Monday, May 23, 2016

Dance Like Everyone Is Watching (Because They Probably Are)

I understand this is contrary to the traditional quote that encouraged us to dance like no one is watching. (For the most part when I am dancing no one really is watching, because it usually takes place in my bedroom in front of my TV streaming YouTube videos.) Now, of course, I understand the sentiment of the original quote. Forget what people think. Be true to yourself. Find your inner joy and express it freely without fear or judgment or critique. That is all very good and sound counsel. However I would like to take it a few steps further.

In recent months I have worked at a venue that held several dance competitions for regional dance studios. During the course of these events, I have tucked away a few tidbits of dancing ‘lessons’ that I would like to translate into life ‘lessons’ and share with you. Hopefully these tidbits will encourage you to find the joy in life’s music and find your inner (and outer) Dancing Queen (or King, as the case may be.) So here we go….

#1. Pack Light = I have watched many a Dance Mom struggle with huge cases filled with all kinds of ‘stuff’. I have gone on week long vacations and did not pack as much as they bring for a one day competition. I understand the desire to be ready for anything, but really, are we EVER really ready for anything? So here is my advice. Remove the junk. We carry around things in our minds and hearts that weigh us down. Regrets. Bad decisions. Fear. Loneliness. Take them out of your life’s suitcase. They serve no purpose except to slow your forward progress. Releasing them will leave you give freedom to be graceful and get where you need to be in the NOW. Your next big performance is coming up. Hit the stage without dragging the burdens of yesterday with you.

#2. You Can Never Have Too Much Sparkle = This is my personal favorite. If you know me, then you know I am all about the sparkle! The dressing room floor after a dance competition is a sea of glitter. The lights on stage pick up the illumination, so it is glued or sewn on everything. Outfits, shoes, jewelry, hair. It even comes in a liquid form in spray bottles for the skin. (I actually have some of that. It’s awesome!) Our own personal sparkle is what sets us apart from others. It can take many forms. It can be our smile. Our kind words. The desire to listen and show compassion. A helping hand. The ability to bring light and laughter to a room. My beautiful friend Susan has the most natural internal ‘sparkle’ of anyone I have ever met. The atmosphere actually changes whenever she is around. I am forever in awe and envious of the positive energy that pours from her. So look within yourself and discover your inner sparkle. Whatever it is that ‘illuminates’ your world or those around you…..TAKE IT UP A NOTCH. You can never outshine yourself. So be glorious.

#3. Change Up Your Routine = Now THIS is my personal struggle. I am sorely a creature of habit. And not always good habits. But it is beneficial to change things up. Get out of your comfort zone. Try something new. Stretch your boundaries. When it comes to dance competitions, I know very little. But I can tell you this. The routines that use the same moves, costumes and music, even with flawless execution can become boring. When someone walks out on that stage and funks it up a little, wakes up the audience with a flash of individuality; THOSE are the performances that get the crowd excited. They might not always win a trophy, but they are the ones remembered. So go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, learn a skill you’ve always admired, check one or two things off your bucket list.  Do something memorable.

#4. Teamwork Is Vital = Life is a team sport. I know, we don’t want to hear that. We want to be solitary soldiers marching to our own agenda. (Or is that just me??) But it truly doesn’t work that way. We need each other. If we do it right, we look out for each other. And this is really the best and most heart warming thing I discovered about the dance community; the genuine love and concern for one another. I have watched one girl miss a cue or take a spill and cost the entire group points. I braced myself for the backlash against the offender just so sure she would be shunned or scolded. But that’s not what happened, ever. As a group, they would rally to her, for her. Encourage her. Carry her off the stage. Wipe her tears. Older more experienced girls comforting the younger. Somehow the teacher had engrained in those girls the beauty and absolute necessity in being there for each other. Because at one point or another, the one in need will be YOU. Of all the things they learned, I hope that is the one thing they take with them into ‘life’. We all need a support system around us. It doesn’t have to be huge, it just has to be sincere. Make sure you can be there for someone when they miss their cue and need that encouragement.

#5. Slips Happen = This is a follow up to #4. Slips will happen. Tumbles are made. Occasionally they occur in the dressing room of life where no one ever sees. Those are easily overcome and brushed off. But sometimes, oh my dear friends, sometimes, they happen on center stage in front of your entire world. And it can feel like the worse thing ever. Unrecoverable. Devastating. What to do? Get up. Keep dancing. If you have to limp for a while, then limp. But keep dancing. Don’t quit. Don’t walk off the stage. You only have one life’s stage. You can’t abandon it. I understand the crushing weight of regret and even despair when your emotional equilibrium gives way and you crash land. But you can’t stay down. Nothing good ever happened while staying down.  So you have to pick yourself up. And keep dancing.

With the popularity of TV programs like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with The Stars and of course, let’s not forget Dance Moms, there is a growing interest in dancing. All kinds of dancing. I, for one, think that is super. I love the idea of taking the concept of dancing out of the late night, dark floors of clubs and making it available to the ageless masses that just love to feel the music and move.

Dancing is one of the world’s best stress relievers. You can’t be upset or anxious when the music really touches you. I highly recommend it. Even if it is when no one is watching. But never let it stop you if they are.

 We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. ~Japanese Proverb

The Big Dance Floor of Life is waiting for you. Go put on your best sparkle!

Hope Out!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

What is 51 - 38 (Remedial Dating)

13. The answer is 13. And this simple equation is relevant because that is the age difference in years between me and this guy I recently went out with. (Let’s call him Brad)

And no, I am not, nor have any designs on becoming, a cougar. I have too much insecurity, wrinkle face cream products and cover-the-grey hair dye to try and compete with girls in my daughter’s generation. What’s more, I do not have the patience.

Call me old fashioned, but I never really understood the whole cougar thing anyway. Plus why is it a ‘thing’ when it is an older woman? Older men date younger all the time. It is applauded and high-fived. It is typically seen as a win-win for both parties. Yet when the trend crossed over the gender line it suddenly had to be explained. It couldn’t just ‘happen’, there had to be reason. So after careful research ‘they’ decided to label the older woman a ‘cougar’. Which by definition is a reclusive, territorial wild animal that is an ambush predator........I don’t tend to get insulted easily ......
but really??
However I did in fact go out with him…..and here is how it started….and ended.

I am being honest here, even though parts of the story may sound condescending on my part. I apologize in advance for what may appear to be patronization. 

Contrary to my previous declarations, I am still on a dating website. One day a few months ago I received an email from Brad. Immediately I did notice his age. Now this is not the first time I have received an email from a significantly younger guy. But most of them are actually more of the ‘wild animal ambush predator’ type then I have ever thought about being……If you know what I mean. (This is a family friendly blog after all.) But Brad was different.

His email was well written. Thought out. A little self-deprecating, but still sweet. His pictures were of his passion in life; drag racing. (And not one bathroom selfie, which to this day makes my head hurt when I see one. I am right up there when it comes to the annoying tendency of selfies; but with my shower curtain as a witness, I have NEVER taken one in the bathroom. But I digress…)

Brad’s email seemed sincere and his profile was old school charming. So I wrote back. Mostly as a polite gesture. I did not see myself dating someone that much younger. Mind you, I have no problem ignoring stupid or suggestive emails. But his was neither. We had a few exchanges and to make a long blog short, I did eventually agree to meet him.
Honestly, however, my goal in meeting him was to ‘set him straight’. He seemed like a great guy and I thought he was just mis-guided and on the wrong path. In my vast knowledge on this subject (please, please note the sarcasm), I was convinced if we met and he saw and experienced all of my “51-ishness” (I love how writing my own blog gives me creative grammar license), then he would turn tail and run. My anti-cougar would be painfully obvious and the situation would resolve itself. He could resume his search for a nice young girl his own age.

We decided to meet for dinner. I will admit that I felt a little awkward; like it would appear I was having dinner with my son. In reality he was more mature looking and even cuter than in his pictures.  I don’t think the age difference was that apparent, I was just overly sensitive. This was, after all, my maiden voyage going backwards down the birth date scale. But I actually had a good time. Imagine that! He was smart and very funny. In fact, despite everything, I will give the boy props for being hilarious!

After dinner, as he walked me to my car, I made the first of probably a few fatal errors. I admitted to him my original thought process going in; to prove to him that he didn’t really want to date someone like me. I did follow quickly with the honest revelation however that I really enjoyed myself. (One of the quirks of my personality as I have gotten older is I am more apt to speak what comes to mind. My filter has worn out somewhat.) I do think he was a little taken aback by my honesty. But he rallied and still asked me out for a second date. We made plans to see each other again. 

We actually went out a fair amount. I even met his parents. I experienced, for the first time, drag racing and learned the definition of a ‘back up girl’. He was thoughtful and a gentleman. A bit old fashioned, but that fit with some of my ideals and background too. Despite all my reservations about dating someone younger, I found myself starting to like him.

Yet I was still self conscious. I obsessed just a little too much about the age thing. (I tend to be my own worst enemy.) I don’t really know how much that played in the demise, but slowly things changed. It happens. I discovered details about his life that explained some of his decisions and thought processes. His inexperience in the relationship/emotional arena was evident. Communication became an issue. Until finally one day he just walked away.

It stung a little. It was also a bit humbling. I was so sure I was going to ‘teach him a thing or two’. Truth be told, I was the one schooled. But it’s all good. There are times we need to be reminded that regardless of our age or perceived maturity, if we are open and willing, we can still learn and grow. Every relationship, no matter how brief or even doomed, can teach us something.

When all was said and done, I do not think it was an age difference as much as a personality difference that did us in. But it did reconfirm my position that I tend to be more the ambushee than the ambusher. Which I guess at the end of the day is better. Maybe…

So since it IS almost summer and school will be out soon, I will forgo any more complicated arithmetic. 

I will just stick with the simple… 1 + 1 = ……..2.

Hope Out

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Truth.....As Lived By My Momma

Today is Mother’s Day. The 9th one without my mother; Alma Suis.

This is one my favorite pictures of her. Not because of the photo quality or the background. Not because it was a special occasion. But because of her smile. We were sitting in her living room. I believe someone was playing her piano. I don’t remember who was there. All I remember is that smile.

My mother told me my entire life that God sent me here to take care of her. I didn’t do such a great job at first, but when I finally grew up, with everything in me, I tried my best to do right by her. But truth be told, she took care of me. In more ways than I can count.

Alma Suis was born on January 1st, 1921. The year of the Great Depression. For her little family that reality hit way before the rest of the world caught on. Their struggle actually WAS real. The impact of her early years carved personal truths that she carried with her the rest of her life. Truths that she lived by and passed on along to her children. Three of which I would like to share with you today.  

#1 God Is The Answer
Regardless of the question, God is the answer. When I lived at home, I woke up to the sounds of her praying every morning. Not repetition, read off a wall prayer. Real, earnest, heartfelt, “I’m talking to GOD” prayers. Billy Graham cannot pray any better than my momma could. She prayed for everyone in our family; calling each of us out by name. She prayed about everything, teaching us all to pray too.  It was moving and humbling to accidently eavesdrop on her conversations with God. She never wavered. The cancer came, again and again. She prayed. My father passed. She prayed. The Christian example and heritage she exhibited every day is one I fall extremely short of, but is also one I am so incredibly proud and thankful to have experienced. I shudder at the thought of where I would be today had it not been for her prayers. Even now I am confident that although I am not sure how Heaven works, she has found an audience with the Almighty and our names are still presented before Him; every day.  

# 2 The Unspeakable Can Make You Unbreakable
My mother saw and experienced things as a child that would break your heart. And when presented with these challenges, some people turn bitter and resentful. They spend their lives trying to ‘make up’ for what they lost, or get what they deserve. She was just simply thankful. Thankful to have made it through and found a way, with the help of my father, to get out of that situation and have a wonderful and productive life. She was a survivor and she instilled quiet strength and determination in each of us. She taught me to not let obstacles sideline me. To push through when it hurt. To appreciate every day and make something out of it. To learn from my mistakes or mistakes of others and move forward. She taught me to never give up.   

 #3 Create Something Beautiful
I don’t know if it was a result of her drab and sparse upbringing, but my mother loved beauty. Not a vain type of beauty, but an appreciation for beauty. She loved her flower beds. My momma would work in her yard and her flowers for hours. She had immaculate flower beds all around the house. She always had the best yard in the neighborhood. She also loved to quilt and could take scraps of material and turn them into beautiful tapestries. I have one hanging on my wall today. She actually even enjoyed creating music and played the guitar!

She actually turned this love of making things beautiful into a career. She was a Beautician. As long as I can remember she had a beauty shop in her home. I grew up on the laps of her customers as they read  books to me while sitting under the dryer. She loved her ‘ladies’ and worked in her shop right up until the end. In the weeks before she passed the only thing that brought her comfort was to take her to her shop and let her comb someone’s hair. It was so much a part of her that even though she didn’t know who we were, or maybe even who she was, she knew that she could still help make someone beautiful. Those of us who sat in that chair and let her repeatedly run the comb through our hair had our hearts break and swell at the same time. It was at the core of who she was.

I know today will be a day of many memories and posts and pictures of all the wonderful loving and beautiful moms in our lives. And that is awesome. There is not a one size fits all mold for motherhood. We all have to forge our own paths and do what we think is best. Some do better than others. I know for a few, today does not bring forth memories of happy times. For you, I grieve and am sorry.

For the rest, I join you in the joy of celebrating our mothers. If you are like me, the full appreciation of what that means did not come until adulthood was reached and/or we became mothers ourselves.   

I am truly thankful and grateful for my mother. Anything good that I am today is a direct result of her love and commitment and unconditional support of me. There are not enough words or blog posts to adequately express my feelings for her and the void she created when she moved to Heaven.

I love you Momma.  

Hope Out

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Old And The Restless (Where’s Victor When You Need Him?)

I have been on an unintentional self imposed hiatus (Did you miss me?) I missed me… I mean, I missed you too!

I will just be honest here, I am not sure what happened. I was rolling along. Having a fun time writing and sharing.  Much appreciative of the positive feedback. Then the words just stopped coming.
Someone suggested that putting my emotional and personal hiccups on paper made them tangible and absolute. Displaying my life made me feel vulnerable and exposed. Sure it did. That’s sorta the purpose of a blog, right?

That could have been some of it for sure. Most of the stories and recollections had settled back into my memory as learning experiences or humorous antidotes. Resurrecting them may have triggered an emotional response similar to a scene from The Walking Dead.

I also had someone mention that I ‘missed my calling’. Which in reality was a sweet and generous compliment for which I am humbled. In less secure moments though that statement sounds vaguely like ‘Boy you sure did mess up and waste all that time.’ TIME….it just sneaks up on us doesn’t it. One day you are young and vibrant and feel like you can conquer the world.  Then you take just a few little naps and one or two spins around the sun and wham, you feel lucky to conquer the check-out line at Wal Mart.

I have never considered the concept of my life as transitional. Young/Middle Age/Old. I just enjoyed what each day offered while looking forward to what tomorrow held as well. Then suddenly I was obsessed with becoming old; looking old; acting old. Having to surrender my Achievement Card for an AARP Card. The face staring back at me in the mirror was slowly transforming into something less colorful with fewer sparkles. More drab or even tired, including wrinkles none the less! Yikes! It’s the great conundrum of life. You don’t want to grow old! But you DO want to grow old.

I think I had a mini ‘the fun is over’ spell. Started feeling restless and insignificant; irrelevant. Now..….don’t everyone start sending me messages about how silly I’m being or how great my life is. I KNOW my life is great. I am so incredibly blessed beyond words. I just had a moment (that stretched out for a few weeks). YOU have moments, right? (I can’t be the only one….) I just had to accept the fact that the Fountain of Youth does not spring forth out of Table Rock. (That’s a local tourist attraction.)

And in reality I also had to accept that some things just didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. Relationships. Finances. Decisions. Even Family. We don’t always get what we think we want or even deserve. Maybe that is ok. It has to be ok. I dare say that much of what we believe would be wonderful and exciting might actually end up being harmful or just plain wrong for us. We certainly are the product of our decisions, but I also believe that God moves us along on the path that brings us to the best destination possible. I know I resist this path sometimes. That is just the truth, I do. So for right now, my challenge is to recognize this is my spot on the path. And I’m going to OWN this spot! So enough of the mulligrubs! (This was one of my mom’s favorite words and it wasn’t in spell check…go figure.)

Part of owning this spot is a return to the writing. Because at the end of the day even if I don’t think I have anything to say, maybe if I dismiss the nonsense and quiet the disconcerting voices, it will come back.

So whatever the cause for the pause, I have determined to start again. I will admit my biggest fear in starting a blog would be to let it fade away. Get busy. Get side tracked. Lose my focus. Just stop. And I did not want to be seen as a quitter. You know the best way to not be seen as a quitter? 
Don’t quit!

So this is me not quitting……

Hope Out!