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.

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.

Always My Baby

Paris called on Saturday morning and said she wanted to come home.  She boarded a SW flight a few hours later, and by 4 o’clock she was in my arms again. Even though, she’s eighteen now (it’s her half birthday today), she will always be my baby.  

When I pulled up she was standing curbside in a cream colored fur coat and a pair of clear orange sunglasses. Her body language and demeanor prove that she is a strong and powerful person in her own right now, and obviously no longer a baby in any sense of the word. 

I’ve watched her over the past year demonstrate tremendous strength and determination.  I wish I could say that I’ve seen major strides as she’s faced adversity, but honestly, she has always been this way.  A person of character; confident, smart and a very beautiful soul with a powerful intellect and sense of justice.

She has essentially not changed a whit since the first day of pre-school when the other little girls wouldn’t let her play house with them. She told me that she didn’t care because she wanted to be President of the United States instead.

Hold fast to your dreams…

Love and blessings to all.

 

Teens & Drinking

My precious daughter, came home from college and she wanted a glass of wine. Then, her little sister wanted one too. As I didn’t have that much wine, I gave them each an inch.

I remember fondly my evenings in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with my mother’s beautiful family. My uncles were much younger than my mother who was the eldest of twelve. So, at every family gathering there was always music, alcohol, friends and often a trip to the clubs downtown for more drinking.  I found myself in bars with my aunts and uncles when I was fourteen. My mother’s little brother was only ten years older than me, making him 24.

One of my favorite girlhood memories is of drinking champagne with my mother’s little sister, Ellen, when I was six. We sat on the sofa in her beautiful three story home in North Vancouver, and she gave me the tiniest aperitif glass full of pink champagne.

Refusing my eighteen year old daughter alcohol feels conservative in comparison, but there was also alcoholism in my family, and the consequences of those addictions were not as pretty as the people who had them.

I’ve never been someone who could drink very much. Days on houseboats where people drank all day were not for me. I’ve always abhorred bars, crowded places, and drunk people in general.

Now, that my daughter is in college and the holidays are coming up, I find myself in uncharted water.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic. I welcome any insight. Please comment below.

Love and blessings to all.

 

563 Miles Away

Austin and Paris, Los Angeles, California, Halloween 2017

I left my precious daughter in Los Angeles in September to start her first year of college. I’m relatively calm in these types of situations as I’ve endured a great deal of loss, so I walked away from her relatively dry eyed. The next day, my younger daughter injured her knee in a soccer practice. This incident resulted in my 16 year old daughter needing ten times the care of my two daughters combined the year before. 

I’ve been distracted by doctors visits, surgeries, and driving the little one around again. Because of this, it is only now, that I am beginning to feel the absence of my eldest. 

Paris has left a giant hole in my life. I miss her, I even miss her boyfriend, who is appropriately named, Austin. My girls and I share city themed first names, thanks to my late husband. When I resisted these names, he would offer alternatives like the name Brenda, or his favorite Billee-Joan, the combination of both of our mother’s names. He was a very funny guy. 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 acting as a walking geography lesson. 

This morning, I called and texted Paris without a response, but it was before noon on a Sunday, so I didn’t panic, however, I did locate her in her dorm room on Find My iPhone. While doing this I discovered she is exactly 563 miles away.  

Recently she sent me a photo of her Halloween costume. And, by the way, Austin is not in costume, he really is a basketball player. When I got it, I realized for the first time, in a real way, that she truly does now have a life that I am no longer a part of. I don’t get to weigh in on what she’ll wear or help her get ready, or anything else. None of it. Even as I trust her to make wise decisions and care for herself, I miss being there for her. I miss sitting on her bed watching her put her makeup on in front of her mirrored closet doors. I even miss how bossy and demanding she often was. All of it. 

Thank goodness for the little one. 

Love and blessings. 

How Ocean SF Built the Brand 

My daughter Siena in Ocean SF – Merino wool fleece jacket, cotton shirt and silk scarf
I’ve had an interest in design, and the environment since day one. Growing up with horses as a kid on a farm in the Willamette Valley, then later as an avid skier, and now as a sailor, I’ve always been drawn to the outdoors. 

And, at Ocean SF we truly seek to protect and enjoy the beautiful environment we have inherited.  Recent studies have shown that microfibers from polyester clothing is a pollutant that cannot be filtered from drinking water. Not only that, these particles, are also found in the delicate flesh of oysters and other fish on the California coast, this is not a problem for just the United States, it is worldwide. 

We also wish to work toward the reinvention of the bespoke clothing industry of the past. Where garments were made with care and were not disposable.  

We now live in a culture that is no longer enamored by the previous mindset that adored the ease of care and low cost of plastic based fabrics.  

Ocean SF is a brand for sailors first and foremost, because we seek to prove our technologically advanced fabrics in the most challenging environment possible, off shore, but our clothes are for everyone. 

Please join us in preserving our oceans and buying only what we need. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Margarita Pizza

Handmade Margarita Pizza
On Friday, I got the big guns out, after my daughter who recently had knee surgery refused to eat anything but, donuts and candy. My chicken noodle soup could not compete, so I had to get creative.

I made her favorite soup (recipe to follow), which she enjoyed for two seconds, and then went back to the pounds of candy delivered by friends. Being desperate to get her to eat something more nutritious I made her favorite pizza.  

Making pizza is fast and easy, but you do have to stay close to the kitchen, and keep an eye on it as it cooks. I had enough dough for two, so while they were baking I made her a white lasagna (recipe to follow).

Note: The oven must be well preheated and very hot. 

Margarita Pizza

Pizza dough (Whole Foods)

3 tablespoons tomato sauce (any kind)

1/2 oz. extra-virgin olive oil

2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella (small balls)

4 to 5 basil leaves

Instructions:

  • Let dough rest for half an hour in a warm place. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Rollout dough with extra flour on stone. Place a pizza stone (or cookie sheet, but grease with olive oil) to warm in the oven.
  • Roll dough with a rolling pin into a circle. Spread the sauce using the back of a spoon evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.
  • Cut each ball in half and place evenly and gently on the sauce. 
  • Place onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
  • Add fresh basil. 

Make as many as you have time for, as these disappear magically. They can also be eaten cold, or reheated with excellent results. 

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. 

The Shifting Winds

After a stressful day of knee surgery and a rocky recovery, I went to bed early with my daughter and patient. 

After the Napa fire had shifted late yesterday afternoon, the smoke cleared, but this morning the smoke was back and thicker than ever before. Everything smells of smoke now. 

In the early morning I went outside to skim the 20 pounds or more of redwood branches out of my pool from the high winds the day before. The sky is grey, but the sun filtered through the dark smoke turned orange. 

I filled in a few cracks in my skimmer, ran my pump, and added some shock and clarifier to return the pool to clarity after clearing out all the debris. This literally took hours, but it’s calming to be in rythym with the water, the net and the redwood needles and branches. It takes  patience and skill to retrieve the small particles from the bottom of the pool with a brush and a net.

Then, I worked on my taxes. In between, I ran up and down the stairs, caring for my daughter, talked on the phone with an old friend in New York, and made homemade chicken noodle soup. 

The sky is still thick with smoke, but I feel like my own personal skies have cleared. It’s easier to get things done now. 

After months of grief where I had to force myself to get the mundane done, things come easily now, even the things I dislike doing the most are quickly completed. 

I feel like the winds of change have shifted, and the dark cloud that has hung over me for so long has lifted. 

Love and blessings to all. 

Hiding My Light

When my kids were small, it was in fashion to parent in a way that brought out the brilliance in every child while honoring their unique talents. For me, growing up the opposite was true. I hid my brilliance, my light, my authenticity, or whatever you wish to call it.

My relatives didn’t sit in their rooms reading Chekhov or Dostoyevsky for fun. My relatives were boisterous and charismatic. They could tell jokes, and they didn’t want to work for Lobbists and change the world. 

As a kid, I felt it was important to fit in and not draw too much attention to myself.  There was a definite “we” in my family, a party line, and a host of secrets to go along with it. 

When I graduated from college, my mother told me that she was surprised that I had graduated. When I asked her why, she said she didn’t think I was smart enough. I can’t blame her, as I skipped most of my high school classes to hide out painting in the art room, or to read novels in the library.

My mother encouraged me to get an M.R.S. degree and was astonished when I abruptly broke up with my long term college boyfriend a few months shy of college graduation. 

I married late, and when I had children, I quit my lucrative career, and hid my intellect again. Looking back, I can’t believe I did this. The only thing I can attribute it to is that I fell in love with my family.  

Now that I am on my own again, I love staying up all night reading philosophy, or learning anything new. I love working and starting companies and nonprofits that can change the world. 

My children are so much like me that this truly is the new normal. I encourage each of them to shine as brightly as they can.  There are no secrets. The children tell everyone my embarrassing stories, and they take countless photos of me, eating, or sleeping, or driving, and post them on Snapchat. 

I don’t care. 

I am as much as I possibly can be, my truest, brightest, most authentic self.

Love and blessings.