I Found My Heart in San Francisco

This land is your land, this land is my land…

Pandora just happened to settle on these words chirped by Elizabeth Mitchell as we drove from Sausalito to San Francisco. The Golden Gate Bridge catches my breath every time I see it. At first just peeking over Victorian rooftops and then, in plain, awe-inspiring site. We rented a convertible, because why not on a 24-hour surprise birthday trip to San Francisco with no kids?

Looking up to see nothing but blue sky and “international orange” felt like a mix between Full House dreams and a rollercoaster to freedom. Ryan reached cruising speed and my hands caught the wind above. I was completely overcome by the near perfection of the moment.

The extreme joy I felt, coalesced with an extreme fullness of my dad. Then, a deep longing to have him there with me. To experience joy with him one more time.

If I closed my eyes under the warm sun, I could almost feel him right there next to me. He always said yes to a spontaneous trip. No questions asked, other than, “When are we going?”. Windows down, one hand on the steering wheel and his elbow resting on the side of the car. A baseball cap, Oakley sunglasses, chewing Trident gum, while giving me a half smile that perfectly said, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

I felt my dad the whole trip. Ryan said he did too. On the flights as my calming voice: “It’s going to be okay. Just enjoy it”. In the butterfly that greeted us halfway up a long hill on our hike in Marin. In the solo mountain biker cruising amidst the expanse of empty trails. In a juicy orange. In the fog horn and the ocean bell.

It’s amazing that my dad was in San Francisco. It confirmed that inkling, that he’s in me. He’s in all of us. He’s everywhere.

So, listen to the songs he loved.
Go to the places he loved to go.
Travel 500 miles away and feel him.
But also, just be. He’s right here.

The Time We Took Two Under 2 to Italy

“Would you do it all over again?”, asked my youngest sister. My mind quickly recounted slamming my hands into the mattress in a sleepless fury, while yelling, “I can’t do it anymore!”. And then I flashed to our self-guided nighttime walking tour through Rome, gelato in hand, engulfed by the romantic magic of a brand new city full of monuments older than Jesus.

Like life at home right now, traveling to Europe with an infant and a toddler was hard. And it was magical.

We had been planning for our Italian family reunion for the last year and also loosely planning our second baby around it too. September was our last month of trying where I wouldn’t be too pregnant or have too young of a baby to go.

As you might have guessed, I got pregnant. Our little seed of hope turned into a little baby girl and our family became four just two months before we would take off.

I was pretty anxious leading up to the trip; there were a lot of unknowns about how our independence-seeking, runaway two-year-old, and fresh into the world two-month-old would react in a new country. Germs, logistics, passports, schedules and other fear-based obstacles took turns making me question the plausibility of this trip.

There’s a Mark Twain quote that goes something like: when you look back over your life, you’ll regret more of the things that you didn’t do, than the things that you did.

So we went. For Mark Twain’s sake and for that vow we made to each other when we got married; to see the world together.

My mom dropped us off curbside at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal. She kept saying how brave we were for going. Brave, or stupid, I kept thinking to myself.

I reminisced briefly on the last time I was in Italy. I wore an SDSU college sweatshirt, drank gin and tonics, and traveled spontaneously around with nothing but an oversized backpack. Here I was 10 years later, returning a slightly different version of myself. I wore Birkenstocks, drank beer (and also electrolytes) and traveled with four backpacks (and that was only our carry-on luggage).

We reserved the bulkhead seats and didn’t have too many annoyed eyes staring at us just yet.  After a few hours of airplane food, Daniel Tiger, Fancy Nancy and sticker books, Maisley reluctantly fell asleep on her makeshift bed below our feet. Coura took turns sleeping in her bassinet and wrapped to one of our chests. It definitely wasn’t relaxing, but also wasn’t as crazy as I had imagined.

We stayed in Rome for the first two nights and then took a NASCAR style ride out of city and into the countryside of Tuscany, settling into a farmhouse outside of the small hilltop town of Cortona.

28 of Ryan’s Dutch, American and Russian family members ranging from ages 5 to 75 all met us there for a week of family bonding, site seeing and gelato eating.

The first few days were an adjustment. I had that “out of my comfort zone” pit in my stomach, coupled with jet lag, cranky babies not sleeping, and 4th trimester surging hormones. Things that helped me get through those first days: time, meditation and focusing on my breath, talking and connecting with Ryan, sleep, prayer and staying present.

We went on a few day trips to surrounding hilltop towns, organized a fun game of water polo with all of the cousins at the farmhouse pool, and ate countless pizzas, all under the 100-degree tuscan sun. 

Maisley had a blast playing and swimming with her dutch cousins.  She even learned how to say her favorite word in dutch: nee (pronounced nay). She can now refuse us in two languages!

Coura slept, cried, smiled and drank her way through our Italian adventure, seemingly growing from a newborn into a baby during our 11 days abroad. “Unique Places I Breastfed Coura” is probably a blog of it’s own, but two highlights were the refreshingly cool floor of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican and hilltops with expansive views of bright sunflower fields. 

Ryan and I took turns losing our mind, so that at least one person remained positive and calm at all times. We were saved by kind people at the airport who lead us to shorter security lines, quiet drives with napping babies, afternoon thunderstorms, and an amazon fire tablet holding our mini savior; a tiger in a red sweater.

After 20 hours of return travel, we arrived home with thankful hearts and extra tired eyes. We asked Maisley to tell us her favorite part of the trip. She replied with, “Sleeping on the airplane.”

While neither of the girls will remember this trip, it will forever be part of their essence and one Ryan and I will never forget.

We gained far more than we lost on this trip, and I’d do it all over again every time (although probably waiting until all kids are old enough to hold their own head up before we go). 

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In Maisley’s Backpack:
Pipe cleaners
Painters tape
Under the Sea & Zoo Sticker Books by Usborne
Traveling pack of Fancy Nancy books
Moana doll
Buckle Toy
Amazon Fire Tablet full of Shaun the Sheep, Daniel Tiger and Moana

In My Backpack:
doTERRA – On Guard Essential Oil Protective Blend
No Jet Lag Homeopathic Jet Lag Remedy
Bach Flower Rescue Remedy Drops (for anxiety)
Lavender essential oils
Cozy airplane socks
Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Hydration Powder

Other Secret Weapons:
Mother and father-in-laws
Packing cubes
Family members who can calm your crying baby
Snacks, so many snacks

Sleep + Springtime

I miss her when she sleeps. 

Almost every night before I close my eyes, I lay under the covers with my iPhone in night mode and scroll through the thousands of images and videos of my happy girl. The trips we’ve taken, the simple moments at home, family love fests, her first this and that, smiles with dada.

The sleep deprived “me” of two months ago is rolling her eyes like I’m that mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m elated that she’s finally sleeping through the night. I did an invisible front-flip-back-handspring when I woke up after seven hours of uninterrupted snoozing.

I just feel this little tug of “something’s missing” whenever I’m not next to her. Will I feel this way forever? Is that why moms are so sad when their children go off to college? Now I’m really sad, why did I just go there?

In other news, spring is in the air and my excitement to travel and explore is in overdrive.

As soon as March hits, like clockwork, I suddenly and impulsively find myself booking trips. Almost like an addiction, I get this high knowing I’ll rekindle with my vacation-self soon.

Traveling with Maisley is different, but also has a new level of enjoyment (like most things in motherhood).  She got her wings at three months old on a trip to Seattle. I fed her on the way up and down, otherwise she slept most of the time.

I think our upcoming trips to Portland and San Francisco will be easier and harder in different ways. Easier because she’s more of a human at 8 months, and harder because I literally don’t think she fits into her “nimble nook” Pack ‘n Play anymore.

Regardless of the challenges, I’m actively committed to soaking up every minute with Maisley.

Because in a few fast months, the images from these trips will too become part of the memory montage on my dimmed iPhone screen.

P.S. I thought sleeping through the night would significantly help with my mental clarity throughout the day. However, yesterday, when I was trying to pay our gas bill online, my credit card wouldn’t work. I tried four times and then called my husband in frustration. Turns out I was inputting our zip code from 2012.

Maybe mom brain is permanent and the lack of sleep was just a good excuse.

Ideas & Daydreams

I felt a breeze of Australia today. I was putting Maisley in her car seat and out of nowhere this rush of air came through me like a whisper on a whim.

The sun, a smell, the air.

It was transporting and invigorating. It filled up my wanderlust tank in a split second. It was Australia, in Carlsbad. I felt it.

Australia is my daydreamer’s paradise. The place she goes while sitting in traffic or on a walk with Maisley. Specific spots all around the city come flooding into her: Watson’s bay, the coastal walk, Lord Nelson’s Brewery.

Sometimes I think those rush of beautiful memories are more divine than just a daydream.  As if they come straight from the Mother Nature and God collective. Those two creators sit amongst the stars, gleefully sending us beautiful signs of wonder right in front of us, and wonder we once knew.

I asked my beautifully creative photographer friend how ideas come to her. Are they abstract? Concrete? Do they come in color, words, images?

She told me that she writes in her morning pages every single day. While most of it is just stream of consciousness, she finds gems of ideas hidden in the words. She allows herself time to daydream so that she can create and experiment with original ideas, not just those she sees on Pinterest or Instagram. And she travels. Whoa does she travel.

She then returned the question.

An idea or thought typically comes into my mind either from something someone said, or a little pop from another train of thought. It floats around the chatter of my mind for a few days.

From the front, to the back, to the front again. It persists. Sometimes it bothers me.

A few other ideas begin circulating.

Then, without warning, a bigger idea comes into the flow. I call this thought, “the closer”. It comes in hot. It’s an idea that somehow makes the other ideas fit into a story or narrative. Then I write without hesitation. With freedom and ferocity.

Whatever the source, I’m just happy to get a breath of my soul place and a visit from creativity every now and again.

30 Years Young

20 wasn’t so long ago, and it was also a lifetime ago.

Many days in my early 20’s were marked with independence and freedom. My mid 20’s with uncertainty, exploration and career growth. And my late 20’s were filled with unconditional love, I do’s and a baby. I graduated college at 21, lived in Australia at 23, ran a marathon at 26 and had a baby at 29.

While sometimes I look back in disbelief and think “Who was that girl?!”, I know my core being is threaded through each of those years.

Turning 30 isn’t so scary. Maybe it’s because I watched so much Friends in my 20’s that being 30 seems pretty cool. Or maybe it’s because overall, I’m happy with how I lived in my 20’s.

My only complaint is how quickly the years whisked away. And I don’t think time is stopping for a coffee break anytime soon.

When our daughter Maisley was first born, she had three veins on her left hand that were darker than the rest, crossing in almost a tic-tac-toe fashion. As she enters four months of life, the once prominent markings are starting to fade.

Sometimes I feel overwhelming sad knowing these moments and years are fleeting, and that I can’t grasp them anymore than I am. Her giggle and the way she looks and feels right now, right in this moment, won’t happen ever again.

Sometimes I wish a day away because life is hard. But I won’t do that anymore. Not in my 30’s.

Ryan surprised me and planned a trip to Lake Arrowhead for my birthday. We got stuck in the snow and for a brief second my fatalistic mind thought, “This is it. This is how it ends”. But alas, we made it to the cabin. At dinner, everyone went around the room and said their favorite thing about me. I was embarrassed, but also proud.

Ryan told me that I’m the bravest person he knows. He remembers me walking with my pillow clutched to my chest through security at LAX airport when I moved to Australia. It’s the nicest thing he could say about me.

Sometimes I don’t feel brave. Sometimes I feel afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure, afraid that I’m not the mom I want to be, afraid that I’m losing direction in my career. Knowing that he believes in me and that my family believes in me, gives me the confidence to keep pushing and keep trying.

While time will do as she pleases, fast and slow, slow and fast, I will live boldly in this next decade. Unapologetic. I will live not for pleasing, but for growth, for my family, my faith and for my greater purpose. I will live with love and keep trying to be better at the little things and the big things.

I’ve got nothin’ but love and gratitude for you 20’s, but I’m ready for the next adventure.

 

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For Jack.

A legend;
humble in his adventures,
wild at heart,
a shipmate,
friend to many.


High wispy clouds,
a golden haze on the horizon.
Deep blue water,
an oasis of childhood memories.

Waves crashed on the three arch bay,
ebb and flow,
ebb and flow.
Bringing in peace,
washing away grief.

Family and friends gathered;
from every season,
from every adventure,
from many parts of the world.

We all shared him in common.

Beers on the beach,
that’s what he would do.

Everyone gripped their memories;
Ray Bans covered wet eyes.

Who loved him and he never knew?
Whose life did he change?

A hundred surfers took to the water;
a circle of stories, a prayer, wild flowers.
Ashes forever amongst the ocean,
forever amongst us.

Live like him;
don’t be afraid,
ignore the chatter,
burn bright,
to the fullest.

For Jack.

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Nesting : The Birds & Me

There’s a Mourning Dove or “Love Dove” nesting right outside my front door.

I had been hearing her sweet cooing for a few weeks, and as I walked outside yesterday, she came rushing and flapping toward me in full mama protection mode. I was a little frightened by her to be honest. When I came back and saw her peacefully resting in her loose nest of twigs and branches, I understood the former commotion.

Our Love Dove’s two-week incubation seems like a drop in the bucket compared to my current 9 month gestational journey.  However, as I continue to see her everyday, I can’t help but notice the symbolism of motherhood soon to be hatching upon our home.

I have a self-admitted wandering spirit.  It’s something I love about myself that has been cultivated through years of travel and living abroad. But it’s also something that can leave me feeling unsettled, craving constant newness and change.

On any given free weekend, I am typically filling up the calendar with short road trips, adventures, or new happenings in our city. I don’t let the grass grow under my feet for too long, or whatever they say.

I always day dream of moving to a new city or raising my kids as cultured Europeans with my husband’s family in Holland. We talk about the small loft we would share and the important work we would do, the people we would meet and the amazing food we would eat.

But right now, in my third trimester of incubation, I am content. More than I ever have been.

I have this innate feeling of wanting to be home and stay close to home. I want to be here in Carlsbad, working and fiddling around the house. It’s such a foreign yet content feeling.

I have always had this fear of “settling down”. The phrase inherently feels opposite of the way I want to live my life. Who wants to simply “settle” for anything?

But maybe with the growth of new life and a change of seasons, I’m not as afraid. My husband reminds me that we will always travel, and that we will never lose our sense of adventure. We will just have to hire a bigger rental car.

I think I’m nesting too.