Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Wishes

May the coming year be filled with peace, love, laughter, health, strength, hope and passion, with a little sass sprinkled throughout, just for good measure.

May you live without regret, attain your goals and realize your dreams.

May you surround yourself with people who lift you up and about whom the thing you like the very best is who you are when you are with them.

May you find the courage to be the person you want to be, confidently make the decisions that need making, know who you are when no one is looking, and find opportunities to learn and grow through everyday experiences.

May the light in you shine brightly enough to touch the hearts and lives of those with whom you connect, and may you, in turn, be honored by the light in others.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I love dogs. I've learned a great deal from them. They love unconditionally, are ever hopeful and they find the greatest joys in the simplest things. There has only ever been a brief period of time in my life during which there was no canine presence in my house and I realized quickly that, for me, a house needs a dog to feel like a home.

Torturing animals is often a pre-cursor to significant violence against other human beings and ought to be an unforgivable crime. If I told you that your neighbor or co-worker was engaged in acts of utter cruelty towards dogs, how would you react? Would you continue to hold that person in the same esteem as before? If you were an employer and knew that a qualified job applicant tortured animals in his/her free time, would you ever consider hiring that person?

My guess is the answer is no.

Shame on you, Mr. President. You should have kept your nose out of it and just snuggled up with your expensive designer dog.

When the President Calls about the Vick Dogs...

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I'm thankful for so many things, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I always like to recap. It doesn't much change from year to year, but it bears repeating:

... my children, for they inspire me to be my best self. They make me happy and hopeful each day, regardless of what else is going on in my kingdom.

... my circle of friends, for they are really so much more than anyone could ask for. I hope I'm half the friend to them as they are to me.

... my job because, despite the craziness at times, I do what I love and therefore love what I do. It's such a gift to be passionate about your work. Even with other offers on the table, I am reminded of just how fabulous my team is and how life without them would be a whole lot less fun.

... laughter, which I still see as not only good medicine but also life's loveliest music.

... the days when my body cooperates and even the days when it doesn't; for it's in the days when it doesn't cooperate that I realize how very fortunate I am to have days when it does. That makes being able to do whatever I can do (no matter how slowly, painfully or carefully I must do it) all the sweeter.

... Dove Dark Chocolate Promises with Peppermint Bark on Top; this is, obviously, self-explanatory.

... my crackerjack doctors who have the patience of saints when it comes to likely their most challenging patient. I am, indeed, a royal pain, yet they are so good to me.

... my sense of humor and ability to never, ever take myself too seriously. I can't imagine how much of a struggle life would be without this gift.

... insight, perspective and gut instinct; for when I think carefully about people and events and listen to my head and heart, I am thankful for the gift of clarity.

... the things that make my house a home, things which can be neither bought nor sold, the invaluable intangibles.

... giggling children, good wine, great music, puppies, kittens, and various other little things that make me smile big smiles. For in little things, there is joy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All I Need to Know

Tonight I decided I had to have one last conversation... I laid it all out. I explained where I was and how I'd arrived at that place and the paths that might have led me elsewhere. I decribed the process and made clear my perspective, backing up my assertions with concrete examples. I reminded him of offers made, actions forgiven and hopes that die last. I asked the questions that needed asking and received exactly the answers I expected to receive.

And in the midst of this conversation, while saying all the right things at all the right times, he opened his computer and checked his fantasy football scores.

That's really all I need to know.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Admit It... I Was Wrong... once... :)

Dear Mrs. H,

I wasn't so sure about you at back to school night. I was thinkin' you weren't really warm and fuzzy enough to be a pre-school teacher, but I figured it was OK since your parapro is snuggly, and, once school started, and Exhibit C loved you from the get go, I thought perhaps you were one of those "great with the kids, adults" types of teachers. That said, I sure was impressed by your teaching philosophy and methodology.

However, receiving an email from you that stated "I know you work a lot but I think Thursdays are your day off and I was wondering if you wanted to go to the pumpkin patch with the class..." and, further, offering to schedule the entire field trip around when I would be available was, perhaps, one of the most awesome things I've ever seen a teacher do in both my professional and personal/parental educational "careers".

Not only does it show that you are sensitive to working moms (given that I might just be the only one of those in the entire school this is particularly impressive), but also that you know your students' schedules and life patterns well enough to know not just the days I pick up my child myself, but also which one is actually my day off. This really speaks volumes about you as a teacher and, frankly, as a person.

I'm sorry I ever doubted your warm fuzziness. You clearly have it in spades.

Your Pal,
The Cranky Princess

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Makes Me Cranky Right Now Is...

... people who can't see beyond the selfish scope of their own experiences to realize that each and every one of us has made mistakes and that the best we can do is learn from them and try to do better in the future.

... individuals who delight in others' misfortunes rather than celebrating with them their happiness and successes, for this indicates that said individuals really aren't very happy with themselves, and that, to me, is simply sad.

... people who intentionally try to hurt others because they've been wronged in the past. This won't make them feel better, it will only make them wallow even more in their own woe-is-me-ness.

... individuals who suck the life out of friends and family members who must endure their constant complaints about the smallest inconveniences. It is the ability to keep moving forward, regardless of circumstance, that best reflects one's true character.

... people who are game players, for if you've got something to say, have the courage to say it straight up.

... individuals who are takers, not givers, because giving of our selves, our time, our emotions, our possessions is a far greater gift and reaches far further than does expecting to be the center of attention and attempting to define oneself through ego strokes or material possessions.

... people with negative energy who try to bring others down with them. No one who has ever inspired greatness has done so through negativity. Why, then, would anyone not aspire to building people up instead of tearing them down?

... individuals who haven't the conviction to stand up for what's good and right, who don't understand that fair does not mean equal, who feel slighted by the hand they're dealt and therefore fail to appreciate the many daily blessings bestowed upon them.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day with Special K

I was lucky enough to spend time with Special K today.

Special K loves unconditionally and has a work and service ethic like none other. She manages every aspect of her daily life with beauty and grace, even though she has two children with some special needs and a husband who is... let's go with... quirky. She is bright and engaging. Her plate is more than full. She sits on boards, she volunteers, she crafts, she corresponds, she cooks, she reads, she entertains, she cares deeply about everyone whose life she touches, and she shoots beautiful pictures.

Tonight I learned that Special K was recently called for jury duty and ended up sitting on a murder trial. It changed her life. That may sound far-fetched, but when you know Special K, the woman she is at her core, and understand that for which she stands, it seems natural.

In explaining the effect the experience had upon her, she told me stories about all of the other jurors she met. She has a personality to which people are naturally drawn, and it's not uncommon for folks to open up to her in ways they might not ordinarily. It came as no surprise that she knew each one's personal history and could tell me, in detail, about the jurors and their families, as if she'd known them for years.

She explained how amazing the bailiff was. A man named Love who has made a career not just of serving the court but also of serving at risk youth. A man whose number she collected so that he might come and speak at her boys' schools. A man who is willing to reach out to kids on whatever level is necessary, be it through a game of HORSE or a scared straight visit to his place of employment. A man whose pearls of wisdom touched Special K deeply enough for her to want to stay connected to him, you know,

She talked of blessings and gratitude and far away worlds that lie just down the road from where we both live. She quoted herself as she relayed a story about speaking to an elderly lady and, in doing so, reminded me of how incredible she's always been with older folks. Special K was the only person my grandmother could actually hear while not wearing her hearing aid... hmmmm... we still joke about it often.

As she talked to me about the murder trial experience, Special K welled up. She told me how she cried when the verdict was read, not because she didn't think it was the right verdict, but because of what she'd seen and heard and visualized and because not a single family member of either the accused nor the deceased was present in the courtroom for any part of the proceedings. That fact was hard to swallow for someone so focused on family.

After the trial, the jurors all stood together and breathed a collective sigh of sadness and relief. Special K glanced over at the oldest juror, Miss Y, who, she said, had really struggled throughout the deliberations. Miss Y knew the defendant was guilty but she hated that he was "just one more statistic". Special K, who, frankly, isn't overly religious but wanted to connect with Miss Y in way that would be meaningful to this wise woman, reached out her hands and asked Miss Y if she wanted to pray. Miss Y smiled through her tears and began to do just that. Special K noticed that Miss Y didn't pray for the defendant nor his victim but, instead, for the young men and women in Miss Y's community and countless other communities like it who have become numb to the horrors around them because it is, simply, a way of life.

Reflecting upon the process, Special K and I launched into an amazing discussion about what we are all born into, how we are the same and what things make the greatest impact in the lives of children. We agreed that breathing in that baby shampoo scent is made all the sweeter because when we snuggle a new baby we are also breathing in hopes, dreams, promises. Yet, even the tiniest moment can forever change the direction in which our lives take us. None of us is immune to that. None of us living just up the road know for sure the people we care most about won't ever take that ride into town.

And, with that, Special K's eyes were opened a little wider, her mind broadened a little bit more, and her ability to live and love without judgment reached new depths.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Governmental Improvements

And so it happened one school year that a certain cranky teacher asked her class to create the laws of the classroom. The students took the task seriously as she had explained to them that they were no longer just students but that they were, instead, the legislative branch of their government. They deemed her the executive branch (because apparently they knew there wasn't actually a royal branch. Whatever.) but only after engaging in an excellent discussion about whether the principal of the school was more like the president or the Supreme Court. They made the decision based on what they learned about roles, responsibilities, checks and balances.

Obviously, common courtesy dictated that if the judicial branch had to interpret the laws, the kids should, at least, share the laws with said government body, so off they went to visit the principal with their class constitution in hand. As they arrived, they found both the principal and assistant principal huddled together. They proudly presented their laws to the judicial branch for review. The justices scoured the document, asked quite a few open-ended questions and, ultimately, were thoroughly convinced that the class constitution was solid enough to receive a thumbs up.

Just before the group left the office, the principal asked "so, there were two of us today and we agreed. Does the Supreme Court have a method to keep ties from happening? If not, what do they do for a tie-breaker?"

Ahhhhh, a wide smile crept across the cranky teacher's face, for she knew with great certainty the kids had the answer to this one. They had discussed the number of judges and various policies and procedures.

From the back of the room, a little hand shot up to answer. The principal called upon him and the response was a resounding "rock, paper, scissors!!!!".

And suddenly the teacher's head was filled with visions of the Supreme Court justices going two out of three.

It's actually not a bad idea.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I read something today and it reminded me of a few things in my life that make me smile and sigh happy sighs. In the big scheme of things, I suppose they are small... yet each one is truly impactful in my life.

1. I have awesome friends. I have the kind of friends that call to ask if you want to take a car ride so you can rest some place other than the two places you don't really feel like resting anymore; the kind that call to remind you for the 10,000th time about the horse that walked into a bar since they know it will make you laugh again and again because of its sheer stupidity; the kind that come and pick up your kids and take them blueberry picking, then bring them home and make blueberry bread with them; the kind you can call in the middle of the night to come sit in your house in case a child awakens; and the kind that deliver treats, DVDs, and, more importantly, their company. I'm not sure if everyone has these kinds of friends, but I do, and I appreciate them.

2. I don't have to work if I really don't want to, which is a blessing in and of itself. That said, I have things in my life about which I'm passionate, that I love to do. While there have been moments when I've worried about sacrificing time with my children in order to pursue these things, my jobs are flexible enough that I can usually strike a balance. Ultimately, though, whether the kidlets are watching me work with a child who has special needs or they are visiting my place of employment and wanting to be there more and more, I'm hopeful I'm setting a good example for them, teaching them to be compassionate, service-minded and inspired.

3. I have a sense of humor about everything. I can't imagine going through life without one. I could never take myself too seriously. To those that do, my deepest sympathies, for, as I've said time and again, I have learned that laughter is not only life's lovliest music, but also an amazingly powerful medicine upon which I rely heavily to get me through some of the tougher times I face.

4. I like to ride my bike. I like it enough that it doesn't even bother me to ride it on the trainer when that's my only option. Not only does it make me feel that even though my body's failed me, I can still do something for myself, but also it affords me the opportunity to catch up on a few t.v. shows or watch a DVD that a friend has delivered.

5. I've hiked and backpacked in amazingly beautiful and remote places where, often, I didn't see another soul for days on end. I've seen things that few other people have ever or will ever see. I have, perhaps, the world's ugliest Italian leather hiking boots. They cost a fortune back in the day, on my first year teacher salary, no less, but I needed them because they were warm and completely bulletproof. I girled them up by buying thin, pink bungee cord to use as laces. I still have 'em on there. I wish I had a sum total of all the miles I've hiked in them through the years. They've gotten me safely up my share of fourteeners and once kept me sure footed hiking through the Grand Canyon in the pitch dark. I love those stupid boots. It's not so much the boots that make the impact... it's the knowledge of the places I've been and the places I will go, one step at a time, under my very own power.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Preschool Moment

Sometimes, with my cold, dark heart, I forget that there are people in this world that are so inherently good it makes you want to spontaneously hug them. I had one of those moments on the night of my first open house at Exhibit C's preschool a couple years back.

As you may recall, Exhibit C is a medical enigma and the decision to send him to preschool, how he should be placed, which school was right and what modifications would need to be made, all weighed heavily on me. I decided on a highly accredited school with an outstanding reputation that also had a transitional kindergarten option. During the application and interview process, I talked with the appropriate staff members to fill them in on him and I felt good about the decision, even though it did feel a bit formal to me for a preschool, perhaps a bit less warm and fuzzy than that which the older Exhibits attended. As parents, we sometimes do a fine job of second guessing ourselves in these situations, don't we? After registering him, I was excelling at that, and soon found myself sitting at the back to school open house wondering what the hell I was thinking and how on earth I could consider sending my medically fragile child into the big bad world at the tender age of 3.

I liked the teachers and everything they had to say during the meeting but I still couldn't shake the uneasy feeling I had. I wondered if I ought to wait a year but then weighed that against how socially and cognitively ready he was for school. Walking down the hall on my way to the parking lot after the meeting, I ran into the preschool director. I stopped and smiled and somehow she must have read right through that, for she looked at me, smiled right back, then held onto my arms and said, "Cranky Princess, there are no problems that can't be solved here."

I hugged her and thanked her then continued down the hall, tears in my eyes, knowing the decision was good and right.

Exhibit C will attend kindergarten there this year. Since that hallyway moment, I've never once questioned the decision to send him to that school at that time. He has thrived. The director is still there and I *heart* her even more than sparkly tiaras and pedicures.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Career Change

I think I'm in the wrong line of work and that my passion for writing is greatly underutilized given that I do jumping jacks for a living.

Therefore, I was thinking that my mad writing skillz could be better highlighted by a bit of a career change. Picture this: custom, high-end eulogy writing. Work with me here, folks! I am considering opening some sort of online Eulotique. Brilliant, no?! If someone gives me a general outline of a person's life, I would be most excellent at stringing together all that boring crap to make it sound exciting, inspiring and noteworthy. For a small upcharge known as a "Last Laugh Fee", I would be willing to include some humor,'cause Lord knows if you people don't giggle a little at my funeral I'll be both dead AND cranky and that sounds like a combination you want to avoid at all cost.

I would also be willing to go ahead and write your eulogy for you before you're pushing up daisies. This way you can ensure that whoever gets nominated to read it at your service actually knows something about you and can therefore speak eloquently, and with some degree of accuracy, about your life and accomplishments.

One simply can't put a price on the final words one speaks about a loved one. Wait. I can.

Inquiring Minds Wanna know...

This is still fun, in case you were wondering!

Friday, August 6, 2010

National Dance Day

I was a fan of the National Dance Day concept. It's silly and stoopid and all kinds and sorts of cheesy... but the ability to dance as if no one is watching and do so with a huge smile on your face is, in fact, priceless. Inspiring a huge number of people to do it across the country on a given day? Even more so.

In my line of work, we "dance" as if no one is watching on a daily basis. We make a living by putting ourselves out there, standing in front of 6 or 60 people who walk through the doors with a variety of agendas, who maybe are there just to check off the box for the day, or perhaps to blow off steam, deal with stress, train hard or to simply get lost in the moment and be entertained. They look to us for all of these things and more and the best we can do is hope that we deliver and connect with each and every one of them on some level. The only way to do this, really, is to be genuine, regardless of how much of ourselves we must leave exposed.

For me, this is the way I handle myself professionally as well as personally. There is some emotional risk involved, of course, as we're all only human with sometimes fragile egos, but I believe the benefits far outweigh this risk.

So here goes, my very favorite National Dance Day celebration, from my kingdom to yours. Watch it and smile and maybe, just maybe, dance right along with the princesses... as if no one is watching.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Little Thumbs

Exhibit C has been a thumb sucker since the day he was born. At four years old, it was still one of my greatest pleasures when he curled up in my lap to snuggle and I heard that sweet little sucking noise as he drifted off to sleep.

I'm not one of those moms who gets overly concerned about things like thumb sucking, picky eating, potty training, or other such things, for, as my father would have reassured me: "I never saw a bride walk down the aisle with a pacifier in her mouth" or "My friends all know how to use a toilet" or "You know, I never met a grown up who only eats mac'n'cheese".

I don't quite understand parents who feel the need to put horrible tasting things on little tiny thumbs or who tie down the thumbs of sleeping children. Most kids who suck their thumbs do so only when they are tired, feel nervous or uncertain or maybe when they get bored. It seems to me that the ability to self-comfort in the first two situations is something we should all be so lucky to have and that creating drama around it doesn't do much to empower or reassure a child. In the case of boredom, well, a little creative parenting can go a very long way.

That said, I recently broached the sacred thumb sucking subject with Exhibit C just to see what he'd say.

Me: Do you think you might stop sucking your thumb any time soon?
Him: *big doe eyed, long lashed blink* NO. (immediately followed by insertion of thumb in mouth)
Me: Alrighty then

Three days ago, though, he announced that he would no longer be sucking his thumb and that at the end of one week with no thumb sucking, he would require a new DS game. Ummmm... OK.

And with that, he promptly stopped sucking his thumb.

This afternoon he curled up in my lap and we talked about important things like Spiderman, birthday parties and why kitties have bristled tongues. I kept expecting him to start to fade and accidentally put that tiny thumb in his mouth, I kept thinking that at any moment I'd hear the familiar, rhythmic, self-soothing sound... but I never did and, truth be told, as glad as I am he did it on his terms and in his own time, I already miss it just a little.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

I Am, Indeed, A Quitter

Someone recently called me a quitter. At first, it made me angry because it was so obvious to me that he had no earthly idea the kind of fight I put up every single day. It's an interesting concept really... for most of us really don't intuitively know what each other goes through, so I am not sure how we arrive at such conclusions, but it happens quite often, I believe.

My immediate thoughts were as follows, in no particular order: Do you know how much effort is required to slap on a happy face every freakin' day regardless of what havoc is being wreaked in my body at any given moment? Do you think it's easy to try to go about my business, maintaining a sense of normalcy not only for myself but so that the small human beings who once dwelled in my belly can feel secure and know they have the world at their fingertips? Does wanting to be in control of my own destiny, be surrounded by the people I love and be in the places I want to be in make me a quitter? Does signing a DNR order mean I've thrown in the towel or is it perhaps a sign that I understand that in both living and dying, prior proper planning prevents piss poor performance? Is it so wrong to want to handle things on my own terms? And, perhaps, most telling, are you presuming that your way is the only way and therefore the right way?

However, upon further consideration, I must say, I concur. I am, indeed, a quitter... for today I do, in fact, declare that I quit. I quit putting effort into people who can't be bothered and who don't appreciate how fleeting time is. I quit taking medications that make me feel worse than the disease for which I am taking them, and I quit hanging my hopes on unkept promises and arbitrary statistics. You tell me there's a 94% chance that something bad will happen and I will look you in the eye and say there's a 6% chance it won't. You say quitter, I say fighter, but I do, indeed, quit fighting with you. So there. You were right. I am, indeed, a quitter.

For whom?

I do not believe that it is selfish to value quality of life over quantity. I believe that someone asking another person to endure pain and medications and procedures that are sometimes worse than the condition itself and adding the words "for me" or "for them" to the end of the sentence is far more selfish.

That is all.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reflections on a Year

Exactly one year.

One year ago I was 8 days away from tackling 40 with all kinds and sorts of celebrations planned.

One year ago I was 2 days away from starting an exciting new job that landed in my lap unexpectedly.

One year ago I was heading into remission from a horrible 8 week flare that sent me to hospitals, kept me from driving, left me in bed for long periods of time and rendered me far less attentive to my support crew, though most showed up anyway to help me, feed my family, and bring good cheer... and not just of the adult beverage variety, though they did that, too, of course.

One year ago I found out that the person among them that I thought cared the most just wasn't strong enough to handle that which needs to be handled when the going gets tough in my world.

One year ago I was an awesome kickboxer despite joints that were screaming from daily pain.

One year ago my kingdom was shattered into a million little pieces.

One year ago I became a prisoner in a house I could no longer stand.

One year ago I weiged 45 lbs more than I do today.

One year ago I stopped going to the neighborhood pool.

One year ago I realized that I should have listened better to my screaming gut because it never fails me.

One year ago I remembered just how perceptive children are.

One year ago I realized, with great sadness, that I could no longer allow myself to love too many people unconditionally or trust even my most trusted friends.

One year ago I received the best note ever from someone I've never met that said, quite simply, "one piece at a time".

One year ago I made a commitment.

Eleven months ago there was a repeat performance and so I remembered that people don't change but that they can evolve if they put their minds to it.

Ten months ago I continued my attempts at diagnostic and prescriptive measures to aid in the evolution.

Nine months ago I found out the treatment option still wasn't working, which I should have known, because the necessary evolution was not my own and you can't force that upon another soul.

Eight months ago I realized it's exhausting to have the life sucked out of you and, being the cranky and stubborn princess that I am, I fought back, because I was determined to never again fall victim to a... ummmm... life sucker.

Seven months ago I found my voice... though most would argue I never lost it. I blame my susceptibility to strep for my bouts of silence.

Six months ago there was no number six. Obviously.

Five months ago I knew what I wanted.

Four months ago I wished I would be miraculously cured and never again have to worry about health insurance.

Three months ago I just knew something wasn't right in every single arena.

Two months ago I learned about monoclonal proteins and was forced to consider, briefly, the possibility that I might not have too many more years upon which to reflect.

Last month took me to paradise and back.

And here I sit, exactly one year later, wondering how it is possible to have been through so much, learned so many things, traveled so far and yet still be in the same place as I was back then on so many levels.

Life is funny like that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Truth (a precursor to a HF...)

"No man is worth your tears, and the one who is won't make you cry."

Well ain't that the truth. Not sure who said it, but as soon as i read it, I liked it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indeed We Do

Spring shows are an integral part of every dancer's world. When Exhibit A was young, as I've mentioned before, I used to dread sitting through the one and only recital in which her class performed. I just didn't get it on so many levels and watching all that flounce and twirl while waiting for my precious angel's 4 minutes on stage seemed like a colossal waste of my time.

As she matured as a dancer and I started to understand more and more about the techniques and processes, I began to enjoy every minute of every show and appreciate the work, dedication and passion that goes into producing them. When you can watch the three year olds take the stage and do what three year olds will (or in many cases will not) do one moment, and in the next be wowed by a senior taking the stage for her final senior solo, you see where your child has been and where she's going, and you simply can't help but be a little inspired.

This year marked a big milestone for Exhibit A in that it is the first time she and her company have performed on stage en pointe. She's had her toe shoes for fifteen months... fifteen months of technique classes, ouch pouches, tying ribbons, retying ribbons, countless battements, cutting V-s in toenails, moving straps, moving them again, breaking boxes, pancake spray, new auditions, lengthy fittings, private lessons, stitch kitting and ankle strengthening... and the moment finally arrived.

The dance was beautiful, of course, but what struck me more than the movement itself was the change before me. It was, afterall, as if I was watching her grow up right there in front of an entire audience full of folks who didn't even know that they were bearing witness to such a profound moment. It is true that we watch our kids grow, on some level, day in and day out, but it's not often that time is suspended for us just long enough to recognize it in the here and now, but this performance afforded me that opportunity and there's no pirouette-ing back. My daughter has crossed the threshold as a dancer and, really, as a young woman.

The opening number this year was one of the most beautiful dances I've ever had the privilege to see. It was Bollywood-style, complete with coin skirts and ankle bells. They used every inch of space on the stage and took to the aisles of the theater, completely surrounding the audience at several points. No one there will soon forget the crispness of the movement or the level of energy the dancers created. One of the other fun pieces was a video about flashmobbing. It explained what a flashmob is and showed a clip of one of our instructors participating in a flashmob gig at Philips Arena. Oh, and then, of course, we got to experience a flashmob firsthand as our attention was drawn from the screen to what was happening in the aisles and rows all around us.

Throughout my daughter's dance journey, I've developed an eye for and appreciation of brilliant choreography. I've come to understand the subtle differences among the choreographers I know and can generally identify their work when I see it. I've learned how they each express a broad range of emotions through their art from sheer joy and whimsy to contentment to fear to utter despair and many things in between.

This weekend, however, I also learned how they, as well as a group of young girls, and even a few boys, express their grief.

As you may recall from a previous Hissy Fit, my daughter's modern dance teacher, Mr. A, passed away last summer leaving a huge void in the lives of many aspiring dancers. It's been a tough year not only for them but also for the parents and other teachers. The Nutcracker production this year was dedicated to his memory, but as the spring shows approached, it became very apparent that his picture and some lovely lines on a page in the Nutcracker playbill simply wasn't enough of a tribute to this man.

Therefore, at one point during the show, the bed used in the Nutcracker dream scene was wheeled onto the stage. An instructor, Ms. P, who, incidentally, was Mr. A's best friend, was in the bed. Cue music. "This Woman's Work". Dammit. That song makes me cry just because it is what it is and I feel connected to it on a number of levels, plus, it conjures up images of a tormented Kevin Bacon in that scene, though I suspect that image has now been replaced with this new one. So yes. The music. And then the dance.

Ms. P, in the aforementioned bed, appeared to be restless and dreaming. From stage left, comes RD, his dark skin juxtaposed against his bright white tank top and pants.

RD is a graduating senior whose senior page in the spring show program read, among other things: "Thank you for the gift you gave me. Mr. A, you are the reason I push on when times get rough because you never allowed me to settle for anything less than great". RD is an inner city kid who had a scholarship to our dance program for the past two years. Attending classes every day except Sunday, he relied on public transportation to get to and from the studio, a couple of train and bus transfers, each way. Mr. A used to teach at the arts magnet program in the city. He recognized the talent and potential RD possessed and made it his business to ensure that this young man had an opportunity he would not have otherwise had. RD was very hard hit by Mr. A's death and even performed a gut wrenching dance at the memorial service, another fact readers of both HF and BT may remember. RD resembles Mr. A not only in his physical traits but also in his dry humor, his movement, his dance style and, most certainly, his aura. None of this was lost on those in the audience who knew Mr. A.

And it hit me. I knew immediately what this dance was about. Ms. P was dreaming of Mr. A. RD appeared as an angelic Mr. A, and Ms. P was happy. They danced together. They smiled, they hugged, and then he ripped himself away from her. She collapsed on the stage in a breath-taking moment of pain. Out of the darkness, one by one, other female instructors took to the stage to "heal" her, to support her, to help her, to turn that moment of grief back to one of joy. Through their dance, they shared memories and happy thoughts.

RD suddenly returned to the stage and the women were elated, but it was short-lived. Sadness ensued as RD slowly did "the Mr. A modern walk" off the stage, a move we all recognized. Ms. P crawled, quite literally, back to bed, her friends surrounding her, their heads resting on the bed. And as they paused there, just breathing, comforting each other, doing what women do, RD returned to the stage and stood, perfectly still, at the head of the bed. And just in case anyone had any doubt about the meaning of this dance, in which not a word was uttered, RD was holding a Starbucks cup.

And the stage went dark.

The instructors involved in this piece were emotionally spent after each performance of it, often dancing through tear-filled eyes. Many of the company members barely made it on stage in time for their next act due to the amount of cosmetics touch up required. Runny mascara doesn't look good under the spotlights, it seems.

The show must go on, and so it did. It kept going right through to the finale.

"Breaking News" began with a newspaper girl shouting out the headlines... "Extra, extra, read all about it! War rages in the middle east... the economy tanks..." and so forth. She continued on while the dancers milled about on stage, ignoring her, until the moment when she called out "Beloved teacher Antonio S. dies at age 35, studio devastated, dancers vow to keep dancing..."

And dance they did. A joyful dance full of twists and tumbling passes and flexi-bendy poses. The newspapers became an integral prop as they threw papers into the air as if it was confetti to celebrate a life well lived. They performed to the song "Live Like We're Dying" because really, we should, and in many ways, Mr. A did. At one point the kids came off the stage and stood all over the theater throwing out into the audience red construction paper hearts. Each of the hundreds of hearts had a personalized message to Mr. A hand written on it by members of the company... the one that landed on my lap read: "Mr. Antonio, You told the best stories. I miss you." He did. And I miss him, too.

Returning to the stage, they sat in a row with piles of newspapers stacked neatly in front of them. Simultaneously they each picked up the first newspaper in their individual stacks and held them in front of their faces as if they were reading. A large, black letter appeared on the back of each paper and, down the line, a message appeared. "Dear Mr Tony", it said. In perfect unison, they put down the papers and picked up the next papers in their piles. "We Never Got". Next papers... "The Chance". Next... "To Say". Next... Goodbye". And then "We Miss You". At which point the letters M-I-S-S were put down and replaced with the letters L-O-V-E. "We love you".

We miss you, Tony. We love you.

Indeed, we do.

Fade to black.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Word Power

"Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world"
~ Buddha

I often write about my belief in the power of words and their ability to connect people on an emotional level. Words do, indeed, have the power to hurt, anger, destroy and, conversely, to heal, uplift and unite.

Throughout the years, writing has been the greatest therapy I've ever known. For me, putting thought to paper (erm... screen?!), is utterly cathartic. It allows me to think aloud without actually... well... articulating out loud. It has enabled me to explore thoughts and analyze feelings and situations in ways that, were they stuck inside my head, may never really have been brought to light in any meaningful way. It's opened my eyes to patterns of behavior, both in myself and others, and allowed me to weigh options and make decisions in a most deliberate manner rather than relying on reactive response.

I was recently asked why it is I don't write more Hissy Fits and thought, perhaps, I should explain it here instead of elsewhere.

While I may not post here as often as some might expect given my obvious propensity to write, the fact is that there are countless Hissy Fits that reside in "The Mighty Draft Box". These are pieces that will likely never be seen by another pair of peepers. They are often just a few sentences or even a simple splash of words, filled with raw emotion that range from sugary sweet and sky high happy to streams of anger, frustration, sadness, resentment... sometimes all of the above and everything inbetween... and are often directed at specific nouns of both the proper and common varieties.

The fact is, though, that in the draft box is where they must stay. It's not that I don't acknowledge the events behind these thoughts, it's just that giving them a life of their own serves no purpose other than to stoke some fires that, in general, are better left to smolder and die.

That is not to say that my writing is all hearts and flowers, for as any Hissy Fits reader knows, it's certainly not. It's just that I believe that the true power of words lies much less in their ability to separate, accuse or hinder than in their ability to connect, build up and inspire.

And so you see, it's not that I don't write more, it's that, at the end of the day, while this space is, indeed, about me, I am acutely aware of the intellectual and emotional sparks that can and do reside in words and I want the effect of my own words to be that they leave each person they reach thinking slightly bigger thoughts, wondering more than knowing, changed just a little for the better and maybe, just maybe, a bit more inspired than before happening upon the power of my words.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


An oldie but a goodie from my other blog:

So in my line of work (the real job, not the hobby), there are certain cases that leave an indelible mark on your soul. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Hadley. Hadley was a kid with a severe disability with whom I had the pleasure of working. Hadley was special to me not only because she had an incredible spirit, but also because of her parents. They were amazing advocates who did two things that changed the lives of a significant number of children in their town and, really, across the country.

First, Hadley's father, after determining that it is unfun to have to medicate a child with nasty tasting drugs day in and day out, developed a little something called FlavRX. You know, when you go to the pharmacy and get to order your kid's medicine in specific flavors? Yup, that was him, and done solely for the love of his daughter but with a far reaching impact.

Second, Hadley's mother was on a mission to make Hadley's life as "normal" as possible. One of her huge frustrations was that her daughter couldn't play like other kids. Not to be deterred, this mom had an idea. What if she created a playground that was completely accessible for children who are differently abled? Thus, the idea of Hadley's Park was born. Hadley's mother was able to get some pretty major sponsors to step forward, including McDonald's Children's Charities and Playmobil, to create a theme-play park where, literally, all children could play. There's no use in trying to describe it as, really, you have to experience it first hand. It covers a huge amount of land and has larger than life interactive Playmobil structures (a fort, a castle, a ship) as well as many other fun things like a racing strip for bikes, big wheels, scooter, wheel chairs, walkers, or maybe just a pair of fresh legs. All of the equipment, including the climbing areas, is wheelchair accessible. The signs that tell about each area include the descriptions in braille. There are ASL blocks with which kids can practice signing the alphabet, there are swings to support all kinds of kids, even those with the lowest of muscle tone. Hadley's park opened many years ago and my children and I were blessed enough to log countless hours there when we lived close by. Ultimately, several other playgrounds were built in the National Capital Area and beyond using Hadley's park as a model. Today, parks like this exist in many places... though really, there ought to be more.

Not too long ago, right on the edge of Centennial Olympic Park, an "All Children" playground was dedicated. It's small, but it's there, and it's a start. It's rewarding for me to see that causes I've taken up or been inspired by through my work expanding. This is one of my favorite things to stand behind and I hope the trend continues.

I'd like to think that people strive for inclusion, though, sadly, I know this is not always the case. The fact is that the reward of inclusivity is far greater than that which comes (or, frankly, doesn't ever come) from being exclusionary. Hadley's parents had the means to figure out a "taste good" medicine mask at home as well as to create a perfect playground for her right in their own backyard, but instead, they chose to do these things for all the children in their town and beyond.

I guess it's all about how you view your circumstances in relation to the world at large and realizing that regardless of what you're going through, there are others who have been there or will be there... for really, life is a shared experience.

Friday, April 9, 2010

There Will Be an Answer

And so it came to pass today that I found myself surrounded by various people who are involved in the care and keeping of one cranky, albeit sassy, princess. I assure you, this is not an enviable position in which to find oneself, for me or for them.

It's exciting times for these folks when someone like me comes in while "active" and with out of the box symptomatology. I vaguely remember a flurry of activity and an injection as well as Ms. WhyNPsAreSometimesWayBetterThanDocs (AKA: The Angel) pulling out her cell phone and placing a call to a new rheumy she had just had lunch with to personally make me an appointment for next week and asking one of her assistants to phone Dr. RollsHerEyesAtMe and Dr. LooksAtMyMushyBrainz to give them an update and state her plan of action... and trust me, it was a statement, she never once was seeking their opinions.

As Ms. MightAsWellBeAVampire was sucking me dry to fill up vial #5, The Angel leaned over to me and whispered, "There's something here. I know it. You just need someone to connect the dots now. This time, we will get it figured out, and there WILL be an answer."

Let it be.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Thank You Note

Among my greatest blessings in life is to have known Mrs. R. Words can in no way adequately express my deep gratitude for her influence and support in my life during some exceedingly turbulent times. She touched, shaped and deepened my life on so very many levels, and I truly believe that I am the woman I am today in large part because of her influence on me.

I was fortunate enough to have Mrs. R. as both my junior and senior English teacher at the Princess Academy for Young Girls. She was also my senior project advisor who not only encouraged me to follow my heart when my heart started to change, thus resulting in my most difficult conversation ever with my father that went something like "I know we already have paid a deposit to that one college but I need something different...", but also cried with me over children I couldn't save... and I knew, deep down, she wasn't really crying about my stories, about my unsaveable kids, but about her own "I can't save them" stories. It was, perhaps, the first time I realized that there was shared emotion in my writing and that I had the power to connect with people on an emotional level simply by writing about my own experiences.

As a teacher, Mrs. R. created a riduiculously fun learning environment where we could share our thoughts and writing with one another, gaining confidence in our ideas and trust in our perceptions. It was here that I learned how to really discuss a book and analyze my own writing as well as that of others. The lively classroom discussions and activities inspired me to read and write more and left me excited to do homework for the next day's class. Yes, really. Why? Because our homework was simply to journal on a daily basis and write one short story per week. How lucky I was to attend a school with an emphasis not only on technical writing, but also on creative writing. To this day short stories are my "thing"... and I credit Mrs. R. with that.

Mrs. R. taught me that the best writing comes from that which we know... and that journaling could and would be the springboard for good writing, the kind of writing that comes from the soul and leaves the reader wanting more. The kind of writing that ignites a fire in both author and audience and connects them on both a conscious and subconcious level.

I remember Mrs. R's warm smile and dry sense of humor that always seemed to put things in perspective for me. And I will never, ever forget the day she pulled me aside and said, "I read your story and I laughed. I cried. I wanted more. You have a gift and you must share it with the world."

I think she would be proud to know that I have tried to share my musings with the world. I wish I could share it more. I wish I knew how. My writing still comes from a place of raw emotion and I will always remember that it was Mrs. R. who first read my writing without simply judging the content of it but, rather, by reacting to it. Thank you for believing in me and for inspiring me, Mrs. R. You will be greatly missed.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Moment

I was asked the other day to discuss one defining moment in my life. The one moment that truly shaped who I am today. A transformational moment, if you will. It's a difficult question, and one I've been thinking about a lot lately.

We don't often meausure our lives in moments, but maybe, just maybe, we should. For life can change in an instant, sometimes in a small but powerful way, and sometimes drastically... a devastating car accident, the moment your first child is born, the decision to choose self-preservation over a life not destined for greatness, deciding to walk out the door forever or turning around and knowing for sure it is there you must stay.

Have you ever considered how differently your life might have turned out had you made even slightly different choices in those critical times? I am not one to dwell on these kinds and sorts of woulda, shoulda, coulda things, but I do believe that we are all actually constantly faced with transformational moments, only most often we go with the status quo and therefore don't recognize them as such.

I do know, however, with great certainty, that there are moments suspended in time that have, indeed, changed who I am at my core... for better, for worse, forever.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


An old post from my other blog...

Today I concluded a difficult case. I can't say that I "won" it because in my line of work, winning simply means that the right thing is going to happen. However, it will not happen without countless challenges and obstacles. Winning assumes there are losers and my ultimate definition of success is that there are none. In this case I believe I accomplished that goal. No one will take home hardware at the end of the day and there will be no post-race party nor a recovery day. However, the fact of the matter is that the reward is far greater than a finisher's medal and more powerful than a top ten finish.

I've been in this business for a long time, but some cases get to me more than others. Maybe it's because some hit closer to home... or maybe my frozen heart melts just a tiny bit when I meet exceptional children and their even more exceptional parents. Either way, I've been thinking a lot about Holland lately.

I think we each have our own "Holland"... a challenge that requires us to think and act differently than expected... be it a child who is differently abled, a medical condition or injury we deal with that affects how we live and/or train, a job that's not all it's cracked up to be, or a difficult family situation. Whatever your Holland is, I hope you stop to admire the Rembrandts, windmills and tulips along the way, even if they are hidden or off the beaten path, and find the beauty there.

"Welcome to Holland"
By Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away...because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But...if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Lighting struck all around as they went riding with the top down. Soon enough the rain began to fall. He assured her they could outrun the rain. The first red light proved problematic in this respect, yet it was so utterly giggle-worthy that she couldn't help but smile... then laugh...the kind of laugh long since abandoned once things got complicated. As they sat at the red light soaking up the rain and chuckles, he mentioned that it was "a dry rain", a joke created years before in the middle of a desert during a rare yet incredibly beautiful rain-turned-snow shower.

Her thoughts wandered back to a carefree kind of night where time, seemingly, stood still. A time when everything was easy and the biggest decisions were as simple as which club and what time. Sitting on a playground swing, talking for hours, laughing over the little things in life, the rain came and neither of them bothered to move. The conversation just kept right on going and, eventually, he kissed her in that rain storm.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Global Citizen

As I stood silently on the trail bathed in the light of a full moon, listening to the lines of a long forgotten story whose message is that sometimes you don't need words, all you need is hope, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that despite the internal struggle and financial challenges I had faced and overcome a year or so ago, I had, indeed, done the right thing.

You may recall that I once wrote about the tough decision I made on how best to educate Exhibit B who, while incredibly bright, was what I refer to as "the forgotten" child in a typical classroom. These are kids who are quiet, smart and never cause a moment's trouble and, therefore, are often overlooked by less than stellar teachers. In the end, I decided to send him to The Fancy Schmancy School (TFSS) because the educational philosophy there was so closely in line with my own, it was as if I'd written it myself. I felt strongly he'd be able to shine brighter there than anywhere else. I knew in my heart of hearts, deep down, there was no other choice to be made. Still, it wasn't easy.

However, the fact is, I've not regretted the decision a bit, and there are many times, including standing on that trail holding my youngest in my arms with my other children snuggled up next to me, all four of us taking in the wonders of a moonlit hike, when I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude and joy about being able to offer this opportunity to Exhibit B. For him, it is perfection, and I've watched, with pride, as the child he is and always has been on the inside has suddenly emerged and is more evident than ever from the outside.

When disaster struck in Haiti, I immediately received an email from the school stating that the middle schoolers were forming a leadership committee to determine how the students of TFSS would respond. In the meantime, the fifth graders, having completed a unit on natural disasters in the spring of their fourth grade year, became the school "experts" to advise the various grade levels on ways in which they could support disaster relief efforts.

As a side note, that unit they did included a culminating activity of creating and then actually following a recipe that could be made only from products commonly found in a pantry that people trapped in their homes could make and eat. There was a lot more to it than that, but the photos and descriptions of this activities when I visited for open house last year impressed me greatly because of the incredible amount of curricular integration involved (which I would now need to refer to as transdisciplinary since it's an IB program). This unit alone was one of the deciding factors for me, but seeing what transpired over the past six weeks made me realize that these chidren understand that their studies go far beyond the acres and acres of land they call their learning community.

In the end, it was decided that the 1/2 classes would raise money by creating a "world marketplace", if you know much about PYP curriculum, you understand that this makes sense. They sold all kinds and sorts of goods, including "I Helped Haiti" bracelets, and made quite a bit of money to donate to disaster relief. It was an amazing joint effort by all grade levels and every decision made was made by the kids.

In the meantime, Exhibit B's class was doing some research for environmental science when they stumbled across this website: When the teacher explained a little about it, one of the girls in Exhibit B's class raised her hand and said, "Are we going to do that?". That's all it took. The class was buzzing with excitement over this program and wanted to get involved. The teacher told them they could do it but that they needed to raise the money themselves. With that, this 4th/5th grade class devised a plan.

They would put on a talent show and invite the whole school & all the families. They would have a guitar case out for "tips" to donate. They would also offer face painting and crafts. They invited the local nature center to come in and promote a special program they have. The nature center folks were so pleased with the effort that they offered to bring an owl and snake with them and do some animal talks. The night would end with a hike through the campus trails (BYO Flashlights... and be darn sure you put red cellophane over it) followed by hot chocolate, for which there was a small fee, that went to Kiva, too. If by chance you forgot to bring your own mug, there was an upcharge, of course (did I mention this is a green school?). In the end, they raised $500. on the spot, and one of Exhibit B's very generous teachers made a matching donation.

And so it came to pass that one night, not too long ago, I hiked on dark trails and listened for the sound of barred owls and other creatures of the night and, all the while, reminded myself of the importance of listening to my soul.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Actions vs. Words

On a very regular basis, there are people in my kingdom who claim to love me the mostest, who tell me they wish they could take away my pain, that they want to take it on so that I don't suffer any longer, they wish they had to deal with that with which I deal instead of me having to deal with it.

It's a sweet sort of sentiment and it gives them words with which to fill the air. However...

I thought a lot about this today as I struggled to keep down my food or move my muscles and joints in any really meaningful way, while my hands shook so violently I had to ask for a straw for my coffee so I didn't spill it on myself and while I played the wait and see game for hours on end. I came to the conclusion that this particular declaration of "why not me instead?" is just a little bit selfish and that those who make this statement are playing the victim on some level.

Now I know that might sound crazy, and I certainly don't mean it in a disparaging way, but hear me out, because I think there's some merit to it. Let's be honest... they don't REALLY wish it was them, but it does sound good and heroic to mention it. Of course, since it's a physical impossibility, it's safe for them to say it as often and as adamantly as they would like. The fact is, it's a helluva lot easier to say something like this than to actually have to be around me, help me, support me. Actions speak far louder than words and I find it's the folks who proclaim my situation "utterly unfair" and who claim to want this trade out that tend not to act. And that's OK, I don't need them to, realy, and I know sometimes people just don't know what to say or do, but I do find it interesting.

These "traders" are not the same folks who remain silent about the situation yet are there to hold back my hair as I vomit for the 14th time in two hours. They are definitely not the ones holding my hand during a spinal tap or telling me jokes while I wait for the IV to drip its last drop, not the ones squeezing my hand to try to stop it from shaking, unlocking a door for me because I can't manage the key, delivering meals or cleaning ladies or providing me with Point A to B transportation on days when driving is out of the question. They are not the ones that know there's a standard answer I give to the question "how are you feeling?", nor are they the people who can watch me move across the room or see me touch my "hot spots" and know exactly what hurts me.

The fact is that this... this life I lead... this disease that haunts me... these powerful lessons I learn from it... this is my curriculum. It's not theirs to learn and even if they could wish it upon themselves it would be lost on them because it's simply not their destiny.

The real question, then, should be "What can I learn from the Cranky Princess' situation?" or, maybe better yet, "How can I step into the Cranky Princess' world?". Truthfully, what it comes down to is: are the people who care so deeply about me that they "wish" my illness upon themselves actually willing to give up their time and energy to DO something that would allow them to step into my story, to be a part of the plot, and thereby, hopefully, learn something from it, or are they just interested in the words that sound good and right in the moment?

At the end of the day, what you do is more important than what you say and sometimes that which is unsaid is heard more loudly and clearly than the words you utter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Makes Me Less Cranky...

So what do inquiring minds want to know about The Cranky Princess???

Ask and I shall answer! Ohhhhhh, this could be fun... :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Less Cranky Princess... lurking in here somewhere. She just needs to be enticed out. Maybe with champagne and sparkly things.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dark Hours

It is said that in your darkest hours is when you discover who your true friends are. I don't think it's so much this but, rather, that you realize who has the strength and courage to stand by you, to support you physically or emotionally, and who has a vested interest in making their presence in your life known, felt and ultimately understood.

It is said that in your darkest hours is when you discover who your true self is. I don't think it's so much this, but rather, you realize what you're made of, how much grace under fire you possess, and who and what really matters most to you.