Lent 2014 – 29: How the Leaves of Change Changed it All




I took my friend Amanda to the ballet tonight. It was the first time that either of us had been and it was a rather enjoyable experience. I discovered that ballerinas are so skinny because they spend a lot of time running around in circles on the stage without really going anywhere. I learned that I prefer happy, upbeat numbers as opposed to the stoic ones. But, try as I might, even though I found the dancing to be beautiful, I still had no idea what each dance was about. I mean, the one titled “Auschwitz” was pretty self explanatory, but the others were slightly more evasive in their meanings. I was mildly disappointed with the costumes since I felt like they didn’t put much effort into fitting them on each girl and they looked a bit frumpy. Only one number was accompanied by live music, the rest were recordings. The seating was comfortable and spacious and the view of the stage was actually quite good. So, over all, I would give the experience a B+.

While I was watching the dancers tonight I found myself thinking, “That could have been me.” That could have been me on stage if my mother had not pulled the dance rug out from under my feet at a very young age. Let’s go back to where my dance career came to an end. The year was 1986 or 1987. It was a crisp fall day in the suburbs of Detroit. My sister, Lala, and I were outside playing in the leaves. We were laughing, singing, and enjoying the bond of sisterhood. My mother called out to us and told us that it was time to put on our tights and leotards so that we could go to dance. We said that we would come inside in a few minutes, but then the exuberant color of the leaves overtook us and we continued to throw them above our heads as we would laugh and laugh. My mother yelled out to us again; we were running out of time. We were about to go inside when the warmth radiating from the grown lulled us back into a trance while the Earth struggled to hold onto the day as the sun was quickly releasing it’s grip and setting in the West. My mother called out one last time and said that if we did not go inside immediately we would never dance again. The sun knew what we did not; time slips away quickly and sometimes you have to let it go, or you will end up in the dark with your ballet slippers tucked away for good. Lala and I continued to play well into the evening and, as my mother was true to her word, we never danced again.

I remind my mother of this story from time to time just to let her know that I have not forgotten her dream crushing blow. The truth is, I would not have lasted in dance very much longer, for the same reason that I would never last in the military: I refuse to take orders.  The picture above is from my one and only performance; I’m sure it was a sold-out show.  was Thumbelina.  Let me stress that for you again I, Erin Elise, was Thumbelina! However, my dance teacher saw fit to put 15 other girls on the stage and tell them that they were Thumbelina as well! Ha! Everyone knows that there is only one Thumbelina!  I followed along at each practice. I completed each step during rehearsal, but during the recital I claimed what was rightfully mine.  I stood at the end of the line of 16 girls; we spanned the width of the stage.  When the time came for the line to dance to stage left, I danced to the middle of the stage and stayed put, I was right where I belonged, center stage.  I spun, I twirled, I danced my heart out amid the whispers of the teachers backstage trying to usher me to join back up with the other girls.  Why on earth would I do that?  I was a Prima Ballerina Assoluta! I am a Prima Ballerina Assoluta even though I have not worn my ballet shoes in 27 years and I refuse to listen to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise! So while my mother kept me from going to dance, she was never able to take the dancer out of me!

“Thumbelina, Thumbelina tiny little thing
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing
Thumbelina what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love you’re nine feet tall.”

-Danny Kaye

Until tomorrow….

Lent 2014 – 28: Still Feeling the Cold Even Though It’s April

Seriously, what is with this weather?  I don’t complain about the weather much for two reasons:

1.  There is nothing I can do about it and,

2.  It will always change (at least it does living here in Cleveland)

But even I have to say, enough already!  I want Spring!  I want to hear birds chirping.  I want to see baby bunnies.  I want to smell flowers in bloom. I want to wear a skirt with no tights, or nylons, or leggings on underneath.  I want to expose my incredibly pasty white legs to the world and say, “Look, look at how my skin reflects the sun!  Spring has sprung my friends, spring has sprung!”

I want to grill out and drink beers, nope, scratch that, I actually hate using the grill.  I want friends to come over and grill for me while I drink some beers.  I want to play poker with the windows open so I can feel the cool breeze as I ante up.  I want to play corn hole and smoke cigars while we take a break from playing poker.  I want to watch neighbors take their dogs for walks and then yell at them when they shit on my lawn and don’t pick it up (the dogs, not the neighbors).  I want to negotiate with the neighborhood crackhead about how much I am willing to pay for him to do my yard work.  

Good Lord!!! This winter has gone on for so long that I am looking forward to holding conversations with crackheads.  So Mother Nature, if you are reading this, please send Spring our way.  Oh also, if it’s not too much to ask, please subscribe to my blog.  I mean, I’m sure your’re probably into a bunch of environmental type blogs, but it would be cool if you followed mine too.  Thanks!

Until tomorrow….

Lent 2014-27: Tonight I Just Need to Rant

I had this entire blog written.  I needed to vent about how much pain I’ve been in because of the damn herniated discs in my back.  I needed to vent about how I’ve done every single thing asked of me for the last year and a half. I’ve taken every prescription I’ve been given (some have been enjoyable, others have made me so dizzy that I can’t even drive my car).   I have had three rounds of physical therapy, three rounds of cortisone shots, two rounds of Epidural Steroid Injections, I’ve been to a chiropractor and nothing has helped.  I have constant lower back pain, constant sciatica pain, and I don’t remember the last time that I was able to stand up straight without being in pain. I have Bursitis in both hips which makes it difficult to sleep on my side, I can’t sleep flat on my back, and sleeping on my stomach is good only in small increments.  So my nights are spent tossing and turning non stop and my days are spent with me being constantly tired.  I have six different kinds of ice packs, two different heating pads and a ridiculously expensive bed and mattress topper.  I make plans based on how far I will have to walk, if there will be a place for me to sit down if I need to, and how much time I will have to stand unassisted.  

I know that there are people who have it worse off than me, but I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about me and my little corner of the world.  I had all these plans of what I was going to do when I FINALLY graduated from college, and so far I have done none of them.  I am angry, exhausted, and disappointed.  And that is why I deleted half of this blog.  I know that everyone has their own issues and these are just mine.  I know that everyone has something to complain about and many people can “top” my frustrations.  I know that there are people out there who would willingly trade me their pain.  So I deleted the rest of this blog and decided to watch Breaking Bad instead.  Perhaps that will put me in a better mood.  Perhaps.

Until tomorrow….

Lent 2014 – 26: It’s The World We Live In

Have you ever just walked into a room and had the feeling that something was “off”?  You walk slowly and scan the area looking for something, anything, that will tell you what is wrong.  Sometimes you can figure it out, but other times you just have to shake it off and walk away.  I had that experience today.  

I pulled in my driveway when I got home from work, put my car in park and the feeling hit me!! Alarm bells started going off in my head.  Something just wasn’t right.  I stepped cautiously out of my car and allowed myself a fraction of a moment to appreciate that this is the most beautiful day we have had all year, windy, but beautiful.  As quickly as the feeling of pleasure came, it went, as it was drowned out by that nagging feeling again that something was wrong.  The sun was shining brightly and people were on the streets so that helped to steel my nerves a little bit.  I walked to my front door and tested the handle.  I always check my door before I unlock it so that I can tell if it was unlocked before I opened it.  I let out a sigh of relief when I discovered that the door was still locked.  I didn’t go inside though.

I turned my back to my door and surveyed the street.  I looked left, I looked right and then my gaze locked on my tree lawn and I knew what was wrong.  I jumped down my front stairs and ran around the side of my house to my backyard.  I lifted the latch of my gate as my muscles tensed in preparation to fight or flee as the situation would dictate.  I stepped through the gate and realized that my worst fear had come true.  I ran back to the front of my house, climbed my steps and surveyed my neighborhood once again.  I stood there in bewilderment as I questioned what could have possibly happened.  

Today is trash pick-up day.  I put my trash out when I left my house this morning and noticed that my neighbors all up and down the street had done the same.  Yet inexplicably, upon my return home, there was not a single empty trash can to be found.  Now, lest you are thinking, “Perhaps, dear Erin Elise, your neighbors already took their trash cans in”, let me explain to you why that could not possibly be the case.  I live in the hood.  Not the “hood-hood” but hood enough.  Okay, it’s not really hood at all.  I live on the outskirts of the city where people are too afraid to really live IN the city, but too poor to really move OUT of the city.  The point is, my neighbors aren’t really the type to be on top of things like bringing in their trash cans the same day that trash is collected.  So, I can only imagine one of three possible conclusions, and they are as follows:

1.  A kind neighbor took my trash can up with their’s to keep it from blowing away and they will return it to me as soon as possible.  

2.  A roaming crack head (and yes, while I don’t live in the “hood-hood” there are roaming crack heads who offer to do yard work for money) found my empty can and thought they could trade it in for some rocks.

3.  This is the saddest possible option, my trash can is currently being blown all over the city as it struggles to find it’s way back to me.  It is probably in a dark alley somewhere sobbing about how empty it feels right now.  Ugh, I don’t have the stomach to think about it!

So, I have decided that I will wait until Saturday to see if someone returns my missing trash can.  If not, I fully intend to plaster “Missing” posters up and down my entire street.  In fact, the police station is two blocks down, I should probably just stop in and see if they have seen or heard anything.  I will not rest until my trash can is returned in one piece.  

Until tomorrow….. 


Lent 2014-24: Letting Go Of What Was So I Can Celebrate What Is

To say that I have been blessed with the relationships I’ve had in my life would be a drastic understatement.  I have had the pleasure of having the most amazing family, some of the world’s best friends, fantastic teachers, and a plethora of significantly above average coworkers. I often marvel at how one person could find herself mixed in with so many stellar people.  However, even the best relationships don’t always last forever.  

A few years ago I found myself as part of a trio of friends.  Dave, Sarah, and I were inseparable (the names have been changed to prevent people from trying to poach my amazing friends).  Our names became interchangeable as people would use only one name to refer to us all.  For example, “Is Dave coming out tonight?”  actually meant, “Are Dave, Erin Elise, and Sarah coming out tonight?”  I look back now and I have no idea how we spent so much time together.  It honestly feels like we spent more hours together than there are hours in a day.  It was one of the most unique situations that I have ever found myself in.  

But, like everything else in life, we had a season and, one day, our season came to an end.  Sarah moved away and got married and had a new life that didn’t include Dave or I.  At first, she kept in touch.  She would call, send emails, mail care packages, but as the days went on the contact became less and less.  Dave and I tried to maintain our friendship but, whenever we were together, it always felt like something was missing.  We couldn’t find our stride because we spent so much time walking around the hole that was Sarah’s absence.   I became resentful of the fact that Sarah obviously kept in touch with Dave more than she did me.  She would invite Dave on vacations with her and her new husband and I would stew in anger because I never even received a call.  For his part, Dave would avoid bringing up Sarah’s name at all costs; this just caused even more of an issue because he would lie to me in some misguided effort to spare my feelings when I would ask if he had talked with her.  He wanted to protect me from the truth I already knew, Sarah hadn’t just moved, she had moved on from me.  I was a page in her story and my chapter was over.  I was heartbroken.  I was angry.  I felt like I wasn’t good enough.  And I didn’t understand why she picked him and not me.  I couldn’t handle being around Dave anymore, the resentment filled the hole where Sarah once stood and I knew that it wasn’t healthy.  So I ended my friendship with Dave.  

Many months passed of Dave and I not talking to each other.  We were cordial when we found ourselves in the same room, we would ask canned questions about each others families, but we never went too far below the surface.  We regained our status as individuals and no one expected me to show up at social engagements with Dave by my side.  I had moved on.  I stopped thinking about Sarah as I closed that room in my heart, she no longer belonged there.  

One day I needed a favor and Dave was the only person I could call. I knew that, even though we weren’t active friends, he still cared about me and would be there if I needed him, just as I would be there if he needed me.  He came over to my house and we spent a few hours together and then talked over some beers.  He casually brought up Sarah’s name and something strange happened, I didn’t cringe inside.  I found that I was completely unaffected by the fact that they were obviously still friends.  I had done it!!! I had successfully moved on and let go.  After that day I invited Dave out to dinner to thank him for his help.  We went out and had a nice meal and Sarah was no where to be found.  It was just the two of us, and it was lovely.  In the weeks that followed Dave and I spent more and more time together.  It wasn’t like our all consuming days of the past, it was moderate and balanced and healthy.  We found that we still had a place in each others lives.  

Tonight I realized that we achieved the impossible.  People spend so much time trying to fix bad relationships.  They just go at it and keep fighting thinking that that is the only way to make it work, when in reality, they are beating the relationship to death.  Dave and I were “walking the Green Mile” when I decided to walk away.  I could have kept at it, I could have fought, clawed and argued my way to the bitter end. I could have forced Dave into the new mold of whatever we were becoming, but I didn’t.  I said goodbye, I mourned what once was, and I let him go. I let us go.  When we eventually found our way back to each other, I knew that it would only work if we started from scratch.  We were no longer Dave, Erin Elise, and Sarah.  We were just Dave and Erin Elise.  And you know what?  We’re doing alright on our own.  

I still think about the old days from time to time and I am so thankful for the memories they gave me, but I know now that they are just that, memories.  Every now and then Sarah will cross my mind and I will reach out to her but only with the expectation of nothing in return.  Occasionally she will respond, more often than not she doesn’t, and that’s okay.  I know where we stand now and I know that, should Sarah ever want to be a part of my life again, she and I would have to start over from scratch because we can’t build a future on the past.  


Lent 2014 – 23: A Woman With No Children Is…. Okay!

Last night I had the strangest dream.  My sister, mother, and I started this underground ring of baby savers.  We would find babies who were being abused or unwanted and channel them into loving homes.  It was dangerous work as we were basically kidnapping the babies from their abusive or neglectful parents and we were almost always on the run.  At one point in the dream my sister, Lauren, told me that I needed to stop getting attached to the babies.  So I took a baby and hid in another room as I cooed at it and soothed it for hours while I rocked it back and forth.  In my dream I remember thinking about how I cared so much for this baby’s well being, yet I still had no desire to have an actual baby of my own.  

When I woke up from the dream I had to laugh.  Even my dream self knew what I wanted, or didn’t want, out of life.  The funny thing is that I have spent my entire life telling people that I don’t want kids.  Aside from the fact that actually becoming pregnant would be incredibly time consuming and expensive as I suffer from PCOS and my ovaries have been shooting blanks for years, I’ve just never felt the desire to have children.  And you know what people always tell me when I tell them that I don’t want kids?  They say, “Just wait, you will change your mind.”  

Just wait?  Just wait and I will change my mind?  Are you serious?  Why is it so hard to believe that a woman, of any age, doesn’t want to have children?  People also say that having children will change my life.  Yeah, I know that, which is why I choose NOT to have children.  Maybe for some people they did change their minds. But I’m 32 years old, I’m fairly certain that my mind is made up.  My mind has always been made up.  Do you know what I played when I was growing up?  I played “Office”.  I would beg my mother to bring home unused forms from work so that I could fill them out.  I would fill out each form and pretend that I was the CEO of a company.  Or, if I’m really honest, that I was a secretary.  For some reason I thought that being a secretary would be a really sexy job.  I knew, even then, that I wanted to be a career woman. I wanted to manage things, I wanted to be in charge, but I didn’t want to be a mom.  

When I did play “House” I was either the mom or the baby.  I played the role of “baby” because I am the baby in my family, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.  And, before you go all crazy saying, “See, you did want to be a mom”, you must first understand something about my family.  I grew up in a single parent home where my mother was the last and final word on everything.  I didn’t have a male role model to show me a “woman’s place”, so I grew up thinking that women can control everything.  I played the role of “mom” because she was in charge and made all of the decisions.  As it turns out, to this day, I really like having the final say on things.  

I don’t look down on people who have children.  Having children is an excellent option for those who make the choice to have them. I don’t dislike children.  I find them to be horrible conversationalists and they are the worst to take to a party, but other than that, they are quite darling.  But I know, just as you knew that you wanted to be a mother/father, that I don’t want to be a mother.  And that’s okay!  I just really wish that people would stop telling me that I will change my mind.  Because here’s the thing, when you tell me that I will change my mind, you are suggesting that you know me better than I know me.  You don’t.  I have lived inside my head and heart for 32 years now and I think I have a pretty good handle on who I am.  Also, I know that people say things without really thinking about them, but in what other situations would this be appropriate?  How about when you finally land your dream job, instead of congratulations, I tell you, “Just wait, you’ll change your mind”.  Or, better yet, from now on when I get invited to weddings, I’m going to insist on giving a toast.  I will stand up, before all of the friends and family, and say “Way to go!  Just know though, that you will change your mind.”  

Lest you worry for my poor childless soul, don’t.  I’ll be just fine.  God filled me with love for my fellow man and I choose to live my life sharing that love.  So, while I would love to adopt teenagers who are about to “age out” of the system one day, I have no intention of being a conventional mother, so please stop telling me otherwise.  

Lent 2014-22: We All Have That “One” Friend….

…. you know the one I’m talking about.  The person who is fit beyond reason.  The person who has an ounce of body fat on them.  The person who plans and preps their meals on Sunday and then eats “clean” all week long.  This person spends hours in the gym working out and usually comes across as arrogant and judgmental.  They have an opinion about your body and they are not afraid to share it with you.  I don’t like this person.  

About six years ago I met this person.  We are about as opposite as we could get.  He looks forward to a night pumping iron and flexing his muscles and I look forward to a night of pot roast and a good book.  But we somehow managed to forge a friendship and shared a fondness for each other.  (I feel like I should also mention that when I say he is “that” guy, he really is “that” guy.  He is in great shape, he has a beautiful family, lives in a beautiful house, goes on fantastic vacations, and you generally just want to punch him in the throat and say, “Enough already”.)  I think we became friends because we worked on the same team and both spoke our minds.  If one of us had an opinion, you were going to know about it.  I think we respected that authenticity in each other.  That’s not to say that we didn’t both cross that line at times.  As if turns out, you don’t actually have to say everything you’re thinking every time you’re thinking it.  Huh!  So, we both had a lot of room for personal growth.  But isn’t that one of the best parts of friendship, being able to watch your friends grow?  

Over the years that I have known him, I have had the opportunity to see growth in him, and I am proud to call him my friend.  He doesn’t always say things in the right or most delicate way, and he doesn’t have much time for sugar coating things (in fact, he would probably judge you for putting sugar on your words, empty calories and all), but his message is always one of good intentions.  He genuinely wants people to be as healthy as they can be so that they can reap the rewards that a healthy lifestyle has to offer.  He has been criticized by many who say that he “fat shames” and maybe he does at times.  But let’s be honest, if you’re overweight and someone mentions it, no matter how delicate they are about the subject, you’re probably going to get defensive.  And that’s normal, especially if you are someone who struggles with your weight, you usually want to pretend that no one else notices it.  But if he does mention it, it is because he wants to help you change it, if that is what you want.  

I was reading a blog today by Dances With Fat.  The purpose of her blog is to increase size acceptance and to let people know that you can be healthy at any size, not just a size six.  One of her posts is called, The Penguin Principle (you should read it, it’s short and sweet).  She ends the post with this quote:
“To me the core of activism is to live from a perspective that works for you and share that perspective with others authentically and without any obligation.  They can take it or leave it – as long as they know that it’s an option, we’ve done our job.  We can never change someone’s mind – they have to do that, it being their mind and all –  but we may be able to expand it with a new idea, a new perspective, a new option and that is powerful.”

As I read this, I realized that this is what my friend is doing.  Hate him if you will, but he is simply giving people another option.  We sometimes get so stuck in our ways that we forget that another way is possible.  We pave a way through the forest of life and decide that our chiseled path is easier than cutting a new path through the brush and overhanging branches.  We become complacent in the lives that we are living and we forget that there is another way, that there are options.  So while he may be brash at times, I am glad that he is my friend and that he is here to remind me that I do have options, whether I choose them or not.  

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