The Power of Joy in Harvesting an Independent Life Dream

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In late September through much of October, the morning sounds I wake up to are like those of the celebrations and clamor of our country’s 4th of July  holiday. These “rockets” do not glare red, though, as they are propane cannons and flare guns blasting away in the direction of starlings to keep them away from the sweet, ripe fruit hanging like a temptress on the vines.

Vineyard from my window

It is not bothersome and the noise serves to remind me just where and how I am living, giving me an opportunity to be grateful even before I am fully awake.

I sit up in bed, my eyes quickly adjusting to soft morning pinks and golds reflecting the sun’s rising brilliance from the west, as I smile and take in the view of the sloping hills of vines that tumble gracefully all the way down to the foot of my bed.

Again, as I sip the latte my darling husband made and delivered to my bedside table, as he does every morning, I am further rewarded by my favorite month, October. With vines heavy and clusters perfect in shape and size for pinot gris and pinot noir, this place provides a “holiday getaway” kind of experience that I am blessed  to wake to every day.

These grape varietals are vitis vinifera and are farmed as a crop (albeit a beautiful crop) but crop nonetheless, for producing fine wine.  I’m not just here for the wine, though,  I’m living out a dream.

It’s very, very good, my life.  I love it!

The deep appreciation for my lifestyle comes easily, in large part, because I know I have earned this delicious dream coming true.  I am fully participating in the moments that create my experience.  I learn the most from my own mistakes, or from sincere evaluation of others’ who’ve been divinely gifted to me as mentors.  I take inspired action and live with an attitude of gratitude.

To answer a question recently posed about my dream life, …“is she just incredibly lucky?”… No.  Blessed, yes, but I believe in a power greater than luck.

The belief in the power of love has brought exactly the people and experiences and things into my life that I want, and this power, I am not ashamed to say, rose out of hate.

In earlier years, eight in Napa Valley and ten more in downtown Portland and surrounding area, I may have been proud of the kindness and wine education I shared with visitors and guests of the multi-million dollar resorts and wineries I worked in.  The first year or two into my career as an event planner for the Walt Disney family’s winery was a big thrill, but eventually I was unfulfilled, ultimately living in dread that turned to disgust at the prospect of waking up each day.

Well dressed, well coiffed and at times, well paid  my days were loaded with glitz and glamour.

I met some of my favorite celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore, Robin Williams, Joe Montana, Natalie Cole and was even the wine steward for Mick Jagger and crew as well as many others back in these days before I was living my dream.

Mostly, I was exhausted and unhappy.  I took up cigarettes and loaded up on caffeine in order to become the nocturnal machine I was expected to be.  I was pale like a vampire, sleeping my day-mare away on my occasional “weekends” whenever I got two days off in a row (usually a Monday-Tuesday deal) and closing myself off to the world.

The emptiness was creating a chasm, the world I was a part of  was not one I understood or  wanted to grasp.  The language of super-wealth was freakishly disconcerting to me, and I didn’t crave fluency in it.

I pulled all of myself inside on my infrequent days off, literally and figuratively shutting out the light, closing the blinds, turning off the phone and not wanting to venture outside for fear of meeting up with any other humans.

In hospitality management, I was often overwhelmed to the point of tears which I silently shed in any available restroom stall. The constant and ridiculous needs that were truly mostly whims, of others, from the staff, upper-management and company owners,  to guests, tourists, vendors, press, celebrities and/or the handlers were taking their toll– everyone wanted a piece of me!

I gave them what they thought they needed and beyond, to the point of anticipating desires of all of our guests 24/7, as I was trained to do.

One somber day, I realized that I had stopped looking at my face in the mirror. I had been applying my mascara and lip gloss using a compact or my car’s mirrors during excruciatingly long commutes to work,  just so I wouldn’t take in my entire head top to bottom.  I was fearful of what my haggard expression might try to say to me. My young face was absent a smile, because a smile, laughter, are a genuine expression of joy.


My twenties were gone.  Swallowed up living a thousand other peoples lives.  But this was just it.  Living?  I wasn’t doing any of the really good stuff, because I was professionally planning for other people to have the spectacular times of their lives!  “Spare no expense!” was often said to me out of the mouths of my fat cat clients around the conference table over their indulgences of shamefully expensive bottles of wine and Roman feast style mountains of beautiful culinary masterpieces.

Ha!  GREAT idea! I won’t!

Five years ago, when my little family moved out here to the middle of nowhere to this 204 acre piece of undeveloped, long-forsaken, overgrown land, we spared no expense to build our dreams.

We didn’t shell out any big bucks. My husband and I learned to pay for our dreams in gratitude, courage, blood, sweat and yes a few…tears. The tears, however were OF JOY!

Bathing in our outdoor, clawfoot garden/vineyard tub.

We do not roll around in piles of money.  We’re not swimming in cash. Our little son and daughter jump in mountains of leaves in October, and bathe in our garden claw foot tub.

Buddhism speaks of “enlightenment through suffering“, and I really get this.

I know for sure that am living my dream life because I walked through a sort of hell in order to understand heaven.  My idea of heaven is living and working in with and for nature.

I am part of nature, my children are part of nature and certainly all of the things I really love are found in nature:

View of the beautiful Mt Hood from the vineyard of my house

The perfect blend of Mt. Hood, Jefferson, St. Helens are breathtakingly gorgeous.

On very clear days the Three Sisters can be seen from many points close to my front porch.

The Douglas fir and other evergreens, the valley with the rivers and streams and the spectacular Oregon coast less than one lovely hour’s drive by car away and sharing it all with the people and creatures of nature that I love, well it’s my idea of a grape life. 

Lucky, Me!


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  • Heather

    I was on the tech side of the wine business and the stories of the hospitality crew were amazing – funny and tragic.

    Thanks for sharing a bit of your path to the grape life – H

    • shellie croft

      Hiya Miss H!

      Yep, for sure funny AND tragic, that’s the truth. Weird, wild and wooley too.

      My hope is to know that my 20+ years in the wine and food hospitality gig was not, well, for not.

      I will write about the salacious insanity and my “take-aways”, and perhaps get a chuckle or gasp out of some people who have been through the nutso world of wine, and maybe even readers who aren’t privvy to the good, the bad, and the beautiful people being so ugly while surviving “The Good Life.”

      Love ya,


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  • Well… I think we have something else in common. I have a friend who handles the wine club for a Disney-owned winery in Napa. Serendipity kills me.

    Lovely post.


    • Thank you Cath,

      I adore you! I really, really do.