Monday, October 7, 2019

The Opportune Time

It's been nearly two months since I last wrote a post. 

Not because I have't had anything to say.  I've had a ton of things happen in that time away.

I started a new job; it's awesome.  I won 3rd Place in Canada in sporting and first place in the Duel Dual with my Canadian twin Kat.  I taught my first official Barkleigh seminar, I'm gearing up for my first webinar, planning a few speaking gigs for next year... It's been busy.  As much excitement and hubbub and general forward motion I've been making though, I feel like I'm further away from my goal many days.  I have all these wonderful things distracting me, things that have and will enhance my career, but are at the same time pulling me in different directions. Pulling me to places and things I want to go and do, but much like Robert Frost I know if I go to far down one path I will never double back.

That is not to say that the paths of which I am faced with are completely segregated.  I just know from looking around that others have been drawn down these roads too before and changed their destinations...

The problem I am faced with is what everyone is faced with; Time and energy are our most valuable assets.  They are so finite, and easy to squander, and people and situations are always trying to steal them from us...

So when do we decide to pass or seize an opportunity?

I know it makes sense to grab them as they come, while your star is burning brightest, but observing others I see what that has done...  What has these amazing opportunities truly cost them? 

I've lamented, and even sobbed over the fact that I have "lost out" or not been given the same opportunities; I've been jealous and hurt at times over the way things have "played out".  But this year with all the buzz and angst and hashtags I realized that sometimes an opportunity is actually an obligation in disguise. 

An opportunity opens a door and allows more freedom to pursue, to learn to grow... It doesn't make a claim on your time or energy without giving back towards your personal goal. 

An obligation compensates; after all, an obligation wants your energy and time to grow not yourself, but the thing.  It wants your energy to feed itself, and pays a measly sum for that most precious of resources; energy and time.

 I've spent a good portion of this year figuring out which is which while trying to stay on my path while processing the tremendous amount of growth I've undergone.  I've said yes to obligations I realized too late I was not willing to meet. But I've also taken advantage of opportunities that Opened doors for me, and continue to push me forward.

I am both relieved and saddened that the competition year is coming to close, but I'm also ready to take a deep breath again, to fall back into a routine, and recharge for next year and all its new opportunities.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Time Keeps Slipping

  It's been a minute.  That's always been my problem with projects I start things and then I get sidetracked....

 Despite that This little piece of my soul received some incredible news yesterday, Helen Problems, is up for Barkleigh Honor Blog of the year.  It feels both incredible and surreal.

Although I am sure I will have more to say about that incredible honor, I want to talk about time.

I've always had a funky relationship with time.  I was pretty much born a procrastinator; my mother went into the hospital watching Saturday morning cartoons and I finally appeared in the late afternoon.

But time is the most valuable currency we have.  You cannot make more of it, and once it's gone it's gone.  So where and how we spend our time are two of the most important decisions we will ever make.

I've not always valued my time... I have spent too much on things that did not serve me or my goals, wasted it worried about other people's feelings or thoughts about me, did not charge appropriately when I was giving it to someone else, but what I squandered it the most on was tomorrows.

I wanted to compete for years before I actually stepped in the ring.  I wanted to finish my certifications for even longer before I started...and I swear to you I started my ISCC certification probably a decade ago and it's still not done.

I think about where I would be now if I had focused and went for my goals instead of wasting time.  I could be in the top ten already.  I could be on the travel team.  I could have been speaking for years....

But I realize too, that time does things in its own way...  I wasn't ready or stable in my life enough before to focus on my goals.  I hadn't learned enough yet to impart wisdom, because I had not lived enough yet.  Although I feel like I've wasted time, I've been heading this way my entire life.

I see new people in the face book groups asking about competing, or saying they want to one day...  If you are that person, don't let opportunities slip by you. If you are thinking about it, you are ready.  No matter what happens in that ring (or life), you are never too old, never too young, It's time. 

Anything you don't know about competing you will learn by doing, and there will people all around you willing to help, you just need to ask. Take your time back and invest it in passion.

I'm still processing this year and all of the little dreams I have for myself starting to come true.  For a long time I think I've been scared of my potential; scared of letting myself believe I was good enough, smart enough, strong enough... But I am and always have been more than just enough, and so are you. Spend time for yourself, dreams, goals, passion projects... It will never be a wasted minute.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

That Time It All Was Too Much

I'm sitting on my back deck right now, enjoying my Sunday, actually having a fun day.  I'm currently lounging in a freshly filled inflatable pool and persusing Facebook.

Best $15 Bucks ever

 Well, I guess I'm writing this now.

 This time last year I was not in the place.  I was quite honestly, nowhere. I suffer from, and have since I was young, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

 It affects many people, and has to do with a drop in vitamin D production amongst other things... Usually it strikes around the winter holidays and starts clearing up in my head around mid January to Early February.

 I struggle with the basic things, like getting out of bed, and breathing. Adherence to routine gets me through, and the stress induced, cortisol fueled holiday grooming but inside I'm not there.

I'm hibernating.

 There are many things that can help, but it's hard to get into a routine of cure and prevention when you are already in the middle of it...  it can feel like asking for a life vest when you are already drowning.

 Warm sunny springs and long runs usually snap me out and back to life... but I didn't have any of that last year.

 The spring was cold and miserable. It rained seemingly everyday... The bad feeling drug on and on. I questioned if I should groom.  I questioned if I should compete, if I should just shave everyone down and admit defeat. Find a new a career or move away somewhere no one knew what a failure I was.

 I almost completely disconnected from Facebook; a place I was so prevalent I had near strangers contacting my boyfriend and family.

 I had close friends thinking Joe, my boyfriend, had murdered me... and threatening to send the cops for a wellness check. (for future reference I'm 100% more likely to be the murderer in this relationship).

 I hadn't even completely disappeared. I'd scroll through here and there and like things. I competed at a handful of shows. I just didnt hang out. I got my dogs done and went home.

 Everything was too much and I couldn't articulate that.  I couldn't explain it to Joe, the person I'm closest to in all the world, how could I explain it to anyone else?

 A weekend away in August, gave me enough strength to crawl out of my hole.  I went to my childhood vacation spot and it allowed me to pull myself back to here and now.

 I competed at Hershey and New England after, but NEPGP is the show that impacted me the most.  So many people told was good to see me back in the ring, asked where I'd been all year..  Its strange to know you've been places and people didn't really notice.

 In contrast, I've been nearly everywhere this year. I feel affirmed competing, I still dont want to get out of bed (and my commute is slowly killing my soul), but I'm also here.  I'm no longer empty hibernating in a corner of my mind.

 I'm taking pride in my work, I'm back to putting myself out there and spending less time on time suckers (like mobile games or watching the BBC Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice 3 nights in a row. in its entirety).

 I still have good days and bad days like everyone, but they are just days.

 We all suffer from time to time in this way.

Even when we are working for a dream we start to doubt we deserve it. 

We get overwhelmed by the work it takes to achieve it, or paralyzed by the fear of taking the first step.

 We all feel these things. We all can overcome it.

Ask for that life vest, even if you are already drowning.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

That thing about Time

  If you have been around the competition ring at all, you'll know I was almost certainly the last person to check in for awhile.  In years past, I was even occasionally the subject of some mic shout outs about finally joining everyone. I wasn't dawdling or socializing... mostly I was frantically trying to fluff out my next dog after sprinting to potty my others.

   Those moments were embarrassing, yes, but running behind is pretty engraved into the fiber of my being.  In fact I wanted to write this post 10 days ago. 😏💁 

  I've been a procrastinator my entire life.  I often find it difficult to fit in everything I need and want to do, and that has caused relationships and my own self care to suffer.  I take small steps periodically to learn to prioritize but eventually I say yes to too many things, or make too many grand plans for the amount of time I actually have.

  Most of the stress I feel in my life is about time management. I will wake up 30 minutes earlier to get to work on days I know I need to leave at a certain time and still clock in 15 minutes late. Even if I pack days in advance for a contest I am inevitably up until the wee early morning hours running around finishing laundry or making sure the blades and scissors I packed actually work.  

  This in turn feeds into my drive to the show; I wind up leaving at least 2 hours later than I planned.  If I hit traffic or a storm, it can be as late as 10 pm before I arrive (which means a 12 or 1 am bedtime).  Often by the time I arrive on site I am already exhausted and irritated, and the dogs are rambunctious and antsy to stretch their legs.  I start the weekend already failing myself.

  It is a hard habit to shake, always being late.  I'm the type of person that instinctively wants to help.  I want to offer advice and make things easier for others, even though it may negatively affect myself.
Seriously, My Next Reminder Tattoo
So what is a bleeding heart, born procrastinator to do? 

Learn to say no of course.

Which I'm terrible at.

I will always say yes to adding another dog to my schedule in my day to day, or I will say yes to picking up a competition dog along my way for a friend.  Even if it is 2 hours out of my way... 

Honestly, I am learning to say no.  I am taking back my dogs that I maintain for myself and actually using them (I promise Anne!), I am prioritizing my and my dog's comfort and space over cramming another last minute dog into my van. I try not to schedule things immediately after work so I'm not trying to rush through when I'm already tired and stressed.

But more importantly I am learning to say no in my own way. If I can't help or feel like the helping is not going to benefit me, I am learning to say I cannot but maybe so and so can.

Doing this, I am using my vast network of dog friends, and I am also not just flat out disappointing someone which I'd internalize into a guilt trip of my own making that would eventually lead me to saying yes to the thing I don't want to do and already said no to. (Have I mentioned I probably have an anxiety disorder? 😀)

I am also learning to ask for help.

Saturdays at the shows are brutal for me.  I have to prep my cocker spaniel and poodle in the morning.  I have to walk everyone, and I need to feed and caffeinate myself.  I've finally decided I can't do it all at PetQuest; I prioritized what I needed to do, and sought assistance to delegate what others could do for me.  Jasymn and Alissa answered my plea for help and it made walking into the ring so much simpler.

I was able to focus on myself.  I could take a deep breath and relax and get mentally ready.

I competed all day Saturday, and instead of being tired and cranky,  and glad to be done, I was able to enjoy my work.  I was able to help a fellow competitor with her poodle. I was able get dressed into real adult clothes, and visit with my friends and colleagues socially.  Because I made myself a priority.

At home this is still a struggle.  It is overwhelming some days to try and keep the house reasonably clean, maintain all my dogs, eat right, get some exercise, stay current on life happenings and also relax.  I try to do what I can but feel guilty if its not everything I planned. Often times I hide in the bathroom just mindlessly scrolling through Facebook just to breathe.

 But the older I get the more I am realizing that there are never enough hours in the day to do all the things we wish we could or that we actually need to do.  I will almost always waste time and procrastinate.... at competitions, during my regular days, heck even my days off are seldom spent doing all the things I wanted to do.... 

The best that I can hope for is I learn to prioritize what is most important to me and make sure that is the thing I do first.  The second thing I need to learn is to forgive myself.  It is okay that I didn't get it all done.  It will get done in its own time.  And part of that forgiveness is learning to be flexible with priorities... Sometimes playing with my dogs is the priority.  Sometimes it is writing a blog. Maybe even a Nap once in awhile, and on a rare occasion it is scrubbing the toilet (Obviously, third thing is hire a housekeeper 😆).

Time is always going to win, but learning to say no and prioritizing myself, I'll get a few stolen moments back here and there.  Those are the moments I'll be able to appreciate, to slow down just a tad from the relentless sprint I find myself in most days.

Monday, June 10, 2019

That Time I Felt Like a "Real" Groomer

  It's a dreary day here today.  Warm but a consistent drizzle so I'm having a lazy day drinking coffee and getting all my things together I will need for Pet Quest which is coming up in a two weeks but Facebook has got me thinking about another show. 

  In years past, last weekend would have been the NDGAA's GroomFest.  I only got to attend the last year, when it was held in Virginia, but that show will forever hold a place in my heart.  It was the first time I ever felt like a "Real" groomer.

  I wasn't born into grooming, I never did 4H or Junior Showmanship, We never really owned a dog until I was about 9 and even then their grooming only ever consisted of maybe hosing them off in the tub or backyard with a hose. I fell in love with grooming accidentally; it was never a natural road for me to take.

  So I started off my first 8 years or so of grooming feeling like I was just winging it.  I'd go to shows and see these impossibly beautiful grooms, come home and produce this:

Not An actual Bichon 
  It's not bad.  It's not great either.  Nice pet trims was my wheelhouse; I had people surrounding me telling me that I did beautiful work, that I was great.... But I wanted more from and for myself, I knew my grooms weren't "right". I knew they could be better, I just didn't have the tools to achieve it.

At the time I worked for corporate, the atmosphere and policies were very different and I was discouraged by both management and my co workers from competing.  The logic was they did not go so why should I.  They tried and failed and I would too.

  I am here to tell you, if you want it, do it.  Maybe you fall in love like I did, maybe you decide it isn't for you...  but don't ever let someone else's experiences discourage you from trying something out for yourself.  It took me leaving corporate to finally be brave enough to grow on my own but you can grow anywhere if you nurture yourself.

  So fast forward to June 2014 this is my fifth show in Entry/ Div C., and I've had a lot of success in those shows...  I've placed in 3 of the last 4, and had started my certification process with NDGAA, and was by the time of GroomFest, a Non Sporting NCG. I owned my salon, and it just won Philly's Hot List top honors.  Some would say I'm on fire but I spent most of the time feeling like a fraud.

  I always wore the "corporate groomer" chip on my shoulder.  If you've never been a corporate groomer it's a hard feeling to explain, but sometimes other groomers can make you feel less than.  That just because you started at corporate, or work at corporate, you aren't a real groomer.  That corporate groomers are the cause of all dog injuries, the reason groomers aren't licensed or why the industry is not taken seriously.

It is never a direct insult as much as it is stated as a hurtful stereotype, and it is unequivocally untrue.  Yes, many people that should not be groomers pick up their first pair of clippers in a corporate salon, (or at a school, or a private shop too) but just as many groomers that are amazing and talented and passionate work corporate.  This sentiment was far more prevalent a few years ago, before the corporations started putting together their own competitive teams, but still lingers whenever "people who shouldn't groom" are brought up.

 As I had said earlier in the post, prior to GroomFest 2014, I had placed in almost every show I entered.  The one I did not place in was Intergroom 2014.  I spent the majority of that weekend a crying mess, hungry, tired, in way too many competition classes with dogs that had way too much hair. 

  So here I am, in the poodle competition ring at GroomFest, I had just won third place in sporting in the morning, and passed my sporting certification practical on Harold, a setter, but just barely and it had been all that I thought of while grooming my poodle, thinking what a fake I was.

  I had had so much early success that I had not yet learned to shake off the disappointments, and I carried a lot of the anxiety that I felt at Intergroom to Virginia that many weeks later.  I was growing my talent like a weed, pursuing every educational opportunity,  and basically taking my career from 0 to 80mph in 30 seconds still feeling like a total failure.  A couple of small road bumps and I was in the mind frame that my grooms were never good enough, that I didn't know what I was doing, and was starting to succumb to the voices in my head that were telling me I should pack it all in and give up now.

And then this happened:

I won honorable mention in poodles.  Yes I had already won "real placements", but poodles... poodle class is something else.  To place in poodles, or to even be considered... well you have won in the biggest most competitive class there is (at some shows it can be close to 40 competitors in the ring). Poodles take all the elements of grooming you need to achieve; balance, symmetry, style, and finish and elevate it to the next level.

  Over my almost 6 years of competing I have only placed in poodles two times, won this award of merit, and made the cut 3 other times.  This was my first recognition in poodles, and in that moment it lifted me back up.  Truth be told it's probably why I think so highly of placements in poodles.... I wasn't in consideration for 3rd of 5 people and "got close enough",  I was considered for 3rd out of  around 20 poodles and my effort couldn't be ignored... It shut the voices up and made my heart swell, because I also got to share the honor with a woman I had gotten very close to over the previous year.

Jay would later ask if I was really that upset; I told him the truth, this ribbon meant the world to me.  It still does.  Most of my trophies and plaques are in storage right now, but this ribbon, it hangs proudly on my wall, right next to my favorite "win" photo of all time.

That ribbon, this moment, it saved me from myself. 

From giving into my fears and anxieties, from giving up something that has for half a decade brought a lot of laughs, meaning, and friendships into my life.  I can't imagine where I'd be today without grooming competitions and the friends I have made through them and I'm glad I don't have to.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

That First Time I Felt Invisible

Anyone that has ever spent a lot of time with me usually realizes one of the best words to describe me is intense.  I have an insatiable drive to do whatever it is I have decided to do.

  It has taken many forms over the years; Dance, Running, Flyball, Football, and for the last six years grooming competitions.  Having drive and ambition and being passionate are all wonderful qualities, I see them as positives in myself as well as others.  But it can also lead to an emotional rollercoaster...  I have left the ring in tears as often as I have left the ring smiling.  

The first time I cried after a competition was the Rescue Rodeo I mentioned in the previous post.  I'm not proud I cried, and I'm a little embarrassed that my breakdown happened in front of Lindsey Dicken, Val P., and Nicole, but it happened and it is part of my history.

 So why did I cry? Well.. I spent 3 hours carefully brushing out, saving a ton of hair, and putting a pretty damn decent groom on a scared shelter dog....  Only to not be considered for placement in the top 10 while 3 short haired dogs were....  Including a hairless Chinese crested.

The Before and After, again. (I know I was a f*ckin rock star lol)

  When I didn't place and the short haired ones did, I couldn't help myself.  I was devastated.  Yes I was a new competitor, and it's a "fun contest" but the criteria set was that the class was supposed to be judged on transformation. 

And I worked My butt off in that ring.  It is one of only four times in six years of competing I felt "robbed", compounded by the fact that people said to me as I left the ring, "I can't believe it" and "What happened?". 

Seriously, nothing makes you feel lower then when you feel like you should have placed and so does everyone around you. 

 One, because you worked really hard and you were really proud.  Two because it also sort of feels like one is being a spoiled brat having a pity party (at least I feel bratty).

  It's a tough line to walk being a gracious loser and a driven individual.  It's even tougher to have a lot of self worth, and also feel like you are invisible.

  I felt invisible that day.  Truly, significantly, deeply invisible.  I wish I could say it was the only time.  I feel that way often; I've never been good at saying look at me, look at me, because I have never truly felt "ready".  But I am.  I am a good groomer, better than good, and you, reader, probably are too.  It's tough being good and driven; it never feels like you are enough, even when it is way more than good enough.

Heck, I've felt really invisible lately actually, currently people are sharing cherished memories on Facebook thanks to a meme, and it has not gone unnoticed to me the absence of some of my favorite people having anything to say under mine (so stupid I know).  But more importantly, I've seen people gain opportunities that I have dreamed about for years, and it makes me feel like I'm not seen or valued by anyone "important".  It has made me question what I am doing wrong, and fills me with self doubt.  It can be gut wrenching.

  I don't have any great answer to not feeling invisible from time to time... we all have insecurities and it is easy for them to manifest into jealousy. But both of those feelings are the antithesis to drive...  they can cold hard stop a person in their tracks....

But then, I've learned, that sometimes I have to make my own victories;  To take all that doubt, insecurity and negative feelings and turn them into fuel for positives. I celebrated at Atlanta this year, not a placement, but that my spray up finally stayed up and all my wiggies stayed in. At Tacoma my fellow competitors paid me some sincere compliments and I was overwhelmed.  It meant so much they will never know...

Even today, one of the coolest people I ever met in real life shared something I wrote, and my friends that I shared my feelings with understood and didn't make me feel bad for feeling disappointed, and even my boss told me that I have so much to give and all of that made me feel a little better. 

It gives me the energy to keep on going... Because driven people, we don't really know how to stop.  And no matter how invisible any person feels they're not;  There is someone out there that wants to be just like you.  No matter what stage of a career you are in.

So tomorrow I'm going to wake up and I'm going to celebrate all the small victories.  I will not wallow in my insecurities. I'm going to continue to "Bake until perfect" as my good friend put it.  I'm going to clap for other's small and large victories, even if they are ones I coveted, and let them know I am there and that I see them. 

I'm going to go for a casual run and burn off my left over stress and anxiety.  I will look at beautiful pictures of dogs, hopefully teach someone something and work on my own things.  I will choose to stay driven, because I am not invisible, and neither are any of you. 

  Keep shining, I see you <3

Monday, June 3, 2019

That Time I decided It Was Time

  This is the first post and typically you'd expect a Hi, hey there this is who I am this is what I do... I put that on the About Me page so we can get to the good part.  The Why I began...

  Why do I drive hundreds of miles in vehicles packed to the gills with dogs, coolers, kennels and tools.... Why do I sleep on the side of the road at truck stops and rest stops and eat questionable food?

  I decided one day it was time.

  I began my career at PetSmart and had googled one or another thing while I was in academy and had stumbled upon the answer on The Groomer's Lounge,  Facebook really wasn't a thing yet, most groomers belonged to one or many of the "online chat rooms". The "GL" was with me from almost the first day of my career; the ladies there helped me early on, answering any questions I had about grooming, and offered critiques of any grooms I posted.  

  That first December I was grooming, the GL held an essay contest. The grand prize was an all expenses paid trip to the Atlanta Pet Fair.  I thought why not give it a go and  I wrote an essay about why I became a groomer. 

  I didn't win the top prize, but I did win a special secondary prize, a weekend class pass.  So I went, and I met the girls from the lounge in person for the first time; I even roomed with one. 

I honestly didn't watch much of the competitions.  Maybe just judging and awards, instead I attended the classes and the parties, Stayed up way too late, and ate way too many crab legs at Spondivits.

But that first show sealed grooming shows in my heart forever.  I have attended Atlanta Pet Fair every year since; and so it's no wonder it is where I first thought about competing.

One of The Many Shenanigans we got into over the Years at APF

  One of the most prominent members on the Groomer's Lounge was Nicole Kallish.  Nicole helped me early on with so many of my newbie questions, and was just like the coolest person ever in real life.  Laid back, and a straight shooter, and she knew everyone at the shows.  One year at Atlanta Ann Stafford decided they were going to do a class called "Rescue Rodeo".  50 contestants, 10 prizes, everyone grooming a random shelter dog.  It was an amazing never been done before thing, and Nicole entered.

Nicole ended up with this cute little Westie and placed third or fifth, but her transformation was beautiful, and even though it was just a shelter dog, it was in my eyes just the greatest westie clip ever and I told her I wanted to do that one day.

 So eventually I did...

My First Rescue Round- Up, I wanted to adopt this guy but it wasn't meant to be

I was hooked (on Competing and Bichons), a month later I actually brought home my first Bichon , and in the fall of 2013, at Hershey Groom Expo I entered my first real competition... and the rest... well, we'll get to that.