Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dance Mom

When I entered the living room the two of them were sitting side by side; eyes affixed to the television.  They hardly noticed my entrance. 

“Do you think Chloe is going to be at the top of the pyramid this week?”  My husband asked.

“She deserves it, but I bet Abby will pick Nia just to see what Christi does.” 

I looked at the two of them sitting there watching the Abby Lee Dance Company’s weekly drama and I had to wonder when my husband went from Mr. soccer, tennis, volleyball coach extraordinaire to dance mom?  I started to ask the two of them what they wanted for dinner but was immediately shushed into silence. 

“Fine”  I said to myself, “I’ll just make my own dinner and you two can starve.” 

They continued to be transfixed by Abby’s pyramid of rising and falling stars and the drama mommas contending for top billing with their daughters. 

“Girl, you could dance circles around Kendall!” My husband joked with Lulu.

“Daaad, you’re just saying that!” Lulu rolled her eyes at her father.

Taking in this scene, I suddenly felt so left out!  Isn’t it supposed to be ME that’s the dance mom?  Aren’t I supposed to fill this vital role of living vicariously through my daughter’s life?  Again, I wondered when I moved to the outside and my husband moved to the inside of Lulu’s life.

It really happened slowly.  I kept getting sicker and sicker and unable to do all the things I used to do.  I had trouble going places due to my constant stomach problems and frequent need for a nearby bathroom.  Add to that a knee that enjoyed giving out on me on the stairs and in the grocery store necessitating my turning over the everyday reigns to my husband. 

When I went into the hospital for the third time in three months, I think a part of me just gave up inside.  I guess it was then that Bill became the dance mom and I just faded out of the picture. 

I don’t give my husband half the credit he deserves.  When others might have cracked under the pressure, he just took up the slack and never complained.  Over these past months, he has taken over the laundry, the cleaning and the shopping.  He’s run all the errands and has run me from one doctor to the other.  He has nursed me and my knee - catering to my every need.  He has taken care of Lulu too - again never complaining or making me feel bad.

He didn’t have to make me feel bad; I was doing a great job of that all by myself.  In fact, I have elevated “pity party” to a whole new level.  While he was breaking a sweat running hither and thither, I was breaking down in my bed crying over my inability to get anything done. 

“Lulu, Where’s dad?” I’d yell from my bedroom.  Then I’d hear the tractor going and I’d know he was mowing the five acres.  Later, I’d ask Lulu the same question and she’d say he’s grocery shopping for gluten free food for me or doing laundry. 

So, what did I do for this man during this time of trouble?  I complained of course!  I complained that he and I had no “quality time” together.  I said I missed him.  Missed him!  Of course I missed him!  He didn’t stay still for more than five seconds and when he finally crawled into bed at the end of the day, he passed out from exhaustion. 

Today, I was finally able to drive Lulu to dance.  Sitting in the waiting room, it occurred to me that I was sitting in the waiting room!  That was a big victory in my life.  I wasn’t looking frantically for a bathroom to run to and, if the need arose for me to run to the bathroom, I’d be able to at least walk on my new knee. 

I know that I can never repay my husband for being a great dance mom.  I know that words would never be adequate to express to him how much I appreciate his loyalty to me during these difficult months.  All I know is that I am blessed to have someone who loves me through my grouchy, pitiful, complaining, nagging self.  He loves me in spite of me. 

It hasn’t been easy.  I know that he has given up so much of his time willingly and freely to care for me.  I know that he took the vow, “in sickness and in health” earnestly and for that I am eternally grateful.  We just celebrated 29 years of marriage with a walk in the park; something that I couldn’t do just a few weeks ago because I was still unable to put weight on my knee.  Many of those 29 years were not walks in the park but we muddled through somehow.  Isn’t that what marriage is all about?  You muddle through the rough spots and learn to appreciate and love each other along the way. 

I know I am on the road to recovery now.  As I go down this road, I want the number one dance mom by my side.  I just hope and pray the he wants to be by my side too - always and forever. 

Monday, August 4, 2014


I have the best job in the world!  Almost every day at work something happens that feeds my soul and renews my spirit.  Even on the days when I drag myself heavy burdened through the door, I most certainly leave lighter. 

I leave lighter because my burdens are lifted by joy and laughter.  Peace infuses the atmosphere and lifts up everyone who enters.  It is as if smiles are contagious and delight is the infection.

Yesterday, I was late to work because I had a meeting to attend first.  When I walked through the door, I felt like a celebrity.  Everyone came up and hugged me as if I was returning from a month long absence.  Walter looked at me with his laughing eyes and beatific smile, “I missed you, Miss Betty!” He said as he gave me a big bear hug. 

Walter is black as the ace of spades with a smile that lights up the room with its brilliance.  I often joke that we’d certainly be able to find Walter in a blackout.  It’s true - few smiles could match the intensity of Walter’s radiance. 

One might question what Walter has to smile about.  He has little to his name.  With his bent frame, he relies on his walker to assist his slow movements.  He is considered “developmentally disabled” - a label that has defined and marred his life.  Yet, despite these limitations, Walter is always cheerful. His good humor is contagious to everyone who has the pleasure to be in his company. He especially lights up when I enter the room.  His greeting and my response are always the same:

“I love YOU, Miss Betty!” Walter says as his enthusiastic smile fills the room with radiant joy. 

“I love you, too, Walter!” is always my response.

For a time, there was a sadness - an empty vacancy that hung in the air at the workshop.  I was told by the volunteers that things just weren’t the same.  I was out for about three weeks due to knee surgery.  Walter seemed to miss me most - according to the volunteers, even his smile lost some of its sparkle. 

He didn’t despair, though.  He prayed.  His humble and trusting prayer was a simple request to bring me healing so that I could return to the workshop.  Then, one day, I came through the door with a walker - just like Walters.  His face immediately lit up.

Of course, the first words out of his mouth were: “I love YOU, Miss Betty!”

I hugged him, taking his calloused hand in mine.  “I love you too, Walter.” 

“I prayed for you, Miss Betty.”  He tells me in his resolute voice.  “I knew you’d get better!”

He holds on tight as if his grip on me is the only thing keeping me from melting away.  In his grip I sense a special connection between us.  Kindred spirits perhaps from some bygone soul bond.

“Thank you, Walter for your prayers.”  My words sound so inadequate as I speak them.

I knew that Walter’s prayers were the prayers of a humble childlike spirit - the kind of prayers that God longs to hear from all of us.  I knew, too, that it wasn’t just Walter’s prayers that brought me back to the helm of the workshop.  It was the prayers of all my Exceptional Entrepreneurs and my volunteers to whom I am forever grateful. 

As I survey my surroundings, I see Josh painstakingly painting his flowers with such intensity that he appears oblivious to the commotion of the workshop.  He looks up momentarily from his painting and gives me a wave and a smile as if to say, “I’m so glad you’re back.” 

Tina and Terri (sisters) are by my side awaiting instructions - I call them my shadows.  Allison is gluing beads on vinyl fish, Jason is sewing on the industrial machine, Tito is watering worms, Chris is feeding worms and Ricky is vacuuming.  To the casual observer, it appears like a regular workplace, but there is nothing regular about this workplace.  None of the Exceptional Entrepreneurs could get a job elsewhere so they’ve come here.  Here they are all busy and productive.  Here, everyone is happy.

“Walter, you better get back to work.  You have orders to fill”  I tell him as I take a seat and Terri magically appears with a pillow for me to prop up my sore knee.

Walter takes up his loom and returns to his patient work making potholders to sell for $2.00 each.  He works with steady intent knowing that each potholder has a special person anticipating the finished creation.  And, indeed, each potholder is sold daily as Walter rides his three-wheeled bike through his neighborhood peddling his wares. 

Walter is a simple man with a pure heart.  He is the embodiment of all the special people who work at the Exceptional Entrepreneurs workshop. It is a place of great joy and great love and great peace. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Matthew 5: 8-9