An Epic Vomit Story, Ham Hocks, And I’m Glad I Wore Tights! (Not Necessarily In That Order)

Boy am I glad I wore mostly-opaque black tights tonight!  I’m even more glad I wore my “boy shorts” underwear.  Why, you ask?  Because if I hadn’t, it could have been a very embarrassing evening.

Tonight Ivan and I had a really good lesson.  And afterwards Ivan was like, “This is your second good lesson.  I like it.  I love it.  But it is your second good lesson in two months.  Can you believe it?”

The truth is, he’s right.  It’s been a roller coaster the past two months.  Playing with the same last 10 pounds.  Other life things.  The long and the short of it is that I showed up for my lessons, sometimes sporadically, and it didn’t help that Ivan and Marieta had a full competition schedule.  I went through the motions, but that’s about it.  It’s not necessarily a “bad” thing – because there is value in repetition and showing up – but was the quality and presence there?  Not like it can be.  And consistency was lacking.  But still, I kept going, and sometimes that’s all a person can do.

I have to say that over the last few months I’ve learned some lessons.  Well, I think it is more like I’ve come to know these concepts, not as intellectual understandings, but as integrated aspects of my being.  For instance, everyone always says, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” and “trust the process” and other platitudes that I usually think are total crap.  And, well…  I am starting to see value in “the process” even when it doesn’t look exactly like I want it to or think it should.  Even when it looks exactly opposite of what I would have said I would have wanted.  Like gaining weight back.  But now after a week of consistency and being back on the program, I am back down and heading toward my goals again.  And just knowing that not all was lost was a huge win.  Instead of going into a total tailspin I talked to myself calmly, saying to myself that I know what to do, and I just need to do it.  And I chose to be gentle with myself until I had the inner resources to jump back on the horse – again, another huge triumph.

Because the deal is, that I’m the one driving the bus.  It’s all up to me.  I get the results I get from the choices I make. And sometimes there’s a lot to juggle.  And now, instead of feeling upset, put upon, indignant thinking about this, I feel empowered.  It’s my choice.  I DO have control over some things, like my food, my activity level.  And most of all, I embraced the idea that all this is a lifestyle, not a diet.  I’m in it for the long haul.  If there are blips up, that’s okay, even if it is a 10 pound blip, because that’s not the final outcome.  Because life is life.  There are choices I make because I want to enjoy things, be social, share a meal with family or my husband, or because I’m depressed and the best way I can figure to comfort myself, nurture myself, isn’t to eat what is on my plan.  And, it’s worth it.  I’m done with being a black or white, absolute right or wrong, good and bad-thinking person when it comes to my journey to health.  I can make any choice I want at any moment.  I can choose to eat cake when I feel like the benefit outweighs the price and vice versa.  That, to me, is the most empowering thing of all.  I can change my mind at any moment, nothing is off limits, and I’m going to make the choices that serve me best, holistically.  I love and value myself enough to do that.  And, truly, most of the time the best choices are to be on plan and to engage in regular activity.  And, sometimes they are not.  It’s about discretion and insight.

Maybe some people don’t understand how big these wins are if they’ve never been severely overweight.  Hell, I couldn’t even see them as wins until now.  I had to belittle any progress I made because it was never “enough,” because I was never skinny, never even close.  But from my recent experience I now believe that it’s okay to acknowledge what is going on, to see the changes that are happening.  In this case they were changes I didn’t like, but then, this time around, instead of thinking I’d completely failed, that I was a total loser, that I had slipped up for a fraction of a second and screwed everything up forever, I realized I just needed to make different choices.  And I also realized I’d made the choices I had for valid reasons.  I simply had to own all of it, and allow it to be okay that I’d not been “perfect.”  And this time, I somehow avoided the whole self-denigrating, beat-to-a-bloody-pulp punishment method and just got straight away to the next proactive step.  That, my friends, is a MAJOR victory.  Maybe some people don’t have to go there to learn this, but I did.  And that’s why I have a little more trust in “the process” no matter how it looks.   I gained wisdom, I gained a different level of confidence, I gained 10 pounds, and this week I lost 6 of them.  And I understand this entire experience like I never understood it before.

And with the proactive steps I’ve been taking comes progress and results, and, for me, self-esteem.  Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty obvious that how I feel reflects in my body – with weight and with dancing.  So it follows that with better self-esteem, goes better dancing. And thus was the case tonight.

Amazing, isn’t it?

In summary, I’m in a pretty good place overall.  Yes, my last lesson before tonight was a total bummer, but the one prior to that was just as good as the one tonight.  Things are looking up.  I’m heading in the right direction.

So, yes, tonight we had a good lesson.  Full of connection and feeling.  Full of constructive conversation and polishing.  We were in sync, we laughed, he taught me a new Bulgarian phrase – my legs are “Sfvinski crack” – ham legs, when they were moving slow.  And he confused me with his thick accent which was entertaining.

It happened like this: To begin the Rumba he puts his hand out and I’m to react and accept it.  Then we do a slow hip roll and then we’re off doing some forward Rumba walks.  Anyways, we’re to look into each other’s eyes until the moment we jet forward.  It’s actually a pretty intimate, connected moment.  It takes some presence.  And, of course, Ivan is all about the connection, and even more about the idea that the leader leads and the follower reacts.  I’m not to move until I get the “signal.”  To reiterate and further explain this notion, Ivan told me that he was the man and that he was the one that “opened the driveway gate.”  He said, “The man has the cold.”  Well, at least, that was what it sounded like, lol.

“The man has the cold?”

“Yes, the man has the cold.  Beep boop beep.”  Ivan pantomimed a finger punching a keypad.

“Oh!  The man has the code!”

“Yes, what you think I say?  The man has the cold.  You cannot open without the man cold!”

Uh huh.  Right. lol.  But really, he does so well with English!  I laugh and it’s funny and all, but I have so much respect for how well he communicates.  As a person who has been in a country that speaks a different language I understand how daunting a task it is.

But I digress.  We worked mostly on Rumba and Bolero in the jam-packed studio.  They were having a social dance party for half of the time we were on our lesson.  But you know, I didn’t even really notice it.  I was so into what we were doing, so focused on our work, it was as if we had our own separate space in an invisible bubble as we weaved in and out of the other couples.  I was happy to discover a few new details to incorporate in the dances, little moments with expanded arms, exaggerated whiplash through the body, remembering to push my hips upward as I do backbends.  It was a productive, joyful lesson.  I was mostly on balance.  Ivan told me I had never danced like I danced tonight.

However, at one point we were doing the beginning of the Bolero where Ivan runs up to me and puts his hands on my legs and I’m supposed to react, as he says, like “he’s the prince,” and I’m being “touched for the very first time.”  And that I’m supposed to enjoy it, or, at least look like I enjoy it, and he started raising his hands upwards and my skirt was raised with them, up, up, up….until you could see about 2 inches of my underwear!  OMG!!!!

There is no other context in which this would be okay in public!

And even so, when it happened I was like, 1) thinking internally that I’d made an excellent wardrobe choice and 2) yelling at Ivan that I didn’t want to show everyone all my cookies even as he was saying to me, “It’s okay!  If you love it everybody gonna love it!”

Oh what a wild life I lead!

But I do want to acknowledge that I’ve come a long way.  Because even though I don’t want to necessarily regularly show my underwear in public, I wasn’t totally mortified.  That may sound strange, but listen, I’ve developed some level of comfort with my body and that is an EXCEPTIONALLY good thing.  Also, I dress in the boy shorts and with tights or leggings because I have developes in some of my routines so I want to make sure I’m appropriately covered for those.  I have to be comfortable to do those kind of moves.  Anyways, I was prepared (I mean, I don’t even own a g-string, but if I did, and had worn it tonight, it would have been a TOTALLY different story!) and better than that, the wardrobe mishap didn’t freak me out.

So that little episode was, ahem, entertaining, but  even more entertaining was Ivan’s epic vomit story, a play in two acts.  He told me the first part a long time ago when we were reminiscing about New Year’s Eve.  Apparently one New Year’s, Ivan got blasted.  So blasted that he was going to be sick on the drive home.  He begged Marieta to stop, she urged him to hold on for just a little while longer.  He tried to roll down the window…and blew chunks.  Everywhere.  Inside. Outside.  All over.

The next morning he awoke, knowing he was blitzed but not quite remembering the events of the previous evening.

He showered.  He got ready for the day.  He got into the car.

The miasma of dried stomach contents curled his nose hairs.

He looked around.  He saw the salad he’d eaten.  Chunks of the chicken.  Red peppers.

It was epic.  Thus ends act one.

Apparently two weekends ago Ivan had a repeat performance.  Let’s call it act two.  It was hilarious hearing about it from Ivan, with all his over-the-top expressions, funny accent, and wild gesticulations.  He went to a party at his friend’s house and got hosed.  Marieta drove him home.  This time, he claims, he didn’t even have the energy to warn her or to request that she stop so he could be sick.  He struggled with massive effort to lower the window.  This time, he says, he “had learned from his previous experience” and so, he stuck his head out the window, his neck extended gracefully long like “a giraffe.”

He saw a car approaching.  The headlights were about to pass him in the next lane.  “It was amazing!” he said.  “One minute I see the lights, the next they are gone!”  Covered in his vomit, the light from the headlamps was drowned out.  He sprayed vehemently all along the outside of his car.

Once again he awoke the next morning, knowing he was hungover, and took a shower, prepared for the day, not quite remembering the exact events of the previous night.

“You’d better go check the car,” said Marieta.

“Why?” Inquired our hero, “Did the ‘check engine’ light come on?  Is there something wrong with the tires?”

“You’d better go check the car,” she repeated once again, exasperated.

He checked the car.  As he approached the side and accounted for most of the Technicolor specks of food (from where is come these carrots? He queried), so did his neighbor appear.

“Looks like you had an exciting night,” said the neighbor.

Ivan procured his garden hose.

He cleaned the car, but apparently, as he told me tonight, even after the cleaning, his mom, who is visiting from Bulgaria, opened the window and found a layer of slime that he’d missed.

“Good thing I sold the van,” he proclaimed on the lesson.

Who is the poor soul who purchased it, I wonder.  Alas, they will never know the full extent of its storied history.  And, that, my friends, is probably a good thing.

The End.






By Renee Comet (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh how I love my favorite Bulgarian, my dance instructor, Ivan. His language gaffes keep me entertained.

So here’s the story:

Ivan and I are working on our Samba routine. I think we have it completely choreographed but I have yet to dance the entire thing full-out, to music, in sequence, and we are days out from my next competition, people! AHHH!

I will just do what I did for Jive last competition. We had practiced it once, count it once, before Desert Classic and I knew all of three, count ’em, three steps. I did three steps for the entire Jive. So anyways, then with the un-practiced Jive, and now with the un-practiced Samba I’m simply going to give myself a mental pass on that dance, meaning that I will dance it the best I can and that I will be fine no matter if I mess up or how well or poorly we place because the fact of the matter is, we simply do not have the time to really make this routine polished. Heck! We are still working on, improving, and polishing the Rumba and Cha Cha routines and I’ve been dancing those for a few months now!

So I’m not going to be too hard on myself when it comes to performing the Samba this time around. I will be a little more serious about it for my next competition after I’ve had the opportunity to work out the bugs and practice! And yes, I may be in a pickle with this Samba dance at the competition for lack of preparation, but that is not what this post is actually about.

You see, on my last lesson we were working on the Samba and Ivan’s shirt flew up. I saw this big brown june bug on his side. I thought perhaps he had a tatoo on his abdomen or something. I was curious – I know, like it was so important to find out what this brown dot was when I was in the middle of learning a routine I will be dancing in a few days – I don’t pretend that I make any sense when it comes to these things. Well anyways, I had to know. I just did, okay?

So I told Ivan, “Ivan. Pull up your shirt! What is that brown dot on your belly? Do you have a tatoo?”

“No. What you talking about?” He pulled up his shirt to reveal his belly button and I scanned the skin for the mark I’d seen.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d thought.

“What you looking at?” He inquired.

“Well, I guess it must have been this.” I pointed at a small brown dot on his side.

“My pickle?”


“My pickle.”

Tears streamed down my face as I gasped for breath between guffaws.

“Ha ha ha, Ivan! No, that is NOT a pickle! A pickle is a very different thing.” (If you know what I mean)

“That’s a freckle.”

Sometimes It Just Takes A Little Smell

Ah, the joys of learning another language!

Today Ivan and Marieta got back from the Hollywood Dancesport competition where they placed 3rd in the Open Professional Rhythm division.  It was super exciting to watch live online via streaming but even better to get to see them in person for my lesson today, to congratulate them, to work on the open Cha Cha routine, and to give Ivan a birthday card.

It wasn’t a very aerobic lesson but we were really pounding out the details of the dance.  I’m still working to simply remember the steps.  Beyond that are layers and layers of little details that must be addressed because these seeming little things are what make the routine really pop.  For instance, I noticed that on one part I was doing something slightly different than Ivan.  We need to look in unison, like we are dancing the same dance.  Just that one little bit, deciding if we would do a check hip hip or a swirly rounded hip hip took a minute to figure out.  In the end, it looks much better.

Also, we worked on how to do a variety of cross-overs.  We have 3 right in the beginning, each slightly different.  Then a turn into quick Cha Cha step.  I need help with balance, making the steps quick, clean, and sharp, putting my body weight on at the right place at the right time over the right foot, and then how to place my arms.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  Scratch that, it’s extremely overwhelming.

Strangely, one part I am feeling more secure about are the stupid splits.  Truly this is bizarre to me but it feels more strong, safe, and I even did a little jump to bring my feet together and worm my way up twisting my hips to the next step, something I really didn’t think I could do.  We have yet to execute this to speed or with music, but there is progress and this is encouraging.

I think the most difficult thing is the ronde’ we do after a cross-over.  Ivan wanted my arms to be different and since Marieta was there we took advantage of her presence.  She did the move, and it was completely different from what I was doing….like night and day, and I liked her way so very much better.  “Wow,” I uttered.  Even just a simple little step looks exciting and intense and tells a story when Marieta does it.  I, therefore, spent the next 15 minutes trying to figure out how to emulate her, and to no avail.  I conceptually know what I’m going for, and I can tell when I do it incorrectly, but figuring out how to actually execute it proprerly,…how to compress my right side, to remember to place my feet together before the last step, where to place my head, how to attack the ronde’ and not make it so soft and balletic, how to change my weight after placing the feet together, to look up rather than down when I face Ivan as the step ends, well, it seriously made me want to cry.

Why?  Because I have this thought that I wish I had been studying this style of dance since I was a child.  It is overwhelming to realize all the knowledge I just don’t have, my lack of experience, my inability to place my body correctly.  I honestly don’t think there is ever a way to truly “catch up” and this thought makes me incredibly sad.  I know, I know.  I can’t change the past and it is pretty useless to dwell on it.  It is the anthesis of empowering.  And still, it makes me sad.  I mourn the loss of an imaginary reality where I could have been a professional dancer.  Irrational, I know.

But after the lesson, I wasn’t able to dwell on this because I gave Ivan a card for his birthday.  It was a nice card that said something to the effect you make more of a difference in my life than you will probably ever even realize.  At one point (It was a wordy card) it said “Sometimes it just takes a little smile or a word of encouragement at the right time…”  Well, Ivan was practicing reading in English.  I have to give the man some serious props because I can’t even begin to fathom trying to read something in Bulgarian with that Cyrillic alphabet.  But anyways, it was pretty funny hearing him sound out all the words.  Instead of saying the word “smile” it came out as “smell.”  Ha!  Ah, yes, sometimes it just takes a little smell….. heh heh heh.

Lucky for us, Marieta was there today to translate the content of the card into Bulgarian for Ivan.  A lot of times he will say the words while reading but not truly understand what is being communicated.  For once he actually understood the message and was honestly touched.  He said, “Oh, so nice this card.  You touch my bottom.”


He meant that the card touched his heart, that he was moved deeply.  But, well, literally it translated into “bottom” which in English has a very different meaning!  He explained, “What is it you call the deepest part of the ocean?”

“Well, it’s the bottom of the ocean.”  I replied.

“See!  I right!”

We laughed hysterically but the fun didn’t end there.

I tried my hand at some Bulgarian, trying to impress Marieta with what I’ve been learning.  Now it was my turn to make a gauche faux pas.

I meant to say, “I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.  Please repeat that slower.”

But you see, the word for repeat and the word for fart both start with a “P” and get mixed up in my brain.  Why do I know the word in Bulgarian for fart, well, for that blame Ivan who thinks it is hysterical to teach me inappropriate things.

So, I ended up saying, “I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.  Please fart slower.”

Sheesh!  Marieta was so sweet about it.  Because I was serious when I told her this, she was trying to be encouraging and kind but ended up asking Ivan how a person could fart slower.  “I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that one!” She shared.

Yes, the difference between prog-na-li and pov-tor-ri-li is important!  Not a mistake I will make again.  I also said that I like green wine.  Actually, it’s red wine I like.

So, there you go.  I have a lot to learn both as a dancer and a speaker of the Bulgarian language.  Hopefully I will approach both with joy, humor, and humility rather than sadness and despair at my shortcomings…celebrate the wins, like feeling better about splits, and laughing at the mistakes, like the rest of my lesson, trusting myself to learn and grow from them and to continue this evolution.

Haresva Mi, Focus, and Hup!!!

I know, what a weird title.  Well, 1) the English phonetic verision of Bulgarian words looks funny 2) I’m combining a mish-mash of experiences including some awareness about focus, and 3) ballroom dancers make funny sounds like “Hup!” when we are dancing…or at least we are supposed to.

Okay, so part one:  Harvesa mi is my “English” translation of Bulgarian for “I like.”  You see, I’m trying to learn a little bit of this Slavic tongue.  Why? Partly because I like learning  about other languages.  Partly because Ivan and Marieta are always talking in Bulgarian and I’m insanely curious to know what they are saying.  Also because I have a real live Bulgarian with whom I can practice, and perhaps there is even a possibliity that one day I will visit the country.  Ivan’s parents are coming into town for a month over the holidays as is Marieta’s grandmother so I think it would be fun to be able to say a few things.  I’ve basically found some free podcasts on iTunes and have been listening, and then Ivan also augments my knowlege but usually only with wildly inappropriate things that I’d have to be very careful about saying in mixed company, so not very useful at all.


By Mariusz Pazdziora (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In any case, I’m not even attempting to learn how to read the language.  First off, it uses a Cryllic alphabet which is super confusing to my brain, and secondly, I mostly just want to be able to understand it verbally and say a few things.  While at the cabin recently, we played Uno and I learned colors and numbers.  But it’s dang hard.  Not only does everything sound, well, very foreign, but also, everything gets modified depending on it’s context in a sentence.  So I learned “one” and I thought that was it, only to find out that “one” can be different depending on the word it is describing.  Like in Spanish, words can be either masculine or feminine in Bulgarian.  Dang.  But, I am really glad that I have experience understanding how to learn a foreign language.  It helps to be able to relate what I’m learning in Bulgarian to Spanish – like how to conguate verbs, and different forms that don’t exist in English like command forms or you formal versus you familar.  Anyways, I know hardly anything but I’m excited to learn.  Thus, the first part of this post.  Haresva mi Bulgarian – translates to I like Bulgarian.  I also learned how to command someone to dance with me.  If nothing else, that should come in handy!  Phoentically it goes:  Dan sue vai sman se ga, mol ya (Dance with me now, please!)

Alright, now on to the second part of the title: Focus.  I probably could have used some of that this morning on my early lesson.  Ivan and I are still working on open routines and we were re-visiting our Rumba.  We have finally gotten smart and I make Ivan do the routine while I video it once we are done because otherwise we forget what we did and it takes a while to reconstruct the routine – a waste of time.  In any case, we ended up working on this new move which I’m not to sure about, but well, nothing that even remotely resembles a trick is comfortable for me – like splits, or jumps, or leg extensions.  And I think I have some bad body positioning habits.  Honestly, I’m afraid in a lot of things and hold back in such  a way that throws me off-balance.  So yeah.  We were doing this thing where I turn 2 times then throw my left leg up backwards into an arabesque and Ivan’s supposed to catch it and then we do a dip and then run run and extend.  So, well, we practiced it a lot, and yeah, I got moderately better at it but it is still super awkward, and toward the end of the lesson on the running part I slipped.  I guess my body weight was back on my heel and the heel of my shoe slipped on a slick part of the floor, but it wouldn’t have if my body weight had been at the appropriate place.  I’m still figuring this out.  It has always been a challenge.  I remember marveling at how others seemed to so effortlessly be able to move and get to places on time in dances while I always felt I was making it there by the skin of my teeth.  Ah, well, more practice.  And more coaching with people who can see what I’m doing and help me fix it.

Well, tonight, I went to Inna’s class and we worked on Samba.  Tonight Inna upped the ante in a multitude of ways.  First, she taught a more complicated Samba routine with moves I’ve never done before.  Just learning it was a challenge, much less doing it with arms, doing it sharply.  Then, she wanted us to make faces.  Then she wanted us to make sounds!  Hup!  Ha!  Pah!  Cha!  Oh! Ew! Gerr!  Anything to express.  And, you know what else…it helps to focus.  Okay, out of order from the title but focus was the big takeaway for me today.  I had such an awareness, on another level about how important focus is, how much better I do when I really concentrate on what I am doing and hone in on my experience, and how much I still (I’ve known that I do this) focus, worry, think about the other people around me.  In a competition, this is not something I want to be doing.  Focus is paramount.  Inna was insistent that this was important practice, and I truly believe she is absolutely right.

We’ve done this exercise before in class and we did it again tonight.  Half the class did the combination and the other half tried to distract them.  It was pretty easy to distract many of my classmates. When it was my turn, I knew payback would be a bitch…but you know what, I decided I was going to do it, and I did probably the best I’d done all night remembering the combination and performing it.  Technique, well, that still leaves something to be desired.  And, you know what, when I was done the feedback from my friends was that I was a woman on a mission.  I will take it.

But seriously.  I worry so much what other people might think of me, it really distracts me from my objective.  Inna told us at the end of class that when she practices or is on a lesson or is at a competition, she is only focused on what she is doing, what she is working on.  I am going to take a note from this book.  Even just adding focus of where to look on one single dance move can transform it.  For instance, in the new Cha Cha with Ivan, we do this little step around each other and when I first learned it, I kind of didn’t know where to look so I just stared off in a vague direction.  Yesterday he told me I’m supposed to look at him.  Suddenly the step had meaning and focus.  This is an element of my dancing performance I’ve been lacking but now that I am more aware of it, and how truly important it is, you better believe I will be working on it….along with all the other myriad of issues!  It is never-ending, but I guess that is what keeps it interesting.

So there you go.  Haresva mi dancing, focus and hup!  Hopefully that made some kind of sense to you.  My brain is a little funny sometimes.

Oh, if anyone is going to Hollywood this weekend for the competition, please cheer for my favorite Bulgarian couple.  Ivan and Marieta will be competing.  I also believe it is streaming live if you want to watch online.

Until next time, do vish da ne (or caio).  That’s goodbye in Bulgarian.


Bad Dances? WTF?

This is actually just a short aside…

I get on the floor to dance with Mr. Ivan and he says “We have bad dances.”

“What?” I respond.

“We have bad dances.”

“Okay.  Well, I thought we were doing pretty well here so far.  I’ve felt good.”

“No!  We have BAT dances!”

“Um okay.  Cha cha is starting!”

“Shit!” I think.  It’s been such a fun and relaxed and good competition from my perspective.  Why is my instructor now telling me I did poorly?!  I feel like this is the best we have done so far.  GRRRR!  But guess what?  We have to dance.  Suck it up and make it work.  Go!

We have this conversation in the 20 seconds prior to a dance round.

“Oh, I sorry!  Bat (or as my American ears hear it “Bad”) means 5 in Bulgarian.”

My internal dialogue:  Shit?! Really?!  You stinking bastard?!?  Are you kidding me?!  Really?  You actually now just did this to me!  You knew “very well” – a phrase you utilize often with me – you knew “very well” what Bat or Bad or whatever sounds like in freakin’ English…you knew very well it means bad, poor, not good…  You suck!  Hardcore.  Bat?!  Bad?!  WTH?!?!?!

On the outside, however, I graciously say, “Oh!  Thanks for explaining that.  We have 5 dances in a row.  Great!  I am so happy that I get to dance them with you!



Can you relate?  Please share!!!


As promised, this post will be full of more positive things. We’ll start with the title of the post. Bear with me as I start the story at the beginning.

I arrived at my lesson and the first order of business was asking Ivan if he had my shoes. I had left them at the studio on Thursday and he had promised to pick them up, which he did, but then subsequently forgot. I had sent him a text, to which he hadn’t replied so when he said he didn’t have them, I asked him if he got the text. It was something to the effect of, “Please bring my shoes. If you don’t it will be ballet slippers again and I’m kind of done being a ballerina. Time to be a ballroom dancer…for realsies”

He said he got it but, “I no understand. What you say?”

I explained it and then he asked me about another text. He had been communicating with someone else and after they had figured out whatever time they were going to meet, the other person texted back to him “10-4”

Ivan was like, “What is this? I no understand. I thinking maybe this is the hours they are open?”

As I looked at the message, it dawned on me, and having been a person speaking a second language in a foreign country, I sympathised. I think people think Ivan knows more English than he does because he does so well but using a phrase like 10-4 is kind of an unfair stretch.

“Oh Ivan, here’s what it means. You know truckers? People who drive trucks for a living. They use the CB radio.”


“Okay, well when they complete a message and then if the other person understands, and it’s all okay he says ‘ten-four’.”

“Ah. But how am I supposed to be knowing this? Oh my God. Not possible.”

“I know Ivan, I know.”

So anyways, I thought that was kind of funny. And the Bulgarian hilarity didn’t end there. Later in the lesson, we were playing around, just moving to the music, really going over the top. It itsn’t generally something we do, but it was a really good lesson. I had lots of energy, and we were really dancing. And it just came out of us. And so I’m being all big and full of feeling with my movements and Ivan is too, and then he gets down on his knee, and before I know it, he’s rolling like a log. Of course, bewiledred, I bust out laughing.

Apparently Ivan had been kind of inspired to this movement. He’d been to a performance where he and Marieta danced, and so did others doing what he called, “temporary dancing.” At first I couldn’t figure it out, but then, it made sense. Apparently some other couple did a contemporary number in which the male rolled on the floor. While this male dancer complimented Ivan on his dancing, Ivan replied back, “I see you get on the floor like this and if I get down there I never get up again!”

Well, I suppose all dancing is temporary so Ivan is maybe on to something. And, he did manage to get up off the floor and continue dancing, thank goodness.

Anyways, like I mentioned, it was a much-needed great lesson. We danced and I had lots of energy, we really hit it hard, and during some of the dancing, I even liked the way I looked. It’s such a fickle and fleeting feeling so I appreciate it when it happens. I thought we looked good doing some side by side Samba steps and my Rumba fan is much improved. In fact, Ivan even came to like my arm styling, which like, never happens. I pulled my arm closer to my neck and shoulder just doing what felt natural instead of doing what I normally always do, the prescribed motion, and Ivan picked up on it immediately.

“You so feminine. You like Marieta. Maybe this movement no look good on her, but you feminine like her and it look good on you.”

It was a discovery, I thought. A little piece of who I am as a dancer. I have a feeling that as I take off more and more layers, she will show up more and more. Indeed, the way that lesson went, I was super-motivated to continue doing the work to transform my body. If being a bit hungry and tired create results like this, well, it’s worth it.

But I have no delusions that I look very much different. For instance, later in the lesson Ivan encouraged me to touch my butt more or something and I was a bit hesitant.

“Ivan, if one of the things we are concerned about is how we will be perceived, I think trying to be all sexy or whatever, well, it will make people laugh at me again.”

“Ah. Okay. Yes, if you not doing anything, then all the people is see is the fat. But if you doing something, if you always bringing the attention, finally they seeing you dancing. They thinking, ah, yes, she is fat, but she is always bringing me to look, she is dancing, moving so well.”

I guess I’m practicing for when it does actually look sexy. I’m just going to have to once again get over myself, my fears and insecurities, and just do it. No matter what I look like at the moment. Because right now, the inside vision doesn’t match with the outside picture. It hasn’t for a while. I have to dance as if I were already that girl I see in my mind’s eye because you know what, evenetually, it will be.

So it was an energetic lesson and at the end Ivan was pumped.

“I like this lesson. I think it is the best. I so happy. I feel for the first time our potential, how strong we could be. Before, yes, I like it, but is better.”

“Ivan, just hang in there with me. We are going to be awesome. I just know it. We both just need to be patient.”

And as I reflected up on the lesson, it made me think about how important it is to “clear” things in relationships. Like just days ago I had a lesson where all we did was “clear.” All that emotion, all that communication, it was necessary. If we hadn’t addressed it, it would still be lingering in the space between, in the words unspoken, and it would still be affecting me/us. But since we did take the time to address it, it is cleared, like an erase board, and the slate is clear and open to be written upon once again. There was the space to get into the flow like we did on this lesson.

And I feel like, at the end of this lesson, saying 10-4 Ivan and the universe. I got the message. I’m on it. I see the value of working my butt off (literally) at the gym and with the cleanse and all that. I’m going to be the dancer I was meant to be.

After the lesson, I went to get some new shoes. I had a gift certificate from Christmas for the local ballroom shoe store and my practice shoes are stinky and the inner lining is coming up, plus my actual heels are also in poor shape, plus there was no guarantee that they would be in Ivan’s posession the next time we danced (which they weren’t) all good reasons, I thought for a new pair of each.

So here are my new heels:

The trip took longer than I thought it would and I also brought a brand different than I had anticipated. I wanted a shoe that would let me feel the floor because that is what I love so much about my practice shoes. My current heels have a tougher sole which makes it harder to feel the floor and to make a nice pretty point with my foot and toes. I thought Ray Rose, or Supadance (though really I want Dance Naturals but those are so tricky to purchase online) and tried on multiple pairs. Finally the salesman brought me a pair made by Bloch. I recognized the name from my days in ballet and jazz, thinking that they made toe shoes. Apparently the company which has been around since the 1930’s making shoes for ballet, tap, and jazz, has recently parlayed into the ballroom arena. And you know what, I’m glad they did. They fit the best. They had the nice soft sole I was looking for. Basically, they fit my American feet.

You see, I learned from the salesman, the biggest market for ballroom shoes is in Japan, followed by Europe. The higher quality shoes that I’ve tried always seem to be made for a narrow, delicate foot and small ankles. Well, I don’t fit that body type and it seems like Bloch, being an American company and all, and probably using designs similar to what they had used for other types of dance, well, they worked for my hooves.

So, well, I kind of recommend them. The one thing I didn’t like about them was the heel. It felt like it is placed properly, inward on the heel, but it has a chintzy plastic topper that I don’t care for.

I was skeptical at first, having it in my mind to get a shoe from a well-known ballroom company, but hey, if the shoe fits….

Plus, I can go to a shoe repairman and have them change out the heel, or apply some suede to improve it.

So them’s my recent ballroom escapades. I will report, in other news, that I did great at my mom’s birthday dinner. I stuck to sparkling water, having already consumed what I was supposed to ingest for the day. I had a bit of a headache but felt better over time and it was lots of fun with lots of laughter spending time with my family. I got to sit next to my brother and we got to talk for more than 2 minutes, as usually nevervhappens at these family events where he is busy with his 2 kids, both of which are under 5 years old. I was glad I went, and proud that I was able to use my determination and willpower to stick with it this time around.

Speaking of my mom, she is still taking occasional lessons with Ivan. He says she learns very quickly and I think they have a lot of fun together. I had a lesson after my mom this morning and popped in a few minutes early. They had just worked on Swing, Ivan said they’d just done it 5 minutes ago, and look at this:

She is just so darn cute! Way to go mom! Happy birthday and good job.

Over and Out.


Good news is, I’ve begun a new job.  It’s a contract job and guaranteed for six months.  After that, who knows, but I’m really hoping it might turn into a “real” job.  They have to put a lot of resources into training us newbies and I can’t imagine they’d want to mobilize the resources again in a few months, except for in extreme cases of workers with poor performance or a hiring freeze or financial cutbacks.  But again, not something I have control over and I am just extremely thankful for what is, right now.

The bad news is, the learning curve is steep.  Not the normal pharmacist stuff…that’s fine…it’s all the company-specific computer and operational stuff.  It is just a LOT of information to absorb (not unlike learning the entire Bronze syllabus for the Rumba or something in just a few days).  In any case, it was so much info that I dreamt about it last night!  I just know my little brain was assimilating all it could.

You see, I’m playing catch-up because I was added to the job a week after everyone else started.  I’ve had 2 days.  They’ve had 9.  AHHH!  Luckily, I got some one-on-one training to help with all that, but it is still a lot to absorb.  So, all-in-all, not bad news, really – not even close!  After all I’ve been through in the job/financial/work environment categories, I’m GRATEFUL!  It’s just that my mind is spent.  I have the IQ of a wombat by the end of my 8 hour shift (no offense to wombats! Perhaps they are very smart, like parrots.  But I wouldn’t know about that, especially right now.)  And this showed up in my lesson tonight….not to mention the fact that yes, I did watch DWTS this week, and yes, the topical series articles are still in process, but I just haven’t had the mental fortitude to actually complete posts about them with real words and sentences and paragraphs in English and all that.

So anyways, I finished work for the day as a mental case and headed to meet with Ivan.

Even from the beginning he noticed a difference.  I told him, “Ivan!  I’m so tired.  I’m stupid right now.  Seriously.  It’s just that I’m starting a new job and have a lot to learn.  Let’s just dance something socially, kay?”

He was amenable and we began with a nice, soft, sloppy West Coast Swing.  Seriously, I was just barely moving as compared to how I normally show up, but it was about all I could physically and mentally muster.

“Stefanie?  What happen?  You dancing like Medusa?”

“Huh?  The woman with snakes for hair? The one who turned men to stone?  Also known as a Gorgon?  What the hell are you talking about, Ivan?”

“No, a medusa.”

“????”  Arms spread outward to the sides, palms up, shoulders shrugged.

“I make a picture later.”

“Okay Ivan.”

So before I get to that…this is/was the other “bad” news of the night.  I was pretty much worthless on my lesson.  First, I was exhausted mentally.  Secondly, the energy in my body seemed to be completely sapped after about 15 seconds of any dance we worked on.  And, finally I was laughing so much my belly hurt, I almost peed my pants, and because I was guffaw-ing so hard, I couldn’t breathe to dance properly.  It didn’t help that Ivan made fun of every little noise I made.  Yes, I admit, they weren’t what you’d usually hear on the dance floor, but I was so tired that I sighed, or grunted, or squealed depending on if I was trying to push through a move or scared or whatever.

Seriously, my stomach hurt from giggling so much, especially when I tried to “be serious” and then made a noise out of frustration or effort or just to try and breathe and Ivan imitated it which, like a row of dominoes, cascaded into a collapsing heap of me folding inward into a belly laugh.

In any case, we continued to dance and Ivan decided that Bolero was appropriate. Somehow this morphed into Latin Rumba and my Bulgarian dance instructor then decided that it was a prime opportunity to practice crazy stupid lifts and dips for someone as large as I am. We did a few leans with developes and some dips with me lifting my left leg into the air.  But Ivan was making me place all my body weight on his knee while he was in a deep lunge.  It freaked me out.  I actually felt my foot leave the floor for a second, realized that for that moment he was bearing all my body weight, and immediately broke the position so I could plant my feet firmly on the ground.  How can that man hold me up like that?!  I am just so insecure about it I wish he wouldn’t do it.

I have to admit this is not a new fear.  Even when I was 16 and weighed 116 pounds I was concerned about this.  Not logical, I know.  But I was in a production of “The Music Man” in my high school and cast as a dancer and member of the chorus.  There was one move in which I was partnered with a senior theater “god” which made me feel horribly insecure because 1) he was a Thespian paragon and 2) he had to pick me up at the waist and place me on a table.  But then again, looking back on it, it might not have been because of my weight that he failed to get me up there on the table that night.  Truly, he was a slight young man, and not at all muscular in the upper limbs.  In addition, he never practiced the particular move but once with me, and it had absolutely been ingrained in me to practice piano/ballet/anything if it was to be performed to the point where you can do it mindlessly, because when the moment comes to perform, all kinds of things can go wrong.  (And also, once I didn’t practice appropriately and bombed my piano recital.  Not a good feeling! But that is another story).  Anyways, I had a high anxiety level about this move knowing how un-practiced it was, and not having any connection to the person who was responsible for lifting me aloft except for a fearful and reverent adoration from afar, and so, my big fear did come to fruition.  He went to lift me up and I just fell right down.  At least I landed upright, on my feet (so that was good), and he had the theatrical training to grab me and sway side to side to cover the mishap – but I’m pretty sure the audience noticed the gaffe because 1) I made a big loud BOOM! when my character shoes hit the wooden stage floor instead of the table and 2) my dancing counterpart was on a table on stage right doing the same choreography I was supposed to be doing on stage left so things didn’t look symmetrical.  This, plus the fact that the bench I sat on during “Oliver!” while singing “Food, Glorious Food,” collapsed on stage while I (and about 19 other people) were sitting on it, confirmed my fear that I was horribly huge and fat.  See, all along, I really DID have a mental problem.  It just now has manifested into my physical reality, not just my mental reality.

Okay, back now from that psychological detour.  Interestingly, I actually thought this post would be quick because not much happened on the lesson – but clearly my complexes are rooted deeply!  Ahhh!

So a brilliant thing did actually happen on this very-low-energy lesson.  Ivan and I did all our basic Latin Rumba stuff and then I asked him about a step I’ve seen others do, and one that I *think* Igor may have been trying to lead me into last Friday, but that I didn’t know how to do.  What happened next may or may not be the same move, but it was damn cool, whatever it was.  Pretty much from an Alemana I then step forward into a double spiral turn and complete with two walks around the back of Ivan to fan position.  But I didn’t know this at the time.  All I knew was I’d seen this turn-y thing done on YouTube videos by professionals and Igor tried to lead me into something I wasn’t familiar with.

After two tries to decipher which step I meant, Ivan demonstrated what I *thought* I wanted to know so I said, “Ivan, teach me this step.”

At first he seemed a little reluctant but then he was like, okay.

“Is this a Bronze or Silver step?”

“No.  It’s an Ivan step.”


“It not in the syllabus.  You do it, they kicking you off the floor.  You know who doing this?  It Joanna Leunis.”

“Really!?!  I LOVE her.  She’s amazing.  But okay.  I’m clear. So if we get to do it, we do it in an open heat.”

“Yes, open.”

He led me into it, but only indicated one spiral turn.  I did this successfully then he said, “Oh.  It better if you can do a double.  Can you do a double?”

I didn’t know if I could but I wanted to try.

Bam!  I totally did it.

Ivan and I gave each other a double “Hi Five” and a hug.  I was so excited.  In fact, it was probably the most animated part of my lesson, succeeding at this maneuver.  He told me, “Most people doing this step and can’t even do a single turn.”  He demonstrated, in his Ivan-exaggerated way of how people fall out of the turn (normally), leaning and listing to this side or the other and causing a big problem.  So he wanted me to try it again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

But me, woot! I easily did the double again! Maybe I’m finally finding my center, once again, and also remembering to spot, plus I had the added advantage of just that little assist in balance from connecting with Ivan – for me that little bit of support makes all the difference, I have to say. So yay.

“See.  I no have to teach you the step.  You already doing it.”

“Let’s try it again, Ivan.”

We did.  And it was successful for the next 3 tries.  On the 4th try I fell to the floor.  I swear the wooden floor at the church is so slippery!  I need new shoes and that floor is difficult.  I love the sticky/tacky floor at Imperial.  It spoils me and I wish it were everywhere!  Anywhoo….I fell.  But I am uninjured and overall the move was a rousing success.

Next onto a Samba.  For some reason, Ivan keeps calling it “Sambera” lately.  Whatever.  He put on the music and since I had suggested we dance socially, we decided to do the Samba in that character.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember when I ever laughed so hard.  I told Ivan that it is sometimes painfully difficult to watch social dancers do the Samba.  Some of them hop, and jolt, and have no hip movement.  They dance like 2 x 4’s as Ivan calls it when he means people are stiff.  This isn’t to generalize or degrade people who socially dance the Samba, I promise, it’s just that I’ve seen some couples and I’m like, wow, why are you dancing this dance this way?  It is awkward.  Probably the same reaction someone had to me dancing West Coast Swing (as taught by a ballroom instructor) before I knew about the dance.  I promise, we all have stuff to work on, you know?!

So Ivan and I danced this way – no hips, stiff, 2×4, wooden.  It was hilarious!  It looked ridiculous.  And such a contrast from Ivan, who normally dances it so amazingly, and from me, who works so dang hard to create a proper Samba bounce plus hip motion.  I truly wish I had that s*@t on film!  It was too funny.

Honestly though, besides that, the rest of my lesson was unremarkable.  We did Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and Cha Cha.  I dragged.  Ivan poured as much Chi energy my way as he could.  It felt a little like an energetic transfusion of sorts.  I did feel somewhat better by the end of the lesson, but still, I’m drained.  Oh well.  Glad I did have one “triumph.”

So please root for Ivan and Marietta as they compete this weekend at the Emerald Ball in LA.  There is live streaming of the entire event (though a pay-per-view) here if you want to watch from home.  It is a big and prestigious and competitive event.  I really, really hope my favorite couple (besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski) does well.  Ivan seemed to think they wouldn’t even make the final at such a large comp, but I reminded him to look into his mirror, remember the champion he already is, and have an optomistic attitude.  Because you know what? I believe in him and Marietta.  I enjoy watching them dance because they have an real and emotional connection.  And to me, that makes things interesting.  As I’ve said before – I’d prefer to watch a couple that is less technically excellent with an authentic connection than an impeccably technically excellent couple with no emotion or connection any day of the week.

So anyways, as I pumped this positive support Ivan’s way, he rebutted my support by asking me to jump on the roof.  So I jumped.  Not high, not impressively, and certainly not onto the roof, but happily.

He about peed his pants laughing at me.  He said, “Being in the final of Emerald Ball for me is like jumping on the roof right now.  Can people do it?  Yes.  But they need to practice.  You have to remember, I lazy.  And I should be practicing jumping and little by little I jump on the roof like it easy.”

“So what?!” I replied. I jumped up again.  Again, not graceful, not impressive, but to illustrate a point that I hope Ivan got.

The point is, GO FOR IT.  Wherever I am/he is/you are right now, go for it.  Why not?

“You can’t controlling how the judging goes in competitions so you might as well have fun.” Said Ivan.  And I agreed.

“So go have fun at Emerald Ball, Ivan, damnit!  Go have fun!  I will be watching and rooting for you.  You know you are my favorite couple? Right?  Well, if I am honest, besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski….they I like them best, and you guys (Ivan and Marietta) the second best.”

Ivan was so excited by my comment he said laughingly, “I tell Marietta this.  You know her favorite dancer?”

“Yes, Ivan.  I know it’s Joanna.”

“Yes.  She gonna get a kick that your two favorite couples are Joanna Leunis with Michael Malitowski and us!”

But I mean it.  And so you must be wondering why?  Well, my response is, why not love these two couples?  Because for me, when I watch them, there actually seems to be a connection and that makes the interaction between man and woman interesting to watch.  And Joanna is immaculate.  Truly.  From my perspective, all the high level competitors are technically excellent in their dancing, no doubt about it, but I love the drama, the connection, the emotion.  I personally prefer that above perfect technique, and I guess Ivan does too, based on our conversation which is interesting and makes it no mystery why he ended up being my instructor since we both value the same things in dancing.  I do believe Joanna and Michael to be superior to Ivan and Marietta in terms of experience, ranking, technicque, and even, I hate to say it, connection, but I also happen to believe Ivan and Maretta have the potential to forge an excellence and connection strong enough of their own to compete with the best in the world.  Of course, I’m biased.  But as a dancer and human being, I also happen to see that potential in them.

Whew!  Have I said everything I wanted to say?  Yep.  A brief post – just another 2800-word (and change) post.  Ha ha. Not!

Oh – and before I sign off, I have to explain the title of this post.  Medusa. Well, Ivan “made” me a picture of what “the hell” he was talking about….a jellyfish.  Apparently I was dancing like a boneless, blubbery, soft jellyfish.  The interesting part is that how Ivan described “medusa” to me was that it “90% water.”  Uh huh.  How do you know how to communicate something like that but you don’t know the word for jellyfish?  I’ll never know.  And also, once I figured out that medusa meant jellyfish, I asked Ivan, “Is that the word in Polish or Bulgarian?”

” Bulgarian,” he replied.

“Well great.  ‘Cause that is a useful word, if I ever go to visit there….now I know how to say jellyfish.”  Probably “bathroom” and “beer” and “I’m sorry” would actually be more useful, right?


Watch out you Bulgarians.  I am now armed with the word for jellyfish.  Kind of like a Marine armed with a banana.  Sheesh!

It’s way past bedtime.

Gute Nacht,  Stefanie

Phone Call

“Elo, Estefanie!”      Translated this is Hello, Stefanie!

“Hello, Ivan!”

“How are you?  Kak say”   Kak say (phonetic sounds) = How are you.  I’m learning a few phrases in Bulgarian

“Dobre!”       This means “good”


“Estefanie, thank you for my message.  It’s so nice!  I feel so good”      I left Ivan a message yesterday thanking him for being my teacher.

“Of course, Ivan.  You’re welcome.”

“Maybe you kidding on it?”

“No Ivan, I meant every word I said.”

“Ohh, thank you.  Estefanie, I see on Facebook you did a picture.  Why you do a picture of you in the mirror first thing in the morning with no make up?  What you expect, you gonna look like princess first thing?  No.  Probably not even supermodels looking good in in the morning.  Probably Claudia Schiffer having to putting on the make up every morning.  Why you do this?  You got to get up, brush your teeth, probably wait an hour.”

I’m giggling.  The photo I took wasn’t about looking pretty.  It was part of a response I challenged myself to complete.  But I don’t think Ivan fully understands it.  And, he never misses an opportunity to tell me that I look better with make up on than without.  He’s so sweet about it, anyone else says something this to you and you’d take offense, but him, it cracks me up.  And, yes, I do look better with a little make up on. 

Ah, the life of a ballroom dancer.  Step one:  must always be glamorous. 

“Oh, Ivan,” I ignore the question.  It’s too difficult to explain.

“When are we going to dance again?” I query.  “Tomorrow?  Friday?”

“Tomorrow, tomorrow is good. What time?”

“Ten am?”

“That good.  At the church.”

“Okay, Ivan.  I’ve got to go.  I’m at work!”

“Okay, okay, go, go! I seeing you tomorrow!”

“Bye, Ivan”

“Bye, Estefanie.”

I guess I’d better put a little make up next time I take a picture and post it on Facebook!