Loving Everything

Recently, I’ve been trying to pin point the happiest times of my life. It’s almost like connecting the constellations of the stars with a dotted line.

After some reflection, I finally realized the periods when I was the most content and when things were most effortless were when I loved the hell out of everyone and everything.

The summer I spent in Vancouver, British Columbia after my first year of college, the year I moved to San Francisco and met my husband, or the year after I had my first baby, and worked South of Market for the French Google Founders. There were also, the years that my kids remember when I wore pink cargo pants and told everyone how much I loved them. I tutored reading at the elementary school then, and instead of forcing the children to read I would ask them what their favorite color was and talk to them. After school, I would invite a dozen kids to my house to swim or we would make homemade pasta or decorate cupcakes with pink frosting in paper pastry bags with metal tips.

It was during these times when good things just fell into my lap as if by magic.

Over the last few years, I’ve not been so open and loving. I’ve kept to myself more, surrounding myself with just a small, or small for me, circle.

Lately, however, I’ve been more like I once was. Open, loving and optimistic. I let people know how I feel, and how much I appreciate them and I don’t assume they already know.

Because I’m more content internally, I’m willing to let things evolve naturally. I’ve calmed my need to control the uncontrollable. I still do my best of course, but I allow myself to believe it will all turn out for the best no matter what happens.

Maybe happiness is not as illusive as it appears, and love really is the answer. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Love and blessings.

Sailboat Races & The Corinthian Yacht Club

My business partner was racing today, and in 30 plus knots of wind, I might add. So we went to the Corinthian Yacht Club in Belvedere, California to meet him. This is a stunning place all around. I walked upstairs and there was no one around except a man drinking a margarita and talking on the phone. I took a seat and we both looked out over the San Francisco Bay. There were maybe 100 people in the bar and deck below, but it was supremely peaceful and comparatively quiet on the second floor.

Sailing has become my life. Not just the sailing, but the lifestyle and the people. After the Corinthian, on the way home we stopped to put the tags on the boat, however the wind made this task better for another day.

I went into the clubhouse and there was a Jazz band playing. Several friends were there, so I joined them. The jazz band played on as the winter sun slowly set over the San Francisco Bay.

Love and Blessings.

Love

Midwinter

Happy belated Valentine’s Day. I apologize for my recent lapse in writing. I’ve been writing a book titled Love and Blessings and it will soon be available on Amazon. It is a collection of writings from my journey. It chronicles the 12 months after the sudden death of my husband with an epilog at the end.

I often wondered why there were so few grief books and now I know. Once we pass through those difficult days the last thing we want to do is relive them, and you can not write about them without reliving them. However, I have been encouraged by so many people to do this, so I’ve taken the past six weeks and I’ve worked very hard on it. If it helps just one person than it will be worth it to me.

But, the book is not just about grieving, although it does cover a good deal of that, it is about using the challenges in life to strengthen our own character and to become better people through our suffering. If we do not do this then the sufferings is of no value.

Being a highly sensitive person who likes to think about things, the experience of this loss provided so many lessons that allowed me to grow. It has enabled me to deepen my wisdom.

Things that in the past I once thought difficult come to me now with ease. I am finally the person I always hoped to be. I feel incredibly fearless and this courage is not something I needed to develop to help me deal with further challenges, but this characteristic is helpful in achieving my dreams. I am confident that I can overcome the many obstacles that present themselves as I continue to pursue the things I love.

No one gets through life unscathed. We all have our heart aches. I am fortunate that mine are now far behind me and I can look toward the future with optimism.

I spent the past weekend at the San Fransisco Bay Midwinter Yacht Race. I was on the Mark Set Boat for the Berkeley Yacht Club where I am a member of the Race Committee. We were setting the marks for the race course. It was stormy with high winds and it could not have been more fun for me. I love the beauty of the water, the people and the competition. It has taken a long while for me to be in this place of happiness and calm and it didn’t just happen. I worked very hard at it and it took all of my faith and courage.

Now, I am doing meaningful work I love, I have a sport that I love, and I have so many people in my life to love.

A few days ago, I took the time to send friends text messages telling them how much I loved and appreciated them. The responses were more meaningful than I could have imagined. Then, I followed them up with Valentine’s Day messages. Gestures of appreciation, kindness and love are never a bad thing.

Last night for Valentine’s Day, my bf gave me a 17″ vintage replica model sailboat instead of flowers. That and red velvet and chocolate cupcakes surpassed any expectations I might have had. A perfect day with many more to come.

Love and blessings.

Moon Lit Path

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with my business partner, at our Santa Cruz 27 sailboat. I’m writing a book about my painful, although transformative first year of widowhood, making this meeting a welcome distraction.

Initially, we had little wind, but we put up the sails anyway, and as happens in life, the simple act of doing this somehow resulted in the wind picking up. It’s been a long time since I’ve rigged a boat to sail, usually the boat is ready when I arrive, so, it was nice to go through the motions of setting the lines, and raising the sail, especially since this is my own boat.

When we got out on the Bay we had the perfect circumstances for a sail and we headed north toward Tiburon at a fairly rapid pace. We listened to music and talked about all that we had accomplished over the past year. Our company Ocean SF is on track to have a very profitable year, our nonprofit The Trident Project has a year of events and activities planned, and our sailboat participated in her first race. Albatross, Andrews company, has had month over month of record sales, and my blog has a loyal following.

The book that I’m writing is my personal story about being strengthened by tragedy. The journey I’ve had is one of transformation. Undoubtedly, we are all transformed by our experiences. The choice is then ours to decide if it will be for the negative or the positive.

I’ve been reading my journals from the past eighteen months. It’s been anything, but easy, I only wish I could go back in time and reassure myself that everything would be alright, because I was full of so much fear. What I noticed most, however, was that although I was fearful I walked straight into that fear.

One of the authors I read during this time was Danielle Laporte, and one of her famous quotes is:

“Your life unfolds in proportion to your courage.”

As I sat on my sailboat I reflected on my courage and resilience, and the adversity that has brought me here to this perfect place of happiness, peace and calm. The word grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

As we headed back to the Berkeley Maria the moon had risen and it lit our path. How fitting, to have a well lit path now after so much darkness.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings to all.

Monthly Event: The Trident Project

Screen Shot 2018-01-03 at 10.04.43 AM

The Trident Project is hosting our first event on Saturday, January 27th.

It’s educational and FREE.  We have only twenty spots left, so sign up now if you would like to join us.

We are partnering with Save The Bay and Latino Outdoors for an educational restoration project (we will be working with plants that are grown to restore marshlands) and then doing a garbage pick up along the shores of San Fransisco Bay.

My younger daughter and I started The Trident Project with Andrew Lacenere in 2016.  In 2018 we began our initiative to do an event once a month.  We are excited to begin in partnership with Save the Bay, which was a favorite of ours during our National Charity League days.

The Trident Project, is a California based 501(c)3 non-profit with a global focus on protecting the ocean.  We host and partner with other groups to provide impact based education and proactive removal of plastics from our waterways and especially our oceans.

Click here to sign up with Eventbrite. To learn more about The Trident Project click here.

We would love to see you at one of our monthly events.

Love and blessings to all.

Cultivating Lemon Trees

When my late husband and I bought our first home in Clayton, California the first thing we did was hire a landscape architect to plant the beautiful backyard we had there.

My husband was a commercial concrete executive, and he told me he could pour me a concrete patio that looked like a Persian rug and he wasn’t kidding.  He ended up designing and building the most gorgeous patio room that I have had ever seen before or since.  It had lights embedded in the stone walls with concrete and stone benches that ran the entire length of the house allowing us to have parties where we could accommodate 100 hundred people.  We did this a few times in the six years we lived there.  Plus, we had our wedding reception there, our first daughters Christening party, and her giant first birthday party there.

It was one of the most beautiful homes I had ever lived in.  We bought it before it was built and picked out the lot, the floor plan, the fixtures, the finishes, tiles and so on.  We moved in and were married six weeks later. We were very happy there of course, and we had a lemon tree.  My first Meyer Lemon tree. It took three years to bear fruit.  I watered it, fertilized it, worried over it, and gave it liquid chelated iron until it’s leaves turned a glossy deep green.  Eventually, it bore fruit.

When we moved to cool Moraga I was at a loss. The roses and lavender I planted withered and died. I could get very little to grow here as the tulle fog from San Fransisco Bay, just 15 miles away, would descend in the summertime in what has been called San Fransisco’s natural air conditioning. Because of this I finally turned to cool weather plants like; azaleas and hydrangeas and beautiful camellias in red, pink and white.  I am able to grow rosemary, mint and thyme and many varieties of annuals; pansies and violas, vinca minor and impatiens. Tomatoes and basil do not thrive here, nor do the five rose bushes I planted long ago.  And, of course I have two beautiful lilac trees as these have been my favorite since I was a little girl growing up on the farm. In Oregon they grow wild on the side of the road, but in California they are fragile, and must be protected and planted in cool locations out of the sun and wind.

We have a large planter off our patio, it’s a focal point of our .75 acre backyard. We planted a Japanese Maple there initially, because that is what my husband had envisioned, we did a lot of gardening together back then, it was one of the interests we both shared and enjoyed doing together.

When Polly our doodle came along she used the entire tree as a chew toy and it eventually ended up in the middle of the yard roots and all.  Our gardener, Jesus, planted it’s chewed remains on the Eastside of the house where it miraculously came back to life and now thrives.  At the time Jesus asked me what I wanted to plant in it’s original place after the Japanese Maple met it’s demise.  Since my husband wasn’t around, I chose another Meyer Lemon tree.  Again, it took years to cultivate. Four years in, we believed it would never thrive.  Then it started to bloom and now it bears hundreds of lemons year round.  I do not exaggerate when I say year round.  I always have lemons. This has been a source of joy for me.

Recently, however, I am beginning to wonder why I would cultivate just lemons almost exclusively over everything else?  Lemons are tart. Lemons are associated with things that don’t work like cars.  I love my lemon tree, but what about strawberries, or raspberries? When I was a kid we had a raspberry bush outside our backdoor, I could walk by and eat them off their branches.  What about lettuce?  I could grow all sorts of vegetables, berries, and even more flowers. My obsession with lemons and making lemonade must end.

I am again beginning to compost and I will start another smaller garden by my pool house, this space gets 4 hours of sunlight and no more, and I will start new traditions and grow and cultivate what is sweet instead of tart.  A metaphor for life.

Plus, I think I want another rabbit.  I miss my rabbit.

Love and Blessings to all.

Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

18 Month Roller Coaster Ride

It’s a societal error to believe that it takes a year to grieve a loss. I believe it to be possibly twice as long.

I am only now starting to begin my days without having my loss be the predominant thought in my mind. There are many layers to a long term marriage that you do not completely understand until it is no more.

If you remain in the shared residence you can move through any room in your house and find this to be true. Even if you have packed up the personal belongings there is beyond that another layer. Like the rings within the trunk of a tree or the sentiment in a rock formation there will never be a time when the marriage is not a part of you. From the art you collected, and the wine you drank, to the file cabinets full of pay stubs and tax records. There are also diplomas, and trophies, and letters in boxes; signed baseballs and scrapbooks to contend with. There are unread books and tennis rackets and random car keys. I let them remain because they are the artifacts of a life, and I hold this space, where my late husband resides, not for myself, but for my children.

Yet, even beyond this, there is another less tangible layer; the table we sat at the country club, or the special grocery store we stopped at on every trip to Tahoe, or the music we listened to, and the movies we watched.

You learn after a time not to notice these things so much, they do eventually recede into the background as new endeavors, people and hobbies fill the spaces left behind.

At the country club I sit at a different table now, I prefer the back left corner with windows overlooking the pool and tennis courts. I bring new friends there, and eat different things; like fish tacos and lamb chops. Or, I go to Napa with different people, and create new memories.

I am dating now, so I am looking at my usual haunts through a new lens. I was at the Legion of Honor, Museum of Fine Art, in San Francisco over the weekend, seeing the Klimt exhibit. We sat outside on the patio in the cool sunshine among the olive trees in the salty air. We had wine with lunch. I’ve been there so many times before, but I had never done that, and it was wonderful.

Undoubtedly, I am moving forward with my own life. However, for me the biggest impact, by far, has been in the area of parenting my fatherless daughters. Typically, in divorce, children have a second parent for emotional and financial support. For better or worse, there is a second sounding board, someone to push against, or disagree with, until a compromise is eventually made. Because it’s just me, I don’t have the luxury of being the tough parent. My parenting must be subtle, protective, and gentle. I am not allowed a bad day, or moments when I am simply short tempered. I have to be soft at all costs while maintaining the necessary parent-child boundaries.

I am the sole guiding force and role model, or as they’ve called me recently, their fearless leader, although, I am fearful at times.

As one who was orphaned in their 20’s I know how important it is to have dependable, reliable, and loving people to lean on. I was blessed with a large extended family. When my mother died I had her five sisters, and my grandmother on speed dial. There was always someone to talk to. If I was ever really lonely, I could pack my bags, head North across the Canadian boarder, and stay with my aunts or one of my 24 first cousins on both coasts, and I often did. I certainly never had to be alone.

My mother’s family is very demonstrative and they never fail to tell me how much they love me, or how beautiful I am, or how talented, or even how proud they are of me. Even my cousins will remind me of what a catch I am.

Of course, they are very clear on the fact that all of these attributes are contributed by our shared side of the family, and they can not stress this enough.

My children are not so lucky however, but what they do have is a network of long term family friends, and a highly engaged and supportive community, as well as their own friends. We are certainly surrounded by love. And for this I am very grateful.

Love and blessings to all.

The Trident Project

In the summer of 2016, with my daughter Siena, now sixteen, and my business partner Andrew Lacenere, we founded The Trident Project, a California based 501(c)3 non-profit with a global focus on protecting our oceans. Our mission is to back programs and endeavors that reverse ocean acidification caused by pollution associated with petroleum based products and their micro particles.

We believed with an organization spanning three generations, we could rapidly help to incite the changes necessary to stop the currently inevitable death of our oceans. Currently we are partnering with several organizations to drive environmental impact worldwide, but in December, we hired a program manager to assist with our grassroots efforts in our communities.

The Trident Project begins locally by hosting our first monthly beach clean up on January 27, 2018 in partnership with Save the Bay.

The monthly beach clean ups in and around San Fransisco will each include an educational component and are perfect for families and groups of friends that would like to spend at least one day per month working toward a better and cleaner future for all of us.

We are using Event Bright to manage our participants and would like to keep our numbers below 50 per event to provide meaning and quality to the educational component. Click here to access your free ticket or to make a donation. To read more about The Trident Project click here.

I’m so excited for 2018 and the meaningful work that I am able to accomplish. Please join me at one of our events.

Love and blessings to all.

Out with the Traditions

For many years, I held tightly to our family traditions. Every holiday resembled the previous one with only slight variations and adjustments. Recently, I’ve begun to question the wisdom of this. It’s as if I believed that by following a predictable routine I could control the uncontrollable. But life doesn’t work like this, it is inherently unpredictable, and often devastating. There is no way to escape this.

Last year, we were in Tahoe doing our predictable holiday routine. All was well, and then an argument erupted over nothing on the gondola, and our Christmas Day tradition of skiing all day splintered into a thousand pieces. Teenage girls are maddening, and for the first time, I refused to cook the holiday traditional dinner. I could not spend two hours pouring my heart into preparing a meal that I felt would go largely unappreciated.

We drove from the the ski resort down to Lake Tahoe in our ski clothes and went to Garwoods and sat in the bar. This was a definite and startling break from the past. It was however, one of the most relaxing and delicious meals I have ever had. We sat by the fire looking out over the snowy lake. Afterward, we walked along the shore of Lake Tahoe, the water was calm and as smooth as a mirror reflecting the pink and blue sky as the sun went down.

This year, we’re in Moraga for Christmas and I decided to leave town and go to Napa for a few days. The fires have adversely impacted the wine industry, and they are hurting. We spent two hours at Darioush with an Italian historian and wine sommelier in the caves below the winery, and then another two hours at Trinchero tasting some of the most beautiful red wine I have ever had. We were the only people there. The sky was overcast, but the club room had a giant fireplace with swivel chairs. They treat you very well there, serving beautiful platters of cured meats and cheeses adorned with quince, nuts and dried fruits with their beautiful wine. They even ended with a lovely dessert wine, and biscotti and egg nog cheese cake. It was possibly one of the most pleasant and enjoyable afternoons of my life.

Maybe traditions are not as important as we have been taught to believe. Living well is an adaptive experience clearly.

This has been a wonderful holiday season, not what I would have expected, and in no way reminiscent of the past, but delightful none the less.

Love and blessings to all.