Sticks & Stones .. Finding One’s Balance

IMG_0358When I was a little girl my parents enrolled me in a gymnastic class. I wasn’t very coordinated (heck I haven’t improved much over the years). The simple acts of tumbling and accomplishing a quality cartwheel were true successes.  My inability to just let go and allow myself to “fall” prohibited any real Olympic like maneuvers. Playing it safe was more my cup of tea.  Believe it or not, it was on the balance beam that I felt most at home.  Walking along the 4-inch-wide structure with my toes snug up against the wood, I felt a sense of accomplishment.  Being in balance felt good and a place to call home for a little girl that wasn’t the biggest risk taker.

Having a sense of balance is a solid boundary for many of our comfort zones.  Relieving anxiety, feeling at ease, knowing what the next turned page will bring gives us all time to let our mind rest. We take comfort with daily routines, living in a place that has “always been that way”.  I don’t know about you, but lately, I find that connecting to this inner peace is harder to grab and that I am one step from falling off my balance beam.

The other day I decided to journey down to my happy place.  As noted in an earlier blog (https://alittlebitaboutalotofthings.com/2018/02/19/just-go-to-the-water/#more-1067)  going to the water helps me reboot and ground to zero.  As I was strolling along the beach, I stumbled upon a rock structure.  At first glance the stack of stones looked to be placed haphazardly.   No symmetry, big figures stacked on smaller bases, the structure appeared to be off center.  But low and behold it was in complete balance.  As I stood there, the metaphorical light bulb went on above my head, maybe when looking to adapt it is more than adjusting our expectations or perceptions?   Maybe if we take the pieces of life, build them by rearranging the proportions, we will discover a new kind of balance?

During the past few months life has handed all of us an array of never before experienced obstacles.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally our beings have been pushed and pulled along an unknown journey.  Imbalance is the new normal and we are all trying to study ourselves to continue to walk along our own beam.  Progressing along I have come to realize that finding opportunities in the unknown is a way to transfer the weight and get the needle to align back to zero.

A great example of this discovery is an obstacle our Exhibit’s Team has encountered. Working for a large event that has been postponed to 2021, adjusting the many competitions to new formats, dates and participating audiences has been a daily challenge.  We have been working on solving a puzzle that would allow our young agriculturist to show and sell their livestock projects.  In a world that thrives from the “live” aspect, determining the steps to insure everything that was done before can be done again, seems next to impossible.

Adjusting the scale to change the values of the outcomes opens the door to a new way of the must “haves” and “have nots”.  How did we find success?  We took our time.  We dealt with facts, did our research and asked questions to anyone that could add insight.  When everything is new and untested, stepping slowing down the beam proved to be a major confidence builder.  In the end the course we choose was easier to manage, due in part to the confidence we built along the way.  As the comfort levels build, new elements and prospects appear giving light to even richer results.  The new way of exhibiting and selling livestock may prove to offer opportunities for the future to make the showing experience bigger and better than ever expected.

These days, I can barely manage to do a decent cart wheel.  Like falling forward on the old gym mat, it is time to embrace the fact that it is time to shift toward a new vision of balance.  Look for the opportunities that time has afforded, retool your building blocks and stack them anew.  Getting back in balance may not look the same of what we encountered from past experiences.   The world introduces new “normals” to us everyday.  As we navigate the path ahead you can find me over here rebuilding my balance one stick and stone at a time.

I Don’t Know … it is a Mystery

Photo Apr 26, 7 33 24 AMApril 25, 2020, the world is in a very strange space.  A time when everyone on the planet is basically in the same boat.  A situation that is foreign to mainstream population. Leadership is encountering a decision tree, that sometimes seems like a magic eight ball may yield a better answer.  Living in a time that solutions seem to be void, how can we continue to have a smile on our face and hold hope in our hearts?

Compared to some, my life isn’t all that bad.  On the minus side, my youngest daughter Lilly is missing her college graduation and all the high points her senior year was meant to experience.  My work is beyond challenging.  Having a career in the “people” business and hosting large scale events faced with cancellations has obstacles too many to even mention.  Yet, my family is healthy, we all still have an income, food on our tables and a roof over our heads.  Most importantly, we have each other, at a distance in some cases, and we have a community of friends that is beyond measurement.

Managing a team of people and trying to flex one’s leadership muscle has me digging to depths of my inner resources.  Surprising myself at times with the words that flow and the hurdles of tasks that we clear, I just know deep down there is a light at the end of tunnel.  I keep reflecting to a phrase that is repeated endlessly in one of my all-time favorite movies, Shakespeare in Love.  Coined by Philip Henslowe (played by actor Geoffrey Rush) an Elizabethan theatrical entrepreneur, the unlucky thespian was an optimist in the truest form.  In one scene he is discussing the failing business venture when a contemporary notes “So what do we do?”  Henslowe’s poetic response is simply, “Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well”.  When quizzed to why, he responds nonchalantly “I don’t know it’s a mystery.”

With all the shifts in the world, I can’t help but wonder every morning when I wake, how will we ever get back to normal?  Then the Pollyanna in me begins to chirp in my ear and I look for the bright spot for the day.  Funny, even before society was struck with a pandemic my sense of relief has always been to search for the sign or inspiration.  Collecting quotes like valuable coins that increase the value of my spirit has been my go to for years.

A few years ago I attended a woman’s empowerment conference.  Like all conferences or conventions the walls were lined with pop-up tables from the event’s sponsors pitching their products.  From reusable bags to lip balm, it was a tchotchke lovers paradise.  Not getting caught up in the freebie bonanza, I strolled along passing the countless treasures up for grabs, then something caught my eye.  It was a little brown bag that was filled with cards with uplifting sayings.  Little did I realize this simple “snag” would resonant for so many and impact others beyond my core circle.

“The Cards” (as coined by staff) have become part of my leadership tool box.  When staff is hitting a stressful time or needs to take a mental time out, I will begin our weekly meetings with The Cards.  We pass the stack around, everyone selecting one randomly, and then take turns reading our message to the group.  It never fails to bring a smile to a face or words of encouragement from a fellow staff member, ultimately it gives us a moment to pause and take a break in the action.  They have become such a staple to our team dynamic, that it is common for The Cards to be the go to when the chips are down.

Life has a funny way of connecting dots and painting the picture of the little things that end up meaning a lot.  Last year when I was going through cancer treatments, my lifelong friend Serena would send me little cards that held a secret message of faith.  She had no clue that this was right in my wheel house. Her hidden treasures have become part of the tapestry of my bedroom bulletin board.

One day in early April, after we started sheltering in place, I discovered an unmarked package from Amazon on my doorstep.  Upon opening, there was a little box of cards titled “Inspire Her”.   Finding no note attached, I began questioning all the usual suspects in my world if they had sent this fun surprise.  After soliciting friends and family with no avail, I enjoyed the gift and stopped contemplating the mystery of its origin.  A week later, I encountered two more boxes of cards in the mailbox.  As the plot thicken, I could not for the life of me figure out where these fabulous little surprises were originating from, it was truly a mystery.

Then there was a break in the case.  One Saturday morning I ventured into the office to switch out files for the upcoming work week.  Teea, one of our Exhibit Team members, was there picking up items she had left in the office.  We were chatting about life and out of nowhere she said, “Have you been getting surprises in the mail?”  “Are you the one that has been sending me the quotes?”, I exclaimed.   With a big grin on her face, she fessed up and shared this story.

You see, Teea is a military wife.  Her husband Travis is in the Navy and is stationed on a ship out at sea.  Teea volunteers as the Ombudsman for the ship and aids sailors or their families when they are struggling.  Connecting them to resources to ease the situation and lending a caring ear.  She began sharing how moral had been low on the ship.  Travis was searching for something to lift the sailors’ spirits and Teea told him about The Cards. How they lift our energy, bond the team and always lighten the mood.  Travis thought the crew would benefit from some special words of encouragement.  Teea explained how she was just about to come in and retype each and every message to send to her husband, when she stumbled upon the boxed cards on Amazon.

Photo Apr 25, 9 29 03 PM
A text from Teea last week.

Listening to her story my mind played back the course of events over the past few years.  From grabbing a stack of cards from a random table of giveaways to making their way to supporting a group of sailors, the course of events although a mystery gave me hope that all the clutter and noise in the world right now would quiet down, sooner or later.

I sometimes wonder when I write, if my words impact anyone or is the exercise just for my mind.  It isn’t easy for me to write.  I enjoy the process but it takes time, space and a thought that can become a narrative.  Yet, my simple action of creating an ice breaker for a staff meeting turned, not only, into a team ritual but fueled a universe of good vibes.  Conscious acts of kindness are on the road to happiness.  Practicing this lesson, I decided to share Teea’s gems.  Writing little notes, selecting a random card and letting the US Postal Service do its job, the exercise was empowering to the mind.  The icing on the cake was hearing from the recipients.  A small gesture had such a large impact.

Photo Apr 25, 3 34 08 PMAs we all sit home and do “nothing”, consider how this simple act strenghtens the whole.  The day will come when we will reflect on this time and resiliency of mankind. Opportunities will arise,  comfort zones will be stretched, and we will come out the other side stronger.  Today’s card stated “Believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder – Ansel Adams”.    Will tomorrow ever go back to looking like yesterday? Who knows.  At times it is tough to comprehend with loss of life, jobs and basic freedoms, how all will turn out well.  But one thing is true we will come out of this stronger, more resourceful and kinder than one could ever imagine.  How will we get there,  I don’t know … it is a mystery.

 

 

Contentment – A State of Happiness

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy” Unknown

Hindsight is 20/20 waIMG_9948s coined by humorist Richard Armour back in 1949.  Thinking about events after they have already happened seems poetic and mildly eerie as much has transpired in world since I started this blog on March 2. As I complete this piece of prose, my thoughts of a few weeks ago are now tangled in the realism of today.

I believe that everything happens for a reason.  Good, bad or not that important to even register, you just never know what a day has in store for you when you raise your head off your pillow.  When I began writing this blog it was a declaration to a random encounter back in November that subsequently set in motion a series of events that changed my expectations and view of my future.  However, today I can’t shake the feeling that my mindset had a larger message to receive.

We are all responsible for our own inner happiness, peace and destiny.  We are responsible for the energy we bring to the metaphoric table on a daily basis.  Other people can either add to that value or diminish it greatly.  We choose how the world and its citizens effect our being.  As we wake each day to our new reality of self-containment, who knew that the luxury of blaming another for your inner happiness, would be removed by a government declaration?  The state of satisfaction is all on the man in mirror.

If you scan your desk top thesaurus in search of synonyms for achievement, you will find words like victory, triumph, and accomplishment.  But, should the word contentment be considered as a state to achieve?  Trust me I have had my fair share of times, ask my kids, that all I desired was a moment of peace.  But being content always seemed like a “cop out” of setting goals and looking to advance forward.  The past four months has taught me a very special lesson, that feeling content is marvelous.  And I can honestly say the 52 years before the words “I am content” came out of my mouth, I would never have guessed that it was something I wanted to achieve.  And the odd part was that it didn’t hit me like an emotion, it was more like a very quiet, almost still “aha” moment, that came out of my mouth to end a sentence.  “I am content”.

What has contentment meant to me.  It has been a giant pause, that has helped me clear my head.  I went from being distracted, to knowing exactly where my priorities lie.  It took the fearfulness of the unknown of my future and shifted to an excitement of resetting life again.   There is no FOMO in the land of contentment, nor do you think there is something better waiting out there for you to grab.

IMG_9949I recently stumbled across the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson among my belongings.  Instead of throwing it in the box for the neighborhood donation store, I took it to the office.  It sits on my desk.  Every day (well the ones I remember) I randomly open to a page and read it, then I date it with a sticky note (so not to duplicate) and take the words to heart.  Ironically, today’s topic was titled “Let Go of the Idea the Gentle, Relaxed People Can’t Be Superachievers.”  There it was the validation to months of pondering if being content was a good thing.  It doesn’t mean I am lazy, or settling, no it actually is a testament to growing to place that fear doesn’t get to live.

For the past couple weeks, we as a society have been knocked out of our comfort zone.  From the media information storm, to new ways of adapting socially, to figuring out work and home environments, it is a lesson that has crossed all social and economic demographics.  It is like God is singing the lyrics of a Taylor Swift song to the world, “You need to calm down, you’re being too loud”.  Quieting down has been a process the past few weeks, but here are a few take-aways that have helped my mind set.

1 – Develop a routine for your new normal.  If you are working at home, still prepare yourself to go to the “office”.  Keeping my mornings as close to normal has really helped me stay productive.

2 – Here comes the sun.  Sitting outside or better yet going for a walk around the neighborhood helps subside the noise in the world.  I continue to try to get my 10,000 daily steps, feeling accomplished and exercised is a double check in the win column.

3 – Enjoy the process of the activities you are doing.  If you find yourself cooking more (I know I have) don’t rush, try new recipes, relish in the simple experiences.

4 – Connect with people.  Yes we can’t go out and about, but we can still bond with others.  Use this time to check in with an old college pal, a former co-worker, family members that you haven’t seen in months, people grow among others.  Take this time to catch up with all the folks that you never get around to touching base.

5 – Lastly use your extra time at home to tackle a big chore.  Maybe it is reorganizing the cupboards or sorting all the boxes of photos, who knows, but once you do this you will feel so accomplished.

Looking back over the past few months, isn’t it odd that being content has actually conditioned me for what lied ahead. Who knows what the next 30 days will bring.   But, as we all start to unruffle our feathers and be still in our own space, I wouldn’t be surprised if contentment became a measurable goal in 2020.

January 1, 2020 ….. Perfecting Your Vision

“The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision” – Helen Keller

A good friend of mine told me today, “It’s not easy seeing something that has never been before”.  For me visions have always been linked to creativity and production.  Developing a concept to reality is basis of my career and how I have found success in the work place.  Firm, concrete plans constructed in a measurable way for all to see.  Searching for the right words to express my outlook for the new year,  the thought of “seeing clearly what has not yet been presented” hit a nerve with my theme of believing in the nontangibles of life.

January 1, 2020, not only the beginning of a new year, but the day we embark on last year of the past decade.   A valued mentor of mine once noted, you should always make decisions based on where you want to be in 10 years.  Looking back to 2010, I would have never placed myself in my current role.  To be honest, I never even knew my life of today could exist.

However, over the past 8,760 hours my vision had started to become cloudy and I began to go blind to having faith in tomorrow.  Yet for all my belly aching over my distaste for 2019, as I closed out the final hours of the past era, there was an overwhelming sense of peace in my heart and hope in the future.  Why had my outlook started to shift?

Not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, as evident by the past blogs, I believe it is time to cut ourselves some slack and look for the silver lining in our current state of affairs.  Giving a pause on improving your shortcomings, why not instead challenge yourself to list out goals that will bring a smile to your face?  Looking for the positive approach to this annual task,  I have been racking my brain for five things I would like to accomplish, experience or achieve in 2020.   For the life of me I can’t put my finger on one solid goal to place on a list.  Sure, I could choose my usual suspects, travel to a new destination, get my finances in order, or my all-time go to, write more, but none of those really got my engines burning.  And then it occurred to me, maybe at this very moment I am content just where I am in my life?  Perhaps I am beginning to accept what has never been before as not a blind spot, but clear view to the future.

Haven’t you ever felt like your life is like waiting for the feature film to begin at the movie theater?  You sit there for what seems like eternity watching all the coming attractions, tuned out with anticipation of what is to come.  No fast forwarding, the time and need for patience is unavoidable.  For the past few months, I pray every morning for patience.  The ability to sit idle and rid2020 bloge out my current state of affairs.  Waiting for all the mini “filler” clips to play strengthen  the tolerance to allow my beliefs to come to attrition, to slow down my mind and just refocus on my future.

My best friend Shawna sent me this cartoon clip this week, in the simplest form it expresses how I feel about today.  What an amazing concept, 365 opportunities, talk about crushing the genie in the bottle theory.  You only get three chances on that magic carpet ride.  We are all familiar with 20/20 vision being synonymous with “perfect vision” and it got me thinking, maybe 2020 is the start of perfecting ones outlook for not just the next 365 days, but the future 3,650 days.

Instead of declaring my yearly goals, I am going focus on the opportunity that each day brings.  And keeping with the spirit of today, here is my list of five things I will not be blind too.

1 – Keeping my eyes wide to “open doors”.

2 – Not all opportunities are presented at first as a positive.

3 –  Letting the future cloud over what is happening in the moment.

4 – Open myself to loving with my whole heart.

5 – Embrace my belief that everything happens for reason, the good and the bad.

As dawn breaks on the second day of 2020, I am still pounding away at writing this blog.  And what keeps coming back to me is the quote I see daily as I exit my front door.  Written by one of our most noblest authors of the 20th Century, Dr. Seuss “Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.  So love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason.  If you get the chance take it.  If it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.”

What will this trip around the sun bring to my life? What chance will I get to take today, who knows?   But I can’t stop hearing the words of the 80’s tune in my head, “the future is so bright, I gotta wear shades”, and that is an opportunity that I am not willing to miss.

 

It’s A Wonderful Life – A Lesson from the Bailey Family

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? “ – Clarence

Last night I watched It A Wonderful Life, for the first time.  I know, I know, how could that be?  Lover of all things Christmas, how could this piece of cinematography history escape me for so many years.  Add that I gravitate towards old movies, a huge Jimmy Stewart fan, and the fact that Frank Capra wrote the script at La Quinta Resort, one would think this would be the ideal holiday movie made for me, delivered  and wrapped up in a bow.  Yet as I sat in my living room, watching the life of George Bailey unfold, I couldn’t help but feel there was a reason I was viewing this movie for the first time.

Preparing for this holiday season, I have been overly vocal on how ready I am for the final chapter of 2019 to unfold.   The year, can be placed neatly up on a shelf, never to be relived again.  Swinging at curve balls, heartbreak, and obstacles I would have by no means imagined, 12 months of little joy.  At times, I had never felt more alone and sad, in my entire life.  Reflecting this the other night to Lilly and Kayla, they reminded me that not everyone had a horrible 2019.  Which I accept as a truth and commend you on a fabulous 365 days if that was your encounter with the year.  But for now and this blog, I am staying in my lane, and embracing my experience. Disclaimer, at no time did I stand on a hypothetical bridge and contemplate ending my existence.  I do believe I have a few guardian angels, yet none showed up to talk me through the low points. But watching Clarence in action, suggesting that George face life without his birth,  I did a pause to wonder what life would have been without Jacky Coon?

Sure like George, I have had dreams of travel, adventures, visions of life that never came to fruition.  Many times during my past 52 years I have thought why do I keep fighting this fight, why do I keep all the balls in the air, why do I struggle to make the world go round for so many?  Does anyone even notice, does it make a difference, honestly does one person appreciate the effort that I put forth?  Especially at the end of day when I struggle to see a step made forward, only the path increased in length.   So what would the world be today without me?

First and foremost the universe would be void of three pretty amazing human beings, Nolan, Kayla and Lilly Hildebrand.  I know I am impartial, but not only have they already made a mark in their young lives in endless ways, they will be leaders in their field.  They are compassionate, mindful, big picture thinkers, that give back way more than they ever receive.  Being their mom, is my greatest accomplishment.  They alone validates my existence, yet  I wanted to dig a little deeper.

I haven’t saved any lives or created homes for those in need like George Bailey, but I have introduced countless people to their current careers and passions.  I reflect on the 1,000s of students that have crossed my path.  Did my teachings, or better yet, my “Jackyisms” leave a lasting mark on a choice or direction in their lives?  My friends have often told me that I am the one that sees things differently, helps solve the question at hand and creates moments in life like no one else.  And finally would Brandy and Tisha enjoy the finest bubbles without my input, or would they have been left to a life of boxed wine?  Oh the shame.

All kidding aside, It’s a Wonderful Life did hit a soft spot within me with George Bailey’s story, but the person who captured my whole heart was Mary Bailey.  Mary was a believer.  From the moment as a little girl when she whispers in George’s ear, “George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die.”, from her wish of owning the old house, until the very last scene, she unconditionally believed.  Her belief was unending, never showing a sign of disappointment or disappear.  From the kindness in her face to the pureness to her presence, Mary defined the true meaning of the holiday season.

Today, we have so many people who worry (and sometimes argue) what to spend on gifts,  which traditions are politically correct, what is a proper holiday greeting, the reason for the season, the word holiday vs Christmas, the talking points are endless.  My theory is pretty simple, the true meaning of this time of year is to remind us all to believe.

From the spiritual story to the power of self-visualization (like conveyed in the Secret), the underlying message is to believe.  Gratitude journals have taken over many people’s night stands.  Isn’t being grateful a form of belief?  Focusing on the positive, creating a vision board or placing your life in God’s hands, all these techniques require a core belief system.  And even the notion of the jolly fat man in the red suit, is just another reminder that believing is a skill that needs to be embraced and nurtured.

Photo Dec 15, 4 07 55 PMMy Christmas List for 2019 isn’t full of gifts found on Amazon Prime, but what I believe.

Dear Santa –

This year please help me strengthen the following beliefs:

1 – I believe I am a great mom.  Maybe not in the Pinterest inspired, PTO President, bake perfect cookies for the classroom type of way.  But I have taught my kids to be independent, the ability to try new things, have a sense of adventure and to love deeply and unfiltered.

2 – I believe I am a writer.  I don’t need a published book to prove this anymore, I have my blog.  Each sentence strengthens my talent and heightens my craft.

3 – I believe I am a strong woman with a tender heart.  Yes I can slay dragons and tackle any obstacle that comes my way.  But that doesn’t mean my heart isn’t full of life and feels love, compassion and hope.

4 – I believe in God, and trust he has a hand in my journey.  I also believe in myself and that I help create my own destiny.  For example, he gave us the ocean and the beach, but my walks (like today) inspire me to find that next level of myself.

5 – I believe that 2020 isn’t just a new year or the start of another decade, but the beginning of the rest of my life.  The future is mine to write, life shifted this year and cleared the script I had been believing was my ever after.  I believe this is an opportunity for even a greater story.  And I believe without Jacky Coon there would be many holes in this world.

George and Mary Bailey, represent the two sides in all of us.  Your “George” side works hard, tries to do good by others, and sometimes gets down by the lack of progress in spite of an unending, authentic attempt. Dreams then become lost. And like George, you have to dust yourself off, hug the ones you love and step back into the game of life.

Then you have “Mary’s” voice in your heart, with a deep smile and a never ending belief in all that is good and possible.  May this holiday season you embrace your inner Mary. Take the time to stop (maybe even daily) and feel gratitude.  Throw something out to the God or the universe (the choice is yours) and let faith give you the greatest gift of all, the ability to believe.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Thoughts from the little writer that could…

“If I could be anything, I would be a writer.” If I have said that once I have said it a thousand times. Actually, if I  wrote every time I uttered those words the best seller list would be full of my handiwork. You would all be saying, “I knew her when”, yet instead I struggle over and over to get the words from my head to the written page.  But as another November creeps into our world, I am reminded that there is no better time to introduce new formations into the playbook.

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  The object is that participants must write an average of approximately 1,667 words per day in November to reach the goal of 50,000 words written toward a novel.  The writer in me longs for that daily word count.  Searching for a hobby, maybe this is a good place to start.  Regardless,  I figure what do I have to loose. My ambition is the word count, not so much a novel.  This gives me the freedom to change topics, story lines, and trains of thought on a daily basis.

a little bit about a lot of things  generally focuses on my thoughts, perceptions or people or places experienced.  There has been little evidence of fiction (or my life in a story).   As I embark on this pilgrimage, I am going to set some boundaries, rules and general boosters to aid in my process.

1 – There is no limit on the subject matter to write about.  Trying my damnedest to truly write fiction/ stories is my goal.  So my narratives may have some truth, the timelines might be skewed, there could be make believe or tales borrowed from others.  Seriously, shouldn’t a great yarn encompass all these traits?  However, if a crazy thought or a great trip happens to make the page, then so be it.

2 – Daily count of written word isn’t as important as accumulation of the total.  (refer https://alittlebitaboutalotofthings.com/2019/01/05/math-doesnt-lie-the-key-to-accomplishing-your-annual-aspirations/)

3 – Using my twenty minute exercise will be key in the discovering success and getting my mind in the practice.  (refer https://alittlebitaboutalotofthings.com/2016/03/27/twenty-minute-sundays-me/)

4 – Not all my written work will land on the blog, but I will share a weekly progress report and spotlight great writing or snip its.

5 – Finally, I need your help.  It is hard to write.  It takes work.  When post is shared with the world, the feedback, “likes”, and acknowledgement go a long way for encouraging the next chapter or at least another day of 1,667 words.

Where to start……the novel I began writing in grad school, one of my countless trips  to Maui, when I turned 40 and went to France (I truly feel that story is worthy of a screen play) or just a another day at the office?  The possibilities are endless.  If you have every hung with me, you know there is a good chance something odd will occur if you just give time some space.

So let’s start with the time my friend Brandy and I decided to go to Maui in 2004.IMG_8438

It was one of those crisp October mornings, that the Central Coast of California reminds you that fall has arrived.  Preparing for a full day of teaching, I was just about to head out the door when I remembered it wasn’t just any day, but the day of Brandy’s birthday. Back before Facebook told you to be on the lookout for your friends special day or before texting was a standard form of communication we had the good old fashion form of correspondence, email.

 I opened my laptop, hit the “on” button and sat and waited for my hp to go through its processes.  Looking out my bedroom window, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of the last year fill my soul.  Just four months earlier my kids and I had moved into our home.  Being a single mom, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of pride of my purchase and yet the responsibility of a one household income loomed in the back of my mind daily.  “How did I get here, and where am I going?”  The ding of my inbox brought me back to reality and the task at hand.

 I quickly scanned the documents and noticed an entry from United , titled “Hawaii Deals Await You”.   Two clicks later I was reading the message of a  golden opportunity, for only 500 dollars you could book a round trip ticket and lodging to Maui.  Knee deep in teaching two sections of Introduction to Agriculture Business and one of Agriculture Economics, nothing sounded more blissful.   Fall quarter had been rough, dealing with over a 100 college students, add my three darlings at home, and didn’t the sandy beaches of Hawaii sound like a dream come true.

As on cue, I forwarded the email to Brandy with the simple message, “Happy Birthday, wish we were headed to Maui to celebrate your special day!”. 

 One of my favorite sayings to my students is, “if it doesn’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter now.”  We send thousands of emails, many with one or two words.  Who could have ever guessed that this simple birthday wish would impact my life for years to come.  But this single act was a changing point and pivotal to the person I am today.  Until this moment, this revelation never crossed my mind.  Just be warned that email you delete, forward or send this morning may just change your life.   And so the tale continues.

There you go, the beginning of a story and the start of my NaNoWriMo project.  Even though after four days I have only completed 3,685 words and are already behind the eight ball, I couldn’t be happier.  The choice to write daily is going to be deliberate, but I have zero expectations of the end product. I may or may not finish one piece, before I start another, who knows the goal is just to write. The road I am on is full of directional choices, track changes, speed limits and numerous obstacles, buckle up readers this could be a bumpy month.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World …. Searching for My Big W

(This blog is for my dear friend Shelly Sottile, my inspiration for more than just the words)

Keeping with my mission to travel and write I have a little story to share. But instead of being a new location or the sights and sounds of the destination, this tale might have a lesson or two interwoven in the tapestry.  Playing off the theme of searching for a fictional story to use as my muse wasn’t easy.  Looking for a movie to use as my motivation the possibilities were obvious as they also lead me to take the trip.

It all started on a Friday evening mindlessly flipping the channels and stumbling upon the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Those of you unfamiliar with this piece of cinema mayhem, Jason Segal’s character gets dumped and runs off to Hawaii only to discover his ex-girlfriend in the suite next door. Seeing the white beaches, palm trees and surf made me miss my favorite escape in the whole wide world, my happy place, Maui.  When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in March the one thing I promised myself was that come hell or high water I was going to Maui by the end of the year. So a blog titled Forgetting Breast Cancer became choice number one.

Then United sent me an email sharing the discounted fares to Hawaii.  And the movie Something to Talk About popped in my head. A classic, Julia Roberts flick about a woman who is struggling with work, family and personal life trials and tribulations. Her sister played by Kyra Sedgwick has a line that resonated with my current mind set “do something,  do something drastic”.    Clicking the link and finding that the prices were truly discounted keep the idea on the top of my mind.  “Do something, do something drastic”,  the voice I kept hearing in my head as I pushed the “book” button on the United website  Saturday morning. And let’s be honest, running off to Maui with two hours notice is definitely something to talk about?

And then I board the plane at LAX (six hours after booking the ticket)  and one of the movies to view was Eat, Pray, Love.  Which also (oddly enough) stars Julia Roberts.  Her character struggling with all the ups and downs of life shares a line shortly into the movie that also hits a little too close to home.

“There is a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man that goes to church every day and prays before a statue of a great saint begging dear saint please, please, please let me win the lottery finally the expropriated statue comes to life and looks down at the begging man and says my son please, please, please buy a ticket so now I get the joke and I have three tickets.”  Maybe a blog titled Eat, Pray, Maui, would be the ticket?

Photo Aug 26, 3 31 33 PMMy friend Brandy always teases me what a big believer I am in signs.  All three of the above references truly stood out as large directional arrows pointing me west.  But the unplanned detour at the end of my August self-title blog came to me as I lay on the beach of Kapalua Bay.  Looking up in the sky at the palm trees through blue sky, there was my answer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. An epic tale circa 1963 about a groups of strangers who all revert their plans to chase a fortune to be found under the big W. Which spoiler alert was made out of palm trees. This movie has been one of my all time favorites and spurred my love of palm trees at an early age.  And I was reverting my plans and searching for treasure.

So my mad, mad, mad, mad adventure began around 9:45am on Saturday, August 24, after a movie, email and life said “go for it”.  Note, the key to feeling successful and at peace with the unexpected, was searching multiple travel sites at once. Meaning just because the plane ticket is cheap make sure you can find a reasonable place to lay your head at night. Somehow I managed to use all my favorite search engines and point making sites (serious time restraint) I walked away with an upgrade with miles, AAA discount on a condo and car rental deals, and all earning points.

I didn’t discount the “sign”, each time something fell into place with ease, I knew I was headed in the right direction. Packing was rushed but I managed to grab two wine skins and fill them with product, get my teas and honey in a bag, favorite beach towel and every bathing suit I owned shoved in a suitcase.  So where is the travel advice for Maui?  This post it is more of how not to do anything and find good “happy hours” than the adventure seekers guide to bliss.

Landing in the evening, wasn’t as big as challenge as I expected.  Before long, I was checked in and safely tucked in bed.  I woke up Sunday morning and truth be told it took me a few moments to realize I  wasn’t in my cozy little home in Cardiff by the Sea.  Morning tea with the view of a golf course and the ocean, is the perfect way to start the day.  Expecting to feel panic of “what have I done”, surprisingly  I instantly felt peace and bliss. Not an ounce of doubt or loneliness.

I threw on some clothes, brushes my teeth and headed out to get some staples for the condo. Once I parked, surveyed the little store and decided it would do for selection and price. Side note, things in Hawaii are expensive be prepared. Food for the most part is shipped from the main land, think about it people the supply chain cost money.

Next on the list was breakfast.  The first and only low point of the trip was the discovery that my favorite restaurant the Pineapple Grill was closed. A moment of silence.  But the nice girl at the Ritz spa suggested I try out Merrimans. And I was starving. Looking back on had not taken much time to eat on Saturday so there was a grumbling in my stomach.

Photo Aug 27, 6 21 37 PM (1)A great piece of advice – Merrimans for breakfast. Hell, Merrimans for Happy Hour or Dinner too. First off you can’t beat the view. I dare you. Second the food is very farm to table and service is superb. The Happy Hour Mai Tai is only $9 and may be the best on the island if not the prettiest.

After breakfast I took a swim and then a much needed nap. And I mean a nap in the truest sense of the word. The only reason I even got up was that there was something I wanted to encounter that I could only do on Sunday at 4pm.  What amazing Hawaiian culture ultra-only in Maui activity might that be?  Lei making class, surf lessons, snorkeling with the turtles in the bay, nope … it was the pop up bar for Veuve Clicquot at the Cliff House.

Talk about a sign that I made the right choice. My favorite bubbles planted a tasting experience in the middle of Kapalua Bay?   Add the opportunity to finally see the Cliff House, double win. Discovering inspiration in the decor and installation of the experience and sipping bubbles was one of the top five things I have ever done in Maui.  Of course it got me thinking why don’t we create pop areas at the Fair for people to experience, hang out, and  over brand ourselves.  But that is for another blog.

Speaking of the Fair, I have been obsessed with creating a coffee exhibit so I took a few moments and emailed Ka’anapali Coffee Farms, in hope of a tour.  Stopped by Sansei for sushi dinner, the Ritz Carlton for a night cap (Brandy’s request) and off to bed to watch the Golden Girls. For some cosmic reason it seems when I am in Maui the Golden Girls are on 24/7.  Side note, one of the treats of staying in Kapalua Villas you get use of a free car service that takes you from place to place, no parking or worrying about over serving yourself!

Monday was a quiet day, but I did receive a response from the coffee farm and arranged a private tour for Tuesday.  I took Nolan’s advice and tried something way out of my norm and signed up for a golf lesson.  In between these activities I laid on the beach, swam in the ocean (my kids would be so proud), ate fish tacos and enjoyed every Happy Hour within my walking radius .  My morning at the coffee farm wasn’t just educational, I connected with a fellow Cal Poly Mustang graduate only to discover many of the key players in the operation also share our alma mater.  Most of my hours were either poolside, on the beach, or taking a nap, but here are a few new Hawaiian activities worth sharing.

photo-aug-28-5-41-43-pm-1.pngThree Activities New to Me on Maui:

1 – Golf Lesson at Kapalua Golf Academy  – Expensive, but if you enjoy the game and want a quality lesson with an amazing view, this is a must do Maui activity.  Chris, my instructor, was equal parts fun and educational.  He did manage to teach me a few things and improve my distance.  I taught him the meaning of a “cocktail shot”, if you hit the ball perfectly you quit while you are ahead and have a cocktail.  By the end of our hour, when I would hit the target, he would exclaim, “well that’s a cocktail shot.”

2 – Visit a Coffee Farm – Agriculture is my passion and learning the production cycle of any product thrills me beyond belief.  From the fields to the tasting room in Lahaina, I have gained a new appreciation for the coffee cherry and its journey to your morning cup.  Long story short, coffee is very much like wine, from growing, varietals, to what the roaster does to the bean, my fascination with the commodity has only increased.

3 – Actually Swim in the Ocean – Shocker I have never really swam in the ocean.  I am more of a wade in waist deep and occasionally float kinda gal.  But there was something calming on this trip, maybe lack of tourist in the water or the perfect temperature, but I just started swimming.  A+ activity for the books.

Maui has been a staple in my world for the last 15 years.  The fall of 2015 was the last time my toes touched the sand in the bay. Wondering if the lack of flying west in recent time was moving to the beach or change in my personal space.  Like chasing a treasure under a secret marker, my big W will always be hanging over Kapalua.

My take aways on this adventure can’t be found in a guidebook.  Sometimes you just have to say f$@k it and do something drastic.  The contentment felt was unexpected. I never had a moment of remorse or loneliness, and that was a shock. Maybe my take on life has shifted over the past six months.  Cancer is an ass kicker, no matter what stage or the course of action, the unknown and lack of control will try your patience.   Reflecting how I view and react to things have changed so much. Don’t get me wrong I still have my moments but the overall outlook is I can only handle me. I can’t change anyone else.  If I don’t care for the energy in the room or a conversation, I have the ability to pack my bags and head west (so to speak).photo-aug-26-2-30-21-pm.jpg

There are turtles that live in Kapalua Bay.  They have to deal with the tourist gawking at them, but otherwise I think they have a pretty good take on life.  They don’t have to worry about time commitments, financial worries, or doctor appointments, they just let the sun of the day roll off their back.  Being more like a turtle, with a slower paced, less worrisome approach to life isn’t such a bad idea.  Or maybe the secret to their bless is they get to live under the big W of Kapalua Bay?

Love … A Story from the Heart

“A dream is a wish your heart makes” – Cinderella

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Fairy Godmother sharing wisdom

I love, love.  A hopeless romantic. The person that cries at the happy parts of the movies and not the sad.  Finding joy in discovering that perfect gift that is all sentimental and not superficial.  Searching for that face that makes you smile when you a walk in a room.  Believe it or not that is me in a nutshell.  But lately I have been struggling with my belief in love and looking for that break in the clouds.

My mother always says, “Jacky, life isn’t a Doris Day movie.” I get it, I am a smart girl.  The pages out of a great Disney story don’t magically happen.  That all the great love song lyrics or movie scripts are just some persons vivid imagination.  Yet, I struggle to accept this as a truth.

My argument goes something like this.  How could someone create these prose without first experiencing the feelings in real life. There has to be inspiration from day to day life, or at least your mystical muse?  Let’s take a stab at fairy tales.  The story starts off with a dream, then there is thrill and excitement, obstacles, pain and hardship ALWAYS come along the path,  and ultimately joy is discovered.  Show me where that doesn’t happen in real life?

As I struggle to find that place of peace there are a few givens I have learned to accept about love; perfection, availability, and respect.

I remember the moment I realized that nothing is perfect.  I was actually sitting in a movie theater watching the flick “Kate and Leopold” and in the end Meg Ryan’s character must decide to travel back in time to be with her love, or stay in the present with her family and friends.  She had to give something up on her check list of true love.   Nothing is perfect and it is the imperfections that you are willing to live with that makes the decision to stay in a relationship.

Love isn’t a choice, it isn’t learned, can’t be earned, or even wished for upon a star.  The feeling is  just there, a big ole multi-dimensional monster that either fills you will warmth or wrecks every ounce of temperature from your being.  Needing time and tending just like the tomatoes in your garden and if ignored it will wilt.  If you are not available to love, it will have no home to nest in your heart.   We all grow up checking off boxes of accomplishments, finish school, get married, have kids, buy a home, get a great job, fly to France, you get my point, but does anyone ever teach us that love needs a box on our daily list of “to-dos”.  I can safely say I have managed to navigate through two marriages and the common loss on both is that we did not work on the love.  Everything else came first.

Here I am 52 years old and I have to say, love has kicked my butt.  So many times I can’t even count.  But I can’t help with every part of me that screams pack it in, go get a cat and settle with the loss, I believe and I yearn for that feeling.  What is my number one common flaw in these loosing battles, my lack of respect for myself.  “Why wasn’t I enough”, I am the champion of holding all the blame and fighting to be heard.  What the heck is wrong with me?  Sometimes I think it is my competitive nature or the fear of failing.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a true believer that it takes two to tangle and neither side is right or wrong.  But in my gut, why do I continue to hurt, hold all to the end of the earths, for someone that doesn’t love me?  Well that is all on me and my respect for myself.

Funny how it takes half of your life, maybe having cancer, who knows, to see that there are bigger things in life and not to get wrapped up in the rights the wrongs.  And guess what when you wake up in the morning the pain isn’t going to bring you tea.  Judgement is not going to run Saturday morning errands with you.  The righteousness of being correct isn’t going to hold your hand as you walk on the beach or sit around binge watching Netflix.  Past is the past and I haven’t found a single soul that has ever been able to go back and change their course of action.  All we have is the future, the journey ahead, one step at a time.

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Kayla and Lilly with the glass shoed princess herself!

Today is my youngest 21st birthday.  She is a darling girl who I hope finds all the love and light that any young person her age should experience.  Miss Lilly, here is my advice to you, respect yourself and your boundaries, be available to the process and the feelings, no one and nothing is perfect, and by all means if he shows up with a shoe that fits, wear it!

Career Path 101

“When I was five my mother always told me happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up? I wrote down “Happy” they told me I didn’t understand the assignment, I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

IMG_7101June gloom is a real thing in Del Mar.  To energize during the long Fair days, an afternoon walk backstage to grab a foundation soda on ice, is a quick cure.  On one of these pilgrimages, headed down the Exhibit Department hallway, a thought came upon me, “How did I end up here?”

Not in the physical sense, but more in a who says “when I grow up I am going to be an Exhibits Director at the San Diego County Fair?”  Pretty sure no one ever. Who even thinks that is a career? Doctor or movie star, lawyer or a teacher, but a fair employee, give me a break.

I am not complaining it is a pretty cool gig for a country girl who likes to create things and organize them at the same time.  Sprinkle in some analytics, budgets and ten key, it is the makings of a dream come true.   Growing up, we were given such a defined linear scope of career opportunities it gives pause to modern day attitudes toward work and business environments. As a freshman in AGB 101 at Cal Poly, I had no clue what I wanted to do when I “grew up”, not like today’s youth who can conjure up opportunities we never could imagine. This isn’t a blog about discovering how to reinvent yourself in the tapestry of today’s job market, no it pretty much is just a road map of my journey.

Jake Owen preformed at the Fair this summer and his recent release Homemade, really sums up my career path. Looking back one could argue I am a text book product of my environment. I grew up being a fair junkie. Combine with my desire to play office, design my own paper doll clothes and organize everything in sight, you have my job. (We can note I also played school, shocker)IMG_7099

Let’s start with my earliest Fair memory. My cousin Kelly showed her first steer at what was still the San Luis Obispo County Fair in the summer of 1975.   I recall my brother John, cousin Stacy and I hanging around the barns waiting for Kelly and her beef buddy to march in the ring. Watching her interact with the judge and receive a ribbon it was magical.  All I could imagine was when can that be me?

My first livestock experience was a Duroc hog named Felix at the Salinas Valley Fair, circa 1977. My best friend Shawna and I were novice showmen and encountering our first outing with a show cane. Our parents were sure we would not only embarrass ourselves but the entire town of Templeton. “You two silly girls pay attention to your 4-H leader”, they would echo.  Low and behold not only had we paid attention but one would say we were star pupils. Driving those red hogs into first and second hole. Maybe it was winning novice showmanship that infected me with the Fair bug, but from that moment on there was no looking back.

IMG_7102
If you know the players this photo is priceless. Templeton 4-H

And it was not just the years of raising farm animals (a term of endearment from the one and only Papa Bob Cumming) that built the foundation of my passion, there have been other future career clues.  Did the decades of styling the ultimate ladies lead outfit, not only for me, but my sister, and my daughter, and telling the story of wool, play a hand?  I am wicked bad with florist wire and a glue gun. (nod to Mr. Johnson, Carpentaria FFA, for teaching me how to make a bow and wrap floral tape). And let’s not forget that time I built an entire 10ft X 10ft feature booth for Templeton FFA in our game room or assembled custom stall cards for the entire Chapter.  Oh, the memories, the pieces of cut burlap, shafts of barley, the electric train. Good times.

Dig deeper and I can recall the two years in junior high I decided to write to every livestock breed association to inquire about literature and photos. Our mailbox began to over flow with large envelopes and over size packages.  Did you know the Angus association will send you posters larger than your wall?  Then I would sort all the information in binders and files.  I took a recipe card holder and organized all my contacts, not by desserts, appetizers, main dishes, but by specie, beef, sheep, swine, etc. you get the point.

But wait it didn’t stop there.  When I ran out of associations, I moved on to Agriculture Colleges and livestock equipment companies. My mother lived in fear that one day a sample cattle chute or actual live beast would be delivered to our condo in Carpinteria. And it gets better. A 13-year-old Jacky received a rejection letter from the Veterinary College at Purdue, due to the fact that I was from out of state (California) and a female, did they even realize I was only searching for facts to collect and display or I was in seventh grade?

Today, I realize I was building educational agriculture exhibits before I even knew that was a “thing”.   Who knew there was a career that actually embraced all my madness?  Career coaches of today express the need for “doing something you love.”  In the 80’s life was more about getting a job and financial reward.  The joy of the day was not a talking point, work was work.  But somehow, I have seemed to resonant with modern day theory and lucked into spending my days doing a job that was actually my hobby as a kid.  Maybe Jake Owen is on to something, I will always be the (wo)man homemade, but at the heart, I am a blue ribbon product of my environment.

PSA: As Fair season is among us, be sure to visit your county Fair.  The people that work there don’t do their jobs for a season, it is a life long passion.  They spend hours planning ways to inspire, educate, entertain and celebrate their fairgoers.  The art of competition and the memories made cannot be experienced anywhere else on the planet.

What “Clicking” My Heels Has Taught Me

“You have always had the power my dear.  You just had to learn it for yourself”

~ Glenda the Good Witch

RPhoto Jun 05, 5 39 22 PMecently, I was deleting photos from my cell phone and discovered, I take an excessive amount of pictures of the view looking at my feet. Taking a pause at this habit, was there any significance to this point of reference. A couple of photos had importance to where I was standing or who I was with (example of the track at Churchill Downs), maybe I enjoy sharing my current view of my surroundings with others or possibly  it is because I take really horrible selfies?  Upon further thought (imagine Winnie the Pooh in his thoughtful spot) I dug a little deeper and the results of this quiz were surprising, my intentions are to want to look forward.

Now there are many clues that provided this hypothesis. One, I have little patience. And when I say little patience, we are talking measurements at the subatomic level.  Two, I am happiest when I have something to look forward to, or better yet an upcoming trip or fun outing.  Three, I thrive in an environment of structure and order, and knowing what is happening next is chapter three of that book. And finally, and most importantly, I hate looking back.

Last week at work there were some balls dropped on a very important task.  With the staff together to discuss the situation, predictable outcomes began to happen, impulses to start rehashing the past, placing blame, and wondering why the situation existed at all. None of these reactions solved the problem. None of these responses caused any sort of positive energy.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe at some point, recapping facts and devising a plan for the future is necessary.  But not at this time. In the here in now, all I wanted was a resolution. How do we travel to point B from point A using our resources at the current moment and achieve the best outcome.  We needed to move forward.

 

I struggle with looking onward in so many aspects of my life. Especially when hurt, disappointment or anger are present.  But let’s face it living in the backward is an energy sucker. I can’t think of one time that it ever made the situation better. If anything, the act places you on a turntable with the needle stuck playing the lyrics of negativity.  When the record keeps skipping it is impossible to change the tune and move on down the playlist.

And here is the kicker (only took 50 years for this to finally sunk in) as soon as you look forward and focus on the positive facts, everything shifts.  What you believe or imagine only gets clearer. It is like the universe rewards you with that unanswered message. Maybe not always in the way you assumed would be the result, but something good happens. In the blog I wrote about change, there is an underlying theme of expectations. ( https://alittlebitaboutalotofthings.com/2017/10/10/taking-a-que-from-a-fork-in-the-road/ .) The broader you leave the answer to be defined the better the outcome. Think of it as fishing, if you only toss out a big hook with a night crawler, your pool of fish to catch is relatively small. But if you cast out a net, the bounty is not only bigger but you have more choices of what to catch and what to release.

My “Ah- Ha” moment came one Thursday in the midst of the Fair, Lena got a bee in her bonnet that we needed to take a girl’s trip to Santa Fe, NM. I brushed it off like a passing fancy and went about my busy day. But she didn’t, Lena was tenacious on the subject.  Emailing us all dinning tips, tours, art galleries and VRBOs, like a 1980s-travel agent.  Sunday morning, I walked in the office, and here she sat in my chair with airline information in hand and how to book. At that moment, my mood shifted. Not just a trip, but a city I have never visited, a check mark on my goal to write about travel, and time with people I cherish.   I had something to look forward too.

Photo Aug 11, 7 26 26 PMI am not perfect and at times I do drudge up the past. Side effect from having a great memory. The key I have found is digging out the facts, solve the issue and move forward. Leave emotions for all the good stuff in your life; loving your kids, enjoying the perfect kiss, sipping the finest champagne or laughing with your friends. Tomorrow I visit the radiation oncologist for the final steps in my breast cancer journey.  A process that I can honestly say I have approached in a text book version of this blog.  Very fact based, very forward motion.  And for the life of me, I am not even sure why. But rest assured I am looking onward and upward and if you aren’t careful I will prove it with a photo of my feet.

 

 

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