Well Balanced Diet

I am a proponent of healthy eating, yes. I eat mostly organic food, when possible, and as clean as possible when organic isn’t an option. I love food, and eat very, very well. I am careful to include the appropriate amounts of lean protein, whole grains and fresh veggies and fruit in my diet. And, in my opinion, a balanced diet also needs to take into consideration what we drink; I like to make sure I have one glass of wine for every beer I consume, just to be well balanced!

I am also very diligent about balancing my nutritional intake with my physical activity. I don’t count calories in and out, like I used to when I was trying to lose a ton of weight, but I have a rough idea of what goes in and what is expended, and it seems to be working, for the most part, I’ve maintained my weight for about three years, with about a seven pound swing through my busy travel/eat in restaurants every meal time of year (nine months) and my work from home, eat nutritious, home cooked meals time of year (three months).

But, believe it or not, I don’t want to talk about food, or beverage or exercise, right now. I want to talk about “balance.” And, no, I don’t want to talk about living a balanced life, I’ve talked about that a couple of times before. I want to talk about “balance”, you know, like not falling down!

Gravity is real, undeniably, unarguably real. Some of us have a run in with the law, the law of gravity, more often than others. As we age, sadly, it is gravity and our deteriorating balance that can get us into pretty deep doo doo.

My grandfather lived to be 100 years old. He was in excellent health at 100 years old, and, in fact, still lived on his own in his house and even mowed his own lawn with a push mower, you know, the kind without the motor. Every day, he’d walk a few blocks from his house to the nursing home to have lunch, not with his friends, as they were all long gone, but with his friends’ kids, who were now residents and in need of assisted living. It was on one of these lunchtime jaunts that Grandpa got into trouble with the law, the law of gravity. He fell, broke his hip, went to the hospital and died of pneumonia in short order. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he’d still be kicking about.

I listened to a great audiobook recently, and have shared it before, “Younger Next Year (for Women): Live Strong, Fit and Sexy Until You’re 80 and Beyond” by Chris Crowley and Hendry S. Lodge, M.D. With a title like that, how can you resist, right? The book is funny and loaded with great advice and information. This book also addresses the importance of maintaining strength, and thereby, improving your balance, rather than allowing it to deteriorate with the rest of our bodies as we age, or “decay”, as Chris says throughout the volume. As we age, it is falling that is most likely to put an abrupt end to our ambulatory days, if not our life. I don’t know about you, but that’s not in my script, if I have anything to do with writing it!

I am often surprised at how few people I meet that have really good balance. I don’t mean people who don’t work out at all, either, all sorts of people. I am in a running club and I run with folks who regularly compete in 5ks, 10ks, half and full marathons and even ultra-marathons. After our workouts, we dutifully stretch. One stretch we do, of course, is the hamstring stretch, where you stand on one leg, bend the other leg behind you and grab your foot. These fit, runner people are hopping all over the place, falling, leaning on each other and against trees, struggling to stay on the right side of the law. Fit, strong, healthy people totally unable to balance on one foot for thirty seconds. Lawbreakers!

Try this; stand up, move away from anything you can hold on to like a wall, a chair, a table, the couch, a loved one, the dog. Now stand on one foot. How long can you do this? How long does it take before you have to set your foot back down, or grab onto something I told you not to stand next to?

Balance is strength. Good balance requires good core strength and it also requires the use of all sorts of tiny little muscles and ligaments in the lower leg and feet. Try this! Stand up, (yes, again), bend over so your hands are as close to your feet, or the floor, as possible. If you can, grab one ankle with one or both hands, now lift the other foot off the ground and balance. Can you feel all the little, minute adjustments your standing leg is going through to try to keep you from losing your balance? So, to improve balance, to avoid getting into trouble with the law, just strengthen all those little muscles and ligaments, oh, and your core, too!

Personally, I find yoga to be extremely beneficial in developing core strength and in fine-tuning all those little muscles and in perfecting your balance. Ballet is good, too, or gymnastics, tumbling or calisthenics. I like yoga because I get to work on my mind a bit, at the same time. Yoga is a practice. So is balance. Balance takes practice and I combine my balancing practice with my mindfulness practice with my yoga practice. It’s the most productive hour I can squeeze into a day!

But, still, I practice balance even more. I have always been a law-abiding citizen, except for highway speed limits, but I consider that sport, not deviance, a game of cat and mouse, predator and prey; I’m the mouse, the CHP are cats, and I’ve been winning for the last thirty years. Knock on wood. Anyway. Practice. There are so many opportunities for practicing balance that you can incorporate into daily life; no gym membership, no expensive workout equipment, no gimmicky gizmos as seen on TV. Consider the following.

I am avid about dental hygiene. I like to brush my teeth. My childhood orthodontist would be so proud of me now! I was driving through the middle of Indiana some time last year. There isn’t much to see. Grass. Highway. Trees. Grass. Highway. Trees. And billboards. One billboard I passed presented a big, happy, cheesy smiling face and a caption that read, “Brush for two minutes, twice daily.” It struck me that someone, somewhere, paid money to advertise what we should’ve all known, and been doing, since we were two years old. But, whatever. Later that night, as I brushed my teeth for the third time that day, I thought about “two minutes”. I got my iPhone out, opened up the clock app, and set the timer for a minute. As I brushed the teeth on the right side of my mouth, I stood in tree pose (stand on one foot, bend the suspended leg at the knee and rest the foot either just above or below the knee. And hold). I brushed and balanced and brushed and balanced. When the timer went off, I set it for another minute and did the other side, teeth and tree pose. I do this every time I brush my teeth, now.

I ran six miles today. I ran eight miles a couple of days ago. I like to run. Every time my demons start to catch up with me, I go out and run, it keeps them at a distance for a while. It works, I swear by it. I plan my run so I after I complete the planned mileage, I have another half mile or so to walk back to where I’ve parked, that’s my cool down. Then I stretch when I get to my car. I have been running in a suburban neighborhood area, near a park, quite routinely. The other day, after my eight-mile run, I felt so fantastic! The weather was perfect, it was a Saturday morning, so the whole world smelled like pancakes and bacon, and every friendly fitness fiend was out and about, all calling “hello!” and exchanging other kind remarks. I finished my eight miles and as I walked the last half mile, I found myself walking on the curb. I walked the curb, you know, the narrow strip of elevated concrete between the landscaping and the gutter and roadway? It’s like a balance beam, but not so scary high off the ground. I walked a half a mile, on the curb, without losing my balance. After running eight miles. I did it again, today. When was the last time you  “walked a curb”? I walk every curb I come close to; in parking lots, even carrying groceries, even carrying my half-caf, soy latte that cost five bucks, I walk curbs in neighborhoods and in the city, but only if I’m not going to get hit by a bus or a garbage truck!

A lovely, lovely run on Saturday!
A lovely, lovely run on Saturday!

Being well balanced just requires a regular diet of, well, balancing. Find fun ways to incorporate it into your daily life. Do the dishes standing on one leg! If you have to stand in line at Target or the grocery check out, or at the bank, if you’re app resistant and still actually go to the bank, stand on one foot. You don’t have to be real obvious about it, you don’t have to do a hamstring stretch or an arabesque or anything, unless you like to draw attention to yourself. Just lift one foot casually off the floor and rest it atop your other foot. Then switch.

I know, this all sounds pretty loopy, but, seriously, I’m just looking out for you. I don’t want you to get into trouble with the law. Try to stick to a “well-balanced diet” and maybe when you’re 100 years old, you can walk the curb all the way to the old folks home to visit your friends’ kids for lunch!

 

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter December 26, 2013

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls ~ Mother Teresa

I have two very juxtaposed needs; a social circle and silence.

I am still trying to find a circle, or a few circles, a source, a place, or places, for socializing, as a middle-aged, solitary woman with a wildly fluctuating calendar of availability. I am not “single” and am a misfit in the “singles” crowds. I just want to establish a circle of interesting, non-threatening folks to hang out with a time or two a week, for coffee or wine tasting, a hike, a yoga class, or something like that. I don’t let the absence of such a circle deprive me of those joys, I am perfectly willing and able to go to coffee, wine tasting, a hike or a yoga class by myself, a solitary participant amidst a group of strangers, but I would prefer, on more occasions than not, to have a familiar face, or faces, to share with socially, on more than a casual, “hey, you on the yoga mat next to me, nice weather today, eh?” basis.

I’ve found one great, promising and very unlikely resource; grocery shopping. I am a “Whole Food-ee”, as you are probably aware. I am lucky enough, currently, to live in a town that has a Whole Foods Market ten minutes from my front door. Being situated in the Napa Valley, this market has a “tasting bar”. This, I’ve been aware of for some time and I have also been aware of the fact that they have a calendar of events; different featured wineries, breweries, and pairings, for a very nominal fee. As I shop for my local organic Greek yogurt, local, organic, free-range eggs, local organic produce and organic whole grains, crisscrossing my way back and forth across the aisles, I frequently pass the tasting bar, which is “corralled” off, dead center of the store, adjacent to the wine aisle, with a split rail fence and a gate complete with a rope latch, to keep the underage out, I suppose. Often, I see people sitting at the tasting bar and the few tables nearby, enjoying the featured selections, and I’ve thought, “I’ve got to take the time to do that some day.”

Making a plan.
Making a plan.

One afternoon, last week, with a little burst of fortitude, I reached for my MacBook and opened a couple of new tabs in my browser. I navigated to my gym’s class schedule from my bookmarked pages on one tab and to Whole Foods events calendar on the other. I grabbed my phone and opened up my personal calendar and scheduled out my fitness for the week, including runs, yoga classes, spin classes and cardio. Then, I found a few tasting events and scheduled those on my calendar, complete with a couple of carefully timed reminders. Later that day, right on schedule, I attended a caviar and sparkling wine tasting event at the “Whole Foods Corral”. I found a seat at the bar, a few minutes before the scheduled start time for the event, and enjoyed a fantastic Northern California brewery’s stout offering, just a small glass, for two dollars. There were a few folks at the bar and they struck up easy, casual conversation with me. They were “regulars”, I gathered, from their banter with the “bartender” and because they greeted, by name, nearly everyone that passed by the “corral”. From what I gathered, everyone there was sort of like me; not single, not content to sit home and rot in front of the television, and looking for a way to connect in the community and enjoy beer. And caviar. And sparkling wine. And then, maybe even do some grocery shopping. It was great. I’ve been to the German beer-tasting event, since, again, meeting some nice, non-threatening and immensely interesting people. Today, after my spin class at the gym, and a shower, of course, I’m going to go buy some yogurt and oatmeal and stop by for a wine tasting event, a winery I know, have visited, and am quite fond of, from the foothills of Amador County, southeast of Sacramento. I might be close to becoming a “regular” at the Whole Foods Corral.

At the "Whole Foods Corral"
At the “Whole Foods Corral”
North 101 Brewing - Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
North 101 Brewing – Naughty Aud Imperial Stout
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.
Sparkling wine and caviar tasting at the grocery store.

The other craving I have; silence.

Likely more elusive than a platonic posse of pals to socialize with, a contiguous block of uninterrupted silence with which to read, think, meditate and write. I don’t consider this need to be one rooted in selfishness, though some may beg to differ. Fine, believe what you want, but, please, don’t approach me with your argument while I’m trying to read, think, meditate or write.

My basic need for a bit of uninterrupted silence, a couple of times a day, as I’ve mentioned a time, or two, or maybe a dozen or two times, before, is very hard to come by in my current living situation. One of the petty minor irritations Mom and I are trying to work through. Mom differs from me in that her most basic need seems to be one of filling every moment with noise, chatter, inquiry (often bordering on inquisition) and distraction. If I fall silent for any period of time, say, during breakfast, she will ask a rapid-fire succession of questions on a topic in, what seems to me, an attempt to extend the lifespan of said topic well beyond its natural and logical bounds. She will chatter incessantly, often using the newspaper as a catalyst, the result being a near constant barrage of completely unrelated factoids that, to me, require no response, or even acknowledgement. Mom seems to desire both, acknowledgement and response. I listen to her many stories of the past, of her acquaintances, and her (very) few social encounters of the week. She relates very detailed stories of the people in her life; doctors, nurses, hairdressers, and of the people in their lives that she has never met, but has only heard tale of. If Mom runs out of material, she will simply narrate everything she is doing, like a “blow-by-blow” account of wrapping up leftover cookies to freeze. If I am not in the room to chat with or chatter to, she will turn on the radio or the television to fill the void.

I love companionable silence; being able to sit, peacefully, with a friend, family member or loved one, after the conversation has been temporarily spent, and just enjoy their presence, their company, and pursuing those more personal, thoughtful endeavors; reading, thinking, meditating, writing.

I’m not sure where the middle ground is here, between my need for companionable silence and Mom’s desire for constant conversation. I think …

“Knock, knock, knock,” on my bedroom door, which I’ve closed to afford some kind of sound barrier from the television downstairs, the ringing telephone and the triple play of the message left; its Mom, of course, on the other side of the door, with a list of questions, a couple of stories and a detailed account of the upcoming hour of her life.

My train of thought has just derailed. I’ll end my musings for the day here.

Scarlett’s Letter December 13, 2013

My first full day home in the aftermath of those big things that have been clogging up my calendar, my focus, my free time and even how I eat, sleep and work out; travel season and the first marathon.

I feel like a freed prisoner. Liberated. I can resume life, the way I intend it to be.

Before I “went to work” this morning, I called my Sweetie! We hadn’t spoken on the phone for several days, and with his travels between Fairbanks and Coldfoot and my travels between the east and west coast, plus the huge time zone differences, our texts were even missing each other for hours at a time. The delay in text messages and the inability to talk on the phone left an odd and disjointed communication trail that I found befuddling and disheartening. It was heavenly to just sit and talk in complete and coherent sentences for a continuous period of time. It has been way too long, I really miss my guy.

I got a lot done today. First, I just sat my butt right down in my office and didn’t move until I had ALL my expense reports done. Over $6,000 worth. I kept thinking of Brian Tracy’s “Eat That Frog” program where he suggests just tackling the thing you least want to do in your day, first. Eat the frog first and the rest of the day is a breeze.  So I did. Yay! The frog wasn’t so bad.

After my expense reports, I cracked a beer open. Don’t judge, I’m still on “east coast” time for a day or two, it was much later in my brain than the clock said. Before my beer was half finished, I’d finished three quarters of my Christmas shopping, again, without even leaving the comfort of my ergonomic, Tempurpedic, office chair.

Lost Coast Downtown Brown, one of my daily faves.
Lost Coast Downtown Brown, one of my daily faves.

I spent the rest of the day puttering about my domain, upstairs, my bedroom and the other bedroom, which I use for my office. I broke down boxes and discarded packaging from mail orders received over the past month or so, I threw away the piles of junk mail and catalogs that arrived while I was gone and did a mountain of very necessary laundry.

DSW box, among others.
DSW box, among others.

I cooked my own food tonight. It felt so foreign, handling and preparing raw food, I was almost a little scared that I’d forgotten how. I made the most delicious spaghetti sauce with ingredients I had on hand, which were sparse. I ladled it over the last of the soba noodles in my pantry and, truthfully, it was one of the best meals I’ve had in a very long time. The food was hotter than any I’ve had in a while, and not nearly as salty as anything I’ve eaten lately, and, the portion size was perfect! I have enough sauce left over for another meal, too. Like maybe lunch, tomorrow!

Cooked my own dinner. So yummy.
Cooked my own dinner. So yummy.

I was settling in for the night, big sloppy sweats on, big glass of V. Sattui Cabernet Sauvignon poured, and I as I accessed my face in the mirror, contemplating initiating an anti-aging regime and noting the obvious need for an appointment with my aesthetician, I remembered; I have an appointment for a massage tonight! So, I funneled the wine back into the bottle, for now, put clothes worthy of being seen in public back on, including undies, I am so going to forget those some day, and I’m about to grab my purse, my keys and my phone and go. I thought about postponing the appointment, but, I can’t. I was mayor of the Napa Massage Envy Spa on Foursquare, until last week. Someone bumped me out of my esteemed position, while I was out of town and unable to do anything about it. The nerve! I aim to go get all nice and relaxed, which should be just the thing for the last of the lingering marathon stiffness and soreness in my quads, and the post travel season shoulder soreness from hefting my computer bag around with its two laptops, Kindle, iPad and enough cords to reach to the moon and back.

All set for a relaxing night at home.
All set for a relaxing night at home.
Luckily, Donna, my handy digital assistant reminds of important things, like massages.
Luckily, Donna, my handy digital assistant reminds of important things, like massages.

And, I aim to reclaim my title as Mayor on Foursquare. Tally ho.

P.S. Odds-bervation – doesn’t it seem peculiar that my Apple MacBook tries to correct the spelling of “iPad”?

Scarlett’s Letter December 2, 2013

What happened yesterday?

COFFEE GRINDER!!!
COFFEE GRINDER!!!

I got shit done and that’s it. Ten mile run. I finally got the coffee grinder from storage but only after getting coffee at the coffee shop, and breakfast, and running, and a shower. I also got my little Target brand Christmas tree up. Packed. Let Mom cook me GMO laced food featuring medicated, tortured cow. I only buy happy dead cow flesh, you know. Cows that were bottle fed by cherubs in sunny pastures, cattle that were lulled to sleep each night by the voices of fair maidens, fed on only lush, pesticide free grass growing in the richest of soils in some beautiful pasture with a view of the ocean,  treated holistically for any ailment that may materialize, provided with an endless supply of Evian water, massaged, by Swedish masseuses, and then, one day, blammo, hamburger. After a tasty, though suspect, meal, I packed for my two weeks away from home and went to bed. It is so much easier to go to bed at 7:00 PM when it’s actually dark out. I still didn’t end up turning out the light until 9:00. And my alarm went off at 1:00 AM.

Monday, squared.

Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Nice run yesterday! Warm! Sunny! Napa!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Oh Christmas Tree!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!
Tortured cow. Delicious, though, thanks, Mom!

In the few hours I slept, though, I had some crazy, crazy dreams. And I can even explain them! Mostly. I don’t know if my explanation is accurate, but there are some coincidences with what I dreamt and a few things that I viewed in the past couple of days. Either that, or I’m completely off my rails. Or both.

I dreamt, first, that there were a bunch of baby elephants wandering the streets in my neighborhood. Yes. Baby elephants. Just baby elephants. No mommy or daddy elephants. Then, I dreamt there were lions outside my bedroom window, standing on the roofs of the cars in the driveway, roaring, and trying to get inside. Oh, and the only part I can’t explain, I boxed some obnoxious lady in the ear because she was blocking the way to the restroom in some restaurant and she got belligerent when I asked her if I could pass. I’m not normally prone to acts of physical violence, so I’m not sure where that bit of the dream came from. I woke up right then, so I don’t know what happened.

I ground my coffee last night and actually made coffee for myself this morning, just to get me to the Starbucks at the airport in Sacramento, alive. With my “usual” latte, banana, oatmeal and large Fiji water, all in a Starbucks carrier bag, I made my way to the gate. How bad is it that I recognize several people in the boarding area, weekly travelers, like me. The United flight to Chicago every Monday morning is like a commuter train, all the same faces, all the same discussions; mileage, the state of the airline, airports. I look on, and listen, detached. I am not quite yet among their ranks, they all log over 100k miles a year. I’m struggling to make my much desired “Gold” status. Without gold status, I simply cannot imagine travel. I’d have to pay for luggage, I wouldn’t be able to book seats in “economy plus” for free, my bags wouldn’t be the first off the plane and I wouldn’t get premier access to ticketing. I’m not sure what would happen to my TSA Pre-Check status. So easily am I spoiled. I am oh-so close. I was going to book a trip to Hawaii to visit my son, but the ticket prices between now and the end of the year are pretty steep and I’d have to travel before the end of the year, I think, to “get” the extra miles.

The "Monday Morning Line" at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.
The “Monday Morning Line” at Starbucks at SMF 4:15 AM.

The flight to Chicago is miserable. It’s either a brand new plane or a newly retrofitted plane, but, there is no economy plus seating, no extra legroom, it’s like coach. Somehow, after tweeting my complaint @united, I manage to sleep most of the way, just to block out the horrible experience.

No legroom in a seat that would formerly been in the United Economy Plus section.
No legroom in a seat that would formerly have been in the United Economy Plus section.
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I'm talking about!
Legroom! United Economy Plus! THIS is what I’m talking about!

I am so excited to have a couple of hour layover at O’Hare! I love O’Hare. I could live in O’Hare! We deplane a couple of gates down from Beaudevin wine bar. It’s noonish. Wine seems fine. But, I am torn. I’d like to have lunch at Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera. There is a bar there that serves Negra Modelo AND has plentiful electrical outlets. Tortas Frontera is very popular, though, I can only imagine the wait in line for food, and then the wait for a seat at the bar or at a nearby table. And especially right at noon. I peruse the food displayed at Beaudevin and it doesn’t look so good. All of the salads feature iceberg lettuce with browned edges. First of all, iceberg lettuce has the nutritional value of water and tastes about the same. It’s only redeeming quality is it’s crispiness, but, the browned edges led me to believe that the crispiness may long since have deteriorated from the salads displayed. I walked past, heading for Tortas Frontera, glance at my watch and turn back, again, towards Beaudevin. I notice they now have electrical outlets beneath the bar AND open seats. I envision waiting for a seat at TF, I think of the limp salads, compared to a Cochinita Pibil torta, I turn, take three steps towards Tortas Frontera, eye the wine selection, again, and the open seating, and turn back. I climb up on an overly padded stool at the bar and look over the menu. I decide on a flight of California Cabs and the cheese platter. You can’t go wrong with cheese and wine that come from NorCal. Can’t. Unless, of course, the cheese is so over-chilled you can’t taste it, so over-chilled it won’t even slice, let alone spread on the oddly textured bread. The wine is good. I pick at my cheese plate, eat about two-thirds of it, and give up.

Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
Very cold cheese with a lovely flight of wine.
 I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
I shoulda had the cochinita pibil at Tortas Frontera!
Aaaaahhhh.
Aaaaahhhh.

I pay up and make my way to my gate in the other terminal, and, as luck would have it, is right next to Tortas Frontera, which, by now, is not so busy. There’s an open seat at the bar and I sidle up and order a Negra Modelo. Yes, I enjoy beer and wine, often, but I consume, perhaps, a little too much on travel days. I won’t even begin to try to justify it. Sport? Challenge? Or just seeking an ultra-relaxed and altered state of mind in a “world” of frenzied, unprepared, entertaining, though annoying, casual, infrequent travelers. My subliminal goal is to be the first in my boarding group to board the damn plane, find my seat, and slip into a numbed state of mind, if not sleep. Sleep is preferable.  

This, I accomplish on the flight from Chicago to LaGuardia. I stop at the natural food kiosk on my way to the baggage claim and grab a yogurt and an “Eighteen Rabbits” bar for breakfast in the morning. By the time I get to the baggage carousel, my bags have arrived and been unloaded to the side with a handful of others. They are mighty fast at this airport. And, this is one of the few airports where someone insists on comparing your baggage claim tickets to the bags you’re trying to remove. I appreciate this. I may be the only one.

I catch the bus to the rental car lot and select, as my car of the week, a Challenger. Black. Cool, right? Personally, I prefer the Charger. I have opinions on cars much like I do food, wine, fashion and airlines. It is rush hour and I’m in a muscle car. In Long Island. Talk about a complete waste. I honestly think I could live here for decades, not that I’d want to, and still not be able to visualize the maze of highways, interstates and expressways. It is dizzying, and, not much unlike California, SoCal in particular, most conversations quickly turn from the weather to “how I commuted today”.  I listen to David Zabriskie of Team Garmin on my Nuvii as we navigate fast, then slow, fast, then slow, fast, then slow, the fourteen miles to Garden City where I am to live and work for the rest of the work week.

Challenger; car of the week.
Challenger; car of the week.

I come here, for the same client, every year. Often twice. This is my second week here in the past month. I stay in the same hotel and dine at many of the same restaurants. Tonight, for example, tired and lacking energy and enthusiasm, it will be comfort food; Shake Shack, which is practically across the street from my hotel. A beer there, with my SmokeShack burger, hold the sauce, oh, and fries, don’t tell Jillian, and I am ready to go back to the hotel to get ready for the week.  Iron, organize my training materials, set out the tip for housekeeping for tomorrow and get ready for bed. I need sleep.

Comfort food - the Smokeshack at Shake Shack.
Comfort food – the Smokeshack and a Shakemeister beer at Shake Shack.

Scarlett’s Letter November 30, 2013

When I woke up this morning, my hair hurt. I swear it. This being an indication that I may have overdone a wee bit last night. I took two Excedrin and attempted more sleep.

When I finally did manage an upright position, I felt, perhaps, still a bit compromised. Not so compromised that I couldn’t navigate down to “my office”, the coffee shop, that is, where I still reign as mayor, according to Foursquare. I got my latte, acknowledging the fact that the storage unit that holds the coffee grinder I require to grind the whole bean coffee I accidentally purchased over two weeks ago, is less than a mile away. It isn’t the distance, it’s the fact that the box with the coffee grinder in it is kind of towards the back of the unit, and, when I stacked the boxes and Rubbermaid totes into the unit, I made sure the stuff going to charity was at the front, meaning, I’ll have to unload a quarter of the stuff from the unit to unbury the box with the damn grinder. This is how my mayorhood, or is it mayorship, was won. It is much easier to part with a couple of bucks a day than deal with the storage unit. Especially when in need of caffeine. Latte in hand, I headed home and made myself a huge greasy breakfast. For some reason, bacon, eggs and toast seem to be my breakfast of choice when recovering from a night of overindulgence.

My only mission today, other than, perhaps, getting the coffee grinder out of storage, was to go pick up all my wine club selections for the month/months. Tomorrow, my lovely bottles of red wine, hand selected by the wineries I’ve trusted with my credit card information, turn into pumpkins. Not really, but, after a certain period of time, if not picked up, the wine club selections are shipped to you and it costs extra money. And that certain period of time expires today. It was a lovely, sunny and warm day out, all bright and cheery, so Mom and I piled in the car and took off, first for Healdsburg to Quivira Winery for my four bottles from October, then up and over the hill, through Alexander Valley, to Calistoga and down to St. Helena to pick up my two November wine club selections from V. Sattui Winery.

At both wineries, being an esteemed club member, I was offered free tastings. My eyes crossed, my forehead crinkled into a frown, my upper lip curled a bit in disgust, my stomach flipped, and I may have groaned a little, before politely declining. By the time Mom and I made our way back to Napa, we’d sort of missed lunch and we were hungry. Two weeks have passed since we last had our traditional pizza, salad and beer meal at Bene Gusto, which is right across the parking lot from “my office”, the coffee shop. So, for the second time today, I parked in the little lot between the coffee shop and the pizza joint and Mom and I went in with “The Lunch Bite” special in mind. I wasn’t so sure about the beer, but, it comes with the meal. I asked for the Session Lager, which I usually enjoy quite a bit. It arrived, opened, and was placed before me, without a glass, per request. Mom sipped hers, I stared at mine. Mom sipped a bit more of hers, and I just stared at mine. The salad arrived and, as always, the greens were so incredibly fresh, I devoured the entire thing. And stared at my beer some more. I did drain my water glass three or four times, but continued to eye my beer with wariness and trepidation.

The pizza arrived. I’ve created my own variety; a thin New York style crust, red sauce, chicken, mushrooms and artichoke hearts. It’s on the menu with white sauce, but I’ve convinced them that the red sauce is actually an excellent choice. They have yet to put the pizza on the menu, aptly named, “The Scarlett”. I’m hopeful. After about two bites of pizza, especially with all the red pepper I sprinkle on it, the beer became a necessity I was able to manage. I did, however, refrain from ordering a second one, as I am usually inclined to do.

At home, I found myself just staring at my MacBook, mindlessly, scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress, texting with friends, pretty much just killing time I’d set aside for writing, time I could have devoted to getting the damn coffee grinder out of storage. My friend Miles, Miles N. Miles, the “N.” stands for Nathaniel, was in town visiting family. We went to high school together but didn’t really hang out together. Miles ran cross-country and sang with the choir. I didn’t. I preferred to get into trouble with my friends, the same friends, in fact, that I got into trouble with last night. Miles and I ran into each other at a Catholic church, east of Sacramento, in the foothills, of all places, several years back. Miles, actually, is who suggested I join the running club I’ve been running with for the past couple of years. He is married and has kids, a boy and a girl, a couple of years younger than my kids. Our friendship revolves around sharing stories and strategies for our continued efforts to effectively raise our offspring, running, a little bit of gossip, and our respective careers. We decided to meet for coffee, so, you guessed it, I invited Miles to “my office”. It is good to be the mayor.

The best part of my whole day, though, after my decaf latte with Miles and coming home and writing for a bit, was a nice, long, chat with my Sweetie. And good night.

What I learned today; when your hair hurts because you tested your limits in alcohol tolerance, take two Excedrin and buy a latte. What I learned today that really matters; a day devoted to friends and family, forsaking the “to-do” list is a day to be cherished and in no way regretted. My focus, this weekend, really, was to spend time with family and friends. The list will be there, still, tomorrow, and the next day. Time with friends and family, though, is rare and sometimes fleeting. Sometimes, in our drive to develop, in our effort to evolve, we are so focussed on results and outcomes, we miss the whole point. Isn’t one of our goals better relationships? For most it is. Don’t let “the list” deprive you of spending time with your family, friends and loved ones.

 

Bene Gusto. I should be mayor here, too.
Bene Gusto. I should be mayor here, too.
Group selfie from last night.
Group selfie from last night.

 

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!

                        Scarlett

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 12, 2013

What an outstanding and amazing day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 11, 2013

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

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

IMG_2203

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Scarlett’s Letter September 28, 2013

I was up early and ready for the flight home. A direct flight from Newark to San Francisco. I slept mostly, blissfully. And I dreamt of reusable Taco Bell burrito wrappers. I can’t explain that.  I still marvel, after all the frequent flier miles I’ve accrued, at waking on one side of the country and having lunch on the other. It still amazes me.

It was an excruciatingly slow drive home from Sacramento, I almost wished I was back in New Jersey, where at least the traffic moves. I identify with Jersey drivers. Like me, they drive with intent, and if you ever spend any time in a car with me at the wheel, you will hear me encourage, implore, even beg other drivers to “drive with intention!” It’s a lot better than some things I could shout at them, am I right? I will happily let people in front of me from driveways, I allow people to merge. Yes, I’m a defensive and sometimes aggressive driver, but I am courteous and safe. I have little tolerance for those who drive fearfully, those who don’t show some assertiveness and especially those who don’t display courtesy. I think drivers should show “assertousy”, equal parts assertiveness and courtesy. And, really, is life itself any different. We should live with intention, pursue our goal assertively and always show courtesy. That’s the lesson in life I considered today, as I listened raptly to Jillian Michael’s on Audible reading her book “Unlimited”. I feel inspired to reevaluate my goals and my methods for pursuing them. I feel energized by her words and energy. She makes sense, and not just related to fitness, food and health, but to life, the universe and our place in the universe. Another book I highly recommend.

When I got home all I could think about was food, like a big, fat hamburger or something equally appalling, especially after spending the last couple of hours immersed in Jillian’s Audible aura. Mom and I decided on Downtown Joe’s, a restaurant and brewery at Main and Second Streets in Napa, right along the Napa River. It was quite warm today, but we preferred sitting outside, along the river, if possible. We were offered a seat with a little umbrella, it needed bussing, first, but was ours immediately thereafter. I let Mom have the two square feet of shade provided by the small market umbrella, the small, poorly designed market umbrella that did not have the option to be tilted so as to provide more shade based on the angle of the sun. I like the sun. I sat in the sun. Mom has had chunks of face and appendages carved off of her in an endless catch up battle with skin cancer. I am probably going to suffer the same plight, but for now, I’ll soak up the sun, but only because of the stupid, little, inadequate market umbrella and because I always have about three layers of SPF on my face.

When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the "Slobber On", because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the “Slobber On”, because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.

An Effort to Evolve

Sounds good to me!
Sounds good to me!
The "Slobber On", I mean Downtown Joe's bar inside.
The “Slobber On”, I mean Downtown Joe’s bar inside.

Being a brewery, I perused the beer list with great enthusiasm. I decided first on the stout, knowing I’d have to have the porter shortly thereafter, it was impossible to decide on only one at the exclusion of the other. I’d really planned on a burger, but the “Steak and Fritz” caught my eye, a rich sounding mélange of steak, steak fries and gravy. It all lived up to my expectations; the stout, the porter, the very rich and fattening meal. Jillian would probably throw insults at me until I cried if she observed what I just did to myself. Ah, but she is human, too, and I know my limits and I know when, and how, to repent for my occasional sins. And I shall.

BEER MENU!
BEER MENU!
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The "Steak and Fritz", more commonly known as SIN!
The “Steak and Fritz”, more commonly known as SIN!
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.

Just not today. It was a simple, but sedentary day. I’d had every intention of working out when I got home, but the two pints of beer and large meal, a very early morning after a fairly short night, a long flight and detailed expense report all interfered. I can do a long, detailed expense report after two pints and little sleep, I could probably run, too, so, I guess it was just a matter of priorities. Running wasn’t going to reimburse me nearly $3,000 for travel expenses this past week. I considered the day a success, at these accomplishments and, my dietary indiscretions still weighing heavily on my mind, I decided to make my late lunch at Downtown Joe’s dinner, too, as I had no desire, initiative, or caloric budget for any semblance of an actual dinner. I just let it go, and sometimes there is wisdom in that.

There are days, most days, where we tirelessly do everything we are supposed to, follow our rules, our plan, accomplish all the things on our never-ending list. Then, there are days where we let a few things go. And that’s okay, if it’s the exception and not the rule. Even highly effective people let things go and they realize the wisdom in that. The “stop and smell the roses” theory. We can be so driven, so on task all the time that we miss the point of our all or action, our activity. The point being, life, and living it. Every now and then, living life to its fullest is sitting still and just breathing, sitting still and just listening, sitting still and just thinking. Just letting it go and gathering it all up again, tomorrow, after some reflection and refreshment, some rest and rejuvenation. And that was this evening’s wisdom. This evening’s to-do list. Nothing. Check.