Sometimes the bad things in life open up our eyes to the good things you weren’t paying attention to before.              Unknown

For more than a year most of us have restricted our routines and activities to operate within public health guidelines.  How do we move back into life opening up?  Are there things you are anxious to be done with?  Are there new things you’ve discovered that work pretty well?  How have your priorities changed?  These are some of the questions on my mind.

As I reflect on the past year, I notice I’ve enjoyed being home and have loved the deepening of my family relationships.  I’ve avoided large groups and dinners out.  And I’ve connected with a smaller group of people who are in my life regularly, enjoying the process of getting to know each one a little more intimately.  I feel I’ve made the best of my circumstances and learned a few important skills.  I’ve enjoyed the convenience of Zoom meetings and not being caught in traffic.  I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of hybrid work.  Did I have these opportunities before and was I just too busy to notice?

With increased vaccination rates and revised public health mandates, many of us are now hungry to resume community activities, in-person business meetings and travel.  Yet we must open up with caution to avoid a community relapse or personal exposure which none of us wants.  And each of us now get to decide if some of those former activities are still a priority for us.  What good things have come out of this pandemic that you want to retain?  For me it is connection with my closer circle, walks with my family through their neighborhood, spending time playing with my grandchildren, and enjoying time outside and in my garden.  As life opens up, I hope we can maintain the slower and more relaxed pace of the past year in Sonoma County.

This month’s General Membership Meeting highlighted Sonoma County Tourism whose current campaign is Life Opens Up.  Their goal is to attract travelers back to Sonoma County hotels, restaurants and shops.  Claudia Vecchio, President and CEO of Sonoma County Tourism, said their current promotion is about the psychological benefits and importance of getting out for the many restorative activities available in the open spaces of Sonoma County.  Our cities, who count on Transient Occupancy Tax for general fund revenue, experienced an average 50% reduction in funding.  In 2019 travel spending at hotels, restaurants and retail establishments was $2.2 billion.  In 2020 that revenue was cut in half by the Shelter-In-Place restrictions.  This translates into budget cuts for critical services throughout our communities.  Sonoma County is asking visitors to come back and at the same time to sign a Travel Kindly Pledge which contains 8 practices, including Leave No Trace, Tread Lightly, Spread Kindness, and Be Mindful.  Check out the full promotion and sign the pledge at

Percy Brandon, General Manager of Vintners Resort, spoke candidly about the negative impacts of the pandemic on their operation, immediately reducing their workforce from 200 people to 5.  He explained the pre-ordering and staffing required for their facilities and the inability to instantly turn that off or on.  Each of the several closings and re-openings caused product waste and then shortage as well as employee attraction and retention problems.  Vintners Resort currently has only half of the employees they need to open at full capacity, despite their best efforts.  Yet employees have multiple issues keeping them from returning to work, including child care, competing industry wage scales, and current unemployment benefit extensions.  When asked how we can help, Percy said come out to eat and support local establishments.  Please make a reservation, be kind and understanding of the circumstances they are operating under.  And enjoy being out once again.

Thank you again to both Claudia and Percy for their hard work to get life opened up again in Sonoma County and for their authenticity in sharing their experiences of the past year with us.  Please take their advice and enjoy getting out again, safely.

I also want to say how much I respect each and every one of you who run a business in Sonoma County and beyond.  Every day you face so many obstacles, risks and even ridicule while you are trying to do your very best.  Thank you to every one of you for the work you do every day to make this a better place to live.

Have a great month as your life begins to open up.  And remember to Spread Kindness and Be Mindful.  And please be safe.


What are you grateful for today?

Marlene Soiland, 2021 President

Sonoma County Alliance

When you embrace the uncertain, life opens up unusual new paths.  Seeds sown way back bloom as flowers, in ways one can never fathom.                                 Subroto Bagchi, Mindtree Co-Founder