Getting Tied Into Knots

I’ve spent the last month or so being a little bit in awe over how far BG’s dance studio is willing to go to try and give these kids as much of a recital and celebration of all their hard work as they can while still attempting to maintain that balance of safety and required distancing. They have bent over backwards and twisted themselves into shapes resembling pretzels in an effort to try and pull off that incredibly fine line of balance.

They have put in hours and hours for each class and each teacher recording and uploading instructional videos so the kids could continue to learn their routines in preparation for being able to return to class. This often means more than one video for each individual dance. One for the slower, breakdown instruction of the steps and at least one more for the routine in time with the music. Often, it also means multiples of these as they are often done in segments. Many of those teachers also work other, full time jobs.

They have had to make major changes to choreography to eliminate any kind of pairing and contact, like hand holding, to work on maintaining distance between dancers. They’ve changed how they work within the studio so that there is more spacing between dancers, changed the timing of the classes to create gaps so the lobby isn’t overwhelmed and to give them time to sanitize between classes. They’ve implemented the requirement to wear masks and rules for being able to even attend in person classes.

We have now finished out our second week back and it has been… interesting, frustrating and a little shocking to see how it is all trying to unfold.

The studio has lost a large number of students for this last part of the year. I’m making assumptions, but this is in part because some parents have chosen to just not allow their child to participate because of the risk. Some because it is outside of their normal times and have other commitments (we are usually done by the end of May). I’m also certain that there are probably a few parents that refused to send their kid because of the mask requirement. It seems the younger the class, the fewer students came back. It looks like the older group that BG is in is mostly all there.

I have been absolutely floored by the varied responses to all of this, at least in the group that BG interacts with the most.

One is the very blase` attitude towards the mask rule. It is more of a paying lip service kind of thing than something that is respected. Inside the studio, masks are on only a portion of the time on a lot of the girls. Outside, the girls are still gathering in close groups and in cars with no masks at all.

Another is the same sort of attitude from a decent chunk of these kids with regards to actually respecting all the work the staff put into making all those videos. So many girls don’t know squat when it comes to the routines. Even routines they knew before everything closed have now been forgotten. BG was absolutely stunned at how many hadn’t even looked at a video in all the weeks they were away. Yes, there are a few legitimate excuses as to why (not having the access to the app or decent enough internet to view the videos) but that is only a small fraction of the whole. I could go on forever on all the ways this is a problem because there are so many parts to this, but I’m still blown away by it and even more impressed by BG’s dedication to making sure she went back to class fully prepared. I think she is a little impressed with herself because of it as well.

Did I mention that my girl has danced nearly every single day while she was away from the studio?

One of the things the studio prides itself on is making sure all routines and music are appropriate for the age of the dancers and the audience. With recent events being what they are, they determined that some of the music that was being used in the high school hip hop routine edged too close to potentially being insensitive so they’ve had to find other music to replace it and remix it all. They’ve attempted to do so in a why that allowed them to keep the choreography, but slight changes have had to be made.

They have also had to completely rework the schedule and layout of their normal recital. Instead of 2 shows, splitting the age groups, they have had to split it into 5 to attempt to keep the gathering sizes down. They also have to submit the dressing room assignments and layout to the city for approval to show they are meeting guidelines along with limiting family for each dancer to only 4 people.

The family limit creates an issue, so they’re working to get it live streamed so those that can’t be there can still watch. This includes purchasing new equipment.

There is just so much that they are doing to make sure this all moves forward. It is kind of blowing my mind how much effort they are putting into it. It has also got to be massively stressful and frustrating because it has caused all kinds of problems as well.

One of the teachers won’t be able to be at the studio for the rest of the season for personal reasons and the other teachers aren’t familiar with her routines. Routines that very few of the girls actually know and there is a whole host of issues with.

I found out yesterday that some of the costumes won’t be here in time for recital, including the one for BG’s ballet dance, a costume they had planned to use for multiple dances as one of the things they do to cut cost, wearing a skirt that belongs to the studio, isn’t something they can do this year. They have attempted to get something else that is supposed to arrive this week, but the original costumes have already been bought and paid for and this second costume is costing them.

I feel for the staff. They are doing everything they can, but… it is really kind of a giant cluster. I don’t envy the position they are in. It is costing them a lot of money they wouldn’t have normally had to spend (the extra costumes, the new equipment for streaming and for sanitizing the studio), costs that they aren’t passing to the families. They are in a position to be forced to decide whether or not they are going to police the dancers on masks and following the rules for being able to attend class (pretty sure one dancer just took a trip to Mexico).

I have wondered a few times why they are so persistent. I understand in a lot of ways why they would want to be, wanting to make sure they can honor all this hard work, especially for the seniors, but the reality of everything still makes me wonder. It is going to be so vastly different as it is right now. There is still a huge chance that this is all going to be canceled as the number of cases in our area are starting to climb, though we still have extremely low numbers in comparison.

I admire and really appreciate their hard work and effort. I really do. I’m also left questioning if this is all worth it. I’m questioning BG’s safety, though she is adamant about being safe in what she does, others really, REALLY aren’t. The short classes at the studio don’t bother me so much. The exceptionally long days, like yesterday where she is there for over half the day, and the actual dress rehearsal and recital, two days where she will be at the venue for nearly the entire day surrounded by these other kids, are such a huge concern for me.

I still don’t know what the studio’s expectations are regarding parents in my position that have a girl that is required to be in all 5 shows as far as audience attendance goes. I don’t like the idea of dropping her at the venue to be there all day and only attend the show that is specifically hers. I also don’t like the idea of spending these entire two days at the venue in the audience either.

I am so torn up and twisted about this whole thing. BG has even said that she almost wishes they would just cancel it. She doesn’t want to not have a recital, but she’s also stressed about it all. This is such a hard thing. I do understand a bit why they feel the need to keep going, but at the same time, I really don’t.

I can always just pull her. I’ve considered it, but I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. Also, she is 16 and should have a say and she hasn’t reached that point yet either. I’ve asked myself over and over what would need to happen to make me reach that point, but I still haven’t come up with an answer.

The recital is about a month away and a lot can change between now and then. In one way, I’m excited to see BG perform the dances she has worked her ass off to learn and to see her be a part of some of the traditional parts of this event for the first time. At the same time, I’m a stressed out, worried mess that wishes the whole thing would just get canceled.

 

 

 

Thoughts On Current Events

I am tired. So very, very tired. Tired of feeling fear and frustration and anger and absolute shock down to my very core at the fact that so many people have so very little care for their fellow humans. Too many don’t seem to care if their actions or inactions are harming others, be it physically or mentally or emotionally. I see too many people acting as though what is important to them takes all priority, superseding and disregarding what is important, even life preserving or sustaining, to others, especially if involves money. I feel all of that and yet, I know that how I’m feeling isn’t even a drop in the ocean to what so many others are feeling right now.

For a long time, I have thought that a lot of the lack of care just comes from ignorance. From the fact that people just don’t know enough of the background, the facts or the science to fully grasp a situation to be able to act in a more compassionate way. Sadly, I don’t really believe that much anymore because I’ve seen more willful ignorance, desperate grabs for, or to attain, power, and greed in the last few years than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll own that may just be because I wasn’t paying as much attention before now. Or maybe it is just being shown more blatantly and openly now.

I have spent my life trying, and often failing, but at least attempting, to see situations from a variety of sides or try and put myself in another’s position in an attempt to understand. Like most people, I tend to view things through a lens of certain perspectives that have been shaped by how I grew up and who I was surrounded by. Not all of those influences were good and it has taken me years to identify and understand how wrong I’ve been on certain issues in the past, but I’m working to try and improve that and remove that toxic attitude from my mindset.

One of the first perspectives I learned to view things from is the alternatively abled. I grew up with a family member that was an amputee needing to wear a full leg prosthetic from near the hip down. One that wasn’t the best made and had a fixed knee forcing the use of a cane and a limp. I watched them struggle to walk through a packed parking lot when all the handicapped spots were taken, being sore and tired before even reaching the store. Spots that were taken by vehicles with no markings indicating they belonged there. I remember being somewhere around maybe 10 years old or so the first time I witnessed this and feeling so incredibly upset on their behalf even though they didn’t utter a word. It has stuck with me and I always have this frame of reference to how I see things now.

Over the years I’ve had other friends and family that have dealt with so many various different issues; physical issues, mental issues, overall health problems; all of them facing extreme hardships, inconvenience, discrimination and judgement because of those issues.

More recently my frame of reference comes in part from the struggles of MCG’s family with her sister in a wheelchair. Seeing their battles for the access they are supposed to be given being ignored or disrupted so that someone could have a closer spot. Or people ignoring simple, common sense things like giving ample room in the spaces that are specifically designated for the use of those with chairs and not blocking a ramp access even though a vehicle is clearly marked as having a ramp. Simple. Basic. Common sense type of compassion and care for a fellow human being.

Lately, it has been a struggle to not get overwhelmed by all the negative feelings about how little people are willing to just take small measures to care for each other. Like wearing a mask. It is such a simple thing for the majority of people. Cover your mouth and nose when you are going to be in close contact with someone. It should be simple, but it isn’t.

Nothing is perfect. There will always be exceptions to the rule. A person that is hard of hearing and relies on being able to lip read as their main form of communication and understanding of others is cut off when masks are worn. Being a person of color wearing a mask can be more dangerous to their life than not wearing one for reasons completely unrelated to the virus. There are small portions of people that have legitimate medical issues that make wearing a mask dangerous. Though I have got to point out that is such a small number. You won’t pass out from wearing a basic mask, even for several hours, unless you fall into that small category, so please do not try to co-op someone’s legitimate health issue for you own selfish means.

No one deserves to get sick and die because another didn’t want to wear a mask.

No one deserves to have their lives deemed as less value than another’s or as less value than a minor inconvenience or over concerns of image.

No one deserves to be put in the position to choose who they are going to try and save and who they are going to have to let die because they don’t have enough equipment and protective gear to help all those that are in need. That doesn’t even bring in the gross disparity on what we spend on health care versus what we spend on police or military or a damned wall.

No one deserves to be on the other end of that decision only to be the one to die.

No one’s life should be worth less than the cost of necessary medical care.

On top of all of that, as if that isn’t enough, is such a volatile, ugly, blatant issue of the complete and utter disregard and care for our fellow humans, and exponentially more so for those of color, from the very people that are supposed to protect us and all the surrounding viciousness if you are deemed to be on the wrong side of that line. That ugliness is amplified and inflamed by those in power that were elected to protect ALL citizens of the country, not just the wealthy, white few. Inflamed when those in power say things like racist hate groups have “very fine people”, but those protesting injustice are “thugs”.

No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

No one should live in fear of going for a run, to the store, standing in their yard, watching birds in a park, sleeping in their bed, or because they are wearing a mask to help protect their families, neighbors and friends. Afraid because of how they were born. Because the color of their skin means that they are likely to be a target for violence. And ONLY because of the color of their skin.

No one’s death should ever be justified because a police officer can simply say they were in fear for their lives with little to no evidence of legitimate fear beyond the color of the dead person’s skin. If a police officer is that fragile and operating out of that kind of fear, they have no place being a police officer. At that point, they have stopped being a protection to the public and are instead a danger to it.

No one deserves to die because we give unchecked authority and damn near blanket immunity to a body that is armed as well as our military.

No one deserves a death sentence for a minor crime because the police deemed them a threat on the sole fact that they were black.

No one deserves bodily damage, or worse, sentences well beyond what they would have been given in a court of law if convicted of whatever violation, just because they were out past a curfew in protest of all the above or because they were simply standing on their front porch when that armed force walked through their neighborhood.

No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

For those in the back… No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

I try to live my life by four seemingly simple rules/goals.

  1. Be Safe
  2. Be Healthy
  3. Be Happy
  4. Don’t Be An Asshole

It seems to me that #4 should be easy and a part of having a basic care for our fellow human’s lives and wellbeing. Sadly, it seems like too many people just don’t care enough to have a rule #4.

Yes. It makes me so very tired. And heartsore. And afraid for all of the kids that are old enough to see all of this going down right now and what their futures are going to look like. At what kind of people they are going to grow into from this volatile, rotten ground they are forming in.

My wish for the future, for all of their futures, is a world without so very many assholes.

Situational And Emotional Representation In Books

It seems as though I’ve read a lot of books recently that I’ve hit me in a lot of personal ways. Most of the time, I can pinpoint exactly what soft spot it hit and why I reacted the way I did. Other times, it seems so much more complex. This is something that has been rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now and I’ve been trying to figure out why I seem to react so strongly.

I have also seemed to struggle to really find what I want to read the most. Something like a reading slump, but not so much that I have disliked a lot of what I’ve read. Just, I’ve wanted to find something more than what I actually found.

I finally figured out at least a part of it. I’m a deeply emotional reader. I need to have emotional connections to the story and the characters, at least to some extent, for me to really enjoy it. Those are the stories I’ve been craving, but I haven’t quite been able to say I’m looking for this very specific kind of book because I wasn’t even certain what I’d been looking for. It has occurred to me that, at least on one front, I’m looking for emotional or situational representations that reflect on me and my life experiences. I want to see more pieces of my own reality in the books I read.

The problem with that is the times I’ve run across those, more times than not, I really end up disliking the book. These are the ones I’ve had the hardest time trying to really pinpoint the why. I’m beginning to think that a big part of that is the way I want to see those emotions and situations handled. I either want to see them handled in the way I did as some sort of validation of my experiences, or in a way that I see as better and with more positive results than what I experienced allowing that character to avoid some of my own personal chaos. Rarely do I get the one I need for that specific situation or emotion and end up disappointed with the story in front of me.

If a character does something that is counter to what I need in that situation emotionally, I find it taints how I feel about that character. That isn’t to say I’m looking for perfect characters, because perfect isn’t interesting at all. It is boring. I’m looking for human flaws, but I apparently need them flawed in just the right way, if that makes any sense at all.

I’m not certain if this is just a me thing or if others have similar feelings about this. I know I have a whole lot of peeves when it comes to books, but I wasn’t aware that some of these emotional situations and how they are handled was one of them. Everyone is going to bring personal experience and bias into a book they read, but I wasn’t aware of quite how much I drag along with me when I open a book.

I adore stories about families, but those also tend to be the ones that push my buttons hard. Issues like toxic relationships, mental abuse, rejection, forgiveness for those kinds of issues and family obligations all tend to be some really hot spots for me and I almost never react well to them even though those are the very things you tend to see most often in those types of books.

Do other people have these kinds of issues with what they read, maybe with other specific topics or am I just as weird as I think I am?

Sorry if this was a bit of a rambly mess. I think I’m still working through it all and I don’t think I’ve manged to dig it all out yet.

Can I Just Say…

When I see someone posting about being born in the late ’90s, knowing they are a functioning adult, my brain sort of cramps and I get a little twitch in the corner of my eye. OC was born in the late ’90s, so this kind of statement makes me feel incredibly old knowing I have a kid that technically falls into that same category. It really doesn’t help that Hubby just had a birthday and we were both cringing at the fact that he is only a year away from a half a century. Most days, my age isn’t a huge deal to me. It is just moments like this, when I’m forced to think in numbers rather than in feeling that I start to feel a little on the ancient side of things.

On an unrelated note, when I went to post the image for this, I was floored that it wasn’t in my images already. I could have sworn I’d posted this ages ago. Either way, here it is. It is something I did… back in the late ’90s, early ’00s for a college art class. We were supposed to reproduce a master’s work. I think I may have skirted the rules a bit as Jan van Eyck probably didn’t quite count (the teacher was really looking for recognizable pieces), but there was something crazily appealing about his self portrait that I couldn’t get out of my head. This is done in my favorite charcoal/eraser technique and is one of my favorite pieces even if it isn’t my best by a long shot. And no, it isn’t actually a cranky old hag even if it may look like one. The artist is a guy. Feel free to search his name if you want to compare my amateurish attempt. This portrait is one of the first in the results.

Review Rating Thoughts: Adjustments

After spending some time with this and tossing around ideas, I think I may have come up with something that works for me on my new rating process.

My biggest issue with the way I had set up the new system was the equal weighting across all areas of evaluation. That just doesn’t work for me because not all of those areas are important to all books. I do think that there are a few that are critical, no matter the book.

At the same time, I really liked how that specific breakdown helped me to look at the book from a more structured place rather than strictly opinion and emotional reaction. I liked how it helped me to put some of my thoughts into words.

From those two perspectives, I think what I’m going to try out is narrowing down which areas I feel are critical, at least for me as a reader, to all books and use only those as the basis for my SPA. For now, I am going to try to keep it to just Characters, Believably, and Personal Opinion. I want to keep the other areas for evaluation purposes. If one in particular, say my peeves, plays heavily into my reaction to a particular book, I will include that in the SPA as well.

All the others, I will still give star ratings to, but they will not impact that overall average. I can really love or hate a cover of a book and not have it  impact my enjoyment of the book, but I love book covers and rarely ever find a way to talk about them. The same could be said for any of the other areas, that there was something I want to point out, but it may not play a role in what I thought about the book.

There is a chance I’ll leave a section out of a review because it just doesn’t apply. I might even modify or remove a section or two because there seems to be so much overlap at times. When you are talking about characters and believability and your opinion on a book, you are invariably also talking about plot. That is the big area I’m not entirely sure what I know what to do with, which is kind of crazy because plot is a huge part of every single book.

Whatever I decide, I’m going to need to play with how I lay it all out to make it clear which areas are being included in the SPA and which are not. I am also going to use the write up in the Personal Opinion portion of the review as kind of the full overview as that seems to work best for then being able to transfer my review to Goodreads or Amazon.

I’m sure it will take a time or two running through to see what kinds of issues I may have or what I’ll still need to tweak, but this gives me a starting point for what I feel I want to change. My hope is that these changes will still give a more merit based opinion, but still feel like the rating range I would have been giving books before this revamp.

Now I just need some time to finish a book without having a dozen things interrupt me or distract me.

New Rating System Thoughts

Having done a couple of reviews under my new system, I’ve seen a few issues with it that have bothered me and I need to figure out a way to tweak it to work better. I do think it does what I intended in the sense that the final rating is more than just a blanket, subjective opinion. It is a result of a more thought out analysis based on what I consider important in a book. At the same time, I feel like any book I attempt to rate under this system is going to hit an SPA of 3 or very close. That kind of defeats the purpose. At least from one side.

Continue reading “New Rating System Thoughts”

Quality of Work?

This is a subject that has been rolling around in my head for a while now and I’ve gone back and forth debating with myself over whether I wanted to post about it or not. Are we diluting the quality of our literature with the advent of self-publishing? Yes, I’m actually asking that as a self-published, indie author.

Continue reading “Quality of Work?”

Book Genre Placement

This is something that falls heavily into one of my pet peeves in books. Genre categories and incorrect genre placement. Getting to see some of the difficulties with this issue from the publishing side hasn’t changed my stance on this that much. In some areas, available genre choices, it makes it even worse.

Continue reading “Book Genre Placement”

Lessons Learned: Week 1 of Being An Indie Author

In the little over a week since I clicked publish on my book, I have learned a lot about being in the indie author community and the overall environment around publishing a book on your own. Or at least, the pieces I have seen or attempted to interact with. Some of those lessons aren’t even things I’ve really learned, but rather things I already knew and got pretty emphatically confirmed.

Continue reading “Lessons Learned: Week 1 of Being An Indie Author”

Crazy Self-Publishing Process

When I first looked into the possibility of self-publishing, most all of the steps looked pretty easy. At its base, you write a book then find a platform and hit publish. While you can do it that way, chances are it won’t really go that well for you because a few critical steps have most likely been missed along the way. That is unless you are also an artist, cover designer, interior book designer*, editor and/or have friends and family willing to do those things for you.

Continue reading “Crazy Self-Publishing Process”

Seeing Myself

Self confidence has never been my strong suit. I know that I am probably a lot harder on myself than most other people will be, especially friends and family. That plays into doubting what they say and fueling that doubt. This is one of those things that I do know and recognize about myself and I’ve tried to watch for it in my kids and encourage them to push past it in themselves. It is something I had thought they were doing pretty well with. Until BG was getting ready to start her art class in second semester.

Continue reading “Seeing Myself”

Resonance

I obviously enjoy a wide range of books across many genres, but the ones that tend to stick with me the most are the ones that can give me a story about the imperfections of humanity and do so with a strong emotional impact, be it through humor, joy, anger, love, tears or grief. As long as the story fully engages my emotions, I’m probably going to really enjoy it, but even more so if it has a central focus on family.

Continue reading “Resonance”

Thoughts on #MeToo

I’d been dealing with lots of thoughts on the issue of sexual assault and the general response (or lack thereof) when a woman makes a claim of sexual assault quite a bit lately. With my own personal experience in my past, it is an issue I’ve always had struggles with trying to grasp. The last couple of weeks, there have been a couple of things that have popped up, keeping it in the front of my thoughts, even had a discussion on FB. When I saw the hashtag going around, it kind of felt like maybe I needed to get it out of my head. Continue reading “Thoughts on #MeToo”

Out of Sorts

Last week was hard. Hubby and I made the decision to drop OC from our insurance. It feels like I’m failing as a parent or that I’m a bad parent because I’ve taken that last safety net away. Knowing he doesn’t want it doesn’t change how I feel about it. We decided that we could not give him another opportunity to carelessly or thoughtlessly harm us or the other kids and he could very easily do so as long as he was covered under our plan. Continue reading “Out of Sorts”

Pretty Little Lies… Ideals

Perfect. Unconditional. Selfless. Black and White/Right and Wrong.

I’m going to apologize upfront as this is going to be kind of long and rambling, but these are things that have, yet again, been running through my head on an infinity loop. Continue reading “Pretty Little Lies… Ideals”

Trust and Conditioning

A brief, joking conversation on FB with a long time friend sparked a random, bunny trail of thoughts that have kept circling around in my brain since they got kicked off on that track over a week ago.  The more I keep going back to them, mulling them over, even after having talked it out a bit with Hubby, and have them still hanging around, makes me think that there is more that I need to be getting out of these thoughts. Since I haven’t quite gotten the point yet, I thought I’d toss them out here to see if it would quiet them down. Continue reading “Trust and Conditioning”

Quietly Reading

While I have still been reading, I’ve just kind of been off to the side, doing it quietly.  Partly because there have been quite a lot of things going on that have kept me too busy and partly because I just haven’t had much to say about what I’ve read recently, no matter if it was really good or not so good.  I have still been updating my reading list on Goodreads with ratings, but I haven’t written any reviews recently.

I’m in kind of a reading funk lately.  It isn’t that I haven’t read anything good, but I want to find something new that really grabs me and I haven’t found that yet.  I have my handful of very favorite authors that I anxiously await anything new they put out because I know, without a doubt, that I’m going to love it.  Sadly, that is only a very small handful of authors that fall into that category.  I’d made it something of a goal last year to find a new one, but it didn’t happen, which I thought was really surprising as I figured it couldn’t be too hard with as much as I like to read.

Kind of like having a food craving, but not having the right food around to satisfy it, I’ve been reading all kinds of things to try and figure out what I feel I’m missing, even doing a bit of rereading a few books here and there.  There have been a few times I thought I’d touched on it, but it never really quite hit the mark.  Not sure if it is the sheer volume of books I read and I’m just getting bored or if it is that I genuinely want something I haven’t run across yet, but most of my reading hasn’t been all that satisfying lately, even if I have read some good ones.

I’ve even been shuffling books to the bottom of my reading list, or having to recheck them out later because I didn’t get to them in time, because even though I do want to read them, I’m just not in the mood at the moment for most of what is on my list.  Not a fan of the current slump, but it isn’t like it will be much of hardship getting over it, because… books, reading… yeah, not like you’ll have to twist my arm or anything.