Teetering. The Art of Balance.

In yoga class we often work on balance, sometimes choosing poses that either provide a challenge or relief. I often teeter, sometimes grow stronger, but never give up hope that one day I will find perfect balance, even if it is a fleeting moment.standing-poses-index-single-leg-balancing.jpg

I’ve been hard-pressed to blog lately. I feel like I teeter between the happiness I garner from my life with the Brewmaster and my career, and Ballet Boy’s departure for Houston. Striving for balance, I weave dizzily between the comfort of hugs from the Brewmaster and a warm home to feeling desperately sad about my adolescent son being too far to visit regularly or to give a daily hug at a time in his life that he needs to know more than ever that I am fully 100% behind him.

Ballet Boy isn’t gone forever. Like a college student, he will be home for some short breaks. Unlike a college student, he will never come home for extended periods in the summer due to the fact that he needs to keep intensively dancing. He will also visit his father in France. Sometimes I walk into his room or look at his toiletries in the bathroom and cry, realizing that there will be so few moments that we will share the same proximity that I thought we would have until he was a normal age to fly the coop.

Unlike a college student, my son is young to be on his own. Like most teenagers, he wants to stretch his wings and do things on his own. Like most mothers, I struggle between being ready to grant him that liberty and being scared to death that I will lose him. Recently we’ve conversed about him taking the light rail in Houston by himself after dusk to a hair appointment that he made on his own.

Deep down, I am very proud that he wants to do these things on his own, and that he can do them successfully. I can’t help but remind him to be aware of his surroundings, to put his phone away and look like he has a purpose when he is out on his own in a big city. He reminds me that I can track him on the iPhone FindMyFriends app. I remind him that the app only tracks his phone, not him, and that I want him in one piece. I wobble between letting him go and wanting to shield him from any bad things that can happen. Then I realize he needs his own practice, and I try to let go.

I’ve lived all over the world: London, Paris, Marseille. I’ve traveled to Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, the Netherlands…and done more than my share of stupid things. I’ve had my wallet stolen in Paris and been surrounded by a gang of taunting teenagers on a bus in Marseille, France’s second largest city. I survived. Ballet Boy will survive. It is so hard to know how to help him become independent, way before most sons would have to take that step.

The recent terrorist attacks all over the world this past week have thrown a blanket of darkness over all of us. We teeter between our comfortable American lives and realizing that for many, that comfort can blow up in a second, at the whim of a fanatic whose sole purpose is fear-mongering.darkness.jpg

We can choose to teeter into the abyss, giving into fear, hatred and revenge.

Or we can pull ourselves up, be brave and choose to see that light and happiness will prevail. Like my yoga poses, this is work. Courage takes practice and dedication.

Today’s practice involves baking banana bread for Ballet Boy and my niece who is in her first semester at Yale. Packing a care package of cough drops, snacks, Emergence-C and other items to get Ballet Boy through finals and multiple Nutcracker performances makes me feel useful again. He knows I always think of him, but sometimes it is nice to get a physical reminder on a hard day.IMG_4710.JPG

In the meantime, I will send Ballet Boy cyber hugs and hug the Brewmaster even closer, give my dog, who just had a second surgery but came out cancer-free, some extra love, and try to remain a positive, motivational force for my cello students. I am so proud of what Ballet Boy is accomplishing that it makes up for any selfish desires to keep him nearby.  There are many ways to balance, and I will keep looking for them.

There are days where finding the balance is hard, whether it is a work in progress or an accomplishment. But balancing never involves caving to fear or sadness and somehow I feel if I practice it every day, I will teeter closer and closer to the right side. The bright side.teetering rock.jpg



Piece of Mind

Sometimes we need to be a certain place and time to appreciate a good book.

En route from Houston, I finished an inspiring book about a 94 year-old track star. “What Makes Olga Run,” a gift from Ironcelloman. Although I had started it this summer on another road trip, my mind was far too preoccupied with Ballet Boy leaving to enjoy it. In short, I was very stressed out this summer and let that override any fascination I’ve had with exercise and its effects on my own well-being.


Bruce Grierson’s book delves into all the complex aspects of what make elderly athletes capable of competing while others get glued to their walkers or wheel chairs. Is it environment (upbringing, hardships, careers), physiological make up (certain blood capacity or superior cell repair) or mental (ability to focus, stick to a goal, etc)?

There is also a chicken and egg aspect to the studies he surveys–do these elderly athletes have younger brains because they exercise or because they are wired differently?

It’s a great read, and it’s fun to see Olga break world records over and over again. Of course, there are sometimes no competitors in her age group. Read it even if you aren’t athletic, because it explores a lot of the facets of what keeps us ticking and happy.

The book made me think a lot about my own goals. One of the main conclusions was that all of the athletes competing well in the older age brackets started late. Like in their  70’s! Their bodies were not worn down by repeated movement and physical stress. They have time to train as their kids age or they are retired. Olga didn’t start until she was 77. She was bored and decided to try track events like shot put, javelin throwing and high jump.

The studies cited in the book do all point to the idea that ANY exercise, but especially continual, short bouts of taxing exercise (more than marathon or endurance sports), have the amazing to not only slow aging in our brain, but to reverse aging.

Imagine the day when they can put that in a bottle and charge us for it.


However, the mental make up of Olga also was important. She was very nonchalant. She did not worry about the outcome, even though she enjoyed winning. She did not worry about events around her, but just was basically a pretty happy person. Olga’s easy going personality trait let her release control over events or problems that she couldn’t solve, and focus on her own training, which she could control.

I sometimes feel the opposite of this. I worry WAY too much. I wonder if Ballet Boy is doing his homework and I worry about the new cyst my dog has on her butt. I wake up at night worrying about finances. I worry about an interaction I’ve had with someone that day and stew about how to make it better.

Yoga has helped me recenter my thoughts. Every yoga practice I strive to stay in the moment and accept where I am that day, and that every day doesn’t quite feel the same.

I need to apply that practice to the rest of my life.

Reading Olga’s story, I realized on my plane trip home that I don’t need to worry about Ballet Boy. He is incredibly happy doing what he is gifted at, in a place full of people qualified to help him on his path in life. We saw a wonderful, varied program by the Houston Ballet of contemporary dance. Ballet Boy is surrounded by inspiration, motivation and creation. His brain must be exploding as it stretches and grows with knowledge and creativity. Of course he needs someone to make sure he is on track with his academic work, but he also needs to know that I trust him to take care of that on his own.

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that in his 40s, he was no longer worried about fixing himself. He is centering on loving himself. I think a lot of us shift our focus beyond looking like a fashion model or being perfect at this point in our lives.

For the first time in months, I feel peaceful. It’s like a piece of my mind cleared and a fog lifted. I felt honestly happy that I had the Brewmaster to come home to, that I can perform and teach cello to a pretty great group of students, and that I am doing lots of wonderful things to take care of my health.

For the first time in months, I feel healthy mentally. My body might not be healed, but I am respecting it by not giving it sugar or other foods that increase my inflammation and stir up my Hashimoto’s. I’m okay with the changes I’ve made and no longer see them as a punishment.

I’ve decided to approach running differently. I will stop comparing myself to where I was a few years ago, I will enjoy the moment and even turn off my timer. I think I few runs a week I will leave my Runkeeping app off and just enjoy the run and listen to my body.

And although I will continue to miss Ballet Boy, I will embrace this new stage. A huge silver lining has been more sleep since I don’t have to drive him to school early in the morning!

Yeah, I’ve done it. I’ve found the road to Peace of Mind. I’ll keep on it.


There’s this thing called Iowa nice. You know, we are so happy out here in the midwest that we wave at strangers, smile at everyone and are just downright nice.

People being awfully nice in Iowa City

People being awfully nice in Iowa City

Right. BIG stereotype.

There is even a funny video about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLZZ6JD0g9Y

Honestly, people are friendly here. So friendly that growing up, I felt like I was not taught that conflict was a good thing. When I moved to France, everyone fought. They argued for the sake of arguing. The French just like playing the Devil’s Advocate, and I learned to embrace that.

This shy little Iowa girl got a little less nice, and a little more assertive. And that was not a bad thing.iowa tshirt

However, sometimes the French just go too far. In the middle of the night, I had an exchange with my ex-husband who is trying to get a form notarized in France so that I can get Ballet Boy’s American passport renewed. Apparently it is not common to have notaries, and the ex tried to go to the American Consulate to get some answers. They were on lockdown, which is not a surprise given the Charlie Hebdo massacre and other recent terrorist attacks in France.

The Ex still tried to push the guard at the gate to give him answers or let him in as a walk-in appointment. I can just imagine the scene: American military guard doesn’t give a crap about the angry Frenchman pushing for special treatment. Did the Ex get anywhere? No way. He had to go home and make an appointment online like everyone else.

This made think a little today about ways in which to get what you want. I was pretty angry yesterday at my gym. They added a $49 enhancement fee on my bill with no warning. When I went to ask about it, I told the poor attendant at the desk that I knew it wasn’t his fault. He smiled meaningfully and told me it was his last day.

When I spoke to the manager today, she was fielding tons of phone calls about the same issue. I applauded her patience and told her she must be having a horrible week. By the end of our discussion, she had given me the general manager’s email with the apology that she couldn’t personally authorize reimbursements.

So, Iowa nice goes a long way. I may not have resolved my gym problem, but at least I didn’t take my anger out on the wrong people. I wrote a killer email to the manager firmly expressing my disappointment in his lack of transparency and poor business practices. As a grown up Iowa girl, I’ve learned to be assertive yet kind to people, and I prefer this to being pushy and overly critical.

We will see what the outcome will be. I’m going to switch back to my old gym as I prefer the Olympic pool to the 18 yard disaster at my local gym, and I miss the state of the art Expresso bikes with fun videos to keep me going in the winter. And I miss my gym buddies who are at the old gym. Candy Ass and Inroncelloman, I’ll be back! And I’ll be nice.

Tightening our belts.

So this went up on the fridge today:

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The Brewmaster’s not going to be happy. I was not supposed to clutter up the new fridge.

He may not be too happy about the rest, either. This is the kind of stuff that goes through my head in yoga when I am simultaneously worrying about how I will have enough money to go visit Ballet Boy and why I look pudgy in the mirror.

This way, I figure, we can kill two birds with one stone.

Literally and figuratively tightening our belts.

Gateways and Goodbyes

When I was eight or nine, walking a quarter mile up our driveway to the stone gateway that marked our family cabin property seemed like a huge adventure. I’d climb on the wall, pretending it was a castle or part of a world as different as Tolkien’s stories that my father read out loud to us. The gateway was mine; safe from my brothers and my little sister for about an hour each day. It took all the courage I could muster to climb it on my own as I had seen my older brothers do. I’ve always been afraid of heights.

The gateway and drive to our cabin in Minnesota

The gateway and drive to our cabin in Minnesota

I knew not to go beyond the gate to the road, where cars came barreling around the bend and might not see a small child. The gate marked the beginning of our summer vacation, with no tv, no modern conveniences and lots of family interactions. Leaving it behind at the end of the summer was always sad, but I knew I would be back.

As an adult, I’ve crossed that barrier many times. Now I walk, bike or run on the road without fear. The ownership of the house that we share the driveway has changed, and although they own the property the gate was built on in the early 1900s, they allow us to share the access so that we won’t have to cut down trees and create our own driveway.

In the forty years since I first explored that wall, I have spread my wings and flown through many portals. I’ve lived in England, France, Iowa and Marseille. I’ve crossed many gateways and breached new boundaries. Sometimes walking through a doorway has seemed easy, and sometimes it has been as shocking or surprising as the children in Narnia discovering a new world after entering an old wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ wonderful stories.

Rose is not afraid to venture outside of the walls of the gate/fortress

Rose is not afraid to venture outside of the gate!

When I left for college, I thought I was very ready for a new world. Iowa was the most boring corner of the universe and I was ready to meet the intellectual elite at a small private college with an excellent music conservatory, Oberlin College, where I double majored in French and Cello Performance.

Leaving for college meant starting a new life and my first independent adventure as a young adult. It also meant saying farewell to my home and my parents. An image from the day of my departure from home remains branded in my memory. All of my belongings were sitting in the driveway waiting to be loaded into my grandparents’ Suburban. They drove me to college because my father was extremely ill with terminal mouth cancer, at the height of his career as a glaucoma specialist and the chair of the University of Iowa Ophthalmology department.

My vinyl disc collection was in crates next to my then state of the art Sony turntable and receiver. When I came out with another load of stuff, my dad was going through my records. He pulled out the double record of Brahm’s German Requiem and angrily gestured that it was his. My father had been subjected to a tracheotomy and couldn’t speak, so we communicated by scribbles on a yellow legal pad. I sheepishly gave it back to him, feeling bad, but also puzzled that he wouldn’t be happy that I loved classical music as much as him.

Saying goodbye to my father was the most impossible task I have ever had to do. As excited as I was about my new adventure, I knew it was really goodbye. No child or parent should have to go through the charade of trying to sum up everything that that word englobes. Goodbye should be a temporary state.

When my grandparents left me at Oberlin College and returned to Iowa, I remember feeling distinctly lonely. That is when I realized I really had to be brave and pave my own way.

On my 18th birthday, two weeks into my first year of college,  I got the record in the mail along with a sad letter from my father. He had realized that he was not going to be around much longer, and that he was truly happy that I loved Brahms music as much as he did. Two days later he passed away, on September 13, 1985.

From that moment on, it was as if I’d walked through a portal to a new world. It looked and felt a lot like my old world, but it was without my father. My father who had read books to me, played piano every night while I was falling asleep, sung songs to us accompanied by his guitar at every family dinner, had come to every cello lesson, was gone. Forever. There are no words to describe the loss and emptiness that you feel for years. That I still feel.

Ballet Boy leaves tomorrow for Houston Ballet Academy. This is not a final parting. This is yet another gateway to a new, yet similar world. I see big things in his future. When he leaves me tomorrow in a remote O’Hare airport terminal and takes the walkway to his plane, he will be not only facing some of the most amazing years of growth as a dancer, but also all the challenges I faced at 18 when I started college. He will cook for himself, live in a dorm space with 16 other students and be on his own to pace his school work.

He is so ready for this at age 15.

I am not as a 47 year old mother. At the same time my rational mind tells me that this is going to be an amazing future for him, full of fruitful encounters and friendships, the mom in me is screaming, “NOT YET!THIS IS NOT HOW LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN.” But life with a gifted artist, or athlete, or being, is different. It is unique, beautiful and precocious. I am wary that I can’t let my sadness at missing the next few years of my son’s development and daily events affect him; he needs to face the hard work he has ahead with confidence and bravery.

Like climbing a rock wall that I found daunting at age 8, like when I boarded a plane for France after college without even a clue as to who I would study cello with, his courage to go out on his own and pass into a new world will open countless doors for him.  That sole act of courage for me in my 20’s opened so many gateways; I got to visit London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, Marseille, Monte Carlo, Brussels, Amsterdam…and countless little villages with quaint Medieval or even Roman gateways and portals.

St. Remy de Provence, France

St. Remy de Provence, France

Without my bravery, Ballet Boy quite simply wouldn’t be. The world would be duller, less full of song and movement and laughter.

Ballet Boy and I enjoying some well-deserved rest in the hammock at our cabin

Ballet Boy and I enjoying some well-deserved rest in the hammock at our cabin

So tonight I know I will cry myself to sleep again (I have all week), but I also will think of ways to recreate my next chapter in life to be a different kind of mom and woman. I need personal goals to keep me going, and I need to be strong for Ballet Boy as he embarks on such an exciting period in his life.

My fallbacks will be yoga, running, cycling, swimming, dog love, Brewmaster love, baking and blogging. Will you come through the next portal with me and see what’s on the other side?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The Brewmaster and I just made the long trek by car from Iowa City, IA to Houston, TX to see Ballet Boy’s final performances with the Houston Ballet Academy and bring him home for less than three weeks before he returns full-time.

It was an epic trip. We learned a few things:

  1. My car GPS is not trustworthy. It takes us way out of our way. Not cool on a super-long trip.
  2. Our phone GPS isn’t much better. Remember the days when we just used maps?
  3. Arkansas is not a butt-ugly wasteland. It is gorgeous, full of bluffs, foothills, forest and greenery. It was worth the 1.5 hour detour on our way down through the Ozarks.

We did okay. No fights, probably because I just let the Brewmaster do most of the driving because that is what he likes to do when he gets in a car.

Houston, Texas, was full of surprises. The Center for Dance is located in an artsy, cosmopolitan neighborhood near an art museum and the home of the Houston Symphony. On a friend’s recommendation, we visited Specs, a wine and booze shop. The wine specialist there had connections to the ballet, loved opera and knew of my aunt who is kind of a BIG DEAL in Napa Valley. He may of sucked us into buying more than we needed.

I left Houston feeling like that was exactly where Ballet Boy needs to be to grow. We saw some amazing upper level dancers who were 15-18. My heart swelled with the knowledge that by next summer my son would be as good as anyone in that group. The teachers all seem wonderful, the building is very new and full of sunny, tall windows, and my son will live on the top floor in their dormitory with 16 other young dancers. I couldn’t be happier for him.

Houston Ballet Center for Dance

Houston Ballet Center for Dance

In Houston, I also met a great group of moms. They are all part of a Facebook group that stems from a blog called “My Son Can Dance.” After chatting with them all summer, it was great to meet in person, exchange stories about how our sons got into dance, and enjoy the common ground of being a proud parent. One woman in particular seemed like a southern sister soul; she loves cooking and is health-conscious, and the Brewmaster and I had fun helping her prep a dinner for all the moms and dads. I know she will have Ballet Boy’s back and invite him over for a few real meals.

Ballet Boy is also reassured by the news that some good friends are relocating to Houston to work at Baylor Children’s hospital and Rice University. BB was close to their daughter in grade school. They even put on a full production of River Dance in the back yard as a fundraiser for the local children’s hospital. The kids were equally bossy and I remember sometimes having a double-whisky after the play- dates/rehearsals. But mostly we have very happy memories of dinners and parties with them, and it is wonderful that they will be nearby.

So what is the Bad?

Ballet Boy is leaving home. At age 15. Sometimes this is more than I can bear.

Inspite of a really amazing merit scholarship that will cover his tuition, the dorms are expensive. I will be basically doubling our mortgage payment, when that has always been a stretch. My amazing mom is helping with the first few payments since she knows this is a hard time of the year for me.

Ballet Boy will be doing online school. My efforts to enroll him in local, free programs that my Iowa taxes pay for did not work out. The most reasonable online school that I have found is the Brigham Young Online High School Transcript Program. They have incentives for students who do well (free classes) and some financial aid. We are still scrambling to get BB enrolled and still don’t know what classes he will take. I’m concerned about not overloading him when he is dancing 9-4:30 all day, so it will be a part-time load.


Summer, as mentioned above, is not a good time in the life of a free-lance musician and adjunct teacher. Students come and go, between vacations and last-minute plans. My orchestra salaries and teaching salary won’t resume until the end of September. Fortunately the brewery is beginning to take off and soon not all the earnings will have to go back into the business.

And we only have 15 days with Ballet Boy. This is still surreal to me. We are working on cooking plans and shopping together as he will be on his own for his meal plan. Mostly he is resting up, trying to catch up with friends and processing his own journey and fears.


There will be no end. This is a journey that will be on together. It is worth every fear, panic, scrimping and scraping that we will do as a family to make it work. Success in the arts is an amazing gift. When hours of hard work and pain lead to the creating and sharing of works of art, everything becomes worth every sacrifice that has been made along the way.

The Brewmaster and I, my mom and others who have witnessed my son’s work couldn’t be prouder. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ballet Boy being amazing at age 15

Ballet Boy being amazing at age 15

Better not Bitter

Ballet Boy did it.

After years of hard work, sweat, injuries, and sometimes tears, he has made it to the big league. Houston Ballet Academy has invited him to stay year round in their very select training program. Not only was he accepted into their elite program; he received a half-tuition merit scholarship. There will only be about 20 boys in the levels 7 and 8 of the academy program he has been accepted into.

And yet, today I got a frustrated text from him after a hard morning at the Houston Ballet summer intensive. Other kids could do more turns. Freakishly well. He was feeling mediocre even though he was executing his pirouettes with clean, decent technique. Today he felt like others were getting applauded for their abilities, whether done well or not, and he was not standing out.

My first reaction was almost “suck it up, buttercup.” But a 15 year old needs a little affirmation that it burns when you’re really trying and not getting noticed. We all like a little positive reinforcement, and usually this is not a whiny kid, so I listened.competition

His teacher from his home studio nailed it: he’s now in a place where EVERYbody is good. Really good. And the teachers are going to spend more time telling you what is not working than what is working. More than ever, Ballet Boy needs to focus on his own work, not others.

We’ve all been there. It might not necessarily be in a sporting event. It might be that we are waiting for someone to notice that we have lost weight, or made a kick ass presentation at work. In my experience,  it’s hard not to feel the burn in a running race when I get passed by a ten year old. Or a 70 year old. I do know that when I was 40, I couldn’t run one mile. Now I can run 3, and I have run 10k and a half-marathon. I don’t know what my body will let me do in the future, but I will never give up on its potential.

I am not the elite. I am kind of happy with my mediocre abilities to set small goals and plow through them. But I do know a few things about negativity and how that can poison progress.

What words of wisdom did I impart as a parent? Never compare yourself to others, only to where you were yesterday. Push yourself even beyond where you think you can go. Be patient, good technique will someday pay off. You may not feel the progress now, but in the long run someone will notice it. But don’t wait for that. Keep at it.

Finally, the only one that will tell you every day how wonderful you are and how amazing you will be is your mom. That’s what I am here for, and I will continue to say it. I will think of you every time I walk by your empty room and wish that I could hear you singing Broadway tunes at the top of your voice. I will think of it as I drive by the big Nolte Dance Academy sign on the Coralville strip and miss dropping you off there. I will think of it as I wait for another text or small message on my phone, letting me know that you are doing ok, even on a hard day. I will think of it every minute, every day and every holiday that I have to spend away from you to make this happen. Sometimes through a curtain of tears, but often with a smile on my face as I think of your infectious energy and humor.

Ballet Boy in Houston, TX

Ballet Boy in Houston, TX

You are truly impressive, Ballet Boy. Now get out there and work your booty off.