Tag Archives: teaching

I Think I Poisoned The Preggos

I seriously need my head examined. I had my prenatal class today and decided that we’d do arms and mat work, instead of the Reformer. This meant that we needed to work in one of the yoga studios. As the women were arriving, I walked into the studio, to start setting up and a stench that could’ve knocked out both Godzilla and Mothra, smacked me in the face, and took a ride down my lungs. The fact that I didn’t immediately switch gears and move us into the Reformer studio, is why I need my head examined. What, in the name of all things pure and simple, was I doing?!

My instincts and relative intelligence told me to abort the hand weight workout in the noxious yoga studio, for the sweet smelling Pilates room. However, this ‘other’ self, that I’m ashamed to even admit that I own, took over and I conducted the class in the toxic room.

In all fairness, I did ask the women if they would rather move to the other studio. They’re the pregnant ones. Shouldn’t they know what is unhealthy for their unborn offspring? No one said anything. I know this isn’t an excuse for my obvious stupidity, but I just thought I’d offer up all of the facts before you judge me. And you will judge me. I’m judging myself right now.

And then, in the middle of a biceps curl or a lat raise, I almost said the following, “If anything happens to your babies, please don’t hold me liable.” WHAT? Let me say that again, WHAT? What I did say was, “Please don’t hold me liable.” That’s so much better.

There is something seriously wrong with me. I’ve said it before, I should not be put in charge. It’s too much pressure for me. I need to work with women who are in really good shape, not with child, and who can do somersaults, and stand on their heads. 

After class, I tried to get out as fast as I could (I’ve got my own lungs to protect). I heard one of the women say to another that she felt light headed. Oh, dear Allah, really. They said that the fumes made it hard for them to breathe. The f’d up thing about this conversation was that I didn’t hear any animosity towards me (which I so deserved) in their words or tone of voice.

Why didn’t they say anything? I can’t possibly look like I possess any ounce of authority.

I pretended that I didn’t hear what they were saying and ducked out. I sprinted to my car, hoping that they’ll forget all about it by next week’s class. Or better yet, they all deliver their babies and can’t come back for two months.

A Dolphin in Dubai

I’d like to think that my teaching skills improve with each and every, “Pull your navel to your spine”, that I utter. I’d also like to think that I can still become a professional dancer. One of my private client’s is pregnant and I had her do a modified upper abdominal curl. I swear on my dead dog Little Ricky, that I saw her baby rise to the service and pop her belly out. I almost had an aneurism. I don’t think that should’ve happened. I kept my cool and quickly moved on to another exercise. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing after all.

And then I yelled at a client. She was bitching (and not the first one to do so) about how she couldn’t feel anything when we were doing an exercise on the Reformer. She wanted to use more springs to make it heavier. I said, (and I may have raised my voice a wee) “You don’t feel anything because you’re not doing it right.” I realized that this wasn’t Pilates Boot Camp or a military drill, and immediately started back pedaling. I think I sweet talked my way out of it but I realized that I might have gone too far. My reaction truly came from my passion. Okay, maybe it also came from being a ‘control enthusiast’ but my heart was in the right place.

I have to blame the following faux pas on my education, or there lack of. I told my Serbian neighbor, and co-worker, that she was wrong when she said that Washington D.C. was the capital of the United States. I went on further to say that, “The United States doesn’t have a capital.” I asked her if she learned that in Serbia. I said that I wasn’t sure if D.C. was a state. This was not, I repeat, not, one of my finest moments, and if my parents are reading this, they must be very proud. I said that I was confused and not to hold me to any of it, but inside I was almost certain that I had never heard of the United States having a capital.

I Googled as soon as I got home and sure enough, the Serbs were correct. I have yet to apologize for my gross and embarrassing error and I hope to ‘Allah’ that they haven’t already gone and spread the word in Belgrade. It is Belgrade, isn’t it?

I went to Dolphin Bay at Atlantis in Palm Jumeirah this morning. It’s a man made island in the shape of a Palm Tree. WHAT?!! I wouldn’t normally do something like this but, please, a man made island in the shape of a palm tree. You have to. I also knew the water would be cool (they have to keep the dolphins breathing) and so what the hell.

It turned out to be really fun. The weather wasn’t too bad and I was able to walk around without taking a humid sweat shower. I latched onto an Indian couple from England, who were on their honeymoon. C’mon, who doesn’t want a little Dani action on their honeymoon.

They were very sweet and true to being newlyweds, when it came to buying the stupidly expensive pictures (that they try to sell you when you’re still feeling a high from swimming with dolphins), the husband could only think of their budget. He made a comment about their wedding photographer being cheaper than the photos. She wanted the full tilt boogie on a CD. Ah, marriage. It was such a racket. I bought three.

We all had a chance to hug our dolphin, whose name was Danita (it was meant to be), for a photo op. My hair was blowing in the wind so I shouted (as only a New Yorker can) at the photographer standing on the beach, “Wait, my hair.”  I fixed it, and then, “Okay. Now.” Please, this could be my next headshot. I’m always thinking.

When I got home, I stopped off at a local restaurant for lunch. It’s getting a bit tedious to constantly hear, “Will that be ONE?” Or “Are you ALONE?” every time I go out. The best was the woman who checked me in at Dolphin Bay. When I walked up to her podium to give her my name, she immediately said, “Oh, I think your husband just went inside.” When I looked at her like she had three tits, she said, “Oh, I’m sorry… I thought he was… Never mind… Just one then?”

I Am Cool, And So Is My Mini

Sometimes, I just don’t know when to stop. Okay, it’s a little more often than sometimes., and I have to stop trying to be witty at every turn, even when I’m teaching a room full of teenagers. But last night in dance class was not such a time.

The girls came in dragging their feet, complaining of stomach aches, back aches and general malaise. Whatever! I was there to teach, not to listen to the whining of, “Look at me, I’m a ballet dancer, and walk like a duck” teens. They didn’t want to do anything. I was in a quandary. Do I stand up tall, be a teacher and demand rolling like a ball, and single leg knee stretch? Or do I hang back (I’m getting paid regardless) and listen to their very important problems?

We compromised. I put them through their Pilates paces but when I saw the incessant yawning and eyes closing, I decided to stop. And then because I apparently don’t know the difference between a 17 year old and a 40 year old, I asked Carrie what she thought of the Mini Cooper car (I’m getting one tomorrow) She curled her lip and said, “Why, do you have one?” Here’s where I like to practice being coy. “No.” She said, “Oh, I think they’re stupid.” Can a car be stupid? And then a little part of me died because as much as I hate to admit it, I wanted her to be terribly impressed when I told her that I was getting one.

I gave them another abdominal exercise not only to punish Carrie, but to get my head around the fact that she thought the Mini was stupid. Stupid? You’re stupid. The Mini’s are the cutest cars around. There’s a friggin’ Mini culture out there. Mini drivers honk at each another when they pass on the road. Like motorcycle drivers do.

After a few more swan dives I dropped the bomb. “I’m getting the Mini. It’s Chili red, with a white roof and white side mirrors and two white racing stripes on the hood. It’s sassy.” I was smiling and getting all up in Carrie’s face, like a six year old who just got a Malibu Barbie Beach House, AND the Corvette.

Carrie looked at me, “Sassy?” Great, now I have to explain what sassy means. She apologetically said, “I’m sorry.” But I wasn’t impressed. I found my adult nuts and replied (now here’s where I practiced no self control, bordered on inappropriate and was just downright mean) “Carrie, as much as I adore you, you’re not liking the car I’m getting doesn’t really have any impact on my decision making.” Now, if you know me, you’d hear this as non threatening sarcasm, accompanied by a whacky facial expression and think it no big deal. On the other hand, did I mention that these girls are teenagers.

As soon as it came out of my mouth, I felt bad. It was uncalled for but I wasn’t going to give a 2% body fat dancer the satisfaction of thinking that her stupid remark would have any affect on me or my car. For those keeping score at home, yes, I was engaging in a power struggle with a seventeen year old.

And then, just as I was punishing them with Pilates push-ups, Carried blurted, “I just thought you were cooler than that.” I will now be spending the rest of the season, proving to Carrie, that I am cool. I am. I am.

Teaching… Performing… It’s all The Same

I always wanted to be a dancer, and for a while I fancied myself one. When I was in high school, I’d take the train into the Big Apple for dance class. Steps on Broadway was the the place to be. Jane Krakowski (30 Rock, Ally McBeal) was in a couple of my classes. She stuck with dance. I did not. Nuff said.

I walked the streets (not those streets) with my feet turned out, which really hurts, (especially when you’re not actually a dancer) in tattered leg warmers, daydreaming of jazz hands and Bob Fosse. So when I recently got the opportunity to teach Pilates to ‘actual’ ballet dancers, at a local dance academy, I leapt at the chance.

Full disclosure. I have never formally taught kids anything, let alone Pilates. I’ve changed poopy diapers, played endless games of Candy Land with my nephews, but I had no idea what to expect and no idea how to act. I’m a teacher, yes, but what does that mean in this context? I’m used to being in the company of adults; dialoguing, joking, letting the curse words fly freely from my lips. The only thing I knew for sure was not to drop the f’ bomb… if I could help it.

I laughed at the immediacy in which I was hired. No body asked me if I had any experience with this particular population. And I didn’t offer. I was too excited about pretending to be a dancer again.

My first class was before the holidays. I scheduled a short press conference with myself beforehand to calm my nerves, remind myself that I was the adult (I forget sometimes) and that I had mad skills and lots of head knowledge. But most importantly, “Don’t talk too much and don’t confuse the class with a stand up act.” Being in front of a captivated audience, no matter how small (physically or in quantity) can turn into a freak show, me being the freak. I start ad libbing like I’m opening for Jackie Mason in the Borscht Belt. I realize that this reference will go over some heads. No matter, just keep reading.

There were six 10 year old girls, each one, the size of my thigh. I put my professional hat on and plunged into the repertoire. I brought a cheat sheet with me and we were flowing from one movement to the next, like the graceful giseles that we were. I was in control, and things were running smoothly, that is until the Lilliputians started talking to each other, and to me. “I like your toe-sox.” “What should we call you?” “Carey is always injured.” “Can we do rocking swan?” Why were they talking? There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no talking in Pilates! I was being heckled, and it flustered me.

I didn’t know what they should call me. What’s wrong with my name? Then I remembered my dance teacher, Miss Pike, when I was seven years old. “You can call me Miss Dani.” It is a sign of respect after all. I should have my adult clients call me Miss Dani as well. With all of the gas that’s passed and un-manicured toes that I have to touch, I’m not so sure that they do respect me.

I pulled it together as my last class of the night walked in. These girls were 13 and 14 years old and all ‘tude (attitude). Crap. About halfway through the routine, I realized that they hadn’t cracked a smile, made a comment about my socks or showed any signs of life. As we say in the biz (showbiz that is) They were phoning it in! I could’ve sworn they were making faces behind my back, and it felt a little too familiar.

Flashback: The summer before eighth grade. I returned from camp only to find that I’d been ousted from the popular click, by its fierce leader, Betsy Carlson. Apparently, she frowned upon my leaving our kingdom (the swim club) for an entire summer. She never bothered to tell me that I wasn’t her best friend anymore, so when I ran up to her to tell her how much I missed her, she and her new recruit snapped on their Speedo swim caps and turned on their heels. I can still hear them giggling as they glanced over their shoulders at me. But I digress.

I couldn’t hold her in any longer. My inner comedian was rising up to the surface. These dancers weren’t giving me shit. Their taut, age spotted free faces were serious and focused, and I took it personally. They didn’t like me, nor the class, and they somehow figured out that I wasn’t an actual dancer! That I was never a dancer! I was a fraud! I went into overdrive, trying to be funny, and elicit some kind of reaction. Oh, dear, can someone please get me off the stage.

As embarrassing as it was, I wish that I could remember some of my banter. If it should happen again, and I’m pretty confident that it will, I’m going to write it all down so I can share it with you.

I was convinced that I could fix my paranoid (read: neurotic) delusions, and break them. If I didn’t, then I would’ve failed. Failed? At what, teaching them Pilates, or making them laugh? I’m pretty sure my job wasn’t to crack wise with a bunch of duck walking Sugar Plums. However, you’d never know it from the way I was acting. I spoke faster. I made faces. C’mon girls, give me a break. Is anyone’s last name Carlson?

The class ended (finally) and when I got into my car, I assessed the damage. Even after my early self think talking, I allowed myself to be intimidated by a bunch of scrawny thirteen year olds in smelly leotards and tight, headache inducing, hair buns. Clearly I have some work to do in dealing with children.


The Case Of The Missing Water Filter

I haven’t taught Pilates in a couple of days and I feel like I’ve forgotten everything that I’ve ever learned. Quite frankly, I feel like a fraud. I’ve got a private session and a Mat class later this afternoon and I’m so unmotivated. I should be coming up with kick ass routines, or review my anatomy, so that when a client tells me about their torn meniscus, I can offer up exercises that would be good for such an injury, and NOT just tilt my head with a, “Aw, that must hurt.” No, I choose to obsess (read:blog) about a missing water filter.

It goes without saying that I am in charge of changing the filter in the Brita water pitcher every two months. I’m very diligent about this because I am anal about germs, following rules, instructions and manuals. I would make a really good HR person… says my friend Muffy.

The Britta guide said to change the filter every two months. They even include a little calendar that adheres on the pitcher as a reminder. I also put it on the calendar that hangs on the refrigerator… just as a safety precaution.

Well, it was time for a filter change the other day and lo and behold, no filter, just an empty box. I was livid, I tell ya, livid! First of all, I would never put an empty box back in the basket of cleaning supplies that lives under the sink. And second, where the hell was the filter?! I bought a package of three and I know there was at least one left, or else it would’ve made it onto the “we need the following” list. Anal… your table is ready.

It couldn’t have been my boyfriend. He doesn’t even know that we have water filters, let alone, take one out, swap it out with the old one and put the empty box back under the sink. Although he has been known to put the orange juice carton back in the refrigerator with a spit of juice left. Then again so have I.

There was only one other person that could’ve taken it. The CLEANING LADY. But why? And wouldn’t she think that I would notice, especially since it was the last one? If she had thrown the box out, then maybe, just maybe, I might’ve thought that I forgot to put it on the “we need the following” list.

In any case, I decided not to confront her because I didn’t have any forensic evidence. But she better watch her back because I’m onto her. She doesn’t exactly have a clean record. For one thing, when she cleans, she puts things ‘away’… in drawers, cabinets and closets. The first time she cleaned, I couldn’t find anything. It’s terribly annoying and she should NOT be opening my drawers… nightstand or kitchen.

So, when she came to clean yesterday, I laid it on the line. It might’ve come out a bit harsh because I was thinking about my missing water filter. I told her that on no uncertain terms should she put anything away. Lift, clean, and put back down.

Now It’s About Feet

The other day, while Pilates training, I thought I was going to seriously throw up. Each foot that walked into the studio was more disgusting than the last. One client draped her grimy hoofs on the foot bar of the reformer, as tiny pieces of skin literally dropped onto the bar. It was like foot dandruff or she was molting like an f’in reptile.

Here I am again talking about what grosses me out about Pilates. Now I think it’s becoming a work hazard. In the last couple of weeks I have had my share of, bunions (nothing says old Jew like a bunion) claw toes, hammer toes, ingrown toenails, toenail fungus, corns, warts, calluses, cracked skin, and chipped toenail polish. At what point am I allowed to refuse service? Food establishments have their, “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” policy. Maybe I should have business cards saying, “Foot Fungus? Funky toes? Flaking Heels? FORGET IT!” I refuse to believe that I’m the only one feeling this way. I can’t be that alone in the world.

I’m truly at a loss. Am I missing something? Did I not read the small print in the job description? Perhaps I glossed over the part where it said that unwashed and unkempt feet were a part of the job. So now I have to suck it up? Terrif. This Pilates culture makes me feel like Lisa Ling uncovering a lost city on National Geographic Explorer. Who knew?

If I wanted to be this close to feet and their disorders, I would’ve become a podiatrist. Don’t get me wrong, I love well manicured feet with perfectly aligned phalanges. Maybe I have this aversion to horrid feet because I grew up around aesthetically pleasing ones. Not only are my feet near perfect specimens, if I do say so myself, but my father has some of the nicest tootsies this side of the Mississippi. I naively assumed that most people had feet like ours. Oh, how wrong I was.

The last time this foot obsession reared it’s ugly heel, was a few years ago when I moved to Prague to teach English as a foreign language (because that’s what a 38 year old woman does, after almost 20 years in the entertainment business). I was truly in the midst of a different culture, and that culture too had bad feet. I remember reading an article in the Prague Post that said that the Czech Republic was trying to change their image. I thought this was a smart idea since many of the people I met acted as if no one told them that the curtain had come down, and it was okay to smile. The article went on to say that the Czech Republic wanted to be more “modern, developed and sophisticated.” They wanted to change the image that the world had of them as people with “weather beaten faces.” And if I may, I’d like to add weathered beaten feet to that image.

I had never seen uglier, dirtier, and more mangled feet, as I had in Praha. Why? Why so ugly, dirty and mangled? I could understand if it was bad genes. Maybe it was the decades of toiling in the fields and the mines. That would only explain part of the picture. What’s with the dirt? Even if I didn’t shower for two or seven days, I don’t think that my toes would look like I just trampled through a mud pile, laced with petrol. I saw more Band-aids on ankles in Prague than runners post marathon.

Then one day, out of nowhere, I saw the most exquisite manicured feet of a woman on the Metro. Her toenails were filed down to equal lengths, not like a jagged pocket knife. The nail polish was a fresh and sassy ballet slipper hue, and there wasn’t a dry cuticle in sight. I knelt down and kissed every polished toe. At that moment my faith in humanity was restored. Now I have to hope for same in the Pilates studio.