Eau de Parfum

I was feeling a little old when my sister inlaw and I were discussing perfumes and body sprays (Girls talk about that stuff – don’t hate.) and she did not remember Love’s Baby Soft Perfume. Love’s Baby Soft was the acceptable body spray for young girls to wear when I was a … young girl. (Although when I look at the old ads from back in the Stone Age, they were quite provocative and a lot creepy….Holy Geez!)

Loves Baby Soft Ad

This conversation got my crazy train of thought rolling about the progression of my personal scent profile. (You like how I just made that sound sophisticated and cool?) These are the things that I think about sometimes. (Oh shut up. It’s fun. Let’s play!)


As we have already established, as a young girl, I wore Love’s Baby Soft (more like bathed in because I was not skilled in restraint or moderation). It was beautifully pink and powdery, and a super big deal if you got a gift set for your birthday or Christmas.

Loves Baby Soft gift set

As I matured through junior high school, I started to dabble in the, dare I say, musks; Wild Musk to be exact. Can you say Signature Scent? Yep – all through high school. But then my eyes were opened to the designer world of the late ‘80s that was smacking us all in the face in a full frontal assault with their acid washed jeans and must have fragrances.

Guess parfum ad

Oh, you heard me. I had moved on to fragrances (said with jazz hands). What fragrance you ask?  (You’re dying to know, I’m sure.) I was a Calvin Klein Obsession girl. If one was lucky, their best guy would wear the corresponding men’s fragrance. (‘Cause we all know after watching that Happy Days episode when The Fonz thinks he’s allergic to women, the lady’s perfume should compliment the man’s cologne or DISASTER! – Or is it marketing genius?!).

Obsession parfum ad

Once I started down this road, I couldn’t get enough.  I started experimenting with other designer fragrances. I went through Christian Dior Poison, Esprit’s Esprit, Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, Pleasure, and Knowing. There was also Giorgio Beverly Hills Giorgio, and Red. It was clear, I had a problem. (But I was super easy to shop for!). The madness had to stop, especially discovering some of the perfumes made me sneeze.   (Awesome.)  I finally enrolled in perfumes anonymous and settled back to Obsession…for years.

Giorgio parfum ad

When I was finally lucky enough for a super guy to see through the sweet cloud that surrounded me, and propose, it was time to get serious. I had read in one of the 1400 wedding magazines that I was reading that a newly engaged woman should select a special perfume to wear to all of the prenuptial events and especially to The Big Show. Through this form of trickery one was to plant a scent “seed” in the unsuspecting groom. A seed, or scent memory of happy feelings, that the cunning bride would be able to reactivate at will, by simply wearing the perfume again.

smell triggers memory chart

It worked! For our wedding I chose Givenchy’s Amarige. I still wear it for our anniversary every year and to weddings. Without fail, my husband will always ask, “Is that the perfume that you wore for our wedding?” (Shhhh. Don’t tell him about my nose control tactics. Our little secret.)

Amaragie cologne

I have since simplified my life in this arena. I usually wear my fav, Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker, but only when getting fancy. Day to day, I like to layer seasonal scents from Bath and Body Works; Honeysuckle or Rain Kissed Leaves in Spring/Summer, something spicy and warm in the Fall, and something that makes me smell like cookies for the holidays. (Why not? And YUM!!) And don’t forget my mad love for my own scent creation that I made at DIY Scents Perfumery!


Whew! I’m exhausted from that trip down memory lane. I hope this sparks some sweet smelling memories for you. And I pray that at least one of you out there remembers Love’s Baby Soft. Maybe you and I could hit up an early bird special for a Geritol cocktail, a nice piece of fish, and a parting gift of some Crepe Erase. Call me!

DIY Scent Studio - perfume counter


Guest – Cristina Chavarriaga – Spatial Dwelling

Spatial Dwelling - Cristina


Noun | \’blôg, ‘bläg\

1 computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer; also: the content of such a site

Blogging has taken the world by force. It’s an interesting career path that takes, above all else, dedication. Cristina Chavarriaga is relatively new to the scene, but comes with presence and gobs of style. Set in a spot that splits, DIY, interior spaces, and science, Cristina brings a fresh new twist to blogging. Says Cristina, “My blog is a little bit of a mixed bag. When I ended up launching, it wasn’t my original intention to do as much as I’m doing. I really thought I would stick more to the interior DIY scene and I’m finding that I’m making it a little more about who I am. I have a lot of different interests; I’ve always been that way. I’ve never been able to settle on one thing and so what I’m doing is putting myself out there.”


Spatial Dwelling - The Tesseract

A blog follower herself (one she follows is this SUPER cool blog called jenniferthebeholder.com….just sayin’), she got to thinking that maybe she could do this. Her first stab at blogging didn’t take off. Her husband had even purchased a camera for her to help her capture the all important visuals for her new blog. Cristina shares, “I thought I’d follow what I was seeing from other lifestyle or fashion bloggers. I was going to document my life through photos and outfits, but the bloggers I followed always seemed to be one step up above the rest. They would always take pictures of exciting events they were attending, or vacations that they were going on, and our life wasn’t really like that. I also felt it wasn’t my personality to do that anyway. I just kept pushing it off.” It wasn’t until her recent move to Atlanta that she got a spark to start.


Spatial Dwelling - suc(k)

A newlywed with her new husband starting his medical residency, Cristina began setting up house. She was putting her creative energy into cultivating her personal interior style in their home. It was this momentum that she felt she could carry and showcase on a blog with a little side gig as well to provide a service to help people locally or remotely with their interior spaces. But that also did not get launched, because everything suddenly changed.


Spatial Dwelling - gallery wall

“Life,” as Cristina puts it, “turned into a whirlwind.” She shares, “When I moved here I was excited to start something new. I had just graduated with my masters. I was excited to get my feet wet in a job. I really wanted to work with a start up, to get experience and to potentially go back to school for my PhD. I also wanted to start a blog and was going to pursue some of my interests. I was really excited about it.” Ironically, Cristina had started her first blog post when she and her husband went away to Colombia for a week.  The plan was to launch when they returned. Immediately upon returning from their trip, Cristina started feeling sick. Surprise! She was pregnant.


Spatial Dwelling - fern heads

She shares, “It was a huge shock. (1), we weren’t necessarily planning and (2), I thought I was going to have trouble. We had seen a reproductive endocrinologist and were on a path of what we would do when we wanted to start trying, which involved money. We were going to have to wait.” So she went into “rush mode”. It became imperative that she now, and quickly, figure out what she was going to do. If she was going to have a shot at finding a job that would potentially afford her the opportunity to work from home, she needed to hurry.

Spatial Dwelling - rush mode

But come December (2016), when she really started to show, the writing was on the wall. She came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t going to land a job that would allow her to work remotely. It was time for her to really figure out what she wanted to do. She says, “I thought, ok, maybe I’ll start my blog again. I started waking up early. I started getting a plan of attack, and then February came, and the baby came early.” And we’re talking really early. The focus became her very premature baby.

Spatial Dwelling - family

It wasn’t until this past January that Cristina was able to start thinking about her career. Says Cristina, “Not that I don’t love staying home. I do love that I get to be with my daughter. I can’t imagine having someone else care for her other than family and we don’t have that opportunity here in Atlanta. But I found that I didn’t feel challenged with my mind. I was almost jealous of my husband because, even though he was stressed, and tired, and working like crazy, he was getting to do what he wanted and be a dad.” (Preach Girl!) She (like the rest of us) needed to do something for just her.


Spatial Dwelling - Amailia

So with her super supportive hubby’s encouragement, Cristina decided to take the time to actually start her blog, Spatial Dwelling (spatialdwelling.com). She’s doing it! Admittedly, Cristina has no preconceived ideas of what this could turn into for her. She’s content to just getting it out there. The concept of her blog transformed even before she launched. Originally to focus on DIY and interior spaces, Cristina has found that she’s really more interested in making the topics more about her many interests. This concept is actually what I find so interesting about her blog.


Spatial Dwelling - DIY picture

Mrs. Chavarriaga is one big science nerd. And I mean that lovingly. With a Bachelors in Biology, and a Masters in Biomedical Engineering, Cristina is a full fledged smarty. She has a love of science, architecture, interior design and crafts. But even with all of those credentials, one still begins to second guess when confronted with the blogging scene lies. We’ve all been brainwashed that you probably shouldn’t have a diverse offering of topics; you should stick to one. But why? And who says?  Says Cristina, “A lot of times people are either all fashion, or all lifestyle, for example. I just felt like, I’m just going to do kind of a mix of what I like. I’m still finding things I want to add to my blog; different topics or sections. It’s evolved because I’ve evolved.”


Spatial Dwelling - Relax

To me, I think she is providing such an interesting mix. Something fresh and new that’s not out there. Her combination of creativity and science; I haven’t seen anything like it. She could be on to a whole new genre! Cristina shares, “Science is a huge part of my life. It’s something that I love. It’s a creative process as well. I think because I’m not currently able to pursue a career in science, it’s a way for me to still bring it in. I like the way that it challenges my mind.”

Spatial Dwelling - Mali on the Moon

The beauty of blogging is it can be very fluid and flexible. A self proclaimed procrastinator and perfectionist (which is a dangerous combo), Cristina can often get derailed. Or, if something like a sick child happens, blogging must take a back seat. When the ship gets righted once again, then watch her work. The blog will always be there.


Spatial Dwelling - bedroom design

Spatial Dwelling offers segments on DIY craft projects, Friday “Plant Prattle”, and sections on life, books, interior spaces, and Cristina’s own musings where she shares whatever she feels like talking about that day. Says Cristina, “That sums up my mixings; the thinking aspect with the musings, the plants because, well, I love plants, and the creativity through spaces or projects. That is me. It’s a mix of things that I’m thinking about or topics that I like. They might be science related, or they might be life related, or just stuff I think about on a daily basis. I use my blog as my way to live out loud. I’m a pretty introverted person, especially when it comes to my thoughts.  It’s always been a bit difficult for me to share what’s in my head. It might sound weird, but I live a lot inside my mind. A lot of the things that I think about, or plans that I have, are just iterations in my mind that I play out there. I’d like to try to bring that outside more. This is just a way to do it.”


Spatial Dwelling Cristina and plant

Her blog also showcases amazing photography. A self-taught photographer, Cristina explains that she understands how the camera works, and understands apertures and light from working with microscopes. (nerd power!) She knows what she likes to see and truly enjoys that part of the process; an unexpected perk. Look for Cristina to start an Etsy shop offering some of her photography as prints.


Spatial Dwelling - tablescape

Inspiration comes from everything. She shares, “I have a lot of ideas that I get from science as far as artistic perspective, or ways of looking at things differently. Shapes and colors are also a great source of inspiration for me. Whether it be in a pattern for a pillow I want to make or even something I want to wear, I love geometric elements and colors for their use in pattern play. They also, in my opinion, offer a great source of expression in spaces. Books and magazines, albeit pretty obvious, is another source of my inspiration. Then sometimes I’ll just take a walk through Target, Michael’s, or Anthropologie and I’ll see something that I like that maybe I could use to create something else that I can afford or would like in my own home. Or maybe I don’t like the way that they did it, and think how I would like to change it. I’m also inspired by other bloggers. Sometimes people put out stuff that I like that I might reinvent. Inspiration really comes from everywhere.” Her pro tip, if she’s ever feeling stumped, she just goes out and walks around and challenges herself to find something to recreate or something that sparks an idea.


Spatial Dwelling - Amaila 2

Reality of blogging versus her expectations has been a revelation. She shares, “I didn’t think I would like the photography and the staging, especially because I’m limited to my apartment space. I thought that would be more of the hassle of the process. I also think I might have been a little less realistic about the time that it does take to put together a post. I have to be a little more organized with my schedule having a child now and I think I was going in with my old college ways; last minute! I’ll just pull an all-nighter! My daughter doesn’t necessarily agree with that schedule all of the time.”

Spatial Dwelling - Mali and BB8

I asked Cristina, knowing what she knows now, and where she is in her life, what would she tell her younger self. She replied, “Don’t’ wait seven years when you think you have a great idea. Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be how you think it should look, just start. I think about it all the time. What if I had started it back then? Maybe it wouldn’t be the direction it is right now, that is true, but what would it have been like had I started? I think that advice was something I had always heard but put in the back of my mind, stored away. But it’s something that’s so true.”


Spatial Dwelling - Close up gallery wall

Cristina’s dream is for Spatial Dwelling to be a stepping stone for everything else that she wants to achieve. She says, “I have big and lofty goals for other things, in addition to my blog, and I’m using this as something I’d love to grow, but also to use to build my confidence to say, you know, I have some pretty great ideas and I can get them out there in other aspects, namely science and engineering goals. In my dream life I’d love to be like Elon Musk. What I mean is, I’d love to have the autonomy to start all the projects that interest me. Whether it be my blog or a science and engineering related venture, I’d love to have the ability to pursue it all. I don’t feel like I’m just a one direction kind of person, which has sometimes been hard for me in choosing a path. When I was young, I was always indecisive, especially when it came to my future career. I just thought it was because I didn’t like to make decisions, but I realize now, it’s really because I want to be, and do, it all. That’s something that doesn’t always work in this world. Sometimes your fields don’t mix. I want to eventually have my fields mix. That’s what I’m trying to do with my blog in the smallest way I can right now. I’m using this blog as a confidence booster to say, “I can,” and will work my way up from here.”


Spatial Dwelling - Mali points North

Like, subscribe, and follow Cristina and Spatial Dwelling on these social media sites:  www.spatialdwelling.com, Facebook @spatialdwelling and Instagram @spatialdwelling

1 Definition provided by Merriam-Webster

2 Read the post featuring these photos: http://www.spatialdwelling.com/what-which-who/

3 Read the post featuring this photo: http://www.spatialdwelling.com/valgalpalentines-craft/

4 Read the post featuring these photos: http://www.spatialdwelling.com/art-meet-wall-wall-meet-art/

5 Read the post featuring these photos: http://www.spatialdwelling.com/plant-pratte-four-ferns-faces/

6 Read the post featuring these photos:  http://www.spatialdwelling.com/giraffe-llama-glama/

7 Read the post featuring this photo:  http://www.spatialdwelling.com/a-physicist-a-biologist-and-a-chemist-walks-into-a-bar/

8 Read the post featuring this photo:  http://www.spatialdwelling.com/the-one-with-the-embroidered-shirt-sweater/

9 Read the post featuring this photo:  http://www.spatialdwelling.com/a-little-goes-a-long-way/

10 Read the post featuring this photo:  http://www.spatialdwelling.com/tablescapes/


Fatherly Advice

Father's Day Event pic

Father’s play an incredibly important role in our lives. Their presence shapes who we become. Their absence can also shape who we become.

I’ve written about my father quite a bit on the blog, particularly his passing since it affected me so much. I feel very fortunate that I had a great relationship with my dad. I have several family members and friends who are great dads. I thought it would be fun to have people of all ages (and some who are included in this are elementary school students!) and backgrounds share the best advice their father ever gave them. Whether you had or have a good dad or not, there are some great ones out there. Borrow them if you need to. Let the good guys shape who we all become.

Chris and Kids baseball

Thank you to dads everywhere for sharing your wisdom and humor. Here’s to you Dads.


Michael and Regan


“Don’t worry about what other people think because you can’t fly like an eagle if you’re walking with a turkey.”  ~  Caitlin

“Just be yourself. Don’t worry about other people, worry about you!”  ~ Katie

“Who cares what other people think, just be yourself. ”  ~ Regan

“Just be you.”   ~  Eli

“If someone is being mean to you, stand up and say something.”  ~ Jillian

“Be strong, be independent, and stay out of trouble.”  ~ Dorothy

“If someone is bullying you or being mean to you, don’t care. If you act like you don’t care they can’t do anything. ”   ~ Taylor

“No man who doesn’t know that you are the very best thing on earth for him is not worth your tears. You are worth waaay more than you even know.” ~ Doreen

Happy Family Standing On The Beach


“Always use integrity!” ~ Hailey

“It doesn’t matter if you aren’t perfect, or if you don’t beat someone else. It just matters if you try your best.”  ~ Gracie

“Always try your best.”  ~ Reid

“Never give up and try, try again.”  ~ Annabella

“Always be the better person.”   ~ Riley

“When outside of the house, you are representing our family, so you better be good.” ~ Temple

“If you don’t have anything nice to say…. don’t say it all.”  ~ Imanuel

Marty and boys - laxing with my boys


“When you are upset just tell [your parents] what’s wrong.”  ~ Emma

“Do your homework.”   ~ Avik

“Turn the other cheek…and be quiet!”  ~ Kayla

“Be good, keep your nose clean, and leave the girls alone.”   ~ Cole

“Mind your business!”  ~ Braden

“If you do something nice for someone, you might get it in return.” ~ Aidan

“Try your best and have fun!”  ~ Katie

(When I was trying to choose a major in college and was totally overwhelmed), “Draw a square.  Next to each side of the square write a talent, subject you like, or an interest that you have.  Then search for a major that incorporates as many of the sides as possible and that goes in the middle.” ~ Liz

“RTFM..Read the f***ing manual.” ~ Christy

“Always put your marriage first and not the kids. The kids will move out one day and you are with your spouse for life.” ~ Meredith

“Buy American.” ~Jennifer

“When I was in high school my dad used to tell me, ‘Don’t get involved.’  But I did.  When I was in college he said, ‘Don’t get involved.’  But I did.  Years later I thought, egad!  I got involved! ~ Deanne

Bob with upside down chris


“Wear your seat belt.”  ~ Connor

“Advice my dad shared while teaching me how to drive a stick shift in his Scout International Harvester at a local beach parking lot, is currently just as valuable today as 52 years ago.  ‘The best advice I can give you when you drive is to stay away from everyone.’ The expletives that come to mind when glancing out of the rear view mirror are also what I learned!” ~ Darlene

“Know how to change a tire.” – Temple

Andy and Andrew Army Headquarters


“As an artist, you come with a price tag.”  ~  Chris

“Ideally your job will both pay well and be rewarding/stimulating .  During any given week one might matter more than the other, and it will change, but overall you need both.  “ ~ Liz

Dad and me wedding car


“No one wants the people they love to die. But death is God’s way to bring each of us home to heaven. We can be sad when we lose someone we love, but that’s why we have faith to lean on. Death is part of life. It hurts but it’s just a temporary goodbye.” ~ Doreen

Father's Day Event image

1 Picture by Daniel Sjolie Photography

Guest – Kathy Kupka – Author – Cancer is Ruff

Kathy Kupka portrait

Kathy Kupka is a portrait photographer, specializing in children and pets, who started her business in 1998. Her love of photography was apparent even as a child. Kathy shares, “I always had a camera as a child. Growing up, I was the only one of my friends with a camera, way before cell phones and digital files, so of course, it was film.” Kathy graduated from high school in 1967. At that time, women either became a nurse, a secretary, or a teacher. Kathy became a secretary and was a secretary most of her life. She reminisces, “When I graduated from high school, we didn’t have a really good counselor to talk to that would have said, ‘What do you love to do?’ I probably would have said photography.” Although not her dream career, Kathy was grateful for the steady paycheck.


At 19, Kathy married and had two children, and took some time off to raise her kids. After a few years, she went back full time as a secretary, but started taking night classes at her local community college to earn her associates degree for business. She wisely decided to make one of her elective courses a photography class. It was there that Kupka learned the dark room. She loved the whole process of black and white film photography and only reluctantly says that, “WITH FILTERS”, digital photography can come close to TRUE black and white.


A year after graduating with her business degree, her husband got a job in Chantilly, Virginia. Once there, she learned of a great photography teacher at NoVa named Eliot Cohen and began taking his classes. Kathy would work during the day as a secretary and take photo and dark room classes at night. She studied under Cohen for years. It was during this time that Kathy’s first grandchild was born.   Says Kupka, “The minute my grandson was born, I was taking pictures and I realized that I love taking picture of kids!” She took that new found discovery and began photographing families of the people she worked with at no charge. These photos would be used for her photography class assignments.

Beholder_Kupka_Tiffany cart

Once she got comfortable, she started booking appointments and charging for her work. She shares, “My husband said, based on my bookings, ‘It looks like you’ll at least be making this amount of money, so you can quit your full-time steady paycheck job during the day to do your photography business’.” So in September 2000, Kathy had a lot of work lined up for Christmas and was quite busy. She took a break to head to New York City with a friend and all of a sudden got very sick. Kathy ended up in the hospital with Pneumococcal Pneumonia for nine days. It was the first time in her life that when she wasn’t working, she didn’t get paid. Says Kathy, “Thank God my husband had a great job and good benefits. I had to cancel all of my Christmas appointments, I was so sick. It took me a while to get better. When I started getting better, in January, I started getting back pains. February I started getting bad back pains. I went to my doctor and was told that I needed to stretch more before I exercised.” She goes on, “Then I was photographing a little boy in my studio. I brought my dog Buddie down to distract the boy and I leaned over and I felt a horrible pain in my collarbone. I thought, ‘Oh great, first my back, now my collarbone?!’ After my clients left, I was making lunch and I leaned over to put something in the trash and I felt a snap. Long story short, I broke my collarbone picking up a 17 pound dog.”


It was then that Kathy was diagnosed with stage three Multiple Myeloma, a disease that at the time, nobody had ever heard of. Her first reaction was, “Where are the experts?” Kathy was directed to The UAMS Myeloma Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. Years prior to this, there was no treatment available for this type of cancer, but advancements in medicine made it possible for Kupka to have two stem cell transplants, using her own stem cells. Says Kathy, “Long story short, I’ve been in remission for 17 years. Thank the Lord.”


Kathy took advantage of the times when she was feeling good, between chemotherapy treatments, to get back to her photography work. She had adopted her dog, Buddie, in 2000 and had begun utilizing her new companion (and model) to build up her pet photography portfolio. She decided to do a presentation about her life’s journey beginning with her days as a secretary up through her time during her cancer treatment. Kathy explains, “There are side effects from the treatments. When I showed the different side effects depicted with pictures of dogs, and told in a humorous way, everybody laughed. I realized that people really reacted to that part. That’s when I decided to make a book of the side effect of cancer treatment.”


Kathy put together a book signing for her newly published book, Cancer is Ruff, and sold 50 copies that night. In addition to her book, Kathy has quite a prolific greeting card business as well. Her cards feature her beloved dog photos accompanied by humorous or inspirational sayings about cancer treatment recovery. Her book is available for sale on Amazon, and you can purchase her book and her greeting cards on Etsy and at various local stores.  Kupka shares, “This book is really good for people who are going through treatment. They can relate to all of the side effects. A woman called me to say that she was giving my book to her grandchildren. She wanted her family to understand what she had gone through.”

Beholder_Kupka_card book info

I asked Kathy if writing this book had been therapeutic for her. Yes was her answer, but not for the reason you might think. Sadly, Kathy lost her husband in 2012 and then two years later, lost her daughter in a car accident while she was working on her book. She shares, “I believe my photography and my book have been very therapeutic and distracting. I’m not just sitting around. My daughter and my husband were a very big part of the book.” Kathy has chosen to live her life being productive and honors her family and all who have suffered through treatment by creating her book and her greeting cards.

Beholder_Kupka_Buddie_Tattooed arms

When talking about dreams and professional goals, Kathy’s story is quite unique. Coming up when profession options were limited for women in our country, the thought of a creative job was not only unheard of , it was un-dreamed of. Stepping out in her career as a secretary, Kathy never imagined that she would later become an award winning professional photographer or a published author with a product line! Says Kathy of her photography business, “In the beginning, my dream was to just be photographing families and kids. I never even thought of a book or cards.”

Kathy Kupka - baby and bear

Through her professional and personal journey, Kathy has done her share of public speaking. She would get requests to speak at hospitals and she now offers, what she calls, “presentations”. She can be hired to talk to groups about photography. This step out onto the public stage took some major changes on Kathy’s part. Says Kupka, “I belong to Toastmasters. I could never say my name on stage, even though I never stop talking in social settings. I was invited to do presentations at different hospitals and that’s why I joined. Public speaking is very hard. At my first Toastmasters meeting, they asked me to get up and introduce myself. They must have thought that I had a real problem because I think I cried. It was awful. I don’t know what happened! I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or what, but now I don’t care! But still, you don’t want to make a fool out of yourself. Lol!”


Through her career Kathy has been able to meet so many wonderful people. It is her biggest joy (after her kids and grandkids, of course). After all of her years as a professional photographer, she still looks for ways to challenge herself and for ways to give back. Last Fall, Kathy set a goal for herself to photograph a different dog, wearing a pink cape, every day for the month of October with all proceeds to benefit the Loudoun Breast Health Network. Her commitment to the project was real and her commitment to the cancer community is also very real.


Kathy Kupka is a living example of fortitude. She encourages everyone to never give up. She says, “Never give up. You never know, somebody might pick up on what you’re doing. I’ll let you know when this happens for me. LOL. But I can tell you, just from all the people who have written to me; my book made them laugh; that is payment enough.”

Beholder_Kupka_book cover

You can follow Kathy Kupka Photography on the following social media sites:  www.kathykupka.com, Facebook @KathyKupkaPhotography, Instagram @kathykupka, and Twitter @Kathykupka


Guest – Mary Shelton – Rhythm and Arts Center of Virginia, LLC.

Rhythm and Arts Logo

Mary Shelton is the owner and one of the talented dance teachers at Rhythm and Arts Center of Virginia. Rhythm and Arts Center is a performing arts school, currently specializing in dance, and building their singing and acting offerings. The grand dream includes cultivating a music and instrumental side to the school as well as adding visual arts such as drawing, photography and more. That’s the long-term plan. For now, dance and musical theater, complete with voice and acting coaching are in their repertoire of classes.

Rhythm and Arts - Mary and class

Mary attended Oklahoma City University and received her degree in Dance Management and has been teaching dance, for other schools, and now her own dance school, for 23 years. Shelton opened her doors to Rhythm and Arts Center in 2015 and has directed her passion for dance into educating children and adults in the strong traditions of dance and theater history and technique. She uses her education in marketing as her foundation to push her to implement different strategies to set her school apart from the others.

Rhythm and Arts - Mary and student

I was particularly drawn to the concept of Mary’s dance school. It is very different than most offerings in our area. Unlike other schools, this one is not competition focused. Mary believes in healthy competition and participation in them offers the opportunity to see what’s new and fresh in the industry. But for her, the competition portion is not top billing. Competitions that she does participate in are held in conjunction with workshops where her dancers can train with master teachers. The classes and workshops, and opportunity for personal growth, are the focus, with the competition portion treated as a bonus. Mary explains, “Most of my students are not going to have a dance career. The competition experience should be more about exploration and growth. I really want that to be the focus; about growing as a dancer and as a person versus the competition side. I also think that we should serve and be good ambassadors in the community so we provide nursing home performances and participate in local parades. I would like to get more involved in the community by offering classes to those who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. I think everybody should have access to the arts. It shouldn’t just be for the people who can afford it.”

Rhythm and Arts - parade

Many of the teachers at Rhythm and Arts Center are people that Mary has previously worked with in the dance and musical theater industry. With regards to how she selects her teachers, Mary says, “I look at personality and how they interact with the kids, but in terms of their knowledge on the subject, it’s really important to us that our teachers have college degrees and have professional experience. That really is what sets us apart. I want to make sure that people aren’t teaching bad habits that they have picked up.” Because the school is not as competition focused, the pressure to constantly be producing is not present. With this concept in place, the teachers are able to dig down to the fundamentals of dance. Time is taken to not only teach proper technique, but also the French terminology and their meaning. It’s rare. You don’t see that much any more. Mary says, “Well, as much as I hope that I’ll have these kids from now until they graduate from high school, it doesn’t always happen that way. I want my students to be prepared, wherever they go, whether they move, or they just decide that they want to get something else out of dance. Or when they graduate, maybe post high school and into college, I want them to be prepared for wherever they go. That’s why I want them to know the terms and definitions. I want them to know the technique. I want them to know that some steps are called something else because if somebody says I want you to do this, I want them to understand that it’s also known by another name or know that’s the move that I really have to stretch my knee on, for example. If they go to another country, because kids study abroad, they can go anywhere and take a ballet class and probably figure out what they’re doing even if the main language is not English.” She goes on, “It’s important to me that the students are well rounded in their dance education. From the foundation that we give them, they can go into musical theater, they can study in college, or they can go into a professional company. For some people dance is just something fun that’s a hobby and that’s totally fine. We’re not just setting up one track and our dancers have to follow this track. Dance is for everybody. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same for everybody in terms of what they choose to do with it.”

Rhythm and Arts - older student with youngers

Making the decision to open her own dance school was a scary moment for Shelton. She shares, “I am not a financial risk taker; at all. I’m very conservative with my money, so it was super scary knowing that most businesses don’t turn a profit for the first couple of years. We’ve been very fortunate that we have.” She goes on, “It was really scary to think about not bringing in any money. When my husband and I were discussing this, he mentioned this Michael Jordan quote where Jordan says that throughout his career, he made many shots but he missed 100% of the shots he didn’t take. I actually get a little choked up when I say that sometimes. We were in a financial place where we could afford me not having an income, so we did it! And so far so good!”

Rhythm and Arts - musical theater

From the age of 12 as a babysitter, to teaching at summer camps in high school, Mary found at an early age that she truly loves working with children. She shares, “I’ve always had more patience for children than I do adults. Kids are expected to be ridiculous, and I mean that in a kind way. They just don’t know. They’re fun, and they’re silly, and they’re learning their way.” Mary really enjoys working with kids of all ages. She adds, “I like having the variety. I tend to get bored if I’m just doing one thing over and over. Choreography is obviously easier with the little ones, but then keeping them occupied and excited is the challenge. With older kids I can challenge them with choreography, which is more demanding for me, but behavior is usually easier to manage.”

Rhythm and Arts - dance students

In addition to her full time gig as artistic director of Rhythm and Arts Center, Mary is also a performer and president of the DC based tap dance company SOLEdarity. Her involvement with the tap company, coupled with her true love of the dance community, exposes her to inspiration via the multiple dance genres performed in our region. Says Mary, “We have some really amazing companies in the DC area. They’re just so innovative. I love watching their work. It pushes me to think, ‘What’s something different that I can do?’” Mary confesses that often, with kids, you can get into the cycle of just recital or competition-style choreography, but she continues to work on pieces that push her creatively.  Mary adds, “Honestly, when I went back to performing, it changed my teaching. I had been out of performing for almost a decade and I had forgotten what it was like to be on stage. It gave me a renewed perception of other things I had forgotten about and hadn’t realized I had forgotten.”


Rhythm and Arts Center puts on two shows annually, so in the short term, the goal is to make sure that she and her students put on another quality performance. Says Mary, “I always strive to make each show better than the last, which is a lot of pressure. But I really just want the kids to have a great experience. I’ve had really great experiences in dance and I want them to have that.” In addition to her upcoming Spring performance, Mary is also preparing her summer dance program offering. During the summer months, the school will offer regular dance classes in all genres including yoga and Bollywood, as well as a few week long dance camps and intensives.

Rhythm and Arts - Dance Camp 2016_preview

Mary’s long-term objective is to get into a permanent space of her own. With this achievement, Mary anticipates a sense of permanence. She confesses, “I feel silly saying this because I’m in my third year, so it’s still strange to say, but it still doesn’t feel like it’s permanent. Maybe that’s just part of being a new business. Maybe someone’s been in business 20 years and also doesn’t believe it’s going to keep going. I think having my own studio space would really help me feel grounded and would solidify the feelings of, ‘Hey I’ve done it and I’m doing it.’ I am doing it.”

Rhythm and Arts - studio space

Mary went into her business venture with eyes wide open. Having worked in the dance industry for so long, she understood what she was getting into. She shares, “I knew in this type of work you’re on 24/7. So even when I’m not teaching I’m still answering emails, and responding to phone calls. I guess some part of me thought at least there would be some down time when I’m not thinking about it, but I am really thinking about it all of the time. But even when I’m thinking about it when we’re in our off time, I don’t feel stressed. Besides that I’d like to have a permanent location, it’s not something that I have to have right now. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”

Rhythm and Arts - tap shoes

In college, Mary took a lot of non-profit classes which addressed trying to keep the dance world relevant and trying to grow it. Says Mary, “I find here in the DC area, it’s hard. Support for dance comes mostly from our friends from within the dance world. How do we branch that out? One way to do that is through the kids. I think it’s important to start young and get them exposed to all the arts, even if they don’t want to dance themselves.”

Rhythm and Arts - littles

This dance school is more than just a business for Mary. Although she’s quite proud that the school is by definition successful, the real joy for Mary is seeing how her students grow. Shared through tears, “I have a group of girls who I used to teach at another school that have gone on and graduated and some of them have gotten married. I’ve been invited to their weddings and it just makes me feel so good that I made that big of an impression on them. All these years later, they still think I’m an important part of their lives.” She goes on to share, “I had a mom recently tell me that her 5 year old wants to be a dance teacher (again tears) and she’s 5 so obviously there’s a lot of time to change, but just the thought that she loves dancing that much and that I had a hand in it’s introduction to her, is reward beyond measure.”

Rhythm and Arts - Mary at recital.jpg

Mary also stresses that dance is for every body. Although there are the traditions of say, Disney, or the Rockettes, or some specific ballet companies, most companies do not have strict molds that they demand all their dancers to fit into. Says Mary, “I dance with people of all shapes and sizes. I see people who can dance in all shapes and sizes.  When I was in college, because of their strict image requirements, I felt that there wasn’t going to be something for me. I was not going to be able to dance. So it wasn’t an assumed dream to be a performer, but I’m glad that I can do it. Even though I don’t perform for a living, I teach for a living, the fact that I’m able to perform makes me so happy. I love dancing.”

SOLEdarity - cast

Mary’s parting words. “If you’ve ever thought about dance, do it. I have a lot of people who say, I can’t, or I have two left feet, or…. I always joke, that’s what the lessons are for. I have an adult right now, a dad of one of my students who I’ve had for a long time. He came to our tap show last year and he said, ‘You know I think I can do that.’ He is doing it! It’s a great way to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. I mean you’ll feel it the next day, but it’s not like getting on a treadmill and just running. There’s great camaraderie in class, the music is really fun, and if you don’t want to perform, you don’t have to. Don’t let that stop you from taking a class. We offer free trials. Adults don’t have to dance in leotards and tights, they can wear whatever is comfortable. I would just say, if anyone has thought this would be fun, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, go for it. It’s so good for the soul.”

Rhythm and Arts - two ballerinas

To learn more about Rhythm and Arts Center of Virginia classes and summer programs, please visit and follow on these social media sites:  https://www.rhythmandartscenter.com/, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

To learn more about SOLEdarity Tap Company please visit and follow on these social media sites:  https://www.soledarity.org/, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter