Interview with Daniel Simpson

I interviewed Daniel Simpson at Danville’s READ Booksellers, promoting his memoir, A Rough Guide to the Dark Side.  Had I not sat down with the author and heard his story first-hand, I may have imagined his memoir was fantasy. It was not.

As an ex-New York Times foreign correspondent, he is shrewdly well-seasoned and knows how to hit a nerve. The memoir is a journey to the dark side of reporting—and tweaking stories to fit NYT paradigms of Iraq war-time sensationalism, and smorgasbords of drugs.

The book’s theme is an acutely biting and critical indictment of modern media practices, and how Simpson got mixed up with Serbian underworld thugs. His adroit use of language, peppered with politics, moves through a mazelike exposé of journalistic practices that he deems to be, not only untrue at times, but often having objectives to purposely mislead. He states, in keeping with media convention, some facts are more factual than others, contending that the NYT is a blatant propaganda megaphone.

Daniel Simpson, 37, is an English Cambridge-educated historian. He cut his journalistic teeth at Reuters as financial correspondent in Frankfurt, and then war-torn Macedonia. In 2001 he covered Romania after regime change when Stalinist dictator Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife were assassinated in 1989. He interviewed the assassins whose act had put Ion Iliescu in power, but the executioners got no glory.

NYT noticed Simpson’s Reuters reporting and hired him for the Belgrade bureau to cover political turmoil after Yugoslavia disintegrated. Most Balkan war correspondents had been dispatched to Afghanistan after 9/11.

Simpson was twenty seven; admits to being enormously naïve about NYT expectations, and the post-war Serbian mood. Former Yugoslavia was an ethnic mosaic; many murdered for their beliefs and some Serbian war criminals already at the Hague tribunals.

News about WMDs and terrorism was leaking from many sources after 9/11; the U.S was preparing to invade Iraq. NYT asked Simpson to hype some “news” about Yugoslavia defense companies developing cruise missiles for Iraq. He writes “news came from the Belgrade U.S. embassy; robo-diplomats claimed to have some documenting evidence.” Foreign deskers “wanted stories ‘faked’ to align with the president’s plans.” Editors tweaked his filed reports. The Washington Post had already run with the story. Simpson states he wasn’t big on faked sensation; so he went AWOL on ecstasy.

At the onset of his journalism career, Simpson had had fantasies of adrenalin-inducing excitement, being a front-line correspondent, dodging bullets, scooping stories. The Balkans beat did not offer near-death experiences, albeit Serbia was in post-war turmoil. NYT, publisher of all the news fit to print, wasn’t challenging enough for Simpson; the idealist longed to change things, wanted to revolutionize Serbian youth with music.

“I really thought I could change the world,” he said wryly.

So, with a solid dose of cannabis-fuelled idealism, Simpson partnered with G, a gregarious Serbian concert promoter. The duo burst onto culture-starved post-Milosevic Belgrade to spearhead the 2003 ECHO music festival on the heels of the EXIT extravaganza held each summer in a northern provincial town.

His vision of promoting such an event did not include the doom factor, due diligence, or that he was navigating into the dangerous Serbian mafia underworld.

Distracted by festival planning, and disgusted with the NYT demands to sensationalize stories—Simpson quit. He had bigger fish to fry. So, in true gonzo journalistic style, he put himself in the middle of the action, the neophyte rock-star wannabe starred in his own story. But the protagonist was about to get ripped off.

DARK SIDE GETS DARKER

Although Daniel Simpson quit the New York Times a decade ago, he unabashedly references his former gig to promote his memoir, A Rough Guide to the Dark Side. “It opens doors for me. When someone hears I am an ex-New York Times reporter it adds clout. They all want an interview,” Simpson smiled.

Ten years ago, the then-27-year old journalist had reached a crossroad; the festival was a “transition mechanism” of magnanimous proportions. Sans street-cred or connections, except for G, he chucked journalism to produce the music festival. The man who earned a living asking questions, asked himself the sublime question—why? The answer to the esoteric question revealed he wanted to change things—he yearned to make a difference, bring the Balkans’ fractured factions together with music. He confesses he was heavily into drugs, and dealing.

Daniel Simpson’s avant-garde memoir, A Rough Guide to the Dark Side, reveals his journey; Kerouac’s On the Road comes to mind. Chapter titles reveal the mood; ZERO, LUST, HERESY and REVELATION, as does author’s note; “I hope this isn’t fiction, or one-sided…”

Simpson, with journalistic page-turner brilliance, starts with the killer first line, “I never really meant to join the underworld. I fell in.” He expected to connect with the youth, alter conflict-scarred Serbia by staging ECHO, a summer-of-love Rock Music Festival on Belgrade’s Big War Island in the Danube. He envisioned eclipsing the EXIT festival, a musical marathon-cum-political-protest that boasted 300,000.

Simpson’s memoir reads like fiction, but it’s not. Hooking with politically-connected street-savvy Serbian partners, the ECHO event emerged as Burning Man meets Woodstock.

Politicians and money-men met with Simpson on the strength of his NYT connection; it gave him clout. He knew the U.S. funneled funds to the Otpor youth group to mount resistance to oust Milosevic; some from three-letter U.S. agencies. EXIT had secured 200K. So Simpson, imbued with anti-establishment idealism, and armed by a drug-fuelled ignition switch, secured funding for the project. Drunk with resolve to make a fortune, and unbounded naïveté about the Serbian culture, he and partners succeeded in pulling off the ECHO Music Festival; albeit at great personal cost.

He conceptualized that ECHO would be the magnet to rally dissidents against political corruption, police brutality and decades of discontent, not permitted during Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Simpson orchestrated ECHO unaware he was treading on dangerous territory; gangsters waited in the wings.

Simpson, still a NYT correspondent during festival planning, filed regularly. When Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was shot in broad daylight near Simpson’s flat, the Times wanted a sensational front page story. Bullets had shredded him; some thought the hit came from the Zemun underworld. Simpson had to work fast to file for the front page. He had a lot of distractions.

“I was lost in listening to hip-hop music, visions of how everything could be explained…I trusted G, not knowing if he would hoodwink me, he was a gambler man, fearless, charismatic…maybe he knew ECHO would be doomed. I didn’t want to just do a couple of DJ nights—I wanted a full blown Woodstock.”

He had to file the Prime Minister’s assassination quickly. Instead of doing “man on the street” interviews, Simpson asked his translator and her friends what they thought. He settled for ‘rent-a-quote’ opinions, and extrapolated from news wire cheat-sheets. He faked interviews with fake diplomats. “I can’t defend that ethically.” His memoir answers many questions, and tells why he made up stories for the New York Times.

The production of ECHO festival on Big War Island in the middle of the Danube was a logistical nightmare in post-war Serbia. Paramilitary security contractors with guard dogs were hired to protect money-takers and ticket-holders. Scuba divers searched the river for bombs. Simpson was peddling class-A drugs at the festival, an offense that could entail jail time. But precautionary measures did not prevent what was yet to go down with the Serbian mafia.

Over 150,000 attendees showed up for the 4-day raver; 100 acts and 300 artists on four stages. The Serbian army had erected a 600-meter pontoon bridge from Zemun to Big War Island in the middle of the Danube. Four circus elephants ridden by Russian acrobats lumbered across the bridge on opening day. Visitors from several nations flocked to the love-in at 25 Euros apiece. Cash rolled in. All went well until torrential rains knocked Sonic Youth out of the line-up on the last day. It was an island of mud. The storm was a harbinger of what was to come.

Simpson’s grandiose dreams were dashed—all the money was stolen. The catastrophic finale of the big cash rip off proved that maybe politicians and partners were in cahoots with the Serbian mafia. Simpson is not sure what role G played in the scenario, and what went down with the gangsters.

Simpson admits to naiveté about encroaching on mafia domain. Manic idealism, high achievement tendencies and continual stonedness convinced him that techno, funk, salsa and soul music of Sonic Youth and Burning Spear could bring unity to disintegrated former Yugoslavia. He confesses to having cynical jadedness as first, describing the Belgrade war zone as “a miserable pariah”. But when he met G, nothing seemed impossible—charisma overtook judgment. Maybe things got lost in translation; G called American money the ‘one-eyed pyramid’. “Music had revolutionary potential…” In retrospect; perfect for ‘washing cash’.

He saw more than revolutionary potential; a blockbuster would generate cash while bringing splintered factions of the Balkans together. So Daniel Simpson, sporting a new Serbian soubriquet, Raoul Djukanovic, interviewed himself, generated a buzz, clinched funding and pitched the ECHO deal dreaming magnanimous dreams. Drugs were big in Belgrade, and being “mentally jellified”; the nightmare was yet to follow.

DESTINATION: OBLIVION

The festival had ample sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but with the lack of due diligence of Serbian culture—ECHO failed. The promoters filed bankruptcy; police and printers threatened, performers’ expenses went unpaid. Some accused Simpson of being a British spy. His change-making dreams crumbled. Serbian underworld gangsters had struck a coup de grace with a vengeance.

Simpson said booking the bands was tough; “names bring faces…” Disappointing everyone was a fiasco, no one got paid.  Maybe scalpers printed tickets; maybe security and partners were in on a scam. There was a lot of cash—who knows how it disappeared?

So ECHO did not end well for the ex-New York Times foreign correspondent, now seeking answers, trying to find himself. “I wrote A Rough Guide to the Dark Side as a catharsis; to be kind to myself…I wanted to be a better journalist. I needed to look inside myself, in reality I was lonely, I had anxiety and depression, I quit my job, lost a fancy title, took risks, had to look inside me, had to learn how to love others and myself. I searched for the meaning of life on a rollercoaster adventure.”

Simpson admits he may not have had the clout to produce ECHO had he not been with the New York Times, confessing to mild deceit. “I wanted to say something, do something; be someone.”

I was more interested in Daniel Simpson the journalist, than Daniel Simpson the concert-promoting drug-dealing addict. I told him that drugs did not define him, his brilliance as a writer is what defines him. At first I said I would not mention much about the drugs, or that he was a stoner, but I would be dishonest not to. The crux of his memoir hinges on drugs; it is the tour de force of his past.

I read A Rough Guide to the Dark Side and numerous NYT articles. Daniel is bright, has swift wit and a quick smile. The high-achiever is hard on himself, demands perfection, cuts himself no slack. He is very likable and laughs a lot. “I have not used drugs for four years,” he says, “I practice yoga; it has been a way of life since long before organized religion. I write about yoga.”

My final question was a surprise. My quest was to penetrate the masquerade; I needed more backstory on my interviewee. “Daniel, if you were to interview yourself, what would be your first question?”

Daniel Simpson’s answer was long; I would have to paraphrase and condense. His forthrightness surprised me. He frankly flaunts his failings, maybe to shock, maybe to be honest. A Rough Guide to the Dark Side tells his life in gripping staccato style. His dark side chronicles hallucinatory time passages through a hip-hop culture—evoked to sanction the retreat from himself and his outrageous actions.

I asked Daniel Simpson about his grueling book tour at Blackhawk’s READ, and wished him Godspeed. “I launched A Rough Guide to the Dark Side in London. I’m traveling by Greyhound across the United States, with stops in New York, Texas, North Carolina, California, Oregon, Washington, back to London, and then to India to be with my girlfriend.”

www.roughguidedarkside.com,at READ Booksellers, Danville and Amazon.

Under the Friday Night Lights

Fall Means High School Football Across America

Fall, also commonly known as autumn, is upon us. The days are getting shorter, the leaves are turning colors, the kids are back in school and football is being broadcast on network or cable television seven days a week, 23 hours a day. Fall has always been my favorite time of year for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is, fall means football across America, and I, modestly speaking, was an awesome high school football player.  Interestingly, the older I get the better I remember being but that’s probably just the effect of the concussions. If you were to look-up the word “Fall” in most respectable dictionaries, adjacent to the definition (the season between summer and winter when the days begin shorter and the weather gets colder) you would likely find a black and white sketch of a pig skin, a raw hide, a football. Just for the record, the word fall also means to drop, or to be defeated, captured or overthrown. All useful football terms — I’m just saying.

Like virtually every other part of the country, Friday nights in the fall are reserved for high school football games. From the time I was in elementary school, I can remember attending Eagles football games under the lights of Wendell Grubb Field at Mountain View High School. I idolized my hometown heroes and looked forward to the time when I would be old enough to don the blue, silver and white varsity uniform (imagine the Dallas Cowboys) and join my teammates in battle against our rivals in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League.

Just for the record, I didn’t start out as an awesome football player; it involved a maturing process over many years. Growing up on the playground meant you played two-hand touch or flag football every waking hour once school reconvened. Keep in mind, this was 1967-1974, long before soccer or water polo was invented so our options were limited. At recess, lunch, after school and every weekend in every neighborhood, it was just assumed that any and all available kids would gather and be divided up into teams (stud athlete all the way down to paste eater) and a game would ensue. Touch football is pretty self-explanatory, this was before it became politically incorrect and a form of sexual harassment to touch someone else unless you had their permission. Flag football, in its purest form, consisted of two strips of bright orange plastic attached by Velcro to a canvass belt.  However, in a pinch, flags could be constructed of almost anything including Glad plastic bags, construction paper or my sister’s discarded bras. Both touch and flag football provided the fundamentals needed for the inevitable graduation to full pads tackle football.

Most high school gridiron wannabes ultimately signed up for Pop Warner football. Pop Warner is a youth football program where tween players are, for the first time, suited up in full pads, including helmet with chinstrap, girdle, to protect the hips and pelvis, and an athletic supporter (aka Jock). The Pop Warner experience can best be described as a test case in Darwin’s evolutionary theory as it is truly “survival of the fittest” played out three days a week at the hands of a group of sadistic coaches. It should be noted, in the yesteryear, the typical youth football coach never actually played the game of football.  Or worse, he was the high school water boy or equipment manager. That meant the coach either had a grudge to bear or wanted to live vicariously through his players. Either way, the “coaching” was often secondary to the physical brutality of hitting drills to weed out the weak. Think dog fighting with cleats.

Football camp typically opens in early August. For those readers who are not football educated, “camp” is not about sing-a-longs and roasting marshmallows. Football camp is the start of practice and that usually means a torturous two weeks of double days. That’s code for two practices a day, six days a week in the hot August sun. Surviving camp, prepares the student athlete for the rigors of practice during the regular season when their schedule includes the hassle of attending classes, completing homework assignments and taking tests. Being a football star doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to the books (unless you go to college in the SEC). As grueling as the schedule is, it’s all worth it when it comes to, pep rallies, marching bands, cheerleaders and ultimately game day. I would imagine that virtually every adult reading this article may recall the feel of cheering on their beloved school team in the crisp air of a star filled autumn night. If you were fortunate enough to strap on the pads and play in one of those memorable games, you are undoubtedly wiping the tears from your eyes and the sweat from you brow as you recall those euphoric and exhilarating times.

Freshman football is both frightening and exhilarating. The higher-level players quickly want to establish their reputation. It’s similar to being the new fish in prison. It’s usually a good idea to identify the toughest guy in the yard and beat him to a bloody pulp just to show the rest of the yard you’re not to be messed with. Let’s just say, I was rocked right out of my before mentioned jock, that first week of full contact scrimmages. That first season, I played mostly in the 5th quarter and as even the most unsophisticated of football simpletons know, a regulation football game only has four quarters. The fifth quarter allowed the really bad players to at least get their uniform dirty. I was that bad! Needless to say, life between the lines improved my sophomore year playing on the Junior Varsity. I worked my way into the starting line-up of a 0 wins-10 loss team playing both offensive lineman and linebacker. I made the varsity team as a junior, but that may only have been because, as my teammates and I played to yet another 0-10 record and we weren’t especially deep in talent. The interesting thing is, after that second winless season, our group of winless warriors committed ourselves to working tirelessly in the weight room, on the practice field and studying game film to be a better team. It’s amazing what a group can achieve if they rally together for a common cause. As one might expect our senior season was magically successful. Most high school athletes do not go on to play in college, which often means their last high school game/season is the pinnacle of their team sport experience. It’s great to go out a winner.

High school football in the fall is said to be a religious institution in states such as Florida, Louisiana and Texas. The movie, Friday Night Lights, based on the actual Panther football team of Permian, Texas, (changed to the fictional town of Dillon for television) epitomized what high school football means to small towns across the country. The popular NBC series portrayed an honest account of both high school and high school football that often had me cheering and choking back tears in the same episode. Another “must see” high school football movie (one inspired by true events) is the Oscar worthy, Remember the Titans. I dare any former player not to cry at that one. A few more HS football movies worth seeing include: The Program, Varsity Blues and Gridiron Gang. For those who prefer a good read, I recommend the fictional story, Bleachers by John Grisham. It’s a real tearjerker about teammates reuniting for their former coach’s funeral. Just for the record, it’s totally acceptable for former football players to cry. Despite the violent nature of the sport (it’s not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport) most players are protective and caring by nature.

A wonderful non-fiction read is When the Game Stands Tall by Neil Hayes about our very own De La Salle Spartans. When it comes to high school football, we are very privileged to live in close proximity to De La Salle High School in Concord. It’s Mecca for any true high school football fan. Bob Ladouceur, will likely go down as the most successful high school football coach of all time. From 1992 to 2004 he guided his team to twelve undefeated seasons, setting a national winning streak record of 151 consecutive wins. Entering the 2012 season, his record is 384-25-3. Coach Ladouceur’s 93.6% winning percentage is a national record amongst coaches with a minimum of 200 wins and he is the winningest high school football coach in the state of California. Under his leadership, the Spartans have won seven national championships, sixteen state championships and De La Salle has topped the USA Today rankings five times. De La Salle is one of the preeminent high school football programs in the country.

If I appear passionate about this topic, it’s because I am! It has been said that characteristics of a successful football player and team are keys to success in everyday life. The qualities of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, teamwork, determination and perseverance are attributes employers, friends and even spouses look for and admire. Since my daughters were little girls, I’ve been taking them to cheer on our local area high schools under the Friday Night Lights. I couldn’t be happier that our oldest, Hannah, is now a freshman at Monte Vista giving us a real connection to a team. Look for me the next time your in the stands at a Mustang game any Friday night this fall. I’ll be the guy wearing a red and black letterman jacket with a tear in his eye.

Side Bar: This piece is dedicated to my high school football coaches, Rich Ryerson and Dan Navarro. Additionally, I would also like to recognize several of my unforgettable teammates including; Russell Peoples #33, Tom Cooper #35, Frank Dowse #16, Eric Cook #90, Nick Siler #91, Chris Mateo #25, Mike Murphy #34, Wayne Kaku #55, Lon Tokunaga #47, David Olmos #26 and Chuck Smith #68. Even though our school was closed in 1981, we will always be MVHS Eagles forever. Mike #66

Thankful to be the Fathers of Daughters (Only Daughters)

Growing up, I can only recall one or two households that had nothing but girls. The traditional family of the 1960’s had one boy, one girl and a dog. If there was a third child or in very few cases four or five, the boys usually outnumbered the girls. I don’t have any actual census statistics to substantiate my claim, however until about the mid -1980’s, boys just seemed to be the more dominate sex (numbers wise).

Maybe it was the emerging popularity of hair care products for men, or the television shows we watched in college (Dallas, Falcon Crest and Knots Landing) or perhaps the feminine “Crocket and Tubbs” pastel fashion styles of that time period, but something began a shift in the Y chromosome gene dynamic. The male population has begun to diminish as evidenced by the number of men I know personally who are the fathers of only daughters (34 were contacted for this magazine piece).

“Having only girls in the house means you have to listen, learn, hug, hold and love like crazy. I also change a lot of toilet paper rolls.” Jeff M., four daughters.

“With a houseful of women, you never know what you might find hanging in the bathroom”. Ben S., three daughters.

 “You have to be prepared to always knock and wait for an “enter” response before approaching any closed bedroom or bathroom door.” Vic A., one daughter.

It’s not like adolescent boys sit around the tree house picking out names for their not yet born children, maybe once in an Orange Crush and Skittles haze, but it wasn’t unconscionable to think that one day we would all have sons. Someone we could take fishing where we would pass along life lessons. Then the moment passed and we were back to talking about baseball cards, comic books or farts. Boys aren’t especially deep in those developmental years.

“I don’t miss having a son because my daughter fills that role perfectly (with a few obvious differences). From an early age, it was apparent that she would have a love of sports, especially baseball. Some of my happiest moments have been while playing a game of catch or sharing the experience of watching a ballgame with her. Experiencing a wonderful father/child bond through the love of the game of baseball is really special. As my wife is fond of saying, “She’s the son you never had”.”  Chris F., one daughter.

“It warms my heart when we’re watching a Giants game and one of my girls says something like, “Bochy should send Posey on the next pitch”.  Dan M., three daughters.

 

“My girls do every outdoor activity a son would do including hiking, wakeboarding, snow skiing and competitive sports. They are amazing.” Jeff M., four daughters

A few years out of college, when I began interviewing candidates for the position of Mrs. Michael Steven Copeland, I began thinking about the prospect of being a parent. The notion of being the father to a strapping lad was intriguing. He would be a natural athlete who I could throw the ball with in the yard, a fine young man who I would teach to tie a tie or just a “mini me” to take over lawn mowing duties. At the very least, I was hoping to sire an heir to carry on the family name. Being the last remaining male Copeland, I now hope that one of my girls will consider hyphenating their last name.

“I love when my daughters ask me to cuddle and tell me that I’m their best friend. Then they change the channel.”  John K., two daughters.

“Daughters are more likely to take care of you when you’re old and senile.”  Rob T., two daughters.

“My daughter thinks I can do absolutely anything, except braid her hair.”  Jim L., one daughter.

How I ended up with two daughters is beyond me. Yes, there are those conspiracy theorists who believe that the bigger the “hound dog” a man was in his PDY (prime dating years) the more likely he’ll be to be blessed with girls. That’s God’s sense of humor. He’s paying us back for our carefree ways and indiscretions. The irony is, given our unconditional love and desire to protect our baby girls at all costs, we have morphed into a generation of uber-involved, ultra aware, crazy-connected Dads. I pity the poor boys visiting our homes to court our daughters. They’ll likely begin sweating once they walk through the door and notice our unflinching glare during the introductions. Their bodies will shiver with insecurity during the intense pre-date interrogation. Ultimately, they will fear for their lives once they hear the “If you touch or hurt my daughter you will die” have-a-good-time farewell. As the saying goes, “fathers of sons worry about one boy. Fathers of daughters worry about all the boys.”

“Being a single father, there was a big learning curve when it came to clothes, make-up and feminine hygiene products. I’m very thankful my mom was around to help.”  Kevin P., one daughter.

She may go more to her mother on emotional issues, but I’m her go-to guy when it comes to needing something fixed. I’m her in-house help desk for all things computer and electronics.”  John J., one daughter.

One challenge of being the only man in the house is that we are often expected to take on the role of mediator, arbitrator, magistrate, adjudicator, judge and jury between feuding girls and often between feuding mother and daughter. This is a “no win” position to be in. Be impartial, but if all else fails, support the mom.

“It’s tough being the “good guy” and at the same time supporting your wife unconditionally because she’s already the “bad guy”Mark T., two daughters

“You have to be prepared to referee inevitable fights about borrowing clothes, make-up and jewelry. It gets worse when they borrow mom’s stuff.”  Scott E., twin daughters.

“Save the Drama for your Mama,” is also a favorite saying at my house. Girls are predisposed for drama given their roller coaster of emotions and over active tear ducts. There’s friend drama, sister drama, school drama, sports team drama, there’s texting and Instagram drama and then there’s actual Drama Club drama. I’m now experiencing the boy drama sessions. My canned response is, “boys are bad except your Dad.” Where boys are full of testosterone, energy and, once teenagers, raging hormones, girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice mixed with a little female crazy. The best that we, as fathers, can do is to be a non-judgmental sounding board. More often than not, our daughters just want us to listen.

“I have found when one of my daughters makes a statement about a subject, which sounds like a request to step in and help her solve the problem, what they really want is for me to just listen and not respond or offer advice. This is difficult to do. I’ve learned that they also don’t want an unsolicited opinion because that is perceived as not believing they can solve the problem themselves. When they do ask for my input it is usually well received.”  Dan M., three daughters.

“I choke-up whenever I listen to My Little Girl by Tim McGraw or Daughters by John Mayer. They grow up so fast and we do our best to love them and keep them safe.”  Jeff L., three daughters.

Some dads think they’ll miss the father/son athletic component of parenting, but let me tell you we live in an area where the quality of girl athletes is astounding. The Tri-Valley produces some of the country’s best female soccer, lacrosse and swimming college prospects and I’ve known dads that were just as excited about seeing their daughter’s compete in chorus, band and cheerleading. In an early article, I wrote that kids spell love T-I-M-E.  Never underestimate a daughter’s need for her father’s attention, approval and involvement. I’ve brushed a lot of Barbie hair, spent considerable time shopping at malls across the country and seen more than my share of Disney/Pixar and Dream Works movies all in the name of father/daughter togetherness.

“With girls, going to the mall can be a religious experience with a heavy emphasis on donations?”  Jon F., two daughters.

“I had to learn three separate dance routines so that I could be each girl’s dance partner at a recital in front of 2,000 people at the Herbst Theatre.”  Barry C., three daughters.

“The only negative to having only daughters is not being able to get enough TV sports time without catching grief. That and having to experience the cult following of the American Girl doll store at Christmas time.”  Brian J., three daughters.

At the end of a long, hard day, there is nothing more heartwarming, more smile generating or more worthy of unconditional love than a daddy’s little girl. From the minute the doctor placed Hannah, my sweet and innocent first born in my arms, I knew that I would move heaven and earth to love and protect her forever. Then she pooped and started crying for her mother. The feeling was every bit as emotionally overwhelming when my second swaddled bundle of joy, Claire, arrived. Then she spit up on my shoulder, a substance that looked vaguely similar to what her sister pooped, and she cried for her mother. Once the bowel moving, vomit inducing introductions were complete and they were fed, I began what can only be described as a miraculous journey built on love, trust, humor, compassion, admiration and pride that has forged an unbreakable bond. I am the father of (only) daughters.

“There is nothing more touching than when I secretly get to watch her looking at the Adoption Day Album.”  Jim L., one daughter.

“I have saved every handmade Father’s Day card my adult daughters ever made me growing up.”  Scott E., twin daughters.

“My heart melts when my daughter and her daughter kiss me good-bye and tell me they love me (as both Dad and Lolo – Grandfather).”  Mark T., two daughters

Reduce Stress by Meditating—ahhhh….

Your alarm screams in your ears, and you are jolted out of a deep sleep. You look at the clock on your nightstand in utter disbelief that your sleep time is over… spent. “But I just lay down!” you protest. “Ugh—and I have a million things to do today!”

After you slide out from under your warm covers, your feet hit the floor—running. As you zoom from your cozy cocoon, you remind yourself not to forget to pay the mortgage, call Tiffany’s teacher, and update your boss on the Bellings account.

You bolt to the kitchen, practically tripping over your Labradoodle, Trixie, as you beeline toward your state-of-the-art coffee maker. After fixing yourself a cup of exotic Kona, you reach for your To-Do List. Your eyes dart up and down the daunting list as you quickly scribble several more actions to take.

Sound familiar? For many of us, in today’s fast-paced world, chronic rushing is a way of life. Of course, being productive is admirable; however, making a lifestyle out of rushing is quite another story. Chronic “hurrying” becomes problematic when we feel uncomfortable slowing down…and don’t take breaks to recharge.

In your own life, do you find that it’s often difficult to slow down during the day? If so, then you may be experiencing the inner “Pusher/Do-er” part of yourself taking over. Unfortunately, when this high-achieving part becomes too domineering, it can create stress-related health challenges.

Being in a chronic state of hurrying can generate high anxiety and bring on fight-or-flight responses. In this hyper-alert state, our minds and bodies make us feel as though saber-toothed tigers are chasing us. As a result, stress hormones, like adrenalin, are released.

I, too, have a strong Inner Pusher/Do-er part in myself that loves to achieve. In fact, I sometimes tell people that I’m a recovering “Type A” Personality. Type A’s are known to be perfectionistic and often have a difficult time relaxing. Thank goodness, back in my college years, I learned how to meditate. And now, I have been a meditator for over two decades and I’m grateful for this peaceful, centering practice.

Over the last thirty years, more than one thousand studies exploring the effects of meditation have been reported in scientific publications. Brain scans, EEGs, and blood tests are only a few of the scientific research methods used. These studies provide concrete evidence of the physical and psychological benefits of meditation.

In the stillness of meditation, we calm the tensions of our minds and bodies by learning how to slow down and let go. In my book, Stress Reduction Journal — Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health, I share the following information:
Potential Benefits of Meditation

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Reduced stress-related diseases (including heart disease)
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Increased creativity
  • Heightened ability to concentrate

So, if meditating is such a beneficial practice, why aren’t more people doing it? I have heard many people say that finding the time to meditate is the biggest challenge. With daily responsibilities that often include kids, spouses, pets, aging parents, and jobs outside the home — meditation can end up the last task on a person’s To-Do List.

The good news is: I teach a Beginner’s Meditation Practice that can inspire people to fit this important “me-time” activity into their busy schedules. Then, by breaking the cycle of a continual doing mode—they gently relax into a being mode that honors the peacefulness of the present moment. Ahhh…

What a healthy gift we give our minds and bodies each time we meditate. We have an opportunity to connect with the quiet places inside to reduce our stress levels … and recharge from the inside out.

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author and illustrator of Stress Reduction Journal. She is also the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. Trina currently has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or info@TrinaSwerdlow.com.

Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.