Day 4: Summer 2020 Adventure on the Backstretch

The morning commute 5:20am.

TGIF is not a thing on the backstretch.

As I’ve started to share this story with friends, I’ve started getting questions like “how’s it going?”. My answer: “too much to text”.

But really, here’s how I’m feeling 4 days in.

It’s intense. Humbling. Challenging. Exhausting. Terrifying. It’s hard and I’m really, really glad to be doing it. The perspective, education and experience are just what I was craving – and more.

I wrote this to a friend “It’s no picnic, but I’m super glad to be here.”

A few scheduling notes:

  • First, my decision to start this new “gig” the week before the TRF’s major fund-raising event was questionable at best. For the record, the timing was not totally in my hands, but – ouch, it’s been rough. Big thanks to my TRF teammates who are dealing with me at less than my best as we come down the home stretch.
  • Second, so as not to misrepresent, I’m not planning to do this 7 days a week. I owe it to my teammates and the horses of the TRF to give them a full measure of my effort each week. My plan is to work Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon starting next weekend. This week I opted for a 5 day “crash-course” to try to get my sea-legs. Working Tues-Sat, with a break Sun – Tuesday, but not totally sure I can wait til Friday… for fear of losing my confidence. We’ll see!

Lessons of the Day

  1. Taking pictures with my mind – a new habit.
  2. The horses keep you in the moment. Very.
  3. Always bring your rain jacket.
  4. A McDonald’s Hashbrown can really make your day.
  5. Easy does it. (If you just spit out your cocktail, I get it. This has not exactly been my M.O. in life, but hey… the horses, they are great teachers!)
  6. Vuelta por vuelta…

Thoughts on the above –

  1. Pics: I’ve made myself a promise that I’ll never play with my phone while I have a horse in my hands. I have one job to do, to attend to the horses, and I’m not going to dial it in or multi-task it, no matter how tempting it may be. Thus, I’m working on the “taking pictures with my mind” to capture the scenes I want to remember.
  2. Mindfulness: As I rework on my early morning routine on barn days, I’ve not given myself the “treat” of my 10 Headspace meditation because I think it’s better to just get myself out the door, not rushing and getting to that shed row early… so I’m trying to let the walking itself be my meditation. Above all, the horses are teaching me to really enjoy the “vueltas” (or even just partial vueltas) when they just relax and walk… it’s such a gift, and often fleetingly so.
  3. Rain: It happens. Why not be prepared? Lesson in life – when it’s easy, just do it.
  4. McD’s made my day: Wow. This really was special. The “new girl” was offered a treat by Emilio, from Linda Rice’s barn, from Tito (head groom at our barn). It was cold & greasy and absolutely made me glow with a feeling like I might just, sort of, belong!
  5. Easy Does It. It sounds so simple, and yet, it’s really the hardest thing. From my days of showing in the hunter & equitation divisions, to watching PGA golf, so many skills are best displayed when it looks like the person is doing nothing at all. And so it goes with hotwalking. The horses chill out when you do, and man oh man, that is sometimes a very tall order.
  6. Vuelta por vuelta. This is simply how time passes. Sure there are variations, changes in the schedule, an occasional new task or request, but for the most part… the life of the barn is measured, for me, Vuelta for Vuelta…. hasta mañana!
Hello Handsome! This pretty boy let me pull his mane yesterday – first one I’d done in… 30 years??

Day 2 & 3: Summer 2020 Backstretch Adventure Underway

Hello Friends!

It’s amazing how short a day can be that starts at 4:30am.

Here’s how my schedule is shaping up at this very, very early stage in the journey. Fully aware this will evolve, but not quite sure how. Certainly hanging on for dear life between now and when we host our TRF “Drive-thru” BBQ at the Barn on Tuesday (Aug 11th). I have to think/ hope this will be more manageable after that… here’s hoping!

A Day in the Life (as of Day 3):

  • 4:30am. Alarm. Still not sleeping well, anticipating the alarm.
  • 4:30 – 5:00am. Trying to maintain a bit of my regular routine. Making coffee for my thermos, one small espresso, spending time doing gratitude journal and sending texts (oh so close to doing my headspace, but haven’t quite had enough time).
  • 5:00am. Prep for departure. Coffee in thermos, check my bag, decide on any layers, take Claritin, put on boots (and pack extra socks).
  • 5:10am Head out. Park on Nelson Ave. Navigate Security.
  • 5:20am. Sit on trunk in barn awaiting the day to begin.
  • 11:30/12:00pm. Depart from the barn.
  • 12:00 – 1:00pm. Transition Time: shower, lunch, 15 min power nap if possible.
  • 1:00pm. Land at my desk. Begin normal day of TRF work.
  • 1:00 – 9:00pm. Try to squeeze in real life: work, hubby, dinner, walk.
  • 9:00pm. Bedtime. Falling asleep while trying to post pic a day…

Lessons Learned Day 2 & 3

  1. Accept help when offered.
  2. When there’s nothing to do, do nothing.
  3. Pride has no place on the backstretch. (See #1)
  4. It’s always a good idea to empty a wheelbarrow full of dirty straw.
  5. Being quiet takes practice.
  6. The horses mostly speak Spanish.
  7. It is weird & wonderful to be the lowest woman on the totem pole.
  8. New ways of measuring time: “vueltas” around the shed row, 5 minutes, horses walked, horses going out & coming back, shots of adrenaline managed and more!

Still Smiling – today was a good day!

Wrapping up Day 3 – a Good Day! (Billy, my buddy)

Major Life Experience: Day 1

Hi Friends!

5:25am ready to go!

And just like that, I find myself headlong into a new adventure – right here without so much as a moving a mile. Grateful for the opportunity, I dove into the deep end and now I’m in.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Define Success Specifically. Today my goals were threefold: do not get hurt, do not lose a horse, do not get fired. Success!
  2. Bring Extra Socks and/or Footwear. When your job involves “walker” in it, your feet are going to matter. While I didn’t remember to bring my back up shoes (paddock boots), I sure was glad that all my cycles around the sun had taught me to bring extra socks. When I had a blister from my bean boots while still mid-way thru horse #1, I sure was glad I could go to put on the extra pair (both socks) on my foot with the blister. Problem solved!
  3. Don’t Use the Boss’s Office as your Locker. Oops! Bad call on my part to somehow assume that it made sense to put my personal items in La Jefe’s office. A corrective comment was issued to me along the lines of “not letting the others think I was sneaking in and out of the office” – and that lesson was learned. Boom.
  4. Remember how to sit and wait, without playing on the phone. Much to my surprise, there’s a good bit of “waiting for the horse to come back” in this new gig. An opportunity to just sit still, be and not fidget. Not easy, but great to practice.
  5. Above all, the animals teach you the power of the energy you project. Wow. I won’t lie, I had at least 3 pretty fully terrifying moments with 3 of the horses I walked. It’s quite amazing how powerless I felt standing next to the animals who I’m much, much more comfortable being on top of. The moment they knew I was scared, we were in trouble… and then it was up to me to breathe deep, calm down and convey confidence – on the drop of a dime. No small task and pretty darn exhausting. Just the process of forcibly shutting off the adrenaline is a really hard and challenging task.

More about the journey to get here, the day, the tasks, the dynamics and the players as I find time. My goal is to capture at least a little bit of the growth, day by day, but now – to sleep!

Wish me luck – I need it!

Hello!
The scene – waiting for the next horse to come back.
It’s a wrap!

And on this day…

Socially distant walk through Saratoga Spa State Park (April 11, 2020)

Vivid Memories

Despite the frosty early morning temperatures, the birds remained committed to informing us that Spring is here with their enthusiastic singing starting about 6am. Their gentle, but insistent chirping was soon followed by the playful pouncing of our early-bird Mookie, punctuated by her trademark velvet-paw poke to encourage us to start to stir. Thanks to daylight savings time the sun herself joined in the parade as she rose over the Saratoga racecourse (6:17am) to our east and painted the walls of our bedroom with dapples. The universe was making itself heard, loud and clear, it was time to get up and see what the world had in store.

With a profound sense of gratitude to be waking up in our safe & cozy home, healthy, safe, with our beloved furry children, and all of the creature comforts we’ve accumulated over so many years. Slowly it sunk in that we were in Saratoga Springs, the very town we’d dreamed of living in for so many years. Our good fortune was, and remains, bewildering.

As we shook off the last gauzy layers of sleep, the butterflies began. We began to remember that the day ahead was one rife with uncharted waters, uncertainty and a myriad of unknowns. While we felt much like the people we’d been the day before, the world around us had shifted and our day’s challenge would be to find our purpose, our plan, our true north to navigate whatever the unstructured hours and days and months ahead might hold. We had taken a leap and now it was up to us to make something of the new day, the first day of the rest of our lives. Everything was possible, nothing was promised and the choices were ours to make.

The question is… what day was it?

An Anniversary

Two years ago today, April 11, 2018, the Maven and I woke up for the very first time, together, in our new home in Saratoga to begin this new chapter in our lives. We were grateful to be in our new home, with our cats, our possessions and to be here together. Our leap was complete. Our house in Alexandria was sold, our previous careers had concluded, our friends and family were supportive, but far away. It was up to us to chart our path, to make choices, to find our way and to realize the potential of this new life. It would be the first day, of many, that would test our sense of self, our resilience, our patience, our vision, and our faith.

By now, I trust you see where I’m going with this little game. The passage above describes that date, and today. Deja vu!

Looking Back and Looking Forward

So much has changed, and yet, so much seems so similar. We arrived here in our new life with a total of 3 friends (our beloved realtor + our amazing former landlords from our summer rental) and with one part-time job between the two of us. We were excited, we were hopeful, but we were absolutely putting on a brave face and marching forward into an unfamiliar new world.

The gifts we have found in Saratoga are simply countless. It was the horses who brought us here, and it is to the horses to whom we owe our endless thanks for the people – the friends and colleagues – who have made our life here such a joy.

Professionally, we marvel at where we’ve landed.

  • The Maven has found his place amidst a group of individuals who have tapped into his unique talents, who appreciate his gifts, and who challenge him to apply these gifts to the sport he loves so very much.
  • For me, to speak for the magical and majestic animals who have made me who I am (the good parts) is a calling that I know to be my highest purpose. On behalf of these creatures, and the good they bring to our world, I bound out of bed every day – eager to do as much as I possibly can to carry their message and engage those willing to hear it. I believe they deserve no less.

Over the course of these two years, we put one foot in front of the other and created the life we’d dreamed of. Truly, we shake our heads in amazement every day.

What comes next?

So, now, the cycle begins again. As we start year 3, we take stock of who we are, we give thanks, and we “make the leap” once again into whatever this new world – changing by the day – may hold in store. This time we have our home, our friends, our careers in place to support us, but the world has shifted beneath our feet. Nothing can be taken for granted. Each of us around the globe, must face the same question: “What will I do with the day I’ve been given?

As we’ve done before, the Maven and I will put on a brave face and go face the world outside our door. For all the uncertainty that lies ahead, we can rest assured that the future will test our patience, our resilience and our sense of purpose. It is up to each of us to look inward to find our vision, take the gulp of air and jump. Heck, practice makes perfect. Right?

Look out world, here we come!

Namaste!

In January 2020, the Maven started his first paid handicapper gig for Sportsline
With super amazing TRF Second Chances Instructor, Heidi Richards, at Pleasant Valley State Prison in CA (Oct 2019)

Spring 2020

Springtime morning at Saratoga Spa State Park (March 26, 2020)

musing on Mornings

My favorite moments of the day are early, but not too early, before the demands of the day require me to rise and shine. I just love it when the sun comes through our eastward facing bedroom window, dappling the walls and bedspread, and our early-bird kitty, Mookie, is bouncing around the bed sharing a hopeful chirp and an encouraging velvet-paw poke to encourage us to shake off the sleeps and get on with our morning routines. This time is such a gift. On normal days (what do we call this now – the past?), I savored such mornings as a treat when I had the option of moving slowly and not shortening this gentle time of awakening.

Nowadays, there are no rushed mornings, no places to go. My-oh-my do I savor these moments, even more so, because now they are the moments when I can pretend that the world hasn’t changed.

And then, the fog clears and I see that we are waking to this new world – a very hard and changed world. As I accept that this new world is not the nightmare I hoped would be chased away by the dawn, I say a prayer of gratitude for the sameness of my gentle mornings. And then I say a prayer for the world and all of those who are waking up to face its hardship in so many challenging ways.

A Season of New Beginnings

Hello Friends!

It’s been quite a while. My last post was dated June 2019, and while I see a few drafts that I’d begun in July and December, today is the day I have chosen to restart this project: The Maven and Magpie Blog. Thanks for joining me!

Since we last left off so much has changed. How’s that for an understatement? Truly, a lot had changed in the world of the Maven and Magpie even before the virus turned the world upside down… but, as we all know, one of the most profound and immediate impacts of the virus has been the creation of abundant time in our days. Pre-virus, time was the resource we were always running short and now, in a blink, we’re all but drowning in it.

With that, like all unexpected gifts, we have a choice in our response. What is the role we are meant to play? What is the role we choose to play in the face of this new reality?

For so many heroic individuals, the choices are among fewer and much harder options than mine. The doctors, nurses, hospital staff, ambulance drivers, homeless shelter staff, correctional facility staff, community organizations, and so many, many others who are bravely doing their work in the teeth of this disaster simply do not have the luxury of wondering what to do with their unstructured time. These heroes among us have only the choices of how to keep themselves going, and what attitude and level of grace they can bring to each moment of their perilous days.

I especially love this example set by Dr. Elvis Francois at the Mayo Clinic... taking a page from the Italians on their balconies, and inspiring so many others to bring joy to the frontline of these terrible times. Please share your favorite example in the comments (we’ll see if they work). Whether it be the #518rainbows, the Colorado Symphony’s Ode to Joy on Zoom, #HamAtHome or one of so many so many other minor miracles. They each make an impact. #SpreadJoy

But for the Maven and me, our choices look much different. We are incredibly fortunate in more ways that I can count. We are safe. We are healthy. We live in a comfortable home in a quiet, peaceful, prosperous and caring town. We have no immediate responsibilities for lives other than our own and our two beloved cats. Our loved ones, thus far, are safe and healthy. And we have work to do – which we can do from home. While we fully understand that each of our respective professional roles have uncertain futures, in the world that awaits us after this crisis, for now our work gives our days purpose, structure and connection to others. Above all, we truly have the gift of time. We are here and we are able, together, in our happy home. Able to do what? That, my friends, is truly the million dollar question.

It is on our shoulders to determine what this gift is intended to teach us, and how to make the most of it. And I guess that’s what I’m going to write about over the coming days.

I’d be honored to have you follow along and share your own path into the forest that we are waking to this memorable Spring 2020.

Namaste!

Sharing A Few Ideas

With each post, I’m going to intend to share a few of the resources, words, ideas or other tools that I’m finding helpful… nothing new under the sun, but these are things that are keeping me going. And, as a new twist, I’m also going to try to “squeeze” a few nuggets from the Maven into this section. He’s doing an amazing job exploring the possibilities of this new era… and lucky for me, much of this exploration happens in the kitchen. Stay tuned!

Magpie Pick: Oprah + Chopra 21 Day Meditation Experiences – I love these! And I thank my Suzanne for introducing me to them years ago. Together Oprah and Deepak Chopra offers a series of these each year, the first offering is free (but you have to keep up) and then the recorded version is available for purchase (I’ve purchased two so far). In timely fashion, they launched a new one this past week “Hope in Uncertain Times”. In a word, perfect.

Maven’s Magic: The Maven’s Frozen Bagel Secret

  1. Start with a fresh bagel, individually wrapped in foil and frozen.
  2. Place in toaster over, still wrapped in foil, 15 min at 400 degrees.
  3. Open it, then lightly toast.
  4. Perfect!

Closing Quote: “Be the rainbow in someone’s cloud” – Maya Angelou

And so it begins, again! Embracing the adventure of year 2, summer 2.

Winding down Iris season… bring on the Peonies!

Hello Friends! Remember me?

Time to start anew

Yes, it’s been a while since I settled into a blog post and it’s nice to be back. Reflecting on where I was – physically, mentally, professionally – when I launched my first post (December 2017), it really does seem like a lifetime ago. And yet, as I have been gathering my thoughts about this post… and perhaps those that follow, it’s a little bit like groundhog’s day in that all I really have to offer is an intent to chronicle the journey. Today, June 9th, just another day at the beginning of a chapter – the eve of our second full summer in Saratoga, one month into my second year at the TRF, and on the cusp of marking the close of my fourth decade circling the sun… and the dawn of a new digit in front of my age. A season to begin, again!

But first, a quick look at where we’ve been

All through the Spring, I’ve been pondering how to best commemorate the 1st anniversaries that we’ve noted, celebrated and given thanks for over the course of February through May. Three months chock-full of milestones in my ledger as we found ourselves one year since: closing on the house at 123 Madison (Feb 16), my last TechBUZZ, buying the Subaru & making my first solo trip to Saratoga (with my mattress & laptop), saying farewell to the house at 301 S. Henry (March 19), driving the cats to Saratoga, the movers arriving with our furniture in Saratoga, Bobby’s last day with SAIC, my last day with MAVA, our first day waking up together “all in” to our Saratoga live (April 11th) – and, my first day with TRF (May 1). Phew! Alot to process, alot of ground covered, and above all, a great sense of relief and satisfaction that we have made it through that first big year of transition – reinventing our lives, our careers, our home, and our routines. We did it! Wow.

The anniversary game

As B and I went to Happy Hour on April 11th (at Mexican Connection), I inflicted one of my somewhat infamous “games” on him. The rules were simple. We’d make & build 3 lists, in 3 rounds, consisting of the following: 5 things B is proud of himself for accomplishing in our first year; 5 things I am proud of myself for accomplishing; and 5 things we have accomplished together. The goal was to take stock and celebrate how far we’ve come. This is something I’m always something I’m quick to suggest everyone I love do more often…. and occasionally admonish myself to do so too, when we all know how much easier it is to work on the list of “still need to do” – whether this be at the end of a workday, a workweek, a season, a year. I truly believe we recharge our batteries by looking (at least briefly, and very intentionally) in the rearview at these milestone moments to note, respect and appreciate how far we’ve come… before, the inevitable looking up, ahead, and over the horizon at all that lies ahead.

In case you might be inspired to give this little game a try, I’ll tell you – it’s not easy, but it’s quite satisfying. I’ll caution that I’d originally thought we’d try to think of 10 things for each list (B’s, mine, ours) and I’m glad that I revised to 5. 🙂 Also, I found it easier to give ourselves a little “assist” by starting each other’s list with my by adding one to B’s list with something that I’m proud of him for accomplishing, and him doing the same for me. Food for thought!

So now, where do we go from here?

Indeed, that is the question. With my mind very focused on the process of reinvention these days (more on that in a bit), I think the pause in my writing throughout this season of anniversaries has been due to my strong sense of, really, now what? After all the effort, energy and upheaval we initiated and powered through in 2017 – extracting ourselves from our wonderful old lives, believing we were ready for a new adventure; then after all the firsts of 2018 – arriving in our long-beloved dream place, dream jobs, fresh start and blank slate; we find ourselves in year two… with no excuses. No more rookie status, we’re year-round, we’ve seen (and loved) our first winter, our first Spring… and now?

Well, the answer is simple – if kind of daunting. I believe that now we simply must…. make it awesome. Make it worth it. Make this our best moment, be our best selves, make our greatest impact… carpe diem, with no excuses. How fortunate we are that we are here, that we were able to recreate our lives, to do it on our own terms, to land so comfortably (if not entirely comfortable), to find our callings (both of us, it’s amazing), and to have all the support of friends, family, colleagues and, at least so far, no interruptions from making this our best year ever. That is the challenge. When nothing is stopping you from being your best, truest you, you simply have no where to hide – you just have to go, do, be, shine, give, act, express, and make the world a better place. GO! (Gulp!)

Some sources of inspiration – fuel for the journey

I’m excited to share what happens next, and I think my plan is to deliberately focus on sharing my personal approach to making this next year – starting with the summer – my best ever. I’ll share the highs and lows and doldrums of how I’m going to try to make the most of all of it, and to make my greatest impact. This means I’ll be writing alot more about my work, my approach to my work, my activities/tactics and hopefully some of my successes (as well as, inevitably, my failures), but also how I want to incorporate my work life, which feels so much less like work now that I’m doing what I believe I was absolutely meant to do, into my whole life – integrating home life, health life, spiritual life, community life… all of it into one fabric with many interrelated threads. So stay tuned – it’s going to get really horsie, and race-tracky, among other things!

But, before I start sharing all that, I thought I’d mention a couple of really terrific resources that I’ve been leaning on throughout my reflection on “what next”.

Podcast: Oprah’s Master Class My faves so far have been – Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleesa Rice, Stevie Nicks, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah’s (two part) story, and really, all of them I’ve listened to have been great and left me thinking. What would I teach as my personal Master Class?

Quote from website: “Oprah’s Master Class tells the stories you’ve never heard from the people you thought you knew best. Hand-picked by Oprah Winfrey for their unique impact on the world, true modern masters from Academy Award-winning actors, to Grammy-winning musicians, to ground-breaking athletes, share the greatest lessons they’ve learned along the way. In an intimate setting, they share their successes, their failures, their triumphs, disappointments and heartbreaks.”

New Book: Reinventing Greatness- Leading Yourself & Others Through Change with Confidence by Shari Goodwin. You’ll be hearing more about Shari and her charming retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Lemon Squeezy from me over the coming days – as Shari and I are hosting an event at her beautiful farm in Marshall, VA on June 22nd. For now, take a look at my review of her book on Amazon (link above), consider buying the book for yourself – and any/all friends going through a chapter of reinvention! It’s terrific!

I’d also encourage you to invest the time (1:20) in watching Shari and Lemon Squeezy’s “Reinvention in the Round” workshop on YouTube. It profoundly impacted me, as I experienced it in February this year, right as my season of anniversaries began and as I started asking myself… “after all this change, now what?”

More soon, and a promise to keep in touch

Time’s up for this writing session, as the Maven’s bus is arriving in Albany in 30 minutes, but I’m intent to get this posted tonight (almost!) and to make a habit of sharing my story as it unfolds over the months of June, July and August (for starters). Writing will be a way to hold myself accountable for some guiding principals, and to hopefully encourage my friends out there in blog-land to share their own journeys. I think we’re all in the process of reinvention all the time, it’s just a matter of paying attention to the process and trying to set some intentions for where the journey may take us. We’ll find out!

XO

Namaste!

P.S. Lots of pics of the past few months on instagram #mavenandmagpie

My daily walk thru Congress Park – ducklings!!
Peonies – so brief, but so pretty!

Brain on Fire – Sharing a few of my Current Influences & “Go To” Resources

Hi Friends!

So many thoughts to share these days… I should probably check my zodiac to find out what the heck is going on that my brain is in such a frenzy of writing, thinking, creating. I’m very grateful for the energy that seems to be flowing through me of late, and I want to make the most of it. And, to share it with you!

Today’s post is just a chance to share a bunch of resources that I’m finding very helpful and inspiring lately. I would love to talk more about any one of these things (My awesome tech support team seems to have unlocked the comment feature. Yay!)

Podcasts:

  • Optimal Living Daily – perfect to listen to while making the bed in the AM!
  • In the Money: Players Podcast – the Maven and I have listened to Pete Fornatale for years and find his show really helpful for staying up to speed on the big races in the Thoroughbred world that we’re both now a part of. Plus I made my personal debut earlier this month (episode #21) – more on this soon!
  • Oprah & Deepak 21 Day Meditation – the next FREE 21 day experience starts on March 25th (each episode available for 5 days), I highly recommend. I’ve purchased two of the earlier programs and relisten to them regulary (Manifesting Grace through Gratitude and Desire & Destiny)
  • Oprah’s Masterclass – I started this by just listening to the two episodes about her own life story, and that was simply amazing. Then, she really lets her guests just tell their story. Totally inspiring.

Videos/ Shows to Watch:

  • PBS Equus: The Story of the Horse (2 part documentary) – an absolute MUST watch for anyone with any interest in horses, horse-racing or the impact of horses on humans. Sadly, it’s no longer available for free on the PBS website, but it is so very, very worth hunting down. I plan to buy a copy (to inflict on all guests at Casa Weir, especially episode #1)
  • Reinvention, the story of Lemon Squeezy – this 1 hour and 20 minute video, is well worth the watch for all of us as we each continually “reinvent” ourselves. My friend Shari Goodwin is the teacher of this seminar, with her amazing and inspiring assistant, the adorable Lemon Squeezy – her retired Thoroughbred racehorse, who shares his own reinvention process with all of us. Much more to be shared about Shari and “Squeezy” – and a beautiful partnership that we’re building for Lemon Squeezy to help us speak for the horses of the TRF!

Apps that I rely on:

  • Headspace – every day meditation, I just love Andy, his voice, his techniques and all the different themes & packs. Have really committed to my “daily 10” since our move to Saratoga, and look forward to deepening my practice over the year ahead.
  • Red Cross Blood Donor App – if every person in the US who could donate blood did so, once a year, our country would have a surplus
  • Wunderlist – this is the app that organizes my life, and facilitates communication between the Maven and I (and minimizes the “honey dos” & “nagging”)
  • Google Drive – it took me a while, but I am totally ALL IN on having my key documents saved as Sheets, Docs and Forms on my Google Drive so I can access things (RSVP trackers, perfect!) from anywhere – and especially from my phone.
  • Paperless Post – I’ve always been a big fan, but now they have an adorable new FREE invite format called “flier” which you can send via text, and I love it!

And as a footnote and preview –

I started this post more than 3 weeks ago, and it’s been a busy & fun month which has kept me from the finishing up (adding all the links)… so two closing thoughts that reflect updates on the crazy brain as well as a look ahead.

Footnote: Tylenol PM – simple but effective, and thanks to my bestie in Bend and my Auntie in Atlanta, as messengers of the universe – I’m taking this direct approach to calming the frenzy that has settled in as my nightly challenge at 3am. So far so good! NOTE: I have simultaneously proven that I cannot ever have a double espresso at 8:30pm again… ACK, Saturday night disaster!

Preview: I’m going to dedicate my next post, or posts, to some “deep-dive” into my work world. Now that I’m embarking on my first full year in the role, with the ability to make my own plan, execute a plan and be measured by the results of my plan… I’m dedicating all of my available energy to making sure I make the most of this important, foundation year in my work for the horses of the TRF. I’d love to share this plan with my friends, to get feedback and to educate everyone I care about, about the world I now work in. Also, in preparing for the year ahead – and a number of exciting opportunities to make myself more visible and familiar to my new ecosystem – I’ve been reworking my bio, my LinkedIn summary, my Facebook Bio, and really…creating my horsie-CV. As a bit of a soft-launch/ focus group, I’d like to share it with my Maven and Magpie readers, to see how it sounds and what reactions you all may have.

And.. one more thing! When I first launched the Maven and Magpie blog & website in Dec 2017, I created a bunch of pages where I planned to capture and all sorts of things I enjoy & projects I hoped to pursue… admittedly, most of these have been woefully unattended for some time. However, as the Maven and I “buckle down” into exploring our new home, the NY Capital Region, I am going to get serious about documenting all the places we’ve been spending time – eating, absorbing and enjoying our new home. It is also where I park all our faves (especially eats) from our travels.

Here’s the page where most of this will live, so you can take a peek from time to time: Sharing the Love!

With the days getting longer, the birds chirping louder and the 1st Day of Spring around the corner… I hope you’re enjoying the new energy of this time of renewal. As the earth wakes up and the shoots appear on the trees, we each have a chance to begin anew. I’m awfully excited about all that lies ahead and to sharing it with you!

Namaste!

XO

-M.

The Power of Places and the People they bring you – A love letter to Oldfields School

Oldfields School 150th Reunion (April 2017)

Hello Friends!

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I’m newly afflicted with the “wake up in the middle of the night with my brain on fire” syndrome – and yes, I get that this is part of the “magic” of my age which I’m totally game to embrace. However, while I’m still trying a myriad of techniques to get through the “hour(s) of awake” so that I don’t turn into a total zombie during daylight hours – I’m also trying to not lose all the vivid images that fill my brain in those weird, wee hours of the night. If only I could figure out how to get/let folks comment on my blog, I feel certain everyone reading has a suggestion of what to do or not do. I can feel them! (Sign up for wordpress Reader app and read me there?)

So, this past week, I had one of these dreams… but since I wasn’t asleep it wasn’t actually a dream, it was really just a technicolor clear flashback to a special series of days in the Spring of 1991. I remember the day (and series of days) in bright detail because they were “moments that changed my life forever” kind of moments. I’m forever grateful for the magic of that time which opened the door for me to meet to an incredibly special handful of the most important people in my life – all at once. They, in turn, brought me to a place where I grew up and became much who I am now and where I met a flock of the most amazing people who I hold most dear in my life to this day. It was such a big day. It was 28 years ago. And, I feel like I just went back in time to watch it again… and I’m reliving it, reflecting on it, and of course, sharing it with you!

Here’s the flashblack as a thumbnail (I apparently have big thumbs) –

March 1991: The magpie is in her 4th year at UVA, applying for jobs that will scratch her “make the world a better place” itch, while reflecting her post-Spain epiphany that working in development in another country is not as compelling as she thought it was (because from overseas, our country looked like it needed plenty of help). These included Teach for America, US P.I.R.G. (is that even around anymore?), one random marketing job with the tiny startup on Capitol Hill that became the Advisory Board (and would’ve paid 10 times the rest), and a number of independent school teaching jobs. The private school idea really came of my belief that Teach for America would never select me due to all the incredible good fortune, excellent education and every imaginable advantage I had enjoyed over my first 20 years of life – what could I possible offer to them? So, I answered the call of the independent school placement agencies (Carney Sandoe etc), and decided to go to the annual conference of the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) where they ran their annual cattle-call of hiring in the Spring.

In 1991 the conference was held in NYC, so I took a field trip from C’ville to the Big Apple! I am a bit blurry on how I got there, I have to guess it was the train because I know I flew from Newark to meet my parents for Spring Break in Steamboat, the only time we’d ever gone there together and the first time I’d skied in March (so warm & sunny!). The super-fun part of that trip was that I stayed with my SUPER AWESOME Kappa Delta Sorority Sister, “Big Kim” and her roomie (another awesome KD) Colette. I have very fond, if fuzzy, memories of going out with them near their apartment the night I got there… thinking it was a Friday. Then, on Saturday I went to NAIS which was hosted in some big hotel (would be fun to figure out where). As I recall, there was a very low-tech sort of communication system where you looked for your name on a sort of bulletin board, covered with little envelopes and schools would put their names in your timeslots if they wanted to meet you – in sort of a speed dating setup. I recall sitting in a big ballroom with lots of tables and people having quick conversations (this part is fuzzy), and I THINK I met Nancy Maslack at one of those tables. What I KNOW happened next, is that I was invited for a 2nd conversation with the team from Oldfields School. I had never heard of this place, ever. The 2nd meeting must’ve happened the following day, sort of like “call-backs”.

That fateful next meeting was upstairs in the hotel, in what felt like a suite, and that’s where and when I met and spent time with 3 people who changed my life: Hawley Rogers, Nancy Maslack and Jan Scott – the leadership team of Oldfields School in 1991. This is the moment that my life changed. It’s clear as could be now, looking back. But, I wonder, did I realize it then? I remember that I felt so at home with them, so honored to be meeting with them (in their fancy suite!) and it just seemed so clear that I’d found where I was supposed to be. It might have even seemed a little too good to be true. Of course, like all big days… you rarely know it’s big until it’s over. And, as a 21 year old child, I was as enamored by the whole “big city” experience of interviewing in NYC as anything else – so I don’t know whether I knew I’d found my home, but I certainly had.

April 1991: As I recall, the next step job-wise was that I scheduled to go to Oldfields and drove there for the next round of interviews. With some lingering version of walking pneumonia (I think), I drove there on April 1st. I remember that date and that drive so clearly, in the original CALIHOO (1985 White Grand Cherokee). It was a grey & rainy morning, driving up from Arlington, taking exit 24 – Belfast Road- off of 83 north and loving the mist, the green, the rolling hills, the horsie-ness. It was literally a drive into the next chapter of my life. While I don’t recall that much about the day of interviews as I do about the drive, I do everso vividly remember sitting in the Papa-san chair of my now dear, dear sister-friend, Wawa, in her apartment above the Admissions Office (later my dear friend TAG’s apartment)… and thinking I’d just me someone who I hoped would be in my life forever. And she has been! Love you Wa!!

Thankful beyond measure. All of this just leads me to offer this post as a “love letter” and a prayer of heartfelt gratitude for the Place that is Oldfields and the People who both brought me there and found me there. Thank you Hawley! Thank you Nancy!

And thanks beyond thanks to the amazing woman, Jan Scott, who invested so much of herself in helping me become the best me I could be. One day I’ll just write an entire post in her honor, with my love and gratitude for her extraordinary mentorship. It is her beaming smile that I most miss. I still feel the warmth of her. Such a teeny little person, packing such a huge punch in the world … like a great big ball of super-charged sunshine, bursting with energy, light, ideas, enthusiasm and life. All these many years since she left us to watch over us like an angel above. Reminding us to “breathe” to “dance” and, always, to “go for it”.

The five years I spent in that amazing community were powerfully transformational. I am really just in awe of how deep the relationships are that I formed there – such that I can wake up in the middle of the night feeling the connection to each of you like a physical bear hug. I am profoundly thankful to each and everyone one of you.

While a big part of me wants to just start typing a huge long list of all the people who fill my brain with the memories of those 5 years (teachers, students, parents, colleagues…fellow travelers, prospective students…), I’m going to forego the exercise and instead, bury you in photos I dug up and took in celebration of the 150th Anniversary at OS in 2017. Enjoy! (And beware, I’m seriously in tears of love & joy & nostaglia as I’m posting them.)

Closing with a shameless PSA – I’d really love to start getting some comments on my posts, but it seems the only way to do this is for folks to install the WordPress App, log in and read & comment there. Click here to read how to do this. I’d love to hear from you – especially if you are one of the many, many gifts that Oldfields gave to me.

Looking ahead to future reflections, I’m starting a list of the places that have helped me become who I am – and if you find a way to reply to this post, I’d love to hear your lists!

  • The Barn at the Brumfields, Carmel Valley, CA
  • Bishop’s School, La Jolla, CA
  • Camp Strawderman, Woodstock, VA
  • University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • Semester Abroad in Valencia, Spain
  • Oldfields School, Glencoe, MD
  • Riggs Bank, Washington, DC
  • Virginia Economic Development Partnership
  • 301 S Henry Street, Alexandria, VA
  • MAVA
  • ….. now, Saratoga Springs, NY!

Saratogaversary – and a flurry of firsts

Hello Friends!

(Posting delayed one week)

One year ago today, February 16, 2018 we became Saratogians! We signed on the dotted lines and became the happy owners of 123 Madison Street. It’s all so vivid in my memory, and yet it feels like a lifetime ago. What a wonderful, whirlwind first year it’s been. We are so grateful for all that led us here, and all the many ways in which we’ve been so warmly welcomed to our new home, our new town, and our new lives.

As a sort of amazing way to start this anniversary day, I had the great fun of joining Rick Thompson for my second time on the “Talk Saratoga” radio show (8-9am on Saturday, 91.1 WSPN). Rick has made me feel so welcome, and I am grateful for my dad, auntie and the Maven for listening at 8am!

Tonight (well, actually 4:30, because… Happy Hour!), we’re meeting our friends Joanne and John at Chianti for a toast to our first “Saratogaversary” – excited to celebrate with this wonderful pair, as it was Joanne who made it all happen for us. Not only will I forever be grateful to Joanne as my first friend here in town, but before that, she was our awesome real estate agent… guiding and supporting us through the whole of 2017… our search, our purchase, the tree and the close. Phew! We are so thankful for Joanne! And John, her awesome hubby, will forever be loved for his positively perfect words at our post-close toast at the Brook Tavern last year. After I had spent most of our first day of new homeownership crying over the unexpected timing of our first offer on 301 Henry St, and had said that I’d just realized that “now that we had moved to the place we always went on vacation, I guess we need to find a new place to go on vacation.” He replied, without missing a beat with this perfectly calm, cool and understated comment –

“No you don’t. Living here really is like being on vacation all the time.”

John Towers

And, he nailed it. It’s true!

So now we get to start our series our firsts all over again! (Can you hear the Maven rolling his eyes?) First anniversaries, that is! And, while I love these made-up-milestones, it’s also a wonderful time to reflect on all that we’ve done over these first 12 months, and what we’ve learned, observed and are gradually feeling – as our new life seeps into our bones and our new environment starts to work it’s magic on us. We know that much of what had worn us out in Washington was the pace, the pressure, the lack of “white space” in each day. Here we have found a completely different pace, a complete lack of pressure, no traffic and so much more unstructured time… it’s amazing. As the wonder slowly fades, I’m hoping that both the Maven and I can dedicate ourselves to making the most of this gift of time. I find it strikes me in unexpected ways, for which I want to try very hard to be forever & daily grateful.

(Finishing this one week later) While I didn’t quite get this anniversary post launched on the day of the anniversary, we dove right into a bunch of moments that marked the occasion. Lovely drinks with Joanne and John, at Chianti – with the fun bonus of running into Molly & Ron, having a pre-theater bite, and also one of my treasured friends of the TRF, Eloise, having dinner with her hubby while visiting from the city. Such fun! Maven and I then moved on to the Kraverie for a bite of Korean yumminess… and besides the tasty food and great acoustic guitar (Zak Young, love him!), we ran into our friends Bob & Viviana (owners of the home we so happily rented on East Ave all those years). More fun! And then, on to the Valentine’s Dance at the Principessa Elena Club to say hi to Fran & Karianne. Fun! Fun! And, yes, it really feels like we live here.

Finishing this post with a few more firsts that we added to the list this week:

  • First excursion to Argyle Brewing Company.  Our farthest trip East from town, thru Schulerville, past the Washington County Fairgrounds, past the Hand Melon Stand – yay, found it!!, through Greenwich, and on to Cambridge). We started with a yummy brunch at Roundhouse Cafe, and then a fun visit with the best-smile-in-upstate-New York, Dave at the brewery!
  • First cold (for me). Ugh. It was looming throughout the day on Sunday… but despite a really yummy hot toddy defense, it took over and knocked me out all day on Monday & Tuesday. Bleck.
  • First visit to the office of Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, with her team at their cozy & cool office right on Spring Street. Chelsea and I had a great time introducing Carrie, Jeremy and Mark to the powerful impact of our TRF Second Chances program – and updating them on our plans for expansion in her district, with a new program in Washington County, this year! I’ll be spending the day with Carrie at the Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, and I can’t wait!
  • First Horsemen’s Social at Longfellows – memories of the first event I went to just less than a year ago, for Shelters of Saratoga. Fun to turn up and see a few familiar faces, and Maven’s first time to Longfellows. Surely won’t be his last!
  • First visit to Leon’s in Ballston Spa.. we’d been fans of the original, which was located one block from our home at 123 Madison (before we moved here). We’d place it at the top of our list of local Mexican options – it’s not a super competitive field of 4, but my chicken burrito made me happy.
  • And now, with a whole list of other things I want to write about next… I’m off to my first Saratoga Beer Summit! Volunteering with the Kiwanians, thanks to a kind invite from Rick Thompson, and looking forward to seeing all the people & the hubbub at the City Center!

A flurry of pics below from the week’s adventures. Back to more reflective topics – looking forward & looking back – as soon as I can find my next window to write! (preview – Oldfields & Lemon Squeezy on my brain!!)

XO

Saturday AM at the Oklahoma 2.16.19
M & M with John & Joanne
Our toast a year ago 2.16.18 – as newly minted Saratogians!
Anniversary Toast #2 – Kraverie!
Argyle Brewing Company, Cambridge, NY
Hi, Dave!
My last stand…
The best buddy of a bed-ridden Magpie, the Mook.

Growing pains – when the novelty wears off.

Chowderfest fun with the Maven, Rebecca and Sack!

Hi Friends!

I’m doing my best to enjoy a snowy Tuesday here in my home office, but isn’t it amazing how quickly a slow internet connection can turn your most cheerful mood into a funk? Ah, technology – you do try to control us, don’t you?

Well, while I struggle and fuss with my TRF website, it seems my Maven & Magpie server is feeling much more cooperative (and, it’s after 5, so I’m not really cheating). I’ve been wanting to write for several weeks, but alas, the days have been a bit too full to do so. It’s a funny conundrum, as my year’s intention is to focus… but the short-term impact of focus is, frustratingly, doing fewer things. Hopefully I’m doing them better, deeper, more fully… but my-oh-my the itch to do it all is deep-seated and hard to resist. I can’t say I’ve won the internal battle, but for now, the blog, the knitting, and the reading have been getting very little love.

So, what have I been doing? Well, here’s what I’m telling myself:

  • Focusing fully on work – really trying to get my first full year in my dream job launched well, successfully, pro-actively and with no excuses. My zeal for this work knows no bounds. My annual target has been set. It has been approved by the board, and our TRF 2019 budget has been built around it. Most importantly, I set the number which reflects a +20% increase over what was counted in my tally last year. I have alot to do and I’m absolutely frothing at the mouth to get it done! (More on this and the title of this post in a bit…)
  • Being present – basically, trying to single task. Especially when that comes to being with people (husband, friends, family). I am sincerely trying to give them my all when I am with them. With my trip to NoLa and then MD/VA/DC in January, that was alot of “being there” time. And, ever so luckily for me, I’ve had visits from two of my very besties over the last two weekends. Awesome, wonderful, cherished time with my BFFs. XXOO Plus, I’m trying to be good about frequent communication with my circle of loved ones… and dedicating myself to keeping my special peeps close via texts & other communication. My prayer list is very long right now and I’m doing what I can to send sparkling, joyful, energetic, positive love to everyone in my heart.
  • Keeping my goals list in mind. The goals list is something that my friend Ellen and I have decided to do together in order to hold one another accountable over the course of the year with calls & updates every other week. These goals all flow from my 2019 intentions for my big year of fabulous 50, but the calls (like the one coming up this Sunday) sure do help in making me “do the stuff” that will give me a good update on Sunday. Speaking of which… anyone else having gremlins in the iphone voicemail?
  • Not being on Facebook. This is kind of interesting – I just can’t get myself to go back on. I haven’t turned on it (you know me!), I just don’t feel I have time for it. I may not be doing a zillion other things, but I totally don’t feel like I have time to “scroll”. I’m finding myself using “the Book” to check on individual people, get birthdays, etc… but without the notifications on and having moved the app to a 3rd or 4th screen on my phone, it’s been not only really easy to stay off… but weirdly challenging to go back. I feel like I should, mostly so that I get back in the swing of our TRF page, but wow…. it’s amazing how little I miss it. And – as many have noted, I’m not really, really off because I have continued posting on Insta and I do a bit of scrolling there. Food for thought!

So, growing pains. Yep. It happens.

We all know that for whatever reason, life reverts to the norm, no matter how much of a “pinch-me-we-still-live-here” situation we find ourselves in. This is not to say the bloom is off the rose, but just that even in our very, very happy place – it’s still real life. On the one hand I’m resisting this on every front, but on the other, I think I just need to accept that it’s going to happen and just not let it settle in too deep.

A few examples –

Well, besides the Maven’s obvious two-elbowed example that even when you reinvent your lives, move to the town of your dreams to pursue the jobs you were made for… S*** still happens. There’s that, and there’s no escaping it.

But, for me, the two examples I’m chalking up to “growing pains” today are these:

  • Pain #1: All days can not be super spectacular unicorn days. Even when every day at work is 1000% better than it’s ever been, because the work is so profoundly meaningful, inspiring and fun… there will still be some days that are not as great as others. There will be so so days, there will be blah days, and there will probably even be “bad days”… normative curve, it has to happen. My heartfelt intent is to remember that much like that old saying about golf… “a bad day in your dream job, is so much better than your best day in your old life”. It takes practice and an active defense against the creep of “taking it for granted”.
  • Pain #2: I am still me – and perhaps even more so… and that’s alot to take. (for all of us, including me). So, if you’ve ever worked with me, you’ll probably chuckle when I tell my friends here on the blog my little secret. News flash: I’m kind of intense. It took me a while to come to grips with this word, but I now fully own it. It is me. I am a frenzied ball of impatient, fast-paced, quick-typing, rapid-talking, task-making, email-sending, list-attackin, action-oriented, shoot-first-apologize later type. I am a do-er. I am not a great waiter, ponderer, or weigher of all the options. I am not a devil’s advocate appreciator. I have epiphanies regularly and once I visualize the plan I just want to GET IT DONE. In a word – intense. (Hopefully in a nice & positively intended way.) And, yes, I absolutely appreciate that I can and will drive alot of people crazy. My intolerance of slow, ponderous, timid or let’s-make-it-perfect-before-we launch-it can be (and often is) super annoying. I feel you out there my friends it’s OK, I know it’s true. For what it’s worth, I can sense it, I can feel it and I can see the annoyed-ness in people’s eyes. But, alas, it only makes me MORE insistent as I find myself reciprocating the annoyed-ness in the face of what looks slow or inefficient to me (and which I know, deep down, is really just thoughtful). Anyway, without belaboring all of this. One day, you wake up and you’re no longer the “endearing new girl with alot of energy”, but you’re really just a P.I.T.A because you seem to steamroll over everyone in every meeting, you’re exhausting with all your ideas, lists and requests for meetings, and perhaps worst of all, it seems like you’re trying to stick your nose in everyone else’s business. Ack. I must accept that I am by nature a bossy betty and it’s not my best trait. For now, I’m just trying to sit with the growing pains. It stings a bit to see that my enthusiastic charms have somewhat faded around the office, and folks are starting to take me for what I am. It’s a process – for them and for me. It’s not bad, but it’s not super fun either.

“You will be too much for some people. Those are not your people.”

Unknown

As Oprah says in my beloved “Oprah+Chopra” mediation series... and now, we meditate.

In fact, I think that’s exactly what I’m going to go do. As a parting shot, I really can’t recommend Headspace enough… I’m finally getting to the place where I do my quick “take a brain break” exercises a few times a day to pause, reset and perhaps, over time this will calm that edge of frenzy that is causing a look of … “eek” in my dear colleagues’ eyes.

Signing off for now – with a few snaps from our recent adventures: our house at 1:30pm as the snow began, recent visits with Sack, Rebecca & KC, and a few fun photos with new friends here in Saratoga too.

Gratefully,

M.

Feb 12th 1:30pm
Women’s networking event with my new crew!
Bday fun with the TRF gang – Happy Bday Jenn!
Kicking off the ‘fest with a first stop at Five Points – Lucia & Addison, rocking the chowder on the corner!
Chowderfest 2019 – here we come, killing it with our cuteness!
Ice Bar at Lake George… really, too bad we weren’t having any fun!
One more… standing on the frozen lake, with ice-fishermen photobombing. YAY!