Comet Watch: NEOWISE Part 2

I really wanted to see if I could manage to get shots of NEOWISE that were a bit better than my first attempt. I decided to use my wide angle lens instead of my zoom. They are much clearer shots, but obviously not nearly as close.

I’m really pleased with them, though. There is something about the clouds that were around that really add something to the photos.

Even though these aren’t as close as the first round, I like that these also help to show how small this comet really is and how difficult it may be to spot in the sky with the naked eye. Even knowing where it was and what to look for, it still took me a while before I found it last night.

NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet

Comet Watch

These are a long way from being NASA quality, but I managed to get some shots of NEOWISE!

Ever since I started seeing images of this comet, I wanted to see if I could get a shot of it. I’ve been trying to find it in the sky for the last couple of days, but there have been clouds in the area.

I also wasn’t entirely sure, even after looking into it and seeing suggestions on how to view it, what I was doing. All the photos made it look like it would be this bright thing in the sky and obvious, but it REALLY isn’t. You almost can’t even see it with the naked eye, at least if you are near any kind of city light. For me, it looked a bit like a smudgy cloud streak.

About the only thing that gets this to look that bright and noticeable is a longer exposure through a camera. Which I really should have figured out earlier, but… sometimes I’m a bit slow on the uptake.

After spending 20 or so minutes thinking I found it, then realizing that no matter how long of an exposure I did, that bright white dot didn’t have a tail and was actually a star, I finally noticed a smudgy streak a little farther to the right of where I was looking. Once I spotted it, I just played around with a lot of different settings trying to get the best shot I could with what I had.

NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet

Obviously some came out better than others, but these are probably the best of the bunch. I am also using my zoom lens, but I wanted to get at least a little of the landscape perspective in the shot, so I didn’t zoom too far. These are all different settings and you can see the difference in the slight lines for stars instead of the more pinpoint dots.

NEOWISE Comet
NEOWISE Comet

If you are wanting to get your own glimpse of NEOWISE, look to the northwest once the stars are out. Find the big dipper and then look a little below and to the right for that odd little smudge. Obviously, the less light pollution the better, but I’m close to a city and still managed this. Everything I’ve read says that this may still be visible for another week or so, so there is still time.

Happy comet hunting!

*Note to self: I do not need new camera equipment to take shots of stars no matter how cool it would be. Rinse and repeat until it sticks.

 

Another Proud Mamma Moment

MC got his test scores for his AP calc class and nailed another 5. Somewhere along the lines he also managed to pull another small scholarship. My kid is nailing college and he hasn’t even started it yet.

This is yet another amazing moment one of my kids have made happen with so very little help from anyone. I’m just going to bask in the awesome for a while.

Reflections In The Aftermath

And we are done! And I’m am so relieved.

I still have so many conflicting emotions and thoughts about this dance recital and I’ve spent a chunk of the day so far trying to decompress and sort them all out, but I don’t know that it is entirely possible. One of the thoughts that keeps cropping to the top is “Am I going to regret this?”

So much about this event bothered me. Once things started being allowed to open up again and “going back to normal” I had my concerns about how this was going to play out. When they announced the mandatory mask rule and social distancing guidelines for our city, a lot of those concerns were relieved and I felt better about letting BG participate, though I still did not feel great.

The time Hubby, BG and I all spent talking about this and deciding that the risk was low because of those changes and our current area’s case counts seems to have been worthless. We were evaluating the risks based on those changes, but I saw most of those rules completely disregarded and ignored over the course of the last two days.

I don’t want to constantly harp on this stuff, but it is impossible not to. This event was HUGE. The exception the city gave to allow no masks on stage made the rule for backstage pointless, not that it was even observed in the first place.

If you were to only look at the surface of this event, it was a wonderful success and many parents along with studio staff are counting it as such. But you cannot look at it without the lens of the current pandemic in place.

I’m really worried that this will be one of those epicenter events in this city because of the lack of actual adherence to the rules and regulations. I wonder if health department officials saw even a handful of the photos being posted on social media by all these proud parents (and I’m included in that number) what their thoughts would be. Not just on this event, which turns out to have been the very first public event in the city since things started shutting down, but on all future events.

Because from a safe practice standpoint in the middle of a pandemic, I seriously doubt you could count this as a huge success.

There were supposedly people on site that were there to enforce the regulations, but I didn’t see any evidence of that. Two days worth of packed dressing rooms and back stage areas, nearly a thousand kids from pre-K all the way up to high school seniors (spread out between those 5 shows) and dozens of staff and faculty, all passing and interacting in those close quarters for hours, all without masks on, all without any kind of social distancing.

Seeing it for a second day in a row, with even less adherence to those rules the second day, I was really bothered by the whole thing. It felt like a whole lot of lip service being paid to get this approved to happen, but that is all it was. There were zero actions to back those rules up. Especially when you see the massive numbers of photos of students together in groups or with staff, smashing their cheeks together to get those memorable shots, because you just can’t have a recital without those sweet moments (insert maximum sarcasm here).

I just simply do not understand the mindset where any of that is okay right now.

It makes how I felt about BG’s mask stance yesterday even more profound. I debated doing my usual posting of photos and tagging the studio at first. Then I realized that I was worried about how other parents and families might react to all these photos of her and her mask and that by hesitating, I was dishonoring her courage and strength. I was the one having my actions intimidated by the pressure to go with the crowd and I wasn’t going to do that after what BG was able to do. I know we are very much in the minority when it comes to feelings about this event, but I refused to do anything other than stand proudly with my daughter on this, so I posted the hell out of those photos.

At the same time, I think we were just part of the problem and I wonder if I should have taken BG’s stance to heart and just asked her not to participate at all. We did give her the choice, but I wonder if maybe she was just hoping we’d tell her she couldn’t. I loved seeing her dance, but I still don’t know that it was worth it. I just don’t know.

The next several weeks are going to be intense while we wait to see what happens. Numbers don’t lie and infection rates would say that there were, at minimum, at least a large handful people infected in that venue at some point in the last two days, if not a whole lot more. With the number of people in attendance, the number of dancers and all the poor safe practices actually being observed, I worry what the outcome will be. We will be watching our own heath very closely and sticking as close to home as possible while we do so.

Even after this, the studio’s summer workshop is still scheduled to start 3 weeks from now and fall registration begins around then as well. We are NOT at a business as usual point with all of this, but that is how it seems everyone wants to behave.

To top off my level of bittersweet pride in my amazing kids, I have MC. Now that his high school has presented their final plans for an in person graduation ceremony, he has opted not to participate. He will not walk with his class.

Why? He will be at the start of his prep time for attending his college in the fall and he doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that process. He is content with the only acknowledgement of his hard work and amazing grades in high school being his scholarship to college. He doesn’t feel the need to do the whole ceremony and walk just because it is the thing that is done.

This is what he wants and it is important to him, so we are absolutely going to stand with him and support that. Even if it means he is the second of my kids I don’t get to see walk across the stage since OC didn’t graduate. I’m still proud that he is, like BG, willing to stick by what he feels is important even if it means it isn’t the popular thing.

I have the most amazing kids and I don’t think it is possible to feel more proud of them both.

Please excuse me if I’m an emotional mess for a while. There are only so many directions those can be pulled at the same time before something has to give. I think I’m just going to go bury my head and have a good cry for a while just to relive the pressure.

 

 

Titanium Will

I’m kind of an emotional basket case today.

My daughter has a will and a spine of pure titanium. I cannot express strongly enough how amazed and proud I am of her.

Over a period of 12 hours. Through 5 shows and 75 total performances, 17 of which were hers. She was the ONLY ONE to wear a mask on stage to dance. The only exception to this were the handful of assistants that had to be on stage with the younger girls and were required to wear one.

The. Only. One.

Every single time she stepped on stage with her class and she was the only one wearing a mask, I got so choked up and struggled not to cry. For so many reasons.

I’m proud of her for standing her ground and doing what she felt was right. We allowed her to make this choice since masks weren’t required on stage. She chose to wear her mask. Even though no one else did. She made this choice over and over again. Even though it acted kind of like a spotlight on her and she hates to be the focus of attention like that.

I’m so sad that she was put in the position to stand alone in this. I’m sad that I didn’t get to see all her amazing expressions on her face while she danced. Her beautiful smile and her “Oh, crap!” moments when she made a mistake. It is always one of my favorite things about recital, but I don’t get it this year and I’m so okay with that, no matter how much I miss it.

I can’t even begin to express my frustration with all the surrounding stuff that I saw yesterday. The lack of concern or adherence to rules put in place for safety. And there was so much of it.

I still can’t say that any of this was worth it even though I loved that she got to dance. I have another day to go where I get to watch and feel this dichotomy of emotions. Happy and frustrated and sad and worried. And proud. So damn proud.

I am blown away by my daughter and her dedication and willingness to stick with what she feels is the right thing no matter if she is standing alone in that conviction.

Realization

This is BG’s 10th dance recital and it is the first time that I haven’t been in the audience for every single moment she is on stage. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to know she is up there dancing and I can’t watch her.

I understand the need to keep the audience sizes down and they needed to do it this way to achieve that. It still makes me sad that I’m missing parts. Yes, they are parts she will perform again when it is our turn to be able to watch, but I’ve never missed a chance to see her dance.

It didn’t really hit until the studio started posting snippets of videos and photos on their FB page. It is going to be a long few hours until I get to watch my girl be amazing.

 

Busy Bee

I was perfectly content with the amount of busy I was already dealing with. Really. I was. I absolutely did not want or need any more busy or stuff. That could have waited at least a week, right?

Apparently not.

The day before yesterday, our garage door wouldn’t open. We unhooked the opener and managed to get the door lifted manually, but it was way off and not sitting straight. Got someone out to look at it and somehow the shaft the spring is attached to is splitting, something the guy said he’d never seen before. Also something that couldn’t be fixed that day.

It was something so unusual, the guy was wanting to check with all the other people he works with to see if they’d seen anything like it. Kind of like that rare medical scenario that gets doctors salivating over writing a paper on it.

Being unique is cool and all, but I’m totally fine with just being normal.

Then… yes, more! I’d been sitting in the hot car in nearly 100 degree heat, sweating to death even with the air running, waiting for BG to get out of dance yesterday. I just wanted to come home to the cool house and get my body temp down from surface-of-the-sun levels. I get home and… the house really isn’t all that cool. I go to look at the thermostat and the screen is black. No power. Check the breakers. Check the main switch. Nothing. This is a system that is barely under 2 years old.

Call our guy, he informs me that when the UV bulb in the air scrubber goes out, it tends to blow a low voltage fuse. A bulb that tends to only last about 2 years. Hubby had to make an emergency run last night to get a new fuse so we can at least get the unit back up and running without the air scrubber.

I now have two different repair people coming out today to fix all this stuff. This was my ONE day I didn’t have a ton of stuff going on.

And that is only if they can get a new UV bulb because they are in high demand with the virus right now.

SO much fun!

On a recital note, BG and I sat down and figured out what time she needs to be getting up so she can get ready and get to the venue in time. She will be up around 6am and not getting home until close to 11pm both days. Guess who gets to do those hours with her? Yay!

Redlining Stress Levels

The last few days leading up to recital are always stressful, but usually tempered with a lot of excitement, both on my part and on BG’s part. This year’s stress has been multiplied exponentially in so many ways and almost none of that is because of excitement, which is so damn sad.

Last night was dedicated to going through every single piece she would need and making sure it was labeled.  Always a pain because you know some things are already labeled, things from the previous year and some that they’d gotten earlier in the year, but you still have to check every single thing. We have to sift through it all and make sure we aren’t missing anything.

Part of this process also requires a last fitting on all costumes and accessories (hair pieces, gloves, whatever) to make sure I don’t have to do any adjustments or modifications to make sure not only does everything fit right, but that it fastens securely. I was forced to do some major last minute alterations to a costume a few years ago, like we are walking out the door last minute, and I swore I’d never do it again.

The whole process is like planning and packing for a 2 week long vacation to another country.

Just to get an idea, she has 5 costumes, 1 T-shirt, a leotard and dance pants, 2 hats, 2 hair pieces, 2 pairs of gloves, a pair of earrings, 3 different types of tights, 2 different pairs of tap shoes, a pair of jazz shoes, ballet shoes, pointe shoes (and all the inserts and toe pads to go with) and a pair of tennis shoes. These are all just the obvious, required parts to what she has to wear on stage. That doesn’t take into account all the extra things she needs to have on hand and all the back ups (tights especially) just to get through all the performances.

Or the masks. Do not get me started on the utter nightmare that makes of an already stressful mess. We had to run through options for shoving it down the front of costumes if she couldn’t make it work to wear on stage (our solution to a pile of them on a table). So fun!

We only went through the costume stuff last night. Even that still needs to be organized in a way that makes it easy for her to get to what costume she needs when she needs it.

Normally, she only has to be prepped for about 4 hours or so of time for each of the two days. This year, because of the need to break down the sizes of the shows, she will be at the venue for nearly 12 hours, so we also have to plan for additional things like food and the fact that I won’t be there but for a few of those hours so she has to figure out things on her own if something comes up. She doesn’t do her own hair so if there is a problem, and having to do things like hair pieces and pinning a mask in place is going to create problems, she is going to have to solve it on her own. That means more stuff to try and pack.

You should see my list of things she has to make sure she doesn’t forget. A whole host of those things are things she has never had to take before.

She is of course stressed more than normal, which is a lot because she is a stresser normally. She wants to wear her mask on stage, but it is not an easy thing at all. The biggest issue is of course the costume I made these to go with because it also has a hat. With the mask and the hat, you see her eyes, if you are lucky. There are so many issues with the logistics of it that it is going to be a problem. I spent probably an hour last night trying to get it to work to her satisfaction and we didn’t really find a solution.

I honestly don’t know how these girls aren’t going to be absolutely dragging by the second day. They are going to be dancing so much through all of this. So much more than normal.

Over the course of two days, she will be performing:

Opening tap, 10 times
Regular tap, 2 times
Ballet – 3 different dances, 2 times each
Pointe, 2 times
Hip hop, 2 times
Jazz, 2 times
Assistants, 10 times

Those can run anywhere from a few minutes to well over 6 minutes (assistants and opening tap are the longer ones) for each performance. Most of those aren’t any different than normal, but the opening tap and the assistants dance get performed in every show and there are SO many this year. It is so much that the kick line they normally do in assistants has been scrapped for the faculty because the owner, who is in her 70s, said that she can’t do the opening tap kick line and the assistants kick line that many times, so all of the faculty opted to not do it if she couldn’t be with them.

When you look at that, the time BG is at the venue, the time she is on stage (and may yet do so without a mask, depending on circumstances), it all has so many potentials to be problematic.

Then combine that with her role as an assistant where she has to not only be an example to the younger kids, but to help them follow the rules, get ready to go on stage and help herd them where they need to go and you are talking about a stress factory of epic proportions.

The studio told the assistants especially that they have to be very careful to wear their masks at all times when they aren’t on stage. If the venue sees this rule not being observed, they will shut it all down. I’ve added that to my list of worries because I know how so many of those girls have treated the mask rule inside the studio. There is a very real chance that someone will be an idiot at one of the first shows and shut the whole thing down for everyone else making all of this work and effort for nothing.

I do want the opportunity to get to see BG perform. I’m exited for that. It is all overshadowed by how stressed out I am about how many things could go really wrong.

I keep thinking that I just need to get through this and I can relax back into my hermit mode for a while, but that isn’t the case. We still have a graduation to get through, one we STILL don’t know the plan for. On the heels of that we have to work on getting MC ready to go to college. I have no clue when my stomach is going to unknot and finally settle down.

Shape Of Water Series #12

I had really thought when I went hunting for my photo for today that this would likely be my last post in this series. Then I attempted to narrow it down to one and I still had nearly a dozen that I loved.

So… not the end, but I’ll probably attempt to find some other photos to post and make a larger gap between the remaining water shots. That means getting out with my camera, but that may not actually end up happening until after this weekend.

My purple rose of sharon is blooming, so finding subjects shouldn’t be that hard when I do venture out.

Dance Masks

And… they are frickin’ DONE!

I absolutely love them, but they were a bear and a half. I broke/bent 5 of the 6 needles I had originally thought I’d had. Right before I started sewing yesterday I wanted to have the others on hand but couldn’t remember where I put them and ran across a couple more packages while I was hunting. It relieved a whole lot of stress when I did, but I still panicked when I managed to mangle two of them back to back early on.

Working with the sequins material was a pain because of the needle issue and I had to go so slow over the thicker areas making it take longer. These also produced a lot of fuzz  and dropped a ton of sequins making me stop and clean out the bobbin area a couple of times.

Between the issue with the needles, having to stop to coat the needle to try and prevent that issue and the stops to do a little cleaning, I think I was having to hit pause about every 5 masks.

I had expected a more solid sequins material when I ordered it, but it is really transparent and the cream lining shows through. While I still think it is an amazing look, I’m extremely lucky that it still works with the costumes or I’d have been up a creek.

When I went to bag these up, my heat sealer shorted out and died on me as well. I had to yet again get creative to solve the problem. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to have an iron.

These will be getting handed off this afternoon with the full understanding that there is a very big chance that almost no dancer will actually choose to wear one on stage since it isn’t required. I’m okay with that. If by chance even one chooses to, then I’ve helped. If someone decides it is just really pretty and opts to wear it off stage or anywhere else, then I’ve helped.

It would be stunning if the entire group loved them so much they wanted to wear them on stage (they really would look amazing even if it is SO different), but this is reality and the chances of that are sitting down near zero.

BG really likes it and is strongly considering wearing hers on stage. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to give her something to make her feel better about making that decision if she does go that way.

Yes, it was a whole lot of effort and stress for the end result, but every single tiny bit helps and I’m okay with that.

Gerbera Daisy: Last Year

Sharing this one from last year because I’m almost ready to have new pics again this year.

I’m in mask mode today trying to finish up the 58 I have pinned and ready to sew. I have 60 in all, but two of those were tests to make sure they’d work. After the first one, I yet again modified my design to try and make it even better than the original. I will have pics of these because they look amazing and are going to be beautiful with the opening tap costume. At least for those that opt to wear one.

BG is hanging on the edge of that right now, even knowing there is a very real chance she will be the only one on stage wearing a mask. I’m really proud of her for taking this seriously and really thinking about it.

I brought up the fact to her that I completely forgot about her flowers that I do every year because I was so caught up in the mask thing. She said she really didn’t want flowers this year because she didn’t want anyone making an unnecessary trip to the store just for flowers. It makes me sad, but she is adamant that this is something she wants to not do this year. Again, I’m proud of the fact that she is thinking beyond what is right in front of her right now.

I still have so many thoughts and concerns about the whole thing, but it is only days away and I don’t see it not happening at this point, so it is do the best we have with what we’ve got. And why I’m in mask mode again.

Off to sew my fingers to the bone. Please keep all digits crossed and ask the karma gods to be nice to me today so that I don’t break the remaining 6 needles I have for my machine that replacement needles are no longer made for, at least not until I can finish! I really do not want to have to get a new sewing machine today.