Category Archives: Ballet

How to transform your pain without transmitting it

photoI have a high tolerance for crazy. Also, for pain. A big part of my recovery has been allowing myself to enjoy the good things in my life–despite the pain of my past.

Recently, I realized I have passed on my high pain tolerance to my ballerina–she’s danced on a strained hamstring for three months. Just danced through the pain because she wasn’t going to miss a competition or a recital, wasn’t going to let anyone down.

Well, that all caught up to her two weeks ago.

“No dancing for four weeks,” the doctor said. Jewel winced. That hurt more than dancing through the pain. And now begins a series of visits with a physical therapist, a referral to orthopedics…repairing and restoring before the serious YAGP training begins.

Today, the physical therapist kneaded and massaged and pushed and pulled and Jewel’s face was calm, implacable. I could only tell she was in pain by the slight flare of her nostrils.

“I didn’t know I was supposed to tell her when it hurt,” she explained when we left. “But I’m learning to tell the difference between good pain and bad pain.”

I nodded. Yes, I know this–this sifting the good pain from the bad.

Good pain leads to growth and new life. Bad pain leads to injury and death.

The only way to tell the difference is to be honest with ourselves. There is a discomfort in sitting with our real feelings. It’s never convenient to stop doing what you love and take time to rest, recover, repair. 

I would so much rather distract, escape or numb myself…anything other than sitting still with my uncomfortable feelings.

But daydreaming, disassociating, indulging wishful thinking and fantasies only makes me more unsettled and restless, unable to enjoy my good life right now. In the end, these coping mechanisms bring about longterm pain in the form of discontent.

One of the lingering effects of living in an abusive church for 25 years is that I wake up every single morning discouraged and anxious. My default setting is to believe the world is ending and the temptation is to yield to despair. This is “bad” pain.

I’ve learned that just because I wake up discouraged doesn’t mean I have to stay discouraged. I can get myself up and start stretching my “joy muscle” by choosing gratitude, telling myself what is TRUE about myself and my life. And then I make myself of loving service toward others.

A joyful life is an intentionally reparative life. It doesn’t deny that bad things happen, but it seeks to repair the wounds by choosing joy each day.

It’s annoying, this “joy workout.” It requires effort on my part–every.single.morning. I mean, I’d rather sit on the couch eating metaphorical cookie butter; ie. daydreaming my problems away. But once I’m up and moving, once I’m actively seeking gratitude and joy, once I’m focused on loving service–well, these “good pain” practices crowd out the bad pain–the negativity–and eventually, if I just hang on long enough, I can feel joy seeping into the deep places of my heart and life. I have a good life now. And I’m learning to enjoy it.

This past week my ballerina spent a lot of time in physical therapy. We got through it by talking, cracking jokes and at one point, just being quiet while the therapist massaged out her hamstring and IT band. It was good pain. It was reparative pain.

The good news is that after two weeks of no dancing and 4 physical therapy visits, her hamstring is already improving. The other day she tested out her leg and was able to turn a few exquisite pirouettes. The therapy is working.

Sometimes you learn that not all pain is bad. With God’s grace–and a little bit of reparative joy therapy–pain can be transformed into something beautiful.


Bombs and Missiles and…. Ballet

My Ballerina, Jewel. Follow her on Instagram: @dancing_machine

My Ballerina, Jewel. Follow her on Instagram: @dancing_machine

Planes carrying babies and children are being shot down from the sky. And terrorists shell Israel. And Israel invades Gaza. And babies are dying, bloodied and burned from missiles and rockets. I don’t know what is happening in our world except it’s all so wrong, so wrong, so wrong oh Jesus, hear our prayer. For peace in this world, we pray to the Lord…..

And yet, still there is Beauty.

A ballerina dancing at the unprotected edges of passion, pain and determination. There is blood and battle and the incongruity of war. But there is also beauty and music and dancing.

This is my ballerina. This is how hard she's worked to achieve Beauty in this ugly, broken world.

This is my ballerina. This is how hard she’s worked to achieve Beauty in this ugly, broken world.

Some members of my fundamentalist family have scoffed at her pursuit of classical training…”For what?” they say. “And why? A dancer’s life is short-lived. Where is the eternal value?”

And to this, my daughter has answered only through dance. To practice, practice, practice. To spend the hours–the years–disciplining herself to perfect an art form which will never make her rich, which will probably not pay the bills….and why?

Because Beauty. Because this desperate, aching, broken world is crying out for Beauty. Because there are bombs and blood and dying children. And yet—there is still Beauty. Beauty which resonates of Heaven, which whispers in our ear of Hope, which tells us there is Something Better, that even here, in the midst of unanswered questions and wailing grief–there is Hope because there is Beauty.

And so she dances.

She dances even when we can’t afford to send her to American Ballet Theatre or Ballet West–companies which both offered her spots in their intensives this summer.

She dances even when she pulls a hamstring and can only dance on one leg while the other one heals.

She dances even when she has to stay up until 1am doing homework because after school she goes straight to ballet and dances until 9pm.

She dances because God gave her the body and the legs and the facility. God gave her the gift of dance.

And she intends on using that gift.

photo 3

She dances until she is good enough to compete at the international level at Youth American Grande Prix–the most prestigious international ballet competition in the world.

This past week, Jewel’s teacher granted Jewel permission to dance “The White Swan” variation from Swan Lake. Jewel is now mature enough dancer to handle the artistic expression that is Odette, the White Swan. This is the variation she’ll be dancing:

But are we able to handle the cost? I don’t know. “The White Swan” means more private lessons, a new tutu and new pointe shoes twice a month.

And so, I come to you.

My husband and I clean Jewel’s dance studio in lieu of partial ballet tuition. I work as a waitress to help pay for costumes and entry fees. And lest you think being a published author makes one rich…well, allow to say, there’s a reason why there’s such a phrase as “starving artist.” ;-)

And honestly, I’m fine with that. I wrote the book because I knew it would help others. I wrote the book because I had to speak, to share my story. I would have written that book even if I never got paid. (Also, I STILL haven’t gotten a royalty check!)

And yet, Beauty.

There is a small window of time for a dancer–a small window when a dancer has the chance to make it. Or not. And Jewel is in that window of time. This year she will compete in the senior category at YAGP–the most prestigious, international ballet competition in the world.

I come to you today not for myself, but for my daughter. For my ballerina.

If my writing has helped or inspired or touched you in any way, would you kindly consider giving a donation to help Jewel prepare for YAGP? All donations will go directly toward new costumes, pointe shoes, private lessons, entry fees and physical therapy (to keep her strong & healthy).

This upcoming year, Jewel will be performing TWO on-pointe solos and TWO ensemble dances at YAGP. Every little donation helps. Thank you for loving me by supporting my daughter, my ballerina.

I love you all so much. xoxo. EE.





My ballerina is competing in YAGP finals in NYC this weekend!

My ballerina, Jewel. Photo courtesy of At Play Photography.

My ballerina, Jewel, will be competing with her ballet ensemble on Sunday night in NYC at the Youth America Grand Prix. She will be on stage on Sunday, April 14th between 9:40-10:30pm EST,  and if you’re interested, you can watch her online here (you will need to purchase a block of time for online viewing).

The schedule doesn’t specify the exact time her ensemble will perform. But the name of her dance is “Tivoli Gallop” and her team is from Classical Dance Center in Tustin, California.

Jewel is one of the tallest dancers so look for THIS graceful girl in the back doing all the lifts! :)

Additionally, Jewel will be performing in the YAGP Gala on April 18, 2013. If you’re near NYC, you can purchase tickets here.

We’ve worked really hard to fundraise and send Jewel with her team to this prestigious competition. It’s a huge accomplishment for her and I’m so proud. Jewel maintains a 3.8 GPA, dances 14-16 hrs. per week AND helps clean her ballet studio to pay for lessons. I am so proud of her!

Unfortunately, I simply couldn’t afford to accompany her (or leave my 4 other kiddos behind), so Jewel is under the loving care of her teacher and a couple of other moms. I am so thankful for our loving, supportive ballet community.

Still, last night, Jewel called me in tears because she’s so homesick. All the other dancers have their moms. And, being the California girl that she is, she forgot to pack a good jacket (I know I checked her bags before she left and thought I saw one in there!!). But it’s 40 degrees and rainy in NYC! She’s like, “MOM! IT’S A FULL-ON BLIZZARD OUT HERE!”

So, we had a nice, long talk and she cheered up.

This is her first time in NYC. It’s such an amazing accomplishment in the dance world to make FINALS for YAGP. I told Jewel I was so proud of her and I knew that all my friends (YOU!) are proud of her, too. She was like, “Really?” And I said, “YES! You are doing amazing things with your life!”

That cheered her up. I’m so proud of her. And I want to thank all of you for your kind support over the years as we have scrubbed toilets, cleaned the ballet studio and scrimped and saved to make Jewel’s ballet dream possible–she is such a gifted and beautiful dancer. I only wish I could be there to see her in person!

But next year, her teacher wants her to do a solo so I will definitely make sure I attend with her!

Yesterday was her first rehearsal:

Today she rode the NYC Subway for the first time:

I’m going to tell Jewel to read this post and I know she’d love to see your encouraging notes for her in the comments box (hint, hint). Thanks, friends! xo. EE.

Ballet isn’t a REAL sport?

“Guys at school say ballet isn’t a real sport. They laugh at me and say, “Look, she even RUNS like a dancer!” Well, I’d like to see them TRY one pirouette. On pointe.” –Jewel

Don’t worry about the haters, baby. Believe me, Mama knows alllllll about that. Here’s what you do: don’t listen to the nay-sayers. They’re not worth your energy or your time. Listen to the voice within you. Listen closely. And follow what makes you come alive.

Jewel got wait-listed for the Boston Ballet! She didn’t even make the wait-list last year, so she’s pretty excited. This weekend, she auditions for School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theatre (she got into ABT last year). Keep dancing, sweetheart!

photo credit: Sharyn, At Play Photography

This now is all we have

Jewel--arabesque photo credit: Sharyn, At Play Photography

This past Monday, Jewel could hardly dance. She had fresh corns on her baby toes and they were swollen, red and painful. It was the worst possible timing. January is audition season for summer intensives and Jewel was planning on auditioning with several national ballet companies. Last summer, she was admitted to American Ballet Theatre. Her dream this year is the Boston Ballet.

But her feet were suffering.

“Every time I go up on pointe, it feels like someone is piercing my toes with needles,” she said.

Jewel’s instructor worriedly texted me. I made an appointment with our pediatrician.

He took one look and said: “Repetitive trauma.” He wrote a referral for a podiatrist. Thankfully, no bones are broken and her corns are not infected.

While we waited for insurance approval, Jewel is soaked her feet in Epsom salts, applied corn medicine and carefully wrapped her toes with tape. I asked her how and why this happened.

“Didn’t we just buy new pointe shoes?” I asked.

She shrugged.

“The new pointe shoes don’t fit right,” she said.

“Jewel!” I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Pointe shoes are too expensive,” she said. “I didn’t want to ask for new ones. I don’t mind the pain, really. I’ll dance through the pain.”

I’ll dance through the pain.

“Honey,” I said, “I don’t care what it takes–I’ll pick up extra shifts at the restaurant, teach more writing classes–we are getting you some properly fitting pointe shoes.”

“No, Mom. We can’t afford it.”

I stared at her. There were no tears. She didn’t complain.

I grabbed my keys and told her to get in the car. We drove to a store that specializes in specialty fitted pointe shoes.

Jewel’s instructor calls Jewel’s feet “shank busters.” She has beautiful, strong feet but she often breaks the shank (hard, bottom section) of the pointe shoe while dancing. She needs hard, durable shanks on her pointe shoes. The problem is that with her corns, Jewel needs a softer shoe with a wider toe box.

This means we have to buy pointe shoes that will only last through one or two auditions.

When Jewel put on the better pointe shoes, her face broke into a smile. She went up on pointe and said: “Wow! These feel so good! It doesn’t hurt at all!”

And, here is every parents’ dilemma: do we funnel family resources toward the one child who exhibits talented potential or do we more fairly spread out the resources, regardless of individual gifting?

I bought the shoes. Because for now, for today, she lives in that tiny window of ballet opportunity.

Yes, ballet is a short-lived dream. But it is pristine beauty. Ballet is the ephemeral now. And this now is all we have.

An update on my ballerina

I’m deeply ensconced in book writing. Just hit 11,000 words. I am so proud of it this time. I really feel like this is my very best work. I can’t wait for you to read this book!

In the meantime, I wanted to give you a little update on my ballerina. So many of you generously helped send Jewel to American Ballet Theatre this past summer. She learned so much and has continued to grow in grace and strength. The summer intensive was crucial in her training and we were so grateful for your support!

Ballet is her passion. Did I also mention she’s a straight-A student? She’s the kind of young woman I wanted to be at her age. Yes, I’m bragging. Forgive me, I’m just so proud of her.

She has continued cleaning her ballet studio to help pay for lessons. She does this without complaint. She is also on a ballet team and will be competing in the Youth American Grand Prix in January. It’s a true honor to watch her develop into a beautiful dancer and a gracious, hardworking young woman.

I was never allowed to take dance lessons as a child. It went against my parents’ modesty rules. If there is one thing for which I am deeply grateful now, it is that my own daughter is free to pursue her dreams. Freedom is so sweet.

My daughter had these pictures taken in preparation for upcoming audition season and I thought it would be fun to share them with you. Thank you for sharing in our journey. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

All pictures taken by Sharyn of At Play Photography.


Weeping Beauty

Ballet is exquisite, living art. It is a transcendent combination of music and movement. What gives ballet its luminous magic is that these dancers perform nearly impossible, supremely difficult steps and make it look effortless, light as air, ethereal.

It is the kind of beauty that makes me weep. This past weekend I took my ballerina to Swan Lake. During the pas de deux, I was simply transported. I lost all sense of time and space and was wholly encompassed by something–something I can only describe as an experience of pure beauty.

Everything fell away. All my worries about my book, all my heartbreak, all my fretting. It simply fell away, sloughed off me like dead skin.

And of course, I wept.

It was the weeping of relief, of letting go, of realizing that no matter what happens–He makes all things beautiful…

Beauty lifted me.

Ephemeral Now

Hope deferred makes the heart sick and now I know what that means. Remember, they said, always live for eternity and so I toiled for some future time, some future place. I never learned how to live in this beautiful now, this fleeting, ephemeral now.

My daughter, my love, forgive me. I disciplined you for “the sake of eternity” but in so doing, I stole a few of your fleeting nows. How could I do this?

Because it was done to me. What was it Maya Angelou said? We do what we know to do and when we know better, we do better…

I didn’t know better.

But I do now.

Today is the day of salvation and each day you save me. You dance with holy fire and it consumes me.

I know you’ve heard the naysayers, critics. Pfft, they say. Dance, what a waste of time!

But what is time except all these fleeting, ephemeral nows? And why not waste them on beauty? Why not waste them on art?

Beauty is all we have left, really. And for me, it is the one last thing that reminds me of God. Maybe, if He’s still there, He gave me you–and your beautiful dance.

Next week you enter American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive and today you told me you’re scared. My love, fear is a gift especially when we are practicing our art. When I write something scary and my hands begin to shake, I know something good is happening. I write into the fear.

Beloved, dance into the fear.

Be not afraid to waste your nows on beauty, on art, on this one, fleeting ephemeral moment.

Because in the end, this NOW is all we have.

**NOTE: my heart is weary from Monday’s comment box, so comments are closed today. But I wanted you to know how grateful Jewel is for each and every one of you who so graciously helped send her to this upcoming ABT intensive. I will be posting updates as she dances through this journey. Thank you. And much love…

Since when did LITTLE GIRL dance competitions turn into booty-grinding, skankerdoodle stripaloozas?

My ballerina performed in a big dance competition last weekend. I was expecting fierce ballet rivalry but her team scored a few top awards. Why? Two simple reasons: 1. They’re good and, 2. 99% of the competing dances were a glut of skanked-out, booty-shaking, hooker grinding strip-a-paloozas.

I mean, the sheer lack of serious ballet competitors certainly made my ballerina’s team stand out–but so what? They competed against a boatload of crap. Where’s the glory in that? It wasn’t difficult to pick out the dancers who relied on skill and technique vs. the dancers who relied on fishnet stockings and shaking it like a Polaroid picture.

Even so, there was a sense of validation in knowing dance judges still appreciate old-school classical dance and that proper ballet training still matters.

Gauging from what I saw, a whole lotta parents are prepping their daughters for thriving careers…in strip clubs. You know, just making their (Pimp) Daddy proud!

I was so astonished by the wolf-whistles and cat-calls coming from parents in the audience that couldn’t help but wonder: am I totally out of touch?

I mean, I had no idea that pimping out a five year-old in hooker getup was–as I overheard a doting mother call it– “cute.” In my book that’s not cute, that’s called child exploitation. But if I dare question costume choice or butt-grinding moves, I’m called “pretentious,” “prudish” and my personal favorite: “elitist.” Yes, elitist.

This is where we are today, folks: refraining from shaking your ass in the audience’s face is elitist.


What really amuses me, though, are people who ask me if I ever worry about my ballerina because, you know, ballet is so strict. Why, yes. I’m very worried about my daughter’s aversion to booty-grinding. It keeps me up at night, har har.

You know what truly worries me? Watching a troupe of 8 year old little girls slap their grinding behinds while winking at the audience over their shoulders. I’m supposed to applaud this? I feel like I should be calling Child Protective Services.

What’s next? Kindergartners swinging on strip poles?

Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t we just lay out the welcome mat for every single pedophile within a 50 mile radius and invite them to come snap pictures of our gussied-up baby girls winking at them?

After watching a veritable parade of strip-teasing, it was a blessed relief to watch my ballerina’s team perform with elegance, grace and skill.

Last time she attended a competition, a dance judge approached our team and expressed her joy at watching “real, classical ballet.” In fact, she gave my ballerina’s team The Judge’s Award.

When this weekend’s show was finally over and we were driving home, my ballerina and her friend were discussing the dismissive remarks they’d heard other dancers say about ballet. Ballet, they’d been told, was boring. Like, yawn. Like, OMG, whatevs.

“They have no idea how hard it is to do a fuette,” my ballerina said.

Aye, there’s the rub. Ballet is hard. In fact, it’s damn near impossible. It requires years of training, years of discipline, years of sold-out commitment. There’s no immediate gratification in ballet. Furthermore, a ballet career is short and it probably won’t make you rich (at least, in America).

Booty-shaking, by comparison, is easy. Anyone can shake what their Mama gave them. And yeah, maybe you’ll get thunderous applause and wolf-whistles. You might even get rich–of course, you’ll be easily forgotten.

After all, if you’ve seen one butt, you’ve seen ‘em all.

Ballet, however, offers something exquisitely rare: the opportunity–however fleeting–to create shimmering moments of immortal art. 

Ballet elevates humanity. It never debases or dehumanizes. The very effort and discipline of dancing ballet–even if never danced professionally–is a quest for something worthy, noble and truly beautiful.

So, let them call you pretentious. Let them call you elitist. And boring.
Just keep tying those pointe shoes, sweetheart.

Because history rarely remembers the revelers of raunch, the peddlers of putridity.

But true art lasts forever.

Dancer Passionista

“Dad’s shaving cream makes me smell like a guy,” my ballerina remarks one day after showering in my bathroom.

“Did you use his shaving cream on your legs?” I ask.

“There was nothing else to use!” she explains, slouching against my bedroom door–all wet, drippy hair and exasperated sighs. “I need to shave for ballet, but I don’t really have a razor or shaving cream that works for me!”

I chuckle, remembering my own first attempts at shaving, perched on my mother’s bathroom sink, lathering up my legs with a bar of soap. More often than not, I ended up with little red bumps and dry skin.

“I’ll try and find something that’ll work better for you, OK?” I say. “Maybe a razor and shaving cream made for women.”

She sighs, nodding.

I clip coupons and purchase a couple different kinds of razors, hoping we’ll find something that works. She tries them out but none of them seems to consistently work for her. Either the razor base is too narrow or the handle too slippery. She gets frustrated by how loosely attached the razor heads are and hates having to scramble around the shower after they accidentally pop off.

Eventually I notice she’s still not shaving regularly–which is a problem when it comes to ballet. As a passionate dancer who was recently accepted to American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive, she understands the need for maintaining a clean, crisp appearance. She always wants to look her best and present a professional, serious look for her teacher.

But shaving has become an exercise in frustration. Something has to change.

This week we tried the Venus Embrace razor and Satin Care Passionista Fruit shaving gel.

At first, Jewel was skeptical. “Another razor?” she said.

“Yeah,” I answered, “except this one is specifically made for new shavers.”

She cocked an eyebrow, turning the razor over in its package. “I guess we can try it.”

Her skepticism quickly turned to delight, especially when she smelled the shaving gel’s sparkling, fruity scent.

Satin Care Passionista Fruit lathered up beautifully–without the overwhelming billows of other brands we’d tried. Jewel especially appreciated how easily the Venus Embrace razor glided through the shaving cream.

With 5 replaceable blades, a Ribbon of Moisture, and a soft grip, pink handle, the razor is designed to provide a comfortable, super close shave.

“Those other razors left behind little hairs,” she said. “This one shaves really close.”

Best of all, she loved the lingering apricot scent after she finished shaving.

No more smelling like a guy!

American Ballet Theatre, here she comes!

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If you have a first-time shaver in your home, you should check out some of these great tips.†