Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Been a While

Today ... is mine.

I have put in my required school hours. I don't have any appointments, errands or running around to do. My (quick) half hour dance lesson for the week is behind me. The only thing I have on today's agenda is ... work.

Work and work alone. Nothing else that I'm trying to squeeze into the day. I can focus on the task at hand and go strong. All day.

I wonder how that will work for me?

I've become accustomed to being pulled in several different directions at the same time. I just sat down and looked at my calendar for the past few months. Ever since I stepped out of my Christmas holidays and into January, my life has been frenzied.

The preparations and alterations to my life during the month and a half prior to the dance competition were all consuming.

It's been a good ride. I can't wait for the next big adventure that Life has in store ...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Back in Montreal

A few days ago, I finally gathered up all of my memories of My Great Dance Adventure and put them all away. I had been home just over a week and I thought the time had come, to put the little pile of mementos away in my special memory box.

I tidied up the table tops and thought wistfully about the anticipation, the hype, the excitement, the wind-up, the reality, the wind-down of this whole experience. I believe that it was about the middle of December that this dream started becoming very real to me. February is almost drawing to a close. I have spent the better part of the past three months anticipating, living and reflecting on a dream. It has been heavenly.

I feel changed inside. Just because the mementos of the experience aren't in full view, it doesn't change a thing. There is this little piece of happy inside of me. I'm sure that I will be able to pull out this experience and relive it for decades to come. It's the magic of a first experience with a sprinkle of dancing and seasoned with a most wonderful group of people. Ahhh ...

I was ever so slowly drifting back into my regularly scheduled life. I'm winding up another course at school. I've been working at my book keeping regularly once again. I started cooking meals (finally). Real life was taking precedence in my thoughts.

Then ... I got yesterday's mail!

I saw a large envelope sticking out of the mailbox as I drove up the driveway. I thought "This is it! This could be my DVD of the dances that I danced in Montreal."

And it was.

I was so excited. Not only because I received this DVD ... but because a cheque spilled out of the envelope right along with it. A cheque that would cover half of the expense of getting my hair back to a shade that is a little less shocking. A cheque that I received because they didn't capture three of the dances that I had paid for (I was relieved that choice was taken out of my hands - I had no idea how to pick and choose which dances to tape, so I just chose all of them).

I watched that DVD over and over again. I was back in Montreal! I was reliving the moment. I would catch a glimpse of a look or an interaction between my dance instructor and myself and I'd remember a moment that I may have otherwise forgotten.

I picked myself apart. The very first thing I noticed was that my skimpy rhythm costume rode up much higher than I thought. I just wanted reach right through the screen and yank it down - no respectable 'person of my age' should be wearing such a short skirt!

Then I started watching my feet ... my arms ... my dance position ... and all of the many things we had worked on. I thought to myself "I don't think I learned a thing! It looks like I'm out there social dancing." It didn't look like I was performing in front of judges (my scores reflected that). But ... I was having fun.

Then ... the moment of truth. I noticed my hair.

The Man Who Knows All (the owner of the dance studio) was right. My hair looked (I'm only saying this because I had nothing to do with it) great!

The brilliant orange highlights were simply that - highlights. From the distance of the camera (and the judges), these highlights did as they were intended to do. They made my hair noticeable - but not gaudy. The cut? I have fought with this hair and cursed it every time I've washed it since this new style. It takes an extraordinary amount of time and energy to tame it down and this hair just makes me angry. But ... it looked perfect (again - this had nothing to do with me so I can be honest about what I think). The Man Who Knows All still holds that honor in my mind. He knew what he was talking about. I'm glad that I trusted him.

I spent last night 'in Montreal' and it was a very good visit. After I turned off the DVD, I turned on the theme song that I correlate with this whole event (I Gotta Feeling). I played it loud. I sang. I danced a little. I let the music into my soul. I felt everything wonderful ... all over again (and over and over and over, as I replayed this song enough times to drive the other members of my house insane).

It's nice when a little piece of wonderful is rekindled. I have no doubt that these memories will remain my the 'Top 10' for a very, very long time.

If ever my life flashes before me ... what will I see? My kids ... my family ... my friends ... and dancing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Am Puppy ... Hear Me Bark!

It came to me out of the blue today. I remind myself of a puppy ...

First and formost, I'm kind of yappy. I listen to myself chattering incessently. Once the momentum starts, I have a hard time stopping. I'm sure that those who spend much time around me would love to muzzle me at times.

I love to have the people around me happy. I often find myself wishing that I could do more to make someone else's pain or stress go away. Though there is little that I can do (more often than not), I do what I can. And it's never enough. I wish I could wag my little puppy tail and take away someone else's woes.

I run around in circles until I'm exhausted. The energy and exhaustion comes in bits and bites. I have too much energy at times and it needs to be harnessed. Then ... I sit still and I'm down for the count.

I am loyal and trusting. I trust people until they give me reason not to. Then even if they do something that threatens the trust factor and they are sincere in their apology, I forgive and carry on.

I am protective. Don't threaten my family or you will hear me growl. I've never been pushed to my limits, but there have been times when it has been close. There is nothing that I wouldn't do, to protect my pack.

I need only the basics in life. Food, water, sleep and to be loved. Feed me and nurture me and I'm your loyal pal.

But ... I'm fussier than a puppy. I'm a pretty fussy carnivore (I like my meat lean, well cooked and without bones).

I guess that is where the similarities end. But I don't mind having a few puppy qualities. If only I wasn't so yappy ...

Ruff! Ruff!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Dating

I could probably count on one hand, the number of times that I have been actually asked out ... on a date.

My two, teen-age romances happened only because I 'came in second' to my best friend. The boys were after her ... and after she became unavailable, I was left over. Or that is how it felt anyway.

I'm not complaining. I went out with a very nice young guy who moved away. I married the second and we had two children together. Not a bad deal for coming in second. I came in first in the end ... because I gained two sons.

Our marriage was an on again, off again type of relationship. Married a year; divorced a year; remarried two years; separated two years; reconciled three years and that was it. Three strikes, you're out.

In those 'off' years, I was asked out on possibly three dates. I'm thinking that my last official date may have been ... 27 years ago? I could be wrong. But it is close to three decades ago.

The only relationship that I have had since my marriage ended, never had that pivotal dating moment. We coffee'd together for months on end, we became friends, we did things with our kids together and we went for walks. One day, things sparked ... and the rest is history. But never was there that 'first date' moment. That was okay. Actually, it was perfect. Because what we had, was friendship first.

That relationship was also one of an on again, off again variety. During the 'off' times, I heard rumors of two different men that were interested in me. I was never approached, so nothing ever transpired. But I couldn't believe how good it felt ... just to be noticed. That feeling carried me through a lot of quiet times in my life.

I have been on my own for several years once again. I've become incredibly comfortable in this 'life as I know it'. It fits. It feels right. Certainly, I wonder at times what it may be like to be part of a relationship again. But for the most part, I don't even think about it. I am living a life that I love. A life that doesn't have a lot of empty space in it, to spend the time it takes to work on making a relationship work.

Why do I write all of this? Because ... I was asked out on a date last week. I replayed the conversation in my mind, because I was quite certain that I had misinterpreted the intent. But no ... there was no mistaking it. It was a request to spend time with me.

My reaction? I don't have time for this. I have a young child at home. I need to be home early and not go out any more than I already do.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

But, a week has passed since I was approached on this whole 'date' thing. And I thought that something just feels off ...

The idea that someone who has spoken to me twice (including the date request), would ask me out somehow doesn't feel right.

Our conversations consisted of me speaking ... about dancing. Nothing more. His request was for me to teach him to dance. He commented that it is very hard to meet new people. On that, I do tend to agree.

But I'm feeling very greedy right now. I don't want to spend my energy on getting to know someone who is a stranger to me. I don't want to 'teach' someone. I don't want anything less than an equal partnership.

I look at my life and the people in it. My life is still busy. My friends and family inspire me. My time at the dance studio is nothing less than tonic for my soul. I find myself gravitating towards people that energize me. By their thinking, their actions, their honesty and their ability to laugh.

Would I look twice at a 'friendship that caught fire'? Definitely. Would I consider getting to know someone who made me laugh? For sure. Would I think about dating someone who was an equal partner in a conversation ... a conversation that made my knees shake? Yes.

But to spend energy on going out with someone who is a complete and total stranger to me? It frightens me. That was my first instinct and I believe it was a good one.

I'm grateful to be noticed, but I'm getting fussy in my old age. I may spend my years alone ... but I will never be lonely.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Returning to Life as I Know It

It has been a glorious ride. These past months of anticipating this Great Dance Adventure have been as marvelous as The Adventure itself. There is not a moment that I would change.

I love the fact that I can relive the moments each and every time I talk about the events of the past few weeks. This adventure had so very little to do with travelling and vacation destinations. It had everything to do with the people that I kept company with.

The very best thing about making people such an integral part of the memory, is that I get to 'keep' those people in my life.

The changes to our day to day lives upon our return is unchanged for the most part. A lot of the people that went along on this Adventure with me, are people that I don't see on a regular basis at the dance studio. But I know that I am a little bit changed inside, because I got to know a small piece about these people. This is a gift that I could pack up and take home with me.

When our paths cross again (and I know that they will), we will have a connection that we didn't have before. A shared experience. A memory of a time that was out of the ordinary.

As I walk through my regularly scheduled life, I am changed. Ever so slightly. I have something special in my memory bank and will propel myself forward from here.

I must return to the books, kids, house keeping and errand running. And dancing. It may only be a fraction of the time that I will be spending at the studio compared to the extra lessons I took in preparation for The Big Event. But I shall continue to dance.

Every time I dance ... every time I hear a song that reminds me of time well spent on the Greatest Adventure of My Life So Far ... I will feel the feelings that I felt while I was living my dream.

Life as I know it is good. In fact, I think it's even a little better than it was before this memory making experience ...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

And On the Fifth Day ...

I have been back home for four full days. Today, the fifth day, I finally feel like I'm ready to step back into my regularly scheduled life.

But the four days prior?? Not so much.

The first day was complete and utter distraction. I would start to do one thing. It would branch off to four different things that I thought of, while I was doing the first. Then the four new tasks would multiply into 16. I was spinning in circles. Never quite finishing one task in its entirety. My body couldn't catch up with my brain. But it kept me moving.

The second and third day were tough. I had to return to school. Omigosh. Reading a thick manual on customer service when the exhaustion levels were just starting to peak, was not high on my priority list. But there I was. At school. Fighting with every cell in my body, to simply stay awake.

I came home from school and the exhaustion took over. I sat down to read a book but I don't think that I ever turned a page. I was tired beyond words.

The evening of the third day was my dance lesson. CPR for my soul!! My instructor asked my to bring/wear my new ball gown ... I bought a ball gown while in Montreal ... tres (French for 'very') exciting!!

My dance lesson was fun in every sense of the word. We danced, we laughed and we are working on our next routine. I was revived!!

My lesson was followed by a few group classes and then a dance. As we grouped together in conversation from time to time, I was quietly amazed to find myself standing in the middle of a small group of people. Fitting in. Talking. Feeling comfortable. I quite often sit and talk to whoever may come and go in the chairs beside me. But Thursday night ... I was standing. I was becoming 'part of a whole'. It was small. It was wonderful.

Then they played 'The Song'. The song that resonates within, long after the thrill of the dance competition is behind me. 'I Gotta Feeling' was playing in our dance studio. I was dancing with my instructor. The music seeped into my soul ... and I got to dance to my new favorite theme song! Life just doesn't get any better than that!!

All good things must come to an end. I had to return to my regularly scheduled life after Thursday's dance.

Friday - the last day of the work week. One more morning of school. One more afternoon with my daycare child. The day that I give my house a decent cleaning before the weekend. A day that I finally had the courage to face up to some of the book keeping work that has been walking through my door each day this week. Time to face the music and do a little work. I was (finally) ready for it.

My Youngest has been taking over a great deal of my daycare load lately. First, he took over before and after school care for one child, while I was gone last week. Then upon my return, he took over the morning shift (tending this same child) so that I could put in my required school hours.

It was too much. By the second last day, My Youngest was tiring. By yesterday ... he was done. I had no choice - I really had to get my school hours in. I wanted to be at school as much as My Youngest wanted to be tending a young child. But we endured.

Thankfully, yesterday provided an opportunity for My Youngest to finally feel like he was on a school break. He had a friend over all afternoon. His friend stayed and we went to a movie last night. We picked up supper on the way home. I suggested that his friend sleep over. After all of the hours that My Youngest put in, so that I could take off on my Dream Vacation (and then deal with school upon my return), I was so grateful that we had the chance to do something a little bit out of the ordinary for him.

Today, the fifth day ... I finally feel ready to face my world. A day that doesn't consist of anything but the book keeping work that I have been avoiding all week. A day that can unfold without the responsibilities of school or daycare obligations. A day that My Youngest can just relax and be a child again.

And on the fifth day ... I worked (and I saw that it was good).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Adversity

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant."
~Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus), Satires

I look back on the challenges in my life ... and I'm grateful. Each and every adversity has molded my personality, made me stronger and more empathetic to those around me.

It's hard to be grateful for adversity when you are in the thick of it. But when the crisis has passed ... one can almost always look back and find something that they have gained by enduring the unthinkable.

I have family and friends that are facing their own adversities right now. The crisis may have passed, but they are still living each day as it comes. There is much healing required.

There is a quote that comes to mind when life happens like this. Simple words said by a strong but mighty soul that I worked with once upon a time. She had faced one personal crisis after the next. Then her dad died. She stood tall and was trying to be brave and she uttered the words, "I know that God only gives us what we can handle .... but I just wish that He didn't think that I was so strong!"

The sun keeps rising on each new day. I hope that those facing the storms of life right now will soon be able to look back at this time and find a talent, a gift, an appreciation or a blessing that would have remained dormant had they not been faced with adversity ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Can't Always Get What You Want ...

While I was at My Great Dance Adventure, I bought a ballgown. A gown that has no room for 'growth' (I can't gain any weight). It seems as if my world is trying to move me in a direction so that I will not have any problem fitting into that gown ...

I have often commented on my wallflower persona - how I blend in with scenery and the many times in the past where I was overlooked. That hasn't happened a lot lately. Then with this shocking new hair of mine, I thought those days were over. Not.

I fully intended on ordering dessert after supper the last night of Our Dance Adventure. The waitress skipped over me. No dessert.

The next day, I was salivating at the mere thought of the mini bag of chips that I was going to buy on the plane as we headed home. I didn't catch the flight attendant's eye when she was taking requests for food orders. No chips for me.

I thought ... ahhh! It is a force greater than myself, that is helping me maintain the weight that I need to maintain, to fit into that ballgown.

Then there is the chicken that I have been craving lately. We went out for deli sandwiches the last day of our adventure. I like my meat in very small, lean portions. I was a little less than thrilled about this choice of restaurant. But when I spotted chicken as one of the sandwich choices, I was relieved. What should be one of the first things I heard upon sitting at our table? "We are out of chicken." But they had turkey. I thought that would do ... until I heard the words turkey roll. Not too appetizing. Someone ordered a large chicken meal and I said that I could share it. One cut into the dark, juicy, fatty meat (which was attached to a bone ... I like my chicken white, skinless, boneless, without fat and a little on the dry side) and I was done. No chicken for me.

I went out for supper the night after I returned home, still craving chicken. I spotted chicken souvlaki on the menu and my mouth started watering once again. But what did my mouth say when I ordered it? Souvlaki. I forgot to say chicken. So I got pork. I thought I could eat the pork - I've done it before. But it smelled funny. I couldn't do it.

So I suggested that I cook chicken and rice last night for supper. My appetite was ready for that chicken! Mmmm ... I could smell it cooking. This would be good. I went to retrieve some chicken out of the freezer, and there wasn't any. Sigh. I cooked spaghetti and meat balls instead. I prefer meat sauce but I thought I could digest a meat ball. Until I cooked them. They didn't smell like chicken and I lost my appetite. Again.

As few of my food cravings were being satisfied, I thought of my ballgown. I thought of the necessity to stay at a weight where I will fit into it. And this song ran through my mind:



I can't always get what I want ... but I get what I need.

P.S. Eventually, I satisfied both of the Pringles and Chicken cravings and ... I still fit into my new ballgown.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

All That's Left is the Orange Hair

Be it ever so humble ... there's no place like home.

It doesn't matter if I'm gone hours, days or a week (I've never been gone longer than a week), I love coming home.

If I could have been granted one wish upon my return from our dance competition, it would have been to pack up one of our travel-mates (any one of them ... I loved visiting with each and every person in our group) and bring them home with me. I had become used to having a room-mate. I was going to be lonely. And I was. For about one minute.

I returned home from the airport with my family and since we had exchanged a brief update on the car ride and it was late at night ... we all drifted in separate directions.

As I reassembled my old life, I realized that it was a good thing that I no longer had a room-mate. I immerse myself in my little world. I indulge myself in all of my little idiosyncrasies (that would drive any mortal being crazy). My brain was so full, it was restful not to have any more new input. Amazingly, it was also very peaceful for me to stop the flow of my own words (I exhaust myself at times).

I unpacked and settled back into my life. It is a good fit.

Throughout the course of the day, two of my fake nails broke off. The nails were too long and cumbersome anyway but I had thought that I'd get my money's worth out of them and keep them up for a little while. But when the second one snapped off, I evened off the rest. My nails have been reinstated to a length that allows me to type and navigate a little better in the real world.

I have returned to my regularly scheduled life. Without the adornments of a ballroom dancer. All of the glitz and the glam have been washed off, worn off or broken off. The 'old me' is back. Until I look in the mirror and I still find the shock of seeing that brilliant orange hair.

The fairy tale world of princesses and ballgowns is a nice place to visit ... but I wouldn't want to live there. It is good to be back.

But until I have a chance to deal with the bright, orange highlights in my hair ... I still have a visual reminder of my Dance Adventure of 2010.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Hitting Home

(Originally dated Feb 9th ... scheduled to be posted after my return)

My Youngest has been pretty blase about my upcoming trip. Most things will be the same for him. He gets to stay home with his Older Brother.

He has a few school days to put in before the February Break. I'll make his lunch the morning I leave and there are a few 'lunchables' for him for the rest of the week.

He is going to a birthday party while I'm away. A party that he would have missed, if he had been going on a holiday with me.

He gets to stay home ... he loves being home. His domain downstairs contains everything his heart desires. He doesn't like being away from home long. In fact, when I asked if he would like to go on a holiday since everyone else in the family was going on one, his quick reply was, "No. I just like to stay home." And he means it.

This past weekend, he was busy. He babysat while I was at school, he went over to a friends while I ran errands and he went swimming. In between his active social life, I begged for him to come along with me when I ran to pick up some supper on Saturday. "Please" I begged, "just for the visit." He sighed a long sigh and said, "I just want to stay home."

I had hoped to spend some time with him this weekend, since I would be going away this week. But he had other plans. I'm glad he had other plans. He is supposed to have other plans.

But sometimes ... I miss him.

Last night, it finally hit him. I'm going away. All of a sudden, my little boy was back. He needed some time with me before I left.

Tonight, we have a date. It will most likely be 'supper and a movie' at home. But what we both need right now, is just to breathe the same air, sit in the same room together and just spend some time together.

He doesn't need me as much as he used to. But I'm glad that he does still want to spend some time with me. I'll miss him too.

(I've written this the morning before I leave, but have decided not to post it until after I come home. I doubt there are any 'lurkers' out there ... but it's better safe than sorry. By the time this post is read by anyone, I will be back home. Protecting my young and breathing the same air as My Youngest).

I've Got a Feeling ...

I can't put in words, what this song does for me ... but I have tried:
video
I have lived a dream!! I savored every moment. This song shall continue to bring it to life for me every time I hear it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Coming Home ...

All good things must come to an end. So it is, with the Great Dance Adventure of 2010.

What lies on the horizon? Who knows. If someone would have told me I would have had this opportunity a year ago, I wouldn't have believed them. That fact alone makes me believe that absolutely anything is possible.

Life isn't full of grand adventures ... it is defined by how we walk through our daily routines.

The gift, is to find adventure in everything you do. Make each day the best day of your life-so-far. Every single morning, we awake to endless possibilities. Sure, they aren't all fun and games ... but even a bad day is a day to be conquered. Like climbing a mountain. You can only appreciate the view as you near the top. The view is fleeting ... the struggle is what builds your character and lasts forever.

Yes, this Dance Event has come and gone. The moment was fleeting, in the whole scheme of things. What will I remember? The challenge, the struggles, the fun, the adventure, the novelty, the people ...

Throughout this voyage, I have heard so much from so many. Encouragement, advise, support and friendship. When all of the memories fade, as memories do ... I will hold onto the words, the friends and the people who have made this such a Memorable Time in My Life.

I'm headed home as I write this ... back to earth and back to the reality that is my life. It's a good life - a life that I'm thrilled is awaiting my return. What if I didn't have that? An everyday-life that I savor, surrounded with people that inspire and fuel me. There is no Grand Adventure in the world, that could make up for not having what I've had all along.

I have a most wonderful life. I have fulfilled a most amazing dream. I am ready to put my feet back on the ground and go forward from here.

As always ... it feels good to be coming home.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Time to Absorb and Learn ...

This morning's agenda consists of attending lectures by World "Top Coaches". Three hours of information from the pros (and lunch too!).

After our whirlwind dance showcases back at home, I have found myself ill prepared to absorb anything 'the day after' the big event. I am quite eager to attend these lectures though ... because I have had three complete days (the third day - just to relax and watch everyone else dance) to sit back and take in all there is to absorb while I'm here.

I should be able to take in some new information ... and I love the opportunity to prolong this entire dance experience.

Then, we will have the entire afternoon and evening to explore what Montreal has to offer. I don't know what is on the agenda. I just know that I'm taking in every moment. These memories are coming home with me and are going to last a lifetime.

I'm absorbing it all and will write all about it when I get home!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Wide Eyed Innocence of Children

I have developed a small crush on one of the gentlemen at our dance studio. It all started at our Christmas Dance and it's only gotten better since then.

The One Who Has Captivated My Interest may only be 8 years old ... but he has qualities that older men should watch and learn.

He is who he is. When he's nervous, you know it. When he's happy, you know it. And ... when he's dancing with you, you know it's because he's in a competition with his older (9 1/2 years old) brother - to see who can dance the most in an evening.

My heart was happy when I saw him running towards me at our last dance, to ask me to dance. Yes, I knew he was back in the running to see if he could win the prize for dancing the most. Yes, I was one of the few girls that was sitting down so his choices were limited. But the excitement, the happiness. I like it!

Our Two Young Dancers have been coming to our group dance classes regularly and as we switch partners often, I have had a few more opportunities to have snippets of conversation with this Young Man.

Kids. You've gotta love them and their complete and utter honesty.

We were dancing one time and he looked at me and without preamble, he asked if I was married. I told him that I wasn't. To which he responded "So why are you wearing this, then?" (pointing to my ring). I told him that it had been my mom's. Ahh! "So she gave it to you, right?" Right.

I smiled as I retold the story to My Instructor and was quickly brought down to earth as I found out that this is his way. He asks everyone if they are married. I was still smiling when I heard this heartbreaking news. It is because of that honesty.

Why aren't adults like that? They hedge and wonder and often miss opportunities because ... they don't ask.

As these Young Gentlemen grace us with their presence in the dance studio regularly, it lightens my heart. We develop so many insecurities, masks and preconceptions as we mature. So much is to be learned by watching those younger than us ...

Speaking of these young men, they are also at this dance competition and they danced on Friday. They had many fans on the sidelines and I am thrilled to be one, among many!

Dance on!! (and keep your wide eyed innocence too).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Big Event!!

THIS ... is where I am!! Today! It is real.

Meanwhile ... back at home, My Nephew is facing heart surgery today. It feels so very wrong for me to be living a dream, while real life goes on in my absence.
I'm going to dance my heart out for you, Nephew. Be well ... and what will I be thinking as I walk onto the dance floor? "This one's for you!"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Will Someone Please Clean the Cat Litter ...

I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't think about ''what if ..."

What if ... these were my last days to walk on this earth? Did I leave my life in order? Did I say all that I needed to say? Do the people in my life know what they mean to me? Is the house clean??

I have had waves of feeling ''this is it'' ... life is too good. I've said all I have to say. I think the end is near. Then the calendar pages continue to fly by.

There have been many times when I had written letters and told people near and dear to me how special they are to me. I would write one letter, then the next and yet another. I thought "I have said good-bye to the people I care about''. I'm ready to go now. Then, another decade passed by.

Every time we headed out on the open highway, I would have a sense of trepidation. "What if ... we don't make it home?" Is the house clean? Is the laundry done? I've always been rewarded to returning to a clean house and only the laundry that we brought home.

I've had general anesthetic twice in my life. Each time, it has been for something very minor. But it reminds me of my human vulnerabilities when I am oblivious to all that is going on around me. "What if ... I don't wake up?" Have I done everything that needs to be done? Obviously, I woke up as I continue to wake up every single morning of my life. Even at times when I'd rather be sleeping ... I wake up. That's life.

Last year, my mom and I headed off on a winter holiday together. This holiday involved four separate flights for me. Four landings and four take offs. I had just lived the best-year-of-my-life-so-far. I had spent Christmas with my own little family ... some frail relationships were on the cusp of becoming healed. I was happy beyond words. I had written a book, compiled many photo slide shows - for my kids, about my own family, our extended family and for all of the kids I babysat for. I had just sent off Christmas cards, letters and a poem about my extraordinary year. It just doesn't get better than that. I was so entirely happy, I was scared. And I was going on a plane. "What if ... that was the last year of my life?" I was peaceful with the knowledge that I had written and put together the evidence of a life I was eternally grateful to be living. But ... I was still around to write the next years Christmas cards, so obviously it wasn't my time to go.

There was a time in my life when I didn't know what it felt like to be happy, serene and at peace with my world. 'Happiness' was foreign to me. With it, there always came a foreboding thought of "It can't last ..." This ominous sense of dread marked many of my years in my Old Life. Thus, my preoccupation with the idea of 'good things can't last'.

The last few years of my life have proven me wrong on every level. Just when I think that life couldn't get better ... it does. Just when I think that I couldn't be happier ... I am. Just when I think I have life by the tail ... I climb one more 'mountain'. I have come to accept the fact that good things ... can get better!

That said, at this very moment I'm flying off to The Greatest Adventure of My Life So Far.

Is my house clean? Relatively. When leaving two people, a cat and a dog behind to tend to 'life' in my absence, I know that the house will be well lived in. If someone doesn't vacuum while I'm away, I think that we will be able to knit up a Chihuahua out of the hair that The Monster Dog has shed.

This brings me to the title of my blog ...

My family loves cats. All of us are cat lovers. When My Oldest went through a heart wrenching time in his life and was feeling lost and alone, I suggested that he get a cat. He loves cats. A cat is undemanding, yet entertaining and loving when they want to be (kind of like my little family). I love living in a home with a pet. You are never alone. My Oldest considered it, but decided (rather easily) that he wouldn't get a cat. He didn't want to clean the litter. I asked My Second Son and My Youngest if they would be willing to clean the cat litter while I was away. They (as easily as My Oldest vetoed the idea of adopting a cat) said ... "No".

So ... as I have done before, I lined up the spare cat litter boxes that I have on hand for occasions such as this and I will clean a week's worth of 'litter' upon my return.

Yes - I've had another great year. My family unit feels stronger than it has ever felt before. I continue to tell people what they mean to me. My house is clean (at least when I leave, it will be). And ... I'm living my dream. I'm participating in a dance competition!!

I still have another 'book' to write. I have an education to complete, a new career on my horizon and my next dream vacation is to go on an Alaskan cruise. Then there is the Bed and Breakfast of My Future. Not to mention, my house hasn't had a good cleaning in more years than I can remember. I have a lot left on my life-list-of-things-to-do. I'll be back!!

But, if I don't return ...

"Would someone please clean the cat litter??" "Please??"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Makes Me Crazy

In my quest to make getting ready for The Big Day as stress free as possible, I have gone off the deep end.

The things that 'matter' when it comes to a dance competition are crazy. The idea is to be noticed. From 25 feet away. So everything has to be done in extremes.

Hair with earth tone highlights? Blase. Let's go for carrot orange! Natural skin tones? You look pale and washed out. Tan is in! Eyes? You must notice the eyes! Nails? Hands must match the feet and grooming must be impeccable! Costumes? Glittery and showy (no more black for me)! Jewellery? 'Bling' (an adornment (as a bracelet or ring or necklace) made of precious metals and set with gems or imitation gems) is in!

Bright! Big! Showy! Otherwise, you blend in with the woodwork (I'm wondering what is wrong with that).

So ... I have gone crazy. From spray tanning, to fake nails, to fake eyelashes and fake orange highlights in my hair. I should be able to act like an entirely different person when I get out on the dance floor ... because there is nothing 'real' about me.

The past few days have been all about taking care of all of the primping. The girly stuff that is simply not me. It's sort of fun ... but oh, so time consuming (and expensive)! I've been running around the city, beautifying myself.

It's enough to make you go crazy:

video

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Dance Too Fast

My dance instructor has nicknamed me 'Speedy'. I speed into the studio (even when I'm on time ... watch out, if I'm running late). I think fast, I move fast, I love the fast songs and I dance too quickly through the slow songs. I read this poem and thought 'Guilty as charged'. It's time to slow down. The music won't last ...
Don't Dance So Fast
Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?
Or listened to the rain
Slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?
Or gazed at the sun of the fading night?
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
Do you run through each day
On the fly?
When you ask
How are you?
Do you hear the reply?
When the day is done
Do you lie in your bed
With the next hundred chores
Running through your head?
You'd better slow down
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
Ever told your child,
We'll do it tomorrow?
And in your haste,
Not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch,
Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time
To call and say hi
You'd better slow down.
Don't dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won't last.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift....
Thrown away.
Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.
~Author Unknown~

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Horoscopes

I ripped this horoscope out of the paper quite some time ago. Even though it's months old, it's still applicable to anyone, any day of the week. I like what it says:

"Eternal love and happiness. Too much to ask for? Maybe not. It could be as simple as going along with what happens naturally on Thursday and duplicating the effective parts in the days to come. After all, love is an action, and happiness is a habit. Apply your pragmatic sensibility to create a little magic."

Then I read today's horoscope for the week ahead ... I like this one too:

"Your strong energy is keenly felt by those around you. It's as though your thoughts are amplified over a loud speaker. Focus on what's going right instead of worrying about the corrections you need to make."

Focus on what's going right ... I like that strategy.

Fleeting Moments ... Can They Last Forever?

My mind is consumed with preparations for The Big Trip now. There are little pockets of space to think about other things, but the vast majority of my brain would flash *packing* *primping* *preparing* and *dancing* in bright neon lights if someone was to X-ray it at this very moment.

It's too close now. It's down to the wire. I'm going to blink ... and it's going to be over. How can I make this feeling last forever??

I shall write. I've already packed my pad of paper and pen. I don't know how many idle moments that there will be while I'm away ... but I do know that I can't sleep when I get excited. So I will write.

I will take pictures. I have gotten very lax in the picture-taking department, after a year where I was the most annoying family member on earth (as I was determined to document and make 'movies' out of every moment). I must take pictures. Something tangible to hold onto after I come back down to earth.

I will partake in every moment. The wallflower part of my personality will stay home. This vibrant red/orange haired girl shall walk a different walk. And live every moment!

I remember the adjustment that it was, to accept the fact that participating in this dance competition was really going to happen ... to me! I was uncomfortable with taking those first steps out of my highly regimented world. The idea of spending all of that money. Saying the words out loud and being excited about saying them took time. Once I finally accepted the fact that I was really partaking in this Grand Adventure ... I haven't looked back. Only ahead!

At some point during this adventure, I wrote down some words Rosie spoke when she was on Oprah. She realized that she was defining herself by her past. Whenever she talked about herself, she spoke of the person she used to be. It took someone actually bringing it to her attention, to realize that it was true.

I thought of myself. I define myself by who I am, to the people in my life ... but in the grand scheme of things, I look back and define myself by the experiences that I have overcome in my life. I define myself by my past.

Ever since I've embraced the idea of participating in this dance competition, I haven't done that so much. When I talk to people, I am talking about where I am going ... not where I've been.

The best way to keep these moments in time vivid, long after this dance competition has come and gone, is to continue to think this way. Where is my life headed? I've learned many lessons throughout this life of mine. It's time to embrace them, let them go and move forward.

Big events come and go throughout life. I can't stop the world and make this last forever ... but I can look ahead to the next Big Adventure I decide to partake in. Big or small. I will embrace the moment.

This dance event will be a highlight of my life that I will hold onto forever. But it won't define me. It's just a step in a direction I want to take. I will continue walking to see what lies around the next corner.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Sadie Movie

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of taking care of My Grandpuppy while My Middle Son was vacationing.

Sadie is a bit of a 'horse' in my mind. She is my second Grandpuppy (the first of which is a chihuahua - Levi). Sadie grew up with Levi and she developed some very strange habits - one of which was 'hiding' under a small coffee table. Another, is the little 'chihuahua jump' that she has mastered. She will spring up vertically on all four legs - imagine a chihuahua jumping up and down for glee and multiply it by 20. Yes ... as Her Owner says, "She looks at Levi and thinks she's looking in a mirror!" (and Levi thinks the opposite is true - that he is a German Shepherd/Border Collie cross).

I found a new quirk that Sadie has while I was puppy-sitting. She is not only camera shy, she appears to have a genuine fear of cameras. Is it because she was ''caught on tape??" (see video below).

video

Now, all you have to do is point a camera in her direction and she instantly heads to 'her' room - not to be seen again for a very long time.

Yup ... 'Sadie The Chihuahua' makes Her Owner proud.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This is Really Happening!!

My heart has started to race with anticipation. It all became very, very real to me last night as I wafted through my dance lesson ...

This week, my dance instructor asked me to wear my dance costumes to my lessons. I wore my ball gown Tuesday night and last night I wore my new rhythm costume.

I 'bejewelled' my fingers, wrists and ear lobes. My new orange hair doesn't seem so out of place when a part of the entire ensemble. I glittered and sparkled. I was transformed.

I feel like I'm a little kid playing dress-up. Other than Halloween, when (as adults) do we have a chance to take a step on the wild side and dress completely out of the norm? I have often described our dance showcase days as feeling like you are a princess for a day.

You feel different, you move differently (though the song "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" did come to mind as I gathered the nerve to walk out in public with my skimpy little costume) but most of all (after I stopped shaking), you act differently. You look like you can dance ... so you act like you can dance.

I wish that I could wave my magic wand and transform everyone into their inner princess. When you dress up for these dance events, you get to step out of the norm. You get to play a part. But most of all ... you get to dance!!

Last night, my dance instructor gave me a card of encouragement as we enter the final stage of this fun-filled journey of preparing for The Biggest Event of My Life So Far. I came home after an evening at the dance studio and gazed at this card, the words and I was overcome by the reality that was 'the moment'. "Live Laugh Love ... Nothing is worth more than this day."

Nothing is worth more than this day. No matter what is going on in your world, what truer words could be spoken?

I have had my moments of apprehension as I stepped into the abyss of the unknown as far as all that this dance competition entails. The money, the time, the primping, my abilities, the money ...

But ever since I dared to dance and let this adventure sweep into my world, it has been like a dream come true.

It is real. I am really doing this!! I am living my dream. I highly recommend following your heart and embracing a dream. No matter how things go once I'm there, no one can take away these days, weeks and months of anticipation. I have already gotten my money's worth out of this grand adventure.

It's happening. This dream is really coming true!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Swiss Cheese

My life is busy and full right now. I have many things that must be done in a limited time frame and my mind is busy as it choreographs the week ahead. But underneath all of the clutter of the to-do-lists-in-my-mind, I have many quiet moments.

I explained to a friend, that my life is like 'Swiss Cheese'. It is full of life and activity, but there are many holes in it. Empty spaces of time in between all of the busy-ness.

I have time to blog, time to watch my favorite TV shows, time to talk to my mom. There are pockets of time throughout my days. Time to sit and veg a bit ... time to write and reflect ... time to sit and plan. I still have time ... (this continues to be my favorite phrase from 'The Incredibles').

What I love best about this Swiss Cheese Like Life, is the busy-ness. It is a good busy. A fun busy!

I must fulfill my school hour obligation before I go away. So I am at school all day, every day, every free night and Saturday ... until my holiday. What am I finding as I feverishly put in my hours at school? Productivity! I have surpassed my goal of completing the courses that I had mapped out for myself between the New Year and My Holiday. I started a new course yesterday and I'm flying through it. It feels wonderful to meet and surpass my expectations.

My book-keeping job has a few time sensitive jobs throughout the month. The first of the month (statements) is one of them. I was busy each night this week, but my book-work still had to be done. I squeezed it into one of the many 'holes' in my life. I completed the task with very little sacrifice (okay, a few late nights), but the feeling of accomplishment that I received - by doing the job set out before me in the time and manner which I expected myself to do it ... was worth missing a few hours of sleep. The satisfaction of finishing my work reaps great rewards.

And the dancing. Always the dancing ...

I have 2, one hour dance lessons in the evening this week. I wish I could have danced every night. I simply can't get enough of dancing. I have so many flaws to overcome, technique to polish and some of the dance moves continue to surprise me. I am looking forward to the return of my fun-filled dance lesson where we aren't completely focused on this upcoming dance competition. But one, half-hour dance lesson each week? It hardly seems like enough, now that I've had a taste of more. It's those 'holes' in my life again ... I still have time (for more dancing)!!

I believe the weekend ahead is full of 'holes'. Time which I am certain that I will fill ... but very little pressure. Where there is no pressure, there is often little accomplished. That is my biggest fear - that I waste the time that I have.

I am already anticipating our family Sunday-supper. I have the menu mapped out in my mind and I look forward to the meeting of our minds on Sunday night. Our conversations have transformed from the deep and serious ... to the fun and frivolous. We are laughing at ourselves. I have rewound the tape in my mind and recalled some of the memories from my kids childhoods. Laughable (some, slightly embarrassing) moments. My kids have also replayed some of their memories-as-they-saw-them and put me on the spot. We are finding the humor in our humanness. When it was first suggested that we have a weekly Sunday-family-supper, I cringed at the thought of giving up that precious evening that I used to use to gear myself up for the week ahead. What I have found instead, is that filling that 'hole' with my little family ... has been the perfect way to wind up a week and feel revitalized for the week ahead.

I like the Swiss Cheese, which is my life right now. A perfect blend of busy-ness combined with enough 'holes' to provide me with what I need to continue to forge on.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Creative Math

I think that I was born to be an accountant. Numbers and I go back as far back as I can remember.

I can remember saving up for a tape recorder when I was about 12 years old. My next goal was to save up for an Old English Sheepdog (I bought a 10" color TV instead). Then there was a stereo ... a bedroom suite ...

Then 'real life' happened and the next thing you know, I was tallying up how two young, married kids with a baby on the way were going to live on one fixed income.

I've saved, planned, spent and budgeted the entirety of my life. I started Financial Planning before it was a buzzword. I've been planning for my future, for as long as I can remember.

The thing about numbers, is that you can juggle things around to make them fit. Usually. When that doesn't happen quite as planned, there is always debt.

Oh yes. I've had my fair share of debt. I don't like living in the red. As with my new red (orange) hair ... it is out of my comfort zone. I squirm around internally when my life is controlled by negative numbers.

All of this preamble does have a point. It is my current financial state - as I near the home stretch of spending-like-I've-never-spent-before. This dream come true ... this upcoming dance competition ... comes with a hefty price tag. And I'm not done spending yet.

Oh, I have it all justified. I have been socking away every little bonus and windfall that I have received over the course of the past year and a half. But instead of having this cash sitting idle in a savings account, I put it towards paying down my mortgage balance (a revolving mortgage that I can borrow against, if I must).

As January's spending finally wound to a halt, I tallied up the amount that I must 'borrow' from the money that I had saved. There is a great discomfort in increasing the negative number (which is my mortgage), even though I had always planned to spend those windfalls on something fun and frivolous. I am still borrowing.

I was hanging in there for a while, but it is now official. I have spent more than I had saved. No matter how I juggle the numbers, the hard cold truth is I overspent.

The creative side of my brain is telling me that it's okay. I have future income that will replenish that overspending. The logical side of my brain sees the reality. "This" is what I borrowed. "That" is the total sum of bonuses that I have received. "This" is greater than "That".

I sit here with my bank books at my side. I will tally up all of my costs. I will calculate what I overspent in January's household/living expenses alone.

The negative numbers created due to my dance spending has given me (in my mind) free reign to overspend in every aspect of life. The negative sign that I am seeing didn't have to be this large.

This dance dream is a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. I am not going to take away from the joy by obsessing about the cost. But I am going to sit and find the way in which I am going to live with the consequences of my spending.

I shall sit down and juggle the books. I will plan and find a way to start amassing another little nest egg.

Because my next big dream is an Alaskan Cruise ...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Morning Perspective

This morning, I woke up remembering the most perfectly wonderful dream.

I was dancing. Dancing carelessly and free in an open field. I was dancing with my dance instructor and we were laughing. We were dancing on air. Literally. We made two turns in the air.

Then ... we hit 'the wall'. We were beside a school building and he taught me a new dance pattern. Back to earth. Back to learning.

But the fun and the joy I get from dancing. They were such a part of my dream. Even when we settled down to learn something.

Then ... I woke up.

The lightheartedness of my dream was still wafting within. But my thoughts returned to real life. What should immediately come to mind? Family. My family ...

I have been wandering through my morning thinking only of family. My sister's family to be specific. I can't stop thinking of what they are going through right now. Yet the light and airy feeling of dancing is still in the background.

Such it is with the way I am feeling about life right now.

I am dancing on the clouds right now. But underneath it all ... my family is the backbone to everything that I am. I can't imagine where I'd be without them.

Family first. Dancing? It's a close second.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Things That Matter

I'm savoring every moment of the anticipation for my upcoming dance competition. But as the date draws near, I'm starting to resent the space that it is occupying in my brain.

Tanning. Self tanning lotion or a spray tan done 'professionally'?

Hair. Oh ... the hair. I could go on endlessly, but my most current dilemma involves washing it. And dealing with the aftermath. It's bad enough to have orange hair ... but orange hair that is also having a bad hair day? Not a pretty sight.

Packing. Omigosh. I have never, ever, in my life had such an extensive list of what to pack. Costumes, formal wear, dressy casual, casual casual, jewellery and then there is the long list of things to bring just-in-case (since I won't be home and have easy access to a household full of whatever I may need). Double-sided carpet tape, toothpicks, Q-Tips, scissors ... YIKES!

All-that-must-be-done-before-I-go. School, book keeping, errands, appointments, dance lessons.

Oh ya. Then there is the dancing. My brain has little excess room for the finer parts of dancing that I should have honed by now. New information is not being retained at this point. I'm too busy worrying about too many trivial matters.

Speaking of trivial ...

Then there is the blackhead that I discovered right on the border of my lip yesterday. To squeeze or not to squeeze. Nine days until dance-time. Do I have time to heal? Decision made. To squeeze. OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! All I managed to do was inflame the area. To self inflict pain on yourself in the tender area of your lips is not easy. I woke up this morning to a bumpy-feeling, red-looking lip. Oh dear. So I squeezed some more. Success at last. The blackhead has been banished. One less thing in my long list of mindless worries in my brain.

The reason this is so frustrating is because these worries are so unimportant.

I have people in my life that are facing day-to-day and life-altering health issues. These are no small matters. This is the 'big stuff'. This is the stuff that should remind me to put all of my mundane little matters into perspective.

Yet I continue to fret about the minor stuff in my mind.

This is something that I have control over. I can feel powerful as I stroke something off of the endless to-do list. As I contend with each minor issue that is taking up valuable space in my brain, I feel satisfied. Each step that I take, is moving me in a forward direction. A direction that I want to move towards.

Each of the people that I know that is facing much-more-serious-matters-at-hand would probably give their eye teeth to feel powerful, satisfied and moving in a direction of their choosing.

I'm not doing anything to help any one. I feel powerless when it comes to helping those that I care about.

So ... I tackle my small list of things-that-really-don't-matter.

To those of you that I wish I could help, I wish your brain was as full of the mundane little worries that I have instead of what you are facing.

I do know that I am worrying about things that don't matter in the whole scheme of things. But it is taking up the space that I would be using to worry about things that I have no control over, if it wasn't full of this other 'stuff'.

It all goes back to the Serenity Prayer ...

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things that I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.