Thursday, December 20, 2012

Bryan OH Bellydance Classes Winter 2013

Bryan, OH  Parks and Recreation

Belly dance is a powerful way to strengthen the core and tone the body, as well as enhancing rhythm, flexibility and beauty. This ancient art form is the ultimate in feminine exercise. Come and embrace the dancer in you!

Basic Foundations Workshops: These one-night-only classes will provide instruction in posture, isolations, and beginning steps and combinations, as well as the history of belly dance, for new beginners or anyone who wants to brush up on basic technique. Come and find out what belly dance is all about and decide if you want to continue with the following full session. Cost is $20.

Session 1: Monday, January 7 from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Session 2: Monday, February 18 from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Session 3: Tuesday, April 2 from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Classic Tribal Oriental: This class will feature a multi-level format in a synthesis of earthy Beledi, Golden Era elegance, Improvisational Tribal and other American innovations, with an aura of Gypsy romance. Rita Helena’s experience and innovative techniques will provide a beginner friendly atmosphere but will challenge even the advanced dancer. The class will include versatile dance methods, shimmies, layering, personal styling, fluid transitions, graceful arms, fun combinations, invigorating drills, and much more. This style is reminiscent of vintage belly dance of the 1970s, updated for the contemporary dancer (Prerequisite for new beginners: Basic Foundations Workshop). Classes will be held on Thursdays for 5 consecutive weeks, and the cost is $50.

Session 1: begins January 10, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

Session 2: begins February 21, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

Session 3: begins April 4, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m.

*All classes will be held at the Bryan Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. Please call the Parks and Recreation department at 419-633-6030 to register. A minimum of 8 students must be pre-registered, and pre-payment is highly encouraged to reserve your space.

*Students should dress in comfortable clothing that is not too loose, so the instructor can see your movements, and wear a belt or scarf around the hips. You can dance barefoot or in socks or ballet slippers. All classes will include a full body warm up and yoga cool down, for a holistic fitness experience.  Bring yoga mat if desired.

Unapologetically Me

Sometimes I just want to write without reservation, without a plan, about whatever is on my mind. But that's what a diary is for, and I give a high priority to making my blog writing professional. Yet I often feel like I have to hold back. To word things just so. Who might be offended? Will I put some readers off if I talk about this or that, if I give my opinion too forcefully, if I am too passionate? My best friend would say, to hell with it. She really doesn't generally care what other people think of her, and therefore, she can be herself. I admire that. But "they" say that you can only recognize a quality in another human being if you possess it yourself. It's in my nature to be fearless, but I am also sensitive. We can be kind and still be frank and real. So I'm gonna be fearlessly honest and frankly kind from now on.

Today I went to a kids' Christmas party at a neighbor's house, and two grandmothers were there. One of them told the other that she always knew it would be great to be a grandma; what she didn't anticipate was what a joy it is to see her own children being parents. The other agreed, and it was obvious that they are both so proud of the mothering job their daughters are doing. Lucky daughters these, whose mothers look at them with an admiring rather than a critical eye, as so often seems to be the case. In reality it is likely that they have not approved of every little thing. Surely some negative thoughts must occasionally surface. Their conversation struck me profoundly for some reason, perhaps because I had never heard such sentiments about grandparenting expressed in that way, and I hoped that they openly shared them with their children, not just with other people. I think I was meant to overhear this conversation for a reason, and I want to file this away so I can give that sort of cheerleading to my own daughter when she becomes a mother. It was also like a little light in the dark tunnel I was experiencing in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

My sister called me on the day of that massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Her sadness mirrored mine, which was somehow comforting. She told me that she is glad Beezy is homeschooled. This did my broken heart good that day. Some people might scorn homeschooling as overprotective. You can't protect your children from everything, they say. They're going to be exposed to the horrors and bad influence of the world eventually, they admonish. But it is an absolute fact that not having your child in school will protect him from a school shooting. I read in a Catholic homeschooling blog today that the Rose Lima Catholic Church in Newtown has received bomb threats. The blogger's brother is the priest there, Father Luke. What is the meaning of this? Is it anti-Catholicism? Is it just more insane behavior with no rhyme nor reason? The sheer magnitude of hate and evil is overwhelming.

I don't talk much about my Catholic religion on this blog, because I write about it elsewhere. But I can't separate it from the rest of my life. It informs my homeschooling, my natural family living, my response to tragedy, my relationships. There is nothing not touched by it. So why should I keep it under wraps? Who might be offended? Today I don't care. The truth is, I would have been a bloody mess on that terrible Friday if it wasn't for my Catholic faith. I picked up my rosary and immediately began to pray. I have only been Catholic for about a year, and not even officially so until Easter, when I will take my First Communion. This is the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Real Presence of the body and blood of Jesus in the transubstantiated bread and wine. I love my Lord, and he is the one who said this is true. And I love his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I would not have gotten through so many moments of heartbreak and feelings of hopelessness if it weren't for her intercession. I understood more fully than ever, when the news of the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary broke, why Jesus gave her to us from the cross.

So that's what I have to say today, in all its randomness. Life is too short to apologize for who we are, and if someone can't handle my joy, my sorrow, or my unapologetic opinion, life is also too short to spend it explaining myself.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stylish Mom Ensemble #2

As Winnie the Pooh would say, Oh bother! My camera seems to be at the end of its productive life. The quality of photos from my latest stylish mom ensemble was not very good, but a few shots will work well enough. I will most likely not post a new look until I get an improved camera, which I really planned to do anyway, so it all comes out in the wash...

sweatshirt, Shopko Hometown; skirt, Ann Taylor Loft (many moons ago); indigo jeggings, Wal-Mart (a few years back); patent "leather" ballet flats, Simply Vera at; necklace,

I wore this on the day I taught my belly dance class last week, so it was inspired by that vocation. I actually went to class dressed like this, and after warming up, I took off the sweatshirt and just wore a sleeveless top I had on underneath that matches the skirt, also from Ann Taylor Loft. I tucked the skirt up so my students could see my knees, which is very important, so it was a mini skirt over leggings look (very vintage 80s "now").  Too bad I didn't think to take my camera! The necklace is from Tribal belly dance outfitter, Flying Skirts. I highly recommend them! So the moral of this story is to take a particular element of your lifestyle and incorporate it into your everyday look. By the way, Paris fashion week showed designer sweatshirts worn with pencil skirts and heels! This is a more everyday version.  Here are a couple of closer shots of the necklace (my earrings are silver leaves):

For this hair do:  I used Pneuma styling creme and Real Purity styling gel ( on freshly washed hair. Since it is naturally curly and frizzes easily, I dried it only at the roots (with a diffuser), then twisted it up in back and pinned with a large clip.  I flat ironed the fringe. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.

And just for good measure, here I am wearing my eyeglasses by Cover Girl:

Beezy (my illustrious photographer) wanted to have her own photo shoot, so here she is wearing a vintage 20s, velvet tunic vest of mine, tied with a coat belt, and red ladies' gloves that I use for decoration (though I may incorporate them into a future ensemble!):

Special tip:  Line blue eyes with bronze eyeliner or shadow to make them pop!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Stylish Mom Ensemble #1

Thanks to what I wrote yesterday about feeling like I was once so stylish but have lost my panache since becoming a mother (and gaining weight and entering my 40s...), I was inspired to create a whole new series! I hired a photographer today. She is 8 years old, homeschooled, and happens to be my only child, Beezy. We incorporated "digital photography" into our school time, and while chilly, it was a gorgeous sunny day, and we were able to get some fine, outdoor shots. Having previously worked as a model, I know it can take a whole roll of film to get just a few usable pictures, so the fact that she took less than a dozen, and we came away with plenty to feature here, I'd say she is a natural! It was a lot of work for my husband to format, so I think I can only get away with asking for his help once or twice a week. I'll stockpile, though, in the meantime.

I picked out my outfit last night before bed. I used to do this when getting ready for the next day of high school. I recommend the idea, because it made me excited to get dressed this morning. Sometimes I stay in my pajamas too long and then use taking a shower as a break in the school day. Instead, today I got ready first, and we walked the dog and had lunch in between sessions.  And since I had gone to all the trouble, I was motivated to get out and show off my style! We went to the library and ran errands to the grocery, Family Dollar and Shopko Hometown. Plus we stopped to see my grandparents. Here is the ensemble, shot on my front porch:

The sweater was a Goodwill thrift store find, and the cherry red ankle jeans are from Simply Vera at Kohls, which I bought online at the beginning of fall. My socks are from Target, which have a crazy pattern and are "scrunchable". My sister gave me the Dr. Scholls clogs for my birthday when I was pregnant in 2003, but I haven't actually worn them much, so they are in great shape. The next photo is with our dog, Daisy, taken in front of our 2003 Volkswagon Beetle.  I am wearing  tortoise shell prescription sunglasses by Polaroid and a dusty rose L.L. Bean "barn coat" with brown corduroy trim that I found on Ebay. I bought this when I was in the mode of wanting to dress like an eccentric, "English country" style woman, so of course I also got "wellies" (rain boots) which I'll be sure to feature another time. I still rather like the idea of the eccentric English lady.

I wanted a close up to display my accessories, which did not quite show up as well as I would have liked. The necklace is a vintage 20s style with turquoise beads and gold filigree, and my earrings are feathers connected by a delicate chain. These were purchased at a shop on the circle in Angola, Indiana, but I can't remember its name. You can also see here that I am letting my gray hair come in! This was taken on my side porch:

Notice that I didn't get matchy-matchy. The color of my jeans is not in my sweater, but it works. And my clogs are a different shade of red than the pants, but again, it all flows together. I chose the jewelry to pick up the turquoise stripe in my sweater, and the earrings also have turquoise. By the way, it gets very windy where I live on a regular basis, so a very precise hairstyle simply is not workable. It also is healthier not to wash one's hair every day, especially if it is long, so this is 2nd day hair.

First I turned my head upside down and brushed it. Then I used style extender by Neuma, a natural hair care line available at the Ajave salon in Bryan, to revive my natural curls. I also recommend their smooting creme. I used a flat iron on my bangs only, then sprayed with Jason thin to thick, extra volume hair spray, which can be purchased at That's it! I hope this has inspired you, and please check back for future stylish mom ensembles!! I will leave you with a few more pics from the day.

Special tip:  Rosemary is said to improve mental clarity, so smooth on Avalon's rosemary hand and body lotion ( before dressing in your fab fashions!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Reflections of a Once Stylish Mom

I had my home (the downstairs that everyone sees, that is) all clean and decorated for Christmas by Saturday, Dec. 1!  While I told myself that this was an awesome thing, as now I could just relax for the Advent season, I felt let down by the end of Dec. 2.  The reason for this is that I had been working like crazy, preparing for a bridal shower I gave for a friend on Sunday.  All that house cleaning for an event that lasted less than three hours. Was it worth the blood, sweat and tears? Of course, I was more than happy to throw the party for my bosom buddy, and as long as I keep vigil so that clutter does not creep back in, I won't have to do any more stressful house work, well, maybe ever. (Okay, I know myself better than that.) Also, my sister said this was the cutest my home has ever looked! So why am I not satisfied?

Well, I like to beat myself up about the things I might have done better. And I was tired that day, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I might have. I had to drive to the next town for church that morning, since my RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) class had our Rite of Acceptance, so I couldn't miss it. And I hadn't slept terribly well the night before, in anticipation of the big day ahead. So I felt like I looked tired. My hair had gotten frizzy from running around in the wet mist. My living room was so crammed full of guests that I was sweating and kept having to open the front door. I got compliments on my house as well as my snazzy new ankle pants from Ann Taylor Loft, but I still didn't feel like a morning star.

One of the problems is that I was once so very stylish. I had a nearly perfect figure and could wear one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that I can't fit into now, even if they still worked with my lifestyle. I had the best wardrobe, which came primarily from thrift stores, garage sales, Target, and vintage boutiques. I took risks, I had flair, I was fabulous! Now I live where there are not any shopping malls, or one-of-a-kind boutiques, or even a Target (yes, weep for me now, my sisters...) But that's not really the problem. It used to be easy to look great with only a little makeup. Easy and breezy to throw something on without thinking too hard about it and look hip. Although that's not entirely true, either. I once had the time to play around with my outfits, accessories, hair and makeup. I'd get dressed up and find somewhere to go if I didn't already have plans. Now there isn't anywhere to go. Dress up to walk the dog, run to the grocery, visit the library or my grandparents? And my husband doesn't help--he seems to think I am gorgeous and desirable no matter what. Wait--that's a good thing, right? Well, yes, but it doesn't help me try very hard to find the balance I so desperately need between being stylish and functional.

 Stylish Mom Icon, Katie Holmes

Strange things happen accidentally, though, that can help us see beyond our tunnel vision. Is there no way out of this beauty malaise? One day recently I had gotten hot and had taken my sweater off and was wearing only a tunic length, simple camisole top. When I got chilly, I grabbed the nearest thing, a rose-colored Western style shirt of my husband's. It fit perfectly. I looked pretty sexy if I do say so myself! Even our daughter remarked on how well it suited me. "After I wash this, I'm putting it in my closet," I told my husband. I was serious. I am that desperate.

I have bought new clothes, and I am cheered and inspired for a short time, but then my hair still doesn't work right, or the outfit doesn't work as well as planned, or I compare myself to someone who is thinner and has more money to spend on clothes. Even if I wouldn't dream of wearing shorts with lacy patterned tights in December (like the guest of honor wore to her bridal shower), I want to feel as attractive as she always looks. But I don't want to dress like her; I want to dress like me. How, for the love of all that is chic in the world-- exactly how? I found some great, stylish mom blogs today, and that got me thinking in a better direction. A key theme is to shop your own closet. Comfort is a necessity, but a few festive accessories can glam up an otherwise basic outfit when you need to be dressier. Layers bring out creativity and personality and help you change your pieces up. Getting rid of clothes you don't love and don't wear is a vital step, so that you can see the clothes that you will look forward to wearing.

If the sun had shined brightly today, I might not have fretted so. After all, this is trivial stuff. These are not Real Problems. But there is a long, long winter ahead here in Ohio. I want to feel like the best me I can be in every area of life. I want to feel lovely while I sit in my cozy home all decorated for Christmas. Most of the shopping is even done already! I don't want to waste a moment wishing for a better hair day, or cuter shoes, or a scarf that matches my coat better. So it is time to get myself together, once and for all! Or at least until spring, when I will have to figure out what to wear again. So stay posted. I'm going to be ambitious and put together some outfits with stuff I already have and become one of those savvy mom bloggers. We will get through these dark grey days in color, texture, beauty, and warmth--together!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Cleanliness & Godliness

I just mopped my kitchen floor. And it was dirty. Brown-water, sinfully dirty. Brackish as the marshlands. I have noticed that I regularly tell Beezy not to play on the dirty floor. Sometimes this is because we are going somewhere soon, and I want her clothing to look presentable. But other times, the dirt is so visible as to be a living entity which might gather her up and blow her out the door...

That saying, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness"--I often wondered, as I lived in an embarrassingly messy apartment, what did it mean? Did it have something to do with how often one bathed, or did it refer to purity of mind? Or could it--please Lord, no--have to do with the state of one's housekeeping? If a tidy home equaled a beautiful soul, then mine was as dark as the filth I rinsed from my mop this evening.

Eventually I had read enough self-help books to concede that the state of one's environment surely had an effect upon one's peace of mind--or lack thereof--and vice versa. The feng shui theories of clearing blocked energy via proper placement of furniture and decorative elements, reducing clutter, and keeping one's living quarters clean became commonly accepted wisdom. I lived alone until I was 33, so there was no one else in my apartment to blame for the chaos, unless you counted the cat. And I certainly felt better when I cleared the debris. I could think. I could breathe.

It doesn't matter, really, whether we live alone or with five children and a husband. My neighbor has 4 kids under the age of five, yet you can drop in any time and find her home always immaculate. What is the meaning of this madness? In two words: good habits. It isn't about whether you are married or single, childless or running a mini zoo. You either have good habits or you don't. I don't. Today I break free of my denial! If I were truly holy, would my house be cleaner? Am I not holy enough because I can't keep it all under control?

Before we get carried away, let's just take the first step of awareness. While there is certainly room for improvement, I have in reality made a great deal of progress. I think that at one time I had a mild hoarding disorder. I wouldn't have gotten on "reality" television for it, but I had definite anxieties about throwing anything away (and this was before the days of recycling). I no longer have a hoarding disorder, though I will balk if my husband tries to force me to go through an entire stack of papers and decide in a split second whether each item should stay or go. I still need the time to make sure. Besides, we don't want to be too much Martha and not enough Mary. You know, the sisters of Lazarus in Bethany that Jesus visited. He told Martha that Mary took the better part by sitting at his feet when she was fussing about doing all the work. Perhaps holiness is only one part cleanliness and two parts prayer and contemplation.

Saints Mary and Martha with Jesus

My home is probably six times bigger than my old apartment when I was single, and now I have a husband, child and dog. And by and large, things are cleaner and less cluttered. This is a huge accomplishment, and of course I have a lot of help from my husband. While it is a constant, repetitive battle, I do believe it is our sacred duty to instill good habits in our children. This is a gift we can give them that will serve them for their entire lives. Some day, perhaps, Beezy will be mopping her own kitchen floor, and the water will be a mere light gray.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Belly Dance: Workshop with Paulette!

Last night I drove an hour to attend a workshop in Toledo by Paulette Rees-Denis, founder of Tribal belly dance troupe, Gypsy Caravan. While I have to admit to being quite starstruck, Paulette is no distant diva. She is warm, down to earth, and has a smile to light up the darkest day. Aegela hosted the workshop at her studio, and having taken classes on occasion with the lovely lady, it was fun to be a fellow student with her.

I felt like I already knew Paulette. I learned Tribal from Angie Hay (a.k.a. Angie Never) in Columbus, who had learned directly from Paulette. When I moved away from the area to Northwest Ohio, there were no belly dance classes being offered in my county, so I decided to teach, and I began with Tribal. Angie was always so helpful when I had questions, and she recommended that I get some of Paulette's videos to refresh my memory. I did so, and also purchased Paulette's biography, Tribal Vision. Last night she signed it for me! I have subscribed for some time to Paulette's online newsletter and have been published there twice. We have corresponded a little via email. But actually meeting her in person was such a sweet treat!

Paulette has been belly dancing for 30 years, but she has been a dancer since childhood. Her mother still dances Flamenco at age 86! In addition to Flamenco, Paulette has extensive training in ballet, jazz, and African dance forms. She was Tribal pioneer Carolena Nerricio's first student and was an original member of her troupe in San Francisco, Fat Chance Belly Dance. They had their first performance in Paulette's backyard. Paulette eventually moved to Portland, Oregon and began teaching her own group improvisational belly dance style. Carolena's format is called ATS (American Tribal Style), and she has requested that other groups do not use this name. Paulette refers to her dance as Tribal, and one common name for non-ATS formats is Tribal Group Improvisation (TGI).

In a nutshell, Tribal belly dance combines movement vocabulary and aesthetic elements from dances of the Near and Middle East, India, Spain, North Africa, and the Romany (Gypsy). It is specifically a group dance which uses a system of cues, transitions, and intuition in a lead-and-follow format, having a homogenous "flock of geese" effect. It looks choreographed but is in fact art created in the moment, improvised within a structured form. The emphasis of Tribal is on a trusting community.

"Fusion" forms of dance that have erupted from Tribal often veer in directions away from any cultural roots of style and music, and in my opinion, no longer qualify as belly dance. While Paulette's form is contemporary and embodies many influences, her band, Gypsy Caravan, uses traditional Middle Eastern music and rhythms. The music is more simplified than classical Oriental to allow for the lead-and-follow format. And her dance is solidly grounded in traditional movement vocabulary. It is at once a modern, interpretive dance and a distinctive form of belly dance that is descended from American Vintage Oriental, earthy and organic but light and graceful.

I found Paulette's technique and teaching style to be of the highest quality. Aegela, who specializes in Egyptian Oriental and Folkloric, especially appreciated her emphasis on the importance of knowing the Middle Eastern rhythms and being able to play them on the zills, as well as teaching movements and combinations on both sides of the body. With Paulette's training in the various dance forms I mentioned, I think her style can be considered a true fusion, particularly with its distinctive jazz influence. Unfortunately some dancers are insufficiently trained in the forms they are supposedly "fusing", but this is not the case with Paulette. She is a true fusion dancer.

Paulette is not concerned with the "style" her students dance, but rather that they become good dancers and learn to express themselves creatively within the community context. Her style and posture are very natural to the body. She wants to be able to keep dancing forever, so she moves in a way that will not cause injury. She also feels that whatever style belly dance one does, Tribal can be incorporated. I used to teach mostly Tribal belly dance, but for the last year and a half, I've been focused on getting back to the roots of Egyptian Oriental. Lately I have become interested in revisiting that Vintage Oriental style I originally learned at Habeeba's in Columbus. Now I am moving toward putting all of my experience together in the vein of the recent trend of "Tribaret", designated as the "new classic" form that returns to American Cabaret (Vintage Oriental) roots but incorporates elements of Tribal. So I guess I am coming full circle!

If you get the chance to study with Paulette, do not pass it up! She is beautiful (even more so in person than in pictures) inside and out and is a wealth of experience and artistry. Thank you Paulette from the bottom of my heart for traveling to Toledo. I hope you will return soon! And thanks to the incomparable Aegela for hosting this truly memorable event.

Monday, November 5, 2012

American Vintage Oriental Belly Dance

In the 1960s and 1970s, Middle Eastern night clubs were opened by immigrants across the U.S. in places such as New York City, Detroit, and San Francisco. Middle Eastern dancers were brought in to perform in these clubs, bringing the “Oriental” styles of belly dance to American audiences.

Belly dance originates from three main branches—Egyptian, Turkish, and Lebanese/Syrian. Each of these styles comes from the folkloric, social dances of the people of various regions in the Middle and Near East, Mediterranean areas, and North Africa. In the night clubs of Cairo in the 1920s, ballet was incorporated into the traditional, cultural dances to polish them up for the stage. Along with glitzy, glamorous costuming invented by Hollywood, a professional, Oriental version of belly dance was born.

American women interested in learning belly dance picked up what they could from the dancers coming through the Middle Eastern night clubs. While the three main branches of the dance share the same, basic movement vocabulary, Americans could not distinguish between the nuances of music, style, and presentation. They blended what they learned together into a distinctly American version of belly dance. A 5-part format developed, with sections of the performance to include an entrance, a slow segment, a drum solo, floor work, and a finale. The prolific use of props such as zills, veils, and swords became distinctive features of the American style, and there was a strong flavor of Greek and Turkish influence. 

 Elena Lentini

Today this style is known sometimes as American Cabaret. This label is problematic, as it leaves out the fact that this dance, though an American “fusion” form, is composed of authentic Middle Eastern dance. Perhaps a more accurate term is American Vintage Oriental, which reflects the Middle Eastern roots while at the same time acknowledging the contribution of American dancers at a particular point in history.

In the U.S., American Vintage Oriental belly dance has evolved into two main “camps,” typically referred to as Tribal and Cabaret. The Cabaret version reflects the glamorous night club style, with its heavily beaded and sequined “bra and bedlah” costuming, usually worn with a skirt. It also retains the airier ballet influence with much dancing done on the balls of the feet, and is most often performed as a solo dance, although group choreographies are sometimes used.

The Tribal style descends from Jamila Salimpour’s troupe, Bal Anaat, in the San Francisco Bay area. Salimpour brought her version of the dance out of the night clubs, to be showcased instead at outdoor Renaissance fairs. She used folkloric style costuming and an earthier interpretation of the blended Middle Eastern dance forms. Individuals performed within the context of a large group of background dancers and musicians. 

 Aida with Bal Anaat

These categories are very general and are meant only to provide a broad framework for understanding the evolution of American belly dance, and in fact many dancers today use a combination of both Tribal and Cabaret stylistic elements and costuming. The dance has continued to develop in various ways in the United States, including the study of specific forms as performed in Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries of the overall region, returning the dance to its original, distinctive cultural roots, in more “pure” variations. A movement in the polar opposite direction champions personal interpretation and an “anything goes” fusion mentality over the preservation of traditional representations of the dance.

While Vintage Oriental is still performed, it has become something of a dying art. Perhaps it is this forgetting of the Middle Eastern roots of the dance, and the specific blended form that developed in the 1960s and 1970s, that has contributed to the disintegration in some sectors of authentic forms of belly dance in the U.S. Yes, belly dance is a living, evolving art form that welcomes personal innovation, but its cultural roots are inherent to any true understanding and representation of this beautiful, feminine expression.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Belly Dance 2012 in Bryan, OH Session 2

Rita Helena, Directress of Parvana Moonfire Belly Dance

Neo-Classical Belly Dance with Rita Helena:

This class features a multi-level format in a synthesis of earthy Egyptian Beledi, Golden Era elegance, and American innovations, with an aura of Gypsy romance. Rita Helena’s expertise and creative techniques will provide a beginner friendly experience but will challenge even the advanced dancer. The class will include basic alignment, posture, isolations, shimmies, layering, personal styling, fluid transitions, graceful arms, fun dance combinations, and much more. Belly dance is a powerful way to strengthen the core and tone the body, as well as enhancing rhythm, flexibility and beauty. This ancient art form is the ultimate in feminine exercise. Come and embrace the dancer in you!

*All classes will be held at the Bryan Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. The session will run for 5 weeks on Thursdays from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m., beginning November 8, and the cost is $50. There will be no class on Thanksgiving Day. Please call the Parks and Recreation department at 419-633-6030 to register. A minimum of 8 students must be pre-registered, and pre-payment is highly encouraged to reserve your space. (This class replaces the previously scheduled classes for this session.)

*Students should dress in comfortable clothing that is not too loose, so the instructor can see your movements, and wear a belt or scarf around the hips. You can dance barefoot or in socks or ballet slippers. All classes will include a full body warm up and yoga cool down, for a holistic fitness experience.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Everyday Minuets #4

What a difference the sun makes! The shorter days trigger that "SAD" complex for me, Seasonal Affective Disorder. But when the sun shines on a colorful fall landscape, my soul sings! Yesterday I put bird seed in our backyard feeder and this morning had the pleasure of watching our winged friends excitedly having breakfast. They had to take turns, as only about 4 could eat at a time, and there were regular but short-lived squabbles.

Earlier in the fall I had created a breakfast nook in my kitchen so that I could have a view into my backyard. The breakfast nook was a typical feature of the Craftsman Era. But with my kitchen having been remodeled by a previous owner, I don't know if my house ever had one. I moved a butcher block cart on wheels to the middle of the kitchen, so we now have an island. In its previous corner space under two windows, I placed a small, wooden table and two iron chairs. The first thing Beezy did this morning was to work on her cross stitch sampler at this table. Our library has had ongoing Little House on the Prairie programs all year, and on Tuesday they began this needlework project.

Also this fall Beezy asked if I knew where her nature journal was, which we started in the spring but did not work on much. Luckily I knew its exact location, and she has been drawing in it daily. She has always preferred to sprawl out on the kitchen floor to do her artwork, and this is where she has been working on her journal this morning. She drew a penguin (we recently watched "Mr. Popper's Penguins" on DVD) and a bird nest in a tree. Sometimes she draws things from our yard, but most often from her imagination. Occasionally she will draw from a picture. Her friends have been very interested in this nature journal and have wanted to draw in it too, but Beezy is reluctant to give up too many pages! Her drawing skills have developed dramatically since beginning this self-initiated practice. I usually write the nature journal into the natural science category of my plan book, but it also doubles as art.

Even though Beezy is sick today, she has already begun "school" on her own by doing her cross stitching and nature pictures. We will keep it simple today. Perhaps I will have her read quietly to herself, and I will read from a couple of books to her, letting her off the hook for narration this time. We have a movie to watch called "Red Dog", and maybe there will be something of educational value in this as well!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Facebook Group Management

I am an administrator and member of several Facebook (FB) groups, and just as laying down some policies for managing a blog is helpful to both writers and readers, it seems that solid suggestions for the administration and membership of Facebook groups is similarly needed. My intention is simply that my personal experiences and individual philosophy might be of good use to others; take what you like and leave the rest. Anyone who has been on Facebook for enough time knows that it is a double-edged sword. It's great to be able to find old friends as well as keep in contact with those who may be far away. It can be a tool for any type of outreach, from evangelization to promoting a business. One can find useful information and enjoy a forum for self-expression and the exchange of opinions. Then there is the flip side.

Facebook is, by definition, a social network. And as with any social group, the potential exists for drama, chaos, darkness, and confusion. How do we navigate this road? Sometimes the negativity can be enough to drive a person to throw up her hands and just get the bloody hell off the crazy highway. But then you may miss out on the fun and positive opportunities that the social network affords. I think it is first of all important to differentiate between one's personal space, called the "wall", and a group forum.

Your wall is like a bulletin board in your own home. You can post pictures, personal information, website links, and any type of comment you see fit. People often consider FB to be a specifically public forum, when in fact it has a stronger element of privacy. You can friend or unfriend whoever you want, you can restrict what can be seen or posted to your wall using a variety of settings, and you are free to add or delete your wall content exclusively at your own discretion. No one should feel that he has the "right" to post whatever he wants to the wall of another person and expect that it will remain on display.

A Facebook group, on the other hand, is more like a community bulletin board. An individual may start a group, but the dynamics are entirely different from a singular person's wall. I have found that regardless of one's initial intentions in beginning a group, there will be varying interpretations of what content does or does not belong in the group. Some groups I belong to have been drama free, and I have never felt the need to delete a comment as the administrator. Other groups in which I participate have been filled with everything from minor drama and disagreements to hostility and nearly warlike behavior. Regardless of who started the group, it becomes to an extent community property, and nobody wants to feel compelled to post a "snark alert". Here are some guidelines I have determined which can alleviate much unnecessary confusion:

1. Name your group to reflect your intentions as accurately as possible. You may think that a name such as "Growing Up in Farmtown" is self-explanatory, but believe me, it is not. Using this as an example, we can first of all consider that there may be more than one Farmtown in the USA, so you will want to designate the state (or country) to  which you are referring. And right away there is a problem with the phrase "growing up". Do you mean to point to those who grew up in Farmtown in the past alone, or are you including those currently growing up in Farmtown? The name of your group will not be able to say it all. This leads to the next point.

2. Articulate the description of your group and its purpose as specifically and concisely as possible. A group with a very vague description, or worse, none at all, will open you up to chaos. For example, the "Growing Up in Farmtown" group description might say, "When I was growing up in Farmtown I liked the ice cream parlor." Okay, fine, but that is not a proper delineation of one's purpose. That would more likely be the type of comment a member might leave, and then others would join in with places they fondly recall. A better description would be, "A place to connect with friends from Farmtown, Ohio, both old and new, and to share memories and events of local interest". You might also request the posting of pictures, stories, ads for local businesses, current events, and cultural activities in the area, both past and present. Custom design your description to best reflect the desired personality and content of the group.

3. Understand that there will be varying opinions on what content is appropriate to the group, despite the name and description, so set policies accordingly. For example, you may create a group for Christian Polo Players. You may not, however, anticipate members that are, say, Jehovah's Witnesses, who may consider themselves to be Christian, while you do not. You may want to create a policy of interviewing potential members before adding them to the group, to avoid spam and screen more specifically who you want your members to be.

4. Avoid unnecessary censorship. The nature of your group and its dynamics will depend upon many factors, such as the size of the group and the education, socio-economic background, ethnicity, religion, age, etc... of its members. You should expect conflicting opinions and ideas about what is appropriate to share. As long as comments are generally relevant to the group and are polite and respectful, then allow conversations to flow as they will. It is fine for an administrator to politely interject a concern or to re-establish his intentions for the group. That is where having a solid description reference is vital.

5. As a group member or administrator, respect diversity and organic growth. For example, those who grew up in Farmtown in the 60s most likely had a much different experience than those growing up in the 90s. Reflecting on the past will undoubtedly invite comparisons to the present. Some people will have only rosy memories to share, while others will want to complain. National politics may not be relevant at all, while local politics certainly might. Discretion should definitely be used regarding topic choices. But if a woman just opened a bakery in Farmtown, for example, and she wants to invite the community, it would be rude for another member to insert that they only want to hear about the "good old days". The more the administrators stay neutral and objective, the better for a democratic, welcoming, inclusive group, one where members feel safe to visit and be themselves.

6. Always avoid personal attacks. You may want to vent about your next door neighbor's annoying dog, but doing so by naming names and calling him a no-good-so-and-so would not be appropriate in the Farmtown group or any group. On the other hand, posting the facts about local police corruption might be, as it could affect the community as a whole. Likewise, the Christian Polo Players should not condemn a particular church's teachings or call one of their players a dirty cheater, but lively discussions about theology should be expected to occur. If you do find that a comment must be removed, have the courtesy to notify that member before doing so, and explain your reasons. And better yet, first allow him the opportunity to defend his choice as relevant and appropriate.

7. Update your group's name, policies, and description as needed. Understand that the group will evolve and change over time. If it goes in a direction quite unlike your original intentions, re-evaluate what you want the group to be and and make the pertinent alterations. Any social group is always a work in progress.

Finally, keep in mind always that there are real, living human beings communicating online. There is no reason that peace and goodwill should not be extended to all. Give the commenter the benefit of the doubt. It is impossible to get a completely accurate feeling of the intentions of someone whose voice you cannot hear and whose facial expressions and body language you cannot see. Err on the side of charity. Isn't there enough bloodshed in the world? If you must fight, fight the good fight, and keep it clean!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Everyday Minuets #3

Our car has a flat tire today, so Beezy and I ran errands on foot. Well, she road her bike, and we walked the dog to Main St. It's not a far walk, but I admit to being a little lazy lately and driving the car unnecessarily. Belly dance classes start up again on Thursday, so I need to start thinking about better health and fitness (again)! Fall allergies have kicked in full throttle. It's my favorite season, especially the Indian Summer days like today, but physically I feel the worst. At any rate, the cat was out of his soft food, and he was not happy...

The discount grocery we went to was, alas, completely wiped out of soft cat food! But I needed white and whole wheat flour and couscous, so it was still worth the trip. My backpack was then very heavy, though, but I figured it was great strength training! Beezy had brought her own money and shopped in the attached flea market, finding a beautiful China doll. I thought it was neat that she wanted to spend her own money and didn't even ask if I would buy it. Somehow homeschooling gets the credit for this independent gesture! Since she was on her bike, guess who got to carry the doll in its box, along with the backpack, while simultaneously walking the dog? We then went to the gas station for the cat food, which I had Beezy hang from her handlebars, and we prodded back home.

Last evening I was talking with a retired teacher who assumed that we use the computer a lot since we homeschool. When I said no, we rarely use the computer, she questioned how we are then held accountable. Interesting the preconceptions people have, and what a great opportunity to educate someone to a better degree of understanding of the process! While I appreciated her insights as a former schoolteacher, I sensed her trying to tell me how to go about teaching reading, and I ended the conversation by extolling the beauty of being able to do what works best in our family. One reason I am letting my hair go gray is that I am hoping my elders will realize that I am way past old enough to make good choices and to know what I am doing as a mother/teacher. I am in my early 40s but don't look it, except that now the evidence of my hard won wisdom is showing on my head! Mothers, have faith in the holy wisdom that God grants you, and do not waiver in your mission.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Belly Dance 2012 in Bryan, OH

Belly Dance Classes (age 15 and up)
Bryan Parks and Recreation
Fall 2012

Amplify your level of fitness with the feminine art of belly dance! Improve grace, beauty, flexibility, strength, rhythm and body image while learning to dance Egyptian style. Students may dance barefoot or in socks or ballet flats and should wear a scarf around the hips. A full body warm up and yoga cool down will be included in each class. Each session will run for 5 consecutive Thursdays (no class will be held on Thanksgiving, Nov. 22), and the cost is $40.00. All classes will be held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. A minimum of 8 students must be pre-registered, and prepayment is highly encouraged to reserve your space. Call the Parks and Recreation office at 419-633-6030 to register. Instructor: Rita Helena

Basic Belly Dance—starts September 27
5:30-6:30 p.m.
This class is open to both new and continuing beginners and will cover the history, music, and movement foundations of the dance, putting the basics together into simple combinations to provide a low impact workout. No prior dance experience is necessary.

Beyond Basics—starts November 8
5:30-6:30 p.m.
Prerequisite: Students must have completed at least on prior session. Dancers will focus on transitions between movements and incorporate arm positions in a lead-and-follow style format. This class will keep you moving!

Intermediate to Advanced—6:45-7:45 p.m.
Prerequisite: Students must have completed at least 4 previous sessions.

Session 1—starts September 27
Dancers will learn the classical style of the Golden Era of Egypt from the 1950s and 1960s and refine methods of personal interpretation.

Session 2—starts November 8
Dancers will learn a set of combinations in the upbeat, folkloric style of the Egyptian Saidi. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Everyday Minuets #2

Today was "Kids Day" at our county fair, which means that every school in the county was closed, leaving all the children free to converge upon the fairgrounds on the same day. I believe kids got in free, and they could ride all the rides they wanted for the price of one wristband. While I certainly understand the economic convenience, especially for large families, going to the fair on Kids Day, to me, qualifies as sheer madness. But it was so peaceful in town, so homeschooling on the porch was not compromised by neighborhood children, even though they had the day off. Maybe it's a result of having lived in a large city for 20 years, but purposely exposing myself to crowds of people, the smell of disgusting carny food, long lines, and what qualifies for traffic here simply no longer appeals to my senses.

Instead, I was dying to get out of town and connect with nature! So Beezy, my husband and I set out to a rural park with two ponds which connect under an old, wooden bridge (perhaps this actually qualifies as one pond, but it looks like two). Beezy was really wanting to look for turtles, and we happily spotted several, many of which were cute little babies. We have been reading the American Girl book, Kaya's Hero, and last week we read that a Nimiipu Indian baby had on a diaper made of cattail fluff. Beezy could not remember what cattails were at the time, so it was marvelous to find them at the pond today and be able to take a couple home. There is that segue style learning in action once again!

 George Bible Park, Ohio

We also found a tree frog, which Beezy had the patience to catch (it was a fast little thing!), and then while we were sitting on a fallen log still communing with the frog, I spotted two deer. My husband saw that there were three. Since they were perfectly still, I assume they spotted us first! A doe and two fawns. We also discovered two teepees that someone had made from sticks, which were really cool, and we collected leaves. My husband knows his trees, so we will be able to label them for our collection. Of course there were squirrels, dragonflies, butterflies, and waterbugs, and we also brought home a patch of bright green moss. Fresh air and exercise amongst the trees and God's woodland creatures--that has got to beat long lines, deafening noise, and hordes of people any day!

We'll still spend at least one day at the fair this week. Beezy loves the animals, and I look forward to the homemade doughnuts every year!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Everyday Minuets #1

 Minuet by Frederick Hendrick Kaemmerer

Sometimes a topic for this blog easily comes to me, but sometimes I just want to write--like in a journal. Not necessarily about anything in particular, but still with some centering purpose. Perhaps rather than the grand, universal  theme, it's the little details comprising a typical day that can inspire the most contemplative food for thought.

This morning after playing with her cats and getting dressed, Beezy wanted to go outside to the trampoline and practice her tumbling. Yesterday she had discovered that she could do somersaults on the trampoline, which she had learned a few years ago in tumbling classes but had since forgotten how to do. She created two variations on the somersault, one of them being the simple, standard type, the other done with more forward-propelling energy and panache. She decided she liked the 2nd one best!

So this morning I watched out the window unbeknownst to her and saw her lying on her back on the trampoline. Then she got up and practiced the somersaults, talking to herself along the way. At another point she was lying down again. There was a definite system at work here, organically developed. On a late summer day while most children are confined to an indoor classroom, Beezy is teaching herself something important, evaluating her own progress, working toward her own method and goals. Out in the fresh air, soaking up sunshine. Resting when she needs to rest, working when she is compelled to work. Self-directed.

This is like a minuet--an old-fashioned, slow, graceful dance, done in 3/4 time... We will get to our formal "school" time, but first we have a heavy, mysterious package to open from Beezy's grandmother who lives in New Mexico. We have the pleasure of allowing our day to unfold.

So here is my proposition: I will write from now until I am done with the experiment in a series of minuets, reminding me that life is a dance, and it is a slow one to be savored. We will pay attention. Listen for the inner promptings, the whispers that will guide us if we are willing to hear the musical strains all around us; find the freedom within the form.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Segue Style Learning

To segue (sey-gwey, seg-wey) means to make a transition from one thing to another smoothly and without interruption. People often segue from one topic to another in conversation. Sometimes the transition is clear, and other times it is difficult to tell how the speaker related one thing to the next. He may seem to have diverged to an entirely new topic, but something in his mind made the connection. "That reminds me of the time when..." is a common type segue.

Segue style learning, which is a term I have coined, refers to an organic progression from one related topic or activity to another. For example, I had planned to do a rainforest unit for science in our homeschool. A couple of weeks before we started, Beezy, her dad, and I went to the zoo for my husband's birthday. When we walked through the rainforest habitat, I made sure to tell Beezy that we were in a tropical rainforest and to remember what it was like. This experience kicked off our science unit perfectly, and segue style learning works well in unit studies.

On the first day of "school" we watched a PBS Reading Rainbow video from the library of The Shaman's Apprentice, a book by Lynne Cherry and Mark J. Plotkin. After the book was read by Susan Sarandon showing its illustrations with some added movement in the pictures, the video host, LeVar, flew by helicopter over the Amazon rain forest and landed in the very village, called Tirio, featured in the book. He met the real Kamanya, the shaman's child apprentice who grew up to be the tribe's next shaman and teacher of traditional healing. They went into the forest and learned about the various medicinal trees and plants and what ailments they are used to treat. Animals of the Amazon were seen, and the whole self-reliant way of life in the village was beautifully depicted, including food preparation, arts and crafts, transportation by river in canoes, and ritual dance. The whole video was a prime example of segue style learning.

The next book, which we are still reading, is One Day in the Tropical Rain Forest, by Jean Craighead George. In true Charlotte Mason fashion, the facts of the rain forest are related via story about a native boy of Venezuela named Tepui whose forest area is about to be bull-dozed. Tepui assists scientists working in his forest to find animals, and in particular, he is helping to search for a new, unnamed species of butterfly in hopes of saving his home.

One of the animals mentioned in the book is a sloth. Beezy did not remember what a sloth looked like, so we segued to an online article from National Geographic to learn more about this creature, and then on to some additional photos, including 111 pictures of baby sloths. I think Beezy viewed over 50 of them!

Today we were reading Kaya's Hero, an American Girl series book about  Native Americans of the Nimiipuu tribe (a.k.a. Nez Perce). The women were crushing dried deer meat in a mortar with a stone pestle to mix with berries to make pemmican. There was a small picture of a mortar and pestle, and I asked Beezy if she remembered seeing one at Sauder Village, a living history museum in our area. She did not, but of course I happened to have a mortar and pestle, which I promptly got out of the closet. The maple trees in front of our house were gracious enough to have dropped dry, brown leaves to the ground. Beezy immediately went out to get leaves to crush, discovering that green leaves do not lend themselves well for grinding, whereas the brown ones are perfect. But she tore up some green leaves to add anyway to make her "stew", for of course one needs some color! She fed me the stew and continued to grind while I read more of the book, and I reinforced the new vocabulary of mortar, pestle, and pemmican.

 mortar and pestle

I allowed her to make discoveries, such as wondering why the green leaves she found had little bumps on the back of them. This I could not answer, but if her dad had been home, we would have segued to asking him, and we will pursue this question later. The mortar and pestle provided a practical life lesson, fine motor skills practice, and dramatic play.

When I was a Montessori teacher, the classroom was divided into sections, such as language arts, math, science, art, ect... When we did unit studies, there would be something in almost every area relating to the unit. A similar approach can be taken in the home. As Charlotte Mason taught, education is a science of relations.  In public schools, subjects are usually so compartmentalized that no connections can be readily made between one area of study and another, and this is simply not how real life is. I have hopefully illustrated a better way in my "segue style learning" approach! It also helps one stay in the present moment and avoid getting locked into your lesson plans/curriculum.

Allowing the child to make her own connections, to freely move from one thing to another through natural transitions--which can be initiated and guided by the teacher but should not be impeded by the adult--inspires discovery, wonder, and imagination. This is an invigoration of the spirit and makes learning as natural as breathing--and so much fun to boot!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A New Homeschooling Year!

I am planning to begin our homeschooling year tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21!  My husband will start his first day of teaching college for the semester, so it will be nice and quiet in our home.  My intentions are very focused this year on using the Charlotte Mason method, in a relaxed homeschooling environment, so I will post regularly on what books and materials we are using. Hopefully this will provide others who are inclined toward Charlotte Mason with some ideas, and I hope readers will comment with ideas of their own! For this method can seem intimidating, because it does not rely on a set curriculum purchased from a company.

The Charlotte Mason method, to me, is about natural family living.  Its tenets are living books and narration, nature studies, the formation of habits that lead to self-discipline, auto-education (basically, self teaching), and the use of a broad and generous curriculum.  There is structure in this method, and it does not fall under the category of unschooling.  Formal studies are traditionally finished by 1:00 p.m., with the afternoons free for doing hand crafts, spending time outdoors, being together as a family, and exploring personal interests. The spiritual growth of the child is on an equal par with academic development.

We will be focusing especially upon reading, so this will be the top priority.  While other subjects will not be neglected, I will be more relaxed in what we cover.  We use a multi-subject BrainQuest  workbook curriculum (available at Target for $10); otherwise, our resources come from "living books", which include classic and high quality literature as well as books written by a person who is passionate about his subject and provides the pertinent information in story form.  In other words, dry textbooks are very much not Charlotte Mason! Much of what we use comes from the library.  I have purchased some materials from Ebay and from a local education store.

Since Beezy, age 8, loved the Dick and Jane readers, we will progress using the similar Ginn readers, beginning with Under the Apple Tree.  We will also continue using Beatrix Potter's books, implementing sight reading primarily. The Ginn books will be a combination of sounding out words and the sight reading that naturally occurs by the pattern of repetition used in these readers. The BrainQuest pages will provide practice in phonics and spelling.  Charlotte Mason advocated beginning sight reading as soon as the basics of phonics have been learned, because this is where the art of reading truly happens.

She did not believe in ever using "twaddle" written for children which consists of only 3 and 4 letter words and the forced creation of sentences with obvious word families (ie. cat, sat, and bat all in one sentence)--sorry, Dr. Seuss! I can attest to Charlotte's wisdom in this, because the BOB readers by Scholastic that we started with were just such books, and they were laborious to read and a big flop with Beezy!  Long words are delicious to children, and the number of letters in a word should be of no consequence.  In fact, longer words typically have more easily distinguished patterns than words that are short and very similar to one another (ie. what and went).  And the recognition of sight words is encouraging to children, rather than having to sound out each and every word.  Decoding is a building block, but it is not, in itself, actually reading.

Following Beezy's interests, she will begin to learn cursive writing this year! Since her printing is very neat, I believe she has the fine motor skills for cursive.  But we will still continue to practice printing skills, especially since she needs a little more experience with some of the capital letters.

For literature we will continue with the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis that we began over the summer. We are almost finished with Prince Caspian.  I read these books to her, and beginning with the next one in the series, she will narrate back to me every few pages or after each chapter. This takes the place of tiresome questions, allowing the child to make the story her own, and giving the teacher a true idea of the child's comprehension.

For history I will be reading The Earthshapers by Karen Speerstra to her, which is a story about a Native American girl of the Mound Builders, which include the Hopewell, who lived, among other places, in our state of Ohio.  For natural sciences we are studying the ecosystem of the rainforest, and our first book is actually a video of The Shaman's Apprentice by Lynn Cherry.  Both of these subjects will also be narrated.

For math we will continue learning to tell time, using a clock with moveable hands as well as BrainQuest pages.  And every day we will use a Melissa and Doug magnetic calendar and the song, "Days of the Week."  After some review with addition and subtraction, we will begin multiplication. We will also continue our study of fractions begun last year. I use an abacus and Montessori bead materials for math, as well as fractions manipulatives.  It is very important that the foundations of math be very concrete, rather than based merely upon the abstraction of symbols.  One should be able to touch math!

Soccer practice begins tomorrow, so that covers gym, and if we have time, we will begin a needlecraft project for children that I found at JoAnn Fabric.  I also got one for myself so that we can learn together!  And right there is the beauty of homeschooling--learning together and creating a unique family lifestyle that nurtures the spirits of all those living under our roof!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Belly Dance Challenge!

So yesterday my aunt, who is always in charge of our annual family reunion, called me and said, "I know you really wanted to belly dance for the reunion this year." I know when I've been told.  It's the 85th anniversary of the reunion, and my aunt is my elder, so how could I say no? The reunion is the 19th of this month, so I am down to less than two weeks already to prepare. As such, I need some of you fellow, lovely dancers to join me in a challenge!  I have a few pounds to shed and some kinks to work out of my joints and bones.  My muscles are tight as a circus rope.

So here's the deal.  Every day except for Sundays and Fridays, we are going to practice for 50 minutes. That includes 10 minutes of warm ups and 10 minutes of cool downs.  It's time to break out of the summer malaise and get our hearts open and our breath quickening. It's time to "yawn and stretch and come alive" (in the words of Dolly Parton, who has remarkable energy for any age).  I will have classes to teach beginning next month after taking the summer off. Let's not be merely good enough, ladies--let's be amazing!

I have already begun my practice.  Please comment today and let me know if you are with me!!


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer Malaise

My days have certainly lost their sense of flow lately. This past week I went to the doctor twice. Monday was for my sinus infection, which was a particularly nasty one, and I still have goopy drainage clogging my throat. I was down and out for a couple of days. Luckily my husband is home for the summer! Then my arm had a slight, itchy rash a couple of days later, which turned into an alarmingly large, thick, blistery area. Some sort of contact dermatitis, like poison ivy, with itching bad enough to interrupt my sleep. Add to those maladies a certain womanly nuisance also involving itching, and I've been quite a mess!

The intense heat and drought of the summer have been wearing on everyone, I think. Today is cooler, and it looks like it might possibly rain. My husband and I have been keeping the house picked up, and he got our monthly groceries from the health food co-op that comes in on a truck, so that is cheering. The refrigerator was looking bare. Now we have organic ice cream!

I have gained a few pounds, which started when I couldn't exercise due to having a half inch piece of hard wood floor embedded in my big toe for 10 days. I didn't know for sure that something was still in there after pulling out the first two pieces that were sticking out of it. I had gotten up from the chair I am sitting in now, and when I stood up, I pushed my foot into loose splinters. I did not know hard wood floors could do such a thing! My husband dug around in my toe with tweezers, but the remaining piece was too deep to be found. My doctor was my hero the day he removed the "thorn", like the mouse did from the paw of the lion.

I need to get back on track. I have made a lot of progress with ordering my house this summer, but it requires constant vigilance to keep up. We haven't taken any vacations, money is tight, and I just want to be healthy and free of itching! I know this will pass, and these have really been only minor inconveniences. There is no agenda for today, which is how it has been since I got sick. "What should we do today?" is the question. It's discouraging not to feel an energizing hum of purpose to my days. My huband wants to go back out to the garage sales along 127, and I want to make it to Mass this evening. Sometimes you just have to get started. Do what needs to be done. Take the day one moment at a time. Energy can just get blocked, and we have to pull our boots out of the mud to release it, before we get mired. How do you get unstuck? Maybe my readers will be so gracious as to share with me how you get your wheels turning again, and I can write a post with the answers!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Small Town Homesteading

This being the last day of July, it will soon be time to get "back to school" and to a more structured daily routine.  My husband, a college professor off work for the summer, will begin teaching again in a few weeks.  I spent some time ordering books from the library today on rainforests, which will be our first science unit for this homeschooling year.  I also have two Ginn Basic Readers that I ordered from Ebay.  Beezy, now 8 years old, loved the 12-book Dick and Jane series, and I wanted to find something similar with which to continue.  This is especially because other readers had failed to interest Beezy, and I want her to love to read.  The Ginn books have a similar, repetitious style and old-fashioned illustrations, being from the same era as Dick and Jane. 

Fall is also typically designated as a season of new beginnings, even though it's the last season of the year.  It's a time of vibrant, visible change in the natural world, a celebration of the harvest, and a time of turning inward in preparation for the coming days of darkness.  There is a magical whispering of possibility and mystery in the air.  So I am naturally starting to contemplate things I want to do differently.  The end of summer boredom and restlessness is starting to settle in already, maybe because spring came so early this year.  

I changed the look of this blog today and tweaked the topics to reflect my new focus: Charlotte Mason homeschooling, small town homesteading, belly dance, style & beauty, and sacred living.  Not all is completely new.  For instance, I have been using the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method since the beginning, but I also used a lot of Montessori.  This year there will be less emphasis on the Montessori Method and more emphasis on Charlotte Mason's living books, narration, nature notebook, and other elements of her method.  I want to spend way more time exploring the natural world, and I want to incorporate hand crafts.  I loved latch hook kits as a child, and I am going to introduce them to Beezy this year.  I also want to continue her sewing lessons with her great-grandmother.

I desire a deepening of the homesteading way of life for my family as well.  But I find that when we get these wonderful visions in our heads, we want to overhaul everything and make radical, sudden changes, which usually don't pan out.  So I'm simply going to start with baking my own bread and pizza crusts this fall, and I have an aunt that wants to teach me to crochet.  Baby steps on the homestead!  I want to take family bike rides in the evenings, and hopefully we'll have a good tomato crop this year for making my husband's awesome homemade sauce.  

Here's to the joy of beginning fresh plans, dreaming a little dream, and keeping it simple--and then reaping the grand harvest of the organic life!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wild English Rose--Summer to Fall Beauty 2012

I have been contemplating lately the persona of the "English Rose".  I think I was inspired by the floral patterned jeans I've been seeing in fashion magazines. Denim is back in a big way, especially colored denim, one of the 80s trends that is actually quite fun even for those of us who were in high school then and are generally alarmed by the come back! Just please, avoid the neon unless you are a teenager. For us stay-at-home mothers especially, casual trends like denim and flat shoes are so welcome. I would, however, also avoid the chambray shirt if you are not quite young, which in my opinion could look a little dowdy, a little too soccer mom-ish. 

But I'm really not here to recommend any particular style. I think we all need to just figure out what flatters our figures and fits our unique personalities and lifestyles and dress accordingly. I am seeking instead to define a quintessential type of beauty that I personally would like to emulate, and that is the classic English Rose, in a certain wild variety. This is the lovely woman with a porcelain complexion (if she is white), clear skin with a soft rosy or peachy glow. The word radiant comes to mind. She looks fresh and innocent (though polished), yet there is a wisdom in her eyes and demeanor, and you just know that you cannot get anything past her. She can see into your soul. She is interested in other people. Even at a crowded party she will draw you close to her and into her secret world, where she wants to know all about you. She only talks about herself if she is asked. She is the "woman of repose" who Sarah Ban Breathnach describes in Simple Abundance.

The original wild English rose was Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765-1815), a courtesan turned aristocratic wife of Sir William Hamilton known for her unrivaled beauty and passionate affair with war hero Lord Nelson during the French Revolution. A favorite muse of artists, she was a creative, artistic force herself, and held immense political sway. In true Shakespearean fashion, after a glamourous, romantic life of abundance, she died destitute and obese. This air of tragedy sometimes surrounds the Wild Rose, but we sigh nonetheless.

Emma, Lady Hamilton by George Romney

Though elegant and in no way course, the Wild English Rose sometimes has a whiff of scandal around her, like Queen Elizabeth's younger sister, Princess Margaret. Or she is in some way unconventional, eccentric, or quietly rebellious (the perfect description of homeschooling mothers!). She can be glamourous, but in her looks and demeanor there is a certain restraint, a wry sense of humor, the feeling that while it looks calm and has been dormant for years, this volcano is still nevertheless a volcano, and there is always that chance it could explode, quite unexpectedly.

 Princess Margaret Rose

In the world of film the Wild English Rose takes on daring roles, or plays women that were unconventionally brassy for their times. Think Kate Winslet's Rose character in Titanic, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, or Julia Ormond in Legends of the Fall.  This type of beauty has its counterpart in many cultures: the sweet, natural beauty with the glowing complexion, unfussy but never a wallflower, who has that untamed streak about her, who dances to the beat of her own drum. She is a study in paradox. She is an enigma. And no one can resist her quiet charm, whether men, children, or other women. She does not inspire jealousy, only admiration, and this is because of the warmth and intense devotion with which she regards others. Salma Hayek is such a Wild Rose, as well as Halle Berry and Zhang Ziyi.

 Kate Winslet in Titanic

In the literary realm we have the likes of Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and the Bronte sisters, Charlotte and Emily. They were writers of great genius at a time when women did not usually enjoy such a profession. Emily Dickinson was known for wearing all white in brilliant opposition to the dark fashions of her times, and many of these women never married.

 Keira Knightley in a film adaptation of Austen's Pride and Prejudice

So perhaps you would enjoy contemplating the Wild English (or Hispanic, African American, Chinese, etc...) Rose in yourself and see if you can cultivate that certain (almost seemingly lost in today's world) essence of a Lady who is proper and gracious but who exudes that sense of "one unto herself", she who is self-possessed and quietly confident, who speaks up when it counts and avoids needless chatter when it doesn't; who has a commanding presence clothed in softness; and who just might, some night when the moon is full, run with the wolves.