Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Change is good. Change is bad. And sometimes change is just change. Why do they change things when they seem to be working perfectly well? For example, Craigslist. You used to be able to access different neighborhoods easily if by chance you were looking at real estate. Now they have changed the format and it switches randomly when you least expect it. You might be looking for “apartments to rent” in Napa and then switch to “rooms to share” and it takes you to Mill Valley or some other neighborhood that you have no interest in. No rhyme or reason. It worked like a charm just days ago. It happened yesterday when I went to sign on to my Vanguard account. Totally new home page, where or where do I sign in? It worked beautifully last time I checked.  I don’t get it.

That is bad change.

I’m wondering about all of the changes I have been going through lately. With each resume I send off to cyberspace that gets rejected, with each house that gets rented to the person who saw it right before me, with each botched relationship, there is always that mantra playing; “it must not have been meant to be” – I don’t know if I believe that anymore. Maybe it is simply bad timing. Just missed opportunities. Or is it nothing more than bad decisions, miscalculated choices. If everything was “meant to be” would there really be so many tragic endings, so much sadness, so much regret? Maybe our “just meant to be’s” really are a matter of wrong time, wrong place, not enough effort, lazily assuming that things work out the way they are supposed to work out, too much letting things flow. Not meant to be is very much like religion or placing blame on our parents, or ex-spouses, or. . . another way to feel justified and alleviate any fear or responsibility for what happens to us in this lifetime. It is giving our power away. I wasn’t meant to get that job, that house, make that relationship work, it just wasn’t meant to be. It mitigates blame. It requires very little of us.

I know very little for sure at this point in time. But I have to believe that I have more control over what happens to me if I exert the energy, the focus and the intention required. Stay optimistic, believe in myself and trust that I have a little more input in regards to the outcome of my life (or lifestyle) than we sometimes want to believe. We have free-will. We just need to exercise it.

I do know for sure something that is meant to be. Chinese Food tonight. I’m going to go get some fried rice, eat it right out of the take-out carton with the red imperial pagoda against that waxy white background.

Fumble with my chop sticks (eventually get a fork) and watch TV – just like you see other people do on TV. Except the girl on TV (picture Sex in the City here) is usually living in a chic urban loft in Manhattan or Chelsea, traipsing around in an oversized white "boyfriend shirt," with her legs bronzed and freshly shaven. Not in some messy bedroom in Napa, in mismatched flannel pj bottoms and a torn oversized plaid flannel shirt, the room in disarray due to the half filled moving boxes, open suitcases and stacks of paperwork and paperbacks. Plus, my legs are looking like those "save the trees" girls in the movie, Without a Paddle. Really, it is that ridiculous! I know, not a pretty visual. But I can't find the razor in all this mess.

So for now I guess I will hold on to that "you are exactly where you are meant to be" mentality and go with it a little longer. It feels better. I won't question these decisions made over the past two months. But soon  I need to make smart choices, take a little more time with them, and know that perhaps if things don't work out the way I had hoped or planned, maybe I just didn't have the patience or put in the necessary effort, and I will take full responsibility and not blame it on the "Gods."

Monday, March 29, 2010

An un-poetic ode to my inner fisherman

The end of March is inching closer and so is my time here at my “home” of the last two years. I rented a small storage unit a couple of days ago and got it pretty much filled floor to ceiling with items that can hibernate until they are needed. Hopefully this will be short-lived and I can reclaim all of my possessions within a few months time. That is my goal anyway.

So for now the home front dust is starting to settle and it looks like another coffee house/bar/kiosk might be brewing!!! I am meeting with the owner of a winery a few days after Easter to discuss the possibility. I have talked with him before and at the time it seemed like neither of us were that excited about it, plus I still had Portland on my mind. And I was pretty set on Portland. But of course, things have changed and now this is looking like an incredible no-brainer idea. I can’t really go on too much about this until I have actually talked with him further and we decide to give it a shot. All that matters to me today is that I have a chance to pull off this coffee thing, one way or another!

The next two days are still full of packing, sorting, trying to stay motivated enough to get this done. I have moved many times in my life but it is much more difficult when you are uncertain of where you are going or even why you are going. It is very important for me right now to stay focused on the future, only the future, because if I look back all I want to do is turn around and run back to it. I dream about being on the Cape, I dream about lighthouses and having my early morning coffee while watching the fisherman ready their boats for the day. One boat at a time, their dim lights flick on as they slowly putter out of the harbor. I must have been a fisherman or the wife of a fisherman in a past life. Walking that old widow’s walk, in the bitter chill each morning and the biting cold each night. I could gaze out at that scene for hours at a time, not looking for anything in particular but seeing everything I need to see.


Again, that brings me to always wanting to be somewhere that I am not. A couple of weeks ago I went to visit my sister in Santa Barbara. She took me to an authentic French bakery where we had the most incredible almond croissants and cappuccinos. The perfect company, perfect food, perfect place, and I said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be sitting in Paris at a little patisserie right now?” And then after I realized how stupid and “un-present” that was, I remarked, “Do you now how many people wish they were sitting in a little bakery in Santa Barbara right now and how lucky we are?” That is how it is now, always wanting to be somewhere else. Must be my gypsy blood. I will try to appreciate Napa more, on a daily basis, quit day dreaming about the Cape, or Pacific Grove, or anywhere on the coastline for that matter, and I will appreciate the beauty and desirability of this valley. I mean really, somewhere, someone right now is saying “Can you imagine sitting in Napa, having an espresso at a really cool little roadside coffee joint with the smell of wine in the air?”

We miss you Dan Fogelberg – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEL_qqXGjHU

Saturday, March 20, 2010

You say "winter" like it's a bad thing

The night before the first official day of spring, I went to bed only to lie awake listening to the sound of children’s voices, squealing in that pre-summer delight, cars roaring down the main road and music from the neighbor behind me. I tossed and turned, on my back, on my side, back on my back. I admit, I went to bed rather early for a Friday night, it was 9:30. Still, what are those kids doing outside at this time of night? They weren’t teenagers; they definitely were elementary school age or younger.

It was a warm evening, a beautiful night actually. Way too warm for the 19th of March. I was in San Francisco yesterday and it was 77 degrees. Hot for the city. And I’m already dreading the heat coming in the next 6 months ahead.

This morning I woke early, 3:00 am to be exact. I couldn’t sleep so I got up, made myself some mint tea, checked my email, read a little bit of the news on the web. Did you hear Lindsay Lohan might be banned from India!!!!! OMG! I went back to bed around 5:30 hoping to fall back asleep. It wasn’t long before the birds began chirping wildly. Every spring this happens here. There are a few trees next to my bedroom window which apparently is the hot spring break destination for all the birds in Napa. I love the sound of a few birds, but I am not exaggerating, there are hundreds that gather here. (I could be stretching this, but only slightly). This could almost be another present day Alfred Hitchcock thriller. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dshehPH_1ow  So, just as I was contemplating “how to kill a mockingbird” my thoughts were intruded upon by the dreaded leaf blower.  A few minutes later the lawnmower. It was like sitting in a school auditorium listening to a really bad high school band.  I am going out of my mind! Quiet, please be quiet. My already pounding headache that has been visiting me since Wednesday has now become the bass drum for the band.

As I have gotten older I like the summer season less and less. It hit me this morning that it isn’t so much the temperature of the summer as it is the noise of summer. Maybe if I lived in the country or at least on a large parcel of land I wouldn’t be bothered like this. But this urban manmade noise is irritating beyond belief. I am not the kind of person who wakes up in the morning and turns on the TV or any other noise making device except for my coffee pot, which noise it emits is very short-lived. I like to sit quietly for a good hour or so. That is why I have always made it a point to get up extra early. I cherish those two or three hours when most people are still drooling on their pillow.

Fall and winter as such quiet times. They are more in line with the likes of the hopeless romantic. There is such a peaceful hush to the world. People are inside or at least the outdoor activities are more site specific, like skiing or hiking, in places where that is what all of the people are doing. Not screaming in the backyard as your older brother turns the hose on you. Fall and winter are soft, nurturing, and safe. They feel like cashmere and smell like freshly baked banana bread. I guess I just need comfort right now and I am so not ready for this boisterous springtime energy. Please, I just need a few more weeks that begin with a slight chill in the air, an early morning fog that rolls in, a few more cups of French hot chocolate with vanilla infused whipped creme and time to break in my new black boots.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Déjà vu

This feels all too familiar. Here I am again looking for a place to live and I need to find it in two weeks! I was really hoping that the next time I moved it would be to a place that I would actually own, or at least a place that really felt like home. Now I’m feeling the pressure of just finding something that will work. Perhaps something that won’t require a year lease since I really have no idea what I will be doing for the next 12 months, a place where I can bring my poor old cat Ellie, a place with a nice outdoor space to sit and relax, drink my morning coffee and maybe even a cooks kitchen to practice my baking skills.

I get that a landlord’s bottom line is in making a profit, or at least making a good chunk of his mortgage payment. But renting for the last 4 years has led me to see the world of tenant/landlord in a whole new light. Your “living” is really restricted with a rental. They tell you what color you can paint the walls or if you can even paint the walls, if you can have a pet, if you can have overnight guests (usually limited to a very short amount of time), where you can park your car, on and on, and there is very little storage if the rental isn’t a full on house with garage. It is more like staying in a “guest cottage”– you are welcome to stay, but don’t get too comfortable.

Maybe it is because of where I am in life, but I have acquired quite a few possessions over time. Look around your house, your garage, your basement, your attic. There are things that need to be stored seasonally and there are things that you keep just to keep. Bits and pieces of your life that you need to hang on to. Compared to most people, I really don’t think that I have that much. I manage to clear my clutter quite often. I have already put my larger sofa, table and chairs and armoire on Craigslist. I have given mounds of clothing, books, and extra linens away to charity, given accessories and artwork to the consignment store and still the garage seems to be packed with items that I need, or at least, will need sometime very soon.

Yesterday I looked at two places in Mill Valley. One was a studio in an old nunnery. The studio was smaller that my second bedroom in the current condo I am living in. I am talking the entire living quarters was about 200 square feet. Okay, this won’t work no matter how great the view. The second place I looked at, a small two bedroom wouldn’t fit two chairs in the “living” room and maybe a twin bed would fit in the larger of the two bedrooms. Maybe Mill Valley isn’t my Green Acres.

Tomorrow I am going to look at an incredible place in St. Helena. It is more money than I’d like to spend and it is only a one bedroom. But it has incredible views of the valley, A/C, large rock fireplace, washer and dryer, and a very private deck. It is basically a guest apartment that is attached to a magnificent home. But most importantly, the landlord seems to realize that I have a life and that my space is just as important to me as his space is to him. He speaks to me with respect and is concerned that I will be happy there. He truly wants someone who appreciates this property, who can appreciate living in such a spectacular setting. I have a very good feeling about this. I am keeping my fingers crossed because something tells me this could very well be my new home.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiDOMuhpqUo

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Damn I'm Good

It has been over a week since my last post as I have been waiting to have some great epiphany or master plan lined up. As they say, they didn’t build Rome in a day, but my Rome has been under construction for almost been 54 years. It is time to put all the pieces together. And all I really mean by "together" is finding contentment with my place on this earth, to feel that whatever my work, it makes a difference. To somebody.

So it has been business as usual. Looking for meaningful work, checking out areas of the country where I might possibly want to live. This is obviously more a fantasy for me than reality as evidenced by my recent browsing through an old issue of Bon Appetit. I read an article on Bucks County Pennsylvania, of course it was Christmastime and the streets were festive with lights and just the right amount of snow. I’ve never been to Pennsylvania but within minutes I was on Craigslist looking at job postings and rentals in Newtown Pennsylvania. What’s up with that? This really must be an issue of avoidance. Maybe wanting to disappear, run away from myself, to start all over. It's like a game of “Where’s Waldo” and again I hear that nagging voice reminding me that “no matter where you go, you have to take you with you.” Not my idea of a good travel buddy right now.

I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday and the conversation ended on the subject of limitations. We were both talking about how inspired we were the night before watching the Academy Awards. Which is rather strange because I usually avoid that spectacle of overindulgence, ridiculously over the top awards and gift bags that the “stars” go home with at the end of the evening.  And then we are bombarded the next day by the internet, the TV news and entertainment shows to hear a few peoples opinions as to who was the best or worst dressed, how much their jewels cost, whether they were rented or owned and who should have perhaps worn eyeliner for the occasion. Yes, I know, this is all in fun, entertainment so to speak.  But I still have a problem with it. Where is the praise, the awards and the designer gowns for our star teachers and nurses, the child care workers, the garbage man (whom I think you might miss much more than watching Avatar if he quit showing up at your house each week). But last night there were a few very inspirational people there, and they spoke about following your dreams and never giving up. Our conversation went on to discuss how we limit ourselves and why in the world we would do that? When is that cutoff point from when you are a little child and never doubt that you are the greatest singer, artist, prettiest princess, or the fastest race car driver? This peaks somewhere around 4 or 5 I’m guessing. Because then you go to “school” where you are taught much more than reading, writing and making hand puppets. You are exposed to your shortcomings, usually by a boy or girl sitting next to you who mentions, “You have fat arms” (or thighs or too many freckles or . . .) and your whole world becomes shrouded in doubt. Maybe you really aren’t as perfect as the people who love you have told you that you are. You actually become scared.

What this brings me to is our work in life. We put ourselves in this little box where fear and self-doubt settle in with us. At a young age (teenager) we are expected to go on to college and pick a “major” – something we will be identified by for the rest of our lives. How in the world we expect an 18 year old to make that decision is beyond me. You don’t even know what is out in the world until you get out in the world. But that really isn’t the point; the point is that once we make these decisions we feel we have to live with them, for a very long time. And then when circumstances that we didn’t see coming force us to make a change it becomes very difficult. "What else can I do? This is all I’ve ever done."  We stay inside that box, with our fear and our self doubt who long ago settled into that old leather recliner with a slice of pizza and a beer and seem quite content to stay there. And the only way we seem to be able to get out of the box and up out of that chair is to surround ourselves with people or even just one person who dreams, who is willing to take risks, and who believes that we should too. They tell us our arms are beautiful, or that each freckle on our face looks like it was placed there by Michelangelo himself. We can soar with this kind of friend.

I became inspired yesterday. To do what, I’m not quite sure, but I know that I can do it if I want to. I’m working on a few Feng Shui ideas right now. A couple of workshops and I am working with one of the agents from Groupon to get one of my services offered on their site. If you haven’t signed up for Groupon yet, it is great. You pick a city that you live nearest to and about 20 times a month you will get a daily offering for a particular service (this could be a restaurant, spa treatment, oil change, you name it) that they offer for a greatly reduced price. Usually at least 50%. There are a minimum number of people who must purchase this service and if enough people sign up to buy it, then the whole group gets this deal. Check it out at http://www.groupon.com/.


The sun is out this morning and I think a walk would do wonders for me today. Or driving up to St. Helena to pick up a chocolate Babka at Dean & Deluca sounds good too. Tough choice. And if I choose option #2 I vow not to be hard on myself.  This is the choice I am making today.  To go easy on myself. Treat myself like I would treat my very best friend.  I will build her up when she feels rotten about herself.  I will actually grab her by her fat/beautiful/flabby/angelwinged/perfect arms and pull her up.  Quit beating myself up for past decisions or indecisions and rest easy knowing that I am okay. Actually I am way better than okay. Listen to the Alanis Morissette song, “That I would be good” - the link is below so you just need to cut and paste it in your browser. This song was written after she had done some serious studying in India and this is a very powerful message that she came away with.  No matter what, we are okay, better than okay.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44TRkB9dxvE

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jumpy Monkey

Today I should be unpacking in Portland. But I'm not. I'm living now for another month in a home full of boxes, wall art propped up against the wall instead of hanging on it, with a spotless stove and oven that I don't dare use while I sit here and try to decide what to do with myself.

Most everything has been packed and is waiting patiently in the garage for its new home. That includes all my pots and pans. Guess it would make sense to find that box and get a few items out. I should have more options than eating out or micro waving for the next 28 days. Relaxing, or at least sitting back and letting things unfold is proving much more difficult than it sounds. I want to get going on to the next thing, whatever that may be. It is hard not to look at this time period as "a waste of time" even though I know it is a necessary break that I need. I've been told to sit quietly, listen to my breathing, and spend some time being empty. My brother wrote to me "Sometimes the best things find you, as opposed to you finding them", which is beautiful and comforting, and at the same time I want that thing to find me right now!

I have often been accused of not focusing, of having too many things going on or at least too many things in the planning stage that never seem to materialize. In my own defense, I cannot help it. I am a Fire Monkey in Chinese Astrology. The monkey, as clever as he/she can be, also has a bad habit of swinging from one branch to another. He gets bored very quickly and what once seemed like the most magnificent idea in the world loses its grandeur as soon as another magnificent idea appears. I know this is true of me, but I can't slow down my mind. That's the way it works. I have definite interests, from food, design, art, coffee, music, travel, etc. I have wanted to design kimono pillows, European sheets, open a lunch delivery service, open my coffee house, an art house/cafe, market my special chicken recipe, make the best damn babka this side of New York, (and Dad, this is for you, wanted to be a dentist) but I always fall short. I get to a certain point in my creative process and then it falls apart when I can't seem to connect with the right people to keep me motivated or that know the next step in the "get it going" process. So, now I'm blaming more than my monkey personality but also all of my imaginary business friends who dropped the ball.

Being a Feng Shui Practitioner, I guess a good first step for me now would be to work with my own Feng Shui. I need to balance and center myself. This might also prove very challenging, especially this year.  2010 is the year of the metal Tiger.  The Tiger is assertive, competitive and sharp.  He appears calm and his stalking nature is one that is well planned.  He can pounce when least expected.  And of all of the animal signs in the zodiac, he is least compatible with the Monkey!  He can't stand the "jumpy" energy of the monkey.  It is quite distressing for him.  What this all boils down to is that the monkey could have a little more difficulty this year getting things done the way he wants them done. 

So it is very important for me this year to be the recipient of my own Feng Shui consultation. I need to enhance my career sector, my helpful people sector and my creativity sector. That ought to do it. Now I just need to quiet my mind - breathe, meditate, wait, breathe, meditate, wait, breathe, meditate, wait. . . and keep my eye on the Tiger.

Watch this youtube video:  Monkey taunts Tiger
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AZn5nWIj_g