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.

A Long Line Of Irish Beauty Queens

My uncle used to call my mother and her five sisters “frustrated actresses” meaning they were all capable of being movie stars, but decided to be mothers and housewives instead. And it was true they were the most beautiful group of raven haired blue-green eyed beauties you could ever hope to encounter.

Black Irish is the term used for this combination of fair skin, dark hair and light eyes that they all shared.

As a result of this genetic good fortune I grew up around women who kept their mirrors and makeup in their kitchen pantries. I myself was a tree climbing tomboy, but I would sit and watch my mother paint her nails and put on her makeup with a lighted mirror at the kitchen table. The makeup alone took one hour. The hair another hour. Nails another hour. She never left the house looking anything less than flawless.

As for myself, I don’t have this kind of time. But, I benefited from their knowledge and have devised a beauty routine that takes about ten minutes.

Today, I’m sharing this wisdom in memory of my Irish relatives and the beautiful women I grew up with.

Hair:

I wash my hair, spray it with a shine product, and twist it into a bun. In about an hour, I take it down and it is wavy and shiny. I rarely use a hair dryer or heat on my hair.

Makeup:

I do my makeup in the car at the stoplights. And this is what I use:

  • Maybelline, Fit Me Foundation, in Classic Ivory, SPF 18. This is good stuff.
  • Chanel, Healthy Glow Sheer Color Powder, #20. I don’t know what’s in this, but it’s awesome.
  • Chanel, Powder Blush, 72 Rose Initial. Perfect light pink. Love it.
  • Revlon, Color Stay, #30. They are not kidding when they call this color stay. I put it on once a day.
  • Chanel, Rouge Allure, Create #142. Love the color, but it doesn’t last as long.
  • Chanel, Rouge CoCo Shine. In Monte Carlo #62 and Adventure #57. The long wearing lipstick dries your lips, so these sheer hydrating lipsticks are nice to touch up with.
  • Essie, Ballet Slippers. A classic white for hands and toes. Perfect sheer coverage.
  • Jo Malone, English Pear & Freesia. I wear this in winter. It’s a very warm floral. In summer I wear Grapefruit and Lime-Basil in the same brand. In the shower I use the Pomegranate Noire bar soap.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Birthday to my beloved and beautiful Auntie Pat.

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.

Defining Moments

It’s a common point of view that women don’t help each other much in business. They are accused of not being team players at work, or told that they are too competitive. However, for me each time I made a major stride in my career it was due to being pulled up by another woman.

I was answering phones and typing memos for a Senior Vice President when she called me into her office and closed the door. She offered me a job working for her as a Systems Analyst. Now, I had a political science degree, so this was quite a surprise. I took it seriously and began writing business requirements for the mainframe that managed Bank of America’s mortgage lending business.

Five years later, I was sitting in front of the head of Bank of America’s Electronic Banking Division when she told me I looked like a marketing person. She offered me a job as a Product Manager. Now, I was a Systems Analyst with a political science degree, so this was a surprise not only to me, but especially to my peers with marketing degrees and MBA’s. When I changed jobs, even my former boss, asked if I knew how to be a product manager? Of course, I did not. But, again I applied myself in earnest and it turned out to be true. I was a natural at marketing. To this day, I love nothing more than developing brands and creating marketing campaigns. Nothing makes me happier than finding the right look and feel for the personality of a company.

When I left banking, I was pulled way up by my mentor Sandra Floyd, who helped me land my first consulting job in wireless.

More recently, when I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s IDC, I was pulled up by my now dear friend Brigette, who interviewed me. Prior to this teaching job, my experience teaching adults was confined to working as a ski instructor. And my neighbor Betsy Cole got me that job.

In conclusion, I think we help each other more than we realize. Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Love and blessings.

Steep Cliff

When my second daughter was born I was the marketing director for a music software company. If this sounds glamorous, it was. I had a large salary, stock options, and countless benefits. Plus, apart from the creative aspects that being a director of marketing afforded, this position married my two favorite things; technology and music.

I was also in the fortunate situation of having a husband who earned enough money that I could stay home and raise my own children if I wanted to. And, this is what I eventually did.

Did I love it? No, I did not. However, I was in the unforeseen predicament of having gotten exactly what I had wished for.

Early on, I realized that I had an opportunity to be, for better or worse, a role model. So, I tried to display fairness, kindness and compassion in my everyday interactions. I took up volunteer work, and quit sneaking cigarettes behind the pool house. I stopped swearing, I exercised and took my vitamins. I tried very hard not to gossip, although this was difficult.

From the beginning, I took being a stay-at-home mother fairly seriously. I made my own play dough, packed organic lunches in reusable containers for play group, and kept my house as neat as a pin. I adored my children, but I missed the excitement and accolades of my career and professional accomplishments.

Now, I wonder if I made the right decisions? I treasured my time with my daughters now 17 and 18, but I wonder if all the sacrifices I made personally were really necessary? Where would I be now if I had not opted out of work in favor of being a full time wife and mother?

At the time, I remember thinking these were brutal choices. At that point in history, there was a very steep cliff in terms of work. My job was a 60 hour per week commitment. Marketing Directors did not work from home. My husband worked this many hours or more. We found it impossible to find a nanny who wanted to work 12 plus hours per day like we did. With a two year old and an infant the choices were limited.

I think about these choices as I help to prepare and educate my own daughters as they move into adulthood. These are important questions to raise as they consider careers, and hopefully motherhood and families of their own.

My hope is to raise these topics, among others, and have this conversation in my weekly column for News 24/680.

Love and blessings.

News 24/680 Columist

In recent days, I’ve been discussing writing a column for News 24/680. I will be writing a weekly column covering topics such as entrepreneurship, women in business, and work life balance.

I am honored to have this opportunity to work with this experienced team of journalists and share my insights and opinions on topics that are close to my heart.

My first column will be published in the near future and I will share this link and future links here.

Although, I look forward to serving this new audience of readers, I will continue to write my posts here as before.

It is certainly true that we never know where our path in life will lead. Becoming a news columnist is certainly a fun and exciting twist in the road.

Love and blessings.

Lamorinda Arts Council

The Lamorinda Arts Council has sponsored its 15th Visual Arts Competition for High school students.

Denise Nomura is the chair and she does a wonderful job of organizing and displaying the 250+ original pieces.

I spent a cold and rainy day with her, and the other volunteers this week hanging the art in the Orinda Library Gallery. I organized the paintings and drawings by color. Grouping the work into warm and cool colors and helped to place them in such a way that complimented the beauty of each.

What an amazing array of talent we have in our young people. I couldn’t help thinking what they might do in the future. I hope they all continue to create and not lose their love and interest in art.

Of course, my own daughter entered an oil painting. She recently decided to replace soccer with art, the other passion of her early childhood.

When I asked what she planned on painting I was surprised to learn it would be inspired by the song, California by Joni Mitchell. The lyrics are about sitting in a park in Paris, France, giving peace a chance, and pretty people reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue. The chorus is about coming home to California.

She listened to the song over and over while painting. Her painting is nothing like anything I might paint. Although, she painted over a canvas of mine, and used my brushes what she created was uniquely her own.

And, in the words of Joni Mitchell, wouldn’t it be nice if we could finally give peace a chance? Maybe, this next generation will.

The winners for the contest will be announced on Wednesday, at the 7 p.m. reception. How the Council will select a winner, I’ve no idea. For me, the art is impossible to compare or categorize as it is all astonishingly individual.

I recommend stopping by The Orinda Library Gallery to see it for yourself. The exhibition runs through March 26th.

Love and blessings.

Love Has Teeth

Sometimes, you simply wake up and everything has changed.

A feeling of peace has descended. The rooms in my house are cool and the rain is falling. My lemon tree is heavy with fruit, no matter how much of it I give away. The dark clouds turn white every few days, and the sun comes out.

There’s been a definite shift. The future I longed for is here. It’s so calm it’s almost frightening, after so much turmoil it feels completely exotic, and wholly appreciated like a long awaited vacation.

Simple things like planting flowers, or spending an entire day hanging art at the local library are a joy. I’m making coffee with my French press again, and I’ve decided to plant a vegetable garden this year because I wish to cultivate things like I once did. Packets of seeds sit on my desk waiting to be planted.

Again, I want to make lavender water to spray on my sheets and pillow cases. I want to make cilantro salad dressing, and sweet peas with saffron. I want to sit in my garden and read this summer surrounded by beautiful flowers and the buzzing bees.

Last week, I drove Siena to physical therapy, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. After two major surgeries and five months on crutches, she could take herself, but I missed singing in the car with her, so I went too. It was nice to see her walk through the doors of Children’s Hospital without crutches. Her once angry scars are slowly fading. On this day, it was so relaxing that I fell asleep in the waiting room listening to the rain.

I’ve been thinking about love and how we expect it to be soft and sweet. But, it’s not. Love has teeth and it can bite. It can destroy us, or it can make us stronger.

Love and blessings.

Letting Go

It was an epic moment finishing my book, Love & Blessings. In many ways it was written as a love letter to the family I created, and loved, and my late husband who in the early years poured his heart and soul into this endeavor.

It’s time to let go now, although I will always hold him close in my heart.

This loss, felt very different than losing a parent. I think we expect our life partner to be there through the many challenges life has in store, and we are invested in a different way. Even if there is a divorce they are a constant in the lives of our children, and thus remain a part of ours as well.

Additionally, he was my peer, and often I find it hard to believe he’s gone, but alternately making it possible for this to happen anytime to anyone. I am very capable though, and I have handled things mostly with ease. I’m proud of myself and the progress I’ve made. I look forward to my future and my rich and full life.

My dear friend Jeff has left too. He’s moved to Tennessee to start again. Letting go isn’t always easy, but it’s healthy and it’s necessary.

Love and blessings to all.