Moon Lit Path

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with my business partner, at our Santa Cruz 27 sailboat. I’m writing a book about my painful, although transformative first year of widowhood, making this meeting a welcome distraction.

Initially, we had little wind, but we put up the sails anyway, and as happens in life, the simple act of doing this somehow resulted in the wind picking up. It’s been a long time since I’ve rigged a boat to sail, usually the boat is ready when I arrive, so, it was nice to go through the motions of setting the lines, and raising the sail, especially since this is my own boat.

When we got out on the Bay we had the perfect circumstances for a sail and we headed north toward Tiburon at a fairly rapid pace. We listened to music and talked about all that we had accomplished over the past year. Our company Ocean SF is on track to have a very profitable year, our nonprofit The Trident Project has a year of events and activities planned, and our sailboat participated in her first race. Albatross, Andrews company, has had month over month of record sales, and my blog has a loyal following.

The book that I’m writing is my personal story about being strengthened by tragedy. The journey I’ve had is one of transformation. Undoubtedly, we are all transformed by our experiences. The choice is then ours to decide if it will be for the negative or the positive.

I’ve been reading my journals from the past eighteen months. It’s been anything, but easy, I only wish I could go back in time and reassure myself that everything would be alright, because I was full of so much fear. What I noticed most, however, was that although I was fearful I walked straight into that fear.

One of the authors I read during this time was Danielle Laporte, and one of her famous quotes is:

“Your life unfolds in proportion to your courage.”

As I sat on my sailboat I reflected on my courage and resilience, and the adversity that has brought me here to this perfect place of happiness, peace and calm. The word grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

As we headed back to the Berkeley Maria the moon had risen and it lit our path. How fitting, to have a well lit path now after so much darkness.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings to all.

Solana’s First Yacht Race

If you’ve been following the story of Solana, or the “sunshine” boat, owned by our sailing apparel company Ocean SF, you will be happy to know she has her first race on Saturday. It will be a double-handed crew of Andrew Lacenere and Hawkeye King.

“The course is defined by the Golden Gate, Richmond, and Bay Bridges, and racers must pass by or sail under them in order to round each mark and head back to the finish line. Over the years it has grown from a modest gathering to the monster it is today, earning the title as the largest single- and double-handed race in the United States.”

I would love to be crewing this race but I will be at our nonprofit event for The Trident Project with Save the Bay.

It is so gratifying to see the dreams we created and the plans we made on a dark December night in 2015 finally coming to fruition. I am grateful for those who have helped us along the way.

Love and blessings to all.

Monthly Event: The Trident Project

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The Trident Project is hosting our first event on Saturday, January 27th.

It’s educational and FREE.  We have only twenty spots left, so sign up now if you would like to join us.

We are partnering with Save The Bay and Latino Outdoors for an educational restoration project (we will be working with plants that are grown to restore marshlands) and then doing a garbage pick up along the shores of San Fransisco Bay.

My younger daughter and I started The Trident Project with Andrew Lacenere in 2016.  In 2018 we began our initiative to do an event once a month.  We are excited to begin in partnership with Save the Bay, which was a favorite of ours during our National Charity League days.

The Trident Project, is a California based 501(c)3 non-profit with a global focus on protecting the ocean.  We host and partner with other groups to provide impact based education and proactive removal of plastics from our waterways and especially our oceans.

Click here to sign up with Eventbrite. To learn more about The Trident Project click here.

We would love to see you at one of our monthly events.

Love and blessings to all.

Cultivating Lemon Trees

When my late husband and I bought our first home in Clayton, California the first thing we did was hire a landscape architect to plant the beautiful backyard we had there.

My husband was a commercial concrete executive, and he told me he could pour me a concrete patio that looked like a Persian rug and he wasn’t kidding.  He ended up designing and building the most gorgeous patio room that I have had ever seen before or since.  It had lights embedded in the stone walls with concrete and stone benches that ran the entire length of the house allowing us to have parties where we could accommodate 100 hundred people.  We did this a few times in the six years we lived there.  Plus, we had our wedding reception there, our first daughters Christening party, and her giant first birthday party there.

It was one of the most beautiful homes I had ever lived in.  We bought it before it was built and picked out the lot, the floor plan, the fixtures, the finishes, tiles and so on.  We moved in and were married six weeks later. We were very happy there of course, and we had a lemon tree.  My first Meyer Lemon tree. It took three years to bear fruit.  I watered it, fertilized it, worried over it, and gave it liquid chelated iron until it’s leaves turned a glossy deep green.  Eventually, it bore fruit.

When we moved to cool Moraga I was at a loss. The roses and lavender I planted withered and died. I could get very little to grow here as the tulle fog from San Fransisco Bay, just 15 miles away, would descend in the summertime in what has been called San Fransisco’s natural air conditioning. Because of this I finally turned to cool weather plants like; azaleas and hydrangeas and beautiful camellias in red, pink and white.  I am able to grow rosemary, mint and thyme and many varieties of annuals; pansies and violas, vinca minor and impatiens. Tomatoes and basil do not thrive here, nor do the five rose bushes I planted long ago.  And, of course I have two beautiful lilac trees as these have been my favorite since I was a little girl growing up on the farm. In Oregon they grow wild on the side of the road, but in California they are fragile, and must be protected and planted in cool locations out of the sun and wind.

We have a large planter off our patio, it’s a focal point of our .75 acre backyard. We planted a Japanese Maple there initially, because that is what my husband had envisioned, we did a lot of gardening together back then, it was one of the interests we both shared and enjoyed doing together.

When Polly our doodle came along she used the entire tree as a chew toy and it eventually ended up in the middle of the yard roots and all.  Our gardener, Jesus, planted it’s chewed remains on the Eastside of the house where it miraculously came back to life and now thrives.  At the time Jesus asked me what I wanted to plant in it’s original place after the Japanese Maple met it’s demise.  Since my husband wasn’t around, I chose another Meyer Lemon tree.  Again, it took years to cultivate. Four years in, we believed it would never thrive.  Then it started to bloom and now it bears hundreds of lemons year round.  I do not exaggerate when I say year round.  I always have lemons. This has been a source of joy for me.

Recently, however, I am beginning to wonder why I would cultivate just lemons almost exclusively over everything else?  Lemons are tart. Lemons are associated with things that don’t work like cars.  I love my lemon tree, but what about strawberries, or raspberries? When I was a kid we had a raspberry bush outside our backdoor, I could walk by and eat them off their branches.  What about lettuce?  I could grow all sorts of vegetables, berries, and even more flowers. My obsession with lemons and making lemonade must end.

I am again beginning to compost and I will start another smaller garden by my pool house, this space gets 4 hours of sunlight and no more, and I will start new traditions and grow and cultivate what is sweet instead of tart.  A metaphor for life.

Plus, I think I want another rabbit.  I miss my rabbit.

Love and Blessings to all.

The Year of Magical Thinking

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Joan Didion

I’ve been writing my grief book using my blog posts as fence posts from the first year after my husband died.  It’s tedious and emotional work, and not something I want to go back to, but I feel it is necessary to put it all together in a readable format to help other people who are going through the same experience.  To compound this, I’ve been rereading my journals, so I can add to my posts what my friend Denise terms, “notes from the inner being.”  At the time, I wrote the journal entries I actually thought I was holding up well, but now looking back, I can see I was literally sleep walking through most of it. In my journals I often wrote how sad I was, or how scared I was, and I was.  I still am in many ways.  It takes a while to simply recover from the shock of death, but I am much better now.  What was especially interesting was reading what I wrote in the days before he died, but right now that is too personal to share.

Recently, I have been reading Joan Didion’s painful memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking. I didn’t want to read it before now because I feared it would influence how I personally wrote about grief.  There should have been no fear of that as our experiences were significantly different, and in very meaningful ways.  I had children at home, or teenagers more specifically, and I felt my daughters were at a certain juncture in their development where a tragedy like this could prove a serious life derailment.

I had lost my own father as a young girl, so I was dealing with the contrasting duality of the positive and negative aspects of this by being completely horrified by the significance of the loss since I had experienced it myself, and having the benefit of knowing precisely what my daughters were going through.  To this day the death of my own father is horribly painful, however, it was helpful in creating a road map to help my own daughters endure this painful event, learn from it and continue to grow regardless.  So, I am finding the Didion book less relevant then I would have if I had lost my husband after forty years of marriage, and I was left almost entirely alone, her daughter then died shortly after, and she wrote a second book, Blue Nights on the same subject.  Joan has won many awards as a distinguished author and journalist, but she was also a fashion icon, as she began her career interestingly at Vogue.  She was recently featured in an advertising campaign for Celine (see photo above).

Even Joan Didion recognized that there was actually very little written on grief.  I’ve also heard this from my grief counselor who uses my blog posts in his grief groups and from other websites on grief that have reprinted my work.

I am a writer and I have lost my father, my mother, my husband.  I feel compelled to complete this task because when I lost my mother I read everything I could find that was written about grief and it did comfort me.  I hope my work will do the same.

Love and blessings to all.

 

 

Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

18 Month Roller Coaster Ride

It’s a societal error to believe that it takes a year to grieve a loss. I believe it to be possibly twice as long.

I am only now starting to begin my days without having my loss be the predominant thought in my mind. There are many layers to a long term marriage that you do not completely understand until it is no more.

If you remain in the shared residence you can move through any room in your house and find this to be true. Even if you have packed up the personal belongings there is beyond that another layer. Like the rings within the trunk of a tree or the sentiment in a rock formation there will never be a time when the marriage is not a part of you. From the art you collected, and the wine you drank, to the file cabinets full of pay stubs and tax records. There are also diplomas, and trophies, and letters in boxes; signed baseballs and scrapbooks to contend with. There are unread books and tennis rackets and random car keys. I let them remain because they are the artifacts of a life, and I hold this space, where my late husband resides, not for myself, but for my children.

Yet, even beyond this, there is another less tangible layer; the table we sat at the country club, or the special grocery store we stopped at on every trip to Tahoe, or the music we listened to, and the movies we watched.

You learn after a time not to notice these things so much, they do eventually recede into the background as new endeavors, people and hobbies fill the spaces left behind.

At the country club I sit at a different table now, I prefer the back left corner with windows overlooking the pool and tennis courts. I bring new friends there, and eat different things; like fish tacos and lamb chops. Or, I go to Napa with different people, and create new memories.

I am dating now, so I am looking at my usual haunts through a new lens. I was at the Legion of Honor, Museum of Fine Art, in San Francisco over the weekend, seeing the Klimt exhibit. We sat outside on the patio in the cool sunshine among the olive trees in the salty air. We had wine with lunch. I’ve been there so many times before, but I had never done that, and it was wonderful.

Undoubtedly, I am moving forward with my own life. However, for me the biggest impact, by far, has been in the area of parenting my fatherless daughters. Typically, in divorce, children have a second parent for emotional and financial support. For better or worse, there is a second sounding board, someone to push against, or disagree with, until a compromise is eventually made. Because it’s just me, I don’t have the luxury of being the tough parent. My parenting must be subtle, protective, and gentle. I am not allowed a bad day, or moments when I am simply short tempered. I have to be soft at all costs while maintaining the necessary parent-child boundaries.

I am the sole guiding force and role model, or as they’ve called me recently, their fearless leader, although, I am fearful at times.

As one who was orphaned in their 20’s I know how important it is to have dependable, reliable, and loving people to lean on. I was blessed with a large extended family. When my mother died I had her five sisters, and my grandmother on speed dial. There was always someone to talk to. If I was ever really lonely, I could pack my bags, head North across the Canadian boarder, and stay with my aunts or one of my 24 first cousins on both coasts, and I often did. I certainly never had to be alone.

My mother’s family is very demonstrative and they never fail to tell me how much they love me, or how beautiful I am, or how talented, or even how proud they are of me. Even my cousins will remind me of what a catch I am.

Of course, they are very clear on the fact that all of these attributes are contributed by our shared side of the family, and they can not stress this enough.

My children are not so lucky however, but what they do have is a network of long term family friends, and a highly engaged and supportive community, as well as their own friends. We are certainly surrounded by love. And for this I am very grateful.

Love and blessings to all.

The Trident Project

In the summer of 2016, with my daughter Siena, now sixteen, and my business partner Andrew Lacenere, we founded The Trident Project, a California based 501(c)3 non-profit with a global focus on protecting our oceans. Our mission is to back programs and endeavors that reverse ocean acidification caused by pollution associated with petroleum based products and their micro particles.

We believed with an organization spanning three generations, we could rapidly help to incite the changes necessary to stop the currently inevitable death of our oceans. Currently we are partnering with several organizations to drive environmental impact worldwide, but in December, we hired a program manager to assist with our grassroots efforts in our communities.

The Trident Project begins locally by hosting our first monthly beach clean up on January 27, 2018 in partnership with Save the Bay.

The monthly beach clean ups in and around San Fransisco will each include an educational component and are perfect for families and groups of friends that would like to spend at least one day per month working toward a better and cleaner future for all of us.

We are using Event Bright to manage our participants and would like to keep our numbers below 50 per event to provide meaning and quality to the educational component. Click here to access your free ticket or to make a donation. To read more about The Trident Project click here.

I’m so excited for 2018 and the meaningful work that I am able to accomplish. Please join me at one of our events.

Love and blessings to all.

Out with the Traditions

For many years, I held tightly to our family traditions. Every holiday resembled the previous one with only slight variations and adjustments. Recently, I’ve begun to question the wisdom of this. It’s as if I believed that by following a predictable routine I could control the uncontrollable. But life doesn’t work like this, it is inherently unpredictable, and often devastating. There is no way to escape this.

Last year, we were in Tahoe doing our predictable holiday routine. All was well, and then an argument erupted over nothing on the gondola, and our Christmas Day tradition of skiing all day splintered into a thousand pieces. Teenage girls are maddening, and for the first time, I refused to cook the holiday traditional dinner. I could not spend two hours pouring my heart into preparing a meal that I felt would go largely unappreciated.

We drove from the the ski resort down to Lake Tahoe in our ski clothes and went to Garwoods and sat in the bar. This was a definite and startling break from the past. It was however, one of the most relaxing and delicious meals I have ever had. We sat by the fire looking out over the snowy lake. Afterward, we walked along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the water was calm and as smooth as a mirror reflecting the pink and blue sky as the sun went down.

This year, we’re in Moraga for Christmas and I decided to leave town and go to Napa for a few days. The fires have adversely impacted the wine industry, and they are hurting. We spent two hours at Darioush with an Italian historian and wine sommelier in the caves below the winery, and then another two hours at Trinchero tasting some of the most beautiful red wine I have ever had. We were the only people there. The sky was overcast, but the club room had a giant fireplace with swivel chairs. They treat you very well there, serving beautiful platters of cured meats and cheeses adorned with quince, nuts and dried fruits with their beautiful wine. They even ended with a lovely dessert wine, and biscotti and egg nog cheese cake. It was possibly one of the most pleasant and enjoyable afternoons of my life.

Maybe traditions are not as important as we have been taught to believe. Living well is an adaptive experience clearly.

This has been a wonderful holiday season, not what I would have expected, and in no way reminiscent of the past, but delightful none the less.

Love and blessings to all.

Holiday Dread

Paris & Siena – Family Holiday Party 2017

As a kid I dreaded Christmas, that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I was nine when I had my last Christmas with my Dad on the farm. Because he was a retired Lt. Colonel, they helicoptered him home one last time from Madigan Medical Center at Fort Lewis Army Base to our horse ranch in Oregon. He was very ill, rail thin, and on oxygen, and died a few weeks later.

There are photos of the two of us together. I am pale and held closely in his arms. There were more presents than necessary.  Wrapped gifts covered most of our living room, and that was just the start. Dolls and toys were delivered by Santa again on Christmas morning.

This is one of those memories that is almost intolerable to think about. After my father died, my mother would sit in front of our Christmas tree playing Christmas music in the dark all through the holidays. If this is a tradition, than it was ours, and it was a sad one.

No matter where in the world I was, as soon as I saw the lights go up and the decorations hit the stores I would cringe internally. As luck would have it, my birthday also fell in the middle of the month of December, and it was never without a depressing gloom. My mother would insist on putting up the Christmas tree for my birthday. As the decorations and lights gave me nothing but an anxiety attack, I insisted this was unwelcome, but she persisted.

No matter what we did or where we went the holiday dread surrounded my family growing up. We were never without countless beautiful gifts however, in fact, I could have anything I wanted growing up, clothes, bikes, record players, or even a car. Money was never an issue, but there wasn’t enough money in the world to make Christmas something to cherish and look forward to. It was simply a painful season filled with ghosts and memories that I would literally have to white knuckle my way through.

This went on well past my college years, and eased up only slightly, when I moved to San Fransisco and would host Christmas dinner at my flat in Russian Hill.

When I had my own children, I realized I had to solve my personal Christmas dread issue. I turned to the church and my home was less about Santa and more about the story of the birth of Jesus. My children sang in the Children’s Christmas Choir at our Catholic church, they were also in the Christmas Eve play, as sheep or angels. We didn’t miss a Christmas Eve mass. I also insisted that we give them only five presents. Unwrapped and from Santa.  I didn’t want to buy their joy. I wanted everything to have meaning. We developed many happy traditions. Then, we moved them all to our second home in Tahoe when the kids were six and eight. White Christmas’ on the ski slopes and mass in Truckee and dinner at Bar of America after, skiing on Christmas Day with friends, then homemade ricotta gnocchi and ravioli’s made with my Italian pasta machine, stuffed and cut by hand.

Yet, still the sadness of the season persisted for me. It wasn’t until I started to really look for the beauty of the season and shifted my perspective, from getting through it to embracing it, did things start to shift for me. I think this year, even though things are far from perfect, has been my favorite year. I had a lovely birthday, celebrating with my beautiful children and friends. It had a magical quality that I was sincerely grateful for. Every day since then, has been full of laughter and fun. We had a small family Christmas party with a handful of loved ones that was full of happiness and joy.

My girls are happy and I am happy.  I am looking forward to this beautiful Christmas week, our days are filled with magic, and there is no better time to embrace them then now.

Love and Blessings to all.