Monday, August 31, 2015

I've Got Class

You know those anxiety dreams you used to have/still have about school? The one where you forgot to go to class all semester and now there's a final exam? Or you wore a ridiculous outfit or forgot to wear clothes at all? Or you showed up and it was the wrong night or the wrong time or the wrong place? Well, last week I lived out one of my anxiety dreams in the very first class of the graduate certificate in practical theater program that I started this semester. (You may recall that I'm going to be a famous actress as soon as my kids move out of the house.)

Here's how my dreams/nightmares became reality:

I showed up for my Principles of  Acting class about 15 minutes early on Thursday evening. I was anxious and I didn't want to be late. When I got to the room there was a sign on the door that said "Do Not Disturb. Studio in Use," but I chalked it up to my early arrival and I waited. And waited. At 7:30, the door still hadn't opened and no one else had showed up. Obviously not a good sign. Given my increased tendency to remember things incorrectly, I double checked my calendar. I had the class start time correct. My calendar didn't indicate a location, but I was certain it was Vasey Studio. Well, I was certainly wrong. My acting class was in another building. The one furthest from where I was currently, and I wasn't wearing running shoes. So I took off my sandals and started sprinting barefoot across campus. I can just imagine how many heads I turned. And not in a good way.

I arrived at my class 20 minutes late, dripping with sweat. I explained to the professor and my classmates that I was going for "a dramatic entrance" and then took my seat in the circle on the floor. I had missed everyone's personal introductions and the syllabus review, and was put on the spot with a request to tell the group something interesting about myself. I played the 2nd degree black belt card so all the other students would think I'm a badass. A sweaty, late, middle aged badass.

From there, things got interesting. The class started with movement. Lots of movement. On the floor. Yoga positions, which I must say I nailed as compared to my considerably more youthful classmates. Of course, being an acting class, we couldn't merely stretch into the locust position. We had to breathe at the same time. Audibly. With feeling. Being born without the capacity for embarrassment, I let it all out. Including my underwear. Bad choice of granny panties with pants that sat too low on my hips to cover them, particularly when rocking back and forth on my stomach while holding my feet in my hands. By the time we finished on the floor, I was so sweaty that I looked like I'd peed myself. And they say you only get one chance to make a first impression.

After we returned to vertical positions and circled up, we began throwing knives at one another. No surprise there. And if we didn't catch the imaginary knife being thrown at us, we had to die a dramatic death. I died relatively early in the process. So I spent more time on the floor. I'm not sure what actors have against chairs.

The good news is that the highlight of the evening was still to come.

We spent the final hour (seriously, a full hour) of class staring at each other. But at least we got to sit for it. We each took turns on a chair in the front of the room where our assignment was to look at each person for longer than is comfortable. Frankly, I enjoyed it. We were given permission to gawk and I gave myself permission to also judge everyone I looked at. I made up little stories about them in my head. It was good fun. The sitting while others stared wasn't quite as enjoyable. Way too much down time for someone who constantly needs to be doing something (or sleeping). I didn't mind being stared, though I did have trouble not breaking into a smile, winking, licking my lips, or tossing out a Joey Tribbiani "How you doin?" just to break up the monotony.

Next week's class will begin with one word to describe how we feel, followed by more floor moves, a physical destination exercise and a read through of the monologue we've selected for our semester performance. I'm psyched. Seriously.

Though I'm the only one in class who didn't major in theater or performance as an undergraduate, and am probably the only one who hasn't auditioned or performed in anything for 25 years, I'm surprisingly comfortable. I rather enjoy the age difference (especially given my impressive level of flexibility), I don't have to think twice about letting my freak flag fly, and honestly, the other students are super friendly. I think this is gonna be good. And if it's not, I'll at least get some great blog material out of the experience!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Reflecting on the "F" Word

It's been a particularly emotional couple of weeks for me and that's saying something given that I'm always emotional. I think it's fair to say the "F" word was the source of my emotion overload. Yes, family has a way of affecting us like nothing else can. It can bring out the best in us and the worst. It can be a source of great joy and utter misery. We may relish the laughter of shared memories, and at the same time struggle with the disappointment of unmet expectations. We can take comfort in the power of forgiveness, or live with the bitterness of unresolved issues. Family is a big bundle of crazy that we can't imagine (though sometimes we wish we were) living without.

My family has tapped into my every emotion in the past two weeks. It started with Rob and Ian traveling to Mexico City on a week long church mission trip. I was concerned for their safety, proud of their willingness to serve, and a bit envious that the two of them were spending that special time together. I also was lonely. With communications limited to three brief text messages, for the first time in my marriage I acutely felt Rob's absence.
I discovered I missed my husband. While it sounds terrible, I confess that I'm not someone who pines for my spouse when we're apart. With phone calls and email and Facebook updates, it's hard to feel truly separated. But when Rob wasn't here and I couldn't call him and didn't know how he and Ian were, and there was no opportunity to share and take comfort in the mere the presence of the person with whom I share my life, my heart hurt. I was reminded of how much I love him and how blessed I am. Missing him was good for me.

Two days after Ian and Rob returned home, I left for three days, thereby maintaining the warm fuzzies that came from missing them. I headed to the mecca of Waretown, NJ along Barnegat Bay for a getaway with my parents and sister, brother-in-law and nephew who were home from Colorado for their semiannual visit. Time with my sister Dawn was spent laughing at painful memories of falling off my bike, competing in plank challenges (which I won both times), swatting green head flies on the boat while crabbing, and playing numerous games of Bananagrams (of which I am the champion). Unfortunately, on the first night of our visit, my mom learned that her sister Janet had died, nearly two years to the day that her sister Glenna passed away. My mom was one of five girls in her family. There are only two of them left, and this causes my mom considerable grief and pain.

When Irving Berlin wrote "Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters" he clearly had my mom and my aunts in mind. There existed a bond between those women that I've never seen before and likely never will experience personally. Interestingly, the closeness they shared is is in sharp contrast to the relationships my aunts often had with others, whether it be their husbands or their own children. In fact, in my Aunt Janet's obituary, there was no mention of her oldest son. They stopped talking decades ago, evidence of how easily relationships can be destroyed by an unwillingness to forgive and forget.

Last summer's photo.
We forgot to take one this year.
Irving Berlin did not write a song about my sister and me. While there is no bitterness or underlying root cause for the distance between us (literally and figuratively), I must confess to a level of disappointment with the way things are versus the way I'd like them to be. I would like Dawn to move home (or within reasonable driving distance). I would like Dawn to at least want to move home. I would like her to be sad when it's time to say goodbye. I would like it if we would start telling each other "I love you." While I don't expect to achieve the level of closeness my mom had with her sisters, I know Dawn and I could have more, but I don't know how to get us there.

Dawn's visit home coincided with my church's annual mission trip to western North Carolina. A truly family affair, this trip brings together all ages for a week of work and fellowship that has to be experienced because no description can do it justice. Obviously I did not go on the trip this year because I wanted to spend time with my sister. Abby, however, more than adequately represented the MacShimer family.
Abby on the roofing site with her MPC family.
Since she returned home on Saturday evening, I've lost count of the number of times Abby wished she were back in Banner Elk. For the first time in her life, Abby, who thinks a 30 minute car ride is torture, was sad to see a nine-hour car ride end (she had traveled with friends). Despite the fact that she was leaving for Avalon on Sunday to spend time with three girls from school, Abby actually seemed weepy when she repeated for the umpteenth time that she "didn't want to be home," but wished she could return to NC (which makes me sad, though I'm trying not to take it personally).

Car ride buddies (plus the Hicks girls)
The Sunday church service following Banner Elk is always wonderful. Those who went on the trip wear their matching t-shirts. We watch a slide show of photos from the week. The praise band (which for the first time included Abby on guitar!) plays the same music, and a few individuals on the trip share their experience in place of a traditional sermon. Naturally, I cried during several parts of the service, partly because I was disappointed to have missed being there, and partly because I was overwhelmed with love for my church family. While the church, like our flesh and blood family, has its own issues, the grace and forgiveness that we extend to one another provides a foundation for the strongest relationships I've ever known. And I don't know if it's a "Christian thing" or if we're just lucky, but my MPC brothers and sisters so openly share their love. There's no awkwardness in a hug. There's no discomfort in saying "I love you." What a gift!

As I reflect on the experiences of the past two weeks, I realize how blessed I am to have more than one family who loves me. If you've been separated from a loved one, I pray for reconciliation and healing. The bonds of family should not be so easily broken.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Your Mama Can't Dance

For two whole weeks in June I went to the gym fairly regularly. If I had actually worked out while I was there, I'd probably see results. But seriously, one week I actually went three times and could have gone a fourth, but I didn't want to start any crazy precedents. The point is, I was trying. But then I took Zumba.

At 5:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays my gym offers a TRX class. I'm a big fan of this workout. It's tough, but not extreme. I'm sweaty when I'm done, but I don't actually pass out, so that's a good thing. The only problem with TRX is that the class fills up too fast, given that there's only room for 10. So this particular Tuesday I arrived at 5 p.m. feeling super confident about securing my place, but would you believe 5 was too late? All the spots were taken. My natural inclination was to call it fate and head home, but the woman at the front desk suggested Zumba. I told her I'm not good at Zumba. She said it was a beginner's class. I figured what the hell.

What the hell, indeed.

There's something about Zumba that makes it right for blog post abuse. Maybe it's because...
  • I see Zumba as the new Sweatin' to the Oldies. Baby boomers don't want to admit that they've gotten older, so they take classes in which they dance to club music and shake body parts that have no business being shaken at this point in their lives. We are definitely NOT bringing sexy back in Zumba class. 
  • Honestly, I think I actually bring down the class's median age.
  • Zumba instructors, at least at my gym, appear to be misfits who aren't qualified to teach anything else. They're the only instructors who make me feel good about my physique.
  • It's embarrassing. I completely suck at it, but I imagine that even if I was a pro I'd be embarrassed to have those who are "really" working out see me doing this silly stuff that should definitely be reserved for dark nightclubs where alcohol is being consumed.
So there I was in Zumba class. On the side closest to the windows overlooking the gym floor where the real working out was taking place. And naturally there were college-age women watching us with amused faces. And old men looking for a hip swinging honey to take home for the night. I smiled and waved. They moved on. That's how badly I was swinging and shaking. I tried to laugh it off as I improvised the moves, but no one laughed with me, which made me feel even more pathetic.

Obviously Zumba is not a real workout.
I look hot afterward! Or maybe that's just sweat. 
I was sweating and panting about 30 minutes into what I assumed was a 45 minute class. At that point I
decided to just tap my toes and swing my arms around. What difference could it make? Fifteen minutes later I realized that the class was actually 60-minutes long. So I did the only sensible thing. I left. I had developed a side stitch and a stomach cramp.

And would you believe my hip ached for a whole week afterward?

So I swore never again. But then Abby asked me to take the class with her. I figured it is every teen's right to see their mom do something ridiculous, and since I've never done anything ridiculous before, she had earned this opportunity. We went to Zumba together. The teacher was late. I was counting, praying we'd make it to the 15 minute mark when you're technically allowed to leave class. I later found out that that rule doesn't apply at the health club, where you actually can leave class any time.

Turns out our instructor was Alex. I assumed she was the same teacher I'd had a couple weeks earlier. When she turned up (under the 15 minute rule), she was a he. He is the teacher that kicks butt, literally, in Cardio Kickboxing. The class that I tried twice and gave up on. Second degree black belt, my ass. So when I saw Alex I groaned. Outwardly.

And you can guess what happened next. Or maybe not.

I loved it.

My skills weren't any better, but Alex was a much better instructor. And perhaps there was a small part of me that didn't want to appear completely ridiculous in front of my teenage daughter. So she and I still have that experience to look forward to. And perhaps we'll take a few Zumba classes together in the meantime.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Shocking Developments

Dear Diary,

My mom is such a bitch. It would appear that yours truly is grounded.

Last week some guy showed up at the house. He seemed friendly enough, had a big, goofy grin on his face and talked nice, but after he left I realized he had made a mess of things in the yard. And I don't mean poop or a big hole in the dirt. No, this guy went and stuck a bunch of flags all over my property. Bunches of them! Everywhere I look I see them. And I hear them when I get too close.

So does mom come to the rescue? Noooo. In fact, she seems to test me around these things. She holds my leash all normal-like, but as soon as we get close she yanks me back saying "No!" and we frantically return to the center of the yard like crazy animals. Then she praises me in that sickeningly sweet voice she uses when she wants me to do something. I walked all over the yard looking for a place that didn't have one of these white flags (white for surrender, I guess!), but couldn't find one.

Eventually I gave up and just kept my distance, though I have to say I'm incredibly bummed that my favorite things appear to be just out of reach. The yard to the left of mine has this really great restaurant -- an all-you-can-eat buffet with banana and orange peels, egg shells, and a variety of exotic foods. I'll try anything! Sometimes when mom tries to get me to come home I'll follow her to the door and then turn around and run right back to the buffet. It's a really fun game we play together. Another thing I really love about the buffet is that after I eat there my butt makes funny tooting noises. I guess my parents don't like the sound because frequently they leave the room and let me have the bed or sofa all to myself!

In addition to the food, I really like the little girl that lives at the house next door. Her name is Sophia and she's five, I think. She was afraid of me when I first moved in so I try to run over there every time I see her so that comes to love me. I'm very lovable! Even her mom is pretty nice to me and I know she doesn't care for "my kind." Whatever that means.

But the biggest problem with my being grounded is that I can't sneak over and visit my BFF Maxine who lives in the house on the right. Her parents and mine already curtailed the time we spend together - something about her being a bad influence on me - but I've found easy ways under the wire fence in her backyard so I'll just run over there whenever I see her outside.

I have to tell you, I'm feeling like a trapped animal. Even though the yard is more than half an acre, it's not possibly big enough to provide the space I need for my youthful exuberance. I can see it in mom's eyes. She's already feeling guilty. Good. She should. She leaves me in a crate during the day when she's at work, and now she wants to curb my enthusiasm when we're outside together. Worst Mom Ever!!


Dear Diary, 

I didn't think it was possible, but the situation with these flags has gone from bad to worse. Not only do they make sounds when I get too close, but as of yesterday they buzz me! Mom compares it to static electricity. Dad said it's like sticking your finger in a socket. I think Dad's version is closer to the truth. Anyway, to protest I went through the flags to my friend's house and I made them come get me. I'll show them who's boss.

You're probably thinking I should just run away, and I've thought about it, but I believe I have an even better idea. I'm digging a hole to China. Don't laugh! I'm serious. There's this bare spot in the front yard where they cut down a tree and haven't planted grass seed and I've started to dig there. I'm stealthy and I don't think they've noticed the progress I've made in such a short amount of time. Best of all, Maxine's family is from China so I'm sure she'll be happy to accompany me.

Diary, thank you for keeping my secrets. I'm going to get back to work on my tunnel now and give some more thought to this flag situation. I'll keep you posted.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Everyone You Meet

A few months ago, my friend Mindy wrote this heartfelt reflection after the tragic loss of 13-year-old Caynam Naib. I asked her permission to post it on my blog, but never got around to it. As I find myself distracted, downhearted and a bit blue these days, I thought it might be a good time to share Mindy's piece. Perhaps you'll be kind if I happen to be that "person in the middle of the aisle."

Everyone You Meet
by Melinda Ann Madore Davis

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

Who will you “meet” today? I don’t mean in the sit down and exchange names sense. I mean who will you come across as you go about your day? Certainly, you will interact with those who are an everyday part of your life— family, coworkers, perhaps one of those “frequently occurring characters” like the particularly friendly Starbucks clerk, who has made it a point to remember your name. However, every day, each of us shares space with innumerable others, even if only ever so slightly: those ahead of us in line at the sandwich shop, those who are driving the same route as we head to work, those who are in the grocery store at the same time that we are.

This makes me think about Cayman’s mom. Most of us know of her, but we do not know her. Here is a mother who is suffering, who is grieving, and who continues to care for her family. Who does she meet when she is in the grocery store? You may not meet Cayman’s mom, but you've met that person in the middle of the aisle who seems to be in another world, not noticing that you are trying to get by. Now what if, instead of becoming irritated we remembered the above quote? How would we choose to act/react/respond? What if it were Cayman’s mom? Maybe this “someone” is seemingly in another world because they lost their job this week or because they have learned of a devastating diagnosis in their family. What if, no matter what, we chose to approach these “ordinary” situations with a different mindset? What kind of difference could this make to the tone of our world? I see this as a divine opportunity, a chance to extend a gracious attitude toward someone who is technically a “stranger,” but who shares my world, if only for a minute.

Most of us will not found a philanthropic organization. Not all of us will contribute great wealth to a worthwhile cause. We might not be able to travel to a distant place to share our time, resources and skills with others who are in need. But while all of these are important, isn't it encouraging to realize that we don’t have to do big things with money or specialized skills to make an important contribution to our world?
All of us end up in the grocery store. All of us can choose to be kind, patient, gracious. And, in this way, all of us can make a difference. The next time you are in the grocery store, think about Cayman’s mom. Think about her as “everyone you meet”—“for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Who is Cayman’s Mom? Cayman’s mom is Rebecca Malcolm-Naib. Her dear son, Cayman Naib, 13, of Newtown Square, PA tragically died near his home on March 4, 2015.

Monday, April 27, 2015

College-Prep Chronicles, Volume 3

"I don't think it hit me--until the last one left home--that my job was basically over."
"It never occurred to me that they'd all move away."
"Boys definitely don't stick around." 
Three separate conversations. Three opportunities for me to stop in my tracks and wonder, "Could this actually be more difficult than I imagined?"

You know my story. I disliked motherhood for at least the first ten five years of my kids' lives. Nothing against them personally, I just didn't enjoy all the responsibility and the self-sacrifice. Frankly, it was really hard. Despite everyone telling me to enjoy it, that it goes "so fast," the time seemed to crawl by in those early years. As they grew up and things became easier, i.e., they didn't need so much from me, I became less unhappy. I wouldn't say I was singing from the rooftop or doing arts and crafts or making dinner, or anything crazy like that, but at least I wasn't regularly planning my getaway. Oddly enough, it wasn't until my children became tweens and teens that I actually decided this whole motherhood thing might not have been a mistake after all.

Given how eager I was for them to go off to college during the toddler years, I must confess that I never saw this coming. This sense of foreboding that's sometimes accompanied by a dull ache when I think about what waits just around the corner. I suppose if there's a downside to have pretty great teenagers, it's that it's harder to imagine letting them go.

For the first time in my life I'm having sentimental mommy moments:

The highlight of my trip to Italy was watching Ian from a distance and finding immense joy in seeing him smile and laugh. 

Pictures before the junior prom choked me up when I considered how grown up and lovely they all are. And dear God, how is it possible that next year it will be the senior prom?

I recognize that breakfast with Ian after church, before he goes to work, is precious time. And when we're together he looks at his phone less often than his father does, which makes me think the time is somewhat special to him, too.

When he makes me laugh or smile, even when he makes me crazy, I realize that our home won't be the same without him.

And it's not just Ian that I'm getting a bit emotional about these days. Although Abby is still four years away from college, I am acutely aware of what a huge void she will leave behind. For one thing, she's actually a visible presence, whereas Ian only leaves his room or the basement for food or to head out the front door for another destination. When Abby leaves home, who's going to run the household, knowing where everything is, where everyone needs to be and when, and how to do everything? Who will bake for me?

For the past year, Rob and I have been talking about our impending move, "as soon as the kids are gone." It sounded good to me, starting over, just the two of us. But now I wonder if I'm not employing the old "ditch the boyfriend/girlfriend" trick. You know, the one where you break up with him/her so he/she can't break up with you first? In other words, if Rob and I announce our decision to move on, the kids can't hurt us when it's their turn to leave. Oh, the mind games I play.

Hopefully, I'm making much ado about nothing. Perhaps I'll love having a quiet and considerably cleaner home. Perhaps I'll be so busy with my own activities I won't notice their absence (there is that theater degree in my future). Perhaps they'll call everyday just to chat so it won't feel like they're gone. Perhaps they'll both go to Villanova and I'll meet them regularly for lunch (HA!).

Perhaps I should stop worrying and wondering about the "what ifs" and try to enjoy the time I have left with them.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Liquid Courage and the Dancing Queens

I returned from Italy last Tuesday evening, super crabby following the maddening inefficiency of the airport immigration experience. The dreary, gray skies and the general ugliness of Jamaica, NY did nothing to improve my mood, and the scary bus ride home only added to my misery. Within 24 hours I could add to my bitch list a canine chocolate overdose and an overwhelming to do list at work My full upcoming weekend should have lifted my spirits, but instead it all seemed like an ill-timed inconvenience given how much else I had to do. Given this piss poor attitude, the absolute blast I had this weekend came as a complete surprise.

On Saturday Rob and I went with friends Dave and Karen to Atlantic City. Dave and Karen are "those" friends. The bad influence kind with whom you always have a good time. Since our friendship began I've gone to more concerts and drank more beer than at any other point in my life.

The purpose of our trip to AC was not gambling-related. We were in town to see Jerry Seinfeld. You'll appreciate this tidbit: Karen originally proposed this idea to Rob because she knew I'd say "Hell no!" when I saw the price. But it was worth the gouging expense. Not only were Jerry and his opening act hysterical, but I had an absolutely awesome time post show, which translates into post 10 p.m. at which point in the evening I generally bow out and hit the sack. Not only did I not hit the sack after Seinfeld, but I actually hit the dance floor! This is BIG. I do not often dance in public. If you've seen me dance you know why. But we were at the Gypsy Bar where they serve beers not in 16 ounce pints, but in 22 ounce glasses. This liquid courage explains the dancing. And a good band playing today's popular hits also helped spur us on.

The wall-to-wall crowd offered a good deal of visual stimulation to go with the musical vibrations. I saw a woman with Life Savers strategically attached to her t-shirt, allowing various men to sample her wares. I gawked noted another woman whose dress ended where her thigh-high stockings began. I was surprised at the range of ages co-mingling. I'd guess 21-60, though I'm notoriously bad at guessing age. I still think I'm younger than everyone I meet, when in fact that rarely holds true anymore, which is depressing as hell, but that's a blog post for another time. Anyway, I was feeling pretty good about myself out there. Had on my favorite dress. My ass wasn't hanging out. I wasn't stumbling about in 4" heels. Wasn't spilling my beer while I danced. It was all good. Until my dancing and jumping caused a small leak and I was rudely reminded that I am not young and that I still need to do kegel exercises. But I didn't let that stop me! In fact, it was not boring old Kim who called it a night, but rather her usually gung-ho husband. We made our way to the hotel room where we promptly crashed and slept soundly until the next morning. (Note: Moderation is important if a romantic night is on your agenda.)

Sunday was a continuation of the good times that began with our AC adventures. I played with my pup and played in the dirt, readying the gardens for spring flowers. My pup also played in the dirt--if you need a hole dug, she's your girl. The evening ended on a more age-appropriate, but equally awesome note: Indigo Girls with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. Loved, loved, loved it! Even my aching hip, the result of the previous night's dancing, couldn't diminish my enthusiasm.

I figure if I get 10-hours of sleep each night this week I'll be good to go again next weekend!

Who's in?