Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dance Partners

I've had three dance partners in my life, each so very different.

The first was my father.  When I was twelve, our church held a Daddy Daughter Dance in which the leaders called out dances the fathers were supposed to teach their daughters.  Thank heavens my father could already dance before we got there!  Instead of the my dad being taught by the helpful people walking around, he could spend his time teaching me.  Skillfully, patiently, he taught me the steps to first the Swing, then the Foxtrot, and finally the Waltz.  Instead of looking at our feet, my father taught me to look up and follow his lead.  He danced me around the church's gymnasium floor, where other shoes were squeaking on the waxed floor and stumbling over each other.  He led me under the raised basketball hoops and past the stage where the little children held their plays.  With his guidance, I felt graceful and elegant in my most awkward stage of life.  It helped that I had had many years of dance and had even learned a bit of the Waltz prior to that evening, but I felt like a shining star that night.  Not only could I dance, but my father looked in control and skilled at it.  It is one of the few good memories I have in which my father is included.

My next partner was... wait... am I allowed to use real names?  We'll call him.... Brad Dutch (anyone who knows the man about whom I'm typing is probably giggling right now).  Shortly after the Daddy Daughter Dance, the church decided to put on a massive show with the youth being the performers.  It was to be held in the Tacoma Dome and churches from around the area were all being taught the same dances so we could perform together.  We learned all sorts of dances - an all girls dance which was choreographed and included cheerleader skirts and pompoms, the swing, and... I'm sure there were others, but I don't remember them at all.  I know we had hand-made costumes - I still have the red and black flapper costume which was dripping with red fringe.  In all honesty, the Swing was the only one that mattered.

And it was because of Brad.  He was an older man (he had a driver's license!), he was kind and intelligent, and he was the bishop's son.  **swoon**  What a catch!  Unfortunately, since he was so much older than me, I knew I didn't have a chance with him (which became ultimately funny when I eventually married a man 11 and a half years my senior).  Back to the Swing... Brad and I were paired together because... well, because we were awesome.  We were so far ahead of our peers that while they were trying to master the Slow, Slow, Quick-quick, we were practicing him tossing me over his back.  While others were desperate to not step on each others' toes, we were trying to figure out moves we'd seen but had never been taught (I never did get my feet to kick straight up in the air over his head, but not for a lack of trying).  When I danced with him, I had so much fun!  I worked hard, but it was so worth it!  Not only were we accomplishing things I'd never done before, but the way he threw me around made me feel as if my considerable size (I've never been a small girl) wasn't an issue for him.  And, of course, I adored the attention our actions garnered from those around us.

My last dance partner, however, was by far my favorite.  We'll call him Hans.  In my junior year, the senior class (my brother's class) had a foreign exchange student from Germany.  He just happened to be a professional dancer.  When the seniors realized the asset they had, a small group of them got together, found a room at a dance studio they could borrow, and organized weekly dance classes.  I don't remember how it came about, but I ended up being Hans' assistant dance teacher.  I would walk around the mirror-lined room, teaching, helping, pointing, and showing individual students how to do the dance of the evening.  I could teach the individual steps - I had even learned enough about the dances that I could show the guys how to do their part (except for the leading part - I still don't understand the magic of leading).  It was fun and again made me feel special.

But, my favorite part came after the students left.  Each night, after class, Hans would take me in his arms and make sure I knew the dance for the next week.  If I didn't know it, it was usually just a 5 minute lesson (dancing has always come easily for me).  One night, he asked if I knew how to do the Viennese Waltz.  I told him that I had done the Waltz, but never the Viennese one.  He set the music playing and took me in his arms.

Now, with my previous dance partners, my frame was never even mentioned.  Hans, however, took my frame very seriously and had enforced it during our weeks together.  I was very thankful that I had learned about my frame and had learned to use it.  I think it might have saved my life that night!  As I listened to the first few bars of the music to get a feel for it, I realized it was extremely fast.  Before I had a chance to chicken out, Hans had me moving across the floor, our frames locking me firmly in place.

I say that quite literally.  Had it not been for my frame, I can easily picture me flying across the floor and through the wall of mirrors.  Hans had me twirling about the room faster than I could have imagined.  Between my years of dancing, our two strong frames, and his knowledge and skill, I was able to stay upright on my feet with them moving gracefully to the music.  I quite literally had no control.  Had Hans let go of me, I would have flown to my death.  He wheeled me around the room as if I was a marionette on a string.  When the song was done, I was breathless and exhilarated.  I had never done anything so elegant before.  I had never experienced such a complete lack of control of my body, while being polished and lovely.  I wish it had been video taped because I wonder if it looked at all like it felt.  It felt like I looked the part of a professional dancer.  I felt like I was practically hovering on the wooden floor.  Did I look awkward, or did I look as picture-perfect as I felt?  Of course, I had nothing to do with it, but it still felt amazing!

I haven't had a decent dance partner since.  My husband only took me dancing once.  I divorced him.  My last boyfriend took me dancing a number of times, and each time I was embarrassed to be seen with him.  He didn't last very long.  Is it too much to ask that a guy know how to dance?  I guess Hans has set the dance barre pretty high.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


For those of you who missed it - my birthday was last Tuesday.  It was a fairly quiet affair.  My son and I had dinner at the local Mongolian Grill and my mother fought traffic just so she could give me a birthday hug.  I got a couple of gifts at work, but other than that, it was fairly uneventful.

Which is okay, because my family planned on celebrating my birthday on Saturday (yesterday).  We normally don't celebrate things on the correct day.  My son is frequently at his father's house for his birthday, so we celebrate early or late (once, it was months late so he could have a summer birthday).  I don't remember the last time Christmas was celebrated on December 25th.  This year, it was celebrated in January.  So, having my birthday party a few days late wasn't unexpected.

My mother had previously asked me what I want to do.  I told her I want an experience.  My life is just so mundane, right now, so boring.  I really wanted to do something different, make some memories.  We went through a list of things I would like to do: go to a live show, go to the observation deck at the Space Needle (I've lived here how long and have never done that?!), eat a meal where you watch them cook it, etc.  I told her I'd love for it to be a surprise.

A few days later, she told me to dress in business casual, but layer and bring my walking shoes.  What in the world did they have planned?!  She wouldn't even tell my son what we were doing, and he's pretty good about keeping secrets.

The morning of, she stopped by to pick my son and I up and then took us to my sister's house to pick her up.  She took the back road to Seattle. The scenery opened up and I found that we were at the Seattle Center.  And we were pulling into the Space Needle Parking!  Yay!  I get to see the observation deck!  Wait - do you get valet parking to go to the observation deck?  It quickly became apparent that we were eating there.  Oh my heavens!  I never would have expected that!

Giddy with excitement, I made my way through the gift shop to the receptionist.  My mother gave her name and was given a card and instructions to go to the elevator.  There was a woman waiting there to answer any questions, etc.  The elevator had some windows so even the trip up had a view.  It was all just so fancy!

We arrived at the top where my mother requested a window seat.  As we stepped onto the revolving floor, I had to become adjusted to the movement.  It was quite slow, so motion sickness wasn't really an issue, but it did take a moment to adjust.  I was glad we were given a window seat - the view was astounding!  It was cloudy out, so it was like Seattle was encased in a cocoon.  I could see all of the surrounding parts of the city, but it was like we were our own little city, protected from the rest of the world.

After I sat, my sister explained what was going on.  We were having the brunch, so I was to pick one juice, one Starter, one Main Course, and one Dessert.  Looking at everything, I wondered how I could ever decide.  I'm a foodie, so just looking at the menu was a treat - seeing the combination of foods, wondering what they could taste like.  I finally decided: apple juice, shrimp with grains and red onion bacon jam (?!), wild king salmon with hazelnut sauce, and cranberry bread pudding.

As we waited, we watched Seattle go by.  As we turned, little scraps of paper we set on the wall - people leaving messages (jokes, questions, etc.) for others to enjoy.  I found it quite amusing that this would be a part of this fancy-schmancy restaurant.  According to what my sister said, this is normal, making me laugh.

A man came by with a camera, asking if we wanted our picture taken.  Now, my mother has taught me that if you have to ask the price, it's probably too expensive, so I told them I didn't need a picture.  My sister insisted that we did.  We posed for a couple of pictures and the man gave my sister some cards before walking off.

The juice and basket of breads arrived, starting our culinary adventure.  It sounds weird, and anyone who's never experienced this won't understand, but it was the best apple juice I've ever had in my life!  I'm not a fan of apple juice, but my son adores it.  He'll go through an entire jug all by himself because I simply don't care much for it.  The apple juice at this restaurant was simply the best I've ever had!  It was light and sweet and tasted of apples instead of bottled apple juice. The basket of bread was also special - slices of some sort of glazed sweet bread, scones, and biscotti.   Of course, I had the sweet bread.  Yum!  The bread was moist and dense, the tart fruit inside a bright flavor, and the sweet glaze balancing it out.  I'm not normally a fan of glaze, but it worked nicely on this bread.

The first course was served - I received a small ramekin with two shrimp floating atop some unidentifiable grains (flax was the only one I could make out) with a puddle of dark good in the middle.  Trying the grains first, I found that they were savory.  Since I was prepared for a breakfast-like grain (think "oatmeal") I was expecting sweet.  The cheesy, savory flavor of the grains was a happy surprise.  Next, I tried the red onion bacon jam.  And my world was forever changed.  Now, I'm a fan of bacon, but this was out of this world!  The onions were the predominant flavor, but the bacon and whatever it was they had used to sweeten it all combined to make a tiny bit of heaven.  Next, the shrimp.  Now, I'm a good cook, but for some reason, I have a hard time with seafood - almost always overcooking it.  This was perfectly cooked and very lightly flavored so the other tastes in the dish could compliment it.  And this was just the starter!

Our dishes were removed, giving us some time to take pictures out of the wall of windows.  Since the Seahawks are going to be in the NFC Championship game today, there was a plane flying the "12th Man" banner behind his aircraft.  I don't like football, but it still felt important to get the picture.

And then the main dish was brought to us.  My salmon perched atop some wilted greens, which were resting on some tiny potatoes which were setting helter-skelter on a hazelnut sauce.  Now, I am not one for my food to touch.  My mother bought me some divider plates a few years back and I use them all the time.  For all of my food to be touching was a little unsettling.  I carefully removed the fish and set it to the side.  Looking at the greens, I took a deep breath and tried my first bite (I am really not one for cooked greens!)  I found it to be quite tasty!  The chef is a miracle worker if he can even let me enjoy cooked greens!  I downed a lot of them before trying the potatoes.  Eh.  They're potatoes.  They were better with the sauce, but I'm not as big into carbs/starches as a lot of women seem to be.  And then the salmon.  It was perfectly cooked with a wonderful flavor that wasn't too fishy.  When I swooped it through the sauce, it took it to a whole other level.  Yum!  Our plates were removed, giving us more time to look at the city and take pictures.

And then dessert arrived.  Three of us had ordered dessert, but my mother had said we want the "special dessert."  My sister, son, and I were given our desserts, and then a dish was set in front of my mother.  It was immediately obvious what it was special.  I wasn't sure what it was, but the dish was ... special.  Before I knew what was happening, the waitress poured something into the dish and a thick fog quickly covered our table.  Grabbing my camera, I snapped a few pictures of it.

Now, I'm not one to be singled out.  Please, oh please, don't sing Happy Birthday to me in the middle of a crowded restaurant.  But, I do like some attention.  This dessert was absolutely perfect - our table was the center of attention for about 20 seconds, but all eyes weren't trained on me.  It was quite lovely!

The bread pudding was yummy.  It had pieces of fruit in it with a crusty top - like they had taken a torch to some sugar and a mound of vanilla ice cream happily sat atop that.  Yum!

I have to mention that the wait staff were all amazing!  Actually, everyone who worked there were helpful, friendly, and were very good at their jobs.  Customer service is a big part of an experience like that, and they did a great job!

When we were all done, we went to the observation deck.  We toured the whole thing, chatting, pointing out bits of Seattle, and taking pictures.

When we had made it all the way around, we went inside and found the photo kiosk.  Oh - we did use the restrooms.  I only mention this because even the signs for the restrooms were fancy - the stick figures of the man and woman denoting which was which was much more than the normal figures. They were dressed to the nines - fancy hats, tie, etc.  It was cool!

Back to the photo kiosk.  How crazy expensive was this going to be?!  I was so pleasantly surprised to find that you could e-mail the picture to yourself at absolutely no cost!  What?!  How great!  Since I collect keyrings, I wanted the photo in a keyring.  I was surprised that it was relatively inexpensive.  I mean, I was going to get one anyway.  This way, I got a very personalized keyring at a decent price.  I was ecstatic!  I paid at the kiosk and had the receipt e-mailed to myself.  The next screen told me that I could pick up my gift in the gift shop downstairs.

Back down to Earth we went, watching the view as the ground rushed up to meet us.  I realized then that my stomach didn't feel the trip either time (you know how sometimes elevators can make you feel like you left your tummy behind?)  We stepped off and I made a beeline for my keyring.  It was great!  I signed the credit card slip and took my treasure.  We cruised through the giftshp to find my son a souvenir.  I was pleasantly surprised at the prices.  I thought things would be ridiculously expensive but they were all fairly priced.  Yay!  We picked up a few more trinkets and were on our way.

Back at my sister's house, I opened my birthday gifts (the meal would have been gift enough, but I still got to open presents!)  I received some things I needed, some things I wanted, and a special culinary treat I hadn't expected, homemade by my mother.

All in all, it was a very good day!

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I keep asking myself why he opened the door.  He knows that after I watched "Unbreakable" I don't want him opening the door to strangers.  Sure, he's 6'1", but he's still my son and I don't even open the door to strangers after watching that movie.  Why, oh why did he open the door?

The man stood there, demanding to come in.  Of course, my son didn't let him past the threshold, but it was terrifying having this man we had never seen before making such demands on him.  I picked up the cordless phone and rushed to my son's side to give him back-up, in case anything should happen.  I dialed the 9 and the 1, my finger poised over the other 1, knowing my phone would connect the moment I hit that third button (it was set to practically dial 911 on its own).

As we stood there, trying to close the door, the man putting his body in the way so we weren't able to, another man appeared in my living room from my hallway.  Shock rendered me speechless.  In his hands, he held my purse, pulling out my wallet.  Shouldering his way past my son and I, he and his partner walked into the night, their guffaws making my blood boil.  I hit the final 1 on my phone and followed them into my yard.  Another surprise met me when I saw that my garage door was open.  Out of it, my car was backing.

Without thinking, I ran and flew until my torso was on the roof of my car.  Unable to maintain my position, I slid down so that I was lying face first on my hood, looking into my car.  Behind the wheel sat Molly Shannon.  Now, I've never really been a fan of hers, but now I really hated her!  She was stealing my car!

I heard a voice coming through the phone which was still in my hand.  "Molly Shannon is stealing my car!" I screamed into the handset.  "I know it sounds like a prank, but it's not!  Molly Shannon is stealing my car!"  It sounded so absurd, even to me, and I didn't know how to make them believe me.

Finally, my brain kicked in.  I was risking my life for a car whose Blue Book value was probably around $2,000.  I slid off my only mode of transportation and watched it drive away.  To my utter glee, about half a block down, I saw a light shining down on it from the heavens.  A helicopter was spotlighting it and the squadron of police cars blocked the road so she was trapped.  My car was returned to me and Molly Shannon and her cohorts were taken away in handcuffs.  Yay!

I awoke in the middle of the night, being yanked out of bed by my hair.  Thinking quickly, I grabbed the fork which was sitting on my nightstand.  I jabbed the tines of the fork into Molly Shannon's neck, but her skin was so tough that the utensil didn't even break her skin.  I snatched my mom's steak knife from my nightstand and with one quick stroke, I severed Molly Shannon's jugular, leaving her bleeding out in my room as I dashed toward my son's room.

On the way, I grabbed my shotgun and loaded it.  Terror gripped me when I saw that my son wasn't in his room.  I raced to the living room where I saw Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum standing there, menacing looks on their faces.  Dee had my son's back pressed against his chest, a small knife at my son's jugular.  Without thinking, I quickly dispatched Dum.  I was careful not to look at him after pulling the trigger.  My peripheral vision told me that he was down and wasn't going to get up.  I didn't need to see the aftermath.

Now, what to do with Dee?  I had to get my son safely away from him.  I put my hands in front of me, palms facing each other, fingertips down.  Slowly, I raised them so they were overlapping and parallel with the floor.  I hoped my son would understand that I wanted him to drop and sit criss-cross applesauce.

Thankfully, he understood.  Quicker than I could have imagined, he thrust his hand up between Dee's arm and his own neck and then dropped to the floor, curling himself into a small ball.  The moment he did, I pulled the trigger and watched the man's body crumple to the floor.

I quickly took my son's hand and we walked out of my house.  Clearly, it was self defense, but I would always know that I had taken three lives that night.  I would have to send a cleaning crew in after the cops had done there thing.  I didn't want to deal with... any of it.  Or, we could move.  I wondered if I could ever feel secure in that house again.

When I woke, my heartbeat was racing and I was breathing as if I'd run a marathon.  It sucks to wake from a nightmare like that at 3:00 in the morning!