Posts Tagged ‘ABT’

Wrapped Up In Cookie Dough

October 10, 2012

When our oldest was in Girl Scouts my wife was the “Cookie Chair Person”.  That meant we warehoused cookies while the girls….er ummm their parents took the cookie sheet into work and danced the dosido to get their coworkers to buy a box of Dosidos, or Thin Mints or…Our phone rang night and day as Girl Scout parents called needing more.  My wife put a message on our voice mail mentioning the cookies.  My friends would all call and leave lewd comments about the cookies.  As the sale was wrapping up I was a little cukoo about the cookies.  So I changed the voice mail to say, “If you are calling about Girl Scout Cookies, my wife isn’t here.  She took the money and went on a vacation to Florida.  She’ll catch you when she gets back.”  Well one of the mom’s…one who was wound too tight…turned us in to the cookie police.  We were investigated and when it was determined that my story was half baked…we were cleared, but asked to turn in our apron and not return as a cookie chairperson again.

I still buy the cookies because I want to help the girls.  I also buy popcorn from the Boy Scouts and when the band kid comes around I shell out ten dollars for the scented candle with a scent only a great aunt could love.  That’s because her olfactory nerves were burned out by years of lavender perfume abuse.  I’ve bought cookie dough and then wondered what the heck I’m going to do with a ten pound cask of macadamia nut/white chocolate cookie dough…feed it to the birds in the winter?  One year I bought Chanukah wrapping paper to use at Christmas….just because.

So when our youngest, Grace, had an opportunity to go to France as a foreign exchange student I braced myself for “the Fund Raiser” speech.  Then a friend told me about Crowd Funding.  There are websites dedicated to helping you raise money for things like…an educational trip to France without schlepping peanut brittle.  I think we all realize that the company rolling in the dough when it comes to Girl Scout Cookies is the bakery not the girl scouts.  So why not cut out the middleman?    If we really want our money to go to good use…donate the 10 bucks we would spend on a pumpkin spice candle…straight to the kid with the cause…that way at the end of the day…the cause ends up with a lot more money.  It sounded like a great idea so we are doing that for Grace and her opportunity to be a foreign exchange student in France.  Here’s a link if you’d like to donate.



The Boys of Fall

September 26, 2009

About 6 years ago I was raking leaves in the fall when a pack of boys Carly’s age came walking down the street tossing a football.  I heard my mom’s voice, “Please play touch. No one needs to get hurt.”  The truth is any time a group of boys get together someone may get hurt.  It has nothing to do with sports.  If there are five boys in a room full of feathers one of them could end up with a quill sticking out of his eye.  We played touch if the game was up near the house where parents could see.  We always played with three rules.  Defense had a five apple rush and no blitzes.  The offense couldn’t use running plays.  Running plays led to an endless string of touchdowns which took all of the challenge and fun out of the game.  A five apple rush is this; you have to count out loud, one apple, two apple, three apple, four apple, five apple, before you rush the quarterback.  It made up for no blocking.  Those are really universal rules for any sand lot game, any where in the country.  The count may change from apples to Mississippi’s, but everything else is the same.

Playing football in a house full of ballerinas just doesn’t happen.  My girls love to watch it, but that is where it ends.  I felt the need to get grass stained and sweaty.  When they made it to our yard I said, “Are you done playing or going to play?”  They said, “Waiting on some other guys before we play.”  I really wanted to play. I went straight for the justification. I can rake these leaves Monday evening. So I said,” Come get me if you need another player.”  One of them said, “Mr Phelps, you’re funny”.  I said, “Seriously, come get me if you need another guy.”  They never showed.  The following week there were even more of them walking down the street with football in hand.  Again I was raking.  Again I felt the tugging of childhood. So I threw out the offer…again.  They stopped, “Seriously?”  I said, “Yeah!  I wouldn’t offer if I was kidding.”  “OK Mr. Phelps we’ll call you before we play”. They agreed just because they are nice.  I had just finished raking when my wife came outside saying, “Some boys from the neighborhood want to know if you can come down and play football?”  She thought it was cute.  I thought it was cool.  I’ve known them since they were in preschool.  Now they were old enough I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone.  On my way out the door she said, “Honey, please don’t play tackle.”  It had come full circle. 

Our neighborhood has a creek that runs along one border.  The homes that line that creek have perfect back yards for football.  I walked down there wearing a T-shirt about ballet, jeans, and tennis shoes.  I wasn’t even thinking about it.  That’s what I was wearing to rake leaves.  They were all dressed in NFL jerseys and athletic shorts.  I could tell by the looks it was like showing up wearing black socks and dress shoes.  Half the kids were from our neighborhood and the other half were school friends who rode their bikes or were dropped off by parents.  I think our neighborhood kids were embarrassed.   “Ballet shirt?  Jeans?”  Wisdom taught me that at this stage of my life, Russian Pointe shoes at $85.00 a pop, are a better investment than a Polamalu jersey.  I was picked last.  Truth be told I was picked at all because they felt sorry for me.  The dad who lived there came out and tried to convince me not to play.  He was permanently on the “Physically unable to perform” list.  Said another way, he was too old to play.   He wanted me to be too.  He tried to talk the kids into making me the all time quarterback so I wouldn’t get hurt.  I knew him.  I like him.  I said, “Bill I’m not ready for the wrinkle ranch.  I came down here to have fun.”  He mumbled, “Make sure you guys play touch,” and went back inside.  I had a blast.  Mr Ballerina shirt could still play ball.  They saw me as something more than a stale dad.  I came home dirty, wet with sweat, the knees ripped out of my jeans, and the feeling of youth in my heart.  It sounds funny, but I was happy to be accepted.  I hadn’t been one of the guys, since college.  Carly thought it was funny.  They talked about it on the way to school Monday.  “Your dad can play!”  From that point forward I was on the list.  Friday night we went to the high school football games and every Sunday the phone rang.  My wife would answer, smile, and say, “The boys want to know if you can play.”  For the last five years we played.  This year it ended.  Most of them have responsibilities that come with getting older.   Others went in a less productive direction.  For a while I was given a second chance at childhood, another opportunity to be one of the boys.  It was cool.


sometimes dads cry

September 19, 2009
I was at an Indiana Pacer Game with a friend back in the nineties.  They asked everyone to rise for the National Anthem.  A young kid with leg braces and crutches shuffled out onto the court to sing.  He had the confidence of a pro.  He belted out that song with such emotion and power that it made me cry.  Women are great with crying.  If a Hallmark ad hit’s them the right way – BAM – tears.  I can count on one hand the number of times tears came to my eyes in the last decade and still have fingers to spare.  Yet here I was at an NBA game with a buddy and I couldn’t look his way because I was sobbing.  I couldn’t use the, there’s something in my eye ploy because it was both eyes!…like sprinklers.  So I covered it by acting like I was looking all around the arena.  He was talking to me and I was talking to him, but I couldn’t make eye contact until my face was dry.  Watching that little boy sing was just one of those perfect moments that will live with me forever.  Those times are so special to experience. I think about how grateful I am to be there.

Last Friday the Butler Ballet had an open call for young dancers.  The Ballet was casting parts for the party scene in the Nutcracker at Clowes Hall.  Most of the cast is filled with Butler Ballet students.  Some years Clara is a Butler Ballet student, other times it’s a younger ballerina.  For young dancers in Indiana a part in this ballet is an honor.  Getting the part of Clara is the Holy Grail.  Clowes Hall seats a crowd of 2500ish.  There are eight shows and most are sold out.  Grace went to the open call on Friday evening and made call backs on Saturday afternoon.  After the call back you’re told… don’t call us we’ll call you.  They said we wouldn’t hear anything before Tuesday.  I mentioned the audition to that friend who went to the Pacer game.  To give you a little background on him, his exposure to culture takes place at the doctor’s office or when he walks down the world foods isle at Meijer to buy pasta.  His only interests are hunting and fishing.  The day they stage a deer hunting ballet with camouflage tutus and antlers is the day he MIGHT attend a ballet, but only if it’s realistically portrayed….if it’s interpretive…forget it.  He said, “Could she get a speaking part?”  I said “No it’s a ballet, not a musical,” which made him defensive.  “Why are they doing the Nutcracker again?  They did it last year.  Can’t they get a little more creative with their show selection? What about A Christmas Carol” He grumbled.  “That’s not a ballet.”  I said beginning to see where this is headed.    Do you ever have conversations that start well and then they slowly suck the life out of the moment to the point you make something up just to get off the phone?  I did that.  “Let me call you back.  I think I ruptured my spleen”.   Then tried to shake off the funk like a dog that was caught in the rain.

We didn’t hear anything on Tuesday.  Wednesday morning I wondered if we’d get a call then quickly forgot about it because I was so buried at work.  So when the phone rang and the ID said Butler University I thought it was work related.  The guy said his name and that he was with the Butler Ballet and I thought, “Cool, they want us to do some DVDs” He said, “We’d like to offer Grace the part of Clara in the Nutcracker.  I was puzzled….I remember thinking, that has nothing to do with DVDs.  I said, “What?”  Still trying to figure out how this was a work related call.  He said it again and it started to sink in.  I said, “She’ll be thrilled and so am I.  That’s when it hit me.  My daughter was going to be a featured ballerina at Clowes Hall.  I started to cry.  I have no idea what else he said.  It didn’t matter.  It is one of those moments I’ll never forget.

Grace - Les Sylphides
Grace from Les Sylphides

Grace - Les Sylphides

Scheduling the Week

September 12, 2009

I had a friend contact me last week with a business proposal.  It was a great idea, but he’s got more drama in his life than a collection of ER’s greatest hits.  With the girls back in school and ballet training every night our schedule is more choreographed than a Dance Kaleidoscope  show rehearsal.   Dealing with the drama of the day is not on my to-do list.

I need to make sure everything is organized so nothing gets overlooked.  Our dinners and the girls dance schedule are posted on the fridge Sunday evening for the week ahead.  That morning I plan the meals over coffee.  Then I go grocery shopping.  I know what we need which saves time and money.  My grocery list is built with the flow of the store in mind.  It saves time and makes shopping easy.  Then I compulsively wash my hands 50 times like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  Not really, but I sound like I have a compulsive disorder.  I should wash my hands after shopping though with H1N1 lurking around every corner.  Those shopping carts are probably a breading ground for the flu, scabies, and five kinds of flesh eating bacteria…sleep well tonight!  Any way, I hit Costco for the big stuff and Meijer for the other stuff.  I could take the easy way out.  We could do carry-out every night.  I have two problems with that…actually three.  (1) We live on a budget and carry-out is way more expensive than cooking.  (2) We need to eat healthy.  My girls are athletes and I like my fruits and veggies.  Carry-out is…bad.  Just shoot a wad of butter in my veins and toss the dirt over my head (3) Leftover’s make a great low cost lunch and I like them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to choke anything down just to save money.  I like cooking and leftovers. 

If you haven’t figured it out yet I have a type “A” personality.  Numbering, lists, scheduling…where’s my coffee?!  Seriously though, we as a family and a society need to eat healthy and stick to a budget.  Financial crisis…hello!  Health crisis….we’re fat!  I was thinking about this when I walked into Meijer last Sunday.  The first seven adults I saw had a combined mass slightly greater than the state of Texas make that Tex-ass.  Obviously they were all passing the produce section in search of the breaded, frozen, fried cheese sticks and dip. 

Each morning I make breakfast and lunch for the girls, ride my bike (see my last blog) exercise (me time), and start working.  At lunch I make dinner for the girls then go back to work.  Carly gets home from school at 3:30.  She grabs their dinner, & snack then leaves to pick up Grace at 4:00 and head to Jordan.   They start dancing at 4:30 and that usually goes to 9:00.  So they need to take dinner.  While they are at dance I work until about 7:00.  Then I clock out and hit our veggie garden, other yard work, or other domestic stuff.  When they get home it’s time to hit the books.  I write my blog or unwind with them until 10:00.  So you see I have no time for someone else’s drama.  It just drags you down.  At some point I call my wife to catch up with her, tell her fun stuff like I was hit on at the grocery …by a guy.  That wasn’t on my to-do list either.  At forty-eight years old I’m flattered that anyone is attracted to me, but if I had my choice I’d rather be propositioned in the produce section by a well educated woman who snuck home to surprise her husband with fresh strawberries and candles. That would be great, sadly it’s not on my to-do list either…until this weekend.  She didn’t buy the strawberries or candles I did.  Some times it’s good to lose the list, unplug the clock, and let the people you love know they are appreciated.


July 25, 2009

This week has been about dreams. 

My friend Dobie Maxwell made his national television debut this past week on Craig Ferguson’s show.  You can see his set here

Dobie’s life has redefined bad luck.  If you took the combined population of all of the trailer parks in the eastern half of the United States and compared their hard luck stories to his he’d win, big.  Since we are friends I have had a ring side seat.  Just when he felt like his opportunity might be within reach, I would get a phone call.  He would recant a tale of misfortune that makes the characters of Les Misérables look like pretenders.  Everything from near death car accidents, to being tried in Federal court for a crime he didn’t commit, canceled from national tours, and fired from major market radio gigs because the station changed to Christian programming have haunted him every year.  Not just once in a while, but every few months something happens.  He’s turned that bad luck into his on stage act.  I’m proud to know him despite his dysfunctions, maladies, and at times, self destruction.  He’s is an inspiration to me.  He’s shown me that even though life can toss you rotten eggs you need to mop up and move on.  Don’t lose focus, don’t quit, follow the dream.


I’ve encouraged my girls to follow there dreams because of the personal satisfaction that comes with that journey.  They can’t help the fact that their dream of professional ballet is not exactly embraced by our culture.  They can feel the warmth and personal satisfaction that comes with loving what they do.  They, like Dobie also know how much work it takes to be successful.   There is a show at the end of their summer intensive.  For Grace it was three weeks at ABT and for Carly it was five weeks at Butler for Jordan Academy’s intensive.  All of the dancers endured and learned in spite of the pain.  Their pain wasn’t like Dobie’s.  They weren’t escorted out of Bob & Tom’s studios with the, “and….stay out!” sentiment tossed at them like rotten cabbage, but they have put up with a lot.  For starters they danced 60 hours each week.  Most complain about those hours.  These kids covet it.  They trained in spite of dislocated shoulders, infected toes, and blisters while living 10 hours or more away from home.  They pushed through it and came out on the other side as better dancers.  In their performance they were as light as butterflies and as strong as steel.  As I watched they ran me through a range of emotions while distancing me from the problems of the day.  In five weeks they had become a solid dance company.  Their summer was spent living the dream.  All of the instructors/choreographers are to be commended.  To learn about this school log on to


Thursday night I dreamed that Carly and I went to see Dave Matthews at The Vogue, a small theatre in Indy.  The opening act was a group that dressed up like The Munsters.  I was looking at their make up while trying to figure out why they were Dave’s opening act. As I watched, I realized that one of my teeth was loose.  I was startled and dismayed.  I began thinking of the implications when it just fell onto my tongue.  That started a chain reaction of teeth falling out.  I started spitting teeth into the palm of my hand.  There was a whole pile.  They weren’t rotten, but they were dropping out like kids from an inner city school.  I awoke as I was counting the teeth and wondering if my insurance was going to pay for implants.  Nice!

The Empty Nest

June 30, 2009

We have a wide variety of birds in our yard.  One type, the Cowbird, lays its eggs in other bird’s nests.  The surrogate parents raise the cowbird young as their own.  I think I know a couple of human parents who have the same traits.  This spring our cowbirds imposed on a sparrow family.  A cowbird is nearly the size of a robin.  The sparrow is a quarter of that size.  Sparrows must be the….simpletons of the bird world, because they never noticed that they were raising a giant “sparrow baby”.  He dwarfed his parents.  When he was learning to fly he’d perch on a branch near my office window and beg for food all day.  The sparrows, good parents that they were, would run themselves ragged to accommodate baby Hughie’s requests.  Finally, suffering from exhaustion, they ditched him.  Eventually their “baby” realized he was a cowbird and not a sparrow and went off in search of other lazy cowbirds.

 Now that my girls are away at ballet summer intensives I’m feeling like an empty nester.  I’m not sure I like the feeling.  Check that.  I don’t like the feeling.  It crept up on me like an M-80 with a short fuse.  I’ve spent their entire lives getting them ready to fly on their own.  They are doing a great job, but I miss them.

 My youngest has dreamed of dancing professionally since she was ….born.  She as wanted to attend the School of American Ballet in New York for high school since she was six or seven.  She works toward that dream every day.  I’m big on visualizing.  I mentioned that she should list everything she needed to do in order to accomplish her dreams.  Not one to mess around the list was posted the same day.  Not everything on the list had to do with dance accomplishments.  Some of it involved learning to do laundry, cook, read road maps etc.  So when we drove to The University of Alabama to drop her off for American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive I was more proud than sad.  This was a stepping stone.  It was something she could check off the list. 

The drive was eight hours.  We listened to music, played thinking games and stopped for lunch near Nashville, TN.  There I met Hussein.  He’s a truck driver from Iraq who moved to the US in 1996.  He lives in Iowa City with his wife and kids in a 4-bedroom home.  When he’s not driving trucks he drives a Camry.  His Birthday is July 1st.  He becomes an American citizen July 1st and ….most importantly he doesn’t like pickles.  He is the happiest trucker I’ve ever met.  He is the chattiest trucker I’ve ever met.

We spent the night in the Sheraton, Birmingham because it’s less than an hour from the Alabama campus and gave us a great deal.  There was a Jehovah’s Witness convention at our hotel.  There were hundreds of them, Keeping the Watch, according to their badge.  I was keeping a watch on the hotel elevators.  There were so many of these guys coming and going they had the elevators at capacity 24/7.  Keep a watch for the sign that says stairs because I’m not waiting fifteen minutes for an elevator again.

The Alabama campus was nice.  Dancers were moving into the dorms as we pulled in.  Based on the volume of belongings these girls were lugging they had brought ALL of the comforts of home.  They were filling bellman’s carts with stuff.  I do mean – filling – the – bellman’s – cart!  Once her dorm room was situated she looked at me and said, “Daddy you can go now.”  I had to work the next day.  I had a long drive ahead of me and she was ready to fly.  Like that my daughter had stepped out of the nest.