Black Lives Matter

Graphic from NPR’s Code Switch (more on that below)

Somewhere around 4am, I found myself wide awake and unable to fall back asleep.  The thoughts keeping me awake were not really anything new. Not only is racism not getting better, in some ways things are actually getting worse.  I am not an expert, and would never claim to be, and I know that I can always do more, be better and take more action.  If you or someone you know are looking for somewhere to get started, I suggest starting here.

I know I will be.

I would be delusional if I claimed to grow up surrounded by diversity.  I lived in a small town and for seven out of my thirteen years of school, I attended small private Catholic schools.  Yet, all I remember was being taught kindness, love and equality regardless of how a person looked, what they had or what cards they were dealt. 

From a young age, I remember getting very upset when learning about our nation’s history.  As I got older, and seeing society try to perceive that we had “come a long way” and things weren’t “like that anymore”, time and time again it became more apparent that we really hadn’t. Too many people holding positions of power continued to sweep things under the rug, tamper with information and evidence, and time and time again acts of injustice took place.  

“It was just a joke.”  There’s no such thing as that; there is truth to any racist remark. Stolen opportunities of all different kinds.  Wrongful imprisonments.  Murders. 

I have never been able to comprehend how individuals get to a point where they have these thoughts and take these kind of actions.  I can only assume that they are deeply rooted in fear.

I am not referring to fear in the sense of an individual fearing for their life, so they murdered the other individual.  Fear that builds over time because an individual continuously feels inferior to a person or a group of people that look a certain way.  A fear that embarrasses them, one in which they can not admit to, so their entire mindset is overcome with hatred as they try to justify their thoughts and actions. 

Officer Chauvin did not fear that George Floyd was going to kill him as he kneeled on his neck, cut off his air supply and slowly murdered him in broad daylight.  He had three other officers there, all of whom were armed, making Floyd clearly outnumbered. 

The three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog, did not fear that he was going to kill them. This was a planned attack.

I realize that not all of the lives that were wrongfully taken throughout history were not done so by a person who held a position of power.  Yet, for the particular type of instances that are being referenced, it’s safe to say that they all did hold “power”; the privilege of their white skin.  

I also realize that we are not just talking about those who were murdered, but EVERYONE who has been and continues to be mistreated because of the color of their skin. 

At what point did they begin being exposed to racist thoughts and beliefs?  Did it come from their parents?  Older siblings? Other family members? Neighbors? Movies?   As they got older did they continue to have encounters to make them feel inferior?  An individual who was better at them in a particular sport.  Someone who got the girl and they didn’t.  Didn’t get offered the job.  Please do not think that I am trying to justify the action of these men.  I am trying to understand how people get to this point, so we as a society can ensure that future generations do not follow down the same path. 

My freshman year of college, I found myself at a random house party near Brown University.  I really don’t know how or why we ended up there, but I happened to meet someone who, fifteen years later, I still call one of my best friends. We only lived in the same city for our freshmen year of college, because after that, I transferred to a different campus.  Over the years, we have maintained our friendship, regardless of where either of us have lived and continued to reconnect in person when we can. Some of my best memories have been made with her.  All fun and good times aside, she has taught me so much about a lot of things.  Most relevant to what I am writing today, would be the racism that she had encountered throughout her life.  

From 2005-2016, I lived in North and South Carolina.  Living in the Carolinas is a little different than living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  I honestly don’t even know where to begin to try to recap the 11 years as they apply to all of this.  Most of which are not my stories to tell, but suppose the ones that are, are an entirely different post that I will save for another day.  

I do not, and nor will I ever, know what it is like to live in this world as a black man or a black woman.  I can not imagine what it feels like for every time you leave your house (or as we recently saw with Breona Taylor in her OWN house) to feel as if you have a target on your back.   

I do know what it feels like to fear for the life of people that I love.  When you see headline after headline with another black American dead, put yourself in the shoes of their loved ones.  Trayvon Martin’s father.  Eric Garner’s widow. Philando Castile’s girlfriend. Tamir Rice’s mother.

I already fear when one man of my household leaves our home, and fear even more for the day that my son will be doing the same.  

If you can, take 22 minutes out of your day to listen to A Decade of Watching Black People Die from Code Switch on NPR last night.

And in case there’s still confusion around Black Lives Matter.  Here’s 9 different examples to help paint the picture better.

#RunWithMaud

I’ve never tried running more than a few yards while pushing a stroller, but you know what else I have never done?

Tried running while being chased down, as I feared and fought for my life.

I’ve always been told that people fear what they do not know and do not understand. That does not mean that because of that, that anyone should take it upon themselves to take away the life of another.

I do not know Ahmaud Arbery, but neither did the men who took his life away from him. Took him away from the people who he loved, and loved him, most. Stole the opportunity for him to live his life.

There are so many things wrong about this. There are so many things wrong with the world that we live in, and that we keep seeing this happen time and time again.

I have never feared for my life because of the color of my skin. I’ve never feared for my life because another individual sees me, or someone who looks like me, as a threat. I know that is something that I should be, and am, extremely fortunate for.

I have feared for the lives of some of the most important people in my life. I have feared, and will continue to, for anyone who fits a certain profile, when seen by some, as threatening. I fear for anyone who is viewed as less or that their life is not as important or that they do not deserve equal or greater opportunities.

I’ll never understand, and I don’t want to, how someone could have so much hatred inside of them, especially towards a person they know nothing about. How does someone get to that point? And how can we make sure our youth never get to that point so that everyone can have a better future?

I have so much more that I still want to say, and feel that needs to be said. I wish I had an answer or a solution to make this stop. I pray that justice is served. I pray and hope that we find a way to stop seeing history repeat itself over and over again, and we stop seeing countless lives taken away.

What’s On Your Mind, Danielle?

I shared this via my personal Facebook page on Saturday morning. It felt like the first time in the past few weeks, where I truly had a moment to pause and try to process everything that has been going on.

As I went to post this, I realized that Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind, Danielle?” Well, since you asked:

On any given day, I (as I am sure many of you do) wake up not knowing what to expect, and what unexpected curveballs life might throw at me. Over the past few weeks, this has been top of mind and amplified more than ever before.

One day blends into the next, and while some hours seem to fly by, others seem to drag on and on. I’ve witnessed the lives of friends, family members and co-workers change in a blink of an eye. Loved ones lost, jobs taken away and trying to adjust to the new (hopefully temporary) norm, and what that looks like for each individual is a little different.

I’ve seen one extreme to the next. Individuals disregarding any recommendations of mandates provided by both their local or national government, and those that are literally paralyzed by the fear to dare to leave their homes in fear of their life or someone they love’s life.

Some people are busier than ever. Individuals who are now trying to work from home, as they simultaneously homeschool their three children and their partner has now also become their co-worker. Small business owners spending every single waking hour trying to save their business, and do anything possible to ensure they come out on the other side of this.

Workaholics that now have more free time on their hands than ever before, which could be a blessing, but when you are confined to your home, it can be quite challenging to see the sunshine through the clouds.

All of that being said, while I always try really hard to not judge a person, and give them the benefit of doubt, cause I never know what they are truly going through – I am truly trying to be that much more mindful during these unprecedented and strange times.

Most people are under so much stress, and it is so hard not to react when a comment that someone says to us, or that we see online, gets under our skin, but if we can pause for just a moment before lashing out, WE rise above and are better for it.

Similarly, before you attack a stranger, assume anything about someone’s life or make a decision that is solely based on you and you alone (not talking about taking some time for self care), maybe write it down rather than commenting on a post or call a friend or someone else that you can talk to get it off your chest rather than saying it to the person you might have said it to you.

A little kindness, empathy and love never hurt anyone. Oh, and a little (or a lot of) extra distance too.

Some days will be better than others. No matter how bad things are, there’s always some good – no matter how hard it can be to find it.

To all of my friends and family – I love you all and I am here, and always will be, for you. 

A Decade with Dani

Over the past 10 years, I’ve attended more events than I can count, have had the privilege to see some amazing people tie the knot, quite a few beautiful blessings brought into this world and been extremely grateful for all of the professional opportunities that have come my way. While there’s been a lot of heartache and loss, I am so lucky to have such an amazing support system by my side through it all.

In 2010, I moved to Charleston, SC, after living in Charlotte, NC for just over 5 years.

Charleston, SC

Seven months later (May 2011), I unexpectedly lost my sister, and my world, along with my the rest of my family’s, was turned upside down. Some days I feel like that was a life time ago, and other days, I can’t wrap my head around how quickly time flies.

Before my cousin’s wedding. AKA our last night together.

Five months after losing my sister, I found myself on a plane to Colorado to attend Pure Barre Training. Who would’ve thought it would become such a huge part of my life?

First and third photos were taken at training in August 2011. Second and fourth, three years later.

For the majority of 2012, I spent my days and nights all over South Carolina sitting on bar stools, tearing up dance floors and ensuring that Red Bull remained top of my mind for everyone I encountered. Somehow I found time to teach classes and having the balance of the two kept me sane… sort of. I even had the opportunity to represent the US in Amsterdam with some amazing men and women on the company dance and soccer team. Let’s be serious, I was a part of the team with the high kicks, not kicking goals.

I started 2013 on the right foot, literally, by running my first 1/2 marathon in Los Angeles. Midway through the year, I found myself packing my bags and heading back to Charlotte, NC to switch things up a bit career wise. This also allowed for me to join the Pure Barre Corporate Training Team in a part time capacity.

If competing on the dance team once wasn’t enough, I was lucky enough to be a part of it again in 2014, this time heading to Red Bull’s mothership in Austria.

In Austria dancing my heart out.

By this point, Pure Barre was getting more and more air time in my life. After a lot of consideration, I left Red Bull and got even more involved with Pure Barre.

In April 2015, I moved to Greenville, SC to take a full time position with Pure Barre. I was in Greenville for about a year in half, but Pure Barre years are like dog years, so it always seems longer.

The Pure Barre Greenville Team ❤

After a potential international opportunity in 2016 fell through, I decided it was time to give New England a try as an adult.

Four months after moving home, I got engaged. Five months after that, I found out I was pregnant. Woah. That escalated quickly.

Put a ring on it.

Hello, 2018, where we welcomed Braylon Kirk Thompson into the world. Thanks to all of the videos and photos I took throughout the year, I am able to piece together all of life’s events… cause honestly, some days I think I gave Braylon half my brain, so I’m not entirely certain what even happened last year.

March 26, 2018

Similarly, as I look back at everything that has taken place in 2019 I am grateful, proud and tired. Can we stress the tired?

Owner’s Convention 2019 in Las Vegas

As I kick off 2020, I do not necessarily have any resolutions. However, I do want to continue to get better with:

  1. Using my mental pause button more – don’t react / respond as quickly
  2. Taking things less personal
  3. Saying yes less, especially when it means I am saying no to myself
  4. Everyone is going through some sh*t, and we often don’t know the full why – people choose what version of themselves they show to us
  5. Practicing a growth mindset more often
  6. Finding more time to write. Somehow. Someway.

I’m pretty sure my Mom is probably the only one who read this. If anyone else made it through, I hope your new year is off to a wonderful start. Mom, if it’s just you, call me later on.

Walking into the next decade like.

An Extraordinary Angel

sun
The mind has an interesting way of holding on to and highlighting certain memories from our past. Eighteen years of traditions, vacations, play dates and endless summers. Bits and pieces of stories, paired with collected photos and videos from loved ones, allow her story and life to live on each and every day.

I’ve learned a lot since she left us. Made some decisions that I am not proud of and have done things that I regret. It is hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, and head down Glass Half Empty Drive. I know that I am very very blessed and fortunate in SO many ways, but sometimes all of the “noise” gets so distracting. I continue to strive towards living a life for the both of us to truly honor her carefree spirit and beautiful soul.

I don’t think it gets easier. In fact, some days, I think it gets harder. The more of life that I experience, the more I wish she was here to do it all with all of us.

When it’s all said and done at the end of the day, there’s a lot of that “noise” that really does not matter. Things have happened and continue to happen that put the bigger picture into perspective. I am trying to focus more on the things and people that truly bring me joy and make me a better person.

Ordinary moments and things that are shared with extraordinary people are the things that I find myself cherishing the most. These are the things that I would miss the most if I no longer had them. These are the things that I miss the most about Samantha.

The day is already off to a warm and sunny start.  I am off to go do some ordinary things with my extraordinary little man in honor of his Auntie.

Happy International Women’s Day

We all have days where we are the cheerleader, dedicating every moment to rooting on our friends, family members and coworkers. Other days, we need a little extra love, whether it comes from those same people or from ourselves.  Similarly, there are days in which the universe really seems to be putting us to the test.  While the people around us may be quick to point the finger or shift the blame to us, often times, we are guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves becoming our own biggest critics.

The majority of the women that I know have quite the list of obligations. Full time job. Part time job. Other part time job. Part or full-time student. Mother. Caretaker. Wife. No two situations are identical. With all of the similarities and differences that exist, we can either allow for ourselves to become more connected and support one another or build up walls and push each other away.

When I close my computer at night for the last time, no matter how much I’ve accomplished that day, I never feel fully satisfied. There is always going to be more work that can be done, and I need to get better at accepting that. I’ve never been that great at telling people “no”. However, I like to think I’ve always been quite the multitasker. Once I had Braylon I found a whole new meaning to this, and some days I’m convinced I have more than 24 hours in a day when I think about everything I’ve gotten done not including all of my work..and then other days not so much.

Speaking of Braylon, well “being a Mom”…to all my Mom friends out there – when I was in my pre-Mom days if I ever said or did anything to Mom shame you, please feel free to slap me the next time you see me. Well, maybe not slap me, but steal my donut from me or something. Mom shaming is real y’all and you know what else is real? Mom guilt. So, Mama or not – be kind. Tread lightly. Or beware – you might unleash an inner beast.

We tend to focus too much on the weaknesses of others and our own shortcomings, rather than pausing for a moment to find the positivity and strengths. It can be easy to get caught in a mindset where we focus solely on what is wrong about something rather than figuring out what can be done to grow and improve. Be sure to surround yourself with people who are building you up, rather than breaking you down and ensure that you are doing the same for them!

Maybe a bit of early spring cleaning within your social (media) circle would not be a bad idea.  While I am not suggesting to Marie Kondo your entire social network, but rather if you are finding that there are people that do not inspire you, or align with your goals, it might be time to have less of them in your life.

I love staying connected with friends, family and colleagues via social media. The pros can be so so good, and the cons can take us down a deep dark hole leaving us feeling bad or just wasting time that could have been utilized in a much better way. When we’re able to avoid comparing, judging and envying and simply support, love and connect it really is such a great outlet!

We live in a world that is quick to make us feel bad about ourselves, and then provide products and services to just as quickly make us feel better. This whole cycle would be a little less disastrous if we, as women, could make a conscious effort to use our words to make one another feel just a little better each and every day.  Maybe you need to be a little less harsh on yourself, a tad less judgmental of others, avoid prematurely jumping to conclusions or a combination of all three. Whatever adjustments that you might need to make, do them with grace, strength and passion. And remember, you never know who else that you are empowering to do the same.

Finish the Day with a Grateful Heart

We are eight days into the month that is most often associated with gratitude. As we near the holiday season, and quite possibly one of the busiest times of the year, we often find our to-do lists getting longer, stress levels getting higher and schedules overflowing with commitments. Prioritizing can be a challenge, and saying “no” can feel impossible as we try to spend time with family and friends, keep up at work and make time for ourselves.

For some of us, we often move ourselves down the priority list as we put others first. Significant others. Children. Family members. Employees. Clients. When we do not make the time for ourselves, we risk increasing the chance of doing the exact opposite. While what that crucial “time for ourselves” looks like may be a little different for each of us, it plays an imperative role in the quality of our lives and the relationships that we cherish most.

Similarly, as we take time to appreciate everything and everyone that we are grateful for, we often forget about ourselves. It sounds a little selfish, but self-gratitude is just as important as the gratitude we have for all of the people that we appreciate and positively impact our lives. In order to best serve them, we need to allow ourselves to be the best version of ourselves.

It can be easier to complain than praise, recognize the wrongs rather than the rights and focus on the shortcomings of ourselves and others rather than all that we have accomplished. Ending each day by consciously acknowledging several things that we are grateful for, no matter how big or small, has the power to shape our attitude and consistently create a positive energy. Writing these things down or sharing them with someone else can only increase their power.

Oprah, someone who may know a thing or two about setting a good example, kept a gratitude journal for 10 years. She realized that when she stopped, she no longer felt the joy of simple moments. When she was going through her day looking for things to be grateful for, something always showed up. She also noted, “I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”

In the article that I am referencing, she shared her entry from 10/12/96:

  1. A run around Florida’s Fisher Island with a slight breeze that kept me cool.
  2. Eating cold melon on a bench in the sun.
  3. A long and hilarious chat with Gayle about her blind date with Mr. Potato Head.
  4. Sorbet in a cone, so sweet that I literally licked my finger.
  5. Maya Angelou calling to read me a new poem.

While I am pretty disappointed that I have not had the opportunity to get a call from Maya and have a poem read to me, I can most definitely identify with a good workout, enjoying healthy food, chatting with my bestie and eating ALL the desserts.

Today, I am grateful for:

  1. Braylon being on board with being in his bouncy seat for 45 minutes so I could get a living room workout in.
  2. Spending time with my cousin and Aunt…and it didn’t hurt that they came with my favorite pizza!
  3. Memes and video clips that were sent to me by several friends. Amidst all of the seriousness and stress, a laugh here and there throughout the day really keeps me going…so keep ’em coming!
  4. Blue Sour Patch Kids.
  5. The opportunity to see another day.

It can be really hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things and allow our mind to divert down a negative path.  I know for myself, I can often react too quickly, and at times, overreact (ugh, my Mother is probably reading this saying, “SOMEtimes?!”) when there really is not a need to.  A lot of the people I know, myself included, are often going a million miles a minute and could use to slow down a bit. There is so much to be grateful for.  Identifying and acknowledging the little things while expressing our love and gratitude for the big things can truly enhance our quality of life.

“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer

To all my family and friends who continue to add a spark to my day I cannot thank you all enough.  ❤ ❤ ❤