LaDucas And Stilettos

 

I got up wayyyy too early today for a Sunday…
I work Monday through Saturday, and many Sundays throughout the year, for performances, competitions, costume shows, meetings, and dance workshops. Oh, and also for some camp events, here and there. Sunday is my only real “day off”, so it’s a rough one after a long week.
I was registered for a dance workshop today, not realizing that my team was not required to go. However, I’m a member teacher, so, I attend. Years ago, I went solo, once a year, but it’s been a long time since. When my team is there, I do get to dance, most of the time, but I’m responsible for them, get there earlier for them, settle them in, get them to classes, check on them, care for them, and then hang around until each is picked up by a family member. It’s a whole different day than going it alone.
But, I didn’t really want to go, especially once I knew I didn’t have to….
I also had made plans to meet a friend from the area thereafter, having not seen her in months. I figured, I’d add some fun to an adult responsibility.
…But I really, REALLY didn’t want to go…didn’t want to get up early, get dressed, prep snacks, drive out of town in the rain, struggle to find parking, move through the crowds at the hotel, stretch, and then pretend to be enthusiastic about moving my body. Especially when I didn’t have to be an example for anybody. I could’ve hit snooze, ignored the whole thing, cancelled my plans for thereafter, and just gone back to sleep, and I truly contemplated doing just that…but I didn’t. I drove the whole way, wipers on, annoyed at my decision, and annoyed that I was being responsible.
I got there on time, made my way to the teachers’ room, which was FREEZING, by the way, put on my t-strap character shoes, barely stretched, and then succumbed to the inevitable. In walks the spunkiest girl, all 5 foot, 10 inches of her, with red jazz shoes and hot pink, long braids, and I’m thinking, Oyy, I am SO not ready for this.
She asks us to join her on the floor, assures us that she will torture us, which gets mixed responses, and then counts us off as 1s or 2s. Now, I know this is a precision class…it’s pretty much why I’ve come…I adore precision, teach it, and find it amazing to create interesting formations, with no variation of the moves on every individual in the choreography, no matter how many dancers there are. It’s what drove me to dance. Yes, I loved ballet as a child, but knew it was the foundation for everything else, and vowed after going to Radio City Music Hall, to work my way there.
Well, I’m 4 foot, 11 or so inches (yes, my license says 5 feet), so, ummm, no…that wasn’t going to happen. I did dance on a junior Rockette line, but that’s a whole other blogpost. And yes, musical theatre was my next option…and yes, another blogpost, at another time. So, there I am, in the middle of the line, knowing that us shorties get placed on the end because of the drawing of the eye to the center, and the appearance of height, Blah, blah, blah…so I ask…”um, clearly I’m the shortest one in the room, so, do you want me on an end?” And she smiles, and says, “I put my weakest dancers at the end, give or take height, but if you can keep up, you’re welcome to stay there.”
I’m a “2” , so I look to the “1” at my left, who looks pretty friendly, and is less than 5’8″, and then the “1” on my right, who looks about 5’6″, but ready to let me go, and I decide to stay. I know, very well, that we short girls do the most traveling on stage from the ends, so I figure, I’ll have to hustle less, and if she wants to move me, she will, and so I settle in.
Then the conversation begins with her giving a little background, and she’s a FLIPPIN’ head rockette, who teaches their intensive program, where I’ve sent my students to audition for and have had friends picked up for the line! She warms us up…very, very similar to my warm up, and then gets right to work. In no time, I’m sweating…I mean REALLY sweating. Actually, dripping down my back. There’s not a second to think about where else I can be, and I marvel at my luck, having been unable to attend the Rockette experience with my team, merely weeks ago. This is even better. Close up. Personal. And now, she’s a colleague. And I keep up…kicks and all. I know the series they use, the height, etc., and their style, and I just go for it. I’ve spent so long doubting myself at these kind of things, and more so lately, but I have nothing to lose. In fact, I can contribute, but don’t need to. I have no responsibility, except to the audience watching, and the 1s on my left and my right. It’s like years ago, when I was performing, and I realize, right then and there, how much I’ve missed it. I mean, really missed it. When did that moment happen when I started doubting my performance skills? I know when it evolved, in a theatre department chock full of talent, and some not so supportive professors, but I don’t know when it started. I remember dancing because I loved to dance, but not when that began to change.
Now, I’m caught up in the moment; if only height had been on my side…well, at the end of my torso, and at the bottom of my legs, but, you get the idea.
We finish, and we look good–really good. She’s very enthusiastic and grateful, explaining that she feared we’d all sit around and take notes, and not dance. She’s relieved to have had a group who really gave their all. We’re all flushed, tired, and sweaty, but we’re all beaming and talking about how much fun it was. I go to thank her, and she takes my email to send me the video, which I’m really appreciative of.
Having truly enjoyed that, I’m glad I did come, and with several more classes to go, I’m feeling pretty fulfilled.
But then, that ain’t nothing!
Later on, we put on even higher heeled shoes for a stiletto heels class, and I’m thinking….. “This really can’t be right; were going to just learn a bit of that style, but in flat shoes, and then talk about the trend in the industry…”
But nooooo…that’s not what happens at all. I know the instructor. I’ve taken her classes once or twice before, but they were commercial jazz. I like her. She’s fun.
But it’s been years.
I could not be more wrong. What follows, is an hour of strutting, booty shaking, seductive improvising, and a lot of body rolling….in heels.
At one point she mentions a need to be a little more subtle, and “leave them wanting more with a tease”. It takes me a minute to realize that correction is for me.
(I mean, #seriously) and the others applaud and giggle. I’m pretty modest in my dancing, amongst other things, and I’m a bit surprised at myself. I mean, is it the shoes?! Have I found a whole new freedom in this never before, explored by me, genre?! Or is it just me…changed in some way, with less of a load to bear, finding a new internal drive? I’m really not sure what it is, but I like it; I’m enjoying myself, and, more than anything now, I’m SO happy I’ve come today.
We run it a few times, even splitting into groups and I become very comfortable with it…surprise! But the kicker is when everyone is leaving, and a few of the other teachers ask me to do it with a few others so that they can record it. I’m stunned!
And I do it again, and it’s still comfy, and still fun. I’m drenched in sweat (again) and I’m pretty sure I need to keep heels on for the rest of my life. Oddly enough, I’m wearing lip stick more often in the last couple of months…coincidence?
Does it really only take a couple of props to play the part and BE the characters?!
Where have I been all this time! First face cream, and now this?!
Look out DSW, I’m coming for some really high heels! REALLY, REALLY high heels!

 

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It’s All In The Bag

 

So, a few months ago, my daughter started talking about this little bag she was treating herself to, that she was getting every month by mail, as were her roommates, with little goodies in it.
I really didn’t think much of it at first; There are a gamut of monthly things online that you can order, and most of them are pretty pricey. Sure, there were discounts being offered because of the holidays, but, many of these boxes contain lots of “stuff” like mugs, gym bags, makeup compacts, scarves, etc. in them, and I’ve been trying to keep life lighter, having purged and downsized. I was somewhat intrigued by how many there are, and did look into a few, but I just couldn’t validate spending money to receive a box full of stuff, most of the items being surprises, and probably things that I wouldn’t use. I’ve recently told my friends, that anything I now bring into my home has to be consumable…you know, like food, wine, and chocolate…no more “stuff”…
…(I wasn’t kidding about the wine or the chocolate.)
I nixed the majority of these kits…monthly clothing kits, picked for you by your own personal shopping consultant, shoes and boots each month, to add to your collection… Believe me, I LOVE me some shoes, but I’m MORE than equipped there….work out clothing, which I also have plenty of, being a dancer, choreographer, and ashtanga yogi, not to mention the half dozen pairs of “buttery soft” Lularoe leggings that I’ve acquired in the last year or so; They are cozy for sure.
The average gift box is about $40 per month, and that’s really just too steep for me, and, unnecessary in my world. I mean, I’ll splurge, once in a great while on something that I know someone else would really appreciate, but, if it’s for me, I have to really think long and hard. I’d rather go see a Broadway musical than spend money on anything else, and I pride myself in finding discounts there for sure. If it’s just too pricey, I’ll wait. A good show with tickets that are hard to find, will be around for a while.
So, when she went into more detail about this little bag that’s $10 a month, that contains 5 makeup items in it, I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I was worth 10 bucks a month…$120 bucks a year….and it wasn’t even a monthly commitment, unless I chose for it to be. I came up with every excuse NOT to do it for myself…I hadn’t really been wearing makeup often at all, hadn’t been getting out much in fact, and working out or dancing, I don’t wear makeup, unless performing. I also looked at my collection of makeup…two or three lipsticks, one blush, from who knows when, 1 or 2 applicator brushes, a bunch of liners, a foundation and a concealer stick for teenage blemishes….yeah, I’m no teenager. I do, however, love mascara, and had several of those, having replaced them recently, and bought some extras for readily replacing…mostly good ‘ol maybelline, like I’ve been using since…forever.
I also looked at my skin…it looked tired. I do use a moisturizer every day, but I haven’t really paid much attention to my face on an ongoing basis; It’s clean and moisturized, and —it’s a face. I do know now though, that over the last stressful year, my eyelashes had thinned, but I thought it was age, or the weather, or the age of my mascara, so I just bought new mascara.
And then, my friend, whom I have known for many years, left me a little goodie bag in my master bathroom, after a get together, and it was eye cream. Yup. Just eye cream, 0h,  and a note, that said “every girl needs a good eye cream”.
Did she think I looked tired too? Did she know I wasn’t taking time for myself?
Of course she knew…because she’s made from the same mold! The one that produces women who care for others, but not ourselves.
Well, rather than take offense, I took note, literally, and I used that eye cream that same night. In fact, Over the next few days, I went out and bought myself a new moisturizer…a better one for nighttime, and a couple of makeup applicators. And then…I ordered that little bag for myself.
The first one arrived, containing 5 small makeup items, which seemed frivolous to me, and many of the items were a sort of orangey clay color. I’m petite, with short auburn hair, and I tried two of the items in that color, together, and decided this might’ve been a really bad idea. Not the trying them together, but having ordered the bag at all.
Who decides what colors I should wear when no one has even asked me anything about my features? There was a brief questionnaire, but it was more about likes, and hair type. Believe me, I told them I have very curly, dry hair, and a love for mascara…and, lo and behold, one of the items WAS a mascara…oh yeah, and under eye cream! What did they know? Who, of my friends had they been talking to? WHAT’S WITH THE EYE CREAM?! I don’t even think they knew how old I am. Soooo, I got drastic, and I threw away the teenage blemish concealer. Somehow, some way, they were onto me.
I decided now, that it was time to really take action…I bought a facial scrub.
And then I bought a fancy, schmancey exfoliant body scrub…oh, and some body butter. Was this a sneaky way to get me to support the rest of the sales market?!
I stepped away from the clay colored stuff, and indulged in my new face care regimen. And, in about two weeks, I began to notice something…I looked less tired, and people were also mentioning that I looked better, and I still wasn’t even wearing makeup.
And then, I decided with the next little bag just about to arrive, that it was time.
I took my newly cared for skin, a few applicators, some time and some care, and those clay colored shadows and blush, and I applied them as suggested before going out one evening. You know what? I looked pretty good. Better than pretty good.
I even took a selfie to send to my daughter, and she agreed. Those two darn orangey/clay shades have now become my go to makeup shades. Yup. Pathetic.
My next little bag arrived with an eye liner, a lipstick, a hair serum (Yahoooooo!) another orange shade (I kid you not) and something else that I cannot recall for the life of me. The little bag itself, was cuter this time, (shiny, silver, wintery looking; if it’s shiny, it’s for me!) I checked out each item carefully, having reviewed what I had liked and did not, and it was more customized to my liking– bonus! The bags get better!
I’m addicted to the hair serum; it’s perfect for my curls, tames them, and smells like coconut. I love that! (They should send a piña colada with it.)
And I’ve now received my January bag… When I saw that shiny, pink, puffy envelope in my mailbox, I was overjoyed….not because of what might actually BE inside of it, but because it was for me. Okay, yes, it’s REALLY, REALLY shiny, but it holds such promise, such possibility, and a reminder that I need to do FOR myself, that I’m worth it, and that I deserve to take care of my “foundation” to be able to build upon it.
And yes, it’s all in the bag. image

Let there be light

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This year, on Christmas Eve, I found myself sitting next to my daughter at the National Basilica in DC, for mass. That in itself  is VERY unusual for anyone in our household, as, truth be told, it’s not our holiday.   I do remember, as a child, attending midnight mass a couple of times to see a friend play in the bell choir. I also remember it being absolutely beautiful, standing room only, and all lit up and decorated. I remember too, feeling a bit out of place, like I had a stamp on my forehead, or something, saying “non believer”, “different religion”, or “party crasher”.  For us, traditionally, Christmas Eve is when we decide which movie or movies, as has happened, we will be seeing on Christmas Day.  And then there’s that thing that while AT the movies, our family will actually be together for the first time since thanksgiving, which may not seem like such a long stretch, but, given the craziness that has been happening in our world, it always is for me.
This year has been even crazier…lots of change….changes of addresses, changes of circumstances, major losses, health issues, etc.  My kids no longer live under my roof, and are, primarily, on their own. Well, give or take…
As a parent, one can never do enough to assure a child’s safety, and we spend a good portion of our lives looking out for our kids and teaching them how to keep themselves safe.
-The stove is hot, and if you touch it, it’s going to burn you, and that’s going to hurt a lot.
-Don’t run Into the street, because a car may come along, and hit you, and that would cause serious injury, and maybe even worse.
-Don’t answer the door when you’re home alone…don’t talk to strangers…don’t walk alone at night…don’t pick up your cup at a party once you’ve put it down…and the list goes on and on.
I remember when, my daughter, maybe around the age of 3 or so, ice cream cone in hand, was walking down the cement steps to the backyard; I watched from not so nearby and then noticed she lost her footing, and began falling. I moved VERY quickly, but a family friend swooped in just in the nick of time, to protect her head as she fell backward. No harm, no foul, and the ice cream cone even stayed in her hand the entire time! Had that family friend not been right next to her, she clearly would’ve gotten hurt, maybe even seriously.
It’s times like those, that you realize that as a parent, you really aren’t in this alone. There are a few others who are there to look out for your precious being, to teach them, and to assure their safety. It’s just finding the ones to trust that is the tricky part.
Just a few months earlier than her third birthday, at a family gathering, in our home, someone’s husband, whom she had never met before, had offered her a dollar in exchange for a kiss on his cheek. It was meant harmlessly, but I remember being VERY creeped out by that and intervening, asking him NOT  to do that, and explaining to her that no one should ever try to offer her anything like money in exchange for her affection or otherwise. I was criticized by many for overreacting, but stood my ground.
As much as we want our children to make their own choices, they need guidance. You gently plant the seeds for future growth, provide water and sunshine, and hope that their branches will spread in the proper direction and remain strong.
You send them to college only a few short years after accompanying them to the bus stop, and hope that cutting a class or two is the worst that you will hear about…which isn’t realistic. You never dream that they won’t be safe on campus…shootings are unimaginable, and you caution them to stay in groups when they travel….and then there are lockdowns and news reports, and your head spins out of control.
We live in an age of technology that limits true social interaction. It’s our job, as a society, to teach our children to interact appropriately with one another. And though there is fear, we must continue to live. To grow. To learn. To evolve. To strive for better. In short, it takes a village. Even several villages…no matter the season.
And that’s why, two years ago, just before Christmas, we allowed our son and our daughter to go to Israel…together…to see the world…to explore a different country…to interact, socialize with others, and to explore. It wasn’t easy for me to agree to it…to send two of them together, because of other experiences of mine, but I told myself it would be a shared memory, and what better, than with a sibling?
I’m sad to say it, but I was a little nervous to even spend Christmas Day in a movie theatre, because of then, recent events, so the rest of us didn’t go, like we traditionally do. I thought about how glad I was that they they were probably safer in a country that knows how to deal with this kind of craziness on a daily basis. And, their constantly changing itinerary proved that. And, as for movies, there were plenty of those on their flights…and they didn’t even have to hope that the rest of our household agreed with whatever each of them chose.
Much has happened since they took that trip, and my oldest has traveled many times since, even internationally for a research grant, which, for her, was a dream come true. She now lives out of state, several hours away, with roommates, and commutes into the city, on a daily basis. I got to see it in full force when I visited, and she was, inevitably, my tour guide.
I wish my son had been with us at the Basilica…just to take it all in…the light, the warmth, the beauty, the feeling of rebirth, and the blessing. I didn’t feel out of place at all. In fact, it was everything I needed during a moment of darkness and loss.
I’ve decided, since I’ve returned home, to bathe myself in candlelight, if even only for a brief moment before heading to bed. Okay, maybe not bathe myself in candlelight, but ignite a spark, or a small flame, to remind me what a little light can do in the darkness. It took a trip to another city to and a holiday that others celebrate to remind me, that sometimes the answer is much closer to home than you realize; Sometimes, like when the word light,  is actually a part of your new address!

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The Red Tent

 

Just the other night,  at dinner, a fabulous woman mentioned that she had been missing my blog, and had wondered why I wasn’t writing lately, or, in fact, in quite a while.
I thought, right at that moment, and a bit before then, that I had truly been missing it as well.  I liked blogging; I liked it a lot. I also didn’t know that others might be missing it too.
Logistics had played a key role; I had left for my job at camp, where internet is non existent, but there were other things as well.
I was overwhelmed.
There. I said it.
I was overwhelmed. I. Was. Overwhelmed.
Oddly enough, I just read my last blog from early May, and I was actually quite open about how stressed I was. I was definitely taking steps to rectify this, and was being somewhat successful, but, clearly, I needed time, insight, and change.
Ohhh, and has there been change…
The date of that last blog signifies the beginning of crunch time in my yearly life cycle.
My three jobs overlap, and I don’t have time for much else, and have to stay on task. It’s like tax season for accountants, but in my world.
Add into the mix, a faster than expected house sale, purging, packing, leaving for camp, emptying the nest, more purging, downsizing, and even more purging, and anyone can see how the scale becomes tipped.
Even stranger than that, it went unnoticed by many.
Sure, the people I worked with on a daily basis saw some of it, but I really pride myself in taking care of others. That’s my role. That is all of my roles. Only, it shouldn’t have to be all the time. Yes, many of us just have this personality, or take on this role, but people, especially those close to us, get used to it, and don’t reach out.
I remember, years ago, being pregnant with my first child, all less than five feet of me, wayyyyy overdue, with an additional 25 pounds in front of me, climbing over the top of the washing machine to retrieve something unreachable to transfer to the dryer….just picture that…I couldn’t reach even BEFORE there was 25 pounds in front of me!
But, having gotten the job done prior, my husband didn’t ask if I needed him to reach it.
I have really long wooden spoons in my kitchen that I use for cooking, but, more so, to retrieve coffee mugs from upper shelves…I just sliiiiiiide ’em on down the spoon handle…voila…here’s your mug.
I’ve carried beaucoup bags of groceries in from the car after shopping and bagging…sometimes in one trip, while life goes on around me.
I can think of sooo many scenarios like these over my lifetime, where people have even marveled that I can do anything. That’s pretty encouraging to keep it up too.
“You always get As in school; that’s wonderful…keep up the good work.”
(I have a friend who had a nervous breakdown trying to keep up with what others expected of her.)
It would be nice to be asked, and not always HAVE to be the one TO ask for assistance, without having to be recovering from heavy duty surgery and anesthesia.
Men don’t ask, because it implies weakness on the party they would be extending the offer of help to. I get that. I did my earliest thesis on gender culture and linguistics. But how about my own gender? (I identify as female, btw.) and I’m not picking on my daughter. She’s from the same mold.
I’ve been a part of “the village” that helps raise everyone’s children, but hey, where’s that village for the rest of us? I could use some “raising up”, or at least some company to share it with…maybe even laugh over it with, and compile stories for later on with.
The sad part is though, that I thought that I had this. And I do, with a few individuals, but not as many as I thought. I’ve noticed that as difficult as it is for me to change roles, it’s just as difficult for the receivers.
We “multitaskers”, “strong women”, “joiners”, “committee chairs”, etc., are not doing all of it because WE have to, but because you EXPECT us to–
I’d kill for just being “one of the girls”, to “just attend the event”, to “just stop in for fun”, to “read the book just because” and to NOT be the planner, arranger, organizer, photographer, designated driver, and have someone call and invite ME because they truly want to spend time with me…before someone else, or before something else comes up, or something sounds better or like it might be more fun.
And even more so, for someone to say, “hey, wanna go see that movie?”, “can I help by picking something up for you? For that event? A ride for your kid?” “Can I drop off dinner? Lunch? …A sedative?” (Just joking here…I’m into bath bombs.)
Now I know this’ll cause some friction, and I’m not saying this in any way to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s running rampant out there….my own (female) adult cousin continuously drives herself back from hospital visits, and through pharmacies, after a hospital discharge to pick up her own meds (and anyone else’s that might be conveniently ready) and then goes to work the next morning, as expected!
The fabulous woman I was referring to early on, that noticed I wasn’t blogging…yup, she’s raising her partner’s children, fabulously, if you don’t mind me saying so, because she is another one of those who step up, and get the job done.
My daughter…23 ropes at graduation, and not just because they were cute and decorative. She even refers to herself as HBIC!
In a crisis, few people put themselves second, or leave their comfort zone. Or are just busy, overwhelmed themselves, aren’t multitaskers, or maybe, just oblivious to someone really struggling?
I made a conscious choice many years ago, by not sharing a grave loss with others around me. I tend to be somewhat private about those kinds of things, and, at the time, I needed to digest it myself at first…get used to it…absorb it. That takes time for me. I also don’t like to make others around me uncomfortable. (No surprise there.) And, I also just didn’t want to be pitied. But I know now, that because others weren’t informed, I negated receiving some of the support that could’ve been there for me. However, even though I opened up to some later on, when I found myself in a somewhat similar situation, it didn’t end up much differently. In fact, someone used that as a chance for someone else to be helped by me. So much for that hope of support.
Years later, I am no different. I still need to do the absorption thing. Digest. Process.
But I can’t help but wonder, where is my village? Women….get out there, and take care of your own. Raise each other up. Share your successes and failures, but listen, hear, create laughter, and shared stories, and memories.
We don’t need to “top” each other; we need to take care of each other.
Anyone up for a night of charcuterie? I’ll bring the landjaeger!

 

…Eliminate the negative

So, it’s been about a month since I’ve written my last blogpost, “accentuate the positive”…
In it, I talked about how long it takes to break a habit, (28 days) so I’m pretty much on time with this blog.

So, the deal is, that I’ve been holding myself accountable on Facebook, by posting a list of positives at the end of every day, just before bed. Now, I HAVE missed one or two here or there because of not having internet access, but I always made good on it the following morning. Always.
The rule was that I HAD to list at least three positives, but more was a bonus. Now, being the overachiever that I am, I couldn’t HELP but try for more than three, and now, looking back, I think I’ve averaged about 9-10 on most of them. …naturally. I’ve also realized from this exercise, that if you really dig for the positives, you really CAN find them. It’s just difficult not qualifying them. It was more difficult in the beginning, and the digging didn’t come easily. However, as time marched on, I picked them up throughout the day, sometimes even jotted them down, or spoke them aloud to others nearby.

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Even the smallest positive can make the day just a bit better, and, apparently, not just for myself. Sharing a positive with someone else, either in conversation or otherwise, spreads the effect. I feel a little better, even physically, and I’m not allowing others to steal my joy.  There is now a small circle of people, that I know of anyway, that await these gems being posted. They comment when they don’t initially see them, or if they find comfort in it,  find something on the list to be touching or humorous. There’s also been a trickle down effect of at least three people that I know of, who have also begun doing their own lists. Maybe THAT’S what my three really was meant to be?! At least three people, and not three positives?!

Now, I can’t say that I have COMPLETELY eliminated the negative, but I do see much less of it. I’m not walking around in rose colored glasses, but I am taking a better look around me.
I’m also pretty confident that this has also broken my newly recent habit of being negative, even though the stressors still remain. I man, after all, my blood type is B+, so how can I NOT be?  Also, chaos cannot remain as is…that’s physics. But then, that’s a whole other blogpost. I challenge all of you…find the positives; eliminate the negatives.
I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

 

Accentuate The Positive

Change can be good, but YES, change can also be stressful.

Even wonderful life events can bring on a high level of stress….Weddings, a baby’s birth,
buying that longed for new home, getting that new job, and so on.
There’s a scale called the SRRS, created by 2 psychiatrists, named Holmes and Rahe, that we clinicians use to evaluate what a patient is experiencing. These 43 stressful life events all have a point value. Some are valued at more than others, but show the level of risk to illness and whether that risk is mild, moderate, or severe.

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When multiple changes are being experienced, the points add up, and the patient is more susceptible to illness. There is also a separate scale for children, with a similar listing.
This assessment is done, at least by me, at every intake of a new patient, and, sporadically throughout their treatment.
When a patient comes to me, and says that they have been under a great deal of stress, we go over the assessment together, discuss it, and then work on a treatment plan. Often, they are tired, can’t shake a cold, have skin irritations, other complaints, such as irritable bowel syndrome, or any of a gamut of other bodily complaints.
I don’t have a couch in my office, as I never want anyone to get “that” comfortable with counseling, so that they remain for the long run; My goal, as their clinician, is to get them “unstuck”, to have some understanding, give them some learned tasks to work through things, and send them on their way, having now learned to do things differently. This doesn’t happen with a magic spell, or one miraculous session, and often depends on the time the patient spends doing their “homework”.
Those of us that are caretakers, are least likely to do for themselves, and it is more than often that a child has been brought into my office for counseling for whatever is initially a parent’s concern for their child, and I’m substantially more concerned about that parent.
And, just forget about us clinicians…we’ll take care of anybody before we tend to ourselves! After all, we ARE the ultimate caretakers.
Most of you out there are aware of a few things about me…I work multiple jobs, and weird hours. my husband had been out of work for quite some time, my daughter has been ill for over 6 months, without a diagnosis or a prognosis, we are downsizing, and our home is on the market, as well as a few other additional joyous, (I’m being sarcastic) things….HELLO STRESS!
I’ve been balancing most of these things pretty well, or so I thought, up until about two weeks ago, when I added another major stressor to my ongoing list of fun, and, basically, fell off of the proverbial wagon. This new addition tipped the scale, and, not in a good way. I began losing sleep, felt run down, thought a cold was coming on, which, thank goodness, ended up being seasonal allergies, but, I began having some stomach issues and feeling anxious, which exacerbated the stomach issues, and round, and round we go. I knew it was time to start doing things very differently, having realized, that if I was MY patient, intervention was certainly an Immediate necessity.
I knew I needed to take matters into my own hands, so, I took out my SRRS, assessed my level of stress, and, BINGO, I had reached that level of a severe risk of illness.
I then, gave myself some homework of my very own, and began listing only positives that had occurred that day, no matter how small. The rule was to end the night doing this, just before bed, and listing no less than three, and not qualifying them. I’ve been doing this now for several days, (it takes 7 days to form a habit, but 28 days to break a habit) but I’m not letting myself off of the hook. And, you know what, I’ve learned something…
If you can find the positive, even when there is soooo much negative going on, you can literally save your soul. It’s not easy, OH BOY, is it not, but it beats ending the day, going to bed stressed, not sleeping, and being run down the next day, haven’t to try to do it all over again.
There can be things that you truly overlooked along the way, and don’ t they deserve your attention? Do we accentuate the positive, in the attempt to eliminate the negative?
I’ve held myself accountable, by listing them as my status on Facebook, and I’ve gotten some decent feedback. I’ve also set it into motion for some others, who have decided to do the same for themselves, without my prompting. Like a friend of mine stated, “heal thyself, and thus begins healing the world”, which really is my job anyway, isn’t it?!
So, it’s late, and I have a task to make good on, so off I go, to list my positives…

A big day

Today was a big day…. A really big day.
No, it wasn’t my birthday, my anniversary, or any specific rite of passage. I didn’t attend a wedding, or a communion, and I didn’t go to the beach or book a vacation.
The day started out as expected, tidying, putting away clean laundry, unloading the dishwasher, washing down surfaces, cleaning the bathrooms, mopping the floors, vacuuming, and removing the trash, as is my new normal every morning since our house has been on the market. Two showings were scheduled for today, but I was off from work, so I was able to bide my time, then shower, dress, and contemplate taking care of some things because I WANTED to, rather than being of necessity. (It helped that no doctors offices or medical insurance companies were reachable, so I wasn’t on hold or contacting them.)
I took my time in the shower; I conditioned my hair, lathered up to no end, shaved my legs, and just stood under the hot water, allowing it to cleanse my soul.
I didn’t dare eat breakfast, for fear of leaving a scent in the kitchen, other than the scent of clean, and then I actually scrapbooked a 12×12 two page layout. (I’m usually almost finished scrapbooking camp from the prior summer, but I’ve been so overwhelmed by life and all that has surrounded it, that I have only just begun this one.)
I then decided to leave just prior to the showings. I headed to Marshall’s, and browsed the store. I can’t remember the last time I even did this. True, I did not find what I was looking for (a rust proof toiletries holder for the shower) but, I did find a canvas print for my daughter and got to try on a few dresses for her graduation, none of which looked any good on me. I then headed over to home goods, with the same goal in mind (still no luck) but I did get to smell a bunch of scented candles, and look around. Everything featured in both stores was decor to furnish a new beach house…. like everyone has just purchased a new beach house?! And, apparently, everyone needs multi colored knives too. Is that a thing? I became a bit emotional perusing the refrigerator organizers, but purchased a small Tupperware with a snap closure lid for just over two dollars….big purchase. I then headed to the battery store, yup, that exists, and, with receipt in hand, returned the overpriced specialty battery that didn’t fit in the doorbell that we tried to repair last weekend, and, inevitably, replaced with a new doorbell and chime. (It was the principle of the whole thing having to be replaced; I wasn’t sucking this one up.) I then returned home to my immaculate home. I got on the Internet, booked a hotel for my daughters graduation, checked menus for restaurants nearby to go to after the ceremony, made a reservation by phone, and then left messages for all involved. I even wrote it all down in my datebook. Ha! I’ve now made plans for the future! That, and I have a new little Tupperware container!  Such possibilities!
You see, I’m a big believer in having a plan…a map, a course, an itinerary, and a path to follow.
It gives me great comfort to have an agenda, even if it changes a bit. I can’t bare to have no plan at all….it causes me great stress, and leaves me in turmoil. Now, I don’t find that I need it as Immediately or as specific as some of my extended family, but, a basic plan of action works for me.
It’s what I have been missing for many, many months now…no diagnosis or treatment for my daughter, the awaiting phone call to need to go to the ER at any time, not knowing where she will relocate to after graduation, not knowing my sons plans work-wise, for the summer, awaiting the hubbs being hired, awaiting income, not knowing when the house will sell, not knowing whether to rent or buy, or where, not knowing where any of us will be over the summer (though I will be at camp, whether I have a home to return to or not, which is going to be tricky on soooo many levels). I have been moving around the universe sans GPS, and it has been unnerving, tiring, and mentally draining. Uncertainty is certainly NOT my thing.
I decided to sit down and scrap a few more pages. I didn’t get a whole lot done, but I am making a little progress, and that’s the plan. Ironically, cupcake, who had also decided to flee prior to the showings, texted me that he was coming home with a pizza…dinner done! Maybe my adventurer needs a bit of a plan as well. Nonetheless, I was very grateful to not have to come up with a dinner plan too. Too much of a life plan just might’ve thrown me over the edge! As for me right now, I’m watching Mulan while I write, and am happily singing along!

M.I.A.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, as I’m sure some of you may’ve noticed.
Things have been a little TOO real for me as of late; We’ve had to make some major life decisions, which I felt if I shared, that I might sound like I’m really bumming to my readers, who have commented on how they love how I find the humor in the reality.
And so, I waited…and waited some more, for the changes to start and for the reality to sink in, and then, finally, to put it all into perspective. And, you know what? I think it’s working!
So, let’s back up a bit here.
Let’s go back about a month or so.
For those of you that follow my blog, you know that the hubbs has been out of work for about 15 months, and that finances, which were a struggle prior, have been beyond difficult. I’ve been picking up hours in any way that I can, but it was never going to be enough. So, long story short, we decided it was time to sell our home…well, more than OVERtime, to sell our home. This house was a fallback many years ago, after our closing fell through on the house we were really buying; We had expected to stay here for 2 years at the most, and then sell it, or rent it out, but the price of homes kept increasing, and this is the town we wanted to reside in and have our kids continue to attend the fabulous schools here.
Fast forward 14 years, and we’re still here. Yes, 2 years turned into 14. It happens. The schools were truly great, and our kids benefitted from them and graduated from them. Home-wise, nothing better came along, and we could never agree at the same time where to go next. Our youngest is now a sophomore in college; We’re still paying ridiculous taxes, and we have more bedrooms than we need, not to mention four bathrooms, which I never wanted in the first place. (When you have multiple bathrooms, all of them are continuously used, and all of them need constant cleaning.) I’ve honestly wanted to move for 12 of the 14 years, but now, with the uncertainty of what to do next, or what direction to take, plus with this ongoing financial hardship, we couldn’t set the wheels into motion, and we remained frozen in time.
I knew we couldn’t go on this way, so I set up a meeting with a realtor, and got an assessment and an outside opinion. And, I found out exactly what I knew in my heart and my mind…it was time…more than time, to downsize.
With listing a house, comes a lot of preparation, repair, cleaning, purging, spackling, painting, organizing, displaying, accepting, and, finally, packing, made only worse by having no idea where you are moving to next. And, of course, with all that needing to be done by a listing date, the hubbs, of course, is finally offered a job with crazy hours and a long commute…naturally. It’s not really a good fit, but we need the income, and, it’s a job, so off to work he goes, while I begin to orchestrate everything else that needs to get done in addition to working both of my jobs.
It’s a lot for one person to do, but again, there is no choice, and I dive in…head first.
I take my list that I’ve compiled from the realtor’s walk through assessment, and purchase two new sinks, two new faucets, plumbing supplies, paint, tape, spackle, storage containers, cleaners and cleaning supplies, and get down to business.
I spend every chance that I can, making things look tidy and spacious, and along the way, throw out numerous trash bags full of stuff, and make constant stops at the drop boxes to donate items galore. I sort through things that are perfect for friends, and their kids of various ages and stages, and cousins, and nieces, and nephews, and get them, either directly to them, or box and ship them everywhere. I spend 14 hours one day in my son’s room, going through everything imaginable to clean out the room and make it more than presentable. It takes me 3 additional days to get that one room done, but I pace myself after that first day. I’m supposed to be off from work for 4.5 days out of the 10 days that I am doing all of this and become irritated that this is how I am spending it…my only break. And, of course, I come down with a cold…naturally. I decide that I need to change it up, and take myself to a free movie at the library, which does wonders for me, and I come back and spackle and paint. The following day, day four, I am beginning to see the fruits of my labor, and also receive some fabulous news…my daughter commits to law school in D.C. for the coming fall, after she is accepted into their honors program, and now, we at least know where SHE will relocate to…one down, with still needing her housing arrangements and the rest of us to be determined.
Now, I KNOW that I will be staying local, as this is where I work, and where I am licensed to practice, so it’s not like I am contemplating moving to a Caribbean island or something…I mean, I COULD sell bananas on the roadside somewhere, but that’s not realistic. Besides, if I did head to an island, I am in dire need of a new swimsuit, but hate shopping for that, so it’s not even a consideration. However, I really don’t know how long the house will take to sell, or what will be available when it does happen, so I can’t even picture an abode to be. Also, there’s never a good time to make big changes; change brings growth, but it also brings crisis, so I’ve been a bit freaked out about the whole thing. I’m a person who needs a considerable amount of closure, so this really isn’t working for me. Okay, so, now you get where I am at right now.
Yes, I know the flip side…this will all work out…things will be much more manageable in time…with less stress will come happiness…yada, yada, yada…blah, blah, blah…I mean,
I’m a therapist for Pete’s sake…but, in the meanwhile, there are not enough hours to sort, ditch, and pack, and clearly, my collection of boxes has just begun. We are just at the beginning of the “for sale” stage, and there is just sooo much to do., and I’m the one that will have to get it done. With 24 hours to go, the hubbs pitches in and paints a very dark wall white, which is no easy feat, and then replaces the doorbell, and a smoke detector, and does some assorted schlepping and arranging, which I truly appreciate. I know his hours aren’t conducive to the timing, but, it is, what it is.
It’s now 2 am, and I have fallen into bed with the hopes of passing out some time ago, but my mind continues to race. Maybe a tropical breeze is what I truly need…Well that, and several bushels of bananas and a decent swimsuit.

Boys will be…Men.

Two decades ago, I gave birth to a baby boy. A rainbow baby, forced to arrive into this world, and a full 8 pounds, with complications throughout his delivery, I was smitten from the get go. I worked hard for this miracle child’s safe arrival, and knew that he would leave an imprint on my heart. What I didn’t know at the time, but continue to learn more and more each day, is that he is FULL of heart, and, much to his dismay, much like his mom in so many ways.
He has had more than his share of challenges, having been a severely allergic child, to numerous things, and reliant on epinephrine which he has carried on his person for almost as long as I can imagine. This was often met with resistance from many people surrounding him, from a lack of play dates, to legally advocating for being allowed to carry epi pens and ride the school bus. Responsibility came early to this little boy, who was required to carry his epis (auto injectors) with him from about 19 months old, in his little duck backpack, until he began carrying them in assorted waist packs that changed sizes and styles throughout his growing years.
He spent years working on his allergy challenges and self esteem, not to mention his music, and is an accomplished flautist because of it. Listening to him play, is like nothing I have ever heard or could even imagine that one day, that small child, carrying his school back pack, wearing his waist pack, and toting along that flute to school, would sound like…truly beautiful. He has been a section leader, taught music to others, and became a lifeguard, head lifeguard, and water safety instructor at earlier ages than others might. I listened in awe at his college auditions from outside audition rooms, as the music swelled, as those auditioning him engaged him in conversation, and shared exchanges. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but he always left with a handshake, a smile, and a kudos to his mom in the hallway, many moments longer than other candidates remained amongst the evaluators. However, the ultimate goal that I had for him, early on, was to not only be a contributing person to society, but to do it lovingly, and with care to others, and to treat them with the ultimate respect. I joked, early on, that I was raising the perfect spouse. But, I really wasn’t joking, and one day, someone will enjoy the fruit of my labors!
I’ve noticed much growth in him as of late, both spiritually, and emotionally. Along with adjustment and finding your niche, comes great potential. I never doubted the intelligence of my son; he has always been intelligent, but, he didn’t have to work as hard at it as others, as logic came easily, and he therefore didn’t often study or prepare ahead of time for things, and found it quite difficult when he had no choice but to change his ways. The conversations are changing, the sharing has increased, the defenses are lowering, and he reaches out sporadically to check on his mom. The moments of tenderness are increasing, and it touches my heart. He reminds me often that he is not a kid, and he’s not, but like any mother will tell you, he will always be my kid.
I’m reminded of a few things over the last couple of weeks… Early on, I kept an ongoing communication journal, if you will, between him and myself, in a marble composition book. It was an idea I stole from his preschool teacher who required a daily journal entry, just to get my, 3, 4, and then 5 year old writing. I did the same thing at home, but, instead, wrote to him, and left it under his pillow, just to keep the lines of communication open between us, allowing him to respond to me, as I have always worked crazy hours, and I know that it’s much easier to write as they get older, than talk, face to face. Eventually this fell by the wayside, but then, years later, when I got an iPad, he left me notes, which he challenged me to find, and conveniently, this was after those sleep away camp letters arrived less often, and then ceased. I would have my iPad charging somewhere accessible, and, every now and then, there’d be a note to respond to. Next, came texting… I was left in the dust at first, as I didn’t have a texting plan, but then I caught on. Texting now, gets a bum rap, but, it’s been a lifeline for us during times when talking by phone just won’t do. He’s not as far away geographically as his older college sibling, but the distance feels similar. We’ve always talked openly about everything, and for that I am grateful, but, I think, as a parent, those seeds must be planted early on. When he was home on break, I took him out, just us, to a deli for matzoh ball soup, which we sporadically did as a mother/son date night when he was little and thereafter. He didn’t recall having done that, but put down the phone on his own, and easily slipped into conversation with me in the comfort of his surroundings. We both love matzoh ball soup, sushi, and Broadway musicals, as well as many other things that he probably never thought we had in common. And, I know, as well, that we have our differences. But, I’m finding now that it’s a wonderful thing to see that not only will boys be boys, but boys will be men. And I do hope, that my man will be the man I hoped he would be, because it already looks like he’s well on his way.

The numbers game

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The first of the year was weeks ago, February 14th has come and gone, as has the 50 percent off chocolate thereafter (though I WAS lucky enough to score some) and now, just short of a week later, there are numbers swimming through my brain…yesterday was the 19th, and marks precisely one year since I have been struggling to keep us afloat, working a number of jobs, right after several years of pay cuts, supporting 4 of us, and all of the many number of things and expenses that go along with that number and contain their own numbers.

However, I am struck today by another very significant number, with that number being 20.  Today IS the 20th and though we only became aware of its significance about 8 months ago, our daughter will graduate from college on May 20th…a mere 90 days from now…3 short months. It seems like we were just looking at colleges while in high school, looking at SAT scores, ACT scores, tuitions, loans, miles away, hours away…numbers, numbers, and more numbers.  And now, the numbers are back…numbers of grad school responses…7…still to hear from…7…costs, offers, financials, scores, employment outcomes, and, of course, tuitions,  loans, miles away, hours away…numbers, numbers, numbers. It’s amazing to me though, that her knowledge is numerically oodles higher than the four years of knowledge she has now experienced.  The conversations  vary greatly from a mere 4 years ago, when she was only 4 years younger, but 140 plus credits ago, 2 fabulous internships ago, 2 TA experiences, multiple extracurriculars, grant writing experiences, classes, papers, living accommodations, close friends, roommates, and professors and instructors TOO numerous to mention.

We wonder, when we agree upon attending a college and committing, whether or not we’ve made the right decision; whether we will stay, whether we will be successful there, gain the intended knowledge, be employable or successful in pursuing an even higher level of education, but more so, whether we will be supported in our endeavors, have mentors to help us along the way, as well as people to be our second family.

Many of you know from my previous blogs that my daughter has attended school 4.5 hours south of where we live, and though it could’ve been, and was very much almost 6 hours north of here, we went with the most logical choice, rather than her most desired choice. We know now, how amazing a decision that ended up being for sooo many reasons… And we can’t say enough about it.  True, there was a cultural adjustment for my bagel girl in the land of biscuits and gravy, and a period of needed acceptance to commit to her choice,  but that came with time, commitment, and a little help from those around her.  Not only did she watch many of her class leave, fail out, transfer, lose their honors status, lose their scholarships, and make poor choices, but she gained some amazing relationships with those she might never meet otherwise, including someone from another southern school that she met abroad. She worked in the state attorney’s office, the office of the mayor, the local high school and middle school empowering students with limited English skills, after acquiring her own grants, and teaching them to publish their writing.  She has held offices, sat on boards, choreographed for dance ensemble, has partaken in numerous brunches, lunches, teas, seminars, conversations, tutoring sessions, tours, convocations, awards ceremonies, an honors thesis, and so much more. She has been supported every step of the way, and by some of the most amazing people to have been there for her.     Dr. Kathleen Bands, who returned to teaching from administration, helped my daughter to create a leadership minor, exposed her to a position as a TA, not once, but twice, taught her about style, professionalism, and leadership, and has kept her supplied in post-its throughout her academic career. Dr. Donna Bertazoni, her academic advisor, professor for several of her classes, and department guru, who has advised her  but has also heard her and accepted her choices. Dr. Bean, who came into her world later than the others, but who has been there for her grad school preparation to the utmost degree, pushing her to put herself out there and go confidently. Her English literature professor, Dr. Heather Mitchell-Buck, and all time research guru, that got her (finally…thank goodness) to England for the most amazing research, that she is STILL talking about on a daily basis.  And, finally, Dean Olivia White, who I was smitten by as soon as we met her at accepted honors students weekend…with her fabulous smile, warm demeanor, caring heart, ability to remember anyone’s name, great knowledge of local restaurants, and amazing ability to motivate anyone who walks anywhere near her path;  She has treated my daughter like family, heard her, motivated her to take action, and to always do it professionally, with a smile, a thank you, eloquence, and a warmth like nobody’s business.  There have been a NUMBER of others along the way, but these women are a (mother’s) dream come true. It would not be fair, to not mention Melanie from the Dean’s office as well…another extraordinary connection.

I know that these fabulous people have been brought into her life for a reason, and that they will continue to watch over her in the number of days left, and from afar, as she continues on her journey. I know, too,  that she is aware how blessed she’s been.  And though the number of days rush by, she will count these blessings as numerous and know that in the numbers game, she has really scored big.