When the muse leads you to dance…

We live in the hometown of Allegheny College, which prides itself on being “a unique place where students embrace the College’s total educational experience.  Our students have the uncanny ability to create unusual combinations of interests and talents.  These “wonderfully weird” combinations enhance our students’ success here and ensure excellence in their future careers.”

This emphasis on well-rounded, Renaissance individuals brings us to last Friday night and the performance by Orchesis, the student-run dance company that put on an incredible show of dance, music and lights. While many of the students have dance training, a good cross-section are just learning to dance for the first time, for the opportunity and experience.

One of “our” international students, Xinyang Liu (affectionately known to her friends as Amber), was a participant, and we’ve been anxiously awaiting the chance to see her perform. One of her friends posted the video– complete with the enthusiastic Allegheny crowd of supporters. (Note: you might want to turn your volume down at the beginning of the video. The students are VERY enthusiastic. The dance starts about fifty seconds  in.) Our girl is about one-third of the way across from the left, with a thick ponytail. She was fantastic!

Here’s a picture of the family together afterward. Time to celebrate with muffins and pie at Perkins! (You know, that new place…)

Great migrations

No, no, not the National Geographic kind.

The kind we families with services experience about twice a year, when our special kids finally start making a bond with their TSS or MT or other wraparound therapist and then that therapist moves on to brighter pastures elsewhere, at another agency that you’re not approved for.

I don’t blame them, of course. The therapists get opportunities for better jobs, better benefits, better wages in a field that doesn’t pay much to begin with, so you and I would be right on that bandwagon too.

All the same, when our kids have a condition that everyone agrees requires the greatest amount of structure and routine that we can arrange, don’t we worry that the constant turnover in (particularly) TSS workers isn’t in their best interests?

I wish that agencies could have their people sign some sort of clause that makes them agree they’ll stay around for at least some sane period, six months, a year, in order to get the job. (Wait, Miss Lawyer, wouldn’t that be involuntary servitude? I think if you’ll check all those law books on your shelf there, you might find it’s illegal…  oh yeah.) But seriously, if an agency is going to put in time and energy to train someone, shouldn’t they have to stick around for some period of time?

Sadly, most agencies, at least in our area, are desperate for TSS workers to keep up with the community demand, so they’re not in a position to bargain much, I suppose. Having bodies to send out to work with the clients is important.

But encouraging children who already have trust issues to trust workers and bond with them, only to have to change a few months later? This reminds me of the situation I have with many of my family law parents, who parade a host of new boyfriends/girlfriends before the children, letting the children bond with the new friends, then kicking them out. The experts say these children will learn not to get close to others, even future partners, wrapped up in protecting themselves from the remembered hurt of potential loss.

It’s just sad to see it happen, during the seasons of the great migrations.


Thanks to photographer Royce Bair for use of this photo.

A little redemption goes a long way

I’ve found over the years that my writing life has ups and downs. Specifically, there are times when I feel like I can climb the literary Everest without one of those sherpa guides, and others I feel like I need to trash-can the whole idea of being a writer.

Today, my writer friend Tom reminded me of a time not so long ago, maybe eightteen months or so, when I was dejected and determined writing was a waste of time for me. He reminded me of this at a booksigning sponsored by the northwestern Pennwriters group, where I was surrounded by other writers and would-be writers, discussing my novel The Elf Queen and the sequel, due out next year, and sharing all our writing with each other.

Hmm.  Guess that shows you never know what’s coming around the bend, right? As agent Irene Goodman says, “If you quit, you aren’t an author any longer, and that’s the end.”

Or as Nancy Panuccio says:

There’s a misconception that, in order to be brilliant at something, you need to be blessed with innate remarkable talent. Not so, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell, who studied the most successful musicians, composers, artists and athletes in history, reports that the difference between success and non-success, between genius and mediocrity is 10,000 hours. That’s right. Anyone from Jimi Hendrix to Bill Gates to Hemingway who has succeeded has done so on the back of at least 10,000 hours.

Thank you to Tom, Jean, Eric, Jeff, Carm, Ed, Paul and all of you who reassured me that I was on the right track after all, and encouraged me to keep going. Shame on those who felt it was more useful to tear down my work. I’ve got to approach this more philosophically. All the time I’ve put in, writing novels, over the last forty years? Apparently I’ve paid those dues. Now to start on the next 10,000. Back to the word processor!!

Happy faces at my booksigning--mine, too!