Attitude Not Cattitude!

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Professionalism is about attitude. Whether or not you are a professional dancer, it is important to have a professional attitude.

Even as a beginner it’s important to have a positive attitude and be respectful and supportive of other dancers.

It seems pretty obvious that this is important for the career dancer, someone who wants to make money at her trade. But, let me tell you, it isn’t always obvious.

No Drama Divas Allowed!

Over the years I’ve met many dancers who work hard on their technique, buy the best costumes and practice their hearts out. On the stage, they are masters of the dance, breathtaking and amazing. Off stage-not so much.

On the stage these dancers are definitely professional, but off stage they are divas or competitive back-stabbers.

Let me be really clear when I say that as a sponsor when I’m looking to hire a dancer to teach a workshop, there are lots of good dancers I can choose. So, I won’t be choosing someone with a less than positive attitude. If I go to an event and overhear a dancer making snide remarks about another dancer, or having a fit because she doesn’t want to dance first or showing a lack of support in any manner, she won’t make my list. I don’t care how amazing her technique is, I won’t be hiring her. I can guarantee you I will hire someone with amazing technique who also has a professional and supportive attitude!

Cattitude Attitudes kill careers.

Cattitude is having a catty attitude and I find this kind of thing intolerable and it’s also self-destructive.

Here is a story about cattitude:

I once had a student who had the potential to be a superstar belly dancer. She was an incredible performer but then she caught the diva attitude. She decided she was better than my other students and better than me, her teacher. She went on her merry way and I wished her well. A few months later, my dance partner and I attended an event where we ran into the diva dancer and her friend. We were happy to see them and greeted them; they gave us dirty looks and turned away.  My partner was hurt and upset until I explained to her that we were in a public gathering and a large group of people witnessed our supportive attitude and their rude cattitude. The moral of the story is that ten years later, my partner and I are still popular performers who get asked to dance and the diva faded away into the background and rarely performs.

Our dance community is a tight one and word gets around. Attitude can kill your potential to have a career in belly dance.

Diva attitudes need not apply.

I was once a judge at a belly dance contest and one of the competitors didn’t like her scores. Instead of asking the judges who gave her lower scores to give her feedback or advice, she angrily confronted them. This was a dancer who had no interest in growing or improving because she thought she was the best. Word passed through the judges like wildfire and most of the judges were also event sponsors. Do you think any of us put her on our list of potential hires?

Tables can turn.

So my last story is about dancer A. I was a baby belly dancer and at my first belly dance show. I had traveled out of town and I was so excited! During the intermission, I introduced myself to, A, one of the dancers and started to ask her a question. She looked down her nose at me and asked, “Why are you talking to me?” Then she turned around and walked away. Rude? That’s putting it mildly.

Years later, I was the editor of an international belly dance magazine. A came up to my booth and asked me why I’d never asked her to be on the cover. So I told her about my experience with her as a baby belly. I said that I didn’t hold a grudge, but that because of her attitude it never occurred to me to ask her. She laughed and said that sounded like something she would have done and that she had worked hard to be a better person. And, indeed she has and because of that she has stayed in the game long-term.

So this story has two morals:

Be kind to everyone because you never know who might be in a position someday to help your career.

And, you can choose to change your attitude and be the best you can be.

The Power of YOU!

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 You have power! Yes, YOU! Your personal power is a force in the world. Even your smile can make a difference.

Have you heard about the ripple effect? It’s how even the smallest action can impact the world. When you toss even a tiny pebble in a pond, it causes a ripple that goes completely across the pond. That small stone touches the whole pond!

This is why words and even facial expressions can be so powerful and why it’s important for us to be aware of our personal power.

Have you ever been walking through a store, deep in thought and perhaps filled with the stresses of life and a perfect stranger says, “I love your dress!” or something similar? I can tell you that hearing a random stranger give me a compliment when I’m stressed immediately snaps me out of stress mode and into gratitude mode.

I try to remember to stay present and to give compliments to others and watch their faces light up. It’s fun and so easy!

So, what does this have to do with belly dancing?

Well you’ve probably figured it out by now, but when you dance, you change the world!

Maybe you perform and maybe you don’t but either way, dancing is changing the world.

If the belly dance bug has bitten you, you have fallen in love with the dance, the music, the costuming, your teacher and your dance friends.

Falling in love is a wonderful thing and it makes us happy. As we practice dancing, listening to the music and doing the movements, it makes us feel good. Right? When we feel good, we are happier and when we are happier we act happy bringing happy energy into the world.

Let’s take this to the next level.

When you perform belly dance, you are sharing a gift with the world. Sharing the gift of the dance and music is the obvious thing, but you are also sharing your own personal power with the world.  You are giving the world a gift that only you can give because out of billions of people on the planet and eons of existence, you are one of a kind.

Your personal power is something unique to you, something that only you can share.

What happens when you watch a dancer perform? Do you feel good? Does her performance bring you a sense of joy? Does the music make you tap your foot or wiggle in your seat? Do you leave a belly dance show lifted up?

I know that watching belly dancers is at the top of my list of favorite things to do especially when there is live music.

So, imagine how people feel when you dance. Your performance has the potential to change the world! You have no idea what people might be going through who are watching you. Your dance might be just what they needed to give them a few minutes of respite from some time of pain. I’ll guarantee you that someone watching you is in some sort of pain and your dance might bring a smile to their face and lift their spirits in a way that nothing else has.

This is why I love to perform. My dance is one of the ways I give service to the world. I have had so much feedback over the years from people who felt lifted up by my dance and even healed. My performance isn’t about me being in the limelight, it’s about giving the world a gift that only I can give.

The incredible bonus is that when I dance, I also receive a gift. It also changes my own life as I’m lifted up by the joyous feelings I have when I dance and by the response of the audience as they give me ever so much more than I could ever give them.

You have the power to change the world. We all have this power and it’s something that we need to take seriously and use for the highest good of all.

 

What is Your Passion?

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What are you passionate about?

I’m a very passionate person. Other words for passionate are: intense, emotional, heartfelt, eager, excited, spirited, energetic, wild and consuming. These are all pretty descriptive of me when it comes to life and especially about belly dance. I’m also ADHD. I don’t know if that has anything to do with passion but it feels like it does because I bounce around and I’m spirited, energetic and wild.

I have to say that besides my kids and grandkids, the thing I’m most passionate about in my life is belly dance. Yes, you knew that didn’t you?

Belly dance has given me so much and there is so much to it that inspires my passion.

I love performing. When I perform, it feels like I go into an alternate universe or dimension. I’m no longer in the mundane world, no longer have daily chores, no longer overweight or over 60. I feel completely connected to my spirituality, to joy and bliss and completely free. I know it might sound odd, but performing belly dance is the closest I feel to God/dess. While I dance there are no distractions from my bliss.

I love to teach. Sharing the dance with other women and watching them blossom into confident and empowered women is that best occupation in the universe! Seeing a student perform for the first time and watching her tap into joy is such an amazing experience.  There is nothing else like it.

One of my passions is world peace and I believe that music and dance can bring peace and healing to our world. There are no borders or boundaries when it comes to music and dance. When I belly dance, I’m an emissary for peace, a tiny example of the beauty of the Middle East. I use teaching and performing belly dance as a tool for decreasing fear and division in the world.

My greatest heart’s desire is to be of service to humanity by helping to empower women through writing and belly dance. I believe that once we are in touch with our true power, we have the potential to bring more love and light into the world. Once we gain the confidence to express our unique essence in the world, we will be able to help healing the wounds of humanity. My desire is to reach around the world to help women stand in their power because I believe that women are going to heal the world.

What is Your Purpose?

We all have a reason why we belly dance. For some of us it’s the exercise and a goal of being more toned or strengthening our core. I know one dancer who dances just because she loves the costumes. True story!

So we all come to the dance for different reasons and today I want each of you to think about these questions I’m asking. You might journal a response or take some notes, make a list. This is just for you, something to help you see your purpose when it comes to the call of belly dance.

Why do you dance? Is this something you do just for fun or do you have a deep desire to make it into something more, to teach, to travel to Egypt or start a troupe. There might be many reasons you dance and I’d like to help you focus on where you are and where you might want to go when it comes to belly dancing.

What do you feel when you dance? By this, I mean when you are actually dancing to the music or actually performing not just practicing steps. Hopefully you feel good when you dance. If not, how would you like to feel?

For most of us, when we dance the rest of the world goes away. We are no longer wives or mothers, no longer fat or thin, no longer young or old. In those moments of dancing, we are divinely feminine dancers. In those moments we don’t think about dishes or laundry, we just move our bodies to express music and open our hearts.

When you perform, what do you want to give your audience; how do you want them to feel? This is something we often don’t think about. Hopefully we dance for ourselves as divine expressions of who we are regardless of an audience. But, if there is an audience and we take them into consideration and think about what we want to give them, it extends our experience into the realm of empowerment. As we give to them, we also receive from them.

What has belly dance given to you?

I once interviewed dozens of dancers for an article I was writing. It was a one question interview asking what belly dance had given to them. I had several people break into tears, an unexpected response. The dance had impacted them so deeply, they were overwhelmed with emotion.

One of my favorite answers was, “It saved my life. I was planning to commit suicide and someone asked me to go to belly dance class with them that night. I fell in love with it and it gave me a reason to live.” Another great answer was, “It’s the one thing I do just for me.”

What I learned from asking this question was how powerful this art form is and I ended up publishing a book called, “Belly Dance Transformations” about how the dance has changed, transformed and empowered lives.

I received so many wonderful answers to this question and would love to hear from you. What has the dance given you? Please comment below and share your thoughts.

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Stage Name Tips

1. First of all, decide whether or not you want a stage name.

Things to think about are where do you want to go with the dance. Are you dancing just for fun? If so, it might be fun to have a stage name. Do you want a dance career? If so, you might want a dance name that is unique to you.

2. Two Benefits of a stage name.

For me, having a stage name helped me overcome shyness and stage fright. I would take a few moments back stage (or in a bathroom stall for privacy) to imagine myself as Mezdulene. Mezdulene didn’t do dishes or laundry; she didn’t do soccer practice. Mezdulene was a divinely feminine belly dancer. Having a different persona really helped me a lot. 

Another benefit of a stage name is that if you do end up making a career out of belly dance, you will have a unique and memorable persona. Performing under your birth name of Brenda or Jenny doesn’t help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Advice for choosing a stage name.

There are at least three ways to get a stage name. The most obvious is to choose one yourself. You can find lists of Middle Eastern names online and you can choose a name that you feel expresses what you want to express as a dancer. Often the lists also have meanings of the names so you can also choose by the meaning.

You can also ask your teacher to give you a name, but I would suggest asking her to give you the option of at least three to choose from.

Lastly, someone from the Middle East might suggest a name for you which is how I got the name Mezdulene.

If you do choose a Middle Eastern name, ask your teacher about it. Some names are very common such as Amara and Zaina and if you absolutely have to have such a name, it’s wise to add a second name. For instance I know two Zainas, Zaina Hart and Zaina Ali.

So why do you want to choose either an uncommon name or add a second name to a common name? The reason is so that you stand out from the crowd. At some point, belly dance might become your career and you won’t want to be one of dozen Leylas. Even if you don’t ever make it a career it’s still nice to have a unique name just for you!

4. Does a belly dance name have to be Middle Eastern?

The important thing about having a belly dance name is to have your own dancing persona. It’s nice to honor the heritage of belly dance by choosing a Middle Eastern name, but it’s really about expressing yourself. So, if you want to modify your legal name from Susan to Suzanna or Judy to Judith, that’s fine. If you want to honor an ancestor by choosing her name, that’s cool! If an Indian or Hawaiian word works for you, use it!

Your stage name is a unique expression of you and it’s your personal choice.

If you have any comments or questions, please respond in the comments below. And, if you found this email helpful, please feel free to forward it to anyone you feel might benefit by reading it.

Mezdulene

I Went to Mexico!

One day, I followed my guidance and spontaneously visited my friend, Dunyah. As we talked, she shared that her brother had invited her to Mexico and she didn't want to go alone. I immediately raised my hand and said, "I'll go!"
 
And, so we went!

I've never been to Mexico except for border towns which are not a good representation of this beautiful country, so I was really excited about our trip. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I would be able to find a place to do a retreat.

A woman named Susan, picked us up at the airport and drove us to the home we'd be staying in thanks to Dunyah’s brother. Let's just say that this simple country girl got a taste of the good life! Wow!

Right outside of my bedroom was a gorgeous pool that we spent a lot of time in. We skinny-dipped under the full moon and talked about our dreams. It was a magical time.

Dunyah’s brother and his friend were doing an art show at a fancy resort restaurant. We hung out on the beach there, swam in the warm ocean and got massages. It was a relaxing and healing time. Did I mention the good life?

Fortunately, Dunyah has been studying Spanish because we weren't in a tourist destination and very few people spoke English. We were independent women and rode taxis to the market place, ate delicious food on sidewalks and Dunyah chatted with people in Spanish.
 
Southern Mexico is tropical, and it was in the upper 80’s while we were there, quite the contrast to the upper 30’s we left behind in Oregon. Flowers were blooming everywhere and the people there were so friendly to us Gringos.
 
Because of our remote location I gave up on the idea of finding a retreat space and just enjoyed my vacation. I had school work to do, but when you go to college on-line all you need is wi-fi! I even took an on-line proctored mid-term and got 100%.
 
A couple of days before we had to leave, Susan and her husband Bill came over for dinner. We told them all about belly dance then performed for them and got them up to join us. It was a fun evening!
 
Susan and Bill are retired Americans who now live in Mexico, and they asked me questions about my retreats. It turns out, they host retreats in their two homes and want me to come and do one there.
 
Really? Yes, really! What a wonderful opportunity. A dream come true!
 
So, stayed-tuned for more information about next year’s Mexico retreat the end of March. I’ll be posting details as soon as it’s all set up.
 
And if you’ve been wondering what happened to my Hawaii retreat; it’s still happening. Going back to college mixed with staffing problems at the retreat center I want to use has caused a delay. It will also be in 2018!
 
Please feel free to share my newsletter. I’d love to grow my email list.
 
Missing Mexico,
 
Mezdulene
 
www.mezdulene.com

Change is happening!

I'm doing it!

My word for 2017 is CHANGE! Last week I wrote that in order to accomplish my heart's desires and goals I have to make some changes.

This week I am beginning to implement said changes.

I used a photo of my messy desk so you'all can see my reality. I used to stress about the mess, stress because I felt like I should be more neat and tidy and more organized.

Then, I finally understood that my brain just doesn't work that way! 

If I put something in a file folder, it's just gone. Out of sight, out of mind. You know! It's like when an infant focuses on yanking on your necklace and you tuck it under your collar and they immediately just go on to the next thing which is probably yanking on your earring. 

So, I need 'all the things' piled around me to keep my attention. 

A few years ago, I figured out I'm ADD, that my brain doesn't work in a 'normal' way and what a relief it was to finally have some answers. 

I'm also very creative, and my brain goes many directions within seconds. And, I'm perhaps a bit manic at times which my 16 hour work day this past Monday might attest to.

So, my new changes have included setting up a system to stay focused. Now mind you, this is something I've tried to do for years. But this year I'm doing it differently. Change! That word again.

My biggest struggle has been with consistency and follow up. It's the out of sight out of mind thing. For instance, I write a book, publish it and it's done. I go onto the next project or book instead of following up with telling people (beyond my personal circle) about my wonderful new book and getting it out into the world.

The sheet you see on top of my laptop is something I created this past Manic Monday. It has a daily list of to do things, a monthly theme and space to write the top 3-5 things I need to do that day. I also made a daily study list for my school work.

I have also created an actual daily routine! And, so far I'm sticking to it!

Each morning after my meditation and coffee, I work on my own business stuff until noon or 1 p.m. The rest of the day is for my school work and any appointments or committments I might have.

This may seem pretty mundane for most of you, but I've never been able to have a real routine. I had all the things I needed to do and many lists, but my brain would start to bounce. I'd get pulled in so many directions and lose track of time and get behind. I'd either feel pressured or feel like I had failed.

So having a routine and check off lists are my start to doing things differently.

Mondays are reserved just for my own stuff and this Monday it was 16 hours of full speed ahead getting shiz done! I loved it.

Here are just a few of the things I did. I updated my Mezdulene website, updated my events, created pages for my Divine Feminine retreats, changed the name of my Jareeda Facebook page to Bliss Belly Dance Books, lowered the price of Belly Dance Transformations on Amazon and Kindle for a sale, (not an easy task), made my daily list thingys and that's just a few of the things I did.

I really feel a sense of accomplishment which is a great feeling for me. I love accomplishing shiz!

Since then I've followed my routine and done even more like plan the workshop I'll be doing in Salem, Oregon on March 4th. I'm so excited about that one and will be posting more soon!

And I hope some of you find my new teaching tips section below helpful. 

So that's my week! I hope your week is equally fabulous! I hope that 2017 brings you exactly what you need and also what you want. 

TEACHING TIP

In my opinion, one of the best things about belly dance is that there is no exact format. While some dance forms are regimented and taught exactly the same everywhere in the world, belly dance is like a living force that has no limitations.

On the other hand, because there is no universal accreditation, anyone can hang out a shingle and begin to teach.

I feel that it's important for a teacher to have credentials that include performance experience. A good teacher will not only teach how to dance, she will also create performance opportunities for her students.

Dance is a creative expression. It's all well and good to learn how to dance. It's great exercise and classes can be fun, a good escape from daily stresses and a good way to meet other women.

However, it's on the stage where true metamorphosis happens. This is where students overcome fear, where they learn to express their unique essence and gain confidence. This is where empowerment happens.

So, as a teacher, I feel that my job is much more than teaching my students how to dance. It's also teaching them costuming, entrances, exits, choreography, improvisation and stage presence. It's encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone and grow and blossom.

Provide your students with performance opportunities! Have a hafla at the end of a class series, start a festival, ask for dance spots at local events. And if you really want to see them grow, encourage them to enter a competition. That's when things get serious and the real practice begins!

Happy 2017!

My word for 2017 is CHANGE!!

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. 

We all know people who whine and complain about their job or their marriage and the years just slide on by and nothing changes. They keep hoping that their job will improve or their partner will change into a nicer person, but they don't DO anything about it! Look for another job! Get marriage counseling or a divorce. You have the power to stop the insanity!

I'm talking to myself here! I keep doing the same thing over and over and hoping to make a living doing it.

It's not happening...

It's time for me to make some changes, to change what I do. I love working for myself and for years I've wanted a thriving business doing what I love, sharing my passion of belly dance and helping empower women as they gain self-esteem and confidence.

I also love to write about belly dance so I'll use this example about my business and needed change.

I've published five books. FIVE! They are all great and one is all about how belly dance has healed and transformed lives. But I never promoted them. I just went on to the next book.

Really?

Yes, really.

So, starting now, I'm changing the way I run my business. Beginning now, I am learning how to promote and market. I'm paying for business coaching, taking classes and doing what it takes to make the changes I need in order to have a thriving business. 

Belly Dance Transformations is inspirational as well as very interesting. Aunty Rocky and Dalia Carella top the list of dozens of dancers and one drummer who share their personal stories of how belly dance has healed and transformed their lives. You are guaranteed to be moved. 

On a different note, I've always wanted to travel. For many years I've waited until I had enough money. The years keep going by and I keep waiting for that day when I can afford to travel.

I'm changing that. I'm not waiting anymore. I've booked two international trips. Yes, two! 

In February I'm going to Mexico. I'll be spending time on a warm beach in the midst of a cold winter. Yes!

In June I'm going to Scotland to explore ancient and sacred sites. Two dream destinations in one year.  Join me as I post my adventures on Facebook!

Change is good!

Love, Light and Happiest of New Years to you and yours. May you do what it takes to manifest your dreams. You deserve the absolute best that life has to offer.

Blessings,
Mezdulene

Summer Gigs!

 

Summertime always brings opportunities for festival dancing. No matter where you live, I’m sure there is some kind of festival to celebrate something about your locality.  So don’t be shy about asking for a performance slot.

The Blackberry Festival in my town is in it’s 28th year, and in nearby towns there is Ocean Fest, a Seafood Festival, Cranberry Festival, Pioneer Days Festival and the list goes on. We also have a local Art Festival.

One thing I’ve learned dancing at these types of events is to expect the unexpected and to stand my ground.

One year, while waiting to go on at the Charlie Tuna Festival in Charleston, Oregon, we were told by the person in charge that they were running late and the band needed to go on before us so it would be another hour until we could perform.  So, we waited, and we waited. More than an hour went by and our costumes became saturated with the smell of barbequed tuna. Finally we went on.

This happened again and it seemed like the belly dancers were always the ones who had to wait or were pushed aside for the ‘more important’ acts.

So, I made up my mind it wasn’t going to happen again. Sure enough, at our next event, it happened again. This time I responded with, “I’m sorry, but we have something else we have to do, so we either need to dance now as planned or we’ll have to leave.”

First I have to respect myself and my art and every time I stand my ground I gain the respect of the event producers.

It rarely happens anymore, but then BAM! It happened again! This time there was no graceful way around it. The sponsor accidently double-booked our spot so we were told we had to share our hour with a group of Samoan dancers.

So, on the spot, I had to cut half our show. It wasn’t fun, but the Samoans were one of our best and most positive audiences. 

Then there was the time one of my students was dancing, and a drunk from the beer garden climbed onto the stage and started to gyrate around.  

I’m a momma bear when it comes to my girls, and with sword in hand, I went onto the stage with one of those ‘looks that kill’ on my face. He saw me coming and even in his inebriated state he could see I meant business. He looked at me, looked at my sword and then jumped off the stage to the delight of the audience and relief of my student.

Because I live in a fairly close-minded community, I have a rule that when we dance at festivals we wear belly covers and either tights or harem pants. Yes, it’s hot, really hot. And yes, my students hate this rule! But, since I started this, the smart remarks and complaints about our costuming stopped and the respect we received in our community has increased. 

Despite the heat and the other hardships, festivals are a very fun place to perform and the best benefit is public exposure, a chance to be seen and to promote your classes and availability.

So, go out there and get some summer gigs!

Happy Summer,  Mezdulene

 

Weeks of Adventures!

Rebecca tries to catch a mole at med fest!

Rebecca tries to catch a mole at med fest!

Time seems to slip through my mind like water through my fingers when I dip my hands in a pond and try to scoop it up and hold it with most of it sliding through and back into it’s source.
 
I can’t hold time any more than I can hold water. Sometimes it makes me crazy and sometimes it just is what it is and I just observe it and find peace with it.
 
So much has happened in my life the past few months. Change is the only constant in my life and sometimes I get sucked into the changes and lose track of time and space.
 
But I’m back with an update on my recent adventures.
 
My cousin, Kathe Alkoudsi, owner of Cartouche Costuming, decided to retire and I bravely took over her business! I changed the name to 'Bliss Belly Dance Boutique' and thus began a life-changing adventure.

Check out my Ebay Store and my Facebook Page! I am sooooo excited!!!
 
During the last week of May, I flew to Kansas to stay with Kathe. She picked me up at the airport and drove me directly to a fabulous Greek restaurant where we met up with Siham Ali and I was treated to wonderful food and a very fantastic show by Zaina Ali.
 
Then we spent the week packing 88 boxes of belly dance costuming goodness from Egypt and Syria and shipped 5 pallets with 3,000 lbs. of it to my studio in Oregon. 88 boxes! In my studio!
 
Where does a person put 3,000 lbs of costuming?  Everywhere!
 
Fortunately I have a fairly large living room so I still have a place to hold dance classes! Someday, we’ll dance in the studio again where the mirrors live. Until then, I’m unpacking and I’ve opened an Ebay store.
 
So many beautiful costumes!
 
After returning home from Kansas, I hit the ground running right to Belly Dancer USA. It was a fabulous weekend and we had more entries than ever. Our new categories were a hit, the professional live music improvisation category with music by Americanistan made for a great show, and the Jungle Boogie improvisation category on Sunday was a surprise hit and so much fun, we were all energized.
 
With just a couple of days to recover from putting on Belly Dancer USA, I headed north for the Portland Middle Eastern Dance and Music Camp. What a wonderful weekend it was filled with dance and music classes. The days were full of live music as musicians practiced between classes.
 
Hanging out with Dalia Carella and Amel Tafsout, two Goddesses of belly dance, was a special treat. The dance classes were varied and fun and the shows were fabulous! It rained all weekend, but it didn’t put a damper on camp. It was a delight to go to a camp where someone beside me was in charge!
 
The next weekend I headed north again, this time to the Salem World Beat Festival. This is an amazing event with ‘villages’ from around the world. As you walk through the beautiful park you can hear bagpipes, African drums, Native American drums, Japanese Taiko drums and see dances from around the world. It’s a wonderful event. Of course dancing to Americanistan was my highlight along with hanging with my Salem friends.
 
My last big venture was to the Seattle Mediterranean Fantasy Festival where I vended my new costumes. It was an incredible weekend where every time I turned around, the Universe sent me help.

I was alone with no helper and dreaded unloading and setting up by myself. I got to the festival sight and started to unload, and here came Michelle Marion to help me, an unexpected surprise. I couldn't put the canopy up alone but Jamilla and Julie helped me. I forgot stakes and here came Joseph to stake my canopy down and then he and Jamilla came back later to help me put the sides up.
 
Best of all, Rebecca Wolf-Nail helped me all weekend and sold out her newest belly dance mystery, “I’ll Die at Your Wedding,” which I’m looking forward to reading. She also tried to catch a mole as it pushed dirt up right in front of us!
 
Overall, it was a very fun weekend and the best part was staying with my friend and mentor, Halima.
 
The next weekend was my third annual Divine Feminine Retreat which was filled with sacred events and bonding with heart sisters. I’m already planning next year’s retreat!
 
Whew!
 
So, you can see it’s been non-stop which is very exciting for me. To be healthy and vital enough to do so much traveling and dancing is just a miraculous feeling for me.
 
I feel like I have my life back.
 
I have to run now and prepare for my Divine Feminine Dance workshop at Unity Church tomorrow.
 
Blessings to all of you and have a great summer,
 
Mezdulene

No Competition

I once talked to a dancer who lived in a city of more than 1,000,000 people and she was complaining about how there were too many teachers in town and not enough students. I asked her how many teachers she thought there were and she said at least six and a new one just moved into town!

What a drama trauma she was undergoing worrying about a 7th teacher in a city of a million people.

Really?

I live in a town with less than 5,000 residents. We have three whole stoplights!  I’ve had a belly dance studio here for years. I don’t make my entire living teaching belly dance, but I have made a ton of friends and I’m known throughout the town. I could have more students if I wanted, but I’m happy teaching just a few classes and directing my troupe.

My studio is actually three miles out of town in a rural area, and my students come from as far as 40 miles away.

For a few years, I was the only belly dance teacher in the area. Then a couple of other dancers started classes and a couple of my students started teaching and at one time there were seven teachers holding classes. That’s right, seven teachers.

Another studio opened in the nearby town of 25,000 people, and people talked about my ‘competition.’

Was I dramatized? Of course not.

I don’t believe in competition. I believe that the more classes in the area, the more dancers we have and the more exposure and education our community receives about belly dancing. More dancers and more community acceptance, the more dance opportunities we have and the more fun there is to be had.

The other studio closed after a couple of years, many of the teachers stopped teaching and for awhile I was the only one teaching again.

When I moved to this community, twenty years ago, people equated belly dancers with strippers and the local dancers were dancing in bars. I haven’t heard a stripper remark in several years and we are widely accepted in the community. I recently gave a talk in a healing group about the healing benefits of belly dance and from there received an invitation to give a talk about belly dance in a local church.

We have come a very long way towards acceptance in our community and I couldn’t have done it alone!

Now there are three of us teaching in our large, rural county and we are all having fun.  We have a wonderful belly dance community and lots of dancing opportunities.

So, those of you who live in big cities? Don’t worry about competition; just get out there and get busy teaching. Make your own opportunities. Don’t let anything stop you!

Graceful Exits

 

Catitude 3: Leaving a troupe/class gracefully

I’ve been teaching for decades now and consider myself a matriarch of belly dance. I’ve seen a lot of things and had a lot of adventures. Most of my dance experiences have been very positive, uplifting and I dare say, fun!

However!

There have been some less than positive times in my dance career, and most of them were due to students and troupe mates leaving in a less than graceful manner.

I once wrote an article about this and got tons of feedback from teachers and troupe directors with similar experiences who appreciated that they weren’t the only ones!

I’m going to share some of these incidents and also share how these ladies could have done things differently.  Some of my stories are composites, based on my experience plus that of others.

Sometimes students outgrow their teachers, and sometimes they just become too big for their britches.  I think that as teachers, we’ve all had such students. When teaching a new step in class, they tell us we’re doing it wrong or they argue with us about terminology or anything else.

I once had a student who became such a problem that I encouraged her to start teaching on her own since she seemed to think she knew better than me.

She thought this was a great idea, and so did I until she couldn’t get her own students and decided she wanted mine.

I’ve always encouraged my students to take from as many teachers as possible and often have guest teachers and sponsor workshops so that my students receive the opportunity to become as diverse as possible.

I’ve also had several students start taking from me and then meet another teacher in the area and switch to her classes. This is fine with me because we can’t all meet everyone’s needs.

What isn’t okay is for another teacher to take my students aside and tell them she is a much better teacher and they should take from her, putting me down and making false promises. There are plenty of students to go around which I’ll be addressing in my next blog.

And, yes, this happened to me and it was so blatant that it became a joke among my students. “We must not be any good because she hasn’t tried to get us to take her class.” And the students who did switch never danced again and were too embarrassed to come back to my classes after having a less than positive experience in hers.

So, if you feel your teacher has taught you all she can and you want to leave, please do so gracefully and be respectful. The graceful way to make an exit is the talk to your teacher and let her know you are moving on. This way you don’t burn any bridges.

Remember, your first teacher is the one who gave you your start on this amazing journey of dance. If you want to go further, that’s okay. It’s not okay to badmouth her which makes you look bad. There is an old saying that if you discount the teacher, you are also discounting the lesson. Be grateful for what she has given you and move along.

As troupe directors, we’ve all had dancers leave our troupe.

I once had a small troupe of three dancers. My most dedicated dancer started missing practice without calling as she always had in the past. It was strange, but I was busy and didn’t think too much of it.

One day, I stopped by another friend/teacher’s studio to drop off some music and when I walked in, there was my troupe member, who was also a good friend (or so I thought) practicing with my friend’s  troupe. Unfortunately, I was young and sensitive and I was devastated, feeling they had both gone behind my back instead of just being honest. When I tearfully asked them why they didn’t tell me what was going on, they both said they didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Really?  I call bull shit on that one.

Another gut punch came when I had three ladies quit troupe because they ‘needed a break.’ I asked them if they were going to continue dancing together, and they said, no, that they were just taking some time off.

I walked into a dance festival just in time to see them performing on the stage. It felt like a punch in the gut as well as a stab in the back, and I had to just stop, breathe, and put on a supportive face.

So, what is a good way to leave a troupe? For heaven’s sake, just be honest. If you want to dance somewhere else, who cares? Good for you! It’s the subterfuge and lies that cause pain, and dishonesty is always a bad way to start something new. 

While I hate losing troupe members, because I love and miss them, I appreciate it when a member talks to me or the group and tells us like it is. One dancer said, she was just spread too thin and had to make the choice to leave troupe so that she had more family time. One left us for the roller derby. True story. A couple of dancers left to dance with other people because they felt the need for a change or fell in love with a different style.

Honesty is always the best policy in any relationship. It’s not always easy to tell someone you are leaving, but it’s better to leave with a clear conscience rather than deception.

And, what I said about burning bridges? Wouldn’t you rather maintain a good relationship with your past teachers and troupe mates then be crossed off their list? You never know what the future holds. You might want to make belly dancing your profession and your reputation will depend on how you treat people.

Always let honesty and kindness be your guides.

Taking the high road,

Mezdulene

P.S. Please feel free to comment or email me and please feel free to forward my words to anyone you feel might benefit.

www.mezdulene.com

www.bellydancerusa.com

'Cattitude'

I advocate love and kindness in all things. I believe in being supportive to my friends and my fellow dancers. I’m truly a nice person. However…. 

There are those times when I see something or experience something that really pushes me over the edge and I just have to vent.

Cattitude is what I call having a catty attitude.  I think we all have occasional catty moments, but it’s how we handle them that makes a huge difference.

If I’m having an overwhelming and catty moment, I just have to vent. Now there are good ways to vent and there are bad ways to vent.

Believe it or not, I’ve seen two different event sponsors vent on the microphone in front of an audience. One was upset about a no-show performer and the other practically called an audience member a pedophile because he broke the rules and video-taped dancers including a teenager.

I’ve also heard dancers smack-talking in the audience, in dressing rooms and bathrooms about other dancers.

Personally, I have my catty moments in private.  I have a couple of good friends I can vent with when I have that overwhelming urge. When my friend Jasel and I attend an event, we hold in anything less-than-positiveuntil we are back in the privacy of our hotel room and then we talk.

So, what kind of things bring on our cattitude? There was that dancer that wore a costume that was so inappropriate, we just had to look away. Who was her teacher? Where was her mother? Why didn’t someone tell her that crack kills?

Then there was the troupe who danced to a sacred prayer song, and the troupe who said their dance was traditional Persian and then did splits and other inappropriate movements.

As we talk to each other about these kinds of things, it’s really more than being catty. It’s also about problem solving. For instance, the costuming issues we observed helped us develop a policy about costuming. If someone is performing at one of our events and they have an inappropriate costume or a costuming mishap, we turn off the music and motion for them to leave the stage.  We announce that we are having technical difficulties with their music so that they aren’t embarrassed.

As for the troupe examples, these type of things motivate us to be the best we can be by researching and never claiming to be traditional anything.

Our cattitude is never mean-spirited and is often productive. It has also inspired articles, blogs and made us better teachers as we learn from things we have observed and experienced.

Always learning,

Mezdulene

Responsibility vs Victimhood

When we take responsibility, we have the power to change our circumstance.

When we blame others, we become the victims of circumstance.

Taking responsibility is empowering. When we take responsibility for our actions and our choices, we can shape our own destiny.

I work with someone who is losing her job and in her mind it’s because everyone hates her. She rants on and on about how she’s being targeted and how she just doesn’t understand why she’s being let go.

This woman has lost her job because she isn’t doing the job she was hired for. She always looks busy, but nothing gets done or it gets done after the deadline.

In her mind, she is an innocent Victim and notice the capital V. As long as she blames others, she will remain a victim and she will lose job after job.  She’s been given every opportunity to learn the job correctly, but she refuses to change.

In Belly Dance Land, I’ve sometimes seen similar scenarios.

I’ve heard dancers say, “I never get asked to dance!” Well here’s a fact: if you want to dance, show up and be supportive.

As a sponsor, when I think of who to ask to teach or perform, the dancers that come to mind are the ones who come to events, the ones who support my efforts and those of others, the ones who don’t ‘dance and dash’ but stay to cheer on the rest of the performers.

I’ve also heard, “I didn’t win the contest because the judges were biased.” “I didn’t win the contest because those judges didn’t know what they were doing.”

If you didn’t win, there could be many reasons. The main reason people don’t win is lack of practice and preparation. 

When a dancer blames the judges, she’s a victim. When she decides to pay attention to where the judges showed she needs improvement and then practices, she takes responsibility and is empowered.

I once had an exceptional student. She was a stay-at-home mom and practiced several hours a day just like I did when I first started dancing. She quickly became an excellent dancer.

A couple of other students in the same class were moving at a slower rate and confronted me saying that I was showing favoritism to the better dancer and that’s why she was so good so quickly. I told them that she was better because she worked harder, practicing several hours a day.

These ladies both had such great potential, but they became angry and quit dancing because they were victims. If they had taken responsibility and practiced or just allowed themselves to move at the pace that was best for them, they could have become just as excellent and perhaps even better than the dancer they were jealous of.

When we take responsibility, we are in charge of our lives! And for me, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Staying Empowered,

Mezdulene

 

 

Manifesting My Heart's Desire

Manifesting My Heart’s Desire

This past week has been a full one. In my last blog, “I Gave Up on Myself,” I mentioned that my heart’s desire was to make my living with belly dance and healing. I’d like to thank those of you who emailed me and shared your own feelings and experiences. I want you to know that I really appreciated it.

I spent over 40 hours in three days last week working on my belly dance business and I loved it! I love feeling in control of my own destiny and love feeling a sense of accomplishment.

First I made a huge list of things I needed or wanted to do. It was a long list and included the next six books I want to create and publish and lists of things I need to do for Spring Oasis, Belly Dancer USA and my annual retreat.  Then I prioritized what needed to be done now and what could wait, and I worked on setting goals.

Here is some personal insight about me: I am fabulous at having ideas, I love to plan new things and I have attention deficit disorder. Can you say, “squirrel?” Yes, I have a tendency to run in five different directions and I am very easily distracted. My greatest challenge is staying focused and following through.

For instance, about a year ago, I asked several people to do Amazon reviews of ‘Belly Dance Transformations.’ Then I was immediately on to the next thing.  Last week I remembered to check and see if they wrote the reviews. Only two of them had posted a review. Two.

Now if I want to have a successful business, I’m pretty sure I need to follow up on things sooner than a year. Yes, pretty sure.

I’ve always been a list maker, but often lost my lists. I tried using a computer program and ended up losing everything when my hard drive crashed, so I’m developing a system to help keep my brain on track, help me stay focused and help me remember to follow through.

So far it seems to be working, and I am so excited about this!

I hope you have a fabulous week and if you feel like reading a great belly dance book full of stories about how belly dance has transformed and empowered, here it is! ‘Belly Dance Transformations!’

I need to go bead on a troupe belt,

Mezdulene

 

I gave up on myself....

I gave up on myself....

I gave up on myself.
 
For many years my heart’s desire has been to make my living with belly dance and healing work. My dream is to pay my bills by teaching and writing about the dance and teaching and doing healing. I went through some hard times in my personal life and then my health crashed and then I gave up on my belief that I could do this thing, this heart’s desire thing. I got a ‘real’ job and made plans to go back to school so that I could get a better ‘real’ job. And then, three weeks ago, I took an Angelic Reiki workshop, and my life shifted again.
 
Since then, two beautiful women appeared in my life and told me how much I inspired them and I was shown that I had a positive influence on these ladies that I rarely saw in person, an influence through my words and my example.
 
I started to feel the dream re-awaken, and I started to believe again.
 
I’m not sure what’s next for me. I told my family and friends that I was going back to school to finish my degree, and I don’t want to look like an idiot or a flake.  While it seemed like a good idea at the time to get a traditional degree so I could get a good traditional job and stop struggling financially, the thought of it doesn’t feed my soul. 
 
I’m a free spirit, and I’ve been trying to clip my own wings and it doesn’t feel good. It hurts to give up my heart’s desire, hurts to stop believing in my dream. It’s a constant inner-ache that I’ve tried to tamp down and ignore.
 
So, I’m looking at that and I have this continuous internal struggle going on trying to decide what to do, trying to figure out what’s best for me and how to live my dream and eat at the same time.
 
Writing this isn’t easy. It feels like I’m exposing something deep and personal, and important and empowering. This is real, and as a writer, it’s important to me to be real, to step out of the fear, to stop writing what I think people want to hear and just write what is my genuine, authentic, truth.  It’s always been easy to write about the dance, to be real when it comes to my passion, not so easy to write about my guts.
 
I’m doing some soul-searching and making a commitment to myself to start living my dream, to start believing again in myself and my abilities. I have another belly dance book bubbling up inside of me and I’m studying business books and I’m working on a plan.
 
If any of you out there have something deep inside of you that wants to come out, something that you want to share with the world but maybe didn’t believe was good enough or important enough, or perhaps a dream or heart’s desire of another sort that you need supported, please take a stand with me. I’ll believe in you, you can believe in me and together we will believe in ourselves.
 
I would love to hear from you either publicly as a response to this blog or privately in an email or Facebook message. Let’s support each other as we begin to build a strong foundation for our dreams and desires to manifest.
 
Believing in myself,

Mezdulene

Divinely Feminine Belly Dancer
Author and Publisher
Reiki Master

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Belly Dance is Healing

I was recently asked to give a presentation on the healing aspects of belly dance to a local healing group, and I thought it would make a great topic for my blog.

Belly dance is an incredible and powerful healing modality for women, and even a few brave men who have come to this most feminine of art forms.

I once read a Facebook post by a woman who said, I only do my healing work now and no longer teach belly dance classes. Huh?  I know she was referring to Reiki and coaching, but how did she miss the healing powers of belly dance? ’m a Reiki Master, do Shamanic healing work and spiritual counseling, but belly dancing has been the most profound healing tool I’ve experienced.It heals on all levels. Physically it tones the muscles of the body, strengthens the muscles and joints and helps with posture and spinal alignment.  Emotionally, it helps us gain self-esteem and confidence, gives us a social outlet with other women and offers us the opportunity for fun. Spiritually, it connects us with the divine feminine, that holy sense of ourselves as spiritual beings and the connection to other women through time and space as we do movements that have been done for thousands of years, movements being done by thousands of women around the earth and movements that will continue to be done long into the future.

I have been honored to witness women walk into my beginner class with eyes down cast and shoulders slumped making a beeline to the back row and watch them blossom into confident women with heads held high, posture straight and smiles galore. I’ve watched them gain the self-empowerment to get out of abusive relationships, watched them heal past abuse issues and watched them go from walking with a cane or back brace as well as healing their physical issues.

In the Middle East there are healing dances such as the Zar where women dance themselves into a frenzy and collapse, releasing what is believed to be evil spirits or in our terms emotional distresses.

Belly dance helps us release blockages in our bodies where we’ve been conditioned to hold onto emotional baggage. It helps balance our Chakras and so much more.

On more than one occasion, I’ve danced while physically ill and been healed. I once sponsored a belly dance festival and the week before had some strange symptoms I hadn’t felt before. Someone suggested it might be high blood pressure so on Friday I went to the fire department and asked them to take my blood pressure. Indeed, it was really high and they encouraged me to see a Dr. I absolutely didn’t have time and told them I’d go on Monday. During my performance on Saturday night to live music with Americanistan, I felt an amazing sensation woosh through my body and knew I’d just had a healing. Sure enough, I had my blood pressure taken again and it was perfectly normal and has been for years since.

For me, one of the greatest healing aspects has been the community of belly dancers.  I have made many close and life-long friendships through the dance and I can travel anywhere and feel a sense of belonging by just contacting local belly dancers. I instantly have something in common with complete strangers, the passion of belly dance.

My dance community has given me the strength and support needed to survive the emotional storms of life, and my fellow dancers have also celebrated the joys of my life. 

Without a doubt, belly dance is powerfully healing.

If you have a story about how belly dance has brought healing to your life, please share it by sending it to me at mezdulene@mezdulene.com. I'm thinking about publishing a new book on this great subject.

Love and Light,

Mezdulene

Don't Book on top of Us!

As the new year begins, I start looking ahead and planning my year. I mark important dates on my calendar such as the events I will be producing and the events I want to attend, plus any personal highlights such as grand children’s birthdays.

Once upon a time, I was one of a rare group of sponsors here in the Northwest. To attend an event that I didn’t produce, I had to drive 200 or more miles because events were few and far between. Now there are events most weekends and I have to pick and choose between them.  Now we all have to pick and choose.

I read on Facebook yesterday that a new event was starting, an event I would love to attend and the inspiration for this weeks blog. I was very excited to see this new event happening, until I saw the date; they booked it the same date as Belly Dancer USA, an event I have done for over 30 years. So, needless to say, I don’t get to go to this new event and neither do my students and several vendors.

This event is far enough away and in a big city, so it has the potential to be successful, but many events fail because they book on top of established events.

So, I’d like to tell you a few stories about events that booked on top of me and give you some booking advice.

Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I heard about a new belly dance festival and I was excited! It was only two hours away and something I could just go to and have fun without doing all the work. Then I got the bad news; it was booked on top of Belly Dancer USA. I contacted the sponsor and told her about the conflict, and asked if it were possible to change the date. Her response was “absolutely not!”  As usual, Belly Dancer USA was successful but her event failed and she never tried to produce another event which was a loss to our local belly dance community.

Not too long ago, someone else booked on top of Belly Dancer USA. Their event struggled to break even and the sponsor heard about all the people going to BDUSA, (the well-established event) and contacted me to see when my future date would be so she could book around it. She handled the whole thing with grace and respect and I honor her willingness to work with me so that the belly dance community would benefit from both events.

I also sponsor, Mezdulene’s Belly Dance Retreat, another well-established event deep in the Oregon woods. It’s not open to the public and only attended by dancers and vendors, so someone I knew decided to change the date of her popular event to the same weekend of my retreat thinking it wouldn’t matter because her event was different and in another state. I called her and pointed out that it might be a problem because I had helped her establish her event and promote it so many of the attendees were my students and friends who would be at my retreat and that we had several vendors in common that wouldn’t be able to attend, so even though they were different events far apart, there was a conflict of interest. Her response was anger. Not only has she not spoken to me since, but her event failed. It had been a very successful and fun event to attend every year and was a sad loss to our community. 

Then there was the year I was going to sponsor a fabulous dancer in a workshop and show and someone booked on top of me. When I contacted , she said, “I’m sorry, but it was the only weekend I could get because she’ll be on tour from Egypt.” I ended up having to cancel my event due to a lack of attendance.

Years later, someone booked on top of her and she contacted me and told me she had talked to this person and she said, “I’m sorry, but it was the only weekend I could get because they’ll be on tour from Egypt.” I didn’t say anything but had to chuckle to myself that someone did and said the exact same thing that she did and said so many years before.

So here is my advice.

Before you pick a date for your event, pay attention to the events in your area that are already established. Booking the same weekend or even the weekend or two before or after other events will harm your event. People can only afford to attend a certain amount of events and they will most likely choose to attend the well-established event that they know will be a good choice for their money.

Also, look outside of your immediate area. If there is a national event such as Belly Dancer USA within your geographic range, it’s probably not a good time to have your event. People drive and fly hundreds of miles to such events, and vendors are going to go where they know they will be successful.

Believe me when I say that vendors can make or break your event. Dancers love to shop and it’s important to have good vendors. That’s a given. But, some people don’t think about how the big sponsors travel to different events several times a month and they will be telling people about your event.

Work of mouth is your greatest form of marketing and advertisement. So when people talk about your event, you want them to be saying, “I can’t wait to go to……do you want to come with me?, or I’ll be vending at…….and it’s a great event, you should come.” You don’t want them saying, “I’d love to go to…… but it’s the same weekend as…….., or I wish I could go to……..but it’s booked on top of my favorite event…………”

So there you have it, my lovelies.

May you all have great fun at all the wonderful events you attend this year. For me, events are like a big family reunion full of hugs and catching up on news as well as fabulous music and dancing.

Hoping to see you there,

Mezdulene

 

The Light is Returning

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and is celebrated around the world by various cultures and belief systems. There is a lot of symbolism around the solstice, but as the caption of the photo above says, “For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.”

I believe that faith is a personal thing. I have Christian friends, Jewish friends, Muslim friends, Pagan friends, Hindu friends, Buddhist friends and the list goes on. Each of my friends are beautiful souls and believe in the power of love, and together we light up the world!

I use light as a symbol for love. I tell people that my religion is love and I believe that the more we love, the lighter the world becomes. Love has the power to bring joy and banish suffering, it has the power to heal and it has the power to create great blessings. For instance, I just watched a special where a couple lost their daughter and started an organization in her name to help homeless children. Their love for their daughter lives on and continues to grow as it creates love and safety for hundreds of children.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe and it is important to use this force each and every day. The more you give love, the more love you receive and the light just grows and grows.

I have a small women’s group and we meet each Monday focusing on spirituality and healing. This coming Monday we will be doing our own version of a Solstice ritual where we will be letting go of things we want to leave in the past/darkness and claiming what we want to bring into the present/light. It’s a time of new beginnings where all seems possible. Stating our desires in a group and witnessing with love what each other wants to manifest is a powerful thing as we support each other’s dreams.

What do you want to leave behind; what no longer serves you?

What do you want to manifest as the light returns?

And, on a practical note, Vitamin D is a great supplement for this time of year. Where I live, we get very little actual sunshine because it rains so much and the sun we do get comes in at an angle and diffuses the UV-B rays that enable us to produce Vitamin D on our own. So for us northerners, SAD disease or Seasonal Affective Disorder is pretty common during the winter months and Vitamin D is an important supplement to help counteract it.

Also, stress and sugar are not your friends this time of year so try to remember that love is the greatest gift of all, much better than fudge. Smile!

Love and Light to you all,

Mezdulene

 

Creative Giving

Creative Giving

It’s that time of year, the time of giving. December is the holiday season for many belief systems and a time to give gifts to our loved ones.

In years past, I agonized over gift-giving. I’ve lived most of my life below what is considered poverty level, at times way below, and I’ve managed to be pretty creative.  I discovered early on that I could make a gift that was worth way more than I could afford if I had to purchase it. For instance, one year, I made everyone quilts out of fabric scraps and many years I made everyone beautiful high-end jewelry.

I’m a giver. I love to give. It makes me feel good!

Of course I also love to receive!

Many years ago I started a new tradition of giving to myself. I was looking at all the pieces of beautiful art I had made for my loved ones and thinking, “Gee, I’d love to have one of these paintings myself.”

DING! It was a light bulb moment to realize that I could give to myself. I’ve made it a tradition, and have given myself everything from a book to a piece of jewelry to a piece of art. It’s fun to give to myself and I like to suggest to others that they start the same tradition. We all deserve to receive something we know we’ll love. Right?

As the years went by I became overwhelmed with stuff, and I began to value other kinds of gifts. For instance, gift certificates for a massage or a nice dinner are great gifts to receive, and they don’t collect dust! Recently, my dance students all pitched in for a tattoo gift certificate for one of our troupies.

Each year I have a dance studio Christmas party. We usually do a gift exchange or an ornament exchange. A few years ago, I started the tradition of re-gifting.  You know all those gifts you receive that you’ll never use? There’s that pair of beautiful sparkling pink earrings and you hate pink or that book you’ve already read or perfume you’ll never wear and the list goes on. It’s time to pass these things along to someone who might love them.

We put the gifts in a pile on the floor and draw numbers. Number one gets to go first and choose whichever gift looks appealing to them. They open the gift and then number two gets a turn. They can either pick out a gift from the pile or take number one’s gift and she gets to choose another one. It’s a fun way to do it.

I think my favorite year was the year I was moving.  I went through all of my dance costumes and baubles and bangles, decided what I wanted to let go of, put it all in a big pile in the middle of my studio and had a give away. Again, we drew numbers and one at a time, people picked out something they wanted. This time they got to keep what they chose and it was really fun watching my treasures become my friends new treasures. A lot of it was called my “Someday Stuff.” Someday, I’m going to make this, or someday I’m going to use that. I waited for years for ‘someday’ to show up but it never did, so now it’s someone else’s ‘someday stuff.’

This year we’re going to stuff silly socks with re-gifting items and do a sock exchange. I think it'll be a lot of fun and something different.

I have to admit that my favorite gift of all is the gift of friendship. One of my friends knew I was feeling a bit low last weekend, and she invited me over for dinner. It really cheered me up and was a wonderful gift to receive.

Anymore, giving gifts rarely involves buying things, and my life is richer than ever.

What are some of your gift giving traditions?

Giving and Receiving,

Mezdulene