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.

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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The Silent Snow Fall

img_7522Recently, I was at my second home in Tahoe. It and the many friends that came with it comprise some of my most treasured memories. It is one of my many, many blessings and I am deeply grateful that I have it. It is one thing that I never take for granted.

We bought the home in May of 2007. It was the same month we got delivery of our beloved golden doodle named Polly as in the movie, Along Came Polly.  I haven’t been there for a while, but every time I am there I get the same feeling of happiness, peace and joy.  How I can forget how much I love it there I do not know.

I arrived in the afternoon, and visited with my wonderful neighbors. My dog Polly is not one to wait to be invited in, but just runs into the open doors of the neighbors and finds them in their homes to say hello. This is usually how they know we’ve arrived and they will come out and say hello while I’m outside unloading the car. This is our habit, and then we will text and take the dogs out for hikes or other excursions in the days that follow.

Before going to dinner with my dear friends Susan and Fred, I took Polly for a walk along the path that runs from my house to the top of Northstar Resort. Northstar is the mountain we skied every winter when the kids were growing up. It is also the place of our most cherished family memories. I know that I was fortunate to have an entire family that would ski or snowboard all day long without complaint or boredom. I always thought at some point the kids would go and ski with their friends, but they never did, we always skied together as a family, all four of us on the chair lift together with our friends and houseguests. Sometimes there would be three or four other families with us.

It’s almost painful to remember those many days and how the things I worried about most were so mundane, like what to make everyone for lunch, or who to invite up for New Years Eve. Things have changed so much and grown so complex.

My favorite days in Tahoe were the days when the storms would come closing the pass to the bay area. We would be trapped there with the roads closed in all directions. There is a silence in that valley that is like nowhere else. It is almost like waking up in a dream.

One year my friend Barb and I took the kids up to ski. I called her and told her we have to leave right now. There is a big storm coming and we have to outrun it. I immediately left and she wasn’t far behind. These were the days when I was very unpopular at the grade school because I would pull my kids out of school to ski. The school secretary did not like it when I arrived in snow boots and a parka saying both my children had dental appointments (I said this so the school would not be penalized by an unexcused absence).

I got a great deal of judgement for this at the time, as many of my friends believed that school, grades and being focused on college in grade school was a good thing. After everything that has happened, I now have absolutely no regrets, as the mountain has lessons that no school can teach.

Luckily, Barb is as adventurous as I am and had no problem driving straight into a snowstorm. She was the last car allowed over the pass before it closed. We skied that afternoon as the snow fell and the next day we woke to six feet of fresh powder. There was almost no one else on the mountain and we skied all day long with the kids.

Other days, I would wake up and the pass would be closed and the snow would be falling.  Silent. White. Pure. Peaceful.

My days now are complicated and full of endless obligations, responsibilities and duties. Yet, the memories of those days are lodged deep inside my mind. When I get stressed or anxious all I have to do is think of those moments. Below zero, my breath visible in the air, and the snow falling softly all around me.

Love and blessings to all.

Family, Love & Birthday Traditions

We headed into the city on Friday to belatedly celebrate Paris’ 19th birthday. Since Paris was in the fifth grade we’ve gone to Neiman Marcus for lunch on her birthday.

For the first few years we went to the spectacular Rotunda resteraunt in San Francisco. Later, so she wouldn’t miss so much school, we went to the Neiman Marcus restaurant in Walnut Creek.

Yes, many people say that it’s over priced, but the food is amazing, the atmosphere gorgeous and they treat you like glass, giving you lovely popovers with strawberry butter to start and a delicious chocolate chip cookie when you depart.

Anyway, on this particular day, we couldn’t get our usual table in the Rotunda. We like to sit by the window and look out over Union Square. As a rule, we always sit at the same tables in restaurants we love. So, we decided to shop and come back when our table was ready. However, everyone was hungry, so we went to the Four Seasons instead.

It was a nice change and they treated us equally well. Our table had a gorgeous view of Market Street (above) and they brought us a beautiful platter of chocolates and fruit at the end.

I’ve incorporated traditions into the life of my family over the years, as I grew up with no traditions, and from holiday to holiday, I never knew what to expect. I had also read that traditions are good for children, and I think they were nice for all of us as life over the last few years specifically, has been largely unpredictable.

However, I think change is positive and doing things just slightly differently, while retaining the spirit of the thing, is an evolution of sorts.

We’ve all changed and grown so much from that Saturday afternoon having our first grown up birthday lunch together so long ago.

Although change is good, and it is the one thing we can all count on, what has not changed is our love for each other, and the joy in spending these special occasions together.

Love and blessings to all.

Attitude of Gratitude

2014

I can see the future I would like to have, but I still have a ways to go. Someday, I will have a calm secure life that is predictable. For example, I will not be raising teenage girls forever. There will come a time when I have socks in my drawer and my jeans will all be neatly folded on my shelf and not at my daughters friend’s house. My boots will be in my closet not under the bed in the guest room. My cars will be clean, and full of gas without dents or torn off fenders. But, most importantly I will have a hairbrush as this is one necessity that continually disappears.

I’ve been told I will miss these things and more, so I am enjoying the company of my children now and am looking toward to a shared summer together. We truly never know what the future holds, so I will keep my daughters close and share my things, and my heart, and my time.

As so many things have changed and not necessarily for the better, it’s important to be grateful for what we do have. I have a two page list of the top 8 things I’m grateful for and I try to read it everyday and then keep a daily list of small things that I am thankful for like the lilacs and roses from my garden that sit on my desk, or the penny I found yesterday with the year of my husband’s death as this reminds me that he is no longer here, but I am.

In 2014 when I started to think about my life beyond being a full time wife and mother I bought a hard bound book and started pasting in pictures of what I wanted for my future. Looking back, much of it has come to fruition. Especially, the no more boring text (above). As my life has been anything but boring for some time now.

I also have a larger vision board. These are more temporary. In January I wanted to cook more and eat healthy so my vision board was full of recipes and farm fresh produce.

All of these tools have helped me to live in gratitude for what I do have and for what is working while also envisioning the happy future I know I will one day have.

In January 2016, I had no idea how out of my comfort zone I would be. I certainly had to reinvent myself. As they say, be careful what you wish for…

Love and blessings to all.

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.

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 just 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 really should come as no surprise that she is also walking in my footsteps.

Love and blessings to all.