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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Month: March, 2013

Day 121: Still Small Voice (For Michele)

One of my college dance mentors, forever advocates and friends was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Michele has been teaching at my alma mater for over twenty years and currently directs the college’s dance program.

Last weekend was the school’s 25th annual spring dance concert. To celebrate, I joined 27 other alumni to perform alongside the current students throughout the weekend. It was an amazing experience, and I had the pleasure of connecting with Michele while in town.

As she is publicly sharing her journey with breast cancer, this is my public letter to her.

Dear Michele,

You are an inspiration.

Your transparency about your experience is refreshing, poignant and, of course, educational (you’ve always been a master of research, as I remember from taking your Dance History class). But even in the midst of this highly unnerving and body-altering experience—and barely a week after your mastectomy—I witnessed you supporting others throughout the entire dance concert weekend.

You let the students know you were okay and turned the focus onto them. You sent them good-luck letters, emails and notes, and you congratulated them on their beautiful dance pieces and performances. You met their parents and told them how much their daughters and sons had grown. You came to every show. You connected the students to the alumni and you laughed with all of us. You hugged us and told us it was okay to hug you. You found your inspiration and you shared it with us.

Your dedication to the art of dance and the even finer art of educating others is clear in how you approach “life hiccups” like breast cancer. You study, you listen to your body, you teach others how to listen to their bodies and you push forward. The dance department has grown leaps and bounds (and swings and pirouettes) since I graduated nine years ago. And while it has been a group effort on behalf of many talented, intelligent and dedicated professors, you are the glue that holds everyone’s experiences together.

On behalf of all those who have learned from you, thank you for teaching us how to dance and why to love it. Thank you for connecting us to each other and for helping us find our places. Thank you for showing us the balance between acceptance and fight, pain and joy, weight and release.

In reply to the student’s father who told you yesterday that he was sorry to hear about your diagnoses, you said, “You know, we just keep moving.” So, although I know I’ll see you many, many times before then, I’m very much looking forward to the dance company’s 50th Anniversary bonanza.

Love,

Ashleigh

P.S.

Dancer extending her armsA photo of a photo by Stan Waldhauser.

In 2003, you gave me the first solo I ever danced, called Still Small Voice.

Your program notes:

“Our reading of the women’s stories lead us to conclude that as a woman becomes more aware of the existence of inner resources for knowing and valuing, as she begins to listen to the ‘still small voice’ within her, she finds an inner source of strength.”
– Belenky et. al., Women’s Ways of Knowing

Day 120: It’s Not Fun!

As promised, below are more of my youngest sister’s youthful musings from her recently discovered journal.

(Parents, even though your kids may hate journaling with a passion when they’re young, they’ll be so glad you made them do it when they’re in their twenties and thirties. The pain will be worth the later laughter. Make your kids write.)

From the mind of a nine-year-old:

1/15/97  Last week and a day was my birthday but my party was only 4 days ago. I think I got my last gift was yesterday, It was the cutest stuffed animal cat. But I wish the gifts would still keep on coming, not that I am greddy or anithing it’s just they make my room briter because my room is where the sun never shines so I at least want my room to be fun so I like my room at all.

2/13/97  It’s not fun!

3/19/97  Here I am sitting here just wating around for choir to start. I wish my mom didn’t teach conformatoin because if she didn’t teach conformatoin I wouldn’t be siting here wating at all. There go’s a bunch of preschoolers about to go outside, lucky them. But now that I think of it I don’t really want to go outside. From now on this isn’t my jornal anymore it’s my place where I keep my secrits, in other words my diary!

4/23/97  Yesterday my mom said that we could go bike riding! But since me and my sisters were fighting we couldn’t go. So everyone started blaming me for it (they say I’m a tattletale.) I told my mom what they said and she said in a loud angry voice, “That’s exatly why I didn’t let you go on the bike ride, I don’t want you to be mean.” I said, “I’m trying not to be mean,” then I started to cry. My mom said “I know you are, I only said that because I love you.” Now I feel much better.

Journal drawing

More of my sister’s birthday thoughts + a drawing of a human/rabbit with a bun. 

Day 119: For Little V

As I alluded to on Sunday, two of my dear friends welcomed a little peanut (human) into the world this week. She’s six days old today and I get to meet her this afternoon (!). Since she probably won’t understand anything I tell her today, I’m blogging her a list for future reference.

Dear V,

Here are some things you should know:

1. Lots of people love you.

2. Your parents are super cool. There might be a time between ages 10 and 20 when you don’t think so, but you’ll come back around.

3. Your super cool parents might embarrass you sometimes. You can get back at them by telling your dad you’re a Centrist (but only say it if you don’t really mean it; he loves that).

4. You were born into a world with a lot of problems, but you’re surrounded by incredible role models. There are problem-identifiers, solution-makers, strategic thinkers, beauty-seekers, doers, fixers, connectors and all-around kindhearted people. Your world will be full of opportunities, no matter what path you choose.

5. It’s okay to fail, whether you’re building a Lego castle or a business. Everybody fails. Just pick up the pieces and try something else.

6. Your mom will know if you’re smoking pot in the bathroom or hiding cigarettes in the car. She just will.

7. You and I are going to make some dances together. I’ve already come up with a few ideas, but I welcome yours as well.

Love,

Ashleigh

PiratesYour cool/embarrassing mom and me back in 2006 when we were pirates. 

Day 118: Kid Things

Here are two kid things I’d like to share today:

1. The kids across the street from me built an igloo on December 9, 2012. I remember, because it was the same day they went around the neighborhood looking for snow spiders (I still don’t know if those actually exist).

By “igloo,” I mean that they somehow managed to make a snow pile the size of a small bedroom and burrow a two-person cave into it. Smart. (In January, I watched them get a pizza delivered in there—extra smart.)

Over the last few months, the igloo has grown and grown, but today, it was finally warm enough for the top of it to cave in (don’t worry; no one was in there). I only know it happened because I heard a cannon of cries of, “Aw MAAAN!” when I got home from work today. Indeed, the entrance is pretty much gone. I know the kids are bummed, but the rest of the neighborhood is rejoicing at this small sign of spring.

2. My youngest sister recently unearthed the journal she kept while she was seven and eight years old. In the midst of medical school, she took the time to transcribe the whole thing (earnestly misspelled words and all) and send it to me. I’m going to post on it more thoroughly over the weekend, but here’s a little sneak peek of what’s to come:

April 14 1996 yesterday was so weird because it snowed, and right now thers not a piece of snow outside.  And we are as close as we can get to Iowa.  My favroit color is moron, I wish you could tell me your favroit color is.  When I was little I wanted to fly, but it’s inposieble to fly.

Is it? Stay tuned. More journal entries to come.

Day 117: As the World Turns

Sometimes, when you’re running from one thing to the next and checking off to-do items only to make room for more, it’s nice to sit back, relax and watch the world turn.

From outer space.

Thank goodness for the International Space Station. Yesterday, I touted Chris Hadfield’s photos from the ISS; today, a couple of my co-workers clued me into some amazing (incredible!) ISS videography.

It looks like the stuff of Hollywood special effects, but it’s real footage of the ISS gliding smoothly around the Earth.

This first one is even in real time. It’s a night flight from January 30, 2012, running from northern Mexico to northwest New Brunswick. I can spot my city. Can you spot yours?

And this one is a soothing five-minute time-lapse of multiple different passes. The Northern Lights, bright electric flashes of thunderstorms, deserts, cityscapes, shooting stars (if you can peel your eyes away from Earth for long enough), sweeping masses of clouds, islands, fires, mountains, airports… it’s gorgeous, soothing and might choke you up a little bit.