It’s all connected. I’ve seen it time and time again in my story. One decision leads to another and I find myself creating circumstances that shape my reality everyday. I’ve learned to correct course so much quicker these days when I feel a decision making an undesirable impact, it goes with the work of soul searching and is one of the many great benefits. I know that how I do the small things is how I do the big things, and each choice, even the monotonous ones, have such an impact on both my daily and long term fulfillment and success.
The connections I feel between my mind, body and spirit serve me in such an amazing way and are filtered through my writing. I am a thinker, a doer and a feeler and I’m learning not to block or numb any of these roles so that they have their full effect on my life. Mentally, I am always building new philosophies that I use to frame my challenges in the most optimistic light. Physically, I have a tendency to go so hard that I break down from time to time, and although I could say age is catching up with me, anyone who has known me for most of my days knows that I’ve been a tad injury prone all along. Although I’m competitive to some extent, what I’m really after is the endorphin rush that comes with exercise and the clarity it brings to my mind. My clearest head and best connections come through sports and movement. A life long love for volleyball, the Masters swimming that taught me about the toughness that comes with oxygen deprivation after I had to switch from running to the water after the birth of my fourth child, and the patience and calm that I have learned from my yoga practice, which began to bring balance to my compensating body, not realizing that it would enlighten so much more, have connected my mind and body in such amazing ways and this connection allows my spirit to soar.
Tomorrow I go in to have a torn meniscus fixed on my right knee. It’s a bit scary to feel like your body is breaking down. It’s not the surgery that scares me (I’ve had plenty of them before) but the notion that the connections between the bad ankle from 20 years ago has made its impact on my knee. It’s that feeling that creeps in knowing that I’m experiencing “what they said would happen” after 40, because until it does, I think we all have a tendency to believe that it happens to everyone except us. I’m pretty sure that’s what I thought until about a year ago. The idea that I won’t be able to do what I love to do and get the endorphin rush I crave while I recover is daunting for a moment, but it’s time to give the body a rest and let my mind create and see where that silver lining leads.
I have always been an early riser. The morning is my favorite time of day and most days, as I feel the pink light and the quiet slipping away, I wish it would stay just a little bit longer. I want to hang a little longer in the daybreak, before the rest of my world is awake, because it feels like a place where everything is possible. My dreams are alive in this sacred space and the doubts that threaten my resolve and make me feel scared are still asleep. As the day goes on, it takes more focus to keep my self talk positive, my eyes clearly set on my goals, and quiet the voice that tells me there is too much to learn and too much time passed to turn these dreams into reality. I know that sounds less than optimistic, which isn’t like me, but I have also learned that confronting what I’m afraid of, rather than burying it deep, plays a big role in me never lying in bed scared to death of being alone and believing that I need a co-author for my amazing life story.
One of the things that has gotten me through the unfortunate break up of my traditional family has been the reconnection with friends who knew me 20 years ago. It’s strange in so many ways, because I never felt the change that happened in me over the last 20 years. It occurred slowly, but friendships that were once so easy to maintain fell away. In those years, it was simple to make excuses about why…we have miles between us, kids to raise of all different ages, single friends with different lifestyles. There were a million excuses to throw out and the days always passed so quickly. At the heart of it though, I’m not one to lose contact, and over the first twenty years of my life, I had established deep and meaningful friendships that meant the world to me. In my heart, it pained me that I had lost touch, the real me detests small talk and is such a huge believer in deep connection I simply couldn’t bear the thought of losing people who I had shared those connections with, so I buried my thoughts on these matters deep. Over the last year or so, I have reached out and even visited some of these friends, and in other cases others have reached out to me (yet another reason I am a fan of social media). Although the reestablishment of friendships that mean so much is the biggest gift, there is something else that God has offered me through these experiences that has been invaluable to my healing…these friends remembered the old me even when I couldn’t. They remembered someone who wasn’t afraid of being noticed, someone that would share what she thought to a bigger group, someone who enjoyed conversation with differing points of view without being afraid that people would get upset, and, most of all, someone who was strong and unafraid to stand up for herself, without needing the backing of anyone else. In some way, each of these reconnections has offered me this message:
“You are strong enough for the story you are living, I never knew you would doubt yourself.”
Wow…this was mind blowing stuff to me. With each of these encounters, I started to remember the girl that my friends knew, and I started to speak up, to write and create. Now I know that this creation is part of my journey and entirely up to me, all I have to do is believe in it and back it up with my effort.
The amazing thing about life is that if you use the right lens and habits, and a fair amount of discipline, everything we experience can be used for progression. Real progression includes loss, failure and hardship to create life’s true beauty. Real progression is the yin and yang, the ebb and the flow and the knowledge that life is always moving and changing. I can be both a power player and a keen observer in my own life and both will sustain me. Today I know that if I had never experienced deep pain and loss, the beauty that I seek to find everyday when I’m with my kids, in the faces of people, in nature, in my health and fitness adventures, and the rest of God’s creation would not be as remarkable. This knowledge reinforces my belief that it’s ok to be scared, as long as I face my fears head on, to feel small, as long as I rise up and loom larger in my own story and to hold tight to the heart of the girl who’s name was Jones ...a name that holds a history that I am proud of and belongs to me, not in an attempt to detract from anyone else’s history making abilities, because every one of us is so capable, but to make my mark, strong and independent, and most of all embracing the joy of the present. In the now, I feel like that girl again and it’s all part of the progression.
As a parent, there are so many choices that I make where my overarching philosophy about how to raise a strong, compassionate, disciplined kid are directly opposed to my kind hearted, I love my kid too much to do this to them, softness. In my head, I know that discomfort brings growth, that unconditional love can bridge almost any disagreement over time, and that even if my teenager doesn’t like me today, I’m still pretty sure he’s going to love me when he’s 40 but learning to look for the long ball over the instant gratification of making one of my kids happy in the moment, requires check in multiple times a day with what I am trying to train and inspire in each of them. Training is born in the consistency of my message and their actions in response to that message. Inspiration is what I hope I can provide for them by showing them, by example, what makes life great…finding a purpose, understanding how ego affects us, both for better and for worse and identifying their unique gifts that are meant to carry them to the outer reaches of their potential.
I know that the results of my parenting choices don’t usually show up immediately, and many of them not until years later. I’ve been at this for almost 18 years now and although I’ve learned a lot of things and think that I have always had a pretty good gut instinct, the questions like, “Am I pushing too hard?” “Am I doing this for my own ego?” or flat out, “Am I going to make my child feel neglected and unloved?” still loom large in my mind in big and even small decisions. On top of that, my decision making relationship with my kids has also had to become, at least from moment to moment, one that will stand on its own...no questions, no backup, no good cop/bad cop. That has been an evolution in itself, testing my resolution and ability to stand firm in what I believe. Every once in awhile though, one of my kids will say something that reminds me that the principles I believe in, and have adhered to in the past in some uncomfortable moments, do pay off.
Today Luke came home from a USA Beach Volleyball tryout and we were chatting about who his team will play in the CIF State Tournament for indoor boys volleyball next week. He was explaining how one team gets selected from the North, which includes teams from Fresno where we used to live. He asked me if I knew who was dominant up there, and started listing teams he knew from the area…
"Buchanan, Clovis North, Clovis…I wish we would play Bullard and Roy Verduzco," he said. “Remember when you guys dropped me off at his beach camp? I was younger than Matthew.” (who is 11)
“Of course! You were 8, and most of the other boys attending drove themselves there! I remember leaving there thinking, what are we doing?”
Even though Coach told me it was fine, I remember Luke looking at me like, are you seriously leaving me here? He’ll be fine Coach assured me, so off we went, me with a pit in my stomach. A few hours later we came back and Luke was playing doubles on the one beach court against boys twice his age, pretty much getting his hat handed to him, but digging and serving and surviving! I was in awe. On top of that, these boys gave him candy and carried him off the court when it was over. And he went back again the for the next session.
"Yeah, that ended up being fun." he said today.
These conversations that I get out of almost grown children are priceless. As Luke’s volleyball has progressed and become such a developmental staple in his life, where he learns discipline, leadership, how to keep a clear head under pressure, and countless other lessons that will undoubtably enhance his life, this goes down as one of my favorite stories. It will always remind me to trust my gut even when it feels scary, keep a close eye on what inspires my kids, and challenge them to use that gift to help build their confidence and make them great, not just at their sport or interest, but great at life.
“It’s a balance between stability and mobility”, she said, as I laid on my yoga mat rolling lacrosse balls under my tight hips and inner thighs. Yoga has become an almost daily ritual in my life and I have seen some amazing growth from my practice…mind, body and spirit as they say. A yoga practice gave me the patience to let myself just be, and in doing that, the real me...calm, purpose driven, and free, showed up right on time. Almost every class, simple and profound statements roll over me, while I lay there on my mat, that clear my mind of clutter and let me sit with just a thought or two for an entire hour. That's a pretty impressive feat for someone who up until recently was losing the battle to the 2am demons.
I took up my yoga practice because as a mom of four active kids trying to give my body a break from my usual swim/volleyball routine, I still craved the sweat and endorphins that I have always had such a sweet addiction to. What I didn't know was that it could teach me to love my journey, give me the patience to let my story play out, and not get too attached to any outcome. These benefits have been so stabilizing while I learn to define and get comfortable with a new normal. With each new day, I am fine. That doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time, there are plenty of tears, happy doesn't exist without sad and loss is a part of life.
This brings me back to the stability and mobility quote that struck me. The cool thing about yogi wisdom I have noticed, is that what applies to the physical body, also often applies to the spirit. For some, stability can be so boring, and so that person goes looking for mobility to reach new heights and experiences to keep life interesting. For others, like me, stability is the greatest peace…routine, advanced planning, knowing what to expect, ahh, heaven. And yet, this stability inclination of mine can keep my life in a very tight little circle and make me afraid to step up and out to create that growth finding mobility that leads to a more impactful and meaningful life experience. The story of my life has yet to play out, and, as the author of that story, I have to have the courage to act on my plan. Those who really know me would vouch for my stability, some might even call it boring. I have realized though, that I can leverage that stability to find sustainable mobility, even flow, which is the most amazing feeling. My challenge to myself: do not be too afraid to act, do not run too fast and burn out, and use my stability for mobilization and enjoy the growth that will inevitably come from that. Thanks Soho Yoga for freeing my heart and mind time after time. Teacher training...yep, it's in my near future for sure.
Mother's Day weekend has, of course, got me thinking about the life long journey of motherhood and being that my oldest will turn 18 in July, I think a lot about how the law tells you that the job is over and how my heart knows that it will never end as long as I'm on this earth. Through all of life's ups and downs, the deep connection that I feel when I focus on the four lives I get to have such a strong role in shaping, make any of life's heartbreaks more than survivable.
Mom's are influencers, quiet shapers of confidence, stability and safety for the kids that we have been blessed with. Mom’s make their mark in small ways that have big time impact over a lifetime. As with anything done successfully, consistency helps solidify a bond that was born in the womb, a jump we have on bonding that the rest of the population will never have or understand. I used to think that providing a protected environment, low in stresses and high in close contact was the way to go and I actually still believe that for the little ones during those physically exhausting early days of parenting. Keeping kiddos from harms way, teaching them how to sleep well, play hard, imagine, create and showing them where their safe place to land is is the foundation for a compassionate and confident teenager and adult. I know firsthand the guilt a mom can carry when safety evades her child and it isn’t a feeling I would wish on anyone. I also know the joy of seeing an imagination at work as I remember so vividly watching Kate, my third born, out the window playing the role of Peter Pan and leading the Lost Boys all through our Neverland backyard. As moms, we are privy to so much beautiful detail if we slow down and take the time to watch.
As my kids get older though, my role changes and I have to start to let them go. My faith makes that a little less scary than I actually thought it would be. As with so many things in my life, when I look ahead of where my gaze should be, circumstances sound so scary, but then when the present moment actually arrives, I am more equipped than I believed myself to be. Giving responsibility and holding them accountable is so much a part of raising them to be the contributors that I hope they will be in this world, and if that is the goal, then letting go becomes a natural part of the process.
Over my life, I have lacked confidence in so many areas, but never in my ability to be a good mom. It’s not because I know what to do in every minute but more because I find so much peace in knowing there is never one right answer. Parenting is an art, not a science and where intention is good, parents and kids usually find their way through some pretty sticky situations over the years.
Before my marriage ended, family dinner was something that I always looked forward to. I felt like the dinner table was my board room and instead of agendas and reports, stories and wisdom could be passed around on a regular basis. I had a beautiful dining room, comfortable chairs and every so often I would get people to linger long enough to get my fix of the best conversations on topics from preschool playgrounds to the Wall Street Journal and so many things in between. The kids would take turns telling their stories from the day…you could actually feel the bond being created. I grieve this time deeply today but also know that life always has a way of changing and new stages of awareness seem to present new opportunities to connect and learn from each other.
My kids are used to the philosophical wisdom that dances around in my head, and they each take it in a little differently. My oldest, Lauren, who is 17 and an old soul to begin with, loves to engage and build the conversation with me. My second born, Luke, who just turned 16, and is a very bright kid despite the one word answers he gives frequently in a deep low toned voice that resembles nothing of the little Thomas the Train loving kid that used to be my carwash buddy, listens respectfully but usually doesn’t feel my level of passion for deep conversation. My twelve year old Kate laughs, occasionally rolls her eyes and has even compared me to Grandma Tala from Moana, as if I am some hippie chick telling everyone who passes to follow their heart…but deep down I know she really gets it. My youngest, Matthew, who is 11 and also on the autism spectrum, takes most conversation so literally it’s hard to get the philosophy in sometimes, but then all of a sudden he chimes in with some shamanic wisdom that beats all of us…you just never know when that will be. This blissful combination of personalities is what makes my life amazing and every moment that I get to share and listen, not just at the dinner table, one of connected amazement for the people they are becoming.
Although everyone is different and I have wonderful memories of the early years, pushing strollers, filling sippy cups and waiting for nap time so I could get a little something done, pale in comparison to the big challenges of raising older kids. There aren’t enough hours in the day with the schedules that they all keep (and let’s be honest, they actually don’t want to sit and philosophize with me all day) to say what you want to say. I have started to think of my blog as my extended moment at the dinner table, sealed in time so that as they grow and aren’t with me as much, maybe they will take a look at it and know where my head and heart were at certain points in time.
Happy Mother's Day to all of the mom's out there. Your impact is great. Keep doing what you do.
I grew up a political junkie in a time before 24 hour news cycles and where Crossfire was the only news program where bipartisan debate took place. I remember being taught the words public servant, statesman but definitely not politician, it was a derogatory term as I understood it. I asked my dad questions about communism at the dinner table, I argued (respectfully) with my critically thinking history and civics teacher in high school and I felt genuinely upset when I was still 17 in my first semester of college and I couldn’t cast a ballot in the 1992 Presidential campaign between Clinton and Bush like the rest of my friends were lining up to do. My dad was a six term member of the California State Assembly from the time I was seven until I was 19 and after that served as California Secretary of State for eight years so my memory is full of trips to Sacramento where my sister and I would navigate (and get lost) in the State Capitol building. When that happened, we would approach the nicest elevator operators and tell them that we were lost so they could steer us back in the right direction. So, when I heard the news of Governor George Deukmejian’s passing yesterday, I felt a genuine sadness for the good man that we lost and the breed of public servant that seems to be very difficult to find these days.
One of my most vivid and earliest political memories was my sister and I getting dressed up one school night in 1983 and going to the Hacienda Hotel in Fresno to meet the Governor. I was in third grade and my sister was in kindergarten. It was my dad’s first term and I was never a fan of anything where I had to wave or speak. We wore our nicest dresses and shook his hand and, aside from nice to meet you (or less than that knowing me), we didn’t say much or stay too long. When the news broke of the Governor’s passing yesterday, that night was front and center in my mind in an instant.
Fast forward 35 years (oh my gosh, I can’t believe my memory goes back that far!) and the TV’s in my house are silent and I catch my news in snippets from the Wall Street Journal mostly. The personalities in politics today, 24 hour media frenzy and heightened sensitivities that prevent too many of us from listening and learning from one another have crushed my interest in current events. The personalities have become bigger than the policies, and the grandstanding more prevalent than the consistent work it takes to build workable compromise. It seems that the hard working, well intentioned statesman on either side of the aisle are unelectable today and truthfully we have no one to blame but ourselves. I wish I had a solution to offer, but tonight all I can do is honor a man who was in stark contrast to the politicians of today.
Although it may seem strange, for many years I have had the ideal guest list for a dinner party in my head. It includes, authors, athletes, songwriters and world leaders and the guest list changes as I learn and grow. When my dad and I talk, I tell him this President would not make the cut for that list by a long shot, but Governor George Deukmejian certainly would. So tonight I tip my baseball cap for a man who climbed the ranks honestly, left the places he went better off than he found them, without a lot of fanfare, and let the policy be greater than the man.
There is something special about being the youngest. I wouldn’t know from experience but I have observed it with Matthew from the day he was born. There is always someone, especially in a big family, looking out for you, someone who wants to show you the way, someone to learn from and look up to. Although he doesn’t always appreciate it, and we have to fight the urge everyday to give him help that he doesn’t need, he won’t know until he gets a little older how lucky he is to have these people on his team.
Sunday night, as we sat around the kitchen table, I took out 11 candles sticking them in the cake as I counted them for an early birthday celebration for Matthew. All of a sudden, my oldest, Lauren, who is 17, started shaking her head.
“Wait, he’s 11? No! He’s ten….” realizing her mistake as the words came out of her mouth and tears immediately filled her eyes. God bless that first born old soul of mine. She feels things so deeply and has always had a bittersweet relationship with birthdays because she understands the nature of getting older so well for a young person. Being almost seven years older, he was her baby too, she still watches over him in a mothering instead of sisterly way. Lots of psychology goes into that, and even though I tell her its not her job, it is who she is, and she can’t stand the thought of him getting older. The fact remains though, that he is and as everything has always been with Matthew, the milestones are a little sweeter because they have been a little more hard fought.
Sometime during these last 11 years, it became obvious to me that this baby of the family was here to teach us as much as we think we need to teach him. Birthdays are starting to make me sad too, in part because of the reminder that the family that started together is marking these special days separately and, as cliche as it sounds, it really does just go too fast. What seems to take the sting away is to be able to honor the amazing things each of these kids teach me in that year. There are so many I can't ever list them all, but hopefully someday they will look back and realize no matter how difficult some days can be, it is an amazing experience to be their mom. Today, Matthew turns 11 and these are just a few notable lessons from the highlight reel.
To watch you today and know the challenges you have overcome my heart rests easy. You go out every day and figure things out in the way that they make sense to you. That takes a keen awareness and sense of self that I know I didn't have when I was 11. There is no greater blessing than being your mom, thank you Bubs for all of the wisdom.
Happy Birthday! I love you!
From my earliest days, I have had a connection to the water. One of my first memories is bouncing around in my dad’s truck on a canal bank outside of Firebaugh and stopping every so often to throw dirt clods into the canal. Like osmosis, the stories of the life giving medium that brought forth the most productive farmland on earth and the appreciation for the life that water produced for so many were passed on to me from my grandfather and father. My grandfather was on the State Water Board when the Central Valley Project brought water to the westside of the Central Valley and my dad was a State Assemblyman who worked tirelessly to develop more water for California as the population of our state has doubled since the last water was developed. Today my family still operates a third generation diversified farming operation on the westside of the Central Valley. All of these statements are read as controversial in this black and white political world of today, environment versus ag, labor versus land owner but there was a time when this wasn’t so. The lives of the people who have created that place have instilled values in me and cultivated my traditional soul for as far back as I can remember.
When I was in sixth grade in Fresno, CA , my class took at trip to Camp K.E.E.P. and as I stood on the beach just outside Montana De Oro State Park, I remember asking my mom who was a parent counselor there that week, "why have I never been here before?” My soul was once again being moved by the water as I stood next to the ocean taking in all the environmental education that the camp had to offer that week about the tide pools, land marks and the delicate environment that surrounded my new favorite place, the beach. That trip made such an indelible mark on me that when I had the choice to go to Cal Poly SLO or UC Davis back in 1992, that trip to Camp K.E.E.P. was close to my heart that I made the decision to major in Agribusiness at SLO and spend 4 years studying the business that connected me to the Valley and spending as much time as I could at the water in at Avila Beach and Morro Bay.
The years went by, quickly as they do, and in 2009 I found myself living back in Fresno raising four amazing children. My youngest, Matthew, is on the autism spectrum and in those days was a handful to keep up with. My connection to the water taught me a giant life lesson on Labor Day Weekend 2009 when I found him at the bottom of our family swimming pool. By the grace of God and the proximity of the fire station, I was able to pull him out and resuscitate him before the fireman arrived and got him to the hospital. He is a walking, talking miracle today. I can’t write this story without saying, never turn your back on a child around the water, it is a silent killer and I will never understand why I was spared the pain of losing my child that day, but will be forever grateful for it. Ironically, Matthew’s accident never created any fear in him and to this day is still drawn to the water.
To say life changes quickly is an understatement and in 2013 I relocated with my my family to Hermosa Beach in Southern California. While there are so many things that I miss about Valley life, having my feet in the sand daily, playing beach volleyball and raising my kids by the ocean has been a dream come true in other respects. Just about a year ago, Matthew said he wanted to learn to surf, and being that he has struggled with coordination and sensory issues his entire life, it sounded like a long shot to me but off to Costco we went to buy a longboard so he could give it a try. I watched as he tried and tumbled over and over before he stood up on his first wave and hasn’t looked back since. Surfing has given him confidence, physical strength and a socially relevant topic he can discuss with his peers. It has been such a game changer for him that he is out of all other therapies and is in the water every day before and after school doing what he loves and thriving in a way I never imagined he would.
One day, not too long ago, I stumbled across something called The Surf Ranch on Facebook. As I clicked and read, I was shocked and amazed to find out that multi generationally famous surfer Kelly Slater had built in the perfect wave. That in itself was fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating to me as where it was located…Lemoore, CA. The Westside and surf culture were being connected in a way I never could have imagined and Matthew soon began asking about how we could get to see the “Kelly Slater Wave” as he calls it. When the World Surf League Founders Cup was announced for May 5-6, just a few days shy of Matthew’s 11th birthday, I knew what his birthday gift had to be. On Saturday, he and I will spend the day watching the surf competition, not far from where I spent time floating and boating on the Kings River, but never dreaming that a surf board would make any connection with this place.
The water connects us all in ways that we may not see at first and maybe never dream possible, until one person does. Innovators, big thinkers and dream catchers define every part of my story. I look for them now and observe their habits and ways, I’m even beginning to think that I am one of them. Big dreamers make waves along and create controversy. I think controversy is there to make us think and contribute in the way that is true for each of us, not just to anger and inflame. As a human race, we have so much more that unites us than divides us. Professional surfers in Lemoore and a little boy who almost lost his life to the water and has found his life because it remind me of this fact every day…connection and community in the most unexpected places. My life is a blessed place as I get to connect the core strengths that being raised in the Valley gave me and the freedom I feel every time I stand at the oceans edge.