January 15, 2017

I like I think I could have been a good dancer. I think if I’d been given an opportunity I could have.

As I watched my daughter in her studio showcase today I couldn’t help but wonder. What if?

What if my mom had put me in dance classes? What if I had been able to express myself through dance and music? I was pretty good at gymnastics so what if I could have been good at dance too?

My daughter clearly loves to dance. She would rather dance than do just about anything. She dances while she watches tv. She dances while she brushed her teeth. She dances when nobody is watching and when every body is watching. She is pretty good too.

What if I had had the chance to dance?

And then I remember that a week ago I fell walking down a two foot snow bank and landed on my face. The Best Thing in Life is wondering what if…….

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Dance Mom?

dance mom 2

I spent three days last week with my daughter at my first…..sorry…..her first dance competition.  She loved it more than I thought was even imaginable.  The jury is still out on if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

It was a new experience for both of us.  I’m not sure who was more nervous on the first day, her or me.  She was doing an acro routine that involved an overhead lift (in which she was the one being lifted), front limbers and a forearm stand thrown in amongst some dance moves.  With only seven girls on stage there was little room for error.  Once it was done I felt like I needed a drink.  Too bad it was only 1:00 in the afternoon.

For the uninitiated, a dance competition involves young girls and boys performing solos, duos/trios and group dance routines that are judged by three judges.  The judges are typically ex-dancers who are now studio owners, choreographers or teachers.  For the competition we attended EVERY dancer gets a medal.  Very PC.  Their score gets them a silver, high silver, gold or high gold.  Within each group the top three performances are announced as third, second or first.  Got it?

dance mom 1

The styles of dance range from classical ballet, to jazz, to tap, to Broadway and acro and hip hop.  There are more styles,but you get the idea.  Ages range from four to sixteen.  All shapes and sizes and colors.  Oh, they have a category for international too.  Saw some beautiful Chinese fan dancing.  Anyway, I digress.

The dedication of some of these girls is admirable.  No, it’s astonishing.  I can’t even imagine the amount of hours they must train a week.  My daughter dances seven hours a week and I thought that was a lot.  I’ve had other mothers gasp (yes, gasp) at how much she does.  In reality it’s only a fraction of what others do.  And I’m okay with that.

And then there’s the cost.  Ya actually I’m not going to go there.  Let’s just say that it’s more than soccer.  And hockey. Combined.

I came away from the first day with a bit of a headache.  My daughter’s ballet teacher compared it to Disneyland and she is so right.  Everywhere you turn is a new costume, headpiece or makeup look.  Gaggles of little girls run around buzzing from too many Skittles.  Moms suck back coffee trying to keep up with the gaggles of girls they are in charge of.  Each time the theatre door opens you get a blast of new music and a fresh wave of costumes dashing by.  It’s head spinning.

dance mom acro

So here’s the tricky part for me.  Dance is art and therefore it is subjective.  Obviously there are some dance teachers and parents who have a different take on what is acceptable and age appropriate for costumes, music and choreography.  Everybody makes their own choices and I’m not the judge of them.  Well…I kind of am.  In my head anyway.

I personally would not allow my six or seven year old to get up on stage wearing red sequined boy shorts, a black crop top and fake eyelashes all while twerking to a Nicki Minaj song.  But that’s just me.

The world of dance competitions, my dance teacher friend told me “needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”  I think that is very sage advice for this new dance mom.  I will try to remember it in the years to come.

The Best Thing in Life is being eight and just loving to dance.

TBT – The Eagles

the eagles

This week Throw Back Thursday’s inspiration didn’t come from a photo.  It came from a conversation I had with my seven-year old this past week.  It went something like this……

“Mom, did you know there’s a band called the Eagles?”
“Yes I did know that. Why do you ask?”
“My friend Gwen told me about them. Are they any good? Would I know their songs?”
“Maybe. I play them sometimes”
“Oh is that the old music you play?”

When did the Eagles become old music?

In the summer of 1975 my mom and dad packed up the suburban and the five of us drove from Vancouver to Colorado. My dad’s aunt had a cabin up in the mountains and we planned to spend a month there hiking and fishing. Flying the five of us there was not an option for them at that time so we drove. In the middle of the summer. With no air conditioning.  Across Idaho and Utah.  In the summer.

On a side note, I often pull this out of my parenting bag when my kids complain about their iPads not working on the three-hour drive to Kelowna. It’s something like the “I walked to school every day in the snow, uphill, both ways” except a bit more up to date.

In addition to no air conditioning (and plastic seats) the only source of entertainment was an AM/FM radio. Those of you who remember AM/FM radio will know that you need to be close to a city in order to get any kind of reception. There are many many long, deserted portions of road between Vancouver and Colorado that are literally in the middle of nowhere. Hours upon hours of hot dry nothingness.

The Eagles had released a few albums in the early 70’s and my sister and I were big fans. We knew their songs backwards and forwards. So as we cruised along with all the windows open we would sing them. Loudly and badly. If pressed I think I may even be able to do it today. It’s probably one of only things that my sisters and I truly shared. I suppose when you are stuck in a hot truck for hours a day you can achieve anything.

“And freedom, oh freedom well, that’s just some people talkin’. Your prison is walking through this world all alone”.

As the years have gone by I have continued to love the Eagles. When my fiend Karen told me that her parents had property in Winslow, Arizona I had “Take it Easy” stuck in my head for days. I could picture a tiny desert town. Dusty and hot with old brick buildings. Turns out I wasn’t far wrong.

winslow

“Well, I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me”

If I had to explain how their music makes me feel…….You know how you feel when you’ve spent the whole day at the beach? You’re hot and salty and tired and the sun is setting on the day. Sitting in a beach chair with sand between your toes.  The light is golden and shimmering on the ocean. You’ve got a cold beer in your hand and not a care in the world. That, for me, is Eagles music.

“You can leave it all behind and sail to Lahaina just like the missionaries did, so many years ago.”

Now I listen to the Eagles in my kitchen when I’m baking. The “old” music as my daughter refers to it.  It takes me back to a time that was simpler and slower. When ten-year olds could listen to all of the lyrics on the radio without them being censored. The Best Thing in Life is music that can transport you back in time.

Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.

A Musical Journey

musical notes

Its Sunday afternoon and I’m standing in my kitchen planning what I need to do next week and listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Brilliant Disguise. It’s taking me back to a crazy weekend in Kelowna in the early ’90s. Music, like smell, can take you to a place or time you may have long forgotten even existed. It can wrap you in a warm blanket or make you want to sing into your hairbrush. Indulge me while I take a walk down memory lane.

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents are British. Very British. Growing up, the musical selections where typically classical. The exception was Caribbean steel band music. My dad had spent some time working in Dominica and had grown to love their music. In particular the band The Merrimen and their classic tune Big Bamboo. The only time things got crazy at our house was when Katie and Walter Mees came for dinner and the Merrimen was put on the turntable. Dining room table pushed back and everybody let loose; well, as loose as they could get. “She said Sparrow all I want from you, I want from you Is a little little piece baby, just a little little piece of the big bamboo.” Really Dad?

The Rolling Stones somehow encapsulated my entire high school graduating year. It wasn’t even new music. These were songs that had come out ten years earlier. I remember Mary, Deana and Laurie got to sing back up for the guys in the band. They were the cool chicks who could sing and I was so jealous. I did, however, get my moment, except it was a group of us dancing in a big circle singing Shattered at the top of our lungs. Close enough. The Stones seemed to be everywhere that year. Parties, school and even by way of early morning guitar solos in our Palm Springs condo. Thank you John and Graham.

James Taylor will forever mean summer camp on Orcas Island. Warm summer days hanging out on the dock. Sailing trips through the islands to sleep under the stars. Nightly fires in the lodge with a couple of hundred young voices singing their hearts out. All accompanied by a guitar played by a cute counsellor from California. What more could an eighteen year old want? If it wasn’t James Taylor it was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Oh, and there was that one day after camp spent jumping on Theresa’s cousins trampoline to Freebird. That ones a little foggier than the rest.

Banff. Early eighties. Was there any other band being played beside Duran Duran? I think not.

Sade takes me back to the beaches of Greece. We were staying on the island of Paros. Kathryn and I had been touring the islands with a group of six or seven Aussies, a Kiwi and an American (I think). For any of you who have spent any time in the Greek islands in your twenties you know that it can be an endless cycle of late night ouzo fueled parties followed by lazy days recovering from said parties. It was late in the day and the batteries in my Walkman were getting low but I couldn’t resist one last song as the sun started to set on the harbour. That is my happy place. Sade and I soaking up the warm Greek sun.

Okay, here’s a really funny one. Yanni. Ya, you heard me. Yanni. When I left my ex-husband, I stayed with my mom and dad for a few months. During that time they went on a long planned trip to India. My son was really little, I didn’t go out much and funds were pretty right. As a result, I was held hostage by my parents limited collection of tapes. Yes, tapes. So the least offensive choice was Yanni. Listening to it now takes me back to their living room, playing with the baby on the floor and wondering what the hell I was going to do. It was mindless and calming. Just what I needed.

When my current husband and I started dating, Harry Conick Jr. was pretty much all we listened too. It’s probably the most romantic period of my life. Candle lit dinners, roses and bubble baths were a regular occurance. My husband had gone to school in New Orleans (where Harry is from) and was a big fan. Additionally, one of the first movies we saw together was Hope Floats in which Harry Connick Jr. plays Sandra Bullocks very hot boyfriend. Although he can’t hold a candle to my husband, if I needed a stand in, Harry would do.

So there you go. The Best Things in Life always have a soundtrack.