Jen Jeffrey: The Talent Show

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey
Jen Jeffrey

Well, I didn’t think I would dive into a group exercise class quite so soon, but last week even though I had already gone running and did some at-home strength training; I needed to ‘get my dance on’. That’s right, I tried Zumba. I didn’t mean to…. it just sort of happened – like most things in my life.

For the years that I had worked part time at Fit One in Ooltewah, I always saw members and outsiders alike enjoying the Zumba class by my friend Lisa Rousseau.

Lisa has so much positive energy that she passes on to everyone else. There are group classes at certain gyms where the instructor is perfectly fit, perfectly young and, well, just ‘perfect’ --- that can be intimidating for some.

With Lisa, ‘What you see is what you get’. Lisa has had her struggles with being overweight in the past and she understands how hard it is even though she is now very slender. She understands the emotions that drive some of us to do (or not to do) in the world of diet and fitness.

Women and even men who attend her Zumba classes know that it is not about perfection, it is not about what you already know or how you keep up. So if I was going to jump into Zumba for the first time – it would have to be Lisa’s class.

But I really wasn’t planning to yet; I wanted to get a little more fit first (I know, I know… I get this from Mama who washes and curls her hair before going to the salon).

My first week with running at home, doing calf-raises on my porch, using my weights and doing crunches, I wanted to begin again at a moderate pace so that I wouldn’t make myself so sore and back off.

But after my workout one day last week, I went to get my taxes taken care of. ‘Nuff said?

I was stressed out! I had hoped that I would see a little back this year but I now had to figure in alimony. What a dirty little word. What little alimony was settled over is just enough to pay the attorney fees so it is not really “money in the bank” or anything that I am actually awarded. No big deal - I am just glad to have all that behind me.

What I didn’t know is that the word alimony to Uncle Sam makes a big difference, no matter how small or where it actually goes. I knew that my attorney said that alimony was taxable to me but I didn’t know how it would affect me at the end of the year in what Uncle Sam takes just because of that word. If it were just “income” it would have been figured differently and the tax preparer would also charge less; but the dirty little word itself penalizes you.

A little surprised, thinking that Uncle Sam had already taken enough from me last year; I momentarily let the past ‘get to me’. I almost donned that ‘victim robe’ again with the attitude that someone was sticking it to me again, but I didn’t cry uncle. I have come too far to think that the ex or all those attorneys and judges are ‘just out to get me’.

No, none of them ‘care’ about me… but I don’t need them to. I have realized that for them, it had nothing to do with caring or doing the right thing; that’s okay. I don’t take it personally anymore - I just inhale, exhale and move on.

I remembered last year when something had upset me greatly making me feel defeated in this newly-single, big-wide world and I learned that ‘being physical’ helped me tremendously with how I handled negative emotions.

All of those times that I would say I never got angry and yet I would be angry, I had just learned to hold it in, and that creates toxins in our body that need to be released.

I needed to be physical, but I no longer had my cute little park in Lookout Valley where I could run and look at my favorite mountain or play on the swings and soar! Besides, by this time in my journey after taking back my life in 2009, I have grown enough that this upset wasn’t a mountain as it would have been two or three years ago.

It is a bit symbolic that I left my view of the mountains and in leaving the mountain of emotions behind - leaving my solitude in which I withdrew myself from everyone and learned to be alone. This time, I could be around people and laugh!

Why can I laugh? Because that is who I am anyway.

The past few years of this ‘single journey’ – I have learned how strong I am. I have been able to share that with others, which makes it all worth it. The group I am starting is beginning to take shape.

As for MY shape, I headed to Fit One for Lisa’s Zumba class. I was about 10 minutes late so I jumped in the back of class and tried to follow along. I couldn’t really see Lisa in detail from the back, so I depended on the people in front of me and followed their moves.

When they messed up, I messed up. When they stopped, I stopped. I mostly tried to watch Lisa and sometimes she would move into the group. I had already felt my mood changing so I enjoyed having fun and watching my friend lead this class that I had heard so many people rave about.

Now… I am not a dancer. When I was a little girl, I pretended to be a ballerina dancing freely as I flung out my arms while taking a giant leap into the air … and into the dresser in my bedroom. I knew then that grace was not my middle name.

As a youth, I boogied on roller skates and I made up dances. I even danced in a talent show at school. In one show, I had choreographed a dance for a friend and me to the tune of “Kung Fu Fighting” and we put ‘made up’ karate moves into the dance. As long as I could make it up – I could dance.

I guess I have always been a ‘marching to the beat of my own drum’  person… I don’t do well to follow when it comes to being creative.

The next time I danced on stage was with a pillowcase over my head. My friend Teresa was brave enough to do a “pillow people” dance skit with me. We took markers on white pillowcases and made a huge face for each of us. We were both short and small enough that we could climb inside the pillowcases and fold our arms over our head with our elbows in the corner of our pillowcase.

We also had little waists so we could take our school jackets from the second button from the collar and button it around our waist. The jacket came almost to our feet making it look as though we had big heads and tiny legs and then feet. It was so fun. We choreographed a dance that went with the silly look, but we mostly danced without the pillowcases and we just folded our arms over our head during practice.

When we were on stage for the talent show, we were dancing our jig and, after the song was over, I was so hot under that pillow case and hated the feeling of being closed in that I immediately flung off the tight pillowcase, thinking the curtain had closed (you can see where this is going) …my shirt rode up with the pillow case and the whole school got to see my buh-buhs.

That was pretty much the extent of my dance career. I tried to take a jazz class once, but I just cannot follow instruction and move my body at the same time. When I move my body – it is freeing not conforming. I am a free spirit and I have to follow my heart and its connection to my body.

My heart just wasn’t into being a dancer or having to dance to someone else’s drum, so I found other things I could be good at.

This Zumba thing is a whole different story. This was not taking a class where I would be graded or had to perform. This was about moving, getting my heart rate up, burning calories and enjoying people.

As Lisa and a few others in class wore a “shimmy” that jangled around their waist, I found myself distracted. “Oohhh …look at the pretty shiny moving thingies.”

I don’t pretend to keep up with the latest music or dance moves so I had no idea what moves we were doing. I just tried to keep up. I found that the muscle I used the most was my smile muscle! I couldn’t stop smiling! I was having fun, watching others have fun AND I was burning calories and relieving stress. I think I kept up the pace pretty well and I was not sore the next day, so as far as exercise, I think I did okay with my first Zumba class.

But what it really was for me was ‘releasing’ and moving my body like a kid in a talent show! I didn’t care what others thought, and they didn’t care what I was thinking. We were too engrossed in just having fun.

Writing, to me, is fun so I wasn’t just having fun moving my body; I was also writing a story in my head. As I watched Lisa move into the group with this vibrating pelvic action which she had down pat, I was writing - not wanting to forget the thoughts popping in my head.

My first thought came from my inner child who giggled thinking that Lisa needed a poodle’s tail of pom-poms pinned to her bum. I thought it would make it much more fun to watch than the distracting shimmies.

My second thought came from the aging adult in me, as I concentrated on moving my pelvis with the continuous hoola-action that Lisa was demonstrating. That was a talent in itself and …it has been a lo-o-ong time since my pelvis moved like that!

The only part I wasn’t fond of was when we did this “gangum” thing where we looked as though we were straddling a horse and then pumping our fists back and forth in front of us while channeling an Elvis pelvis move. I didn’t like it because I was jangling like the shimmies – only I wasn’t wearing one! That is a very vulnerable dance move. I think I will stick to running until I don’t shimmy as much and leave the Zumba-mongers to their own talents.

My exercise routine has not become routine yet. I have had a few off days where I just got too busy, but I am still motivated and have my goals. The Lookout Hiking Club has scheduled upcoming hikes and I also signed up for one in the Smokies, so between my own workouts and going on hikes I will stay active.

I will dedicate this whole year to my fitness goals and I won’t try to hurry or be super-human, but I also won’t quit as I prepare for the next talent show - whatever that may be.

jen@jenjeffrey.com


Holiday Cards Needed For Local Troops

The American Red Cross of Tennessee is once again launching its annual Holiday Mail for Heroes Campaign. The initiative, led by volunteers, involves the collection of thousands of cards from across the country. These cards are then distributed to local service members, veterans, and their families. The campaign is an effort to encourage people to “Give Something That Means ... (click for more)

Firefighters And Red Cross Volunteers To Install Free Smoke Alarms Saturday

Chattanooga firefighters, along with staff and volunteers with the American Red Cross, will distribute free smoke alarms and batteries on Saturday, in the Washington Hills subdivision. This event will happen, rain or shine. The operation will originate from the parking lot of the Gujarati Samaj of East Tennessee, at 7717 Canyon Drive, off Bonny Oaks. This event will start ... (click for more)

Downtown Chattanooga Apartment Complex Fetches $15 Million

Walnut Commons, the first downtown apartment complex built in many years, sold for $15 million, one of the developers said. John Clark said the initial estimate on the project was $11 million and it wound up costing around $12 million to build. "We're very pleased with the sale," he said. Mr. Clark, along with partners David Hudson and Bob McKenzie, are selling their stock ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Principal Ronald Hughes Named Tennessee's 2014-15 Principal Of The Year

A Hamilton County elementary school principal and an Anderson County supervisor have earned top honors for their work in Tennessee education. Ronald Hughes, principal of Apison Elementary School in Chattanooga, was named Tennessee’s 2014-15 Principal of the Year. He has served as principal at Apison Elementary for the past six years, and spent three decades working in Tennessee ... (click for more)

Congratulations To Ron Hughes

Hearty congratulations to Ron Hughes for being selected as Tennessee State Elementary Principal of the Year for 2014. Wherever Ron has been assigned as principal, he has exhibited strong leadership both academically and morally. His faith in God and his love for the students of Hamilton County have guided his actions and everyone that has benefited from the excellent education ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Brittany’s Days Dwindle

So here we are, facing what is known as “Devil’s Night” before Halloween comes, and the almost macabre news now comes that Brittany Maynard, the beautiful girl who has chosen to end her life as soon as Saturday, is struggling to meet her own deadline. She has inoperable brain cancer and, at best, only months to live. The 29-year-old, who was married shortly before her devastating ... (click for more)