Attitude of Gratitude

2014

I can see the future I would like to have, but I still have a ways to go. Someday, I will have a calm secure life that is predictable. For example, I will not be raising teenage girls forever. There will come a time when I have socks in my drawer and my jeans will all be neatly folded on my shelf and not at my daughters friend’s house. My boots will be in my closet not under the bed in the guest room. My cars will be clean, and full of gas without dents or torn off fenders. But, most importantly I will have a hairbrush as this is one necessity that continually disappears.

I’ve been told I will miss these things and more, so I am enjoying the company of my children now and am looking toward to a shared summer together. We truly never know what the future holds, so I will keep my daughters close and share my things, and my heart, and my time.

As so many things have changed and not necessarily for the better, it’s important to be grateful for what we do have. I have a two page list of the top 8 things I’m grateful for and I try to read it everyday and then keep a daily list of small things that I am thankful for like the lilacs and roses from my garden that sit on my desk, or the penny I found yesterday with the year of my husband’s death as this reminds me that he is no longer here, but I am.

In 2014 when I started to think about my life beyond being a full time wife and mother I bought a hard bound book and started pasting in pictures of what I wanted for my future. Looking back, much of it has come to fruition. Especially, the no more boring text (above). As my life has been anything but boring for some time now.

I also have a larger vision board. These are more temporary. In January I wanted to cook more and eat healthy so my vision board was full of recipes and farm fresh produce.

All of these tools have helped me to live in gratitude for what I do have and for what is working while also envisioning the happy future I know I will one day have.

In January 2016, I had no idea how out of my comfort zone I would be. I certainly had to reinvent myself. As they say, be careful what you wish for…

Love and blessings to all.

Expect Flying Monkeys and Bad Witches

I’m an optimist. It has served me well over the course of my life and for the most part I’ve watched even the most distressing situations happily resolve. I had a rocky childhood, so I expect flying monkeys and bad witches as they go with the territory of a life well lived.

Making something out of nothing is never easy. We just got delivery of our latest production of Ocean SF signature jackets. It was a difficult six weeks full of countless obstacles. My background is in banking and technology. The garment industry is not tech. Tech is full of engineers and people who do what they say they will do. Banking is full of accountants and MBA’s and they follow very specific guidelines and procedures. The fashion industry is full of creative people who do things in their own way and on their own schedule. This was a steep learning curve for me and not one that I enjoyed. Plus, it was also ridiculously costly. I’ll write more about this in my next book on the topic of building a brand.

Fortunately, my business partner is a man of equanimity. He’s a glass half full sort of person and he has taken all of this with his typical brand of unperturbed calmness and self-confident assurance. I am on the other hand a perfectionist and stress over every stray thread on each and every jacket. I guess this is what makes a good partnership. As the designer every thing matters to me, and I want the end product to look exactly like the vision that is in my mind, and I mean exactly.

In technology it is typical to expect every shipment to be exact. If there are flaws they are fixed and the software can be downloaded again or reshipped. Clothing is a different beast.  A sewn garment can’t be un-sewn. Additionally, this is my company, not a company I am working for. As an entrepreneur it’s best to expect flying monkeys and bad witches as nothing worth doing comes easy. Our next production run is moving to San Fransisco where I can stand over the seamsters while they sew. I can’t wait.

Love and blessings to all.

Sailing, Yacht Clubs, and Race Committee

Although, in relative terms I am new to sailing, I do have my Basic Keel Boat Certification which took 40+ hours of hands on training, and I studied for and passed the American Sailing Association test for certification.

I took the test four times as I am dyslexic and I have to turn all of the problems around in my mind to get the correct answers, otherwise they are reversed and since this is a multiple choice test, therefore, incorrect. Although, in practical training I was the only student to get the man overboard back on the boat on the first try, not once, but four times in a row. Please, don’t ask me to explain how I do this, but it is very difficult.

I joined the Berkeley Yacht Club and that first summer the Race Committee. Race Committee runs and officiates the yacht races for the club. There are many flags, and a complex system of whistles and gun shots to conduct the races.

There is a lot to do on the committee boat, but it is exhilarating to be so close to the start and watch the finish. The best part, however, is working with the most amazing women sailors, who have incredible histories in the sailing world.

My business partner and I own a sailboat, or more specifically our company owns the sailboat. Solana, was lovingly restored by mostly Andrew. I want to say I helped, but I did not. I saw the potential and encouraged him, but Andrew and his friends did all the work.

We recently started racing and our Santa Cruz 27 really is as fast as they are known to be. It’s true they move through the water with agility and grace.

Recently, Andrew told me he was surprised by how good of a sailor I was. We were having drinks with my sailing instructor Tom Dryja at the time. Tom and I were surprised that he was surprised. Andrew said that he expected me to be competent, but was surprised I could steer as well as I could and that he could trust me. He was after all putting the spinnaker up at the bow during a race in a good deal of wind.

When I did my man overboard training I thought of the person overboard as my child, and I had no problem turning the ship around and pulling my baby out of the water. I think that is essentially what makes me a good sailor.

Sailing is a very intimidating sport that has an emphasis on merit as evidenced by the skill witnessed during the recent race series.

Although, I have so much to learn to become a sailor like the legendary Bobbi Tosse and her friends, I am willing to try and hope to one day race in the PacCup. Maybe I won’t win it like she did, or do it a dozen times, but someday I hope to try.

It’s been an honor to be on the Yacht Club Race Committee for the past two years. I hope for many more memorable races and the amazing people and friendships that come with it.

Love and blessings to all.

Nevertheless Joy

On most days I walk my dog Polly to the park in the late afternoon. It’s been a refuge for me during this very stressful time and allows me to decompress from my busy days. Finding a work/life balance can be the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur.

I’ve been extremely focused and because I love what I do it’s possible for me to sit for 10 hours straight writing or managing my other companies. It’s not unusual for me to work from 8-6 without a break, and then sadly to work for another few hours after dinner. It won’t last forever, but that’s what it takes to start a company and get it off the ground.

This short walk gets me outside and I am able to witness the changing seasons. There is nothing better than fresh air and exercise no matter what you’re doing, however, this is especially true in my situation.

Over the past year, I’ve dedicated myself to my clothing apparel company, my nonprofit, and I’ve written two books. I’ve been blessed to be able to work at home on projects that are close to my heart, as well as having time to mother and guide my two daughters. I am also grateful for my beautiful home and the community that surrounds me. It’s been especially fun to write my column for News 24/680. I’ve enjoyed the comments and having people stop their cars in the street to tell me how much they enjoy my articles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen.

During my walks I always see a few friends along the way. I love socializing with my neighbors, they are from varied backgrounds and have so many interesting stories and insights. Everyone has an expertise and are always helpful in sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Because of them, I need never be lonely. On Saturday nights they BBQ and everyone brings food to share. If I’m home, and am able to attend, I make a point to drop by the park and say hello. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years. It reminds me a little of Europe where there are always locals sitting in the park playing checkers.

The other day, I was sitting on a park bench and this adorable beagle came running toward me. I picked up my phone to take his picture and before I knew it he was licking my face. I have no idea why he targeted me. It was completely random. No matter what else happens there are always unexpected blessings, and nevertheless joy.

Beagle on his way to say hello…

Love and blessings to all.

Names, Politics & Playing House

Paris is finishing her first year of college next month. She was home over the weekend because she is at the Model UN conference in San Francisco.

Over the past year she has demonstrated tremendous strength and determination. She has gone far and beyond what I would have expected and has entered into college life in a very deep and active way. She has always been a person of fine character, confident, smart and beautiful with a powerful intellect and sense of justice, but the way she has chosen to use these skills and integrate them has been stunning. She is very clear on her path, and has an amazing sense of direction for one so young. It has been interesting, to say the least, to watch her make her way in the world.

She is a political science major, a model UN delegate and a member of the student government at her college. She is definitely on her way, and the hard work, sacrifice and commitment required of motherhood is definitely paying off.

My girls and I share city themed first names, thanks to my late husband. He chose the city names and was adamant about them. When I resisted, he would offer alternatives like: Brenda, Karen or his favorite Billee-Joan, the combination of both of our mother’s names, he even threw out the name Nellie-Pearl after our grandmothers. Eventually, I acquiescenced to the city names, but for the record it was not my idea. The nameology suits us now that we don’t go everywhere together as a walking geography lesson. However, we were Siena, Paris, Sydney and Austin (Pari’s boyfriend) over the weekend as we together attended the pre-party for pictures and a dinner with friends after for Siena’s Campolindo Junior Prom.

Yesterday, I drove Paris back to the city for her conference. As she walked away, I realized she truly does have a life that I am no longer a part of. Even though, she is an adult, my love for her is never changing and she will forever be a little girl to me.

She has essentially not changed a whit since the first day of preschool when the other little girls wouldn’t let her play house with them. She told me at the time that she didn’t care because she wanted to be President of the United States instead.

She’s definitely heading in the right direction.

Love and blessings to all.

Rats, Cats & Love

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I adopted a black Burmese cat one summer when my home was over run with rats. During the drought the Norwegian Roof Rat ran rampant through my neighborhood and being on the creek our home was a major attraction. Soon a nest of them were living under our house and in the attic. Exterminators were called, measures were taken, and still they were running through the house eating out of the dog dish. I was not exactly hysterical, but as a responsible mother, I packed the kids up, and headed to our second home in Tahoe where I stayed for several weeks to avoid them.

My late husband called one day to say that they were running up and down the stairs and he couldn’t sleep. I agreed to come home and resolve the matter. I talked to the neighbors and read countless articles on rat removal. I bought giant traps and covered them with peanut butter. I caught one and I killed another with a mop one morning in my kitchen. But, there were so many more. Finally, I did what any other girl who grew up on a farm would do. I got a cat.

At the pound, we looked at 100 cats. My girls of course wanted a kitten. A kitten was no match for a 10 inch roof rat.  I noticed a black cat and he was looking right at me. The volunteer told me he was nine years old and wasn’t suitable for a family.  But, I kept coming back to him and he looked at me as if to say, “Where have you been? It’s about time.”

He was tall, thin and frail. My late husband was unimpressed. He methodically went from corner to corner in every room in the house and then hid upstairs. The cat and the rats were roughly the same size, so he had to gather his strength. However, he acted as a deterrent and rats running up and down the stairs at night became a thing of the past. The floors were scoured and I plugged all of the exits and entry points with steal wool and foam. I took the cat to the vet and put him on a nutricious diet. As time went on the cat grew stronger. One by one the rats appeared dead at the backdoor. As did bats, birds, lizards, and anything else he could get his paws on.

I’ve always been allergic to cats. I have a hypoallergenic dog that I special ordered from Roanoke, Virginia. My allergist even discouraged this as I’m also allergic to pollen, dust and any form of dander. I sneeze at the dog park when the Golden Retrievers run past me.

The cat began sleeping with me. Right next to my pillow. For whatever reason this was not a problem. Soon, all of the rats were gone without a trace. Since the black Burmese was by now eleven, I adopted a second cat as his apprentice. Dash handles the house and the small mice, or more appropriately Dash catches the mice and he and Polly our Goldendoole play with them. These are mice that look like the mice from Beatrix Potter stories. I rescue them and toss them out the front door. I often wonder if they don’t enjoy this game because they are often back the next day.

Polly and Dash

A friend of mine told me that cats just use us. We feed and pet them and they do nothing for us. What a dismal point of view. The other morning, I woke up with Paris to my right and Siena to my left, and the cat sitting squarely in the middle of my chest clutching me with both paws purring. It was a bit overwhelming to be so loved, but I took a moment to enjoy this endearing situation because I think it possibly will never happen again. I thought to myself how else can this little animal prove his love and appreciation for me? He leaves me countless rodents, purrs at my presence, and is never not happy to see me. He curls up next to me while I write like a hot water bottle. Once, I found a gorgeous finch in my handbag. Another time, I found a beautiful sparrow on the kitchen table in the space where I used to sit. This was when I did family meals in the kitchen, now we sit in the larger formal dining room where the light is beautiful, and the rose bushes are in view.

This cat is now 18 years old I think. He certainly doesn’t look it. He still looks like a kid. My vet told me Bermese live to be twenty five. I certainly hope so.

Love and Blessing to all.

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Jammy
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Jammy

Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

My daughter is home from college tonight because she is a delegate for Model United Nations in San Francisco. She flew in early, so she could terrorize my closet, and borrow my work clothes and shoes. I bought quite a few suits when I worked as an Analyst and my office overlooked Union Square in San Francisco. I burned a trail to Brooks Brothers on my lunch hour and purchased tailored cotton shirts and classic linen and lightweight wool suits.

I also have a beautiful collection of shoes from previous consulting stints, and just because I love gorgeous shoes. My favorite are a pair of burgundy crocodile pumps. I’m not one to have a lot of anything, but what I do have is timeless.

She asked me if I stayed at the Red Lion when I was a delegate back in my university days. Ironically, her professor was in Model U.N. in Sacramento the same year I was there and we both stayed there. This is sort of odd, but what really strikes me is how my daughter is a Political Science major doing Model U.N. just like I did, and studying in London next year, just like I did.

She’s going to London to study politics and finance. She leaves next January. I studied, politics and economics and left the January of my Sophomore year as well.

I’m not sure if there is a name for this phenomenon. Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? Nevertheless, it is very surprising as I did nothing to encourage it. I actually gave up politics for banking, and then tech, and now I’m a clothing designer.

It does however make me miss my younger self. I was once so idealistic, just like my daughter who now stands in my linen suit wearing my crocodile shoes. It really should come as no surprise that she is also walking in my footsteps.

Love and blessings to all.

Misnamed & Names As Colors

When I was a young girl I would occasionally meet someone and think they were misnamed. Their name didn’t suit them, and it would be hard to remember, or the opposite; some people were perfectly named, like my childhood friends; Hilary, Rosalee, Misty and Holly.  I also saw names as colors. Emily was decidedly blue, Sydney was red.  Paris, my daughter, is the perfect light parfait pink.  My mother Joan was green.

Recently, I’ve met a Nick and a Jen. These are yellow names.  And the people are not.  They are more light blue or green.

When I was pregnant I met a woman who told me her daughter, Amanda had chosen the name. She came to a red light and hit the brakes and knew that was the right name for her unborn child. I felt the same with Paris. We had a short list of names we liked: Lauren, Madison and Isabell. One day, I told my husband we should just name her Paris if we were thinking of a city name. He agreed and that was it. It was perfect for her and she has loved it. We often call her Pari, or Pari Ann, or even just P.T.  When we named Siena it was a giant challenge as Paris was a tough act to follow. I was sitting in an investor meeting at work one day and the investors had just returned from Siena, Italy.  I told my husband, and then he added the middle name Annalise. Annalise was our neighbor when I was a tiny girl living on the Air Force base. She was the most stunning nordic beauty you could ever imagine with light blond hair in a french twist and tan skin. She was from Sweden and she was sweet as well as beautiful. I spent a good deal of time in her sand box with her kids. Annalise is periwinkle blue of course. And Siena is ruby red.

Color is a fascinating subject.  My daughter Siena was just at the Color Factory in San Francisco and said it was amazing.

I’ve wondered if anyone else sees names as colors?

Unexpected Blessings

There have been many highs and lows as I travel along this path. One of the low points came over our stormy post drought California winter when on a conference call I had difficulty hearing due to the sound of chain saws. After my call I walked outside to find two of the most beautiful redwood trees topped and pounds of their branches floating in my swimming pool. I ran out my front door and knocked on my neighbors door. If you know anything about trees, you know that groves of redwood trees share a reciprocal system and even though the trees have been cut down the redwoods on my side of the fence will continue to keep the roots alive on the other side of the fence for decades to come. Trees operate as family structures and share nutrients and water.

My neighbor told me they were worried that the trees would fall on their house and they wanted more light. I was polite, but left heartbroken. All of that day and the next they cut and ground the trees into dust. My peaceful grove of trees was gone leaving only the five trees on my side of the fence. Redwoods typically do not fall during storms due to their very deep root structure. The many pine trees that also surround the creekside location where I live will topple as they have a life span of only 30 years, so over the years these are often removed, but never the redwoods.

Although I was distressed I decided I would be hopeful and make the most of it as now I too had a bit more sunlight. I wouldn’t trade a tree for more light, but sometimes we have to except things as they are. Since then, I’ve been cultivating what will be an herb, flower, and vegetable garden. I’ve been working very hard on it with my pick and shovel and I look forward to basil, cilantro, lettuces and flowers this summer.

As someone who believes everything happens for a reason I was not surprised when I walked into my kitchen last night to a room full of tiny rainbows.

The tree that had been cut down obviously obscured the setting sun from coming through my kitchen window.  I have a beautiful crystal chandelier hanging over my nook table and it caught this light and turned it into a thousand little rainbows covering the opposite three walls of my kitchen. It didn’t last very long, but I just stood there in wonder.

It’s the last thing I would have expected, but there it was.  An unexpected blessing.

Friends, Neighbors, Transformation & Easter

It’s been a time of transformation for me. My life looks nothing like it did two years ago. It’s not been easy, and I’ll admit that although I was surrounded by love, I was crying in my room on Easter Sunday morning.

Luckily, I have a sweet daughter and we sat together and I explained that I simply could not believe my life had turned out the way it did. I love Easter. I love having an Easter egg hunt, going to church, and cooking. I love hosting the holidays and making everything beautiful and special for everyone.

My daughter assured me that I have so many people who love me, and she’s right. I also have more wonderful friends than anyone deserves to have. So, my girl and I put on our dresses and went to brunch with friends where we had a wonderful time, then we came home and changed clothes and then went to a stunningly beautiful and elegant dinner at the home of our neighbors. In the end, it turned out to be one of the happiest and most memorable holidays I’ve ever experienced.

Last weekend, I was at a BBQ with my other neighbors and they told me that they watch over me. I never really doubted this, but it was nice to hear. Later, that night my house alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and I wasn’t even scared. I was only inconvenienced to find my backdoor unlocked and blown open by the wind. That is how safe I feel. I know it is a blessed and lucky thing to feel this safely held in the network of people who surround and support me.

Today, I attended a women in business function followed by lunch with two of my favorite people. We ate our lobster salads and sipped our green tea on a rainy afternoon in Danville, California. We talked about our thriving careers and kids, and all of our exciting plans for our shared futures. It was inspiring to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs who are fearlessly living their passion and dreams.

I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life; married, safe and secure. Life had other plans for me. Life expected me to live up to my potential. The circumstances required that I step up in a big way. I’m so much more now than I ever dreamed I could be. Life is the master teacher clearly, and we either strengthen and rise, or we don’t. Now, I think of myself as nothing less than a warrior and nothing scares me, not even an intrusion alarm in the middle of the night.

Love and blessings to all.