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I sit writing under the comfort of my new weighted blanket.  They are all the rage these days.  They were recommended to me when Matthew was little to calm him and help him sleep, and now everyone is using them…and I must say, it does have quite a soothing effect.  It seems I need this these days, big changes are brewing with Lauren graduating from high school and another, more permanent move on the horizon. I have already lost my keys and my wallet this week, I’ve pushed a little past zen and this blog is coming out a little raw.

Every day the tears come, and I have to sit with the bittersweet realization that my girl is going off to college. Through all of our change, the four of them are a unit and it’s hard to see that shift.  I wake up in the night and picture our mornings, when I was pregnant with Matthew, Luke was in preschool, and Kate was still taking those blissful morning naps.  Lauren was in what, at the time, I thought was cursed PM kindergarten, but now I know those mornings were such a blessing because that was our time. It feels like yesterday. As mom’s we are so often trying to carve out that moment to ourselves, but when I look back, there is nothing that I treasure more than those simple one on one conversations and activities with them, at any age.  I feel so blessed today to know that those bonds that I have worked to build with them, starting with trips to the car wash, Target, and the zoo, have held strong. This week, as Lauren prepares to graduate, I sit and watch this beautiful, independent, and inspiring girl set the tone for her siblings, like she has from day one. 

After everything we have been through as a family, watching them belong to each other is a silver lining of our struggle.  They fit together in the most beautiful way, whether I am with them or not and it makes me so proud.  

I work hard to reframe these milestones, that, in my gut, present me with a deep sadness because my life and family don’t look the way that I thought it would. There has been lots of time on my yoga mat and making the choice to slow down this week, in the midst of so much hustle and change, to take care of myself and honor the feelings (and tears) that keep flooding my system. While I am a huge believer in honoring what we feel, I still struggle sometimes to just let the tears fall. I’m so thankful to my people who remind me to just feel it and let it happen.

The challenges I have faced though have also improved my ability to reframe my experiences.  It’s where that optimist’s lens really comes in handy, and, I think I have figured out the outlook that lifts the graduation fog.  

It’s not an ending, it’s a beginning.  Graduation and commencement, the words are interchangeable, but one is an ending, the other a great new beginning.  

There is so much promise and excitement with beginnings.  New experiences and things to learn, new friends, fresh paint, new views from your windows that have the ability to give a fresh perspective, if we have gathered the right tools from the road we have traveled so far.

Lauren, you have the tools, it seems like you always have.  

Keep what is good, be honest with yourself so you can release the patterns that hold you back, and use what you have learned doing that to embrace the new.

My joke to people that you raised yourself is only partially in jest.  You have always had the keenest sense for what you bring to this life and to other people.  You have a way of being comfortable with your strength without being overbearing and your intrinsic motivation inspires me everyday. You have learned lessons at your age that have taken me half a lifetime to figure out.  I watch as your siblings gravitate to you and learn from your leadership. You have made my job infinitely easier as a mom of four by setting such a strong example for them. They listen to your words that come in what seems like simple sibling banter but is full of so much wisdom. You know what works for you at this point in your life and have the confidence to go after it.  I love to watch you beat back the absolutely natural feeling to conform. It’s a struggle for all of us, but always know that the right people will surround you when you are true to yourself.

So here this morning, we are off to watch you begin... I couldn’t be prouder of the person you are. You will always be the one that started me on this journey that I could not possibly love any more. Keep shining your light in this world, I am so blessed to have lived where it has been cast for the last 18 years and can’t wait to see the next fields that grow because of it. I love you more than you will ever know. Keep being you, it’s like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else.

Riding home from Luke’s game last night with my friend and volleyball partner, we got to talking about volleyball, and aging knees and how long we will get to play this game that we love to play so much. To be out on that beach, with dolphins jumping in the water, with other moms that have at least a dozen kids between us, it’s a feeling that is pretty hard to beat. It’s hard to imagine it not happening every week..multiple times.. 

“Do you ever have that thought, when you watch the pros playing next to us, ‘I’m never going to do that’? And it makes you feel kind of shocked.” Vanessa asked me.

“Yes.” I answered immediately, because I have had that feeling. “I call it the ‘I’m never going to win Wimbledon’ phenomenon.” 

I coined this phrase many years ago, it’s not necessarily a sad feeling, I actually noticed it because I was trying to find my own thing…what it was that filled me up, my why…and, besides being a mom, I knew I hadn’t found it yet. In this search, I realized that as much as I loved sports and watching Wimbledon, I was never going to hoist that shiny trophy over my head, so I crossed it off the list and kept seeking, with the realization that I was looking for a level of greatness in my own right. I think this feeling is natural for passionate people to have as we observe our own lives, and realize how much we enjoy them, and how quickly time passes. 

Every week I get a take away that sticks with me from one of the many podcasts I listen to.  This week’s comes from Impact Theory’s interview with best selling author, Mark Manson.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

One concept that I found intriguing in this interview was how figuring out our why, our calling, or whatever you would like to call it, isn’t always easy because it comes naturally to us. We don’t recognize it because it’s just normal. We enjoy it so much, we get lost, and logging time towards our progress isn’t a conscious thought, we just flow.  Now I get it, because when I’m writing or speaking to the next generation about the lessons I have learned, time just slips away.

This week, I was fortunate to speak to a group of female athletes in Fresno, my hometown. We talked about leadership, some of the challenges we face as female leaders, and what qualities are most important for us to have if we want to lead.  If you would have said to me five years ago that I would be seeking out speaking opportunities I would have said you’re crazy. What I have come to understand though, is that generational wisdom, imparting the lessons I have learned through my experience to girls, who on one hand I still feel so much like it brings tears to my eyes, but then quickly realize all I have learned over this quick 44 years of life, it just flows. I could have talked for hours.  After the event, to have one of my early mentors, a coach who taught my timid, soft hearted self, to be tough, tell me that people lean in and want to hear what I have to say, I’m humbled…and I’m hooked…because while not everyone’s opinion matters, there are a trusted few, people who have earned the right to weigh in, who mean a lot to my progress.

Although there are so many qualities that are important for a leader to possess, I am big on the concept that as leaders, we need to be self aware.  Knowing ourselves, taking time to reflect, so that we know our strengths and weaknesses, when to listen to our own voice, and when to defer to another trusted voice that can possibly teach us more, all of these things are part of being effective as a leader.  Self awareness also helps us discover our why.

The cool thing is that this world is in need of so many different whys, different missions, we don’t all have to solve every challenge that is out there, but a good life is definitely spent working on at least one of them.  We need to know ourselves to know where our assets can best be put to use…and then we can lead. 

As a female leader, I talked about the burden that women carry, the expectation that we can do it all, balance domestic and professional life, while staying in shape, making home cooked healthy meals, and emotionally supporting every family member, friend, child, and even animal in our life.  That expectation can overwhelm and exhaust us, and I know that firsthand.

“You can have it all, just not all at once.”  -Oprah Winfrey

These are wise words that teach us there is a season and a time for everything.  When I was 27 and giving two babies dinner and baths every night, before my next two were even born, and my sister was working on Capitol Hill, I wondered what I could ever accomplish outside my four walls, not realizing that the answer was coming on a schedule that allowed me to immerse myself in the task at hand, being the mom of four amazing babies…all in good time. Today, I realize what a gift that was.

Enjoy where you are right now, do the job in front of you well, and the way forward presents itself. 

What I also didn’t know at that time was that, more important than any book or article I read, the voice in my head was the loudest and most convincing voice out there. That voice is so influential, it shapes our thinking, and then our path. It tells us what is possible, what we can and can’t do, and for a long time I realize that my voice told me that there were certain things and levels of success that were reserved for a chosen few.  What I thought was humility, was really insecurity and a fear of claiming what was available to me, and to anyone really willing to work consistently hard enough to claim it.  So, I looked out at these hopeful young athletes, and told them about that voice.

“Make sure that voice, the one in your head, is your biggest fan, best coach and most loving mom all in one.” 

It’s yours for the taking, it might not be Wimbledon, but it’s great and it’s meant to be shared with the world.  We’re counting on you.   

Matthew turned 12 this week. There’s not a birthday that goes by that I don’t thank God that he’s here with us and take more than a minute to celebrate how far he has come. We spent his birthday evening at his brothers volleyball game, but on the way there, through the always hellish LA traffic we watched, (I listened) to videos of him from when he was little. Even our Czech born au pair Tereza, who saved my sanity when she arrived after Matthew’s accident in 2009, literally to follow him around while I got the other three ready, and who is married with a baby of her own now, came with us to celebrate. Such amazing love and connection born out of so many simple memories, carpools, swim practices and snack bags. We laughed all the way to Loyola.  

As i watch how far Matthew has come from that little guy that I worried so much about to the kid he is today, I am so proud of the progress he has made.  So much speech, OT, PT, diet, doctors, supplements, all sought out with love, not because I believe he needs to be fixed, but because there aren’t many mom’s out there who don’t work to make their child’s day better…and judging by his days at school and even his report card, his are on the upswing.  Some people would be frustrated because it’s impossible to know whether there was one thing that helped the most in his progress to date. What I know is that while there has been no silver bullet that completely alleviated all of his struggles, I won’t leave any stone unturned and, because of that, have meet some amazing world changing people that are a part of our tribe forever. 

There are things about him growing up that I wish I could change, so I have to teach him by the way I live my own life, and nothing inspires me more to make good decisions than teaching my kids. Last week, I watched Matthew while he was in a volleyball lesson on the beach lose focus and begin to watch the guy walking toward him, and I saw his self consciousness take over. He’s still a beginner in the sport (watch out though, he’s supposed to be 6’8 so when he said he wanted to try beach volleyball, I wasn’t going to say no). During his lesson, he will say things like “I’m not good at this.” or even worse “why do I suck?”  He’s just starting, and the thing that matters far more than the way he is passing or serving today, is the way he decides to work and his attitude about his game. The way we talk to ourselves is so important, it gets in so deep and affects the way we feel about ourselves. If that voice in our head isn’t kind, as in Matthew’s case on the beach, we can end up severely limiting our own potential…just with our thoughts. So it breaks my heart to hear him talk like that…on the never-ending to do list is to help him cultivate his own positive self talk. 

The other thing that bothered me about Matthew’s moment that I noticed on the beach was how his focus and discipline were affected when he thought someone was observing him, maybe even watching him critically.  It made me think: How aware are we of other people’s observations of us? If we are aware, are we right about what we think those observations may be? Do other people’s opinions and observations have a role in the way we make our decisions everyday? These are questions that I think about a lot, that I have coached myself through, as I work through the choices that this challenging and beautiful life presents me. Whenever I am choosing, I seek that calm feeling I get when I make a decision that is aligned with my true self. To paraphrase Daniel Amen from the On Purpose podcast by Jay Shetty I listened to this week, 

CLICK TO LISTEN

“when we are 18 we make decisions based on what other people think, when we are 40 we decide we don’t care what other people think, and when we are 60 we realize that other people were never thinking about us that much anyway.”  

What gives us the courage to not care about what other people think? To start with, I don’t like the words “not care” because I find it hard not to care about just about every person that crosses my path, so I prefer to say not let other’s opinions affect my decisions for my own life.  What has changed in my thinking though, is my understanding that we are all operating from our own viewpoint, managing our own ego, and that our opinions are relative to our own situation. So, why should I make a decision based on anyone else’s opinion when it has little, if anything to do with my life, and is generally a function of what is going on in their life. I can have compassion and understanding without letting their opinion about my life be bigger than my own. With this decision, I have had the confidence to live my life as as the truest version of myself today and, instead of aiming to please everyone, which left me drained, I’ve learned to just be me and end up pleasing the right people, those meant for my life, on this day. This way of thinking comes with heavy responsibility. For success to happen we have to keep seeking the truest version of us, wrestle with and admit our struggles, and emerge stronger because we did the hard work. The more time we spend understanding ourselves, the more we understand what decisions are in our own best interest and the less time we spend feeling self conscious about our lives, our abilities and our choices. That battle can be tough, for me it’s come in the form of putting my voice out into the world, learning to set boundaries, and having the courage to show up as the truest version of myself.  Not a day has gone by though, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, that I don’t get the deepest satisfaction from the growth I know I’m experiencing my putting my real self out there. Day in and day out, I hope with all of my heart that my example sinks in with my kiddos. 

Which brings me lovingly back to my youngest boy. You are comparable to no one.  You have proven how hard you can work, keep working for that consistency.  Know that excuses and blame get you nowhere, I have so much hope and commitment that you will never see that from me. There are so many great waves, games and summer days ahead of you, however they present themselves…go after them with confidence and yes, there will always be a mom who has your back. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there…hardest and best job in the world.

As an introvert, I like to hang out by myself...a lot. But the flip side of that coin is that I love human connection. I’m not one for small talk, I prefer deep conversation, or else silence between two people can be so calming and easy. Growing up, I was never in the “popular crowd”, my sister was three years younger than me and when she got to high school, people would ask me “Are you Andrea’s sister?”...I was a senior!  Despite all of this, I get such joy from the relationships I have built over my lifetime because, the ones that stick, which by this point are adding up, make my days joyful and provide strength in the tough times. 

A good friend of mine says I call these friendships “my people” quite frequently, and, although this isn’t meant to be an exclusive term, it got me thinking. What are the qualities that sustain those relationships, people I return to no matter the miles or experiences between us? 

My people...

  1. They create connection. Probably not a big surprise, but my people aren’t small talkers either. They ask the big questions, we don’t really talk about the weather, but about dreams (at this point for ourselves and our kids), goals, and how to solve the issues of the day...and there are lots of them, so one on one, we could go on forever.  This doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, just that we have the desire to sink in a little deeper on what makes the world go around…and that conversation is so much bigger than our own experience in our neighborhood.

  2. My people love and encourage growth and change. I’ve discovered as I have gone through challenge and change that my people will provide support when I’m down, but the ones who are really special want to see me rise out of it...and my goal is always to do the same for them.  I think most of us are wired to help when we see struggle, but to honestly help someone and then, when they rise, in part because of the help that you offered, be genuinely happy for them, is a testament to how we keep our own values and ego in check. There is comfort in knowing that someone is the same person you always knew, but the best life is always transforming us and my people support that beautiful change.

  3. My people are feelers, and they use what they feel to figure out their passion and the meaning in their lives.  They use what moves them to create  change in this world on the myriad of challenges we face. You may never hear their names in the news, so many good people are out there every day teaching the next generation with action that will never be celebrated by society, but they are touching lives, healing hurts, and creating change where it’s needed. The people they do come into contact with have their days, and sometimes even their lives changed forever. From inclusion in schools, to raising up the next generation of leaders, to changing lives by expanding their families through adoption, to working on sustainable natural resource policies, they pick their issue and go at it with all of their heart and mind in a way that is so inspiring to me.

  4. My people focus on themselves. They believe that the change they want to see in the world starts with them and their next right choice...and the example inspires a chain reaction. We support each others happiness and trust each other’s judgment. Like attracts like, no excuses. 

As life continues to grow, flow and change, I couldn’t be more grateful for the people in my corner, loving me, encouraging me, and inspiring me with the way they live their days. My greatest hope is that I return the favor to them on a consistent basis. Thanks for being my people. 

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