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“A Christmas Prayer!” Dana – On The Simplicity and Power of Love

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This Christmas morning, I was relaxing in the crystal clear water of my Jacuzzi out back, listening to the birds singing in the trees, while admiring the shades of blue tile glimmering beneath the surface of the water.  “Wow! They matched the beautiful hue of bright blue in the crisp, clear sky perfectly!” I thought.

I was sitting on the hidden bench within the warm swirling water and enjoying the slight breeze that cooled the heated skin of my upper body, as my little golden dog lay content on the grass just outside.

Suddenly, my sense of peace and serenity was disturbed by the alarming buzz of a bee circling close to my arms. For a moment, I stiffened in a child-like panic…fearing the worst of intentions from the monstrous, fierce-looking yellow and black insect.

I thought for a moment of flailing wildly to scare it away…or perhaps I could SWAT it down into the water and force it to drown!

Yet, just as quickly as I realized my automatic, knee-jerk reaction to it’s presence…I took a deep breath and willed my body and mind to calm down.  I thought to myself, “It’s just a bee.” “It is a life, just like mine.” “This little creature has just as much right to be here as I do.”

As I slowly relaxed, I wondered to myself about the nature of business this little creature was about.

As it continued to circle around me, I asked myself, “Perhaps, all it wants, is to drink safely from a little drop of water that is glistening on my skin?” “I can imagine it might be difficult and dangerous to drink from an ocean of pool water!”

Exhaling slowly, I mentally invited the little fellow to land unharmed upon my arm in a gesture of love and friendship.

Somehow…I was not all that shocked when it did.

And though it was only there for a mere fraction of a second before it flew off to somewhere unknown…I felt a wonderful sense of peace and connection with the universe as a whole.

Later, as I pulled the roasted turkey from the oven, I realized that most of the time, we as humans act and react out of fear.  And I was saddened to think of all the times, I myself had done this…the relationships destroyed or damaged…the business plans faulted or ruined.

“Why is it?” I wondered to myself, “That, the critters in the ‘wild’ seemed to understand and respect the boundaries of others.” “And, that when most ‘animals’ encounter something new or uncertain…that they react with curiosity or caution…NOT aggressive fight or panicked flight?”

As I busied myself at the kitchen stove, a myriad of thoughts flew through my mind…

That we as humans spend countless, needless minutes, hours, and years engaging in the destructive nature brought on by fear…fear…resulting in anger, jealousy, betrayal or rejection.

And that this (often, un-warranted) fear then destroys or damages our personal relationships with bitter disputes, arguments, ‘bad-mouthing’ about others, and emotionally abusive words.

Because of fear, we sabotage business plans and community networking with selfishness, vicious gossip and greed.

And worst of all, we kill each other in the name of politics, greed or religion!

All of this destructiveness…because we allow our fear to control our automatic, ‘knee-jerk; reactions to all that we do not understand or know?

“Ahhhh…” “How truly sad!” I thought. Sighing deeply, I realized that perhaps there is a very simple, and powerful way to avoid such negativity and destruction.

I finished whipping up the garlic-mashed potatoes and poured the warm aromatic gravy into the china gravy bowl, and then lit the bright red candle on the table set for one.

“I wonder what would happen?” I questioned myself as I began to carve the turkey. “If we, as humans spent more time sending out messages of love, acceptance, tolerance and friendship…that perhaps the bee’s of this world would not sting!”

“Perhaps then…we could calm our hands, our voices and our minds. Perhaps then, our hearts would sing as one with the universe, and we could all travel safe and protected in the simplicity and power of love.”

I set the warm, wonderful smelling plate of food on the table, sat down, and bowed my head in prayer.

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The Parting Gift of Life

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I’m not really sure why my mom thought of the name ‘Bathsheba’ for my  little ball of fur puppy. Yet the name stuck, although mostly she came to be known as ‘Sheba.’ Now, fourteen years of happy life later, my now beautiful loyal Akita/German Shepard dog is on her last days here in this world.

Many people here in my one-horse rural town think of dogs as a tool for guarding, hunting or herding livestock. They would not understand my devastation about my dogs recent stroke and resulting paralysis of her hind legs. They cannot relate to the sense of stress and sorrow I feel as I monitor her hour after hour, day after day…awaiting the inevitable…her death. I pray the Lord will take her, yet her apparent joy for life is still strong, and indeed it may be my decision to have to put her down. So I have made time to be with her a much as possible in this tiny window between now and tomorrow…between life and death.

I find it fascinating that she herself seems to know this and is also taking full advantage of our last minutes together. Normally, my very ‘lady-like’ ‘Queen’ Sheba would never venture outside in the heat of the day, with all the dirt and bugs. It is customary for her to be disdainful and aloof all other critters and people. No longer.

As if she is preparing for her reunion with Mother Nature, she seems to revel in the feel of the dirt beneath her hide, lying watchful under the stars at night, enjoying the sun warming her body during the day, and showing keen interest in the friendships of all other life around her. She can no longer see, yet she turns her head at the sound of voices near, and chickens there. This morning, she even laid down with her handsome kennel mate with one paw stretched over his foreleg in a completely abnormal, yet loving embrace.

Her obvious love of life in these final days, truly makes me aware of how we are all interconnected here on this earth. It makes me realize that we often take this gift of life for granted…choosing not to risk the inconvenience of dirt or bugs, not to let the sun embrace us or enjoy the stars above, choosing not to allow other people into our lives. Sheba’s last days here on this earth are a great reminder to me, to treasure each and every moment, and to embrace all living creatures in my circle of life.

Yes, perhaps many here in this tiny little town will not understand the depth of my sorrow when she transcends this world. But I do wish that they could witness this beautiful gift of the joy of life that she is leaving behind.

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Quitting Is NOT An Option! an Olympic moment

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The 16 members of our U.S. Olympic Taekwondo team rounded the corner of the third mile running at a good even pace.  We were lined up two by two, keeping pace with each other in uniform rhythm…except for me.  Little by little I had dropped back in line, until I took up the last position at the rear, and was still loosing ground.  My heart was racing and I could not get enough air into my lungs.  My legs felt like lead, and I was light headed from the effort and lack of oxygen.  

Panicking, I slowed my pace even more, watching in dismay as the gap between my team and I grew further apart.  The farther the distance grew, the more my resolution weakened, until finally, I decided it just was not worth it!  In my mind I heard the voice of my mother, “You are not good enough, and you never will be!”  Giving up, I came to a stop, feeling that familiar disappointment of defeat.   Dropping my head in chagrin, I stood there with my head bowed, my hands on my knees, struggling to breathe.  

Feeling a vibration and pulse of movement, I looked up and discovered that my entire team had circled back towards me.  Coming up behind me, the two lead runners caught my arms and pulled me with them back into line without breaking the pace.  Forced to jog alongside, I willed my feet to move forward.  The entire team started a military chant to help us keep pace; and falling into this rhythm helped to distract me from my agony. 

I forgot about my misery and weaknesses.  I blocked out the memory of my mothers voice.  I focused only on the chanting words, my breath, and the next running step forward.  At certain intervals within the chant, our team leader would yell out, “Hee…Woman!”  And then the entire team would clap three times in unison.  Each time, a sense elation at this show of support surged through my mind and body.

Before I knew it, we had finished the five mile run.  I had made it!  It was not pretty.  Yet with the help of my teammates, I had done what was necessary.  As I made my way wearily back to the locker room, mopping my wet face with a towel, I realized how much is possible if I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sure, maybe I was not as good of a runner as my teammates were; maybe I did not have their endurance or strength of will…but I WAS learning. 

I was learning that my mind could be my worst enemy or it could be my best friend. Success or failure is all a matter of focusing on why you can…or why you can’t.  As I entered the locker room, I realized that quitting is a choice, and the choice is mine to make!  As I collapsed onto a bench inside, I realized that if I wanted to become an Olympic champion, ‘quitting’ was NOT an option.

Now, at the age of fifty two I find this lesson to be extremely helpful as I face a new and daunting challenge in my life.  Many times it seems that for every step forward I take, there is one that sets me back.  There are moments when I get frustrated and just want to quit!  Yet each time, I force my self to keep stepping forward while my team’s voice echoes in my ears, “Hee…Woman!”  

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Finding Strength In Adversity

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Dressed in my pink and white polk-a-dot nighty, I poke my head around the corner of the doorway and watch as my parents yell and scream at each other in the living room. Toe to toe they stand facing each other…my dad with his hands on his hips…my mother gesturing wildly. Spinning around, my mother strides angrily to the nearby dining table, grabs wildly at the used dish ware and begins hurling cups, glasses and plates at my father. My father shields his face and dodges the flying saucers, as they smash and splinter against the brick fireplace behind him. Sobbing and holding my hands over my ears, I stumble through the room towards my father before tripping on the hem of my nighty and falling on the broken pieces. I roll over and sit there waling, seeing my bare knee and the bright red blood…as my father turns his back and stares with stony silence into the dark empty fireplace. The last sound I remember before waking up alone in an orphanage is the loud slamming of a door as my mother storms out of the house.

And now? I look at my life today, and I acknowledge the years of turmoil, of living on the streets, in Half-Way Houses…the Government Shelter and Foster Home.  I recall some desperate times of pain and near suicide.   And I find that I am grateful for all that has happened in the past and all that happens in the present. The hardships, the pain, the obstacles…they serve to make me stronger. They teach me to find faith, to hope, to persevere. I believe that it is because of the difficulties in life that I have achieved so much. Even today, as I strive for my next big achievement, I know that it is the bitterness that helps me savor the sweet.

Life is not over when one door slams closed.

 

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cc:  danahee June 2014

 

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A Quote From A Real Life Champion!

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 “In life, and in my line of work as a Stuntwoman, Olympic athlete, and Motivational Speaker, change is the only constant.  Necessity is my mother of invention because she causes me to create and adapt.  Perseverance is my rock solid companion that always gets me home safely; and passion is the life-blood that drives me beyond the ordinary.”

 dana hee

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A Little More! Innovation Secrets Of A Champion

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Dana Hee, Olympic Gold Medalist, Award-Winning Stuntwoman, Life Survivalist and top Motivational Speaker, shares innovation secrets that propelled her to the top of four separate distinguished platforms of life.

Dana’s Principles Of Innovation

 1. You must be willing to risk failure to achieve greatness

 “Whether they consciously realize it or not…the majority of people here on this earth let fear of failure stop them from doing what they truly want to do. What they don’t acknowledge is that it is ‘fear of failure’ that is holding them back. What they don’t realize is that this fear is an illusion created from the depths of our mind and perpetuated throughout society. Just imagine what is possible when you can understand that failure is only a stepping-stone to greatness!”

 2. Thinking outside the box is key to utilizing what is at hand, and/or doing what is necessary to develop alternative resources.

 “So many professionals, workers and athletes believe that ‘X’ is absolutely needed to accomplish ‘Y.’ Yet the truth is that there are often infinite ways to reach the end goal. One must learn to let go of pre-conceived notions of absolute truth and develop their own rhythm and dance in climbing that ladder to ultimate success.”

 3. Enhance your vision of success from the power of YOU.

 “Every single one of us has an amazing resource of individuality within us. We are born with this miraculous version of ‘us.’ Identify your strengths, your creative ‘turn-ons’ and use this power to visualize and develop your ultimate results.

 

 

 

 

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My Olympic Breakthrough, Preparation = Courage

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Jogging in place and waiting quietly to enter the Olympic stadium, the heavy door suddenly opened and two sweaty, male athletes strode into the holding room.  One was obviously ecstatic from his Olympic win.  The other young man was completely devastated.  As suddenly as their entrance, my confidence vanished and I felt a streak of inner terror run up my spine.

Thoughts from the past began streaming through my mind like flashing red neon lights.  “Who are you to think you’re good enough to do this!”  “What makes you think you are strong enough, fast enough!”  “You fool!”  “You’re not good enough, and you never will be!”  Panic-stricken, I bent forward on the pretense of straightening my shin guards…all the while, trying to draw deeper breaths and find some sense of composure.  “Dana,” I said to myself. “What are you doing!”  “Get a grip!”  Yet as the doors opened again, and I straightened up to move forward with our small group, a sinking feeling dropped into my stomach like an iron cannon ball.

My coach stepped through the doorway carrying our beautiful American flag.  As I automatically stepped after him, I gazed upon our countries’ flag, flowing proudly at his side, and my heart sank.  My recently found courage had deserted me.  I felt as helpless as an abandoned child.

Yet as we entered the stadium, my heart quickened at the cheers from the crowd, and my eyes sought out our USA section of the stands.  And there was my husband, so proud…waving, shouting encouragement and holding a banner with my name in big bold letters, “Dana Hee and NBC!”

All of the long hard hours of training, the blood, sweat and tears, the travel, the obstacles of my long journey flashed through my mind.  Despite everything, I had persevered.  I had triumphed.  I was here at the Olympic Games.  I was representing my entire country!  I had the speed, the strength, the timing and the endurance.  I had trained like a maniac.  I had done everything possible to be prepared for this exact moment.  And that is when I realized, that I WAS good enough!  Straightening my shoulders and holding my head high, I waved to the crowd…to my husband, and took that final step into the competition ring. 

The knowledge of my preparation gave me the strength of courage just when I needed it most.  The rest is history.  Gold Medal, USA.

 

cc:  danahee May 2014

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Face You Fears – Unlimited Power!

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“I can’t believe I’m about to do this!” This thought flashes through my brain as I lean forward to place tension on the thin cable attached to the jerk vest hidden beneath my baggy clothing.

I slow my breathing down. The tension mounts around me, and the acrid stench of the torches burns into my throat. I can almost feel the simulated, nighttime darkness envelope me in its shroud.

You see, I am a stunt double for an actress on a film called, ‘Soldiers;’ and we are on set.  I’m about to be shot with a flamethrower device and knocked backwards through the air, and down into a gully, as several bombs explode.

I see everyone scurrying around me, and I feel like the calm in the center of a storm. The special effects guy double checks the fire squib he has placed on my stomach. My ratchet man is talking with me about my starting mark and my arm placement. The hair lady makes a final adjustment to my hair, as the bomb ‘squad,’ adjusts the propane bombs and debris cones that are on both sides to the front of me.

My boss asks if I’m ready. I give a nod and thumbs up sign. All of a sudden everybody scatters and disappears into the darkness. All is quiet. I keep the tension on the line and close my eyes as I hear the effects team say, “The bombs are going hot!”

From my cocoon of darkness I hear the shout on the megaphone, “Cameras Rolling!” “Speed!” “And on three. One….two….THREE!”

Simultaneously I feel the blast of heat, and I am jerked backwards and up. My eyes open and I see smoke, then darkness. I feel like I am swimming in the air. I fly backwards, 10ft…. 20ft… Hmmm, I seem to be traveling further than I did in the rehearsals. I should be free falling backward to the pads by now! Then I drop. And just as the thought dawns on me that I’m going to miss the pads, I feel a mighty “THWACK” to my head, and all goes black.

Ahhh….the life of a Hollywood stuntwoman! Ok, call me crazy, but I have been perfectly happy to be flying through the air, jumping through burning windows and slamming myself into walls. Well…maybe I’ve been a little happier when there has been no pain or headache involved, but I was definitely hooked on this wild roller coaster of a career!

Of course, you may be asking yourself, “Why in the world would anyone choose such a hazardous career?”

Well, have you ever wanted something so badly that you didn’t even try to accomplish it, because you were afraid you would find you couldn’t do it? I call it a fear of failure. That was the story of my life; that is, until I learned to defeat my fears by facing up to the challenges of my mind.

I come from a background of sexual abuse, abandonment, and the ravages created by suicidal, and alcoholic parents and relatives. I had no self-confidence or self-esteem. What I did have, was a bad habit of thinking, “I can’t,” along with a petrifying fear of disappointment, anger, hurt, and humiliation. As a result, I would typically run from any challenge of the mind, body, or soul.

I was my own worst enemy when it came to succeeding with something, and I was sick of it!

So when that first call came for me to double the villainess on the film ‘Under Cover Blues’ down in Lafayette, Louisiana. I jumped at the chance. When the fear of those first few stunts started to get in the way, I pushed them ruthlessly aside and did what I had to do. Afterwards, when I realized that I had completed the stunt successfully – even though my brain had almost been paralyzed with fear – I was enveloped in a euphoric, “walking on clouds” feeling of accomplishment.

At last, I had discovered a good battleground where I could focus on conquering my fears, and I was determined to win! So off I went to Hollywood.

Leaving behind my nine to five job in accounting, the Friday night parties, and Monday night football on the couch with my man, life, I jumped into my new career, and learned to face my fears on a daily basis.

As my experience and skills expanded, the jobs kept coming….’Batman Forever,’ ‘Batman & Robin,’ ‘Demolition Man,’ ‘Lethal Weapon 4,’ ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ ‘Swordfish,’ ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight,’ ‘Independence Day,’ plus an ongoing list of television shows like ‘Star Trek Voyager,’ ‘The Pretender,’ ‘VIP,’ and the ‘X-Files.’

Never would I have dreamed of being able to do the stunts I did with helicopters, jeep chases, jet ski-boat transfers, stair falls, saddle falls, jumps from buildings-through glass-over fences, hydraulic ratchets into walls – the ground – into other people. I would have never dared to be hit by a car wearing nothing but a sundress and sandals (‘Bella Mafia’)!

As one film led to another, I was swept up into a whirlwind of movie stars, travel, money, and extraordinary adventure.

I spent weeks working with actors like Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, and Mel Gibson. I hung out on the set with George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone, Charlie Sheen and Gwynneth Paltrow.

The productions flew me first class around the world to exotic locations to film. I galloped a horse in the sunset along the ancient cliffs and temples of Petra, Jordan (same local as ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’). I fought in a hurricane in Wales, and then floated in a rickety boat down a mystical river in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, Thailand (‘Mortal Kombat Annihilation’).

There were side trips for shopping in London, museums in Paris, lounging on exotic beaches. And then there was the highlight of, after a brief sojourn in Rome working with Cameron Diaz on ‘Gangs of New York,’ I landed one of the best contracts in the business with the TV series, ‘Alias.’

Although the glamour of this business has been fun, it was at times overwhelming. To keep my sanity, I have always worked to balance my perspective of what is important, and what is real. (Imagine yourself walking on a very high tight-wire with your packed suitcase in one hand, and a martini in the other, and you’ll get an idea of how difficult this can be.)

Beneath the glitz and the glamour, I have found the real counter-balance in this rocky career is the underlying magnet of satisfaction and self-accomplishment.

 After a lifetime of dealing with issues from an extremely difficult childhood, I welcomed the challenges of this career. They have helped me balance and conquer those old feelings of low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and my fear of failure. (Not that I would recommend all people suffering from childhood trauma jump from buildings or launch themselves 20 feet through the air by stepping on a seriously dangerous mechanical device called an air ram)!

And now, after over 20 years, thousands of stunts, hundreds of movies, over 2,520 days of pain (excluding the eight hospital trips and numerous doctor visits for burns, stitches, pulls, breaks, and concussions), I can honestly say that I still enjoy the challenges of my work when I get one of those calls.  I just try to pass up the car hits, and stick to ‘prat falls’ and fighting!

Sure there were times when I would long for that nine to five, football night, bruise-free life. But when I was sixty feet up on a huge 360 degree rotating shipping crane, about to start a big fight on a contraption consisting of a forklift, a motorcycle, and a car sandwiched together (Barbwire), I knew that, once again, I was conquering that debilitating fear I felt growing up.

You see I now know that the only thing worse than failing is to let fear keep you from succeeding at what you want to do. Hey, call me crazy if you want, but now, instead of running from a challenge, when I’m asked to jump, I say, “how high?”

cc:   danahee  02/2014

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The Power of Positivity – A Stunt Woman’s Perspective

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In the realm of Hollywood, there are two definites.  If you focus on the positive, your chances of success have just multiplied.  If you focus on the negative…your fears…you will fail.  Failure takes on a whole new meaning when you are performing a death-defying stunt!

“Today, I need you to stunt double this entry-way guard to Paramount Studios,” my boss told me on the set of the ‘Martin Short’ TV show. 

“Mike here will crash his car through the guard barrier rail into the parking lot.  You will then rush after him along the side walk here.  As you catch up to the car, you will pop up onto this fire hydrant, then throw yourself onto the roof of his car.  There you will hang on…pounding on the roof for him to stop.”

 “Sure…no problem,” I’m thinking to myself.  (“It’s fascinating you did not tell me of this very dangerous gag when you first hired me!”  “Ahhh well.”  “Welcome to my life.”  “You chose this career!” “Time to ‘man-up,’ Dana!”)

We rehearsed the timing between Mike and I, and we ‘dialed in’ the speed so that the car was in place beside me as I jumped onto the fire hydrant.  We both knew the timing was critical.  If I jumped too soon, I could end up in front of the car and under the wheels.  If I jumped too late, I would miss the only opportunity to grasp the open window sills for leverage…and end up on the ground.  Two undesirable choices, in my opinion.

The first time we filmed, there was an element of doubt in my mind.  Yet on action, I raced to the fire hydrant as Mike drove the car along.  The timing was exactly as planned.  Yet as I popped up onto the hydrant, I allowed my doubt to interfere.  “Maybe I’m I too early!”  I thought to myself. 

So I hesitated just a beat, and then threw myself onto the car.  Only now, my momentum had stalled out, and I landed too late.  I grabbed wildly for the roof before bouncing down onto the trunk, the bumper, and then to the pavement.  “Ugh!”

You can bet the next time the camera rolled, I kept my focus completely on nailing this stunt by committing my mind 110% to it’s success.  Success is much more fun than failing!  And in fact, success can appear to be much easier than the underlying difficulty in achieving it.

I love the power of positivity.  It helps me overcome fear.  It keeps me ‘on track.’  And it helps to eliminate some of the potential disasters on the road to success!

cc:   danahee   02/2014

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As The Snow Falls

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Standing outside just now, I watch my beautiful turkeys as they eat the corn and ‘coo’ among themselves

The silence of the falling snow drowns out the cries of my soul.  It’s sleek white blanket slowly covers the tears in my heart

Crystal cold air quiets my mind…if only for a moment or two

What peace it must be, to never feel the beauty of the snow.  Yet so sad this emptiness within

‘Good-by’ echoes in the frozen stillness of this winter wonderland

As I turn away,  I pray I pray that peace will prevail

Truly?  Is it better to go to sleep on an empty stomach?

Perhaps so.  Perhaps not.

cc:  dhee 02/2014

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