This is who I am in the morning, at my home in San Francisco: an architect with a successful business that focuses on educational and civic design with a specialization in accessibility, which has thrived for 34 years (in truth: sometimes it's been more about surviving, rather than thriving), a mom to a daughter who is now raising her own daughter and a wife, a sister, a friend, a confidante, a traveler -- always in the pursuit of something, but usually my passion for inclusive design drives most of the day's agenda. On any day of the week I might be waking up on domestic or foreign ground. A few weeks ago it was Sochi, as far from home as I could imagine, as I had been a participant on the design and planning team commissioned to prepare Russia's International Olympic Committee bid to host the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympics Games of 2014 -- talk about spellbinding adventure! Sochi is now primed and ready, since its Olympics/Paralympics debut, to establish a state-of-the-art city that is accessible and open to all. But it could have just as easily been Sacramento, Calif., only 90 miles away, giving a presentation on school security and safety at a California's Coalition for Adequate School Housing (C.A.S.H.) conference.
It's been said that a mom is only as happy as her unhappiest child, so I've got luck (or something) on my side as my daughter is quite successful and very happy in her own life. Being a grandmother gives me perspective and, yes, happiness. What's tucked away are the earlier challenges of my business as a startup, life as a single mom (before it was socially acceptable) and the times I would crawl to the office bedraggled and ill -- daughter on my hip (literally) -- to give the business its best shot. Like childbirth, these growing pains were forgotten as quickly as passwords are today.
My days roar from the fury and flurry of emails, conversations and client meetings (I love it all) fueled by my passion to design an inclusive environment that excites everyone to accept and celebrate their lives: who they are and who they would like to be. I'm wired to make a difference, an ongoing internal dialogue is always thinking out loud. Whether I'm designing a school for the whole child, reaching out to the community or thinking of ways to improve the quality of the educational experience, my focus and vision are positive and clear.
But like many of us leading busy lives, running households, raising families (they're still children no matter their age, right?), I sometimes get lost and need to reflect on this hectic yet fulfilling life I've created. My work might be the place where I'm defined by my leadership but at home? That's where duality steps in: What do I need to create a better me? I need balance between my personal and professional life. So, I do the basics that we all strive for: eating well, working out on a daily basis and getting enough sleep.
Running a business doesn't mean running away from conflict, frustration or being upset. It all works because I remind myself that I am making a difference. I know I'll leave the world a better place when I remember hearing a group of students entering a new school that I designed cheering in unison, "Awesome, awesome" and hearing from staff and parents how much their new school meant to them. In my work, I know that the built environment changes lives.
A personal life is built-in with frequent frustrations, business owner or not. To offset the continual stress, I'm committed to yoga and meditation to ensure I'm grounded -- like a building on a solid foundation. And just for good measure, I've found that curling up in front of the fireplace at night and sharing the events of the day with my husband works wonders to clarify and process the demands.
So I'm everything and more than when my day began. You might say that accessibility begins at home.