how do you rid everything you own of bedbugs…???

Cleaning! Cleaning! Cleaning! I’m here to tell you that even then there’s no guarantee you’ve rid yourself of the little beasties! Bedbugs hunker down and bide their time. Evidently they can live without human blood for several months…hibernating. Unlike bears who, by virtue of their size, can’t be missed, and who CAN be deterred by jingling my bear bells, bedbugs literally come and go as they please, undetected by the naked eye it seems. Left to their own devices they multiply, until they’ve overtaken their surroundings and a full-blown infestation is underway.

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

Image by CH®iS via Flickr

According to the rep from All America Pest Control, the infestation in my daughter’s old apartment was ultra-low. Even the Orkin rep had indicated that my daughter must be very sensitive to bug bites, which she is. Lucky for her, if getting bitten 30+ times is considered lucky, for had she not been bothered she would’ve been inundated by bedbugs. By comparison, dealing with 2 larvae and 1 dead bedbug found in the bed’s dust ruffle when it was laundered and removed from the dryer, was a piece of cake. Or so we thought.

No matter 1 dead bedbug or 1,000 live ones, cleaning everything is mandatory…or else! But you know what? My daughter became so paranoid that nothing short of baking the entire apartment would have satisfied her. But if “spot cleaning” cost $600, what do you think the charge would’ve been for bringing in heavy duty equipment to fry the little suckers? Probably a couple of thousand dollars!!! So instead the “light brigade,” an arthritic, middle-aged mom and her broken-handed daughter set to work cleaning every crevice of everything.

First my daughter had to recover her belongings from storage, bringing them back to the old apartment. No way were we going to take them to the new apartment without sanitizing them of bedbugs and/or their larvae. It didn’t matter that we couldn’t see them. Remember, they like to hide until the dinner bell rings…in their little pea-brains, I guess. While my daughter undertook the massive job of sorting all, and I do mean ALL, her clothes into piles for laundering, I proceeded to clorox wipe furnishings. I’m not sure whose job was worse.

Thanks to my generosity (or idiocy) throughout the years, my daughter has clothes up the wazoo!!! Not only were they hanging, organized neatly according to type, style, color, fancy, casual in her huge, walk-in closet, but they also occupied shelves in the closet, dresser drawers, bins in a bookcase as well as the second bedroom closet. Mind you, she is a ballerina requiring a whole wardrobe of dancewear in addition to street clothes. Nonetheless, the fault is mine… and my husband’s. Born into large families where luxuries were nonexistent, we, like many of our generation, tend to shower our offspring with what we never had. Bless our daughter’s heart for she has never asked for anything, probably because she knows all her needs will be met, and some. Perhaps the bedbugs were a blessing in disguise?!? Forgive me, I must be delusional. However my daughter and I agree that she has no need of any further piece of fabric, a favorite hiding place of those dreaded insects.

We felt the same about the furnishings. Wiping down every lamp and lampshade, picture frame, trinket box, extension cord, plastic food container, electric fan, dining room chair, pair of earrings, bracelet, necklace, cd speaker, clothes hanger, wire basket, wicker basket, candleholder, vase, candle, book, magazine, wastebasket, utensil holder and utensils, not to mention the really large items like a tri-fold room divider, made me sick to my stomach, literally. Actually there is some of that in this never-ending tragi-comedy.

North Face of Mt. Everest

Image via Wikipedia

It was a massive undertaking, but my daughter and I “hit the ground running” when we returned to her hometown after she visited with my husband and me. With adrenalin pumping, she and I proceeded to climb our own “Mt. Everest.” While she began the process of laundering her clothes, I spent the first day-and-a-half painting her new apartment.

Benjamin Moore’s “white stone,” a soft blue-gray, lightened and brightened the heretofore dingy, gold walls prevalent in 70s’ construction. While I chose that color for the public rooms, I opted for a soft blue in the one bedroom and a soft lavender in the tiny bathroom. I wanted to preserve and enhance the vintage charm of the apartment with its crown mouldings and high ceilings. Funny thing, when repairmen stopped by (another part of this tale), the first thing they asked was if we had just had the apartment painted. Of course I owned up to the fact that I was the painter, but that the tops of the walls needed to be done. And since I was too short, my husband would be finishing the job. The men grinned, admitting to their wonderment as to who we might have hired to do the job. Intimating that they thought we’d been “taken,” until they realized that a middle-aged woman, albeit a short one, did a damn good job. If I must say so myself.

From here the story takes an unexpected turn, so make sure you come back for more. Suffice it to say that I find it somewhat therapeutic to be reliving several of the worst weeks of my life, physically and mentally. They left me spent in every way. I was certain this was my final parenting job, that I could mother no more.

you think???…hugmamma. 😉 

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not a job for everyone, ballet

Hollywood is coming out with yet another ballet film, The Black Swan, starring Natalie Portmann. My daughter and I saw the trailer for it before the feature film Burlesque, starring Christina Aguilera  and Cher. We couldn’t say enough great things about Burlesque. On the other hand, The Black Swan will not get my money. Out of curiosity, my daughter may see it with her dancer friends. I’m not a fan of Stephen King books or films, and this latest dance movie seems to fit that bill.

Last night on one of the entertainment news shows, Natalie Portmann and Milla Kunes spoke briefly of their experience during filming of The Black Swan. They both implied that there was a mean-spiritedness among ballet dancers. There was no indication whether or not they worked with a real ballet company, or if they were speaking from hearsay. Generalizing that ballet dancers are one thing or another in a news clip, doesn’t make it true.

 The media has done a good job to help stereotype people from all walks of life. Don’t we all know more than we care to know, about Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears? According to the news that drones on about these two, they are out-of-control, spoiled-rotten, alcoholics. I’d just as soon leave them alone to sort out their own lives. Give me a break, and them.

I personally think ballet is not the right fit for everyone. Moms wanting their toddlers to dance prettily in ballet slippers, pink leotards and tights, should be very careful not to overstep their children’s enthusiasm for the art form. When it stops being fun, or when the children have mastered all that they can, and can do no more toward advancing to higher levels, moms should accept that their children may want to, or need to, involve themselves elsewhere, where they may be happier, and more successful.

As with anything in life, parents need to walk a “fine line,” between what they want and what their children want. I think the best approach is to involve our children in the direction their lives take, on an ongoing basis. As we help them strategize we should pay heed to the signals they give off, whether vocalized or not. Of course they don’t always know what they want, but often times they know what they don’t  want. I think both are equally important. Steering them through a maze of choices is not easy for us or them.

After seeing a close friend perform in a recital, our 8-year-old daughter decided she wanted to dance. So she enrolled in jazz, tap and ballet classes at the same studio as her friend. During the three years she danced there, our daughter advanced into classes with students older than she. After year-end recitals, audience members approached my husband and I to congratulate us on our daughter’s dancing. Those were the first times I heard words I have continued to hear at her performances, “I couldn’t take my eyes off of her” or “She has tremendous stage presence.”

When we moved west, our daughter enrolled in a private studio originated by former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal, Deborah Hadley. When she first saw our daughter in a ballet class, her arched feet had Hadley inquiring “Who’s that girl?” That December, our daughter was cast in the role of ballerina doll in The Nutcracker’s  party scene. Her joy at receiving such an honor dissolved when upon opening night, the Russian teacher responsible for staging the ballet, told our daughter she had not “performed” the role, but only executed the technical steps.

When our daughter told us what had happened on the ride home, we were, of course, upset. But not wanting to cause her additional grief, I advised her instead to perform for herself, not for her teacher. I also told her something I’ve continued to tell her “Dance every role, no matter what it is, as though you’re a star. You’ll have done your very best, and that’s all you can do.”  The only thing I tell her now, before a performance is “Have fun!”

Throughout her entire journey towards a career in ballet, our daughter has received encouragement from all who have seen her dance. Teachers, artistic directors, choreographers,  and fellow dancers,  have consistently told us that she had great potential. Audience members have congratulated her performances. I was most moved when a brother-in-law, who saw her dance for the first and only time, said his eyes welled with tears when he watched her perform a solo with Northwest Professional Dance Program in Portland a few summers ago.

With what our daughter seemed to have going for her in talent and work ethic, becoming a professional ballet dancer was still no guarantee. There was competition, disappointments, stresses, politics, tears. Having been a corporate career person before becoming a mom, I suffered the same traumas in my workplace. The difference is I was paid better, but my daughter has more passion for her job than I had for any of several I worked.

When I moved to Atlanta to enable our 16-year-old daughter to train with Atlanta Ballet in the hopes she’d become a member, moms of students there would ask the secret to her success thus far.  I would tell them it took 50% talent, and 50% a combination of other things.

From what I could see, the right candidate for a professional dance job needed to be able to withstand the extraordinary pressures of competing for company openings, and then roles, socializing with older, more senior dancers, speaking on one’s own behalf with staff, maintaining a healthy body, physically, mentally and emotionally, and living within one’s means, on salaries that are below minimum wage in some cases. Who could, or would, want to subject themselves to such a career? Not me, but then I’m not cut out for such a life. Not many are, but my daughter is.

Just as not all people are created equal, not all ballet companies are cut from the same cloth. Probably unknown to the lay person is the fact that there are many, many, many dance companies throughout this country, and abroad.  Some are big, with 50 or more full-time dancers, and then there are companies like my daughter’s where there are only 15 members, 8 men and 7 women. Besides the difference in numbers, there’s a huge difference in budgets. Bigger companies, like Pacific Northwest Ballet, enjoy $15 million to $20 million budgets; my daughter’s gets by on a shoestring budget of $4 million.

Just as a corporation’s modus operandi  reflect the style of the  “head honcho,” the CEO/President, so too does a ballet, or modern, dance company reflect its artistic director’s style. And we all know that the top man can run the gamut, from monster to saint. Having witnessed both styles in my former career, and my husband’s and daughter’s careers, it seems what kind of boss and work environment we get is in the “luck of the draw.” I’ve always subscribed to the belief that within any organization, be it a household, a company, or a church, whatever occurs, filters from the top down. Bad management begets a bad environment begets mostly cranky, negative whiners.

So while there are ballet, and modern, dance companies who fit the descriptions of Portmann and her fellow actor, there are those like my daughter’s, whose artistic director has shown courage and concern by allowing her a 3 month leave to address health issues, with a guarantee that she can return to her job in January. He and his staff have shown her great love and support. So I know, first-hand, that one size does not fit all in the ballet world.

neither is ballet a career for everyone…hugmamma.