Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Calling All Chicago Dance Moms: Go to Career Transitions For Dancers Free Career Development Conference This Sunday!!!!

I had heard about Career Transitions for Dancers from several friends of mine years ago.  They were either Broadway gypsies or members of salaried ballet companies.  CTFD helped them go to law school, to obtain a Pilates Method certification and to transition into arts management.

Would they help me? I wondered, someone who had supported herself by teaching dance, while working with small independent choreographers?


After I had my two children I wasn’t performing at all, and I was teaching fewer classes than ever.  I also wanted, make that needed, to make more money. I hadn’t developed a corporate résumé in the way that my friends from college had.  I knew that I had skills (sorry to sound like Napoleon Dynamite), but was unsure how to translate my dedication and drive, and my abilities to learn quickly, and to take direction and criticism into résumé-speak. 

I knew Career Transitions had opened a new Chicago office from the signs I saw at Columbia College and at the Lou Conte Dance Studio. 

I called to make an appointment.

I was amazed at the level of help I received.  After a brief and pleasant phone interview with Maryellen Langhout, the career counselor, I was directed to the website where I’d take my Myers-Briggs exam to determine good-fit career paths. 

Over the next month or so, in weekly meetings, we discussed my personality, cognitive style, and history, versus my career goals and family needs.  We eventually lined up several jobs that might actually work, and began restructuring my résumé to fit each. 

Given the fact that I have two small children, and feel as though everyday I am living the theme song from Good Times, you know, “Keepin’ yo’ head above watah, Makin’ a wave when you can…” I decided this might not be the time to make a major career change.

I’d be crying and fired on the first day. 

A better time for such a change would be when the children are a little older.

For now my search is on hold.

But the help I received was invaluable. 

I’ll be back. 

If you’re in the Chicago area and want to be introduced to this wonderful organization, please go to Stepping Into Hope and Change – Chicago, a free career development conference for dancers, this Sunday, October 2, 2011 at Lou Conte Dance Studio at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.  ALL dancers are eligible to attend. The registration deadline is October 1, 2011!

For more information and to register Please visit:

Top Twelve Reasons You Chicagoland Dancing Mothers Must Go To Career Transitions For Dancers Free Event this Sunday

  1. Doing career counseling with your friends has resulted in your decision to find a job where you are paid to sleep.

  1. While leaving the studio or stage feet first is the stuff of legend, it’s not how you really want to make your final exit.

  1. You are now Meryl Streep in terms of artistry, but your 45-degree extension, inch high elevation and double pirouettes just aren’t cutting it.

  1. There is a writer, teacher, lawyer, entrepreneur, therapist, etc. inside you just dying to do her thing.

  1. Now that Dance Moms has hit the airwaves it is time to leave the industry.

  1. You are ready for dream job number two.

  1. Unlike improving your alignment or flexibility, simply visualizing a career change won't make it so.  

  1. You need help translating “demanded excellence from self in class, rehearsal and performance each and every day, learned technically difficult and nuanced choreography easily, and worked with, exacting, capricious and sometimes demeaning choreographers gracefully” into résumé-ese.

  1. You've always wondered what it would be like to wear those classy business clothes to work. 

  1. Hello, an afternoon away from the kids!

  1.  Your cottage industry blogging/ cupcake making/cosmetics selling have made you enough money to buy a box of Slim-Jims. 

  1. It’s FREE!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

By Rachel A. Wakening

It started innocently, this little awakening.

Riley was playing with his new stamp set, a stamp set made by an ubiquitous maker of non-toxic, eco-friendly toys.  He had been decorating himself, his dad, and Aria, and wanted to give me a stamp as well.  He picked up the peg with the smiley face, dabbed it on the orange inkpad and pressed it on the back of my hand.


We suggested he try again.  Red.  He pressed harder this time.  Still nothing.  From a lifetime with my dark chocolate complexion, I knew we could stamp all day and I’d have not mark the first to show for it.

An explanation rolled off my tongue, “It’s not showing up on Mommy’s skin because Mommy’s skin is dark.”

Riley thought for a fraction of a second. “Mommy’s skin is dark. My skin is light.”

My heart sank.  Surely he had seen the difference before, but now he knew it.  He was AWARE.

“Oh boy,” J said.  Knowing a seed had been planted, we didn’t offer anything in response. We hoped he’d move on. He had merely seized on to what I had pointed out.  It was a simple observation.  My skin is dark.  He is light - light enough for the stamp to show up on him.  To him it was simple fact, nothing more.  

To us, it was like opening Pandora's box.  

In the car, on the way to a birthday party on the Northside of town, Riley repeated, “The stamp wouldn’t show up on you because you are dark.  I am light and Aria is light.”

“Yes,” I answered.  I wished this subject would go away, at least for a few years.  Didn't I deserve some time to prepare?  To buy some books? To do a cute lesson with some dolls or something?  I felt prepared to talk about sex in several, or many, years.  But this - now?

We went to the birthday party hosted by a friend of mine who is South Asian.  Many of her relatives were in attendance.  The rest of the guests were white.  I wondered what Riley was thinking about the skin colors of the guests.  He didn't mention anything.

On the way home, however, Riley returned to the concept that had made such an impression on him.  “Mommy’s skin is dark.  My skin is light, Aria’s skin is light and Daddy’s skin is light.”

He had made the connection - seen the continuum.  And while his almost three year old brain was finding order in the world by making comparisons, for me, after a lifetime of being the dark one, I felt stung.  I knew he wasn't saying anything to hurt me.  I knew he knew nothing of the racism, or even the colorism that exists among people who are not white.  He knew nothing of the history of race in America, where color is the foundation 
of a caste system that once decided free or slave (not to mention one's place in the slave hierarchy), and did and still does define life or death, and happiness or degradation.  Nothing of the color code, the code that some use to decide who you are, where you came from, whom you should love, what you are entitled to and where you belong. 

He'll learn about this later. 

Or maybe sooner than later.  Just two weeks ago Riley asked, “Who is 'by Rachel'?” And thanks to the stamp set made by our wonderfully environmentally conscious, yet unwittingly un-politically correct toymaker, I suppose he’s almost ready to be told.  He is a little sponge, soaking up everything and searching for meaning -- meanings whose history he'll someday understand. Meanings he’ll interpret and redefine for himself.    
I never realized his awakening would come so soon.  I know to him it’s like saying someone is wearing a red shirt or blue pants - just a way of describing people.  And as we are now pointing out the color of everything from cars to clothes to food, it is natural to do the same with skin tone. But it's a fact of life that many descriptors are loaded -- many are best left unsaid.  I remember when Riley called a woman we know fat. And she is fat, or overweight, to be more sensitive.  Even though he didn't say it to her directly, I felt concerned and embarrassed, as though he had insulted her right to her face. Adults and children alike get into sticky situations using adjectives, however accurate, whose connotation carries immense psychological and sociological heft.  When we are teaching our little ones to take in the world and to make observations, how do we tell them not to draw attention to what is?

It is a challenging parallel lesson.  

As I mentioned in my post Leaving Mulatto Heaven, our neighborhood is a model of diversity.  We have friends all over the skin color map.  Based on the members of our family, and with all the people we know and love, people whose homes we are in and out of and vice versa, I can’t imagine Riley seeing anything but beauty in the rainbow of hues of our friends.

And he’ll never look at a stamp the same way again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

O Restroom, Where Art Thou?

I should have gone at his school.  But when faced with disappointing your child and peeing, it's obvious who wins.  Only a self-centered freak of a mother would pick the latter.

We have this little ritual where one of the teachers holds Riley up to the window so that he and I can wave and blow kisses at each other as I walk to the car.  As soon as I sat down and turned on the ignition, I realized I might very easily lose this round of Survivor: The Bladder Games.

I drove to work, and luckily found a legal parking spot quickly.  No u-turns, no cops and no ratting out other zealous parkers (  My car situated nicely, I could run to work and end this nice and clean.

But I had nothing to eat.  No lunch.  No snack.  Nothing.  And I had a meeting with my T.A. right after my first class.  Plus answering e-mails and blog work meant no time to get lunch on my break.

Another choice to make.  Should I forget about eating and drinking, and wind up with a fierce migraine and about to puke on the second meeting of my afternoon class, or should I go pee?

Of course not.  I had to get food.  Something yummy.  Something nutritious.  Not the energy bar and juice business I used to pull in my youth, when if I got a headache, I simply went to bed, no worries, no one neglected.

Ding!  The Fitness Formula Club cafe.  Healthy food, probably a restroom AND on the way to work - a trifecta, or so I thought. I ordered chicken and brown rice with kale on the side - I know, saintly, as far as food is concerned - and asked the dude behind the counter if there was a bathroom I could use.

"Our restrooms are in the club section and are only for members," he answered, with insincere customer-service style empathy.  "The nearest public bathroom is..."

I cut him off.  "I know where it is.  I work around the corner. I just thought...," humiliated, my voice trailed off feebly. This is bullshit! I raged inwardly. Don't cafes legally have to have restrooms for patrons?  I squeezed my pelvic floor as if I were trying to make diamonds, and waited until my food was prepared.

Having ordered delicious spa fare from here before, I remembered this guy. I'd seen snails with more hustle.  The chronically in a hurry part of me admired his Zen, and the other part of me wanted to jump over the counter and beat him mercilessly with a pair of tongs.  Zen is something you crave in a massage therapist, or a yoga teacher.  Zen is something you long for when your child has gotten out of his bed for the fifth time at 10 p.m., and you wish to God someone would design toddler sheets along the lines of those rodent glue traps. It is not something you desire in the least when you're a kick ball-change from looking like someone just threw a bucket of water at your crotch.

I turned to the attendant behind the membership desk.  Maybe he'd be more sympathetic.  He gave me the same spiel, and suggested that I try the public restroom at Jewel. "I'm not using that restroom," I snapped.  As if.  That bathroom is as good as an outhouse.  I wanted to say, If you had borne children, and if you had a single shred of human decency, you would know better than to deny me toilet access, you bastard you!  Seriously, I know men also get into urgent peeing situations, but it cannot be the same as when those muscles, despite fervent kegeling, are stretched out like a fat man's undershirt.  They really need an app to make men able to feel a woman's desperation to pee. They need an app to make men feel a lot of things.  Maybe I should have put that in my post about fantasy apps ( But, let's not get started...

Finally my food was ready.  I grabbed it and racewalked the block and a half to work. Like I'd been goosed, I hurried past the security guard with whom I usually exchanged pleasantries.  I did the hootchie-coochie pee-pee mambo in the elevator.  I could practically feel pee sloshing up toward my esophagus as I ran to the restroom.  And finally, deliverance...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Toilet Tales: Part I

This weekend was a mess.

Aria had diarina, as Riley used to call it, and everything she ate tore through her like Junior League members running through the ghetto.  Either up or out.  Didn't I just write about being vomited upon, in  Note to the universe, I was talking about when the kids were infants!  I did NOT need my maternal maturity tested with a toddler-sized meal worth of barf.  

Gross factor aside, I am totally stressed out about my little girl.  She's a tiny little girl to begin with, and now I think our Sleep Sheep weighs more than she does.

Riley was in another potty training push.  The tough cookie of the three teachers in his class strongly encouraged that he show up in underwear on Monday.  Last Monday when Riley arrived at school wearing a diaper, in spite of their agreement that he would train over the weekend and continue at school, I knew that was being scolded.  This weekend, in order to avoid more stink eye, he wore underwear at all times except for naps and making number two, which is a whole other ball of wax, apparently.  He did great, holding it in for up to an hour, during several intervals.  Then he'd get distracted, or we'd get too confident in his abilities, and he'd pee his pants.  

And wouldn't it be this weekend, while I was busting my hump to monitor a whacked-out G.I. tract and an immature bladder, that Riley chose, in the throes of a tantrum, to wail over and over again, "I wan Daddy! Daddy's my favorite!"

Ain't that some shit?

It is the messy mishaps that inspire us to be the mothers we never thought we could be, and look back and laugh.  In that spirit, here is a hilarious potty training tale, written in July, from former MNS Mom in the Spotlight, Liz Zorek.(

Last week, the girls and I met my mom at a diner for lunch. We were on day five of potty training with Anna, and let's just say that we were getting about a C- at that point so it was pretty brave of us to even be out of the house.  Just as we were finishing our food, I looked over at Anna whose face was going red while she made a little grunting sound.  

I knew exactly what was going on.

I grabbed her by the hand and raced her to the bathroom, leaving my mom with Marie, my one year old, at the table with all of our stuff.  I thought I had caught Anna before anything had actually, ahem, been dropped in the pants, but alas, when I got into the bathroom stall with her, I realized the error in my assumption.  The pants and underpants were way beyond what a few measly scraps of toilet paper could do for us at that moment.  

AND in my rush to get us to the potty, I had forgotten to grab the diaper bag with our arsenal of extra underpants, clothes and wipes.

So, there I was in a bathroom stall with a more-kid-than-toddler who's naked from the waist down.  I needed to go back to our table to get the diaper bag, but I wasn't about to leave Anna in the bathroom by herself with no clothes on and poop all over her legs -- I mean, can you even imagine walking in on that?  

I looked around at my options:

  1. wrap her in toilet paper and make her a "skirt." 
  2. somehow weave the toilet seat cover into a dress.
  3. take her shirt off and somehow turn it into something that      would cover her nether regions. 

None of the above.  

I looked down at what I was wearing – a blue dress with a somewhat transparent cami and leggings underneath. My only option was to take my dress off, put it on Anna, and then hope no one in the restaurant noticed that I was basically in my underwear while I ran with Anna out to get the diaper bag.

I threw the dress over Anna's head, took a breath, and out the door we went.  The first person we saw was a boy who looked to be about 12 waiting for the men's restroom.  He took one look at me, and then quickly tried to divert his eyes to examine the lovely ceiling tiles while his face turned red.  

We raced to the table, Anna in my dress that was bunching up around her ankles and me in what was more whore-ish Halloween garb than trendy yoga wear.  I made eye contact with my mom, who kept looking back and forth between me and Anna with a confused look trying to figure out exactly what was going on.  Anna and I were like marathoners coming up to a water station -- we didn't even slow down, continuing our mini jog around the table, grabbing the diaper bag in one smooth motion, and then bee-lining it back to the bathroom, hoping people were enjoying their food too much to notice the almost-nude-and-certainly-odorus circus act running between the tables. Needless to say, I think we gave the other patrons some really good Facebook status fodder that day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Small in the World

He runs down the sidewalk, away from me, his small body bursting with the energy and effort of hurtling itself forward.  Every few seconds he turns back to look at me, just to make sure I am still there.  My eyes stay glued to him; my heart quickens as he approaches the corner.  I know he knows to stop, but in his joy of running free will he?  Or will his devil-may-care impulses win over his mother-imparted fear of fast cars and careless drivers?  “Stop!”  I yell. He does. On a dime.  Way better than he did in the red light, green light game in Lil’ Kickers. 

We hold hands to cross.  On the other side, with my permission, he takes off again. He is just getting the hang of this running thing - he falls often, his scarred knees are a testament to the learning curve.  His running is awkward - imagine Igor from Frankenstein doing something between a lope, a gallop and a sprint. Instead of pumping, arms bent at the elbow, his arms hang and swing by his sides.  I’m astonished that he remains upright.  He has not yet had the big fall that will skin up his face – the fear of falling, something he has plenty of time to develop, for now is absent.  He couldn’t be happier with the secure freedom of running under Mama’s gaze.

Back in the confines of our house, Riley looms large.  He is the Home Despot.  If he is in a good mood, we all are.  When he is angry or in the throes of one of his - as I call it -  operaerobic meltdowns, no one in the house breathes, except maybe his little sister, Aria. My husband and I bend over backwards to prevent tantrums by following the Riley Doctrine as closely as we can. At the same time, we strive to instill in him discipline, manners and respect for our family and home.  Like most parents, the needs of our children are the biggest cause in our lives.

But outside, this little boy who rules my world is tiny, dwarfed by big storefronts and buildings, adults and vehicles.  How HUGE the world must seem to him, full of wonders to explore and big, frightening things to avoid.  All the things he wants to do, to master right now, and can’t.

How frustrating to the core this must be. 

How maddening not to be able to do all the simple things that grown ups do like turning on faucets, lights and machines. Things you could do if you could reach higher or press harder!  What a pain not to be permitted do the simplest things for yourself, like open the kitchen cabinet to get yourself some crackers, or get a game you want to play from a high shelf (like the one with the marbles you or your baby sister could choke on).  Why can’t you taste the coffee you help your dad brew, or have a tiny of sip the wine your parents have with dinner?  And you know you would be great at driving, vacuuming, washing the dishes and handling money if only your silly parents would give you the chance!

Naturally all these things are not so great once you have to do them for yourself. Of course all these things keep a child safe, clean, and healthy, not to mention alive. But to a child these no-can-dos are a cage, a prison. “Too many rules!”  Riley often screams.

I understand why Riley is so happy and free outside, and ready for a meltdown at any given moment inside.  I see plenty for Riley to busy himself with at home, but he manages to focus on the closed doors.  Not surprising, because what is out of reach is exactly what we want.  As a freelancer, I gave up most of my jobs so that I could have more time with my children.  

Which means our coffers are not so full.

I have a great life but manage to focus on the clothes, vacation, car, home and leisure time I don’t have.  I don’t have big meltdowns every other day, just small ones that I subdue with food, wine, sometimes exercise, and a good venting session with my girlfriends.  Imagine dealing with these daily disappointments, the rules, the you-can’t-haves with the raw, developing emotions of a two year old.  Now there’s a world you’d want to get off!

So when Riley has his next big meltdown, I’ll try to put myself in his little shoes.  I’ll remind myself he’s just a little guy trying to assert himself in this big picture.  And I’ll sit right next to him, helpless, similarly struggling to find ground in the deep, deep soul of my little boy.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Top Ten: You Know You're a Mom When...

1.  Your exercise routine consists of frighteningly vigorous and sincere club dancing to Yo Gabba Gabba.

2.  The total value of strollers you own is at least $700, your kids are all decked out in designer clothes, but your wardrobe would be scorned by shoppers at Goodwill.

3.  Your child can be having a full blown meltdown ten feet away but you are able to reach deep down inside yourself and get s--t done.

4.  The thought of another child, another young life, abandoned and suffering pains you so deeply it makes you sick.

5.  You are holding your child and she throws up all over you. Instead of throwing up yourself and holding your child away from you like a dirty diaper, you stand there, shocked and drenched, comfort your sick little one and work out a plan.

6.    You get that Incredible Hulk feeling if someone so much as looks at your kid the wrong way.

7.  You could really use therapy and a vacation (see the 1-2-3 plan at, but your BFF/a walk/a glass of wine/three tubes of frozen cookie dough will have to do. 

8.  Wanting your child(ren) to have "options" on your day trip, you pack enough for a team of longshoremen, but either accidentally or on purpose, you don't bring a thing for yourself. 

9.  You think nothing of leaving the house without make-up, or maybe even without a shower.  Hey, if they don't like it, they can go, well you know…

10.  You swore that you'd set your hair on fire before having any more kids, but when you hold someone's sweet, cuddly newborn you can't help thinking, "What if..."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day One

(Yes, this post should have been published a week ago.  Being a mommy with a part-time job is REALLY getting in the way of my blogging!)

The first day of school couldn't have begun more perfectly.

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. expecting the kids to wake up any second.  They didn't arise until around 7:15, which made me wonder if I'd be super late to work on Day One.  And while we're on the subject of wondering, why on God's green earth couldn't they have picked a similar wake up time last week when we were still on break?  I got the chance to get myself dressed and ready, to prepare their breakfasts, and to make sure they had everything they needed - lunches, snacks, loveys, blankets, diapers, wipes, etc.  It helped that Hubs was going in to work late to help out and see everyone off.

We left the house a record breaking 1.25 hours later - at 8:30 a.m.  I'm not sure how we got everyone fed, clothed and groomed so quickly.  I hope it's a trend.*  Part of it was because Riley couldn't wait to get outside with his new Thomas backpack.  And Aria, who is still pretty easy to hustle around, (except for combing her little ringlety boing-boing curls), was probably not fully aware of what was going on.  I was a nervous wreck  (there's a surprise) about drop-offs and getting to work.  And Hubs was busy being photographer extraordinaire (see photo above).

We piled in the car and drove to destination #1, Aria's daycare, where she hadn't been with any regularity since May.

And that's where things became less than fun.

With Aria in my arms, I greeted and exchanged pleasantries with B, the owner of the daycare.  As I began handing over lunch, a bottle and blankets, Aria, usually not a cuddler, became more and more clingy.  She held me tight, her soft little cheek glued to mine.  Delicious. I wanted to stay hugging her like that all morning.  But I had to go, and I peeled her off and handed her to B.  I could hear her screaming as I walked to the car.  I knew she'd get over it, but my chest felt leaden.  We had been together all summer.  No matter how rough some days had been, I missed her already.

We drove toward the lake to Riley's school.  We found a spot right in front and piled out, Hubs taking more photos.  In the classroom, Riley began playing with an excavator (his current obsession is construction vehicles).  With his parents close by, he appeared right at home.  We stayed with him, showing him different areas of the classroom and meeting his classmates.

By now it was 9:15, and I was freaking out a little.

I had to be in front of my own first-day students in less than 90 minutes, including a fifteen minute drive and finding parking downtown.  I sat with Riley on my lap at the snack table so he could have some cereal, and cuddled and kissed him as I announced I had to go.  I told one of the teachers that our time was up. Hubs had already left because we were parked in a loading zone.

One of the teachers tried to distract Riley, who was now doing his own cling-on routine.  Then, like a pro, she grabbed him off me.  He howled and cried for his Mama and Daddy.  I fled, again feeling sick. How much of this was I supposed to take?  Had we stayed too long?  I began blaming myself.  And why is it that you long for a break from your kids, and then when you get one, it's like having your fingernails pulled out?

I knew both kids would be fine, and they were.  We learned by phone that they were happily engaged in activity less than ten minutes after the extreme departures; they'd bounced back quickly.

Emotional separations from your children are heart-rending, even when you know you will see them again -  even when you know the apart time is finite.  As I trudged away from my squalling babes, my tendency toward the catastrophic turned my mind to mothers torn from their babies, mothers who probably would never see their children again.  Never.  Slaves, Jewish mothers during the Holocaust, incarcerated moms, immigrants past and present, as well as mothers with sick children.

The unimaginable horror these women experienced made me see how lucky I was, how lucky we middle/upper class mothers are.  We can drop our kids off in places where they'll be safe and thrive.  Where they'll play outside on a beautiful September day.  Where we have a say in their care and know that their caregivers are competent and loving.  And if they're not, we can go elsewhere. We get to do our jobs, jobs that are for the most part fulfilling.  I am blessed that my kids are adaptable little people who had great days after the initial drama.

And I learned that all the stress about this day did no one, not my family, not my dearest girlfriend in the world, and certainly not me any good.  So once again, evoking the spirit of Scarlet O'Hara (I know, I know, don't even go there...), "If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill, come next year, I will say fiddle-dee-dee to you, Mr. Labor Day!"

(Sweep of the hand into a fist, looking upward.  Fade to black)

*So far so good!  One week later, and we have been out the door at 8:30 ever since.  No!  It's not cutting it close, my first class meets at 10:30 a.m. later.  Hope I'm not jinxing myself....

Friday, September 9, 2011

Mom in the Spotlight: Kati Hanlon Mayo

Top:  A pregnant! Kati Hanlon Mayo and Sasha Janes in
Stars and Stripes.  
Photo:Christoper Record
Bottom: Kati, Lola and Declan. September, 2011
Kati Hanlon Mayo began her dance training at The Boston School of Ballet and went on to study as a scholarship student at The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and The School of American Ballet. At the age of 15, she became a member of Boston Ballet 2 and performed regularly with The Boston Ballet. Mayo went on to perform with Jose Mateo's Ballet Theatre before joining NC Dance Theatre as a principal dancer in 1991.

During her career Mayo had many roles created on her including the female lead in Mateo's Schubert Adagio and The Chosen One in Salvatore Aiello's The Rite of Spring. She performed principal roles in works choreographed by George Balanchine, Alvin Ailey, Jean- Pierre Bonnefoux, William Forsythe, Agnes DeMille, Dwight Rhoden, Jacqueline Buglisi and Alonzo King. In 2000 and 2004 Kati was named "Best Performing Artist" by Charlotte Magazine and The New York Times reviewed that "Miss Hanlon ruled the stage with benign classical authority."

Kati and her husband Sean started their family in 2004 with the birth of their daughter, Lola Anne Mayo.  Kati retired from performing in 2006 to spend more time with her family and focus on her passion for teaching. She gave birth to a baby boy, Declan Michael Mayo in 2010. Kati is currently one of the principal ballet instructors for The North Carolina Dance Theatre School and Company and has been a guest teacher for many studios around the country.

How many children do you have?  Boys?  Girls?
I have a six (almost seven) year-old daughter named Lola, and an eighteen-month-old little boy, Declan.

You were still dancing when you were pregnant with Lola weren't you?  How did you manage taking class and performing?
I was very fortunate and had relatively easy pregnancies. I danced up until the very end of my pregnancy with Lola and performed in my first and second trimesters. When I was pregnant with Declan I was no longer dancing with the company but I was teaching and working out. Everyone is different but for me I felt at my best when I was active and keeping as normal of a schedule as I had been used to pre-pregnancy.  I loved being pregnant.  The only downside was that I stretched out a lot of my favorite leotards! 

What was it like coming back to performing after giving birth? 
After giving birth to Lola I felt as though I became a better performer. I definitely took myself less seriously and truly enjoyed my time onstage. I think that having a child shifts your perspective so much and for me it was a positive thing. I spent many years as a performer being a perfectionist, and fortunately I was able to let a little of that go when I became a Mom.

Were you breastfeeding?  What was that like? 
Yes, I was and it was a CHALLENGE! I am glad I did it, but it took a lot of commitment. I remember spending most of my breaks at work either pumping or running to Lola's daycare (luckily nearby) to feed her. It was much easier my second time around when I was not working full time. My hat goes off to all working moms! It is not easy, especially in such a physical profession.

How big of a role did motherhood play in your decision to retire from the stage?
When the time came I was ready to retire from dancing, and I really wanted to be a full-time Mom. It was actually perfect timing. I was able to leave on my own terms and move forward into the next chapter of my life.  In my last performance I was able to dance one of the leads in  Balanchine's Stravinsky Violin Concerto and Alvin Ailey's The River. I thoroughly enjoyed both pieces, and they will always hold a special place in my heart. When you have spent your entire adult life as a dancer there comes a time when you want more--for me my little family was exactly what I wanted.

I know you are teaching now.  Are you doing anything else dancewise?   
I am teaching for the school and the company of NCDT.  In the next month I am also taking part in a training program with The Mark Morris Dance Group to learn how to teach dance to people with Parkinson's Disease. I am extremely excited about this and hope it can be part of my future as an instructor. I have always loved to teach and have been interested in dance as a means of therapy as well as self-expression.

Mothers often feel as though they are torn between motherhood and the part of them that misses doing, being or having something else.  Can you speak about this a little?
I know that is a really common and I have friends who really struggle with their exit from the dance world. I think I am fortunate because I have always loved to teach and for me that is my outlet. There are often days when I am tired and wonder how I will muster the energy to lead a class of students for two and a half hours, but somehow teaching always leaves me energized and excited. It sounds very corny but it is true. I do not have a gift for choreographing, but I definitely have an affinity for teaching.

Has being a mother changed how you teach?
It has made me more aware of not just training dancers, but also instilling my students with confidence, discipline and joy.  I know that only a very small amount of my students will actually go onto dance professionally. It is a very difficult profession. As a mom and teacher I am not only focused on the child who may go on to dance in New York City Ballet, but also the child who can take the skills learned from dance class and apply them to their personal and professional lives.  Dance should spill over into other aspects of a child’s life, and I hope to help my students realize that.

Declan isn't old enough for classes, but is Lola dancing?  If she were to continue to study, based on your own knowledge and experience, what would you hope to see emphasized in her training?
Well, Declan can’t sit still when he hears music playing so I may have no choice but to enroll him in dance soon! As for Lola, she takes ballet now and it is fun for her. I just take it year by year and if she wants to continue that is fine but if not that is okay too.  I just want her to be happy and I never want her to feel like she has to do something because I did it. If you are going to be a professional dancer you have to want it with all of your heart--that is not terribly common.

If she were to continue I would want her dance training to be as well rounded as possible. You can no longer be just a ballet dancer. You have to be well versed in other styles of dance as well. There are very few companies out there now that only perform classical ballet. Modern and Jazz styles improve your technique and make you a more interesting performer.

You definitely have achieved a level of status as a dancer.  Does Lola have any idea how big a deal you are?
You are too kind! To Lola I am just "Mommy." Occasionally she will ask me about my life as a ballerina but she is more interested in her American Girl Dolls or Scooby Doo! Maybe if I had made a guest appearance on "Yo Gabba Gabba" she would really think I was a big deal!

 How would you feel about her embarking on a professional career?  
As I said before, dance is a profession that you do not choose--it chooses you. The love is either there or it's not. Right now, Lola is too young to tell, but I have a feeling she will find her own way and it will be completely unique. That is just fine with me!

Biggest piece of advice for dancer moms?
Find a something from your past life and pursue it. Even if that just means taking class once a month, seeing live performances or teaching.  Once a dancer always a dancer--keep a little bit of your former life if you can. It will help balance you as a mom.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No One Likes a Tattletale

Vehicularly speaking it's been a bad week.

No, nothing happened to my car.  It's what happened to me when parking my car was involved.  I became an angry white man with a perm!

Just kidding.

Anyway, anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a bit loopy.  But I am a loving mom to two wonderfully, and perhaps miraculously, well adjusted children. I manage to be the C.O.O. of a cluttered, yet clean, well-stocked home where everyone eats, for the most part, healthful food and enjoys clean clothes.  I have a job where I am respected.  I have many good friends who are themselves accomplished, intelligent, empathetic, rational, loving people.

So why in the past few days have I been behaving like a girl duo featuring Tyler Perry's Madea and Lucy Ricardo?

And no, it's not THAT.

First there was the person who parked his bumper literally up on my grille over the weekend.  Ignoring the requests of my husband,  I grabbed a piece of paper from my bag, marched into a fancy boutique to borrow a pen, and as the shopgirls nervously peeked at my paper to see if this mad black woman was going to make it their last day on earth, I penned a VERY nasty note.  Then I flashed the girls a big grin, thanked them, scurried back outside, stuck my angry missive on the offender's back windshield, and Austin Powersed my car out of the spot.

Then yesterday, after I'd been circling half the South Loop for a free spot for over 30 minutes, I found a space, available except for the fact that a woman was standing there, reserving it.  Standing there!  I noticed a cop in his cruiser further up the street and I asked him if holding a spot on foot was legal.  He said no.  He u-turned in front of me warning me not to pull into him, and reprimanded the driver of the now parked car.  I u-turned as well, having thought the spot might still be free.  I continued on, prepared to give up and put my car in a lot or at a meter.

And then lo and behold, I saw a gorgeous, huge spot, shining like a beacon in the woods.

On the other side of the street.

I don't know what I was thinking.  Maybe that I had just done it.  Maybe that the cop had just done it.  Maybe I thought he wouldn't notice, even though he was 50 yards away, facing me.

Wouldn't notice?  Really?  How out to lunch without a sandwich could I have been?

So I u-turned, and lined up to park.

"Don't make a u-turn in front of an intersection!" A voice scolded.  It was the cop, who'd pulled up beside me.  I made the best cute-dumb-sorry face I could muster without having taken acting classes.  "I could write you a huge ticket.  Go ahead and park."  Thank God he let me go.  J would have killed me; he's warned me about my u-turn fetish a bajillion times.  And how perfect would that have been - a $200+ dollar ticket as the cost of a free space.

No one likes a tattletale.  Or a crazy lady who leaves nasty notes on people's cars.  I consider myself warned.  Karma's a bit--, ain't it?

Do we act worse behind our cars the more out of control we feel?  Are there any other folks out there who feel that their driving has become worse, not better, as one would think, since they became a parent?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Ways Motherhood is Like Being a Dancer

  1. You are constantly analyzing your performance. 

  1. It requires great strength, flexibility and endurance.

  1. Your body will never be the same.

  1. Someone is always telling you what to do, how to do it and to do it again.

  1. You have to go on, because you probably don’t have an understudy, and if you do s/he’s under-rehearsed. 

  1. When you’re off balance someone could get hurt. 

  1. No sitting allowed – unless you’re engaged in something that requires sitting.  That's really and truly requires it...

  1. Some things good or bad, are just a function of genetics. 

  1. Rejection is arbitrary; genuine praise is hard won.

  1. It’s a labor of love, and you can’t imagine life any other way.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Blues

Labor Day terrifies me.

Not because it’s a holiday thunk up by some lefties and their sympathizers* so we could have federally ordained day to grill, picnic and come home from a trip.  It’s scary because it sneaks up on you like a flash mob – not the good kind where people meet in a public venue and burst into a choreographic tribute to Baryshnikov, Travolta and the Peanuts gang.  I mean the very bad kind where very bad people sneak up on you and beat you up, leaving you unable to think straight, sleep or eat, and as jumpy as if you’d just consumed an quintuple espresso.  

Just like that, bam!  It’s the first day of school.

Sure I saw the TV commercials for back-to-school shopping in July.  Why would I have paid attention to those?  Then I was still shopping for flip-flops and a new figure-flattering swimsuit for my vacation.  I denied and denied, and now it’s upon me.

As a teacher this is shameful.  I’ve been on an academic schedule every year save one since I graduated from college.  I should be emotionally prepared, if not overjoyed right now.  At the start of the school year, if you throw open the curtains of a good teacher’s soul, you should see sunshine, birds chirping and unicorns dancing on rainbows, not a homeless man spewing profanities and pulling the newspapers back over his face. 

Truth be told, it’s performance anxiety.  Once I get back into the building and into the classroom everything’s fine, great even.  I love seeing beloved colleagues, old students and new, and the feeling of a clean slate.  I suddenly realize that I have not forgotten how to teach. While my systems might need tweaking, there’s no need to stress over completely reinventing the wheel. As I reenter the zone, where teaching flows, I remember that I’m pretty good at what I do. And then there are the perks! The joy of speaking to adults. Of using the toilet without an audience. Of having lunch with friends. Of regular alone time in the car to and from work.  Simple, yet huge pleasures.

And soon it's all normal.  By the end of Week One, it’s like there was no break at all. Summer is a distant memory.

Just six weeks ago, when summer term ended, I was terrified by the prospect of SAHM-hood.  But I got it down.  I followed my little manifesto ( reasonably well if I do say so myself.  Sure there were days we all cried.  Sure there were days I was certain someone would leave the house in an ambulance and/or in handcuffs.  Sure there were days that I longed to be at work, even on a those-students-couldn’t-find-their-butt-with- both-hands kind of day.  But the kids and I had a fun summer hanging out with our regulars at the park, and going on lots of playdates and outings.  We had a great family vacation.  I started this blog which I love writing.  This summer, I felt like I had it figured out.

Now it’s a return to the advanced-level Motherhood Shuffle, to coming home from work, and after the reunion hugs, being plunged into dinner and bath and bed rituals, to stuffing 4 more slices into a pie that’s already bursting.   What’s going to give?  What will I be doing a mediocre, if not downright craptastic job at?

It cannot and will not be my children, so unfortunately work takes a hit.   I simply do not have the time to prep that I used to.  I used to be a pretty stellar well-prepared teacher.  Now (imagine this being said with an intonation somewhere between Scarlet O’Hara and Jesse Jackson), I depend on the powers of improvisation, the luck of divine inspiration and the immediacy of desperation.  Most often, I’m lucky.  I wipe my brow and say to myself, “Fooled ‘em again.” But sometimes I’m not.  And when you’re teaching something you’ve been doing your whole life, something that is like your religion, it feels awful. I console myself by saying I was doing 110% before, so now giving 85%, which is pretty good, will have to do. Still, it is no fun to feel like you have a chronic case of half-ass.  It’s no fun to be constantly questioning my perfomance.  I make peace with myself, but the doubts resurface. 

This Labor Day, as my firstborn, Riley, begins preschool, a milestone which thrills and awes me, I turn a new corner in the land of “How-Am-I-Gonna?”.  How do I get three people out the door and to two different places without being ridiculously late to work?  How do I meet Riley’s needs as a preschooler, as well as Aria’s as she becomes a full-fledged toddler?  Today I don’t know.  But very soon I will.  It might not always be pretty, but I’ll get there.  Just as I answered the How-am-I-gonnas of bringing home two newborns (and getting them to this point), I’ll figure this one out, as I will many more to come.  Such is motherhood, until somehow, someday, you touch down on the pleasant, sunny shores of “How-Did-I-Ever?”.

*I heart lefties and their sympathizers!

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