Surgery & The Northern California Fires

I knew there was a problem when I went to bed on Sunday night. I saw the report on my iPad that there was a small fire in Napa. The wind was howling outside, and I could hear my beautiful Birch trees hitting my house and windows.

The wind was also tapping the blinds against the windows down the hall. Even though, it was a warm night, I walked around the house closing all the windows. 

I remembered, my market umbrella was up, and I went outside to close it. Later, as the winds picked up further, I went back into the darkness and pulled the entire umbrella out of the table and left it on the patio.

By morning, smoke was in the air, and my pool was full of branches. However, I had other things to worry about because my daughter was having knee surgery the next day. 

I called the surgeon and asked if I could pick up the prescriptions that day, so I wouldn’t have to leave my daughter after the surgery. Without her Dad around, and no reliable family to help, I have to plan ahead. 

In the morning, I ran all the errands, and got gas, and went home to get everything I could done before the next day. 

My wooded acre of land was a mess, but the winds were still dropping branches and I had other things that took precedence. My business partner was in LA with our Sales Director in meetings for Ocean SF, and I was either on the phone with them, or texting them and our pattern maker, who had been evacuated from her home in Irvine. 

In the end, our neighbor Dan, had made a list of everything Siena needed, and showed up the next day with her favorite foods and drinks. During surgery he waited with her at the hospital, while I went to the pharmacy, and picked up her perscriptions. 

Meanwhile, around me Northern California is literally burning down. Beautiful Calistoga a place of tremendous beauty and tranquility, has been reduced to ash and rubble. 

This has been the theme of the last year or so, and I have become a master at focusing with military precision on one thing no matter what else is going on around me.  It’s possible, I inherited this quality from my father, a decorated war veteran, but it’s something I wish I didn’t need. 

My daughter has been slow to recover, she’s not bounced back as expected.  She has been in a great deal of pain, so much so that I’ve been on the phone with her surgical nurse off and on for days. We’ve had to try several strategies to help her, and maybe today will be the day she turns the corner.

I lie next to her at night, and let her squeeze my hand. While she sleeps, I secretly check the Internet for the status of the fires. I close my eyes and pray for recovery of my daughter, the fire victims, the brave emergency response teams, and myself. 

The second surgery to repair her ACL is planned for November. Initially, the date was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but I moved it. On Thanksgiving, God willing, we will be sitting in our cabin in Truckee watching the snow fall.

Love and blessings to all. 

Be Like Water

“The river will take whatever goes with it.”

I thought to myself this morning, after a nightmare, and before my daughter’s knee surgery to repair her miniscus and ACL injuries from a recent soccer collision.  

“Be determined,” I tell myself in light of this. 

Then, “be still, let God, be strong, wise, and calm.”

As a last resort, “be like water that doesn’t resist, but accepts what comes and continues on.”  

Predictably, this does the trick. 

I keep thinking at some point all of this will get easier. It does not.

The night before, I read everything there was to read on knee surgery. My sailing friend warned me of the pain she felt when she had a similar surgery done, but it wasn’t mentioned in my pre-op interviews. It was glossed over to say the very least. I’m sure she’s not surprised. How to warn a person of this?

The fires turned our beautiful Moraga neighborhood a dreary grey. Walnut Creek, looked much the same. The surgery proved more complicated than at first appeared, both her interior and exterior miniscus was severely damaged, putting the hope of the simultaneous ACL surgery, and recovery, out of the question. 

As usual we had much support, our neighbor, Dan, was with us for the entire day. Other friends arrived after, at the hospital, and then more at home. Siena’s sweet, and sunny nature attracts so many people, love and support. 

I’m not going to lie, it was pure hell to see her in pain and crying. They had to give her three additional doses of morphine, and a second nerve block, before the pain was under control, and she stopped crying. 

Of course, I was crying too. She couldn’t see me because I was cradling her head in the hospital bed as she screamed. I kept thinking it felt similar to having a baby; the pain, but also the relief that it was over, and she was going to be alright. 

Later, she watched movies with a group of friends in her room. Our home is full of flowers, candy, balloons, and cards. My lovely daughter is asleep now.

The smoke from the Napa fire has mostly cleared, and all is well. I’m sitting peacefully with my dog, as everyone sleeps. 

Grateful.

Love and blessings to all. 

Being Excellent Where You Are

Occasionally, I will tell my kids how much I disliked being a stay at home mother.  And this really upsets them, but what would appear to be a luxury to one person, can be torture to another.

Often, my friends who worked full time will tell me they did what I did, and also worked. However, they did not. I will not go into how I turned myself inside out being the Junior Highschool recycling garbage monitor, teaching literature to sixth graders, or ironing our pillow cases with the lavender water I made from the lavender I grew in my garden, and so on. Because those things are unimportant, but what I did do that was important, was to listen to the hopes and dreams of the generation of children that surrounded me during those years. 

When my daughter was being bullied, I would go to school and have lunch with her in the cafeteria. No one noticed because I was there so often people thought I worked there.  I did everything from tutoring to weeding the school garden. I even played my violin for my daughter’s classes, most people don’t even know that I play the violin.

I taught embroidery to both girls fifth grade class. We embroidered covered wagons on canvas, during the pioneer history module, but mostly I talked with them while teaching them to sew with a needle and thread. The first year, I met a little boy named Albert, and he would sit on my lap the entire hour I was there. He was one of my favorites.

Working at a paid job has a predictable pace, and most projects a beginning, a middle, and an end. And you can take a break at lunchtime, and eventually go home at night. Motherhood for working and nonworking mothers alike is another matter all together. 

Nothing in my life, before or since, took more from me as a person, or was as physically and emotionally demanding as being a stay at home mother. 

My house was as clean as a whistle, not some days, but everyday. I often hosted after school pool parties for twenty-five. I made my own play dough and my own pasta from scratch with Italian flour that I bought at a special grocery store in Napa. So, clearly I brought much of this on myself. 

Now, I rarely make my bed, and cooking means I grill chicken, and toss it into a salad at 8 p.m. And, I get a second chance to return full time to the work I love. 

After the way things turned out, I’m happy I took the time to create a warm, peaceful, and beautiful environment for my family and many friends. 

Those days now feel like a dream. It’s as if I was an entirely different person then, however, being excellent at what I did helped to create many happy memories that laid a solid foundation for my children. 

After their father died, I told them often that the past predicts the future. And, although it might be hard to believe, they would one day be happy again. 

And so it goes.

Love and blessings to all. 

A Rich Full Life

Many people wouldn’t think of me as lucky from the outside looking in, but every single morning before I get out of bed, I count my blessings. And it doesn’t take very long for me to feel grateful for the many good things in my life. 

First of all, I’m in excellent health. On most days, if I’ve not burned the candle at both ends, which I often do, I feel fantastic. Then, I have my wonderful family, and in particular my spectacular daughters. Then, I have the most hilarious golden-doodle, named Polly, and her two side kicks the black and white cats, Dash and Jam. 

Next, I have friends galore. And make more everyday. I have been spending time with my sailing friends this week. Especially, my business partner, and my sailing instructor Tom. There is nothing like a common interest to connect and deepen ties with people.

But, I especially love my neighbors and my beautiful neighborhood. I have so much love and support here that I feel blessed everyday. My neighbor Sandy, who brought Paris’ bedding to her college dorm in LA after we forgot it, my dear friends Craig and Denise who help me with everything I do, including building Ocean SF. My husband’s three best friends, and their families, that are always here for us. And, my neighbor Alecia, who made me the beautiful pearl and rose quartz necklace I’m wearing above. And Barb, who I met when our daughters were two, who took me to the polo tournament where the above photo was taken a few weekends ago. 

Recently, one of my neighbors sent me the following note. It was so generous and kind it brought tears to my eyes. 

“Dear Sydney,

I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few weeks knowing that a year has passed since losing your husband. I have not seen you in years nor spoken, but I do want you to know that I have always admired the woman, and Mother that you are. You have been a true role model from the day I met you. My daughter, has always spoken of you with admiration and your unconditional kindness towards her made her love being in your presence. Both Siena and Paris are so fortunate to have a loving, attentive, involved, active and beautiful Mother who truly loves her children. I believe Paris must be heading off to a College, and that must be an exciting yet difficult transition after your past year. These next two years will be very special for you and Siena. Time is precious as you are aware, and it’s never too late to tell someone how wonderful they are. So before I turn in I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and if you ever need anything I’m here for you.”

People like this, and the precious town I live in, give me deep roots, and a priceless sense of security. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Being Stabbed In The Back

I was taught that if you don’t have something nice to say; then it’s better to say nothing at all, this was taught to me by people who didn’t have a nice thing to say about anyone.

As a result, I dealt with petty jealousy and back stabbers silently. I guess this is how you groom a child to be a docile woman. But it’s true, I let many things slide and even when I did speak up I would then forgive even the unforgivable. I had my heart invested and who among us wants to be alone in the world?

After a year of soul searching and painful and time consuming personal growth, I have come to a quiet and peaceful place where I am content and calm. After the worse has happened, what is there to be afraid of?

A close friend of mine taught me that it’s possible to love someone and not have that person in your life. And it’s the same with forgiveness. It takes a great deal of courage to forgive. I can now forgive with the insight that people who behave this way are suffering greatly. 

Compassion is not weakness, and true strength is found in softness.

Love and blessings.

Grounded

Manicotti

I’ve finally started to feel grounded again, after a busy few weeks, I thought spending time alone in Tahoe would make me feel better, but it didn’t. 

What has helped me has been to come home, water my pink and white flowers, and pots full of impatience, pansies and daisies, tend to my basil plants, and trim my beloved Meyer Lemon tree and cook for my children. 

I should have known this, because nothing comforts me more than the fog rolling in and cooling off my creekside home in the summertime. I love the wildlife that thrives in our beautiful town, and the way we are so close to the city, but feel so far away. 

There is no better feeling than puttering around barefoot, watering the plants, and making dinner for the kids.

Love and blessings. 

Separating the Future from the Past

Speedboat Beach, Lake Tahoe

I now have a day to separate my future from my past. I wanted the one last thing that I did for my husband to be beautiful and it was.  We spread his ashes yesterday at dawn on a beautiful summer day in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

We spent the day as we had planned at the beach with our friends and then, last night, some of our closest friends joined us for dinner at our home in Truckee. 

Three families that we have raised our children with and skied with over the years were here for dinner, as were my husband’s best friends, or the original Bushwood golf foursome. My close friend Debra, as well as my kids and their friends. 

It was a beautiful evening in every way. We have closure now and some sense of peace, or as much as is possible, although, I’ve come to realize there are things you never really get over, you just learn to live with them gracefully, and not allow them to influence your happiness. 

I feel that I have done everything that I could to honor the vows I took when we married, I ensured his life was honored, and his wishes were respected.  

Now, that is behind me, I want to write another book, I’ve also been asked to teach again next year at UC Berkeley. I enjoy my work on The Trident Project and Ocean SF and that keeps me very busy. 

Someday, our boat Solana will be in the water, and I’ve been invited to sail around the world,  after my youngest heads to college, in 2019.

I’ve worked hard to lay this foundation, and be a role model for my children.  Hard work generally pays off, and with that being said, I now step into my future. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Best Friends Jeff, Chris and Dan
Lake Tahoe

Love & Money

Truckee, California 2009

My husband was the most generous person I have ever met. When we first began dating, I asked him to join some friends for my birthday. My girlfriends made the reservation in the city, and we all showed up with our dates.

When the bill came, my friends pulled out their wallets, but my husband insisted on picking up the tab. The bill was $1,200.00, he did this sort of thing all the time.

After we got married, a check could not hit the table without him picking it up. But, on the reverse side money rolled in from all directions and soon, as a couple, we had more money than we knew what to do with.

I began to expect this, and understood how money flowed both in and out of our hands. One day, after Paris was born, we went to the jewelry store, I had Paris in my arms. My husband bought me a 5 carat princess cut diamond in a hand carved diamond platinum band.

He would buy cases of good wine to share with friends, and when we bought our Tahoe house we loaded it up with the neighborhood, friends, and tons of kids.

When the bottom fell out of the stock market and commercial construction imploded, we spent more time at home, ordered pizza on Friday nights, and had BBQ’s and camp outs in our backyard.

When we first moved to Moraga, I would be approached in the grocery store, by older women, collectively, they would tell me to enjoy every moment. I would think to myself, “they must have amnesia.”  I was so exhausted by my newborn and two year old, it was hard to enjoy anything.

However, I heard this so often that I believed it had merit, and I made a conscious decision to savor sitting in the stuffed cow and pig chairs with my toddlers watching Disney Princess movies, among the other activities of a busy mother.

The only thing that ever really mattered was that we had each other. And now we don’t.  We only have our memories, and the ring, that now sits in the bank.

Love and blessings to all.

Pain Makes You Beautiful 

This is what I look like pretending, I didn’t just break my wrist.

It’s the left hand. Can you tell?

People are really good at hiding their pain.

And being no exception to this rule, I am, however, surprised by how sad I still feel, after so many months.

Understanding grief to be nonlinear and for me, compounded and complicated by family and other mitigating circumstances, it’s understandable that I am hurting still.

I am also, keenly aware, that I am healing heartbreak from my past, as well as this recent loss, and the eerie history repeats feeling of losing my own father.

Perhaps, it’s the milestones, that make me feel this way.  My children will now forever remain fatherless. Graduation ceremonies, birthdays, weddings and more, will forever be a reminder that they do not, like most everyone else, have a father.

They will always be singled out due to this sad fact. I know exactly how they feel now, and will feel in the future, and there is nothing I can do to change this.

I never thought, I would be sending my daughter to college, and spreading my husbands ashes in the same summer.

But I will be.

 

Love and blessings.

Mothers Day & The Charming Distractions or Never the Less Joy

Never the less, there is joy.  My charming distractions spent the entire day with me yesterday.  It was one of the happiest in many months.  I woke to the sound of pots and pans in the kitchen, then there were eggs, and a champaign flute full of green juice.  Then presents.  They both got in bed with me and fell back to sleep.  I got up, and wrote about my own mother, Home Again, that I posted yesterday.

We then went on a hike through the Moraga hills with Polly, our family dog, then to dinner at Prima in Walnut Creek.  Over dinner we talked about where we would live if we could live anywhere in the world.  I said, I would have an apartment in the city (San Francisco), a boat in Tiburon, and a farm house in Napa.  So now that I’ve set that intention, we will see what happens.  This is the way I’ve done things, I decide, and then work towards it.  I wanted an acre parcel with a pool in Lamorinda, I wanted a ski house in Tahoe, and now I want something new.

My girls would like to live in London and Paris, but I secretly hope one of them will come back and live in our house in Moraga to raise their family.  This is what many Morgans do, they venture off, and return to Moraga to raise their children.  It’s such a wonderful family town and I am so grateful for my time here.

We ended our beautiful day with a movie. I could not be more thankful for my life and charming children. 

Love and blessings to all.