Call Me By My Name(s)

Last fall I worked on an invocation to call me back to strength and wholeness for those times I didn’t feel either. I decided to use the names I’ve acquired along the way.

  • I got to choose my middle name for my 16th birthday… KaeLeigh
  • When I was confirmed in the Catholic Church in college, I chose a Native American saint – Kateri Tekakwitha.
  • When I joined The pagan community, I chose Sulis.

Here is my invocation of self.

I call upon you StaciAnne.
You, child of the universe. First among names. I call upon you StaciAnne, curious, wonder-filled. I call upon your family, your lineage, your wisdom, your insatiable thirst for knowledge. I call upon your innate need for survival, your defenses, your ability to grow and change.

I call upon you KaeLeigh.
Vibrant teenager, friend, broken-hearted child. I call upon your musicality, your stories, your colorful personas. I call upon your loneliness and your intimacies, your deep abiding friendships in the face of dysfunctional relationships, your ability to retain hope while devastated and broken. I call to you from deep with in the shadows of the cave where the spiders wander aimlessly.

I call upon you Kateri Tekakwitha.
Scarred. Alone with no family. I call upon your connection to earth, to your fierce independence to follow the faith of your choosing, not of your family. I call upon your dedication to the turtle and the tree upon her back.

I call upon you Sulis.
 The seer of things. Not the visionary, but the visioner. I call upon you Sulis, whose name means “eye.” I call upon you who see the deeper, more universal connections. I call upon you Sulis, fiery one, the sunlight in the water. Healer.

I call upon you Grove.
Like a bunch of trees. I call upon you, ideas and creations rustling in the wind, laden  with the fruits of your labor. I call upon you to stand together with others in majesty, in strength, in pride.

I call upon you self. In all my parts – at once brazen and timid, communicator and mute, strong in the broken places, made beautiful by scars. You, beloved self, are deserving of love, patience, and persistence. You are worthy of truth. You are worthy of desire. You are changing and transforming again, and I am here for you.


Artist’s Way Affirmations

I am a storycatcher.

I must start with my own stories and dreams before I can understand others’ stories.  My safety mechanisms have brought me to this point.  It is time for me to celebrate the person, creator, and healer within. There is inherent value in my story.  Even if it is finding and walking my own lost path. Sometimes the journey is the goal.  Create.  Breathe. Expand outward.  Connect.

Exploring all parts of who I am and who I was will allow me to best create who I want to be.    I am learning to love the woman I am becoming.  I am surrounded by people who love me for who I am – not what I do.  These are people I respect and love for who they are, not what they do.  Let that connection fill me and inform me.

I’ve been hurt and overcome extraordinary things.  Talking about them may hurt some temporarily, but will be freeing to me.  My life story is one worth sharing.  Personally and through words and images.  My work and art are a reflection of who I am, not who I am.  Liking my work does not make you a friend, and liking me does not mean you have to love my art. Through my story, movement, imagery and words, I am capable of connecting, inspiring, and helping create hope.

I am a resilient, strong woman.

This is the story so far……

Without dreams of hope and pride a man will die
Though his flesh still moves his heart sleeps in the grave
Without land man never dreams cause he’s not free
All men need a place to live with dignity.
Give me love and understanding, I will thrive.

I start with this lyric from Chuck Mangione’s the Children of Sanchez as it is a song I first heard when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  Thirty five years later, it is one of the 400 or so songs on my iPhone that is there because of how it affects me.

My spiritual path is both complex and strikingly simple.  My religious beliefs fall outside the major religions. But, at my core, I am a deeply spiritual person and find my life guided by a strong belief in a god and goddess far greater than I am. As such, I find my life influenced by Jesus as it is also influenced by Buddha, Rumi and Seth Godin. At the core of my being are six key traits – skill, spark, savvy, story, strength and spirit.

I was raised in a Dutch Reformed Christian Church until I was 11, when we moved to Vermont and joined the First Congregational Church in Essex.  Before we moved to Vermont, my mother worked for a Jewish Community Center in New York, so I attended Jewish day camp every summer.  While I was in high school, I had my father take me from Essex to Barnet every day over the course of three days so that I could attend the funeral services for Rinpoche Chogyam Trungpa.  In college, I was a member of both Campus Crusade for Christ and the Catholic Newman Club.  Wherever I have been active, it has always been the story and the song that drew me there.

My faith and my spirit are not attached to a particular church or religion, but to a deep calling to respect others, respect myself, and to give as I have been given to.  It has not been a journey without struggles.  Depression.  The unexpected death of my father.  The equally unexpected death of my mother two weeks later.  Without faith and hope and belief in greater good, I would not be here today to write these words.

Today, what moves me is inspiration and hope.  Through the eyes of the women I have taught Zumba® Fitness classes to struggling with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, but still there and smiling.  Seeing something larger than me, larger than each person making larger goals attainable.  Taking part in martial arts classes where there is a physical aspect for sure, but a spiritual, philosophical and ritual underpinning that feed and nourish me.  Sharing the photos that I take as a way to reflect the joy, spirit, hope and love that I see and feel in the world.

I do not attend a church or a synagogue.  I have no single spiritual guru or guide.  What I do have is a deep commitment to living a conscious life, to giving to others to the best of my ability, to sharing in truth and authentic connections.  To reflect the spirit that so inspires me – in movement, in song, in words, and in images.

I know this world has beaten you to the bone.
You wanna strike out at the world for dragging you down.
But listen to what I am saying –
The first thing you should know is that you’re not alone.
Somebody’s holding you.
Somebody’s holding your hand;
Somebody’s holding your heart.
(Suzanne Sterling, The River)

My belief is that the world has a place for each of us and all that we have to give. To work on myself – with all my joys, passions and sorrows – and share all that I have to offer is all that I can do each day, and hope that in that Spirit shines through.

Break the Chains?

So many things in my life seem to have come together in a transformational conflagration. All coming together to shine a bright, unyielding, demanding light on my life.

This morning I had what may prove to be an extremely journey changing discussion with my therapist. Hard as hell on a personal and spiritual level. To see the same issue spanning high school, college, work, relationships, my marriage…

I saw things in a new light… And now, hours later, am still feeling them.

I need to learn the following, and more than learn… Believe.

  • It’s okay to say no.
  • That for all the world, in many ways I do feel I am what I do, not who I am. I need to switch that.
  • That I have learned far too well how to turn the pain off… And experience it later, at a time of my choosing.
  • that despite all the things people tell me I do well, or where they say I’ve inspired them – I find I dismiss or turn them off.
  • Building confidence, teaching skills and changing lives…

    About 5 years ago, Tiffany Bluemle and Vermont Works for Women entered my world. I was part of a small group that was partnered with VWW for a 6 month Leadership Project.

    I was an administrative assistant taking part in a community leadership program, hell bent on never hearing that I had no leadership skills in an interview ever again.

    I fell in love with the VWW organization and their vision. I even swore that one day I would work there.

    We finished the project… And passed of our research, marketing ideas, etc. Time passed. As I prepared to leave a job I’d been in for almost 10 years, it was Tiff I was talking to. I needed out of the job I was in. But in talking with her, I knew I was doing the right thing.

    I moved on to another job, but stayed in touch occasionally. By now I had joined the TB admiration society.

    After about a year and a half at the new job things fell apart. Horrifically. I was depressed. Angry. Suicidal. things at home were chaos. A longtime friend had moved in with us on his return from serving in Iraq. I was a wreck, and there was absolutely no stability in my world.

    I quit my job. Left with my head low, my spirits lower, and no clue what was next. It took about 3 weeks to work up the nerve to call Tiff. We’d do lunch.

    At that point, I was in a total free fall. But just sitting there and listening over Ginger Iced Tea… I felt a little more alive. Still broken and not sure what was next, but certain that there WAS a next.

    About a month later, she called. Their Development Director was leaving, could I temp for about 6 weeks? Hell yeah!

    It’s now two years later, and while there have been days that I’ve left sad angry or drained…. They are days, not months on end. I find myself with each passing day loving the women I work with, their faith – in me, in the participants, in the greater community, their vision.

    I feel like a walking testimonial to those very words we chose to describe what we do: building confidence, teaching skills, changing lives.

    VWW, and more specifically, Tiff have really transformed my world – there is more joy, more laughter and more belief in hope.

    I find myself believing in myself more. In little steps, rediscovering my physical voice. Testing edges and trying again to find my role in this collective of fiercely compassionate women. Wanting to learn the edges and boundaries. Wanting to work on speaking…and being not just heard but understood. Right now… I am my biggest stumbling block, but I feel ready to take it one. I know that there is support and respect and they are genuine.

    At the end of the day, I realize how comfortable I am. I have a job doing what I love, with people I deeply respect and admire. And I am scared shitless about messing it up… I stand on the edge, and know that I have wings, that I have the will to fly…. If I just have faith.

    Tomorrow’s the first in a string of BIG days

    So tomorrow is it – the first time I teach a Zumba Gold ® class on my own.  I’ve done a sone here, and a song there, and been working long and hard on this.  The journey has not been without its share of potholes along the way. 

    I’m certain that there will be great joys and great moments of OOOOOPS that happen tomorrow along the way – but it will be a day surrounded by friends and family in one 45 minute class. 

    As of tonight – there is one song that just has my brain cramped but by tomorrow it will either be learned – or ad libbed!

    Getting My Zumba® Gold Class and Journey Going

    It’s been a long, cold winter here in Vermont – and it’s not over yet.  But things are definitely heating up in my world.  I’ve been renting space in a local studio to practice routines and choreography for my Zumba® Gold Class that will be starting in late March. 

    It’s feeling more real with each passing day.  A couple of weeks ago I went through the training to volunteer inside the Correctional Facility.  I’ve ordered my sound system and an iPod Nano (can’t take iPhones inside!).  I’ve been working on my music, my cuing and most importantly – my nerves. 

    I’ve got a set of music I love.  I hope that the women in the facility feel the same way.  It’s all fun, sassy, lively music.  I’ve got choreography/routines created for all except the cool down song.  While I know what I want for the cool down – I haven’t yet found the “one hot step” for it.  I know it will come.  It always does if the music is right!

    At the same time, one of the other local instructors and a truly good friend, Lori Preiss and I are working on bringing a Zumba Jammer to Vermont for a weekend of master classes for students and Zumba instructors.  Lori’s been a day to day personal inspiration and cheerleader to me and I can think of no one else that I would rather be working on this project with.

    This fall we travelled to take a class with Diane Felkenes in Massachussetts and came back with an amazing wealth of information, lots of laughs and a few sore muscles.  We talked length of the whole ride back…”We’ve got to get her to VERMONT!”  And so, with the support of OUR own instructor Allison Dincecco (who also is a Zumba Jammer), we’ve taken the initiative to bring her here. 

    The capstone of the weekend?  The FIRST EVER Zumba Gold® Master Class.  Zumba Gold targets the largest growing segment of the population: baby boomers. It takes modifies the moves and pacing to suit the needs of the active older participant, as well as those just starting their journey to a fit and healthy lifestyle. What stays the same are all the elements the Zumba Fitness-Party is known for: the zesty Latin music, like salsa, merengue, cumbia and reggaeton; the exhilarating, easy-to-follow moves; and the invigorating, party-like atmosphere.

    Diane has said, “My most current passion is to create Zumba programs for rehabilitation facilities and retirement homes for both staff and residents. I believe that the Zumba program is the perfect solution to the challenges of living under inactive conditions and I am happy to share my ideas with everyone!”

    We’re excited to learn and laugh and sweat a lot with Diane!

    Starting the next steps of the ZUMBA Fitness Journey!

    So…about a year ago this time, I was quaking in my winter boots and preparing to celebrate my 40th birthday.  Not with friends or family, but mostly – with a jam packed weekend for of fitness nuts at the local spa.  3 days of Zumba.  What WAS I thinking?  I couldn’t even make it through an hour long class!  A two hour master class?  Strip Hop?  Aqua Zumba?  Was I nuts?

    Fast forward a few months – and I’ve fallen madly in love with the people in classes, made new friends, and want to learn the modifications and underpinnings of Zumba.  Thanks to Prilosec’s Official Sponsor of Everything You Want to Be grants, I got licensed in Zumba Gold.

    I started learning what goes into a good routine…a good class…a good instructor.  It’s not just about dance, it’s not just about fitness.  There are so many more aspects to being a GOOD Zumba instructor.

    I’ve created a few routines of my own, and brought them to local Zumbathons raising money for various non-profits. 

    And I want to keep challenging myself to grow and learn and teach in this.  Not necessarily as a premanent instructor in a gym, tho.  Maybe subbing for someone on vacation…maybe just songs here and there in a class.  I’ve just completed my background check information and will actually start some classes locally, hopefully this spring.  I need to do additional training to work in the facility, need to do my first aid and CPR…and most importantly, need to work on creating that first set list and getting it down. 

    The nerves are kicking in and I’m really excited about trying this.  I’m crossing my work and personal worlds.  In my day-to-day life, I work for Vermont Works for Women, who offer programming inside the Northwest State Correctional Facility.  By night I am a crazy ZUMBA Fitness fanatic. 

    This is my chance to pay the Prilosec grant forward. I think it could be great for me, and for the women I’d be working with.  I want to do it well, I want to be able to hold my head high and know that I’ve made me and all the others along the road with me proud. 

    The hardest part will not be the choreography, nor learning the music.  I know my challenges – my body and my mind.  Need to work on bringing the best me I can.  To acknowledge the voice in my head that still says, “You’re fat – you can’t do this” and tell it basically – STFU and watch me.  To bring not my size by my joy to the room.  To bring my fear, but more importantly, my heart to the table and DANCE like no one is watching. 

    Here’s to the next year and the continuing journey ahead.

    Give Love

    It’s nearing Christmas, and I’m thankful for so many things in the past year…but most importantly, the face that I really have come to a space that is happier and healthier. 

    “What we give is what we get…” sings MC Yogi in his song Give Love.  He’s not talking about the presents under the tree, swapped around a menorah or while celebrating other significant events.  He’s talking about love and giving it away.

    I consider myself extremely fortunate to have the love and support of my friends and family in both my work and personal life. 

    About a year ago, I started working as a temp at Vermont Works for Women.  I’m proud to say that I am now there permanently.  We’re a small, passionate, and I have heard many staff call ourselves “scrappy” organization dedicated to helping women and girls really understand that anything is possible.  They’ve helped me personally and I cannot measure the pride that working here gives me.

    During the course of the year, I got a grant from Prilosec to become their Official Zumba Student.  They’ve helped with funding for licensure and training, and with their support I am now licensed to teach ZUMBA and ZUMBA Gold. 

    I’m taking the passion for ZUMBA and going to cross it with my love for the work our staff do to help women believe and going to do classes for some of the women we work with.  Who would have thought that this oversized, undertall, used-to-have-to-go-to-Montreal-to-dance soul would ever come to LOVE doing something like this so much that I would be teaching a dance fitness class?? 

    I have been given hope and wings by all the folks who have believed in me this year – and I thank you all.

    Pay It Forward with Prilosec

    A little less than a week ago I got to be a part of a very special Zumba event.  Allison, one of the local Zumba Fitness instructors had put together a “Party In Pink” to raise funds for the Susan B. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  It was a great night with more than 80 people grooving out to help wipe out breast cancer.

    It was a special night in many ways.  #1 – we were all dancing for a GREAT cause.  Breast cancer has touched sooo many people’s lives.  Mine too.  Me, I had brought along Sue, my Best Woman from our wedding and herself a survivor.  We danced and danced and got a little funky in honor of the survivors in our lives and in memory of those who were not there to party with us.

    I thought of the various women I knew who had fought and won…Sue… Evergreen… Selchie…  And I thought about Midge who passed away this summer.  I’m glad that Zumba has taken this on as something that they would like to make a difference in. 

    I’m glad to be able to take my passion and use it for something like this as often as I can.