Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Relationship with Ballroom Dance

In the Spring 2006 semester of college an idea was planted into my head to take a fun class amidst the Real Analysis II, Euclidean/Non-Euclidean Geometries, and Astronomy courses I had signed up for. Well, admittedly the Astronomy class was supposed to be the "fun" class.

The idea was to take a Ballroom Dance class. "The Beginner's level course is on Monday and Advanced level course is on Wednesday," the instructor informed us, "so you can come two nights a week, and get more practice!"

My relationship with movement to music up until that point was dancing a coordinated Macarena at a family-friend's wedding, and putting together a choreographed number to *N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" as a part of a talent show on the last day of a summer program for which I co-taught Mathematics to 8th graders. Both were fun and got me moving even though they were full of silliness. And despite the fact that I went to nearly every middle school and high school dance, what I did I wouldn't count as dancing. Just a lot of wiggling and shuffling. And knowing all the lyrics to "Love Shack."

The Ballroom Dance class was a survey of all the formal styles: waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, Viennese Waltz, swing, and then . . . LATIN DANCES! Rumba, tango, salsa, am I forgetting something? They were all amazing, a total trip, tons of fun -- soon every song I heard I wanted to partner up and grace the floor with some impressive moves. Blue October's "Ugly Side" stuck in my head for MONTHS:

I think that one would go with a nice Viennese Waltz. Thoughts?

I started watching television again, in search for more dancing. Before I discovered Dancing with the Stars, even before I happened upon So You Think You Can Dance and tortured my partner once a week with frantically postulating who would be eliminated (and why they deserved to stay), I found a ballroom dance program on PBS that included this eccentric couple:

All I need say is that it opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. I was excited to dance the Rumba to Linda Ronstadt's "Blue Bayou," but this was a riot!

This couple goes all out . . . might one say, they go . . . "Gaga?"

Having watched these all back-to-back, and following the last 8 of 10 weeks of Dancing with the Stars, I think it's time for me to put on my dancing shoes and learn some fancy footwork. Here's more inspiration:

You Spin Me Round -- Donny Osmond?!??

 Can Kirstie Tango? Oh, yes, and so much more . . .

The dance that stole the show -- of COURSE he won dwts; he's a football player! Anyway, check out the footwork, it's very admirable.

With all these videos I'm almost absolutely certain you're pondering -- "Crystal Math, through all the dancing, all the leaps and throwing and twirling, is there an all-time favorite routine you have?"

Why yes, dear readers! There most certainly is! During the last season of SYTYCD when Billy Bell and dance partner Anya Garnis danced the jive . . . to Meatloaf!

Well, fine readers, that just about wraps up the story of my relationship with ballroom dancing. With the introduction of such awesome music as Gotan Project, I feel like it's about damn time I got out there and added some timing, rhythm and structure to my wiggling and shuffling.

Crystal Math

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Follow your dreams and follow my blog!"

Shameless self-promotion comprises my wishes for the Class of 2011.

I've purchased a yearbook each year I've been at my school, and let the kids go crazy writing in it. The third yearbook was placed in my hands this month, and this year as the Senior Class Advisor, I'm really tearing up at some of the stuff that's being written, some of it by the graduating class:

"I hella love you! You were honestly on of the bestest teachers I've ever had! [. . .] Goodbye for now, and I will miss you, have a great summer!"
12th grader

"I'm happy to say that you were a FUN teacher and I thank you for all the math you packed in my head."
11th grader

"Hey Miss Crystal I just want to let you know how much I'm going to miss you, a lot! [. . .] It's been fun having you as a teacher and a good friend, you always listened to me when I needed someone to talk to, you always encouraged me to reach my highest dreams. I'll miss you very much and I love you."
10th grader
(This one moved me to tears.)

". . . You always got me through Algebra with a laugh. Thank you Crystal and I love you so much!"
12th grader

"Hi Crystal! I honestly think you're the best teacher I've ever had. Not even trying to kiss up or anything. You made math bearable. So for that, I'm going to draw a bear! On a unicycle!"
12th grader

"Hey Crystal! I wish you the best along your journey as a teacher. You inspired me to go out in my community and strive for social justice!"
12th grader
(More tears. Bring the sandbags for commencement, there will be floods.)

"Crystal you are a great listener and you're a very good teacher. I always enjoy listening and talking to you. I hope you have a happy fun summer."
10th grader

Seriously -- a lot of these kids who allow themselves to freely express their emotions will break any and all stereotypes that the media tries to pin on teens. How often do you hear from a 15 year-old that you're a good listener?!??

I remember being 15 or 16 and that all I wanted from an adult was to be listened to. Aside from my immediate family members I can't recall feeling like I was being heard until I was 18, months away from graduating. My Calculus teacher and I were comparing how often we'd moved in our lifetime. He'd moved over 20 years ago to the small town where I graduated from and still didn't feel like he "fit in."

At that point I realized:
a) sometimes you will never fit in; but more importantly
b) it is ok to be a "square peg"

It was that teacher that inspired me to pursue education seriously. As far as I know, he's still teaching Geometry, Calculus, and Physics and making tons of kids laugh, cry, and feel.

Years later I have come to realize that eccentric folk, the ones that didn't fit in or have a huge group of buddies at their fingertips, or the ones that went against the current and took risks and tried something new despite the fact that they were alone in doing so, are the ones that make the world go 'round.

Keep it up, Weirdos! Rock on, Nerds! Follow your dreams and follow my blog, you Dweebs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

How Obama Got Osama, and Why Romantic Comedies/Dramas are Bad for Me.

The end of the school year is coming to a swift close. Although there is a lot of excitement coming from . . . well, everyone at school . . . I'm again experiencing the anxiety of the unknown. I'm applying for several jobs that exemplify my skills and experience as an educator, but as with everyone, this be tough times and I've been turned down from a couple of tutoring centers.

Cause for rejoice comes in the next three weeks: a Disneyland/Universal Studios road trip with the graduating senior class, attending "Education Day" in the South Bay, and, of course, Commencement. The class of 2011 were a bunch of great young people and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss 'em. However, I've got some great ideas for the incoming Freshmen class that I'll be advising come August.

How Obama Got Osama
This is brief: I'm watching President Obama being interviewed on 60 Minutes, a show that was prominent in my childhood, if only for the time spent making fun of Andy Rooney and his ridiculous, disconnected, irrelevant, rants.

I didn't vote for Obama -- but I also didn't vote for who you think I did, the "other guy." (Hint: She's not a dude.) At the time I had lost a lot of "trust" (if that's even the right word) in mainstream politics and still very much believe in the power of grassroots movements. It's very obvious that as I experience more and gain more knowledge of the political left, right, and radical, the areas that I believed were black & white (like international relations) are now varying shades of gray. Looking critically at Obama as a president, I think he bit off more than he could chew by implanting the ideas of universal health care and shutting down Guantanamo Bay. Don't get me started on the budget, i.e. military spending and education. President Obama is not the sole person to blame, and I'm not trying to blame him for what got done or didn't get done so far in his first term. I just think he conveyed ideas that he, working with his administration, couldn't reasonably conceive in a short four years.

With regards to the killing of Osama bin Laden, my frustrations are geared more towards the mass public -- anyone who "celebrates" another's death excessively (partying/drinking/wearing stupid t-shirts, etc). I have a lot of respect for the sincerity and seriousness with which President Obama has conveyed during this whole ordeal. Everything he's said has been very logical, matter-of-fact, and rational no matter how you vote.

Mr. Obama, I didn't vote for you, and I still won't claim ownership by referring to you as "my president," but you can be a pretty cool dude. Thanks for being an intellectual and keeping a rational head about a situation that could have been dealt with in a more juvenile fashion.

Why Romantic Comedies/Dramas are Bad for Me
It has been consistent that, whenever a TV show or movie comes along that's received well and has a romantically-driven plot line with an exceptionally good-looking cast, I experience emotional turmoil.

I have no clue how long this has been going on, but the first time I realized it was when I became OBSESSED with the show Grey's Anatomy. I saw the pilot episode and was immediately hooked. Sexy people can be doctors, too! It was exciting. I downloaded episodes so I could get caught up (TV was airing Season 3, I believe). I'd watch an episode a night, sometimes two on the weekend. Before long I realized that I was bringing drama into the relationship and my co-habitant was receiving the worst of my nagging and imaginary reasons for jealousy and deceit.  
Didn't wash the dishes? Came home late?? And, what, you didn't tell me I look sexy today?!??

I really became a wreck and immediately downsized my intake of GA to a couple of episodes a week. The less I saw, the more realistic I became about things that were said and done (or not said and not done) in the relationship. Eventually, I gave up on it altogether because there were too many new characters. Seriously, you miss one season you might as well have died. *sigh*

Earlier today I watched the 90's romantic comedy Singles. I love lazy weekends, and I love lazier Sunday mornings even more, and I even loved the grunge soundtrack the movie brought with it, but -- !

But there were some pieces of monologue/dialogue in the movie that threw me off and jump-started the same paranoia and thought process. One character's monologue involved how long to wait before calling her dude:

"If I call him now, I'll come across as desperate. I'll call in an hour. If I call in an hour it'll seem like I'm busy and it won't be as bad. . . I don't want to be desperate."

In my brain began the slippery slope of relationship dramas -- dear gawd, I've created a monster.

It's true: we DON'T want to look like the "desperate" ones (who does?). Who's supposed to call, anyway? The dude's supposed to call, or the chick? What happens with same-sex couples? Or couples without any identified sex or gender fluidity? My mom had ingrained in me from a young age that as the female in the relationship, you DON'T call the dude, for the very reason of not being desperate. At the time I felt like there was no reasoning with this kind of logic, but lo and behold, in the years I dated in college I found out quickly that dudes seemed to disappear if I called them "too much," or at all. D-:

After how long does it become OK for either partner/companion/boyfriend/girlfriend to call? Who the hell made these rules, anyway? So many unanswered questions . . . In the end it's just important to know that you're dedicated to one another. But what if you scare the other person off by your desperation?!?? :-0

I think we've gotten ourselves stuck in a time-space-gender-continuum vortex, people. :-/