the migration: moving on

FootprintsThe time has come to be mindful of my digital footprint.

I’m not one to welcome a new year with resolutions. What I haven’t done in past vintages won’t magically become more attainable in the upcoming year, so I try to refrain from being resolute on specific goals simply because it’s a new page on the calendar. But I did (quietly) pledge to pay attention to what of mine lives where on Les Internets – I have my friend Allison to thank for keeping this on my radar.

This month I’m moving my beloved Third Glass blog over to my professional website. Worlds are colliding.

What does this mean? You’ll find my latest personal and professional writings – as well as the occasional rant – over at Okanagan Writing. Yes, you can subscribe to receive notices of new wordings from that site, too. Someone technologically smarter than me (and willing to be paid in wine) is helping me to sort that out. Because wine is currency and I have damn nice friends. The migration has begun; you’ll notice most posts have moved over already. The format might be a bit clunky, but with the help of some talented folks (and a few bottles of BC’s finest) that will be resolved lickety-split.

This, dear readers, is my last post on this virtual page – but it’s not my last word. Please join me over at my revised digs.

~ Jeannette

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for the love of good: if everything is awesome, nothing is awesome

For better or worse (I argue the latter), we’re smitten with sharing naught but the supposed awesome of every moment of our lives. Social media and digital news feeds are a barrage of best day / spouse / thing EVER proclamations. Despite my want to believe in the positive and great, I’m suspect of any projected image wherein each day is the best, every dinner the most amazing, and all wines are awesome.

The lens through which I view life is one of optimistic realism. On the balance of probabilities, I accept that a “best” of something will occasionally cross my path while a “good” representation is most likely to be the encounter – with “not so good” also an option. Popular expectation of how much fantastic we’ll experience is severely out of whack. Subsequently, we have assigned a new and lower value to good. Nothing stands out from a crowd if the average is set at awesome. When did good lose its charm?

our language

In October 2014 I visited the Clare region of Nova Scotia, where my Acadian family speaks a localized French as our first language. Listening to my relatives chatter in Acadian-ese is both confusing and comforting; the cadence of their speech carries as much emotional expression as their word choice and, in some cases, more – such as when an English word is spoken with the Acadian accent. Adjectives are appropriated and change with emphasis, while nouns gain and lose syllables at random. Hello changes to ‘ello and ‘allo!, eventually becoming ‘ah-lo?! when popping one’s head into a neighbour’s house for an unannounced visit.

DSC_0058

in awe of the atlantic: cause of countless shipwrecks with as many stories, and steps from my father’s childhood home

Among the many interesting discoveries in translating Acadian to English is a word used by my uncle with regularity: satisfied. From discussing his recent furnace replacement to sharing a favourite dining spot in Yarmouth, my uncle referred to being satisfied rather than stating he was happy (or happy with something). I’m paraphrasing, but a typical conversation involving his satisfaction would go like this:

Me: Did you like the clam chowder?

Uncle Anselme: I usually don’t order clam chowder, because I’m particular about clam chowder. But this was nice. I’m satisfied.

or this…

Me: How is your new furnace working?

Uncle Anselme: It’s more efficient than the last one and less noisy. I’d say I’m satisfied with my choice. 

We’ve come to accept happy as a new standard of moderate descriptor for satisfaction or acceptance, displacing where once we would have used good. My circle of friends, in casual discourse, would likely have said their clam chowder was good or that they were happy with their new furnace. Can a furnace make you happy? On a cold night, yes. In the quest for life happiness a furnace might rank slightly lower – that you are satisfied with its performance is a more appropriate statement. Chalk up a win for Acadian translation.

I became accustomed to my uncle’s satisfaction, and upon return to my home life I noticed its absence here. It was also more difficult to ignore the epic, awesome, and best that surrounded me.

the decline of our level of diction

Through the wonder of smartphones we have the world in our pockets – but instead of being inspired by this access to so much, we’re becoming lazy. Satisfied has been relegated to use in surveys, and not much else. Each year more words are accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary, yet we use fewer to describe our experiences and feelings. These best of / most awesome / epic days and events do us a disservice: not only do these descriptors set the bar unattainably high for daily living, we’re less likley to be curious about individual experiences because we anticipate those particular words will convey a larger picture – an understood, unspoken description. It’s a falsehood, and we erode our cultural wealth each time we make these simple statements.

Where packaged individualism is the new socially acceptable collective norm, we strive to show how individually normal we are by sharing our every awesome moment / meal / experience. Discovering the latest hot whatchamacallit can help your voice burn brightly in the new media spotlight; however, like a flare, its shine is short-lived. In this light, the new craft brewery making an epic IPA will briefly attract more attention than the new craft brewery making good beer. Is an IPA epic? Beowulf is epic. Homer is epic. An IPA is refreshing, citrus-y, and satisfying. Can a wine be awesome? A lightning storm is awesome. A volcano is awesome. A wine can be surprising, balanced, complex. I am satisfied with how it tastes.

for the love of good

I aspire to write well and have folks who read my writing think ‘that was good’. This is the benchmark I’ve assigned: good. It lives somewhere between a B- and B+, where a C is average and an A is exceptional. At times I’ll write something that resonates with a group of people, and occasionally a sentence is structured so beautifully I want to frame it. Those are rare exceptions, as are awesome and epic. I’m more concerned with whether someone will find their own level of enjoyment in something I’ve written about – like the aforementioned craft brewery’s IPA – than I am with the length of time the spotlight will be on what I’ve written.

I’ve fallen into the awesome/epic/best trap on more occasions that I care to admit: in bite-sized statements meant for snacking, rather than multi-courses intended for a little more digestion (such as this). We snack on information more frequently than we digest stories. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook support these habits. I am not immune, although I do try to remind myself of the need for digestion.

When in the shadow of awesome, good can’t seem to catch a break. But I love good. We tend to poke and prod a little further when we stumble upon good; we’re more curious about good’s context, and the associated package defies an easy dismissal. Good is layered. Good is sexy. Good isn’t competing for your attention, because it doesn’t have to.

In a world where everything is awesome, nothing is. Let’s try for good, so we can be in awe more often.

~ Jeannette

in awe of art and the artist who lived this life: the reconstructed home of Maud Lewis, celebrated folk artist who lived outside of Digby NS

in awe of the artist who lived this life: reconstructed home of Maud Lewis, celebrated folk artist who lived outside of Digby

get a job – in BC wine country

Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm

Okanagan Lavender & Herb Farm, July 2014 – author photo

 

You’re so lucky to live in the Okanagan. I wish I could.

Guess what? You can.

In 2006, my fella and I decided to leave the big city. I was working in human resources at Vancity Credit Union and he was (still is) a merchandiser with Canadian Tire. Our combined income was probably what many expect a single person to live on in Vancouver. So when looking to purchase a home with a garage (my fella wanted the garage, not the home), we chose to move somewhere else. One year later we’d sold our condo, found jobs, and bought a home.

I miss Vancouver. I love the Okanagan. There’s nothing wrong with holding those sentiments simultaneously. Did I give up a skookum gig with an upward career trajectory? Yes. Are we living in the same fashion here? No. We could if we wanted, but we didn’t move to replicate our urban life. There I didn’t write. Here I do. That’s difference enough.

My first gig on moving to the Okanagan was in a winery tasting room. I washed and polished glassware, swept the floors, and cleaned the bathrooms. Daily cashout included sipping a glass of wine. In my second week I found a rattlesnake curled up behind the front tire of my car – so I lingered on the patio with another glass of wine.

When I was inevitably laid off at the end of the season I found a job, this time in an office for administrative-y type work. That kept me going while I finished university (I drove to Vancouver every other week for the first year we lived here, to complete my undergraduate degree) and while I stretched my writing wings until I could eventually dive into the unfamiliar world of freelance work.

The timeline: five years.

This time of year, many of my Okanagan business friends are hiring staff for the season. While I can’t help you make the decision to haul stakes and join us in the wilderness (the tasty, BC wine wilderness), I’m happy to share with you some of the awesome gigs available at lovely places where you could work with nice people.

Local Lounge * Grille (Summerland): Top of the food chain for service and quality, with a stellar new executive chef on board as of April. Relentless in their pursuit to deliver excellent customer service, this is an ideal environment to excel at over-delivering. Hiring for both front and back of house, email your resume to employment@thelocalgroup.ca.

Miradoro Restaurant (Oliver): Flawless dining experiences, for both service and cuisine. Restaurateur Manuel call-me-Manny Ferreira and executive chef Jeff van Geest bring their A-game to every day. They cultivate one of the most engaged and proud teams in hospitality. Hiring server, server assistants, and back of house, email resumes to info@miradoro.ca or stop by in person. (PS: Tinhorn Creek is also hiring in the wine shop, vineyard, and for grounds maintenance)

doLci Socialhouse (Osoyoos): A brunch/mid-afternoon/evening watering hole, frequented by locals and recently refitted from the former “doLci Deli”. Now with a focus on small plates, evening specials, and local beer/wine/spirits, doLci is the answer to the ongoing Okanagan question of what do we do in the evening?. Answer: hang out here. One more thing: house cured bacon. Now hiring servers and cooks, apply to lunch@dolcideli.com.

Wine Jobs: They’re everywhere right now. Search for a particular winery you’d like to work at and check for employment listings. Or, visit one of these aggregate sites:

  • Wine Plus+: MW Rhys Pender posts BC wine jobs shared with him
  • WineBC.org: the British Columbia Wine Institute posts BC wine jobs on behalf of member wineries
  • Wine Jobs Canada: MW James Cluer posts wine jobs from across Canada

The next time you think I’m lucky to live here, know that yes indeed I feel that I am – but I (and those living here) work very hard to stay here, so luck really has nothing to do with it.

~ Jeannette

a trip to oz: 2015 Vancouver International Wine Festival

Next week, I’m going to Australia. Also Chile. Probably Germany, Spain, and Italy, too. The best part: I’m carpooling with a friend and it will take about five hours for us to reach our destination.

The Vancouver International Wine Festival runs February 20 through March 1. From wine-paired dinners and minglers to seminars, all roads lead to the main event: a series of massive tastings in an enormous ballroom where dozens of countries occupy hundreds of tables and pour thousands of bottles of wine. It’s a sweet deal, anticipated by consumers and industry alike.

Whether you’re attending one event or diving in for many, there are ways to make the most of your time.

Choosing An Event

  • Determine your goal. Each event is suited to help you achieve something different, with a few overlapping benefits. Decide what’s most important to you: a focused tasting with a smaller portfolio, exposure to a wide variety of new wines, in-depth education on a specific region, etc. Ask yourself what you want to get out of the experience, and find an event that matches.
  • Be flexible. Is the event you want already sold out? Many have wait lists. Get in touch with the organizers, ask, and keep yourself open to jump in at the last minute. It happens.

Getting ReadyVIWF France

  • Skip the perfume/cologne. It interfers with your ability to smell the wine and will make you unpopular with everyone including the visiting winery. We want to smell wine, not you.
  • Dress for comfort and style. Many events are an opportunity to don your best threads, but keep in mind the situation you’re headed for. Dark tops are good for a wandering, nibbling feast (think hand-held bites) as things can get messy/drippy. Stillettos are lovely, but might not be ideal for a 3-hour tasting room tour with no seating to provide respite for tired toes.

In the MomentValue in seminars: tasting with M Chapoutier

  • Be mindful. In a crowd, queue up and step away when you’ve had a taste. In a seminar, try to keep chatting to a minimum so your neighbours can hear the presenters. At a dinner, give the host a chance to talk about the wine and food – even at the end, when we might be a little tipsy.
  • Sip responsibly. Have a designated driver and take advantage of spittoons. Keep hydrated. Eat well, and often. This is a marathon.
  • Try something new. The best part of Festival is discovering a new gem. Break out of your habits and you’ll be delightfully rewarded.

Best Value (not sold out – yet)

  • Seminar: Mod Oz, $45, Saturday Feb 28, 5:15pm. Taste some of the unexpected and hard to find gems coming out of a newer, modern Australian wine culture. Bonus: moderated by the talented Treve Ring and Mark Davidson. Access to these folks is worth the price of admission.
  • Seminar: McLaren Vale Scarce Earth, $55, Saturday Feb 28, 5:15pm. Go glass-deep into the study of single vineyard terroir with shiraz/syrah from this diverse and complex wine region. Bonus: moderated by Rhys Pender, MW. Who better to help unearth the secrets of McLaren Vale than this witty Aussie.
  • International Festival Tastings: $89 Thurs Feb 26, 7pm | $68 Sat Feb 28, 3pm. The Saturday night event is sold out, but don’t mind that. Enjoy a less crowded Thursday evening or Saturday afternoon; get the same exposure to outstanding wines with fewer elbows.

Happy tasting.

~ Jeannette

writing, wine, and beautiful automobiles

In February I celebrate working the freelance writing thing for six years. It’s crazy. And pretty awesome.

Freelancing has been my sole source of income since June 2012. That’s no small feat, considering my partner isn’t in a position to shoulder more than his share of our expenses – mortgage, car/home insurance, health care, utilities etc. I know writers who don’t need to rely on their income from writing, and I’m happy for them – I’m just not one of them.

The landscape of this life is a patchwork of individual projects, pitching assignments to publications, and finding the elusive regular/ongoing contract. It’s tedious and tiring, but flexible and rewarding in ways not measured by a bank balance. After several years of juggling competing deadlines and surviving lean ‘quiet’ months, I’ve managed to assemble a less jumbled combination of contracts and regular stints. Translation: the times are a-changin’.

endings

Orofino's 1.6 Mile Dinner with Joy Road Catering

Orofino’s 1.6 Mile Dinner with Joy Road Catering

As I make my way into a few more structured contracts, I’m bidding farewell to a few regular gigs – including one that has been dear to my heart since 2011: EAT Magazine.

Under the guidance of brilliant writer/editor/wine professional Treve Ring, I wrote more than 30 articles for EAT’s digital presence and a number of others in ink. At times the writing world can be cold, but Treve (and publisher Gary Hynes) provided me with a warm place to test my writing chops and push boundaries – my own included. I’ll miss writing with EAT, and I hope to contribute occasionally. I have Treve & Gary to thank for things too numerous to list.

beginnings

fangirl time with pro driver Patrick Carpentier

fangirl with pro driver Patrick Carpentier (photo credit: Voth Photography)

For the last year I’ve been working with the lovely group at South Okanagan Motorsports. They’re the folks building Area 27 – a private Motorsports club & track outside of Oliver on land owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band. With my dad an auto body tech and painter, I saw many cars at an early age and have been in love with beautiful automobiles ever since. (16-year-old me had an enormous crush on Jacques Villeneuve)

Things are moving quickly for Area 27 so I’m dedicating more time to them. It might seem an exclusive group, and it takes more than a few bones to join (it is a private club), but the people involved are some of the kindest I know. I arrive with my beater of a ride and park in a lot stacked with cars most only dream about, but no one cares that my ’91 Accord has a belt squeal or exhaust leak. (I’ve also met Richard Spenard, Patrick Carpentier, and Trevor Seibert – which is totally rad)

the wine part

don't assume the valve can be opened

don’t assume the valve can be opened

After making more than a few trips to Covert Farms in the past few years, I’m smitten with the place. In September 2014, I signed on to work harvest as cellar hand; I had no experience but oodles of theoretical awareness. Why work harvest? I’m a writer – I like to know my subject matter. It was gruelling, cold, wet, and exhausting work. It was also engaging, rewarding, fascinating, and addicting.

Since then, the dynamic duo of Gene and Derek have decided to keep me around for a couple of days per week. It’s a small operation experiencing enormous growth, which means people wear many hats and flexibility is required. My having other freelance contracts makes it easier for them, and they can be flexible and adapt to my crazy schedule. It’s win-win.

Lastly, there’s a super rad contract that I’ll be announcing mid-February. No details until then, sorry.

Keeping my hand in the pot, I’ll continue with a few bits-and-pieces contracts that are meaningful and interesting. It’s been a tough slog to get here and I know the challenges are far from over. I’m fortunate to work with wonderful clients who trust me to tell their stories – and there are many more to come.

I’m grateful to each of you who has supported me, fed me, proofed for me, listened to my crazy ideas, and helped me on this wackadoodle path that is freelance writing. You’ll probably end up as characters in a novel that I never publish.

Here’s to a year ahead of writing, wine, and beautiful automobiles.

~ Jeannette

last week, i quit – then someone said 3 little words

This weekend I quit my own freelance writing gig. Like everyone else who gets frustrated with their job, I didn’t mean it – and honestly, I don’t really think I can quit from myself. Tired of the daily grind and feeling like I was undervalued, I did what any good employee would do: I went to Twitter and typed Today, I kind of give up.

Aside from photos of a deconstructed brunch at hipster joints and blurry pics of the previous night’s wine tasting that may or may not have gotten out of hand, there’s not much social media action on a Saturday morning. I figured my little tweet would go out on a puff of wind and drift away.

Then someone sent this:

We haven’t met but I love your work. Can I help?

After toiling in what often seems to be relative obscurity, I felt an immediate lift upon learning that someone a) knows I do this writing thing, b) has allegedly read some of my work, and c) seems to like what they’ve read. But what really meant the world was the Can I help? part. Those three little words punch well above their weight.

We bolster ourselves and each other because we need the mutual support to keep going. Numerous times I’ve reminded friends that they’re brilliant, talented, good enough, <insert daily affirmation here>.

Yes, you can help. Thank you. On Sunday I broke through writer’s block and wrote 2,700 words in 11 hours. I met deadline and made a client happy.

It’s amazing how easy it is to get help once I’ve made myself vulnerable enough to admit that I need it. It’s something we should do more often – on both sides.

Thanks, Leslie. You rock. And I didn’t quit – yet. But I’ll tell you when I’m ready to again.

~ Jeannette

Tinhorn tree in bloom 03

who we are: on Charlie Hebdo, the pen, and the sword

People died today. In the vibrant city of Paris, 12 people died and 20 were injured when armed, angry people stormed the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. They were illustrators and writers, satirists, police officers. They went to work or visited an office, and they were killed.

Editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier. (photo credit: AP)

My next post here was to be something BC wine related because that’s what I write about. Instead I’m writing about hate, the actions people take to support their beliefs, and what if anything we could or should be doing.

Wars are waged on many fronts and in a number of ways. From active combat to passive resistance, we choose to fight, engage, support, rally. We turn away from conflict and tune in to the latest entertainment channel. We pick up a sword, a knife, a gun – or a pen.

Those of us living in a privileged world of democracy have the right to speak out against whatever injustice we see in whatever way we choose, within the framework of the law. Sometimes we push limits. Artists regularly do. Why? It’s their/our job.

As a writer, I don’t often consider myself an artist. I’m a curator of stories: I collect and recount information that can reflect elements of the human condition and shed light on who we are as a society – if I do it well, it will be for readers present and future. Today after learning that 12 people were murdered for their role in speaking out, I realize that although I push the occasional (local) limit, as one of those artists/writers/curators I haven’t stuck my neck out nearly as far as I could – or should.

We’re fucked up. We have been for centuries and things aren’t really changing. Despite our ineptitude, people like those working at Charlie Hebdo – and every artist, writer, creative – think we can do better. They push us to face the ugly in ourselves so we can make a change, and for that they are killed. This can’t be 2015.

I’m a small fish. I write about food, wine, people – as risky as I feel some of it can be, it’s “lifestyle” stuff. In my wee world being controversial means writing critically about judging criteria for local wine competitions or how we regulate provincial meat inspection. I receive minor backlash on occasion – I’ve been put in the penalty box, plagiarized, and ignored, but that’s about the extent of it. I’d rather speak honestly about my subject matter, as seemingly softball and inconsequential as the subject is.

On behalf of those who can no longer speak, I will speak louder and more frequently of the stories I’m curating about who we are as a society. I’m a writer. It’s my job – whether or not I’m paid to do it.

The phrase Je suis Charlie is circulating in solidarity with those who have been taken and I want to join in the chant for that reason. I am not Charlie. But I will try harder to be louder voice because we need to face ourselves, and I can help hold the mirror – it’s damn heavy.

This is what I can do. What can you do?

~ Jeannette