Monthly Archives: March 2018

I’d Rather Be Dancing: Phoenix Folk Dance Festival

I’d Rather Be Dancing: Phoenix Folk Dance Festival

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I spent St. Patrick’s Day at the Festival my folk dance group produces every year. Most years, I dance. This year I couldn’t (I’m having hip surgery in a few months), so I brought my camera and took almost 500 pictures and videos of the festivities.

Dancers came to the festival not just from the Phoenix metropolitan area, but also from Tucson. Many come dressed in authentic ethnic costumes, or ethnic-y fashions.






Ferra came in her Indonesian warrior costume.

You may notice that many of the dancers are in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Dancing on a regular basis is excellent exercise, especially for your brain. If you want a long, healthy life, dancing can help you.

But that doesn’t mean that children aren’t welcome. In fact, passing on folk dance knowledge is one of the reasons why the Phoenix International Folk Dancers exist.


One of two folklore groups from St. Nikola’s Serbian church who performed dances for us.


Officially, the program consisted of 40 dances from all over the world (with two breaks featuring entertainment provided by the Tucson Folk Dancers and the St. Nikola folklore groups), but requests were also taken. Everyone is encouraged to try the dances, even if they are in the earliest stages of learning the choreography. Sometimes learners dance behind more experienced dancers to see the steps more clearly. In the pictures, some dancers are watching others’ feet, their serious faces revealing their concentration.






There are folk dance groups all over the United States. If you Google “Folk Dancing near…” and plug in any city or town, you will probably find at least one. In fact, some of the people who show up at our regular Tuesday night dances (6:30 – 9:30 PM at the Irish Cultural Center, 1106 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix) are out-of-towners who are in Phoenix for work or vacation.

Many of our dancers attend folk dance camps, cruises, and folk tours, as well as workshops with nationally known teachers. (Phoenix International Folk Dancers also host workshops; check our website frequently and like our Facebook page.)





Mostly, the annual festival is an excuse to get together with dancing friends and spend four-and-a-half hours having fun.




Here are the dancers in action:

Now it’s your turn. Do you dance regularly? What kind of dancing do you like to do? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #87

Creative Juice #87

For beautiful minds:

In the Meme Time: Cliché



Guest Post: Rules for a Successful Writing Life from Maya Angelou By Jenny Hansen

Guest Post: Rules for a Successful Writing Life from Maya Angelou By Jenny Hansen
Thank you to Jenny Hansen for today’s guest post, which was originally published on Writers in the Storm.

Maya Angelou, inspiration

Today I’m thinking about the people who inspired me on this writing journey.

There are the usual suspects… My mother, who encouraged my constant scribbling. The 6th grade teacher who put my essay up on the wall with a shiny gold star. Countless friends and teachers, in my home writing chapter and online. The founders and contributors here at WITS.

There are the great writers who have already passed: Pat Conroy, Blake Snyder, Zig Ziglar, Harper Lee. And Maya Angelou, who deserves a post all to herself. Angelou is who I’m thanking today, as she’s my get-up-and-go girl when I’m down about this writing life. Her quotes are in blue.

A mentor helps a person to interpret the world.

I can hear Angelou’s strong voice in my mind, that well-modulated tone that filled hundreds of auditoriums and thousands of hearts. She said, “In order to be an effective mentor, a mentor has to care.” It’s her special talent that, although we’ve never met, I still feel her care. I know I’m not alone…she has mentored millions with her words.

Her Lessons for a Successful Life

1. Do right – it will satisfy your soul.

“Try to be the best you can be. People will know you and they will add their prayers to your life and be happy for you.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of kindness. It doesn’t cost you anything to help lift others up. It doesn’t push you down. In fact, it will probably give you a mental lift for the next task you face. It might be a door you open, a review you write or a tweet that you share, but paying kind deeds forward will satisfy you. I promise.

Pick up the battle – this is your life. This is your world. Make it a better one where you are. It is up to us to make the world better.

2. Be courageous.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues – you can’t be kind or fair or humane or generous until you find your courage. Courage is required to defend all the other virtues, and to be a whole person.

3. Self-love is very important.

Never trust anyone who says they love you if they don’t first love themselves. At a college commencement address, Angelou shared an old African proverb with those young people: Be careful of a naked man who offers you a shirt.

If you’re having trouble with the self-love today – and we all have those days – she recommends “gathering everyone who has loved you – bring them along with you when you have to do anything.”

Think of your granny who stroked your hair as you fell asleep at night, or the relative who taught you an important skill. Think of your best friend who thinks you hang the moon and stars in the sky. If you’re a believer, think of God.

Just because your loved ones aren’t always with you anymore, doesn’t mean their love doesn’t still live inside you. Pass their love along to yourself.

4. If you don’t laugh, you will die.

The sense of humor is self-defense against life’s difficulties, but it’s also good for us. Stress is the current slow-killer in our society, paving the way for illness and depression.

This article from Laughter Online University gives several health benefits of laughter:

  • Laughter triggers the release of a cocktail of happy chemicals that boosts the immune responses, particularly components related to anti-viral and anti-tumor defenses.
  • Laughter boosts secretion of growth hormone, an enhancer of key immune responses.
  • Laughing leads to the release of endorphins, a natural opiate that has been scientifically shown to carry messages of attachment and bonding (the scientific terms for love), and to stimulate feelings of caring and forgiveness in addition to acting as a natural painkiller.
  • Laughter stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
  • Laughter can help you learn. This theory is held by many learning experts and leaders.

I’m quite certain that the younger Maya didn’t know the science of it all, but she learned that laughter helps you find a way forward when you feel like there is no way.

5. Be a blessing to someone.

Be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. We may not speak the same language or dance the same dance, but be a blessing to someone.

After a childhood rape, Maya Angelou stopped speaking for five years. When she stopped speaking, she started reading and the stories kept her afloat.

She knew what we all know: stories are important. They are our friends when we’re lonely, assurance when we’re scared, inspiration when we’re down. Stories are a gift and many of us write to pay that gift forward.

Angelou quotes that speak to me as a writer:

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

“If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”

“When I am writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound.”

“All great artists draw from the same resource: the human heart, which tells that we are all more alike than we are unalike.”

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.”

“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”

She exhorted all of us to “turn struggles into triumphs,” know you are talented, do your best and, most of all, “keep rising.”

From her poem, Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Do you have a Maya Angelou quote that particularly speaks to you? Or a quote from a different writing mentor. Who has been a rainbow in your cloud?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

Video of the Week #143: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers


This is the second of a series of five videos. The entire series can be found here.

#DC357: Paradox


This week’s Diva Challenge had me practicing for a few days:


I wondered why paradox is often done in triangular shapes. I’ve had success with using it in a square. Why not other shapes? Pentagons, hexagons, octogons, irregular shapes?

Here’s what I found out (at least in my limited experience):

  • Paradox, made from narrow wedges, looks best when the lines are straight and the points end up where they’re supposed to. Here is where being mindful comes in. Whenever my mind wandered, I was likely to make a skinny rectangle rather than a wedge.
  • I took Laura’s suggestion and turned my tile after every stroke so that I was pulling the pen toward me for better control. I focused on where the vanishing point should be.
  • The larger the shape you’re filling in with paradox, the harder it is to make your lines straight.
  • Paradox also looks better if you can keep the wide part of your wedge consistent.
  • I always make mistakes and think they’re fatal. If I continued to fill in the area instead of quitting, I could barely notice the mess-ups when I was done.

I don’t know how other people plan their monotangles (share in the comments, below, please). At first, I thought I’d just make one large shape:


But that was really too simple. And, because it was large enough to fill the whole tile, my lines were kind of wobbly.

Next, I thought I’d make three shapes. And then I realized I could fill in areas between them and around them. Here’s what I ended up with:


I started out with a square in the lower right corner, a pentagon above that, and a hexagon on the left (you can see its swirling voretx). When I filled in around them, the original shapes disappeared, and I was left with chaos!


Wordless Wednesday: Color Your World Orange


DSC00904 (1)

My offering for the Color Your World Challenge.

Review of Lust for Life by Irving Stone


Van Gogh: Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat

This 1934 novel about the life of painter Vincent Van Gogh seems mistitled. Vincent’s bleak life was marked by recurring periods of depression and shame that he didn’t live up to others’ expectations.

An odd duck who never fit in, Vincent was a pastor’s kid. His family was Dutch, but he lived all over Europe—England, Belgium, Holland, and France. His earliest job was clerking at an art dealership of which his namesake Uncle Vincent was a partner.

Vincent was spectacularly unlucky in love; all of his relationships ended badly. At the end of his first unrequited romance, he left the art dealership to study for the ministry. He then served in a very poor mining community. He endeared himself to his congregation, nursing the ill, scrounging for food for the starving miners, providing for those with needs, to the point that he exhausted his own health. He tried to intercede with the mining company for better wages and working conditions but was unsuccessful. Feeling he wasn’t doing enough for the destitute folk, he suffered a crisis of faith from which he never recovered, and he was removed from his post.

Van Gogh: The Sower

It was then that he began drawing. He drew the miners as they walked to the mine. He went into miners’ huts and drew their families in their homes. For the rest of his life, hardworking people were his favorite subject. His early drawings were considered crude.

Van Gogh: Wheatfield with Crows

His younger brother, Theo, was a successful salesman at the art dealership, and was his most devoted advocate, offering critical advice and financial support all Vincent’s life as he struggled to develop his own style. Theo and Vincent’s extensive lifelong correspondence provided much of the background for Stone’s book.

Buoyed by Theo’s encouragement, Vincent immersed himself in learning his craft, expanding into watercolor and eventually oils. He accumulated cards of art student exercises and copied them. He also cultivated friendships with other artists, including Lautrec, Seurat, Rousseau, Cezanne, and Gauguin, and learned what he could from them. Vincent even tried to set up an artist colony where artists could live and work together. For a time, Gauguin lived with Van Gogh in Arles, but their friendly competition degenerated into conflict. Vincent eventually had a psychotic break and cut off his own ear with a razor.

Van Gogh: Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’)

Van Gogh was diagnosed with epilepsy, but I think his symptoms (including visual hallucinations and hearing voices) were more consistent with Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. He was committed to the asylum at St. Remy, where in due course he started painting again.

Van Gogh’s lifetime body of work included 1,100 drawings and studies and 900 paintings. Though we consider him an artistic genius, only one painting sold during his lifetime.

I read Lust for Life because I saw it listed on multiple people’s lists of their favorite books, and also because I’m a huge Van Gogh fan. I doubt its old-fashioned narrative voice would attract an editor today. Nevertheless, I lost myself in Vincent’s world and feel I know him much better now. This is a great book for all lovers of art and beauty.







Monday Morning Wisdom #147

Monday Morning Wisdom #147


LIGHTNING Mark-Twain-Quotes16-800x800

From the Creator’s Heart #143

From the Creator’s Heart #143

Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around him were shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David! Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)