Morgan & Rapinoe in SB

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Last night in Santa Barbara. UCSB Arts & Lectures event with World Cup Champions 🇺🇸⚽️ Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. 

At the close of the hour+ talk, a Q&A session began, and I was shocked when my twelve-year-old daughter stood up to ask a question. There wasn’t much time left, so unfortunately the majority of the young female soccer players, who lined up for the opportunity to use the microphone at the front of the stage to address these soccer stars, didn’t get to ask theirs. 

Luckily, my daughter was sitting in the seventh row, so she quickly got up there before the long line formed. When she stepped up to the 🎤, she projected her voice and asked: “How did you decide when to transfer to a club team rather than the recreational teams?” 

Her question sparked long replies from both Alex and Megan, about the benefit of staying on rec teams in multiple sports while you’re young, experiencing different coaches, environments and mental/physical challenges, and only deciding to choose one sport when/if you are ready to make that bigger commitment. 

Alex didn’t join a club team until she was 13, because her rec/city team was great and she played volleyball and other sports and didn’t want to give them up until she was ready to devote all her athletic time and energy to soccer. 

Megan agreed, saying the trend for girls as young as seven to join club teams is ruining the sport for some kids because they tend to burn out faster and don’t enjoy playing through high school, quitting early because they were overloaded with it too young. 

Honestly, my daughter’s question, out of the fifteen or so that were asked, sparked the longest answers from these intelligent and articulate women, and it seemed to provide the most useful and insightful information to the parents and young athletes in the audience during the Q&A. 

I am so proud of my daughter... she seized the opportunity to address two women whom she emulates, asked an intelligent question, and didn’t let any nerves (or knots in her stomach, as she said she had!) stop her. 

A great and memorable night. 💙

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#ucsbartsandlectures #morganrapinoeSB

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Paradise Found

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This was tonight’s sunset.

Upon putting my eight-year-old son to bed a few hours later, we said a prayer aloud to one another, as we do each night before we cuddle. His prayers are often tender and thoughtful; but tonight’s was especially so... “I pray that we have safe drives and safe lives for as long as we want to live. I pray that Belle has a happy life and a happy home.”

I can venture to guess that the “safe drives” sentiment is rooted in the knowledge that his grandmother (my mom) died in a car accident before he and his sister were born. I was struck by the dichotomy in that one sentence, as he said for as long as we *want* to live, like it is fully up to us, despite the tragic randomness of my mom’s accident. As for Belle... she is our new gray and white gorgeous cat whom we rescued two weeks ago, and who has completely captured his heart. His profundity in moments such as these astonishes me in equal measure to the beauty of these sunsets we are fortunate to witness so many evenings.

I read today in an Instagram post by Glennon Doyle about Johnny Cash’s description of paradise being having coffee in the morning with his wife. She then described her own version of paradise in this messy world of ours. Reading her words made me reflect about what my description of paradise would be. Today, I’d describe it as being fully present in my own mind, body and soul, sharing this quiet moment with my son, appreciating the beauty in front of me, and feeling grateful for and accepting of where I am and who I am, just as I am.

This place is perceived as paradise by many, for many reasons, one being views such as this. In this respect, I concur; but I too believe that we can be in paradise no matter our surroundings, if we are able to recognize and appreciate the gifts in our lives, and live them with love and gratitude in our hearts. Thank you Glennon Doyle for the inspiration today, and thanks to my almost nine-year-old beautiful boy for his depth, sensitivity, and love... and just simply for existing.

#paradisefound

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

The Love is It

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UCLA Junior Elite Softball Camp. Her 2nd consecutive year attending this 3 day/2 night sleepover camp at the UCLA campus. The UCLA Bruins softball team just won the 2019 NCAA Championship a couple months ago. She will be coached by alumni players and the championship head coach. Girls from all over travel from out of state to attend this camp... we drove an hour. I feel fortunate for opportunities like this one that we are able to give her, and I am grateful to have a child who is open to seizing them.

Yet it is far from perfect. She was nervous, had butterflies in her stomach, and gave us a healthy serving of tween attitude on the way to drop her off this morning. Her little brother had a major meltdown on the car ride over, with fists swinging. Disastrous. Raised voices. Heightened tempers. Flowing tears. I swear, the challenges of parenting never seem to end. As they have gotten older, the toddler/little kid issues have died off just to be replaced by bigger kid/tween challenges. It is hard, and it is scary, and it is SO much work. It can render you feeling exhausted and defeated, and it can make you seriously question your life choices. You can feel like the worst parent in the world and wonder if it will ever get better or easier.

But whenever I feel frustration, fear, scarcity and pessimism take hold... when I start to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions I have to make, or unsure about all the ones I have already made... when I can’t see the hope ⚓️ amidst the hardships... I just look at their faces and tune into the love in my heart. I give a kiss and a hug and a smile and focus on the joy that exists and the gratitude I have for my life. For the love. THE LOVE IS IT. All of it. The experience of loving, of feeling connected to these humans, of living in the present moment, and finding in their eyes the part of me that lives in them. This life we lead is blessed with infinite opportunities for grace, generosity, growth, and gratitude. Honing in and connecting with these benevolent qualities is a daily goal, while also starving the malevolent ones of energy and their power over my life. But it all takes practice... just like softball. 🥎

#uclasoftballcamp

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook


One on One Time

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Blanket, umbrella, snacks, puzzle game book, me and my little one. He bolted away to fetch his water bottle and my hat from the car; and as he ran back toward me at full speed, joyful and free, I felt grateful for him... gratitude that often eludes me when both of my kids are together. Sibling rivalry is no joke, so spending one-on-one time with each reignites the joy of motherhood in me.

#oneononetime

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Crunchy Mart

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June in the ‘Bu... cold and overcast.

Still we had a fun day today staying local, checking out summer reading books 📚 at the Malibu Library, stopping for açaí bowls at Sunlife Organics, and playing at Malibu Country Mart.

Haven’t played here for ages; although we used to come all the time when the kids were babies and toddlers.

See photos below of my oldest in 2008 at one year old on the same play structure, and my youngest in 2014 at three years old ready for movie night at the “crunchy mart” as he used to call it.

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Fun to see them today play on the same structure at ages 12 and 8.5!

#summertime #malibucountrymart #malibulocals

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Smells Like Tween Spirit

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From birth, she had the most expressive eyebrows I had ever seen on a baby. Not that I paid any attention to babies’ eyebrows, or to babies, for that matter, before I became a mother. I was not someone who ever dreamed of having kids. The closest I came to enjoying the company of children as a young adult was when I worked as a camp counselor during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college.

My counselor “nature” name was Brook, and the six and seven-year-olds with whom I played at camp endeared themselves to me with their wide-eyed innocence and wonder for the world around them. They would yell out “Brook!“ and smile when they arrived each day, happy to see me, giving me a glimpse of how intoxicating it was to care for them. Once I got to know the subtleties of their precious vulnerabilities and experience how much they began to rely on me for their safety and comfort, it was hard not to get hooked… at least for the summer.

The experience reminded me of the joys of childhood, the possible joy of parenting, and how it may be fun to spend some time with little ones once in a while. But that was as far as it went. I babysat kids in Newport Beach here and there while attending school at UC Irvine; and their young parents, who must have been in their early thirties, looked so old and mature to my twenty-year-old self (yet ironically, they were probably much younger than I am now with the same aged kids!). When I arrived to relieve them of their parenting duties, the moms and dads always seemed like they couldn’t wait to be free of their children. I didn’t understand then that it was most likely their date night, and they needed the break from parenting to stay sane and keep their marriage together. From my naive perspective, there wasn’t much joy in parenting for them, as it seemed more of a burden from which they were looking to escape, even if just for the night. This observation stuck with me.

After graduating a few years later in 1994, I dove head first in my career and didn’t give kids a second thought. Even having a boyfriend wasn’t a priority to me those years in which I worked fifteen hour days and slept in between. I didn’t see how kids would fit into my life with the big career I had originally envisioned for myself… back when I thought I was going to make movies for a living.

Twelve years later, after many memorable experiences, life lessons, and stark realizations, I was married and pregnant with my first child… this child, whom you see above, the one with the tween attitude and the expressively arched eyebrow. She came into my life by surprise, not by plan, and the expectation of her arrival was the biggest thing that had happened to my family in a while. She would be the first grandchild in my first family, an unexpected gift we all couldn’t wait to receive. But this big thing that was about to happen got eclipsed by an even bigger thing. My mom died. The woman whom she was going to make a grandmother didn’t survive a car accident and left this Earth just three months before she was born into it.

2008

So when she was delivered to me, under a cloud of grief, her huge blue eyes, single cheek dimple, and raised eyebrows soothed my hurt and gave me purpose, when all reason and sanity seemed to have abandoned me. She smiled and laughed and furrowed her brows, and she showed me how much joy one person can bring into another’s life, even in the worst of times.

I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew she was the most important thing in life. I knew she needed me, but I didn’t realize then how much I needed her. My life felt out of control, like all of its biggest decisions were being made for me without my input, and I was forced to just ride the ride, regardless of whether or not I was a willing passenger. Without my mom there to support me, or to assure me everything was going to be okay, I felt lost as a woman, but found as a mother. The void my mom left was dark and deep, and I don’t think anyone, not even me, understood how much losing her would change me. I wasn’t sure of anything except that this little girl needed me to love and take care of her. I knew I could do that, I was going to do that no matter what, but I really didn’t feel like I could do much else.

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Once again, twelve years later, and this child turns twelve years old… today.

She is bold and she is beautiful. She is shy and she is stubborn. She is like me in so many ways and nothing like me in so many others. I see my mom in her sense of humor. I see my dad in her blond hair and blue eyes. I see how being my child has shaped her. I see her strong sense of identity rearing it’s head out from under her childhood innocence, and I see the baby I once knew still very much alive in her big eyes.

I am not ever one to say, “Where did the time go?” I have not said or written that statement, not once. I know where it went. I have spent almost every day of the last twelve years with this kid, and these twelve years have been unforgettable. They have been a mixture of happiness, sadness, and feeling a love never known before. There were times I felt content in the life I have built, and other times I struggled with unrest and wanderlust when my autonomy felt sabotaged by motherhood, and when my individual desires and personal aspirations got the best of me.

But regardless of the phases I have gone through, there has always been intense gratitude for the privilege of getting to watch this beautiful creature live, learn, evolve and grow.

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She has been a joy, a challenge, a heartbreak, and a saving grace. Sometimes she makes me feel on top of the world, and sometimes she wounds me to my core and momentarily crushes my soul. The way I feel as a person and as a woman affects how I relate to her, and the wounds I carry from my own childhood affect how I behave in some of her childhood circumstances.

There is so much I wish I had done, worked on, or figured out before I had her. There is so much I wish would have been different before she came into my life, the most significant thing being having my mom here to be a part of it. But mainly, I wish I had figured out who I was a bit more before motherhood made it’s mark on me.

I have been sharing my writing on this site for almost five years now, trying to better understand who I am, what I feel, and where my greater purpose lies beyond motherhood. This does not lessen my commitment to being a mother, nor does it reflect a dissatisfaction for being a mother. But as I watch my daughter grow, and see all the possibilities for her life that are coming around the corner for her, I want her to experience the best version of me, and I don’t think I have found it yet.

But above all, what I try to remember, however hard it is to keep at the forefront of my mind, is that nothing will ever be perfect or ideal, and no one ever is truly ready to become a parent. Even if you think you are ready, you don’t know what you are in for when a child takes over your life and your heart. I know I never could have imagined this kid.

She is innocent, but she is wise beyond her years. She’s been called an “old soul” so many times by so many different people who all see the same thing in her eyes. There is something intangible there that makes her seem like she knows more than she logically should at her age. She has the normal tween angst, hormonal mood swings, and irrational attitudes that a typical twelve-year-old girl does; but there is an added layer to her.

I sometimes think that her awareness to inherently know things that she doesn’t quite understand yet, or have the emotional capacity to process at her age, casts a cloud over her head. She is more pensive and somber than most of her peers, and doesn’t consistently possess the carefree nature and lightness that they do. As such, I have wondered if that cloud she walks under was formed soon after her birth, during her first few years in which she was with me every day as I was dealing with a lot of sadness and did a lot of grieving.

2010

There is no way to know for sure. What I do know though is that she is still the most important thing in life.

Along with her brother, she brings an elevated purpose to my existence…

She brings eternal hope to my heart…

And she brings so much joy to my soul…

Even if she crushes it occasionally.

💖

Happy 12th Birthday to my sweet girl. Thank you for choosing me to be your mom. I am eternally grateful.

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That One's Life

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My kids are at the center of my world. Not as they were when they were babies - when they had to be for their mere survival - but rather because, intrinsically, they point me to my greatest purpose.

They are the catalyst to every good or hard decision or change that I make. They rely on me to make sense of their world, and look to me to show them how to live a good life. They are so affected by my attitude and how I live my own life that they show me every day, through their behavior and in the way they receive my love and show me love, what I am doing well and where I need to improve.

There is always so much to improve upon. More than I wish. The daunting responsibility of raising them, although challenging and overwhelming, is more important than anything. I want to give them my best self, yet I fail to do so, so very often.

Still... wanting to do my best for them doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice myself or my own fulfillment of wishes and dreams. I have done that too many times in the past to good short term results and negative long term ones, paying dearly for what I’ve given up in happiness and well being. I’ve decided I’m not going to do that anymore.

There’s no black and white answer to any of this. I perpetually live in gray areas. Parenthood is a never ending balancing act that is so hard to master, and an easy one to give up trying to balance.

Many people either completely sacrifice themselves for their kids to the detriment of their own identity, or they put themselves first and roll the dice on how their kids will turn out or feel about them later. I think we all wish to fall somewhere in between these extremes.

I strive to do better for them, and for myself, as far as honoring their needs, while still honoring my own... honoring who I am, what I love, what makes me feel healthiest and most alive, and how I can use my gifts to contribute to the world.

It’s out of these choices that one’s life materializes. That one’s life finds its path in both parenthood and individuality. That one’s life reaches its fullest potential and has its strongest impact. That one’s life defies the odds, winds its way through its challenges, and travels the journey that was meant for it all along.

#lifesjourney #findyourpath

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

Like Mother Like Son

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A couple weeks ago, I took my son to H&M to exchange a pair of shoes that didn’t fit him. While there, I saw this scarf and asked him if he liked it. He took the scarf from me, immediately put it around his neck, smiled, and asked if he could get it.

We decided it would be a good purchase for winter, and so he quickly made his way to the cashier to get in line. I spotted the matching beanie as I tried to catch up, and brought it along to show him. He was excited to see the hat, and asked if we could get that too. Yes, sweet boy, we can.

Upon leaving the store, he insisted I take his new scarf and hat out of the bag and let him carry them as we walked through the mall. He held on to them like they were his most coveted treasures, and he thanked me for getting them for him. Every time he has worn them since, he has treated them the same, proclaiming they are just as important to him as “monkeys” (his three sleeping buddies).

Something about that scarf captured his heart and held on to it, beyond any explanation or reason. It’s a beautiful thing because, isn’t that the way most amazing relationships begin? An inexplicable, undeniable connection that defies logic and causes us to hold on with the most fervent conviction.

I love his passion. It mirrors mine; and he is so much like me in so many ways. Unbridled expressions of devotion are just our thing, and we proudly flaunt them for all the world to see.

#likemotherlikeson

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

In Seven Years Time

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I hosted my son's Lego birthday party today to celebrate him turning seven. And now is not the moment when I state any variety of, "Where did the time go?, The years are going by too fast!, or Slow down time!" No, I don't subscribe to this mode of thinking that most parents do. I feel the opposite. I believe that it's all happening at the right speed, in due time, with my close awareness and full presence.

These seven years have gone by as they should. They have been lovely, hard, joyful, painful, inspirational, challenging, uplifting, heartbreaking, euphoric, devastating, and hopeful. They have been seven years of my life. Of my son's life. Sometimes lived by me to the utmost and fullest, and sometimes lived less wisely than I would have wished.

There have been moments that have been some of the best of my life, and there have been moments that have been some of the darkest. My son is the gift I received seven years ago; but along with this precious gift, I also inherited the challenge of parenting two children, dealing with an often volatile sibling dynamic, and precariously juggling my time mothering two souls, all the while trying to find time and space for my own self care and self preservation.

As I have written about before, I lost myself a bit a few years after having this child, and then I found myself again three years ago when I began to share, through writing, what being lost meant. So life - for me, for my son - is happening as it should, as it was meant to. When people say "It's going by too fast," I think they may really mean that they want more of their time to play out in the ways they want it to play out, or that maybe they haven't been using their time to its fullest potential.

Yet who really does? Who can? At least, who can do so every second, or every moment. Life goes on, for all of us... we live it, we feel it, we thrive, we falter, we triumph, we make mistakes, we make the most of it, we waste time, we celebrate it, we have regrets, and we do our best with what we've been given. That's it.

This day has closed. This time is done. We will wake to a new day, with more life and more time; and we will spend it foolishly or we will spend it well. What will you choose?

#whatwillyouchoose

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love the Inside First

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Apparently, I now have a ten-year-old who's old enough to see films that don't involve animation, musical numbers, or talking animals. My daughter and I watched her first romantic comedy, You've Got Mail, and I am a bit beside myself about it.

She learned about it when I told her it was my inspiration for buying her a couple classic novels referenced in it; and when she asked more about the narrative, I vaguely explained it was about rival bookstore owners. Being an avid reader, this intrigued her and she wanted to watch it; so I told her I believed she was too young still... or maybe I just wasn't ready to accept she wasn't too young still.

I looked it up on Common Sense Media, as I often do for guidance on age appropriateness in media, and they rated it ok for age 10+. I was skeptical, having seen the film many times and knowing how mature the romantic themes were. Yet, since I am admittedly a bit resistant to her growing up (and also indoctrinating her into the world of Hollywood romance), I knew I couldn't shelter her forever. Right? 😩 Must let go...

She loved all the book references and was amused by the outdated dial-up AOL e-mail, but was surprised that the core of the story was about two people falling in love over the internet without knowing who each other were in person. About people beginning to love one another because of who they are on the inside, stripped of ego and vanity. He loved her FOR *not despite* the vulnerable parts she reveals to him while lost and in her most fragile state. Her physical appearance is not a factor at all in the beginning, and when it is revealed, it's still secondary to her inner beauty to which he is drawn.

It is a lovely example of authentic love, one developed through deep connection, vulnerability, and the bearing of two souls who loved with their hearts, independent of physical appearance or attraction. A soul connection. Impossible to fathom? Naively idealistic? Maybe, and all wrapped up in a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan Hollywood Rom-Com no less. Still, the film's core message of loving the inside first, and most, is one I can get behind, and one I would definitely like my daughter to value.

#lovetheinsidefirst

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Charlottesville

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Somewhere in California, a father helps his daughter learn to ride her penny board at a gas stop during their family's summer vacation last week.

This father fell in love with his wife seventeen years ago, married her, and had two children out of that love. This daughter was born healthy, beautiful, and graced with the privilege of living with both her parents in a serene city by the sea, a golden state with mountains, deserts and beaches, and a sovereign nation granting her the freedom to dream of a life of her choosing.

This family of four wanted nothing more than to enjoy a fun road trip last week, create new memories together, and be nurtured, loved, accepted, and safe in the bosom of their extended family.

While away for seven days, this mother did not post to social media, was free of influence and distraction, and experienced what most moms do on a vacation with their kids: a mixture of relief to be away, excitement for adventure, exhaustion from all the packing, and grateful appreciation of time with her beloveds; intermingled with listening to whining, arguing, and annoying "Are we there yet?'s," and feeling the chagrin of an exasperated parent refereeing the chaos and attempting to orchestrate the calm, at times wishing she could escape to read a book... or write one.

Yet she, I, was also unexpectedly disrupted on our trip by the news of the intolerance and racism that was violently displayed a few days ago in Virginia, in this present day world that should be well past such an archaic ideology. A dangerous, ignorant, and irresponsible doctrine that so many Americans fought against (including my grandfather) and so many other Americans and citizens from many nations died fighting in a World War.

Not a small thing and not something ANY American should be so disrespectful of our violent history to blatantly ride in the face of, disregarding what America went through, fought against, and strongly reviles as not only anti-American, but anti-humanity. To denounce any human as less than because of their skin color, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation is a human rights violation of the tallest order.

I am sickened by the news from Charlottesville; yet I am emboldened to continue to live a life of worth and purpose and cause, and to raise my children with knowledge, intelligence, empathy, and decency so they can carry on the virtues of acceptance, inclusion, compassion and love.

I was fortunate to have been born of a family who taught kindness and love over violence and hatred. My kids are fortunate to have been born into a life where, so far, they have been safe from daily harm and live in a place free of social unrest and dangerous persuasions. Yet, wherever you are and from whomever you were born, we are all humans who have love at our core. Humanity unites us.

Abject evil, ignorance and fear cannot and *will not* win if we, who chose love, expand our reach of compassion and solidarity with decency, equality, conscious humanity, and perseverance to uphold all that is right and good in this world.

#charlottesville

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Ocean Warrior

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He came, he fought, he conquered.

My son gained a new sense of confidence in the ocean yesterday after he challenged himself to keep up with his big sister while they both boogie boarded in a more aggressive than usual shore break.

I relished seeing the pride in his eyes and elation in his voice as he ran up to tell me of their adventures facing the waves... how he was tossed, flipped and spun around by the sea and lived to tell the tale.

It was wholly dramatic and wildly exciting from the innocent perspective of this six year old's world; and after he finished recounting his saga, he stood quietly and stared out at the surf, seeming to reflect on all that he accomplished.

I cherished being witness to this, and felt like he grew and matured ever so slightly right before my very eyes. 🌊

#lovethiskid #oceanwarrior

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love By Choice Rather Than Obligation

My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

I just found out you died.

Died of cancer. The same lung cancer that almost killed you a couple years ago. I didn't know it had come back. If I did, I would have flown out to see you. I would have called you to see what I could do. To talk to you again. To say I love you for the last time.

But I didn't know. You didn't call me to tell me and I'm not sure why. Maybe you didn't want me to know... to worry, to be sad, to have to try to find the words to say goodbye.

I heard once the cancer came back it took you quickly. So quick that maybe there wasn't time for goodbyes - at least not with me, across all these miles. Or maybe you just wanted to slip away peacefully without having to say the farewells you weren't required or ready to say.

It makes sense, I guess. It just makes me sad to not have been given the chance to tell you what you meant to me or to thank you for all you had done for me. I think you already knew; but still, we humans like to say it. Saying it makes it more real. Saying it ensures us that our feelings and intentions are known. Unequivocally. Unmistakably. With no presumptions made, and no feelings implied or misunderstood.

So I am saying it now. Here, on this site full of my writing. A site you never visited, nor ever read one word from, but still were so proud it existed.

I gave my sister Rebecca some of the words on this page to read aloud at your memorial service in my absence. I wanted my feelings to be represented there so all the people there knew you mattered to others who weren't there. Others like me.

What she read was brief... not nearly everything that came out of me when I first heard you were gone. All the words that came out of me are here now, written with tears flowing and a heart full of gratitude for having known you.

When we spoke on the phone last summer, you were in full remission... your hair had grown back, you felt great and were riding your bicycle around town. You had just begun to explore the internet, googling and wikipedia-ing everything you wanted to know more about.

You didn't want to correspond via email, be friends on Facebook, or even visit this site to read some of the things I wrote. Although I wanted you to read what I had been writing for the past couple years, I respected your slow pace and understood your intention to not get overwhelmed or swallowed up by the abyss the internet has the potential to be. I thought about printing some of my best pieces out to mail to you; but it's funny how we all think we have infinite time to eventually do the things we don't have time to do in the moment.

So I am going to choose to believe that you are reading this somehow, feeling the sentiments and emotions I lay bear here, through the energy that is now you.

I will never see you in person again. The finality of that fact is a tough one. The last time I saw you was here in Malibu twelve years ago when you attended my wedding and were escorted down the aisle in procession as my stepmother and important family member.

Over the last decade, we were able to keep our relationship going, despite your divorce from my dad, the distance between our homes, and my being swallowed up by newborns and toddlers. Two or three lengthy, inspiring, and uplifting phone calls per year were all we had; but I was grateful for them.

One was always around your birthday in August, when we would talk about the summer we were having and our plans for the Fall... another was when you would call me at the start of each new year to gush about how fantastic my holiday card was, how beautiful my children were, or how the Christmas gift I sent you just couldn't be more perfect than it was... and a third was usually around Mother's Day, when you would thank me for the Mother's Day card I sent, and tell me how overwhelmed and blown away you were by my kindness and generosity for thinking of you as a mother.

Of course, I lost my mother to a car accident shortly after I lost you as my stepmother. The difference is, I never really lost you. Not until now. You became more of a mother to me after your marriage to my dad ended, and in the wake of my mom's death, than you ever presumed or intended to be when you were still married to him.

It's not like you took my mom's place after she died. You didn't want to do that; nor did I want you to try. The truth was, you couldn't do it even if you did try, and you knew that.

So instead of stepping into her role, you reinvented it. For yourself, and for me. You became a new entity... a mother by choice rather than obligation.

You gave me something unique that I hadn't had before - a nurturing presence who lifted me up, accepted me for exactly who I was, and loved me so unconditionally that I became stronger and braver and more self-assured because of it. You believed in me so much and was so proud of me in the most generous and selfless way, that I began to believe in myself more. So even though you weren't physically in my life, you were always there for me.

And I was here. Figuring things out, often floundering, succeeding and failing in motherhood, marriage, and life. Our calls seemed to always happen at the times when I needed your support, advice, and guidance the most. I definitely didn't call you as often as I wanted, to see how you were doing and check in on how life was for you. You loved it when I did, but you didn't need me to. You always made sure to tell me how much you loved and appreciated me, felt my love across the miles and held it close to your heart in the time between our talks.

You let me know the cards and photos of my family I sent were valued as some of your most treasured possessions. You expressed your regard for them through wildly enthusiastic and whimsical descriptions of where you placed them in your home - like on your refrigerator door so you would see them every time you made a cup of tea, or on your bedside table so you could see our smiling faces when you woke up - and these long, beautiful expressions of appreciation that you would generously give to me always left me with a deep and comforting feeling that I was truly cherished by you.

What an amazing gift you had. The ability to spread so much joy and love by just being YOU. Your true and unapologetic self was so honest, vulnerable, and sincere that I would bet any person who was lucky enough to know you, or be showered even once with your unconditional adoration and praise, was left a better person.

You were an enchanted, mystical and ethereal force of positive energy and light. You brightened my life with your encouragement, your sage advice, your enlightened wisdom, and your boundless love.

And although I will miss you deeply, your love will stay with me; and I will never lose what you meant to me.

A Better Ten

The last time I posted on this blog was on the 10th anniversary of my mom's death back in October. Since then, I have continued to write, but have only shared a few of those words on social media, not finding the time or inclination to write anything of substantial length or significance to post as a full blog entry.
The close of 2016 was challenging for me, as it was for many. Over and above dealing with the U.S. presidential campaign and subsequent election, as well as the sudden loss of a few of our most respected artistic icons, I myself suffered the loss of both a dear family member and a long time friend and neighbor at the close of the year. I also had much to contemplate, reflect on, and work through regarding my family, the holidays, and both my internal and external life as a woman and an individual.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to do this kind of work on our own, without an audience, and without certain external influences or opinions muddling up the process. This, of course, does not bode well for a writer who mostly writes about her life's journey and experiences.
My proclivity to share my opinions and feelings through writing on this blog stems from my inherent longing to connect, relate, comfort, inspire, and provoke dialogue. So suddenly not having a strong desire to do so was troubling. What I did post on Instagram and Facebook during the last few months was always short and spontaneous, and seemed to be all I wanted to comment on or delve into at that point in time.
Now, a new year is upon us, and I thought it apropos to follow my last post about the 10th anniversary of my mom's death with a new post about the 10th anniversary of my daughter's birth.
It is definitely a better ten to celebrate.
I still plan to share some of the things I wrote during the final months of 2016, most likely in the next few days; but for now, this first entry back is all about balloons, birthdays and blowing out candles... and the hope and promise for the future as my little girl enters double digits.
Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 14, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 14, 2017

Party in progress at our house right now. My daughter turns ten today and her three best friends are over for the small, exclusive birthday party she requested.

As all of the girls were dropped off, there are no other parents here, and my husband took my son out of the house to give her the freedom to be with her friends without her six-year-old little brother in tow.

So here I am, in the kitchen, icing her chocolate cake and getting ready to write a big, purple "10" on the top of it, while four nine and ten year olds are out on the deck... chatting, laughing, snacking, taking instant selfies, and decorating photo albums.

It is quite peaceful in here, away from the action; but it is also a strange new reality for me, after nine years of kid parties at which a deluge of parents, babies, toddlers, relatives, nap breaks, bibs, sippy cups, diaper changes, and tantrums all previously played significant roles.

Very strange.

Well, better get back to the cake. Here's to TEN. The dawn of a new decade, as well as a new era of parenthood.

Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 19, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 19, 2017

It had been blustery and rainy for the better part of last week, and strong winds were still howling on the morning of Saturday, January 14th, my daughter's 10th birthday. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to use the deck for her party and were prepared to relegate the festivities to the indoors if the wind persisted and the rain returned.

But as the party's start time approached, the sun warmed the air, the winds calmed to a gentle breeze, and the ocean swayed and soothed for a much needed rest from the stormy tides it had weathered the previous few days.

I set up our outside table with the craft projects we planned and looked out at this view with a grateful heart. Not just for the weather cooperating or for the breathtaking panorama, as I am grateful for that every day, but for the soul that was born to become my daughter ten years ago that day.

Someone could naively suggest that the weather cleared up especially for her party by some stroke of divine miracle; or they could even go as far as to say my mom made it so from up above, a gift to her granddaughter who arrived on this Earth only days after she herself left it.

Yet as idealistic and romantic as I am, I don't believe in these kinds of notions. What I do believe is that life, along with the weather, is unpredictable; and we, for the most part, don't know exactly what's going to happen from one day to the next.

Losing someone you love without warning teaches you this; yet to a certain degree, so does parenthood, marriage, and simply living daily life. As much as we want to believe otherwise, we are only in control of our own actions, our own mindset approaching what we do, and ultimately how we respond to what unfolds beyond our control.

This day unfolded beautifully... my daughter officially turned ten at 3:19pm, and she made her birthday wish and blew out her ten candles just before the party ended and the sun set over the ocean out front.

Originally posted On  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 20, 2017

Originally posted On Instagram and Facebook on January 20, 2017

I wouldn't say it was lonely... just, different. Weird. Unchartered. Last Saturday, I hosted my first kid birthday party as the sole adult in attendance. My nine-going-on-what-feels-like-eighteen-year-old daughter was blissful and carefree when her friends arrived for the party that day; a refreshing departure from the potent mix of drama, melancholy, and defiance she has consistently been the last year.

She smiled from ear to ear all day long... laughing, posing for selfies, and basking in the sweetness and silliness of her girlfriends' happy birthday song rendition before blowing out ten candles on her homemade chocolate birthday cake.

I watched all this transpire with joy in my heart and my own smile on my face, yet was feeling like more of a spectator than participant of the party, and noticed the stark contrast from her past birthday parties at which her dad, brother and I were always at the center of the action. Being alone and observing her and her friends from the sidelines this year made me realize that a change was happening that I didn't know was coming, at least not this soon.

I know as my daughter gets older I will have to relinquish my role as the primary creator and orchestrator of her life's events and memories. This is vital for her to bloom and grow outside the constructs of my nurturing and protecting. Yet it's new for me (and a tiny bit heartbreaking) to let go of so much of what has defined me as a mother since I became one ten years ago.

It's all going to be okay though. I have my own game of life to participate in, one in which I am not a spectator. And no matter what... I will have a front row seat to witness her beautiful life as it plays out; and I will be her most enthusiastic and loyal fan. She may continue to ask me less and less to participate in her life's game as the years go by; but I will always be there to guide, support, uplift, and love her as her mom. And THAT role is one I will never relinquish.

Ten Years After My Life Before

The life I had before... I knew how to do that. I could do that forever. But now look at me. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with all this?
— Erica Barry (in Something's Gotta Give)

Life is not a movie. No one knows this more than me. Still, just humor me here, okay?

The quote above is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking lines from a great scene in one of my favorite movies. It speaks volumes to so many of our fears of losing control, of stepping out of our comfort zone, of challenging the false egos and fabricated identities that we offer up to the world and hide behind to protect ourselves from the heartbreak of being vulnerable, of admitting we aren't fine, and of feeling and loving deeply.

Her sentiment, "What am I going to do with all this?" really resonates with me because I have felt it, not only in regard to romantic love (as she does in the film), but in regard to losing my mom... now ten years ago today.

When my mom died, so much came up in me that I was not prepared to deal with. I had my first child three months later, and my delay in fully grieving the loss of my mother until my daughter was safely outside of my body meant I was faced with embracing overwhelming joy and tremendous grief simultaneously.

WTF? Are you kidding me? How was I going to be elated about my beautiful and healthy baby girl while finally allowing myself to feel the intense anger and crippling sorrow of my mom being killed in a car accident?

What am I going to do with all this? All this feeling. All this hurt. All this love. All this disappointment. All this hope. All this sadness. What am I gonna do?

I couldn't navigate my way through it, and I didn't have the clarity, energy, motivation or support to know that I needed some sort of outlet, or some sort of outside help, to sort out the mess that was me, that sad woman buried somewhere beneath a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, burp clothes and boppy pillows.

So instead of real help, I used band-aids. I patched up my life as best I could with quick fixes, forced positive attitudes, running, yoga, clean eating, a bit of makeup, a healthy dose of denial, and the sheer abandonment of some of my deepest passions and strongest convictions. I created some semblance of a happy home life and convinced myself that it was all somehow, in some way, going to be okay the way it was now.

The way I was now.

It wasn't. I hadn't fully understood what these new roles I now was expected to fill (wife, mom, motherless daughter) would do to my former identity, or how my attempting to fill them would demolish all that I had thought of myself. Although it looked as if I played the roles pretty well from the outside, deep down I was partly broken, unhappy with myself, my ability to parent, my marriage, my choices, and my unwanted, unchosen, effed-up circumstances.

The difficulties I faced had rippling effects that forever changed the landscape of my life and led me down roads I never imagined I would venture. Roads of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that did not serve my life. States of mind and being (sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, self doubt, insecurity and shame, to name a few) that I expected to only visit temporarily - that is, while grieving my mom, caring for needy babies and toddlers at home, and fumbling through my domesticated, messy life - were instead the states of mind and being that I set up camp and lived in for years.

In the narrative of the film, Erica dealt with her "all this" by writing. She wrote and cried and cried and wrote, and out of all of the hurt and pain and love, she created something glorious, healed herself, and moved on with her life. In the narrative of my life, over seven years had passed before I discovered that writing would be my salvation for my personal "all this."

With every word I wrote, I began to dig out of my dark tunnel both toward the light within me and the light in my life that had been eluding me. The digging was painful, enlightening, intoxicating, scary, euphoric, and all together devastating; yet, it freed me from the purgatory between "my life before" and the life I knew wanted to have in the future.

So today, on this day that means so much yet hurts so much, I am grateful that these last ten years are over. Still, the dawn of this solemn anniversary of sorts didn't flip a switch and make all my problems magically disappear. There is no ten year statute of limitation on my pain, suffering or difficulty in life. Sure, you can look at all the photos of me as a mother these past ten years, posing with my kids through faces of love, smiles and happiness, and see part of my story. And those faces are all as authentic and real as anything. But, as we all know, snapshots taken and often shared with those outside our inner world are mere snippets of a much larger picture... and rarely do they tell the whole story.

Not having my mom here hurts still. The void she left has never been filled. I feel it most when I see the grandmothers of my kids' friends enjoying their grandchildren, and the moms of my girlfriends helping their daughters like they have been doing all their lives, being there for them and showing them the unconditional love and support that only a mother can give. I miss that. This is the part of my story that makes life challenging for me.

But it's just a story. Not a movie, but a story without a completed script or a guaranteed happy ending. We all have a choice to either indulge in our stories, let them control us and dictate how we live; or to acknowledge and honor the events that unfold in them with awareness, vulnerability and acceptance. Then all we can do is just write and cry and cry and write until we create a new chapter, heal ourselves from the plot twists that we didn't see coming, and move through the remainder of our story looking forward to the parts that have yet to be written.

I Am Strong

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

I just saw a viral video of a man with his young daughter doing their morning ritual of looking into a mirror and repeating positive affirmations.

In the accompanying article, this man states, "My dad did this with me in the mirror as well, which I believe has helped make me more confident and positive."

This is a true testament to how good parenting gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I wasn't raised at all like this, so I don't inherently possess the tools to positively and effectively parent my own kids. While this man was given a road map and spotlight that shone from within, I was sent out into the world with a wonky compass and a flashlight with dead batteries.

Yes, we do the best with what we were given, yet what we were given sometimes sucks.

DON'T ACCEPT THIS.

I don't. Even though it is more of a struggle for me as a parent (and frankly, as a person) to do the right thing and say the right thing than it is for this man, and even though I may make way more mistakes than he does, I hope, aspire and persevere to do better, be better, and give my kids a better start in life than I was given.

There is nothing more important.

#iamstrong

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Soulful Six

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

My son turns SIX today. A gentle and kind soul wrapped up in an energetic and hilarious character, he is a kid who likes to shock and amuse just as much as he likes to cuddle and love.

He possesses a depth and a soulfulness way beyond his years; yet he is raucous and rambunctious, needs to be told to use his inside voice constantly, and tires out his mama on a daily basis.

One minute he is leading our blessing at dinner, expressing how he is "grateful for companionship, the Earth, and everyone in the world, even the people he doesn't know, or who aren't alive anymore" (that last one being for my mom). The next minute he forgets all proper table manners to joyously revel in his ability to make uncouth bodily noises at will.

He is the yin to his big sister's yang, loves to pick flowers for me any chance he gets, and never ceases to surprise, bemuse and fascinate us with his remarkable capacity to elicit smiles on our faces and laughs in our hearts.

#thisissix

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Only One Mom

I didn't think about it. I just pulled out my phone and quickly snapped a single frame of my son holding my hand as we walked toward his new classroom on his first day of Kindergarten today. He didn't see me take it, nor did I want him to, as my phone went right back in my pocket a second later.

I had already taken the obligatory photo before we left home; you know, the one of him standing still, all polished and pressed, wearing his new school outfit and backpack, in the typical "first day of school" style. He wasn't holding a dated chalkboard sign or anything, as is the trend these days; but he still looked cute, smiling and posing for posterity, as requested by me, his personal photojournalist.

So, why this one? Why bother taking in motion an uncomposed, blurry snapshot? I certainly didn't need it to remember the moment, one my heart and mind will not soon forget; yet I took it anyway, like some sort of parent paparazzi.

Maybe it was because I wanted a visual to accompany the words I would inevitably need to write. Maybe I simply desired a tangible image to encapsulate my feelings in that moment. Or maybe I just needed to capture and freeze a glimpse of my perspective, the one looking down at his little body, with his little fingers holding mine, before he or those fingers grew even one centimeter more.

I don't know. One second I can't wait for things to progress, for him to grow, change, move on and move up... anything to get past the challenges of his present age and developmental phase. Another second I feel like his childhood is slipping through my fingers like sand on a beach, moving fast out of my grasp, without my consent, against my wishes, and beyond my control.

What I do know is I am only one mom - one of countless mothers around the world - who is having this same experience or one similar to it. If not today, then last week, next week, or even next month. This fact doesn't make it happening to me any less significant; it just helps me recognize that I am not alone.

I am only one mom, yet I could be so many. I could even be you.

One mom ushering in another milestone of her little one's life... welcoming the start of her youngest child's school years, while simultaneously bidding farewell to the baby and toddler years for which she had most recently dedicated her life.

One mom saying goodbye to the realities of those precious, yet equally exhausting, days and months that occupied and consumed most of her time the last five years, and in my case - with two kids - the last ten years.

One mom who understands and appreciates what this new, monumental change means for her existence.

I am only one mom of many guiding her child into a new stage of childhood, while also leading herself into a new chapter of motherhood.

One mom feeling a mix of relief, elation, and anticipation for what the future will bring, while still experiencing a touch of melancholy for what is now past and will not be again.

One mom who knows she will never be the same person she was before she became a mother; but one who hopes that somehow she can get back a little of her former self, or at least be afforded the time and space to reimagine and reinvent her present self - this woman in mom's clothing - not only in the eyes of the world, but also in those of her family, and more importantly, in her own.

I am only one mom no longer having to stay at home because a baby or toddler is there for which to care; and one who now vows to go out and reach and do and be the things that will make her feel a bit more whole again.

One mom who will create and find what she desires, to love more, live more, and feel even more grateful for her life, her children, and the privilege to be the one and only mom to hold their hands as they walk toward, through, and into their lives.

#likeagirl

Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

My daughter is growing and changing, like she always has, but these last couple months seem different somehow. Her growth from little kid to big kid feels much more pronounced than that of her transition from toddler to little kid; or maybe now that she's nine and a half, I simply can't believe she will soon be ten years old.

Nevertheless, the changes in her over these last few months have been transformative. Fears are slowly being overcome and more risks are being taken. Opinions are growing stronger, arguments are more defiant (God help me), and emotions are more volatile; yet all with a level of understanding and maturity that is much more refined.

These long summer days, chalk full of beach play and the freedom from classmate influence and school pressure, have bred a more confident and determined girl. She is beginning to leap into life more, when before she had tread more carefully.

As such, she now enters the ocean more confidently too, approaching the tumultuous surf like a warrior into battle. She has learned to wait for, catch, and ride the waves with both courage and elation, and she no longer seems to get so scared and discouraged when she is tossed about in the salty brine. Tears and quitting have since been replaced with dogged determination to get back out there and try again.

I am hoping this newfound resilience in the ocean will translate to her life in general, and that it will mirror how she takes on the tides of life when they toss her about. If it does, she will be unstoppable.

#likeagirl

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Let Things Come to You

This kid is so my kid... loves herbal tea, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, ginger kombucha, and a healthy dose of introspection...

My five-year-old son loves to drink tea with me... he absolutely LOVES it. Loves everything about it. Apart from dousing it with raw honey and enjoying its sweetness and warmth, he especially enjoys ripping open the small paper envelope, retrieving his aromatic bag inside, and anxiously asking me to read the pearl of wisdom that's printed on each Yogi tea tag. Every time I read one, even if he doesn't fully understand what the inscription means (which is most of the time), he'll pause a moment, as if contemplating it, and then say, "Hmmm, good one."

That moment, in and of itself, is MY favorite part of our ritual.

His go-to flavor is "Calming," while I switch between a few stress relief and detox varieties. This instance, when we opened our packages from different flavored boxes, we were surprised to discover the same quote on each of our tags: "Let things come to you." I found this to be timely and sage advice, so I've decided to heed it. He, again, thought it was a "good one" and is going to do the same.

We'll let you know how it plays out.

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.