Scarlett’s Letter November 15, 2013

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

Today, I am so excited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner.
Dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MANHATTAN!!!!! SO EXCITED!!!!
MANHATTAN!!!!! SO EXCITED!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 15, 2013

My Cinderella Day.

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

I shall explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what I came up with; whatever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 8, 2013

Lunch out, it has become a tradition and unlike many family traditions, this is one I both enjoy and look forward to. Lunch with Mom and my cousin.

I am away from home a lot for work, if you’ve read much of what I’ve written, you are well aware of this. Until earlier this year, I lived in Sacramento, an hour and a half drive away from my mom. Widowed now for coming up two years, aging and in deteriorating health, I’ve moved “home” until we figure out a better solution. This has been really hard for me. I’m sure it’s no picnic for Mom, either, and I’ve written plenty on this dynamic, too.

I am not totally satisfied with my livelihood these days, either. I have a fantastic job, no doubt. I am grateful. My work is satisfying and varied and interesting, the travel, though wearing and tiring, is fun and at least I’m not stuck in the same cubicle day in and day out. I am fairly well compensated and have competitive benefits. But. Yes, but. I am tired. I am bored. I have no direction for advancement. If I stay here I will never progress further. The travel wreaks havoc on friendships, relationships of all sorts and I’m certain constant upheaval, continual lack of sleep, restaurant food for weeks on end and wildly varying availability of exercise has to be less than ideal for my long-term health, which is one of my core principles. And then there’s Mom. How can I be here to help if I’m never here?

This week I am working from home, yet I have no teaching assignments. It isn’t a week off, I have plenty to do; expense reports, travel arrangements to make for upcoming trips, upgrading software, organizing materials for upcoming classes. I don’t get scheduled administrative time, so it piles up until one of these rare weeks comes along. These weeks are also the time I use to regroup, personally. I try to get back on track with my workouts, my clean eating routine, my organization and my attempts to assimilate my more wannabe minimalist lifestyle into my mom’s piles of paper, cupboards and closets of clutter and her knick-knack intensive world. Example; eight months after moving in now, the closet, desk and dresser in “my” room are still full of aforementioned things of Mom’s and I have piles of boxes in my room from which I must sift for underwear, shoes and purses. This all makes me a little cray cray.

The adjustment coming “off the road” where I live and dine in solitude, where I have almost certain quiet in the evenings, returning home where my whereabouts and activities are under constant inquiry, scrutiny, critique and question, where the TV is on full blast more of the day and night than not, where my comings and goings must be carefully and accurately detailed, where everything I say must be repeated, repeatedly, at louder and louder intervals, often with accompanying hand or body gestures, and where meal time is a constant barrage of questions to which there are no answers and lengthy, convoluted stories about people I’ve never met like, Mom’s hairdresser, her doctor, and other characters in her life. How she has accumulated so much personal data on these people I have no idea. She knows the names, national origins, livelihoods and every diagnosis for each and every family member for every individual she has ever encountered. I try to listen actively, to be present, as I preach, as I believe, and yet, the whole while I am thinking “this pertains to me how? What is the point of this story? Why am I being told this story? Is the only lesson here one of patience?” I crave silence, just a tad, if only a moment to gather my own thoughts so I can, perhaps, write an article or make a video or tell a story of my own from my travels.

I am happy to be home and can’t wait to leave again within about the first five minutes home. I am so out of sorts my first day or two home, I’m grumpy, I’m agitated and I hate that I feel grumpy and agitated. If I were a child I’d recommend a big, fat time out. In fact, I’d love a big, fat time out! More than anything. It takes me a few days to settle into some semblance of a routine of waking in my own bed, cooking, cleaning, working, working out, all while juggling Mom’s needs; errands, a chore here and there, figuring out why the TV only displays static, talking to the cable people on the phone to figure out why the TV only displays static, meeting the cable TV technician to demonstrate the non-functioning TV and to be the interpreter between Mom and the technician on why the TV only displays static, moving heavy objects, putting clean glasses back up on the top shelf, hanging the hummingbird feeders and answering tons of  unanswerable questions and listening to even more stories.

I have a lot on my plate and a whole bunch of crap swirling in the toilet bowl that is my mind, these days. I want out of just about everything I’m up to my eyebrows in. My sense of duty and my pragmatic side are preventing me from making the changes I need to, want to and really, have to make. This is my personal struggle and one I am counseling myself on like I would a good friend or anyone who asked my advice.

I don’t always take my own advice. And years later I usually end up scolding myself for not listening to myself sooner. When I don’t listen to my really good advice on personal growth and evolution, I turn to some of my tried and true mentors, usually found on my Kindle and in my Audible library, provided I am afforded any quiet solitude. This week, in my car, alone, I had a good no nonsense smack up the side of the head from Jillian Michaels in “Unlimited”. I agree 100% with every passionately spoken word she said so emphatically, sometimes I felt like I was being scolded, in her self-narrated audiobook from Audible. It was just the right amount of practical advice, common sense and that “get off your ass and do it” attitude of hers that I needed. Her books have, without a doubt, changed my life. Whether you like her on TV or not, her books are the best and there isn’t one I wouldn’t recommend.

With my priorities suddenly straightened out again, thanks Jillian, I got almost everything accomplished yesterday I hoped to; an easy three-mile run, a chest workout at the gym, shopping for food for the week, bills paid, work, of course, and laundry. I got an article posted, though I’d hoped to maybe get a second from my backlog finished and posted, too. Today, I’ve accomplished much of what I set out to do, knowing that today was going to be partially hijacked with Mom’s doctor’s visit. I made it to the gym for stairs and yoga and I’ve posted a couple of articles. But, yes, most of the day was devoted to Mom and her doctor’s visit.

In my absence, while traveling or when living further away, my cousin has made herself available to my parents. She is retired and has moved from San Francisco to Sonoma, and so, is only about twenty minutes away. She is very socially active but always finds time to help my parents out, especially as my dad’s health deteriorated, ultimately leading to his passing at the age of 91, a bit over a year and a half ago. My cousin was there for my mom, often, in the year that followed before I finally moved home, and continues to be close at hand for these doctor’s visits in the neighboring town, as Mom is not real confident driving such a distance these days. For all of this, I am so totally and completely grateful. That my cousin has devoted her time and compassion so generously has allowed me to keep this crazy job of mine, with my wild travels, decent pay and good benefits for that much longer.

The past couple of doctor’s visits, though, I have been home and have been willing and able to take Mom myself. Still, my cousin comes, drives even, and, per our family tradition, this is all followed by lunch, somewhere fabulous. The lunches were tradition long before I ever tagged along, but now, when I am in town, there are more and it is merry!

My cousin, an artist, a photographer, and creative in any imaginable way, strongly opinionated in many ways, and several of those strong opinions I agree whole-heartedly with, I’ve learned.  A few, I don’t. But that’s okay. Being my elder by some years, her children being my age actually, until now, I’ve never really had the opportunity to really develop a relationship such as a peer, a friendship, with her. And for this, too, I am very grateful. There are “family” similarities that cannot be denied, for example, the way we see things, which she easily expresses in art and I have the good taste to simply admire. We have a similar love of food and the outdoors, fashion and some basic philosophies about living life. I will admit, that through the years, as a child and young adult, I feared the differences we may have, based on our propensity to develop strong opinions. Hearing most of her points of view second hand, I almost wished to avoid visits so as to avoid any sort of butting of heads. Not that I seek to avoid people whose opinions differ from mine, but with family, and especially this family, it is sometimes the easier path. Thankfully, due to Mom’s routine doctor’s visits and our traditional lunch, I’ve had the opportunity to find that our differences are minor and rare. Example, I love polka dots, she scoffs at them. Big deal.

So, every few months, like today, the three ladies, our ages spanning three generations, pile into a car, drive to the neighboring town so Mom can see her doctor. After the doctor’s visit, we pile back in the car and decide on a place in Napa to enjoy lunch. At lunch we share stories, we share things that interest us, share artists and authors, ideas and philosophies. We enjoy an incredible meal and, most of all, the three of us enjoy each other’s company.

What in life do we avoid because we fear differences, adversity or conflict? Often those fears are unfounded, the differences, adversity and conflict are much more minor than we ever expected, once confronted, they are manageable, and, in fact, we grow from them. We learn new information, a new point of view, we learn, perhaps, acceptance and tolerance. We become better for the differences, adversities and conflicts we face, we become stronger, more confident. Sometimes, we discover that we have been, maybe, intolerant, closed minded, stubborn and by facing the difference, the adversity, the conflict, we grow. We may even change. Perhaps we even find the inspiration we’ve been seeking, or that we’ve been waiting for, to act as the catalyst for positive change in our lives. I will quote Eleanor Roosevelt daily until the day I die, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” And if that is facing whatever you fear in the way of a difference, or adversity or conflict, then you will have overcome yet another measly fear and you can move on to conquer the next, another day. And with each fear conquered, we evolve towards the people we deserve to be. Make facing those fears, overcoming differences, adversity and conflict a tradition, just like a good visit and a fab lunch with Mom and my cousin after a doctor’s appointment.

 

Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Making lunch a tradition with Mom and my cousin is not much different than making overcoming differences, adversity and conflicts. Devour them like an arugula salad pizzetta and a Session lager at Bene Gusto in Napa!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!
Just like my arugula salad pizzetta, you can clear your plate of adversity, differences and conflict, as a matter of tradition!

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter August 20, 2013

Eggs dammit! Eggs for breakfast Again.

Eggs for breakfast.
Eggs for breakfast.

Happy National Radio Day, National Lemonade Day, and National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day, by the way. At some point to day, be sure to set aside a little time to celebrate, perhaps by enjoying a slice of pie, a drink of lemonade and a song on the radio. Simultaneously, ideally.

Today, not so bright and pretty darned early, I set off for Oakland International Airport. My son is moving to Hawaii for a semester, maybe longer. One of his best friends has been going to school there for the past few years and is returning this semester after a semester in Brazil. The two young men are traveling together. My son has been trying to figure out how to downsize his life and his possessions into what Alaska Airlines will allow him to bring on board the plane. I’m a little scared to go look in my storage unit.

I, of course, being a little OCD about airport arrivals, parking and all things travel, was a bit earlier than planned. They boys, relying on others for their travel to the airport, were a bit later than planned. With some communication back and forth via text, I did everything I could to facilitate departure. I filled out name and address tags for all their luggage because they hadn’t secured luggage tags beforehand. I ran to my car and got my trusty Sharpie pen to appropriately label the two bicycle cartons. I had large plastic bags and duct tape in my purse to wrap up my son’s backpacking backpack, to keep all the straps in order and the buckles unbroken. This is what I do. Details.

The boys arrived and got everything organized to check and to carry on; four suitcases, three backpacks, two bicycle cartons, and a partridge in a pear tree. Alaska Airlines is fantastic, by the way. I fly them often and their customer service is top notch. The boys agree. I am betrothed to United because they fly a little more reasonably east to west, which the direction I fly most for work. But my northern adventures, and any west coast travel, I try to fly with Alaska.

Four suitcases, three backpacks, two bicycle cartons and a partridge in a pear tree. The boys checking in for their flight to Hawaii.
Four suitcases, three backpacks, two bicycle cartons and a partridge in a pear tree. The boys checking in for their flight to Hawaii.

I walked the boys to security to see them off, my son and my other son, as I like to say, my son from another mother. As they prepared to go through security, I watched, okay, hovered, to make sure they wouldn’t have to pass anything impermissible over to me. I had to remind my son to put his laptop in a separate bin to go through the scanner, but, other than that, he got it. Until the very last moment when he pulled a full size and quite expensive bottle of cologne and a stick deodorant out of his backpack. The stick deodorant didn’t need to come out at all, and the cologne was supposed to be in a quart size Ziploc bag. Then, I watched in horror as he plunked both items down in the same bin as the computer. We were separated by a large pane of Plexiglas and my son was not watching me jump up and down, waving my arms and motioning in some manner to try to communicate with him. The bin slowly slid into the x-ray machine and I held my breath, just waiting for them to pull it out and throw away his cologne, which, I know was expensive because I bought it for him for Christmas. Not a blink, not a bat of any eye by the TSA agent viewing the monitor. The bin exited the scanner, my son collected his things, waved, and was off. Fair enough.

My son (right) and my other son from another mother (left). Aloha!
My son (right) and my other son from another mother (left). Aloha!

I’ve mentioned before, I have been conducting a long running experiment with TSA; I have in my computer bag a small bottle of mouthwash and eye drops, loose, and I never take them out of the bag, place them in a Ziploc and put in a bin separately, They have, at this point, about 100,000 miles of undetected travel, loose, in my computer bag. This is my personal rebellion. I feel so smug. Especially since the same computer bag has been pulled off the conveyer and hand inspected numerous times because of all the electronics and cords, but never have the loose liquids been spotted or called out.

I’m going to miss my son. We’re pretty close. I miss my daughter and son in law, too. They live in up state New York. My kids couldn’t be further away, or further apart. Well, technically, they could, but still. Then, my sweetheart lives a very long distance from, me, too, in yet another direction. All I need now is for Mom to tell me she’s moving to Costa Rica without me! Not likely. So, it’s me and Mom, now, left in NorCal.

So I had to go shopping! To make me feel better. A little retail therapy. Besides, I desperately needed cardigans. I love cardigans, classic, slim fitting, waist length, prissy, button up cardigans. I have several, but I’ve worn them pretty much out. I need a few. My black one, the one I wear the most, has a hole, a separation at the seam along the collar. It looks terrible. True, my hair covers it and it looks otherwise okay, but once you’ve gone fishing in a cardigan, beheaded and gutted twenty five salmon in a cardigan and sprayed yourself to oblivion with “DEET in a cardigan, it becomes kind of hard to take yourself seriously wearing it in a professional setting. Clearly, a new sweater is required.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I find the shopping in Napa a bit inadequate. No H&M, no Love Culture, no Forever 21, no Charlotte Russe, no Charming Charlie. These are my staples for cute, trendy and inexpensive pieces to mix in with my Banana Republic and Express slacks for work and my jeans and skirts for play. And after driving to Oakland and back, I really wasn’t up to a trip to my favorite shopping venues in Folsom and Roseville. But, when there’s a will, there’s a way. I decided to try out the Premium Outlets in Napa. I was premiumly surprised! I found five cardigans to my liking at J. Crew. No, I found a dozen I liked, I bought five. And they were 40% off! Technically, I was done at this point. Mission accomplished. But I thought I’d better walk the whole “mall” and see what there was to see. I knew better than to go into any shoe stores, I’ve had a real fetish lately and have a tower of shoeboxes in my room that won’t fit into my closet until I do some major rearranging. And I managed to window shop most of the stores, until I came to American Apparel. I’ve only ever been to AA once, in New York City, with my daughter, after I’d blown my entire shopping budget. Even though, technically, I didn’t have any shopping budget left, today, in fact, I’d already exceeded it, I stepped into AA. And when I stepped out a wee bit later it was with a fab maxi dress and a few intimate pieces (buy two get the third for half off, I can never resist underwear sales where it is expressed as “half off”, it makes me giggle). The maxi dress was of such superior quality, I just couldn’t not buy it. The fabric flows so nicely, but is of heavy enough weight to not cling awkwardly to those minor anomalies one may have in their body conformation, if you know what I mean. I’m sure you’ve seen ladies walking around in maxi dresses and every little line, crease, pimple, ripple, dimple and nipple was visible through the fabric, making them look more like a relief map than a lady. American Apparel uses very high quality fabric and the garments are all made in Los Angeles. Irresistible. At this point, I ran to the car before finishing window-shopping the last third of the mall.

Tomorrow, I depart, way, way, way too early, for a business trip. My alarm is set for 1:30 AM, and my bags are nearly packed. This evening was spent tossing the last few items in and having an early dinner before turning in as early as I can possibly make myself. Dinner? Well, it is Tuesday. And I like tacos, so taco Tuesday? I still have eggs left, so the only solution, then, is egg tacos. Somehow, tortillas make eggs for yet another meal almost enjoyable.

Making piles so I won't forget anything so early tomorrow morning.
Making piles so I won’t forget anything so early tomorrow morning.
So early tomorrow morning.
So early tomorrow morning.
Still leftover eggs, so, Taco Tuesday became egg taco Tuesday.
Still leftover eggs, so, Taco Tuesday became egg taco Tuesday.

Scarlett’s Letter August 18, 2013

You guessed it. Another trip to Sacramento.

Not quite as early, but still requiring copious amounts of coffee. Mom went with me, again.

 

Third trip to Sacramento in as many days means coffee. Lots of coffee.
Third trip to Sacramento in as many days means coffee. Lots of coffee.

Since we missed out on chicken and waffles at our “farewell” lunch with my son at Cafeteria 15L, we decided we needed to try again. Sunday brunch. Is it bad that our waiter from Friday recognized us and laughed at us for returning? I know, deep down, he understood. This was all about chicken and waffles. Oh, and the bottomless mimosas.

Cafeteria 15L The Chicken and Waffle Capitol of the Capitol City.
Cafeteria 15L The Chicken and Waffle Capitol of the Capitol City.

I think Mom was awake for the whole trip to Sacramento. Bless her heart, so it was pretty much one inquiry after another, questions I couldn’t possibly answer, then long, disjointed stories that probably had a point at inception but didn’t when all was said and done, followed by random, pointed, statements that provoke me into fury. Bridled fury, but fury, nonetheless. I’m not so sure this is done unwittingly. It may be fun to see me turn red, bite my tongue and smile anyway. I introduced Mom to Pandora. I put the “Big Band” station on, which I like a lot, and I knew she’d appreciate. I even successfully taught her how to pick up the phone, without touching the thumbs down button, to view who was playing. And I still don’t think she totally understood. She still calls my phone “the Facebook” and emails, text messages, chats, and Facebook messages are often “faxes”. The bottomless mimosa made everything all right, again. For both of us, I’m sure. We do really love each other. I know she talks smack about me. I’ve caught her in the act.

Yes, the chicken and waffles were Uh-mazing! And if there were a gun to my head and I had to choose the best chicken and waffles I’ve ever had, just shoot me. They’re all different, and I’ve tried many. I still love “the original” at Roscoe’s in Long Beach (and other locales). Fremont Diner in Sonoma is hard to beat, but Cafeteria 15L adds a peppery gravy and a maple pecan butter that just puts it over the top. And I do love over the top.

CHICKEN AND WAFFLES and BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS!
CHICKEN AND WAFFLES and BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS!
Four orders of chicken and waffles and bottomless mimosas. The food coma set in before the first bite.
Four orders of chicken and waffles and bottomless mimosas. The food coma set in before the first bite.
A picture of my son taking a picture of me taking a picture of bottomless mimosas. The food picture thing; is it hereditary or socialization? We may never know.
A picture of my son taking a picture of me taking a picture of bottomless mimosas. The food picture thing; is it hereditary or socialization? We may never know.

After our fab brunch, we headed back to my son’s house to collect things that won’t fit in his luggage for his upcoming move to Hawaii, pretty much his library. The plan; I will package the books up in U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate boxes and send him one every couple of weeks. You’ve got to love flat rate! The last little package of love I sent to my sweetie in Alaska cost me $15. If I had sent it regular USPS, by weight, it would’ve cost $65. If you haven’t discovered flat rate, do. And, the boxes are free, in the lobby of the post office, 24/7, and are perfect for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts of many sizes, in case you kind of forgot to buy boxes and you only have three hours to wrap everything before Christmas happens. Or, if, perhaps, you spent your entire Christmas budget on gifts, and shoes, and forgot to buy boxes. Free is good.

We headed home. Maybe it was the mimosas, maybe I’m just exhausting to be around. Perhaps both. But Mom slept the whole way home. There was a wreck in Vacaville that had traffic backed up for miles. We were down to a crawl for, well, most of the drive. It took absolutely forever. I was getting sick of the Big Band station, but didn’t dare change it. Mom would occasionally wake up, utter a provocatively ignorant statement and then go back to sleep before I could rebut. Example; “Is that a TAPE we’re listening to?” Snore. “No! It’s not a tape! They don’t even make tape players anymore! Do you see a tape player in the dash of my car? Why would we listen to Internet radio on the way to Sacramento and a TAPE on the way home?”  I deserve sainthood. Perhaps Mom does, too. We do love each other.

When we got home, Mom went up and took a nap. I seized the opportunity to finish a creative venture I’ve been wanting to work on, uninterrupted, for a couple of weeks. Then I wrote. And it was good.

I had eggs for dinner.

I HAD to have eggs for dinner.
I HAD to have eggs for dinner.

Scarlett’s Letter August 7, 2013

Magic sprinkles and sparkles today!

We received a letter from the gas and electric company a month or so ago, stating that they were planning a power service outage in our neighborhood, today, for maintenance. I made special arrangements with my manager to be assigned to a “project” today, rather than a teaching session. My plan was to get up, get ready, and head to a coffee shop or other free power/free Wi-Fi venue to work. Then to a late afternoon doctors appointment.

So, according to plan, I was up, coffee made, hot shower done, curly hair clipped back. I didn’t want to risk having the power turned off mid blow-dry, straighten and curl, so I just went curly today. I bundled my stuff up and plugged in the vital electronics to charge until the big switch was turned off. Which never happened. Two hours after the planned shut down, lights were still burning bright and my electronics were fully charged. Mom was huddled in her room with a candle, reading a book, assuming the power had been shut off according to plan. She was pretty pissed to find out otherwise. She called the utility company and was informed that their plans changed and there would be no power outage. She was even more pissed. I had a plan, power on or power off, I carried on. I needed therapy, anyway. Therapy being time in my car at high speeds with music blaring. I headed east, to Sacramento.

I have to admit, I was having a bit of a pity party for the first, oh, three quarters of my drive. But then I talked some sense into myself. Why is it, even though we know better, we tend to lapse back into the thought pattern that things external to us are responsible for making us feel happy and fulfilled. I talked myself down off the ledge and am once again, feeling solidly grounded. The result, of course, being an article.

My doctor’s appointment went well. For being fifty and all. I haven’t had a real physical in about three years and boy, has my doctor aged! My cholesterol levels were off the chart. Are we surprised? But my overall cholesterol is only elevated because my HDL cholesterol, the good kind, is freakishly high. My LDL, bad cholesterol is normal. So, in all, even though the numbers look scary, it couldn’t be better. Considering I eat pretty, darned well, and in restaurants more often than not, I was told that “running was my salvation”. So, I’ll keep running.

I met my son and his friend for a pint, or two, afterwards at Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento who features a fantastic and revolving selection of awesome brews. And after a pint, or two, the logical progression is, of course, pizza at Hot City Pizza in Sacramento, also home to a fantastic, eclectic selection of beer. We had a nice visit, some interesting brews and a scrumptious pizza. My son is headed off to Hawaii, as in moving several thousand miles away, in another week or so. That means both of my kids will be a four or five hour plane ride away, in opposite directions. Good thing I have lots of frequent flier miles!

So, all in all, for a day that was supposed to be powerless, it turned out to be pretty powerful. And magical. And good.

 

Left Coast Una Mas Vienna Lager which won Best of Show at the California State Fair this year. Fantastic! At Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento
Left Coast Una Mas Vienna Lager which won Best of Show at the California State Fair this year. Fantastic! At Capitol Beer and Tap Room in Sacramento

We also tried the Stone Farking Wheaton Woot Stout. Again, fantastic, one of the best stouts I've had in a while.
We also tried the Stone Farking Wheaton Woot Stout. Again, fantastic, one of the best stouts I’ve had in a while.
The Bruery Tart of Darkness. It was sour, but good. I thought I might like it better on a salad.
The Bruery Tart of Darkness. It was sour, but good. I thought I might like it better on a salad.
The Bruery Bois was, again, fantastic, dark and sweet. You could taste the whiskey influence from the aging barrels. I thought it had a rich, maple syrup finish and would go very well on "drunk waffles".
The Bruery Bois was, again, fantastic, dark and sweet. You could taste the whiskey influence from the aging barrels. I thought it had a rich, maple syrup finish and would go very well on “drunk waffles”.
Best "dive" pizza place in East Sacramento, Hot City Pizza. Here, half Pepperoni Bliss and Spicy Veggie. Both excellent!
Best “dive” pizza place in East Sacramento, Hot City Pizza. Here, half Pepperoni Bliss and Spicy Veggie. Both excellent!
Hot City Pizza also has a fantastic selection of beer. My son and I are fans of the Knee Deep Brewing Company's Tanilla
Hot City Pizza also has a fantastic selection of beer. My son and I are fans of the Knee Deep Brewing Company’s Tanilla

 

Party Like an Eight Year Old

Do you remember Geoffrey the Giraffe? The Toys ‘R’ Us giraffe? Remember his song? “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid, blah dah blah dah blah”. I can totally relate.

When I was eight, I had it all figured out. I want to go back. I want to party like an eight year old.

Remember those birthday parties where you got to invite everyone you knew to come to your house that was decorated with whatever you were into that year, Barbie or My Little Pony or Power Rangers?! You got to eat cake, play games, eat ice cream and you got a gift, wrapped in wrapping paper, with a bow, and a card, from everyone who attended and sometimes, even, from people who didn’t. And you didn’t have to plan the party or clean up the mess, you got to show up, party, and then go play with all your loot, unsupervised, while the grown ups cleaned up the mess. And the grown ups footed the whole bill, too. Those were the days.

At Christmas time, you got a million gifts, wrapped in paper, with tape and bows and little nametags on them. And you got gifts from your parents, all your aunts and uncles and Santa Claus, too. You didn’t have to plan, or cook, or shop, or clean. You just showed up, partied, and someone else cleaned up the mess and footed the bill while you played with all your loot. Those were the days. I forget, now, why I wanted so desperately to grow up. It kind of sucks by comparison.

I’m kind of tired of how grown ups do this whole birthday and Christmas thing. A Facebook wall post ensures you haven’t been forgotten, thank you, Facebook, for reminding everyone, and still, you only get about 1/6 participation. I post birthday greetings on Facebook absolutely, positively every single day for absolutely everyone on my friends list, whether I know them, or not, and people call me crazy for doing so. Sorry. They’re “friends”, it says so on the list, so I wish them happy birthday because that’s what friends do. It takes like, five seconds, and, if you’re super worried about overcommitting yourself, there is actually an app that allows you to do them up to two weeks in advance, all at once, and it “delivers” your sentiment (or you can simply go with the default “Happy Birthday”) at the date and time you prefer. It defaults to 9:00 AM, your time zone, on the actual birthdate. Not hard. So?

If you’re super, duper special, as a grown up, you might get an old fashioned greeting card, in the mailbox, requiring postage and some display of thought, commitment and effort like; I went to the store, or happened to be at the store to buy milk, and remembered your birthday was, (pick one): a) last week, oops b) today, oops c) this year, some time, oops. I bought this card with a sentiment that someone else wrote, because (pick one): a) it made me think of you, b) it was the first card I laid hands on and I don’t think it was offensive, or c) actually, I had someone else pick it out so I have no idea what it says. Then, I laid down $5 for it, scrawled my name inside and put it in the envelope. If I was smart, I bought stamps while I was still at the grocery store, or else I had to show extreme effort and stand in line at the post office to buy a single stamp for this single card and have it sent to you. I got three, two mailed. Mom handed me hers.

I still buy and wrap real gifts for everyone special in my life. And at least one card, sometimes more than one, if I find more than one super appropriate card or several that make me laugh out loud in the Target card aisle. I’ve been known to give two or three cards. I even buy “the perfect” card, or cards, in advance and file them, by intended recipient, in my file cabinet. I plan all year long, I have lists, secret, password protected lists, on my iPhone, where I jot down gift ideas for family members as things are mentioned, or I notice something I think would be appreciated. And in my “contacts” section of my phone, I keep secret, detailed notes on my loved ones, like shirt size, shoe size, pant size, the ink cartridge their printer requires and their preferred Starbucks, In N Out, and deli sandwich orders. You don’t?

I take great pleasure in seeking out the gift, the perfect version of the perfect gift, and I buy it and wrap it up with real wrapping paper, you know, like with tape (that sticky stuff that comes in a roll) and the whole deal. I rarely use gift bags and tissue paper (not toilet paper, tissue paper), especially for Christmas, but depending on the size or shape of the gift, every now and then, a gift bag is the best solution. Then I present the present (or presents) to my loved ones and it makes them happy, but it makes me even happier. I love to give people gifts. I’m as excited as they are for it to be opened. There is nothing quite like witnessing an adult, totally jazzed to open a gift you’ve taken some time and effort to find, buy and wrap. I’m alone here, aren’t I? Apparently.

I even take an inordinate amount of delight in selecting the wrapping paper, and then choosing tissue paper, for inside the box, that matches, or is a cool contrast with, the wrapping paper. I also choose a matching bow or other embellishment, and all of this is done with attention to things like the recipient’s favorite color, or favorite cartoon character, or a design or pattern I think they’ll find pleasing or attractive. For Christmas, I buy new wrapping paper every single year. Usually. Last year was a departure, and, frankly, I found, as a result, the Christmas spirit was a bit subdued. Last time I do that.

On rare, and I mean rare, occasions, I buy people gift cards, but usually as a result of being asked directly for a gift card. For graduation gifts, though, I give cash, and that’s the only time ever. I got cash for my birthday. I spent it on gas, and a frozen pizza, and a six-pack of premium beer. I’ll never forget it.

How is it that this has become a lost art? Is it really that difficult? Do we need to consider offering this as a required class in high school, or something? Gift Giving 101. Fail.

People in my life wonder why I have sort of a shopping habit. Let me explain. I buy for myself what I want and I know no one is going to buy for me. They’re gifts, I guess. I just spread them out over the year to mitigate the economic impact. I think I’m fairly likable, so for everyone who likes me and didn’t buy me a gift, I’ve got you covered, I buy myself a few gifts for Christmas and a few for Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, and my Birthday. Did I miss a gift-buying season? I hope not, because I’m broke after my birthday, I bought myself a dress, and an awesome pair of shoes, and a couple of cute tee shirts and a skydiving trip, I had a hard time wrapping that one. It was a big birthday, I got carried away. Now I gotta save up before Christmas rolls around again.

If the current trend continues, I can foresee, in the not so distant future, people not knowing what to do with a box, wrapped in bright, cheerful paper. You’ll hand it to them and they’ll just give you a blank stare and, perhaps, say, “Wow, a pretty box. Cool.”

Did you ever give a baby or a toddler an awesome gift, in a box, all wrapped up? They tear the wrapping paper off the box, open the box, take the contents out, and climb into the box, gift totally overlooked, and they’re so totally enthused, you just let it go for a while. That’s what’s going to happen in the next decade, for all of us, if this alarming trend continues. “Wow, a cool box! I can use this, for something!”

We had a dog, once, who loved to open presents. Yes, guilty, I even bought the dogs birthday and Christmas presents. And wrapped them. They got a cupcake, too, and a bowl of ice cream. And so did the humans. Any excuse to party, I tell you, that’s what I’m all about. But this dog, Wylie, the Springer Spaniel, he loved to open gifts! He’d lie down on the kitchen floor and grasp the box between his front paws. Sometimes his butt was up in the air, tail wagging, other times he was flat on the floor, but the tail was still wagging. He’d tear the paper off the present with his teeth and paws, and then start working on the box. The other dog, a Beagle, Genevive, would get into the act, too, she wouldn’t initiate the gift opening frenzy, but she’d help once it was underway. It. Was. Awesome. Until I stayed up all night wrapping Christmas gifts and found them all unwrapped under the tree the next morning. We went back to the “Santa Claus plan” after that; all gifts stayed in their hiding places until early Christmas morning. Oops, spoiler alert.

So, I don’t know. I write a lot on things we can do to maintain our health, to prolong our youth, vigor and lust for life. What I really want to know is, how can I expand on this exponentially, so I can go back in time? I really want to party like an eight year old.

 

My birthday cards! :D
My birthday cards! 😀

Scarlett’s Letter June 23, 2013

How in the world did it get to be June 23rd already? When I landed in New York City a week ago, it was as though an eternity stretched before me. A whole week in New York. Just like everything we look forward to for a very long time, the days elapsed oh so quickly.

I had a fantastic week, and this in spite of the fact that this was all for a work assignment. I did work very, very hard all week long, and have tomorrow left to work with this client, here in the city. But, I have also taken every opportunity to play very, very hard, too. I am so happy my daughter got to spend the whole week with me, and her hubby a few days, too. Living on separate coasts has been difficult, as we have always been extremely close. The distance and the time apart haven’t changed our relationship at all, we were able to pick up right where we left off, as fantastic friends, as mother/daughter, as two people with a great deal of passion for similar things.

Sometimes I think my daughter is actually a clone and not my daughter. Actually, we don’t look much alike at all, and yet, we constantly have people come up to us and tell us we look identical. I have an oval face, she has a round face, our noses are completely different, as are our mouths, our eye shape, and our brow. We have very similar mannerisms, though, and I think this is what people see. We react to things in a very similar fashion, often at the same time, usually at the same thing. Clothes and shoes, flowers, architecture, nature. We also share a passion for language, for expression and for the written and spoken word. We both seek to be understood and find writing an excellent vehicle for self-expression.

We both share a passion for life, for fun, for incorporating experiences into our ordinary day. We both share a desire and a passion for an extraordinary life. Here we are in New York City, together, for a week, and on a budget. We did splurge on one Broadway show and one museum (MOSex – the Museum of Sex), but other than that, we looked for ways to enjoy the city on a shoestring.

Mission accomplished. We took the (free) ferry to Staten Island and enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty. We visited as many parks in a day as we could from Battery Park to Central Park, using the Subway to get us from south to north. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and back. We took a million pictures of flowers (mostly begonias) and buildings. We shared meals at restaurants with different cuisines. On the night of the “super moon”, we sat in Central Park with our reusable water bottles filled with red wine and talked and talked and talked by the light of the moon. We ate cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches and other treats, then ran in Central Park on Saturday and Sunday mornings as penance.  We planned out silly videos to upload to Vine and YouTube. We decided to incorporate carousels into our sightseeing venue and rode Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn, the Central Park Carousel and the Bryant Park Carousel, all within a twenty-four hour period. We walked around town, from Brooklyn to Central Park on Saturday with mimosas in our “water” bottles. We stopped by Starbucks on Fifth Avenue, on our way to run in Central Park, early on Sunday morning. There, we bought our coffee, a croissant and a banana to share, and ate down the street, leaning against the building, in front of Tiffany & Company’s flagship store. Yes, we had breakfast at Tiffany’s, in honor of Audrey Hepburn and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, one of my daughter’s favorite actresses and movies.

My son and I share quality time together as adults, too. Our favorite thing to do is to set aside an evening one a month or so to try a new pub, or maybe a tacqueria. We sit down, more as friends than as mother and son, we enjoy a couple of interesting beers, a bite to eat and many stories. This is our time and we both look forward to it and cherish it.

The special time I spend with my kids as adults is reminiscent of things we did as kids were growing up. Just little things that made daily life interesting, special, unique. We added these little activities to our daily routine like a chef uses an uncommon spice, an unusual seasoning, a secret blend of herbs to make his/her dish extraordinary. We used to play a word game in the car on long drives called “My Little Green Martian”, we learned the game at Girl Scout camp one year and played it as a family for years to come. When my children were in elementary school, we lived in a suburb with an old “village”. In the village were the school, homes, a park, an old-fashioned hardware store, a coffee shop and a bakery. One memorable tradition we had was our Friday afternoon routine. I would walk over to meet the kids after school. We’d walk home together, stop at the bakery, buy a “hindber snitter” cookie which we’d enjoy in the park, then play on the swings and slides before heading home for the evening. This ritual cost me three dollars per week, twelve dollars a month, $144 a year. For the price of a few video games, or cable TV for a month, we shared valuable time together and created special childhood memories that will never, ever be forgotten.

It doesn’t take much, a little imagination, a little creativity. My kids remember those little things, and I’m betting my daughter and I won’t soon forget our shoestring adventures in New York City.

Couples, friends, brothers and sisters, anyone at all, can find ways to add a little spice to their daily lives and to their relationships. We don’t have to succumb to the monotonous routine of work, household chores, mundane meals, sleep, repeat. There is something we can do, every day even, to make life as memorable as “hindber snitters” and swings and slides in the park on Friday afternoons, as memorable as riding three carousels in New York City in twenty-four hours, as memorable as playing silly word games in the car on long drives. I even look for these opportunities for spice and style in my day when I travel alone.  Life is what you make it, lack of time, lack of money is no excuse. Your only limitation is your imagination and your desire to change life for the better, and both of those are easy to fix. Why would you choose not to change your life for the better?

 

Coffee on the church steps; a sin.
Coffee on the church steps; a sin.
Mimosas on the go.
Mimosas on the go.
Carousels!
Carousels!
Running in Central Park
Running in Central Park
The Great New York City Carousel Caper
The Great New York City Carousel Caper
Howling at the "Super Moon" in Central Park
Howling at the “Super Moon” in Central Park
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Begonias!
Begonias!

Two Plus Three

This simple equation is the formula for peace and prosperity. Perhaps not on a global scale, but definitely in “our world”, the realm of our family, friends, home and even, perhaps, our workplace. This simple equation can erase the ugliest of insults, blame and hurt if it is used as quickly as possible and with genuine sincerity.

I have known, and used this equation many, many times before and have restored peace and goodwill almost without exception. My reluctance to use it quickly today derailed every hope, plan and ambition I had for the day. My day was nearly lost, as a result of my stubborn reluctance to employ this equation.

On not utilizing this equation at the earliest opportunity, I found myself on the wrong side of much of the advice I give. I stayed in my sweat pants for most of the day; I neglected to eat my healthful morning snack and my lunch. I brooded and moped. I did, somehow, manage to get some projects for work finished up, but not without distraction and a dismal attitude. I didn’t make it to the gym, as I had intended.

As the day wore on, I was more and more consumed with ill feelings, I actually wondered if, perhaps, I were coming down with something. I caught myself thinking less than uplifting thoughts, my “self speak” was quite negative. I wasn’t able to compose a thought for an article or for another personal project I’ve been looking forward to working on. I felt unqualified to broach any subject of self-motivation, evolution, or, well, anything. I considered, even, going back to bed. All because I didn’t put two and three together earlier.

I wasn’t being stubborn, actually, I was acting out of regret, shame and remorse. Small words can do great harm, especially when two little numbers aren’t quickly added up to remedy the situation. I know, in my heart, that words, once spoken, can never be erased. Be very careful in what you say to anyone, but especially to those you honor and cherish.

Out of momentary anger and frustration I think I believed the hurtful words I said, when I said them. But with my pitiful day of reflection, I decided I really didn’t. I was wrong. Humans are wrong, often. Best to own up to it, perform a simple equation, and put it all behind us. Two plus three is greater than it’s sum times itself, exponentially.

The success of the simple equation, two plus three, does rely on the addition of another three. Without the other three, the original equation is zero; nothing. Both two plus three, and then the addition of three, while simple arithmetic, can be very, very difficult for some. Impossible even. I’ve known many people in my life who were completely and totally incapable of three, even after I gave them my most heartfelt two plus three.

The two? Not math, but English. Two little words. “I’m sorry.”

The three? Again, words, “I love you.”

The corresponding three to be given in reply? “I forgive you.”

There. The formula for world peace.