Red Leigh Cooper

Red Leigh Cooper

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thoughts from the Shower...

     So I was in the shower this morning, you know, where I get all my greatest ideas, and I wondered if maybe I was concentrating too much on what I'm not doing. Maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit for what I am doing.

    This is the time of year when we make "New Year's Resolutions."  A list of things that we will strive to do in the New Year. This in essence is a good idea, gives us goals for our lives, right? I wonder though if we aren't just setting ourselves up for failure.  If you think about it, what you are really saying is, "I wasn't really good at doing (blank) this year, so I am making a promise to do it in the next year." 

     Some where around 97% of New Year's Resolutions won't be kept...

     I think it's time to talk about "goals" for our shared "fishing expedition."  The reason resolutions often times don't work is that we don't know how to set goals for what we accomplish. One of the most popular resolutions is "I am going to work out everyday."  Nice thought.  The gym is packed in January, but by mid-February to March, if you are someone that goes to the gym a lot, you can see the drop off of resolutions being kept.  Life gets in the way sometimes.  Health, work, kids, etc; we can't always make it to the gym.  We get frustrated and give up, where as, maybe if the resolution was, "I am going to work out one to three times a week," we might make our goal and maybe even exceed it some weeks.

     We need to measure our progress in smaller intervals and not focus on these large, unattainable resolutions.  We need to feel that we can eventually keep moving forward even if we find ourselves stopped dead in our tracks for a few days or weeks.

     So, back to my shower...Much of this blog has been trying to find my way to the purpose for my life, but also much of this blog has focused on maybe what I'm not doing.  While I may realize what I need to do to get back on the path, I'm not focusing on the productive things I have done...

      ...Like actually starting a blog...

     No...I don't have a book...but I do have a blog.  I also do have a book started.  I've been singing more this year in addition to, everyone's favorite resolutions, working out.  My voice and my body are not in the best shape possible, but I am seeing improvement.

     There is a link going around Facebook that I even found emailed to me by my friend Beth.  It's a link to a blog entitled "30 Things To Stop Doing To Yourself."  If you'd like to read it, you can right here: .  The blog starts out, "As Maria Robinson once said, 'Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.'" My point today exactly.

     None of us really need New Year's Resolutions to start seeking out and acting on the plan for your lives. What's that Nike shoe slogan?  "Just Do It!"  Remember though that doing it requires a process of tiny attainable goals giving us more success and less frustration on our way to finding the ultimate and most exquisite "Starfish" possible...

    ...New Year's Resolution:  shower more...

    ...Apparently that's where most of my positive thoughts come from...

Happy New Year and Fishing!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Focusing on the task at hand...

     I haven't written anything since October. So much for putting one foot in front of the other or discovering my passion.

     It's not that I haven't been thinking about the purpose for my life or taking little steps to accomplish my goal. I have...

     The problem is something entirely different.

     I think the doctors missed an opportunity for diagnosis when telling my parents my brother had hyperactivity. I often times wonder, since coming from the same gene pool if I don't have a dose of that myself. I have an extreme inability to concentrate. Watch out if a butterfly goes by or I see something shiny...I'm gone!

     I'm amazed I got this far in life...truly...  I don't know how I passed college or hold down a job.  Well, okay...I actually do know how I hold down a job.  I take little "brain breaks" as I call them.  If I find myself unable to focus, I look at Facebook for like a minute or two, and then my mind is clear enough to go back to whatever the task is at hand.  On one particularly hard day, I noticed I commented on a friend's status once every hour.  Somehow it works for me.  It's kind of like how I get all my best ideas in the shower.  I'm not thinking about anything.  My brain works way too fast some times for my own good.  Which could lead me tot he next problem with my focus....

     I really want to do a lot of things.  I'm into and good at a lot of things.  It's hard to start on one thing because I want to be doing something else I like just as much.  There just isn't enough time in the day for everything I want to do.  My friend Karah does tons of stuff.  I always tease her because I don't think she sleeps. Deep down I probably sort of envy her energy and lack of sleep.  I can't do that.  I'm a eight to nine hour a night kind of person. 

     So I guess that means I have to choose.  This has probably been the problem all along.  Get rid of the things that I am not as passionate about as others so I have the time to focus on those few things I really should be spending my time on and excelling at.   Then when hyperactivity strikes, I guess there are still my Facebook "brain breaks."  Now the questions is how do I harness the fleeting thoughts and action items that just come to me randomly when I'm in the shower, sitting in church, hanging out with friends, etc, without always toting around a notebook...wait...Facebook...I got it...

....There's an app for that...

Happy Fishing!


PS - Most of this blog was done using the Blogger app for iphone.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stopped "Dead" in My tracks

     I've been busy putting one foot in front of the other.  You should see the mounds of miscellaneous stuff I got rid of from the piles I talked about last time.  However, recently I have stopped right in the middle of the path and can't seem to get any forward momentum.  I am standing on the shore and looking for the sharks in the water again.

     I attended a session with a life coach back in April.  She said that one of the ways to find out what you are supposed to be doing with your life is to review what other people constantly ask you to do.  I was sharing this with a group of people, when my friend, Beth says, "But what if I don't want to be a caretaker?"   Good point.  The people around her were seeing a special quality in her that were leading them to ask her to do something she wasn't particularly passionate about.  I think there are situations in our lives that just because we can do something doesn't mean we necessarily should do it.  That's interesting thought...

     I watch X-Factor.  Mostly because I am a singer.  Secondly because I almost tried out this year.  I knew my vocals weren't strong enough, and frankly, neither was my back, so I decided to skip this year.  The talent is monsterous.  Big, big voices. Chistina Aguilara, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston voices.  Good thing I stayed home.  I'm not saying I'm not talented.  I'm saying I'm not talented that way.  I have a very unique voice and style and that is definitely not it. These contestants also have a tireless passion for their singing that frankly makes me want to take a nap.  There's that word again: "passion."

     I have a feeling my friend Beth also likes to induldge in a bit of reality TV, like I do.  Recently she was talking about the "passion" of the people participating in Project Runway, wishing she too could have that kind of passion about somthing.  So, here we are, back to what may be the core ingredient for "star-fishing."  I can't help but wonder if this is why I have been stopped "dead" in my tracks?  Am I lacking the drive necessary to continue?  How do you muster passion when at the end of the day, when all you may want to do is crash (a thought I must attribute to my friend, Dianne)?

    Awhile back I talked about the ability to say "No" to things.  It's alot about knowing who you are and what you've said "yes" in your life to.  Isn't it though maybe just as much about who you aren't?  I'm a singer, but I honestly do not have a big X-Factor voice.  Beth may be a caretaker, but not in the way that people are asking her to be.  Just because we can doesn't mean we necessarily should, but it may lead us to understand, if we think about it awhile, what we should be doing.  I think once we know that, finding that will to keep going will be the easy part.

    Before going deep sea fishing, it would help to be a good swimmer.  Be sure of who you are, who you aren't, and that you'll have the "life vest" to keep you afloat.

Happy Fishing!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Put One Foot In Front of The Other

    So when I wasn't reading Shakespeare, I was watching Christmas Rankin and Bass animated specials.  This blog's title particular reference comes from "Santa Claus is Coming To Town."  For those of you unfamiliar, watch here before reading  

     I'm reminded of this song as I try to start on the things I should be doing in the spirit of "grabbing the starfish."  It's been a bumpy road.  I'm still recovering from the back issues I had back in July, and some nights it's hard enough to get out of a chair, much less write in a blog, sing, etc.

  Sometimes I get sidelined by all the "have to's" in life.  When I talk about sidelined, I mean that in a very huge way.  I would say, without a Doctor's opinion, you  know, other than Dr. Drew and what I see in my millions of hours of reality T.V. watching, that I am a bit Obsessive Compulsive.  Not to the point where I can't get out of the house for two hours because of all the rituals I have to perform or anything, but there are definitely parts of my personality that point in this direction.

  There are piles of "stuff" all over my house.  Small piles, but piles nonetheless.  Things I need to go through, file, possible throw away. These piles are not always visible.  They aren't just on top of the stereo or table, but they exist in the filing cabinet, in the closet, and in the guest bedroom.  In my head somehow these piles carry a sense of urgency.  The sense they need to be dealt with before I can think that I have free time to pursue the things I really should be doing with my life.

   Yet the piles are still there....

   That's what made me think of the song.  This view of my very small little world may have made me sit longer in the chair than I actually needed to heal my back.  It's all very overwhelming.  All the things I've let go undone.  So, then additionally when I'm overwhelmed I have the tendency to do...well...nothing.  I have to stop looking at the piles as it all has to be done right now in one fell swoop.  I need to stop thinking of "grabbing the starfish" and something that happens right away all at once, with no regards for the steps that need to come before...

    Hhhhmmm...the steps... 

"Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand"

     The blog is noticably shorter. I'll also be signing up for some voice lessons soon.  No need to overwhelm myself...just need to start something....

     They may be small steps, but at least I am walking.  Now which pile do I go through first...

Happy Fishing!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

To Be or Not To Be

     To be or not be...that certainly is a good question...

     I mentioned before that I read a lot of Shakespeare as a kid...I'm surprised more of my blogs don't start out this way.  When starting his "to be or not be" soliloquy, Hamlet is going through an inner struggle. Does he display courage meaning avenge his father's death or does he just live with what happened? He also wonders whether it's better to live or, shall we say, "sleep."  The kind of "sleep" that is final and ends "the heartache and the thousand natural shocks."

     I'm not so sure that the daily struggles you or I go through are always that dramatic, but don't we ask that question every day essentially?  To be or not to be? 

     I made reference in my last blog to the fact that I had to make a lot of decisions about my life.  One of them involved decisions about my career path.  There are things I really love about accounting, and, as my friends will point out to you, it has nothing to do with math.  I love puzzles.  I feel accomplished when I find issues in a spreadsheet or with a report.  I also love improving communication between different departments and accounting.  When you can explain to your "internal customers" what's going on and how things in that particular organization work, everyone is more amicable and better able to work together to avoid internal bottlenecks.

     So, I do understand what I want as far as my career goals go within accounting and operations.  Unfortunately, I've had positions that have taken me so far off the course due to reductions in force, that I was getting stressed by the situation.  I felt that my career plans were dying.  My career paths coming to a dead end.  Add onto that long, and somewhat unnecessary, hours, well, I had to ask, "to be or not to be..."  That was the question.

     Don't get me wrong when I talk about the hours.  I like to work hard.  I want to be busy from the time I get there until I leave.  I am absolutely thrilled by deadlines. However, I was finding that I would actually feel guilty leaving at 5:15 p.m., even if I arrived at the office before anyone else and many times worked through lunch if others were still working.  Even if I found a way to work, as the saying goes, "smart," by improving processes in order to be more efficient, I felt that anything less than 10 hours a day is an indication of laziness. 

     "To be or not to be..."

     It's hard to ask that question.  You start to wonder if maybe you are lazy.  You start to feel that maybe you aren't good enough to do the things you want to do with your career when you keep getting pushed back to the beginning.  I will say that self-assessment when you get to this point is better than just giving into low self-esteem.  If you saw yourself in this or any of the last two paragraphs, I urge you to really take some time for yourself and not to let a hospital visit, like I talked about in the last blog, force you take that time.

     I was watching "Tomato," another NOOMA video from Rob Bell.  He said something that really struck a chord with me.  "We pick up from young age, from the world around us, we pick up that it's about winning.  It's about impressing.  We pick up that our worth and our value and our significance came from how good we are, how smart we are, how skilled, how better, how competent..."

    Wow...where do I start processing that statement.  I see now why those long hours at work seemed so important.  Those I felt I needed to impress operated on a value system so far and different from mine it's no wonder I was stressed.  I definitely needed to, and do now, take greater responsibility for my own self-worth, which eventually lead me to think, if this is the way of the world, why not go for a position that does fit within my value system?  Somewhere that values my particular skills and competency?  An environment that isn't counting the hours, but recognizing the talent and the skills I have necessary to make significant contributions? 

     Grabbing the proverbial starfish depends on your ability to see yourself as good enough, smart enough, skilled enough and competent enough.  What can you do?  What skills do you have?  How do you put those to work? Wait...I've got it...  

     "...What will I be, and what will I not be."  Now that's the question.

     Happy Fishing!






Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hell On Earth

     Nothing will make you rethink your life like physical pain.

     About a month ago I found myself in the hospital unable to get rid of a succession of recurring migraines.  I had been up since 3:00 am and by 6:30 am, and four migraines later, my husband and I were on our way to the hospital.  Now, I'm no stranger to migraines.  I've been having them since I was 21 years old.  However, the last time I had to be hospitalized for them was at least 12 years ago.  They had been better.  They are mostly caused by my double scoliosis.  That's right; that means two curves in my spine instead of the "normal" one with scoliosis. This was discovered after seeing a chiropractor when just standing would make me feel like someone whacked me across the lower back with a two by four.  My migraines had been more frequent those days as well, but at that time I didn't know that was a side effect of the scoliosis.  My family practice Doctor wanted to send me to an orthopedic surgeon.  Have them put rods in my back.  I elected for the less invasive way of treatment.and for a new family practitioner.

     Treatment had been going well.  I was down to one curve and now that curve was working itself out of my spine.  The disc space between vertebrae was gorgeous if I do say so myself!  No arthritis, neck was looking as if I hadn't abused it during the "metal days"; everything going according to plan.  Until about four months ago.  I couldn't sleep some nights the pain was so bad in my hips.  I had a rib bone that would arbitrarily fall out of place limiting the mobility of my left arm and neck.  This same rib would also cause heart palpitations as movement would accidentally stimulate the vagus nerve.  These issues eventually all culminated into the migraine event that sent me to the hospital.

     My Chiropractor took X-Rays the following week.  I felt the tears well up in my eyes when I saw a side by side comparison of my spine from nearly two years ago, to my spine of just days before.  While my curve was still moving on out of spine, a generally great thing, the curve was also becoming more defined.  Instead of the spine I had where there was only a tiny deviation from straight, I had a spine where the curve wasn't as imperceptible as it was before.  The verdict was that the cardio workout I had been doing had a greater impact on my spine than it would normally.  I would not be exercising for awhile.  When I do get back into the gym, it will be strength training only.

     Now, in my ever elusive search for the "starfish," what most people didn't know is I had planned to start dancing again.  I have been a dancer, among all the other entertainment pursuits I have engaged in, and wanted to take Hip-Hop dance classes.  I wanted to dance as my form of exercise.  I have a lot of trouble staying focused on a treadmill as you can imagine.   So, I wanted to feel creative, build back up my skills, while at the same time get a great workout..  I was utterly disappointed given the news. 

   This brings me to where I am in my treatment today.   I have been having series of adjustments over the last month to get back on track, trying to rest and ward off further migraine activity, and waiting for a return to the gym.  Just a lot of resting and waiting.  Not a whole lot else going on, which, ultimately gives you a lot of time to think..

    I've been reading a lot about different theories of Heaven and Hell.  Mostly that maybe these aren't actual places where you see fluffy clouds and streets of gold or fire and brimstone, but that rather they are the true essence of what it means to be a human being.  You can create Heaven on earth, meaning there is no famine, no poverty, no pain because you engage in activities that help you and your fellow man or you can create your own self-absorbed Hell where nothing is satisfying, you aren't helping anybody much less yourself, and you are deep down miserable.

    I find what I was reading interesting during that time because  I have determined that pain is a great motivator to do the right things for your life.  Having four migraines in a row with uncontrollable nausea I would say classifies as Hell on earth.  Just maybe it's also a signal that I'm not exactly making heaven on earth.  That something is very, very, wrong here...  In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Ferris himself says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it...."  Of course he also said, "You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do...".Both poignant quotes for me at this moment.

     I started re-examining every facet of my life.  From where I worked to to what I ate to how much time I was spending or not spending with friends or family or even God....  I took a complete inventory because all I knew is that the pain made me say, "something has to change..."  Just taking a muscle relaxer would ultimately be like putting a band aid on a deep cut.  Not going to be enough. I would need the equivalent of stitches. I thought about what I could let go of in my life, what I really felt in my heart I needed to do, who could I help, and what was holding me back from really grabbing that "starfish.." It all comes back to that for me really.

     So I made some decisions.  I won't go into all of them here, but what I want you to take away from this is that in order to grab the "starfish," I think you have to start from somewhere very basic in your thinking and in your life. Actually "de-clutter" your life if you will.  Find out what's working for you, what's not, and where it all fits into where you want to go.  It's kind of like when you move to a  new place of residence. You go through everything while you are packing and throw or give away things. It wouldn't make sense to move all the "junk" you don't really need to your new place. 

    Last Sunday while simply walking down a flight of stairs, a strange sense of peace came over me.  I believe this is the peace that is experienced when everything is as it should be that moment. Where truly the meaning of the line in the Lord's Prayer that says, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," is there before you... 

    In my mind, I am already dancing again.

Happy Fishing!


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Enigma Wrapped Riddle

     My friend Walter and I were both in bands in our local metal music scene for years.  He would frequently call me an "enigma wrapped riddle," because, honestly, I probably wasn't your what you might term as "normal" metal musician.  The funny thing is that being a metal musician made me not "normal" in other areas of my life.  I actually got a job once by saying. "I'm not your 'normal' kind of accountant."  I guess that's what they were looking for...

     Even though Walter completely lifted the phrase from an episode of "The Simpsons," him using it to describe me is something I think about frequently.  I always think about what the consequences and the opportunities of being an "enigma" have had on my life's journey..  No one can be a musician accountant wedding planner dog trainer Christian without having a somewhat puzzling or contradictory character.

     For me though, it doesn't feel out of the ordinary no matter what it looks like.  The Controller of the accounting department where I am currently employed said, "One day I need to understand how you go form liking The Cure to singing in a metal band."  Allow me to address that very question, because it's not the first time I've received it, right now. Early bands classified as "alternative" were bands like The Pet Shop Boys, Erasure and Depeche Mode.  Add to that bands that weren't completely all about dance music and had guitar in them like The Cure, New Order, The Smiths and R.E.M.. Punk was also considered somewhat among the "alternative" and I loved The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Dead Kennedys and and Black Flag.  However, I blame The Cult for the major musical shift between the late 80's to early 90's for alternative music become more guitar driven.  Now enter bands like The Pixies, The Afghan Whigs, The Posies, The Goo Goo Dolls, Faith No More, and Jane's Addiction, but more importantly the angst-driven alternative rock fueled by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains.  Alice In Chains and Soundgarden often times crossed genres and were excepted by those into the metal genre exclusively.. So, not only was I into those bands, but along comes 1994 and the advent of something we've never heard before and in the beginning, played on alternative radio; Korn.  There's the tipping point.  In the end I can trace Korn, and all the bands like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park that followed, responsible for my career in metal music back to The Pet Shop Boys.   . 

     Now while this seems very easy for me to understand, when it comes to who I am, and where I need to go to understand my "starfish," its not so easy.  When I started out in music, I honestly wanted to make what I termed "smart dance music."  Music that was danceable but not fluffy in lyrical content. As alternative changed, so did how I wanted to express my self. One minute I would want to embark on a project with dark swirling guitar tones and darker ambiguous lyrics and then the next I wanted to thump you over the head with the crunch of a guitar and the most anger in my voice possible.  I felt like I did alot of "path hopping" over the last 15 years.  However, when examining the "ultimate" path that lead me to my metal music career, perhaps I don't feel as frenetic and better able to center least musically.

     Where did "Christian music" fit into all this?  I mean, I'm a Christian, right?  Where is that influence?  Well, I did just say I wasn't your "normal kind of" anything, and that goes for the general perception of what people believe a Christian should be.

   Music for me is all just "music." I honestly don't like labels when it comes to music.  I feel labels make people feel they have to fit into a certain mold and only hang around a certain kind of people in order to like that particularly labelled music.  Labeling music really stops people from discovering all the wonderful textures, sounds, and lyrical content that comes with feeling free to listen to anything.  Labeling puts a barrier up from communicating with and exchanging ideas with people you may not know you have so much more in common with.

     To me, all music is from God.  Yes...even Slayer...but what I am saying is the gift to make it comes from Him.  So, being how I feel about labeling and my overall view of music, I am not a fan of Christian music.  Christian music feels too inclusive.  Just made for people who are Christians and not meant to actually bring people to Jesus unless they are experiencing what my friend Jeff coined as a "church camp" high.  Nothing like witnessing a bunch of girls at a church outing on Saturday sing Amy Grant's "El Shaddai" at the top of their lungs and then have the same girls bully you in the school hallway on Monday..

   Mark 3: 3-17 make my point ultimately.  Jesus is having dinner with people, who for that time, were unsavory to say the least. The Pharisees see him hanging out with these people and actually pick on his disciples saying, "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?" Jesus hears what's going on and says, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit."

    Christian music is made for the spiritually-fit.  Ironic, isn't it?  I'll be honest; I'm not that "happy" all the time.  To me Christian music very, very, very "happy" music almost to the point where it seems a bit, well...non-credible. It may be a factor to why people see Christian's as a whole to be non-credible.  Where is the reality of every day life?  Where is the pain I am dealing with?  When you are in a band, and young girls feel comfortable enough to come to you after a show and express their distress over the fact that they may be pregnant, there is no way that you can ever live in a world where everything is that happy.  You can no longer turn a blind eye to the miseries of our every day worlds. Not enough to not want that to be a factor in your music.

      There are exceptions. Amy Grant's album "Lead me On" is one of the best Christian album ever.  The catch is that she recorded it while pregnant and depressed.  There is some real pain there. Such a yearning for what she knows will save her ultimately from the world's woes; God.  It's why I do listen to bands who are Christians, but don't necessarily believe in the "Christian music" label either like Red, Skillet, Thousand Foot Crutch and Nonetheless. It's not "happy" music either.  There are screams of angst in Red's song "Let It Go" that will curl your hair.  the lead singer is screaming about his need to "let go and let God." That's passion for the Lord.  That's what I want to be a part of.  That's what makes me put my hands in the air.

     For me, it's the difference between worshiping Christ and actually following Christ.  Worshiping of course, is good, don't get me wrong,  Music labelled as Christian has it's place.  For me though, when it comes to music, I have always wanted to witness to others about what I've been through and and what's gotten me through.  I want to follow Christ in that respect.  Subtle distinction.  Not just worship, but follow.  I remember on my band's first CD there was song describing  how I wasn't able to understand Christ's love for people because of the sin humans perpetrate onto each other.  As I grow in maturity in my faith, I get it now, but I also know a lot of people could relate to what I was saying then, and maybe still do.  Ultimately and musically I don't want to alienate a single person trying to grow on their path.  I feel a lot of Christian music does just that.  How can you relate to that almost delirious expression of joy, if you're not there yet? If there is no expression of the doubt and confusion you go through, you'll be less likely to connect.  Any music only expressing one side of anything can make you feel like an outsider.  When it comes to an expression of my faith, I don't want anyone to ever feel like an outsider. I want the same thing when it comes to my music.  That's an important thought...I haven't made music in years...
     I may have temporarily left the music scene, but I admit now that it never fully left me. Something part of the innate being you are never leaves you no matter how you suppress it.   Looking at it here, I now realize I have always in some way been on a "path" whether musically or spiritually.  I am perfectly normal.  I just have been  learning how to express my "gift" this whole time.

   Riddle solved. 

Happy Fishing!


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Emotional "Doggy Bag"-gage

     A few weeks ago I posted on as Facebook status that I was "freeing myself of some emotional baggage today."  Of course comments were good, I mean who wouldn't be happy for that?  However, I think it's time to address, in the grand scheme of catching my elusive "starfish" of just which "shell" I was freeing myself.

     My friend Mike, besides being a pretty cool guy, is also a tremendous talent.  I remember being honored to share to the stage with him.  When my band covered one of his older songs, and he was there to share mic duty with me, well, I definitely won't forget it!  It's because he is such a talent, so well loved by friends and fans, that, years after the demise of his band Rubberhed, and other recent musical endeavors, that people kept asking him, "Are you going to perform on stage again?"  I even asked him that myself about three months ago, so I knew the answer.  I guess the questions kept coming, because he felt it was time to post a Facebook note explanation to put it all to a final rest. Mike now continues to inspire me off of the stage...

    When my band ended, I did my best to stay away from the people that might ask me the same questions Mike was receiving.  I had to escape the pain of it all so badly that I decided on a whole new "career path."  I became a dog trainer.  It started innocently enough as a volunteer at The Austin Humane Society.  Nine years later after studying with the best dog trainers, earning certifications and owning my own business, I literally walked away from it all. So the question I keep getting is "Why don't you dog train anymore."  I guess it's time to put it all to rest. I need to seriously move on, so I'll try an explain best I can.

    In 1999, Eric and I adopted an aggressive dog, Dali.  I wanted to do everything I could to help her, but it wasn't until we adopted Kobi, another aggressive dog, that I started to look at dog training more seriously. So when the band ended, that's who I decided I was now.  I was no longer a singer, I was a dog trainer.  I mean, what cause could be more noble, right?  Helping animals lead more well-adjusted lives?  Except I could never be sure if I was really doing it help other people and other dogs.  I mean, it sure did end up that way, but in the grand scheme of things, every dog, for the most part, that I saw was more well-behaved than my own.  I adopted a "do the best you can with your assignments, because trust me, you really don't need me," attitude. I'm not a strict dog trainer.  I couldn't ever be after dealing with what I had at home.  I also very much understood the plight of the "working" person. I still was an accountant through all this!  People just didn't have, and many of us just don't have, time for their dogs in today's society.  So, once again, do the best you can.  At least you did something.  I'm not saying this attitude is all bad, but what I am saying is I would never be what other trainers are.  So, when people really needed a kick in the pants because their dogs were as bad as mine, well, I couldn't deliver that either.  I was possibly too understanding.

     That would break my heart, actually.  Knowing a person wasn't doing what they really needed to change their dog's life for the better.  I would worry about the dog and the family.  Many trainers, well, they care, but they don't.  Doing the homework of training is on you.  They don't worry about the money you spent or the ultimate end result of your lack of compliance.  Honestly they shouldn't.  It is on you to work with your dog.  The problem is I did worry about those things, and I couldn't take much more of that. Maybe it started out about helping my dogs, but it ended up in anguish over yours.

     I also found that some dog trainers have some pretty hefty "God" complexes.  "Look what I can do with a dog..."  Once again, that just wasn't me. A dog is living, emotional being just like you and me and I'm not going to exhaust them mentally or physically just so I can look good.  As long as they behave in your house and in public relatively well, I don't really care what they can do or how precisely they can do it. Which I also guess made me a target for any trainer trying to get ahead and squeeze me out of the pretty "sweet" training gigs I had. I don't have the "fight" in me.  Not for this.  It should only be about helping dogs.  Seriously, folks, I expected that from the music business, not the dog training business.

     What hurt was that I had considered one trainer in particular that did this to be a friend.  I actually saw this person at the grocery store the Friday before I wrote that Facebook post.  If it wasn't for my friend Kristen, I may have lobbed a can of beans at this person's head.  This brought up a whole range of emotions I didn't realize I hadn't dealt with.  The interesting thing about this situation presenting itself at this moment in time is that I had been unexpectedly thrust back into the dog training world. I had always continues to be someone who would help with a friend's or former colleague's needs and I found myself with an extended "weekend" of dog training ahead of me.  Seeing this person made everything I felt went wrong come rushing back to me.  The uncertainty of being good enough because I wasn't hard nosed and the pain of having a friend try to take what I had worked for.  While I got through the initial weekend alright, I had a breakdown that Monday hours before I was to perform the last training task with which I had promised to help someone.  That breakdown was also just hours before that Facebook post.

     Calling my husband in tears and reliving everything with every word from my lips, he said one simple thing. "Dana; it wasn't that you weren't good.  It's that you aren't ruthless. And that's not necessarily a bad thing..."  The tears stopped.  I'm not ruthless.  I don't want to be ruthless.  Too much about that world, for me, is.

     I have officially quit dog training for good.  No more tips.  No more talking about it to my friends or when I meet someone new. No helping former colleagues. I am done. I am thankful for all I have learned.  I have two of the most awesomely well behaved dogs both inside and outside the home...well...there are still a few issues, but they are so much farther than I even I imagined. I am thankful for the clients who still call, because I was good enough, and tell me how good their dogs are because of me.  I am most thankful because the time I spent dog training has set me up to be able to talk to large groups of people all while being knowledgeable, graceful, and a great story teller.  I just may need that for my "starfish..."  There is a much bigger ocean I need to focus on. I leave this path on my journey with something for all the truly humble and wonderful dog trainers I still know.  It is a thankless job often times, but your dedication to cultivating dog-friendly training methods does not go unnoticed. You all kept me going as long as I did.  To all dog owners I say your dog is not as bent on world domination as much as you've been told they are.  They really just want to spend quality time with you and I can recommend some great trainers who can show you how that harmony can be achieved.

     As Mike said in his note, "...those moments in time are always best kept in the past. If you keep looking backwards, you'll never see what's coming up ahead in front of you. I hope this explains it all."

     It does, Mike.  Thank you for your inspiration and much love and happiness to you always...

     By the way, Mike; I still have Rubberhed songs in my Ipod.

    Happy Fishing!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Just Say "No"

     My evite response was "Maybe..."

     Going back to the NOOMA video I mentioned in my very first blog, Rob Bell says, "How can you say 'No' unless you know what you've said 'Yes' to?"

     Up until now, my whole life has been "maybe."  Maybe I'll try this college major, this direction musically, this occupation, this group of friends; it's been and endless road of maybes never leading to what I really was supposed to be doing with my life. My hands, and my life, are full of "shells..."
     My friend Dixie is pretty fabulous.  She is great to spend time with and a person from whom I have learned much.  So, when I saw her text message that she was going to have a girl's get together this weekend and was sending an evite, I almost felt a kind of defeat.  While I have been trying let go of the "shells" keeping me from living my life and being on the road to my actual purpose in it, this was a week like one I haven't had in a long time.  I knew in my heart eventually that the answer to her evite may have to be "no" but I vowed that I was really going to try to rearrange the "shells."  So for now the answer was "maybe" as perhaps this once I just might win the "shell" war.

     Saying "no" isn't easy nor is it something I have been able to do easily.  Saying no doesn't mean that I don't want to hang out, that I don't care, or that I don't want to be invited to other events down the road.  Wait a minute...where did I get the idea that saying "no" can cause such misunderstandings?  Why do I feel that saying "no" can cause such an irreversible detriment to my social life?  Oh yeah...because, in the past, it has.

     No two things stunted my social life more that being in a band and being a dog trainer.  I used to say, "I can't have a boyfriend unless he's in the band because I wouldn't have time for him..."  Good thing my husband, Eric, is musically inclined!  I may have never gotten married because when you are chasing these kind of dreams, nothing else seems to matter.  I knew what I had currently said "yes" to.  May not have completely been the right "yes" for my life, but it was a "yes" nonetheless so I had no problem saying "no" to other things outside of that parameter. I noticed that there is a serious gap in friendships among my Facebook friends between college and recent years.  I didn't make many lasting friendships during the "musician" years. The ones I did make during that time and still have though are pretty good ones fortunately.  Some friendships however, didn't survive the next phase completely unscathed.

     The dog training years were the worse as far as any social life. I was still holding down an accounting job while catering to client needs which were mostly weeknights and weekends.  It's no wonder I never saw my friends, much less my husband. Once again though, right or wrong, I had said, "yes" and had no time for anything else.  Just planning a trip to see family was hard let alone trying to accept a friend's invitation to a party.  Needless to say, the invitations started being fewer and fewer.   I even started my own dog training business thinking that would make it easier for me to arrange my schedule, but in fact, that came with it's it own set of unimagined demands and worsened an already bad situation.

     Two reasons I am no longer in the band and dog training.  While I once said "yes," both were unsatisfying enough to where I eventually said "no."  Which now leaves me here to figure out what I need to say "yes" to on my way to the eventual "starfish." 

     So what about this particular week?  What was important enough to say "yes" to that I had to say "no" to something else? Well, I guess that would completely end any reason for the existence of my blog if I knew all the of the "yes" items, but I can say I am starting to figure out what is important in my life. That has to be one of the first steps.  Know deep down who you are.

     For me, some of those things have to be important as they put food on the table and some of them have to be important because it's the right thing to do. My manager at work is leaving on a two week vacation.  I need to be available to help tie up loose ends there. A friend of mine was going out of town and needed me to care for her animals. Another friend is starting a non-profit to help families in crisis and charities are an absolute passion for me.  I am helping with the data research and we need to start moving with this.  Yet another friend has a brand new adolescent Labrador Retriever and needs my help to make it stop chasing the cat. I need to make time to exercise because of my double scoliosis for which I'm in treatment.  The stronger my muscles get, the less pain and other resulting issues I have. Eric is leaving on a week long trip soon so I want to spend time with him all I can. We also need to clean the house, grocery shop, work on the lawn; normal weekly domestic activity that can't wait.  I want to go to church and Sunday school.  I need to be spiritually renewed and make that time to worship my Lord. I teach a bible study and I need to go over my lesson plan for the week.  I wanted to write this blog.  It's part of knowing my "starfish."

     I guess deep down I may know who I am.  I am a hard worker. I am charitable. I am a friend who is there when needed. I am an athlete. I am a wife. I am a Christian. I am a leader. I am a writer.  I know what I've currently said yes to and maybe these aren't "shells" to just rearrange or let slip back onto the proverbial beach. I also know that while it may not be this particular week, I will not continually be so busy that there isn't still room in my life for great friendships. I find I am better these days at investing time in my friendships and ultimately better at choosing the people in whom I invest that time. I feel I am at a place in my life where my friendships can endure the occasional...wait...I need to go change something...

     My evite response is "No..."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A "Red" rose by any other name...

     As a 9 year old I was also reading Shakespearean plays.  I loved the idea of acting; the idea of performing in front of people. The adoration of the crowd; to hear them calling my name was Dana Pooters...

     Do I need to say more considering the last name? I'm sure anyone who remembers having the mind development of a 10 year old boy can figure out the problem with that just by isolating the first syllable! The last name actually wasn't a problem until I moved to Oklahoma at the age of 12.  The kids I had grown up with previously, while sometimes made fun of me, knew who I was, and it wasn't an issue.  However, entering junior high, the time of life when kids develop their warped sense of "in" and "out," was a whole different story.  Then being the new kid on top of it?  I was the subject of much verbal, and sometimes, physical abuse. All due to the last name.  That and sometimes my Mother made me dress differently as if we were still in the 70's with polyester pants and all. While I am grateful for the friends I did have, and still do thanks to the advent of Facebook, earning the adoration of a crowd was even more important by the end of high school.  I felt inside that I just wanted to be truly loved. 

     Here is where that is all twisted, because a crowd of "fans" doesn't truly love you.  They don't personally know who you are and most never will.  They will just fill the void of the place where you have to love yourself.  However, it's hard to love yourself when getting rubber bands shot at your head by other teenagers...

     I'm a huge reality TV watcher.  I'm not sure if it's just because it's entertaining fluff or because I can look at it and go "Whew!  My life is so much better than that,"  but I find myself being truly invested in a few shows.  I was watching Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew on VH-1 and picked up and interesting fact.  People who change their names don't like themselves. Or at least they don't according to Dr.Drew.  He's a professional.  I'll take his word for it, because yes, I wanted to be someone else.  Anyone else. 

     There is a difference between nicknames and stage names, which is what Dr. Drew is talking about.  I picked up a few nicknames in High School here and there.  Mostly derivatives of Dana, like Dani or Danie.  I like nicknames.  I find them endearing.  I also find them addictive.

     I wanted something bigger.  I wanted to escape all the torture of my classmates and ultimately of my Mother.  Remember I said that the corrective shoe deal was only the beginning of the issues with my Mother.  She could not admit to her faults or the faults of her children.  If her children failed in any way, well, there was hell to pay for it.  I eventually would never be pretty enough, sing good enough, or be smart enough to be her daughter and she would remind me of it on a daily basis.

     I left Bartlesville, Oklahoma at age 18 for good never to return. Hopefully, by now in the story, no one wonders why. 

      I spent some time in college under the moniker of  "Sondae."  This name was taken from the day of the week Sunday, of course misspelled for dramatic flair. I inherited the "nickname" originally for a short period of time in high school due to a bad joke made by a friend.  I had said that "my boyfriend called me Sunday," and got the idiotic, "well, I thought your name was, Dana?" Insert eye roll here and note to always include prepositions in my sentences...he called on Sunday...on Sunday.  This nickname turned retreat from everything I was eventually worked. It worked my entire freshman year of college.  I was free from the oppression of my Mother, of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and the oppression of being that high school kid...until a year and a half later when a bad breakup that sent me spiraling back into the self-loathing world of Dana Pooters.

     Fast forward another year later and my arrival in Austin, TX. Eventually, I was befriended by Radio, Television, and Film majors at The University of Texas. My friend Dave started doing camera work on a local music show called Virtual Noize and they needed a host.  Enter my new "moniker" Dana Leigh.  Now this isn't far from my actual name, taking out the last name and inserting my middle for the last.  However it was during the filming of this show that I would discover something I didn't want and would lead to who I am now..  Excessive inappropriate attention.

     I was born blonde.  I was also born with a very outgoing personality.  Put that on T.V. and you'll attract every dude who equates blonde and bubbly with easy.  I literally could not go out without hearing, "Hey, baby; I've seen you on T.V.; can I buy you a drink?" you can't...and the thought of it makes me nauseous.  There were people who were nice too, but I was getting recognized in the 7-Eleven and for some reason, for someone who wanted adoration, I was uncomfortable with all of it.  I knew it was ultimately insincere.  Like I said earlier, they didn't know me.  I had people getting into the back of my car to talk to me when I picked my visiting Father at his hotel (he still thinks that was cool...).  It had to stop.

     I dyed my hair red.

     The response was a complete opposite from what I was used to.  People stopped talking to me even though I was still on T.V.  Apparently red-heads are more threatening.  Good. I could escape Dana again.  It was just in a different way.  Wouldn't be long though until name would follow hair.

      I credit my friend Raymond for coming up with the "nickname" Red.  We were working together, as remember this whole time while on T.V., I was also an accountant to pay the bills. And I just remember him using it one day.  It stuck, and to this day still does, with many of the people I worked with at that time as my "nickname."  you know I couldn't just be satisfied with that though.

    "Red" Leigh Cooper became my stage name. Soon after I started working with Raymond, I got married and started a band.  I had been in a few before, as Dana Leigh, but now "Pooters" was completely gone due to marriage.  Needless to say I sprinted to the courthouse to change it upon receiving my marriage certificate.  I went through variances like Dana "Red" Cooper, but in then end, it was  "Red" Leigh Cooper.  I wanted Dana out of there.  I was never comfortable with Dana if that's not obvious by now.  Then, just like I had happen back in college, a bad breakup, this time the band's, would have me burying "Red" Leigh Cooper for along time. Eight years to be exact. Two years into that eight years, I went back to being blonde.  I was so unhappy, to think of "Red" Leigh Cooper, that I willingly went back to Dana.  I went so far as to capitalize on volunteer work I had done at Austin Humane Society and plunge fully into studying to be and being a dog trainer and behavior consultant.  I was in so much pain, "Red" Leigh Cooper had to pushed far down into the nether regions of my mind and soul. 

    After about five years of being blonde, something began to change.  First, I would look at pictures of my being "Red" Leigh Cooper, and miss being her.  She was fearless. She was fun.  She was most of all confident.  She was also helpful to others and kind.  The reality is I wanted to purge all the ugly feelings about myself and really be "Red."  I wanted "Red" to once again just be a nickname and not be a completely different entity that I put on for an evening on stage.  Something else happened, too, that I never expected.  I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and realized I was beginning to look like my Mother.  As I was still dealing with the damage done there, the blonde hair would have to go.

     Two years later, I'm still redhead and loving it.  Loving it because it's fun and vibrant.  Because it matches my green eyes.  Sure, it also covers the "grays," but in most ways, I am no longer hiding behind a hair color and a name. I have a God and a husband who love me for who I am and after a lot of processing, I can accept and be Dana and Red as the same person.  I have also in my heart forgiven my Mother. I'm not sure if I'll ever go back to Bartlesville again, but you never know.

     I guess if you look at it, in order to figure out what your "starfish" is, you have to figure out who you are.  What things in your life do you really enjoy doing?  What do people often ask you to do that they don't ask of others around them? What have your nicknames really said about you?  Is it just a hair color or is there something else you are really striving to be?

   And Raymond, I still love the nickname...

Happy Fishing!

--Red (no more quotations)   



Sunday, June 12, 2011

You have to do math before you do algebra...

     You know what I really wanted to do when I was 9 years old?  I wanted to be a Marine Biologist.  Oh yeah...we lived in Florida.  I can't tell you how many trips we took to Sea World.  We actually had a lake in our neighborhood.  Apparently there was an alligator on the other side of it eating small domestic animals, but I digress.  I had a container of shells that I would study.  I would make lots of notes on them and try to put them into classifications.  I even had...wait for it...a starfish.  The starfish came from our time spent on Fire Island off of Long Island, New York when I was a kid.  I loved that starfish.  And I so badly wanted to be a Marine Biologist... 

     ...and a singer......and a writer...

     So for me, wanting to be a Marine Biologist was kind of like the typical little girl fantasy about being a princess.  That was never going to happen.  C'mon...I couldn't swim in the pool by myself because I was afraid of "Jaws" getting me; how was I going to be a Marine Biologist?  Last time I checked, they study sharks. So I started singing, and as I mentioned before, writing around that time as well.  I wasn't just writing poetry/lyrics, but my creative writing and other school work was quite good. So impressive  for my age that they had talked about gifted and talented programs for me.  Unfortunately, nothing came of it but talk.  My Mother didn't want me set apart from the other kids in my class for fear I wouldn't be deemed as "normal" in their eyes.  This is also the reason I didn't get corrective shoes for being "pigeon toed" as a child. And probably the reason that I went through a "Goth" period when I was 21, but I digress again. This would be the beginning of my troubles with my Mother...and my troubles staying on any kind of life path whatsoever.

     I have had a laundry list of jobs/occupations...Accountant, Wedding Consultant, Singer, Dog Trainer...wait...there is actually something poignant to that last one...

     I actually trace my love for dogs, and dog training back to that time of my life in Florida.  The next door neighbors had a loveable mutt named "Cookie."  Cookie came over to our yard all the time.  My mother would actually buy dog treats at the store every week so I could give them to Cookie.  I would make him do "sit" and other tricks.  I was so excited with myself.  I thought I had trained this dog!  The reality was, he probably already knew those things and looked at me as nothing more than a vending machine...

     Years later, when I actually got into Dog Training, my mentor's favorite phrase was "you have to do math before you can do algebra."  I would liken that to "you have to crawl before you can walk" and other sayings like that. So how does this apply to dog training?  So many people come in and they want their dogs to do all of these elaborate tricks, but the dog doesn't even know something as basic as "sit."  You have to train basic "behaviors" before you can do something more advanced.  To learn a "behavior" more advanced requires a foundation of basics some of which may be used in the advanced behavior desired.

    Given that example, it's easy to see why I have so much trouble navigating the waters.  I have never concentrated on my basic "behaviors..."  You could say that I was thwarted from concentrating on them, given the previous information, but there is a point where you have to take some kind of responsibility for who you are and where you are going.  If I haven't before, I publicly declare now that I take that responsibility.

     This last New Year's Eve, I got to spend the day with a longtime friend of mine from High School.  I hadn't seen Laith since I was 21 years old probably.  I especially value the friendships I have had for that long because these are the people who most often times know me the best.  I don't think I've changed much in my basic personality this whole time.  Sure, I've grown, I am more mature in ways, but I think basically deep down, I am the same person I've always been.  Laith knows and remembers a lot about me, and the quality of my schoolwork it seems. I don't remember much about high school, but do remember failing Algebra three times in college only to finally graduate with a "C" in basic math.  Upon reminding Laith that I was an Accountant, he said something to the effect of, "but Dana, Accountants do math..."

   Story of my life, Laith...story of my life...

Happy Fishing!

--Red (formerly known as "Dana" - more on that next week)


Monday, May 30, 2011

The beach is full of shells...

     When I started this I only knew two things.  I've been writing since I was 9 years-old and I am in desperate need of grabbing the "starfish."  Might as well start with what I've been doing the longest...

     I guess should explain why a "starfish" is my metaphor for the thing in life that you should be doing; for your purpose on this Earth.  Rob Bell is a pastor from Michigan who does this great series of videos called NOOMA.  They were made to explore today's world from a possible Jesus perspective.  Now before I go further, these videos are great no matter what your religion preference is.  Even is your preference is none, most people are acquainted with the story of Jesus enough to understand what Bell is talking about when he injects scripture.  The thing that makes these videos resonate with many are the real life examples for whatever lesson Bell is trying to teach.  Video #20 is entitled "Shells."  Bell tells the story of his family at the beach, collecting shells of many types, when his son spies a starfish bobbing on the water.  His son goes running into the water just to come back with no attempt to even grab the starfish.  This goes on a few more times before Bell asks him why he isn't grabbing the starfish.  The boy replies, "I can't because my hands are full of shells..."

     That had a great impact on me.  As you can guess the lesson was about being too busy with nothing important and not knowing how to say "no" to the things that aren't essential to grabbing your particular starfish.  I realize I have had so many different jobs and been involved doing so many things that really aren't the starfish that it's time to drop the shells and get on with it...but get on with what?  That question came up right after the video.  My friend Kristen looked at me and said, "But what if you don't know what the starfish is?"  Good point.  How do we know for sure?

     To quote the great David Byrne, "And you might ask yourself how did I get here?" I guess that's what we'll find out together. How we got here and where we are going...or not...but we have to keep thinking about that starfish...bobbing on the water...there for the taking if we just rid our hands of all those shells.

     By the way...I would assert I've always known deep down what the starfish is, but I kept running away from the beach because I'm deathly afraid of sharks...So get your floaties on! This may get weird and possibly uncomfortable at times, but the object is not to drown.

    Happy Fishing!