Nevertheless Joy

On most days I walk my dog Polly to the park in the late afternoon. It’s been a refuge for me during this very stressful time and allows me to decompress from my busy days. Finding a work/life balance can be the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur.

I’ve been extremely focused and because I love what I do it’s possible for me to sit for 10 hours straight writing or managing my other companies. It’s not unusual for me to work from 8-6 without a break, and then sadly to work for another few hours after dinner. It won’t last forever, but that’s what it takes to start a company and get it off the ground.

This short walk gets me outside and I am able to witness the changing seasons. There is nothing better than fresh air and exercise no matter what you’re doing, however, this is especially true in my situation.

Over the past year, I’ve dedicated myself to my clothing apparel company, my nonprofit, and I’ve written two books. I’ve been blessed to be able to work at home on projects that are close to my heart, as well as having time to mother and guide my two daughters. I am also grateful for my beautiful home and the community that surrounds me. It’s been especially fun to write my column for News 24/680. I’ve enjoyed the comments and having people stop their cars in the street to tell me how much they enjoy my articles. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that would happen.

During my walks I always see a few friends along the way. I love socializing with my neighbors, they are from varied backgrounds and have so many interesting stories and insights. Everyone has an expertise and are always helpful in sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Because of them, I need never be lonely. On Saturday nights they BBQ and everyone brings food to share. If I’m home, and am able to attend, I make a point to drop by the park and say hello. I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years. It reminds me a little of Europe where there are always locals sitting in the park playing checkers.

The other day, I was sitting on a park bench and this adorable beagle came running toward me. I picked up my phone to take his picture and before I knew it he was licking my face. I have no idea why he targeted me. It was completely random. No matter what else happens there are always unexpected blessings, and nevertheless joy.

Beagle on his way to say hello…

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.

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.

Sunnier Days

While in Los Angeles last week a homeless man approached me with a crow bar while stopped at a red light. My doors were locked and my windows rolled up, but he was inches from me. At any moment, he could have shattered my window, and pulled me out of the car. Andrew was with me, and the man moved around the car to the passenger side, and screamed at him as well. We couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he was menacing and terrifying. We were three blocks from our garment factory on Maple Avenue and we encountered him not once, but twice with the same experience. As much as he startled us, it’s hard to say what he might be going through to cause him to act this way.

Later, back in Berkeley Andrew and I stopped into Hoi Polloi, a peaceful place that brews beautiful beer. We both ordered a pint of “Sunnier Days” pale ale, and laughed about our recent trip to Los Angeles. We’ve had some challenges, but we expected them, not exactly as they arrived, but we knew what we were trying to do wasn’t going to be easy.  In some ways, I feel blessed that I will have so many funny stories to tell my students about starting Ocean SF as this has been such a great lesson in not allowing anyone or anything to deter you on your path to following your dreams. No one said this would be easy, but it will certainly be worth it, as it is the common experience of anyone who has ever succeeded at doing something that challenges them.

It’s called a challenge for a reason.  Looking forward to sunnier days.

Love and Blessings

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.

OCEAN SF & The Wild West

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We’ve been working on our next production run of our Ocean SF signature jackets. We are filling the pre-orders and guessing at inventory. Anticipating the buying patterns of a new company can be very difficult for even the experts. Being a clothing designer is a dangerous business I’ve been told countless times, and yet I persist because I love it. LOVE IT! It’s the Wild West, I was told last week on my visit to the Fashion District, in Los Angeles.

If you want to order your jacket and have been holding off, please do it NOW, by clicking here, so I can add it to my production scheduled for Thursday/Friday.  

By far our most popular size had been the medium for both men and women, and in the color orange. Who knew? All the colors are beautiful, but I do have a soft spot for the orange and will be wearing the new design with the zippered sleeves this summer with my white jeans, linen pants and shorts on our boat.  Can’t wait!

Love and Blessings to all.

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.

My Column in 24/680 News

My first column was published on Thursday, March 15th.

I am very thankful to J.D. O’Connor and News 24/680 for publishing my work. What a load of fun it was to read the comments.

You can find it at News24-680.com or by clicking here.

Love and blessings.

Masks & Motherhood

Clearly, I am now reaping what I have sown, but leaving work I loved to be a stay-at-home mother was not exactly a smooth transition for me. I’m not sure what components compromised this unease in my personal experience. It was definitely a combination of many factors I suppose.

Firstly, I didn’t want to be anything like my own mother who stayed home, but was largely absent nonetheless. Secondly, I used my skills and talents at work and easily fell into flow as the hours flew by making me well suited for the work I did. Lastly, my husband worked long hours and I had no family support, so I was often simply depleted and sleep deprived.

Although, I dearly loved my children, I abhorred the house work and not getting the sleep I needed. I had one child who quietly fell asleep at 7 p.m. while her sister ran around the house all night. My husband was up and out before 7 a.m. so I got up at 5 a.m. to write in the necessary silence. Writing is something I have to do for my own sanity, and that was the only time I could do it.

Napping was something no one did, as we are a family with a deeply hereditary FOMO (fear of missing out). However, I made everyone lie down for an hour, including myself, but there was no sleeping. With envy, I knew of countless children who napped for hours, some would nap through dinner and into the next morning.

During the fog of sleep deprivation I remember thinking the other mothers were lying about loving their stay-at-home lives. I looked at my silk blouses and other work clothes hanging in my closet with despair. Later, I realized they really did love staying home with their kids. The only one pretending was me. It wasn’t even the money I missed, it was the rhythm and sense of accomplishment that came from doing things well and having other people do what you asked of them without a timeout or a bribe of some kind.

There is no experience that trumps motherhood, however, and there is no work more important. Yet, motherhood extracts from us a heavy price for its blessings. It is often messy and chaotic, and I was a person uncomfortable with both, but that was also the gift of it. To this day, I dislike noice, screaming, dirt and unnecessary messes. I especially dislike buckets of sand being hauled up the stairs and poured into the made beds. Would I do it all over again? Yes, I would. Would I do it all differently? Yes, I certainly would.

Children are spontaneous and full of love and excitement. It was simultaneously magical and beautiful as well as emotionally and physically exhausting. Looking back, I see there was a lack of balance. I didn’t prioritize myself into the equation like I should have. I honestly didn’t know how. I fell hard for the little darlings and could scarcely say no. I was patient and giving to a fault.

My husband often called me a martyr mother and I think that was true. I didn’t know how to not give everything I did 1000%. Over the last few years, I’ve made it a point to make sure my kids know that I matter too, and I think we’ve all readjusted to this idea, although it took some doing. I’m still not great with messes and noise, but I’m better about these things now, knowing that love and the relationships far outweigh peace and quiet and everyday orderliness. Plus, I know my limits now and I make sure I’m taking care of myself too.

My daughter was home from college for the weekend and it’s obvious I’m reaping the rewards for my hard work. Both children are poised, polite, and dedicated human beings. I’m very proud of them on so many levels.

For my birthday they bought me a gift card for a spa day. Impressively, they paid for it with their own money. Sometime in the near future I will be found waiting pool side for my heated stone massage. The martyr mother is gone for good, and thank goodness.

Love and blessings.