Sunday, June 22, 2014

What's Right in the World? Let it Go

*sigh* It works for the theme of this post.

I recently made the decision to walk away from an organization I have been a part of for the better part of 16 years. It pained me to do it, and I didn't make the decision lightly.

My reasons for walking away were somewhat practical, but more personal. Feelings were hurt and I suspect recent snubs were deliberate rather than mere oversights.

What is interesting is when I was asked, point-blank, if I was going to continue, I said no, then vocalized my displeasure. It was great comfort to me that the people I was talking to allowed me to say my piece and they listened to me, validating my feelings. They also didn't blame me at all for moving on, as they agreed the organization was "no longer the friendly place it used to be."

I wasn't sure what to expect after that, as I spent the weekend at an event for the organization. Was there going to be tears, anger, accusations, hostility, sadness, etc?

What resulted was... nothing. Perhaps whispered resigned acceptance that I was moving on and nothing more could be said. Perhaps they were happy to be rid of me as well.

But when I was packing up my things, getting ready to go while an event was still going on, I felt, for perhaps the first time in a long time, the freedom to leave without being the last person in the arena helping wrap things up. I can look back at the last 16 years as I put my time in, hoping I made a difference, and I had nothing more to prove.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why Art Matters: My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding

Y'all are crazy.

One of the bonuses of Netflix is the opportunity to binge on your favorite shows. I watched three seasons of The United States of Tara nonstop over the course of two weeks. Orange is the New Black? Two more weeks, then watched it again with Dave when he decided to start watching it.

Well, I'm on my second viewing of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding (MBFAGW). What the hell is the appeal?! I'm planning on doing a little typing out loud to figure this out for myself.

Dresses: the crazy, blingtastic creations by dress designer Sondra Chelli are a girly-girl figure skater's dream come true. Crystals and feathers and beautiful fabrics and princess heels and crowns and doo dads and whatnots. The reveals allow you to gasp right along with the girls as the impossible fantasy gowns become reality.

Time warp: it's modern day, but the cultural norms for family dynamics is something straight out of the 50s. The men leave school early to work in the family business, marry and start families with their teenage brides. Most of the women are happy with this arrangement, filling their days with chores and children. On one hand, it seems like a blissfully simple existence full of love for family. But on the other hand, it's a horribly chauvinistic existence that it seems a few of the women, like Melly, bristle against.

Celebration: being Polish, I love a good wedding. And outside of the occasional birthday party, baby shower or baptism, that's what this show is all about. Dramas over dresses, dance halls, tuxedos, bachelor parties, and more just make me laugh. I especially enjoyed the Maryland couple, who had eloped 14 years ago, renewing their vows. She was adorable, he was sweet, and they were a couple clearly in love that had mutual respect for each other, something that was missing from the young couples exhibiting their swagger at the tender ages of 17.

Reoccuring characters: the first season of MBFAGW featured many members of the same family, and you scrambled to keep them straight. No problem, this show offered a spin-off, Gypsy Sisters, featuring the quartet above. Yes, I have a favorite, Kayla, far right, who while second in command to Nettie, seems to be in a happy relationship and is the most level-headed. Melly is a hot mess, but with reason.

Culture: it would be easy to dismiss the clan as white trash, but that would be unfair. I'm aware of the stereotypes that get flung around, I'm Polish and had to endure "dumb polack" jokes as a kid. The gypsies were a marginalized culture abused by the British who brought them to America as slaves. They have kept with them family pride, poetry, music and dance.

Rubberneckin': they are a wild, strange bunch that contradict themselves in all sorts of ways and it's fascinating to watch the powder kegs ignite.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Typing Out Loud: Burning the Candle at Both Ends

I had a few more wicks than that in May.


My friend Mo, running herself ragged at Adult Nationals in 2005, quipped "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

I just learned a valuable lesson in "too much all at once" where perhaps a dirt nap would have been preferable to the schedule I kept.

First, there was the non-stop action of competing three events at Adult Nationals. For a competitor, that many adrenaline rushes over the course of 4 days was a bit much. And my only off day, where was I? At the rink for 12 hours, volunteering as an ice sweeper.

Back home from ANs, a glance at my calendar revealed judging commitments, an ice dancing competition, work, household obligations, and the River Bank Run. Instead of the usual downtime to putz on the ice and rest on my laurels, I was running through the three dances I was planning to compete.

I threw something else into the mix, when Festival organizers dangled an invitation to submit work for the regional arts exhibition.

So what happened? I simply had too many candles burning, and I made a series of mistakes.

I competed the dances, earning three medals. But instead of enjoying it, I was relieved for it to be over, one more thing checked off the to-do list.

For the River Bank Run, anxious that I didn't properly train for it, I overdid the training the two weeks prior to the event. Instead of listening to my body and trusting what I had been doing all along, I feverishly pumped away on the elliptical with vigor, ignoring pains here and there in the vain hope that the cliches were true that this was "fear leaving the body." Instead of being up and eager for the race, my legs were heavy, as if made of lead. The first two miles were awesome, as I posted 11 minute miles. By time I left the zoo, my brain went into negative overdrive and I had a mental fight on my hands for 3.5 miles to the finish line. As a result, I averaged over 14 minute miles, every footfall felt like defeat.

Knowing I would be hurting and pressed for time the day of the race, I nonetheless agreed to judge a "quick" test session as well as skate in an exhibition at another rink. My brain said no, but my mouth said "sure!" As with any skating competition and test session, it ran late and I was disappointed to be a no-show for a skating event for the first time in my life.

And the exhibition for Festival? Even though I thought to myself, "no, you don't have time to pull something together," I slap-dashed a piece into a frame and ran it over to the event organizers, who sent me the "sorry, not selected" email at probably the lowest ebb of the weekend.

I could throw shade at the "snobby" jurors for not selecting my work, but that would be unfair. I hesitated before going downtown, knowing that while the work was great, the presentation was not my best, and at that moment, I argued my art deserved better matting and framing than what I submitted. I didn't allow myself the time to present my best face.

I love showing off my knack for time management, but I need to learn the value of no. Had I acknowledged I was stretched a bit too thin the last couple of weeks, I wouldn't have turned in a weak project, nor would I have dealt with the anxiety of preparing an exhibition program and racing across town to do it. I could have also given myself breathing room by limiting my availability for the test session.

What I did in the aftermath of my marathon weeks was a forced vacation from training. No skating. No running. Wrote a bunch of blogs. Only thing I did at the Y was a little stretching in the hot tub and some foam rolling. Bought a new swimsuit. Cleaned my skate bag. Shopped for new running shoes. Cleaned a neglected house. And slowed down a bit.

Monday, June 9, 2014

June Playlist: I Made You a Mix Tape

My first "mix tape" using a CD burner.
iTunes has brought play lists a long way since then.

Two of my favorite books center around the art of the mix tape. The first is "Love is a Mix Tape," by Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield, chronicling the love story between him and his first wife, and the aftermath of her untimely death. Music brought them together, was communication between them, and helped heal him after her passing.

The other, "I Made You a Mix Tape," is a compilation of stories how sharing music cemented friendships, first loves, or captured that one special moment in time.

A product of the 80s, my early mixes were done the old-fashioned way, with a tape recorder and a microphone next to the speaker, and hoping to God no one walked in and ruined your audio by talking. I was especially diligent during the end of year countdowns, my pre-teen sister forever captured over the strains of 38 Special.

I can attempt to conjure up some old mixes, I think I have some of my college radio shows still on tape, any maybe even some of the older mixes if I didn't tape over them. But for now, here's the compilation I made in 1998 to share with girlfriends, Lipstick on the Mike, my first attempt using a CD burner. Like the old days, you crammed as much music as you could into one piece of audio:

  1. Melissa Etheridge, Bring Me Some Water
  2. Heart, Dog and Butterfly
  3. Bangles, Going Down to Liverpool
  4. Blondie, Dreaming
  5. Stevie Nicks, If Anyone Falls
  6. Tori Amos, China
  7. Belly, Thief
  8. The Fugees, Killing Me Softly
  9. Bananarama, He Was Really Saying Something
  10. Bjork, Big Time Sensuality
  11. Siouxie and the Banshees, Peekaboo!
  12. Joan Jett, Do Ya Wanna Touch?
  13. Hole, Violet
  14. Concrete Blonde, Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man
  15. PJ Harvey, Down By the River
  16. Garbage, Special
  17. Liz Phair, Supernova
  18. Madonna, Beautiful Stranger
  19. Eurythmics, I Need a Man
  20. No Doubt, New