Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rainbows and Snowplows: Class 5 Foxtrot

As promised, I am keeping you up-to-date on my journey through Ballroom Dance Teacher's College.

I always said ballroom dancing brings out masculinity and femininity. Men and women are just plain wired to think and behave differently, and that is so evident in ballroom dancing.

Yesterday at Dance Teacher’s College, we were practicing our rise and fall in foxtrot and the teacher described the look of the body during the side-together steps as a curved arc. Amanda exclaimed, “Like a rainbow! A sparkly rainbow!” Jay just shook his head at this delightfully feminine analogy, which brought on a discussion of analogies. When teaching, you want to try to use analogies that will make sense for who you are teaching – be that a leader or a follower. Jay says he once used the analogy of a snowplow to teach a lady, and she responded that he better come up with a better analogy because she didn’t want to be thinking about snowplowing while dancing. We laughed a lot at this. Then there’s the analogy of “putting on the breaks,” which our instructor used successfully last waltz class for the leaders to warn their ladies of a new directional movement. And apparently, in another class an instructor had compared some action to punting a football. I guess the analogies are only limited by your imagination!

Our differences make it so natural for a man to be a leader and a woman to be a follower in dance. Like in a relationship between a man and woman, the man initiates and the woman responds. He’s the one to ask her out on a date, to get down on one knee and propose. It doesn’t mean he uses aggression on her or that true masculinity oppresses women. Not in the least. She has the freedom to choose how she will respond to his lead and initiative.

An article I once read said the husband or father should always have his eyes on the horizon, while the woman is the heart of the home. In dancing, the man literally does have his eyes on the horizon of the room in order to guide and maneuver the woman safely around the floor. The woman’s focus is on being perceptive to his movements, responding with her own, and creating beauty within the frame.

This is why it is so dang hard to switch roles and lead as a woman and follow as a man! Probably the most frustrating (because it is the hardest) task in dance teacher’s college is reversing roles. Amanda and I get to lead Jay around the floor, while he has to refrain from back-leading us and instead, following. It can be a hilarious and frustrating endeavor. It’s surprising how much concentration it takes to reverse roles in dancing with the opposite sex, because your natural impulse wants to take over. 

The point of this exercise is to hone our understanding of the dynamics of dance and enable us to effectively teach both leaders and followers.

Challenges like these are the making of good teachers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Writing May be Healthy for the Mind & Soul, but for the Body?

Dear fellow writers,

As idealistic as it may sound, working from home and writing poses its dangers and challenges.

I was recently scolded pretty harshly by my chiropractor for having high muscle tension, headaches and backaches. He said, “You’re in the prime of life and shouldn’t be having all these problems at your age. Imagine what will happen when you’re middle age like me. It’s all about developing good habits now." I felt like I was in 5th grade being scolded and lectured to.

With less than a 30-second commute to work and 5-8 hours a day sitting at the computer, your life can easily become sedentary, especially if you have no kids to chase around or carry. If you're not paying attention, good posture goes out the window and work tension and stress gets caught in aching back muscles and tight shoulders. My question is, as a writer, is it necessary to sacrifice the body for writing? What do you do to balance the hours you spend sitting at the computer with activity? What are your strategies for stretching, exercising and relieving muscle tension?

I would rather not take my need for a chiropractor as a sign to get a different career, although it may mean making more time for my hobby of ballroom dancing, which does wonders for strengthening your core muscles, increasing circulation (which helps you think better!), and improving your posture. 

I’ve been trying neck stretches (bend left, bend right; bend forwards, bend backward; look left, look right) and using a microwavable heat compress to relieve back muscle tension. Of course, a daily exercise routine or at the very least, getting up at intervals and walking helps. The best method I’ve used is to prop my laptop up on the kitchen island and work standing. My brother, who also works from home, recently built a surface across his treadmill machine, so he can walk miles while getting work done. That’s genius!

Is it necessary to sacrifice the body for writing? Please share your tips as I am desperate to know what they are!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bringing Home Annie: Parenting Never Expires

Continuing on the theme from my last post, I want to focus my reflections for the New Year on challenges and leaps of faith. The courage of this family to adopt is a good example of the untold rewards that come from taking steps in faith and love. After I featured their story in one of my publications, they gave me permission to share this on my blog. Thanks, Bakers! You can follow the Bakers journey to China at:

With an estimated 147 million orphans in the world, Jeff and Debbie kept feeling a tug on their hearts to make a difference – even if just for the life of one child, giving them a home.

Annie, the newest addition to the family

Parents of four biological children of their own, Debbie told me, “We had talked about adoption for a long time but convinced ourselves that we didn’t even have enough time or money for the kids that we had. However, we knew that God was asking us to do this, and He was not going to let our hearts go or forget about these children.” 

They knew they wanted to adopt a little girl from China, because with two biological daughters of their own, Jeff and Debbie couldn’t imagine the pain of the One Child Policy in China, where many families are forced to abandon their girls in hopes of having a boy. In addition, their hearts went out to the many families in China who abandon their children if they are born with special needs, because China lacks the resources to care for special needs children as we can in the United States.

Three years ago, they called a family meeting with the kids. Debbie explains, “We asked each of them what they thought about adoption and explained the sacrifices that would be involved. The kids were all very excited and anxious to bring her home right away.” 

“When we brought our first daughter home from China three years ago, we never would have dreamed how much love, joy and laughter she would add to our home. When you give, you just never expect to receive, and the gifts she has brought to our family have been amazing.”

Were they scared to adopt? You bet. It took them seven years of thinking about it before bringing their first daughter home. Yet the uncertainties weren’t enough to stop them from trusting what had been placed on their hearts to do.

Annie with her big sister Mei Mei and mommy
“Of course it has its challenges, but it’s hard to ignore that so many children around the world do not have the love and support of a family. Most of the children that are available for adoption in China have some sort of special need,” explained Debbie further. “Our first adopted daughter is missing her foot, but she now has a prosthetic and most people don’t even know. As I watched her rollerblade with her sister and neighbor friends yesterday, I just shook my head. She is so inspiring and she never lets it stop her or slow her down.”

This past year, they opened their hearts again to adopt a second daughter from China at age two and a half. While some choose to adopt older children or teenagers, Debbie said, “It’s very fun to adopt toddlers. They are ready to roll. There is a lot of time that’s been missed and a lot to catch up on, which is very enjoyable. It’s nice to just slow life down a bit and focus on that for a while.”

Jeff and Debbie have met couples adopting in their 30s, 40s, and 50s and actually feel among the younger ones to adopt. They know friends who are grandmas bringing their newly adopted children home. Debbie learned as she opened her ears to hear others' stories, “There is no expiration in parenting. As the orphan crisis grows, people are opening their hearts at all stages.”

Their family came to realize, “Most of us are never going to have all the time and money we think we need to do anything in life. Our family has been very blessed, and we want to share that. It’s my hope that our story can move other families to open their hearts and lives to a child. Maybe one child’s life could change starting this Christmas!” 

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?