Monday, June 18, 2018

Being Joy

I've noticed a trend in the last three of my blog posts - they all deal with these mixed positive and negative feelings related to the hectic schedule I've been keeping and the various events that I'm participating in or involved with this June.

As I mentioned last week, I was busy trying to create my So You Think You Can Dance costume. It's tradition to have "celebrity judges" and Tina Voltsinis, Jennifer Balido-Cadavez and I chose to be three of the characters from the movie "Inside Out". Finding the right clothes and accessories was challenging. I wanted to look as similar to the character as I could, and my thrift store dress purchase was the right shape but wrong colour. I decided, in a last-ditch effort, to go to the fabric store to search for some material that I could use to somehow place on top of the existing dress to make it more realistic.

Let me interrupt this narrative for a reality check. I don't always write about equity issues in my posts, but I should. For instance, as I describe this process, I need to recognize that I am coming from a huge place of economic privilege here. I am able to devote time and money to making something that isn't essential to daily living. Some educators do not have this luxury. Back to the story.

I got a great deal on the fabric - $3.00 a meter. The big question was, would I be able to actually sew a dress, from scratch, in an evening? Other impending deadlines got pushed aside (sorry, pile of Grade 5 science assessments!) and I worked quickly. Here's a photo essay of the steps.

1) I used the dress I bought as a pattern. I measured 1.5 " around and used fabric chalk to mark the distance. Then I cut it out.

Photo by son

I always get nervous cutting cloth - no going back after a snip!

2) I matched up the front and back and pinned the shoulders and sides together. The front and back didn't always match evenly, so I had to get it as close as possible.

Shoulders pinned

Overhead view of the pinned dress (uneven bottom)

Pinned sides
3) I then grabbed my sewing machine. I switched the thread colour and spent an inordinate amount of time threading and re-threading my bobbin. Then I stitched together the shoulders and sides.
Putting pieces together

 4) I borrowed fabric pens from last year's fashion show supplies and my daughter helped me find a close-up of Joy's dress, to examine the detailing. I used both fabric markers and Sharpie markers to create the blue starburst design.

Visual references help!

The toonie acted as a "blank center" for the lines

5) I hemmed the bottom, reinforced the arm holes, and left the neckline alone.

My colleagues were also frantically assembling their outfits. Facebook appeals were sent, party stores were searched and plans had to be modified.

Is it okay if I sneak in another equity observation? Are hair spray paints only made for Caucasian hair? My friend's hair really resisted the blue but my hair changed noticeably. Are others limited to only using wigs? Thankfully my creative colleague added blue glitter to her hair to make it more blue.

It worked! As we dressed in the nurse's office / OSR room, we moaned about how our outfits weren't quite right, until we added some element that changed things around completely. For Tina, it was the long green eyelashes that transformed her into Disgust. For Jen, it was the oversized round glasses that completed the metamorphosis. I was tickled pink with my dress, and knowing that I made it all myself made it that much sweeter.

Emotional selfie

Disgust, Sadness and Joy!

Tina Voltsinis, aka Disgust

Jennifer Cadavez, aka Sadness

Diana Maliszewski, aka Joy
Jen also added this fantastic detail - we carried "memories". These were glass containers filled with glowing LED lights and tinged with tissue paper to match the emotion.

The staff and students seemed to really enjoy the performances, both the dance ones by the students on stage as well as the drama improvisational ones by the staff. 

Thanks Stephanie Paterson for this image of us speaking
(Please alert me if you can see any student faces in this video and I'll take it off the blog.)

What does it meant to be the physical embodiment of joy? At first I felt it's being positive, happy and delighted with almost everything you see and hear and experience. After studying the movie (by re-watching it), I realized that the character of Joy isn't always joyful. She's driven, bossy, and focused on her own goals (to keep Riley happy, even when Riley needs a wider emotional landscape and realistic reactions to her current situation). We can't always be joyful all the time. We can't always be happy. In fact, I was pretty worried at the end of the week when we learned about a local shooting near our school that sent two young girls to hospital. We used the TDSB guidelines for discussing traumatic events with students and had some sensitive and helpful conversations. It wasn't joyful but it was a way to restore joy and reduce fear - and sometimes that matters more than getting work done or meeting deadlines.

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