My take on the world of ballet education.

It has been a while. I know. A lot has happened since I was here. Part of the problem is that I didn’t have a computer for a year. Being poor is not always easy. But this will be discussed later on.

Writing can really be an outlet for so much. It can be healing in so many ways. It is sad our kids these days don’t write anymore. I started writing really young. I would make up stories and even act some of them out with my dolls! Something happened to me which prompted me to come back here. Instead of being upset and angry, I figured, writing would be the best way to cope and if at the same time I could inform people, the better.

What I would like to address today is the world of ballet education.  As parents, we always want to tell our kids to do what they love, pursue their passion, follow their dreams and that if they work hard, they’ll make it. Mostly, it is true. But what no one wants to admit is how damn hard it is going to be to compete with those who are privileged. No one is admitting that no matter how hard you work, in America, the rich always get richer, the poor always struggle and you have to be a strong, 10 times better person to endure what it will take to make it.

If you’re offended by this, read on.  I’m not trying to blame you for being privilege or rich. I just want people to understand they are lucky and cannot ever understand what poor people go through to get where they want to be, if they even do manage to succeed indeed. The American dream is harsh. It’s a beautiful word, Utopian almost but reality is cruel.

My daughter was not the typical little girl who always wanted to become a dancer and who wore pink tutus all the time. She was never really into princesses and ballerinas. She liked horses. She liked books. But, she did like to dance. She started with Jazz. She had fun, going to class once a week. That’s all we could afford but it was enough. A couple of years later, she was told she had to start taking ballet which made completely sense. If she wanted to keep dancing, she needed the foundation. So, we added ballet. She fell in love with ballet. Suddenly, the girl, who you would never have picked to be a ballerina, wanted to be a professional ballerina. She didn’t care for the outfits and the bling, etc. She liked the discipline. She craved the hard work. After being told by a studio owner that she would be too talk to make it in the ballet world, she asked me to switch studio. That’s when we moved to a pre-professional ballet studio (the one before was more of a competition studio, a la dance moms show). There, she started taking more classes, 4 a week. She started doing more pointe. Slowly, I learned all the ballet lingo and what YAGP was, etc ( YAGP by the way stands for Youth American Grand Prix, if you’re curious go watch First Position on Netflix) That’s also when I started realizing that no one really makes it professionally unless they have money or are gifted like Misty Copeland and will be given opportunities because, well, they’re that good.

Another thing I started noticing was how studios only seem to pay attention ( real attention) to kids who have been there since they were in diapers. I know, I am exaggerating, although the idea of a baby in diaper doing fouettes is kind of amusing right now. In all seriousness though, if your kid has been at the same studio since they were in pre-ballet, most likely, they will get more attention, more respect, will be in better roles and be more pampered. If you are a new kid, well, get used to being in the background. Get used to only hanging out with whoever the new kid will be because the girls who have been there since birth won’t socialize with you. That is the truth. We’ve been to many studios and this observation never fails. No one likes the new kid. It’s the same everywhere isn’t it though? At work, at school, in society. Everything in this world is a reflection of how integrated we are as a society.
Even when we tried to ask for same opportunities ( i.e.doing YAGP ) as the girls who had been there forever we were given lame fake excused like, “oh you’re too young” ( even though younger girls who had been there for years were doing it).

But this leads me to another issue. Money. Even if you were allowed to participate in YAGP, you’d have to prepare for it. YAGP is a competition where a dancer presents a solo in classical ballet and contemporary if she or he wishes as well. In order to prepare for that solo, you need to get privates so you can learn the variation and perfect it. YAGP usually is in winter time, usually January or February depending on which city your audition is. Dancers start getting privates for YAGP in August or September and usually do not stop until the day of the competition. Now, let me break this down for you: depending on which studio you go to, privates will be between $75 and $150 an hour. They usually have one hour a week per solo. Most dancers do one classical and one contemporary. That comes to almost $300 a week just for privates. Add on top of that the tution you pay for classes (which if you are full-time pre professional is between $550 the cheapest to $800 a month or more). Ok. Now add to that shoes. On average, a pair of pointe shoes last 6 classes but most girls make them last longer. They have their ways. A pair of pointe shoes cost between $65 to $120 depending on the brand you get. But it’s not like you can just get the cheapest one. It has to be good for your feet. My dancer wore a $65 pair for 2 years but then realized she was getting bunions because of the shoe so now we spend $120 for one brand and $100 for another and alternate. So, did you have your calculator out this whole time? No. Ok, let me do the math for you. If your child wants to attend a pre professional ballet school that trains you well which requires you to come 4 to 5 times a week minimum, and she is on pointe and she wants to participate in YAGP ( and trust me, everyone wants to because it is exposure and a chance to win scholarship), you’ll end up spending about $2200 a month. You read right, average $1000 a month for classes, shoes and attire, accessories, gas to take your kid there, and if you have a kid who does 2 solos, privates can add up to $1200 a month. Sometimes, you will find studios that offer scholarships. They are rare but they do exist. Of course, scholarships are competitive. I’d love to share which studios I know help out families but I decided when I started this post that I would not name any studios. This blog is not about rating studios. It is a general opinion of the world of ballet education. My daughter was lucky enough to get scholarships twice from 2 good studios in our town. While it didn’t help with everything, it was a start and it is what enabled her to keep fighting for her dance future all these years.
Scholarships for summer intensive are extremely hard to get. After all, companies are in it to make money. We had teachers flat out tell us where NOT to go because of the reputation of the program. Some are really just taking advantage of their big famous name. One company that I will not name only offered 3 hours of training a day and charged an orrendous amount for their program. Most good summer programs will give you an intense training of at least 6hours a day. My daughter attended one where she trained for 8 hours 5 days a week and 4 on Saturday. Again, as a parent, you have to center your child and turn down the volume of the pressure talks. It’s more important to get the correct training than going to a big name intensive and get lost in the process and make yourself bankrupt.

All of this sounds pretty intimidating right? I certainly wish someone had warned me about all this when my daughter was 9 and decided she wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. But we learned as we went. I knew nothing about YAGP but then suddenly because everyone was doing it, we thought we had to do it in order to have a chance in this world. We were depressed when we couldn’t. I felt like a loser mother who couldn’t afford my kid to do something that would advance her and give her the same opportunities everyone else (or rather those with big wallets) had. Not doing YAGP alienates you even more because, everyone is doing it. Dancers show off about how many rehearsals they have and parade around their costumes. Teachers spend hours giving privates, often starting regular class LATE because they’re finishing up with the ones preparing for YAGP.

For about 3 years I felt like a loser for not being able to afford privates. I kept thinking, maybe next year, maybe your senior year. And one day, it stopped. It was a combination of my daughter not even caring anymore and me hearing moms telling me how the whole YAGP competition was rigged. They literally had stories about parents slipping hush hush “notes” to the judges and certain studios being favored. You’ll also once in a while bump into a successful dancer who had never done YAGP and we’d be reminded that things get blown out of proportion. You could put something terrible in the spotlight, hire a good marketing team, and everyone’d want it. Right? Do I need to give examples? I don’t think so. Not even thinking about doing YAGP just made things more bearable for me. But I must say, I give a lot of credit to my kid who has the amazing ability to brush things off. Trust me, if took years of practice and tears. But these experiences, the “no you can’t do this or that” speeches because she was too tall or didn’t have enough money, just made her stronger. Her attitude now is to show up in class, work her ass off, leave and ignore the noise around. It doesn’t mean things don’t get to her. She just handles it differently.

She’s had to practice that during Nutcracker time too. AH! Nutcracker! Oh you’ve heard of the Nutcracker mania. Every theater in town plays it around Christmas time. It can be a very magical show. If you attend a good studio, Nutcracker is a very elaborate production which requires months of preparation. The end result is magnificent. Be prepared, however, to have no life during the months leading to the magical nights. The first problem is the expense. Yes. You have to pay for it. You will have to pay the fee to participate, possibly a costume fee, then you will be asked to buy 10 to 15 tickets regardless of whether you can resell it or not. Most studios will also require parents to volunteer or you can pay a very high fee if you can afford to not volunteer. It’s a very thought-out thing. You can tell that most studios have done this for years and know how to justify their cost. They also know that parents have a hard time saying no to little Suzy who dreams to be a mouse or whatever role she will get (although there is no guarantee of what role you’ll get of course). So when you add up, depending on which studio you attend, you could be stuck with spending $2000 just to participate. Ok. So now, let’s move on to rehearsals and “tech” week ( the week of the show, you rehearse at the theater). Nutcracker rehearsals usually, at a minimum, will take up all your weekends from September to December. Forget about Thanksgiving vacation. Forget about birthday parties, soccer games, etc. Have fun juggling siblings’ commitments. Tech rehearsals are another problem because they are long, yet necessary. There is no doubt about it. If you are a good studio, you will make sure everything is perfect, and that means, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Remember, the studio pays the theater for the space so they usually ask cast members to arrive fairly early so they can get as much done as possible. The issue with this, however, is that most young dancers have school and missing school is not always a luxury for parents. Some schools are less forgiving than others. Younger kids might not be as worried as a high school junior or senior to miss a class. Then, there is the problem of getting to the theater. Some parents HAVE to work and cannot leave early to pick up their kid and transport them to rehearsals. Some parents CANNOT afford nannies or butler or car services or those not so safe apps.

So imagine all of this combined, the cost, the time, the stress, the school being missed, the transportation, the loss of income if you have no one to help you get your kid to rehearsal…. well you are out of luck.

Even if you are a hard working parent, when you are dealing with studio owners, they are so focused on their production that they completely lose empathy, if they even had it in the first place. They claim they understand but they can’t even make an exception for your kid who  can never  do what others do (YAGP, etc) to arrive late to a rehearsal so that her mom can make a living. The truth is that privilege and wealthy people who do not know what struggle is and won’t walk in your shoes only want to help their kind. It’s to their advantage. The ones at the top need to stay there. They can’t have “those guys” jeopardizing them ruling the world. Think about it, with the amount of wealth in this world (owned by only a handful of people) don’t you think we could have solved extreme starvation and poverty by now? There is no benefit for them to help the little guy. They claim they don’t want to give preferential treatment but in reality they give each other special treatment every single day.

This reminds me of another time when a teacher yelled at me and my kid for calling to let her know we were running late to a competition because I had gotten sick. But who cares about someone’s health right? The ONLY thing that matter is the competition.

Guess what? NO. Nothing matters more than someone’s well being, health and financial security. Nothing is worth jeopardizing someone’s grades when they count on full scholarship to even be able to attend college.

See, the problem with the world of ballet or competitive dance is that everyone seems to forget that kids started dancing because they loved it. They were not stressed about anything. Most likely, they started dancing in their living room or bedroom, at a family function on grandpa’s feet. Then fast forward a few years later, mom or dad takes them to a pre ballet or tap class and they laugh and have so much fun wearing tutus (if your kid is into that) and make noises with their happy feet. But slowly it becomes a competition in one way or another. It becomes a challenge. It becomes work. These kids turn into adults fighting for a job, sometimes being nasty to one another. The parents turn evil or because of peer pressure end up bankrupting themselves or lose focus and think their kid HAS to do what everyone else does. Less fortunate parents might become depressed because they can’t provide for their most precious offspring. Some dancers end up quitting ballet because they don’t love it anymore or because they do not like the politics of it. Who could blame them? Some end up turning into a different style of dance. Some make themselves sick, take drugs, start drinking, have body image problems, weight issues. THIS is a reality that no one talks about. This is hush hush. You might say, well this is the sacrifice to become a Prima ballerina but does it have to be this way? Why does getting anywhere have to be a nasty process. What happened to work hard but having pride, joy and compassion in the process?
We know dancers who work themselves so hard they have absolutely no balance. They live unhealthy lifestyles, drink coffee to stay up until 2 in the morning to finish a writing assignement due the next day at school. They are prone to injuries. No one can sustain this unhealthy lifestyle. Depression, lack of confidence, you name it, this world can create it. It takes a good support system, guidance and role models to have your head on your shoulder. There are, thankfully, programs that will help your dancer remain focus. Many art centers have education programs and offer seminars or free classes. You have to know where to look.

Awareness is very important in every aspect of our society. Every subcategory in our lives need to be looked at carefully and analyzed. Then, we need to talk about what we can do to change things and hold people responsible accountable. We do NOT have to accept these “NORMS”. No kid should be denied possible success and happiness in whatever he or she chooses just because he or she comes from a lower income family who works harder than anyone to provide food, shelter and security.

Society as a whole lets ITSELF down. We do not gain anything by bringing the same people or the same kids of the same rich families up to the top. Nothing improves or inspires by just letting the rich get richer and the privileged always getting ahead. Imagine a world where every kid had the same opportunities, where every child was given the same ballet training no matter how much money their parents had? For one thing, you’d see a lot more diversity. Things would start looking different. But here’s the root of the problem: no one wants that. Ballet is for skinny white girls. Yes, I know how it sounds and I think you all I know I disagree with this but that is what those on top believe and they want to keep it that way. That’s why some companies won’t even consider you unless you are a certain height or weight. It’s not a secret. It’s a catch 22. Of course, things are slowly changing but emphasis on slowly. Some companies welcome tall dancers or people of color but it’s not usually a melting pot, it’s more like segregation. But ok, it’s a step in the right direction. Like in history, eventually it will come to an end and blended companies will be accepted….I hope.

So, I am telling you. As with everything, what makes things change is your voice. Speaking up and exposing the unfairness and nastiness of anything is what creates or speeds upchange. So if you are a mom or dad with a kid in the ballet world and you are unhappy with the things you see and hear, speak up and get together with other who feel the same way. And in the meantime, protect your child and find other outlets. Your child’s health and mental well-being is more important than any grief you will experience. If you need recommendation, feel free to ask me. I’ve been there. I’m lucky because my dancer found ways to work around all of this and still be happy but I know it is not always easy.

Sound off.

Hipocrisy

WHEN SILENCE MEANS JUDGEMENT
WHEN “AS LONG” AS IS REALLY A DOOM FOR “SO LONG”
COMPLIMENTS UNCOVERING JEALOUSY
FAKE ENTHUSIASM SEEMINGLY HARMLESS
WHEN CARING EQUALS SHALLOW PROMOTING OF THY SELF
WHEN “WISH YOU THE BEST” IS SILENT BUT HARSH CODE FOR “I DON’T WISH YOU WELL”
PASSIVENESS IS NOT ONLY LAZINESS FOR IT IS THE EPITOME OF LOVELESS REACTION
FORCED SMILES, WORDS WITHOUT MEANING, LOUD THOUGHTS SCREAMING AND LAUGHING
HIDDEN BEHIND SELFISH ENDLESS STORM OF SELF PROCLAMATION
WHEN IGNORING IS BETTER THAN ADMITTING
WHEN YOU FEEL MORE LOVED BY STRANGERS THAN YOUR OWN POSSE.
WHEN HURTING YOUR REPUTATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN MORAL ACTION
WHEN AVOIDANCE AND LIES TRUMPS HONESTY

YOU KNOW TRUTHFULNESS TO THYSELF IS THE ONLY ESCAPE. THE TRUE FACE OF HAPPINESS.

 

Intouchables

The 2011 French movie Intouchables, The Intouchables in English is probably one of the best movies I have seen in many years.

I had this movie sitting on my Netflix instant list for quite a while and finally got to it last night. I can honestly say that I felt a bit stupid once I finished watching it. I have a tendency to beat myself up when I realize how long it took me to watch a great movie.

Intouchables is a heartwarming movie. It is real, honest and funny. Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy had such great chemistry. Anne Le Ny’s character was such a crucial one as her opinion changed in the course of the movie. While she is never overwhelmingly outspoken about how she feels about Driss, she is a great representation of what the average middle or upper class person think of Driss’ character.

The movie is great to me because it shows the judgments, it shows how they can be accurate at first but it also shows how they are only accurate because of how we perpetuate them. The scene with Phillipe and his lawyer is so crucial in setting the tone of the movie. So is the opening scene of course which is pure brilliance.

Maybe the reason I love this movie so much is because of how it shows people’s growth and change. It teaches by example, not by telling or reprimanding. The progression of Driss behavior is so well played. The more he spends time with Phillipe, the more he calms down, the more he feels respected and the less he falls back to his bad habits. The scene when Driss asks the man in the car to move his vehicle is the finale in Driss maturity and growth journey. If you watched the movie, you’ll know what I mean.

The openness the Phillipe has from the get go comes from his hidden despair, his desire to be seen for what he still is and never lost. When Driss walks in, he sees his opportunity to be without being judged. He is able to understand Driss and even dismissing his negative actions.

Phillipe and Driss need each other more than they even realize. They embark in a lifesaving adventure. They both become who they want to be by teaching each other without ever realizing they are doing so.

If you are a hope, faith oriented person who believes in the power of human touch, you need to watch this movie. It will inspire you, put you at ease and make you smile. It might also make you look at people who are different from you in a whole different way.

intouchables

She is just one of us

Sometimes, smart people do really stupid things; beautiful people, ugly things; respectable people, offensive things. So many names come to mind, people whom we loved and made mistakes or caught us by surprise by doing something we thought they would never do.

There are 2 groups of people: those we idolized or love and out of nowhere shock us, and the ones who we know are really smart and we love and hate at the same time. We usually are not too shocked when they do something stupid. We expect it from them.

Let me give you a few examples. There are a lot of people we look up to, or enjoy watching on TV, listening to, but then one day, they do something stupid and suddenly it changes our whole view on them. Think Paula Deen. Think Lance Armstrong, Think Bill Clinton, Think, oh you know. I am sure you have your own list. Yes Miley Cyrus falls in this category, at least for young people and parents who thought she was a good example, and then suddenly went and did something so shocking….more on that later.

But first, let’s address the other category, the ones who really are smart, but do really stupid things because by trying to make a point (usually a good one) they are portrayed as monsters. Often, they are just misunderstood. Kanye West to me is the perfect example. If you listen to the man, he is actually extremely smart. He only wants harmony, peace and help people. He also does incredibly stupid things. I personally like the guy and like to hear him talk. I am very much like him. I sometimes let my frustration take over. Kanye West has gotten himself into a lot of trouble for things which, if you think about it, are not so wrong or untrue. Kanye lacks tact. I sometimes do too. I speak my mind and sometimes need to bite my tongue.

There were many men and women in history who were loved and hated at the same time. They were at first judged, only to be respected later when people realized what their message was.

There is nothing worse than seeing good people do stupid things because they might have lost their chance to do some real good. Look at Weiner, he screwed up a very promising career because of his indiscretion. I personally don’t care. I am one to believe that this just reminds us that these people are human. They make mistake like we all do.

No one is perfect. Yes, that includes you. You know you’ve done something stupid once. If you haven’t, maybe you should try it.

We’re all a bit judgmental of one another. Why? Because we are human and in a way we have a sense of superiority. We are social beings and we judge. I think jealousy plays a big part too.

This brings me to our dear Miley. Poor Miley, well, sort of. She is talented. Her songs are not any worse than a lot of pop songs playing on the radio these days. I believe she would have been a lot more respected if she had sang her songs but illustrated them differently. She took it a bit too far, but that is HER rebellion. I guess, even if we don’t like it, it is her life, her decision and in the end, she will be the one dealing with the consequences. She will be the one who will need to explain to her kids why she felt it was ok to expose herself to the world the way she did. It will be her regrets if she has any. 10 years from now, we won’t care about her VMA performance or her wrecking ball video. Who really cares about how shocking Madonna or Lady Gaga were in their videos?

Miley is just one of us, going through life. Yes she is in the public eye and she is using that to really get back at an industry who honestly probably took advantage of her and robbed her of a normal childhood in the first place. So in a way, who are we to judge (me including)? Michael Jackson, who is one of my favorite artists of all time, has done some PRE TTY weird stuff too. His ball grabbing was bothering me a lot when I was a kid. A LOT. But having a little compassion and understanding his life made me accept him and all his weirdness. I even felt empathy.

We all do things that are not always good or right or appropriate even. We all make mistakes and grow in our own weird way and at our own pace.

To be honest, I think that as spectators, we are awfully critical. Again. Guilty here too.

Everyone talks about how they hate the Kardashians. But honestly, who cares? First of all, their dad was famous before they were, they were thrown into the public eyes many years ago, before the sex tape. Then they had an opportunity and seized it maybe. Whatever. I don’t see how they are to be hated any more than other Hollywood celebrities. Why can’t we, “normal” people, just drop the judgment? Why do we have to resent people because they are successful? Ok yes, I agree if someone has gained success by stealing, then it is wrong. So why aren’t we more upset at CEOs, Cheney, Oil companies, Walmart more? They rob us more than the Kardashian. They do more evil. Pharmaceutical companies have worse agendas. So quit your jealous whining about so and so.

So ok, we can express our opinion. Miley Cyrus VMA performance and her new video are bad taste but let’s remember that she is human and if you don’t want your kids exposed to that, don’t let them watch it but also take the opportunity to teach your kid, and yourself, that she is human and makes choices, good, or bad. She is just a kid who is learning how to live in this world, like we all do everyday. Some of us have it figured out, some of us don’t. Some of us MIGHT THINK we have it figured out, only to wake up a decade from now to realize we are lost. There are no definite right or wrong way to live OUR lives. It is a journey. We do what we can.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to bring some positive back. Instead of focusing on what is wrong about someone, why not try hard to find the positive aspects?

You want to know what made me want to write this post? Well, obviously, I watched that Wrecking Ball video because I wanted to see what the fuss was about (kids were talking about it and I needed to be aware). I found the song to be pretty good and the video could have been brilliant and powerful, even keeping the wrecking ball, etc. After the initial shock and disgust, I started reflecting and felt bad about the whole thing. It prompted me to realize how one small decision can change everything. Take out the self touching, nudity and hammer licking, a new approach and it could have been a more meaningful artful video.

Oh well. Maybe next time Miley. I mean in 10 or 20 years. We will forgive you. We understand. We really do.

untitled

 

 

Everything is ok

Today is my birthday. I started the day feeling down, for so many reasons: an old friend of mine picked My Birthday to bring up some things that were hurtful, I am all alone today since I have been jobless since Monday. I went to get a massage that turned out terrible. I did get a gift certificate though in case I wanted to ever come back. Trying to make my day a good one didn’t seem to work so I headed home.

See, I was really trying to not feel sorry for myself and do something for me, like all my close friends and relative always tell me I should do. I always put everyone else first and usually don’t like wasting money on myself. Then when I do, it doesn’t seem to work. But this time, I didn’t give up. I called up a different massage place, got an appointment and finally got the massage I deserved and needed.  I walked home, feeling content and decided to write a post.

I have been gone for so long and have truly missed writing, one of my passions. I will soon go back to writing about random things, health, politics, and other things, you, my dear readers love but for now, I need to express and share a bit of me and my “wisdom”.

Since Monday, I have been worried about how I was going to provide for my family now that I was jobless. I have many moments of ” freaking out, OH MY GOG what am I gonna do, how am I gonna pay for this and that”. But I also have to be honest and admit that I have had many moments of liberation. Monday night, in the shower, I felt like I had just been released from prison, or as if I was alive again.

Having someone repress you everyday is the worst thing a human being can go through. Not being able to be yourself is a shame and a tragedy. At the end of the day, you are more than your paycheck, you are more than your commute and how much stuff you buy, how often you travel, what you do for the holiday. Deep down, you are YOU, a fertilized egg who grew slowly and was influenced negatively or positively by those who raised you. But really, you are just a peaceful piece of nature, or miracle and more than anything you owe it to yourself and nature/God to live your life, the way you want it and to be happy.

I am tired of explaining who I am to those who do not get me. I am tired of trying to please everyone. And so what if people don’t like me….does it mean I am less than they are? No. I am still this little piece of nature. I was obviously meant to be here. So good riddance bad jobs, good riddance bad people or bad friends. I don’t owe you anything. I owe myself more. I owe Nature more. I owe my child more.

The purpose of this blog was always to support those who do not feel like they belong……(fill in the blank). This is for the beautiful souls who are talented and intelligent and those who want peace and love and understanding around them and are shut down by the others who tell them they are not being realistic. Who are they to decide what we can and cannot do? What we should and should not do?

I am tired of trying to fit in and having to explain myself (I know I am repeating myself).

Everything is ok. I am warm. Everything around me is calm right now. I am listening to Debussy. There is a lot to do and think about and figure out but for now, right now. Everything is ok.

Remember, if you feel like you do not fit in, it just means you are around the wrong people and you have yet to find those who are like minded. Send out a message to that world. Maybe they will come to you.

Restrictions

It has been way too long since I wrote a post here.

I miss blogging, but my life has taken a different course the past 5 months and I have been having a hard time adjusting. I work full-time now, like many/ most people. Still, I am a full-time mom. I still run the household.

I can’t even remember if I mentioned this before but I have a couple auto immune diseases and the number one thing my doctors always recommend me is to rest, rest, rest and not push myself to hard. I have done the complete opposite for the past few months. I lost my somewhat good habits, gained at least 20 pounds, stopped exercising, am constantly tired, was total moody for 2 months when I started my new job and stopped doing almost everything that actually made me happy because I had no time to do them or was too exhausted to do them.

Some of the things I stopped doing was: well obviously, blogging. Sorry guys. Not sure you missed me but I surely missed YOU! I also stopped doing most things I love writing about on his blog. I stopped listening to music, watching movies, walking, taking photos, watching and reading news stories, checking Facebook for political humor posts to repost, and eating healthy to mention just a few. I figured that after a few months, I would adjust and find a way to reincorporate all those things I had to put on the back burner during the adjustment period. I have indeed been able to manage doing some of those things but I constantly feel rushed though. It just isn’t the same.

I had not worked full-time in quite a long-time. I always managed to work part-time so I could be a very involved mother. Being a mother is my number one priority. However, it was time and necessary to go back to work full-time to make things easier financially. Don’t get me wrong, I also went back to work full-time for me. I needed to be more validated as a person. It now sounds completely ridiculous, but I needed to feel like I was more “normal” ” be part of the society” “be like everyone else”– I know it sounds like the total opposite of what I am writing on this blog and who I am. But I guess, sometimes, you just want to feel validated. ( I had been looking for a full-time job for a while and after so many rejections, I started to feel like there was something wrong with me). I finally found a great job, that paid well, that was related to what I had gone to school for, etc. I felt like I fit in -at first. It was great, even though I was miserable at the same time (missing all I mentioned above), I was so happy to be like everyone else, skills recognized, remunerated, etc.

The only problem is: I am not like everyone else. I am not meant to work a 8-5 job. People do not appreciate me for who I am and they try to change me. In order for me to fit in, I need to drastically change my personality which in return makes me so unhappy, it is as if someone had crushed my spirit. I have been doing a fantastic job at my work. I have even at times been praised for it. However, I have been criticized for a few things that I can honestly not change, as they are just innate and part of ME. There is an unbelievable amount of double standard in my place of work and I will leave it at that as I am not interested in judging and commenting on it. Instead I want to talk about generally how it is pretty much the same everywhere. I have a huge problem with workplaces or people who have double standards. This is not a new occurrence.

In society, there are three groups: the ones who try to mold people in a certain way to control them and get what they want or need out of them/it (let’s call this GROUP A for the fun of it), the ones who fit in the mold and make themselves comfortable in it or the ones who are oblivious they are in it (GROUP B), and finally the ones who are resistant to being molded and want to burst out of the mold (GROUP Z).

Group A are employers, banks, those who hold political offices, pharmaceutical companies, teachers, doctors, the media, religious leaders, the Upper Class,etc. Group B are employees, patients, the average citizen, students, most kids, most religious people, for the most part the middle class and lower class. Group Z are activists, Anonymous and Occupy groups, people who follow those who question and expose Group A, some atheists, agnostics,  some scientific people, anyone who “doesn’t fit in”. Z people also often are B people with depression or substance abuse. They just haven’t realize yet that they are Z people, they still try to be B people. Once they realize it is ok to be who they are, they fall into the Z category.

Group A has been creating and perpetuating group B for centuries by putting restrictions on B people. I always like to go back as far as the feudal system because of it is the best, simplest and most obvious example. It must be the French in me that loves discussing this but it is not my purpose here. If you are interested in learning more about feudalism, go google it.

I have always been outspoken about the fact that I am not meant to work in a corporate environment. I do not do very well with rules. I can follow them. That is not the problem, but I become so miserable that it just ends up utterly miserable. Either I hurt myself, my being depressed or overeating, etc ( being a B person) or I end up speaking up and rebelling against the rules and resigning from my jobs. I have indeed quit  jobs because they felt unethical or because my superior had double standard or were dishonest. This unfortunately is so apparent at my current job, I am miserable. I find myself feeling sorry for humanity in a way, but then I realize it is more us, Americans. We work so hard, we make ourselves sick. We work so hard to make it. We work hard so our kids make it and don’t have to struggle. But while we are doing this, we barely see our kids, husband, families, ourselves. We lose touch with who we are.

Lately when I come home at night, I am so exhausted, I pass out on my couch and end up wasting my few hours with my kid. It makes me so sad that by the time it is bedtime, I cry. My bedroom has this collage I made a long time ago (with my kid). It is a collage that grounds me. It is all about nature, love, beauty and purity. I find myself staring at it and then I just burst out, feeling like I’m not being the being nature meant for me to be. I am upset about it too because I yearn for this being but it is seems impossible. I have so little time for fun now or just to breathe and reflect. So little time to enjoy life and my family. We all work so hard for the future or to not be homeless that we ending not enjoying the now. When will there be time? I am truly sad. And I feel stupid. Stupid that I can’t seem to figure out how to be happy in this society, how to make a living and do what I love. Isn’t it everyone’s problem? Pursuit of happiness?

It feels like my work just turns my brain off. Going to work every morning, being stuck in traffic, rushing home to rest just to do it again the next day. What a life! I knew I was never going to be happy in a cubicle. But I had to because I need to support my family. Now, I wonder if it is worth it? And I go back and forth….I do this for my kid can fulfill her dream, but at what price now? My child, like every parent is the most important thing to me in this universe. But it goes beyond the normal love between a mother and child. My child is my soul mate. I believe people have many soul mates.  My heart aches everyday when I have to be away from my kid for so long. It is truly the worst heartbreak I have ever had. Forget about boyfriends, etc. I think it is much worse because I am not happy at my work. If at least I felt joy during the day.

I know, I know. I just need to look for another job. Not so easy to do, in an economy like ours. But I do not give up. I need to get back to me. I have been saying that for years now. My favorite motto is ” When there is a will, there is a way” . So what is my problem? What is our problem? We all have dreams, aspirations, no one wants to work at a job we hate or don’t enjoy, a job that drains us and makes us feel like robots or zombie. We are all afraid. Of what? Everyone is different but we are all afraid of taking the leap. We are afraid of failure. But aren’t we failing ourselves already everyday by not being the way Nature/God intended us to be?

Happy.

 

 

 

Things we should be more thankful for: WATER

First I want to thank ,my loyal followers and readers for taking the time to read my blog posts. Secondly, I would like to apologize for being away for so long. I owe you an explanation.

I was deeply touched and truthfully, devastated by the tragedy of Newtown. Those who are closest to me know that when a tragedy occurs, it affects me to the very core of my being and soul. When Katrina happened, I cried and hurt for weeks. I felt useless. I did what I could from the state I lived in but I wish I was right there in the devastated area where I could offer my help, my hand, a shoulder to cry on.

Newtown was no different. What the families of those poor children went and are still going through is unimaginable. For days, I felt hopeless and helpless. I also felt angry and frustrated  at what I was hearing on the news, reading on Twitter and Facebook or anywhere else. To me, there was no explanation for what happened. I honestly did not turn on the TV much during that time. There was no point for me. I did read stories on the internet but I could not bear to listen to newscasters turn on their sad voices. I understand things have to be reported but there is nothing that will ever make us feel better. There is nothing that will ever give us peace of mind. I do agree that now is an opportunity of review gun laws, mental health and most importantly ourselves as a society. We need to take a good look at ourselves in the mirror and start fixing what is wrong.

Now on to this new topic which I have been so eager to write. Water.

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On Thanksgiving, it is custom to go around and say what we are thankful for. Obviously we are all familiar with the generic things being said. We are all thankful for our health, our jobs, our family, the food sitting on the table but we rarely talk about every little thing we use on a daily basis that makes our lives so much easier than it is in other countries or it was decades or centuries ago.

For me, the thing I am thankful for everyday (aside from my loved ones) is water. My time for giving my thanks is usually when I shower. I feel extremely thankful and humbled every night. There are people in the world who never felt water go all over their body in a shower. For some people, water is so scarce or unclean that accessing water alone is a luxury. There are nights when I am so lazy, I feel like taking a shower is a burden. Then I end up showering anyways and want to smack myself for even thinking of such a privilege as a burden. The minute the water hits my shoulder, I feel better. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet and then I take a few minutes to think of all the ways I am gifted throughout the day. We use water countless of times. We wash ourselves in the morning and night and through the day every time we wash our hands and go to the bathroom. We brush our teeth. We wash our clothes. Water helps us get rid of impurities. We all know the feeling when we are parched and someone hands us a glass of water that feels like the best thing on Earth. Water is a miracle. Water is life. Without water, we could not have evolved and be who we are. Without water and most importantly access to water, we could not thrive the way we do. When I think of how water gets to us in California, it is pretty amazing. States like California and Nevada are extra lucky and blessed. We are not meant to have water. We had to use our intelligence and technology to get water to us. This is not to be taken for granted.

 

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Water is so common, we use it so much that it becomes a basic thing and as every basic thing, we take it for granted. Without water, we couldn’t have our tea or coffee that makes such a difference in the way we start our day. Without water, cooking could be really difficult. Imagine making pasta or rice without clean water. If I go 48 hours without a shower, I feel so disgusting and uncomfortable, I have a hard time thinking and doing things straight. When my water gets cut off and I cannot wash my hands, I get a little panic even though I know I can wash my hands with the water I saved especially for emergencies. I am spoiled. like everyone else. I waste, like most of us. I feel guilty about it all the time. I picture people in Africa who have to walk so many miles to get just a couple of gallons of water. They have to walk in what would be unbearable heat to us, just to do it again the next day. Some people die from drinking unsafe water. That’s how lucky we are: we never have to worry about dying from the water we drink. We never have to really weigh the pros and cons and take risk every time we take a sip.

The good thing is that there are a lot of things we can do. First thing is to be aware. If we can be thankful for what we have and be aware of how precious water is, we are moving forward. We can try to conserve water in any way possible, take shorter shower, turn off the water when we are brushing our teeth or cooking, not wash our cars so often (enough vanity, who cares if our car is not so shiny), monitor when we water our lawn, follow our community and government regulations, etc. We can also become more active and join or/and support non-profit organization who provide solution to conserve water and/or bring water where it is actually needed like third world countries.

Below is a list of some organizations you should take time to look at.

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a policy institute that seeks sustainable solutions to the world’s escalating water crisis. SIWI manages projects, synthesizes research and publishes findings and recommendations on current and future water, environment, governance and human development issues

http://www.siwi.org/

Just a Drop is an international water aid charity, which builds wells, hand pumps and boreholes in 31 countries in the developing world.

http://www.justadrop.org/

Water.org is a nonprofit organization that has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation.

http://water.org

Charitywater.org is bringing clean water to people in developing countries

http://www.charitywater.org/

Water Conserve is a Water Conservation Portal dedicated to protecting and conserving drinking water and ecosystems worldwide – with a genuine Internet water search engine, constant water news and link tracking, and biocentric commentary.

http://www.waterconserve.org/

Founded in 2000 by leading journalists and scientists, Circle of Blue provides relevant, reliable, and actionable on-the-ground information about the world’s resource crises.

http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/about/
ClearWater Initiative is a U.S.-based 501(c)3 nongovernmental organization that strives to provide clean, potable water solutions to populations in need and educate the public about the importance of clean water.

http://www.clearwaterinitiative.org/

Do you feel forced to follow tradition? An epiphany on Epiphany!

After a few weeks of writer’s block, it finally hit me. Don’t you love that moment when something comes to you and all you want to do is grab a keyboard ( *smiles*) and write a blog post about it. Well here it comes. I had my epiphany, ironically enough on Epiphany!

One of my readers figured out some of my origins after reading my blog post about eating consciousness. No wonder, all that mention about eating rabbit and cow’s tongue and liver as a child gave it away. Yes I am partly French. My whole adult life, I have had issues with how to keep up with traditions. As I mentioned in previous posts, the first dilemma came when we had to figure out whether to celebrate Christmas or not. Well I figured that out. But there are so many other things. For me and my husband, a few issues come to mind. First, we’re not Catholic but both had at least one Catholic parent, then when it comes to me, I was raised in a home where food WAS a national TRADITION! I’m not joking. So, even after having figured out that we didn’t have to celebrate some religious holidays, food is always a reminder or even an excuse. Like today. Today is Epiphany. I grew up celebrating Epiphany. My mom was not really a practicing Catholic but in France, it was tradition to get the Galette with the fève inside. Whoever got the fève was crowned King or Queen. Also, every time you would visit someone during the whole month of January, you would have to bring a galette. Whoever got the fève was the next one to buy the galette. It went on until the end of the month. We also have until the end of the month to wish Happy New Year. Anytime afterwards was bad taste.

I continued all the traditions I grew up with (well most of them) because it is heart warming and I wanted share my culture with my family and kid.

After a few years, I now find those traditions more as chores and duties. I went to bed last night thinking, “oh shit, tomorrow is Epiphany, I have to go get a galette I guess” excuse my language but that is really what I thought. I started wondering where I would get it, where the best one is at, which store has the cheapest…. AND because of my new vegan diet, I honestly had no desire to even eat it. It was Christmas all over again. At Christmas, I bought a bûche de Noel but I wasn’t excited about eating it. I looked forward to my vegetables a lot more.  Traditions are legacies, I get it. But we change, people change, so why do I feel so guilty by just thinking about NOT getting a Bûche de Noel or a Galette? I think it is because all those things were fun for me as a child, but I am not a child anymore and I could care less if I eat a galette on a Holiday I don’t even believe in. I am a closeted double hypocrite. So here, I am out. I am not Catholic and I celebrate Catholic holidays just because I did when I was younger even though it was mostly because of the fun and for the food and now I force myself to do it for my kid.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like traditions but after a while, it is time to move on. For example, we used to celebrate Easter, but now we no longer go for the Easter egg hunt. We graduated from that tradition. I never baked beignet on Mardi Gras like my grandmother used to. That’s ok. I don’t make crepes that often either which probably explain why I am not rich since the tradition is that if you make crepe on a certain day, you’re supposed to be rich all year. I think I have to stop being so hard on myself. Another reason why I kept those traditions for so long even when they annoyed me was because my mother would make me feel guilty about not being in France anymore. I think she was afraid my kid would not have enough reminders of where we came from. That could not be further from the truth. We all know where we come from and we cherish it. What is more important though to us is who we are today as people. Who we are is not defined by traditions. I love my origins and I will always cherish them but I see myself more as a part of the human race than as a National of a specific country or a follower of a specific faith. We did a great job raising our child that way. This might anger some people, but I find it wrong to force kids to say the pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag every day in school. We love our country very very much in our house. 9/11 was one of the worst days of our lives. We love our American People but we do not need to assert it that way because we feel we alienate the rest of the world. Traditions are like history to me. They have to be remembered and people choose to remember history in their own ways. Some express their opinions loudly, some join parades, some make movies about it, some light a candle quietly in the privacy of their home. The way we choose to honor our traditions is up to us and we shall not feel pressured by anyone, not our parents, not capitalism (hello Valentine’s day around the corner) or our government. So I am officially over the guilt.

The other very important thing to remember is to forever create new traditions. It is actually the most fun. I have countless ideas every year which turn into beautiful new memories and traditions and it makes me happy to know that I am continuing to write our history.

 

Now for all those of you who wonder what I ended up doing: well, I did it. I went out and bought a Galette des Rois. When I came home I wrote this post…out of frustration. Now I think I will actually enjoy it more but I will no longer do anything just because I have to follow some tradition.

 

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My thoughts exactly: what the problem really is.

I was going to finally sit down and write a post about the Newton massacre, our gun law discussion, video games, etc and the relationship between all of those things but everything I was going to say has already been written so, please click the link below.

 

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/celebrating-prince-peace-land-guns

My kind of Holiday afternoon fun at home: movie and homemade treats

When I come home from work on the weekend, I like to sometimes just stay home, watch movies and chat with my family. This time of year, it is even more fun. We watch silly Christmas movies and laugh. Today we also baked. I made these amazing Gluten Free Cranberry Oatmeal Almond Orange Zest scones. Unfortunately I cannot take credit for them!   I found the recipe on this wonderful website. Please stop by to thank Amie at www.thehealthyapple.com if you make it. It is such a healthy recipe. Everyone will love it!

orange zest scones

  • 3 cups gluten-free oats
  • 2 Tbsps chia seeds
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries
  • 2 tsp. fresh orange zest
  • 1/3 cup silvered almonds
  • 3/4 cup Coconut Milk
  • 2 Tbsps lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar

For more accurate directions, please visit the website above.

I changed the recipe just a little bit. I ran out of chia seeds 2 days ago so I omitted. I added flaxseeds instead. I added vegan chocolate chips this time also and I decided to make them scones instead of muffins.

To go with this, I made my homemade pumpkin drink. Instead of buying the Starbucks holiday drinks, I like to make them. I do not drink milk or soy milk so at home, I make my yummy hot drinks with almond or coconut milk. I add some can pumpkin until almost to a boil, add some honey and agave and I’m ready to enjoy my favorite drink this time of year. I sometimes add nutmeg and cinnamon. No artificial pumpkin syrup!!!

I hope you try it. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!