Tag Archives: happy

Weekend of firsts

15 Sep

There were a lot of firsts this weekend.

I went to the north shore to see my friend JB and her husband. That was a first – I hadn’t been to visit them before. JB and I were friends in college – well, we knew each other in college. I don’t think we were close at all. But Facebook has changed that in recent years. We talk fairly often and she invited me up. And the north shore is always fun, so I figured why not.

I think the last time I was on the north shore was at least 10 years ago. I think the last time was when my ex-husband and I were up there probably in 2005? Or before? Craziness. It’s so beautiful there with fun things to do. Why has it been so long?

Anyway, I drove up Friday night after work. Last week at work was a crazy week. Between my regular job and my part-time job, I worked about 55 hours and didn’t get home before 8:00 any night. Needless to say, I was tired. But I knew we’d have a short weekend, so I figured how bad could it be?

Bad, but not as bad as it could have been. I was so tired. Just before I got to Duluth, I was focusing on how much I needed to focus on driving. Past Duluth, it’s a two lane state highway with zero lights. That was fun. Especially when the car in front of me turned off the road. So I had no one in front of me to be a guide. But I made it safe and sound and without accidents. Whew. But, another first…driving up there alone.

Saturday we went to Split Rock Lighthouse. Another first. I had never been there. And it’s kinda considered one of the top ten landmarks in the state to visit. So we toured the lighthouse – which involved for me a small panic attack about climbing into the actual lighthouse. It’s a spiral staircase. Open heights bother me – the sheer drop on one side makes me dizzy. But I couldn’t go down because there were people behind us. So I continued up. In the lighthouse, I was a bit dizzy but not too bad. My legs though hurt – I think all the muscles tensed up during the panic attack. And then we had to climb down. JB was awesome and supportive. I went slow and tried not to look down the left side.

Then we hiked. Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever been on a hike. I mean, I’ve been outdoors. But not walking and climbing on trails. There are 12 miles of trails at Split Rock; I have no idea how far we went. But you can see the lighthouse here:

002

And we kept going after that and looped around back to the lighthouse.

Then we went back to JB’s house and canned. I’ve never canned before but have wanted to learn. So I was excited to learn! They canned a ton of crap every year – spaghetti sauce, salsa, pizza sauce, roasted tomatoes. I helped (kinda) with salsa and spaghetti sauce. And I feel like I learned enough to be able to try it on my own! Think of the money I could save – once I make the investment in equipment that is. Bonus: they sent me home with some salsa, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce. Score!

Sunday we went to Tettegouche state park and did a short hike. Another first – I don’t think I’ve been to Tettegouche before. Stunning views of course:

004

Lake Superior is so breathtaking. And awesome in the awe-inspiring sort of way. Those of you who live on or near oceans know this far better than I do. But Lake Superior is just to big, so majestic, so POWERFUL. I don’t think I could ever go on that lake. Especially after you hear about the shipwrecks.

Then sadly, I had to leave. Drove home by myself. I stopped at Betty’s Pies – another first! I have never eaten there. But I’ve heard so much about it that I had to stop. And the pies? Well worth the hype and then some! I got blueberry and Great Lake Crunch. I didn’t keep all of them though even though I wanted to. But they’re so good!! (OMG I just found out you can buy them online!)

So it was a great weekend. And I could feel myself relaxing the whole time. The tension in my shoulders and my headaches went away. Ahhhhhh. Of course, now they’re back. Boo.

I’m looking forward to going up there again soon – JB said she’d teach me to snowshoe!

Grateful for the weekend

7 Sep

*I had a migraine Friday night. (This is not what I’m grateful for.) Luckily I can catch them before they develop into a full-blown headache. But it still makes me want to lie on the couch in a dark room. But I’m grateful that I can take OTC medication for it and that I don’t get the full headaches anymore. (Please don’t let me have jinxed it.)

*I’m grateful to have a boss at my part-time job who understands health issues like that and allows me to reschedule my work. Thanks, WH!

*I’m grateful for friends who have coffee birthday gatherings and invite me. And let me bring a friend to crash it. It was so fun to meet everyone else and catch up for a bit. Thanks, JK!

*I’m grateful for having a friend like SP who is willing to go to the Renaissance Festival with me. And who laughs at the all the people with me. We always have a great time. Thanks, SP!

*I’m grateful for finding my friend ML at the festival who worked out there when I did 20 years ago and who still does. I haven’t seen him in probably 18 years. We lost touch and then he found me on Facebook. But it was so awesome to see him in person. And get the giant bear hugs from him again. He was the kindest person when I worked out there – always very welcoming. I have a soft spot for him (along with the other guys I knew out there: EC & MC). Thanks, ML!

*I’m grateful I was able to focus today and get a lot done. While not watching TV. It feels good to have accomplished so much! Thanks, brain!

For giggles…here’s me and MC while on duty…in 1996. How was that 18 years ago?!?

renfest

Four days of positives

26 Aug

*TWO DANCE LESSONS!

*Last therapy appointment for a while.

*Another episode of “Outlander“.

*The State Fair with SP. Followed by a salad in air conditioning.

*Vacation day yesterday.

*Sick day today. Not a positive, but thank god for sick time.

*Chiropractors. I am now a believer.

*Fresh blueberries.

*National Dog Day. Which makes me miss my wondermutt.

First day we got Charlie

Three things

22 Aug

*I finished a big project at work today. Nice to be able to check that one off my list.

*I stayed late at my part-time job to get ahead on some stuff. That means I’ll have more hours in my check, and therefore more money!

*I made great plans for this weekend to spend time with friends and my brother – plus my boss is making me take Monday off. Three-day weekend!

*I have central air conditioning. That is really the number one thing I’m thankful for today!

This is pretty much me on days like today:

air conditioning

 

Three things

21 Aug
  • I went to the coffee shop in the basement of my building at work this afternoon, and I realized my punch card was full. Free mocha for me!
  • I got some great news at work that made me really happy. I can’t share details yet, but I’m so excited.
  • My friend CS and I went to a coffee shop this evening, and she unexpectedly offered to buy.
  • A friend of mine at work sent me a T-Rex short-arms sign. Yep, those jokes still make me laugh.

t rex water cooler

Three things

19 Aug

After a tough day yesterday…

  • I got a massage today for the first time in 5 or 6 years
  • The cold brew coffee I made tasted so good!
  • I had a super productive day at work, and I have no meetings the rest of the week.

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

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.

Relaxing is hard

11 Feb

I took yesterday and today off as vacation days. And they’re really hard days.

I have a hard time relaxing. I always feel like I should be doing something. The idea of just sitting and reading, or watching a movie, or just knitting is very hard for me to grasp.

relaxing
I can’t do this.

You see, before I started dancing, my life WAS just sitting around on my ass not doing anything. I’m much happier now as an active person. And my life now is super busy with work, the part-time job, and dancing. So I don’t get a ton of time to just relax. So when I do get more than a half hour, I’m not sure what to do.

For me, I feel incredibly guilty if I just watch movies or read all day. At the end of the day, I have horrible guilt that I should have done more that day.

But I desperately need these two days. I’m tired from having a crazy January with lots of overtime and dance camp. My boss even noticed that I seemed a little run down and encouraged me to take both days. He knows that I only take time after dance events or if I’m going somewhere. I don’t take time off just to be at home often.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about this issue. I mean, I really should be able to just have a day or a half day of nothing. So for me, it’s finding the balance between getting stuff done and just hanging out.

So yesterday, I went to the gym. Then I read for a while, then I watched movies while knitting. (Thank god for knitting…it really makes me feel like I’m not wasting time.) And by the way – did you know the Ken Burns documentaries are streaming on Netflix now??? I cleaned out some files. I went to dinner with a friend and went to the group class at the studio. All in all, not a bad day. Still felt a little guilty though.

Today, I made brownies and watched a movie. I’m not sure what to do this afternoon. I’d like to go to the gym, but it’s so cold. (One below with a wind chill of 18 below.) I could read more. I could do my taxes – not exactly a day off activity but still needs to be done. I could watch more movies while knitting.

I’m really struggling with what to do with my day that will be relaxing and yet not make me feel like a slug that’s wasted a bunch of time.  I know, first world problem, right? It’s so hard to be me – what to do with all my free time today?

Dance camp

27 Jan

Last week, I went to camp. Dance camp, that is.

Twice a year, our studio hosts dance camp. You can participate at either the two lesson a day level or the three lesson a day level, and you usually have an exchange lesson (a lesson with a teacher other than yours) each day as one of the lessons. The lessons generally are earlier than the studio usually opens. They also have one group class each day just for the dance camp participants. The nice thing about dance camp is by doing so many lessons so close together, you can really make some great progress on your dancing.

I decided to do the three lesson a day level. Figuring it would be a bit exhausting perhaps, I had taken the whole week off work. I have the vacation time, and it’s a good excuse to use it. Plus, I figured it’d be tough to dance then work each day. Unfortunately, work turned out to be way more busy than either I or my boss had expected. So I did have to work, but luckily I got to do it from home except of a few meetings I had to go in for.

So there were two objectives for me for dance camp. (Apparently. You all know that I think my teacher is the expert so I leave those types of decisions to him.) One was using your sides. We worked a lot on stretching your side in smooth dancing and using it to provide momentum down the floor. It was a lot about contrabody movement and pointing your ribcage down the floor. We worked on this I think a little bit each day, primarily using waltz as the vehicle to practice the technique. We also worked on getting your side (bottom rib, really) over your foot in Cuban motion in the rhythm dances. Which pushed my Cuban motion even further than I had been doing it. Which, duh, was kinda the point – taking Cuban motion to the next level. It also applies to swing a bit especially in turns. Get on the foot, get your side over the foot, then turn. (I have trouble with the “then turn”. I tend to turn early.) We had been working since Showcase in November on the swing open. Right after Showcase, my teacher decided that it was the perfect time to take swing apart and really work on the technique. So between that and the work we did during dance camp, I no longer consider swing the bane of my existence! It feels sooo much better. Not awkward. Easier, more controlled. Waiting to turn. More swing-like.

The other objective was learning a chunk of choreography for the Lindy hop routine I’m doing at Showcase in June. Choreography is a great thing to do during dance camp, because you’re going back to it every day. It gets solidified in your brain more quickly. And I’m super excited about this routine – I’m doing it for my dad. He loves to see me dance, he loves to see my teacher dance, and Lindy hop is from his era of high school and college. And my teacher has accepted the challenge and is making this a pretty advanced Lindy hop routine. So advanced, that there’s one step I can’t do yet! I don’t know the name of it, or if it’s even a real step. But basically, we’re in side-by-side position, and we do a grapevine. But in the grapevine, we’re on our heels on the front feet and our toes on the back feet. Basically we twist our centers to get the movement. I can do it without my shoes; I think there’s something psychological about putting all of my weight on one heel of my shoe even for a split second. But I’m practicing it, and if I can get it (which I think I will), it will look so cool!

The group classes were fantastic. I had to miss two of them – schedule-wise, I had lessons during the group class time on two days. But on Monday, my teacher did one on turns – smooth and rhythm. The smooth turns are harder for me because I haven’t worked on technique on those as much as rhythm turns. Plus, everyone else in the class is more advanced than me, which can be difficult for my brain. Wednesday, Abby did one on rhythm arm styling. That was awesome and so helpful. Oh, I had to miss Thursday’s class because I had to call in to work and talk to my boss. So I guess I only did two of them.

I had exchanges lessons, too. One with Abby on getting your side over your foot in Cuban motion. I like her. She’s a lot of fun and a really good teacher. The other two exchanges I had were with David; we’ll be dancing rumba at Super Saturday in a few weeks so it was a chance to work on that with him. They were great lessons. It’s never the same as working with my teacher, plus I find David harder to follow in rhythm than smooth. But it’s always great to hear things in a different way.

So the big question I’m sure you all have is how did my brain handle so much information in one week?

Well, Monday morning, I showed up for my first dance camp lesson. So first thing on my first lesson, my teacher starts with the really deep technique about using your sides for smooth dancing and makes me try some things on my own.

Damn. I forgot about that part of dance camp.

I absolutely hate trying things on my own. It is extremely uncomfortable for me. And it’s worse if other people are in the ballroom which luckily there weren’t. And my teacher knows all that, so I know when he asks me to do so, it’s for a very valid reason and is a necessity. But when he asks, my brain just gets muddled. It’s pretty much a direct and Concorde-speed route to the thinky place.

But…luckily I’ve gotten much better about the thinky place. I think I have a good self-talk script now. I don’t go there often anymore, and when I do, it’s usually for just a brief second. This one took about 5 minutes to start to pull myself out of. But eventually I did. I did a good job of staying out of the thinky place the rest of the week.

I woke up on Tuesday with my inner thighs hurting a bit from working on waltz. But they quickly adapted and weren’t sore the rest of the week. That was pretty much the only physical issue I had, other than my muscles just being used a lot more than they are in a normal week. But my poor brain was a mess. I did end up having to work about 20 hours, so I was constantly switching gears between work and dance. I don’t do that well, especially when both were demanding so much of my brain power. I was pretty mentally exhausted by the end of the week.

So for my last lesson that week, we just did run-throughs. In order of the nine dances, closed then open. (So waltz, tango, foxtrot, Viennese waltz, cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero, mambo. Except we ran out of time for bolero and mambo.) I think it was my teacher’s way of showing what progress had been made during the week. Plus it’s just a nice way to end dance camp.

We started dancing and I noticed it’s easier. Lighter, in a good way. A bit more powerful in my legs. We danced waltz, tango, and foxtrot, and they all felt good. Then we got to Viennese waltz. We danced it closed, and then my teacher went to change the music. Then he looked at me.

My teacher: Cathy, are you OK?
Me: Yes.
My teacher: You sure?
Me: Yes, why?
My teacher: You look like you’re about to cry.
Me: I am. (as I’m tearing up)
My teacher: Why? What’s wrong? (in a very concerned tone, probably thinking oh crap now what?)
Me: That just feels so different. So light, so easy. So very different. So much better. (I’m crying at this point)
My teacher: Yay! Happy breakdowns! (as he gives me a hug)

God knows he’s had to deal with more than his share of negative breakdowns, so this was a nice change for him.

But the point is, I made so much progress last week that even I could notice it. I felt after that like I do after a performance – I know I’m a good dancer, and I want to just learn it all now.

When I did dance camp last, I think I had just started bronze II. And it was a great experience. But to do it as a bronze IV student – so amazing. I can’t wait to do it next January – I’m going to try to keep doing it every January. Because it was a great experience, and I love how I feel about my dancing right now.

(In case you’re curious…I danced 12.75 hours during dance camp: 1.5 hours in group classes, 9 hours in lessons with my teacher, 1.5 hours in lesson with other teachers. And that doesn’t include the regular evening dancing I usually do which was another 3.75 hours I think. Grand total = 16.5 hours of dancing. Yes, I’m a numbers person.)

WHAT A GREAT WEEK!!!

%d bloggers like this: