My Mentor

As my March Madness Month comes to a close, so do the wild work weeks and diligent dog days. It’s been a roller coaster. My mentor has been by my side. It’s all a blur now. However, he has been my constant through it all. Every time I call out, he’s there. Today was not different.

As I plow through another presentation with him this morning, he was there to keep me grounded. I’m bouncing off of walls. The last big meeting before Spring Break. I did a presentation four weeks ago, two weeks ago, and twice this week. Out of nowhere, all these presentations came up at once. I am tapped yet energized. I am brain dead yet full of curiosity. I withdrawn yet eager to get out there. I am present yet envisioning what tomorrow brings. These aspirations of mine I bestow gratitude to my mentor for his support and guidance.

A colleague and I have been preparing for this 6 hour meeting for weeks now. For every meeting hour, we put around 5 hours of planning. The Bakery Corner became our local hang out. The food is decent. The wifi is good. They don’t mind if you hang out for long periods of time. With each step I’ve counted on my mentor to guide me. He listens as I reflect. This is new turf for me. I’m vulnerable. I’m taking a risk. Sometimes I have positive ideas to share. Other times, shall we say, not so positive. Mostly, he never wavers from supporting me. Let’s face it; I can be a bit energized. Yet he believes that I can achieve and even exceed my aspirations. It’s wonderful. I love to hear the echo inside my mind. It’s so refreshing. An admiration lens allows new opportunities to come forth.

Yesterday, I was texting back and forth making final adjustments to our presentation with my colleague. We commit to meeting at 7:45 am this morning. 45 minutes before our presentation starts. What time do I leave? They never unlock the place before 7:30. What if I’m late? Nope. Nada. It’s not going to happen. I would rather leave way before traffic kicks in than take the risk of being late. I strive to be early. I’m within the top 10% 99% of the time when it comes to being on time. Today was that 1%. As I looked at the clock. I panicked. The time gap was shrinking. I grabbed this. I grabbed that. I load up the supplies in the car.

The car idles. I pause. “How do I get there?” I pull up my ‘recent places’ and dial the address into my GPS. I glance over the bridge to analyze the traffic. Everyone is moving at a steady speed. Traffic is not a problem. I’m sailing down the road. My projected arrival time is ahead of schedule. I’m good. As I travel in familiar territory, I call my husband. He listens. I ramble off about the day, about my fears, about it all. I share my insecurities. He listens. As I go down the dark, damp proverbial rabbit hole, he shares his life experiences. He connects it to mine. My nerves begin to calm. I’m good. I’m back to breathing the fresh air.

“I have to call you back,” I cut him off. I’m entering unfamiliar territory. I cruise down the prescribed road. I got this. 3.5 miles before the freeway change the sign reads, “45 MIN DELAY N605”. “What did that say?” I mumble. I did not read that right. 2 miles before my exit, the sign reads, “45 MIN DELAY N605”. It clicks. I’m going north on the 605. Crap! My GPS doesn’t work on my phone. My GPS is outdated in my car. Quickly I pick up the phone to call him back.

I need my mentor. “Call my husband.” I command the phone. It goes to voice mail. “I need your help. I need you to navigate me to work.” Moments later, a text comes through. “On the phone with Medicare.” Crap! We all know that takes for every. I have to make a decision right now. Do I get off here? Do I take the risk of doing nothing and sit in traffic for a possible 45 minutes? Boom! I take the exit. “Turn left, then right to the freeway,” my GPS blurts out. Nope, I’m going north. Side streets all the way.

“What would he tell me to do?” I calmly ask myself. I dig into the crevices of my mind. Trust the system. Trust yourself. Get off here and head in the direction. I voice texted my colleague and shared my situation. I took a deep breathe and told myself, “It will be okay”. He’s my life mentor. I applied what he has guided me through before. He’s coached me enough to where I have a plan in place. As I pull into the parking lot 5 minutes late, several liaisons and my partner are standing there locked out. I smile.

The phone rings. It’s him. He inquires if I made it. I exhale, “I did!”

“You’re going to be great! You got this.” He reminds me.

#22/31

He supports me unconditionally. He sees the ‘Great Oak’ in me Fabienne Fredrick talks about in her TedTalk on “Activating Your Potential to Greatness”. He’s relentless. I’m inspired. He supports me with it all from professional to personal. Together we cultivate the soil to activate the acorn seedling. Mentors come and go as we need them to accomplish life goals. However, this one is a keeper. I am so grateful for my mentor, my husband.

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Spooky Stories at the Blakes

Vicky, Mollie, and I always liked going next door to hear Bob Blake tell us spooky stories. One of my favorites was about the monkey’s paw. He was very handy with tools, like his fish pond he build in the back and cardboard box dog house that was built below his work bench. But he was fun.

He liked Vicky, he like Mollie and most of all he liked me. He could tell spooky stories like know one else I knew. So when our mother said we could go over to his backyard to listen to him tell stories over the course of our summer nights, we were thrilled!

“Can we make some popcorn?” the three of chimed in.

“You know how scared you get Joan,” Mollie said. “You better not try to sleep in my bed.”

I envisioned myself all brave as I grabbed my favorite blanket. “I’m not scared Mollie.” I answered back. Together we carried over all the goodies and blankets. Chris and Bobby came out as we all settled in our spots under the covered patio. Jasmine draped downward filling the air with its sweet aroma. Next to the brick wall we would glide our fingers over the creeping ‘sensitive’ annual plant. It become all bashful and folded up with our touch. I was fascinated by this. How could a plant become all shy? “Joan, stop that. You’ll kill it.” Bob said as he came out from the garage with his chewed-up tiny cigar hanging out of his lip. “Let’s get started.”

We all snuggled in close sitting in a circle. The popcorn bowl sat in the center. Bob was to my left and Mollie was on my right. The story began about the legend of the monkey’s paw. His voice became deep and doomful with each passing moment. I pulled my blanket closer.

“Hey, Joan,” said Chris. “You look all scared.”

“Am not,” I said. “I’m cold.”

“Are you afraid the paw will come for you?” asked Vicky.

I shook my head back and forth.

“Are you afraid about having nightmares?” asked Mollie.

Glancing upward I shook my head back and forth. She knew better.

“Are you afraid to walk home in the dark all by yourself?” asked Bobby. This really was ridiculous because we lived right next door. But I was.

I shook my head back and forth pulling the covers even closer if that’s possible. Bob continued in his sinister voice. I slowly curled myself real close to Mollie. She always would take care of me even when she didn’t want to. She gentle wrapped her arm around me.

Just when he got to the part about the son knocking on the door, my mom yelled over the fence, “Bob, you have to send the girls home now.”

With a shriek in our voice we all chimed in, “No!” A silent sigh. A pounding heart. He stopped leaving ‘us’ hungry for more. The monkey’s paw did get me tonight. But I did sleep next to my sister to keep me safe just in case.

#21/31

Not Pierre La Poo Poo

A Parakeet Story

When I got Pierre, I didn’t want to keep him. I wanted a different kind of pet. Not Pierre.

I wanted a puppy who could run and catch. Maybe a kitten who would purr and chase balls of yarn. A fluffy, floppy eared rabbit named Thumper who I could cuddle up with each night. Not Pierre.

All Pierre does is sit in his cage, flutter his wings, makes a mess with his bird seeds, and squawks and squawks and squawks.

“I’ve had enough of this, Pierre,” I decided. “Your squawking is too much!” Pierre doesn’t chirp. Not even a flick of a feather. What am I going to do with a bird? I can’t take you anywhere. You’re not a pet. You’re a caged creature.

When I tried to take Pierre out of his cage. He fluttered into a corner. Then another corner. He wouldn’t get on my finger. I practiced and practiced. Finally, he began to climb onto my finger. Slowly moving him toward the opening. He would fly off. Arg! Forget, and I stomped off.

The following day, his tiny claws clutched to the side of his cage. He squawked and screeched as I walked into the house as if he was asking for another chance. I dropped my school bags and walked over to his cage. I put my finger into the cage. Held my breathe. He climbed on. His tiny nails dug into my fletch as I slid him through the door. He’s out! He stretched his wings. He flapped his wings holding on tight. Then he relaxed his grip and flew around the house. I panicked. The chase was on. His wings were clipped when I first got him. To my surprise he grew new feathers. I always worried what would happen if he was in a situation where he needed to fly away from danger and couldn’t. The risk of harm was greater than the risk of him flying away. So, I knew I had to build a relationship based on trust.

Does any of my friends want to see what Pierre is up to? Does any of my friends care that I have a parakeet? Does any of my friends want to see his cool bamboo cage? No. They’re all into other things that doesn’t involve a bird. “Pierre, what am I going to do?” I muttered. You’re just a bird.

The following afternoon, he hears me coming into the house. Before I come around the corner, he’s flying right toward me. If birds could smile, I’d swear he was smiling. He flew straight to me. Clumsily, he flies right into my chest digging his tiny claws in and climbs up to my shoulder. He nestles in next to my ear hiding himself within my hair. “How did you get out?” I asked. I looked at his cage. The door was closed. Hmm!

He settled in. Gripping tightly. His new found freedom was exhilarating. He wiggled as far back as he could go. Silly boy wasn’t going back into his cage anytime soon. Once he relaxed, my earlobe became his toy. Earrings were not possible to wear with him. He loved the dangling ones. He would nibble and I would giggle. Slowly, a bond was building.

Each day, he would come flying around the corner as I entered the door. I finally figured out how he was getting out. He worked all day wiggling loose the bamboo sticks. One by one he’d slide them up and squeeze out. With each exit they would slide back into place. He would always find me. I was his destination. He loved life on my shoulder. Never a worry that he’d fly away. My hair was his safety net when he would get scared.

I grew to love my pet, my Pierre La Poo Poo. Yes, he always left a trail of poo poo down my shoulder. That’s why he got a last name. One day, we were out of food. He as starving. My mom was gone. I didn’t know what to do. All I could think of was that silly saying, ‘Polly wants a cracker.’ I thought I could feed him crackers. I had no idea that the salt would kill him. It took hours for it to take his life. He died in my hands. I cradled him the best I could. If only he used his gift of flight to fly away from me, he might have been saved. He didn’t.

I built a relationship on trust and I let him down. It was and still is one of the hardest thing I had to get over. I will always love my beloved pet, my Pierre La Poo Poo.

#20/31

Maggie Mae’s First Camping Trip

Bir Sur, California

In late July Wobbie, Wifey and Wifey’s German Shepard dog Maggie Mae decided to go camping. The three of them gathered their goodies and piled up the Nissan Altima.

Wifey had been there before, she remembered the giant Sequoia trees scattered throughout the camp grounds. She had all the supplies they would need: a tent, sleeping bags, food for all and cooking utensils.

Wobbie knew how to set up the tent. He knew how to build a fire. He knew how to roast marshmallows. And most of all, he knew how to play his guitar underneath the stars.

Maggie never knew about camping. She never knew what if felt like to run up and down the coast line chasing the crashing waves. She never knew that the salt water would make herself sick. She never knew who to choose as they ran in opposite directions along the shore line.

There were so many new adventures waiting for her. “We’ll see tall trees, Mae Mae,” Wifey said. Maggie wiggled.

“We’ll see squirrels,” said Wifey. Maggie tugged and pulled on the leash.

“We may even see a skunk,” Wifey said. Wobbie was not so pleased to hear the news that we may see a skunk or two. He moaned and he groaned and warned that would not be the thing to do. They piled back into the car from their day along the beautiful California Northern Coast and drove to the campsite.

Wobbie, Wifey and Maggie Mae began to settle in and set up our site. Once everything was set and the car was empty, Maggie jumped back into the car. She plopped right down with a heavy sigh. She glanced at them with glassy eyes. Wifey giggled. “No skunks will squirt you, Mae Mae,” Wifey said as she snuggled next to her and rubbed her head.

After a long evening hike and a campfire meal, they showered up and got ready for bed. The air mattress was pumped full of air. The sleeping bags were spread out with piles of blankets laying on top. Maggie Mae snuck in from behind them and dived right in the middle. Wifey giggled. Wobbie groaned.

With the last crackles and pops, the fire died down. The last music notes drifted through the cool night air. The guitar was tucked away. Everyone climbed inside the tent. They were all nestled beneath the layers of blankets. Maggie Mae perked up. Wifey looked at Wobbie. Wobbie looked at Wifey. Neither of them wanted to take her out. The zipper was barely around the frame and Maggie dashed out. What could it be?

On the other side of the tent they heard a whimper and a stumble. No sooner could they get out the door before she came crashing in rubbing her face up and down the blankets. What could it be? Seconds later they knew. SKUNK!

#19/31

I am a Feral Cat

Dear Human,

I was a typical kitten. A blessing! One of millions yet special!

I am curious. I am always wandering the streets. I am at home.

I have found my niche and chose my site. I seek the wild adventure.

I once had human hopes. I was born just a few houses away. I had pet possibilities.

I wasn’t in their plans. I was left in the alley. I was taught to hide. I was scared and abandon.

I once had a playful side. I found entertainment in a bug, in a leaf, in a floating feather.

I am a feral cat.

But being a feral cat means I upset humans. I do things they don’t like. I can hurt others with my sharp claws, my canine teeth, and even screech in the middle of the night.

I can be scared, too. I can be afraid of your loud voice and timid when you try to approach me. I struggle to survive when food is scarce and winter nights are wet and cold.

I am a feral cat.

Yet I remember you and the soft rug you left on the old wooden chair. I am an old feral cat that seeks your mercy during my weary days.

I am not a pet. I carry parasites and diseases, none I wish to share with you. I have wits and am able to scavenge for any scraps to survive.

I know you had a puppy. She kept me at bay. Now that she’s gone, your kindness extends to me. I do appreciate your caring nature. Just watch me from afar to see my tenderness. Don’t be fooled by my feline behaviors.

I am a feral cat.

I know you don’t like it when I act with compassion and let another feral eat from the dish. I can treat them with empathy for I too have eaten bugs and rocks to fill my hunger pains. I choose not to fight. Your kindness has allowed me to extend this to another. We all are trying to survive.

I am a feral cat.

One of millions yet special. I will never be a pet. I will never want to be trapped. I will never want to be tamed. I am a feral cat.

Yours truly,

Cautious Clay

#18/31

I have a male gray feral cat that lives in my backyard. He always keeps about 5 feet away from me. I do worry about him. He had a really hard time this winter. I’m sure he lost a life or two. I wasn’t sure he would make it. He’s about 10 years old. He has always lived in the neighborhood. In two years I will be moving. I worry about him and what will happen to him. I know I can’t make him a pet. I struggle with this. I do feed him, watch him sleep in the wooden chair, and wonder what would he say to put me at ease. This is one possible version of what he might say.

Show Time

The big moment is just a memory now. What a morning! Making that final turn down Tahquart Boulevard, I saw the Koffi House and flipped a u-turn to get some iced coffee. A big ball of fire peeked over the horizon in the distance. Blue skies, blinding sun, and light traffic. A smooth start to our day. We landed front row parking. With my large tote in hand, I strolled over to the Andreas in the Renaissance Hotel. Since we checked it out last night, I headed right toward it.

We began to set up. I glanced on the floor and saw that the cable wasn’t what I was expecting. But then again, I had not idea of what to expect. LaDonna immediately began searching for tech support. The dongle I brought wasn’t compatible with their system.

Inside, I was a bundle of nerves. The jitters weren’t the caffeine. Soon Eric came in. He asked for a coworker to bring in their adapter. At first they thought my computer wasn’t working. My tension grew. They determined the cable wasn’t working. Soon Tom came by. He oversees it all. This isn’t good. They must have seen it in my expression. They were calm and reassured me that everything will be fine. Eric begins running a new cable and taping it down.

The final test run. Yea! One step closer. Our display sign didn’t have our session up. LaDonna was on it. She needed a picture with us in front of it so she could tweet it. About 8:05, we get the thumbs up. A volunteer snaps a shot for us. We are back to waiting.

Slowly the room began to fill. Friendly faces everywhere. Some I knew and some I didn’t. There were some big stakes in the room too. I couldn’t believe it. The room was full. People began sitting on the floor. Soon the “Session is Full” sign was posted on the doors and shut. Wow! Show time!

It was an amazing experience. None I’ve felt before. Halfway through the presentation, LaDonna says were out of time. The jitters kicked in again. I moseyed over to pull up a clip and glanced at the time. We were fine. This was her first run. She too had the jitters. It all worked out incredibly well. People shared words of support and great pleasure.

Later that night, our superintendent asked us to present to a group of district office leaders. How do you say no? So Wednesday afterwork we will be doing this one more time. All the hard work paid off.

It was a long day. I barely had any energy left. I was tapped. Maybe after doing this more often, it must get easier. I walked away feeling relieved, excited and exhausted.

#17/31

Anticipation

The day has arrived. I’m packed and ready to leave. What ever I forgot will be at home waiting for me now. It’s too late to turn back. Forward motion.

Busy again. I volunteered to pick up a birthday cake for one of our colleagues. Two stops before work, no luck. This one’s too small. This one’s too yucky. Why did I agree to get the cake? Why didn’t anyone else step up? Breathe, JoAn, breathe. This is a good distraction, I remind myself. Waiting for my favorite bakery to open, I slip out to get the ‘right’ cake. I’m back in my office. I take care of an email here and then another calming glancing at the clock. After the birthday celebration, I’ll leave. I mutter to myself.

Finally, I head to my car just a bit ahead of rush hour traffic. I hope it’s not too bad. Oh LaDonna, text me. What’s happening? She was at a district meeting waiting to be cleared to return to work. This day is important to her too. I want to share this moment with her. I look down at my phone for a text. Anything. No word. I exhale a heavy sigh.

The wind is blowing hard. Just one more layer to focus on. I guess the universe doesn’t want me to focus on what I can’t control. There is so much I can’t control. It’s hard to keep my mind clear and calm. As I’m barreling down the 210 freeway, I see a red jeep. Could that be? Going a little faster than I should, my curiosity was behind the driver’s seat. I look and sure enjoy, it’s my partner. She has been cleared! I feel a weight released. It’s going to be alright.

Together we met up at the convention center get our badges, check out our room, and giggle. Together we try to calm our nerves and excitement. Off to dinner, we go.

It was a long day piled on top of lots of long days. Knowing I need to get some sleep. However, we had to review the slides. She hasn’t seen them. She needs to become familiar with them. We need to assign roles. We need this to flow. She pulls up the schedule to look at our session to see how many people have registered. I pull up the slides and share with her again.

“173,” she gasps.

“What?” my heart pounds faster. I look at her and say, “Are you sure you’re reading this right?” She tilts her computer my way. Sure enough. 173 people have signed up for our session.

With a sense of urgency, we go over the slides and make some final decision and what to keep and what to delete. I catch a glimpse of her in the corner of my eye. I look over at her, “Are you feeling okay?” She has gone pale. I wonder to myself has she pushed herself too far and wasn’t ready to return to work. I know this day was important to her. She so badly wants to be a part of it.

“I need to lie down.” She replies. Quickly, we pick slides to share and I write them down. Not long afterward, we head to our rooms. As I try to sleep, I drift off hoping this isn’t a setback for her and that she’ll be okay.

I was too tired to post last night. It was too late to post anyhow by the time I climbed into bed. I wanted to capture the anticipation of this big moment for us. Any suggestions to build anticipation would be greatly appreciated.