Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving thanks

It's Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.  It really was quite an eventful few days starting with Sarah coming in Wednesday and ending with Sarah flying home this afternoon.

In between we saw a local community play, celebrated Thanksmas with my side of the family,  hung out at Karma, showed our apartment in Newburgh and cleaned the house.  I don't take part in any Black Friday activities, so I saved my shopping for this week.  Even without hitting a store, we had plenty of things to do and it was jammed with fun.

Most notably this week was Thanksgiving Day, of course.  In our family, we are traditionally guests of other people's TG spread.  Over the past few years, we've traveled to Dawn and Sean's for an early dinner and then moved to Patti and Stuart's for dinner later in the evening. 

This year was a little different... Dawn and Sean had quite the eventful few months themselves.  They were hit by the flooding from hurricane Irene and lost their home back in September.  Coincidentally, they had already been looking at a new home and quickly closed on it and moved in. Happily, we sat in there new dining room eating the turkey Dawn cooked in her beautiful new kitchen!!!  A true reason to be thankful.

As I sat and ate next to my sister, I mentioned missing Mom this week.  This was the first holiday without her.  I saw a picture of her with my nephew Ben during the week and the emotions just flowed out of me.  I remembered picking her up and traveling through the county to get there for dinner and talking about anything and everything.  While it wasn't easy the last few years, she was still Mom - all laughs and love.  We missed her as we talked about the rutabaga Donna couldn't cook this year. 

My memories of last year flooded in a few times too.  I sat there eating and remembering what it was like last year.  Last year, I walked in knowing that I had breast cancer.  We didn't tell anyone and we tried to act normally.   I think we were successful although it felt like we walked with a cloud over our head and everyone could see it.  Either way, it was a very strange feeling. 

This year was entirely different.  We sat around the new table at the Ackerman's and ate and talked and laughed.  Reminisced of years past and were grateful for where we were today.

We moved on that day to Patti's.  Again, no one knew.  The four of us sat at a table in the back with just a few others.  It's like we were holding each other up because we were the only ones that knew our secret.  Bob shared with Patti that day.  Her mother-in-law Deena noticed our different behavior and asking about it.  This year I talked about my year and my journey to the family and friends that were there.  I was grateful that it was just part of my past now.

That night we drove home - me, Bob and Sarah.  Last year, Alex was going to celebrate Thanksgiving with Melissa's family but at the last minute because of the diagnosis, he changed his plans to be home with us.  This year, he made it the Clark's for the holiday - as much as I missed him, I'm thankful he was able to keep his plans. 

Life has gone on... I'm thankful for the gift of life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Year In My Life

It's been a year... a year since a distraught Bob walked through the door of the studio to tell me the news.  A year since we heard the words and saw the pictures.  A year since we told the kids. A year since every thing changed.

Memories come flooding back of those days.  When I could only think of the people I had to tell and what I had to do next.  Scheduling appointments was a priority and trying to figure out how to fix it.

I sat at my desk today and the messages came in marking the day from my family and friends.  Emails, tweets, texts, facebook are the reminders of the people I love and the connections I've made over this year.

I was happy.  I was sad.  But I do know how lucky I am.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Finding Wonderland

I haven't talked much about it lately, but the last 3 months of my life have been filled with preparations for this year's annual dance recital at Yanarella School of Dance.

If I said it was a lot of work, I'd be lying!  It was a ridiculously huge amount of work!!! I spent most Sundays teaching and rehearsing for 10 or 12 hours.  I've been teaching for 28 years now

My labor of love begins with auditions for the story ballet back in August. I prepare several pieces that I teach in a 2 hour time frame.  The girls learn as much as I can produce and decide which roles they will be auditioning for.  I invite a few teachers in to watch with me and judge and within 4 hours I've filled all the roles. 

Right after Labor Day I start having these marathon rehearsals.  I take time with my leads choreographing and teaching their parts - directing them.  After a few weeks, we add the other classes to the mix to create the balance of the story.  Each class usually gets a special part and of course a coordinated bow. 

This year, my story ballet was Alice in Wonderland.  As I described earlier in this blog, I went to see Wonderland on Broadway with the intention of using it for my ballet and it didn't disappoint.  The score is so clever and colorful!  I took the score and cut it all up to fit my storyline and started to put together dances.  We had about 8 of these long rehearsals - some with groups up to 70 dancers.  It was long and arduous and fun and exciting all at the same time.

My regular classes were moving along but not as quickly and seamlessly as I'd like.  I teach a group of intermediate 12 year olds and their classes were doing well.  They can always use more work, but I was very happy with their progress.  Workshop was working on 3 dances - Bless Our Show, Orange Colored Sky and another song. 

The other song... Late in the game, I changed the song to I'm Gonna Love You Through It - a Martina McBride song about the breast cancer experience.  Bob loved the song and felt it was very powerful.  I didn't change the song without clearing it with my Workshop class - everything we do is a team effort.  They loved the concept and the message.

So, I began to shift my focus to this new song.  Each week I would come to class with new choreography but nothing seemed to work.  I was really distraught about it.  I approached my former student Juliane for some help from long distance but it was too difficult to work together.  I just kept pushing through fixing, reviewing, adding - whatever it took.  We were almost there when I heard a different version of the song at the Silhouette of a Woman Fashion Show.  This was one week before the stage rehearsal!!! I had to add a couple of steps in the middle and a whole new ending.  I called an emergency meeting after one of the 10 rehearsals to work it out... and it worked!

I wanted it close to finished for rehearsal so we could get the audience to buy into our story.  We wore our costumes to get the full effect.  I had recorded my voice to begin the song - 'My experience began 10 days after last year's recital...' it was the first time the class had heard it and it was haunting.  We all immediately started to cry but it created the spark we needed.  The dance worked ... it just gelled into something beyond what we had even intended.  Jackie described it as 'Organic' - perfect description. We finished telling our story and as we all hugged and wiped away our tears, I looked into the audience and they were doing the same.  They got it... we conveyed our message.  I called it 'Experience of a Lifetime'.  Here it is:
This year's dance recital was a complete success!  The last song our story ballet was called Finding Wonderland and the are amazingly ironic.  I believe the journey over this past year allowed me to find my Wonderland.

Finding Wonderland
We move to fast
We miss so much
We seldom see all the miracles in front of us
A warm embrace
A human touch
And so it goes
I race around
Search high and low for a truth I used to know
When there was magic to be found

Cause finding wonderland
Is taking time to see
The child within has always been there smiling back at me
So when I close my eyes I just remember and I cant hale finding wonderland

Its not to late
Here in my prime hearts can un-break in the story's nick of time
A happy ending
A perfect rhyme

Cause finding wonderland is finding who you are
The child with in has always been there like a shining star
So when i close my eyes I see forever and I keep on finding wonderland

Ordinary magic happens every single day
Wonderland is never far away

Cause finding wonderland is going home again
To feel the love another gives and giving back and then
If you should lose your way reach out for someones hand and you'll be finding wonderland
Youll be finding Wonderland

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fashion for a Cause - Silhouette of a Woman

It started out as a regular day at the office... it ended with stories to tell!!

I went to work that day with the intention of leaving no later than 2p.  I scrambled out the door as close to it as I could.  I was told to get my nails colored red and be at the salon, New Creations, at 4pm for hair and makeup.

I was the last to arrive at the salon.  There were probably 6 or 7 other models waiting to get spruced up for the fashion show.  It was a special feeling to be standing there in that room.  As I started to chat with the other models, I realized what a special group of women I was among.  The models were a mix of ages and about half were survivors.  The other half were so interested in our story and compassionate to our journey that it was easy to see we found some new friends there. 

New Creations... these ladies gave of their time and energy to work on this event.  My hats off to Debbie, Colleen, Jennifer and Jill who really went over the top to get us ready.  Poor Jill was given the task of working on my hair. While I don't have much of it, I have 2 cowlicks that have a mind of their own!  But after many products, a couple of pairs of hands and a bobby pin or two, we got them tamed!  Colleen used makeup to hide my flaws and enhance what I have.  And don't forget the lashes!!!  I may never where that much makeup in my life or fix my hair that way, but it's incredible how good it makes you feel when all the fussing over you culminates in a 'look' and the compliments are flying!!!

Once we were finished, we were to head to the Bardavon.  There was a freak snow storm that night - Oct 27th, so we left with heads covered and faces sheilded to protect us from the elements.  A stop or 2 on the way and we all met up in our respective dressing rooms.  A group of my new friends all particitpated in a bit of Vitamin V to loosen us up.  We dressed with the help of Beth and Robyn from Elizabeth's.  Then we chatted and tried to stay cool in the tiny hot dressing room while the paying customers where in the lobby enjoying a beverage and the festivities in the theater.

It was finally time to take the walk.  As we made our way to our starting positions, it was clear we were going to rock this show!  My group was in the Shadows scene and we decided that it would be appropriate if we danced on the stage as we waited for the others to finish and end back on the stage.  That was right up my alley!! I was up first and did my best model posing at center stage with a lunge and a look to each corner and of course a spin to show off the flirty skirt I was wearing. Then it was off to walk through the audience, around the lobby and back up to the stage.  As we all made it to the line on the stage, we danced and laughed and held each other up!  We played the 'party scene' perfectly - even made the Poughkeepsie Journal! 

After the scenes were over, we split up again to join our respective businesses - Elizabeth Boutique and New Creations.  I was so happy and honored to represent Beth Madsen at the event. She worked so hard putting this all together and I really wanted to make her proud of her selections.  Hopefully she found a great deal of satisfaction in putting in the time and effort in creating such a wonderful event.  In fact, it was obvious that she did! She simply glowed that night!

The last part of the event pulled each of the survivors out to stand in aisles of theater.  Announced by name and time since diagnosis, I was honored to be among the 25 or so women in the show who took their places with their roses.  When all of us were in place, the call went out to the audience for other survivors to also stand as we were all honored with applause and a song.  Of course, the song was 'I'm Gonna Love You Through It' - more on that in another post.

While the song was playing, it was very emotional to look out to see Bob and Sarah, Shelly, my friends the Kram's and the Marcus's, Jackie and Marisa and anyone else I knew that came out to support this cause that has grown so dear to my heart.  I hugged my family, my old and new friends and my sister-survivors as I felt an enormous sense of gratitude for what I have.

A huge thank you to those involved.  It was a great experience for me and know the success of the event is a true testiment to the commitment of those who created it.  Hugs and more hugs!!!