Green Grasshoppers Are Gifts From The Universe

grasshopper

About a week ago I started my first GoFundMe appeal – ever.  It was one of the most difficult things I ever tasked myself to do.  This is about how I nearly lost my business.  To be honest, I haven’t saved it yet so I’m still very much living in my own fable.

I have been stressed out about putting my personal story and vulnerability out into the world with such candidness.  I feel embarrassed and unworthy, in some ways, to ask for help when I neglected my business after giving birth to my first child in January.  The months that followed were wrought with pain – both physical and emotional.  It was a long recovery.  I did not expect for that recovery to manifest the way it did – to say I was blindsided is an understatement.

Starting the GoFundMe campaign has also given me space for the opportunity to grow.  It takes courage to ask for help.  I had to transcend beyond the feelings of shame and judgement I placed on myself for being “weak” – which begs the question – why do we tell ourselves stories about ourselves that are untrue, misguided and unkind?

Luckily, I got beyond the shame and judgement.  Instead, I opened myself up to the abundance the world has to offer, to the kindness and generosity of others, to the goodwill that supports individuals, families and communities.  I decided it was okay to allow myself to receive.

My giving/receiving has always been a bit out of balance.  I think part of that has been due to the unspoken pressure that is culturally placed on women to be the givers in society.  In fact, there are several good books out there about learning how to receive that are written specifically for women.  My favorite is The Power of Receiving by Amanda Owen.

It starts with being able to take a compliment.  I have always struggled with receiving compliments – I often downplayed what was being praised and then I would say something to put myself down to detract from the attention.  For example, someone might say my hair looked lovely and I would say something like – “Oh, it’s a mess today.  The humidity makes it so frizzy, I hate it – ugh!”

Why not just say thank you?

It has everything to do with the power of receiving.  I always give out heart felt compliments, I am generous with my friends and family, and I like to take care of others.  I rarely accept the compliments and generosity of others.  I learned that when you don’t receive with grace, you actually deny others the opportunity to give.  So, to be in balance with giving and receiving, we must exercise both muscles.

The GoFundMe campaign surprised me.  Immediately, kind people in my work, college, and family networks concerned themselves with helping me.  Donations to save my business began to come in – showing me that “no [wo]man is an island”.

My circumstance seemed touched by nature’s grace, with the universe sending me a powerful message through the unlikely visitation of a simple green grasshopper.

Just days after the GoFundMe launch, I was driving down the street and noticed a small, shiny green grasshopper on my windshield.  It was staring at me while holding on for dear life.  It looked into my eyes!  I took the photo of the said grasshopper above.  There was a soul connection!  When I pulled into my garage and got out of my car, the grasshopper was gone.  I got my baby out of his car seat and when I walked onto the back patio, I saw the grasshopper happily launch itself into our green acre garden.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the universe had just orchestrated a gentle moment of giving and receiving.  The grasshopper delivered an important message from the universe while I offered the grasshopper a lift to greener pastures.

Two days later, another green grasshopper, bigger, skinnier with longer legs, hitched a ride on my back window.  I didn’t see where it exited.  But, I thought this was too unusual to be a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences, anyway.  Coincidence is just a word to describe that which what we cannot understand.

I knew the universe was trying to tell me something.

I looked up grasshoppers.  I first came across Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ants.  The fable basically describes a hungry grasshopper begging for good from an ant when winter comes and is refused; the moral lesson is about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.  The grasshopper was lazy and therefore should suffer the consequences of its actions (or lack thereof).

I hoped the grasshopper wasn’t there to tell me I shouldn’t ask for help because I didn’t work hard enough or plan for the future.  Because, in truth, I did nothing to prepare myself for such an outcome.  I assumed I would be healthy, strong and ready to charge ahead with my business even more empowered by the childbirth experience.

I continued to read about grasshoppers.

Aesop’s ant was mostly perceived as mean and self-serving.  Later, Jean de la Fontaine retold the fable in French and shifted to the themes of compassion and charity.  Since the 18th century the grasshopper has been seen as an artist archetype.

Whew.  We’ve moved on from being scolded for “poor work ethic and not planning for the future” to being capable of receiving compassion and charity.

The grasshopper was telling me to let go of the blame for not being able to handle my business while in recovery and, rather, exercise my receiving muscle.  My therapist told me there’s a difference between failure and the fear of failure.

I have also learned about the symbolism of the grasshopper.

The grasshopper is a symbol of good luck all over the world. Grasshopper’s ability to connect and understand sound vibrations is why it’s also a symbol of your inner voice – its presence might be a sign telling you to trust yours.

According to theastrologyweb.com – the grasshopper symbolizes luck, abundance, courageousness, resourcefulness, insight, peace, patience, fertility, intuition, vibrancy, stability, security, solidarity, balance, freedom, joy, honor and creativity.  Aided with an ability to move forward only it suggests advance thinking and enlightenment.

Color plays a role in symbolism, too.  A green grasshopper signifies rejuvenation, fresh beginnings, adventure, growth, health and youthful concepts.

The grasshopper visits were a gift from the universe.  I truly believe that.  If only to send me on a curious exploration to the learn the fabled or totem spirit interpretations and symbolism of these magical creatures to elevate my thinking and perception of my own present circumstances.

I have always had a knack for reframing.  If I get knocked down, I get back up again, etc.  I have found reframing to be one of the most important life skills to master.  The grasshopper reminded me of the practice of transcending and reframing.  I have the skill.  I just needed to apply it to my struggle with my business.

Ask, and you shall receive.

This is not a one way street.  I don’t plan to just take the compassion and generosity of others without giving back in some way.  I’m working on a giving platform to thank everyone who is helping me out.  I want to keep my giving/receiving in balance!

Meantime, I’m sharing these words about the grasshopper.  If you are lucky enough to receive one – in your house, on your shoe, or on your car – don’t freak out!  Be grateful and gentle.  The universe is sending you a beautiful, positive message.

And blessings!

 

 

 

 

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Keeping the Dream Alive

Toasting the first press

WANNA HELP OUT?

I have written a bit about being a new mother and being a winemaking entrepreneur – and the struggles that come with combining the two.  What I haven’t done is get into the details of how delivering my son into the world had put me back physically and mentally – and how that’s been a major challenge for my business.

Being a mother has been the greatest gift of my life!  Nothing wonderful comes without a price.  I have had to take mental stock on what it means to continue my business.  I have had to stand on a philosophical precipice with uncertainty about an end looming for me.

My financial struggles with my business began long before I had my son.  The joke in the wine business is:  How do you make a small fortune in the wine business?  You start with a large fortune and lose some of it.

Well, there was never a fortune.  LOL.  College debt, yes.  Fortune, no.

I thought making exceptional wine was enough to hitch my dream to a shooting star.  But, it’s felt more like a falling star.  I innocently tried to pay for production with revenues from the sales of my wine.  Somehow I’ve been able to make it work.  A small investment early on helped me stay on track.  But, when the availability of those funds disappeared after I already made a commitment to set out on a trajectory towards steady growth – well, I’ve been panicking quietly to make ends meet ever since.

The continued search for an investor has come up short.

To add salt to the wound, I relied on distribution sales to help pay for my production.  You lose 50% of your retail sales prices on distribution sales.  While it’s essential for marketing purposes to get your brand in outside markets, it dramatically decreases your revenues.  Also, too often distribution payments come in late – sometimes months after due dates – and I would get behind on paying my bills.  It’s been a painful, vicious cycle of not being able to operate with the integrity I value so dearly – to not just pay my suppliers on time, but to pay them ahead of schedule.

Imagine if all businesses paid ahead of schedule?!?!   This would help spread the spirit of conscious capitalism – a mindful approach to capitalism that I believe is the direction all businesses need to go.

I digress…

I was a bit naïve to think making good wine would be enough to launch a successful wine business.  I didn’t have the negotiating skills to get a line of credit.  I have been asked by local banks if I had a husband (before I had one) before I’d even fill out an application for business credit.  I couldn’t get a credit card with enough credit to cover my needs.  My credit score tanked over the years of trying to keep the business going.  It’s been a real struggle.  Even in marriage I haven’t been much better off – aside from some of my husband’s contributions to pay for things on his personal credit card.  We bought our first home and I innocently thought having a mortgage would help us get ahead – at least a line of credit for the business.  I could not have been more wrong!  We are considered more of a liability.

It’s difficult to be this raw and vulnerable about dishing on the hardships of trying to maintain a wine production business.  But, I think it’s important to lift the veil of perception – it appears on the surface that my business is successful.  Writers have been graciously covering my story and praising my wines.  For that I can count my lucky stars!

It would appear from the accolades I received that I was making it in the wine business!

Not so.  It’s been a blessing to get such amazing press – features in Wine Enthusiast, forbes.com, Food & Wine, and so on.  The media attention did help to generate more sales – which I am ever grateful for!  But, the reality of balancing a rate of bills coming up faster than the money is coming in makes it an impossible situation.

So how is it that a “successful” winemaker has come so close to losing her business?  

It’s a lot of variables – including our margins.  The cost for production greatly outdistances our sales.  I’m not interested in making an entry level Cabernet Franc wine for $50/bottle.  But, based on my costs to make my wine I should be charging $50 for my entry level wine.  Instead, I charge $25 and my reserve wine sells for $50.  If I was producing 150,000 cases of wine I could afford my price points.  But, I’m producing 1800 cases of handcrafted tiny lots of wine and feel compelled to keep the prices down.  Am I a glutton for punishment?  It just might be that I’m not a savvy entrepreneur.

After the birth of my son, I had many challenges, both physically and mentally.  I sustained a lot of pain in my long recovery, including dealing with a strange birth injury to the hip, painful endometriosis and C-section scar tissue, and postpartum depression.

I started going to a therapist just months after giving birth and it has been a profound experience of healing and growing.

But, this healing and growing came with a price.  I got behind on my sales.  I couldn’t stay on top of my business.  And, little by little I became more and more behind on paying the bills.

I’ve had to ask myself what’s next.  Feeling helpless and stressed all of the time isn’t an option while I’m taking care of my infant son.

I was encouraged to start a crowd fund campaign.  I never thought I would turn to something like that.  It made me feel self-conscious and embarrassed.  My therapist had me meditate on feelings of inadequacy that this experience has brought up.  She told me being a failure is different from the fear of failure.  I had to let that one sink in.

I decided to take the plunge this morning.  I set up my GoFundMe campaign.  I winced a little, cried a little, then set it free to the world to consider helping me.

Doing this exercise was like a meditation.  I found a great quote to lead the appeal on my Facebook page:  “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”

So, I’m asking for it.  It’s humbling.  And, I’ve learned a few things in the process.

Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever adequately express what the support of my community would mean to me.  As I thought about asking for and receiving help, I thought about my son.  I want to show him that it’s okay to ask for help, that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and maybe most importantly – that his mother was a leader in her industry and literally made something from nothing.

I have been struggling for so long that I have a hard time imagining being free from the burden of my struggle.  Thank God for therapy and leaning in toward growth and change.  Faith and stubbornness got me started on this journey.  Now I turn to grace, gratitude and persistence to carry on.  And acceptance.  If it’s meant to be, it will be.  If not, there’s something else out there for me.  But I will mourn the wines I crafted with love.

Asking for help isn’t easy.  But, I believe the greater good from asking for help will manifest in my desire and ability to “pay it forward” – supporting causes I care about, causes that enrich my community and help in building a kinder, better world for my son to grow up in!

I am asking for help!  It is both a burden and an opportunity.  I humbly wait to see what the universe has in store for me.

If you are interested in lending a helping hand, please visit my GoFundMe page.  Thank you for considering my appeal!  xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Day Philosophers

philosopher signs.jpeg

 

Last night my husband took me down a rabbit hole.  We snuggled on the sofa while he, iPhone in hand, read aloud from a closed Facebook group of college friends locked down and four days into a philosophical debate.  Only, it was no debate.  It was an ugly argument.  My husband had been invited into the group.  For the record, he does not parley on social media.  He happened to notice an attack on his friend and got lured in to read what was going on.  We were a pair of scrolling-voyeurs hiding under our invisibility cloak while watching a train wreck, airplane crash, and ship sink all at once.  We did nothing but witness in a kind of disbelief.

Many of the participants in this conversation were philosophy majors from his alma matter.  I’m not sure where the diatribe began.  But, his friend, who was under attack, was writing in superfluous words about conspiracy theories he supports, defending his beliefs and arguing they aren’t actually rooted in hate, as suggested by the accusations of the offended others who were reacting and responding to his intense commitment to pointing out social engineering of certain minority groups versus his references to the typical conspiracy theorist take on a select few families or dynasties driving the global financial kingdom with roots in Jewish holdings.  Many of these conspiracy theories deny the Holocaust ever existed and support other anti-Semitic theories.  But, there are layers – I mean deep layers – into the spectrum of conspiracy theory systems.

It was difficult to tell if this fellow was actually expressing his anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ views or if he was just playing devil’s advocate, navigating an uncomfortable discussion through the lens of a “free thinker” who does not necessarily subscribe to the opposition he’s presenting, but, rather, delivers the opposition with the intent of shedding light onto the same kind of “anti” behaviors the other side presents.

This could have been an opportunity where philosophy reigns over dogma.  In fact, at one point in our brief world history, you could have conversations where philosophy reigned over dogma. Today, philosophy is dead and dogma is alive and thriving.

This thread got me thinking.  I’m not interested in reviewing the specified topics debated.  Every day we are barraged by debate ad nauseam.  Really, you could throw in any debate and get the same result.  What interests me here is the way “modern philosophers” communicate.

I can’t help but wonder what is the difference between philosophical discourse and debate today?  Who are the modern day philosophers?  Is philosophy actually dead?

Today, people have lost the skill to engage in healthy debate or civil philosophical discourse – the latter most distressing because there is no interest in listening, learning, or being open to ideas and ideals other than our own – which are often herd based, thanks to mediums like social media.

Few people actually embody a “free thinking” mindset.  Few people have real curiosity about people, their intent, their fears or any interest in finding, somehow, common ground.  It is much easier to set one’s self apart from an opposing mindset as if altruistic rather than seeing the raw, imperfect humanity in ourselves and in each other.

It was Matthew Arnold, English poet and cultural critic, who was historically wrote, “the free thinking of one age is the common sense of the next.”

Instead, we have extremes.  There is no middle ground or tolerance.  You are either right or wrong, and much of that has to do with your world view and political views.  There is no room for centrists, even though most people exist in the center.  You must choose your side.  And the side is getting very lopsided.  Ideology insists you must lean one way or else you are a bad person who supports or enables wrong-doings against humanity.  This is no coincidence.  This is social engineering.

On one hand social engineering is the “use of centralized planning in an attempt to manage social change and regulate the future development and behavior of a society”.  On the other hand, it is the “use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes” (Google dictionary).  It’s the first definition that is debatably part of the matrix driving current “thought”.

Modern discourse is rooted in personal attacks or taking things personally, which goes hand in hand with the new “thought mining” being based on social engineering.

All of the participants in this particular alumni thread were quite rude and intolerant of each other.  These were not Facebook strangers – but a collection of friends from college.  The insults were deep, the attacks came from silver-tongued wordsmithing, and the roots were very sophisticated examples of social engineering and its trickle down effect all over private chatrooms and social media groups online.

This is not a social experiment but a real tool for divisiveness.  Someone or some group created this social engineering platform.  And it is working.

Modern philosophers are intent on changing the opposition.  They aim to destroy any opposition to their belief structure.  Make no mistake, this is intended as a climate seasoned for social-shaming the opposition.  This is not limited to any particular viewpoint – it’s all encompassing.  Everyone is guilty.

When I was in college, in the mid/late 1990s, having a different opinion, world view, or political position was never a platform for hate and intolerance – but rather for intellectual curiosity.  We actually successfully engaged in healthy debate and often left the classroom better than we had entered it – we were all willing and interested in actually learning something.  This was a major reason why I chose to attend a woman’s college – a liberal arts institution that nurtured free thinking.

Today, the sensitivity meter has gone off the scale.  There is no room for debate.  And students need safe spaces – this is not to chastise these vulnerable individuals.  You know, climate change isn’t just about the environment.  There’s a climate change on civility, decency, respect – and a global warming (heat wave!) of thought that’s burning up conversations, opinions, world views, dialogs and expressions with the swift and dominant rage of wildfires.  News flash!  Nobody wins.  Wildfires do not spare anyone.

I am curious about social engineering and its impact on humanity.  Conspiracy theorists believe there’s a certain elite segment of the population that is behind the social engineering – be it the 1% of wealthy families and/or lizard-like aliens running the matrix.

For years I considered myself a conspiracy theorist.  I didn’t subscribe to the ideas about alien domination, chem trails, or the moon actually being an alien spacecraft monitoring the matrix, etc.  Rather, I believed in the set-ups:  like Roosevelt being involved in the bombing of Pearl Harbor in order to get US citizen support to enter WWII; the assassination of Lincoln; the assassination of Kennedy; and so on.

One of the philosophers in this closed alumni group was well versed and competent in the vernacular of modern conspiracy theory – rooted in speculation that the ultra rich runs the planet alongside alien beings.  In some ways, I understood his point.  He was sharp-tongued in his delivery, which was why the entire group was pulling out their verbal muskets to revolt against his viewpoint.  He lost his audience.  An opportunity for real discussion and philosophical conversation was lost.  Intellectualism, that is “the exercise of the intellect at the expense of the emotions” and the philosophical “theory that knowledge is wholly or mainly derived from pure reason or rationalism”, drove out conspiracy theory and social engineering for consideration as other possible segments of modern philosophy (Google dictionary).

I wanted to create a pseudo account on Facebook just to join in on this conversation and bring up the writings of David Icke.  In 2010 Icke published “Human Race Get Off Your Knees: The Lion Sleeps No More” where he digs into his theories on the manipulation of the human race and the nature of reality and calls humanity to “rise from its knees and take back the world from the sinister network of families and non-human entities (aliens) that covertly control us from cradle to grave.  Icke writes extensively about the matrix. 

Icke was recently brought into the news via a controversial endorsement by writer/activist Alice Walker (author of “The Color Purple”) who was under fire for  promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theory in an interview with the New York Times – December 2018.  Walker stated Ickes books are “a curious person’s dream come true.”  Walker’s recommendation of Icke’s books, and the New York Times decision to publish it without comment, ignited widespread outrage.

Walker later addressed the outrage on her website: “Recently I’ve taken a few knocks for my liking of David Icke.  Well, I can’t help liking him, he’s got cojones for days… Last night it occurred to me what it is I like and I wanted to put it in one sentence:  David Icke’s work is a feast for the imagination.  That’s it.  Take it or leave it, he is offering something extremely timely and useful… If you love mythology, as I do, you will have a fine time seeing how a new myth, with us in it (!) might be made.  Though Icke isn’t talking about myth, but reality.  Still, for some this will seem very far out, and way beyond the wild tales  and fables of Greek and Hindu storytellers, my favorites for many years…”.

She writes more.  I just wanted to highlight her admiration for the wild extremity of thought that conspiracy theory creates – isolated from Icke’s shadowy ideology regarding religion and anti-Semitism.  I do not support Icke or anti-Semitic thought or behavior.  I find that connection to be frightening and shameful.  Instead, I really want to address today’s standard for social engineering – which instills fear.

Really, I should be afraid to write any and all of this – worse, I should shirk from publicly admitting that I am a fan of Alice Walker’s literary works.  Because now that one stone has been turned to label her anti-Semitic, then, by association as a reader, I might be labeled the same.  We are living under a kind of McCarthyism veil – one shrouded in fear and suspicion.  Your true and good intentions – especially for those who occupy the center of thought and world view – can get twisted and reframed into something else.  Something more sinister.  You have to be careful for what  you say and how you say it – it is very easy to offend and to become labeled intolerant.

Back to the Facebook thread of modern philosophers…   The entire discourse was a picture perfect snapshot of entitled, privileged, first world narcissism.  It’s riddled in shaming the opposition, which is the “new hate”.  And everyone here was guilty of it.

The danger in even writing about the unhealthy, unhinged ways people engage in debate or conversation creates an open invitation for the likes of social engineered pundits to chime in and accuse you of things like feeding the far right, or the anti-Semitics, or the anti-LGBT community, or the #blacklivesmatter community, and so on.  So, even if you are not engaging in debate, at all, by simply having the opinion that today’s philosophers and today’s conversation/debate style are unhealthy and riddled with the “new hate” can be grounds, in itself, for sympathizing with what the far right stands for!   Things get muddled when emotion and hate are twisted into the mix.

Let’s be very clear.  The “new hate” removes compassion or empathy from the conversation.  It is a breeding ground for cruelty.  It means stoking the fires that offend and hurt others.  It intends to scrutinize not with curiosity – as it purports – but with fear-based suspicion.  Fear is the opposite of love.  Fear is at the heart of intolerance.

Let that sink in for a moment.

So what happens if you are a creature with ideals that contradict – say, an anti-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-racism, feminist conspiracy theorist?  Is there room for that person in the halls or private group threads of modern philosophy?   Just food for thought.  But be careful before you bite – the food just might be poisoned.

A Mutha of a Vintage

 

There is a gentle humility that comes with expecting and then delivering a baby.  Something intrinsic in your wiring switches and your life is no longer all about you.

Motherhood literally changes the brain.  There is plenty of research demonstrating how having children – even childbirth itself – changes a woman’s brain.  Did you know that after giving birth the brain actually grows?

There’s no question for me how important the prenatal experience was for my child’s early development.  Pregnancy did not happen without some external intensity for me – and, really, that was regarding my work.

I could not abandon ship during the most critical season – harvest.  I had to figure out how to see the 2018 vintage through while carrying my son in the second and third trimester, and miraculously get the white and rosé wines bottled weeks after giving birth while struggling through a difficult and painful recovery.

It wasn’t easy.  To be honest, it’s been a mother of a struggle.

Five months postpartum – and I have to maintain barrels of red wine, prepare for bottling the red wines, and prepare for the 2019 harvest.  My brain is narrowly focused on one thing – my son.

I don’t understand how any mother can return to a full time job during the first 6 months postpartum.  I am one of the lucky ones.  Being an entrepreneur means I create my own schedule – to a point.  As a winemaker, the seasonality of my work drives my schedule.

My brain is still fixated on the track of mothering.  It is a full time job – and then some.  Work-life balance is a challenge.  As an entrepreneur the business never really shuts down for you.  You have to create healthy boundaries to ensure you stay in business, that you are engaging and taking care of your customers, and, of course, keeping the process of production on schedule.

I was a little late in the game with bottling and releasing my white and rosé wines this year – with good reason.  Still, it made it more challenging for me to release and sell these important wines.  I am relying on my distribution partners to see the benefit in a later release with aromatic and rich Sauvignon Blanc and bone dry, savory rosé.  Truth be told, the 2017 vintage wines that are still out in the market are really tasting amazing at this time.  Holding off a little on releasing the 2018 vintage only means the wines will evolve and taste better with a little extra bottle age.  This is a good thing!

Still, bills need to get paid.  A delay in releasing and selling these wines means a delay in bringing in capital to pay for our production costs.  The dance between production schedule and related costs against sales schedule and bringing in capital for the business is complicated and stressful.  It never pans out just right and I’m constantly squirming to pay our bills on time.

This is stressful as a business owner.  Add pregnancy and motherhood to the mix – it’s pretty daunting and emotionally draining.

Something has to give.  And it’s not going to be at the detriment of my son.   I work hard to produce world class wine.  I’m confident that I am making among the best expressions of Cabernet Franc wines available anywhere.  But making wine is no longer my first priority.

I am taking some of the pressure off of me to perform perfectly.  2018 will be an exceptional vintage, I am certain.  But, I am awaiting a major learning point here.  I relinquished some of my obsessive tendencies regarding winemaking to care for myself and my son during this precious time.  I called on some help to see things through in the cellar.  I hired a part-time employee to do some basic cellar work for me – like washing tanks and topping barrels.  My husband came to the rescue a few times to check on and top barrels and to clean up our cellar space.

This is a big deal because for the past eight years I have performed pretty much every bit of the work load by myself.  It’s been an important lesson to let that go and get help, as needed.

To be a creator or a maker… and to follow a disciplined schedule… AND to evolve into a new mom – it’s no easy undertaking.  There are a ton of emotional ups and downs.  I even resented my business for quite some time.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I even lost interest in wine while I grew my baby and began nursing him.

I feel like I owe others a piece of me, via my wine, and it gave me such anxiety as I struggled to work.  This was especially true during the weeks after giving birth when I had to prepare our white and rosé wines for bottling.  I was an emotional wreck.  My body hurt and a part of me didn’t care about what I was doing.

It was my husband who was my greatest cheerleader, who pushed and encouraged me to get things done when I didn’t want to work at all.

I’m coming around.  Working part-time feels right for me right now.  I will need to pull some longer hours in the coming weeks when we prepare our red wines for bottling.  Harvest will require a lot more from me and I hope I am up for the task!  I am currently pulling together a couple of smart, capable people I trust to help me out during the most intense part of the wine production season.

I am asking my kind customers, business partners, friends and family for continued support, patience and understanding.  I always mean to make thoughtful, expressive wines that continue to excite and engage wine lovers.  I am also a new mom trying to find my way.  Some days are harder than others.

Each vintage tells a unique story.

For me, 2018 wasn’t just about the weather, the season of wildfires, the climate and long growing season, the effects of global warming and having scrutiny over the physiology of the grapes coming in after exposure to an ever increasing warming pattern (note:  I write extensively about the effects of global warming on wine grapes, especially regarding the increased population of spoilage microorganisms, like pedioccocus bacteria, that come into the winery on fruit that is sustainably or organically farmed, and how I need to mitigate the start of my fermentations to ensure cleanliness, purification of fruit and eliminating spoilage microbes by creating an environment for healthy fermentations completed by desired saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts with the goal of reducing byproducts, like biogenic amines, that can taint wine).

The vintage was about all of those things and how I navigated my work while growing my son – enduring many symptoms of pregnancy including edema, Braxton Hicks contractions, and exhaustion.  Even getting the calories I needed via holistic nutrition was challenging – but, I made it a priority.

I don’t know if the 2018 wines will be my best wines or not, but, they will be reflective of the major changes  that came along during my journey as a winemaking mother.  In the coming weeks I will be tasting through barrels and evaluating each lot and making decisions about what will be the final blends.  I am excited to see how these wines will transform over the next few years while I watch my baby grow into a toddler and little boy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Another Mommy Blog

 

black hole with gravitational lens effect in front of bright stars  (3d illustration, Elements of this image are furnished by NASA)

This gets sorta sciency…

When I first decided to get back into blogging my intention was simple:  stoke some creative fires and recommit to a writing practice.

I never intended on writing a blog about a specific subject.  In retrospect, perhaps I should have had the discipline to be more focused with intention to draw in a larger and more dedicated audience.

Instead, my heart was elsewhere.  I wanted to cast a wider net to tackle topics that came to me at any given moment, topics I felt passionate about exploring and sharing, topics that spanned the vast range of my personal interests – art, travel, books, opera, microbiology, quantum physics and more!

I’m not a business-minded writer.  I’m not strategic about growing an audience or even getting paid via advertising – all which I am open to implementing in this, here, lil bloglet.  All in due time, I suppose.  But I wish I had more energy to run my blog like a business.  I wish I had more stamina to write!

I mean, I initially set out to write a few times a week.  It seemed like a good plan without over-committing myself to another responsibility alongside running my business, serving on a non-profit board, and being a new wife.

Then the baby arrived.

Days turned into a few weeks.  Weeks turned into a few months.  I have barely written a word.  My wide net of interesting things to write about quickly shrunk to one thing – being a new mom.

Lately I’ve been in deep with things I had never really thought about before giving birth, or, in some cases I never even knew existed.

The list includes:  the fourth trimester, placenta encapsulation, c-section recovery, diastasis, hip injury during labor, pelvic floor restoration, Mayan abdominal massage, postpartum depression, postpartum hair loss, postpartum pain, postpartum anemia, sleep deprivation, thrush, vasospasms, breast engorgement, breastfeeding pain, baby’s four month sleep regression, sleep training, teething, cradle cap, baby eczema, baby’s growth phases, and so on.  Yes.  There really is more.  A lot more.  No.  I’m not joking.

So it seems I’m writing a “mommy blog”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I read many of them!  But it’s not like I’m doing independent research, offering product ratings or creating any new material that hasn’t already been perfectly explored and shared online.  The mommy blogosphere does not need my additional three cents worth.

Then again I find community and normalcy in reading about different perspectives and experiences – because they (pediatricians, experts, moms, etc.) always say every pregnancy is different, every birth is different, every baby is different, every mother is different.  There are no two exact experiences with having a baby.  There is room for more consideration and contemplation.

So here I am in it.  Really in the trenches of it.  I am in awe and overwhelmed at the same time, all of the time!  I am experiencing the phenomenon called “mommy brain”.  I have a difficult time in conversations – especially when it comes to staying focused and remembering things.  I used to be an eloquent speaker and I took pride in my communication skills, especially regarding my work as a winemaker.

I recently conducted a private consumer tasting with my wines and I felt like a bumbling fool.  It was embarrassing.  I told my husband that was it.  No more pubic speaking for me until I get my brain back.  Then the fear sunk in.  What if I never get my brain back?!?!

I read a lot of blogs about new mothers creating a balanced life – especially those who are working moms.  After reading these blogs I’m typically reduced to tears.  Here’s why…

Something strange happened to me after I had the baby.  I lost all motivation to work.  I realize this is not atypical for a new mom.

I struggled with my relationship with my wine business.  The business became this chasm or void – or, maybe a black hole.  I intuitively dodged the event horizon so as not to get sucked in.  Because once you’re sucked into a black hole – it’s over.  The old theory was that once an object passes through the event horizon, then gravity pulls and stretches the object like a strand of spaghetti until it disintegrates.  Physicists have since revised that theory when they discovered you’ll burn to a crisp just by going through the event horizon.  So never mind gravity’s pull inside of a black hole.  You’re toast just from approaching it.

I no longer had the energy, desire or passion to run my business.  It was like I was a dying star:  my core was running out of hydrogen fuel, contracting under the weight of gravity.  My former business owner self had nearly collapsed.  I had no idea how to save my little star.

It feels horrible to admit this out loud and publicly.  But it’s also a huge relief.

Part of my departure from writing stemmed from the same lack of interest and motivation I had toward my business.  I’m sure part of it was because I was overwhelmed and maybe even a bit depressed.

It feels worse to admit that out loud and publicly.

I thought I was supposed to feel magical and peacefully content as a new mom – like a spritely mother goddess.  At moments, it does feel that way.  But many moments are quite different.

It’s difficult to navigate the new space of motherhood.  It’s difficult when you now orbit a tiny human being.  It’s difficult to recognize yourself or to understand your former self in light of this new space.  It’s difficult to be multi-dimensional – occupying two or more very important and encompassing spaces at the same time.

Time is relative.  And yet it slips away dangerously fast, so fast, in fact, that your ever changing baby makes you sometimes feel like you’re in a different galaxy overseeing a little alien creature that undergoes a swift and constant metamorphosis.  Your life begins to feel like science fiction.

I mean, pregnancy makes you feel like an alien host!  Birth makes you feel like an alien mother.  Postpartum life makes you feel like aliens have sucked out your brain.

So how do you grasp your new place in space, in time, in reality?

With a little light, love and laughter.  Right??

Right after my baby was born I watched and enjoyed a couple of pregnant comedians doing stand-up specials.  Ali Wong and Amy Schumer had me in stitches over pregnancy and new mom subject material – from mom brain and breastfeeding  to baby taking over your life.  If you don’t laugh about it you’ll cry.

If comedians tried to tackle this subject material on stage with fully pregnant bodies ten years ago they would have been shut down.  Today it works.  Women are getting more and more opportunities to speak up.  We’re normalizing the very things that had been open for judgment or shut down for representing the messiness of womanhood – things like menstruation, childbirth, breastfeeding, c-sections, advanced age pregnancy, birth control or postpartum depression.

But you can’t always laugh, or love, or find light in the difficult stuff.  When you are deep in it you do your best to survive – mostly on limited sleep.

Addressing the new mom role is important.  While it is a different experience for every woman it is still full of new feelings, emotions, judgements, ideas and realities.  And a gentle understanding needs to prevail when speaking about postpartum hormones, baby weight and body image, “baby brain”, depression and so on.   Especially when talking to a new mom.  Mommy shaming needs to stop and support needs to prevail.

I also want to share my experience regarding family and friends who have tried to offer up unsolicited advice – and keep in mind not every woman minds unsolicited advice.  Throw in hormones, sleep deprivation and the struggle to find your own way on your own terms – well, you might experience this differently than prior to baby.

I am not the kind of new mom that does well with others posturing their “expertise” and advice without my asking for it.  Personally, I think it’s important to give a new mom her space to figure out her new role and her child.  Boundaries should always be respected!  This can be especially challenging with parents and in-laws who are excited to be grandparents but might forget that they already had their turn to parent – it’s now the new mom’s turn.

For me, the general rule for my tribe is to wait to be asked for help or advice and to not take things personally.  Friends and family shouldn’t be offended if they’re not asked for help or advice.  Not to be disrespectful, but it’s not about them.  New momma is growing and developing her own way.  Besides, I had already established my personal circle of advisors to help me out – I have an incredible doula who continues to help me beyond my child’s birth, I have an amazing lactation consultant, and my son and I have an amazing team of doctors!  I am in a mom’s group that has given me invaluable support and advice – mothers who are in it with me or have just gone through it.  Their perspective is fresh, current and applicable!  This is just one other area of space that needs to be carefully and thoughtfully established for the postpartum mom.

If we did a better job as a society in talking about the postpartum woman, from healthcare to the workplace, then things would be a lot easier.  The postpartum period is mostly ignored – to the point that follow up doctors appointments are in plenty for your newborn but not for you.  I had just one appointment after six weeks of major surgery to deliver my son.  And my pain was mostly ignored.  It’s no wonder so many new moms feel invisible, broken and, yes, depressed.

Don’t even get me started on maternity leave in this country.

So what do you do with all of this newness?  How do you navigate all of this unchartered territory in your life that now requires you to explore and inhabit it?  I tried reading new mom guide books, articles on parenting, and spiritual books on what it means to be a mother and how to find passion again in your work/career after having a baby.

Then I stopped trying to figure it all out.  I put my energy and focus on my baby.  And I tried to implement some self care via my recovery – thankfully gifted to me in a postpartum healing and wellness package my mother bought for me.  For that, I was lucky.

The wellness treatments included warming acupuncture (with cupping and my favorite – moxibustion – and a heat lamp), postpartum massage, Mayan abdominal massage that really helps with c-section scar tissue, and new mother chiropractic care which addresses the recovery from a pregnant body and all those hours of neck strain from looking downward when nursing.  Restoring your body and being mindful about your postpartum experience is a major step in healing physically and mentally.  This should be available to all women.  Sadly, this practice is non-existent in most places.

As for what I could do for myself?  I gave myself a break.

I decided it’s okay to be lost in space when it comes to my business.  It’s alright to not write blog posts while I’m figuring out feeding and napping schedules and everything else.  It’s just fine to coast along like a satellite floating in one direction – forward.

I still have to run this business.  The wine does not make or sell itself.  I still have to be somewhat present.  I’m open to allowing myself to fall in love with my work all over again – after I spend this special time falling in love with my baby.

In being present with my changing world I’m exploring what it feels like to let go of the notion that my business used to be the most important thing outside of my marriage.  Journaling has helped me in that exploration.

While my business isn’t at the center of my universe, it’s kind of like a really important galaxy with its own solar system.  It still deserves my attention and care.  Learning to ask for more help has been key for me.

There are so many great resources for new moms.  Joining a local new moms group was very important for me.  It gave me a real sense of community and space to rant so that I’m not always dumping things on my husband.  He’s great and is always there for me to dump away.  It’s just nice to have another place to go, too.

My health insurance offers excellent counseling for new moms.  I started to take advantage of that.  Talking to a professional about your feelings helps clear your head of negative thoughts and anxiety, and confronts potential postpartum depression.

Motherhood is a journey.  And it is okay to question who you are as you evolve as a human.  Finding tools that help you navigate your new world is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your family.

There are services and groups for all socio-economic backgrounds.  You just have to do some research for what resonates with you and then reach out to the universe for the help you need.

Mommy blogs aim to help other moms in the thick of it.  While I’m not committing to a single subject blog of ongoing mothering topics, I hope this blog entry is helpful.  At minimum, I hope my perspective and experience helps to expand community and foster some normalcy for other new moms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime on the Farm

 

March 24, 2019

It seemed natural to relocate to Newberg, Oregon in September.  We were five months pregnant, about to start our eighth vintage of winemaking, and ready to plant seeds and put down roots for our newlywed life.

Our son was born in January.  We hibernated all winter during his fourth trimester and planned for our year ahead – for our homestead, our wine business and our child’s life.

As spring is now opening up beautifully like the delicate, sweet scented blossoms of our hazelnut and pear trees, we are already reaping the benefits of our decision to live in wine country.

Here, there’s a spirit of doing things the hard and true way – following tradition, putting in an honest day of work, taking one’s time to follow the natural flow of one’s environment.  It’s easy to slip into the comfort zone of convenience, modernization and innovation to work smarter not harder.  And I certainly take advantage of some of those tools with running the operations for my business.  However, at home there seems to be a gentle ambiance allowing for something else, something that invites us to harken to the natural, slower rhythms of our farmstead surrounds.  We have a stunning hazelnut farm on the other side of our fence that leads the eye up to a panoramic view of the Chehalem Mountains – a place where world class vineyards thrive in the southeast facing sun.

Down here, in what the locals know as the Chehalem Valley, we have fragrant dirt, gentle breezes, various birds that co-mingle, and lovely roads that meander up into the hills.  It’s a pretty little place on the way to other significant wine country surrounds like the Dundee Hills and Yamhill-Carlton AVAs (American Viticulture Areas).

We have found our perfect little “acre farm”, as we call it, and it has been a blessing to wake up to a cool, dewy field with low hanging fog stretched out and into the rolling green rise of the Chehalem Mountains.  It is as quiet and gentle as the misted rainfall.  And when it is bright and gleaming from sunbursts it a pastoral sight fit for a storybook.

Sowing seeds and planting something real – a garden, a dream, a life – is something you cannot exist without once you’ve committed to it.  I’ve grown to love my husband and myself in new ways – an unexpected harvesting of the feels.  It’s purity is like the star material in the soil, since all matter was created from the death of stars.  It feels cosmic and relative.  Certainly a gift that keeps giving from the universe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memoriam of Mary Oliver

 

 

letters
Collection of my correspondence with poet Mary Oliver

Among my greatest treasures collected over the years are the postcards and letters of correspondence I had received from poet Mary Oliver.  At the time, they were mostly purposeful in assisting me in my application process for a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing – Mary had agreed to be a reference for me.

Mary Oliver was generous with her students.  I had the rare privilege to be among the small group of women she taught at Sweet Briar College in Virginia in the mid-1990’s.

back jacket

I enrolled in Mary’s first offered workshop at the college – a class on writing metrical poetry.  I wasn’t familiar with Mary’s work, but I needed to fulfill an elective credit requirement and it sounded like an interesting option.  I was very nervous heading into the classroom for the first time.  I loved literature and writing.  I wrote poems throughout my adolescent years but I doubted those poems were any good.  I lacked confidence in my ability to write and questioned if I belonged in the creative writing classroom.

The classroom was small with only about eight students enrolled – mostly upper class women who were majoring in English and Creative Writing.  I was intimidated.  Mary came into the classroom like a dove, wings lowered softly, wispy grayish hair that had been tousled by the breeze that flowed through the dell in the center of campus, a gentle and quiet way about her.  She passed out a few handouts with famous metrical poems – sonnets by Shakespeare, Petrarch and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; quatrains samples by Coleridge, AE Houseman an Gwendolyn Brooks, a villanelle by Elizabeth Bishop; ballads by Keats and Poe; and more.  We discussed form and meter, and did exercises in pencil over the lines of these famous poems to show the five types of meter – iambic, trochaic, spondaic, anapestic, dactylic.

A budding writer studies metrical poetry of the great poets the way an art student copies works of the masters.  You learn from copying the greats.  And if you stick with it you just might become one of the select few who become masters creating a unique style for future generations to someday copy, too.

I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I signed up for Mary’s metrical poetry workshop.  After the first class I realized I was in trouble.  Mary’s expectation was that we would complete eight or so finished metrical poems that had to be true to form, meter, rhythm and she pushed us to not be lazy with our words, but to be selective, even obsessive about the words we put to meter – she believed we could all make these poems  beautiful.

At the end of the semester, I completed my eight or so poems.  For weeks I struggled in my dorm room with my homework of trying to write metrical poetry – far more than I struggled with my homework for my honors chemistry course!  It was far more challenging to stick to the formulas of writing metrical poems while being selective with my words and striving to create something beautiful.  I ended up putting more time into this one workshop for an elective than any other coursework that semester.

Over the following summer, when I was back home working part-time, I received a letter in the mail from the college.  It was a congratulatory letter informing me that my poem – a villanelle I had written in that metrical poetry class – had been awarded first prize in the annual college competition sponsored by the Academy of American Poets.  Huh?

Mary had submitted my poem, The Dogwood.  I was shocked to learn that my poem had been entered in the contest and dumbfounded that it had actually won!  I received a nice letter from the Academy along with a small prize stipend of $500 – I think.

When I returned for fall semester, I enrolled in another poetry workshop with Mary.  I wanted to take advantage of her short tenure as writer in residence at the college.  As it turned out, I ended up changing my major from Chemistry to English and Creative Writing.  Truth be told, something happened while I was working so hard on writing those eight or so poems for Mary’s metrical poetry workshop – the challenging work took over, the obsession with finding the right words defined my intellectual growth as a college student.  In the process I had found a voice I never knew was there – the voice of a writer.

I enjoyed all of Mary’s poetry workshops – all that were available before she disappeared and moved on from our campus to teach elsewhere – she went on to teach at Duke University.  I kept every version of the poems I submitted for class that came back to me with her signature hand written notes thoughtfully expressed in pencil.  Mary always used pencil.  You would see her walking meditatively around campus with her notebook and a pencil – that was how she wrote.  It was her process.

When it was time for me to graduate from Sweet Briar, I had no idea what I wanted to do.  I had been encouraged to apply for my MFA in Creative Writing.  So, I worked on a handful of applications and was delighted to learn that Mary wanted to be one of my references.  I was humbled by her kindness and generosity.

We had exchanged postcards and letters for a short time between my graduation and applying for graduate school.  I have those postcards and letters carefully tucked in my signed copies of Mary Oliver’s poetry books, stashed like precious relics on a special bookshelf.  Every now and again I open up her books and take out the letters and postcards and reminisce about the first time I attempted to write a metrical poem.

I had lost touch with Mary over the years.  I never went to grad school for that MFA – I wasn’t ready.  Life took me down a very different path.  I landed in Oregon, my dad’s home state, and worked in the wine industry.

On February 5, 2008, Mary came to town via programming scheduled by Portland Literary Arts .  I bought a ticket and sat so far up in the nosebleed section it seemed surreal from the days when I got to occupy space with Mary in a tiny classroom with just a handful of other students.

lit arts

I had written a letter to the director of Literary Arts explaining I was a former student of Mary’s and hoped I could arrange some kind of visit or moment to say hello.  At the time, I had taken poetry workshops with local poetry royalty – Kim Stafford, Paulann Petersen and Peter Sears – so, the magic of the universe worked out in my favor and the director invited me to attend the reception following Mary’s reading.

I only had about ten minutes to catch up with Mary.  It was lovely to see her again.  I was just happy that she still remembered me.  She asked if I was still writing – and at the time, I was.  I had earned a scholarship to attend Summer Fishtrap where I took a poetry workshop with Peter Sears; and I had enrolled in various other workshops – one at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology at the Oregon coast with Kim Stafford and one at the Writer’s Dojo in Portland with Paulann Petersen.

Fast forward to the present.  I was at the hospital following the birth of my first child on January 15th when I learned Mary had passed away on January 17th.  I was so heavy in recovery and painkillers that I could not process the fullness and depth of this sad news. When I got home from the hospital I was in deep with the baby blues.  I pulled out a few of my Mary Oliver books, read a few favorite poems, and cried.

I harbor some regret for not seriously pursuing the MFA.  I loved the process of writing poems.  I don’t write poetry anymore.  My life has become consumed with running my own business, making wine, and now caring for a newborn.  For years I have been telling myself that when I retire from making wine I would wear my hair in a long, silver braid and dedicate my crone years to writing poetry.  And while that seems like a good life goal, there’s an undeniable void for having forsaken my literary dreams.  To be honest, a part of me just gave up.  It’s difficult to publish work and make a living as a poet.  I just didn’t see it as a reliable option.

My big question – I wonder what Mary would say to me about timing, process and revisiting a writer’s life in a later chapter.  My gut tells me she’d advise that I get back to writing – if only for myself – to rekindle the love, to stoke the fires of creativity, to pick up where I had left off, to be gentle and kind with the process, allowing it to manifest.

Mary wrote a poem called the Fletcher Oak while teaching at Sweet Briar.  This poem is iconic to the Sweet Briar community – mainly for those of us who attended college while the stately Fletcher oak tree was a fixture on campus.  Sadly, a few years after I graduated, the Fletcher oak had to be removed because it was diseased.  The tree lives on through Mary’s poem.

Fletcher Oak is poignant for me as I consider my studies at Sweet Briar, as I revisit my past as a poet, as I lament the passing of the writer.  The following lines hit home:

I don’t know if I will ever write another poem.  I don’t know
if I am going to live a long time yet, or even for awhile.

But I am going to spend my life wisely.  I’m going to be happy,
and frivolous, and useful.

And there I received my answer.

FletcherOak SBC.edu Photo of Fletcher Oak courtesy of sbc.edu