About Me

The Girl

My name is Dani and I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of two ridiculous pit bulls, and an April baby-to-be.
I live on a farm-ette in rural Wisconsin and have absolutely no idea how to take care of all of it.
I am a dance teacher who will always leap in public places, squeal at Nutcracker music, and value being a good role model over everything else.
I have worked for 11 years in the animal behavior and welfare industry and will unwaveringly advocate for animals and the people who dedicate their lives to being their voice.
I will always notify you when there are rainbows or cows in sight.
I believe good things happen when it snows and am a professional bargain shopper.
I could eat nachos seven days a week for the rest of my life.
I am an early bird.
If I am not between a 3 and a 7 on the emotional scale, I'm crying.
I am 100% an Aries - independent, impatient (working on it), headstrong (working on it).
My greatest pet peeves are people who make noise in the movie theater, dried up Sharpies, group texts, and people who don't put their shopping carts away.
I believe there is always a good reason to drink cheap champagne.
I become a vicious monster if I haven't eaten in more than three hours.
I, like many women, have gone through the devastation of a miscarriage, but I choose to become strengthened by the experience and grateful for the universe’s plan.
I am learning how to cook but have an irrational fear of setting my house on fire.
I am namas'cray about hot yoga.
I lived in Wyoming for three years and it will always hold a big piece of my heart.
Seasons of Love will forever be my favorite song of all time.
If I were a breakfast pastry I would be a toasted butter croissant.
I am an awkward conversationalist and DREAD having small talk.
My favorite places are Walt Disney World, New York City, and Yellowstone National Park.
I have a strong aversion about my hands and feet unexpectedly touching slimy stuff and will not swim in open water.
My favorite color is yellow.
If I were a dog, I would be a Jack Russell Terrier.
I believe impossible things are possible, that life is beautiful even when it is hard, and that the universe works in mysterious ways when we are on our true path. 
I believe life is about experiencing all that we can experience and celebrating every little thing.
I believe we live in a wonderful world full of beauty, wonder, charm, love, and laughter and there is no end to the adventures we can have if only we have the courage, curiosity, and presence to seek them.

To live would be an awfully big adventure.
— Peter Pan
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The Inspiration

In February of 2018, I completed the Disney Princess Half Marathon, seven weeks pregnant, totally unprepared, and it completely changed my life.

As I ran across the finish line, I broke into tears realizing I had completed something I had fully convinced myself would never happen.
It was a moment when I realized I was much stronger, braver, and resilient than I allowed myself to believe.
It was a moment when I realized I was capable of accomplishing much more than what I tell myself to strive for.
It was a moment when I realized life is only limited by the beliefs and restrictions we create for ourselves.

Two weeks after I crossed the finish line at Epcot, I was completely crushed when we found out the strong likelihood that I had lost our first pregnancy.

A pregnancy we had found out about just over one month ago, that had completely changed our world, and that had slipped through our fingers like sand. The idea of names and nurseries, hedgehog-patterned swaddle blankets and giant Pooh Bears had to be set aside for another patient day of peeing on a stick.

In our first ultrasound, fours days after the race, the what-was-to-be-baby measured ten days behind where we anticipated. I, naive and hopeful, thought nothing of it.
It was early, everything looked healthy, and the doctor wasn't worried; he scheduled us for an ultrasound one week later, where we were excited to see a tiny little peanut appear.

The second ultrasound, more thorough than the first, showed our not-likely-to-be-baby had not yet made its debut.
In fact, nothing had changed at all. It wasn't boding well. I hoped our doctor would reassure us that everything was still alright even though every fiber in my being was telling me it wasn't. He couldn't.

He recommended one last ultrasound one week later to give we're-just-hoping-to-be-fashionably-late-baby a chance to materialize.
Many tears, many bars of chocolate, and many wishes that I could drink a glass (or six) of champagne later, I became prepared for the news that 99.9% of me believed to be the truth already: I was no longer pregnant. Yet, I was not NOT pregnant because my body was still holding onto something that stopped growing nearly four weeks ago.

I had a D+C procedure, less than four hours after that final ultrasound, the one that finally confirmed what we had been expecting: I was having a miscarriage.

It was like waking up from one of those immensely vivid pregnancy dreams that used to horrify me in college - the ones that feel palpably real, but were just my brain's way of processing the fact that I was bloated from too much cheese bread.
I had woken up (from anesthesia), no longer pregnant, shoved to go right back to the "normal" life I had been leading for the last 32-years.

Was I OK? Most of the time I was - shockingly so at times. I probably didn’t handle it in the way people think I should have - I had plenty of people who didn’t see my meltdowns in the shower or on the way home from my first Hot Yoga class post-D+C tell me, “You know it’s ok to not be ok” or make a concerned face when I would joke about being able to drink champagne again - but in my grown up years I have grown quite accustomed to doing things my way.

Through the process, I would return to my key beliefs that "everything happens for a reason" and "the universe works in mysterious, magical, and intentional ways".
When the (many) Facebook pregnancy announcements would pop up on my News Feed, I would mentally go through all of the incredible and amazing things to be grateful for in my life and understand is a normal occurrence for 25% of pregnancies in their first trimester.
I was placed at the beginning of a new path: one I wasn't intending.

And through the ups and downs, here I am almost an entire year from crossing the finish line of my first half marathon and my first pregnancy.
I am happy to be able to share I am now standing with a 26-week-old pregnancy of a healthy Baby Girl with two major life experiences under my belt that have taught me how quickly fleeting moments can go by: these tiny moments can turn into days, and months, and years and suddenly we are left wishing we had stayed a little more present, been a little more grateful, and taken a few more chances.

These life experiences also taught me how much stronger we are than we give ourselves credit for: taking a chance and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones (and past all of the self-limiting thoughts we tell ourselves) brings us to a place where we can learn how capable we are and the amazing things that can happen on the other side of fear.


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The Project

Couch to Dopey

Running a half marathon is a very lonely experience. It's just you and the road. You, alone, have to push yourself to keep moving forward. No one can understand the exact mental and physical rollercoaster you are going through, even if they have been through it themselves.
Going through a miscarriage feels pretty much the exact same way … except that no one talks about it.

But through both experiences you learn similar things. You learn how much stronger you can be in the face of adversity. You learn how many people are rooting you on. You learn how to be patient and trust that, eventually, the end will present itself. You learn that you just have to tell yourself “You CAN do this” one more time than you say “You can’t”. You learn how glorious the celebration at the finish line can be.

That is the true inspiration and motivation behind this blog and my goal to live healthy, live foolish, and live outside of my comfort zone - an idea that crossed my mind as I crossed the finish lane in the parking lot of Epcot, but seems even more important now.

Powered by an excess of decaf coffee and La Croix, a daily chocolate habit, two rambunctious dogs, a stack of personal development books, an unwaveringly supportive family, and a love of all things Disney, I invite you to follow along in my blister, self-doubt, and sore-muscle filled journey to go from couch to Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge.

Miscarriage to Motherhood

It is amazing how quickly your mindset changes when you realize you are having a baby. Certain things suddenly become much more important while things you used to stress about don’t phase you at all. In the last few months, many things have happened in and around my life that, along with Baby Girl, have shifted my perspective on what is truly the most important.

Life serves us many opportunities to make a choice. A choice between what is easy and what is hard. A choice between what pushes us out of our comfort zone and what keeps us safely in our bubble. A choice between what we wish to do in our future and how we can spend our time now to get one step closer. A choice between what is right and what is wrong (even when it feels so right). A choice between really learning all of the facts and not just blindly “picking a side” in a world that seems all too quick to divide us all up. A choice between what will make us stronger and what will keep us where we are.

We have the choice to look at the positive and see all of the good around us. We have the choice to believe in greater things. We have a choice to be honest. We have the choice to apologize and own up to our mistakes. We have the choice to believe in people’s integrity and their ability to grow even when they make a mistake. We have the choice to disagree with someone without becoming a nasty, angry person over it. We have the choice to be a part of the bigger picture and stand up for what we are passionate about. We have the choice to face our fears. We have the choice to change for the better. We have the choice to be grateful for the life we have even when it is hard.

Life is all about choices and in times when it may be easier to be mad or close-minded or unforgiving or stuck in the past or impatient or totally overwhelmed I decided that if I had to pick just one goal for my future it would be to simply be a good role model.

To stand up for the people and causes I believe in. To be a nice person even to someone who is being a total a-hole. To put my shopping cart away and change the paper towel roll. To be courageous in the face of fear. To actively listen to others and learn about the world around me. To be patient. To be understanding of people’s differences. To be bold and approach life with an enthusiastic rhythm. To know that I am stronger than I allow myself to believe and am capable of so much more than the wallsI have built around myself. To be kind to others, to the world, to myself, and to my boundaries. To trust my intuition. To be present and appreciative for the moments that make life wonderful. To finally do all of the things I have always said I have wanted to do.
To, simply, live.

Cautious Living to Every Day Adventure

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Life is not all about crossing the finish line, but the experiences we have along the way.
Life is not about waiting to begin our lives until the day we've accomplished all of the things we want to accomplish.
Life is not about only living for the weekend or vacation or special occasions or when everything else is done. It's not about only rewarding ourselves when we've conquered everything on our calendar.
Life is about experiencing all that we can experience.
Life is about celebrating every little thing while we are on the way to accomplishing our biggest dreams.
Life is about doing all of the things we've always said we wanted to do.
Life is about LIVING it instead of just Pinteresting it.
Life is about actually getting out there and living the brighter and bolder life you've been watching other people live on their Instagram accounts.
Life is about what you can achieve when you stop talking and begin doing.
Life is about venturing outside of your comfort zone and realizing how rewarding it can be.
Life is about discovering who you are and fearlessly being that person.

I think it is absolutely fair to say that I have lived much of my life fairly cautiously.

Aside from a few life-changing moments of allowing courage to take the place of fear (note that I said “life-changing” … we’ll revisit that), I have always been much more likely to keep quiet, comply with the norm, and choose to blend in rather than the stand out. I was a painfully shy child who would rarely speak to adults aside from my Uncle who made me cotton candy (I was easily persuaded apparently). I grew up to be an introverted and guarded adolescent and young adult who would only let her freak flag fly around her closest of friends - and even with them it was really only flying at half staff.

As I reached adulthood, I only made decisions if they were realistic and if I thought people would approve of them. These decisions ranged from boyfriends and outfits, to jobs and hobbies. Slowly I began to feel constrained by all of the rules I was placing around myself to become the perfect Pageant Queen that I thought would be the most successful, most liked, most happy version of myself I could be. As the role I was playing grew, the list of experiences I wanted to have grew right along with it - after all, I couldn’t partake in any of these experiences until I was the most “perfect” version of myself because, until then, I didn’t deserve to experience them. (We’ll get back to that list a little later too).

What a nasty B*** I was to myself.

But the Pageant Queen didn’t always get away with her rule over the throne. Remember those life-changing moments I mentioned earlier. Yea, there were some of those.
Like finally saying “Yes” to a date with the man who would eventually become my husband.
Or choosing career paths I was passionate about even though it meant not using my college degree at all and making peanuts.
Or urging my boyfriend-later-husband that we should move across the country to a place we’ve never been for his medical school residency.
Or running a half marathon even though every fiber in my being told me I couldn’t do it.
Or deciding we were ready to start a family even though we felt anything but “ready”.
Or starting this project even though it terrifies me to be open and vulnerable and committed to getting out of my comfort zone (and telling you about it!) every day.

Through those experiences, I learned there was a lot more value in getting out of my comfort zone and doing things that felt intuitive and authentic.
Making the decision to put my mental health first, I worked with a personal development coach who taught me how to de-crown the Pageant Queen and give that sparkle back to the creative spirit who was living deep, deep, (DEEP) down inside of me.

It takes a daily effort for me to push past my comfort zone.
I truly am wired to be an introvert and a bit of a perfectionist, but I have learned of the glittering energy that comes from the other side of fear and I am ready to get back to that Adventure List that’s been sitting in a file on my computer’s desktop for the last ten years.

I will be sharing the good, the bad, the ugly, and the vulnerable when it comes to sweat and self care, wanderlust and wandering willpower, courage and compassion, miscarriage and motherhood, and anything that lies between me and living a colorful, bright, and “you CAN do it” kind of life.