• Shred the Gnar

    I keep being reminded to play like a kid. A couple of vivid examples happened in just the last week.

    Gordon, my fiancé, and I love boating up in Lake Tahoe. The first summer after I left KSBY we spent most of our summer days floating on the crystal clear blue of that beautiful body of water. He was recovering from surgery and I was recovering from my latest stint in television news. This summer we are both working more, have our condo up there rented out much more, and are both wondering whether taking the boat out of storage and docking it for the season makes sense. We have been dealing with a bit of option paralysis.

    Last week we were still debating whether to head north and get the “job” done. Gordon called Leon, the free-spirited owner of the boat storage facility who he had talked to several times already that week to say he had changed his mind again. We would wait until after the 4th of July weekend. Here’s how the conversation went from there.

    Leon: “Dude, too late. I already pulled your boat down, got the guys working on it right now. Time to Shred the Gnar Dude.”

    Gordon; “What is Shred the Gnar?”

    Leon: “Dude, are you that old? It’s 4th of July weekend. You know, get out there and get to it. Break some shit.”

    Gordon asked how soon I could be ready and said we were heading north.

    “It’s time to Shred the Gnar.” He told me.

    After a quick inquiry from me, followed by a google search, I learned “Shred the Gnar” has to do with extreme sports…snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing or skiing but to me it’s a fun new commandment to quit taking life so seriously and seize the day. It’s become my new favorite saying for the summer.



    We were back in Shell Beach for the actual 4th where for some reason we tend to steer clear of the crowds and craziness and watch the fireworks from a friends house. But this year, we opted to get on our bikes and ride right down into the chaos. Gordon, his son, a couple of friends and I ended dancing our way down to waters edge, lying on our backs with the fireworks exploding right over us. I mean you felt each explosion and it was fantastic! Not quite tearing down a powder-covered mountain, but Shredding the Gnar in our own middle-aged way.

    I got to thinking about how easy it can be to take the easy path to summer and life in general. It takes a little extra coordination to load bikes, boats, or toys of any kind and actually use them to PLAY (you know, like you did as kids) but it’s so worth it.

    As we were riding home (must faster than cars caught in traffic) and my legs and lungs were burning heading up the hill out of Pismo Beach I got to thinking. How many 4th of July celebrations have I missed because I was reading the late news. I remembered how for the last couple we weren’t sure Gordon would even be able to ride like this again. I was overcome with such a sense of gratefulness we made the effort. And a commitment to continue playing like a child as often as possible. Life is short, unpredictable and far too serious for too often.

    So Shred the Gnar Baby!

  • Messages in the Sand: Spreading magic

    Messages in the Sand:

    Can you remember the thrill of magic? “What?” You ask. MAGIC. Most of us believed in it in some form or fashion as children. Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy. Our imaginary friends. Coming back to you? Well can you really remember the FEEL of that magic?

    Give it a try. Can you recall that FEELING you had as a child in the days leading up to Christmas morning? Or maybe what it felt like waking up and realizing today was the day, then rushing out to the living room to see what Santa had left. There was a thrill to believing in something as magical as good old St. Nick.

    I was reminded of that feeling recently while having my coffee down at the beach not far from my home. Someone magical in my neighborhood leaves messages in the sand for those of us who will get up early enough to take them in before high tide and beach activity takes them away.

    They are so special to me they will get me out of bed long before my body is ready so that I can run down to see what words of wisdom have been left on any given day. I feel Iike a kid when I begin to rise from a deep slumber, hesitant to even open my eyes, and then it hits me: “Message in the sand! Hurry! Get up!” It feels like it did every Christmas morning long ago.

    The other day I was up especially earl before the sun and cruised down to catch the beautiful transition from night to day. I lumbered over to see the message knowing there was no real hurry as the tide was still very low and no one was up yet to mess up the artwork. I reached the viewing spot and was caught off guard to see the mystery writer in the act. My heart leapt, and there was a moment of panic that I had ruined the magic. I felt exactly like I had caught Santa Claus in the act. I backed quietly away and left him to his work.

    I now know who creates the inspiration for all of us in the beachside community and that’s okay because his messages are still so much fun to get each morning. But that morning I realized the impact a random act of kindness can have on people. The sand-writer has no idea who will see his work each morning, nor does he ask for any recognition. He does it anonymously the messages he leaves behind change the trajectory of days for most who see them. It is a random act of kindness that has a magical effects.

    I don’t think we should let our efforts to create magic go by the wayside after children shed their beliefs in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and other magical figures. What random message of inspiration could you leave for someone today? It doesn’t have to be penned perfectly on a stretch of sand, but scribbled on a card or piece of paper and left on a desk, doorstep or public place. Maybe pair it with a flower or sweet treat. Our lives are so hectic these days, I can’t think of a single person who couldn’t use a little serenity delivered to them now and then. Sign it if you’d like. (Especially if you think your recipient might be inclined to be creeped out by an anonymous gesture.). But you can always leave it packaged beautifully in a public place and addressed to “the next person who uses this restroom” or ask a server to deliver it to their next client when they settle the bill. The point is, to share a little magic with those who have forgotten how fun believing in it can be.

  • Clean up the chaos. You are risking your life.

    I never really took to heart how dangerous it was, keeping the corner of my upstairs loft as my daily dumping grounds. In truth it was really more like the better half of a large room that exists up the stairs of my small home. It was the place I put the things I’m too tired to put away each night: the pile of mail I picked up on the way home but don’t really want to deal with right now, the boxes I haven’t unpacked since I moved in more than two years ago, stacked on top of boxes still unpacked from moves before that. It’s where the clothes I can’t fit into hang, where old picture frames and posters collect dust and debris, and momentos that mean something only to me are hidden away.

    Ironically this dumping ground exists within my favorite space in my home…a loft area, with a peek at the ocean, I dreamed of having as my creative space when I moved in. It also happens to be the easiest space to close off and hide from people.

    I think we all feel at some level how the junk drawers of our lives weigh us down. Some of us have entire spaces that fit the bill. Hoarders are the extreme cases, but most of us have dumping grounds of some sort. It wasn’t until Martha Beck asked me to give it a soul of sorts…a voice, that I realized how truly dangerous it was, and how how much it was taking from me.

    What would my dumping grounds say to me if it could talk?

    “Stop it. I’m suffocating, and I’m angry. Clean up this mess. I need room to breathe. Until you do, I will continue to trip you up, leaving your knees, head, and toes bruised every time you stumble trying to step over, around and under me. I will hide your treasures from you, wasting your valuable time and energy, giggling silently as you frantically search for something important you need desperately to find right now. Deal with me! I am not your friend until you do.”

    It took that little exercise to prompt me to block out a couple of days and get to it. I can’t tell you how much more light of heart and spirit I feel walking into my home now that I have. Even though the space is upstairs, I feel the harmony that now exists there the minute I walk in the front door.
    If our homes are symbolic of our lives, my loft was the dark corner in which I couldn’t seem to sit still long enough to deal with. It was the place in which I longed most to sit, relax, write and create, but the corner I gave the least focused attention. Consequently, it sat as a constant reminder of all I have fallen short of accomplishing.

    We all have them: places we long to be, to explore, to experience. But we clutter up the our paths to get there with the debris of our daily lives, putting it off until some future perfect day when we can dive in. What is the space you give the least attention to in your life? The area you have a hunch would be your comfort zone, if you would only set up shop there. There is likely a place in your home that represents that. Want to travel the world, but can’t imagine having the time or money? Forget the rest of the house today. Focus on organizing all those travel magazines and books and find the perfect spot for them. They is not just another project you will get to “someday.” This is your dreams being denied because you are ignoring them.

    I have come to believe putting off cleaning up the clutter of hobby space is more than procrastination. It is self-neglect. There is no future perfect. It is now. Today. And the longer you put off clearing the clutter, the harder it is to find the treasures.

  • Put more happy in your hours (with or without cocktails.)

    Happy Hour. Come on. Just the name makes you want to be part of one, right? For as long as I can remember I’ve been intrigued with the concept…even before I knew what it meant. Happy Hour. It’s just so full of joy.

    I attended my first sometime in college. It was at a bar called Los Hermanos in downtown San Luis Obispo.
    For five bucks, you could get a pitcher of margaritas and nachos. What’s not to love about that? I’d head down after swim practice with friends probably once a week and they were, indeed, happy hours. The frozen mix of sugary lemon-lime, salt, low-shelf tequila paired with bottomless chips and salsa and bargain nachos left me with a comfy combination of a full belly and light head.

    As I entered the working world of television news, those kind of happy hours went by the wayside. When it seemed most of my peers where spending their winding down hours enjoying drink specials and social connections, I was winding up with late afternoon deadlines and live newscasts at 5 and 6. Don’t get me wrong. It fueled my fancy in many ways as much as nachos and margarita specials. But when I decided to take my time out from life as a knew it a year ago, Happy Hours were were toward the top of my list of things I was looking forward to enjoying again.

    I did, and I still do. I love being out and about when the working world calls it quits and people head to their favorite patio or watering hole to speed up the winding down process. What I also discovered is how my favorite happy hours come in all different forms.

    At first it was being there for sunset, glass of wine in hand for the magic. Eventually I found the joy in doing wind-sprints with a group of like-minded fitness idealists at the high-school track. And it’s hard to beat walking a long stretch of Pismo Beach or Morro Strand and watching the world wind down in their own perfect ways when I normally would have been reading the news.

    Those are the moments when I find myself overwhelmed with joy. So completely taken by the magic of the moment and the gift of time I have found to soak it all up. Happy Hours. They don’t always come at quittin’ time or with drink specials and $5.00 nachos. They come in blocks of time when we say “time-out” to the responsibilities that plaque is. The endless to-do list that will never be done. They are our responsibility to schedule, seize and appreciate. And I am convinced they are the moments we will remember most, and best.

    So, as I enter back into the work world and realize I’m just not ready, financially or professionally, to retire, one thing that will be non-negotiable are my happy hours. They may come at dawn. They may be lunches that spill over into early afternoon. Most likely they will be the hours that were once out of reach for me to be outside and most definitely, they will paired with Mother Nature. For I have found how deeply I love to be in her presence.

    So stay tuned as I share my search for the best Happy Hours. Whether they be seaside at sunset, kicking back at a beautiful winery listening to the talent of our great local musicians, or exploring a new hike through this beautiful country we call home.

    I truly believe fun is the best thing to have, and at the end of our journeys we will long for the days we were most happy rather than most successful. So I will seek more happy hours than more money or more prestige. That much I know. So Cheers my friends! Here’s to more Happy hours in your days and lives.

  • The Power of Prayer

    We’ve all heard the phrase before, and have either believed in it, hoped for it, or scoffed at it. I saw a new example of it last week. (And I encourage you to read-on, even if you aren’t a believer.)

    It was dark and early Monday morning at Sierra Vista Hospital (which, by the way, I am now even more proud to say is the hospital where I was born. The staff there was AWESOME!) Anyway, my fiance’ was due for surgery at 7:00 a.m. so we were to be at the hospital at 5:00 a.m. Not a lot of traffic in the waiting rooms at that time of day. As they geared Gordon up in is hospital gown, inserted IV’s and got all his vitals, I headed out to the dark parking lot to put his street clothes in the car. As I did so, I noticed a few people meeting up with their coffee cups and heading inside. I kind of assumed they were doctors the way were cheerfully greeting each other with a sense of familiarity.

    Minutes later, as I waited with Gordon behind a curtain the pre-op room, I noticed some of the “doctors” walking in with some new additions to their group and asking for one particular patient. The narrative in my head continued, with me assuming that patient must be having one hell of a complicated surgery to warrant such an assembly of medical professionals. I listened for occasional clues as I heard bits and pieces of the chatter happening behind the curtain across the room. It all seemed peppered with bits of laughter and light-hearted chuckles. Maybe doctors yucking it up with a fellow surgeon who was going under the knife himself. And then it happened. All went silent for a minute and one strong voice emerged.

    “Heavenly Father, we want to reach out to you this morning for our brother….” the voice began.

    In an instant, all went silent in that pre-op room as nurses, medical assistants and those of us also waiting behind curtained walls couldn’t help but stop and listen in. It lasted maybe 3-4 minutes, I don’t know. But I could picture this group of men standing around with their heads bowed and perhaps even each other’s hands held, praying along silently.

    “And we love you, and we thank you for your wisdom and loving protection of our friend…. Amen.”

    As they left the pre-op area I peeked through a gap in our curtained wall to catch a glimpse of the group as each member exited. I recognized one as he passed and I reached out to grab his arm and say howdy. We both inquired of each other: “What are you doing here?” I pointed to Gordon and explained he was having what we hoped would be his last surgery for a long while. I returned the question to him, and he explained a friend was having his first surgery at the age of 88, and was a bit nervous. This wasn’t a group of doctors, this was a group of open-hearted, supportive friends from church, I gathered.

    “So you all came out just to pray for him?” I asked.

    “Yeah.” He answered with an open-hearted smile. “And to let him know we will be here the whole time he is under and will be waiting for him when he wakes up.”

    And that they were. I sat across the waiting room from the group as more members, wives, and friends showed up. They sat and chatted and left for a quick breakfast at their friend’s favorite pancake shop, and were sitting there waiting when Gordon’s doctor came out to tell me all went well with his surgery. They were there when I left to head to Gordon’s room, and I wished them equally good reports from their friend’s doctor soon. I also told them their friend was a lucky man to have such a support network. And I meant it. I don’t care if you believe their showing up and leading a prayer led to more attention from God. That prayer took over the noises of a hospital…the beeps, the questions being asked of patients, the lack of a sense of serenity that exists inside this kind of hospital room.

    I felt like everyone within earshot was moved by the sense of support these men created when they gathered around a friend who was scared that morning. It wasn’t just the faith they displayed, but they all got out of bed in the dark of early morning, lit from within because they were able to to come support a friend. That is something we see far too little of these days.

    It moved me, and made me see the power of prayer is far more complex than asking for and expecting favors from God. It’s about showing up, with joy, to make the ask. And it’s about showing those who may have reason to worry, they can let their worries go for awhile because their tribe has their back. It’s about sitting quietly with someone until the threat has passed, or waiting for them, so they know their not alone when they return from battle. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a smile and a joke at a particularly tense time. Prayer can take all kinds of forms. One thing I am certain about: there’s power in sending one up for someone who needs it.

    And I’m grateful to the group of people who reminded me of that last Monday at Sierra Vista Hospital.

  • JT Returns

    Well, here I am! Yes, I’m still alive. Yes, I still live here on my beloved Central Coast. No, I didn’t just marry rich and become a kept woman. No, I’m not still on T.V. (At least not full time.).

    It’s been almost a year since I called it quits at KSBY and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone.
    So what have I been up to? That’s the most frequently asked question I receive when out and about these days. The short answer is “Not too terribly much.” The more honest and realistic answer goes something more like this:

    I went off the grid. I cancelled my newspaper subscription, I quit watching anything news-related (perfect timing because I missed most of the hate of the election season) and I did my darndest to slow down my mind a bit.

    You see, the life I was living was so full of multi-tasking, I had trouble slowing down, focusing on one thing or, well, sleeping. I had so many tasks and thoughts going on at any given moment I found it more more and more difficult to just relax and be in that given moment. For years, I was proud of my multi-tasking skills, but it got to a point that it was taking it’s toll. I really had to re-train my brain a bit. Add to that some personal drama and loss, and I was kind of spun out and burnt out.

    So, I quit my job. I ignored a lot of the things I “should be doing.” I took up coloring. Yes, the kind you used to do as a child. (which I highly recommend if you’ve been relying on the left side of your brain a bit too much). I bought dozens of coloring books and pretty pens and pencils. I poured a glass of wine, took a deep breath, and forced myself to sit still enough to start a page. (Believe it or not, it was actually hard for me to do so when I didn’t feel like I was accomplishing anything.). Before long I couldn’t wait to get to my coloring books.

    I craved quiet and spent as much time in it as I could. I got out in nature as much as possible.
    I watched my fiance’ get sick and get well, and did my best to help him along that journey. We spent a lot of time at Lake Tahoe. I lost 10 pounds. Then I gained 15, but did so with gusto rather than through stress. I enjoyed meals in the evenings rather than eating frozen dinners, Panera or whatever I could pick up in a hurry and eat at my desk. I had icy cold beers in frosty mugs with lunch (something you cannot do when you work a night shift!) or wine or martini’s in the afternoon (something else you cannot do when you are reading the news at that time of day.) And yes, some days I did both.

    I hit the beaches for sunset as often as possible, which was most of the time. I found I love the magic time that happens about an hour-and-a-half before sunset maybe as much or more than the actual moment when the sun falls into the ocean. Who knew! (Remember, I have spent most of my life inside TV studios from 2:30-11:30 p.m.)

    I took all my professional clothes out of my closet and bought storage racks to hide them in the garage. I wore comfy clothes, athletic shoes or flip flops only. Most evenings were spent in my Jammies.

    Eventually I could handle a little noise in the house and I discovered dozens of Netflix, Amazon HBO and Showtime series. I binged watched them all. I made pizzas more often than I want to admit, paired them with great central coast red wines and kicked back for evenings of home entertainment. It was awesome.

    I got moving with the help of the SLO Roadrunners team and actually got to attend their practices, which was also awesome. Being out and about and active in summer warmth at 5:00 p.m. instead of behind the news desk made me feel like a kid again. Eventually I combined fitness with my favorite time at the beach and discovered a new kind of Happy Hour.

    I made phone-calls instead of sent texts to everyone, because I had time to. I remembered a few more birthdays and actually remembered to send birthday greetings. I’m enjoying re-connecting, slowly but surely, with a lot of folks “I have been meaning to call” for years now.

    I enjoyed something I had fantasized about for a long time: I took a time out. I wasn’t sure how I would afford it. I just knew it had to be done. And low and behold, a year later, I’m not yet a bag lady. I may have done a little more shopping at the Dollar Store and Goodwill (which is another awesome thing you can do when you have time to look around and discover treasures!) and I may have built up a bit of debt, but survived financially and thrived personally. I feel blessed to have been able to do what I did. (It’s a lot harder to make such time-outs happen, I realize, when you have kids, or dependents to think about. I still would have rather had kids, but at least I was only risking my future by making what some would call an irresponsible move.)

    And now. Well I’m slowly reintegrating back into real life. Or should I say, a more responsible life. You’ve may have seen I have done a few guest spots for KSBY. I did a commercial or two. And I’m starting some other freelancing projects that are helping to pay the bills.

    Ruby Shoes Wine Club still exists and will be growing again with some trips planned and club shipments in the works. I also took and completed a life-coaching course with Martha Beck, which may sound kind of funny coming from a woman who basically dropped out of life for a year. But the truth is, if I had the wisdom of a life-coach myself earlier in my journey, I probably wouldn’t have allowed myself to get so burnt out. So I’ll be doing a little of that with a limited number of clients and doing some seminars based solely on lessons I have learned, not any claim that I have all the answers.

    I may or may not get a full time job again. It kind of depends on how all of the above play out. I may even venture into another television news job. I honestly don’t know. I do know my blogging will resume, though, so I thank you for taking the time to check in here today and read this one.

    And thanks to those who have reached out over the last year to say I was missed, or to just inquire on how things were with me. I apologize if I didn’t respond personally, but know I felt the love and support, and that I appreciate you.

    I hope you enjoy this wonderful day and will check back regularly!

    Cheers! To the good life!