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Letters to myself…

cj millar letters to myself

There are things I write in my journal that I don’t share with anyone else, but occasionally when I’m really struggling or feel like I need to make those words more powerful, I’ll share on here if it will help me move forward. I wrote both of these letters for myself, they are not about anyone else. I needed to give those words more meaning today and so I am typing them here. I don’t know if I will publish this, though I assume I eventually will otherwise I wouldn’t even bother typing this out. But right now, I’m not ready. Right now, I’m still confused. Right now, I’m still reminding myself that I am trustworthy and how to move forward and look up. Like all things in life, this too, is temporary.

I’ve always said everything I love either leaves or dies. I’m just finally standing still long enough to see that I deserve to be loved, too.

People can’t stay if you’re always pushing them away. Being afraid is okay, you just need to trust that those who love you will be there for you, and those who don’t weren’t meant to be in your life. Sometimes we all need time and space to find our our way and sometimes we realize how truly blessed we are with all the love in our lives.

Loving someone is easy. Allowing ourselves to be loved – and believing we are lovable and deserving of love in return is hard.
Even for me.
Especially for me.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the feelings that we forget to breathe. We forget to talk. We forget to trust others to love us for who we are.

Stand still. Listen. Ask. Be loved.
One day at a time.

I have what I want. Remember this. Go slow. Be open, but keep your eyes open. Talk. Speak your truth. But remember to listen, too. Listen not just to words, but to actions, intentions, and who people show you who they are. Not only who they are to you, but who they are to family, to friends, to those who rely on them, and those who love them. Listen to who they are to those who have wronged them, as well as those they have not been the best to, also.

Then look at yourself. Who you are. How you love those who are good to you, but who you are and how you act to those who aren’t good to you, too. Ask yourself the hard questions – the why’s and the how’s, and the what have you learned and how can you be better and grow.

Own your own shit, but realize you don’t have to do everything alone.
Say “please,” and “thank you,” and “I appreciate you.”
Make time for what matters and room in your heart for those who matter to you. Say, “I love you,” when you mean it, and never when you don’t. But don’t wait so long that you lose it.

Let yourself be loved in return. By family and friends. And learn to let someone in to truly love you – slowly, in the right ways, and the right time – so you can take down those walls and build a new foundation together.

Bury fear.
Abandon hate.
Be willing to trust, listen, & learn.
Be open to loving and being loved.

And believe that, one day at a time, things can be different so long as you’re willing to take a chance, open up, and let someone in.

The key to my heart, the key to my mind, and a penny for my/your thoughts may be three very different things. But together, they can be something completely different entirely. Together they can be amazing.
Together they can become something truly incredible.


cjmillar82 circles life without a paddle

Circles and feelings and things I am not used to. I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding both of those things that it would seem I’d know better by now, but I do not. If life has taught me anything over the years, it was that everything that you love either leaves you or dies. I don’t say this to be dramatic though I also suspect you don’t believe me and that’s okay. I wouldn’t believe me either if I didn’t live it, and even then I struggle with that anyway.

I started writing this over a month ago, and haven’t come back to it until now. Ironically, I sat back down at my computer to write, opened it up, and went to start a new post thinking of titling it Circles after the circles my brain has been running in lately to find that I already started these thoughts a month ago – I had just managed to somehow push them out of my mind until now.

Funny how things can feel so real and so not at the same time. Funny how three years later and whether I want to believe it or not, my brain reminds me in the back of my mind just how not long ago these circles were the place that I lived, all the time that year and the year after and then some. It’s a time I try to not go back to, a time I think I’ve put – and tried to leave – in the past yet this time every year for the three years now since, like clockwork it’s there. Even when I try to keep myself busy. Even when life keeps me busy with a packed schedule of practices and games and work and life and everything I’m trying to fit in into days that never seem to be quite long enough, or have enough daylight or time to get everything done.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the reason to not trust without wanting reassurance but perhaps needing it anyway. I haven’t cried (yet) this holiday season and hoping to make it through the first one in a while without those tears of frustration, anguish, mistrust in myself and in life around me, and finally moving beyond the near and far past that I keep saying belongs right there – in the past.

Trust is hard for me. I’ll tell you everything about me, what I’ve been through, what I’ve experienced. But telling you how I’m feeling is hard. Telling you my fears is hard. Letting myself really open up and trust is hard. More than that, it’s scary. Outright terrifying really. Though I know it shouldn’t be, it still is for me. I’m not quite sure how to move forward from that, but I know I’m trying. Maybe I should just say, hey, I’m struggling, I need some reassurance but somehow I don’t know how to quite put that into words. At least not for real. Because those words need to be followed up with feelings and intentions and all of that is hard. I just want to skip ahead to the part where everything is okay.

I’m not used to sharing my life with someone. It’s hard enough trying to figure out the holidays on my own, but for years it was what I was used to. Christmas Eve staying up late watching my favorite movies after coming home from seeing a few family members became a new tradition. Christmas Day on the farm often by myself with the animals became a comfort because it was a constant and something I could trust. I didn’t have to rely on or hope for anyone else to be there because I already knew they wouldn’t be and so therefore it was easy. It was me, and I knew where’d I’d be and what I’d be doing and ultimately there was comfort in that solitude that didn’t feel like being alone. It felt like being home and at peace.

But in the past several years, I learned that sharing space with loved ones isn’t a bad thing. It can be quite the opposite – a blessing and a comfort all its own. It brings a different kind of peace, and joys that aren’t the same when it’s just you, but different ones and in many ways better. I always want to share the good times in life with the people I love, and I always want to be there to help the ones I love through their hard times. I am just not sure how to let others be there for me and as such, I just tell everyone I am okay, I’m doing fine, things are good, and deal with whatever it is my head is running me in circles over in my own way. I don’t know that I want to do it that way anymore, but I also don’t know how else to be.

I’m struggling. I need help. A hug. Someone to tell me it’ll all be okay. I’m getting there. In another week or two this will also be in the past and I will be better. Back to my old self, but better. A new year, another path forward, another chance at growth. I’m always growing, always learning, always becoming more of who I am and always working to be better than who I was yesterday and who I am today. If nothing else, I can always promise that I am honest, I am trustworthy, and I’ll always speak my truth even when it’s hard. All you have to do is ask.



Dreams & Teams

go together dreams & teams cj millar

They say that teamwork makes the dream work and that’s been something that’s proven to be truer than ever around me these days in so many ways. The girls are playing in their sectional playoffs tomorrow after a winless season last year to go undefeated in their league this year. That didn’t happen without teamwork, and that teamwork came with hard work, but a lot more than that, too.

It took coaching and encouragement. It took communication – good and bad, easy and hard – that lead to improvements on how they work together. It took learning about each other. Their strengths and weaknesses as a team, as individuals, in each position, and what they can do together to make each other stronger. It was learning about the stuff they like and dislike, learning to speak up about what bothers them, and what makes them happy. It was also about learning to put personal differences aside for the greater good and, in the simplest of terms, scoring goals.

It’s not that different than life if you think about it and it amazes me how many people, even adults – no especially adults – can’t see beyond their immediate situation to see what’s really going on, what their goal really is, and how their actions impact more than anyone else around them, their own wellbeing. It screams to a lack of understanding of the long game, the ability to grow, and above all else what being a part of a team really is.

I guess in some cases, people don’t look at things that way and I’m well aware I look at things differently than most. But then again, I’ve lived a life different than most. I spent years single to learn about myself, what makes me tick, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, and learning how to rise above my past and be a better person not just for myself but for those around me. The better of a person I am, the better of a life I can offer to those I care about and the more positivity I can bring to the world and that’s something it definitely needs.

There’s something to be said for personal responsibility, self-awareness, and looking at every experience as a learning opportunity and a way to grow rather than something that happens to us that we need to overcome. Sure, we all have shit to overcome. These girls had a shit season last year to overcome and they did that with hard work and communication and dedication. Not by blaming each other for why they didn’t win, but working together to be better. Now that’s pretty cool to see.

I think what’s really interesting too is when you take a step back and remove immediate emotion from things, how you are able to truly and calmly understand what’s going on around you without the coloring of rose glasses or tinted windows or jaded dreams. Instead you can see the reality of the situation, understand with compassion, and realize that perhaps acting out in hurt or anger doesn’t actually benefit anyone and that it hurts the people you claim to care about and even more so, it destroys you, yourself.

I don’t really get mad or angry or yell. It used to really freak my kids out because it was the opposite of what they grew up with but when things went wrong especially as we’ve all grown together and closer, that we look at arguments as disagreements which are really opportunities to learn more about each other and talk through to a resolution. It doesn’t always mean agreeing, nor does it mean that we see eye to eye on everything or that things are always black and white or one of us is right and the other is wrong. It means freedom to make our own choices and the responsibility to accept our actions and the repurcussions, the knowledge that every action is a choice and even inaction is a choice and whatever happens to us is a direct response of what we allow in our lives. We write our own story. It’s up to us to choose what we want and what we will accept in our lives and up to you to be true to yourselves. Blaming someone else for the actions you accepted is like running a red light and then being mad you got a ticket. You made that choice, so what if it was okay in the past or you settled for the risk in the past that means it would keep working out in your favor?

Write your own future. Stop looking outside for the answers, you already have them. You just have to learn how to be honest with yourself first – and I mean truly completely honest – before you can ever be a part of a great team.

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. Just ask these girls. Just ask any solid family or friend group that has each other’s backs. It’s not because they’re perfect, it’s because they’re in it together. They know their own shortcomings and rather than look to each other to fix the other, they work on fixing themselves so they can better contribute to the goal. What’s your long game? What are you hoping to accomplish? Take out the other team or win the championship together? Because let’s be honest, playing dirty and taking out the other team doesn’t mean you’re better than them, and it certainly doesn’t mean you win. Usually you get hurt – or even more so – in the process and often there’s a ton of collateral damage and let’s be real here. Saying you didn’t mean to, or you did it in the line of the game or honesty or truth or reality or what’s right really doesn’t mean shit because we’re all responsible for our own actions. But it also means that no one has to live with those actions but you. It’s funny how the truth has a way of bringing out the best in people.

It makes teams closer. It makes people play better. It makes people who maybe were struggling come together in a way they hadn’t thought to before. It makes teams and friends and families shift perspectives. It makes people soften a little, learn a little, listen a little, and in some cases, love a lot. And, when you take off all of your armor and stop being a warrior and be truly vulnerable and let someone in, that’s when being a part of a team becomes truly powerful.

Let’s go, Wildcats! Tomorrow is just another chapter in an incredible part of this #DreamTeam. Whatever happens, I’m proud of you! ❤️

Shift | There’s No Place Like Home

life without a paddle shift perspectives cj millar

Season shift as the weather changes. Leaves shift from green to reds, golds, and shades of brown until the trees let them go. And oh what a lesson that is – to truly let things go. It’s one I struggle with. I hate being wrong. I hate losing. I hate when I can see where things are going but am powerless to change them. I hate seeing friends hurt or disrespected and fighting when a fight isn’t warranted and isn’t the right answer.

I’m a fighter. I’m so used to standing alone, fighting alone, and having a handful of close friends dispersed across the country (and world) that when it feels like there’s something to fight for right here I tend to overreact. It’s not cool. I do the same when I feel like I am not good enough or start questioning my self-worth too. I overreact. My brain spins. I think through entire conversations and plans that haven’t even happened yet – and likely never will. I run through plans a/b/c/d/e all the way through z until I’m dizzy and have a hard time letting go. I plan too much – and lately have been fighting myself to take a step back, let go, and just see where life takes you.

So far it’s taken me some pretty amazing places. Here, where I live. On short hikes and longer walks with my dogs. Wandering the woods. Time with friends. Soccer games. Dinners with the kids at home and out. Plans for a Sassy 16 with more teenagers than I’ll likely know what to do with but I know we’ll all have a fantastic time.

There’s still a few things hanging in the balance. A few things I need to get better at letting go of, and a few things I need to give space and room to grow in good time.

There’s a chance that things come together in my corner of the Sullivan Catskills in a way that would make living here even more amazing than it already is. I am not saying anything yet, but I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed and hoping for some very good news very very soon.



cjmillar82 we accept the love we think we deserve

We accept the love we believe we deserve.

I started this above over a week ago, and then left it to let things sit and shift as so often I do. You see, I have learned, despite my strength and willingness to fight for what I believe in, when it comes to people in your life, letting go is so much more important. When I talk about fighting and shifting perspective above, none of that means fighting for someone to stay in your life, fighting for something to work that clearly doesn’t, or trying to force change from the outside when it needs to come from within you, first.

Shift perspective, focus, and breathe.

Fight for those people in your life who need your help and support. Fight to keep your kids safe, and teach them how to learn everything from accountability to self-awareness and responsibility. Teach them that it’s okay to be uncomfortable and learn how to grow through change rather than fight things around them. Fight yourself when your brain tries to tell you you’re not worthy (you are). And then, breathe. Remember, we accept the love we believe we deserve. If you have to fight for someone to love you, to spend time with you, or to be there for you what are you really fighting for? Them? I’d think not. It would seem you’re spending more time fighting yourself to convince yourself you’re worth it when it would seem you don’t fully believe it either. Or maybe the thing you’re fighting for isn’t what’s meant for you and you need to let go to realize you’ll find something better.

Ask me how I know. I spent a long time alone figuring all of this out. It’s made navigating some of the most challenging parts of life much more manageable. I wouldn’t say easy because there are things I have faced that weren’t easy on any scale, but life isn’t supposed to be easy. We don’t grow because of the easy days. We grow through the hard ones. It’s made shifting my perspective from the outside in easier to do. Asking myself – if this thing or that thing or that other thing doesn’t work out, why is that? What can I do to grow, change, and do better? Be better? And above all else, believe I truly deserve better?

You know what happens when I do that?

My whole world slows down in all the best ways. It’s like life downshifted and things are moving more slowly so I can feel and appreciate more. Suddenly the leaves are more colorful. The clouds are whiter, the sky is bluer. The drive to the doctor is magical and not mundane. I’m smiling more. I’m breathing more. And this calm confidence I’ve been seeking and working towards for so many years comes easier these days.

I trust that when I give myself and others space to show up however they are comfortable, we see who we really are to each other and ourselves. I trust that when things get hard, I don’t have to plan out all the options and run in circles and get my mind spinning – it just quiets and I can move forward. I trust that when my friends say the’ve got me, they mean it because when I need them they’re here and they know I have and always will do the same for them. I look at past friendships and relationships that have ended, changed, or drifted apart and can allow myself and them the grace and peace to grow on our own terms in our own ways even if it’s not together or through being friends the way we may have been in the past. And I am comfortable with that and grateful for what we all learned from each other and hopeful that they are too.

We are all doing the best we can with what we have right now. Even when someone is acting petty, upset, or insecure, it’s based on where they are with themselves and where they are in their own life. That doesn’t give us a free pass to be assholes. Quite the opposite. Understanding that we’re all doing our best should be all the more reason to treat each other with compassion and kindness. It’s okay, you can compare me to anyone you like, it won’t change how I view me, or how those who know me view me, or how those who love me love me, and if it gives you some solace I wish you the comfort you seek. Just know that comfort, security, love – all of these things come from you first. You won’t find comfort in someone else if you’re not first comfortable in your own skin. You won’t find security in who you are if you’re not secure with yourself and willing to look at the hard stuff and work on that for you, first. Even love – we accept the love we believe we deserve. Why do you believe you deserve what it is you think you have or had? If you deserve better, go find it. If you’re not sure, spend some time alone and you’d be surprised what you uncover. The mind and heart are incredible things when you let them work together instead of fighting each other for what makes sense, what is comfortable, and what you want, and what makes you happy and where you truly feel at home.

It’s true. Home isn’t a place, it’s a place in the heart. But it’s also more than that. It’s where your loved ones are, where you go to smile and laugh but also where you go to cry and scream. It’s where you have people to hold you when you need a hug or leave you alone when you need to go find space or get lost in the woods for a while. It’s that calm understanding and patience that even when things feel like they’re moving fast, somehow through it all time just stands still because you are right where you’re supposed to be.

It would seem more people read the words I write than I realized, and I hope they bring you comfort too. I love how words on a page can help me grow, but also be as open and fluid to others to read whatever it is they need or want or believe they need to hear. Life is all about perspective. Perhaps, it’s time to shift yours.

There’s no place like home ❤️

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.