31 July 2008

Follow the leader but God help me…

In dance, learning to follow is not an easy task. In swing dancing, as with most partner dancing, the man is supposed to have absolute control and creative liberty. The man chooses what moves to use and the woman is simply along for the ride and completely at the mercy of his direction - not exactly an easy role to digest for this hardened feminist.

As I'm quickly discovering, it's crucial to have a very strong male lead in swing dancing. The concept of following is hard enough as it is, but it's near impossible when you are dancing with a man that gives you little to no indication of where or how he wants to move you next. This is one type of dance where back leading just doesn't seem to work. I'm entirely in the hands of my partner and, God willing, he'll be a capable one.

On the other hand, as I experienced last night, some guys take the whole male domination persona to the next level. I've been trying very hard to wait for signals from my partners and to relax and let them move me about the floor. Unfortunately, I happened to encounter one guy who made his movements just a little "too well-known". While it would have been sufficient to simply raise my hand and apply firm but gentle pressure to my palm (to indicate that a turn was coming), one guy felt the need to push me into a spin with all his might. Pulling me back into open position was equally painful, as he nearly ripped my arm out its socket. Not chill man; totally not chill!

Today I find myself with a sore arm and shoulder, aching feet (new dance shoes that I failed to break in) and a valid dislike for one of the guys in my class. On the other hand, I did hobble off with a whole new bag of tricks and a certain valiant, "I survived," attitude that is shared among many of the ladies. Nobody said that being a puppet was easy.

29 July 2008

It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing…

Doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah, doo-ah!

I've pirouetted my way through ballet (albeit ungracefully), I've stomped my way through Irish dancing and I've cha-cha-chaed my way across the steamy Latin dance floor. As if all that mish-mash weren't enough, I now find myself jumping and jittering my way through the uncharted territory of East Coast Swing (A.K.A the Lindy Hop).

Last week I dragged a very reluctant husband off to a six-week crash course on Swing. This is the one dance style that I have wanted to try for ages and I was finally able to coerce Daniel into admitting that this particular dance wouldn't be "too embarrassing" for him. I bet the poor guy regrets his words now because, no more than a week later, I had us booked for lessons.

The verdict - it's about as fun as it looks! I suppose the idea of jumping or hopping around and listening to Big Band music wouldn't appeal to everyone, but I think there's such a timeless quality to it. I had just as much fun bopping around as my grandmother would have had in her day. It brings you back to a time when music was music (not digitally re-mastered junk) and guys and gals weren't afraid to dance together (gasp...heaven forbid).

One of the best things about our teachers is that they constantly make us switch partners in the class. While I found this concept a little daunting at first (what do you mean I don't get to dance with my husband?), it turned out to be very beneficial. By dancing with multiple partners (swinging..haha), you learn how to follow or lead more consistently. In my case, it was fun to pick up other peoples' dance styles. While my husband tries hard, Lord love him, I usually end up leading when we're dancing together. It was both refreshing and challenging to give up that lead and let a complete stranger take over. In some cases I was still stuck back-leading, but there are a few strong leads that had no trouble maneuvering me about the dance floor. I even got to free-style a little with one partner which was a new experience. While I think I'll have no trouble mastering the basics of swing, I think that learning to 'follow' will always be my greatest challenge. I may be small, but I have a very obstinate and commanding presence; it's a redhead thing...

As you can see, I'm obviously thrilled with the whole foray into swing. I have a feeling that hubby, on the other hand, will make me pay for this "punishment" for years to come. Something tells me I'll be watching many horrible sci-fi movies in the foreseeable future.

24 July 2008

Goodbye Civic, Hello Home…

Today is Mom’s second day at home. She was released from the Civic yesterday morning at 9:00 a.m. Somewhat tearful and a bit reluctant, she said goodbye to fellow inmates and some of the wonderful nurses that cared for her over her stay in the rehabilitation ward. For all the dreadful hospital stories that you hear nowadays (Hello Ottawa General) the staff at the Civic Rehab Centre were quite helpful and compassionate.

So far life at home has been quite an adjustment. Everything is a bit of a trial and error process right now: getting out of bed, off the couch, reaching for things, using the bath and toilet, etc. We rented a few Godsend products from the Red Cross; they are bulky but seem to do the trick as she still can’t bend to sit on low objects…or get up from them for that matter. Everything has to be tweaked or modified so that it can accommodate new mobility issues. To be honest, it’s all a little topsy-turvy right now but I’m quickly learning that improvisation is key; once you find anything that works or facilitates life, no matter how strange it may look, stick with it! I am glad that my employer allows me to take five days of Family-Related-Leave, as this week will likely be the most chaotic while we try to work out how to accomplish day-to-day tasks. Hopefully by the time I return to work, Mom will be a little more independent. …fingers crossed.

I must be off now. It’s time to go for a run, if anything to preserve my own strength and mental health, and then it’s off to the kitchen to cook a good non-hospital-variety meal.

21 July 2008

The Billy Whitmore Experience…

“Who is Billy Whitmore?” you ask. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t the foggiest idea. What I do know, is that I apparently play on his recreational volleyball team every Sunday evening.

Last night our team managed to win two out of three games, a welcome change given the fact that we were thoroughly slaughter last week. While we do this for fun, it is always nice to pull ahead and not be at the bottom of the pack. It’s also nice when you happen to be matched with an opposing team that has a similar skill level; it makes for a better game for everyone.

Last night my serves were a bit off but I am happy to report that I finally seem to be grasping the concept of bumping/passing. When we first started out, three weeks ago, I had a bizarre tendency to rush the ball and the scramble underneath it…very much à la Scooby-Doo. (insert wild leg spinning cartoon noise). I still have my classic moments and fumbles but I’m learning to relax more now and let the ball come to me. I’m also trying to improve my open hand volley although I did bend my fingers back a little too far last night…ouch! At only 5’2”, I’m definitely not the team’s strongest link, but I’m starting to be able to hold my own a bit better…thank goodness.

I’m happy that I decided to play volleyball this summer; it has renewed my interest in team sports again. Even more surprising, is that I have finally found a physical activity that my husband seems to like. The fact that we both enjoy playing is an added bonus and it gives us something to look forward to each week, not to mention it’s a great way to let off some steam before we start our workweek. It’s always nice to end the weekend on a positive note and even better when you can share that exuberance together.

Keeps your fingers crossed folks! The BWE has three more games to play before the summer playoffs. With a bit of luck and a truckload of practice, maybe we’ll make a good standing in the end. Either way, it’s all fun.

17 July 2008

Top 5 useless facts about moi...

Nothing exciting to write about today other than the fact that Mom was given her release date last night. She will be out of the hospital in exactly one week! I think she is both excited and terrified by the thought of returning to everyday tasks, but we’ll take it one day at a time…

And now, on a far more insignificant and trivial note, I am borrowing an idea that I saw on another blog. Hey, at least I’m blogging “something”…right?

My Top 5 - Things you really don’t need to know about me

5 things under $5 that I can’t live without
1. Perrier (water)
2. Bobby pins
3. Hair elastics
4. Lip gloss
5. Gum

5 favorite movies
1. Three Coins in the Fountain
2. Gone with the Wind
3. Circle of Friends
4. An Ideal Husband
5. Michael Collins

5 Baby names I love
1. Ardan
2. Garrett
3. Maeve
4. Siena
5. Charlotte

5 Songs I could listen to over and over again
1. I’ve Got you Under my Skin – Frank Sinatra
2. Stay, Far Away So Close – U2
3. Angel of Harlem – U2
4. Easy Lover – Phil Collins
5. Autumn Leaves – Nat King Cole

5 People who have influenced me in a positive way
1. My husband
2. My parents
3. My Mother-In-Law, RIP
4. Grammy, RIP
5. My bro

5 Things that are always in my purse
1. Wallet
2. Lip gloss
3. Bobby pins
4. Sun glasses
5. Regular glasses

5 moments that have changed my life forever
1. Being born…ha!
2. Moving from Quebec to Ontario
3. Meeting / marrying my husband
4. Buying a house
5. Loosing my Mother-In-Law

5 Obsessions I have right now
1. Reading books about travel / culture
2. Listening to Italian radio stations
3. Exercise and weight lifting
4. Cooking new recipes every week.
5. Planning my next vacation

5 places I would like to go
1. France
2. Italy (again)
3. Ireland (again)
4. Costa Rica
5. Africa

5 appliances/ kitchen tools I can’t live without
1. Awesome quality knives
2. Heavy duty cutting boards
3. “Good” pots and pans
4. My stove (although I’d love a professional range)
5. Huge spice rack (and spices of course)

16 July 2008

The long road to recovery…

I regret that I have been unable to update the blog for quite some time, but my writing has had to take a back seat while my mother is in the hospital for a lengthy stay recovering from a knee replacement. While this is a relatively common procedure, it is significantly more difficult for an amputee. Imagine having one leg, learning to depend on that part of your body for over 30 years and suddenly not being able to use it anymore. Needless to say, the road to recovery has been a long and frustrating one.

What frustrates me about my mother’s particular situation is that it is entirely not her own doing. Her orthopedic problems are not natural or simply brought on by age; they are the unfortunate result of a terrible incident with an impaired driver. The drunk that hit her walked away with no bumps or scrapes and a laughable fine that he could not pay, while Mom spent an entire year in the hospital fighting depression, physical pain and trying to cope with the loss of her left leg - a tragic outcome for a twenty-five year old with a bright future ahead of her. Suddenly the nurse became a patient in her own hospital…one of my mother’s greatest fears.

Despite this new burden, my mother got on with her life as best as possible. However, I have always had to watch her struggle with so many of the regular little tasks that most of us take for granted: trying to physically keep up with her children, being able to climb stairs or ladders, trying to find seating and legroom at concerts, plays on airplanes or in restaurants, not being able to join her family on the beach or to fully enjoy family vacations…often feeling left out. Accessibility and balance have always been big issues and, after many years of overcompensating on one side of her body, pain has become an ever-present demon.

Now that my mother is over the age of sixty, she is beginning to encounter some of the long-term outcomes from her accident. Years of too much stress on the body are taking their toll and “good” limbs now become “bad” limbs. Suddenly the old dependables start to give out…the knee, the hip, the back, the ankle. Once again my mother finds herself stuck in the hospital and trying to relearn how to walk, just like she did when she first had accident over 36 years ago. The only difference this time is that she no longer has a fully functional leg to depend on. It’s a frustrating process, a long road to recovery and a maddening experience for someone who, despite everything she has been though, is very much an independent and proud individual.

I am not writing this post to generate sympathy for my mother or for my family. There are others in similar or far worse situations. However, I do hope that readers may stop to consider and understand just one of the many possible negative outcomes of impaired driving. My mother is doing the time for someone else’s crime….and that is NEVER acceptable.

Get well soon Mom and keep on fighting.