A Little Story About How the World’s Greatest Cabernet Franc Changed My Life

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My wines lined up with my hero wines, including Clos Roche Blanche and Clos Rougeard

When I was new to the wine business – nearly twenty years ago (gasp!) – I worked for a distributor in Washington, DC.  We sold a portfolio of incredible wines from all around the world.  We also happened to sell the wines of New York wine importer Louis/Dressner Selections.  The wine company was founded in the early 1990s by Joe Dressner and his wife, Denyse Louis.   They championed wines from France’s Loire Valley and Beaujolais regions.

If not for Joe Dressner I doubt I’d still be in the wine business.

I was very green when I first started slinging wine.  But I was a fast learner.  I’d watch the seasoned wine guys in suits, who loved to show how much they knew about wine, running their gums ad nauseam to wine buyers all over the city.  Which translated, to me, to just memorize wine information sheets about a wine’s origins, maker, technical information and so on.  That would help me get the placement.  Or so I thought.

When I would listen in, these sales guys would mostly talk about what they liked about the wine, what they tasted and smelled, what they thought of the wine.  They weren’t sharing any helpful wine information at all.

This got me very nervous.  I felt reluctant to share my personal tasting evaluations and thoughts regarding the wines I had to sell.  We had hundreds of labels in our book – I hadn’t yet tasted them all!  How would I possibly sell them based on my experience with them when I had no experience with most of these wines?

It wasn’t clear to me, yet, what method would actually help me sell wine:  regurgitate a bunch of wine facts or dish out my opinions.

I started working in wine at an interesting time.  In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s there weren’t very many women sales reps beating the pavement in DC.  The few that were around were mostly middle-aged and looked a bit beaten down – you could see in the burgeoning lines in their faces that they had to do this the hard way.  Not the “old boys network” way.  Harder.  They had to earn respect in a painful way that the young Gallo boys would never have to.  This era was ripe in nepotism and cronyism – and building young men to be the next wine industry champions.

The other type of woman in the market was the young, skinny girl with giant breast implants that went from selling Budweiser to selling cheap “grocery store” wines to restaurant accounts.  They were called the Budweiser Girls.  They were not hired for their wine knowledge or expertise.

When I first started out in the wine business I was very aware that I was a unicorn.

I was young, conservatively dressed and thirsty to learn about wine.  I went to all of my accounts early and waited.  I would have to wait for hours for some of my buyers to see me.  Sometimes, after waiting a couple of hours, the buyers would tell me they were too busy and told me to come back the following week.  So I would.  This would go on for weeks.  Months, even.  I didn’t have a clue that I should just give up.  I naively thought this was the initiation process of being a new sales rep.  In some cases this was true.  But then I’d see new guys in neckties wait it out for a couple weeks and then they’d eventually get their big break in front of the buyer.  Just like that – they were in.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to move to the head of the line or get anywhere with many of these buyers.  Skinny French guys with long ponytails and suited Gallo types seemed to run the town.

Instead, I had to worry about whether or not I was showing enough boob.  I wish I was kidding.  I was young and a graduate of a woman’s college, which meant I was a feminist, which was kind of a dirty word even in the early 2000s!  I wasn’t about to show any of these dirty old sons of bitches (sorry, mom!) cleavage.  There had to be another way.  I don’t even want to get into the tragedy of how I had to sit on one of my buyer’s lap every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. in order to take his weekly wine order while the French ponytails and Gallo boys would snicker.  I would retreat into my car and cry.   I wish I was making this up.

I had sales goals that I had to meet each month and I was nowhere near my numbers.  I was legitimately worried that low cut blouses were my only way in.  I didn’t own any and loathed the thought of spending money, the little I had, on low cut blouses that weren’t my style.  So, to my demise, I refused to expose my peaks and valley and kept dressing like a chic librarian.  I continued to struggle to show wine to many of the buyers on my route.

Part of the job of a wine sales rep is to host suppliers (ie. a winery sales rep or an importer) for a day’s work.  The industry calls this a “ride with” or “work with”.  You pick up the supplier in your car and then you take them to scheduled appointments at your accounts.  The supplier shows the wine and hopefully makes placements on your on-premise customer’s wine lists or on your off-premise customer’s shelves.  You politely make introductions, pour the wine, then let them work their magic.  Work withs can be great if you can schedule a full day.  If you get a last minute work with, it’s a nightmare.  The supplier expects a full day with your top accounts and often you have to scramble to get at least a couple decent appointments secured.  It can be very stressful.

I had my first supplier “work with” with Joe Dressner in the spring of 2002.  I had enough top accounts that would allow me to schedule a full work day of appointments.  Luckily my boss gave me plenty of time to book solid appointments.  Truthfully, the accounts didn’t give a rat’s ass about me.  They all wanted face time with Joe.  At the time, I had no idea how cultish and amazing most of his wines were.  I was just happy to get confirmed appointments!

I picked up Mr. Dressner in my Honda Civic.  I was ten minutes early.  He was waiting for me which made me feel like I was fifteen minutes late.  When he got into my car he looked like a stern English Professor about to quiz me on Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and Pound.  I was intimidated.  In his New York manner, he looked at me with indifference and said, holding up a bottle of wine with an indistinct white label, “if you can’t sell Cazin in every account today, you have no business in the wine business.”

And that was the start of our day.  I felt sick.

What I soon learned was one of the most important lessons of my career in wine:  you pour the wine and then you shut up.

I would respectfully pour samples of wine in the buyer’s glass and wait to see what Joe was going to do.  At the fist appointment he chit chatted about some guy he knew in France who the buyer knew and they laughed about the guy’s horribly mismatched toupee or something like that and then got very serious about the said guy’s wife who had recently passed away from cancer and how the son didn’t want anything to do with the vineyard and what a shame it all was and how the said toupee guy would likely sell.  In that exchange wine was poured and Joe neither regurgitated a bunch of wine facts nor did he dish out one opinion.

They returned to the wine in the glass, which had nothing to do with the toupee guy.  The buyer ordered three cases of Cazin Cheverny.

It was a similar story in each account we visited that day.  Joe would strike up some conversation about something else and he’d let the buyers share their knowledge about the wines and then dish out their opinions with very detailed tasting notes.

That was the a-ha moment:  let the buyer be the expert he or she is and the buyer will buy.  

It was that simple.  If the wine was very good, as these wines were, they spoke for themselves.  The wine buyers typically knew everything under the Tuscan sun about  iconic and esoteric wines, they built their programs on being able to share quality treasures with their customers.

Distribution sales reps too often make the mistake of trying to tell the expert what the expert should already know.  Every now and again I’d bring a wine that a buyer wasn’t familiar with and, still, I would refrain from over-sharing.  I’d let the buyer taste and ask the questions and I was prepared to answer in short and concise sentences.  I never offered an opinion but asked the buyer what he or she thought of the wine.  That was part of my education – because I learned a lot about wine from these long-time old school buyers.  Yeah, you pour the wine and then shut up and listen.

And that was how I learned to kill it as a wine sales rep.  I passed the French ponytails and Gallo boys in line and started selling wine like a boss.  I guess I have Joe Dressner to thank for that, for helping me keep my job!  And I never had to waste my money on low cut blouses!  So I got to keep my dignity after all.

The Louis/Dressner wines were my everything.  We had so many wonderful brands to sell in our book.  But I always found myself playing favoritism.  Because these wines spoke for themselves.  I was most captivated by Clos Rougeard and Clos Roche Blanche.

It’s sad.  All these years later, the two Louis/Dressner wines that not only shaped my career but helped inspire my own wine label are no longer in production.  And in 2011, the year I made my very first wine from Cabernet Franc, Joe passed away.

I remember him telling me that Clos Rougeard was arguably the greatest Cabernet Franc ever produced.  It was a cult classic.  Tiny production.  Two brothers.  And I had the privilege to sell those wines in a very important food and wine city.  How lucky for me. And what an education!

I’m looking outside of my window now, here in Oregon, years and miles away from Washington, DC.  The trees are nearly bare with lingering red, gold and brown leaves.  My fermentations are nearly complete and I will soon press off the Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Gamay grapes.

It’s quite something to consider where I’ve arrived since my days of worrying about whether or not I was showing enough cleavage to sell wine to an older wine institution in our nation’s capitol.  Many subsequent years of sales, marketing and cellar work have positioned me to make my own wine.  For me, it was always about Cabernet Franc.

My “Loiregon” wines tell the story as best as they can.  Oregon is a different place than France.  But we can make connections.  When I talk about the subduction off of the Oregon coast that took place 250 million years ago and left behind in Southern Oregon a treasure trove of ocean bottom material, including blueschist rock, ancient marine fossils and mollusk shells, and the largest fan of high grade limestone in the state – you can make connections to that of the Loire Valley that was under a tidal basin 100 million years ago.  You can deduce why the same grape varieties thrive in these similar soil series.   You can feel why these wines might be kindred spirits or even kissing cousins!

I chose Cabernet Franc from Southern Oregon because the best Cabernet Franc in North America grows in these soils.  I believe arriving in Oregon was my calling.  My father is from Oregon.  I have roots here.  My Nordic family arrived in the wild west as farmers and makers.  Sometimes we get pulled far from our roots and part the process of healing our ancestral wounds is simply returning home.

If Clos Rougeard was arguably the best Cabernet Franc wine ever produced, perhaps there’s a chance I can make something special, too.  I would never claim to make the best Cab Franc anywhere.  But I am not just making wine for the fun of it.  I’m not interested in any “rock star” status, in fact, I tend to hide in my comfortable shell from public wine tastings and spotlights.   I do believe I have my work cut out for me and I’m determined to make a statement, even if in my own introverted way.

I chose the name “Clos Rogue Valley” for my reserve Cabernet Franc.  It was a kind of  respectful nod to the Foucault brothers, the founders of Clos Rougeard.  I love puns and word play and look how beautifully the word Rogue plays on the eyes alongside Rougeard.

ROGUE / ROUGEARD

There are many stories in the pipeline I’ll eventually tell about making Caberent Franc.

This memory piece is about how I learned how to sell wine and that it didn’t require me to lose my dignity by showing my assets in a time that expected me to do just that – and how this was connected to certain wines from the Loire Valley that changed my life.

That said…

I wonder what Joe would have thought of my wines.  I would like to think that he would have approved of my decision to focus on Southern Oregon Cabernet Franc.  I sometimes think about sending his wife a bottle.  She doesn’t know me.  There were so many sales reps selling their wines over the years.  If she were to come across this post, I would want her to know how much respect and gratitude I have for her family’s business.  As far as I know, Joe could have thought I was just another idiot sales rep he had to go along with for a work with.  I never even asked if I passed the Cazin test!  LOL.  I didn’t really sell a single bottle of wine that day – the wine sold itself!  I’m assuming that was Joe’s humor to lighten the pressure of working with a supplier.  I didn’t know him well enough after one work with to know his humor.  But I do get a good laugh out of wondering…

 

 

 

Invest in the People Who Invest in You

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“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”  – Oprah Winfrey

It’s been exactly two months since I started my GoFundMe campaign in an effort to catch up from a 30% decline in sales in the first and second quarter of the year while I was recovering from major surgery and other complications from delivering my son.

30% decline.  It seems impossible that my business could have gotten so far away from me.  The first quarter of the year seems like a distant blur, and the second quarter more like a traumatic awakening from some kind of drug-induced coma!  It’s like I’m having to figure out who I am, how I got here, what I’m doing and where I go from here.

Nothing could prepare me for my birth story.  I was in good shape, I was healthy, strong,  and I didn’t have any problems or complications with my pregnancy.  No high blood pressure, no protein in my urine labs –  healthy.  My mistake – if there’s one to be named – was that I listened to my doctor out of fear and allowed an induction instead of trusting my instinct to stay on the natural course of labor that my body was already following.  There was no reason for the induction – just my age.   The baby was perfectly positioned until the induction led to round after round of interventions to keep labor on track with the hospital’s desired time table – rushing my baby to descend until my baby’s head was positioned at an angle that was challenging to correct.  In the end, I wish I would have trusted myself to not make decisions from a place of fear.

I left the hospital with a C-section scar, lots of scar tissue and identified endometriosis scarring.  I lost a lot of blood and became anemic.  My right hip was injured during the birthing process of pushing and I had numbness and pain in my right hip and thigh for about four months.  To add salt to the wound, I had postpartum depression.  I wanted to skip pain medication but was advised not to – so I was in a woozy dream state for several weeks.  I was caring for my sweet baby which meant I was sleep deprived.  Due to the C-section antibiotics, my son and I got thrush.  It was one of the most painful parts of the childbirth experience.  I also had vasospasms – and extremely painful condition for nursing moms where there’s lack of circulation in the nipple worsened by cold weather.

Six weeks postpartum I cried every day wondering when I would be clear from pain.  Pain was my new normal.  Not just sharp pain in one spot, like from a sprained ankle, but, an enduring, deep pain that became an annoying tick.   Pain that made you feel mentally exhausted and unhinged.

Somehow, I managed to bottle my white, rosé and reserve wines in early March, a month and a half postpartum.  I’m not sure how that worked out!  I did plan ahead a little bit in advance with finishing the wines in December.  But, it’s the logistics of bottling that can easily implode!  That is, ensuring your bottles arrive, your corks, labels, and so on.

I got by with help from others.

I have spent nearly a decade doing 99.9% of the work for this business all by myself.  There have been friends and temporary part-time worker bees to see me through the years, but, by and large, the work was laid out and finished by yours truly.

I’ve never had an easy time asking for help.

As for this year, I’ve had no choice but to ask for help.  I think if there’s one specific life lesson for me in 2019 – it has been to ask for help.

I was diligent in asking for help with the physical part of the business – production –  because, let’s face it, when you’re very pregnant, in labor, and postpartum, well, you’re kind of limited in what you can physically do.  Asking for help with production was an obvious necessity.

What wasn’t obvious was the help I would need in sales.  I felt like I had my supporters all set and they’d all be there for me without even having to ask.  I assumed when the wine was bottled, the wine would just sell.  Distributors would get their allocations and they’d place their purchase orders, and they’d pick up their wine and I’d get paid.

This is not to conveniently place blame on others.  The mistake here was all mine.

I allowed months to pass without realizing that I was down 30% in sales!

When I recently ran my profit/loss report for the year to date it was very clear that I didn’t roll out the 2018 white and rosé wines as I normally would, a delay that could have cost me my business – and may very well, still.

Distributors never placed orders for these wines and by the end of summer I still had full inventory of these wines.  This is pretty terrifying considering most white wines need to be sold by the end of summer.

Typically, I pay for my grapes from the previous vintage in three installments which gets paid off by early second quarter.  This year, I still have outstanding payments due to one grower and it’s a significant amount of money.  Had I sold the 2018 white wines on time, this grower would have been paid a long time ago.

I still owe money from my last bottling run that happened in July.

I now have about $35,500 worth of invoices from the sale of my wines out in the universe, but about $15,000 of it is already 30 to 60 days past due.  If that money came in on time, I would be able to pay off the outstanding bottling expenses and stay on top of my regular production and operations expenses.  With the rest, I could pay a chunk of the outstanding grapes invoice from 2018.

The good news – my online sales are up!  My wine club has grown!  And, really, if I was able to grow my direct to consumer sales (full retail), then I’d be in an even better position.  It’s challenging to do that when you don’t have a tasting room.  We have been working to get clever about how to make our wines more available and accessible to consumers.

This isn’t all bad news – I promise.

I landed an amazing marketing intern who is so positive and cheery – she is kind of resuscitating a new and exciting creative energy into my work.  She’s like Anne of Green Gables meets Avril Lavigne.  I am grateful to have her help!  We meet once a week to discuss ideas.  It’s wonderful!  She takes things off of my plate and comes up with innovative ways to improve my business.  At the same time, I get to mentor her, which is super rewarding for me!  So, it’s a symbiotic relationship. She set up her own LLC and invoices me for her time.  It’s one of the best things that has happened to my business (and me)!

I started a new wine club exclusively for my college alumnae.  I went to a small women’s college in Virginia and we call ourselves “the old girl’s network” for good reason – it’s an extraordinary league of distinguished women.  This group of alumnae is quite amazing – so much so that we collectively saved our college from closure back in 2015 by raising over $30 million in just three months!  So I founded the Vixens & Roses Wine Club for Sweet Briar College graduates – which is in no affiliation with the college.  It’s just my way of offering something special to fellow alumnae.

I am surprised by the response of so many people who have reached out and offered to help!  I’m grateful for my kind and generous friends, family, customers and colleauges who have contributed to my GoFundMe campaign (truly humbling!) or who have offered to come help sort grapes this harvest.

I am also surprised by the people who have made a very challenging time in my life feel even more challenging.  There are times when you fall down.  And you may keep falling down.  There’s a great Japanese saying:  Fall down seven times, climb back up eight times.

I don’t need to point fingers or put my energy into blame.  But I will say this – there comes a time in every person’s life when things don’t go as smoothly as planned and you’re hanging by a thread.  We all have troubles.  Give good people a break every now and again, offer some support and understanding, extend deadlines every now and again and be open to giving a little every now and again – even if it puts your business or time or energy in a small crunch.  Trust in good people.  In the long run they will not let you down.  In the long run, they will pay it forward in a big way.

It’s very important to know who’s there for you in good and bad times.  I have had some negative experiences over the past several months – experiences that have, at first, while in my most raw and vulnerable moments, caused me some grief and even shame and embarrassment or unnecessary stress.

Oh, to be fortunate!  How lucky!   To have everything working out – be it financial success, ownership of a little empire, resources, space, time, conveniences – whatever makes it so easy to live well and worry free.

I am making it my priority to embrace others struggling with even more fervor and unconditional support when I am able!  We should never take advantage of our friends, family, colleagues and so on.  But, we should be able to have meaningful relationships – both business or professional – that allow for empathy, compassion, flexibility and help.  I am making this part of my company’s ethos.  Because if we don’t live our lives with a genuine spirit of generosity towards others, then how do we build a culture or community with those same beliefs and aspirations?  We all must do better.

When I come out of this difficult time in my business story I will work on a new business plan, one that puts energy and thought into business culture on building better community and creating space for support and flexibility.  Everything is much easier when you’re on the positive side of cashflow, when you’re profitable, when the money comes in and bills are getting paid all on time!

Still, I’m embracing all of the pieces that have made this part of my story either difficult or hopeful.  I am using this time to learn and grow.  This chapter is going to make me a better business woman.  We need more empathy in business.  I have often written about compassionate capitalism.  Imagine if businesses – small and large – embraced kindness, compassion, support and generosity as tenets that are more important than bottom line, competition, winning, earning, and so on.

I believe in investing in the people who invest in you – from your customers to your employees to your board of advisors – everyone and anyone who becomes a part of your company’s culture and community.  It’s always about people and relationships first – and with that comes a huge responsibility to stretch and support as needed.

I may be on a few blacklists this year because of my mini financial collapse.  I may lose business contracts.  I may lose the confidence of people who are doing business with me.  I get it.  I didn’t plan for the worst case scenario and I have fallen behind so much so that maybe it is unforgivable.  There’s a trickle down effect of not getting paid on time that has really prevented me from making right on some of these major delays.

Sigh.

I remind myself it’s just wine.  It’s just a business.  We’re not saving lives here!

Nothing is so important that we cannot hold space for our community members when they are facing trouble.  Bottom lines will eventually get in balance.

I forgive those who are not practicing timeliness with me.  And, I hope those who I owe can forgive me, too.

I come back to asking for help.  I guess that’s the greatest help I could receive – grace periods to get myself caught up again on selling my wine so that I can pay off my debts.  The GoFundMe campaign has given me some relief.  But, I am far from in a good place.

I hoped the GoFundMe campaign might introduce me to an investor so that I never have to go through this trauma of being behind on payments ever again!  It may just work out.
I make myself vulnerable by sharing this – by being transparent about my story – because this could happen to anyone at anytime in business or in personal matters.  What kind of community are you in – one that supports you or one that will shame you out of business?

I’m still here.  I’m still operating this business.  I’m still making wine.  I have no guarantee that I will make it to bottling!

People ask what they can do – and I sincerely appreciate it!  Please consider ordering my wine online.  I know shipping wine is expensive – I wish it were different.  By supporting my business – shipping fees and all – you are keeping me in business!  Or, please consider giving to my GoFundMe campaign.

I do not make these asks lightly.  Asking for help is difficult for me.  But, I promise to pay it forward.  I am building a new culture for my company that promises to put goodness, kindness and compassion first.  I think that is an important piece to helping to make the world a better place.  It’s making me feel a greater responsibility as a business owner.  This is charging me to do better, myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Grasshoppers Are Gifts From The Universe

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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!

 

 

 

 

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.