Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bah Humbug!

Christmas has come and gone and the new year looms on the horizon. I dutifully trotted out the decorations and made the house look festive. I spent an obscene amount of time handcrafting holiday cards to send to friends and family. I even dug up my old collection of Christmas music (vinyl records, not CDs) and played them ad nauseum. I did all this in the hope of stoking the fires of Christmas past because, to be brutally honest, Christmas-y is the last thing I've been feeling. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one not in the holiday mood. Seems everyone in my household was just going through the motions, hoping for something to jumpstart them and put them in the right spirit...a sort of Christmas defibrillation. It didn't happen.

I'm not sure what everyone else's excuse for the apathy was but I know one of my reasons. I received a call several weeks ago from my aunt to tell me that she and my uncle were unexpectedly moving to Florida to live near their son. Under normal circumstances this would not be such a big deal but the circumstances here are a bit different. They're not leaving because this is a choice they wanted to make...they're leaving because they can no longer afford to live in Brooklyn. The cost of living here has escalated to the point that they can no longer survive on their fixed incomes. They were renters, subject to the whims of their landlord and the real estate market. A rent increase scheduled to take effect at the beginning of January was the straw that broke their financial back.

To complicate matters, my uncle has recently succumbed to a debilitating bout of depression that has caused him to withdraw from any sort of normal social contact. He has been in this state for seven months with no sign of improvement. Now he must relocate in the middle of his treatment and essentially start all over again when he arrives in Florida. This alone will set his progress back. The fact that he doesn't want to move makes him even more depressed.

For my part, I have been living a dual existence. Outwardly I appear to be conducting myself as usual but inwardly I have been extremely sad about this whole state of affairs. In my alone time I have cried bitterly, bemoaning the loss of my beloved family members. We have never been more than a short car ride away from one another. Now they'll be moving to Florida which, for me, may as well be the Far East.

On January 2 they will be leaving the cold New York winter behind for the warmth of Florida, miles away from us. The day before, on January 1, I will be hosting an New Year's Day brunch in my home and have invited all of the clan to help greet the new year and bid bon voyage to our loved ones. I imagine this gathering will be crowded, loud, noisy and run the gamut of emotions from great joy to great sorrow. I am happy at the prospect of seeing everyone together at an event that is neither a wedding nor a funeral yet I am sad that this may be the last holiday we will spend near my aunt and uncle. But the dice have been cast and events have been set into motion. There is nothing more to do but go with the flow.

I am not happy.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Milestone Reached...

On Saturday, November 29th, we celebrated my youngest daughter's sixteenth birthday. It was a milestone on several fronts. The most obvious one is that of my daughter having reached that magic age where the everything begins to open up before her and her womanhood now becomes a focal point for the world at large. Then there is the fact that she reached that magic age relatively unscathed by the slings and arrows of childhood and early adolescence. By that I mean no fights at school, no squabbles at summer camp (altercations with her siblings don't count), no pregnancies, drugs or alcohol, no gang activity, etc. Not for one moment do I take for granted the fact that although my kids give me grief and back talk sometimes, they are great kids. When I think of the parents wondering where their children are, what they are doing and who they are doing it with, I thank God every day for the kids I have.

The most important milestone in my book is that my empty nest countdown has begun. In the not-so-distant future I can look forward to not having progeny underfoot, to not having to work my schedule around the needs of my children, to doing first and foremost for myself. True, there are still quite a few years before my children will be totally on their own, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel that signals freedom from excessive cell phone charges, sibling squabbles and piles of laundry. Oh, I don't expect that any of that will come to a stop...just that it will be taking place at their place, not mine.

Wanting my children out of my house is not to say that I want them out of my life. I just recognize that as long as they hang around, I will revert to our established modes of behavior, i.e., "I'm the mommy, you're the child and you'll do as you're told as long as you're in my house", and they will understandably resent it. They need autonomy. They need their own space. They need to live in their own squalor to understand the value of a clean home and fresh laundry. They need to work, pay bills, make mistakes and learn to be adults. They need to fly without a net into that scary wild blue yonder.

Yep, my baby is sixteen and I'm going to savor these last years before my kids are gone. The countdown has begun.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
-Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Junk Food Wisdom

Nearly 10 years ago I remember imbibing one of my favorite brands of flavored sugar water masquerading as fruit juice. While the drink itself was somewhat forgettable, the brand was one of those that prints sayings inside the bottle cap. I usually threw them away after reading them but there was one that struck a chord with me so I chose to keep it. It read, "If it is to be, it is up to me." At the time, I was working at Brooklyn College, the place where I began but never completed my higher education about 25 years earlier. I had been toying with the idea of returning to finish my degree but kept making excuses and getting in my own way.

Then that bottle cap appeared. I placed that cap in my desk and would peek at it every so often when I needed to retrieve a pencil or a paper clip from my drawer. At some point the cap moved up from the drawer to the desk top where I would see it every day and pick it up once in a while to ponder its message. I didn't take action until a few semesters later, when I convinced myself that all my excuses didn't equal the fact that I was smarter than some of the people I was working for and the only thing that differentiated us was my lack of a sheepskin. (Historical note: Diplomas were originally written in calligraphy on sheepskin parchment, not printed on paper.)

Long story short: I returned to complete my bachelors degree and graduated in 2004. When I left my employment at Brooklyn College, I cleared out my desk and brought that bottle cap home with me, assigning it to a place of honor on my bulletin board where it still stands today. I credit that tiny bit of junk food wisdom with giving me the kick in the butt I needed to get moving on fulfilling my dream. Just goes to show you that you never know where and how inspiration will strike. You just have to listen very carefully to those whispers, wherever they may come from.

Recently I indulged in one of my favorite comfort foods -- milk chocolate. The brand I favor also prints sayings on the inside of the wrappers, many of which I have enjoyed very much. I list some of them here, in no particular order, so that you may also enjoy them.

- Live your dreams.
- Smile - people will wonder what you've been up to!
- Buy yourself flowers.
- Be fearless.
- Age is nothing but a number.
- You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
- Believe in and act on your dreams.
- Break the mold, be extraordinary!

Words of wisdom are sometimes spoken in whispers. Listen carefully.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Halloween day is my wedding anniversary and this year marks 22 years of marriage for my husband and me. The fact that we have been married this long isn't nearly as impressive as the fact that for the first time in years I actually acknowledged it. I had chosen not to celebrate an anniversary for a long time because I didn't want to put a happy face on what, for me, was a source of misery and constant unhappiness. I would even say as much to friends and family who would call to wish me a happy anniversary, so much so that they stopped calling to offer their congratulations.

This year I decided the time was right to try it again so my husband and I went out to dinner. It was far from an idyllic evening. The restaurant he intended to take me to had closed down. The next two choices had waiting lines out the door. We settled on a steakhouse that had loud music and mediocre bar service. Thankfully the wait time was fairly short and the food was fairly good. In spite of the few shortcomings of the evening, I chose to focus on my husband. Every time I would raise a glass and say "Happy Anniversary", he glowed. Of course he would never openly admit it but he was happy that I was finally acknowledging our anniversary. I think he was secretly happy that I hadn't dumped him as I had threatened to do so many times over the years. (Believe me, if it hadn't been for the kids...well, that's another story.)

This marriage has been a rough row to hoe from the very beginning. If anyone had asked me a few years ago to project its longevity, I would have said it was on life support awaiting the pulling of the plug. I'm not the same person anymore and I have a different perspective on life. Although I don't think this marriage is going to be any less rough, I think I'm better able to deal with the crap. I'm going it for the long haul.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Art Imitates Life

I recently watched an episode of "Ugly Betty", one of my favorite pieces of fluff. In it, Betty faces her high school archnemesis, Kimmy Keegan, who during a low period in her life begs Betty to help her get a job where Betty works. Although Betty tries to befriend her old enemy, she can't help reliving one of the more painful episodes suffered at Kimmy's hands. Betty becomes so fixated on that image of what happened in the past, she doesn't see what's happening in the present. When a situation occurs that reminds Betty of that painful incident, her insecurity rears it head. Instead of stepping back and calmly assessing the situation, she simply reacts, a reaction that is extreme and inappropriate. Betty immediately realizes that things were not as she imagined them to be and that she's made a terrible mistake. By then, of course, it's too late.

So why does this matter? Because I, too, have succumbed to the blindness of insecurity and have reacted extremely and imappropriately in recent occurrences with a friend which has prompted her to cut ties with me. And, like Betty, I realized too late what I had done. For me, this is indeed a very sad turn of events that could have been totally avoided if I had just taken a breath, stepped back and tried to view things in a more realistic light. I didn't see what was in front of me. I was reacting to what I thought, not to what was true.

This is a very valuable, very painful lesson, one which I will not forget. It may be too late to make amends with the friend I have lost but perhaps the sting of this wound will remind me to seek knowledge before reacting to speculation.

Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Energetic Shift

Sometimes it only takes a little change in routine to manifest a marked difference.

Last night I attended an event coordinated by Dancers Over 40, Inc. (, a non-profit organization that provides a community of support for mature dancers, choreographers and related artists. It was a tribute to Jack Cole, a master dancer/choreographer and included film clips of his choreography as well as discussions by many of his former dancers. Although I have been a member for many years, I have never attended any of the DO40 events but this one had a lot of energy surrounding it so I made it a point to be there. I almost didn't get in...the show was closed out but by a miracle I received a ticket. I'm so glad I was able to see that show. Being in the audience, surrounded by fellow dancers and other theatrical types, watching film clips of incredible choreography and seeing several DO40 members performing live was just the sort of energy boost I needed. For the first time in years I felt the excitement I use to feel when I was actively studying dance and performing. During intermission I ran into Kathy Conry, a wonderful dancer with whom I took a couple of tap classes before she left for the West Coast for nearly six months to choreograph a show. She said she had only just returned and would be calling me to resume classes. I can't wait.

In an incidence of serendipity, I met a young performer on the cancellation line who, among other things, is a practicing reconnective healer. We talked quite a while about healing arts and how this subject is gaining prominence in the universal dialogue. We exchanged cards and look forward to resuming our discussion at a later date. Also on the cancellation line I met Jaime, a fellow DO40 member who, like me, is Puerto Rican. They were among those ahead of me on line who received last minute cancellation tickets released by the box office. I felt a connection with them and was glad that I was ultimately able to join them inside the auditorium.

After the show I was energized and full of ideas. On the train home I realized how much I missed being in the flow of dance energy and how much happier I am when I have the music in me. Numerologically speaking, this is my 8 personal month. Eight is the number of taking charge of my life and making decisions. 2009 is an eight personal year for me, meaning that all the contemplation and reflection I have been doing this year is preparing me to take charge and move forward next year. I would like to think that next year I'll be dancing more, interacting with many interesting and exciting people, and moving in new directions. If my hunch is correct, I'm in for a very busy year full of things that will yield healing energy. Lord knows I'm ready, willing and in need. Bring it on.

5, 6, 7, 8...

Ballo ergo sum,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mercury Retrograde

I've been hearing (from those who are more knowledgeable in matters of astrology than I am) that we are in a period of Mercury retrograde (MR). In an effort to better understand exactly what that means, I did what anyone in this age of advanced technology would do...I googled it. There were quite a few entries with explanations of this occurrence (here's one: And for an interesting assessment of MR and its effect on Sarah Palin, check this one: Essentially, the planet Mercury, which rules over communication, appears to be moving in reverse orbit. While this phenomenon is only an optical illusion, it is significant in its effect. Communications of all kinds tend to go awry: emails get lost or misdirected, telephone lines go down, computers malfunction, people have trouble expressing themselves, making decisions or understanding what others are trying to say. In short, mis-communication is the order of the day.

So what's that got to do with me? Everything! Miscommunication has been the catch-phrase in my life for the past few weeks. No matter how carefully I explain myself, either I'm not understood properly, or my attempts are somehow misconstrued. No matter how carefully others communicate to me, I'm never sure if I've got it right so I continually ask questions in an attempt to "get it", thereby annoying the heck out of them. In those situations where communications aren't great to begin with, MR just seems to make it worse. This is a source of never-ending frustration for me that has caused a great deal of anxiety and has manifested itself as anything from intense anger to deep despair.

What to do? Retreat, relax, reassess, and wait for realignment. I have to stay focused on the bigger picture. As long as I keep other aspects of my life balanced (or as balanced as I can), time will hopefully do the rest. For some months now I have been enjoying a wonderful sense of inner calm and have been moving in a flow of serendipity and relative happiness. It doesn't make sense that all of that inner work I've been doing would just up and disappear. What does make sense is that this trying period is just a speed bump trying to slow me down and reassess what I'm doing. I just have to exercise patience, something I don't always have a large reserve of.

(Postscript: Mercury retrograde will be over on October 15. It will be the last MR for 2008.)

Waiting to exhale,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow?

For the last six weeks or so, my garden has been a study in contradictions. Usually fall follows summer in a pretty predictable pattern: food crops ripen and are harvested, leaves begin to fall in earnest, the ambient temperature drops. This year it was a little different. My peppers and tomatoes did not do very well this year although my flowers were explosively abundant. I heard the same thing regarding food crops from other gardeners in my area. The plants would bud and bloom but wouldn't set fruit.

Then in mid-August the leaves began falling off the trees in such quantities that I had to sweep them up on a daily basis, giving me reason to believe an early fall would set in. After about three weeks of this behavior, the energy shifted, seemingly from one day to the next. The falling leaves slowed to a trickle and suddenly the non-performing tomatoes fruited and swelled as if trying to play catch-up. It was as if the oncoming energy of fall was deferring to the late-blooming energy of summer, holding its breath, if you will, to give summer a chance to tend to unfinished business before resuming. This week, Summer shows her waning face during the day while Autumn cools the nights, each taking turns as if on a seesaw. Soon Autumn will take over and it will be back to business.

There have been other contradictory signs in my garden as well. While there have been reports for years about the waning bee population, this year I saw a marked increase in bee activity, at times observing as many as five different varieties of bees in my garden simultaneously. I also observed more monarch butterflies this summer than I have in the previous 17 years I have lived in my house. So with this flurry of pollinating activity going on, why didn't the crops do better?

And then there was the mystery melon. A melon vine mysteriously appeared in my garden and began to grow. Although I did not plant it, out of curiosity I allowed it to mature. Only one melon fruited, a small, softball-sized canteloupe. When it fell off the vine, I left it in the sun for about a week. I didn't think it was any good, but when I cut it open it was sweet and delicious. A totally unexpected surprise.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and take my observations a little further. This will sound a little far-fetched if not downright absurd but bear with me. The rise of Barack Obama in the presidential campaign has been an unexpected surprise for many. Polls show the popularity of the two candidates seesawing slightly, up a little one day, down a little the next. The country seems to be holding its breath, waiting for the political race to end before exhaling. Once it ends, the new president will take over and it will be back to business.

In many ways, it seems to me that the energy surrounding the events occuring in our country have been forecasted by the energy in my garden. Of course my garden experience is not the same as another's and I don't pretend to be able to divine anything by watching how my garden grows. I'm just making corresponding connections where they seem to fit.

I wonder if that flurry of busy bees and those poor tomatoes trying to catch up have anything to say about this $700 billion bailout.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Considering Autumn...

I have been privileged to be invited as a contributor to a new online radio show called The Global Almanac (airing Sundays at 6 PM on The show's focus is to educate listeners about the universal principles that govern our lives and how we can use this knowledge to our best advantage. The inaugural show took place on September 28 and among the subjects that was touched upon was the significance of autumn and how the energy of this season affects us. The direction of universal energy during autumn is down. This is reflected in the falling of leaves, in the lower position of the sun in the sky and the lessened amount of sunlight due to shorter days. It is a time when the weather cools and the emphasis is on indoor concerns.

My contribution to the radio broadcast is that of sharing the insights I have received while working on my garden. One of the most striking revelations I gleaned was when I made the connection between the garden and my home. That is to say that as I moved things around in my garden, such as uprooting plants, rearranging pots, etc., there was a corresponding energetic shift going on inside my home. After participating in Sunday's broadcast, a further insight came to me. It occurred to me that not only does the energetic shift occur within the home, it occurs within each of its occupants. We...our bodies...are home to our individual energy, our essential nature, and we are each as affected by the natural flow of energy as the plants in my garden. Just as the changes outdoors causes activities to move indoors, so do we tend to focus more on what's going on inside ourselves, physically and emotionally.

I have to wonder. Is it purely coincidental that the most festive and important celebrations take place in late fall and early winter or is it more likely a result of that internal focus? More musings some other time.

Ballo ergo sum
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Friday, September 19, 2008

An exceptional day

In my last entry, I mentioned that among the things I expected to do in the upcoming months would be assisting friends and family in those unexpected times of need. Such an opportunity came yesterday when I was called upon to escort my aunt to a post-surgical follow up appointment with her eye doctor. Under normal circumstances my cousin would have taken time from work to do it but this time it wasn't possible. I was called in to pinch hit and I was more than happy to step in. Truth be told, I have been after myself to visit this side of the family for quite a while (okay, so it's been a few years). My uncle has been sick for a while and I hadn't been to see him so this was not only an opportunity to be of service, it was a chance to redeem myself for my lack of attention.

This trip only took a few hours out of my day but it was worth its weight in gold. Not only was I able to reconnect with members of my family, I received an unexpected bonus. My cousin's daughter was there with her little girl who recently turned two years old and I'm embarrassed to say I had never met her before. What a little doll! Then my other cousin drove in from Boston with his three year old son whom I had also never met before. (Gosh, what a lousy relative I am.) So I got to meet some of the newest members of the family. The bigger bonus is that I had brought my camera with me and was able to capture all of my family in photos. That alone was pricless.

The drive home from my aunt and uncle's home afforded me the opportunity to make a few unexpected stops and pick up some items that I had put off because they were a bit out of the way. This meant that I could scratch a few more things off my To Do list. I arrived home in plenty of time to relax, change my clothes and start dinner before the first of my family members returned home.

The day flowed like a stream of water. I easily found parking wherever I went. I moved from one task to the other without skipping a beat although I was following no set plan. I encountered no resistance in my travels (with the exception of one jerk who nearly caused an accident in front of me because he was in such a hurry to pull out of a driveway). I felt calm, centered and happy. It was the kind of day I've seen portrayed in TV movies, the kind I thought was contrived and manufactured for mass consumption, not the kind of day "real" people experience, and yet that is precisely what I experienced. The events of the day were mundane but the manner and intent with which they were executed was magnificent in its elegant simplicity. Such a day is golden. Such a day is exceptional. Such days are happening to me on an ever-encreasing basis.

This is what it feels like to live in grace.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
-Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Summer Retrospective

(Here are pictures of my old rusty shed and the newly painted shed that has replaced it. For more, use my Photobucket link [above right] and go to the Backyard Renovation 2008 album.)

The entire month of August has passed without me making a single blog entry. Labor Day, the "official" end to the summer season (calendars and equinoxes notwithstanding) has come and gone and is a fast-fading memory. I'm looking ahead to the fall and seeing all the work that lies before me but before I do that, I want to take a look at all the work I've accomplished during the summer. And boy, do I mean work.

In my earlier posts I mentioned the home improvement projects that were on the To-Do list for the summer, namely a new fence, a new shed, and refinishing the floor in my daughter's room. In addition there were a few other projects that popped up along that way, such as creating a memorial garden to commemorate my ancestors, digging up and giving away my excess garden plants to fellow Freecyclers, and relocating my out-of-season clothes and performance costumes into the attic storage area. I am happy to report that all these and more were completed. Unfortunately my entire summer, three solid months from early June to Labor Day, was tied up in these projects. I'm not complaining but I have to say I am tired...but fulfilled and very well tanned.

The tasks I accomplished were, in my opinion, nothing less than Herculean considering I had to do them all by myself. The larger aspects of the work were accomplished by others (the fence replaced and old shed removed by my husband and son, the new shed installation and floor refinishing done by contractors). But we all know that the bulk of the work, the work that can grind you into a sweaty, pulpy mess by the end of the day is the little stuff. Removing the contents of the old shed and then replacing it all in the new shed. Giving the shed two coats of paint with a hand brush because a roller could not be used. Weeding, raking and cleaning up the yard. Moving mountains of dirt. Uprooting plants. Yada yada yada. Well, folks, that's what I did for three solid months. In the midst of it all I also had to complete the daily tasks necessary for maintaining a household such as laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning. etc.

Why did I do it all myself? Frankly because no one else was around. My husband and son were at work all day and my daughter was away most of the summer. Besides, doing it all myself meant I got to do it all my way. I'm an organizational maven and I like to have things organized in a common sense, aesthetically pleasing manner that will allow me to have easy access to them. Accomplishing that takes time, time that I am more than ready and willing to spend, time that my family would not willingly give me. Involving them meant dealing with differing opinions on how things should be done and power struggles I didn't want to engage in. I chose to do things slowly and deliberately, in a meditative sort of way. It was a win-win situation for me. I got to organize things as I saw fit, in my own good time. My family was spared the extra work involved and I was spared from hearing them whine and grouse about having to do anything after work hours.

When you are in the midst of a large, ongoing project, you can lose sight of the amount of progress you're making, little by little, every day. I call those large projects elephants. Those bits of progress are small nibbles, eating away at the elephant. That's what I was doing...eating the elephant. Imagine my surprise last week when I looked around at my yard and realized that the only thing left of that elephant was table scraps. I had finally eaten the elephant and it caught me by surprise. My shed was painted and repopulated, my garden was weeded and raked, my memorial garden was complete, my screenhouse was nearly empty and I could actually sit on a bench inside of it that had been buried under bicycles and garden hoses. What a rush!

Now what?

Like I said at the beginning, I'm looking ahead to the fall and seeing all the work that lies before me. Soon my annuals will start to wither, my perennials will go dormant. I'll have to bring in my houseplants and "winterize" my garden. There's my daughter's Sweet 16 to organize, apple pies to be baked, Christmas cards to be made and gifts to be crafted. This doesn't even begin to count the family and friends who will call upon me to assist them in one way or another or the unexpected projects that will pop up along the way. The list goes on and on and on... Geez, I'm tired already.

Bring it on!

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The concept of surrendering is not something I take to very easily. It brings with it the baggage of giving up. of being defeated. With my strong will and pride, such a concept is antithetical and unacceptable. Yet I have heard that sometimes the best way to deal with a difficult situation is to surrender to it, allow it to take its due course and usually this will lead to a level of redemption. I never believed it, choosing instead to try and influence the outcome of a situation by extreme effort or sheer force of will. I never believed it, that is, until this week.

I am in the midst of a home improvement frenzy. My health and the weather are good and my husband is being financially cooperative. A new storage shed was on our list of home improvements. After some research my husband and I settled on one and he was to place the order. Here's where it gets sticky. He apparently had an unpleasant telephone experience with the sales associate and told me he would not do business with the company. I was disappointed because I was already making mental notes about how I would modify the shed to suit, what color I would paint it, etc. A part of me wanted to tell him to call back and place the order regardless of what happened on the phone but another part of me knew such a request would only make him dig his heels in harder. I decided the shed wasn't worth the hard feelings that would ensue so I let it go. I didn't like it but I surrendered myself to the fact that we would get a shed that I wasn't totally happy with. My husband decided to order another shed we were interested in, but when he called he was told delivery was five weeks. Besides that, the specifications were not to his liking. After all was said and done, he went back to the manufacturer of our preferred shed and order the model I wanted in the first place.

Another improvement project involves a memorial garden I've created to honor my ancestors. I saw a small monument resembling an ornate headstone in a catalog. It was inscribed with a lovely poem and included a carved angel on one side and I thought it would be perfect under the arbor, surrounded by flowers. I wanted to have it in place before the anniversary of my grandmother's death on August 17th but the delivery time was stated as four weeks. Oh well, I ordered it anyway, surrendering to the fact that it wouldn't arrive until after the anniversary date. Three days later, I found a UPS delivery attempt notice on my door. When the package arrived on the next delivery attempt, it was my monument. Instead of four weeks, it had arrived in three days!

I think I've got it now. Surrender is not an act of defeat but rather a supreme act of faith. It is based in a firm trust in the universe to bring you what is really important and necessary.

The power of surrender can be summed up like this: "If you love something, let it go. If it returns, it is yours forever. If it does not, it was never meant to be".

What can I say? It's working for me.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, July 28, 2008

Out with the old...

For some months now I have been busy with a number of home improvement projects. This is always a good thing. Nothing pleases me more than puttering around the house and putting things in order. The focus of this year's efforts has been the backyard, an area that has been slowly decaying from plain old age. The fence, which had actually rotted away in one corner, has been replaced through the efforts of my husband and son. Due to uncooperative weather, a two day project stretched out for four weeks but that's beside the point. I couldn't do any gardening until the fence was fixed so once that project was completed, I raked, weeded, uprooted and prepared to plant. In the process of clearing out the garden, I thought of my grandparents. I remembered my grandmother's death anniversary was approaching and decided to dedicate a corner of the garden as a memorial to her and other family members who have passed. I headed over to my local home center for some bedding plants and an arbor and created the beginnings of my memorial garden.

In the middle of all this, the backyard has been hosting the contents of our old steel shed. The shed had to be moved from its corner in order to replace the fence so everything inside had to be removed. Since the shed needed to be replaced, there was no sense in putting everything back again only to repeat the whole process once the new shed arrived. The replacement shed was installed last week but can not be populated until it is painted and moved into its final position. In the meantime my backyard is sporting old garden hoses, a camping porta-potty, rusty tool boxes, garden tools, snow shovels and all manner of detritus. In spite of the rag tag look of it all, I love the mess because it is a sign of change. Change is messy. Change is uncomfortable and change can be very inconvenient but it is a necessary part of renewal. Although my eyes see the mess every day, I focus on the image of the end result contained inside my head and look forward to the day my family and I can enjoy a meal in our beautifully finished backyard.

Yet another project will take place indoors. The wooden floor in my daughter's room, which has been hidden under vinyl flooring for the past 18 years, is going to be refinished for the first time since my husband and I bought the house. We delivered her to summer camp yesterday so she is out of the house during this project. As a bonus, I've been given a wonderful Moroccan rug with braided fringe by my sister and brother-in-law that I'm going to place on the newly refinished floor. She's been in this room since before kindergarten and this is the first major change being made in all these years. Of course, refinishing a floor means taking out all the furniture, then replacing it after the job is complete. Although the room is small, this is no small task. It's just one more thing on my list of Things To Do.

Eventually one of two things will happen. Either all the work will get done and I'll be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor or time will run out, the new school year will begin and the weather will become too cold for outdoor projects. Until then I will toil, a little each day, nibbling away at the massive amount of work that is yet to be done. An old joke asks, "How do you eat an elephant?". The answer..."One bite at a time".

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Monday, July 7, 2008

What I've learned at weddings

This past weekend I had the happy occasion to attend the wedding of the young man who was my former assistant. He is a brilliant, motivated, capable and dynamic young man and in spite of the generation gap between us we have become fast friends. I call him my "son from another mother" and I wouldn't have missed his wedding for the world. As always, when I attend a wedding, I think back to all the other weddings I have attended, most especially my own. A hundred thoughts race through my head when I hear the familar words declared by the officiate, "to have and to hold... better or worse ...sickness", followed by the final pronouncement, "husband and wife".

I invariably choke up and fight back tears. In years past, they were tears of regret for the unhappiness I was experiencing in my own marriage. The thought of someone else walking into that tender trap was sorrowful to me. I fought back tears of sadness at the realization that all the promises and romance of early marriage lose their luster all too soon in the harsh environment of day-to-day reality. I struggled to keep up the appearance that all was reasonably well in my world, all the while feeling like a hypocrite for doing so.

This wedding was different. At this celebration, I relived the magic moments of my own wedding. At certain points during the ceremony my husband and I exchanged knowing glances and furtive smiles. Our children were seated between us as living testimony to our years together. It would seem that somewhere during the last few years, I began shedding the mantle of marital martyrdom and realized that the struggles, the disappointment, the arguments, the pain are all part and parcel of the covenant known as marriage. They are as much a part of it as are the joys, the laughter, the excitement, the "firsts' in our lives together. Apparently after all these years I have finally grown up. Aaah, so this is what it feels like.

So what have I learned at weddings? That life is a endless circle, just as signified by those bands of gold, and that if we're patient...very, very patient...things manage to come around again to a place of reconciliation and, in the best of scenarios, redemption. I've learned that no matter how dysfunctional a family is, there is magic, strength and love in those ties that bind, however warped they may appear to be. I've learned you're never too old to dream, to hope or to love.

And there's one more thing I learned. If you look, really look, into the faces of two people who truly love each other, you will find heaven.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Glad to be back home.

My family and I returned from a one week trip to Cancun, Mexico taken during the third week in April. The weather was beautiful and the natives very friendly but I am glad to be back at home. The return trip was fraught with a multitude of occurrences that seemed designed to sabotage our efforts to re-enter the United States. It began when my husband locked the keys to our rental car in the trunk as we were leaving the hotel for the airport. The tickets issued on the first leg of our connecting flights were incorrect but we didn't notice it until we tried to make the connection in Mexico City. It took five hours and untold miles of walking through the airport from pillar to post trying to get the inaccuracies resolved. If not for the superhuman efforts of two airline customer service agents (on two different airlines, no less), we might still be in Mexico. We were tired, hungry, annoyed and frustrated but we finally made it back home.

I won't mention that much of this could have been avoided if my husband had only listened to me weeks before the trip when I mentioned an anomaly on the confirmation documents. Nor will I mention that we could have cut down on the foot mileage if my husband had followed my advice and spoken to an agent immediately upon arriving in Mexico City Airport. I will mention that, through it all, I managed to maintain a relatively cool composure while my husband was stressing, agonizing and generally busting a gut. I was resolved not to lose my head, no matter what the circumstances. Having a large supply of Twizzlers helped keep my kids and me from going totally crazy. Ah, the comforts of junk food.

For me, this is a major achievement on two fronts. One: I am consciously keeping my baser emotions at bay, thereby minimizing the effects of negative energy and, two: my kids saw how negative energy can bring about negative circumstances. All they had to do was observe their father's behavior. The more he tried to control everything and everyone, the more things spiraled out of control. The more frustrated and angry he was, the worst things became. This impromptu demonstration was more effective than any amount of lecturing I could have ever done.

All that aside, the trip to Mexico was a relatively pleasant diversion but I was happy to return home to see my garden in bloom. It was the best homecoming welcome I could ever receive. Spring has fulfilled her promise yet again and this year's floral display is expected to be as glorious as ever. Bring it on.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fulfilling the Vision and Feeling the Rush

I am a firm believer in the maxim, "Things happen for a reason". I also believe that when you set firm goals in your mind and consistently work towards them, circumstances tend to accomodate you and opportunities present themselves. It is up to us to decide whether or not to avail ourselves of these opportunities when they occur. The choices we make determine our path. These beliefs are the result of my personal experience. For me, these are universal principles, not just dogma.

At the beginning of this year, I created a vision board on which I placed three stated goals that I wished to accomplish before the end of the year. One of those goals was to return to the stage. My performance days were severely sidelined due to my sudden hearing loss and I sorely missed being in front of an audience. I particularly missed bomba, the Afro-Puerto Rican drum-dance genre that is not only a wonderful form of entertainment, it is a celebration of our culture and identity. So when I received an email announcing a series of bomba workshops, I jumped on it. At the time I did not know that one of the requirements would be for the students to participate in two performances.

I'm going to skip straight to the juicy parts so as not to make this entry too long. I was one of three people who sang lead for the first performance which took place on Friday, April 11, 2008. This was odd in and of itself because I am taking the dance and percussion workshops, not the vocal workshops. As if that wasn't unusual enough, I was the only one of the three who sang original material. Yep, that's right. I sang a song I wrote myself. The musical director added some interesting rhythmic breaks which made the number more intricate and interesting. My number was the finale piece and the crowd loved it. One of the elder women in the audience made a point of congratulating me on the short bit of dancing that I managed to squeeze in during the show, telling me that I knew how to dance bomba de verdad, real bomba. What a rush! I have been blessed to not only fulfill one of the goals on my vision board but I did so in a way that far exceeded anything I ever imagined.

Getting back to my original statement about things happening for a reason and setting firms goals. I was seeking an opportunity to return to bomba in some capacity when I received the email about the workshops. I made the choice to enroll in the workshops and therein came the opportunity to perform. But there's more. I was able to make progress in fulfilling one of my unstated goals...that of improving my marital and family relationships.

My husband and children came to the performance with me. Our family outings are more often marked with bickering and in-fighting. This time, although it began a little tensely, by the time we left everyone was in a good mood, especially my husband who spent the whole night cracking wise. It was a rare moment of fun family togetherness.

My fellow students and I are scheduled for another performance in the middle of June. I don't expect to sing again but I'm okay with that. I've already had my 15 minutes of singing fame. Whatever the case, I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Going with the Flow

For many years I was a professional bellydancer and enjoyed the disctinction of being one of the better dancers in New York City and having my own following. It was my passion, my joy, and although I am no longer performing in that genre, I still wiggle around at home, reliving my glory days during the 1980's when Middle Eastern dancing was still a big draw in many NYC nightclubs.

I learned many lessons from bellydancing that, ironically enough, had nothing to do with dancing and everything to do with life, specifically that of moving with the energy, or, in other words, going with the flow. Take veil work, for example. A dancer has to flip, toss and otherwise manipulate 2 - 3 yards of diaphanous fabric around as she's dancing without tangling herself in the process. I learned that it is best to learn the properties of the veil (such as how well it moves and floats) and work with the veil to achieve your goal. If it floats like a feather, capitalize on that and keep it in the air. If it sinks like a rock, then twirl it around in various ways. If, as sometimes occurs, the veil does not behave as you want it to, change in response to its moods. The dancer sets the veil in motion but the veil dictates how it will behave. It is up to the dancer to work with it so what the audience sees is harmonious movement.

Snake work in particular requires that you move with the flow of energy, which in this case is the snake. There is no way to choreograph a boa constrictor. It moves as it will and sometimes will do unexpected things. The only way to successfully dance with a live snake is to let the snake do what it will and move with the snake, gently manipulating, nudging and moving it so it doesn't wrap itself around any limbs in such a way as to constrict blood flow. The dancer must convince the audience that she controls the snake when in fact the snake is in charge. True, she can manipulate it to a certain degree but there are those times when the snake will not do what is wanted. At those times, the dancer must be able to surrender to the snake's nature in order to achieve her goal of entertaining her audience.

All of the above requires a mastery of the dance form that does not require conscious thought. A dancer must have an extensive enough dance vocabulary so that she can react to unexpected changes instantly and organically. When an extensive vocabulary has been practiced and internalized to the point that the movements are natural and second nature, it is then that true mastery begins. I have seen all too many dancers who are obviously thinking about their steps as they do them, picking and choosing from their limited dance vocabulary. Their dancing lacks in fluidity, much like a person learning to speak in a foreign language or a person learning to drive a car, thinking about every move they make.

All matter is composed of energy, even those things considered inanimate. These days I tend to see things from a perspective of the flow of its energy and how to move with it in order to best achieve my purpose. Bellydancing has proven to be a metaphor for negotiating this energy. Who knew? It has prepared me to master the art of going with the flow.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Right, Wrong, and Truth

It never fails. When I spend time in my garden, my mind wanders and invariably leads me to an insight which I was incapable of arriving at when in conscious thought. Today's rumination led me to consider the issues of right, wrong and truth.

As anyone who has been in a long term relationship knows, conflicts arise. Each party is totally convinced of the righteousness of their position and equally convinced of the wrongness of the other party's side. I've been married for 21 years and it seems that for most of those years I have been engaged in an ongoing battle with my husband over one thing or another. This divisiveness has systematically eroded the foundation of our once-strong love to the point where divorce has been the topic of discussion more than once. In recent years we have become all but strangers living in the same house, ostensibly for the purpose of raising our children but really because moving to separate was more than either of us was willing to endure.

The truth is that I married am emotionally non-demonstrative man who wants to be appreciated and who will not make any romantic overtures if he believes there is even a hint of possible rejection. He's also a control freak. The truth is that I am a extremely affectionate, demonstrative, strong-willed woman who has outrightly rejected my husband on numerous occasions out of anger, spite and downright maliciousness because he pissed me off. I'm also a control freak. This is a recipe for disaster.

A wise woman once told me you can choose to be right or you can choose to be happy. I didn't know what she meant. She asked me if it was more important for me to be right or to be happy, explaining that whatever I chose would result in the truth of my situation. Truth is the result of action. It knows not from right or wrong. If you want the truth of your situation to be one of happiness, then you must take actions that will lead you to that result.

As simple as that logic is, I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I thought and thought and intellectualized it to death with no success. Then I picked up a rake. In that quiet time during which I tend to my garden, the wisdom in her words finally penetrated. It was one of those "AHA!" moments. I knew what I had to do. If I want to be happy, I have to behave in a manner that makes him feel comfortable enough to let his guard down. I have to be willing to let go of the pain of the past and my need to be right in favor of a happier future. If we are to weather this marital storm, I have to take a lesson from palm trees and bend in the wind. This will be a lengthy process. After all, it took 21 years to create the disconnect in our relationship. It can't be mended overnight.

Tonight, when my husband came home, he was obviously tired from working on a demanding project at his office. I acknowledged his fatigue, poured him a glass of wine and, after dinner, sat with him to watch a movie. During the movie (which featured lots of salsa music), I got him off the sofa for a dance, something we used to enjoy during our courtship. After the movie, I gave him a little peck on the lips before I left the room. I've been making little overtures like this for a couple of weeks now and I can definitely see the ice melting. Baby steps.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It's Official...

When it comes to determining the beginning of the spring season, I never look at my calendar. I look at my garden. After all, a calendar is nothing more than a man-made construct created to frame a natural sequence of events. Assessing what is taking place in the natural world is a much better indicator of seasonal changes than the date. So today, when I entered my backyard to "feed" my compost bin, I was greeted by warmth, sunshine and an explosion of new growth all over the garden. The daffodils and tulips are quickly pushing themselves up through the thick layer of leaves that have mulched and protected them through the winter cold. Tiny crocuses dot my front garden and, in my shed which acts as a surrogate greenhouse, my winter hardy pansies are in fragrant full bloom. Essentially, Mother Nature has given me my marching orders. This weekend I begin pulling back the mulch, cleaning out the garden and amassing plant pots and containers to replace those that have outlived their usefulness. Spring has officially arrived and begs to be welcomed in grand style.

This gardening season promises to be abundant and fruitful. Starting now, I'm preparing to enjoy it to the fullest. As is my custom, I will be posting photos of my garden as it progresses during the seasons. Check out my Photobucket to see past photos and get an idea what to expect later this year.

And make sure to stop once in a while and smell the flowers.


Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Timing, Rhythm and Golden Moments

Life can be hectic and in the rush to finish one task to begin the next, one can miss the beauty to be found in slowing down. When you slow down, I mean really slow down, from the inside out, you begin to notice the invisible aspects of life. If you're paying attention, you begin to notice that many of those invisible aspects are lurking right inside of you just waiting for you to take notice. I've been doing a lot that lately, slowing down and paying attention, and without fail something mystical occurs. It is as if time and space move to accommodate my needs. Occurrences that I use to attribute to good fortune or a happy coincidence are really a reflection of my consciousness, as if my inner energy is manipulating the outer world.

Take, for example, a round of small errands (replace a battery, pick up this, drop off that, etc.) that I had to complete recently. Because of the heavily trafficked areas I had to drive through, they could have potentially taken a relatively long time and I knew that street parking would be an impossible nightmare. Regardless, I got into my car and drove on, mindful of my tasks but focusing instead on the rhythm of traffic, the green of a newly sodded playground, the blue of the sky. As I travelled in this manner, I noticed that in spite of heavy traffic, I seemed to be moving effortlessly through the streets. At every stop I made, a parking space was miraculously waiting for me just around the corner. One of these spots had 16 minutes left on the parking meter. This was enough time to walk around the block, descend into a subway station, purchase a new Metrocard, stop at a store to replace a watch battery and return to my car with 10 minutes to spare. Everything I did that day flowed effortlessly as if it was a choreographed dance. It was golden.

True, everyone has moments like these but as I said before, most are chalked up to good luck. But I'm discovering that "good luck" may really be good karma in disguise. More importantly, I realized that the more I slowed down from within, the faster and more smoothly things moved without.

My golden moments are occurring more frequently these days. So slow down, feel the rhythm of life as it moves around you and go with the flow.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and always,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What a week!

My life may not always be what I want it to be, but gratefully I am never bored. I'm just too busy. For example, these past week has been one of those that was jammed packed from end to end. I spent last weekend nursing a sick husband, indulging a teenage daughter's need for a trip to buy some bling at the mall, listening to my teenage son's latest adventures as a fraternity pledgee (he has to memorize the Greek alphabet, among other things), and that was just the prelude to this week.

Monday: Late morning I cooked a large meal, enough for two days, because I was scheduled to go to Albany on Tuesday to lobby at the state level for equitable distribution of arts funding for cultural organizations of color. Spent the afternoon at a meeting designed to help me with networking skills in preparation to move my home business forward.

Tuesday: I leave midtown Manhattan at 7 AM on a bus filled with others committed to lobbying for more cultural funding. We are briefed on our mission, given instructions, sorted into teams and scattered throughout the NYS Assembly and Capitol buildings, meeting with our local politicians, representatives and members of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucas. It was a scary, exhilarating, enlightening and empowering day. It was also a very LONG day. We returned to NYC at 8:30 PM after nearly four hours on the road driving through heavy snowfall. I didn't make it back to my own home until a little over an hour later.

Wednesday: I spent the whole day in bed sick with a miserable cold that my husband passed on to me. Suffice it to say that Nyquil was my friend for the next 24 hours.

Thursday: Valentine's Day. Feeling rested and energetic after so much sleep, I decided to do some laundry. That was bad move number 1. After two loads I was wiped out again. I put in a third load and lay down for a nap. That was bad move number two. The hose broke on the washer in the middle of a rinse cycle. When I woke up and went down three hours later I was greeted by two inches of water on my basement floor. The ENTIRE basement floor from front to back was underwater. It took five hours, three buckets, two mops and 10 beach towels to finally soak up the mess. During this whole episode, my telephone lines went dead. Thank goodness for cell phones. My husband picked up Boston Market for dinner. That was the extent of my Valentine's Day.

Friday: In the middle of the continuing basement clean up, I receive a call from my mother to tell me that my nephew, who lives in Switzerland with his mother, was at her house and would only be there for a very short while before having to leave again. In what amounted to a minor miracle, I managed to contact my two children who were travelling home from opposite directions, re-route one to my mother's house, intercept the other one en route and land at my mother's house in less than half an hour. (Again, thank goodness for cell phones.) After a short visit with my nephew, my brother and my folks, it was back home to cook a belated Valentine's dinner and continue the clean up.

It is now Saturday. Day Three of drying out the things that got wet in the basement. In spite of how messy things became, I am grateful it wasn't worse. My computer and nearly all of my crafts equipment and supplies were spared. It's still too soon to tell what else may have been damaged but I'm sure it was nothing of great value. I actually took time out to rest and watch some movies with my family. I'm still fighting a cold but that, too, shall pass. All in all, this has been an eventful week.

And guess what? Tomorrow is Sunday. I'll get to spend another week sorting through all sorts of adventures, misadventures and minor crises. Frankly, I really hope I'll be able to do this sort of thing for a long, long time. Like I said at the beginning, my life may not always be what I want it to be, but gratefully I am never bored.

This is my life.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ear Infection, Take 7... or is it 8?

Remember that pesky right ear infection that just wouldn't go away? (View previous posts for background info.) Well, after several months I was finally able to get rid of it. Now it has returned... in the other ear! This is my only functional ear. I absolutely can not afford to have anything happen to it. The fact that I lost hearing in my right ear due to an infection does nothing for my peace of mind.

I recently had my annual physical performed which includes blood work. My doctor was reviewing the blood work and was concerned with the level of something-or-another and wants to repeat the blood series at the end of February. He mentioned that my borderline level of something-or-another might be a warning sign of lupus and if the repeat blood work bears out his suspicion, he will refer me to a neurologist. He said it may be the link to all the things that are going on with me.

I was just told this a few days ago. Needless to say my mind is racing. I know nothing about lupus (but you can bet I'm going to find out), but just the thought of it has me worried. I haven't mentioned anything to my family so as not to alarm them prematurely.

I'm hoping that this is all an anomaly that will blow over in due time and I'll just be a little bruised and banged up when it's all over but none the worse for wear. In the meantime I'm keeping fingers crossed.

This all comes on the heels of my taking a step towards fulfilling one of my resolutions for this year...returning to dance classes. I had just begun a tap aerobics class with a wonderful teacher in Manhattan and was looking forward to developing my rhythm again. Now I'm taking another leave of absence from school so I can concentrate on my health. I'm so damned tired of this never-ending treadmill.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and All Ways,
- Gitana, the Creative Diva