Monday, March 28, 2016

How to Survive Zumba License Class

Have you ever had little happy accidents happen slowly over time and then suddenly it's a year later and you look back and say to yourself, "How the hell am I now a licensed Zumba instructor?!"

No? Just me? Ok, let me tell you a story.

About a year ago, I got up the courage to start taking free Zumba classes that were offered by the campus I work on. I instantly fell in love with the class and it became part of my weekly routine.

After about six months of consistently attending Zumba twice a week, I was getting pretty good. I was making friends and having fun and getting better. At this time, the guy who organizes all the exercise classes for the campus came to me with an idea. Would I ever consider becoming Zumba certified so I could substitute teach my class? The campus would pay for my license classes and I would be an official Zumba instructor.

And because I am a crazy person, I said yes almost instantaneously.

Now, if you don't know me in real life, you would not look at me and go, 'Oh hey. She looks like a Zumba instructor." I can be clumsy and spazzy and not-at-all graceful. So why would I think I could be a Zumba instructor? Because why the hell not? What's the worst that could happen?

And then the coordinator came back to me and told me there was a license class in four weeks. Four weeks is absolutely no time what so ever when you're facing an eight hour Zumba license class. I was in nowhere near good enough shape to survive an eight hour class.

So I dropped the hammer. I got a temporary gym membership. I started running again. I checked out zumba DVDs from the library. I pushed myself. And when the time came to sign up for the class, I chickened out. Even after all my work, I didn't feel ready. I didn't feel like I was 'good enough' to be a Zumba instructor.

The coordinator was really supportive about it and we committed to talking about it again in the spring. I told myself that I would keep my training up and by that time, I knew I would be ready.

But Thanksgiving happened and the holidays happened and when he brought the class back up in late January, I was probably in worse shape, not better. I wasn't in a better place about it and while I wanted to be a Zumba instructor, I didn't know if I could do it.

The difference this time turned out to be my Zumba instructor. Before, I didn't know what the license class was. All I knew was that it was an eight hour class to license you. It sounded absolutely terrifying. However, after a long talk with my instructor, it turns out that I way overbuilt it in my head. I was stressing myself out over nothing.

With a new sense of clarity, I signed up and I did it. I am now a licensed Zumba instructor. It wasn't anything like I originally thought it would be.And because I originally had no idea what to expect, I thought I would outline my experience to calm the fears of anyone else considering getting their license.

  • You cannot fail. Let me repeated this again so you fully understand. You cannot fail the Zumba license class. There is no test or assessment or anything. If you pay the money, show up, and stick out the full eight hours, you will receive your Zumba license. The way it was explained to me was that the license showed that you were taught, it does not guarantee you a teaching position. You still have to prove to whoever is hiring you to teach a class that you are good enough to teach.  But for me, I didn't care about that part. I already knew that I had someone who wanted me to teach, I just needed the piece of paper. I just needed to survive the class.
  • It will be a large class. My Zumba class can flucuate with somewhere between four to twenty people and since we practice in a room that used to be a cafeteria, there's plenty of space for everyone. The Zumba license class was huge! It had to be close to sixty people in a regular-sized dance studio. As you can see below, the room was packed. While it was a different experience from what I'm used to, having to be incredibly mindful of the choreography so I didn't spin into someone, the plus side was the it was fairly easy to hide. It was easy to blend in and not participate if you don't want to. The teacher encourages energy and bravery as qualities that make a good instructor, but if that's not your speed yet, that's perfectly ok. 

  • It will be a long class. When you sign up, they tell you it's an eight hour day. And while it is a very long day, it is definitely survivable with how they break it down. The first hour to 90 minutes is a full Zumba class. It will be the perfect example of a class they will teach you in the remaining seven hours. After the workout, you'll sit down and they'll give you an overview of what Zumba actually is. From there, the teacher breaks down the four different styles of dance that are at the core of Zumba. They'll go through one, break for lunch, and teach the remaining three after lunch. Each dance will be shown by the basic steps and there will be some actives to teach it. At the end of the day, it was the most sore I've been in a very long time, but at no point during the day did I feel like I was going to die. Just know your body and pace yourself. No one will push you harder than you push yourself. It's ok to take things slow. 

  • Beware the pressures of ZIN. After breaking for lunch, the teacher will go into their schpeel about ZIN: the Zumba Instructors Network. It's a $35 a month subscription service that gives you music, choreography, DVDs, and other perks. They will push you very hard to join, but the thing to remember is that, in the USA, you do not need to be a ZIN member to be a Zumba instructor. The wording they use implies that you need to sign up, but it's not true. If you're playing on teaching at a gym and running several classes a week, it's probably a good deal, but for me, it clearly wasn't. Since I'm going to be a sub, my choreography should be as similar as possible to the regular teacher's choreography, meaning I didn't need any new moves. The pressure is high during the class, so you should do some research beforehand to determine if it's right for you. 
  • Don't be embarrassed if you aren't a good dancer. I'm not. I try really hard, but I don't pick up the moves very quickly so in a new class with a new teacher, I flail quite a bit. Don't worry about it. Everyone is concerned with themselves and won't focus on you. Just focus on yourself, too. 

  • Things to bring in your gym bag:
    • Drinks: a refillable water bottle, some gatorade, maybe a coconut water. My teacher didn't pause for hydration breaks like my regular teacher, so be prepared to quickly glup some H20 when you rotate to the back of the room. During sit-down breaks, I sipped coconut water, as well. 
    • Snacks: trail mix and protein bars. While there is a break for lunch, you'll be working out afterward, so eat light. Don't want to get nauseous or puke it back up. Graze slowly and tell yourself you'll just gourge on the way home. 
    • A big towel, to dry yourself and to sit on. You will be sweaty and you will be sitting on the floor. Two birds, one stone. {Sidenote: some people bring camping chairs to sit on during breaks, but there's an air of judgement in the room against those people. While it's completely reasonable to bring one, 'serious dancers have no problem sitting on the floor' to quote my own teacher.}
    • Change of clothes. After the full workout, towel yourself dry, try to stop sweating by waiting 15 to 20 minutes, and change out of your sweaty clothes. I brought a change of clothes, but I changed too soon after the full workout and kept sweating in my clean, dry clothes. 
    • Sweatshirt. Once you stop moving, keep sweating, and sit down, you'll get really cold really quickly. Layer up. 
    • Tissues or toilet paper. There were sixty of use so the bathroom ran out of toilet paper almost immediately. Unless you want to use paper towels, heed my warning. 
    • Business or contact cards. You'll meet a lot of people and this will make things easier. And on that note...
  • Making friends is easier than you think. I thought going into it that I would be a loner and I would be 100% ok with it. However, oddly enough, because the teacher chose some of the same songs we do in class, I knew the choreography. Because of this, some of the other students started looking to me, which was incredibly odd. If I had been more social, I could have been making friends hand over fist. In hindsight, I wish I had. It was a much more supportive and friendly environment than I had prepared for. 

I didn't anticipate enjoying the class as much as I did, which is probably the reason I chickened out the first time. I was only focused on surviving, but if I had known more beforehand, I think I could have really thrived. If you choose to do it, you will be fine. And don't be like me, try to enjoy it, too. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Miss Carolyn Goes to Washington

Last week, I got to visit Washington DC courtesy of work. Well, technically it was the suburb of DC that houses the Dulles airport and my team only made it into the actual city for about four hours. And it was probably the most stressful work trip I've ever taken. Let's start at the beginning.

I flew out of Tucson on Monday. Since the Tucson airport is fairly small, I had a layover in Dallas. The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport had been good to me in the past; this was the trip that was to change my mind. The full list of things that went wrong were:

  • The plane to DC arrived 45 minutes late from Ohio
  • It had a flat tire which took another 45 minutes to repair
  • Once the plane was airborne, the pilot announced the altimeter was broken and we would need to return to Dallas since there was weather in Virginia. And because we could not land with a full tank of fuel, we would have to remain in the air until we used it up. 
  • When we were back on the ground, they announced they had another plane, so we all got off and moved to that gate. At this point, it was almost midnight. Also, at this point, the flight attendants hours had rolled over and they couldn't legally work anymore. They announced they were bringing in a new crew, but they never told us if they were in the airport or just somewhere in Dallas. 
  • Once the crew got there, anyone who had an electronic boarding pass had to have a paper one printed because they were literally tearing tickets as they boarded us. And we were told to rush because the pilots hours rolled at 12:30. It was the closest I've come to seeing a full-blown mob scene. 
  • We only had two more delays after that: there was no crew to push us back from the gate and there was no crew to fill out and file the paperwork necessary for us to take off. 
After all of that, my head finally hit the pillow of my hotel bed at 4:52AM. It was the longest night I've had in a long time, especially since I had to be ready to work at 9AM.

The work itself was its own brand of stressful. I'd done trips like this before, but usually I would work with three or four people. This time? Twenty. There were twenty people. It was like herding cats, but herding cats is actually fairly easy if you know what you're doing. This was herding sexist, old men who think they know best about a product they've never seen before.

It was a long day and things did not go well. We had to call it around 4PM to wait for unbroken parts to ship overnight. That's always a good sign. The rest of the day was a late lunch, willing myself to stay awake until the sun set, and a dinner of the leftover chips from lunch and some Reese's pieces.

Fortunately, only three guys showed up on the second day and we were able to get things to run the way they are supposed to.

Since I was out of my zombie state and we finished with a couple of hours to spare, my team headed into the city. It happened to be the day that the metro system was 100% closed so everyone was driving and traffic was insane. It only took 90 minutes to drive a distance Google said would take 30. The only things that were still open were the monuments so we saw as many as possible.

We started on the Lincoln Monument end of the mall...

...and then headed toward the opposite end, towards the Washington Monument.

We stopped and paid our respects at the Korean War Memorial along the way.

I imagine the springtime flowers in DC rival almost everywhere else. These are magnolias?

A beautiful sunset.

The running joke of the evening became why the Washington Monument had this creepy red blinking eyes. I still don't know why, my guess was it's a warning to aircraft. In our exhausted states, though, it was a hilarious inside joke.

We found a place for dinner near the White House. After a big dinner at finally the correct time to eat food, we spent some time starring at the White House, trying to figure out why Washington's creepy eyes kept following us.

We took a detour back to the car that was a bit dodgy, but we did get to admire the Jefferson Monument off in the distance.

And with that, we headed back to Tucson the next morning. Fortunately, there were absolutely no issues with my flights on the way back. Another stop in Dallas with another small pizza.

I've got another scheduled in the upcoming weeks, but this one burnt me out pretty badly. I may or may not have already started to come up with excuses to get out of it. If it ends up happening, I'm sure I'll find a way to have a good time, but it's still a lot to wrap my head around right now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 Essentials of a Lady Lair

Why it that men get man caves? Is there some twisted assumption that the women get the rest of the house? Yes, men get their own rooms with big screen TVs and pool tables while women get what...the kitchen?

Why is there no female equivalent? A space for ladies to kick back, relax, and have fun. I've only ever seen one female man cave on TV, in contrast to the dozens of the traditional variety. On 'The Cosby Show', there was an episode solely devoted to Claire getting her own 'room' (when reruns still aired before the Bill Cosby controversy). A room all to herself with a lock on the door for her own privacy. The whole episode focused on her family trying to get into the room and why would she want a room all to herself. Here's the word-for-word synopsis from IMDB:
Cliff builds a room just for Clair, her own special place for work and retreat. Everyone, except Cliff, is upset that she wants to be alone and not spend time with them. Cliff tries to explain the purpose of a special room.
At the end of the episode, the room was never mentioned again. Poof. The only instance of a female man cave was gone. I swear entire seasons of 'King of Queens' that have taken place in Doug's man cave, which no one ever questions the necessity of. Yet, the only instance of a female man cave and it only focuses on the why.

To be fair, there have been other shows that have given a woman her own space, but they all seem to be bathrooms or walk-in closets. How superficial is that? I want a space devoted to fun and unwinding, like a man cave. Sure, a spa bathroom could be fun, but I want more than that. I want a space I've deemed the 'lady lair'.

My ideal lady lair would be quite the room. It is a space where I can unwind with my girl friends. A calm, chill space where we can catch up, be ourselves, and be silly. At the same time, a place where I could crank up some terrible 80's music and dance with my cats. It doesn't have to be a space that screams "FEMININE!", but form and function can be equal. It would be Indiana Jones' library meets Emily Henderson meets 'The Mindy Project': vintage and suave, feminine and style, colorful and fun. I know that doesn't make much sense, but let me walk you through it.

  1. A cozy place to relax and converse. I don't think I'd be able to keep a sofa like this one nice since I'm such a heathen, but it's just so gorgeous. This one from Joybird is a magical mix of vintage and cozy. Like something a 1940's movie star would lounge on with her romance novels after a long day of shooting elegant entrance scenes walking down giant staircases. Or, in a more practical universe, something I could sink into with my friend Bekah and gossip about how she ended up on yet another accidental date. It's a sofa that beckons me after a long, stressful day.
  2. Classy shelving for books and beautiful little knick-knacks. Since my ideal relaxation space is a library, bookshelves are a must-have. This unit is way fancier than anything I would need with built-in lighting and hidden drawers, but it sure is beautiful. A nice frame to highlight the loveliness of anything special you put on it. 
  3. Uplifting and inspirational art. Sometimes you just need word art to remind you that you can both be a thug and like flowers. #truth
  4. A home for refreshments. I'm not a drinker, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a bar cart, just maybe it isn't a bar anymore. It could house a crystal ice-bucket and glass-bottled sodas. Maybe a big, old-timey jar filled with goldfish crackers or jellybeans? You know, grown-up food.
  5. Better lighting than over-head recessed sconces. It has been long established that I am a fan of lamps, but this one is somethin'. Oh lordy, this one. How sexy is that base? It's like a starlet at the Academy Awards; it's like a designer gown. I may now be coveting it until it goes on sale, assuming I can find another corner of the house that needs a lamp.
  6. A place to perch and nibble. Sometimes when you catch up with someone, you want to be lazy and slouch on the sofa. Other times, when the conversation is fancy, you need to perch with your drinks by the bar on an elegant stool.
  7. A plush rug to keep feet from getting cold. It's like art on your floor. Nice art that your friends can sit on when you've filled up the sofa. Or where you can bellyflop on tougher days. A rug like this goes a long way in making a room more cozy and snugly, especially one with a subtle floral pattern.
  8. A surface for magazines, cats, and plates of cupcakes. A great coffee table doesn't have to be a star. It's like Judy Greer: an amazing, beautiful actress who's never really the star of the show, but man, does she make everything better. I think that's my new favorite analogy: this coffee table from Target is the Judy Greer of my lady lair. It's pretty and classic with some flair in the mid-century modern legs and drawers. Like something Cheryl on 'Archer' would have (I've got to get off this Judy Greer train...)
  9. Something that smells better than I do. Candles are the definition of relaxing. You have to love this pretty little one from Target that not only smells deliciously fresh, but demands to you only be positive in your sacred space.
  10. A cool way to play some tunes. Keeping with the subtle floral theme, how amazing is this phonograph? It's hard to imagine anything it plays sounding bad, no matter how terrible my choice in music.
All the essentials of my lady lair are like the lady lair itself: functional and luxurious. It's a space of curated pieces that speak deep to my soul. And honestly, asking for a lady lair isn't anymore ridiculous than a man asking for a man cave. Somehow, that's become a thing. It's about time we make the lady lair a thing, too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Project House Update: Den of Desks

In the next step of our den redo (actually, it was Step 4, but why do step 2 when you can do step 4, right?), we bought a desk!

  1. Replace the window. Done! 
  2. Remove the built-in desks
  3. Buy and install cabinets in place of the built-in desks
  4. Buy a floating desk. Done!

Our new desk had several requirements. One, since we wanted to place the desk in the center of the room, it had to look good from all angles.

Two, the desk had to have a lot of computer storage. Since the desk would be in the center of the room, we wanted to be able to house all of the computer 'stuff' in the desk itself. This meant drawers and cabinets either meant for a desktop tower or one that could be modified to accommodate one. A nice place to hide all of the electronic crap. Wires stress me out. Clean and calm space, the opposite of the one below.

So when you cut out desks meant to be pushed up against walls and 'desks' that are really just expensive tables, you're left with the term "executive desk". Executive desks, oddly enough, are usually made for executives, therefore expensive. And to be honest, overcompensating.

Originally I had my eye on the Liatorp from Ikea. I was so convinced that it would work for us that I talked Dan into stopping at Ikea on the way home from visiting his parents at Christmas. While it's a nice desk, we couldn't picture it in our den. To be the centerpiece of the room, it just wasn't 'special' enough. It was a nice desk, but just a desk.

As much as I hate it, Dan found the one we fell in love with. This one from Sauder. It was simple, yet classy. Pretty from all angles. Seven drawers with the potential to fit a large desktop tower. We hunted around and found it on sale for roughly $400 with shipping. Not as cheap as Ikea, but pretty damn close. 

Image Source
A few weeks later, it arrived! And since Dan has no patience, unless it's something I'm asking him to do it, he got to work putting it together. Why wait to take out the old desk when you can see how many desks one room can hold?

Here's the finished desk! It's just so pretty. It's simple and pretty, yet the drawer fronts have just enough mid-century modern quirk. The beige drawers have a fabric-texture front. I was worried about it being cheap and poorly done, but the fronts are very well executed. And since the drawers face the window, not the doorway, it's like the quirks are my own little secret. You have to make an effort to get to see them. That and the cats can run back and forth under it to their hearts' content. They love it more than we do. 

Sam loves sitting on top of it. It's his new favorite thing, especially biting me when I try to pet him on it. While my husband is a sweetheart and assembled the desk as a surprise for me, it's so in the way right now. I have to walk around it to feed the cats and it's a feat on my part that I still have hip bones. Maybe Dan's plan was to make the desk inconvenient as motivation for us to make progress on the room. It hasn't been working, but it's a nice idea.

The only thing holding us back from tearing out the old built-in desks is figuring out what to do with our computers. Originally, Dan was on board with installing the desktop in one of the drawers of the new desk, but now he's changing his mind. He wants ALL THE TECH while I want it very streamlined and clean. I'll convince him. It'll just take me some time.