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So, It's Been a While...

  • Jan. 6th, 2010 at 10:35 PM
Belly Dance
I lost myself for a while. My absence here was just one small side effect of a long period of darkness in my life, the kind of darkness where you can't even see the pieces of yourself you've dropped along the way or the wonderful things right in front of your face, waiting to be grasped and appreciated. I'm still blinking away the blinding spots from stepping, slowly, back into the light. But I am back.

I'm a different person now than when we last spoke, my friends. I'm married, I'm a mother and, at long last, you may call me Mistress Riviera as I finished my master's degree. Some things have only changed by degrees. Dance is still one of my greatest loves, but I think I'm finally coming into my own style. In itself this is amazing since I've shamefully neglected my practice in the past two years (the Department of Belly Dance Welfare Services would probably take my costume custody away if they knew the difference in my old rehearsal schedule and the measly sessions I'm able to cobble together these days). I'm still determined to publish a novel, but now I have no excuse for this being a theoretical dream for the future. The degree is finished, the real work must begin. Besides, the thrill of seeing my name and my own words--born of tears and sleepless nights--printed up in hardcover with a dust jacket and everything when my friends had my collection of short stories bound is like a drug. It's going to take more than a copy from LuLu.com next time to get the same effect. So I'm absorbing myself in Renaissance Venice, in the Indies of the spice trade, in cinnamon and cloves and ships and silks. The research may take me longer than the writing, but my goal is to have this novel (working title: Cinnamon) finished by New Year's Day 2012. 

In the meantime, I'm doing what I need to do to be happy, healthy and myself. And I think that may include reviving a place to record my thoughts.

I have my doubts as to whether any of my former readers are still here. I don't blame them. But it's a new start. Anything could happen.

Getting away

  • Oct. 3rd, 2007 at 3:51 PM
Frost window
"What's that?"

I had been absentmindedly watching as our street musician friend in a cowboy hat packed his guitar and display of CDs into a beat-up blue van. We'd seen him before. He puts in long hours. But Tim drew a slip of paper out of his jacket pocket, pulling me back to our own little outdoor table as dim stars started to appear over the city.

"Nothing. It's not for you. It's for me."

I wrinkled my nose at him but didn't have time for much more than that. Our had food arrived, and if you're ever in Chattanooga with a hankering for good seafood definitely check out the Easy Seafood Co. I had a stack of fried green and fresh ripe tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, all marinated in a balsamic reduction and topped with a skewer of grilled shrimp. In a word: yum. Tim's seafood angel hair wasn't half bad, either. We sat there watching as carriages co-driven by dalmatians rolled by and, after the dishes were cleared, holding hands across the table.

"I don't mean to interrupt," said the waiter behind me. "But happy 18th birthday."

He presented me with the gooiest, perfectly undercooked brownie swimming in vanilla ice cream and crowned with a single candle. Never mind that 18 was nearly a decade ago. We managed to scrape every last sticky crumb from the plate, then strolled down the street past kids eating Mellow Mushroom pizza on the sidewalk.

Within a block of our hotel, a man and a teenage boy stopped us and asked, not for money, but if we could possibly buy them a burger to share. The man had taken a new job, but the money ran out before the first paycheck came in. Tim sent me back to the hotel and led the two guys back toward food.

Later that night, I dug through his jacket pocket to retrieve my ID and other essentials. I like using him as my purse sometimes. Tucked in the pocket with my things was a crumpled up note on hotel stationery: "It's her birthday!" Even though I knew before that he'd managed to get a message to the waiter somehow, seeing the note made me smile.

The weakest member of the herd

  • Sep. 19th, 2007 at 11:45 AM
Belly Dance
The last time I watched MTV was maybe as a high-school freshman. I've never liked award shows of any kind--they're self-congratulatory and boring. And I have no love for Brittney Spears (though lately I do have a good bit of pity). But I kept hearing these snide comments and seeing these editorial cartoons about how fat she was at this year's VMAs. Curious, I turned to Google. And was horrified.

Not by the ridiculous Frederick's of Hollywood costume. Not by the alleged music and singing (I had the sound turned off because it's just as well, really). And certainly not by the body on display. I was horrified by the juxtaposition of what I saw and comments like this one by an AP music writer:

"Perhaps most unforgivable given her once-taut frame, she looked embarrassingly out of shape."

I challenge you to go online and watch the video (as much of it as you can stomach). Forget this is Britney; forget it's MTV. Look at this woman who has given birth to two kids--heck, even if you forget that--and tell me she's "embarrassingly out of shape." Block out her face and try to imagine this being your friend, sister, mom, girlfriend. This is fat? Just what is it we're expecting of women now? Does the world really prefer women who look like half-starved and sickly gazelles? Nature is not kind to that sort. They're the first to be eaten by lions.

No good answers

  • Aug. 30th, 2007 at 11:31 AM
Frost window
The president walked into my office to sign a contract. Of course, my boss had forgotten to leave the contract with me. I sifted through my inbox, just to be sure, and he put a hand on my shoulder. "Are you getting skinny? Have you lost weight?"

I never know how to answer when people ask that. People may intend it to be a compliment of sorts, but I can't help thinking, "Gosh, how fat was I before?"

"Um, no, I mean not on purpose...," I said.

He seemed confused by this. So was I.

I like lists

  • Aug. 29th, 2007 at 11:37 AM
Peacock
I rarely make to-do list posts because, let's face it, they're hardly riveting reading. And while this journal is very much a place for my own thoughts, I also realize I have an audience (small though it may be). But last night driving home from class at 10 p.m. I almost burst into tears because I'm feeling so overwhelmed with everything--work, school, dance, job search, potential move, other major plans and changes to come. Things seemed so insurmountable, and part of the problem is that I've been running so much that I haven't taken a single calm, quiet moment of alone time to formulate a plan and prioritize actions. I've been engaged in some awesome stuff, but it has been to the exclusion of productivity in a lot of other areas. So this is a note to myself about a short-term plan of action for the weekend.

Thursday night
Teach dance
Clean house (minimum requirements: dust, vacuum, bathrooms)

Friday
Groceries
Nap
Work on choreography for Shimmy-a-Thon show (time permitting)
Pack, get pretty
Double date at aquarium

Saturday
Write abstract for novel/research project on dancers at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair; research possible sources
Start communications audit for Managing Writing
Update portfolio
Create story submission spreadsheet
Work on choreography

Sunday
Church
Nap
Research for novel
Read for Managing Writing
Work on choreography
Organize event notebook (time permitting)

Monday
Relax

I'm in desperate need of a good massage. I'm also very thankful for the love and support I have on the good days as well as the days I think I might lose my head.
Belly Dance
I was delighted to see that belly dancing got a mention in this week's issue of Advertising Age. I was very much less delighted when I saw it was in conjunction with a Playboy party. Le sigh.

Who's the fairest of us all?

  • Aug. 21st, 2007 at 10:16 AM
Frost window
Tim and I were flipping through a book on relationships--essentially a man's users guide to women, since we don't come with one of those--tossing ideas back and forth, discussing whether the book had it right. We came across this statement: you are her most important mirror. I've been reflecting on that ever since, and I'm struck by just how true this is. Women have a deep-seated need to feel beautiful; we need to have our image reflected back to us in a way that affirms how lovely we are. And we don't get that, from any direction, most of the time. Sure, media is an easy scapegoat and certainly shares a portion of the blame. When even models, those we hold up as the standard of beauty, have to be "fixed" by some guy who's handy with a mouse, there's little hope for the rest of us. But we all are at fault for buying into what they're selling us.

There's a crushing scene in Little Miss Sunshine where Olive, a little girl with a dream of winning a beauty pageant, orders waffles a la mode for breakfast. Her father tells her that ice cream has a lot of fat, and people who eat that sort of thing become fat. "Are the girls on Miss America skinny or fat?" he asks her. Crushed, she pushes the bowl away. It's one of those scenes that hits the mark uncomfortably well.

In addition to all this baggage (however cute and matching it may be) of impossible standards and childhood wounds, women are saddled with this idea that we need to be completely independent and should never look to any man for anything, especially for approval. And, yes, on some level this is true--your self worth shouldn't be defined by some other person's opinion of you. But that's only part of the picture. It ignores the fact that we need this approval. We need to know that someone thinks we're beautiful. This isn't weakness or neediness; it's part of our design.

Consider the Evil Queen in Snow White. Every day she goes to her mirror and asks an earnest question: Do you find me beautiful? The mirror assures her that she is. But one day, that mirror tells her she can no longer measure up to someone else. The anger we see in the story is a thin disguise for the hurt. In the fairy tale Snow White takes the brunt of the rage. In life we not only poison the apple but eat it, too.

When a woman asks, "How do I look?" it isn't a matter of vanity or fishing for a compliment. It's a plea, really: What do you think of me, or, to quote a great book I recently read, do you delight in me? Guys, when she asks, tell her. Please. In fact, don't wait for her to ask. Be specific. Lay out for her the whole list of what draws you in, the physical, the emotional/spiritual even the silly. She will go back to her inferior glass mirror, and through the fog of Slim Fast commercials and old insults that left scars she will catch just a glimpse of the woman you see. And for a moment the voice in her head might actually agree with you.

I'm surprised I'm not freaking out more

  • Aug. 18th, 2007 at 8:48 AM
Belly Dance
I just sent off my first round of literary journal submissions. Yeah. Scary.

A new definition

  • Aug. 17th, 2007 at 9:42 AM
Peacock
So often I feel that I've accomplished very little in my nearly 26 years. I don't own a house or have a fancy title or a great salary. I've never been interviewed for the evening news (well, okay, once in China...) or listed as one of the top 10 for anything. This is how too many of us define success, and while I know better, the message is a hard one to ignore.

Yesterday a friend e-mailed me to say this: "Tell Tim for me that I am proud of him...always have been. And I am of you too...you have done so much for yourself."

She's right. I don't say that to brag but as a reminder to myself--and to you--that we need to forget what E! Entertainment Television says is important and disregard anything a glossy cover of Cosmo tries to sell us. We need to stop worrying about what the movers and shakers are doing and bring our whole perspective down to a personal level. What have I done, and what can I do, for myself...and for you? And I mean our real selves, not the self someone else tells us we should be.

Here are a few starting points:

If you're in an unhealthy relationship, get out of it. Period. No excuses, no "butIlovehim/her." Get out. No relationship should leave you unhappy more often than you're happy. Your significant other should not leave you feeling beaten down and hopeless.

Don't take your work home. It's a job, not your life.

If you're unhappy about your body, do something about it. Not because you want to walk around looking like you've been airbrushed but because you want to be at your healthiest. Don't diet. Ever.

Find something you love, and find people to share it with.

Stop using e-mail/Facebook/LiveJournal as your primary means of communication with people you care about. Get off your butt and go see them, or if that's not possible at least pick up the phone.

Stop wishing for things to happen. Stop saying "if only." If you want it, go get it. There's no reason you can't have it.

This is the start of success. This is doing something with your life. It doesn't come with a six-figure salary, but it comes with a whole lot of satisfaction.

Is this Methodist Idol?

  • Aug. 15th, 2007 at 3:44 PM
Frost window
The choir director of my church just called.

"I hear you're interested in joining the choir?"

I laughed. Loudly. "Goodness, no!"

He seemed at a loss. He was sure someone (he never named the mysterious individual) had identified me as a good and willing recruit. I felt bad for him. But, really, me? In the choir? I sing in the shower or in the car if I'm absolutely sure no one can discern how truly bad my voice is. And even then I sometimes stop singing because I know how bad it is. I had to take a deep breath to regain my composure and assure him I meant no insult.

"I'm a dancer, not a singer. You guys do such a beautiful job; I wouldn't want to undermine that."

He knew about my dance background and promised to have Beth contact me about future dance projects. I didn't have the heart to tell him that everyone in the church may not be ready for my kind of dance.