Sunnier Days

While in Los Angeles last week a homeless man approached me with a crow bar while stopped at a red light. My doors were locked and my windows rolled up, but he was inches from me. At any moment, he could have shattered my window, and pulled me out of the car. Andrew was with me, and the man moved around the car to the passenger side, and screamed at him as well. We couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was menacing and terrifying. We were three blocks from our garment factory on Maple Avenue and we encountered him not once, but twice with the same experience. As much as he startled us, it’s hard to say what he might be going through to cause him to act this way.

Later, back in Berkeley Andrew and I stopped into Hoi Polloi, a peaceful place that brews beautiful beer. We both ordered a pint of “Sunnier Days” pale ale, and laughed about our recent trip to Los Angeles. We’ve had some challenges, but we expected them, not exactly as they arrived, but we knew what we were trying to do wasn’t going to be easy.  In some ways, I feel blessed that I will have so many funny stories to tell my students about starting Ocean SF as this has been such a great lesson in not allowing anyone or anything to deter you on your path to following your dreams. No one said this would be easy, but it will certainly be worth it, as it is the common experience of anyone who has ever succeeded at doing something that challenges them.

It’s called a challenge for a reason.  Looking forward to sunnier days.

Love and Blessings

Work & Play or Being A Clothing Designer

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Los Angeles working on my clothing line for Ocean SF.  It’s been extremely exciting and rewarding to work with such talented and dedicated people. Making clothes is very precise and takes a great deal of time and care. The barrier to entry in this industry is enormous and it requires both commitment and dedication to make a gorgeous garment.

Things that you would think would be simple like buying fabric turn out to take a great deal of time as beautiful fabrics aren’t simply purchased, they are created. They are not found on a shelf in a warehouse or a fabric store. Fabric is typically created specifically for a designer to be used for a singular purpose. This usually requires a 10,000 yard commitment and can take 4-6 months.

In American sewing factories you can make a garment for $20.00 per unit if you make 5,000 of them, and all in one size, and one color. If you only want 50, that can cost you $150 each, or at least at our factory that sews for some of the best designers in the world. But, I digress, making clothing is also nothing short of thrilling. To hold something you have envisioned in your mind in your hands is a feeling like no other.

For me this type of work is play and I am 100% dedicated to it. However, we live in a global economy where some of the most profitable products sold are in the disposable clothing category. The idea of ethically produced, sustainable and bespoken clothing that is made in America is just now becoming important to the consumer. It is very much the vision of Ocean SF. The factory we use produces some of the most beautiful clothing I’ve ever seen. When I was there last they were making silvery blue silk gowns, and tailored wool top coats. Although, China offers lower costs and they can fast tract designs, we want to make our clothing here, and are proud to produce in the L.A. garment district where everyone works together to make the highest quality clothing possible.

Today, while walking my dog to the park I realized that I’ve been working on Ocean SF for 22 months. In June of 2016 we made our first prototype and now finally we are in full monthly production. I had two children and bought a house in the same amount of time. My pattern maker often tells me to be patient, but I am anything but. This is simply not my nature. I am a driver and I like to get things done. Yet, somethings, like clothing lines and children really are worth waiting for.

Making beautiful clothes that are sustainable and ethically produced is my mission. It is my work and it is my play.

Love and blessings to all.

The LA Fashion District

When I was in a little girl I wanted to be a fashion designer and of course I wanted to be a writer too. Which is funny, because I was dyslexic, and didn’t learn to read until well into 2nd grade. When I did learn to read proficiently it certainly caught my attention.

I spent the rest of my childhood and most of my adulthood buried in books. And I’ve always loved clothes. Beautifully made clothes.

So now, I am a clothing designer, I don’t do fashion, I do performance wear for sailing for our company Ocean SF. I wear my first production run orange jacket every time I sail. I also wear it skiing, walking, hanging out, and to outdoor concerts. I’m excited to make more garments, and one day we will have shirts, shorts, pants and dresses. For now we’re dedicated to doing this one thing well. It’s time consuming to do things well, we made seven prototypes before we got the design right, and we’re proud of that. We milled our own fabric which took six months, we’re proud of that too. Making something beautiful takes time.

While I was in LA last week, I stopped into our factory on Maple Avenue in the Fashion District. This may sound glamorous, but it is anything but. The factory sits under the freeway and every window of every building on Maple Avenue has bars on it. The streets are littered with dumpsters. I’m thinking twice about even getting out of my car, when I get a phone call instructing me to park and come in the ally entrance. I find the ally and walk in.

My mother wanted me to be a nurse, this would have been so much easier as it has a predictable career path to follow. And everyone doesn’t want to be a a nurse, but almost everyone I meet wants to be a clothing designer.

Inside, the factory is completely different then you might expect from the outside. The large rooms are painted a crisp white, there are soft benches and sofa’s to sit on, a station to make tea or coffee, and everyone is very warm and welcoming. People are sitting around sewing, and there are bolts of fabric everywhere.

I’ve not met Jesus who runs the factory before, but he has kind eyes and a musical laugh. He shows me a pair of yoga pants he is making for the brand Hard Tail. In their office Ben, his partner, and I go over the money. They take care of their seamsters and it shows, but it’s not inexpensive.

Our mutual goal is to get our numbers up, so they will lower theirs, as we want to be fair on both sides. My partner and I are committed to being U.S. made, but the cost of making clothes in the U.S. is exorbitant.

I’ve come to the clothing design world late, but I will tell you this; anyone can design clothing, it’s the making the clothing and what comes after that is difficult. There is much more to it then I could have ever imagined. I use every business skill I’ve acquired. It’s anything but easy, and there is nothing I would rather be doing.

Love and blessings to all.

OCEAN SF & The Wild West

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.04.43 AM

We’ve been working on our next production run of our Ocean SF signature jackets. We are filling the pre-orders and guessing at inventory. Anticipating the buying patterns of a new company can be very difficult for even the experts. Being a clothing designer is a dangerous business I’ve been told countless times, and yet I persist because I love it. LOVE IT! It’s the Wild West, I was told last week on my visit to the Fashion District, in Los Angeles.

If you want to order your jacket and have been holding off, please do it NOW, by clicking here, so I can add it to my production scheduled for Thursday/Friday.  

By far our most popular size had been the medium for both men and women, and in the color orange. Who knew? All the colors are beautiful, but I do have a soft spot for the orange and will be wearing the new design with the zippered sleeves this summer with my white jeans, linen pants and shorts on our boat.  Can’t wait!

Love and Blessings to all.

Five & 1/2 Hours Away

While I was driving over the beautiful Bay Bridge last week, I got the dreaded phone call. My daughters typically text me before calling, so a random phone call usually spells a car accident, or stomach flu type of emergency.

I think I always knew this call would come, because I pushed for my daughter to choose a college I could drive to in a reasonable amount of time. And, I got my way.

She blacked out in the shower and split her head open hitting the tile floor, she told me. I could picture the cool green tiles of the college dorm shower with the white grouting, the textured glass door, and the running water as she lay there unconscious.

“I’ll be right there,” I said calmly. I drove home and threw my clothes in the car. I arrived in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. and stayed for five days.

She looked pale, tired and scared. She was bruised and had butterfly stitches on the wound that ran through her right eye brow.

Three trips to the doctor for tests, some loving attention and she began to stabilize and look like herself again. Her skin again turned creamy and pink. Her blue-green eyes sparkled when she laughed. I followed her everywhere, and walked her to class. I had dinner in the student cafeteria with her friends.

She studied, and I worked on my laptop and had meetings with my pattern maker and production team in the nearby garment district.

I did her laundry and mopped her dorm room floor washing the blood away. Then, I brought her home with me. We drove through the Central Valley together. The valley is beautiful, with an intricate weather system and clouds that come in every color of the rainbow, and in countless shapes and sizes.

We played music. She slept. We talked. We’ve not been this close since she was in grade school.

Her doctor has referred her to a Cardiologist because of her medical history. We are hopeful all will be well.

As we drove through the Central Valley we encountered isolated storms. It would rain, and then the sun would come out. If you take the time to look, you will find there is always a rainbow. Always.

Love and blessings.

One More Day

After realizing that the other mothers weren’t lying about enjoying their days at home with their babies, I came to the conclusion that I was overdoing it a bit.

While my friends sat on their sofas yawning with their babies in their arms, and piles of unfolded laundry and dishes in the sink, I was out washing my car with my baby in her car seat. I even bought a lawn mower, assembled it myself, and mowed the lawn, so my husband didn’t have to do it.

I made my own fresh baby food. See the hand grinder on the table in the photo above? A handy invention, but I also made it in bulk in my food processor and froze it in ice cube trays.

If I had to do it again, I would do less and enjoy it more. I thought of what I was doing as a duty and turned it into a job. Motherhood is not a job, it’s not even the toughest job in the world as people often say. Motherhood is a spiritual activity. It takes from you nothing short of everything, and changes you in ways that can not be described. Even if you have a second child, and think it will be the same, it is a completely different experience the second time around.

My friend, Jennifer, used to say to me, you’re almost out of the woods: almost out of diapers, almost into preschool, almost into high school, almost able to drive, and now almost into college.

I did a guided meditation of walking through the woods. In this meditation I was in an alpine forest. This was no surprise, as I’ve spent so much time in recent years in the Tahoe basin. In my mind, I could see the pine trees covered and sparkling in snow. I find a stream and follow it down the mountain.

Had I just done this sooner, things would have been decidedly different and much more pleasant. But, I thought motherhood was more of a lesson in sacrifice than love. I spent a good deal of time wondering aimlessly in the forest, focusing on things that didn’t matter (although I still believe keeping a comfortable and well ordered home is worth doing).

However, we don’t know what we don’t know and once these lessons are learned, we are past the point of benefiting from our own, hard won, wisdom.

Once in a while, in a flash of nostalgia, I will remember holding one of my infant daughters in my arms. People often talk about how babies smell, but what I remember most is how they felt. The weight and warmth of their bodies. What I would give to have just one more day with my precious baby again.

We can’t go back in time, we can only look at the woman we raised and remember the innocent girl, and the tiny baby, she once was.

Love and blessings.

My Column in 24/680 News

My first column was published on Thursday, March 15th.

I am very thankful to J.D. O’Connor and News 24/680 for publishing my work. What a load of fun it was to read the comments.

You can find it at News24-680.com or by clicking here.

Love and blessings.

A Long Line Of Irish Beauty Queens

My uncle used to call my mother and her five sisters “frustrated actresses” meaning they were all capable of being movie stars, but decided to be mothers and housewives instead. And it was true they were the most beautiful group of raven haired blue-green eyed beauties you could ever hope to encounter.

Black Irish is the term used for this combination of fair skin, dark hair and light eyes that they all shared.

As a result of this genetic good fortune I grew up around women who kept their mirrors and makeup in their kitchen pantries. I myself was a tree climbing tomboy, but I would sit and watch my mother paint her nails and put on her makeup with a lighted mirror at the kitchen table. The makeup alone took one hour. The hair another hour. Nails another hour. She never left the house looking anything less than flawless.

As for myself, I don’t have this kind of time. But, I benefited from their knowledge and have devised a beauty routine that takes about ten minutes.

Today, I’m sharing this wisdom in memory of my Irish relatives and the beautiful women I grew up with.

Hair:

I wash my hair, spray it with a shine product, and twist it into a bun. In about an hour, I take it down and it is wavy and shiny. I rarely use a hair dryer or heat on my hair.

Makeup:

I do my makeup in the car at the stoplights. And this is what I use:

  • Maybelline, Fit Me Foundation, in Classic Ivory, SPF 18. This is good stuff.
  • Chanel, Healthy Glow Sheer Color Powder, #20. I don’t know what’s in this, but it’s awesome.
  • Chanel, Powder Blush, 72 Rose Initial. Perfect light pink. Love it.
  • Revlon, Color Stay, #30. They are not kidding when they call this color stay. I put it on once a day.
  • Chanel, Rouge Allure, Create #142. Love the color, but it doesn’t last as long.
  • Chanel, Rouge CoCo Shine. In Monte Carlo #62 and Adventure #57. The long wearing lipstick dries your lips, so these sheer hydrating lipsticks are nice to touch up with.
  • Essie, Ballet Slippers. A classic white for hands and toes. Perfect sheer coverage.
  • Jo Malone, English Pear & Freesia. I wear this in winter. It’s a very warm floral. In summer I wear Grapefruit and Lime-Basil in the same brand. In the shower I use the Pomegranate Noire bar soap.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Birthday to my beloved and beautiful Auntie Pat.

Love and Blessings.

Masks & Motherhood

Clearly, I am now reaping what I have sown, but leaving work I loved to be a stay-at-home mother was not exactly a smooth transition for me. I’m not sure what components compromised this unease in my personal experience. It was definitely a combination of many factors I suppose.

Firstly, I didn’t want to be anything like my own mother who stayed home, but was largely absent nonetheless. Secondly, I used my skills and talents at work and easily fell into flow as the hours flew by making me well suited for the work I did. Lastly, my husband worked long hours and I had no family support, so I was often simply depleted and sleep deprived.

Although, I dearly loved my children, I abhorred the house work and not getting the sleep I needed. I had one child who quietly fell asleep at 7 p.m. while her sister ran around the house all night. My husband was up and out before 7 a.m. so I got up at 5 a.m. to write in the necessary silence. Writing is something I have to do for my own sanity, and that was the only time I could do it.

Napping was something no one did, as we are a family with a deeply hereditary FOMO (fear of missing out). However, I made everyone lie down for an hour, including myself, but there was no sleeping. With envy, I knew of countless children who napped for hours, some would nap through dinner and into the next morning.

During the fog of sleep deprivation I remember thinking the other mothers were lying about loving their stay-at-home lives. I looked at my silk blouses and other work clothes hanging in my closet with despair. Later, I realized they really did love staying home with their kids. The only one pretending was me. It wasn’t even the money I missed, it was the rhythm and sense of accomplishment that came from doing things well and having other people do what you asked of them without a timeout or a bribe of some kind.

There is no experience that trumps motherhood, however, and there is no work more important. Yet, motherhood extracts from us a heavy price for its blessings. It is often messy and chaotic, and I was a person uncomfortable with both, but that was also the gift of it. To this day, I dislike noice, screaming, dirt and unnecessary messes. I especially dislike buckets of sand being hauled up the stairs and poured into the made beds. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. Would I do it all differently? Yes, I certainly would.

Children are spontaneous and full of love and excitement. It was simultaneously magical and beautiful as well as emotionally and physically exhausting. Looking back, I see there was a lack of balance. I didn’t prioritize myself into the equation like I should have. I honestly didn’t know how. I fell hard for the little darlings and could scarcely say no. I was patient and giving to a fault.

My husband often called me a martyr mother and I think that was true. I didn’t know how to not give everything I did 1000%. Over the last few years, I’ve made it a point to make sure my kids know that I matter too, and I think we’ve all readjusted to this idea, although it took some doing. I’m still not great with messes and noise, but I’m better about these things now, knowing that love and the relationships far outweigh peace and quiet and everyday orderliness. Plus, I know my limits now and I make sure I’m taking care of myself too.

My daughter was home from college for the weekend and it’s obvious I’m reaping the rewards for my hard work. Both children are poised, polite, and dedicated human beings. I’m very proud of them on so many levels.

For my birthday they bought me a gift card for a spa day. Impressively, they paid for it with their own money. Sometime in the near future I will be found waiting pool side for my heated stone massage. The martyr mother is gone for good, and thank goodness.

Love and blessings.

Defining Moments

It’s a common point of view that women don’t help each other much in business. They are accused of not being team players at work, or told that they are too competitive. However, for me each time I made a major stride in my career it was due to being pulled up by another woman.

I was answering phones and typing memos for a Senior Vice President when she called me into her office and closed the door. She offered me a job working for her as a Systems Analyst. Now, I had a political science degree, so this was quite a surprise. I took it seriously and began writing business requirements for the mainframe that managed Bank of America’s mortgage lending business.

Five years later, I was sitting in front of the head of Bank of America’s Electronic Banking Division when she told me I looked like a marketing person. She offered me a job as a Product Manager. Now, I was a Systems Analyst with a political science degree, so this was a surprise not only to me, but especially to my peers with marketing degrees and MBA’s. When I changed jobs, even my former boss, asked if I knew how to be a product manager? Of course, I did not. But, again I applied myself in earnest and it turned out to be true. I was a natural at marketing. To this day, I love nothing more than developing brands and creating marketing campaigns. Nothing makes me happier than finding the right look and feel for the personality of a company.

When I left banking, I was pulled way up by my mentor Sandra Floyd, who helped me land my first consulting job in wireless.

More recently, when I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s IDC, I was pulled up by my now dear friend Brigette, who interviewed me. Prior to this teaching job, my experience teaching adults was confined to working as a ski instructor. And my neighbor Betsy Cole got me that job.

In conclusion, I think we help each other more than we realize. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings.