2012: How did it go

January 1, 2013

For the past couple of years, I’ve chosen three words to center my goals for the year.   I sat down this afternoon to reflect on how I did with my 2012 words. Here are my reflections:


Went well:

  • Not having a TV serves our family.
  • Read for pleasure most evenings.
  • Spiritual margin- spent time reading Proverbs and the gospels most mornings.
  • Physical margin- swam regularly.  Got 6-8 hours of sleep most nights.
  • Keeping apps off my iphone serves me.  They are a time suck.  I knew they had to go when I snapped at my children when they interrupted me.  Worst offenders for me:  Pinterest, Twitter and TED.
  • Financial- cut expenses drastically.

Not so well:

  • Physical- need to drink more water.
  • Even without the apps, the iphone is a time suck for me.  It eats up my white space.  I think I need to change this when my contract is over in December.
  • Newly on Twitter- I need to keep an eye on this.
  • Even after all the decluttering we’ve done, it still feels like we have too much stuff- which leads to time spent cleaning and organizing.  Clutter is also a visual distraction.


I’m not so sure that this was a great goal.  Focus on what?  Focus needs something else to define it.


Went well:

  • Homeschool- the kids both progressed academically.  We’re engaging consistently with our homeschool community.  Homeschool hikes on Thursdays are a highlight of our week.
  • Mom- I’m connecting well with my (not so) little ones.  Good progress toward making what’s important to them important to me.
  • Launched our Fair Trade company.
  • Engaged with Extreme Poverty group at church, which was truly soul satisfying.  It’s where I’m supposed to be.

Not so well:

  • As happens with so many families in our season of life, mine and Charlie’s marriage took a back seat to life’s demands.  We were together before we had children.  We were together before we started a company.  We’ll be together long after the children fly the nest.  Other than our relationships with God, our marriage is truly the bedrock of our home.  Neglecting it is foolish.  I want to invest in us being close when we’re both hobbling around on walkers.  I want our marriage to thrive.  In 2013, regular dating must be a priority.

What about you?  How did your year go?  Greatest rewards?  Anything you would have done differently?


My Big Swim

October 8, 2012

A week ago Saturday, I swam in the Swim Across America fundraiser swim that I had been preparing for all summer. The event raised close to $350,000 for the Cancer Survivors program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and the cancer research programs at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. It was wonderful to be involved with the event.

The day couldn’t have gone better. I had the pleasure of riding up to the event with three Menlo Masters team mates- all of us juggle swimming with being wives, moms and with work. After getting body marked and tattooed, we rode a trolly to the ferry terminal where we boarded our boat. It took us out to Alcatraz, then over to the Golden Gate Bridge. On the ride, we heard from many cancer survivors and olympians who were doing the swim with us. It was inspirational for me to be surrounded by all the courageous men and women who have fought cancer. There were also a few kids doing the .5 mile swim- one of whom was a cancer survivor.

As we moved under the bridge, the boat turned around, and it was time to hop in. New swimmers had the option of having a swim angel swim along with them. I took advantage of this, and a woman named Rebecca swam with me the whole way. The water was a bit choppy when we hopped in, but it smoothed out about halfway through the swim. I stayed in the middle of the pack, which is where I like to be. There was a ton of support. There were five zodiaks, a San Francisco police boat, the Coast Guard and over 20 kayakers there to support the swimmers. There is a back eddy that runs along the shore of Crissy Field. If you swim directly to the shore from the bridge, you’ll get caught in the back eddy. So, we had to swim parallel to the shore until we got past the back eddy. Because there was so much support, there were kayakers there to tell us when to angle into shore. Super helpful. Honestly, I felt a bit like I was being herded. I’m not great at sighting yet. Because I was swimming with someone who had done the event before, I sighted off her each time I breathed to my right. When I got too far from her, I would see a kayaker paddle up to my left, and I knew that I had to move over. One of the highlights for me was going my 44 year old race pace and having Annika Dries and Heather Petri from the 2012 US women’s olympic water polo team zoom past me in the water. They smoked me- while passing a water polo ball back and forth. I was expecting the swim to be very hard, and it wasn’t. The tide was coming in as we swam, and it only took me about 35 minutes to do 1.5 miles. I had thought that it would take me about 45 minutes. What a wonderfully memorable day.

Thanks for reading!

Swim Across America!

September 24, 2012

Oh my, my. It’s almost here. I’ve been working all summer getting ready for this swim. This past Friday, I swam just short of two miles during practice. My body is as ready as it’s ever been to do this swim. I’ve also done some mental preparation through learning more about sighting, dealing with choppy water, and not freaking out about sharks and being so far from shore. Now that I’m more confident that I can actually complete this swim, I wanted to ask again if you would consider making a contribution to Swim Across America. All donations will go to UCSF Benoiff Children’s Cancer Program and the cancer program at Children’s Hospital in Oakland. I’m expecting it to be a wonderfully inspirational time with cancer survivors and those who have lost loved ones to cancer. You can find my Swim Across America page here. Thanks! Robin

Freaking Out My Family

There is a difference between recklessness and calculated risk taking. Recklessness is attempting an open water swim when you’re not really sure if you have the fitness to do it. I think it would be reckless to finance our business on a credit card. Calculated risk taking is different. It’s still a risk and a gamble. But, it’s a gamble that makes a little more sense. Yes, I know that great white sharks are in the Santa Cruz area this time of year. That being said, people are rarely attacked. I could choose not to go into the ocean at all and miss out on a fun open water race. Or, I can take the calculated risk knowing that the chances are very remote of anything happening to me. I choose to risk. The benefits outweigh the risks. With our business, we are in the fortunate position of being able to finance the initial costs out of savings. We’re not wealthy by Bay Area standards, and we are feeling the financial strain. That being said, if we lose all our initial investment, we won’t be in debt. Charlie has the business savvy, and I’m hoping that I have the creative talent to be able to create a product and a business that delights our customers. We have talented people behind us who are giving of themselves in order to give this business an honest shot. We’re taking a gamble with the potential upside of being able to make a modest living doing soul-satisfying work. If the business goes, there is tremendous potential to be a part of people lifting themselves out of poverty. So, it’s a risk, but I don’t think that it’s reckless.

Open Water Swimming and Life

As I was looking into how open water swimmers deal with fear and anxiety, I was comforted by the fact that there has been a lot written on the subject. In other words, I wasn’t by myself in dealing with fear and anxiety. Triathlon coach Steve Trew had some of the best advice I’ve seen. He started by saying that fear is a part of open water swimming. It’s something that almost everyone who does the sport deals with at one time or another. So, when it comes, recognize it as normal. Then, he gave some very practical advice. When you’re afraid in the water, the goal is to relax and breathe. You’re trying to prevent hyperventilation or a full-on panic attack. The strategy is that you flip onto your back and breathe deeply until you’re more relaxed. Then, flip onto your belly and take ten strokes forward. If you need to, flip onto your back and breathe again, or take ten more strokes forward. For me, this was meaningful advice. Meaningful in the water, but also meaningful in life. Risk and fear are companions. If you’re taking risks, you’re going to feel some fear. Recognize it as normal, take some deep breaths, and then continue to move forward.

So, we breathe deeply and press on.

Image by Stuart Grout via flickr used under a Creative Commons

Leaning into Fear

July 23, 2012

I’ve got to be honest. Fear has been my constant companion over the last couple of years. It’s sitting next to me all the time. It’s been a bit of a pill. If I give it too much credit, it slows me down. It gets in my way. It makes decision making take way longer than it should.

I’ve been at the point of tears so many times over the last couple of months. While in the midst of getting this product ready to go to market, I’ve also been preparing for this summer’s open water race season. Frankly, swimming in the open water scares me, too. The water is deep. It can be choppy. The sea life gives me the willies. Sharks. When I’m a long way from the shore and I’m tired, I feel very alone. I feel vulnerable. The fitness level that I’ve built in the pool over the last year is either there to get me safely to shore or it’s not. Yes, there are people out in their canoes and on their paddle boards. But, really, I don’t want to need the help. I think there’s something for me in the water, though. There’s something for me in swimming a long time in deep water. There’s something there in doing what is hard. In doing what we’re afraid of. Maybe if I can do it in the water, I can also do what I’m afraid of in living a wonderfully adventurous redemptive life. Maybe I can live my life in a way that matters.

So, what am I afraid of with this business? I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of looking foolish. I’m afraid of hearing well-meaning friends or family members tell me that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I’m afraid of making mistakes, which leads me to do nothing. I’m afraid of pitching a product that is rejected in the marketplace. I’m afraid that the business model won’t work. I’m afraid of making branding mistakes. I’m anxious about the process of figuring out how to run this business. If I let it, this fear will lead me to do absolutely nothing. To sit still and just let the idea pass me by.

My friend Nancy says that we should lean into our doubts. Lean into conflict. I think that the same is probably true with fear, too. We need to lean in and see what it’s about. Does my fear make sense? Will this fear serve my mission? Is a healthy dose of caution called for, or would a healthy dose of courage serve my mission best? When fear gets the best of me and slows me down or paralyzes me, I’ve been imagining myself answering to the people that we’re seeking to serve. I feel accountable to the poor. There are much easier ways to make a living than to run a Fair Trade business. Poverty alleviation is why we’re doing this. So, I imagine myself sitting before a group of women who are living in poverty and telling them that I didn’t move forward with the business because I was afraid. Because it might be hard. Because I have to figure out a path that I’m unsure of. Because I might fail. When sitting before these women, I just can’t do it. I just can’t let fear lead me to inaction. I truly feel I have no choice but to move forward. The business may not work. God’s plan of redemption is bigger than I can understand. But, I feel compelled to take this trail and see where it leads. We’ve had so many affirmations that we’re supposed to take the next step.

There is so much that I’m excited about in starting this business. While I’m afraid, I’m also excited about learning all that we need to learn to do this well. I’m excited about pitching my soap to the marketplace. But, it feels disingenuous to pitch it without telling you about the fear. It’s the elephant that’s sitting in the middle of my living room right now.

Swim Across America

July 9, 2012

In our lifetime, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer. I joined the Swim Across America community so that, together, we can change that. On September 29, I’ll be swimming 1.5 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field both as a personal challenge and in order to raise funds for cancer research, prevention and treatment. Please support me by sponsoring my swim and making a gift. Thank you in advance for your generosity!