When a Teacher Leaves

An early bulk of this blog detailed my life as a competitive and showcase ballroom dancer while living with Type 1 diabetes. Then life happened and I’m more or less a recovering addict of dancesport. I participated in showcases post-birth, but I’ve recently changed dance goal directives, putting a stop to solo showcases at the moment. This most recent hiatus is simply because I don’t have a full-time male instructor at this time.

The missing instructor wasn’t a surprise; all students had about a year of notice to plan for next steps and new instructors if needed. This was a vast improvement over what happened with a previous instructor, who turned in his two-week notice to his studio and students and promptly left the country. Being without another male teacher is not new for me, and “retiring” from competitive dancing coordinated nicely with this recent departure, but it’s probably a shock to the core for other dancers who don’t see departures coming.

So, what to do?

 

Errr… probably not.

 

Check with the studio’s plan. This kind of depends on how your home studio functions. There are dance studios that operate strictly as space, which then contracts instructors to use said space, or there are studios which hire instructors as employees. Getting and keeping male instructors around seems to be a universal problem in the dancesport community. There seems to be this weird issue of not having enough male instructors at a given studio. But if one does come around, it can be a challenge to establish a student base with an already ingrained community. There is a possibility that there are no immediate plans to hire a high-level instructor to replace the previous one. Maybe there aren’t any available. Studio HR dynamics are a separate post altogether; the goal of this post was to offer suggestions for students who may find themselves orphaned already.

Try the newer/different male instructor. This seems like the easiest solution, though it may seem daunting if you were with an old instructor for a number of years. New teaching methods, new communication preferences, new feelings. It’s going to feel like starting from scratch for a couple weeks/months. It might suck at first, especially if your expectations were molded by your old instructor’s habits. But, it doesn’t hurt to try. A different thought – the new instructor needs to build up his business and experience with students too.

Work with female instructors. They all have to know how to lead, so don’t worry about not being able to work on following. Plus, they can help with styling, connection, turn technique, and footwork variation ideas. (Just a few suggestions.)

Find an amateur/practice partner. Is there a similar-level male student at your studio with similar dance goals? Start practicing together. Share lessons together. (This is a great cost saver too.) Amateur competitions are loads cheaper than pro-am comps if competing is a common goal.

Practice on your own. Your previous instructor probably gave you lots of instruction during your time together. Now would be a good time to work on everything you were harped on during lessons; none of which probably need a partner present. This is a great post on solo practicing.

Form/Join a Small Group Ensemble. I still love performing, so I have been using my previous solo instruction time to work with an all-girls performance team. Still get to work on dance, have fun, and participate in showcases.

Learn the opposite role. Nothing tunes me into my connection with my partners than dancing as a leader. I can only really lead one or two dances, but I’m definitely available to lead socially when the is a leader shortage at dance outings. This option allows the freedom to work with any instructor in the studio for assistance.

Join/Audition for a Competitive Formation Team. This option isn’t always available at studios, but if it is – look into it. For ours, we get weekly coaching lessons by a master level teacher for a low monthly membership fee. Then we perform or compete around the region. The team does amazing things for dancing – plus all of the practice requirements fill out schedules nicely.

Try a new discipline. Was Standard your go-to dance realm? Try Latin. Or American Smooth. Or west coast swing. Not only will the challenge of switching to a new set of dances keep you on your toes, it’ll help your preferred dance. Or you might fall in love with the new dance and never look back.

Leave your studio and seek instruction elsewhere. This is obviously not my preferred suggestion, but if you want to keep dancing, you gotta do what you gotta do. This option is easier to do in larger metropolitan areas, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to leave a home-base studio. (I don’t want to leave mine.) But, if your goals don’t match what the current staff can help you with, then that’s a studio problem – not yours. A less abrupt suggestion? See if the pro can come to you every other weekend or so. (Or vice versa.)

How to continue your ballroom dance training when there isn't a pro around.

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Dizzy, Spinning, and 54

Unhelpful Dexcom - SeeJenDance
If you are a PWD and haven’t heard of Kerri at SUM, I sincerely question your Googling skills. I catch a lot of her posts on Facebook and she re-shared a blog post today from 2012 that stopped me on my too-short of a lunch break.

The post was titled, Lows in Public – a phenomenon I’m all too familiar with. Especially as a dancer and someone who just enjoys a night out. The example of stumbling off to the bar asking for a cup of “just orange juice, please” is a scene I’ve played out several times. (Though, sometimes it is a regular Coke, or gah, a Red Bull.)

Kerri is correct, though. There isn’t ever a convenient time for a low. Especially one that leaves you with your mouth dry, the room spinning, your limbs shaking, and the desire to eat the entire contents of your pantry.

While dancing, or during any sort of exercise, things escalate quickly. It’s easy to get lost in the music or entranced by the power of a great lead. So the usual telltale signs of a problem aren’t generally noticed. That is, until your ability to communicate the partner dance basics – frame and connection – become frail, disjointed, and those turns take way more out of you than normal.

In a lesson setting, these lows also effect my ability to process any information, no matter how mundane. I’m easily frustrated. My ability to speak is labored and my eyes glaze over or blur. My teachers are pretty aware of when something is wrong, and understanding if I need to take a break. “It’s cool, Jen, just wait it out. I’ll explain something/choreograph/do something that doesn’t involve thinking for 10 minutes.” But, have I finished out a lesson while ignoring my symptoms? Yes. More than a few times.

The frustrating part of it all is that I want to keep going. I don’t want to randomly stop a social dance and awkwardly exit stage left. Usually, if I’m dancing with a stranger, I can’t give a two second speech on why I’m suddenly hungry and need to get off the floor. But man, if I’m 54 mg/dl, and there are two minutes long left on that song, it’s the longest two minutes ever and I’m hoping that I can remain upright. (Because, well, passing out is probably equally awkward.) And the dance just goes downhill from there.

Or the lows that creep up when I need to leave my house and drive to a private lesson. They are usually the ones that stick with me. The ones that take about 3 treatments before 50 turns into 60… and then turn to 240 an hour later. I have treated and just made the drive before. It is never a great decision if I’m still recovering from the lingering low feelings beyond when the latest test is back at a safe level. (Adrenaline is a bitch sometimes.)

Classes tend to be easier to escape, unless it’s short on followers. And then I get the guilt of putting the effort into making it out to class only to be sidelined for 1/2 of it. Why won’t these glucose tabs work faster again?

Between cutting a dance short or interrupting a Master teacher mid-thought, diabetes is the bane of social dance etiquette. It’s already an inconvenience for me; why should it be an inconvenience for someone else (well, the passing out thing… again)? My thought is if I can just push through it with semi-consciousness, I don’t have to feel even more helpless than I already do. Where I have to succumb to the inconveniences of hypoglycemia and I can no longer pretend to be normal.

Does See Jen Dance Still Dance?

So the question you might be asking is did I ever return to dance post-baby?

Short answer: Yes-ish.

The pattern that plagues our studio since it has a huge student base from nearby colleges is that once a major life event occurs, be it graduation, grad or medical school, marriage, or baby, a very involved student can suddenly drop off the face of the earth.

This problem probably isn’t unique to just our studio, however, given that a good portion of the student base is younger, a considerable drop off occurs during certain parts of the year.

I was once a very involved student. Classes 6 days a week. Multiple partners for competition. Practice groups. Teams. Multiple lessons with my instructor to take on multiple routines for Showcases.

Nowadays, I change into my black dance/yoga pants in the evenings… and sit on the couch. Because parenting is exhausting. Or, if I find a class I’m interested in, I realize I will miss 2/3s of the month due to work travel. So I skip it.

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We even moved about 10 minutes away from the dance studio… and I still can’t find motivation to go on a regular basis. (Though, starting off the new year with an epic cough isn’t helping.)

I do social dance every couple weeks which helps with the whole “need to exercise” thing. But since I’m not actively working on anything super specific, like competing or a looming Showcase, it’s difficult to find a reason to go in. (Though, I do miss the people I dance with so I’m thankful for social dancing.)

So have I joined the ranks of the dance-enthusiast retirees? No.

I did participate in this last Showcase in December, which was exciting. It took twice as long to prep for the routine than usual, but I knew that would happen given my broken schedule. I never found the time or energy to practice like I used to, though. It was a running joke with my instructor leading up to the Showcase. In the end, I had something that I was happy with and that Bean cried all the way through because she couldn’t be on stage with momma. It was one of those routines that I could just perform the shit out of and keep the dancing basic. That instructor I have is pretty smart.

Coming into the new year, I have plenty of options, including fading into the background if I so choose. My instructor, who I’ve been working with for just over five years now, is going to be leaving in the fall to pursue higher education elsewhere. I hate that I have to end yet another dance relationship, but appreciate that he’s giving me more than a two week warning before up and leaving the country. (Yeah, that happened.) I now have the daunting decision to pick one final solo dance routine to do. And actually practice it.

I’ve been invited to participate in about three different dance troupes. One ballroom; two not. All sound exciting, are on weekends, and would allow me to be a free-range student for a while. I definitely can’t do all three. But whichever one coordinates best with Bean’s naptime will win.

The studio also offers Baby Ballroom classes for children under three, so I suspect I’ll be spending several Saturday mornings at the studio with Bean watching her grow and love dance. At least I hope so.

Okay there. That should fulfill my Ballroom Village blog quota for the month. 😛

Friday Five – possibly more

Oh man, where do I begin? Haha!

1) That box of sensors I recently received is apparently jinxed. Sensor 1 – the one I blogged about, had all sorts of trouble, but managed to last about a week before it failed on its own. The really bizarre thing about it? It always petered out after it got wet. So, yes, post showering, I had no data for at least 2 hours while it “dried out.” But when it worked – it worked great. Sensor 2 was inserted shortly after – and failed 30 minutes later. Wow. I’m now on Sensor 3 out of that box, which will hopefully last the standard two weeks, allowing me to place an order as normal when I open my last sensor packet. I must admit, the breaks in the alarms was nice – but the sudden lows weren’t.

2) For those who might be asking – yes, I’m still dancing. Sort of. Definitely not as intensely as I was once. I find that I my stamina is no where near where it was, so certain dances and faster songs are just on hold for the next few months. (I swear I did one east coast swing song for 3 minutes and I was down for the count for a half hour!) I did compete in West Coast Swing last month for fun and had some great late night dances – but staying out until 4 am is just not possible anymore. (Was it ever?) Instructor and I are working on a small showcase piece for a mini performance in July as well – with many pregnancy-friendly modifications. (Who knew promenade could be even HARDER!)

3) On the baby front – M and I are moving right along getting the nursery established. My goal is to have as much ready by August in the event I’m placed on bed rest for any possible reason during the 3rd trimester. (Getting Pre-E is actually what I fear the most because there is no way to prevent it.) The room is painted; we have a crib and a chair… and a crib. Yeah – long story short, I ordered a dresser for the nursery during Memorial Day weekend and the vendor sent me a crib instead. The unhappy UPS guys did take it back and now I have to wait another 2 weeks for the dresser to show up. But – at least it’s just June and not September, right?

4) Regarding pregnancy blood sugars – I haven’t hit the point of no return with insulin resistance yet. However – that doesn’t mean the highs don’t happen at all. My MFM finally dropped my I:C ratio at breakfast to 1: 3.5, and it STILL wouldn’t cover my breakfast. So rather than drop my ratio further, I’ve decided that it’s finally time to change my diet. Sigh. I knew this day was coming. I just can’t eat carbs in the morning. I’m really glad my aversion to eggs was temporary, otherwise I’d be screwed right now. This morning’s meal featured a Level Life protein shake, a small glass of milk to get me out of the 70 range, and a fritatta with lots of veggies. So far, so good.

5) Our anatomy scan was last week. Baby looks great and is growing on track. All the measurements were within a week of my reported gestation and there were lots of kicks and punches. (None that I could actually feel, however.) And for those who were placing bets…

We’re on Team Pink. 🙂

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Look she even has excellent Latin turnout!

However – she is stubborn… like her mom. Standard practice at my hospital is to order a fetal echo for all pregnant PWDs. But since I started pregnancy with such a low A1C, my MFM said that if we could get good photos of baby’s heart during the anatomy scan, we wouldn’t need a fetal echo. Well – baby had other plans. When the head radiologist got called in to take another look at baby, she promptly flipped over and fell asleep. So – no additional, important heart photos were taken. Off to Pediatric Cardiology I go. Hopefully she cooperates then.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Still Here?

I am, I promise. Life just sort of happened.

My Dex is here and now has a shiny new purple Tallygear case! I have a whole post drafted from about a week ago with photos and thoughts and funny analogies. But the words are mostly still in my head and I haven’t had a chance to sit and write it all down. Since work has been sort of busy, I didn’t feel right typing away an ode to Dexcom and the new bulge sitting on my abdomen. Don’t get me wrong – I love the Dex’s accuracy, but the transmitter is ginormous.

And while I had every intention to write this weekend, I also competed at another west coast swing convention and won all the things. No – seriously. I placed in the top three in every contest I entered. (One had 60 entries!) That said, I’m now out of the Novice division and can start competing as an “Intermediate” dancer. And the prize money won reimbursed me for my convention pass. Score.

More soon. Stay awesome.

Friday Five: Good Things Edition

A few notes just because I just got back from work travel and don’t have a ton of energy left. I ate horribly for the last 3 days, not really by choice, and my blood sugars are paying for it. (And my arms are really sore, so I don’t want to be on a laptop for very long.)

1) MY DEXCOM IS COMING! I got a call from my rep at Diabetes Specialty that my pre-auth was finally signed by my doctor after three freakin’ weeks. My doctor didn’t really seem to know where the authorizations went, but was ready to sign them whenever… so they were probably getting lost in someone’s inbox. Bah. This is why our insurance industry is so slow, kids! Anyway – it should be here next week.

2) My guest blog is out. I did a guest post for Stefanie over at Biggest Girl in the Ballroom and it was released yesterday. 🙂 It rambles a bit, but mostly covers all things dancing with diabetes entails. (Without being too long.)

3) I was contacted by my area t:slim rep shortly after I posted my blog, and I may get a proper demo after all. However, time is running short on my warranty, so I need to make a decision rather quickly. (Especially if it takes three weeks for my doc to sign off on anything.)

4) The Spare a Rose, Save a Child campaign is BACK! Use your V-Day dollars for something more useful than overpriced and soon-to-be-dead flowers! ‘Nuff said. (And they updated their campaign marketing and logo. Way more awesome.)

5) Kind of excited for the Superbowl this weekend. I am not rooting for any team, nor do I really enjoy football. But there is always a ton of food and I love watching the ads. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint. 🙂

Guest Blog Post: See Jen Dance!

My guest post for Biggest Girl in the Ballroom is up! Yay! Thank you Stefanie for letting me share. 🙂

Beautiful Girl In The Ballroom

Our journey with guest blog posts continues!  This time with See Jen Dance, a very special blog written by a very special woman.  I love how many people inspire me in the dance community.  Jen, take it away….

Howdy! Stefanie has graciously asked me to share my perspective with all of you. My marketing background can’t pass up an opportunity for shameless promotion, so here we go.

I’m a recently “retired” competitive and performance ballroom dancer, which is odd to say because I’m only in my thirties. However, I remain an active west coast swing competitor and community member; attempting to travel to competitions monthly. I also work as a marketing assistant for the dance studio I’ve called home for the last five years.

However, like many syllabus ballroom steps, there is more to me than meets the eye. For the past 31 years, I’ve been living with Type 1…

View original post 914 more words

Obligatory “The Year is Ending” Post

I used to write up a list of goals for the coming year. I did it because I hated resolutions and all their empty promises to do things better. Check-lists were much easier to maintain over “Lose 20 pounds! Quit drinking! Join a gym!”

Ugh.

However, I stopped doing check lists too because for about 3 check lists, I said I was going to paint our guest bathroom. That hasn’t happened yet. And probably won’t unless we remodel.

So what do I have to look forward in 2014?

– More family-in-law gripes about their now-expensive health care. (And me shaking my head because my 30 year old brother-in-law shouldn’t be considered their dependent.)

– A new insulin pump and CGM system – whichever brand I decide.

– No ballroom comps to speak of. I’m kinda done with the spandex costumes, which leaves room for…

– More west coast swing conventions. Looking to hit a few I missed last year due to finances and traveling to a few.

– Getting our studio’s ballroom program back on track with some pretty awesome marketing by moi!

– A new refrigerator! Which should be here tomorrow to replace our slowly dying model. First the water dispense goes, then it’s hot to touch, it makes weird noises AND the light in the fridge finally burned out.

– A new laptop! (Which showed up today!) This replaces my 7 year old model, which can’t keep a charge for more than 45 minutes, won’t recognize any USB devices larger than a wireless mouse, and sounds like it’s going to take off into space every time I edit photos.

– Maintenance of the 6.2% A1C without nightly visits to my new fridge to reach for yet ANOTHER 4 oz cup of OJ or AJ.

– Paying off my credit card from said expenses.

– Paying off our 2nd mortgage and legitimately owning 20% of our house.

– Possibly re-designing this blog a bit. Not sure. 🙂

Happy New Year!

Random Number Generator

Or… How I felt about my glucose monitor last night.

Don’t get me wrong… I’ve had hypoglycemic episodes during my dance lessons before. My instructor is all too aware of the different sounds my insulin pump makes. (Though… Apparently he heard a new one last night… The temp basal/hour change alarm.) More often than not, he hears the alarms before I do. With that in mind, I consider him to be an honorary member of my broken pancreas club; mostly because he’s around me when my sugars drop the fastest – during exercise post-dinner.

Last night was a pretty traditional trend. I had a dinner that I may have blouses too aggressively on, my CGM reading was around 102 an hour after I ate, and I was headed into samba rehearsal. To be on the safe side because I felt a drop coming, I tested.

49.

Huh.

I went into treatment mode immediately. But paused because I didn’t “feel 49.” So I checked again while knocking down a Juicebox.

76.

And because third time’s a charm, 74.

So… I was probably closer to the 70s after all. Finished the Box, set a small temp basal, and went on my merry way.

Half way through the lesson, my low alarm goes off.

“Do you need to take care of that?” He asks.

“No, I already did. It’s just a residual alarm.”

“Oooookay.”

<10 minutes later>

“Yeah, I’m gonna go test again… Sigh.”

Meter: “52!”

Me: <facepalm>…What happened to that last Juicebox?

My CGM graph is trending downward into the 60s and I finally start feeling the low to the point of disorientation. But, I’ve treated said low, so I should be fine to run my routine at nearly full speed.

Ha.

I nearly toppled over half way through. Hyperventilation, ghostly pale… just… an ugly ugly low. Needless to say, my lesson was over for the night.

The question still remains – what exactly was my starting blood sugar? I’m still not really sure.

Have I mentioned Strip Safely before? Yes? http://www.stripsafely.com/

I know – Congress is a wee bit backed up right now, so sending letters right this second is probably not going to do much good. But when we have a Federal Government again, jump back on this campaign. Do it for me, the zillions of other PWDs and their allies that see them go through this.

Weekend Wrap Up

It’s Monday. I didn’t do a Friday Five last week, so here is a Monday Five instead.

1) I hit a new low this weekend. As in – 28 mg/dl. In the middle of the night. What I can’t figure out is how I got there in the first place (or how I was coherent enough to pour myself a glass of OJ and take on my entire pantry. I didn’t have my CGM on because I was over at a friend’s house enjoying a girls night with lots of high carb options and desserts. (So I didn’t want to have to deal with an inaccurate new sensor.) I left the party with a 191 BG and my pump instructed me to give a 1 unit correction at around 11:15 pm. I didn’t think to check again before I went to sleep at midnight. (Why?) At around 1:45 am – I woke up hungry and got my new low. At first I was like, oh! I should eat something. But then I was like, no… that can’t be right. So I checked again. Still 28. Oy.

2) Diabetes Dancer Problem #48: I somehow managed to hip check my ballroom instructor with my insulin pump during a lesson this weekend. I don’t normally wear my pump clipped to my pants for dancing, but this particular pair required it. I also managed to step on my big toe with my own 2.5 inch Latin heel, which also wasn’t fun. So now my toe (and a little piece of my ego) is bruised.

3) Have you signed our awesome FDA Petition yet? We apparently only need 500+ signatures to ask the FDA to include all PWDs in their upcoming patient meetings. Fire up your SPAM email address and sign here: http://www.change.org/petitions/us-food-and-drug-administration-sponsor-a-patient-meeting-on-diabetes?q=petition. It helps you… it helps me… it helps people I know with Type 1, 2, 1.5, and GD.

4) My swing instructor announced that he and his girlfriend got engaged (in PARIS on the freakin’ lock bridge) this morning/last night. I was so excited that the news woke me up faster than the crap cup of coffee I was drinking.

5) I encouraged the hubby to find a new hobby, as cooking and running can only really be done at certain parts of the day out here. So – he took up home based beer brewing. The first attempt didn’t go so hot and my whole house smelled like barley and hops when I got home from my evening shindig. The second attempt may have gone better and it’s now fermenting for the next two weeks in our guest bathtub. I guess it’s working because the canister is making all sorts of rude noises from behind the shower curtain as the yeast explodes into chocolate stout goodness. We’ll see what happens in two weeks when we get to bottle it.