A Woman My Size

A Woman My Size

I timidly walked into a packed group exercise room at Xtreme Fitness in Redding, CA where people were talking to each other, smiling, and some even hugging before the class began. As an overweight, reluctant exerciser, I was quite shocked. Being at the gym had never been a pleasant experience for me; I never even grinned about exercising, let alone actually chuckle. Something was wrong with these people.

One of the first Zumba parties I attended at Xtreme Fitness. I’m on the right in a green hat. A few rows back.

A woman dressed in a bright colored Zumba outfit walked up on stage with a big smile, introduced herself, and turned on the music. A disco ball and dance lights spun around and lit up the dark room. The Zumba Instructor, Lisa Reed, started moving and pointing. We all started doing exactly what she did…dance. Before I knew it, I’d danced for an hour. I couldn’t believe I’d exercised for that long without passing out. What a fun time! Wait, did I say that?

The magic of my first Zumba class motivated me to attend as many classes as I could, sometimes even two a day. (This happens to many Zeeps – Zumba lovers.) Every class made me feel better about moving my body. The energy from people dancing was contagious and inspiring. For some reason, I didn’t feel limited any more by my size or my past battles with extra weight. The Zumba choreography challenged me to move in new ways and push myself physically, but it was never humiliating or painful, like other exercising programs I’d experienced.

The music, the dancing, the energy, the magic of the Zumba experience made me feel free. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. I wasn’t trapped in a fat body anymore. Well, I was still overweight, but I didn’t care. I wasn’t self-conscious about my legs jiggling or my belly bouncing.  I didn’t care about any of that, at least not like I used to.

The Day I Became A Zumba Instructor, June 2012

My thoughts prior to Zumba were, “You’re too fat to do that, that, and that too.” Heck, I even felt too fat to walk down the street sometimes because I’d been “mooed” at and called “whale” by people driving by. I was definitely too fat to shake my butt in front of people, that is, until I found Zumba. With the “fat limits” gone, something strange happened, I mean really strange for me, I decided I wanted become a Zumba instructor.  I wanted to be a part of the group that helped bring so much joy to people like me.

One of the many marvelous things about Zumba is the creator, Beto Perez, has an open mind. He wants anyone and everyone to experience Zumba. Beto doesn’t limit the opportunity to be an instructor to those who are fitness gurus or who have above average physiques. Anyone who is motivated enough and willing to invest some time and money can become a Zumba Instructor. It’s not about having a six pack or the rock hard butt. It’s about motivating people to enjoy their own ability to move to music.

ImageToday I have the pleasure of teaching Zumba at Salisbury High School and at a few gyms. I love that I can do it and that I can help others have fun while they exercise. I’m not a size two and I’m not cut like some instructors. Yes, I’ve dropped some weight, but I’m just an average woman. I don’t want this to be a weight loss story. This is a weight freedom story. My butt is still big and I still jiggle, but I’m moving with pride. I walk up in front of a group of people with a big smile on my face and when the music starts I move and they move with me. We dance. All sizes, all shapes, all ages. I want them to feel like I feel, absolutely free and wonderful.

Lisa Reed and Me.
Zumba Instructors!

Recently, I did a Zumba demonstration and afterwards, a very well dressed older man who obviously worked out said to me, “For a woman your size, you move really well. You surprised me.”  The girl in me who’d been insulted by Neanderthals in her past popped her head up for a second and wanted to retreat, but no way. I stood tall in my bright Zumba outfit (size large by the way) and looked at him and said, “Go to Zumba and you will never be surprised again. Any size person can do Zumba and do it well.”  I walked away and lead another routine with my big smile and my head held high. Woot! Woot! See you in class!


Self – Promises

ImageI promised myself I would write tonight. So here I am. It’s late and I’m tired, but I promised. The list of promises I’ve made to myself is long and detailed. Part of the list is also unwritten…more promises to come. I have made a commitment to myself to experience as much as I can during this time I have on earth.

Being alive, having a life to live, is like having a day pass for Disneyland; I want to see and do as much as I can before the park closes. Sure, I will have to wait in line sometimes and just take in the scenery until the next adventure begins, but I at least I have a day pass, lots of people can’t get one anymore.


I clearly remember the day she entered our college dorm. Her long black hair ran all the way to the bottom of her back. She smiled at me with her mouth full of braces and stuck out her hand, “Hi. I’m Andrea.” A big click went off throughout the universe because the two best friends in the world had just met.Image

From that day on, we stuck together. From studying all night and crying over boys to family and girlfriend drama, we were buds. She invited me to meet her family and they welcomed me with open arms. We roomed together for four years and we even had silly nicknames. Andrea would imitate a television commercial of the time by saying to me, “You know what I mean, Vern?” Eventually we knew no other name than, “Vern.”

Unlike me, Andrea knew what she wanted in life and she had a plan. She was going to be a lawyer so she studied political science. A big picture of her future car, a bright red convertible Porsche hung above her desk. She wanted to get married, be a mother of four kids and she always wanted to live near her family. Not one ounce of doubt entered her mind about what she would accomplish.  Nothing would stop her.  IImage felt so lucky to have a friend like her. I knew we’d be pals forever. She gave me a birthday card once with two old women riding a roller coaster together and labeled it “The Verns”. Andrea wrote inside about our future adventures. She inspired me.  

Before we knew it, we began our fourth year of college. That year Vern would graduate. I still had another year to go, but we had a trip to Maui planned to celebrate her accomplishment. It was going to be a great year. Then, something strange happened.  She developed a rash, a butterfly rash, on her cheeks. A few weeks later she could barely lift herself from a sitting position. A few months later, everything changed.

Andrea’s long black hair started falling out in handfuls because she had to take steroids.  Her beautiful brown skin became pale because she could no longer be in the sun. She vomited everything she ate. She was told she could no longer go to law school and she should never drive a convertible or have children. The doctors told her she had Systemic Lupus.

Andrea did eventually graduate from law school, but she had to do it slowly. The year we turned thirty, I called her to wish her a happy birthday. I’ll never forget the conversation.

“Hey Vern, Happy Birthday. Can you believe it? We’re getting old,” I said.

“Well, I’m just glad I made it to thirty,” Andrea said.

Andrea died the next year at age 31 from complications due to Lupus.

            My number one self-promise is to never forget Vern and her passion for life. I know that she would literally kick my butt if she knew I wasted the time I had left on earth. If she were still here, she’d be living it like she was at Disneyland. She would ride as many rides as she could and she’d experience as much of life as possible. She’d be driving that bright red Porsche around with the top down (at least for a little while). I owe it to her and to myself to do something with the days I still have. I’m so lucky to be alive and so are you if you are reading this. What will you accomplish before the park closes? What are your self-promises? We should all have many. Ya know what I mean, Vern?


Really, a Blog??

I’m a little embarrassed that I opened up this blog back in 2012 and only posted one time. Should I shut it down and open a new one? My perfectionist side says, “Yes,” but my authentic self says, “Let it be.”  I have tons of legitimate excuses so I will share a few: a new adopted 2 year old son, working full time as a teacher at a continuation high school, becoming a Zumba Instructor, divorce, my dad died, and the huge amount of pain that caused. One other thing is that I’ve been writing, just not writing a blog. That’s actually why I’m back, or actually why I’m actually starting for real this time.

Why do I want to start a blog (again)? Why, oh why should I add one more thing to the many activities of my life? The main reason is, drum roll please…., I finished my first novel! Yes, I did, well the first draft at least. 280 pages that fill an entire two inch binder! I’m not lying! I tell you, that’s pretty impressive. Looking at all those pages in a Word document doesn’t feel the same as holding a big fat binder full of words that I wrote. It’s simply awesome.  I’m so proud of myself. I clearly remember when I only had ten glorious pages written. Baby, I’ve come a long way…in more way than one.

downloadFour years ago, during the beginning stages of divorce hell, I was moping around my empty lonely house, missing my son so bad that I physically hurt. With the television blaring, music playing in the background, my cell phone sitting next to me for constant texting, and my computer on my lap with multiple tabs open, I realized that no amount of distraction took away how sad it felt to not be a mother to my child for 50 percent of his life. Sure, friends told me that I was always a mother, even when he wasn’t home, but I didn’t even know where he was, so really, I didn’t feel like I was being a mother. No matter how many times I cleaned his room and washed and folded his clothes I wasn’t really caring for him because he was gone to his fathers. No matter how many people I reached out to or how many technical devices I plugged into, nothing filled the hole in my heart.

So… I decided I needed to produce something with all the days that I didn’t have custody of my son. I had to do more than grow crops in Farmville and like Facebook posts until he came home again.  The time I gave up with my son to save myself from a miserable marriage had to be used for something meaningful. Years down the road, when he reached 18 years of age, I didn’t want to look back on all that time that I had without him and say that I did nothing with it. I gave up so much to get out of the marriage and my decision made him lose so many moments with both of his parents. My freedom obligated me to do more.

I joined Redding Writers Forum and SCBWI to begin my writing adventure. Soon, I found a critique group. Well, first I learned what a critique group was. Who knew that people get together and read each other’s writing? Yep, that’s what I did. I brought ten new pages every two weeks to three other writers and they did the same. Together, we ventured forward in our novel writing process.  Without them, I wouldn’t have written anything.

And so my critique gals continue to lead me into the world of the blob. Oops, did I write that? The all-consuming BLOB! Well, it’s my hope that I won’t be consumed by my new endeavor, but I’m a little nervous. So, what will my blog, not blob, be about?  My son says I should call it, “Darbie’s Squirrel Moments.”  More on that later. It’s too fun of a topic to not delve into more deeply. For now, I’ll stick with “Going for It” because that’s what I’m doing!