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Slow Burn

Life looks a little different around here lately, and certainly different than this time last year. Fall always brings with it a sense of melancholy as the season opens, often filled with rain and overcast skies, clouds and fog lingering in the mountains until late morning, and a damp chill in the air that you can feel deep into your bones. Or at least I can, but perhaps that has to do with all of my old injuries over the years.

Last year I was feeling a bit lost, cast aside, and trying to find my place. I had (and still have) a core small group of friends, but only one or two were local. Going out meant – like it always has – taking myself out to wherever I felt like going and filling weekends at home with projects and distractions. I know people everywhere I go almost everywhere in the world, but I have a very small group of friends and until more recently, none really local and certainly none I would make plans with on a regular basis. The few close friends I do have locally tend to for whatever reason have the opposite schedule as me, and I totally get it. Life is hectic. But sometimes, in addition to making time for yourself amongst all the other priorities with family stuff and so on, you also can find people who fit in your life and schedule and make time for each other too.

It’s really nice to have a support system in our neighborhood. Travel has picked up this year immensely for me and I find myself on the road or on a plane anywhere from 1-2x a month. Knowing I have people I can trust to help get my kid to and from games and practices is priceless. Actually enjoying spending time with them and knowing that it doesn’t come with drama and gossip and bullshit is even nicer. Knowing that our kids are all genuinely friends and growing closer makes it feel even that much more like home. I know this is home. I belong here.

They say we accept the love we believe we deserve. I’ve thought a lot about that lately, and looked long and hard at myself and the changes I’ve made over the years, but why I never changed what I believed I deserved.

In the past 4 years I’ve changed my entire life in nearly every way possible. I took in two amazing kids (one who is now a pretty incredible adult). I am down to just 5 horses from 10. I have two totally different dogs than when I moved up here 6+ years ago. I still have a lot of cats… I moved. I bought a home. I built it into a farm. I lost weight, changed my eating habits, got healthy and got fit. Exercising and working out is a part of my life and I actually enjoy it. I’m more productive, and much happier.

So why is it that I’d keep settling for whomever showed interest simply because they were there, and they were nice / generous / took me out to dinner / helped with something on the farm/truck/tractor? Why didn’t I feel there needed to be more? Chemistry. Attraction. Inspiration even, if that’s something one looks for in a relationship. I don’t even know because my standards for myself were so high, but my standards in what I’d accept in others was so low – and at the same time I’d be an all or nothing. Like hey cool, you finally convinced me to give you a chance so even though I don’t find you all that attractive, or all that interesting, or we don’t have that much in common, let me justify and make excuses OR let me just stay completely shut off and single forever and go out alone and wonder what it’s like to have friends beyond the core group of us that no longer live around the corner from each other and only hang out once or twice a month these days.

Life changes. But, if we’re paying attention and willing to grow – so do we.

Respect matters. When you say something, and someone’s actions show over and over again that they don’t respect what you say or simply choose not to believe you and are going to pursue things anyway – that’s a red flag. When you get showered with unasked for gifts and attention and it makes you feel uncomfortable and not grateful – that’s a red flag. When you tell someone you are not interested, and they keep pursuing you anyway – that’s a red flag. I don’t care if you work “on paper” or if it just makes sense, or if you have skills that can help me out and I am good at listening and reading people and offering insight and advice into other’s lives (that I often don’t take for myself). That’s simply not enough. Being a nice guy is not enough. Helping me doesn’t mean I owe you anything, otherwise that’s not helping, that’s paying for a service. There’s a difference. I’m learning that difference. I deserve more.

I’m not here to be someone’s infatuation. Just because we’re friends or have good conversation or help each other out doesn’t instantly make chemistry. When I say I’m on a plane or traveling once a month and my schedule is full, I mean it and that doesn’t mean that I want you to shove your way into it. If it is going to work, it will because we’re on the same page and not because it was forced. I hate when things feel forced. This past year a lot has felt forced.

I’m getting better at communicating my boundaries. I am more than the second choice, or the girl you go to after you break up with your girlfriend (or before). I’m not interested in this flash of excitement that fizzles out in a week or two because we got to know each other better and I realized as I got to know you that we really don’t have much in common after all. I feel like if I could actually know someone – and keep getting to know them – and after several months there’s still that spark, then that’s something worth pursuing. Otherwise it’s just not worth my time. My time, and I am more valuable than that. Much more. I’m learning that.

I’m done with dating down, or giving my time to people who aren’t right for me just because they were nice or helped or whatever. I’m sick of being the “pretty girl” that is “just a friend” but the guy expects more anyway. I’m already a fake-celebrity as I call it because of my work in marketing and my need for my social to be fun and exciting and interesting and to do silly things. Silly things like wearing heels because tall people are perceived as more knowledgeable and powerful so people see me that way (and then of course I back it up with my actual skills and knowledge). Like packing 1231245 outfits for costume changes as I call them so that when I travel to an event, I am always put together going from travel outfit to poolside with clients for lunch, gym clothes for a quick workout, conference clothes and suit jacket, networking dinner and cocktail outfit. Sometimes I’m on 3, 4 or even 5 outfits in a day. Does it matter? It does when my job is teaching clients strategy and showing them how appearance matters but only as a way to first get your customer’s attention. Behind that attractive exterior, brand, logo, social story, etc. there has to be quality too. But quality on its own if it’s not packaged in an attractive exterior often goes unnoticed. I have spent a lot of time and energy and learnings over these past 4 years to learn how to do all of it and help my clients succeed at marketing their brands, too.

So why, then, did I feel like I needed to settle for something that was sub-par? I work really hard to stay fit and healthy. I don’t care if you’re not a health nut (neither am I, just ask the whiskey I drank this weekend haha!), but if you can’t keep up on a hike, or get worried that I’m going snowboarding and am going to be too sore (that’s why I work out and stay fit…duh) then maybe you’re not worth my time. Actually, scratch that. If you don’t put as much care and time into yourself as I do into me – and again I don’t mean superficial appearance, I mean life, having your shit together, doing what it takes to be there for your kids and being healthy to be around long enough to see them grow up and succeed – then you are not worth my time. We can be friends, sure but don’t expect when I’m on the road / scheduled in meetings from now through mid-October that I am gong to make time for you just because you’re nice to me. I am learning how to prioritize life in a way that doesn’t just make me happy short term, but makes my family and myself and my life and my home wonderful now and for years to come.

That’s what matters.

Find something that gives you that spark. Find people you connect with but not overnight. You need that spark to get things going, but you need that slow burn otherwise with all this rain, those big flames will burn bright and then go out pretty quickly. Build it slowly, find people you have real chemistry with – friends, too – and hold them close and build a life you don’t need a vacation from. But that when you want to go on vacation, they’ll come with you and fit right in without needing to ever be invited because you’ve already built a decade of history together. Some things – the good things – really truly just take time.

Sometimes what you’ve been looking for is already close to home. What an amazing weekend. What an amazing life. Thank you. ❤️


This Way Home

this way home cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I hiked with the dogs this morning after dropping my kid off at school. It was a welcome return to a routine I haven’t had the time for in a while. I knew there’d be nobody out there on a rainy overcast Monday in that awkward season we used to call Indian Summer when I was a kid, not because we meant to be insulting but simply because that’s the only thing we knew it was called. Actually now that I think of it, I don’t know anything else that it is called. You know, that season that isn’t really summer but it’s not quite autumn yet either. Yes, that one.

The forest was still wet from the deluge of rainstorms we’ve been having. We do live in a rainforest, after all even if it’s a deciduous and not a tropical one. Though with the temps lately it feels almost as if it could be tropical. Either way, I needed to get out in the forest on my mountains as much as my dogs needed to get out there and it was a welcome reprieve for all of us. After a week, and weeks of being peopley, talkative, energetic, and outgoing, my mind needed the solitude of the woods where no one expected me to talk. And so I didn’t.

We hiked through the woods together up the first set of inclines, slick in spots over the rocks from the washout, muddy in areas where the ground leveled out. We stopped for our usual break at the lake and the dogs played as I sat down and appreciated where I live and just how much I love it here. I stood up and we continued, down the backside of the mountain over the very slippery wet wooden bridges where the creeks were all higher than I’d ever seen not just where they converged but upstream as well, still full from last night’s rain with more on the way. The dogs jumped in anyway – it’s not that deep – and while the mercury only read in the 60°s, the boggy air made it feel more like the actual tropics than Florida from which I had just returned. I smiled as they splashed.

We continued on like that for nearly all 4 miles, communicating in smiles and whistles, hand signals and thoughts. The only exception was to say hi to the neighbors in the sole house we pass along the way and make sure my dogs respected their property. They did. As we got back to the truck, the dogs hopped in without needing to be told, and I climbed in and we drove the short bit up the mountain and home.

The day continued like that, finishing farm chores, pushing out a round bale, filling a trough, coming in to do laundry and shower and make a smoothie and some coffee. Then finally, sitting on the couch with the dogs to settle into work as the clouds loomed darker overhead. The internet went out. And again. And a few more times. Work was only so productive without the internet and so we still sat in silence – no music and no tv, just the whirring of the fan and the tapping of my fingers on the keys as the dogs napped after their morning adventure.

I used the time in the woods this morning to do a lot more than just reconnect with nature. I let my thoughts sort themselves all out. It’s the best way I know to untangle my mind. I was able to sort out and plan work for the week, organize my schedule, revisit half of my presentation for the end of the month that’s solely in my head and not out on Google Drive just yet. I soaked in the damp air and the scent of decay and life the way only a forest can offer – in that good way that speaks of life and renewal and death as a means for ongoing growth, knowing that in just a few more weeks the leaves would be falling off the trees showing us just how beautiful it is to really let things go.

Most people have a hard time believing that I enjoy solitude as much as I do, but it’s more than that. I need it, I crave it, especially after travel and conferences and trade shows. I love what I do, but I also need significant time to recharge. #SleepWhenImDead, I always say, except for when I’m back from a stretch of travel barely sleeping and always hustling. I slept 12h the first night I got home. I slept 8 the second. At home 7h is normal for me – and when I am at my best.

But it’s more than that, too. It’s about not needing to entertain, impress, or wow people. It’s not about sharing stories and catching up with friends. It’s not about what’s next or what great adventure is right around the corner, or what big deal or next breakthrough will lead to the rebuilding of my company that in turn will continue rebuilding my life into something even better than I ever imagined. I mean sure, it IS about all of that. But it’s about the solitude too.

Someone offered to bring my kid home from soccer practice because they’ll already be there and live right down the road so I don’t have to go anywhere else today – just here. Just home. It’s such a good feeling. Sometimes I want music going in the background, or the television is on so that I have noise to break through the silence. Then sometimes on days like today, it’s the solitude that soothes my soul, both out in the forest and right here on my couch.



Pretty Is As Pretty Does

pretty is as pretty does cjmillar82 life without a paddle

I’ve often wondered what this idiom really means. It’s been said that it refers to someone who’s pretty on the outside but not on the inside but I’ve wondered what is it, really, that makes a person pretty? Is it possible that how we are on the inside – or that the potential of who we are to become – is part of what drives how we look on the outside? But what about people who are truly ugly inside regardless of a beautiful exterior. Then again, who’s to say what’s truly beautiful?

I’ve often wondered if people would help me as much if I was ugly, if they help me more now because I am skinny, what would happen if I got fat again, and things of that sort. Certainly not so if I was ugly towards them, but what if I wasn’t pretty to look at too? Would that matter? In today’s society at least, I definitely tend to think so and that makes me wary of asking for help. Are people helping for good or for good looks? Does it matter to you? I know it does to me.

Asking for help has always been hard for me, partially because I’m a woman and was raised to be no damsel in distress. Also because I’m a woman and there are certain expectations – no one wants a desperate girl in need of help. No one wants a girl who’s not pretty, who’s not smart – but not too smart, funny but not goofy, classy but not snooty…the list goes on and suddenly I sound like the Barbie movie that I have no interest in seeing. Funny though, I hear that it’s got some good underlying messages underneath its Petpo Bismol pink nailpolish. I don’t know, I haven’t seen it. I do know though, that I always feel like asking for help is the wrong question.

Why is that? I’m not sure entirely, but I do know a few things that are contributing factors. For one, if I ask for help, and it doesn’t work / whatever’s getting fixed isn’t fixable as per the person helping or more help is needed than expected, I seem ungrateful or demanding. I try very hard to be neither. If someone is helping and I find a way to fix things, or an alternative solution that may work better for me, or makes more sense, then I’m a bitch, people are sick of hearing me talk about it, think through it, process and learn myself instead of doing what they told me in the first place. Just ask my ex how he felt about the hot tub (he couldn’t fix it…I did, with help from lifelong friends and one of his friends whom I knew from town). I should have spent the extra $$ to winterize and deal with it later. I actually got my head bitten off about that more than once to just stop talking about it because he was sick of hearing it if I wasn’t going to take his advice anyway. Two things to know about me – 1. I rarely do what I am told. 2. His advice was wrong. #SorryNotSorry

That’s just a recent example, but there’s examples a million miles long throughout my life where I’m an ungrateful bitch, or I won’t do as told and how would I know better? Just because my father worked on cars, clearly as a woman I am a moron and can’t know what that means (wrong, Dad taught me well, and while I’m well out of hands-on practice, I’m pretty good at diagnosing shit and finding things like no, not an antifreeze leak, a fuel leak at the fuel coolant on the driver’s side rail…or rebuilding the 1980 sled motor 2x, by myself). I’m so sick of being told by men aged 18 – 80 that I’m no mechanic, what do I know? Well, I’m no fool, I’ll tell you that.

So, hey, easier to just not ask for help.

When I do ask for help, and offer to be there to assist, or watch and listen and learn, or keep you company, I’m “in the way.” I don’t need to be sitting there watching, men can work without me there. No reason I can’t just GTFO out of the garage and let the men do what they do best – dismiss me and tell me I can go. You know, the garage I own. In the house I bought. That has only one name on it…. mine. But hey, I’m a girl, what do I know?

I know that a few decades ago that wouldn’t even be possible – a house in a woman’s name with no man?!?! Oh *GASP*! The HORROR!


So, hey, easier to jut not ask for help.

I’m always skeptical when I do ask for help. Will it get done in time? Will it get done right? Am I allowed to help? Show thanks? Or is other stuff expected from me? I am a girl, after all. And then those times that I do actually do stuff myself, I get made fun of for being a “tough guy” or a “man-hater” or stupid for not letting a man do it I the first place.

You know how awesome it is to be told that if I just dated that person longer, he’d have “my whole place fixed up.” Uh, dude, you hung a pre-hung door with help from a friend to impress me. Wow. Hugely impressed. (To be fair, I’m not mad at anyone for that, only at myself for tolerating any of that rhetoric for more than a minute – I know better, and I damn sure deserve better.) That’s right, the rest of the shit around here I do (mostly) myself. I clean. I cook. I pay the bills. I manage the household. When the dryer clogged at the water lines intake and again inside the feed to the detergent, I opened it up and fixed it myself. When the tractor broke and round bales still needed to go to the horses, I pushed them out myself (sometimes with help too but more often on my own), and when that is too much, a neighbor was able to help me and I, in turn, help them out too. When I needed to get out of debt and a shitty farm situation, I found a place to rent that was a means to an end and did just what I set out to do. When I needed a new place with a somewhat spotty real estate history due to that shitty farm situation in NJ, I figured it out.

I am so sick of hearing that I should just let a man do it.

Does that mean I don’t ever need help? Oh hell no. There’s plenty of times I do, and I am damn sure that I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today if it wasn’t for the help of many men – and women. That’s what friends are for. But it takes a while to get to where I trust you to help me. It takes a while to be a friend long enough that I know the offer of help isn’t to impress me. Yes yes, you’re a mechanic, carpenter, electrician, handyman, etc. all things I am not. I get that, I would hope you’re better at all of those things than I am. Just like I’d hope that I’m better than you at marketing strategy or consumer psychology or any number of other things I am good at. But shit, does that mean I have to be talked down to about the things I am not an expert at? Because for fuck’s sake, I’m a woman, not a lost god damned dog or an illiterate fool.

I often wonder if I wasn’t pretty, if people would still help me.

I work really hard to be beautiful on the inside, because that’s what really matters. I never saw myself as pretty anyway, and as they say, pretty is as pretty does.

Inside Outside In

inside outside in cjmillar82 Lake Luzerne ny

I pulled out of the field in the campground I’d been going to with my horses for the past nearly two decades, the place where I grew up riding snowmobiles in winter. My steering wheel was crooked in my truck – the stabilizer is going bad and I had some issues with death wobble on the way up – and the truck was having turbo issues and as I drove slowly down the campground road on the way to the exit, I cried. I don’t know what hit me, but it was like the air was knocked out of me and I was just so overwhelmed. I had an idea of some of what was wrong with the truck, and I almost wanted to call my dad to talk to him about it and make a plan to work on it together when I was home. It was the first time in longer than I could remember – since long before he died – that calling him had even been a thought in my mind.

Lately it feels as if I’ve moved through the stage of grief where you’re angry or pushing through but where you’re finally just accepting things. I pushed through the awful memories and the hurt and fear and pain and all of the broken things I was because of my childhood and had dealt with most of that already, though I know some pieces will linger for years to come. What I didn’t expect was the recent nostalgia. That hit me in some ways even harder because it felt like I went from mourning the father who I could never be good enough for and never quite got things right, to slowly remembering little bits and pieces of the good times. Glimpses and glimmers of the past where my father inspired me, where we did fun things together like go to air shows, or where he taught me responsibility (I’ll buy the parts and work on your truck but you’re going to help me and learn how to do it yourself). And all of a sudden I was that teenager with a truck issue wanting to call her father for advice and man, that stung.

It stung not because of the memory. It stung more because I don’t know what experiences my siblings had and we don’t talk often about that stuff. Please, the past few years have been hard enough without rehashing the past as I was the most isolated from them growing up already. It stung even more because it made me mad that my father never had the chance to meet my kids – in those good memories I’m finding of him, Morgan and he would have a blast organizing the garage together and working on vehicles and I’d have loved to be a part of it. I should hang the old clipboard that Morgan found in my father’s garage from when I was his age with the list of all the repairs we did together on my old K-Blazer just for the laughs. I still have the end of the drive shaft where it hooks to the u-joint on my nightstand. Yeah, it stung because for so many years I forced these memories out and fought with the man that was still alive as if they were the same person. He always was a bit Jeckyl & Hyde.

I wonder how that makes me look to my siblings and at the same time wonder how different all of our experiences must have been. I wonder if things would have been different – but quickly move on knowing that the past is not something worth wishing to change. I wonder if my life actually sounds as crazy to others as it does to me, or if the way my brain can ricochet through a hundred different things and still store and organize thoughts and streams of consciousness like my computer can toggle files between memory and dropbox and google drive is normal to anyone other than me. And probably my father.

Sometimes I’m sitting here late at night, trying to wrap up work, not entirely tired despite sleeping like shit lately. Between my neck and shoulder and back issues, and who knows what, mornings have been extra super hard and if you know me, you know that’s really a struggle. Mornings are hard for me as it is most days. Getting out of bed can feel like the most overwhelming part of the entire day because I know that once I’m up, I have a million things to do, followed by a million more and if I just work harder, faster, smarter, do more, then I’ll have more time/money/freedom/insert whatever it is we’re striving for here.

Of course that’s not entirely true, but I’m manic so that’s what my brain tells me. Fortunately I know better. But add to that already-there almost every day performance anxiety of all that I need to do, massive neck pain triggering headaches and a feeling of wooziness / heavy headedness that lasts anywhere from one to a few hours in the morning and it makes them pretty much unbearable. My neck works its way out of whatever crick it is in eventually and then my day begins in earnest. By nightfall, I’m at my best, often doing my best work, having the most fun or, if my sense of accomplishment outweighs my sense of anxiety, I’ll simply sit on the porch swing or steps and look up at the stars.

Life is good here. Life is really good.

I often wonder when I’m stressed about finances and work, and growing the agency and travel and scheduling and being there for the kids and the animals, and sorting out priorities on what vehicle or farm equipment gets fixed first and when and how and why and how do I budget for it…..(and there you see a beautiful example of how fast my manic mind can run with things) how my life must look like to others.

My social will tell you I have it all balanced and am extremely grateful (I almost do, mostly I think and I always have a plan and yes, I am extremely grateful). Depending on my anxiety and where my brain is at in any given moment, I may also be fighting panic, considering selling everything and disappearing, or being totally completely content with everything in that moment. I’m all over the place and I’m all of those things, and more. I just don’t always know what that means.

I do know that I write. I always have, and expect I always will. It’s the best way I know to keep my thoughts sorted and quiet my brain. And then I take a step back from myself and take a look from the outside, in, while stopping to remember how amazing I perceive the lives of everyone around me to be and just think.

Could you imagine if we could see ourselves the way others see us as a means to help each other grow? How truly amazing the world could be looking from the inside outside in.


Independence (Day)

Independence Day cjmillar82 life without a paddle

Some of the best meals I’ve ever had were from right around the corner. And I’m not talking 5* restaurant or Catskills-chic farm-to-table cliche that’s become so popular around here but rather the kind made by friends over a fire pit or a smoker or a grill a flattop at the campground. The kind made in crock pots and old ovens, seasoned with creativity and experiments and trial and error and a dash of laughter and good times. And I’m not kidding either – some of these meals made by me and my friends are better than you’ll find in any restaurant!

This week’s dining experience was an Independence Day pig roast with a 30# pig and two 10# (each!!!) pork shoulders slow roasted and smoked. Leftovers were then shredded and marinated in raw cider vinegar with some dry seasonings and left to soak. Heat up with BBQ sauce on the grill and toss over a salad for dinner or for the kids, grill alongside chopped kale and zucchini in garlic butter, then pile the pork, veggies, and a slice of melted cheddar cheese and a dash of added Sweet Baby Ray’s on top and mmmmm! I’m talking that kinda good. The day after was northern pico with local veggies – radishes, cucumber, arugula, celery, red cabbage and salsa – on the pork with a NY-made kombucha hot sauce in lettuce wraps. Also ahhhhhmazing! It’s fun and healthy, and I’ve really enjoyed it lately especially because I can be super creative without a ton of prep or effort or cleanup. Winning!

I’ve been fighting crippling panic attacks lately and I’m not sure why. I know I am under a lot of stress but I feel like it’s all stuff I can deal with, everything is going in the right direction, and while it’s not ideal, things ARE looking up. Work is improving steadily as is our professional reputation. My ability to work within and be a leader across my and other counties is something I am proud of, and being able to use things things to help build a better community and future for all is both inspiriting and work that I am grateful to be able to do. Ballots went out for the Sullivan County Partnership for Economic Development board and while it’s an unpaid volunteer position, I am really hoping I get it because I am invested in this local community in so many ways. And I am self-aware that these things are happening, there is still a lot of stress and pressure on me, and aware that these panic attacks are based on fears and not reality but for some reason I haven’t been able to stop them from coming.

It’s been debilitating some mornings and most nights. I wake up in 2-3h increments around the clock with 45+ min gaps where I can’t fall back asleep and whatever sleep I do get is crappy at most. In the morning I feel overwhelmed and start to panic and then freeze in fear, and partial exhaustion from crappy sleep, and try to go back to bed but instead I feel horribly guilty for not being more productive. I calm myself down and talk myself out of it while checking work emails and weather forecasts and making mental to-do lists of everything I need to get done before Morgan’s graduation party and then I still feel guilty when finally at 9am I drag myself out of bed, finished with whatever emails I can answer from my phone. I set aside work to feed the dogs and cats, clean the house, start laundry, do the farm chores, take the dogs and myself for a few mile walk (for all of our sanity’s sake!), and come back to shower, make coffee and a protein smoothie and then look at the time and see it’s nearly 11am and feel like I am so incredibly late for work and I haven’t even started my day yet (like somehow everything I’ve already done since 630am until that point doesn’t count).

I have these impossible standards for myself and I am not sure why. I am sure that’s what’s triggering some of these panic attacks. Now that I think of it, I did just have an incredible experience at the NY Air Show that brought back all good memories with my father. I validated some of them with my mother that yes, I had been to an air show as a child before my siblings were born or my sister was very young. I did remember a bunch of other good stuff too and that was cool so perhaps in some way this is connected to the healing from that? I do know that I have to stop and remind myself everything I’ve accomplished and still accomplish every day, even on the days it feels like I’m doing nothing because I know that I both need and deserve those things. I am learning these years to be kinder to myself and allow myself the same grace with which to grow as I so readily offer to others.

This summer is light years better than last summer. I am in a completely different place, with more confidence, fitness (despite still fighting to lose the last 10# from winter ugh!), and much more work than I’ve had in a long time. SO I am going out with friends tomorrow and not going to let myself feel guilty about it. I am going to stay in and do things around the house and farm to get ready for the party and for camping so that I feel accomplished in ways I enjoy in addition to work. And I am going to continue to drive things forward with new business and work here in Sullivan and planning ahead for August and September travel to Las Vegas and Crystal River again. I’m looking forward to all of it! Even better is knowing it’s going to keep getting better from here.

I think I am understanding better now the shifting of vibrations and elevating one’s self if you will. It’s harder than all these online courses and discussions make you believe on the surface. It’s comparable to the difference between a diet and a lifestyle change and understanding the motivators for you, yourself that drive those behaviors and give you the ability to better grow.

We are all powerful beings. Realizing the true depth and purpose of that power is both scary and liberating, as you learn how to use it for good.



F/A-18 SUper Hornet Navy Blue Angels NY Air Show cjmillar82

I’ve always been a bit of a maverick, never quite fitting in while always fitting in with everyone not always knowing how to balance that. Oscillating between too much of a show-off to prove my worth, to drawing back and becoming seemingly too aloof, sometimes I’d talk too much, other times getting lost in my own world. This year though, I feel like I’m finally figuring it out, and I’m right where I belong.

I can’t remember being this comfortable with myself, this okay in my own skin – be it too dressed up, or dressed down, a little too pale to sunburned with the shadow of my braid over one shoulder and the angel wing given to me by one of my best friends sunned into the center of my chest, almost fittingly so.

I went to the NY Air Show today because a friend invited me and, well, just WOW.


Mind blown. It was absolutely incredible in so many ways. I was a daddy’s girl, until I wasn’t and I don’t think until recently I ever realized that it wasn’t my fault that things changed. He had his own demons that took over him bit by bit and as a child I couldn’t see that coming or understand, and estranged at his death, he sadly never got the help to sort through it and I never had the chance to really talk to him about that again. But in the almost three years since he died, I think I’ve done all this hard work on myself to seek what I needed to truly understand. I think I understand now, and I mean it when I say I forgive him.

He used to talk to me about airplanes, some that I didn’t know that he worked on, or didn’t really understand. He’d tell me about the various projects at work when he could – he had high-level security clearance so there was a lot he couldn’t say. Bring your kid to work day meant pb&j in the parking lot on lunch break because we weren’t allowed inside the building. But when he could tell me stuff, he’d talk about some really cool projects.

He worked on several iterations of the chaparral missile and I think knowing that he built such lethal technology haunted him in ways. He worked on some really cool stuff. Technology to keep our country safe during the Reagan years and the Cold War. He worked on the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA during the Star Wars years (the stuff that worked haha not the stuff that didn’t). And nearing retirement, he worked on the Abrams tank, even getting to drive one once (he said he had no idea what he was doing it was hysterical!).

But his favorite projects he talked about were the Warthog, the Tomcat, and the Hornet. He talked about them frequently, especially the latter as he was one of the leads on that and it was a project he was involved in for several years. Today, I got to see two of those planes fly. Sure, the stuff he pioneered back then has long since been updated but it was pretty amazing to see my Dad’s work in the sky overhead. The Warthog was piloted by a woman (go girls! #WomenInAviation) and put on an absolutely impressive display! And then there were the F-18s.

Ahh the F-18s! We had pictures of these and many other jets wallpapered in our basement in the game room around the pool table. Some I took with me when we cleaned out the old house, but many got tossed. They were just prints of other people’s photos and posters and such, but the memories of some of those conversations I got to cherish even more so today when I saw those planes in action. When cleaning out the house, I found the original F-18 manuals, the ones that Maverick throws out in the beginning of Top Gun Maverick. Yeah, those. I have those (well some of those). Tucked inside one of them was the original 1977 cockpit diagram that my father and some of the other engineers worked on. My father’s signature is in the front of the book from when it was submitted for approval. He was a lead on the project. And I’ll tell you what, finding those brought back good memories, and seeing Top Gun Maverick last summer made me smile, but it also left me with a feeling of frustration and emptiness at all the conversations we never had since I was a little girl.

F-18 cockpit life without a paddle cjmillar82

Today was different. It was better. It was amazing! I got to watch technology that my father helped with take to the skies, fly by in formations 18″ from each other at speeds over 400 mph (really!). Barrel rolls, inversions, dives, you name it they did it. Watching the other stunt pilots, and the Red Bull team were also really really cool! There was an old F-15 also that was really impressive also. But for me (and well for most people I am sure) the six  F/A-18 Super Hornets that are used by the Navy Blue Angels that are the current iteration of a jet my father worked on back in 1973-77 blew me away. Absolutely incredible!

What a magical day! To see that, and to then go see friends after to celebrate a friend’s graduation from High School with my kids, feel comfortable going from a corporate chalet at an air show to graduation party at a firehouse and still feel comfortable was great! I had a great time at both places, never once feeling out of place or like I needed to just fill the air with chatter to keep from letting my discomfort show. And now I get to sit in my happy place, at home on my porch swing in an old shirt and shorts and flip flops, listening to the Maverick soundtrack while sipping bourbon and watching the sunset with my dogs. Yeah, life is good. Really really good.

Thanks, Dad. I get it now. Wish you could have been there today, you would have loved it, and been so proud of me! And these kids too! I know you’re somewhere overhead looking down on us and smiling and I hope you’ve finally put those demons to rest. Fly like those Blue Angels, Dad, and I’ll keep dreaming as high as the sky, too.

Cheers, to summer, to friends, to family, to a life worth living and a place worth doing your best to be your best every single day. Don’t even let those demons get the better of you – any of you. We’re all worth more than that. You just have to believe in yourself and remember, the sky IS the limit.

the journal

the journal cjmillar82 life without a paddle

You won’t find the real pieces of me on these pages, all rainbows and unicorns on social, hash-tagged with half-truths and satin moments wrapped up in smiles and a bow. No, even the glimpses of me that you see on here is nothing, really, if you want to truly understand me.

To understand me, you need to talk to me. Ask me how my day was. What I love. What I fear. What real fear is. What death looks like. The unimaginable pain of telling people you love their parent died. The unbelievable anguish of saying again, in that same year, because it happened again. The horror of watching your world crumble around you. The deafening silence of solitude for a summer when all the busyiness in the world can’t keep your demons at bay. The evolution of the world around you, and within you, as you move through trauma after trauma followed by grief and despair, while taxed with being strong enough to hold your loved ones around you together because you know you are needed, even if they pushed you away. And you know that someday they will understand and love you for what you have done even if in the moment it seemed like it was never enough, all the while being told you’re too much.

you are never too much.

No, you won’t learn more about me just by reading what I write here. You’ll need to really get to know me to know that. Yes, everything I write here is the truth. It’s honest and raw and real, and everything I am feeling in that moment. But if you want to go beyond that and know what I feel in my heart and my soul, on the things I hold closest to my heart, those words are not here.

I opened my journal tonight for the first time in a long time. Since February actually. And even before that there are pieces of my soul in there. It’s the only place I write names, and thoughts without concern for others because I know it is on that old worn paper that I can be even more true and honest with myself than I am anywhere else in the world. Anywhere else, perhaps, other than the porch swing where very few have sat and asked me the questions that really matter. And there, in the journal and on that porch swing, I promise you I will always speak the truth.

I always speak the truth – sometimes, however I’ve learned that you need to hold your truth close to your heart because people will hold it against you. Even the ones who tell you they love will hold it against you and in some cases, they’ll even hold yourself and what you’ve told them and who you are and your very own truths against you. They’ll use it as a reason to justify actions, reasons to not be around, telling you things that fit with their narrative and their story. But you’ll know better because through everything your truth has never wavered. You know where north is, after all. It’s not that hard to find if you can navigate by the stars the way people have for thousands of years. It’s quite simple, actually.

There’s chaos in her mind, or so it seems on the outside to anyone living without passion and truth and a compass pointing north and home. I opened the journal tonight to pieces of my heart on paper that I don’t share with others and smiled. Funny how this summer is your summer to struggle to find your place and your pace and your heart and your home while this time I get to step back and let you figure it out. I am very good at keeping my mouth shut and loving those whom I call family with open arms while letting them figure things out at their own pace, in their own time. I can love you from here. I can love you from anywhere, even when you are floundering to find your way trying to figure out what’s worth settling for and what’s worth waiting for and what’s worth fighting for.

Spoiler alert: there’s nothing worth settling for, you’ve been fighting your whole life, it’s high time you learned to pick your battles, put down your poison, and realizing that waiting for extraordinary is a whole lot easier when you’re striving for exceptional in yourself and your life every day. The rest? Well, you see, that just falls into place after all.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it for yourself sometime. You already hold pieces of me no one else can reach, as a friend and as family, in a friendship as old as time that time will always know. But I can’t make you great. I can only encourage you towards the greatness I see in you, the way did for me when I doubted myself all this time.

I don’t doubt myself anymore. Thank you. I wrote that in the journal, but I thought the world should know. That’s what family and friendship is, even when the everyday changes, when the time spent together changes, when the time we give each other changes, and the direction our lives go in changes. But you know what? That doesn’t really change anything, so long as we are all growing on our own paths and our own journeys, change is one of the most incredible things we can ever experience.

That, and love. I haven’t known that in that way quite yet, but I will. I needed to get the rest of me sorted first, and I have. And damn, it’s amazing.

Less | More

cjmillar82 life without a paddle dream more

I have a sign on my wall that says dream more, complain less, listen more, talk less, love more, argue less, hope more, fear less, relax more, worry less, believe more, doubt less, play more, work less.

And I’m trying to live by all of it. Especially the worry less, believe more part. I’ve gotten a lot better at that recently and I’m not entirely sure where it’s coming from but I am ever so grateful. It’s this calm sense of self and trust that I have felt help me grow tremendously in the past few months – really in this calendar year – and it’s quite a revelation.

I understand more than I ever have before, which, if you think about it, should be obvious. I mean, shouldn’t we all understand more today than we did yesterday and the day before that? I feel like that’s the nature of living – learning, growing, and becoming more every day. Life is not a competition. We all should want to succeed together, and there should be no basis of comparison between ourselves and anyone else. We should only be comparing ourselves to our prior versions of ourself so that we can continue to reflect, introspect, learn, and grow. An while all of this may seem so obvious to me now, I am also realizing that while the words are obvious, living in a place where those words are guiding our actions, emotions, and inner thoughts is something else entirely.

It may feel like this tremendous growth came out of nowhere, as if this sense of self-confidence that doesn’t need explanation or bravado just appeared, but I know that’s not the case. It came from years of hard work, the past few years for sure but mostly from last summer. Last spring – summer was incredibly hard for me, and even the fall wasn’t the greatest. I spent my birthday afternoon alone, mostly by choice, but with the weight of the world on my shoulders, or so it felt to me. I carried that burden all of last year, and almost carried it into this one, but then I realized I could simply set it down. The only burdens I need to carry are my own, and I only need to carry them if I am not willing to address them, see them for what they are, learn from them, and move on. And so, heading into 2023, I set them down.

I started to see some of it when in the fall, I had the good fortune of being “chosen.” I joke that I ain’t the peach anyone picks, then someone chose me and I thought it was fantastic. Flattering, sure. Fun? For the time being. A distraction from myself? Definitely. It’s always easier to push someone else to grow while still feeling stuck yourself because for the time being anyway, you can focus on someone who is stuck. A person whom you have knowledge and experience to share with as your growth has far outpaced their own even if at the moment you, yourself are stuck too. So in comparison, you’re already light years ahead of them and sharing your growth and learnings with them in the hopes they grow too is a blessing and a gift and one I am grateful to share and give part of myself for.

What I didn’t realize is that there’s more to it. It’s okay to not always be growing yourself. There is time for healing. Time for sitting. Time for just being. There’s also time for doing, changing, and yes of course, helping others. But it’s not okay to just settle for someone who picks you because you’re not used to being picked, or maybe you’re used to being picked but not in trusting that you’re worth it so you roll with whatever the best option in front of you is for the moment and work really really hard to convince yourself that it’s okay, you picked them too, even when you didn’t and never planned to in the first place. Perhaps that’s why it took some convincing. Perhaps that’s not it at all. We’re all different. But what I did learn was that it’s important that you know that you’re a gift, that who you give your time and attention and affection to is a gift, too. And that not every gift needs to be reciprocated or reciprocal.

I am so happy with the direction my life is heading, and I am also happy with where it is right now. I’ve learned to stop worrying about the day to day and just DO what needs doing. Don’t be wasteful or foolish, but don’t be stressed and worrying all the time. Focus on what you can. Keep your chin up. Be positive. Allow yourself grace. Spend time where and how you want it while still respecting your responsibilities and boundaries and needs and those who rely on you and allow yourself to rely on others some too, and believe more and things will all come together.

I know this may sound cryptic or as if I am talking in circles but here’s the beauty of it – it all makes perfect sense to me and that’s what matters. The more I can grow and the better I can be, the better of a life I can build for myself and my loved ones, the more abundance I can welcome into my life, to share with those around me, to help us all together make the world a better place. Life really is beautiful. Thank you. I can’t wait to see what’s to come, but also I can wait because I love being right here and appreciating today for everything it is, also. Be kind to yourself. You’re an amazing person. I know, because I am too. We all are.

So smile more.
Say hi to that stranger.
Pay it forward.
Stop and smell the roses.
REALLY breathe.
Feel the air on your skin.
Smell the flowers (or sneeze at the pollen).
Pet a cat.
Walk a dog.
Ride a horse.
Go for a hike.
Accomplish something tangible today, even if that’s smiling at yourself in the mirror, that’s something.
Believe in yourself.
Understand more today than you did yesterday.



cjmillar82 life without a paddle fight

Fight for it. Whatever it is. Whatever makes a difference. Because I’ll tell you the things I’ve seen in the past week have made me want to find a way to be able to fight for our youth in ways I never even comprehended before. When there are teens actively asking for and seeking help, their families right beside them, asking for support, turning to the very people who are supposed to help us – to be continually cast aside – where do we go from here?

We wonder why there are more school shootings than ever, more violence than ever, more addiction and drug abuse issues than ever, but have we ever stopped to consider why? Perhaps what we need aren’t more laws and regulations. All that does is the same thing we keep telling our youth. Don’t do that it’s bad. Don’t do that or you’ll be in trouble. That hurts, that’s stupid, that’s illegal, that’s awful. How about we look to the root of the problem?

Do you know anyone who has turned to heroin or other drugs because they had a great life (and knew how to love themselves on the inside)? Know anyone who shot up a school out of good intentions? How about someone who cut because they were making the world a better place? No? Me either. You know why? Because these things do not exist. What does exist, however, is a world full of throwaway girls and angst-ridden boys with unrealistic expectations being taught what they should or shouldn’t do because someone said so. The law said so. Their idols said so. That influencer said so.

Who the fuck cares? I know I don’t. I don’t care who says what where when why or how. I care about ME. I care about MY choices. I care about what’s MY responsibility.

You are not your trauma. Your trauma is not your fault. Your healing – and your happiness – absolutely is your responsibility. It’s about damn time we do something about it, together.

How can we expect our kids to know better, do better, or be better when all we do is police them? We police society and look to cure evil and anger and hatred with laws and regulations. Does taking away our guns keep people from getting killed? I don’t know. Maybe. But does it make the kids (and adults) acting out any healthier? Are we doing anything to fix the ACTUAL problem? The human problem? The problem that makes our children hate themselves, and cut themselves, and never feel good enough? The problem that makes picking up a gun and shooting innocent people feel glorifying rather than horrifying? The problem that makes us forget the joy and grace we get from helping others? The problem that makes our society riddled with death and despair want to act out instead of help each other? Because as far as I can see, the answer to all of that is no.

This week alone I’ve witnessed two parents (one of them myself) be questioned by CPS for the very same things we brought our kids in for help for. Yesterday I witnessed a CPS worker degrade a 16 year old girl by measuring her cuts. As if the simple fact of her repeated cutting wasn’t enough to alarm any caring intelligent adult that this girl clearly suffered from self-esteem issues, in the name of “protecting her” a representative for an organization named Child Protection Services actually inflicted damage on three children simultaneously while asking that child about her cuts in a shared hospital room with two other girls suffering from trauma, with nothing but a curtain in between them. It was, in a word, mortifying. The own mother felt so cornered at what to do and how to even say something to the perceived authority she also froze in fear.

I spoke up. I don’t care. I will NOT ever sit by and watch or listen someone damage our youth under the guise of best intentions and to hell with whatever policy or belief gave that person the so-called authority to act in that way. I hope some day you feel the same shame and embarrassment you unleashed on that child who was in the ER waiting for psych help…for the fourth time. How fucking dare you.

Just when did we forget what the word empathy meant? When did being an empath become more important than acting with empathy? Great some Facebook quiz said you’re an empath and that’s why you overthink and are the way you are. Here’s a novel idea. How about you learn to act with empathy and do something to change other’s lives for the better? When did personal responsibility go out the window? What makes you think that forcing medications on a teen (even your own in your own home) and forcing them to be drug tested or nicotine tested or whatever tested regularly under the constant threat of being punished will teach our children anything BUT that they are not trustworthy?

If we can’t teach our kids to trust themselves, how can we expect them to trust us? Society? Others? Anyone?

Why not teach them to care about themselves first? What about teaching them that they and only they have the power to choose their future? Their lives? What does and doesn’t happen to their bodies? Their minds? Their souls? Why is this everyone else’s responsibility? Why are we so reluctant to give them the power over themselves?

The best thing we can do for the younger generations is teach them to be empowered to write their own future. And the only way we can do that is to show them we care, we trust them, and we love them. Give them the tools and the freedom to make the right choices, and learn from the wrong ones they will at times, inevitably make. Let them succeed. Let them fall down. Let them stumble, and rise. Help them up – but not always. Teach them they can do it themselves, but that they also don’t have to. Teach them to help the weakling, the odd ball, the special needs child, but also to help the kid who seems to have it all together with the perfect family and the perfect life because hey. You never know. You never, ever know. Ask me how I know – and I only know my life and what I lived through.

I met some incredible people this week. Nurses, techs, doctors, and staff all overworked but still caring. Exhausted, making mistakes, but still trying. Aside from perhaps that awful woman from CPS, everyone was very clearly doing the best they could with the information they had and likely not enough pay, sleep, or support. Let’s fix THAT. Let’s fix the society that’s focused on asking our children whose fault it is, why they cut, why they are weak, sad, broken, and afraid. How about we instead we ask our children how do you feel, what do you want? What’s your choice, your life, your dreams, your goals? How about we work together to get them there.

Because you know what? Laws don’t stop mass shootings. Taking away guns doesn’t make people happier or healthier. Holding kids for a week in an over-full ER waiting for psych help because every single location across the state is full and we have nothing in our county at all for adolescents doesn’t fix mental health. All those things do is slap another band aid on the symptom that leaves everyone sending thoughts & prayers, and screaming about reform on social to the point of nauseating bullshit background noise that does absolutely nothing.

You want change? Go sit in an ER for a week and listen to the children asking for help getting turned away. Go talk to someone who never got help and is now a drug-addicted adult who can’t seem to kick the habit no matter how awful they feel about themselves. Talk to someone who lived through suicide attempts and hell. Find out what makes them tick, what makes them broken, and let’s put this life back together. We’re failing not only our youth, but we’re failing each other. I get to see it up close and personal every single day, and you know what? It makes me sick.

So fight. Stop fighting each other, our politicians, our government, our enemies, and our friends. Stop all of that. Fight for US.

How about we start talking? Being honest. Authentic. Real. Talking about why we skew towards violence, or self-harm? Why do we idolize people behind a computer screen while being too afraid to even stand up for ourselves and our children? What made us so afraid to speak out when we see injustice right in front of us? I’m not talking about race or religion or gender or sexual preference. I don’t give two shits about that. I’m talking about just being a basic, good human being? When did that become so hard?

In a society that’s been so mangled and perverse, let’s stop and not just smell the roses, but talk to the person next to us. Do me a favor. Tomorrow, when you see something someone does / wears / says / looks that makes you smile, tell them. Smile at that stranger. Say hello, how are you and stop to listen when someone responds. Maybe all they needed today was to be heard. Guess what? Listening is free. So is showing empathy, or paying someone a compliment, or just simply stopping and appreciating everything around you. So do that, please? Our society needs you, and our youth is following our lead and right now, they’re dying because we are so busy fighting each other we can’t stop long enough to do anything more than fight about laws to even see that we could fix so much more with love.

Stop fighting darkness with red tape. How about we stop fighting all together and instead just start caring for one another and see where that gets us when we all learn that no one has control of our lives but us and it’s about damn time we start living them in a way that matters.


I’m Coming Home

coming home life without a paddle cj millar 82

I’m coming home. I know my kingdom awaits, and they’ve forgiven my mistakes. Tell the world I’m coming home.

Maybe home isn’t a place. I keep looking for it like it’s my Neverland, my Narnia, my Hogwarts, or Deadwood, but maybe what I’m looking for is so much more. Maybe it’s right here. Or there. Or somewhere inside of me that’s so much more.

I say so much of life isn’t personal, and you say all of life is. Maybe we’re both right. There is no risk if you’re honest. The only risk is in not taking risks, but if we’re honest with ourselves there are no risks at all.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? I’d go home. Part of me says Deadwood because in the short time I was there I felt more at home than I have in so many lives. But it’s more than that. I don’t want to sit still. I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to stay anywhere. I want roots, sure, and I have them now. But I want someone to share those roots with and someone who will go see the far corners of this earth with me, too. While still always coming home. Wherever that may be, because home is right here with me.

I love this. All of it. I am back out in my element networking to the point of exhaustion in all the best ways, already planning the next trip, the next conference, the next expo and I can’t wait. It’s okay it’s in Vegas even if it’s not my favorite place because it still means I am back doing what I love and what I’m good at – connecting great brands with great people. Though if we’re being honest, it’s so much more than that too.

I don’t know what’s going on this week. Good things. Bad things. Death. Life. It’s always something, but that is life, right? The ups and downs we can’t control. What we can control is what we make of them, and I am so grateful to be going through all of this with some pretty incredible people. Thank you, all of you.

What now? We go home.