Sunday, May 11, 2014

It has been a long, long time since I last blogged.  Today, Mother's Day 2014, I revisited my Twitter account, and this blog.  I am making a commitment to myself to start writing, reconnecting and shaking things up again.  I will once again take to the page and indulge myself.  

When last I blogged, I was very sad.  My mother had passed away, and I was learning how to cope with a loss that large in my world.  Since that time, I have learned that when you love that deeply, the love never leaves.  I feel mom everywhere.  We talk in my dreams.  I have felt her arms around me.  

Holy cow - I am 50.  How the heck did I make it?  Happy to say that I am 50, in love with a wonderful man, loving the adventure of mommyhood, and honored to share a home with my father.

Work?  I am back in the trenches. This time around I am building a team of sales people to go out and spread the good word of RT London.  It is a great company and it is exciting work.  I feel valued and I know I am making an impact.  The best part is that I am financially able to help my family again.  The dreadful days of the economic downturn are the past.  Happy and healthfully we move forward.

So loving friends, I am back.  I hope to use this platform to expand on nagging thoughts, share memories and solve the problems of the world.  I hope you will hang out with me again.

Hugs - Jenn XOXO

Monday, January 21, 2013

You Were Only Waiting for this Moment to Be Free

My mother recently passed away.  It was the saddest day of my life to date.  I had the sweetest, kindest mother.   She was what people call 'a real lady'. I am not going to wax poetic about my mother in this particular blog.  I am still holding my pain close and my memories of her closer.  I did want to share just a couple of things.  

The final days of my mother's life, my father, sister and I camped at my mother's bedside.  She was comatose as this juncture, damned dementia having stolen the last bits of her from us.  We spoke to her, loved her, sang and laughed for her, and of course, cried our hearts out.  We each got to say good-bye.  I sat next to mom trying to think of something eloquent to express, what the last 49 years of my life with her meant...I was not eloquent, but surprisingly, I was able to express what my heart felt.  I will share one thing with you that I talked to her about....and it might seem trite to some, but it really meant a lot to me.  I reminded her how unhappy I was growing up with this crazy curly hair.  She knew the teasing I got a school, and how it hurt me.  I could never get a fashionable hair cut because it always morphed into an unfashionable frizz ball (my mother had perfectly straight, beautiful black hair, which turned a beautiful white as she grew older, by the way).  When I was 13 or so, my mother, every other night, would roll my thick hair on to large, pink curlers (the diameter of beer cans), and the following morning (yes, I slept in them) would blow dry my hair straight.  This was no small task.  It was labor intensive and I was a miserable, moody preteen.  While my hair was not Marcia Brady straight, the results were so much better then the small afro I had been sporting.  I do not know if I ever thanked her while we engaged in this beauty ritual every other night.  It was such a loving and unselfish effort on her part.  She wanted her daughter to not feel different, and to not suffer the teasing of cruel kids.  I never thought I was pretty while in school (mom was voted prettiest girl in her high school her senior year).  I was just a tall, curly headed, dance geek,  but she always told me that my day would come, and one day my real beauty would be seen.  She also said that my beauty was not conventional.  Anyone could be conventional.  God bless her for believing that.  So, as I sat by my dying mother, holding her hand, I thanked her for helping me to fit in better, at a time in my life when not fitting in was very painful. I also thanked her for helping me to eventually embrace what God gave me. 

When we realized that my mother's soul was soon to leave her body, we started preparing in our own way.  I wanted to pray and ask God to embrace my mother and welcome her, but instead, the prayer that came to my mind, without thinking, without hesitation, was not a prayer at all, but the Beatles' song "Blackbird".  At that most precious of moments, I saw my mother, as clear as day, as the young, black haired beauty she was in her youth.  The song resonated in my head.  It was a prayer, and as her soul ascended, the words soothed my soul too.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird fly Blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Summer is here and it is HOT-HOT-HOT.  Along with the heat, some big changes have arrived.  I am officially unemployed.  I have mixed feeling about this as I loved my job, and my designers...I will miss them, however a huge weight has lifted and for the first time in several months, I do not feel like I have ADD.  I will be spending the summer concentrating on my mother and my family.  It has come time to move mom into an acute nursing facility. With a heavy heart  my father, sister and I will start the process of interviewing and touring local facilities to find the best place for her to live.  I am anxious, scared and reluctant to move her.  She has been very content for the last year in her current memory care facility.  However, due to the fact that mom is no longer ambulatory, state law dictates she go to a facility that can assist her in case of fire or other emergency.  Also, her needs have progressed to the point where she must have full time care with the simplest of tasks.  My hope is that once we establish where she will be, the move will be smooth and with as minimal impact on mom as possible.  The milestones are passing more quickly now, and yet I am never emotionally prepared.

As one would expect, changes are occurring within our household too.  Dad's house in on the market and we hope it sells soon.  The idea is for dad to move in with us, and we find a new home, in a good public school system to renovate and move in to.  I am nervously waiting for this to happen.  School starts sooner than later.  Dad and I have been saying prayers for St. Joseph to confer with the BIG guy for intervention and help get his house sold.  I am also wishing on stars and crossing my fingers.  You never know what might work - so I am throwing it all out to the cosmos.  On a happy note, Dominick is finally not scared to submerge his face in the water.  He is showing signs that he will indeed be a swimmer!  Whew.  I was deeply worried that he would be the only teenager wearing floaties at the pool party.  I am convinced that he will be the only teenager still eating chicken nuggets, but that is story for another day.  I am hopeful that my time off from work will give us the opportunity to spend at the pool, and work on those water skills.  

Our annual trip to Hilton Head is coming mid-July and all attempts top shape up and slim down have been thwarted by laziness and peanut brittle.  My intentions are good, but my will is weak.  Throwing out a prayer for strength against temptations too - but I honestly think that the cosmos is laughing at me these days. And speaking of the beach...I have fallen back in love with my old home in South Florida - Delray Beach.  It is a sweet little place and it feels good to be there.  I love spending all weekend on a bike, just enjoying the ocean breeze.  I am blessed with fantastic friends there too.  My fantasy world has me, Tim, Dominick and Nicole living there during the school year, and then running to the mountains for the summer.  I even have a business plan that could make this a reality.  What I do not have it business capital and the support of my husband.  Tim is far too rooted in reality for his own good.  Buzz kill.

Now that I find myself with time on my hands, I hope to be more diligent with my blog.  My art, dancing, my writing have taken a back seat to so many other, very important things through the years.  I just need to remember to take a little time out and indulge myself.  With all these changes, a little break will help me to navigate through the tough times, and also help me to appreciate all those good moments in life.  After all, I have a lot to be thankful for.  

Kisses sweeties...Jenn XO

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Everything There is a Season

Spring is here and I am decidedly happy about it.  I am a fall baby and typically relish the colder weather, but this year's winter barely made an appearance.  There were no snow flurries and no reason to have a fire in the fireplace.  I figure we might as well get on with this business of summer and get it over with.   I have a renewed enthusiasm for fashion and desire to get my middle-aged body moving again, so I might as well take advantage of what the warmer weather has to offer.  Making that statement on my blog, in front of my peers holds me accountable....that and the prospect of my 30 year high school reunion this summer (yes, 30...and ouch).  Let's get the old body moving and fill up the closet with clothes and shoes!  That is what I call motivation.  That...and a few other things.  

I have mentioned many times that I am an older mom.  My son is now 6 and I am well into my 48th year.  I have yet another reason to get my sluggish self moving.  I need to stay young.  My parents were in the late 40's when I departed college.  I will be 60 when Dominick graduates high school.  I want to live to see him graduate from college, get married and make me a grandmother.  I often say that I have few regrets in my life, but if I had to do it all over again...I would have married and had my child earlier.  All with the same man of course.  Dominick is the wonderful, easy going kid that he is, partly because he has older parents.  So, while I had him at the perfect time in my history, sometimes I wish I could jump in a time machine and change a few things....

What would I change you ask?  First off, knowing that if I time travel and if I mess with anything, it will alter the future...So I would start wrecking havoc starting in college.  I had an adorable college boyfriend...actually, he was pretty hot stuff, but I should have dated more.  There are several boys that come to mind that I would have liked to have known better.  Maybe I should not have majored in dance, but studied something a little more marketable, especially since I did not pursue a career in dance (although it gave me confidence and courage).  Hindsight being 20/20, I should have studied computer science, even though the thought of that is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Moving into my 20's...again, I should have dated more instead of giving my heart to boys who, while sweet, and funny, did not have the same goals and aspirations as me.  My fault for not investing in the long term...again, hindsight.  I met my husband at an architectural firm where we both worked, in my late 30's.  I thought he was like every other architect I have ever worked with - arrogant (sorry my architect friends...but you know your reputation)...and he was, but there was something endearing about him too.  We fell in love and married and had our beautiful boy.  I just can't help wishing that it would have happened when I was 35 (which would have made Tim 31).  So much more time to enjoy each other and our family...I think about the riches in my life and it really makes me wonder how I ever saw myself as happy in relationships before this.  I reflect on a particular relationship during my early - mid 30's and wonder..."what the hell?"  Who was I and why on earth did I allow myself to be treated like that?  Again, I will say I have few regrets so far, but I have had disappointments.  I get a little mad at myself  for allowing relationships to continue beyond their expiration date.  Sometimes I think of those years and think that was time I could have had sooner with my husband and son.  However, while I was going through my issues, my husband has his own set of relationship discoveries to make.  Everything for a reason and at the right season in your life.  I have to be happy with that.  Actually there is no other option.  We would not be where we are and who we are without those experiences.

So, here I sit, 48 years and 5 months old.  I am happy.  I am in love.  I have the nicest, funniest, smartest son, and am doubly blessed with a beautiful, talented and sweet step-daughter.  My parents are still alive and my father is remission from cancer.  My mother, while in the throngs of Alzheimer's, is healthy and happy.  I have so much to be grateful for.  Since I cannot change the past, I am letting go of  the old worries and disappointments right now.  I am embracing today and am excited at what tomorrow will offer.  I can only be the best person I can be, for me and for my family.  If that means taking extra good care of myself so that my old ass can sit through Dominick's graduation ceremony in 2024, so be it.  Live in the here and now and be excited with the opportunity to live and love again tomorrow.  

Rock on is pretty damn good.  Hello 48 and 5 months.  You feel good on me.  I love you!

Jenn Hall-Vaccaro

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ghost of Christmas Past

Atlanta Botanical Gardens holiday lights

I have been away from my blog for awhile...I  am uninspired. Christmas has come and gone, and I enjoyed so little of it.  The new year is demanding attention, and I will soon be forced to give in to it.  I am dragging these last few days of 2011.  The ever present auto-immune disorders are nagging at me, and I have a bad case of the holiday let downs.  Holidays have lacked in appeal for me these last few years.  The shopping, cooking, cleaning and preparing for the big event is tiresome and any time I get to actually enjoy the holiday is fleeting.  I desperately want to find that peace and joy that this time of year is supposed to bring.  It is lost on me.  Don't get me wrong, I adore preparing Christmas for my son and step daughter.  It is pure pleasure watching them enjoy their moment.  That is really the only joy of Christmas for me. I guess that I am left to wonder, where is my moment?  Sounds selfish, I know, as Christmas is not about me.  It is about my children and the bigger picture - God's gift to us.  I should be happy and content.  I should not even have the nerve to say what I am about to...I just wish that the magic of that "special gift" would find me once again.  The impersonal gift cards are appreciated.  I will use them.  I give them for the same reasons I receive them. They are easy.  Seriously though, it is all fluff.  I am so tired of exclaiming "I love it", when I don't.  I appreciate the gift, don't get me wrong, but I am left uninspired. 

Once my mother started losing the battle with dementia, Christmas has not been the same for me.  My mother loved to shop and loved to buy for those she loved. It was a true talent.  One Christmas she bought the best leopard print, super fuzzy house shoes from Nordstrom's for me, my sister, my Aunt Angel and herself.  I love the pictures of us on that Christmas Eve in our holiday finery, wearing those fantastic slippers and drinking wine.  I cannot express what made these slippers so great, except that when we all tried them on, they felt like something you would wear in foot heaven and we felt special.  There were always very appropriate surprises from her.  I still carry a beautiful leather bag she so thoughtfully gave me on Christmas over 10 years ago. I will have it forever.  I did not know I needed this bag, but when I opened the box, there it was...a perfect black, soft leather, classic purse.  She was thoughtful that way.  I miss that thoughtfulness.  Sometimes she gave us cosmetics or fragrances. Mom always managed to charm samples out of the sales people, so that when we opened our gifts, not only was there our present, but loads of goodies to go with it!  If I asked for a nice pair of gloves, I would get the gloves...and a scarf and a hat, because really, you cannot just have a scarf without the rest.  Mom would wrap our presents in beautiful paper that she would adorn with fancy ribbons and bows. That was part of the fun with mom's gifts.  You knew that under that beautiful wrapping was going to be a wonderful surprise.  I miss those surprises she would have waiting for us.  She always gave me the perfect gift, that I never even knew I wanted, or needed, until I opened them.  That is why her gifts were so special...It was always perfect, and perfect for me

We visited mom at her memory care facility on Christmas morning.  She was in great spirits.  I am always struck with the natural beauty my mother possess, even in the throngs of this terrible disease.  Her skin is radiant and face, practically wrinkle free.  She laughs and she loves, which is the gift that I am most grateful for now.  We cannot have conversations and she cannot tell me what is happening inside her head, so I have to be happy with her expressions and the light of her eyes.  I wish, more than you can imagine, that she were with me and my family this Christmas.  Oh to raise a glass of holiday cheer with her once again, and giggle uncontrollably because we might have raised that glass a couple too many times.

I miss my mother desperately and I cannot lie and say that I am okay with how things are going.  I am not.  I am pissed off, I am sad and I want to scream.  I cannot forget how she was looking at me on Christmas morning when we visited her.  She was staring at me, smiling, and her eyes radiated such intense love.  She knew it was me, her daughter, and that she loved me.  She kept saying "Oh Jenny, you are so beautiful!", over and over.  I hold on to that moment as the best gift I received this Christmas.  That was the gift with all the magic.
Visiting Mom on Christmas morning - I LOVE her!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lupus - A Bunch of Poopus.

I was recently diagnosed with Lupus.  While it is a crummy diagnosis, I am at least glad that I finally know why I have been feeling off for the last handful of years.  I really thought I was going to lose my mind.  The pain, the fatigue, swollen joints that wished me a "good morning' each and every day....all are a result of this silly autoimmune disorder that I am unlucky enough to have.  I know that my husband, friends and family must have thought I was a hypochondriac.  I was always tired and something always felt weird.  I thought..."Am I imaging this? Certainly I cannot feel bad - again!"  So, I have my diagnosis after a little blood test showed the Smith anti-bodies were positive, throw in a little Raynaud's Syndrome, swollen, painful joints, and pleurisy - and yourself got a nice little Lupus salad, dressing on the side please.  My husband has coined the term "Lupus Poopus".  I like that.  It is poopy.

Stress.  It is best avoided.  It is really best avoided when you have lupus.  I can't tell you why, but stress causes lupus flare ups.  A flare for me is extreme fatigue, painful joints and a constant pain under my left rib.  During a flare, I am worthless a good 2 - 3 days.  I have mild lupus.  I am 47, have a 5 and half year old son, a career that demands I stay on top of my game, my mother is institutionalized with Alzheimer's Disease.  I want to be a wife and mother who is engaged with the family, a devoted daughter who can take care of her parents, and successful in my chosen field.  So, no stress in my world.  Ha!  Why am I sharing this with you all?  I am certainly not looking for sympathy.  I have always approached just about every situation with a little dose of humor and sarcasm, and for the first time, I do not feel like being funny.  This is a drag.  I have mild lupus..cannot imagine what the poor souls who have full blown, chronic lupus feel like.  

No sun exposure.  What?  I am a beach loving, sunshine worshiping girl who misses living in Florida.  Sun exposure is not good for us lupers.  That is just not acceptable.  I take Plaquenil, which is an antimalarial medication that happens to help with lupus symptoms.  Now I can visit a third world country without the worry of getting malaria, and I could be pain free to boot!  The joy.  Never mind that I have had an allergic reaction to the medication.  It causes me to itch uncontrollably.  I am taking long showers with anti-itch soaps and lotions.  I smell funky.  I am really sexy these days.  However, there is light at the end of the tunnel.  I can go into remission with a little time on this medication.  If I take good care of myself, I will avoid flare ups and can live a fairly normal life (I use the word normal loosely).  That is the goal.  

I've got to be better for my family, I've got to keep dancing, and I have to become my old, energetic, annoyingly hyperactive self again.  I feel deep in my bones, and believe me, I feel everything in my bones...this is a perfectly attainable goal in the next 6 months.  Things have got to change.  I need 'me' back.  I need to find the humor in everything again.  I am just not Jennifer without that.

Life is still a wonderful thing, and I am so glad to be where I am - right now!  XOXO

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I Have Been Hanging Out in Barres.

I have returned to ballet class.  I have missed class for the last, oh....25 years.  I can assure you that 25 years ago, my center was strong, by shoulders relaxed and my turn on.  I could lift my leg over my head, pull a triple pirouette and land it!  Today I bobbled my balance, drug my toes and wore my shoulders like earrings.  That is okay.  During the first 3 minutes of class, I was swimming in self shame.  I quickly did something very uncharacteristic...I let go of that shame and gave myself a mental pep talk (while doing a pilates style core exercise that about made me throw up).  I told myself that I am taking the road to health, strength and mental stimulation.  It all starts with the first step. There I was, in a class after a 25 years, once again taking that first step, or chasse' if you will.  

I grew up dancing, and I had some success with it.  In college, as a student, I actually taught a college level class for the dance department.   I always thought I would make a career of it - not necessarily as a performer, but as a teacher, studio director, or stage manager for a  dance company.  I have those organizational skills and enjoy working in that capacity.  Why did I do the proverbial pas de bourree' away from something I loved so much?  In retrospect, I think I was tired.  I was not physically worn out mind you - but I was emotionally tired.  My senior year in college was a tough one.  The KU dance department had hired a professor who spent the majority of his free time sexually harrassing female dancers.  If you did not receporcate, he would make certain that you were embarrassed in class and humiliated.  I was often the target of this, but not the only one.  I avoided this man at all costs and he saw that I paid heavily for it.  So, this man, first name Scott, last name not mentioned, as he has a successful dance company based in NYC, really took the joy out of dancing for me.  He left a scar.  The only bit of justice from this, is that he was fired the year after I left for sexual harassment.  He left with a girl I had danced with in the KU Dance Company, and she is now his wife.  I shudder to think of anyone involved with that very creepy man.  I cannot however, completely blame this Professor Scott for ending my dance journey.  He marred it sure, but I gave it up for reasons I don't even remember.  I was just plain 'ol tired. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have given myself a break by taking a mental and physical rest, maybe then I would never have forsaken dance all together. 

Fast forward 26 (cough, cough) years or so....and I am knee deep in the television program 'So You Think You Can Dance'.  I love it.  I love the dancers, the judges and how that program has inspired people to dance.  I realize that something has been missing for a long time.  That something is dance and the joy it brought me on so many levels.  I have never given anything as much effort as I did dance - with the exception of being a mom.  I was yearning to get back to something that is so intrinsically 'me' - something that I connected with physically, mentally and brought me complete and utter joy.  I stumbled upon this great dance studio in Atlanta.  I researched and discovered that this studio is for ages 18 and up.  The idea that I could take a jazz class and not have to deal with the 90 pound, 14 year old dancing circles around me was appealing.  So, to date, I have 2 ballet classes under my belt.  Ouch.  It has become very clear that my mind recalls all the movement, but my body is in complete denial that it ever participated in a dance class before!  I have lost my center, my ankles are weak, a grand plie makes my legs shake, and I cannot execute a grand battement higher than 90 degrees, and even that looks sloppy and hurts.  Forget about flexibility.  I have none.  It was a blow to my dancers ego...and I thought I would quit...but then, something wonderful happened, like the sun breaking through the clouds - I had clarity.  I gave myself a break, and I never give myself breaks. I let go of the ego, I let go of the worry...and I let myself enjoy the moment.  I discovered something wonderful!  I can still find joy in dance, no matter my skill level.  I can now, more so than before, enjoy it purely.  It is something I can do to stimulate my brain, strengthen my body, and express myself.  It is not something I have to do to prepare for stressful auditions, or maintain my skewed idea of a normal body weight.  Plus, I am not in love with the mirror anymore. The mirror is there to check my form and placement, not to check myself out.  This is new, but good for me.

I love my new dance studio.  Check it out... .  It feels good to let go of the dance hang ups and just enjoy being in the moment and the movement.  My how things have changed in 20 some odd years. Dance shoes have evolved and are more ergonomic, the music is different, and dance forms themselves have also evolved - with hip hop, funk and other street dances incorporated into mainstream styles. So, I guess it is time for me to embrace the change too!    The next challenge is a jazz class.  That will be a true test, as jazz was my strength and the dance form I enjoyed most.  Hopefully I can be as forgiving to myself in that class as I am in ballet.  Also, it is a good excuse to buy a pair of super cool jazz shoes.

Love and jazz hands to you all!