Mind the Gap

In previous posts, I’ve conveyed that the wine business, while deeply satisfying, remains hard work. Admittedly, it might sometimes be work with idyllic vineyard walks and glitzy parties–but hey! It’s a grind, in its own way.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve enjoyed writing about the wine business for various outlets. My latest piece tackles the topic of interdepartmental rifts (specifically, between winery production and marketing) and offers tips for communication that heals. Company “tribalism” can arise can happen in any industry, so it may be relevant to all. Thanks for reading!

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Bird’s Eye View

It’s nearly Halloween, and time for a spooky story…

20141012_185122I don’t write a lot of fiction, but have experimented with flash storytelling. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I also really enjoy playing with voice over. So this was a fun project to approach with my sound engineer friend, Jesse.

Bird‘s-Eye View” traces a young girl’s thoughts as she struggles to gain perspective on her isolated life in Appalachia. For its narrator, a quick trip over the mountain is an epic journey, and a seemingly trivial encounter might change her life. (Well, a girl can dream, anyway.) Anyone who knows me well, knows that I spent a great deal of my life dreaming about the other side of the mountain, or at least the state line.

It’s not actually a ghost story, but the “haunted” element felt important to me.

Thanks for listening!

Storm-Chasing & Peace-Seeking

My migration across the country fifteen years ago was a pivotal point in my life. It constituted a great leap toward dreams I’d held since I was a little girl–and the beginning of my Cavalier Career.

For all the gifts of that move (and they have been countless) it also brought chaos. This week, my essay “Dock of the Bay” reflects on the ongoing quest for peace amid unrest, and the lessons of a life in motion. Thanks to Misadventures magazine for the publication.

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To Hell With It. Let’s Do This.

20150826_103915Following instinct leads to joy: I’d nearly forgotten.

On Labor Day, I rose at 4 a.m. to drive to the Sierra Foothills and harvest a half-ton of Grenache fruit. Yep, I set out to make wine. Was this a wild hair, a last-minute venture—or, was it my plan all along? Both.

During my six years in the biz, I’d begun scheming up a business plan for my own little wine brand. Would this be the year I launched the project? I wondered, but had decided to wait. My fussy, perfectionistic streak told me that if every little detail wasn’t in place, I shouldn’t even try. (Pfffft. )

Thankfully, when my friend called with a lead on some grapes, I ignored that demon and went with my instinct, diving headlong into the project.

One nagging worry had been: What if I’m not a great winemaker? What if I f*ck up? I’ve assisted my boss in the creation of wines, including this one, of which I’m proud. I’ve also done plenty of supplemental studies in wine. Yet I’ve not followed any traditional path toward winemaking as a profession. Mine has been a zig-zag route. Continue reading

Feast it Forward

katieairstreamMentors, teachers, inspirations: they make my world go ’round.

It’s not everyday you find a person chasing their dreams fully and unabashedly.  Katie Hamilton Shaffer is a social entrepreneur operating a philanthropic lifestyle brand in Napa called Feast it Forward. I was lucky enough to sit down over breakfast with her recently for an interview. Afterward, I shared her story in this piece for Grape Collective.

Cavalier Career has been my work-life manifesto that’s evolved over many years (and several different blogs). Yet its basic principle has remained the same: that I have the power to create my dream job. Katie’s uncommon determination and heart makes her a guiding light for me–and surely many other professionals. Thanks, Katie!

 

Beginner’s Mind and Me

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. ― Bertrand Russell

This summer,  I wrote a trade article that was widely aggregated. It was my first piece for the wine industry, proper. (Most of my wine-related essays have been more personal.) It’s gratifying to share my professional experience this way. But here’s the thing: After six years in the industry, what took me so long?

I’ve always been hesitant to declare myself an expert. Not only do I find a huge advantage to being a generalist, but I deeply value learning on the job. So I’ve pursued work that challenges me in new ways. If I’ve inadvertently become an expert on anything, it’s uncertainty. I relish the concept of beginner’s mind.

Those close to me are probably snickering, because they’re surely familiar with my “know-it-all” voice.  Know-it-all doesn’t get a person very far, though. We learn more when we surrender to the expertise of others.

At the same time, a person who doesn’t assert some authority over their subject matter will wind up with less control. Where’s the balance? And at what point does a lifelong student claim mastery?

Maybe there are some martial arts students out there waving their hands with those answers. Alas, I didn’t study martial arts, but was more of a jazz dance kind of girl, complete with tacky recital costumes. So, I’m left wondering.

Not incidentally, the topic of my trade article was professional development. While researching it, I spoke with plenty of wine pros about how they help turn rookies on their staff into masters. I also sat down with highly trained sommeliers from around the world for an intensive tasting. Inevitably, these experiences gave me a good chance to noodle the concept of mastery.

I’m doing that, still.

Voice, Part 2: Blah Blah

“I sometimes say that, for a composer, the first thing to do is find your voice and the second is to get rid of it. Mostly I try to get rid of it. ~Phillip Glass

These words from one of America’s greatest composers reminds me of a pair of underwear I recently bought from Walmart. (I do occasionally visit Walmart, because–quite predictably–they carry the widest selection of RV products that this trailer princess can find.) They are made of lavender cotton, with these sparkly letters emblazoned on the ass:

“BLAH BLAH “.

Brevity (written or spoken) has never been my strong suit. So these undies remind me to temper my words. The cheap elastic is super snug, which somehow drives the message home harder.

Of course, Mr. Glass is talking about more than what we say. He is talking about voice, which is a finer aspect of self-expression. Yet both he and the sparkly letters on my ass seem to be saying the same thing: that a little humility and humor can go a long way. Continue reading

Voice in the Vineyard

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“When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” 

~Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

“The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.”      ~ May Sarton

Dark shit, no? When I read that tidbit from Ms. Sarton, I always imagine some kind of nasty infection one might contract in a hospital. I think of words multiplying in my system, thickening like sludge in my veins and eventually shutting me down altogether.

Silence: what a way to go. Surely there’s a way to avoid such a tragic fate.

It took years for me to understand that my need to write has something to do with a need to be heard. That my drive to do good work—which has veered toward workaholism—stems from a half-innocent, half-deranged desire to make a difference. And that all of it is partly traceable to some kind of anxious, middle-child complex. Hey! listen! I have something important to say!  Continue reading

Juicy Stuff

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Since summertime, I’ve been sharing tales of trailer life in Sonoma wine country via Grape Collective, an online wine magazine with quality, sometimes quirky content. I’m thrilled that my story is finding a wider audience. You’ll find those posts here. Meanwhile, I’ll keep adding updates here at Cavalier Career.

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