“Of chiropractic, therapy, and wine.” Pine & Brown Sauvignon Blanc 2017

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I didn’t really want to have a haircut scheduled for 5pm on Friday night but Sarah, who cuts my hair, is really difficult to get an appointment with. I look forward to the day that people can’t get into my senior English classes because I’m just so damn popular. In truth, of course, if given my druthers my hair would still sweep across my shoulders, but we make sacrifices in life, and Sonja has been noticeably happier since I cut my hair off and donated it to charity. Last night however, as Sarah was cleaning up my neckline and using polysyllabic words I’d never heard before to refer to different parts of my skull which apparently shape my head and impact my aesthetic, she paused rather abruptly. I had a view of her in the mirror, of course, and I could see her stoop to examine something on the right side of my neck. She soon started cutting again, making her way over to the left side, but then upon her return to the right she stopped and stooped again, lowering herself to look closely at my neck. Then she handed me a mirror and said:

“Has this always been there? I never noticed it before.”

From my vantage, I could just barely make out the little dark, oblong spot. “It may just be an in-grown hair,” she offered. I didn’t have anything to say. I’d never noticed it before, though a friend of mine’s recent scare with skin cancer came immediately to mind, followed by a flood of memories of sunburns to my neck, the most recent coming on the heels of a fishing trip only a few weeks ago. I grew quiet, and Sarah changed the subject.

I got home and made dinner as promised. Sonja’s assessment of the spot was in-grown hair, which made me feel a little better. As I prepared dinner, an entree salad with chicken breast on it, I reflected upon something I had told a class the other day. It was my seniors last day, and I’d mentioned to them that I have a graduate student who has “Live the dash” tattooed on her arm, from a poem called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. In essence, the suggestion is that the years on your tombstone aren’t meaningful, but rather, the hyphen in between is the life you’ve lived. I mentioned to my students, about to set out into the great beyond, that this dash was all we get, and that they should make the most of it. A subsequent series of hugs, handshakes, and tears suggested to my that the message had resonated.

One of the specific things I mentioned in my little talk was that I had recently stopped drinking pop, and that I’m making it a point to eat my multivitamin each day. At thirty-seven, if I dropped dead it would seem odd, but it’s a far cry from inconceivable, and with two beautiful little children for my world to revolve around, I have a stronger desire to continue living than ever before. On that note, I wanted to share this morning three things that I think are most likely to have increased the quality and longevity of my life beyond all others, and they are chiropractic, therapy, and wine.

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I could write a lengthy ode to chiropractors, but I’ll say simply for now that I couldn’t walk without them. I threw my back out in Binche, Belgium while attending a wedding years ago, and from then on struggled to get out of bed many days and began taking too many pain pills. Sonja and I had just started dating when this happened, and it was she who insisted on chiropractic. We started going to the same place, Koca Chiropractic here in Omaha, me as frequently as four days a week at times.  I see Dr. Matt, and I appreciate him a great deal. In time, the pain lessened substantially and became infrequent, and I credit Matt for that. Even this morning I woke up in pain and, given the plan to pour a few hundred pounds of cement this morning, texted Matt to see if I could stop by for a quick adjustment. “Absolutely dude,” was his response.

The second thing that I think has improved the quality of my life substantially is therapy. Students — who are often in great need of counseling as they navigate to many uncharted waters, and I often lament the absurdity that is stigmatizing mental health. Nobody would question the fact that my back pain is helped a great deal by my chiropractor, but if you have problems that require counseling, there are those who will, intentionally or otherwise, stigmatize and isolate you. Our nation does not acknowledge the need for mental therapy on the level at which it exists, and I think that this can be seen easily in our numbers of homeless veterans, high suicide rates, and the frequency with which we murder one another en masse with military-grade weapons.

For my part, I can recall at least two times in my life, once before Sonja and I got married, and once after Titus was born, that sitting down with a professional counselor may well have saved my relationship if not more. I, not unlike many other people, carry a lot of baggage, and at times I lose my grip on the handles. Without divulging too much of my personal life on the internet in a wine blog, I’ll just say that I credit my marriage, which I believe is a very good one, to the patience of my wonderful wife, and to the counselors who have helped me-slash-us through some pretty difficult moments in the relationship. In candor, I make it a point to tell my students this as well, often in somewhat vague terms, so that I know they know someone who has sought the help of a counselor, and can help them do similarly if they ever feel the need.

The final thing that I believe has sustained me over the years and which enhances the quality of my life is wine. I understand that this may sound silly, even counterintuitive, but I believe I can briefly make the case. Wine has become for me a passion, but I have successfully prevented it from being an obsession, I believe. It is a part of my regular routine. I write about it most mornings, and I sip at it most nights. I sip while I cook and I pair it with food — which has in turn inspired in me a love of cooking. So many nights, Sonja and I sit on the patio or in the living room, sharing a glass of wine and talking, which is good for my soul and for our marriage, I am certain. Wine has benefited me economically, a little bit from writing, but soon more so I hope through the distribution industry. Wine also brings friends to my home, and has introduced me to some truly wonderful people, including many winemakers, over the years. It is, in short, the glue that holds the social aspects of my life together, and in that way I consider it a tremendous benefit to my life.

On that note, the wine we shared with dinner last night is one that fits into this theme quite well. Tom Rees, a former resident of Omaha and one of my favorite Napa Valley winemakers, has joined me at my home, and I have joined him at his. He knows my wife, and I consider him a friend. Last night, Sonja and I drank one of his wines, first with dinner, and later on the couch in the living room as the thunder boomed outside, and it brought us closer together.

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The 2017 Pine & Brown Sauvignon Blanc, made by Tom Rees, is special in many ways. For starters, it’s the first white wine Tom has made since he discontinued his Sauv Blanc — which I loved, several years ago. It is the work of an artisan, unlike any other California Sauv Blanc I’ve had. Aged for five months in three-year-old French oak barrels, the pale straw yellow wine has a roundness of character in the mouth, and a faint buttery quality likely the product of the oak and the stirring of the lees. 92% of the fruit comes from the Mendocino Ridge, at 2,200 feet above sea level, and the fruit has an intense nature about it. Aromas of peach and subtle lemon lead to more of the same upon the smooth, round palate, along with hints of baked lime and passion fruit. The bottle Sonja and I shared was #782 out of a total production of 900. It paired brilliantly with our salad, was sipped at while I read John Oliver’s Marlon Bundo to Titus and Zooey, and went well with our follow-up conversation in the living room about work and life before we retired for the evening.

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You probably don’t read my wine blog for life advice, and I apologize for pouring it on so heavily this morning. Having said that, I suspect we all want to live as long as we can, and I’ll repeat that having kids has caused me to give that pursuit far greater thought than ever before. I look forward to sharing more wine with my wife tonight, and more conversation, and I’m comfortable knowing that the next time I can’t handle my thoughts and emotions entirely on my own, I have people I can turn to for help. Now, if you’ll forgive me, I need to go see Dr. Matt before I pour a few hundred pounds of cement. Have a great weekend, everyone!

To a long life, for each of us,

Mark

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