Could Country Music Define My Truth?

Main Street Templeton Christmas Day 2018

Well in the town where I was raised, the clock ticked and the cattle grazed
Time passed with amazing grace, back where I come from ~ Kenny Chesney

Last week while having a conversation with my father I asked him “Why are you a Dallas Cowboy fan?”  My whole life my father has been loyal to “America’s Team”.  Even when he wasn’t thrilled with the roster or their record he stayed true.  Yet why this franchise and not a brand closer geographically to where he grew up?  His response was pretty simple.  As a youngster he was a Colts fan and the great Johnny Unitas, until one day little Bob Coon thought to himself, I am a “cowboy” so I will cheer for those like me.  He said he turned his Colts sweatshirt inside out, drew a large number 17 on the front and as they say the rest is history. 

My dad’s simple story of identity as a young boy got me thinking.  I reflected on the many times Nolan (my son) has told me a life event he envisioned for himself or others, very genuine in detail and a matter of his truth.  And low and behold it materialized.  He stayed true to his course and his beliefs.  Could I say the same thing with respect to myself?

Being true to yourself is one thing, but accepting who you are every day is another matter altogether.  That belief of knowing who you are or what you will become isn’t necessary a trait we all carry in our DNA.  Reflecting on myself and watching my kids grow into the people they are becoming, the age-old debate of nature versus nurture hits home.  I believe there are commonalities across genetic pools, but I am certain that growing up in rural town embeds unique characteristics and the one often is overlooked is a sense of truth. 

Not truth as in right from wrong, but a deep sense of knowing (whether you want to admit it or not) who you are and the fundamentals of the game of life. It doesn’t change your ability to dream or grow, but a jump start to becoming comfortable in one’s own skin.  Live on a farm.  There is zero wonder where food comes from, the birds and the bees or even the sting of death.  Live in a small town, communication happens across front porches and down main street.  Outside of the elementary school while parents wait for the afternoon bell is how parties are planned.  Some would think it is too simple or lacks elegance, but I beg to differ. The world is raw and freer of clutter with no stop lights.

I was driving the other day and Kelesa Ballerini’s song Half of My Hometown came on and I began my usual poor rendition of singing along.  At the very end when I belted out “I’m half of my hometown” I got a little teary eyed.     Being born and raised in a small town, life is pretty basic, in a good way.  We are country folk, huge love of agriculture, your neighbor, Friday night lights, church on Sundays and listening to stories of the good ole days.   Embracing the part of me that is Templeton, California, the piece responsible in shaping my truths, some would think is a slap in the face to sophistication and intelligence.  But instead I like to think it connects me with the little things, basic comforts, love of traditions, and freshly mowed fields.

My writings since the first of the year have focused on hope, contentment, an embrace of inner Jacky.  Maybe it is another side effect of this global pandemic, but I truly think the disease is just another excuse for some to leave their best foot behind.  Looking for the sweet spot of peace in a world that wants to constantly remind us what is wrong with EVERYTHING.  How you think, your beliefs, even to the point of what you eat, every choice we make, word we say is placed under some hypothetical microscope of judgment.  I am over life being a competition.  Work feeling like some are in and some are out. A sense to defend yourself constantly to strangers as well as loved ones.   Why can’t we develop relationships like we did as kids, back in our home town (big or small), and just be free and accepting? 

My all time favorite photo of my Dad, the cowboy.

I am no linguist.  I don’t always pronounce or even spell every word correctly, but I can relate to the truths from a young Bob Coon and Nolan Hildebrand.  Plain and simple, go turn your sweatshirt inside out let the world know who you are, own your brand.  You may think I am a simple girl from the sticks, and you may not agree with my thoughts, but they are my truths, I am a believer. Embracing that I am a small town girl that lives for lack of a better definition in the big city, once again I turn to the poetic lines of another country crooner Thomas Rhett “And I wouldn’t trade the things I’ve done or the places that I’ve been, man it feels good to be country again.

I Have an Idea…. An Interactive Post

If you have every worked with me you might have heard that phrase more times than you would like to admit.  I do have an idea and this blog is about me sharing and hopefully, you my readers giving me some feedback or insight into my concept.

Earlier this year Tod invited me to join him for lunch with one of his former donors from his days at UCLA.  Jumping at the chance to spend an afternoon in Santa Monica, he didn’t have to ask me twice and we were off on a much-needed Covid era adventure.  Sitting in a little Italian restaurant, one of only two tables of guests, little did I know god was sending me a memory.  The guest of honor walked in and the first thing I said to Tod was “you didn’t tell me we were meeting Alan Arkin.”  No, it wasn’t the award-winning actor, but an extraordinary presence none the less.

Over the course of lunch, the conversation led me back to my days dining with George and the many tales he would share about his life.  There was something about this soon to be 90-year-old man that made the afternoon go from just a meal to a much-needed, standing still of time where we sat memorized by the conversation.  From stories of his parent’s immigration to the United States to the many avenues he developed in the textile industry, I just sat there absorbing his words like a sponge.  No ego or bragging, although his accomplishments would support such behavior. He had a sense of inner peace, no need for hurry, accomplishment or proving his worth. 

As we drove home I started to think “how does one become so comfortable in their own skin?” Continuing to toss this around in my mind it wasn’t until we sat at the race track one day this summer that the conversation stemmed into a discussion about contentment.  A light bulb went on in my head, the trait that I used felt from George to our most recent lunch guest, was contentment.  But how does one stop the chase in our lives and be settled in their minds.  Is it time, life experiences, part of your DNA, learned or something that I haven’t even considered? And that is when I got my idea.

Could I solve this question with some investigation work? Perhaps if I interviewed a variety of people and somehow take this qualitative, case study approach and turn it into a quantitative result with a measured solution?  Always struggling with the tug of war in my mind of letting my creative side run free while allowing my logical, analytical self to take the results and sort it nicely in a spreadsheet with the correct answer.  But this idea keeps pushing to front of my mind and I think it has some legs.

Feeling the need for validation, I reached out to Beth Wonson, a person who I not only admire for what she has accomplished but because she will listen to you (I mean really listen) and give you honest feedback.  Trust me when I approached her with my idea I was beyond clumsy with my words, as my concept is like a giant brainstorming session gone wild with no starting point.  Yet in true Beth form she was attentive as I rambled on and on.  At the end she said I think you have something and gave me some tools to get the ball rolling. So here it goes.

My concept is to interview a person (preferably all recorded) and have basic questions that would spur organic conversation.  Collect the feedback and look for commonalities, then sort the dialogue into like classifications.  What am I trying to achieve?  First off, I want to see if there are shared traits in content people.  Then I want to determine where the origin of these characteristics begin.  Basic concept of nature versus nurture with a twist.  Finally, this process could be the white whale I have been hunting for years as a great writing project.

What do I need from you my readers?  Well for starters do you think this is a crazy idea?  What would you look for in a dialog candidate?  Currently my criteria to qualify is simple; are you generally a happy person (truthfully) and are you or could you ever be content?  Curiosity of how life is shaped by our choices and the perception we hold of ourselves are areas I would like to explore.  My methodology is wide open, but some simple questions seems to be the best place to start.  How about sharing some probing questions that you think could help in this examination?  As I was working on this blog, I pulled a Trust Your Crazy Idea card and the message began “The good news is you don’t know how great you can be!”  With your help and feedback, my hope is that is the beginning of a lifelong project that teaches all of us something that bridges that need for accomplishment with a sense of contentment.

(Feel free to message me privately or leave feedback on my blog or social media page.  Please share this thought with others that may have valuable insight. I greatly appreciate any and all.)

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Bright cooper kettle and warm woolen mittens Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things”

Stacy, Shawna, Brandy, Tisha, Peggy, me & T in my mom’s kitchen counter, truly some of my most favorite things

Today I turn 55 years young.  I have been asked by friends and family what I want for my birthday?  Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday.  Celebrating a whole day about you is extremely important in my book.  But as I get older what I desire can’t be bought in a store or found on Amazon.  I crave more of a sense of peace and happiness vibe.   The giving that makes others feel genuinely special.

This past holiday season was the first time in my five and half decades that I did not celebrate one day in my hometown of Templeton, California.  The choice was mine, driven by the need to embrace my sanity and realizing that running around liked a timed event checking off years of traditions was a race I was ready to take a much-needed break.  Yes, I missed many parts of my “normal” cheer, but surrendering to the peace and calm of my choice was well worth the tradeoff.   Thankful that my children were on board with my suggestion aided in me having one of the calmest and tear free Decembers in recent years. 

Yet, there were some things or should I say people that weren’t thrilled with my decision to stay south.  Having been noted as a collector of people, the final meal of Christmas was always at my house that would be filled with a variety of people from my world.  Our holiday group had come to be fondly known as the Island of Misfit Toys.  Many of these “Misfits” have been part of my world for ages, people I celebrate and enjoy the tradition of giving to annually.  Always in search of that perfect gift, I took a page out of the master of gift giving, Oprah, a number of years ago.  I began to gift my people “Jacky’s Favorite Things”.  Your package may include a delicious bottle of wine to the perfect counter top cleaner, from calendars, make-up, Shutterfly finds, bottled water and Maui Onion chips, the countless items that have found their way into my gift basket are endless. 

Yet the truth of the matter is that these people are some of my favorite things.  They support me from my crazy writing projects to moving south and yes, this year skipping the streets of Templeton.  As Kelly Clarkson would say, my life would suck without them.  This tribute could go on for days, but I am going to introduce you to just a few of the classic characters of Misfit Island.  Here are a few of my favorite things.

Joe, Teresa, Brandy & Me

Let me start off with Mr. Joe Brengle.  The line is blurred when Joe and I went from fair industry acquaintances to as he likes to say his “big sis”, but it seems like he has been around forever.  Coined by my mother as the “good son’, Joe is the best party guest.  He shows up early, helps with set-up, keep everyone’s glass full of bubbles, and takes direction from every female pointing a finger.  Case in point why my mother is such a huge fan.  His creative skills can only be topped by his deep sense of caring for those important to him.  The crew to be celebrated in this post, are damn lucky to have Joe in our corner or near our glass.  Even though we tease him about his inside voice and big personality, we would be void of a whole lot of love without Joe in our world.

And speaking of big-hearted people, the only thing bigger than Brandy Haupt’s heart is her smile.  Brandy stepped into my world as a wide-eyed intern at the California Mid-State Fair when Lilly was just over a year old, who immediately renamed her Bubba.  Brandy makes me giggle like no one else and embraces the leadership skills of Michael J Scott as much as I do. She has the most amazing knack to use non-family friendly words in poetic and meaningful ways.  She is the best adventure partner, having traveled all over the nation together.  Never one to shy away from a glass of bubbles, she is truly the sparkling vintage in our crew.

Doris and Floris with their Mothers

Tisha Tucker and I are just one piece of history in a multi-generational family story.  From our grandfathers building stock cars together to our mothers sleeping in the Templeton Post Office on the night of their Eighth Grade Graduation to Doris and Floris concurring the world, our friendship is pretty unspoken.  She is the phone call on the way to work while we are both picking up Starbucks to the person I can say phrases to that no one else understands.  It is kinda a funny story, could easily be the title of our multi best selling book series.  Working side by side for so many years she is truly the Yin to my Yang.  Tisha and her husband Kenny will befriend any stranger and bring spare children home like bags of groceries.  Their open-door policy has made me suggest more than once that they install the revolving door from the Paso Robles Inn in their living room.

Tisha and I have had many employees walk through our door, but none more special than Miss Teresa Dellaganna.  Looking for that first job at the age of 16, T (as she has been deemed in our circle) showed up in exhibits land unaware that she just signed up for a lifelong experience.  Teresa can thank us for eating salad for the first time, to discovering the world of wine and I am sure many things she would care to forget.  She is the first person you want in that final hour that sh&t has to get done, her homemade pumpkin pies are the bomb, and if caring was an Olympic sport she would be a gold medalist.  And although she can fight with our children like an older sister, our family would be incomplete without Teresa.

Speaking of people that I have collected thanks to my days at 2198 Riverside Avenue, I would be remiss to leave out Peggy Flynn.  From emceeing beauty pageants to taking over whole departments, Peggy never tells me no.  I like that about her.  Just kidding, not only is she down for anything, she does it with a smile on her face and can always find something that makes her chuckle.  We share the love of travel, agriculture, horse racing and of course laughing.  I admire her tenacity and ability embark on journey’s with herself making life look fear free and fun. She is the Kathie Lee to my producer gigs and our table would feel empty without Miss Flynn.

T, Peggy, Tisha, me & Shawna – The day we made it snow!

Finally, I would like to celebrate my side kick since first grade, Shawna Caldwell.  She is the friend they write Hallmark cards about.  I don’t have to talk to her everyday but I always know she is there and has my back.  I am beyond lucky to have her in my life the past fifty years, even though I have to keep reminding her that we aren’t that old.  Even though we have been called at times “silly girls” together we have accomplished so much growing up, from winning hog showmanship at 10 years old to changing the school colors our senior year, there is nothing we can’t do once we set our minds.  We have even made it snow in Templeton. Our worlds today are very different from each other, but the sense of being raised together in a small town is deep in our DNA and binds us together forever.

As I finish my second cup a tea, I can’t help but think Oprah has nothing on me. Just like her, if could gift my audience a Joe, a Brandy, a Teresa, a Tisha, a Peggy or a Shawna, your world would get a little brighter, fill with laughter and be surrounded with love. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad. 

Love you all to the moon and back – Jacky 🙂

Hope, Love, Joy and Peace – Assignment 2022

“Once you choose Hope, anything is possible” – Christopher Reeve

The other day I received an email reminding me that my blog domain would be automatically renewing on January 14, 2022.  I have to be honest, seeing a correspondence from alittlebitaboutalotofthings made me take a huge pause.  When was the last time I visited my beloved writing source? 

Like many, the past two years hasn’t found me being my most authentic self.  Most of the time, I feel like I am walking along a balance beam wobbling from side to side, waiting for the rug to be once again pulled out from underneath of me, and spending time wondering where my motivation has disappeared to on vacation.  Surprisingly, when I went back and looked to see when my last blog post was (May 2020) the topic was finding balance, I guess I have been searching ever since?

Inspiration for my “Looking Up” writing.

In true Jacky fashion I have started many blogs in my mind and a few found their way to notes shared in emails and desktop ramblings. From notions of “looking up” to my lack of a holiday card in 2020, or a biblical thought of testing faith and finding patience to discovering truths in Kelsea Ballerini’s song Half of My Hometown, there are remnants of unfinished writings similar to the different stages of partial arts and crafts projects of my youth.   Yet as we await the final minutes of 2021, I figured I might as well finish the year with a big giant check mark against a task completed, blog posted. 

Society seems to be struggling to get in a groove.  It is clear that across our nation populations are coping with a variety of regulations that are not only vastly different but infinite in nature.  I believe if we look close enough that the “rules” of today aren’t just geographical in nature, but have become an intimate part of each household and member.  The by products of living in the world today appear to leave a trail of anxiety, discourse and general unhappiness.  I am beyond over the negative nature of the energy out in the general population and the daily dodging of the toxic emotional fumes that float through space.  Searching for that message of ultimate positivity, to attract my motivation back home and relight my inspirational flame, my hunt came to an end on Christmas Day.

When I was a little girl one of my favorite Christmas traditions was the advent wreath at church.  Our little brick church in Templeton, Bethel Lutheran, there was always a very large, ornate wreath created from a variety greens featuring four big candles.  Each Sunday one candle was lit as we counted down to Jesus’s birth.  The simplicity of the practice had its obvious purpose and I never considered that there was more to the activity.  That was until this Christmas day during church service.  The message delivered spoke to the meaning of the candles of an Advent wreath symbolizing the four virtues Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  At that moment a light bulb went on inside me, saying to myself, “what did the priest just say, did I hear that right”? There it was, the all good message I was looking for to begin 2022, Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

Now what to do with my new-found gift.  Sticking true to Jacky form, I have conjured up a plan (hopefully measurable) to celebrate, discover and embrace each sentiment.  Dedicating each quarter; January – March will be Hope, April – June will be Love, Joy will be July – September and finally Peace will be honored from October – December, my goal is to unearth quests that I can complete for each virtue.  From applying to my daily life or an obstacle I want tackle, by this time this year my heart, soul and mind will be full of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  With a deep sense of belief and a little luck, hopefully, my love of writing, will joyfully fill this blog with posts that bestow a sense of accomplishment and peace.

Happy New Year – Jacky

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 (  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

3 – Using my twenty minute exercise will be key in the discovering success and getting my mind in the practice.  (refer

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.

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