The Dance…

The music starts.

Your heart starts beating nearly uncontrollably as the countdown signals your entrance.

You take a deep breath, toss shoulders back and swing aside the curtain.

You’re on stage.

Focused… you sense applause as you head toward the spotlight greet to your dance partner. You catch each other’s eyes, smile and off you go… to entertain the audience and raise money for charity. It’s “Swingshift and the Stars.”

DANCING from your hearts.

One year ago today I experienced that joy and fear. I stepped out of my comfort zone into a world of “ballroom” dancing for a charity dance-off.

Photo by Record Eagle

Photo by Record Eagle 2014

What an adventure! Through hours of rehearsal and perspiration, my partner and I developed a mutual trust. We agreed to attempt  “lifts” I swore I could never accomplish. See that girl on the man’s shoulder? It’s me! I call that the “Peter Pam,” as it was the closest I ever felt to flying. 😉

Photo by Windborne Photographic

Photo by Windborne Photographic

Yes, I have taught dancers how to safely perform lifts, and I have done too many to count as a young dancer. But 20 years and three children later… this was a big, nerve-wracking decision!

Photo by Windborne Photographic

Photo by Windborne Photographic

“The Dance.”

For me, it’s what life is all about. Dance is a gift of art and self-expression that must be shared. Because I live that philosophy, I know that dance on the highest levels requires balance, grace, coordination, and athleticism. To me the most important elements are your emotional commitment and the passion behind the movements. I believe this applies not only to DANCING but everyday life. We need more passion in our actions!

Through these performances I learned that facing fears directly can be exhilarating and intensely satisfying when you achieve what you never thought possible, or had been afraid to try. And that is what my run on the charity dance-off “Swingshift and the Stars” accomplished for me. I competed as a dance professional in the four-month-long  charity dance-off. I was paired with a local celebrity. We invested over 5 months of rehearsals. It allowed me time to learn new steps and then teach them to my celebrity partner, a self-proclaimed non-dancer. We mastered intricate routines for the four separate competitive events in which we were to compete.

Photo by Windborne Photographic

Photo by Windborne Photographic

Photo By Windborne Photographic

Photo By Windborne Photographic

I personally learned four different dances; each with its own rhythms, footwork, arm holds, turns, emotion, character and styles. First was a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers-inspired Foxtrot, followed by a John Travolta-inspired hustle. For the country-themed event we performed a West Coast Swing. The finale was a spicy, very spicy Latin Bolero (waaaaay out of my territory) but I DID it!!

With the support of fans and sponsors, and the votes of judges, our hard work brought in over $130,000 for Leelanau Christian Neighbors!! I believe when you put your heart into something (whether its dance or something else) you will be rewarded for your effort. For this event, our community joined together, for an all-time record. Over $300,000 was raised for the 2014 season.

Swingshift award

We did it! I did! The community did it! And what we achieved for the charities fills my soul to the core.

Overflowing with gratitude a year later, my heart continues to fuel my daily life with family, friends and teaching. Returning to the event for this season as a judge has already touched my heart in ways I didn’t expect. I know how hard these couples are working (along with everyone else behind the scenes). I get a little choked up thinking about the impact they will make for their charities and the precious folks they will help.

YOU can make a difference too…in those tiny moments, in those big moments and just by offering a smile to someone.

The music is starting…

Join me as we all grab each other’s hands, listen to our hearts, find that passion to drive our action… and DANCE!!!

School Bell Blues, Woos and Shoes…

©2015 dancinmoma.com

©2015 dancinmoma.com

Hear the faint sounds of school bells and buzzers?!  Yep. The free-spirited beach days of summer are wrapping. Kick off the flip flops and sandals. Another school year begins for our kids, who seem to be growing far too rapidly.

Are you ready? Good. Not sure I am!

New worries; “what class am I in? Do have any friends in class. Who is my teacher?” Each demands an answer. Then there are the infamous school supply lists and clothes to prepare for the first day. (I’m all about pre-planning but seeing beach merchandise pushed back in early July and replaced by school supplies is too early for me. What happened to living in the moment?! I didn’t want a #2 pencil I just needed an extra pair of goggles!

I will miss the “quality time” spent with the little ones in the summer, mornings especially. There is nothing like a cup of coffee with a little one snuggling next to you as you read a book together, or watch the latest Disney Jr. show. Then there is sneak up behind him big “I love you” bear hug for your teen son as he heads out the door. Yes, we will still have our mornings, but not like the relaxing, summer versions. Life keeps moving. Now, if you are even 5 minutes late out the door during the school year, you miss the bus, be late for school, or mom and dad are late for work. Let’s be honest, yes will have a slightly more organized scheduled, but we may also revert to the sometimes hectic, eat and run days to just….make it out the door!

“Brush your teeth! Get dressed please! Shoes on! Grab your backpack! Please! Is anyone listening?!” are just a few of the instructions and questions that seem to be on repeat (at least in our house). I find that no matter how organized I am each morning…. Something will still happen…a broken zipper perhaps, or the “where is my favorite sweatshirt?” moment.

Yet it’s the simple, crazy stuff we will miss most when they are older, because it goes fast, turbo fast. I mean everyone says it, but you don’t “get it” until it happens in front of you.

Each grade is a milestone that you will be sharing with your kids. Each child develops his and her own styles, tastes, personalities, likes, dislikes, and ways to learn. What works for one child isn’t always best for your other children. So we adapt. We learn. As parents, we really do have the best seats to watch these little creatures evolve into young men and women.  Sure, they will make mistakes (we all do) but when you can see them actually “learn” from those mistakes, it is gratifying. I can honestly state that, although challenging at times, being a parent is one of the most soul filling careers in the world.

This year in particular is going to be tough for me with the big transitions for my “babies.” The oldest will be in his second year of high school. High school! This summer I have been driving (no riding) with my learners-permit teen at the wheel. I still can’t get over it. When I make a comment about “getting too close to the mailboxes,” I still see the four-year old sending hot wheel cars down our hilly driveway to “see what would happen” or the toddler in the little car using his feet to propel him as he pretends to drive and honk his horn. “Beep! Beep!” he would exclaim. Now that “beep beep” sound is my heart on the inside, as he maneuvers his way around town. Calm and cool mom on the outside, but on the inside….

The middle one is transitioning to “middle” school. I have him frozen in time somewhere around the 2nd grade talent show (and wondering how we got here!). These pre-teen years can be tough; they are the years they literally grow over night. They pull away even more with their independence; voices and bodies start changing and kids at that age can be downright mean. They start to challenge your words just a little more (frustrating, right?) but they also show the kindness you had a part in molding. They have ideas, lots of them and they can be SO entertaining.

My youngest, my last little miracle, is moving on up to Kindergarten. SIGH. What used to be “firsts” and things to look forward to with her older brothers, has now become….lasts for us….“the last time we will pull off the training wheels, the last time we will ever have a kindergartener….” Not to be too sappy (Okay, totally sappy and sentimental) but watching her breaks my heart while filling my soul. There are days I wish I could go back and just play with the little toddler version of her, because she too is on her way to growing up. I have to pause and remind myself that although they are “lasts” for us as parents they are still “firsts” for her so we enthusiastically cheer as she reaches her next milestone.

So, back to school they will go, back packs filled with supplies. Dedicated teachers will fill their precious minds with knowledge, creativity and independent thinking. They will meet new friends, share stories with one another and learn new things every day. They will build their confidence and learn from their mistakes. As parents, we must be there to help guide them the best that we can.

School is definitely an adventurous ride that moves at warp speed but WE are the lucky ones. We have VIP seats to watch our children grow into strong, knowledgeable, faithful, enthusiastic and caring young adults.

We will hug them through the blues, cheer them with the “wooooos!” and offer our best advice because we have already walked in those school shoes.

Let’s enjoy the journey.

 

(Note: This post was previously published in our local magazine entitled, “Life on Holiday.” )