Tag Archives: change

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.


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.


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!

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.”


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!

Time to refocus

1 Jan

Happy new year!

Here we are again. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of resolutions. But I know I’m not perfect, by any means, unlike Calvin:


(I love that cartoon.)

So looking back at what I wanted to focus on in 2013 and setting the focus for 2014…

Physical health
I did get back to the gym on a regular basis. I certainly ran more. But then I broke my foot. I was in such great shape prior to that, and it’s been hard to get back into a regular routine with any sort of endurance. But this week has been good. So for 2014 I’ll keep working on going to the gym regularly, building endurance, and running more.

My eating didn’t change much this year, although I somehow got a little sugar addiction lately. Boo on holiday food. So let’s refocus on that for 2014: more veggies!

My writing was definitely done in waves. I had stretches of lots of blog posts, and then nothing. (See: lack of posts in December.) So there’s the focus for 2014: more consistent blogging.

Breaking my foot really made me appreciate dancing. Prior to that, I was going to more groups and practicing on my own. After I broke my foot, I practiced a lot because I was working on checking out. But since then, I’ve struggled to get into a routine. So after the holidays, it’s more group classes, more practicing on my own, and still appreciating it.

Creative hobbies
I stopped baking for a while in the last few months for various reason. I packed my grandma’s recipes, so I can’t go through those until after July. But I’ve baked more this week and will continue to do so. I did learn to crochet but didn’t practice, so now I need a refresher. I certainly knitted more this year and will continue to do so for 2014!

No movement there. Meaning no action taken on my part to have anything happen. Stupid Mr Big still in my brain. But steps have been taken this week…more on that soon.

I’ve made some progress towards my financial goals, although Christmas was not planned for as well as it should have been. Oops. So I’m going to take the first six months of 2014 and refocus on money.

Mental health
This year, I realized that my issues are like a chronic condition. I will always have them; I can only cope with the flare-ups. And I’ve done a better job of that lately. This will always be a focus for me though.

At the end of the day, I still strive for this:


And hope to remember this:

light of your being

I hope 2014 is everything you want it to be. Happy new year!

Looking in the mirror again.

12 Nov

People have been holding up the mirror for me again. I’ve talked about that before, and before, and before, and before. (Apparently this is a recurring thing for me.) I’m always shocked by how others see me.

For instance, I’ve been called “disciplined” about 3 times in the last month. Which is intriguing. Because to me, discipline is a negative. It means rigid, controlling, this…


But clearly these people meant it as a compliment. Typical me, I can tell you exactly where I’m not disciplined. In case you’re wondering, it’s diet, exercise, and dance homework. But these people have helped me see that I am disciplined. I do eat fairly well for the most part. (Don’t look at last week though.) I do work out at least 3 times a week. (Let’s ignore last week on that.) I do practice dance on my own, maybe not as often as I would like. I do laundry every Sunday. I make food for the following week on Sundays. I pay my bills and track my expenses every weekend. So I am disciplined, but in a good way.

I was told today that I’m beautiful. Now, that one is difficult. Because I know I’m not beautiful. (Which sounds totally narcissistic or that I’m fishing for compliments – neither of which is the case.) And again, being me, I can tell you in what ways I’m not. (See my nose and my weight around the middle. And my height.) But the fact that someone thinks that I might be beautiful? And this is not the first person to tell me that. It does not compute in my poor little brain. Because yes, I still see myself like this…


But having someone point out that I might be considered beautiful? Makes me think about what my good assets are, and makes me realize there are some. And how someone might actually think I’m cute.



It’s been four years

22 Oct

Today is my dance anniversary. Four years ago, I walked into the dance studio for the first time…and changed my life.


I still don’t have the words to express how much it’s changed me and my life.dancers I’ve tried here and here, but I’m still not sure that it really captures what dancing has done for me. I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made. I’m grateful for the changes I’ve made in me because of dance and how far I’ve come. And I’m so grateful for my very patient, very awesome teacher who’s helped me through some challenging moments.

And I think I’m MAYBE starting to really believe in myself and my ability. Most days, I really feel like a great dancer.

I’m thankful to have found my passion and my joy and my talent. I can’t imagine my life without dancing!

I know that a day from now, I’ll look at this post and want to rewrite it. But I still won’t have the words. Just know that it really changed my life and who I am for the better, and that means so much to me. Dancing is something that I now have to do, and it brings me so much joy and happiness.

And I still thank God every day that I took that first step into the studio four years ago.

Happy dance!!

Time to refocus

1 Jan

I like New Year’s because it’s a chance to refocus. I don’t like resolutions…they sound like work and negative consequences and failure. I prefer to think of it more positively: let’s refocus our efforts as we start a new year.


Unlike Calvin, I’m very aware I’m not perfect. But here are the main things I’d like to refocus on in 2013.

Physical health
I was doing very well for most of 2012, but December was kind of a bust. So, time to get back to the gym three times a week (like I was before). I’ll keep running and do more strength training. I want to continue and increase my morning yoga. It’s such a great way to start the day.

It’s also time to get back to eating healthier, especially now that the holidays are over. (I don’t even want to think about the food I ate in December!) And expand the types of food I cook. Chicken and rice can only be made so many different ways.

Writing has become very important to me as has this blog. I’d like to write more often and build a consistent schedule of posts. (I’ve been doing well this week, haven’t I?)

You know, this has become such an integral part of my life, and I sometimes take it for granted. I want to make it a more deliberate part of my life again, and I want to become a better dancer. I want to dance more – go to more group classes and more parties at the studio. I don’t always make a priority of the group classes, and they are really good and fun to go to. I also want to work on things on my own that I can do on my own, like Cuban motion exercises.

Creative hobbies
I’d like to bake more and try new recipes. Keep going with my grandma’s recipes and try those. I’d like to do more knitting – maybe try mittens – and maybe learn to crochet too.

I think I need to take a more active part in dating too. Meaning actually trying to meet people.

I think I have one final hurdle to overcome in terms of managing my money as well as I’d like too. So my goal this year is to tackle that hurdle. If I can do it, I’ll reward myself with some of the money I’ve saved.

Mental health
It’s going to be important to continue to work on avoiding the thinky place. I’ve made great progress, but I still have some work to do on it. I have a feeling this will always be something to work on for me.

I guess my ultimate goal is this:


Thanks, Michelle, for the image! It sums up perfectly what I ultimately aim for. That, and to make the day better for people I meet each day.

Here’s hoping 2013 is all that we all want it to be. Cheers!

What do happy people do differently?

21 Nov

I love how the universe works. I’ve been all cranky pants lately, and then I saw this on Facebook. Of course, it made me think but in a good way. Mainly because it says in black and white things that I’m not doing. And not doing them leads to the thinky place. And cranky pants. Boo.

1. Express gratitude.
Something I really don’t do enough. I am so grateful for so many things in my life. And I take them for granted. I have some close, amazing friends. I have my health. I have a good job I like. I have dancing. I need to remind myself of these things more frequently.

2. Cultivate optimism.
Ha. I think we can all safely say that is not something that I naturally do. Hello, I’m Irish. Optimism does not come naturally.

3. Avoid overthinking and social comparison.
‘Nuff said, right?

4. Practice acts of kindness.
I think I actually do this a fair amount. I try to help others and do little things for people.

5. Nurture social relationships.
I kinda do this. But when I get thinky, I go inward. And become a little anti-social. When what I really need to do is reach out and be social. Counter-intuitive, but there ya go.

6. Develop strategies for coping.
This, I can do. I have strategies. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years about how to cope. I just need to remember to use them.

7. Learn to forgive.
I’m really good at forgiveness except for forgiving myself. I have such high standards for myself, and I totally beat myself up when I don’t meet them. (See also: dance.) I need to work on forgiving myself.

8. Increase flow experiences.
Have you read Flow? It is an amazing book. My dance teacher asked me once to describe how it feels when I’m dancing and performing. I told him to read Flow. Dance performances, for me, are flow experiences. I need to learn how to make dancing anytime more like flow.

9. Savor life’s joys.
See optimism above.

10. Commit to your goals.
That would mean that I have defined (aka “smart”) goals. I should think about those. Figure out what they are…and how to get there.

11. Practice spirituality.
Well, I’ve been doing this lately since I joined a church. I really felt like a spiritual piece was missing in my life. So I’m happy to be in a church again.

12. Take care of your body.
OY. See also: do not emotionally eat a bunch of crap. I’ve been pretty good about the gym lately, so that’s good. I just need to watch the food thing.

Thanks, universe, for putting this in front of my face today. I needed it. No more cranky pants!

I’m cured

21 Sep

I saw my therapist recently. It’s been a while; between her schedule and mine, we’ve had difficulty finding a time to meet.

So when I saw her, I updated her on what had happened in my life. And it turns out, I was able to deal with a lot of the things that came up on my own without her guidance.

Case in point: Dance-O-Rama. Huge emotional tailspin after that event. But I was able to reach my own conclusion and pull myself out of it. (Which, by the way, was apparently a very large deal.)

Another case in point: One of the first things I went to her about was anxiety. And going outside my comfort zone. And recently I ran a 5K with obstacles without even talking to her about it until after the fact. I dealt with it on my own. I still have anxiety about going outside my comfort zone, but it is no longer a barrier to me doing things.

We were recalling all the issues I had brought in to her originally, and laughing about how far I’ve come.

Yes, I still have anxieties. Yes, I still have down days. But overall, I am much better able to deal with these things as they come up. I’ve learned. I got tools. I feel like I can take on anything in these areas.

I still have a few little issues I’ll keep seeing her for. And I’ll use her when big issues come up. But it was so nice to realize and hear how far I’ve come, and how good I am at dealing with things on my own.

I say I’m cured but in a humorous way. Personally I’m not sure anyone is really ever cured. You just learn to deal with your baggage so that it doesn’t really impact your life.

(That cracks me up.)

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