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

 

busy living

Busy just doesn’t cover it.

I am not complaining. I am more than lucky. I know that. I live a big, full life; trying to practice what I preach.

I was fortunate to spend a few days in NYC with my girlfriends. We did a little shopping, caught the musical “Once”, which I highly recommend. We stayed up late drinking champagne, played Scrabble in our pajamas and laughed and laughed and laughed. It was just one of those ‘good for your soul’ trips. Not hectic or over-planned. Just fun.

One of the best parts of the trip was taking a total tourist turn and hopping on a “Movie/TV” tour of the city. My  partner-in-crime, JWH, couldn’t contain the antics as I shot my hand up at every trivia question. I may have even sang a Seinfeld bit for the whole entire bus. But, I had to stop before I became the “obnoxious know-it-all from Texas.”

 We were more than fortunate to catch the last plane back to Texas before Hurricane Sandy hit. Since we are all seasoned Gulf Coast hurricane warriors, we would have found a way to “survive” at our swanky hotel. Larkin and my contractor were ready for me to get back home…and get back to work on our “little” project.

Project Restoration is steam rolling ahead. I have never worked with a more positive, dedicated group of people. I love our contractor, the crew, the plumbers, the electricians. They all greet me each day with smiles and “Miss Jackie” this and “Miss Jackie” that. What’s not to love?!

They sing along with the classic rock booming through the rooms. There hasn’t been a structural or design problem that we haven’t been able to solve creatively, not to mention easily. It just feels like we are a team, all working to bring this old house back to her old glory.

Bags unpacked from NYC and the contractor’s “to do” list all caught up, it was time for one of my favorite nights of the year. Halloween. I love, love Halloween. Dressing up, scaring young children, kid candy in “fun sizes”: I love it all.

Larkin and I, along with Jen and Tim (my sis and bro-in-law) dressed up as KISS.  As you can see, we are not camera-shy nor do we have a fear of jack-assery.

And, then, just like that, it became November.

Our President was re-elected.  Now, suddenly, it’s almost Thanksgiving.

This week, I am holed up on Martha’s Vineyard at the cozy Red Door Cottage, far far away from the restoration and remodeling that is going on, back in Houston. The fire is going and holiday music is quietly filling the air.

So, in the spirit of the week:

I am thankful for this cozy vacation home. I am thankful for the soon to be completed home waiting for us, back in Texas. I am thankful for my husband that has worked hard to purchase said homes. I am thankful that he is getting a much-needed break.

I am thankful to have 3 out of 4 kids here this week. I am thankful that the “missing” daughter is realizing her dream and working in Austin. I am thankful for the family and friends that make my life full. (Full of what, exactly, depends on the day.)

I am thankful for my health, good food, Manhattans, TCM, the Pats, Scrabble gals, Twitter pals, laughter and my pup, Juliet.

 But, mostly, I am thankful that I have been busy living.

a divine summer spirit

I had one of those perfect summer days. You know. Productive, kids visiting, fabulous weather, dinner with friends…even a hilarious prank call to a friend at work.  The only thing missing was my dear hubby, working in Texas, supporting my perfect summer day lifestyle. Thanks, honey.

It all started with a bike ride, early in the morning.

There were strawberries at every farm stand.

As I peddled on, more and more berries. So, I started thinking…between breathing, of course….

How about a nice, cold, refreshing strawberry cocktail?

Sometimes a rigorous workout leads to divine inspiration. Usually around the time you start seeing spots.

 Let me preface: I drank plenty of water first. By happy hour, I was ready for my divine summer spirit.

Strawberry, Cucumber, Champagne Cooler

12 strawberries, stems removed and halved

6 slices, peeled cucumber

1 tsp. light agave (or natural sweetener)

ice cubes

champagne or sparkling wine

Puree strawberries, cucumber and agave in a blender with one or two ice cubes.

Pour into a glass and top off with your favorite champagne.

Garnish with a cucumber round.

Cheers to summer!


 

 

TCM, Classic Continuity

Spring has truly sprung on Martha’s Vineyard. One of the things I love most about New England is the changing of four actual seasons. When I arrived 3 weeks ago, it was still cold and the leaves and flowers were still waiting for their cue, holed up in their tight buds. With a beautiful Memorial weekend, the island joined in on a resounding, “TA DAA”!

When I am here, there is always something to do to keep up this 135 year old house. It is a job I relish. This summer, I have plans to re-finish furniture, convert the shed into a Pilates studio and maybe, just maybe, build a small deck. It’s a hammer and nails and measuring tape, wood planks, right? I’m sure there is a YouTube for that.

When I retire for the evening, watching old familiar movies is comforting. Especially since my dear husband is in Texas right now.  There are some movies I can watch over and over again. Currently, however, I am all about ‘The Avengers”. I saw it again this weekend with my kids, my second time, my daughter’s third. We are hooked. (I want Tony Stark to be real and in my life.) There is something about the familiarity of knowing the lines and what’s coming next that I find reassuring. It is like all is right in the world for 120 minutes. To be honest, we watched Star Wars on Friday night for the, hmmm, 237th time? (It WAS the 35th anniversary!) And, I could still watch again. Continuity can be extremely comforting.

Today, it’s back to work around the Red Door cottage. It is garden day. There are flowers to prune and arrange. And, after a weekend with the kids here, I’m sure a trip to the market is in order, as well. Before I head out, here are my TCM picks for this week. There won’t be as many in the coming weeks since it’s summertime and I hope you are out enjoying it. But, it is nice to have a couple of sure things waiting on the DVR after a long day outside, at the beach or wherever you summer days take you. Enjoy!

 

(EST)

Thursday May 31

10:00 PM

BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)   The legendary bank robbers run riot in the South of the 1930s. Dir: Arthur Penn Cast:  Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard. C-111 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

Warren Beatty had wanted to only produce this film, with Bob Dylan as his first choice to play Clyde.  Warner Bros. had little faith in this violent picture and was given a “B movie” release. After it began to receive critical acclaim, it was re-released with better promotion. The sale of berets soared after Dunaway wore them in this film. Roger Ebert labeled this as the first masterpiece of his then, 6 month old career as a film critic. After Beatty agreed to also star in the title role, he desperately wanted his girlfriend Natalie Wood to co-star as Bonnie. She was going through depression and declined. This is the film debut of Gene Wilder.

I am not usually one for over the top violence, but while the last scene of the film is harrowing and excessive, it is both historically accurate and historic cinematically. Creative gadgets were rigged and the make-up department tested new approaches to making the blood and grisly death scene look very real. AFI #42 Greatest Film of All Time. Filmed in the great state of Texas!

 

 Friday June 1

6:00 AM

CACTUS FLOWER (1969)   A philandering dentist asks his assistant to help him deal with his latest girlfriend. Dir: Gene Saks Cast:  Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman, Goldie Hawn. C-104 mins, TV-14, CC, Letterbox Format

My dear Goldie’s first major film role and she hit it out of the park, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Toni. It had been over 25 years since Bergman had been on a Hollywood soundstage. All of her films had been made in Europe. The film was an adaptation of the 1965 Broadway production that starred Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson and Brenda Vaccaro as Toni. The movie has a very “Three’s Company” kind of plot, but the chemistry amongst the characters set in 1969 make this a fun, swingin’, easy comedy. Bonus: you’ll celebrate a little redemption if you sat, painfully, through the 2011 remake, “Just Go With It” with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

 

Saturday June 2

 3:00 PM

WILD ONE, THE (1953)   Motorcycle-riding delinquents take over a small town. Dir: Laslo Benedek Cast:  Marlon Brando, Mary Murphy, Robert Keith. BW-79 mins, TV-14, CC

This must be the “cool rider” Michelle Pfeiffer really sang about in “Grease 2.”  Brando, Harleys, Triumphs, gangs…1950’s cool.  Brando rode his own personal Triumph in the film. Lee Marvin had to learn to ride his Harley, not wanting to be shown up by the star, Brando. This was the first film that did not black out the logos of the bikes and, at first, Triumph was none too pleased about being linked with the “Black Rebel” gang, until of course, their sales increased due to the film and Brando. The film is loosely based on an actual incident that happened in Hollister, CA in 1947 and in 1997, a 50th anniversary celebration was held in the same town. This film is iconic Brando as he introduced the long sideburns that inspired Elvis and James Dean. Before there was “Be like Han.”, everyone wanted to “Be like Brando.”

 

Sunday June 3

 10:00 AM

TALK OF THE TOWN, THE (1942)   An escaped political prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher.  Dir: George Stevens Cast:  Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Coleman.  BW-117 mins, TV-G, CC

One of my personal favorites, well…it IS Cary Grant! But also, Jean Arthur is always precious and Ronald Coleman, that smooth British accent is like poetry. This is drama intersecting with screwball comedy. This film marked the first time Coleman was second billed below another male lead. 1942 proved to be a busy year for Lloyd Bridges. His minute role in this film was one of 20 small appearances he made in that year. Don’t blink or you’ll miss him!

 

12:00 PM

ANNIE (1982)  An orphan attracts the attention of a Wall Street tycoon and a con artist.  Dir: John Huston Cast:  Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Aileen Quinn.  C-127 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format

This is for my kids…all four of them. They loved this movie when they were little, each passing it down to the next kid. This film had a long run in the Stallings’ house. The only Annie production we enjoyed more was when our two older girls had parts in their Community Theatre production. Ah, good times, good times. Film nuggets: Jack Nicholson was originally signed to play Daddy Warbucks.  Steve Martin had to drop out of playing Rooster since he was in the middle of breaking up with Bernadette Peters and he thought it to be too painful. Drew Barrymore auditioned for the role of Annie. In total, over 8000 girls were interviewed over two years for this coveted role.

 

Monday June 4

 8:00 AM

WOMEN, THE (1939)   A happily married woman lets her catty friends talk her into divorce when her husband strays. Dir: George Cukor Cast:  Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell. BW-133 mins, TV-PG, C

A Hollywood homage to women power, with 130 roles in this film…all women. Every animal used in the film…female. All works of art seen in the background are of the female form. Cattiness over top billing, being fashionably late, playing favorites and general bickering ran amuck just under the surface of this amazing ensemble cast, although they never showed it and pretended to be fabulous friends. A great documentary would have been the making of this film with these female power houses. This is the film debut of Butterfly McQueen. As of this post, the only surviving cast member is Joan Fontaine. Again, much better than the modern 2008 remake with Meg Ryan and Annette Bening.

 

12:00 AM

STING, THE (1973)   Two con men hit the big time to take on a gangster in ’30s Chicago.  Dir: George Roy Hill Cast:  Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Eileen Brennan. C-129 mins, TV-MA, CC, Letterbox Format

Won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Edith Head won her 8th and final Oscar for Best Costume Design. The second film for the leads to play together, the first Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.  At the time, Redford and Newman were considered the most handsome and bankable Hollywood stars. The only time Redford has been nominated for an acting Oscar. Robert Shaw had injured himself just prior to shooting and his limp was written into the script. He had to wear a leg brace during the production. The diner where Hooker meets Lonnegan is the same diner interior used in “Back to the Future”, as both movies were shot on the Universal backlot. Although Redford enjoyed his time making this film, he did not see the actual movie until 2004. This film set a standard for the fun, caper film with a smart, trick ending. The characters were so beloved that audiences didn’t feel “stung” or duped, they simply flocked to see it again and again. Comforting, classic continuity.

Kind of like me with “The Avengers.”

the summer of peace

I am getting settled for another summer on my beloved island. It is always a little bittersweet, because Larkin has to commute every few weeks. We really do hate to be apart. Texas is very far apart. It takes a car, a plane, another car and a ferry to get here. But, as a dear friend once told me, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.”

While here, I will get to spend more time with our two college kids. Jordan is finishing up at BU and can take the ferry over on weekends. The Boy is spending his summer here on MV, searching for a little summer job, a few gigs and a lot of artist peace and quiet.

In between ALL of those loads of laundry (!), he and I have had some long talks about peace, comfort with who your are and being comfortable in your own skin. Why is it so easy for some, while others have to really fight for a place at the table of calm?

 

Do you find yourself searching for peace?

If so, then please stop. Just stop. You cannot go out and search for it. Be still. Let it be. Allow peace to come into your life. It is there waiting patiently and quietly…after all, it is peace!

I believe some people do not see themselves worthy or deserving, so they fool themselves into searches for causes or purpose or bliss, whatever the current blog buzz word happens to be. It is like busy work, tricking yourself into believing that the search is the hard work. If you’re out looking for it, you are missing it altogether.

The hard work is being still. Accepting what is. And, simply, let it be. No shame. No judgement. This is life. As Katharine Hepburn put it, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

We’ve always known that life is ups and downs, ebbs and flows. So, why can we get so thrown?

Conquering unhappiness, depression, addiction, insecurity, health issues, divorce, unemployment, financial fiasco, anxiety, obesity, self-harm, loneliness or even general malaise; they all share a starting point, a first step towards the light. It begins with peaceful acceptance. “It is what it is.” (Larkin’s favorite.)

Now, you are ready.

 Facing the issue, steadying yourself to be open to the calm, will bring you to a state of peace; an unshakeable force to handle stressful times at work, school, parenting, dealing with difficult people, bosses, bullies, relatives or even teenagers. You will be armed to fight off any mental, emotional or physical issue.

Peace is your superpower. Set your buttons to your default, locked on peace. Then, nobody can push those buttons, “not even the people who installed them”, one of my favorite Larkin-isms. (Can you tell I miss him?) Your own thoughts are the most challenging enemy to your peace because they live on site. Your thoughts and your peace are roommates. But, you can give those thoughts strength or you can render them powerless.

 It is all you.

Peace is not a geography problem. Although, I highly recommend the Vineyard for some serious down time and relaxation. “It’s so choice.” (Quick! Name the movie before you get to the end of the post.)

I am thankful everyday for our home here. Even more so, that Joshua is finding his own calm here, too. But, being 19 and an artist, it is going to be just like his keys or his wallet. He has to remember to take his peace, wherever he goes.

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Got to love a blog that quotes Emerson and Ferris Bueller.

Peace.