Moving Forward & Moving Back

San Fransisco, Financial District

The idea of moving back to San Francisco rattles me to the core as it should. I am going back to a place that I was dramatically pulled from when my mother was dying and I had to move home to Salem, Oregon to care for her. At that time I was a Product Manager in electronic banking at Bank of America on Market Street in San Francisco. I was the conversion manager for the out of state banks that were acquired during that time. I was traveling all over the West working on mergers. I was also working on the launch of the then new Debit Card product. We called it a Check Card and I managed a campaign that performed 600% over plan.

A few months later I was working in a cubical in Hillsboro, Oregon at a real estate lending center as a loan processor. I had trained as an underwriter when I was a Systems Analyst on the Real Estate Management team at the tech center of Bank of America in Concord, California, and I had written the technical manual for the mainframe program we were all using, but I had never processed loans. It was a good job for the region and I was happy to have it even thought It was an enormous step backwards for me professionally. The day I left San Fransisco my boss pulled me into his office and asked me to reconsider. He told me I was making a mistake. I told him I didn’t want to go, but I had no choice.

My mother was in the hospital, and no one else was willing to care for her. I left my soon to be husband, my apartment with a view of the Golden Gate bridge, a job I loved, and moved in with my mother. It was a sacrafice my family had a hard time understanding because they thought I could work at any Bank of America branch. They didn’t understand how the job in San Fransisco was different. I cried every morning on my way to work and every evening on my way home. Then, I would wipe my tears and walk into both places with a smile on my face. There were no vacations or time off for me. It was not just what I had given up and left behind that was overwhelming me, it was the fact that my mother was dying at 58 years old and I was watching her. She was bed ridden and would struggle every hour to breath. She had been a life long smoker and while young she would tell everyone she didn’t want to grow old, so she didn’t want to quit, but as this day approached she had a different point of view. I was over whelmed with sadness for my mother, and for my own life which had taken this drastic turn because of her. I remember it as the most gut wrenching period of my life.

Bank of America transferred me, but I had to drive an hour and a half to work. If it rained it would take two hours. I lost 20 pounds caring for my dying mother and working full time. Already slim, I was reduced to skin and bones. I would get up at 4 a.m. and make her food, get her comfortable, and then I would make the drive to work, work all day and return at 7 p.m. This went on for 10 months, until my mother was stabilized enough to spend a few nights per week on her own. I rented a little apartment in S.W. Portland in the Hawthorn district where I stayed on Monday and Wednesday nights during the week. I would spend the weekend preparing her meals and medications, so I could carve out this time for myself to rest because I was near collapse. The apartment was across the street from a funeral home and next to a boys retention center, but it was clean and quiet. I listened to REM, Cold Play and Pearl Jam on repeat and walked to the Bread and Ink Cafe for take out salad and sandwiches because I was too tired to cook for myself.

Because I was either alone with my mother or alone at my Hawthorne apartment I read a great deal, therefore, this became a very rich period of my life. I was also learning to cook well and I read countless cookbooks. After six months of processing loans I was promoted from a loan processor to the Communications Manager for the West. I was able to work with my former boss who was the V.P. of Credit and I won several awards for my work there.

Eventually, my mother with my help was accepted into the Stanford University lung transplant program. This was all very new and experimental at the time. I moved her back to the Bay Area and I got married. I eloped on a snowy day in South Lake Tahoe because you can’t plan a wedding while waiting for a transplant. My husband and I bought a house in Clayton, a suburb at the base of Mt. Diablo in the East Bay. We had the house built and it was beautiful. It is where I planted my first Meyer Lemon tree, rare heirloom roses and different varietals of lavender. Bank of America could not find a place for me, so I started consulting for AT&T and eventually became a Director of Marketing in the mobile products division. I love technology and anything that is new and emerging. I was part of the launch of PCS (Digital) Wireless Voice and Data over IP (Internet Protocol), so it was not so very different from working on electronic banking products. Later I continued my love of technology working South of Market for Pagoo, started by two Google founders, and later I joined well funded start-ups like Octiv that created music equalizing software.

My mother underwent a transplant which was successful for 18 months allowing her the mobility to walk for the first time in years. No more wheel chairs, walkers or oxygen tanks. However, all of this came with a price and she rejected the lung and died on a cool March day long before my own children were born. Was it worth it? Yes, it was an incredible experience. It was amazing to watch how many lives were saved or extended by the world class medical team at Stanford. And, of course in trying to save my mother they learned a great deal about how to save future patients. We met so many wonderful people that we shared close bonds with through this mutual experience. Our own family came together, and my mothers sisters long estranged came to help her. It was extraordinary on many levels. The most important aspect of it all was that my mother felt loved and she died with her family around her. After her death we donated her body to the Stanford Medical School.

Since then, I’ve raised my own daughters and have lost my husband. Now, I return to San Fransisco. I will be leaving my creekside home that I love so much, but this feels like the logical next step for me. My sailing apparel brand Ocean SF is named for this city after all. Although, leaving the comfort and security of a home and community I love so much scares me, I am more afraid of not moving forward, growing and sharing my skills and talents in a larger way. I will be teaching three classes at UC Berkeley in the Fall.  A Business Negotiating course within the Innovation Management program. This course is to be taught in the second semester of a year-long program for the students. The program is currently made up of 44 students from ESSEC, a French Institution.  ESSEC Business School is one of the most prestigious and selective grandes écoles based in Paris, with campuses in Singapore and Morocco. I will continue in the Leadership Certification program at the UC Berkeley campus on Spear St. in the Financial District. I am adding a new class called Essentials of Management in addition to my Effective Leadership and Management class.

I am beyond honored to have this opportunity to work with UC Berkeley, their amazing staff and all of my students. I will be moving in July and will be writing about his transition as it unfolds. Thank you to my many readers in 72 countries and to my family and friends who have helped me along the way.

Love and blessings to all.

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