Heart Berry

“Did I ever tell you the story of how strawberries got their name?” my Dad would ask. 

My sisters and I would laugh and roll our eyes. Dad would throw us a friendly nudge. All of us knew that he had in fact told us that story. Too many times to count (though I was secretly happy to hear it over and over again). 

Today we picked blackberries and strawberries fresh from the vine at Stehly Organic Farms in Valley Center. I was sure to stop and tell the girls how strawberries got their name. 

“Back in the day, farmers placed hay instead of plastic at the base of strawberry plants to protect the berries from frost and mold,” I shared confidently. “That’s why they’re called strawberries.” 

They didn’t care much about my fun fact, mostly interested in who could find the juiciest ones.

Walking away with berry stained hands and the earth still under my nails, I thought of my dad (I always do). 

I thought of his family who owns Loftus Farms in Indiana. I thought of us as kids planting a garden in the backyard that never seemed to grow. I thought about pulling weeds and doing chores on Sundays, my dad in his white construction shirt, old blue jeans and a baseball cap. I thought of the way he would eat a whole apple, seeds and all, maybe spare the stem. A peach would be cleaned to the pit.


Did you know that strawberries are also known as “the heart berry” in many indigenous cultures because of their shape? Or that the word strawberry comes from the Old English streawberige because the plant sends out runners that look like pieces of straw.

Planted in the hearts and minds of me and my daughters are little seeds of curiosity and the magic of folklore sparked by strawberries. In this place, Dad, you are alive and well.

Not Another Love Story

We tell our love story
like words on the back of a wine bottle
How it all started
How the rest was history.
We smile and laugh at the same parts,
we remember the serendipity and irony of it all. 
At some point the “story” ended and we actually began:
Marriage, a baby, a second baby, a move, a death, another baby
How do you capture such complexity into such a short attention span?
The way we will feel distant for a few days and then always come back together
Or the way grief has polished us like rocks from the tide, into something neither of us recognize 
For better, for worse. 
How do I possibly share the cavernous depth of gratitude and love I feel
or how a part of me stayed behind when we got married and another part when I became a mother.
My wild, my bigness, my longings, my power – subconsciously afraid she didn’t belong.
(When all along, she was the part you fell in love with)
Together is complicated 
Where you end and I begin 
A new love story is slowly blooming
The one where we are living the life we want
not the life we think we should want
The one where I am fully me and you are fully you.


Not Another Motherhood Post

I lay in bed and circle the pothole of guilt
wondering if I’ll step into it tonight. 
Will bathing in the pit absolve me of my sins for the day?
Tomorrow I’ll read more books, meal-prep sooner, do an art project, pay more attention to the middle one, draw with the big one and promise not to make anyone feel bad. 
I’m so cautious with every word I say, aware of all the dollars I’ve dropped in their future therapy jars. 
Maybe they’ll say, I made them focus too much on their feelings. 
I’m beginning to think the next hot parenting method is the one where I just say nothing at all. 
My therapist asks if I’ve heard of the good enough mother?
As my three little birds cry out for something they need,
My inner child also begs, “what about me?!”
I am juggling in a three-ring circus
I am the heroine and the villain
I am a human vending machine 
I am Mother…
But who else am I?

521

My daughters run up the same path I did as a kid; the same one my dad did thousands of times when he was a kid. Free oranges hang over the fence from the neighbors yard, tart and sour, full of seeds, their scent creating a perfume across the yard. Other trees with over 60 years of wisdom dot the large plot of grass that leads to the front door; avocado, persimmon and orange trees. Still offering gifts to the little grabbing hands at their trunks. The corner window is intact, once shattered by a golf ball that was meant to be the magical sound of reindeer landing on the roof. 

Our family and extended family all gather to celebrate my Papa’s 91st birthday. A classic front yard party at 521. The kids make themselves right at home with their favorite toys, while all the “grown ups” enjoy casual conversation and a delicious spread of food prepared by our Aunts. 

Papa has so lovingly maintained this home, keeping intact and honoring her original beauty. I can trust this house, the way she smells and the way the stairs leading up from the entry almost propel you into a slight skip. I never tire of gazing at the old photos in the hallway, in awe and wonder of my dad’s “brady bunch” style family – three boys and three girls – with their silk shirts and long hair. 

The old cuckoo clock immortalizes my Grandma Joan’s playful nature. In quiet moments throughout the day, I can still see her in the kitchen window, hear her whistle that dinner is ready and taste her guacamole with fresh avocados from the tree. The room where we said goodbye to her.

After lunch we all go out to the front yard for games, organized by Uncle Chris, the biggest kid of them all. Wagon rides around the yard, field goal kicking contests, three legged races, and the pinnacle being a game of flag football. As we all huddle together, my uncle flips over his left hand to trace the football play on his palm, the exact same way my dad used to. 

Many things are the same, others are different. My memories are just a tiny snippet of the ones held here. But they are vivid and important, a corner of my heart where all is always well, everything makes sense and laughter and fun are mandatory. 

As we start to pack up for the day, I get a sense that the home feels pleased. Content to again be the space holder for memories, entertainment and joyful chaos.  Sturdy, in great condition, well-loved, strong character, an immeasurable legacy – her dedicated bones are a mirror of my Popster’s. Thank you 521, thank you Popster. See you next time!

Lost & Found

If my body had a “presence” notification, like an iPhone does for weekly screen time, what percentage of the day would it show that I spend in my body versus lost in the ping-pong of my well-intentioned mind?

Stillness is illusive. For so long the present moment has felt scary, unproductive, unsafe, angsty and not stimulating enough. I am able to relax for a bit and then without consciousness, I am reacting on an impulse or a thought to text someone back or listen to a podcast or call or scroll or clean or…

Even the act of reading a book to my daughters can bring up some heaviness in my chest. Despite parts of me feeling unsafe in the present moment, stillness and embodiment are all I’m craving. 

I recently began looking at the experience of my dad’s death from a trauma perspective and suddenly so many of my “symptoms” and shame-inducing triggers have started making sense. As my trauma coach nodded in affirmation and explained the nervous system in full detail, I cried tears of relief.  She explained all about the different states, how we move up and down the ladder and how our bodies hold memories we don’t consciously understand. I am finally starting to pick apart and reframe the stale narrative that “something is wrong with me”. 

My protective parts are holding me close, working to keep me safe while I do things that used to be simple or less turbulent before my dad died – like going to the grocery store, feeling big feelings, working out, being in big crowds of people, traveling alone, being alone, Ryan leaving on a work trip and so on. 

Something about these experiences remind my protective self of a threatening time, an inkling of danger and she lights up my nervous system like a Christmas tree. She feels afraid, overwhelmed, helpless and out of control. 

This loving part of me, she is so good at her job. Her memory is as excellent as an elephant’s. She will lay herself down in the middle of the road, throwing an epic tantrum to protect me from going down a path she perceives as unsafe. 

She distracts me with fearful, looping thoughts or no words at all, only attention-grabbing sensations like dizziness, tingly hands, upset stomach, shallow breaths, tension, electric energy in my limbs, etc. 

Not always, not everyday, but sometimes always and sometimes everyday, she gets looped into these same cycles of anxiety and fear, edging grief into trauma and PTSD, a different category all of its own.

Rather than automatically confronting my protector with frustration and shame, pushing her away, I am working on honoring her, nurturing her, and regulating her with words and somatic embodiment tools. Showing her that we are safe and that I will never leave her side. Proving to her that we are resourceful and can handle whatever comes our way.  Giving her validation for how big she feels.

And without lingering or getting lost in the feelings for too long, I come back home to the present moment, to my body, to God. I try and fail and succeed all throughout the day. And I think that’s what it means to be healing. 

When she is resting and well cared for, when my protector has left her fighting hands to rest, I can so vividly see and feel my softer, true essence, like a ribbon of silk and love, patiently waiting to come out and play.  Everything flows. A grand canyon of peace, rivers, hot air balloons, blue skies and lush trees. An entire expanse of truth and beauty. 

Of all the places we could travel, through the depths of the Earth, the present moment is the place with all the answers, all the secrets, all the peace; the most mystical state of all.

The owl calling in the middle of the night tells me so. Answered prayers in the quiet meditation of a rosary. Song lyrics appearing during a contemplative shower: “Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die”. 

Thank you for protecting me. I have permission to live in the present moment and not figure it all out.  Everything is right with me. Right here and now. 


I pause for a moment as I write this. Here I am today. Sitting in my tiny office decorated with everything that I love,  looking out at the eucalyptus trees, my feet folded beneath me. I am remembering that while these words reflect my hardest and darkest points, I am still laughing, singing, dancing, running and connecting with friends. Depending on the moment or the day, these words about my suffering and challenges are either too much or not enough. This feels important to say.

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)” – Walt Whitman

Frog & Co.

Frog “ribbits” during the day to signal rain.
I look to the weather app on my phone and see nothing in the forecast. 
Silly myth, I think to myself. 
A few minutes later, drops fall from the sky.
We are once, twice, a hundred times removed 
from the knowing of nature —
while Frog has been with Her all along. 
When Owl calls in the night, and Hawk soars across my path and Ladybug uses my shirt as a runway —
What’s the use in seeing it all as coincidence 
when I can commune along the path of 
mysticism instead?
Among the messages in every primitive “meet-cute”,
is one central truth;
the answer is always inside.
Trust Her.

When Breastfeeding Ends

I walk into Mara’s room at 6am as she’s gnawing on the side of the crib. Two other sets of teeth marks imprinted under her’s, tug on a contemplative thread in my heart, despite my sleepless daze. Her toothy smile stops me right in my tracks. I sit down to comfort feed her and I’m keenly aware that this time is likely our last. 

Sadness settles onto my shoulders and gratitude in my chest for our time together. 

A familiar undercurrent that feels a lot like fear creeps in behind the scenes. Fear of what I will be left with when I return home to myself after years of baby making comes to a close. 

No more miracle in my belly, or baby on my breast; I am simply me. A sort of “back to reality” feeling – like when I came home from living in Australia – where there are no extra hormones or excuses for mood swings or ease of self care. I am back to me. 

I know from experience that once this transition has passed, I will feel more whole and free than any of these other feelings, relieved to have my body as my own. But this time, likely being the last, feels more momentous. 

There is an inherent worthiness tied to the giving of myself. What is life like when my primal purpose of creating new life has ended? Am I still worthy of love, stillness, joy, peace – all the good things – if my body is only my own? 

I always resented the words “settle down”. Now they land with an air of freedom. To settle into myself and settle into my truth; wherever that takes me. There is a spaciousness in this place, one that allows for something new. While uncertainty isn’t exactly my favorite flavor these days, a part of me remains hopeful for the certain beauty in whatever comes next.

Who You Are Now

Whenever I get moving a little too quickly during bedtime routine,
Coura demands that I “brush her hair like Poppi did”.  She remembers me sharing how you would gently take the brush around the curve of our ears as we sat in front of you watching Sports Center. 
Maisley tells me that you painted the sky during a perfect sunset.
You are a  bedtime story, 
and an urban legend.
You’re the passenger in my truck and a runner right beside me. 
The brightest star in the Big Dipper. 
You are so present in Mara’s eyes that I sometimes have to look away. 
You are everything human and everything spirit.
Your humanness is undeniable when I see your collared shirt still hanging in mom’s closet. 
Other times it’s your spirit that wins over like when I ask you for some help right before trying to fix a bike ailment, and you deliver right away in intuition. 
You’re a verb; can you “Poppi” this orange for me?
A sturdy, evolving, life-giving tree at Balboa Park.
I crossed my arms over my chest in yoga and gave my shoulders a hug. Instantly I felt you in the comforting grip of my hands. 
When I feel doubtful or down,
I remember,
I am Jeff Loftus’ daughter. 
That’s always who I am. 

Gentle Reminder

As I lay in the crook of his arm with my head on his chest – the place I have always fit so perfectly –
I hear the beating of his heart for the first time in days. 
The steady rhythm jolts me into how alive we are and how fleeting we are. 
Underneath all of the rushing and worrying and organizing and planning is a constant truth,
a reminder of what is real:
We are right here, right now. 
To feel his kind and comforting heartbeat might be the greatest luxury I take for granted.  
Our recent texts read:
Mara ok
Crying
Did you pack snacks
K
Leaving
Maiz wants you
All very business. 
All very “I have three kids and barely any time to even include punctuation in my texts to you”. 
I get caught up in expressing the critical demands of my ego: Do this and be more like this.
But the fact that he exists and his heart beats right here, outside on the couch under the warm November sun, the day after Thanksgiving, is a miracle.
He can always be better. 
He can always do more. Yet he is always enough just as he is.
And I am always enough just as I am.

Rancho Grande

What I’m really asking when I inquire about staying at a remote farm on Airbnb:

Am I safe to be still?

Am I allowed to relax enough to hear the pigs snore?

Do I deserve to rest?

May I slow my body enough to move like the wind through the trees?

Will I be able to feel the awe and wonder of Saturn through the telescope lens?

May I move at the pace I naturally crave, in sync with the rhythm of nature? 

Will I wake with the roosters and sleep with the goats?

Am I enough to just exist in the present moment?

Will my brain relax from her often hyper-vigilant state?

Will I be connected enough to smile at the “coincidental address” in Rose Valley on Rose Valley Road? 

What I’m really asking is: May I do all of these things, at will, today, tomorrow, right now, wherever I am?

I wonder if Alex, the Airbnb host, will answer these simple questions for me. 

Oh, and what time is check-in?