Archive for the ‘A New Life’ Category

What Makes You Come Alive

September 21st, 2014 | Rachel

Only a three month lag between posts this time. Progress?

As expected, life is crazy. I’m neck deep in my campaign for city council, with a thousand houses left to canvass and the public forums coming up in two weeks. A majority of voters here vote by absentee ballot, so most of my campaigning [and fundraising] has to be done before the ballots arrive in early October.

On the business front, change is coming. Our food truck, which should have been here at the beginning of the summer, is finally nearing completion. We just added a new member to the team, and there will have to be even more hires made and employees trained after the truck arrives. Even though progress is slower than I would prefer, it is still amazing to watch an idea come to life and grow into something tangible.

These words, attributed to a writer named Dr. Howard Thurman, come to mind often:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Although I have been feeling the weight of all of the recent stress and responsibility — and having a Want To Do List that is far lengthier than my Can Feasibly Do list — at the core of it all, there is an excited and satisfied feeling of being alive.

I never would have believed I’d last this long after investing most of my life savings into starting a business and burning through the rest as we worked full time to reach the point of profitability. The truck delay has been quite an obstacle, since it has always been the cornerstone of our business model, and yet we’ve managed to make do and struggle through the instability and uncertainty.

I can see why being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. But for some people, myself included, the challenge and risk is invigorating. Our human capacity to create and build is far greater than any of us realize. That’s why I think it is better that I didn’t know what my path as a start up business owner was going to look like. You can gather as much information as possible, assess the risks and carefully plan, but you’ll never know the unforeseen challenges until they hit you. When that happens, you have to dig down and find the resolve to keep moving forward.

Running for city council has similarly been a transformative and affirming experience. This is something I’ve known I wanted to do since I was 10 years old. It is one of the most compelling reasons I had to move to a smaller community where I could realistically get involved with my local government.

Three months after I moved to Sonoma, I emailed the mayor to ask how I could get on this path. Six months later, after I moved inside the city limit and became eligible to run, I began what has become an extensive network of meetings to meet as many community leaders as possible to learn about this city and the people in it. I’ve met with everyone from the city manager to the public works director, leaders from a number of nonprofit organizations, business owners, school officials, local experts on discrete issues, and many people who just have a heightened interest in and concern for the community.

In addition to paving the way for an educated and supported political campaign, these one-on-one meetings, as well as nine months of attending city council meetings and public forums, have given me a glance behind the green curtain to see how all of the wheels are turning to create a living and breathing city. It’s fascinating.

It’s also inspiring, not just because I find it all so interesting and want to be a part of it, but also because I am seeing so many ways people are making meaningful contributions to the community by pursuing the things that make them come alive. History. Birds. Cookies. Kids. Baseball. Tomatoes. I hesitate to even begin listing the possibilities because I could never stop.

Follow me out on an optimistic limb for just a second and imagine what a community would look like if everyone was doing something that excited them. Pretty spectacular, right?

The Year Of No Grudges

January 16th, 2014 | Rachel

Mt. Pleasant, SC

Home for the holidays, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

I was sitting on the front porch of Poe’s, a popular bar on Sullivan’s Island, SC, recounting a conversation I had had with my grandmother the previous night. It was about holding grudges.

“I only hold grudges against people when they disappoint me,” I said, pausing and sipping a gin and tonic.

Then my friend Travis chimed in simultaneously with precisely my same words as I finished the thought, “Which is everyone.”

I’ve had this conversation several times over the past few months with other admitted perfectionists. We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards that we then, consciously or unconsciously, apply to everyone else.

I’ve always maintained a fairly open policy about the types of friends I want to make. I resist settling into one particular group and prefer to float somewhere in between. The benefit is being surrounded by an eclectic and diverse crowd of friends, and I take particular delight in bringing them all together. Anyone who attended one of my parties in New York could probably testify to that fact. In Sonoma, this has proven harder to do with friends scattered between Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Sonoma and Napa. Its easier for me to stay friends with people when I hop from group to group. Interactions stay casual and few expectations are formed.

Inevitably though, there comes along an individual every now and then that I connect with particularly well, and we spend more time together. This is when the problems arise.

The unfortunate truth is that at the end of the day, everyone is going to let you down. You will be misjudged, wrongfully accused, forgotten or ignored. Someone jumped to conclusions, refused to listen, failed to support you or flat out insulted you simply because they are a flawed and imperfect human being. I know this for a fact, and yet when it happens, my fragile, sentient heart shatters from disappointment.

Up until now, I’ve been stuck at this point. How do I maintain a relationship with someone who is unable or unwilling to abide by my Code of Acceptable Behavior, particularly when it is someone who has gained access to my inner circle of trust?

Formerly, the answer is immediate expulsion. Push them back out to the periphery and vow to never give them an opportunity to disappoint me again.

Ah, there it is: the grudge.

Hastily built out of anger and hurt feelings, then reinforced with a thick layer of pride and fear of getting hurt again.

The problem is that maintaining that barricade requires a great deal of mental and emotional energy. Not only does this divert energy that I can be investing into positive, productive relationships, it blocks me from moving forward in my own personal development. I recognize the harm in them, but I hold onto my grudges because it is too uncomfortable to scrape off the fear and pride that keeps me from dealing with the initial disappointment and then moving on.

That is, until this year.

I am consciously letting go of the grudges I have been dragging behind me, examining initial injury and then moving forward. As my friendships grow, I accept the fact that people aren’t always going to react the way I want them to or to behave in a way that I prefer. I am putting my expectations on the shelf and am opening my mind to the people and personalities I am going to meet. When conflict arises, there will be no automatic deportment to a prison built out of resentment and injured ego. Some relationships will naturally drift apart while others draw closer together in light of a successful resolution.

Yes, it is the Year Of Jubilee and all sins have been forgiven. Welcome to 2014, the Year Of No Grudges.


January 5th, 2014 | Rachel


I just returned from spending the holidays back south. I was in Alabama for a week and a half for Christmas and Charleston, SC for a weekend for New Year’s Eve. This morning was my first back in Sonoma.

I had a leisurely morning of watching Zoolander and then walked down to my neighborhood coffee shop to catch up on some work and say hello to some of the baristas and regular patrons. On my walk home, an elderly woman whom I’ve passed many times with a hello and a wave was standing at the gate of her picket fence. She asked if I had heard of some sort of food item that involved artichokes and spinach.

“Spinach artichoke dip?” I asked, crossing the street to where she stood.

“That sounds right,” she said. “Do you have a recipe?”

I said I didn’t but it was something I frequently saw at parties so it shouldn’t be hard to find. She said she was going on a walk to find someone who had it. I wished her luck on her quest and returned home.

I sat down on my sofa, opened up the old laptop and found a highly rated recipe for spinach artichoke dip from I printed it out and headed out the door, saying hello to my neighbor who was working on his car in his driveway. The woman was no longer by her gate so I stopped to write my name and address on the recipe before tucking it in her door.

“Did you find it?” a voice said. I turned and saw her standing in her garden. She had an empty lot next to her house that had been turned into a beautiful garden. I stopped by there many times during the spring and fall to take photos of her roses.

I gave her the recipe, and she told me one of her neighbors said they bought some over in Petaluma. I suggested a market in town that would probably have it too. She looked at the recipe and said she would try it, and I told her I loved cooking too and actually owned a food business.

I soon learned her daughter loved to cook, one of four children plus several she had adopted. “I told you I lived in Alaska, didn’t I?” she said

She had not.

I learned she lived in Alaska for over 20 years working on pipelines. She went to school to learn welding. “It’s a wonderful occupation for women,” she said. She stopped and asked if I wanted to see what her grandchildren made her for Christmas.

I did.

She instructed me to sit in a chair in the garden while she fetched a book. The title page revealed her name: Juanita. The book was a biography of her life. In the back was a report one of her grand kids had written about her for school, along with a copy of a newspaper article about her contribution to the “new gold rush” in Alaska.

She actually started off as a nurse but didn’t have the stomach for it like her sister did. So instead she became a welder. Later she would relocate her family plus two of her neighbors to Boyes Hot Spring (our neighborhood right outside the Sonoma city line). She’s been in her house for over 50 years.

“You have come to the best neighborhood. It is very special,” she told me, although it wasn’t always that way. After a violent crime not far from Juanita’s house, the whole neighborhood banded together to make the area safer. They had street lights put in and agreed to be more vigilant. Today, the neighborhood is practically Mayberry.

She pulls over a short gardening stool and sits on it. I learn she is 87. She brags about being able to lift anything in her yard, better than some men. The secret to long life, she said, was staying active. I agreed and told her about my busy grandmother who just turned 85.

Juanita credits the women’s liberation movement for the life she has had. “We can do anything now. And the thing that makes us so successful,” she said “is our ability to multitask.” She also expressed thanks for being born in the United States, being well aware of the lack of opportunity for women in many other countries. After moving to Sonoma she went back to school and got a job as a psych tech.

We talked about different people living in the neighborhood, as well as the businesses nearby. She told me about her neighbor across the street who was the person she called when one of her children died. A young man in a black t-shirt walked by and I learned he worked at the local development center and had injured his back subduing one of the patients. Juanita had worked at the same institution but took a night shift and agreed to be their news writer for seven years so she wouldn’t have to tackle anyone.

“So your name is Juanita?” I asked, since we hadn’t actually introduced ourselves.

“Actually my name is Anita, but when I moved here I thought I’d fit in better if I had a more Hispanic name.”

The conversation turned to me, and I gave her a synopsis of my own working life so far: attorney in New York City turned food business owner.

“Then you know exactly what I’m saying!” she exclaimed. “You are going to fit in well here. People are going to love you.”

As the conversation wound down and I got up to leave, she asked how old I was. When I said I was 30 her eyes lit up.

“If only I knew what you know when I was 30,” she said emphatically. “I can tell you are going to do great.”

She gave me her phone number, and I said goodbye and walked back to my house, stopping to chat first with the neighbor working on his car and then my next door neighbor who recent listed her house for sale.

A special place indeed.


On Choice

April 2nd, 2013 | Rachel

Wow, is it April already? I’m sorry, I know I have been neglecting you.

It’s been a weird time for me the past couple of months. I officially announced my new business and celebrated my 30th birthday at the end of January and then took the California bar exam (again) at the end of February. I won’t even pretend to predict how I did because I thought I did just fine last time, but I’m comfortable with my performance. I won’t find out the results until mid-May, and I’ll be two busy slingin’ fried chicken by then to care too much (which is a lie, I will inevitably care a lot while pretending not to). Then last month I had the mixed experience of breaking up with my boyfriend and moving to a new city. Despite this being my personal blog, I’m not going to say anything else about the former, but I will speak at length about the latter.

Yes, I am now a resident of the beautiful Sonoma, California!

Capitola, California

Farewell to the prettiest town on the Monterey Bay: Capitola, California

Plant babies

My plant babies are all packed up and ready to go

Valley of the Moon Winery

Hello, Sonoma!

Boyes Hot Springs

A sneak peak at my new house complete with an awesome backyard!

Unpacking :-(

Oy, lots to unpack

In case you are late to the show, the reason I left a perfectly delightful coastal town on the central coast of California is that my business partner, Arthur, and I realized that Sonoma County would be a much better place to launch our food business. I was just past the one-year mark in Santa Cruz County when I left, so it was definitely bittersweet. I’ve always thought it takes a solid year to really feel like you live somewhere, and the past year was no exception. The thought of having to wait another year to start to feel like I finally belong somewhere again is a little tiresome.

Nonetheless, here I am, and both the business and I will be better off because of it.

I moved into a tiny house in the tiny census-designated area of Boyes Hot Springs. The house was built in the 1940s close to the shipyards on the bay but was later moved to this area. The whole neighborhood is made up of those cute, old houses. To complete the whole Mayberry-feel, I don’t even get mail service and had to get a post office box, which is within walking distance. In fact, I think I could get by with just a bicycle quite easily.

Arthur is now my roommate. His plan is to grow the business enough to get him back to San Francisco, although I can tell he appreciates the small-town life more than he thought he would. Its always interesting to live with a new person, and Arthur is no exception. Drawing the line between business and personal life is going to be tricky since we’ll both be working so hard and in close proximity, but we are trying to keep the business talk to formally scheduled meetings, most of which have occurred at the coffee shop down the street. Personally, I am trying to be more intentional with my personal time by engaging in certain hobbies, including cycling, gardening, and playing the guitar. I’m still wondering if I’ll ever meet anyone in this town who is my age. The predominant demographics in Sonoma are families and retirees. There’s not a lot going on job-wise for the young professional crowd.

On the business front, things are getting really exciting. We have been working with a graphic designer the past month or so to develop a logo and a design scheme. We made the final decision today, so I’ll be introducing all of that pretty soon. We battled the state for a couple of months to get a limited liability corporation application processed and finally prevailed. Right now I am working on the dozen or so other permits and certificates we will need. We’re also working with a bank and a lender to get a loan to purchase a food truck, and we are trying to get a commercial kitchen nailed down this week so we can work on our recipes and procedures and do a few catering gigs later this month. On top of that, we’re also figuring out the content for the website and are in communications with several local farms regarding our ingredients. Yeah, its an exciting and busy time. Over a semi-celebratory dinner of Mexican beer, tacos, and enchiladas, Arthur and I were discussing how it was hard to feel like we are accomplishing anything because the to-do is growing a lot faster than we are crossing things off. Arthur says it was a sign we were doing something right.

I had been wanting to write an update on this blog for a few weeks now but couldn’t decide what to write about. I was finally inspired to sit down and write this post after I read this article about living by “default”:

So much of our lives consists of conditions we’ve fallen into. We gravitate unwittingly to what works in the short term, in terms of what to do for work and what crowd to run with. There’s nothing wrong with living from defaults, necessarily, but think about it: what are the odds that the defaults delivered to you by happenstance are anywhere close to what’s really optimal for you?

In other words, we seldom consciously decide how we’re going to live our lives. We just end up living certain ways.

In all likelihood, what you’ve inherited is nowhere near what’s best for you. Chances are very slight that there isn’t a drastically better neighborhood for you out there, a more kindred circle of peers, a much better line of work, and a much more rewarding way to go about your day than the way you do. Your level of fulfillment and sense of peace with the world depend on how well-matched your values are to the life you’re actually living. There’s no reason to believe they’ll match well by accident.

I’d rather be in France. started when I realized I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live. I went to law school out of academic curiosity and sort of fell into a pretty good job at a large law firm in New York City. It was not a “bad” life by any stretch of the word. I made a lot of money, lived in the greatest city in the universe, met tons of brilliant and talented people, and garnered a lot of undue respect due to my job title. Still, it all happened as a default and not as a choice. Today I remembered a conversation I had with a law school classmate after I decided to move to France and open a bed and breakfast. She responded by saying she had been waiting to hear what I was really going to do with my life. I guess I had been waiting too.

I found it interesting that the writer of that article mentions the lack of conscious choice as to where one lives. That is something I have explored myself and has been a recent topic of conversation with friends. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to move 3000 miles away to a city they only visited once and where they don’t know a soul — only a crazy person would do that. However, I am suggesting that you should live where you live by choice. Similarly, you should do what you are doing by choice. Maybe you would choose the very occupation that you “fell into,” but even recognizing that you had a choice and you made it can add a lot of meaning to your life. I had a therapist in New York who told me she always told her clients who complained about their jobs to start looking for a new job. Most of the time, they would realize that even though there were other options out there, they were already in the better situation. As a result, they were happier with their jobs even though nothing changed. The emotional and psychological difference between activity and passivity is pretty profound.

Anyway, I’m going to stop typing before I start going on a rampage, but I implore you to actively make choices.

Moving Pains

November 14th, 2012 | Rachel

“Steve-Got-His-Captain’s-License! Blueberry Pie

In addition to a few (or six) slices of particularly delicious blueberry pie, I’ve had a lot on my plate lately. I’ve been putting in a lot of hours at the day job trying to get more fiscally stable before I have to dive into the new business full time. At the same time, I’m trying to get enough balls rolling with Arthur that we can hit the ground running come January 1 when we become an official business entity.

We actually have a name picked out, but as a somewhat comical oversight, we realized this evening that we never nailed down a particular way to spell it. Arthur sent off the paperwork to have the name reserved with the state of California using one spelling, while I set up a blog on the website on a domain name using another. Oh details.

On top of these two jobs, I’ve also been coming to terms with the effect of a cross-country move on some of my more significant personal relationships. As a result, I have renewed my efforts to create and grow more local friendships. It’s an exciting prospect — after all, I didn’t know a soul when I moved to Chapel Hill for law school and only knew one person when I moved to New York City and ended up forming some of my most treasured friendships in both cities — but it is also deflating and frustrating at times.

I’m still trying to figure out how to build cultural bridges to some of these lifelong Californians who haven’t spent any significant time away from the west coast. In a weird way it reminds me of my attempted interactions with people born and raised in Long Island who still seem almost culturally incompatible with someone from the south. Its amazing the assumptions we have for how people should act based on the environment in which we were raised. Despite the increasing distance from my homeland, I am still most comfortable interacting with people who grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line and west of Texas.

Of course, life isn’t about being comfortable, so here I am in Santa Cruz, California where the only person I knew before I arrived is the person who came with me.

I’m curious to see the effects of west coast living take shape. As I stated in my Ode to New York City, there are a number of things I have taken away from that living experience: “to be a little tougher, a little more confident, a little more open-minded, a little more adventurous.” All of those things still hold true. As for California, the biggest change I’ve noticed so far is that I wear a lot less make up (or, gasp, sometimes none at all). I’m also in noticeably better shape and use the word “gnarly” every now and then. Other than that, only time will tell :-)

In the meantime, I get to ride my bike and take walks along places like this:

Surfing Lessons in Santa Cruz