Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why It's Awesome Being An Adult Irish Dancer

I am proud to say that, along with being a mom, wife, and writer, I am also an adult Irish Dancer! 

One of my goals is to spread the word and hopefully inspire other adults to try Irish Dancing. I danced as a child and teenager, and I have to say that I am having so much more fun dancing as an adult. There are so many benefits to being an adult Irish Dancer. I've made friends, gained confidence, lost weight, gained muscle, improved my stamina, and it's made me a happier person! 

Here is a list of reasons why it's awesome being an adult Irish Dancer for people interested in Irish Dancing. It's not as daunting as you might think! ;)

  • It's a great way to exercise! 
    • Your body will feel really sore when you start. It takes a little while for your muscles and limbs to get used to it, but when they do, you feel great! You build muscles and slim down; at least, I have. Your stamina always grows and I've noticed that when jogging or walking with my kids. 
  • It's a good outlet. 
    • If I'm feeling stressed, worried, or just burnt out by something, I go to class and just dance it out! The music cheers me up and the support from my teachers and fellow dancers lifts me up! Creatively, it's a splendid outlet because dancing is a form of expression and passion.  
  • You can make friends with other adults who love Irish Dancing as much as you do! 
    • I am really enjoying the friendships growing from my class and from the adult dancer Facebook group. It's a special community and there is a lot of support for adult dancers out there. My dance class is a special time for me for many reasons, but one is that I can be social with other people, which is a big deal for a stay at home mom like me. ;) 
  • You are a good role model for other people. 
    • By other people, I mean kids, relatives, friends, neighbors, you name it. By pursuing a cultural and healthy activity and persevering at it, you are presenting a good example for others. I think it's important for my kids to see my doing Irish Dancing; it might inspire them to dance someday or work hard at something else they love. 
  • You can compete and win things! 
    • I know I just recently wrote a post about how annoying it is to compete as an adult in Feiseanna (Irish Dancing competitions), but at a good Feis where there are lots of adults competing, it's so fun! I really treasure the medals I won at my first Feis as an adult. As an adult and a stay at home mom, competing is an accomplishment and it feels good when I've earned it. 
  • You can work your way up to become a TCRG and teach. 
    • This is one of my goals. I want to become a TCRG and teach Irish Dancing to adults or kids. I just love Irish Dancing so much that it would be great to work with others and teach. Fingers crossed that I do well on my first two Grade Exams this upcoming weekend! 
  • You call the shots. 
    • Growing up, I felt bad that my dad had to shell out so much money for my sister and I to dance and compete. Irish Dancing costs money, and as an adult, it's more up to us how we pay for it. I try to make a little by selling on eBay and Instagram, and that has helped pay for my classes and Feiseanna. Also, as adults, we are responsible for pushing ourselves and making ourselves practice. It's up to us how far we push ourselves. We are in control of a lot more things, such as time, food, and money, even if we are busy leading adult lives. :) 
  • You are special. 
    • Yep, pretty darn special. There aren't too many adult Irish Dancers out there and I think we are a passionate, hard-working, fun-loving bunch. It's an amazing world to be part of and when I hear the music, my heart lifts and I feel so happy. 
Let me know if I've missed anything and I hope I've inspired a few of you to try Irish Dancing! Any questions? Let me know! You can find me on Twitter too here: @OpheliaLeong. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

My Name is Ophelia and I am a Notebook Hoarder!

My name is Ophelia and I am a notebook hoarder. 

I admit it. I love beautiful notebooks with colorful covers and creamy smooth pages. I usually don't even write in them; I just love having them for their beauty and their infinite possibilities.

On top of one of my (many) bookshelves, I stacked up my notebooks to take a picture. The crazy thing is, I actually have more then just those, but for some reason they didn't make it into this picture. I've received some as gifts and others I bought myself, entranced by their loveliness. Notebooks can be glorious, and for a writer they represent so much. The empty pages are aching for ideas, scraps of poetry, names for characters, bits of dialogue that won't leave your mind. 

Some of my favorite notebooks are ones I've bought from Japanese bookstores or stationery stores. The pages are so silky and the covers are always fun to look at. I also love notebooks featuring art from artists I admire, such as Tove Jansson or Melissa Redondo. When my husband and I were still dating, he bought me a gorgeously detailed leather owl notebook from Barnes and Noble. To this day, seven years later, I still can't bring myself to write in it.

One of these days, I will start filling these amazing notebooks with my ideas and inspirations, but for now just looking at them makes me feel hopeful. In these busy times as a stay at home mom of three, I am happy to know that I have these great tricks of the trade ready for me. ;) 

Fellow writers and artists, what things do you love to collect? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

New Projects and New Publications

Dear readers, how is this week treating you? The fact that we've been having sunshine and warm days over here has been quite nice after all the rain and cold temps we've had! Now that my kiddos aren't sick, their energy levels seem higher than usual. I think spring fever is starting to blaze! ;) 

I am working on a couple new projects. I still want to finish my fantasy novel WIP as soon as possible, but I haven't been able to get in the zone for it lately. It might be because I need to find the time to settle back into my world and characters. Hopefully that can happen soon. When my kids were napping, I used to work on my WIP during that time, but now that they don't nap anymore, it's so much harder to work on things. 

But, I've been having fun with a new fantasy piece that I'd like to turn into either a super long story or novella. I love the characters so far and really like how I wrote the beginning. I'm definitely excited to see where this one goes! 

I also wrote the storyboard for a new children's book last week and I am looking forward to working more on it. It's still in early stages, but I've got the story planned out. It's been in my head for a while. I am still waiting on another children's book I submitted to a publisher; fingers crossed that someone wants to publish it! 

I have a bunch of other pieces out that I am waiting to hear back on, but one of my older pieces was recently published in Mixtape Methodology and I am thrilled! It's a lovely journal and I love the idea of writing poetry and stories inspired by music. They have published some amazing pieces. 

Check it out here: Songbird

How are your projects, writing or otherwise, going? :) Do share!! I want to hear about it~! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

John Whelan Kennelly Memorial Feis 2016

Hello everyone! 
So far, we (kids and I) have gotten sick twice in 2016! In other words, I've been so busy taking care of my kids, myself, and my home that I haven't had much time or energy to update this blog or even work on some writing. Now that we are all feeling better, I'm hoping to change that! ;) 

The John Kennelly Memorial Feis was on Sunday January 17 in Sacramento, CA. The weather was AWFUL, especially on the drive home, but my husband drove carefully and safely, so we were fine. It was really special to have the kids at the Feis with me this time; I think they enjoyed it and they behaved really well, so we were proud of them. :) The Feis itself, however, I didn't care for! The adults had to dance on the weird high stage against a black backdrop, so since we were all mostly in black, we blended in! My husband took some videos, but you can't really see me dancing because my whole outfit, tights and all, was all black! It was so dumb, really. It was literally the worst place for the adult dancers to dance. Then there was a musician below the stage who was playing the accordion, but for some reason the Feis people piped the sound through tall speakers behind us on the stage so it sounded odd.....

I compete in the Adult beginner and novice levels and there were hardly any adults....which was such a bummer. We had no stage manager and all these younger dancers kept coming up to the stage and asking for a stage manager. The judges were a little random and the judging itself seemed a bit arbitrary. I danced against two or three other women, sometimes against just one. I am most proud of my Hard Jig, in which I placed first out of two. I danced six dances in total and received medals for each. Here are my results: 

Reel: 3rd out of 4
Light Jig: 3rd out of 4
Slip Jig: 2nd out of 3
Single Jig: 4th out of 4 (I thought this had gone well too! D:) 
Hard Jig: 1st out of 2
Novice Trad Set Blackbird: 2nd out of 2 (I was so nervous!) 

I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself about the Feis, since I had just gotten over being really sick. Even after I danced, I felt ill and I think I overdid it. I hadn't been able to practice much beforehand since the kids and I had been sick. I am really glad I went and I am so grateful to my husband for all the hard work and support that day. The kids were really cute at the Feis and waved at me on the stage. :D 

The next day, however, I was a little upset about the Feis and the world of adult competing. I felt as though we weren't taken seriously and I didn't feel like I had accomplished much. There was something off about the whole Feis, and my friend from my class agreed. She danced with me and I am so glad she was there too, but we both didn't like the Feis. I ended up writing an email to my ADCRG and he called later to talk about it, which was so kind and supportive. We talked about how hard it is for adults to compete in Feiseanna, since there are few adults who even compete around here! At this rate, my friend and I would be spending all this time and money on Feiseanna where we wouldn't even move up, no matter what our scores were. I don't want to drop down and dance against teenagers and younger adults; I don't have anything against people who do, but I am a mom of three children and I am proud of being an adult dancer. My life and body are different from teenagers and I don't really need too much pressure in my already busy life. 

So, he suggested I focus on our upcoming Grade Exams (with Scary Gary!! I can't wait to meet him!!) and only go to Feiseanna with a lot of adults. I think that is better for my wallet and my time. I have been really enjoying our classes lately since we've been reviewing for the Grade Exams and my ADCRG said my technique has improved! I am only planning to dance Grades 1 and 2, which are the Reel, Light Jig, Slip Jig, and Single Jig. Since it has to be 40 bars for the exams, we've added a little extra step to each, which has been fun but I need to make sure I remember them! The floor in the dance studio has been redone and it looks great. I am excited to start doing more hard shoe dances again; we've taken a little break from them because of the Grade Exams, but I want to work on my Blackbird set again! 

This is a big year for our dance school and I am looking forward to all the fun things we have planned! To my dancer friends, how are you all doing with your dancing? :) 

Take care, friends!