Red Leigh Cooper

Red Leigh Cooper

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!



Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Better or Bitter Battle

      Eric was playing The Memory Card game with his Mom, niece and nephew.  Eric is an old pro at this, from what I understand, but when he matched two cards, I watched him pick them up, show them to his niece and say, "In your face!"  Although this was all in fun, and trust me, she gave it right back to him, I told Eric that maybe it's best not to "in your face" a seven year old.  Of course, this was a lot of talk from me...I wasn't even playing.

     I 've always had a problem with competition.  If I think about it, as children my brother and I were constantly pitted against each other. If one of us did something better or more desirable than the other one, we heard about it. You had to strive to be nothing less than number 1, or perfect, in my house. This is probably why I can't handle competition generally.  I go into "kill" mode too easily, get super bitter if I don't win, and extremely arrogant if I do.   

     My friend's band recently had their new CD release party,  I've been going to their shows for a year now, and honestly, they are truly awesome talents.  One of the guys in the band I've known around the music scene for nearly twenty years. His previous band got signed, played on huge festivals and tours, and did a lot of cool things that most people really don't get too.  StoneKracker, my band, did a lot of cool things too, but not as many as this guy's band did.  While I am more than okay with that now, and feel so blessed for what we did do, I can assure you that wasn't always the case.

     The music scene here while StoneKracker had it's run was extremely competitive.  People fought over gigs, slots on those gigs, and generally tried to cut other bands down with gossip, etc.  Eric and I tried to stay out of it as much as possible, but still found ourselves immersed in it from time to time.  It's really hard to better yourself or your craft in that kind of environment.  I can't say I've missed that all these years, and have honeslty been thankful for the time away.
     I also can't say I didn't carry that into all of the other things I did like dog training or my day job.  I tried not to, I really did, but competition would rear it's ugly head.  So, I literally stopped participating.  I left the music scene, quit dog training, and work in small offices where I am the only one who does what I do.  I definitely don't play board or card games of any kind.
     Something miraculous happened though in my time away.  As much as I unburdened myself from having to compete, it opened up the time for examination in my life to understand why I would react the way I did when I did.  I've dealt with a lot of negative feelings and their roots over the past years and realized one key thing: if I don't feel good about myself, I'm not going to feel good about any body else, or their accomplishments, either.  That's it really, isn't it?  Someone who is angry all of the time for what ever reason, is not going to have the warm fuzzies for anyone, right?  So why, when you see someone who has more than you, is doing something perceived as better than you are, or getting all the breaks, wouldn't you get bitter?
     The problem is just being bitter isn't going to solve anything.  It isn't going to actually make you work harder to beat that person at their own game.  You are going to spend so much time talking about that person and what you're going to do, that many times you don't do it at all.  You just get stagnant in shallowness and resentment.  I think I point this out before, but it's easier to throw stones at someone who has put themselves out there than go out and accomplish something for yourself.  If you are always trying to beat another person at their accomplishments, the only person you end up beating is yourself.
      At that CD release party I noticed the change that years of looking into what makes me tick has brought.  Instead of being jealous that someone else was up there accomplishing, I felt excited and inspired to do my own thing.  It was a pleasant and most welcome surprise.  I am no longer going to sit on those sidelines and complain.  I'm going to actually do something.  Maybe I'll be better than the next guy; maybe I won't...I will be all me...a better me...consistently.
     Found this the other day on Facebook:

      That about sums it up. I have freed myself of that old way of running the race...

      ...Oh...about The Memory Card game I didn't play...those kids freaking tire me out! "Uncle" Eric can play with them...he has the stamina!

Happy Fishing!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Toxic Avenger

     One of my friends posted this on Facebook the other day...

     Good, huh?  Certainly going to use this phrase the next time anyone tries to bring their "drama" my way  I'm not only trying to take a slower approach to life, but an over-the-top-personal-incident free one as well....

      ....That reminds me...I talked a little about it my last post about how to make social media a nicer place, but what I didn't fully address was what to do about "toxic" people in your life. I'm not talking about people who seem to always have a bad day and always end up in unfortunate circumstances who want to tell you all about it looking for sympathy.  I'm talking about the person who always tries to belittle you to the point where they become your unfortunate circumstance. They disrespect you, your feelings, and are undeniably trying to cause you pain.

     Now, I've been blessed to not have a whole lot of crazy in my life since, first, I got married, and second, I quite the entertainment scene for awhile, but there have been a few "hangers on" from my past that, well, never got the message that I'm just not in that place anymore.  One was family, one was a long time friend, both in my estimation are extremely troubled individuals.  However, I realized I had to look deep down at myself to ask why I have allowed anyone in my life to have any kind of derogatory hold over it.  Perhaps, I was somewhat troubled. too.

     I realized that it wasn't all the toxic person's fault.  I set bad boundaries, or really, none at all.  Or maybe if I tried set them, I didn't stick to it.  I teach a seminar on forgiveness.  It's a tough topic anyway, but the one thing that people have the hardest time with is the premise that if you forgive someone, that doesn't mean you have to have them in your life.  Sometimes, it's just not possible.  The other person hasn't reconciled that part of them that makes them want to hurt you for whatever reason.  Forgiveness is more about you than that other person.  It's so you don't carry around hate for yourself or them....

   ..."Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." - Buddha

     See what I mean?  It eats at you.  They don't care.  Sure, forgiveness can ideally lead to reconciliation, but only when the other person can accept and give forgiveness themselves... until then, they gotta go.

     I actually had the privilege of some of my toxic family "defriending" me on Facebook.  I was hanging on, not "defriending" them thinking, "well, what if they truly need me," etc., and so on.  Let me tell you, I have never felt better!  I figure I would have done the "defriending" sooner or later, but they saved me the trouble.  I don't have to look at the negativity every day and I don't have to have them berate me for being about not taking sides in a family dispute.  I was literally told by one of them once to go back to my "gentle starfish blog."  What?  Wait...was that supposed to be an insult?  In their eyes, yes, but if the worst thing someone can think of to call me is "gentle," I'm doing something right with my life.

   The blog was a problem for the other person I mentioned, too; the long time friend.  I'll admit, our relationship did not start out on equal ground. I didn't have the best self-esteem at 22 years old, but, I'll be honest, unfortunately many young women don't at that age.  I was easy to take advantage of.  My bad.  That's how I was troubled.  However, this person thought that's how the dynamic of our relationship still worked when I would receive a message from them.  Usually, the messages would make fun of my beliefs or my blog. I would ask for them to be more respectful, they would for awhile, but then I would get the same kind of derogatory defamation messages.  I had grown beyond our previous relationship, set healthy boundaries, but this person just couldn't keep crossing them.  This time, I did the "defriending."

     Look, some people in this world  just aren't going to want you to succeed.  That's okay; it's their issue, not yours.  It’s much easier to sit back and criticize others' efforts than to have the wherewithal to get out there and do something themselves. You have the ability to keep them around or not, and that's up to you.  I just want you to know you now have the permission necessary to not keep them around.  It doesn't make you a bad person, friend, family member, etc.  You shouldn't allow abuses in your live as there is no self-respect in that. They may need you in the future, and that's okay, too.  If you want to feel better about not having someone in your life now, don't harden your heart to the possibilities that they may need you in the future.  Forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven. Forgive as much as it takes for you to go on with your life and do what you need to do to "grab the starfish"...

     ...but don't take any one's unbridled crap either...

That says it all doesn't?  Oh, and so does, "Not my circus; not my monkeys."

Happy Fishing!



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Demented and Sad, but Social

Claire Standish: You know why guys like you knock everything?
John Bender: Oh, this should be stunning.
Claire Standish: It's because you're afraid.
John Bender: Oh God, you richies are so smart, that's exactly why I'm not heavy into activities.
Claire Standish: You're a big coward.
Brian Johnson: I'm in the math club.
Claire Standish: See, you're afraid that they won't take you, you don't belong, so you have to just dump all over it.
John Bender: Well, it wouldn't have anything to do with you activities people being assholes, now would it?
Claire Standish: Well, you wouldn't know, you don't even know any of us.
John Bender: Well, I don't know any lepers, but I'm not going to run out and join one of their f%#king clubs.
Andrew Clark: Hey. Let's watch the mouth, huh?
Brian Johnson: I'm in the physics club too.
John Bender: Excuse me a sec. What are you babbling about?
Brian Johnson: Well, what I had said was I'm in the math club, uh, the Latin, and the physics club... physics club.
John Bender: Hey, Cherry. Do you belong to the physics club?
Claire Standish: That's an academic club.
John Bender: So?
Claire Standish: So academic clubs aren't the same as other kinds of clubs.
John Bender: Ah... but to dorks like him, they are. What do you guys do in your club?
Brian Johnson: Well, in physics we... we talk about physics, properties of physics.
John Bender: So it's sorta social, demented and sad, but social. Right?

     Aaaaaaahhhhhh...who doesn't love the John Hughes movie, The Breakfast Club.  I think one of the most quoted lines, and they are numerous when it comes to this movie, is "demented and sad, but social."  It's been used to describe all kinds of social habits and behaviors performed by our dearest friends, but I think I've found a new way to use it...

     ...when describing Facebook...

     I only got on Facebook because my husband, Eric, was.  Truth.  It was completely a competitive move.  See, I had been of the "Blah!  I don't need to be on that Facebook thing. That's just for trendy people" mentality when Eric said quietly, "Um...I'm on it..."  What?  I was the forward thinking, fashionable one in the family.  You did something technological before I did? Excuse me?

     ...and then I signed up for an account.  That was August of 2009.

     When I got over my pretentiousness, I really enjoyed it at first.  I honestly loved connecting with old friends, seeing their picture of themselves and their kids, and seeing the cool places they go.  These are the things I still love.  When I see a friend's child, I remember what they were like as a kid, or see how much they look like their Mom or Dad.  I have learned about some fabulous cities and restaurants from my friends' journeys.  I have even been able to join them in their greatest happiness and worst sorrows no matter how far away they are....

     ...somewhere along the way though, I think Facebook became a self-conceited monster.

     If you have seen the movie The Social Network, you know that Facebook started out as a sight just to post profiles of Harvard students where they could post pictures of what they were doing and talk about life on campus.  Somewhere, as Facebook has now grown, its become less social and more "demented and sad."  I know I have admittedly let my mood and my esteem be effected by things I've seen on the site.  While I know that its ultimately my responsibility how I react to things, and have gotten past my own personal issues with my interactions, I have found I'm not alone.

      What I've realized is there has been a phenomenon created with social media where we are much "braver" than we would be with our opinions than we would be if our friends were standing right there.  People have also become more prone to taking and posting pictures of what we are having for meals, but I digress...

      In the process of embracing this "brave new world" we are alienating our friends. We say things when a friend express a possible hurt like "It's my wall; I'll post what I want!" Sure. It is. I guess.  It actually belongs to Facebook, but whatever.  My point is, if that person were standing right in front of you, would that come out of your mouth?  If it would, would it come out with such a disregard for the person standing there, or would you try to express your opinion in a less hostile manner?  My bets are you would.  Likewise, if that someone, standing right in front of you, pointed out to you that the information you were sharing was actually false, as is done many times with shared stories and/or pictures and checking on Facebook, would you still launch into the tirade of "it's my wall" or would you sheepishly apologize and thank them for letting you know?  Again, I think the latter would happen.

     As equally as damaging is the friend who says, "my real friends would know I was joking," when a friend conveys they were hurt, offended, etc, by something they said.   A longtime friend, and someone I am happy to have connected again with, DJ, recently said, "Text is only 7% of a message - without voice inflection, body language and facial expressions, ideas are often unclear."  If I had a friend that said, "my real friends would know I was joking" and didn't look at their actions, or even apologize for upsetting me, I'll be honest in saying that I'd have to rethink why we are friends.  Unfortunately, Facebook has brought out sides of our friends that had been hidden...

    ...maybe that's not such a bad thing...but I digress again...

    A side note about apologies.  They don't indicate who was right or who was wrong. They only indicate someone really cares about the thoughts and feelings of another human being.  Maybe should the other person not have been so offended? Yeah. Sure. Maybe.  However, you still hurt them.  If you are truly their friend, you'll own that. You'll also own that with no excuses for your behavior.

     Something else, something I've been particularly guilty of, is letting Facebook being your only interaction with your friends.  I'm busy.  I like that with Facebook I can take a quick peak and see what's going on in my friends' lives.  This shouldn't take the complete place of real interaction with human beings though.  You can "like" something, and I suggest that you do that to show you are at least paying attention instead of the "look at me" show I see more and more of (which is a whole other matter entirely), but if this person has been a close friend for years, carve out some time for them.  I've really been trying to do more of that.  Ask yourself, "Do I really absolutely need to work through lunch, or is that an excuse to not make an effort?"  My friend, Mary, recently posted, "Just a reminder to everyone out there. Facebook is a tool. It's not something we should use to determine or define friendships. How you interact with those folks on a daily basis in person or in direct communication are the only things that matter. So get out there and let someone know you care OUTSIDE of facebook!"  Have you been out to dinner and seen like a whole family on their phones "Facebook-ing" through the entire meal?  It's sad to me.  We need human interaction.  Sure; do we need downtime away from others?  Do we need to occasionally work through lunches?  Yes. Yes, we do.  It's not a constant though, and if it is, it's time to look at what's important in your life.  When you do meet with your friends, be present!  It's okay to "check-in" but then put the phone away and have real conversation. It doesn't hurt. I promise.

     In the interest of not digressing yet again, I stopped myself in the paragraph above when I started talking about the "look at me" show.  If you only get on Facebook to post about yourself, and never see, "like," or comment on what your friends are doing, well, just know it doesn't go unnoticed.  I may not be able to tell you all of the people who I interact with on a daily basis, but I can tell you who was missing if not taking part in my joy or in my concern (To be clear, we are talking real concern here.  We are not talking about, "Oh poor sad me" posts to get attention.).  You know, actually, I can tell you who was there.  Those people mean a lot to me. Here's why:  I had two major milestones in my life last year and someone who was supposed to be a good friend, missed them both.  That hurt. I don't buy, "Oh I didn't see it" excuse when everyone else in our circle of friends did. I'm sure that happens though, but if they weren't "missing" everything else, I may buy that.  Needless to say, that person isn't someone I choose to spend my free time with anymore. They don't exactly let me know they care outside of social media either, so I kind of know where I stand with that.  It's okay.  I've accepted it and moved on.  Not everyone is going to like you.  You just kind of wished they never pretended they did. 

     Can I just say after the last presidential election...

     I find it funny that the people I talked to in every day life over the years, were all of a sudden very, very political.  So many posting to a point where the name calling and abuse of the other side (this goes both ways, by the way) became too much to tolerate.  No one side in my estimation captured "reality" and so many people were hurt in the fray.  Many more found themselves "defriended" be others.  Some have drug it out past the election. I was lucky to have been spared a lot of it from what I hear, but I saw enough.  My friends are very diverse.  All religions and political affiliations are represented.  We need to remember that when you say someone is "stupid" for voting for someone else that you may be talking about a friend.  I would like to believe that your friend list is as diverse are mine and this is an issue.  Even if you don't think it is, there are two things people used to not talk about in "mixed company"; politics and religion.  This last election was a good lesson in why.  I'm not saying, "don't be yourself," but what I am saying is have respect for your friends.  If you must discuss politics, or religion, there are ways to be respectful in your delivery and not demean your friends.  I like a lively debate, but I'll cut it off it gets to nasty levels.

     So, now you are starting to see where some of my problems with social media truly lie.  There were some I didn't touch on like the aforementioned "Oh poor sad me" posts to get attention, the passive aggressive posts (aimed at someone particular without naming them thinking they would notice), and getting reconnected to toxic family members/old friends that inevitably goes wrong, but those are of a more personal nature.  I really wanted to focus on how we potentially hurt the people around us.  Facebook just seems to have become one big excuse not to truly connect with other human beings on a less than surface level.   We seem only interested in ourselves and are forgetting there are very real people on the other side of the Internet connection.  I would really like to see Facebook return to what it was. Social. I want to see my friends' pictures, learn of new places to go, marvel at accomplishments, revel in  joys, commiserate in times of trouble, support businesses and creative endeavors and use messenger to talk and make plans to meet. It would be great to see us all be courteous of each other and know that doesn't mean we are "censoring ourselves" as much as it means we have respect for other people.  I would love for us all to be engaged with each other.  It's ever so important to where we are going in our lives to have our friends there to be supportive and caring....and to be that supportive and caring friend back...

     Until then, here is a fabulous salad I made...

     Happy Fishing (and posting)!
What are your biggest problems with social media? What do you enjoy about it? Tell me in the comments! 
     P.S. - And if I've hurt anyone with this, I apologize. No excuses. I should have said it better. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

What Happens in Vegas...

     About six years ago, I got heat exhaustion.  I was dog training, helping another trainer judge her Canine Good Citizen class on a really hot June evening.  I forgot to drink water, the class was moving so fast, and I really hadn't eaten anything either.  At the end of class, after helping to clean up the class site, I went to join the others in the business office and that's when it happened.  Someone had cranked the air conditioner down into the sixties at least and, when my over extended body hit that cold air, my blood pressure dropped and I almost did, too. I remember grabbing on to one of the interns as the floor was rushing up to meet me.  It was sincerely terrifying. I shouldn't have done it, but I got in my car to drive home telling everyone I was fine.  My eyes were really sensitive to light as I tried to drive home against the flow of headlights coming from the other direction and I almost pulled into two hospitals on my way home.  I made it into my driveway and Eric came out with Kobi, our dog, to greet me.  I have never been so happy to see them in my life. I tried to eat, but there was no saliva in my mouth to help process the food. A few days later I finally did end up in the hospital after experiencing extreme vertigo.  My body quickly drank in two bags of IV fluid after the dehydration diagnoses was given.

     A month later my biological mother died of congestive heart failure...and my doctor gave me a prescription for twenty Xanax and said, "Use them wisely..."

     ...I still have them...they probably aren't any good anymore...

     My job even gave me a day off.  Since I was estranged from my mother, I indicated that that wasn't necessary, but my supervisor said, "Dana; you are going to eventually freak out. I don't want you here when that happens."  That was said with love and concern, really it was, but what she didn't realize was that the freak out process would be a little more inward and a little more slow growing.

     ...Looking back, maybe, with everything that had been going on, I should have taken that Xanax.  I am just so anti-drug.  I'm a "feeler." I don't want to do anything that keeps me from being who I am and feeling everything I am going through. I'm a creative person; for me it's part of the process. Although now I'm thinking the Xanax may have helped keep some things in perspective instead of developing full blown phobias.

     After my Mother's death, I wouldn't eat anything with fat in it.  I lost 30 pounds. I was so worried about my heart, but it manifested in such an odd way. I didn't increase my exercise, or anything at all like that.  I just stopped eating fat. Then because of the heat exhaustion I wouldn't go outside if the temperature was above 85 degrees.  If I had to, I'd break into hysterics. Often.

     So, here we are, six years later. The years have helped lessen the fears a bit.  I am still overly concerned about my heart and will start to experience an uncomfortable and quiet panic when outdoors for very long when the temperatures are over 85 degrees.  I'm better than I was though. There aren't as many hysterics...

     ....but there are panic attacks.  I've been prone to them since I was about 24 year sold or so.  I remember having one the day of a show and having to pull over because I couldn't drive.  They aren't that bad anymore, but they creep up slowly and can get a bit debilitating if I let them come in all the way.

     As you can imagine, I'm having a bit of an issue with my spine from the fall where I broke my wrist.  I've been dizzy, had migraines, etc, and some days, I don't want to move, much less, go on vacation...

     ...That being said, for me, Las Vegas is the happiest place on earth, forget Disney World! We had had the trip planned for months and hadn't been in years, so I didn't want to miss it due to the recent bone break. Or, you know, so I thought....

     I had a couple of rough "gravitational pull" moments on the trip out there but seemed to be doing better by the end of the first night. Any sickness I had experienced earlier in the day gave way to just plain exhaustion as we struggled to stay awake. Not really thinking, we had gotten tickets to see Ron White at 10:00, which was midnight in the "real world" as Eric started calling central standard time. We couldn't wait to collapse into bed after the show and I didn't give another thought to my wrist or my bad dizzy spells. The next morning we decided to walk the strip. It was unusually hot for April in Vegas with highs around 95. It was already in the low 80's by the time we went really hot... I could feel myself get that certain "uncomfortableness" that rises up in me. I mean, I didn't even have any water on me. definitely wasn't prepared. Uncomfortableness usually gives way to feeling line a caged animal. A pacing of sorts goes on in my brain and I can't find any escape - oh, wait, what? You're hot, too? Okay, we'll go back to the hotel and check out the pool and a frozen drink....I was so relieved at that moment that Eric wanted go back.

     Still really hot outside, but hours later we had to walk over to The Venetian where Rock of Ages was playing. I had gotten us tickets; I was so excited! Always had wanted to see it and thought it was just a short walk across the street from where we were staying at The Mirage. Yeah, short 98 degrees...and I had been getting more dizzy as the day went on as well. Oh well; had to go! Couldn't take a cab across the street, right? Thought I would just put on my brave front....which didn't last long.

     We started off walking down the long sidewalk from The Mirage that would take us to the Strip then across the street to The Venetian. The sidewalk itself slopes down and I found on the trip out that downward slopes made me more dizzy than anything else. It was hot, I was feeling that familiar feeling of the ground rushing up to meet me and just when I said, "I can't do this!" I heard, "Dana! Just breathe!"

    I don't know whether it was the startle of Eric's voice or the breath, but I immediately calmed down and was able to take the rest of the walk across the street without incident.  In fact, I pretty much spent the rest of the evening without incident.  Any time I felt dizzy and that I might panic, I made myself stop and breathe. It sounds so simple, but it was something I have never been able to fully make myself do before.  You always hear about it right?  "Just take a deep breath..."  Never before had a realized how fully cleansing and stabilizing that could be and how desperately I needed to add it to my everyday life. 

    I've become much better physically over the last few weeks.  The dizziness is nearly gone, my wrist is healing, and, well, I've been outside a lot more.  They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  I hope not...well, at least for this, because the lesson I learned there has translated well to my life back in the "real world..."  

   ....However...when I think about it...there is some video of me dancing that I wish Eric had left there...

Happy Fishing!




Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Sound of Silence

     During this past Lenten season, I decided I would add meditation practices to my prayer life. This is not an easy task for someone who admittedly falls asleep while praying at night. I never get to the part where I can be quiet, clear my mind, and potentially hear God's voice. In fact, the only time I have been able to get any prayer in at all is at night because I'm so stressed and wound up during the day. I honestly believe that most times it's hard for me to just sit down, shut up, and just be at peace for five or ten minutes. Way too much going on for that!

     It happened once during the forty days. Once. One time I was able to stay awake, be still, and listen. This was momentous for me and I really wanted to try again. A couple of weeks ago, I was determined to do it again...

     ...and I did it! I was completely able to stay awake, tune everything out, and listen for God's voice.

     The funny thing was I didn't quite understand what I believe I was hearing in those moments. "Take care of your health; take care of yourself..." What? I mean, I was asking for guidance about work mostly when I prayed as of late. I have gotten really frustrated there and everything seems to make me immediately erupt into anger or tears or both, and I needed help....but health? Okay, I guess that kind of stress isn't good for your health, but how do I deal with the stress to help my health? I snuggled down into my comforter, deciding not to think about it anymore, and went to sleep.

     The next morning those words would become very, very, clear to me. While I was walking my dog, a neighbors dog had gotten out and started chasing us. Trying to get away I tripped and fell breaking my wrist. Thankfully, the dog was ultimately friendly, or this may have been a whole different post, but its hard to tell at 6:45 in the morning in the dark whether its just Lassie or its Cujo after you. I picked up Kobi's leash, who had gone to sniff the Japanese Boxwoods after also seeing the dog was no threat, and hurried us inside.

     I wasn't even thinking of my work issues as Eric, yanked out of his shower while having only washed his face, took me to the Emergency Room. My blood pressure was surprisingly spot on for the pain I was in and would continue to be the next several times it was taken over the next few days. Eric and I would laugh every time a cuff came out as if we should bet on the number like you would at a Vegas roulette table. At some point I did contact work letting them know what happened, but I was far from concerned about anything going on there. It was probably the least concerned I'd been about work in eight months. Why couldn't I have had this feeling of "separation" previously without breaking my wrist to do so?

     The next day I went to the Orthopedist. He took one look at my X-Rays and said, "They did tell you you were gonna have to have surgery, right?" ER I was terrified. I would have surgery in two days. I have NEVER had surgery. I have only heard horror stories about surgery. You know, the operating on the wrong side, waking up during the procedure, not even walking up at all...I was a mess...

     ...and I was still definitely not thinking of all...except for logging in to put in for personal time off.

     Meanwhile Eric had been a total trooper through all of this. He has essentially been my left hand and the best example of keeping the wedding vow "in sickness" I have ever seen. You know, if I think about it, recently I would grieve for my time not spent at work each weekend, knowing I would just have to go back to the miserable situation in a few days in stead of being present in my mind and in the day with Eric. I found myself wishing I had lived more in the moment and desperately trying to explain to this wonderful man how much I loved him and wishing I had not been so self-absorbed. If I had just let the work issues go for two days a week...

     ...Just then I heard the scariest six words I've ever heard in my life... "We're taking you to the O.R. now." A big "crocodile" tear ran down my face.

     No one could have been happier to see Eric more than I was in recovery. If I was a dog, there would have been uncontrollable tail wagging. I was going home, with my husband, and two days of PTO! I could just relax. Heal. Decompress. That's what I thought at least....

     The day after my surgery, a few situations at work got so messed up, that I felt the need to work even though I was so tired and drained from surgery. I was going to work from home the next week, but it just couldn't wait. A customer was getting more and more upset by the minute, I always say, when there is a lack of training at a place of business, "what if I get hit by a bus?" This was the closest I've ever come to that particular scenario...

     ...If I've raised that question before, how do I keep ending up here? Things have to change. Is it me, though? Is it them? Is it both of us? Isn't this what I was praying about and meditating on when I heard, "Take care of your health; take care of yourself?"

     I sat outside on the back patio mid-afternoon yesterday. I heard that about ten minutes of sun a day was good for bruising as I have a good amount of it from the fall and from surgery. A gentle wind was blowing as I settled into my deck chair and watched the willow in the backyard sway back and forth. It was nearly hypnotic and I found myself relaxed, mind clear, and open to possibilities for the problems that have plagued me off and on through my working life. I allowed many thoughts, many whispers from God, none of them forced, to enter my consciousness.

     I have work to do, and while i am not completely responsible for the situations I find myself in, I am finding I have more latitude to control what I can control, and have the grace to accept what I cannot. The most important thing is, after trying so hard for forty days to do it, I have finally figured out, when I need, how to settle down, be still, and be wonderfully and openly receptive. I just need to remember to do it and often. No, wait, not often...every day....

     I don't know if they meant it this way, but an old song by Simon and Garfunkel kept coming to mind during this time:

"Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted
In my brain still remains
Within the sound of silence"

     I realized that by taking care of my health, I was learning to take care of myself. I have also learned to enjoy the sound of silence.

Happy Fishing!


PS - I feel that meditation is a valuable practice to gain clarity no matter what you believe on a religious/spiritual level. I do believe that's how I hear God's voice, at the same time, no matter who you are, if you don't sit down and clear your head once in awhile, you won't even hear your own true voice. So, I wanted to write a brief note to encourage everyone to spend some time in silence and reflection whenever you can. Ask yourself seriously how can you think clearly with so much noise all around you? Take some time to be still today!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

(Inner) Peace Initiative

     My friend Mike posted this picture of StoneKracker, my former band for any newbies out there, the other day on Facebook:

     The picture was taken during pre-show rituals where we center ourselves and get ready to get out on stage and, well, "kill it."  What struck me was the look on my face.  See that?  That's utter and total peace.

    Utter and total peace is not at all what I had last Saturday night when Eric and I performed together, using the StoneKracker moniker, for the first time in ten years.  I felt a nervousness I don't think I've felt since the first time we played the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX in 2001.   For the first time I understood why.

    I'm not gonna lie, and I haven't here yet, but I used to drink...a lot!  It was the only way I could get on stage to be quite honest.  But, like anyone with any kind of alcoholic tendencies, there was some sort of underlying reason as to why I needed that "liquid courage."  The funny thing is that I rarely drank any other time. I don't even drink with meals.  I find the taste of beer or wine with food kind of gross for lack of a better term.  So, I'm guessing you would think, "Okay; you must not feel confident in your vocal abilities.  That's why you had to drink."  Sure, but why didn't I feel confident?  I always received high honors in competitions in high school.  I can't tell you all the choirs I participated in that I had to audition for...what is it.  Somewhere about 3:00 in the afternoon that Saturday, it came out...along with tears.

   "But I was never the best," I explained to my husband, "I always lost the solos.  There was this girl named..."

    I never thought or believed I was good enough.  I am fully aware that I am no Kelly Clarkson.  I come from the marriage of an opera singer to a person who was tone deaf.  I was never going to be Mariah Carey.  Somewhere in my heart I believed, because I was never going to be Beyonce', that I didn't have the right to be anything else.  Sure, my biological mother had something to do with this too, always telling me I'd never be good enough, so it was surprising that all the things I had lost singing along the way were what was bothering me.  I think the thing with my Mom was so fully reconciled that this was all that was left.

    So, as I stared at the picture Mike posted, I said to myself, "Where was that Saturday night?"  The answer is, in a bottle.  StoneKracker did help my esteem a lot, make no mistake.  We played actually three SXSW Festivals and on two Warped Tours and won accolade after accolade, but I guess it's not enough when you believe, deep down, you are a fraud.

     How do I get out of the bottle?  How do I find that peace naturally?  What about the other areas of my life that still make me nervous, or angry, or vengeful?  What do I do about those?

    There is this group I found online called The Peace Initiative.  The aim of the peace initiative "is to help young children in conflicted societies around the world learn to respect differences and change their behavior through media and school curricula developed through local in-country partnerships." Sometimes, I still feel like I am walking around with this young child soul deep inside my being that just doesn't understand what the realities really are about a situation.  That's how I feel when something I am not at peace with pops up.  It's like I can't see the truth of an event; only my immediate reaction to it.  Maybe there are "differences" I need to respect and accept that one is not necessarily better than the other.  Simply just different.  There is a certain peace to that isn't there? Besides, not everyone is looking to see Kelly Clarkson...

     There are so many more things I can apply this thinking to. Maybe it's time to start an "inner" peace initiative...

      ...I will respect that I am different than Kelly Clarkson... and that difference is totally and wholly me...and wonderful.

Happy Fishing!




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Burnout and Brain Death

     One of Eric and my favorite show was Malcolm in the Middle.  There was this one episode where Reese, the older brother said he could just turn his brain off.  When Malcolm asked him to stop playing around he said, "No, watch!"  He then proceeds to have a blank stare, mouth open, like he's not registering anything.  That's how I've felt the last month.  Although, I'm not sure I was consciously doing it like Reese.

     I've stopped a lot of activities in my life in the effort to free my life up, know what I'm saying "yes" to, and be better able to say "no" to other things.  I think I may have done this too late because the combination of everything I had been involved with and the acquisition at work, which has been nothing short of frustrating. has left me literally with blank stare and mouth open.

     Here is an example of a night at my house:

     Eric:  "What do you want to do?'

     Me:   "I don't know."

     Eric: (A few minutes later) "So, what do you want to do?"

     Me:  "I really don't know.  Nothing.  I am perfectly fine doing nothing."

     I commence to sit there, staring at the TV, not watching anything in particular....

    ...And I am really, really, fine with that.

     It's a strange place to be in.  I thought maybe it was the feeling of being overwhelmed that I have experienced before, but am quickly starting to realize that it's something way more than that.  There are times that I literally don't want to/can't do anything.  This makes working really hard much less doing anything else easy.  I've been off for four days because we are having some work done to our house.  This is the first time I've felt like doing anything. I knew I needed to write.  I haven't written in a few weeks.  I really, really, just didn't want to do it, much less have any creative thought to be able to put fingers to keyboard.  I've been numb.  Nothing. No thought. I had shut off my brain.

     Dealing with the residual of years of business has got me thinking about how I got here.  Do you know I haven't had an actual vacation, where you get on a plane, go somewhere fun, and come back mind clear in three years?  Three years!  I mean sure, we have reasons like I got a new job, then Eric got a new job, we chose to have work done to the house, trying to reduce debt, etc, etc, but this could be some of the issue.  Never underestimate the importance of a vacation.  I remember one of my friends saying, "Debt reduction be damned! We're going on vacation!"  I need to keep that in my head.  I need to be able to pay for it, but I also need to remember to go.  Every year. No matter what.

     Then there is the whole thing about knowing what you are saying "yes" to so you know what to say "no" to.  I'm getting really good at this lately and it will really help me in the future, but I seriously waiting too long to develop that skill.  I waited way too long to accept that some things I was doing had run their course and give them up.  I did not know myself well enough to know that these were things that were filling the space of the things I didn't recognize that I really wanted to do with my life.  It's really hard giving up those things, especially when there are other people involved who may have hurt feelings. I've been a people pleaser all my life, mostly because nothing was ever good enough for my parents, long story short, and I am surprised how much of that has carried into adulthood.  Learning to do what's best for me, and being okay with that has been difficult. 

     I did come up with a phrase I say over and over again in my head when having to drop something from my life that involves others.  "If they get upset/mad. don't understand because you said, 'no,' then they really weren't your friends to begin with."  Isn't that what we are all afraid of?  Someone won't like us?  Why do we want people who don't like us for who we are as friends?  It's a weird societal issue and I don't think I'm the only one who has suffered from it. I don't know what it is.  Maybe I didn't like myself enough to think others would like me if I didn't "wear the pork chop around my neck to get the dog to like me."  I also think that way of thinking for me is over.  It just happened too late.

    So for now, more resting, no pushing myself, and building my endurance back up.  It may take awhile, but I'm going to give my self that time.  Even going to slow down and methodically perform my tasks at work.  I'm only doing things in my life that nourish my soul right now, and am starting out slow with those as well.  Sure, I'm "busy" with those kind of things until the end of April, but am looking forward to some enriching and inspiring experiences.  I just need to give myself that permission to rest when I need it.  Just float along basically....and stare at the TV...

     ...Oh yeah, almost forgot...Eric and I planned a vacation!  Vegas here I come! Debt reduction be damned...

      Happy Fishing!



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Airplanes, and Elevators, and Migraines, Oh My!

     When we got out second dog, Kobi, our first dog, Dali, used him as somewhat of a coping mechanism.  She was terrified of most situations outside of the home and even had a hard time letting anyone touch her except for Eric and me.  One of the trainers at the kennel we would take them to when we would go out of town would always say, "You need to send Dali her by herself..." As a dog trainer I knew that was because they wanted to teach Dali to cope on her own.

     Seems she wasn't the only one that needed help in that area.

     I would never typically describe Eric and My's relationship as "co-dependant," but I have to say, and I'm not proud of this, is that for years I have used him as a coping mechanism just like Dali used Kobi.  Anything I feared I did with him and would certainly never do without him.  That option came to a screeching halt last week.  I had to travel to California on business.  Accountants don't travel as a rule unless you are an auditor, then that's a whole different enchilada, but typically your scope is right there in your cube.  I wasn't an accountant anymore, though, I'm now in Sales.  Salespeople travel....and Eric can't go with me.

     You are probably aware from my series last year on fear that there are some key things I'm afraid of, you know, besides sharks.   You may have gathered that I am afraid of flying and elevators, but what you may not have gathered is that I'm afraid of getting sick, particular having the kind of migraine that can send you to the hospital like I did a year and a half ago without Eric being there.  Doing this was completely not going to be easy at all and, I'll be honest, I did a lot of private crying and praying because I was having such a hard time with it all.  I shut down sometimes like I imagine Dali would have if we ever had sent her to the kennel alone all those years.

     Then the day came.  I had to go.  I kissed my husband and dog goodbye and cried halfway to the airport.  I was mad that other people my age didn't have these issues.  In my mind I was marching to my certain death, but no one else seemed to feel that way.  That or they were really good at hiding it.  I couldn't be the only one afraid of flying, could I?  I actually scheduled three of my co-workers, who were also going out there, on the same flight.  I couldn't be a blubbering mess in front of my co-workers.  I'll admit it; potential shame is an awesome fear killer.  It helps as well these people were funny and jokers, and faked screamed and shook my seat as we took off in order to make me laugh.

    Did I just use them to cope, too, like I do my husband?  I mean, Dali would be nice to anybody while staying at their house, then the minute Eric and I would be in the picture, she would turn around and nip them.  True story.  She was survivor.  Only problem was she didn't understand that she didn't need to do that.  She was going to be taken care of and not ever hurt by the person who's house she was staying at.  The only people she ever trusted completely not to hurt her were Eric and myself.  That fear was so ingrained in her very being, she just couldn't see past it...

   ...Oh my God...once again...I was the Bulldog.

   So, honestly, here is what I did before I was even seated, waiting to take off with my co-workers.  When I say this, know I don't care of what faith you are, or aren't, but it helps to have some kind of belief system, even if it's a tremendous faith in yourself, to get beyond a fear this deep.  For me, I prayed until I understood and felt that God was with me and I would be fine.  That took a tremendous amount of praying until I really felt His presence in my gut as if no one could hurt me.  Not this time.  Not this trip.  I don't think I could have gotten to that place if I didn't take the time to be with the issue, process it, roll it over in my mind, then really give it to someone higher than myself.  I wrestled with it for days before I left and somewhere in the airport, before I got on that plane, I made a peace with it.  I declared it done.  Over with.  I made a serious "leap of faith."

     I just knew I was going to be okay.  I weathered take-offs, turbulence, hotel elevators (all alone by myself I might add), and didn't get a single migraine.  I not only made it home okay, but I had a great time out in California.  I'll tell you what though, I hugged Kobi when I got home like I never had before.  I think I was trying to tell him I was sorry for everything with Dali.  The stress it must have been on him to take care of such a fearful companion...

     .....Go on, "Bubba," and relax.  Yours and "Daddy's" work are done.

Happy Fishing!




Monday, January 14, 2013

Apples and Trees

     So, as I've mentioned, I'm trying to take time for myself and offload some of the various activities that keep me way busier than I need to be.  Things are going swimmingly (pardon the pun) well.  I'm the happiest I've been in awhile.  Still a few things that need, let's call it, "fixing," but I am dealing with them better and better everyday.  I am more refreshed and more up to "starfish grabbing" than I've been in awhile.  There is one thing though that I can't completely seem to get away from, and try as I may, it keeps coming back over and over again... 

      ...This thing of which I speak is genetics.

      Okay so maybe not totally genetics.  I don't want to get into the nature vs. nurture argument here, but I can't seem to put my family's past behind me. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know, or at least have been introduced to glimpses of the fact, that I didn't have the best of relationships with my biological mother.  So instead of a few more situational glimpses, I'm going to briefly detail what happened.

     Let me first say that I have forgiveness in my heart for my biological mother.  After spending time examining it, and getting bits and pieces of information from my father, I realized my mother couldn't help who she was.  I don't know if it was all "nature."  I don't know if it was all "nurture."  I would put my money on it that it was a combination of the two, but my mother abused me from the time I was twelve until I left home at age sixteen.  It was verbal abuse at first, but then became physical.  The stories I've told in this blog are all from before that age, but you could see where our relationship was headed.

     I have worked very hard to achieve some sort of "normalcy" to my life.  Anyone who was belittled constantly starts to believe their own unworthiness.  Any one beaten starts to wonder if they deserved it and isn't fit to have better in their lives.  It has taken great amounts of self-examination to function as well as I currently believe I do.  I am grateful that I have a wonderful marriage, in-laws who love me, a decent relationship with my Dad, and that I don't breakdown at the sign of difficulty or become riddled with anger like I used to.  I've cried alot.  I've had to face who I am honestly.  I have had to change my mindset habitually every day until positivity and love truly became part of my thought patterns.  I had to love myself, and my past, for better or worse.  I am fully reconciled with that part of my life...

     ...Now to the point...

     I have a favorite saying as of late.  "The apple didn't fall far from the tree."  See? Genetics...

     I have tried to roll down the hill and into the village below in my best attempt to get away from the tree, and become something greater, like an apple pie....but I digress.  One of the other apples, however, is trying desperately to get me to be part of the bushel again.  Remember how I just said I was fully reconciled with that part of my life?  Maybe I'm just okay with the "tree...."

     ... I hadn't thought about the other apple...

     I was amazed at all the pain this person, uh, "apple" was able to resurrect in my life, but I really shouldn't have been surprised.  I started to see my biological mother in everything this person did.  Over the last year I have relived every single indiscretion taken out upon me as a teenager through watching this person's actions. Sometimes I would even be the recipient of private message insults and threats when to the rest of the world they would come off as a delightful, knowledgeable, and maybe even trustworthy.  Knowing how they behaved, I had tried for so many years to distance myself. Technology has made the world so small, and it's harder than just not answering phone calls any more.  I found myself going back to that bad place in my memories because of the distress that this person was trying to create for me, and even a few others around them.  Every part of the seed of this apple had come directly from the roots of the tree. Much like my biological mother, they just couldn't help themselves...

     ...and then I realized something...

     I am no longer that abused little girl.  I have forgiven the "tree."  I now have to forgive the "apple" because it was born of the "tree" and has never been able to see how to roll down the hill and into the village to become something greater (like the apple pie).  I want to say something most people don't realize about forgiveness.  They think that forgiveness means you have to forget and pretend like nothing ever happened.  Not true.  Forgiveness is for them, but ultimately, it's really for you.  It's an understanding of why that person did what they did so you can move on with your life and realize it wasn't because you were a bad person or you deserved it or any of the things that can hold you back from your life.  The forgiveness process includes, even though you understand why someone is doing what they are doing to you, never letting them have that option again...ever...

     There are some ways to escape technology and to keep others from harassing you. I think I'm figuring out how to do that while continuing with the more peaceful person I've become and life I have.  I've just rolled too far away from the tree to be put back in the bushel. 

     Where's the ice cream?  Say what you want, apple; you can't touch me.  I'm a pie now!

     Happy Fishing!


P.S. - Some of you may wonder why I refer to my mother as my "biological mother."  I don't want her to be confused with the wonderful stepmother I had when I moved in with her and my Dad after leaving home at sixteen.  I have been known to call my stepmother my mother, so that's why the distinction.  I think having that stable home with her, my Dad, and my foster sister aided this "apple" to roll down the hill. For that I will forever be thankful and feel blessed.