Come to Belize with us January 21st - 28th, 2024
I've decided that I'm going to teach Stop Drop and Dance all around the world... and you're welcome to join me!
Last year 39 of us went on our first retreat together to Tulum in November 2022 for 6 days and 5 nights (thank you to Tanya Burdick for taking a photo of the quote above during our first trip!). At the airport, I distinctly remember arriving to the gate and seeing separate groups of 2 or 3 people sitting in different places, not interacting with one another.
By the end of our trip, however, all 39 people became one bonded dance family, and now every time they see each other in class, it feels like old friends reuniting.
Stop Drop and Dance is a common thread that brings us together three times a week, but if you are looking for an opportunity to really grow deeper individually and with our Power With Grace community, consider joining us in Belize January 2024!
Deadline to sign up for this all-inclusive retreat is September 15th, 2023!
(feel free to share about this retreat with any other women - sorry men and children! - who love Stop Drop and Dance and want to build a deeper community!)
Save the date: Maui OHANA fundraiser class September 7th!
Many of us have visited Lahaina, Maui, and walked along the ocean on Front Street with all of its restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops, to the signature Banyan Tree at the end. My family had just visited in May and ate at our favorite Star Noodle restaurant (formerly Aloha Mixed Plate).
It is devastating to know that the town of Lahaina as we know it, is gone, and more than just that, many lives were sadly lost from the fire. In addition, homes were destroyed and families were left homeless.
Catherine Granville, Kathy Brown and Shel Saxon all have birthdays within 2 days apart and they would like to host a Stop Drop and Dance Maui fundraiser that specifically supports 40 indigenous families that have a deep connection to the Lahaina community.
Many of these families are native speakers and lived with 3-4 generations all on the same piece of land and have lost everything. It is so important that these families are not forced off the island!
Catherine has a friend on Maui who is involved with supporting these families and has provided us with direct Venmo links for each of these 40 families.
All of the money raised will be divided among these 40 families and directly sent to them as a small token of love and support from our Power With Grace community.
Please consider donating in multiples of $40 - thank you for your generosity and compassion!
Your donation will allow you to come in-person to UUMarin (240 Channing Way in San Rafael) on Thursday, September 7th from 9:30am-10:45am - please wear your ALOHA clothes - leis, flowers, or pink for Maui!
OR you will also get a Zoom link to join class virtually in your Eventbrite confirmation email (scroll to the very bottom to find the link).
Even if you cannot make class, your donation is much appreciated! Everyone who donates will receive a link to an on-demand recording to dance at home for the week after!
Thank you for your generosity and compassion!
Happy Birthdays Kathy Green and Lisa Hudson!
All of our regularly scheduled classes are back in session, including Stop Drop and Dance Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 9:30am, and HIIT Wednesdays at 9:30am followed by All Levels Yoga at 10:45am! Please always check the website to stay up-to-date with our class schedule and to sign up!
Thank you to everyone who came to celebrate Kathy Green wearing gold (for Golda Meir) and Lisa Hudson wearing purple a week ago! It was such a wonderful way to join together again after our month long break!
Can't wait to see you this week!
10 takeways from my time in South Africa
As you all know, my daughters and I had the luck (literally) to be chosen as part of a biennial delegation trip to South Africa with their school, Mark Day School. One of the reasons we chose Mark Day School initially was because of their emphasis on global partnerships not just with South Africa, which began in 2002, but also Beijing and Costa Rica in alignment with their Mandarin and Spanish language programs. Mark Day School has developed these long-term relationships with the goal of enriching learning for both partner schools using a global lens.
It is impossible for me to fully convey how impactful my trip to South Africa was this past summer, but I'll do my best to share 10 of my key takeaways.
1) Sing and dance your heart out
🐠 “We are jolly,
and happy, like a fish,
swimming in the water,
we are jolly,
and happy, today!!!” 🐠
This was how we were welcomed on our first day at eSibowisweni Primary School in South Africa. They made two long lines of kids and greeted us all the way from our bus at the entrance of the school to the assembly field area. Their voices were so beautiful, so powerful, and so angelic that I was instantly brought to tears during the entire procession.
They continued to welcome our arrival with performances from all ages and even though they had load-shedding (regular power outages for a few hours everyday), they honestly didn’t need any speakers or microphones.
As someone who lives and breathes music, dance, and the arts, my heart was so incredibly full watching them give their 110% - not because they are “trying” to be loud, but because it is simply embedded into their culture. They don’t hold back like we are used to seeing in American culture where we sing at half volume. Everyone here genuinely sang and danced their hearts out so that we, as the spectators, truly FELT the love and joy.
“So we love, one another,
We are, the family.”
"Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice."
- Nelson Mandela
2) Be present and curious with others
We spent 3 full days at the first school, eSibonisweni Primary School and another 4 days at the second school, Kliptown Youth Program. On our very first day in eSibonisweni Primary School, we did not know what to expect since it is a rural area and there is a language barrier.
At recess, all the students came out and many would just approach us and stand next to us, smiling.
I was so proud of all the kids in our delegation, including my own girls, who I knew were extremely uncomfortable with physical contact normally, but somehow were ok being swept away with different groups of local kids and engaged in non-verbal activities like recess games.
With us adults, kids would just stand next to us, once again smiling, wanting to be close, wanting to be together. Sometimes the older kids would ask questions or they would try to answer our questions. But even in silence, they gave us a feeling of connection with their deep presence and curiosity. The silence wasn't uncomfortable, it became an invitation.
Could we learn to truly give someone new our full attention and learn about them (aka maybe the next time you come to class, make an effort to get to know someone different!)?
"As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
- Nelson Mandela
3) Immerse yourself in nature
🦒 Our favorite animal sighting moments in South Africa! 🐘
As part of our eSibonisweni Primary school delegation visit in the rural area of South Africa called Mkube, we had a few optional opportunities to join 2-3 hour game drives before school at 6am and again after school around 3:30pm at Tembe Elephant Park.
We bundled up in beanies, gloves and winter jackets for these extremely bumpy game drives in safari jeeps that fit 10 people plus the driver. We watched the beautiful sunrise in the morning and the gorgeous sunsets in the evenings, and the majority of time was searching for any animals we could find.
Unfortunately like this song suggests (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”), we never got to see any of the big cats, but we saw (in order in the video): Guinea fowls, nyalas, impalas, mother and baby rhinoceros, buffalos, warthogs, crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, hippopotami, and zebras!
There are definitely many more nature preserves in South Africa where you can do safaris and see more of the “Big 5” animals, but my girls and I were happy with our experience nevertheless!
"I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses. We must never forget that it is our duty to protect this environment."- Nelson Mandela
4) Have gratitude
One of the most obvious expectations we had going into this trip was knowing that the areas we were visiting would be very different financially than our home town.
On our bus ride through Soweto and the town of Kliptown, we drove through the nicer neighborhoods that had homes with high walls and barbed wires protecting them, and then the local community of homes constructed with metal sheets. We smelled burnt coal fires that burned every night for families to cook on, or to stay warm with. We saw trash everywhere, which was another reason why families burned fire.
In both school, kids walked, some for a long long time just to get to and from school each day. And some were very young kids walking by themselves on the side of the road next to fast moving vehicles. Many of the students came to school simply because they got a free hot lunch to eat and a snack to bring home for breakfast the next day.
The beauty came in witnessing how the kids responded.
A sandwich with only jam inside? Grateful.
A sticker after sports day activities? Grateful.
A hug? Grateful.
Of course we cannot compare their lives to our lives at home, but yes we CAN take small steps as adults and children to be less picky, coddled, or spoiled. We can all complain less. We can have less material things. We can all appreciate more. We can all spend quality time together. We can all express more gratitude daily. Those are the changes we can make.
"It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another."
- Nelson Mandela
5) Give back and share what you love
Mark Day School has had two main fundraisers for eSibonisweni Primary School since 2002. One is the Fall Fun Run, which supports the Girls’ Scholarship Fund and has already seen its first girls graduate from university in recent years (most girls don't finish even high school in this rural area), and another is ePop, which provides enough food every month for 25 of the families most in need (many do not even have money for new uniforms or shoes for their kids). We got to meet both the girls in the scholarship program and the 25 families during our visit, and it was truly a humbling and grateful moment that my girls are part of a school community that truly gives back in such an impactful way.
The kids range from K-7th grade and each day our delegation interacted with the students and teachers in so many different ways. Some were part of the vision team to see who needed a referral to an optometrist, others led a self-portrait craft, some people went into classrooms that had no teachers and helped lead lessons or assist with homework, we led a sports day with parachutes, hula hoops, jump ropes, volleyball, soccer, chess, and our students were so great making new friends, singing songs, and simply playing together!
We all have different passions and of course, my comfort area was sharing dance! I brought a small portable speaker on this trip and spontaneously led some dances during recess or lunch, or during Sports Day, and here are just some of the clips of how dance is a universal language and a way of connection. I love how the kids greeted us with unlimited hugs and high fives, sang with their fullest voices, and danced with open hearts and acceptance.
Thank you to Katherine Chan who danced with me every time and captured most of this footage!
"There can be no greater gift than that of giving one's time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return."
- Nelson Mandela
6) Laugh until you cry
Our two school delegations were in different parts of South Africa, so during the weekend while school was not in session, we had a one night stop over in St. Lucia on our way to the Durban airport.
We were able to attend a safari game drive in the morning, eat lunch at the preserve beach, and then join a hippo and crocodile boat ride in the afternoon. In the evening, we were on our own for dinner, and got to explore the cute town of St. Lucia.
One of the memorable highlights this evening was eating dinner at a restaurant with a few other families, including our friends Cricket and her daughter, Charlie. It happened to be Cricket's birthday and we all sang to her on the bus earlier that day!
While walking home, it was extremely dark and I had my iphone flashlight but it was still hard to see. Something else you should know is that our lodging had warned us that hippos come out of the water and roam around the town at night...
So as Cricket and I were walking with our girls, I suddenly saw something move in the dark and naturally, freaked out. And like a domino effect, the girls screamed, and we started running blindly in the dark. In this madness, Cricket decided she should get her iphone flashlight on too, and in the process, gracefully (you know when you see things happen in slow motion? like that...) trips onto her hands and knees on the floor, but then somehow continues to roll off the sidewalk onto her back just at the edge of the street.
Depending on some people, that might have turned into a serious moment, or an angry moment. But somehow, Cricket's fall really was quite hilarious and she was laughing the entire time the slow motion fall-and-roll was happening. All of us were hysterically laughing to the point of tears down our face and we probably looked like drunkards to passer-by-ers.
But nope, this was just the perfect ending to an amazing birthday for Cricket, in South Africa, with hippos on the loose (and no, there wasn't really a hippo after all...)
- Nelson Mandela
7) Learn from the past
(back to a more serious note...)
apartheid: the system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race in force in South Africa 1948-91.
Often when we think of visiting South Africa, we think of only seeing the Big 5 animals and going on safari game drives.
What I truly appreciated on our delegation trip was that in addition to going on game drives and spending time with our partner schools, we also dived deeply into learning about the history and culture of South Africa and its people. In a much too short summary, we visited:
⛪️ Regina Mundi Church, the largest Roman Catholic church in South Africa, which became famous as a safe gathering place for anti-apartheid protestors.
👦🏿 Hector Pieterson Memorial, a victim of a peaceful protest where students did not want to be forced to learn school in the Afrikaans language (what their oppressors spoke), and we had the honor of meeting his sister, Antoinette, who shared her personal memory of that day when her brother died.
🏠 Mandela House, where Nelson Mandela used to live before he was imprisoned and where his wife Winnie lived while he was in prison for 27 years.
📝 Freedom Square, where 3000 people gathered to write their own vision of a better future of South Africa called “The Freedom Charter” in which they believed “The People Shall Govern!”
🏨 Nelson Mandela’s State House, where he lived as the former South African President. It has now been remodeled and has become a hotel and restaurant decorated with memorabilia in honor of Mandela.
⏳ Apartheid Museum, an intense and important display of exhibitions from how apartheid began, what it was like during, and how it ultimately ended.
🏛️ Constitution Hill, the largest former prison site where tens of thousands (many innocent) served time, such as Mandela and Gandhi. It is also the current constitutional court site.
🏟️ FNB Stadium, our final day, light-hearted visit, to see their largest stadium for 90,000 people.It was a lot to process, even as an adult. But I am grateful my girls had a true lesson on what inequality and struggle really looked like during apartheid.
Why is it so hard to BE FAIR AND KIND?
"The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall."
- Nelson Mandela
One of the biggest lessons that stayed with me from the museum visits in Johannesburg was the lesson of forgiveness.
In the previous section, I shared that we went to the Hector Pieterson memorial, a museum constructed because this young boy was killed during a student protest. A journalist happened to capture the now-famous photo of him being carried away with his sister running alongside, and shared it with the world, which brought global attention and awareness about how wrong apartheid was.
His sister, Antoinette, came out to meet our delegation and share her memories from that day. She shared how all the older students had planned to protest against learning in the Afrikaans language (the language of the white South Africans who created apartheid), and how the younger kids saw them marching and were inspired to join too. She shared how it was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but shots were fired by the police and she lost track of her brother in the chaos. She shared trying to get help for her brother but he was already dead.
All of us were in tears hearing her recount her first-hand story. She concluded by saying that she learned to move forward from this painful moment by forgiving her oppressors. She decided to choose not to live in bitterness or hate, but to choose peace and hope for a better future.
"Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies."
- Nelson Mandela
A few days later, we visited Constitution Hill, where both Gandhi and Mandela had been imprisoned for a time. Mandela had been imprisoned for a total of 27 years, later at Robben Island, and all the while, kept believing and working towards getting rid of apartheid and human rights abuse against black South Africans, from inside the prison walls.
When Mandela was finally released, he made a choice to unite South Africa and move towards positive change and peace by becoming the first Black South African president. It is incredibly inspiring that instead of punishing those who imprisoned him, Mandela decided to lead with forgiveness and find solutions to lift up the whole country instead.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. They must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
- Nelson Mandela
9) Make an unforgettable impact
In the heart of Kliptown, Soweto, there’s this amazing after school program that tutors over 1000 K-12th graders everyday in academics, athletics and the arts. It’s so popular there is a lottery to be accepted.
In addition to tutoring, KYP feeds every student a hot lunch after school and when they go home, they get 2 sandwiches for their breakfast the next day. Plus every Friday, they give back by providing free hot lunches to their entire community of children and adults!
KYP has had a long-standing partnership with Mark Day School and walking into their campus (that was just renovated in 2019 thanks to a generous donation!) felt like being greeted by loving friends. Every year, either Mark Day sends a delegation to KYP or KYP staff and students come to the US and do home stays with Mark Day families!
We were there for 4 days and helped out wherever they needed us, from testing vision and helping kids get seen by an optometrist, to painting 2 homes and staining lunch benches, to leading art projects and playing sports, to making 2300 sandwiches each day! An extra special part was that each of our students had a buddy friend that they became closer with during our visit.
But as much as we wanted to help and serve, I cannot emphasize enough that we were really there to observe, learn and grow! KYP ran school-wide assemblies that were SO alive and vibrant with singing and dancing! KYP had kitchen staff who worked non-stop to help the kids learn on full bellies. KYP had school staff and administrators, especially Thulani, Thando and Nene who not only grew up in Soweto and were products of KYP, but were trusted leaders in supporting education and higher learning. KYP had students who gave us the warmest greetings and the most emotional goodbyes by singing alongside our delegation as we walked to our bus on the last day...
Thank you KYP for showing Mark Day school so much love and teaching us what true community looks like!!! Keep up the amazing work creating future leaders! 🇿🇦
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
- Nelson Mandela
10) Find your community
On our final day in South Africa, we had the honor of teaching the students at KYP our “Can’t Stop the Feeling” dance by Justin Timberlake at their assembly.
It was a bittersweet moment because we had performed this dance almost 2 weeks ago on our very first day at our other partner school, eSibonisweni Primary School.
Since that first day, the 50 of us in the delegation had traveled together, served together, shared stories together, cried together, and today it was time to say goodbye to not just the partner schools and our time in South Africa, but to each other.
Many of the people in our delegation had been hesitant to learn the dance in the first place before our trip (I recorded a video for them to practice at home!), and to perform it was a big, uncomfortable ask!
But they did amazing that first day, and they did even more amazing this last day.
Because this time, they got to experience what it was like to dance not with the pressure of performing for everyone to watch, but to dance WITH the kids, facing the kids, seeing the kids, and feeling the reciprocal energy from the kids. That energy… is contagious.
We all came on this trip wanting to give and help and serve and support… but we all left RECEIVING smiles and warmth and love and joy.
More than anything, I am grateful to Mark Day School and the leaders of this trip, Lisa and Fernanda, because it just further emphasized why I am glad my girls are part of this school. I loved the detail to which they organized this delegation trip. I loved getting to know all the other like-minded parents who carry similar values as myself. I loved that the kids in our group collaboratively made over 800 friendship bracelets from our first to last day to give to every KYP student. And I love that there is a honest and meaningful partnership of giving and receiving with eSibonisweni Primary School and Kliptown Youth Program in South Africa!
It was an absolutely incredible experience and thank you for hearing all my stories if you've read this far!
(I saved my favorite Nelson Mandela quote for last below!)
PS And now back to Belize... reach out if you have questions or are thinking about it!!!