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.

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.

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.

Five & 1/2 Hours Away

While I was driving over the beautiful Bay Bridge last week, I got the dreaded phone call. My daughters typically text me before calling, so a random phone call usually spells a car accident, or stomach flu type of emergency.

I think I always knew this call would come, because I pushed for my daughter to choose a college I could drive to in a reasonable amount of time. And, I got my way.

She blacked out in the shower and split her head open hitting the tile floor, she told me. I could picture the cool green tiles of the college dorm shower with the white grouting, the textured glass door, and the running water as she lay there unconscious.

“I’ll be right there,” I said calmly. I drove home and threw my clothes in the car. I arrived in Los Angeles at 10 p.m. and stayed for five days.

She looked pale, tired and scared. She was bruised and had butterfly stitches on the wound that ran through her right eye brow.

Three trips to the doctor for tests, some loving attention and she began to stabilize and look like herself again. Her skin again turned creamy and pink. Her blue-green eyes sparkled when she laughed. I followed her everywhere, and walked her to class. I had dinner in the student cafeteria with her friends.

She studied, and I worked on my laptop and had meetings with my pattern maker and production team in the nearby garment district.

I did her laundry and mopped her dorm room floor washing the blood away. Then, I brought her home with me. We drove through the Central Valley together. The valley is beautiful, with an intricate weather system and clouds that come in every color of the rainbow, and in countless shapes and sizes.

We played music. She slept. We talked. We’ve not been this close since she was in grade school.

Her doctor has referred her to a Cardiologist because of her medical history. We are hopeful all will be well.

As we drove through the Central Valley we encountered isolated storms. It would rain, and then the sun would come out. If you take the time to look, you will find there is always a rainbow. Always.

Love and blessings.

One More Day

After realizing that the other mothers weren’t lying about enjoying their days at home with their babies, I came to the conclusion that I was overdoing it a bit.

While my friends sat on their sofas yawning with their babies in their arms, and piles of unfolded laundry and dishes in the sink, I was out washing my car with my baby in her car seat. I even bought a lawn mower, assembled it myself, and mowed the lawn, so my husband didn’t have to do it.

I made my own fresh baby food. See the hand grinder on the table in the photo above? A handy invention, but I also made it in bulk in my food processor and froze it in ice cube trays.

If I had to do it again, I would do less and enjoy it more. I thought of what I was doing as a duty and turned it into a job. Motherhood is not a job, it’s not even the toughest job in the world as people often say. Motherhood is a spiritual activity. It takes from you nothing short of everything, and changes you in ways that can not be described. Even if you have a second child, and think it will be the same, it is a completely different experience the second time around.

My friend, Jennifer, used to say to me, you’re almost out of the woods: almost out of diapers, almost into preschool, almost into high school, almost able to drive, and now almost into college.

I did a guided meditation of walking through the woods. In this meditation I was in an alpine forest. This was no surprise, as I’ve spent so much time in recent years in the Tahoe basin. In my mind, I could see the pine trees covered and sparkling in snow. I find a stream and follow it down the mountain.

Had I just done this sooner, things would have been decidedly different and much more pleasant. But, I thought motherhood was more of a lesson in sacrifice than love. I spent a good deal of time wondering aimlessly in the forest, focusing on things that didn’t matter (although I still believe keeping a comfortable and well ordered home is worth doing).

However, we don’t know what we don’t know and once these lessons are learned, we are past the point of benefiting from our own, hard won, wisdom.

Once in a while, in a flash of nostalgia, I will remember holding one of my infant daughters in my arms. People often talk about how babies smell, but what I remember most is how they felt. The weight and warmth of their bodies. What I would give to have just one more day with my precious baby again.

We can’t go back in time, we can only look at the woman we raised and remember the innocent girl, and the tiny baby, she once was.

Love and blessings.

A Long Line Of Irish Beauty Queens

My uncle used to call my mother and her five sisters “frustrated actresses” meaning they were all capable of being movie stars, but decided to be mothers and housewives instead. And it was true they were the most beautiful group of raven haired blue-green eyed beauties you could ever hope to encounter.

Black Irish is the term used for this combination of fair skin, dark hair and light eyes that they all shared.

As a result of this genetic good fortune I grew up around women who kept their mirrors and makeup in their kitchen pantries. I myself was a tree climbing tomboy, but I would sit and watch my mother paint her nails and put on her makeup with a lighted mirror at the kitchen table. The makeup alone took one hour. The hair another hour. Nails another hour. She never left the house looking anything less than flawless.

As for myself, I don’t have this kind of time. But, I benefited from their knowledge and have devised a beauty routine that takes about ten minutes.

Today, I’m sharing this wisdom in memory of my Irish relatives and the beautiful women I grew up with.

Hair:

I wash my hair, spray it with a shine product, and twist it into a bun. In about an hour, I take it down and it is wavy and shiny. I rarely use a hair dryer or heat on my hair.

Makeup:

I do my makeup in the car at the stoplights. And this is what I use:

  • Maybelline, Fit Me Foundation, in Classic Ivory, SPF 18. This is good stuff.
  • Chanel, Healthy Glow Sheer Color Powder, #20. I don’t know what’s in this, but it’s awesome.
  • Chanel, Powder Blush, 72 Rose Initial. Perfect light pink. Love it.
  • Revlon, Color Stay, #30. They are not kidding when they call this color stay. I put it on once a day.
  • Chanel, Rouge Allure, Create #142. Love the color, but it doesn’t last as long.
  • Chanel, Rouge CoCo Shine. In Monte Carlo #62 and Adventure #57. The long wearing lipstick dries your lips, so these sheer hydrating lipsticks are nice to touch up with.
  • Essie, Ballet Slippers. A classic white for hands and toes. Perfect sheer coverage.
  • Jo Malone, English Pear & Freesia. I wear this in winter. It’s a very warm floral. In summer I wear Grapefruit and Lime-Basil in the same brand. In the shower I use the Pomegranate Noire bar soap.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Birthday to my beloved and beautiful Auntie Pat.

Love and Blessings.