Chapter 4 -------- A Quick Engagement
I am happy to say that we spent every available minute with each other from the moment we first kissed. Danielle became my best friend, and that relationship quickly blossomed. We could talk about anything. We could move through difficult topics with such grace and ease. Danielle and I shared a level of communication that I have yet to share with anyone else on the planet. Our conversations and our joy for life, while we were together was powerful, undeniable, and a display of the sincere love we shared for each other. We truly admired one another for the incredible individuals we were, and we also both had great self-love. The devotion between us was more than I can imagine. The first several weeks felt like a blur yet were some of the most enjoyable and intimate times in my life.
Danielle and I were also very passionate lovers who enjoyed adventure and deep intimacy. We spent many nights down at a local gazebo located in a beautiful garden surrounded by gorgeous flowers. The use of sacred geometry in the construction made it special to me as well. I appreciated it because Sacred Geometry has been something I have used as a tool for expanding my awareness for years. I felt it was having this effect on us as we made love in the moonlight.
People consider Sacred Geometry to originate from the sacred structures that create and influence the universe, giving real power to the idea behind, creative design. Using the sacred designs and structures from ancient cultures has brought about a revolution in our sciences. Cymatics is a new science that explores the potentials of using different frequencies to influence change. The patterns discovered in Cymatics are patterns we also find in sacred geometry. It was a sacred experience to share with my beloved.
One evening we were even graced with the presence of a family of javelina. For those unfamiliar with Javelina, they look like wild pigs. While not actually pigs (they are classified in the Peccary family) they can be dangerous in a pack. They have large tusks that can do damage if provoked, especially if they have little ones nearby. I have encountered them numerous times in my life but nowhere near what this night would bring.
We were talking as we always did when we started hearing a lot of noise approaching. It completely startled us and brought us to high alert status. I grabbed the flashlight and shined it out of the gazebo. We could see about four or five javelinas running through the garden, although many more were present. I grabbed the mat we were resting on and used it to put up a barricade at the entrance.
At this point, my flashlight had spotted somewhere between twenty to thirty javelina wandering through the bushes. It was an overwhelming sight. We later looked up the meaning of Javelina as a spirit animal and found that they are a sign of strong connections with others. Danielle and I couldn’t deny we were developing something strong.
The first couple dates I hadn’t talked much about my passion for dance. It was probably halfway through the first week of dating that I decided it was a good time to show Danielle my style of dance. I have a unique approach that I would also say has very little structure. It is constantly evolving, and the form and movement very much depend on the music that is playing. So I chose to dance to a song called “Revolution” by Diplo. I had to look it up, but the song is classified as Electronic Dancehall. It is a song that starts slow and then has a very fast beat, slows down, and then goes faster and faster till the end.
Revolution is a fun and intense song for me to dance to, as I exercise every part of my body when I dance. My moves can be fast and interesting but unique and all their own. Danielle, an accomplished dance instructor, was blown away. She couldn’t believe it in all honesty and told me that my form was akin to a professional dancer. I can’t recall which accomplished Russian dancer she compared me to, but I was flattered.
We danced all night. It was a thrill to be able to dance with someone who could dance with me. It takes a talented individual to keep up with me, so I’ve rarely ever had dance partners when I go dancing, freestyle. I learned my dance basics by watching 2-step, salsa, and a little blues. However, my unique movements have evolved into something completely different than anything else. We still flowed together, displaying a unique approach that was electric. Danielle would choose a song, and then I would choose a song. The most beautiful night of dance that I have ever shared with someone. I wasn’t anticipating what this night would also inspire. Danielle wanted me to start dancing in her classes.
It would be pertinent that I give a little more background on Danielle’s class structure. Mostly I found it to be so incredible and a different way of teaching. She started many girls out as little dancers and had several classes of three to five-years-old. She was truly talented and gifted in her ability to handle the little ones. Several parents and friends commented on her natural ability as a teacher to instruct children of all ages. Mostly, because it was dance, she had a predominantly female class load.
Danielle had different levels set up for her students. As girls would advance through the levels, they would gain more freedom and chances for creativity. She made certain that the girls learned the basics, not just the basics of dance but the basics of manners, of attitude, and the character traits that make a smart and independent woman. As I said, she taught more than dance; she taught what it was to be creative, independent, and kind while seeing the beauty in everyone, which gave many girls a positive self-image. It was a big deal to be invited into the dance studio. The invite honored me because Danielle hadn’t shared that part of her life with any other man. She had even switched up the classes she offered to teenagers because of the way teenage boys typically behave. She knew I was different from most men.
Danielle had to stop teaching teenage boys altogether because they would be crude or inappropriate. Our teenagers find it appropriate to act in sick and perverted ways, Danielle and I discussed this troubling topic extensively. It doesn’t help that the massive availability of free internet porn, continues to twist the way many young boys view sex and sexuality. The comments that teenagers said to Danielle in her classes only proved this to us.
I was part of the start of this generation, a generation with access to unlimited sexual entertainment. So much porn and television vulgarity that it has torn apart the fabric of society. Sex lost its spiritual roots and now is seen purely for physical gratification. The University of Chicago is showing that sex, when performed with love in a monogamous relationship, is far healthier. In our male sex culture, there is no compassion; there is no consideration of the needs of others. Considerate lovers make better lovers than selfish ones. Consideration builds a deeper connection to create a higher level of satisfaction.
It didn’t surprise me when Danielle told me that she hadn’t had any other men in her dance classes. It is honestly sad that most are incapable of being respectful with their thoughts around young women, but it is the truth. Most men lack consideration. I aimed to be considerate in all my actions. The first class I was invited to be in was her P2 class, which included her most talented and advanced students. This class included girls that ranged from eleven to twenty-two years old. It was an achievement to be in the class.
Some spent years learning the art of dance, while others were truly incredible talents that earned it through hard work. It was incredible to see all the different techniques of dance that each person possessed. Danielle put on a display and had the girls show off their talent first as I was a bit nervous and didn’t want to go first. It was exciting to see how Danielle controlled the class and allowed much of the design of the dance to flow from the girls; she was a great coach. I even made sure to bring snacks to my first class to win over the hearts of the girls.
Danielle knew I could dance, but she had made it a requirement that I audition for the class, and I was happy to oblige. I think she also wanted to show me off to her students, but I didn’t mind that either. I was happy that I had found my dance instructor, the one who would make me a better dancer. She wanted me to dance to the same song that I first showed her, a “Revolution” it was going to be.
I had been warming up all day knowing that I was going to have to perform that evening. I was nervous, to say the least, despite having danced in front of hundreds of strangers and friends previously. I was even more nervous than when I first danced for my wife. I went in with 110% effort. I knew I had to impress them, and I did it with flying colors. I started the dance Revolution in the studio that night. The girls were blown away at my performance. However, I went too hard too fast. In total exhaustion, I had to stop dancing before the end of the four-minute song. I endured the next 20 minutes, waiting to catch my breath. I knew that it was worth it, as it meant I would likely be allowed to join the class.
I would have been a shoo-in if Danielle made the final decision. The girls had to agree that I was ready to be in class. Everyone voted. I believe it was a unanimous vote to allow me to join the class. It was more than an honor to me and something I wanted; I was finally going to receive some formal dance training. At this point, all the dancing I learned was from watching other people do it or just figuring it out on my own. I went to some classes for blues and salsa dancing but mostly learned by copying other dancers. Now I was beyond excited to be trained by one of the best dance teachers in the country. I was in love with our new life.
We did everything together, including errands, appointments, and sweeping her dance floor. When I met Danielle, she lived in her dance studio connected to her house. She had moved in there because it made it easier to afford to keep the studio open. Since the recession, she had struggled with keeping the business going. She even completely rented out the house and lived in an airstream on the property to pay the bills. Many students stopped dancing when times became rough for the country. Sedona was no different, and the economic downturn had a huge impact on extracurricular activities.
The seven years before Danielle met me were filled with numerous financial challenges. She constantly told me about the struggle to keep the business going, mostly out of obligation to her students. She sold her car and started walking everywhere to save money. Many people, including myself, choose to bike or walk around the city. Danielle became known for walking the streets of Sedona in her big floppy sun hat. She was iconic in her appearance.
One of her biggest challenges was having roommates that respected the dance studio. Her students told me about Danielle having to throw people out for crossing boundaries or doing something completely inappropriate. A fierce protector of her space, a firecracker, she was an explosive force for good. It showed girls that it was okay to stand up and do the right thing. Danielle was a role model, unlike any other. I respected this about Danielle and always laughed about the way the girls would describe it. Kids say the darndest things. I remember laughing with them, trying to express her fierceness.
Danielle likes to call it her Kali side, her darker feminine energy that she channeled to triumph over evil. A side of her that I respected because I recognized similar energy when I was upset. Danielle showed far more control and direction with her anger, which was used to accomplish great good. I had much to learn.
Danielle was a protector. She repeatedly remarked that the little children that are constantly playing up and down the street don’t have a voice. We both knew her actions led to protecting lives and made a difference to those who can’t speak. It is a strange world we live in, but some work every day to make it a better place, Danielle was one of those people.
I learned a lot about the person Danielle was the more she opened up to me. The more I discovered, the more I loved her. I never stopped being amazed by the incredible stories or the passion for life she embodied. Everything we did was an incredible experience. I didn’t see this relationship ending, so when my parents told me they were visiting several weeks after my birthday, I knew they had to meet Danielle.
My Mom, Dad, and Sister had not been to Sedona since we were children. They were in for an unexpected adventure, as I planned to introduce them to my better half. Although, I dropped the news on them as they were pulling into town. I wanted to avoid silly questions or potentially give them time to do something embarrassing. Having my family visit meant embarrassing moments were unavoidable. They arrived around dinner and were famished after the 4-hour drive, so we met at the restaurant.
Dinner was fantastic. We had a great time discussing how we met and the apparent connection we had. Danielle also really connected with my dad due to her top-secret past. My dad was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Danielle had no problem “shooting the shit” with him. It was entertaining to watch. I was glad my parents liked her seeing as Danielle didn’t have a father most of her life. The family connection brought us even closer together.
Danielle loved being able to hear about all my embarrassing moments growing up. It was equally entertaining as it was humiliating. It made Danielle feel like part of the family. Danielle loved it, and my family had made her feel welcome. It was a great feeling to get such positive feedback from my family. She impressed them beyond words.
The weekend consisted of my sister taking an obnoxious number of pictures. I didn’t enjoy all the pictures at the moment but will forever be grateful for the memories she preserved. She took pictures of every adventure we went on. We enjoyed some light hiking and a lot of good food. We didn’t take my family to the Vegan Restaurant for a meal but did go in for some chocolates. Everyone loves chocolate, and not everyone loves a vegan hamburger.
My family doesn’t share the same concerns about food like me. To my family’s dismay, I have changed my views about many ideas I had growing. My awakening to certain issues has caused tension and strife within my family. No longer do I force my new views on my family, and no longer do they expect me to behave as they expected. We have come to a better mutual understanding. However, this understanding was only a recent development with Danielle entering my life.
Danielle helped revitalized the connection between all of us. I know my family supported my decision to date this amazing woman, but they were also shocked. I don’t think they had ever seen me so head over heels in love. They knew something special was there, and I knew they were happy for us. Even my sister throwing me under the bus made Danielle feel more like part of the family. The truth was we were both completely head over heels in love with each other, now it was a bit more official.
I think the biggest thing I realized with my family was how truly enamored I was with Danielle. My parents made sure to point that out, embarrassingly. I felt they approved of my relationship. I even for the first time, received open support for my orgonite and medical marijuana careers. They gave me an amazing mold for my orgonite in the shape of a marijuana leaf. I couldn’t believe it after years of ridicule. Showing me, everyone has the power to change, even if it isn’t as fast as we may hope. I couldn’t escape the change that entered my life.
Inescapable. Was this it?! Were we both waiting for each other? After three weeks, our lives were becoming entirely intertwined. Life just flowed effortlessly, and we were perfect together. Everyone around town thought we were adorable, and we brought smiles to many we encountered. We genuinely had fun together. I loved everything about her. What happened next only made sense.
I decided to ask her if she thought we should get married. It wasn’t an immediate proposal but more of an idea. Danielle was so excited that I wanted a secure future together. She practically said yes right away, and with that, we were going to get married.
We both just knew we loved one another, and it just felt right. We were on a rocket ship relationship and were past the point of no return. I can’t explain how we fit so much life experience into such a compact amount of time. One of the biggest hurdles being a huge shift in my line of work. Which without her help, I would never have come to such deep realizations. A big life change was still a small part of the events that propelled us those first couple weeks.
The deep discussions about our lives continued, showing us new and interesting challenges. Most problems or issues from a new relationship happened. We discussed living situations, children, life goals, aspirations, and even looking at the things that we didn’t like about ourselves and each other. We worked through all of it with such beauty. We understood how to communicate with each other. It was beautiful. We both agreed that we had lived a lifetime in our first month together. Most relationships take months if not years, to progress as far as we already did. So now we had to discuss the details of making it official.
Our planned wedding day was fast approaching, and we spent practically every minute possible together. She would even come to hang out at my work, that brought me to Sedona in the first place. At the time, I was working at the local Medical Marijuana Dispensary. It was my second time back in the industry, which I enjoyed. I loved getting paid to sell weed legally. Moving to Sedona was a massive improvement to my previous job in downtown Tucson. The views from inside the new office were magnificent. The people were even more pleasant. I felt at home when I first arrived.
I have researched the most successful dispensaries in the Nation, the ones that are providing free Wellness Center options to their patients. These include yoga classes, acupuncture, healthy eating seminars, and so much more. I saw potential in Sedona to provide those benefits. The location had a perfect space that was being completely unused. It felt like an opportunity, but I would find the opposite to be true.
Due to a problem I had with a coworker, I had to inform the manager at the time that I felt a coworker was mistreating clients based on if they tipped or not. Seemed like the proper thing to do since I take a lot of pride in customer service. The result was not punishing the employee but removing the tip jar completely. I hadn’t realized the jar was gone the next time we worked together. I had volunteered to work the front desk, so I never noticed it was missing the entire day. I was only trying to avoid talking to her.
Danielle showed up an hour before closing to hang out with me. It wasn’t until I walked out the door that I realized that there wasn’t a tip jar. I wanted to blow up, I was beyond upset, mostly because it was a $250-400 per month pay reduction. I was at the time making $11 per hour which was $2 short of the originally promised $13 per hour. I hadn’t worried before since the tip jar would usually make up the difference. The pay cut made me furious.
Danielle was with me as this happened, and it was the first time she saw me angry. Now at that time in my life, I would say I still lacked control of my anger. Often my temper could get the better of me, and I would not be my usual pleasant self. She was able to see me at my worst, emotionally out of control. Everything that I was hoping to get from working there was crumbling to nothing. I wasn’t going to be making near enough money now to accomplish half of what I wanted to accomplish with my life. It was devastating. Danielle helped me come to several realizations.
I realized that upper management only cared about trying to supply inexpensive marijuana. The idea of an integrated wellness center was never going to manifest at this job. Danielle helped me to work through all of it, and she helped me come to some big decisions.
Now I wasn’t making enough money to thrive in Sedona at $11 per hour. I was barely getting by before. Danielle reminded me of this and other issues that bothered me. I felt the managers that worked over me had zero say in the direction of the company. They received all direction from our Phoenix office that also rarely showed up to our location. We did only do $1 Million a year in business compared to the over $12 Million that the Phoenix location did. The company didn’t show much care or attention to our location.
It bothered me that my manager would communicate the lack of concern the home office had for our issues. I could see the focus was not on the patients. The concerns were focused on profits for the company, not in providing proper medicine. Never was it about giving back to the community or the employees for that matter. With my wife talking me through everything, I finally concluded, I needed to quit.
The next day I was super surprised to see my General Manager working. He was filling in for the assistant manager for the day. It was perfect synchronicity because I needed to talk to him about what happened. He gave me the worst reason to why he thought it was pertinent to remove the tip jar. He decided that since the other locations didn’t have tip jars, he would remove it to stop the problem. I proceeded to ask about getting the $13 an hour originally promised. He then told me that the Assistant manager only gets $13 an hour. The option of promotion to a manager just meant that I would officially get paid what I did with the tip jar.
That was all I needed to hear. I was looking forward to less money than I was making with tips while having more work and responsibility. I was not interested. Honestly, I couldn’t believe that managers at a business that grosses over $1 Million a year in sales, on a plant that our company grows, only pay their top managers $28,000-$34,000 per year. It was embarrassing, and I couldn’t take pride in the job anymore. I put in my month notice because someone needed to be retrained to work there. I still took pride in my performance as an employee.
At the time, I was very knowledgeable about how to help most people with managing pain, sleep, anxiety, and many of the other problems that MMJ can remedy. One of the biggest being the constant influx of Cancer patients looking for relief from many of the side effects of chemo. I told Danielle it was eye-opening to see every week the new Cancer Patient that the Cancer industry failed. It is hard because many of these people were struggling so much, but it felt good when I could help a patient find the proper medicine for their problem. It isn’t rocket science, but there is a science to it. Since I started in the industry in 2012, Arizona has seen huge leaps in the quality of medicine available, but it still needs more development to see the plant fully utilized.
With my revelation that it wasn’t time for me to continue to work in the MMJ industry, I knew I needed a change. Considering my soon to be wife was also a local dance teacher, and we had discussed silly rumors that small towns like to spread, it just seemed right that I move on. She was very outspoken to her students about staying away from drugs, considering she didn’t do them. She walked the talk, and she took great pride in that. She taught it was okay to be pure even when everyone else is doing the opposite. It’s okay to stand out and do what is right, especially if it is for yourself. Standing up for yourself is not always easy when one doesn’t have a foundation to stand on.
I was shifting Danielle’s perspective of Marijuana used medicinally. We both still feel recreational abuse, as with all intoxicants, is harmful to many people’s lives. Danielle helped girls build that foundation being a role model we could all aspire to achieve. She changed many lives in her mission to keep kids safe. As much as I was teaching her about the things I understood, she was sharing with me far more about the wisdom she possessed.
When I said Danielle read my astrological birth chart on my birthday, I had no idea the level of her understanding of astrology. She understood unreservedly how the planets could affect people. When my parents were visiting, she practically nailed my mom and dad’s personality just by reading their birth charts. I also found when she read my sister’s that she saw a lot of the struggle that she and I had throughout our lives. Danielle would also read charts for birthdays, for special events, and even in the event of a death. She let the stars guide her, which was no surprise when it came to choose a wedding day.
My wife wanted to choose a day that was right according to the stars, an auspicious day, one that she felt she could get married. We had a couple of limitations because of her teaching schedule and my work week. We decided that a Friday would be the day of the week to get married. After referring to the next month’s star charts, we decided to choose the date, Friday, September 18th, 2015. The stars told Danielle this day was the most auspicious, and it was only two weeks away.
The first thing I had to do was switch shifts so that I could have the weekend following our wedding off. Switching shifts meant my work weeks would run back to back instead of having a break in the middle. That meant I had to work seven days straight to return to my four days on three days off schedule, but I knew it was worth it. My request for days off came halfway through my final month of work. Regardless of the issues, I was having with work, the idea of getting married made it worth any price I would have to pay. Danielle and I were having such a great time that nothing else mattered. Every day our friendship deepened, and the knowledge of each other continued to grow.
We evolved, in part, because she saw a big reflection of herself in my anger. Danielle had far more experience and lessons to teach me about anger. She understood me, and I understood her, we both were reflections of the deep anger that existed inside both of us. Not that we ever let the anger rule our lives; in fact, our love kept most of those feelings far away from both our minds and hearts. We lived in a bubble of love, and only when opportunities for growth occurred would anything that could be conceived as not loving, enter our world. So interesting things did happen often, but it wasn’t anything the two of us together couldn’t conquer. It is overcoming those challenges that made both of us stronger and closer.
The next thing we needed to figure out was what was going to happen to her school. To Danielle, her house and the dance school were her main concern, and rightfully so. Obviously, after three weeks, I wasn’t expecting her to split everything she had accomplished and worked so hard for her entire life. It caused her much concern to think the potential risks she ran if things didn’t work out. So we decided to sign a prenuptial. I would get nothing in the slight chance that we were too hasty. We agreed to keep things separate, which made her feel secure, so it made me feel good too. Possessions don’t overly concern me, I appreciate nice things, but I prefer living a simple life.
We had a couple of serious decisions to make. First off, we had decided that our marriage wasn’t something we wanted to announce or make public. We wanted it to be about us, and we didn’t want our families saying anything about it. Danielle and I decided to tell no one except some friends. Mostly just friends that we encountered since we couldn’t keep our mouths shut. However, there were certain people she didn’t want to know yet, solely to avoid a large wedding. Deciding who should and shouldn’t come was, by default, almost entirely up to Danielle.
We told the dance class first, so all the girls knew right away that we were getting married. Since they all had hoped Danielle would get married one day, Danielle decided that they should be able to come. Miss Danielle was getting married, and it was a big deal for a lot of the girls. They decided they were going to perform a special dance for us at the wedding. It was all finally decided. Our wedding would be small and beautiful, with a non-denominational minister performing the service.
The only thing that was missing was my actual proposal. It just so happened that I came across the most beautiful heart-shaped crystal I’ve ever seen a couple of days after our big decision. Seeing as we weren’t doing things the traditional way, I decided to change it up a little. I choose to give my wife the most beautiful heart-shaped stone I had ever seen. Obviously, when I presented it to her in the dance studio on one knee, I already knew the answer, but I also knew that it was beyond official. Danielle Claire and Brandon Strabala were engaged, and we were going to get married on September 18th, 2015.
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