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 🙂

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