I’m Not The Sort of Person Who…

Guys. I’ve been on holidays for over three weeks now, and one thing that keeps popping up is my idea of Who I Am. Indulge me for a minute here: Take out a piece of paper or open a blank document on your phone or laptop. (Please make a cursory attempt to do this at least– it’s fun and enlightening, I swear). Answer the following prompts as honestly, as thoroughly, but as spontaneously as possible, and then meet me in the next paragraph for discussion. ūüôā

Prompt #1: I am someone who ____________________ (or simply “I am ____________”)

Prompt #2: I’m not the sort of person who ______________________ (or simply “I’m not _______”)

List as many things as you can think of for each prompt. For example, coming into this vacation, some of my answers for myself would have been:

I am someone with high standards. I am someone who believes in doing the best job I possibly can. I am someone who is careful and conscientious. I am disciplined and in control.

I’m not the sort of person who enjoys crowds. I’m not one to let loose in public. I’m not a party-er.

That’s just the start. I’ve also discovered how widespread and totally arbitrary my “rules” about who I am (or should be) are. Many times, I’ve caught myself saying things like “I can’t eat dairy” (i.e. I am someone who is limited by what she can eat), “It’s late– I should really get to bed” (i.e. I’m not someone who deviates from her usual routines), or “I don’t think that’s worth it” (i.e. I don’t splurge on anything. Ever.)

Take a look at some of your own answers. Do they lay out very specific– and, let’s face it, highly unlikely– circumstances under which you’re finally allowed to have fun or to experience joy? Do they make you feel free or do they keep you trapped indeterminately? I don’t wear skirts or shorts. I’m not a ‘two piece swimsuit’ kind of woman. I’m not a swimsuit person, period! I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat carbs. I don’t eat fat. I swore off sugar. I don’t have sex during the day, on weeknights, or when the kids are at home. (Or at all.) I wear my hair up. I usually wear my hair down and part it on the right. I hate my job. I love my job! I gain weight just by thinking about food.¬†

This idea really hit home for me when Marty and I went to Florida for a week. Originally, we had planned to winter in Ecuador, and when we discovered that you have to fly through Florida to get there, we thought, Well, we might as well spend a week in Orlando! Our travel plans changed dramatically soon after we had booked ourselves into a random resort in Orlando, leaving us far away from Ecuador but still scheduled to fly across the continent and to partake in things like Disney World and Universal Studios for a week. Eek!

En route to Orlando, I nervously peppered Marty with questions on the plane. Do you like rides? What if we hate it there? When’s the last time you’ve been on a roller coaster– what do you mean, ‘never’?¬†I was extremely apprehensive about deviating from our usual vacation MO– camping or staying in a cheap hotel, hiking, logging extensive urban kilometers, discovering hidden gems in nature, etc. The thought of staying in a¬†resort¬†and going to¬†theme parks for a week made me sick to my stomach, especially when I read the cost of Disney admission in our guidebook. Having fun ain’t cheap, sister.

Anyway. We arrived in Orlando and checked into our villa, with my carefully crafted idea of Who I Am rearing its head and ramming into our surroundings at every opportunity. Ugh– I don’t do ‘poolside’. What do you mean, there’s a cigarette butt station right outside the elevator? Gross. Mandatory mini golf fee, are you kidding me? It got worse when we purchased tickets to both the Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios, my hand quavering as I signed the exorbitant credit card slip. You mean I’m paying to spend time in a crowded theme park with a bunch of screaming kids? Am I crazy?! And I have to set my alarm for what time¬†to get there? That’s, like, 4 whole hours before I normally get up… What on earth is happening to me?

Ever the strategists, Marty and I made a game plan the night before heading to the Magic Kingdom. Being the crusty, childless couple that we are, we decided to capitalize on Parade Time throughout the day, bee-lining for the far flung corners of the park while¬†everybody else jammed Main Street to see the floats and to have their photos taken with Mickey Mouse.¬†We don’t do parades. We don’t care about Mickey Mouse. We hate crowds. We are serious adults, for gods sake. It will be the perfect time to get photos without any people in them, for once.

At the park the next day, everything was going according to plan. At 1 pm, we saw the park attendants rope off a generous area for parade traffic and heard some spirited, G-rated music blaring from some speakers in the distance. Let’s head for Tomorrowland!, we mouthed to each other and enthusiastically pushed through crowds of people to make our way as far from Main Street as we possibly could. Marty decided to shoot some photos of Cinderella Castle en route, and that’s when we saw it:

IMG_3731

Some poor soul dressed up as King Louie, the orangutan from The Jungle Book, was doing the twist with a young girl in the middle of Main Street. I made a snarky comment–¬† likely ridiculing people who were shallow-minded enough to unwind and have fun at a theme park of all places– and then Marty dared me to go dance with the orangutan. The default programming flooded in immediately:¬†I hate parades. I don’t like crowds. This song sucks. I would never dance with an orangutan period, let alone in public. What are we doing in Disney World, anyway?¬†But Marty persisted. And I got curious.

This is what curiosity looks like for me-- a mixture of sheepishness and disbelief about what might happen next.

This is what curiosity looks like for me– a mixture of sheepishness and disbelief about what might happen next.

Hmmm… Am I really ‘not a parade person’? What if I could enjoy a parade, just this once? Maybe I can enjoy this one, right now? Maybe dancing with a person in an orangutan costume isn’t so ridiculous after all? Maybe it will even be– gasp– fun?!

That’s how this happened:

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Yup. I finished that song feeling completely exhilarated and didn’t even have to prompt Marty to join a congo line right afterward. (He was in there before I could even dare him!) Pure joy rushed through my veins for the rest of the parade– not to mention the rest of the day– and I felt like hugging that orangutan when everything was over and the floats were being steered back to the garage. ME! DANCING AT A THEME PARK! HAVING COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF FUN! LOOK AT ME, EVERYONE!¬†

Needless to say, we happily crowded around the barricades for every subsequent parade that day, and we gasped in collective wonder that evening when the cast from ‘Frozen’ transformed Cinderella Castle into a bedazzled, snowy confection. (I even wept when Jiminy Cricket narrated the fireworks show. I was overcome with emotion about dreams coming true!)

A super cool "Sleeping Beauty" float at the next parade.

A super cool “Sleeping Beauty” float at the next parade.

I don't believe anyone who says this display wouldn't bring them to tears...

I don’t believe anyone who says this display wouldn’t bring them to tears…

Yes. The moral of this story is to examine “who you are” and “who you are not” in light of new opportunities and experiences that come your way. You never know– maybe, like me, you’ve got a parade-loving, monkey-dancing persona just itching to break free from your disciplined, super serious facade. (Or maybe not, in which case, at least you’ll have some incriminating photos taken of yourself for the future…)

 

     

Sunday Signage: Beware of Giants!

Ah, riding the ferry! Nothing but sparkles of sunshine on the water and long, sweet line-ups to the indoor cafeteria for $12 paninis. Sounds like paradise, right? WRONG!

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble of bliss, but don’t you know that¬†GIANTS are lurking in the shadowy caverns of the ferry hull, waiting until everyone returns to their vehicles to pounce? (Not that Giants ‘pounce’– they are too large and lumbering for that– but you get the idea.¬†They are waiting to kill you while you are innocently waiting for the ferry to dock!)

Need proof? An actual, official warning sign from the vehicle deck on board BC Ferries:

IMG_1629One minute, the cars are safe and sound, parked within 12 inches of each other. The next minute, though? WHAMMO! Out pops a Giant, towering over the vehicles and waving a leg of wildebeest in rage! His torso is like a glowing furnace of fury! He’s even wearing red Oven Mitts of Doom!! Noooooooo!!! (Car #1 is lucky to escape, no? Even if that “escape” is straight into a watery grave from the not-yet-docked ferry.) I feel sorry for the people in Car #2, though. They are total goners… or at the very least, their windshield will get all greasy from the meat dribbles. Fact.

Are You The Artist?

“Are you the artist?”

I get asked this question approximately twenty times per day each summer, and even more so on weekends and holidays. I can understand why people ask it– after all, I’m standing behind a table full of artwork and have a cheery, “Ask me Anything!” expression on my face. However, the question always makes me laugh. Why? Because, sitting less than a foot behind me– on a concrete pedestal, no less– is The Artist Himself, paintbrush in hand, easel and canvas on full display. He might as well be wearing a beret (though a straw fedora lends itself nicely to the artist stereotype as well).

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

Marty at the Harbour. He is literally right behind me, i.e. I spun around and took this photo of him painting.

(It’s also funny because we have numerous “Acrylic Paintings by Martin Machacek” signs plastered everywhere, some of them giant ones. A few of these signs even feature larger-than-life-sized photos of a bearded, blond man on them. With a paintbrush in his hand. I don’t know how much more direct we need to be with our messaging, but it appears the most crucial bit of information– the Not-So-Secret-Identity of the Artist– is still getting lost in translation.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. (Shakes head in disbelief.)

An actual sign at our harbour booth. This one is about 4 feet tall. But are you the artist, miss? (Shakes head in disbelief.)

Anyway. Sometimes, in response to the “Are you the artist?” question, I’ll state the obvious: “Actually, my husband is the painter”, while subtly tilting my head back in Marty’s general direction. Other times, I’ll let my sweeping Vanna White motions do the talking for me. [In exaggerated pantomime] Wow, right behind me is…. A NEW CAR! THE ARTIST HIMSELF! Would you look at that! [Imaginary clapping and fanfare]

The truth is, I am an artist, just not the capital-A Artist that people are referring to when they ask me The Question. I do lots of creative things, both business-related and in my spare time, but Marty is The Painter and understandably gets the spotlight when we are down at the Harbour. (It would be creepy and disturbing otherwise, no?)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Me being artsy. (Not to mention orange.)

Over the past few months, Marty and I hatched a way to blend¬†his¬†creative energy with¬†my artistic awesome-sauce. After much deliberation and several bad ideas, we came up with videos. Time lapse videos, to be more specific. We figured, “Hey! You [Marty] make super cool paintings, and I [Dana] know nothing about making videos whatsoever! We don’t even own a camcorder (or whatever the hi-tech term is for those newfangled machines that record moving pictures)! Therefore, we MUST make videos of you [Marty] painting! THEY WILL BE AMAZING!”

Ha. This is how I suddenly became great friends with Google. After doing some preliminary research, I determined that:

  1. This would be so much easier to do with a camcorder! But what fun is ‘easy’ when you can make things way more complicated than they need to be?
  2. In the absence of a camcorder, I still didn’t own– or want to purchase– an “intervalometer” to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera¬†
  3. I definitely didn’t own– or want to purchase– a graphing calculator to help me time the photo taking remotely on my camera (because, hello— the lack of graphing calculators is the main reason why I majored in Communications in the first place)
  4. I didn’t even want to borrow a graphing calculator from somebody else, because that would mean I’d have to program it to take time lapse photos, and even I’m not that big of a dork
  5. I might want to borrow a camcorder from somebody else, but meh– I was too lazy for that and would rather spend hours on Google trying to figure out camcorder alternatives instead
  6. Time lapse video making was still possible with our older camera. I’d have to rig up a tripod, many random cords, a camera, my laptop, and free software… in our kitchen… but making a time lapse video was still possible. Perfect.

And so (drumroll please), we did it! Marty hunkered down in his painting cubby (you can’t even call it a “studio”), I worked some serious nerd magic on the laptop, and our camera magically started taking photographs every five seconds. It took Marty a while to adjust to having his picture taken by the kitchen paparazzi every few seconds, but eventually, he settled into a rhythm and created his masterpiece. When he finished, I spent some more time poring over DIY video-making threads online and finally figured out how to stitch everything together into a bonafide time lapse video! Behold– my masterpiece:

Hey??? Are you super impressed or super DUPER impressed? Haha! I had caught the time lapse video-making bug– a rare but apparently potent condition. Ahem. So I made another time lapse video of Marty painting, this time taking my nerdiness to the next level and individually screening each and every photo (over 10,000 of them!) before stitching them together in a moving picture. So it could be crisp and perfect, obviously. (And don’t even start: I already know how deep I am into those dork-o-rama waters.) Anyway. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of this particular video (below), because doing so would reveal all sorts of geeked-out layers in my psyche, and I’m not prepared to do that just yet. We’re still at the “taking it slow” phase, right? But check this out:

I know. I KNOW!! I love this video because I can honestly say, “I made that!” at the end. Am I the artist?¬†Hell, yes! Did I figure out a convoluted but effective way to create time lapse videos, without a camcorder or a closet full of geek equipment?¬†Double hell, yes! Now all I need is a beret. And Vanna White. And then I’m set!¬† ¬†

Katy Perry, My Unexpected Guru

I’m one of those woo-woo people who believes in what I like to call Universal Magic. I believe in synchronicity, the Law of Attraction, and especially in guidance from signs, symbols, and teachers. So-called “coincidences” happen to all of us, all of the time (hooray for miracles!), but it’s only when we have open minds and hearts that we can truly receive the messages that these occurrences bring.

One thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that the universe has a pretty awesome sense of humor. One time I was searching for The Perfect Shirt, something– as I put it so eloquently– “had my name written all over it”. Lo and behold, a minute or two after I said that to myself, I walked by a thrift store with the most God Awful Shirt I Had Ever Seen. It was a long-sleeved cotton get up in royal blue, and– get this!– it had the word “Dana” stamped all over it in too-large, mustard yellow, Comic Sans font. As I stared, aghast at this beast of an ugly shirt, I imagined the Universe cracking up all around me. “You said you wanted your name all over it!”, it probably gasped, barely able to contain its delight at my horrified expression. “I was being figurative!“, I fumed back, humiliated. “Obviously, I don’t actually want my name written all over a shirt! Geez!” But this taught me to be specific in my future requests, not to mention careful what I wished for. ūüėČ

I am in an Age of Mentors when it comes to my own development lately. I am reading more books than I’ve been able to in a long, long time, and I am gobbling up online courses, meditations, and Mastermind Group opportunities whenever they pop up. “Teach me what I most need to learn” has been my mantra as of late, and learning is what I’ve been doing indeed. Most of the teachers on my path have been expected, or at least not drastically surprising. There’s been Marie Forleo, she of the amazing (and highly recommended) B-School course; Danielle LaPorte of The Fire Starter Sessions and The Desire Map; and Marianne Williamson, whom I somehow never read until this summer. (I know! WTH?)

And then there was Katy Perry. Yu-huh.

For those of you who might not know who Katy Perry is (possibly because you are more than 11 years old), she is a pop star. A wildly famous pop star, at that. She appeals mostly to tween and adolescent girls, though there are a number of adolescent boys thrown into the mix as well. Her hits include “I Kissed A Girl” and “Firework“, but the only time I’ve ever actually listened to her music is when it was forced on me during workout classes at the YMCA.

The peppermint candies on this dress actually spun! (Image courtesy of www.therpf.com)

Katy Perry! The peppermint candies on this dress actually spun! (Image courtesy of http://www.therpf.com)

Anyway.

Marty has been at a training camp all week, so I’ve been doing random things like eating Indian takeout every night and flipping through documentaries on Netflix. (Marty eats Indian food and watches documentaries as well, but I think it’s safe to say he would NEVER have watched the documentary I did tonight, which was¬†Katy Perry: Part of Me. Just a hunch.)

I'm sure Marty can appreciate a good carousel dress, but I doubt he would have lasted through 90+ minutes of a Katy Perry documentary. (Image courtesy of www.teen.com)

I’m sure Marty can appreciate a good carousel dress like the next forty-something year old man, but I doubt he would have lasted through 90+ minutes of a Katy Perry documentary. (Image courtesy of http://www.teen.com)

I’m surprised that I even hovered over the Katy Perry: Part of Me image long enough to read its blurb while browsing titles on Netflix. But I did read the blurb, and it said “suitable for 11-12 year old girls”. It also had a “best guess rating for Dana” of 2 stars out of 5. Excellent. I felt resistance chorus through my veins, and yet I strangely hit the Play button all the same. Like I said, the Universe has a pretty stellar sense of humor.

(Image courtesy of http://www.thestar.com)

The joke was on me for sure, though. I watched the whole movie… and cried like a tween girl the entire time. Maybe it was the Indian takeout, but I teared up watching Katy change from one elaborate, candy-themed costume to another, and I positively sobbed when her sister handed out backstage passes to a couple of kids dressed up like a gingerbread man and a banana. (I can’t even make this shit up!) I found myself rooting for her, and every time Katy overcame an obstacle in the documentary, my heart poured forth with love and gratitude, not to mention streams of tears and a substantial case of the sniffles, too. (I might as well live alone with a dozen cats now, right? That’s apparently how cool I am. Ha.)

What I learned from Katy Perry was this:

1. Be yourself. No matter what.

2. Be your crazy ass, wonderfully odd self, even if your parents are hardcore Christians and can’t believe you’re singing about kissing girls, and even if the major record labels can’t imagine giving a record contract to a young woman who wants to dress up in blue wigs and bedazzled onesies to fancy industry events.

(Image courtesy of www.idolator.com)

(Image courtesy of http://www.idolator.com)

3. Be true to your amazing, 100% unique self, and your tribe will find you in spades (possibly with wigs, sparkles, and cupcake hats on!)

(Image courtesy of www.public.fr)

(Image courtesy of http://www.public.fr)

4. Did I mention “Be Yourself” yet? Because that’s what I learned to the core of my being from Katy Perry and her “suitable for 11-12 year old girls” documentary. I’m probably the only person who cried (a lot) during this movie… and I might even be the only person over 15 who has seen the movie, period.

What about you, dear readers?

Have you ever been caught off guard by happenstance, universal lessons, or movies made for 11-12 year old girls?

What’s your favorite manifestation or magical moment? (I totally love stories about this, so share away!)