Sunday, January 6, 2019

An Elegant Evening At The Chateau

Photo Credit: Pleasantdale Chateau
It was afternoon and we arrived early at the historic chateau during a very crisp and chilly wind. As we walked up the stairs toward the building, I was amazed at how hidden this place was from the near city.

Once inside, we were greeted by a formal entry, halls laced with stone, and a quiet garden that begged for a moment of silence.

As I walked through the passageway, the air grew colder due to the number of windows that separated it from the outside world.


A sweet aroma filled the room. It was like a fresh potpourri of exotic breeds mixing together into a beautiful fragrance of peace and harmony.

Walking through the garden, I entered another small building.

In the center was a number of couches resting in front of a fireplace. Because I was the only one here at the moment, it was extremely quiet.

To the left, opposite the fireplace, there was a closed metal gate with an entrance to a pool. In my mind, I could see fans made of palm branches and a relaxing ruler eating grapes off the vine. For now, it was motionless but still inviting.



Leaving the pool, I turned back toward the assembly of couches where on either side of the fireplace were two entrances into a small dining room. 

To the left of the seating area was an inconspicuous door that led down a flight of wooden stairs.

Reaching the lower level revealed a dimly lit game room. It had two pool tables, two card tables fully equipped with essential supplies to play a variety of games, shuffleboard, and multiple food stations.



At one end of the room was a door leading to a barbershop with a 6-foot tall statue of a medieval suit of armor resting motionless beside it. On the other end was a large couch with a flat screen television.


This room felt like a true gentleman's corner.

After exploring the pool area, I walked back through the garden toward the front door of the Chateau.

From the main entryway, there are four possible ways to go. Where I initially went right, this time I took a left into a much larger dining area.



For a moment, I felt as though I had been transported back through time. The place was gorgeous...almost fairytale like. I completely understand why a formal affair would happen here. It was amazing!



As I walk through the dining hall to further explore the secret treasures this place holds, I see large wooden tables, huge decorations on the walls, and well-manicured grass outside through the windows.


It's quiet. Where are all the people? I ask myself.

Obviously, nobody answered. It's just me. With each room that I explore, I feel an increasing discomfort begging me to stop snooping and get back to the safe places in the castle. Essentially, those few rooms that I was formally introduced to by the staff and its wealthy benefactor. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop. I made it this far without being stopped or questioned. Why not continue my journey? 


The next few rooms appeared to be related to the dining hall. One long room held tables and chairs for eating, but no windows for light.


"Fancy," is all I could say under my breath while I wondered how much this place might cost.


Walking through the dining area led me to the study.

To the right was another fireplace with a table placed in the middle of the room.

Around the walls were old books. Many of them appeared to be encyclopedias and other reference materials.

As I sat there, I could hear a group of ladies laughing nearby.

Moments later, a variety of staff members dressed in all black scurried by to attend to their respective posts and duties.

I felt a little out of place considering I was walking around the facility wearing sweatpants, t-shirt, and an afro.

Still wandering the halls, I exited the library through one of two glass doors near the fireplace. It led me to a long corridor made up of brick and marble.


Against the wall ran a series of wooden tables covered with snow-white coverings, plates, heating stations, and statues from the Orient.


Where do I go now?

I followed the construction noise and muffled voices until I arrived at a large ballroom filled with large glass windows and doors.


In the middle of the ceiling was a large dome with small glass panes decorating its circumference. Natural light filled the dome and bled into the room below.


In the middle of the floor was a peach-colored dance floor made of medium-sized marble tiles. Around the dance floor was a dark floral print carpet that filled the expanse of the room.



The voices I followed came from a couple of dark-haired men dressed in all black. They both had medium builds, wore heavier black coats, and were caught in different stages of moving chairs and stone pillars into a layout resembling that of a wedding. There was a single aisle in the middle of two sections of cream colored chairs lined with white waist-high pillars still wrapped in plastic.

The room felt incomplete but it had potential. With the right accessories, this formal layout could really come to life.

Disappointed that I didn't recognize anyone, I decided to continue my walk around the facilities.

Where did everyone go?

After leaving the ballroom, I noticed a group of well-dressed individuals beginning to gather near the chateau's entrance.

From a distance, I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it looked like they were guests greeting one another.

I could tell that they were guests because one of the older ladies was wearing an expensive looking fur coat, which would suggest that this group had just arrived through the chilly afternoon air. Now inside, they could safely remove their coats and warm up near one of the raging fireplaces.

As I approached the attendees, there was a clear difference in our attires. They were wearing formalwear while I looked like I just walked in after a Saturday morning cleaning session.

Once I got within an arm's length away from the group, I smiled warmly as I introduced myself. If you didn't know any better, you would think I had my suit on and owned the place. At one point in our conversation, I was giving directions on where to find the bathrooms and suggesting places to go while we wait for the other guests to arrive.

Eventually, after shaking hands and kissing babies, I decided to head upstairs and change clothes in the master bedroom suite.

The room is hidden away on the second floor behind two doors. The first door leads to what appears like a long walk-in closet. Beyond the closet, which has multiple sliding glass mirrors, is the second door into the suite.

The Master Bedroom Suite is a large room with a king-size bed. The furniture appears to fit the theme of the castle, aged but still refined. On the wall to the right are a flat-screen television, two chairs, and a table.



In the middle of the room is a crystal chandelier. While it does a great job of bringing light into the room, the four windows appear to add a subtle warmth to the hideaway.

To the left of the bed is a door into the bathroom. It is painted a light tangerine brown color with sandstone colored ceramic tiles. The bathtub uses a contrasting set of aqua blue tiles with a white pedestal sink.


Once in the bathroom, there is another door that leads into the octagon shaped living room. Decorated with a couch and two plush chairs, the room uses a competiting floral pattern decor for its wallpaper and plaid in its curtains. Due to its location, it feels like a hidden room perfect for entertaining cocktails and conversations.


More of the guests began to arrive and I was walking around the castle in sweatpants. I knew then that it was time to change clothes and prepare myself for the evening ahead.

By the time I came back downstairs, the valet and waitstaff were in full swing.

I continued my earlier walk around the entrance welcoming people, shaking hands, and introducing myself to the other attendees. At one point, I noticed the bar was now up and running, so I stopped and grabbed a glass of bubbly champagne. Come to think of it, I may have stopped by the refreshment station a few more times for good measure.

"Howdy!" I would say.

At other times, I would raise the glass and give a head nod.

"Good to see you." I would reply.

It didn't take long before the waiting area, bar, garden, and entrance spaces were full of people dressed to impress. The ladies showed off their elegant dresses while the men wore tuxedos and dark suits. I have to admit it, we were clean!

In an effort to stay cool amongst the large crowd, I decided to take a casual stroll through the garden. It was cold enough to keep from sweating but covered enough to avoid being cut by the piercingly cold wind outside.

[Snapshot]



It was then, off in the distance, that I could hear a small bell ring.

"It's time."

A small slender man dressed in a black suit, white dress shirt, black tie, and white gloves walked quickly toward the guests.

The gentleman's face was jovial yet focused. As he neared the group, I could hear his black dress shoes tap rapidly against the floor. With his hands, he began to motion us toward him while he mouthed the words, "Please follow me."

Similar to the great escape led by Moses thousands of years earlier, the large mass of well-dressed people began to follow him through the garden, entryway, long corridor, and finally into the ballroom.

It was amazing. The large rotunda that I had visited only a few short hours earlier was now transformed into a new magical world created solely within the imagination of a visionary.

With the sun being replaced by the moon, the creators threw soft colors of light all over the dimmed room. There was a significant splash of orchid purple on the ceiling and walls with turquoise blue as a contrasting accent color. To really make the room sing, small white lights were strategically placed around the decor alongside the bright yellow glow radiating from surrounding candles. Simply beautiful!


As we entered the room, guests were directed to their appropriate places. A feeling of excitement and anticipation filled the air because we all knew that the reason for our gathering would be revealed within a matter of moments.

Once everyone was in place, the music in the room changed and the huge doors opened.

That's when I saw HER.

The large doors in the back of the room opened slowly like the doors of the Emerald City in the Land of Oz. With bated breath, each guest immediately turned toward the entrance in anticipation of the long-awaited wedding party.

First, there was the groom, a stocky bald-headed man with a short beard. He was wearing a tailored black tuxedo, white shirt, black bowtie, white pocket square, and a huge smile. You could tell that he was excited to be there.

Following the groom were his best man and the band of merry groomsmen. Without knowing them, you could tell that each of them liked to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest. Their walk was a mixture of confidence, testosterone, and a lot of youthful energy.

Once the men entered and found their spot at the front of the room, everyone turned around for the women. It started with the Maid of Honor and then the bridesmaids. In a word, each one of them was "stunning." From the hair on their head to the heels under their feet, they were gorgeous.

One minute I was commenting on how beautiful the ladies looked and then in the next moment SHE turned the corner. In an instant, the entire room grew quiet and it was as if time had slowed to a near crawl.

"It's HER." I said to myself.

My eyes grew wide as they attempted to take in the fullness of her captivating beauty. She had long black curly hair that bounced ever so slightly over her pretty brown neck and shoulders. Her eyes looked down toward the floor as if she was trying to hide her gentle sensitivities, but her self-confidence shown through like a ray of sun through closed blinds.

She wore a black dress that hugged her in all the right curves and then accessorized it with a bouquet of flowers and a shiny pair of diamond earrings.

"Wow!" I thought. She took my breath away.

As she continued to glide down the aisle, I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She was mesmerizing.

Not to seem overly stalkerish, I allowed my gaze to waver but for a moment as the audience stood and turned to welcome the bride. While I don't recall every detail, I do remember that she had on a long white dress that followed her from behind. It was decorated near the top with lace and a set of sparkly shoulder straps that hung off the side. She was adorned with long black curly hair, a Hollywood smile, with a flawless glow.

Once the ceremony began, I found it extremely difficult to stay focused on the proceedings because my eyes kept wanting to steal another glance at her.

For most of the time, she looked upon the bride in support, but there was that one moment that I caught her gaze. Her beautiful brown eyes found me in the crowd where she then used those long eyelashes and innocently shy smile to send a flirtatious message.



"Boom, boom...boom, boom." That was the sound of my heart.

After the ceremony, the wedding party marched its way out of the door with the attendees not far behind. As we walked out, all of the guests were encouraged to refresh themselves at the multiple open bar stations around the facility. Not only were there cool refreshments, but they also had various assortments of finger foods. From cheese cubes to lamb chops, we probably ate better than at any Thanksgiving dinner.

For the next hour or so, while the wedding party was off taking pictures, friends and family engaged in cocktails and conversations. I met so many great people that the time just sped right by. Before we knew it, we were being guided back into the ballroom where it had transformed into another sitting arrangement. Instead of having chairs lined up into rows, the room now had large circular tables with fancy table pieces.

Where the priest once stood, there was now a DJ. He had his large speakers, digital turntables, and a long playlist of songs to keep our toes tapping.

Once all of the guests were escorted to their seats, the wedding party made their entrance. Some walked in dancing while others waved like royalty. In the end, everyone was ready to celebrate this very special union.

As is the custom in many marriages, the first dance was reserved for the bride and groom. Today was no different. We all huddled around the dance floor while the couple looked lovingly at each other and savored the journey to this moment. Priceless!

At the conclusion of their dance, everyone was excused back to their assigned tables. Fortunately for me, I had the distinct pleasure of having HER sitting closely at mine.

Let the party begin.

After the couple's first dance, SHE walked over to the table where I was sitting. I can only imagine how big the smile was on my face when she walked up. She was gorgeous and she knew it.

I don't recall the first words that we said to one another, but I remember sitting there at the table feeling a bit nervous. Where do we begin? I thought.

In my head, I kept saying, "You already know this woman," but for some reason, everything felt completely new. Maybe it was the fairytale-like scenery, the dressing up to be "Fancy," or maybe it was the few glasses of Johnnie Walker on the rocks that caused the giddiness I felt. Whatever it was, I liked it.

Over the next few minutes, I took advantage of the moment and asked for a picture. She agreed.

I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close.

[Camera Snap]



That was the first time we touched that evening and it felt great. All of a sudden, my chest started to feet hot. Not as in sweaty hot, but like an inner glow that warmed my heart kind of hot.

After the pictures, I asked if she wanted to dance. She said, "Sure." I grabbed her hand and led her to the dance floor.

By this time, many of the guests did what we did and moved to the center of the room. The two of us walked to an open area on the floor and started to dance. She put her arms around my neck, I put my hands around her waist, and we just got lost in the moment.

When I looked at her, she had this big smile on her face followed by an innocent little giggle. I laughed.

"What, you didn't think I could dance?" I asked.

"No, I've never slow danced before." She said shyly.

"Say what?" I acted surprised by her comment. "You've never slow danced before? Girl, we're gonna change that tonight." I replied with a sly grin and chuckle.

Round and round we went until the song came to an end. I took her hand into mine and led her back to the table where many of the other guests were assembled.

We went around the table and did introductions. I already knew many of the guys from the cocktail hour but hadn't had the opportunity to meet their wives and girlfriends since most all of them were in the wedding party.

Over the next few minutes, we socialized as a group but I wanted to steal a few moments alone with HER. So, I asked her to take a walk with me.

We both got up, put our napkins on the table, and left the room hand-in-hand.

The music from the rotunda grew quieter as we walked down the long corridor. I could see a huge weight being lifted from her shoulders as the noise turned into a more peaceful silence.

Knowing the perfect place to go, I led her to the "Secret Garden."

[Camera Snap]



The two of us stood there in the middle of the garden. It was quiet. There were no other people around as they were all in the ballroom celebrating.

A faint sound of blowing air emanated from the vents spaced evenly throughout the room. It didn't feel cold like it was earlier that day, so my guess is that the air was to warm this vulnerable space.

The aroma from the surrounding plants and flowers created a calming effect on me while also deadening any exterior noises. It was peaceful.

In the middle of the room was a sturdy wooden table with a light-colored marble top. There was a large blooming plant in the center of the table that took a considerable amount of space.

For some reason, we gravitated to that table while in the middle of our conversation. Honestly, I don't remember the details of our talk, but I remember how it felt.

SHE was walking slowly around the centerpiece with one hand lightly brushing against the cold marble surface. Every so often, she would look up and grin teasingly. I smiled warmly finding her flirtatiousness to be quite entertaining.

I stood there at one end of the table with my hands in my pocket while we continued our light and playful dialog.

Finally, she came around, stood in front of me, and smiled with her beautiful brown eyes. As she slowed her movement, I leaned back against the table and grabbed her waist. Gently, I pulled her closer to me and she wrapped her arms around my neck as if we were preparing for another slow dance.

I could hear her breathing ever so lightly in my ear while her intoxicating perfume filled my soul. The world stopped and I quietly begged for this moment to never end.

Feeling completely overwhelmed with emotion, I kissed her. She was sweet like a drop of honey and soft like a snow white Camellia petal. Perfect!

The moment seemed timeless, but in reality, it may have only been a few minutes. Slowly, we pulled away from each other and exhaled.

She smiled a huge smile and giggled a bit as if embarrassed. Her face was warm and blushingly pink. I smiled to assure her that everything was alright.

After a brief moment of silence, we hugged tightly. We stayed in that place for a moment while allowing our embrace to comfort one another. It felt wonderful.

Realizing that some time had passed, we decided that it would be best to get back to the party. So, we walked briskly down the hall and into the corridor. The music that was once a distant blur was now growing increasingly full.

With the lights flashing, music pumping, and people talking, we were once again in the mix. The remainder of the night was completely amazing. We all had an incredible time celebrating with the beautiful bride and handsome groom.

As the night came to a close, we all put on our coats, said goodbye to one another, and walked back outside into the dark crisp air. One-by-one, the valet would bring the cars and the large crowd slowly left the building until there were none.

[Fade to Black]


To the families, friends, and supporters that made this event possible, I say "Thank you!" It was beautiful, elegant, and an experience that I will never soon forget.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

My Process for Staying Organized

As of late, I have started to once again use the to-do list as a way of managing my time. For some reason, I go back and forth on using it while utilizing my calendar stays pretty consistent.

In Outlook (work), I am able to use flagged emails or create tasks. At home, I use Google Inbox (reminders), Google Calendar, and now Google Tasks to create triggers for what I should be doing.

My current process involves flagging email and creating reminders/tasks. From this growing list, I then find time to add the task to my calendar. Essentially, I'm cherry-picking items to work on.

While this is great and all, I'm seeing a lot of flagged messages and tasks just sitting (and growing) in my box. Yes, I take time each day to review them, but I fear that it's going to get unwieldy. Come to think of it, that might be the reason I stopped using tasks originally.

Anywho, I'm looking for ideas and strategies. How are you using To-Do Lists and the calendar? What is your process for managing your growing list of tasks? Events? Reminders?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Writing a Book as an ESFJ

The more I learn about myself (as an ESFJ - Fe Si Ne Ti), I am realizing what processes work best for me.

External Feeling (Fe)

The first lesson was that I needed regular feedback and multiple touchpoints when it comes to creating. Writing blogs and short posts on social media provides me with quick bursts of positive affirmation, which directly feeds my need for tribe approval. When I feel good, I write more. As a result, I end up with a bunch of short thoughts and ideas that need to be sewn into something more cohesive and comprehensive. 

Testing Developing Content in Facebook Groups

One way to pull these ideas together and testing it before making it widely available to the public is by posting developing content within Facebook groups.

What I have found is that posting snippets of content within groups is like a comedian testing jokes inside comedy clubs. What tends to do well in groups, also does well with the larger audience. As a result, I can either spend more time developing the material or leave it alone altogether. 

Updating Existing Content for Deeper Depth and Wider Awareness

Another strategy that I'm playing with online is the updating of published Facebook posts and blog articles followed by alerting readers of the change via a comment in the discussion area.

“Why would you do that?” You ask.

Good question. First, by updating existing content, the author can add additional thoughts and ideas based on feedback from the readers. Doing this, one is able to add further depth.

Second, Facebook doesn't currently notify people on edits made to posts but it does alert them when another comment is made. Additionally, by posting the new information as a comment, as well as an edit, both new and old readers will see the same stuff.

What’s Beyond the Blog Post?

While driving home one night, I asked myself the question, “What is smaller than a book but larger than a blog post?” A Google search didn’t immediately give me what I needed, so after a few revised queries, I found a list of publications that fall under the novel.

  • Novel: 40,000 + words
  • Novellas: 17,000 - 40,000
  • Novellettes: 7,500 - 17,000
  • Short Stories: 3,500 - 7,500
  • Flash Fiction: 53 - 1,000 words
That was helpful, but I don't see myself writing fiction anytime soon. So, what about nonfiction?

I didn't see a neat listing like the one I posted above. What I found is that in the fiction category one can write shorter books while on their way to full-length publications.

  • Short eBooks Singles: 4,000 - 30,000
  • Books: 30,000 + words

Introverted Sensing (Si)

One idea for me (and for you should you see value) is to continue writing short posts on social media. Take those and build upon them until they become blog posts. Combine those blog posts and make small eBooks that can sell on Amazon. Finally, combine those smaller eBooks and grow them into full-length titles. Rinse and repeat.

This process of collecting and building upon existing information supports my Si.

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

"So, what do you want to write about?" you ask.

Would it be surprising to learn that I don't have an answer to that question? While I'm still learning about my type, I've come to believe that the Ti cognitive function for ESFJ in its inferior position hinders me from seeing what I really want without first exploring my thoughts and feelings with others (like, right now with you).

The thought of writing 30,000 words seems daunting. If I can do what comes naturally and write in shorter bursts, I believe the books will practically write themselves.

Thoughts? Am I using and understanding my type correctly?

Monday, November 5, 2018

Editing Existing Work to Add Depth

In light of some recent conversations around content creation and writing for substance, I have finally given myself permission to edit Facebook posts and blog articles after they have been released for public consumption. Up to this point, I was adhering to some "internal guideline" that restricted my updating of past articles. Instead of doing what I introduced above, I would maintain existing contributions as-is and then create a new article or add related thoughts to the comment section of the post. While that's not a bad practice, it's not efficient.

For blog articles, search engines are already directing traffic to the page in question. Why not maximize on those pre-existing readers? Additionally, you can save time by simply updating sections of the article with new and more relevant information versus starting from scratch.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking, "Duh! This is just common sense. Editing is not a new idea." You're right, it's not; however, for people like me who see and record a lot of information in small chunks, versus all at once, this could be a game-changer.

Why a "game-changer?" you ask.

In my everyday life, I already take copious amounts of notes inside of Google Keep and Google Drive. Unfortunately, those notes often feel like random disparate thoughts and ideas gathering dust in a folder that will never see the light of day.

To avoid losing any more good ideas, I've decided to try revisiting my notes, articles, and now Facebook posts to update them with new thoughts.

Remember, because this content is available to the public, I also have access to the comments and questions offered by its readers. As a result, their feedback helps me to better refine and connect the message with them.

While it's still too early to claim victory, I am beginning to see both an increase in depth and breadth in my writing. That's exciting!

In the future, I would like to write and publish a library of books on various subjects. I believe that by allowing myself to adopt this one strategy, I may have found the secret sauce that's been eluding me all along.

Just wanted to share some personal random thoughts with you. If it's helpful, feel free to use.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Expectations

Recently, I found myself feeling angry. As a result of this strong emotion, I ended up raising my voice and communicating displeasure in a way that was outside of my normal range. First, I don't enjoy being upset. Second, I don't like the environment anger creates. No, I was not acting at my best.

Given the time and space to reflect on my reaction, I realize now that I held a series of expectations for how things should be. I have a natural tendency to seek control over situations and outcomes, which can come off as controlling.

In a world where we all have free will, the most that I can hope for is the power to control myself, my emotions, and ultimately my actions. When faced with a situation that doesn't agree with me or my beliefs, I have the power to determine my response. I have power, control, and influence over ME alone.

So, the next time I begin to feel angry, frustrated, or powerless, I plan to pause, examine the situation, and decide how I will respond knowing that I have the POWER to control MY next move.

Make today a very great day!

Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

Toll-free: (919) 912-9121
E-mail: Contact Me

Newsletter

Powered by Blogger.