Monday, March 28, 2016

Failure To Launch

Every quarter I get to learn new batches of choreography for two of the classes I teach at the gym. I download two hours of video, two hours of music, and two books of notes, and then I memorize all of it. I essentially teach myself to teach it. The week that all instructors begin using that new choreography in class is called "launch." Our next launch kicks off this Sunday.

Tonight I finished teaching my two Monday classes and was UP HERE. I was in such a great mood, I wanted to hug everyone, and I was ready to go home and eat everything in my refrigerator and relax. Then I remembered I actually needed to leave the studio, get myself cleaned up and out the door, and put my headphones in ASAP so I could get back to studying new choreography. It's the week before launch, my friends. My laptop will sit on top of the washing machine in my bathroom while I put my makeup on in the morning so I can watch and listen to the videos for a bit before I leave the apartment. Every walk to the T, every trip to the water fountain at work, every elevator ride, the entire time I'm cooking breakfast, my commute home, all of my free time belongs to learning this new stuff. It owns my brain. I will suddenly yell out "shoulder WHIP" on the street if I remember something. I will slowly rock back and forth in my chair at work thinking about deadlifts and their timing. I will look a cashier at CVS square in the eye wordlessly for an awkwardly long time and then say, "step touch."

It's a process, and tonight I was in the I DON'T WANNA phase with it. Arms folded. Pouting. Brazenly listening to a song I'm considering for Zumba instead of the 27 songs on my to-learn list. Looking around the train at all the lucky people who AREN'T fitness instructors and who get to just go home and shut their brains off and and laugh at their TVs and brush their dumb teeth and go to sleep with smug grins on their faces. WAHHHHHHH!

But then I remembered the first time I ever heard the term "launch" and it made me rethink my quarterly tantrum. I was a member of the gym for which I now teach. I was really new. I was just starting to get interested in this new dance class called BodyJam. I loved it because I'd taken ballet pretty seriously when I was a kid, and it felt really good to dance again. The instructor, Brooke, who is now a close friend of mine but who at the time I felt was WAY too cool for me to speak to, told us that later that week there would be a special class where they'd teach us some brand new choreography. There would be three instructors, they'd have some sort of theme, and there would be a disco section. Sold. This shit was keeping me alive and I HAD to be at this launch thing. I left the studio, I wrote it down, it was on.

Snag. This was NOT the best time in my life. I had depression. I'd been laid off,  I was not coping well, I was overweight, I was smoking a lot, I was drinking a lot, I was dating someone who wasn't the best version of himself at that point, I was really sad and angry, and I was struggling to see a way out of it. This new class was the first thing in a long time that made me feel like I was going to be alright. I was so depressed sometimes I couldn't even look straight ahead. Truth. This class made me look up. I was going to that launch thing no matter what.

Nope. I was sitting in the courtyard across the street from my apartment building when I realized it. I'd had a terrible night the night before and stayed inside most of the day. I crept out to smoke a cigarette. I felt awful. I was super hungry. I was all puffy from crying. My ribs were killing me. Everything hurt. I brought my notebook outside with me so I could do some writing and saw the note I'd written that said, "Special Body Jam launch class Back Bay Friday." I was so sad. I missed it. I missed the new stuff. I missed the disco. The theme. The three instructors. I missed it.

I'd love to say that this was the moment that changed everything and that right then and there I stood up and threw my cigarettes in the trash and dumped my boyfriend and became the picture of health. Not so much. It wasn't immediate, but I do credit BodyJam with bringing me back to life. A few months later, I was taking a class and Brooke, the instructor I mentioned above, sort of stopped what she was doing and looked out at the class and said, "I love what I do." I remember thinking, "I want to feel like THAT." After class I got online and wrote down a list of every single BodyJam class the gym offered. I had nothing but time. I was unemployed. I could take that class everyday except Wednesday. Eventually, the schedule evolved and I could even take it twice on Thursday if I wanted to. Sometimes I did.

Then one day I was standing outside the studio at the gym's brand new Coolidge Corner location on a Sunday morning waiting for my class, when a girl named Berkley came up to me and said, "Hey, you sometimes go to Back Bay, right?" Someone at the gym actually KNEW me. From another location! A healthy person in a gym knew ME. I think I turned nine shades of red and was so beside myself I nearly fainted from excitement and walked away to pretend to fill my water bottle. From then on I started to feel a real sense of community from this class and this gym. I started to "make the first move" and introduce myself to people. I moved from the back row to the front row. (NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE BACK ROW, BACK ROW PEOPLE!)

Maybe a year later I registered for an initial instructor training for BodyJam. I had NO intention of ever actually teaching it, I just wanted to learn more about this hobby I loved so much. The training was in Bedford, MA. Not too far away. (Okay, fine, my parents drove me.) (My mom loves the TJ Maxx in Bedford.) The first time I stood up to present during the training I didn't feel nervous at all. I felt calm for the first time in... ever?

To this day, the second I put the microphone on my head at the beginning of class I feel better. I feel like me for the first time all day, I know exactly what to do. I feel like I can 100% be myself. And I feel like I lose the ability to think about anything or anyone outside of the people standing in front of me and the things I need to teach them. It is so relaxing to totally immerse yourself in something and forget about everything else. I'm so bad at this, and so thankful to have teaching be this kind of escape for me.

This was why at the end of my classes tonight I'd completely forgotten about my studying, about launch coming up next week, and about all the things I need to memorize and perfect before then. But as I was sitting on the train heading home pouting and defiantly listening to Ricky Martin instead of Diplo, I remembered that lousy day in the courtyard. I remembered how sad I felt that I'd failed to make it to launch, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I leaned forward in my seat like I was secretly practicing a deadlift at my desk and got a bit choked up.

I haven't missed a single BodyJam launch since that terrible courtyard day. Over the past four years I've participated as a member, I've danced alongside more senior instructors as they taught new choreography, I've launched with other members of our Jam team, I've launched by myself. I even picked up another certification along the way. Two of them.

I got to the gym tonight and there was a flier on the studio door for our special launch event coming up this Sunday. My name was one of the four listed as teaching at the event. I sort of glanced at it and made a sarcastic comment about the photo that was used since it was of an EXTREMELY fit woman, i.e. NOT me. But later on the train when I was thinking about all of this, I got really emotional about that flier because there was a time when I was really devastated to not be in the room for launch, and now I was going to be at the front of the room for it.

That said, teaching is not about me. I'm conscious of the fact that each time I teach, there could be someone in the studio having her version of a "courtyard" phase. There could also be someone in the room who simply had a crappy day and who really needs to dance her face off and/or lift really heavy things and then go home and sleep and get back in the ring tomorrow. Sometimes people come to just like... exercise and burn calories and stuff. Anyway. It's my hope that I can create a space where all of those things can happen, and where my participants can feel strong, safe, empowered, and creative; where they can forget every single horrible or wonderful thing happening outside of the room, and see where that might take them.

BodyJam 60, 62, and 70 launches; Zumba on the Esplanade

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Blow Your Face Off Sesame Ginger Chicken For ONE

This will never be a food blog. I am not a skilled food person. I have no business sharing anything food-related that I've made up with any of you. This recipe is super basic and will probably bore everyone, but it was SO GOOD I made it two days in a row and had to share just in case any of you hadn't thought of combining things this way.

I'm trying REALLY hard to get my financial act together. A BIG part of that is breaking my embarrassing habit of spending money I do not have and eating nearly every meal in a restaurant. Yesterday I arrived home after a really nice day out with my family feeling kind of tired, kind of hungry, kind of lazy. My knee-jerk reaction was to take myself to the bar at Benevento's for some gluten free penne a la vodka and two glasses of Cabernet to the tune of $50 with tip. But then I remembered that I make very little money and I have a credit card to pay off and I need to snap out of it. So, I took myself to the butcher and got one skinless, boneless chicken breast and told myself I was going to figure something out for dinner with whatever I had in. $3.50 for dinner. It's on.

Here's what I made:


One boneless, skinless chicken breast sliced into strips or chunks, whatever you like
1/2 cup uncooked rice of your choice
One scallion chopped up
Half a lime - if you have it, if not, no worries


Teaspoon of peanut butter - Skippy is fine, don't overthink this
One clove of garlic minced
A tiny bit of Sriracha, or more, some like it hot
Drizzle of sesame oil
Bunch of soy sauce - the majority of the marinade should be soy sauce
Fresh ginger grated right into the marinade bowl, not a ton

Put the chicken in the marinade and stick it in the fridge for 30 mins.

Cook the rice according to package directions. When it's ALMOST done, zest a little bit of lime over the pot and stir. Shut off the heat, keep it covered, take it off the burner. Just let it sit.

Heat some olive oil and a dash of sesame oil in a little frying pan for a minute or two.

Dump the chicken and marinade into the frying pan and cook it

Put the rice in the bowl you intend to eat out of. Squeeze your lime over the rice.

Throw the chicken on top of the rice.

Sprinkle an obnoxious amount of sesame seeds on top of the chicken.

More lime, if there's juice left

Sprinkle the chopped scallions on top.

Eat it all with a big glass of really cold white wine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Five @ 5

Every Friday I will wake up at 5am, put myself at my desk, and write about the first five things that pop into my head. An effort to make sure I post something at least once a week. If you want to write you should write. 

1. I plan to make this Thai Peanut Burrito Bowl for dinner tonight. Have I had it before? Nope. But it sounds so delicious, I already plan to make it again on my day off this Monday. Do I actually have a day off this Monday? Nope. But I can FEEL a snow day coming on. The last time I checked the iPhone weather still had snowflakes on Sunday and Monday. 

2. Speaking of the iPhone, I was halfway down Hanover Street yesterday morning when I realized I'd forgotten mine at home. I kept walking. I wanted to try having a day away from it. My life didn't change. I didn't have an epiphany. I didn't get a lot more accomplished at work than usual. But I loved the break. I don't even really like my phone all that much, but I am hopelessly addicted to it. And seven times out of 10 when I pick it up and look at it I feel either anxious, annoyed, or more bored than I was before I picked it up. It's useful, sure, but it's so distracting. One of my co-workers and her friend played the fiddle in our lobby for a half hour around lunchtime yesterday for Saint Patrick's Day. Usually I would have had my phone with me. Taken a picture. Probably hit the little button at the bottom to check the time and see if I had any messages a few times. It was so nice to just sit there and listen. I knew they were going to finish playing at 12:30. I didn't need to look at the time. Later on I went to dinner with my parents and we had a really gorgeous meal. This was a very special treat, we went here. Anyway, as we were winding down three seemingly very nice people sat down next to us, ordered, and got right into their phones. It was so funny to really see what we all look like. This is a nice restaurant (thank you, Mom and Dad) and the food is just stunning, the dining room is really elegant, it's not like sitting at Otto by yourself at the end of a 12-hour day scarfing a pizza before you get on the train to go home, it's a special occasion restaurant. I felt so bad for these three people. I wanted to take a picture of them and show them what they looked like. But I didn't have my phone with me, so I jumped right back into chatting with Mom and Dad and enjoying the beautiful space.

3. I am so excited to watch this documentary about Nora Ephron that I almost want to run out and buy a TV and get HBO.

4. A few weeks ago in a span of 48 hours I went through a break-up and on a first date and I'm not even dating this year. You see, both the break-up and the first date were friend-related. I met up with a girl I went to elementary and middle school with and who I've gotten to know via Facebook. We finally decided to take the friendship out on dry land and sit down with some Italian food and wine and get to know each other in real life as adults.  It was SO much fun. The very next day I had a friendship-on-the-rocks come to an abrupt end. Sad on one level, an enormous relief on another. Anyway, since that week I've been thinking a lot about my friendships and what I've realized is that they're somewhat fluid. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I don't have a "best friend" and I've never really had a clique. Do people still say that word? NO. It's "squad" now. I've never been part of a "squad" but I've always had a lot of people in my life who I'm very close with and talk to A LOT. When I was in high school I had three friends I considered my closest. They kind of knew each other but they ran in different circles. When they'd hang out with their "friends" I was sometimes invited, and sometimes I wasn't. Recently I had a person who I consider a pretty close friend tell me she was excited to introduce her new boyfriend to her "friends." This did not include me. Hey, at least I know where I stand. That sounded bitter, but I'm really not complaining. I'm just noticing. If I had a crisis, I know I have 10 people I could go to immediately, maybe more. Not everyone can say that. It's 5:50 a.m. and I've already received two "good luck" texts from friends regarding something I have to do today. But out of those 10 people, I've only known two of them for more than five years. Again, NOT complaining, just noticing. All of this just has me wondering, am I weird because I don't have a DJ Tanner/Kimmy Gibbler-style lifelong friendship? Am I weird because people I consider very close friends don't typically consider me to be part of the "friends" category of their lives? What if I keep going like this and when I'm 90 (fingers crossed) and probably still haven't met a man to marry, I can't find any "friends" and then I'm REALLY alone??? Am I going to read this in 10 years and say, "Oh shut up, Ann. Take a deep breath and get a real problem?" Probably. It's just something I'm noodling on.

5. Sometimes you can't come up with five things to write about because your cat throws up in the middle of writing #4 and now it's just time for coffee. It just is. Have a great weekend, everyone.  

Monday, March 14, 2016

The One

I've been searching for The One for years, and I've been disappointed again and again. I've tried to keep my hopes up that it would happen, but recently I decided to give up. I was never going to find The One and it was okay. There were other things in life that made me happy.

All of this changed for me over the past five days. I found The One! I was looking at Facebook last week when my eyes drifted off to a little photograph on the right hand side of the screen and it just happened. I fell in love. I knew immediately that this was it. After years of disappointment, it was happening to me. To ME! 

Obviously, I am not talking about a man. I am talking about a water bottle. 

Isn't it perfect? I ordered it immediately. It's everything I've ever wanted. I've tried several times to be a good person who "goes green" and carries a water bottle instead of buying plastic bottle after plastic bottle, but each time I was disappointed. This thing is PERFECT. I don't have to squeeze it so it'll never dribble all over me. There's no straw to get gross and weird looking from me chewing on it in meetings when I'm feeling anxious. I just open it and drink. Then I close it, and IT IS A VAULT. It will not spill in my bag like the horrible glass one I got at Whole Foods that leaked and ruined my cell phone. Speaking of glass, IT'S NOT GLASS, so it won't shatter if (when) I drop it. It's not dishwasher-safe so it won't make me feel bad for not having a dishwasher. You can't tell from the photo, but it has a little sparkle to it and that just thrills me. It's not a bright color so I won't get sick of it. It has a super subtle logo on it which is perfect because I can't stand logos.I keep gazing at it and turning it over in my hands looking for a flaw. None. Not one flaw. It's perfect. For me. It's The One.  

The silly little lesson for me here is that I don't have to change who I am and what I like in order to have a water bottle. Or really anything worth having. I don't like straws. I don't like logos. I don't like bright colors. I'm going to hurriedly throw this thing in my bag at the end of a 12-hour day and I'm going to need it to be on my team and not leak all over my phone. That's me, and I'd rather have no water bottle at all than the wrong water bottle.

Stay thirsty, my friends.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Five @ 5

Every Friday I will wake up at 5am, put myself at my desk, and write about the first five things that pop into my head. An effort to make sure I post something at least once a week. If you want to write you should write. 

1. The highlight of my week was going to the dentist. I don't say this to imply that I had a bad week, I say this because it literally was the highlight. I'm terrified of the dentist, and I've been pretty bad about going regularly. My last visit a little over a year ago went VERY badly and I waited until now to get back in the ring. My 11am appointment on Tuesday this week began at 8am when the Actual Dentist - like the person in the white coat who comes in at the end and examines you and talks loudly and blesses your cleaning - called me on my cell phone to introduce himself and ask me if there was anything he should know or anything he could do to make me more comfortable during my first visit. I was honest and told him I had horrible anxiety, I hadn't been in a while, I really didn't trust or like anyone in his profession, and I was sorry in advance about the crappy morning he was about to have. He told me he liked my honesty. When I arrived for my appointment a few hours later, the hospitality continued. They gave me a tour of the entire office like I was a staff member and it was my first day. They made small talk to put me at ease, but also kept it real and asked me multiple times if I was feeling anxious and how best to share information with me so I wouldn't become more anxious - why don't more people do this? They offered me water, headphones, sunglasses, an eye pillow, lip balm,  and AN ACTUAL BLANKET. They spent 2.5 hours with me and I never felt rushed, I never felt like my questions were ridiculous, and as the minutes ticked by I started to have fun. FUN. At the dentist. At the end of my appointment, the Actual Dentist did that elbows on his lap/hands folded/leaned forward pose like he was about to say something important but wanted me to feel like he was on my level and we were in it together, and told me that there are probably 10,000 people in Boston who are also scared to go to the dentist and to please spread the word that it doesn't have to be that way,  and that he doesn't care if people come to his practice, he only cares that they go somewhere. I almost started crying it was so beautifully said. Is this guy a salesman? Probably. But I don't care. I have a dentist. FINALLY. I'm going back. I can't WAIT to go back. If you are like me and terrified of the dentist, you have to go here

2. I'm reading this book and almost every page is making me roar with laughter and nod in agreement. No one is better than Nora Ephron.  

3. Confession: I'm bad with money. Are any of you bad with money? Not just, "woops, I overspent a little this weekend" bad with money, or, "oh goodness I'm paying my cell phone bill ON the due date, that was a close call" bad with money. Like BAD with money. It's gotten to a place where I spend money as if I don't even like it. I spend it relentlessly, like I want to get rid of it as quickly as I can. Worst part? I don't have a whole lot to show for it. I don't run out and relentlessly buy groceries or even clothing. I don't really ever take vacations or travel. I don't sit on my couch at night with my computer on my lap feverishly paying my bills as soon as I receive them. I rarely buy the basic things I actually need. In fact, I've realized that I HATE spending money on basics. I'll stand in CVS looking at the price of trash bags, and the ones that cost $8.99 will scare me. "Mmmmmm. That's steep." But $80 on dinner and drinks I don't need and probably won't really enjoy all that much on a random Tuesday night? That's no big deal. Turns out? It kind of is a big deal. It adds up. It's a self-destructive habit and it's been a problem of mine for years. Those of you who socialize with me have probably noticed that I can be a little... extravagant. That needs to change for a while, or forever. The thing that's snapped me out of it and started me (hopefully) on a path to righting my financial ship, is the realization that I'm not even made happy by most of the things I'm throwing my money at. It hit me on Saturday night, again on Sunday night, and MAJORLY on Tuesday night. So, I looked back at 10 weeks of my bank statement and wrote down every expense I deemed an "extra" meaning things outside of the basics I've now admitted to myself I hate spending money on like rent, groceries, and bills. I'm a terrible person, really. The list was alarming. I then broke that list into two - 1. things I actually enjoyed or that were gracious/socially necessary, 2. things I either didn't enjoy or that were due to disorganization or laziness. Less than a third of the ridiculous amount of money I'd spent went to things I actually enjoyed or felt good about. I've thrown a lot of money away so far in 2016. It's amazing how much damage you can do to yourself if you're not paying attention. The silver lining for me is that I've been doing this for years, ending up in the same place, and never understanding how I got there. I acknowledge that this is a somewhat pathetic realization for a 36-year old woman and that some of you who own your homes and cars and/or who are raising children or have a responsibility to someone other than yourselves are probably rolling your eyes. That's fine. I'm rolling my eyes, too. But better late than never. I predict in about a month I'll turn the news on and see a story about Boston's restaurants suddenly suffering a downturn in revenue, with a side story that Uber drivers are reporting a major drop in business and that it's unclear if the two are related.  I am the WORST. 

4. So now that I'm going to try and be a normal, sane person who understands that you don't actually need to eat every single one of your meals in a restaurant and who is in the beginning stages of digging herself out of a money pit, I'm on the hunt for some tasty but inexpensive recipes. I started with this one. I've saved it in my email for years because I thought it sounded so delicious and easy, and last night it became a reality because I actually had all of the ingredients in my house already. Who knew? I didn't. Sigh. Sidenote  - I think someone could write an article about literally anything, and if I liked the layout of the page and the accompanying photos I'd run out and do it like it was the most exciting thing I'd ever heard of. Someone could say, "Take two pieces of bread and put them in your toaster. Push the button down. When the button pops back up, that means the toast is done. Take the bread out of the toaster, put some butter on each side, and eat it." If the page was cute I'd have toast for every meal for a month. Financial crisis - solved.  

5. Relatedly, I'm going to see this group perform next Friday and I purchased my ticket entirely because I randomly saw a Facebook post of theirs, clicked on it, and was immediately in love with their website and the way they announced their new executive director. Don't they sound neat?

Have a good weekend, everyone. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Five @ 5

Every Friday I will wake up at 5am, put myself at my desk, and write about the first five things that pop into my head. An effort to make sure I post something at least once a week. If you want to write you should write. 

1. Hi! So, I missed a week of Friday Five @ 5. I had nothing to say. Well, I had plenty to say but it was all kind of boring and/or a bummer and I really couldn't get out of bed at 5am. Or 6 or 7am for that matter. Sometimes I have a week or two where I struggle. I'm sure at least a few of you know what I mean and can relate. I'll leave it at that.

2. I've decided to start exercising on a regular basis. Yes, I'm a fitness instructor so it's odd that I'd say I'm going to START exercising. But teaching, while challenging physically, is not exactly exercise for me. Honestly, it's better. It's the best. It's the happiest part of my life and for a while I thought, well, there's my exercise. Not so much. Because for me the most significant benefits of exercise have nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my mind. The whole reason I got into this game was because six years ago I turned to exercise at a really rough time. I was sitting on my parents' couch thinking, "okay, what the HELL am I going to do?" and my web browser found its way over to the Healthworks website. I started by doing a few sessions with a personal trainer who reminded me how to move my limbs and that I had muscles in my body. From there I stumbled into group exercise and fell in love with BodyJam and felt better and better by the day. I love to exercise because I'm challenged in a really distracting way, I'm calmer, my stress decreases, and my ability to focus during all the other parts of my day increases. I also just really love movement. When I'm teaching it's technically work. It's WONDERFUL work that I love more than anything, but it's not all that calming. Anyway, I'm trying barre and yoga since the four classes I'm fortunate to teach each week have me me bouncing around and lifting heavy-ish things. So far, so good. Yay exercise.

3. I didn't know it was okay to have garlic for breakfast, did you? After noticing a Facebook/Instagram post by this lovely and very knowledgeable lady, I copied her and recreated her breakfast of eggs, bacon, and garlicky chard. And it. Blew. My. Whole. Face off. Garlic for breakfast. Try it.  

4. Fuller House. It's not going to be raking in the Emmys. It's not going to change anyone's life. It's just so entertaining and wonderfully corny and nostalgia-filled, and sometimes that's enough at the end of a long day. I've already done plenty of thinking today, I've already had plenty of drama, just make me giggle and send me on my way. I highly recommend watching this gem. Also: John Stamos. To this day. Have mercy. 

5. I used to dance. I was pretty serious about ballet as a kiddo and took ballet classes for fun during college and in my 20s. It had its ups and downs as all things do, but overall I absolutely loved it. I stopped when I was 26. A few weeks ago it occurred to me how much I love ballet, how much I miss it, and how happy it once made me, so I'm going BACK. Ten years away, long enough. I'm ready. I mean yeah it's WAY too late for me to be a serious dancer, but I can sure as hell take adult beginner ballet classes and refresh my muscle memory and enjoy some live piano accompaniment and make some new friends on Saturday afternoons. I registered for a 10-week class and I start later this month. Why not?