When a turkey sandwich is so much more

Hello Friends!

As the days keep clicking by I’m trying to make them go slowly to savor the “normal” that will soon be just a shadow…I find myself taking pictures of ordinary things which I know won’t be ordinary come Tuesday. See above!

I’m continuing with my 15 day photo countdown on instagram, #mavenandmagpie, feel free to follow along.  But meanwhile, I just had to try to capture a moment that suddenly struck me yesterday (Monday) when I realized that I’d actually made some real progress on one of my priority projects for the summer.  Admittedly, it now feels weird and awkward to share this, kind of embarrassing to pat myself on the back for what is certainly – at best – a small step in a long journey. But anyway, I’m sticking to the “celebrate the small wins” approach to this process – the building of a new life, the building of a new network, the figuring out of how to make the most of the crazy summer season at Saratoga.

So, the sandwich.

Yesterday at approximately 7:45am, I was invited to partake in a sandwich (ham or turkey)  or a piece of pizza by Mr. Dale Romans and his wife Tammy.  Doing my best to read the situation and the moment properly, I opted to accept – and then to just “hang out” eating half of a turkey sandwich from Spring Street Deli (and yes, this was before I’d yet had my coffee for the day).  It was a big moment.  Welcome to my surreal life!

Uh, what’s up with the sandwich?

Well, in brief, this simple invitation by Mr. Romans (wikipedia link) was a small symbol that my “horsemen’s outreach campaign” was making an impact – I am slowly making myself known to (to at least a few people) in a big, complex, and highly insular community.  My strategy for the horsemen of the Saratoga meet has been a slow, but steady program (aka “charm offensive”) by which I’ve been delivering hand-written personal notes of congratulations to the trainer of each stakes-winning horse at the meet.  On most days there is one stakes race, on Saturdays sometimes two or three, and on this past Friday and Saturday.. a bunch each day!  This is the objective of my morning excursions to the backstretch: finding my way around to all the barns, observing and learning along the way, meeting folks when possible, and then delivering my notes – often just dropping in the trainers’ offices, but sometimes hand-delivering with a quick hello.  I’ll share a copy of one of the notes in a photo with this post… I’ve used a pretty consistent message all summer, but this week I’m changing it up a bit.   As I told my friend Matt, the notes give me the “purpose and structure” that I so appreciate and need to keep my energy heading in a useful direction.

So, the Romans.

The sandwich invite was approximately the 6th time I’d encountered the Romans over the course of the summer. At this rate I will have mastered the Saratoga trainer community in 25 years…

  • First, met with Terry Finley of West Point Thorougbreds on the golf cart (more of an almost-met)
  • Second, delivered note for the first win of Promises Fulfilled in the Amsterdam stakes in late July.
  • Third, at the Select Sales with my wing-man Bill Clark, we sat with the Romans for quite a while (and they offered me food then too, but it was not the right moment to partake) – told my stories of Pennells and Kenny Chesney concert.
  • Fourth, I delivered a note about how much I’d enjoyed meeting them at the Sales
  • Fifth, said hello while Eric Guillot was holding court near Seth Merrow’s tent – Dale saved the day.
  • And then, Monday – when I went to deliver another note of congratulations, the invite and the sandwich!

Anyhow, it was a small thing – but it felt good.  They were thoughtful hosts, kindly asking me about where I lived in town, intrigued to hear we had just moved here, and asking about Bobby too.  I chatted a minute with their son, who I recall handicapping as a kid – he is now a jockey’s agent.  I tried not to linger, but I also enjoyed the brief chat – and if I can find a way to do so , I’ll go back to snap a photo of the view from the Romans’ barn.

And then, it got better!

Just to close out what was a good day on all counts, I left my peeps in the backyard to make a quick excursion to the paddock for the feature on Monday.  While I’ve been growing a bit weary of the stalker-nature of my job in the afternoon (missing the rationale of my morning “purpose and structure”), wherein I go to the paddock very often with the express goal of saying hello to various people, usually owners – and/or just being “present and visible” so that these folks I want to meet will be familiar with me before I call on them as donors.  It’s another long game, and the progress I’m making in the afternoon is much, much harder to measure than my progress in the AM.  However, on Monday I had a nice exchange with one of my board members, then as I walked out, one of the trainers I’ve been pursuing came up to talk with me as we walked out of the paddock and a partner from one of the ownership groups decided I was “somebody” enough to chat with me as we walked out.  Then, when I opted to go back for one more paddock visit before heading home, I had a nice exchange with Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stables (wikipedia link) and then Rudy Rodriguez sought me out to give a kiss on the cheek (thank you Brimstone and Libby Imperio), and I even had a rush of confidence enough to just walk up to a couple who have been long time donors just to say thank you and introduce myself.  Lots of little “sandwiches”… and many more to pursue.

OK, turning into a pumpkin – hoping to get a few photos loaded before I crash.

Bon soir mes amis!




Hoodie weather and a hint of the blues

Good morning friends!

It is truly a picture perfect sunny and 58 degree morning here in Saratoga.  At last!

This has actually been a challenging weather summer with hot, humid and rainy as our norm… great for the plants, but tough on the horseracing (especially the turf horses and handicappers).  B and I have been fine, as we’re still more Virginian than New Yorker, but it is lovely to get a good dose of 100% exactly what we think of when we say “Summer in Saratoga” –  and I think we’re in for a nice stretch here for the final week and a half of the meet.  It is simply spectacular, and it’s just beyond amazing that I am sitting here in my hoodie, sipping my espresso, on my porch … and not on vacation.  Pinch me!

I woke up with a big wave of almost-homesickness for all my beloved peeps in Virginia.  Much to the Maven’s chagrin, I do not adhere to the “no phone in bed” rule, as I find it very comforting to check in on all my loved ones far & near by iphone as I’m waking up to face the day – facebook, insta and a flurry of text help my brain wake up and connect me to those folks I’m thinking of. You know who you are! 🙂

Today I was especially grateful for a bunch of texts from friends back in VA “checking in” on me and sharing little updates from my “old life”.  Among my  many things to reflect on as we come into the Fall of this big year of transition is the process of keeping in touch, and sorting out who will stay with me through this next chapter and accepting who may not.   I am so grateful for each of you who have traveled this path with me – through following the baby blog, on FB, by text, phone or coming to visit.  We are so grateful for the love, support and encouragement of all of you. XXXOO

However, with a hint of autumn in the air I’m caught in a moment of thinking about the idea that “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”.  Quite simply, until you make a move, there’s no way to assess who is who.   Having been in the same place for more than 25 years, I simply had no way of knowing how the people in my life would shake out.

Using my dear headspace approach of “noting and letting go” this has been happening in the back of my brain over the course of the summer (often while I’m sleeping and hashed out through dreams).  It catches me in waves and sometimes I wake up a bit sad thinking of the folks who seem to have gently opted out.  And while there’s definitely some pain in recognizing that a chapter has closed, at least for now, with a number of people I really enjoyed knowing and working with and who played a big part in my life I also am working hard not to judge. People are so very, very frantically busy in DC, the hustle is so hard, and honestly, I’ve made choices too… it’s the never-ending dance of relationships to assess, without words, “who is going to make the first move”.  There’s also the fact that my departure from my work world was kind of complicated, to put it gently.  For a host of reasons that I chose to say made sense then, I communicated very little with my professional network about this move.  To many, I’m sure it seemed abrupt and dramatic.  Although those same people who may have been surprised were by definition not true friends, if they didn’t know how much we’d dreamed of this move for years.  (Not judging, it just means we hadn’t reached that point in our friendship). It’s just a weird feeling.  I guess it’s the selfish side of me that simply expected more folks from my work world to reach out (and I’m so appreciative of those who did and continue to do so).   It’s just the ones that don’t keep in touch that you notice… why is that? Shame on me for assuming they would do so by linkedin since I never sent the big “hi, I have news, I’m moving to Saratoga” email to my contacts.  While I heard from a bunch of folks when I announced my new role in May, it’s been pretty much crickets since then. Interesting.  I think that’s the nature of work-friendships. Without a reason to be in touch, no one really has time to just send the “I’m thinking of you, how are you?”. And more importantly, I need to be honest about why I think they should be in touch instead of me.  I think because I moved away they should “miss me”, but maybe they just feel I didn’t care enough to say goodbye.  I guess I find myself wondering alot what they think (and that’s a slipperly slope I’m trying to avoid too). Mostly, I’m trying to realize and accept that most folks I’m thinking of probably don’t think much (about me) at all. It’s OK, it’s just a bit…. hard to put into words.

Looking up and forward, it’s just very validating to realize that I wasn’t ever critical in the role I was playing, so it’s a very, very good thing we finally made the move to land in the place where I’m supposed to be.  As so many friends and loved ones tried to tell me, we are probably/certainly never as indispensable as we think we are – certainly not at work – and we shouldn’t let that feeling of personal responsibility play such a huge role in our decisions.  Oh yes, I hear the irony of my writing this. I know that many, many of you tried to tell me this for a long, long time.   I guess, I’m just saying, with gratitude that I see it more clearly now.  You were right.  While I refuse to regret time spent in service to a community that largely hasn’t noticed my departure, the lack of contact from a huge swath of people does speak volumes.  It’s not bad and they aren’t bad, but it’s definitely humbling to recognize that we are all mostly just supporting cast in the drama of our lives and when we step off stage, our absence is not a big event for most of the audience. I am working hard to not take that the wrong way, and I am very grateful for the experience of my last role because I learned so much and met so many great people in that last role.  I know it sounds lame, but I’m really not actively fishing for reassurance that I mattered.  I really, truly know I was useful and helpful, and most importantly, I know that the people that mattered most to me – and to whom I mattered most – have never wavered. And there’s no expiration date on any of this.  Many who haven’t been in touch may be back one day when the timing is right for us to reconnect. The road is long and winding, who knows when we’ll next cross paths. They may reach out, I may reach out – it’s all about timing, always, isn’t it?

And now, after that little episode of melancholy reflection, back to this one!!

It’s a beautiful day here in Saratoga – the beginning of the big Travers weekend.   I’m heading in to the office this AM for a few hours, then over to the races for an afternoon spent largely in the paddock… one of the loveliest spots in an everso lovely place.

Oh, and while I’m giving up on my daily posts approach to the blog, I am posting at least one (usually more) pic a day for these last 15 days of the summer on Instagram #mavenandmagpie if you want to follow along.

More soon, but big hugs to all and warm wishes that you find just what you’re looking for in the day ahead. Treasure those who treasure you, and make the most of every moment.  The past is the past, the future is unknown, but the present is the gift given to us to enjoy!


Week 2 – (trying to) find time to reflect

Hello Friends!

Warning: 11:22pm = not much left in the tank…again!

Good news! I have maintained my “streak”. Not sure how many days, but more than 2 or 3. So, that’s something.

Bad News. I just haven’t yet found or made enough time, while my brain is still functioning, to even partially develop any of the topics that pop into my head to write about on any given day.

So, as we wrap up week 2 of our first Saratoga Summer, I am going to try something new for week 3.  I am still going to post each day, but the goal will be:

Either, a list of the ideas & topics that have struck me that day for further consideration & thought development – and more thoughtful writing – once the summer frenzy is done. Or, I will start a Post with enough direction to allow me to come back later to finish up.

Tonight, a short list of ideas before “pumpkin happens” –

1. Some days you’re the windshield, sometimes the bug

2. The power of energy

3. Taking turns cheering for friends/ encouraging others on their journey

4. My writing project idea with Richie

5. Things I appreciate at work – autonomy & support

6. People who have contributed to me being who I am today.

For now – bonne nuit!



It All Began with Button

Hello Friends

Apologies for being somewhat dark & mysterious yesterday. It was two-days-in-one sort of day, both joyful & peaceful here in my happy little life in a Saratoga bubble and terribly sad & tragic in another world close to my heart.  The idyllic world of my dear Camp Strawderman was shaken by an unthinkable loss.  A lovely and beloved young woman lost her life while riding – doing precisely what she most wanted to do on a beautiful summer morning in the Shenandoah.

The Camp Strawderman community spans generations and continents, yet last night as the terrible news made its way to each of us, we all found ourselves reconnected – as if time & space had melted away – and we were once again in the goodnight circle, holding hands, crying and singing “our fond good nights”.  With our hearts heavy and most of us far, far away, we all went to bed with visions of that familiar, steadfast and comforting view of the suns final glow over the mountains  and those melancholy notes of TAPS echoing over our dear home away from home.

(For those tracking my “streak”, I’m picking up here to write more in this one post instead of starting a new one… and I’m counting this as another consecutive day of writing, while already starting to fade.)

All of this leads my thoughts back to not only my cherished years as a camper and counselor at Strawderman, but even moreso to the path – and the powerful impact of one person – who led me to Camp, and in so doing, changed my life in so many profoundly positive ways.  That person was a super smart, strong, sassy, independent, opinionated, fun-loving, fearless and boundlessly creative woman named Helen Button.  Known as Helen in San Diego, and Button at Camp, and a woman without whom I would not be half the person I am today.

The backstory to my Strawderman days:

Note – to be continued!