I dance away: my experience with toxic parents

Three years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to compete as a star in my local community fundraiser version of Dancing with the Stars. It was an incredible, life changing experience for me. I fell in love with ballroom dancing & have been dancing since then. I even began competing in ballroom this past year.

That initial experience was marred by one large omission–my parents were not in the audience. I had been provided with two free (usually $125 each) tickets to the VIP reception & prime seating for the show. Even though my parents were traveling around that time, they refused to attend. My tickets went to two close friends, one of whom traveled a good distance through several states to see me.

This year, I just had the opportunity to return to the stage for the same event. My dance teacher & I were invited to perform a showcase dance for the latest Dancing with the Stars local production. He was also competing with a new star.

My parents had travel plans and had made arrangements to travel to my city & stay the night of the event. I bought them two tickets to the show.

A few nights before the show, my mom called me and told me my dad was changing their travel plans. He was tired & wanted to get home sooner. There was also snow expected for their area the Sunday after the show. I kind of expected this might happen. They would no longer be in town for the show, but they would be here the evening before when I had an evening of rehearsals lined up from 4 pm until about 9 pm. I made arrangements for them to stop by & see my 4:40 pm rehearsal.

They arrived at my rehearsal after we were already up on stage. My mom waved as they walked in. We ran our number two to three times. I then got off the stage and went over to greet them.

I saw my parents for maybe 30 seconds. We hugged & they told me great job. My dance teacher was on stage with his star & I asked them to watch that dance with me. (Each of our dances were about a minute and a half in length.)

My dad blew up at me, right there in the auditorium in front of everyone involved with the cast. “You cannot tell me what the hell to do. You are not the boss of me!” And he stormed out. My mom apologized, hugged me, and dutifully stalked out after him. It was pathetic and hurt me to the core.

That is how I began that evening of hours of practice before the show–feeling as if I had been physically punched in the heart and gut. And facing a swirl of memories my family would rather I forget. All the times I was screamed at and belittled as a child and made to feel worthless and wished I were dead. The times my arms were grabbed so forcefully I was left with bruises & shaken. That time, when I was teenager, when I was slapped in the face just prior to going to church to sing a solo.

I had worked so hard all week to be in the right mindset & headspace for this amazing experience that meant the world to me, and, in 30 seconds, my father attempted to destroy that.

But I did not let him this time. Wanting to cry, I bit back my tears, I held my head high, and determined that no longer would my family’s toxicity and pain set the course of my life. I am worth so much more. I worked my ass off that night.

Performance night was perfection. Right before I got on stage, I let go of my nervousness and danced my heart out, not only facing the demon stage fright but also facing my history of abuse & neglect.

And the audience and stage that night were filled with people I love cheering me on, my dance family and friends and my boyfriend.

And I dance away from those who are toxic in my life. No one will ever treat me that way again. I shall live my life in joy, surrounded by love and dancing. I accept nothing less.

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Dance despite dicks

For the most part, dancing is a friendly community. Acquaintances with shared interests and passions become friends and family. Yet there is an underside to this world that mostly affects the females who dance. Not all men, of course, but sometimes too many men come to dance events wanting more than dance, becoming whirling miseries of misogyny on the dance floor. And the result is too often women leave dance world behind to escape the unwanted attention, demands, and demeaning mistreatment of dicks who dance and who need educated that women are human beings also.

 

I was inspired to write this article after a disturbing recent event involving someone who I considered to be a friend. I attended a monthly salsa dance recently that I used to be a regular at. I had not been able to attend in several months, and I was elated to be back amongst friends on the salsa dance floor.

 

I came to the event with my boyfriend after eating a delicious and romantic dinner at another local restaurant. When I took my boyfriend out onto the dance floor to dance with the man I love to one of my favorite salsa songs, a male friend approached us, grabbed my hand, and attempted to physically pull me away from my boyfriend in an attempt to take over the dance with me. I shut that shit down right away. I pulled my hand away and told this man that I was dancing this dance with my beau.

 

My boyfriend and I discussed my friend’s pushy behavior while we were out on the dance floor. This guy had been a friend of mine for over a year, and he has been someone I’ve enjoyed talking to and dancing with. Although the incident was unsettling, we at first played it off as my friend just being overzealous and gregarious that evening.

 

Later in the night, I did ask that friend to dance one dance, which is something I wish I had not done as this person is no longer my friend. He threw himself at me on the dance floor in a pathetic attempt to steal me from my boyfriend. He had the brazen audacity to demand I give him one night, trying to convince me to cheat on my boyfriend. I was appalled at this man’s behavior towards both me and my boyfriend. I left the dance floor and immediately told my boyfriend what went down during that dance. We left the dance party and ended our friendship with this cretin.

 

A few days later, our former friend stalked me at my part-time job, attempting to talk with me. I snubbed him. He then sent a feeble attempt at an apology over a social media platform which I forgot we were connected on. He was sorry if he said anything to offend me because he was drunk that night. What a lame excuse. He was sorry I was not caving to his controlling and demeaning demands. I’m over his level of bullshit.

 

This is just one very recent story. There are countless others. I could tell you about the friend I brought to salsa dancing after she told me dancing is something she’s been wanting to do for years. She was very excited and went out and bought expensive salsa dance shoes before going to her first dance with me. She went to a few dances and now is no longer dancing after a male latched onto her, wouldn’t let her dance with others, proclaimed his love for her and asked her to marry him in the parking lot of a dance (I’m not kidding!), and then stalked her when she backed away from him.

 

I could tell you about the woman who was coming to ballroom dance parties and now no longer dances because an older man who could be her grandfather monopolized her time and attention at these parties and flirted with her inappropriately, making her uncomfortable.

 

And how many times, ladies, have we been touched inappropriately or talked to crassly on the dance floor? Too many to count. Recent studies completed with touch sensitive clothing that records men’s unwanted advances on the dance floor throughout the course of an evening show that women are touched against their will a staggering amount on the club dance floor.

 

Why are ladies leaving the dance floor? Studios and venues must begin to do a better job of protecting their female dances and figuring out a way to turn male predators out into the cold night where they belong. Ladies want to dance with real men and women, not dicks who dance without a conscience.

Transformative Autumn

As the beautiful light & colorful glory of autumn bathes me in its healing energy, I realize this is a season of transformation and I am in the process of transforming yet again. What new adventures and metamorphoses are before me?

As the final month of 2018 approaches, I reflect back on how many of my wishes and dreams for this year have come true. I faced fears and gave my all, competing in my first ballroom competitions. I learned to believe in and to love myself, and I found true love. I am surrounded by an inspiring group of friends filled with love and light who are like family. I am thankful for all that 2018 has brought to me.

Yet I have one more dream that I hope to manifest before 2018 draws to a close. It is time for this butterfly to find her wings.

May the transformative and healing light of autumn also inspire you to make magic happen before this calendar year draws to a close.

Why I dance…

When I began my journey with ballroom dancing over two and a half years ago, I thought I was only going to be learning new steps and moves. How little did I know!

Learning dance is a journey to the inner depths of your heart and soul. Dance is movement, but it is also being. It becomes who you are. It becomes as necessary as breath, food, water. The need to dance emanates from within, in your blood and bones.

And you must share this with others. You cannot keep this to yourself. And you must be bold, courageous, and strong because what you are doing is journeying within the depths of your own soul, past all your fears and all your shadows, and unearthing your true self, that self you buried hidden within that has the heart and the courage of a lion. And the scariest and most amazing part is you then must be bold enough to share who you are, the real you, with the rest of the world. Every dance you do, you strive to take the essence and structure of that dance and that music merged into the essence of your true self.

That is dance. Connecting with others in truth. Being bold and brave enough to embrace and celebrate yourself as you join in the dance of life that always surrounds us. Dancing also challenges us to continually strive to be the best version of our true selves we can be. To dance is to be boldly, bravely, truly alive in every vibrant cell of your being, using your entire body to express your aliveness. Dancing pushes you and challenges you to break past all of your comfort zones and to become the true self you have always dreamed of being. To me, dance is life. I dance to live. And I live to dance.

Eggplant Casserole chez Kimberly

I’ve been too busy to write lately, but in between work, yoga, dancing, & socializing, I still find time to cook using fresh local produce. Here’s something quick & easy to make I threw together tonight in between a full day’s work & an outing to a concert. And it is delicious!

For this dish, it is best to use heirloom eggplant, with the lighter purple & thinner skins, so plentiful in the eastern United States at farmers’ markets in the summer months. If using the darker, thicker-skinned grocery store variety, they can be a bit bitter so sauté them first in a little olive oil before adding them to the baking dish. The heirloom variety do not need to sauté first.

Coat a baking dish in a little oil. (I used almond oil.) Chop up several small eggplant, one small onion, & a green pepper & place the mix of veggies into the baking dish. Cover with 10 oz. of tomato sauce. (I used my favorite pizza sauce.) Add salt, pepper, 2 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, & 1 Tbsp basil. Grate some pecorino romano cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Top with fresh basil & add fresh tomatoes, if desired. I served it with a salad & red wine. It is delicious nourishment in the midst of a busy summer evening. Take a moment, pause, & enjoy life. And then go live it!

 

Making Peace with Grief

 

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Sometimes there is a trigger that brings them on, a song, a memory, but sometimes the tears come without warning. One evening earlier this week, a gorgeous sunset brought sudden tears as I left work.

I used to not just resist it; I used to fight it. I used to close myself off from it, swallowing all of my emotions and locking them up deep within, only to break down in rage and then sadness months or even a year down the road. I thought I was being strong.

But it is willing to wait. It will always find you. You cannot hide from grief.

Now I know true strength is the ability to surrender to grief.

How fitting as I write these words, the sun is setting yet again. Once again, I allow my tears to fall.

I will miss you, my friend, but I am so grateful you were in my life. Blessed be.

I breathe in the beauty of the sunset.

Cry of the Hawk

On my way to a meeting, running my to-do list for the day through my mind & hustling to get to the meeting on time, I hear it. I know what it is as soon as I hear the soul-stirring cry of the red-tailed hawk.

I look up to see him, glorious against the stark late autumn/almost winter sky. I pause to admire his beauty. Instead of worrying about the future or stressing about the day, I am completely in the moment, the golden present. The cry of the hawk brought me here.

And how very close I came to completely missing him, had it not been for his call. How many wonders & miracles surround us during an ordinary day, but we are too busy to notice them as we hurry by?

And I wonder, is taking pictures of a red-tailed hawk an acceptable excuse for being late to a meeting?

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Cooking fiend

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All I want to do this week is cook. Why in the midst of a crazy busy week am I spending most of what little precious free time I have making culinary creations in my kitchen?

It is creative. I both enjoy altering recipes and completely making up my own recipes as I go along. I am comfortable in the kitchen & trust in my gut & knowledge for what unique flavors will work. I also truly enjoy the challenge of trying to make the most out of what I have on hand in the pantry & garden combined with what delicious additions can be purchased from the market.

In addition, & this is key, I feel in control in my kitchen. I cannot control what is going on in the world around me or sometimes even what is going on at work. (Not my monkeys, not my circus!) But I can control my kitchen to concoct creative culinary masterpieces of comfort & deliciousness. image

For the most part. I may perhaps have not bargained for the fire detector in my new place going off when I roasted my chicken the other day faster & higher than usual & forgot to turn the oven fan on. (Which by the way was so worth it. Best chicken ever! The skin was crispy & flavorful while the meat was supremely moist & tender. Well worth the fire alarm going off, but I shall try not to make it so alarming next time.)image

Art of the Sunday Supper

Today was a beautiful autumn day. As one should on a day like today, I spent most of it outside, catching up with friends, enjoying live music, & reveling in the beauty of the changing leaves.

At the end of a glorious Sunday, you want a delicious home-cooked meal that tastes like you took all day making it, but in reality took next to no time at all. I’ve got just the recipe for you. Does a prep time of 10 minutes & a cook time of 5 minutes work for you?

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Pan-Seared Flounder over Arugula with Green Beans in a Champagne Vinaigrette

Get a pot of salted water boiling & heat about 2 Tbsp ghee in a skillet over medium-high heat. Get the green beans washed & prepped. Take flounder fillets & pat them dry with paper towels. (I’ve read numerous times you are to use fresh not frozen fillets for pan-searing. I use fillets that have been frozen & then thawed, just make sure to dry them well using several paper towels.) Season them on each side with a little garlic salt, pepper, & thyme.

Toss the green beans into the water once boiling. Cook for about 4-5 minutes. Carefully place the flounder fillets into the ghee once it is heated & sizzling/spitting. Cook the fillets for about 2 minutes on the first side. Carefully turn them with a metal spatula when they are ready to release from the pan, & cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until starting to become firm & seared on the other side. As they finish cooking, squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the pan.

Drain the beans & plate them. Toss them with champagne vinaigrette, salt, pepper, & top with lemon zest. Plate the fish over a bed of fresh arugula, carefully scraping the crispy bits from the bottom of the pan (this is the best part!) & adding them. If you like, you can pour a little olive oil over top. Enjoy! Have a lovely Sunday night!

Chicken Veggie Soup for the Stressed Out Soul

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I’ve spent way too much time today lamenting how life is not fair. My car was totaled in a freak hit & run accident this summer. I just moved into a new place at the start of the fall. I adore my new place, but moving and buying/selling real estate is exhausting. The last thing I need is a hurricane barreling down on me! WTF, universe?!

Then I realize we are not given any guarantees. All we have is this moment. I prepare, I trust, I hope.

I come home late from a busy day at work with an event afterwards, & I unwind in the kitchen. I make the recipe up as I go along based on what I have on hand, realizing that this very moment & the task before me, the soup I am preparing, is really all I have any control over. And that is ok. In fact, it is more than ok. It is glorious. And for just this moment, all is right with the world.

Chicken Veggie Soup

(Feel free to alter & use whatever veggies you have on hand.)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Japanese salad turnips
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic
  • salt, pepper, thyme
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • fresh green beans
  • pac choi
  • fresh parsley

Sauté turnips, pepper, & garlic in olive oil. (You could use carrots, celery, onion, whatever you have.) Add some salt & pepper & 1-2 Tbsp of thyme. Sauté a few minutes over medium heat until veggies just start to become tender. Add broth. Add green beans & pac choi. Bring to a boil, place lid on & simmer for about 10-15 minutes until all the veggies are tender. Top with fresh parsley & serve. (You could easily make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth.)

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I served it with a tomato sandwich, Gruyere cheese, & Chardonnay. I tossed some of the cut tomato into the soup too.