the big apple jam fam

It’s stupid and cheesy, but also vaguely true: whenever I do the big apple with a big group of people, I feel like we’re part of a family (thus, the “fam” abbreviation).

Last night, Bobby White was at Hotjam as part of the Dancer in Residence program recently started by Down South Swing — and he got the week off to a great start! A great, easy, and informative lesson on the Tranky Doo, two great performances (one bal, one solo charleston), some fantastic social dancing, and a lot of enthusiastic dance-knowledge-trading at the end of hotjam. It was all high-energy, and all very exciting.

The best part for me, though, was the Big Apple. It was the biggest Big Apple we’ve done in a while, with almost 20 people participating. Lindsay played “Shout and Feel It”…and I honestly have not been that tired after a single song in a long time. There was a lot of smiling and laughing and yelling, and a lot of flailing and running into each other as we realized we probably should have formed the bridge down the long part of the building instead of the short.

At the end there was a lot of clapping and hugging, and a lot of awe-struck faces as the new dancers who had never even heard of the Big Apple clambered to know what the whole performance was about.

This is exactly why I want to cover the Big Apple in the dance practica. Because I love performing it with a large group, where we’re all having fun and yelling and smiling. It’s like we’re this huge family of people with a common joy. And it’s so much more fun when everyone gets to participate.

on spending (and hopefully saving) money

This is an update on one of my financial goals for the new year, where my goal is to always save more than I spend.

I think one of the hardest things that I’ve had to learn as I become more independent is the art of budgeting as a tool to both reduce the extraneous expenses in my life and to promote the efforts to efficiently save money. Let me tell you: it’s hard.

I have always been a relatively frugal spender. When I was little — maybe 5 years old — I would agonize over whether I really wanted to spend $3.50 on that little teapot set. After all, my allowance was only $2/week, and I really wanted to save up to buy that pretty dancer figurine (which was probably a grand total of $5). It was absurd, but it was also smart.

As I grew up, though, I started making my own money — and man, $8.50 an hour of your own, personal money is a lot when you’ve been living off your parents. Of course, that means you feel like you have more to spend (while still saving!). I remember the first extravagant purchase I decided to make: a camera. Just a little hand-held one, with 8 megapixels and the ability to record, but it took me almost a week to decide yes!

Still, I grew more used to buying things for myself — clothing, dance passes, eating out…I was comfortable with my money, and that led me to living without a budget — always aware of how much I spend, but never quite trying to save.

However, I got more expenses: this year, I pay my own rent, pay my own car payment, my own bills and utilities, groceries, etc. Life suddenly got a whole lot more expensive. And despite the fact that I had gotten a raise ($9.50 for a student is good pay), and I was working almost 40 hours a week (had to hold two student jobs to achieve that)…well, I’m always able to cover my bases, but I also always feel like I could be doing better.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how to efficiently budget my money. I’ve been using the “envelope system,” where I put a certain amount of money in an envelope and use that for my entire week of spending. Over the past month, I’ve used $50 a week. I was doing really well with this — saving anywhere between $2 and $10, and only over spending once (by $4). I put the extra money in a jar, and I’m still debating on what to do with this money — since the budget is designed to save me money by not overspending on extraneous expenses, it would be redundant to just save this money. Instead, I’m considering saving it up for an eventual treat for myself (dance lessons, for example, or yoga classes) — something I am too cheap to budget for, but would really like to do.

There is one current challenge to my budgeting: groceries and gas. Due to personal habits, I only end up buying one a week, and both usually cost about $30. I’ve been using the cash I’ve budgeted to purchase these so far, and it’s been working…but it makes me worried that my schedule will rotate and I’ll have to buy both one week or starve / take MARTA at 6am until the schedule is reset.

As such, I’m going to change the structure just a little: groceries and gas will be bought on the card, but I’ll try to always spend $30 or less. To balance this, my cash budget will be reduced — though, I’m debating how much the reduced budget should be. I feel that $20 is too low, but I also realize it’s essentially what I’ve been living on when groceries and gas is taken out.

short showers and next challenge

This was an easy challenge. Depressing, because I still love my long showers, but easy. And done. :)

The only things I really noticed are that: 1) I got more sleep, and 2) I didn’t get out of the house any faster. Though I did miss my “me” time, it was relatively easy to manage without.

Challenge complete: 21 January 2010.
Personal success rating: 10/10

Next challenge: follow a good face cleaning regimen every day. Kudos go to Mom for thinking this one up a while back. <3

Start date: 24 January 2011
End date: 30 January 2011

lindy practica: interest?

The summary: I want to start a free (or super-beyond-cheap) lindy hop practica in Atlanta. Now you can either humor me while I give my more involved reasoning…OR you can skip further down to get to the good part, where I tell you when / where it will be. Your choice.

***

Atlanta is widely accepted as one of the dance “hubs” of the southeast. With its large population, large airport, and lack of large surrounding dance scenes, it is able to sustain 5+ events a year (for 2010, we had: ETB: DIY, ATLX, Hop Shop, ETIB 4, Southern Belle, AVS, and Swing and Soul — that’s 7, and those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head). But honestly, the level of dancing in Atlanta is not as high as I would expect it to be considering its role in the SE hosting so many dances.

Let me be honest: as much as I love Atlanta, it is hard to get past the “intermediate” level (as someone who has just broken into the lower levels of intermediate-advanced at best, I feel I can say this with accuracy). Though DSS hosts a wide array of beginner and beginner-intermediate dances, there are comparatively few outlets at which to transition from beginning-intermediate and intermediate into that coveted intermediate-advanced stage.* More importantly, there are almost no affordable and constructive environments in which to mutually work on personal improvement. I mean, a dancer could go spend $40 – $60 an hour on private lessons, and then another $100 – $200 a month on travelling to workshops and exchanges, but most people just don’t have those funds. And of course, when social dancing, it is often tacky to ask for help — so where does that leave the intermediate dancer, yearning to get even just the tiniest bit of advice?

While much of the improvement that it takes to reach that arbitrary and yet coveted intermediate-advanced level of dancing depends on personal dedication and desire, I do think there is something we can do by providing a space to work on dancing while still managing to stay within budget. At least, that’s what I want to try to do.

Therefore: I want to start (or help start) a lindy hop practica. Here are my thoughts:

  • It will be free.
  • This will be a location where anyone (beginning, intermediate, or advanced — or anywhere on that spectrum) can show up and work on dancing.
  • It will be a place of constructive criticism and a general will to help: want to learn Charleston Swingouts? Okay. Let’s do it.

These are the limitations:

  • I am not an instructor, and unless an actual instructor decides to help, there is only so much we can improve on. But assuming I’m the most advanced dancer who shows up — which will hopefully not be the case — there will still be massive amounts we can learn. Anyone attending who views me as an instructor should, instead, view me as a peer hoping to improve my own dancing as well.
  • Space. I have wood floors, but a small space; thus, the only potential cost if the group is larger is a general donation for an hour or two of studio space
  • Attendance. Though I believe there are a lot of people who want to do this / would benefit from this…there is no guarantee that anyone will show up.

Why I’m going to try anyway:

  • I want to work on my own dancing. And though, as of this moment, I don’t know how that will work unless I beg a more advanced dancer than I to attend…well, I’m sure I will improve just by force of having a space to work on it.
  • I do want to learn to teach. And I want to learn how to discuss dancing — use my words to describe some miniscule concept to someone. And this would be a good environment for anyone to try learning to talk about and think about dancing in a more critical manner.
  • Finally, for the first time in four years, I have some semblance of free time in my schedule.

***

So, here are my suggestions:

When: Tuesdays, time to be determined.

Where: My house (please send me an email or facebook message if you want the address: abinikai@gmail.com). Depending on the level of attendence, though, this could change.

What do we start with: I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, and there’s one thing that many I’ve talked to want to work on. The Big Apple. At least five people I know have expressed a desire to learn the routine, but it can be a challenge to learn — it’s long, and sometimes tricky, and who wants to pay $10 a week for a month to attempt to learn it? The whole idea here is FREE. I know it well enough that I could teach the basic movements to a few people, while also learning a lot myself in the process. This will start everyone off learning some basic jazz moves in a constructive environment…and then we can go practice them at the local dances! WHOOO!!!

Facebook v. email: I am willing to maintain both a facebook group and an email list…but I would rather just one. Let me know which you are more likely to check.

***

FINALLY, WHAT I NEED FROM YOU:

Before I ask time off from work, I need to know that people are interested. That if I ask for every Tuesday night off, some people will show up. I’m thinking of starting the first or second week of February, and we’ll see where to go from there. If you’re interested or have friends who would be interested, you can tell me any variety of ways — comments, emails, facebook messages, phone calls, and sky-writing. Mostly, I just want to know that people will show up.

If Tuesday doesn’t work, let me know — I can do just about any night of the week and am 100% willing to help host / lead this on the night when the majority of people can attend. However, I do think that, considering the regular and irregular dances in Atlanta, that Tuesday is the best option.

In conclusion: Let’s do this!

***

*I know those are vague categories, but the concept is simple: there is this certain arbitrary and undefined “level” of dancing that many people want to reach — a level where others recognize you as a comparatively competent dancer, and where you are relatively confident in what you’re doing. And it is really, really hard to get there.

the week’s challenge: short showers

I love long, hot showers. It’s my “me” time. It’s when I think, and relax, and daydream. And sometimes, when I have no reason to stop, I will take unreasonably long showers. And when I have no will-power, then I tend to make the unreasonably long showers a habit.

As such, this week’s challenge is to take showers of a reasonable length. This means not waiting for the hot water to run out. This means not standing there for ten minutes and basking in the heat of the shower. It means getting in, doing my thing, and getting out like a normal human being, allowing myself only a couple minutes to blatantly waste water.

Wish me luck. My desire is great, but my willpower is…well…like I said, I love my showers.

Start date: 15 Jan 2011
End date: 21 Jan 2011

Personal challenges: not getting lost in the glorious, warm, and comfortable quiet of my favorite morning ritual…

cleaning challenge: cursed

The first time I attempted this challenge, my car was busted into and my backpack was stolen. Cost to repair: about $300.

The second time I attempted this challenge, my car’s alternator and battery died in the same week. Cost to repair : about $700.

The third time I attempted this challenge, I got into a (small-ish) wreck due to all the bad weather. Cost to repair: yet to be determined. Will probably affect my insurance the most.

For the sake of my car (and my wallet), I will no longer be attempting this challenge. I’m not a pig, so I don’t expect any cleanliness issues…but I won’t be trying this challenge until my car is locked up in a garage and safe for an entire week.

work success

Three guesses who this week’s current top performer is!

Since I started at Banana Republic (December 15), I have been trying really hard to be the epitome of fantastic, with the end goal of being hired on after my seasonal work has ended. And though I might not be the epitome of fantastic…I’ve come pretty close!

Today, I was informed that I met my sales goal for the week yesterday, before the week was even half over. I was then informed that for the month of December, I was one of the TOP FIVE performers (out of more than 40 employees) to obtain BRCs (the Banana Republic Credit Card). This is a pretty big deal in the store, as BRCs indicate brand loyalty, yadda yadda — but an even bigger goal because I was only hired on the 15th of December, and I still outperformed the majority of year-round workers.

Additionally, I am always ready to stay a little later to help out if the store is busy, or to come in if an employee is sick and they really need the help. I was a quick learner, and am already familiar with everything from cashiering to sales to managing the fitting rooms. And I smile a lot. My managers love me, and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done there.

In short, I rock.

With any luck, I will make this a year-round seasonal job. Which means my wardrobe will get a slow (keeping my budget in mind), yet amazingly high-quality makeover which I am super excited about. Right now, I have my eye on some super-cute but super-professional oxfords — I only have one oxford in my possession, and while it is nice, it is a very boring white. And I really love the spring patterns, colors, and ultra-feminine details!

***

In other news, I will also be starting some temp work with the Music & Media Circulation Desk (I told you they love me!). Not only does this get me extra hours, but it puts me on the temp list for the entire library, which means I can pick up work in ILL, Circulation, or any other department which might need help. So while my temp work in the M&M Library only currently lasts until the end of January, I could potentially pick up work occasionally throughout the semester!

Today was just a really satisfying day.