Monday, November 9, 2009

Common Ground

There are four vastly different individuals living in my house.

Mikel subscribes to no less than five different motorcycle magazines. He reads them cover-to-cover, and then rereads them several times after that. He attends rallies. All conversation ceases as his head swivels at the sight of another bike on the road.

It's not that the rest of us don't like motorcycles - we like them all right - we just don't know the make and model of every two-wheeled vehicle produced on every continent since before the first world war.

I'm pretty sure he does, though. He's amazing in that way.

I, on the other hand, am intrigued with the structure of the human brain as it relates to neuropsychosocial disorders. The fact that scientists are far from having all the answers to the ins and outs of mental disorders only functions to feed my fascination.

I'm sure it comes as no surprise that when I start rambling about some recent research article on the topic, my housemates get that glassy look in their eyes and suddenly recall tasks that need their immediate attention.

They are not joking when they say, "Don't get her started!"

The Not-So-Litle One is middle-schooler. I probably don't need to say much more on the subject. The things in which she and her friends are interested defy adult logic, sticking their tongues out at us and daring us to try to figure them out.

She also happens to be a middle-schooler with a sensory processing disorder. There are many things about the way in which she deals with her world that are incomprehensible to the rest of us. And she has an uncanny ability to communicate with animals, beyond the ordinary human's.

She is a whisperer. She is my hero.

The Little One does not recall life before dance. Her earliest two-year-old memories include leotards, tights, ballet slippers, pig tails - all swirling about in a cloud of theatrical pink. Her first grade teacher complained that she never kept her feet still. Her daddy converted a bedroom into a studio in (vain) hopes that she wouldn't dance in the kitchen while I am cooking.

She speaks a different language than her parents. To me a Russian is a person who calls Russia his homeland. To her it is some sort of leap. A stroll down a grocery store aisle invariably includes a sequence of turns, combinations, and jumps.

She is gifted. She is a gift.

Somehow we four manage to share a space and a bond. We love one another, and we appreciate one another. Our differences are not perceived as threats but rather as a gateway to learning more about the world.

Our different paths lead us to common ground.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I've opened my own personal Pandora's Box. This might go on for a while...

"Love never ends." Umm... yes, it does. I happen to know that it does. I'm pretty sure I was not delusional EVERY time I was told that I was loved. I'm pretty sure what I gave and what I received was the real thing at least once or twice. And yet it still ended. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it was yanked out from under me. I've always been the dumpEE, never the dumpER. And I was still in love long after the dumping.

" 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." I can't even think of a clever retort for this one. All I can think of is "Why?"

Monday, October 19, 2009

It Seemed Like the Right Thing to Say at the Time

There are all these things people say, the kind that of things that are meant to make you feel better when things go drastically wrong. We've all said them. Problem is, they don't always help you feel much better at all.

"If you love someone, set him free..." etc, etc. If I love someone, I have no intention of just setting him free. Rather, I would hold on tight and surround him with my love, never allowing anyone to question my devotion. If something tried to come between us, I would stand and fight for love. I'm not talking about locking someone in a closet. It's just that to me anything else suggests that he wasn't worth my effort.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Maybe. Or maybe little pieces of a person are chipped away until what's left is barely recognizable. This probably depends on the person and the circumstances. I've known people that have been through so much that they can hardly hold themselves together. Do I think they are weak? No, I do not. Vulnerable, yes... damaged, probably... weak, no.

"Children are resilient." Somewhat, I suppose. But if children were truly resilient and able to bounce back from anything, then parents could make all kinds of selfish choices and not worry about the consequences. Divorce, neglect, even abuse would be no big deal, because the kids would emerge from the rubble unscathed.

"The only person you should worry about pleasing is yourself." I like the sound of this one. I WANT to buy into this one. But it sounds self-centered to me. It pleased my brother immensely when he broke my arm. It didn't please me one little bit.

"Happiness comes from within." Oh, yeah, the old no-one-can-make-you-angry-you-allow-yourself-to-get-angry theory. Try telling that to the little kid that spends an hour picking flowers for his mother, handing them over with a huge grin on his face, just to hear his mother point out that they are actually weeds as she drops them into the trash can. That child was filled with joy in anticipation of thrilling his mother, right up the point of her rejection.

"We can still be friends." How do you go from being lovers to being friends? How do you put boundaries on a relationship that was previously open and intimate? How do you stand by and watch the one you love fall in love with someone new? If you can do it, you are a better person than I.

"It just wasn't meant to be." This one is a no-brainer, and it's actually true. But it isn't helpful. The expecting mother who took perfect care of herself from the moment she learned of the new life beginning inside of her will take no solace in this when the doctor informs her that she won't be having that baby after all.

These phrases seem so harmless. There is some truth to them if you are able to view them through a philosophical lens. We resort to them when someone we care about is going through tough times because we want so badly to find the right thing to say. And sometimes the right thing to say is nothing at all.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


As much as I love words, sometimes I struggle with them. I'll think I have something important to share, and I'll have a hard time getting started. This is one of those times. Maybe I should just dive in head first.

It appears that I am entering menopause. I always thought that I would be happy about that - no more monthly "visitations," with their accompanying discomfort, inconvenience, and expense.

Turns out I'm not really happy about it after all. I am experiencing all kinds of unpleasant symptoms - depression, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, fear, anger... and a veritable smorgasbord of physical changes.

Never having suffered much from PMS, some of the emotional stuff came as a bit of a surprise. But what shook me to my core was my reaction to the end of an era. I will no longer be capable of conceiving children. It's not that I desire more children - the ones I have are amazing, and my life is full. It's the realization that an integral part of my womanhood will be no more. I wonder if this is the way a woman fighting cancer feels when she loses a breast or all of her hair.

Yeah, I know, I've said it myself - they're just breasts. It's just hair. It's just a uterus. But these are some of the things that define women and set them apart. They are things that make us different from men. They matter, in ways we don't even grasp until they are gone.

There's another part of my identity that is falling victim to this "change of life." I noticed back when I was expecting my first child that my ability to sing was affected greatly by my condition. I tried to talk to friends, colleagues, and professionals about it, and I got the same response from everyone. "It's just the baby pushing on your diaphragm" or "It's all in your head." Although those explanations couldn't account for the continuing vocal problems I had on a monthly basis postpartum, I accepted them as reasonable.

Turns out that research supports the theory that the changes in a woman's hormones directly affect the voice. The vocal membranes are startlingly similar to the membranes in one's nether regions. Membranes in both regions undergo some thickening and dehydration as hormone levels increase. The voice becomes less flexible, both in range and in variability. And there's not much one can do to stop or reverse it.

Because every woman's journey through menopause is unique, not all singers experience this phenomenon. But there are plenty of opera singers whose careers have come to a screeching halt as they enter this phase of womanhood. And not only do they feel betrayed by their bodies, but they must also muster the courage to pursue new avenues at a time when most folks are settled comfortably into their careers.

People who enjoy a specialized skill or talent have a difficult time differentiating the self from the behavior. They are gifted with the ability to do something that not everyone else can, and that sets them apart from the herd. And that special something permeates their being. The expression "eats, drinks, and sleeps" is an apt description of how an artisan relates to her craft. When that something is threatened or taken away, the resulting grief can be devastating.

The way I see it, I have a couple of choices. I can accept the inevitability that my body and voice will be changed forever and try to find a way to honor the me that is left behind. Or I can diligently seek methods in which to fight the process and try to keep what I have as long as possible. Either way the road will be long and hard and lonely, as others are unlikely to empathize with my selfish plight. And at the end of the road, I may no longer recognize myself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Variety - The Spice of Life

Glamour magazine is starting a fashion revolution of sorts. A short while back they printed a small photo of a lovely, curvy woman named Lizzie. In the modeling world Lizzie would be considered plus-sized. Anyone wearing a size 6 or larger is considered plus-sized in the fashion industry. In the real world Lizzie is actually only a few pounds over for her height.

Public response was overwhelming. The photo caused such a stir - a positive stir - that Glamour executives now state they intend to include photos of women of varying shapes and sizes in upcoming editions. (To read the article and gaze upon some gorgeous normal-sized women, go to this website:

I'm thrilled and so are thousands of other people, men and women alike. Glamour is a women's publication and as such should provide their readers with a variety of ladies with which to identify. It just makes good marketing sense, if you ask me.

Not all response to Lizzie's photo was positive. As you can imagine, there were plenty of men (and women) that criticized Lizzie for being fat and Glamour for condoning poor health. Those opinions were expected albeit narrow. The comments that annoyed me the most, however, were the ones that implied that women who are insecure about their bodies and tired of being compared to unreasonable industry standards are in some way misguided or petty.

I read several comments advising women that the only people whose opinions should matter are their husbands' or their boyfriends'. When I hear statements like that, I feel as if people are trying to shame me into living only for my spouse. To me that equates to thinking what he wants me to think, going where he wants me to go, socializing with whom he wants me to socialize. My identity and my self-image become totally dependent upon his whims, if that is the case.

Most folks will not agree with me here, but I did say that this is how I feel about the issue. What one thinks and what one feels are not the same thing.

Some husbands wrote in that they didn't care what their wives looked like, that they loved them anyway. I think they meant that they love their wives for what is on the inside, but saying they "don't care" gives the message that they no longer look at them or long for their wives in a physical way.

(Guys, if you are guilty of this, stop immediately.) Suffice it to say that this is not a helpful statement in a marriage.

I recently expressed my own insecurities to a friend. I told her that due to events in my life, I no longer felt beautiful. She told me that the only person I should want to be beautiful for is me. It sounded good at the time, and I think she meant well, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I will probably never buy into that. Isn't the real purpose of physical beauty to attract one that you desire? If you are not attractive, in that sense of the word, and a mate is either absent or unresponsive, what then is the point of thinking you are beautiful?

I applaud the executives at Glamour for taking a risk. I'm glad that a publication with it's level of influence in the industry is challenging society's views on beauty. I also applaud them for not taking sides. The super-thin are not being bashed, obesity is not being condoned. They are simply making an effort to celebrate all makes and models of women. And I think it is about dang time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Things

I experienced some new things this past weekend. New stuff is my favorite stuff.

Friday marked my 16th wedding anniversary to Mikel. He sent me roses. It was only the second time in all these years that I received flowers from him. He said that is because if he sent them more often, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore. Although I can grasp his reasoning here, I'm not sure I condone it.

I did thank him.

Friday evening we went to the Dallas Museum of Art. Turns out they do a late night thing on the third Friday of every month and stay open until midnight. I called it our version of Night at the Museum. They currently have a performing arts exhibit, and we enjoyed music and dance performances throughout the evening. Mikel thought I was crazy for wishing we had brought the girls along on our anniversary date, but I'm pretty sure they would have loved it.

I'm also pretty sure I need to learn the flamenco.

Saturday morning I pulled a muscle in my right thigh mounting Mikel's Triumph. He was parked on an incline, and my leg wasn't long enough for me to swing it over the back rest from the left, so I thought I'd be clever and try the other side. I've never mounted anything from the right - not horses, not motorcycles, not ATV's, not dirt bikes, not bicycles. I even sleep on the left side of the bed.

Who knew it would make that much of a difference?

Saturday evening I participated in my very first 5K. My right thigh was still pretty sore, but I stretched really well. I ran a little, walked a lot, and perspired more than I thought humanly possible. It was actually kind of fun.

And I did not die.

I will always try new things. I think it is one way of staying young. I will probably even do some of these things again.

Except for the motorcycle-mounting thing.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Waste of Time

Recently I ran across a travel article and was horrified to read that the writer considered a visit to the Alamo a waste of time.

To be fair, the writer also dissed a few other well-known tourist attractions. He was primarily focused on the structure of the place. Granted, the Alamo, sacred mission and symbol of all we hold dear in Texas, is pretty dilapidated. There isn't much to look at. And maybe it doesn't hold much fascination for a non-Texan. But perhaps it should.

Those of us who love history and historical places clearly do not visit them for the accomodations. Historical places are... well... old. They are musty. They are usually not air conditioned. They rarely have decent bathrooms. No, we make the trek because they are precisely what we expect them to be - tangible proof of struggle and triumph.

And the true purist would be offended anyway if someone came along and spiffed the place up a bit.

I visited Plymouth Rock once. I am not a descendant of one of the original pilgrim families. The rock itself was small and somewhat unimpressive. But that did not prevent me from looking out over the landscape and imagining the hardship of the individuals that settled there. It did not keep me from feeling a sense of loss as I pondered what happened to the villagers. The rock told a story.

I visited Austria once. I am not a descendant of one of the ill-fated Jewish families of that region. The countryside is gorgeous, and it was evident to me that the citizens of Austria would prefer not to dwell on the autrocities of the holocaust. But that did not prevent me from marveling at the irony of the ugliness that occurred at the hands of one egotistical lunatic. It did not keep me from being overwhelmed by the mere thought of the countless numbers of lives lost. The land told a story.

I visited New York City once. I am not a descendant of one of the immigrant families that were herded through Ellis Island on their quest for a fresh start. The Twin Towers were still standing then. They were simply pretty buildings to me. But that does not keep me from gazing at my photographs and recalling the events of September 11th as they unfolded before us courtesy of modern technology. It does not keep me from swelling with pride when I remember the unprecedented patriotism that arose from the despair. The towers tell a story.

One day there will be little remaining evidence of the destruction of the Twin Towers. Growth and progress will take over and Ground Zero will be a well-documented memory. Will tourists stand in that spot and say, "Huh... there's not much here. What a waste of my time..."?

God, I hope not.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Monster

I used to be one of those short-sighted, opinionated types that believed that if a woman was abused by a man, and she didn't leave immediately, she was either a fool or a masochist.

I was wrong.

Nearly 20 years ago, when I was between marriages, I spent several months in a toxic relationship. It didn't start out that way. No, not at all. In the beginning, he was sweet and attentive and generous. Things deteriorated gradually, with him "teaching" me how much I deserved the treatment I was receiving. By the time he broke my body, he had long since broken my spirit.

The police weren't much help. They finally took my reports seriously when he broke into my apartment while I was away, setting off the alarm. I guess having to respond to a burglary was more compelling than two black eyes.

I learned a lot about the dynamics of domestic violence, lessons that make me a better therapist and a more compassionate human being. I recognize the ways in which I benefitted from the ordeal, although I would give just about anything to erase the memories and end the nightmares.

I recently had an inexplicable urge to search for The Monster online. (Isn't Google an amazing vehicle?) What I found was not what I expected. The Monster is dead. He died about a month ago. He left behind a wife and children. The obituary stated that he had moved back to his home state and was serving as a deacon in his church. I wondered if he was still smoking pot and beating up the nearest woman when he couldn't score a fix. I wondered if he had accepted Jesus as his savior.

Another thing I wasn't expecting was the ambiguity I experienced upon reading of his demise. Was I supposed to feel relieved? Happy? Sad? Angry? Envious? Worried? Grieved? Retraumatized?I felt all of those things and more.

Another reminder of just how human I really am.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Sometimes, when you keep your feelings to yourself, because you think it will be easier on me, it makes me feel worse.

Sometimes, when you point out to me how wonderful or beautiful one of my children is, when you know I have two, it brings out the tigress in me.

Sometimes, when you are really polite, because you think it is the genteel way to behave, it feels as if you are afraid of me.

Sometimes, when you tell me everything that is happening in your life, because you want to include me, it gives me too much to think about.

Sometimes, when you say everything is going to be okay, because you want me to feel better, it seems as if you would really just like for me to stop crying already.

Sometimes, when you give advice, because you want to fix things, I feel as if you don't have confidence in my ability to find the answers.

Sometimes, when you remind me to look at the bright side of things, because there usually is a bright side, you seem to be telling me that I have no right to be upset.

Sometimes, when you go into a whirlwind of activity, because there are things that need doing, I wonder if I am not getting enough accomplished.

Sometimes, when you do all those things for me, because that's your way of letting me know how much I mean to you, I really just want you to sit beside me and hold my hand.
Sometimes, when you give me my space, because I am distant, I really wish you would come closer.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jesus' Dragon

On my desk, waiting to be lovingly displayed on my office wall with others of a similar vein, is a picture of a dragon. The Little One is enamored with all things dragon. This one is purple (her signature color) with green eyes, horns, and talons. It is hovering in a dark sky among dark clouds and lightning bolts. Blue, orange, and yellow fire is shooting from it's mouth and nostrils.

Below Sir Dragon is a green field dotted with itty little bitty figures. Many of these figures are engulfed in flames, along with the the homes and trees nearby. Like most moms into whose hands a drawing is thrust while trying to find the car keys at the bottom of a purse, I glanced at it rather quickly. I was aghast at the violence portrayed, and I remarked to The Little One that she doesn't usually draw such angry dragons.

She patiently explained that the figures at the bottom were demons (a closer inspection indeed revealed little horns on their heads). She said the dragon was helping rid the world of evil. "It's Jesus' dragon, Momma."

You know... Jesus might could use a dragon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An Anniversary

There's this boy I know. He's handsome and polite and Southern, and he has this smile... I'm pretty taken with him.

Some time ago, around this time of year, we stood facing one another, and suddenly we knew. It was one of those heart-in-your-throat, butterflies-in-the-stomach, sweaty-palms moments. I don't think a single intelligible word was uttered. Nothing has been the same since that day.

We actually knew one another for a while before we became "we." Admired each other from afar, you might say. But we were each closing the door on other relationships, tying up loose ends. And we were in the throes of redefining ourselves.

Let's just say that the romance has been as imperfect as the two individuals that came crashing together that summer. At times we are intertwined, connected in a profound way. At other times we are miles apart.

You see... I'm not easy. There's this neatly manicured wall. It appears solid, and I guard it fiercely. But if you peer between the cracks you find a real mess inside. The girl within the walls is broken and jumbled from one too many shakings. There may still be some good stuff in there among the shards and the dust, and the boy is brave enough to search for it when no one else will.

I wear a ring on my third finger. I wear it always, even when things are unpleasant between us. It is constant and precious, and it symbolizes forever, and that is how I like to think of us.

I haven't spent much time with the boy lately. There is work and clients and children and church. And walls. In my heart I know that things will settle, and we will have more time for one another. But he is a stubborn boy, and I lack the confidence to encourage him.

I'm not sure this boy reads my blog anymore, but if he does I want him to know that he is my last thought when the night closes around me and my first thought when the sun rises above the horizon.

Happy anniversary, my love.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Sometimes it seems to me that we live in a disposable society. Paper plates, Styrofoam cups, and plastic eating utensils make meals quick and easy. No one uses handkerchiefs anymore now that facial tissues are so readily available. We throw them away, and they are no longer our problem.

How simple it appears to apply that same mentality to all areas of our lives. When something (or someone) is no longer useful/attractive/clean/strong/desirable/convenient/new enough, we toss it aside. Couch looking a little worn? Get rid of it. Cat acting jealous of the new baby? Well, he's gotta go. Girlfriend didn't turn out to be as fun as you'd hoped? Dump her.

Everywhere we turn there are avenues for parting with that which no longer interests us. There are yard sales in neighborhoods every weekend. We advertise our "gently used" items on websites like Craig's List and Freecycle. When all else fails, drag it to the curb. Ever watch a toddler shove things off her plate and onto the floor because she doesn't want to eat it? It's a lot like that.

Inanimate objects don't care what happens to them after they've served their purpose. But living beings do. Kids and dogs who have become too difficult for their caregivers to handle don't enjoy bouncing from place to place, and their behavior shows it. Old senile Uncle Ezra doesn't want to leave his lifelong home and move into a nursing facility. Why do you think he refuses to get out of the car?

What we rarely stop to consider is that just because something is no longer our problem doesn't mean that no one else has to deal with it. Someone has to haul off our trash once a week. Unwanted kids and pets aren't allowed to just wander the streets. The homeless are herded around town like cattle. And that used-up girlfriend? Well, the next guy that takes her better be ready to help her with her baggage.

I don't believe anyone chooses to outlive their "usefulness." My clients who suffer from depression often express feeling as if they no longer have a purpose in life. They say that sometimes they just can't think of a reason to go on living. I can't help but wonder how many times they've found themselves sitting on the curb.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer 2009

June has flown by, hasn't it? End of school was delayed a bit by the Swine... no, N1H1... wait, H1N1... er, really bad virus that was going around. Awards ceremonies didn't take place until June 3rd.

For our family, though, summer doesn't begin until after dance recital. And we all get in on the act:

This year recital was immediately followed by The Big Trip. After nearly a year of planning and saving, we packed up the 5th wheel and convoyed with my sister and brother-in-law and their Goofy Kid to Wyoming. We camped in the Tetons and drove all over Yellowstone National Park. We had an absolute blast viewing wildlife, riding horses, boating, and hiking. Oh, can't forget the eating and shopping, too.

Words fail me as I try to describe the vistas. Perhaps a few humble photos will provide a glimpse into what we experienced:

The End

Monday, June 8, 2009


On my desk lies a lovely red rose. It's opened perfectly - no longer a bud yet not fully opened. It's exactly the way I think roses should look always. It was taken from the splendid arrangement that adorned the top of my friend Roger's casket. The arrangement was lovingly crafted by his sister-in-law Rita. Rita has a gift.

Roger was the entire tenor section in the choir when I answered the call to direct, about four years ago. He had a little reinforcement in the tenor section for awhile, and then he was THE section once again. During the time that I worked with him, his skills continually grew and his voice seemed to never stop improving. This is not to say that he wasn't great to begin with, because he was. He had a terrific voice. It is to say that he was the type that never stopped learning.

Roger got sick some time back. A terrible infection ravaged his heart and took the sight from one of his eyes. He spent a long time in the hospital and a long time in rehab and a long time recovering at home.

I grieve that I never got to know Roger better than I did. We were all too focused during choir rehearsal to just chat. We were all too busy beforehand to just chat. We were all in too big a hurry to "be somewhere" afterward to just chat. There was just never enough time. I regret that, and I've made an effort to change in recent months.

Roger was a quiet guy. Very private. I'm loathe to admit that I am not great at pulling people out of their shells. I have my walls, too. I guess I figured one day I would just win him over with my irresistable charm (ha, ha!). We ran out of time.

Our friendship was kind of like the rose on my desk. We weren't completely closed off from one another, but we weren't completely splayed open, either. We were just beginning to let each other in - just a little - and it was comfortable. These things take time.

I will miss Roger. Those that he allowed into his heart - his family and childhood friends - will miss him even more. We all feel pretty certain we will see him again in time. And that, too, is comfortable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

On Being

Yesterday I posted a note about feelings, what my friend Andrew rated a "three-finger gag reflex" note. Seems I'm not done writing about this stuff, 'cuz here I am again at the keyboard.

A trainer at a recent workshop got a good chuckle out of me when he said, "Women are human beings, men are human doers. I laughed, and I've used that line a few times with clients myself. It just kinda nails it, doesn't it?

This morning, the Little One and I were discussing art. She was heading out on a field trip to an art museum. She has received some recognition for her art work, and she has quite a grasp of all things artistic. We agreed that art wasn't all about what is pleasing to the recipient, but also about how it serves as an expression of the artist.

That's when it hit me - that's when I realized why I have such trouble reigning in my emotions and keeping them under lock and key. Deep down in my inner core, beneath the good grades and the smooth delivery and the attention to grooming, is an artist. And art is reduced to simple elements of technique without emotion.

Dance is just an exercise in kinetics without feeling. Music can be dissected into math and physics without mood. Paintings that are mere representations of objects are no better then photographs. Exclude the descriptive words from an essay and you are left with an article for a technical journal. Tell a story without emotion, and you resemble my college government professor. Boring. Sterile.

I don't want to be sterile. I don't want to be neat and clean and tidy. I don't even want to be pleasant. I want to be messy. I want to be flawed. I want to be real. If I decide I care for you, I want to reach inside of you, grab you by the gut, and shake you up.

I don't want to just go through life accomplishing tasks. I want to be a human being, not a human doer. That's what I want.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Never Grow Up

This morning the Not-So-Little-One performed a tap routine for her peers in the school talent show. Since I see clients on Thursday evenings and will be unable to attend the real show tomorrow night, I sat with the students and watched.

There was some pretty surprising talent among those 11 and 12 year olds. I watched dancers, gaped in utter amazement at a classical piano movement, laughed at a comedy routine, listened intently to Spanish guitar, patted my foot along with electric guitars, was duly impressed with a cellist, and pondered once again the origins of baton twirling.

The Not-So-Little-One has an admirer, a boy that phones her incessantly and follows her around like a puppy at school. She is too nice to tell him to back off, although she has admitted to being quite annoyed with this uninvited attention.

The admirer happened to be sitting on the floor near me at the show this morning.

When the Not-So-Little-One took command of the stage, the admirer sat bolt upright. (I think I might have even heard him gasp.) And then, when she flashed that million-watt smile of hers, I watched him just melt into the floor.

And it all came rushing back to me. I was 12 all over again and pining… no, aching… for some boy. I remembered and heard and smelled and tasted and felt everything as if it were 1974 and I were right back in the school cafeteria, stealing glances at Gary Maxwell as we assembled year books.

For me, memory has always been more emotion and sensation than events. Has this ever happened to you? You step outside and the temperature and sunlight and sounds are just exactly right, and you are suddenly transported to your second-grade classroom...

It seems like just yesterday I was melting into a puddle as I watched the object of my desire stride toward me. And it wasn’t long ago at all that I felt big, cool, drops splatter on my face as I kissed the love of my life in the summer rain - the warmth of his embrace warding off the chill of the water, laughter bubbling out of me and taking hold of his annoyance and smoothing it from his brow.

Some people equate emotions with immaturity. For many of those folks, emotional maturity resembles taking your feelings by the throat, stuffing them into a sound-proof vault, and bolting the door shut. (Just picture a Klingon and a Vulcan at opposite ends of an emotional spectrum.)

If that is maturity, then I don’t ever intend to grow up. I want to feel every feeling, recall every sensation, replay every meaningful memory, and be young in my mind and in my heart forever. And when I believe I really need to act like a grown up, I’ll figure out how to have all of that without annoying the people around me… too much.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dancing Queens

The girls (and their parents) survived the second dance competition of the year and are looking forward to recital in a few weeks. Here are the spectacular results from Midwest City, OK:

Little Less Conversation (tap) - gold achievement

Blackbird (ballet) - high gold achievement

Ain't Nothin' Wrong with That (jazz) - high gold schievement, fifth overall Division 2 large group

Gravity (lyrical) - high gold achievement, fourth overall Division 2 large group

School of Rock (production) - high gold achievement

A special thank you to Mikel's sister and nieces (and great niece) for driving down from Kansas to cheer the girls on. It meant so much to all of us.

Year Nine, here we come!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Having never been a boy, I have no real idea what it is like to be a man. I can joke about it and take silly quizzes on Facebook and pretend to undertand men, but it's all just that - pretending.

I do happen to have a little experience being a woman, however, and let me tell you... it is confusing business. It's confusing because no one out there can seem to agree on what is acceptable female behavior.

If a woman is too giving, she falls victim to those who would take advantage of her. If she is too demanding, she is a bitch.

If a woman stands up for herself, she might hurt someone's feelings. If she keeps her mouth shut, she could get more than her feelings hurt.

If a woman shows off her academic prowess, she is a haughty. If she tames her intellect, she is a bimbo.

If a woman proudly displays her physique, she is a brazen hussy. If she covers up, she is frumpy.

If a woman allows her sensitive side to show, she is over-emotional. If she keeps her feelings to herself, she is an ice princess.

If a woman initiates physical intimacy with her partner, she is a nymphomaniac. If she waits for him to make the move, she is frigid.

If a woman makes and enforces rules in her household, she is a control freak. If she doesn't immediately discipline her children for infractions, she is permissive.

If a woman chooses to have a career, she is not putting her children first. If she chooses to be a housewife, she is not living up to her potential.

If a woman calls her mate throughout the day to check in with him, she is clingy. If she leaves the cell phone in her purse, she is more interested in her work relations than in her man.

If a woman enjoys "girls night out" with her friends, she is not attending to her family's needs. If she stays home every night and asks her husband to do the same, she is needy.

If a woman asks for help, she is helpless. If she takes care of business, she is too independent.

If a woman is soft and curvy, she is weak. If she is muscular and strong, she's butch.

Of course these are glaring extremes. And... we've all heard them. The point is, it is difficult, of not impossible, to find balance. And feeling off balance is perhaps one of the most common causes of distress in a person's life. I sure wish someone would make up my mind for me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Say It Out Loud...

One fine morning, while the sun was shining and the clouds were gently gliding across the prairie sky, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers saddled up Champion and Trigger and set out for a leisurely trail ride.

As they rode along in companionly silence, Gene noticed that Roy was wearing a pair of loafers, the kind of shoes fit for a city slicker and no one else. Not at all the type of thing any self-respecting cowboy would wear on a trail ride.

Not wanting to embarrass his friend, but driven to distraction by the inappropirate use of footwear, Gene finally broke the silence by asking, "Why, Roy, I thought for certain that you just came back from Mexico with a brand new pair of custom-fit boots. A finer pair of boots I don't believe I've ever laid eyes on. Did something happen to them? Why are you wearing loafers, for cryin' out loud?"

Roy looked down at his feet, sighed heavily, and answered, "Well, funny thing you should ask, Gene. I did indeed buy me a pair of custom-made boots last time I was down Mexico way. Last week when I was out ridin' with the boys, at the end of the day, after a little pickin' and singin', I left 'em by the campfire as I settled in for the night. When I woke up the next mornin', I found one of 'em chewed to bits and t'other gone completely. Spied some tracks leadin' away from the site. Some big cat must've had 'em for a midnight snack. Had to ride all the way back home in my sock feet."

Nothing more was said about the boots. Gene had his answer, and Roy was obviously a little embarrased by the whole thing.

Later that evening, after the beans and corn fritters were polished off and the stars were beginning to twinkle in the deep night sky, the boys were startled by a cougar's scream somewhere in the distant yonder. When the horses and the hairs on the backs of their necks finally settled down, Gene drawled, "Pardon me, Roy... is that the cat that chewed your new shoes?"


I am a cool mom. Not just because I baked The Little One a birthday cake fashioned after one of the Jonas Brothers' guitars. Not just because I download tunes to the Not-So-Little-One's mp3 player once a month. And not just because I do a mean hoe-down in the kitchen.

This is why I am quite possibly the coolest mom on the planet:

I am the coolest because I not only agreed to having this in my home, but I also handle it daily.

And when it recently showed no interested in it's meal, I split open the brain of the thawed pinkie mouse and smeared brain matter and blood all over it's naked little body in hopes of making it more appetizing. That has GOT to make me the coolest mom ever.

And then there is the house gecko that one of the neighborhood boys caught and offered The Little One as a gift. I have learned to squelch my utter terror of bugs and help feed it crickets. We buy a dozen crickets at a time, and we actually house and feed the victims until their time has come.

We laid two green iguanas to rest several months ago. They didn't fare too well in captivity. But while they were living, I prepared a lizard salad every morning for their dining pleasure. And I wrestled them while the girls tried to put leashes on them.

When the Not-So-Little-One rescues baby birds from the yard, I resist the urge to remind her that we have yet to successfully keep one of these little dudes alive. Instead, I help her arrange a heating pad beneath a cardboard box and try to hand feed them.

The Not-O-Little-One brought home a caterpillar several years ago. I got online and researched methods of housing them. We nonchalantly plucked leaves off of a neighbor's mulberry tree and kept a moist cotton ball in the jar for water. I'll be hornswaggled if the darn thing didn't metamorphose and emerge as a little white moth. I dried her tears as she reluctantly released it.

Some kids may rate a mom's coolness factor according to her choice of music or the style of her clothes. Some may base that rating upon whether or not she turns a deaf ear to the conversations they are having with their friends in the backseat on the car.

My daughters might tell you that I listen to some weird music and that I have a style of my own. They will definitely tell you that if I hear something hurtful or disrespectful, I will verbalize my opinions about it. Hopefully they will also tell you that I encourage them to enjoy the entire animal kingdom, and that I make an effort to enjoy it along with them.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One Down, One to Go

My girls competed with their dance team at a contest on Saturday. Their group performed in four numbers, and they joined the rest of the teams from their studio for a production number. Here are the results:
  • Tap, Jr Intermediate - "Little Less Conversation" - high silver achievement
  • Ballet, Jr Intermediate - "Blackbird" - gold achievement
  • Jazz, Jr Intermediate - "Ain't Nothing Wrong with That" - gold achievement
  • Lyrical, Jr Intermediate - "Gravity" - gold achievement
  • Combined group production number - "School of Rock" - high gold achievement
The judges then compared points and ranked the teams according to their score and category. In the Jr Intermediate Large Group category, their team took 2nd, 4th, and 5th place overall. This was very exciting!

All but one of the girls on the team were competing for the first time, so the results exceeded everyone's expectations. They compete again in Oklahoma City at the beginning of May, and they have high hopes for a good showing.

In an age when kids seem to lose interest in things quickly and bounce from activity to activity, we can't get over the fact that these two girls are in their 8th year of dance at the same studio. After every year-end recital I ask, "Are you sure you want to do this again next year?" And each time they respond with a resounding, "Yes!"

Be careful when you tell your kids to get involved and do their best. They might just do it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

November 6, 1999 to March 24, 2009

Mushi is a Japanese Chin. He has been part of the family for 9 years. He has brought us joy and comfort and peace and belly laughs. And today his life has come to an end.

About 4 years ago the veterinarian informed me that Mushi had a heart murmur. Turns out this is typical of the breed. Japanese Chins are not the most energetic breed of dog, considering themselves too princely to run about and chase things, and his laid-back nature may have actually given him more years with this bad heart than another breed of dog. For that I am thankful.

We began to notice a severe increase in his coughing and wheezing this past weekend. A trip to the vet's office this morning confirmed my fears - Mushi is in full-blown congestive heart failure. His heart is horribly enlarged and pressing against his trachea, hence the breathing problems. His pulse is dangerously low. Medication might relieve symptoms, but he still would only have a few months to live.

A frank discussion with the doctor led to a decision I was dreading yet prepared to make. This afternoon we will take him to be euthanized. They say it is a "humane" decision. To me that translates to "humans wield power over the rest of the animal kingdom," and I do not take this power lightly.

I also refuse to watch him suffer any longer than necessary.

We knew this day would come, and I prepared the girls for the possibility that the doctor would make such a recommendation. I will pick them up early from school so that they can spend some time with him and say their "goodbyes." I will allow them to witness the procedure if they so choose.

I have never sheltered my children from illness or death. I have gently and compassionately taught them that this is part of being a living creature. I have taught them the value in caring for the sick and in releasing our deceased to the Lord. I may do many things incorrectly as a parent, but I believe in this matter I have done well.

And I have never hidden my emotions regarding these things from my children. They are perhaps the only humans that routinely get past the "walls" I surround myself with. I wish for them to witness feelings being expressed in a healthy manner. I believe I have done well in this matter, as well.

So today we will pet him and we will love him and we will thank him for being such a gift to us. We will weep. We will graciously request that those who do not comprehend our sadness keep their remarks to themselves. We will release Mushi to wherever or whomever little doggie souls go. And we will remember him always.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Been hearing a lot about "bucket lists" lately. As my friends and I get older, mortality starts to become a little more real to us. Don't get me wrong - I plan to be around for a long, long time. But one never knows.

I've thought about it all day, and I've decided that my bucket must be kinda small. I've had a pretty good life, and I've certainly had my share of excitement. And if I stick to things that are within the realm of possibility, the list isn't all that long.

Here they are, in no particular order:
  • I'd like to see Mount Rushmore.
  • I'd like to drink wine beside the Mediterranean.
  • I'd like to meet Matt Lauer. And graciously turn down the marriage proposal that is sure to follow.
  • I'd like to get back down to a size 4.
  • I'd like to go to the San Diego Zoo.
  • I'd like to drive a race car.
  • I'd like to have some of my poetry published.
  • I'd like to go sailing.
  • I'd like to watch the Cubs play at Wrigley Field.
  • I'd like to own a Pinto. Horse, that is. Not a bean.
  • I'd like to earn a PhD.
  • I'd like to sing torch ballads on stage accompanied by an orchestra.

That's all I could think of. Well, I'd also like to have "the girls" returned to their original location. But other than that, I'm good.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tour de Cafe'

Last night I attended an event hosted by Catholic Charities to celebrate the migrants that enrich our communities. There were tasty treats and beverages from around the world. There were items for sale that were handcrafted by refugees that have come through our doors. And there was entertainment. That was my favorite part.

Somehow I managed to find myself mostly responsible for locating and inviting local entertainers to perform at this Tour de Cafe'. Because of the nature of the event, we were looking for internationally-inspired entertainment. It turned out to be more difficult that I imagined. Most of the groups I approached wanted to be paid (the nerve of those people!), and we are a nonprofit agency. Those that were willing to donate their time weren't available during the week.

I needed to schedule six groups. As of the middle of last week, I had one! I decided to give it up to God. I made more calls, sent more emails, and prayed more prayers. God did what He always does - He came through. On Friday the calls started coming in. The "play list" included world drummers and dancers from Japan, Nepal, Burma, and Mexico.

I now had the folks I needed, but they all wanted to come at the same time. Figures. I did my best to schedule them when I needed them, and stepped out in faith once again that it would work out. And... it did. Some showed up way too early, others got stuck in traffic, the two precious dancers from Nepal were asked to do an encore, and a surprise guest singer (famous in his native country) even took the stage. We filled in the gaps with my Rhythm of the River CD, and one of our employees impressed the crowd with his guitar skills.

We had the perfunctory glitches, mostly with sound. I'm a singer. I know nothing about sound systems. I generally walk up to a mic that has already been set up for me. I tell the technician what I don't like, and s/he fixes it for me. I like it that way. I do not have to be an expert on everything.

Someone commented that I take this stuff seriously. Yes, I do. Did I experience stress related to the Tour? Absolutely. Was it distressing? No. Not all stress is distressing. I loved every minute of this. This is a world with which I am accustomed. I agreed to do it, and I meant for it to be successful, for the guests and for the performers. I believe it was.

Next year I'm going after the Middle Eastern dancers...

Monday, March 9, 2009


While driving to work the other morning, I spied a sign for a shop in a strip center - it was called Romance. I quickly ascertained from the items in the display window that the shop sold lingerie and other adult-themed paraphernalia. I squelched my curiosity and continued on my way.

I got to thinking about how often I have heard the terms romance and sex used interchangeably lately. And they are not interchangeable at all in my mind. In a committed relationship, they are both good. But they are not at all the same.

Romance to me has nothing to do with lacy underthings or candles or magic potions. That's sex. Sex is physical. Any member of the animal kingdom can have sex.

Romance (in my humble opinion) is more cerebral. It's about what we perceive via the subtle messages in words and deeds. It is about how we think another feels about us. It is about what we think he or she is willing to do to show those feelings. It's the "falling" part of falling in love.

I love falling in love. I love that part of a relationship when the man is working at pleasing me. When he presents himself in a clean, sweet-smelling package and opens doors for me. When he is careful to say things that will make me smile instead of frown. When he seems excited to see me and interested in what I have to say.

I also love the reciprocal nature of romance. If a man is spoiling me, I want to spoil him back. It feels natural to do so. It feels wonderful. I wish it would last forever. But... it's not meant to last forever. Most of us could never live up to that level of expectation for the long haul.

It sure is nice while it lasts, though...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Last weekend I did something I have never done. I finished a book in under 4 hours. While sitting at a wobbly table at the local skating rink while trying to block out Hannah Montana and The Jo Bros, no less.

I am the world's slowest reader. I love to read, but apparently am very easily distracted. A mountain of reading was assigned in graduate school, and I struggled daily to get through it all. I learned a few tricks, lost a lot of sleep, and persevered.

But last weekend I got Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter, and I couldn't put it down. She begins by writing, "I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters. You are Black and White, Jewish and Muslim, Asian, Spanish speaking, Native Americans and Aleut. You are fat and thin and pretty and plain, gay and straight, educated and unlettered, and I am speaking to you all. Here is my offering to you."

The book is autobiographical in nature, filled with humor and pain in Angelou's personable tone. Like any good Southern Lady, she gently invites you in and welcomes you as if you are an old friend. And like any good Southern Lady, she tells just enough to make you feel connected and stops just short of making you squirm.

Her stories affirm that one's past does not have to dictate one's future. That vulgar treatment need not be answered with vulgar behavior. It gives me hope for myself, my loved ones, and my clients.

Hope was the theme for the weekend, for as soon as I bid Angelou adieu, I dove into The Brain that Changes Itself. Scientist, physician and rehabilitation expert Norman Doidge and his colleagues refute widely held beliefs that the brain is a machine in which different areas are assigned to specific functions and that damage to any of these areas results in permanent loss of those functions.

Through anecdotes and case studies, Dr Doidge demonstrates the neuroplasticity of the brain. By refusing to believe that individuals who have suffered catastrophic birth defects or injuries are doomed to remain "damaged," he and his colleagues set out to teach brains how to compensate for loss. The patients are diverse, and their recoveries are inspiring.

It will no doubt take me more than 4 hours to finish this book, as Dr Doidge is a wee bit more cautious about who he invites into his domain. But maybe if I am really quite and promise not to touch anything, he will allow me to peek in through the blinds and see what he is up to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My father is in the hospital. He is elderly and frail, and the pneumonia is kicking his ass. He is also tough and ornery and very much alive. He is making peace with his Maker, though, and the rest is in God's hands.

My father provided my first glimpses into humanity. Most of the lessons were hard, and differ significantly in their delivery from what most would consider appropriate, but they stuck. Here are a few of the things I learned:
  • A person can do wholly terrible, unspeakable things to another person and yet not be wholly bad. They can make choices that can negatively impact another individual for life and yet still have many redeeming qualities.
  • A child will love her parent, no matter how badly he hurts her. And she does not have to understand it or apologize for it or feel guilty about it.
  • Causing someone harm, even repeated harm, does not necessarily mean that you do not love them. It might mean you do not know how to love them the way they need to be loved.
  • No man lives in a vacuum. A person's actions ALWAYS have in impact on others, oftentimes in ways he would never anticipate. And the impact often reaches beyond the initial point of contact.
  • An apology is neither an eraser nor a pain reliever. The past cannot be changed, and saying "I'm sorry" cannot mend a broken heart.
  • A boy will learn what he lives. Conversely, he will not learn something if it is never taught to him.
  • A human need not be treated humanely in order to learn to treat others so.
  • A person who feels out of control might try to regain control by controlling those around him. And the people he tries to control might choose to submit. For awhile.
  • With enough hard work, a person can rise above his circumstances. A person can change, but is more likely to do so when the costs begin to outweigh the benefits of his ways.
  • It is possible to forgive even the most heinous acts. And forgiveness does not have to resemble love or devotion or affection. It doesn't even have to resemble respect. It is what it is.
  • Forgetting is harder than forgiving. Since it is virtually impossible for most people to forget traumatic events, perhaps the forgetting need be more about our own anger and hatred than the event itself.
  • Forgiving and forgetting is for the victim, not for the perpetrator.

I was always a good student. My father expected that of me. I pray that I will make the most of these lessons.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I used to be a real no-nonsense kinda girl. As a youth I attended a church that discouraged interest in anything paranormal - ghosts, post-Resurrection miracles, and astrology were all off-limits topics.

I wondered (but never out loud) why we bothered to pray for sick people when modern day miracles didn't exist. I was always confused with the whole "Holy Ghost" thing. If ghosts weren't real, how could there be a Holy Ghost? And I certainly didn't understand how reading my horoscope could make me vulnerable to evil spirits, especially since there weren't any spirits to begin with.

At university I took a handful of psychology courses from a highly-respected professor who worked diligently to drive it through our thick skulls that so-called paranormal phenomena were nothing more than timely coincidences. Science, research, and hard facts were the only thing that counted. If it couldn't be proven through scientific method, it never happened.

My mother believed in ghosts. She told some fabulous stories from her homeland. I thought she was superstitious and unenlightened. She, after all, had not attended an institute of higher learning.

And then... stuff started happening to me. Stuff that defied reason and rational thinking. Stuff that changed the way I view the world around me.

I bought a little house in Arlington. It wasn't grand, but the price was right and the seller was eager to close. It wasn't until after I had moved in that the neighbors informed me of the previous owner's death. They said his name was Scott. A few months later they added that he had died in his garage in his car with the engine running. Tragic.

At first I noticed that my things kept disappearing. Earrings, scarves, lipsticks would just vanish from my dresser and night stand. Then I started hearing noises. Doors opening and closing, footsteps on hard wood floors. Always when I was alone, of course. I told myself it was either the house settling or my imagination.

One evening I was in the kitchen cooking dinner when the electricity went out. The breaker box was right there in the kitchen, so I dragged a chair over, climbed into it, and opened the little door. Before I could flip the breaker, the power came back on. As I stepped off of the chair, the power went back out. Another reach for the breaker box door and the power came back on. This went on for several minutes.

I remembered a friend telling me once that it was helpful to talk to a bothersome ghost. I was getting pretty perturbed, so I gave it a try. I stood in the middle of the kitchen, feeling silly, and asked Scott to please stop messing with the electricity. I told him he was frightening me. The power came back on and stayed on.

Some time later I sold the house. The new owners were acquaintances and began moving in before I was completely out. When I went back for my very last boxes, the new lady of the house told of a few "strange" occurrences. I listened with interest but did not tell her about my experiences in the house. When I went to leave, my car keys were missing. They were not on the cocktail table where I had laid them. We searched the entire house. No keys. I managed to find a way home, with a promise from the new homeowners that they would keep looking for the keys.

The next evening they called to tell me they had found my keys, sitting on the seat of the motorcycle they had parked on the side of the house and chained to the fence. I had not been anywhere near the side yard or the motorcycle.

Some other inexplicable things have happened since then. I'm not as quick to dismiss them as coincidence as I once was.

I got a fun new book for Christmas titled Weird Texas. It's about odd places, unexplained phenomena, and (you guessed it) ghost stories from all over the state. I am enjoying it immensely. And I can enjoy it because my view of the world is no longer limited to what can be scientifically proven.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Vacation 2008

This year's holiday break took us to South Padre Island, as far south as we could go and still be in our beloved Texas.

This is a terrific time of year to go down there - it's not cold, it's not crowded, and it's not expensive. What is there to do on the coast in the winter, you ask? Why, I'd be happy to tell you!

It's a long drive from FW to SPI, so we took a bit of a detour and spent the first night in Fredericksburg. We got a good look at the historic town dressed in holiday lights from a horse-drawn carriage. The outdoor ice rink was closed, for some reason. A successful search for jalapeno peanut butter and a German meal were worth the few extra miles.

It was a bit chilly the first two days on the island, so we visited the sea turtle rescue center, the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Turns out that retirees are not the only "snowbirds" to be found in the Rio Grande Valley.

We took a 2-hour cruise in Laguna Madre on a very tidy pirate ship called the Black Dragon. I was a little embarrassed about the whole thing at first, but it was really fun! They keep the kids busy with water gun fights, limbo, treasure hunts, sword fighting, and other pirate-foolery. And we saw plenty of bottle-nose dolphins in the bay.

The rest of the time on the island was spent on the beach. The girls got in the water, but I chose to nap on the sand. Perfection - no crowds, no sunburns, and no mosquitos!

Oh, yeah... this goes without saying - we ate tons of sea food and shopped like tourists.
We were sad to leave, but reality was calling. A stop in Gruene on the way home gave us a chance to stretch our legs and dine at my favorite restaurant, the Gristmill. And then we pressed onward, looking forward to crashing in our own beds.

It is good to be home and back amongst friends. I returned nice and rested, ready to tackle the mountain of work that greeted me Monday morning.

Hope you and yours had a blessed holiday and that the coming year holds much promise.