Scarlett’s Letter November 29, 2013

Remember that list from a couple of weeks ago? The one I didn’t finish and would have to tackle when I returned from New York and San Francisco? I made a dent, today, I made a small dent in the list.

And, no, I still haven’t gone to storage to get the damned coffee grinder. I still have an unopened pound of Peet’s whole bean coffee in my cupboard in the garage and I am still frequenting the coffee shop a mile from the house. In fact, I am even “the mayor” of the Browns Valley Yogurt and Coffee Shop on Foursquare. True, I may be one of twelve people in Napa that uses Foursquare, I am likely the only Browns Valley Yogurt and Coffee Shop customer that does. I win. I rule.

The dent I made today, no, not my five expense reports, and I am beginning to stress a little about those. I really need to get them done. Oh, how I loathe doing expense reports, especially really big scary ones, like New York. Especially when the really big scary New York one contains a great deal of personal expense that has to be a) acknowledged and b) separated out from reimbursable expenses and c) paid for by me. The dent I made today was my room.

I moved “home” in February, it is November, and until late this afternoon, there have been boxes I have been shuffling about, opening, rummaging through, shuffling, and restacking, multiple times a day for things like underwear, socks, purses and shoes. The closet, as in only one, which, by the way, is way smaller than any closets, as in at least two, I’ve had in the past several years, has had several boxes of “things” that were Mom’s that she said were mine, or were, at least, mine to deal with. The dresser and dressing table drawers were all full of matter of questionable worth; old magazine articles, outdated maps and trinkets gifted over the years and kept out of duty rather than affection. On one of my trips, I made certain that no boxes blocked access to the drawers and Mom finally undertook the task of the dressing table first. Partially. Five of seven drawers are empty. And I am so hoping she doesn’t get her “sewing” drawer mixed up with my “toy” drawer, they are dangerously close to one another. But, girls, the toy drawer, like real estate, is all about location, location, location. Proximity matters. Mom doesn’t sew so much anymore anyway. Let’s hope.

The dresser was, at last, emptied, completely. The closet, again, was mine to deal with.

So, after a fast four-mile run to declutter my head, I spent a few hours decluttering my room. It was amazing. I liberated my purses and shoes, my underwear and lingerie and organized everything in a manner, though not perfect, a manner I am fairly certain I can tolerate for a bit. Two of the boxes in the closet I had to deal with contained framed pictures of my kids for all of time. I will never own a home large enough to display them all, so I think I’ll unframe them all, scan them, store them in an album and donate the frames. No dusting that way, either. You know I hate dusting.

The third box, a Rubbermaid tote, actually, a large Rubbermaid tote, I’ll add, was full of, and I kid not, old Martha Stewart Living magazines, Reader’s Digests and newspaper clippings. The minimalist within was apoplectic. I have been coexisting in a house where I know much of this matter resides. On one edge of the kitchen table, there is the one pile of mail and reminder notes written on tablets made from years and years of printed out Facebook pages. My dad would print out my Facebook wall for Mom to read, which I find painful to admit, and, yes, she still has them all, but has now cut them in half, put them in stacks and stapled them into “notepads”, which I find even more painful to admit. There are piles of newspapers and clipped out jumble puzzles on two of the four kitchen chairs. And, there is a pile or two of similar stuff, mostly mail, I think, downstairs in the family room. I don’t spend much time down there because the television is almost always on, usually on the news, and really, really loud, three things I am very sensitive to, so those stacks are out of sight and out of mind. The rest of the matter resides in drawers, closets, cupboards and boxes in the garage. I’m sure there are mountains of such matter and I know some day it will haunt me. But, there is no more such matter in my room. My room is matterless.

Oh, then there was the Fisher Price Family Farm, barn, silo and all the little animals. And the tractor with the cart. I played with it for a while, then placed it in the pile to go to storage. You do know it makes a mooing noise when you open and close the barn door, even still, after all these years in the back of the closet.

I have two boxes ready to go to charity, two marked “bathroom” left to unpack, but, no drawers in the bathroom have been afforded to me to unpack into, yet, and two boxes to go to storage. But, for all I did manage to unpack and the organization that took place is huge in enhancing my level of contentment at home, in my room. It is good.

And the day got even better!

This evening I met with my besties from all of time, Janelle, Janette, Eden and Gloria, for a multi-faceted celebration. We’ve all turned fifty now, as of Thanksgiving Day, with Janelle’s birthday, we are all now a half century old. The other celebration, Gloria’s victory over cancer.

A couple of Janelle’s friends joined us for the festivities, and every time the doorbell rang, more wine was produced. Janelle is a fabulous cook, her passion and her trade, and made us a fantastic Asian noodle salad. I asked if I could bring something and the option was left open, without a helpful suggestion, I could bring whatever, if I could think of something to go with Asian noodle salad, or nothing at all. I’m always a bit self-conscious about my prowess in the kitchen in Janelle’s company, so, I made the one thing I am really good at; a beer run. I brought a cold, mixed six-pack of premium porters, lagers and brown ales.

I started with an IPA, then the sparkling wine arrived, so I had some of that, too, simultaneously. Then the chilled Jessup Cellars white was opened, so I had some of that. With dinner, a Terra D’Oro red was uncorked, so, yah, I had some of that, as well. For the record, I did not have any of the blush sparkling wine, though I don’t know why.

After dinner, with Janette as our designated driver, we all piled into the largest vehicle in the driveway and made our way to Silo’s in downtown Napa for a night of Motown music, dancing, and, yes, more wine. We ended up at Empire, at the “west end” and somehow I found myself drinking a lemon drop, poured from a pitcher of the stuff on our table. Things were a bit fuzzy by this point in time, and the last thing I remember with real clarity was really not wanting to drink the lemon drop. I nursed it for a while and texted a bit with my Sweetie, just home from another trip to Coldfoot. I remember overusing emoticons and being grateful, for once, for autocorrect. We always punctuate our texts with emoticons, but I’m pretty sure there were three full rows of emoticons in one text I sent. I consider it poor form to reuse the same emoticon in the same text, with the exception of the red heart and the kissy lips, those two can be used to fill the last row at the end, for emphasis, and to make the message symmetrical in appearance. For the record, there are not enough heart shapes in my emoticon library to fill three full rows of text, I definitely overused certain items. Shame. And, as for autocorrect, I usually do battle with autocorrect, I use big words that the engineers at Apple don’t use, I guess, and I make up my own words, like “matterless” and “declutter”. But, when drunk texting, I am a very poor typist but a much more diligent proofreader, and, so, appreciate autocorrect more than usual, at least as long as I am able to still form intelligible phrases.

And that was about it. I remember that each time Eden and I had to climb into the back back seat of the car, because we were “the bendy people”, it became progressively more difficult. I think I had become, perhaps, too bendy, during the course of the evening. Extracting myself from the depths of the back back seat that last time I do vividly remember and there will be a bruise. Maybe more than one.

I did manage to get home in one piece, only having to navigate myself about two blocks and into the driveway. This task I have practiced for many, many years long before I was of legal drinking age. And, once upstairs, just like old times, tiptoeing, even in my Guess boots, across the squeaky, hardwood floor of my room, careful not to wake the ‘rents, I peeked out my window, down onto my car in the driveway, just to make sure it was a) actually there, b) parked straight c) parked in the middle of my half of the driveway, and d) not halfway into the (closed) garage. Aces.

Scarlett’s Letter November 26, 2013

I worked in San Francisco today. Rough life, I know, New York City to San Francisco.

I’m tired of being “on the road”, and I’m looking forward to a long Thanksgiving weekend at home with Mom and my friends. Two more weeks of business travel after Thanksgiving and I’m done for the year. I think. I’m considering a personal trip to Hawaii to visit my kid and then, January, I’m not sure what I’m going to do, burn some vacay time and go to Alaska, probably.

I shopped at Union Square tonight, at Uniqlo. I LOVE Uniqlo, and I never had a moment to shop there in NYC. So, tonight, in San Fran, I bought a shitload of cold weather clothing, “Heateach” base layer clothing and a packable down jacket in the most obnoxious shade of purple known to man. The clerk at the checkout stand had to “warn” me that the base layer stuff was not returnable or exchangeable, even if the packages were not opened. Harsh policy, and, for a moment, even I doubted my size small status. But, I made the purchase anyway, figuring I’d just work out four hours a day and cut my food and alcohol consumption in half, bringing it down to what most folks my size consume. Back in my hotel room, after a HUGE dinner and dessert and four glasses of wine, I finally worked up the nerve to try the un-returnable, non-exchangeable, size small shit on. Hello? It fits! Of course I’m a size small. Why do people make me doubt myself? I know me better than anyone. I’m a very curvy, somewhat voluptuous, size small. Every girl’s dream and EXACTLY what I’ve always wanted to be!!

And this, after one of the most amazing meals I have ever consumed! I ate at an “old school” French restaurant last night, and loved, loved, loved it. The service was, appropriately, stuck up. So French. But the food was very good. There is a whole “French Quarter” in San Fran, with several restaurants practically adjacent to one another. I’ve eaten at three, so far, and had a hard time NOT eating at another tonight. I stuck with B44, the Spanish restaurant I made reservations at through Open Table because they had a menu item featuring fish, lentils and avocado all in one dish, which is my interpretation of heaven. It was heaven, and the stuck up, aloof, and somewhat inattentive waiter recommended a zinfandel, originally from here, a hundred years ago, then transported to the Canary Islands. This, I’m quite sure, was one of the best wines I have ever tasted. The aloof waiter’s tip went from 15% to 20% at the first sip. And, just so you know, I never tip only 15%. I’m getting really tired of wait staff that don’t know how to deal with single diners, though.

Speaking of single diners, last night, at the stuck up French place, a single male diner entered the restaurant, the maître’d asked if he was “a party of one”, without missing a beat, the single diner replied, “yes, and ‘party’ is the operative word”. I took mental note, and, I plan to steal that line wherever it will fit! Perfect! I loved it!

So, my day; work, shopping, food, wine, writing.  Except for the work part, it was a really good day! And, truthfully, the work part wasn’t that bad, except that I feel like I’m devoting a lot of energy to someone else’s passion. I need to make an adjustment, I just need the guts to do so (link to courage).

San Fran is amazing, though, in my impression, dirtier, filthier, and grittier than Manhattan. I do love big cities, but, while I enjoy the architecture, the food, the culture, I’m lonelier than I ever thought possible. Week after week after week is really beginning to wear on me. I crave companionship, friendship and love. This weekend will be good, before two more very lonely weeks on the road.

The holidays will be a little strange this year, with the kids all far, far away and not returning home, for the first time, ever. It will be a bit quiet, a little sad and a tad lonely without them. I plan on focusing on friends, Mom, and spending some time near home, for a change. I’m looking forward to it.

Scarlett’s Letter November 19, 2019


I made considerable progress on yesterdays to do list, but, as expected, several items will simply have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend when I next return home. The only thing I neglected to do this morning was eat breakfast, and breakfast is ALWAYS on my list. I’ll have an early lunch, and two dinners, one at the airport, dim sum, for sure, and another, likely, on the long flight from LAX to JFK, to absorb the copious amounts of usually dreadful, airline wine likely to be involved in a red eye flight to NYC. How else does one obtain the red eyes referred to?

I grew up a latchkey kid, my dad owned an old, fashioned Schwinn Bicycle shop in Marin County for most of my childhood, and was a travelling salesman for various bicycle distributors, including Schwinn, before that. My mom was a registered nurse, she worked in local convalescent hospitals and, often, in the bike shop, when needed. For much of my childhood, I came home from school to an empty house. Mom, while nursing, usually made it home about an hour later than me, so I didn’t have time to do too much harm. Weekends, however, were another story. I was often left alone all day Saturday. Mom, concerned that I may have ample time with which to destroy our home, would seek to occupy every last minute with chores, chores she found challenging to keep up on while working, chores I was, at least in appearance, eager to do in exchange for the monthly board for my horse. When I awoke each and every Saturday morning, on the edge of the Formica counter in the kitchen, impossible to overlook, was a list of chores, always written on a Schwinn tablet in her familiar cursive handwriting. I cleaned bathrooms, I vacuumed, I dusted, I mopped, I ironed. Of course, I found ways to cheat, and I was a master at procrastination. I’d spend the morning playing or watching cartoons, the good old ones, then an hour before Mom was due home, I’d go on a mission to make it look like I’d done all my chores. To this day, she has never suggested I shortchanged her in any way. She’d come home and find the house a) standing b) quiet c) clean. She’d also find her list, exactly where she left it, on the edge of the Formica counter, in the kitchen, with each requested chore neatly crossed off. This, my introduction to to-do lists and the satisfaction in crossing complete items through with a bold, defiant line.

Mom has always been one to, I don’t want to say nag, but the term does come to mind, let’s say, remind, me of things that need to be addressed, sometimes warranted, but, usually, needlessly. While this may have been more necessary when I was twelve years old, now, at age fifty, having been in command of my own life and having left many to-do lists myself, and done a fair share of nagging of my own family, I feel I am quite responsible, self-directed and, frankly, able to manage the day-to-day components of my life. If there is one thing I have a hard time with, it’s micro-management, no matter who is dishing it out. No matter how much I love them. I abhor and resent and resist, micro-management, with every tiny cell I am made up of. Unnecessary reminders fall dangerously close to micro-management in my book.

As I write, there is a rap, rap rap upon my bedroom door. It is 7:30 AM and I have not ventured, yet, out of “my room”. Mom, with mild panic in her voice, “don’t you have an appointment this morning? I was panic-stricken, I thought you’d be leaving by now.” Panic-stricken? Really? That I’d miss my bikini wax at 8:30? Does she even know what a bikini wax is? I reply. She doesn’t hear me. Bless her heart, to worry over every detail of my life, when, really, a bikini wax is the least of our concerns. We have topics much more important looming ahead.

I’ve raised my own children. Two of them. Mom only raised one, me. True, I may have amounted to the same trouble as two, I don’t know. My kids were pretty good, but I was a different kind of mom, not to dis my mom’s parenting style. We’re just very different. I like to think I was more “consultative”, for lack of a better term. We had adult conversations, my kids and me, from the time they could speak until, well, about five minutes ago. And, if there is one thing I’ve learned from growing up and from motherhood, it’s that kids, and to define that term, your children, no matter their age, are going to struggle and make mistakes. As are we. As parents, sometimes, we just have to let those mistakes unfold, to proffer advice, to suggest alternatives, and to let them run to the end of the leash.  My kids have wrecked cars and suffered broken hearts, my kids have broken hearts and lived beyond their means. I have stumbled upon incriminating photos of one child of mine on Facebook and sent him, I’m sure, the most terrifying text message he ever received, “I certainly hope you aren’t behaving tonight as you did last night per the photo of you I just saw on so-and-so’s wall.” They have violated curfew to the point where we had to renegotiate the whole thing and ended up, actually, abolishing it altogether, because it worked out better for our family. Basically, it came down to this; “if you need to stay out beyond (insert reasonable curfew time here), just call and tell me where you’ll be staying the night, and don’t come home”. This after one child, having been locked out of the house and not carrying a house key, climbed up the onto the porch roof, and, finding his bedroom window also locked, climbed over onto my bedroom balcony, from the roof, and, basically, broke into my room while I (didn’t) sleep at 3:00 AM, three hours after curfew and an hour before I had to get up for work. Like I wouldn’t notice. Like I said, abolishing curfew is probably not the usual approach, but one that worked for us. But, through it all, with love, support, good communication and a close bond that many shared experiences fosters, they have both become incredibly strong, successful, independent, individuals. I could not be prouder. They are both, by far, more mature and well grounded than I was even a decade older than they are. We are never prepared, formally, in any way, to raise children to adulthood. We all muddle our way through, based on our own experiences, often applying methods different than our own parents, in hopes of a different result, knowing ourselves, only, our youthful deviations.

I make it to my bikini wax appointment, by the way, three minutes early.

Back at home, though, a new to-do list is emerging, and a new list of reminders, and, no, it isn’t on the corner of the same Formica counter that still glistens from all those years I waxed it, weekly, in the same old kitchen. So far, these reminders and the new to-do list items have all been verbal directives. “If you don’t want the oak library table and Grandpa’s oak rocking chair, when I’m gone, give them to your cousin Jane and Nolan, Nolan loves oak furniture.” The next day, “When I’m gone, if Dogwood (my son) and Sherwood (my son in law) don’t want your dad’s tools, offer them to Bob across the street, then to Ed (another neighbor).” This is not written anywhere, I am to remember. I am to remember?

And this all reminds me, vaguely, of the times my parents went on vacation to Hawaii and again, to Europe, both times, without me. I was in high school and I was left home. I was allowed to have one designated friend stay with me, I suppose, to help me invite the rest of the gang over, to not burn the house down, to eat all the Oreos and drink a half an ounce of booze from every bottle in the liquor cupboard, shaken up together in a mason jar, with orange juice. This, we called “kitchen shit” and it required leaning over the sink and plugging one’s nose to ingest it without gagging. I’m pretty sure Mom doesn’t know every detail of this, other than the Oreos being gone. But, my point, for weeks before my parents’ departure, she would tell me things I was to do, or not do, and I was to a) remember and b) comply. There was, probably, though I don’t remember for certain, probably a list of the more important points left on the counter for me.

As Mom’s new directives go, she has made them “mandatory” or non-negotiable. She has backed them all with a blanket threat. “If you don’t, I will come back and haunt you.” She is joking, of course, but not really, she looks serious. Very, very serious and is, actually, almost in tears. And, the truly terrifying thing about this is, she never threatened a consequence, that I can remember, before, in my life. I was told what was right, what was wrong, sometimes a discussion ensued, but never, to my recollection, did she say, “if you do this then I’ll (insert appropriate punishment here)”. I often tested the limits set, and was usually grounded, if caught, but then let off early. I’m not sure this haunting thing is a consequence I wish to put to the test. I’ll just comply. Completely. I like ghosts and all, but not ghosts I am quite so familiar with. Tap, tap, tap, “don’t you have an appointment this morning? I was panic-stricken, I thought you’d be leaving by now.” Aaaaaaggghhhhh!

“Do you want the house when I die?” Yes. No. Yes. No. I have to decide right now? I don’t know, and my answer changes every ten minutes. My spoken response has been, consistently, “not if it doesn’t make sense for you.” In other words, if the house needs to be liquidated to pay for a more appropriate living situation, then let’s liquidate. I am craving both new horizons, new geographic locations, and roots. I guess, based on some applied thought, I’d like to have a home to come back to, to visit, to fall back on, and Napa doesn’t seem a terrible place to have that home. Further, it would serve as an excellent performing asset if not needed for my own shelter. I do desire to live elsewhere, at least part of the year, perhaps even most of the year, and I am open to moving around and traveling and seeing the world in the next phase of my life, too. But, there is a great deal of comfort in having an anchor, a home, a place to hang one’s hat, keep the suitcase, the family heirlooms, or just return to visit on occasion. I am conflicted, but with a plan. A couple of plans, actually.

We chatted, again, this morning, Mom and I, about the house and some creative ideas I came up with last night in the hour or two I was eluded by sleep, ideas that may work for both of us, as in, Mom can progress to a more suitable living situation and I’ll hold down the fort and generate some income from it at the same time, to subsidize her needs. I’m not sure if this is what will ultimately materialize, or not. Time will tell. But at least a reasonable dialogue has been started and I’ve been able to reinforce that I am not here to profit, gain or force a selfish agenda. I am here to support and facilitate whatever course of actions will suit Mom the best. I’m a big girl, I most def can take care of myself, whether I am late for my bikini wax appointment, or not.

A concern I have, and not at all unfounded, is that I will be left with the house in its current condition, full of stuff I’ll have to, single handedly, sort, sift and deal with. This seems to be my specialty as of late, and one, again, that I abhor. Not so many years ago, on the eve of a long-threatened foreclosure, it was largely my responsibility to determine which items in the house, our family home, and in the hangar that served as a garage and storage, and even in the pastures, full of lovely creatures, which items could be forfeited, which could be rehomed, which should be saved and moved. An accumulation of a family of four over the course of two decades, in a typical American family, that, like many others, tended towards collecting more than needed.

Cut the crap.

Another year or so passed and I found myself, again, largely in charge of emptying the house we attempted to retain in town. Short sale. I had long since moved away, leaving the home and the man within to pursue a more positive, productive and happy life. Again, I sifted, sorted and determined what should be forfeited, donated, sold, retained. That which was retained ended up in two very large storage units, costing me, personally and solely, over $400 per month. Over the course of the year that followed, I attempted to find the energy, drive and motivation, other than saving myself a fuckload of money, to, again, address the accumulation of years. Methodically, with my trusty Civic, and on the rare free afternoons and coveted weekends I was on the western edge of the continent, I’d load as many boxes as I could fit into my car, take them home, and sort the contents into three piles; Goodwill, garbage and keep forever, or, at least until the next time I attempted to downsize. Months later, I managed to get everything into one unit, finally isolating what I wanted from that which belonged to my husband. I moved my items to a 10’ x 10’ unit for a small fraction of the original cost I’d been paying for storage.

Still cutting the crap.

Time passes. My children have both moved far away in pursuit of their goals and I am left with a storage unit full of my stuff, and theirs, in a city I no longer live in. And, with my most recent move, back home with Mom, those last things I cherish, the things I used daily and had in my home when I lived on my own, have been piled up in her garage in carefully labeled and classified boxes. The piles of boxes are causing her much consternation and me, frustration. A few weeks ago, all by myself, I rented a fourteen-foot moving van and single handedly relocated the contents of the storage unit in Sacramento to one in Napa, a larger unit with a larger price. The following day, I relocated my cherished items from Mom’s garage to my new storage unit, as well. And, in three months, my monthly rate increases. Substantially. I have three months to sift, sort and decide. What goes? What stays? Likely using the same method, five boxes at a time in trusty Meep, three piles; Goodwill, garbage and box back up and store. My goal, a unit no larger than 10’ x 10’, of only the most exquisite family heirlooms and cherished items. A few well chosen pieces, as I like to say, only the ones any self-proclaimed and slightly extremist minimalist would be compelled to keep.

Now, Mom is quizzing me on every item, artifact and scrap of paper from nearly ninety years of accumulation, almost fifty of that time in one house, a house with more than generous storage. And every nook and cranny, every cupboard, closet and cabinet crammed. Unless it is china, silver, crystal, a certain piece of furniture or particularly good photographs, it can go, and if I am in any way interested in the item, I take a picture of it, from several angles, and tell her to pass it on to someone else. I really, truly do crave a more minimalist life, though I am incredibly sentimental, at heart. I seek minimalism because it feels so good, and not just because I loathe, despise and abhor dusting which is probably as a result of all the dusting I did in my years of child servitude. I just don’t like clutter. It’s oppressive.

Cut the crap, please.

I find myself in a position I never really imagined. All those years, shopping at Costco, throwing decorations, books, electronics and every other imaginable thing into those enormous carts, all those years of piling my Target cart high with toys and books, home décor, DVDs and games. Every letter and greeting card I kept because I couldn’t bare to throw something so personal away, all the memorabilia, the cheerleading outfits, the prom dresses, the junior high band jacket with the awards still pinned to it, the musical instruments, themselves. I am the St. Peter of shit. I sit at the “pearly gates”, which look suspiciously like a roll-up door on a storage unit, and I am to decide, not just for myself, but for my entire family, my mom, my kids, what stays, what is valuable to any of us, and what goes. I don’t remember this being in my job description, but, as, ultimately, it will all be up to me to store, to pay to store, to dust and to trip over when in need of something useful at the back of the closet, I guess I have a rare opportunity to decide what is heavenly, and what goes to purgatory (Goodwill) or to hell (the dump).

Cut the crap.

So, as I cross the last of the items I can possibly cross off my to-do list today, a much larger to-do list looms ahead, one that will take months, perhaps years, to complete, accompanied by a lot of soul searching and some hard, hard decisions. The lesson, as I seek to evolve, is not one of trepidation or dread, but one of challenge. I have a truly rare opportunity. As a result of the events and actions that have transpired in my life over the past five years, I get to, pretty much, rebuild from scratch. I get to decide what, and who, is part of my life, and what can be “re-homed”. I am in complete control, ultimately, of where I choose to live, what I choose to do for a living, and even what bits and pieces of my past I wish to display in my home, use in my life, decorate with, keep and cherish. This is so liberating, so empowering and, frankly, sometimes, as I look at all the decisions ahead of me, large and small, large like a house and small like a greeting card from Mom and Dad for Valentine’s Day 1987, a little daunting. At least, by this point, I am well practiced.

And, really, we are all in this position, if we think about it. I am not unique, the liberation and empowerment I have exists for us all. That mine came about as a result of a whole bunch of crazy and unbelievable actions, and inactions, does not mean we don’t all have the same opportunity. The opportunity to reengineer our lives is always there, we just need to decide how, then act upon it. That I was sort of pushed into it, initially, was, really, by “luck”, if you will. And I may have considered it really bad luck, at first, but, now, see that it was all a long time coming, completely unavoidable, and has been an amazing and very positive catalyst for growth and change. So, in our effort to evolve, we often need to reexamine every aspect of our lives, much like the boxes of stuff we keep in the garage, the attic or in storage, and decide, which of the three piles does each belong in? Goodwill, garbage, or keep and cherish forever, or for now. Cut the crap! Embrace. Enjoy. Be empowered.

Scarlett’s Letter November 18, 2013

Dear Friends ~

I managed to not have a teaching assignment, a consulting engagement or a travel day today. Originally, I did, but, thanks to our electric company and a “scheduled” outage for maintenance tomorrow, I was able to get my Monday/Tuesday client rescheduled to another consultant. Since that point in time, I have been so looking forward to today. Shit was gonna get done! All the stuff I can’t do while traveling was to happen today. I had a list. I am a big believer in lists. I feel great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in crossing things off my list.

One of the items at the top of my list was to actually go to storage and fish out the box with my coffee grinder in it. I accidentally bought whole bean coffee last weekend and have no way to grind the beans short of a rock and a bowl. And, frankly, no bowl I’d choose to smash beans in with a rock. I’ve been going to the coffee shop nearby for a latte every morning I’ve been home. There are three choices here, clearly, I could go buy a bag of ground coffee and use that until I next go to storage and retrieve the grinder. I could, alternatively, go buy another grinder. Both of these options are things the “old me” would quickly do. Spend money after spending money. But, wait, at $3.50 per latte, plus the dollar cash tip, I could’ve bought the ground coffee AND the grinder over again already. Damn. I hate math. Math has never been my friend, never an ally. Guess what, I didn’t make it to storage today, I didn’t buy ground coffee and I didn’t buy a grinder. I guess I’m buying a latte again tomorrow morning!

This is representative of how my whole day went.

I knew today would be sort of a low energy day. I ran a long way yesterday, so a little lethargy was to be expected. And, after all, scheduled work or not, it’s Monday. I was not, however, expecting the level of apathy I achieved today. I even underachieved at sleeping in. I had no reason to set my alarm and thought a bit of extra rejuvenating sleep would be nice. I awoke at 6:48. That’s 6:48 AM, to be clear. I checked texts, emails and Facebook and finally got out of bed at, like, 7:02. AM. The realization that I’d need coffee before being able to hold an even remotely intelligible conversation followed achieving a mostly vertical posture.  I thought about going to the coffee shop in my PJ’s, which are really just ugly sweats, but talked myself out of it. Miraculously. Instead, I pulled on my favorite Billabong maxi skirt, which I wore out to the store to buy beer last night. No one I knew saw me last night, so, who would know I was wearing the same thing today? I took my Sweetie’s Silver Gulch shirt off and slipped my old, slightly too big, black cardigan on over the cami I slept in. Again, who would know? I didn’t even quite have the energy to put a bra on, the cami would do. My hair was a wild mess of curls after my shower last night and a night on my pillow. The satin pillowcase did not net the desired results of keeping my hair under control. I twisted the mess into a clip and called it good. Off to get a latte.

I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.
I came very, very close to accidentally going to the coffee shop in my favorite slippers.

Upon my return, caffeine supply in hand and four dollars and fifty cents poorer, I set to fixing breakfast. An egg, sunny side up, a piece of toast, a slab of cold moose meat left over from dinner last night, yogurt, honey and berries. This was one of my more industrious moments for the day, by the way. Mom mentioned last night that she wanted to go visit Dad, at the Veterans Memorial. I agreed. We confirmed our plans over breakfast. When we first talked about it last night, I knew she meant we’d go today, but the full impact of that request was just settling in. Visits to see Dad, at the Veterans Memorial, which is about forty-five minutes from home, are usually accompanied by lunch out, and a flurry of other errands, while we’re out. I saw my day to “get shit done” dwindle down to “not gonna get a thing done”. Day = hijacked.

After breakfast, Mom went upstairs to get ready. It takes her a very long time to get ready, even by my standards. I got a couple of little things done and procrastinated with the whole shower, blow dry, straighten, curl, make up, pick the perfect outfit, thing. I piddled around, re-prioritized my list, did a minor thing or two for work, sort of “making an appearance”, and I shuffled things around in my suitcase, which has to be packed by some time tomorrow, for nine days. Suddenly, Mom was standing in my doorway with her jacket on, her purse and cane in hand and her ginormous old people sunglasses masking about 80% of her face. I quickly applied the bare minimum makeup and off we went, me feeling sort of rewarmed, like leftovers from the night before that didn’t quite heat all the way through in the microwave. And you know what, I really didn’t care. Not today. I decided to be apathetic about the whole thing. Apathetic; a pathetic human being.

One of the things on my “to do” list was to go to Express at the mall situated between home and the Veterans Memorial in quest of those same items I dumped on the floor of the Express in Long Island a few days ago. I still want the clothes, I just want to buy them from someone interested in selling them to me. I asked Mom if she wanted to go to the mall and she got all excited. She hasn’t been to the mall in quite some time and wanted to shop for some slacks at Penney’s. I cringe, just a little, to think of actually shopping at Penney’s, but I disguised it as a yawn.

We visit Dad and left some sprigs of holly from the yard near his mausoleum. The Veterans Memorial is in the middle of miles and miles of very flat farmland and I have never been there when it wasn’t windy and cold. Today was windier and colder than usual. It felt like November. It felt like November for the first time this year. We jumped out of the car, scurried over to Dad’s mausoleum, deposited the holly sprigs, said a few words, and fled for the warmth of the car again. We’re sure he’d understand our brevity; he hated being cold, too.

We had lunch at our favorite totally local and very authentic tacqueria before leaving town, so that meant we could now go directly to the mall. I left Mom at Penney’s and ran for Express. My goal was to find the items I had selected the other day, try them on, buy them and return to Penney’s before Mom had made her selections. I didn’t even reach the table with the black slacks of my desire before I was cheerfully greeted and assisted. Pants in hand, I set to browsing for the other items I was questing for. Again, I found myself with an armload of clothes, but, before I could even set a foot in the direction of the fitting rooms, my load was lifted from my arms by the cheerful sales associate, she said she’d “start a fitting room” for me, which, I know, is a subtle way to say, “you keep on shopping, gather as much as you want,” by never allowing my burden of new clothes to become too heavy, it never seems like I’m considering buying all that much. I have been around the mall a time or two, I know how this all works. Instead, I just follow the sales associate to the fitting room and forgo any further browsing. I love everything except for the “other” black slacks the sales associate suggested I try. I make my way to the cash register where the sales associate begins to fluff and fold my selections, assuring the tags are easy to reach for quick scanning. She mentions that the slacks are BOGOHO (Buy One Get One Half Off, which isn’t quite as good as BOGO, Buy One Get One, that means the second one is free). BOGOHO?! How can I resist BOGOHO slacks? I know it’s more money, but only H! I find a scarlet pair of slacks, skinny cut, and add them to my pile. They’ll be perfect for the holidays, and they are HO after all! I thank the sales associate and tell her I sincerely appreciated her cheerful assistance. I told her about my experience in Long Island and was glad that my local store was so much more customer service oriented.

There is nothing like a positive shopping experience and BOGOHO sales to lift an apathetic mood. I flounce through the mall, back to Penney’s, where I find Mom, sitting on a stool at the cashier’s desk. Apparently the transaction is taking so long, someone has retrieved a stool for Mom to rest on during the whole ordeal. I wilt a little. I find Penney’s whole environment, from the clothes they stock to how they’re displayed, their lighting and signage, all of it, a bit oppressive. Depressing even. The kind sales associate is helping Mom order the slacks she wants, to have them delivered. They didn’t have her size in stock. Mom is buying four pair; gray, blue, black and tan. They are identical in every way, shape and form to the four pair she currently owns. Every last stitch. These four will just be slightly newer. I’m awash in apathy, again. I glance in my Express bag in hopes of finding my spirits, but they don’t seem to be there.

Mom finalizes her purchase and wrestles with her purse for at least five minutes. She and I have very different purse management methods. I have many purses, but for each of them, I have a consistent system of where I put what. I know exactly which pocket to find my keys in, receipts always go in a certain place, etc. Mom’s system, a word I use very loosely here, is not as formal, routine or consistent. She is always digging through her purse, certain she’s dropped the item she is searching for outside the car, or left it on the counter back at the store. She finally gets her possessions into the purse and we leave Penney’s.

We head to Mimi’s Café where Mom wants to buy the neighbor a couple of carrot muffins. Again, after her purchase, Mom is wrestling with her purse like it’s a crocodile trying to devour her. We make it back to the car and she begins to fret about the receipt for her purchase from Penney’s. I pull the car over and we spend another ten minutes trying to subdue the damned purse. We find the receipt and I begin to head for the highway. Once in traffic, Mom, still elbow deep in purse, can’t find her wallet. The one I just found the receipt in. She swears she’s dropped it in the parking lot, which would be terrible, except we didn’t open the car door at any point in the last round of wrestling the purse. The wallet is finally found on the floor of the car, near her feet, shoved back into the purse and the purse is finally subdued and lies motionless on the floor of the car. Mom’s tired and pissed off at her purse. I’m tired and pissed off at the traffic, time and my to do list. The purse is tired and isn’t speaking with either of us.

We finally make our way back towards Napa. The traffic is heavily congested through the canyon, which frustrates me further. As we creep along I can’t help but think of each and every minute I’m NOT going to have to tackle my to do list.

As we reach Napa, Mom says she wants to get gas before I leave for New York, tomorrow. Knowing that most of what I wanted to accomplish today is going to have to wait until tomorrow, I suggest we get gas today, rather than wait. I don’t want to be anxious to leave for the airport and still have this chore left to do. Mom has only driven, I take that back, I have only driven Mom’s car 45 miles since we last filled it up, the needle is barely off the “full” mark, but she insists. We find a gas station and after Mom beats her purse to a pulp trying to get her credit cards out, again, I put two gallons of gas in the tank and we finally head for home.

It is now very late in the afternoon, I’ve been driving with the headlights on, and there is no way I can complete all the errands around town I’d hoped to undertake today. I’m too apathetic to consider going to the gym, so I settle upon the idea of packing for my trip this evening, while drinking a beer, perhaps, and getting a couple of administrative work items put to rest.

Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

A simple dinner is managed and a load of wash. I do not feel, in any way, accomplished today. My list for the day has all been pushed to tomorrow. Tomorrow night I fly, and I fly from San Francisco, which means wildly unpredictable timing with traffic and who knows what. I finish up my evening reviewing my list for today. My accomplishments are so meager that I add a few items at the end in order to allow me the satisfaction of crossing anything at all off my list. The rest will be carried forward for tomorrow, though I’m a little afraid, tomorrow, only a few tiny items will actually get crossed off. Here is my list.

To Do To Day:

Get coffee grinder from storage
Get cash for tips for trip
Do all four expense reports
Catch up on work emails
Go to gym
Run five miles
Finish packing for NYC and SF
Prepare class materials for SF
Call Clarissa
Happy Hour with the Ladies
Shop for black slacks and stuff
Organize five boxes for donation to charity
Make YouTube video
Unpack boxes to dresser drawers Mom finally cleared out
Unpack boxes of shoes & purses to closet after boxes above are moved
Do last load of laundry
Put away clean clothes
Order Mom’s Netflix movies
Mail “the book” back to Clarissa
Get latte
Text Sweetie good morning and a safe trip to Prudhoe Bay
Eat breakfast
Eat lunch
Check Facebook
Check Blog Stats
Drink a beer
Eat dinner
Put on pajamas
Drink another beer
Eat leftover Ben & Jerry’s in freezer
Drink water
Wash face
Yawn, twice
Brush, floss, rinse
Go to bed

Note to self – triple shot latte tomorrow morning. Shits gotta get done.

What I learned today; sometimes, we have to be flexible. We have to make things that are important to others a priority, and adjust our own list in accordance. Of course we have our own things to tend to, sure, but now and then, a day devoted to loved ones is far more important, and appreciated, and right. Everything that’s going to get done will get done, and the rest won’t. The world will keep turning, I promise. Enjoy.


Selfie - in need of a latte
Selfie – in need of a latte
Cross THIS off the to-do list!
Cross THIS off the to-do list!

Scarlett’s Letter November 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

Today, I ran. It was the only thing on my agenda, so that’s the only thing I did. I ran. Twenty-two miles.

People run for different reasons. A girl I knew in high school went to college at U.C. Davis in pursuit of her “MRS” degree. She ran around the medical school building every morning in her cute, little, running shorts and her perfect, shiny brown hair in a bouncy little ponytail. She is now one half of Dr. and Mrs. So-and-so. Some run for the runners’ high, some strictly to lose weight, some because they always have. I run as proof to myself that I can overcome any self-imposed limitation I may ever have believed about myself. Most of my adulthood, from my late teen years on, I believed I was “not a runner”. Which, of course, is ludicrous. If you can put one foot in front of another at a pace slightly more elevated than a walk, well, then, you’re a runner.

Yesterday, my running club held their annual “long run”. Buses are hired and all who wish to go board the buses well before dawn. The buses are unloaded in Folsom, near Folsom Lake, and the runners run twenty-two miles, along the lovely and scenic American River Parkway, back to their cars, in their respective pace groups. Running in a group is nice, you have people to chat with and the coaches are helpful, there is a strong sense of camaraderie and, with SacFit, there are volunteers stationed behind a folding table, beneath a pop-up sunshade, stationed every so many mile, offering Gatorade, water and healthful snacks, and even a few less than healthful snacks, like Oreos and M&M’s, two of my all time favorite foods I hardly ever allow myself to eat. Yesterday, while they ran, chatting and sharing, eating and having fun, I was flying home from New York.

I knew I HAD to run the twenty-two miles. Last year, I ran with the group, but only because I wanted to. This year, I have to put the mileage on. This year, in three short weeks, I run my first full marathon; 26.2 miles. I’ve never run 26.2 miles before. I’ve run twenty-two, a year ago, and suffered from a pain in my right Achilles for two months afterwards. I had to run this twenty-two, today, and know that this year I’d trained appropriately, that there would be no pain and, three weeks from today, I’d be able to complete the 26.2 California International Marathon.

A bit weary from this week’s travels, and it being an emotionally wearing and a somewhat harrowing work week, too, I did allow myself to sleep as long as I needed last night. On very rare occasions in my life, I have a day where I can sleep without any kind of an alarm to end such sleep, abruptly, rudely, but, necessarily. Today was just such a day. I slept until nearly 9:00 AM Pacific Standard Time, and, considering I’ve been living in Eastern Standard Time all week long, that actually equates to the darned near noon.

I arose and went about preparing a large, nutritious breakfast; two eggs, sunny side up, draped over two pieces of sprouted grain toast, a bowl of plain Greek yogurt with local, organic honey stirred in and organic raspberries atop. And a kiwi. And the largest Latte money could buy. I bought coffee last weekend, I’d used the last little bit I had. When I went to make coffee the following morning, I found, much to my dismay, it was whole bean. Whole bean is fine, except I’d just moved all the boxes out of Mom’s garage to a storage unit a few miles away, and in one of those boxes is my coffee grinder. Since then, the few days I’ve been home, I’ve just gone and bought a coffee. This is tomorrow’s goal; go to storage. Get coffee grinder.

After breakfast, I went about preparing for my run, also known as procrastinating. It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to it, but there is a bit of a mental challenge in psyching oneself up to lace up the dusty old sneakers and run out the door. I drove my intended route yesterday, with Mom. I had an idea which direction, which road, I’d run, but I really didn’t know where eleven miles would get me, where my turnaround point would be. We drove and drove and drove. It was really fricking far away! To say this messed with my mind a bit would be a little bit of an understatement. I might have mentioned it on the phone a time, maybe twelve, with my Sweetie last night. This morning, a text that said, “Have a great run and remember, you do this because you enjoy it, not because you have to,” followed by a emoticon winking and blowing a kiss. A man who is supportive, practical, wise and rational. Sigh.

Mom always wants to know how long I’ll be, she wants to set an alarm to remind herself at precisely what time she should begin to worry. No matter how far I’m running, she suggests two hours. I can say with absolute certainty, I will never run at eleven miles an hour. It was, by now, about 11:00 AM, I told her not to begin to worry until 6:00 PM. She questioned me, “seven hours?” “Yes”, I replied, what if I decide to walk the whole thing? I’m going twenty-two miles whether I walk or run, and I like to leave my options open.

Off I went.

It was a fabulous day in the Napa-hood, sunny and about sixty-five degrees. I walked to the end of my street, started my running app on my phone, started my Garmin running watch and started running. I passed a squirrel at about a half mile, he had a walnut in his mouth and eyed me like a lion her prey. “Yes, I know” I said to the squirrel, “I’m nuts!” He dashed across the street, I dashed along the shoulder towards my goal. Before I left the house I’d posted to Facebook, “I missed the traditional “long run” with SacFit yesterday because I was in flight. So, today, on my own, I set out for 20 some miles, the last long run before tapering down in preparation for the California International Marathon in three short weeks. Here is my plan, please comply should you witness me in route: I will do this, by myself, unassisted. I am, however, taking a couple of dollars and a bus schedule, just in case. I am also in possession of my credit card in case I just decide to get a large meal and a hotel room in Yountville, my halfway point, rather than run home.” I got thirteen likes. So far.

I ran and ran and ran. My practice, which we do in our running club, is to run for five minutes and walk for one. My second or third walk break found me very close to my close friend’s house. I run by her house frequently and I have instructed her to do no more than wave should she ever see me. I am on a mission and that is that. Her house is at the bottom of the only hill I must traverse. It isn’t a mountain or anything, but it is a hill and I do pant a little after running up it. I always hope I will reach the hill at precisely the time my watch indicates it’s time for a walk break, but that has yet to happen. Just as I was chugging up the hill, my friend’s husband drove past. I waved. And kept running.

I ran and ran and ran. I need some way to transcribe my thoughts to text while I run. The whole while I’m running I am writing in my head and I write the most perfectly and intricately phrased passages! Articles and articles of them. And when I get home and finally sit in front of a computer I just dither along stupidly patching odd, choppy sentences together. It is maddening. I ran and ran and ran.

You never know what to expect when you run on Sunday in the Napa Valley. I ran last Sunday and saw approximately five cars in twelve miles. Today, there was a great deal of traffic, mostly older people in enormous cars, barely visible over the steering wheel. There were also a number of really defiant young drivers who wouldn’t slow for anyone or anything. They all wore this disaffected expression, head cocked to one side, that said, pretty much, “I see you and I don’t care.” And, on weekends, there are the tourists, driving from one winery to the next, parting with $25 at each for a few short pours of wine, and, when the sommelier offers a bonus pour, no one turns it down. One must get every last penny’s worth and every last drop at every winery visited. Then, behind the wheel and off to the next. On more than one occasion I actually exited my clearly marked shoulder for the ditch. Several drivers crossed the wide white painted line that acts as the only “barrier” between a couple tons of metal hurtling towards me and, well, me, a small, extremely vulnerable and unprotected human form plodding along the shoulder.

When I tell people that I run, often they implore, incredulously, “Aren’t you scared?” No. There is little I am afraid of, I am of afraid, mostly, of fear, and that’s about it. Fear is one of the biggest limiters in life, and that, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me. I married a man ruled by fear; deeply paranoid, anxious, depressed and fearful, his many fears fueled by a constant influx of “news” and “media”, all justifying his usually false and unfounded fears. His fear, his unfounded fear, grew to the proportion that any activity or event that required him to leave home, to pry his fingers from the keyboard of his laptop, to remove his wide, fearful gaze from the internet screen he was currently absorbing, caused extreme agitation, anxiety and physical discomfort in the extreme and debilitating form of fits of irritable bowel syndrome. His fear was so extreme that, eventually, it cost him everything we worked for in life; a ranch, a house in town, all of our savings, his ability to work, and, ultimately, his family. Fear, unchecked, destroys lives. Fear can even kill, that second of fearful hesitation can mean the difference between an appropriate reaction and a catastrophe. I’m not saying not to be aware, perhaps exercise reasonable caution. I am saying don’t be afraid.

Besides, what’s to be feared more, running down a road, able to view and observe and react to danger as it presents itself? Or sitting in front of a televion in a house that could be full of radon gases, the televion emitting electromagnetic waves and the danger of early death from a sedentary, but seemingly safe lifestyle? Yes, I’m being extreme, or am I? Fear is relative and we are all surrounded by fearsome things, if we choose to be, only if we choose to be. Sure, I passed two roadside shrines for those who lost their lives to wayward cars, and this is sobering for those of us who run and ride by. One roadside shrine was brand new, as in, it wasn’t there last week. Shit. So, I pay keen attention. But, think about it, when a family member or a friend or an acquaintance dies as a result of a sedentary life, a life led from the couch, no one ever erects a shrine, no one ever identifies the fearsome danger that caused this unnecessary death. It is just a death, not one to be feared. I so beg to differ! Dying as a result of a sedentary and seemingly safe life is the worst thing I can imagine! Let me out! I want to run, I want to do terrifying dances with speeding automobiles!

It was upon removing myself from my husband’s life that I began to say, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living.” I remember, in the last months before leaving my marriage, I was assigned a client in New York City. I’d never been to NYC, but had been eager to go. My husband was beside himself with worry for all that he’d “heard” about New York, all the dangers, the dreadful accounts of horrible things that one believes from only seeing the world through the screen hosted by the media and popular TV crime shows. I remember arriving in New York City on an airport shuttle late on a Saturday night, being driven through Harlem and other more troubled areas. I took everything I saw in and wondered if my husband’s fears were fair, or false. I arrived at my hotel and tried to sleep but the sirens and the shouting on Lexington Avenue below prevented it. The next morning, when I awoke, my plan had been to spend a day sightseeing before working the next several days with my client. But, I was hesitant. To leave the relative safety of my hotel room and step into the world of noise and pressing crowds of people,  a world I saw in some of my favorite TV shows and movies as wonderful, but through my husband’s eyes as wretched and fierce. I stepped outside, I walked and walked and walked. I saw not a frightening world as depicted on the news and in popular TV crime shows, but a wonderful, magical and energetic city where I felt safe and stimulated. I even was so bold as to go to a Broadway show, “Rock of Ages”, and walk back to my hotel, several blocks, alone, in the dark. What I saw was not fearful, not evil lurking at every turn, but, rather, couples, hand in hand, strolling the streets, groups of ladies, chatting and walking, from one club to another. This was not a fearsome place, this was more like an adult Disneyland. I learned to discard fear. I do exercise caution, I do exercise diligence, I do employ knowledge and common sense and I always remain acutely aware, all of this allows me to live without fear and it is so liberating!

So, no, I am not afraid to run on the roadway. I am aware, acutely aware. I pay attention to each and every car and seek to make eye contact with every driver, particularly when crossing the street. The fact that they are required, by law, to stop when a person enters the crosswalk does not mean they have actually seen me. How do I know, for certain, that, as I step into the crosswalk, that they aren’t slowing, coincidentally, because they’ve just received a titillating text message? No assumption can be made until eye contact has been established, then, and only then, has an understanding been reached and my safety assured. I crossed one intersection today and encountered a Fiat, exiting the highway. I paused at the curb and waited for eye contact and an acknowledgement from the driver, and, in this case, not because I was afraid of harm on my part, but that I might run over the car and cause it grave harm for it’s diminutive size!

I reached Yountville, the neighboring town north of Napa. I knew the sidewalks would be choked with tourists. Luckily, I found a path that led along the west edge of town, out of sight of the highway and away from the crowds. The path delivered me to the main street of Yountville a little north of where the crowds seem to congregate. I continued to run. Somewhere, soon, I’d reach the halfway point. By car it was different than on foot. No two mileage devices will ever agree, it is this imprecision that we runners are plagued with. You can have several runners with the same brand and model watch, set to start measurement at precisely the same moment, and there will be as many variations in speed and distance as there are watches. The app on my phone and my Garmin watch were already a good third of a mile in disagreement. I usually run so that the slower of the two reaches my intended goal. On one device I am exact, the other, an overachiever!

Halfway through Yountville, on a walk break, I am feeling giddy. I post to Facebook, “Still running. Eleven miles and turning for home. I forgot to mention; if you happen to find me face down on the pavement, do me a favor, please, pause my Garmin and my running app BEFORE checking for a pulse. If I am dead, stop my watch, and, if my running stats are good, post them to Facebook with my eulogy. Thanks.” I am grinning and laughing at my wit and humor as I continue on, not actually at eleven miles quite yet. On the far northern edge of town is an old cemetery, and it is precisely there that my running app reports that I have run eleven miles. So, to continue on, turning around and retracing every step home, or, perhaps, just be hyper efficient and succumb to death, conveniently, here, at the cemetery. I turn, run, and begin to retrace each and every step towards home. I am halfway there.

As I run back through Yountville, I pass one of my favorite wineries. Apparently, there is an event there today. There is music and there are lots of people standing around outside, cars are parked all along the shoulder and I can hear lots of voices and laughter. It reminds me a little of a race, crowds along the road, cheering runners on. I am hoping someone on the sidelines will hand me a glass, a generous nine ounce pour of “Table for Four”, the most delicious blend of red wine I have ever had the pleasure of allowing past my lips. During races, volunteers will line the road at appointed spots and offer runners Dixie cups of water and Gatorade, why not wine? My hopes are dashed as I dash by and never see a glass of wine extended at the end of someone’s reach, towards me, to grab, gulp and toss.

I keep running. Another couple of blocks and I run past Tom Keller’s garden, I consider stopping and grazing for a while, but, truthfully, I don’t feel like pausing my Garmin. I keep running. Another couple of blocks and I pass one of Tom’s restaurants, Bouchon. Again, I am deluded into hoping that I’ll see a folding table, a pop up sunshade and cheerful, volunteers passing out savory chunks of Bouchon bread to runners like me. Again, I am disappointed. I keep running.

I am taking in fuel with precision, every forty-five minutes. My large breakfast, I’m sure, has long since been converted to fuel and has been burned up. I have in the front pouch of my running pack, six, highly-coveted packets of Salted Caramel Gu. There is Gu, in chocolate and raspberry, blueberry and other flavors I’m not likely to try, and, then, there is Salted Caramel. I buy it by the case. Three quarters of the way through my run, halfway through my return trip home, laughing out loud as I plod along, at my own wit and humor, during a walk break, I post to Facebook, “Still running. I forgot to mention, if you happen to see me face down on the pavement and I recover, I know exactly how many Salted Caramel Gu packets I have in my pouch and if any are missing I’ll know who pinched them and I will seek recompense.”

Shortly thereafter, I reach into my pouch for what should be my last fueling of the trip. There is only one Salted Caramel Gu left. There should’ve been six, this would only be number five. I was short one. I always make sure I have at least one extra, just in case. Oh, sure, I have raspberry Shot Blocks, but I really prefer Gu, Salted Caramel Gu. How am I one short? Did I miscalculate? That seemed unlikely. Then I recalled, I’d shown Mom my Salted Caramel Gu, I speak of Gu and I know she was a bit mystified by the name. A description and explanation didn’t seem to clarify anything, so, while packing my pouch with Gu packets, I gave her one to look at. She cut the top off of it and sucked it right down like she’d been running marathons her whole life. She thought it was quite good. She loves caramel! She asked me where she could buy some. I had two visions; first, of Mom racing around the yard this afternoon, the wheels on her walker causing sparks as they skipped across the brick patio, Mom furiously pruning, weeding and watering, and, second, Mom walking, ever so slowly, with her cane, into the Napa Valley Running Company, in quest of Salted Caramel Gu. I’d meant to grab a replacement pack from my stash, in my running bin, under my bed, which, by the way, I should probably now consider relocating.

I passed the spot where I’d met the squirrel, earlier, and, there he was. Flattened. Yikes. I looked to see if he had a Garmin, I was going to stop it for him. No one wants to die with their Garmin continuing to run, leaving a legacy of really dreadful running stats for that last dash.

A block and a half from home I ran out of water, I was out of Gu, and I had run in excess of twenty two miles according to my iPhone app and exactly twenty two miles according to my lagging Garmin watch. I decided to walk the last little bit home. All I could think about was dinner. I’d run right through lunch, and other than five packets of GU, I’d ingested nothing of matter. My running app said I’d burned 2,553 calories. All I could think about was a large slab of dark, red, flesh of beast and an equally dark, rich and chewy beer.

My friend Miles ran yesterday, with SacFit, and had posted to Facebook a photo of himself, from the knees down, in a bathtub full of ice. This practice is subscribed to by many runners in my club as a method to stop the lactic acid in one’s legs so as to prevent muscle pain the following days. Or the better part of a week. I’ve managed a tepid bath, once, followed by a blistering hot shower. The thought of sitting, for a second, let alone some number of minutes, in a bath of ice sounds far worse than any amount of muscle pain. At least muscle pain and a warm core body temperature coexist. Once my core is cold it takes Herculean effort to rewarm. I commented on Miles’ Facebook post, saying, pretty much, um, never, not even if hell froze over, which, from the looks of his picture, it had. As I was out of beer, and in a wittier than usual mood, I decided to go buy beer and to post a photo in response to Miles’.  I bought two and a half cases of beer. What? It’s not like I won’t use it and it was all on sale. I’m also hoping it will help lure a particular sweet, supportive, practical, wise and rational man southward from the frozen north, even if for just a bit!

When I returned home, I climbed into the bathtub, clothed, and staged a photo; ice cold beer bottles burying my legs with only my feet sticking out. The caption read, “It is my belief that all that has to do with health, fitness and exercise is open to interpretation and adaptation for the utmost benefit of each individual athlete. The practices, methods, treatments and therapies recommended as a matter of course, too, should be modified to suit the athlete. As to ice baths following an especially long run, Miles, this application is offering a great deal of relief. I suggest giving it a try!” I am still giggling at my profound wit and the extreme lengths I will go to try to entertain my Facebook friends. Fifteen likes, six comments. So far.

I reached my goal today, and that’s about all. But, the sense of accomplishment and the confidence in the fact that I know, with a fair degree of certainty, that I could’ve run another 4.2 miles, for a total of 26.2, puts me in a great frame of mind as my first full marathon rapidly approaches. There are few things I say I’m going to do that I don’t actually do. To be able to say that, is as a result of several years of hard work, self-exploration and self-development. I am proud of my growth and my achievements. I’ve also overcome one of the few self-limiting beliefs I’ve ever had about myself. I can run. And, I run without fear. Remember, fear is paralyzing, and limiting, and deadly. Live life with open eyes, open ears, an open mind and an open heart. There is nothing to fear. Life is so good, like Salted Caramel Gu!


Pre-run "selfie"
Pre-run “selfie”
Post run "selfie"
Post run, post shower “selfie”

Scarlett’s Letter November 16, 2013

A short letter, tonight, I promise.

It never ceases to amaze me, even after all the airline miles I’ve accumulated; I awoke this morning in New York and had lunch in California. And I was even in Texas for a bit, today, too.

And, since all I did was sit on an airplane for three hours, run through an airport and get on another airplane for four more hours, I had a little time to just sit and think.

I am completely exhausted. Totally. And, by telling myself I am completely exhausted, I am, now, in fact, completely exhausted, whether I actually was to begin with or not. That’s how it works, in case you were wondering.

I believe, 100%, totally, completely and without exception, we are what we say we are. If we say we are tired, we are going to feel tired. If we say we feel sick, we are going to feel sick. If we say we cant’ do something, we have no reason to even try.

Have you ever had someone say horrible things to you? Mean things, about you? You’re not smart enough. You’re not athletic enough. You’re not strong enough. You’re too slow, you’re too out of shape, you’re too old, you’re too young, you don’t have enough time, you don’t have enough money, you don’t have enough patience, you don’t have enough education, you’re dumb, you’re fat, you’re ugly. Ever? Has anyone close to you ever said anything to you that was anything other than positive, respectful and supportive? I’m sure. I’m sure, and more than you realize. So, do you believe them? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Don’t you ever talk to me that way!

But if there were someone in your life that you were extremely close to, trusted more than anyone else in the whole world and they told you any of those things I listed above once, would you consider the possibility that it were true? What if they said it to you over and over and over, day after day after day?  Do you think you’d eventually think they may be right? Would you eventually be convinced?

Did you ever fib, maybe just a little, as a kid? Perhaps in order to get out of something you knew you’d get in trouble for; breaking a vase or a window, trampling the new flowers in the flower bed, eating the last twelve Oreos? And did you ever continue to deny the incident vehemently and repeatedly, to the point where, eventually, you believed your own lie? It happens. Even to adults. We can convince ourselves of our own lies if we speak them often enough.

I know someone close to you that treats you badly, tells you horrible things about yourself, repeatedly, every single day. And you let them. And, you trust them, because they are closer to you than anyone you know. You believe them, without a doubt, you have been convinced, after years and years and years, a lifetime, of being told the same lies over and over and over.

That person is you.

We speak to ourselves in ways we’d likely never tolerate from others, no matter who they were to us. Think about it. How often do you tell yourself you can’t do something for one reason or another? How often do you look in a mirror, or at a photo of yourself and say something negative about your appearance? How often do you attempt something, make a little mistake and tell yourself you were right in knowing you couldn’t do it in the first place?

How do you suppose you’d feel about yourself if your parents or someone else equally close to you told you, on a daily basis, maybe even several times a day, that you were ugly, you had too strong of a chin, a fat belly, thin hair, an unsightly birthmark, hairy arms, that you were bowl legged, too tall, flat chested. Next time you walk past a mirror, catch what it is, exactly, you notice about yourself.

We are horrible to ourselves. Listen up! Listen to the things you say to yourself when you aren’t paying attention. I’m serious. Listen to your self speak, your self doubt. This is your self control, your negative self control. You control yourself by limiting yourself with every negative thing you think or say. You are standing between you and everything you need to reach your goals, your dreams and your potential. We truly are our own worst enemy. And, even worse, since we are so horrible to ourselves, often we allow those around us to act in kind. In fact, if we can’t treat ourselves with love and respect, doesn’t it seem a little unreasonable to expect others to rise above?

In fact, people will treat us in the manner they see us treat ourselves. We set the expectation, the precedent, with our own self-respect.

Let’s look at this from another angle. Do you know anyone who spends a great deal of time complaining about ailments, or being tired, or unhappy, broke, or how about people who respond, habitually, with “I can’t, because …”? Or all of the above? Do you like spending a lot of time with them? You know they are a lot more capable, well, smart, strong, healthy than they think they are and they just need to change their attitude and do it. You know it, in their case, but what about when you’re chatting with yourself. Well, pot, this is kettle, and you’re black.

Am I right?

What do we do about all this negativity? Stop it. Cold turkey.

Start making a concerted effort, listen to the voice in your head and how you speak to yourself. Make note of when you think or say things, to yourself, that are, in any way negative or derogatory. And correct it, right then and there. Whatever negative thing you catch yourself thinking or saying, correct it, out loud, if possible. This will take both practice and persistence, but it works. Begin to compliment yourself for the very things you used to criticize yourself for. Soon, you will find you feel more energetic, healthier, smarter, faster, stronger, more capable, more confident and, best of all, happier.

This practice, though, is much like building physical strength, endurance or stamina. You can’t just raise yourself off of the couch on January 1st and go run twenty miles if you’ve never run a significant distance before. You will have to work out, regularly. And, you’ll have to keep building those muscles, forever. Let’s say you work really hard, for several months, to be able to do 100 push ups. Once you achieve that goal, you can’t just stop doing push ups and continue to be able to do 100 push-ups. If you stop doing push ups regularly, you lose the ability to do so many. Developing a positive “self-speak” policy and a healthy self-confidence, like working out, requires regular practice to maintain. Daily, for the rest of your life.

Develop some kind of practice, or routine, that you can incorporate into your day to bolster a healthy conversational relationship with yourself. If you find you always criticize yourself when you catch your reflection in the mirror or when you see pictures of yourself, put up more mirrors and take more pictures. I’ve talked to you about “selfies” before! I believe in them! I always have!

Selfie 11/16/2013
A Selfie a Day –  11/16/2013

I also find a great benefit in journaling every morning and every night. It doesn’t take a great deal of time and it sets the tone for my day before it begins and puts everything in perspective, again, before it ends. I actually write down all the positive things I would like to tell myself in order to evolve into the person I intend to become; stronger, healthier, more grateful, more tolerant, more forgiving, etc. And, then, at night, I revisit each of those points, again, and write down all the things I am grateful for. It is a great meditative, centering exercise and takes no more than ten minutes, morning and night. These practices work for me, find what works for you. What can you do to make sure you’re treating yourself with the respect you deserve? So, do it.





Scarlett’s Letter November 15, 2013

A sound night’s sleep last night. I almost don’t have dark circles under my eyes. Bliss.

Today, I am so excited.

I finished up with my client today, a little early, something about the Jewish folks in my class and having to go home and have dinner before dark. It is some certain, special time in Jewish world and I have no idea what. I tried to Google it, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and like all things to do with the Jewish faith, I am now more confused than I was ever before. There is nothing about Judaism that makes a lick of sense to me. I respect the faith, completely, but I don’t understand the first thing about it and any attempt to ask about it, or educate myself, has been futile and has left me more confused than before. All I know, their pizza looked just like ours but came from somewhere else and, we started earlier this morning, worked through lunch and finished earlier this afternoon, and I got to go to the mall. I was excited! I have worked with this client for three years, I have been here a half dozen times or more, their office building is perched at the edge of the mall, yet, I’ve never been. I’ve set foot inside, but I’ve never “been” to the mall. There is a difference, and it was exciting.

Non-koser pizza. A working lunch. Looks just like the Kosher pizza. ??????
Non-kosher pizza. A working lunch. Looks just like the Kosher pizza. ??????

I didn’t go to the mall, Roosevelt Field, to shop indiscriminately, I went with a plan and a mission. I intended to buy a pair of black slacks for work that do not require dry cleaning. I have a lovely black pair of slacks, from Banana Republic, but they can only be dry-cleaned. Who has time for that? Dry cleaning is for people who are in the same city for more than a day at a time. I need clean black slacks and I need them clean and back in the suitcase in twelve hours. I have some fantastic, washable slacks from Express, a nice navy blue with a subtle gray pinstripe and another pair in classic gray. They fit great, sort of a manly cut with a low rise that looks super sexy on curvy hips, a small waist, and a flat tummy. They wash great, iron great, pack great, last forever and I want some in black, and maybe every other color they come in. I’m pretty excited.

I found the Express for Women after walking about a mile and a half through the vast mall, and that was the direct route, I just sort of parked at the wrong end. Okay, I admit, I did it on purpose, I wanted to see everything. I went in to Express and found the table with “Editor” style slacks. I found black and began to dig for my size, a six regular. There were about twenty pairs of size zero, twenty pairs of size two, ten pair of size four, and two pair of size eight. A dowdy looking clerk, at least my age, eyed me with disproval and disdain. I know, my son used to work at Men’s Warehouse; I was messing up her merchandise. I am sympathetic to this and was being ever so careful not to cause any disarray, but, finally, she could take no more and impatiently asked me what size I desired. She didn’t say desire, I’m not sure what she said, but it was abrupt and curt and with an air of impatience. I told her and she produced a pair for me from somewhere. I thanked her and browsed some more. I grabbed another style of black pants, just to see if I’d like them even better than the “Editor” cut. I found a polka dot blouse, a gray sweater and a beige blouse, all pieces I could use for work. I haven’t bought blouses for work in, literally, years. I don’t work in the same office every week, I can get away with three or four work blouses. But I do, now, have many repeat clients that I see at least annually, and, truthfully, I think I’ve worn the same four blouses to the same clients for three years straight. Maybe four. It is time for a new blouse, or two. Justified! Bam!

I take my armload of clothes and go in search of a fitting room. I find two empty, locked rooms, but no attendant. There’s a mother and daughter duo fighting in one fitting room, to the point of blows, I think, and the other is unoccupied. I wait a moment, with my “I’m being patient and tolerant” smile on my face. Five minutes later, an employee passes, donning a headset and some blinking, flashing transmission device dangling from her grotesquely tight pants (I think she bought the size zero thinking it said size ten). There was a wire running from the transmission device to her headset, giving her the appearance of a secret service operative. She glanced at me, annoyed, and told me to go to the fitting rooms over by the cash register. I did. I stood for a while. There were six fitting rooms. One occupied. All locked. A clan of women pushed past me and were admitted from the occupant of the one occupied fitting room. Is that how one seeks admission, like an exclusive nightclub? You have to know someone on the “inside”? A line forms behind me, like cattle in a chute waiting for the truck going to the slaughterhouse. Everyone else in line is gazing down at their mobile devices, perfectly accepting of the fact that we are the only people in the store, aside from the six employees, who are all too busy with some urgent, but unseen business to attend to us, the customers, with armloads of merchandise that we’d dearly love to give up our hard earned money for.

An employee scuttles past and says, “a couple of you can go over to the other fitting rooms.” I’m first in line, so I go and am followed by the young woman behind me. I’m back where I started. Both rooms are empty, but locked, and there is no attendant in sight. The lady who “helped” me find the black slacks is folding clothes right next to me, but, apparently, that’s all she knows how to do because she can’t open the doors to the dressing room. I stand for another minute or two. The young woman behind me is staring blankly at the lit display on her mobile device. I think there must be a “pacification” app I don’t know about. Everyone seems content with being herded around and never assisted. I’m adding up dollar value of the pile of clothes draped over my arm, I figure about $200 worth, and I lost it. I dropped the clothes unceremoniously on the floor and strode out of the store. I will spend more, twice even, for better service. Gladly.

My son, Dogwood, sends a text from Hawaii, where he lives. He has an update on his quest for gainful employment. He has a fantastic, unpaid, volunteer, position tutoring kids in a robotics club and he loves it. Unpaid, yes, but with connections that may land him an even more fantastic, paid internship. Yes, studies are first and foremost, but, as I’ve said to him, more than once, “I don’t live in Honolulu because I can’t afford to live in Honolulu, so, no, I can’t afford to pay for you to live in Honolulu”. From birth, practically, I’ve taught my kids the value of networking and connecting, and, as a result, he has some fantastic employment prospects. I am proud. I tell him so. I’m so excited, he will do very well in life, having mastered networking so early in adulthood.

I had dinner reservations at a Cuban restaurant, adjacent to the mall, they had a yummy sounding menu and good reviews on Open Table. My client said it was good, and he is sort of a food snob, too, he just doesn’t take pictures of his food, like I do, but when I get my phone out to snap a shot of my meal, he wants his included in the photo, too. Funny. Anyway. Dinner. Cuban. I’m excited!


Upon walking in, it was definitely “corporate”. You can tell, instantly. Meh. Oh well. I was seated next to a woman, also a single diner. You know, the bench seat on one side, little table, chair on the other? That’s where they always put the single diners. Sure, couples sit there, too, usually, one on either side of the single diners, isolating the single diners from the other single diners so there is no chance of striking up a conversation. Couples just try to pretend the single diners don’t exist, that they aren’t there, right next to them, with nothing better to do than listen to what they’re talking about. Oh, it’s true. It’s totally impossible to NOT hear every word, every whisper and every murmur. Tonight, though, I was seated next to the other single diner. In fact, since it was kind of early for dinner, we were the only diners in that half of the restaurant. All the “normal” people who dine in small herds, were seated in the other room. I guess that would be the room for people who have people with which to eat and this would be the room for those who dine alone. The Latin host showed me my seat and pointed at the lady next to me, made a remark, pointed to me and made the same remark, in some Latin language. He translated, “alone,” he smiled, “you are both lonely”, he smiled broader, “single!” I smiled, tolerantly, and took my seat.

The lady next to me made small talk, she’d been to a movie at the theater next door. She downed her elaborate looking cocktail with a foot tall stalk of sugar cane protruding from it and ordered another. I tried to order a beer, but my waiter seemed perplexed by the fact that I might actually want to select a beer from a menu. There was a big, glossy, bound book of adult beverages, and he wanted to show me all the margaritas and sangrias. I asked again about beer. More about margaritas and sangrias. Finally, he let me handle the book, I flipped a few pages and found the rather pedestrian beer list. I was hoping for something exotic, perhaps even Cuban. Negra Modelo is fab, but I buy it by the twelve pack and drink it like some folks drink milk. It’s a staple.

The waiter returned with my beer, and a glass. He asked if I wanted the glass, which was nice, because I didn’t, I prefer the bottle. The lady next to me ordered a glass of Riesling. When her waitress brought it to her, she tasted it and didn’t like it. She got another crazy looking cocktail with the hunk of sugar cane in it. She asked me about my beer and said she’d like to try one. I assured her it was good. She said she really didn’t like beer, so I headed her off, “Oh, I love beer, the darker the better.” She crinkled her nose and thought better of ordering one. She worked on the sugar cane cocktail some more. By the time my dinner came I knew her whole life story; she’s an attorney, educated at USC. Her dad’s birthday is next week, on the 18th, and she always gets him a shirt or a sweater. She’s going to shop for him after her dinner. I hope she can manage. Dad may end up with something really different this year. Her mom is deceased. She is 38 and unmarried, no kids. She wants kids, she’s not so sure about the marriage thing. I smile knowingly. She had an asshole boyfriend that she’s known since school, he’s been married before and has kids, but it didn’t work out. They’re still friends. Her brother is an accountant with a knack for computers and works for Fannie Mae, now. He never passed the CPA exam and she doesn’t understand his success, except that he’s super good at networking is well connected. She had a falling out with her brother, though, because his wife has no teeth and doesn’t know the difference between a proprietary lease and, oh crap, I forgot, some other kind of document. Now she won’t like me, I don’t know the difference. At least I have all my teeth. She’s still talking. She has a friend in California who is getting a divorce and she’s handling the case even though she is licensed in New York and practices employment law, normally. But her friend isn’t good about getting the paperwork done on time and hasn’t even filed her taxes. Her birthday is the same week as her dad’s, though she never mentioned the date, and she wants another Mont Blanc pen. She has lots of expensive pens because she likes to write and her mom “groomed” her that way. I wasn’t sure what that meant. By now, my meal is finished, my beer is empty, my bill is paid, I’m wearing my coat and my scarf, my cross-body bag is slung across my body, I have one foot positioned in the space between our tables, leaning over, like a runner in the blocks waiting for the pistol to fire. I desperately want to leave. She is still talking, and I have so tuned her out, I now have no idea what she is talking about. Finally, she stands, shakes my hand and stumbles out. I wait for her to get, hopefully, out of the parking lot, before I head for my car. So, a lawyer and an accountant go into a bar … the lawyer talks incessantly and the accountant makes note of all the details. Typical.

I exchange a text or two with my friend, Miles. We went to high school together and ran into each other at a Catholic church in the Sierra foothills some twenty plus years later. Now we keep in touch. I joined a running club he belongs to, on his recommendation. He’s a good friend and he’s checking up on me to see if I’ll be running this weekend, in preparation for the C.I.M., the California International Marathon, in a few very short weeks. My first. I’m excited, in a scared and petrified sort of way. This is his billionth marathon. He’s also checking on me after reading some of my posts from earlier this week. I got a virtual hug. A good friend, like I said. I assure him, twenty miles on Sunday, and, yes, I’m fine.

I also exchange a few emails with “the girls”, in light of the good news yesterday, we are conspiring to find a day to visit, a day when we are all motionless just long enough for a visit, two of the girls returning from Spain, me from New York, another off to Hawaii, and me to New York, again. Visits with friends are a nightmare to orchestrate, but are so, so, so important, and necessary, rare, and enjoyable. Like air to breathe. I’m so excited!

I stop at the liquor store, buy a bottle of red wine and head for the next hotel. A quiet night to write, with wine and a small piece of my Mast Brothers chocolate bar, made in Brooklyn and bought at Shake Shack the other night. I’m super excited!

Chocolate and wine and a night to write 3,500 words about nothing much, really.
Chocolate and wine and a night to write 3,500 words about nothing much, really.

My TomTom, was on a bender, again, tonight. Armando, that’s my TomTom’s name, he is voice activated and answers to Armando. What can I say? Every now and then, and without warning, Armando decides to avoid the highways and take mostly surface streets, usually in very large cities, like Boston and San Francisco, and usually when I have not the time, the patience or the wherewithal to devise a better, more traveled route. I had the time tonight and saw parts of Long Island I never knew existed. I have a visual on several potential restaurants for my next visit, in just a few weeks.

I ultimately arrived at my hotel, one I stay at regularly, a Marriott, a block away from the United terminal at LaGuardia. I feel like Norm at Cheers when I walk in. Okay, not quite, but I do have a few hotels that I have become quite regular at. I tossed my bags in my room, returned my rental car, and caught the hotel shuttle back. Once in my room, I did what I always do, first thing; look out the window. To my delight, from my window tonight, I see the skyline of Manhattan. I can pick out the Chrysler Building. I’ve worked there before. Okay, for three days, as a consultant, but still. I was on the floor where the gargoyles were perched, it was so exciting, gazing out the window of the conference room, down, on the backs of the gargoyles, only a few feet out of reach on the other side of the glass. I’m sorry, I love architecture and historic old buildings just drive me nuts, especially from the art deco era. I can see the Empire State Building, to which I’ve been to the top, once, and the tippy top another time. I look at the millions of twinkling lights of  “The City” from my window, I dare not turn a light on in my room and lessen their brilliance. I will sleep with my curtains open to relish the view. I love every little light bulb, illuminating that magical skyline, and I can’t wait. I’m excited!


I texted Daisy, my daughter. My baby, my youngest. She turns twenty-one next week, “Are you going to be able to celebrate your birthday in ‘The City’ with me next weekend?” She quickly replied, “Yes! I forgot to tell you, I have Wednesday through Saturday off …” I am so excited! We own Manhattan. It is our place. One of our places. We love the wilderness, too. Wherever we go, we will carry what we need, whether shopping bags and mimosas in our metal “water” bottles, or our matching backpacks, we will find adventure and just have a fab time.

It is Friday, and a good day, the end to an interminable, weird and uncomfortable week. I have nearly four days at home before I am off again, and I am excited.

My lesson for the day; stay in touch, network and connect. I recently read a book on charisma, “The Charisma Myth – How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. you know how I love books, most books, anyway. This was a great book, very charismatic, and had some fantastic suggestions. One was to reach out to at least five different people every day, whether through a personal message on social media, a text, a phone call, an email, a letter, a face-to-face conversation, or, I guess, smoke signals or carrier pigeons. However.

I’m also listening to a fantastic audiobook on Audible, “Younger Next Year for Women,” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. I am so excited, I can hardly wait to listen to it on the plane tomorrow, and in my car on the way home from the airport. One of the “rules” to being younger next year, to not decay until death, is to connect with people, to be social, to have friends, to be in touch, to be touched.

I am as guilty as anyone, we get busy, we try to find time to just sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat work. Retire, watch TV and die. I retaliate against this plight, I rebel against such a routine and mundane life. I live to connect, I connect to live. How many people have you connected with today? Me? My clients, of course, a chatty and partially inebriated attorney over Cuban food, my friend Miles, the “girls”, my son, Dogwood, my daughter, Daisy, and a quick text with my Sweetie before he headed further north through the vast cellular service wasteland to Prudhoe Bay. It was a good day. Still, I am writing, I have to get up in three hours, I’m going to have dark circles under my eyes, again. Now to sleep, in the soft glow of a billion glimmering lights from a not so distant skyline. I’m excited.

Scarlett’s Letter November 14, 2013

If there’s an emotion I didn’t experience this week, it’s only because it hasn’t been defined yet.

My God.

A bit short on sleep, it is possible I’m really just suffering from good, old-fashioned exhaustion. Go ahead, ask me if I got up at 4:30 AM and worked out. Considering I turned off the light around midnight and flopped around on a ten-acre bed, trying to find sleep until, oh, probably 4:15 AM, your guess, “no”, would be correct. Guilt. The first emotion of the day.

Through a chain of gruesome events leading to the discovery of some unsavory news from the dark ages of my youth, a long-standing friendship with Stanly, a man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, ended. Sorrow. The emotion that accompanied me in my futile attempts to sleep.

In response to the intense sense of indignation from the events noted above, a retaliatory literary grenade was lobbed into cyberspace, and, well, ended up in the enemy camp. Stanly read the article, the demonic one that has since been removed, revised with a more human flair, and reposted.

Stanly, the young man I knew, and loved for a time, as a young woman, fell from a pedestal I’d placed him on, a pedestal he has occupied for thirty some years. The crash from that pedestal was both violent and abrupt, leaving behind a wake of shock and pain. Two more emotions I find myself awash in.

The man Stanly has become, even after reading the scathing, hateful and hurtful account of my discovery of his historic betrayal, apologized. A genuine and heartfelt apology. I think what I’ve experienced from that moment on is the emotion that hasn’t been defined yet. There is relief and remorse, shame and surprise.

The net result, though, is that a lost friendship I grieved over yesterday, breathes new life today. Neither of us, I’m sure, will ever forget what transpired, and that, I think is a good thing. There were a few long overdue life lessons to be learned by both of us. Gratitude.

Stanly, the boy who betrayed me many, many years ago, crashed from the pedestal a couple of days ago. Destroyed. The man Stanly has become ascends from the rubble and reclaims his place. Respect.

At work today, I teach a group of young auditors that I have taught for the past two years. I first met them as brand new hires for an accounting firm on Long Island three years ago, fresh, eager faces, new to their firm and to auditing. I taught them the basics of auditing and some software skills they’d need to embark on their first year of their career. Last year I returned to teach them more advanced skills to carry them on their way.  I return, again, to teach them the last I have to teach them, all it is I know, making them equals, but for a few more years of experience. Pride.

I received an email from a friend I’ve known since elementary school, a friend who has been battling cancer for years, a friend who was told a year ago she’d be dead by now. She, obviously, is alive. She was told that the tumor they found behind her heart, after the initial cancer was treated and cured, was inoperable and likely would not respond to chemotherapy. It did. She was told that the tumor behind her heart would always be there, that she’d have to receive chemotherapy for the rest of her uncertain life. It is gone. The chemotherapy is over. And now they tell her she has a long life to look forward to. Tough, today, she was told that there is virtually no doubt that, some day, her cancer will return, she knows, in her heart, in her mind, in her soul, as do we, her friends, that they may be wrong. And, if it does return, we all know, without a doubt, she will beat it. It is because there is no doubt. Faith. Hope. Joy.

Do not ever underestimate the power of positive thought, yourself, or for those in your circle. Wisdom.

I dined alone for dinner tonight, which I do more often than not. Alone in a different restaurant every night. Sure, I enjoy the quest, finding the great local restaurants everywhere I go, choosing the perfect glass of wine or local craft or interesting imported beer, the most divine salad or appetizer, the perfect entrée, delicious, artful and healthy. I pretend not to see people look at me, at a table alone, I imagine they aren’t wondering why a woman dines alone. In days gone by, in restaurants with my family or friends, upon seeing a “single diner”, I’d often wonder, I’d often imagine, just what circumstances brought them to such a fate. I surmised, probably not incorrectly, as in my case, that they were business travelers, far from home. I somehow understood that dining alone in a restaurant had to be better than a microwave meal in the solitude of a dank hotel room. Or room service fare, both overpriced and low quality, while trying to catch up on emails and preparations for the next day’s meetings. I felt empathy towards those people I saw, as I sat, surrounded by friends or family members, sharing the day’s news.  And I know, as I meet eyes with diners around me, they have similar thoughts, that, perhaps, they feel somewhat sorry for me. Which I can barely stand. Often, the wait staff don’t quite know how to effectively “deal” with a single diner. I am either rushed through my meal and quickly dismissed, or I am forgotten for more populated tables and booths. Rare is the waiter or waitress that knows exactly how to make a single diner feel welcomed, that knows how to engage them in a genuine conversation. I did not have one of those waitresses tonight. I still tipped twenty percent. The really good ones get twenty-five. Loneliness.

I returned to my room, later, and set to writing. A tiny text message and a sweet phone call with my man. Love. But the wind and the snow are blowing there and the phone line went dead in the storm, mid-conversation. Frustration. Another text with those three little words. Happiness.

In my ridiculously large Victoria’s Secret sweatpants and my Sweetie’s “Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling” shirt, I finish this last little bit and ready for a restful night’s sleep. Comfort.

Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Fantastic mushroom flatbread at lunch with my client. Seasons 52, Garden City, New York.
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you'd never know it, it all tastes so good!
Trout. Lunch at Seasons 52, where everything on the menu is less than 475 calories, but you’d never know it, it all tastes so good!
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Dining alone at West End Cafe, Carle Place, New York. Great atmosphere and quite popular, even early in the evening. Great bar, too, but quiet enough for conversation.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
Chandon Brut. Perfect.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The small almond and gorgonzola salad at West End Cafe. Excellent.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.
The striped bass on spaghetti squash with carrots and mushrooms at West End Cafe. Fantastic.


Today, I took a trip back in time. Two, actually.

The first, at the airport. I am now part of the TSA Pre-Check program. I received an unsolicited email from United, my airline of choice, stating that I was enrolled in the program. I suppose, as often as I fly, and since I have not made an effort to blow up any airplanes, it is assumed I’ll have no desire to do so any time in the future. A safe assumption. So, I don’t have to remove my shoes, my 3-1-1 baggie, my scarf, my sweater or light jacket. I do not have to remove any of my computers from my bag. I just toss my bag on the belt and dash through the scanner. This reminds me of simpler times. Another loosening of the leash; upon boarding the plane, we were all told we no longer have to turn any of our small personal electronics off for take off and landing; my phones, my Kindle, my iPad, all can stay on, in non-transmitting mode. It’s like someone granted me a block of free time. I was unsure as to how I should busy myself as the plane door was closing. This time has always been devoted to frantically ensuring every device was completely off. This newfound liberation, this freedom, seems so foreign in a world that has been so up tight for so long. The TSA agents and flight attendants were near jubilant in their efforts to wave us through security, all smiles as they assured us we could leave our phones on during the entire flight. I haven’t seen such glee at the airport, on behalf of employees and travelers, alike, in a very long time.

While the plane door was closing, with my newfound block of free time, I opened up a black, hard covered book with gold letters on the cover. This, the other trip back in time, was a little less pleasant. This book I read today, moved me to tears. In public. On a fucking airplane. My dear, near lifelong friend, Clarissa, showed me the book when I visited her home last week. Clarissa Lynn Coupon. It was a book written, from the copyright, just a couple of years ago, but told of a time I recall well from nearly three decades ago. It was a self-published book, written for a group of long-time friends and distributed amongst some number of people. As books will, they have been circulating from family to family and from acquaintance to acquaintance. It is hard to say just how far and wide this story has travelled. I dare not hazard a guess.

The book.
The book.

The story is told from the perspective of a young man and spans a decade or so of his life, weaving the tales of his evolution from boy to adolescent to man, a story of drunkenness, debauchery, deceit, drugs, dishonesty, infidelity and God. The story revolves around friendships that developed and endured this period of time, and beyond. The story, I assume, was solely for the enjoyment of this misfit group of friends, sort of a 1980’s version of “Bro’s before Ho’s”. But, I am reminded, as I am currently in custody of this black, hard-bound book with gold lettering on the cover, that stories do travel, and sometimes their arrival in a particular reader’s hands is miscalculated and most definitely unanticipated.

The “hero” of our story is Stanly. Stanly had a healthy fear of God and an uncertainty about religion that he seemed to struggle with for most of the ample book. He suffered a certain amount of turmoil as his parents divorced and as he tried to find his way, painfully and pitifully, through the loss of his virginity, and any semblance of sobriety.

After high school, I’m sure to everyone’s relief, Stanly finally managed to lose his virginity, to a girl he used specifically and solely for that fait accomplit. Magically, and only with the assistance of his good friend Dan, Stanly hooked up with Wendy and for the next couple of pages, really liked her. Loved her even. But, pages later, Stanly was avoiding her and wishing for the company of other female companions and, in fact, cheating on her at every opportunity, which, he admitted, wasn’t often. For the next, oh, two years or so, Stanly continued to see Wendy, to use her, pretty much, as needed. I read on, which was painful. I got within thirty pages of the final page, page 547, and skipped toward the end to a chapter titled “Forsaken”. In this chapter Stanly finally did the honorable thing and broke up with Wendy.

I know, this does not seem like the type of book I would generally read. It isn’t. In fact, reading this book was, by far, one of the worst experiences of my life, because the story, you see, is a true story, I knew Stanly, well, I thought, because, I am Wendy. And of much of this, I had no idea. For four years. For the better part of four years, I was being used. A booty call, piece of ass, I guess, when nothing better panned out.

You know that feeling you get when you receive really horrible news? The edges of your vision turn fuzzy and white? Like all the blood just drained from your body and dumped, suddenly, and sickeningly, into your stomach? Yah. That happened pretty much, repeatedly, throughout the entire volume. Every time I flipped a page and saw the word “Wendy” on it, I gripped the arm of the chair and braced myself. Do you have any idea what it feels like to read about yourself in a story like that, where the entire cast of characters are real and they all know you’re just someone’s booty call, piece of ass? I still see these people, in real life. Nice, right?

I find myself in the weirdest position and one that has robbed me of some sleep, some self-respect, some self-confidence and a bit of my usual glee, for a few minutes, anyway. It is hard to describe a brand new, open and bleeding, thirty-year-old wound. How is it even possible to have a brand new, thirty-year-old wound?  I am shaken, to the core, and reeling, and beating myself up for being shaken, to the core, and reeling. How asinine. Of me.

These questions floated through my mind as I feigned sleep, for a spell, last night:

Every man in my past, ever, has betrayed me, in some way, or in many ways, how will I ever trust anyone again?

I saw a quote the other day, by Ernest Hemingway, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” So, I shall. I do. I must.

Why do I care, thirty years later?

Because it hurt. I don’t really care, it just hurt. I’ll lick my wounds and I’ll be over it, or not. I only found myself Googling a list of therapists, once. The lessons I have gleaned from this and the ability to share those lessons is therapy enough. It’s all about the lessons we learn from our life experiences, whether ugly or utopian. And sharing those lessons in hopes they may help others in pain, guarantees bliss.

Is my self-respect in tact? To find out one has been so degraded, for such a long time, certainly must erode one’s self-respect.

Nope. Remember, we are solely responsible for our own self-respect, it is a reflection of us from within and has nothing to do with what other, lesser life forms, posing as people, inflict on us, for their own reward and benefit. Had Stanly been the least bit honest, or any more sloppy, had I known at any moment in time how I was truly regarded, I would have walked away, head held high. That this is a new, thirty-year-old wound diminishes my ability to walk away, head held high, none, whatsoever.

How, in the world, should I react?

Oh, I lost a wee bit of sleep fantasizing about public humiliation, via a Facebook wall post on Stanly’s wall, but what would that gain? Really, only further publicity and humiliation for me. And while it was mildly satisfying to talk of the tale here, I do so in fair anonymity, in a much less public venue, and with the careful passage of enough time to choose words carefully.

What have I learned?

Lots. That Ernest Hemingway is to be trusted on the topic of trust.

I am reminded, though I know, from the core, that self-respect, self-confidence and self-esteem come from within and are not the property of anyone but the bearer. No one can take our self-respect, our self-confidence or our self-esteem from us, no matter what. No one can diminish them in the least, we are solely in care, charge and custody of them and if they erode, even in the slightest, it is at our very own hands, solely, and only we can repair them. That alone is empowering beyond anything else.

I also learned that when someone you once respected, honored, trusted and admired, whether for three minutes, or three decades, shows their true colors, when honesty, integrity and even chivalry are replaced with selfishness, infidelity, dishonesty, deceit and disrespect, the only thing to do is to observe, acknowledge, accept and forgive.

In observing the true nature of the person, we realize they are completely separate from us, their actions are separate from us and lessen us in no way. In acknowledging that they are completely separate from us and that their actions are not for us to react to, we rise above them in honor and integrity and common, human decency. In accepting what has happened as something in the past, that can never be changed, we release it and relish, again, the only time in which we truly live, the present. And, the hardest part; in forgiving those who trespass against us, we are freed from the hurt, the pain, and any power our trespasser may feel they hold over us is diffused, forever.

It may seem odd to say, but I am grateful for having had the opportunity to read the black, hardbound book, with the gold lettering on the cover, dreadful as it was. The pain and the horror of the tale subside with each breath I draw and release, and I have had another rare opportunity to take a horrific situation and use it as a catapult to further evolve into the person I am destined to be; great today, greater, even, tomorrow. Thank you, Stanly.