Taking A Que from a Fork in the Road

(As promised, October is the month of completing my unfinished thoughts.  This blog began in October of 2016 and almost completed on January 29, 2017.  The original time references remain.)

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

File Oct 10, 7 25 38 AMIn the fall of 2015, Cal Poly Agribusiness received an interim department chair and my world started to shift. And has continued to move and shake like a decent earthquake until recently. With change happening in just about every corner of my world, witnessing many others experiencing much of the same circumstances, a common thread was evident; people love to express their distaste for change.

I think change is unavoidable. If you are one who yearns for control, order and normalcy, a shift in your schedule can feel like a one, two punch to the face.

The general public as a whole, will moan in harmony with the thought change. Fear of the unknown is a very uncomfortable state, and can leave one feeling unsteady and out of sorts. My life has had so much alteration in the past two years, I don’t know what typical is anymore. The other morning, I woke up with an epiphany that inspired me to write this post. Change isn’t the bad guy, but the transition that makes one loose balance.

Navigating through an untraveled road course, with blinders on, is much like transiting from an old comfort to a new circumstance. The cause of the fear and what makes change difficult is the transition.

The old adage, when one door closes another one opens really is a truth. Stop and think of how many times your life has had interruptions, maybe for good or at the time seemed like for bad, but down the road you looked back and thought, well what was the fuss all about? Why the heck didn’t I decide to do “XYZ” sooner? Or a really difficult, heart wrenching change, turned into opening up opportunities you never knew existed.

I am here to argue the point that change is good, it is the process that causes the anxiety, strain of the unknown, and downright discomfort. Using my recent experience of changing career paths, physical addresses and basically my entire daily life, I have learned a few lessons.

My Navigation Tools for Change

  1. Stay in the moment. When I allowed myself to start wondering about where I was going to be sleeping the following week, what was happening to my house in Paso Robles, or would I ever find a permanent location, anxiety and panic would start knocking on my minds door. But if I stayed in the now, focused on a few days at a time it didn’t seem so daunting.
  2. Remove all expectations. Similar to number one, I did all I could to stop my wondering mind. Why? There is a good chance you will end up being disappointed. I kept telling myself if it is meant to be, it is meant to be. For example, when searching for a new residence, I quickly discovered finding a rental was tougher than I had expected. So I decided to physically make a list of “must haves”. Tier one, short commute, natural light, two bedrooms, enough outdoor space for herbs and plants and a place for a washer and dryer. Extra special bonus features would include a gas stove, garage and no carpet. Removing time to let my mind conjure up visions of grandeur or even worst case outcomes, made the process less daunting.
  3. Change is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember to breath and allow time to run its course. As an efficient minded person who loves a good checklist and prefers to know the ending of a movie before it even begins, this was tough. Patience and I don’t always see eye to eye. But through this progression the realization that when you click along at a record pace, one misses the chance to catch all the opportunities.

But this time I didn’t have the ability to be in a hurry. I had to endure the transition and low and behold, the change has been fabulous.  Empty nest mom, living by the beach and getting my choice of nightly dinner selections, has been overwhelmingly therapeutic.

Perfect example of applying my new formula, is my dining room set.  If you would have told me a week ago that I would spend the weekend refinishing dining room chairs, I would have said right.  Heck, I didn’t even own a chair a week ago. But from trash to treasure here I am today.

I think the best place to begin the story is, the chairs chose me one afternoon at work. I spent 30 minutes on Pinterest Friday night, which directed me to a store to purchase paint. The store owner was late, so instead of pacing outside the locked door, I wondered across the street to the antique mall.  And what before my wondering eyes appeared, but old coffee bean sacks, with a cool design and even cooler price tag. With chalk paint, brush and stapler in hand, I was off to races.

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Before and after chairs.

Now mark my word, if I started off looking for white distressed chairs with burlap or better yet old coffee bean bag cushions, my expectations would have been smashed. But living in this new frame of mind that allows time to send out to the universe a message that I am here waiting and enjoying the process.  Low and behold, just like amazon prime it drops little pieces of life at my door steps.

“Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy the beauty of becoming. When nothing is certain, anything is possible.” – Unknown

(Update, I completed the dining room look with an old table I refinished in another weekend.  My place is still not completely furnished, but I did grow my first crop of tomatoes on the balcony.   The last year has truly been one of the most peaceful and rewarding in my professional career.  I have had the opportunity to flex my creative arm, learn lots and still have time to wonder the beach in search of new blog ideas.)

Hau`oli Lā Hānau Bubba

(translation – Happy Birthday Brandy)

Earlier this week was I was scanning my blog for evidence of unfinished trains of thought, and in true Jacky fashion veered off into reading past posts. I stumbled upon an entry from a couple of years ago I wrote for Miss Tisha Tucker. And it gave me the clever idea to duplicate this effort for a very special birthday girl born October 4th a fabulous 40 years ago.

october birthday girls[2]

My October Birthday Girls (Lilly & Brandy)

Brandy came into our life as a bright eyed Cal Poly agriculture student in search of an internship to fill her summer hours. Little did she realize this life decision would end up completing her resume.  I had just returned from maternity leave with my youngest in tow.  Lilly was just learning to speak, and promptly began pronouncing Brandy as Bubba.  From that moment on, she has held the title of Bubba with my clan and ones that gather around our circle.

Bubba, if defined by the urban dictionary (or my three kids), would be cooler than an aunt, nicer than a sibling, and more accepting than a peer.  I guess if I had to pin point a person that defines Brandy in our family, it would be Fairy Godmother meets Rock Star. She has been present for every grand moment my kids have had from graduations to champion drives. Back in the day, Nolan, whole heartily believe if Bubba was ringside, his chances for a win increased tenfold.

Tomorrow, in honor of this sparkling, sun loving, bubble drinking gal that has a smile larger than Texas, we are all headed to Nashville. Brandy and I share countless interests, but one topic that is always near and dear to our souls is music. To celebrate, I am stealing a line from Brett Eldridge’s Wanna Be That Song, “every life has a soundtrack”.  Here is my attempt to applaud four decades around the sun in song.

The Playlist of Brando

1 – Brandy – Looking Glass – Self-titled hit that holds dear memories of a cast of characters serenading her as they walked through the CMSF front door.  You are a fine girl!

2 – Soak of the Sun – Sheryl Crow – I truly do not know anyone who loves soaking up the sun more than Brandy.  Not only will she tell you to lighten up, but wants everything she has got, too.

3 – Amarillo Sky – Jason Aldean – An authentic farmer’s daughter, she knows the importance of a hard day’s work, the blessing of a blossoming crop and the value of agriculture in our everyday life.

4 – Cowboy – Kid Rock – Hot men, cowboys and rock stars, the only person I know that might love them more than the birthday girl is Miss Tucker.  Brandy shares a special gift with Mr. Rock. They both have perfected the art of using the English language in a colorful fashion at exactly the right moment.

5 – Tiny Dancer – Elton John – Timeless, poetic, and everyone in room will bound, remind you of anybody? Plus this song is featured in one of our favorite movies that celebrates the backstage life we have experienced.

6 – Blue Hawaii – Bing Crosby – Maui, Mai Tais, and more sun. Combine our happy place with this timeless crooner and it doesn’t get much better.

7 – Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond – A baseball fan and Giant lover.  I borrowed the 7th inning stretch from the baseball team she MUST know the most about, the Boston Red Sox.

8 – Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban – There is no one that I would rather share a toast with than the birthday girl, well maybe Keith Urban.  From bubbles at J, to cocktails at noon, there isn’t many food and beverage moments we have passed up along our adventures.

9 – On the Road Again – Willie Nelson – Speaking of adventure, Brandy’s social calendar could rival the royal family.  She must have her mechanics number on speed dial for the amount of mileage she puts on her vehicle.  Not sure there are many outings she has passed up on the last 40 years.   If only one of us could win Mega Millions, our suitcases would never be empty.

10 – We Are Family – Sister Sledge – Going hand in hand with number nine.  Her family is number one, followed closely by her friends.  All of which she would travel near and far to experience anything from a wedding, to you marveling at your freshly mowed grass.

11 – American Girl – Tom Petty – Brandy is all that is good about this country.  She is a true patriot who loves all that is the USA.  Or is it that she loves the Patriots and Tom Brady?  Either way, it is red, white and blue.

12 – Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars – When you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while. Her smile, need I say more?

13 – Hotel California – The Eagles – The Eagles are the 70’s and have countless hits that could make the cut on the tribute album.  But this seven minute ballad, was released in 1977 and is as timeless as our birthday girl.

14 – Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding – One of her all time favorite tunes.  Flashback to the 80’s, John Hughes movies and timeless lines.  Brandy is the one person I can text a line from a movie, The Office, or a comment regarding reality TV and she will instantly fine amusement.

15 – The Best is Yet to Come – Frank Sinatra – Just like Miss Haupt, Frank is old school, cocktail hour and Las Vegas.  But even more Brandy is a classic, that has melted our hearts and holds a place at the family table.  And it’s a real good bet, the best is yet to come.

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Just Another Night

Honestly, this was harder than I originally thught, so many great tunes to select.  I guess I have 365 days to produce Greatest Hits II.  Happy Birthday Brandy – Dream Big, Love Large, and never ever forget the famous words of Micheal G. Scott “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both I want people to fear how much they love me.” XOXO

#PFN – Potential Future Nonsense

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The beach below Cardiff is my new desk.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”  – C.S. Lewis

There is fine line between obsession and procrastination.  Maybe it is just me, but sometimes I feel torn to being completely devoted to a task, and finding a substitute chore to fill my day.  Chalk it up to my need for perfection and achievement, but this trait has haunted me for years.

As a young girl, the very messy and creative space I called my bedroom, would cause my mother unrest.  I would spend days setting up the perfect office or organizing the ultimate classroom, making each student their own file of their work.  I adored colored pens, pencils, tablets of paper, adding machines, and any other items I could sort, organize or just plain establish a system.  You should have seen my paper doll collection arranged by outfits, size, and style.  If only I would have known that filing cabinets existed, I would have asked Santa for a bank of the steal cabinets.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and my assortment of paper and office supplies were simply magnificent. Well, maybe not so much for my mother.  Sooner or later Grandma Jo would put her foot down. And it became the battle to clean my room.  Now I was never high on stashing my loot under my bed or in a drawer.  No if I was going to do the job, it would be done right.  Once the cleaning bug hit me, the cycle started.  First a quick few minutes of me unloading the countless treasures into the hallway. And then hours of very precise and meticulous moving of items back into my room.  Every drawer, closet space and storage location would need to be in perfect order. My mother’s patience and my ability to stay amused by this task would run neck in neck.  Just like clockwork, about 3 hours into the process I would wonder away and my mother would show up with a hefty trash bag to finish the job. No need to worry, I would simply begin to build my collection again.  The moral to this story is, as a little girl, I would teeter from procrastination to obsession as fluid as one would skate down the side walk.

Fast forward decades later and one might ask, “Do I still experience this quandary on a regular basis?”  Absolutely.  The balance is tighter and not as extreme as in my youth, but unless I have the inspiration to accomplish a project to a level of satisfaction, I push it off my plate and focus elsewhere.  On the flip side, once my mind locks course with a mission, I have an obsession to succeed.  My blog is very much a product of this practice.

Briefly scanning the dates of entries one quickly realizes I am not the best at keeping up with the writing game.  2017 started with two posts in January and then my blog sat dormant until a couple of weeks ago.  But this isn’t a true reflection of my writing.  I have countless notes and ideas, that for some reason, I don’t feel the obsession to perfect and thus they fall into the deep dark hole of procrastination.  Recently I discovered how many unfinished blogs are floating around waiting for me to bring them safely home to the internet.

Today’s post was discovered on Pinterest.  I was working on a project and in true Jacky fashion in the middle of perfecting the content, procrastination began to take lead.  I found myself cleaning off my desktop, which lead me to pin pictures I had saved for inspiration to Pinterest.  And while I was deleting, reorganizing and combining my Pinterest boards for perfect organization, there they were, two boards I had started for blog inspiration.

This got me thinking how many more of these lone wolves lurked among my electronic devices and secured spots?  As I began to dig, I found my reflections and views saved on my desktop, tucked in files on Dropbox, in a note keeping app on my iPad, and even written on a stack of beer coasters that are paper clipped together.

November is National Novel Writing Month, which challenges the would-be author to complete a 50,000-word manuscript in thirty days. Breaking down the math, that requires one to log 1,667 words a day on average.  So my first step in developing an obsession to chase the penned word, post a blog weekly in October.  And the simplest way to accomplish this goal is to dig up my buried treasures of unfinished prose. Titles such as,  Always Dreaming – Horse Racing Theme,  Change vs Transition, Fly Over States and Surreal Moments are just waiting to be nurtured, groomed and sculpted into the perfect thought.  At the end of the day, my writing may be nothing more than nonsense, but it is my nonsense.  And if this goal can kick my obsessive gene into gear, then it is worth finding an ending for all my potential future finished work.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense” – Alice

“Last Time For Everything”

Using a fake ID at a college bar

Getting caught with a girl in the backseat of a car

Running out on the field for the senior game wearing number 17

There’s a last time for everything

THS~vs~St. Joe 129Little did Nolan realize on that Friday when he took the field, wearing number 17 on Senior’s Night against Pioneer Valley High School, that it truly would be the last time he would call a play in the huddle. In the third quarter he suffered a concussion, a journey to the emergency room was how we ended the evening. He didn’t get to suit-up for the last league game in Nipomo. Due to the loss the Eagles suffered, the team did not make the play offs, and Nolan’s’ days of grid iron play came to close.

In July, we as a family, said good bye to a very successful barn yard journey in and out of the showring. All three Hildebrand children were there when Lilly marched her replacement heifer, Charlotte into the sale ring and we paused for a moment to capture a picture. Just another golden memory to add to our treasure chest.  We all knew it was the last time. The celebration was part melancholy, mixed with a bit of relief and a whole bunch of nostalgia. In one week, 15 years of countless hours and our annual summer mission was gone.

As I drove back to San Diego the following Sunday morning, Brad Paisley voice resonated as he began to sing about the last time for everything. Maybe it was the mention of number 17, maybe it was that I just spent a week on forty-four acres that haunts and inspires me, who knows, but I can’t help shake the feeling and ask the question, how often do we know it is the last time, should it matter and how does one recall the last times you don’t know to file in your memory bank?

For example, Brad points out fishing with your granddad on the lake. I grew up with the simple known fact that my grandma had a lake cabin. It wasn’t considered luxurious (by no means would it even rate two stars), but it was given. Just like any other summer truth, school getting out, swimming lessons at the Templeton pool or going to the fair, we would spend time at Nacimiento Lake with grandma. Sometime during my college years my grandma sold her cabin. Not a 100 percent why, although I have my suspicions. And for some other unknown reason our parents seemed to have no desire to keep it in the family. But the truth is, I don’t recall the last time we swam the channel or fished off the bank nor did I realize to note our final visit.

What I wouldn’t give to go back knowing it would be the last time. The lake house is so precious to me that when my grandmother passed away and my mother and her two brothers were cleaning through her treasures (yes, I thought everything she owned was simply gold) they on the other hand saw most of it as destined for the landfill. I instantly grabbed the lake house journal, that kept the stories of each visitor’s trip, number of fish caught and a few tall tales, out of the garbage pile.

Then there are the last times one just can’t wait to happen. How many seniors at Cal Poly came bouncing into my office exclaiming they had taken their last college exam EVER?  I often wonder, now that they are fully engrossed with a career, house payments, child rearing and all the other fun life events that come with being a “grown-up”, do they wish for the days when life was nothing heavier on one’s mind than a dreaded final?

June of 2016, I taught my last quarter at Cal Poly. I had no clue it would be my last. I think of my last AGB 406 presentation, that just so happen to be at a winery where skeletons hung on the wall. At the time I agb406thought well here is a first, if only I had known it was also the last. Would it had mattered?

And finally how about the last time you have to do something that is just plain miserable?  My mom battled breast cancer twenty years ago.  I can recall her coming home from chemotherapy, begging her doctor for it to be the last time.  He would very patiently remind her that she could stop treatment at any time, but how much her odds improved if she stuck it out.  She did soldier through the process and completed her last scheduled treatment.  That last time proved to be the ticket, she has been cancer free ever sense.

What is my point?  I do not have clear perspective on the best way to channel that golden “last time”.  One thing I don’t want to experience any time soon is the last time I write for my blog.  Truth be told, even though I don’t post very often, I have dozens of blogs I have started over the past months and years.  Written work that just needs a little editing and a sprinkle of pixies dust.   Fingers crossed these saved treasures will be published sooner, rather than later.

I guess after all Brad probably says it best we really don’t know most of our last times, so maybe it is best to live each day like it is the last and be sure to make the best use of tomorrow.  Because the one thing I am sure of, there is a last time for everything!

Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be

Hold me baby, give me a kiss

Like tonight is all there is

Cause there’s a last time for everything

You Got A Friend In Me

You got troubles and I got ’em too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together, we can see it through
‘Cause you’ve got a friend in me

Truth be told if I could be anything when I grow up it would be a writer. And although my blog is filled with words that are my thoughts, the idea of writing fictional stories dance around in my head like sugar plums on Christmas Eve. Few know of this dream and even less encourage my ambition of prose, yet there is one who yearns to read my first novel.

Yesterday was this very special person’s birthday. She is my biggest cheerleader, especially when it comes to my writing. Her continued requests for manuscripts is unyielding. Searching for that perfect gift I reflected of our almost five decades together. As her and I have traveled near and far, we have experienced food, fun and foolishness, that I just couldn’t capture in a wrapped package. So in honor of her, I thought the best gift was to spend some time writing.

I sit here on this rather rainy day and ponder on what to write. Although the date of my last blog posted does not reflect, I have began many topics in the past months. Yet never completing one to posting status. A second hand post from my past just wasn’t going to accomplish this special task. The birthday girl’s first idea for me when I started writing a blog was to explain how I managed to use rewards programs and points to subsidize my travels. But if you truly knew this Capricorn sister of mine, that topic really doesn’t capture enough for a birthday tribute blog. A short story, a day in the life, an adventure of Doris and Floris, just weren’t worthy themes, my quest was to find that timeless,yet simple truth that would not only celebrate the person, but capture the essence of Tisha Lynn Hammers Tucker.

I received a book over the holidays entitled So Audrey, 59 Ways to Put a Little Hepburn in Your Step. You can never go wrong with a little black dress, and who doesn’t enjoy a splash of color to brighten their day. Don’t even get me started on never underestimating the importance of beauty rest. Audrey ranks up there in all time classics and the more I thought about it so does Tisha. To celebrate her completion of one more time around the sun, here are ten tips to put a little more Tisha in your step!

1 – When life hands you lemons, grab paint, glue, pair of scissors and ribbon to transform into the centerpiece, champion wreath, parade float or craft of choice.

2 – Why wear rain boots, heels, slippers, or loafers, when a pair of flip flops can work for any occasion?

3 – Collect children, lots and lots of children, they don’t even have to be related to you or each other. The more children the better, allow them to come and go and by all means have great snack foods in a secret drawer.

4 – A fabulous glass of champagne is the perfect ending to each and every day.

5 – Love your family unconditionally, even when you want to strangle each and every member.

6 – Be the solution, always say yes to a task, and when the first two land you on the path of no return, laugh your way to the finish line.

7 – Develop the skill of ignoring all phone calls, text messages, emails and allow life to happen. A since of urgency and the need for instant gratification is highly over rated .

8 – Agriculture is God’s gift to each and every one of us, embrace a baby animal, smell freshly disk fields, and enjoy home grown gardens when given the chance.

9 – Be nostalgic. History and heritage are often taken for granted. Find the story in everyone you meet, trust me it is always worth learning.

10 – Your friends are your family!

Warning putting a little Tisha in your step might cause you long hours of work, wrinkles to form on your face from laughing to much, unending amounts of love to share and like the Grinch cause your heart to grow over night.  But any cue you can gain from her, would make that funny face of Audrey’s glow with a grin.