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.

Gravy

For a long time my mother’s younger brother Basil, or simply “Bas” was the heart of our family.

He had a movie star smile, a warm and loving demeanor and his eyes lit up when he talked to not just me, but everyone else. When he hugged you and told you he really had missed you, and was so happy to see you, there was no question that it was 1,000 percent true. I would like to think that I was special to him and undoubtedly I was, yet I always had the sense that he loved us all the same. Now, looking back, I think he did.

When I was a little girl he had a small farm in Langley, British Columbia. It had a quaint little house with a guest room that my sister and I shared. My Aunt Debra was an excellent homemaker and her home was always spotless. When we came to visit she would take pains to make sure her refrigerator was stocked and everyone was comfortable. Our sunny bedroom would be ready with the bed covered in warm cotton quilts.

In the morning, Bas would make everyone breakfast. Bas liked to put blackberry jam on his eggs and this alone was an amazement to us. After breakfast he would take my sister and I to the auction in town. In those days everyone spoke French in Canada even the auctionaire. There would be the smell of chickens and cows and hay in the air.

Later, as Basil became more and more successful, as everyone knew he would, he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. I would often visit as a teenager. My aunts and uncles would take my friends and I to concerts and we would all go out dancing, and have giant family dinners. My other aunts and uncles were near-by and we spent time with them and my many cousins. When I was in college I spent a summer working for him in his commercial printing business. We became not just family, but friends. These were what we would later refer to as the “golden” years.

When I was in my mid-twenties and living in San Francisco, Basil was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our family gathered around him, but there was nothing anyone could do and he died at the age of forty two.

Heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe his passing from our lives, but the worst part was after his death our family scattered in all directions.

Gone were the sunny days on his Chris Craft boat playing backgammon on Horseshoe Bay, the nights dancing and laughing at the Sneaky Pete’s nightclub downtown, or the extravagant dinners in Gas Town. There were no more family dinners where we pushed the furniture against the walls and we all got up and danced.

Before he died I went to see him. We sat in his cheerful living room together. The brain is a funny thing, and because of the tumor he would get lost in time, alternately seeing me as a child, then he would remember I was all grown up. This went on all day long. Back and forth through time and the many days we had spent together. One morning, he was talking about gravy and how much he loved to make gravy, and how important it was to do it right.

He always addressed me by my baby name and called me “Sis” as did all of my extended family. He explained to me in great detail how to make gravy. As an auditory learner I committed his words to memory.

When the time came for me to host my first thanksgiving dinner I stood at the stove and could hear his deep kind voice instructing me in my mind as I worked.

“Sis, there must be absolutely no lumps. You cannot take your eyes off of it for a second.” And so on. It came out silky smooth and perfectly seasoned. Delicious. From that day forward I make the gravy wherever I am whether I’m cooking or not. I am now known as the gravy maker.

You will find me on Thursday making the gravy. Uncle Basil will be with me in spirit as I slowly heat the liquid in the roasting pan and mix the flour and water separately. I will add the mixture slowly, all the while using just a simple fork to stir until the gravy is silky and smooth, and I will not for one second take my eyes from the pan.

Love and blessings to all.

Me and Uncle Basil 1982

Brave

My father went to Vietnam with the first ground troop stationed in Da Nang. He ran search and rescue operations pulling artillery and the wounded from behind enemy lines. He was also a cartographer (the study and practice of making maps) in Korea. He parachuted into enemy territory and created models and drawings of the topography.

He holds a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He earned his masters degree in International Relations from Georgetown University, and served our country for twenty-five years.

He was also a wonderful father. Funny, intelligent and kind. He loved clothes. When I was a little girl he worked in London and had his suits made there. He wore crisp white shirts with gold cuff links and a grey flannel top coat and beautiful shoes. He was also a painter, and his paintings graced my childhood home, and now hang in our Truckee cabin.

My girls and I share many of his personal attributes and interests. We all gravitate toward art, culture, clothes and the outdoors.

As I overcome the many obstacles along my path to following my dreams I often think of him. I remind my daughters and myself to be courageous and fearless. I remember him telling me to be brave and never back down, but to watch out for number one. I’ve worked very hard to impart this to my children and model this behavior.

I was talking to my youngest daughter today about choosing a college and the anxiety associated with the many choices and changes we face right now as a family. I advised her to be fearless. Compared to the wars her Grandfather saw, this is nothing, but life of course is relative.

Step into your courage, I advised her with a smile beneath a smile, and I know she will. The apple rarely falls far from the tree.

Love and blessings.

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.

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.”

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.

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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