It’s about damn time!

April 23, 2012.  Since I last wrote I have sold most everything I own and moved to Hawaii to follow my dreams.  I chronicled everything via video here.  Have to warn you, some of that video is just me talking to a camera in lieu of a significant other.  So if you watch… I’ll owe you a home cooked dinner… or something.

Anywho, remember my last posts about going on vision quests and figuring out what I wanted and who I am?  Well, it turns out that once you do that, what you want and need starts showing up – and I recognized it when it arrived.  I asked for it, I got it, and I accepted it.

Leading up to that was a lot of muck and mire, but the upshot is good and I honestly expect it to get better.  There really is something to this age/wisdom thing, you know?



That Vacation Feeling…

You know the feeling I’m talking about.  It’s what lights up your senses and makes everything – rain or shine – better.  Sunscreen and pine needles smell better, sun rises sing, fires dance, that cup of coffee seems to be roasted just for your and shopping has never been better.   It’s that feeling you swear you’re going to keep after you return home.  It’s that feeling that leaves exactly 13 hours after returning home, no matter what.

Is it just about having control of your schedule?  It can’t be.  I’ve been on vacations with packed calendars under someone else’s control.  I’ve worked on vacation, had colds, hangovers, backaches and one really nasty spider bite that required a trip to the clinic, antibiotics and steroids.  I still had the vacation feeling and it still left once I got home… even though the work, cold, hangover, backache and spider bite didn’t go home with me.  What the hell?

It’s not just about new surroundings either.  I’ve traveled on business too many times to believe that.  So… that feeling is more about FEELING than anything else.  Dammit… once again, the responsibility belongs on my shoulders – or rather, between my ears.  It is actually under my control.

Alright, what are the common denominators of the vacation feeling?

Looking and seeing as though what is in front of you is fresh

That’s really it.  Seeing with a vacation perspective is what gives the vacation feeling and seeing the dull, same old work-a-day world from which one escapes removes the feeling.

So… the difference is just perspective.  THAT MEANS I CAN HAVE THE VACATION FEELING ANY TIME I WANT IT!

So, I’m going to experiment with that.  I figure all I have to do, is do things differently.  I’m about to drink a cup of tea before bed, wear my fancy pajamas, sleep on the other side of the bed… maybe I’ll sleep in the guest room tomorrow night.

As for work tomorrow, lets see… I can drive a different route, take two 30 minute breaks instead of an hour lunch and use a different bathroom.

I need something to remind me to look at things differently.  LOOK differently.  SEE differently.

When I’m on vacation, I take time to appreciate my surroundings and circumstances.  That’s what I need to do.  I need to appreciate – to love what is around me.  Should I wear cocoa butter and that silly little ring I bought at the beach two years ago?  Hell yes – it’s worth a shot.

I’m going on vacation right now!!!


Yes, I have been on a vision quest.  In fact, I’ve been on two, 2010 and 2011.  What exactly constitutes a “vision quest,” you may ask?  For me, it’s a nice, neat package of openness, opportunity and contemplation, all concentrated into a small lump of time and travel.

  • Be open to big changes in your life
  • Have a week to travel and no need to plan most of that time
  • Have enough money and/or creativity to take care of basic needs (eating,  sleeping and getting from A to B to C)
  • Bring at least one big question
  • Bring an open mind and willingness to let answers unfold over the next year or so
  • Bring a journal and write in it every day
  • Bring curiosity and high, but loosely defined expectations
  • Seek adventure and newness every day of the quest – pick up brochures, ask for recommendations and be willing to drive down the road just because it seems like the right thing to do at the moment
  • Talk to strangers with no expectations, but don’t be surprised if they reveal the secrets you’ve been looking for
  • Spend a lot of time alone – in nature if possible – appreciating your surroundings
  • If possible, begin the quest with loved ones who will cheer you on and ask questions about your upcoming days
  • If possible, end the quest with friends who will ask questions and listen – people who help you define the experience
  • Breathe – notice smells, sights, sounds and above all else, feelings

I began both of my vision quests with my darling nephew, Jason.  I ended each with my dear friends, Heather and Michael.  There are hundreds of miles and  a plethora of experiences between said nephew and friends.  This is the meat of the quest.  (but don’t get me wrong, the meat would be little without the dear, cheering and the defining bookends.)

Both of my quests initially centered on visits to a woman named Jo Carson and an art project she inspired.  I read a book of Jo’s and we eventually became acquaintances, and  later friends.   Both times I traveled at Jo’s request, but knew I would not travel that 1000 miles to spend a lot of time with her as she has been very ill and easily exhausted .  I basically traveled both times to spend a total of 8 hours with Jo (that’s another blog).  I appreciated the time I had with her, but also appreciated the time I spent with a waiter in a restaurant one night, a woman who sat next to me at the dining room table in a bed and breakfast one morning, a timber wolf who lazily stared at me through a chain link fence and a ghost named Lydia, with whom I spent two nights… just the two of us in a secluded bed and breakfast that was once her childhood home.

And here’s another piece of the quest: I have felt driven to take each trip, despite bad timing and the necessity for frugality.  I was  certain of the need to travel and circumstances unfolded to allow me to do so.

The first trip was initially invited in October of 2009, but circumstances in my life didn’t open up for that… it was delayed until May of 2010.  At that time, I KNEW the time was right and I went.

In August of 2011, similar circumstances drove me to begin readying for another quest.  Along the way, I had doubts.  While doubting, I stopped at a rest area to get something to eat (or perhaps more appropriately, I wanted to assuage my doubting heart with some Oreos).  I stood at a vending machine and reached into my purse for a bill.  My heart nearly stopped when I pulled out a bill that had my name very clearly written on it.  You see, when I began the trip, I had an empty wallet – I stopped for cash in my home town, then got change at a gas station somewhere in Indiana.  That is the origin of the bill.  The poignant moment in front of the vending machine is such a landmark because of the question in my mind as well as the answer… had I not gone on the trip, someone whose name probably wasn’t Donna would have gotten the $5 as change in the gas station somewhere in Indiana.  They probably wouldn’t have had a question of “am I where I should be” on their hearts and they most assuredly wouldn’t have been impressed by seeing my name of a $5 bill.

I suppose that $5 is a good thought to continue on at this point because it sums up all that anyone has to give to receive gain on a vision quest.  Be willing to see visions and ready to allow your heart AND your mind to interpret them.  Bring the journal so you can remember all that you’ve experienced.  Talk to strangers – even let them in on the story – but do not allow their opinions to define your experience.  Frankly,, they may be there specifically to teach you not to allow anyone else to define your world for you.

I don’t want to put to much definition on the rules of this experience.  After all, not having rules is what makes it so special.  On these quests, I have never planned more than thirty-six hours ahead.  Because of this, I’ve received lovely discounts on 4-star available rooms exactly when and where I needed them.  I have also used Priceline to find a good deal on your basic chain hotel.  I’ve written in my journal beside pools, in animal sanctuaries, at highway rest areas, in my nephew’s and friends’ homes, in several restaurants and coffee shops, mountain tops, along rivers and on park benches.  I’ve met people who had recovered from tragic loss, accomplished amazing 18-year journeys, were living their dreams and reaching almost as much as I was.  They all helped me.

That brings me to another type of person – and they helped me too – the people who are not searching, are not happy and don’t believe in hope.  They appear like neon lights above your bed during a lovely dream.  You notice them and they jar you from your peace.  Frankly, you probably jar them as well.  Let them affirm your quest and do not allow them to bring you down.

I once talked with a waiter who first  befriended me, then became cold and literally backed away from me – all while I didn’t say much.  I think the problem was that I was just so frickin’ happy.  I gave him a nice tip.  I remember that because my bill was $41 and I happily rounded it up to $50 to allow for a generous tip (I figured anyone who could turn so chilly and mistrustful to a happy stranger who asked for nothing other than items on the menu, needed a good tip).  When I returned home and sorted through my bank statement, I noted that said waiter refused the tip – I was only charged $41 that night.   I was in the business long enough to know something like that does not happen by accident.  I believe he recognized something only in retrospect.  He recognized something he couldn’t deal with at the time, but in retrospect, he couldn’t accept that gift from someone so foreign.

Okay, I’m wrapping this up now – too much definition of a vision quest is not a good thing.  As I work through my findings from VQ 2011, I’ll post them here.  I will benefit from the thought process behind writing more about it.  Perhaps someone will read and feel inspired to take a VQ of their own.

If you go in the right spirit of open expectation of vision, the time you spend on the quest will reward you hundreds of times over!

It’s just not that big a deal

Note to self:  whatever it is, whatever seems like a life and death situation… for you, your career, your relationship, etc… is probably just not that big a deal.  That monumentally important and earth shattering news/risk/error/whatever is probably the result of a conglomeration of unchecked assumptions and emotions that have cumulatively magnified into an emotional Godzilla, trouncing upon the reality of a simple bit of news/risk/error/whatever.

So take a deep breath and consider the larger picture.  Is anyone you love – including yourself – laying in the hospital or worse?  No?  That’s what I thought.

Whatever it is, it’s just not that big a deal.

Now go on about your business….

Life Gets in the Way

There is a third-to-half finished painting of a willow tree in the snow upstairs and a piece of Private Art [I will not discuss] hidden in the closet behind me.  A friend gave me a gorgeous little “Transition Journal,” in which I’ve only written three pages thus far… and honestly, those were only completed because my routine car maintenance took a little longer than usual and I happened to have that journal in my purse.  There are colorful tales and images and ideas buzzing around in my head, but I don’t have time to extract them, so they keep bumping into each other and – if left to collide with no exit in sight – are quite likely to eventually form a brown slurry with no hope of definition.

You see, life has gotten in the way of my art.  The stuff that drives the paintings and blogs and ideas, is standing in the way of them.  What kind of ride is this?

Meh… I suppose this is the time of my life during which I build the sort of background and character that makes the above more interesting and rich.  I guess that packing and moving and unpacking and major life decisions and actions and a career change are required so that I can give good exposition later.  I’m willing to buy that.  I like to have new stories to tell.

And so, I must get back to all that.  Here’s hoping to return on the other side with more stories!

Yet Another Similarity Between Theatre and Church…

Churches and theatres across the country share a common phenomenon at Christmas time: people you don’t see in those buildings any other time of year walk through the front doors.  I propose that those visitors make their annual appearances at both establishments for some of the same reasons.

I don’t mean to sound trite, but this annual pilgrimage phenomenon is so consistent in the theatre world that we sometimes refer to the Christmas show as our “cash cow,” because we know you will come to that show in droves.  You’ll bring the kids, your employees and their families, grandma, dad and your daughter’s chatty friends.  Not unlike the late December trek to Church, you’ll dress a little nicer.  You will also laugh a little louder and clap a little longer and sometimes you’ll cry softly.  Regardless of the show, the venue or performers, you will most likely enjoy yourself and you’ll be back next year for more of the same.

Much like Christmas services at Church, in the world of Christmas entertainment, relatively little has changed over the years (it seems The Sound of Music has inexplicably slipped into the Christmas movie and music repertoire… but that’s another editorial altogether).  From A Christmas Carol to A Christmas Story, we consumers who love “new” and “better,” find ourselves lining up for “old” and “exactly the same.”

There are three forces converging to make those Christmas shows so special.  First, the stories themselves are wonderful affirmations of humanity and hope.  They are stories of family, redemption, the joy of giving, all-conquering love and of a brilliant little baby’s humble birth.  Whether it is a grand production or a grade school pageant, those stories touch our hearts.

What makes those stories so impactful is the second force at play here: we all want very, very badly to feel those emotions of togetherness, warmth, generosity and the promise of unwavering love.  Let’s face it, we can’t always guarantee those feelings on our own, but we can feel them every year when Ebenezer Scrooge realizes he hasn’t slept through December 25th.  Those warm fuzzies are as reliable as tears at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life every year.

And that brings us to the third wallop delivered by those old stories: we only tell them once a year.  It’s like a fabulous pair of shoes you’ll never get tired of because as soon as you wear them, they get tucked away in your closet for another year.  And by the way, these Christmas shoes never go out of style.

Whether you visit a theatre – or Church – once or several times each year, I’m glad we have this season to affirm our hope and humanity together.  Cherish the stories, relish the feelings and savor the shows.  Let’s hold on to all of it as long as we can and have a very Merry Christmas.

Donna Blanchard is an actor, director and freelance arts grant proposal writer

Just Use It!

Oh hell, I dug my cherished Chanel Coco perfume bottle from the bottom of my jewelry box (where I keep the best stuff, of course), removed the topper and breathed in the aroma… of rubbing alcohol mixed with rotten bell peppers. 

I believe in using the good china, glasses and linens to celebrate even the most trite of occasions, if not every day.  I wear my good, matching underwear often enough that it’s nothing special and I use that expensive pen to write grocery lists, BUT, when it comes to toiletries, I become some sort of weird hoarder with the cosmetic equivalent of Auschwitz syndrome.  (and I already know I’m going to hell of even using that analogy – I couldn’t help myself)

Hello, my name is Donna [hi Donna] and I am afraid to use my own cosmetics.

What a loser!  Seriously?  Sometimes the perfume, designer mascara or incredibly expensive shampoo/conditioner combo is a frickin SAMPLE and I don’t want to use it… why?  ‘Cause this isn’t a special enough occasion to use the tiny Aveda bottles I got the last time we stayed at a Kimpton Hotel.  I know, right?

That’s been my secret for decades – publicly, I adore myself.  “Make way for Queen Donna” and all that, but in private, in the bathroom no less, I keep the good stuff capped and tucked away for whatever occasion I may someday deem special enough to open it.  Like…. meeting the real Queen, perhaps.  I’ve had luxurious vacations, meet-the-family visits, black-tie events, first days at work, last days at work, awards galas, graduations, opening nights and anniversaries that have NOT tempted me to break the seal of the La Fleur moisturizing oil I got ON SALE last Christmas.

So, when I smelled that rotten Chanel, I realized something awful: this shit goes to waste if you don’t use it.  Those divine scents and slickery textures will rot like a forgotten Easter egg cleverly hidden behind the couch if you don’t USE THEM!

SO, last Saturday, I did something amazing.  I used everything possible I had been hoarding all this time, even thuse things that were in the bottom of my jewelry box.  I shampooed, conditioned, moisturized, styled, made-up, moisturized some more and perfumed with the best my cosmetic case had to offer.  I was drunk in scents  and textures that made me feel as rich as a Hilton and a Marcos, all rolled into one.  I took my time.  I savored and I ADORED myself with goodies collected over years of denial and sensory starvation.

(okay, I probably went a little too far on that last sentence – I totally treat myself pretty darn well all the time.  No one starving here)

Anywho, ya know what?  I recommend it.  In fact, I did it again on Monday.  Today is Tuesday…. I drank my coffee, ate my breakfast, worked out, then got in the shower and brought out the big guns.  All those little and big bottles of lovelies I’ve been denying myself came out were used up and tossed in the trash, never to be hoarded again. 

Sure, my skin feels fan-frickin-tastic and I smell like the Greek Goddess Aphrodite visiting Oz on holiday, but the best part?  I have made room for more toiletries and I cannot WAIT to treat myself to my future!

About that retreat…

First of all, I don’t think K and I had any idea what we were getting into when we planned that retreat.  Second, let’s face it, my accident-related mobility issues definitely put a cramp in several aspects of our plans: exercise – out; cooking – short periods of time only; sleeping – only for a few hours at a time; focus – not at my best.

HOWEVER, all that aside, we did do some amazing work.  When was the last time you set aside a couple of days just to spend time talking and thinking about what you want and how you might get it?  I’ve written goals and plans before, but never with this amount of intensity.  It was, well, intense!

K had never done goal work before – at least not formal, written work.  She definitely had some resistance to it.  There’s a lot of introspection that naturally goes on with this stuff and I dare say, most people have to admit they have not succeeded in getting much of what they’ve dreamed of having.  It can feel very defeating to realize much of what you’ve wanted hasn’t made it past the dream stage… fuzzy dreams.

We did realize the import of what we were doing and  came out with plans.  We also came out with a stirred pot.  Ever since that stirring retreat, both of us have been experiencing some upsets in our lives.  When you stir, stuff comes to the surface…

Sometimes, you don’t really like seeing that stuff come up, but alas, there it is and now you must deal with it.

As a dear friend has told me many times – much to my dismay EVERY time – when you ask for something, you get the opportunity to receive it.  If you ask to be successful, failure will present itself, so that you have the opportunity to overcome it.  If you want to be brave, something that scares the shit out of you will pop up behind you in your bathroom mirror reflection.

Also, to balance all that opposite crap popping up in the way, some of the things you don’t need will fall away.  Sometimes we don’t need those things, but we find comfort in their familiarity.  Alas, great success is rarely achieved by remaining comfortable, it would seem.

Sorry about the complete lack of personal example here, but it’s… personal!  Let’s just say the greatest gift and curse that remains with me ever since our retreat, is the reminder that my every moment is constructed of my choices.  I am calling the shots.

And I’m about to call some new ones…