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Have you ever just relaxed and let life happen? Think about it.  We set goals, make lists, check our calendar and work so hard to make life happen while our shoulders get tighter, expectations rise, and sense of chasing pushes us closer to burnout.  While I have respect for ambition, discipline, and drive, the more I let myself sink into this life, the more I realize that by this point, it’s showing me where to go, rather than the other way around. Maybe it’s always been this way and I have fought against it, but I realize that as long as we are open to learn about ourselves and gain skills along our path, the more naturally our path evolves. 

Life these days is a lot less about proving the grind and leaning into the flow and I think that is a great practice to embrace as real life starts to kick up its pace again so I’m taking that approach with my blog this week.  

I’ve been in my element capturing lots of game of life footage, connecting with amazing people and writing copy for my new website coming soon. Sports have taught me how to work hard for what I believe in, yoga has taught me how to surrender and find alignment and I’m bringing that all together in my own life and in the stories I am so blessed to get to tell.  

I hope this Memorial Day Weekend finds you well and grateful for this amazing place we get to call home and the people who died to allow us the freedoms that we get to experience as Americans.  We have had a wild year but there is still nowhere else I could be prouder to be born.  I’ll be back next week with tales from New Orleans…my first trip and the biggest beach volleyball tournament in state history!

With love & optimism

Wendy

Leaving you with a new country favorite.   

   

When the last ball dropped I didn’t cry.  Sitting in the BYU Fieldhouse, I felt the emotions and understood the tears and the angst of the athletes on the deepest level, but something in me knew that it wasn’t over.  I guess that’s my optimism swimming for the surface.  It’s done it over and over again in my life, but as we all know, it’s one thing for life to mess with us, but it’s another feeling when it comes after our kids. 

I’ve had the chills consistently since last Tuesday when Stanford announced that it would reinstate all 11 Varsity sports that were cut amidst the pandemic.  

At the time of the cuts, it was the only thing where I couldn’t find a silver lining.  Even when the senior season of 2020 was lost, and everything was closed, the thought that all of this would come back together at some point and the teammates who lost the time competing together would get to look at each other across the net at the next level soothed that feeling of lose, so the idea of that not happening after years of hard work was unfathomable.  But in a massive reversal last Tuesday, the sentiment that it couldn’t be done was tossed out the window, and 240 deserving athletes got their training ground back and, with that, the silver linings began to emerge.  

I’ve spent the week reflecting and talking with people involved in the monumental effort to reinstate these sports.  Being a part of an effort on the smallest level that kept the faith, but more than that put in the work (for many it was the equivalent of adding another full time job on top of the one they already had) to make reinstatement a possibility was a rewarding life lesson on the deepest level. Relationships were built through adversity and friendships were forged through mutual understanding of what was at stake and almost lost. 

One of my favorite conversations this past week was with Jeremy Jacobs, Stanford volleyball alum who spent countless hours, on top of a full time job, and a family with two young children.  When the Volleyball Magazine pictures emerged after the BYU game, he cried in his kitchen, with his wife, who was the team manager when he played at Stanford.  Real families have emerged from this storied program and inspired his fight…I got a strong sense in our conversation that we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.  Our conversation had the quality of the angsty athlete, the one that always feels like there is more they can do, that slightly dissatisfied feeling that keeps us moving forward in life.  He wanted to give back to the program in a way that he said he felt didn’t manifest on the court during his playing days.  While I’m sure that he is being harder on himself than history or Coach Kosty would remember, what a blessing for this program that his grit inspired the hours of work necessary to stand where we are today.  

It occurred to me during our conversation that maturity is wanting to do something greater for the next generation than you were able to do for yourself at a earlier stage of life and awareness. 

 It’s using the gifts and lessons that we didn’t even know we were acquiring at the time and letting them serve the next generation because we had our eyes open and the courage to build our own self awareness.  

Although so many advised against it, optimism kept me believing that we could battle a giant and win. When the door was cracked open by the administration at Stanford, 36 Strong was there to inch their way through, having put in the work to deliver a plan that serves not only the athletes and programs, but sustains the training ground for life and the stories and relationships that come out of them.  In the end, that is the real win.  Playing days are something to be cherished, and while bodies in motion at the highest levels of the game are always something that are awe inspiring for me, it’s the qualities and experiences that become part of who we are on a mental and even spiritual level that make these athletes the people they were born to be.  

I had the chance to talk with Olympic volleyball great Reid Priddy the day that the reinstatement news broke so inquired about what he thought the news meant to the game:

“I was recently asked if volleyball was as big when I was young as it is now and the simple answer is no. Through the years of being in this sport, it seems there is a close correlation between the amount of opportunity at the collegiate level with the growing demand at the junior level. In other words, the more college programs there are, the more the game grows beneath it at the junior level. So the threat of losing one program (albeit a cornerstone program like Stanford), has a ripple effect at the junior level that is hard to quantify but anecdotally seems quite significant. Seeing Stanford reinstate the program not only directly helps those that are associated with Stanford but maybe even more coaches, athletes and clubs at the junior level.” - Reid Priddy

Thank you for taking in new information and recognizing the need to change Stanford. The ability to listen and change our minds when we learn something new is a sign of incredible strength.  Let’s go forward together and fulfill not just the athletic vision that was given new life on Tuesday, but all of the amazing plans that Stanford has in it’s sight.  Optimists know that we are stronger together, that we lose 100% of the battles we choose not to fight, and that we all have so much more in common than the things that set us apart, especially when given the opportunity to align with our passion.  Thank you to everyone who worked tirelessly, with our team lead by a charge of a mom who just wanted our guys to have the experience her son had, to keep Stanford the place that my son remembered from some of his earliest memories.  There is a story behind every single one of these 240, and I’m so thankful that they get to keep telling them.  

With Love & Optimism,

Wendy

Because it’s Sunday…the lyrics that reminded me

“Everyone needs a hug.” - David Smith - Olympic Gold Medalist, Cancer Survivor and  paraplegic

Today I don’t think any words could be more true.  Did you know that a twenty second hug with your weight over your own center of gravity is one of the human connections that completes the stress cycle?  This was one of a thousand fun and interesting facts I learned in the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.  But when was the last time you hugged someone for 20 seconds? I hope for your sake it was this morning, or at the latest yesterday, because it feels so damn good.  But it wasn’t just the notion of the hug that I took away from this little piece stress cycle wisdom…what do you make of the importance of maintaining your own center of gravity?  We have to take care of ourselves first, maintain our own sense of self, and be responsible for our own lives. Only then we can form the deepest and most secure bonds with the people we want to hug.  

At dinner on Thursday night, Matthew was complaining about having to learn history before his quiz on Friday…it’s boring, what’s the point he says?  Bring on the discussion that what we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat, and that isn’t just true in big heavy text books, it’s the same in our relationships and lives on a day to day basis.  My baseline motivation for writing has always been to take the journey into my own state of mind and sharpen my self awareness. When I started my blog, it took on the purpose of passing on through story, things that I wanted my kids to know so that they could both understand their innate worth and recognize the patterns of codependency that ran through our family, so that little piece of history doesn’t repeat itself .  Through these conversations, we have learned to handle stress and challenge with vulnerability and humor, and while we are still working through a lot of questions and newness, there is an emerging strength that I see in the conversations, the laughter, and the connection we have built.  

I see the world in concentric circles now.  We start with ourselves and what we have the courage to acknowledge and learn. Then we can embody it and pass on to the people closest to us. From there, we can take it outward into the world.  It takes confidence, courage and self love…the themes that I observed as I took inventory of my blog and put them into my book 365 Days of Optimism.  

Life as a single mom is stressful.  Sometimes it feels lonely, like you will never have someone who truly understands what it feels like to be in this world with these kids you love so much.  But in the next moment, it is empowering, and you have never had a better reason to work through every obstacle to reach the next peak.  Knowing I have support from people who love me, the tools to complete the stress cycle and live not just in my mind, but step out on that court or onto my mat and live in my body, and belly laugh with the people closest to me, helps me know that it’s all going to be ok, no matter how much newness is coming at me on any given day. Fluid, flexible, and flowing…this is what I’m aiming for.  Believe in your ability to adapt and become your own hero.  Stand squarely on your own two feet and be the next great 20 second hug that someone needs. Here’s to interdependence, not codependence and many more 20 second hugs with our weight planted firmly on our own two feet. 

With Love & Optimism,

Wendy

Music is another great way of completing the stress cycle…songwriters get it in the best ways. Heard this at the Listening Room in Nashville sung by the writers. What we can’t acknowledge, we can’t heal. Powerful.

It just so happens this year that we get to celebrate Matthew’s birthday and Mothers Day on the same weekend. In honesty, birthdays bring up a certain nostalgia and sadness that I have to acknowledge, but the cool thing is, as quickly as I have learned to recognize that feeling and admit it’s there, it disappears and I’m left with gratitude for everything there is to celebrate.  This past year has reinforced the fact that there isn’t one way to be happy, or that we need to buy into the expectation of what life or a certain day was meant to look like. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that having health and the ability to move freely around our world and make decisions for ourselves is a gift in itself, and the way to honor that is to live honestly in the moment, even if it has some times of discomfort or looks different than we thought it would.

The truth is, life is never about the expectation of one day and how it is supposed to look.  It’s the culmination of a million moments and how we choose to show up in them, and the relationships and experiences we create because of the way we most often express ourselves. It’s learning how to work through fear, trauma, and insecurity to uncover a stronger, more resilient version of ourselves.  It’s looking for the reason to be grateful in every situation. We aren’t going to get every moment right, there are going to be times of lost patience, faltered perseverance, and doubt…but if we don’t give up and have the courage to be honest with ourselves and admit and learn from our mistakes, what once we thought was a misstep turns into the journey down our greatest path. 

When I think back, I am reminded of all that I haven’t known over the years… like what to do when Matthew wasn’t talking or moving like the other kids did at that age, or who to call or tell that I was scared in those moments.  Usually it came out in those predawn runs with my girlfriends in our old neighborhood.  He will be fine they would reassure me…and I would take the next step, call the doctor or next therapeutic intervention to make sure that they were right.  The irony of life is that the wiser we become, the more we realize we don’t know.  Once we realize this, not knowing doesn’t have to be a source of insecurity, but rather a confidence booster because we know we have the ability to adapt to whatever is ahead of us.  

Last night, I sat in a quiet house, exhausted from too many nights of less than ideal sleep because of all the not knowing and newness that is stirring in my brain.  Thank God that hot yoga has come back in full force…I can feel the calm grounded feeling starting to set in after just a few days in a row. New projects, new beginnings, and another year where no matter what has happened, nothing has taken away the greatest experience my life has ever known…being a mom to this amazing 14 year old boy and the incredible siblings that came before him that have modeled love, compassion, and resilience in a way I never could have imagined.  Real living is going to toss us around and ask us if we know which way is up…stay with it, don’t fight it, surrender to what is instead of what you thought it had to be, because when we do, that’s when the beauty appears. 

Happy Birthday Matthew, thanks for giving me a Mother’s Day to celebrate.  I couldn’t be more proud of the independent, expressive, animal loving young man that you have become. Keep doing what you do… showing up, caring and teaching us that the effort and honesty we put into life will create the path we get to walk.

With optimism,

Wendy

My favorite from Kenny Chesney’s new album out this week - reminding me that different is ok.

Transitions can be hard.  As humans we don’t always like to change, and yet it’s the only inevitable thing in life.  This week I was fortunate to be able to interview two people in my life that I have spent a great deal of time with over the last few years who have been both instrumental in my own healing, helped my kids too, and have both helped me gain a deeper understanding of my own vision for elevating the conversations between athletes, parents, and coaches more clearly.  Amanda Lee Murphy, Licensed Acupuncturist and Eastern Medicine Practitioner and Frank Amato Licensed Chiropractic Orthopedist both understand the mind, body, spirit connection in a way that elevates my thought process and promotes healing in my body every time I visit them, which is why I wanted to sit down and talk with them for my newest project.  

I know over the past years you have become accustomed to getting a story filled blog to read on Sunday morning, but my new project has me making a transition to a new website soon, and short on time to both write and experience life the way that I like to…even though these thoughts are being written at 4:30-5am these days because that is when my mind wakes me up and the stillness of that hour allows things to settle.  I’m using this time to give you a glance into what you will see from my new project aimed at promoting inclusion and excellence both on the volleyball court and in the game of life by bringing you up close and personal content from the pros and coaches of the game to the developing athletes who will become the leaders of tomorrow in volleyball and the game of life.  

In talking with these wellness practitioners, they understand that vulnerability is at the core of storytelling, learning, and healing, and the ways that those types of relationships can promote healing and happiness in our own lives.  How can parents and athletes communicate better, what kind of recovery practices can not only help heal our physical body but elevate our self awareness in a way that we can understand who we are and what our purpose is in this world.  The greatest thing we get from playing sports is the journey to our own self awareness. 

"It’s taken me a lifetime to become vulnerable, but I try to help my athletes learn to do that at a younger age than I did.” - Frank Amato 

Quotes like this remind why Frank and I get along so well, and why I have sent my own child to visit him with her injuries. His handle on his own self awareness and purpose is calming and why I talk his ear off every time he is working on my ankle or shoulder. He’s a sage, not just for healing the body, but the mind and spirit as well.  And these are the conversations I will bring to you through my collaboration with Anthony Moore and his incredible up close and personal photography and video.  Stories of resilience and optimism, that will matter to younger athletes from the experienced professionals who have lived them.  It’s generational learning that helps us recognize our values and reverse  and it’s my passion.  We are creating a rising tide for every athlete, parent, coach, and legend of the game to share stories and learn from each other to help each other as athletes and human beings.  Stay tuned.  It’s coming  down the pipeline soon and you won’t want to miss it.  

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