dumbledore quote

Little Moments of Happy

These are turbulent times. I can’t look at the news or Facebook without discovering something new that makes my stomach churn or my heart sink. I read stories about power and privilege, most often highlighting not only their existence but of some new abuse. I see stories of men making lewd comments to women because they can and stories of immigrants being detained at airports despite having been given prior permission to arrive. I am reading about men deciding what women should do with their bodies and walls that will cost billions of dollars and increase hate.

All this pain and anxiety in the world is making every day a little grey. As rights and freedoms dissolve in front of my eyes, reality is zapping the joy from my soul. Read more

Why I buy bagged onions | Cooking for 1

Cooking for 1: Buy bagged onions

One-derful Kitchen is a series of kitchen and grocery tips for those of you who find yourself making Single Lady Suppers (or other meals for one). It can be tough to shop for one when food is packaged for families. This is a series where I share tips and tricks to help you learn how to save money and reduce food waste from expiring or extra food.

I can’t be the only person that buys an onion for a recipe, uses half of it, puts the other half in the fridge and forget it is there for 2 weeks. (Maybe I sliced or diced a whole onion and only needed part…or I left half intact but every other time I cooked I needed a whole onion).

Or the only person who lives alone and doesn’t make a big batch of something to eat all week.

When cooking for one, the onions that come in bags are typically smaller, so they work better than large onions for small batch cooking

The stupid easy solution? Buy bagged onions. They’re often half the size (or less) of the onions you buy individually, making them just right for cooking 1-2 servings. Making a big batch of something? Just use 2 small onions in place of one large one.

Onions are one of the few things I don’t mind buying by the bag because they are used in my kitchen pretty regularly. Plus, they do have a relatively long shelf life, so for someone who cooks a few times a week will easily go through a bag before they go bad.

Sky Above Clouds IV by Georgia O'Keefe at the Art Institute of Chicago

Inspiration Seeking : A visit to my favorite painting

I had a pair of epically bad days. Self inflicted bad days – the worst kind of personal abuse. I’ve been unemployed for 6 weeks, and it really hit me like a kick in the gut. So I did what I normally do to get out of a funk. I made blondies and paella. I went to ballet. I took an epsom salt bath with some rose essential oil. I tried to go back to a favorite tap class I hadn’t been back to since surgery, at some point in that calls I lost all the feeling in my right foot again. And just like that, the thing that was supposed to lift me up, dragged me even farther down. Read more

Radiate Goodness | A poster from the Chronic Positivity Project by Mary Fran Wiley

Radiate goodness.

This is the story behind the 54th poster in my Chronic Positivity Project, “Radiate Goodness.”

Radiate Goodness | A poster from the Chronic Positivity Project by Mary Fran Wiley

Those words. They were the closing sentence on a poignant post about the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June, and they’ve been stuck in my head ever since.

I can recall the first time I encountered terrorism. I was 16 and standing in front of a Monet painting at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, absorbing all I could from each brush stroke. I was seeing what I couldn’t see in an art history book and I was in heaven. Out of nowhere, French police were herding museum visitors in lines to the exits as quietly as a building evacuation could be. We were speculating about fire drills or faulty fire alarms as we abandoned our tour and headed for the exits.

My French was good, but not good enough to understand everything that was being said around me. I was confused as were most of the guests. It wasn’t until we were outside that we finally heard what was happening – someone had called in a bomb threat to the museum.

No one used the T-word that day. There were no explosions. I had no idea what might have been. I was a teenager mad about about missing out.

Just over a year later, I watched in horror as planes flew into buildings. I sat on my porch with my family listening to fighter planes flying over head. I felt the world change around me. A day like that doesn’t just get brushed away. It was terrifying. It was overwhelmingly sad. And it keeps happening.

I’ve watched in horror as terrorists have brought guns to movie theaters and churches. I’ve been angry as they shot children and people out to celebrate. A hate monger is running for president. Hate seems to have bubbled up just about everywhere I look.

But if you look past the headlines, you can see healing. People offering to ride public transit with Muslim women in Australia. Counter-protesters with angel wings blocking the nonsense of the Westboro Baptist Church.

The point? In all this darkness, you need to be the light. Small, quiet gifts of hope add up and don’t cost a thing.

Radiate goodness.

 

 

reach

I’m a survivorina, so I’m starting hope.dance

Survivorina is a hashtag I discovered on Instagram. Dancers who are dancing despite what life has done to their bodies. When I found them, I found a tribe. It made ballet feel even more right.

I’ve mentioned a few times that ballet saved my life. That learning how to move again gave me freedom from my pain and the confidence to get stronger and continue fighting for a better quality of life. Now,  I want to help others with pain disorders have that chance.

I had seen mentions of dance programs for Parkinson’s disease and adaptive dance programs for Autism. Then, on World Ballet Day, I caught a segment on the Ballet for Parkinson’s program from the English National Ballet. A seed was planted.

As I started talking to people about this idea, it started to become real. Friends and family started sending me other Youtube videos of ballet companies doing workshops or classes for children and adults with disabilities. Others had done it, I was determined to make it happen for people like me. People who might be afraid to walk into a dance class and tell the teacher that they can’t jump or that their body doesn’t move quite the same way others do.

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The organization

I want others to experience the joy of dance. I want to create classes that someone suffering from chronic pain can walk into and still feel like they are learning ballet or tap. I want to help teachers know how to teach to those limitations.

Right now, I have a dream, a name and a mission statement.

Hope.dance aspires to create dance programs rooted in classical dance forms that allow sufferers of chronic pain to develop confidence and strength while creating escape from the realities of constant pain. These dance classes give participants a chance to be expressive and creative and instill a sense of freedom that participants may no longer find in their daily lives due to their conditions.

Moving forward, I have to find instructors, partners and students. In the mean time, you can support the organization by buying a shirt, contributing via GoFundMe, liking it on Facebook or signing up for the newsletter.

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from the floor of wordcamp

I’m sitting on the floor of the lobby of University Center, a dorm for the plethora of universities in this part of downtown Chicago. It’s been a few years since I have found myself plopped down with a crowd of people, socializing, typing and resting.

This morning as I was checking in at WordCamp, I texted my friend and frequent conference buddy Erica about this magical place I found myself. I texted her this morning about how great it was to be at a conference where no one had any fucks to give about appearances.

Let me be clear, it isn’t that I showed up to a conference of slobs. They were here, too. But it was the fact that no one cared what I was wearing. The style of my hair didn’t have to be premeditated. I didn’t have to agonize over how I should do my makeup.

I got to show up and be me. Just nerdy me. With a top knot and leggings and orange canvas gym shoes. I winged my eyeliner because I could, not because I had legions of people to impress. Or worse, compare myself to.


Back to the floor. I’ve met people I never would have met if I was worried about what people were thinking about my outfit. I’m not worried what people will think about my cane if I end up needing it. I’ve had several offers of people to help me hack my cyborg parts.

I’ve talked about tattoos and PHP. I’ve talked about careers and families. I’ve talked about my blogs and other people’s podcasts. Sitting on the floor. Charging our phones. Being ourselves.

(dance) #squadgoals

Dance #SquadGoals

It’s more than jazz hands and shuffle ball changes. It’s more than pliés and pirouettes. It’s more than the escape from the everyday.

It’s the people. It’s the community. It’s the support.

Two weeks ago, my doctor suggested that I replace my spinal cord stimulator with a new device. He asked me to consider taking a few months out of my life again to try to make things better. So that the consequence of dance isn’t crying myself to sleep while I wait for the pain to go down. So that there are less days when the act of putting on pants is pure agony.

On Thursday, I wallowed while considering new cyborg body parts. On Friday, I dragged myself to the barre. As I peeled off my jeans and hoodie that hid my ballet attire, I started to breathe and smile. We talked about muscle knots and custom leotards. Annoying bosses, traffic snafus and check-ins about statuses we had seen from each other throughout the week. We got it out and then we danced it out. As we stretched, put out layers back on and dispersed from the studio, my world was right again. On Saturday mornings, the crowd is different, but the community is the same.

ballet-2imgMy tap classes are no different. When I arrive before class at Joel Hall, the advanced students wave when they notice me. I find our tiny dance prodigy and we try to watch the last few minutes as taps fly at lightening speeds. As the advanced class winds down and the few brave souls that join in enter the studio, everyone is all smiles. Even when we have no idea what the answer to a jazz trivia question. As we circle up, my brain goes into over drive and my feet seem to only be able to do toe taps and heels. It doesn’t matter – there is always something good to be said about everyone’s attempt and always something to learn.

me & mark yonally after a sunday morning class

When the class changes again and the pros leave the studio and the rest of the intermediate class trickles in, there is more catching up. Fits of giggles when we royally mess up. Cheers of triumph when anyone does something better than the week before. Our teacher, Mark, doesn’t give up on us, even when we are sure we can’t do the step. With constant pain and paresthesia, I learned how to do pullbacks. And there were many a protests that I couldn’t do them. When I start to lose balance and reach for the barre, I am encouraged to keep moving (or chastised just a bit if I am using it as a crutch and don’t really need it).

As we end, we share our upcoming performance dates – it’s a mighty talented crowd of dancers, actresses and singers. Since no one is there to dance in a bubble, we’ve started building friendships that exist outside of the classroom. The mirrors are cracked, the floor is well-loved and the windows are tiny, but the community makes magic there. If my mind starts to wander to the what-ifs, it’s not long before I end up off a bit and get called back to the moment from an out of sync rhythm or missed step.

As I write this, the theme song from Fraggle Rock has started running through my head…”Dance your cares away, worries for another day…” Each trip to the studio leaves me feeling just a little bit stronger and just a little bit braver.

posing after our warm up for a performance at CLLAW

I even found an unlikely family in my Tap Too (the nickname given to my Tuesday night Tap II at American Rhythm Center) class. My first class a pair of strangers offered me a ride home because I live just a couple blocks from one of them. We have parties for birthdays and holidays at least once a month. It is with these women, many of whom have been dancing for years, that I can see how completely dance can influence a life. That I am not the only person that it has saved. There are cancer survivors. There are women defying aging. There are grandmas and moms (including my mom). There are daughters and friends. A tribe that spends 75 minutes working through steps until we get them just right. Celebrating each other’s accomplishments and holding up anyone who is struggling.

tapcrewWhen I go home alone and lay down to charge, I know that in less than a day I will find myself back in one of these places where there is an army of souls keeping me going. I know that nothing is so scary that I can’t do it. I know that I am not alone.

The point, is not to brag about how lucky I am to have found this community, or “squad” as the kids these days call it. It is to encourage you to find your squad. People who treat you to a judgement-free zone but aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. A gang to back up your crazy ideas or just to make you laugh when your whole body wants to crumble and cry. A place to go when you need to get outside of yourself and experience the riches life and art can give you to bring you out of the dark.

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If you are looking to dance in Chicago, I keep an up to date list of classes & studios where I take / have taken classes.