Conversation #5: Shine a Light on Danelle

“How far that little candle throws his beams!  So shines a good deed in a weary world.”-  William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Have you ever met someone who, while you are standing there talking to them, becomes a source of light?  It’s kinda bizarre when it happens.  But that is precisely the experience of being around my friend Danelle.  It’s time for me to shine the proverbial light on her and let you get to know her too.

Danelle is a gift which yoga has given me.  She is an instructor at my studio, but practiced next to me long before I knew she taught as well.  I always saw her in class, smiling, but it took me an introverted long time to actually talk to her.  I remember thinking she was just way too positive and enlightened a  force to be down with a sailor-mouth like myself.  But that is the thing about her.  You are comfortable the minute you talk to her.  She is easy in an elegant, breath of fresh air, open and sing-song kind of way.  When you are in class, sweating your ass off, struggling, wishing for the end, that’s when Danelle steps in.  With her words and with her energetic presence, you are somehow reassured.  You know you can make it.  It’s a remarkable quality.

As well as being a yoga instructor, Danelle also runs a massage practice out of her cozy home.  Before I received a massage from her, I worried about telling her some things I didn’t like during a massage.  Like talking too much.  Or being cold.  Or pain.  But of course, she is incredibly honest and makes you feel so comfortable that things you might worry about are not an issue.  Not because it didn’t hurt a couple times.  It did.  But because her unspoken message to you is that you are her first concern and you will be given the TLC and difficult work that you are not able or willing to give yourself.  She knows things.  I am not sure how, but she does.  If she wasn’t such a goddamn charming combination of vulnerable and commanding, it would be annoying.

As someone who can quite easily go to self doubt and the “dark side,” I find Danelle’s dogged insistence on the positive to be refreshing.  You know those annoyingly upbeat people who you want to shake?  She is not one of them.  Danelle has had pain and heartache, but has a matched dose of realism.  She calls herself “woo-woo” and others have called her “dreamy” because of her upbeat and spiritual sensibility, but she is decidedly pragmatic.  She can be tearful and willing to bare her soul, but she also is able to put the hammer down when it comes to what she believes in.  For example, when talking about her adorable 4 year old son, she says her goal as a parent is that  “he will never, ever, ever (like 20 more evers…) feel that he is not good enough.”    And I feel the resolve in her words.   Spoken by a person who has known how it feels to be abandoned, but also knows she is not going to fucking let that happen to any child of hers.  Ever.

One of my favorite words is Sanskrit is satya or truth.  Danelle embodies truth.  She has an active meditation practice (I am jealous.  I am someone who has always wanted to have one) that relies heavily on mantras.  She is cognizant of how thoughts and vibrations can “create a situation” and is extremely self aware on how to stop this from happening.  During a disagreement with her husband, she might remind herself of the beach or something else she loves to change the energy. At times where she is frustrated or off center, she returns to places of happiness rather than adding fuel to the fire.  This is incredibly difficult to do, but she manages to pull it off.  She says the more you do it, the easier it gets.  And somehow, from within my deepest doubting self, I believe her.

Danelle also gives me a suburban smackdown.  When I ask her how she keeps the suburbs from crushing her soul, she tells me that the suburbs are not robbers of the soul, they are keepers of community.  As her voice cracks, and her big beautiful eyes widen, she tells me that the suburbs are a place of family, unlike the one where she grew up.  It’s about taking a deep breath, going and knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking for eggs.  Or a jumper cable.  It’s knowing that there is someone there to help.  Even if that someone is you.

In the future, Danelle hopes to open her own yoga studio from where she can have her massage practice as well.  She hopes that her globe-trekking pilot husband will be more local more often.  Her son will feel loved and accepted.  She will be making a profit and making a difference.  She is so task-oriented and organized, you know she will make it happen.  She is crystal clear on what she wants and where her skills lie.  She knows that in order to be there for others, your own needs have to be met and then you can be there for others.  (From her years in the airline industry, she knows you have to first put the oxygen mask on yourself).  I can’t wait for you to go to her studio!

You can’t help but be a better person simply by knowing her.

 

Many thanks as always to Barbara Paulsen at Mt. Hood Mama Iphoneography for the photo.

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A Suburban Soliloquy

School should be a safe place to learn and grow.

School should be a safe place to learn and grow.  Photo courtesy of Mt. Hood Mama photos.

I feel so lucky that my kids had runny noses, that they almost forgot their lunches and whined about the weather.  There are 20 families in Connecticut this morning that didn’t get so lucky.  Two of them had funerals instead.  Today I was fortunate enough to have the day off and go to my favorite yoga class.  As tears and sweat mingled in salty reverie, I was inspired to write even though most of my weekend was spent in a state of autopilot, despair and hibernation.

Like so many of you, I watched the coverage of the shootings with disbelief.  And like many of you, I resisted the urge to run to the school to pick up my kids.  Dropping off my kids at school today, I felt more than fear.  I felt dread.  You see, dread is what you feel when something happens suddenly without warning and when that same thing is something you have absolutely no control over.  Our brains tend to overestimate danger from such causes (think plane crashes, mass murderers etc.)  The threat is bigger than our comprehension, so our fears multiply.  Breathe, friends.  It’s rare.

And then I am reminded of my recent brush with guns and am suddenly aware of how close to home this type of tragedy can be.  When we feel out of control, we want to fix the problem, rage against the NRA and demand better mental health care for our citizens.  I hear you.  But can we slow down?  Can we let these families grieve first?  Can we first just be uncomfortable?  It doesn’t feel good to be uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s necessary.

There are other things I can do to help my community.  Nothing radical, nothing controversial.  They might include:

  • do some bell ringing for the Salvation Army.
  • hug a kid with Asperger’s (asking permission first of course, they tend not to like it.  On second thought, play a computer game with them)
  • adopt a family for Christmas.
  • put one of the toys you bought for your kid in a donation box.
  • pray, breathe, dedicate, devote, sing, offer, create
  • make a gingerbread house with your kid
  • write a note to someone you love
  • etc etc etc…………..

This kind of loving energy is as essential as air to all of us as we go about the business of preparing for the holidays, all the while knowing that other families are not as privileged.  While I am dedicating these small actions to the families who have survived immeasurable loss, I am not wishing them “comfort”.  I am wishing them the time to reflect and grieve, space from nosy reporters, the ability to treat themselves to loving kindness, a hope that one day the holidays won’t be synonymous with sadness and the strength to be there for the living.

But mostly I wish them a purpose, a divine strength that guides them into action.  Not now, one day, when agony gives way to ache, may they have the will to tell a story.  One whose ending is not yet written.

In the meantime, the suburbs witnessed an evil act.  But the suburbs are not the problem.  We, in fact, are the solution.

What will you do?

Conversation #3: Extra Special Extrovert

I spent an absolutely delightful afternoon with my friend Michelle at Pine State Biscuits last Monday.  It was sunny outside, a welcome change, so we took advantage by sitting outside in the sun.  Michelle is technically not a suburban mom, she lives in the city limits, but her upbringing was solidly suburban and she fits in well with suburbo-types.  Michelle is a “work friend,” she is an occupational therapist (like me) and we work together at a local clinic.   As a new hire last year, Michelle was the first OT I met and we worked together pretty intensely covering a maternity leave for another OT.  I instantly felt a connection to her, and you would too.  Trust me.  She is one captivating gal.

Michelle has a wide-eyed, curious, outspoken and open-armed view of the world.  She has a huge smile and you feel completely unjudged, listened to and giddy when you are around her.  The best word I can use to describe her is twinkly.  She is just that nice to be around.  Don’t get me wrong though, she has her opinions.  She is resistant to pigeon holing because she is a dichotomy in a few ways.  Michelle worries about underserved kids and families, but is also a cute dresser with a flair for color and finer textiles.  She is patient, calm and easy with the kids we work with, but will raise her voice when it comes to things she finds an outrage.  She is the parent of three Waldorf educated boys, shuns technology and enjoys the creative process.  However, she has high standards for her crafts.  No crap crafts, please.  Michelle believes in healing and the ancient practices of Qigong and yoga.  She is a certified cranio-sacral practitioner (and a few more certifications that are less known to readers) but the glory of a walk outside is also a direct route to curing what ails you.  She sits in the front row at her church so her boys are well behaved while in attendance.  Despite the stereotypes of churchgoers, Michelle is liberal and open minded and she has no tolerance for things which block the path to happiness, yours or her own.

“Most people would probably say I’m a good mom,” is what Michelle says when asked what is the most frequent compliment she receives.  That’s an understatement.  I personally feel empowered by Michelle’s parenting style which steadfastly upholds her ideals.  Those ideals would be togetherness, fun, firmness, free thinking and good old fashioned values.  She has an uncanny ability to not get sucked into peer pressure.  Talking about a friend who starts worrying about summer camps in January, Michelle says she shuts it down.  Her first priority is family time, not scheduling, worrying, list making and competing.  She says she can’t be bothered by that stuff, it’s a drain on her and all the things she would like to do with her family.  Michelle travels back to childhood home in New York at least a few times a year.  This is incredible to me, a native East Coaster.  Three kids and mom and dad making the cross country trek so frequently?   But when Michelle describes her family, I see why it’s so important to her.  While her siblings are all very different, their mom was the guiding force- always telling them that they could do anything and giving them powerful messages of self ability every step of the way.  Family is the center, and that is that.

Friendships are also a high priority for Michelle.  She gravitates toward others who feel the same way about family and together time.  Michelle is a self professed extrovert.  When I was younger, I probably could not have been friends with Michelle.  Her ability to completely pay attention to me, eyes never failing to connect, ideas always supported and firmly entrenched in an underlying confidence: this would have been unnerving to me.  It would have scared me and made me uncomfortable and nervous.  But now I welcome her strength because I think it strengthens me.  It motivates me to be a better parent, friend and less wishy-washy.  She understands that community begins with family and extends to friendships and neighbors and her loyalty is a result of that.  She craves relationships with other like minded people, like school moms or neighbors.  She feels drawn to others by something not quite known, but trusts her ability to recognize a friend.  She is practical too, instinctively knowing it’s harder to be friends with people whose kids are different ages.  Michelle and I are drawn together by the similarities in our husbands and how they think alike, in a very pragmatic way.  We also bond over our the fact that we are most definitely not techno-savvy. When it comes to gossip (topic of an upcoming post), Michelle enjoys a bit of it now and then but knows where to draw the line.  She stops if it comes down to saying something that you wouldn’t say directly to the person.  And she would.  Believe me.

In 10 years, when two of the three boys will be out of the house, she sees herself as being the same in many ways.  But she would definitely like to travel more with her husband, something she loves but has largely let go of in order to raise her family.  Michelle will no doubt be the same anchor for her children that her own family in New York continues to be for her.  She will be the same protective, loving and compassionate person she is, but with more time to sew and create.  She will be the same person with the same “can do” attitude.  I love that the next work day after I interviewed her, she came in and said, “I keep thinking of things I should have said when you asked me things!”  She is compelled to get it right.  Just by virtue of knowing her, so are you.  In 10 years, I am sure that Michelle will be sending home made care packages to her sons, continuing to frequently visit family members, traveling, voicing her opinion (loudly), struggling with technology, working a pop of color in her outfits, giggling, and in general making the world a better place.  I only hope I am still her friend to see it all.

Thanks Michelle!  Biscuits and tea are awesome.

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