Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The 2017 Wrap-Up

I love the holidays. I don't love the consumerism, but I enjoy the break from work, the slowing down to snuggle indoors more, but mostly I look forward to the end-of-year tidying-up process. I reflect a lot. I take stock of what I did and what I want to try for in the coming year. So here we go.

For business, 2017 was fantastic. I exceeded the 2017 revenue goals by 15% and we increased our billings 35% from 2016. We brought in some big-name clients, and it was a nice mix of hard hustle and well-deserved breaks in-between projects. I love what I do, and I get to work with some pretty effing phenomenal women, so I count myself quite lucky. Founding this new company 2 years ago saved me -- and not just financially. That's probably a whole other post.

I find that the past few years have been a University of Life. I'm getting thrown lessons right and left, and I have some erudite professors kicking my ass. This year was especially educational. Philosophically, I was (as were the rest of woke Americans) reeling from the Trump victory. It changed something inside of me. I saw a little more clearly just how giant this beast of White Privilege is. I see, now, how the establishment is white-knuckle gripping to its hegemony. I got smacked around by the Patriarchy (not literally, don't worry -- massaging some metaphors today). But the ugly underbelly in this nation became sickeningly apparent. I pined, and still do, that California could float off and become its own independent island-nation. I am a Californian but I don't feel American.

In response, I headed into 2017 a little more wide-eyed. The election colored how I saw the news and current events. It saddened me. I saw clearly the cancer that Evangelicals have injected into the psyche of middle and southern America, and I fully realized that their priority is not at all to protect and stand up for the downtrodden and needy, but to protect a man's place (and specifically, let's be honest, a white man's place) at the head of the table. This topples any notion of a moral compass that seeks to distribute equality or compassion, and it's fueled by an agenda-driven religion based on power, not awareness.

I don't know why it took me so long to see it clearly.

I'm hoping that Trump's generation is the last of a majority who thinks like he does. I know there are many who are young and voted for him, but I also see a more inclusive bent in the younger generations, and I just hope we won't leave them too big of a clusterf#&^ to clean up.

I lost my religion and I became much more comfortable with a sense of a universal truth and guidance. I've been exploring Judaism, mainly because I still crave ritual. I find that the Jews, and their cultural determination to overcome thousands of years of persecution, have given them a more honest and reflective look at themes like God and suffering. They are not a people standing on the shoulders of privilege and conquest. I love what I've been finding as I delve deeper into the mystical tradition, in particular, of Judaism. So I plan to keep on exploring as I head into 2018.

In addition to letting go of my inscribed notions of ritual, belief, and positivity toward many of my fellow Americans, in 2017 I started to see Systems more clearly. I discovered this podcast by Rob Bell, and he frequently discusses systems, and how they bind us and blind us -- in families, in politics, in culture, and in religion. I studied Family Systems theory in psychology, so I understood it from the books, but this past year, I saw it in practice. I began to examine my own family of origin system in more detail, and it freed me. Without (too much) pain, I was finally able to unbind myself from some of the stories and patterns that have shaped how I see myself and interact in relationships. I see systems all around me now -- particularly in our political and religious climates, and it has given more more awareness and even compassion. We are all part of a story, and it's really hard to leave a tribe behind. Similar to that phrase, "Follow the money,"  just remember to "Follow the system," and you'll understand.

Athletically, I changed a lot this past year. My knees and back are quite happy about that change. Perhaps it's because I've been making peace with my inner world, I don't feel an incessant need to flog my body on runs and rides that last hours. I believe the connection is strong between what you put into the pavement and what's going on in your head and heart.

Instead of training for marathons, going on long mountain bike rides, and constantly keeping a tally of weekly mileage, I've settled into BBG (Sweat with Kayla, this fantastic ass-kicking workout app) workouts a few times a week and runs that rarely exceed 5 miles. Oddly enough, my body looks more toned than it did when I was running marathons and racing my bike. Mainly, though, I'm grateful to discover that after 16 years of pretty intense endurance sports, I don't have to do that anymore. Initially, training and racing completely rebuilt me and gave me confidence and camaraderie, so I don't at all regret those years, but it's nice to step away and know that I won't be any less whole without that identity trailing me.

I don't think it's an unusual trait to love traveling (particularly among those in my age group). I try to make it an annual goal to get to Europe and at least one tropical place, and this year, I exceeded my typical routine. In April, to accomplish a work assignment with Israeli clients, and to explore a country I've been long-curious about, I ventured off to Israel for two weeks. It was phenomenal. It's a tiny country, and I saw most of it, between client meetings and solo expeditions. Prior to the trip, I consumed probably too many a lot of books about Israeli history. It helped provide color and context to a conflicted and hardy country. I look forward to going back.

In October, one of my best friends and I headed to the Basque country in Northern Spain and France to sample hard cider, visit orchards, and -- let's be real -- bum around Europe. The highlight, for me, was San Sebastian. It is like Europe's version of California, with it's Big Sur-esque coastline, surf culture, and lovely climate. We felt quite at home, needless to say.

To check off the "tropical" box, my boyfriend and I hit up a resort in Cabo that was so perfectly stunning we immediately booked a trip back for New Years. (I'm counting down the days.) I love Mexico in the late Fall. No humidity, bugs, wind. We didn't even see clouds. The pool and ocean were perfectly warm. And though I don't live in a cold climate, I still spent most of my time thawing out by the pool and drinking in the sunshine.

For 2018? I'm setting my sights on France, perhaps Greece, and I'm sure more Mexico trips will be in the mix.

Money. Okay, I know it's rude to talk about money, but I've already riffed on politics and religion, so why not? I've always had a not-so-well-cozy relationship with money. For years, I've been building my skills, then building companies, and it's taken me a while to save and feel like I had enough to spare. I lost a big chunk after my divorce (which wasn't much), but it wasn't worth starting a war, so I focused on moving on instead of fighting him. I started my current company with what I had left, and put determination and scrapiness into building my business. Sometimes when you have nothing left, it's easier to bet the hand. In my case, it paid off, and I find myself in a new financial position that I've never been in.

My parents were extremely frugal growing up. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs (SIDE NOTE: I have NEVER been able to spell that word without spellcheck. I did a few projects this year with a group that has that title, and I must have written the word 80 times in one deck. I still can't spell it. Anyhow ...) Where was I? Oh yeah. My family is scrappy as f*&#. And it has paid off -- for all of them. The moral of the story is that I grew up in a household where we didn't buy many nice things or take luxurious vacations. Brand names were not a thing in our household, or my hometown, for that matter.

So I've continued to live my life, fairly scrappy, but not as scrappy as the way I grew up. But I live in the most expensive city in the U.S., and I'm surrounded by people who have nice things. I never cared too much about luxury items, until this past year. It took some coaching from the man I'm closest to, a few panic attacks, and an honest look at my finances for me to realize that it's okay to spend some money on myself. There is something commanding about walking into a business meeting wearing French designers and an expensive handbag and shoes. I can't describe why. But it works. And I effing love it now. So I plunked down my card on, basically a new wardrobe, and I have finally started dressing and carrying myself in a way that better reflects my income. Also, the fact that I'm a 37-year old not living in a surf town has also finally settled in.

It's a nice place in life to be -- to know that I'm financially capable of building a company, selling it (someday), and building a comfortable life for myself. It has added a level of fearlessness that feels palpable in my own spirit.

So what's on the books for 2018? That remains to be seen, of course, but I would like to spend some quality time in France -- my favorite country and culture, even though I can't spell words like entrepreneur. I have growth projections for my company that I'd like to realize. I hope and anticipate that my love relationship will continue to blossom. I would love to get involved with more organizations that empower and help women. I want to stay present, to remember to look around when things get gritty, and be able to tell myself, "I am so damn blessed." Because I know I am.

Thanks, 2017, for a great year. And chin-chin to 2018.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Well, hello. Again.

My. god. It has been a long time since I've blogged. Like, loooooong.

So here I am again. I was writing a proposal today, and I realized, damn. I like writing. I like throwing in some snappy sentences, compelling copy. Ear-catching phrases. Like, sometimes, when I'm trying to convince someone they should hire my company, I pretend I have a gift like Don Draper. My syntax reflects my marketing genius. I get things psychologically that others don't.

Which really isn't true. But I do like writing, and I clearly miss it, because it's almost midnight on a Friday night, and here I am. A margarita next to my computer and my Spotify Most Played Songs of 2017 filling the air.

Hi, again, blog. Last time we spoke I was married. Mourning the fact that I moved to Tahoe to appease a man I should have stayed friends with, and not married. But we did, until we decided we didn't. And it was for the best.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "And that's all I have to say about that."

It is now almost the end of 2017. I started this blog in 2006, 11 years ago. I was a fresh-faced 26-year old, newly moved to North Carolina and trying to figure out the world. I learned, as is very-well documented in this blog, that I despise the South and belong nowhere other than the Country of California. It was a good lesson to learn, and I grew up a lot during those years.

I'm now in San Francisco, which is home in so many senses of the word. My family is from here. I grew up a few hours away. I have found my place, finally, after much wandering. And I wandered. I realized I needed a city to grow my business. I travel, and I need an airport. (Sorry, SLO. You know you are in my heart always.) I need culture, progressive thought, local food. So it is here that I planted roots, in the form of a very expensive apartment, and I have re-built my life.

So much has happened since I last wrote -- when I was married and in Tahoe -- as I alluded to earlier. I grew up 20 years in the span of 2 following my divorce. I focused (finally). I settled into Me.

I am a 37-year old woman, and I am content. I found love. I wrestle with it, but I have a partner now whom I didn't choose merely because he reflects family-system issues I'm trying to work out. It took me a while to get comfortable with being seen as someone different from whom I had been projected. But being stripped bare and hitting bottom allows one to redefine what they're really about, if one is so inclined to look.

And I was.

It is beautiful and personal, with the love that I have found, and I won't delve too much into the he and I, except to say that I have a newfound confidence and sense of place.

A good therapist goes a long way. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that part.

I was reading back through earlier posts tonight -- as I mentioned, I haven't revisited this blog in quite some time -- and I was struck by my playfulness of earlier years. Even as I was struggling, to make money, to find a career that fit me. To find love. I look back at those late-20s, early-30s and see an un-encumberdness. (Sorry, spellcheck. It's a word.) And for me, as I progressed through my 30s, I picked up Lessons. Lessons that aged my soul and hardened me a bit. So I apologize if you were expecting tales of bike riding and beer chugging. I've aged.

This blog may not be as light moving forward, but perhaps just as raw, and I hope just as revealing of the life lessons I encounter.


My discovery process is so different, now. It is less effusive, less awestruck, and more like a deep "Huh." every time new realizations hit. It is a grounded brick instead of a floating balloon.

I have become a full-on, hate-bras (not that I ever needed one, even while running) Feminist. And with this past year, 2017, the watershed is shimmering. The Weinstein scandal has pulled open the robe, so-to-speak. I am enthralled by the women coming forward, and it galvanizes me to want to protect what we're gaining and to amplify the sound our voices are making.

I told you this blog wasn't going to be as fun.

But I had to grow Up in the past few years, and the voices coming forward, and the revealing of the ugly underbelly of our patriarchy-protecting culture is nothing short of inspiring. I never used to covet motherhood, but I find myself hoping I will have a daughter. I feel like I finally have the confidence and wisdom to show her how to be her own Wonder Woman in this world.

So that's my re-intro to blogging after a very long, and very different place in my life. I am worlds away, yet the same carefree girl, if only at heart. I daydream still, I drift, in my mind. I take more expensive vacations, but I know my place in my soul. I haven't lost the desire to wander, too far, from a good night of soulful reflection on the keyboard, fueled by a solid glass of liquid inspiration.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tahoe, Part 1

It's been a long time since I've blogged.

But I'm back at an office job now, so it seems appropriate to pick the hobby back up. I guess being paid to sit all day in a cubicle is good-enough inspiration, and besides, I do miss the diary-like format that blogging provides. I love going back and reading past blogs. It's a nice meandering through memory lane.

I'm living in Tahoe now, and I'm married. It's been quite a year.

And quite a week. A week of goodbyes, and reflecting, and mourning.

It's my second week of work. I am no longer solely in business for myself. I ache over that, but it was time to go back in-house for a while, and we need the health insurance and benefits, since Cullen won't be working when he gets out here -- at least not "working" for a company in the traditional sense. I have no doubt he will find ways to make money.

I still have a large chunk of myself in Woodside, smashed between those redwoods and soft soil. I plastered my new cubicle here with pictures of my favorite forest-spots there, and they help. They do. It's not the same as gazing out my window to the woods, or stepping out for a mid-day break for a trail run between ferns, douglas firs, and sequoias, but it's a reminder.

Leaving Woodside has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and re-adjusting to a new home, trying to meet people, and starting a new job is emotionally exhausting. I never wanted to go through this again -- to be "new" -- it lost its novelty somewhere in my late-20s.

But marriage causes us to make changes and open ourselves up to different environments and experiences. Tahoe may be new to me, but I'm living back in the Sierras, where I grew up. So it's not that unfamiliar. Cullen is moving across the country, to a coast he's never resided in, and he's leaving behind every creature comfort he's built-up over the past 20 or so years, so my change isn't all that significant, I suppose.

This week has also been a week of deaths. I lost a good friend from San Luis Obispo. He was a running partner, a business associate, and a friend. His life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. He's the second SLO friend I've lost this summer, and I'm reeling a bit from the sting of such young lives ending. Now that I'm a wife, I have a different level of sympathy for their wives. There is a collective ache that seems to be pulsing among all of us who knew both men, and I know we will carry their deaths in our memory for a long time.

Robin Williams committed suicide, and though I of course never knew him, to know that such a bright life couldn't handle his own emotional pain any longer is a hard thing to process. Especially right after Dusty, my SLO friend's accidental death, Robin's death is a slap in the face. Dusty, I'm sure, would have chosen many more days to drink up all that life has to offer, and Robin Williams gave his up. It makes me a bit angry that one could be so careless when life is offered. He rejected it. Dusty wanted it, and couldn't keep it.

Tahoe is beautiful, and I feel fortunate to live here, but it's lonely. I'm at that time of in-between. Cullen won't move out for a few more months, so it's up to me to meet people, and put a smile on my face, without someone there to make me laugh. It's up to me to keep myself warm at night, without my husband there next to me.

There, I did it. I wrote a blog, after being absent for two years. It's a start. More will follow -- stay tuned. I have a whole new journey to start documenting.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Add to our many talents BREWERS

We're finally able to imbibe in the fruits of our labor. Nine months after beginning our hard-cider making, Michaela and I bottled the lovely nectar.

We were, naturally, sampling as we mixed the various varieties together during our bottling process, and over the course of the evening, I verified, without a doubt, that it indeed has alcohol. Quite a bit in fact. I'm guessing 8 -9%. (We were aiming, originally, for somewhere in the 5% range. Oh well.)

We are so very pleased with how it turned out -- thrilled, in fact. We're very impressed with our newly discovered skills as BREWMASTERS. It's crisp, complex, and very Spanish (we even named one of the blends Contador, after the famed Spanish cyclist). In short, you wouldn't be able to purchase any American-style cider that even comes close. It's not very sweet, and any man could feel proud drinking it.

A quick recap of our process:

We picked around 700 pounds of apples back in September.
Pressed them in November.

Racked in February.

And finally, covered her parents' garage, her mom's exercise equipment, and ourselves in the concoction as we attempted to figure out our kegging carbonation method during the bottling process.

I learned that I am incapable of spelling the last name "Gyllenhaal" while drinking (we named one of the blends after the husky actor -- his name grew to 10 syllables, I believe, at one point).

Next time I'll request that Michaela choose a simpler moniker, such as, oh, I don't, know, "Adam"?*

So what's next? Well, in July, we'll hunt down a Gravenstein orchard and begin the process of attempting a sour cider, with Brett yeast. We're hoping to ramp up production significantly, for our next season, because 8 cases, shared, is simply not enough to get us through a nine-month stretch.

*Entirely coincidental that that also happens to be my boyfriend's name. I'm sure there are plenty of actors/attractive men who share that first name.

Monday, April 30, 2012

SF Ballet Date Night

Adam and I treated ourselves to a most stunning performance of Don Quixote at the SF Ballet. Not too often that us two redwoodsy ones get dressed up and go out on the town, but it sure is lovely when we do.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Boston Gauntlet of Marathon Death

I just returned from running the hottest Boston Marathon on record. It hit 90 degrees, with the radiant asphalt temps reaching into the 100s. In April. In Boston. Whilst I was running in the freezing rain all winter, logging my long runs through hail, snow, and skin-numbing cold, I smugly thought - HA. Bring it, Boston. You saucy bitch. What more could you throw at me that's harder than this? I ran up and down the 2,000 foot mountain range I live on, slipped on muddy trails, and embraced the cold thinking that it would come in handy come race day.


I should have just set up a treadmill in a sauna.

Anyhow, despite the absolutely punishing heat, and navigating a course that turned into a veritable battlefield littered with the strewn bodies of passed-out heat-stroke-stricken runners, that race will go down as the most satisfying, memorable, and masochistic thing I've yet accomplished in my fairly un-noteworthy life.

Boston itself is electric during the whole marathon weekend. The town residents see it as an excuse to drink copiously in public on a free, Boston-only Monday holiday, and being that they're Bostonians, they fully embrace the added economic revenues and the pure gladiator-theatre spectacle that is the marathon. Idiot humans, running 26 miles, totally flogging themselves -- paying for the privilege.  They don't know whether to admire us or wonder how much more de-evolved we'll become.

But anyhow, it was my first trip to Boston, so in addition to going for the race spectacle, I was equally excited to check out such a historical, venerated city.

So runners. We are total nerds. You could spot the runners in the airport and all around town everywhere you went. Skinny, wearing wicking fabric (to the airport, breakfast -- wick wick!), and big, overbuilt sneakers. There was this distinct cockiness in the air -- a haughtiness that comes from the prestige of having to qualify to get into the race in the first place, coupled with the fact that the Bostonians themselves tend to tip the scales north of a reasonable BMI level -- making the runners feel even more smug about their chosen time-suck of a sport.
But it was electric, nonetheless. The energy and excitement were palatable.

On race day itself, we caught our bus at 6 a.m. for the 10:20 race start. That seems a bit early for a mere 26 mile one-way bus ride, right? Well, considering that over 22,000 started the race, and that they had to round up probably every school bus in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, it's actually amazing that it worked out as smoothly as it did.

By the time my wave lined up at 10:20, it was in the high-70s, and we were all sweating at the start line. The wiser ones in the crowd seemed to be calculating their very-revised plans for running a fast race, but most still made the mistake of starting out too fast, or thinking that they would be above the effects of the Almighty Heat Stroke.

I was in the second camp. I slightly adjusted my pace, but in looking at my first half split as compared to my second half split, I clearly went for the positive split strategy -- which, as any runner will tell you, is not the best way to run a race. And it was a funny thing -- the temperature effects bared their ugly fangs fairly early on, so I took on plenty of water, doused myself in nearby neighbor's hoses, treated myself to plenty of ice handouts, and even took an occasional popsicle from a kid, but I just could not stay ahead of the heat-effects during the second half and still run a pace that had the number 8 anywhere in the beginning numbers. By the end, I was STOKED to see a 9:30 mile. At least I'm not hurling and fainting like the people around me, I thought. It was not a normal marathon.

It hurt, for sure, but there was this distinct feeling in the air -- this shared, collective resignation that no one was going to meet their time goal, so all 22,000 of us banded together, slowed our pace, and supported each other in our shared suffering. As the miles ticked on, the course became more and more of a battlefield and less of a prestigious marathon course. People everywhere walked up the hills. Took long breaks at the water stops. Laid down in the grass. Got carried away by the medics. Took off their shoes. Shuffled along, willing the miles to happen.

And that's when I started to love it. I loved that I was a part of this wave of craziness -- this nonsensical event we do that hurts our bodies more than it builds them, and then to collectively decide to continue on in defying temperatures that our winter-training had not prepared us for -- just so we could finish. There was this incredible feeling of accomplishment because of the added struggle, and it was interesting to feel a part of such a thick skinned-will to finish something so senseless and painful.

My favorite part, by far, were the crowds. For 26 miles, from rural Hopkinton all the way to the city center, the crowds jammed the streets screaming their heads off. It was deafening at times. They sympathetically handed us extra water and ice, told us we were crazy in their Boston accents, and cheered us on. The Wellesley girls kissed us and screamed and bore signs proclaiming messages such as "Kiss me because I'm not Irish." "Kiss me because I'm stoned." "Besame porque soy Mexicana." "Kiss me if  want to drop out," "Kiss me if you want me to take my shirt off," and so on. Closer to the city, the Boston College fraternities showered us with beers and signs that said "Shortcut, this way!" "Quit now!" and other encouraging slogans.

The last few miles to the finish line were extra punishing with the heat, so I tried to concentrate on the screaming people, the fact that the race had been going on for 116 years, and that I was now a part of the oldest and most revered marathon in the world.

Probably the worst part, post-finish, was the long, long walk to the buses to retrieve our drop bags. My bus, effing thing, was the very last bus on the street, so I hobbled along, stepping over bodies, tears running down my face, willing myself to make it to the bus so I could grab my phone and call people for immediate sympathy. Everyone else had the same plan. It was hilarious -- we were all on our phones complaining and demanding sympathy and congratulations for our self-induced flog fest.

Post race, Kelly and I met up with some friends from our North Carolina days, and being that we weren't so concerned about our fitness for the immediate future, I rallied everyone to drink Irish Car Bombs (which are, incidentally, illegal in fine Boston, but that's a whole other post). The men, having their wits about them, resisted a bit, so I may have introduced some jabs involving their lack of cajones, and pretty soon, they were slamming 'em down, in fine form.

I'm pretty sure that's the only marathon where I came home with a solid extra few pounds, thanks to the copious Irish bars and excellent fish and chips that the city is known for.

So final time, 3:48. I had originally hoped for a 3:23- 3:25-ish marathon, and I'm bummed I didn't re-qualify, but I am so glad I got to experience everything Boston threw at me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Cider Time

This fall, Michaela decided it would be totally rad to make our own hard cider. Not sweet, girly cider, but French-style crisp cider. The kind that, prior to proper water sanitation methods in the 19th century U.S., was a more common beverage than water.

Ever heard of Johnny Appleseed? He wasn't planting "eating" apples, folks. He was planting apples for people to drink and get happy on.

So that's what we're doing. Making happy cider.

This past weekend was Phase 1: The Picking of the Apples. We picked 300 pounds of dry-farmed heirloom apples.

We're pretty excited about our apple selection. A variety of heirloom apples should do nicely for the type of cider we're after.

In a few weeks, we'll start the apple pressing process. We're currently researching the yeast strains we want to add to get the desired crisp, yet slightly sweet, lightly carbonated cider that will make us the most popular  brewing girls ever.