Friday, April 29, 2011

The Epitome of a Lady

Earlier this week, the very special woman of whom I often referred to as "Auntie B", my 'surrogate Mother-in-Law', quietly and with great dignity, slipped away.

I refrain from saying she left us, for any who knew her will surely agree, the spirit of this smart, strong, dignified woman who was quiet and full of grace, will forever resonate within all whose lives she touched.

This fine, humble woman gave more than she ever took. She adamantly refused to have a funeral, memorial service, or even a notice in the newspaper. It was of utmost importance to her that she quietly move on, with her ashes being simply strewn into a rose garden.

That was our Barbara.

So in keeping with her wishes, I will not memorialize her here but will move forward knowing she will always be with me. I pray the days I have ahead will be spent trying to become even half the woman she was.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Heading South

A few quick notes. I am heading out of town for a few days. Family issues have my mind and body elsewhere. I hope to be back next week.

In the meantime, hope all of you had a nice Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Recently a reader asked me "How do you manage to get everything you do - done"? She wondered if in the near future I would consider the question as a blog topic. Great idea!

I immediately wrote back to her (she is a busy mother of two) and revealed to her that many days, my best laid plans (that is to say, my list) doesn't always get everything crossed off of it. I also reminded her that my daughter is grown and away to school and now I have more time.

First and foremost, moms - give yourselves a break! Easy for me to say - right? Honestly, as I look back, there are a number of things I wish I had done differently when Kate was home. If you read my first blog entry you'll remember that I am not 'super-human', super-mom or super-woman! The main reason I started to write this blog was to share the many lessons I learned while raising a family (and I only had one child!). While many thought I seamlessly managed to 'get it all done' - I didn't!

That said - for me, it's my daily list that helps me keep all the balls in the air.

Here are a few tips on how I compile my daily, weekly and monthly lists.

• Before the end of the year, purchase a date book or planner. I don't always buy the same one, however I gravitate towards the options available from Moleskine. This year I purchased a medium-sized weekly planner.

• Keep your planner in a spot you see everyday and that's convenient. For me, it's the cookbook holder in my kitchen. I keep the planner open so I can see my entire week at a glance. I hook a pen right on the planner, making it easy to jot things down things that need to be done.

• Keep a notepad with the planner. This becomes my daily to-do list. For example; Sundays I tend to do my grocery shopping. Everything I'll need for the upcoming weeks menus is on that list, as well as other things I need to do that day like other errands, chores, bills that need to be paid, etc.

• I also customize my date book by adding these tabs that say; Daily, Weekly and Monthly. I move them around from day to day, week to week and month to month. The tabs make it easy for me to quickly find the dates and pages I need.

• I also add one of these pockets to the inside front cover to hold things like tickets, coupons, reservations, etc., and one to the inside back cover for items I know I'll need in the weeks ahead. 

• If I'm heading to a meeting or out for the day, I grab my datebook and my daily list and take them with me. As I work my way through the day, I check the list and cross things off as they get done.

• I try to prioritize my list as well. Often, by days end there are things that did not get done. I'll add them to the next days list and have a go at it again.

• Recently I added a narrow folder that I keep with my planner. I made 7 file folders, 1 for each day of the week. Inside each file folder I place bills that need to be paid, forms that need to be signed, cards that need to be mailed, etc. I look inside this folder first thing and handle everything I can before my day gets started.

My list is a visual cue to what needs to be done. I am a visual learner so this system works best for me. The addition of the folder keeps everything that needs to be done in one place.

There are lots of ways to keep our days organized. The most important thing is to develop a system and a routine that works best for you.

It's also good to remember that all systems can be made better. As you develop your organizational skills, you'll find yourself adjusting and readjusting to make things work better for you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Part of my Heart

I left a part of my heart in San Francisco, Santa Rosa and St. Helena. My Bay Area trip last weekend was a whirlwind of family, fun, good food, fine wine, (no song), old friends and some new too - and new business!

Early last Saturday morning, Kent and I fled the rainy Pacific Northwest and headed towards Oakland and the California sun. We pointed our rental car north to Santa Rosa to spend a far-too-short Saturday with Auntie B, leaving her Sunday afternoon for an overnight visit with his aunt Bev in St. Helena. As the weekend whizzed by, we were reminded once again how thankful we are to have these two very special and amazing women in our lives.

Monday morning, we headed into the city and spent the afternoon wandering through interesting shops and neighborhoods. We met Kent's cousin Paul for dinner at a lovely little restaurant called Catch. Kent flew home early Tuesday morning and I stayed a few more days visiting with a dear friend and her two beautiful baby daughters and then on to making new friends and investigating new business opportunities.

This coming week, lots on the docket. First and foremost daughter Kate will FINALLY make it home! I couldn't stand it another minute, sucked it up and got her a plane ticket for Easter. Friday evening a dear friend will arrive from Portland. She and I have known each other since we were in the sixth grade! Her hubby is in China on business, leaving her alone on her birthday. We can't have that! I made my list and grocery shopped for the week because come tomorrow morning, I must get organized!

I'm working on three projects for Meredith: two for Better Homes and Gardens that will appear this fall; and one for the food group that will publish before the holidays. Lots creative work- I love it!

I need to accomplish all of the above, spend some time working with Elizabeth on our calendar project for next year, and focus on Raw Materials. That part of my heart (a stack of products that I've nurtured and tinkered with the past few years) was left in San Francisco in very good, kind and capable hands.

In the past few weeks in meetings and over cocktails, here and down south, I've learned a lot about myself and where and with whom I might want to take Raw Materials. I've always known that great work is never accomplished alone. Raw Materials will require a great team to get rolling. Things are starting to fall into place and for a variety of reasons - both business and family - the Bay Area will most likely be in my travel plans again soon.

I hope you'll check back with me this week to see my progress. In the meantime, what Easter, Passover or simply family time have you gotten organized?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Has Anybody Seen My Duct Tape?

Once again, in my "never a dull moment" life, my daughter continues to keep things interesting and this time terrifying! She had quite the ride Tuesday morning, but it had nothing to do with a horse!

As many of you know, Kate spent the weekend in Southern California competing in a horse show. She and her team flew back to Montana late Sunday night and didn't arrive back in Missoula until after 2am. Monday morning she was planning to drive home for the week for spring break.

Given her late arrival, I suggested she stay in Missoula another night, get some much needed rest, and delay her day-long drive home. Our crazy el nino weather blessed us with yet another storm, dumping new snow in the mountains. I wanted her to do the long trip fresh and clear headed.

Tuesday morning she pointed the Subaru (our old car) west and hit the road. The weather was OK. Cloudy but not snowing and the two passes she needed to cross were clear. We don't talk while she's driving so I anticipated hearing from her when she stopped in Spokane for gas. Kate has done this trip a number of times but NEVER alone. As you can imagine, I wasn't happy about her driving by herself, but I knew at some point I was going to have to learn to live with it.

When my phone finally rang, I was expecting her call but not my terrified, tear-filled daughter calling from the side of the road on a big pass in northern Idaho. When she finally gathered herself, she told me she was not injured. You can just imagine what was going through my mind! As we continue to talk, I'm running out to the studio (Kent's office) to tell him and figure out what we needed to do and quick!

It turned out that tire flew off a truck heading in the opposite direction on the freeway, and came right at her! She had nowhere to go, a car to her right, ditch to her left. The bouncing tire hit the front right of the car and bounced off. (Had it hit the windsheild, I don't think our girl would be alive to tell the story.)

She was able to get over and pull off the road. Another driver saw it happen and pulled over behind her. He quickly got her cell number and chased the truck the tire flew off of. What a nice guy! In the meantime, I had her call 911. The state trooper arrived quickly. At this point I was ready to jump in the car and race east to get my girl.

My husband was on the phone with our insurance company while Kate filed an accident report with the trooper. Finally, the towing company arrived and took Kate and the car to Coeur d'Alene. By the time they arrived, we'd rented her a car and decided it was best for her to turn around and head back to Missoula and stay there for the remainder of the week.

Not exactly her idea (or mine) of a fun spring break - but thankfully she was safe!

No! I don't need the duct tape to stick the car back together (turns out all the damage is cosmetic!), I need to quickly FedEx it to my daughter with instructions to kindly do her Ma a favor and stick herself in one spot for the rest of the school year!

Finally, this will be my last post for a week. I'm off to the Bay Area in the morning to visit family in Santa Rosa, then head to San Francisco Monday for business. I can't wait to tell you all about my trip and the many exciting things happening around here. All I can say is Raw Materials has taken off!

But, most importantly - once again - we have been blessed, our daughter is safe, our futures are still bright, and all is well.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

True Colors

This weekend a few colors are on my mind -  and my daughter's too. Blue and red and yellow. First place, second and third.

This morning, Kate is chasing her dreams in Pomona, California, riding for the University of Montana Equestrian Team in the IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) Zones Championships, with her eyes fixed on the National Championships later this spring in Lexington, Kentucky.

I ache when she's showing and I'm not with her. Kate and I spent her childhood 'at the barn'. At first it was lessons on Saturdays, soon I was picking her up from school and taking her twice a week, then three days - you get the picture. By the time she was in Junior High - six days a week.

Not that I'm complaining - I loved it. But a daughter with an expensive hobby meant mama needed to earn a living! Thanks to daddy, when I was on he road working as a stylist, he'd kick in, sit in the truck with his laptop and work while she rode. Ya do what'cha gotta do. Honestly, when she could finally drive herself to lessons we were thrilled!

Now, anyone out there who's trotted down this dirt road already knows what came next. Yep, horse ownership! And let me tell you - owning a horse in the city is nothing like owning one in the country. Maybe we should have stuck to soccer!

It was my doing that Kate was introduced to the barn. I have ALWAYS loved horses and selfishly, I wanted to ride again. I thought this would be a good sport that we could do together. Had we lived back in Idaho or Montana or just about anywhere outside of an expensive city, this would have been a no-brainer. But here? You'd best be bringing home a big paycheck, and I wasn't! So, I'd watch, she'd ride and that made me happy.

Once we owned Ella, our tall, lanky, CRAZY Thoroughbred, we were in this 'horse thing' deep! That is to say, if money was tight before, it was darned near non-existent by month's end! Buying a horse is the cheap part. Maintaining one a whole other story. And of course, on top of care (vet and farrier's fees) and feeding (not just any 'ol hay, but a special blend, plus vitamins and other supplements) came training. Serious training. Plus show fees, riding clothes, boots (a few pairs), helmets (not just one, thanks to Kate's growth spurts), saddles, bridles, blankets and . . . the tack store owners would rub their hands together in anticipation when I drove up!

Ok, I wasn't ignorant. I knew all of this was in the cards. I loved it all, just as much as Kate did. I poke fun at our 'Ella years', but I'd easily do it all over again. I'm happily reminded of those years each time I walk by Kate's ribbon-lined room.

Sadly, tragedy struck when Kate was a junior in high school and we had to put Ella down. Although this is a story better told on another day, in the end we were all heartbroken. At this point with college bearing down like a roaring freight train we weren't going to buy another horse. We ended up making a simple choice between another horse or tuition.

It was hard for Kate to hang around the barn after Ella. Her trainers were kind to her and kept her riding as much as they could. But Kate didn't have 'her own ride' and it was tough for her. By the time she graduated from high school, she seemed to have lost interest.

When Kate decided to attend the University of Montana, I thought maybe she'd be interested in their riding team. They had a young team, but in the few years it had been in existence, they had done well. Before she graduated, I encouraged her to look into it. She didn't. In June we were to drive to Missoula for orientation, take a look around and get familiar with where she'd spend the next four years. Finally a day or two before we left, she emailed the teams trainer. We made an appointment at the barn and added it to our agenda for the week.

After we met with the team's president, looked around the barn, and inquired about about fees and schedules, I had my checkbook out! Here we go again.

It's Kate's second year now and she's been nominated for team president next year! Had she not had her kidney episode a month ago, she was on track to win Regional Champion. However because of her illness, we thought her year was done. Remember the fiasco in Dillon, MT? Needless to say, she risked that kidney and rode anyway and came away Regional Reserve Champion and made it to Zones. In a few minutes she'll ride in her first class.

Needless to say, I am a proud mama.

Yesterday while we talked on the phone about the upcoming weekend, I gave her my usual two-cents worth of pep talk (I'm sure much eye rolling was going on!) I always finish with, "Remember, it's not the winning that's important, it's the journey." Sure, if she ends up in the top third we'll whoop and holler ourselves all the way to Kentucky and the Nationals later this spring. But whether she ends up with blue, red or yellow - or no ribbon at all - it won't matter. She continues to pursue her passion, her true colors burning brightly.