Chorus Baby

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Image via The Times Picayune. Click here to read “40 Nutty Mardi Gras Dance and Marching Groups…and Counting

Earlier this week, I let wrote a tiny post about joining a Mardi Gras dance group. As of today, I’ve been to two practices, so I thought I’d give you an update, plus a slightly better explanation of just what it is I’m doing.

First off, for anyone who doesn’t live in New Orleans or know much about Mardi Gras, a little background on what I mean by “dance group.” If you’ve ever watched a television program that featured Mardi Gras, you might have some idea of what a parade looks like here. First off, parades are funded and thrown by a social group called a “krewe.” A typical parade will feature large, colorful floats, pulled by tractors. Most of the time, the floats are coordinated to match the theme of that year’s parade – some themes are political and/or satirical, others are magical and family-oriented. There are many parades each Mardi Gras season, and there’s something for everyone.

Parades are made up of multiple components. No two parades feature the same make-up, but generally speaking, the bigger parades have floats, marching bands, and dancing/walking groups. Some parades have people on horseback, the bigger ones have flambeau men (people who carry these special flaming torches), and then there are other groups that have special contraptions to get around (for instance, my mind immediately brings up the Krewe of the Rolling Elvi, a group of Elvis and Priscilla impersonators who ride scooters and other wheeled devices).

Though there have always been dancing and walking groups, they’ve gone in and out of popularity over the years. When I first moved here nearly 20 years ago, there weren’t very many dancing groups that allowed adult participation. I remember being absolutely in love with the school color guard and dance teams that marched alongside school marching bands (check out the video of all of the marching bands in one of the biggest Mardi Gras parades, Bacchus, above).

One of my friends even dressed up as a schoolgirl majorette for a couple of Halloweens, just because we were all so obsessed with getting to wear those cute little ankle boots with the pom poms, and OMG, the sparkly leotard and little matching headband! I was bummed that I’d never had the chance to do something like that in high school (though I did march in every local parade as an Air Force JROTC drill team member).

Fast forward a few years, and suddenly, adult dance groups started to pop up. It turns out that my friends and I weren’t the only ones getting wistful about missed opportunities to strut our stuff. I moved to Chicago in 2008, and upon my return in 2012, swore that “next year” I would join a dance group. “Next year” kept getting pushed back, and now here we are.

(It strikes me that this is actually me following my own advice – “Girl, get your shit together!” – look ma, I did! I have! I’m gathering this shit, and dragging it with me as I dance my ass down St. Charles Avenue next month!)

Anyway, I always wanted to join a dance group that actually danced in the parade, not just got drunk and staggered down the street for the entire 6 miles of parade route. Believe it or not, this is a thing. I’ve also marched with Krewe of Chewbacchus as a Red Shirt (parade security) for a few years, and am all too familiar with the drunk folks walking in the parade, and drunk folks walking outside of the parade, and the very specific fun that is involved with keeping the two groups separated. This all goes to say that you’ve got to be selective about what parade groups you join, and make sure that they’re going to fit with your personal needs and aesthetic. I just wanted to put more effort into the routine, and look smoking hot strutting my stuff, you know?

But as you might expect, the groups that work really hard on dance routines also have auditions to choose new members. Some really popular groups, like the Pussyfooters, require you to be sponsored by current members to get in, then there are hours of mandatory volunteer work, and the costumes are intense. I love them so much, but I’m not cut out for that level of commitment. I’d never make it into Sparkle Motion.

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I needed a group with a short rehearsal window and a sense of humor. I also wanted a group that was known for adorable costumes, and was hoping for a place where I could meet friends and continue to dance throughout the year if things worked out with parading. I also love old dance movies, and am minorly obsessed with Weimar Era Germany, so any chance to wear a bob and do some synchronized dancing to old jazz is kind of a dream come true.

Miracle of miracles, I’m pretty sure I’ve found exactly where I belong, with the NOLA Chorus Girls. It’s not a traditional Mardi Gras-centric dance group, which is something that I think works in my favor. It’s kind of a cross between a dance class, performance team, and social group. The membership works in sessions, and you can sign up for as many sessions as you’d like, and take a break whenever you’d like.

Every session learns a new dance routine, and every performer has the chance to perform the routine they’ve learned in a public venue at least once per session. During the Mardi Gras session, we get to learn TWO routines – one for the parade, and one to perform at a later date. There are two rehearsals per week this session – one for the parade, and one for the regular dance routine.

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Sexpot Marlene Dietrich in ‘Der blaue Engel’ (1929)

My first rehearsal was Wednesday, and I fell in love immediately. Our teachers (aka. “Dance Moms”) are funny, kind, and informal, while being super knowledgeable. They made it clear that we’re all here to have fun and learn together, and that we don’t need to feel pressured to perform perfectly or to even perform at all, if we don’t want to. The laid back vibes and warm welcome made me instantly comfortable.

We spent most of the class period introducing ourselves and talking about costumes, makeup, and other assorted factors that will come into play for the performances. The last portion of class was spent learning some of the routine (cue sheepish grins from Dance Moms who’d let us gab for a lot longer than originally intended). There were about 30 of us in the class, and we fell into the practice with little effort, and lots of smiles. I was sad to go at the end of the night, and found myself already planning a future as a chorus girl.

Today was our first parade practice, and there were at least 80 of us. There are three separate groups of dancers, meeting Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to learn the same dance routine. Some (but probably not all) of those dancers are also performing in the parade, and then there are parade performers who are not learning the routine during the week. It makes for an interesting mix, and was fun getting to hang out with so many women, all excited to learn a new, but old-fashioned, parade routine set to old-timey jazz. We practiced marching to the beat, then learned part of the parade routine and practiced doing it in formation down the street. I feel pretty good about how much I could remember, given that it was my first day trying it.

At some point, I’ll share more specific insights about learning to be a chorus girl, and what shoes, makeup, hair, and costume look like. I’m cautiously hopeful that I’ll make a friend or two. I love our teachers already, and there are a couple of women that I already feel comfortable chatting with, so fingers crossed at succeeding in dance and life, all in one fell swoop!

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Sobriety & Other Stories

Ginger Beer

This afternoon I went to see the chiropractor. Two days ago, for no apparent reason, I developed a limp on the walk to work. I felt no pain, but it was obvious that there was something not quite right with my hip. It just felt weak, unable to do its job.

Though you’d think that developing a sudden limp would be a huge red flag, sending me straight to the doctor, it wasn’t the malady itself that made me seek help. I walk two miles to and from work every day, and one of the most fun parts of the journey is playing a mental game of Frogger, dodging cars, bikes, and pedestrians to make it home speedily. I leave almost everyone in my dust; it’s very rare that someone actually passes me. Being a little speed demon makes me happy.

The limp made me slow. It had to go.

Today I went in for the consultation and alignment. It was my first time with this particular chiro, and he asked a lot of questions, made me do exercises and show him where my pain was. I walked in thinking that my problem was kind of weird, since there was no pain at all. However, as we started to talk, I realized that I DID have pain. My neck has been stiff and achy for months, and about a week ago, it started hurting so much that I’ve stopped being able to use a pillow to sleep at night. I had also recently noticed (and apparently discarded) the fact that my right shoulder was about half an inch higher than the left shoulder.

As we talked, this all came tumbling out, and I’m glad it did. The alignment was a great success, and it turns out that the hip problem was related to my ankles (which explains why my arches have been acting up for two days, too), and my shoulder/neck problem was actually a combination of my head being jammed into my neck (there’s a medical term that I’ve already forgotten) as well as an issue in my middle back that I couldn’t even feel until the chiro pointed it out.

Four hours later, and I have no residual pain. The limp is already gone, my feet feel great, my neck and shoulder pain is gone, and my left and right shoulders are back in line again. I turn my head from left to right – no pain or stiffness. My arms feel light and relaxed. Not a hint of irritation in my hips or lower back. I feel good, relaxed, even a little sleepy, and also proud of myself for taking the time to listen and do something good for my body.

This, in turn, reminds me of how I felt last night.

Every Thursday night for the last nine months or so, I’ve gone to the same bar with the same friend. The same bartender serves us drinks (with a healthy side of snark, some gossip, and typically great tunes). We sit in the same seats at “our” end of the bar. We even drink the same thing – she drinks a Diet Coke & vodka, and I drink Jameson neat. It sounds boring, maybe, but I love our routine. It is an essential part of my self-care, and provided me a way to get out of the house and start attempting something like a social life when I was freshly single, very sad, and painfully shy. I know I belong at that bar. I am safe there, and I am among friends. It’s kind of like Cheers, I guess, just dirtier.

Last night was my first time back at the bar since New Year’s eve. Other than here on the blog, I haven’t been going around, trumpeting my changes for 2019. I wasn’t excited about having to tell our bartender friend that I wasn’t drinking, and I didn’t really have an idea of when or if I might have my next cocktail. As expected, it was a little bit of a shock when I told him that I wouldn’t need the one clean rocks glass he’d been saving for me. But he happily served me a ginger beer, and then the night went on pretty much as always.

When I got home, I reflected on how much fun the night had been. I never expected to be able to sit and talk with friends without the “social lubrication” that alcohol provides. I’m awkward as hell, and I hate small talk. But it worked, and after that initial moment wore off, no one said a thing about me not drinking. I sang along to the stereo just like normal, and had lovely snippets of conversation with various patrons.

Afterwards, I went home, got a decent night’s sleep (not great, but I’m still working on that), and woke up feeling mostly refreshed. No hangover. No stale alcohol smell. No tightness in my chest, anxious worry over things that don’t matter, no sad thoughts or mad thoughts or despairing thoughts. All clear, mostly relaxed, and even keeled.

At the chiropractor’s office, I marvelled at how pain can be referred from one area of the body to another. We so often ignore pain, will it away, and self-medicate to take the edge off. Leaving aside for a moment the obvious error of self-medication, if you don’t know where the pain is coming from, how do you know how to treat it properly?

I wonder how much of my anxiety, depression, procrastination, and boredom have to do with my addictions – television, social media, food, coffee, alcohol. They’re so thickly entwined that it’s been difficult to understand cause and effect, where one thing starts and another thing ends. To tell the truth, I was taking a stab in the dark with my Bold Goals this year. On the face of things, it sounds insane to give up all of your “favorite” things. But so often the ones we love hurt us the most, right?

Dancing Girl

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Click through to learn more about the NOLA Chorus Girl Project.

We’re two weeks into 2019, and things are going pretty well with my various Bold Goals. I’ve read 10 weeks’ worth of books. I’ve abstained from Facebook and alcohol. I’ve even kept up with my skincare routine! But now that the basic tone has been set, it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Two things that I’ve been focusing on lately are my creative impulse (which has gone sadly silent over the last few years), and my need to be playful, to have a little fun with my life. I’ve also been ruminating on authenticity, and bringing my interior world out into public more often. I desperately need to get out and meet people, learn something new, and just HAVE FUN doing something goofy and exhibitionist.

So I joined up with a dance krewe, and I’m going to be dancing in a Mardi Gras parade! I’ll tell you more after the first practice, on Wednesday night. XOXO!

Restructuring

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Click here for 25 more great quotes on building confidence.

I’m going to talk about something that’s been on my mind, but before I do, I’d like to make a disclaimer. I might stumble through it, so please bear with me.

This blog is about becoming a better version of myself. It is about being brave and bold, and moving through the world with intention (and maybe, if I’m lucky, joy). Part of my journey is about seeking out ways to be happy and confident in my own skin, and another part of it is about treating myself with the same respect and kindness that I naturally give to other people. Even though I’m going to talk for a minute today about intentional weight loss, I don’t want this post to be misconstrued as a statement about what other people should be doing with their bodies.

I know, from personal experience, how harmful and confusing it is to find yourself fixated on needing to be like the thin, seemingly effortlessly beautiful people we see on TV and in magazines. I’m cautiously hopeful that the current ad campaigns featuring a wide array of body types and differently abled bodies are getting some serious traction, and will help pave the way for a more confident and caring generation. May the next crop of little humans grow up comfortable in owning their own bodies, flaunting what they have with confidence and that natural inner glow that kindness brings to the table.

All of that being said, I want to talk to you about suddenly losing weight as a result of a mental shift, and how strange it’s been.

On January 1st, 2018, I was technically “obese.” I was 5’7″ tall, and weighed 201 lbs. I had been dieting for years, but I also struggled with binge eating when I was sad, stressed, or drunk. It was very rare for me to not be one of those things, and on the uncommon occasion that I was happy, I also tended to celebrate with food.

I hadn’t always weighed that much; in fact, I weighed 155 lbs. for about ten years, up until around 2013, when I gained 30 lbs. almost overnight (roughly a month and a half, maybe two months). At the time, I was also dealing with pretty bad mood swings, exhaustion, and brain fog, and began seeing doctors in an attempt to figure it out. I thought that I might have a thyroid issue, but there were no conclusive test results, and eventually I just gave up. After that, I continued gaining weight gradually until I leveled out in the 190s in 2016, then slowly began to creep up the scale again in 2017.

2018 was like any other year, and I started off with a plan to lose all the weight and get fit. Running, working out, dieting, blah, blah, blah. The most important thing that I did for myself, however, was attending Refuge Recovery meetings for my food addiction. I didn’t know what to expect at the time, but the meetings put me in an entirely different mental space. I began to understand how to be mindful of my moods and impulses, and much more patient and loving with myself (and others, as it turned out). By April I was about 5 lbs. down, which was the most I’d been able to take off and keep off in years.

Then in May, I started casually dating again for the first time in a year. Without revealing too much about myself or any previous relationship, it was the first time I’d felt physically appreciated and cared for in many years. When he looked at my body, he made no effort to hide the fact that he was soaking me in. His appreciation made me feel beautiful, and made me look at myself through his eyes – and what I saw pleased me, too. I wasn’t a fat girl, failing. I was suddenly gorgeous.

I didn’t change my diet. I didn’t start exercising. I continued to do exactly what I’d been doing for years – with one crucial difference. All of a sudden, I had care and concern for myself. I gave myself space, said kind words, created a safe place to nestle up and just be me. No more mentally berating myself for always being a failure. After all, I was already beautiful. I’d seen it. I’d seen someone else seeing it. It was valid. The relationship itself wasn’t serious, and didn’t go anywhere, but it was its own little slice of heaven while it lasted, and helped me push the reset button in more ways than one.

By July 2018 I was 183 lbs. Today I’m 174 lbs. At the beginning of 2018, I was straining to fit into a Size 14. Today I realized that my Size 12 dresses are getting a little baggy. Thank goodness I do all of my shopping at thrift stores and Poshmark, because work clothes are expensive.

After years of trying so hard and failing at love and beauty, I realized I’d been wrong all along. I already had both. They were built into me, from the beginning. Weight and beauty had nothing to do with each other, and once I truly accepted that, it gave me a freedom to be easier on myself. I’m sure there are genuine behavioral changes that have occurred because of this shift, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you exactly what I’m doing differently. It really feels like my body is naturally shedding the weight just because it feels happy and loved.

Of course, I’m not done restructuring my brain and my body. I have goals to accomplish, and several of my health goals will be more easily achieved by a lower body mass. At 174 lbs, I’m now officially in the “overweight” category, and due to some potential weight-related health issues down the road, I’d like to get back to “normal,” which apparently is somewhere between 121 lbs. and 158 lbs.

I’m not giving any power to the part of my mind that obsesses over the small shit, so I’m not going to think too far in the future. Maybe in the next month or so, I’ll be a couple of pounds lighter. Maybe not. We’ll see. Either way, I’m not going to write about weight too much on here. My weight isn’t me, and it’s not what’s important. My confidence? That’s a whole other story. I’ll let you know if I do anything crazy that warrants “pics or it didn’t happen!” photos. 🙂

What’s Under My Wig?

If you listen hard enough, dear reader, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to hear my brain rumbling back to life after a lengthy hiatus. It’s been a week without television, Facebook, or drinking, and I can tell that some things are already changing, if ever-so-slightly, for the better. In no particular order:

  1. I’ve read eight books already this year, out of a total yearly goal of 52.
  2. Miracle of miracles, I was at a good stopping point and able to leave work today at a respectable 5:30pm (roughly an hour and a half earlier than my norm).
  3. After threeish years of using whatever random products I could find on the endcap at Marshall’s, I finally took the plunge and purchased a completely new skincare routine from Shero Science. I’ve been using it for three days now, exactly as prescribed. The jury’s still out on possible differences in complexion, but I’m just happy to be doing something nice for myself. I took “before” photos, and will write an honest update/review in a couple of weeks.
  4. It turns out that when you’re not dicking around on FB, your evenings suddenly get a lot longer. I’ve used this time to clean my kitchen (just don’t look in the fridge), and right now my little robot friend is vacuuming the apartment for me. On a side note, what should I name that little guy? I’m thinking about Euclid, after my favorite record store. Also, that’s rather funny, since the original Euclid was the father of Geometry, and this one is all about the angles (and getting stuck on cat toys under the couch – my bad, lil’ dude!)
  5. I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that I knew would make a good story, and have been mulling it over and figuring out the bits and pieces of the plot ever since. I’ve just kind of let the program run in the background of my mind, and now I’m feeling like I have a solid idea of my three primary characters. I wanted to start writing tonight, but –
  6. I’m tired. Legitimately sleepy, and ready to go to bed. Y’all, my sleep patterns are so utterly wrecked, and have been for years. I have a very hard time falling asleep, and am almost never actually “tired” – I can stay up for days, teetering on the edge of absolute madness, without being able to pass the hell out. This is a rare and wonderful gift.

On that note, I’m going to wash my face and go to bed, like a proper young miss of three score and ten.

OK, I realize that’s an inside joke with myself, and not at all fair to you. This caricature hung on the wall of our dining room when I was a child, and I found it immensely funny. See, my brain’s a’churnin’! This might be all you need to know about me…

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Used with permission of The British Museum. Please don’t copy or attempt to use for commercial purposes (though I’d be delighted to hear all about your idea, you weirdo!). For more information on usage rights for this image, visit the collection online

Death and Remembrance

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I’ve been sick for the last couple of days, and stuck in the house. If I weren’t such an introvert and homebody, I’d probably be feeling pretty rotten by now, just from the isolation. As it is, other than two days of fever, body aches, and a sore throat, I’m actually feeling much better for having been able to take time off from what Urban Dictionary calls “peopling.” The holidays seriously depleted me.

Besides, with Instagram at my beck and call, I have 600 friends to stalk admire from afar. It still remains to be seen if I’ll need to nix Instagram, as well, but I’m hoping I can use it as a tool to teach myself moderation. One of the positives of the app is that I follow many inspiring people – artists, teachers, explorers, and doers of all kinds. It’s not all photos of hot fitness models and wanderlusty locations – there’s an education to be had, if one is so inclined!

Yesterday, for instance, I happened upon an interesting post by Geek Girl Tarot that provided instructions for using numerology to find the tarot card that represents what’s in store for you, personally, in 2019. Click through the image below to learn more, and don’t forget to give her a “like” if you enjoy the exercise.

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One thing that you probably don’t know about me yet is that I’m an interesting mix of open minded and skeptical about, well, everything. When I was a child, my father lightly remarked, “Don’t believe everything you read, kid” to me. I took it straight to heart, and a generation of religious leaders collectively sighed in resignation. Anyway, that’s the stuff of another blog post.

For now, let’s just say that I believe that there is much we don’t understand about time, space, and energy exchange. Science doesn’t know everything, organized religion knows (or at least admits to know) less, and both camps have done all they can to discredit each other as well as older branches of spiritual pursuit. The closest we are legitimately allowed to get to finding our truths in modern society without having to draw attention and run the risk of being called batshit crazy is by practicing art and music.

Drawing, dancing, singing, and storytelling are age old practices that conveniently fly under the radar. We can do them without even knowing that the task is performing double duty. We can teach ourselves lessons and reignite our soul purpose with simple tools that have worked since the beginning of humankind. Symbols work if we take time to notice them. Stories work if we listen. Nature works if we stop destroying it. I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that we innately know what we’re supposed to be doing. If we pay attention to the bread crumbs we’ve left ourselves, we’ll flow in the right direction.

/jumps off soap box

This all goes to say that in terms of this single exercise, I wasn’t shocked to find that the card of the major arcana that defines my path in 2019 is Death. Apparently there’s some sort of popular belief that finds the Death card to be in some way frightening, since pretty much every site I’ve visited to read up on the card starts with some sort of “FEAR NOT” disclaimer. In reality, Death is less about shedding this mortal coil than releasing those less tangible aspects of yourself that aren’t working, here in this realm.

Biddy Tarot Death Card

This card from the Everyday Tarot Deck by Biddy Tarot is by far one of my favorite representations of Death. Click the image to find out more about the deck.

The Death card fits completely with the strange, strong sense of purpose that I’ve felt, striding into this year. I’ve always been resilient and downright tough to kill – my greatest strengths in life have always been my relentlessness, coupled with the ability to fly under the radar. I am patient, and don’t take no for an answer if the goal is truly important (that’s being a fixed sign for you). Whether or not anything ranks highly enough to be “truly important” – well, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

But the last few years have been strange. I was “off” somehow, and couldn’t seem to get a handle on how to course correct. For the last year, I felt blindfolded, yet optimistic that I was getting my groove back. I’ve moved with caution, and slowly, the feeling of being lost in space began to ease up.

Overall, I don’t feel like I’ve strayed too far from the path, but I know that I’ve resonated with fear, sorrow, and timidity, and it’s colored my relationships. It wasn’t for nothing (all experiences have their usefulness, after all). I’ve learned some major lessons, and I’ve also been permitted access to some beautiful insights as a result of my involuntary downtime. In a way, it’s felt as though I needed the awkward stints in solitude in order to work up the energy to be as ME as possible for short bursts – changing careers, going on pilgrimage, having a couple of truly wild adventures here and there, too. It has helped me focus on the things that matter, so I could eventually (now) shed the extraneous bullshit that serves me not.

All this being said, I know with great clarity that I’m still not doing what it is I’m meant to do here. But I have this sense of certainty that I’m finally HERE, back on the path I inadvertently abandoned so long ago. Now that I’m here, I’ve got to make up some time, and put my lessons learned to good use. Hence my decisions this year to quit pursuing time wasters, be they activities, people, or substances that give me an excuse to stop pushing my boundaries and crafting the rest of my life.

If you want to read more about the meanings behind the cards of the major arcana, I really enjoyed the Tarot Card Deck page on Kasamba.com. The meanings are laid out very clearly on Labyrinthos.co, as well (and feature a lovely deck called The Golden Thread).

Wherein Sh*t Gets Real

It’s only three days in, and already I’m confronted with an old friend I’d long forgotten – boredom. No Facebook for pointless banter, no television for mindless consumption, and here I am in my house, coming down with a cold and stubbornly resisting any kind of productive fun. I haven’t felt the mind-numbing annoyance of true boredom in years. Today’s world is so full of distractions, it’s hard to concentrate for long enough to get truly bored. After all, you can just grab your cell phone and scroll Instagram, right?

I’ve flipped through the mental rolodex of activities that I’m trying to encourage myself to attempt more often this year: working out, origami, writing, making a collage, sewing, crafting jewelry. I took a shower. I got dressed and thought briefly about going on a walk, but there’s a torrential downpour and I’ve got a low fever, so getting drenched doesn’t sound so fun. I even started and quit a few little household projects (and I’m here writing now, so that’s something, at least).

Even so, I can already tell that THIS is going to be my big project of the year, sorting through this mental resistance to fostering my creative life. What is it that I’m so afraid of?