Red Leigh Cooper

Red Leigh Cooper

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


"I still don't know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
Every time I thought I'd got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me"

- "Changes", David Bowie, 1971

I went into therapy in the fall of 2015. I was finally ready to deal with some of the issues from my childhood that I felt were keeping me from being a healthy adult. It's my admittedly unsubstantiated, but fully experienced, belief that many creative types have emotional issues of some kind. There is something cathartic about creating that helps us, but spend enough time around a mess of them (and I think in particular that a group of musicians should be called a "mess") and you might realize it's time to clear some things out of your subconscious catalog. Possibly well past time, even. 

This was good timing because, of course, Marc leaving, and for the second time, exacerbated past issues I had experienced. While I have done a lot of work to realize that this band wasn't my identity and that there was more to being me, there seemed to be some things that maybe I hadn't fully dealt with. 

I'll admit it; I expected to go in and hear "fear of abandonment", maybe "low self-esteem", or even "depression". What I did hear would change, if not completely alter, my world:

"Stockholm Syndrome" (also called "Trauma Bonding"), "C-PTSD", and something with some of the worst connotations and misinformation surrounding it... 


Wait, what? I'm pretty independent! I'm not necessarily needy...what the hell, lady?

Like most people I thought this meant someone who is needy but it's not that and in fact it's more than that. Let's visit Wikipedia, shall we?

"Codependent relationships are a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person's addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement." 

Oh yeah...okay...that's it...

My therapist and I figured out that my biological mother fit the profile of someone with a "Cluster B" Personality Disorder. My unresolved codependent tendencies derived from being her child have had me chasing those kind of relationships all my life. As I look back I realize that I have had many toxic boyfriends, supervisors, and close friends throughout my life. I've had more toxic close relationships on average than healthy ones. 

I'm a serial "fixer". I always try to see the good in people and I want to help them achieve the best they can be. I know what it feels like to grow up with no one supporting you emotionally and cheering you on. I don't want people to feel that way. The thing is, I just don't know when to stop, and that's what gets me into trouble. I've been so conditioned to walking on eggshells and avoiding conflict as much as possible, even if the person I'm trying to help is behaving irrationally and eventually disrespecting me.  I help at the detriment to myself and that has to stop. I always think, "they will get better I just know it. With enough love and support they will stop doing what they are doing. We do have some good days..."

Eventually no matter how hard you try to help, the rage you were trying to avoid from that person happens. You can't believe that they couldn't be helped and that they would behave that way towards you after all you've done, but this is why they are labeled as "toxic" and why you have to know when to walk away. These are the types of people I just can't have in my life if I'm going to break this cycle. I will have to have healthier boundaries and develop a healthier self-esteem, or I'm going to continue having "holes" blown in my life. 

It's really hard at first. You feel guilty. You are used to letting people treat you however they want to because somewhere you learned that was the only way to get people to like you. You feel guilty because those types in your life don't like your new way of thinking and then deem you the monster because they've stopped being able to have their way in every situation. 

I was on the phone recently with someone trying to be clear about why I had to remove someone close to them from my life. It was causing issues for us, and since we had been friends a long time, I felt it appropriate to have the conversation. 

"It's not that I'm different..." I said trying to explain that I'm still the loving person I was and that that hadn't changed. 

He interrupted me, "No, Dana, actually you are different now..."

You know what? He's right. Different isn't bad. It can be good...very good. I will own this. I am different. I turned myself to face me....

I'm not just on a journey to find me and my purpose...I'm on a journey to love and take care of  myself as well. That's the only way I can be found.

Happy Fishing!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Force Awakens

     Hopefully by now everyone has seen Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. If not, I apologize for the following spoiler. You can stop reading here, but I'll try not to give too much away...

     Who didn't catch their breath when Han Solo and General Leia saw each other again after so many years apart? The audience is then given a glimpse into what happened, why it had been so long since they were together, and ultimately, in his despair, how Han went back to "the only thing I knew". That moment really resonated with me because at a time of great confusion, I found myself returning to the only thing I knew...

     So it's been awhile since I've blogged, yes?  I've had an amazing and busy year of grabbing the starfish! StoneKracker released a CD this last year, we played a lot of shows, and Marc, my lead guitarist as you might remember, and I even started a recording business together. I really felt like I was out living my purpose. I knew where I was going with my life. I mean, sure, bands aren't forever, and the business was something we could do creatively for some time to come.

     ...until the day it all came crashing down around me...

     Towards the end of last September, Marc announced that he was leaving the band because he would be spending all of his time working at another recording studio and would not have the time to devote to a musical project. He also let me know that I would not be continuing on with him in the business because in order to take this opportunity, he felt that he needed to work freelance.  Our band and business partnership was over. Just that quickly, it was all done. Although we had several resultant conversations due to his decision, he had already firmly made up his mind and was adamant that this was what he wanted, The band supported his decision and then, a little over a month and a half later, he was gone. He was no longer performing with the band and he had had his last recording session in the studio we built in my home,

     Upon hearing the news, I felt that big hole in my heart returning. The future, as I thought it was going to be, had been pulled out from under me. Like I said, I know that StoneKracker won't be around forever, but I love this band and had surrounded myself with people I consider to be family. There were many opportunities to take advantage of and projects to pursue now that we had music recorded. I really loved the business that I had put a lot of time, hard work, and money into it. It was all such a whirlwind of emotions and that fear of loss that I had been carrying around previously for a decade or so was creeping in.  I just wasn't sure where I was going from here and how I would go forward.

     The next three days were heartbreaking. I cried so much no one was buying my "I have allergies" excuse. You could see the pain on my face from the bags and dark circles under my eyes and the redness contained therein. The reality of the situation was playing over and over in my mind along with a handful of questions. What do I do know? What does my future look like? What about the band; how does that continue? Wait a minute...

     Remember when my friend Amy asked me, "Yeah, but what's YOUR dream?" We had been talking about why I went into business with Marc that day at her house. That was the one question that has haunted me on and off since then. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I knew I was living Marc's dream and not mine. Amy's was the only question I had to answer to make all of the rest of the answers fall into place. That's why the "hole" was coming back.  I forgot about who I am. Think about this:  I have made a whole blog about finding out what I was supposed to do with my life only to find myself living someone else's. Where did I go wrong here? I would have that answer too as long as I dug deep to remember, to actually know and be sure of, who I was and what I wanted. Only then would I be able to accept this major life change and others to come in my life and move forward no matter what happens,,,       

      So, here I am. Just like Han Solo I'm going back to the only thing I know, because deep down that's who I am. That has to be my starting point. I'm back on the beach unable to grab the starfish bobbing in water because my hands are full of shells...

     Hello, my name is Dana "Red" Leigh Cooper and I'm a writer...

     Welcome back to the ocean be continued...

Happy Fishing!



Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Monkey Cage

     "Look, Dana, it's like this:  If a monkey dies at the zoo, the zoo doesn't shut down.  They get another monkey..."

    My friend, Ben, saying this looked earnestly at me over the table where we and our spouses were having dinner. His extremely patient wife, Lisa, rolled her eyes as the conversation had turned once again to band issues.  See, Ben, at any given time, may be in any where from 2 to 4 bands and has extensive experience when dealing with issues that arise from the dynamic of putting three or more possibly dysfunctional people in a room together. (Note to my friends in bands:  Don't you fight that last statement.  There is a reason we are musicians...c'mon now...)

     What Ben was trying to say to me, and what he would say later in no uncertain terms, was "You have options."  I thought he was just talking about replacement monkeys to keep the zoo exhibit open, but I found it was ultimately something more than that...

     I mentioned in my last post that this last year had not been easy.  Not only had my band Stonekracker been "out of the game" essentially for well over a decade, but repairing the prior emotional battery that had taken place leading to our ultimate demise, would take it's toll on me several times throughout the year even after this conversation.

     My response to this ultimate wisdom from Ben regarding monkeys and their keepers? "But I just got them back..."

     This is pivotal and may be where I started losing sight of dream and purpose. I wanted so badly to keep them all; to have this second chance that I just started putting away parts of myself piece by piece in order to never loose any of them ever again from my life.

   To be fair, this actually was a time where other pieces of myself started coming to life.  My lyric writing had become more vulnerable and I started playing guitar. I think that's how I was dealing with what was happening to me internally. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it made for great music, but what was causing it wasn't necessarily healthy. I oftentimes kept hidden what I would feel about certain situations that would arise within the band.  I would feel paralyzed to say something when I didn't like what was going on or disagreed with something.  In an effort not to come off as the control freak I had been years earlier, I went completely the other direction and just would smile like I meant it, no matter what was going on..  I didn't want to be the person I was, but am really having trouble being the person I am.  So, while I may have been churning out the greatest lyrics and music I had ever written, it was slowly killing me and my desires to even have a dream or live out any prior notions of purpose.

     The reason I struggle so hard is this:  I love these guys.  I'm finding out that may be unusual for a band dynamic these days.  I don't know if it's because I'm a girl or how long we've known each other, but I love them.  Sometimes that makes figuring out how to handle confrontation difficult because you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that something you say might hurt that person you love and you so don't want it to...

    ...but sometimes you just might not have that choice...because you are the monkey dying at the zoo...

     I don't want to repeat the mistakes of the past and at the same time, this should be fun.  At this stage in life that's all it should be and that's for everyone.  I just want that option to be happy and have that help take that dream of mine where I want it to go...
     ...oh...wait a minute...

    Having options doesn't mean you throw the baby, or the "monkey" out with the bath water, but what it does mean is you can't compromise your own happiness for the happiness of others.  Doing that will ultimately kill your dream.  It won't be fun anymore no matter how great the process seems to be going.  You have to communicate your needs if working with others, because let's face it; it's not about them, it's about you. You just have to hope you and your monkeys are on the same page.  If a monkey isn't happy with the conditions at the zoo, and they have to be transferred, it is and ultimately will be okay. That goes for all of you. This is because you know what does and what doesn't make you happy, and there is no more secure position than that. This is because for the first time you realize you are not trying to be a control freak in voicing opinions, but that you want happiness for all of the primates involved precisely because you love them...

     ...You have "options"...

Happy Fishing!


P.S - This week Ben put this on my Facebook page wall.  Maybe not totally related...but maybe so!  Thank you Ben for all of your time...I'll expect the bill in the mail!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

     How cool is that?  That's me...see? Really tiny on that stage in the middle...the one with the red hair?  It's been an incredible year...

     I recently realized I hadn't touched this blog in a year.  A whole year.  I thought this might happen.  I mean, once you "grab the starfish" you have to go out there and live the dream, right?  Wait...did I just refer to my purpose as the dream?  I guess when I started this blog it was about finding out what my purpose on this planet was, and I suppose the vehicle by which it was delivered too, but, really, is that necessarily the "dream"?  Before we get to that, let me explain what's been going on from where we left off with each other.

     My band got back together. It's part of the purpose I had discovered for my life ("No Diving in the Shallow End"). The very same band that caused me to question who I was and whether I should be  able to be happy after what happened ("What Doesn't Kill You" ).  Yup. Them. Stonekracker. At first I was excited that we could all exist in the proverbial "water under the bridge" space and felt like that hole in my heart was going away ("The Donut Hole").  It's been one of the best band experiences I've ever had really.  We have greater freedom to create, ego's aren't the problem they were when we were younger, and some of the pressure to "make it" that comes with being a younger person is gone. I play guitar now and I didn't before. People come and see us play and we have so much fun. We are all much older and wiser now.  Piece of cake, right?

    You will never know what you are made of until you are faced to be in contact day after day with the one person in your life who did the most emotional damage to you. Navigating the waters with my lead guitarist, Marc, has been...well...I've described it as a yo-yo.  It just hasn't been easy, and that's for both of us. The old conversations, the way everything went down, the feelings of betrayal between two people who had trusted each other completely at one point; these things come back just by looking at the other one.  Sometimes that's really all it takes. You can't stop the movie from playing.  It just switches on...except it's a horror movie instead of a John Hughes coming of age type movie.

    He apologized over Facebook a few months before we started playing together and I readily accepted that apology, but as you all know, for me, forgive doesn't mean forget. Somewhere around February last year, I was starting to think that we were never going to be on the same page ever again and that there would always be this "thing" that would always be between us.  Some days I still feel that way, but it was at that moment, almost out of the blue, almost as if I was being given a gift from God, he handed me this leather bound book.  It had music stanzas on the front, tied closed with a tiny ribbon, and bore his name at the top.  He told me it was a collection of song lyrics he had written. I felt like this would be a breakthrough for us.  An olive branch to maybe stop the emotional bleeding and start rebuilding the trust.  These were his personal thoughts...and he wanted me to read them.  He wanted to let me back into his life on some level.

     I read it ravenously.  It was all I thought it would be.  It confirmed much for me about him and about us. Then I left him something inside it upon its return...

     Months before he gave me the book, I wrote my apology to him for what had happened between us, but I didn't do it on Facebook.  I had written a song entitled "Fight".  I tucked the lyrics inside his book and was honestly not prepared for the reaction when he found them days later.  Marc was so moved he stayed up for days writing the music, trying to capture the desperation, loneliness, and regret that I had spelled out on the page... 

     ...and he did...and it was amazing.  The song, however, didn't see the light of day until the band recorded it in October for an acoustic compilation we were going to be on. The song, although absolutely remarkable, was too painful, but we agreed that it was finally time to release it.  Over the last year we also killed our entire back catalog of old songs and wrote all new ones so it's been a busy time.  I've been working on repairing my relationship with Marc, writing new music, trying to keep my head above water playing the guitar...I also did start a new job that has taken me a little off of the accounting trail as I thought should happen. I've really been working at all of those things I found out about myself and what I'm supposed to be doing with my life...or have I?

     Marc and I during this time had also decided to start a business together.  He's an audio engineer and wanted to get back into recording and producing bands.   I was over at my friends Jeremy and Amy's house last weekend picking up some business cards that Jeremy has made for our business.   Jeremy is an amazing graphic artist and has his own small business, Punk, Rock, Love - Illustration and Design.  We were sitting around talking when Amy asked me why I went into business with Marc.

    "It's Marc's dream to do this and I want to help him do that," I explained.

    "Yeah, but what's YOUR dream?" Amy asked.


     When the Greatful Dead wrote "Truckin'", a song about their misfortunes on the road as a metaphor for getting though life culminating in the refrain "what a long strange trip it's been", I think they were on to something.  I have found myself so sidetracked lately with the band business as it's gotten bigger and the new business, that maybe I'm starting to forget about the purpose.  Maybe I am forgetting about my dreams in all of this, because when Amy said that, I had nothing. I've been just running ragged; completely on "what do I have to accomplish next" mode without ever asking why, is it necessary, and am I happy.  With all of the work to get all the songs ready, the work to promote all of the shows we did, the emotional upheaval I've experienced being back in this situation, the details of learning a new job...with the "long strange trip it's been"...I may have lost me a little bit along the way.

     It's time to dial back and return to the writer I am in the core center of my being to figure all of this out. I know the purpose, but what's the dream, and do those things compliment each other and with the rush that is life, how do I hold on to them?

    As I sip, my coffee, and stare out my office window at a cold and dreary winter day, I'm listening to "These Dreams" by Heart... 

"These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside
Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away
There's something out there I can't resist"

     ...welcome back... and here we go again...

Happy Fishing


PS - If you'd like to hear me expound upon the story of  "Fight", and hear the first time it was played on the radio, you can do so right here!  Many thanks to Loris Lowe and KLBJ FM 93.7 in Austin, TX for having me in the studio! Loris is an amazing person and supports the local music scene in Austin with her show Local Licks Live.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Donut Hole

     I live near the famous, or infamous, Lone Star Bakery, known world wide for their "Round Rock Donut."  Have you seen the "Texas Sized" one? No? For your reference...

     Big, huh? So big they show you a regular sized donut for comparison.  It's the only way I can describe the way I've felt about Christmastime for the past 12 years or so.  Something was missing.  It was like there was a "Texas Sized Round Rock Donut" hole in my life that no matter how I tried I couldn't fill...

    ...until this past Christmas.

    Part of my "grabbing the starfish" and living out my purpose in this life has been reuniting with my band, StoneKracker, which has really been amazing on so many levels. However, I got a very unexpected lesson from this recent development a few weeks ago.

     See, "back in the day," December was always CD release party time.  Even if it wasn't, we'd still have some special show to prepare for. So when my friend, Ben, asked us to play a benefit show this past December,  "yes" came flying out of my mouth pretty quickly.  I'm glad the other members readily agreed or that would have been awkward...

     Eric and I were driving to the gig, looking at Christmas lights that adorned the houses along the way, when I realized this overwhelming sense of "everything is right with the world." Everything seemed completely as it should be....

    ...The "Texas Sized Round Rock Donut" hole had suddenly become a jelly filled donut...or  creme filled...mmmmmm...okay, anyway, it was filled. No hole. I didn't feel that "thing" that had been nagging at me every Christmas season for years.

     When I became a dog trainer I would hold an event at Christmas. Cookies for the dogs, pictures with Santa, etc. it sufficed, but I would still have this feeling in the back of my mind that all wasn't quite right. I always felt like I was going through the motions of something else I was supposed to be doing. Then I was a Sunday School teacher.  I threw myself into church functions at Christmas.  That empty feeling only surprisingly got bigger!  Yet, I really shouldn't have been surprised.  My spiritual type is "crusader."  What this means essentially is that, long explanation short, I was never meant to sit quietly in a pew.  Unfortunately, this also means that I lay down the life of Eric's spiritual type with no qualms.  So, he can't sit quietly in the pew either, but anyway, even though I thought I was doing something by going to all the events and concerts, it was all passive participation and nothing that would ultimately fill the donut hole.

     When I think about it, what I feel was happening is that I was once again in use of my gifts and exercising my purpose in this life. When I'm not, I can feel the direct conflict with my soul.  When we are in direct conflict with our souls, we feel that something just isn't right and that's what defines what our "starfish" is for us.  What could you do for hours and not recognize the time has gone by? What gives you sense of happiness while you are doing it like nothing else.  What fills the Texas sized donut hole in your heart...


     While your pondering all this, here is a picture of the "Flying Pig" from Gordough's, another donut place in town.  It has bacon...  there's a "gift"!  

     Do what fills the donut hole in your soul...or maybe even fills your stomach...I think I'm hungry...

Happy Fishing!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Coloring Outside the Lines


     When I was in kindergarten the only thing I ever remember doing was coloring. One day we were given a couple of pictures to color in. I remember one distinctly.  It was a girl walking down the street, I can't remember whether she was pushing a stroller or walking a dog, but she was definitely eating a doughnut. The boy sitting next to me had an interesting suggestion when he saw me accidentally color outside of the lines.

        "Just color the whole thing red..."

        (A few things to mention. First, I probably should have learned to never listen to boys. Second, I ended up always being surrounded by boys  in my friendships and that probably started here. Third, I think this began my fascination with the color red.  Now back to the story.)

       Hhhmmmmmmm...I mean what could it hurt right?  I colored the whole picture red.  Then with my little friend's approval, I colored the second one orange.

     "WHAT DID YOU JUST DO?!?!?" I heard coming from my teacher, Mrs. Mercado (and this is probably why I remember her name to this day).  I was in huge trouble.  I got yelled at in front of the class. I remember sitting their crying while everyone else was turning in their pictures.  I remember being ashamed when my parents came for some parent's night and our papers were displayed on the wall...

     ...all because I had colored outside of the lines...


     I have a great amount trouble being out of my "comfort zone."  It's something I've struggled with for a long time.  Young kids are extremely impressionable and that's the lesson I learned that day.  Go outside of what is "normal" and be prepared to feel the wrath for whoever and whatever.

     When you move outside of your comfort zone, you become open to all of the possibilities for your life.  What makes us want to stay in that safe place is desire avoid disappointments, hard challenges, and loss.  You have to ask your self, though, as you stay in your cozy world, are you really living?  It may be stable, but I'm betting it's stagnant, too.  If I had to say one thing to make you move want to experience life outside of the bubble, it would be this:  All of the bad things are much easier to take when you are doing something you are truly passionate about.  Rely on your belief in your gifts to move you through the hard times. Learn to say, "Okay...that!"  

     My life over the last six months or so has been a tremendous lesson in letting go, moving forward, and not sticking to a schedule on any level. It's been spinning out of control with opportunity after opportunity and a good thing. However, it doesn't mean I haven't been extremely uncomfortable in the process.  It's hard to fight the notion that nothing bad will happen if I just stay right here inside the lines...

     ...nothing good will happen either.  Go ahead.  Color the whole picture red... 

Happy Fishing!!!


Thursday, September 12, 2013

First World Problems

     I realized that since I essentially "grabbed the starfish" I'm writing about the ways in which my outlook on life has changed.  Today will be no exception, but I find it interesting that once you know who you really are and what you were essentially born to do, how many other things about your life improve.

     A friend of mine sent me a video on how we've been more of a "self-help" or introspective nation, and how now we need to get to be more of an "empathetic" or outrospective nation.  I couldn't agree more; we need more empathy.  We need to be able to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.  It would make us less abrasive, more agreeable, not so quick to anger if we saw others like we saw ourselves.  See though?  That's the key.  We need to see ourselves first.  Therefore we need the introspection to get to the outrospection.

     Anyways, that's where I feel the extensive looking inside has led.  I am much more willing to see another person as the same broken human being that I am.  I am much more forgiving. I'm not as quick to anger.  I feel more at peace.  Something else pretty amazing has happened, too.  I am a lot more "fluid" than I used to be.

     I could never step outside of my little controlled life so much in the way I can now before.  I liked control and routine because I felt like I could stop so much of the loss and general "bad things" that have happened in my life from ever happening again.  If something didn't go as planned, or my routine was broken in any way, well, I would go into hysterics.

     Eric and I went back to Vegas recently.  It was kind of a do-over from April, when I had freshly broken my wrist and needed more rest.  While we had a great time in April, we wanted to go back and "do it up right"!  We had so much fun and food planned and I was ready!  I wanted nothing to interfere with the perfectly planned much needed vacation that we both needed.

     "Your baggage claim will be at carousel 1.  Everyone have a nice day."  If you have never been to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, let me give you a tip.  The baggage carousels are contained in two separate terminals: numbers 1 and 3.  This is usually not a problem if you are flying Southwest.  You seem to come out in the right place you need to be to follow the crown to the correct terminal.  This time we were on American.  They do not dump you out in the right place if you are going to terminal 1, where carousel 1 is located.  Guess where Eric and I went. Correct; terminal 3.

    "You need to go down that hallway to the doors that say '55.'  Then wait for the shuttle to take you to Terminal 1"  Great.  We find the shuttle stop.  No shuttle and lots of other angry, misguided people waiting.  The driver sent to pick us up keeps calling Eric.  We are both starting to get very, very cranky.  It was then I started thinking...

    "...What's the worst thing that can happen?  Really?  The driver leaves us and someone take our luggage?  So we try to get in a cab and I get to buy all new clothes tomorrow?  What is wrong with you, Dana.  You are in Vegas.  You get to have a vacation and do cool things.  Sure, you may not get the nap you planned, but you will adjust. Caffeine exists.  Get over it..."

    ...and I did...and our driver waited and our luggage was there...

     The rest of the trip provided queen beds instead of a king, a missing reservation for a packed charity event, another missing reservation for the private oasis pool at The Mirage, and rain the day we were supposed to go the pool.  You know what happened?  The beds got straightened out, we got into the charity event anyway, The Mirage let us into the pool, and Eric and I almost had the entire pool to ourselves because it was raining.

     Best. Vacation. Ever.

     I think that having empathy accidentally leads to something else; being grateful.  If I didn't understand the plight of others, I might not understand how really blessed I am to have "first world problems..."  I really don't have anything to be upset or worry about.  Really.

     Oh, about that nap I missed...didn't really miss it at all I guess. I realized I was up for 22 hours that day. 

Happy Fishing!