Scarlette Letter – 8/28/2015

Today was compelling testimony that frequent, vigorous exercise, good food, a leash on monkey mind, and social activity, or connection, fosters a feeling of well-being and happiness.

After a rewarding hike yesterday evening, I took off on a hot, mid-day, ten-mile hike “for lunch”. It feels so good to move and be outdoors. I love hiking with people, but I really thrive when hiking in solitude.

My hike was followed by a Meet-Up event with the women’s networking group I’ve been sporadically active with over the past couple of years. The group organizer planned an evening for a small group of women where she’d show us how to make Venezuelan arepas. I was the only member who showed up, but we had the loveliest of times preparing yummy food, drinking rum infused “batidos” and catching up on stories of adventure, travel, work, and all those things friends chat about.

I came home and felt accomplished, peaceful, content, and happy and watched a Netflix DVD, “Factory Girl”, which, though tragic, and dark, had no detrimental effect on my joy.

Falling asleep was harder than I expected, as I began to make plans for the next day, but, eventually, I succeeded.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Anyone out there old enough to remember the movie Urban Cowboy? Maybe some of you younger folks are into old, cheesy movies. But I’m guessing if you know the movie, or the song, it is now tragically stuck in your head for the rest of the day. I apologize.

An Effort to Evolve

I remember, once, seeing a cartoon of a cowboy looking under a horse’s tail, captioned, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Where do you find love? Where do you look for it?

I know countless people who, despite heroic efforts, can’t find love. Maybe not countless in literal terms, but as I’ve never kept track, in that respect, countless. However many of these people I know, they are all on every online dating site, some even have consultants to assist and advise them on their dating site profiles. I have friends who are chronically single and others who are chronically miserable in the relationship they’re in. I even follow a blog written by a woman who writes of her efforts to find lasting love, which seems to elude her to an almost comic level. Every time she is “in love” again, her readers watch and wait, kind of like watching Jersey Shore or a car crash, we can’t not watch, as much as we’d like to. We all know in a week, or two, a month, tops, she will be single and on the hunt again. Which is tragic, except that she has an enviable following.

For the many I know who struggle with love, I know a few wise and blessed people who find lasting, fulfilling and joyful love. Sometimes with no effort whatsoever, they round a corner one day and BAM!! Love.

May I share with you my thoughts on this? Not that I am some well-published love guru, nor am I the ill-fated, love sick blogger with an enviable following and the “can’t not watch” antics.

I often kid around with my single and dateless friends, “If you want to meet guys you just need to go to bars, alone, and drink really dark beer, it guarantees getting noticed and almost certainly a conversation.” And that is where it all begins, with a conversation. If you aren’t having conversations, or aren’t available to converse, or are always with your pussy posse and so, unapproachable, how can you expect to have a conversation?

Conversation is required for a relationship to begin, but 99% of conversations are not for that intent. They are just conversations. It surprises me, though, in all my travels and in all my observations, how few people are really willing to converse with “strangers”. And, even among my chronically single friends, they “would never” just enter into a conversation in a coffee shop, bar, restaurant, or any other public setting, with a stranger. Question; how else does a stranger become an acquaintance? Am I missing something here?

Conversation or no conversation, there is much more to the story. Love may follow a friendship that develops from some initial conversation that begins in a coffee shop, a bar, the grocery store, an opera performance, or even an online dating sight. But love can only survive under the ideal circumstances, like a rare, exquisite and temperamental flower. We may be “looking for love” in all the usual places, bars, coffee shops, online dating sites, etc., and we may even have some promising, preliminary success, but, I’m here to tell you that’s not where you’re going to find true, meaningful, fulfilling and lasting love (and by “lasting” I mean of some undetermined, unguaranteed, duration, because, remember, love is impermanent, like life, like baseball season, summer, youth, and  like rare, exquisite and temperamental flowers; a topic for another time).

The biggest problem with love, that I see, is that people expect it to happen to them. In other words, love comes from an external source, “he loves me, he loves me not, he loves me …” How often do we hear people make mention of the fact that people in their lives either love them, or don’t? Their kids, their lover, their parents, their relatives, their co-workers, spouses, friends of friends, acquaintances, exes, and so forth and so on? Does this, then, add or decrease their value as a person, to be loved, or not, by other people in the world? We are looking in the wrong place. Love does not happen to us, it isn’t something that is just bestowed upon us, from an external source, because we live and breathe and occupy space on this planet. There seems to be a false sense of entitlement here, and there, and everywhere. Don’t get me started on THAT topic, we’ll save it for later, as well.

Where, then, should we be looking for love, if not from those around us we wish would love us?

Love begins, exists and is always, for eternity, from within.

How often have you heard someone say, or how many times have you, yourself said, “I wish I could find someone who loved me for who I am. I wish I could find someone who loved me exactly the way i am.” Question; do you love you for who you are? Exactly the way you are? To be loved we must first be lovable. To be lovable, we must first love ourselves. We pretty much set the standard, our expectation of how others will regard us, like us, love us, by how we feel about ourselves. You remember those hapless people that round a corner, bump into a stranger, and find blissful love? Chances are, they are very lovable and that it all begins with how they feel about themselves.

Sound narcissistic? There is a different between narcissism and loving oneself. To love oneself means to have self-respect, to treat oneself with love in the way we think, speak and act towards ourselves. If we are self-loathing and self-destructive that is perceived, if only on a subconscious level, by others, as being unworthy of love, our own, first, and theirs, then, too.

When was the last time you picked a daisy and plucked the petals from it, one at a time, saying, “I love me, I love me not, I love me, I love me not, I love me!”?

An Effort to Evolve

Do you recall Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, “How Do I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways“? Perhaps we should recite it as “How do I love me? Let me count the ways.” We are, sadly, in the practice of counting the ways we don’t love ourselves;  “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not thin enough.” “I’m not young enough.” “I’m not interesting enough.” “I’m not adventurous enough.” “I’m fat.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m boring.” “I’m stupid.” We constantly tell ourselves “I am not enough”, and so those in our midst, the world, the universe, if you will, hears “I am not enough.”

No matter our I.Q., our body type, our shape, size, hair color, job, hobbies, political view, religion, national origin, family history, or anything, we can be lovable. But we must begin with ourselves, it all begins inside our head, inside our own heart. When you feel deserving of your own affections and adoration, you become deserving of others’ affections and adoration. It shines like a beacon through the fog, ethereal and intangible, but real and palpable.

You know those people, friends, relatives, or complete strangers you may casually observe, they’ve just got “that quality”? People seem to notice them despite their relative physical attractiveness, or unattractiveness. That’s the quality; self-love, self-respect, self-worth. The beacon in the fog.

So if that’s the secret, how does one fall in love with one’s self?

It is a process. It is a practice. It is a daily, moment to moment, and lifelong chore. Loving oneself is not something we accomplish and then just check off our list. Loving oneself is something we work at daily, every day, for the rest of our lives. It’s a lot like getting fit and healthy; you can’t just go on a diet for three weeks and then stop. You can’t go to the gym for the month of January and then stop. Health and fitness are lasting only when our efforts are lasting. There is a sign in the yoga room at my gym that says “fitness is not a destination, it is a lifestyle”. Loving oneself is the same, it is a lifestyle and it takes the same level of commitment, sweat, exertion, and sometimes even pain, to maintain. Make no doubt.

Don’t be mistaken, though, I’m not saying it’s hard to love one’s self, I’m saying it’s hard to change the patterns we’ve developed and are enmeshed in. People, without making a conscious effort, are generally very self-loathing. Truthfully, even the most conceited, narcissistic, people you’ll ever meet are actually, usually, the ones that hate themselves the most. It is our tendency, as humans, and this tendency must be reversed. Volumes have been written on it and as I am not going to add to those volumes here, today, that is where I’m going to recommend you begin. Some of the books I’ve seen lately that I’ve found enjoyable to read and informative and enlightening are listed below.

Looking for love? Start in the right place, within. Learn how to love yourself and the world will follow. To get the dreadful Urban Cowboy song out of your mind, I’m going to give you another song from even further back in history! Remember the Coca Cola ad with the song “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”? That’s a lot like what this self-love thing is all about. It begins with one little voice, (yours) a good message and a catchy tune. By the first chorus, others are singing along with you and by the end of the song, all of humanity has joined in. Cheers!

 

Unlimited – by Jillian Michaels
You Can Be Happy No Matter What – by Richard Carlson
The Soulmate Experience – by Joe Dunn and Mali Apple
The Art of Happiness – by Dalai Lama

Scarlett’s Letter November 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Scarlett’s Letter November 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 September 1, 2013

It’s Labor Day weekend and opening day of moose season here in Alaska. When I arrived a couple of evenings ago, the airport was full of folks aiming to shoot a moose, literally and figuratively. All those visitors and most of the locals will be in the woods, on four wheelers, on foot, on boats, looking for moose. Everything has been late this year. Break up, when the ice on the river breaks up in spring, was late this year. And everything else followed in turn, late. The salmon ran late. The warm weather for planting gardens and greenhouses was late. The berries were late, which I am not complaining about, there were still plenty to pick upon my late August arrival. It is likely that the moose will be late this year, too. It isn’t cold enough, yet, and there are still too many leaves on the trees. Things work seasonally here, not by a calendar. You can name dates and make rules that follow dates, but nature will always follow the seasons.

People here, most of the people here, are seasonal, too. My man is definitely an example of that. Life is not ruled by calendars and clocks, it is ruled by the weather, the seasons, the slant of the sun, the amount of daylight per day, by the fish in the streams and rivers and the animals in the woods and on the tundra. Calendars and clocks have no impact on nature, but moose hunting season is set by the calendar. My man thinks I’m just a calendar and clock kind of girl, and that is somewhat the case. My life is run by calendars and clocks because of my job. I also remember dates and kind expect others, too, as well. Holidays and birthdays mean a great deal to me, to others, often seasonal folks, and especially my man, that isn’t the case, they’re just another day in the midst of some much more important season. But, I am seasonal, too. For example, I happen to know that bikini and sundress season is almost over and boot and sweater season is almost here! And I love that the California climate allows for some overlap in these areas. Alaska is different. The fall season is here, even if the calendar disagrees.

Last year was different, and with a busy work schedule ahead of him, my man saw a moose on his way home from work, on opening day, pulled his rifle out of the back of his economy car, and shot his moose. Opening day. A quick call to a friend with a truck and a couple of knives and three hours later it was quartered, loaded and hung up at home. Not the norm and not the way things are going to be this year. There may or may not be a moose, but, with moose still in the freezer from last year, there is no real pressure to get one this year. But, if no moose is had this year, the pressure will definitely be on next year. As I like to say, it is what it is.

We were not going to hunt for moose today, or this weekend, or maybe at all. We have an invitation for a visit with a friend with a very large cabin, more of a lodge, really, up the Salcha River a ways. I’ve crossed the Salcha River, on our way to dip net for red salmon on the Copper River in Chitinia when I was here in July, but I have not really “seen” the river. We were a little hesitant to commit when the invitation was offered with threatening rain and an open airboat, but, today, we decided we’d go for it. Without cell service or Internet at the house, we relied on the news on one of the three or four television channels that sporadically come through. It looked like we might have enough of a rain free window to make it there, and back home again, without getting too wet or too cold.

We packed up, loaded up, geared up, hitched up and went. I wore about ten layers of clothes, Smartwool, fleece, Gortex boots, and I had my man’s huge winter parka along, for good measure. We were looking at a couple of hours, potentially in rain and wind, in an open airboat. It could be cold. And I’m a wimp. No, I’m not really, but I’m a Cali girl and it is less than 80 degrees out, so I’m a little chilly.

As we drove south, with a stop at Silver Gulch in Fox for breakfast and a brew, through Fairbanks and North Pole to Salcha, the rain would splatter the windshield just enough now and then to require the wipers. Then it would stop. Then it would begin again. When we arrived at the park where the boat launch was, we could see the trucks and trailers parked in the lot, in the overflow lot and along the road where they shouldn’t be parked. Because we’re glass half full folks, we cruised through the main lot, closest to the ramp, up the line, all full, around the corner and back down the other side, all full, except one. One spot in the main lot was open. We quickly dropped the boat in the water parked the truck and trailer in the open spot. I say we, I looked on as the boat was launched and the truck and trailer were moved. But, either way, the glass was definitely half full. See?

We got our gear on the boat and stowed. I’d worn “cute clothes” to breakfast and brought ugly clothes for the adventure. I had hoped to stash my “cute clothes” in the truck, but, with all that happened in securing that prime parking spot, this did not occur. I was ready with my daypack and all the essentials for the trip and the overnight, with some contingency items, too, like the good Boy Scout I am. And, now, in addition to uber-efficient daypack, I had an UrbanOG tote with my J. Crew cardigan, my skinny jeans, a cute blouse and my brand new black flats. I stuff them under the bow of the boat with the boxes of fishing lures, syphon hoses, aircraft engine oil and spray lubricant. I’m trying not to think about what can happen to my lovelies.

I take my spot on my lawn chair, positioned carefully in front of the “pilot’s” chair. I put my headphones on, for the engine noise, and I put my life vest on, somehow, over my Sweetie’s huge winter parka and all the layers of clothing I’m wearing. I don’t even want to think about what I look like. There must be a way to do all this with a tad more style. I will find that way. I did it as a backpacking Boy Scout leader (I’m sorry, those olive drab pants and shorts are like vomit), I will do it again. Find style and functionality where only functionality seems to be the norm. Watch me. I am grateful for the parka, though, and my gloves, and my cap as we set off up the Salcha River. Especially when it began to rain precisely two minutes into our journey.

Again, I am reminded of what it means to be lost. I am. I mean, I know I am heading upstream on the Salcha River. Period. End of story. I know, in a couple of hours, we will arrive where we are planning to go. That’s it. As with most rivers, there are channels and adjoining streams along the Salcha. My man navigates them, turning this way, yielding that. He has been to our destination once before, but overshot it by twenty or thirty miles before stopping and asking directions back. I am not unnerved, I have total and complete trust, if, for no other reason, because mine is a man who WILL stop and ask for directions. And he knows rivers, their nature, how they are constructed, how they work, what is dangerous, what is safe. Most of us look at a river and see water moving in one direction, but there is much more going on, there are eddies and back eddies, there are cut banks and shallows. To be safe, and efficient, you need to know which side of the river to be on when there are eddies and back eddies, cut banks, and all. I don’t. He does, and in particular, in an airboat. An airboat can navigate in very little water, which is why they are gaining so much popularity with hunters and outdoorsmen (people). Airboats can go where jet boats can’t, and jet boats can go where boats with propellers cannot. Airboats can even travel over hard surfaces, if need be, but, of course, this is not good for the longevity of the plastic coating on the hull of the boat, and fissures, cracks and other weaknesses in this coating, I learn later that evening, in a story, can cause said airboat to take to the air and perform acrobatics, tossing its occupants asunder in a spectacular display. Still not worried.

To add to the adrenaline, which, by the way, I love, and may actually be just a bit addicted to, remember, it is opening day of moose season. There are boats of every imaginable shape, size and propulsion charging up and down the river scaring the fuck out of any moose within a ten-mile radius. We saw no moose, we saw lots of moose hunters, and because their boats were all empty, they, apparently, hadn’t seen any moose either. We have the big rifle with us, because during moose season, you just don’t leave home without it. It rests obediently in the bottom of the boat. I love that guns are so obedient, they do exactly what you tell them to, nothing more, nothing less. For those of you a little less convinced, just keep in mind, guns are inanimate objects.

We reach our destination, which, for me, is always a little unnerving. I consider myself quite capable, quite handy, pretty smart, and, most of all, trainable. This is a new world for me, and one I quite enjoy. I’d like to assimilate. But I need to be taught the ropes, quite literally. My man is very aware of all of this, and is an excellent and patient teacher. But, sometimes you have to know what to teach and when to prompt your student to do what is expected. I am learning that when we stop the boat, I am to leap up, grab the bow rope and leap to some firm footing and secure said boat, without a) looking like a dork b) acting like a girl and c) falling into the water, which would encompass both a) and b). Only occasionally do I still need to be prompted. The only piece of the puzzle I’m missing is which knot, specifically, I should be tying. I’m a Boy Scout leader, I know lots of knots, or at least I used to. As I often say, and often say to my man, show me once, maybe twice, and I’ll be flawless. My knot left something to be desired, but it held. Next time, for sure, I’ll have him show me exactly what know he uses.

Our host is not at home. We sit on his lovely deck and enjoy a beer. A few minutes later, he arrives. Boats are shuffled about and we all retire to his palatial cabin, out of the rain and wind, and visit for the remainder of the evening late into the night. The perfect ending to a perfectly executed day, no directions required.

Scarlett’s Letter July 17, 2013

Today, I am half a century old. I don’t feel it. Thank goodness.

I’ve taken the day off of work and it is mine to do with what I want. What do I want?

I remember when I turned forty. I remember when “we” turned forty, my group of friends from high school, and earlier. We’ve been friends, forever. The oldest of us has a February birthday and she has always sort of been our “leader”. The first to drive, the first to be able to attend R-rated movies without a parent, the first to be able to buy alcohol, legally. I’m next, with my July birthday. Two birthdays in September, one at the beginning, one at the end. The youngest of us has a late November birthday.

The year we all turned forty, my February friend was thrown a secret, magical surprise party, by her husband. It was thrown at a winery, in the caves, and for some reason, I was unable to attend, some conflict with leadership and kid activities, if I recall. Which is regrettable. But, the party was grand, by all accounts, and attended by many, and the surprise was total and complete. Salute to the man who can pull off such a masterful surprise for his wife! From planning through party, impressive.

My November friend had a big birthday party for her fortieth, too. Not a surprise, as she is the master party thrower and entertainer, but a large fete, again, attended by many. Falling on Thanksgiving weekend, and with the whole family in tow, we set off late and ended up stuck in traffic for nearly four hours, and only half way there, the night now nearly over, we aborted and returned home. Organizing my family, at that point in time, in particular, my husband, was like steering the Titanic through a slalom course; impossible. Not one to appreciate parties or social gatherings, they upset his constitution and caused an undue amount of stress and anxiety for him, and so, for all of us. It was barely worth the effort, I preferred go alone, but that was a whole other problem. So, we rarely made these social gatherings, and the cost was high.

The September girls celebrated their fortieth birthdays on their own, that I know of, no large forets were held.

My fortieth birthday was a surprise all its own. Now, my thirtieth had been a big party, all my plan, all my doing; a weekend of camping, loud music and wakeboarding with friends at a lake in the Sierra foothills. My husband hated it. Every single minute of it. And was none too quiet about it. Which made it miserable and awkward for everyone in attendance, for the whole weekend. Never again, I vowed. As my fortieth approached, I secretly hoped a surprise was being planned, a party with friends and food and celebrating. I knew better, but I liked to entertain the idea. I kept quiet about my birthday, I didn’t make any hints or suggestions, provide reminders, or anything. I just kind of wanted to see what would happen. I got pretty much what I expected; a great big surprise! My daughter was at camp, so on my actual birthday, mid-week, we decided to go out to dinner, my husband, my son and me. This was not anything unusual, we went out to dinner more than we ate at home. When asked where we should go, I mentioned a restaurant we didn’t normally go to, one that was a little more expensive than our “usual”. Still, no mention of the date or the significance of the date. The restaurant was agreed upon and my husband, my son and I followed the hostess to our table. I ordered a very nice glass of red wine, which was not unusual behavior. I ordered my dinner, nothing extravagant. But when I ordered dessert, an eyebrow was raised. Wine and dessert? At which point I said “Surprise! It’s my fortieth birthday!”

A few years ago, I vowed my fiftieth would be an unforgettable party, the world would be invited. As the year approached, I thought maybe a chauffeured limo through the wine country with my closest dozen friends, or so. As the year arrived, and it became evident that wasn’t going to happen, with busy lives and tight budgets, I downshifted. Maybe five people I’m acquainted with, who happened to be free, in a Civic.

I woke up, today, late, and against my whole, sprouted grain snob attitude, consented to eat Eggo waffles with my mom. Which I washed down, quickly, with mimosas. What is it bout Eggo waffles, they don’t retain heat for two seconds? I have never eaten a warm Eggo waffle. And they don’t brown, they go from frozen and pale to dark, dark, dark brown and too crunchy to cut with a serrated knife, in about two seconds. But no matter the degree to which they are burnt, they are cold before they touch the plate, butter never melts on them and the warmest of maple syrup quickly congeals on top. Thank God for mimosas.

I received a phone call from my daughter and son-in-law from Saratoga Springs, New York after the first mimosa. We chatted and they wished me a happy birthday. I felt loved. I miss them.

I exchanged texts with my son, I’d made noise about going to DiRosa Art Preserve or to Castello di Amoroso for the chocolate and wine tasting tour, by myself, so he wasn’t sure where I’d be or what I was up to. And there I was, at the kitchen table, sticky with maple syrup, silly from mimosas and still in my PJ’s. He was free for the day and his close friend was home from a semester in Brazil, before returning to school in Hawaii. It was agreed, they’d both come down to help us celebrate, in some way, my half-century birthday. I’d have to pay for their gas, and part of their dinner, but it was worth the price to have them in attendance. So, it was four of us, in a Civic. We went to V. Sattui Winery for a tasting, then to Longmeadow Farmstead for dinner. It was low key, but it was a splendid day. I am determined to continue celebrating in my own way over the next week, or so. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, a few bucket list items I may seek to satisfy. We’ll see how it goes, but I do not intend for my fiftieth birthday week to pass without some sort of commotion.

As far as the girls go, now that we’re all turning fifty; my February friend had a big get together at a local tavern. I was in Alaska. I missed it. With the rest of our birthdays coming up in fairly rapid succession, and one of the September girls in what appears to be, hopefully, a permanent remission from cancer, a treatment plan for life, and a prognosis of, as she put it, “I’ll be alive until I die, just like everyone else,” we’ve decided a girls’ retreat to a winery estate villa for a weekend of celebrating is in order, and so that comes up in a couple of weeks.

I guess with age, comes a certain amount of wisdom and certain amount of flexibility and understanding. Yes, I’d love a big party, but the people in my life, whom I care for a great, great deal, are not and never will be the big party planners or participants that I may be. I don’t love anyone less for that. And making such plans on my own, and “requiring” people to attend for which it maybe a hardship is not fair, so I am understanding and flexible and appreciative and will celebrate with all those I love, each in their preferred manner. I know that I am loved and that is better than any drunken limo ride. I suppose this comes from maturity, goodness knows I should have THAT by now, I’ve had fifty years to practice!

 

So this is fifty? Eggo waffles for breakfast? I want to go back!
So this is fifty? Eggo waffles for breakfast? I want to go back!
V. Sattui Winery
V. Sattui Winery
Family and friends at V. Sattui Winery for wine tasting.
Family and friends at V. Sattui Winery for wine tasting.
Longmeadow Ranch Winery
Longmeadow Ranch Winery
Longmeadow Ranch Farmstead Restaurant for my birthday diner.
Longmeadow Ranch Farmstead Restaurant for my birthday diner.
Longmeadow Farmstead - birthday dinner - a delightful "wedge salad" split four ways.
Longmeadow Farmstead – birthday dinner – a delightful “wedge salad” split four ways.
Longmeadow Farmstead - birthday dinner - fresh, local oysters, split three ways (the fourth wasn't interested).
Longmeadow Farmstead – birthday dinner – fresh, local oysters, split three ways (the fourth wasn’t interested).
Longmeadow Farmstead - Salmon and succotash. I LOVE succotash! I love salmon. There's a difference between LOVE and love.
Longmeadow Farmstead – Salmon and succotash. I LOVE succotash! I love salmon. There’s a difference between LOVE and love.
COOKIES!!!! At Longmeadow Farmstead - split four ways!
COOKIES!!!! At Longmeadow Farmstead – split four ways!
Three generations of "Begonias", as it were.
Three generations of “Begonias”, as it were.

Scarlett’s Letter July 10, 2013

When I woke up I was in bed, not the truck , and it was late morning. The salmon saga was to continue. There were two large coolers full of fresh caught, wild red salmon. Have you priced this in the stores lately? Precious, fresh caught, wild, red salmon. A valuable commodity that took an incredible amount of time and effort to obtain. We needed to be sure it was all taken care of as quickly as possible to maintain its freshness.

As we pulled the first fish out of the cooler it was still in rigor mortis. A good sign. Once this stage has passed, the freshness has already deteriorated. Did you know that? So, how fresh are the chunks of cellophane wrapped fish you buy at the market? Or the super expensive ones, on ice, in the fish case? Or the “flash frozen” filets you buy by the bag out of the freezer case at Target? The ones that you pay extra for because the label says “fresh caught wild salmon?” They’re stiff only because they’re nearly frozen. Or are frozen. Or they aren’t stiff at all. I promise you, they aren’t still in rigor mortis and aren’t as fresh as the fish we unloaded from the cooler onto the kitchen island today. What a rare treat for a suburban, Cali-Girl, Whole Foods shopper! And I live near the coast. I still can’t buy fish this fresh.

We enlisted the help of the neighbor which made the work much more fun and much more efficient. Of course wine and music were involved! The work, itself, consisting of fileting some of the salmon and putting them in freezer bags for freezing. Fileting salmon is a skill and one I didn’t personally take on. Just yet. I did observe and even took a video so I could do it, if I had to, on my own, some day. Just in case the opportunity to fish for salmon presents itself when I return to California, or return, again, to Alaska. Which it will. And which I will. In fileting a salmon, everything is preserved and used. The fins are often given to friends with sled dogs to be incorporated into their feed. The “backs”, so, the spine and ribs, are placed in another bag for later enjoyment. A real treat, and considered almost a delicacy by those who have had them before. I, personally, could eat salmon, in any form, just about everyday, and I actually come pretty close. I eat small portions, so one of these fish would probably last me about twelve meals. I think. We froze some larger portions and some smaller portions. I am, in fact, enjoying, at this very moment, some salmon strips I brought home with me. I like them more than Oreos, I swear, and have been known to just stand with the Ziploc bag and eat one after the other until they’re all gone. They are a treat that don’t last long and should be savored and rationed, but I just can’t seem to help myself. Nom, nom, nom!

We also “jarred” some fish, this actually being the preferred salmon of many. When “jarring” salmon, the common practice is to leave the skin and bones intact, providing calcium and other nutrients with the fish. The fish is cut and placed into canning jars, a little salt added, sometimes some jalapeños, too, for a little kick. The jars of fish are then prepared for canning and pressure cooked for an hour and half. You can eat the salmon, as is, out of the jar, or use it for salmon recipes or sandwich filling. Good stuff! Really, it may not seem like “canned” fish with the bones and the skin would be very appetizing, but it is fantastic! And it makes for the very best salmon sandwiches you’ve ever eaten, not at all like buying canned salmon at the grocery store, this actually has taste and texture and nutritive value with minimal processing.

As focused as I am on the food I eat, the number of processes any food I consume goes through, the nutritive value, the quality, the source, the handling, the purity, etc., being able to see the fish caught, cleaned and “processed” was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. One of the things I so appreciate about Alaska and the people, is their reverence for food and the amount of time, effort and dedication that goes into catching, hunting, growing and gathering much of the food they will depend on for the long, dark winter. Brief is the summer and the long days of daylight. Every waking moment, and there are more waking moments in those long hours of daylight, is devoted to preparing for the long winter cold. And yet, there is joy and fun and fellowship in all that is accomplished. There are ample opportunities for recreation and adventure because that is as much a part of life and preparing for the winter months as the sun is to the summer. I am in awe and have so much admiration and respect for this way of life.

For lunch, as we waited for the first batch of jars to pressure cook, fish backs were fried up, with much anticipation by everyone, and a little trepidation by me. They smelled delicious, of course, and when done are eaten much like corn on the cob. You pull the salmon meet gingerly off the rib bones and spine with your teeth, and, truly, there is nothing like it. Nom, nom, nom! I could eat these all day. For the sake of modesty, I think I quit at four.

We continued jarring the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Dinnertime rolled around and, again, salmon backs were fried up! I couldn’t be happier! Salmon, wine, friends, music, and a task to keep the hands busy. To some, a day of cutting up fish, bagging and jarring it, then eating the scraps, may sound like penance for some misdeed. Until you’ve actually been involved in the process, from start to finish, I don’t think you can ever truly appreciate the joy that comes from “farm to table”, as we like to call it in Cali, from source to supply. Bon apetit!

 

A cooler full of the freshest fish ever!
A cooler full of the freshest fish ever!
Rigor motris! Yes!
Rigor motris! Yes!
Filet of fish. Not McDonalds style.
Filet of fish. Not McDonalds style.
Jars.
Jars.
Preparing fish for jarring.
Preparing fish for jarring.
Preparing fish for jarring.
Preparing fish for jarring.
Patience.
Patience.
Fried fish backs! Nom! Nom! Nom!
Fried fish backs! Nom! Nom! Nom!

An Effort to Evolve

All done! Jarred salmon! Yum!
All done! Jarred salmon! Yum!

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.

Only the Lonely

Let’s banish loneliness from the world, shall we? Sounds like some ideal, like something a large non-profit organization might be pursuing, with ads on television and fund-raising efforts, and efforts at raising awareness. I can see the commercials now; silhouettes of singular people, sitting alone, and some catchy phrase to make you feel guilty, pull out your credit card and donate.

I agree. I think loneliness should be banished. But, as with many things, I believe banishing loneliness begins with the lonely. You. Me. Whoever.

Let’s assume you’re lonely. Why? What is it that makes you lonely? Identify the specifics of your loneliness first, then work to solve it. Is it because you don’t have friends? Because you don’t have a significant other? A soulmate? Fine. So, fix it.

If you spend your free time at home, busying yourself with solitary tasks; television, video games, reading, etc., is it reasonable to expect people to knock on your door and seek out your companionship? Probably not.

I once knew a chronically unemployed man. He sat home all day, every day, un-showered, unshaven, drinking pot after pot of coffee, “looking for jobs online”. True, he would, occasionally, submit online applications, usually for the same job with the same company. The result? Still unemployed, with no recent job experience, no new knowledge, stale skills, no network, no leads, and no hope. I used to ask him, “do you expect some employer with a $120,000 per year job to march up your driveway in search of you?” So, what do YOU expect?

Loneliness is a lot like unemployment. In order to find a job, you need to be out there, shaking hands, making contact, making connections, building your network. You need to be active and relevant. You need to be a face with a name and a firm, comfortable handshake and a genuine smile, not a name on an application, a website or social media. You need to be real. The same is true of companionship.

There are more solutions out there than there are lonely people, I’m pretty sure. If you are lonely, get out a pen and a piece of paper. Write down things you enjoy doing; walking dogs, knitting, debating politics, hiking, driving, watching soap operas, wine tasting, walking, running, cycling, cooking, giving back to the community, worshipping, dancing. Now prioritize your list, circle the top two or three items on your list. Now, find a place where people with similar interests go on a regular basis. A church, a volunteer organization, a hiking club, cycling club, etc.

A great resource I use is MeetUp.com. You sign up, peruse MeetUp groups by interest, sign up for the groups that interest you, and attend some functions. I’ve gone hiking, dancing, running, walking, to happy hour, to concerts, wine tasting, zip lining and I’ve met a lot of folks along the way. The hardest part is showing up to the first function without a “wingman”, but once you get through that, you’ll have several acquaintances and you’ll never be flying solo again. Fear is the only thing holding you back from taking that first step by yourself. Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt says about fear:

“Do one thing every day that scares you” and

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

My point is, loneliness shouldn’t exist if we all take responsibility for ourselves. Which we should be doing, here, and for most things in life. There are 7 billion people in the world, make an acquaintance with one of them, today. Everyday. They may introduce you to another. And another. Now you have a circle of acquaintances, from which friends and significant others may develop.

True, there are people out there, unlikely to evolve, to become enlightened, who will remain lonely because they don’t know they have to power to change their plight, and if you know anyone who fits that description, reach out to them. In so doing you could relieve their loneliness, and yours.

It IS that simple. And if you say it isn’t, you’re just making excuses. The only thing standing in the way is one, singular, lonely person. You. Get out of your way.