Scarlett’s Letter December 16, 2013

For the record, today got off to a much better start than yesterday, by design.

Off to a better start, by design. Did "my things" before going downstairs for breakfast.
Off to a better start, by design. Did “my things” before going downstairs for breakfast.

Today I did something terrifying. Something absolutely terrifying, something I’ve contemplated doing many times in the past three years, and I’ve always chickened out. Always. No matter how many Eleanor Roosevelt quotes I read, I chickened out. No, not skydiving. That was a pip. No, not running on a treadmill, I’ve nearly mastered that.  Today. Today, yes, today, I actually did it. I went to a spin class.

I’d no sooner run with the bulls or miss a BOGO sale at DSW than humiliate myself in a spin class. The people, the equipment, the stories, I’ve had friends say they fell off the bike, how do you fall off a stationary bike? Worst of all, the terrifying instructors, have you seen them? All super fit and up on that bike, on a pedestal, at the front of the class, able to shout loud enough to be heard over the music despite, their impressive level of exertion; demanding you stand up to pedal, turn up the resistance, pedal faster! My God! It is all just an episode of “Jackass” as far as I’m concerned, death defying and stupid, and lots of people are going to laugh really, really hard. At me. They might laugh so hard that Gatorade shoots out their nostrils, or they may laugh so hard they wet their little Lycra bike shorts! Or both!

It wasn’t so bad. Like marathon runners, spinners actually seem quite mortal, human, even. Of course, like everything I do, I had a very logical and strategic approach. I decided to go to the mid-day class. I figured the really rabid spin class folks I’ve seen waiting, frothing at the mouth, outside the classroom, at peak morning and evening hours, would likely be at work. I figured the mid-day class would be housewives and retirees. I was pretty much right. There were six of us. One lady just sat and pedaled at 45 rpm the entire time, with the exception of the water breaks, where she took it easier. No disrespect, she was there and it wasn’t her first time. Where have I been? Cowering over by the cardio equipment, watching the spin class in wide-eyed fear through the five inch wide glass in the door.

I got to the spin room early enough, I was the first, actually, fifteen minutes before the instructor arrived, in fact, in order to chat with the instructor to learn how to fit the bike and what the “commands” were. And it wasn’t so bad. Kind of like having a pit bull come racing towards you only to wag its tail and lick your hand, roll over on its back and wet itself. With this first class under my belt, or Lycra waistband, I now have the confidence to increase the resistance a little more, next time, and, even, maybe, attend a peak-hour class.

The next more fearsome thing I did today; I got on the scale. Oops. Time for atonement, and for toning a bit. It has been a long six-week jaunt from city to city, restaurant to restaurant and that sneaky ten snuck back on. Not that weight matters, but, I have been favoring my more forgiving Aeropostale “boyfriend” jeans to my sizable wardrobe of “Miss Me’s”. Gaining ten during busy travel season is typical, for me. Most of it will be gone by Christmas. Mom doesn’t understand why I won’t share her Panattone bread with her every morning for breakfast, “it’s Christmas”, she says. Um, no, it’s December 16th. On December 25th, Christmas, I might have a piece of Panattone bread. With butter. She warned, “what if it’s all gone by then?” Then I guess I won’t have any. There is a big difference between “it’s Christmas” and “it’s Christmas”. A month of indulgence is much worse than a day, or even two or three.

Ah, but I am not totally fearless. I was headed to Roseville, east of Sacramento, for happy hour with a ladies “Meet-Up” group I’ve been active with for a couple of years. They are a super nice group of women and so worth the hour and a half drive to socialize with for an event now and again. I knew the drive might take a little longer, with happy hour being, also, commute time, and I planned accordingly. I did not, however, anticipate the road construction ensnarled traffic I encountered on Highway 12 which links Napa’s Highway 29 to the rest of the country via Interstate 80. It took me nearly an hour just to get to Highway 12, which usually takes me about eleven minutes. This drive at 3:00 PM is far different than at my usual 3:00 AM. Afraid I’d arrive just in time to leave, again, I aborted and returned home. It is not often you will hear me say “afraid”, but there it is, at the beginning of a sentence. Figures, too, my hair was perfect, for the first time in a month, my outfit was smashing, new top from Victoria’s Secret, and rockin’ new black boots. Drat.

Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.
Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.

Guess I’ll take a “selfie”. Then put my baggy ol’ sweats and slippers on. And have a beer. Then go fix dinner. And do laundry, my gym clothes stink.

Perfect hair.
Perfect hair.
New blouse
New blouse
New boots (which you can't see).
New boots (which you can’t see).
Guess I'll fix dinner and do laundry.
Guess I’ll fix dinner and do laundry.
Jammies and beer.
Jammies and beer.

Scarlett’s Letter October 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter August 15, 2013

I made it to an advanced yoga class this morning, it was exhilarating. I’ll be feeling it, for sure, for the next couple of days. Very worth the effort of getting up early, getting things together and heading out the door before work.

This evening was the “Dress to the Vines” event at Jessup Cellars Gallery. Mom and I got all gussied up and set out a bit on the early side. Mom stresses out a little about “traffic”. I find it amusing. At every stop light, if there are more than three cars, she exclaims “Here they all are!” I will sometimes alter my route for dense traffic, in a large city I am well acquainted with, where I know I can a) save significant time and/or b) I can keep moving. There is something about keeping moving, even if it adds a minute or two to the overall travel time, that I find preferable. In Napa? Traffic worth a detour? Joke.

So we arrived at the winery, which is twenty minutes from our house, oh, about an hour early. They closed two minutes before our arrival to prepare for the event, so we couldn’t even go in and have a glass of wine while we waited. It was hot out and even hotter in Mom’s “air conditioned” car. The A/C works on the passenger side, but not on the driver’s side. And she has leather seats. I needed another shower. I sweat more on the twenty minute drive to the winery than I did in an hour and a half of strenuous “advanced” yoga in a heated studio.

We sought respite with a cold beer in the bar of a popular Yountville restaurant across the street. Redd Wood. Mom has been wanting to try it, but after our visit, I’m not so sure. She thought it was ugly inside. I rather liked it, I thought the architecture, design and decor were pretty cool.  The menu looked great, too. She couldn’t understand the layout or why there were so many employees and no guests. It was 5:03 PM. The bartender said they were booked solid every night, beginning at about 7:00. I’m going back.

Salumi, cheese and wine before the event at Jessup Cellars.
Salumi, cheese and wine before the event at Jessup Cellars.

We ventured back across the street a few minutes before the event was scheduled to start. We were the first to arrive. By far. I felt a little awkward noshing on all the cheese and salumi before any other guests arrived. But we did. And had our first glass of wine. After our beer. We made conversation with all the winery and gallery folks we saw the day before, again, being made to feel very welcomed. The panelists were all there and one of the women looked very, very familiar. In a state with nearly forty million residents and God only knows how many tourists, this time of year, what are the chances?

People began to arrive and stood around chatting with one another with apparent familiarity. Mom wanted to sit, so they let her into the gallery a bit early to choose a seat. I mingled a little longer in the tasting room and then joined Mom in the gallery. The panelist speakers and the moderator were going over some last minute details. It was the moderator that looked familiar, she looked like the mothers of one of the Boy Scouts in a troop I helped lead in a Sacramento suburb several years ago. What are the chances? Finally, I could stand it no longer. Yup, it was her, Melissa Haines, a Wine Consultant based in Sacramento. What a small world.

Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art - Jessup Cellars Gallery
Wearable art – Jessup Cellars Gallery

The gallery had been transformed over night; new pieces had been brought in, featuring “wearable” art by Cynthia Carey, Rory Castillo, and Cari Borja. Tables had been set up with notes to review and three wine glasses for some pairings for each guest. Since the theme was fashion, there were a couple of models in gorgeous gowns designed by Colleen Quen of San Francisco, one in the color of champagne, the other in the color of a rich, red wine. The speakers on the panel were all women, Mary Olin, the Wine Fashionista from the Huffington Post, Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.  Personally, I loved the “Sacramento” influence here tonight. Way to represent! Sacramento is on the map, make no doubt.

Panelists for Defining Wine Country Fashion: The Who, How, When with Masters of Wine Fashion
Panelists for Defining Wine Country Fashion: The Who, How, When with Masters of Wine Fashion

An Effort to Evolve

Panelists Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.
Panelists Kaye Cloutman, Editor in Chief of a GEV (Gastronomique en Vogue) magazine and Karri Grant, Consulting Fashion Stylist from Sacramento.

The highlight of the panelist discussions, for me, was the wine and scent pairing conducted by Mary Orlin. Generally, fragrance and wine are mutually exclusive. Fragrances worn will influence the olfactory senses when tasting wines. So much so, that tasting room personnel are “forbidden” to wear fragrances while working. So to deliberately pair wine and fragrance was sort of a departure from tradition. We were given test strips with different fragrances created by Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio to pair with selected Jessup Cellars wines. There were two fragrances for each of the three wines, and they were selected specifically to enhance the unique characteristics and qualities of each wine. Rob Lloyd, the winemaker for Jessup Cellars was on hand to further narrate the pairings. Fascinating and delicious, in every respect. What a divine olfactory experience!

Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Strong fragrances and wine tasting do not mix. Notice, in most tasting rooms, the flowers are not fragrant, by design.
Strong fragrances and wine tasting do not mix. Notice, in most tasting rooms, the flowers are not fragrant, by design.
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post - Wine and Perfume Pairing
Mary Orlin, Wine Fashionista, Huffington Post – Wine and Perfume Pairing

What struck me the most, though, about the whole event, was the fact that the panelists, the moderator, the designer, the winemaker, the artists and the curator of the museum, are all self-defined people. Each very confident, each very powerful, and each a pioneer in their respective fields. They each transformed their passion into their livelihood, their career. They created their own niche, their own market, their own following because of their passion, their confidence and their willingness to step over boundaries and obstacles to make their way. They each evolved, with significant, individual effort, based on their passions, their goals, and their commitment to those passions and goals, into confident and fulfilled leaders within their fields. This epitomizes the possibility and opportunity each and every one of us have, if only we endeavor to focus on our passion, commit to our goals, and make the effort to evolve into who we deserve to be.

Scarlett’s Letter July 1, 2013

I wrote an article on Slowing Down earlier today. I did a fair job, I mean, there was no agenda, no “to do” list. Well, actually, there was, but it was very general, things that needed to get done, at some point, sooner rather than later. I helped out with this list, a little (I mean a very little) manual labor. And it felt good.

We ran into town to get my fishing license and I had to sign an scan an HR document to send in to work so all the I’s were dotted and the t’s crossed for the rest of my vacation. We stopped at a fishing hole on the way home and since we happened to have a couple of poles in the car, we thought we’d try my new license out. There I was in my brand new purple floral print jeans I bought at UNIQLO on Fifth Avenue last week in New York and my adorable high-low blouse with the diamond shaped copper studs on the collar. The mosquitoes were thick as flies, so I did the unthinkable, I mixed DEET with Vera Wang’s Princess. An interesting fragrance combination. In fifteen minutes I learned the basics of fly-fishing and even managed to catch a grayling, which we released. Meanwhile, my man was after a pike he spotted on the edge of the river in the tall grass. We’ve been after that pike, or a similar pike, in the same location, for a few visits now. This time, after switching out lures, he got him and I guess we’re having pike for appetizers before our moose steak tonight. I’m excited! I guess my license worked. Or the outfit. Or my new fragrance combination. Whichever.

This brings up an excellent point; I am considering launching a whole new product line including shampoos, conditioners, body wash, lotions, fragrances, deodorant, makeup, even laundry detergent and dryer sheets, laced with DEET. I’m also going to develop the same line with organic, toxic free citronella, for the Whole Foods crowd. They’ll invest heavily in my organic line, and eventually, reinvest in my DEET line because, we all know, it will actually work. I’m pretty confident this will be my million dollar idea. Stay tuned!

Slowing down is valuable in our life, as I wrote about, on an occasional basis, to let the mind quiet, to absorb our surroundings and to acknowledge the essence, the quiet voice from within, once we can calm the superficial voice.

We can also learn to slow down on a daily basis, as part of our routine. We need to build some “slow” into our hectic and chaotic days. Amidst the agendas and to do lists, the work, the chores, the obligations, the meetings, the phone calls, we need to find a way to slow certain aspects down.

We can practice deliberate periods of slowness with mediation, rhythmic breathing or yoga. Some people are even capable of clearing their minds of the superficial noise by walking or running. The practice of slowing down, though never completely mastered, adds a deeper dimension to our thought processes. We become more capable of problem solving, of managing stress and of quieting ourselves in an otherwise hectic world.

Slowing down while eating is another fantastic practice. In our rushed and hurried lives we tend to just wolf down our meals, snacks and munchies mindlessly. And we end up eating far more than we require for good health and nutrition. To slow down and acknowledge each bite, appreciate the flavor, the texture, chew slowly, set our utensils down between bites we’ll find we enjoy our meals more and consume less. This is a little known weight loss and maintenance secret.

We should also slow down enough, a little bit every day, to refuel our knowledge; read, write, sing, speak, learn. Finding a way to incorporate this into our routine will benefit us whether just trying to keep our minds nimble, further our studies, or enhance our knowledge for career advancement.

So, when considering what to do to make life a little more relaxed, a little more fulfilling, just remember the lyrics to the Simon and Garfunkel song “Feeling Groovy”, “slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the morning last. Just kickin’ down the cobble-stones, lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy.”