Brand new ballet slippers, little pale pink blochs in hand, pink leotard and tights underneath her skirt Adrianna has been anticipating her first day of ballet class since we signed up. We pull up to the studio and suddenly a surprising stage fright sets in. "Wahhhhh! I don't want to go to ballet. I am not going!" It would be lovely to say I hadn't bribed her or threatened her after this natural outburst but it would be quite dishonest. I pulled out all the stops but she wasn't going to budge and her runny nose was dripping more and more as the sobbing ensued. In the hallway we peeked in the window. I pointed out how nice the teacher looked, how bright and beautiful the room was, the stars on the walls, all the mirrors. Didn't look too appealing to her. A dad tried to reassure her teacher Valerie was really nice. Adrianna didn't think so. It was looking quite promising that "Ballet, where dreams come true ages 3-5" wasn't the most accurate dance class description. Miss Valerie gave her ok for me to participate with vulnerable little ruddy faced Anna. The girls all circled in the center, feet touching. They were mermaids pointing and flexing their fins. Attention was drawn to their unscuffed ballet slippers in varying shades of baby skin. The big girls tuck the bows in their shoes. They were flowers stretching and blossoming. Learning names Leah, Andrea, Yu, Ariana, my "Anna" the corners of Anna's eyes showed signs of trust and hope again. The teacher told the girls this class was special because at the end they would get to dance in a recital, on stage, in a costume! Back to center first position is taught, make a piece of pizza with your feet and arms like a basketball. I remember my first teachers, Miss Cindy and Miss Teresa and the tricks I still think of today. Stretching, feet together feet are two pieces of bread wide open. Reach for the peanut butter far in the cupboard, stretch to the fridge for the jam, reach for the knife and open the jars, spread the pb&j and eat your peanut butter and jelly foot sandwich! The class gets to dance with scarves-oh the elegance. Tinkerbell inspired music according to Adrianna. She catches a pleasing glimpse of herself in the mirror. The music freezes cuing return to first position (arms and feet)-or chicken wing arms in my girl's case. Stand on a blue spot, not the first, not the second identical blue spot...the third spot seems to do rather well. Sunshine arms, airplane arms, hook arms and fairy wing and princess tiaras-oh how ballet class improves. With a smile on her face and a vow to tell Daddy she liked it she plans to return next week.
20 minutes was the goal on the dreaded elliptical. Usually my 20 minute commitments quickly get downgrade justification to 5 or 7 minutes. That is a long duration of time on one of those things. Every step counted. Intense. Yes, I disappoint myself an awful lot in the gym. A trend is forming. Today was the first time a non-family member asked me if I was pregnant. It was a twisted assurance to me that its apparent; wow my self-conscious level soars when great with child. Four minutes go by. I think of what weighs my soul most heavily. I think if I keep taking steps, if I keep forcing my weight into the next stride a clarity will come. A direction to follow. Maybe I can build enough strength within to charge those who need this energy to thrive. "And I think its gonna be a long, long time. " And I am burning my fuse, I know I am not the woman they think. It's just me and Elton John one step at a time saving the world. The chin-up assist machine, what a machine for a girl never in her life able to do a chin-up. Presidential fitness tests, who needs them? Not I, I've got my own new found reasons to believe in the future. If I lift my weight I prove to myself I can lift another. That 20 minutes became 22 minutes. Little victories.
7:30 class is in session. Slight panic thinking my class might be this one. No, confirming the schedule book mine's 8:30. Silence ensues until a nine year old boy whose mother and sister are in class asks me if I'd like a balloon. An origami balloon. He tells me about his affinity for building model rockets (from scratch), last summer's church camp, spending summers with Grandma and Grandpa. He makes two more Origami balloons for each of my kids (the ones that won't eat them) and recommends the Rice, Rocks and Minerals museum if I am the sort interested in Geology. Last time he was there he bought two geodes for $75. Don't miss the huge meteorite. Through the window concentration and isolation peers in the mirror. A woman with countless bone spurs and arthritis of the foot and only a quarter of life left in this poor foot joins me in the hall not aware "belly" dance would have so much to do with the foot. The assistant checks on her like a friendly cheerleader suggesting certain dance shoes or braces for support but with tears welling the woman feels belly dancing isn't the choice for her body. I know the feeling in an all different way. Carla, the senior teacher gives her hope saying the mind will get it if you merely stand and listen to the music and learn it internally. Carla looks like a truck driver maven in black, a dangling scarf from her burgundy tinted spiral permed hair adds to my first impression that she tells fortunes at her day job. The low cut V-neck black spandex top hugs a beer belly, her midriff adorned with turquoise blossoms, gold sequined stems, gold tassels and bead-work. The origami creator assured me I would like the teacher. She's nice. I found myself in a commonly found place: out of place- with my modest workout attire, serious face and awkward steps only informed by ballet intellect and free spirit disobedience around the floor trying to play off the very noticeable fact that I didn't already know Tiffany who danced last Thursday at Marrakesh or that I didn't know the 14 year old Asian girl's mother who wasn't in class today. But her foot is doing much better. The results of "Our Girls" at the Tacoma competition alluded me. The alternative section...Adi rah took the cake...there's something about our girls and mastery of the alternative...tee heehee. Surrounding every woman had some sort of costume addition proving she was official as a belly dancer. The loose skinned abdominal woman's orange beaded sash sagged until she began her shimmy. A repositioning occurs as she tucks the skin into her spine bringing out a beauty I'd overlooked. Maybe all women folk ought walk around town hip circling and body cameling. A whole new benchmark aesthetic arises. The upbeat drum tempo drives the Shakire with the 6/8 tempo cuing a shoulder roll followed by staccato isolation's popping through the body like popcorn. "Time to get out your veils ladies." Not having nor even knowing what a veil is I paw around feigning to take the pause to practice my right hip isolations with a careful lift of my heel. A woman called my bluff and asked if I needed to borrow a veil. The silk scape in melted butter yellow convinced me for a moment even I was official in the calling of belly dancer. Three steps and letting go of the veil, catching it taking two more steps so the veil's end is underfoot, lifting it coyly to the face to give the appearance of genie in a bottle, twisting and twirling-whether there was a wrong or right less noticeable with this luxurious prop. Agra bah, there is hope yet.
We are all circled for nighttime prayer. Eli reminds all to show Rainbow what to do. She's normally asleep at 9:00 but seemed to have a little nightmare. She has been beaming ever since, dimple in full force and overjoyed at the circumference around her. She pauses seeing everyone still and somber. Such airs usually precede an equal and opposite reaction. She tries to one up us and cracks with a sneaky yawp and gleeful laugh. Eli begins to pray. Our little color stream mellows momentarily and then toddles on her sea legs planting her pillowy bum on Sunny's lap-but just for a second. We pass a giggle like a hot potato. Eli's reverences are interrupted by squeals and guffaws. Then I join in. There she is Little Miss Toddle Along knowing she's the star of the show. For dramatic effect she stops by Moses and folds her arms just like him. His Grover laugh melts right out. Eli amends what I think his original intent of the prayer was and thanks for the fun we have together.
Tan pants sideswiped with yin yang mud, my girl, vim and vinegar: vim tips the balance. From the last spill, blackened socks like Cajun pepper sweep by in roller blades. Creamy hands, small and smooth melting into grits in the hands of a dirty, rowdy, pale-faced ruddy neighbor boy who only has only one volume. Like a Letterman's jacket and class ring, she's wearing his roller blades and helmet- he's teaching the novice the trick of glide. They spin by home to show Mom and Dad the fun. Oh, she's never smiled so wide before. A million giddy moments motivated by boys in my youth flash through my mind quicker than a pot of gumbo disappearing into the bellies of famished fisherman. Slipping in the mud of the Kasilof River bank with the Carlson crew painted with gray silt looking like voodoo nightmares but innocent as first act Scarlett O' Hara playing coquettish games of tag, truth or dare the glee of summer romance plows through my mind like a bounteous cotton harvest. Pressing the breaks of my Dad's Toyota 4-Runner with the orange snow sled instead of a fender, scratched with memories of fishing with Dad, the worn Fats Domino cassette tape as much a part of this vehicle as its whistling engine I hail Maggie down, hop from the driver's seat and by golly jumping Jehoshaphat tell her the news I can't keep inside-John just kissed me! Oh, to be in love with a red-headed marine 6 years my senior. The closest thing I'd come to a sage of the sea. Sunny Carolina, a good southern belle name if I ever heard one laughs with head tipped back and eyes shining like the Ozark River. Sub par, runny nosed buzz cut buddy who's Halloween costume was Dracula chortles an uneven cadence. Obviously quite pleased this debutante finds him to be the most engaging gent of the day. The rogue stranger that turned the noses up of girls who graze cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks at a church stake youth dance turns his old fashioned charm on...in retrospect, identifiable as girl crazy 18 year old fire- stretching his hand toward me. Stuffing the remainder of a chocolate chip doused brownie I take his hand. Jubilantly he leads me on the dance floor with confidence and what I define at the age 16 as sheer manliness. A quick sweep through the floor we runaway to the Primary room where he teaches me the grandest of moves from "Dirty Dancing" complete with the sly, inside of the arm glide transforming into a kiss. Baby, we've got it good. Totally worth being reprimanded by Sister Western for Book of Mormon distance breach. The yellow four runner being manned by less than man, highly accomplished drummer using his steering wheel and dashboard as a substitute for a drum kit, my date to the upcoming junior prom in two weeks honks for arrival. Going to the movies. My father and mother appalled by his honk and perhaps more disappointed in my skirting to his call like a swine to the suey call. I ask the little southern belle if she'd like a sweater. Her "Save the Earth" t-shirt mimics her unrestrainable passion for all things great and beautiful. She's living full like eagle soaring o'er the ocean on her t-shirt. Of course she doesn't want a sweater, she's too hot, of course. I smile, knowingly. Besides, would this soul-dampened momma want one more item to wash? My momma comes to mind, her endless questions of what I had done with my friends, with whom I danced with, what part in the play I hoped for remind me of precisely the details I long to know about sweet Sunny Carolina's little escapade with this boy my momma would surely shake her head at.
An orange swimsuit stretched a little snug around the mid section of a woman in her late twenties. She's untypically self-conscious of this physique-questioning whether others can tell she is pregnant or is that just a little belly. Yes, folks...hers is a terrible plight to bare, for a few months in her life she has to carry this burden. It is likely appropriate to slap her now. And please, let it be a healthy, curvaceous, non-Hollywood stick sort of person who does so. It will be a victory for Marilyn Monroe's (in spirit and form) everywhere. She arrives on the pool deck a few minutes early. Accustomed to lap swimming, competitive strokes and a striving of some semblance of speed in her exercise routines she feels out of her element this Saturday afternoon. The class is titled, "Weekend Warrior" It promises mid to high level intensity which gave her the confidence to try this class assuming that would likely weed out the blue haired, helmet permed water aerobics over 70's crowd. She was wrong. Black skirts and wrinkles like a mapped river pattern on loose, elephant skin abound. Cellulite distributes itself with no particular goal in mind. Some are sweet couples; a man assists his wife into the water. Folks buckle their foam belts around their middles. Foam "weights" are distributed, noodles are chosen, fin-hand gloves pulled into place. Gear suitable for a voyage to the moon. No instructor in view the orange belly enters the deep end and treads water. Confidently pulling a few strokes of water to position herself in an area away from the crowds. Not sure what the deal was-it seemed to be more of a self-service class she begins treading water and varying the pulls to manipulate her body for optimal fitness results. Running in place forward proved odd so she tries on the stylish belts. She decides against it as it suddenly made her feel weightless and required nearly zero in resistance. Wondering whether correct form circumvents a harder workout and heart-rate increase she assumes treading solo is best for her. Then a guy, early twenties enters the pool. He begins to teach, calling the crew inward. The alternating touch the inside of your foot thing was killer. A strange sense of oppression from the water resistance around the impending belly felt awkward. Finding herself scooting in the water without intended direction she chose to remain in the deep end but tread closer to the teacher. To her left a group of women surrounding a gent, "You're back Carla! How is your daughter?" "Oh fine. It was quite a trip. Glad to finally be home. My son-in-law thought one of us would eat each other's heads off." "Ohh, hoo, ha, ha!" And to the right, "I was trying to describe Christianity to a Chinese friend and....she didn't understand...all those people..." Alternating airborne sidekicks empowered her, liberating her enough to toss her goggles to the deck like a bra in the seventies. Just as she began to feel a rhythm a pear shaped woman with eyes like olives and lips lips like one cherry tomatoes (it seemed the pregnant woman was getting hungry) rather abruptly told her she was in the way. Apparently this section was for those wanting to "run" back and forth, and for that only. Never mind the Public Pool dogma nor the senior flirting to the north of this incident, nor the fact that even this woman had likely made it "across" likely three times in 20 minutes time, oh and pray tell, surely one mustn't consider this waif like orange woman's efforts to naturally attempt to navigate away from the crowd nor her attempts to achieve a heightened heart-rate just like the dear fruit salad woman. Surely, surely it would be best to show the naive newcomer (certain now that this belly was perceived as a months worth of double donut days) that territory is territory. Others could sense her discomfort and kindly told the late twenties orange orchid all was well, the salad lady was always like that. She felt buoyed by a community of strangers and tried to pay the fruit arrangement no mind. Pulling herself up for arm and chest strength in repetition she thought of building self up and tearing self down. Asserting ones' self kindly but having the audacity and self worth to stick to her guns. This woman in the orange swimsuit pulled herself out of the pool striving next time to be a resilient dandelion rather than a fragile tulip.
Sunny Carolina had an upset stomach this evening. She spent some time in the ladies room expecting to throw up but instead just felt horrible. We thought of all she had eaten tonight-nothing seemed too likely of a culprit nor could we think of anyone we were aware of that she has played with that has been ill but of course you can't always track flu bugs easily. During the hour or so of anguish I told her I loved her and felt sad that she didn't feel well. We talked about how it takes getting sick to make you appreciate being well and I asked her if she would like Daddy to give her a Priesthood blessing for the healing of the sick. She nodded emphatically. I had just listened to Eli's most recent recording of "Ascension" he was making a "few more"(the endless 'few more'-which is why it is sounding so top notch) amendments when I peeked in on him to let him know of his sweet daughter's request. He said "Of course" . He reminded her of the connection between faith and our Father's desire to help us. I told her sometimes the Lord comforts us and helps us get through sickness and sometimes he blesses us with healing the ailment we are suffering from. Her hair angled down framing her hopeful face. I could see her desire to do what is right and to commune with our Father. She really desired to be healed and was ready to show her faith. The blessing gave me peace and I know it gave her confidence. Eli carried her to bed-I brought the just-in-case-bucket and her little white teddy bear from Grandma and Grandpa Christenson from Christmas and put them beside her. Eli told her he remembered a couple years ago giving her a blessing and her faith helped heal her. He told her he knew she had the faith tonight to be healed. A few minutes later I checked on her to see how she was doing. She told me, "better, my throat feels a little funny but not my tummy." And just a few minutes later she trotted from her bed with a glowing aura and said, "Mommy, I am completely better. I don't feel sick at all." She hugged me for a long time and I told her I was happy she had such faith and I knew Heavenly Father was happy with her too." Her earthly and heavenly fathers love her very much. She is a special treasure.
When she pulls out her white shortalls, I know the girl means business. Helping Momma Business. That, and add the hippy floral apron Momma Milliman gave me for painting and all she needs is an assignment. If I don't give her one, she gives herself one-usually the bathrooms, which yes, is good but sometimes I would just rather do that task myself. Kitchen Aid mixing bowl in hand (a remarkable, shiny water/cleaning solution receptacle I might add, too much soap, 1/2 inch of water on the kitchen floor and 20 minutes later we have a polished kitchen floor. Thanks Carolina.