Stigman Photography Photo Session Contest

The location:  Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota, FL at 5:30 p.m.  It’s still early enough to get some good daylight shots, but the sun will be setting soon and the mesmerizing sunset over the Gulf will be upon us.  Tony, myself, and the girls playing on the beach as a family…candid shots…no dreadful poses with my hand on Tony’s shoulder and cheesy smiles.  Sophie chasing seagulls…Addison chasing Sophie chasing seagulls.  Addison plopping onto her butt as she’s chasing Sophie because her pudgy, short legs won’t go as fast as her older sister’s.  Mommy and daddy steal a kiss while thinking how lucky we are to have the two of them in our lives as we watch Sophie trying to help her little sister up (the seagulls can wait).  Sophie running towards the water and giggling as she tries to turns to run away from it–hoping to escape the waves that are about to wash over her feet.  Addison bending down to look at something peculiar she has found in the sand…to you and me it’s just a seashell, but to a 14 month old it’s the 8th wonder of the world.  Sophie ventures over to have a look at what her sister has found and decides that a sisterly search for seashells is on.  She sets out on her own journey with Addison in tow.  Walking along the edge of the water, searching for more shells, they come across a sandcastle that grabs their attention instead and Sophie asks, “Mommy, does Cinderella live there?”  Of course she does, honey.  An hour or so has passed by and the sun is getting lower.  We tell the girls it’s time to wash their hands off in the water so we can make our way to the pavilion for ice cream.  Shouts of joy erupt from Sophie as she jumps up and down with excitement at the promise of a treat.  Hands and feet are rinsed off in the salty ocean and Addison’s giggles can be heard in Siesta Village as Tony scoops her up, tickles her belly with a raspberry, and helps her with her rinsing task.  We make our way towards the ice cream shoppe and Sophie orders chocolate, I share cookie dough ice cream with Addison, and Tony gets strawberry.  Tiny rivers of chocolate ice cream are now running down the sides of Sophie’s mouth and onto her chin.  Addison claps her hands as she takes another bite of ice cream and Tony and I look at each other and laugh at their excitement.  After the ice cream, we wipe off all traces of it and walk back towards the water.  The sunset is fully aglow and we finish our evening with the four of us holding hands as a family walking along the shoreline.  The evening has been fun & playful, yet relaxing & intimate.  We have the sunset illuminating us as a family.  The girls are sleepy and they fall asleep in our arms as we head back to our vehicle:  Addison in mine, Sophie in her daddy’s.  Our lives are peaceful.  Our lives are fun.  Our lives are filled with unconditional love.

“Look Out World, Here Comes Shannon and Her Golden Pole!”

This was my response to my instructor last night at my first “real” pole dancing class when, while teaching us a routine and realizing I was the only one in the class who was keeping up with her, she said to me, “Wow!  Shannon, you’re really getting this!”  After that week and a half hiatus from pole dancing to make a visit to see my family in the not-so-frozen tundra of Minnesota, my return to the sport (still trying to wrap my mind around pole dancing as a sport…but did you know that they’re thinking of putting it in the Olympics??  No joke!) was, at the beginning, a shaky one.  To be honest, I did not want to go back after the first beating I took.  However, as I walked down the long hall to the studio, voices resonated from behind the frosted glass door and I saw red glowing lights and heard a sultry voice crooning to a more sexy version of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie In A Bottle.”  At this point, I started getting a little excited to walk through that door, grab a pole, and beat my body into submission…once again.

I entered through the door to see the familiar face of an older female friend, whom I had no idea was interested in this sort of fitness.  We exchanged surprised glances at seeing each other, hugged, and talked about our experiences with the pole (she was just taking the “teaser” class, but wasn’t sure if she would sign up for anything additional).  After a brief chat, I left her to put my belongings in a cubby and remove my socks and sneakers.  Then off to find my pole!  A creature of habit, I used the same one I occupied in my teaser class.  We began with the usual warm up, using the pole to stretch our back, our sides, arms, legs, etc.  After the warm-up, we moved into learning a few different spins.  The instructor taught us three or four variations of the fireman spin…one of the easiest in my opinion (well, depending on which variation you do).  A straight-legged fireman spin is not so easy as it requires a lot of core strength that I do not have and happily blame that on having my second baby girl almost nine months ago :)  I used all of my ab strength to push her out of my hoo-ha, thank you very much…gimme some time to work on that.

A more complicated spin, in my opinion, is one where, depending on which side you’re using, you place your inner leg (closest to the pole) on the pole with your knee up and hook the arch of that foot onto the pole for a little stability.  Your other leg (the one furthest from the pole) is extended in the air as you circle around the pole, both hands are on the pole, and you “whip” your outer leg around bringing it straight out in front of you next to the pole (legs on opposite sides of the pole).  Whipping the leg into the leg extension gives you extra propulsion around the pole for a tighter, faster spin.  All well and good, if you have ab strength to hold that leg out straight in front of you as you spin down the pole (by the way, these poles are stationary…they do not spin on their own as their is a pin holding them stationary).  Our instructor, after teaching a move, will take a look around the room and watch each lady as they perform their spins and help them if needed.  The studio was full, every pole occupied, and everyone needed help with this spin!  So after my first few failed attempts, I decided to just get the formation on the pole down as she was helping others.  I suspended myself on the pole with my legs positioned the way they should be and held there for a little while hoping to cement it in my brain.  The instructor said, “There you go, Shannon!  That’s how you should be on the pole as you’re spinning down!”  I replied, “Great!  Could you come over here then and give me a little spin??”  The room broke out in laughter and I even earned some applause on that one (I felt a little like the funny fat girl…minus the fat).  Listen, it’s pole dancing and we’re beginners, if you can’t laugh at yourself while you’re learning then give it up.  Everyone in there seemed to be taking things a little too seriously.  One girl kept shaking her head each time she couldn’t get something.  She was looking so frustrated and disappointed in herself.  I’m thinking…lighten up, sweetie!  It’s pole dancing!!

After an ultra-sweaty 45 minutes of spinning on the pole, we ended with one last go at the routine (hell to the yes, I’m a pro…ha!), then pulled out the yoga mats for a cool down.  It was a great return experience for me and I’m feeling every bit of it…especially on my inner thighs!  While reading to my 2 1/2 year old daughter last night, she insisted upon sitting on my indian-style crossed lap.  I told her she had to sit still because mommy’s legs were sore, but she ignored my cries of pain as she used her bony little elbows to shift her weight from time to time.

All in all, it was another fun, exciting pole dancing experience at Apple Jelly Studios and I’m really looking forward to going back again next week to learn more!  I have decided that, if at the end of my six weeks of beginner classes I’m still really into it, I will sign up for the beginner II level and purchase a pole for my home (they’re portable, so I can assemble and disassemble as I wish) in order to get more practice.  Check out the video link at the end of this post to get more of an idea of what a fireman spin looks like (one variation of it anyway) as well as the martini spin.  The martini spin is similar to the spin I was describing earlier, except in the martini spin, you wrap your outer leg around the pole, wrapping with the back of your knee  (for the leg whip spin, your inner leg is placed on the pole, knee up, and the arch of your foot, not the back of your knee, is “wrapped” on the pole), then extend your other leg in front of you on the other side of the pole as you spin.  In the leg whip spin, your outer leg would whip around the pole and extend in front of you in order to propel you around the pole.  When I have my own pole I’ll be able to post my own videos…maybe.

That’s all for now…Shannon

VIDEO:  Basic Pole Dancing Spins

Pole Dancing Update

It has only been about four days (give or take a few hours) since I took part in my first ever pole dancing experience.  I must reiterate this statement:  ouch, ouch, friggin’ ouch!!  I’m not hurting any longer, but the entire weekend following my class (I took part in a Friday night “teaser” class) I was sore!  Both on Saturday and Sunday, when I did my normal exercise, I felt that class in my abs, my legs (mostly my knees and inner thighs from the bruises…told ya I’d have bruises), my tush, and my triceps–ESPECIALLY in my triceps!  Although those aches and pains have gone away, I’m now concerned about the additional classes I’ve signed up for.  I will be out of town for a week and won’t get to another class for about a week and a half.  I’m concerned that my body’s going to be like, “Forget you,” and refuse to cooperate with another dose of pain.

We shall see.

Shannon…out

Training for a Marathon

Alright, so I don’t pretend to be the most active person on the face of the planet nor am I in the best of shape.  That being said, I’m spending the next year preparing for a full marathon.  Not a half marathon.  A full marathon…a full 26.2 miles of running…and running…and running.  I have signed up myself and my husband for the ING Miami Marathon to take place on January 30th, 2011.  Registration costs $85/ runner for the full marathon and $60/ runner for the half marathon.  If it’s something you’re interested in, head on over to ING Miami Marathon and Register for 2011.

I’m going to be as diligent as I can in keeping up with my training adventures through this blog (hopefully more diligent than I am say with reporting on Sophie or Addison and my guitar lessons) because I want something besides my ambition and my drive to successfully complete the full marathon in six hours to hold me accountable.  I’m a pretty dedicated person when I set my mind to something and I know I can do this and I’m gonna bust my ASS to succeed!!  I want that medal :)  Obviously, that’s not my primary purpose for choosing to run this marathon.  I dug deep…waaaaaay deep down to find out what was truly motivating me to do this and here it is:  I want to successfully complete the ING Miami Marathon because I have put my children, motherhood, a career, and my husband before myself for quite some time now, so this is where I begin to focus on me again and work towards goals I have in mind for my life.  I have accomplished motherhood.  I love my two daughters more than anything and nothing will ever come before them…ever.  I have a career…a great career in fact.  At 28 years old, I finally feel like I am in a field where I just seem to “fit.”  I enjoy going to work every day (yeah, it’s still hard to get out of bed sometimes, but that’s cuz I love to sleep, who doesn’t?) and putting my best foot forward.  I enjoy the people I work with.  We’re a tightly knit group of individuals, each with our own strengths and weaknesses.  We work together to compliment one another and we genuinely enjoy being around each other and seeing everyone succeed.  Then there’s my husband.  What can I say about my husband?  He’s great.  He annoys me at times, yes, but he’s dedicated to me and very supportive.  We work well together.  We have to, because we work at the same place.  Even though we’re around each other day and night, we are still able to get along and work as a team to accomplish our goals for ourselves individually and as a couple, as well as for our family.  We’ve come a long way in a very short amount of time and we’re committed to one another until the end.  He’s my partner in every aspect of the word.

But now is the time to come back to me.  To become healthy, to get back to my roots of who I am as a woman & a member of society.  Somewhere along the road of motherhood, marriage, and work I lost who I was.  I became someone unrecognizable to even myself and I couldn’t live that way anymore.  I grew weary of feeling depressed and like the world and all its inhabitants were out to get me.  I was done with that.  Who wants to live the rest of their lives with such paranoia and anger?  Not me.  So I took control.  I prayed.  I told God I didn’t know who I was anymore and I didn’t want to be unrecognizable to myself.  When I stepped out and put forth effort into regaining that sense of happiness, God met me and snapped me out of my slump.  Suddenly, I wasn’t angry anymore.  I felt more relaxed and not so stressed out.   One of the best pieces of advice I could have received during that slump came from, who other than, my mother.  She said to me, “Shannon, you have to realize that you will not be able to change your husband [or others around you], but you can change your attitude towards him [them].”  Hard lesson to learn, but one that I think changed my life and, quite possibly, saved my life.  I changed my attitude in the way I viewed my relationship with my husband (God bless him for sticking by me throughout those months I was a train wreck).  That was a huge step for me!  Are we perfect?  Far from it!  Do we get along every day?  Even further from that!  But we love each other and we are committed to our love and to one another.

The bottom line is that I’m ready to move forward in my journey to taking back control of my life.  I’m ready to start living again!  I have been faithfully working out for a little over three weeks and it has brought me to new levels in my life!  I feel better!  I look better (heck yes!)!  I eat better!  I live better!  Life is just….better.  Not perfect…better.  And it’s only going to keep getting better.  I know it in my heart.  I know what God has brought me through and I know what His promises to me are.  I know that I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.  I know He’s at the core of who I am and I trust Him.  I thoroughly and completely trust Him.  He does what He says He’s gonna do.  He carries me when I’m weak, but I know when to move with Him to get things done.

So, I’m running this marathon.  Nothing’s going to stop me.  Like I said, I have accomplished many things in my life; however, when I cross that finish line it’ll be a whole new level of accomplishment. I know that my life is not measured by what I accomplish, but I know that accomplishing things in life brings feelings of excitement and energy; therefore, it increases the desire to do more, accomplish (there’s that word again) more, and live more!  And I want to live…live for God, live for my husband & my children, and live for myself.

“When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.”

-Anonymous

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”

-Thomas Carlyle (Scottish Historian and Essayist)

Until next time…

Shannon…out

Pole Dancing-101

Tonight marked my first step into the world of pole dancing and I have one thing to say, ouch ouch friggin’ ouch!!  It hurts…and not because I feel like I worked my muscles to the core, but because you’re gripping a pole and spinning around on it and it beats you up!  Tomorrow, I’m going to have bruises in places I don’t think one should have bruises in (inner thighs…hello…damn!). 

We learned three different spins and a few dance moves to go in between those spins to put together a sultry sequence of sorts.  The first step we learned was the basic way to hold the pole, walk around it, and “lose your balance” so you effortlessly spin around the pole.  Once we mastered that, we moved on to a spin.  The first spin we learned was the fireman’s spin.  For this spin, you are gripping the pole with your right hand as you step one foot at a time around the pole (as seductively as you can muster under the pressure of doing your first spin), opposite hand on your hip.  On the fourth step you lift your left leg into the air and fall into the spin while you bring that leg to the pole and raise the right leg to join it as you spin around and down.  The momentum you build up from letting go of your balance and falling into the spin enables you to go around the pole several times with both knees up with minimal effort (poles do spin, but ours were stationary).  I say minimal cuz it is still hard, but in no where NEAR as difficult as some of the stuff I’ve seen these girls do.  She made us do each spin on each side (it is a fitness class as well, so the importance of incorporating both sides of the body is stressed), so after the right side we always switched to the left. 

The next spin we learned was a switch kick spin.  Same concept as the fireman spin.  You walk around the pole, one hand on at first and then you grab the pole with the other hand on the fourth step while you lift and spin your leg around and fall into the spin.  This spin is a little difficult to explain, so just imagine standing still and kicking your legs straight out in front of you, one at a time.  It’s kind of like that, only you’re holding onto and spinning around a pole :) 

At this point, our instructor has given myself and the other girl (yeah, there were only two of us daring souls in this teaser class) how great we’re doing and how “excited” she is that we’re doing so well, so she gets all excited to get to teach us a third spin, “You guys are doing so great!  You’re naturals,” she says!  Not sure how I feel about being called a natural on the pole.  So, the last spin she decides to teach us is a wrap around spin.  Again, you walk around the pole with your right hand on it, on your tip toes, other hand on your hip.  On the fourth step, you wrap your right leg around the pole and grab on with your other hand.  You then “lose your balance” into the spin and you position your other leg just below the leg wrapped around the pole.  You spin a couple of times and plant your feet on the floor and raise your booty in the air to stand up. 

That’s it!  Then we did a little cool down and we were done.    At this point, I’m noticing that I’m actually sweating, which makes me think I did get something of a workout.  It is difficult, I will say that.  I have a newfound…ummm, respect…for pole professionals.  Oh, I forgot to mention how dizzy you get!!  We even took “dizzy” breaks.  I remember when I used to dance in high school, you learned how to spot when you did turns…guess I’ve forgotten all those techniques.  I did end up signing up for additional classes…six weeks to be exact.  So we’ll see how it goes!  I wondered on my way home how I was supposed to get any better or practice with no pole at home…but I guess you can buy poles that don’t have to be mounted into your ceiling…portable poles.  Take ‘em to the beach!  Maybe some day…

Shannon…out.

American Idol–My Two Cents

Is it just me, or do the contestants this year seem to be the WORST batch of contestants on American Idol…EVER???  There are a few who I believe do have some potential to become really great:  Lacey Brown (I mention her name mostly because I know of someone in particular who reads my puny little blog and they’re totally rooting for her…you know who you are; but she is pretty good), Crystal Bowersox (although she should lose the dreads and get her teeth whitened and straightened), and Andrew Garcia (my personal fave).  But let’s face it….the rest are all duds!  I had to rewind my DVR several times during some performances to see if it was my speakers, the show’s audio, or the actually contestant themselves who was causing the vocals to sound “pitchy” as Randy would say.  It was the contestant.  There are rumors milling about that Simon Cowell is deliberately sabotaging the show in order to gather more viewers for his new endeavor “X Factor” set to air next year.  Hmmmm…makes sense I guess, but I’m not going to dwell on conspiracy theories.  I just want my AI back!  I want my weekly, two day entertainment!!  Is that too much to ask??  Apparently so.

Nevertheless, the American Idol crappy contestant-inspired site Vote For The Worst is up to its usual antics by encouraging AI voters to…you guessed it…vote for the worst.  The “worst” contestants this season:  Haeley Vaughn and Tim Urban.  Rightfully earned.  Ok, hear me out, while they’re both adorable in their own right, Ms. Vaughn’s adorableness is beginning to wear on my nerves as is her high-pitched talking voice and never-ending smile (the caricature to the right really paints a good picture of both contestants).  Pretty boy Urban should, in my opinion, take heed from one blogger and apologize to AI viewers for his off-key performance of OneRepublic’s hit “Apologize.”

There was neither a girl nor a guy who delivered an unforgettable performance Tuesday or Wednesday night, so really any one of them could have gone home.  To say that the four that were eliminated in last night’s results show (Janell Wheeler, Ashley Rodriquez, Joe Munoz, and Tyler Grady) deserved to go home is a little unfair.  Oh heck…unfairness be darned…they deserved to go home!  Janell, c’mon!  Her performance of Heart’s “What About Love?” was all over the place and so painful to listen to I had to fast forward through it.  Seriously…adding Ann Wilson to the list of singers not to touch-ever-on AI would be a wise thing to do so as to save any and all daring (and stupid) contestants from total embarrassment and, ultimately, elimination.  For “diva” Ashley Rodriguez to attempt a number by one of Simon Cowell’s proteges was also another daring (and stupid) move.  Her attempt at Leona Lewis’ “Happy” (ironically titled, no?) earned her a place next to Janell in elimination row.  Joe Munoz’s performance of  Jason Mraz’s “You and I Both” was OK.  He’s got a good voice…started off shaky but managed to get it together before too long; however, even if you’re an avid AI viewer (like myself) you’re probably muttering the words, “Who’s Joe Munoz,” to yourself right now.  He’s dull.  Boring.  A little David Archuletta resemblance going on there for me, but only in appearance– not vocally– and David’s smile could light the night sky (now that’s adorableness you don’t tire of…well, maybe).  Let’s not forget Tyler Grady.  The Jim Morrison look-a-like contest coordinators can all shut their doors (no pun intended…ha) and send all trophies to Tyler Grady.  However, looks alone will not pull you through American Idol (case and point, Ashely Rodriguez).  His attempt to rock out on stage to Guess Who’s “American Woman” appeared to be more like a nervous twitch and, once again, I found myself fast-forwarding through.

Thus ends another sad and shaky attempt at searching for America’s next pop star…for this week.  Let’s hope next week the remaining 20 can pull it together and actually give fans a reason to continue watching.  So contestants– shake off the dust, Kara–pull up your panties (your husband’s in the audience for goodness sake), and viewers–try to remain open to the possibility of a better week two of live performances; as difficult as that may be.

Side-note:  is it completely weird that I find myself oddly attracted to last season’s runner-up, and openly gay, Adam Lambert?  Seriously!  I find myself watching the video for “Whataya Want From Me” over and over again cuz he’s so yummy!  Completely strange to me considering I couldn’t stand to watch him perform on American Idol during his season.  How’s that work??  Never mind the fact that the guy wears more make-up and nail polish than I do at any given time…he’s smokin’ hot!!

That’s all for now…go ahead, thank God :o

Shannon…out (has Ryan copyrighted that phrase yet??)

“Mommy, I can’t see the moon!”

Last night as we were making our way home from my in-laws, Sophie said to me, “Mommy, I can’t see the moon!”  She actually has a habit of looking for the moon (and coyotes) when we’re driving at night, so the statement didn’t come as a surprise to me.  I replied to her, “I know, honey, I don’t see the moon either.”  Then she says, “Where is the moon?”  I told her, “Well, sometimes the moon hides behind the clouds at night and then you can’t see it.”  On this particular night, there happened to be not a cloud in the sky, so obviously I was just making up something to tell her that would make sense to her as to why she couldn’t see the moon.  So of course I told her the first thing that came to my mind that I thought she might actually understand.  Much to my surprise, my 2 1/2 (almost) year old daughter is much more perceptive than I had thought and she responded to my statement with, “But Mommy, I don’t see any clouds in the sky.” 

My husband and I looked at each other and started laughing, somewhat quietly; both of us obviously stunned by the astute observational skills our young toddler had just displayed.  She asked again where the moon was and I managed to cease all questions with the response, “The moon is just hiding right now…it does that sometimes.”  We had just played hide and seek at her grandparent’s house, so I figured that answer would suffice.  I’m just not sure that she would have understood moon phases and how the moon is currently in its last quarter and, therefore, does not actually rise in our night sky until around 1-3 a.m.  Perhaps I should have just gone with that……next time.

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