Dancing Among Angels On Earth

This past week I attended Fabienne Fredrickson’s Mindset Retreat in Ft Lauderdale, FL. The event was part of her yearlong Boldheart Academy program that is designed to help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The Mindset Retreat was focused … Continue reading

A Feminist Since Birth

This past Sunday I attended a meeting of WAGE International (Women and Girls’ Education International) and I was so very inspired by the experience. I was invited to the meeting after I had been asked by their president Heather Mistretta … Continue reading

The summer of love—cross-country ramblin’ with my man in 1985

They said if we could manage to not hate each other after spending the entire summer in a car driving cross-country, we surely were bound for marriage. And so begins the tale of our road trip. While I was in grad school, I desperately needed a break from my studies and decided to take the summer off. Generally speaking that is unheard of while you are working on your PHD and my advisor wasn’t too happy about it. Nonetheless, I knew that it was important for me so I went ahead with big plans. Andy—my boyfriend at the time—and I decided to take a long road trip across the country.

SunocoI have gone back and forth about what I feel about road trips over the years. I hadn’t really been on many road trips before that summer. There was the time when my parents and my brother and I drove in our green monster—our pastel-green van—to visit Grandma Dora in Florida when I was very young. I recall enjoying that childhood trip though I am not sure if my parents would say I was a happy camper. But I was game for a long trip with Andy and it was a cost-effective method to see the sites of the country. My parents made it even more cost-effective by giving us their Sunoco gas credit card and paying for all the gas we needed.

Good thing my parents gave us that credit card because at one point it turned out we needed to use it for another purchase at Sunoco—a new car battery. Yes, we had quite a few amusing and some not so amusing ventures on that trip. The car-battery tale worked out fine in the end and I remain grateful to my parents that they bankrolled the gas and the car battery.

Mount RushmoreWe began our trip from the west coast in Santa Cruz, California where I was in graduate studies. With maps from CAA (California Automobile Association) in hand and a pink highlighted route that we had marked before we left, we took off on the defining road trip of our lives. Because our plans were for a round-trip across the country, the route we selected was across the northern part of the US outbound and the southern states on our return. Along the way we intended to see important sites that we hadn’t visited before—like Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park—and cities that perhaps we might live in one day—like New York, Seattle and Chicago. Our destination when we left California was my parent’s place in New Jersey where we knew we could remain and regroup for some time before heading westward.

I could probably write a novel-length memoir of the trip, we accomplished so many firsts and we experienced so many highs (and some lows). Several things remain vivid in my mind all these 29 years later. We thought to bring a bunch of long and gripping novels to read on the never-ending stretches of interstate highways. What a great idea! While one of us was driving, the other read aloud to pass the time. Not only did it pass the time, but also I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading a book more. We took our time and discussed the characters and the plot live while we read together. There was Travels with Charlie, Lust for Life, and The Fountainhead. (For years afterwards, Andy read books to me in bed but we gave up when I kept on falling asleep—his voice just lulled me into slumber.)

About the size of our tentEach day we made plans for where we would stop and camp over night. CAA also supplied us with a book of camping locations of all varieties from private to park-operated. Remember, this was before anyone had mobile Internet access—actually this was before there was much in the way of the Internet in general, let alone mobile cellphones and Internet. When we arrived at the intended camping area, we’d give it a quick look to see if it seemed safe and then put up our teeny tiny backpacker’s tent for two that we purchased at Sierra Designs in Berkeley. We certainly could have used a larger tent since we had a car to lug it in but—no—we were somehow cooler for using the modest Flashlight II. Setting up a tent every night for weeks on end made us experts at getting that thing up in no time at all, even if it was dark out. Most of the places we stayed were good enough and not very memorable. But several spots stick out in my memory as simply amazing—and several as truly horrendous.

One of the most magical places we camped was in Big Sky country—Montana. We found a small National Forest campsite and pitched our tent as usual. Because it was so remote, there were plenty of signs posted that warned of bears. So we took the suggested precautions and made sure that food was secured in the trunk of our car (we didn’t need to stow the food up a tree as we would have if we were actually backpacking). Even with no food present we were visited by a bear that night and in that moment I really wished we had a larger tent—actually a larger tent made out of metal is more like it. We stayed absolutely still lying in our tent and fortunately the bear wandered off. That was excitement I hadn’t expected. What I also hadn’t expected was the beauty of the surroundings. Big Sky is such a great term for Montana—the sky is immense and breathtaking. And that campground wins as my best memory of a beautiful spot in the world.

Some of our other camping experiences weren’t so lovely. We encountered a stretch of rain, rain, rain and after pitching the already wet tent for several nights in a row during downpours, we hit the el cheapo motel—again on Mom and Dad’s dime. And then there were the campgrounds in the Texas area that scared the crap out of us so we kept on driving. Though I do have a fond memory of armadillos making a racket looking for food in the metal garbage cans somewhere in Texas. I think I managed to snap a cute photo of one of the critters. What strange beasts they are. But all in all I’d say we did pretty well with our campgrounds, with great thanks to our CAA campground booklet.

BeignetsWe are foodies, so one of the things that is kind of surprising but I guess not unexpected given our poor financial state was that we didn’t eat at many of the wonderful road food spots available in the hinterlands of the US. Most of the time we bought groceries and had such marvelous—well marvelous when you are hungry and on the road—and easy to transport items like bread and cheese. Although it is true that even bread was taken to new heights when we toasted our bagels over an open fire in Yellowstone while it was flurrying out in an unusual July storm. (That fluke cold front was also when our car battery went kaput.) When we did enjoy a meal out, breakfast was the choice. My fav memory is of the cheapest breakfast to be found in a little diner in East Madison, Wisconsin. Of course we did eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and couldn’t miss the shakes and fries at The Varsity drive-in in Atlanta so food was not entirely ignored.

Dining in local joints while traveling gets greater attention these days and has for some time. But of all the trips I have taken with Andy over the years, our cross-country road trip remains most vivid of my memories and serves as an inflection point for our relationship. Yes, of course they were right—I did marry Andy and as that ramblin’ summer trip with my man proved, we were well suited for each other then. And we remain well suited and as in love today—if not more—as when we were young lovers on the road.

XOXO Rachel

Reveal Your Emotion—Reveal Your Magic!

Magical Celebrant RachelNot long ago I was listening to a keynote presentation at a conference when I was overcome with emotion. The weepiness was a gut reaction to validation of what I know to be true in my life: there is magic in emotion that must be revealed! I love poetry and was so incredibly moved while listening to David Whyte present to the large audience. I loved the cadences of his presentation and the way in which he was so real and vulnerable, even while standing in front of several hundred people. Sure, we were all life coaches so in general receptive to conversations of this sort, but David Whyte goes into corporate America and shares just the same way. He deftly facilitates big company meetings with all the usual bigwigs but he doesn’t dial down the woo-woo and emotion. He makes no division between who he is depending on the context. The weeping I experienced listening to the presentation was because of the realization of how many years in business I held back my authentic self and emotions more than I wanted to (and I did reveal a lot more than most others in that context). And the tears that my body released were in direct response to how David Whyte powerfully revealed his true self.

Magical flowers from my gardenThis speaker was unlike many in the world who put on a costume when they step into the business world. They play the part of leader, or of follower, wear the suit, wear the face and act the way they think they are supposed to act. Now, that isn’t to say that much of how they behave is unnatural and fake to who they are, but in all likelihood, they have held back on certain aspects of their personal style in order to fit in to the environment. David Whyte doesn’t do that in the least and he is doing just fine. Marianne Williamson is doing that too and she is just fine. Lately the list of successful people who bring their whole self—warts and all—to the world is growing. I think that trend is very exciting and I hope that more people—even if they aren’t big names—are catching on to the power of being authentic and not trying to put on a certain mask in different situations.

What I experienced too often is that people all the time—not just in the business world—too frequently hold back on revealing their full selves, all the mushy and awkward truths about their own experience in the world. It is all about being vulnerable so I know it is scary, but it is needed! I loved a post my friend Laurel just put on her Facebook page today where she says how grateful she is that she doesn’t have a Muggle job (for those of you not familiar with Harry Potter that would be non-magical jobs). And I know what she means—she gets to work with angels and do nourishing soul work and she gets to be true to her own voice. I am so grateful that I now do magical work too—as a celebrant creating love story wedding ceremonies and as a life coach helping people be true to themselves in their whole life. I think it is time that we bring all of the real emotion and softness of our real and best selves to the Muggle world too! It is so needed in every day aspects in life and work. Be silly, be real, be excellent, be magical, be whoever you are wherever you are!

XOXO Rachel

Child of the 70s—Jingles on my mind

Cheeree O-Ee-Oh’sAs a child I loved to sing jingles—you know, those little ditty songs from commercials. I did performances for my family all the time with one of my favorites being, “Use Ajax, bum bum, the blue dot cleanser, bum bubububum, it gets the dirt and lets things shine bubububububum.” Perfume commercials from the 70s were replete with jingles too. Cachet was the first perfume my mom gave me and boy do these jingles have staying power. You might even say that, “Windsong stays on my, Windsong stays on my mind.” (OK, that’s not Cachet but I don’t think its ad had a tune).

In fact that is one of the problems or perhaps beauties of jingles—depending on your perspective. They are so memorable that they come to me all the time—during the day, in my sleep and of course when I am watching TV and see a childhood brand that still advertises. I can’t help but break out into song. Just the other day, Andy broke out into “Cheeree O-Ee-Oh’s, Toastee O-Ee-Oh’s” when a box of Cheerios appeared on TV—though that is a more recent ad.

“We work hard, so you don’t haaave toooo (as the Scrubbing Bubbles fade into the distance as they go down the drain).” I really don’t have to work hard to dredge up these memories. In general memories associated with tunes are recalled more easily then words alone. The music serves as additional hooks to your memory. Therefore it isn’t surprising that jingles are used in advertising and that I remember them so well. But what is kind of cool to me is how they literally pop out of my mouth without warning and how much pleasure I get from singing them. They put me back into my child-like state of silliness. And who couldn’t use a little silliness in their life?

“Ready when you are and even when your not, it’s Betty Crocker ready-to-spread frost—ting. Smoooth and spreadable and what’s so incredible, its ready when you are and when you’re not.” So true, whether I am ready or not, these ditties flow from my lips. And lest you think I Googled the wording of these songs, think again. I am reciting these completely from memory. Sure I was tempted to check on the actual wording but decided not to. This is all pouring out of me in its pure memory state (so I suppose some of the words aren’t exact matches for the original advertisement).

Have you had your sprinkle today?“A sprinkle a day helps keep odor away, a sprinkle a day helps keep odor away. Have you had your sprinkle today?” Shower to Shower is a brand that I still have in my medicine chest and I sing that tune every time I pick up the bottle. And anytime I am cooking bacon—well—out spews the soulful blues tune, “I bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never ever let you forget you’re a man, ’cause I’m a woman, Enjoli.”

And speaking of cooking, “Shake and Bake, and wee heelped!” That isn’t a song, but I always say it with a very thick southern drawl, just like the commercial from my childhood. My brother and I were particular fans of that one and we encouraged mom to buy Shake and Bake because of the jingle (yes, advertising works). “Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kentucky Fried Chicken”. No additional lyrics, just a tune to accompany those words though my brother and I changed the words to something gross that I won’t mention here ☺.

“People who don’t need it drink it, folks not on a diet try it. Everybody likes it, Diet Rite Cola, everybody likes it, Diet Rite Cola, everybody likes it and you know why, ’cause it tastes so good, Diet Rite Cola!” I loved to sing that song with my childhood friend Dawn. In the ad there are different voices for each stanza so Dawn and I would go up or down in our voice to extremes.

Speaking of Dawn reminds me of Madge of Palmolive fame for soaking in dishwashing liquid—don’t worry it’s mild. “Chock Full of Nuts is a heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee, Chock Full of Nuts is a heavenly coffee, better tasting coffee, money can’t buy.” You really can’t buy the kind of fun I experience from just singing jingles.

What commercial jingles from your childhood do you remember?  Please share with us!

XOXO Rachel

Relating to “Relationship”

Dad and MeThis past weekend I went to a 2-day intensive course on coaching people in relationships and my first words are “Wow!”  Now, it is certainly the case that every coaching and leadership course that I have taken from The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) or related group elicited the “Wow!” response from me. But I think this one was a different type of “Wow!”  The course was held by ORSC, an offshoot of CTI so there is some overlap in the style of training.  Lots of experiential learning, lots of immediate connection and closeness to the others in the course and lots of emotion and introspection!  But what I hadn’t really thought about so much before going to the class was that relationship is most of what life is about.  We are in relationship to our parents, children, spouse, friends, and any and all business colleagues.  And guess what, we are even in relationship to ourselves and—this might seem to be pushing it—we are in relationship with things like money, food or you name it.  So the “wow!” factor is that this course applies to all of my life and everyone’s life.

I signed up for the class because as I have been working with couples designing their wedding ceremonies, it became obvious to me that I had a wonderful opportunity to coach them about their relationship.  For over a decade I have been coaching individuals in business and life coaching.  Being a celebrant is in so many ways just an extension of my coaching work.  I already ask the couples to explore their relationship so that I can capture their connection in the written words of the ceremony.  How fortunate that I get to work with couples when they are just beginning their married life together.  My hope is that I’ll get them thinking about their relationship in a way that leads to them creating a more fulfilling life together.

My FamilyWe take for granted so much in relationship and I find that rarely in life do we step back and actually discuss the relationship.  Sure we talk all the time with whoever we are in relationship with.  Yet for most people it is a rarity that they set aside time to talk “about their relationship”.  Some couples do that naturally but most often the only ones who take a step back and look at the big picture are those who are having troubles in the relationship and seek council.  I suppose it is not a startling concept to consider talking about the relationship before there is great conflict.  Perhaps what is startling is how few couples (and I use the term couples to refer to ANY relationship) do that.

So I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that everyone have a look at the relationships they have.  Make time to have conversations with whoever you are in relationship and you will be greatly rewarded with understanding and connection (and love depending on the affiliation).  If you are having big conflict, consider having a coach or therapist facilitate.  I certainly plan to have those conversations now that I have some relationship coaching training under my belt.  At the very least, I plan to have a heartfelt conversation with myself about what I want and need in my relationship with life.

XOXO Rachel