Pools, Hotels & Being a Guest

My apologies for keeping everyone in a state of suspense regarding my beautiful family home in Moraga. I had it on the market for a hot second and then changed my mind. As many people on the brink of being empty nesters know it isn’t easy making decisions for our future selves after spending decades holding the course.

Today, I ran into an old friend of mine. Mary is a recent empty nester. She was buying things to send to her son at USC for Halloween. I realized that I am the ultimate empty nester. I will have no children and no husband. I don’t even have an ex-husband nearby. And, sadly I have no parents to care for either.

I had a very busy summer. I continued working on Ocean SF and my three part time jobs. Even though I broke my arm, I literally did not skip a beat. I had my daughters home all summer and Austin Clark for three weeks. It made it hard to imagine ever being here by myself.

My beautiful pool, that sits under a grove of a dozen 120 foot redwood trees, decided to be the problem of the summer. Anyone who has dealt with the pool people know that they are an illusive and extremely expensive group of folks. They also operate under their own set of rules.

For whatever reason, the pool people I employed over the summer insisted the green algae was due to the California fires. I didn’t necessarily believe this, but I thought throwing more money at the pool would certainly fix the problem fires or not. This proved unfounded. We are talking not hundreds, but thousands of dollars later. Interestingly, my entire family became pool experts and could pop the top off of the pressurized water filter with ease. My girls and I know our way around a wrench thank goodness. None of this is bad. Every friend of mine helped in some way over the summer to keep the pool a lovely light blue, as it did not take a village, it took an army. After many months we discovered the problem which was fixed via a u-tube video. More on this later, but you might want to set the pump timing yourself.

As autumn approached I thought I can’t do this again. It’s time to move on. I began to dream of how lovely it would be to live in a hotel. I went to L.A. for work and stayed in a beautiful hotel. At the pool I was handed a towel not a net with a pole at the end. There was music playing, and a peaceful waterfall. I ordered room service from my phone as I sat in the hot tub. What was not to love?

Of course we love what challenges us the most. I came home and listened to the crickets in the creek. My pool with the lights illuminating the redwoods is something no hotel can offer. I also have an amazing fire pit and a beautiful tree house.

My garden is full of repeat blooming roses and every variety of lavender. My lemon tree that I have cultivated for a decade is laden with fruit. My dog sleeps in the green grass. My neighbors walk past and say hello.

I love my quiet creekside location, the tulle fog that comes over the ridge, and the birds that wake me up each morning.

It’s tempting to dream of living in a hotel after so many years of caring for my husband and kids, and everyone else’s kids for that matter. The idea of being a guest sounds delightful.

Yet, Moraga is my home and I’m not alone in holding it close to my heart. It appears that many people have a hard time leaving Moraga. My next door neighbors were here decades before we moved in. My predecessor lived here well into her eighties. I can definitely see why.

My youngest daughter graduates from high school in June. I have many options and opportunities to consider and the possibilities are endless…

Luckily, I’ll still have the dog.

Love and blessings to all.

End of an Era

The time has come to find a new owner for my home in Moraga. This is the home I poured by heart and soul into for eighteen years. We bought it when I was just six weeks pregnant with Siena and Paris was one. The original owner had lived here for thirty years and raised her four children here as well.

The house has always had its own personality. Beautiful, warm and elegant. In the winter there are separate furnaces that heat up the rooms on each level before the coffee is made. In summer, the trees and creek side location keep the rooms cool. When the kids were little they would walk home after school with their friends and I would often have a dozen kids in my pool. In those days, I had a second refrigerator dedicated solely to drinks, popsicles, and ice cream sandwiches.

When the girls became teenagers, the five bedrooms came in handy. With many places to sleep I often wake up with five or six house guests who have stayed over night.

A neighbor left me a message today calling the house a monument. From the day we moved in the neighborhood had an opinion about the house from the color paint we chose to the way we decorated for Christmas.

My late husband decided to paint the house brown. I have no idea why I agreed to this, but I did. When the paint went up the neighbors didn’t like it. We painted over it within days returning it to the original creamy vanilla. We painted the front door five different shades of red, but after much discussion returned it to black.

The first year we lived here I was told I needed two Christmas trees as the previous owner had one in each street facing bay window for thirty years. Many of my neighbors grew up here, and I heard this so many times, I finally acquiescenced and it became a tradition in our family.

My father was military, so I grew up in Europe, Boston, Chicago, and Washington DC. Then, my parents retired to a horse ranch in Oregon. I went to Oregon State and lived in London before moving to San Francisco. I had never had the kind of roots that I’ve given my children. It has been my fondest hope and dream that they would have lifelong friendships and the stability of a home and family steeped in tradition.

Today, my sorority sister Susan was here. She’s been a part of my life since I was eighteen years old. She too recently dismantled her family home. We sat in my kitchen talking about being mothers and wives and what the future holds for us.

Soon, I’ll be moving on to my next chapter, but I am grateful for the time I’ve had here. I’ve loved our beautiful house, and our kind and loving neighbors, and the many traditions we together hold dear. To say it’s been wonderful would be an understatement. I’m excited for the next family who will live here. I’m sure they will make it their own, but I do hope they have two Christmas trees.

Love and blessings to all.

Mothers & Daughters

The cool night air in Tahoe over the weekend alerted me to the changing seasons. I went home, packed up, and now I sit in a hotel room in Los Angeles, California.

I’m here to drop my daughter off at college and to attend meetings for my company Ocean SF.

On my last night with my daughter she told me I was the love of her life. I think there are some unusually companionable mother-daughter pairs and we are among them.

My younger daughter and I have a similar relationship, but together we are more like water. We rarely disagree and she infuses even the most mundane situation with her charming and unusual sense of humor. My older daughter and I are fire and ice. We test each other. We debate. Then, come back together stronger than before. Her teenage years were difficult, but I can already see in her the woman she will become. Strong, intelligent and confident, I can’t imagine what she will do. I know the experiences of my own life limit my vision for her. She will do things that I don’t now know exist.

Recently, I’ve been very thankful for the women who have shaped me. My stunning mother Joan, and my grandmother Nellie Cody Burke. I can now appreciate their courage, their deep love, and the lessons they imparted as I too have now raised a daughter.

I strolled through the bookstore on campus before I left. The shelves were lined with so many books that I have already read, but many more are left to read. There is always so much more to learn.

After checking out, the love of my life hugged me in the warm sunshine, and I turned and walked away. It seems impossible that I could leave someone I love so much behind. Yet, it is necessary that we both turn the crisp white page to a new chapter.

Love and blessings to all.

Kris Carlson, Friends & Synchronicities

On a random Sunday, I was at home trying to decide if I wanted to attend a party up the street in my neighborhood. In recent months, I’ve sworn off anything that makes me feel uncomfortable or brings me back to the past. I dislike attending parties alone and events that pull me from my present back into my past are now typically avoided as I feel I cannot move forward while clinging to the past. Therefore, I’ve made a concerted effort to look forward, try new things, meet new people, and embrace my future.

This event would bring me back into the heart of my former life. I remember the day I met the hostess Dana Windat Dowell. My children were tiny, perhaps two and four. I was talking to Dana at Rancho Laguna Park, and when she took off her sunglasses she revealed the most stunning green eyes I had ever seen. Beautiful inside and out, we’ve stayed in touch over the years as we’ve raised our kids, and I would often attend her yoga classes. Dana is also the author of Yoga Girl, a Children’s book.

My schedule has been very busy. I’ve been working my side hustles, picked up some consulting work, and I’m doing the due diligence for my clothing apparel line. It’s been an intense period of my life, I recognize it won’t last forever, but I need to pace myself and I now literally have to schedule time to stay home to rest.

It’s also summertime, and I’ve had a good deal of social obligations and milestone birthday parties to attend, so I decided I would skip it.

As my girls headed out the door, they said, “You really should go to Dana’s. You love Dana.”

I went outside and watered my flowers and thought about it. It was a beautiful night and I could be there in five minutes and be home in the same amount of time if I was uncomfortable or tired. So, in the end I went.

From the moment I saw Dana I knew it was the right decision. She greeted me with open arms and poured me a beautiful glass of wine in her gorgeous kitchen. As we were talking we were asked to come outside because Kristine Carlson was speaking. Kristine is a powerful speaker and you could have heard a pin drop as she spoke.

If you live in Lamorinda it’s likely you’ve heard of Kristine Carlson. Best selling author, wife of the late, Dr. Richard Carlson and extraordinary friend and mother.

Kristine and I have several mutual friends, so I knew it was just a matter of time before I met her. It was absolutely worth the wait. She gave me a signed copy of her new book, From Heartbreak to Wholeness: The Hero’s Journey to Joy. I took it home and started reading it. It was full of wisdom and held many answers to my most pressing questions.

Yesterday, I was able to meet with Kris in Walnut Creek. It was miraculous to talk to the author about what she wrote about in her book. In particular unlikely coincidences.

Over the past few years I’ve experienced synchronicities. Most recently, in one day, I had a lunch date with a man named Chris, but my truck wouldn’t start. Chris from road side assistance called to tell me he was on his way. This was confusing because I thought it was the former Chris who I had just spoken to. Later that same day, I attended a party in San Francisco and the home was owned by a man named Chris and the chef was also named Chris. When I broke my arm my orthopedic doctor was named Chris. Then, I meet Kris Carlson. When I told her this story she laughed and said the Universe was playing with me. This was good to know, as I thought I was just going crazy.

I will write more about her book when I’ve finished it. Until then, happy summer.

Love and blessings to all.

“Carlson is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and leader in the field of transformation. After collaborating with her late husband Dr. Richard Carlson to create a publishing industry phenomenon with the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff series—selling more than 25 million copies worldwide—today, Kris is emerging as a profound teacher in the areas that matter most to the human heart: how to heal and how to love.

She has been featured on national radio and television, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The View, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Kris’ books, include Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love; Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women; Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms; An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever; and Heartbroken-Open: A Memoir Through Loss to Self Discovery. In her forthcoming book, From Heartbreak to Wholeness: The Hero’s Journey to Joy.”

Moving On

After much consideration, I’ve decided to stop writing my blog and focus my time and energy on other endeavors. I am deeply grateful to the thousands of readers from over 72 countries who have come along with me on this journey. You have helped me to grow through my own experiences and taught me the power of community.  I will miss your comments and constant encouragement. I will continue to write my column for 24/680 News on the topic of women in business.

I want to leave you with these final words.

Courage cannot be attained without experiences that require us to call on our strength. This is how we learn fearlessness. Circumstances that require courage allow us to learn and grow as we test our own inner strength. Often, I wish for the past two years to have never happened and that they could be erased forever from my memory. I think back to the person I was when this began and my happy and mostly carefree life with gratitude. However, without my trials and tribulations and meeting them head-on I would not have attained the fearlessness I have now. It has not been easy, yet it has made me as strong and brilliant as a diamond set in spun gold.

Only through fearful circumstances can we learn to build and strengthen our courage. Now, there is nothing that I am afraid of and for that I am very grateful.

I am looking forward to the next chapter and it’s here.

Love and blessings to all.

Love Songs

Since I started the side hustle(s) I’ve worked almost everyday. Since the work is fun, and gets me out of both the house and my head, I’ve excepted more work than I should have.

I worked eight days straight and then spent my day off meeting with the nonprofit I sponsor (Sailing Initiative) and doing more work. I then stayed at the Yacht Club drinking wine with my friends Fran and Betty. Then, upon returning home I ended up talking to my cousin on the phone until midnight further exhausting myself.

I knew I was in need of a break, so I took a few days off to go to Truckee to rest and clear my head.

In the kitchen where I work they play love songs all day long. This has had an adverse impact on me making me think long and hard about my late husband and our twenty five years together. It’s easy to forget so many things in a long term relationship, but trust me there is a love song to go with each and every phase to jog your memory.

My late husband and I were next door neighbors, and he worked in Oakland and I worked in San Francisco. He would drive me to BART because he didn’t want me to get my feet wet. Yes, I wore Italian suede shoes, but it was unlikely my feet would get wet living in drought ridden Northern California. Nevertheless, he dropped me off and picked me up every day. I hope to one day meet someone who will love me like that again.

Last night, in Truckee I picked wild flowers from around our home, and took a Coors Light (this is what we drank in our 20’s) down to Lake Tahoe and sat with our dog Polly near where we sprinkled his ashes.

Then I drove back to our cabin and sat on the deck and watched the sun go down like I’ve done a thousand times before.

Peaceful. Grateful. Letting go.

Love and blessings to all.

Going It Alone

I’ve had a good deal of endings and many loses over the past 22 months. I often tell myself that it won’t last forever. This feeling of vulnerability, constant change and upheaval. I remind myself that the past always informs the future. I’ve had so many successes that my future will likely be full of the same.

At 22 I worked for the Senate, by 24 I ran my own ballot measure campaign, at 25 I was a Systems Analyst, at 26 I was a Product Manager in electronic banking, at 27 the Communications Manager for the Northwest, then a Channel Manager in mobile, a Marketing Director in software, and had a successful consulting career South of Market in tech working for four start ups.

I married the man of my dreams and bought my first home before thirty. I had two beautiful daughters. My paintings have hung in galleries and I’ve written three books.

That was my past. A beautiful past. The future is now undetermined, and I bring to it my hard won experience, talent and determination.

The past always informs the future, and I’m planning on it being even better than I can imagine.

Love and blessings to all.

The Side Hustle

At a recent investor pitch meeting, the speaker mentioned her side hustle. I hadn’t heard this term before, but every entrepreneur from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs had a side hustle on their way to success. Later at the reception I found many entrepreneurs have side hustles. These are typically wildly different from the main hustle.

As the English say, “a change is as good as a rest.”

On my way home I thought about this a great deal as I’ve many expensive and frustrating experiences with my main hustle (Ocean SF). I felt intuitively that I needed to stop what I was doing and find a side hustle. I needed a change of scenery and I needed new people in my life. And I wanted that right away.

The next day, I started looking for a side gig. I spend a lot of time behind a computer, so I needed something where I could meet new people and not have to sit at a desk. I saw an advertisement for the family run Treasure Island Festival and applied. Later, I learned my boss picked only two names out of a list of hundreds. Four days later I was on Treasure Island with my new boss surrounded by amazing food, music and art.

I enjoy young people and am used to them from my ski instructor and sailing experiences, but nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead. I met so many artist and entrepreneurs and was offered half a dozen other jobs. As it turns out I was good at directing traffic and telling people what to do. I even had a two way radio.

My Treasure Island job was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and it helped me find my second side gig which has been amazingly enjoyable as well, and has given me great insight into some of my most pressing Ocean SF production issues.

I’ve already made new friends and have a steady stream of lucrative work when I need money or a distraction from my own often stressful main hustle.

It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Meeting new people and sharing new experiences is good for the soul.

I also think there is a little luck involved and as everyone knows, I pray every morning, and am often blessed in unusual ways. In no way has this been more true than now.

Love and blessings to all.

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.