Sobering Thoughts


Three months have passed since I started splitting my time between two jobs. In theory this looked like a really good idea, a win/win. I would get to stay and help my present employer during a time of transition while the new Executive Director got his bearings. I could simultaneously go in a new direction and work for the farm pursuing something that interests me greatly. Putting a plan into action does not always work out the way that we think it is going to…in fact, it never turns out exactly as planned.

A month or so into this dual employment scenario, I started to feel stressed..really stressed. Feeling pulled in two directions and rarely having a full day off from either job, I began to feel anxious and irritable. Not good. This is not how I saw the summer unfolding. This is a time of year when we pack up and vacate our house. I was looking forward to slowing down, not functioning in high gear. Getting ready to move out of our house to welcome our summer renters and working two jobs turns out to be a really bad idea. This new reality took me straight back to the drawing board with an important decision to be made. I knew that I had to choose one job over the other.

I am sure that you, my reader, are riveted and on the edge of your seat so I won’t keep you in suspense. After weighing all of the pros and cons, I went with the farm job, my heart job.


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I am a thistle killer. Believe it or not this is one of my favorite activities at 9 Miles East Farm. Pulling these bad, bad plants is not easy. It is thorny business. However, the internal rewards are great, and I experience a feeling of supreme satisfaction with this task. At first I thought it appealed to the drop of OCD within. (I sure like neatness.) But upon further consideration, I realized that the task of weeding out thistles has something that a lot of other jobs in my life have lacked–purposefulness.

The simple act of ridding the soil of a harsh and invasive grower-of-thorns is an investment in the future. When extricating the weed from the soil, it is impossible to get the entire root. However, we weaken the structure and the next time he pops his stubborn head through the ground it is with less vigor. The farm-owner assures us that eventually, “we win.” The soil is better. The foot print of the gardens can expand, and we  will grow more food.


The idea of purposefulness ties nicely into an other idea to which I have been exploring. Purposefulness in the consumption of alcohol, specifically wine. A wonderful co-worker, Jillian, and I share a passion for food, farms and service. We often converse about Thomas Keller and different recipes that we have tried from his cookbooks or something we would like to attempt. Last week, Jillian brought me Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch. This book explores the world of Per Se and the author’s relationship with Head Sommelier, André Mack. As warned by my co-worker, I became very anti-social for a few days, staying up late and devouring the book.

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June 12


Memories and imagination

Are powerful enemies

Ruining beautiful

Todays and tomorrows

Injured insides

Need reassurance

I run to you



July 2, 2013

I first put up this post as a nod to my sister. We used to spend hours in the car with my son, Sam traveling to Portland, Maine to see our brother, Richie. As a way to pass the time, the three of us would write these little poems which we called the “name game.” Using the letters of a family member’s name, we would compose a single-stanza verse about that person. It was a lot of fun and helped to pass the time with a young person in the car.

Recently, I used this exercise as a way to express something difficult churning within me.  As I read this entry over and over and let it live on the blog, I decided that I was brave enough to explain the reason for writing it.

It is often difficult for me when my husband travels. Spending years as a single parent (well over a decade), I am often surprised at the feelings of insecurity and lack of sturdiness that arise when Philip is away. Keeping myself busy during the day and having a cocktail or two at night help to calm the turbulence of the internal dialogue. Libations in the evening also help settle me at bedtime. Being alone in our house feels a bit scary to me at night.

During this particular period of solitude (Philip was in California for work), I became completely steeped in feelings that I have not experienced in a long time; fear of abandonment, distrust, anger and suspicion. This is dark and dirty stuff. So false, yet when engaged with these emotions, it is impossible to clear the mind. Recognizing that these are feelings based on past experiences, I tried logically to reconcile what is real and what is imagined.

This entry was my attempt to get the voice out of my head and on to paper–to make sense of what was happening inside. Once Philip arrive home, the feelings became more intermittent and eventually a state of balance returned.


ImageThis week I became really sick and tired of the dry year. I started playing around with the title “Six Dry Months” thinking maybe I’ve had enough. These thoughts and a mood of displeasure and general grouchiness was brought on by the events that were planned for the weekend. It was my 10 year wedding anniversary with Philip, and we had some really fun stuff on the calendar; ballgames with family at Fenway Park, a fancy lunch in Boston and a couple of days in Maine. Partaking in beer at the Red Sox game and drinks at our anniversary lunch weighed heavily on my mind.

It is interesting to me to observe the justification for quitting this experiment that emerged as a result of the circumstances. I began to tell myself that I was really done, and there was nothing left to think about or explore in the blog. I questioned the value of my writing and decided that I would just be boring my readers (whom I can count on one hand) with my repetitive droning on about the same old thing. Although I know from experience that there is aways another way to look at things and plenty more to say, at that moment, the part of me that wanted to give up was speaking louder than the creative/inspired mind. I rode out this wave of negativity, temporarily.

Next up was the excuse, “I have learned everything I need to learn from this experience and it is unnecessary to go on with my vow of alcohol abstinence.” Speaking with my sister-in-law on the way to dinner in Boston, I expressed my feelings of being frustrated and bored with not drinking. I knew that the adults would be ordering some wine at the cute little bistro we had selected for a pre-game dinner, and I wanted to have some too. (Can you hear my foot stomping on the pavement?) I explained to anyone who would listen that I had started the blog/experiment because I was worried that I had a problem (addiction) and I have since come to terms with what was happening. Yes, I used alcohol as a coping mechanism (Don’t we all have something?) and I have realized that I am not an alcoholic…just someone who developed a habit of having a drink or two at night to help calm the day. So…end of story, right? I have my answer. I have made some changes to the stress levels in my life to better manage my habits. So why keep doing this?

Although I resisted having a drink that night at dinner or the game, I woke up with the notion that I’d give myself a pass at lunch and order wine or a martini. Thought: I won’t give this up completely. Surely, it is understandable that I could have a drink at this milestone anniversary. So I ran this idea passed Philip.

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Checking in Along the Way


In just 18 days, I will hit the half-way point in my dry year. This is a good time to take stock in where life has taken me since December 1st–what has changed, what hasn’t changed and what are the questions still unanswered. I decided to interview myself for the purposes of this entry. When being interviewed, a person will often discover something about themselves that they may not have recognized previously. This format could be useful at this point in the process.

Question: What was the process in deciding to do this project?

The decision to give up drinking for a while was a cumulative process. I had been thinking about how much I’d like to cut back and the fact that I thought that I was drinking too frequently and too much. I was starting to notice that a glass of wine or a vodka martini no longer had the same intoxicating effect that it once held. I didn’t feel good about this, and I was starting to wonder if I “had a problem.” The process of deciding to stop completely for one year was very spontaneous. I was literally in the shower when I had the idea that I could do this if I had a creative outlet and a system that would hold me accountable.

Question: Had you tried to give up drinking before? 

Yes, I have given up drinking for shorter periods of time before because of physical ailments–mostly digestive in nature. Whenever I started drinking again, there was always a period of less drinking and then a slip back into habit of daily drinking. With this longer term goal, of giving up alcohol for 365 days, I hope to gain more insight into my habit and the advantages and pitfalls of drinking.

Question: What was your biggest fear about this experiment?

My biggest fear was that I would stop being asked to parties and that people would feel self-conscious being around me. I never want people to feel like I am judging them. I just want to be OK with myself and know that I have control of my actions. This has nothing to do with what other people are doing. It is deeply personal and I just don’t want my friends and family to ever feel bad about drinking in front of me.

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My Week of Cake

ImageLast week was my birthday. This is the time of year when I spend the week socializing, shopping, dining and drinking. I like to give myself a full week of fun centered around me. In true Aries fashion, it is all about me.

At the beginning of my birthday week, I asked myself how I was going to handle not having cocktails and wine as this is normally a significant part of the celebration. I remember something that a teacher of mine, Deane Juhan, once said, “If you are going to give up one habit, you have to replace it with something equally pleasurable.” Juhan was talking about habits of movement and teaching the body new ways to move. Taking that principal, I applied it to my current circumstances.

I came up with the idea that I would focus the activities of birthday week around my second favorite indulgence, cake. I really love cake. Please don’t give me the ice cream kind, carrot cake or cake shaped mousse. I want good old-fashioned cake. I love all varieties. In fact, I can’t pick a favorite.

Day #1

My sister arrived on Monday. She had conspired with my husband to find my favorite purveyor of cake, Dolci and Biscotti. This bakery is near my workplace and it is absolutely the best for cake and cupcakes. The variety here is incredible.

When Sissy arrived, she parked her car and pulled out a big, boxed cake from the back of her car to present to me. That night we traveled with my sister and her dog, Henry, to dine at our favorite pizza joint in our hometown with some of our family members. This place has the biggest glass of wine I have ever seen. Usually, I go straight for the chardonnay–they literally bring a full (to the top) goblet. Luckily, my sister had brought along the cake and distracted me from my wine obsession. Upon presentation by the waitress, I discovered that it was a vanilla orange cream cake: vanilla cake, orange cream (éclair) filling and vanilla butter cream frosting. Holy mother of cakes!


Being quite full from the pizza, we each had a small piece of cake and wrapped up the rest to take with us. (Now this is where it gets kind of sad.) On the way home, we dropped off my niece at her house and visited for a while with my sister-in-law. Arriving back home after a brief visit, everything seemed fine until we opened the hatch to the Jeep and discovered… an EMPTY cake box! Henry, the canine, who was left on his own in the car, had devoured the entire thing—every crumb, every frosting flower, every ounce of orange cream filling.

Day #2

There was no actual cake for me as the dog had eaten every bite. This was disappointing because, I was looking forward to morning cake…a hair of the dog (no pun intended). I love having leftover cake for breakfast. I posted my “story” on Instagram (a particular obsession of mine). For the next three days, I was tagged in the following pictures from my friend Taylor (TM5000) who joined in the fun of cake week.


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Dear Hendrick


Dear Hendrick,

Hi. I know that it’s been a while since we split. Been thinking about you and thought I’d let you know what’s on my mind. (I hope you’ll listen.) When I told you I didn’t want to see you anymore, you were shocked. Although I tried to explain my reasons, I am sure it seemed abrupt.

You said, “There’s nothing wrong with wanting each other so much.” And I told you it was unhealthy. I was feeling trapped–every night, the same thing. I blamed you for everything that was wrong in my life: my weight gain, any physical ailment, my temper and lack of drive in the evening (you know what I mean).

Now that you’re gone, is my life really that different? (Maybe it was me and not you–your last parting words) Some things have improved in my life. I have a new job and will only be working part-time at the old one. That’s different, right? As for all of the other things that I blamed you for…well, they are pretty much the same.

So lately, I’ve been thinking that maybe this thing between us could work out. Maybe after my retreat, we might see each other again? Do you think it could be different? I don’t want it to be like it was. I don’t want to feel like we are a “habit.” I just want to enjoy each other and not feel as if I have to see you every day. But, I admit it! I really miss you sometimes…like Friday night hanging out with our friends Mark and David. It is not the same without you.

If we were to rekindle something, do you think we can find a happy balance in our relationship? I am confused and want to talk. I will be away until December but after that, could we try again…maybe? I’d understand if you are feeling rejected but I’ve learned a lot in the last 5 months and I hope that we can at least be friends.



PS. Please write back and tell me what you think.

Photo courtesy of Christopher Reynolds.

Removal, Replanting, Resurrection


Easter has come and gone and the promise of rebirth has once again come to fruition. The trees are budding, the crocuses and snowdrops are in bloom and in Connecticut where we spent our holiday, the daffodils opened with a nudge of the late March sun.

We awoke Sunday morning and attended Trinity Church in Hartford to celebrate the Christian’ s ultimate rebirth—Easter. It really did feel like a grand celebration this year! The sun was brightly shining and the church was filled with many generations and cultures of people. Donning purple, pink, yellow, white, blue frocks, the congregation joined in song and prayer. Children wriggled and parents carried the sleepy ones to the Alter for Communion. The feeling was friendly and welcoming yet the aesthetics—music and surroundings—were cultured and refined. The balance of these elements appeal to my sense of what is “right” with going to church.

The homily spoke to me clearly of the path that I am on during my pledge of abstinence from alcohol. The Rector preached about “removal, re-planting and Resurrection.” In a nutshell, the removal is the taking away of that which is not useful (my drinking habit). The replanting is the act of going to a place that is unfamiliar and of spreading the news (like writing in this blog). The first two processes describe that which I have done so far.

The Resurrection (or in my case—resurrection, lower case) is what concerns me most these days. Reaching the four-month mark at Easter, I just don’t know what my life, habits and relationship to alcohol will be at the end of the replanting stage. Will I be OK with Continue reading

Embracing the Inner Introvert


Traveling home from California last week, I picked up a book at the airport newsstandQuiet, The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The title was intriguing for two reasons. First, I had just been the outreach person for my employer at a busy stakeholder conference and found myself feeling withdrawn, day dreaming about sitting alone somewhere without all these people. Secondly,  according to my freshly printed Myers-Briggs results, on the spectrum of extrovert and introvert, I clearly lean towards “introvert.”

With years of schooling in Business and Leadership, the need to be an extrovert has been thrust upon me. Cain talks extensively about Harvard Business School practices and the fact that there are no obvious introverts there. I can relate. In the realm of business, you don’t want to be the one sitting on your hands. You want to be the team member to have the answer, quickly (even if its not the best answer). Taking time, pulling away from the group to gather one’s thoughts and put together a thorough and detailed plan is the way an introvert would function. Team cultures and cultures of personality dominate workplaces and universities and the slow thoughtful scenario does not fly.

It doesn’t take long to understand the contrast between extroverts and introverts in social situations either. The extrovert looks forward to a party or social event and the introvert may not. The extrovert wants to stay all night and talk. The introvert will enjoy it for a while and then feel the need to go home and have quiet time. Luckily, I am married to an thoughtful introvert, and we have two children who also lean towards those same tendencies so we all get along fine with our social needs. This is not to say we can’t be social. We just like social interaction in smaller quantities and value (crave) the solitary times.

Relating my drinking habits to this book, it became evident to me pretty quickly that drinking helps me to be more gregarious and relaxed in social situations. Give me a Ketel One martini or two and I’ll chat all night. Wine at dinner suppresses the need to retreat and helps me to engage with others without feeling self-conscious. Since the vow of abstinence, small dinner parties can feel uncomfortable and a self-critical voice will at times surface. The lack of ease is something that I am learning to manage. Giving myself permission to be silent is a start. Reading Susan Cain’s book is helpful in understanding that the issue is not that introverts lack social skills (something that I have feared). The core of the introvert is quiet and learning to value that is a new step in this experiment.

Keeping it Real


I arrived in the heart of Napa Valley feeling fully committed to the pledge that I have made to my dry year. My destination, Yountville, is an absolute paradise. Really, it is perfection. The streets are full beautiful and seemingly happy people.   (Literally every person I talked to was pleasant.) The natural beauty rivals anything I have seen: mountains, gardens and flowering trees everywhere. The homes are meticulously well kept and I had no sense of any sprawl or McMansion within the city limits. Oh yes, and then there is the ultimate dining experience that one can achieve at Bouchon, Ad hoc or The French Laundry.

Upon arrival, I parked the car and headed straight down Washington Street to find the French Laundry. Walking past shops and restaurants, there was at least one wine-tasting room on every block. By the time I reached the gardens at the French Laundry, I felt myself starting to vacillate.  Refocusing my energies on the beauty of perfectly groomed rows of leeks and baby arugula amid the back drop of mountainous vineyards enabled me to get grounded and temporarily drop the inner struggle.


After a long visit with the chickens and a satisfying meditative rest on a garden bench, I set out to visit more of the town. I felt as if I had been set down in the middle of some strange and wonderful land. Being completely on my own (traveling solo) and feeling so far removed from any familiar surroundings, what came next surprised me. I began to indulge myself in considerations of drinking wine with dinner. I supposed, “I could have a drink here, in the middle of nowhere and no one would know except me—and God.”(And believe me God is definitely hanging out in Yountville.)

I must have pondered this indiscretion for a couple of minutes—long enough for me to develop a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. That is when I brokered a deal with myself making a promise to return after December 1st with Philip to indulge in the full wine and food experience. I began to feel right with myself again.

The passing notion of breaking the declaration of a year of sobriety and the subsequent vow to stick with the plan brought up an interesting question. If no one would know then what is it that really stopped me? Why did my gut feel so sick at the thought of this transgression? The answer is simple and yet at the moment it felt somewhat profound.  It boils down to being truthful with the people who believe in me and truthful with myself. Looking back at this year, I would know that I failed in my mission and for the first time; I would have lied to my husband.

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