Monday, September 4, 2023

A Summer Well Spent

 Warning! Here comes a long post. I am way behind and there is a lot to update.  

Rebekah's Summer

Rebekah spent the summer dancing her heart out. She did seven weeks of summer intensives this year. Her first intensive was with The Ballet Conservatory of Asheville where she dances year round. She loved BCA's intensive. They brought in some great guest teachers, Matthew Donnell and Daniel Ubricht to name a few. She was also able to live at home and she received a partial scholarship which saved a great deal on cost. This intensive ended up being her favorite all-around experience this summer. 

Her second summer intensive was UNCSA's Professional Studies week. She did this one last year, too. This year started off bumpy, because she was put into the campus apartments and there was a host of problems with her All-in-One card. It wouldn't let her or several others through the gate or into most campus buildings and her meals weren't on the card. Because it was the weekend and the card office was closed, campus police had to step in and escort her into buildings and the cafeteria just fed her once they understood the issue. Also, the apartment was bare bones with no toilet paper, shower curtain, or overhead lighting except for the bathroom and walk-in closet. Plus, the sheet size she had been told to bring was wrong. All that required an emergency trip to Target for a lamp, shower curtain and a few necessities.  It all worked out, but was a nerve-wracking start. Rebekah did enjoy the week going forward, but she didn't feel like she was challenged as much as she would have wished when considering the cost of the program. She did really enjoy the company of her roommates and that college always takes good care of their students even when things are bumpy.

Her third and fourth summer intensives were each one week long and back-to-back and out of state. There were issues with boarding for both, so we decided in the end that it made the most sense for me to travel with her for those two weeks. This was a big deal because it was the longest time I had ever been away from Elijah or Tim. My husband is usually the one that travels. There was a ton of planning needed to have mom away from home for two full weeks. It all went better than expected for David, Elijah and Tim. Having Dear Husband take the two weeks off from work was a very good plan. I will talk about my adventures further on in the blog. 

We went to Northern Virginia to stay with my stepmother for the third intensive. The housing was free which was great, but the commute to the Maryland suburbs two times a day to drop Rebekah off  and pick her up 8 hours later was very long. I often spent upwards of three to four hours on the road in heavy traffic to get her back and forth. The intensive was a Cecchetti intensive. Rebekah was quickly moved up to the second highest level. She enjoyed her time there and felt challenged, but Cecchetti is no longer her preferred style of ballet.  Also, there was no exposure to potential ballet companies for the future. However, it was a very budget-friendly week and strengthened her skills.

We never got a picture of her at Cecchetti so I am putting one in of both of us from that week.

Her fourth intensive was the company experience with the Philadelphia Ballet. She had great hopes and expectations for this one. She was exploring it for a possible dance company in her future and attending this week would be great for her resume. This ended up being the most expensive between the housing (hotel) and the cost of the actual intensive, travel and eating out. Also, it was her least favorite. There was lots of downtime where the dancers were sitting in hallways waiting for their turn. She only got to dance a few hours a day. She did think the dancing she got to do was challenging and interesting. Also, she made some good connections with other dancers and learned about which summer intensives to try or skip in the future. 

Our Fun Travels ~

While Rebekah danced during the day, I did lots of exploration. In the evenings Rebekah and I enjoyed doing some exploring together. We arrived at my stepmother's home the weekend before Rebekah's Cecchetti intensive started. We had an appointment to get two of Rebekah's American Girl Dolls' hair redone. She bought some dolls at a thrift store that had loose limbs, and she fixed them herself but needed the hair to be professionally done at the American Girl Doll store in Virginia. Both dolls now look like brand new. 

After our appointment, Sue (my stepmother) took us out for afternoon tea at the Ritz as a belated birthday gift for me. I love afternoon tea. I think I was supposed to be British and born in a different 

After we got Rebekah settled at her ballet intensive, we headed for Annapolis, the capital of Maryland. I grew up in this area, yet somehow never visited this gorgeous historic town. Sue's partner Tom joined us for this adventurous day. We took a two hour tour of the Naval Academy that was fascinating. The architecture was stunning and our tour guide was very knowledgeable. After the tour, we had lunch on the water and visited four antique shops. I picked up a child's school reader from 1900 for a few bucks. We finished out the day with a tour of the State House, which is the oldest capitol house in continuous use. It was a perfect day.

Naval Academy chapel ceiling

Maryland State House
On another day we went to the National Harbor and went on this ferris wheel. It was so high, we could see for a long distance. I don't think my stepmother cared much for it, but I loved it. 

The next day, we went to the National Museum of African American History. It is a new museum, and despite having ticketed entry, it was a little too crowded. It was hard to get a turn with the interactive displays. However, it is very well done. My favorite room was the reflection pool with important quotes engraved into the walls. It was very peaceful.

Lastly, Sue and I went to the Van Gogh Immersion exhibit. I highly recommend this experience, if it ever comes near you. We spent two hours just absorbing the music and art as it came alive all around us. 

After a few days of an insane evening commute home, Rebekah and I decided to hang around College Park, Maryland for an hour or so to let the traffic die down a little bit. We explored a really nice consignment shop where we found some neat deals on clothes and on another night had dinner at and a wander around Ikea.

The Cecchetti Intensive came to an end and we moved on to Philadelphia. Tom and Sue drove us up with the plan to stay for 24 hours and take in some of the sights. We arrived early enough on Sunday to let Rebekah pick one attraction that she wanted to do. She picked the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, which we had taken the kids to many years ago when they were small. They loved it then and still talk about it to this day. My husband and I studied criminology in college and I love abandoned places. Apparently, our interests rubbed off on them. It was even better this time, because we were all able to listen to the audio tour and really get all the information. It still is one of my all-time favorite tours. 

Monday rolled around and Rebekah was off to her Philadelphia Company experience, which was a short walk from our hotel. I walked her every day and explored the city on foot the rest of the time. I walked about six miles a day. Before Sue and Tom left, they drove me to the historic section of Philly to visit Christ Church Burial Ground. It is a very old graveyard where Benjamin Franklin is buried alongside many other early Philadelphians. Did I mention, I love graveyards...the older the better. 

After the graveyard, we parted ways and they returned to Washington, D.C. I quickly got into the routine of taking Rebekah to dance, picking up a Starbucks tea and walking down to the park that is in the shadow of City Hall. It is a nice park with lots of comfortable seats. I sat there and read a book and ate my packed lunch (Rebekah and I ate lots of peanut butter and jelly). After lunch, I went on a tour within walking distance. One day it was City Hall Tower tour, another day the Masonic Temple and a third day found me at the oldest Fine Arts School and museum in America. If there was any more time to kill before picking up Rebekah, I would return to the hotel and watch a movie or wander through one of the many city parks.

Our evenings were spent eating out mostly in Chinatown, which was one block from our hotel, visiting The Macy's Wanamaker Organ and taking in their nightly free concert, and window shopping in the fashion district. One night we even went to the Chinese Lantern Festival. The festival was like nothing we had ever seen. It was probably one of the things we will remember forever from Philadelphia. We stayed there past dark and then walked as fast as we could through Chinatown with all of our wits about us back to our hotel. Philadelphia isn't the safest place, but we didn't have any trouble.

The City Hall Tower Tour was amazing. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of elevators. The super old elevator that had to be cranked to go up or down and literally could only hold four of us was terrifying. It also was glass which usually makes it easier on me, but the inside of the clock tower, although neat to see, also looked like we were floating in space. I made it to the top and back down again without panicking. 
You could see for miles. 

The Wanamaker Organ just in the middle of Macy's, which is one of the largest in the world.

The Fine Arts Museum was interesting.
The Masonic Temple was one of the most interesting tours of this trip. I ran into a very rude man before the tour even started who was a Mason himself. He was waiting for the tour and was very upset that a woman had been allowed to buy a ticket for the tour. I ended up holding my own with him and even got to shine a bit when I was the only one who was able to read a bit of the Latin on the walls. He was doubly upset when the female tour guide showed up. He demanded to know why she was allowed to be the tour guide. I wonder if he represents the Masons or was a fluke? The building was amazing and filled with the most over-the-top themed rooms. I liked the ceilings the best. 

Rebekah and I took the train back to Washington, D.C. and then the subway back to Springfield, Virginia, where we collected our car and drove home to North Carolina. It was an amazing trip and I was so glad to see that my guys held up pretty well without me. However, I have no intention of leaving for that long again anytime soon!

We are already thick into the school year. Rebekah is taking four classes this semester (she started off with five, but one of the math courses she was taking was over her head and we decided that she needed to drop it until she could take a refresher course).  The rest of her classes are gong well. She is also dancing at BCA again this year and switched jobs from H&M to a small dance store. She also is going to be her brother Tim's Direct Care Person.

Tim was finally approved for Innovations, which is a program that keeps special needs people out of nursing homes and in small family settings where they can receive better care and have fuller lives. For now, he wants to continue living with us and have a Direct Care Person who will provide his transportation and work on lifeskill goals with him. There is a severe shortage of staff in the area and Rebekah was willing to go through the training to take on this paid position and take care of her brother. He is delighted that she is willing to take the job, so he doesn't have to rely on a stranger. Timothy was on the waiting list for 14+ years and we are so grateful that it has finally come through and will secure his future. 

Elijah is having a hard time right now. His job at Target is becoming a toxic environment, but he is frozen with fear to leave and try something new. Also, he seems to be slipping into another depression. There is very little joy for him right now, and we are working double time to try to get him back to a happy or at least more contented place. Sadly, in the middle of this his long-time therapist is leaving practice. She is doing everything she can to leave him in stable shape, but it all feels a bit overwhelming right now. 

It will be one year next week since Katie broke all contact with us.  We hear very little of what is going on with her and do not know where she currently is or how she is living. 

A rough start to fall, but we are looking forward to smoother roads and beautiful experiences. We continue to be abundantly blessed. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Our Bathroom Redo...Goodbye, Chartreuse Tiles!!

One of our bathrooms has been a chartreuse color ever since we moved in 11 years ago.  We finally had the resources to have the 1950's tiles (which are still in excellent shape) professionally refinished. This was so much more affordable than replacing the tile and much better for the environment. 

This bathroom is primarily used by Rebekah and me. Once all the tile and bathtub were refinished in white, we decided to wallpaper. I miscalculated how much we needed, because I forgot that the measurements would be different for large patterns (more waste). Since our choice in wallpaper is printed in batches and not guaranteed to be the exact same color, we chose to paint one wall in a complementary green. As our concept evolved, we decided to try to make the bathroom into a tiny jewel box by using rich-looking materials and brass/gold metals. We found a "velvet" shower curtain on Amazon and a gorgeous light fixture on Etsy. We also bought a brass-painted mirror and brass sink fixtures. 

We drastically reduced how much stuff is kept in the bathroom. We moved some of it to the linen closet and decided that we could go without the rest. We haven't missed any of it in the last month of using our tiny bathroom. 

Rebekah turned out to be a marvelous wallpaperer. She hated doing it but was very good at it.  We did squabble a bit in the beginning when I was the leader and she was the helper. I am not a perfectionist, while she very, very much is a perfectionist. Once I turned the wallpaper process over to her and became her assistant, we did much better. I still need to seal the marble floor again. I did it about 6 years ago, and it could use a fresh deep clean and polish. Hopefully I will get to that in August. 
"Seasons" by York

I am so glad to have this bathroom done! It is a pleasure to go into it each time and see our accomplishments. We did all the work ourselves, except the plumbing and refinishing of the tile. 

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Giselle, Mono, a Certificate and our 25th Anniversary

So much has happened in the last few weeks. First, we continued the endless illness in our family. I think this has been the sickest year our family has ever experienced. May found me sick once again with whatever the sweet little guy for whom I am a nanny. He and I were both a mess for more than a week. It felt significantly worse than when I had COVID. Then our cat Eve got a very high fever that resulted in an ER visit, two hospital stays and lots of IV treatments. She didn't have any of the viruses for which they tested her, and the vets finally declared it was a fever of unknown origin. While she was struggling for more than a week, my husband fell ill. His energy had been poor for a few weeks and then he got a terrible cough, high fever and pink eye. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and mononucleosis. Now, I wonder if the cat and I also had mono since it can show up as a high fever in cats. Who knows? My husband is still struggling with a cough, but otherwise we are all back to normal. It was a crazy ride. 

In the meantime, life goes on and is filled with blessings. Rebekah performed in Giselle. There were three performances. It was a beautiful and dark ballet about a peasant girl's ghost who attempts to protect her lover from the Queen of the Wilis as well as the other Wilis (angry female spirits). In two of the shows, Rebekah performed as Giselle's mother, which was mostly an acting role. She did a superb job. She also danced as a peasant girl as well as one of the Wilis. For the third performance, she had her most challenging role, that of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis (Myrtha). This role is a coveted role on a dancer's resume, and Rebekah did an excellent job of it. 

Here are her pictures as Queen of the Wilis.

Here is the one photo we got of her as a peasant (with brown vest). I am still waiting for a photo of her in the role of mother. 

I am so glad that Rebekah found such a wonderful ballet school to dance with this year. The plan is for her to stay with them next year and continue to train. They give wonderful opportunities to perform. During the last few weeks, she also performed in a recital and the Amadeus Festival. 

Rebekah also completed step one of her Associate's Degree in Business. She is achieving her A.S.S. degree by building steps, so if she ever needs to stop, she will have a completed certificate or diploma at the end of each year. This will allow her to show a completed accomplishment instead of only saying she has some college on a resume. This system does require her to take a few additional courses, but seems like the right choice. We know that a ballet company might pick her up in the coming year or two, which would mean her college education would have to stop for that time being. 

This year she completed a Certificate in Retail Marketing with a 4.0 GPA.  We are very proud of her hard work.

She has already begun her summer course, Principles of Management. By the end of the coming school year, she hopes to have completed all the course work to achieve her diploma in Business Administration. Then the year after that, if all goes according to plan and she stays living in the local area, she will complete two Associate's Degrees, one in Business: Retail and Marketing and the second in Business Administration. 

Dear Husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this month. We had a lovely little get away at a brand new local hotel. It was absolutely charming. We ate in the hotel restaurant, had mocktails at the rooftop hotel bar, sat by the fire and pored over an eclectic stack of books in their library over breakfast. It was a lovely restorative 18 hours away from home. 

The rest of the family is doing well. Elijah is busy with work, expanding his friend group (which is a big deal for him with his social anxiety), keeping up with his normal activities and giving driving lessons another chance. Tim is dong tons of testing to try to get services that would follow him for life (even when we, his parents, are old and grey).  He has been on the "Needs Not Being Met" waiting list for 11 years. no kidding. 

There is so much more going on this month. My birthday is right around the corner, Father's Day, a small bathroom renovation reveal, working with my little guy and the true beginning of summer. I hope to get another post up at the tail end of the month. 

Blessings, Dawn