postaday 2011 challenge: has japan’s crisis effected a change in your life?

 

Misawa Air Base Personnel and Family Members h...

Image by DVIDSHUB via Flickr

The challenge by WordPress was for bloggers to think of topic ideas, since the staff feels it’s been a one-way street, with them coming up with the 99 ideas thus far. So I suggested the topic that’s in the title of my post. Here’s the comment I left on WordPress Daily Post Challenge blog.

Have the natural disasters in Japan made a specific difference in your life? If so, what and why? If not, why not?

Living in Washington State, one of the places in the “Ring of Fire,” I’m preparing myself physically, including learning CPR, and mentally, by figuring out what to do…in case. I’m also trying to appreciate everything about the present, loved ones, memories. I’m also reaching out to connect with others in my community…while I can. In the final analysis, people are more important than stuff.

that’s my suggestion for a topic…in fact i’ll be writing about it…hugmamma.

 

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

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Last night Father Brian hosted our “neighborhood” dinner. In attendance were probably 75-80 people who contributed appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts to the potluck meal. We took a favorite Hawaiian meatball dish, as well as a sliced tomato, mozzarella balsamic vinaigrette seasoned salad. Both were gone by night’s end… except for a couple of meatballs which I devoured at home. They were so good!

From the get go, another woman and I immediately connected. I overheard her telling an acquaintance something about ballet. My ears perked up. Stepping forward I asked if someone was involved with ballet, to which the woman replied that her 9-year-old grand-daughter was taking lessons at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Explaining that my daughter dances professionally, our conversation continued in earnest.

My husband and I shared a table with my new friend, her husband, acquaintances of theirs, a young couple, and another gentleman with whom we were already familiar. It’s not often we dine with new people, but my communication skills never fail me. I’m sure readers of my blog have discovered that for themselves. I can talk, and some.

Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridg...

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Having moved west 3 years ago from Scranton, Pennsylvania, Marilyn and Rich were happily settled near one of their daughters and her family, including 2 grand-children. Another daughter resides in Portland, Oregon with a couple of other grand-children. A very lovely couple, we spoke of life on the east coast, where we’d lived before moving here 13 years ago. We also learned that they had actively participated in their church community, and felt inclined to be a little more laid back now that they were retired.

Looking around at the other tables, I observed that everyone was engaged in lively conversation. Father walked about, chatting, laughing, very comfortable in his role as host. While expected, the transition to business was done without the usual moaning and groaning. In fact, people actively participated in discussions about making the church and its community more relevant in the lives of the church-goers. Some in the group volunteered to form a committee to move this neighborhood gathering to the next level of involvement.

Post church fellowship

Image by Tojosan via Flickr

Funny thing is, my husband and I were at the wrong neighborhood dinner. Our zipcode gathering occurred last week. But, of course, we weren’t turned away. We enjoyed ourselves, and those we met. Now we’ll just have to find our neighborhood community, and work our way into their midst.

leave it to me…hugmamma.     

“blog power”

Not being a true techie, but more of a wannabe writer, I’m totally amazed when I learn that my blog has actually been read by someone I know, or with whom I’m familiar. Case in point, my ongoing communication with Comcast which began with a national phone service rep commenting on my post, letting me know that I could contact him directly by email. That got the “snowball rolling.” Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending upon your point of view, mine is somewhere in the middle, our conversation continues since our internet connection is nonexistent. It’s been that way for 6 days. The technician who professed to the “noise interference” theory is returning to replace our antique modem with its current version. He’s also “changing out wires.” Those are his words; I’m uncertain what they mean, exactly. My husband will tail the repairman tomorrow, asking pertinent questions, I’m sure. I’m more the “leave them alone to do their thing” type; my hubby’s the “in your face” type. I’ll be holding my breath, crossing my fingers, arms, legs and toes, hoping against hope that COMCAST FINALLY FIXES THE PROBLEM!!!

Yesterday, as usual, I accompanied my daughter to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s adult, open class at its suburban campus. Our friend, Marissa Albee, taught. Throughout class I couldn’t help but admire her dance movement, in addition to her teaching style. Her attention to detail in technique and artistry makes her an awesome instructor. Sitting quietly in the corner, observing, I felt myself paying attention to her corrections, tapping her fingers on her breastbone to indicate “opening up to the audience.” When she stretched her leg, lifting the muscle up from beneath her butt, rotating it so that the hip wasn’t simply hiked up, but that her entire side was lengthening, I knew exactly what she meant. Of course, I’m anal about details. Remember the previous title of my blog, Hugmamma’s Attention to Detail

Following class, Marissa stopped to chat. I expressed my genuine admiration for the manner in which she taught the ladies, and my appreciation for her beautiful, fluid dance quality. My daughter and I never had the privilege of seeing Marissa dance with PNB, probably because we weren’t yet living on the west coast.  But as we indicated to her, Marissa looked as though she could resume her career. Of course stamina might be a concern, because she’s not rehearsed and performed in many years. At least that was her reply to our suggestion that she could continue dancing. Then there’s the fact that she’s a doting mom, which is a full-time career in itself. I know that for a fact. So my daughter and I, and the ladies in Marissa’s class, are content to watch and learn from her. She’s still trying to get me into a leotard and some tights. That’ll never happen, unless I’m physically transformed into someone like Carla Korbes, PNB’s new principal, who’s an absolutely gorgeous dancer.

What floored me about our conversation is that PNB had emailed Marissa about my previous post. Someone on staff had read it, and passed it along to Marissa. So she thanked me for the nice things I’d written about her. The pleasure was mine, as it is in what I’ve written about her in this post.

The power of the internet is becoming more and more obvious to me, and frightening. Essentially anything we think, and express in words for all to see, exposes us. But the power to be “heard” is something to which we all aspire. Wielding such power to further compassion and a positive attitude, is my mission in blogging. We all have the power to make a difference, and the internet can be an important ally towards that end. Even one, lone voice can capture an audience’s attention if there is value to what is being shared. I’m just regurgitating what my Blogging 101 instructor, Cat Rambo pointed out one day in class.

value = blog power…hugmamma.

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.

“rain, rain go away,” and don’t come back another day!

You know you live in Seattle when the skies are gray, all day, and when you’ve got more water outdoors, than is running through your pipes indoors! I’m not certain anyone acclimates to the Pacific Northwest’s lackluster weather, but I know for sure Hawaiians don’t. I’ll bet if a poll was taken of the ethnicity of most travelers to the Aloha State during the rainy season, the biggest number would be locals returning home for a “shot of sunshine.” Maybe not so much in this economy, however, where passengers are having to pay extra for a lot more than we did in the “good old days.” Fun-loving, we Hawaiians can still be practical.

When my husband and I attended the Human Rights Campaign fundraiser a few weeks ago, we successfully bid on tickets to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Twyla Tharp Performance,” for this weekend. So tonight my daughter and I found our way into the city, where we met my husband, who was joining us after work.

I’ve never been keen on driving in the rain, in the dark, especially in heavy traffic. Of course the skies opened up, as we left the house minutes before 5 p.m. We were heading out right in the midst of “rush hour.” Already dealing with a slight headache from neck and shoulder tension, I looked like a deer caught in headlights, as I sat straight as a ramrod behind the wheel. I’m pretty sure I didn’t draw a deep breath until we got to our destination, an hour later.

My daughter knew my stress level was high; it was oozing from my pores. Normally happy to be nodding my head back and forth to Michael Jackson on  DVD, I asked her to find something calmer on the radio. She fumbled with the switches, unfamiliar with the area stations. I couldn’t even speak to help her. ALL my attention was on driving in the rain, cars flying by me on the freeway.

In the past there’s been a couple of instances when other drivers have caught my attention, not easily I might add, letting me know that my headlights were not turned on. I remembered this as I was stepping on the gas pedal, working my way up to the 60 mile-an-hour speed limit. Speaking in clipped phrases, my daughter and I tried to figure out if, in fact, I had the parking lights, or the head lights, on. I never yell, but my voice did go up several octaves, almost to a shrill. I decided they were on; my daughter wasn’t certain, but she thought they weren’t. I overruled her, since I had to return to focusing upon my driving. If this was another instance when a passing car had to tell me I was the one who was wrong, then so be it.

Thankfully, traffic moved along, me with it. Making it to Mercer Island, the exit just before crossing Lake Washington to enter Seattle, without any glitches, like an accident, was a huge relief. But the trip was only half-finished. I still had to get through the traffic in town, on a Friday evening, in the pouring rain.

Once I was out of the second tunnel, it was clear sailing until I reached the  beginning of the “bottleneck” on 4th avenue. Patience, and braking, saved the night. Passing through the Westlake Center area of town, I was well on my way until I reached another “bottleneck” near our destination.

My wonderful daughter reached over to pat me on the back as I parked, expressing her thanks for a “job well done.” Where she lives the freeways, and the in-town roads are wider than they are here in Seattle. She felt our roads, by comparison, were pretty cramped, making it seem like we were sandwiched in by cars on all sides, during the entire ride. Talk about making me feel better.

Compared to friends of mine, back East, and here, I’m a “wuss” of a driver. They will drive inter-state without any qualms. When I decided to make the trip with my daughter’s car from Atlanta, Georgia to Chautauqua, New York, where she was dancing for several weeks one summer, my girlfriend Becky drove the 13 hours. We did overnite in West Virginia, halfway through our trek. She didn’t mind, preferring to drive than be a passenger. Hey, that was just fine with me.

When “push comes to shove,” someone pushing AND shoving me, I’ll drive where necessary. It might take me longer than someonelse, and I might make a couple of unexpected detours, like to a state other than the one I’d had in mind.  I think that’s why my husband has always preferred to do all the driving. He likes to get where he’s going, without any detours, or any “pit stops,” for that matter. When it comes to driving, he definitely likes to be in control.

So you see, I’m a “shrinking violet” when it comes to driving. And I’m at the age, where I’m already beginning to think I might have to give up my driver’s license soon. I don’t think anyone will have to convince me that it’s time  I get off the road. I’ll probably make the suggestion myself. I’m a wimp compared to my mother-in-law who’s only now wondering if she should stop driving, at 85 years of age. God bless her!

I congratulate all the women who drive like men, fearlessly! You go, girlfriend!

driving like i’m still in maui…hugmamma