VAL-JENNINGS-oil-portrait-by-artist-Elizabeth-Reed-FACeADE-Project-A portrait of diversity

April 5, 2019

ER: What is your favorite saying or quote?
VJ: In prayer, come empty, do nothing.

ER: Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you call home?
VJ: I was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. Now Margate is home. I have lived in Margate for 30 years.

ER: Where are your parents/grandparents from? How did they influence you today? (big question)
VJ: My father is from Pittsfield Mass. Mom was from Manchester. Her family is from Canada. My grandparents are from Canada, Nova Scotia.
My mom was artistic, a painter. My father was a raconteur, a story teller. People would gravitate towards dad because of his stories and jokes. Mom was more serious.

My mom, the artist, would wake us up at dawn to watch the morning glories bloom. Or she would wake us up in the middle of the night to watch a lunar eclipse. She loved nature. Loved to go for a ride with a picnic. We would explore by going down new roads. She was, “the director.”

My dad was retired military. Then he was a milk man for Hood, then he delivered oil. He purchased an ice cream truck. This was a great place for his story telling. In the mid to late 70’s he would go to the country fairs. His regular routes included the projects.

Our family owns a camp in northern New Hampshire. We went there every summer. We loved the place. One summer dad wanted to do something different so mom saved up money to go to Florida. We drove to Ft. Lauderdale. She had it all planned out. We started exploring all the Great Lakes. We went all over Canada. Mom made that happen by saving up the grocery money. We camped out all along the way. We visited museums and parks every year for two weeks.

ER: What is your heritage (ethnicity)?
VJ: French, English and Scottish.

ER: Why do you live here? How did you get here?
VJ: I transferred here with a company in 1980. A year and a half later, the company sold and went back to Manchester. They asked me to come back. My reply was,”NO! But I am so tan!”

I left Manchester on July 4. I clearly remember the last thing I did before I left. I took my mucklucks, my hat, my mittens in a bag and threw them over the bridge into the river that divides the city of Manchester.

ER: Do you speak another language?
VJ: French. Fluently. Schools in New Hampshire were half a day English, half a day French.

ER: What is your favorite color?
VJ: Purple. Here is the story of why I love purple. I always said I loved green. I ran away from purple. One day I was in Ross. I found a beautiful suit that fit like it was tailored for me. It was purple. I loved it. I put it back. I tried it on for the third time. I bought it. Every time I have worn the suit everyone told me it was my color. So I started changing to purple about 20 years ago.
The lesson in purple is, “never say never.” I retry things I don’t like.

ER: Do you have a pet(s)?
VJ: Two Kitties. Shanti and Cleocatra.

ER: Do you have children? How many? How old are they?
VJ: I have a son who is 50.

ER: What is your passion? What are you doing when you are most happy?
VJ: Yoga and crochet. I am most happy when I am exploring. Discovering something new. Yoga and crochet and the birds.

ER: Do you have a mission? A reason for doing that which is your passion?
VJ: My mission is to impassion people. (And she does.) Because what it has done for me. Physically, mentally, emotionally , spiritually. It set me free. There are times there will be a look in the eyes of my students. They get it. This is my passion.

ER: What is / was your profession? Is this profession what you were meant to do? Why?
VJ: My day job is working for the State. I do it well without thinking. I am an investigator. When a complaint about a contractor comes into the state I investigate them and their licences. Barbers, nail techs, salons. I check for licences.
Teaching yoga is what I was meant to do. My profession is to teach.

ER: What are you really good at doing? Why?
VJ: I love to get people excited. I love clearly explaining yoga poses and mindsets.

ER: What do you do that might change the world? Why?
VJ: I bring yoga to the world. It will make the world more peaceful, centered, more mindful and loving.

ER: What is the most interesting thing you have ever done?
VJ: Being brave enough to travel alone. Having my body painted incorporating Ganesh for my 60th birthday. The artist took 3.75 hours to transform my body. It took about 3 hours to photograph it. So much fun!!!

ER: What is your greatest accomplishment?
VJ: Learning to have less. Learning to let go of the regrets. I regret that I didn’t get my education earlier in life. It might have set me up better. I earned my degree in Business administration with a minor in law. I worked full time and went to school full time and graduated with honors.

ER: What are your struggles?
VJ: Forgiveness. Judgemental-ism.

ER: What are your greatest adventures?
VJ: My greatest adventures always entail traveling. Since I came from a small town. I went to Barbados. It was my first time flying and the first time out of the country. (except Canada)
Then England and Scotland with the euro pass.

Val is my yoga instructor. Our conversation wandered through her practice. The people in her classes are part of a community – a neighborhood. It is great seeing the change in each one. Cancer, surgery, seeking peace. We talked about our yoga group as a family. Talked about our families. Talked about tough love.

VJ: I was a toastmaster for 16 years. Toastmasters was organized in 1922 by Ross Medley to teach people how to speak in public. Toastmasters meetings have not changed since 1922.
Meetings are divided into three segments. Speaking, evaluation and impromptu speaking. Members have different duties during the course of the meetings. The meeting is run by someone different every week. Different people run the three segments each meeting. Someone is a grammarian. Someone writes end of meeting reports.

Some clubs charge for a fee for every ummm, ah, er. 2-3 people a week speak. Someone is assigned to evaluate you. Your voice and your ability to command attention are evaluated.

What makes toastmasters a winning organization is that new members are applauded and supported. The support is genuine. You can progress through toastmasters to become a distinguished toastmaster. VAL IS A DISTINGUISHED TOASTMASTER. She has invested many hours and has made over 100 speeches. There are only a few distinguished toastmasters.

Toastmasters is a world wide organization. They take public speaking to the level of competition. Competitions are held in clubs, areas, regions, the US and internationally. The International speech contest is in motivational speech.

VJ: I participated in Toastmasters for 16 years. I stopped when I started Mandala Yoga Studios.
I started with a co worker. In my first meeting they wanted me to stand up and state my name. I was scared when I started but worked into it.

The best part of the meetings is that someone can be “spot on” with their observation of you. Sometimes I hadn’t even thought of an aspect or that technique but decide to include it! I learned to speak effectively with volume, language, modulation, topic, no ummms. My favorite contest was table topics. I was asked to speak on the idea that, “Silence is golden.” I was silent for the amounted time, then turned around at the end and said, “Silence is golden.”

If it had not been for toastmasters I don’t think I would be a yoga teacher. Prior to 9-11 I had my own company providing corporate training and motivational speaking. I can remember the first time I stood on the stage when the most of the audience was male. I had a great reception. That was power, real power.

Both Val and I went to Girl Scout Camp. We had lovely discussions about our lives in the woods and on sail boats.

VJ: One of my yoga teachers said to me one time, “Val, you have to fill up to pour out.” That has always stayed with me.

Val will be starting a yoga class in an assisted living community soon.


Posted on

August 18, 2020

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