Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self

I just read a book in which a variety of people, some very well known and some not so well known, wrote a letter to their sixteen year old selves.  I thought it was a great idea.  Of course the first thing you would do is to tell yourself to tell your parents to buy shares in a company called Apple and a company called Google.  It’s computer and technology stuff. Don’t laugh at the names, or laugh if you want, just make sure to buy the shares.  You will thank me later. After that, the door is wide open.

It is fact that under the best of circumstances, sixteen is a very awkward year for most people.  Hormones are raging.  High school is happening and it is also about the time  you are submitting applications for college and taking what seems like a bazillion tests. Add to that,  you are discovering who you are as an individual for the first time.  That’s not awkward at all.  Many are dealing with situations beyond that that can be extremely taxing.

I still regard sixteen as one of the most difficult years of my life, even after every thing I’ve experienced in this world up to this point.  My mother’s cancer returned and I and my nuclear family had to give up our beautiful home and the majority of our belongings to go and live with my maternal grandmother.  If there is one thing you need to know at this point, it is that she hated(haaaated) me.  She always did, and I was about to move into the lion’s den.

I am eternally grateful to my sixteen year old self and I marvel to this day at the fact that I survived that year.  So, here’s a picture of sixteen year old me and my letter to my sixteen year old self.FullSizeRender

Dear DJ(yup, that’s what I was called back then),

The core of the person that you are now is the person that you will always be and that’s a good thing.  Integrity and character are your cornerstones , but not everybody shares those qualities,  so trust your instincts as you always have.  They are spot on every time.   

These are some things that you already know.  This is just a reminder to never forget them:

1) The world is a very large place with a wide variety of people in it.  It is great fun learning all about it.   

2) You are a fighter.  You are a survivor.  Learn to thrive.

3) Trust your gut because some people are users, knowingly and not, and they do not always have your best interest at heart.  Do not give them second or third chances.  Trust me it’s a waste of time.    

4) You are not alone.

5) Being yourself is the best thing you can be.

Learn quickly that there is beauty in gentleness and there is nothing wrong with being different, in fact it’s a strength.  And for goodness sake learn to meditate.  It’s miraculous…and don’t forget to tell your parents to buy those shares.  

P.S. I think you owe your Spanish teacher fifty cents, not because you took the candy bar, but because the candy bars were your responsibility, and yes of course we know now who did take it.

With great love and great respect,



Expanding Your Horizons

Are you doing that end of year, New Year reminiscing thing?  I am, but this time I’m going way back.  I’m thinking about defining moments that happened when I was seven and eight and twelve.  It was a whole bathing suit thing.  I’ll tell you about it later. Sometimes you have to look back to move forward, to expand your horizons.

What do pink tutus and purple galoshes have in common or argyle socks and camouflage pants for that matter?  For you GQers that second one is totally a look trust me.  A child wouldn’t hesitate to wear those items together.  Adults not so much.  It’s about freedom of expression, expanding your ideas of what it means to be dressed appropriately or in fashion.  It’s about adding to our repertoire of ideas of who we are and what we want to be.    

Remember that apartment that you lived in that was a total dump or that roommate you had who probably would have made it to someone’s psychological watch list.  It was an interesting time.  It even makes for a great story at a party but you don’t want to repeat the experience, just the story.  Things change.  Life’s circumstances change and yet we tend to do the same things day in and day out.  Some people grow older but they might not ever grow.

Back then life was an adventure.  There was always something to look forward to, a new home, a new car, a better job.  We weren’t worried about settling into a comfortable life because there were too many things that we wanted to do, things that needed changing. 

I used to get in trouble for coloring outside the lines and for coloring at perpendicular angles on the same object.  I would start coloring up and down and then I would get tired of coloring in that direction so I would turn the picture to the side and color in a different direction on the same object.  Ms. Johnson, yes I still remember her name, didn’t appreciate my artistic sensibilities.  My pictures were still awesome, at least to me anyway.  I respected my temperament.  I allowed my third grade self to be fully me.  I didn’t know there was any other way.  Allow your adult self to be fully you.  Remember what it’s like to not know any other way. Explore your inner landscape. 

FullSizeRender  Do you want to try something new?  Something different?  Something more, or maybe even something less?  Could be an opportunity for black velvet pants and cowboy boots, just sayin.’  Now is not the time to be afraid of being something nobody else has seen. 

  As adults we get conditioned to blend in and not stand out. Everybody has heard the phrase, “don’t upset the apple cart.” We get conditioned to settle into sameness.  Feel free to paint the bathroom walls red. Color outside the lines in whatever direction you choose

To quote George Lucas, you know that guy who made that movie.  I can’t quite think of the name of it right now.

    “Don’t listen to your peers.  Don’t listen to your parents.  Only listen to yourself. That’s where you’ll find your truth.”



Be You.

“My name is Danya White and I am a magazine-aholic. It has been one hour since my last viewing.”

MagsCrowd: “Hi, Danya.”

“OK, ok, if we’re being honest here it’s only been five minutes since my last viewing. I’m sorry, so sorry, that high gloss paper has got me bad.”

It’s true I do love magazines, in honesty, not nearly as much as I used to and that’s only because I don’t have the time, if we’re being completely honest here. My “addiction” started early. I think I was in high school when I picked up my first Seventeen. The buying steam-rolled from there. Glamour. Bazaar. Elle. Then I discovered the bible of them all, Vogue. There is no other.   I love all kinds actually, not just fashion. The people in the pictures are wearing the best of the best and they’re hanging out in the most luxurious of locations, participating in events that I could only dream of. It was quite a high for this small town girl. Those magazines made my world larger.

As much as I loved, love those magazines I knew they could not define who I was, who I am. I had to do that for myself.   I have to define myself. I determine who I am. It is I who knows my own value.

Define yourself. Don’t look for others to define you. Look in the mirror and tell yourself the story of you. No one else has that right. Self-knowledge is the most important knowledge. Self-care is the most important care. Others may define you as the pauper when you should be defined as prince. It’s your choice. Whether you have chosen beauty school or business school. Step away from the chaos of the world outside to connect with, reacquaint yourself with you and your world within.

The art of knowing who you are starts with an unconditional acceptance of who you are and a willingness to take the time to get to know who that person is, the person staring at you in the mirror when you’re brushing your teeth in the morning(and at night). It takes an incredible act of courage.

We just celebrated a day in which we could dress up as anything we wanted. You’re allowed to do that in your everyday life as well. Perhaps you want to explore the life of an attorney or paramedic. You can start with a class or conduct an informational interview or read a magazine. Believe me, whatever it is, there’s a magazine for that.

It takes an act of self-love to decide to define yourself. Self-definition begins with asking questions of yourself: What do I want? What do I need? What do I need to do to get it? What do I need to let go of to get to where I want to be.

How do I know what I want you ask? Think about what you daydream about the most. It’s probably some variation on that. We create our existence. We define ourselves. You decide who you are.   You don’t let someone else tell you what to eat. You may ask for suggestions but the ultimate decision is yours.   You are unique. Tell yourself the story of you then share it with the world.

Don’t spend your whole life trying to fit into someone else’s world, a world where nothing ever feels quite right. What about being you? Define yourself. You can pick and choose the things you like from whatever life or circumstance you’ve observed and leave the rest behind. Your choices define you. You define you.

This is the part where I tell you to do something new. Nope, not yet. Get quiet. Ask the questions and listen for the answers. Ok I did it a little bit.


Hallowed Hi Jinks

It’s post Dia de los Muertos.  Nobody is thinking about unconditional love.  Monsters need unconditional love too.

Zombie: Brains.  Braaains.

Therapist:  What does braaains represent to you zombie?

Zombie: (a little started) No one has ever asked me that.

Zombie cries.  Zombie attempts to wipe away tears and zombie’s arm falls off.

Therapist: There. There zombie. 

Zombie: Zombie needs to go and think about his love of braains. 

Zombie reaches for therapist’s skull. 

Therapist:  NO ZOMBIE.  NO.

Zombie: Zombie sorry.  Zombie believe braains love.  Need braains.

Therapist:  That’s right zombie we all need braains.


Character Study

If slow and steady wins the race, how do you stay motivated along the road?  It’s about endurance and ethics. There will be many quiet days.   That road is this journey we call life.  The quiet moments are opportunities to focus inward. It’s a time to say “thanks for this experience” and don’t judge the circumstances.   There are lessons to be learned in the present situation.    It’s a great time to eat tacos.  OK, you can make a taco relatively healthy but some days you need your favorite comfort foods.  Indulge.  Trust that there are going to be better days.  It may be a great time to work on your personal mission statement …or write one if you haven’t started it yet

Speak French…to your cat.  Don’t speak French?  Is the cat going to know? Really? Cry and/or laugh. They are great stress releasers.  Smarten up.  Learn from your mistakes and make course corrections.  It’s a journey right?  It’s YOUR journey. It’s not a competition.  Life goes by so much faster than you think, especially as you get older. It’s already the end of September, a new school year has begun.  Yup, I just realized it too. It’s an opportunity to focus on the lessons you’ve already learned and decide what else you’d like to know. Take the time to pause, breathe and love yourself through the quiet times.  Trust your gut.   Take care of the details.  Review your plans and adjust and make new ones if necessary.

It’s not the time to compromise your character. If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if no one is around to hear it?  I’ve always been obsessed by that question. I thought it might fit here, in the sense that the trees character doesn’t change. It just doesn’t have anyone around to witness it.

Many hours and miles of your journey will be spent alone and you always want to know that you can look back and feel proud of the choices you made along the way.  It’s about enjoying and embracing the little moments.   It’s your journey. It will not be the same as anyone else’s. It should not be the same as anyone else’s journey. Who are you when no one is looking?  How do you behave when no one is paying attention?  Can you look at yourself in the mirror and be satisfied with the person who looks back at you?  I’m’ not talking about wrinkles and dry skin, it’s in the eyes.  Can you look yourself in the eye?

If my journey finds me on a plane heading straight toward the side of a mountain, I don’t want to be sitting next to the guy looking at me funny with hot sauce in his hands and I don’t want to be that person licking my lips holding hot sauce in my hands. I hope I have examined my motivations before then.

Eat the last cookie and throw away the wrapper when you’re finished.  Say “please” and “thank you.”  Character is about what you choose to do when no one seems to care and when it seems no one is looking.


Living Deliberately

If I have to click on another article that gives me ten things I can do to improve my life or the latest, twelve milestones to success or 21 days to a better life; I’m going to puke or scream or tear my hair out.    If you want to lose weight, exercise and make healthier food choices.  If you want to save money, spend less.  If you want more love in your life, say “I love you,” not just to others, say it to yourself as well.  Did they tell you anything you didn’t already know?  Nope.  And it got a little preachy.  Eeew!

We take our lives for granted.  We take the people around us for granted.  When is the last time you stopped, just stopped and took a deep breath?   Do it now.  I’ll wait.  You can even smell a fresh flower if you have one nearby.  Life isn’t always easy and it slips by before we know it.  You say you want to change your life but you never really get around to it or there are lots of false starts.   Most days we just coast through continuing the same old routine; up at 7,   coffee at 7:15, a shower at 7:30, and get to work by nine, each day just like the next.  And then it’s Friday, even better if we get paid.   It’s summer.  We take a vacation.  Autumn arrives.  The leaves change.  You put on a sweater and some boots (my fave!).  Before you know it, the holiday music starts playing.  One year tumbling into another.

Real change takes focus, time and effort until it becomes second nature.  Anything, if you really want it, takes time, one choice at a time. Do it deliberately.  Live deliberately.  Pay attention to the choices you make each day.  We live in a society of high gloss and quick fixes but real change takes time.

People are always telling you how to fix things.   Breaking News: Not Everything is Broken.  You are not broken.  Maybe you just want to tweak a little.  But if you want twenty-one things to do to change my life advice…Here you go…

  1. Drink More Water.
  2. Enjoy nature. Go for a walk.
  3. Cook a new recipe. You are not required to eat it.
  4. Smile more.  You don’t have to do it in public.  I get it.  You want to appear cool and or smart.  FYI: Smart people smile.
  5. Clean out your closet.
  6. Donate the items to charity.
  7. Meditate or not.  I don’t care.
  8. Chew a new flavor of gum.
  9. Make your own iced tea.
  10. Try a new restaurant.
  11. Take a different route to work.
  12. Buy some new socks.  Socks are totally trendy right now.
  13. Try a new hair color or cut.
  14. Buy and eat a new fruit or veggie at the market.
  15. Explore a new neighborhood…walking.
  16. Take a dance class.
  17. Ride the 6:11 train to work rather than the 6:22. Ooh. You might meet someone new!
  18. Take a nap (Not now, finish reading this first).  Seriously.  Take a nap.  You seem a little cranky.
  19. Write a letter to Santa…Dear Santa, When I was eight, I asked for…still waiting.
  20. It’s almost back to school time.  Take a class.
  21. Express your gratitude.
  22. Bonus: Sing in the shower, loudly.
Socks are so trendy right now
Socks are so trendy right now

There you have it, twenty-one ways (with a bonus) to do something different, or not.  Those things aren’t new either.  They just may get you to pay attention or look at your life a bit differently.  You have choices.   Live deliberately.


Celebrate You!

Remember when you first learned to ride a bicycle?  You were so proud of yourself.  The grown-up helped you by holding on to the back of the bike until you felt steady enough to ride on your own and then they let go.   It’s how we learned when we were young.  Someone, an adult, thought it was time for you to pick up a new skill and they gathered the necessary equipment for you and carved out some time to help you practice, then they let go, maybe you even got an ice cream when it was over.    What happens when you want to learn something as an adult?

This is the time of year when teenagers are graduating from high school, young adults are graduating from college, and even four and five year olds are graduating from preschool and kindergarten.  Yes, everybody gets a graduation ceremony these days.  What about the adults who are living their lives who aren’t in a classroom anymore?  We do continue to learn as adults if we so desire.  It’s up to us.  We tackle new skills and let go of practices  we no longer need.

June comes around and the summer sun, in the western hemisphere anyway, brings her searing heat to the daytime skies while celebrities and moguls  are giving graduation speeches at major universities all over the country, but there’s no graduation ceremony for you, unless of course you choose to celebrate yourself, and sometimes you need to celebrate yourself.  Who even knows that you’re working on things?

You’ve taken the class.  You’ve started the program.  It doesn’t have to be June.  Sometimes only you know the work you’ve done in your life.  You’ve finally stopped smoking.  You’re eating healthier.  You’re exercising regularly.  You’ve started meditating. You’re putting money away systematically.  It’s time to celebrate your independence.  It’s time for your graduation ceremony.  You’re the grownup now.  You chose to go out and learn something new.  You did the research, took the class, got up early or stayed up late, and now you can choose to celebrate.

Cue commencement music.   Standing at the podium you begin your speech.  “First I would like to thank me for my perseverance and fortitude.  There were some rough times, you say as you shake your head, but I pulled through and now I’ve achieved some of my goals.  I remember the days when I thought, ”Enough is enough.”  I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.  It was at those times, in your best preacher’s voice, when I discovered my own strength.  Sometimes I needed to rest, so I did, and it was the right thing to do.  Sometimes I just needed to cry, so I did, and it was just the release I needed.  I wish I could say the path was a straight line, but it wasn’t.  And as an adult I now know it never is.  I wish someone would’ve told me that earlier, but I doubt I would have listened any way.  During my journey, I learned to trust my instincts.  I learned to take roads less travelled and I even forged some new paths of my own.  I’m fortunate and very grateful to stand here today in front of you, a little older, a little less naive and a little weary but genuinely happy that I chose my own road and I stuck with it.  Congratulations to me and to you for living your life on your terms. Celebrate your personal milestones whether you’ve chosen to share them or not.  Do your happy dance and celebrate.

What’s next?


Rainbow Rivers Lament

Tranquil skies.

Falling leaves.

Tortured soul.

Tattered lives

Broken clay pots strewn in a corner.

Train whistles wail slowly disappearing into the night.

Appalachian trails. Never ending

The long slow note of a saxophone.

She walked slowly into the shadows never to return.

Is that all there is?



He makes me feel safe.

That guy.

I know him, but I don’t.

I’ve seen him, but I haven’t met him, but I know him.

He’s nearby.

He’s waiting for my call.

He’s with me always.

He is safe.

I don’t even know what he’s wearing.

Probably nothing.

I can take off everything when I am with him.

He is home.



She sits.

She stands.

They face each other.

“What now?” The other one asks.

“Yes, What now?”

They don’t move.

They stare at one another.

What now?

He reaches for her.