As a wife and mother living in an affluent community, I wore many masks. This isn’t something I realized, or thought about at the time. I sought only to be appropriate in each situation. PTA mask, play group mask, country club mask, and so on.
There were places, naturally, where I was my true self, most notably while hiking or skiing in Tahoe, but often I was filling the expectations of my role as a wife and mother.
Two years ago, I started sailing. This was an antidote to my addiction to the outdoors, and spending time in the mountains, or more importantly in nature after my children no longer wished to leave their friends for weekends or holidays in Truckee. I understood this, and sought other outdoor activities that were closer to home. For a while I thought it could be horses, and I took riding lessons, but this didn’t give me the same sense of freedom. Then I found sailing.
Sailing has given me everything I could have ever asked for. No mask required, sailing is simply a merit based sport. No one cares what you look like, where you live, how old you are, the most important thing is the common love of the sea. This passion unites the most unusual of companions and creates unconventional friendships.
Last night, I was at the Yacht Club, surrounded by friends looking out onto the Bay. My friend, and I sat with a globe, and he explained to me how the winds move around the world. And, I was enthralled. That’s all I can say. Enthralled.
I’ve spent the last several years planning. Even before my husband died, I was searching for my next big thing. I started teaching at UC Berkeley’s International Program. I took a series of interesting jobs, one with an art gallery, another with an online retailer. I learned to sail completing my basic keelboat training at OCSC and passing my written American Sailing Association test.
The summer my husband died, I had just started Ocean SF and our nonprofit the Trident Project. We were in development for our product line and had planned our first fund raiser. It was a rocky time, but we stayed the course, and now our online store and Ocean SF website is up and we are in full production.
My business partner Andrew, was very understanding of what we termed, “the situation,” and protected me as much as possible. Most notably, the week I was spreading my husband’s ashes and our boat was going to be towed off the guest dock. Andrew’s common response to me when we spoke was, “no worries,” when in actuality, there was always plenty to be worried about.
From the very beginning, I made the mental health of my daughters the priority and dominant focus. It’s paid off, and all is well. Now, everyday I watch my life move forward, in positive ways. All of the plans, and hopes, and dreams I had for my future are coming true.
The other night, I had my sailing friends over, we sat in our tree house and drank wine. It was a beautiful warm night, tranquil and calm.
Many people wouldn’t think of me as lucky from the outside looking in, but every single morning before I get out of bed, I count my blessings. And it doesn’t take very long for me to feel grateful for the many good things in my life.
First of all, I’m in excellent health. On most days, if I’ve not burned the candle at both ends, which I often do, I feel fantastic. Then, I have my wonderful family, and in particular my spectacular daughters. Then, I have the most hilarious golden-doodle, named Polly, and her two side kicks the black and white cats, Dash and Jam.
Next, I have friends galore. And make more everyday. I have been spending time with my sailing friends this week. Especially, my business partner, and my sailing instructor Tom. There is nothing like a common interest to connect and deepen ties with people.
But, I especially love my neighbors and my beautiful neighborhood. I have so much love and support here that I feel blessed everyday. My neighbor Sandy, who brought Paris’ bedding to her college dorm in LA after we forgot it, my dear friends Craig and Denise who help me with everything I do, including building Ocean SF. My husband’s three best friends, and their families, that are always here for us. And, my neighbor Alecia, who made me the beautiful pearl and rose quartz necklace I’m wearing above. And Barb, who I met when our daughters were two, who took me to the polo tournament where the above photo was taken a few weekends ago.
Recently, one of my neighbors sent me the following note. It was so generous and kind it brought tears to my eyes.
I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few weeks knowing that a year has passed since losing your husband. I have not seen you in years nor spoken, but I do want you to know that I have always admired the woman, and Mother that you are. You have been a true role model from the day I met you. My daughter, has always spoken of you with admiration and your unconditional kindness towards her made her love being in your presence. Both Siena and Paris are so fortunate to have a loving, attentive, involved, active and beautiful Mother who truly loves her children. I believe Paris must be heading off to a College, and that must be an exciting yet difficult transition after your past year. These next two years will be very special for you and Siena. Time is precious as you are aware, and it’s never too late to tell someone how wonderful they are. So before I turn in I wanted to let you know how much I admire you and if you ever need anything I’m here for you.”
People like this, and the precious town I live in, give me deep roots, and a priceless sense of security.
Be determined, this is what I tell myself every morning. In the face of much adversity, I have accomplished more than I could have dreamed possible. And I am proud of myself. I have never worked harder than I have in the last two years. I have started a business, went back to school to get my adult teaching certification, have continued to teach, and create classes at UC Berkeley’s IDC (International Diploma Certification Program), consulted for some amazing companies AND co-founded a nonprofit called The Trident Project. I’ve also lost my husband of 22 years to a sudden heart attack and have been raising my very busy, and more often then not mischievous, teenage daughters.
Needless to say, I am exhausted.
However, I am determined to not just endure, but to thrive. I remember being so thankful that my daughter could drive, so I could work more, then she crashed and totalled her car after only nine weeks, and I was back to carpool duties. I founded The Trident Project with Andrew, and my younger daughter Siena, last summer and weeks before our enormous fund raiser, my husband died, so it was cancelled. Obstacles large and small have been in my path, but I have not allowed them to stop me from achieving my goals and dreams. No matter what happens I remain determined. My days are a whirlwind of activity as I lay a foundation for my future and work to support my family.
The Trident Project is my antidote to the constant philanthropy work I have done since I was a child. I have never not been involved with charitable organizations. From Girl Scouts to National Charity League. However, this nonprofit speaks directly to my heart as it works to reduce pollution caused by plastics in our oceans and eradicate the commercial distribution of microfibers that pollute our drinking water.
I love everything about the ocean and knowing that in 20 years it will be full of more plastic than fish, is not something I can stand by and watch happen without taking action. I will do anything to help our dying oceans because without healthy oceans nothing else I do matters. Nothing. I will not go into all of the research I have done and the studies I have read, but I will tell you, it is startling and the most urgent problem of our era.
When I was a girl I would spend at least part of every summer in Vancouver, British Columbia, and for a few years my uncles had a boat. We would cruise around the beautiful waters and I would play backgammon on one of the many pristine beaches with my Uncle Basil. Those summer days rank as possibly the high point of my childhood and early adulthood. Later, I would spend most of my time in the snow, skiing Mt. Bachelor in college, and then Tahoe with my family, and more recently I’ve fallen in love with the melted snow and sailing in San Fransisco Bay.
Spending so many days of my life in the natural world, in melted or unmelted water, has made me the person I am today, strong, calm, and focused. So, it is my mission to preserve this for myself, my children and their children, and it is what I will dedicate much of my life to in the future.
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