My most recent sit down was with a beautiful soul that garnered a warm smile and gentle spirit and was reflective with her thoughts. Meet Dana Shook…
As we settled into our seats and enjoyed a moment of small talk, my first impression was the soul across from me seemed sweet and very genuine, but also, slightly guarded. As I tried to read her from across the table, I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a hint of melancholy in her eyes, yet she smiled and leaned forward, cradling a steamy, hot, cup of coffee in her hands, encouraging me to move ahead. I like to begin my journey with each Bourbon Cowgirl by asking them to tell me about themselves or what their story is. Like many, Dana found it hard to talk about herself, and so like others before her, there was a deafening lull in our banter as she searched for her response.
“Who I thought I was isn’t who I think I am,” Dana acknowledged as she sat back in her chair. “My life has been me being a wife, a mother, going to work, coming home, and running the house and all that comes with it…for as long as I can remember…and now my security blanket is gone, and now I am left looking for direction.” She continued, “I think about the words ‘hope’ and ‘hoping’, and they carry very different meanings.” The reason for the hint of melancholy in her eyes couldn’t have been clearer as she finished with, “things have changed, and I am left to start over.”
“You know,” Dana started to say, pausing slightly, “I have found in my life that the greatest trials always come before the greatest successes.” It was then I saw the heart of the woman before me, the heart that reflected the attitude of the Bourbon Cowgirl as she spoke of opportunity, strength, discovering the “new me”, and even delving into her career as an echo cardiographer. With measured determination, Dana shared how she was always interested in the medical field, and following a difficult struggle years ago, she refused to be defeated. She accepted a challenging course load and obtained her college degree and, in turn, was rewarded with a twenty-six-year career where she has helped countless patients and worked with many she deeply respects.
When I questioned Dana with what motivates her, she grinned and said that motivation has been eluding, but quickly countered that her real motivation rests in the support she receives from family and friends, her trust in God, and with her two sons. She shared how her sons, Cody and Conner, live life to the fullest and in turn she wants to do the same and for them to be proud of her. She also spoke of her boys being her proudest accomplishment and how it is a privilege to be their mom. In the fall of 2020, Dana went above and beyond to give the boys something to brag about when she took her beloved Dodge Challenger to a nearby dragstrip in Beaver Springs and became an official member of the 100-Mile-an-Hour club! 0 to 100 m.p.h. in seconds, Dana behind the wheel, screaming her way down the asphalt. (I see you other badass tribe members reading this and smiling in support😉)
I nudged the conversation on as I questioned what she considered to be some of her greatest strengths and with ease she concluded her determination, her organizational skills, and that she doesn’t expect anything of anyone else that she doesn’t expect of herself. “How about your spirit animal?” I inquired. With great affection illuminating her voice, she said that easily her spirit animal would be the horse. Paralleling her judge of character, sense of discernment, and her attribute of loyalty, Dana expressed her love of these characteristics embodied in the horse and how she could see these same qualities in her own personality. A cowgirl at heart who likes dust under her boots. The Bourbon Cowgirl connection continued to unfold.
With conviction and sincerity, Dana said she imagines her greatest passion is her family and friends. She shared how she revels in family meals and gatherings and how important these times have always been to her. Now looking back, she realizes how important these gatherings were over the years and the memories they create. She reminded us that we can’t get the past back and to make the most of our time, not only for the memories we will draw from, but to continue with the bonfires, the parties and picnics, the holiday celebrations and camping trips, and those types of opportunities we often take for granted but make today worth living.
When asked if she had a life mantra, so to speak, she thoughtfully shared that “nothing worth having ever comes easy.” As I lead the conversation to what surprised Dana about herself, she reflected, “It’s realizing how strong I really am. Not physically, but emotionally and mentally. I always thought of myself as being weak. I’ve never been a confident or out going person, but after going through what I’ve went through the last couple of years, I have learned that I am a much stronger person than I ever thought possible.”
“How about something that might surprise others about you,” I pressed. Dana laughed, “Well, I did take a pole dancing class one time…for exercise of course!” She went on to explain that people would likely know of her love for horses, but some would be surprised to learn of her love for fast cars and classic cars from the 1970’s. A daring dream yet to be achieved for Dana includes her love for horses as she would like to barrel race, even if only one time. Dana tried to bring this dream to fruition several years ago when she took in a beautiful barrel racing horse, Ginger. (You can see Ginger in Dana’s profile picture as part of her interview for the Bourbon Cowgirl.) Before the pair advanced very far into the training, Ginger showed signs of physical limitations that would prevent her from ever being able to barrel race in the future. Despite these limitations, Dana continued to home Ginger and they did share trail rides and Ginger’s presence afforded Dana her fix for equine companionship and time in the barn and all the glorious things horse lovers find in having these majestic creatures. Ginger passed away in December 2019 and Dana shared there is a definite void where Ginger was. With no definite plans in the future to have another horse, but with a definite desire expressed to have one, I believe some horse, down the road, will be lucky enough to meet Dana and join up with their new owner and friend.
As we started to come to the end of our interview, I asked my concluding questions that are fun, yet insightful, such as what is your guilty pleasure? With a laugh and a nod, Dana shared that her guilty pleasure is a tall glass of green tea and she added… throw in a side of Dove Chocolate. My mind went straight to the Bourbon Cowgirl’s line of barware and the This Ain’t my First Rodeo glass. As to what she might tell her seventeen-year-old self, Dana shared that all through grade school and middle school she wanted to become an equine veterinarian but lost interest as other things took priority so what she would tell that seventeen-year-old girl is, ‘Go to vet school, get the degree, and become the equine veterinarian you want to be.’
We finished what was the last of the cold coffee in our cups, I thanked Dana for her time and her candid and thoughtful answers. I believe we should always leave the table with a grateful heart and when I asked Dana what she was most grateful for today, she concluded, “After recently giving up my home, my farm, my horse, and many things that I found security in, I have learned to take one day at a time and to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t have. I focus on the support of family and friends, especially my two boys. So, to answer your question…right now I don’t really know who I am but I’m looking forward to discovering who that person is and what the future holds. As I said, sometimes a person’s great success comes after they have walked through their darkest valleys.”
Writer’s note: I am afforded an exciting opportunity to meet people and then share their stories. I am excited to take this journey with you and in a time such as this, I am ready to share beautiful souls, positive vibes, and something we as women can celebrate ---- that being one another. I want to thank Dana for her time, her thoughts, and for sharing her story.
May we be reminded of the essence of the Bourbon Cowgirl: I am heart. I am soul. I was born to love. I was born to thrive. I love my God. I nurture. I create. I cry. I hurt. I die. But through it all I continue to try. I live out loud. The world is my canvas. My dearest friends, my tribe. I am the Bourbon Cowgirl.