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In These Shoes

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I sit down to write this post on the tail of returning from an incredibly self-indulgent excursion. On the cusp of attending my second book signing, I decided to celebrate by channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw and I bought myself a new pair of shoes. I wish that I could tell you I had something more profound to share with you today, but the truth is that I’m just too excited about my new purchase.

So what, exactly, is the big deal for some women regarding shoes? Why do we get so darned giddy about what we put on our feet? At the end of the day they come in different shapes and colors, but we’re basically talking about a molded hunk of rubber, plastics and petrochemical-derived materials.

Could it be that shoes represent something far more significant to the overly enthusiastic shoe shopper than just another fashion accessory? How many times have you seen a girlfriend slip into a new pair of heels and watched as her face lit up? Though it may appear materialistic, there’s no denying the fact that the right pair of shoes can instantly boost a woman’s confidence in her appearance. This can be attributed to many factors. The added inches in height make legs appear longer, calves more muscular, and slow down a woman’s natural gait. Standing at 5 feet and 9 inches before heels, I can’t say that I’ve ever envied another woman’s height, but I must admit that the added stature does give my feminine ego a boost. And while my 5 foot 8 husband isn’t thrilled about having an Amazon on his arm for formal occasions, I gently remind him of an arrangement we agreed upon years ago:

The underwear may be for you, dear, but the shoes are for me ;)

Another thing shoes have going for them is their loyalty. Shoes are the most faithful companion a woman can have. They will never forget to mow the lawn, or wake her up at four in the morning to ask for a glass of water. They will never cancel out on dinner plans at the last minute, or write her an unfavorable performance review at work. And unlike those treasonous little wretches called pants, shoes are unfailingly consistent, always remaining the same size no matter how many casual flings she may endure with Old Dutch BBQ chips. My shoes have always been and always will be a nine — such an impressive number. Nine: the number of innings in baseball, the number of lives assigned to a cat (ours, by the way, is now down to six), and, according to numerologists, the number that represents idealistic, intensely passionate people who need to control their wild impulses, like blatantly disregarding city by-laws and parking the car in the disabled parking spot for twenty seconds to drop off a child who is nearly late for his swimming class. I’m out of control. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

                             EVERY SHOE TELLS A STORY…

 

                       Mama’s working

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Dreaming Big

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It is said that we should never judge another man until we walk a mile in his shoes. And my shoes have carried me along several miles in this marathon of motherhood. For years, my footwear consisted mainly of Crocs, slippers and galoshes. Then, about a year after the birth of my youngest child, we were visiting friends in New York. It was announced that the ladies would take off for an afternoon excursion at DSW. That day I came home with three pairs of gorgeous shoes that served fashion much more than function. Since then I haven’t looked back. I just like having pretty, sexy, feminine shoes on my feet for no other reason than simple, self-indulgent fun.

And while you’ll never find a pair of Louboutins in my collection, and I’ll never possess what the most ardent of shoe lovers would deem a “shoeseum”, I’m here to proudly state that price and quantity aren’t what matters about your anthology of footwear, ladies. It’s the feelings they conjure that are most important.

Today, my shoes make me feel like an accomplished and professional woman, even though I may lack the income and notoriety of Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in Sex and the City. If I knew tomorrow would be my last day on earth, the last thought that would run through my head would be Thank God I always chose the sensible flats!

I prefer to follow a different credo: Life is short, Sweetie. Buy the shoes <3.

Making It Work

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I arrived at my dentist appointment ten minutes early yesterday (thank you, I’m proud of me, too). When the hygienist greeted me, she complimented me on the necklace I was wearing and asked, “So you’re coming from work?” Considering it was the middle of the day and I was reasonably well dressed, I regarded this as a natural assumption.

“Yes, I am,” I replied.

“Where do you work?”

“From home,” I answered, watching the surprised look on her face turn to amusement. I watched her arrange the instruments she intended to use for my check-up while I’m sure she entertained a few images of me as an older lady, all dolled up to throw tea parties for myself, by myself.

Dressing well is just one of the strategies I use to help me stay productive on the days that I dedicate to writing. Working from home can be a double-edged sword. Yes, you have the convenience of no commute and no schedule to follow, but the lack of structure can sometimes have a negative effect on productivity. When I find myself in a slump, I call upon my leadership abilities and ask myself, What advice would I give to students in a writing workshop on remaining productive?

The following is a list of tips and tricks that I organized in my head as I lay in the dentist’s chair, awkwardly trying to answer questions that were asked after several metal apparatuses were placed in my mouth (btw, how on earth do they expect you to have a conversation like that?).

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#1. Dress for Success: When I first started working/writing from home on a regular basis, I noticed that my writing days were spent in pajamas right up until it was time to pick up the kids from school. Things usually started out well, but by noon I felt like frumpy, foggy mess. Taking twenty minutes to shower, put on nice clothes and run a brush through my hair helps me to avoid this pitfall. I don’t do this every day, and certainly not in the summer when the kids are home, but having 2-3 designated PD (professionally dressed) days a week does wonders for my frame of mind.

 

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#2. Curb Your Temptation to Multitask: This is a biggie. One of the biggest reasons that working from home is so difficult for career women with families is that your work space is also your living space. My preferred place to write is at my laptop, sitting at the dining room table. From here, I have a great panoramic view of the entire main floor. On the days when the house is tidy, this is not a problem for me. The days when the house is untidy, however, provide me with an extremely challenging set of circumstances. I don’t function well in a disorganized environment. I find it extremely distracting. I’ve noticed that somewhere between the third and fourth paragraph, I am popping up and down, finding all sorts of excuses to abandon my post. I have tried to set myself up for success on Monday by implementing the “Hour-of-Power” tidying session on Sunday. This is the time when I enlist (okay, nag) everyone to stop what they’re doing and pitch in to help tidy up the main floor. Toys are brought to the family room or bedrooms, floors are vacuumed, counters are wiped, clutter is cleared. By having the whole family contribute, the job is no longer an unending, exhausting marathon of resentment. I can pick away at the other housekeeping tasks (usually one a day) throughout the following week, without overextending myself.

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#3. Keep to a Schedule: Remember you’re working! Workers need to be aware of the time. Have you ever noticed how much better you produce when there are clearly defined ‘drop dead’ dates? As a teacher, I always keep my exam dates on the horizon. As a choreographer, the impending showcase/competition was what motivated me to keep pushing my work forward. As an unknown writer with no real demand for her work, it makes little difference whether I pump out a novel a year, or every five years. What’s that? I didn’t get that blog post out today? No sweat, I’m in good with the boss! Since I have nobody standing over me demanding results, I have to crack my own whip. Every month I devise a rough outline of what I’d like to accomplish each week. For example, this is what my current week looks like: Mon: Work on blog /promotion opportunities, Tues: Author Presentation @ School, Wed/Fri/ Sun a.m: Work on novel. I don’t always strictly adhere to this, of course, but having a suggested road map in front of me at least helps point me in the right direction. I also try not to let the “work day” be too open-ended, either. Today is blog/promo work day. I will work all through the morning and then take a break for at least an hour. A break looks like eating lunch, taking a walk, reading fiction, picking off at house chores, or hunting down the solid Easter bunny that nobody else in the house knows about. Afterwards, I will send/return email and then call it a day as I head out to collect the children and begin the “second shift”.

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#4. Take the Show on the Road: Some days, despite my best efforts, I am still not getting anything accomplished. The house is tidy, I’m wearing heels and pearls, I’m keeping an eye on the time, but all I’ve done is surf YouTube and compose smarmy comments about David Hasselhoff on Facebook. When I find myself struggling this way, I know the time has arrived to have an out-of-office business meeting. I pack up my laptop bag and head out the door. Sometimes just setting up shop at a nearby café helps to reset my focus. For a writer, public places like cafes are a goldmine for dialogue bits. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve casually intercepted conversations between people that have given birth to the inspiration that strikes me when something big is happening in Zoe Sanders’ life.

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#5. Throw Yourself a Bone: Lifting morale is just as important when you work from home (if not more) as it is when you work from the office. When things are difficult or stressful, it’s helpful to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Set yourself up with some kind of reward to help you continue moving forward. For example, next month, if I reach my goal of finishing the last of my novel edits, I will reward myself with a trip to my local spa for some frivolous indulgence of my choosing. I also try my best to maintain weekly employee morale by implementing casual dress Fridays and bring in a box of doughnuts for everyone. My happiness is important to me. I want to show myself the appreciation I deserve.

When my dentist appointment ended, I headed back to work with not only a clean bill of oral health but an organized train of thought to share for this blog post. Now there’s something to smile about!                                                              How about this for a home office? Anyone?

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Community Spotlight – Jerome Photographer

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Browse through the galleries of Jerome Photography, and it’s easy to see why this sought-after artist has received such acclaim for his work. Originally from St. Raphel, France, Jerome Scullino first used a camera at the age of eleven, discovering an aptitude for photography that would later win him an award at the age of twenty. Since that time, Jerome has travelled extensively, pursuing his artistic endeavours on both sides of the camera lens.

Jerome’s worldwide travels and education (which include philosophy, anthropology, art history, creative writing and a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science!) have afforded him the unique ability to infuse an artistic perspective in each of his projects and client requests. Whether he’s involved with a commercial photo shoot, family portrait, wedding photos or helping you to get a portfolio of professional headshots together, Jerome will devote his attention to shaping his vision for your project, allowing you to promote your brand or capture precious memories.

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Visit www.jeromephotographer.com today to browse this well-rounded artist’s gallery and impressive resume, and see for yourself why he’s the best choice for all your photography needs. Become part of the growing fanbase on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jeromephotographer and learn about proper camera maintenance, the history of the portrait, and glean a little advice on remaining in love with your longtime partner while you’re at it! An artist who strives to consistently see the beauty in each moment away from the camera lens is perhaps one’s best choice to bring out the beauty of the subjects that are in front of the lens.

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Community Spotlight – KnitKnacks.ca

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Close your eyes and picture yourself standing on a snowy wooded lot populated with robust maple trees, spiles firmly in place, inviting the slow but steady trickle of precious sap into a bucket. Later that sap will be made into maple syrup. The distinct chill of late winter is in the air, but your body heat is retained thanks to the warm and cozy handmade woollens that wrap themselves around you.

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If you can do this, then you can successfully imagine a day in the life of Juliette Klein, the creator of KnitKnacks.ca. This home-run business, which has been in operation since 2011, is just outside of Ottawa, and features vintage-inspired knits for babies and children. Although Juliette and her husband were raised mainly in the suburbs, they have chosen to embrace a rural existence, raising their family on homemade maple syrup, handmade woollens, plenty of fresh-air and warm, hearty family dinners in the evenings.

Juliette, who has been knitting since she was a child, feels it’s a great privilege to knit for someone’s child and to know that something she’s made is loved. With the skills and wisdom passed down from her grandmother and her husband’s, it’s easy to see the love, nurturing and warmth of generations of homemakers coming through in her creations.knit2

For parents who wish to return to simpler, toxin-free clothing for their children, browsing her website, www.knitknacks.ca, will inspire a longing to secure their infant’s bottom in a warm, snuggly soaker, or their pre-schooler’s noggin in a whimsical hat. Warning: It will also induce a craving for syrup-covered pancakes — one can only endure so many pictures of maple syrup production until the inevitable physiological response ensues.

Visit www.knitknacks.ca today and browse the vast collection of knitted treasures for sale. Visitors may choose from a template of samples already created or place a custom order. Experienced knitters may add to their own ensemble of accessories by browsing an attractive array of stitch markers and needle rolls to add to their knitting baskets, proving that KnitKnacks.ca does indeed have something for everyone.

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Follow KnitKnacks.ca on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/KnitKnacksVintageKnitting

Community Spotlight – DanceRoots

 

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The once quiet, rural-like community of Riverside South is now a bustling hub of suburban business with a new dance studio offered among the spoils. DanceRoots, which is now in its fifth year of operation, is the joint venture of husband and wife team Brandon Downs (business director) and Sarah Nolan Downs (artistic director).

DanceRoots offers the inhabitants of Riverside South the opportunity to enroll their children in quality dance education, following the prestigious RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) and ADAPT (Associated Dance Arts for Professional Teachers) training syllabuses. The directors are confident in their studio’s ability to provide the school’s students with the skills necessary to succeed in the dance industry. Once professional dancers themselves, the studio’s directors are committed to bringing their philosophy of dance to fruition with every step their students take by designing classes that develop not only the necessary technical foundation but also inspire passion for the art form itself. They do this by providing their own unique perspective on dance education, as well as carefully selecting the qualifications of their staff, who will participate in shaping the dancers during their formative years of training.

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Recreational as well as pre-professional classes are offered in ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, contemporary, acro and musical theatre. A thriving competitive team has taken root, along with a successful exam program. Preparations for exciting summer camps are now underway, offering a little taste of everything for both the student who is new to dance and the returning “serious” dancer.

 

Aside from offering a prestigious training academy, DanceRoots also instills the value of giving back to the community. A habitual collector of non-perishable offerings for the local food bank, DanceRoots is preparing to host its second annual Chase Your Dreams event. This gala evening features performances by the studio’s competitive dancers and donates 100% of its proceeds to South Ottawa Race Day, a fundraising initiative for brain cancer. Chase Your Dreams also serves as a powerful memorial to celebrate the life of Brandon and Sarah’s daughter, Chase Downs, who lost her 14-year battle with brain cancer last winter. This event not only keeps alive the memory of an extraordinary young woman but also allows the members of the community to come together to fuel medical research with the necessary resources to one day turn the hope of a cure into a reality.

 

Tickets for Chase Your Dreams may be purchased at the studio, 4456 Limebank Road, Unit #5, on Friday, May 1 from 5:00-7:00 p.m., or at the door at Steve Maclean Public School, where the performance will be held. The performance will be on Tuesday evening, May 6th at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $5.00. Come be a part of this great event. Enjoy an evening of quality entertainment while supporting an important cause. Visit www.danceroots.caDance 2

Lucy’s Lit Picks

bookWhat’s that you say? Looking for something to read? Here are a few recommendations off the top of my head. A little something for everyone…

 

Gift from the sea#1. Gift From the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh. For every woman looking to raise a family while maintaining a sense of self.

 

 

#2. The Rise – Sarah Lewis. For every artist who is caught between the genius of creativity and the crippling blow of failure. The Rise

#3. Seat of the Soul – Gary Zukav. For seekers of spiritual empowerment who seek to augment personal growth and awareness of self. A good springboard to understanding the link between science and religion.seat of the soul

 

 

 

 

#4. The Power of Now- Eckhart Tolle.  For those who seek to integrate their higher purpose and disengage from the toxic cycle of negativity that plagues them.

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ten-things#5. Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew – Ellen Notbohm. Every parent with a child on the spectrum needs to read this book.

 

 

 

 

Be Different paperback.book large teaser#6. Be Different – John Elder Robinson.  Every adolescent and adult on the spectrum should read this book.

 

 

 

 

#7. The Aviator’s Wife – Melanie Benjamin. A great historical fiction novel about one of my favourite authors.aviator

 

 

 

 

 

#8. Hi Fidelity – Nick Hornby. A great, modern-day romance for the times. A true example of how much happier we’d all be if we could just stop getting in our own way.hi fid

#9. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green. Witty, Gritty, darkly funny, and devastating from front to back. Damn, I wish I had written this book.

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#10. Classic, must-have children’s literature: James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl. James stole our hearts and gave us an underdog to root for long before Harry walked in on the scene.

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#11. Great Young Adult Literature: Sarah Dessen, and Judy Blume. Two of my favs, and biggest influences in my own writing.

                             the-truth-about-forever                                  areyoutheregod 

 

 

 

#12. Looking to give poetry a stab? Check out the uplifting lyrics of Maya Angelou, the tortured prose of Leonard Cohen, or the  witty, enigmatic musings of Auden as he sifts through the wreckage of the human existence.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      maya 3                                                                                                                                                                                             

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Do It For The Girls

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Who knew that all those makeup-less selfies would stir up such a fuss? What started out as an innocent and seemingly good-intentioned cause has somehow blown up to a public stoning of all women who participated.

Let’s back this truck up a bit, shall we?

As you may have noticed, news feeds during the month of March were bombarded with postings of selfies of young women baring their faces with no makeup. These pictures were rewarded with likes and comments, making these young women feel brave and confident about sharing their nude faces with the whole cyber-world. Was this a bad thing? Not in my books. In a society that pushes an unrealistic standard of physical beauty, making women feel that their complexions should be flawless, lips pouty, eyes smoldering, cleavages heaving, and waistlines shrinking, I can easily get behind any idea that empowers women to turn away from the media’s influence and be their genuine selves. It seems ridiculous that this should even be considered the feminine standard of strength, I agree. As a society, we’ve made our bed — it’s our own fault if we have reservations about sleeping in it.

256px-QuestionMarkWoman1922But that wasn’t really the point, now was it?

I’ve read a number of articles written by authors who trashed the notion of the no-makeup selfie. And while I agree that posting a picture of yourself on social media with no eyeliner does not a philanthropist make, the fact remains that this trend actually has helped raise money. Cancer Research UK (which claims not to be responsible for starting the campaign) states that the trend of no-makeup selfies has helped raise upwards of 8 million pounds. They further substantiate the claim that the “unprecedented increase in donations” has resulted in allowing the charity to carry out 10 clinical trials that it did not have the necessary funding for before the campaign began.

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Were all those touched up, duck-faced Instagram pics tiresome to look at after the first twenty minutes? You bet they were. And for the record,  I did not participate in this trend. I have, in the past (as I’m sure I’ll do in the future), participated in other awareness-generating trends on social media for reasons that ranged from “it seemed mildly amusing” to deeply moving. Does awareness solve all our problems? Unequivocally, no, it does not. But in many circumstances it does prove to be an important first step towards developing a working solution. And in this case, I’d say 10 new clinical trials is a good start.

Did we lose sight of the bigger picture here?

candlestick telephonesYes, I would agree that’s a fair statement. Like a game of “telephone”, the message got garbled. What was intended to raise awareness for cancer research somehow got turned into an impromptu beauty pageant. Like most social media bandwagons, we made this about us (cue Natalie Wood singing “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story). But if we’re going to start shaming everyone for vain, self-serving posts, then we’d better take a hard look at our own posts. All of us use social media to draw attention to ourselves — that’s why we enjoy using it so much. And now we’re garbling the message even further. Instead of rejoicing in the fact that a great charity received funding from all this nonsense, we’re engaging in a shaming war, pointing fingers at each other. If we can tolerate all the selfies of hairy, ungroomed men running around in November, why should this be any different? Gentlemen have their facial hair with which to solicit, ladies remove their makeup. If you’re RuPaul, then you can do both.MovemberPL.jpeg

Personally, I think that any institution/charity that relies on funding for potentially life-saving research is worthy of awareness-raising activity of any sort. In fact, there was a time, not so long ago, when I was a patient in one of them. You can read about it here. This experience opened my eyes to a group of women in our society who really do embody the adjectives “brave and beautiful”, especially one woman in particular who agreed to speak candidly with me about her less-than-optimistic prognosis for some research I was doing on an upcoming novel. If getting behind silly status updates and makeup-less selfies isn’t your bag, then fair enough. You want to do something concrete for breast cancer awareness, here’s your chance:

#1. Ladies: Self-breast exams are key to early detection, which is key to saving your life. Learn how to do this here.

#2. Make a donation to breast cancer research here.

#3. Share this post. I will be donating  my author’s proceeds from my contribution to the latest in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series: Multitasking Mom’s Survival Guide to my local institution, the Ottawa Breast Health Centre.  Help me get the word out about my book signing next month, and if you’re local, come out and celebrate the important role that mothers occupy in our society.

Is this shameless self-promotion? Yup. Is this more appealing than watching RuPaul participate simultaneously in raising awareness for prostate and breast cancer? One would hope, though I suppose that would come down to a simple question of personal taste.

In any event, it would be nice to see a social media campaign do what it was originally intended for: unite people together to accomplish something for a great cause and leave us all feeling good.

Quit Posting Crap

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So an interesting, and rather humbling incident occurred a couple of weeks ago while I was home by myself. I went to collect all the wet towels in the upstairs bathroom when I came face to face with a little “gift” that the cat had left for me in the bathtub. We have a large, Roman-style bathtub with a textured bottom which, for reasons that are beyond me, is a source of great temptation for kitty to do his business. I have, at last, learned to keep the damn door closed and spare myself the unpleasantness of picking up unburied cat poop, but the first time it happened, I found myself caught up in the urge to grab my phone and snap a picture of the kitty doo-doo. I was one millisecond away from posting the fibrous (and rather smelly) indignation on my Facebook page when my inner voice of reason (who is thankfully back from that rather long holiday) sharply took hold of me and said Now wait a minute…you’re actually going to post a picture of cat shit?

“Well, yeah, why not?” I responded matter-of-factly.

My inner voice of reason heaved a heavy sigh of exasperation. Look, go downstairs and make us a cup of tea. I need five minutes to clean up this mess, and then we’re going to have a little chat. And don’t forget the cookies.

            I dutifully went downstairs, made the tea, and set out a plate of cookies for us. (Normally, I would go for the Fudgee-O’s, but in light of the resemblance they bore to the abomination that lay in the tub, I opted for the jam-jams instead.) When my inner voice of reason joined me, she took a sip from her cup, and said curtly, Look, Sweetie, you really need to quit posting crap.

My initial reason for wanting to share the cat poop pic was to let all my Facebook pals in on how my cat cleverly chose to stick it to me that morning. But then I thought about who would be viewing the picture. My Facebook social circle encompasses a wide variety of people in different age groups from my family circle, as well as others who know me through work. How would it look to them to have an image of steaming cat dung suddenly appear on their news feed? Would I approve of my children taking a picture of cat poop and sharing it with their friends? Probably not; every maternal instinct in me screams “Inappropriate!” So why am I doing it?

I have been making an effort to put sincere thought into the things I choose to post to my social media. I have examined my motivations for posting and realize that I usually post for one of the following reasons:

1)    I’m bored (in other words, I don’t feel like editing)

2)    I’m lonely

3)    I want to share some happy/exciting news

4)    I feel like being mean to David Hasselhoff256px-David_Hasselhoff_2009

 

In today’s day and age of electronic connection, we are never truly alone. Getting people to pay attention to us is only a click of a button away. I joined Facebook when I was a mother of a newborn and a toddler. I was constantly deprived of sleep and often felt stretched far beyond my means. All those humorous little posts about “taking tiny naps every time I blink” were my covert way of expressing my extreme distress to the Facebook community. I would often get responses from female friends who were in similar situations, and somehow, just knowing that there were others like me, struggling through the haze of early parenthood and finding it every bit as difficult as me, gave me a boost. I realized that I was one of many, and together we would get through our ordeals, one sleepless night at a time.

These are the positive influences of social media. But sadly, it is also used in a non-positive/productive manner such as posting  inappropriate comments about others, make veiled remarks about spouses, employers, co-workers, etc.

Social media is a marvelous tool for posturing. We can say whatever we want from the safety of our laptop screens with little to no consequence. We have a grand plethora of distraction at our disposal to alleviate boredom and aid in our procrastination. Why imprison yourself in the mind-jail of work when you could be crafting clever responses to your friend’s posts? Why settle for social invisibility when you can keep the entire cyber-world abreast of your every movement? Why put up with that meddlesome heathen, discontentment, when you can call upon your henchmen, sarcasm and wit, to wield their influence and let everyone see that you are, in fact, “living the dream”. Human nature is a curious anomaly. I’ve often felt that passively observing the lives of others can sometimes leave me with the unsettling feeling that something is missing in mine. It’s as if the very thing I choose to give me a feeling of connection with others can leave me feeling disconnected from myself.  200px-Thumbup.svg

                                                                                                       Anyone else ever feel like that?

 

 

 

Fear not, cyber-friends! We have powerful weapons in our artillery. There’s no need to burden ourselves with feelings of emptiness and inadequacy when we can post multiple “selfies”, take pictures of our food, and let the whole cyber-world know that we’re leaving the house to gas up the car, get groceries, and get drunk (maybe not necessarily in that order, either).

The underlying message screams discontentment: Hey, I’m bored, unfulfilled and unhappy. Look at what I’m doing, doesn’t it look like fun? Look at me being me, eating this, drinking that. This is what I’m wearing; this is where I’m going. Look at those people in the background, they’re all my friends, even the one on the left I made fun of last week for her inept sense of fashion. HEY, MAN, REALLY LOOK AT ME…DON’T YOU WISH YOU WERE ME? I SURE WISH I DID!!!!!!

Please, gentle reader, do not feel as though I am wearing a long, white, curly-haired wig and banging a gavel in your face. I do not  judge you. All of these are things which I have committed at one time or another. I can only say that moving forward from the cat-poop incident, I have resolved to be more mindful of the content of my posts. Indeed, this will prove to be a tricky endeavor. Blogging, by its very nature, requires me to employ many attention-seeking tactics in order to gain the audience of a readership. Every time I post I am waving my arms in your direction, vying for five minutes of your time. To those who read me, I say thank you. To those who have written to congratulate me on how successful/wonderful/exciting my life is, I can only tell you with great sincerity that my life is no more successful/wonderful/exciting than yours. Perhaps I possess a talent that makes it appear as if I am “living the dream”. Everyone is the main character in a story that is worth telling  — and as for mine, I will try to ensure that it contains less crap — metaphorically, or otherwise.

See you soon.

L. xo

 

The Clutter Conundrum

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My latest solo foray at Chapters allowed me to indulge in one of the most delicious pleasures in life: to linger for an unrestricted amount of time, caffeinated beverage in hand, among the many titles. During this time, I came across an interesting book written by Mary Randolph Carter, the longtime creative director for Ralph Lauren. Being a gal of many words, it’s no small wonder this book’s long-winded title immediately caught my eye: A Perfectly Kept House Is the Sign of a Misspent Life.

If this saying rings true, then the current state of my garage is a raging testament to my entire neighborhood as to how well I am actually living. The best part is that I have absolutely nothing to do to create this image of how others see me. I’m living it effortlessly—one episode of Hoarders at a time. Oh, the delight and amusement I spread to those who live close to me, for on any given day, they can watch as I reach unsuspectingly for the gardening gloves and then throw my arms up overhead to protect myself as six warped crazy-carpets bury me in an avalanche of plastic. For added dramatic effect, I act surprised each and every time it happens.

There appears to be a never-ending negotiation of acquired possessions underfoot. Last spring, when we put our house on the market, I was confronted by the gravity of tangible memories that I had been collecting in our space over the last ten years. Sixty days and three full orders worth of Starbucks boxes later, I had finally managed to de-clutter our home. Then I got to endure months of keeping our home immaculately clean and tidy so as to seduce any potential buyers. No wonder I was eager to get behind any idea that would help me justify ditching my rubber gloves and toilet scrub brush for good.

But what this wonderfully eclectic compilation of photos and essays tries to impart to its readers is not so much a rebellion against orderliness, but rather a wonderful inlet of ideas to suggest functional ways to make space for the things nearest and dearest to you that transform your house into your home. I take immense comfort in the fact that while my own particular brand of housekeeping may be questionable, all around me is evidence of someone who is  interested in life.

Exhibit A: Photos of people/things I love:WP_20140323_002[1]

Tons of photos; my family, my kids, my students, and choreographic works  I have produced over the years. Also, a poster of this cool book signing I once attended where I got to be the person signing the books. Each photo is special and makes me smile as if I’m seeing it for the first time.

 

 

Exhibit B: Crafty little doo-dads:leprachauns

My kids’ school drawings. The little leprechauns we made out of toilet paper rolls on March Break. The basket of chicks we made out of a carton of eggs at Easter, and the whimsical little fun-foam snowmen with the googly eyes that always appear slightly inebriated. Each season there is a steady rotation of crafty projects that makes me think of the wonderful afternoons my children and I spent making them together.  My shelves and walls and windowsills proudly display them all.

 

Exhibit C: Sporty stuff:WP_20140323_003[1]

The purple yoga mat where I stretch and sweat and work my physical body until I’m sufficiently blissed out with endorphins. The mountain bike that laughed hysterically at me before throwing me clear off its seat when I attempted to pop my front tire over a log (actually, it was a fallen tree) at full-speed. The worn-out running shoes from training for the 5 km race I never participated in (this September, I swear, it’s happening). A paddling jacket, left over from the summer where my husband and I became infatuated with white water kayaking. The proof is in the pudding: I like to do hard, fun stuff that holds the potential for risk, or at the very least physical discomfort.

Exhibit D: Gardens:WP_20130709_001[1]

That’s right, as in plural. I have a lovely perennial bed in front of my house where a gorgeous hydrangea blooms every spring. Along the sides of my house I have added some new perennial beds where I’ve planted a lotto 649 mix of whatever I’ve managed to beg/borrow/steal from other people. (Stealing plants is by far my favorite method of acquisition. This way I can combine my love of gardening with my love of “sporty activities” by wearing my running shoes and running down the street as fast as I can with a mature and newly uprooted lilac bush in my arms. Believe me, it’s nothing short of impressive—at least that’s what I asked them to write in the police report. Some of my neighbors have no sense of humor about these things. It’s sad, really. I feel sorry for them. I hope you do, too.) In my backyard, I have a small but bountiful vegetable garden. Though I haven’t quite mastered the art of keeping my tomato plants from turning that yucky yellowish color, I always manage to harvest more than I know what to do with. My children also get to benefit from working in the garden with me, learning how to plant seeds, pull out weeds, and when to pick the beans. There’s something incredibly satisfying about playing in the soil and getting your hands dirty—perhaps all those kids at the park in the sand pit are onto something after all…hmmm.

The trick, at least for me, is to find a way to strike a balance between nostalgia and functionality. And, I’m proud to say, that is something I am definitely getting better at with age. But for all the weekly (if not daily) tidying that we do at our house, the fact that my husband and I share our lives with two young children means that our home will never completely be devoid of clutter or disarray. When my children are grown and look back on their childhoods, I don’t want their hallmark memories of our family life to be that the floors were always gleaming and the windows were pristine. Instead, they’ll remember the Sunday mornings where everybody went tobogganing in their jammies after breakfast (good thing we have all those crazy carpets). They’ll remember the picnic lunches in the parks and their parents playing in the pool with them. They’ll remember bike rides and barbeques with friends, and family dinners spent gathered around the table. They’ll remember our faces, because we were there. And so, it is with this spirit in mind that I can smile at all the little fingerprints on the refrigerator. For their very presence indicates that I am spending the hours of my days wisely, putting my energy into the things and people that truly matter.WP_20130701_012[1]

Coffee Break

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Of all the memorable movie characters to grace the screen in my living room, Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of Lester Burnham in the film American Beauty is perhaps one of the most unforgettable. One of my favorite scenes occurs when this educated, middle-aged man walks into a fast food restaurant and politely asks for “the position with the least amount of responsibility.”

It was precisely from this book that I borrowed a page or two between June 2011 and April 2013. This was the stretch when I hid from my career as a dance educator. What I really mean to infer is that I ran screaming for the hills, jumped off a cliff to fake my own death, and then assumed another identity as a partner at Starbucks (fyi, “partner” is the term Starbucks uses to define its employees and is nowhere near as provocative as it perhaps sounds.)

The first thing that struck me was how overwhelming it was to learn the recipes of all the drinks. I actually brought in a journal to make some notes on my bar shifts … something I’m sure was a source of much amusement to all of my partners. Those damn caramel macchiatos always threw me off — I often forgot to pour the espresso shots last. Nor did I get the hang of the drinks at the cold bar. For an entire summer I made smoothies with the vanilla bean powder instead of the actual protein powder we’re instructed to use; my apologies to anyone who received a smoothie made by me during the summer of 2011, though I dare say that little mix-up probably lent much improvement to the taste of your beverage. And I can still recall with alarming accuracy my sense of panic as I watched the cups line up down the bar in my queue. I felt like I was in that episode of I Love Lucy where she’s a factory worker in charge of wrapping up all the chocolates that pass her by on the conveyer belt — only stuffing all the missed drinks down my blouse to avoid the disapproval of my supervisor wasn’t really an option for me.

Lucy chocolate speed it up a little naaminis.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all its initial challenges, I still regard my time at Starbucks as my “extended vacation from work.” And that’s precisely what it was, a break from being responsible for other people. For nearly two years I got to have a job that required no previous planning prior to showing up for work, no phone calls to make, emails to send, no endless search for ideas and costumes. I wasn’t responsible for anything outside of ensuring that I showed up on time for my shifts and provided courteous and reasonably competent service to customers.

“Umm, may I get a name for your cup, Sir?”

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Not to mention I actually got to be at home in the evenings to have dinner with my family — a novelty for many of us in the dance industry.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about my stint at Starbs was how I found myself forming friendships with people who were at a completely different stage of life than I was, being a good decade (or two!) younger. Within a couple of months into my employment I found myself receiving invitations to parties where games such as beer pong and Twister were played.We had a picnic in the park,

sbux9a casino night, an evening at a comedy club, a romp at Laser Quest (btw, rematch, Kirito?), a karaoke night, and an entertaining evening which involved listening to a very intoxicated Latin-tongued partner recite the works of Dr. Seuss to an audience of co-workers who were only too happy to delight in his difficulties.  It would appear that not much has changed in me since I was a young(er) adult, except now I make better decisions and my body hurts in the morning when I get out of bed. (I also require a lot more fiber in my diet, but you probably don’t want to hear about that, so I won’t elaborate. Let’s just leave my colon out of this, agreed?)

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also had the privilege of interacting with a rather cheeky partner who was in his eighties! Like me, this remarkable gentleman viewed his hours at the store as a break from his own set of personal challenges. Each weekday morning he would check his “baggage” at the door and spend two hours smiling, singing, and pulling out the best parts of himself to make each customer who came through the door feel personally acknowledged. To paraphrase him this way in a short paragraph is embarrassingly inadequate since it does little to acknowledge the incredible strength, wisdom, and optimism this man possessed. I am both humbled and inspired by his courage and make great efforts to remember the words he left us with at his retirement party: “Just being alive means that you’re successful.”                                                       

“Do you have anything that tastes like caramel?”

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The best thing that I took away from my sojourn at Starbucks wasn’t the pride I felt when people looked at my gleaming pastry case (btw, I actually miss cleaning that thing … is that weird?) but rather the way it helped me sift through my depressive fog and reconnect with the ability to have fun. It gave me the time to stop and actually reflect on what was happening in my life, allowing me to see the areas where I needed to make some changes.121209-cellucci 001

And, inevitably, change did find me. It started with the occasional appearance of a certain retired professional dancer who, as luck would have it, opened a dance studio in my neighborhood. She came into my store to grab some goodies one day and recognized me. On two separate occasions she offered me a teaching position at her studio. On two separate occasions I politely declined and instead offered to put whipped cream on her beverage. When the spring of 2013 arrived, I turned in my green apron and took some time off to recover from the exhaustion that had been accumulating since the birth of my second child. The end result was improved health, a finished manuscript, and the realization that I deeply missed being a dance teacher — thankfully, I knew of a place where they were looking for one!

That time Guti turned 26.

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Luckily for me, my story ends on a more cheerful note than that of my American Beauty counterpart. Lester Burnham never got to enjoy his newfound wisdom when the fog of his mid-life crisis began to dissipate. Since I have the good fortune of having neighbors who are kind enough not to shoot me, I can happily move forward with my healthier sense of self-awareness that allows me to construct my life in a way that works for me. By setting firm boundaries of what I can reasonably handle, not only as a teacher, but also a writer and a mother, I can be one of those lucky people who gets to do what they love and love what they do.

And I can’t think of a more beautiful gift to receive than the knowledge that the life I’m currently living is just that: a beautiful gift.

Thanks, Starbucks. I’ve enjoyed my coffee break.sbux8