Back in September of 2017, I joined the public speaking group, Toastmasters. As part of their program, I’m encouraged to stand up and speak in front of our group. The topics and type of speeches vary. This was my first speech and is called the “Icebreaker”.
Madam Toastmaster, fellow members, and guests….
I’d like to tell you a little about me, the events in my life, and how a term from Improvisation called, “yes, and…” has impacted my journey.
First, by the numbers, I’ve been married for 36 years. We have no children but have 3 horses, two dogs, and 5 cats. Animals are a big part of our life.
Life is something of an Improvisation and ‘yes, and…’ is a key component, even if things don’t always work out. I returned to Bakersfield in 1977 after making a mess of my post-high school years. I got a steady job and said ‘yes’ to my best girl, Ranae, and we were married. Side note: Guys, if you make this decision correctly, all the others come very easily.
My Dad owned an oilfield machine shop downtown and when oil hit a record high $30 a barrel in 1982, he invited me to buy into the company. It was just the two of us and I didn’t know anything about machine work, but he promised to train me and I said ‘yes’. Three months later oil plummeted to $7 a barrel.
As luck would have it, there was a health food store across from our shop and I was a regular customer. One day I asked the owner how to go about opening a store of my own, which I hoped to do after Dad retired. The shopkeeper said he turned 65 in 3 months and was looking to sell and retire. I said ‘yes’ and we were in the retail business.
I worked mornings and evenings at the store and daytimes at the machine shop. Ranae was the face of the health food business and, though we struggled for a number of years, things got easier. Dad retired and we sold the machine shop in 1995.
With increasing health insurance costs for the self-employed, Ranae took a job with the County Tax Collector’s office in 2006, to ensure we had medical coverage. I continued to operate the store.
In 2005, through a series of events that make a great story – unfortunately too long to tell here – I said ‘yes’ to buying my first horse. To make a long story a tad bit shorter, I immediately figured out I needed to learn much more about horsemanship if I were to survive the experience.
I studied a DVD program developed by Clinton Anderson and Downunder Horsemanship. We visited trainers and participated in clinics and rode our horses a lot. Although we had owned Ranae’s horse our entire married life, we both knew little about horsemanship. To develop our skills, we sat in our garden after every ride, sipped an adult beverage, and rehashed not only our horses’ behavior but our riding skills as well.
We thought these were valuable conversations that could help any new horse owner and, when podcasting was in its infancy, I began recording and posting our conversations on iTunes. The Whoa Podcast about Horses and Horsemanship was born.
The writing was on the wall for brick and mortar retail stores and I knew I would soon have to say ‘yes’ to closing the store we had owned for 30 years. But I wanted there to be an ‘AND’. I took several photography classes including a photojournalism class at Bakersfield College. I had also produced several horsemanship videos on our YouTube Channel.
When a friend told me that a uniquely Australian horse-sport, called Campdrafting, was coming to the US, I pitched several Australian equestrian magazines to cover the event. One said yes. The wheels were in motion to close the store and I sped up the process in order to travel to Colorado to begin my new career as an equestrian journalist. I went on to have two articles, along with photos, published in the Australian Stock Horse Journal. Later, I would find it more difficult to enter the American equestrian magazine market.
I focused on the podcast and, after covering a mustang training event, I was invited to participate as a trainer the following year. Of course, I said yes. On June 14, 2015, a horse, born and raised wild for 10 years, was loaded onto my horse trailer to test my correspondence-school-horsemanship skills. I named the horse ‘Scratch’ partly because of the several scars he had earned living in the wild and because that’s where we were both starting from…Scratch.
Four months later we competed against 7 other trainers, six who made their daily wages training horses, and we placed 4th. While it didn’t all go smoothly, I demonstrated the bond we built by riding Scratch bridle-less in front of a packed arena while I was blindfolded.
None of this would have been possible without saying ‘yes’. And, the ‘yes-es’ not only came from me, they came from everyone who helped me along the way. So often in this world, we don’t have time or energy to take on another project or learn another skill and our default answer shifts from ‘yes’ to ‘no’. Fight the urge to decline, embrace the new endeavor and say YES, AND see where it takes you. My most recent Yes brought me to Toastmasters.