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 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 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.

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.

Spreading the Love American Made Apparel

In fashion there are many moving parts and many people who touch the product while it is produced. I often have to remind myself that we are making something out of thin air. I am not just running a business that sells sustainable sailing apparel, I am also manufacturing sailing apparel. The fun part is designing the product, but honestly that takes the least amount of time.

It’s widely known that most of the clothing that is sold in U.S. stores is made in China or somewhere like China. I often wondered why this is so. It’s a history lesson of sorts. The U.S. hasn’t endured the upheaval of other countries that often fosters the type of industrial revolution necessary to spark the infrastructure necessary to make clothing. The garment district in New York City at the turn of the century is where most of American clothing was once made. This is where the most beautiful garments of our time were produced. Although it still thrives, it is very much out sewn by other countries and the polluting fast fashion industry we have grown accustomed to.

The U.S. economy currently is based on service as opposed to manufacturing. Sweatshops overseas now do most of the manufacturing of the U.S. apparel market.

Manufacturing in Los Angeles has been a comedy of errors. What they committed to taking five days, has taken five weeks. They blame each other for the delays and there is one error after another. Sometimes, they even blame us, but we just laugh about it.  Honestly, if I didn’t have a business partner who is cool, calm, and clear headed in the face of adversity all would be lost. I’ve never really been thrown under the bus by a woman at work before, but I have recently been accused of being “emotional” when I was being a business woman who demanded accountability.

Our pattern maker, our project manager, our embroidery house, our zipper manufacturer and our seamsters all work together to make our jackets. This is only after the 6 months we spent milling our beautiful custom 100% Merino fabric. Its archaic, but they actually use Uber to move pieces of fabric around. Coordinating so many moving parts is no easy task as each entity has it’s own timeline.

I took three trips and spent nine days in our factory over the past month. Still, it is a painstakingly slow process. Text messages fly around daily in coordination and it is easy to see why China is a preferable option to the process in L.A. Nevertheless, we are committed to sustainable products produced ethically on U.S. soil.

Someday, it will be a smooth operation. For now the errors, mistakes and mishaps are a learning tool for bettering our future operations and production processes. No one can ever accuse me of not understanding the process.

Love and blessings to all.

Happiness Is A Choice

It’s been a busy few weeks, but finally I am home again in the evenings with my kids and pets. I’m excited about the terrific team we have built in Los Angeles for Ocean SF where our clothing is produced.  We’ve made eight prototypes of our signature jacket. It takes time to do things well, but it is paying off as we are now making some truly beautiful things.

My daughters have been busy too, and we are often more like ships passing then a family, but we are very close and throughout the day I am in contact with one or the other of them every few hours. I think our love for each other has continued to deepen and I am thankful for the close and loving bond that we share with each other. One of the positives of hardship is this type of closeness that is forged through difficulty. I doubt that anything could ever come between us.

Things are peaceful now like when the kids were little and we had predictable routines and the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable.

I walked my dog today, and Moraga is so full of beauty it is astonishing. I passed many happy people with their kids and dogs heading down to the park in the cool sunshine. I treasure my neighborhood and my neighbors. We had a wonderful Easter brunch with friends we met when my younger daughter played soccer a dozen years ago, and then a beautiful dinner with our neighbors around the corner that we met when Polly was a puppy a decade ago.

When the girls are home there is laughter, and when they aren’t home there is a happy silence as I walk through the rooms of our home. Our dog Polly is back to sleeping on the white sofa when no one is looking, and even she looks happy again. I feel like I’ve finally stepped into the happy future I so longed for.

Happiness is a choice. You have to choose it and you have to fight for it.

Love and blessings to all.

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.