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.

Newfoundland, Sailing & Gooseberry Jam

I’ve had a walk down memory lane recently. My cousin, and I have been chatting, he’s twelve years my junior, but we’ve always had an affinity for one another. When he was six he would hide from me, but I could always hear his laughter and quickly find him. When I was twenty I spent a summer in Vancouver B.C. and I spent a lot time with him, and his little brother Jeff and their dog, Lucy.

Now, he’s the father of three little girls and he calls me every so often to check in. No two people could be less alike. Mostly, we talk about raising our girls, or our favorite topic business. He’s also a very successful entrepreneur. And I’m not surprised, he was wicked smart as a kid. Now, he has a beautiful wife by his side, and they work together building their business and raising their children.

We talk a lot about the large family we come from. My mother was the oldest of twelve, and his father was the oldest son, Daniel, named after our grandfather, landing at number five. My cousin has a different perspective being younger and having grown up in Canada, in both Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

I love to hear his stories of the things I missed. Not only is he wicked smart, he’s wicked funny as well, and everything he says carries our ancestral shared sense of humor, which is our birthright.

Talking to him recently made me nostalgic for Newfoundland, my mother, and her people. I pulled out the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx from my bookcase. She writes there is no place like Newfoundland, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog, snow in May, a place of ghosts and magic.

That’s the Newfoundland that I remember.

However, what I miss the most is the language of Newfoundland, when Proulx wrote the novel, she said she went to sleep with the dictionary of Newfoundland under her pillow, for over a year, to get it right. But, it’s not the same to read it. I wanted to hear it. So, I watched the movie, it brought back memories of my grandmother’s house and her fresh bread, warm from the oven, smothered in butter, sour cream, and gooseberry jam, and the way they spoke there was almost musical, a melody to their words that can’t be explained.

Of course, there were always parties, and it was so much fun, with so many people around, and everyone inevitably gathering together in the warm kitchen drinking tea or whiskey from a tea cup with a saucer, no less.

My grandmother’s house was rambling with five bedrooms upstairs, and three below, she always kept it in perfect condition with freshly painted walls, and fresh wall paper in the hallways. It had a stately mahogany staircase and even a tiny telephone room at the second landing, where you could talk in peace, the floors were covered in red and blue rugs, the furniture in velvet.

My mother’s room was small and cozy at the front of the house, but my grandmother put me in my grandfather’s room the last time I was there. It was large with a fireplace, and a view of Portugal Cove Road, and the Memorial University Medical School Campus, and beyond the sea. My grandmother slept on the other side of the house overlooking the pond where the children ice skated in winter when they were young.

Last night, I went to sleep dreaming of Newfoundland, the icy tundra, the hypnotic crash of waves on rock, the smell of fish, weather and salt. It felt so strange to wake up to sunny California, my Meyer Lemon tree and the Christmas party I am planning.

Somethings remain in our blood forever.

I know these roots are what made me a sailor, I knew this the first day. I felt it immediately, I was completely comfortable, and at home on a sailboat.

The past always informs the future.

Love and blessings to all.

Marin, Tim Parr & Caddis

Being your own boss has many benefits, one of them is meeting up with interesting people in beautiful places. Today, in Marin, I sit outside in the sunshine having lunch with the legendary Tim Parr, who’s been a driver behind iconic brands like Patagonia, Kona, and L.L. Bean to name just a few.

He’s just launched another company called Caddis, an eyewear company. It’s all about lifestyle, check out their Architects and Custodians page here, it’s about creating change, generating ideas, and spawning creativity.

I’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since last summer, after an introduction by mutual friends, the Finegold’s of Tart, as he is very experienced in working with Merino wool. It was certainly worth the wait. He gave me some great advise for Ocean SF, aside from reassuring me that we were on the right track; he advised we take our time, and make the highest quality product possible. It will take as long as it takes. True that.

We’ve taken a great deal of time to create a sustainable product that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible, and after a year and a half of working diligently, orders will begin shipping in the next few weeks.

It’s been a journey, with many twists and turns along the way, but ultimately there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a vision you created with friends on a sailboat come to fruition. This is something Tim Parr completely understands.

What an inspiring guy. And he bought me lunch. What’s not to love?

Check out his company at caddislife.com.

Love and blessings to all.

Boyfriends, Mountain Tops & Being an Environmentalist

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Mt. Bachelor, Bend, Oregon 1986

My high school boyfriend taught me how to ski by throwing me down the face of Mt. Bachelor. He took me down a treacherous black diamond trail, ironically called Texas, that ran from the top of that mountain straight down to the Lodge. It was one of the most terrifying episodes of my life, but I soon mastered the basics and was hooked.

At Oregon State, my then boyfriend, took me on a ski trip my freshman year. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like. I loved spending time in the cabin with friends, skiing all day with the snow falling, and sitting at the top eating lunch overlooking a vast and pristine valley.

Many ski trips followed, including one to Whistler, Canada with my Alpha Phi Big Sis Susie White, also an avid skier.  We could not of had more fun.

I didn’t think of myself as an environmentalist then.  I only knew that I loved nature.  And there wasn’t anything I enjoyed more than skiing down a snowy mountain with the people I loved.  I realize that what I valued most was the serene and unspoiled beauty of these landscapes.  I was blessed to be able to share this love with my own children who spent the majority of their childhood in Lake Tahoe, winter and summer, either skiing, hiking, or paddle boarding.

When I found sailing, I felt the same way about it.  I love the beauty of the ocean, the gorgeous Islands that sit off of San Francisco, the inlets around Tiburon and the incomparable beauty of sitting on a boat as the sun sets behind the Golden Gate Bridge. These settings and the people I am with have combined to create some of the most priceless moments of my life. So, that is why I am an environmentalist.  I think in many ways, we all are environmentalist, we have to be, it is no longer a hobby, but a necessity of this life.

The Trident Project, our nonprofit, has an Ocean clean up scheduled for the end of January, 2018.  We will be partnering with Save The Bay, and will provide an environmental education component geared toward the elimination of plastic usage, as well as a clean up effort to remove plastic and other garbage from San Francisco Bay (I will share more as we get closer to the date).

Along with all the other environmentalists, or nature lovers, I will dedicate my life to preserving these beautiful places for the people I love, my own children, and all the children that come after them. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my life.

Love and blessings to all.

Whoever Said it Was Easy Must of Had it Pretty Good

The life of an entrepreneur is wrought with untold obstacles, stress, and fight or flight inducing fear. If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

I’ve worked for four start ups, all of them successful, but I took note of the downfalls, the set backs, and the inherent doubt and confusion involved. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started Ocean SF, but the lure of following my own dream, making a meaningful mark on the world, and being my true authentic self was too great. Safety and security and a known path in life can be beautiful, and I’ve done that as well, but stepping onto an unknown path is another matter all together. Taking this risk has summoned my upmost courage.

From the beginning, the obstacles along the way have not deterred, or surprised me. I expected them quite honestly, and regardless, I continued on knowing in my heart that I was on the right path, and there was no turning back.

Now, the fabric that we went to hell and back to manufacture has shipped. We looked all over the world for this fabric from LA, to NYC, to Italy, France, China and Bangladesh. We had everyone looking for it, and we rejected countless samples. Finally, we had no choice, but to acquiesce, and mill it our selves in our custom colors, most significantly Safety Orange. It took four solid months! Believe it or not, you can’t buy sustainable wool fleece, not like ours and not anywhere in the world. You can buy polyester fleece all day long for cents on the dollar, but it pollutes drinking water, and does not keep sailors, or anyone else warm if it gets wet. There is nothing like it for performance outdoors.

Our fabric is custom milled for Ocean SF of 100% Merino wool. The exterior is tightly woven to keep the wind out, the soft interior to keep you warm, while regulating body heat. Anyone can wear it for any sport. It’s beautiful, machine washable, and so on.

I’ve been conducting focus groups. And no surprise, everyone who sees our jackets, touches the fabric and tries it on absolutely loves it. Thank goodness!

To see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, feels so good. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Follow your dreams people! Find what makes your heart pound and do that.

Love and blessings to all.

Calling All Angels

Enter the world of Ocean SF, our beautiful, chic, environmentally sophisticated clothing company targeting the affluent American sailing market, plus all our fellow adventure seekers!

We are raising capital to expand our clothing line beyond our popular sustainable signature jacket made with our custom milled 100% Merino wool to include silk, linen, cashmere, and cotton casual apparel for all outdoor activities on and off shore.

We are opening our first round for friends and family with only a minimum investment of $5,000.

Angels can contact me personally, or via our webstore at oceansf.co, or at hello@oceansf.co. We will put you in contact with our financial advisor who will fill you in on all details.

Love and blessings to all.

You Are My Sunshine

Even before my husband died I had strange incidents of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. Yesterday, I had a meeting at Berkeley Yacht Club with a woman I met at the Project Entrepreneur Summit. Julie runs a company called the Healing Farm, and I was telling her the story behind the purchase of our beloved sail boat, Solana. I wrote about this nine months ago when it happened, but it is even more relevant now that Solana is in the water and such a big part of our lives.

Grief is a tricky emotion. Sometimes, the pain subsides and it’s possible for me to go about my day like a normal person, but other times it is crippling. For me, the saddest part is raising my daughters alone, and there are times when the weight and sorrow of this is too much to bare. This is compounded by having lost my own father when I was nine years old, and my mother twenty years later.  If I allow myself to think too hard about these losses I am left with a stunning sense of abandonment. One day in particular, I was in the later mindset. I was running errands and crying while doing so.

People in my small town are, as a rule, very kind, so no one appeared to notice as I did my shopping while crying. As my tears fell the checkers would only look at me with compassion and ask softly if I might need a bag for my purchases.  While picking up wrapping paper at Home Goods, I saw a coffee cup that said, “Sunshine heals” and around the rim, “You are my sunshine” and I decided to buy it for myself to cheer myself up.  I paid for it, and took it home with me, and later that night, I was texting Andrew, my boat partner and business partner, and I asked the name of the boat he wanted to buy, and he said, “Solana” or “Sunshine” in Spanish.  I was drinking out of the cup as I read this, and then my eyes slowly glanced down, there was a sun on the front with a smiley face. ☀️

This was definitely in the category of rare moments I will never forget, and now having since bought and successfully restored our beautiful sailboat Solana, it makes that moment even more meaningful.

As I’ve moved forward on this difficult journey, I’ve followed signs like these, they are like guide posts along the way, I don’t know if it is the Universe or God, or my own belief in such things, but they are always with me.  One day, I was singing a song in the house as I was getting ready to leave, and when I got in the car, it was playing on the radio.  Whether, it is a song, or meeting someone new who is so encouraging of my writing or my company Ocean SF, it makes me feel like I am on the right path.

Buying Solana was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  We now have our meetings for Ocean SF on our boat, and it will soon serve as a mobile pop-up store (more on this later). And for The Trident Project, our non-profit, it will be used to troll for plastics and gather water samples for Berkeley Labs.

The cup I bought so many months ago, now sits on the desk in my office, and holds my colored pencils, and as for the tears, well, sometimes, it really is alright to cry.

As the months go by, I am grateful for the beautiful and supportive small town I live in, all of the friends I’ve made sailing, and starting my sailing apparel line, and for our little yellow boat, Solana.

Love and blessings to all.

The Calm After The Storm

As many know I’ve been fund raising for my startup Ocean SF, a sustainable clothing apparel line for sailors, with an emphasis on the mid layer, our beautiful 100% Merino jacket. So, please go to our web store and buy yours, as more and more I see the correlation between wearing polar fleece as being similar to smoking. As I’ve said before, polyester fleece sheds into our drinking water every time you wash it. In this way choosing to wear a garment that is a contaminant is exactly like passive secondhand smoke as we all share the same drinking water supplies that are polluted by washing petroleum fleece jackets.

I’ve had a forced break in these activities as it’s been thanksgiving and my daughter opted to have knee surgery and not ski in Tahoe this season. It’s been difficult for me as we’ve not missed skiing opening day at Northstar Resort in nine years, and I missed being with friends in the mountains.

However, with the second knee surgery for my daughter successfully behind us, it feels like the calm after the storm.

My daughter had her ACL surgery on Tuesday, and we had a quiet dinner the three of us on Thursday. I was thankful for the day, our health and well being, but, I was also sad not to have a big family to share it with. Family is so important to me, so I look forward to developing a close knit extended family as the children grow older and marry, and I undoubtedly, have my own significant other.

In the meantime, I am so thankful to our friends Dan, Jeff and Chris who are always here for us, and our many other friends, including my friend Jeff who was home for the holiday, and here so much to help.

Love and blessings to all.

Blessed & Lucky

Julia Morgan Design

Yesterday, I was blessed to have been invited to the Keiretsu Forum’s Investor event in San Fransisco.

The event took place in the beautiful Julia Morgan Ball Room. For many years I have been a fan of Julia Morgan, her life and work. Ahead of her time, she blazed the trail for many women, who have since followed in her footsteps. For those that do not know, Julia Morgan was an architect, she studied civil engineering at UC Berkeley, and then went to France to train in architecture. She was the first woman to graduate from the Ecole in Paris in 1902, she went on to design the Claremont Hotel and the Hearst Castle among many other projects. She truly was an entrepreneur. Her ballroom on California Street is a treasure to behold, and beautiful, warm and inviting to sit in.

Against this gorgeous backdrop, we listened to founders of the most innovative products you can imagine. It’s always inspiring to be around people who are changing the course of history through innovative technology, advanced medicine and impact investing.

It was an amazing day. I met so many wonderful new people and deepened some existing ties.

Love and blessings to all.