First Nutcracker Rehearsal 2017

I wasn’t sure if I would get to post a blog with this title.

Yet, here I am, albeit very different from years past.

I hadn’t been in the downtown studio since the “great flood of 2017.” It’s known by many other names, most of which I won’t name here. Essentially, there was a really heavy rain back in June that inundated the sewers and flooded downtown in a few different ways. Our studio fell victim, and we ended up having to replace the floors and much of the furniture. Two rooms were spared, though we aren’t sure how. (No costumes were harmed.)

The new floor is incredible. Perfectly sprung and smooth, the creaky floors we used to know are now gone, and the different holes and divets have been removed and replaced.

It made me wish even more that I was able to dance the roles I could have had if my body wasn’t rejecting me, knowing that pirouettes would be perfection on this floor. On the same side of that coin, I am so grateful to be back in the company studio, a place that has begun to feel more like home than I ever expected. Especially since so much of what I know to be familiar has been destroyed or broken beyond repair, having these studios be exactly as I know them to be (or in this case, better, but with the essentials the same) has been good for my soul.

Much is different, though; I’m no longer considered company, many of my friends have graduated and aren’t there, I’m rehearsing with adults, some of whom have been doing this role since I was the age of the youngest party girls. I’m not in program pictures, the costumes actually fit me without alteration because they’re made for adult bodies, rehearsals are shorter and less than what I’ve been used to, dressing rooms will be different.

Yet, I’m still here. I’m still involved. I’m still getting to do something I love so much, in spite of the blows my health has thrown at me. I still get to put on a costume, get on stage, and perform. To say I’m grateful is such an understatement.

I have two party girls in my “family”, both of which are two of my “babies.” It makes me so happy getting to do this role with two of the younger girls that have already stolen a piece of my heart. I’m so excited.

We aren’t allowed to take pictures of rehearsals, but if I could have, I definitely would have gotten a picture from my perspective during the end of the scene when all the party girls dance a part with Clara. The girl that was running Clara that time is one of my assistants, and also has a piece of my heart. I’ve heard her tell me how she used to look up to the older girls, and how now she’s the older girl, and how she wants to be nice to the younger ones since she remembers what it was like. And I saw it. There was this moment where it hit me like a semi-truck loaded down with emotion. These younger girls, watching this beautiful, confident older girl, doing the same moves she was doing, but as different roles, in different shoes. Their eyes alight with the dreams of doing what she’s doing, her memories reflected in theirs as she truly lived in the moment.

And this was just a rehearsal.

I don’t cry, but if I did I would have been a blubbering mess in that moment.

I didn’t get any pictures of my costume, or anything from rehearsal except for the one with the puppy, Riley, that one of the other Party Mom’s brought.

When I walked in to the costume room, he was in his little bag. As soon as he saw me, his tail wagged like it would fly off his little body, and he was so excited he almost couldn’t stand it. At this point, I didn’t know who he belonged to, and I said, “Who’s puppy? I’m gonna pet it before he explodes!” and then when I found his owner and got permission, I picked him up as he licked my face and I melted into a puddle of cuteness.

I thought I saved the picture, but I guess I didn’t 😭

Instead, have a completely irrelevant, shameless plug for my shirts. 

Thank you to those who have placed orders already! This has been such an exciting adventure so far. Y’all make my heart so happy. 

Hopefully I’ll have pictures from rehearsal soon. I don’t believe I have rehearsals this weekend due to program pictures, but I need to look at my schedule before I miss something. That would be bad. 


The shop. 

The idea of making shirts and selling them has been something in my brain for over a year now. 

At first, I kept it to myself. I thought I was crazy. They’re just shirts, who would want these? I put it to the side, tried to put it out of my mind, but it kept coming back. 

Then I tried to convince myself out of it. Tried to tell myself it’ll never work because i don’t sell anything else that’s Ballet related and popular to sustain the shop. 

Still, this idea of a shirt about beginning was in my brain. It was important to me. Time and time again I hear of adults nervous to begin. Time and time again I remember how absolutely terrified I was to begin. And time and time again I was reminded of how freaking glad I am that I did. 

Beginning literally changed my life. I step back and think of what I would have if I didn’t dance, and I can’t imagine life without it. I have made some of the greatest friends through Ballet. I’ve learned so much about myself, about life, about interacting with people. Not to mentioned how much teaching the babies means to me. I’ve gotten to do things I never even dreamed would be possible, like perform.  

It started with a little dream that wouldn’t shut up. A dream I couldn’t ignore that has turned into everything I know now. And it all started with a beginning. 

A scary beginning. A beginning that made me shake. A beginning that held more happiness than I ever expected. A beginning that has left me with zero regrets. 

So whether this takes off and is super successful or whether it’s a casual thing, that doesn’t matter. 

It’s worth it. 

This shirt is for you. To remind you that beginnings are worth it. That if it’s not scary then it doesn’t hold as much value. If you’re afraid of it, you’re doing something right. 

I’m so proud of you all. 

And I am so grateful to have y’all as part of my life. Thank you for your support and faith in me. 


Kids these days. 

I had my appointment with the surgeon for my back on Friday. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive up there and equally as long back. The surgeon spoke to me for ten minutes, where he told me how I was too young and my body could fix itself still and how if I were his sister i wouldn’t suggest having surgery. 

I was prepared for him to say no, to say I was too young, but it was the way he spoke to me that made me choke up and lose my words out of panic and frustration. It’s as though someone took an eraser and wiped out my brain and all the words I had prepared. Fear came in and reminded me how I pressed for a surgery before and where that got me—permanently on medication just to be able to eat and function like a normal person. He told me that he was on opinion and if I wanted to push for the surgery he’d do it, but he did not recommend it. 

I did ask him if I spoke to my referring doctor and he wanted me to pursue surgery, would I be able to come back. He said no bridges were burned and he’d definitely operate on me. That we would have another meeting like this, regroup, and then schedule the surgery. 

I had my chiropractor appointment where I upstated my doctor on everything that went down. I told him what was said. I told him how I was frustrated. I told him how I got in my car, called my general practitioner, and made an appointment to try and get a referral to a cardiologist and see what I need to do about a rheumatologist. I told him how symptoms that seem to point towards POTS have been getting more defined, and how the more I look into it, the more I wonder if that’s where this chronic fatigue is stemming from. I told him how I’m not convinced i don’t have hEDS, even if it’s not as extreme as some others. I told him how my cousin has POTS, and I’ve confirmed two more relatives to have symptoms like we have. I told him how I wondered if it’s all related and if so would surgery actually make it worse if it’s caused by something like one of these things or something similar. 

He got silent, face lined as one is when deep in thought. Said a few “hmm’s” as he mulled over everything in his knowledge base. Then he replied with, “I’m going to have to ponder on this one.” 

I appreciate this. I appreciate that he didn’t just shoot out an answer to pacify me. That he’s going to dig more into it before replying. That how these things could possibly all be connected is something to consider. How he believes me. He hears me out, weighs it against the science, and then responds. 

Brain fog has been the realest it’s ever been the last few days, and heading into the baby class today had me a little nervous. I love them so much and I was hopeful they would behave. 

Most did, but enough of them were distracted and talking that it made the class more difficult than it needed to be. A few even got on to the “sad face list” where if you get your name on this list and gets two marks beside it, you don’t get a sticker. It makes it difficult to have to repeat myself, to not have the whole class keeping up with what’s going on, to lose their focus and end up having to show the same thing numerous times. The class is big and we’re still trying to find what fully works for us. 

At the end of class, I had them sit down in their lines and I got real. 

I asked them if they wanted to know why it’s so important that they follow the rules. Besides what it does for them, if they wanted to know why it’s important to me. I told them, “I’m really sick. I have a thing called chronic fatigue syndrome, and it makes me really tired all the time. That feeling you get when you’re really tired at night and just want to go to bed is how I feel when I wake up in the morning and have to get through the day. I explained how teaching is hard but I love them and I love to teach them. I told them that when they follow the rules it doesn’t make me feel as tired, but when I have to get onto them over and over it makes me more tired and makes me feel worse. 

By this point, they were all silent. They were actually listening. Every one of them. And before I could even finish one of them, the sweet one I made cry a few weeks ago when her name got put on the sad face list for talking (and who wasn’t talking this time) ran up to me and just hugged me. Her precious little heart couldn’t take hearing about me being sick without doing what she could to make me feel better. One by one, other girls stood up and did the same, their hearts overflowing. By the end of it, we were in a giant, 20 person group hug, one of them commenting at the end, “Ms. Emilee! We broke rule number three we were all touching each other! That’s not keeping our hands to ourselves!” High five, little one. I explained that at that moment it was okay and allowed. 

I love these kids. These 5-6 year olds are full of life. They’re funny and charming. A good deal of them are really focused and work hard, many of them are naturals. It fills my heart to overflowing to see them remember things I’ve told them in weeks past, in their “ready position” at the beginning, smiles on their faces. It makes me melt when they come up and I think they have a question but they just want to give me a hug. These kids keep me as well as I am. They give me a reason to get out of bed and keep trying. They keep me in the studio even if I can’t really dance. 

I hope they know how important they are, how loved they are. I hope they know the world is theirs, that they can dream big and achieve those dreams. That sometimes life is hard, but if you look around there’s reminders of how it’s still beautiful. I hope coming to class is something they look forward to, something they enjoy. 

I love these kids and how they’re so full of life. They’re fresh, they see the world in the best way. Even if some of them have had the world hand them a hard deal, they don’t hate it. They find the beauty through the pain. They feel the pain. They process it. It’s admireable. And I hope as they grow they remember how wanted and loved they are, how important they are. How they have something to offer the world. How their story matters. 

They remind me of why I’m still here. Of what part of my purpose, my story, is. 

I could never thank them enough for that. 

Bailando International Dance Festival. 

My first dance teacher, Jilissa, puts on an international dance festival annually. It’s hosted at our local university, growing and improving every year.

They have three nights of performances, Thursday’s and Friday’s being adjudicated for the gala performance on Saturday. Companies come in from all over to perform as well, and the adjudicated performances are for the choreographers, making it an exciting weekend of dance. We also have all types of dance styles, from the typical to the traditional to fusions of everything in between.

Continue reading Bailando International Dance Festival. 


It seems that every time I find a picture to post on Instagram, I go to write the description, but it becomes such a novel that I backspace as I remember, “I have a blog for that.”

Instead of leaving you with a super long description, have a new post!

I had written about how hurricane Harvey knocked down the building where my first recital costume resided in a dresser, and how the dresser was burned and everything in it, including the costume. I had written about how I stood on the pile of building remains and cried as the reality of everything hit me. How I also had to pull myself together rather quickly as I didn’t have time into fall apart, and how this seems to be the story of my life. (And honestly probably why I’m so sick, let’s be real.)

Mom said she knows there were pictures of that recital somewhere, but we hadn’t found them yet, and honestly at this point I was too afraid to be hopeful. I had seen what happened to important pictures that were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and my heart had shattered knowing they were gone, irreplaceable.

While going through one of the boxes from the building, I found this

A picture of me and my friend Kayla on stage during our first ballet recital. It was 1995. I was 7.

I smile knowing that there is at least something remaining of my first year of ballet. Of the time that the ballet bug bit me and never left me alone. I laugh as I remember asking how to do first position since when I did it, my knees couldn’t straighten, and how you can see it in this picture.

There’s another picture stuck to the back of this one, and I carefully peel it apart and find this

It’s Kayla and me, after our recital, you can see my slight pigeon-toed tendencies and how Kayla always walked turned out, the writing from the  back of the first picture having bled over onto this one.

And it just makes me so happy.

It’s messed up. There’s water damage around the edges, pieces of the picture missing, there’s writing all across us, it’s warped. But it exists.

It’s me. It’s me and my best friend after our first recital, beaming at the camera, my moms hand writing sprawled across us, now a tattoo of resilience inked upon the photos surface.

I think I love the picture even more in its imperfection. I feel more of a draw to it. My life is nothing like perfection; it’s painful and complicated. There’s scars sprawled across my skin and more ahead for me. But it’s the hopenin this little girl’s eyes that has pushed me through all that. It’s the dreams in her mind that keep me going. It’s the comfort I find in knowing she would look at me with eyes full of wonder and be proud.

Life sucks. It’s hard. It hurts. And there’s no end in sight.

But life is still beautiful.