When Dancers Aren’t Graceful

As a dancer, it’s sorta my job to have control over my body, to be in command of every muscle and fiber so that I can move through space in a physical art form. I think that’s why most people assume that dancers are graceful people offstage as well.

But for me, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

dancers aren't graceful

Recently, I had to attend a photo shoot for a dance company I’d only rehearsed with twice.  I didn’t really know anyone in the company well either, so I already felt a bit self-conscious.

Now, let me pause here and state that I am not in what I would say is my “fighting shape.” It’s been over two years since I have danced consistently, and I’ve lost a bit of strength and stability, which translates to “I’m not feeling as spry as I used to.”

Given all of that, yeah, why not get in front of a camera and try to look photogenic in a room full of strangers? Sounds like a great idea! What could possibly go wrong?

Because there was no set choreography yet to capture, the photographer crammed the three other dancers of the piece and me on a tiny square of dark grey background paper, and under very little direction, asked us to improvise a bit to get some photos taken.

If you’re thinking, “Man, that sounds awkward,” you’re completely correct.

It had about the same result you’d think it would: odd, ill-composed photos with perplexed looking dancers.

To change things up a bit, the choreographer decided to have us improvise one at a time.  We were directed to perform a few movements to get about four to five photos a piece, then exit so that the next person could run on in to the frame and start dancing.

I stood on the side, waiting my turn, and when it was time, I did what I was told.

I ran on.

And as soon as my foot hit the grey paper, I started to slide.

Like, in slow motion. Limbs flailing. Unable to prevent disaster.

Down I went, like an exaggerated banana-peel-on-the-sidewalk skit, all the while screeching like an opera singer.


In any other situation, like with my last company for example, once I hit the ground and assured folks I was physically okay, everyone would have gotten a good chuckle. Heck, I might have even peed my pants a teeny bit from laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of the situation.

But in this instance, no one was laughing. Well, I kind of was. But then I quickly stopped when I realized that everyone was just staring at me, stunned, mouths agape, not sure what to make of this aging lunatic that had just flung herself on the ground like a fish out of water.

After I lay there on the floor for what felt like 24 hours, the photographer finally ran over, and I thought, “Oh, thank God, someone is coming to my aid.”

But really?  He was just trying to frantically save his background paper, smoothing out the edges and re-taping the whole thing down so that we could get on with the shoot.

The choreographer and the other dancers eventually started to make sure I was all right, and I reassured them that the only thing hurt was my pride as I lurched myself upright.

But deep down? I was mortified. Humiliated. And I certainly did not want to get my picture taken anymore.

It was all I could do not to pack up my gear, dramatically sling my bag over my shoulder, and yell “that’s it, I’m outta here!” before storming out and slamming the door behind me.

But I didn’t.

See? I tried to take the high road. The mature route. The harder option. Even though it sucked balls.

One of the dancers tried to make me feel better and tell me that it wasn’t as bad as I imagined, and that I fell very gracefully. To which, I giggled politely while hiding my tears and thanked her for trying to make me feel better.

However, the crinkled marks on the background paper told a different story of disaster and defeat.

I couldn’t high tail it out of the studio fast enough once the photo shoot was over, and having a week where I didn’t have to face the same people helped heal my wounds. So, now? I’m almost over it. Almost.

Thankfully, the photographer swears he didn’t capture my embarrassing moment on film but I am waiting for some kind of GIF of me falling over and over on a loop to make it’s way on the Internet sometime soon.

When folks like Jennifer Lawrence fall in front of an audience of millions, it’s adorable and endearing.

But when I fall in a room full of people I barely know, in a situation where I’m supposed to, you know, move like I’ve been dancing forever, I just fall flat.


After a couple of days, I could tell the story and laugh about it. Because, c’mon, falling is pretty funny.

I guess it just goes to show that I’m never too old or too experienced to get humbled. That life will continue to knock me down, and it’s up to me to decide if I’m going to get up and storm out of the room, or stand up and get my picture taken, red-faced and all.

With grace, of course.


Do you have any embarrassing stories you can share to make me feel better? 

When I Realized My Kids Are Good Kids

Seated at the fancy Grand Hotel, in Mackinac Island, MI, I started to sweat. A slight panic attack lurked in the back of my mind as I glanced down at the fine china on the table, the massive assortment of silverware stacked around the place setting, and our two young kids eyeballing them with wonder and mischief.

We were on vacation and, on a whim, decided to bike over to the swankiest resort on the island and fork out a small fortune to stuff our bellies full with the lunch buffet.

It was a gorgeous hotel, full of history and old-school luxury, and expensive decor.

And my kids can’t tell the difference between a $1 plate from the Target bargain bin, and the $100 plate they were about to carry back from the buffet line.

Throw in the fact that my kids’ squabbling had reached an all-time fever pitch, lunch in this fancy hotel seemed rife for disaster.

I ate my meal in a state of heightened alertness, whispering quick reminders to my kids not to use the butter knife as a drum stick, and to “please use your napkin to wipe off that glob of fruit on your chin instead of your forearm.”  I prayed they wouldn’t spill that outlandishly heavy crystal goblet of lemonade all over their laps under the eyes of all the older folks surrounding us that were probably ridiculously rich and ridiculously annoyed by young children.

And, even though I spent the meal worrying about how my kids would do, we ate our shrimp cocktail, high-end mac and cheese, and piled-too-high plates of the teeniest pastries without much drama.  Sure, there were some small mishaps.  And the tablecloth didn’t fare well. But we didn’t get kicked out, either.

At the end of our meal, as we pushed our chairs back to leave, the woman next to us leaned over and said, “Excuse me.”

I thought she was going to let us know the back of my daughter’s dress was crammed into her underpants. Or that we’d left a flip-flop under the table.

Instead, I heard her say, “I just wanted to tell you, your kids were so amazingly well-behaved! And I have nine grand-kids, so I know what I’m talking about. They’re not all like that.”

I blushed with embarrassment. My kids gave her a quick “thank you” as they rushed out of the dining room to pounce on the plush, circular sofa in the lobby, and I expressed my gratitude for her lovely comment.

Then I immediately felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I’d thought less of my children. Ashamed that I didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Ashamed that I thought they would behave like wild animals, when in reality, that’s not how they are.

My kids are good kids. And I need to remember that.

Being in public magnifies the lens in which I view my kids, especially in places that seem, and pardon the Southern in me coming out here, high falutin’ . Every noise they utter sounds like it’s coming through a bullhorn.  Every wiggle seems like I’m sitting with a herd (A herd? A litter? A barrel?) of monkeys.  Every fork drop sounds like parental failure.

But when I really step back (and I do have to step several yards back) to see my kids for who they are, they are good, well-behaved children.

They remember to use their Excuse Me’s, Please’s, Thank You’s and May I’s. They have the ability to remain at their seats and not run around like lunatics anymore.  And they listen to me and my husband (for the most part) when we ask them to do something. They are considerate and kind and adorably charming.

And they are children.

I shouldn’t expect them to behave like adults, because they are not adults. They are 8 and 5 and behave as such.

Yes, they are curious. Yes, they can be loud. Yes, they are not quite the masters of the fork and spoon and napkin as I would like.  But they are not the pack of wild animals my mind makes them out to be.

It’s so easy for me to feel as if my kids behavior is a reflection of not only me as a parent, but as a person. And my kids are NOT me. They’re not even an extension of myself. I need to let them be, and trust that I’ve given them the tools they need to get by in public. And I have, because they’re doing it, and doing it beautifully.

It just took a total stranger to make me see it.

When it comes down to it, that lunch at the Grand Hotel was more my issue than theirs. My sense of paranoia was more about how I thought we would be perceived, than it was because of any history of rotten behavior on my children’s part.

In the future, I’ll stress out less when we’re out as a family. I’ll remember that my kids are good kids. Even with fruit smeared on their faces.


When the Going Gets Tough

I watched my daughter halfway attempt to do a cartwheel at her gymnastics class the other day.  It’s a skill that she mastered months ago, but has now suddenly “forgotten” how to execute.   My frustration started to boil as I realized that this was the third class in a row that she’d acted nonchalant.

Like she doesn’t care.  Like she doesn’t want to be there.  If she had “Fuck this shit” in her arsenal of vocabulary, she would use it.

And I had no idea how to handle things.


She just seemed bored in her class.  I don’t know how or when or why things changed.  She used to be the kid that needed very little guidance.  The kid who listened and followed directions, who acquired new skills quickly, who didn’t need to be summoned off of the trampoline when all of the other kids were working on the beam.

And it wasn’t just gymnastics.  She was bailing out of skiing lessons as well, opting to display extreme separation anxiety meltdowns than have fun on the slope and work on her “pizza” and “french fry” positions.

I grappled with two opposing thoughts:  Pull her out of class, or make her tough it out.

What do you do when your children want to give up?

My first thought was “That’s it.  We’re done.  This is our last class.”  Because classes aren’t cheap, and if she didn’t want to be there, then it was a waste of time for everyone involved.

But then I argued, “Shouldn’t I make her stick things out?”  Perhaps this as an opportunity to teach perseverance and discipline?

Because I know this lesson all too well.  And not just from my career as a professional dancer.

Take Exhibit A:

When I was a senior in high school, I enrolled in AP Calculus.  Not because I was a genius, but because the trajectory of my previous school’s curriculum forced it.  It was either AP Calculus or Physics, and since I can’t seem to even line up my cue ball to hit a clear shot in to a corner pocket, I figured my chances were better at calculus than physics.

But that calculus crap is HARD.

I did okay at it, but about halfway through the semester, I felt overwhelmed.  It was a lot of homework.  Homework that made my head swirl.  And I had come down with a horrible case of Senioritis.

Calculus wasn’t effortless, and therefore, I wanted to drop out.  So I made a proposal to my parents to drop the class.  And when they respectfully declined my request, I did what any mature high school senior would do.

I threw myself on the floor and had a Grade A, Tasmanian Devilish, Supreme Toddler tantrum.

I’m talking pounding the floor, kicking my feet, crying and screaming about how unfair my parents were.  And no matter how much I protested, they didn’t back down on their stance.  I wasn’t quitting and that was that.

It was a hard lesson to swallow.  In the end, I finished the course with a pretty decent grade.  And in my freshman year in college, I tested out of math classes because of my AP Calculus test result.

Thinking back to this experience made me realize something about my daughter.  She may very well be my carbon-copy perfectionist.  If it doesn’t come easy to her, then she doesn’t want to do it.

I get that.  I relate to that.  I have lived that.

Realizing that you’re not an instant natural at something can be eye-opening and humbling.  Some folks rise to the occasion and tackle that head on.  And some decide to give up.

Because giving up is the easier thing to do.

But I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if I let my daughter quit because the going got tough.

So, yes, I am keeping my daughter in gymnastics.  I am having the hard discussions with her about what it means to work hard, to keep trying when things aren’t a piece of cake, to find something new in the mundane because it will make you stronger.  I’m trying to convince her that with a little dedication and effort, she will see the rewards of her perseverance.

Like being able to take a Power Walking class in college while all your other friends are stuck crunching numbers in Calculus 101.

Hanging up my blogging stocking

T’is the season.  For parties, family gatherings and good tidings.  For joy, good will, and hot chocolate.  For panicked shopping, cookie-induced bloating, and lame elf-rearranging.

And all of it makes me sweaty with stress.

Tack the task of helping out a former employee part-time on to this month, and I’m feeling over-scheduled and under-motivated.

The solution, I think, is to take a break.

From blogging.

blogging hiatus

Not that it’s why I started writing, but I’ve been at this blog over for two years now, and it appears to be going nowhere.

Sure, I’ve had a few things published here and there that I’m proud of.  But I’m not one of those famously popular bloggers who wrote a post that went viral overnight, received a shit-ton of followers, and the rest just fell in to place.

It’s easy to compare my small number of followers and readers to others success and think, “What’s the freaking point?

My blogging feels like jogging on a treadmill at a crowded gym, where everyone else is running with a smile on their face and logging in miles, while I’m sweating profusely and getting my shoelaces stuck in the track belt.  Dammit if it doesn’t smell like my dance career all over again.  The same insecurity and self-doubt and self-loathing I had to battle with myself as a dancer surfaced again while writing.

I started blogging because I wanted to write and I wanted a creative outlet.   But somehow it morphed in to this thing that doesn’t feel about the writing at all.  It became about the marketing and the tweeting and the pinning and the hand shaking and the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine”.   All of that took a lot of time, exponentially more time, than the writing.

And because I’m so I’m horrible at all of that self-marketing and networking, it’s put a damper on the whole blogging process.

I’ve lost my passion for writing, and instead, have been approaching it half-assed.  It feels more like a chore than a joy.  I’m plagued by a writer’s block of momentous proportions.  I’m tired of feeling like I’m doing a mediocre job.

I need to step away for a bit and reevaluate why I write, who I write for, and what I want to write about, because I veered off path somewhere.

And I need some time away from my computer.  Time to readjust my posture from that slouched one I’ve adopted while stooped over my laptop.  Time to snuggle on the couch, warmed by a blanket and my husband instead of the heat of my MacBook Pro.  Time to work on myself – to work out, take a class or two, find a hobby, catch up on projects, find what fuels me.

I want to feel inspired, motivated and creative again.

So, I’m taking a step back and taking time off to refocus.  How much time?  Until I  can come back to writing and hitting “Publish” with the confidence that I will not measure my self-worth in shares, likes, comments, pageviews or retweets.

I’m not sure when that will be.  Maybe in a couple of weeks.  Maybe longer.  But I’m definitely giving myself a hiatus for the holidays.  I’ll still be present and accounted for on , , and , and if I find some rockin’ kids music you simply must hear, I’ll post it.

But for now, I’m hanging up my blogging stocking for Santa to fill.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get a box of inspiration, wrapped in hilarity with a pretty bow made out of sheer genius.

Or maybe I’ll just get coal.

I hope you’ll find your way back here when I do, and have a very happy holiday season!

Drawing 101

I have a little artist on my hands, and I love it.

From a very early age, my daughter couldn’t help but express herself artistically.  Sometimes it was through drama, quite often through dance, many times through singing.  She hasn’t censored herself yet, and I’m cherishing every display of creativity she’s willing to show me.

But it’s her drawing that I love the best.

Give that 4 year-old a pen and a piece of paper and she’s one content artiste.

drawing 101

We spent an insane amount of time in the car last year, shuffling back and forth to school.  While her brother could occupy himself by reading in the car, unable to read yet, my daughter was bored and tired of looking out the window every day at the same scenic view.

So I bought her a small notebook and three fancy-colored pens, put them in a special bag, and stowed it in the side of her car seat.

It was the best thing I did for our commute.  There aren’t many moments where I feel I have won at parenting, but that idea came pretty close.

She’d doodle for the entire trip.  Sometimes the sheet of paper would be filled with fake writing and scribbles.  Pre-shapes.  Sort-of circles and squiggly lines.

And then, she learned how to write her name.

Suddenly the notebook was full of her first name on every square inch.  Most of the time it was linear, but every now and then she’d have two letters here, four letters over there, some random letters that weren’t even in her name spread out in the center of the page.

It was visual proof that her brain had just unlocked some new secret.

Once she got her name down, she began to draw faces.  Big, round faces with giant eyes, incredibly long limbs, bulbous hands and feet, looking nothing like humans but adorable all the same.

Now, she’s drawing whole landscapes.  Pointy mountains with green grass strewn along the bottom of the page, a canopy of blue sky at the top, trees and people with hair and clothes holding flowers.  Every single one of the people she draws are smiling.  Because that’s how she sees the world around her.  Bucolic and innocent and happy.

Drawing, or “coloring” as she calls it, is her favorite pastime and something we’d do together pretty regularly.  It was a great excuse to slow things down, fill up the hour before bedtime, and get a glimpse in to that brain of hers.  Working next to each other, she’d give me ideas of things to draw, illustrate her own page, and them sometimes reach over and help me finish my own drawing.

But lately, I have shied away from doing this activity with her because I don’t have use of my dominant hand.  This excuse did not go over well with her.  “You can still color” she said.  “Use your other hand” she pleaded.

So, I did.

Last weekend, I poured myself in to a drawing with her.  It took me almost an hour. I’m pretty sure I stuck my tongue out in serious concentration, too.

I painfully slaved away at my playground scene with washable Crayola markers, trying to find nuance in flower petals, striving to find the right aspect ratio, proportion, shade, color and shadow.

Behold, my masterpiece.

Wait.  You MAY want to get some sunglasses, because this shit is brilliant.  I’ll wait until you get them.



Are you back?  Okay, here it is.


So, yeah.  I think I may need a few more lessons from my 4 year-old.


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