Scarlett’s Letter July 20, 2013

I have been such a slug this week. Just back from a month away from home, a week and a half for work in New York City and a few days in New Jersey, then just over two weeks for a wonderful, amazing and adventure-packed vacation in Alaska. And back to work within hours of my return home. Long days on the phone with clients, teaching the finer points of audit software skills. My “free” time has been spent trying to get caught up on outrageous (NYC) expense reports and other administrivia, plus trying to catch up on a few blog posts.

There may have been a fiftieth birthday in there, too. But, here it is. Saturday. As you can imagine, over a week in Manhattan, followed by vacation and the celebration of a birthday, my eating and workout habits have been sort of sidelined. For three weeks. The last deliberate attempt at exercise was a short, hot, run in Central Park. And here it is. Saturday. I belong to two running clubs, one in Napa, where I live, one in Sacramento of such high quality and superior coaching that it is worth the hour and a half drive. I’d intended to make the drive to Sacramento today, but a quick glimpse at the weather and the planned track workout changed my mind quickly. Forecast temperatures were 102 degrees, and the track at CSU, Sacramento is notoriously hot. The track workout, I rationalized, would not really benefit me as far “off-program” as I am right now. What I really need are some miles on my shoes. The local group set off early, and fast, and far, and, again, what I really needed were some miles on my shoes, and not necessarily fast miles. Just miles. To get back into the swing of things. So, with every ounce of gumption I could muster up, I got out of bed, pulled my hair into a ponytail, pulled on my yoga pants and a jersey from my first half marathon. I laced up my running shoes, ate a quick, light breakfast, and set off. I intended to run between three and five miles, depending on how I felt. I felt pretty good, and it wasn’t, yet, too hot, so five miles it was. I was so proud of myself! I love it when I actually do what I think I should do. There is nothing worse than letting yourself down and nothing better than the satisfaction of having done what you knew you should. Does this make sense?

After my run, though, I had a whole day with no plan. A whole, beautiful Saturday and no one around to conspire with to find trouble to get into. I’ve been stuck close to home pretty much all week, with the exception of my birthday and a meal out and some errands yesterday, okay, and lunch out. But I really, really, really think I might die if I had to sit at home on a lovely, sunny Saturday. So. I didn’t.

What to do when you have nothing to do; a lesson from Scarlett. Something. Anything.

There is always something to do or to see, even if you have no plan, little money, and no one to get into trouble with. You just need to be creative and willing to try something new, all by yourself. And so I did. After a couple of errands, I planned on going to my favorite public Wi-Fi hotspot in Napa, Oxbow Public Market, a collection of food and spirit vendors in a “market” type environment. The Wi-Fi is weak, but the people watching and festive atmosphere more than makes up for it. I enjoy working from there, in complete, total and blissful anonymity, because everyone there is a tourist, but me. I work there for a couple of hours every now and then, for a change of scenery.

Before actually heading to the market, though, I decided to put one of my new initiatives into action. I grew up in Napa, and I’ve lived not too far from Napa for some thirty years since moving away. But I really don’t know Napa anymore. I had a conversation with a guy in a wine bar in Seattle last week, he was from L.A. and knew way more about Napa than I did. So, with the convenience of residency, I’ve decided I need to learn more about the wine industry that has pretty much changed every aspect of this once sleepy, unknown little cow town. Yes, cow town, there used to be a lot of cattle, sheep and many orchards, with just a few vineyards. Decades ago. So, my new initiative is to visit at least one different winery per month AND to visit at least one of the many tasting rooms in downtown Napa per month. So, today, a tasting room, just a couple of doors down from Oxbow Public Market, The Taste at Oxbow. I walked in, MacBook tucked under one arm, scarlet handbag over the other. You know, I wear something scarlet in color every, single day. I do. Just because. I took a seat, alone, at the wine bar. The tasting room was nearly full of tourists, sitting at tables and at the bar, all chatting with one another and enjoying some wine.

I was greeted by one of the sommeliers behind the bar, who, I’m sure, probably doesn’t get too many solitary patrons on a sunny summer Saturday. I explained that I’d grown up in Napa and had just recently moved back to town. So had she, from Portland, Oregon, so conversation ensued. I further explained that I wanted to learn more about the tasting rooms in the area so when I had guests I would know where I could take them. I also inquired as to whether there was a “locals” discount“. Yes! They were part of the “Napa Neighbors” program, which, today, here, meant five tastings for free. Free. I couldn’t stay home for that! If I tasted wine at home, I’d have to buy it, right? And even at Target, with my Red Card 5% discount and my additional 10% discount for buying six bottles at a time, I was doing far better here! And this wine isn’t available at Target! After the first couple of samples I was feeling a little punchy, and a little guilty for getting so much for free. I ordered a snack off the menu, a small “wheel” of Brie from a cheese maker in nearby Marin County. With the Brie came local, organic honey (link I love everything about local, organic honey), crackers, and some dry roasted peanuts. For $9. I don’t think I could’ve purchased all of this for $9, at Target, or anywhere. There is nothing quite like a chunk of high quality brie, drug through sweet, golden honey and spread on a crisp, light cracker. With red wine. Best. Afternoon. Ever. For an afternoon with “nothing to do”. Right?

I chatted with the sommeliers and with other patrons and had a fine, fine time. I could’ve stayed home and watched re-runs of Will and Grace or Modern Family, like I did yesterday afternoon. So very glad I didn’t. After my wine and cheese, local honey, crackers and peanuts, I headed to the public market, found a seat, and wrote and wrote and wrote. Why do people sit at home alone when they have nothing better to do? There is something, somewhere, everywhere, to do, to see, to learn, to experience.  A coffee shop, a book store, a park, a pub, a restaurant that doesn’t mind if you linger, for example, McDonald’s and Denny’s locations often have free Wi-Fi, and if you order a cup of coffee or an iced tea, they’ll let you stay for as long as you like. I know McDonalds and Denny’s aren’t the most glamorous places on the planet, but isn’t it just nice to get out, about, and be in public now and then? To experience life first hand?

So I encourage you, like I sometimes have to encourage myself, get out there and find out what there is to do and see in your town, your city, your community. Become a part of your community instead of being a fixture on your couch. Be a tourist in your own town! It is fun and so, so much better than sitting home wishing there was something better to do than nothing!

Free for locals, and fairly reasonable for everyone else! Taste at Oxbow has excellent wines to taste and enjoy!
Free for locals, and fairly reasonable for everyone else! Taste at Oxbow has excellent wines to taste and enjoy!
Is this not better than sitting home watching re-runs of sitcoms on Netflix? Of course! Local brie, local organic honey, and organic peanuts to accompany my free wine tasting!
Is this not better than sitting home watching re-runs of sitcoms on Netflix? Of course! Local brie, local organic honey, and organic peanuts to accompany my free wine tasting!

Good Enough

Why settle for good enough? If Thomas Edison had said “good enough” on the first several hundred attempts to develop an electrical filament for the light bulb, we may still be in the dark! Do you think researchers today, on the brink of a breakthrough for a cure for cancer are going to give up and say “it isn’t quite there, but it’s good enough”? Do you think Leonardo DaVinci slapped paint on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel one day and said “good enough”?

Do you approach life with a “good enough” attitude?

I spent a very large portion of my adult (married) life driving cars that just ran “good enough”. And sometimes they didn’t quite run good enough. Or at all. My AAA card got more use than my Target Red Card (which I use almost daily to save 5% on my purchases). At one point, all ten cars were rendered motionless by mechanical ailments stemming from an attitude of “good enough”. I guess we’d run out of hangers, baling twine and duct tape. My husband had worked as an auto mechanic before college and vowed he’d always maintain our fleet of cars so we wouldn’t have to rely on costly mechanics or auto repair facilities. I guess you get what you pay for, unless you use the Target Red Card, in which case you get 5% more than what you paid for! My husband lives a life of “good enough”, which really means it was ALL good enough until it wasn’t good at all, at which point, it was kept anyway because, someday, if we had the time and money, we may be able to make it good enough, again. But that never actually happened, because things were always good enough that we didn’t really need to make good use of time to find a way to make enough good money, once the previous career(s) weren’t good enough. I left him, and all the cars, and all the other broken things, including our broken relationship. It just wasn’t good enough.

In our current job market, where good jobs are hard to find, and as hard to keep, do you think “good enough” is going to cut it? Absolutely not. So why should “good enough” be good enough in any other aspect of your life?

Let’s take this to the big picture. Is your life good enough? I hope not! And I don’t mean that quite like it sounds in the literal sense! I’m not saying I hope your life is shit. What I AM saying is that I hope you aren’t settling for good enough because that’s where you are and you don’t see the point in wanting more. If we have a roof over our head, frozen pizza in the freezer, batteries in the remote and premium cable, then life is good enough. Sigh. Ok, maybe add a Target Red Card so you can save 5% on the pizza and the batteries. And on underwear when yours is no longer good enough.

Me? Life is fantastic! But never quite good enough. I have a very, very long list of things I want that my Target Red Card won’t buy. These things are called experiences. Life experiences. Some experiences I can easily do, daily. I can always go outside and marvel at nature! The warm California sunshine and light breeze today. A sprinkle of Texas rain last week. The stinging, cold of an Alaskan winter day last month. Twenty hours of Alaskan daylight next month. I am not wealthy to afford all this; I just rearrange my priorities so the money I do make, which, by the way, isn’t quite good enough, allows me to afford some awesome life experiences.

Some experiences I have on my list are going to require a bit more work to, well, experience. I would like to travel Europe, parts of Asia, parts of Africa and South America. I’d like to see the rest of the United States, because, even with my travels for work, there is much I haven’t seen. I want to learn to white water kayak, I want to learn to snowboard better, I want to climb some mountains, and I want to backpack the Pacific Coast Trail. I guess you might say this is part of my bucket list. Just part. Because my bucket list just isn’t good enough. It needs work.

My “not good enough” attitude crosses into other areas of my life. For my age, I am pretty darned fit. But even that isn’t good enough. I can always be a little more fit. I am pretty darned healthy, but I could always find more ways to live a healthful life. I have a good career, I make enough money, and I’m fairly well respected professionally. Why, just moments ago, I received an email from a client that said, “I think that you were wonderful, thank you.” If I had done just a “good enough” job in our consulting session do you think I would have received that level of compliment and gratitude? I always look for ways to try harder, to learn more, to give more. At work. At home. In my relationships with my family, my friends, my love.

My knowledge is never “good enough”. There is so much to know, to learn. I want to learn to be a sommelier. I want to learn to cook better. I want to learn to take better photographs. I want to learn to sing. I want to learn to dance better. I want to learn a half dozen foreign languages. I want to be able to identify flowers and trees. What I know just isn’t good enough.

When will anything be good enough? The correct answer, in my opinion, is never. Once things are good enough, we’ve become complacent. Grab your Target Red Card and stock up on the hangers, bailing twine and duct tape; it’s going to be a slippery ride into misery. Me? I’m going to grab my Target Red Card and stock up on a new scarf, some rockin’ new sunglasses and cute tote bag, because the ones I have just aren’t good enough, for my next life experience!