What’s the Difference?

I know. It’s been a while. Right?  I’ve been busy.

An Effort to Evolve

I’ve been sliding down a slippery slope of deteriorating self-respect and climbing the mountain of self-destructive behaviors. I’ve been having fun, and, at the same time, feeling like shit in every imaginable way.

An Effort to Evolve

I’ve been overindulging and, in the process, undermining everything I’ve worked for and everything I value and believe in, leaving me to question, all over again, my self-worth.

An Effort to Evolve

Why do I feel so out of sorts, why do I feel so negative, why am I having feelings of self-loathing? I catch myself, several times a day, at every turn, thinking, or saying out loud, “I really don’t care.” What’s the difference, anyway?

An Effort to Evolve

  Perhaps I’m being a little dramatic. Things aren’t that bad. I’m just heading down the wrong  path.

An Effort to Evolve

I went hiking a week or so ago with a friend I met in Alaska. She recently relocated to Northern California, a couple of hours away from where I live, and we’ve been trying to stay connected. She has similar interests in hiking and outdoor pursuits as I do. Other than my kids, there are only a handful of folks I know who are willing to hike as hard, as long, or as far as I. She is one in that very small handful. She is also twenty years younger than I. As I often say, “there just aren’t any young people my age.”

An Effort to Evolve

We hiked about twelve miles on a very narrow, single track trail, in the hills east of the town of Calistoga, overlooking the Napa Valley. We encountered four snakes in our travels. I was in the lead and, being a Northern California girl, I am well-schooled in keeping an eye on the trail immediately in front of me, watching the ground exactly where my foot is going to land.

An Effort to Evolve

There are no snakes in Alaska, and my hiking partner’s only experience with snakes, while hiking, was in Peru, where the snakes tend to be overhead, dangling from tree limbs. Snakes on the path that resemble sticks across the trail were a whole new experience for her. We were both glad I lead. Three of the four snakes I spotted, politely exited the trail as we approached. The first we encountered, though, stubbornly stretched across the trail, with a steep incline to our right, masked in poison oak, and a steep drop to our left, also festooned with poison oak. I tossed a couple of pebbles at the snake, but it didn’t take the hint. We considered climbing up and around, or scrambling down and around, enduring the wrath of the rash over the possibility of a snakebite.  Earlier in the week, on a solo hike, I encountered a snake that behaved in much the same manner. I ended up backing up a distance, sprinting and doing an Olympic long jump over the snake. Today’s trail really didn’t allow for such athletic feats. Ultimately, I found a stick nearby and gently lifted the snake off the trail, tossing the stick and the snake down into the ravine a few yards so we could safely pass.

An Effort to Evolve

Other than snakes, the only other trouble we encountered was losing the trail back to the car. After six hours and nearly ten miles of rugged trail, and having not eaten since breakfast, as late afternoon began to turn to evening, we found ourselves on a trail that just seemed to be heading in the wrong general direction. We retraced our steps a couple of times, tried to pick up an alternate trail, and reasoned that, perhaps, we were on the right path afterall, unfamiliar though it seemed. We’d encountered very few hikers during the course of our day, and none were about presently. As we retraced our steps a few times over, we remained calm, applied some reason, a bit of logic, and, surveyed the hills that rose around us several different times. There was a scar on a hill that appeared to either be the result of water runoff and erosion, or an unusually steep trail. We’d discounted the scarred patch of earth earlier, as it, too, seemed to head in a direction we weren’t entirely comfortable with, but, we decided to reconsider, as other options didn’t manifest. Upon reaching the scarred patch of earth, we could see it was littered with footprints, far more than the other trails we’d been picking up in our attempt to get back to the car. We followed the steep path up the hill, leaving, now, our own set of footprints, and, after cresting the hill found ourselves on the familiar, wide path leading directly back to the parking lot.

An Effort to Evolve

It was the wisdom we’d acquired through experience, and our ability to remain calm, apply reason, and logic, and our willingness to try several options, admit our error, and try more options, that ultimately led to our success. We tried different things and found the right path.

An Effort to Evolve

So, I recognize now, that I’m headed down the wrong path, metaphorically. The path is easy, like a straight, flat, paved sidewalk, but I know, it will lead to misery. I could stumble along, endlessly, effortlessly, still moving along, but really, just going through the motions. Or, I could stop, remain calm, apply some reason and logic, and change my course to reach greater heights, majestic views, journeying impressive distances and experiencing challenges, triumphs and adventures that few realize. This is the path I’ve always desired, this is the path I’ve travelled before. Before taking a wrong turn. I’m choosing the narrow, steep, serpent strewn trail less traveled, now, over the straight, paved, sidewalk. The adventure begins. The adventure continues. Today. If you want things to be different, then things have to be different.

That’s the difference.

Scarlett’s Letter December 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

Making a plan.
Making a plan.

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

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

The other craving I have; silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter December 17, 2013

I’ve been a rebel without a cause for a while now. I’ll always be a bit of a rebel, but, today, I think I found a cause!

I’ve always been very involved in things I truly believe in. Scouting, for example. I was once a Girl Scout and loved every moment of it. I loved the friendships, the potential to earn and achieve, both as a group and independently, and the opportunity for adventures and exploration in nature. I had great leaders, so we actually had opportunities for adventures and exploration in nature, not just arts and crafts. And, probably from the time I first opened my Brownie Girl Scout Handbook in the first grade, I knew, someday, I wanted to be a Scout Leader. And I was. I was both a Girl Scout leader and a Boy Scout leader, for well over a decade, for both organizations, and just like my experience as a young girl, I loved every minute of being a leader, too. I truly feel like I had an impact, and, perhaps, made some small difference in a number of young lives. And it was fun.

The kids are grown and have moved away and are all far beyond scout age. I too have moved away and, yes, while I could still lead, I finally hung up my patch adorned red wool jacket a few years ago when work and travel and attending anything at all regularly became more than I could manage.

I miss having a cause.

I ran today, six miles. I’ve managed to shave a whole minute per mile off my average time since the marathon a couple of weeks ago. Oh, sure, I was capable of a bit more speed before the marathon, but I was being very conservative, making every attempt to avoid injury before the race. Training was about “time on my feet” and “staying on program”. Marathon completed, now I can push some limits. Running, now, is less about “time on my feet” and a whole lot more about “time in my head”.

The best book I’ve never read, recently, was “Younger Next Year for Women” by Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley (and, yes, there is a mens version, the original, actually). I enjoyed every word, on Audible. I have the printed version, digitally, on my Kindle, but have only managed the audiobook, thus far. It is truly a fantastic book and really great narration in the Audible version. It is both informative and totally enjoyable. I highly, highly recommend it. Within the volumes of very well researched, documented and supported advice was the first rule; exercise every day, for an hour a day, six days a week, for the rest of your life. Several of those days, per week, should include aerobic exercise, strenuous enough that you can speak, barely, but you can’t sing. They actually include far more precise measures of knowing whether you’re in your aerobic zone, or not. I achieve this level of exertion on the cardio equipment at the gym, and nearly so, yesterday, in spin class. And, by the way, it was Chris Crowley’s own account of his first spin experience, at the age of 70, that bolstered my courage enough to finally go. Running, however, the way I’ve been running, and even during the marathon, with the exception of those mysterious hills that appeared in my former hometown that I really don’t remember, I could’ve sung the whole time. I did in fact hold several lengthy mid-race conversations.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!

At my “new” running pace, I’ll not be singing, nor will I be saying much. It feels really good to pant a little during my one minute walk break, which occurs after every five minutes of running. My average pace during pre-marathon training was 11:07 minutes per mile. During the marathon I ran 12:02, but there were many more miles and a few porta-potty breaks, with long lines, that contributed to that time. My plan, though, was to run the race at an average pace of 12:00, so I guess I was “on plan”. My new average pace, this week, has been about 10:14. And, like I said, it feels pretty good. I’m not sure I could sustain it for more than the six-mile loop I guess I’d call my regular route. We shall see.

As to having a regular route; running in Napa has been very different than my experiences running in Sacramento, where this whole undertaking began a couple of years ago. In Sacramento, there is the gem of the city, the American River Parkway, miles and miles and miles of paved and meticulously maintained multi-use trail for runners, walkers, cyclists and even equestrians. It is the prize of the community and separates Sacramento from many other urban areas, as, in my opinion, a world-class city. Napa has a little bit of trail here and a little bit of trail there, separated by busy streets with unaware motorists, many of whom are tourists, many of whom have been wine-tasting. Running the streets of Napa, especially on a weekend, is akin to urban guerilla survival boot camp drills. I’d be terrified to cycle, and, in fact, routinely run, respectfully, past a couple of different roadside shrines to fallen cyclists. And then, there are crosswalks. There is nothing quite like watching your running watch displaying a pace of 18:55 while waiting for the green walk signal to appear. I’ve taken to strategically dashing between cars, both stopped and moving, rather than wait for the walk signal. Clearly, Napa, a world-class city in its own right, could use multi-use walking/running/cycling trail. And I’d be more than cool with equestrians, too. Fifty miles of trail would be about right, if you ask me.

I ran a couple of errands, today, on my way to run. Almost as difficult as finding a good and reasonably safe running route is finding a good and reasonably priced dry cleaner. There is one a mile or so away, next to my favorite pizza place and coffee shop. They are convenient, obviously, the people are nice and the prices reasonable enough, and they’ve done a good job, but, they don’t take credit cards. I have to remember to go get cash before I go get my dry-cleaning, which I never seem to be able to do. There is a bank in the same little shopping center, which I’ve resorted to every time I’ve picked up my laundry, but, it isn’t my bank, so I incur an ATM fee, so in the end, my dry cleaning ends up costing me way more. I Yelped dry cleaners and found one with rave reviews, across town, that takes every form of plastic imaginable. Location makes little difference to me, Napa is a “ten-minute” town. You can get anywhere within ten minutes within the city limits. I dropped my black coat there on my way to run, and they’re even going to sew a button back on for me! Cool!

As I turned out of the parking lot of the dry cleaner and headed in the direction of the park I park my car at for my regular running route, I pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my head. It was a lovely December day in Napa, sunny and about sixty-five degrees.  I was in shirtsleeves and a ponytail. It occurred to me that I’d forgotten my hat. I had sunscreen on, so I was protected, but I don’t yet have a nice pair of sports sunglasses. I have really cute gas station sunglasses with bling on the sides that barely suffice for driving into the rising or setting sun. They are miserable for running in every respect; they are heavy and bounce on the bridge of my nose, they have considerable glare, causing me to squint enough to make my head ache, and they are large lensed, sort of wrapped, and block the heat in so I have sort of an “eye sauna” going before the first mile. I’d spotted a little running store, near Massage Envy, when I parked for my two-hour massage the other night. It was on my way to the park, so I thought I’d pop in and buy a hat. True, a hat would cost more than driving home and getting the one I already had, but, well, whatever, they had pink and purple. My hat at home is gray. I pulled into the lot and parked near “Athletic Feat” and walked in. I was greeted and treated. The hats were shown to me and a friendly conversation ensued. During our exchange, I was enticed to join in on the “Resolution Run” on New Years Day, at 10:00 AM, a very polite hour to start a race given the likely activities the preceding evening. Proceeds are to benefit the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Say what? The Napa Valley Wine Trail! A planned forty-four mile, contiguous trail, dedicated to walkers/runners/cyclists. Well, damn! There we go! A cause I am happy to support in any way I can! I’ll be running 10k New Years Day no matter what happens the night before! Even if I crawl the entire route! Even if I sign up and pay and sleep through it! Right? And I will promote this cause in any way I can imagine! Give me a shovel and a pick, I am ready to dig me some trail!

I do, I want to help with this trail, however I can. I had a dream the other night and I remember some little bit of it. I was somewhere, talking to someone, about something and I volunteered to some large undertaking, on the spot. I’ve always been a little volunteer-happy, and, yes, I do tend to overcommit, from time to time. I don’t currently volunteer for ANYTHING, and this has been eating at my psyche a bit lately. I could almost feel the words form on my lips, just like in in my dream, “I want to help.” But, I refrained. For now. I need to reorganize a few things in my current, overcommitted life to free up some time for other, deserving overcommitments.

The only other excitement today occurred when the doorbell rang. I was upstairs, having just finished vacuuming for Mom. I peeked out the front window and, parked at the curb, by the mailbox, my car. Not my little Meep that I currently drive, the car I ordered from Tesla. I didn’t actually order it, I did dream of it, though. It was red, of course, and looked oh so good in front of the house. I think Meep whimpered a little. The doorbell rang again, Mom was in the garage. My mind was working, “who, what, why, how, etc.” I took a picture, of course, to post to Facebook with a snarky comment. The only thing I could come up with, why there would be a Tesla in front of my house, the occupants, apparently, anxious to speak with someone residing here; I test drove a Tesla Model S P85 a couple of months ago. While I may intend to buy one, someday, in my very vivid dreams, I am not currently, realistically, in the market for one. And I didn’t buy a Lotto ticket for tonight’s big jackpot, either. I’ve received a few polite, and really, non-threatening emails and phone calls since the test drive, so, I thought, perhaps, the sales folks were in the area and thought they’d just pop by to see if I had $100,000 laying around. I mean, they brought the right color and everything! Mom and I met in the hallway and whispered, deciding not to answer the door. I returned to my post by the upstairs window, and, by this time, the car was just pulling away.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!

I ran downstairs and opened the front door to see if there might be an envelope with keys and instructions to pick up my prize for some contest I’d entered and forgotten about. Nope. A canister of cookies from the First Presbyterian Church of Napa. Mom’s church. The one she’s been to a dozen times in fifty years. She’s been munching on homemade cookies, made by the church youth group, all day long. I think she’s even skipping dinner. I’m wondering just how much money she’s been sending the church every year that they deliver cookies to elderly members in a Tesla! Interestingly, I saw the very same car (yes, I memorized the license plate, it’s what I do) at Round Table Pizza later, when I went to the running store.

So, tonight, when I turn out the light and doze off to sleep, I will have happy little dreams of driving my red Tesla Model S P85 and a sprinting at a sustained and enviable speed along a beautiful running trail through the lovely Napa Valley. Good night! Sweet dreams!

Scarlett’s Letter December 2, 2013

What happened yesterday?

COFFEE GRINDER!!!
COFFEE GRINDER!!!

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

Monday, squared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scarlett’s Letter November 17, 2013

Dear Friends,

Today, I ran. It was the only thing on my agenda, so that’s the only thing I did. I ran. Twenty-two miles.

People run for different reasons. A girl I knew in high school went to college at U.C. Davis in pursuit of her “MRS” degree. She ran around the medical school building every morning in her cute, little, running shorts and her perfect, shiny brown hair in a bouncy little ponytail. She is now one half of Dr. and Mrs. So-and-so. Some run for the runners’ high, some strictly to lose weight, some because they always have. I run as proof to myself that I can overcome any self-imposed limitation I may ever have believed about myself. Most of my adulthood, from my late teen years on, I believed I was “not a runner”. Which, of course, is ludicrous. If you can put one foot in front of another at a pace slightly more elevated than a walk, well, then, you’re a runner.

Yesterday, my running club held their annual “long run”. Buses are hired and all who wish to go board the buses well before dawn. The buses are unloaded in Folsom, near Folsom Lake, and the runners run twenty-two miles, along the lovely and scenic American River Parkway, back to their cars, in their respective pace groups. Running in a group is nice, you have people to chat with and the coaches are helpful, there is a strong sense of camaraderie and, with SacFit, there are volunteers stationed behind a folding table, beneath a pop-up sunshade, stationed every so many mile, offering Gatorade, water and healthful snacks, and even a few less than healthful snacks, like Oreos and M&M’s, two of my all time favorite foods I hardly ever allow myself to eat. Yesterday, while they ran, chatting and sharing, eating and having fun, I was flying home from New York.

I knew I HAD to run the twenty-two miles. Last year, I ran with the group, but only because I wanted to. This year, I have to put the mileage on. This year, in three short weeks, I run my first full marathon; 26.2 miles. I’ve never run 26.2 miles before. I’ve run twenty-two, a year ago, and suffered from a pain in my right Achilles for two months afterwards. I had to run this twenty-two, today, and know that this year I’d trained appropriately, that there would be no pain and, three weeks from today, I’d be able to complete the 26.2 California International Marathon.

A bit weary from this week’s travels, and it being an emotionally wearing and a somewhat harrowing work week, too, I did allow myself to sleep as long as I needed last night. On very rare occasions in my life, I have a day where I can sleep without any kind of an alarm to end such sleep, abruptly, rudely, but, necessarily. Today was just such a day. I slept until nearly 9:00 AM Pacific Standard Time, and, considering I’ve been living in Eastern Standard Time all week long, that actually equates to the darned near noon.

I arose and went about preparing a large, nutritious breakfast; two eggs, sunny side up, draped over two pieces of sprouted grain toast, a bowl of plain Greek yogurt with local, organic honey stirred in and organic raspberries atop. And a kiwi. And the largest Latte money could buy. I bought coffee last weekend, I’d used the last little bit I had. When I went to make coffee the following morning, I found, much to my dismay, it was whole bean. Whole bean is fine, except I’d just moved all the boxes out of Mom’s garage to a storage unit a few miles away, and in one of those boxes is my coffee grinder. Since then, the few days I’ve been home, I’ve just gone and bought a coffee. This is tomorrow’s goal; go to storage. Get coffee grinder.

After breakfast, I went about preparing for my run, also known as procrastinating. It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to it, but there is a bit of a mental challenge in psyching oneself up to lace up the dusty old sneakers and run out the door. I drove my intended route yesterday, with Mom. I had an idea which direction, which road, I’d run, but I really didn’t know where eleven miles would get me, where my turnaround point would be. We drove and drove and drove. It was really fricking far away! To say this messed with my mind a bit would be a little bit of an understatement. I might have mentioned it on the phone a time, maybe twelve, with my Sweetie last night. This morning, a text that said, “Have a great run and remember, you do this because you enjoy it, not because you have to,” followed by a emoticon winking and blowing a kiss. A man who is supportive, practical, wise and rational. Sigh.

Mom always wants to know how long I’ll be, she wants to set an alarm to remind herself at precisely what time she should begin to worry. No matter how far I’m running, she suggests two hours. I can say with absolute certainty, I will never run at eleven miles an hour. It was, by now, about 11:00 AM, I told her not to begin to worry until 6:00 PM. She questioned me, “seven hours?” “Yes”, I replied, what if I decide to walk the whole thing? I’m going twenty-two miles whether I walk or run, and I like to leave my options open.

Off I went.

It was a fabulous day in the Napa-hood, sunny and about sixty-five degrees. I walked to the end of my street, started my running app on my phone, started my Garmin running watch and started running. I passed a squirrel at about a half mile, he had a walnut in his mouth and eyed me like a lion her prey. “Yes, I know” I said to the squirrel, “I’m nuts!” He dashed across the street, I dashed along the shoulder towards my goal. Before I left the house I’d posted to Facebook, “I missed the traditional “long run” with SacFit yesterday because I was in flight. So, today, on my own, I set out for 20 some miles, the last long run before tapering down in preparation for the California International Marathon in three short weeks. Here is my plan, please comply should you witness me in route: I will do this, by myself, unassisted. I am, however, taking a couple of dollars and a bus schedule, just in case. I am also in possession of my credit card in case I just decide to get a large meal and a hotel room in Yountville, my halfway point, rather than run home.” I got thirteen likes. So far.

I ran and ran and ran. My practice, which we do in our running club, is to run for five minutes and walk for one. My second or third walk break found me very close to my close friend’s house. I run by her house frequently and I have instructed her to do no more than wave should she ever see me. I am on a mission and that is that. Her house is at the bottom of the only hill I must traverse. It isn’t a mountain or anything, but it is a hill and I do pant a little after running up it. I always hope I will reach the hill at precisely the time my watch indicates it’s time for a walk break, but that has yet to happen. Just as I was chugging up the hill, my friend’s husband drove past. I waved. And kept running.

I ran and ran and ran. I need some way to transcribe my thoughts to text while I run. The whole while I’m running I am writing in my head and I write the most perfectly and intricately phrased passages! Articles and articles of them. And when I get home and finally sit in front of a computer I just dither along stupidly patching odd, choppy sentences together. It is maddening. I ran and ran and ran.

You never know what to expect when you run on Sunday in the Napa Valley. I ran last Sunday and saw approximately five cars in twelve miles. Today, there was a great deal of traffic, mostly older people in enormous cars, barely visible over the steering wheel. There were also a number of really defiant young drivers who wouldn’t slow for anyone or anything. They all wore this disaffected expression, head cocked to one side, that said, pretty much, “I see you and I don’t care.” And, on weekends, there are the tourists, driving from one winery to the next, parting with $25 at each for a few short pours of wine, and, when the sommelier offers a bonus pour, no one turns it down. One must get every last penny’s worth and every last drop at every winery visited. Then, behind the wheel and off to the next. On more than one occasion I actually exited my clearly marked shoulder for the ditch. Several drivers crossed the wide white painted line that acts as the only “barrier” between a couple tons of metal hurtling towards me and, well, me, a small, extremely vulnerable and unprotected human form plodding along the shoulder.

When I tell people that I run, often they implore, incredulously, “Aren’t you scared?” No. There is little I am afraid of, I am of afraid, mostly, of fear, and that’s about it. Fear is one of the biggest limiters in life, and that, quite frankly, scares the shit out of me. I married a man ruled by fear; deeply paranoid, anxious, depressed and fearful, his many fears fueled by a constant influx of “news” and “media”, all justifying his usually false and unfounded fears. His fear, his unfounded fear, grew to the proportion that any activity or event that required him to leave home, to pry his fingers from the keyboard of his laptop, to remove his wide, fearful gaze from the internet screen he was currently absorbing, caused extreme agitation, anxiety and physical discomfort in the extreme and debilitating form of fits of irritable bowel syndrome. His fear was so extreme that, eventually, it cost him everything we worked for in life; a ranch, a house in town, all of our savings, his ability to work, and, ultimately, his family. Fear, unchecked, destroys lives. Fear can even kill, that second of fearful hesitation can mean the difference between an appropriate reaction and a catastrophe. I’m not saying not to be aware, perhaps exercise reasonable caution. I am saying don’t be afraid.

Besides, what’s to be feared more, running down a road, able to view and observe and react to danger as it presents itself? Or sitting in front of a televion in a house that could be full of radon gases, the televion emitting electromagnetic waves and the danger of early death from a sedentary, but seemingly safe lifestyle? Yes, I’m being extreme, or am I? Fear is relative and we are all surrounded by fearsome things, if we choose to be, only if we choose to be. Sure, I passed two roadside shrines for those who lost their lives to wayward cars, and this is sobering for those of us who run and ride by. One roadside shrine was brand new, as in, it wasn’t there last week. Shit. So, I pay keen attention. But, think about it, when a family member or a friend or an acquaintance dies as a result of a sedentary life, a life led from the couch, no one ever erects a shrine, no one ever identifies the fearsome danger that caused this unnecessary death. It is just a death, not one to be feared. I so beg to differ! Dying as a result of a sedentary and seemingly safe life is the worst thing I can imagine! Let me out! I want to run, I want to do terrifying dances with speeding automobiles!

It was upon removing myself from my husband’s life that I began to say, “I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living.” I remember, in the last months before leaving my marriage, I was assigned a client in New York City. I’d never been to NYC, but had been eager to go. My husband was beside himself with worry for all that he’d “heard” about New York, all the dangers, the dreadful accounts of horrible things that one believes from only seeing the world through the screen hosted by the media and popular TV crime shows. I remember arriving in New York City on an airport shuttle late on a Saturday night, being driven through Harlem and other more troubled areas. I took everything I saw in and wondered if my husband’s fears were fair, or false. I arrived at my hotel and tried to sleep but the sirens and the shouting on Lexington Avenue below prevented it. The next morning, when I awoke, my plan had been to spend a day sightseeing before working the next several days with my client. But, I was hesitant. To leave the relative safety of my hotel room and step into the world of noise and pressing crowds of people,  a world I saw in some of my favorite TV shows and movies as wonderful, but through my husband’s eyes as wretched and fierce. I stepped outside, I walked and walked and walked. I saw not a frightening world as depicted on the news and in popular TV crime shows, but a wonderful, magical and energetic city where I felt safe and stimulated. I even was so bold as to go to a Broadway show, “Rock of Ages”, and walk back to my hotel, several blocks, alone, in the dark. What I saw was not fearful, not evil lurking at every turn, but, rather, couples, hand in hand, strolling the streets, groups of ladies, chatting and walking, from one club to another. This was not a fearsome place, this was more like an adult Disneyland. I learned to discard fear. I do exercise caution, I do exercise diligence, I do employ knowledge and common sense and I always remain acutely aware, all of this allows me to live without fear and it is so liberating!

So, no, I am not afraid to run on the roadway. I am aware, acutely aware. I pay attention to each and every car and seek to make eye contact with every driver, particularly when crossing the street. The fact that they are required, by law, to stop when a person enters the crosswalk does not mean they have actually seen me. How do I know, for certain, that, as I step into the crosswalk, that they aren’t slowing, coincidentally, because they’ve just received a titillating text message? No assumption can be made until eye contact has been established, then, and only then, has an understanding been reached and my safety assured. I crossed one intersection today and encountered a Fiat, exiting the highway. I paused at the curb and waited for eye contact and an acknowledgement from the driver, and, in this case, not because I was afraid of harm on my part, but that I might run over the car and cause it grave harm for it’s diminutive size!

I reached Yountville, the neighboring town north of Napa. I knew the sidewalks would be choked with tourists. Luckily, I found a path that led along the west edge of town, out of sight of the highway and away from the crowds. The path delivered me to the main street of Yountville a little north of where the crowds seem to congregate. I continued to run. Somewhere, soon, I’d reach the halfway point. By car it was different than on foot. No two mileage devices will ever agree, it is this imprecision that we runners are plagued with. You can have several runners with the same brand and model watch, set to start measurement at precisely the same moment, and there will be as many variations in speed and distance as there are watches. The app on my phone and my Garmin watch were already a good third of a mile in disagreement. I usually run so that the slower of the two reaches my intended goal. On one device I am exact, the other, an overachiever!

Halfway through Yountville, on a walk break, I am feeling giddy. I post to Facebook, “Still running. Eleven miles and turning for home. I forgot to mention; if you happen to find me face down on the pavement, do me a favor, please, pause my Garmin and my running app BEFORE checking for a pulse. If I am dead, stop my watch, and, if my running stats are good, post them to Facebook with my eulogy. Thanks.” I am grinning and laughing at my wit and humor as I continue on, not actually at eleven miles quite yet. On the far northern edge of town is an old cemetery, and it is precisely there that my running app reports that I have run eleven miles. So, to continue on, turning around and retracing every step home, or, perhaps, just be hyper efficient and succumb to death, conveniently, here, at the cemetery. I turn, run, and begin to retrace each and every step towards home. I am halfway there.

As I run back through Yountville, I pass one of my favorite wineries. Apparently, there is an event there today. There is music and there are lots of people standing around outside, cars are parked all along the shoulder and I can hear lots of voices and laughter. It reminds me a little of a race, crowds along the road, cheering runners on. I am hoping someone on the sidelines will hand me a glass, a generous nine ounce pour of “Table for Four”, the most delicious blend of red wine I have ever had the pleasure of allowing past my lips. During races, volunteers will line the road at appointed spots and offer runners Dixie cups of water and Gatorade, why not wine? My hopes are dashed as I dash by and never see a glass of wine extended at the end of someone’s reach, towards me, to grab, gulp and toss.

I keep running. Another couple of blocks and I run past Tom Keller’s garden, I consider stopping and grazing for a while, but, truthfully, I don’t feel like pausing my Garmin. I keep running. Another couple of blocks and I pass one of Tom’s restaurants, Bouchon. Again, I am deluded into hoping that I’ll see a folding table, a pop up sunshade and cheerful, volunteers passing out savory chunks of Bouchon bread to runners like me. Again, I am disappointed. I keep running.

I am taking in fuel with precision, every forty-five minutes. My large breakfast, I’m sure, has long since been converted to fuel and has been burned up. I have in the front pouch of my running pack, six, highly-coveted packets of Salted Caramel Gu. There is Gu, in chocolate and raspberry, blueberry and other flavors I’m not likely to try, and, then, there is Salted Caramel. I buy it by the case. Three quarters of the way through my run, halfway through my return trip home, laughing out loud as I plod along, at my own wit and humor, during a walk break, I post to Facebook, “Still running. I forgot to mention, if you happen to see me face down on the pavement and I recover, I know exactly how many Salted Caramel Gu packets I have in my pouch and if any are missing I’ll know who pinched them and I will seek recompense.”

Shortly thereafter, I reach into my pouch for what should be my last fueling of the trip. There is only one Salted Caramel Gu left. There should’ve been six, this would only be number five. I was short one. I always make sure I have at least one extra, just in case. Oh, sure, I have raspberry Shot Blocks, but I really prefer Gu, Salted Caramel Gu. How am I one short? Did I miscalculate? That seemed unlikely. Then I recalled, I’d shown Mom my Salted Caramel Gu, I speak of Gu and I know she was a bit mystified by the name. A description and explanation didn’t seem to clarify anything, so, while packing my pouch with Gu packets, I gave her one to look at. She cut the top off of it and sucked it right down like she’d been running marathons her whole life. She thought it was quite good. She loves caramel! She asked me where she could buy some. I had two visions; first, of Mom racing around the yard this afternoon, the wheels on her walker causing sparks as they skipped across the brick patio, Mom furiously pruning, weeding and watering, and, second, Mom walking, ever so slowly, with her cane, into the Napa Valley Running Company, in quest of Salted Caramel Gu. I’d meant to grab a replacement pack from my stash, in my running bin, under my bed, which, by the way, I should probably now consider relocating.

I passed the spot where I’d met the squirrel, earlier, and, there he was. Flattened. Yikes. I looked to see if he had a Garmin, I was going to stop it for him. No one wants to die with their Garmin continuing to run, leaving a legacy of really dreadful running stats for that last dash.

A block and a half from home I ran out of water, I was out of Gu, and I had run in excess of twenty two miles according to my iPhone app and exactly twenty two miles according to my lagging Garmin watch. I decided to walk the last little bit home. All I could think about was dinner. I’d run right through lunch, and other than five packets of GU, I’d ingested nothing of matter. My running app said I’d burned 2,553 calories. All I could think about was a large slab of dark, red, flesh of beast and an equally dark, rich and chewy beer.

My friend Miles ran yesterday, with SacFit, and had posted to Facebook a photo of himself, from the knees down, in a bathtub full of ice. This practice is subscribed to by many runners in my club as a method to stop the lactic acid in one’s legs so as to prevent muscle pain the following days. Or the better part of a week. I’ve managed a tepid bath, once, followed by a blistering hot shower. The thought of sitting, for a second, let alone some number of minutes, in a bath of ice sounds far worse than any amount of muscle pain. At least muscle pain and a warm core body temperature coexist. Once my core is cold it takes Herculean effort to rewarm. I commented on Miles’ Facebook post, saying, pretty much, um, never, not even if hell froze over, which, from the looks of his picture, it had. As I was out of beer, and in a wittier than usual mood, I decided to go buy beer and to post a photo in response to Miles’.  I bought two and a half cases of beer. What? It’s not like I won’t use it and it was all on sale. I’m also hoping it will help lure a particular sweet, supportive, practical, wise and rational man southward from the frozen north, even if for just a bit!

When I returned home, I climbed into the bathtub, clothed, and staged a photo; ice cold beer bottles burying my legs with only my feet sticking out. The caption read, “It is my belief that all that has to do with health, fitness and exercise is open to interpretation and adaptation for the utmost benefit of each individual athlete. The practices, methods, treatments and therapies recommended as a matter of course, too, should be modified to suit the athlete. As to ice baths following an especially long run, Miles, this application is offering a great deal of relief. I suggest giving it a try!” I am still giggling at my profound wit and the extreme lengths I will go to try to entertain my Facebook friends. Fifteen likes, six comments. So far.

I reached my goal today, and that’s about all. But, the sense of accomplishment and the confidence in the fact that I know, with a fair degree of certainty, that I could’ve run another 4.2 miles, for a total of 26.2, puts me in a great frame of mind as my first full marathon rapidly approaches. There are few things I say I’m going to do that I don’t actually do. To be able to say that, is as a result of several years of hard work, self-exploration and self-development. I am proud of my growth and my achievements. I’ve also overcome one of the few self-limiting beliefs I’ve ever had about myself. I can run. And, I run without fear. Remember, fear is paralyzing, and limiting, and deadly. Live life with open eyes, open ears, an open mind and an open heart. There is nothing to fear. Life is so good, like Salted Caramel Gu!

                        Scarlett

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

Scarlett’s Letter October 14, 2013

A simple little Monday.

I’m “working” from home this week. I have little bits and pieces of work to do; expense reports, preparing for the upcoming Users Conference and upcoming sessions. Yawn. I am grateful to not be traveling, but that doesn’t mean I relish sitting at home. I have a nice little office in the smaller bedroom, upstairs. It is slightly less cluttered than my bedroom, no boxes of shoes and purses awaiting drawer and closet space that seems ever elusive, and, frankly, unlikely to happen any time soon. So, my office is my “at home refuge”, a place I can go and pretend to be “busy at work” even if I am not. I get asked a few questions, but, mostly, my privacy is respected and I can work, read, write, talk on the phone with my Sweetie, play of social media, mostly uninterrupted. But, to spend day after day, for nearly two weeks solid in my office, without actual client work to do, as in training and consulting via the web, is, well, ludicrous.

So, today, like last week, I struck out for a coffee shop. I am, unofficially, starting “Scarlett Begonia’s Coffee Shop Capers”. Last week was Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, which was delightful, and to which I will happily, occasionally, return. Today, however, I stumbled upon, thanks to Yelp, Molinari Caffee on Main Street in Napa. I loved this place before I ever set foot inside. It had curb appeal! Inside was such a treat, it was like it was built especially for me! An orange accent wall, and I’m with Elle Woods of Legally Blonde, orange is the new pink. Pink is my favorite color, next to scarlet, of course, but orange is a very close third. There was some fantastic art displayed, modern furnishings including a couch and armchair sitting area, a community table, and the requisite café tables for two to four coffee drinkers. The counter was neat and clean, well-organized and I loved that the cabinet facing was chalkboard, listing their offerings. The best part, by far, the very best part of the whole place, a TV hung in the sitting area with black and white Gilligan’s Island programs playing continuously and inobtrusively. I could tune into the dialogue if I chose, or listen to the 70’s music overhead. Happy. So happy. And my café au lait was sublime.

Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe
Cool coffee shop on Main Street in Napa, Molinari Caffe

The crowd consisted of a couple of obvious regulars, me, a wanna-be regular, and a whole bunch of tourists asking a whole bunch of dumb questions, like, “can we walk to wineries from here?”  The answer was, of course, “no.” I suggested the several tasting rooms, but they wanted to go to wineries, in Napa, and they didn’t want to have to drive. They were quite insistent, like the world would meld to their will because it’s what they wanted. “But we don’t want to drive!” Believe me, we don’t want you to drive either, but let’s apply a wee bit of logic, shall we? Wine is made from grapes, grapes grow on vines. It takes lots of grapes to make a little wine, so, it takes lots of vines to supply a winery. Acres and acres of vines. Therefore, wineries are sort of spread out, like ranches, or farms. Got it? I concluded my involvement after the first little foot stomp, toss of the hair and whine, “but we don’t want to drive.” Buh-bye. Suddenly too busy with my computer and phone to talk. Involvement = over. YOYO (you’re on your own).

Non stop Gilligan's Island at Molinari Caffe!
Non stop Gilligan’s Island at Molinari Caffe!
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe, Napa
Molinari Caffe
Molinari Caffe
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.
My office for the day, Molinari Caffe.

 

So, other than the tempestuous tourists, my morning was delightful and I got quite a lot accomplished. Famished and on a budget this week, a money budget and a dietary budget, I’ve been spending far too much money and far too many calories dining out as of late, I headed home for a sandwich mid-day. I finished my open-faced salmon salad sandwich, with jarred salmon I personally beheaded and gutted along the banks of the Copper River at Chitina in Alaska. So good! So good! So good! I’m spoiled. So spoiled! So spoiled! So spoiled!

I still did not relish the idea of working all afternoon from home. I had grocery shopping for the week to do, so I tossed my computer bag in the car and headed for Whole Foods. I stopped in at Target first for a $1.59 item I need for an upcoming video project. Please, please, please don’t ask me how I ended up with three adorable T-shirts and two packages of $1.59 items instead of one. In the name of art, in the name of art. I promise. I made my way to Whole Foods, and, by the way, thank you to the genius who decided to put Target and Whole Foods in the same parking lot for me! Thank you! I grabbed my computer, found the table with the outlet strategically hidden under the chair and made myself quite at home for the next couple of hours. When I finished what I was working on, I unplugged, gathered my pile of Apple electronics, placed them all in my tote for the day, one I bought from a street vendor in Tribeca in NYC, and found myself a shopping cart. I stuck to my list for the week, hearing Jillian Michaels words ringing in my ears, “if you can afford $20 extra per week for groceries to buy organic, you’ll end up saving money in the long run, on medical costs.” My argument exactly, thank you! Twenty bucks is, what, a co-pay. I’d rather spend it now and bank on the fact that I’ll have less co-pays to pay in the future for my preference for clean eating. Off soap box, now, on to shopping. My entire week’s groceries last week, between two stores, including Whole Foods, $60. This week $84. I was out of local, organic honey, a “large ticket” item. In all honesty, I probably spend more on wine in a week than I do food. Priorities = straight.

I take my computer tote and my perishables out to my car, climb in, open the sun roof and turn my face skyward towards the warm sunshine. October is absolutely the best time of year here. The best. I am reminded of being in high school; the dismissal bell has rung, it is fall, the weather is exactly as it is right now, sunny and warm, but not at all hot. School is over for the day, there may or may not be any homework to do, but it can wait until dark if there is. And in the worst way, I don’t want to go home. I just want to stay out in the sunshine, with my friends, and find something, anything at all, to do, other than go home and do chores and homework. I feel no different now, thirty some years later, than I did then. No different. Is it at all ironic that in high school my friend drove a Honda Civic with a sunroof and I am, now, sitting in a Honda Civic with a sunroof? Funny, right?

I head home. I pull into the driveway, grab my groceries and my computer bag, and as I step from the car. I quickly toss my groceries into my fridge and my allotted cupboard space in the garage, run upstairs and trade my computer bag for my gym bag. Before the radiator fan in my car has even shut off, I’m back on the road and headed for the gym. Today is upper back and cardio day.

It’s dusk when I get home, I cook dinner, tie up a few loose ends with some articles I worked on today, work on a couple of video projects from the weekend and call my Sweetie. It has been a very ordinary, and yet, extraordinary day. It’s the extraordinary I strive for, and that is my hope for the day, that in some way, however great or small, that we all find a way to make each and every day extraordinary. Even the ordinary ones. It doesn’t take much, a thought, a creative notion; find a new coffee shop to stop at on the way to work. We aren’t obligated to always go to Starbuck’s, their consistency is great, but there are lots of great, local spots to be found with so much to offer. Find a new place to work, even at the office. Is there a cafeteria or a sunny meeting room you can take your computer for a change of scenery? It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do for the creative process. And, I’m sorry, whether you’re an accountant or a truck driver, there is creativity involved in your process, whether you realize it or not. How about finding a new spot to eat lunch? Even if you brown bag it. If I had brown bagged my lunch today, I’d have eaten at the park, downtown, by the river. Just a thought. Change things up in a small way to make your day extraordinary. One extraordinary day after another builds an extraordinary life. It’s all up to you.

Scarlett’s Letter October 13, 2013

Driven.

I have been described as driven. A lot. I suppose I am, though I always feel as though I could be more driven. I certainly don’t sit still long, I gather no dust, and I am always making an effort to evolve into the person I want to be, in every role I serve in life. For these reasons, I write, with the hope of offering inspiration and insight for others who may be looking to advance themselves in some direction, distant, perhaps, from where they currently are. Anything is possible, but you may have to drive yourself to get there. There truly are no free rides.

My new favorite saying; nothing ever gets better that stays the same. So, if you want to be better, in any respect, however small, however large, then don’t. Don’t stay the same. Embrace change.

On a related tangent; I love to drive. I love cars. I love to drive cars. I love to ride in cars. As a small child, my dad, for several years, was a traveling salesman for a couple of different bicycle suppliers, before he bought his own bicycle shop. He had a company car and for many years, that car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. We had several over the years and eventually, my mom acquired one of the Chevrolet Monte Carlos and I thought it was the bomb. She called it “a bomb”, which had only a slightly different meaning in the 1970’s, but related only to cars. As a child, I remember making the weekly trip from Napa to Oakland for my allergy shots. Grimace. I would sit in the front seat, probably not buckled in, and count the other Monte Carlos on the road. I could identify them from almost any distance, at almost any rate of speed, headed in any direction. Anyone who knows my son now knows where he gets his passion for cars and his ability to identify year, make, model of nearly anything that rolls down the road.

My first car was a 1966 Mustang, my seventeenth birthday gift. I loved that car. I kept it forever and only sold it, a few years ago, because I wasn’t in a position, figuratively or literally to provide it the love, care and ground up restoration it deserved. I sold it to a seventeen-year-old girl with resources and passion and, well, the drive, to get the job done.

After high school I moved to Sacramento to go to college at “Sac State”. I worked for my dad for most of college, on the weekends, as a mechanic in his bike shop. My steady boyfriend through most of college lived in my hometown, Napa. So, needless to say, that little Mustang and I drove up and down Interstate 80, Highway 12 and Highway 37 thousands upon thousands of times. And in that car, on those drives, I discovered the blissful solitude of being alone in one’s car, the luxury of getting lost in creative thought, meditative problem solving, and the challenge and satisfaction of “playing the game”. The game; driving faster than the posted speed limit and not getting pulled over. It is a game of predator and prey, and, still, I excel, or should I say, accel, at his game.

After the Mustang, being a young mother and a budding career woman, I was given a very practical hand-me-down Honda Accord from my mom. An ordinary, gray, 1985 Honda Accord. I remember chiding her when she bought it, “it’ll fit in a dumpster when it falls apart”. I ate my words. Mighty Mouse, as the car was named, was one of the best cars I ever owned. I drove the wheels off of it and after 285,000 miles, I traded it in on another (used) Honda Accord.

When I became involved as a scout leader, both for boys and girls, and after purchasing a remote piece of recreational property, forty acres, outside of Foresthill, California, the Honda Accord made a little less sense. Gas was less expensive back then and driving to remote locations on dirt roads with a ton of kids and gear became a priority. I bought a 1992 Ford Bronco, Mighty Mo, and I have never loved a car so much. I drove the wheels off of that car, too, and gained recognition and notoriety in that vehicle. I retired it and passed it on to my son after 225,000 miles. We kept Mo, sort of jointly, for as long as we could, but, expensive to operate and a little out of our means to keep in top running order, we sold it, and, sadly, Mighty Mo was spotted, abandoned in a field, dead beyond repair, only months later. We are still in mourning.

In the middle of the Mighty Mo years, because we’d moved to the country, to another forty acre piece in El Dorado County, and I was commuting the hour plus, per direction, every day for work, and, again, every evening for kid activities, logging 3,000 miles a month, I bought a very used pewter gray 1991 Honda Accord to reduce my gasoline expenditure. “Scooter (the pewter commuter).” I drove the wheels off of it. At 358,000 miles and a great deal of neglect, it required an engine and transmission replacement. Fortunately, though due to unfortunate circumstances, we had an extra (totaled) Honda Accord in the yard, the one my mom bought to replace Mighty Mouse, and since replaced with, yes, another Honda Accord, which she still has. I was given the “in-between” Accord, in pristine shape. I bequeathed it to my sixteen-year-old son, as I already had Scooter. You can put two and two together, I’m sure. So, we took the engine and transmission from the smashed Accord and put them in “Scooter”, and though I’ve since given the car to my ex, it, to my knowledge, still tootles about town under it’s own power.

When I decided to leave my husband for a list of reasons longer than most of my articles, I also left behind a life where we had ten cars and three boats, none running, none maintained, in an overgrown yard. And with my quest for my own minimalist, healthy, life without limits, I liberated myself further by buying my own car, not a hand-me-down, and not a terribly used car with 100,000 plus miles in need of more than routine maintenance and a mechanic on staff, a role my husband happily and willingly played, for a while, until the Internet was invented and he no longer had the ambition to remove himself from in front of it. Instead, I bought myself a very practical, nearly new, Honda Civic, only a couple of years old and with only 15,000 miles on it. “Meep.”

Meep is now six years old and has nearly 92,000 miles. My warranty expires at 100,000 miles. Yes, I could buy another warranty, but I am driven to buy a newer car at some point in the not so distant future. For two reasons; to have a newer car, with a warranty, and to continue to build myself a personal credit history after the aftermath of, well, some of the things I mentioned above.

Last week, my car crazy son, presently carless, by choice, a difficult choice, and living in Honolulu, a not so difficult choice, sent me a Facebook link from Tesla Motor Company, offering a test drive of the Model S at a winery in St. Helena. Because I am wired the way I am and because I believe in taking advantage of every intriguing thing that crosses my path, I clicked on the link and signed up. I messaged my son back and told him I’d signed up. I honestly don’t think he expected me to, but his response was that he “had to swallow a jellysickle”. LOL.

Today was my test drive. I drove the top-of-the-line model, the P85+, and, after spending a little time educating myself on their website, I was completely blown away by this car. Even though I drove it like a grandma on the winding, narrow mountain road, I could feel the amazing weight balance and stability and could easily imagine how it would feel at higher speeds, with it’s 416 horsepower engine, cornering the tight s-curves on this road. Had my nearly 90-year old mother not been in the backseat, repeatedly asking the Tesla sales rep in the passenger seat whether anyone had ever gotten car sick on the beautiful Nappa leather interior before, I may have been a little more assertive cornering, a little more aggressive accelerating. I’m glad Mom went. Really, I am, otherwise I might have done something terribly irresponsible, and bought the car on the spot! She served her purpose; to subdue me into boring, mind-numbing practicality.

More about the Tesla; I loved, loved, loved the regenerative braking. In the extensive mountainous road driving I’ve done in my life, having lived for several years in the Sierra Foothills and spending most of my weekends recreating in the nearby mountains, I always used the transmission to brake on downhills, rather than replace brake pads every other weekend. This car, without a transmission, required no braking, even on the tightest, downhill, hairpin curve. My foot hovered over the brake pedal, but as soon as I lifted my foot off the accelerator, the car slowed smoothly and adequately. The regenerative braking, by design, not only slows the car but sends energy back to the battery for storage and later use. How cool is that? I applied the brake only to stop, and, reluctantly, turn around, when directed to. It drove effortlessly back up the mountain, how curious to not hear an engine strain with the grade, how bizarre to never feel the car downshift to manage the climb. It just went. I admire that, I like to think I’m that way, I just go (link). The car and I, as one, just go.

And so, having driven a car that I have only ever admired from the safe and practical seat of my Civic, I am driven, in more than one way, to have such an acquisition not seem irresponsible, but, rather, practical. The numbers support themselves, it is a practical purchase, if you apply creative mathematics and time, and if you are at a certain income level to afford the initial outlay, or the monthly income to afford the inventive lease program, which, technically, I do. And, for me, it is not a matter of whether I want such a car, or not, certainly I do. And for the few who tell me I can’t, poo on you. For every one of you naysayers there are four people telling me I can, and this, I know. However, the real question, for me, is whether I am willing to realign my goals, based on my roles, in order to make such an acquisition, whether it is a long-term practical move, or not? The question is, what am I currently working towards and would I have to abandon current goals, or maybe even roles, to make owning this car an eventuality. Certainly, I would have to. But will I? No, not now. I have a clear vision of what I am evolving towards right now, and abandoning or even reprioritizing any of those goals right now would not be my path to happiness. I am prepared to say, though, “never say never.” If the Universe and I are on exceptional terms, then perhaps I can “have it all”. For now, though, I am content with what I have and with what I have planned.

Sometimes in life, we have to take a look around us, perhaps take advantage of unique opportunities, to step out of our present roles and place ourselves in another role, temporarily, to inspire ourselves, to motivate ourselves to take another step in a direction we’ve been hesitant to go. Or to just take any kind of step. At the very least, I had an incredible experience driving a car that is at the pinnacle of engineering excellence. I believe it is truly the shape of things to be and I am grateful to have had this opportunity. I look for inspiration, in order to keep myself motivated in my effort to evolve, and this experience, the actual experience of driving the Tesla, and the experience as a catalyst for thought and reflection, certainly did not disappoint in either respect. I continue to be driven.

To be driven, you just have to drive. Drive it for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scarlett’s Letter August 29, 2013

My “pre-morning” routine; the routine that occurs before I get out of bed, unless, of course, I’m on vacation, in which case, it may or may not occur at all. I have vacation on the brain, it begins tomorrow. My last official vacation of the year, and only a week, I’m happy and sad, simultaneously.  So, my “pre-morning” routine; roll over, grab phone, scroll through emails, delete ads, decide which emails I’m going to ignore until I am officially “at work” at 9:00 AM in whatever time zone I happen to be in, cruise through Facebook, unplug phone, get out of bed, begin actual morning routine.

My self-discipline has been, though well intended, a bit lackadaisical. I did my fast four miles earlier this week, slacked off yesterday, and began making excuses for today at some point last night. I follow a friend’s page on Facebook, “Runner Girl” and there was some motivational something or other this morning that made me just jump out of bed at an unusually early hour, only because it’s Thursday and the garbage trucks come by at an unusually early hour and wake me up. I donned my running clothes, had a super fast breakfast, a wee bit of coffee and headed out the door before anyone else in the house (Mom) woke up. I’d hoped to get a ten-mile run in before vacation because I know I won’t be running during vacation. I’m not even going to humor myself by putting my running shoes in my suitcase. Will not happen. So, I set out, from the house, for a ten-mile run. I had a route in mind, the combination of a couple of routes I run regularly, and doing “Scarlett math”, I figured it ‘d be about ten miles. I ran and ran and ran. Another reason I took advantage of running this morning, it was foggy and cool, perfect for summer running in the Valley. I ran and ran and ran. I felt energized. I felt like I could run forever. I tried to keep my pace down because of the distance I had planned, but every time I looked at my watch, I was running a full thirty to forty-five seconds faster per mile than my planned pace.

I ran and I ran and I ran. The clouds broke as I ran through the Oak Knoll District, past the vineyards. By the time I neared home, the sun was out and the increasing heat was evident. Still, I ran and ran and ran. Once you’re out there, and you get to the far corner of your route, you really have no choice but to run home. Sure, I could’ve stopped and called Mom for a ride home at any point, but I still felt so energized, like I could run, at this pace, forever. And besides, Mom would never let me live that down. When I got to my preferred point to stop and walk for cool down, I’d run 11.6 miles a full and at a constant thirty seconds faster per mile than plan. I still felt energized. I felt energized, I think, because I didn’t let myself down, I followed through with my original plan and didn’t employ any of the long list of excuses I had ready to justify not running today.

A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
A lovely morning for an 11.6 mile run in the OKD.
Early harvest this year, most of the white grapes have been picked and they have started on some of the Pinot Noir grapes.
Early harvest this year, most of the white grapes have been picked and they have started on some of the Pinot Noir grapes. WINE BABIES!!

Even though I devoted over two-hours to my run, and hadn’t actually begun to pack for my trip, other than a couple of tiny piles (link), I managed to get everything done. My self-indulgence continued today, after last night’s two hour massage and sugar scrub for my feet, I further indulged in a pedicure and a bikini wax today. Yes, I am spoiled. But as I am doing the spoiling, I really don’t see any issue with it. I pay my bills and afford myself a little spoiling. Problem? Everyone deserves to be pampered, by someone, and if you pamper yourself, hell, at least you know what you like!

My day was fab. My only “observation” for the day; people just don’t think, or apply logic. Either, or both. This is true of more people than not, and I witness examples all over the country. My closest, example, however, today, is at home. When I came home from my pedicure, Mom was gone, out shopping. For some reason, when she returns home, habitually, she sits in the driveway and revs the engine at a constant three grand, for about five minutes. I am only slightly terrified, I have visions of her not being in park and letting off the brake and crashing through the garage, through all of my treasures therein, causing the front half of the second story, my bedroom and my office, to implode. So, far, not the case. At least I know it’s time to go downstairs and help unload groceries. I do. Mom meets me half way up the steps, looks down at my bare feet for an extended period, then asks, as she is looking at them, “what color are they?’ Um. Red. I could not have selected a more obvious shade of red, and I know, for a fact, she is not color blind, and actually, overall, I think her eyesight is better than mine, and when last tested, I was 20/20. So, I wonder, why ask?

Unmistakable red.
Unmistakable red.

I have been in need of a new suitcase for a while. My dear, old, purple Samsonite doesn’t have a single zipper pull left, the cording is worn on every side, and every time I see it arrive on the luggage carousel in one piece I do a little happy dance, which onlookers seem to thoroughly enjoy. Mom has been thrusting Kohls’ newspaper ad inserts at me, day after day. I have actually gone to Kohls to view their “closeout” offerings. They have one suitcase, like mine, but way bigger. Believe it. They make them bigger. I want the same exact one, since I have a slightly less worn companion bag, only slightly smaller. If I can’t find and replace my exact bag, in purple, which, sadly, apparently has being discontinued, I will have to buy two bags, at one time, in another color. Heaven forbid I have two bags in two different colors! Quel horreur. The point here, Mom is aware I need a new suitcase. I am taking a number of bottles of wine to Alaska with me. To share. Maybe. I have been shopping and spending feverishly, on wine. It is now time to pack. This time, unlike earlier trips, I have actually secured an “official”, TSA approved, guaranteed not to break (our winery’s) bottles, box, complete with Styrofoam insert. Normally, I use bubble wrap, two-gallon Ziploc bags and my least favorite pairs of jeans to secure their safe arrival, within my suitcase, to their destination. I have my reservations about the box, we shall see. As I am schlepping the box up to my room, from the garage, Mom asks, “Do you think that’s what happened to your suitcase? Did you carry wine in it?” I struggle for a few, long seconds for a response. If the maximum weight for a checked bag is fifty pounds, does it matter if the suitcase contains cotton balls, gold bullion, or razor blades? How would wine bottles within the suitcase deteriorate the exterior of the suitcase? It most certainly couldn’t be the way the airline employees move suitcases from conveyor to plane to conveyor to cart to conveyor. Repeat almost weekly for three years. Lesser suitcases would’ve had busted wheels two years ago, this I know, for a fact. I have a friend who travels as much as I do, perhaps more. She buys and destroys not one, but two, large suitcases from WalMart every year at forty dollars a piece. They last her about six months before the wheels are busted off or the handle breaks or some other such calamity. I buy one suitcase, on sale, for a hundred-fifty and it lasts me four years. The math works. I will always contend, you get what you pay for. Period. End of story.

All but one zipper tab broken, all the cording worn, obviously, it was the wine.
All but one zipper tab broken, all the cording worn, obviously, it was the wine.

Mom is not the only person filling blank airtime with flotsam and jetsam. People seem uncomfortable with quiet or a lull in conversation. There is nothing wrong with a lull. Lulls provide time for the parties to think of something enlivening and relevant to say. If our only interest is to fill empty airtime with noise, may I suggest music or poetry? It, at least, usually makes sense. To prompt the other party or parties with ludicrous questions does not a good conversation make. It makes me want to break things, as I retreat. Far away.

So, not that I like to gripe, but today, but if I were to gripe, my gripe today would be; think before speaking. Far better to have nothing to say if you don’t have something intelligent to say than to piss off and provoke everyone around you by filling empty air with something illogical and inane. Especially in the form of a question requiring a response. Harsh. But true. So, while I am trying my best to bite my tongue, (link) I would greatly appreciate it if others would try, as well. Idle conversation is grand, but incessant questioning, interrogating, inquisitions and illogical queries does not constitute quality idle conversation. Conversation is an art and one that should be taught in public schools, at all grade levels. Those capable of intelligent and engaging conversation can, and do, rule the world. Those who are inept will be tolerated. Barely. In my travels, in my observations, those truly able to carry on a conversation are few and far between. Ironically enough, the most capable conversers are in bars. If you are traveling, alone or with others, do not hesitate to enter a bar, I promise, the conversation there will be far more stimulating than any other public venue you could happen upon.

So, for today, I have retreated upstairs with my box of wine (bottles), to pack my battered though still travel-worthy Samsonite for yet, another trip. I, no doubt, will pack it and its accompanying piece to no less than forty-nine and a half of the allowable fifty pounds. And the wine in a box, pray for the wine. I’m going to Alaska, one must be prepared.

The final pile. Vacay begins at O'Dark thirty tomorrow.
The final pile. Vacay begins at O’Dark thirty tomorrow.

Scarlett’s Letter August 28, 2013

In the new consciousness it is easier to overlook the unconsciousness in others. Don’t strengthen it by dwelling on it. ~ Eckhart Tolle

My lesson, for myself, for today. Another way to put it, I need to learn to bite my tongue. Most of the time. There is no virtue in correcting others if there is no harm or danger in what they are saying. I am going to grow very quiet. Especially at home.

I spent the day with Mom. I am so emotionally spent I’m physically tired.

This is representative of how my whole day went:

Mom: Where do you want to go for dinner? Pizza and beer at the new place, Thai food at Mini Mango, or that Tacqueria (we’ve both heard amazing things about and both have stated, repeatedly, we’d like to try).

Me: Any of those are fine. (Giving her the opportunity to choose what she’d really like).

Mom: Well no one else is here to help decide! (I think she’s prompting me to be decisive).

Me: (Decisively) Pizza and beer is a little heavier than I’d like to eat tonight. I love Mini Mango, but we’ve been there a lot. How about the tacqueria?

Mom: But we had fish tacos last night!

Do I keep deciding until I decide on the restaurant she’s apparently already decided on? I’ve retreated upstairs. I hear the television on downstairs. I have an appointment for a two-hour massage in a couple of hours. I’m really looking forward to it.

Mom and I successfully made a donation of several boxes and bags of stuff at Community Projects, then another at Cope, according to a longstanding plan. We’d planned on enjoying a winery together, “wine-tasting Wednesday”, since I needed to go “Up Valley” to V. Sattui to purchase a special box designed for checking an entire case of wine as luggage, perfect for my trip to Alaska! On Mom’s winery bucket list was Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford on the St. Helena Winery. Like Trefethen, yesterday, Cakebread Cellars has been a family owned winery since the late 1960’s, producing their first vintage in 1973. They have 62 acres surrounding the winery, itself, and another 900 here and there around the Valley. They also purchase grapes, some, even, from Trefethen, as I learned yesterday. When visiting Cakebread Cellars, do call in advance for a tasting appointment. We were fortunate enough to be able to walk in and taste, but only because it was a Wednesday afternoon and most of the tourists coming from the Bay Area are deterred because the San Francisco Bay Bridge is closed, today, through September 3rd. They were gracious and also honor the Napa Neighbors Discount Program with their standard tasting of six wines, the “Select Wine Tasting”, normally $15, complimentary.

Nancy poured for us, and just for the two of us, as luck would have it. Tasting, in nice weather, occurs out under the sycamore trees by the flowerbeds, viewing the culinary center and the winery building. Nancy was a wealth of information on the wine, the winery, the family and the area. Having her to ourselves allowed us the chat and swap stories of lifetimes spent in the Bay Area and in Napa. It was like having wine with friends!

As I state, on nearly a daily basis, I prefer red wine. Cakebread does offer an exclusively red wine tasting, by appointment. It is $30 and is not available for the complimentary Napa Neighbors Discount. I will return for this tasting another time. The wines selected for the “Select Wine Tasting Menu” were comprised of three whites and three reds. I enjoyed them all, yes, whites included. We started with their 2012 Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc. They describe it in their accompanying brochure as every fruit in the market, except peach, and all I tasted was peach. It was delightful. The second wine was a 2012 Napa Valley Chardonnay, also very good, followed by the 2011 Napa Valley Carneros Reserve Chardonnay, which was even better. Our first red was a 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. I am fast becoming quite a Pinot fan and this wine did not disappoint my amateur palate. Don’t tell Miles that I prefer Merlot to Pinot Noir, even still. My two favorite wines were the last, as the big, bold reds usually are last in the line up. First of my two favorites, and the one I could afford to bring a bottle of home, the 2011 Lake County Zinfandel. The best wine of the day, and a little out of my price range, at least with as much as I’ve been spending on wine lately, was the 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I envisioned both the Zin and the Cab accompanying a moose steak very nicely. The Zin being half the price of the Cab, Zin it is!

I am, at this point, starving. I’m not quite sure what to do about dinner; eat crow, cook for myself, or go to the tacqueria by myself, it is, after all, conveniently located in the same shopping center as my massage center!

Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Cakebread Cellars
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.
Wine tasting under the sycamore tree at Cakebread Cellars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.