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Career & Resources, Health

The Best Salsa Dancers Wear White Pointy Shoes

Once upon a time I went to a restaurant called Bongos, owned by Gloria Estefan, and I fell in love with Salsa dancing. It’s a Cuban restaurant, and in the center is a very large dance floor where you can find, on occasion, very experienced Salsa dancers, of all ages, showcasing their talent right there while you munch on chips and dip. The thing about Salsa is that draws you in with this whisper of hope that makes you believe that if you had just the right amount of lessons that you could competitively hold your own on an episode of Dancing with the Stars (says the very hopeful and inspired two-left feet individual).

Salsa Lessons, Level 1

I eventually stumbled upon Yuca, a restaurant in South Beach that had early evening lessons organized by Salsa Fever Dance School, and a post-lesson dancing forum. The school taught Cuban Rueda style salsa, which is a choreographed, circle, group approach to the dance where you switch partners (often and quickly) and a lead quickly belts out the next move over music. The move names are in Spanish, and this fun fact, paired with my previous dancing history, lead to one big social experiment for me. Thankfully, when I casually mentioned that I was going to be taking Salsa lessons to my Latin America and Caribbean- blooded co-workers, about five of them exclaimed, “we are coming with you”. I took this to be more of a demand than a request. And so, we all headed to South Beach’s Lincoln Road every Friday for liquid courage and lessons. Our weekly routine consisted of practicing our moves during breaks in the office each week, while the rest of our co-workers observed and critiqued, intrigued and entertained by our newfound hobby.

Yuca Lounge, South Beach

I bought salsa shoes, struggled through steps, attempted to learn Spanish, researched the history and types of Salsa, and I squashed a whole lot of feet. Here’s the thing about immersing yourself in someone else’s culture: It has this tendency to sneak into your being slow and steady, and all at once it’s overcome you as if you were part of it all along. Through my struggle to keep up, I had a heightened awareness of how unique and intriguing the whole experience was, and at times I would stop in awe that I was even a part of it.

Graceful, Pointy, White Shoes

When arrived at my first class and I snubbed my nose at the white shoes of some of the male salsa dancers. I gawked at the unfashionable, pointy, glaringly awful white shoes. But guess what? These shoes were the key to picking out the best dance partners; the ones that could carry you along and promised not to step on your feet. I learned to shut up about the shoes and pay attention to the presence of an individual and their interaction with others. I learned to appreciate the mere grace that a partner would provide me, after I ungracefully stomped on their feet over the next several hours. That grace transpired through the flash of a smile, and the guidance to the spot on the floor where I was actually supposed to be, selflessly making me look seemingly flawless.

Me in an awkward dip with an instructor who wore white shoes

The men with the white shoes were also some of the older gentlemen that would arrive during the open dance portion of the evening. They could very well be in their 80’s, on their arm toting a matching 80-something Cuban bride. I will tell you, without exaggeration, that I would never in my life dance anywhere in close proximity to that couple because they were wining the Yuca Dancing with the Stars competition. I, however, was was shamefully scurrying to the deepest, darkest corner to hide. Wasn’t it past their bedtime?!? THEY WEREN’T AGING! They were showing up every single person on the floor and I was limping away with blisters, fifty years younger. This is when I decided that I wanted to be Latin (I joke, I joke- no really I wished that a Latin family would adopt me nearly an entire year).

Salsa Level 1, the basics

When Salsa Steps Inspires Confidence

It is a special thing to learn a culture in an environment where people give you grace. When I was completely butchering their language and stomping on their feet,  these people extended their hands and gently took me aside to teach me the way and revealed to me that attitude was the most important part. Forgetting my self-consciousness and opening my eyes to the celebration of life was what Salsa, my instructors, and my co-workers refined in me. These dancers taught me that it wasn’t about the age or the shoes, it was about self-assurance and practice,  commitment to learning the dance and showing up again and again after feeling like the worst dancer in the room. This experience was about setting heights on dancing into my 80’s, well after eleven PM, with unmatched poise and a passion for living la vida loca, “the crazy life”.

 

Part of my confidence came from Salsa lessons! What scary and daring situations have you tried that has built you up?

 

Career & Resources

Visual Notetaking

For the last two years, I have had a hard time deciding how to take notes at work. I think it’s the slow transition of disappearing paper, my constant aching back from heavy notebook-filled bags, the phenomenon of this visual social media age, and my recent obsession with the computer program Microsoft One Note. Although, popping open your computer and typing out notes isn’t acceptable in all scenarios. Sometimes hiding behind your computer screen gives the seeming impression to others that you’re not listening. Detailing multiple pages of notes with pen and paper also seems ineffective.

Enter my new fascination with visual note-taking. I was first introduced to it when my company hired someone to visually take notes for a large meeting, representing one massive collage of ideas. It was a three-day documentation depicted on one large paper, presented in a very graphic format. It was as if watching the visual note-taker, and how they presented the information from the speaker, was as engaging as the actual speaker. In the end, people took pictures of the masterpiece, a forever, and beautiful summary of the meeting highlights. Instead of filling up notebooks full of details, it forces one to summarize a take-away on one page.

I’d love to put together a visual note coloring/doodle sheet for my audience when I give a presentation and see how it’s perceived. I think it would be a lot less paper and invite people to write their own notes. After the meeting attendees would have a one sheet leave-behind of the content merged with their ideas and insight on the discussion. This could also work for displaying development plans in a more visual way. Core77 has a list of tips for visual note-taking that could be helpful. For more visual ideas, check out Pinterest.

Do you take visual notes at work? Would you try it? Here are a few fun examples on the web.

Visual notes from sunnibrown.com

 

Visual post from magamaps.com

 

 

Career & Resources

Renting your Home Online: One Homeowner’s Experience

A few weekends ago my family and I met in Birmingham, AL for a few days. It’s the perfect meeting place halfway between Memphis and Pensacola. I was especially excited to pick out our AirBnb house.  I chose the “Cozy House on the Bluff”, a house described to be located in Bluff Park, atop a more mountainous area, perfect for six people, and not far from a popular mall with lots of shopping and restaurants. The weather was giving us a spring tease and the picture of a porch overlooking a large-sized backyard caught my attention and I knew I had to scoop it off the market for our fun weekend away.

We had a chance to enjoy the yard before we left.

We had a convenient check-in and once we were all settled, and noticed the especially well-kept cabinets and organized drawers, we couldn’t help but wonder more about the rental process for someone who resides in home when it’s not rented. Erica, owner of the “Cozy House on the Bluff” and native of Birmingham, AL, was kind enough to share her experience with me.


Q: What made you decide to start renting your house through AirBnb?

I try to travel frequently and often use AirBnb, Inc. myself, so I decided to start hosting to help me save for an upcoming trip to Thailand. Once I got into it, I realized I’d have the money saved in no time & could also start planning some home renovations.

Q: How long have you been renting out your home?

Not long at all! I’ve been hosting since December 2016.

Q: How often do you rent your home?

When I started to host I figured I would wait to see if it was even worth doing. Once I got the first booking they just kept coming in! Who knew a Birmingham suburb would be so popular? I rent at least every other week, but lately it’s been almost every weekend. I even have some week-long bookings coming up.

My son enjoying the hammock in the backyard.

Q: Where do you go when your place is rented out?

One of the reasons I knew I would be able to host is because I have several homing options when I have guests. I usually stay a few minutes away with family, and in some instances I have been out of town myself.

Q: What do your friends and family think about you renting out your home?

Most people I talk to think it’s a great idea. My brother-in-law is even considering renting out a room in his house to enjoy a little extra income.

Q: What are some of the strangest things people have left after their stay?

Luckily, no one has left anything strange. All I have come across so far are socks and food left in the fridge.

Q: What are some of the strangest questions people have asked or requests people have made?

I haven’t had any super strange requests, yet. Most of my guests have come to the area to see family. I do have a pending request from someone to barter services. The proposal came from photographers and they are offering pictures in exchange for two nights- I’m still undecided!

Erica’s cozy porch

Q: Have you met any interesting people through this experience? Have you ever kept in touch with any of them?

I’ve had all kinds of different guests, everyone has been very respectful, but no one I’ve kept in touch with.

Q: Are there any hidden perks to renting through AirBnb (besides the rental money) that someone may not have considered?

There are some tax write offs available (mostly items you buy for guests). I’ve had a few guests leave me gifts too!

Q: What’s the thing that worried you (or still worries you) the most about renting out your home?

There are lots of things that make me a little nervous to rent out my house. For starters, I live in a family-friendly neighborhood, so I’m always worried that guests will not be respectful of the neighborhood. My neighbors are aware that I rent out my house, so at least I’ll know if something happens. I also get worried that I’ll come home and my house will be ruined, thank god for insurance! It does bother me a bit that people sleep in my bed and I thought that might be a deal breaker, but I’ve been ok so far! It helps that I use different linens and comforters than those I provide for my guests.

My son snuggled up like a bug in the “Cozy House on the Bluff” bed.

Q: What surprised you the most about renting your home through AirBnb that you may not have known or thought about before you started?

I was surprised how easy it is. AirBnb handles all the financial components & really all the host does is accept inquiries and get the house ready. The biggest issue when I come home is doing laundry. I hate folding laundry and making beds!

Q: What you would tell someone that is interested in participating in AirBnb?

I would recommend double checking your insurance policy. I had to add a policy for short-term rentals so that guests would be covered. Also, be sure to look into tax information for your state. Alabama already takes out occupancy taxes, so I don’t have to worry about that, but that’s not always the case. I would also tell them to leave their house the way they’d expect a rental to look. I want to go somewhere that is comfortable! And somewhere that has coffee, because I don’t want to go straight to the store when I travel.

My husband and I enjoying a little coffee on the front porch.

Erica has a dog and she encourages her guests to bring their furry friends with them by making her home dog-friendly with dog toys and a backyard a dog could dream about.

Thank you Erica! I want all the drawers in my home to be as neat and tidy as the ones at her place. 

Have you used AirBnb? Would you ever consider renting out your home?