25th and Harrison

The rain soaked days I spent in Corvallis at Oregon State University were some of the happiest of my life.

Looking back now I know that the people that shaped me the most lived in that house on the corner of 25th and Harrison. People can say what they like about sororities, but what they taught me there has stayed with me my entire life.

The number one rule in our house was that you never disparage a sister. We were not allowed to talk smack about each other. It was simply not done. This created an atmosphere of harmony that allowed sixty girls to live happily and peacefully together.

We were also required to be ladies at our fraternity functions and if we were not we got a chat on the back porch by our President.

What the Alpha Phi’s cared about the most, however, were the academics. Our chapter had been number one in grades for many years. When I was going through rush I chose Alpha Phi for this very reason. I was terrified of flunking out and ending up back where I had come from. Freshman had mandatory study tables and every test that Oregon State had ever administered was in our study files in a filing cabinet called the vault. Tests were never allowed to be removed from the tiny room where the vault was located. This room in the basement was called the dungeon and had a 24 hour quiet rule.

The senior class the year I was a freshmen was comprised of the most lovely and intelligent group of women I have ever met before or since. They would play their flutes and violins together on the third floor and the music floated down the street and could be heard blocks away as I walked down fraternity row in the late afternoon light. When these women graduated they went on to become doctors, lawyers and leaders of all kinds. On the other hand, my pledge class was full of a group of Catholic girls who were wicked smart, and also a ton of fun. I think we were a bit of a disappointment to the upper classman, but they worked with us, and we had our fun and still got good grades.

The Alpha Phi’s had high standards and I fell quickly into line. Because of them I was on the Dean’s list eight times. They gave me my first lesson in work life balance teaching me that it was possible to work hard and also have fun. Through the four years that I lived among them I developed compassion, integrity, a strong work ethic combined with self discipline, and the ability to work within a group for the collective good. But more than anything else, my years in the Alpha Phi house taught me to treat other people with kindness, love and respect.

Alpha Phi was an excellent fit for me from the start and the friends I made there are more than friends they really are sisters.

When my older daughter had to write a letter to the society she joined at college she wrote about growing up with my sorority sisters and their children and she wanted that experience for herself.

The love and support of my sorority sisters shaped me in so many positive ways and made me the woman I am today.

This past weekend I traveled home to Portland for our annual holiday brunch. It was no surprise to anyone that my big sis and I had gathered a group of friends to go downtown the night before. I was blessed to have two of my sisters travel with me and to be able to spend time with my dear friend Maureen and celebrate my birthday.

Needless to say it was a whirlwind trip. When I returned home and had time to reflect on the weekend what was most interesting to me was that nothing had changed and absolutely everything had changed. In my mind, my sisters were still young women, but they were also mothers and wives and CFO’s. I can say that the young girl was not completely gone, she was still very much present. It was beyond endearing to see eyes light up and the girl appear when we talked about old boyfriends and those few short years we spent together when everything was ahead of us and nothing behind.

You can’t go back in time, but you can take the time to reconnect.

Love and blessings to all.

Basketball, Change & Forward Motion

Austin Clarke (center) San Francisco, California

Recently, I’ve been sitting in the stands watching our family friend play college basketball. Austin Clarke, also known as “Aussie” is Marty Clarke’s son. Marty coached the St. Mary’s basketball team and Austin moved across the world from Australia with his family to play for Camplindo High School.

While waiting for the team to warm up I thought about the first time I watched Austin play basketball. Camplindo was in the championship games that year and I sat in the stands with my daughter. I was a different person then. I was married and for lack of a better term a “house wife,” although I had a small marketing company and did many websites and newsletters, I never failed to get dinner on the table and the laundry done. My work and personal interests came dead last in my daily list of priorities.

The next time I saw Austin on a basketball court was at Cal. I sat in the stands with my daughter, and Austin’s family. I was a recent widow. My heart was still broken and I watched the game as if in slow motion. The team ran from one side of the court to the other as if in a time delay. Austin, as was fitting for this period, was injured and on the bench. Even though he didn’t play his sunny smile never faltered.

Two years later, I’m sitting peacefully in the auditorium at Sonoma State watching Austin’s team play San Francisco State. They win easily by 20 points. Austin shoots three pointers elegantly into the basket as his High School coach looks on. I’m by myself this time as my daughter is away at college now and Austin’s family has since returned to Australia. Austin was in the Bay Area with his team from Southern California playing in a tournament.

I’m a completely different person now. My company is getting ready to launch, my children will soon both be in college, I rarely cook dinner, the kids do their own laundry. I’m on the cusp of so many good things that I can hardly sleep at night. My family is happy and everyone is in forward motion.

It’s true that nothing stays the same. Change is the only constant. Except for Austin. He’s simply always been a joy to watch.

Love and blessings to all.

Each Precious Moment

I came home last night to find my daughter watching a movie with a friend. I sat down with them and looked at them. My daughter lying on the sofa in dark flannel pajamas. Her friend in a grey T-shirt with her shiny hair in a low bun. We talked about colleges, next year, and their futures.

I enjoyed watching them, the way the light of the lamp pooled around them, the relaxed way that only childhood friends can sit together. The way their hair fell around their faces in the soft light. Their musical laughter. I sat in a chair next to them, with my legs crossed, just watching them.

As this chapter of my life winds down I realize these are the most ordinary and precious of moments. I’m feeling a good deal of grief now in a way I didn’t before. The beginning of my journey felt much more like something to be endured, but this smacks of pure surrender. It’s not easy to surrender as we all cling steadfastly to what is most familiar.

As an optimist, I am accepting the natural progression of my life, and looking forward to the changes ahead. I am with intention letting go of my old life, and way of doing things, and allowing the new to unfold. Simultaneously, I am treasuring these moments before my last child is off to college, and I myself move on and into uncharted waters.

Over the weekend I had dinner with an old friend. We had met when our children were babies and clocked many hours in the sandbox, at dance recitals, on the soccer field, and at the country club. We talked about how much we appreciated each other and how we had enriched each other’s lives. It was enough to sit together and simply be grateful.

We never know when the last time we will see someone. I remember my husband the day before he died. He’d been in a golf tournament and rushed to Palo Alto to watch our daughter play the championship soccer game at 4 o’clock that Sunday afternoon. He was standing under the eucalyptus trees wearing plaid golf shorts and a white golf shirt. Tan, fit and healthy. He looked up at me and smiled.

I never saw him again.

Recently, I’ve been asked what I like to do for fun. Does sitting with people I love and enjoying each precious moment count?

I think it does.

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.”

Building A Business

I’ve been watching people read my sleeping blog. A place I poured my heart into for two years while building Oceans SF.

I broke my arm a few days after announcing I would no longer write my blog. I’ve been working for other entrepreneurs and dating and as temping as it was/is to write about these endeavors it’s not really ethical. Plus, after the break I couldn’t type at all.

My attorney tells me my friends and family know I’m a lifestyle writer so they are aware they can land on my pages at any time. I always read my posts to my kids before publishing, and ask their permission first and in every way try to be considerate of the privacy of others while maintaining my own authenticity.

For my friends and business associates as forewarned as they are, I am as cognizant of the power of my words, and understand when you have 80,000 hits in 72 countries what you say has meaning.

Recently, I’ve watched my analytics with interest; Canada, France, Brazil, Jamaica, Spain, Australia and can’t believe I’ve given up something I’ve loved so dearly. What’s nice about my website is I can pick it up whenever I choose because it’s something I’ve built and own.

I love writing my 24/680 News Column as well, but I do have editors and they choose my titles and weigh in on my content, but mostly are my biggest fans.

Ocean SF has recently been funded, due to investors who found my company through my writing and hard work in promoting my company and brand day in and day out for the last several years. I’m busy working behind the scenes with some amazing people on that. Ocean SF is also something I’ve built and can cultivate as I choose.

I saw off my friends to the Pacific Cup Race to Hawaii at the St. Francis Yacht Club last week. They took my apparel to really prove it at sea. It’s been sold into some of the most prestigious yacht clubs in the world now and I’m excited to have my products in stores this fall. It’s also gratifying after so much hard work, time and energy to finally have my company up and running.

I’ve also picked up some independent consulting work as I roll off of my enjoyable, but seasonal catering side hustle. It was a gift to learn from so many hard working and dedicated entrepreneurs. It takes commitment and dedication to be successful and I will implement what I’ve learned over the past six months as I continue to build my brand, business, and team.

It’s interesting that my most popular post recently has been Love & Money as I feel that to be truly successful one must have love and this is in direct proportion to the monetary rewards of life. This is just my own observation of course, but I’ve noticed that loving your life, the people around you, and being both generous and kind brings countless blessings and rewards, many of them financial.

I’ve certainly found this to be true recently as I’ve decided to center my attention on my family, friends and the work and people I love most.

I’ve had some hard lessons this summer. My business had some ups and downs and I almost gave up on it. I broke my arm for the second year in a row on Father’s Day and have been in a good deal of pain. I compounded this by dropping an iron umbrella stand on my other hand.

Yet, my friends and family have surrounded me with love and I’ve truly surrendered to my circumstances and because of this, I’ve actually had a really wonderful summer with the added bonus of some spectacular business success.

From working in the kitchen at the catering company I’ve developed an interest in making cakes. I’m a horrendous baker historically, but I actually adore making birthday cakes. I’ve made four over the past few weeks for milestone birthdays and just ordered my professional baking supplies so I can make bigger and better cakes in the future. I absolutely love doing this for the people I love.

As I’ve said before, it’s not what I would have expected, but nevertheless joy.

Love and blessings to all.

More on The Side Hustle

Like all hard workers, I’ve been offered several jobs through my side hustles and opportunities to move up and work full time if I would like. However, my dream of sustainable outdoor apparel continues to pull me. I have children to support, so I’m weighing my options.

Additionally, because of my experience and understanding of both technology and marketing communications, I’ve been contacted by companies far and wide. These are not side hustles, but very full time career type positions mostly in the Silicon Valley.

Recently, Facebook in Menlo Park called me for a marketing content specialist role. It’s tempting. More than tempting.

I’m drawn to my own endeavors and using my creativity, but I’m the sole parent now with two children to get through college. As my business partner said when he resigned, “it was indeed fun” although I will miss hanging out with him, I thought of it as work.

It’s been enjoyable having both my own business and working for other entrepreneurs simultaneously. I’ve loved my co-workers and doing new things. It’s been very enlightening watching how hard the business owners work. They pitch in and do everything. Today, I was making cookies at the catering company. This is alarming news for anyone who knows me well, as I am a notoriously bad baker. Not to worry, I was only rolling the dough into balls and then brown sugar for my co-worker to bake. Please don’t ask me who’s private jet they were for, as I’m not allowed to say, but it is testament to what a truly exceptional company this is. The food is made from the most beautiful ingredients and expertly executed. I would not have missed this experience for the world as it’s been amazingly interesting and has inspired me to cook again. But, most importantly, it has taught me what to expect from those around me in terms of effort.

My days are full and busy, but its time to think long and hard about my own future and how to proceed in a way that will allow me to care for and protect myself and my children.

I always follow my heart, but I need to go inward and think carefully about my next steps. I trust myself, and know I will make the right decisions.

Love and blessings to all.

Kids, Love & Food

I have a bad habit of spoiling the ones I love. I do this in many ways, but in no way is it more obvious then in how I cook for the people I absolutley adore.

No matter how tired I am, or what I am doing, I always find time to drop everything and make something amazing for one or the other of my daughters. All they have to do is look at me and tell me they’re hungry and I go running off to the kitchen like they were four years old (I once did this for my late husband as well).

Today, felt like a Sunday, and we had all eaten a very late lunch, so no one was interested in dinner, my older daughter went out, but as eight o’clock rolled around my younger daughter, who had been studying all day for the SAT gave me that sad look and told me she was hungry.

I’ve made these little pizza’s before and they are a favorite. So, this is what I made for her. I took the picture above and wanted to share this very easy and quick recipe with you.

Mediterranean Pizza

1 pita

1 onze pesto (this was actually a chimichurri sauce, but I’ve used both)

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup mixed spinach, chard and kale

5 kalamata olives

2 cherry tomatoes halved

Salt and pepper

The first thing you do is pull out a frozen pita (Costco) and put it immediately in the oven on the rack with a cookie sheet under it at 400 degrees. This helps it defrost. Then I put a pan on the stove to preheat turning it on high (my stove is slow to heat up so adjust as needed). I use a nonstick pan. I gather the other ingredients while everything is heating up.

Then, I pull the pita out of the oven and spread the pesto lightly. I always do sauces on the light side, but give the kids some on the side for dipping. I then add the cheese and let the cheese melt. I usually cut up some fruit at this time because it’s a good time to get, said child, to actually eat it.

I know she’s seventeen, but I still care and worry about her. So, tonight she had strawberries and ate them all.

While the cheese in melting, and before the pan gets too hot, I add the eggs and cook them over easy. I make one for the dog (I can’t help it I love the dog as well) and the dog is now eleven so what is the harm at this point in giving her people food?

I keep an eye on the bread and when the cheese has melted (7-10 minutes depending on your oven) I pull it out. At this point I cut it into four triangles for ease in eating. I put the salad mixture on top, add the olives and tomatoes and top with the egg. I always plate with salt and pepper, but not all humans like this I’ve found, so do what works for your loved ones.

This process literally takes so little time and it delights my children beyond what you might expect. I also make it with fig jam, Brie and arugula which with friends over is a very welcome snack.

Love and blessings to all.

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Dedication, Hard Work & Commitment

I love Maya Angelou for her wisdom and many fine quotes like this one. As an entrepreneur and having worked in many start ups and entrepreneurial ventures I can attest to the truth of her words.

Starting companies like all good adventures are enjoyable at the start. There are lots of meetings and brainstorming sessions and excitement, but meetings are not the real work of a company. They are just a small part. For Ocean SF the real work is behind the scenes. Buying the thread, reinforcing the pockets, shipping the merchandise, making the labels, driving to the bank and depositing money to keep the website up, managing the invoices and finances, working on the nonprofit, showing up to pick up garbage with twenty other people on a Saturday morning and taking 2,000 photos in the freezing cold to get that one great shot. Or, having hard conversations with co-workers, suppliers and contractors that make you unpopular. We can’t always be liked in business. Sometimes it’s necessary to be direct and factual to get things done. Yes, everyone wants to always be the nice guy, but this can be an expensive luxury.

Having a solid work ethic and showing up is 90% of being successful. Without the hard work, dedication and commitment it is only talk.

Another favorite quote of mine from Maya Angelou is, “When people show you who they are listen.”

Love and blessings to all.

Commitment Is Freedom

I’ve had a stressful week with the news of my Ocean SF partner resigning on Tuesday, but luckily it’s been another peaceful weekend.

I love living in the Bay Area. There is nothing more beautiful than San Francisco Bay. The azure water, the beautiful San Francisco skyline, and the many Islands and coves from Richmond to Redwood City never cease to fascinate me.

The way the sunlight plays on the water, the combination of the working harbor, and the recreational sailboats that go by proves the multi-cultured diverse ecosystem that is my home.

I spend a great deal of time on the Bay and recently on Treasure Island, but it is ever changing and never the same from one day to the next. It is always a different experience due to the dramatic role the weather plays.

Being on the water for the Friday Night sailboat races and then on Treasure Island for the Treasure Festival is in my opinion the epitome of bliss.

I especially enjoy spending time with my Treasure Festival boss Chaz. It was nice to have another entrepreneur to talk with about Ocean SF and the challenges ahead. Plus, I am treated so well there. I came home with arm loads of flowers, desserts and more food than I can eat in a week.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about commitment. As someone who values freedom above all else this is an unusual train of thought for me.

For many years of married life I found this deep commitment liberating, because I could focus on my career, and other interests knowing I had support and love to back me up every step of the way. My late husband supported everything I did. It made going out into the world that much easier.

It was during this time that I was the most successful in my career, my watercolor paintings hung in galleries, and he constantly encouraged me to write. He read everything I wrote and would tell me that if he could write like I could that he wouldn’t do anything else (he was a very fine writer as well I might add).

Because of this idea, I committed to Ocean SF 100% from the start. It’s been my baby and number one priority apart from my kids for the past two years. I’ve literally loved it into existence. Now, even people I don’t know have heard of Ocean SF. I’ve devoted myself 100% to promoting it on all platforms and it’s starting to pay off.

I feel so blessed to have had the resources to commit to Ocean SF full time for so long. I look forward to working with others who have deep roots and decades of experience in the retail industry who have committed to helping me to finally bring my vision to fruition.

Today, I committed to staying at my side hustle for an entire year, the last weekend of every month. My boss and I will meet monthly and talk about entrepreneurship and my Ocean SF progress. These conversations which will include all of the details of the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur will make a wonderful book for other entrepreneurs to learn from.

Commitment is freedom.

Love and blessings to all.