There is no doubt my 2017 was by far one of the best years I think I have lived. I typically would sit down at the end of the year and write about some of my adversities and then address how I overcame them with wonder and hard work. I would summarize my months, give some highlights, address my successes, and note the challenges; then finally giving sweet sentiment and thanks to those who deserve a shout out. Not today - I think today, I am going to give a single thanks! What I am about to share with my readers will be a short summary to portray the captivating and profound keepsake that one person gave to another. Before I start, I will note that I didn’t have any surgeries or hospital stays longer than 24 hours. YES – this is actually a huge accomplishment! I started my year heading after conquering a fear which is highlighted in a previous post. I was knocked out a few times with some adversity, but kept getting up to fight. WOW. It is hard to believe I am considered a Bodybuilding PRO, but then finally having my MIC4D Foundation recognized as a 501(c)(3) is beyond my wildest dreams. For these reasons and what I am about to share: 2017 was simply EPIC!
On Friday, December 29th I received probably one of the greatest gifts in my life. I couldn’t have predicted the gift even if I had been given a hint. I mean in this case, I actually was given a hint because she said jokingly in her “nonwhite” girl voice “listen, I made you your gift gurl, but I think your gonna like it.” (maybe not exactly like that, but very close, especially the nonwhite girl voice!) Nor would I have ever predicted that she had a gifted talent of hand lettering. She has bought me other gifts in the past, but they usually contain colorful words (bad language which you will get a taste of below) associated with them, so I just didn’t expect something so profound and emotionally charged. It brings me to tears just thinking about it…
We talked for a bit while she trained my puppy to not lick her face. The box looked professionally wrapped, perfect in gold with a lovely bow! Unlike my ghetto wrap which was a $2 Merry Christmas bag from Party City with no tissue paper and the butts of her gift sticking out. You would have thought that since I own a construction company my wrapping skills would have been well-defined and flawless. After all, most of my friends think I am “so” tightly wound because of my manicured yard, organized home, and very standardized life! (In my defense, I got terribly ill with influenza a couple weeks before Christmas and was trying to stay out of the hospital to keep my 2017 record in tact) She said “Ok girl, I know opening gifts in front of people can give you a little anxiety, so you can open it later.” I actually offered to open it up while she was there, but she thought it would be best if I opened it alone. Boy was she right…
In my 42 years of life, there have been many letters and cards that have brought me to tears, which isn’t that difficult because although I have this relentless and exhaustively strong driven attitude, I am actually a very emotional person. What was within this lovely hand wrapped gold lined box, was what I will call an emotionally charged and riveting written statement of truth from one human-being to another. To say I cried was an understatement, I sobbed and even thinking about this letter and looking at the picture makes me cry.
I will share with you two sentences that hit me like a mag truck...
“When we first started working together there was no doubt in my mind that you were a kick-ass contractor and hard working as a motherfucker, but I honestly had no idea that I was about to meet the most selfless, inspirational, generous person that I have ever known.”
And the very last sentence will bring the meaning of this powerful gift to the surface.
“But above all, I want you to always remember that you made – and continue to make – such a huge difference in my life, as well as the lives of countless others. Everything you do – IT COUNTS. Trust me.”
As I said to you on the phone in tears, thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me such an amazing gift and the amazing reminder that what I am trying to accomplish in this world DOES COUNT. You not only spoke from the heart, but you knocked me out with how you SEE me. It made me emotional and speechless because it was so authentic. Finding your success can be a very lonely road filled with disappointment and friends who become less of a “friend” because it is easier to manage things that never change. I am going for change always! Owning who you are and who you want to be is defined by your principles. Character is reveal by what you do when no one is watching. I am honored and thankful to be able to mentor and give you a helping hand. I am not perfect, but my mission is very clear: Helping you become your BEST YOU! We all have the potential to be anything we want in this life. Taking that first step into the unknown is by far the hardest. Looking fear dead in the eyes and pushing through the abyss – that is how we MAKE IT COUNT. I believe in you because I know you CAN do it! We are lucky to live in a world where choices define us and they also educate us. You aren’t really living if you don’t experience failure, because failure teaches us about monumental strength. I will make you get back up. I might even kick you in the ass a time or two because real friends push us beyond our limits. They encourage, support, and give us honest feedback with compassion. They don’t run and hide when the going gets tough. The true test is not when things are easy, but when they are very difficult. Having someone to lean on and count on is harder and harder to find in this walk of life, but just like you wrote “I will always have your back” and will give you my best advice, an ear, or that push whenever you need it. That is my truth. I will look at this picture every dam day! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HEART AND THIS POWERFUL GIFT! I love YOU! MAKE IT COUNT ~ Danielle
Anyone can go out to a store and buy a material item or pick up a gift card, but for someone to take hours and hours out of their day to make you something with such powerful meaning is PRICELESS! There is hope, determination, strength, and the Phoenix Rising beyond the realm of adversity in this picture. I LOVE IT!
May you THRIVE to always MAKE IT COUNT by leading people in the best light! I say an emotional and humble goodbye to 2017 and welcome 2018 with staggering excitement!
In the past I have been ridiculed and targeted with hateful statements. Yep, it’s true. After doing good for others, I have also been shocked by the reverse actions people take when the “enabler” decides to make a firm change. When I say change, I mean she turns around and walks and keeps walking... Let me make it very clear, she slams the door, turns the dual keyed deadbolt, and throws out that very key. Then she plans to hold on because they are going to judge her no matter what she does, so she is going to stand tall and allow them to judge her TRUTH. Truth is told by actions that follow the words from our lips. In case you didn’t know, the star of this enabling story is ME. I once enabled so many and until recently have decided to set some very defined boundaries.
As life continues to push on, people eventually show their true colors. It might take days, weeks, months, or even years. (Honestly if it takes years, you might want to have your inner self checked, because I am pretty sure they have always been that way.) I ask myself “What makes people act in such a hateful way to a person who once supported them financially, spiritually, and emotionally? My answer, plain old jealousy, insecurity, and total ignorance.
I’m sure you have heard that as we get older, we realize it becomes less important to have a ton of friends and more important to have real ones. And what I mean by “real ones” is those who understand the concept of loyalty and SHOWING UP. If you want to find out who is real, screw up or go through something very challenging…then see who sticks around to help support you. And to be clear, they support you without asking for money or having you pay for everything for them while they are supposedly supporting you.
This is what I am going to share with you. Nothing in my life has come easy. I have been through some very very dark moments. I have tested the waters of life and made it to the other side when I should have drowned along the way. I have had the weight of the “world” on my back that I carried for miles and miles. I have been without food, shelter, and money in my pocket. There have been bad choices that came with severe consequences. And boy have there been a ton of tears shed from my eyes. I won’t even go into the level of fear or doubt that I have been privy too. I am riddled with scars both internally and externally from not only people, but this disease, that is also no cake walk.
I am where I am today because of hard work, dedication, passion, sweat, and the constant desire to prove anyone and everyone who didn’t have one positive encouraging word to say to me, to go FU%$ themselves. When I got hit (and please note I have been knocked out several times in my life, especially with RA) I somehow found the strength to get back up. There were days it didn’t come easy or quickly, but eventually I got back up to stand my OWN ground. I changed my mindset and started believing in ME. When the cards were stacked against me, I decided to grab a pair of scissors and cut through them individually. I realized that this ONE LIFE belongs to me and ONLY me. I decided to change my perception of failure. I realized that failure was the only part that was going to push me to be better. I would rather continue my life with opportunity, so I can understand and truly believe that I am capable of anything. I finally realized that the more I loved my decisions, the less I needed others to love them. I simply found courage! I think Steve Jobs said it best “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
MAKE IT COUNT by surrounding yourself with the dreamers, the doers, the believers, and the real ones who plan to SHOW UP!
PS: And don’t let the haters get you down, use it as motivation…
Today is Sunday, January 1, 2017 and in typical fashion I am going to publish my 2016 reflection. It has been a while since I wrote a reflection as my 2015 was a bit rocky and the battles were very heart heavy with the dissolution of my immediate “family”, so my reflection didn’t make it to publication. As I look back on what I started to write, it was best to keep that sucker locked up.
This year started out with some Cardinals and Green Bay Packer football games, ambitions to get back on my bike, and the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open. All smiles! Things took a quick turn when I had a client/colleague die on January 10, 2016 - RIP Laurie Callan. Just a month later, we got the devastating news that my friend, Diane Nyguen, was told at John Hopkins Hospital they had done all they could with her leukemia. They gave her 3-6 months. Meanwhile, my company is moving and shaking building a new school campus. We would attend the annual Devour Phoenix Bartender’s Competition which Lisa and I made a habit off since my return to the US in 2012. March rolled around and I would travel south to Tucson where they make very strong margaritas and make a Spring Training baseball game. I made my trip over to Banner University Medical Center where I would begin my 3rd 9-hour infusion of Rituxan to help combat this crazy ass joint disease. Things didn’t go smoothly in the hospital that day; however we changed the beginning cocktail (like fine wine through the veins) which helped me catch some major ZZ’s moving forward. We finished up Round 2 on April fool’s day. There was a trip to Vegas where I met my favorite artist Vladimir Kush and bought a couple more pieces to add to my collection on my 41st April birthday. I attended Diane’s “End of Life Celebration” which turned into a surprise dream wedding to her longtime boyfriend Long Nyguen at the tail end of April. It was quite the tear jerker! From there things got a little capped sized, as I learn that my very best friend was getting a freaking dose of Cancer as well as my long time mentor and friend, Mary Jane Rynd’s, husband had also been diagnosed with Stage 4 Brain Cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. UGH. F-CANCER!
Then it came, the permeating depression. For weeks I tried to avoid things, cried a lot, and spent the weekends behind closed doors. I realized I needed a way out of this temporary recession, so I started working with a trainer after a long break of doing the gym thing on my own. I needed that extra push and I know if I paid for it, I would show up. Apparently my plate wasn’t full enough, because pneumonia decided to come and land within me. Boy that wasn’t fun, going from specialist to specialist with all sorts of reason stemming from my 2014 intense lung infection journey. I won’t even bore you with those details. It wasn’t long after that I got the news that this fantastic disease has settled in my lungs, so I welcomed Rheumatic Lung into my compilation. No, it wasn’t music, but it was bound to come, so I will accept it and move forward. I was so graciously invited to attend Mr. Olympic with Jason Strayhand and the rest of the Freak of Nature family prior to my illness, so what did I decide to do – well go - of course. The relapse came and it took me several weeks to get over the hump. In October, I decided to commit to doing my first bodybuilding show for Diane. After all she fights her fears daily and believes so much in me. Her deep words shook my soul. She said she wanted to see her chosen “Big Sister” be that Warrior on Stage. That is all it took!! My November included a fantastic client naming an actual beverage after my company (Don’t Drink and THRIVE) and a remarkably wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Lisa and her family at Lon’s Hermosa Inn. We had so much to be thankful for that night, including me getting my medial medicinal card to help combat some of my pain. (Yep, I was very against it at first, but Diane pushed me to get it done. So it got done!) December came faster than I realized and my year was topped off with a remarkable Christmas Eve Service and then an unexpected Christmas Eve dinner with Jason and Tawnya Morris. (First clients, now FRIENDS) It was truly a blessing to share in the joy of Christmas with their beautiful family. Christmas day included a 10-Mile walk and then a marvelous traditional Christmas Dinner with Brian and Amanda Sabean. Finally, my New Year’s Eve was a very tearful somewhat low key high protein dinner with Lisa, Alex, and Joey. We had a fun night and rejoiced in the fact that Lisa was CANCER FREE!
I wanted to spend a little time in this BLOG to reflect Lisa’s summer diagnosis that really hit me at the core of my existence. It was one of those moments when you wished the room was pitch dark and you were hitting a bad dream segment that you wanted to get yourself out of. It was the split second you said to yourself “What the Fu&#!” - As I was picking Lisa up at the hospital for like the 3rd time, I finally said “Are you going to tell me what the hell is going on?! Umm why in the heck am I picking you up at the hospital again?” Then it happened, that moment, when someone says something and you pause because you were second guessing that word that just abruptly hit you in the freaking face. I have CANCER. I can’t remember exactly how she said it, but I remember it being very nonchalant and submissive. But at that moment it wasn’t just Cancer to me, it was fucking cancer, I hate you! That afternoon was an emotional one. We sat and chatted for a while about how ‘Danielle needs to be contained from running the sprint because this was about to be a marathon’ two close friends were going to embark on together. I remember driving home that afternoon coming inside and sliding down the wall in tears. The moment the garage door hit the pavement, the fear filled me. You know, that fear when the only person who has had your back for last 4 years and has shown you the true meaning of friendship and unconditional love through the good stuff and the bad is now dealing with the very disease that has taken so many from your life. I was pissed. I was pissed that my dear friend’s life was going to be altered. I was pissed that she had to go through the difficulty of telling her family, her dear son, friends, and colleagues. I was pissed her travels plans were going to be pushed. I was pissed that the love of her life, Scoty, had to play in the sand without her smile across from his. I was pissed she was going to have to do chemotherapy. I was pissed that it was her.
And so it began the treatment, the stress, and trying to make things seem as normal as possible even though that dam elephant came with us to dinner on the good days. She had to be scared, but she never let on she was. She is that girl - the girl with the strength and the smile that doesn’t typically break in a crowd. The girl who will make you believe something is awesome even when it sucks! The girl who you kinda have to drag things out of or I mean beat to death to get the real answer. It didn’t help that smack dab in the middle of her treatments, I would end up getting that horrible case of pneumonia, and so then I felt like that shit friend who couldn’t help. Nonetheless, the texts stay consistent for the most part and she did her thing with her wedges on every single time. She jokingly claimed cancer never looked so good and boy she was right. She conquered 3 rounds and then right before the 4th, she got the news. Now this is the news you want to be awake for…. She was clear. It was awesome because her news came when Scoty was in town. I am guessing that moment was bliss between the two of them. I know when I got the text I shed some thankful tears because my friend had won. Lisa will likely never know what she means to me, but what I will tell you is that every little girl dreams to have a big sister. Lisa is my forever family and the sister I could go to about anything. She is there when I am scared, she is there through my triumphs, and she has picked me up a time or TEN when I have fallen. She has said the tough words I needed to hear and she has held my hand. She has also pissed me off and I am certain I have done the same to her! She is my ‘plus one’ when I don’t want to travel alone and encourages me to go the distance in all I do, even if it isn’t her thing. Lisa may not consider herself a fighter, but I sure as hell do. You won’t see Lisa throwing weights in the gym with me, but you will see her just about everywhere else. She helps me MAKE IT COUNT!
I’m sure if I write anymore, the very few who actually read this might fall asleep, so stay tuned for the next post. As 2016 has come to a close I personally want to thank all of those who follow me as I try to push through the pain and define how RA will play its roll in my life.
Let’s MAKE IT COUNT in 2017 with less Cancer and Move Love and Laughter!
Welcome to the NEW LOOK for www.makeitcount4dani.com - we are ready to make 2017 our best year yet. We will be officially launching our college scholarship program (more formally) in the next few months. We have new "make it Count" products to share with friends of the MIC Club. We also are in the process of creating a short documentary film that will include my personal journey towards the NPC Natural Western USA Bikini Competition in March of 2017. If you have been following me on social media, you will know that I am doing this show for my dear friend Diane Nyguen who is fighting a terminal battle with Leukemia. Her daily strength and encouragement prove that MAKING IT COUNT each day is so important. Life is a gift and it is not meant to be wasted. I hope this new look will encourage you to visit this site and to share it with those who need a lift. I will do my best to keep things updated more regularly. I am also hoping I can get others to share their story as well, so we can all learn and be encouraged by each other.
MAKE IT COUNT!!!