Monday, November 14, 2011

Bishop's Peak

Courtesy of
Hiking has always been one of my favorite stress relievers. Last week, I spent a lot of time in an office at a computer working on a budget. My soul was feeling stressed and couped up. I needed to get outside and challenge myself and I figured hiking would do the trick. I live a beautiful area with many readily available outdoor activities. In fact, when I looked up hiking trails, I was overwhelmed by the choices.

I decided on the highest of the "nine sisters", Bishop's Peak. The Nine Sisters are a chain of volcanic plugs beginning at Morro Rock and stretching through San Luis Obispo County. Bishop's Peak is the tallest at 1546'. The trail is about 3.5 miles and there are some boulders to climb to reach the very top. 

At the beginning of the hike, I could not believe how winded I became. My fellow hiker commented that she was feeling it too. We trekked along, stopping to admire some of the amazing views. At the top, we climbed the few boulders to be able to stand on top to receive the full view of ocean to valleys. I could make out 5 of the nine sisters and saw Cal Poly, SLO for the first time. 

Hiking always reminds me of how hard work and determination pays off at the end. I wanted to turn around a couple times out of fatigue, but then I would have missed the view and the feeling of accomplishment of climbing the large boulders to get to the top. There are so many times that life is like those boulders. I was feeling that way last week, discouraged, stressed and ready to give up. However, I kept my nose to the grindstone, finished the job I was asked to do and moved forward. I know not everything in life is easy, but sometimes challenges seem too much to handle. This hike was just what I needed to encourage me to keep looking up and moving forward.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Lesson of the Paddle Board

Of course there are no pictures to accompany this post because I was too busy having fun. Paddle Boarding awed me today. I began learning on the calm of the river that met the sea. So serene, calm and reflective. I thought..."I could do this every day and smile brighter than before" Seriously, I felt so small and serene at the same time.

Then, I tried to paddle in the ocean. This was much more difficult, yet rewarding. I remembered trying to learn how to surf years ago with my friends in San Diego. I was a failure. I could barely carry the board and trying to stand was a feat! However, once I paddled past the breaks, I found myself in a calmer more forgiving ocean.

I liken this to life...sometimes we just need to paddle past the breaks to be okay. I was standing in the ocean on a board, watching the fish and seals swim past me...AMAZING!!! Then, a wave came and knocked me off my board. I did a free fall into the ocean, but somehow found myself back on the board paddling and laughing with exhilaration! Again, I can liken this to life which has thrown me some ferocious curve balls, but I somehow find myself standing back up and smiling and sometimes, if I am lucky, laughing!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Discovering Morro Bay

Wanderlust has been rearing its head lately, but vacation time just doesn't seem to accumulate as fast as I'd like. Therefore, I have resorted to day trips and what a delight they can be. Recently, I visited Morro Bay on the perfect weekend to visit. The Morro Bay Harbor festival, Woodie Car Show and Farmer's Market were all ready to welcome me! The day was spent sipping wine and beer, eating oysters and watching seals.

Friday, October 7, 2011

For Melanie

In 1998, I met a vivacious redhead named Melanie. She was beautiful, funny and had bright red hair down the middle of her back. You couldn't help but notice when she walked into a room. I was intimidated by her at first. She seemed mysterious, strong and fierce. I couldn't wait to become her friend.

Our friendship started in English class, my first year in college. She was my writing partner. Our duty was to critique each other's writing to help bring out our inner creativity. We both loved writing and had fun reading what we would create each week. One week, Melanie wrote a story that shocked and saddened me. It was a personal story about her battle with a disease I had never heard of, Lupus.

I immediately looked up Lupus and read many facts and was relieved when I saw that it is rarely fatal. Our friendship became closer the more she opened up about her struggle and from her I learned that vulnerability can be quite lovely. She was sick often and I would go over to her house and watch terrible movies or just sit and talk. She never really did seem to have an appetite, but coffee was a common interest. So, over many cups of coffee (with Hazelnut creamer), I learned how a disease can control your life.

See, Melanie had one of the most aggressive forms of Lupus, where every part of her was attacked. I learned she had a kidney transplant in her teens (thanks to her mother), her heart was weak and she thought her kidney was giving out again. She lived with pain. I have no idea how she functioned and maintained her smile. She RARELY complained and the only reason she even talked about Lupus was because of all my questions.

Melanie dated, danced and drank a little. But her illness never let her forget it was in control. She was in and out of the hospital frequently and missed many classes and events. I remember visiting with her during dialysis and although she was tired and drained, she joked and smiled through it all. One day, she became so ill, she ended up staying in the hospital for months. When she was released, she moved a hospital bed to her parents home where she could recoup with their help and love.

One day, her mom couldn't wake her up. Melanie had started slipping away and 911 was called. Her final days were spent in ICU. I visited her and realized that my friend's vivacious, bright soul was ready to leave. She was tired and fought as hard as possible to stay alive. I remember tears running down her cheeks and trying to smooth her hair because she never wanted to look disheveled. She passed surrounded by her family and friends. She was 31, much too young.

Meeting Melanie and watching her fight so hard to live changed my life. She was one of the strongest people I know. She never wanted to give off the sick vibe, she didn't want people to worry about her. Her final request was to donate her body to UCSF for Lupus research to help find a cure.

I will be participating in a walk to help fund Lupus research. Please join me or donate in Melanie's honor to help fund research. Please visit my Alliance for Lupus Research Walk page to donate.

Thank you

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Central Coast Living

Living on the Central Coast has its ups and downs. Since moving here in December, I have found that it takes 7 hours to drive home to see my family, 3-4 hours to get to an airport and 6 hours to reach the bottom of my territory. While it takes forever to get here and airports are not nearby, I have tried my best to make a list of some of the perks of living in a remote area on California's coast.

The first being wine country. This is the reason I moved down here. I have learned so much about the geography of California working in the wine industry. Sometimes I am amazed that I have lived here all my life and failed to explore this region until my job sent me down here. There are amazing wine regions in the Central Coast ranging from hot, coastal, mountains and winding valleys.
Then, there are the many beaches to explore that make my heart smile. I can walk around my neighborhood and find at least 5 stairways to beaches that beckon me to descend to their sandy playgrounds. The most magnificent thing about the beach--it is ever changing.
Then, there are quirky coffee shops where I can read, write, work and think. This one is my favorite. It reminds me of what it would look like if my brain had a living room...lots of books, quotes, a conglomerate of art, mismatched comfy chairs and a menu where each dish is named after a famous author.
There are also wine bars galore. In wine country, it is pretty hard to go a couple blocks without seeing one. I have found my favorite while wandering in downtown San Luis Obispo one day. It has a European feel and Nutella on the menu. They have my loyalty for sure.
The people who make the Central Coast are my kind of folk. Artists, writers, winemakers, ranchers, entrepreneurs, students and sufers all create the laid back community that I have grown to adore. Each person I have met has a fascinating story, especially the ones who came from cities or far away...they just wanted to relax and live a simpler life. I can totally relate to that vibe and resonate with so many ideals here.
Finally, the ultimate perk is peace. I have the opportunity to sit by the ocean and allow the waves to lull me to my peaceful place. Contemplation and awe have been a constant for me since my move. Being so close to the ocean does not allow me to forget how fortunate I am to visit it each day. When I move, I will always remember this time by the ocean with wonder and appreciation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Road and Me

I have been thinking a lot about the amount of time I have spent driving in my life. I remember not wanting to get my driver's license when I was younger and the fear of learning to drive. Now you can't keep from the driver's seat.

It all started with drives to the Mendocino Coast in college. These getaways were perfect for my love of the sea and adventure. The roads were windy and heavily forested only to open up to the gorgeous coastline. These days were spent exploring beaches, cliffs and seaside towns. The necessary coffee stops were made and picnics were packed for the beach in coolers.

Then, I transferred to school a couple hours away from home and spent some weekends driving home to see family and friends. These drives could have been done with my eyes shut by the time I graduated. Each drive brought a sense of excitement. My little brother was a toddler when I moved away and it was wonderful to visit and see how much he had "grown up" since my last visit.

After college, my commute to work was over an hour long, until I transferred 2 blocks away from my apartment. However, the need for movement had me put in my transfer all to way down in San Diego. I was already driving down there to visit friends and decided that I wanted to live there. So, my drives home were now 8 hours long. But, the road warrior in me loved it...even though I did get very tired of driving I-5.

Wanderlust grew fast inside me and I left my job after 4 years to travel and explore the Pacific Northwest. This move was from San Diego to Seattle. Once there, we drove all over Washington, Idaho and Montana, discovering the wonderful natural places of the area. The most memorable drive was down the glacier mountain pass in Montana and stopping by a lake for sunset with Huckleberry wine.

My adventures ended when I had to go back to work after about a year and found a job as a courier. This appealed to me because I was able to drive all over wine country stopping at beautiful wineries and vineyards to deliver supplies and pick up samples. Then my current position opened up and I am driving all the time from Monterey to the Mexican Border. Spring was absolutely breathtaking this year in Santa Barbara County with all the flowers in bloom among the vines.

I have seen some of the most beautiful places from the windshield. I am so grateful for the invention of cars. Without them, I am not sure how I would satisfy my need for movement and exploration. I am fortunate to have owned 2 cars that have been wonderful in cooperating with my constant driving. Most important, I am so grateful to live in such a beautiful state. California never ceases to amaze me with its beauty...coastlines, forests, deserts, mountains and even cities.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Reading

This summer has been filled with many hours laying in the sun with a book. It has been a while since I've lived close enough to a beach where I could just walk or take a short drive for one of my favorite pastimes. There is something about the sun, water and sand that goes perfectly with reading. Here is a list of some of my summer reads. I highly recommend them...

 Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist is about celebrating life. Her writing is sure to resonate with many who read her words. She speaks about friendship, relationships, finding out who she really is and wants and connecting with her soul. Her stories are quite delightful and perfectly suited for the beach.
 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is one woman's quest to become happier in a year. At first, I was wary about carrying this around, but then I thought that everyone should be doing things to become happier. So, I proudly carried this with me in the DMV while I had to wait. It was amazing that I didn't even realize my wait was an hour because I was enthralled with this book.
 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot amazed me. This is the story of a woman who died of cervical cancer, where her doctors harvested a part of her tumor and have been reproducing her cells since. Her cells have aided in curing polio and many other important scientific breakthroughs. However, there is the family that was left behind. She had children who never knew her because she died so young. This book is also about them learning about their mother.
 The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver is about the life of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera from the perspective of their houseboy. This book was amazing and very well researched. I loved how she weaved fiction in with many historical facts. The perspective of the revolution and Tolstoy's stay in their home was well thought out. I was sad when I finished the last sentence. I could have continued learning about these two very dynamic characters.
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver was another one of her lovely stories. There is something about the way she writes that captivates me. This book is about a woman returning home to care for her father who has dementia. She starts to uncover things about her past which leads her to change her path in life. There are so many layers in this book, as there are in all of Kingsolver's novels. This was another book that gave me a tinge of sadness when I turned the final page.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


This lovely little building in Porto houses one of my favorite memories of Portugal. Ode Porto Wine House is a gem among the many memorable places Porto offers their visitors. The proprietor, Cristovao welcomes guests by saying "I want you to treat this place as if it was your home" and he isn't kidding. In fact, if I were to own a home, I would have exposed beams, rustic charm and the same glorious wine storage. So, it wasn't hard for me to sit back and relax in this wonderful "home".
The stone, the wood, the orange...I fell in decor love!

The kitchen was open so you could see the fresh ingredients and interact with the chef. Guests are encouraged to send back food if it is not exactly what you want. However, I find this hard to imagine since every dish looks amazing and prepared with care. I ordered tiger prawns on top of smashed peas and to this day, I can't stop dreaming about those peas.
My dream wine storage!

Cristovao, Ode's gracious host
I wish I had more time so I could have visited one more time before leaving. Until next time, Cheers to Ode!!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Home Away From Home

I stayed in the room with the balcony
We stayed in this wonderful guest house in Porto. The name says it all. This place is definitely 'homey'. Our hostess, Sofia, told us to treat it as if we were in our own home. Every corner had a special touch down to ribbon tied around each towel in the bathroom. There are five floors, you enter on the second floor, street level, into a small reception area with a beautiful mural painted on the wall. The breakfast room is down the hall where guests have sparkling water, fresh fruit and tea waiting for them. The first floor is down a flight of stairs from reception. It leads to a room with comfy chairs and a projector screen. They were playing silent films on the screen when we arrived! So special.
The third-fifth floors consisted of guest rooms, two on each floor. Three rooms face the river, three rooms face the street. We had the street facing rooms. I stayed on the fourth floor and enjoyed my view, especially at night. One morning, I woke up to the sound of a child singing while kicking a soccer sweet.
Everything is vivid in Porto...the colors, the people, the energy. I loved staying in the middle of it.
This is in between the breakfast room and reception. There are books, a record player and old records waiting to be perused. I adored this little corner.
Breakfast room

personal touches everywhere

Sofia, our gracious hostess
When I return to Porto, I will stay here again. However, I will ask for a room on the river side.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beautiful Portugal

Portugal is absolutely beautiful. I was not expecting so much charm, warmth, delicious food and jaw dropping beauty. Everywhere I turned, there was something magnificent to see. I never had enough space on my memory card, no matter how many times I emptied it, to capture everything that left me filled with joy. There is an ancient simplicity that layers the country with history that captivated me.
 The City of Porto is vibrant with colors popping up everywhere. What struck me most, was the ceramic tiles on all the buildings. Some were monochromatic, others were intricately painted with amazing designs.
The Douro River flows through to the sea. Across the river is Vila Nova de Gaia, where you can find many Port tasting rooms. There are boats with barrels on them, just like the used before trucks to transport Port wine to the sea.

I can't wait to return!

Marrettimo Island

A cruise on the Mediterranean was the perfect way to begin the visit to Sicily. We departed in the morning and headed to Marrettimo Island from the port of Trapani. The sun was warm and bright, the water was bright blue-green and the company was a mix of people from all over the world. Good times! 
 I was fascinated with the color of the water. Of course, being on a boat with biochemists and such, they had to explain the reason for the color. I wanted to keep it less technical and more dreamy! But, I do appreciate the explanation of the copper in the water causing the color...thought I'd share.
 Marrettimo Island is small and has 600 or so residents. The structures are white with blue doors and windows and the streets are very charming! I was so excited to see the contrast of the town with the water and the mountainous backdrop. Little did I know I was about to climb the steep hills and get views that took my breath away.
 I wanted to stay on the island and explore a bit longer. But, the trail was calling and up the mountain I went...
 What I saw along the way seemed surreal to me. The plants, the Roman ruins, the water, the trees...Amazing! The long hot hike was well worth it. At the top, they prepared a Sicilian picnic for us. YUMMY!
I can't forget to add that there were horses grazing along the road. I was so excited to see them, especially the pony. When we found them, the little one was nursing. Isn't nature awesome?!

Monday, May 16, 2011


I had the pleasure of working in Sicily this week. My company is based in Italy, but our business is worldwide. So, this week, the International team met up at a resort in Trapani, Sicily. The team includes South Africa, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Argentina, Chile, China, Australia, New Zealand and USA. It was fun hearing many languages fill a room and meeting many wonderful people.
Sicily is a beautiful place. The people are friendly, the air is warm and breezy and the food is AMAZING! We spent time in Trapani and Marsala. The architecture mixes Roman and Greek influences and History runs quite deep there. I couldn't help but realize how very young the US is compared to this place. Time seemed to slip away and 24 hours wasn't enough to get my fill of Sicily every day. I can only imagine how much time I would need to explore the entire island.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inspired through a discouraging circumstance

Sometimes, it is so hard to find motivation. For instance, today I locked myself out. I was so upset with myself at first. I was famous for locking my keys in my car throughout know the times when you see the key in the ignition or on the seat and continue to shut the door? So, I had one of those moments today. In fact, I opened my door to leave and noted that I forgot to lock my door last night, but was able to lock the one person that has the freedom to enter whenever...ME!!!
My landlord was available to come rescue me in 3 hours. Defeated, I couldn't figure out what to do. I was very task oriented today. I had an entire project laid out in my apartment for work. What was I to do now? For some reason, I carried my Blackberry out with me. So, I walked down the street to the cliffs and started working remotely from there. My frustration was soon turned into joy. It is amazing how something so trivial can upset and then refresh me.

So, while I was 'trapped' outside, I made a list of things that motivate, refresh and inspire me...
-The ocean--seeing, hearing, feeling and even tasting it!
-Running. Nothing like a good run to jump start me.
-Reading something inspiring (The Hiding Place leaves no room for me to complain)
-Hearing 'writing' music (check out Explosions in the Sky my writing music. They just released a new album)
-An Amazing wine...the kind you can sip 1 glass forever because it is that good!
-My family and dear close friends. They keep me in check as well as love me unconditionally.
-Redwood Trees
-The Eel River
-Vineyards in the morning
-A new passport stamp
-My faith, it always seems to pick me up when I forget I have it.
-Learning new things. I never ever want to stop learning
-Meeting new people and hearing their story.