When My Girls Danced
Monday, July 12, 2010

My week was a busy one of scurrying around trying to fit in every part of the majesty that 
Chicago holds and my family would not accept my weak protest of, "But, my blog . . ." 

And so if you didn't hear from me, know that, as always, I am eternally grateful for your 
sweet love. 

Now onto the tales:

Here's my favorite one. 

Chicago, for most of the year, is awash in a cold so brutal, it earns its rightful title of the 
Windy City. For the few months of the year that summer visits, the Chicagoans embrace it 
with their huge Midwestern hearts. 

They spend all of their time outside breathing in the sunshine and the charm of that fair city 
instead of scurrying through the streets as the winds snap at their soul. I have actually cried, a
big whopping weepy breakdown, because of that freezing cold. It was the first time I took my 
Hubby to Chicago. We happened to visit during a brutal cold snap in the middle of May. 

Think about that. In the May that I am accustomed to here in Florida the grass is already  
dying from our sun which is set to broil almost year round.

My Hubby wanted me to take him sightseeing. And as the cold sliced through me like a 
serrated knife, I wept and informed him I did not come from hardy folk. 

Which is a total lie. I'm freakin' Irish. My ancestors survived the Great Potato Famine. They 
are as hardy as they come. But this Irish girl has been princessified along the way. I don't like 
cold. I don't like camping. And I certainly don't like eating potatoes from the ground. 

I'd be the first one off the island in Survivor and instead of crying, I'd be all, "Thank you, Jeff 
Probst! It's about time. I was about to die from all that hardship. Yes, I know it's only been 24 
hours but it was 24 hours too long without high heels and high thread count sheets."

Back to Chicago. 

During those fleeting summer days, you will find most Chicagoans outside, celebrating their 
brief fling with bright sunshiny skies. 

And a big part of that celebration goes on in their parks.

Chicago has some of the most kick-ass parks of any of the big cities in the world. 

Millenium Park for one. 

I spent a glorious Saturday morning doing yoga in the park. It was amazing, working out as
Chicago's skyscrapers towered over us. 

Well, it was amazing, except for the grunting gent in front of me who chose to do his yoga in
spandex shorts and a half top.

You haven't lived my friends, until you've been behind that kind of fun doing Downward 

But let's not think about that. I know I, for one, want to erase the image from my brain, 
toot sweet. 

No, here's what I want to remember about their parks:

The dancing. 

In the gauzy evenings of summer, Grant Park, turns into a vibrant outdoor dance hall. Every 
weekend, the dance takes on a different theme and live bands fill the balmy air with the strains 
of their music. 

The first hour, instructors take the stage and teach the dance of the week:  swing dancing, salsa, 
the waltz, the two-step, the jitterbug. The list goes on and on. If it's a dance, you can find it here 
in Grant Park. 

And it is a thing of beauty to watch this microcosm of Chicago's finest come together on a 
summer night to dance with their neighbors. The couples with gray hair and slightly 
stooped shoulders, gliding across the dance floor as if they had wings—the generation 
who perfected the art of real dancing. The couple with vibrant punk hair and earrings 
through every orifice, intently concentrating on the synchronized steps of the elegant waltz. 
The handsome guy in his suit, tie askew, obviously meeting his girl after work for a 
dance in the park. Her face lights up as he takes her hand and leads her into the crowd. Old 
and young, husbands and wives, friends filled with laughter, even 2 tiny old ladies who 
tangoed together, whirling each other around as their friends applauded. 

They're all there to dance and laugh and learn a tango or samba on a giant dance floor
in the brief respite of summer. 

When I dream of Chicago, I will dream of dancing in the park. 

We managed to catch some quick glimpses of the dancing on our way to dinner a few of the 
nights, but we were determined to come for a full evening of dancing. 

The night we made our way to the park the theme was Zydeco. And let me tell you, there is 
nothing more joyous than the way Cajuns do everything, especially when it comes to their  
music and dancing.

I loved it, but still it wasn't my favorite part. 

My favorite part was this:

And this:

And this:

My favorite part of the night was watching my 2 oldest daughters take to that dance floor
with carefree abandon. They practiced diligently during the instruction and then as the band

began to play they just took off, whirling about that dance floor, like 2 Cinderellas, as if they'd 
been born for this. There wasn't a bit of timidity about them. Just joy and giggling and the 
grace of lovely girls in summer dresses. 

They were intoxicating. 

And their buoyancy, as I watched them twirl their way around the dance floor filled me with 
such light in the knowledge that they already know certain truths: That they are beautiful. 
That life is for dancing. That they can accomplish whatever they set their mind to, whether it 
be Zydeco dance steps or the mastery of physics or the Big and Little of Life. 

They did not hesitate to step out onto that dance floor and dance and laugh with this easy 
elegance that comes so naturally to them.

They have this incredible sense of self, of who they are, of their place in this world. 

And as I watched them sail around that dance floor, I was filled with the truth that, yes, 
perhaps I have done well by these girls. 

As their mother, I have given them this powerful knowledge—a knowledge, a sense of self I 
never had at their age. 

If I could take something back in my life, it would be the smothering self doubt that held me 
captive for far too many years.  

I was never a confident girl for so many reasons. Reasons I won't go into because it doesn't 
matter anymore. What matters is where I have found myself at this place, at this time. And 
finally after far too many wasted years, I feel at home in my bones.  

Everyone carries baggage. It is how you carry it that determines your life. 

My self doubt still whispers in my ear most days, but its voice is growing dimmer as I travel 
down my own path. 

I know my girls will never feel that. I was never more certain of that empowering fact as I 
watched them soar across that dance floor. 

One night in Chicago, we were out to dinner, an adults only dinner that was a debauchery of 
culinary perfection. And you will be hearing that delicious story soon. 

But, during that night, the conversation drifted into the subject of my girls. My sister made the 
comment to the other dinner guests that my girls were funny and smart and gracious and just
 amazing people and she would rather hang out with them, than most of the adults she knew. 

And my Hubby agreed and then told the table, something that took me by complete surprise. 
He said the full credit goes to me, that I have molded these creatures into girls of such grace. 

I don't think he's ever given me a finer compliment in my life. 

And I'm not saying I'm a perfect mom, not by a long shot. I yell too much. I cuss like a sailor in 
front of them. I have let them undo me at times with their teenage sass. I have turned them away 
during bursts of creativity when I wrote frantically to capture the words pouring out of me. 

I have fallen down at times in my role. But the one thing I have always striven to teach them is the 
resounding truth that they are stellar creatures of the universe. 

All girls should have that gift given to them from the moment they are born. The gift of being comfortable in their own skin.

Our culture has so erroneously glorified the essence of womanhood into a narrow scope of 
glossy, air-brushed, toothpick-bodied, plastic perfection. We have sadly created a culture of objectification and sexism when it comes to girls. And far too many of our beautiful girls have 
convinced themselves that those ignoble standards should define them. We have done this to our 
girls, created a rancid culture that eats away at their self esteem bit by bit. 

We women are regal beings, beings of worth, beings of strength, beings of light and thought and 

And as much as we love clothes and shoes and all the accoutrements that go along with being a 
girl in our house, I have tried valiantly to teach my girls that they begin and end with the inner 
workings of their heart and their mind and the very depths of their soul. The rest is all just 
secondary and pink. 

My girls danced all night and as they came off the dance floor, laughing and out of breath, 
my Tori girl, exclaimed, "Did you see us? Did you see how good we were?"

And I could only nod and say yes. Yes indeed, my darling girl, you are that good in 
every single way. 

Today's Definite Download: Madonna's "What It Feels Like For A Girl". 
Now, I am no fan of Madonna's. Talk about elevating objectification. There are very few 
Madonna songs that don't make me change the channel. There are a few exceptions. And I 
will say this, there is nothing better than turning on her "Music" full blast in my Hubby's 
fancy driving machine. The speakers of that car do that song some amazing justice. 

This year, Glee had a Madonna night which was pretty darn incredible. And in that night, the 
boys of Glee sang "What It Feels Like For A Girl" in an effort to understand what it does truly 
feel like for a girl. 

Hopefully, someday it will feel completely empowering to be a girl, any girl, no matter the size of 
their jeans or the curve of their cheek. 

Silky smooth
Lips as sweet as candy, baby
Tight blue jeans
Skin that shows in patches

Strong inside but you don't know it
Good little girls they never show it
When you open up your mouth to speak
Could you be a little weak

Do you know what it feels like for a girl
Do you know what it feels like in this world 
For A Girl


LisaPie said...

I've missed you! So glad you are back in the Land of Blog. : )

Your writing is always perfection. But never better than when you are sharing your deep, fierce love of your babes. They are indeed very lucky girls.

Keep writing, I can't wait to see what wonderful things they will do in their womanhood!

Amethyst Anne said...

Madam, I salute you! This was a beautiful, poignant post!

Dee said...

*standing ovation*

I have no words...

twelvedaysold said...

Oh, the dancing made me jealous!

Dazee Dreamer said...

What beautiful daughters you have. And so awesome that they would just do the dancing thing.

Gigi said...

First off, Welcome Back!

Second, you and Empress shalt not ever be allowed to be on vacation from bloggyland at the same time. it's cruel and unusual punishment to your biggest fans. me.

Third, thank you for a wonderful tribute to our home city. I love downtown and you captured its essence, even the cold parts.

Fourth, I can't wait to hear about the dinner. Cause I live to eat.

Fifth, I love zydeco music and used to listen to it in Chicago all the time. It's so happy.

Sixth, you done good, Momma. your daughters are very lucky to have you. it can only be our sincerest wish for all of our kids that they are confident in themselves.

Seventh, the post is lush and gorgeous and you should save it. Give it to your girls the night before they each get married. Tell them to read it over again on dark days. It will buoy their spirits.

That's all I got for you right now. Can't wait for more stories from the fair city.

liz said...

Welcome back! I have to say you are SUCH a Floridian if you think Chicago only has a few months out of the year to get outside! Also, Chicago is actually called the Windy City due to politicians and some political convention held there back in the 1910's.

Kudos to your husband, and even bigger kudos to you! I hope I raise my girls the same.

Wouldn't it be so romantic to be the girl who was meeting up with the guy with his tie askew, for a date of dancing?!?

Jennifer Vanderbeek said...

I'm reminded (as I am so often... I think I watch way too many movies sometimes) of the scene from Something to Talk About where Gina Rowland tells Julia Roberts, as the latter's daughter competes in and wins her division at the horse show, "There's your acheivement," and Julia replys, "No, Mama, that's hers."

I think it's a little bit of both. We, as daughters, are a testament to the forces that shaped us and there is seldom a force stronger in our lives than our mommas! But just as important is the part of us that takes whatever we were given by Momma or anyone else, and does with it the best we can. That best both credits us and them.

heavenisabookstore said...

I am so jealous! I would love to dance in the park!! How cool is that. And it looks like they had a blast.

A. B. Keuser said...

So happy you're back! I've missed you ;)

cheri said...

i've missed you! glad to have you back.

this is such a sweet post for the girls. i'm sure they're practicing so they wont be wallflowers at the dance :)

Mom vs. the boys said...

and this post is exactly why I gave you the bloggers with substance award at my blog- find it here-http://momvstheboys.blogspot.com/2010/07/its-raining-awards-around-here.html
hang it above the fireplace or whatever you like!

Cheryl said...

This? Is amazing. Amazing. I cried. I did, because I have a daughter, and I so worry about her being too much like her mom: lacking in the self-confidence department. Thank you for sharing - glad you're back!

Crazy Brunette said...

I love you too my favorite slutty hooker!

You gave me goosebumps when talking about your girls! They are BEAUTIFUL!!!! I wish I'd have been there to dance with them!!! We'd have had soooo much fun! Think ofthe pictures if I would've been there!!! hahaha!

Goddamn, I hope that my girls turn out like yours... Because I am exactly like you described yourself!

"I yell too much. I cuss like a sailor in
front of them. I have let them undo me at times with their teenage sass. I have turned them away
during bursts of creativity when I wrote frantically to capture the words pouring out of me. "

That is ME... And I feel like a horrible bitch. But since I'm not the only one... then I'm good to fucking go!

Speaking of SPANDEX... Mr. CB went out and bought himself some panties. He bought boxer briefs, in LARGE. Well skank, let me tell you... He hasn't been a Large since we first got married!!! So ummmm, yeah. Hope you are getting a mental picture!!! And now you are scared for life!

Rita Templeton said...

I LOVE those pictures!!!

I'm pretty sure I'll never get to watch my boys dancing together like that. Wrestling each other, maybe, but ... I'll have to live vicariously through your blog for the "girly experience." :)

Katie said...

Wow! What can I say? I can only hope that my girl grows more and more into her self confidence each day like yours have.

Welcome home, Joann!

Beth Zimmerman said...

Oh, JoAnn! This was a beautiful post! Welcome home!

Cheeseboy said...

Somehow, I knew this post would be even LONGER than your usual long post.

I have never been to Chicago, or Ireland for that matter, but your post made me yearn to go there, even if I have heard that it is both crappy and good, at the same time.

I'd call you Hooker, but I think that every woman I met would slap me. Hooker.

Ami said...

I think your daughters are beautiful and that they look so happy. Spent many Saturday nights in Looseyanna as a newlywed. Zydeco definitely is in a class by itself.

But since I am taking massive doses of pain medication post surgery, I'm obsessing about the man YOU got to see doing downward dog... and I did NOT get to see it.

And I can't imagine why you even brought it up. Since you had to know that many of us would be disappointed.

TesoriTrovati said...

Curiously, I knew that something was missing in my daily life. I didn't know it was you until just this moment. I absolutely love this post, particularly this line "Everyone carries baggage. It is how you carry it that determines your life." The fact that you have been given the credit for these 'stellar creatures' is not a mystery to me. I can tell by the grace of your words, your humor, your sense of self that this has to be so. What a blessing it would be to have you for a mother, no matter how flawed. Because that is the beauty of life, that we are all flawed. Thank you for bringing tears to my eyes as I can only dare to dream the same for my little girl who is all of 9. Whatever mommy elixir you are taking I want. If you could only bottle that you would make a million.
Enjoy the day, Joann!

Rae said...

After I wiped away the tears, I stood up and applauded this post. It was sweet, perfect and heartfelt. You gave this fifty-something woman a giant boost of self confidence just by writing about it!
I feel empowered!!
Your girls are absolutely beautiful. I just hope they know what a talented and loving mother that they have. Welcome back!

Unknown said...

Glad you are back, and what a great post to come back with!

LOVE that your girls can be carefree and confident --- sign of a good mom!

Alexandra said...

Oh, I just got the shivers. I felt you were this close. We have got to twitter, so we know where each other is. I could have seen you in an hour and a half. I felt all weekend that you were close by...how weird is that???????

I keep thinking how I'd love to meet you.

Jen said...

I missed you! What a beautiful post, I'm all sniffly and teary about the beauty that pours from your heart about your two girls. You have done an amazing job with them! I have that little voice too and it also is beginning to fade away.

One Photo said...

Glad you are back Joann. What wonderful girls and what a fabulous tribute your husband paid to you and he is right, your girls have grown up into such wonderful people thanks in no small part to you. What a wonderful achievement. Chicago sounds such fun, I shall have to add that to my must visit list for later in life :-)

Duffylou said...

Don't you feel like standing on a chair and pointing to the girls? They're mine! Watch them dance. Aren't they great?

There are times when my kids have embarrassed me beyond belief. But I am blessed to have the moments like you, when you are proud of the adults they have become.

I've been away too. So welcome back to both of us!

Anonymous said...

Glad you had a fab vacation AND that you're back-the internets are quieter without you.
LOVED the pics of the girls dancing!
I am SO addicted to the internet-I told you, my hubs tries to pan internet when we our on vacay. He doesn't get that being disconnected? Actually stresses me out!

Alisha said...

The dancing looks fabulous & fun!

I left an award for you here! I love your blog!

Unknown said...

Glad you are back. I've only been following a short time and I did miss you! Your daughters are beautiful, but what I want to know is, did they return your thongs??? lol

Baby Sister said...

Welcome back. :) That was beautiful! I wish we could instill confidence in EVERY girl...I know I need it more often than not.

Liz Mays said...

I'm glad you're home. I suspect that you are giving your girls just what they need to be truly beautiful women.

Lula Lola said...

Beautiful! Joann, you've gifted them with confidence! It will serve them well all their lives. Don't you love it when your kids are comfortable enough to let their hair down and have a good time?
Glad you're back, you were missed!
I love the pictures, they are darling!
And your husband's compliment, well, he can just stop now, because they get no better than that!

Pat said...

Welcome back! I missed you! This is such a wonderful post!

I read with pride about the city of Chicago. Even though I grew up in the suburbs, I always tell people that I'm from "Chicago" because who the hell ever heard of "Schiller Park"?

Millenium Park is great. So is Navy Pier.

Anyway, your girls are such beauties and they look like they are have a great time dancing the night away! Their confidence is evident in the photos!

Congrats to you for raising such fine daughters and what a wonderful compliment from your husband!

Trista said...

Joann, it sound's like you have done an awesome job with your beautiful daughters, and even though my little girl is only 1yr old, there is nothing in life I want more for her than a giant heap of self confidence!

Please go to my blog to pick up your award 'A Blog With Substance'


It is well deserved!

The Webb's and the boy's! said...

Thank you so much for this post, it really hit home for me. It was truthful, beautiful and inspiring. The tears were meaningful for me....Thanks

xoA said...

Shocker! I am the seven millionth person to comment...what can I say?
I was just about to eat my lunch when I decided to read your post. I cried. I bawled. My make-up bled. The spiders on the wall were handing me xanax to help me calm down. The breakdown could have been from low-blood sugar...I should have eaten first....that was so beautiful. Your daughters are very lucky. A Sonoma County hug comin' your way.

alicia said...

Sounds so lovely. What a beautiful Chicago experience. And like you, I can only hope that I can instill in my children the confidence that I have lacked all these years... a truly wonderful gift you are giving them.

jayayceeblog said...

No matter how long it takes you, it is good to feel at home in your bones. That was beautifully expressed and seeing the pictures, hearing the description of your girls dancing with abandon made my heart so happy! Thanks for sharing!!!

Natalie said...

This post is fantastic....it made me feel so warm and fuzzy!

Welcome back - I've missed you!

Heather H said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. As the (insecure) mother of a girl (who I am trying to teach to be confident and comfortable in her skin), it really resonated with me.

Shell said...

You raised beautiful, confident girls! Way to go, mama!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Gosh darn it, I came here to laugh and you made me cry. That was just beautiful.

Anonymous said...

beautiful post, Joann. I always love reading about your girls and hubby. And you HAVE been a wonderful mom. The proof is in the pudding. You made them GIVE BACK YOUR THONGS and that has made all the difference:-)

I'm writing this again because you REJECTED my first comment. Thanks. just kidding....

Writing Without Periods! said...

Welcome back. Great photos.

granny1947 said...

What a lovely post.
You have such gorgeous daughters.
Why weren't you dancing with them?

Average Girl said...

This is getting dangerous -- yet, another blogger that I will need to read to feel satisfied with life. There is not enough time! So lovely~

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

Welcome back Joann! You have me breathless with the sightseeing, food and dancing! I love Zydeco, too, I think playing a washboard would be right up my alley....

Bossy Betty said...

Welcome back! I've been gone for two weeks too and for one of those weeks I was without internet, so I know what you are talking about.

Sweet pictures!!

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Thanks for the trip to my favorite American city. There is no town that embraces its outdoors the way that Chicagoans do - and I'm off in August to visit my kids and revel in the dancing and the lakefront and the Pritzker Pavilion and the pizza.

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