in shame, but not before he heard the class erupt in laughter, Adelaide’s ringing high above the rest.

“I’m sorry,” Rachel whispered.

“This is all your fault!” Wesley mumbled as Mrs. Buttercream fought to get the raucous class back under control.

“Hey!” Rachel protested. “I think you’re partly to blame for liking such a prissy, pretentious pup when you have other, nice girls that like you a lot.”

“Oh yeah?” Wesley challenged, lifting his head from the desk. “Like who?”

And it was then, when Rachel suddenly became silent and avoided eye contact, that Wesley knew.

He and Rachel had a fabulous time at the Valentine’s dance.

Monday, January 22, 2007

let it snow

(I'm the one in the pink coat on the front sled with my dad and little brother.)

One winter, when I was in second grade, my family went sledding with two families from our church. We've always done a lot with these two families- even now, we eat pizza once a week with one of them, and see the other family at least twice a year for camping and winter camping (they now live in a different state).

At home, I live just down the street from a park with plenty of great sledding hills. They're usually packed full of people after a big snow, but we would usually walk down there, too. This particular year, we'd met up with the other two families and we'd all spent a few hours careening down the hills, fighting over who got the good sleds, trying to see who could get the farthest, and steering to avoid trees and other sledders.

Finally, the parents told us that it was time to go. All of the kids, of course, were numb to the cold, too- but didn't want to leave. We begged for one last run down the hill, and the adults relented. "Just one last time," they reminded us.

I took off down the hill, sitting in a long, orange sled, enjoying the feeling of the wind and snowflakes in my face as I slid over the snow. When I'd finally reached the bottom, I trudged back up the hill, pulling the sled behind me by a rope attached to it.

As I walked up the hill for the last time, as I'd done so many times just that day, another sled came barrelling down the hill diagonally, almost running into me. The sled narrowly missed me, but the rope of my sled caught on their sled. Their sled kept going, and my rope tried to go with it, yanking my arm hard.

I started crying almost immediately, and hurried up the hill, holding my arm. The parents regretted letting us go down "one last time" when they realized I needed to go to the emergency room.

I only ended up with a badly sprained right arm. The doctors said it was almost broken, and so for weeks afterwards my arm was wrapped up and put in a Snoopy sling. I got out of doing some handwriting assignments at school, and I remember thinking that was awesome.

Since then, my family went sledding one more time together. On that trip, my older brother chipped a tooth badly. After that, my parents decided it was best to take a break from sledding for awhile, and we didn't go for a few years. And after that, we were old enough that we sometimes preferred hanging out with our friends to our family, so we've never really gone again. I did go once with friends in high school, but it's been awhile since I've gone sledding.

Last week I started going into an elementary school for my teaching classes. The first day we went, there was a small amount of snow on the ground, and the kids were so excited. My third graders were all telling me stories of playing in the snow in the past, or writing about what they were going to do after school.

It's snowing again today, and I overheard some college students making plans to go sledding. It reminded me of this story, and made me smile.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

believe in blue


I just went to this site, and the purpose is kind of fun. It has you answer five questions and tells you which team still in the playoffs you should cheer for. Although I'm against being a bandwagon fan, I decided to take it and see what they said.

For the record, I'm a Packers fan from Indiana. This means that, with the Packers out of the playoffs, I'm cheering for the Colts. If the Colts didn't win Sunday, I'd probably cheer for the Saints. I don't particularly like them, but I don't not like them. Next, it's hard to even say... I strongly dislike the Patriots for not really many good reasons (and they've had enough Super Bowls lately), and I hate the Bears (mainly because I'm a Packers fan, and they're our biggest rival). Let's just put it this way: I love football, but if we got down to a Patriots/Bears Super Bowl, I wouldn't really want to cheer for either team. I could go into the reasons why... but I'll save that for if it happens.

Anyway, this website is supposed to tell me which team I'm best suited to cheer for, and going into it, I know that my preferred teams are in this order: Colts, Saints, Patriots/Bears (I really can't decide). I went through their series of questions, none of which seem related to football (they somehow do relate them, but I guess I was expecting them to ask if you preferred watching more runs or passes, what style of offense, legacy vs. new teams, etc.). Finally, I got to the end, and after some buildup...

I got the Patriots. Ewww, ewww, ewww.

I tried it again, determined to not get the Patriots. And I didn't.

I got the Bears. Seriously, what the heck.

I tried one final time (the questions vary a little, which is good)... and got the Saints. Still not my preferred team, but I could at least deal with it.

Anyway. I may be a Cheesehead first and foremost, but Colts are close to home and almost always second on my list of teams to cheer for. I think Peyton Manning gets a little too much hype (at least around here), but he is a great quarterback with a ton of talent around him, both on offense and defense. They've played really well, and hopefully will keep playing well enough to win a Super Bowl. Go Colts! :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Peter Pan

I ran across an interesting article the other day. Those of you that know me probably know that I love biology- I started college as a bio major, worked at biology/science camps over the summer, and generally find a lot of biology topics to be very interesting.

Anyway, let me summarize this article for you (but please, feel free to read it all!): parents of a severely disabled girl named Ashley have given her a treatment to stunt her growth so that she is easier to care for. Ashley was 6 years old (she is now 9), with a disability that both doctors and parents doubt will improve. She was given intense hormone therapy, a hysterectomy, and breast bud removal. Her parents argue that this treatment will benefit Ashley, but there are obvious ethical concerns. Even if this case makes sense, some people seem to worry that the case could be a dangerous precedent for future cases.

I don't profess to have any clue what the parents of a severely disabled child go through each day; I have done some babysitting for a child with some disabilities, and even for short periods of time, I can see that it would be a huge challenge. It's great that these parents want to be able to continue caring for their child, I think, and they definitely have plenty of arguments for the "Ashley treatment," as they have called it. Ashley's doctors have been up front about the procedure, going through a hospital ethics committee and publishing about the case. I can understand much of the reasoning they say, but at the same time, I'm not sure I can say I believe it's right.

Stunting her growth is interesting to me because I had a friend with the opposite problem. She was abnormally small and short, and used hormone therapy over the course of a few years so that she could reach a typical height and weight (she's actually taller than me now, and I'm about 5'4). The shortage of growth hormones was also likely to affect her in other, less superficial ways, so this friend and her parents decided to pursue the option. However, this case is very different from Ashley's; not only was my friend's treatment correcting something abnormal and harmful, but she also was old enough and smart enough to have some say in the treatment (and eventually, give herself the shots each day).

In Ashley's case, she has no say in the treatment (her parents aren't even sure that she can recognize her family). Ashley was also on her way to physically end up like any human without a special condition. Part of me feels strange about that, but part of me doesn't. After all, each person has their own unique DNA, which gives the body 'instructions' for how they are supposed to turn out. Who's to say that it's 'right' to alter anything about the body, whether we think it's abnormal or not? Then again, who can accurately predict whether or not the treatment (especially the hormone therapy) will have any unforeseen long-term effects?

I'm also kind of afraid that this sort of treatment will be used more frequently. The thing with moral dilemmas is that there are arguments to go both ways, and that there is rarely a definite reason why they should or shouldn't occur. In this particular case, it seems okay to me- but the "Ashley treatment" is in no way necessary. Where will the boundary of right and wrong fall with future cases? What if the surgery is used for superficial reasons? If someone's entire family is tall, and they just don't want to have to buy clothes in special stores, would we allow them to stunt their growth?

Most of Ashley's parents' defense seems to be reasonable, but most of the reasons essentially are that she will be easier to care for. Ashley may benefit from this; she may not. Ashley's parents certainly will, though. Are parents too biased to make this sort of decision, or are they the only ones informed enough about the situation to make it?

It's a tough case, and lots of people have given their opinions on the matter. When it comes down to it, though, the case didn't really become public until three years after the girl began treatment. The parents and doctors have tried their best to explain the point of view that led them to pursue the treatment, and while others may argue... essentially, it's to no avail. No matter what anyone says at this point, this specific case is settled. Right or wrong-- Ashley has successfully undergone the treatment, with no known complications, and any damage has already been done.

I don't know whether it's right or wrong... but I sure hope the treatment really works well for Ashley.

Monday, January 08, 2007

service, please

One of the fun things about blogs is that anyone can be "published." Maybe it's just because I've always enjoyed reading and writing, but I think the idea of being published is exciting. And even more exciting is the possibility of being "discovered." I realize that it's incredibly unlikely, but there definitely are people who've become famous- both online and off- because of their blogs.

Most of the blogs I check are written by friends of mine, but I do occasionally run across some interesting blogs that I keep visiting.

I've never worked in a restaurant, but I definitely don't think a waiter has an easy job, and this blog confirms it. The writer is entertaining and insightful. He writes about his life in New York working at a popular bistro (though he recently quit), and I think it's worth a read.

Go, enjoy. :)