Live Free and Zumba

I am still beaming from a conference held earlier this week and it’s feeding my soul tonight as I sit here in New Hampshire.  Vermont Works for Women held it’s 12th annual Women Can Do! conference this Wednesday.  Over 300 young women from across Vermont came together for a day to explore careers that are not considered traditional for women.  To see a high school girl teaching how to use a chain saw…girls using plasma cutters…fixing bikes…changing tires…driving major machinery was such an amazing day.  The sentiment really permeated the air – girls and women really can do anything that they set their mind to.

Tonight, three of friends from Vermont have made the trek to Manchester, NH and will be joined by a fourth in the morning for Zumba instructor training.  Of the four of us, I’m the only one that has done one of the classes previously (Zumba Gold).  I’m just as nervous tonight as I was that night in June. 

The only difference – tonight I know it is just nerves.  In June it was a deep seated fear.  What if I’m not good enough?  You’ve already done it, chimes my brain.  But I can’t do the destroza like Lori.    And? 

I have to remember that this is just another step along the way.  It doesn’t mean I become a master in a day.  That I’m going to rush out and open a studio.  It’s another piece of becoming better at something I love and understanding it (and me) just that much more.

Tomorrow I take Zumba Basic I…and it will be another challenging day physically and emotionally.  But this time, I have something I didn’t in June.  A lot more pride and confidence, and friends who will be there with me.

We’ve Only Just Begun

*phew* It’s Monday night, and sounds football fill the room.  This means I made it through the weekend, and I lived to tell the tale.  Well…really more than just lived.  This weekend was filled with all sorts of excitement for me, and I think that I’ll be trying to let it all sink in for days!

ZUMBATHON For Spectrum Youth and FamiliesThe weekend started with a fundraiser for a local non-profit organization working with teens.  Before this day, I had only led one song in one class.  Sure I had helped on songs with people, but this was totally different.  Knocking knees and all.  This meant standing up.  On a stage.  In front of a group of people.  AND – trying to get them to do what I was doing.  I was nervous as heck.  My mind was pulling out every reason that someone could decide that I was not fit to be up there…I’m not a dancer…who the heck am I to try and choreograph something…  What WAS I thinking.

But, the first song of the event came and went.  I was dancing on the stage following behind someone else leading a routine.  The second third and fourth passed by.  Just before me, Lori kicked her routine out of the park.  It was great to see her smiling, having fun, and people following her cues. 

My music started and my heart briefly just stopped.  And then something happened.  My arms and legs took over and started moving.  “Hey you, you’ve only listened to this song 187 times in the past two weeks…you’ve been doing choreography in your car for just as long…GO!!!!” 

And I did it!  I did not get lost and had an absolute ball.  I could hear people from the classes I regularly take yelling and hooting and hollering along with me…I could see the two people who came from work out there boogying…and to my right I could see Lori and Jess dancing away and smiling. 

Somewhere out there my husband was taking photos…I saw the camera out there and for one of the few times in my life thought “YEAH, this is gonna be on film, wahoo!”

And hour and a half later, lots of dancing, and one shirt change…I was back at it again.  This time with a stronger routine, a tired but totally pumped audience, and a stage FULL of local ZUMBA instructors. 

I had three ladies up there that had learned the routine previously so we just went and knocked it out!  Thank you Jessica for joining me and being part of this journey.  Your grace and presence inspire me to keep putting myself out there…even if I’m not sure I can.

I felt strogner, prouder and just went out there and did the best darned routine I could.  People were singing along and having a ball.  More importantly, so was I.I was so excited and proud to have done it…and done it well.  Oh yeah – the Purple lady was awfully grateful to be able to say and believe, “I did good!”

We raised over $1700 dancing and shaking our tassels for Spectrum. 


So as if a 2 hour Zumbathon weren’t enough, the next morning, Lori and I hopped in the car and headed almost 4 hours south to Worcester, Massachussetts for a Super Duper Mega Monster Master class with Regina and Diane, two ZUMBA instructors who are amazing women.  They not only teach their own classes, but help teach others how to become better instructors.

When I had heard that Diane was going to be nearby (relatively!) I knew I had to go.  Reading her posts and writings on the Zumba discussion boards, I had gotten soooooo much from her.  My instructor, Allison, told me that I would just adore them both, but that I had to meet Diane. 

She was soooooo right!

I feel like I could try to write a book about what that day held for me.  I will leave it at – we were there in the front row representing Vermont, Allison, and I was flying the Prilosec Official flag on the car and sporting my tshirt with pride!

We did Zumba, we talked, we laughed.  OH HOW WE LAUGHED!  Diane floored me.  She had that room rapt.  From the quietest comments to the BOOMING BASS and “KEEP GOING!”  she had us working up a sweat and smiling and wanting more – all at the same time.  A hallmark of a great class!

Regina rocked it out and I found myself loving her variations on some of the pieces presented.  She just brought it to a level for the “regular folks”  – like me — who aren’t dancers, but want to have fun fun fun while sweating.  As the Zumba motto goes, “Ditch the workout, Join the party!”

Afterwards, we talked for a bit…I had my picture taken with her (I truly felt like I was hanging out with royalty!) and she made me promise to write and share more of my Zumba story and journey than I could then and there. 

As I waited for Lori to come back out from her shower after class, I sat there in the gym…watching people pack up from class and the tears were just rolling down my cheeks.  I just felt so proud and humble and most importantly grateful.  For the friendship with the women I work out with each week…the patience and support of my husband…

I’m not sure what’s next, but I know after this weekend… that even if it is only helping out with fundraisers and Zumbathons…there really is a place for me in the big ole Zumba Fitness family!

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

So this weekend is crazy, crazy fun – and packed with wall to wall excitement. 

Tomorrow morning, I will be leading two songs in the Zumbathon for a local now-profit working with area teens.  I’ve lead one song in a class with choreography I created, but never a group this size.  Tomorrow it’s two songs, both with my own choreo.  I have to keep reminding myself things like it’s dance FITNESS, not “So You Think You Can Dance”  that it’s okay to not be (Allison, Tori, Angel, Maribeth, Bridget, Shannon, Lori, Jess, Meesh or any other Zumba instructor), that  this is not about who’s best…but about doing my best.  Oh yeah – and breathe.  Remember to breathe.  Repeatedly. 

I’ve been working hard with some local folks on creating these two pieces, learning them and getting to where I think I can lead others.  I’m nervous as heck, excited, and in some ways, proud.  It’s been quite the journey to get here…and I know that there is much more ahead!

I think back to a couple of years ago when my husband and I were on a cruise and I made him go up to the salsa instructor as I was to ashamed to dance even in front of strangers…to when we had to drive to Montreal to go dancing cuz I didn’t want anyone I knew locally to see me dance.  Okay – I know that I am NOT Baryshnikov, Bill T. Jones, or even Susan O’kane….and that’s all right.

After the Zumbathon and a quick shower, it’s off to a wedding for photography.  Sunday?  It’s time to get up bright and early and travel south to Worcester, Mass.  Someone who teaches Zumba who I’ve never met, but would so consider a mentor on my journey is going to be teaching a class about 4 hours away.  I have to go take this class, meet her and thank her for the inspiration and knowledge I’ve gotten from her so far. 

It’s not often I am star-struck.  I’ve done rock and roll photography over the years and always have said, “They put on their pants the same way I do…” That’s why I have some awaming shots I’ve taken of performers…and none with me and them together.

And yet somehow, this is different.  While I enjoy the rock and roll – this woman is someone who totally inspires me (and many, many others….)…More over the weekend! 

Photos and video to follow!

Zumbathons and Demos

Lee and Staci 

This past weekend brought a series of fun-filled fundraising events for me.  First I went north to Saint Albans for a Zumbathon to raise funds for a student scholarship for a high schooler looking to enter the field of education and teaching.  The scholarship was created in memory of a local school teacher who was shot a few years ago.  Her family was all there, strutting their Zumba pride throughout the morning and finally to a Zorba number.  The event raised over $2600 for the scholarship. 

My Aunt Lee joined me there, her first experience with Zumba, and she seemed to have a ball!  It was great to see someone fall in love as I had with the music and the people there.

The next day there was a series of dragon boat races happening out on Lake Champlain where funds were going to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a camp for children diagnosed with cancer.  A couple of friends from a local Zumba fitness class were paddlers in a Dragonboat and had done some serious fundraising to be there.  I went with a band of students and our instructor, Allison, where we did a 15 minute demo for the athletes, their friends and family.


I love being able to give back to the community through this group – for all that Zumba has opened up for me.  It’s a chance to share the joy, passion and support I feel each time I go to class or get to help out with a song. 

And I’m Off!

Saturday July 31 was National Dance Day in the US, and I celebrated by kicking my day off with a rocking Zumba vlass with Allison.  Some friends are hosting a 2 hour Zumbathon for a local non-profit working with teens in the area in September, and were looking for instructors to pitch in and bring some songs and flavor, 

I thought that there was no better way to start on my journey.  I’ve been so daunted by creating that “FIRST” number.  I dove in and said, sure, sign me on for two!  Bridget, another local Zumba instructor also licenced in Zumba Gold said he’d help me get going and work on creating choreography. 

I’m really excited to start this and spent some time this weekend finding two songs that were just right.  Both are pieces that I love to do car-eography to and just make me feel good. 

That means I’ve got a month and a half to get it done.   Should be a blast!

Dancing Queen

So I’ll admit – i got that license and had a series of fear-filled moments.  Who am I to teach Zumba – I’m not a dance instructor…I’m certainly not the picture of perfect fitness.  And I let it derail me briefly.  Yup – you know that feeling I’m sure.  I let my fear stop me.  And with the stopping – all the old tapes in my head came roaring back.  “You’re not good enough.”  “You’re fat.”  “You can’t do THAT!”

Well – thank goodness for friends and family reminding me the sheer joy that Zumba has brought into my world.  I’ve started back to classes regularly.  I’m trying to step up (all puns intended there!) my game and work harder. 

I’ve started to work on learning choreography, not just dancing in class, but understanding the next step.  In a couple of weeks I am going to go watch a fellow instructor and friend who is also an instructor and her Zumba Gold class for a senior center. 

I think that is something I’d like to try to learn to do.  From what I have heard the joy of the classes faces is contagious and I would love to be able to give even an ounce of the joy and friendship I’ve gotten from this adventure so far. 

Meanwhile, I’m still rocking out in my classes as much as I can! 

Golden Girl!

So last weekend I travelled to Florida for my class in Zumba Gold!  I had travelled here because the instructor for the class came with great praise and recommendation from several I love and trust, and it was so worth the trip.

First off – I left Vermont in an unually cold snap.  I hopped on my plane and was clicking through some channels and got to see the new Zumba ad.  Some familiar faces in there now.  Some I hope to meet as I work on learning more and bettering my own fitness and learning how best to teach/motivate others.

I arrived in the Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport six hours later to  88 degree heat and 87% humidity!  Baby it’s was certainly NOT cold outside. 

I spent Friday afternoon enjoying the pool, cranking the AC in the room and having some fresh shrip and key lime.  Later I went across the beach and over to hang out by the ocean.  It was still hot and humid, but the breeze coming off the ocean felt great after a quick dip. 

Nerves were kicking in and the reality of it was sinking in like my feet on the beach.  I remembered the first classes I took hanging in the back corner hoping and praying that NO ONE would see me.  I was having some of those same fears here – would people jusge me based on my size or my heart?  I certainly don’t look the part of instructor.  But this is something that has changed me forever.  I’m happier, healthier, and loving life a whole lot more since starting.  Weight loss is great – but it’s almost a fringe benefit to some of the other things.

I made an early night of it, and set the alarm for bright and early.  Well – really, dark and early.  I wanted to see the sunrise on the ocean.   I knew that would be another way to calm myself, and remember the strength of support and self that I have. 

Saturday morning it was just me and the guy doing yoga on the beach as the sun rose.  It was quiet except the whoosh of the waves.  I thought about all the folks who had supported me along the way and the emails I’d gotten.

I’ll write more about the class soon -but I’ll just say for now – I have my license in hand and I am Zumba Gold eager.  I can’t wait to find ways to use it in the community.

I’m On My Way…I’m Making It!

Wow – a week from now, I will be inflight and bound for my Zumba Gold Instructor class!  I have a giant mix of excitement and nerves.  I love Zumba Fitness and all that it has given me over the past 6 months of working, working, working.  I can’t wait for this next step. 

I just got the overview of the training in my email this morning, and it seems even more real. 

I am so excited to learn about the actual core steps and science of Zumba, and about modifications from the high intensity workouts.  I’m still nervous about the whole process of certification – what if I am not good enough?  Please don’t judge me by my size – I’ve been at this solidly and really want it.  The people around me in class are so behind me it’s great.  I know that there are things I can do really well, and things that I still need to work on.  I’m not bound for Dancing with the Stars of So You Think You Can Dance anytime soon, but as my instructor reminded some of us looking towards training…It’s dance fitness, not just dance. 

I’m sure it will be phenomenal, and that I will do the very best I can.  I just have to remember to smile, take it all in, talk with people down there.  What totally makes the classes work for me here can happen there too – music, community, hard work, awesome people and a lot of fun!

Thanks Prilosec for helping me to take that next Samba step!

They like Me…They Really, Really Like Me!

It’s Official. Prilosec Official that is! I’m their Official Zumba Student for the next year and will be writing about the adventures of the oversized, undertall, madly in love with Zumba student I’ve become. Along the way, I’ll take you on my certification journey for Zumba Gold and weight loss.

Thank you Prilosec, Geoff G., Allison PD, Lori AP, and Susan P (and all you other folks of Zumba classes!) for all your support and votes of confidence.  I promise to make you proud and share the joys I’ve found in the past 5 months!

Me? Dancing? And I’m Not in Montreal?

What a weekend – a Zumbathon, dancing for the opening of lululemon athletica, the Green Mountain Derby Dames, a little Divalicious Dancing (crack out the boas and burlesque attitude!) and Pilates for dancers. It’s no wonder that I am a little sore at the moment.

It’s also been a weekend rampant with emotions. This week has brought waves of them.

It wasn’t so bad as all that – many and much has been for completely good reasons.

It started with a discussion where someone who I really respect and admire reminded me of things about myself that I had lost or given up on this fall. Over the past 7 months, they have slowly come back. Was it the therapy? The Zumba? Geoff? The new job? Who knows, perhaps it was the perfect storm. Or the Universe cutting me a break. Whatever it was, I was reminded how resilient and creative I can be. That was a good reminder. It was the comment, however, where she called me a dancer where it took a while to sink in and some convincing.

Dancer? Me? Not on your life. After the discussion of how much time and effort goes into my Zumba, how much focus it has brought to my world, and more importantly – the side benefits. Yeah, the weight loss is great. But it’s almost secondary to the joy and excitement and the friendships that have come from it. If I can put aside all the things about perfect techniques and images of thin ballerinas, people on So You Think You Can Dance and just roll with it, she’s right. Writers don’t necessarily have novels. Dancers need not be accepted into Julliard!

I had a ball at the Zumbathon – even with the crunch of people. I had that hip scarf out and was shaking what my momma gave me (a big butt!). I was smiling, sweating and having fun.

Surprisingly, what was more fun? Going down the street and dancing with the lululemon gals. Allison’s groupies went down the street and did about 4 numbers to celebrate thei opening of the new store. On the way there, someone said something that a few months ago would have devastated me. Would have made me stop the thought that I deserved to be out there with these women dancing away. But, it’s a new day, and a new dawn – and a rediscovered new Stace. I was out on Church Street in full daylight dancing!

That may not sound like a lot, but a year ago – when Geoff did want to go dancing, I made him take me to Montreal to some little tiny club so that we could avoid being seen by anyone who might notice me. Then, at best, he might have gotten me to dance for 4 numbers or so before I sat down and watched him go off and shimmy shake.

I didn’t think I could feel more alive or hopeful than that for the weekend. It was a rush and I’m glad I did it. I still cringe at the sight of me on that video, but hey – I was there and doing what I love.

The best – the Pilates for Dancers class with Stephanie Justine. Now mind you, it was after all that yesterday and an hour of Strip Hop on Sunday. I was sore, tired and still beaming with a smile. But that class totally blindsided me. Yes, there were so many places I was frustrated with myself because I couldn’t do something just the way it was described because of my size. Yes, I felt extremely self-conscious lying there on my back stretching. I felt at times more like a beached whale than graceful mermaid tail! I’m not sure where or how though – someplace between the music, Stephanie’s voice and the endorphins, I slipped into a trancelike state that I haven’t experienced in many many years. I felt like I was on the mountain top at witch camp in a ritual.

Emotions flew through me – shame at the size I am mixed with the hope of the work I’m doing to change that. Frustration that I couldn’t do “it” whatever it was, paired with the realization that there are many who weren’t ever even going to try. There was something happening that just made me feel even more deeply connected to ME than I had been in some time. And it was liberating.

I cannot say this enough, but thank you to all of you who are really making these challenging exercises and workouts something that I not only want to try, but really MISS when I can’t go. You have all changed my world, my me. I hope one day I can help someone the way you all have for me.

To the Zumba and S-Hop family from me, peace love and a ton of shimmey!