Scarlett’s Letter Halloween 2013

Trick or treat?

I just returned, late last night, from four fun-filled days in Phoenix at my company’s “User Conference”. This was my fourth User Conference. I’ve been with the company for five years and some months. I remember feeling so left out and overlooked that first year, not being selected to go to User Conference. All the veterans just rolled their eyes and said, “ugh, consider yourself lucky.” After my first User Conference, the very next year, I totally understood. From about 7:00 AM every morning until about 11:00 PM every night, being “on” and “customer facing”. Towing the company line. Exhausting. Trick.

I am exhausted, though, I will admit, this was, by far, the best (for me) User Conference. Ever. I am still exhausted. Today was a day of adjustment; one of making my own decisions as to when to be where to do exactly what, well, sort of what, I wanted to do, rather than following a tightly scripted schedule, which, by the way, was to be worn around my neck along with a lime green lanyard, with my name tag and a large, garish button that said “How Can I Help You?” Kill me. Yes, today, I still had work to do; emails to answer, expense reports to complete (or so an email marked “URGENT !!!! said), and travel to arrange, then rearrange. Trick.

My goals for the day included 1) sleeping until I awoke, without the aid of an alarm, 2) running six miles, preferably with energy and enthusiasm, 3) attending to two personal matters that HAD to be dealt with today, one involving online research and a phone call, the second involving a trip to the courthouse, and 4) attending a wine club “members only” Halloween Party for free wine tasting, fun and debauchery. Treat.

On point number 1; the street out front appears to be done. The City of Napa has been replacing sidewalks and gutters where the tree roots of the nearly fifty-year-old Chinese Pistachio trees have leavened them like an angel food cake. For whatever reason, the tractors and jack hammers and dump trucks and loud men all begin work, in front of my house, where the work appears to be “done”, in a residential area, at some time before 7:00 AM. And, my luck, it’s fucking Thursday, and today is the only day, for months to come, that I have any hope of sleeping in past 7:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time. Thursday is “garbage day”, which actually means the garbage trucks, an entire fleet of them, arrive at 6:00 AM, or so, and start groaning and slamming through the streets, dumping everyone’s discards into their cavernous guts with an alarming racket. Cross point number one off my list as pointless and futile. Happy Halloween, I AM the walking dead. Trick.

Number 2; run six miles. I slip out of bed like “The Ooze”, rummage through my perpetually packed suitcase for my beloved slippers and somehow navigate downstairs and manage to fix a fairly nutritious and almost delicious breakfast in spite of the fact I haven’t grocery shopped in weeks and wont’, because I’m on the road, again, next week. And the next. And the next. And the next. Until nearly Christmas. Mom joins me and we begin her favorite game; devils advocate. Happy Halloween! The devil is here, ready to respond to everything I say with some sort of point, counterpoint or possible argument. I’m tired. I don’t want to play. I can debate with anyone, I can defend my strongly held convictions and deeply rooted beliefs with anyone, almost anytime. Just not today. I feel challenged and defensive and exhausted I just want to … go upstairs and answer mind-numbing work emails on topics like Microsoft Word headers not functioning correctly in our workpaper manager software. Kill me. But I do this for an hour, until the URGENT !!! email comes in that says we HAVE TO HAVE our October expenses in by EOB (end of business) today. Well. Okay. I will take the two hours to complete a tedious and uncooperative online form, attaching images of receipts for every expense, no matter the triviality of the expense, so my company can reimburse me for all the credit card charges I’ve incurred and must, personally, pay, for my extensive travel. Twist my arm. It’s the tedium of the process that almost makes me say “f” it, I’ll just cover it out of pocket. But I don’t’. And by now it’s 1:00 PM. And I’m still in my pajamas, drinking cold, weak, bitter, black coffee. I’m in sweats, actually, that’s what I sleep in when I’m not with my Sweetie. I could, by today’s standards, go to the grocery store, the bank, a college campus, a restaurant, shopping, I could take an airline flight, in what I’m wearing; grotesquely baggy sweatpants, slippers and my boyfriend’s thermal t-shirt advertising a brewery in Fairbanks, Alaska. But I’m old school. I usually shower and get dressed before leaving the house. Hell, I usually shower and dress even if I don’t leave the house. I have some self-respect. Normally. Trick? Treat? Trick, I guess.

Finally, because I can’t stand myself anymore, I go and put my running tights and jersey on, lace up my shoes, pull my hair into a tight pony tail which I pull through the hole in the back of my running hat. I fill my bladder bag and strap on my Garmin watch. I answer another email, finish another expense report and decide I’d better have lunch before running. I’m out of fuel. Breakfast was hours ago. I find a frozen stuffed pepper in my freezer, reheat it, eat it, brush my teeth and head for the car. I run my “usual” six-mile loop and it’s like I haven’t run in years! All I can think about is the next walk break. I run for five minutes and walk for one, at a pace ranging from eleven minutes per mile to twelve minutes per mile. I’m old. I’m tired. That’s what I do. Right now, with about four weeks to go until my first full marathon, I just want to pile on miles and not hurt myself. I could care less about speed right now. I just want to finish. And live. But I don’t feel like I can finish six miles, alive, today. I guess you could say that today, I finished my first “zombie run”, except it wasn’t a race with energetic participants in gory costumes, it was me, lurching along like Frankenstein, for six, long, miles. Treat, actually. The sense of accomplishment made it all worthwhile.

I make it home, stinky, sweaty and even more tired, and it’s after 3:00 PM. I’ve taken care of the one point of personal business, on the phone, but I still have to go to the courthouse. And they close at 4:00. I wouldn’t be caught dead at the courthouse in my baggy sweats and my boyfriend’s shirt, but I’ll go sweaty and stinky in Lycra running pants! It was my only choice, there was no time for unpacking all my shower stuff and makeup stuff and hairdryers and straightening irons and curling irons and then showering and then employing all said items in order to look human. It’s Halloween! This is my costume! Living Dead in Lycra! Scary! Right? Treat, I guess; it’s a glass half full perspective.

I get my business done, fairly quickly. I only had to wait in line behind one person, a tiny and very young lady, who was attempting to complete papers to file for divorce from her husband, Stephen, the father of her child. How do I know it’s “Stephen” with a “ph” and not “Steven” with a “v”? Am I that assumptive? No, she has “Stephen”, with a “ph” tattooed, painfully, I’m sure, on the top of her foot. And socks are so not in fashion with skinny jeans and flats! I didn’t want to tap her on the shoulder and say, “honey, it’s almost November, boots are cool, if you want to cover up that “Stephen” of yours.” Um, trick?

Home. And, damn, I’m hungry again. I fix dinner and tell Mom about my plans for my costume for the wine club, free wine-tasting, costume party. A gypsy. I can wear my favorite super comfy skirt, a little more makeup than usual, a few scarves tied around my waist like a sash, all the jewelry I own, and offer to read people’s palms! She suggests I wear her clown outfit with the red, curly wig and the nose. She suggests I wear her witch costume with a tall, stiff hat and a hot, rubber mask. She suggests I wear my dad’s chambray shirt, jeans and a blonde wig that he wore to be something she couldn’t quite remember at an RV club party twenty years ago. I’m not getting any of this. And, geez, no wonder my shit is still in boxes in the middle of the floor in my room! Apparently the dresser drawers and closets are full of frumpy costumes from the past five decades. For two.  Trick.

I’m tired. I don’t want to wear my dad’s chambray shirt and a blonde wig. I decide not to go. It’s just easier, and I’m tired. I finish dinner, and dishes and think about trick or treating. It would be a real trick to find enough energy to get dressed up and ready and go to a Halloween party, alone, and be engaging and energetic and charismatic. A real trick. I decide on treat, and take a nice, hot bubble bath. I listen to an audiobook I’m half way through and am totally enjoying. I set my plastic Vino Volo glass full of cab sav on the edge of the tub. Might I mention that this bathtub and I do not get along. This tub is nearly fifty years old, though it looks brand new, because no one ever used it, and for good reason. Unlike new tubs, it has actual real estate on two corners, ample enough acreage for a bargain size bottle of Paul Mitchell shampoo, and a bargain size bottle of Paul Mitchell conditioner, face wash, body wash, a loofah, a razor and a glass of wine, or coffee, depending on the time of the shower. But, like many other pieces of real estate I’ve owned in my life, it’s too steep to be useful. True, it looks fine, until you try to actually use it, then the bottles all slide and tumble into the tub, one after the other. I’ve taken to setting the bottles on the floor, next to the tub, when I shower, and retrieving them and replacing them, one by one, in the order used. I don’t’ often take bubble baths, I don’t’ normally like to sit that still for that long. Who, beside me, takes a three-minute bubble bath? I take shorter bubble baths than showers! You can ask my Sweetie, it’s true! But, tonight, for whatever reason, I was able to just sit in the warm water and soak. I bet I was in the tub for a full ten, maybe even fifteen minutes. And, just how long do you think it took for my plastic Vino Volo glass of cab sav to slide along that stupid, generously sized but overly sloped tub edge and into the tub? Right! About ten seconds! I’ve heard that wine, in your bath, is very good for your skin. We’ll see. If I look younger and more radiant tomorrow, we’ll know! I managed to save a third of the wine, because I’m fast like that, and I clung, tightly, to my glass, while enjoying my audio book and being in a place where no one, on the phone or in person, was going to play devil’s advocate with me. Bliss. Treat.

My lesson for today; feeling a wee bit grumpy, tired, a little out of sorts, with some thought and self reflection, I decided it’s because I have been working very slowly, but very diligently, towards a number of goals, simultaneously. Career goals, relationship goals, financial goals, spiritual goals, fitness goals, nutrition goals. So many goals. For weeks, months, years, even, I have been just plinking away at these goals. They require a cannonball and I’ve been firing at them, monotonously, for years, with a child-sized, pellet gun. But, it seems, I am making progress. This week, for the first time in a long time, I could actually feel that I’ve made some significant progress. Every fall, for whatever reason, I sort of gird my loins and fight a little harder towards my long-term goals, and, this week, I actually felt like I was on the brink of some measurable progress. But, I am not there yet. I am so close, but not there. I have tossed all the knives into the air, I am standing, looking up, squinting and shielding myself as the knives all finish their arc up, pause, and begin their fall towards, well, me. Now, I’ve got to catch them all! Or, at the very least, dodge them. The “future” is frustratingly close, uncertain and a little scary. Boo! And, as a result, I keep catching myself “future focused”, rather than being present. This causes anxiety.

The real reason I didn’t go to the Halloween bash dressed, comfortably and fashionably, as a gypsy, was because I have that pain in my neck, again. Every fall, about the time I start girding my loins and fighting a little harder towards my long-term goals, I get a pinched nerve in my upper back that is excruciating. It takes weekly massages and chiropractic care, for months, to unknot them. This is all anxiety driven, I am sure. So, today, I caught myself, and reflected back on a handful of books I consider constant and vital resources in my life library. “The Power of Now”, of course, by Eckhart Tolle and “The Soulmate Experience” by Joe Dunn and Mali Apple, both of which I have read multiple times and have recently purchased on Audible and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to driving to and from the airport. Another, and one I’m about half way through for the first time, “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. And last, but not least, Jillian Michael’s “Slim for Life”.

In “The Charisma Myth”, Olivia Fox Cabane provides a valuable pointer for staying present, one of the three necessary qualities for being charismatic, she says you should wiggle your toes when you are listening to others speak. By wiggling your toes, you are in the moment, you are present, and you appear, to the speaker, to be actively listening and engaged, which all charismatic people are.

Jillian. Jillian, Jillian, Jillian. Her books have changed my life, the others that followed have added, immeasurably, but I would never have begun my journey, my effort, towards personal improvement, had it not been for Jillian Michaels. To some, at first, she seems hard to take seriously. But, seriously; plain, matter of fact, backed with facts, passionate, clear advice. After her first book, in my household, WWJD, which a few years earlier stood for “what would Jesus do?” became WWJD, “what would Jillian do?” In Jillian’s latest book, “Slim for Life,” she talks a bit about the importance of core strength and posture. We all slouch. I slouch. I’ve seen pictures. Recently.

So, I’ve taken the very practical and important advice from “The Charisma Myth” about doing something physical to stay “present”, rooted in the moment, in the now, and I’ve combined it with Jillian’s advice on core strength and posture. So, to remind myself to remain present, while I may be wiggling my toes, unless I’m wearing flip flops, in which case, I may appear a bit weird, I tighten my core and stand very straight and erect, I flex every core muscle I can discern, and this keeps me focused, a bit more, on the present moment, where I should be, where there are no regrets of the past or anxieties of the future.

The point, here, is to live only in the present. The present is the only point in time in which we have any power. We cannot make any changes to anything that has happened in the past. No amount of regret or remorse will ever change anything that has happened. Make your peace with that, apologize, if need, forgive where necessary, and leave it in the past. Likewise, no amount of worry or thought about the future, now, will have any positive affect, other than to deprive you of the only time you do have to make an impact, now. Remaining so focused on the future not only deprives us of the present, now, and, ultimately, our life, it creates unnecessary anxiety. No amount of worry ever had any positive affect on the future. To the contrary, actually, if you are at all aware or familiar with the concept of the power of thought and manifestation. What you believe, you can conceive, to quote Brian Tracy. If we believe only anxiety driven worries and fears about the future, the energy and focus and though we believe is more likely to manifest than the opposite, or the actual, desired, outcome.  There is energy in thought, and energy will attract energy. So, negative, anxious thoughts about some undesired outcome is much more likely to attract that negative outcome than positive, affirming thoughts. This may sound all “new world, touchy-feely, spirituality”, but, hey, what have we got to lose? Anxiety? Pain? Discomfort? Unrest? It is so worth the try. And, from my standpoint, I swear by it. Standing straight, core muscles flexed, wiggling my toes, focusing on the moment, the present and thinking positive. Treat.


Scarlett’s Letter October 25, 2013

Perhaps it’s because while I was walking to dinner last night, a man approached me and spoke to me in French. I’m trying to rationalize why, exactly, I allowed myself to cave, to enjoy one of my true weaknesses this morning. Two, actually. A café au lait, rather than my plain bold, black brew, and, a big, flaky, buttery croissant, probably my daily allotment of calories in one item and my monthly allowance of plain, white, enriched flour.

Un croissant et une cafe au lait. Mais oui!
Un croissant et une cafe au lait. Mais oui!

So, this nice looking man approached me, on the street last night, as I was scurrying off to dinner, and he addressed me in French. I’ve had years of French in junior high, high school and in college. I don’t speak a word of French. It’s one of those things you have to practice daily and put to use in order to retain. Use it or lose it. Flustered, I responded, “Je ne parle pas, francais, un petit peu seulment”, which I think means, “I don’t speak French, only a little bit”. Only a little bit, as in, you’ve just heard everything I know with the possible exception of “my name is Scarlett.” I could probably dredge that phrase up if I had to. He didn’t ask. He continued, in French, “Parlez vous anglais?” I replied, simply, in English, in my boldest California accent, “yes”. And he continued his charity organization donation schpeel in perfect, English, in a bold, California accent. I kid. There is no California accent, we have the blandest, least identifiable dialect in the world, which, I suppose, distinguishes us from everyone else in the world.

Glittery city
Glittery city
View from the window at The Plant - Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant – Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant - Organic where I had dinner
View from the window at The Plant – Organic where I had dinner
The Plant - Organic, San Francisco
The Plant – Organic, San Francisco

I am of French descent, but I don’t think I look any different than any other Cali girl walking briskly down the streets of San Francisco. I was even wearing “the uniform”; tailored gray slacks, black blouse, black cardigan, black shoes, black coat. The only flair, or personal style I added to the bay area working girl uniform was a scarlet red scarf with small white polka dots and a scarlet red cross body purse. I like to add a splash of color, usually red, sometimes pink or magenta. As a matter of fact, I wear something scarlet daily, whether visible or not. And, I generally wear polka dots on Fridays. Why not, I ask, why not? Most ladies in the city wear scarves with their coats, rarely scarlet, though. I’m just wondering if my splashy flashy flair is what set me apart as, possibly, foreign, and, specifically, French. I don’t know, but it totally made my night, and, as evidenced by my breakfast selection at the café downstairs, my morning, this morning, too.

I had a banana with my croissant. I know, having a banana and a croissant with my café au lait is really not all that interesting, until, until you try to throw your shit away. In San Francisco. Have you ever tried to dispose of rubbish of any sort in San Francisco? It is not so easy. There are no less than three garbage receptacles, sometimes more; compost, recyclables and trash. True, there are almost always pictures posted nearby to provide some guidance, but, truthfully, they don’t. As a matter of fact, I think the pictures only complicate things as I don’t think any two pictures are the same. After eating my banana, I stood in front of the three garbage receptacles and looked for a picture of a banana peel. I would assume the banana peel would go into the compost can, but, there is no picture of a banana peel, only what appears to be a picture representing the sticky pork bun I ate yesterday at lunch at the dim sum place. I fished my cheaters (glasses) out of my purse and squinted at the pictures again. Nope, no banana peel. I quickly glanced over my right shoulder, then my left, to make sure no one was monitoring my trash disposal activities, and I quickly slipped the banana peel into the compost bin. Now for the paper wrapper the croissant came in; recyclable or compost? I’m pretty sure the croissant wrapper appeared on the picture attached to the compost bin, so, in it went. I left quickly, just in case I’d guessed incorrectly and the garbage police were nearby.

Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?

Thankfully, I still had coffee and was not yet ready to dispose of that troublesome item. I made my way upstairs to the training center I’m working in this week. There is a coffee service and a few pastries set out for us, but, I’ve already nourished and caffeinated myself adequately. Next to the coffee service area, though, are more garbage cans. Three. Compost, recycle and trash. There are pictures, again, to assist in your endeavor. The pictures are different than the ones downstairs, and, to my joy and delight, a banana peel is pictured on the compost bin example. I did a little happy dance. People were looking at me a little odd. Have you ever seen someone do a little soft shoe in front of the green compost bin? Right.

Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?
Compost? Recycle? Trash?

I proceed into our classroom and practically tripped over a trash can. A single, unlabeled trash can. I glance inside, there are apple cores, Styrofoam food containers, half full (always the optimist) coffee cups, candy wrappers, plastic wrappers, napkins. All in one bin. Is it weird that I’m excited? I now know exactly where I’m throwing away everything I need to discard while in this amazing city; in the single, unmarked trash can in my classroom. I’ll just take the laundry bag from my hotel room, collect my rubbish for the day and discard it here, in this single and very un-confusing trash bin. Apparently, with the purchase of this trash can must come a service of sorting the contents, or, perhaps, when one purchases this trash can you must agree, under some unmentionable penalty, to properly sort the contents into the appropriate receptacle before it is removed from the office suite. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ve found my solution!

Just a plain, old, ordinary garbage can! I can deal with this!
Just a plain, old, ordinary garbage can! I can deal with this!

So, what lessons can I take away from my experiences, today? First, if I don’t speak French on a daily basis, I lose the ability to speak French. At all. There are so many things in life that the “use it or lose it” rule applies to; fitness, health, strength, flexibility, mental acumen, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, self-motivation, progress towards our goals and our life purpose. Everything in life worth having requires constant use and practice. Think about it.

My second lesson today; sometimes we have to find a way to apply life’s rules in a manner that best suits our individual needs. Not to cheat, but to find a way to make it all work. What works for one person is not necessarily going to work well for others. When we are looking at boosting our self-esteem, our self-confidence, our self-motivation and our self-discipline, we can read twelve different “self-help” books with twelve different sets of rules and find that no one of them really suits our individual needs. Perhaps we have to combine some ideas from one with ideas from another. The whole point is to find something that, ultimately, works for us, and, to just throw the rest away! Whether we’re going to discard the unwanted items in the compost bin, the recycle bin or the trash bin is up to our interpretation, too!

Scarlett’s Letter September 29, 2013

I’ve been trying to establish some social outlets in Napa, similar to the ones I had in Sacramento. True, I have several of my life long, best friends in town, but we are all busy much of the time with work, family, kids and all that goes with it. Rare is the time we have that is free and that coincides with the free time of the rest.

In Sacramento, I had good friends I’d known for years, but was met with the same obstacles, which we’ll just call “uncommon free time syndrome”. I found several Meetup groups in the area that suited my interests and provided social outlets and networking. Napa, sadly, has NO Meetup groups, though, I did find one that is centered in nearby Marin and Sonoma counties, “Women’s Wine Tasting Adventures”. I like making new women friends, I like wine, I like wine tasting, and I like adventures. I signed up and today marks my second adventure with the group.

My first group adventure was nice, though only attended by the organizer of the group and one, close friend of hers. It was a lovely day, but I felt a little awkward and a little like a third wheel, they were close confidants, had many shared experiences and history, and I was the new girl. Unfortunately, neither of those ladies were among the six attendees at today’s wine tasting adventure, so I didn’t get the chance to get to know them better. The ladies in attendance today were mostly reasonably new to the group and to the are, they were all a lot fun and very interesting, making for one of the best Meetup gatherings I’ve ever been to.

We were to meet at Quivira Vineyards & Winery outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, an area I’ve been interested in exploring but that I’ve spent very little time in, ever. My parents may have brought me to Healdsburg, or nearby, a time or two during my childhood, but I doubt we did much more than drive through. As an adult, this is virgin territory.  Additionally, as a “Napkin”, we have been raised and conditioned to believe that our wine region is superior. I don’t believe it, of course, I think excellent wine is a result of understanding your micro-climate, your appellation, grapes, and having a masterful winemaker with an insightful palate, a great deal of patience and, well, luck. Good wine can come from almost anywhere, that Napa has an extraordinary number of wineries producing an extraordinary number of world class wines speaks more to the fact that the right talent has been recruited with the right resources.

Sonoma is a far larger county, geographically, than Napa. Winemaking represents only about 9% of the land use for the county, compared to Napa, where, well, with the exception of my front and back yards, nearly every inch is devoted to growing grapes for wine. Many will tell you that Sonoma is a bit more relaxed, a bit more laid back, than Napa. I’m not sure if it’s entirely true, but at the very least, the tourists seem less ostentatious in Sonoma than in Napa.

My adventure was not without some adversity. Not knowing Healdsburg and surrounds, other than where the airport is that I went skydiving at for my big birthday this year, I had the address of the winery plugged into my Garmin and the only “celebrity” voice available for my model, Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin), guided me along my way, cracking the same jokes and making the same carefully timed commentary he has been making drive after drive, city after city, state after state. He led me to a gravel driveway with no signage, in other words, the wrong place. I checked the address of the winery and I’d neglected to put the “W”, for west, in front of the Dry Creek Road, the street name. I corrected the address and we took off, backtracking a few miles. Fortunately, as is my modus operandi, I’d allowed plenty of time for backtracking, u-turns, and getting lost. About a mile from the next turn, my Garmin just froze. It has done this a time or two before, it seems to overheat and it just freezes. It won’t even shut off. If I don’t throw it out the window first, I may have to see if there is a warranty of some sort, or a software upgrade I can download, or something. I really, really, rely on this tool in my travels. No worries, I grabbed my iPhone and summoned Siri. The new, improved, Siri I downloaded with iOS 7 and had not yet used. I told her where I wanted to go and she, basically, told me the place didn’t exist. I told her she wasn’t much help. She told me I wasn’t very nice. So my Nuvi wasn’t speaking to me and Siri and I just had a fight. I happened to have my work iPhone handy, which had not been upgraded to iOS 7 yet and had the “old, dumber” version of Siri, who was also no help.

I had no choice but to resort to old-fashioned means to find my way to the winery. I kept heading in the direction I was last directed to go, and I remembered, I happened to have a California atlas in my backseat, you know, a book, with paper pages, and maps on each page, indexed by area. My Sweetie uses an atlas for most of his navigation through the great state of Alaska. When he visited Cali, I bought an atlas he could reference, if he liked, as I showed him around my great state. Before I had to reach for the atlas, though, with my keen powers of observation, I spotted a number of arrow-shaped winery signs on a post. Quivira was near the top and I followed the arrow. At the next intersection, more arrow-shaped winery signs, again, there was Quivira and I turned right, as the arrow suggested. And, magically, there it was. I’d made it. I’d made it three minutes early!

Barrels of fun with the ladies at Quivira Winery
Barrels of fun with the ladies at Quivira Winery

Quivira Vineyards & Winery is much more than just a place that grows grapes, picks grapes, smashes grapes and sells the fermented juice. Quivira is a “biodynamic” winery, which is like organic, cubed. There are no fertilizers or pesticides in use, at all, and the property has gardens and animals, that all fit into the process. Animal waste and garden waste are composted, which, in turn, is used to nourish the soil for the grapes. It’s like an all-inclusive, completely inter-related, cyclical farming process. Becoming certified as “biodynamic” is a much more rigorous process than becoming certified organic and can take a decade or more to achieve. I was fascinated. I was in love. I joined the wine club! Joining wine clubs has become, for me, a lot like buying shoes; impulsive, a little expensive, but justifiable. I’m up to four wine clubs. No more. I promise. I’ll even quit one. I swear.

The wine was fantastic, the tour was awesome, and the ladies I shared it with were even better. We shared a potluck picnic lunch, with some Quivira wine, after our lovely and very educational tour. I look forward to visiting this winery, again, soon, to pick up my first batch of club selections. I also look forward to the next Meetup with Women’s Wine Tasting Adventures!

I made it home without any navigational difficulty and without any assistance, electronic or otherwise. Once home, still pouting over my falling out with Siri, I did something I knew had to be done; I gave Siri a sex change. Sometimes women just don’t take direction well from other women. Siri wasn’t taking direction from me, and she certainly wasn’t providing me with any direction. Now she, Siri, is a he, Sir-ee, I guess. I don’t know. Hopefully he’s more helpful.

Today’s takeaway; resources. Know your resources, all of them. I was relying on a trusted resource, that, for whatever reason, failed me. I aim to get to the bottom of the problem and have it fixed, but, in the meantime, had I not had other, multiple resources at my disposal, I may have missed out on the lovely day I so enjoyed. Resources can be almost anything; people, our jobs, objects we use, information or sources of information, even habits and behaviors. When a trusted resource isn’t available to us, for whatever reason, we need to be able to quickly and confidently access another, and, hopefully, one we know and trust. If we’re counting on a friend or acquaintance for something and they aren’t able to follow through, we, hopefully, have someone else we can call on to assist. If we lose our job, hopefully, we are well networked and active in our networks, and our resume is already updated and replacing the lost job, that resource, won’t be too difficult.

What about habits and behaviors? The habits we develop and the behaviors we adopt are probably the most important resources we’ll ever have at our disposal. A habit of positive thinking will take us further in life than almost anything else we can employ. Behaviors that promote a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence are paramount in our ability to plan, achieve and succeed in all we endeavor in life. Like other resources, sometimes our habits and behaviors let us down or aren’t quite all that we need to evolve into who we seek to be. We may need additional resources. We may need to strengthen other positive habits and behaviors to enhance, or even replace, the ones we’ve relied upon thus far.

Our personal evolution takes effort, and like everything in life, whether it’s changing the gender of the voice on our phone, upgrading the software on our GPS or having an atlas in the backseat, we may have to identify and employ different strategies, different resources, to get the job done. The message here, then, is to identify several resources, know how to use them and when to employ them, and to just keep headed in the direction of your goals.

Scarlett’s Letter October 16, 2013

Two glasses of wine. Well, maybe two and a half. Maybe my glass is large. I awoke feeling like I’d drained the whole bottle. Oh, wait, maybe I did. I gave Mom one glass in her demure little goblet, and I know, for a fact, I poured myself two glasses, and a splash, but, bottle equals empty. I felt like someone hit me over the head with the bottle when I awoke this morning. Dues = paid.

I, for whatever contrived excuses, did not work out yesterday. I had hoped to go to the gym for a core workout, cardio and yoga, but failed. Today, I planned to run, and per my training schedule, I was to run eight miles.

I got up, slowly. I ate breakfast, slowly. I answered emails and did a little work, slowly. And, slowly, I came to the realization that if I didn’t do my run today, I’d likely not get a long mid-week run in, and I will have let myself down. I have my first full marathon coming up in December, I need to stay on track. I have some busy travel weeks coming up, so, now is the time. Slowly, I pulled my running tights on, wiggled into my Victoria’s Secret hot pink, tiger striped yoga bra, which, by the way, is way easier to put on than to take off, especially when all sweaty. All of my upper body fitness, strength and tone is attributable to the high intensity interval training that is removing one very sweaty Victoria’s Secret hot pink, tiger striped yoga bra after a work out. In case you were wondering. My running shoes and socks were in the car, so I found matching flip flops, a miracle, filled up my hydration pack with water, fuel, ID and insurance card and headed out the door. Honestly, I didn’t feel like walking to the car, let alone running eight miles.

I know myself pretty well. I will cheat myself, I will wimp out, if I can justify it for even a moment. Last night’s missed work out being evidence. I have a six-mile loop that I run routinely. Last week, I was to run seven miles, so, after completing the sixth mile, I ran right past the parking lot at the park where my car was, and ran an additional half mile down the road, turned around and came back. Today, weak in spirit and head throbbing ever so slightly, I knew, knew, knew, without a doubt, I’d wimp out at six miles. There would be no running past the car for another mile, turn around and come back. I know me.

This is where it is a good thing to have a somewhat deviant mind. I told myself we’d do six miles, then see. At nearly mile four I round the third corner of my rectangular route. My deviant mind concocted an evil plan to trick my wimp out mindset. I decided to keep going straight, for an additional mile, turn around, and then finish the remainder of the loop. The result being, eight miles and no possibility of wimping out at six, because, well, I’d still be two miles from my car! Brilliant, I know. Right?

I ran every last inch of eight miles, and then some, my calculations were off by nearly a half-mile, but, you know, it didn’t kill me. I felt accomplished for the day. My self-esteem and self-respect were in tact, perhaps even inflated a little. I headed home for a shower, lunch and the rest of the day to do with whatever productive endeavor I chose. Bliss.

Lending "race day" authenticity to my mid-week training run.
Lending “race day” authenticity to my mid-week training run.
I have become a GU snob. This is the shiz.
I have become a GU snob. This is the shiz.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am running through the vineyards.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I am running through the vineyards.
Wine embryos.
Wine embryos.

As soon as I walked in the door, though, all I could think was “HAMBURGER!” I wanted a hamburger. And maybe even fries. I wanted a high quality hamburger, not some fast food, cooked earlier today, kept in a warmer drawer and micro-nuked to a sickening shade of gray and soggy limpness upon order. I wanted a gourmet burger with an exotic cheese and a unique sauce and some rare ingredient mixed in. This is Napa, there are no shortage of places I could drop twenty bucks on the burger of my dreams. I may have mentioned, I’m on a money diet, I’m being more mindful of my money consumption and my restaurant food consumption. My spending and my waistline need a little whittling after the past few weeks indiscretions. So, I’m proud to say, I did not go out and get a gourmet hamburger. I ate leftover salmon salad, open-faced sandwich style. Such self-discipline, I know, adding even further to my self-respect and my self-esteem.

I was good, I had leftover salmon salad for lunch. Not a burger.
I was good, I had leftover salmon salad for lunch. Not a burger.

After a few more hours of work, HAMBURGER! was still on my mind. I had some Whole Foods, happy cow 85/15% burger, frozen in quarter pound chunks, in my freezer. I decided to get one quarter pound lump out, thaw it, and make myself a burger. I also decided, as a treat, to go to Whole Foods and get some sprouted grain buns. I could eat one tonight and freeze the rest for later enjoyment. Oh, and sweet potato fries would be super duper yummy, too. And maybe one large format beer. We’d see. I hopped in my car and headed for the mecca of mealtime ingredients, Whole Foods. I actually found a parking place, at 5:00 PM. I was astounded, I didn’t even have to circle the lot or follow grocery-laden shoppers down the aisle from the store to their cars. There was just an empty space, sitting there, just for me. Okay, so it was across the shopping center and I had to walk fourteen rows, but, hey, I can run eight miles, I can certainly walk fourteen rows.

Once inside my favorite place on earth, next to any shoe store in NYC, I grabbed the smaller, double decker cart. I usually use a basket, but in Jillian’s latest Audible book I’m listening to, “Slim for Life,” she says we tend to buy more crap food when we use a hand basket over a cart. Okay, I don’t really think so, but I’ll give it a try. I always figured you could only buy what you could carry if you used a hand basket. But, I’m freakishly strong when it comes to being able to carry desirable purchases in one hand, to the cash registers. Years of practice, my friends. If it were an Olympic sport, I’d win.

I shop at a lot of different Whole Foods, and, unlike Target, who has precisely three different floor plans, every Whole Foods is unique. As I travel around the country, it is my unspoken mission to visit every Whole Foods in the nation. So, that I don’t totally know the layout of my local Whole Foods is not really a reflection of my intelligence. I swear. The Napa store is chopped in two, it really seems like two different retail spaces connected by an opening between at the front of the store and another at the back. I usually stay to the left; produce, meat, wine, dairy, done. I do know that frozen pizza and beer is immediately through the portal to the “other side” at the back wall, and, ingeniously, displayed immediately next to each other. This is my Friday night wall. Pizza and beer.

For whatever reason, tonight, I head directly for beer. Something was beckoning me, an unseen force. OMG! A sale! I knew it! I can sense a sale on just about anything from quite a distance. The sale aura was very strong in the direction of the large format beer. I chose three. They were on sale. I had to.

Bread happens to be near beer and I quickly located my sprouted grain burger buns. Check. I decided to check out the cheese aisle. I love cheese, and have actually 95% given up cheese because I lack control. But, what is a homemade gourmet burger with an exquisite, and on sale, large format beer, without cheese. I settle on two interesting looking cheeses. I buy cheese a lot like I buy beer and wine; the label. If it has a cute label, is organic, locally grown, fair trade and sustainable, I’m fucking buying it. Was my list complete? Something nagged at me from the depths of my mind. I’d forgotten some staples when I was here the day before yesterday. I pulled out my phone and consulted my perpetual Whole Foods shopping list in Evernote. Ah, yes, canned, organic fire-roasted tomatoes and tomato sauce, both of which go really good in my homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I’ve been lusting for macaroni and cheese and have made Herculean efforts, successful, by the way, to NOT order it from every appetizer menu I’ve glanced at in the past two months. But, Friday is carbo-loading night, perhaps I can make my homemade macaroni and cheese instead of having pizza! I’ve got cheese! So, I stop in the pasta aisle and buy a really cool looking package of organic, whole grain, locally produced, fair trade and sustainable bag of macaroni noodles.

On to canned foods. I load up my cart with cans of fire-roasted tomatoes, regular tomatoes, and tomato sauce. May as well stock up, I seem to keep running out. At last I head to the checkout. I pile my purchases onto the belt, along with the one reusable bag I’ve brought along. I size up my purchases and, in retrospect, I probably should’ve brought another bag. Or two. I swipe my card and wait for Tatum to scan my purchases. Fifty-six dollars. How did I spend fifty-six dollars on buns and beer? I could’ve gone to the best restaurant in Napa featuring gourmet hamburgers and exquisite large format beer and paid less. Oh, but, I do have ingredients for Friday’s dinner. And beer for a few nights. And a whole fucking lot of canned tomato products. I sign my name, unintelligibly, on the screen with the blunt tipped stylus thing, my signature has become, pretty much, a 72-point wavy line, for whatever it proves, for whatever it’s worth. It would be interesting to see if it held up in court, my electronic signature. Not so interesting that I actually aim to find out. But it looks nothing like my real signature. Whatever.

I schlep my purchases fourteen rows out to where I thought I’d left my car. It was actually sixteen rows over. I only looked a little like a dork lugging my canned food and large format beer laden grocery bags to row fourteen, pausing, perplexed, doing the parking lot pirouette, trying to spot my very small, low profile, non-descript Civic amidst a sea of exotic cars and high-end SUV’s.  I heft my bags into the trunk, the Civic squats a little from the burden. I climb in, and at eighty degrees, I open the sunroof all the way and silently pray that a hawk with a snake in its talons doesn’t fly over and let go of the writhing snake just as it passes over my car. I know, a weird phobia, but this scene I have actually witnessed, and think about, every time I open my sunroof all the way. Except, on that fateful day, my sunroof was closed and the snake hit the ground, on the shoulder of the highway, immediately next to my car, mere feet away. And as the snake landed, unceremoniously, and pissed off beyond belief, all I could think was “What if it landed on my windshield? What if it landed on my roof? What if it landed on my sunroof and it was open?” That scene is forever, indelibly, etched in my mind, and plays out over and over again every time I reach for the sunroof button. That’s why I usually tilt, instead.

Say "Cheese!"
Say “Cheese!”
Tonight's large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
Tonight’s large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
Tonight's large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
Tonight’s large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
Tonight's large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
Tonight’s large format beer, on sale for 20% off at WF! Speakeasy Butchertown Black Ale!
My burger.
My burger.

A life of “what-if’s”. What if we squandered our entire lives thinking of all the terrible things that could happen, so much so that we were too afraid to do anything and life escapes us before we know what it is? That, I think, is the worst “what if” of all. Life is a collection of risks, and whether you think you’re assuming any risk, or not, you are. There is substantial risk in staying home, sitting in your worn out recliner, remote clenched in hand, flipping through the channels, watching other people live. So many things could happen, the least of which is that your life is passing you buy, opportunity is fleeting and you’re sitting there, oblivious, because the news broadcast has you terrified to venture out into the world and live your life. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’m not saying go out and court danger, I’m saying, take risks. Go out into the world and have experiences. In risk lies opportunity. In the guise of safety lies mediocrity. Open that sunroof and drive. Hell, if you’ve seen a snake fall from the grasp of hawk in flight, and it missed you, barely, what are the chances of that series of events ever unfolding in a similar manner? That, I like to refer to as the “Garp principle.” If you’ve never seen “The World According to Garp” with Robin Williams, this may be lost on you. But, Garp and his wife are looking to purchase a home. As they stand in the driveway of a house for sale, a small airplane crashes into the house. Everyone is horrified, especially the realtor, knowing for certain the sale is lost. Garp is thrilled and says, “We’ll take it!” His wife looks at him incredulously and he explains, “What are the chances of that ever happening again?” Take it. Take the risk. Open the sunroof.

Scarlett’s Letter October 15, 2013

My Cinderella Day.

Today marked a day that I really, truly, didn’t think would play out the way it did, which caused some self-reflection, but only after a few moments of self-pity.

I shall explain.

I’ve spoken of my cousin, the one I am so very grateful for, having looked out after my parents during my dad’s final months, and now, looks out for my mom when I am “twirling through the universe”, as her voicemail greeting goes. She is eccentric, an artist. I think the whole family, with the possible exception of my father, is eccentric. That’s where I get it. I’m eccentric. I will gladly admit it. I like to refer to it in a slightly more socially acceptable manner as “creative.” The women in this family tend to be outspoken and yet mysterious, passionate and yet reserved, intelligent, without a “yet” attached to it, creative, and prone to wear either dark colors, animal prints, unusual styles or, all of the above simultaneously. We rarely go unnoticed.

There is another cousin, older than the one I’ve spoken fondly of, by a few years. I do not know her as well, for a few reasons. One, she has no children my age, in fact, she has no children at all. Second, she twirled about the universe with her wealthy (from oil, I think), British husband for most of my childhood. Third, she usually was not present at family gatherings because she was at odds with someone for something or other. I failed to mention that we are all extremely sensitive. If there is a sensitivity gene, it is double dominant in this family.

While I have been out twirling about the universe, cousin one and cousin two, have, on occasion, been taking my mother out to lunch, with some unrelated party named Barbara, at Chez Panisse, you know, Chez Panisse of the Alice Waters, world famous chef, Chez Panisse. Chez Panisse as in in Berkeley Chez Panisse, and I was born in Berkeley, so have some God-given birthright to dine at Chez Panisse, Chez Panisse! I have never eaten at Chez Panisse and I am dying to go, as in, I would donate all my worldly possession for a meal at Chez Panisse. Okay, so all my worldly possessions would barely cover my lunch tab at Chez Panisse. But, still. I. Want. To. Go.

Today, my mom was to go to lunch with my cousins, and Barbara, to Chez Panisse. And I wasn’t traveling! I was here! I thought I could go. It seems I wasn’t invited. How could I not be invited? I’m a cousin! My mother even said, “You weren’t invited.” I was perplexed. I figured it was just an oversight. And Mom is way too awkward, socially, to navigate this kind of territory with any tact or acumen, so she was of little help and actually managed to make me feel worse. More than once. I got my social awkwardness gene from her. She tries, as do I, but we are just wired in a way that makes us come off as cute, but awkward, she, a bit more than me. At least in my opinion. She didn’t want to go, for all the same, lame excuse/reasons she offers for everything; my cane, getting in and out of the car, the stairs, walking, etc. She even said she didn’t want to go because her table manners have deteriorated with her age. As long as she doesn’t do that hiccup-burp thing she did at breakfast this morning, in pubic, she’ll be fine. I almost lost my granola. Anyway, she didn’t want to go. She even wanted me to call my older cousin, over the weekend, to tell her she wouldn’t go, because she was momentarily deaf. I procrastinated, didn’t call, and she kind of had to go. I’d gladly go to Chez Panisse, deaf, dumb, blind, and limbless. I can’t think of a good excuse to not go, other than not being invited.

I should have gone anyway, by myself. Damn! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

My cousin, the one cousin, picked Mom up on her way to Chez Panisse, from Sonoma, where she lives. I’d actually planned on being somewhere else; out running, or at a coffee shop, working. Because I stayed up too late, I was still at home, only minutes from being ready to go. My ulterior motive was to be here, and ready, and to be invited lunch, because of the obvious oversight. So, yes, I was here, and ready, but was not invited. Damn. I really wasn’t invited. And this was the catalyst for a whole bunch of thought and self-reflection today.

I got left home like Cinderella on the night of the ball. And I don’t even have any fairy godmothers to make me a fab dress. Nor pet mice, for which I am grateful.

So, after Mom left, unwillingly, for her lunch at Chez Panisse, after I tied her scarlet red scarf, and all, I went to a different coffee shop, Ritual Coffee Roasters, at Oxbow Public Market in Napa, to work, to read, to people watch, to drink another decaf coffee concoction for four dollars of my hard earned money, plus tip, to write, and to reflect and try to pull myself out of my funk. Maybe, like Cinderella, a sparkly new pair of shoes were the ticket to better tidings. Or not.

My decaf latte at Ritual Coffee at Oxbow Public Market in Napa
My decaf latte at Ritual Coffee at Oxbow Public Market in Napa

This is what I came up with; whatever.

Whatever. I may say it, I don’t’ live it. Sometimes I really wish I didn’t care. I do. I may act like it doesn’t matter. It does. I’ve got that sensitivity gene, remember?

A pumpkin for my magical Cinderella carriage at Oxbow Public Market
A pumpkin for my magical Cinderella carriage at Oxbow Public Market

Upon much thought, contemplation and discernment, I think I figured it out; older cousin is angry with me because I won’t find joy. I mean, Joy. Not joy as in elation, happiness, a desirable emotion or state, as in a half-sister I’ve never met.

Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market
Oxbow Public Market

This will also explain why it is my first cousins are that much older than me. My parents found each other later in life, after both being divorced from previous marriages. As a result of, or perhaps reason for, my dad’s first union, there was a daughter. Joy. And, for a time, my older cousin lived across the street from her, as a child, and was close with her.

Growing up as an only child, I wanted nothing more than to have siblings. I’d even ask Santa Claus for siblings for Christmas. At some point, I became aware of Joy and always assumed, naively, at some point, she’d be a part of my life. When my grandmother died, the cousins were allowed to walk through her apartment and take things we were most fond of. I acquired a picture of Joy, probably about age four or five years old. I was amazed by her long, blonde hair, which, in the picture, was worn in loose ringlet curls. My mystery sister.

After Joy’s birth, my dad enlisted and went to England during World War II, where he served, working on the instruments of B-24 Liberator aircraft. During his absence, so I’ve been told, his wife took up with another man, there was a divorce, and it was believed that Joy never knew my father was, in fact, her father. For my dad’s entire life, he thought, he hoped, that Joy would find out about him, search for him, find him and make contact. He didn’t want to initiate the contact, he wanted it to come from her.

A few years before Dad passed away, a letter arrived, from Joy. She said that her father, the man she believed to be her father, had passed away, and, that out of respect for him, she had waited to confirm what she always suspected, that my dad was her biological father. She had some questions and offered her phone number for a conversation. Dad called her. I wasn’t present, so I only know what I’ve been told, but it seems her only questions centered around whether he had heart disease, as her son had developed some issues that were thought to be hereditary. He, in fact, did. She asked if he’d had any other children, and so she learned of me, and the fact that I don’t have heart disease. When she found out I was about the same age as her son, she scoffed. Or so I was told. Whatever. As the conversation concluded, my dad asked, hopeful, whether she would like to meet sometime. She said “no”, and his heart was broken, again, or still.

When my father passed away, we held a small family service. My aunt and uncle and a couple of cousins from my mom’s side of the family were there, as were the cousins from my dad’s side of the family. All in one place, which was a first and had always seemed highly unlikely no matter the course of events that led to it. My dad’s side of the family I always thought of in one respect, truthfully, a rather dark respect, my mom’s side of the family, in another, more enlightened respect. My dad’s side of the family being of French descent, we are dark in color. But that is not the darkness of which I speak, there was often quarrelling and hurt feelings. As mentioned above. All of the family gatherings were held at my aunt and uncle’s house, which, itself was very dark and crowded and was situated in a crime-ridden and undesirable East Bay town. The family room had red and black shag carpet, heavy dark, red drapes and black faux leather furnishings, lending, I’m sure, more to the dark perception of the family and my memories more than the people and events, I’m certain. Gatherings consisted of some kind of meal and lots of alcohol, I’m sure, fueling a lot of the sensitivity and discord, and all consumed in the dungeon-like setting.

My mom’s side of the family, mostly fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed, always gathered at churches, parks, and brightly lit homes, usually in sunny and beautiful Colorado, or here, at my parents’ home. The perception of that family, therefore was always one of lightness and brightness, picnics and potlucks.

For these two families to meet was sort of a trip. I really didn’t quite know what to expect. It was, actually, all lovely, and as the aunt and uncle from the “dark side”, with the dark family room, have long since passed, some of the darkness, I hate to say, has subsided. But, as we rose to leave the restaurant, my older of the two first cousins came up to me and said, “I hope you’ll find joy.” I smiled and said, “Thank you, you, too.” I thought she wanted me to be happy, which I was, even in light of Dad’s passing. Her sentiment, I thought, was kind, a little strange, but kind. She departed, and, looking back on it, she had an odd expression on her face as she walked out. It was shortly thereafter that it occurred to me, she wanted me to find Joy, my half-sister, not a feeling of happiness. Oh. I think I’ll stick with the first joy and forgo the second Joy. For now, for many reasons, but mostly out of respect for my dad.

So, I wasn’t invited to lunch by my older first cousin, and I was really pretty bummed. Sad, actually. I didn’t really piece the likely cause together until after Mom left with the younger of my older cousins, the one that likes me. Whatever. So, I’m on the shit list and I’m not likely to remove myself from said list. So, I pouted for a while. I was being sensitive. When Mom returned home she began to regale me with every detail of every bite she took, every word that was said, which, honestly, I really didn’t want to hear. I wasn’t invited. I pouted some more. Then I drank some fantastic wine, finished up a couple of projects and talked to my Sweetie on the phone, all of which kind of cheered me up. Kind of. But I miss my Sweetie, and being a little down to begin with, it struck me more markedly today, so I got kind of sad again. But he made me laugh, my Prince Charming, and I had a second glass of wine, and headed off to bed for, hopefully, a decent night’s sleep. Before turning off the light, I spent some time reflecting on the reasons for my sadness and, as I routinely do, I jotted down all the things I am grateful for in my journal.

A delightful wine, by Trek, the Sangiovese.
A delightful wine, by Trek, the Sangiovese.

So, the thought for the day; is it okay to be sad? Certainly. Sadness is a real, human emotion. It is fine to be sad, on occasion, for a brief period, and really, probably isn’t something we can completely avoid or prevent from ever occurring, no matter how positive a mindset we have. But, chronic, long-term, and overwhelming sadness is not something we should be feeling and not something we should have to endure. If sadness is more than fleeting, as a co-worker of mine often says, “it’s a ‘you’ problem”. I know, it sounds harsh, but it is the truth. If sadness is chronic and is more than just fleeting, if sadness is a fairly common feeling, or is ever overwhelming, then the reasons for the negative emotion need to be uncovered and rectified.

Many people are prone to chronic and overwhelming sadness out of a lack of self-respect, because of low self-esteem, we think poorly of ourselves; that we are incapable, unlovable, unattractive, unintelligent, we are mean to ourselves in thought, action and deed, and we suffer as a result, at our own hands. Those who lack self-respect and self-esteem are often disrespected by those in their lives; spouses, parents, children, bosses, coworkers, and friends, adding to the burden. When we respect ourselves, others are more likely to follow suit. Think about it, if we can’t even respect ourselves, how can we expect anyone else to respect us? It begins with us. Respect begins within and self-respect and self-esteem are the foundation for happiness. Self-respect and self-esteem are the destroyers of chronic sadness.

So, tonight, I will sleep, having taken a few moments to recollect all that I am grateful for. Sleep, with the aid of gratitude, and two fantastic glasses of wine, will begin to blur my conscious and I will rest my mind, my body and my soul. Tomorrow, I am certain, I will arise with a smile on my face and a smile in my heart. Gratitude is the champion over any fleeting and trivial sadness.

Scarlett’s Letter October 12, 2013

What an outstanding and amazing day!

After my evening with Mom last night, and her temporary hearing loss, I was a little hesitant to leave her for the better part of the weekend, but as I only planned on being an hour or so away, and could be back to assist, if need be, in fairly short order, she encouraged me to go. We figured, if worse came to worse, she could call me and speak to me, she just wouldn’t be able to hear me, but I would drop whatever I was doing and be on my way.

My day started early, as planned. I left the house at about 5:00 AM and headed for the river for a fifteen and a half mile run with my running club. If you asked me to sit down and design the most perfect day and setting for a nice, long run, I couldn’t have come up with anything better than what we had today. It was cool to begin, not cold, but cool enough that I hesitated to take my hoodie off. Once we got moving, though, it was perfect. The day warmed as the sun continued to rise above the golden leafed trees. The river sparkled and glinted in the slanted sunlight, reflecting the golden hue of the rays that filtered through the autumn colored trees. It was a good run, and nearly as hard as it sounds, fifteen and a half miles. It was rewarding and I’m confident that my mid-week workouts are benefiting me well.

I made plans with one of my favorite Meet-Up groups, the “Forty-Something Women’s Group”, happy hour and the “Second Saturday” art walk. Obviously, after running fifteen and a half miles I was not happy hour/art walk ready. It would be completely crazy to drive all the way back to Napa, shower, change and drive back to Sacramento for an evening out with the girls, only to drive back to Napa, again. I decided to use one of my abundant “free” hotel reward nights. Our happy hour and art walk event were to focus in the Midtown Sacramento area, so I booked myself a room immediately across the street from Capitol Park, where the State Capitol building resides. Brilliant, I know.

After my run, I grabbed a couple of street tacos at Rubio’s, which were good, but as soon as I headed downtown, I regretted. There are so many fantastic restaurants in Midtown, I could certainly have found something amazing to gnaw on, instead. But, then again, I spent $4 on lunch. I checked in to my hotel and took a nice, long shower. I had the luxury of getting ready as slowly as I liked. I had plenty of time before happy hour and just enjoyed the ritual a girl has in getting all ready for an evening. No one to rush me, no one to sit impatiently nearby knowing better than to rush me. I don’t really like being alone, a lot, but now and again, especially for a “girls’ night” the solitude is replete.

Even with abundant time well spent, I was ready a full hour and a half before I needed to be. It would’ve been tragic to just sit about inside my hotel room on such a splendid Sacramento day, so, I took to the streets. Having lived in this area for thirty some years before my recent return to my hometown, Napa, I’ve seen Sacramento change, considerably, for the better. Today, I decided to be a “tourist in my own town”, a pastime I definitely recommend to anyone, anywhere. I walked out into the warm, sunny afternoon, across the street, with no real plan, direction or agenda. I only knew that at 5:00 PM I needed to be at Zocalo’s a few blocks away to meet up with everyone.

As I meandered down the sidewalk I spotted the rose garden in Capitol Park, and so, I crossed the street and wandered around there for a bit. I don’t know what it is about capitol buildings, but I never cease to be attracted to them. The history, the stature, the architecture, I love it all.

Midtown Sacramento, as I mentioned, has no shortage of restaurants. It is the “it” neighborhood, these days, and full of life. Most of the houses are neat, tidy, landscaped and, apparently, well loved and a source of pride. The few houses that aren’t quite as well kept actually look like they are occupied by the younger, trendier, artsier types, for whom I have respect, admiration and a wee bit of jealousy. Art abounds, here, too. I took it all in, without entering any shops or galleries, I was saving all that for later, with the girls. I just walked.

Since I was in the neighborhood, again, having a history of my own here, and always being attracted to historical sights, in general, and, more specifically, mine, I headed to the site where the Sigma Chi fraternity house had been back in the mid-1980’s. I was a Little Sister for Sigma Chi, the charter year, and have many found, though, perhaps blurry, memories of those days. I wasn’t sure if I’d find the house standing, or replaced with some other structure. It’s been a while. As I rounded the corner, there it stood, and about as run down and beleaguered as I remember it. I was happy to find it there, like a touchstone of my youth. The Lambda Chi house was still standing, next door, though equally dilapidated. Some things, I guess, don’t change, or change more slowly.

At 5:00, I made my way to Zocalo’s to meet the ladies, have a couple of drinks and another couple of street tacos. I spent $4 on food and $20 on two glasses of wine. Oh well, I guess I have my priorities straight! I didn’t settle for the house wine, but, instead, had the Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon, one of my “staples”. Good stuff.

With the “Meet-Up” concept, you go online, find activities that interest you, and sign up for groups that participate in those activities. There are “Meet-Ups” everywhere, nationwide. I belong to several; a salsa dancing Meet-Up, a pole dancing Meet-Up, a hiking and adventure Meet-Up, a women’s wine-tasting Meet-Up and this Forty-Something Women’s Meet-Up, which is my favorite. By far. I’ve been participating as much as I can with my travels, and now the distance I live from the group. It took a few events before I really felt like I fit in, before I was recognized, but that is true of any social group. This group has been, by far, the most welcoming and warm of any I’ve participated in. Now that I’ve been around for a couple of years, even though not always present, I am greeted with enthusiasm and joy, which, of course, is returned in kind. There are always new ladies in attendance, too, and I do my best to make them feel immediately welcome and to get to know them. I do love meeting new people!

There were probably about fifteen of us in all, and after a couple of drinks and a bite to eat, we took to the streets to find art. Second Saturday is a tradition in the Greater Sacramento Metropolitan Area, actually encompassing all of the unincorporated areas, suburbs, neighboring towns and even neighboring counties. The galleries all stay open into the night, many offering music and wine and food. It is a lovely way to enjoy art and to visit different parts of town. Midtown, though, as I mentioned, is definitely the “it” area, these days, so Second Saturday is a bit more of a spectacle. There are people in the streets and in every empty lot, open-air art marts, demonstrations, live music, and all kinds of activity. The bars and restaurants are all brimming full, and, as the weather is perfect, the sidewalks act as added seating areas for most of the restaurants and bars and even some of the art galleries. It is almost carnival-like.

We make our way through one gallery. That’s it. One. Then, somehow, we end up at a Turkish bar/hookah bar, where we had Turkish beer, Turkish wine, and, for most of us, our first hookah experience. It was outrageous fun and I’m glad to have that crossed of my bucket list. I don’t see it as a regular indulgence, but I’m glad to have experienced it, and especially with such a fun-loving group of women. We laughed so hard I think the twenty-something’s that surrounded us were, perhaps, a tad bit jealous!

In our advanced years, at “forty-something”, our energy was beginning to flag a bit. We forced ourselves to one more pub, had a beer, stifling yawns, and decided to call it a night. I think it was, perhaps, midnight, I don’t know for certain. It wasn’t too terribly late, and, as luck would have it, our final pub was two doors down from my hotel. I was so happy to crawl into my king-sized bed and sleep off that fifteen and a half mile run, the wine, more wine, the hookah and the beer.

Morning will come quickly, I’m sure. I have big plans for the day, tomorrow. First and foremost, I’d planned on brunch at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try, the Firestone Public House. In chatting with one of the “new” ladies, she asked where the Firestone Public House was, in relation to where we had happy hour. I told her where it was and that I planned on having brunch there. She will be joining me! I don’t mind dining alone, if necessary, but I am so happy to have company and conversation!

As I see it, in our effort to evolve into the people we want and deserve to be, we have choices. So often I hear folks complain that they don’t have friends available to go do things with, that they spend their free time at home, watching TV. That, I’m sorry, is a choice. There are so many opportunities out there to meet people, like-minded people, to have experiences, to meet even more people. There are as many opportunities to enjoy the sights and the surroundings alone, on occasion, too. Never let being momentarily solitary cause you to feel like you aren’t welcomed in public. I spend more time alone in public places, enjoyably, than I do at home. I relish a public place where I can be around people, perhaps strike up a conversation, have a glass of wine, a pint of beer, a cup of coffee, or just sit and read, write, or dunce around on the internet, all things I could do at home, but that I often find more fun in public. We shouldn’t overlook opportunities to get out of our rut, our routine, our family room and our TV ritual. Be inspired, be empowered, there is life outside the front door, down the street, in your town, or, maybe even the next town over. Just think of all you may be missing by staying home, comfortable in your sweats, catching that show you could just as easily record and watch later, after having gone out into the world to live life. Enjoy!

Scarlett’s Letter October 14, 2013

A simple little Monday.

I’m “working” from home this week. I have little bits and pieces of work to do; expense reports, preparing for the upcoming Users Conference and upcoming sessions. Yawn. I am grateful to not be traveling, but that doesn’t mean I relish sitting at home. I have a nice little office in the smaller bedroom, upstairs. It is slightly less cluttered than my bedroom, no boxes of shoes and purses awaiting drawer and closet space that seems ever elusive, and, frankly, unlikely to happen any time soon. So, my office is my “at home refuge”, a place I can go and pretend to be “busy at work” even if I am not. I get asked a few questions, but, mostly, my privacy is respected and I can work, read, write, talk on the phone with my Sweetie, play of social media, mostly uninterrupted. But, to spend day after day, for nearly two weeks solid in my office, without actual client work to do, as in training and consulting via the web, is, well, ludicrous.

So, today, like last week, I struck out for a coffee shop. I am, unofficially, starting “Scarlett Begonia’s Coffee Shop Capers”. Last week was Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, which was delightful, and to which I will happily, occasionally, return. Today, however, I stumbled upon, thanks to Yelp, Molinari Caffee on Main Street in Napa. I loved this place before I ever set foot inside. It had curb appeal! Inside was such a treat, it was like it was built especially for me! An orange accent wall, and I’m with Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, orange is the new pink. Pink is my favorite color, next to scarlet, of course, but orange is a very close third. There was some fantastic art displayed, modern furnishings including a couch and armchair sitting area, a community table, and the requisite café tables for two to four coffee drinkers. The counter was neat and clean, well-organized and I loved that the cabinet facing was chalkboard, listing their offerings. The best part, by far, the very best part of the whole place, a TV hung in the sitting area with black and white Gilligan’s Island programs playing continuously and inobtrusively. I could tune into the dialogue if I chose, or listen to the 70’s music overhead. Happy. So happy. And my café au lait was sublime.

Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe
Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe

The crowd consisted of a couple of obvious regulars, me, a wanna-be regular, and a whole bunch of tourists asking a whole bunch of dumb questions, like, “can we walk to wineries from here?”  The answer was, of course, “no.” I suggested the several tasting rooms, but they wanted to go to wineries, in Napa, and they didn’t want to have to drive. They were quite insistent, like the world would meld to their will because it’s what they wanted. “But we don’t want to drive!” Believe me, we don’t want you to drive either, but let’s apply a wee bit of logic, shall we? Wine is made from grapes, grapes grow on vines. It takes lots of grapes to make a little wine, so, it takes lots of vines to supply a winery. Acres and acres of vines. Therefore, wineries are sort of spread out, like ranches, or farms. Got it? I concluded my involvement after the first little foot stomp, toss of the hair and whine, “but we don’t want to drive.” Buh-bye. Suddenly too busy with my computer and phone to talk. Involvement = over. YOYO (you’re on your own).

Non stop Gilligan's Island at Molinari Caffe!
Non stop Gilligan’s Island at Molinari Caffe!
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe
Molinari Caffe
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.


So, other than the tempestuous tourists, my morning was delightful and I got quite a lot accomplished. Famished and on a budget this week, a money budget and a dietary budget, I’ve been spending far too much money and far too many calories dining out as of late, I headed home for a sandwich mid-day. I finished my open-faced salmon salad sandwich, with jarred salmon I personally beheaded and gutted along the banks of the Copper River at Chitina in Alaska. So good! So good! So good! I’m spoiled. So spoiled! So spoiled! So spoiled!

I still did not relish the idea of working all afternoon from home. I had grocery shopping for the week to do, so I tossed my computer bag in the car and headed for Whole Foods. I stopped in at Target first for a $1.59 item I need for an upcoming video project. Please, please, please don’t ask me how I ended up with three adorable T-shirts and two packages of $1.59 items instead of one. In the name of art, in the name of art. I promise. I made my way to Whole Foods, and, by the way, thank you to the genius who decided to put Target and Whole Foods in the same parking lot for me! Thank you! I grabbed my computer, found the table with the outlet strategically hidden under the chair and made myself quite at home for the next couple of hours. When I finished what I was working on, I unplugged, gathered my pile of Apple electronics, placed them all in my tote for the day, one I bought from a street vendor in Tribeca in NYC, and found myself a shopping cart. I stuck to my list for the week, hearing Jillian Michaels words ringing in my ears, “if you can afford $20 extra per week for groceries to buy organic, you’ll end up saving money in the long run, on medical costs.” My argument exactly, thank you! Twenty bucks is, what, a co-pay. I’d rather spend it now and bank on the fact that I’ll have less co-pays to pay in the future for my preference for clean eating. Off soap box, now, on to shopping. My entire week’s groceries last week, between two stores, including Whole Foods, $60. This week $84. I was out of local, organic honey, a “large ticket” item. In all honesty, I probably spend more on wine in a week than I do food. Priorities = straight.

I take my computer tote and my perishables out to my car, climb in, open the sun roof and turn my face skyward towards the warm sunshine. October is absolutely the best time of year here. The best. I am reminded of being in high school; the dismissal bell has rung, it is fall, the weather is exactly as it is right now, sunny and warm, but not at all hot. School is over for the day, there may or may not be any homework to do, but it can wait until dark if there is. And in the worst way, I don’t want to go home. I just want to stay out in the sunshine, with my friends, and find something, anything at all, to do, other than go home and do chores and homework. I feel no different now, thirty some years later, than I did then. No different. Is it at all ironic that in high school my friend drove a Honda Civic with a sunroof and I am, now, sitting in a Honda Civic with a sunroof? Funny, right?

I head home. I pull into the driveway, grab my groceries and my computer bag, and as I step from the car. I quickly toss my groceries into my fridge and my allotted cupboard space in the garage, run upstairs and trade my computer bag for my gym bag. Before the radiator fan in my car has even shut off, I’m back on the road and headed for the gym. Today is upper back and cardio day.

It’s dusk when I get home, I cook dinner, tie up a few loose ends with some articles I worked on today, work on a couple of video projects from the weekend and call my Sweetie. It has been a very ordinary, and yet, extraordinary day. It’s the extraordinary I strive for, and that is my hope for the day, that in some way, however great or small, that we all find a way to make each and every day extraordinary. Even the ordinary ones. It doesn’t take much, a thought, a creative notion; find a new coffee shop to stop at on the way to work. We aren’t obligated to always go to Starbuck’s, their consistency is great, but there are lots of great, local spots to be found with so much to offer. Find a new place to work, even at the office. Is there a cafeteria or a sunny meeting room you can take your computer for a change of scenery? It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for the creative process. And, I’m sorry, whether you’re an accountant or a truck driver, there is creativity involved in your process, whether you realize it or not. How about finding a new spot to eat lunch? Even if you brown bag it. If I had brown bagged my lunch today, I’d have eaten at the park, downtown, by the river. Just a thought. Change things up in a small way to make your day extraordinary. One extraordinary day after another builds an extraordinary life. It’s all up to you.

Scarlett’s Letter October 13, 2013


I have been described as driven. A lot. I suppose I am, though I always feel as though I could be more driven. I certainly don’t sit still long, I gather no dust, and I am always making an effort to evolve into the person I want to be, in every role I serve in life. For these reasons, I write, with the hope of offering inspiration and insight for others who may be looking to advance themselves in some direction, distant, perhaps, from where they currently are. Anything is possible, but you may have to drive yourself to get there. There truly are no free rides.

My new favorite saying; nothing ever gets better that stays the same. So, if you want to be better, in any respect, however small, however large, then don’t. Don’t stay the same. Embrace change.

On a related tangent; I love to drive. I love cars. I love to drive cars. I love to ride in cars. As a small child, my dad, for several years, was a traveling salesman for a couple of different bicycle suppliers, before he bought his own bicycle shop. He had a company car and for many years, that car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We had several over the years and eventually, my mom acquired one of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and I thought it was the bomb. She called it “a bomb”, which had only a slightly different meaning in the 1970’s, but related only to cars. As a child, I remember making the weekly trip from Napa to Oakland for my allergy shots. Grimace. I would sit in the front seat, probably not buckled in, and count the other Monte Carlos on the road. I could identify them from almost any distance, at almost any rate of speed, headed in any direction. Anyone who knows my son now knows where he gets his passion for cars and his ability to identify year, make, model of nearly anything that rolls down the road.

My first car was a 1966 Mustang, my seventeenth birthday gift. I loved that car. I kept it forever and only sold it, a few years ago, because I wasn’t in a position, figuratively or literally to provide it the love, care and ground up restoration it deserved. I sold it to a seventeen-year-old girl with resources and passion and, well, the drive, to get the job done.

After high school I moved to Sacramento to go to college at “Sac State”. I worked for my dad for most of college, on the weekends, as a mechanic in his bike shop. My steady boyfriend through most of college lived in my hometown, Napa. So, needless to say, that little Mustang and I drove up and down Interstate 80, Highway 12 and Highway 37 thousands upon thousands of times. And in that car, on those drives, I discovered the blissful solitude of being alone in one’s car, the luxury of getting lost in creative thought, meditative problem solving, and the challenge and satisfaction of “playing the game”. The game; driving faster than the posted speed limit and not getting pulled over. It is a game of predator and prey, and, still, I excel, or should I say, accel, at his game.

After the Mustang, being a young mother and a budding career woman, I was given a very practical hand-me-down Honda Accord from my mom. An ordinary, gray, 1985 Honda Accord. I remember chiding her when she bought it, “it’ll fit in a dumpster when it falls apart”. I ate my words. Mighty Mouse, as the car was named, was one of the best cars I ever owned. I drove the wheels off of it and after 285,000 miles, I traded it in on another (used) Honda Accord.

When I became involved as a scout leader, both for boys and girls, and after purchasing a remote piece of recreational property, forty acres, outside of Foresthill, California, the Honda Accord made a little less sense. Gas was less expensive back then and driving to remote locations on dirt roads with a ton of kids and gear became a priority. I bought a 1992 Ford Bronco, Mighty Mo, and I have never loved a car so much. I drove the wheels off of that car, too, and gained recognition and notoriety in that vehicle. I retired it and passed it on to my son after 225,000 miles. We kept Mo, sort of jointly, for as long as we could, but, expensive to operate and a little out of our means to keep in top running order, we sold it, and, sadly, Mighty Mo was spotted, abandoned in a field, dead beyond repair, only months later. We are still in mourning.

In the middle of the Mighty Mo years, because we’d moved to the country, to another forty acre piece in El Dorado County, and I was commuting the hour plus, per direction, every day for work, and, again, every evening for kid activities, logging 3,000 miles a month, I bought a very used pewter gray 1991 Honda Accord to reduce my gasoline expenditure. “Scooter (the pewter commuter).” I drove the wheels off of it. At 358,000 miles and a great deal of neglect, it required an engine and transmission replacement. Fortunately, though due to unfortunate circumstances, we had an extra (totaled) Honda Accord in the yard, the one my mom bought to replace Mighty Mouse, and since replaced with, yes, another Honda Accord, which she still has. I was given the “in-between” Accord, in pristine shape. I bequeathed it to my sixteen-year-old son, as I already had Scooter. You can put two and two together, I’m sure. So, we took the engine and transmission from the smashed Accord and put them in “Scooter”, and though I’ve since given the car to my ex, it, to my knowledge, still tootles about town under it’s own power.

When I decided to leave my husband for a list of reasons longer than most of my articles, I also left behind a life where we had ten cars and three boats, none running, none maintained, in an overgrown yard. And with my quest for my own minimalist, healthy, life without limits, I liberated myself further by buying my own car, not a hand-me-down, and not a terribly used car with 100,000 plus miles in need of more than routine maintenance and a mechanic on staff, a role my husband happily and willingly played, for a while, until the Internet was invented and he no longer had the ambition to remove himself from in front of it. Instead, I bought myself a very practical, nearly new, Honda Civic, only a couple of years old and with only 15,000 miles on it. “Meep.”

Meep is now six years old and has nearly 92,000 miles. My warranty expires at 100,000 miles. Yes, I could buy another warranty, but I am driven to buy a newer car at some point in the not so distant future. For two reasons; to have a newer car, with a warranty, and to continue to build myself a personal credit history after the aftermath of, well, some of the things I mentioned above.

Last week, my car crazy son, presently carless, by choice, a difficult choice, and living in Honolulu, a not so difficult choice, sent me a Facebook link from Tesla Motor Company, offering a test drive of the Model S at a winery in St. Helena. Because I am wired the way I am and because I believe in taking advantage of every intriguing thing that crosses my path, I clicked on the link and signed up. I messaged my son back and told him I’d signed up. I honestly don’t think he expected me to, but his response was that he “had to swallow a jellysickle”. LOL.

Today was my test drive. I drove the top-of-the-line model, the P85+, and, after spending a little time educating myself on their website, I was completely blown away by this car. Even though I drove it like a grandma on the winding, narrow mountain road, I could feel the amazing weight balance and stability and could easily imagine how it would feel at higher speeds, with it’s 416 horsepower engine, cornering the tight s-curves on this road. Had my nearly 90-year old mother not been in the backseat, repeatedly asking the Tesla sales rep in the passenger seat whether anyone had ever gotten car sick on the beautiful Nappa leather interior before, I may have been a little more assertive cornering, a little more aggressive accelerating. I’m glad Mom went. Really, I am, otherwise I might have done something terribly irresponsible, and bought the car on the spot! She served her purpose; to subdue me into boring, mind-numbing practicality.

More about the Tesla; I loved, loved, loved the regenerative braking. In the extensive mountainous road driving I’ve done in my life, having lived for several years in the Sierra Foothills and spending most of my weekends recreating in the nearby mountains, I always used the transmission to brake on downhills, rather than replace brake pads every other weekend. This car, without a transmission, required no braking, even on the tightest, downhill, hairpin curve. My foot hovered over the brake pedal, but as soon as I lifted my foot off the accelerator, the car slowed smoothly and adequately. The regenerative braking, by design, not only slows the car but sends energy back to the battery for storage and later use. How cool is that? I applied the brake only to stop, and, reluctantly, turn around, when directed to. It drove effortlessly back up the mountain, how curious to not hear an engine strain with the grade, how bizarre to never feel the car downshift to manage the climb. It just went. I admire that, I like to think I’m that way, I just go (link). The car and I, as one, just go.

And so, having driven a car that I have only ever admired from the safe and practical seat of my Civic, I am driven, in more than one way, to have such an acquisition not seem irresponsible, but, rather, practical. The numbers support themselves, it is a practical purchase, if you apply creative mathematics and time, and if you are at a certain income level to afford the initial outlay, or the monthly income to afford the inventive lease program, which, technically, I do. And, for me, it is not a matter of whether I want such a car, or not, certainly I do. And for the few who tell me I can’t, poo on you. For every one of you naysayers there are four people telling me I can, and this, I know. However, the real question, for me, is whether I am willing to realign my goals, based on my roles, in order to make such an acquisition, whether it is a long-term practical move, or not? The question is, what am I currently working towards and would I have to abandon current goals, or maybe even roles, to make owning this car an eventuality. Certainly, I would have to. But will I? No, not now. I have a clear vision of what I am evolving towards right now, and abandoning or even reprioritizing any of those goals right now would not be my path to happiness. I am prepared to say, though, “never say never.” If the Universe and I are on exceptional terms, then perhaps I can “have it all”. For now, though, I am content with what I have and with what I have planned.

Sometimes in life, we have to take a look around us, perhaps take advantage of unique opportunities, to step out of our present roles and place ourselves in another role, temporarily, to inspire ourselves, to motivate ourselves to take another step in a direction we’ve been hesitant to go. Or to just take any kind of step. At the very least, I had an incredible experience driving a car that is at the pinnacle of engineering excellence. I believe it is truly the shape of things to be and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. I look for inspiration, in order to keep myself motivated in my effort to evolve, and this experience, the actual experience of driving the Tesla, and the experience as a catalyst for thought and reflection, certainly did not disappoint in either respect. I continue to be driven.

To be driven, you just have to drive. Drive it for yourself.









Scarlett’s Letter October 11, 2013

I jumped out of bed this morning! I’m such a liar. I slid very slowly out of bed this morning. I made myself get all ready and ate a quick breakfast, without coffee. As planned, I headed to the coffee shop for, well, coffee, a bit of work, and some nice cello music. I have been wanting to go to the coffee shop to listen to the cello player for all of time. It was cool this morning, a little overcast, too, but the kind of overcast you can tell is going to burn off any minute. I really didn’t know what to expect as far as parking, crowds, and seating at the coffee shop. If the cello player is there every week, would there be a crowd. As I neared downtown Napa and approached Second Street at Main, there were tons of empty curbside parking spots. I took a chance and rounded the corner at Main and entered the parking lot closest to the coffee shop. There were multiple empty spaces and a couple more freeing up. Yes! Hopefully, there would be seating inside, too. As I approached the door to the coffee shop, I could see people inside. I was late, just a bit. The musician was to begin at 8:30, it was 8:38. Shucks. I pulled the screen door open, then pushed open the glass door. I could hear lots of conversation and the espresso machine, but no music. I got in line as I surveyed the scene. A couple of tables were empty, most were occupied. Nowhere did I see a man with a cello. Perhaps he was late. I ordered my large, black coffee and found a table with a single chair with a dirty mug on it. I tossed my stuff on the chair as I dispensed my coffee into the empty cup I paid $2.60 for. As I did, I spotted something that had escaped my attention the other times I’d been here. A table near an electrical outlet. In two very large strides, with a brimming full cup of molten hot, extremely dark roast coffee, I snatched my stuff from the chair I’d placed it on and sort of flung it like a heavily weighted sling ball at a chair proximate to the table with the outlet. There were several people in line for coffees and I just knew one of them was coveting this power seat. I lunged over to the chair in the best low impact leap I could manage with the full cup of coffee and plopped down on the chair next to my purse and tote bag with my computer in it. Safe. I got the power seat!

I enjoyed my coffee, I enjoyed people watching, I enjoyed writing and two hours later, still no cello player. There was no mention of the cello player and no one else in the coffee shop seemed to be expecting any more entertainment than the new female employee with the Mohawk. I’m thinking the “ad” or “event” in the Napa Register just runs every week and, maybe, at some point, someone with a cello shows up and plays. I don’t know. I may try again next Friday, just for grins. At the very least, I am up and out in the magnificent world far earlier than normal. The whole breakfast table routine in the morning is nice, visiting with Mom and all, but there seems to be some sort of time vacuum involved with that.


Mom was at the table this morning when I inhaled my breakfast and ran out the door. We conversed, briefly, and all was well. When I returned home shortly before lunch, she was showering, from the sounds of running water and then her hair dryer. I went to my office and continued working. Suddenly, I was nearly blown out of my chair from the sound of Mom’s clock radio on her AM news station. From behind her closed bedroom door, no less. I’m pretty sure I swore as I arose from my chair, clasping my ears, and shut my door. Still, I could hear it, loudly. I turned on my Pandora station in an attempt to make the din less obtrusive. Mom is a little hard of hearing, but that was one loud radio, even by her standards.

I have a real problem with AM radio, and news stations especially. For my entire childhood, I was awakened by the soft but annoying sounds of the alarm clock radio in my parents’ room and the morning news on the AM station at 5:30 AM. When I was a wee toddler, I used to climb out of my crib and into their bed to join them. My dad got up before the news came on every morning and made coffee for himself and for my mom. They had their coffee in bed while listening to the news, they had their coffee in the same mugs every morning, the mugs were each placed on individual trays, one for each side of the bed. I can still hear the spoon against the mug, clinking as my dad stirred the sugar into his cup. Seven stirs, never more, never less. That was my cue. When they were finished with their coffee, sometimes, I remember, I would go drink the last bitter bit out of the bottom of each mug from the cups on the trays, on the floor, next to their bed. I know, pretty hard core, especially for a three-year old.

As I got older, though, the radio began to bother me. I really didn’t like the sound, perhaps the frequency, it just bothered me. Every time I was in the car with my mom, she’d listen to the same news station on the AM radio in the car. The older I got, the more it really bothered me. It wasn’t the news, so much, that I disliked, it was the quality of the broadcast, again, maybe the frequency. I remember, as a teen, begging her to shut it off and being nearly in tears it disturbed me so.

When I met my husband it was alternative music that sort of brought us together. That and the gym. Those were the things we had in common enough to choose to spend time together. Both alternative music and fitness were brief in his life and much more of a constant and a passion in mine. I think it was on the premise of sharing our obscure music collections that the first date was made. I’ve always loved music and finding someone who had the same taste in alternative music, in the mid-eighties, in Sacramento, of all places, was pretty awesome. Once we were an “irreversible item”, as in, we had pets together, he stopped listening to music completely, and became addicted, exactly like my mother, to talk radio. The relationship deteriorated from there for the next twenty-five years. AM radio was the first of the many irreconcilable differences.

So, the blaring radio station today was far worse than all the heavy equipment and jackhammers and street repair out the front window. Fortunately, the loud radio was shut off within a minute or two and peace was restored. But not long after, there was a knock on my office door, not just a knock, but pounding. I said “come in”, again, and again, and Mom opened the door, sort of wide-eyed and yelled, “the door doesn’t knock”. How can a door not knock? I was still kind of recovering from the radio thing, and the pounding on the door kind of got my adrenaline going, I thought there was an emergency of some sort, so when she opened the door and told me “it wasn’t knocking” I told her it was, and in fact, she was pounding. She waved off my remark with disgust and a dirty look, and slammed my door, like it was my fault “the door didn’t knock.” Shit. WTF?

A little bit later, from behind my closed office door, again, I am nearly thrown out of my chair, this time by the sound of the radio in the kitchen, downstairs. It is on absolutely full blast. I can’t take it. I go downstairs and ask her why the radio is so loud. She can’t hear me, and I’m yelling, by this point. I am yelling so loud to be heard over the radio, to be heard at all, that my throat hurts. Not yelling in a mean way, yelling like you would at a concert. Conversational yelling. She really can’t hear me. She turns the radio off, thankfully, and goes about whatever she was doing. I guess I’ve been dismissed, so I go back upstairs. It is very quiet for quite a while, until the doorbell rings. My dad replaced the doorbell at some point with one that causes the entire house to tremble when it is rung. There are multiple sounding devices located strategically throughout the house, sort of like the telephones. I’m pretty sure the neighbors four blocks away know when we have callers and visitors. I’m in the middle of something and don’t go to answer the door. Apparently, neither does Mom, and she was about five feet from one of the sounding devices when it chimed it’s long and loud, cheesy, electronic, Westminster chime tune. When I went downstairs to tell her I was going to run some errands, there was an envelope, outside, visible from the window next to the front door. I opened the door and retrieved the envelope that had been placed, leaning against the glass. One of our neighbors is an author and my mom just loved her last book. She had dropped off some blog articles for my mom. I took them down to her and tried to explain, but, again, either she wasn’t hearing me or I’ve gone mute.

Mom was just sitting in my dad’s chair, not hers. She always, always, always sits in her chair. This just now strikes me. I look at her sitting there, looking up at me from my dad’s chair, and she even looks like my dad. She has the same expectant expression like, maybe, sound will actually come from my moving lips. My dad was quite hard of hearing, we all suffered from it. I can only imagine how isolating it must be to be unable to hear. I mean, in loud bars and restaurants, concerts and other noisy venues, I struggle to hear conversations and it is frustrating. I cannot imagine this being constant. It is isolating, also, for whoever lives with someone who cannot be heard. I really feel as though I’ve gone mute, I was often unable to communicate with my dad. Now, my mom. But that this occurred so suddenly, within two hours, is quite alarming.

I am reminded of my return from a business trip a month or so ago. In my absence, there had been a power outage. Mom complained that after the power outage, nothing worked. The TV sound didn’t work, the phone didn’t work, even the garbage disposal stopped making noise. I knew that wasn’t possible and thought maybe she’d had some kind of temporary hearing impairment, but since she was hearing as well as usual by the point she was telling me of her experience, and nothing more came of it, until now, I stopped worrying about it.

Mom is still looking at me expectantly from my dad’s recliner. I grab a pen and one of the five hundred “notepads” that have been made from six years worth of printed out Facebook pages, mine. Dad used to print my Facebook pages out for my mom to read. Yes, she is that computer illiterate. It’s cute and kind of frustrating all at once. I write on the note, “I can’t possibly speak any louder. Should we go see a doctor? I am concerned.” She writes back, she doesn’t think she can get an appointment with a doctor, on short notice, on a Friday afternoon and she doesn’t want to go to the emergency room and that she is concerned, too. We exchange several notes. I go run my errands and pick up the short list of items she’s asked for.

Upon my return, we share an Amy’s organic cheese pizza, a Drake’s Brewery porter and some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I’m running fifteen miles tomorrow, I’m carbing up. We pass notes back and forth throughout dinner, which is really not a bad way to communicate. Lord knows, I love to write. She begins to speak to me and I write in response and this works. At some point she says she’d rather lose her hearing than her sight, and I assure her that I think this is temporary. I didn’t mention that I thought the power outage incident was really a hearing impairment incident, but I’m guessing that by tomorrow, her hearing will be restored. We shall see.

At any rate, it has been an interesting day, and, as I must get up very early in the morning to go run, I am planning on an early bedtime tonight, and, a mixed blessing, the television is not on and blaring, shaking the floorboards of my room, for the first night, well, probably since the power outage I wasn’t here for. Peace reigns.

A quiet dinner shared with Mom. Amy's Pizza, the best frozen pizza money can buy, and a Drake's Brewery Black Robusto Porter.
A quiet dinner shared with Mom. Amy’s Pizza, the best frozen pizza money can buy, and a Drake’s Brewery Black Robusto Porter.
Is this a new flavor? Thanks, Ben! Thanks, Jerry! This is awesome!
Is this a new flavor? Thanks, Ben! Thanks, Jerry! This is awesome!


(Postscript; as suspected, the hearing loss was temporary and likely something environmental, normalcy has been restored).

Let’s Get Cookin’

It’s that time of year, my favorite time of year. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. I agree. Presently, on a cool October morning, overcast, damp and chilly, I sit in a coffee shop in Downtown Napa, writing, sipping and getting things organized for the rest of the day and for the upcoming weekend. It is warm and cozy and smells divine in here. There is enough activity to be interesting, but not so noisy to be overwhelming.

Where I am enjoying my morning.
Where I am enjoying my morning.

On my list of things to do today is to dig up the pumpkin soup recipe I made, traditionally, for many years, before the kids went out trick or treating on Halloween. I always believed in family dinners and pulled them off on a regular basis, until both kids were in high school and we had multiple activities in multiple directions, every night of the week. So, even on Halloween, for many, many years, there was a family meal. We’d have my pumpkin soup and the kids would be off to trick or treat. I usually stayed home, dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family, answered the door and doled out candy. It was our tradition. My soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook. I have many, many cookbooks. I love cookbooks, really good, quality cookbooks by esteemed chefs. I like to browse through them, given the time, especially when preparing to entertain. I read them like novels and sometimes I will find myself amidst a pile of cookbooks and half an afternoon has vanished.

My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.
My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.

My pumpkin soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, the one cookbook I always reach for first, my “go to” guide to all things kitchen. Fannie Farmer, revised by Marion Cunningham. There may be a newer version out there, mine is pretty faded, splotched and tattered from many years of use, but it is this book I love, no matter its antiquity.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.
My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.

My mom has her favorite cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens one. She gave me a copy, too, when I went off to college, I think, but I no longer have it. My man has his favorite cookbook, always on the windowsill, at the ready, “The Joy of Cooking”, his “go-to “guide, that, and anything that Jacques Pepin said, ever.  No complaints, no complaints, he is a master in the kitchen and never have I been disappointed.

An old standard.
An old standard.
My man's favorite go-to cookbook.
My man’s favorite go-to cookbook.

There is a “neighborhood” wine tasting party in his neighborhood in a couple of weeks. Sadly, I won’t be there to attend, but he’d mentioned maybe making pumpkin soup, so, I thought I’d send him my recipe, I mean Fannie’s recipe, or Marion’s. The recipe I’ve used many, many times. We’ll leave it at that. The recipe I use calls for canned pumpkin puree, which is fine and, even by my standards, can be obtained in a suitably organic, sustainable variety. Otherwise, I’m not much of one for canned food. I buy organic canned tomato sauce and fire roasted tomatoes from Whole Foods for a fast, weeknight spaghetti sauce, but, generally, I prefer fresh. I thought I’d look up pumpkin soup recipes on my favorite “go-to” online recipe resource,, and I found pages and pages and pages of pumpkin soup recipe. I only wanted one, one that used fresh pumpkin, as an alternative to my recipe and the canned pumpkin puree. Pages and pages and pages, and many of them with many reviews and many stars, which would be my obvious selection criteria. I mean, really, who would choose to use a recipe that had only a few stars, or none, and only a few reviews, or none? My point, exactly.

Too many pumpkin soup recipes!
Too many pumpkin soup recipes!

So, today, at some point, I am going to gather up two recipes for pumpkin soup, the one I’ve used with fantastic results for many, many years and another that I decide on from, I’m going to tuck them into a sweet, romantic card I’ll find, no doubt, at Target, fill it with mushy musings, and address it to my Sweetie, far, far away.

Recipes. It occurs to me that recipes are much like life. Think about it.

We are all trying to piece together a life for ourselves that ends up like a beautiful cake, the perfect crumb, texture, moistness, flavor, the loveliest icing, decoration, and garnish. There are as many lovely cake recipes as there are people on the planet, I’m nearly certain, if, ever, you could gather together every known cake recipe of all time. I mean, I have “The Cake Bible” and in my entire life I don’t think I could ever bake every recipe in that one book alone, though the idea intrigues me in a “Julie and Julia” kind of way. Food for thought, no pun intended, and you know, I am the Queen of Puns.

If I were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of my dreams and you were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of your dreams, I’m 99.9% certain we’d have different recipes and that our idea of the cake of our dreams would differ considerably as well. So it is with finding the recipe for our perfect life. We all have unique, individual ideas of what “our perfect life” would be, and even over time, our ideas are certain to change. Just like I may decide carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is my favorite, I may change my mind, at some point, and declare red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting my favorite. That’s okay, our goals, purpose and passions in life change like our preference for dessert, but, generally speaking, we have a few favorites we are always happy to see on the dessert menu!

If I were to make a carrot cake or a red velvet cake, again, there’d be countless recipes from which to choose, and each would be a different combination of different quantities of ingredients. Almost certainly, for carrot cake and for red velvet cake, there’d be common ingredients across a majority of the recipes; flour and sugar, for example. Again, so it is with building our perfect life, there are likely to be key ingredients we are going to want to include for best results.

So, if I wanted to piece together a perfect life, what would my recipe look like? That’s the first question, always, what kind of cake do I want? There are several ways to approach selecting a recipe, one is to consider the ingredients you already have on hand, the number of people you intend to feed, the cost, the nutritional value, another is to see a picture or read a recipe, and no matter the contents or cost, that’s what you want to bake!

With choosing the recipe for our perfect life, then, do we consider the ingredients we already have on hand? Or do we start from scratch using the pretty picture and yummy sounding recipe as inspiration? That, you must decide. Do the ingredients in your life, now, include things you want in your final recipe? Your home, your family, your career? Likely so. Or, are you in a place where you are gathering those ingredients up and don’t have them on hand, just yet? You see what I say?

There are going to be those secret ingredients, too, that all good cooks have, that ensure their success. A dear friend of mine, one I’ve known since kindergarten, is a well-known, successful pastry chef. She has always loved to cook and to bake, even as kids, she’d come over to my house after school, now and then, and we’d get out my Betty Crocker Cook Book for children and we’d whip up a batch of cookie dough. We’d practice our fractions and halve the recipe, or quarter it, and, once in a while, we’d even bake the cookie dough. Usually not. Anyway, she went on to enter the Napa Town and Country Fair cake decorating category every year beginning in high school, and she’d win. She decorated cakes for all us girls for birthdays and other occasions. She graduated to baking cakes, having attended a culinary program at a nearby community college, and, year after year, her cakes won at the local fair. She’d be asked to produce a recipe, which she had, in her mind and would have to transcribe it in written form to be published in The Napa Register. Every year she won, and every year, it was, essentially, the same cake recipe. Chocolate with a rich, chocolate filling and frosting. Her success was in the quality of her recipe, and she applied it consistently, and won. Consistently. She has since gone on to accomplish great things, I’ve seen her name listed in Gourmet Magazine a time or two, which considering the number of pastry chefs in Napa alone, is quite an accomplishment.

How it all started.
How it all started.

So, what’s your recipe? Mine includes the following ingredients:




Guiding principles



I decorate my cake with carefully selected ingredients, including:

Self esteem


Self discipline





Every now and then, I have to adjust the ingredients a little, add a little more self-confidence and a little less action, or I may re-evaluate my roles and goals, but, in the end, the same key ingredients are always in my recipe. And that is my recipe for personal success, that’s how I piece together my perfect cake.

When you look at the ingredients list, though, each and every one of those ingredients are rare and somewhat elusive. Like making an exquisite cake, some of the ingredients may be very hard to find, very hard to come by. We often struggle with identifying our passion, but we must in order to find our purpose. We have to know our roles in order to be able to identify our goals. All of this takes time, a lot of discernment, constant consideration and occasional adjustment. Other ingredients will need to be continually replaced, refreshed. You’d never use old eggs or outdated cream in your cake recipe, would you? Likewise, my self-esteem, self-confidence, inspiration and enthusiasm need to be refreshed daily, for best results.

And your recipe may differ from mine in the source of your ingredients, though, in all likelihood, the same key ingredients will be there. You must have passion and purpose, you absolutely require values and guiding principles, and I can’t imagine a recipe not including roles and goals. None of these key ingredients are going to mix well and rise properly without self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, and inspiration. And it all requires action, like baking the ingredients, otherwise, you’ve just got batter!

As we become comfortable in the kitchen, the recipes we use regularly are rarely written down. I’m fairly certain that most of the meals we cook, nightly, week in and week out are not carefully measured and read out of a cook book. We know how much salt, pepper, and smoked paprika we like on our pork chops, we aren’t measuring an eighth of a teaspoon of each, precisely, based on the written recipe. And I’m sure we all use slightly different amounts of slightly different ingredients. The results are all good, I bet I’d like your pork chops nearly as much as mine. My point here, is that our daily recipes, our most successful and relied upon recipes, are from memory, are so familiar and reliable that they are comfortable to us, and we don’t have to labor over specific instruction to prepare them. And, our daily recipes that we are so comfortable with, that we rely on for sustenance, regularly, are completely individual and unique, as each of us are as humans. We are all masters in our own kitchens, we all have our unique masterpieces. My Sweetie and I both love to cook, when he cooks he does things his way and the result is fantastic. When I cook, I do things as I’ve always done, and the results are wonderful, if I do say so myself. We do things differently for different reasons, based on different resources and preferences, neither of us is more or less right, just unique, just individual preference, just habit.

So, whatever you come up with, ultimately, as your recipe for your perfect life may contain many of the same ingredients as mine, but as master of your own kitchen, you may use a whisk where I’d use a wooden spoon, you may use Canola oil where I’d use EVOO. The results of both will be extraordinary, guaranteed, but unique, I promise. Put your apron on, read a few cookbooks for inspiration, and get cooking. Life was never meant to be just batter, but better. You can have your cake and eat it, too!