DWTS Blog #4: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

My current state

Well, here we are.  Dancing With the Stars tickets are sold out, votes are rolling in and by this time next week, I will be back to a normal life.  All these weeks I have been saying that I am not too nervous about the actual dancing part.  That’s now a lie.  The anxiety is setting in and my stomach is in knots.  I didn’t start the week out that way – but as each day passed… the knot begins to grow.

Saturday – my Mom is in town and the plan was for her and Sophia to join me for dance practice.  In true Santos children style, they are bored with every cool experience I’m a part of because they have grown numb to it, so she chooses a morning on her iPad instead of heading to the ballet to watch.  Whatever.  My mom joins me and sits quietly in the seats and Juwan and I kick through the moves.  I notice she is taping a couple of the segments on her phone which I plan to watch later.  Turns out watching it as soon as we get in the car scares the shit out of me because some of the moves I’m doing just look straight stupid.  Yikes.  I’m two weeks out.  I’m better in my head than I am on stage.  

Tuesday – our normal Tuesday practice and we are fixing small pieces that aren’t working.  I’m still working on adding that flare that feels completely dumb when I do it, but I know it comes across better on stage.  I can tell Juwan is wanting more from me and I’m having trouble giving it for some reason.  It just feels weird at times.  We have a couple of tricks that we practice a couple of times to really get the feel of them.  One of the tricks is killing me and I’m not getting it right.  I’m finally nailing the backflip but I’m still doing it in tennis shoes.  We still don’t have shoes and I should be in them by now.  I’m stressing.

The AMAZING Whitley Hamlin

Friday – 12:30.  The AMAZING Whitley Hamlin (@thequeencitystyle) who has graciously agreed to help style me for the event with the help of Neiman Marcus meets us at Southpark to try on some gala looks.  My traditional look is a little short and a little tight and sometimes a little unprofessional and I love that she is taking me out of my comfort zone.  The first dress I try on takes an army to put in on me.  I’m not kidding… it’s a damn scuba suit and I almost pass out twice.  I get it on and take a look in the mirror.  It’s elegant and sophisticated and I love it.  It’s never anything I would ever wear, try on or even buy.  I turn and look at Whitley and my Director of Marketing, Rachel and it feels like I found the perfect wedding dress on the first try.  I try on about 10 more but I keep coming back to the same first dress.  I think we have a winner.  I also need to drop all alcohol, bread, sugar, and calories in the next week to pull this thing off.  2:15 practice time comes and goes and I’m super late.  The videographer from the Ballet is there to shoot some of our practice for our gala video and it freezes me up a little.  Why am I freezing up?  It’s just a week away!  I do however have a new haircut that is making me feel like a new woman – but having a stranger in the room is screwing with me.  Of course, when the camera starts rolling, I see Juwan transform into the performer he is meant to be.  He’s insanely good and at that moment I know he will carry me through this because he is professional.  He’s the best.  I have to feed off his energy.

Saturday – Just breezing through my email and see an email from the Ballet.  Turns out that Juwan and I are the show closers.  I may vomit.

Sunday – 6 more days.  After watching the video of us performing, Juwan levels with me and lets me know there are some parts that just aren’t working.  Here’s the thing.  I have to do a cartwheel twice in my performance.  I know what you are thinking… it’s a cartwheel.  But ask yourself honestly when the last time you DID a cartwheel.  Not just a cartwheel in your living room, but a cartwheel where you have to grab the back of someone’s thigh and do a cartwheel over the front of him.  Oh, and make it look graceful and point your toes and you are 42.  Juwan asks me to do a couple of cartwheels just on the stage to see if we can figure this out.  Cartwheel number one – I pull the back of my thigh and my groin right out of the gate.  I pull it so bad that I want to spend the entire rest of the practice in the tub with Epson salt.  Instead, Juwan keeps making me do them.  He is showing me how to do them with his legs that are like 5 feet long and he looks like a damn starfish but with a touch of a ballet dancer.  I’m not getting any better at them but it’s probably because I’m 42 freaking years old!  Ugh.  Okay, homework for the week – figure out how to be more flexible and also do 100 cartwheels.  Side note: the other women I’m competing against next Saturday… one is an ex-college gymnast and the other is an ex-Chicago Bulls cheerleader.  Bonus.  They are probably kicking out cartwheels for breakfast.  We run through the music a couple of times, videotaping then reviewing.  I’m gonna throw up.

My week ahead is dancing every day, finding shoes that won’t kill me, practicing in my actual dance outfit, dress fittings, dress rehearsals, primping, and anxiety.  God bless anyone that has to come in contact with me this week.  I’m going to be a disaster.  

For goodness sake – please go out and vote for me.  One vote is $1, and I would love the support this week.  

Go to gala.charlotteballet.org and select “Erin and Juwan”.  

Erin’s DWTS Blog #1

Erin’s DWTS Blog #2

Erin’s DWTS Blog #3

 

DWTS Blog #3: Seriously, why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

Current status… not in last place.  I’m in second to last place.  Thanks to some sponsorship funds from Barings, DHG and Fifth Third Bank and some serious votes coming in from my friends at Levine – I have slowly moved to almost $47,000.  I’m a far cry from these 2 gentlemen who are well over $200,000.  (Which is honestly incredible.)   But I find myself being a little less depressed with my current number.  I have lots of people reaching out to me, asking how they can help.  Sadly, my answer is only to vote – because that’s all that moves my needle.  So, ask your friends, ask your friends who own businesses, or anyone really!  Every single vote counts.  

I also have 10 tickets still on hold, but I lose them to the general public  TOMORROW on February 14th.  So, all of you last minute people who want to come (and those ticket dollars count as votes), here are the instructions on how to get them.

Instructions for how to purchase from the held back tickets

1.    Please visit the website here and make a donation of at least $350 to equal one Gold ticket, $700 for 2 Gold tickets, etc. Once the transaction is received it will be recoded from donation to tickets.

2.    Within the guest names field please indicate “Gold Ticket Purchase” and the names of the guests using the tickets.

Day?  I have lost count… so now I will just ramble.

I love my drive up to DWTS rehearsal because I take the 30 minutes to blare the music in my car and walk through all the steps in my head.  Not to give anything away on my actual performance but today I’m playing the song “Baby Got Back” so loud my windows are shaking.  For those of you who know me, you know this was once my go to Karaoke song.  I absolutely HATE Karaoke and had such a horrible performance of this song maybe 8 years ago that I swore it off forever.  But this song has still been in heavy rotation in my house for years because I think it’s absolutely hilarious.  Now, if you ever look in my house windows – what you will find is probably me in the kitchen dancing to the most ridiculous songs.  My kids and I have always had no shame in busting out moves just about anywhere.  I dance all the time in the house, the car, the shower – everywhere.  And I’m raising kids that do the same.  My son is kind of an awesome dancer too and will break out today’s hottest moves on the sidelines of the football field, at a nice restaurant – anywhere.  Kind of like his mom.  Sophia has some moves too and we are constantly trying to get her to quit the Dab.  I find that her moves tend to be a little too sexy for her age too.  Yikes.  I’m probably to blame for this.  

But this Sir Mix a Lot song brings me back to my other child.  Bless her heart.  Isabella was quite possibly the WORST dancer of all time.  This girl had a beat in her head that was nothing like what was actually playing.  However, she didn’t give a damn.  This bald child in a dress would dance and dance, all while carrying a tune that was so off key that it was difficult to be around.  But one thing is for sure – dancing made her so happy.  We would have garage parties with our neighbors, blaring the most child inappropriate songs over the speaker with bottles of wine around us.  Occasionally one of us would get up and bust a move, but she would always trump us with her horrible white girl moves.  We would cheer her on and giggle under our breathe and she ate it all up.  It makes me chuckle just thinking about it.  So, while you may think a 42-year-old Mom from the burbs of Charlotte, dancing on stage to Baby Got Back is weird.  Just know all these songs have meanings and memories of a little 7-year-old girl that knew every word (even though she shouldn’t) and danced her little heart out beside me in the kitchen as the songs played through my house.  I think she would have loved me being up there on stage and really make a total ass of myself.  But she would also sit in her seat and find a beat with her foot on the ground and probably laugh knowing these are all the songs we would dance to in the kitchen as I made dinner too.  

Now on to the dancing… or at least what kind of looks like dancing.

Day 12

It’s time to start piecing this routine together.  I can do each little 30 second part but now Juwan is making me add a song or two together.  Wait one minute of straight dancing?  After a full 60 seconds I find that I’m winded.  Wait add another 30 second piece?  After 90 seconds of this routine, my heart is beating out of my chest and I collapse to the floor at the end of each round.  How do these dancers to do this?  Juwan tells me to kick my cardio up a gear – which I take in stride.  My birthday was February 2nd and I can honestly say that my cardio has been on a sliding scale the past week as my alcohol consumption has increased.  I mean you only turn 42, once right?  Ok ok… back to Orange Theory.  

Day 13

Here we go on putting the entire routine together.  Luckily Juwan cuts me a break and tell me that we will just walk the routine a couple of times in its entirety until my body just goes into muscle memory so I don’t get scared.  I find that this is becoming easier.  I don’t have to think about the steps, my body is just doing it.  I’m doing so well that we start practicing with the music.  Okay, now I’m winded but it’s actually happening.  Great.  Now instead of skipping all the stunts, we are actually going to do them too.  Holy crap.  Each time we go through the 3 ½ minutes – I’m getting better.  Sure, there are mistakes, but Juwan just yells – KEEP GOING!  I just keep going, each round has less and less mistakes.  Hmmm…. This is actually coming together.  Still winded.  

Day 14

Wardrobe.  

Thankfully, the most awesome stylist in town Whitley Hamlin (Queen City Style), has agreed to help style me for the gala.  I love this because sometimes it can be hard for me to crank up the sophistication.  Her peeps at Neiman Marcus have stepped up to help and we start chatting about possibilities.  The fact that I don’t have to think about this piece is really saving me.  Juwan and I have been chatting about performance outfits for a while and have been coming up empty so taking this off my plate helps.  I decided to sit down at my computer and start ordering stuff online.  Let’s pray when it arrives, something speaks to us.  It’s also an added difficulty when you and your partner are trying to match.  Did I mention that I’m a 5’5 mom and he is like an 8-foot-tall ballet dancer?  Yeah… 

Day 15

It’s Saturday night and we have a birthday dinner organized with some friends uptown.  Juwan has a performance that night but has assured me that he and his fella will meet us out after.  I drag my crowd to Dandelion Market where we are WAAAAY too old to be.  I care zero.  I want to dance like I’m 22 and I’m not leaving until they turn on the lights.  Juwan shows up around 11 with his man and I’m so happy I can barely stand it.  We dance and dance and dance like no one is watching until my boyfriend (who dances ZERO), finally pulls me out my arm a little after 1.  I haven’t had a night like this in so long and I loved every minute of it.  Now, while we weren’t necessarily practicing our routine, this night of dancing took me to another level of being comfortable with Juwan.  It’s hard to dance in front of someone – it took a while for me to loosen up with him.  But we are becoming little dance partners – I may even say he is my favorite dance partner ever.  And this is exactly where I wanted to be with him at this point.

Day 16

I got the routine down.  Now it just needs flare.  It’s one thing to have the steps but it’s another to dance the steps as good as Juwan does it.  We may have spent 20 minutes having him walk me through how to get my ass to “twerk”.  I still don’t have it.  I may have googled it when I got home that night and worked on it in my kitchen.  I’m less winded, it starting to not look like a mom from the suburbs.  I’m doing moves and Juwan is saying, “YES!  YES!  That’s it!”.  Confidence is building.  We are laughing, it’s working and I’m loving it.. minus the twerk.

Now I know rehearsing in an empty studio is one thing, on stage is another.  Next week he stops allowing me to watch myself in the mirror and will start picking at every little thing.  He’s going to eat my “twerk” alive.  I will continue to practice in my kitchen.  Also, my kids are starting to learn my routine.  Grant may have it better than I do.  Where is Isabella when I need her???

More performance outfits arrive.  One is baller – and I think we may have found it.  Now time to accessorize.  How is this performance just 2 weeks away.

And vote already.  I’m twerking and that’s got to be worth something right?

Erin’s DWTS Blog #1

Erin’s DWTS Blog #2

Event site: gala.charlotteballet.org

I’m ready to be somebody other than just her mom

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

Erin, Grant & Sophia

We are moving.  Hoping to have the house on the market April 1st and in a new home between SouthPark and Uptown the day after the kids finish school.  I’m so excited I can barely stand it. This house that was once purchased 8 years ago was for a family I no longer recognize.  A husband and wife, 3 kids and dog and a cat has now dropped to a Mom and 2 kids. The house is huge (which I know is inappropriate to say) but we needed it when Isabella was fighting cancer.  My Mom was living with us on and off and with a revolving door of help – we used every inch of the home. The kids played in the yard because we needed to keep Isabella close and Bailey and Jake roamed free alongside them.  The Marvin school system was our backbone for support with an amazing free education and my neighbors became my extended family.

But 6 years after she has passed, a divorce, a dog that passed away and a cat that one day left and never came back – this house is a graveyard of my past life.  I have no idea how to fix things in the house (although I’m learning) and an acre of yard that the kids no longer play in has me dumbfounded on seeding, aerating, lime and who knows what else.  Other than Sophia’s best friend next door – we keep to ourselves and find our inner circle is completely new. In fact, the majority of people close to me have never met Isabella and sometimes one step removed friends don’t even know I have a child that passed until I throw it out on the table.  I need a change badly.

I have been going about this change fairly mechanical.  Any free time I get is spent devoting my time to a room, a closet, a drawer.  There are very few items in my house that mean much to me at this point. My goal is minimal living, kill all these toys the kids don’t play with and trinkets that junk up my life.   I’m plowing through each area with very little emotion. We had done a few passes on Isabella so luckily I’m not tripping over her in every drawer, which helps. I’m throwing everything away.  Tubs that have crap in them that I haven’t even looked in – the entire tub goes in the trash. If we haven’t used this in the last 60 days – it’s gone. Goodwill is making out like a bandit and my trash screams of a purge. 

Grant has been okay with the process.  He’s a lot like me with very little attachment to stuff these days.  Other than his Beats headphones, his phone and some items he likes to sleep with – the rest of it can go.  He is stuck in a little boy’s room and the promise of a new room is enticing to him.

Sophia would keep a speck of dust.  She struggles a lot with Isabella still and Mommy and Daddy not being together so her “stuff” is on lockdown.  The only way I can convince her to purge is her little cousin Eden who is 3. “Wouldn’t Eden love these books you read in preschool?”  Sophia’s heart is bigger than anyone I know – so of course, the thought of giving to her little cousin throws the book right in the box.  God, I love her.

Isabella’s room

The house is about halfway done now with the purge.  I’m enlisting the help of my Mom to come for Sophia and Grant’s room because I need a little reinforcement.  But there was one last room that deserved some attention and I have been holding off for 6 ½ years for it. The time had come.  My hand was being forced.

My first step was explaining to the kids what I needed to do.  I had to assure them her stuff was not being thrown away. In fact, it’s just being boxed up and moved with us so we can still have her in our new house.  I was just merely “cleaning and organizing” her room so we can find a better place for it when we move. They seemed okay with this idea. However, I knew that I couldn’t have them there for it because they would freak out if they watched.  Thankfully, two families graciously took my kids for the day and night so I could focus on the task at hand.

Now, how do I focus on the task at hand?  I knew myself and I knew that I had to be very strategic in how I went about this.  If I didn’t do this right, I could tailspin into something that could put me under water for days.  Do I bring my Mom down, or will that be too hard? Should I bring in some friends who don’t have a connection to anything?  I honestly almost went this route. But, I figured that I would be too quick with the process because I didn’t want to explain every item I picked up.  Otherwise, that would be another tailspin. Then it finally hit me. Miss Chrissy. If Isabella wasn’t with me or my mom, she was with Miss Chrissy.

Miss Chrissy & Isabella

I knew Miss Chrissy would be perfect because sometimes she comes over and just to kick herself in the heart she goes up there.  She fingers through her dress (that she mostly purchased) and revels in the tailspin for a brief time. This is usually done at Halloween when she comes over and we drink waaaaay too much on the front porch, passing out candy and listening to 90’s hip hop and some 80’s favorites.  It never fails, the alcohol content rises and we find ourselves stumbling up the stairs. She and I like to torture ourselves together.

Of course, she accepted the invitation because it may be the last true torture.  This woman… there is no one like her. Love.

She arrived and I tried to be organized.  Boxes, plastic bins, loud music… I was ready.  We walk in the room and we stand there quietly.  Then I start to cry. Well, that was fast. We start to attack it piece by piece and the conversation stays light.  She gets the update on my crazy life and I get to ask her about hers. We stop every couple of seconds as we hold something up and we just pause.  A large sigh comes over the both of us.

Isabella’s Drawing

We have a system.  Trash, goodwill, Eden and keep.  The system works well because the trash really is just stuff others have brought into her room to play with.  Sure, there are random beads and broken Barbie arm but otherwise, it filled up easily. Some things were hard. It pained me to get rid of anything that her handwriting was on, which was honestly stupid.  I remember saying, if Isabella were here – she would say, “Mom… why are you keeping that? It was a homework assignment.” But, I figure in a couple of years I will hit those papers again. For today – I wasn’t ready.

Goodwill.  Stuff that I have no idea why she had, who gave it to her and no memory of her wearing.  I have a memory that is a steel trap, so if I don’t remember then this is why Miss Chrissy was perfect because she would remember.  “Do you even know what this is?”. NOPE! Then off to Goodwill it would go.

Eden.  This was easy too because if you know Isabella, you knew she was picky about her clothes.  Anything that was pants – definitely for Eden. I’m not sure if I can remember her wearing pants 10 times.  She hated them because of how they fell on her bone marrow scars on the front and the back. And if she did wear them, it was because I forced her and a day of Mommy hate was to come, and I hated those days.  Needless to say, Eden has enough pants to last her awhile.

Isabella’s pumpkin outfit

Keep.  This is where things got weird and I thank god we weren’t being watched.  The mounds and mounds of dresses that Chrissy bought her that were over the top.  These dresses were ridiculous and are why Janie and Jack are still in business today.  Huge dresses with sweater cover-up and matching headbands. The outfits that were purchased specifically for holidays that you could only wear maybe twice.  My favorite, the orange tulle ballerina skirt with the cream shirt that had pumpkins on the collar and the matching cream button-up sweater with pumpkins on it.  One outfit sends you spinning into a memory. She wore this Janie and Jack pumpkin outfit (estimated value $150, ridiculous) one October and got a massive nosebleed due to low platelets.  We were in her bathroom and it was pouring out of her, all over this outfit. We couldn’t stop it. We called Miss Chrissy to come and stay with our kids and rushed her into the car – driving 30 minutes to Levine.  We stopped at a light and flagged down a police officer to escort us up, allowing us to run lights. She was bleeding everywhere. The outfit was ruined and it was all that mattered to her. Not the fact that she was bleeding out in the back of Stuart’s truck.

In Miss Chrissy fashion,  the outfit was fully replaced – with a matching outfit for Sophia.  The both wore these outfits together proudly almost into December. That is what you call a keep outfit.  

I could go on for hours on the clothing but I will spare you the details.  Although, just to add a funny story to the mix. Let’s talk about Isabella’s underwear.  Bear with me. If this girl wasn’t in a full-length gown, she was just in her underwear. A constant mix of fevers made her body temperature a little above normal.  So most times you were with her, she was walking around in a pair of princess underwear. We open the drawer and this one shocks us. Every little pair in the drawer I could see her in.  But now we feel weird because we are saving a little girl’s underwear. I’m actually laughing as I type this because we felt like creepy women. But it was actually an outfit. We couldn’t figure out what to do.  “I feel weird taking a pair!”, Chrissy said with a laugh. But I got what she meant. We saved a few in her clothing box and decided not to judge ourselves. I swore if it had a memory, it needed to be kept. So there.  I kept some undies. Ugh.

Isabella’s unopened letter to her best friend

The rest of the day proceeded and we found lots of really amazing things.  We found so many pictures she kept of her and Soliel (her best friend) and even notes she had written her that were still sealed.  We hated to open them but when we did we found they just said things like asking her to come over. They were simply just notes a 7-year-old writes her BFF.  We kept them all. We found pictures she had drawn of her and Grant that we knew he would love. We found a box of letters her class had written explaining how each of her classmates were going to live their life differently now that they met her.  All saved.

In the end… we finished.  Miss Chrissy took some items, pictures of them together etc.   And then there she was… all in boxes.

I don’t remember what all I said to Chrissy when she left but I know it wasn’t what I really needed to say.  She needed an hour-long thank you for what she did for her, for me all while killing herself I’m sure in the process.  The definition of selfless. I hate that she doesn’t have her anymore and I know she aches as much as I do. I hate that.  But all I can give her now are these torture moments – that’s all I have left.

I just rocked

I took her sheets off the bed to wash them and then I just sat in the empty room.  I sat in her rocker that I used so many times to rock her to sleep. I just rocked.  Then I sobbed like I never have – for a long time. Sobbed like it just happened all over again, which I rarely do anymore.  I couldn’t stop. I think I just let it happen because the house was empty and there was no one there to console me or hear me.  I was truly just crying about losing my daughter and how completely awful the whole thing is. I can’t tell you what was all going through my head.  I can only describe it as the worst pain I have felt in years.

I could barely move the rest of the day.  I ordered food and seriously ate a bowl of pasta in my bed. Forrest Gump was on TV and just stared at the screen.  I was in a full coma of heartache. So many people reached out to me that day and I’m so thankful for that. I’m not sure anyone could understand what that was like, but it really felt like my last goodbye to her, which is silly.  We talk about her every day in our home, at work and casually in life – but for some reason, it felt different. Closure that I had never had – but I needed.

And now we just have to move on.  I’m ready to be somebody other than just her mom.  I’m honestly ready and excited.

 

DWTS Blog #2: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

Let’s back up a minute.  I realized as a talked to different people about Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing With the Stars that people had lots of questions for me about it.  Maybe I wasn’t doing a good job about communicating what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  In it’s 7th year, the Charlotte Ballet asks 6 leaders from the Charlotte community to participate in their annual event that raises money for both the Charlotte Ballet and the charity of the dancers choice.  You are paired with a member of the company and have 8 weeks to practice a routine.  Then on March 2nd you perform in front a sold-out crowd at the Knight Theater, the one caveat is in these 8 weeks, you are asked to raise funds or “votes” with a suggested goal of $150,000.  The night of the performance, a fundraising champion is crowned as well as a judge’s choice for the best dance.  Seems easy enough, right?  Your selected charity receives 50% of your total funds raised – and for some dancers – it’s a shit ton of money.  As an Executive Director, receiving funds for ISF with no expense on the balance sheet for raising the money is your dream.  So here I am.

Right out of the gate, the dancing piece didn’t scare me.  Don’t get me wrong, that night I will shake like a leaf but honestly, I know I will get through it.  For me, the fundraising piece scares me.  The problem with selecting me as a contestant is that my JOB is asking people for money every day.  The rest of my competition probably isn’t out fundraising for a living so the ask from them may seem more rare – and therefore a little easier.  I have a very giving community of supporters from ISF who I’m hoping will see how important this is and vote for Juwan and I.  But what I’m also hoping will happen is the new visibility ISF receives in the community by being a part of the event.  People who may have never known of Isabella or what we are trying to accomplish for kids with cancer in Charlotte may come across our story and donate/vote to help us build this rare and solid tumor program at Levine.  I’m hoping new supporters and business will come out who want to support the Ballet but see the importance of what we are doing.   Crossing my fingers… also, everyone likes the underdog, right?

Right now I’m a big underdog and the competitive person inside me is struggling as I see my competition inching in on $150,000 raised.  (I’m just over $20,000) But people are telling me it’s early – so I’m counting on that.  So I continue to practice and check in occasionally on my funds raised – that isn’t moving.  But if you read about my journey and want to help – tell a neighbor, post it on your social media – email that buddy that owns a company that might make a big donation.  Anything you can do to help would be appreciated.  I’m honest with myself that I may not be the one with the fundraising trophy at the end, but I need to at least give it my all and would love any help you all can provide.  I just don’t want to embarrass myself. ☺  

Also, my competition has done a great job of filling the audience with their supporters.  I’m so grateful to those of you who are coming that night to watch.  Just seeing some familiar faces in the audience does wonders for me.  I have asked the Ballet to hold 20 tickets for me so I can get more familiar faces to the event.  These tickets are on hold until January 31st.  The event is sold out so if you want them – you have a couple of days to get them.   

Instructions on how to purchase from the held back tickets

1.    Please visit the website here and make a donation of at least $350 to equal one Gold ticket, $700 for 2 Gold tickets, etc. Once the transaction is received it will be recoded from donation to tickets.

2.    Within the guest names field please indicate “Gold Ticket Purchase” and the names of the guests using the tickets.

Now on to the dancing… or at least what kind of looks like dancing.

DAY 6

It’s freezing out.  It’s Sunday and it took everything I could do to get myself out of a warm house and head uptown.  Juwan seems stressed.  This guy dances in the ballet, goes to school, teaches classes, deals with my uncoordinated ass, has a new boyfriend and gave up drinking and social media recently.  I’ve been all over him lately about sending me the music so I can practice at home but I haven’t received it.  I can tell I’m annoying him.   Looking back, I should have been more patient because Juwan’s life makes mine look like I do nothing all week.  We are kind of snippy with each other and there is a little tension.  He takes a seat on the ground and tells me to practice my steps while he works on getting me the music.  I take a walk and realize that I’m probably pushing him because I’m getting nervous.  I also have personal stuff going on that weekend that I’m dealing with and I can feel myself swallowing the lump in my throat before I walk back in the studio.  I am not going to cry because if I do – it really has nothing to do with the music – it’s everything else that weekend.  I’m able to hold it in.  “I’m being a bitch aren’t I?” Juwan says as he comes over to me.  “Yes.  Yes, you are.”  I tell him.  I realize that we are both just dealing with shit that really has nothing to do with dancing.  A mental breakdown is brewing for us both.  We decide to lie down on the floor next to each other and talk nothing about dancing, music or the crap that is really just below the surface for both of us, and I’m okay with this.  Sometimes you just have these days.  I receive the music in my inbox the next morning at 7 am.  I love him.

DAY 7

Let’s start dancing again.  We are working on one of my favorite parts.  Juwan’s whole demeanor has changed and I can tell that both of us had a breakthrough of some kind since we saw each other last.  I’m hitting the steps.  I’m moving easier.  I’m not nervous anymore.  He asks how comfortable I am doing a stunt.  Hmmm… He shows me online and I think – okay I can do that.  He brings in a spotter.  Wait – why do I need a spotter?  Just trust me, he assures me – so I do.  And just like that, he flips me backward and I land it perfectly.  Confidence level – 10.  Okay, try it again but no spotter.  5, 6, 7, 8 and FLIP!  I land hard on the balls of my feet, in heels on the hardwood floor.  Both of my feet go numb.  I sit down instantly and he has me put my feet up against the wall.  They are tingling and I feel like I might pass out.  I look at the bottom of my feet and they are already blue.  I thought I had fractured both of my feet.  I take off my heels and slip my Uggs on – I’m done for the day.  I go home that night and watch my feet bruise from the entire sole of both feet, up the sides.  By the morning, the bruises are black.   Welcome to dancing.

DAY 8

Screw wearing heels.  This lady is back in sneakers.  The feet are tingly and a little numb but they are healing.  I’m not going to practice the flip again for a while but I assure Juwan that I’m going to master it.  I also let him know that the other trick I asked him to take out that took the skin off my ankles and gave me the massive knee bruise is back on.  If I’m going to do this thing – I’m going all the way.  My body will heal.  Juwan is in great spirits and it warms my heart to see him laughing and smiling.  He seems less stressed and I feel what little maternal instincts I have bubbling to the surface, wanting to take care of him but also knowing that maybe just by being a little better today in practice could help a little.  I’m hitting steps, I’m sliding on the ground (doing the move that once rattled me), and I’m hitting the mark.  “Look at you girl!  Knowing these moves!”  I shrug him off but I feel good knowing I’m making a little bit of progress.  We are a little ahead of schedule and I know I have 5 weeks to clean it all up.  I think I’m going to pull this thing out… if my body and my mind can hold it together.  Oh, and I’m starting to have fun.  Look at me.  Who knew?

Erin’s DWTS Blog #1

Event site: gala.charlotteballet.org

Erin’s Journey to Dancing With the Stars: Why did I sign up for this again?

Written by Erin Santos, ISF Executive Director & President

No turning back now!

I’m two weeks into my rehearsal for the Charlotte Ballet’s Dancing with the Stars… let’s just say I needed week 2.  The first week was a little scary.  I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  I knew the idea was a little out there and maybe didn’t fall in line with what most of the dancers were doing, but that is kind of who I was.  I figure if I didn’t do something that was totally me – it wasn’t worth doing.  I just couldn’t go out there and do some ballroom dance to some cancer song because it was relevant to Isabella.  This dance was going to be different.  So I worked on a playlist – sent it over and crossed my fingers.  

Juwan and I had met twice already.  Once in a coffee shop where it felt like a blind date where we talked about our background, our hopes and dreams and touched on some personal stories.   I could have birthed him, he’s so young – but I try to get past this.  I figure, let me invite him to my holiday party in December so we can get to know each other in a social setting to shake off the nerves.  He arrived with his boyfriend, Mason, after a Nutcracker performance.  Luckily I was a couple of drinks in so I ran to him and hugged him like an old high school bestie.  Honestly, the night became a little of a blur but I definitely know our eyes connected that night when the music turned up and we really saw what we were dealing with.  My main goal that night was just to prove that I’m not some old, suburban housewife who can barely get out of bed after losing her daughter.  I think all those ideas were lit on fire that night.

DAY 1

This guy is crazy fun & super positive!

The first day of practice really just involved us sitting on the dance floor and listening to my playlists.  10 songs was a bit much so let’s narrow it down and figure out what was a MUST and what part of the song was a MUST.  Once we got up and got loose, he wanted to run through just a few moves to see if I was teachable and if I had any rhythm.  Teachable… yes.  Rhythm… depends on the night.  I was stiff and felt like a sober mom.  But, I must have impressed him enough because he said, “Ok, I can work with this”.  Yikes.

DAY 2

Here we go.  Damn am I stiff.  I decide not to stretch out because who stretches before they go to the club?  One trick in and one slide on the floor and I find myself with a pulled groin, pulled quad muscles and skin missing off my ankles.  Apparently, this is real exercise and there is a way to dress for sliding around on a wooden dance floor.  Noted.  I tried not to complain because it was Day 1 but I left feeling a little discouraged.  I felt like I could dance (a little) and I thought I was definitely in better shape than to pull every muscle in my body.  Homework: buy long sweatpants.  If you know me, you know I do not own this kind of clothing.  But Lululemon pants weren’t giving my skin the protection it required to crawl around like I needed to.  Hoping to find “cute” sweatpants somewhere.  Also, I express to Juwan that I’m getting KILLED in the fundraising.  He assures me it’s early but it doesn’t stop the embarrassment in my stomach with being in last place on the leader board.  

DAY 3

I have never owned a pair of sweatpants!

This guy is my spirit animal!

I’m in these freaking sweatpants.  I have on no makeup and a hat on.  I look like shit.  Juwan comes in and puts on these 6-inch heels that he got at goodwill, which makes my 6-foot tall partner closer to 6’6.  We walk through what we did last week and I’m just as bad.  I now have a part in the dance that I call my “Dirty Dancing Move”.  You know the jump and lift that she is supposed to do but wusses out?  Yeah, the slide that took the skin off my ankle is stressing me.  We try to do it and I land directly on my knee.  By the way, this bad knee land will produce a bruise the size of a small orange on me.  Not to mention random bruises that are showing up on the other leg.  (This one may or not of been acquired at the Justin Timberlake concert two nights ago.)  I ask for us to put last week’s stuff in the file and move on.  Our next bit comes a little easier for me.  It’s a little more manageable but I’m still stiff.  I’m actually not sure if I’m stiff or it’s that my partner moves like a damn snake across the floor.  It would be easier if he weren’t so good.  I determine that I’m not going to let his moves shake me and I must start dressing the part.  I’m in sneakers, he’s in heels.  That move is over.

DAY 4

Heels! Ah, I love them!

Heels.  This already makes me happy.  I whip them on and instantly feel like a sexpot.  I’m still in sweats but I style the Under Armor pants in a way that is hip and not so… I’m running in to pick up butter and a six-pack from Wal-Mart.  I’m on a work high so I’m a little giddy but start off by throwing myself under the bus.  I’m not practicing.  But, by saying it out loud I agree to change my ways and will seriously put some time in outside the studio.  This is starting to mean something to me and my competitiveness is showing.  New song.  Juwan is making choreography up on the fly and I love watching his process.  He does some moves, then does some fast clapping and says, “Oh my god yes.”  He starts the count.  Today I’m feeling it and the stiffness is fading.  I think an upcoming night out with Juwan plus drinks will help this continue to fade – but he has given up drinking this month.  Whatever.  Quitting is for losers.  He will be back on it soon and when he is ready – I’ll be there to catch him… with a bottle of Titos.  We are rushed but I still have it.  I leave the studio and obsess over the music.  My playlist is annoying my kids but I am assuring them it is their musical education.  One day they will thank me for it.  WTF with this fundraising number?  How are some of these cats doing so well at this?  I tell myself it’s because I fundraise for a living so people are tired of my ask.  But I’m in dead dead dead last.  Wishing someone would swoop in and drop funds on the last place girl.  I mean I’m working my ass off out here and I have the bruises to show it.

DAY 5

My partner!

Like most things in life, one good day usually leads to a not so good day.  Today was one of those days where I was running late (shocker!) and was frazzled upon arrival.  I was still on my dancing high from yesterday but that quickly ended.  Why did I pick songs that are so damn fast?  My body just doesn’t move this fast!  Juwan asked if I wanted him to slow the tempo down, to which he answered as soon as it came out of his mouth to “Nope”.  The songs and steps are blending in my head and we are just adding more and more to them.  I’m honestly looking forward to having the next two days off because I need to gather my thoughts on these dances.  I need to watch the videos, write down the moves and study them like a test.  Just remembering the moves isn’t enough because they have to be sharp and cool on the beat.  Write them down, test myself, and walk through them slowly, put them to music.  Luckily I got a facial this week so my entire face is peeling off.  Sounds like a great weekend to stay indoors and then show up Sunday to impress Juwan with my progress.  I also pulled my groin again.  Welcome to 41.

To add on top of this all, I thought it would be a great idea to add signing up for the Transformation Challenge at Orange Theory.  3-4 classes a week plus dancing on top of that.  I had the weigh-in and measurements done today.  Figure if I’m going to go for it over the next 6 weeks, let’s turn this old bag of bones into something I can be proud of.  Remind me of this when I start breaking down in a few weeks.  

ISF has 20 tickets held for my guests so it’s not too late to purchase them until January 30th.  I would love to have a big group in the audience to help calm my nerves.  Yes, I know the ticket price is a little heavy but word on the street is this is one of the BEST events in Charlotte.  Can’t attend the event?   Go online and vote for me!  I need some people out there who are pushing us out to their networks, business and individuals.  We need all the help we can get!  Go to gala.charlotteballet.org to buy tickets and to vote.  And when you get out there and see some of these people killing us on fundraising, you will want to help.  

Awareness… What a Bullsh*t Word

Originally published on HuffPost, written by Erin Santos

(Written and published 4 years ago, this article is the perfect reminder of why we refer to September as Childhood Cancer ACTION month)

a·ware·ness
noun

1. knowledge or perception of a situation or fact.
“we need to raise public awareness of the issue”
2. synonyms: consciousness, recognition, realization

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and as I sat eating dinner with my family the other night, I told my husband, Stuart, that I should write something for this month of awareness. I blurted out, “Awareness. What a bullsh*t word. That word is the problem.” And just like that, this blog post was born.

I’m sure the word “awareness” comes from back in the day, when no one spoke of cancer. The “C” word, as it was called. People died quietly. Very rarely was a child with cancer even seen. Probably because there were no real treatments for them, so they died so quickly. Even 20 years ago, they were barely saving one child who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, we were told at our consultation with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Hell, we were told that our daughter, Isabella, wouldn’t have survived her brain relapse if it had occurred just three years earlier. Isabella would have been dead 9 months after her initial diagnosis. There wouldn’t even have been enough time for me to get her story out to you. So, awareness month was a good thing back then… hey, meet this little 3-year-old with cancer… Nope, wait.. She’s already gone.

But now, times are changing. These kids are fighting harder and longer. Their stories are getting out there because the chemo drugs are not curing kids, but they are extending their lives. People ARE aware of them. Awareness of pediatric cancer is out there. But now we are getting stalled because the movement is not moving.

Here is what a typical pediatric cancer month looks like: You “like” a couple of Facebook posts about childhood cancer or maybe even “share” one. You think about signing up for a childhood cancer 5k, but your life is busy, so you don’t get around to it. You take your kids to soccer practice and do homework and have drinks with girlfriends and go to work and church and read People magazine to catch up on your favorite celebrities and see how short Lindsay Lohan’s shorts were in NYC the other day… “Oh, no she didn’t,” you say. And then, you are running errands in late September and start noticing the city turning pink and think, I need to schedule that mammogram.

Then it is October 1.

Did you know that the 2012 cost of government elections was more than 6.2 billion dollars? Did you know that in 2012, the cost to RE-ELECT the SAME president was estimated to be 2.6 billion dollars? That is something you should be aware of. Because in 2012, we spent less that 10 percent of that 2 billion dollars funding childhood cancer research, or less that 5 percentof the 6 billion-dollar-cost of 2012 government elections. And just 4 percent of the total cancer funding goes to pediatric cancer. Also scary to think about, 60 percent of all funding for drug development for adult cancers comes from pharmaceutical companies. What is the percentage of funding for drug development from pharmaceutical companies for childhood cancer research? Almost zero. Why? Because children’s cancer drugs aren’t profitable. Ouch.

There is some awareness for ya!

2013-09-04-Isabella_Santos.jpgSo, back to my issue with this “awareness” word. The movement I want to start is this… Let’s maybe change what your September looks like. Print a picture of my daughter. Tape it to the back of the doors in your house. That’s right, the front door and the back door. Every time you walk out the door, take a look at her.

She died in my bed on a Thursday morning around 9:30 while her little brother was at camp at the YMCA. She was 7 years old. She died about 80 years early. She also died because she ran out of treatment options. She died because her cancer has very little funding and her drugs aren’t profitable.

Look at her picture when you walk out the door for your awareness. “Awareness.” Check. But then, when you get in your car to take the kids to school, go to work, go to the gym… think about something you can do that is ACTION. Forget awareness. September is Childhood Cancer “ACTION” Month. Do something that day that is action to save a child’s life. Sign up for race, make a donation, research what is really going on, ask your friends to help, talk about it, have a lemonade stand, write your congressmen, help a family who has a child with cancer. Can’t think of something to do for 30 days? Email me, I’ll help you with your list.

Cancer is an epidemic in this country and I’m confused as to why people aren’t freaking out more than they are. Probably because they don’t have it… yet. Or maybe because we are all so “aware” of cancer, but aren’t taking action against it. Maybe we are all waiting for the future of cancer. In the new Matt Damon movie, Elysium, set in an imagined future, a quick scan on your body just “SNAP,” gets rid of it. The truth is, that is not even a remote possibility in your lifetime.

Every day I’m aware. I’m aware that she’s no longer with me. I’m aware that my 3-year-old daughter, Sophia, is inside coloring a picture for her right now. I’m aware that Isabella should be in the third grade this year. I’m aware that my husband lives in fear that he will never be able to love his children as much as he loved her. I’m aware that my 6-year-old, Grant, has nightmares about her. I’m aware that every day for the rest of my life I’m going to feel like there is something missing. I’m aware of a lot. So, the word “awareness” works really well for me in my life. Describe my life in one word, actually, and it’s probably “awareness.”

So, let’s not make this month about just liking a Facebook e-card about cancer or reading a family’s caringbridge entry and then walking away. Let’s all admit that awareness is just a legacy, bullsh*t word and lets all commit to making this month about action. Action saves lives, awareness does not.

_____________

TURN YOUR AWARENESS INTO ACTION:

  1. DONATE
  2. VOLUNTEER
  3. REGISTER FOR 10 TH ANNUAL 5K/10K RACE (SEPT 30)
  4. SPONSOR 10TH ANNULA 5K/10K RACE (SEPT 30)