Scarlett’s Letter September 29, 2013

I’ve been trying to establish some social outlets in Napa, similar to the ones I had in Sacramento. True, I have several of my life long, best friends in town, but we are all busy much of the time with work, family, kids and all that goes with it. Rare is the time we have that is free and that coincides with the free time of the rest.

In Sacramento, I had good friends I’d known for years, but was met with the same obstacles, which we’ll just call “uncommon free time syndrome”. I found several Meetup groups in the area that suited my interests and provided social outlets and networking. Napa, sadly, has NO Meetup groups, though, I did find one that is centered in nearby Marin and Sonoma counties, “Women’s Wine Tasting Adventures”. I like making new women friends, I like wine, I like wine tasting, and I like adventures. I signed up and today marks my second adventure with the group.

My first group adventure was nice, though only attended by the organizer of the group and one, close friend of hers. It was a lovely day, but I felt a little awkward and a little like a third wheel, they were close confidants, had many shared experiences and history, and I was the new girl. Unfortunately, neither of those ladies were among the six attendees at today’s wine tasting adventure, so I didn’t get the chance to get to know them better. The ladies in attendance today were mostly reasonably new to the group and to the are, they were all a lot fun and very interesting, making for one of the best Meetup gatherings I’ve ever been to.

We were to meet at Quivira Vineyards & Winery outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, an area I’ve been interested in exploring but that I’ve spent very little time in, ever. My parents may have brought me to Healdsburg, or nearby, a time or two during my childhood, but I doubt we did much more than drive through. As an adult, this is virgin territory.  Additionally, as a “Napkin”, we have been raised and conditioned to believe that our wine region is superior. I don’t believe it, of course, I think excellent wine is a result of understanding your micro-climate, your appellation, grapes, and having a masterful winemaker with an insightful palate, a great deal of patience and, well, luck. Good wine can come from almost anywhere, that Napa has an extraordinary number of wineries producing an extraordinary number of world class wines speaks more to the fact that the right talent has been recruited with the right resources.

Sonoma is a far larger county, geographically, than Napa. Winemaking represents only about 9% of the land use for the county, compared to Napa, where, well, with the exception of my front and back yards, nearly every inch is devoted to growing grapes for wine. Many will tell you that Sonoma is a bit more relaxed, a bit more laid back, than Napa. I’m not sure if it’s entirely true, but at the very least, the tourists seem less ostentatious in Sonoma than in Napa.

My adventure was not without some adversity. Not knowing Healdsburg and surrounds, other than where the airport is that I went skydiving at for my big birthday this year, I had the address of the winery plugged into my Garmin and the only “celebrity” voice available for my model, Dave Zabriskie (Team Garmin), guided me along my way, cracking the same jokes and making the same carefully timed commentary he has been making drive after drive, city after city, state after state. He led me to a gravel driveway with no signage, in other words, the wrong place. I checked the address of the winery and I’d neglected to put the “W”, for west, in front of the Dry Creek Road, the street name. I corrected the address and we took off, backtracking a few miles. Fortunately, as is my modus operandi, I’d allowed plenty of time for backtracking, u-turns, and getting lost. About a mile from the next turn, my Garmin just froze. It has done this a time or two before, it seems to overheat and it just freezes. It won’t even shut off. If I don’t throw it out the window first, I may have to see if there is a warranty of some sort, or a software upgrade I can download, or something. I really, really, rely on this tool in my travels. No worries, I grabbed my iPhone and summoned Siri. The new, improved, Siri I downloaded with iOS 7 and had not yet used. I told her where I wanted to go and she, basically, told me the place didn’t exist. I told her she wasn’t much help. She told me I wasn’t very nice. So my Nuvi wasn’t speaking to me and Siri and I just had a fight. I happened to have my work iPhone handy, which had not been upgraded to iOS 7 yet and had the “old, dumber” version of Siri, who was also no help.

I had no choice but to resort to old-fashioned means to find my way to the winery. I kept heading in the direction I was last directed to go, and I remembered, I happened to have a California atlas in my backseat, you know, a book, with paper pages, and maps on each page, indexed by area. My Sweetie uses an atlas for most of his navigation through the great state of Alaska. When he visited Cali, I bought an atlas he could reference, if he liked, as I showed him around my great state. Before I had to reach for the atlas, though, with my keen powers of observation, I spotted a number of arrow-shaped winery signs on a post. Quivira was near the top and I followed the arrow. At the next intersection, more arrow-shaped winery signs, again, there was Quivira and I turned right, as the arrow suggested. And, magically, there it was. I’d made it. I’d made it three minutes early!

Barrels of fun with the ladies at Quivira Winery
Barrels of fun with the ladies at Quivira Winery

Quivira Vineyards & Winery is much more than just a place that grows grapes, picks grapes, smashes grapes and sells the fermented juice. Quivira is a “biodynamic” winery, which is like organic, cubed. There are no fertilizers or pesticides in use, at all, and the property has gardens and animals, that all fit into the process. Animal waste and garden waste are composted, which, in turn, is used to nourish the soil for the grapes. It’s like an all-inclusive, completely inter-related, cyclical farming process. Becoming certified as “biodynamic” is a much more rigorous process than becoming certified organic and can take a decade or more to achieve. I was fascinated. I was in love. I joined the wine club! Joining wine clubs has become, for me, a lot like buying shoes; impulsive, a little expensive, but justifiable. I’m up to four wine clubs. No more. I promise. I’ll even quit one. I swear.

The wine was fantastic, the tour was awesome, and the ladies I shared it with were even better. We shared a potluck picnic lunch, with some Quivira wine, after our lovely and very educational tour. I look forward to visiting this winery, again, soon, to pick up my first batch of club selections. I also look forward to the next Meetup with Women’s Wine Tasting Adventures!

I made it home without any navigational difficulty and without any assistance, electronic or otherwise. Once home, still pouting over my falling out with Siri, I did something I knew had to be done; I gave Siri a sex change. Sometimes women just don’t take direction well from other women. Siri wasn’t taking direction from me, and she certainly wasn’t providing me with any direction. Now she, Siri, is a he, Sir-ee, I guess. I don’t know. Hopefully he’s more helpful.

Today’s takeaway; resources. Know your resources, all of them. I was relying on a trusted resource, that, for whatever reason, failed me. I aim to get to the bottom of the problem and have it fixed, but, in the meantime, had I not had other, multiple resources at my disposal, I may have missed out on the lovely day I so enjoyed. Resources can be almost anything; people, our jobs, objects we use, information or sources of information, even habits and behaviors. When a trusted resource isn’t available to us, for whatever reason, we need to be able to quickly and confidently access another, and, hopefully, one we know and trust. If we’re counting on a friend or acquaintance for something and they aren’t able to follow through, we, hopefully, have someone else we can call on to assist. If we lose our job, hopefully, we are well networked and active in our networks, and our resume is already updated and replacing the lost job, that resource, won’t be too difficult.

What about habits and behaviors? The habits we develop and the behaviors we adopt are probably the most important resources we’ll ever have at our disposal. A habit of positive thinking will take us further in life than almost anything else we can employ. Behaviors that promote a healthy self-esteem and self-confidence are paramount in our ability to plan, achieve and succeed in all we endeavor in life. Like other resources, sometimes our habits and behaviors let us down or aren’t quite all that we need to evolve into who we seek to be. We may need additional resources. We may need to strengthen other positive habits and behaviors to enhance, or even replace, the ones we’ve relied upon thus far.

Our personal evolution takes effort, and like everything in life, whether it’s changing the gender of the voice on our phone, upgrading the software on our GPS or having an atlas in the backseat, we may have to identify and employ different strategies, different resources, to get the job done. The message here, then, is to identify several resources, know how to use them and when to employ them, and to just keep headed in the direction of your goals.

Scarlett’s Letter August 16, 2013

Have you ever noticed that everyone considers themselves navigational geniuses? Like talking about the weather, the local sports team or the biggest story on the news, people like to share their navigational wizardry. Why? I don’t know. People dictate directions, suggest routes, compare routes and alternate routes. I find this especially tiresome when I am driving in an area I know very well and my passenger insists on a route different than the one I prefer. I also find it a bit tedious when my passenger argues with my navigational gadget of choice, especially when I am trying to hear what my, usually more correct and more direct, navigational device of choice is saying. But worst of all, for whatever reason, is when the navigational wizard is my mother.

Mom and I went to Sacramento today to have lunch with my son and his good friend. My son is moving to Hawaii, with his friend, to go to school, for at least a semester, and if plans fall into place per design, or at least desire, a couple of years. Lunch was great. My day, leading up to lunch, well, you be the judge. It started with a bikini wax. Then an hour and a half car trip with Mom. Then a mammogram. Are we having fun yet?

Like I said, lunch was fantastic! And for me, by this point, well deserved. We went to one of our favorite places. To clarify; my kids and I love this place, Mom is a newbie. Cafeteria 15L in Midtown Sacramento. Their specialty, and the reason we selected this place for lunch today, chicken and waffles. I love chicken and waffles. My mom loves chicken and waffles. My son loves all the leftover chicken and waffles I’ve given him but has not actually ever ordered chicken and waffles for himself. So, that was the plan. Chicken and waffles all the way around. They even had a chicken and waffles face contest! Post your best “chicken and waffle” face and you could win FREE chicken and waffles for a whole year! I was so geared up for chicken and waffles! So, imagine our disappointment when we were told chicken and waffles weren’t served for lunch. They are served for breakfast, brunch on the weekends and dinner. Not lunch.

It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.
It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.

We scrambled quickly and all came up with alternate orders. Mom had fish and chips, my son had the pasta special, his friend the Cafeteria burger and I had an heirloom tomato and melon salad. And a side of sweet potato fries as an impulsive, mid lunch addition. Everyone’s meals were devoured and enjoyed. Cafeteria 15L is all about comfort food done with style. The atmosphere is comfortable and the design is noteworthy. It is quite fun to sit and really look at the lighting, the fixtures, the selections for décor. One phrase painted on the wall spurred a lively discussion about the generational preferences for the use of ellipses, for example … I’m a fan. My kids are not. Base on that discussion, I am plaguing my son with texts laced with ellipses, just to be a brat …

My daughter is an English major … she hates ellipses, too … wish she could’ve been here today.

My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale. http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale.
http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
I recommend SPF 50 - Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.
I recommend SPF 50 – Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.

The dessert menu arrived. We didn’t really need it; dessert. Or the menu. For on the back of all the wait staffs’ shirts was a picture of the featured dessert and it was so over the top you just had to order it so you could take a picture of it and post it on Instagram to prove to everyone you know that you are “that cray cray”. Bacon waffle sundae. A waffle, vanilla ice cream, bacon, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Double decker. We ordered one with four spoons and somehow managed to clean the plate.

So good. So bad.
So good. So bad.

After lunch, we dropped the boys off at my son’s house and headed back towards Napa. If I had a dollar for every mile I have traveled between Napa and Sacramento over the last thirty some years, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I have completely worn out a 1966 Mustang, a 1992 Ford Bronco and three Honda Accords. I’m working on a Civic now. To say I am fairly well acquainted with the traffic patterns is a bit of an understatement. True, there can be daily anomalies, but there are also the daily patterns. Leaving town at 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I really expected to hit quite a bit of traffic in a few key spots on the way home. Mom, in her navigational wizard’s hat, had some crazy alternate route in mind that would have taken a two-hour detour to even begin. I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, wrapped my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stayed my course. She fell asleep and we made it home without nary a slow down. It was miraculous! Both the absence of traffic and the sleeping wizard.

With my son’s move to Hawaii, he will not be needing a car. We are car people. My dad loved cars, my son’s dad loved cars (in his own neglectful way), I love cars, every boy I dated in high school and college loved cars, my mom loves cars, the man I love loves cars, my daughter loves cars, my son in law loves cars, our dogs all loved cars. My son loves cars, too. Any car he owns he will practically, if not literally, disassemble and reassemble the whole thing, cleaning each and every part and restoring it to its original condition. He uses only factory parts and fluids and does all his own maintenance and detailing. Tonight, he sold his car and is, for the first time since his sixteenth year, without a car. It was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, I really thought it may be more like the amputation of a limb than a business transaction, but the whole deal went down and the car is presently being driven to Houston, Texas to a fellow Acura Legend fan. Per the Facebook account of the trek, so far they have only received one speeding ticket for 95 miles per hour.

A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend - A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend – A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend - A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend – A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend - Restored seat belt release button.
The Acura Legend – Restored seat belt release button.

I dated one young man after high school who had an amazing car, a 1940’s era Plymouth Coupe, in black, with a personalized license plate that said, simply, “A Shadow”. His father did hot rod and motorcycle customization, including chopping and channeling. Beautiful work. After a few years, about twenty speeding tickets, threatening and menacing letters from the DMV, and endless expense trying to keep an old car running and street legal, the car was sold. An ad was placed in the local paper that said, simply, “A Shadow has been sold.” I wondered if my son would somehow want to communicate to the world, the world who knows him by his car, especially, that the deed had been done. An ad in a newspaper worked well in the 1980’s. In 2013, it was a Facebook post. In both cases, the letting go of something valued, cherished and even a part of one’s identity, while sad, was, and is, the beginning of a new era. Sometimes we have to let go of something, even something we can’t imagine not keeping, not having, in order to take the next, important steps in life. This is, actually, part of life. Those willing to sever those ties that may be holding us back, or preventing us from growing, moving, leaving, changing, are the ones who will evolve according to their dreams, the goals and their passion.  Sometimes we have to let go of one dream to grasp the next.

A Shadow.
A Shadow.