Finding Your Joy => Finding Love

Note: This morning I discovered I have 24 blog post drafts in various stages of completion. I decided to start going through them and see what was still relevant and interesting enough to me to finish and post during NaBloPoMo. This post is one I started writing in July 2011. Since then, Ms. Chick found her Mr. Right and married him. As for me, well…you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Earlier this year I met local blogger Ms. Chick. She writes some very funny posts about online dating and life in general. But she also writes about her frustration with her search for Mr. Right.

While I’m not focused on finding Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, at this point in my life, I do understand the frustration. I think many women go through phases when it seems as if all their peers are hooking up, shacking up, getting married, engaged or having babies, and they are left holding the Party of One sign. I’ve been there. It’s actually part of the reason why I left SoCal: everyone I knew seemed to be moving on to coupledom and I wasn’t even dating anyone. After one incredibly disastrous relationship and a couple blah ones, I was done with trying to find a good partner. I also believed that if I stayed, I would feel pressured into dating much more quickly than I was ready for, just so I wouldn’t be the odd-woman-out at gatherings with my friends and their significant others.

Spending the summer of 2010 in a small college town didn’t do a hell of a lot for my social life, but it definitely helped me get some perspective on who I am, what I love and what I want. The answer became clear very quickly: I am someone who loves to laugh and entertain, and who loves being laughed at (and with) and entertained by others. I love helping people connect in ways big and small. I want joy and peace of mind, body and soul.

A few months ago I asked Ms. Chick what gives her joy and what makes her laugh, really laugh from the pit of her stomach. Because it’s my belief that it’s when we focus solely on finding our joy, everything else falls into place: relationships, career, home, health. All the wrong drifts away and we’re left with all the right – including finding, dating and coupling up with Mr./Ms. Right.

It’s hard to get to that place, though. We’re all so conditioned for wrongness, whether we are feeling wrong or trying to make others feel wrong, intentionally or not. And looping on our failures can be affirming even when we claim we want things to be different. As this letter from Miss Information at says:

Failure sucks, and is frustrating. But really listen in: even when you’re pissed at yourself, there is often some perverse pleasure in it.

It’s emotional self-flagellation, really: we beat ourselves bloody for our failings and never quite fix them. T-Wizzle calls this “beating yourself with the Wrong Baton.” Because fixing them means honing in on key beliefs and attitudes we have about ourselves, seeing which ones are unhealthy and unhelpful and working hard to replace them with helpful, healthy beliefs.

I’m not suggesting that in order to find love, you need to become Pollyanna and drop the jaded, cynical tones. I’m saying that in those moments when the bitterness and anger is threatening to ruin your day (and maybe your life), acknowledge its presence and agree to disagree. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing feelings, deal with it.) Let the angry, cynical ego self be what it is and choose to do something that brings you joy.

sunset, Anna Maria Island, Florida, Gulf of Mexico, beach
What helps me find my joy.


Here’s the Story of a Lovely Winery – Story Winery, That Is

A few weeks ago I got an email from Margaret over at Nanny Goats in Panties inviting me to a special wine tasting/educational event at Story Winery over in Amador County. I went for two reasons: 1. it was free; 2. it involved wine. I’m simple like that.

About a week before the event she sent out another email to say we needed to wear farm-friendly shoes. I found this particularly amusing, since when I think of wineries I think of Lucy and Ethel in a giant vat stomping on grapes with their bare feet. Surely going barefoot would be considered farm-friendly, right? I presented this to Giles, who is much more astute than I am about these matters.

“They said ‘farm friendly’ because they didn’t want to use the R word,” he said.

“R word? What’s that? Riesling?”

“No, rattlesnake.” Guess I’ll be wearing sneakers, then.

Ms. Chick from Limit Reached carpooled with me over to Amador County, which is a little less than an hour from downtown Sacramento. We gossiped and chatted and made derogatory comments about other drivers. Nothing makes a trip go by faster than making derogatory comments about mobile home drivers who are oblivious to the chain of cars behind them.

When we got there, we missed the sign that pointed us to where we would be getting educated about wine. Instead we walked over to the tasting room area and got to try two wines: a 2010 Miss Rose and a 2009 Chenin Blanc, both of which were very light and lovely. Then with the help of the tasting guy and another staffer, we figured out we needed to go back down to where the wine is made.

Story Winery, wine, vineyard, Mission grapes, Zinfandel, winery, winemaking
Brian explains who - I mean what - bud break is.

Story Wine’s director of marketing, Cinde, and the assistant winemaker Brian, were our instructors. Winery owners Bruce & Jan were also there to tell us about how they got involved with the winery, how the vineyard is maintained (they do dry farming, which means no irrigation), and how they are going organic. Pro tip: if you drive by a vineyard and you can see that there’s all sorts of weeds and plants growing between the rows, there’s a very distinct possibility that the grapes are certified organic or in the process of becoming certified organic.

Story Winery, wines, vineyard, winemaking, winery, Zinfandel, Mission vines
Jan told this vine it was her favorite and made it swear not to tell the others.

Jan is known as the “vine whisperer”, because she goes out and talks to the vines to keep them thriving. They also play music for the vines.

“What kind of music do they like?” I asked Bruce.

“Classical, mostly.”

“What about R&B?” Some of the younger vines might dig a little Lou Rawls, I figure. Or Barry White.

He just laughed, so I’m guessing I touched on a trade secret.

They make predominately Zinfandels, which always make me think fondly of meals with Aunt Gigi and Uncle Ned, as they are big fans of the Zin. At one Christmas dinner, a little tipsy on Zin, I staged an attack on the elaborate table display of porcelain Dickens-era holiday revelers using my box of animal crackers. The lion went in for the kill, then the rhinoceros  came out.

“He’s going to attack!” said my cousin Sasha, sitting across the table from me.

“No, he’s a peaceful rhino,” I said, marching him through the village and over to the nativity scene by the sweet potatoes.

But I digress.

Story Winery, winery, wines, winemaking, vineyards, Mission vines
These vines like Rachmaninoff.

The Zins we tasted at Story Winery were all quite good, and I bought a bottle of their Miss Zin to share with Giles over a nice cut of beef. However, I think my favorite Zin was actually the barrel tasting of a 2011 Alitia Vineyard, right before Ms. Chick and I headed back to Sacramento. I feel a little weird using the phrase “mouth feel”, but damn if that wine didn’t make my mouth feel like I was eating Brie or some other really good, creamy cheese.

Which leads me to the two questions I still have about wine:

1. How is it that wines have aromas and/or taste of substances other than grapes? Brian said it’s from the fruit used, but I still don’t get it. How can one wine smell and taste a little like currants (or cassis, if you want to get all fancy like Ms. Chick) and another smell and taste like green pepper? Does it have to do with the soil? Pollination? More importantly, will trying to figure out the answer to this question keep me from drinking more wine? Doubtful.

white zinfandel, wine, box wine, Franzia
It's pink wine! And it's in a box!

2. Why does White Zinfandel have such a bad reputation? I asked this question out loud and it got so quiet, you’d have thought I’d said, “I am really disappointed that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the presidential race.” Cinde said that there was a period of time when Zinfandel grapes were used only in blends, and that it wasn’t until the 1970s that White Zinfandel became popular thanks to Sutter Home. But that still doesn’t explain why there’s little love for a wine that accounts for about 10% of the U.S. wine sales by volume. Yes, it’s sweet, sometimes too much so. Yes, it’s a gateway wine for many people, who (like me) go on to try other wines. But if that’s the only wine you ever drink, does that make you wine-dumb? I say no. I am now very tempted to show up at parties with some Franzia White Zinfandel and see if I get thrown out.

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon with the folks at Story Winery and my fellow bloggers. They have a fantastic view of the Cosumnes River Valley from their picnic area.

cosumnes river valley, cosumnes river, amador county, plymouth, california
View from Story Winery onto the Cosumnes River Valley

The staff at the winery are gracious and kind and [may] laugh at your jokes. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by Story Winery for a tasting.

Cosumnes River, cosumnes river valley, amador county, california
When I saw this view, I was tempted to sing the opening lines of "The Sound of Music", but I wasn't wearing the right skirt.

If You’re Gonna Feng Shui Your House, Better Feng Shui Your Head, Too

On Saturday night I found myself in Ms. Chick‘s bedroom.

Wait. That didn’t come out right.

See, she’s been having a dry spell with dating, and I wanted to see if I could help her out.

That still didn’t come out right. Or my mind is just constantly in the gutter.

Some background: several years ago, T-Wizzle turned me on to feng shui, the Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment. She had met and worked with Karen Rauch Carter, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, a practical, easy-to-use feng shui guide for people who don’t want to be bothered remembering a lot of details about what belongs where. I bought a copy of the book, figured out how the bagua aligned with my current apartment, and started moving my crap around. I had been having serious issues in different areas of my life and wanted to do something physical that might help change things.

feng shui, bagua, Black Hat feng shui
Basic bagua layout for your home. Image courtesy

And my life did change. I started dating, my relationships with family members improved, I made some great new friends. I found a new home for Angel, my cat who was aggressive and miserable living with me and my other cat, Mossimo. I bought a new car that I absolutely loved. I gave feng shui a lot of credit.

But the truth is, I had been feng shui-ing my head as well. I had started using affirmations and other techniques to help reset my brain to stop being so negative and cynical and nasty and being more open and compassionate and fun. And it made a huge difference. Because I’ve learned that there’s no way changes can take place in the real world until you change the way you think about the things that bother you.

I can’t sum up everything I did to feng shui my head in one blog post. But here are my basic suggestions:

  • Write down on a piece of paper what’s not working in your life. I have an old list that reads: “My love life is nonexistent. My new friendships are not as nurturing as I would like. I don’t feel motivated to write or be creative.”
  • Write down on another piece of paper what IS working. Love your job? Have a great bunch of friends? Car running beautifully? Write ’em down.
  • Go back to the first piece of paper and consider what attitudes are behind those not-working items. The key is to make sure you stay focused on yourself. For me, my love life was nonexistent because deep down I believed I was unattractive and undesirable because I am fat. It had nothing to do with the men I was interested in or had dated in the past. It was all about me.
  • Install mental updates. Your internal self-esteem software obviously needs a bug fix, so it’s time to fix that. Write some affirmations about your inner and outer beauty, make peace with your inner child, get a close friend to help you work out your shit. I spent a lot of hours on the phone with T-Wizzle working out my shit – and in turn I helped her work out her own.
  • While you’re working on these affirmations and feeling super positive about yourself, start moving stuff around in your home. Carter’s book is a great starting point. Some folks may need a professional consult, which can be expensive but if you have the money it’s well worth it.

Back to Ms. Chick and her bedroom. She had an empty laundry basket in the Love & Relationships section. I pointed at it and said, “That needs to go, unless you want to continue having nothing happen with your lovelife.” (If it had been full of dirty laundry I still would have said she needed to move it, because then she’d be dealing with – you guessed it – guys with a lot of dirty laundry.) She moved the basket and according to a tweet I got from her tonight, things have already started shifting. But I’m willing to bet she started shifting her attitude about dating, too.