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.

Smooth Sailing

The last months of the year surprisingly brought a tremendous amount of fun. My precious daughter was home from college, my friend Jeff was home from Colombia, my business partner and I attended some very interesting and enjoyable Capital fund raising events, and it was my birthday which brought a few weeks worth of parties, lunches and celebrations.

Now, everyone has left and it’s just Siena and I again. When I’m not spending time with her, I am working ten or more hours per day on our nonprofit The Trident Project, and Ocean SF, and on the book I am writing about grief.

I believe in setting intentions, achievable goals, and then tracking to these on a daily basis, so I am also planning my course of action for 2018 and in particular the months ahead.

Over the last eighteen months, I consistently thought of my progress as being one of laying a strong foundation. I had no other intention than to lay this foundation. I spent a good deal of time thinking about my own happiness and what I needed to do to one day arrive in a future where I could use my talents, share my wisdom and make a difference in the world. My nonprofit The Trident Project, our sailing apparel company, Ocean SF and my blog were all born from this intention.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my character and how to improve myself in this regard. Over the past year or more, this hadn’t entered my mind, but now I want to be a better, stronger, and kinder version of myself. To do this I am turning to my books and writing to find this wisdom, and spending time by myself again.

After a week of near solitude, over the weekend I spent time with friends. On Friday night out to dinner with the girls, then Saturday on the water with the Race Committee for the Midwinter Yacht Races. I helped to check in the racers, then went to the bow and raised flags for the start.

It was beautifully calm in the morning and then, luckily, the wind picked up for the race that afternoon. I spent time with my friend Fran, it was her birthday, and we sat in the sunshine, and wind, eating lunch as she told me about her life. It was truly a beautiful and idyllic day.

Afterward, I met my business partner and his girlfriend for drinks. We’ve been friends now for long enough to have some very funny memories, many of these included our early days sailing and hanging out at The Olympic Circle Sailing Club, where I met our mutual friend and my Sailing Instructor Tom Dryja.

While I was in his class he would say things like, “Sydney, that’s a beautiful knot, but it’s upside down and backwards.”

Over the course of my many days learning from him, 18 sails that first winter, I gained much respect for him, and his ability to teach the complexity of sailing to even a dyslexic like myself.

Eventually, I could tie all my knots correctly and now I own a boat.

This proves to me at least, that if you set foot in the direction of your dreams, they truly can, and do, come true.

I look forward to 2018 being one of smooth sailing not just for myself, but for everyone.

Love and blessings.

The Trident Project

In the summer of 2016, with my daughter Siena, now sixteen, and my business partner Andrew Lacenere, we founded The Trident Project, a California based 501(c)3 non-profit with a global focus on protecting our oceans. Our mission is to back programs and endeavors that reverse ocean acidification caused by pollution associated with petroleum based products and their micro particles.

We believed with an organization spanning three generations, we could rapidly help to incite the changes necessary to stop the currently inevitable death of our oceans. Currently we are partnering with several organizations to drive environmental impact worldwide, but in December, we hired a program manager to assist with our grassroots efforts in our communities.

The Trident Project begins locally by hosting our first monthly beach clean up on January 27, 2018 in partnership with Save the Bay.

The monthly beach clean ups in and around San Fransisco will each include an educational component and are perfect for families and groups of friends that would like to spend at least one day per month working toward a better and cleaner future for all of us.

We are using Event Bright to manage our participants and would like to keep our numbers below 50 per event to provide meaning and quality to the educational component. Click here to access your free ticket or to make a donation. To read more about The Trident Project click here.

I’m so excited for 2018 and the meaningful work that I am able to accomplish. Please join me at one of our events.

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.

Holiday Dread

Paris & Siena – Family Holiday Party 2017

As a kid I dreaded Christmas, that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. I was nine when I had my last Christmas with my Dad on the farm. Because he was a retired Lt. Colonel, they helicoptered him home one last time from Madigan Medical Center at Fort Lewis Army Base to our horse ranch in Oregon. He was very ill, rail thin, and on oxygen, and died a few weeks later.

There are photos of the two of us together. I am pale and held closely in his arms. There were more presents than necessary.  Wrapped gifts covered most of our living room, and that was just the start. Dolls and toys were delivered by Santa again on Christmas morning.

This is one of those memories that is almost intolerable to think about. After my father died, my mother would sit in front of our Christmas tree playing Christmas music in the dark all through the holidays. If this is a tradition, than it was ours, and it was a sad one.

No matter where in the world I was, as soon as I saw the lights go up and the decorations hit the stores I would cringe internally. As luck would have it, my birthday also fell in the middle of the month of December, and it was never without a depressing gloom. My mother would insist on putting up the Christmas tree for my birthday. As the decorations and lights gave me nothing but an anxiety attack, I insisted this was unwelcome, but she persisted.

No matter what we did or where we went the holiday dread surrounded my family growing up. We were never without countless beautiful gifts however, in fact, I could have anything I wanted growing up, clothes, bikes, record players, or even a car. Money was never an issue, but there wasn’t enough money in the world to make Christmas something to cherish and look forward to. It was simply a painful season filled with ghosts and memories that I would literally have to white knuckle my way through.

This went on well past my college years, and eased up only slightly, when I moved to San Fransisco and would host Christmas dinner at my flat in Russian Hill.

When I had my own children, I realized I had to solve my personal Christmas dread issue. I turned to the church and my home was less about Santa and more about the story of the birth of Jesus. My children sang in the Children’s Christmas Choir at our Catholic church, they were also in the Christmas Eve play, as sheep or angels. We didn’t miss a Christmas Eve mass. I also insisted that we give them only five presents. Unwrapped and from Santa.  I didn’t want to buy their joy. I wanted everything to have meaning. We developed many happy traditions. Then, we moved them all to our second home in Tahoe when the kids were six and eight. White Christmas’ on the ski slopes and mass in Truckee and dinner at Bar of America after, skiing on Christmas Day with friends, then homemade ricotta gnocchi and ravioli’s made with my Italian pasta machine, stuffed and cut by hand.

Yet, still the sadness of the season persisted for me. It wasn’t until I started to really look for the beauty of the season and shifted my perspective, from getting through it to embracing it, did things start to shift for me. I think this year, even though things are far from perfect, has been my favorite year. I had a lovely birthday, celebrating with my beautiful children and friends. It had a magical quality that I was sincerely grateful for. Every day since then, has been full of laughter and fun. We had a small family Christmas party with a handful of loved ones that was full of happiness and joy.

My girls are happy and I am happy.  I am looking forward to this beautiful Christmas week, our days are filled with magic, and there is no better time to embrace them then now.

Love and Blessings to all.

Newfoundland, Sailing & Gooseberry Jam

I’ve had a walk down memory lane recently. My cousin, and I have been chatting, he’s twelve years my junior, but we’ve always had an affinity for one another. When he was six he would hide from me, but I could always hear his laughter and quickly find him. When I was twenty I spent a summer in Vancouver B.C. and I spent a lot time with him, and his little brother Jeff and their dog, Lucy.

Now, he’s the father of three little girls and he calls me every so often to check in. No two people could be less alike. Mostly, we talk about raising our girls, or our favorite topic business. He’s also a very successful entrepreneur. And I’m not surprised, he was wicked smart as a kid. Now, he has a beautiful wife by his side, and they work together building their business and raising their children.

We talk a lot about the large family we come from. My mother was the oldest of twelve, and his father was the oldest son, Daniel, named after our grandfather, landing at number five. My cousin has a different perspective being younger and having grown up in Canada, in both Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Columbia.

I love to hear his stories of the things I missed. Not only is he wicked smart, he’s wicked funny as well, and everything he says carries our ancestral shared sense of humor, which is our birthright.

Talking to him recently made me nostalgic for Newfoundland, my mother, and her people. I pulled out the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx from my bookcase. She writes there is no place like Newfoundland, six thousand miles of coast blind-wrapped in fog, snow in May, a place of ghosts and magic.

That’s the Newfoundland that I remember.

However, what I miss the most is the language of Newfoundland, when Proulx wrote the novel, she said she went to sleep with the dictionary of Newfoundland under her pillow, for over a year, to get it right. But, it’s not the same to read it. I wanted to hear it. So, I watched the movie, it brought back memories of my grandmother’s house and her fresh bread, warm from the oven, smothered in butter, sour cream, and gooseberry jam, and the way they spoke there was almost musical, a melody to their words that can’t be explained.

Of course, there were always parties, and it was so much fun, with so many people around, and everyone inevitably gathering together in the warm kitchen drinking tea or whiskey from a tea cup with a saucer, no less.

My grandmother’s house was rambling with five bedrooms upstairs, and three below, she always kept it in perfect condition with freshly painted walls, and fresh wall paper in the hallways. It had a stately mahogany staircase and even a tiny telephone room at the second landing, where you could talk in peace, the floors were covered in red and blue rugs, the furniture in velvet.

My mother’s room was small and cozy at the front of the house, but my grandmother put me in my grandfather’s room the last time I was there. It was large with a fireplace, and a view of Portugal Cove Road, and the Memorial University Medical School Campus, and beyond the sea. My grandmother slept on the other side of the house overlooking the pond where the children ice skated in winter when they were young.

Last night, I went to sleep dreaming of Newfoundland, the icy tundra, the hypnotic crash of waves on rock, the smell of fish, weather and salt. It felt so strange to wake up to sunny California, my Meyer Lemon tree and the Christmas party I am planning.

Somethings remain in our blood forever.

I know these roots are what made me a sailor, I knew this the first day. I felt it immediately, I was completely comfortable, and at home on a sailboat.

The past always informs the future.

Love and blessings to all.

Marin, Tim Parr & Caddis

Being your own boss has many benefits, one of them is meeting up with interesting people in beautiful places. Today, in Marin, I sit outside in the sunshine having lunch with the legendary Tim Parr, who’s been a driver behind iconic brands like Patagonia, Kona, and L.L. Bean to name just a few.

He’s just launched another company called Caddis, an eyewear company. It’s all about lifestyle, check out their Architects and Custodians page here, it’s about creating change, generating ideas, and spawning creativity.

I’ve been trying to get a meeting with him since last summer, after an introduction by mutual friends, the Finegold’s of Tart, as he is very experienced in working with Merino wool. It was certainly worth the wait. He gave me some great advise for Ocean SF, aside from reassuring me that we were on the right track; he advised we take our time, and make the highest quality product possible. It will take as long as it takes. True that.

We’ve taken a great deal of time to create a sustainable product that is both beautiful and environmentally responsible, and after a year and a half of working diligently, orders will begin shipping in the next few weeks.

It’s been a journey, with many twists and turns along the way, but ultimately there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a vision you created with friends on a sailboat come to fruition. This is something Tim Parr completely understands.

What an inspiring guy. And he bought me lunch. What’s not to love?

Check out his company at caddislife.com.

Love and blessings to all.

Whoever Said it Was Easy Must of Had it Pretty Good

The life of an entrepreneur is wrought with untold obstacles, stress, and fight or flight inducing fear. If this were easy, then everyone would be doing it.

I’ve worked for four start ups, all of them successful, but I took note of the downfalls, the set backs, and the inherent doubt and confusion involved. So, I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started Ocean SF, but the lure of following my own dream, making a meaningful mark on the world, and being my true authentic self was too great. Safety and security and a known path in life can be beautiful, and I’ve done that as well, but stepping onto an unknown path is another matter all together. Taking this risk has summoned my upmost courage.

From the beginning, the obstacles along the way have not deterred, or surprised me. I expected them quite honestly, and regardless, I continued on knowing in my heart that I was on the right path, and there was no turning back.

Now, the fabric that we went to hell and back to manufacture has shipped. We looked all over the world for this fabric from LA, to NYC, to Italy, France, China and Bangladesh. We had everyone looking for it, and we rejected countless samples. Finally, we had no choice, but to acquiesce, and mill it our selves in our custom colors, most significantly Safety Orange. It took four solid months! Believe it or not, you can’t buy sustainable wool fleece, not like ours and not anywhere in the world. You can buy polyester fleece all day long for cents on the dollar, but it pollutes drinking water, and does not keep sailors, or anyone else warm if it gets wet. There is nothing like it for performance outdoors.

Our fabric is custom milled for Ocean SF of 100% Merino wool. The exterior is tightly woven to keep the wind out, the soft interior to keep you warm, while regulating body heat. Anyone can wear it for any sport. It’s beautiful, machine washable, and so on.

I’ve been conducting focus groups. And no surprise, everyone who sees our jackets, touches the fabric and tries it on absolutely loves it. Thank goodness!

To see the light at the end of the tunnel finally, feels so good. If it were easy everyone would be doing it. Follow your dreams people! Find what makes your heart pound and do that.

Love and blessings to all.

Calling All Angels

Enter the world of Ocean SF, our beautiful, chic, environmentally sophisticated clothing company targeting the affluent American sailing market, plus all our fellow adventure seekers!

We are raising capital to expand our clothing line beyond our popular sustainable signature jacket made with our custom milled 100% Merino wool to include silk, linen, cashmere, and cotton casual apparel for all outdoor activities on and off shore.

We are opening our first round for friends and family with only a minimum investment of $5,000.

Angels can contact me personally, or via our webstore at oceansf.co, or at hello@oceansf.co. We will put you in contact with our financial advisor who will fill you in on all details.

Love and blessings to all.

You Are My Sunshine

Even before my husband died I had strange incidents of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences. Yesterday, I had a meeting at Berkeley Yacht Club with a woman I met at the Project Entrepreneur Summit. Julie runs a company called the Healing Farm, and I was telling her the story behind the purchase of our beloved sail boat, Solana. I wrote about this nine months ago when it happened, but it is even more relevant now that Solana is in the water and such a big part of our lives.

Grief is a tricky emotion. Sometimes, the pain subsides and it’s possible for me to go about my day like a normal person, but other times it is crippling. For me, the saddest part is raising my daughters alone, and there are times when the weight and sorrow of this is too much to bare. This is compounded by having lost my own father when I was nine years old, and my mother twenty years later.  If I allow myself to think too hard about these losses I am left with a stunning sense of abandonment. One day in particular, I was in the later mindset. I was running errands and crying while doing so.

People in my small town are, as a rule, very kind, so no one appeared to notice as I did my shopping while crying. As my tears fell the checkers would only look at me with compassion and ask softly if I might need a bag for my purchases.  While picking up wrapping paper at Home Goods, I saw a coffee cup that said, “Sunshine heals” and around the rim, “You are my sunshine” and I decided to buy it for myself to cheer myself up.  I paid for it, and took it home with me, and later that night, I was texting Andrew, my boat partner and business partner, and I asked the name of the boat he wanted to buy, and he said, “Solana” or “Sunshine” in Spanish.  I was drinking out of the cup as I read this, and then my eyes slowly glanced down, there was a sun on the front with a smiley face. ☀️

This was definitely in the category of rare moments I will never forget, and now having since bought and successfully restored our beautiful sailboat Solana, it makes that moment even more meaningful.

As I’ve moved forward on this difficult journey, I’ve followed signs like these, they are like guide posts along the way, I don’t know if it is the Universe or God, or my own belief in such things, but they are always with me.  One day, I was singing a song in the house as I was getting ready to leave, and when I got in the car, it was playing on the radio.  Whether, it is a song, or meeting someone new who is so encouraging of my writing or my company Ocean SF, it makes me feel like I am on the right path.

Buying Solana was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  We now have our meetings for Ocean SF on our boat, and it will soon serve as a mobile pop-up store (more on this later). And for The Trident Project, our non-profit, it will be used to troll for plastics and gather water samples for Berkeley Labs.

The cup I bought so many months ago, now sits on the desk in my office, and holds my colored pencils, and as for the tears, well, sometimes, it really is alright to cry.

As the months go by, I am grateful for the beautiful and supportive small town I live in, all of the friends I’ve made sailing, and starting my sailing apparel line, and for our little yellow boat, Solana.

Love and blessings to all.