Who Am I Really?

:: I sometimes feel like I am so busy pursuing everyone else’s vision of success, creativity or happiness that I’ve lost sight of what my own soul is truly after. ::

Two weeks ago, in the Redwoods of Santa Cruz, I found myself in a room next to 200 other people, hanging on the words of renowned life coach, Martha Beck. I was exactly where I didn’t know I needed to be. The topic of this retreat was about returning to your essential self. Breaking through fear, trauma and past socialization to get back to who you really are.

A quest I have been pursuing for many years now (probably since my awkward middle school encounters of bullying and unbearable self-consciousness) that has come with many highs and lows, like any great adventure.

People, stories and moments keep popping up to remind me of this quest. To keep pushing me toward integrity and to make decisions – big and small – that are true to who I really am. As a dedicated people pleaser, this is the hardest thing for me to do.

But nothing excites and motivates me more than a life where I’m living each day as myself. I’m slowly getting closer. For me, for God, my daughters, my family and my true purpose.

I found this poem I wrote a few years ago about the quest.  Another reminder, I’m exactly where I need to be. 

Who are you and why do I care about what you think?
What is it about you that makes me stop and introspect to the point of self defeat?
Or maybe it isn’t really you after all.
Maybe it’s me;
the person I am trying to be.
Sealed shut, locked away.
Aiming to please when discomfort strikes,
but I have so much more to say.
I care too much about what people think,
but mostly the people I don’t care about, what they think.
Do I look ok? Will what I say offend you? Am I funny enough? Unique enough? Am I intelligent enough? Am I enough?
Quiet careful mind, and let me say what I think.
Raw and naked, no filter.
No judgements, please.


A quick look back, before leaping forward

As Ryan and I sit here on the first day of 2018, my first thought is to recap and remember the past 365 days, before I jump into another whirlwind around the sun.

Our new tradition is to write down highlights of the year, so that in 10 years, 2017 doesn’t become a lost year of early parenthood fog. 2017 was a year to remember. Aren’t they all?

Maisley was the biggest single memory of our year. Watching this tiny human grow into a toddler who says, “bleshu”, “hi thilly” and her name, “Mayshey”, has been equal parts magical, challenging and unpredictable.

Two years of marriage to a man who defines the word selfless and loves unconditionally. Maisley was baptized surrounded by all of her family. We received the phone call you never want to receive, Michelle (sister) was in a bad car accident, but she was okay (thank you God). A bachelorette party in Austin. My best friend Lauren married her true perfect match.  Michelle lived with us for five months, during which I rarely unloaded the dishwasher and cherished having another “mom” and best friend in the house.

Ryan got the shingles. Maisley got the chicken pox (thanks Dad!). Rode the wave of postpartum with downs that would catch me surprise and take me down to crazy town.  A trip to San Francisco with Ryan, Maiz, Lindsey, Michelle & Brandino to explore and visit Lucy. Maisley turned one with the perfect Luau Beach Bash celebration. A camping adventure in San Clemente with little sleep, but lots of connection. Our first true family vacation to Napili Bay in Maui; seven days of bliss. The last day of breastfeeding Maisley and feeling life and energy rush back into my body. Freelance writing with the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Concerts in the park, farmers markets, swim lessons, music class, gymboree, library days. Playdates with Maisley’s favorite “Cousin T”. New friendships grew, connections with old friends ebbed and flowed. Jordan became our nanny and subsequently a soul sister and part of our family. Lindsey said “yes” to Brandino’s proposal of forever and made us all the happiest sisters in the world.

Countless conversations about anxiety and mental health.

Maisley’s first In-N-Out burger.

The 2nd annual Christmas kick-back.

Chicago with Ryan.

Santa brought a ball pit.

Another baby girl, a sister, ready to make her debut in a six short months.

What a year. 

My intention for the new year is to live with more intention and purpose every day. Less zoning out on social media and more waking up early to meditate, pray and write. Days full of clarity and presence.

And to keep my car clean.

Holiday Overflow

This week has been overflowing. A festive clutter of new toys and old, miniature body balms, and stubborn dead pines dusting the corners of the floor.

Things have been sitting undone for much longer than I intend. A messy car, the clean dishes on the drying rack begging to go home, and a laundry basket that doubles as a dresser. I haven’t taken the time for yoga or meditation. “Me” time has been spent on presents or planning or something that hasn’t fed my soul.

All the remnants of a season well lived and an emotional tank so fully empty, that I can’t quite take a deep breath.

The season has been beautiful, but something was missing. I was missing. Stuck somewhere between the pomp and circumstance of Christmas present.

I can’t quite pinpoint it, but it had to do with the overflow. Overtired, over pleasing, over driving, over committing.

With both of our families just an hours drive away, we were bouncing around during the week. Christmas eve there, back here for Christmas morning, Christmas day back up there. We truly enjoyed spending time with our families, who we couldn’t live without, but it never quite felt like we were able to create meaningful connections between just the three of us. Our family. A growing house that deserves traditions and memories of their own.

We did a gender reveal on the night before Christmas and when the tree lit bright with pink, my eyes saw what my heart already knew. Another girl. I felt like I had peaked at my biggest present under the tree before Christmas morning. A secret I shouldn’t know quite yet.

Two daughters. Sisters. What a gift. 

Ryan has been thinking out loud about how he can be a good dad to two daughters. Today he decided to raise girls who “will break your son’s heart”. The girl who doesn’t need a man for self assurance and will run confidently in the direction of her dreams.

The holidays are a work in progress. As are my 2018 goals. I mostly intend to create days overflowing with purpose.

Baby Two: Keeping it Real

I haven’t written in a while. Mostly because I’ve been spending my “free time” trying to escape my first trimester nausea reality, by replacing it with other realities, like Suits.  It’s been challenging to remain fully present, and enjoy the recent holidays and happenings when so much of my mind is occupied with baby two.

The only moment of clarity I can count on happens before I even open my eyes in the morning; a quick prayer of gratitude and acknowledgement for this new life growing in my now apple shaped uterus.  

I’m slowly starting to come out of the fog.  Emerging more pregnant, and with a far greater enthusiasm for household activities and holiday adventures than I can actually handle.  

While I’ve been here before, baby two feels different; a whole new person, a new family dynamic and unique emotions.  There are feelings of reluctance, “Here we go again….”, but also endless gratitude, “Here we go again!”

My diet is mostly one of gluten and meat. I think my husband was filled with more joy when I told him I was craving In n’ Out, than he was on the day we said, “I do!”.

I was number two in my sister lineup of four girls. And now I’m having my second. Something feels special about this one. 

But number one Maisley surprises me every day. Sometimes I get overwhelmingly sad that our time with just us is limited. My nanny recently likened her to a porcupine; cute as shit, cuddly, and wonderful, but just a little pokey sometimes.

Today is my 31st birthday and as I pulled her from the crib with arms stretched high, into my own, she squealed in delight like a true morning person.

I immediately had the thought that one day, I wouldn’t be able to pick her up with such ease, or maybe at all. And I held her closer than usual, rocking back and forth.

In that moment, she landed not one, but two unsolicited mouth kisses coupled with her signature sound effect, “mmmaaahhh”.  From the girl who holds her cards close, those kisses were like winning the lottery.

I worry with each baby that I will lose more and more of myself. But so far, I’ve only gained; more perspective, more love, and more insight into who I am.

That’s a reality I want to keep living in.


A Saturday Soul Party

Soul party; a gathering of likeminded women talking about real shit.

I had a few friends ask me what I did on Saturday. I was struggling to articulate the life and career coaching/personal development retreat I had experienced.

Was it like a church retreat? They asked.
Oh, a writing retreat?
A women’s retreat?

It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized what Saturday was.

It was a soul party.

Like any good party, there was an incredible spread of eats (more on that later), drinks and funky tunes.

But the real show stopper, the main event, was the conversation.

I walked into Kelsey Murphy’s Carlsbad townhouse, nervous to open my heart and thoughts up for discussion with complete strangers. I thought I might have a Glennon Doyle moment where I share a raw truth and the group looks at me sideways and I think, “Oh. We’re not doing that here.”

After warm hugs and introductions with the other eight women, we were met with buttery croissants, scones and perfectly fresh berries beautifully displayed by Anne, the chief hostess of the group. Signature chocolate-peanut-butter-with-all-the-healthy-stuff smoothies lined the countertops.

Within a few minutes of about me’s and storytelling, it became clear. We were doing all of that here.

We sat comfortably in an ocean view family room, sharing our current career status and latest obsessions. All honesty, no judgements.

There was a momtographer, a real estate agent, a freelance event planner, a copywriter, a nutritionist, a virtual assistant, a former paralegal and one woman who’s taking on field trips full time to find what lights her up inside. We were all there for different reasons; some of us looking for jobs we were more passionate about, others looking for relationships we were more passionate about.

But we were all there to connect.

Kelsey, the truth-telling, entertaining and skillful life coach, led our group in meaningful conversations about everything from particle physics to sacred friendships.  She asked the right questions, going deep into the heart of what each of was looking to get out of our time that day.  There was nothing fluffy about her approach; all actionable items to cultivate more meaning and intention in our daily lives.

She guided us through the skill of practicing confidence, discovering and exploring our curiosities (and saving the word “passion” for the bedroom), and finding and connecting with like-minded people.

As a mom of one and with one on the way, spending the entire day on soul work felt like taking the biggest deep breath I’ve had in months. I took the day to remember me; the things I love, and the person I want to be.

When all was said and done, there was writing, there were women, heck it was even a little like church with all that soul in the room.

It was one of the best soul party’s I’ve ever had.

And the best part? I realized I can have soul parties everyday, in every conversation; from the Uber driver, to my husband and every relationship in between.  

Locked and Bolted

The Vietnam War was one of the most notorious in American history and has affected the lives of countless veterans; my Uncle Bob being one of them. He is the most gentle soul I know and served honorably on the front lines in the U.S. Army during this conflict.

Like many veterans of this war, coping with the emotional aftermath after returning home from overseas became a battle of it’s own. In the 1980’s, he was going through a particularly difficult time in his life and turned to writing.

I feel deeply honored to share one of his beautiful, reflective pieces from this time:

Locked and bolted
And thoroughly revolted
The citizens huddle afraid
Beware of this syndrome that you call secure and know that it’s a mirror of your fear
Go out and feel the wind at your back
Life need not be an allergic attack



I remember the day you were born so vividly. I think about it all the time. I hope you don’t take the look of shock on my face when we first met as a bad thing. I was just so surprised that my body actually gave birth to you and that you were a real, live human.

You didn’t cry at first. We had to rub your back to get things moving. Now you sing and yell and say “mAma” with the bravado of an Italian woman.

We came alive when you came into the world, and every day since then I have thought about you more than anything or anyone else.

I’m trying to remember what I remember most about this first year of you. Ups and downs like any other years, but ups higher than the mountain tops, and downs that dropped a little below our comfort zone.

It was a bewildering year full of paradoxes and wonder.  I’ve never wanted something to stay the same, yet continue growing more in my life. Many of your early days resembled a tired, elated, blissed-out blur. Holidays, trips and milestones all punctuate the simple, yet extraordinary everyday happenings of your year. 

Some of them funny, like when Dada, in a moment of parental desperation, bounced with you in the ergo at 3am – in his birthday suit – while singing the Star-Spangled Banner just to get you to sleep.

I’m always asking my mom (Nonni) what I was like as a kid, so that I can understand my true self.  This is a snapshot of who you are now:

  • Your energy is magnetic. A trip to the grocery store with you makes me feel like a celebrity. 
  • When you spot Dada from across the room, you smile so hard at him. Your eyes carry a hint of sparkle and the usual amount of mischief.
  • You are independent, confident and fearless. When we walk together, you sometimes pull your hand out of mine, subtly saying, “I can do this on my own, Mom”. 
  • You have a mind of your own and you don’t care what people think; and people love you because of it. You are my greatest teacher.
  • You say our names now. What started out as “Mamika” and “Dikka” are more clearly Mama and Dada.
  • You stick your tongue out, point to your nose, raise your hands tall like a tree and say, “oooh ooh and aah aah” like a monkey.
  • You are always on a mission. To the kitchen! To the books! To Sammie’s water bowl!
  • You smile all the time. You make us the happiest people in the world, because that’s what you are.

As you grow into your second year of life, I grow more into Mom, more into me. 

Happy 1st birthday my sweet Maisley Moo.  I love you more than you know.