Bag Lady

Blessed are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.
– Unknown

My name is Danielle and I’m a bag-a-holic. Where there is an opportunity to snag a free, reusable tote I’m all over it. Even if it’s not entirely free, it’s often a surefire way to get me to fork over some cash.

A free workout bag and yoga mat with a shoe purchase? Oh, I’m all over that. And look, I have a store coupon too!

Bags 1

Two decorative sacks and a whale-covered cooler bag? Yes, please! I will happily write you a contribution check. Two checks to two different non-profits in this case. Money well spent, I must to say.

Bags 3

If there is a bag to be had, I’m all over it.

Bags 2

I do put these bags to good use. I have a stash in my car for groceries and stops at Target. I’ve used them for workouts, nights at the Hollywood Bowl, weekend trips away, and to carry supplies.

However, having worked as a professional organizer, I recognize when enough is enough and recently culled back. I still have a nice supply squirreled away in my closet, all neatly arranged. But I’m gonna need to keep my grabby hands to myself and just say no to adding any more to my current collection.

Bags 4

Ok, one more confession: I have a thing for pens and notepads. While others leave hotels with shampoo bottles or towels, if I like the pen on that nightstand it typically disappears along with the notepad into my purse. The pens I go through quickly – I do a lot of crossword puzzles. The notepads….well, it’s time to do some recycling.

How about you? Any collections you care to confess to?

You are love(d).

Hope in the heart of Kilauea Iki

Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.
– Maya Angelou

When I visited Hawaii in 2010, I took a hike across the Kilauea crater. Kilauea Iki last erupted in 1959 for 36 days. It took 36 years for the lava lake to harden. While the ground is now solid, the core is still hot and you can see and feel steam rising through cracks in the ground.

DSC03085.JPG

Hiking across what initially appeared to be a barren landscape, it surprised me to see small green buds, bushes, and plants scattered about growing somehow between fractures in the rock floor. How had those roots managed to take hold in what seemed such an inhospitable place?

DSC03116.JPG

Those tiny pieces of foliage have been on my mind lately. I’m currently starting my mornings with a meditation practice, with help from Deepak Chopra and a 21-day meditation challenge. The focus is on hope in uncertain times. Quite apropos for right now on many levels, especially a personal one.

Nearing half a century in age this year, I find myself at another fork in the road. Because I’ve spent much of my outer life either doing what I was told or what was expected of me, my inner spirit has experienced its own form of volcanic activity in the form of anger and depression. As much as I like to think of myself as a positive person, when I sink into my heart each morning during that meditation, it feels a lot like that barren crater of Kilauea Iki.

DSC03118.JPG

Essentially, I’ve still no clue what to do with my life. I’ve spent the majority of my adult years making a living at work that has never been a passion or given me much joy outside of a regular paycheck. Though I’ve luckily always had the pleasure and good fortune to work with terrific people, that does not a fulfilling life make.

It’s added a few extra cracks to my already broken heart to meet myself each day doing this exercise and sense how unhappy I’ve been for so long and how hard my heart has become, as if a steel trap door has been clamped shut across my chest and vacuum-sealed for good measure. I went in looking for hope only to find fear had set up shop long ago and built itself a sprawling estate.

DSC03122.JPG

See, here’s the thing: I am the queen of cheerleaders for other people. I’ve had people roll their eyes and tease me about my sometimes Pollyanna-esque persona. I can find encouraging words and a silver lining in just about anything –- when it’s about someone else. I’ve been able to do it for myself at times too, though not nearly as well or as easily. When it comes to me, I’m usually just annoyed with myself. But I get over it and move on, right?

Sure, I knew insecurity and anxiety had been constant companions. And yes, battles with depression, disease, and a host of other disappointments have had years to spill out and leave behind a sea of destruction. But I could have sworn I’d overcome so much of that. I did not know there could still be this much hurt or how deep the damage went. How have I managed to deceive myself for so long?

And most importantly, how do I even begin to invite hope in again?

I’m purposely taking time in my life now to sift through the embers and decide on a new course heading and do some healing. So I’m thinking about those signs of life I saw all across Kilauea’s rocky crater. If they can find a way in a place that seems so hostile, is there a way for hope to open the door and take root in the cracks and crevices of my heart?

Dare I say it? I’m hoping so.

DSC03115.JPG

In the meantime….

You are love(d).

Why I Vote

Ask not what your country can do for you…..

My mother was called for jury duty only once in her life. She was so excited about it and wanted so much to be selected that she put together a special outfit to show her pride. “I even wore red, white, and blue colors!” she said with dismay after not being chosen. It was funny because it was a very Mom thing to do. But I also loved her passion and desire to show up and serve as a citizen.

It’s not like it was something we discussed in our family, but voting was just what you did. And my involvement in activism after college made being a part of the political process in this one small way even more important. I remember kicking myself for not registering to vote in time when I moved to Atlanta in 1990 and having to miss the gubernatorial election that year.

I’ll confess I’m pretty proud of my voting record, especially in the last seventeen years I’ve been in California. The votes may not have always gone my way, but I always try to make an effort to show up and make sure my voice is counted. And I’ll admit I’m still rather mystified by those who don’t.

lincoln

Whether it’s a belief their vote won’t count, or a dislike of the candidates, or some idea that nothing will change and all politicians are the same, to me, well, it seems tragically shortsighted. Because there’s a lot more at stake than just who gets the Oval Office.

On every ballot there will be a number of propositions directly impacting your city and state government. In California we have no less than 25 measures to vote on. Twenty-freakin’-five! (Sorry, Texas, we’re bigger in this department.) Seventeen of these measures are state measures and include decisions on a cigarette tax, the death penalty, Citizens United, and even requiring mandatory condom use in adult films. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.

North Dakota will have 6 measures on their ballot including a tobacco tax, medical marijuana, and the rights of crime victims. Voters in Maine will be answering the call on a tax issue, background checks for guns, and a minimum wage increase. Almost every state is asking its residents to help make decisions like these.

Guess what else you get to vote on when you show up at the polls on November 8th? Congress! That’s right, seats in the House and Senate are up for grabs. Been feeling low about Capitol Hill’s performance these days? Feel like you aren’t being properly represented in your district? Here’s your chance to do something about it!

Oh, and did I mention there are also state and local judges to elect to the bench and candidates for school boards too?

All of those measures, Congressional seats, and judges are decided on by the people. Every person’s vote is counted toward a decisive whole on matters that could directly impact you and your community – and how you’re all represented. Voting isn’t just about the presidency. It’s about every level of political office and matters of state law.

As for the presidency, I may not always be thrilled with the candidates, but I also know I’m not voting for prom queen. I don’t vote for someone because I can “have a beer with them” nor do I buy into the idea that I need to like them. They’re not going to come over to my place to Netflix and chill any time soon – or ever. Which is good because I don’t want them to. They’re supposed to be doing their job helping our country run and improve, not become my new BFF.

The likeability factor, for me, is overrated. Personally, I want a leader who’s got a plan and whose focus is on getting shit done, not on being voted most popular. I already know the candidates are flawed. And I already know I’m not going to like everything they do and I’m already prepared for mistakes to be made. They’re human and they have to deal with other humans (Congress) which means it’s likely gonna get messy. Trust me, even if you like a candidate today, they will eventually do something to piss you off. It’s a given. We’re not gonna get perfection from anybody.

Yes, it’s been an ugly election, but I don’t buy into the ugly. I’m sick of it and it’s exhausting, but it’s hardly a first. And we’ve always been afraid of something and/or someone. Generating fear is a go-to tactic for most politicians. It’s interesting how each time people seemed so surprised by it all. History does repeat itself – because we keep forgetting it.

So the mud-slinging, the name-calling, and the fear-baiting…while it’s been a lot more immature this time around (from one candidate in particular), none of this is really new, not to me at least. It’s just got a different face – and a Twitter account.

And for the record, this country is already pretty remarkable as are its people. We have work to do and we’ve certainly got a fair share of ugly stains on the pages of our past. But, oh my, have we also come through a lot. We’ve been through booms and busts and wars and crises. We get our fair share of grief from other countries, understandably, but we are still recognized as one of the greatest forces to be reckoned with.

And yet despite all this, there are those who still insist on and want us to believe we’re on the verge of the apocalypse.

We’re not. We’re still here and we’re gonna be okay. Because that’s what we Americans do. We find a way. No, it’s isn’t always easy or pretty. And it’s absolutely not through violence. But sometimes it does mean speaking up. And one of the ways we get to do that is through voting.

I take seriously, especially as a woman, that people were beaten, jailed, and even murdered fighting for everyone’s right to have a place in the voting booth. They risked reputation,  ridicule, and much more because they believed this right was so vital. I honor them and their sacrifices by believing it too. Even if it doesn’t go my way.

I care about what’s on the ballot because while it may not immediately or directly impact me, I know it will impact others. And I care about that. I think those issues are worth taking some time out of my day to take a stand on. I believe in standing for something and for my community.

…ask what you can do for your country.

I believe voting is one of the ways I get to show up for my country.

Yes, I know my lone vote won’t sway any decision one way or the other, but I do know it counts toward a larger whole – and that does count for something. One person pushing a boulder won’t move it. But a lot of people pushing that boulder? That gets the job done. I’d rather help push the boulder if it means clearing the path for better possibilities in the future, if I believe it will help move us forward.

And I will also show up and push because I know others are going to show up in droves to push back and keep that boulder in its place and that path blocked. Which side will have more people show up? When it comes to voting, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Numbers matter. Personally, I want to contribute my part to the whole.

To some, I imagine my words are going to seem very simplistic and idealistic. Well, frankly, I do think we make things entirely more complex than they often need to be and I’d rather aspire to a higher ideal than wallow in anger, misery, and fear.

And so I vote. Because if I don’t, then I’m essentially giving up my power and letting other people make the decision for me. That isn’t patriotic or thoughtful. It’s really just kinda lazy. Anybody can talk about wanting change, but actions speak louder than words and I know what I want my actions to say about me.

Unlike my fabulous mom, I don’t need to wear red, white, and blue or a flag pin to prove I care about my country. And I’m not sharing all this to brag or condescend. It’s simply my long-winded way of trying to offer another perspective on why voting matters and why I hope you’ll show up to vote too. Take it or leave it.

emerson

An election is the one day a year my government sends me a formal invitation to participate in the process and play in the political sandbox. I intend to always RSVP by checking the box that says, “Yes.”

How will you respond?

You are love(d).

 

In the company of bees

“Fear can make a moth seem the size of a bull elephant.”
― Stephen Richards, Releasing You from Fear

I used to be scared of bees. And I mean terrified. I’m talking run screaming, arms flailing, there-might-as-well-be-a-swarm-pursuing-me, full-on meltdown. It’s incredible how something so small could cause such a powerful reaction.

giphy

According to my mom, I stepped on a bee when I was a toddler and I suppose that one painful experience was where my fear began. But I got older and figured out my fear was unnecessary and unfounded. I watched with awe as others handled a bee’s presence so casually and calmly, and began to practice it myself. I started to see bees for their gifts instead of their stinger. And I stopped being afraid.

And you know the funny thing? I was never afraid of spiders. Ever. I’d flee from a bee but walk right up to a web. As far back as I can remember, spiders and other creepy-crawly creatures enthralled me. Hold a tarantula? Yes, please! (They did, however, completely freak my sister out. On more than one occasion I was called upon to kill a spider if one was discovered lurking in her room. I still feel kind of bad about that.)

DSC00054.JPG

Fear is fascinating, remarkably individual, and also very deceptive. What one person thinks is cool will make another person’s hands clammy. ‘Fess up, do you cringe looking at that spider picture? I get it. No judgment. (Well, I don’t get it because I think the spider is gorgeous, but still…no judgment.)

I share all this because I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately. About my own fears and how I have let fear rule much of my life. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Some fears are understandably born from bad experiences, situations that stung. But, if I’m really honest, something that isn’t always easy to do, most of my fears are based only on conjecture and the darkly creative imaginings of my own mind over “what might happen.” Cue ominous music.

“Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.”
― Epictetus

From fleeing bees to not pursuing my passions and dreams to not speaking up and speaking out, fear has held me back. And don’t even get me started on the seeds of fear planted by my parents and others around me: It’s hard, it’s stupid, it’s not possible, that’s not how it’s done, only the lucky or special few find success, and on and on.

Fear has filled my head and kept me from trying because the possibility that I might be hurt or fail or make a fool of myself was enough to prevent me from living fully, exploring all I am, and allowing others, and my own mistakes, to teach me.

Fear can be a gift; it’s meant to keep us safe. But focus too much on fear and it will turn on you and become a walled fortress of reasons why you can’t and excuses why you won’t.

“Overcoming what frightens you the most strengthens you the most.”
― Matshona Dhliwayo

Once upon a time, my mind took a single sting and blew it into a fear so great that any encounter with a bee was the equivalent of being chased by a monster with a hacksaw. It sounds crazy even writing it, and yet that’s exactly how I remember it feeling. But our minds and emotions are powerful and can send us down rabbit holes of doubt, dread, and despair. And boy, have I let mine play me like a fiddle.

You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.
– Morpheus in “The Matrix”

So what is really true? The truth is a bee is simply a bee. It’s not out to get me. Yes, it may sting if it feels threatened or a need to defend itself, but it’s just as likely that it won’t. And, after all, aren’t we all a bit like that too?

What might I uncover if I allow myself to dig deeper and wonder what else is possible? Is this fear really a threat or is it imagined and based on assumption or misperception? Maybe if I simply stand here and breathe and be calm, the bee will fly off, maybe the right answer will come, maybe I’ll learn something I didn’t know, or maybe, even if I do fall, I will be more than I was before more because I tried.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think or question or allow for some skepticism in life. Just that I have to think and question myself and my deeper motives and assumptions – and fears – as well. At least that’s what I’m trying to do more of every day. Because I’m finding the real danger lurks within me, among the swarm of fears buzzing around in my mind.

You are love(d).

PS – The above “covered in bees” gif is courtesy of Giphy.com and features my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard. To see his hilarious bit about beekeepers and being “covered in bees,” visit this link and enjoy his brilliantly absurd take on, well, everything: https://youtu.be/Xs-tl6GBOBo

Hello, World. Welcome to mine.

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”  ― Joan Didion

When I was young, my mother used to call me her little brown mouse. I can understand why. I was shy, skittish, and hugged the corners of hallways hoping to escape within the walls. As desperate as I was to be noticed, I dreaded being seen even more.

An outgoing, extroverted woman who came out of the womb joining clubs and volunteering, my lovely Mom didn’t quite know what to do with quiet, introspective me. I never really did either. Well…I had ideas, but never the gumption to follow through on them.

8 years old

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life in the shadows, occasionally daring to venture outside the comfort zone of my mouse hole, only to duck back inside when things got messy. When depression and disease set in. When what little confidence I had was shredded.

I’ve lost my voice twice in life. First figuratively, by allowing others to speak for me. Then literally, to a disease for which I was told there was no cure. Thankfully, the disease in my body is gone; the dis-ease within my mind, however, still likes to rattle the bars of its cage.

It’s time to turn this around. It’s time to be seen, even if only by my own eyes.

20151101_135346

 

Because I may have been quiet, but I’ve been paying attention. And I’ve got a few things to say. I’d like to think I’ve stored up some wisdom over all these long winters, though I may be the only one gaining from it.

Because there is so much swirling in my head that I want to sort through and too much in my heart wanting, and needing, to be expressed and released. I know I’ll feel better for finally giving voice to both.

Because there are things that piss me off. While this hippie chick’s goal at the end of the day may be peace, kindness, and compassion, I’m also a rock ‘n roll girl at heart so there will be attitude and there will be swearing. You’ve been warned.

Because maybe I can provide a little comfort for those who, like me, have felt alone, different, afraid, and ashamed of any or all of it.

I have no idea how this grand experiment will unfold. Perhaps no one will read any of this. And that’s okay. Sometimes the message is really meant for the person sharing it. What I do know is it’s time for this little brown mouse to find her voice.

So, welcome to my world. As you enter, please note the greeting on the door. It’s a simple truth I wholeheartedly believe and yet think we so often forget. At least I know I do, but I’m working on it. From my soul to yours:

You are love(d).