Takin’ the A train

9 Aug

The twin cities do not have a mass transit culture like Chicago or NYC have. We have a bus system, but most people who use it either don’t have a car or work downtown and don’t want to pay for parking. We used to have streetcars, but the cities took them out in the 60s. My parents talk about taking the streetcars when they were kids and through high school But they also talk about the ice wagons, so…

Anyway, a few years ago (maybe 5? 7? I don’t remember), they opened a light rail line between downtown Minneapolis and the airport/Mall of America. I’ve never used it. But this summer, they opened a new line between the two downtowns. green lineIt goes right through campus, and there’s a station about a 10 minute walk from my new place. But I still haven’t used it.

Until yesterday.

Why yesterday? Well, the MN Vikings are without a stadium right now while they rebuild theirs. And so they’re playing on campus for two years. No biggie, as I’m not usually at work on a Sunday. But they had a pre-season game last night at 7, and I knew traffic would be hell trying to get off campus after work. So I thought I’d take the train.

My friend SP doesn’t have a car and works downtown, so she is a mass transit expert. I made her kinda walk me through where to buy the tickets, etc. Which she was more than willing to do. So I felt like I knew what I was doing, even though it’s really not that complicated and I probably could have figured it out.

So I walked to the station – took about 10 minutes. I just missed one train, so I had to wait 10 minutes for the next. Poor timing on my part. Well, not poor timing – I just left later than I had planned on. When I got on the train, it was pretty empty. But it quickly filled, and by the time we got to campus, it was about 2/3 full. The ride took about 20 minutes. (Actually 23 minutes, if you’re curious.) I then had about a 10 minute (not even) walk to get to my office.

Here’s my big debate now: do I give up my parking contract and just take the train to/from work?

Pros:
Cheaper. About $35 less per paycheck.
Use way less gas each month.
Less wear and tear on my car which means less maintenance.
No traffic issues ever.
Pretty relaxing ride – very air-conditioned! And the stations have heat (in the winter).
More green – doing my part to help the environment.

Cons:
Less flexibility – can’t just leave and run somewhere after work.
Having to walk probably 15 minutes each way in whatever kind of weather we’re having. (Right now, my parking contract is in a garage that’s connected to my building by tunnels.)

Yep, can’t decide. I’ll probably try it a few more times, maybe in some icky weather, just to see how it feels. But if you have any opinions on it, let me know!

We all have that one thing…

5 Aug

We all have that one thing. You know, the thing we’re totally vain about? The one thing about ourselves that we love? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. For me, it’s my hair. It’s not GREAT hair – no hair modeling pictures or anything. But I have thick hair. That’s what most people comment on – that and the color but we’ll get to that. And for the thickness, that’s just good old genetics at work. But I get a lot of compliments on my hair – always have – and recently lots of people have been asking about my hair care routine. So here are my tips for hair aka what I do about my hair.

1. Get a good stylist. I go to Jennifer at Mezzanine Salon. She is fantastic! She knows me, she knows what I like, what I’ll put up with, how far to push me in changes…absolutely the best stylist I’ve ever had. She’s the one who convinced me that going brunette (from my natural color with blond highlights which is what I had) would look great. (My natural color is a dirty dishwater blond. I think? It’s been a while since I’ve seen it.) She’s been good at making small, palatable changes with my hair. And finally in January I realized that her changes were always good even if I was skeptical at first. (Because I’m proud of my hair and draw a lot of confidence from it, I’m always hesitant to change it.) And I trust her completely. So I let her know that the next cut and color were up to her. I had complete faith in whatever she thought was best. So we talked about it and in February, she cut off 6 inches and added red to the brunette. I love it! Since then, because then she was still a little nervous about how I’d take a major change like that, she’s added more red each time I color and some blond highlights that look better than they sound. So, bottom line…find a stylist you love and who understands you and your likes/wants.

You know how I’ve talked about how important it is to talk to your dance teacher? Same thing here…talk to your stylist. Jennifer lets me ask a ton of questions – what does this product do, how do I style that, I have this problem when drying my hair…it’s great. I try to tip well to compensate for all my questions.

2. Invest is good styling tools. I use a $20 hairdryer from Target, but I bought a professional grade flat iron and curling iron. Regular Target-type flat irons and curling irons just can’t compete with the thickness.

3. Use good product. Haircare is the one place I won’t go cheap; I buy salon brands. And after using salon brands for about 6 years, I can see a difference in my hair. It used to be big and kinda frizzy; I had to use a flat iron every day to try and tame it. (Not like 80s mall hair big – just poofy due to the thickness.) I’m a big believer in Bumble & Bumble products. They work for me and my hair.

4. Don’t wash your hair every day. Even the idea of that one was super hard for me to get used to. Until I went brunette and realized my color will last longer (and therefore I wouldn’t need to color as often) if I didn’t wash it every day. I wash it about every three days give or take. Except I do wash my bangs every day unless I’m pulling them back completely. They get greasy gross if I don’t.

So my routine…

*wash hair (B&B thickening shampoo – it’s not really to thicken my hair, it just means it’s not as heavy as others)

*use conditioner (B&B Super Rich conditioner – lots of moisture)

*spray on B&B Tonic

*rub two pumps of Moroccan Oil into the ends

*dry completely (or almost completely – it takes about 15 minutes to dry my hair completely so sometimes (often?) I get lazy and stop at “dry enough”).

*use flat iron.

*spray bangs with hairspray (B&B blue can)

On the non-wash days, I curl it with a curling iron to get some body and bounce and to hide the dirtiness. And on day three, it’s usually a ponytail or a bun.

Once a week I do a hair mask. I got out of that habit in the last year or so, because it’s awkward to live with someone and walk about in a hair mask. Brings the vanity to the forefront. Especially awkward when the person you’re living with has no hair due to cancer. I used to use the B&B Quenching Masque. But it got expensive for me (I have to use a lot due to the thickness of my hair). So I started using coconut oil, which works almost better. Wash hair but leave out conditioner, rub about 3 tablespoons into the ends, wrap in a towel, let sit for 30-120 minutes. I leave it almost two hours. I usually just watch a movie while I’m waiting. Then wash as normal.

So there you go! For those of you who have asked, that’s what I do. And I am by NO MEANS an expert. I just have listened and learned over the last six years. So now I sound like I know what I’m doing.

(And did any of us ever think we’d see the day where I was talking about something about myself I’m proud of??? Oh how far we’ve come…)

Here we go…

2 Aug

In October 2010, I moved back with my parents. Partially to help them out as they got their house ready to sell, and partially to save money. You see, I had a plan of how to reach some financial goals in terms of debt and retirement. So I had to spend as little as possible. But I needed to keep dancing. Yes, needed. I can’t imagine my life without it. So for four years, I lived on a cash-only basis, I didn’t go out much, I didn’t buy a lot of clothes, I ate out less, I put my stuff in storage and stayed with friends paying cheap rent. My target date, if all went according to plan, was July 1, 2014.

And you know what? I MADE IT. I’m now debt-free, I’ve looked at my retirement and savings and am track, and I have a habit of operating with cash only, no credit.

When I moved four years ago, I knew where I wanted to live when I was out on my own again. And I found an apartment in that complex. The rent is a little higher than I was planning on. But I readjusted my budget and just know that things will be a bit tighter for a short while. It’s worth, though, to live in a grown-up place in a neighborhood I love.

July was crazy. I moved. And after moving so many times (2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, and now 2014 – yikes), I know that moving is the most stressful thing I can do to myself. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of practice over the last few years in how to cope with it. Rule number one: Have professionals do the actual moving. Rule number two: Unpack as quickly as possible. I moved on a Wednesday morning and had the last things done on Saturday. BOOM.

And while money is tighter, it’s not horribly tight. I can still go out with friends, I can buy some clothes, and most importantly, I can still afford all my dancing. And I’m excited to live my life again! I’m in my own apartment, which hasn’t happened since 2010. I just feel like it’s all starting over, I get to be a grown-up again and not crash with friends. I really can’t describe how excited I am. I’ve been inspired to cook and bake again, and I’ve started going to the gym every day before work. (OK, it’s literally a two-minute walk door-to-door, so how can I not? But still…I’m there every morning!)

And I love my apartment! It’s got enough space but not so much that cleaning’s a pain. All my stuff fits in nicely, and there’s great storage too. The kitchen is fantastic, although I haven’t cooked with an electric stove and oven in years. But I’m adjusting to that.

I owe my parents and my friends a lot for letting me live with them and pay cheap rent. I can never describe to any of them what that support and help means to me. Without them, I would have had to stop dancing. And can you imagine me without dancing? That’d be one sad Cathy. Let’s not go back there, shall we?

I wish I was a better writer so I could convey just how energized I am now to do THINGS. I’m knitting again, I’m baking, I’m reading, I’m RUNNING again (right? yeah it’s been a while)…I am HAPPY. So very happy.

happy-dance

I’m lucky to have the friends I have

27 May

I have good friends. As in these-people-really-know-how-to-be-a-friend kind of good.

I feel especially that right because I’m having another stupid episode. The details don’t matter, but it’s a convergence of things happening that is making me feel insignificant. AGAIN. I’m so tired of fighting this stupid wiring in my brain on this shit. I hate that it’s a constant struggle. And while I know it’s just faulty wiring and I have many more tools to fight it than I used to, I still hate it. I would love to be carryfree and not an overanalyzer. (That’s a word.)

I’m lucky to have a therapist who is really good and who can help. I’m lucky to have friends who will put up with me when I hit these episodes. I never show how bad the episodes are – I rarely even talk about them here in any great detail – because I’m afraid that the next time will be the time no one wants to deal with it and I won’t have any friends anymore. Totally irrational fear. Based on some real past experiences.

So thanks, friends, for hanging in there with me. I feel so grateful that you haven’t left me yet. And don’t worry – I’ll pull myself out of this soon. Then we can have fun again.

Guest post: On finding a new partner

17 May

You all know how much I enjoy Stef’s blog. She is such a great writer, and her journey is super inspiring! She has been through a few dance teachers, so I asked her to write a post on her experience with that. I wanted to see what her experience has been because sometimes it’s helpful to know what others have experienced. And hearing how someone worked through it is good too. Each of us has our own experiences when changing teachers, and here’s her story…

***

I woke up from an uneasy dream and I just knew it was over. After a couple weeks of cancelled lessons and rescheduled lessons, after we had completed our first competition together, after I’d bought a dress and made it through blisters and tears, and at a time when I was really getting into this ballroom thing, ready to step it up to the next level, it was suddenly apparent that my time with Matt was at an end.

Isn’t it odd how in specific moments a nebulous idea that’s been floating around in the spirit realm can crystallize into an undeniable truth? Well, on that morning, for me I was suddenly grounded in the knowing that my first ballroom teacher was no longer going to be my teacher or partner and that my journey was going to take a drastic, unwanted, and unexpected turn. I just knew that this wasn’t a temporary thing – that his protestations of a hurt back – wasn’t going to go away. For whatever reason, he was out.

Unfortunately for me, losing my first ballroom teacher was a mixed bag and a crappy situation. Here was this person who had introduced me to a form of dance that rekindled my passion for life. He had helped me move my hips. He had endured my tears. He had invited me to push beyond many boundaries both physical and mental. And, he also took money from me for 100 lessons and disappeared.

It didn’t happen all at once. It seemed like he just had some health issue. He had occasionally cancelled a lesson here and there in the past so I didn’t think too much about it at first. But days became weeks, and at a certain point I knew something was up.   He was never able to come 100% clean with me, which is a shame. I’ve actually not seen him since then, but for a while I took lessons from his mother who was also a ballroom instructor as a substitute. There was a half-hearted effort to set things right, but it wasn’t her responsibility to take that on, and anyways, it’s just not the same learning from a female as having a male instructor lead.

I had to grieve the loss. It may sound silly but I’m not kidding. Dance had become a big part of my life. I felt the void created by both the loss of the person I’d bonded with and the dancing that filled up something in my soul. I had to find a way to cope with that. The good thing that came out of that experience is that now I know, for me, dance is a non-negotiable. I will have it in my life until I can’t move. Period.

I chose to forgive the financial transgression. I let it all go. Because I wanted to focus on all that I appreciated and gained from the experience. And that was worth more to me than any price. It doesn’t make the situation okay, but I don’t think about it and I don’t hold resentment in my heart.

The downside of it was, however, that it was poor timing. I was completely burned out at work and wanted a career change and I quit. It meant that I didn’t have the extra finances to pursue ballroom and find a new instructor right away.

So when things became more stable financially after a year or so, I realized I could get back in the game. But where to start?

Here’s the deal, life is interesting and unexpected. Sometimes things happen to us like our instructor leaves when we would prefer they didn’t. But at the same time every new beginning is some other beginning’s end. The leaving of one person creates the space for another person to come into our lives. Looking back at the chain of events, I’m grateful for all of my teachers, even the one who essentially stole from me. In the long run I’d never want to work with someone dishonest like that when I come to this process as authentically as I can. The Universe knew that and he was removed from my path.

So now I had at least an idea of what I was looking for in an instructor but I had no idea where to find him. I think for me, as well, it was especially challenging because people didn’t take me seriously when I walked in the door – I mean, I weighed 300 pounds and here I am saying I want to be a competitive dancer. They just partnered me with any Joe Schmo that had an open schedule. I was clear I wanted a higher level dancer than that. But I had no idea how to break into that “exclusive club.” I had no connections to any dance studio but I did know enough to be able to see the caliber of dancing.

So I did what I could. I looked at some websites. I looked at photos and videos of the teachers. I weeded out some places like that. Then I signed up for introductory lessons at a few different studios to essentially try-out various instructors. I weeded out a few more. Of course location was also an issue, which is funny because with my current instructor Ivan I have driven across the city more times than I can count – but he’s worth it!

Anyways, without having a foot in the door, I settled on the instructor that seemed the best I could find. And you know what, for the part of my journey that he helped me with, he was great. He was very knowledgeable but more of an athlete than a dancer. The distinction being he could intellectually describe all the steps and go through the motions, but he didn’t actually emote or feel the music or the dance or the communication. He helped me learn more basics and helped me get in to better physical shape.

But at a certain point I knew that he couldn’t get me where I wanted to go. I craved that “dancer” part that he lacked as well as connection. But because I kept taking each step forward, for instance, dancing at his studio, I came into contact with other people. I observed Inna and Artem at this time as they danced out of the same studio, so I knew this level of instructor was around. Also I met Nona, Ivan’s mother-in-law. I actually had her coach me and she changed my Latin Rumba walks in 30 seconds! She knew exactly what to say to communicate what I needed to do and I was very impressed that she knew what the heck she was doing! Also she had competed professionally. So I kind of look at this part of my journey as another stepping stone that moved me forward and positioned me to take the next leap.

So when the studio closed and I knew I wanted more than this particular instructor could give I called Nona to ask her who I should dance with. The rest, as they say, is history. I had made the right connection that put me in the sphere of the kind of instructor I’d always wanted. I think part of that was getting clearer and clearer about what I needed and wanted. It also meant kissing a few frogs to find my dancing “prince” and it meant taking steps forward when I didn’t know the ultimate outcome. The most important thing was to keep taking the next step before me.   Now I consider myself to be the luckiest girl when it comes to my dancing instructor and partner and friend. If those were the actions I needed to take to get me to arrive where I am then I’m grateful for them.

If I were to give any advice to someone who is facing a transition from one instructor to another, especially if it is not something expected or wanted, I would say a few things. First, acknowledge that there has been a loss. You don’t have to categorize it as good or bad but just accept that a void has been created in your life. Second, take time to process and/or grieve the loss. This has been an important part of your life and it’s totally valid to do what you need to do to comfort yourself, accept it, and move forward. Third, I’d say be open to the possibilities. You never know what your next instructor may bring to your life and your dancing. Fourth, I’d say get clear on what you want out of your ideal instructor. Meditate on the best aspects of your previous instructors and think about what you’d put on a “wish list” too! Finally, I’d say don’t limit your options. Take some time and put some energy into finding a good fit. Perhaps visit various studios and take some trial lessons with a few instructors that interest you. Look at as an opportunity to learn and grow but resolve not to settle for what’s convenient just because it’s there.

Please to make your acquaintance…again

14 May

Hi there.

peeking-from-behind-the-curtains

Remember me? It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Sorry I’ve been missing. Life…well, life got a bit crazy the last few months.

My dance teacher left. I know, right? He’s off to exciting new things with opening his own studio. But in a different part of the country, so I can’t continue to take lessons with him. Very sad. I’ve told you before what a big influence he’s been in my life. And now he’s gone. Once I found out he was leaving, I had to take some time to grieve the end of the relationship. And grieve what he won’t be here for in the future. And figure out who I was going to take lessons with after he left. That’s all been done…although the grieving might take some more time. Like the end of any relationship, romantic or otherwise, it’ll pop up especially at milestones. I have a plan going forward for my lessons and my dancing. I’ve talked to my new instructors about what I need from my teachers and how they can help me. While I’m sad to see my teacher go, I’m extremely happy for him. And I’m ready to move my dancing forward with different teachers.

There was some potential for some things to change at work recently too. Luckily they’re not, but that would have added to it as well.

And as some of you know, I’ve been working towards some financial goals the last few years. That’s made me live cheaply and on a cash-only basis. But I’ve kept dancing through it all. And now I’m almost at my goals – I will be by July 1 – so I started looking for an apartment. And I found one! In the building I wanted to be in!

So LOTS of transitions going on for me right now. And too many transitions can paralyze me. Or at least make me withdraw into a suburb of the thinky place. So all that is why I’ve been missing from here.

But I’ve missed you! I’ve missed writing. I’ve missed the feeling I get processing things here instead of just in my brain.

But I’ve had the Stanley Cup playoffs to keep me entertained. Silly MN Wild, losing to the Blackhawks like that. SIGH. Oh well, now I can say ‘Go Toews’ with a clear conscience!

Change and attitude

22 Mar

The Arthur Murray in Santa Monica keeps a very interesting blog. I love reading their articles – always very thought-provoking. The one on the 7th was fascinating to me. In it, David talks about “A genuine smile creates a magical environment. A smile comforts others and opens up the doors of trust, communication, and connection.” He talks about “leaving the negative behind and carrying light so others may see.”

I need to remember this. You see, there’s a lot of change coming into my life in the next six months in many different aspects. And some of it, I don’t yet know what it will look like on the other side. And I can handle change, but that much of it (with so many unknown outcomes) can be a bit much for me. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed, which looks on the outside as grumpy. So I need to remember to smile and know that the smile will help others and will come back to me and help me.

Basically, I need to keep a positive attitude, trust that all will land in a place that will be great for me, rely on my friends, and smile.

stay-positive

(Oh! And guess what? Jason Bateman won the play-in round. And then he beat the number one seed!!)

 

March madness, the boyfriend way

11 Mar

I like March Madness although I’m not a huge fan of basketball. (C’mon, it’s a winter sport and so’s hockey. So I spent all my time watching hockey not basketball. Plus the squeaky shoes drive me nuts.) I enjoy the brackets and seeing who’s in and who’s out. But it’s not my life by any means.

HOWEVER…

Here is a bracket I can get behind. My friend B does this every year on her blog. I believe we’re in year three now? First it was the movie boyfriend bracket. Last year was the TV boyfriend bracket. This year, in a stroke of sheer genius, it’s the celebrity boyfriend bracket. So all those actors you have crushes on. And HOCKEY players. (What. Hockey players here and on the next season of Dancing with the Stars?!? My life is complete.) And it’s got a play-in round!

So go check out B’s blog. And while you’re there, subscribe so you get notices to vote every week. You can make your case for any guy in the comments section. It gets pretty heated sometimes! What can I say, we’re passionate about our fictional boyfriends.

But please, please, please…vote for Jason Bateman in the play-in round RIGHT NOW.

jason-bateman

(And read the rest of B’s stuff. She’s a great and entertaining writer.)

Refocus…AGAIN

10 Mar

OK, so every year at New Year’s, I try to refocus. But this year, January was super busy with work, then I got the flu. So now I think I’m over the flu (mostly, anyway). And I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds since Thanksgiving.

So starting today, I’m refocusing again. Food and exercise. Must lose those pounds and get back to where I was, ideally where I was right before I broke my foot. I think that was when I was in the best shape – the thinnest and the strongest and the healthiest.

The thing is I’m not very good at the long haul. I tend to get discouraged and quit when I don’t see immediate results. Dancing is the only place where that’s not true. In dancing, I can wait for the long term gain. But elsewhere in life, not so much.

Every Sunday, I do the crosswords in the paper. And the horoscopes are right next to the crosswords, so I read mine(Virgo), just for fun. But here was today’s:

horoscope

A timely reminder right? Each decision, each day. I can do that.

In defense of Cuban motion

27 Feb

I really enjoy reading other blogs. I read some about food. OK, a lot about food. And some about ballroom dancing. OK, a lot about ballroom dancing. I like hearing other people’s perspective. It’s interesting to see how their experience compares to mine. And what’s different.

But every once in a while, I read something that gets to me. And I feel the need to respond. And debate a little.

This happened a few days ago when I read this entry from Facing Diagonal Wall. Go read it and then come back, because otherwise my post may not make sense.

Done? You’re back now? OK good. Let’s continue.

Believe me, I know how hard it can be to learn Cuban motion. When I first started working on it, there were huge mental blocks in my way. HUGE. I was raised NOT to move my hips like that EVER. Plus, I was still a relatively new dancer (early in bronze II, I think). So that was a ginormous thing to try and work through, which I did with the help of my teacher.

But I disagree with what Facing Diagonal Wall says: he states “I know it is an essential part of any Latin dance but let’s be honest, you’ve either got it or you don’t.”

WHAT?

My whole experience with dance and my studio is that you can anything related to dance. You may not be able to do it like a professional, but even the most-challenged dancers can do a version on Cuban motion (or any dance technique or step), and it doesn’t look stupid. It looks appropriate for how they dance.

And I can attest (and my friends can, too) that I cannot move on a non-ballroom dance floor at all. AT ALL. I’m pretty white. I mean, when I started dancing, I was convinced I wouldn’t be good at it because I was so uncoordinated. But with a great teacher, I am able to do these things and do them well. (Helps that I had some undiscovered talent for ballroom dancing, too, but still.)

I wonder if the difference between his (Facing Diagonal Wall) experience and mine is the teaching. And the teachers. Mine could recognize that this was a mental block for me (yet ANOTHER one) and could draw on his experience to know when to push, when to pull me through it, when to switch to something else for a while, and when to just let it rest. And maybe Facing Diagonal Wall’s teacher didn’t have that insight or experience to draw on for whatever reason.

Yes, Cuban motion can be awkward when you first work on a new portion of it. So can any new technique in dance when you first try it. Of course it’s awkward – it’s NEW. It’s a new and therefore not muscle-memory-comfortable way of moving. But eventually it will be comfortable. You just have to remember how the basic step in waltz felt at first – awkward, too, right?

I’m going through it right now as we work on the next level of Cuban motion. (Well, not right now, because I haven’t been able to dance for a week or so because of this stupid flu.) But it’s awkward. And I’m still not sure how to tell what muscles to move where. But I’ve been through enough of these experiences in dance to know that it’s just part of the learning process, I know I’ll get it eventually, and I just need to keep trying and keep working on it. It doesn’t freak me out anymore or derail me.

I’m guessing that Facing Diagonal Wall has some mental block on Cuban motion that he needs to work through. And probably his post was just a rant that we all need to do about dance at times. (My poor friend SP – she gets so many texts from me that are rants about my dancing. So does AD. And they’re both still my friend – that’s amazing. Thanks, guys!) I think he’s stuck in the thinky place on this. And we all know how much I’ve been there, right? I’ve just learned how not to set up a second home there.

So hang in there, Facing Diagonal Wall! I feel your pain. I will say that if you think it’s something you either have or don’t and you don’t have it, you’ll never get it. But I believe (and I’m sure your teacher believes) that you can and WILL learn it. Just remember the four stages of competence: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence. Also known as initial, awkward, conscious, and natural for you non-nerds.

(Oh my goodness, my teacher would be so proud of this post. Defending Cuban motion, claiming anyone can do Cuban motion, and spouting the four stage of competence! Don’t tell him, OK?)

So, Facing Diagonal Wall, if you have anything to say in response, I’d love to hear it! But meanwhile, just know I’m rooting for you. You’ll conquer Cuban motion yet!

%d bloggers like this: