a hazy summer

BestoftheVineyard
via L.A. Brown Photography/Martha’s Vineyard Magazine

How precious of me.

I thought I’d just spend my summer writing, while mulling over my journal at the beach, painting outdoors and hiking every trail with meditation walks on this lovely little island.  Sure, I’d fit in my social media duties and work, as well. It was going to be summer on the island, just like it used to be.

I knew it would get busy. I knew our little bar would get busy. I knew that the population of this island was going to grow by 100,000 tourists. I knew all of this.

But, wow.

At night, I take off my eye make-up with a slather of coconut oil and there is a moment of hazy blindness before I rinse if all off. (LivingLola beauty tip: Coconut Oil is like magic. You’re welcome.) This summer is that hazy blindness, except there is no rinsing off the cloudiness of the past eight weeks of crazy busy. It is all a blur.

I never expected to work this hard for a bar, of all things. But, I have to say, I have enjoyed the challenge.  It has been a good kind of getting-to-test-yourself kind of crazy. I think I may have even found my limit. So, I’ve got that now.

I look at what Larkin and I have built; the friendships that we are establishing, the life we are creating, the strides we are making.  Turning this little iconic 70-year-old bar into what we have coined, “the best little live dive on the rock”. LivingLolaFunFact: Many islanders refer to Martha’s Vineyard as “the rock”.

We are honored and humbled. Blessed with accolades, news articles, interviews and we even made the New York Times. Not bad for our first year. Larkin and I have a knack, a way of making things happen when we are both on the same page, in the zone. Our flow is amazing, almost a yellow brick road to success, as long as we are both headed in the same direction.

If either of us gets distracted or are not fully on board for a project, that is when we wobble, or worse, fall. I don’t mind falling. We are one bad ass team when it comes to getting back up. We’ve had our share of practice time in our 28 years together.

Now, we are in the home stretch of tourist season. Labor Day is a week away and I can even feel a cool, pumpkin spiced breeze outside this morning, as I write. Before you know it, Summer 2015 will be in the books as our first full summer in business.

Remarkably, after all this time, we continue to learn more about each other. New strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. Talents that we had never expressed and abilities that we learned together and tested our character and values along the way. Hey, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

 When the going felt wobbly, we wobbled right over to the beach; even just to watch a sunset. Above all, we learned how to stop and look around. We get to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. This is why we live here. There is so much to take in and we want to make sure we remind each other to do just that.

We work from home. Together. Every day.

It’s good for us to get out of the cottage/office and go somewhere else to unwind and reconnect.

At the beach, we’ve discovered that everything immediately seems positive, feels less overwhelming and is calming and rejuvenating, at the same time. We are able to check ourselves that indeed, we are still in the zone, together. I believe that this is key to a happy marriage. (Ahem, are my two brides-to-be reading this?)

I have been coming to MV since the 90’s, and this Gulf Coast girl had NEVER been in the Atlantic until this summer. I’ve discovered I love swimming in the ocean. Yes, I know that this is where “Jaws” was filmed. Floating, looking up at the vast blue sky puts all the stress and hard work into perspective.

Just another item in the something new and different column that I have learned about myself. It has made me think, what else am I going to learn to love? Learn to do? I am 9 months away from turning 50. It’s invigorating to think that there is still so much to learn, more to do, more to BE.

A Whole New Me to Be!  Kind of sounds like an undiscovered Dr. Seuss book.

So, what did you learn over your summer vacation?

Isaktashmooquote

Oh, and I learned to do graphic art, too.

dwell in this

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Nothing brings Larkin and I closer, than working on accounting together. And, by closer, I mean closer to the “His and Hers” matching urns of our ashes, that may or may not be scattered in the same general vicinity, someday.

Working together, running a new business these past several months has been a dream come true except for the monthly dose of Quick Books nightmares. Nothing brings on a hot flash faster for me than an Excel Spreadsheet.

Him: How did you code that check? Me: Miscellaneous. (my favorite)  Him: You have to code it a specific expense.  Me: If I had wanted to be an accountant then, I would BE an accountant!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Yep. We are on our own now. No office support staff for L. No full-time housekeeper, helping me to make it all look effortless. It is just him and me, a mom and pop operation, sifting through bank statements, bills and receipts. Sitting at our computers and recounting the week’s sales and expenditures turns me into a 9 year old, trying to sit still in class.  

Me: Hey, look at this pic. Does this dress look blue or gold, to you?  Him: Get off Twitter! It’s blue. Focus!                                                                       

I want to write, paint, build, design, create, dance, sing, watch TCM or have a root canal and a mammogram at the same time. I do not want to work with numbers with my business partner in his work voice. There is a tone in his work voice that I do not care for. I prefer, husband voice.

It is hard to believe that we were once that suburban couple, raising kids in an affluent neighborhood. Our defined roles, so fortunately traditional. I was lucky to be a stay-at-home mom, carpooling to their private schools and volunteering on every committee to make sure that their childhoods were everything that a Disney Channel show promised. I cooked, baked and nurtured those little chickadees until they flew east for college, then migrated to the west for the beginning of the rest of their lives.

He ran the businesses, I ran the house. Our “work” paths never crossed.

The structure of our lives was so scheduled, planned and executed it almost seems impossible to me that we actually adhered to such a manicured time frame. I never overslept once. We lived well. We were happy. We acknowledged our success and fortuitous luck. We were grateful. We enjoyed and savored the moments. Because we knew.

We knew we wanted more. We wanted different.

To think outside the box, you have to know where the lines of the box actually fall. We knew we wanted out of the box, but just how far and what direction?

With all the kids gone, living their own lives, we came to the conclusion that our home away from home, our cottage of 10 years on Martha’s Vineyard, would become just home. My husband’s business partner of 20 years was making big changes in his life that were wreaking havoc on our life. Oh, and that business partner was also our brother-in-law; married to my husband’s sister. Dread, divorce, and dissolution ensued. Yet, a door creaked open. This was our chance for a big change.

(Enter Life) 

We had just moved into the big, beautiful old/new house in the hip-historic-up-and-coming-but-still-sketchy-chic part of Houston, that I had totally renovated. I love houses. Looking at real estate and interior design websites can be a cardio workout for me. We have been blessed with living in some beautiful and unique homes.

But, for the first time in our lives, we were living in my “Lola Dream House”; the house that Jacq built. I poured my heart and soul into that house. I had designed the perfect kitchen, the perfect master closet, the perfect house for entertaining. It was the house you can only build after you have raised kids, thrown over the top birthday parties and hosted Christmases for 20 plus guests. The design functionality resume that comes from surviving apple juice stains, teen spirit and experiences that leave a mark.

I would love to tell you that I responded with the joy and support of a loving wife, when L suggested that we sell the big house and move to the island. Nope. But, after two very large Manhattans and one very good ugly cry, I was on board. “I dwell in possibility…”, I would channel Emily Dickinson:

“I dwell in Possibility
A fairer House than Prose–
More numerous of Windows–
Superior–for Doors—”

So, when L pitched his next business proposition to me, I was ready for the possibility:
“How fun would it be to buy a bar on Martha’s Vineyard?”

Are you there, Emily? It’s me, Jackie.

“I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!”

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration of my enthusiasm. But, honestly, I did like the idea. It had possibilities.

A business that is open 7 days a week, 13 hours a day is quite a challenge. Now add alcohol. A bar that serves the fine folks of a small island, 7 days a week, 13 hours a day is a Coen brother screenplay waiting for the green light.

So, yes, we bought the “The Ritz”, a bar that has been in business since 1944 and is not even ironically “ritzy”. It is the bar the locals call “their” bar. The bar where, truly, everybody knows your name. We are upholding the tradition of providing live music, year round. We have a small kitchen with great bar food and we are incorporating community theme parties and events to provide entertainment for a small population over a long winter. Come this summer, over 100,000 tourists will take over and we will be ready.

How’s that for going outside the comfort box? Nailed it!

The island that was always our getaway, our place to regroup and relax has become our business, our livelihood, our work. A full partnership, L and I put in the crazy hours it takes to keep our employees organized and happy, our customers happy and satisfied, and our marriage satisfied and sane.

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The Ritz after Blizzard #1, January 2015- photo: Erik Albert, Oak Bluffs Inn 

We recently celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. The last year, hands down, was our most challenging, yet most exhilarating year ever.

Our days of a structured life are over. We run a bar. We stay out late, we hang out with amazing musicians and throw crazy parties. We’ve survived two blizzards, a winter for the record books and even got to celebrate the home team, my Pats, winning the Super Bowl.

We did it. We took a chance. We sold our house, we left our family, our friends and the remaining businesses in very capable hands. We set out to find the possibilities in us.

Just us, again. Like in the beginning. A couple.

A couple, falling in love all over again in the next chapter of our lives.

A couple that dwells in possibility.

A couple that really hates doing accounting together.

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New Year’s “Odd Ball” 2015 – photo: Tom Stevens Creative

 

living wide

www.LivingLola.com

September. Almost the middle, no less. Wow.

Larkin and I have had some big decisions to make lately. Some were made for us. What happened to the lazy days of summer?! Business life, family life and our personal life have all posed big crossroads for us.

“What do they call it…when everything intersects? The Bermuda Triangle.” – Sleepless in Seattle

When a challenge appears, you can look at it as a speed bump to slow you down or an adventure to live and learn from.

After almost 25 years together, I know this much is true about our relationship:  Lark and I will always choose adventure.

It’s a main tenet of Living Lola. When faced with a challenge, presented with a slight chance at a dream or risking it all for what’s behind Door #3, we are just crazy enough to do it.

The doubt, fear and uncertainty usually lasts…about…9… seconds…then, we are all about, “Oh, we can so do this!” High-five-ing, trash talking ensues. Nobody is a bigger fan of Jack & Lark, than we are.

Don’t get me wrong. We practice The Art of Doing Nothing like a freaking religion. Just ask the “family” bag of M&M’s and “family” box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies we can put away, lying in bed, watching movies and DVR essentials. We celebrate our down time, full-out. Also, a Living Lola tenet.

Just when it gets comfortable and settled for a length of time, boom! We can shake things up pretty quickly by taking a sharp left turn, that wasn’t even on the map.

“Hey, let’s get married!”  they said, after only knowing each other for two months.

“Let’s put our kids in private school and move to the city!” they said, soon after they moved into their new suburban dream home, that they had built.

“Let’s buy a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard!” said the couple who lived 2000 miles AND a ferry ride away.

“I know! We can sell our big house and get rid of all our stuff and get a grown-up townhome!” they cried, when their kids left the nest…and kept coming back.

Yep. Adventure is calling. I can feel it coming. Something is in the hot, September Texas air.

The Aisle: An Olympic Sport?

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What comes with having three 20-something girls, each with their own large circle of girlfriends, is the realization that no news travels faster, spreads wider and cuts like a light saber through general conversation than Guess who is getting married?!

It is 2012 and we all just giggle, gasp and guffaw at nuptial news like women at the “Meryton Assembly Ball” in a Jane Austen novel.

My girls, in particular, have been cursed/blessed with a matriarch that was wedded at the ripe ol’ age of 22. “Ugh,” they all sighed.

It wasn’t planned or arranged. It just happened. Just like they cannot plan or arrange when it will happen for them. (Although their father might just like the opportunity to “arrange” their partners.)

There are plenty of books, advice and well-meaning analysts and bloggers like Penelope Trunk that have written volumes about not only how to find and land your mate, but WHEN you should meet “Mr. Right.” Someone even came out with “rules”. Remember that brouhaha? There is even a book by Tracy McMillan based on her popular two-part essay on The Huffington Post telling you WHY you haven’t found that right person just yet.

Even my mother-in-law, a champion for women’s rights, a celebrated educator and author will most likely ask the girls if they have a boyfriend before she inquires about their job, school or general health.

So much has been written lately about “having it all” with the media swirling around the rise of the new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. She will have the opportunity to balance pregnancy, marriage, motherhood while running a major company, right before our very eyes; her every move, no doubt, covered by every media source from the Wall Street Journal to People magazine. (My guess is that they probably already approached Naomi Watts to play her in the movie. No?)

My Google Reader is not filled with articles in regards to a “cure” for bachelors or advice on landing Mrs. Right. I cannot recall any story about a newly appointed male CEO having to discuss how marriage or fatherhood would affect his job performance.

What is the fascination with women getting married?

I personally feel, the honest truth, is that it will happen, when it happens. And, it is most likely inevitable.

I will conserve my opinions of working women having it all, to focus on young, smart, single women just starting out and say this:  There isn’t only one version of “ALL”.  That is the beauty of it. Your version of “all” will change and grow as you change and grow.  Live your ALL, now. Make the most of “singlehood.” 

Don’t live your life in preparation or anticipation for something else. Live your life, today! See the movies you want to see, travel to the destinations you long to go, eat at the cool, new hip restaurants you want to try, sip cocktails at that new swank, bar opening. Go to the symphony, the ballet, the opera. Take that pottery class or that cooking class. Do whatever moves you.

In a very short time you will be in an adult relationship that requires care, concern and compromise. So, while young and single, ditch the compromise and put the care and concern into your life. Full steam ahead on your career. Put in the extra hours. Network around the clock. Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented before you and grab it up with full, unabashed gluttony.

Don’t waste a minute waiting.

Live an interesting, attractive life and you will be interesting and attractive. Live your life like a hot mess and, well, you probably have already met what comes your way.

One of the benefits of aging gracefully with big deep pockets of wisdom…ahem…is that I can sit back and see the bright radiance of young women who are making their own lives work. I can spot them a mile away. It is a confident glow. They are productive, taking exciting challenges and turning them into opportunities for their benefit and well-being. I am so amazed at the endless possibilities that lie ahead for young women.

When I hear of a young woman, taking the reigns of her life and creating her own success, I am compelled to share that story with my own girls. Other girls getting married doesn’t draw the same fascination for me. I will not cut out engagement announcements to show my girls when they visit. (And it’s not because I don’t receive an actual newspaper.)

Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage. I love being married. I love that I found my soul mate at 21. Yes, I believe in soul mates. And, Larkin is definitely mine. However, I also love that my sister Jen, found her love, Tim, at 37. They’ve been married for two years, laughing, traveling and living the life. And, no kids! Talk about living the life!

Walking down the aisle is not an olympic sport. We shouldn’t time our girls or measure for distance.

It will come soon enough.

We will eventually have the added place settings at our holiday table along with the added awkward explaining of our family’s sick, twisted obsession with turning every comment into a movie line. We will declare which “Friends” character the new addition is. We will go from four kids, to eight kids. We will have to show care, concern and compromise.

We have raised our children to believe in love. “Love is a many splendored thing, love lifts us up, all you need is love…”  We believed in soul mates and told them to believe, too. We showed them that your “better half” brings out YOUR better half. We lived the example that marriage to the right person is more fun than two people should be allowed to have.

And, that is what I want for all of my girls. Someday. No stop watch. No timeline. No pressure.

And, I want it for The Boy, too. But, seriously.

“Is anyone ever going to be good enough for HIM?” cried his three sisters, his aunt/godmother, his two grandmothers and his Latina mother.

That is a whole other blog post, entirely.