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?

Mornings at the Bird House

Every morning, the three little birds would cuddle in their nest with mama bird and daddy bird before the day began. The morning golden sun would peek through the cracks and for a few quiet moments, all was warm and well. 

The oldest bird snuggled right up to mama. 

“How did you sleep my love?” Mama asked. 

“Good,” whispered the oldest bird in her crackly morning voice. “Can I get hot lunch today?” she pleaded.

The oldest bird was protective of her brood; she was silly and wise and kind. She loved to chirp around on her own and use the world as her playground. She was a strong bird with a compassionate heart, a bird with big feelings, a leader and a dreamer.

“Do I have nature school today?” inquired the middle bird. “Look how big I am, I slept through the night!”

The middle bird had scratched her sweet little beak the day before. She was a tumbly bird who often wore her underpants backwards or not at all. She was also a lover bird, with a raspy voice and a courageous spirit. She always made herself known and often created art exhibits around the nest. 

Squeaks and squawks came from the baby bird who was too little to form words, but spoke novels through her essence. 

Baby bird was as sweet as a rose and made everything better. She was so miraculously content and at ease in the world. Everyone fought to be the one who cuddled closest to her.

“Alright, time for breakfast!” announced daddy bird. “Hop on.”

He scooped up baby bird into the crook of his arm.

“I got the back!” said middle bird. 

“Wait for me!” the third bird said.

Daddy bird carried all his birds downstairs for oatmeal and cartoons. 

Mama bird lay alone in her nest and closed her eyes feeling tired and grateful for her birds. When they all lay together in bed, it made her pause in wonder at how she got here, a mama to three birds. Those little birds sometimes ruffled her feathers so much that she daydreamed about the empty nester life. But deep down she knew the truth. She’d miss these days she sometimes wished away.

The three little birds didn’t know what their days would bring, but they did know one thing…every little thing was gonna be alright.

Mara Love

Her small body on my chest is like a weighted comfort blanket in our dark room. 
All of my ambient thoughts are dissipated by the loud hum of the sound machine. 
How do you bottle a feeling?
Her body flinching.
Her lips softly smacking.
Her booty perfectly lifted up by an invisible string from the sky.
Her sweet fingers grazing my chest.
Her soft round head cupped into the palm of my hand. 
Her cat like purring and intermittent sighs.
I inhale her breath as she exhales, reminding me of our connection
and the big and small loops of daily life and death —
Day and night, summer to fall, a rosary, our strawberries dying, our watermelons growing, a kindergartener starting, a country collapsing. 
Constant impermanence. 
Everyday we show up for life 
and every night we come back to this place of rest, where we both simply exist,
and that is more than enough.
Maybe if I write my feelings down I won’t forget this random Thursday night in July of 2021. 
The time I fell in love with her for the millionth time.

Empty Threats

In a rousing game of “Who gave the best empty threat on the car ride”, we sat under the stars with our necks kicked back, telling tales from our 6.5 hour car rides up to Bass Lake for our Loftus family vacation. 

My brother-in-law, James, said he would pull the car over and make his kids get out on the side of the road (though he promised us he would actually do it!).

Ryan threatened that we just wouldn’t go to Bass Lake. He convinced the car that he would drop me and Mara off at the lake, and bring home whoever wouldn’t stop screaming and fighting. 

And the ultimate irrational threat of all? The winner? If Coura didn’t stop asking Ryan for his orange tootsie pop, he would reach into her stomach and pull out the one she already ate.

All of these desperate moments brought me back to my childhood, and the times my Dadio, the calm, cool and collected enforcer, followed through on those threats. Always the king of his word, the master of a good follow through. 

When I was around the age of 10, my dad was so fed up with all of us sisters fighting in church and again on the drive home, that he promised,  “If you don’t stop fighting I’m going to pull this car over and make you walk home!”

And he did. 

Michelle was acting like a classic teenager one Sunday afternoon and kept putting off her chore of washing the car. My Dad said, “I’m going to wake you up before school starts and make you wash it at 6am if it doesn’t get done today.”

And he did.

We tell these stories to our girls and they enjoy the levity of the moment in hindsight. I read on all of the conscious parenting strategies Instagram pages that threats and fears aren’t great tactics, and I mostly agree. But sometimes they become family history stories, badges of honor that we had parents who cared enough about us to stick to their word. 

Obviously we didn’t pull the car around and go home or remove the already ingested lollipop… but maybe next time we will.

Girl Dad

He confesses that he likes the pink door down the street. 
He wears crowns when asked and a suit and tie for the “big party”. 
He teaches all about Sally Ride.
He’s a feminist in the purest version of the word, always has been. 
He takes time for a puzzle and explanations of the golden rule.
He gives his girls a rocket boost on their scooters 
People call him: “Super Dad”.
We call him: “Cookie Monster”. 
He gets mad at himself when he’s not the picture of patience.
So what if patience isn’t the defining factor for a “good dad”?
What if it’s the way you teach, the way you love, how you practice braiding hair?
What if it’s showing them how quickly you apologize after making a mistake?
What if it’s defined by the lady at a “Yittle Moore” who knows your names and Friday morning order?
What if a good dad, a super dad is defined by the joy on their faces when you come home from hours or days away?
Or magic bravery water?
You have our whole hearts. Every part of you