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Ready, Set, Live !

If there is one thing life has taught me in 54 years, it is to take your time when making important decisions.
It’s easy to get into relationships, but very hard to get out of them.
Easy to buy a house, but very hard to sell one.
Easy to start a business and sign a lease, but very hard to do what it takes to make a business work. 
Easy to spend money, but hard to earn it.
Easy to make plans and dream, but hard to follow through on all the inspirational talk.

For many years I lived with someone who was inclined to act impulsively. In some ways, riding the wave of his enthusiasm and embracing his romanticized vision of himself and life was fun. Life was this daring, wild rollercoaster that included abrupt changes of direction and leaps of faith. Occasionally, things worked out, and this reinforced our belief that the “Universe provides” or “Without great risk you will never get great rewards,”  but in retrospect, I think we occasionally got lucky, and that luck supported our foolish behavior rather that teaching us practical lessons. Eventually, we didn’t accurately see the truth of how and why things worked out for us, and we certainly didn’t embrace gratitude or appreciation for those that helped make our achievements possible.  We just chalked our successes up to our being talented artists or smart or special. But time and distance helps to see things clearly, and in retrospect, I see that most of our history is seeped in loss, heartache, and feelings of being trapped or not really having a choice due to cages of our own design. We lived in a constant state of chaos, worry, and stress – all a result of acting without careful thought or patience, shifting gears randomly, and not thoroughly exploring issues under the surface or waiting for the initial excitement to subside to gain honest perspective. Delusion and ego fueled our belief that we could defy practical odds and would end up OK. In the end, impulsive acts and random choices destroyed our lives, our family suffered financially, emotionally, and in every other way you could count. That is a sad story, and not something that needs revisiting, so suffice to say, like most people my age, life has taught me important lessons the hard way.

Once I was on my own, I couldn’t help but celebrate that I was finally free to follow my own instincts. I could forge a practical plan with good odds, play my own devil’s advocate and prepare for wrenches in the plan, then proceed with caution towards happiness. Best of all, I could do this without being accused of lacking faith or being a bubble buster. I was delighted to regain control of my life without guilt or worry that my practical nature was stifling someone else’s dreams. I felt empowered by the fact that whatever plans I made I could follow through to the end, as long as I had the fortitude and determination to do so. This doesn’t mean I stopped taking risks or leaps of faith, but being on my own allowed me the time and space to really explore what I wanted from life and redefine my own priorities. This should have been easy, but was in fact hard, because when you spend years and years making someone else’s dreams and happiness the top priority of your world, you become numb to your own needs.

I was an emotional mess for a long time, and I see that as a gift now, because it kept me from attaching to whoever came along.  Had I married the first person (or second or third) that I dated after becoming single in a quest to fast track my life to domestic bliss (which would have made things easier financially and emotionally so it was tempting, let me tell you) I would no doubt be stuck in an unhappy situation now, and perhaps even facing another divorce. I cared very much for each of the lovely men I dated, and yet, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a decision regarding love and commitment when I was still reeling from feelings of loss, resentment and sadness over my family’s demise.  Everyone seems like a great potential mate when they are putting on their “A game” but it takes time to really know someone, and see if they are all they first appear. So I curtailed every relationship as it started getting too meaty and continued to insist “I need space & time to heal.”  Let me point out that I didn’t WANT space, because I was lost, lonely, and feeling unloved, and the best cure for heartache is to hook up with someone who thinks you’re special. But still, I recognized my NEED for time to heal before making another man’s dreams and desires my life’s priority. 

When I met David, I instantly saw he had all the qualities I respected and most wanted in a mate. He was kind, socially & morally conscious, liberal, educated, creative, healthy, fit and sporty, sexual, open minded, immensely talented, sensitive, and as my mother says, “perfect for you because he is your  intellectual  equal.” (This always makes me laugh; because David is a genius and the most intellectual person I’ve ever met who doesn’t come across as pretentious or obnoxious.) I am deeply flattered by her comparison, but I don’t consider myself his intellectual equal. I do however, very much appreciate being with someone who has so much knowledge about the world, is quick to research new ideas, can creatively brainstorm like there is no tomorrow, and who listens to NPR as much as I do and likes to come home, pour us a glass of wine and start conversations with “I heard this great interview on NPR while driving home about (fill in the blank) and wondered what you would think about it.”  If a shared curiosity about the world, an inclination to read & research, and a mutual love of learning makes people good partners, then we are indeed well matched.

Nevertheless, as my relationship with David grew, I still kept him at arm’s length. He asked me to marry him and I accepted a ring as a sign of my long term good intention, but I really couldn’t imagine going through with an official ceremony. I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him, but still, I couldn’t imagine calling anyone other than Mark Hendry my HUSBAND. That title just seemed too poignant and intimate to pass on to someone other than the guy I had spent twenty years working beside, sleeping beside, making babies with, interacting with each other’s families, etc…  Even when Mark got married the very week of our divorce to the first and only other woman he has ever dated (I was his first and only girlfriend until then, unless you count a one night stand he had at the end of our marriage) I couldn’t get past the belief that marriage was sacred and a HUGE commitment that must only be offered to someone who you love so deeply and with such integrity that you absolutely believe no one else could ever earn the title. I was hurt that I was so easily and readily replaced by the very first gal that came along, because it made me feel my entire marriage was a farce, just a random act of convenience to a guy who didn’t set the bar all that high when it came to selecting a mate. But more than that, I was jealous because I wanted to move on emotionally as he so easily did, but I just couldn’t.  I just couldn’t imagine calling David or anyone else “husband” ever. Mark was my husband… a dirty-rotten-stinker-glad-to-be-out-of-my-life-because-he-caused-nothing but-grief-and-hardship husband, but my husband nevertheless. (I say that with a smile, for the record. I’m not seriously bashing my ex.)

Poor David. After over a year of dating, I agreed to move in with him, but even so, I only wanted to move into a house my family owned, one that I could afford alone if ever we split up. I just wouldn’t put myself in a situation where my life (and my daughter’s) would again be disrupted or I couldn’t afford to take action and kick the boyfriend to the curb if things didn’t work out. This semi-commitment had to be frustrating to David, but he is a wise and patient man and more than once he’s said, “I want you heart and soul, with no reservations or compromises involved. I will wait until you are ready.” Meanwhile it was hard on me, because I was killing myself to financially hold up my end of bills. I did not want to owe David anything or start depending on him.

For a year plus, David and I have lived together, exploring the ebb and flow of life as a couple. Watching him handle work, housework, my daughter, me and all my moods and idiosyncrasies, career challenges, the stress of my demanding business, and all the mundane details of life such as who takes out the trash, whether or not he snores, or how he responds to family holiday expectations, has assured me that all the surface stuff I loved about him in the beginning was not smoke and mirrors. He wasn’t on his “A game”. David only has an A game. I have now seen David sick, tired, in a good and a bad mood. I’ve witnessed his grace and patience when my daughter is difficult, watched him handle money responsibly and discovered that no matter how angry, hurt, or frustrated he might be, he never, ever will speak to me or treat me with anything less than respect and tenderness. Being treated with consideration in a relationship is HUGELY important to me at this stage in life.

Meanwhile, my business has been unfolding with similar tentative action & slow exploration. I have worked crazy hard to get a footing in an economy that is very challenging. I have not caved to frustration and nurtured opportunity while my business takes shape and finds a voice.  My school is not what I originally imagined it would be- and by that I do not mean better or worse.  Just different.  My constant evaluation of priorities and my commitment to “right livelihood” has resulted in a business that fills me with a sense of purpose.  The point is, after several years of being tentative about decisions while I heal my life, I have become very sure of what I want. And I have grown strong again.

This summer my three year business lease expires. So I have been thinking a great deal about how to get my life moving in positive, exciting directions. The thought of signing another expensive lease that forces me to work this hard for another three years just to help my landlord make money while I struggle is killing me. I know that I should do all I can to purchase a commercial building so my hard work has an eventual return, but I am not financially capable of that step just yet, since they want 20% down and every building that would suit my business costs a million dollars or more. (Lord knows, I’ve met with bankers, realtors and others to seek out my options.)  I also have been thinking about what I want in my relationship, because my choices in regard to work will influence my love life too. My business choices influences levels of stress, time management, and how much I can financially contribute to our building a life together. I just can’t afford to act impulsively knowing that every choice a person makes regarding where they live, who they live with, how they live, what they do, and their overall attitude and priorities is connected. Our lives are the result of our choices. And our lives touch the lives of others and determines their happiness and safety too.

For a year, while pondering all the options, I have looked at buildings. I’ve looked at houses David and I might purchase together as an act of true commitment.  I have crunched the numbers to really understand my business. I’ve looked into dividing the school into two different businesses, selling part or all of it. I have also considered expanding the business and considered getting bigger and more involved, perhaps opening a preschool too. I’ve built up my credit, kept good records, and gotten established “just in case.” I’ve thought about when and if I ever want to retire.  The thing is, I have many many options in my life today because I’ve taken my time, held back to let the dust settle, worked diligently,  and I’ve acted slowly and mindfully to explore what I want, heart, soul and mind. Most importantly, I’ve acted responsibly, creatively and carefully in a quest to keep options flowing. My choices are not easy or simple, but at least I have choices.

But being cautious and moving slow, while good in a way, also means missed opportunity. You can’t drag your feet forever if you want to accomplish anything of merit, and anyone who knows me well understands it is NOT in my nature to be patient or move slowly on anything. Some days, I feel like a race horse that has been detained in the starting gate, stamping her feet as she waits for the gun to go off so she can run freely. Oh, how I miss running with absolute commitment to a distant finish line!

Suddenly, recently, if feels as if the gun has gone off. While exploring land for potential retreat sites (after giving up on a commercial building) David and I stumbled upon a piece of property that seemed to pull everything together. The moment we snuck over the gate illegally (we couldn’t help it, we drove up and saw our dream come true and we had to explore the property even before calling the realtor.) we knew this was where we belong. We had a found an answer to our home and business dilemma at once. This land spoke to us.

A week later David and I bought the property– well, we made an offer and it was accepted. We are now waiting for bank approval, but we have plans we believe will make it happen even if we hit a stumbling blocks. God willing, we are buying 8 acres of land with a barn, a separate yoga building and room for gardens, trails, outbuildings and more.  It is everything I’ve ever wanted in a home, and in fact, it’s the kind of artistic, rustic home I dreamed we were going to build when I sold my business years ago to retire and live “the dream”. This property is only 18 miles from ReFlex just around the corner from one of my previous businesses in Lakewood ranch. It is nestled in nature, a perfect site for retreats, yoga trainings, Ayurveda product manufacturing, farm to table dinners and so much more that I envision my business adding. For David, there is a workshop and space to create furniture, build a boat or whatever. For me there is a place to raise chickens, bees, and perhaps even bring home a donkey as a new life mascot. With a small creek on the land, pastures, space for gardens, huge oak trees and unique, artistic outbuildings, this place offers David and me both a chance to blend love, work & personal interest so we can live creatively and in harmony with nature.

In my next post, I’ll share our vision and a few pictures of our (hopefully) soon to be new home & business site. For now I am buried in books, studying how to build a labyrinth in nature, a medicine wheel, the ins and outs of Florida garden design, retreat planning and more. Every dream begins in planning stages – takes shape with research.

I’m ready for someone to open the gates! It is time to let the ole mare run!

A life you can savor…

  Yesterday I was feeling overworked and nostalgic for a bit of country living, so I decided to pause and give myself what I was craving. I drove out to Huntsader farms (only a quick 20 minutes up the road) where they currently offer a variety of u-pick produce and everyone says you can get a big bag of tomatoes for only a dollar. When I got there, everything seemed sadly familiar –  the stand was quaint and authentically country like the places I loved in Georgia– and I couldn’t bear to go out to the u-pick fields myself. I decided instead to come back with Neva and David later to enjoy an afternoon in the sun among the growing plants. (A good decision since when I picked up Neva from school her eyebrows shot up and she said, “You did NOT go to u-pick without me…” I assured her I was waiting until we could all go together.)  But since I didn’t want to waste the drive, I picked up tomatoes for only 6.00 a case.

     In Georgia, I grew my own veggies but if I wanted to make a big batch of canned sauce, I needed to purchase a load of extra tomatoes, so I would go to the flea market and purchase tomatoes that didn’t because the fruit was starting to turn. I was lucky if I got them for 20.00 a box. Here, I can get tomatoes that are fresh, perfect and only 6.00? Wow. I bought two cases.
   I also picked up some onions, squash, beans and cantaloupe. After loading my car, I sipped a bit of cider and walked around enjoying the ambiance. I visited the goats and the barn and thought of both my happy and not so happy memories of Georgia. I ran a hand over a tractor parked on the gravel road, and talked to a kind woman in the store who talked about what produce was going to be available next month.

     I used to visit this farm once a year, on our annual preschool outing for the pumpkin fest. Meanwhile, I pined for our annual trip to Georgia to see fall leaves and enjoy the quaint ambiance of the country. I could have had a taste of country anytime, if I just got in the car and drove a few minutes. I wasted so many years living in this diverse, opportunity laden place while living such a narrow life where all I experienced was work and an occational visit to the mall. For some reason, Mark and I believed we had to leave the region to have fun. We were so short sighted. 

    Today, I spent the morning cooking fresh marinara sauce. I blanched and peeled a case of the tomatoes, and cooked them down with other veggies and spices I gathered, along with more tomatoes, from my own garden. As I chopped and pealed the sauce bubbled. Music blared through the house. I danced and sang as I cooked, hit with a swell of happiness.

     When I drove away from Georgia on the fateful day I moved back to Sarasota, I was devastated, believing I was leaving all my dreams and everything I loved behind. For two years, I felt so empty I couldn’t imagine a happy life much less muster the energy to pursue one. But one by one, the passions of my life are returning to me, and my dreams seem more real and attainable now than ever before – I was up against impenetrable obstacles back then, even while I had more resources than most people ever have in a lifetime. Now, on the surface it looks as if I have less opportunity to create the life of my design, but the truth is,  I’ve never felt closer to achieving the kind of life I can be proud of and contented with.

     David sent me an e-mail yesterday. He wanted me to see a listing for a ten acre piece of land that is horse and airplane friendly. The lot is situated a short drive from my studio in a community where people have gardens and chickens and pools and many have private planes in hangers – there’s a small runway too. Thanks to the economy having lowered land prices, gorgeous tracks of land like this are available now, close enough to Sarasota to continue working here, yet remarkably affordable for anyone willing to drive a bit. Some of these lots have older houses on them that we could remodel, or we could buy land only and build a Zen-sort of house ourselves (if I can get past my panic at the idea of letting the man I love ever build a house again.)


    David said, “We might really be ready to try for something like this in about a year if we stay on track with our life recovery plan (we are both working like dogs to build a life and make up for huge setbacks due to our past mistakes, and slowly our hard work is moving us the right direction.) “But you would have to be OK with the twenty minute drive.”

    Are you kidding, I thought. In Georgia I drove 45 minutes a day just to get milk or take my daughter to school. It took an entire day to go to Atlanta if I wanted to be exposed to culture or professional services….  Things cost more, and there were very few options for work or embellishing a life. A twenty minutes trek to live in a personal paradise where I could raise with bees and have a wine cellar for homemade wine, and keep chickens and maybe even a horse or two, and where David can have a workshop and together we can work, him at a job and me running a business with serious potential, and perhaps have a project boat for the occational weekend on the water – all in a place where we can enjoy the culture and enrichment of a sophisticated town as well, is too good to be true.

    I stood in my kitchen happily squeezing the juice out of my tomatoes thinking that I’ve spent more time in canoes and kayaks enjoying nature in the last two months here in Florida than my entire 5 years in Georgia – I enjoyed taking classes in folk crafts at the Campbell school there, but classes like that had been available here all along – I just never ventured out of my narrow existence to partake. Since returning to Florida I’ve discovered classes in art and craft subjects at the local college, in art galleries, in speciality pottery and bead stgores and in art centers. I’m signed up for a drawing class this summer (to help me with art journaling) and Neva and I are thinking of taking a language class together this summer too. Neva signed up for a cupcake making class at the Publix cooking school recently.  I’ve stumbled upon beading, boating, literature and pottery classes, writing groups and horseback riding, running and scuba clubs. My list of “gonna do one of these days when I carve out the time”, is growing.  I have an amazing library for when I need to do research, wholefoods or the farmer’s market for stocking up on organic fare, art festivals and live music, and beaches and quaint shops down by the shore for entertainment. I have museums, movies and concerts and an airport only a five minute drive away. The only thing I’m missing from my former life is the Georgia mud. And what’s most important is now I appreciate the wealth of opportunity and paths to personal growth that are all around me now.  Nature abounds… you just have to drive past the mall to one of the national parks nearby, or to the florida country farms, or to the seashore, or the swamps…..

    When I lived here before, I thought Sarasota was primarily shopping, restaurants and concrete. I thought the people were demanding and stressed and had their priorities out of order. Georgia seemed a beacon of peace –  but rather than retiring in the quiet, happy world I expected, what I landed in was a place of ignorance, lonliness, and more stress, disappointment and loss than I ever had to deal with here.
   My Georgia adventure taught me that that what we feel inwardly is simply a reflection of what we project outwardly. People in Sarasota didn’t have priorities out of line as we supposed  – Mark and I simply lived a life out of balance and we projected our discontent on others. We missed out on all the beauty and opportunity of Sarasota because we were too set in a narrow grove of habit to embrace the joys, entertainment and discovery that was right before us. We ran off to Disney or drove to Georgia seeking relief from our problems, when all along what needed to change was our own attitude and perception of the world. Ah well, I have a new perspective now, and thanks to that, life here is different this time around.  


  A few minutes ago, I went out and checked my lovebirds to see if the eggs have hatched. My curious, beloved dog wagged his tail at my feet and I smiled thinking that animal adventures come in all sizes.

I walked out to my garden to get some parsley and basil for my sauce and checked the blooms on my pepper plants, eager to see the promise a new crop. I took the remains of cut up veggies to my huge smoldering compost heap out back and tapped the oriental chimes in the trees to cause them to softly fill the air with music. Then, I came inside to check my e-mail to find a message from the editor of a local magazine who is running an article I wrote that will be published next month.. I looked to see if I’d gotten a response from the agent who requested my book – sigh, not yet – but hey, I’m writing again, enjoying what for me is an artistic outlet that gives life clarity. I also read a message from a writing student who is throwing a party this weekend to celebrate the book he wrote (inspired from essays he wrote in my class) that he just self-published. While my sauce is cooking, I will spend some time reading his manuscript so I can fully appreciate his celebration on Sunday.  Tonight, my daughter is having a friend over, a child I consider a wonderful influence because when they are together they always make cupcakes or cards rather than holing up in a room on a computer….. We will all go to the dollar movie theater and have a great night out for only 10 bucks- proving that life here is economically better, as well filled with opportunity to be productive and/or give back to others.
   Tomorrow, at work, I’m scheduled to interview two people interested in yoga teacher training this summer. I will start the day with yoga then I will teach dance to students I love. In between I’ll laugh with my staff, a group of positive, talented and committed individuals who appreciate and value me as their “fearless leader”. Oh how I missed the down to earth kidding of my dance peeps going crazy at recital time.

    Today I’m thinking of how rich my life is. I have a lovely home that reflects my personality, a very happy, well-adjusted child I can hug at will, and a business that is growing roots, building, providing me with the opportunity to do what I love. Every day I meet amazing people.   I am healthier than I’ve been in years – emotionally and physically. I am loved and appreciated by an amazing man who shares my life values, work ethic, personal interests, and long term vision for a life of substance. He is a true partner, sharing in the work, decisions, and efforts required to make our life unfold in the best of ways. We will spend the weekend balancing work and friends. We will eat homemade sauce for dinner and talk about how lovely it is to eat organic food grown in our own garden. He’ll share what happened in his work day, and I’ll talk about making sauce and the great call I had from my son.  Perhaps my birds will hatch. Perhaps that agent will write. Perhaps I’ll win the lottery. Ha. Perhaps I already have.  

     There is a Buddhist saying – you must lose everything to gain the world.

    A year ago, I kept reading that over and over, certain it couldn’t possibly be true for me. The devastation I felt over the loss of my family and the life I anticipated and worked for for years and years, but never reached, was more than I could bear.

    Now, I feel differently. All of life is perspective and the juxtaposition of my former life, with all its drama and dissapointment, next to my life now, which may not be easy, but is loving and filled with hope and respect and small pleasures, reminds me that finding happiness requires a person to be pro-active. It isn’t about chasing the things that you assume will make you happy “if only…” Happiness doesn’t come “later” when all your ducks are in a row. Happiness is being wise enough to recognize the things that truly make a person happy are all around you and if you can’t embrace them now, you never will. Our job, each and every one of us, is to honor and celebrate the subtle gifts that life bestows.  

An “Off” Christmas – Ah well

This Christmas never seemed to get off the ground for us,and a perfect example is our tree. Last year our gigantic fake tree, chosen especially for our 25 foot ceilings, disintegrated in the attack over the summer, so when Kent and I went to put it up, we ended up using duct tape and fishing wire to hold up the branches. No problem, we thought, we’ll just toss it at season’s end because there is no way we’ll still be living in this house by next season . . . we’ll pick a tree suitable for where ever we land….but of course, here we are. Ah well.

So this year, we decided to get a real tree to fit our big ole house, and about ten days after Thanksgiving, Mark and the kids went to a tree farm to have one cut. Thus begins the tree ordeal. They pick out a nice tall tree and have it cut, but on the way home the truck breaks down and it lands on the side of the road. A day later, we had the truck, tree and all, towed to the transmission shop. I suggested we go put the tree on my van roof rack to get it home and start our Christmas decorating.

Mark says, “I’m afraid that would be impossible. It would crush your van.”

“Just how big is this real tree?”

“Pretty big.”

And it was, because a week later three burly guys came over with Mark to lug the 16-foot spruce into our living room. It had now gone a week without water, and the base was so big that we couldn’t fit water into the largest tree stand we could find. Ah well. We would just cross our fingers that it would last the few weeks until Christmas.

But, before the poor thing got decorated, it was loosing pine needles and looking the worse for wear. We decorated it with lights and started putting on ornaments, but when we had gotten through only two boxes or so, we decided that was enough…. the darn tree would end up bald from losing pine needles if we stressed it any more. For the first time in 19 years our tree was not picture perfect with ribbon and hundreds of meaningful ornaments collected throughout the years dripping from the branches. Ah well.

When it comes to ornaments, nothing compares to the Hendry’s gluttony. We started collecting ornaments in our early years whenever we traveled or did something meaningful, because back then, a small token was the only thing we could afford to buy for a remembrance. As time wore on, it became tradition. Now,each year as Mark puts up the tree he plays, “Can you remember where we got this one?” with me. And every year we prove once again that I am not the ornament historian in this family.  But every beautiful or sweet or funny ornament has a history and once a year, putting up a tree brings awareness to this ornament map our life adventures, so just the act of putting up a tree becomes a poignant experience. Lovely.

In the end, Christmas isn’t about decorations anyway (It’s about mistletoe and cooking in this gal’s book) and no one seemed to care about what might be missing from the tree, which goes to show that you can fret about things for no reason if you fail to put life into perspective. Our scaled back holiday was right sized in the end…..

(Kent & girlfriend, Brianna, sister-in law Dianne, Denver, Neva, & Jason. Mark must be somewhere with his mother. I was behind the camera) 

Dianne & Ginny

(Denver and boyfriend Jason)

Today, the day after Christmas, we were more than ready to get the dead tree out of the house, but how? Mark decided we would have to cut it down piece by piece and burn it. Ah well. It’s a plan.

So this morning, he and Kent removed the few ornaments and packed up the lights and begin cutting branches. Within moments the house was heating up from a roaring fire that sounded like a forest burning to the ground. For hours they kept feeding the fire as the tree dwindled and a foot high pile of pine needles collected on the ground and began to spread to every corner of our home. You can bet whoever lives in this house will be finding them in corners for eternity….

As Mark was cutting branches he called out to me that he found a bird’s nest in the upper crest of the tree.

“That’s a shame.” I said.

“Why? It’s not like there are any birds in it.”

“Well, obviously. But in the spring I’m imagining a bird will be looking for her summer place and not only will it be gone, but also her entire neighborhood will have been cut down.”

“Ah well,” Mark said.

 When enough branches were removed that the tree could be lifted by Kent and Mark together, they lugged it outside, pine needles scattering every which way from room to room – my mess now so extensive I could only grip my broom tighter and sigh. Did people really do this all the time in the old days? Eeesh. Someone told me that a Christmas tree bag is the way to avoid this entire cleanup, but where do you find one for trees the size of Rockefeller Center!

So this afternoon, I’ve been sweeping, sweeping, sweeping…and mopping, mopping, mopping… and I must say, it feels good to have Christmas over this season…. It just wasn’t our year, and frankly, I’m tired of cleaning up messes and making this house picture perfect in case a buyer stops by (and we have two scheduled to come this week). When life feels
like it is all effort and no pleasure, you know it is time to restructure your approach to living…. and perhaps living large is not all it’s cracked up to be.

So, next year, when I get that Christmas gleam in my eye and start contemplating how to go about creating a really dynamic tree from scratch, somebody out there better remind me to go the pre-lit, easy to put up route – or better yet, a live tree in a big dirt ball – so my tree has meaning in a different way and doesn’t need as much glamour and sparkle to be special.   I’m making my new life motto -KISS.





It may mean giving up a little in the creativity department….But, Ah the pleasure of simplicity…….. 

Does that mean I’m losing my celebratory edge? Probably.  Ah well.            

The Things That Count

Sometimes, when I am feeling low, I start looking at the world in intense detail, as if I’m searching for something to pick me up or to remind me that whatever void in my own life is making me sad isn’t really missing. It’s out there, lingering, and I should take heart because in time I’ll grasp it once again.  It was while I was in this mindset and teaching yoga that I witnessed something special.

 My students were all laying still on the floor in a spinal twist. After I gave hands on assistance to the 9 people in the class, I stood back for a few moments to just enjoy the restful nature of this particular moment, and I noticed that one woman in class was laying next to her teen age son (they always take this particular class together) and she had stretched her hand out to his and her fingers were running gently along his palm in a sweet, motherly way. And after about two minutes of this, the son opened his eyes and cast her the dearest smile I’ve ever witnessed. I watched this innocent loving exchange in the silence and thought my heart would explode, because it was just the evidence I needed to remind me that intimacy and trust and unspoken examples of tenderness are exchanged between people all the time. 

 A few moments later, the class ended and I looked at the boy and said, “How do you feel?”

He smiled sleepily and said, “Totally great.”

And I knew he really did feel great, because his yoga experience tonight wasn’t about stretching or balancing or breathing. It was about sharing a lovely activity with his mother, which led to a moment of sweet communion.  You can’t plan that kind of thing. I suppose ten years (or ten minutes) from now, their exchange will be forgotten, or might have gone unnoticed from the start. The mother and son may never remember this particular class or the gentle caress, but I always will, because I believe that the act of touching a hand of someone you care about, while not life altering, leave feelings that resonant forever. Layer upon layer of simple, tender acts create a blanket of trust that softens relations between people, and this is what makes it possible to endure conflict later.  Anyway, I was not meant to notice what transpired, but I did, and I’m glad. It was a beautiful, moving thing and it filled me with such a longing I could barely breathe. 

 Sometimes it feels like I’m nothing more than an audience for other people’s lives. I watch the world around me and reflect, and because of my heightened awareness, I see (and often record) things that others all around me miss.  I’m glad now that I’m older that I no longer go through life so self absorbed that I fail to notice or appreciate the small signs of beauty all around me. I guess writing and yoga have made a huge impact on how I look at the world, and even if all this personal reflection makes me sad sometimes, I’m grateful for it.   

Feeling is, after all, what makes life an intense trip. 


Winter is here.

Winter has arrived. Always puts me in a bit of a funk here in Georgia where Dec. to March offers mostly gray skies and precipitation. Don’t’ get me wrong, I do love the change of seasons. There is something appealing  about bundling up and curling your hands around a warm cup of coffee when you do venture outside. The sting of cold air sits on your cheeks like a loving slap, a wake up call to get moving and create some internal heat,  but it seems most of my time is spent inside looking out in winter. The natural world looks bare and open, inviting, but each time I heed that invitation I’m forced back in by frozen fingers and a numb nose. I end up gazing out a pane of glass thinking everything looks picture perfect, as long as I’m not actually out there shivering, waiting for the ice to thaw on my wind shied and/or trying to dodge gusts of wind that feel like they’ve come directly from the north pole. I guess after all those years in Florida, I’m just a winter wimp. 

Funny, but despite my obvious dislike of cold, I have always wanted to go skiing. I’m a sporty and I like the outdoors, so its surprising I’ve never tried to ski (not counting water skiing of course.) I just never had the opportunity or enough inspiration to actually arrange a ski vacation. When I was young I worried I’d break a leg and, as a dancer, such a risk seemed foolish at best. Later, I avoided planning a ski trip because everyone told me it was a very expensive pursuit, and since I had no idea whether I’d love it or not, and considering all the other things I’ve wanted to experience in the world, I always put the concept aside choosing some other sort of trip. But still, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at it and every winter I’m reminded of that fact. Over the years, I’ve mentioned my latent desire to go to a ski lodge to Mark, but he usually chuckles and says, “You might like it, but I’m guessing you’d try out a slope or two, and then spend the bulk of your vacation in the lodge sipping hot toddies and enjoying a game of cards by the fire. Cold isn’t your thing.”  He’s probably right, but hanging around a ski lodge sounds rather romantic too if you ask me.  If you’re going to spend winter inside looking out, might as well make the “inside” an enticing, different environment. Besides which, I can only assume skiing is like running, that it’s cold only until your body adjusts and heats up from the exertion. Considering that, skiing probably isn’t cold at all the way waiting for your wind shield to thaw is. But since there is no skiing in Georgia, or at least none in my area, and since I doubt I’ll be taking on that lurking “one of these days before I die” dream anytime soon, winter is just a big drag. 

On Monday of this week, I watered my begonias. big lusty plants that I have outside my new business in four big, cement planters. That night we had a cold spell and the very next day the flowers had all withered and died. The sidewalk under them is now stained with big pink blotches where the color literally seeped out of the flower petals and soaked the ground beneath. Every single student that came in that day greeted me with a smile and said, “Did you notice? You’re begonias hit the dust last night.”

Like I could miss these big dead plants that look like they’ve been liquefied.

“Yeah, I’m planning to do something about that but I haven’t decided what.” 

I was offered a variety of solutions, from getting plastic plants (not my idea of perfection for a yoga studio where nature is celebrated) to planting pansies – a very hearty winter resistant flower (so really, it doesn’t make sense that we call people who have no backbone a “pansy”). One student suggested I leave the pots empty. Well, I suppose that could symbolize the yogi’s detachment to the outer world and emptiness as a path to self understanding and . . . who am I kidding. That’s stupid. 

The pots are under the shade so I’m limited with my choices, but I’m thinking some evergreen would be nice. I sure as heck don’t want to keep those dead flowers on display for long, because somehow it makes me sad to see the passing of something so beautiful, even if it is a part of nature’s rebirth. Change is natural and good, but watching it happen stirs up feelings of loss, at least it does for me lately.

This is the time of year when visiting my animals is something I dread – at least until I’m actually out there with them. I have to deal with the frozen hose making it impossible to fill water buckets and frozen latches on gates and other inconveniences, but at the same time, I love running my hands along Donkey’s back and feeling his warm body on my frozen fingers. There is something calming about watching the warm breath leave the horses nostrils as they snort in greeting. For all that I complain, I really like having animals as an excuse to drag myself outside everyday, and sometimes, I stand there, looking out at the calm, snowy pasture and feel moved by the quiet of winter. Even a frozen, barren landscape is beautiful if you just pause to notice the stillness. My horses have grown their heavy winter coats now , so instead of looking gray speckled, they look starkly white, like the abominable snow monster. The donkey, in contrast, looks like he’s wearing a bear skin. My beloved horses are for sale, and someone happens to be coming to look at them this weekend, so each day I remind myself to savor my time left with them, cold or not. I’m ready to let go of the responsibility, but I will miss them dreadfully and it will hurt to imagine someone else enjoying their lovely sweet company when spring arrives. Sometimes you need to let go of the things you love – a non-attachment concept that is big in yoga philosophy, but that doesn’t make it any easier for me, a girl who could hardly be called “enlightened”, though I do my best to be somewhat aware of the world and my place in it.

Anyway, it is cold today and it makes my heart feel heavy. Spring feels a long way away today.  

Happy Thanksgiving – – – in a weird way

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

It was a weird one for me. We had plans to go to Florida this year to spend the first Thanksgiving in 6 years with my parents, but as the day drew near, Mark was bombarded with work and felt he couldn’t get away. I wasn’t willing to disappoint my Mom another year, so we ended up going separate ways on a holiday for the first time ever in the the last 20 years.   When we lived in Florida, Thanksgiving was always my gig, ( a cooking fest that involved a massive number of dishes) but since we’ve moved, my sister has taken up the reigns, and now the new tradition is for her to take everyone to a very fancy buffet at her ritzy country club. Mark took his Mother & sister (and Kent since he opted to stay home as well) to a fancy resort in North Carolina for a similar buffet. In essence, we ate the same meal, only in different states. 
(Brother-in-law Bill, Me, Sister Linda, Neva, Dad and Mom – all of us pretending we enjoyed posing for a picture, when we could have been at the table with our friends ordering booze already at 11:30 am . . . yeah, we get what a serious gorge is all about.)
Mark and I called each other to wish a happy Thanksgiving to all and I said, “This is weird.”
“No kidding,” he said.
“And the worst thing is, I think I’m having cooking withdrawal. The food is remarkable, but none of it tastes like Thanksgiving to me. I wish I had made stuffing and stuffed it into my purse. This meal, for all that it’s so extravagant, seems to be missing real food.”
“No kidding.”
Since the food was so different from my usual holiday fare, I decided to get adventurous and try my first ever oyster. I’ve always avoided oysters because, as someone with no sense of smell, I’m a texture oriented person and I never liked the look of those slimy, gray blobs, but with everyone around me digging in and encouraging me to partake, I thought I might as well join the party. I do happen to like the romantic folklore of oysters, of course, and that gave me inspiration – besides which, going for the oysters gave me a chance to flirt with several cute men at the seafood table who enjoyed giving the “single for the day” young woman advice on how to prepare the tasty morsel (the fact that they considered me, a 50 year old, a young woman tells you just how spry and sexy (and half dead) the men I flirt with actually are) .  
My dad saw me cautiously eating my appetizer, and said, “How come you never had an oyster before – thought you couldn’t handle even one more degree of passion run amok?”
“Yea, Dad, that’s it. It’s  been a self preservation thing . . . I got those wild genes of yours, and it’s all I can do to keep them from raging out of control. Never wanted to risk it  by adding oysters to the mix.”
 “It’s the East curse,” he deadpanned.
For the record, I consider oysters tasteless, and the texture is like eating a flattened slug. Needless to say, I now can say with authority that this particular shell food is overrated . . . especially since I didn’t even feel a glimmer of heightened libido. False advertising, I say! 
It was fun seeing my family though. I enjoyed an evening with my aunt (84  – I’ll offer a picture of this grand and dear old relative, for prosperity sake) and as the next picture proves, I had hugged my sister . . .but don’t let looks deceive. We are always one step away from a full out wrestling match . . Hey, I can take her – really I can – maybe I’ll prove it at Christmas.
It was all together an interesting holiday. I drove down in the wee hours, my head mulling over a million thoughts – and I arrived early enough to fit in 5 solo appointments with some lovely young dancers. The next day I spent time with family and we ate, then played dice (which wasn’t so special since lucky me didn’t win a single dang round.) And before you knew it I was up at 4am and driving home dodging the black Friday traffic for ten hours while Neva slept – again just me and my thoughts slipping around my head like a movie on fast forward – the only thing to distract me was the occasional NPR interview blasting on the radio.  I stopped to buy Neva headphones for her I-pod so she could be spared what she called “Mom’s radio torture”.
But despite the pace of this weird holiday, I did pause to give thanks. Even on years when you feel its a stretch, there’s always a great deal to be thankful for if you stand back and think your life through.   
With twenty hours of solo driving to fill, I found plenty of blessings to focus on. Hope everyone else did too.      

Holiday madness begins

Yesterday, I taught what was supposed to be my last class for ten days. The studio closes for the holidays, so I’m getting some time off. I even canceled Yoga for the week. I’m going to Florida for a visit next week, but first I will enjoy spending a few days at home, sans responsibility. 

Meanwhile Denver, God love her, decided to plan an impromptu rehearsal for some of the students to practice a parade step (a marching dance to the FLEX song). She made arrangements for us to dance down Main Street the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the big light up Blue Ridge festival, you see. I appreciate her enthusiasm, so when she called me last minute to come help, I couldn’t refuse. And in I go to the studio on Friday, my sacred day off.

 Denver teaches the march and I putter on the computer out front, working on the studio newsletter. Then we decide to take the kids outside to practice around the parking lot with me driving the van with the music cranked as high as it can go. Old school. The problem is, these kids have never been exposed to a dancing parade, and so they don’t quite get basic elements like how to keep formation or remember the steps or pace themselves. We have a rather long haul in front of us if we ever want to train real dancers. Now it is a matter of getting by and not being embarrassed by a handful of stark beginners.

 We decide someone needs to dance in front of the group, and Denver suggests  we let Jason (her boyfriend) drive so the two of us can work the group. OK, that means I’ll help and actually do the parade. I haven’t had to actually dance in the parade in about 20 years. I’ve always been the chief honcho on the float waving to the crowd while Mark and other teachers handled our 100 plus dancers stretching out like a FLEX kite tail from the float. The good news is, this is a very short parade distance – perhaps 20 minutes of dancing unlike the 3 mile one hour dancing we had to do in Sarasota. I can handle that.

 Then, I come up with a brilliant idea. What we need is Santa leading the pack to make this fun – that way no one will notice how “unseasoned” these dancers are. And I just so happen to have a new, wooly Santa mascot costume that I bought ‘Just in case” we wanted to do a holiday performance with our young kids.

 Denver says, “Don’t look at me. I have to run around the dancers to make sure we don’t lose any of the little kids and to make sure the dancers stay paced. “

“OK, then I’ll do it.”

Denver says, “Mom, you can’t dance in that costume for the entire parade route. You’ll afixiate!”

I was thinking I’d be much more comfortable dancing with my face hidden underneath this costume, not taking myself seriously, than leading the pack like some figurehead thinking she was all that. I insist I can do it and climb into the costume.

 The head of this thing is like a gigantic pillow, hot and stuffy and the stuffing covers your mouth like a gag. It is lovely to be able to breathe while exercising, but right now I’m thinking I can stand to go san’s air for a mile or so…. All in the name of making this first exposure of the school to the local crowd memorable, of course.

 So I try dancing first in the studio, then behind the van for one round of the FLEX song. About die. I’m wheezing and sweating and thinking that if I don’t take off the head and gasp some air into my lungs, I’m going to puke. But I keep dancing. Heck, I’ve accomplished harder things than this.

 When we finish, Denver looks at me and says, “Well?”

 “No prob.” I lie. “Piece of cake.”

Man, what I won’t do to make things fun for friends.

So, I’m dancing in the Blue Ridge Christmas parade next week. I figure I’m bound to loose 5 pounds if I don’t pass out. I’m going to have to gear up for it, do some serious running this week and practice some efficient breathing if I don’t want to crash half way through. But hey, you are never too old for a challenge, and I kind of like being put to the test if it makes the event more fun.

 Meanwhile the kids are saying, “You’re not fat enough . . .you need more stuffing to be a decent Santa!”

“Stuff this . . “ I want to say, but instead I smile and say “A dancing Santa is supposed to be lean. Besides which, this costume is huge. I look big enough . . “

 What counts is that the kids were laughing and having fun, which is exactly the feelings I want them to associate to dance and this new studio.

 We are a serious school of course. If you don’t believe me, check out this photo of Kent two minutes after he came into dance class with some of his buddies one night. Yep, I run a classy place. But everyone will agree, it just wouldn’t be a FLEX without the playfulness.


Curiosity and me

It has taken me 50 years, but I’m starting to learn how I operate and how certain elements of my personality trigger actions that resultin my life taking unexpected turns and twists. Curiosity. It rules me. It is like some sexy paramour slinking down dark alleys, looking over a shoulder and calling out “Yoo-hoo” in a breathless voice as it crooks a finger for me to follow. Intrigued, I can’t resist and I stumble down one road after another until I look up suddenly and think, ‘Where the hell am I and how did I get here.”

A few years ago, I was the director of a remarkably successful dance studio. I was living a traditional life all organized and secure and I had a future intact. Things were pretty good and a lot of people would have loved to change places with me. I now live in rural Georgia with peacocks and a donkey. I teach yoga and write. My future is uncertain and I couldn’t be more frustrated with how all these choices have impacted my personal life in not so ideal ways. Um… bet few people want to change places with me now. Need I say more?

 The fact that I’m a slave to curiosity and that it motivates action (thus impacting my life), became very clear to me yesterday over a very minor event. A yoga student asked me if I was ever going to add Tai chi to the schedule. I’ve had this request several times, and I always answer, “No, but only because I don’t know a darn thing about it.  If a teacher ever comes along, I’ll certainly consider it.” 

But hearing that question again had me thinking . . . It’s like when we had our first summer camp for preschoolers at FLEX and a parent said, “This is so great, I wish you could do it year round. You should open a preschool. I’d signup. . “ A little bell went off in my brain, and damn if a year later I hadn’t jumped through red-tape hoops and written a business plan in my class at college and voila, opened the FLEX preschool of the arts. It just sort of happened because I was curious about the idea . . . 

Anyway, an hour later, a teacher called and left a message on the phone that asked if I’d ever be interested in adding tai chi to the yoga schedule because she would be interested in teaching it. Hummm….. Interesting timing. I decided to call back and set up a future interview to discuss the possibilities.

 Meanwhile, my mind started circling the idea. I really have no clue what the hell Tai chi is, so how do I know I want it in my school? And how will I know if this teacher is any good, considering I have no basis for judgment? Personally, I don’t want to offer any classes that aren’t the highest quality in a school I am directing. It’s not that I’m a control freak, but I have always believed building a reputation for quality instruction is far more important than letting just anyone teach who can attract a few students, even if it does fill empty space– I understand some people add classes to their program to chase a much needed buck, but for me being a responsible director of a school requires you keep your eye on the bigger picture – setting up a persona for the school and building customer trust in your product. Anyway, this attitude of putting quality at the helm of all decisions certainly worked to make the former FLEX the most successful dance studio I’ve ever come across. Why change my approach since I know it works in the long term (and creates a school I can be proud of)?

 So, I decided some research on the subject of Tai Chi was in order.  I started browsing the Internet. Denver asked me what I was doing. When I told her I was looking up training forTai chi and certification etc. she rolled her eyes and said, “I am NOT going to become a certified Tai –chi instructor.”

“Who asked you?” I said.

“Well, why are you looking all that up? Don’t tell me you’re thinking of becoming Tai chi certified? Good God, Mom.”

“Not necessarily. But I can’t very well interview a perspective teacher about a subject if I have no clue what questions to ask or what is involved. I need to understand certification levels and such to be impressed with any she might have.”

“Well, that makes sense.” Then she mumbled under her breath,“Actually, you are really smart when it comes to running a school”.

Well, nice to know I’m good for something, but as far as I’m concerned, its just common sense to know what you are talking about if you are gearing up for a discussion.

Anyway, I spent a few hours reading about Tai Chi on the internet, which for the record, sounds like a perfect combination of yoga philosophy and dance movement – it’s a martial arts form that is actually a moving meditation – totally focused on the spiritual, so it would blend perfectly with a yoga & meditation program.

I studied all the certifications – which are very minimal and undefined actually, unlike Yoga. Probably because there is no universal standard as yet – like dance. Anyone can hang a dance shingle and teach dance and it doesn’t matter if you are qualified or not, sad to say. Makes it hard for trusting clients to find quality training and that is what is wrong with dance education in America (fodder for another, passionate blog someday – don’t get me started).

 The next thing I knew, I was thinking, “I could do this myself if I wanted too . . ..” I ordered 6 books from Amazon on Tai Chi history and philosophy just so I would have a clear understanding of the origins and depth of the art form. Then, I decided to order a 6-hour instructional program designed as a base for teacher’s training. I was thinking, Hey, it is so dance-like the movement part and technique will be a piece of cake and considering my yoga and meditation training, the core of the work will be easy to master.

 And the next thing you know, I was checking out classes and programs in Atlanta, pulling up schedules and trying to figure out when and howI might go experience some strong Tai Chi classes to set a foundation for future learning.

 And . . . well, you are getting the point. I am now deep in the throws of learning all about Tai chi and will probably be teaching it myself eventually, even though a day ago, I never considered the idea and I’ve never thad the slightest interest in martial arts. Meanwhile,I will meet with this possible teacher, but you can bet by the time she get shere, I’ll be armed with all kinds of information and I’ll know what to ask and how to access her background and credentials (if she has any) to determine if she is a good fit for the school. And she will have to be better at this subject than I might be if I put my mind to it before she can gain a position in this school.

kind of accidental curiosity is how I fell into yoga (and I’ll be forever grateful that I did) and how I seem to be swaying towards massage therapy (going to check out a school in Atlanta that is famed for it’s holistic health programs and massage training this Friday.)   Life just keeps unfolding for me,taking me new directions.  Dance is (was) my first love, but age has forced me to embrace and/or evolve to consider other movement and teaching avenues as well. Sometimes I feel so filled with experiences I might explode, though I must admit I’m grateful that the world remains a place of discovery for me. One thing is certain, my life is never boring. But other times I feel like an erratic jerk who can’t just sit still and be content with a good thing – as if my always stretching the envelop is what makes me fall into places where turmoil and uncertainty resides. If I could only be content with the status quo – be the kind of person who keeps the same job for 30 years and lives in the same house and eats pizza every Friday and only makes love on Wednesday nights and weekends, and knows where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing next year and in five years and ten and has my retirement all planned out and  . . .. Well . . . I imagine that kind of certainty has many beautiful benefits. Sounds good some days.

 But curiosity and me are having an affair, and it seems to be gaining momentum lately, rather than falling into more comfortable states of familiarity. What ya gonna do with a wicked lover like that?

 But no more writing about this today, I’m off to teach yoga and to check the post office for books on Anias Nin (a writer known for her erotic stories, but actually one of the greatest journal writers of all time, and since I’m teaching journaling, I’m studying her with fascination and reading all her works again) Makes me accept and understand the dichotomy of my own writing interests (romance and literary are quite a clash, don’t ya know) too. Perhaps a few of my Tai Chi books will start showing up too today.

 The table by my bed is trembling under the weight of books I plan to read ASAP– for all my life does seem to constantly revolve and change over time, that remains the same.         




Electronically Challenged

It seems
the entire world is obsessed with electronics. People barely relate on a
physical level anymore – it’s all through machines.

son has a girlfriend and they are always texting each other.  They
facebook, e-mail, but rarely do they talk on the phone. And when they are
together, it is always a bit awkward and they don’t behave naturally. He can’t
really read her (or so he claims) and sometimes they make-out, but other times
he feels he should keep his distance, because he doesn’t always know if they
are on or off. I think that’s weird. What’s so hard about intimacy when
you’re face to face with someone you’re attracted to? Apparently a lot when
you’re from a generation that’s been trained to relate with this barrier of
electronic space between you and the object of your desire.

     Phone manners is an
ongoing debate around here – my insisting that talking on the phone or texting
others during dinner is rude. I make fun of my kids when we are out together
and I see them holding their phone at their side, texting friends subtly while
also holding a conversation with me. I say, “Hey, when you’re with me, be WITH
me. Live in the present.” And Denver says, “Mom, I’m so in the present
that I can be in two places at once. Really. I’m just saying Hi to Jason, but
I’m listening to you too.”  Drives me crazy. But they can’t stop – they
are communication addicts and so is everyone else it seems.  I’m the odd man out.

Mark is obsessed with his phone. We will go out to lunch and he will spend the
hour talking to someone else. Sometimes he actually gets up from the table to
go outside to give the caller his full attention. I eat alone; maybe have a
conversation with the cute waiter. This is a realtor thing and being available 24/7 is important to his
business, I understand – but still it bothers me. I can’t help but think, “Why
is every single deal, every single call, more important than spending just a
few minutes with someone you supposeably care about? Why can’t you just put the
distractions of life aside for a brief time each day – really, what is it that
can’t be put off just a single half hour?” But I don’t say anything. Nagging
doesn’t get a person anywhere really, it is just an annoyance and a bad way to
communicate. All you can do is voice your feelings, – if the people you’ve
voiced them to don’t react as you hoped they would, that’s just your tough
luck.  Anyway, the family knows my
feelings, so Mark will text throughout the lunch as if that doesn’t count the
same as talking out loud . He will smile sheepishly and mumble, “Sorry,” but he
certainly won’t turn off the phone. And I just sit there wishing I could have
one solid conversation with someone, anyone, that isn’t interrupted. Of course,
I CAN have that – I just have to do it through texting, calling, or e-mailing people
I want to connect to. Face to face, people don’t build relationships anymore,
and no one even tries.    I swear life now a days is like having
great sex and in the moment of extreme passion, having the phone ring and a
partner that chooses to PICK IT UP. You’re like, “You have GOT to be kidding.” Thunk
goes the libido. Personally, I think something special is lost when you live
this way.

I happen to be electronically challenged. It is not that I am helpless, far
from it, and I’m certainly smart enough to figure anything out if I want to.
The problem is, I really don’t want to struggle to learn something that, at
heart, I’m convinced makes the world a generic place. I guess this proves that
I’m getting old – my being crotchety about new fangled systems, but it seems
the moment you get a handle on something, a new invention makes it obsolete

My cell-phone talents are minimal. I have never texted in my life. Denver once
took my phone and texted Kent as a joke, and he called me, floored. He was like,
“Mom! You texted me? Have the body snatchers come and possessed your body?”
I said, “It was Denver.”

I don’t
even remember to keep my phone with me most of the time. I leave it in the car
and the battery goes dead. The truth is, I don’t want people to be able to
reach me 24/7. I don’t’ think I should have to be assessable and at their
disposal all the time. This drives everybody else crazy, and perhaps it is
irresponsible, because others feel they have a right to know where I am so they
can demand my time and attention at will. But I get so tired of being at
everyone’s disposal. So I keep my phone more or less for emergencies – like if
I get a flat tire.

The other
day, Kent picked up my phone and said, “Hey, you have 9 messages. Don’t you think
you should listen to them?” We listened. They were from September.  He said, “How can anyone not listen to their
I pointed out that anyone that really wanted to speak to me would have called
back – the world didn’t come to an end because I ignored some mundane messages.
Everyone important in my world knows I don’t respond to my phone anyway, so they know
better than to leave a message and think it counts for anything.  I do answer my phone when I think a
call might be important, of course, like if I am planning to hook up with Mark
for lunch and expect him to call as to when and where. Or if I’m at a theme
park with family and we’ve been separated. And when it comes to work related
business, I always use the home or business phone number where I always check
messages. I’m not a totally disfunctional, you see. You can bet if an agent
has my book, I’ll leave a number where I KNOW I’ll respond in a timely fashion.

 But good
friends accept this flaw of mine, and find ways to get around my being
“difficult” in regards to communication. People facebook Mark and tell him to
tell me to check my messages.  The
third party system is the best way to reach me, because until a live person
looks me in the eyes to give me a message, I really don’t pay attention.

 I know
that my not embracing communication systems the way the rest of society does is a
real annoyance to those that are close to me – but somehow, I just can’t work
up the interest to turn my time and attention and privacy over to the world at
will. I feel more alive keeping it all real. And anyone reading this must admit,
I am proficient enough at e-mail and blogging to get by, so I’m not a total
wash out in regards to electronic communication.  Though I certainly could be better with a computer and wish
more than anything that I was more talented at handling it.

In must admit, that in some ways, my resistance to electronics is a serious
detriment. For example, Mark put all our business accounting into a computer
system at FLEX, shutting me out just by the nature of my ignorance. I figured how
to view things eventually, but he then changed everything to a new system and
told me that because I didn’t know what I was doing, I kept messing our
accounting up and should stay out of there. Again – this kept me in the dark.
  VERY frustrating when you want to stay engaged in the workings and
decisions of your business. But like I said, I’m not helpless. I recently took
a QuickBooks class so I can set up and retain control of the new FLEX –
partially because he wants no part of this business and is too busy with his
own projects to help me anyway, but also partially because I refuse to let
ignorance challenge my independence. But between you and me, I don’t like
facing this one bit. It’s a huge drag and I suck at it. But I’ll do it, and probably be thrilled
with the convenience and organization I have at my fingertips  in the end. I do get that new inventions
are designed to make life easier. I’m just not convinced they actually do.

After twenty years of working with music in all forms, we have literally thousands
of CDs. Mark put all the music we have into a computer program, but can’t
manage to show me how to make copies of the material I need. Says it’s
complicated even for him. He also claims that if I try to download a song from
I-tunes, the entire library will be de-catalogued and ruined. He freaks if anyone messes with his music computer. Meanwhile he gets
very testy if I dare use the actual CDs we have accumulated because he claims I
will scratch them and so many are no longer in print. Once again, I’m shut out
and can’t function due to electronic ignorance. But I’m running a new school
now so I NEED access to the music. So now, I have to figure out how to copy all
the music we have once again onto a different computer to begin my own separate
library (because he doesn’t want me to mess with his carefully set up system)
and I have to buy an I-pod and figure out how to use it to get a working system
for classes, (actually I’ve had one for a year and just haven’t bothered to
work with it) and I have to figure out the best way to catalogue my music for
work etc… and I have to do this without help because Mark is too busy with the things that are important to his work life to make time for mine. I’m dreading the task
– but it’s something that must be done. So, I’ll do it. Don’t ask me how, but I will.

I guess what I loved most about my barn was that you couldn’t get a signal down
there, so cell phones didn’t work. People couldn’t call me there, and if they
visited, they couldn’t call others so they were just with me. And even when I’m alone, my donkey and peacocks always look into
my eyes when I’m talking to them and wouldn’t dream of looking away to give
their attention elsewhere, just in case something more interesting might be a
send button away. Yes, life felt simple and intimate at the barn, and I experienced moments of being totally connected and grounded and present there with electronics out of reach so nothing could shattering my thought process. It feels good to do one
thing at a time, to give your entire attention to a task or person.  It feels good to listen when someone is
talking to you and to ponder their words, like an echo, even hours later when you are
driving home with a dead phone at the bottom of your purse.


Life is plugging away – some of it good, some of it bad, none of it what I had in mind when I wiped the slate clean to “start over.”Ha.  That is the true definition of life, is it not? Surprise. Frustration. Being endlessly pelted with curve balls and realizing you can’t dodge them all. It’s also the inevitable conclusion of sharing your life with another person. In the end, no two people share exactly the same vision or agenda, and compromise is a forgone conclusion to coupledom. Aye, there’s the rub. You can plan together and agree on things all you want, but when push comes to shove, a time will come when one person pursues their own interest with such tunnel vision intensity they don’t pause to consider how it impacts everyone else.Then, it’s only a matter of time until everybody involved is unhappy and feeling misunderstood, or worse, resentful. But going separate directions is not a malicious thing – just a result of the subtle differences in each individual’s heart and mind about how life should be approached. What ya gonna do? You can’t change the inherent priorities in someone else’s world. Life’s complicated. Marriage is complicated. Trying to meet the needs of opposing dreams within one family is complicated. Fact. But compromise and disappointmentis not what this blog is about.  Think of that paragraph as a vague apology for my lapsed writing. I’ve become an absentee blogger. I’m sorry.

So, I thought I’d talk a bit about my new business today.  Happily, I can report its gaining steam steadily. Some days the classes feel empty and I get depressed,wondering why the heck I opened a new business and started planting permanent roots in a place that presents such obstacles due to small-town cultural and financial restraints. Other days, the energy is fantastic, the rooms are filled with kids or the yoga loft is packed with lovely adults who all seem intelligent and open and I feel this overwhelming sense of purpose and right place.  This is my authentic work, and if I have to have a job at all, this should be it. In truth, teaching and running a dance and/or arts school isn’t just a job, but a career that I’ve prepared for through many, many years of study, commitment and experience. Not like I could work at Home Depot or in an office and ever feel at ease. So, I am back in a studio, my mind filled with memories of 32 years of teaching in different situations and places and considering what I learned from each one.Meanwhile,I wrestle with ideas and plans for long-term program development for this particular dance studio go-round. Most days, I feel pretty positive about it.

 The FLEX Art Center is probably one of the loveliest school’s I’ve ever had the good fortuneto run. It is not only classy and well equipped, but the atmosphere and the people that gather here create a very positive ambiance. You can feel the good energy building each week and so far, all my customers are thrilled with just about everything. In fact, I’ve not heard a single complaint thus far. Amazing.  Everyone believes the school will take off next season, and they’re probably right. The dance parents I have now constantly express gratitude and delight over the training and organization of the school, while the Yoga students thank me constantly for creating this wonderful place where they can gather with like-minded individuals to grow and express themselves. They are sharing news of the school with others and although people react slowly in the country and take their time checking things out, FLEX is getting a great reputation. People are talking, and every thing they’re saying is good, I’m told.

 I enjoy going into work each day. I arrive early and plug in a 5-gallon pot of tea water, then go to the loft and light candles and prepare a reading or poem for my yoga class. Next, I go downstairs and clean. I Windex the observation windows and front door and make sure the bathroom is clean, then putter in the studios, organizing. It’s been years since I’ve had to clean my own school, but I don’t mind. Its quiet and meditative and I take great pride in making the place feel clean and welcoming. People gather in the lobby to share a cup of tea before or after class, or sometimes a yoga student will fix a drink in a to-go cup and pause a few minutes at the front desk to talk before taking off to handle the rest of their day. Since learning about a student’s stresses and physical challenges is important to my role as yoga teacher, I truly listen. I’m engaged with their lives and I feel an intimate connection with so many new people now. This honest communication leaves a calm feeling of goodwill and friendship in the air.  Always wanted that in a school.

 In the meantime, the school has been officially opened (taking registration) for 6 weeks and with 50 dance students and an equal number of yoga students that stop by for class one to three times a week, I can pay all the overhead and the salary for my full time employee (Denver). Every day, new students wander in for both divisions of the school, so it is obvious I’m on the upward slope.  In fact, if things continue progressing as they are I’ll need to expand the yoga loft. I can double its size if I extend the floor, so the upstairs will become a huge second floor rather than a loft. This would not only allow space for more students, but also offer much needed quiet and more flexibility in regards to scheduling. When dance classes are going on downstairs, the noise of jazzy music and excited kids floats up, which as you can imagine, totally kills the peace and quiet needed to present a powerful yoga experience. I’d love to close off the space. Then there is the fact that some nights I’m squeezing 15 students (with their long yoga mats) into a space that is really more comfortable with 12. Yes, expanding would be fantastic. But then again, some classes have only three or four students,and most of my classes this year have been carefully scheduled to begin before or after dance classes take place.  I don’t want to spend more money on leasehold improvements than necessary for a space I don’t own – so I’ll make do.  Still, I’ve got a three-year lease, so expansion is probably inevitable in the future. Guess I’ll take that one-day at a time.

I spend a great deal of my time alone at the studio. It ispeaceful.  Mark teaches a teen hip-hop class and two classes for our teen boys (acro and hip hop) two evenings a week.  He had a few ballet classes on the schedule for adults and teens, but we are canceling them due to the pain this creates in his hips.  He really can’t dance at all anymore, and teaching is very physically painful for him, so he wants out. This is hard for me to accept because he is so remarkably talented. I watch his class, awed as always, and this more than anything else makes me miss the old days – how I loved the artistic exchange we shared. It is glorious to see him work his magic with dancers.  But his body has made it clear he is meant to do something else now and other than these few classes, he’s not much involved in this school, although he did help me slap together a quick website, ordered some brochures for me online and helped plan a magazine ad. Yes, I’m still a total dink regarding self- sufficiency in areas of technology and that is a real bother for Mark. I know he gets annoyed when I ask for help of any kind, so, I’m learning to fudge my way through things. I’m now tackling the set up of QuickBooks. I took a class on the dang program, yet still, being in charge of it intimidates me. Gee, you know you’re an old
fart when you long for simpler days when a pencil and graph paper is how you did your accounting.

Anyway, I’m pretty much left to myself to teach, market, organize, and run the school as Mark continues with his real estate business. Even though I began as a solo studio owner, that has been weird for me– a total adjustment regarding studio management. Being on my own often makes me sad, but then I remind myself returning to dance and evolving into a yoga teacher was something I wanted. I must remind myself that wanting help is more about habit and feeling isolated, than need. And the truth is, I’m not alone. I couldn’t have accomplished this first year without Denver. She is so mature now- an amazing dance teacher who understands the vision of the school as well as the syllabus and systems, and her involvement has made all the difference in the world. From day one, the people in this town are being introduced to an authentic FLEX. Meanwhile, Denver is also mid way through her own yoga training– something she was dying to do, so I agreed to pay for her training, not only because the school could use another yoga instructor, but because I wanted her to enjoy the experience for personal growth. Now, she’s starting to hang out in the evenings to do hands-on assisting (correcting people) as I teach yoga, and she’s a natural. It’s a fantastic thing for everyone – her, the FLEX students and me. She is happy and growing as an individual, helping her mom in an important way, and soon she’ll be certified and can sub yoga classes as well add a few classes of her own to the schedule – a path to her own individual growth.    I seriously doubt she’d ever have learned just how gifted a teacher she is at the old FLEX. There, it was too easy to take a backseat to other, more experienced teachers and to ride on the FLEX reputation and her position as daughter of the king and queen of the empire. We needed this time alone, a fresh start, and the challenge of beginning from scratch to truly unearth her creativity and communication and organizational skills. And she has. She is remarkable and I’m so proud of her.

 I should point out that Neva is no slouch either. In a fewshort months, her dancing has blossomed. She is beautiful and probably one of the best performers I’ve had the joy to work with in ages. Can’t wait to see where that goes. But she kicks in and helps us as an assistant. Yes, the new FLEX is definitely a Hendry girls’ project, and that is quite lovely too. Kent graces the door only for the two hours a week he is there with his friends taking class. He is strong and skilled and my heart sort of breaks when I see his latent potential, but a little acro and hip hop for fun is enough dance for him so that’s that. But. Man, his legs are long and straight and he has these great feet and a gorgeous back and such style and . . . sigh. 

 Of course, good classes aren’t enough to get a new business off the ground. First, you have to get students in the door so they know what they’re missing and we’ve been working like a demon to that end. Since we didn’t seem to have any preschoolers enrolled, I volunteered to teach at the local head-start preschool. Every other Friday I go in and teach 7 classes in arow for 135 preschoolers ages 3-4. Whew. It knocks me out, but you can bet I’m making people aware of FLEX ‘s strong children’s program. Next, Denver and I offered to teach a Girl Scout party so a troop could get their dance badges, but instead of one troop coming, the leader announced it to all the scouts at a bingo fundraiser, and we ended up with 47 scouts showing up for this wild dance awareness session. I was in one room with the older girls doing partner hip-hop with Neva, and Denver was in the other, doing a dance with backlights. We gathered everyone together for the lecture and then closed with some shadowdancing.  Parents were milling about, reading everything, picking up brochures, looking at pictures and articles on the walls, awed. The kids went wild. Needless to say, that evening was extremely successful.  And people talk . . .

 Now, this weekend, we are hosting an in-house Halloween party, just like the early days of FLEX in Florida. I built a gigantic shadowscreen out of PVC pipe and a queen size sheet (I spent an afternoon with supplies I dragged to the studio from home depot, along with one hand saw and a vague idea of how to accomplish the feat. Lots of cussing ensued, but I made abigger and better shadow screen than the one I had in the previous school (and much less expensive).  Denver decorated the studios with blowup pumpkins and skeletons (all in dance positions, I might ad) and we passed out hundreds of invitations. We are expecting at least a hundred kids tomorrow night, with an earlier party for the little ones ages 3-6 before hand. Eek. We are blowing up balloons, serving cake and treats, and have an art room set up in the yoga loft for kids to make masks. Downstairs, we have plans for shadow dancing, dancing with flashlights, backlight dancing, and much more. We even have a short show and plans to light up a stage area for it.  Hopefully, we’re ready! I’ll let you know how it goes.

 Next weekend, Blue Ridge has their huge Halloween bashdowntown. Since cabins in the mountains make door-to-door trick or treating impossible, local businesses set up tables to give out candy to area kids downtown. The merchants’ organization sponsors a costume contest and other fun activities,and thousands of people gather for the festivities. Um. Big celebration, you say? We’re there. We are setting up a booth and giving out candy attached to“free class” postcards with school information – pixie sticks for kids and chocolate for parents (on a yoga card). I made huge banners so people know who we are every time we dance, because yes, we are also dancing at the festivities. Denver and I choreographed a few numbers with some of our classes,and they turned out surprisingly good considering we only have new, beginner dancers to work with. We went with strong gimmicks, of course. She did a dance with stools, and I did a dance that involved the dancers using huge posters of their faces (had a photographer make a very artsy black and white pix as a prop which we blew up and put on foamcore) and it turned out  visually dynamic. Denver and I are even dancing together in the show, a ploy to make sure people associate strong dance to the school. We threw together this very fast, wild tap number to Ghost busters (a tan jump suit equipped with a ghost-bustingbackpack that shoots silly string into the audience is about as serious as I plan to get if I’m going onstage at 50.) Two dancing ghosts (kids moving in a stretchybag, enter midway through and we do some partner work with them. It’s funny and cute and greatly entertaining. It’s been a kick dancing with Denver and I must say, all time off aside, we’re still a strong tap team. We have compatible style, equal technique and a shared sense of humor. Our downfall is we laugh too much at ourselves when practicing.

 Of course all this extra activity takes a great deal of effort, but that’s the path to introducing the town to the new FLEX Arts Center in a way that will set the right tone for the school. Creating fun energy is very important to the general atmosphere. What I miss most about the old FLEX isn’t the accomplished dancers or success of the business.  I just miss the laughter and playfulness that made going to work inspirational.  That is something I plan to recreate.       

 Beyond that, I should point out that I’m not trying to make this FLEX a copy of the former one – just wanting to hold on to certain positive elements I was always proud of. But I’m different now and so this school has to be different,with different goals and influences. For example, next month begins my “Journaling for Deeper Awareness” class. I’ve wanted to teach a writing class ever since I graduated, so I put together a concept and offered a 6-week session in the yoga newsletter. Sure enough, people signed up. I’m so delighted. I’ll be teaching journaling techniques and an introduction to memoir writing in November, and hopefully, this will be a beginning, which will lead to many other writing courses. You can bet I could never have made the yoga and writing courses work in Sarasota– FLEX was too established and people had certain expectations for the school that made everyone resistant to our branching out in a totally different direction. Here, I’m wide open to new options and a different school vision – and this vision is kinder, more heartfelt and definitely more committed to personal enrichment for students than before – in the past, we killed ourselves to meet the demands of insatiable parents that seemed driven by ego and a desire to pursue things that deep down, we didn’t feel was good for the growth and development of young people.   The truth is, the school grew so big that it took on a life of it’s own, and with so many people involved in the process of training, each with their own agenda and concept of what theater and dance education should be all about despite our training, the school grew into an institution that was no longer a good fit for the Hendry’s.  I guess everything in life has its time and place and we recognized when our influence was no longer having impact. Change is a part of life. Sad, but beautiful too.

 Anyway, I have a new business demanding my time and energy,but it sure does make me feel alive and connected to my roots. It offers me a chance to explore new sides of my personality while also honoring my past – and this makes it a very special project.

Meanwhile, I’m getting ready to reopen the KIDDANCE Company and planning new products for dance teachers as well as an on-line newsletter of creative dance concepts, just to assure financial stability for the school. I feel I have to balance out the limitations from being in a small town, I guess.  I am also seriously contemplating more education (no I am NOT an education junkie – but as I branchout and expand my awareness, I can’t help but feel compelled to learn more about my new field.)

Ready for this? This time, I’m looking into massage therapy.There is a weekend program in Atlanta (one of the best schools in the country) that will lead to full certification after 17 months (eek – that is a long time to give up weekends and take on homework, not to mention embracing another student loan) but I would learn everything about massage therapy and holistic healing – from Swedish massage and shiatsu, to nutrition, pressure point acupuncture,and about a dozen therapeutic massage techniques. So, I’m toying with the idea. I plan to visit the facility next week. Becoming a certified massage therapist would help me expand the healing arts division of this school and give me a skill that would support me if ever I should need a different career. The factis, I’m not going to be able to dance forever, and while I can always be a school director, the recent period of time when I didn’t own a business of my own taught me that my work related skills are pretty narrow. I have a degree in business and all, but when push comes to shove, I’ve never held a regular job, so what good would I be to any company but my own? I would feel more secure if I was trained to do something else, just in case I ever needed or wanted different employment. Massage therapy is a very compatible career with yoga and dance, and it’s something you can do part time or in semi-retirement.  It’s a well paid sideline or full time job, and it offers flexibility and freedom – something I’ve learned is necessary for me to be happy. Even if the training just leads me to adding massage to the school services, and I later hire someone else to do the actual massages, being certified would help me understand quality care so I’d know how to best incorporate this division of an arts and holistic health enter – it would help me know who to hire, understand state laws etc… And face it, I’mf ascinated with the human body and how it works and I’m all about organic healing now . . . I’d love to someday have a big health-oriented center that includes art and dance and organic classes and services like meditation, yoga,and writing for personal growth.  Add to this the fact that I love connecting with people, love TOUCHING people, (and I’m told I have a great touch, don’t ya know) and love learning new things and well – it seems a natural fit. But I still have to give more school thought – gotta consider how such a choice would impact everyone else . . ya da, ya da. (Eating my own words, now, aren’t I?) And if the dance division of the school takes off, will I really have the strength to turn away to attend to other interests? At the heart, I am and always will be a dancer first.  This took 50 years to learn, but it’s true.

So that’s the big picture overview on my new biz.

I’m sorry I don’t write much anymore. My life has been inturmoil for the last 18 months or so, so I’ve chosen to lay off blogging. Somewhere along the way I reached a place where I instantly fall into this gut level of honesty when writing, which means that its best I keep my thoughts private when things are rough. No reason to aggravate my soul any more than necessary or to share my stresses with the world. Heck, the world has enough stress of it’s own that it doesn’t need my complaints floating out there in cyberspace.  I haven’t written a thing really in a long, long while – creativity shuts down when you feel badly. But I’m guessing, with the journaling class coming up, I’ll be writing more and feeling more positive, so that means I can return to light subject blogging as well – yes, more about turkeys and ducks and country adventures.  Of course, my blogs will always be too long and too mixed regarding subject matter to be an easy read or to gain a good following. But hey, I like it that way. It means only a few good friends will suffer through them and bother to return now and again.

 So, considering that, let me send you a smile and a shrug.

Life. Go figure.  Ya just gotta roll with it.

It is what it is.

Never perfect, but at least it is always interesting . . .


Until next time . . .