Monday, October 29, 2012

Meet Penelope...

Everyone? This is Penelope.
Penelope? This is everyone.
Penelope is a kitten (between three and four months old) that was first found in a shelter, then was moved to Petsmart, and then moved to a foster home because they thought she was sick... And it turns out she wasn't sick, she was just acting shy.
How cute is that?
I found out about her through a friend Rachel, who fosters kittens from shelters-- and it turns out her mom does too. Penelope's foster mom was Rachel's mom, and we went to meet her Saturday morning before I had to go to work. Casey and I brought my friend Andrea (who was here from out of town) and our roommate Peter to throw in their opinions.
Long story short, we all fell in love with her and took her home immediately. She wasn't as shy as we thought she'd be. And since she's been home she is active, loving and sweet. We're doing the long introduction to Stella, our other cat, who we're not sure will like sharing our attention. But we think she might, in the long run, enjoy having a buddy at home when we're at work.
So here we go! We're now two for two: Two cats and two birds. What should we get next?

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's Sugar Time.

As Sugar Plum Fairy with Ballet Ariel 2011 (photo by Jenna Holliday)
I am honored, humbled and pleased to announce that I've been cast as Ballet Ariel's Sugar Plum Fairy for our 2012 Nutcracker. Our shows are in Denver the second two weekends of December, so if you are here, I'd love to have you there!

Sugar Plum Fairy is an interesting role. She is widely known by her famous music (which you will soon be hearing tink-tinking out of the speakers Macy's, JC Penney's, and any mall in general) and as being the princess/queen role in the Land of the Sweets. She is the one to greet and reward Clara for saving the Nutcracker Prince's life, and she has the honor of dancing at the very end of Act 2 of the ballet with the Cavalier.

No pressure.

Seriously though-- a lot of little girls in ballet (including myself as a little dancing tyke) look up to the Sugar Plum Fairy. That is something I am super aware of. The expectations placed on the Sugar Plum are fairly high, and in the ballet world the expectations are even higher among professionals. It is a role that involves a lot of serious and difficult ballet technique. This is why I feel so honored to be chosen to do this role again (I also danced this role last year with Ballet Ariel).

As Sugar Plum Fairy with Ballet Ariel 2011 (photo by Ryan Seate)

As a girl who loves ballet technique just as much as a silly, high energy musical theater number, my heart feels full at the thought of being able to perform this role again. I am honored also to be paired with my often-partner and dear friend Peter, which is super fabulous because I believe we work really well together. However I'd be lying if I didn't say I have some butterflies in my stomach thinking about taking on this huge role once again.

I've been given a huge gift and I mean to make the most of it. The butterflies will keep me on my toes (literally) and super aware of the responsibility I've been given. I can't wait to start.

As Sugar Plum Fairy with Ballet Ariel 2011 (photo by Ryan Seate)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Smallest Miracles

Kevin and Rebecca and I in Greg Gonzales' "figs of my im." (photo by Peter Strand)

Sometimes miracles happen. Big ones, small ones, "insignificant" ones that slip by unnoticed if you don't pay attention to what is happening around you. They pull the dingy gray curtain back from your ordinary day and remind you that there is a beauty beyond what we see.

Every time I step onstage I expect the unexpected. Years of performing have taught me to do this, and I am never disappointed. I was privileged to perform again with Ballet Ariel (pictured above in Greg Gonzales' contemporary piece "figs of my im.") in "Fire Dances," a mixed rep on October 13th at the PACE Center in Parker, Colorado. Saturday brought to us two performances in one day, which would not normally have phased me-- however, this show brought more strenuous dancing than ever before. I am pleased to report that I got through the two shows fine, with even enough energy to go out afterwards to eat and relax with the company and friends.

In my mind, the biggest miracles I experienced on Saturday weren't necessarily making it through tech week and the two shows punctuating it. They were the amazing moments I experienced onstage despite being tired. My favorite part of performing, as many of you know (and I have blogged about before), is creating a character for the steps I do in rehearsal and onstage. This gives me a way to "flavor" the choreography and tell a story instead of just doing technique for the sake of technique. I don't find anything wrong with simple technique (that's the beauty of Balanchine!), but this is how I am built: When I have a reason for doing a leap or turn, I find that my performance quality goes up tenfold and I have so much more motivation to push through the physicality.

Some miraculous moments for myself and my characters in rehearsal and performance: Allowing the music of "La Bayadere" to transport me to India and transform me into Nikiya the temple dancer, a woman with a burning secret she cannot tell anyone... Playing with facial expressions and interactions as "The Flirt" with Charlie Chaplin in Ilena Norton's "The Chase," and being part of creating bits of comedy that made the audience laugh... Channeling my inner alien supermodel and attempting to control the mind of a man in a chair ("figs of my im."), this motivation becoming second nature onstage (as if it were totally normal like shifting gears in the car, or making the bed)... Almost feeling the boiling lava pour out of my fingers as Pele the volcano goddess-- the passion, anger, and self-absorbed nature of this goddess taking over as I pushed my way through the final part of the show... The countless interactions between performers as we tell a story together and inexplicably become one in the process.

The biggest miracles sometimes last only a couple minutes, or even just a fraction of a second. I am so grateful God has opened my eyes to these gifts and allows me to share them with others. These moments are so precious and I have learned to protect them fiercely against self doubt, fear, and circumstances beyond my control. I am looking forward to more miraculous moments in the next couple months through the Nutcracker process!

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Fire Dances"

I'm on our poster!
Still getting used to that.

Nevertheless, I'm loving the design and the feel! If you are interested in coming to see me dance the role of Pele the Hawaian volcano goddess, check out the info below that I've been using for marketing the show. I'd LOVE to see you there! I'm super excited about playing these particular roles because they are so multi-faceted and interesting!

Ballet Ariel presents ‘Fire Dances’ on Saturday, October 13th at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm at the PACE Center in Parker! Tickets start at $16.00 and are available at (direct link for tickets here: or by calling the box office a

t 303-805-6800.

‘Fire Dances’ is the premiere of this electrifying ballet choreographed by Director Ilena Norton inspired by fire myths and legends, featuring a Native American legend about the first fire setter, the myth of the Phoenix who is reborn in fire every 500 years, and the story of Pele the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

Also on the program-- a suite of dances from ‘La Bayadere’ staged by Giana Jigarhan, a beautiful classical ballet about a temple dancer who is betrayed by her lover. This classical ballet choreographed by the great Marius Petipa was first performed in 1877. The company will also present ‘The Chase’, a hilarious romp recreating the silent movie era and the genius of Charlie Chaplin, and 'figs. of my im.' a contemporary ballet choreographed by Gregory Gonzales of Colorado Ballet.

“The variety of this performance will delight both the classical ballet audience as well as fans of contemporary dance," said Ilena Norton (Ballet Ariel Artistic Director), “This exciting program is meant to be enjoyed by everyone."

(poster design and photography by Peter Strand)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I love this.

So many times we don't realize that we can make someone's day better when they really need it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What Dance Did For Me (and Why I'm Having Trouble Walking Today)

Halfway through second week of ballet season... And I'm popping Ibuprofin like it's going out of style, rolling carefully out of bed so as not to disturb the fragile state of my body, and randomly moaning without notice.

I had a thought a couple minutes ago: "If I didn't dance, I wouldn't have to feel this pain." Today, the left half of my back is whistling a  happy tune while the right side feels like someone repeatedly bashed it with a baseball bat while I slept. Not in a minor "oh, that kind of aches" way, but a "I probably should ice this immediately" kind of way. How did THAT happen? I'm reviewing the new choreography I learned yesterday, and realizing it includes (but is not limited to): a) being held in the splits upside down, b) going up and down (releve in ballet terms) on my toes probably about a million times, and c) getting thrown around in general by three different men.

If something in there doesn't constitute a half terribly sore back among many other things (like not being sure I will be able to get up after writing this post and walk to the kitchen to make breakfast), I don't know what. Sometimes I wonder if all the pain is worth it.

And then I remember Italy. I was privileged to live in Italy on and off for a period of about two years. Florence was the city I resided in (about ten years ago now) and I am still fiercely loyal to the belief it is the best place in Italy. Not to be cliche, but it truly changed my life. I grew up in all the ways that are important-- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. And yes, physically (you can't eat pasta twice a day without gaining a little bit of weight). In many ways, my heart still resides in Florence.

Florence (Firenze), Italy, where I lived for two years

But I didn't get to dance while I was there. It was the only thing missing from the most formative time of my life. The only dance class I knew of took about an hour to get to by bus, and the language difference scared me off right off the bat. I know I probably would have really improved in my Italian if I'd stuck with it, but it was also expensive and I just didn't have the funds.

What did I learn from my hiatus from dance? That the body and spirit are completely connected. Later I would learn that I probably was suffering at times from a minor depression while I was there. I don't believe it was the lack of dance's fault. But I am convinced it probably played a role in keeping me down.

About a year after I moved back to the states, I began swing dancing and went back to ballet class to help distract myself from a bad breakup. And guess what? My spirits lifted almost as if someone had switched on a "sunshine" light in my heart. I can't tell you how wonderful I felt after dancing even for an hour. Call it endorphins or call it reconnecting with my passion and purpose in life, but God used it, among other things, to pull me out of a dark place. I'm forever grateful for the ability to express and love through ballet and other forms of dance in my life. It is at the core of my heart and to get me away from it, you're going to have to have drag me kicking and screaming.

Me as Pele in "Fire Dances" for Ballet Ariel's fall concert this October (photo by Peter Strand)

And so, as I get up to soak my sore muscles and then ice them (and repeat), I have already forgotten this silly idea of not dancing to avoid the (temporary) physical pain. Not worth it.

What turns on the "sunshine" in your heart?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Becoming Baby

As an actress and dancer,  my question when preparing for a role has always been, "How do I realistically portray the character I'm supposed to be?" Having studied a few different acting techniques over the years and trying many of them out in different roles, I have created a kind of mish-mash way of attempting to accurately portray another person onstage. Among other things, I pay attention to small details like the characters' mannerisms (how they hold themselves or move their eyes and face), figure out what their goal in the scene is, come up with "action" words to back up my movements, and then try to portray them as truthfully as I am able.

Not easy, but definitely worth the work.

When these techniques, along with the lights, music, and coworkers all come together it is like jumping through the screen/pages of a book or play and telling someone else's story. This weekend I was privileged to tell two very different characters' stories: Baby from "Dirty Dancing" ("Time of My Life" dance sequence):

Peter ("Johnny") and I ("Baby") backstage rehearsing before performing "Time of My Life"

And Cyd Charisse's character from "The Band Wagon" (the iconic Dancing in the Dark dance sequence):

Peter and I backstage rehearsing before our closing show (as Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire)

The moments I truly feel my acting technique and movement come together onstage to create a genuine character are the most exciting and transcendent as a professional performer. Working with a dance partner who also is skilled in creating characters (which Peter is) makes it all the better, because the audience can see an actual story happen in front of their eyes instead of just two dancers/actors moving around to music. This weekend (performing "Night at the Movies" with Backstage Theater in Breckenridge, Colorado) it was exciting to experience moments onstage that I actually felt my mannerisms and actions genuinely portrayed Cyd and Baby. It felt like a grown-up "recess" (and a great privilege) to perform these stories for the audience to enjoy and escape their everyday lives, if just for a few minutes. Also, to have Casey in the audience for two shows (who is a simply amazing support to me in my performing career and has always been there to cheer me on) was an extra special treat.

"Time of My Life" tech rehearsal shot

Practicing a dip backstage for "Time of My Life"

Pose from "Dancing in the Dark"

Peter and I trying to capture Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire's facial expressions and mannerisms-- harder than it looks!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Time of My Life

I heart Denver.

Want to know why? Because, among many other things, I have found myself able to perform in so many different venues and styles here. Not only am I blessed to be part of a ballet company that performs several different styles (including classical ballet, which I have trained in for many years), but I have had the good fortune to explore other types of theater and performance types as well. I have been able to take voice lessons for a couple years now, and gotten to perform in several different theater (musical theater, straight theater, and opera) productions since we moved here in 2008.

And now, I venture into another very particular genre of performance: 80's Hollywood dance.

Can you say, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey? As a pre-teen and teen, I watched "Dirty Dancing" over and over. As a dancer I oohed and ahhhed over Patrick Swayze's double tour, the swan lift, his ability to make the music come alive with his body movements, and over the dance sequences that popped with energy out of the screen into my cousins' living room. I realized even back then that dancing was essential to my life and nothing could excite me more than a good story accented by amazing dance sequences.

Never could have predicted this, but I have been given the opportunity to perform "The Time of My Life" dance sequence at "Backstage to Hollywood: A Night at the Movies" this Labor Day weekend. You know the scene. It's the one at the end of the movie where Patrick Swayze busts in at the end of summer talent show, and grabs Baby ("No one puts Baby in a corner") and the mic. He then announces he is doing the end of season dance and declares his love for her in front of everyone. Pretty sure every woman watching, pre-teen or not, sighed at this declaration of love and then cheered Baby on as she performed the dance she worked so hard on-- despite the extreme poofiness of her hair (which didn't seem that poofy in the eighties, now did it???).

I am excited to bring the feel of this iconic movie and scene to this fun variety show in Breckenridge, Colorado this weekend. I also am humbled to say my dance partner Peter and I will be performing the iconic "Dancing in the Dark" originally danced by the amazing Fred Astaire and the lovely Cyd Charisse in "The Band Wagon" (circa 1953). This stuff is harder than it looks, folks. These people were uber famous for a reason. They make it look easy and beautiful. I hope to do it justice this weekend.

If you'd like to catch the show, here's the link for more info:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Filling Your Space

Pictured above is a random empty theater hall. What shall we fill up this big, cavernous space with?

You thought "people," right?

That's what I'd thought too. Until this spring. I was privileged to dance in "La Traviata" in Colorado Springs with Opera Theatre of the Rockies. Pikes Peak Center was bigger than most theaters I'd ever performed in. It was also my first time in an opera. I was deeply touched and impacted by the amount of talent and hard work I experienced while hanging out with these vocalists. Ironically, they in turn acted like the dancing my partner and I did was beyond their highest expectations-- my confidence as a performer skyrocketed due to the appreciation and many compliments I was given during this run.

The biggest lesson I learned during "La Traviata," however, was an important one. Here's what I found the first time I stepped onstage, and realized how large the space was (and, at that point, filled with what seemed like a million empty seats in front of me): In order to make any type of impression on our soon to be audiences, I was going to have to increase my stage energy and "power" tenfold. Having been a performer since age eight, I have learned intrinsically that your personal space must swell out to include every single person in every single seat, all the way out to the back row of the balcony. If your gestures and body language choices do not translate out to the back wall, your performance becomes obsolete. No one will understand your character, intentions, or emotions unless they are sitting in the front row. Simple facial expressions aren't even enough.

Standing out on that stage for the first time, I was scared. How could I fill that huge theater space with the energy it demanded?

I had no choice. For a minute, I let myself feel the fear the great cavern in front of me evoked, and think thoughts of not being able to touch every single audience member. Then I prayed. Then, it was Peter's and my turn to rehearse our part for the party scene of the opera. I forced myself to hurl, cast, and throw my dancing and acting energy out to the back of the balcony, far more forcefully than I ever have done in the smaller theaters I'd previously performed in. Not done in a ridiculous, fling-y way-- but in a way that simply opened up the center of my soul and tossed it outward, through my body movement, more potently then normal. My goal was to fill that theater hall  top to bottom.

The feeling was glorious.

Peter and I as The Toreador and The Gypsy in "La Traviata" with Opera Theatre of the Rockies

What I learned was that I was enough. What I learned was that the energy I tossed out in performance was not too puny or small to reach the back row. The God-given power I flung out from the center of my heart and soul took much energy, but the result was I realized I could do it.

Isn't life kind of like the cavernous space in that theater? I want to fill the moments of my life with similar energy and focus. I want to reach the "back row" of my life with love, passion, and meaning. What "La Traviata" taught me (as well as good opera is heart-breakingly beautiful) is that there is no coasting allowed-- if you want the theater, or your life to be filled.

Peter and I as The Toreador and The Gypsy in "La Traviata" with Opera Theatre of the Rockies 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Why I Don't Want to Be Pregnant

If you've known me for a little while, you probably have already heard all this straight from the horse's mouth. My mouth, I mean. No. I'm not a horse.

I am 34 years old though, and many people are surprised to hear this (one, because I look young; and two, because I do not have children yet). And here is part of the reason why:

As long as I can remember, I have had major stomach issues. All the time. When I get nervous, when I eat certain foods, at certain times of the month, etc etc. (Don't worry, male contingent, that is my last reference to my monthly visitor.) Since a very young age, it seems my stomach needs no more than a fraction of a reason or hint of circumstance to freak out on me. And when this happens, it often shuts me down or at the very least makes everyday life uncomfortable.

So, now that I am more than at the "child bearing" age, I will admit the issue is occasionally on my mind. I do want children. I really like the little humans, really. I always have. And once I feel it is time, I would very much like to have one of my own.

Here's the problem: Nausea. And MORE stomach issues.

Because I've dealt with this along with other things for at least 30 years on a continuing basis, the thought of it getting worse or visiting on a more constant basis is unbearable. I know, I know, I sound like a total baby (no pun intended). I know what you're going to ask me, and the answer is YES, my mother was nauseous with all three of her children including me.

Which no, does not mean I necessarily will have the same experience, but probably. Think about it this way: If you have had pain issues haunting you your whole life without rest, the thought of it getting much worse continually for 9 months would not be not such a happy one. Or if you had major eyesight issues, and you were told you'd basically be blind for the 9 months you were pregnant, you'd be a little hesitant too, wouldn't you? The thought of constant nausea makes me want to jump off the edge of the planet.

I know what else you're going to say: "It's worth it." Or, "When you hold that little baby in your arms, you forget everything else." Miracle of life, blah blah blah... I know, I know. A friend recently told me, "They have medicine for that." I said, "Oh really? Cool!" She then continued: "Yeah, with the medicine I only threw up once a day." Sounds... amazing?

I'm not saying Casey and I have totally made up our minds. We probably will have a child of our own, God willing (just not looking forward to the additional stomach issues). And, yes, adoption is a viable option also (which we are seriously considering even if we have our own). Just speaking my mind here. I haven't blogged in a while and it's been fun to get back here and spit my thoughts out at you (again, no pun intended).

Thoughts of your own?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to Imitate a Chicken

Don't get it? You probably haven't seen "Arrested Development." Let me tell you, you are missing out.

It's one of the funniest, most ridiculous, intelligent, dark humor tv shows ever created. I had no idea Jason Bateman was so subtly funny before seeing every single episode of every single season. And, until I met Gob, I never knew magic tricks were so hilarious. Oh, excuse me, I meant "illusions."

If you haven't seen this show, please, please PLEASE do yourself a favor and check it out. I promise it will be worth the extra half hour or two you take to educate yourself on the best in dark humor.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Breaking Pointe": Save the Drama Fo Yo Mama.

I'm looking forward to it... The future, that is.

I've decided to spend another season dancing. Shocker, right? Any of you who have known me more than five seconds know that it is my passion, and it would take an unusually large mack truck with a big fat chain to pull me away from my career. I'm looking forward to what next season will bring-- new challenges, new music, new choreography, new costumes... All the fun things that come along with a ballet company.

There is a new reality show, "Breaking Pointe," that just had it's season finale. It featured a professional ballet company in Salt Lake City-- or shall I say, the editors featured the drama between dancers in the company. They spent way over half of the show's hour showing how one particular couple dealt with their relational problems. This couple's tears, yelling, and sideways glances were just as much the stars as were the actual dancing/performing scenes. As a professional ballet dancer, that irked me just a bit. Now, the dancing they DID show us was simply stunning and lovely (often inspiring me to get my butt into ballet class), and I'm not saying drama never happens in the workplace. In any community, at least a little bit always will. I just wish the editors had chosen to show us more rehearsal footage, more class shots, and more about the life of a working dancer. Because I love my career so much, I wanted DANCING to be the star of the show, so the outside world could know more about our world. Not to say they ignored it, but they just spent so much more time featuring the relational drama between dancers.

What I'm getting at is this: The excitement of growing as a dancer is really giving me joy these days. Even the exhaustion that comes from daily class, daily hours of pointe work, daily hours of breathing so hard you think you're going to die. The exhaustion is worth it. Another thing that bugged me about the editing on "Breaking Pointe" is how the editors/producers/directors/whomever makes those sort of decisions, decided to add into the introduction for each episode, the "reason" dancers work so hard. They specify that it is "that certain moment that you are "perfect" onstage," and how this moment is the reason dancers dance. For me, I'd have to kind of take issue with the fact they presented this as the sole reason we do what we do: In my opinion, those moments when the technique, character, costume, and lights come together onstage are certainly powerful. But the other moments are just as powerful for me:

That moment in rehearsal where you float through the air carried by your partner and you feel like you're flying.

That moment where your colleague does something so hilarious in rehearsal you can't help but bust up laughing, and totally break character.

That moment you get a correction from a coach, and you actually manage to fix what you're doing wrong-- and everything in your body clicks into the right position.

That moment you are about to cry because you're so frustrated with how it seems you will never get that particular step right-- and your colleague gives you a hug, and you suddenly feel the sweet comraderie of being in your working community.

That moment of taking a deep breath in the wings before walking onstage for a solo, as your partner squeezes your hand in encouragement.

So many moments, that make it all worth it. Blood, sweat, tears, drama-- all worth it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fairy Tales Are Real.

You're shaking your head already? Is it because you've heard me say too many times that Disney gives little girls a false idea of how relationships work with men? Or because I've been so mean about the dismally uninteresting and unrealistic plots of modern romantic comedies?

Or, maybe you're with me on this one. As a teen and young adult, I really honestly thought romantic comedies were like documentaries of real life relationships I would someday experience. Sometimes I wish I had a time machine to hop into and tell my younger self something: That these stories, although shiny and entertaining, rarely represent real life.

Don't get me wrong... And don't think I'm trying to express, in a not so subtle way, that my marriage is on the rocks (it's not, I promise). I think though, that when any honest married person tells the whole and non-sugarcoated truth, they will say that marriage is not easy. It's not a fun, silly romp through a field, where you start out hating each others guts and then all of a sudden, realize you're perfect for each other and fall in love. Boom. Then your life becomes a rose colored haze, spending your time swooning 24/7 over your special guy/gal and can't wait to make out with them every moment for the rest of your life.

One of Disney's old-school love stories: Snow White and her Prince Charming

Sound familiar? Didn't think so.

Here's the catch though: I personally believe we can live moments of our favorite fairy tales, even in our broken world with imperfect people.

Here's the God's honest truth about marriage (in my opinion): Even after passing through the honeymoon stage of being married, even after consistently seeing your significant other's dirty laundry, getting super annoyed at the sound of them crunching cereal at 7 am, hurting each other's feelings over and over--  there are many moments you find yourself blown away by the other person's beauty. Unfortunately everyday life, jobs, and exhaustion seem to deaden our ability to see the person in their full beauty, the way we saw them when we were first dating. It's not that they aren't that way every moment. We just can't see it all the time.

Or can we?

Can you think back to one of your first dates with your S.O.? Or even before you started dating, and you had that special fuzzy feeling toward them, hoping that something might happen? I think we can look back on purpose and choose to see the mystery and beauty of our spouse or S.O. We can choose to not see them through the filter of laundry, bills, and "normal" life. On top of that, I have found that my husband has become more beautiful to me in a deeper way since we got married almost five years ago. He is consistently loving and faithful to me, never fails to ask me how my day was. He chooses to give me the better half of the steak at dinner. He provides for us, not just  financially, but in many other ways as well. I often tell people that he is a much nicer person than I am, and I stand by that.

People have told me over and over that marriage "just gets better" over the years. What I'm thinking they mean is, that it doesn't get more rose-colored, or more like a romantic comedy. I think they mean time reveals the deeper beauty of the person, and this causes you to love your S.O. in a much different way than Hollywood would want us to believe. We continue building a foundation of commitment into the relationship every time we refuse to walk away from the problems we all encounter. And that, my friends, is true beauty.

But that's just me (being painfully honest), at almost five years of marriage. By no means am I claiming this to be truth for everyone, although I am pretty sure if we caught up with Snow White and Prince Charming right now, they might say something similar... Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


An image of one of Colorado's current wildfires up north
If you haven't heard, our state is burning up. Literally.

It started out with just one, then they multiplied. My friend just told me that about a third of the population of Colorado Springs has been evacuated. Scary, right? Fire is frightening because it can be so out of our control.

Please pray for our state. Pray for rain, for the firefighters, and for all the people impacted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Forgiveness Tank

God calls us to forgive. Often. This all sounds good and fine until someone really hurts you. I'm not talking being stood up for a phone date, or someone borrowing your shirt and forgetting to give it back. Sometimes people really hurt you, on purpose. It's meant to sting, for you to feel it down to the depth of your soul.

Ever gone through that?

Ever done that to someone? I have. More than once, unfortunately.

"Forgive." Even THEN, God says. Seven times seventy times we are to forgive. Not having God's infinite ability to love those who have hurt me, I struggle with that. The bottom of my forgiveness "tank" appears fairly quickly in situations where my heart is concerned.  I can blame it on my personality, my baggage, my childhood, etc. etc. etc. But the fact is I'm human. More than that, I often forget that I've done the same thing to many people. The only one who loves perfectly all the time is God.

He offers to give us the ability to love those who, ironically, are human too. We are so imperfect. We try to make excuses for ourselves. I know, because I do it all the time: "I was in the right. They are the ones that need to change. I have done nothing wrong." When in actuality, we all do wrong. All the time. I know, because I do. All the time.

Seven times seventy? Sounds like a lot. Until I think about how many times God has forgiven me. And how many times Casey has forgiven me for various things. And how many times my friends have as well. Amazing, incredible gifts that were tossed my way when I was being a huge jerk.

I pray the people in my life have the eyes to see that, when I struggle with being a jerk, I desperately need forgiveness from them. I also pray that I will remember often, that God fills up my forgiveness tank with His ability to love and move past things.

Monday, June 25, 2012



Few things annoy me more: Calling espresso, "expresso." Especially when Starbucks workers use it! Auuugghh! It's like fingernails on a chalkboard-- if anyone uses chalkboards anymore. I believe they've officially been replaced by white boards and eraseable markers. Nails make very little sound on those things.

Maybe it's all the time I spent living in Italy that made me a huge language snob. I often have to bite my tongue when someone asks me if I want "a biscotti," because in Italian that word means "cookies." Plural.

Panini? Means "sandwiches." Plural. "Panino" is the singular in this case.

But even I admit the words "panino" and "biscotto" are virtually unknown to the non-Italian public-- "expresso" is different. It just SOUNDS wrong, doesn't it?

So here is your Italian lesson for the day: The next time you ask for this heavenly, amazing, delicious beverage, use the word ESPRESSO. With an S. And while you're at it, tell the guy working at my local Starbucks the correct way to say it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Hauntingly, heartbreakingly beautiful:

"Long walks in the dark, through woods grown behind the park, I asked God who I'm supposed to be. The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie. I said a prayer and fell asleep. I had a dream, that I could fly from the highest tree. I had a dream." (Priscilla Ahn, "Dream")

I highly recommend watching the entire music video and hearing her amazingly beautiful voice for yourself:

I have dreamed of being a professional ballet dancer since the age of seven. Fast forward to a moment over a year ago, before a show with Ballet Ariel, minutes before stepping onstage. I had my iPod in, and was listening to calming songs to subdue my typical pre-show butterflies. "Dream" began to play, and the above line ("God answered in silent reverie...") struck me straight to the depths of my soul. I happened to be pacing nearby a mirror at the time, and looked myself straight in the face-- stage makeup on, flower wreath around my ballet bun, and costume/pointe shoes tied on and ready to go. I saw in that mirror a professional ballet dancer, ready to go onstage and share my love and joy of dancing with whoever was sitting in that audience. 

I don't know how I hadn't realized it until then-- but God had answered my hopes and prayers.

Peter Strand and I in "Napoli" with Ballet Ariel, March 2011

God had answered my prayers, but as a seven year old, I had no idea what that would look like. I don't remember specifically, but I'm pretty sure I'd hoped to be a principal dancer in a big, well known ballet company like New York City Ballet or American Ballet Theatre. I know that as I grew older (especially as a teen), that this specific hope became much more pronounced. Sometimes dreams don't pan out the way we originally plan. God knew that with my personality and emotional makeup, a big, crowded, competitive company of 30+ dancers was not the right fit for me or my talents. He knew that I would emotionally and artistically thrive in a smaller community-- and handpicked the people I'd work with and under. This is exactly what has happened. I absolutely adore where I am at artistically with my current company. It is a difficult, sometimes back-breaking career with many challenges. Nevertheless, I see it as an amazing gift from the one who created me with specific talents and passions, and placed me exactly where I am now.

"I had a dream that I could fly from the highest tree..." God listens to our hopes and desires, and when we share these with Him, He answers us in the best, most beautiful and perfect way possible.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Confessions of a Reactivated Facebooker

Oooohhh! See what I did there? I changed up the title on you. And stuff.


Yes, I am back on Facebook. Or, for the lazy person (me): FB. I am pleased to say it is going very well. I am only on for about 20 minutes a day, which is practically perfect in every way. It's enough time to check my notifications, look at a couple interesting tidbits or pictures, then log off. I've also made a rule that I won't be dowloading the FB app on my phone, so it won't be a temptation to log on when I'm stuck somewhere or bored in the doctor's waiting room.

People have been very sweet in welcoming me back, and have been commenting on my wall: "We missed you!" and "Glad to see you back!" This makes me happy. I did miss the community a lot, and seeing everyone's shining faces. And now that I have some parameters, I am expecting this to be a much healthier experience. It already feels so different from before.

How about you? What is your FB experience like lately? Have you ever found yourself spending too much time on it? Did you ever take a break? Talk amongst yourselves... I'll give you a topic...

Oh wait, I already did that. My bad.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Avians Are T.O.'d

Angry Birds. It's not a description of the emotional state of one of my pets. It's a video game that I've only played a couple times- the second time being last night.

People continually say how "addicting" and "fun" it is... And I'll agree with that. But only for about an hour.

Last night I was playing this particular game with my friend. He was pretty good. Better than me, in fact. Suddenly, I was transported back to 9 year old Gina, who played a lot of video games with her brothers. Incidentally, both my brothers are now owners of computer/tech businesses. Yeah... I turned out to be a professional dancer and dance teacher. Can you guess who was better at Super Mario Brothers and Final Fight?

In the first fifteen minutes of playing Angry Birds last night, I thought, "I don't suck so bad. I just need practice."

Fifteen minutes later: "I still suck... Maybe I just need to stick with it and NOT GIVE UP!"

Half an hour later: "I really suck at this. And I'm getting bored."

Forty five minutes later: "I am getting infinitely suckier, and I'M DONE."

Addicting? Yes. Fun? I'll admit to that. But only for awhile. Then it just gets annoying... Those pigs laughing at you gets really, really old. I'll probably end up playing again at some point though, because who wants to admit they can't beat a green cartoon pig hiding under a piece of wood?

Not me!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bella's Havin' a Baby... Vampire

Cullen family portrait

I am halfway through Bram Stoker's Dracula. What can I say, vampires are scary. My first "experience" really thinking about the blood-suckers in depth was when I read the Twilight series. The story conditioned me to think of our undead friends as mostly good-natured, deer-hunting individuals-- committed to keeping you (meaning you-- humans) safe from their unfortunate need for blood.

Reading about Count Dracula though, who (SPOILER ALERT! If you plan to read the book Dracula, skip to the next paragraph. Unless you don't care. Then, by all means, keep reading) has no problem hurting, sucking blood from, and generally ruining the eternal lives of both children and adults. He's AWFUL. Just awful. I hate the guy.

Yeah, yeah. I know. He's not real. Or IS he?

Regardless, there was a point where I was reading about the Count's devious and evil ways and thinking, "Twilight totally ruined me for this book. Vampires aren't out for my best interest. They want to suck my blood and turn me into an undead, terrible person, just like they are."

Curse you, Edward and Bella! And your little half-vampire baby too! (Oops, there goes another another spoiler alert). But I am wise to your ways now. If I hear flapping outside my window late at night, I will NOT be inviting you in to have some tea and watch Hannah Montana. Watch out. Because I'll be in the kitchen, peeling garlic cloves. And peeling. And peeling. And then peeling some more.

Because those things take forever! Ya know?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Confessions of a Deactivated Facebooker: Reactivation... And Free Brownies.

Some of you have been following my journey of being unplugged from Facebook. Here's a new twist in the story: I'm reactivating.

It's been almost three full months since I deactivated my FB account. (Click the blue links throughout this post to read about my experiences unplugged). My reason for deactivation? Plain and simple: The time I spent on this social media site was taking my attention away from some really important things in my life.
It came to a point where I realized I needed a break. And so, I took one. I'm so glad I did. Here's what I re-discovered during this time:

  • I like to read. I always have, but during my break, I've been reading  much more (currently I'm in the middle of Bram Stoker's Dracula), and it's so very delightful! I looooooove it.
  • I really  like to write.  And think deeply. In the last three months, I've traded status updates for longer blog posts. I've gotten to listen to my soul in a much deeper way and sharpen my writing and communication skills. No plans on stopping that.
  • I really like my friends. I reconnected face to face with lots of different people in my off time from FB. Coffee/lunch/frozen yogurt dates filled my heart up in a way that I really needed. Yeah. Totally continuing that.
  • I really really REALLY like my husband. I'm going out on a limb here and ask: Don't we all spend way too much time on FB that we could be spending with our significant other and/or best friends? I did. No way I'm trading back now.
  • I LOVE God. Although I definitely still could be spending more time talking with Him, I found that the sounds of silence forced me to listen to His voice a lot more and get closer to Him. And for that I'm forever grateful.  I refuse to give Him, or my time with Him, up.
All that said... It is obvious to me now that I can go back to FB and not get too wrapped up in it again. I've rediscovered highly precious things I would be a fool to give up in its place. I will be spending a very small amount of time on FB compared to before (on purpose), and I am forever grateful for the change the break made in my habits. I highly recommend taking a break from FB, if you are at all feeling that you've traded important things for time on it.

Here's to a new, much healthier FB experience! And free brownies! (Wait... I don't get free brownies for reactivating? Heyyyy..... I might have to re-think all this...)

Totes M'Goats.


"Totes my goats," you say?

I've been hearing this saying here and there and everywhere for the last several months. Does anyone have any clue where this came from? Did it hail from the Magical Land of Trendy Quotations?

If I am not mistaken, "rad," "totally tubular," and "gag me with a pitchfork" also come from this enchanted place.

And, might I ask: How in the world did you obtain said goats, and where exactly are you planning on toting them? They look pretty happy exactly where they are, IMHO.

If you figure it out, let me know.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Made Disney's Douchebag List

So, apparently my latest role has made it onto the "Disney's Douchiest Characters":

I am so excited! Let me explain further.

My whole dancing life, I have been cast as the "safe" character. In ballet, this usually means the princess type, or at the very least, the nice ones. In The Nutcracker, I often got cast as a pretty Shepherdess (the reed flute variation) and of course, a flower or snowflake. I still have never been cast as the "saucy" Spanish girl in Nutcracker. Ok, ok, so I'm really white, but that's just discrimination, right???

A little background: My training is in the Royal Academy of Dance method, which in ballet terms, means the teaching syllabus used in England and many other places all over the world. In layman's terms, it's extremely classical ballet-ish. So it's not surprising that my roles reflected that.

It was not until a few years ago that choreographers began giving me the chance to be a little out of the box, dance wise. I got a chance to do a kick-butt piece to Nine Inch Nails a few years ago, which was very contemporary in style. I have recently been privileged to dance the Arabian variation at Ballet Ariel. And (getting to my point) I was recently given the chance to be the "not nice" girl as a Stepsister.

I got to be a douchebag! Yeah!

I do love the classical roles, wearing a tiara and tutu or pretty flowy dress, smiling pretty and being nice to people. I look forward to doing more of these roles in the future, don't get me wrong. But getting to romp around stage being mean to someone, even being ugly, is one of the greatest things I've ever experienced onstage. Drawing on my acting and musical theater experience to portray Doris in a full length ballet (Cinderella) brought my two great loves together.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things I Learned From My Cat

Things I have learned from my cat, Stella:


  • Everyone is trying to kill me
  • Life is about lying in front of the window and watching squirrels
  • Scratching and biting is the best way to communicate my issues 
  • Treats are the most important thing in life. Ever.
  • Resting is a good thing.
Ok, so maybe I haven't learned all that much from Stella. But today I am taking some moments to rest and that is a good thing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lemonade, anyone?

Writing this post will undoubtedly make me miss my brothers even more than I already do, but here we go anyway.

As I made breakfast this morning, my "Dean Martin" Pandora station played the song "Summertime." Summertime, and the livin is easy. Your daddy's rich, and your momma's good lookin. These famous lyrics always make me stop and wonder what the writer meant, and why they felt the need to tell me this about my parents... Anyway, I realized that today, my summer has officially begun. With the Ballet Ariel season officially over, I enter a new phase of life. My bed begins the strong argument that spending time in it is much more fun than getting up and taking ballet class (I am not forced to be there as I am when on contract). I often resort to yelling at my bed in this situation, but that is another blog (a two year old blog at that).

Summertime. When I was younger, it meant swim lessons, popsicles, and "The Refreshment Place," the lemonade stand my two brothers and I ran a few summers in a row. We not only sold lemonade, but being the shrewd business kids we were, we realized not everyone liked lemonade. So we offered cookies, punch, and popsicles (ok, ok, Otter Pops-- anyone remember these???) as well. My older brother was quite strict with us and how many cookies we could eat ourselves. I remember him yelling at us if we had more than a couple in a day. My younger brother and I were much more relaxed about these things. Ironically, all three of us now own and run our own businesses.

What memories does the season of summer bring to you?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

End of Season Thoughts

The performance in Leadville went really well. I could breathe much better than I could last year when we performed "Avoca." Maybe it is because I took a few people's advice about drinking a ton of water beforehand, or maybe it was just a little gift from God. Not sure, but I'm happy about it. I'm also happy about the audience that showed up! They were, from the very first moments of the ballet, very vocal and supportive. They seemed to come ready to laugh, clap and cheer loudly. As stepsisters, Peter and I got many laughs for our bits, which makes my heart so happy! I love to make people laugh, and to hear it is like music to my ears. I found a lump in my throat as the curtain fell after final bows-- I will sorely miss hamming it up with my "sister" Peony.

A rerun picture, but appropriate: Peter and I as Peony and Doris, the crazy Stepsisters.

Despite this lump, this tour was super fun for me. One memorably fun time was dinner with fellow company members when we got to take a load off and celebrate the closing of the show. We made pasta and hung out at the rental house down the street from the Opera House. I consider it a huge privilege to be friends with my coworkers. I work with some huge-hearted, hilarious and interesting people! We had lots of laughs and good conversation sitting around until the wee hours of the morning. What great bonding time for us before a couple month break from seeing each other on such a regular basis.

Today is Sunday. We carpooled back after stopping at a local Leadville coffeehouse for our morning caffiene. Such a cute place. I bought a postcard of the main drag of Leadville to remember the fun experience I had here this summer.

Now what? I plan to take my regular ballet classes (hopefully almost daily), work out at the gym, and attend pilates classes in order to keep in shape for the next season (starting in August). I'll still be teaching, and working on my social media marketing business SugarPlum Ltd. As I mentioned in my previous post, ending a ballet season is always bittersweet. This time I plan to celebrate all the beautiful times I had this year, onstage and off, as well as process the challenges and try to grow from them. It was overall a wonderful year and I am so happy I found myself dancing for Ballet Ariel this season. I am looking forward to brand shiny new one coming up in a couple months.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Getting High

For the next two days, I'm getting high. And I'm not coming down till Sunday.

Yep, this afternoon the company and I are taking a trip to Leadville (10,000 ft) and performing our full length Cinderella at this immensely HIGH elevation.

You thought I was talking about something else, didn't ya.

This last show should be interesting for several reasons: a) At 10,000 feet, I may have to carry an oxygen tank around on my back along with my fairy wings, b) The Tabor Opera House is a beautiful, historic theater, but widely known to have ghosts, c) This is the last time I'll get to perform this show in its full length, as far as I know.

Sugar Plum Fairy in Ballet Ariel's Nutcracker 2011 (photo by Jenna Holliday)

There's always a bittersweetness about closing a show and dance season. Every season has ups and downs, accomplishments and setbacks, but for me I feel like this one was my best yet-- professionally and emotionally. I was privileged to dance the role of Sugar Plum Fairy for the first time (perhaps the most challenging role I've ever done), and even got a taste of delightful musical theater style acting as a Stepsister in Cinderella. Every role is different. The physical/mental/emotional work that goes into each one is truly exhausting-- but in the best way possible.

I get the feeling I am right where I'm supposed to be despite the lows, and I have grown much through the times of struggle. That's what's funny about life. Without the low points, I would never grow, so I am grateful even (especially???) for these.

And, God willing, I'll be back for another season of  full of new experiences.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Last Chance to Fit in the Glass Slipper...

Tomorrow night is the last time we'll be performing Cinderella in Denver! The outdoor ampitheater at the Arvada Center is one of my favorite venues to perform at. There is covered seating  but a lot of people choose to sit on the grass and watch the show. Sitting outside and watching dance/theater/music makes for one very amazing opportunity: Snacks. I am a huge fan of dinner theater because you get to eat and ALSO watch something awesome.  Before I joined Ballet Ariel a couple years ago, I watched the company perform at this same outdoor ampitheater. I sat and enjoyed some great dance while eating Twizzlers and drinking Dr. Pepper. What, may I ask, could be better than that?

So here's the scoop: We're performing with the Colorado Children's Chorale Festival Singers. They will go first at 7:30 pm, and we will perform an annotated version of Cinderella at 8:30 pm (it's an hour version of the full length ballet, great for kids). If you'd like to come, and I hope you do, here's a link to all the info you may need:

After that, the company travels to Leadville to perform at the historic Tabor Opera House Saturday night. We performed a ballet based on Molly Brown's life there last year and it was one of the most memorable shows I've ever done. This theater is truly unique and the audience was bar none one of the best I've ever performed for, complete with "bravo!"'s and "brava!"'s.

I will be sad to begin saying goodbye to Doris, my stepsister character, but am pleased to share that I'll get to dance bits and pieces from Cinderella later this summer and probably this fall at collaborative dance shows.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No Excuses Please.

Tears so early on a Tuesday? Totally worth it.

No exuses:

More later when I can pull myself and thoughts together about this amazing video and person.

Monday, June 4, 2012

To Be Thirteen

Friendship bracelets... Boomboxes... Nerds candy... Debbie Gibson... Mile high bangs... These are the things I think of when I travel back in time to age thirteen. About to go into eighth grade, boys suddenly became interesting rather than annoying. Suddenly school dances became events of the century (even if I didn't go).

I've been thinking about being thirteen a lot lately, because I've had the privilege of having a girl about that age around me (we'll call her Emma) pretty consistently the last couple months. A couple weeks ago she made me a friendship bracelet. I haven't worn one of these things for years. My best friend Andrea (who I've known now for almost twenty years... Wait, wait... Twenty YEARS? MAKE IT STOP!!! I suddenly feel elderly...) made me one when we were just into high school and I still have it. One of the things that touch my heart like no other are handmade or handpicked gifts. I put on the bracelet Emma made me immediately after she gave it to me. Did I mention she sneakily asked me what my favorite colors were a few days beforehand? "Just wondering," she said, after I told her pink and light blue were my current choices.

Me with my brand new friendship bracelet

At thirteen, life is not simple. You thought I was going to say something different, didn't you? For me, life was more than a bit complicated. Life at home was full of transition. On top of that, I was working hard to become the best ballerina I possibly could, I was adjusting to junior high culture, and also at the top of the list I needed to figure out if my crush liked me back. Thirteen year old girls need support. Their problems are not "small" or simple compared to ours (even if it really looks that way from the outside). In their minds, that upcoming school dance is as large as whatever issue you may be having in your marriage. Reaching for that next goal in ballet class is no different than that current goal you hold in your career. But still, I've noticed that Emma lives more in the moment than I do. She fully expects fun and joyful things to pop up in her life and enjoys them to the hilt when they do-- even though her life is far from perfect.

Why do thirteen year olds think so differently than us adults? The harsh reality of adult life has not jaded them yet. They are able to give freely and lovingly without strings (ie, my lovely friendship bracelet). They fully expect big and beautiful things for the future. I still find my thirty-four year old self hoping just as hard as my thirteen year old self did, but with less expectation that big and beautiful things could actually happen.

What happened to thirteen year old Gina? Now, with God, I know all things are possible. Yet, most of the time now I don't dream too big anymore. Thirteen year old Gina had the image in her mind of dancing the role of Juliet at ABT. I know now this will never happen, and actually I am not sad about it. It is just reality, and I am one hundred percent happy in my current dance career. It all worked about perfectly in the way I needed. But something about being thirteen allows you to dream big. Being around Emma has unearthed something in my soul-- I want to love more openly and be less inhibited. I want to expect big joy, even when life sucks.

What do you remember about being thirteen?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

National Donut Day?!?

So, apparently yesterday was National Donut Day. I saw the tweets going out about it all day long and thought, "Hmm, might be fun to go get one." Didn't make it though. And now I'm kicking myself, because my friend Chad told me today at church that Krispy Kreme (my all time favorite!) and Lamar's Donuts were giving out free donuts all day.

I had to wipe away a little tear when the words "free donut" registered in my brain. There's something tragic about missing out on a free, quite possibly hot, just the right about of sweet, piece of fluffy pastry. And yes, I do realize that this is my second post in a several month span about donuts. I wonder what that says about me...

Well said, Homer. Well said.

Did you get one yesterday?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Casey got a job!

A new job, that is.

As you might know, Casey (my curly-headed and very smart husband) is working toward getting his CPA license. And he just landed a job at a CPA firm here in Denver! It sounds like the perfect fit for him, and I am so excited that he gets to do something he loves and is passionate about. He starts in approximately two weeks. Which means we have some shopping to do (button up shirts and the like). Enter Gina, his personal shopping assistant!

So, not much else to say. Just wanted to catch you up. If you are his friend on Facebook or have his cell number, send him a message to congratulate him!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Forgiving the Un-Sorry

How do you forgive the un-sorry? Many people have said something to the effect of: "Holding onto unforgiveness does nothing to punish the other person; It only punishes you." But what if someone has done something and they haven't asked for your forgiveness? How do you manage to let go of something like that?

Many times I have, and I am sure you have as well, been on the receiving end of someone's toxicity. The most toxic relationship in my life was with my late stepfather when I was a teenager. We had a kind of cold war going on between us despite numerous attempts of other people to "fix" us. The last two years I lived in the house with him, we didn't speak at all. I hated him more than anything. I would tell people, "I only have one enemy in this world, and it is my stepdad." I moved out at 18 and held onto all that for a few years, until I met the Lord. I realized that if I kept these feelings inside, they would eat me alive. Because God forgave me for all the things I'd done, how could I hold onto the unforgiveness toward my stepdad? I made a command decision: I would forgive him. He hadn't apologized for his hurtful and insensitive behavior, but I wasn't about to wait for that. I immediately felt a huge weight lift off my heart and shoulders. Please hear this: This forgiveness didn't mean I began thinking what he did was "ok." I just stopped holding him hostage in my heart and asked God to move his love through my heart toward him, and change my view of the situation.

A few years later, my brothers and I all received a letter from him, apologizing for all the things that happened while we were living in the house. He had been on the receiving end of major toxicity as a child, it turns out-- administered to him with a 4 x 4 by his own father. He had been abused physically for years and just then realized how it had affected him and all his relationships. I was grateful for the letter, albeit shocked he'd written it. It was a sweet end to the cold war that I'd given up a few years before. He died a few years later, from a sudden stroke. I am forever grateful to God for giving me the ability to make amends with him. I will see him in Heaven and look forward to a re-made friendship with him.

Today I was in a dance store getting new shoes, and began looking at leotards just for kicks. All of sudden, God jogged my memory to an image he gifted to me years ago. "God works in mysterious ways," people sometimes say, and at this particular moment, I have to agree. Sometimes a certain image, song, or color will bring to mind a promise God made to me long ago. Today it was a color on a beautifully designed leotard that helped me remember-- a lovely, pale lilac color:

God is dancing with me on a sunny, breezy day. We are in a lush green field dotted with wild flowers, and the sun gently shines down on us. We twirl, turn, and He lifts me high in the air with the easiest of smiles. I wear a beautiful, pale lilac flowing sundress. My heart overflows with joy and completeness.

The image of this lilac dress in particular has stuck with me for more than ten years. This gift, this image that God planted in my heart, represents freedom and a feeling of total beloved-ness in His arms and presence. Nothing else matters when I am dancing with my Daddy. I am precious, beautiful, and completely loved as I am. He believes the best of me, even though both of us know I have hurt Him in the past and will continue to. I am 100% complete in His strong embrace.

Despite the painful memories associated with it, I want to remember my experience with my stepdad. I want to remember that God is still working behind the scenes to heal people. I want to remember my lilac dress, the feeling of completeness, and most of all the knowledge that God provides all the forgiveness I could ever need.

Do you hold an image or picture in your heart that you can return to when you are struggling?

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Battles Have You Seen?

Today is Memorial Day... I'm thinking about those who have gone through battle, fought for our freedoms, and paid the ultimate price. I am so grateful for those (including many of my relatives) who have fought in the armed forces.

I'm also thinking of spiritual battle today. So much going on under the surface, unseen to the eye. These are the battles that have been the hardest for me to deal with, especially when I refuse to let God help me (but that's my bad).

Casey and I at my cousin's wedding a few years ago

Today I'm going to take some time to sit and journal, and think about the spiritual battles I've been through. God has seen me through so much in my short time here on Earth. I'd like to give credit where credit is due. Also deserving of much credit is my husband Casey, who has seen me through many battles in the last five years (including major health issues, countless emotional battles, and a major career change).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Don't Quit Your Day Job

If you want to know what I do almost everyday in/for my day job, watch this video:

Most professional dancers who work for a ballet company are required to do a daily ballet class in order to maintain strength and work on technique. This is a glimpse into the daily life of the Royal Ballet (one of the best ballet companies anywhere), and their dancers are talented far above what I could ever dream to be... However, I share this link because many of the dance combinations, and the general layout of the class is extremely similar to what I experience in my work. This is a unique YouTube video because it features not just clips of a class, but their entire 1 hour, 15 minute class. If you make it through the whole thing, let me know and I'll buy you coffee. I say this because I don't know many people who will actually sit through the whole thing besides me and a couple other people.

Their talent is truly humbling and it was a huge treat today to sit down today and watch them work their way through an entire class, and to pick up on some of their good habits and technique. (I'd embed the video into the post, but it would take six months for it to download, so you get to watch it on YouTube.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pure Joy

This picture (David Hallberg) paints a portrait of pure joy in movement. I got to take a ballet class again today, and although I felt physically tired, my heart was singing. The jumping section of class in particular gave me such joy. Jumps are one of those things I have the ability to do well when my muscles are cooperating, and today despite my slight tiredness, I felt springy and light (for most of the petite allegro, or "little jumps" combination that is). There were times I felt as if I was jumping on a trampoline. In the big jump section of class, I had a couple moments where I could swear I was flying.

David Hallberg in rehearsal (photo by Gene Schiavone)

I feel free and joyful today! The feeling of unadulturated freedom is, in my opinion, what life is all about. The joy of being who you were meant to be, living the life you were given and letting go of everything else that drags you down. I am feeling closer to my own heart and God's heart than I have in literally months. 

What makes you feel free and joyful?

(PS If you need a little joy booster today... Watch this video:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Poll: Beautiful or disturbing?

Svetlana Zakharova in rehearsal (photo by Marc Haegemen)

Bunhead post #2 coming at you: Svetlana Zakharova in rehearsal.

Poll: What is your initial impression of this image? Beautiful or disturbing? Should be interesting to hear from dancers and non dancers alike. Cast your vote below (click on text "comments" in blue).

Just Jump

the freedom that comes from that leap
down the canyon, into the water
terrifying, freeing, huge
just jump

it's almost as if you were always meant to do it
letting go of everything
all that extra crap, that pulled you down
just jump

shedding the backpacks, the water bottles
the extra jackets and vests
equipment meant for past lives
just jump

leave behind even the snacks and meals
previously thought to be important
the water holds all you need
just jump

the journey to the edge is long
takes mental courage and clarity
concentration and time
but then-- you can just jump

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


"Hello, my name is Gina and I'm a bunhead."
"Hi, Gina..."

Addictions... There are good ones and bad ones. At the moment I am addicted to looking at videos and pictures of well known professional dancers. When this happens to an individual, the person is typically called a "bunhead." This is due to the fact ballet dancers wear their hair in buns.

photo by Gene Schiavone

The photo above is of a beautiful principal dancer in Raymonda (don't quote me on that, the website I found it on didn't specify-- but the headpiece makes me believe it's either Raymonda or La Bayadere). My purpose in posting this, however, is that it captures a moment of intense concentration to technique, and yet total commitment to character.  Not to mention the amazing arch on her standing foot.

In the last month I've been finding quite a lot of inspiration from watching dancers do their thing, and very well at that. Some names that come to mind are Svetlana Zakharova (Bolshoi Ballet and Teatro Alla Scala Principal Dancer), Marianela Nunez (Royal Ballet Principal), Darcey Bussell (former Royal Ballet Principal), and Roberto Bolle (Principal with American Ballet Theatre). These people were literally born to dance. Every movement of their bodies makes it clear that their muscles were made to create ballet positions and steps with grace and power.

Seeing the amazing talent of the above dancers inspires me to reach higher, to attain a level of technique and artistry I would not even know existed if I hadn't seen their videos or photos. And for this I am grateful.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Boxer

In high school I listened to Simon and Garfunkle. A lot. The above song is one of my all time favorites, and inspiring. I want to fight for the good things in this life, I want to fight for the things that really matter and that have a worthy cause. I want to cast aside the useless things and arguments that inevitably will come. And when I am tired and feeling misunderstood, I will feel like leaving-- but I don't want to do that: "...I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains..."