Halloween


So I have these friends who are kick-butt swing dancers. A while back, they decided that they were going to put together a routine for this competition called Battle of the Swing Cities up in Detroit. At the time I had no intention of going to Detroit, so I didn’t think about it much. But I was with them when they were planning, listening to music that might work, making costume suggestions. One of the costume ideas made me laugh hysterically for ten minutes (they didn’t use that one). I watched them practice, offered feedback when asked, held video cameras. When it came time for the actual competition, they asked if anyone would like to go to cheer them along, and I said that I would. So we all went to Detroit, they kicked butt (did I mention that they’re, um, kick-butt swing dancers?), and just barely missed winning. It was very exciting. At breakfast at Bob Evans the next morning, they decided that they wanted to take the routine to ALHC. Some of the dancers from the team that took first (who happen to be from another Medium Large City just north of ours) wanted in on the action, so they changed up the routine some and set in to practicing. My main involvement this time was as the occasional place-holder as they worked out the new choreography, and sometimes camera operator. I was pretty busy with other things in my life, so I wished them well, and looked forward to the days when half the good leads wouldn’t spend half the dance over in the corner practicing.

Then came the competition weekend. I checked the forums approximately fifty thousand times, anxiously looking for news of my people off in the wilds of Connecticut, competing their little hearts out. The first I saw was one of the guys posting on his facebook profile that he had placed 3rd in the Jack & Jill. My heart sank. There wasn’t a word about the team competition. If he didn’t say anything about it, then they must have tanked. I checked the forums. Initial news was that the routine had gone really well, people cheered, but they hadn’t won anything. It seemed like a huge letdown after the way they killed themselves with hard work. And the routine had been seriously awesome. For a few hours, things looked pretty sad. Then more news started coming. They actually finished 4th out of 8 competitors. The three teams that beat them included a team made up entirely of the Superstars Of Swing Dancing, and the Air Force swing team, which I’m told has a tendency to dominate wherever they go. All that everyone in the Wider Swing Dancing Community was talking about was our team’s routine. People couldn’t get over how awesome it was, and that there were people who could swing dance in Ohio. Someone posted some quotes from yehoodi (the big, national swing forum). This was not a disappointment! This was local kids Making Good. It was like the stories about the plucky small town kids who come out of nowhere and blow away the disbelieving big city people.

It was amazing and awesome, but still, a little, you know, not real. Then I checked this dance blog and started laughing. He, too, was raving, and had even posted the video of the Detroit competition. Suddenly what we’d all been marveling about was real. People actually know who we are. And, no, this is not my accomplishment, but I couldn’t be more excited about how freaking awesome my friends are. You can be excited too:

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I just got home from our annual Family Christmas Planning Brunch. Thank God this only comes around once a year. There’s just so many of us (eleven kids plus two parents, though two kids are overseas and one’s at college so we only had seven), and everybody has to chime in on everything. It was three and a half hours that felt like a small lifetime. Even then we didn’t get everything done, so we’re going to have Christmas Planning Brunch: The Sequel sometime in November. I love my family, I really do. Just they make me feel so… claustrophobic.

What made it even more fun was that Heather, the sister I get along with the least, was especially fragile. She just found out that she’s being laid off. Her employers lost a major contract, and since she was the one most recently hired, she gets the ax. There had been some planning mix-ups about the brunch itself, and I hadn’t been notified that the time had been pushed back two hours to accommodate Heather’s schedule . At the beginning of the meeting, I asked that if we were going to change the time of a group event like this that we have at least a week’s notice. Heather decided that this was a personal attack against her, and said that the time had been open to change since no specific time had been set on the calendar. I stated that this wasn’t true, since I’d had it on my calendar with the original time for months. She decided this meant that I was calling her a liar, and proceeded to have an emotional outburst, complete with swear words, at the brunch table. Perhaps this is nothing unusual for most families, but I have a mother who doesn’t want us to even use the word “crap” because she considers it unacceptably vulgar. Thankfully Heather reined herself in about that point, or things could have gotten even more dramatic. Unfortunately, since this was in front of the entire family, everyone had to chime in immediately afterwards with their analysis, attempts to reconcile the two of us, recommendations for avoiding similar situations in the future, etc. By the time I got them to move on we were already an hour into the meeting and had accomplished precisely nothing. It was lovely.

The good thing is that we’ve established some important groundwork for the holiday season, including scheduling all the major family events, of which there are many. We’re a family who really likes to celebrate the whole Christmas season, not just one day. So there’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Family Gift Giving Day, Going To See A Movie Together, Preparing for Events, and the Huge Blowout New Year’s Day Party, with smaller things tucked in here and there between. I really like how we celebrate. I just wish there were a way to do it without the meetings.

In other news, I wore my Princess Pupule costume to the Halloween dance last night, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  The costume was a hit.  As I was paying my admission, Jenn spied the basket of papayas I’d parked on the counter.  “Are those papayas?” she asked incredulously.  “Yes,” I said, “Do you know why?”  “Oh, yeah!” she said, and started laughing.  It was awesome.  And really, if you need a costume you can dance in, a hula girl costume is hard to beat!  It’s comfortable, not too hot, and the grass skirt really flies when you spin.  I wore two of them over my ballet leotard and tights, with leis around my neck, one pinned in my hair, and another twisted around my ankle.  I’ll wear the costume again at the weekly dance on Wednesday.  I have to say I’m looking forward to it!

Oh, my friends, it is so freaking cold at my house!  Right now I’m huddled over my morning bowl of hot cereal, trying to absorb, not only its nutritional value, but every calorie of heat it’s radiating.  Last night I slept in thick socks, sleep pants, a thermal long sleeve shirt, and the thickest sweater I own.  I still had to pull the covers up over my head to get warm.  I know that Liv hasn’t turned the heat on yet because she’s trying to save money (we’re both, you know, impoverished and all), but it was 62 degrees Fahrenheit by the thermostat downstairs this morning when I woke up.  Couldn’t we have perhaps even a little warmth?  [insert pitiful big-eyed face here]

I’m afraid that Essential Pieces of my Princess Pupule Halloween costume, which I ordered online, won’t be here in time for the dance on Saturday.  [insert anxious, possibly sad face here]  However, they’ll definitely be here in time for the dance on Wednesday!  [insert gleeful, excited face here]

In dancing news, Lucy and I have been discovering the joys of Solo Blues.  We never knew there was such a thing before, and it’s lovely!  Dancing Blues has always been problematic for me.  I know I’ll really, really like it – but will I respect myself in the morning?  In my brief forays into the Blues world, there have been times when I was just fine with it, and times when I… wasn’t.  Then I followed a link on a friend’s dancing blog, and found this: The ULHS 2006 Solo Blues Finals.  It was awesome.  And there were some amazing dancers in it, dancers I recognized from Charleston videos.  Dancers that Lucy thinks are demigods and I think are really, really cool (I have my own pantheon of dancing demigods).  It was a revelation.  So I sent Lucy the link, and last night we both tried it out on the dance floor at the Wednesday night dance.  We have some kinks to work out.  For example, how do you make this distinctively Blues and not just booty-shakin’?  And all the dancers in the finals were dancing barefoot, but I love the noises I can make with the heels on my new dancing shoes. There’s a whole new dancing world to explore!  Hurrah!  [insert ecstatic solo-blues dancing face here]

Here’s something else to file under Weird Things That Only Happen To Bernadette: The other day when I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment, the fragment of a soap opera I caught while waiting concerned a young woman who was very distraught that while she was fooling around on the couch with a guy the night before, somehow her cell phone on the desk across the room had come on and started taking pictures of this fooling around. Moreover, it seemed that Person or Persons Unknown had gotten hold of these pictures, and was posting them all over the internet. This whole plot device seemed so absurd that I remembered it, and marveled at the invention of soap opera writers.

Then, this morning when I walked into the kitchen first thing, all bleary eyed and sleepy in my PJs, my cell phone was on the table where I left it – turned on, and in picture taking mode.

Now, certain evidence to the contrary, I do not really think that my life is a soap opera. And the idea that someone would be remotely controlling my cell phone to take pictures is, um, a stretch. Plus, since at the moment I have no one in my life that I’d be fooling around with, on the couch or otherwise, any pictures wouldn’t be all that interesting. And I gotta say, the sight of me in my sleep pants and t-shirt is not that exciting! Honest!

Still… it was a little spooky.

Good thing Halloween is coming up.

So it seems like my Higher Power has decided that I will have a Midterm Break whether I like it or not. And for that I say meekly, “Thank you, Higher Power!” My planned schedule had involved:

  • a full day of classes Wednesday, plus teaching Swing I that night,
  • a Cooking Day with Jenn on Thursday,
  • a full day of work and a wedding on Friday,
  • lots of house chores and a birthday dinner for Michelle on Saturday,
  • then going to Indianapolis to dance Westie on Sunday.

In other words, a pretty normal Bernadette schedule. Then half my classes Wednesday got canceled, Jenn had to cancel on me, my boss asked if I wanted to change my work schedule for Friday since it was Midterm Break, and the birthday dinner got turned into a birthday brunch. Sunday (so far, at least) is the only day that has remained the same. The great thing about Jenn pulling out is that I had already made all the arrangements for my jobs at Theology On Tap to be covered, so I had this wonderful and unexpected thing: a completely free evening. It was lovely.

I finally figured out what I’m going to do for my costume for the Halloween swing dance. The Dorothy costume I had planned with such loving care just wasn’t getting finished, and the way my schedule has been, it’s not going to. I knew I needed to figure something else out, and after all the talking about my other costume idea, it needed to be good. Last week I was dancing with Doug to one of my favorite songs, a silly novelty song about a Hawaiian princess with lots of papayas, which she generously distributes to the populace. (“She loves to give it away, I mean papaya…”) The next day I googled the lyrics and discovered that the song was Princess Pupule Has Plenty Papaya by Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiians. So now I’m figuring that I’ll get a grass skirt, some leis, wear them over a dancing skirt and a tank top with a tiara, bring a basket of papayas, and be Princess Pupule for Halloween.

DorothyLast year I wanted to be Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz for Halloween.  I saw this awesomely cute 1950s sundress pattern from Vintage Vogue that would have been perfect.  Just wear a little white blouse underneath, tuck a stuffed dog in a basket, find some red shoes, and I’d be set as the cutest swing dancing Dorothy you ever saw.  Unfortunately I didn’t really have the money to buy the fabric, and then I ended up not going to any Halloween parties because of a conflicting commitment.  Since then, however, I have managed to acquire the pattern, the fabric, and the red shoes.  All I’m missing is the stuffed dog and the basket, and I’m good to go.  Well, and the time to actually make the dress.  But I have hopes!  High hopes.

This weekend my ambition was to cut the fabric for the dress.  Then life intervened.   First, on Wednesday I broke the news to Trey that Robert Jordan, his absolute favorite author, had died.  Trey was upset, and I gave him a little crap about not being able to share his grief because he hadn’t lent me his copies of Jordan’s books.  When I arrived at swing that night, Trey greeted me with an entire shopping bag full of books, not only the first eight in Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but a few others Trey thought I might enjoy.  Trey knows me a little too well.  I did enjoy the books, very much.  So much that all I’ve done with my free time since then is read.  Not a single shred of homework has been done.  I did manage to get the fabric, pins, and sewing shears out, but they’ve sat abandoned on the dining room table ever since.

Then on Saturday I decided to go up to Columbus for the swing dance.  I’ve been wanting to get up there for some time.   I know that traveling a little more is one of the things I need to do to take my dancing to the next level.  Plus there are lots of good dancers up there who make it down for our dances on a regular basis.  Still, I’ve been dragging my feet about it.  The thing that finally got me up there was that Trey was teaching a West Coast for Lindyhoppers workshop before the dance.  I do love West Coast, and the chance that there might be enough Westie leads to actually get some good dances was a powerful incentive.  So I went, and had a great time.  But it pretty much killed any chance of getting anything done on Saturday.

Here I am Sunday night, with a paper to write on Judaism and an obscene amount of Aquinas to read.  I know that I have no business doing anything but homework at this point.  But every time I walk past the dining room, I see that pile of fabric with the scissors and the pincushion perched on top.  Surely it wouldn’t take all that long to cut out a dress, right?