The New Kids On The Block Accidentally Made Me Feel Better by Dana Bergstrom

When I lose focus and start comparing myself to others, looking for differences, it seems I'm either giving my power away by thinking their life is better than mine or I'm trying to feel more powerful or more fortunate by believing I'm somehow better off than them.

But all that really happens is that I feel separate from my fellow humans.

I've discovered that it's the focus on separation itself that drains my energy and power.

Lately, it's getting easier to tell if I'm concentrating on differences and have left my essence, my connected human heart, by how crappy I feel.

I've felt separate for much of my life, which, to me, explains my decades-long ups and downs with depression.

Ever since I was a tiny kid, I've felt a lot of disconnection.

I was even convinced I'd been born into the wrong family.

And, guess what? 

My suspicions were confirmed when I went to the circus! 

I had little interest in the ringmaster, clowns, and animals doing tricks, but as soon as I spotted the glittery outfits on that sparkly family swinging from high trapezes with their slicked back hairdos and fancy eye makeup, I knew I'd missed those spectacular bouncy nets and mistakenly landed in stiff church pews instead!

Hey, you flashy, spinning, twirling, flying, smiling spazzes!

Y'ALL ARE MY PEOPLE!

Wait...

that little girl in the teal, sequin covered outfit and I are about the same age!

Maybe ALL she ever wanted to do was memorize Bible verses, sing solos in church, and go to Sunday School!

And here she was, being forced to somersault at crazy heights and wear leotards that rode up her butt!

SHE WAS LIVIN' MY DREAM!!!

Minus the butt thing.

Maybe we got mixed up at the hospital!

Maybe she felt as out of place in her family as I did!

Who knows.

All I know is that it DID NOT FEEL GOOD to compare my life to that little girl's. 

And it doesn't feel good to compare where I'm at with anyone else now, although it can help me get clarity on what I really want when I stumble upon something that feels rotten.

Besides knowing that I can pivot to something that suits me better, there is an upside to comparison:

Other people's stories help me feel less alone. 

When I hear a story and realize I've had the same experience, I remember that we're all in this Human Being Thing together. 

I was reading a book about how to heal trauma and discovered that other people who've experienced chronic trauma, tend to FREEZE in frightening situations, instead of the usual fight or flight.

Really?! They do?!

I felt a MASSIVE wave of relief!

When I experience something shocking or frightening, my brain shuts down. I can't think or move.

In extra scary situations, my leg muscles even give out and I drop to the ground, like those hilarious fainting goats.

I've been embarrassed my whole life about that!

And can you imagine how inconvenient this is during emergencies?

Like car crashes?

I've been in a few and it's like my mind cannot process what just happened. It takes the longest time to realize I need to get out of the car.

Then there's an even longer amount of time before I can remember how to dial my phone.

Language also completely eludes me. I just stand there frozen in shocked silence.

Maybe it's not from the trauma at all, maybe a DNA test will prove that I am part fainting goat!

Whatever the cause, the wiring in my brain has not been set up for disturbing events and I've felt super alone in this because I don't know anyone else who freezes during crises.

That's why I don't go to haunted houses.

The second I got my first BOO! I'd become a limp puddle on the floor and they'd have to halt all haunting and spooking till some strong soul could carry me and all my potbellies out.

Another positive comparison: 

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A friend posted super fun pics on Facebook of her partner at the New Kids On The Block concert, shaking hands with Donnie Wahlberg as throngs of 40+ year old women clamored for the New Kids' attention.

OMG!

These photos made me soooooo happy because my guilty pleasure is singing at the top of my lungs to the Backstreet Boys, who I totally overlooked during their heyday, but thanks to this video of a dancing parrot, made me rush to iTunes a few years ago and download their album lickety-split!

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I dance and sing to them in behind closed doors and I've felt SO ISOLATED IN MY MIDDLE-AGED LADY BOY BAND LOVE!

But now I know I'm far from alone and I can stop being self-conscious about it already.

So!

To wrap this confessional post up, comparison to find differences from others feels crappy and comparison to find similarities feels pretty good.

Our bodies are amazing communication devices.

And I'm beginning to get a much better read on mine these days, as it lets me know if I'm veering off course or if I'm feeling our unity and staying connected to my heart.

Thieves by Dana Bergstrom

Pauly and I are often on the lookout for things to steal, kinda like a less extreme Bonnie-and-Clyde-type duo.

We discovered our shared interest in swiping stuff soon after we wed.

A favorite spot is bookstores, but we often do it online.

Then there's also the random driving around town during daytime hours.

When we notice something, the car comes to a full stop and we do our thing.

And our thing is snapping a photo.

We steal ideas.

Like this one!

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Pauly spotted this pic in a magazine along with a few other options for deck railings.

And I was completely smitten with the playful design.

Actually, I've never been this excited about a deck railing before.

When I realized that we could bring this super adorable design to life, I jumped all over the front yard, clapping with excitement.

Wrapping up my front lawn celebration, we immediately tracked down our hole saw bits. Then, after making a few test cuts, we found the one that was just the right shape and Pauly made a jig. I cued up "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" and danced around because, ya know, I'm helpful like that.

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After loads of planing, cutting, sawing, sanding, painting, and dancing we got this!

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And this!

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From this!

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Oh, and I'm madly in love with the railing shadows, too.

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There's a great book by Austin Kleon called STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST and that's exactly what we did.

The book claims there aren't any original ideas left, and we're all basically riffing on other people's work. Which, if you think about it, makes perfect sense as we're all totally interdependent on each other for everything anyway.

I think every person is an artist, whether they know it or not.

Every move we make and every word we speak has an effect on our world. 

I don't always consider that.

Sometimes I forget how much these tiny acts of artistry add up.

But they do!

Each person has talents, gifts, a certain something or somethings that they offer to the whole of life, whether it's trying a new recipe or parking a gigantic semi-trailer or offering a listening ear or tending a garden.

And since we're all just building on what's come before us, the PRESSURE IS OFF to make it be something new and special!

Don't you love that?

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My pal, Pug, has a talent for making hilarious breathing noises. She doesn't care that she's not the first pug to ever come up with those! She asked why I even bothered reading her this book! Pug already lives her art, man. She lives it full on.

Austin's next book was called SHOW YOUR WORK with an exclamation point at the end. (Guess he means it!)

After encouraging us all to do what we love, he says we gotta let everybody know about it and not keep our artistry to ourselves.

Thanks to other people/artists as real-life examples and Austin's encouragement, I've been doing less of what I should, more of what I love, and sharing it.

And besides enjoying my life more, it's also led to magical new relationships.

And isn't being alive like WAY MORE FUN when you're surrounded by people who appreciate the same things you do?

Wow, I'm sounding all Mr. Rogers-Let's-Share-And-Love-Each-Other, aren't I?

Sometimes I dunno why I write what I write, but it just hit me that Pauly and I are about a week away from finishing this house. And it's been rewarding in some ways (these cute railings were probably the highlight for me), but in other ways it's been a challenging and eye-opening endeavor. 

I'm ready to do something different with my time.

But I'm not sure exactly what that's gonna look like.

When it comes to facing the unknown, It's very tempting for me to go back to doing what I should instead of what I love.

Doing what you love feels scary when you're used to doing what you should.

I think this post is a way of reminding myself that it's worth the risk.

25 Years of Feral Love! by Dana Bergstrom

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Hey!

Guess what we're doing to celebrate our 25th WEDDING ANNIVERSARY this month?!

You guessed it!

We're both getting plastic surgery!

Pauly really wants a hair follicle transplant and I could use some bigger boobs.

You think I'm kidding?

Actually, we're doing something far more extravagant.

We're going back to therapy!!!

Geez, guys, really?

Why not take a fancy trip to an exotic destination?

Or get matching tattoos?

Or go ahead and get that plastic surgery?!

Nope!

Besides indulging in a super delicious meal at Northern Waters Restaurant on our special day, we're marking this marital milestone by seeing our therapist, who we visited a handful of times many years ago. 

And we're going for exactly the same reason we did last time:

TO AMP UP THE FUN FACTOR!

I kid you not, that counselor was like an angel sent from heaven who saw right through our sticky stuckness and helped us quickly get happy again with some fine suggestions on how to be more present for ourselves and each other. 

So now we've got new piles of stuckness, as we've been living AND working together 24/7 on fixer upper #5 for almost two long years!

OY!

Pauly's still my favorite human being on Earth, yet these past couple of years have been kinda rough with almost constant, and I do mean CONSTANT, togetherness.

The truth is: we have profoundly different approaches to remodeling. Ever since his dad retired from working with us, fixer uppers have been extra challenging.

Plus, we don't agree on how to spend our time, as he loves hanging with people and I love Love LOVE solitude. 

Add to that, my big ol' mid-life FEMININE AWAKENING!!!, which has also been shaking LOTZA shit up, and there's been more way more yelling than normal!

So this month we've started to get some outside insight and TALK ALL OF OUR HOOHAW OUT!

SEE YA, HOOHAW!! YEEEEEEHAAAAAAW!!!

I'm super excited! 

Can you tell?

Pauly's less enthusiastic.

Yet the instant he notices a sharp decline in the hollering, fist shaking, and occasional biting (he claims Ray learned it from me), I'm sure he'll be happy, just like last time.  

Heck, I would've scheduled an appointment long ago except our therapist, Glenn Tobey, was coming to our living room every month for two years for something called A Circle of Trust, which was a part of the Sacred Art of Living and Dying Biannual Seminars we attended.

The three of us happened to be placed in the same small Circle of Trust, along with four other people. 

The purpose of the Circle is to support the inner journey of each participant. 

And it was a beautiful experience of being present for others and ourselves with the goal of living a fully authentic, undivided life. I'll write more about that later, but if you're interested, click here.

Anyhoo.

I didn't wanna stink up our sweet Circle by talking about how my adorable husband (who was sitting right there) happened to be driving me batshit crazy.

That woulda been awkward for everybody.

So I shared other parts of my life, which also needed truthy tweaking. 

Actually! The courage to do the blog came from one of my Circle revelations! 

Now that the Circle has ended, Pauly and I will get some help tweaking our relationship in the areas where we still aren't fully present for ourselves or each other. 

We've only had two sessions and it's already been super helpful in my becoming more understanding (and therefore more patient and present) of how Pauly's mind works. I've also made a commitment to complain less. (Actually, I said I'd stop complaining, but baby steps, eh?) And Pauly now has a deeper understanding of my need for solitude and is honoring that.

I've also already learned what NOT to do in marriage counseling.

Like when your husband starts getting a bit preachy about his life's philosophy and Glenn Tobey kindly says to him, "But that's YOUR truth, not THE truth" and it hits you that you've been dying to say that to him forever, but never had the perfect words to express how you felt until now, and so next time try not to leap from the couch, slam a pretend microphone on the ground, and yell,

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! 

GLENN TOBEY WITH THE MIC DROP! 

YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHH! 

with raised arms and head thrown back in glee...

because after everyone in the room recovers from the excitement, Glenn Tobey will quietly remind you that "It goes both ways, Dana".

Moral of the story: 

Everybody's truth is different.

Be present for myself and others.

Keep the therapy mic drops to a min.

And Happy Anniversary to us! 

Jungle Boy Meets iPhone by Dana Bergstrom

Pauly's done a great job avoiding anything technology related.

This does not include power tools.

He’s all about those.

But how he's managed to dodge computers for 50 long years is pretty dang impressive.

I’m the opposite. I loooove technology!

And I desperately want Pauly to share my love of all things electronic, so several years ago I forced an iPod on him, claiming he’d have access to millions of construction related YouTube videos in the palm of his hand.

Fortunately, he loves music, so once I got the Pandora and Soundcloud apps on there, he took to it right away. YouTube was just a bonus.

Then we got him a cell phone.

He agreed to use it but when I’d ask where it was, we’d find the phone buried in his nightstand drawer after a week's worth of voicemails and messages had piled up.

Or he’d leave it on a shelf and never turn it on.

Pointless.

Once his mom got sick though, Pauly started to take electronic communication very seriously. He wanted to know immediately if his parents needed anything, so he started carrying his phone on him at all times.

And now he’s taking a year-long Jin Shin Jyutsu course out in New Jersey and EVERY SINGLE COMMUNICATION FOR CLASS is online.

This was daunting and frustrating news for Pauly.

Many times he's shouted, "All I need for JSJ are THESE BAD BOYS!” while holding his magical hands up in the air.

I told him I’d be happy to walk him through all of his technology issues.

The other day we were walking to the fixer upper next door, he asked me with 100% sincerity,

“What’s the difference between email and gmail?”

OH

MY

GOD.

We really are starting at square one.

Deep breath.

Okay...we can DO THIS.

I explained that gmail is a provider of email. For example, you could have Charter (our local cable company) or Google which has cleverly named their service.

We got through that one.

The browser discussion was much more difficult.

As were explanations of texting vs. messaging, tabs vs. pages, and apps and Microsoft Excel and uploading and downloading and servers and firewires.

Oy.

I’m hearing this a lot...

I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND ONE WORD YOU SAID.

THAT WAS COMPLETE CHINESE.

SPEAK SLOWER.

Pauly's learning a new language, so I’ve gotta go nice and easy.

When he left for Newark Liberty International Airport last month, I felt like I was sending an innocent jungle boy out into the cold, mean, electronic world.

Pauly grew up in the jungle in Africa and he’s done his best to maintain as much of that simple lifestyle as possible in our little house in the woods. So, I kind of was.

But then he had to take Uber to get everywhere, and he'd never done that before.

He had airplane tickets in his phone wallet and had to figure out how to access them.

His hotel reservation numbers were saved in his email and his notes apps, just in case.

I rearranged all the important stuff on his phone so everything he needed was on the home page.

But then I also wondered if he’d accidentally delete all the phone apps with his cute lil' butt and destroy the entire trip.

Headline: HOT TUSHY WREAKS TRAVEL HELL!!

He had to run between both of his connecting flights so we didn’t have much time to chat. I just had to trust that he was gonna get where he needed to go without me.

When he called from his hotel late that night I surprisingly found myself bursting with pride.

YAAAAAAAY! YOU DID IT!

This must be how it feels to watch your kid successfully ride a bike without training wheels the first time.

Headline: 50-YEAR-OLD JUNGLE BOY MASTERS IPHONE!!

My heart swelled.

This month he’s driving to New Jersey, so he's had to learn Google Maps the hard way - on a 20 hour road trip.

I can't tell you how many times I’ve explained how to use Google Maps before and since he left. It’s a marathon in patience for us both.

But we’re both happy that he’s learning.

And I'm pretty sure the man is well on his way to joining me in techno-love!

I can feel it!

Google maps led him to Weinerlicious in Michigan. Lookit how happy he is!

Google maps led him to Weinerlicious in Michigan. Lookit how happy he is!

Tippytoes by Dana Bergstrom

After drywalling ceilings on Fixer Upper #2, our arms felt like they were gonna fall outta their sockets.

So instead of morphing into bloody, appendage-less torsos on our third house [cue Monty Python!], we invested in a handy dandy sheet rock lift.

The lift is MONSTROUS and a real pain in the ass to store, but we're always very happy it's available when it comes to ceiling work.

The other day we were hanging sheet rock, pondering our luxurious existence with this magnificent lift - LIVING LIKE FANCY DRYWALL ROYALTY - when we discovered it was too large to fit in the hallway.

Huh.

I was surprised to realize I wasn't even slightly disappointed.

Guess I kinda missed the physical challenge of holding two arms above my head for long periods of time!

Ya know, there is something super satisfying about being pushed beyond one's physical limits and feeling it in the body afterwards. Makes ya feel alive!

So we measured and cut the sheet rock and as we both lifted it to the ceiling, Pauly said,

"Use a helper stick. It's too tall for you."

"NO WAY!", I shouted.

I really wanted to feel the burn.

"I'M ON MY TIPTOES BECAUSE IT'S MORE FUN!"

He shook his head and grunted.

"Okay. Whatever you want, TIPPYTOES."

I dunno why the word "tippytoes" makes me laugh really hard, but I had to keep some sort of composure as I was completely stretched out from my raised arms to little piggies, LITERALLY holding up the ceiling.

So now Pauly's taken to calling me MISS TIPPYTOES whenever I start to get too serious.

The other day, while running errands, I was considering dropping
dead from low blood sugar, but Pauly suggested that we stop at Wendy's instead.

The kid at the counter assembled our order and then apprehensively and with obvious embarrassment, called out the name I'd given the cashier,

TIPPY...

there was an awkward pause before he said in a low, quiet voice...

TOES.

I pretended to be all sneaky, like some kind of new Batman villain, walking on tiptoes with T-Rex arms in my paint stained overalls, as the entire staff of Wendy's kitchen moved toward the front to see exactly what kind of nut-job they were about to encounter.

I looked at everybody straight In the eyes.

As soon as I grabbed the tray, we all burst into crazy laughter.

And even though the food wasn't all that tasty, Miss Tippytoes leveled out her sugars and she smiled through the entire meal.

Happy Interdependence Day! by Dana Bergstrom

Whenever I'm given a bouquet of flowers, I get ridiculously giddy.

Bright, colorful blooms and green stems bursting from even a simple Mason jar totally, TOTALLY send me over the edge.

Flowers stay in constant motion at our house as I move the arrangement from spot to spot so I can soak up every last bit of it's goodness and beauty.

If I'm doing dishes, the bouquet's on the high counter at eye level right in front of me.

While eating, it's on the kitchen table.

When sitting in the living room, it's in front of the picture window.

The flowers will only be with me for a few days, so I enjoy them (80s alert!) TO THE MAX.

Today, I woke up feeling acutely aware of everything having a temporary existence.

It's very obvious to me in this moment that my dog's, my husband's, and my friends' bodies are only here for a short while.

Mine, too.

Every single being and thing is a fleeting expression of the formless--a mysterious energy moving through form in countless creations.

And today I'll enjoy it even more as I remember that we're all this one powerful, invisible force, temporarily showing up as life on planet Earth.

So, HAPPY INTERDEPENDENCE DAY!

We're completely dependent on each other's unique, beautiful, and sometimes aggravating differences to help us realize that our formless essence as life energy is what really makes us all the same.

I love it when I remember the big picture.

It's gonna be a great day.

Puppies For Perfectionists by Dana Bergstrom

I'm gonna write the sequel to this book and call it PERFECT PUPPY IN 7,000 DAYS.

That's when Ray turns 19 and he'll be too old or dead to be naughty.

Seriously.

As a recovering perfectionist, I've gotta say that this book makes me really happy.

Partly, because I now know better than to expect anything to be perfect. And partly, just because it's in my house.

A book about perfection in a recovering perfectionist's living room is kinda like a keg of beer in a recovering alcoholic's kitchen. The temptation to strive to be perfect is RIGHT THERE and SOMEHOW it has zero pull on me! Makes me smile every time I walk past it! (Thank you, Brené Brown!)

The book really is chock-full of excellent advice, and they could even shelve a few copies in the comedy section for people like me who now find the idea of perfection to be absolutely hilarious.

Anyway...unlike the perfect puppy in this book, Lil' Ray didn't come to us healthy and happy via a reputable breeder. His situation was the opposite. So Ray's positive socialization got off to a rough start.

I asked for socializing help and our generous friends and their dogs were sooooo kind and patient with Ray's fearful nipping. And since he showed great improvement with dogs one-on-one, I took him to the dog park which Ray loved more than any other place in the whole world!

Then came the fateful day at the park when a giant German Shepherd, appropriately named Magnum, decided he wasn't gonna tolerate any shit from this scared nippy puppy. In the blink of an eye, Magnum pinned Ray to the ground by his little neck and fiercely growled in his face.

Lil' Ray cried and shook.

We quickly got him out of the situation and went and played in a different part of the park. And he seemed okay.

A few hours later at our puppy class, Ray found the smallest pup in the bunch, a super tiny Rottweiler named Lola, and reenacted the entire dog park scene. Ray played the part of Magnum and Lola was Lil' Ray. The only difference was that Lola seemed completely unfazed.

Never before had Ray tried to dominate another dog.

Bullying begets more bullying. For real.

Our trainer suggested that we redirect Ray with a water bottle.

So when he went for Lola again, Ray got sprayed.

As soon as the water hit his rear end, Ray let out a high pitched scream that startled everybody in the room.

Limping and crying loudly, Ray scurried on three paws to the nearest corner where he cried some more as he licked his now completely lame leg, certain that he was mortally wounded.

Did you know that being shot with a water bottle can cripple a dog?

Me neither.

As it turns out, Ray is basically a gigantic, juicy drama queen.

Sometimes I am, too.

When Ray doesn't appreciate something, he focuses all of his energy and attention on how shitty this certain thing is and then blows the entire situation out of proportion.

DRAAAMAAAAAAAA!

Ray would love spending time playing with toys in his kennel, but only until we shut the door, when he'd exhaust himself with hours of screaming bloody murder because the CLOSED DOOR is ALL he can see.

He wanted freedom to run around and do whatever he wanted at our recent attempt at dog obedience class. But Ray had to be leashed like everybody else, so all his lunging and barking and biting gets us kicked out of school because Ray's LACK OF FREEDOM is ALL he can see.

Several months ago I was having a really hard time with Ray's behaviors and was questioning why the hell I got this puppy in the first place.

I looked at Ray and all I could see was HARD WORK.

But then I realized I was acting just like Ray, focusing on what I didn't like.

Hey! What if I made a list of everything I loved about him?

So that's what I did. I got out a notebook and went on a written rampage of appreciation about our puppy.

The effect on my perception was immediate.

I'd catch him being calm and tell him what a good boy he was.

I'd praise him whenever he wasn't attempting to destroy our stuff.

I'd love him up for chewing his toys instead of me.

I taught him lots of tricks so I could praise him for those.

I'd tell him how smart and sweet and adorable he is.

I laid the sugar on extra thick and our relationship changed instantly.

And even though Ray still acts like a total maniac around other dogs and I haven't been able to take him to the dog park for months because of his bullying and reactivity to certain dogs, his impulse control is stellar around tennis balls. We've made huge strides in that area in recent days.

Progress! And there's more to come!

The truth is...

Ray is already perfect.

He's perfect for me.

Clunky Communication by Dana Bergstrom

Guess what?! Pauly and I celebrate 25 years of yelling next month!

And it took us nearly that long to read a wildly popular bestseller from the 90s, The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts.

Loads of people recommended the book over the years and, finally, after the third person within a few days mentioned it, I knew the Universe really wanted to tell me something.

So we got the audio version for a road trip and even took the free online quiz.

And, boy, was it helpful.

A county clerk issuing our Yelling License

A county clerk issuing our Yelling License

The love languages are five ways, identified by a longtime marriage counselor, that people naturally prefer to give and receive love.

They are:

Gift Giving,
Quality Time,
Words of Affirmation,
Acts of Service
and Physical Touch.

Luckily, Pauly and I share a primary love language.

It's been one of our favorite activities ever since I got my grubby, little paws on his hot hot bod!

Okay, I PROMISE NOT TO GIT ALL FRRRREEEEAKY HERE, but I do wanna say that we love touching sooooo much that we went out and got the perfect piece of furniture SPECIFICALLY FOR CUDDLING.

It's a giant, weird looking, bean bag thingy filled with foam where we sit and watch movies with our arms and legs tangled up all lovey-dovey like. It's soft, snuggly CANOODLING HEAVEN!

Courthouse cuddling, marriage license in hand

Courthouse cuddling, marriage license in hand

The book also helped us discover something else of importance:

We're not very fluent in our partner's OTHER top love languages.

Mine is Words of Affirmation.

I absolutely love to shower Pauly with verbal appreciation, telling him regularly that he's wonderful, adorable, thoughtful, handy, and wise.

And it'd also be nice to receive words of affirmation from him since love languages are about giving AND receiving love.

But doing that isn't his thing.

I haven't actually kept track, but I bet he's only given me like 25 compliments in our marriage.

One for each year...

Yep...

that sounds about right!

The other day when I mentioned I'd enjoy a few more words of affirmation thrown my way, he claimed he doesn't pay me compliments or say what he appreciates about me "because words don't mean anything."

UM, WHAT?

OF COURSE THEY DO!

"You know what words of affirmation are to me?" he said defensively.

"Turds of Affirmation."

TURDS OF AFFIRMATION!!!!!!!!!!!

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

I ended up laughing for days about that and totally forgot about the short supply of sweet talk.

Until now, that is. :)

Pauly's other main love language is Acts of Service.

The phrase "Actions speak louder than words" is his reason for dissing my particular love language.

Nearly every day, Pauly makes me a delicious omelette for breakfast. He loves loves LOVES to make food, which works out 'cause I'm not fond of cooking.

Several years ago, when I had an actual job, I'd often come home from the office to a surprise candlelight dinner of steak or pasta with steamed veggies and soft music playing in the background JUST BECAUSE.

Yet, the funny thing is, if he'd just tell me that he loves me on occasion, HE WOULDN'T NEED TO PREPARE ALL THOSE MEALS!

I get so giddy whenever I get a rare compliment from him, I'm positive I could live off a daily diet of only his delicious words!

But, alas, that's not his natural language.

I vividly remember the day when Pauly said that every single time he opens his sock drawer to see his socks all clean and folded, he feels LOVED.

I was dumbfounded.

YOU FEEL LOVED BECAUSE I DO THE LAUNDRY?

But I do that because our clothes are dirty...

NOT BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!

Isn't that crazy?

Yet, that's exactly how it is when you don't know each others' language.

I'm speaking Chinese and he's speaking Swahili.

And maybe that's why, a quarter of a century later, we're still looking for more enjoyable ways to live together.

Now that we've gotten a bit more clarity about this, I'd like to practice each other's languages so we can get EVEN MORE OF THE LOVE VIBE flowing 'cause, well, that's just more fun.

And in the meantime, thank goodness for canoodling.

Impulse Control by Dana Bergstrom

Since Ray’s barky, bitey self disrupted all learning at dog school for two weeks straight, we've graduated on to private sessions!

That's my positive spin on our little demotion.

Congrats, doggo!

But it's Ray's human classmates who are really celebrating. 

They finally get to concentrate on their own dog's education instead of spending the better part of an hour giving me, Pauly and Ray the evil eye.

I'm not kidding.

Because of Ray's loud outbursts, people couldn't hear the trainer, nobody could think, other dogs started to get in on the act. It was madness. I don't blame 'em for all of the dirty looks. Not one bit.

So!

We had our very first lesson today and after analyzing Ray's behavior and getting a history (kept in an unheated barn with 60+ dogs, intense fear of other dogs, plus the story of Pauly’s and my haphazard home training methods), the trainer decided that we need to work on impulse control.

IMPULSE CONTROL!

Oh my God, I'm the one who needs help with impulse control!

In ways, I’m as feral as Ray.

I asked the trainer if this will also work for humans and donut holes.

Suddenly, with evangelical fervor, she launched into a lengthy story about how she was inspired by her body building son (whose food and exercise regime was recited in detail) to change her evil food consuming ways.

She’s been off sugar for A WHOLE MONTH,  and ONLY EATS CLEAN.

VEGGIES!

FRUIT!

PROTEIN!

THAT’S IT!

And she's lost 11 lbs without trying.

"I'M 60 YEARS OLD AND IN THE BEST SHAPE OF MY LIFE!"

"Oh, good for you," I thought with both hands inside my sweatshirt pouch, resting on my potbelly.

Sorry I asked.

More dog training, less food sermons.

Sheesh.

Actually...

I take that back.

I’m kinda glad she gave her inspiring testimonial because I’ve been thinking of making a change to my diet.

This 47-year-old body can no longer handle what it occasionally consumes, even in small amounts. It mostly affects my skin, which is constantly yelling at me to knock it off.

My impulse control is pretty low when it comes to processed foods. Cheese cheese cheese cheese. Oh my god. I love cheese. Marry me, cheese. Marry me!

And I can’t even have cold cereal in the house because I won’t eat anything BUT THAT. Cold cereal is my absolute favorite drug. A big ol’ brain numbing, comfort food drug. Sometimes when I’m PMSing, I lose my mind and buy a box.

I’m not right for days after that.

Impulse control.

Maybe since I'll be working with Ray every day on controlling his impulses, I’ll be more mindful of my own.

This isn’t the first time Lil' Ray has been a perfect mirror for my own stuff.

He’s good for me like that.

Crash by Dana Bergstrom

Can you call it a BIKE CRASH if you weren't even moving?

I'm gonna call it one because it involved a bike and a crash.

And, of course, Ray.

So Lil’ Ray and I had just finished a successful ride making it past THREE dogs on our high speed adventure around the neighborhood and I was feelin GOOOOOOD!

We rode onto our dead end, gravel road and spotted the neighbors outside, so I stopped to chat. 

But I failed to remember that their puppy, Myla, was in their backyard and what Ray wants more THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD is to GET AT MYLA.

So I stop the bike to say HI.

Ray sees the puppy. 

Ray lunges with aaaaaalllll of his might at the puppy. 

I'm slammed to the ground and the bicycle pins me.

Then Ray drags both me and the bike slowly towards their yard. 

My reaction was the usual. 

As long as I’m not hurt too badly, which I wasn’t, I spend my time thinking about how hilarious the whole thing must look. 

I don’t know how long I was lying on the ground laughing hysterically, but since all shocking things happen for me in slow motion, it seems like it was several minutes. 

Ray’s still barking and lunging while all of this is going on and as I’m giggling, I’m beginning to wonder how I’m gonna get up and not get yanked down again.

The neighbors are just standing there looking at me like...

WHAT

THE

HELL.

Why is this woman not doing anything but lying in the dirt in her paint stained overalls and super age appropriate Boston Terrier shirt?

And why did we move right next to a loud mouth wife who yells all of the time? 

And how can we all band together and stop Crazy Ray from making our neighborhood even less peaceful than Dana already has? 

I know this is what they were thinking. 

I lifted my head off the grass. 

“How can we help?” one neighbor eventually asks.

Hmmm. 

Ray might not deal well with them handling him, so I asked one person to grab the bike, the other picked up the bike basket which had flown off in the crash, and I held on to rabid, barky, lungy Ray as we walked across the street to my house, and I continued to giggle. 

Man, I wish someone had recorded that. 

America’s Funniest Videos GOLD! 

Oh. And Happy Doggy Mother's Day to me and to ALL of the other kinds of mothers out there! :)

A LITTLE LEG BRUISING AIN'T GONNA STOP US FROM MOTHER'S DAY TRAMPOLINING. RIGHT, RAY?

A LITTLE LEG BRUISING AIN'T GONNA STOP US FROM MOTHER'S DAY TRAMPOLINING. RIGHT, RAY?

RIGHT!

RIGHT!

Fur The Love by Dana Bergstrom

When we first got Lil’ Ray at 9 weeks old, nearly everyone said that he looked like a Jack Russell Terrier.

Although I managed to remain calm each time it was mentioned,

inside my brain,

I was blowing a fucking gasket.

Ya see, for my entire life I've had friends and neighbors with terriers and that entire time I've known that I would never, ever, EVER live with one.

I feel funny saying this and if you're one of my friends or neighbors with a terrier, please, hear me out.

I've enjoyed dog-sitting gigs and spending time with your adorable and hilarious pups, but I have certain ideas about what I want in a long-term, committed relationship.

Heck, I wouldn't choose a husband who wasn't cuddly or raced in the opposite direction every time I called his name while he's enjoying the freedom of the outdoors.

In my experience, terriers aren’t that snuggly and when they get focused on something, they rarely listen. They’re quirky and funny but ya gotta keep ‘em leashed or mostly confined at all times or something completely insane is gonna happen.

They’ll dig escape routes and run away laughing as you try to catch them.

They’ll pee on innocent people suntanning at the beach.

They’ll loudly bark at whoever walks in the house for 30 minutes straight.

These are things I want to avoid.

This also goes to show that I’m a doggy racist.

I make unhelpful, sweeping assumptions about individual dogs based on breed tendencies, ya know, just like a regular human racist.

With Ray, we totally thought we were getting some kind of herding dog mix, but then my doggy racism kicked in and I got nervous when everybody started making RAY IS A FREEKIN' TERRIER comments.

If this was true, it would be a pretty great cosmic joke.

Welp.

As it turns out, Ray's a highly selective listener; he’s wildly anxious about anything new; he's territorial in the most hostile way; he’s less than thrilled about cuddling or being handled unless flat-out exhausted; he barks like mad at everyone and everything when he's outside; and if there's anything interesting underground he's voracious digger.

So we did a DNA test to see exactly what kind of beast we're living with.

The instructions stated we were to collect cells between the gum and teeth for 15 seconds with the two DNA cheek swabs provided in the kit.

Of course, feral, Lil' Ray naturally assumed we were trying to kill him with these new, q-tippy-like things and he kicked, screamed and brutally attacked them with a fierceness bordering on lunacy.  

Each one was in his mouth for less than one second before he mauled our fingers and then the swab, before spitting them out on our dog hair covered carpet. Then while putting the samples in the box to mail, I accidentally sneezed on 'em.

Gaaaaaaaahhhhh!

Well...at least they'll get somebody’s DNA.

I was sure the lab would tell us we didn’t get enough of Ray's cells

OR

they’d say that we have some kind of human-canine mutant breed and WE’D HAVE TO SURRENDER OURSELVES TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR HORRIBLE INVASIVE TESTING, JUST LIKE THEY DID TO E.T.!!!!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I WON’T GOOOOOOOOOO!

And, GOOD LUCK catching Crazy Ray, YA DIRTY FEDS!

Anyway, since it was gonna take 2-3 weeks before we got the results, which seemed like forever, and I didn’t want to spend the entire time fretting, I opted to come to terms with the fact that I could be living with a terrier.

The first positive step towards accepting my new life was coming across this Boston Terrier sweatshirt at the thrift store.

I laughed the second I saw it and immediately knew it'd help me embrace the idea of rooming with a terrier for the next 15 or so years.

I love it and it's super cute and I will wear it and be happy no matter what the test results say!

Weird shirts are now one of my favorite things.

I got this sweatshirt after Pauly and I were called Righteous Partiers.

It cheers me up every time I put it on.

Anyway, I now have loads of ridiculous, thrift store tops.

I don't even speak French!

So...back to Ray.

We got his test results and it turns out he’s mostly a mix of herding type dogs but he does have 25% of mixed breeds that are unknown.

Which means he could totally have terrier in him.

And ya know what?

I’m cool with that because the very instant I laid eyes on Ray and held him in my arms, I knew this dog was gonna be all about UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

Not his unconditional love of me, but mine of him.

So here I am, in my strange shirts, releasing resistance to all things terrier and letting go of my doggy racism.

I’m gonna learn whatever our wild and feisty, tiny guru plans to teach me about loving unconditionally.

And that’s why I’m here on planet Earth anyway…

fur the LOVE!

Simple Pleasures by Dana Bergstrom

Our new puppy, Ray, has been kicking my ass.

But only because his main life goal has been to get every thing he sees into his stomach.

Someone keeps eyeballs on him pretty much 24/7.

And DAAAAANG Lil' Ray is so stinkin' fast and curious!

Wait.

Fast and Curious?!

Isn't that a movie title!

It is!

It'll be a film about Ray and every outrageous object he's tried to eat while running away from us at top speed!

Vin Diesel will sport a red-haired wig and fake boobs and play me, a dog trainer chasing Ray in a souped up Mini Cooper, who is out to save delicate, doggy intestines from lethal, foreign objects!

It's FAST AND CURIOUS: PUPPY PATROL!!!

Deadly dangly earrings!

Flaming blow torches!

Jagged rocks and sticks!

Action packed with rock hard bodies and adorable puppies...

this movie has it all!

Right.

Anyway…

In the last couple of weeks Ray has become much easier to monitor and life is less terrifyingly dramatic. He now knows what “leave it” means and most of the time he actually listens.

Ray used to be a morning person/puppy. He’d wake up and immediately charge off to start swallowing dangerous stuff.

But as time goes by, Ray is less motivated to eat all of our worldly possessions. And he's at his laziest in the a.m.!

Yaaaaaaay for lethargic, boring ass puppies!

I get crazy giddy when Ray wakes up, goes potty, comes back inside and falls asleep.

QUIET TIME! I can actually READ and WRITE again!

It's like I've won the lottery! THIS IS THE BESSSSSST!

Ya know what I love about Ray?

The little guy is helping me focus on the simple pleasures in life.

And aren't those what makes life grand anyway?!

An interesting book.

A tasty meal.

A sunny day.

A funky song.

A free association blog post.

And hanging out with your favorite people...

and puppies.

Our neighbor took this cute pic of Ray at 9 weeks. Hope your finger tip's grown back by now, Sam Bergstedt! Great photographers risk it all for a sweet shot!

Our neighbor took this cute pic of Ray at 9 weeks. Hope your finger tip's grown back by now, Sam Bergstedt! Great photographers risk it all for a sweet shot!

The Happiest Place On Earth by Dana Bergstrom

It has loads of smiling people, fresh air, open space, an incredible amount of tail-wagging, and more cuteness than one can stand.

It's not Disneyland.

It's the doooooog paaaaaaark!

We've been going daily for almost two weeks and now I can barely imagine a day without it.

That place has THE BEST kind of chaos and mayhem!

There’s endless sniffing and chasing and licking.

Pups run amok with mid-air Husky/Dalmatian scruff chewing contests. Great Dane paws smush little Collie faces. A Lab scoots under a Terrier, stands up and carries her on his back. Hilarity ensues.

It's also kinda exciting and daredevilish because there's a REALLY good chance of getting body slammed by a wild pack of running dogs!

I try to remember to keep my knees bent at all times, just in case they hit me from behind, which has happened a couple of times.

I'm chatting with several folks and suddenly - BAM - I'm horizontal!

It's always shocking and it makes for some pretty impressive bruises, but you know what I always wish for whenever something like that happens to me? 

Instant replay...

actually, instant replay with slo-mo to see all the facial expressions as I fly through the air and land surrounded by so many concerned, yet probably secretly amused, humans.

What a hoot.

Besides enjoying watching people fall down, there's so much doggy slapstick going on, I smile the entire time I'm there.

And, somehow, everybody seems to happily bounce back from whatever awkward thing just happened.

Our 18 week old puppy, Ray, is finding lots of buddies to chase and wrestle with, but he really goes to meet new people.

Ray is certain he's found TRUE LOVE the moment each human walks into the park.

"OH! OH! OH! THAT BEAUTIFUL TWO-LEGGED BEING HASN'T PET ME YET! HEEEEEEERRREEEE I COOOOOOOOME!"

Ray instantly lights up faces and melts hearts as he lunges at people with his enthusiastic tongue and a wild butt wiggle that takes over his whole body.

Hey!

That's exactly how I won over my husband, Pauly!

Oh, Dana. Stop!

Anyway!

I think Ray is gonna turn me into a massive extrovert.

Either I find him piles of people to adore or he's gonna chew us to bits with those razor sharp puppy teeth!

Ray charmed these two kind strangers by sitting on their laps and feet. He finally decided to play with their dogs.

Ray charmed these two kind strangers by sitting on their laps and feet. He finally decided to play with their dogs.

Ray knows that we know that he loves us, so he only sweetly snuggles a couple of times a day - morning and night - when he's too tired to think about gnawing on our limbs. After that, he’d clearly prefer to spread the lovin' around. Ray thinks monogamy is for suckers.

It'd be ideal to go to the park twice a day, but when would we get any work done?

Hey! Maybe we'll sell our home, build a tiny house on wheels and just live AT the dog park so he can play there all day!

Or I'll get a job at a facility where Ray can be a certified therapy dog and kiss-kiss-kiss the residents who would like a little more physical affection.

Yeah!

Or maybe I'll have potlucks and campfires and invite friends and dog-loving strangers to our house every single night.

Or I'll be an Uber driver whose tagline is HAPPIEST CAR ON EARTH and Ray can ride along and smooch on my passengers.

Ideas are flowing!

If you have some more, send them my way.

Lil' Ray has got a LOT of love to give, y'all! And I'm gonna find a way to help him give it.

💜

Miracles In Space by Dana Bergstrom

When I get a little overly focused on something that feels crappy, I sometimes tell myself "800 miles per second” and that snaps me out of it.

Like this morning, I was thinking about the piles of paperwork sitting on my desk; the mass of clutter in my office corner; our attic that’s bursting with things we’ll probably never use; and how I still haven’t filled out an advanced directive or done any kind of planning for when Pauly and I are done with these human bodies.

Basically, I was ruminating over loads of unpleasant shit I don't wanna do and was starting to feel super overwhelmed. And that short list is just the tip of the iceberg of things I could get wildly worked up about.

I was lucky I stopped myself there with “800 miles per second”.

This is the speed Earthlings are hurtling through space. Or at least how a couple of people have calculated it.

When I remember I’m traveling at a crazy high speed without knowing how I got here, or where I’m going, or what’s gonna happen next; a wave of ease comes over me.

Chill, Dana.

Just do one task at a time.

And then sit back and enjoy your trip through space.

Something else that works is remembering my unity experiences.

I’ve had a number of experiences where I felt at one with everyone and everything. I was able to see the perfection of the entire world.

And only one of those was drug induced.

The rest were just mystical experiences that came when I was really relaxed.

I saw the wholeness of everything in existence. No separation or lack or judgment of anyone or anything. Just 100% appreciation for being alive in a strange, beautiful world that’s brimming with so many contrasting and interesting experiences.

A Course In Miracles says that a miracle is simply “a shift in perception”.

That’s it.

And that’s exactly what remembering these things does for me.

Awrighty then.

That was my first of many miracles of the day.

:)

Off to finish some paperwork at 800 miles per second.

Arches Cluster, the most crowded place in the Milky Way. Beautiful and sparkly like a disco floor. More dancing. Less worrying.

Arches Cluster, the most crowded place in the Milky Way. Beautiful and sparkly like a disco floor. More dancing. Less worrying.

My First Stand-Up Comedy Routine by Dana Bergstrom

Yesterday, my comedian pal, Jenny, suggested that I write a five-minute set so we can go to an open mic and I can make a fool of myself.

Well...that's not why she suggested it.

She thinks it'll be fun.

I don't even know how to begin such a process, so I'm writing a blog post instead.

Ya know why I love Love LOVE doing blog posts?

Because I never have to get dressed to chat with y'all!

I can write wearing my favorite outfit - a stained 29 year old college sweatshirt and jeans with holes blown out in sketchy places - like I'm doing now.

Or I can write wearing no clothes at all!

It's soooo great!

Maybe I can talk on stage about how, as a feral human, getting dressed every single day is like a total ordeal for me.

And how Pauly, my husband of 24 years, sometimes finds me in the kitchen, nekkid head-to-toe, happily making scrambled eggs for breakfast.

HEY! PUT ON SOME CLOTHES! he always shouts.

Not gonna do it.

My motto is: DON'T WEAR ANYTHING UNLESS YOU HAVE TO.

Clothing at home is constrictive and unnecessary and I'm not having it.

Or maybe I can use open mic time to discuss my comedically incompatible husband who believes Minions are the most hilarious things on the planet.

Geez.

Pauly was watching them again yesterday and if I didn't derive so much joy out of seeing him laugh, I'd blow a giant gasket over his love for those yellow goofballs.

Truth be told, I'm jealous.

There are so many times I say something funny and he doesn't even crack a smile.

But one Minion on YouTube smacks another one in the face with a pair of goggles and Pauly FALLS OFF THE COUCH crying and laughing.

I love that man very much and I do not understand him.

minion.jpg

Maybe I can talk about that.

Or I could talk about how a friend suggested that I post a How-To-Twerk video since I love making dance vids.

I've never attempted to learn the move so I found a tutorial online.

I began to twerk, well...maybe...I did, but I was wearing super baggy overalls and couldn't tell in the mirror if I was actually doing the move.

All of a sudden, I'm staring at myself wearing only a t-shirt and panties, with a big pile of denim around the ankles, ass in the air, having a twerk-inspired existential crisis.

What am I'm doing with this bizarre, middle-aged existence of mine?

Or I could mention the night I was PMSing and drank too many cocktails in an attempt to cope with all the wild emotions.

Then came the tequila-fueled shopping spree where I purchased a ridiculously gigantic and expensive food dehydrator on Amazon.

Not something fun or whimsical or luxuriously extravagant.

A dehydrator.

Goddammit.

Do you know how much EXTRA WORK I've created by buying this?

Work that involves going outside and growing vegetables and WEARING CLOTHES?!

After the dehydrator arrived, I really, really, really wished there had been a breathalyzer attached to my iMac.

Guess we all know what gadget I'll be purchasing next time I'm sauced and near a computer!

Welp.

I still haven't written my five minute set, but this is a start.

I think my living room has just become a stand-up writing lab where I hope to eventually shoot comedy videos from the neck up so I never ever ever have to get dressed.

Goals!

I've got 'em.

Facing Phallic Fears by Dana Bergstrom

Like most humans, I've worried plenty about what others thought of me.

Then middle-age arrives and some of us are like, "Geez! Other people's opinions are none of my biznass! I'm gonna ditch 'em and get on with the fun stuff I came to dooooo!"

And some of us do that, to the best of our ability, but occasionally things pop up indicating that we still have more hoohaw to let go.

Like the other night, I dreamed someone told me all of my emails were accessible to anyone on the internet.

"Wow," I thought.

I wasn't worried about it, but was curious to know if it was true.

I nonchalantly hopped online and quickly scrolled down the list of my emails.

Huh. No biggie.

But then I stopped at the last one, one I didn't even recall was in my inbox.

Black Helvetica. All lowercase. Just quietly sitting all alone at the bottom of the screen with the subject line...

"penis"

OH MY GOD! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I totally freaked out.

I freaked out so hard that I woke myself up and sat up in bed.

"Oh, thank goodness! That email's not really in my inbox. There's nothing to worry about."

Then suddenly it all became hilarious to me.

I'm terrified of penis emails?!

Ridiculous!

Pauly was awake so, between laughs, I told him about it.

He just stared at me blankly.

Sometimes my very modest husband has no idea what to do with me, so he doesn't react at all, probably hoping it'll stop me from talking about whatever disturbing topic I'm wild about, in this case, very public, genital-related documentation.   

"Okay, fine," I thought. It's not funny to him but I know someone who will totally see the humor in this, so I sent my dream off to my pal, Marian.

Marian quickly responded on a new email thread with the subject line...

"penis".

And THAT, folks, is what friends are for!

😃

The Best Kind Of Name Calling by Dana Bergstrom

Pauly and I were called something outrageous the other night. And now whenever this name pops into my head, I start giggling.

We were in Minneapolis since our pal, DJ Nola, was spinning her magic at Club Jäger on Friday. The instant we walked into the club, I began jumping around like a happy bunny.

But that's only because Craig Lambert, another wizard on the wheels of steel, was playing fantastic music from the get-go.

Hop hop hop! Shake shake shake! No warm-up required! Pauly loved the jams and joined me on the dance floor, too.

The place began to fill up while we bounced and beamed to Craig and Nola's transcendental tunes. Then I saw another one of my favorite DJs, who I hadn’t spoken to since he played in July on my happy birthday!

His DJ name is Cloudy Kid but Pauly and I call him DJ Cutie. He’s not only funky, he’s stinkin’ adorable.

Well...lemme rephrase that.

I'm the one who thinks he’s adorable.

One of the many wonderful things about being married to Pauly for the last 24 years is that he has zero problem with my announcing that another dude has Got It Goin' On.

Each time I point out a guy who's my type, which is always a fun, rare sighting, my sweetheart does the exact same thing.

First, he smiles and shouts "HE'S GOT NOTHIN' ON ME!" while taking his hand and running it through his long, dark, invisible hair, which was last seen sometime during the 90s.

Makes me laugh every time!

And it's true. Even though these guys always have amazingly gorgeous, long locks, they don't have a thing on him.

Pauly also makes fun of me whenever we run into one of these hairy fellas. I ADORE Pauly's insult comedy no matter who it's pointed at, so, yeah, my lil' crushes are entertaining for us both.

Anyhoo!

DJ Cutie spins a lot of amazing old school funk, soul and disco, which I’m crazy about, and on the night of my birthday he slipped in a perfectly-placed and completely unexpected jam by Madonna.

VOGUE!

No!

Way!

I instantly lost my mind…

well, actually...

me and ALL of the gay guys in the club lost our collective minds.

Holy! The combined energy soared through the roof with loads of screaming and arm waving. That was one blissed out, femme dance floor!

But I love to give artists their props and I missed the chance to let DJ Cutie know how fabulous his set was. So when Pauly and I ran into him on Friday, I expressed my appreciation for the whole night, plus the peppy, Material Girl bombshell!

This is when he said that although he didn’t really know anything about our lives outside of our many dance floor encounters, he knows one thing.

And that one thing is that we are...

Righteous Partiers!

As soon as the words came out of his mouth I started laughing.

He then went on to emphasize that we live too far away and we COULD be down in the Twin Cities partying with them every week and SINCE PARTYING IS THE ONE REASON WE ARE HERE ON EARTH, we should REALLY move closer because, once again...

with great and adorable emphasis...

we are Righteous Partiers!

I very much appreciated his impassioned sermon and told him so.

What I didn't say was that this was one of the funniest names we've ever been called.

I think it’s 'cause dancing was considered a questionable activity during our upbringing. Pauly wasn’t allowed to go to dances AT ALL. I was, but it was tolerated and not encouraged. I was actually forced to sing in church as kind of penance/trade for some of my secular activities, which was annoying at the time but amusing to me now.

This was a huge improvement from what my parents had experienced. My mom’s church had banned dancing, declaring it a sin while she was growing up. And I was told that my paternal grandmother would not be happy to learn that I’d attended my high school prom and this was gonna have to be our family's little secret.

So, yeah, in our ultra serious, religious home environments the word “righteous" was never a word associated with "partier". Quite the opposite.

Then there’s the fact that we’re about two decades older than DJ Cutie AND IT ONLY TOOK US ABOUT 50 YEARS (47 & 49, but who's counting?) of life on planet Earth to be called "Righteous Partiers", making us some mighty late bloomers in the partying department. :)

But, ya know...if I think about it for a sec, we get SO DANG HAPPY on the dance floor...

in truth, we could be righteous.

We let go of all thoughts and allow unfiltered life energy to flow directly through us...

smiles are permanently parked on our faces while the rest of our bodies totally spaz out…

we're fully in the NOW channeling pure positive energy...

Yep, that’s a lotta LOVE right there!

I think DJ Cutie is on to something.

Partying AKA Joy in the present moment is why we're here.

Party on!

Follow Your Bliss, Super - Callous - Fragile - Ego - Expialidocious by Dana Bergstrom

Sometimes I'll see a fantastic quote and get an impulse to text it to a friend.

This morning I spotted a magical one and sent it off:

LIVE THE LIFE YOU LOVE
If you allow yourself to be the person that you are, then everything will come into rhythm. If you live the life you love, you will receive shelter and blessings. Sometimes the great famine of blessing in and around us derives from the fact that we are not living the life we love, rather we are living the life that is expected of us. We have fallen out of rhythm with the secret signature and light of our own nature.
John O'Donohue

My friend enjoyed it so much that she forwarded it to someone else.

Her friend replied, "It didn't work for Hitler."

Here's the thing:

I think it could've.

As a young man, Hitler dreamed of becoming an artist. He had a great passion for painting yet he was rejected from art school and made unsuccessful attempts to make a living as a painter.

But what if he had decided to fiercely pursue what he loved, despite the repeated rejection he got from his father and the external authorities in the art world?

I mean, why go around spewing hate and starting wars when you could take a simple job and make just enough money to be surrounded by brightly colored paints and beautiful scenery while creating something that brings you joy?

According to a conversation in August 1939, published in the British War Blue Book, Hitler exclaimed "I am an artist and not a politician. Once the Polish question is settled, I want to end my life as an artist."[4]

What if the fear of being perceived as not good enough is what caused Hitler to not follow his bliss?

Focusing our time and energy on what we love is how we awaken our true nature. It is that part of us that inherently understands we are all connected.

Of course, Hitler's actions were beyond horrific and, as a result, many people believe that he was born evil.

Yet, that is the exact line of thinking that Hitler himself promoted - some humans are born better than others - which absolutely is not true.

It's just that people who abandon their dreams often choose a perpetually critical and lack-based focus, which is what feeds their super-callous-fragile-egos-expialidocious and sometimes they can become a menace.

I would freekin know.

I was afraid of not having enough or being enough, so I ignored most of my passions for years! And I yelled at near-deafening levels during those years like a lil' redheaded dictator who thought she desperately needed things to be a certain way.

Several years ago I was standing in our living room and I was so mad (read: fearful) and yelling soooo loudly over a remodeling project that I…

get this…

hurt my lower back.

No joke.

As soon as I felt the sharp pain, the whole thing became immediately hilarious to me and Pauly but, holy crap, you gotta be a special kind of maniac to do something like that.

And I AM that special kind of maniac…who then got to explain the entire ordeal to her sweet, gentle-natured osteopath.

Oh well. Embarrassing myself is my thang.

Depending on externals for self-validation and security is how I was living.

And Oooooeeee, that's a mighty unpleasant way to live.

Happily...feeling good by simply focusing on what I love is a daily choice!

Don't be like Hitler. Follow your bliss!

OMG.

I just visualized that as a black bumper sticker with bold, white lettering.

The world's worst bumper sticker.

Okay, erase that nonsense from your mind with Jerry Seinfeld and Friends' Hitler jokes.

Or just go do something that feels good, loves!

Win-Win by Dana Bergstrom

I remember the day my therapist said I could achieve win-wins in any situation.

The cogs in my brain came to a screeching halt.

I contorted my face and squinted at her, certain that she was now the nut in the room.

Doesn't my therapist know the world's a place where we battle for resources and security and there's no way there could always be a win-win?

Doesn't she understand that humans are born inherently broken and that I've been working really hard to become a better person?

Doesn't she get that life itself is difficult not easy?

But here's the thing: My therapist is amazing and she'd never said anything outrageous like this before.

And I truly wanted to understand how she could make such an unreasonable statement.

"What do you mean?", I asked.

She said that I could decide to do only what brings me JOY.

And if I allow the other person to do only what brings them JOY, then we could come together in JOY and that's a win-win.

My grimace remained.

WHO does only what brings them joy? Who lives like that?

I've witnessed obligation and shoulds and have-tos and need-tos and sacrifice all based on external authority type definitions of what is good, right, healthy, Biblical and worthy.

But JOY?

Doesn't that make you a hedonist headed straight for hell, or if there is no hell, at least condemnation from all of the "moral and upstanding people" of the world?

Welp. My therapist and I had this conversation several years ago, and it's taken me until now to fully comprehend what she was talking about.

Today I can see clearly how I am able to live every moment for the purpose of joy.

It's actually possible.

And that's because I have the ability to think whatever thought I want.

I can always choose the least resistant thought in this very moment.

My petty mind (the new name for ego - it gives it less power!) is always gonna conjure up some reason not to enjoy this very moment. It'll go to the past or the future and focus on negativity or as I used to call it, "reality".  :)  "I suck, you suck, this situation sucks." That's where my petty mind likes to live - in resistance.

But it's entirely possible to let go of thoughts of lack and move to a state of allowing goodness to flow.

In my case, it's been important to let go of the belief system that we're all born sinful, broken, lacking, and separate from one another. That makes it sound like life begins as a problem.

When, in truth, there is no problem.

There's a stream of creative wholeness called Life Energy or God or Source or whatever you wanna call it, that I'm either allowing or I'm resisting with my thinking.

I know win-wins are possible now.

As I continue to allow that stream to flow, I am trusting in the goodness of life itself.

And I'll run into people who feel the same way and we'll create beautiful conversations, experiences and things together.

Like today!

We've become pals with our mail lady. As soon as she got our route, she began giving our old dog, Oslo, treats every day. This brought her and Oslo joy. Then we'd give her chocolate and coffee to-go on cold days, bringing joy to her and us.

We had so much fun chatting when we first met that, right away, I got casual with language. This brought us both marvelous, curse-filled joy.

Anyway...she's been out on leave for weeks and hasn't seen the exterior on the fixer upper that Pauly and I have been having so much fun and joy creating.

And today I find this on the back of some junk mail in my mailbox.

A joyful, sweary note from my favorite mail carrier!

Made my day!

Win-wins abound!

Gonna Love Me Some Chitchat by Dana Bergstrom

I've posted recently about my awkward party chatter.

And today it's REALLY starting to bug me that I dislike small talk so much.

But that's only because I think I suck at it.

I've been so busy judging small talk and the fact that it exists, that I've never tried to improve my skills in this area.

But you know what?

I don't like how I feel when I'm judgmental.

When I'm not looking for what's lacking or wrong, I feel free.

Of course, I'll always have preferences, but it's the pushing against people and things that feels crappy to me. That's conditional love. And non-acceptance of WHAT IS is the root of all suffering.

With this last post, it became obvious that I'm super judgy of small talk and I've been suffering unnecessarily because of it. 

I mean, even the name causes me to cringe a little.

"Small talk" makes it sound like it's a waste of time, but it's not.

It has the potential to blossom into beautiful, meaningful convos I love to have about how magical and completely wild and wacky life is!

Judgment comes from fear.

And today I realized that I'm afraid of being myself with someone I don't know. And it's 'cause I'm feral and excitable and I have a lot of not-so-mainstream ideas and experiences, which haven't even made it on the blog. Yet.

What if this new person and I don't have a single thing in common? What if we keep reaching for something to talk about, but there's nothing there? #introvertanxieties, right?

And if it ain't clicking, when can I get up and walk away before my cheeks begin to hurt from fake smiling?

Oh wait.

That's just nuts.

I'm not gonna fake smile anymore.

DAMN FEMALE SOCIAL CONDITIONING.

Okay, let's call bullshit on that one and be done with it.

[Dusting off hands and throwing Pleasant Girly Girl Nonsense away]

I bet there are some great books on the art of meeting new people that don't involve faux grinning till your face goes numb.

Book suggestions welcome and appreciated.

So today on my Facebook feed, a class on the ART OF CONVERSATION pops up.

But it was for $49 bucks.

Facebook knows what I'm thinking about and that I'm on a budget.

WELL! I dig Krista Tippett and her On Being podcast. She's a master at the biz and I think this is a great start.

I love how life always presents the very next thing for me.

It knows I'm done pushing against chitchat.

Yep!

I'm here in this body to enjoy myself, and that's what I'm gonna do.