Saturday, December 24, 2011

I Love Forests, I Love Espresso & I Love My Mom

I began my surfing journey because I wanted to change my life. I wanted expansion and ecstasy, bliss and transformation, and I wanted it without having to leave my family or my life. I wanted to challenge the fantasy of narratives such as 'Eat,Pray,Love, ' in which a woman's nirvana is achieved through great distance, expense and solitude. I wanted happiness, not a divorce. And I wanted to surf.

Have I achieved what I set out for? I have.

I'm particularly aware of it right now because, in the topsy-turvy reality that's been my life lately, the tumbler has finally set. I'm not going to graduate school. I'm going to Tacoma, Washington. And I'm taking the family with me.

This is a wonderful outcome. I love journeys with undetermined outcomes. I love forests. I love espresso and I love my mom.This adventure will involve all of these. What it will not necessarily involve is surfing. Mountain biking? I hope so. But surfing? I've had to take many deep breaths to say to myself calmly, "Not likely." (Though "surf vacation" has become my new mantra).

When I began this blog, I had no idea it would come to such a natural conclusion. And yet here I am, in the final chapter (if not the final post) with the end in sight. I'm already planning my next blog "Bike, Love, Pray", "Hike, Love, Pray"? It's not quite clear.

I may just call it "Relocate, Love, Pray" and leave it at that.

Either way, the journey will continue even though the surf sessions may not. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Surfing in the Rain

Random Beach Photo. All my cameras are broken and I didn't want to bring my friend's loaner to the beach  today.
It's been almost a month since I went surfing and even longer since I posted to this blog. Incredible though it seems, I'd even forgotten that I had a blog until I read this post by my friend Lindsay Gallagher, about why she had't posted to her  blog for too long a time.

On the one hand, the days have been getting shorter and colder. Holiday festivities have been underway. Colds have been running rampant. And none of it has been making me want to get in the water. On the other hand, I've  been feeling cranky, hopeless and despairing.

Any connection to not surfing? I had to find out.

When I checked this morning's Venice Beach Surf Report, it said conditions were poor. I could see the evidence (no waves) on the live camera feed. But, struggling against inertia and a natural desire to be warm, I put my board on the wagon and drove to the beach anyway.

It was raining when I arrived and it was only the presence of two ten year old boys suiting up in the parking lot that made me push on. I wasn't going to wuss out if they weren't.

It turned out that there were waves. They were small but perfect, and I caught more of them than I can remember in a long time. And I got to enjoy something available to relatively few people in the world.

I bobbed on a surfboard  in the middle of the water and watched raindrops speckling the surface around me. Under silvery gray light, I saw the sky reflected in waves like abstract photograph negatives. And I felt the peacefulness of pelicans and gulls soaring above me.

Mood check? Much better.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm 42 and Full of Gratitude and Appreciation

My wise friend Polly recently informed me that Abraham Hicks makes a distinction between being "grateful" and being "appreciative." "Gratitude" (she paraphrased) implies a comparison with something that is not, but that could be.

I've always had a difficult time with gratitude. That's probably because it's so often used in the context of "things could be worse" AND it usually has a "should" in front of it.  The word "gratitude" makes me remember my Grandma Etta scolding me when I got a birthday gift I didn't like. "You should be grateful..." she would have said, shaking a sharp finger, "some little girls don't even get gifts on their birthday."

(And then they have to walk two miles barefoot in the snow just to go to school, etc. etc.)

As adult as I strive to be, I can still be caught rolling my eyes (inwardly) every time Oprah or some other well meaning person recommends a "Gratitude journal" or some such exercise in giving thanks. But I didn't even realize it until Polly said she'd been practicing appreciation instead. So I tried it too.

Ahh!!! Appreciation! What a way to honor the divine! What a way to get high! What a way to spend a birthday weekend!

Appreciation. It's like smoking the good kind of weed that makes you see the tiniest, most amazing detail in every single thing. Appreciation of the smell of ramen noodles coming from a blue plastic bowl. Appreciation of my daughter's soft voice talking to herself while she plays with clay. Appreciation of my husband for going out to buy bagels for me on my birthday.

Appreciation. It's endless. It's euphoric. And, in my book, it's got gratitude beat by a mile.

After surfing today, I placed my booties on the surf wagon to take a picture. It had been cold enough to wear them, which signaled a definite change of seasons here in "seasonless" LA. True to my blissed-out self, I left them on the roof when I drove away. Two blocks down the street, a car behind me honked  frantically. Then the driver leaned out her window "I think a shoe fell off your roof," she said.

I turned the car around, and there was a man standing in the street, enthusiastically waving my bootie. I pulled up and he handed it to me.  "You are all so BEAUTIFUL!" I beamed and smiled uncontrollably. "Thank you!"

I was so appreciative.  Of everything.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Being Here Now

I've made it a point not to criticize my surfing  and I've grown a lot from giving up the habit of saying "I suck." However, the truth has been that I've watched many a beginner - man, woman and child -  stand up on their board their first time out, when it took me more than a year to do the same. So, even though I gave up saying "I suck," I still couldn't help noticing and then scratching my head in puzzlement.

But, eventually, I was standing - not as much as I'd like, but standing nonetheless - and figuring out what I had been doing wrong that I now was doing right. From the beginning, it was clear that it had to do with my legs and how I placed my weight backwards, instead of forwards. Next it became clear that - due to many years of ballet plies - I wasn't squatting properly.

And then - with the help of a friend who is a seasoned yoga instructor - I got the guidance I'd been seeking. Sonya showed me how to properly distribute my weight and build up the leg muscles that had been long overlooked in my ballet and yoga training. After less than  a week of practicing the exercises she gave me, I can already feel certain muscles strengthening and certain tendons lengthening.

Aside from its potential for altering my stance on a surfboard, this new posture is altering my stance in the world and the very way I relate to the ground beneath my feet. For as long as I can remember, I have rarely felt "connected" to the earth. Instead, I've felt spacey and as if I  might float away. Since I've been focusing on strengthening my adductor muscles and turning my feet straight ahead of me - instead of balletically outwards - I feel  more grounded and HERE.

Again and again, surfing teaches me not to underestimate the degree to which our bodily experiences impact our experience of life in general. Our body is not separate from our mind and not separate from our spirit, so how our bodies feel -  limber, tight, stressed, relaxed, strong, weak, turned inward, turned outward - has a profound affect on how we feel psychologically, emotionally and spiritually. Though the connection may not always be as apparent as it's been for me recently, it's always there.

If you pay attention.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

True Love

Photo by  Meaghan Miller Lopez AMMA Photography
That's me, totally loving my surf board. I was walking past it and I couldn't resist giving it a big 'ole hug.
It's brought me so far in the last year or so. It's provided me with a dream come true - riding the waves - standing up (!) - and I'm sure inspired me in my latest adventure-to-be.

If all goes well, in January, 2012, I'll be going back to school. Grown-up school.

Ashton will be in pre-school, Trin will be...we don't know yet what Trin will be doing...and I will be studying for a Masters Degree in counselling psychology with a specialization in treating trauma.

I started surfing because after years of training in other people's versions of personal transformation, I wanted to pursue my own version. I wanted to become something - someone - I never thought I could be. 

On the one hand, I had hoped surfing would turn me into someone completely different. Someone who never gets upset about the small stuff. Someone who never yells at the kids, or gets completely worked up when things don't go her way. I thought it would erase all the things I couldn't stand about myself and make me totally mellow and super "cool." It didn't do that.

But surfing has provided me with more joy than I've known in a long time. It has restored me to myself and made me more of myself than I can remember being. It's made me young again in some ways and also grown me up. And it's made me more capable of dealing with the things that really matter.

I'm so glad I'm doing it. It's one of the great love stories of my life.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

First Times Cont'd...

1) Friday afternoon I arrived in Santa Monica at around 3 o'clock. The sun was brilliant (a theme in this blog),  the air was warm. And, I realized, the water probably was too, after this week's crazy mid-October heat wave. By that time, I was already on the beach but I stripped off my wet suit and - inspired by a cute bikini-clad mermaid in the waves -  went into the water with only my bathing suit. No rash  guard. No board shorts.  A first.

2) The water was unusually flat, but the afternoon sun sparkled brilliantly on the surface. It was glittery and gorgeous. There were few waves but there sure was a lot of beauty. When I saw the water level drop and rise to announce an approaching wave, I paddled like hell. It was a miss but the water was warm and I didn't mind getting dunked. I climbed back on my board and blissfully stared out at the beautiful vista, considering myself very blessed. I smiled at the lone surfer on my right who was looking straight at me.

Then I saw it. After he did, apparently.

My right breast. Glistening in the sun. There's a reason why girls like me should wear rash guards.

3) I saw something else, too. A strange cloud in the distance. Like smoke from a fire rising up from the horizon. I watched as it approached and eventually enveloped and surpassed me. It was fog. What had been a sunny day turned gray and cool within minutes, all while I sat on my board. When I turned around, I couldn't even see the guard tower thirty yards away. I had never seen that before.

Another first.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


I didn't go surfing this morning. And I didn't go to yoga class before I didn't go surfing. I stayed in bed while Brian took Ashton to the park to practice Kung Fu. I slept in.

Because I was tired.

Every night I put my kids to bed. And every night, around four a.m., Ashton crawls into my bed and kicks me. It's not an aggressive kind of kicking, just a continual thrusting motion with his legs. He also grabs at my breasts and generally gets all over, under and to the side of me. Trinity sometimes gets in bed with us too. She doesn't kick. But she scratches and it makes a hollow fingernails-on-a-drum-head sound that is maddening.

One thing I've noticed about mothers is that we often feel tired but don't understand why. And then we feel guilty because we don't feel like doing the things we told people we would do. Or  because we have a hard time getting going in the morning. Or because it took us two hours to get the kids out of the house and into the car, when it shouldn't have been such a big deal.

But those nearly invisible sources of exhaustion add up and whittle away at our energy levels and our executive functions.

So I slept in this morning and enjoyed the sensation of being touched by no one, kicked by no one, and interrupted by no one. Even with the giant pee stain Ashton left in my mattress after wetting the bed at 5 this morning.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


There's a lot of talk about courage in my family right now.

Yesterday, Brian and I went to see a movie called "Finding Joe" which explores the ideas contained within Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey." To be a hero, of course, one must have courage. But what is courage?

For Brian, it has required courage to be a father. Being a father was something he thought he could never, probably would never, do. Still he does it and the very attempt is making him a hero.

For Trinity, right now, it requires courage to take her daily dose of Chinese herbs - herbs which, we are told, have a very good chance of making her well. She told me today  that it will also require courage for her to be well, because being "sick" (with severe chronic eczema and allergies) is all she has ever known. For her to be well will require her to be a hero.

For me, surfing has required courage, of course. There's the courage it takes to face a big wave (sometimes I wuss out) and the courage it takes to awkwardly wipe out  in front of people who are better surfers than I am.

But what requires even more courage than surfing is being broke. My adult life has been a twenty-year roller coaster between heights of adequacy (sometimes abundance) and depths of scarcity. In the past, I would always take the lean times as a sign that I was on the wrong path. So, along with being strapped, during these periods I would also undertake a frantic search for something I should be doing differently.

For the first time in my life I am able to say, without doubt, that I am not on the wrong path. But I'm/we're broke again, anyway. So I'm standing in a new space, saying to myself that "just because the money isn't there, that doesn't mean I'm doing the wrong thing."

For me, THAT is courage. And I believe it will make me a hero. At least to myself.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Dub Thee...

Last Sunday it was sunny, the water was warm, the waves were perfect and all was right with the world (actually, all is always right with the world, it's just that we're often unable to see it that way).

Because I surf much better when I've done yoga earlier in the day, or have gone for a run before getting in the water, I brought my sneakers to the beach. I ran for about fifteen minutes and then grabbed my board. The 310 Surf Chics were there and though the water was crowded, the vibe was friendly.

The great thing about being a beginner surfer is the opportunity for so many "firsts" and "bests." Well, Sunday was the first time I caught a wave, dropped in, stood up and rode it all the way to shore. So it was also the best wave I ever caught. By far. It was a sweet little thing, but I was enjoying it so much that I was almost on the sand when I realized I was gonna have to jump off at some point.

So I fell forward. Or backward. I can't remember. Either way, I knew I was falling the way you're not supposed to fall when you jump off your board in shallow water. I knew, because I'd recently eavesdropped on a surf lesson for beginners (see above photo) and I heard the instructor say something about it.

When I fell, I ended up under less than a foot of water. But before I could get up, I felt a hard rap on the head. It was my board. It's foam, so it wasn't that bad, but made an impact. The board rung me like a bell and to get those vibrations out of my body, I found myself "shaking it off."  It was the only way to recover from being so "stunned" and I experienced first-hand that the body needs to discharge energy in order to recover from a trauma.

Afterwards, I considered why this had happened.

From a Mechanical point of view, I knew that, obviously, I had fallen in the wrong direction. But then I looked at it Mythologically. And laughed.

Neptune, King of the Ocean, had seen my victorious wave. And when it was done, he gently tapped me on the head with my board and dubbed me...a Surfer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Surfing As Spiritual Practice

Back in August, I met a blogger named Rachelle Mee Chapman at the infamous faith-bloggers workshop that gave me so much food for thought. She has a website called and has been running a series about women and their "right" spiritual practice. I was honored when she asked me to participate and write a guest post for her site.

It posted today and here is the link:

Enjoy MagpieGirl.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Point. Everybody's Got One.

It's not that I haven't tried to write this blog in the last ten days. I have. I've written drafts. And deleted them. And written more drafts.

It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about in the last ten days. On Sunday, I surfed. Standing up. The whole time. With a smiley face in the sky. Again. And last night I went to an event for surfers in  Santa Monica at the O'Neill store and ate pizza and drank a beer. Then I stopped at a bookstore and found a book I'd been seeking - for five dollars.

Things have happened. I've had insights. For instance, according to this book, "The Life You Were Meant to Live," my life path numbers are 30/3.  And last night someone suggested I create a Kickstart fund * so that I could travel into outer space and write about it.

And yet my whole life (including surfing, parenting, love, spirituality) has lately been suffused by a sensation of awkwardness that makes everything come out wrong. Or not wrong but.... as if I'm not getting to the point.

Despite the fact that there is one. Somewhere. Wanting to come out, but buried beneath layers upon layers of...other stuff.

Sometimes there's no wind and there are no waves. There may be brilliant sunshine, but the water is like glass. And all there is to do is be prepared, be patient and wait for your wave.

*I'd use instead (shameless plug for my friend Adam).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Just Do It

I am reading a book I love and I'm not even done with it, but I have to recommend it. Right now. It's called "Just Do It" and it's by Doug Brown, a journalist for the Denver Post.

Basically, apropos of nothing, one day Doug and his wife Annie decide to have sex for 100 days and see what happens. Doug is such a sweet person, so in love with his wife, and so willing to give up his ratty old sweatpants in favor of cuter pajamas, that the book is absolutely irresistible. The fact that he's a very funny writer doesn't hurt at all, either. I keep laughing out loud and all day Ashton's been asking me "what's funny?" The whole thing is, really. And compelling, too.

It's reminding me that there's value in committing to anything - sex, surfing, meditation, love - regardless of whether you ""feel" like doing "it" or not. In fact, feelings are totally overrated. Though, as a poetic-artsy-mystic-shamanic type, I rely on feelings as the basis of my self-expression, they've also been the basis of my undoing more times than I like. Therein lies the rub of my life - and the topic of potentially countless other blog entries.

But all that aside, pick up this book. It's hilarious and sweet and I've never read anyone write about sex in quite this way. And I've read a lot about sex. Cause I'm a Scorpio. Meow!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Smack Down

There's been a lot to write about lately: which, perversely, has made me hesitant to write at all. After all, how could I get it all down?

  • There was the day when it was sunny and hot in Culver City, but surprisingly cool and foggy at the beach.
  • There was the day when I figured out I needed to lean more weight on my front leg in order to balance better on my board.  
  • And then the day when I remembered  to stay in a squat in order to keep my center of gravity low. 
  • After catching my best wave ever, I turned around and saw, in the distance, the smiley face on a bright yellow para-sail looking straight at me.
  • There have been countless skull-vibrating tantrums from my three year old.
  • And seemingly endless fits of  bloody itching and scratching from my eight year old.
  • Two of my good friends are currently dismantling their marriage bonds.
  • And I keep noticing the five pounds I want to lose.
  • So I've been crying a lot.
  • Which has made me very grateful for love. 
  • The kind of love that isn't based on how much I've accomplished,  proven or impressed. That isn't based on how much I'm worth, how much I weigh or how well I'm doing. But the kind of love that decides, simply, to love. No matter what.  
  • Even when I'm down.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zeal, Compassion and Everything In Between

It was more than two weeks ago when I sat in with a group of "Faith Bloggers" at the BlogHer Conference in San Diego. The conversation was a provocative one, hinging on whether and why the blog-reading public would be biased against a writer who declared herself a "faith blogger" - particularly if she were Christian.

Having only recently had my own encounter with some otherwise lovely-seeming Christian ladies - who politely inferred that I was going to hell unless I took Christ into my heart, etc. etc. - I felt equipped to say why some people may get the wrong idea about some Christians.

Then, on the ride home, I happened upon an interview with anthropologist Hank Wesselman. In "The Bowl of Light:" his new book about Hawaiian shamanism, he explores Polynesian beliefs about the positive and negative polarities of every life path. For the path of the Priest or Priestess, the Hawaiian Kahunas say, those polarities are "compassion" and "zeal".

I believe, when we find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else's religious/spiritual judgment, what we've just experienced is some good, old-fashioned ZEAL: the kind that fueled the inquisition, burned witches and currently inflames impressionable suicide bombers.

But what, exactly, is zeal?

It's the feeling we get when we're so certain we're right, when something feels so true for us, that we seek to prove others wrong or even destroy them because of it. It's a feeling we can get about a movie, a transformational technique, a diet or anything else that inspires us. And because of that, it is a dark side to which everyone is vulnerable -whatever the  belief system or passion.

It is a dark side which has, unfortunately, sullied the reputation of religions around the world and turned many, otherwise compassionate people, against anything that rings of  "faith" or "religion." It is a dark side that has  been propagated not only by unscrupulous leaders but by ordinary people who have too fervently believed that theirs was the only right way.

But where zeal divides, compassion unifies. And as long as someone speaks and writes with compassion - whether they are a Christian faith blogger, a Jew, a Wiccan or a Muslim - I will listen, learn and, hopefully, grow.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Top Ten List About BlogHer 2011 (because people love lists and numbers)

I was so overwhelmed and overstimulated by my experience at BlogHer 2011 (August 5-6) that I was nearly stricken by writer's block. On reflection, however, it wasn't writer's 'block' as much a desire to say so much that I couldn't even organize my thoughts.  In the past, I've resisted straying from my holy trinity of surfing, prayer and love mostly because I enjoy holding forth on so many things, so much, that I thought it wiser to limit myself.

That said, it will only seem like I'm going off-topic for this top ten list. See if you can spot (or feel) all the surf, prayer and love in the following:

1) Most Infuriating 90 Minutes of the Weekend? A panel discussion called "Women: Redefining Success in the 21st Century" (or something like that)  wo/manned exclusively by super-successful women (in the 20th Century way) who had nothing to say about "redefining success" (unless your definition of redefining success includes thinking of your husband as a "puppy"). OMG! I was supposed to LISTEN to this woman? I can't remember the last time so much steam came out of my ears. I'm still having a hard time writing about it.

2) BUT Lisa Belkin from the New York Times was sitting next to me and made a very intelligent comment to the vapid and superficial (but VERY SUCCESSFUL) women on the panel. Yay for Lisa Belkin, real journalism and backing your observations up with sources. You can read her at  Motherlode.

3) THEN I met some other bloggers and am eager to read what they have to say, especially the ones who also had steam coming out of their ears at the "success" panel (Ashley Boyd and Katrina Alcorn).

4) Most Valuable Realization? I wasn't a corporate shill before I became a blogger, I'm not going to become one now. It's nice to get clear on that. Though there are many women who make a living having their blogs sponsored by corporations like WalMart, I don't think I'm the WalMart type...

5) I'm the spiritual type. Which I admitted when I introduced myself to a group of fellow "faith bloggers." Then I declared "faith blogging" a kind of calling and not one to be taken lightly. Since writing about politics or religion is not the kind of thing a woman does when she wants to be liked.

6) Jeez, there was chocolate everywhere. It's sweet (literally), and thoughtful, to provide so much chocolate when there are 3700 women milling about. But, ultimately, that much sugar and caffeine makes women cranky and then they say vapid and superficial things. I would have liked to see the chocolate countered by some kale smoothies or at least  a room dedicated to round-the-clock yoga and meditation. Cause I'm spiritual.

7) Speaking of being "spiritual", many companies wanted me to tweet how great they were during the weekend. I was like "You want me to say wha?? You've got to be effin' kidding me. That's my voice we're talking about."

8) But then I told the rep from Boiron Homeopathics that I'd have no problem recommending their Arnica ointment - because I actually use it. And it works.

9) Biggest Mindblower? When she told me that Hyland's Homeopathics is manufactured by the Bornemann  family! OMG -THAT'S MY FAMILY! I have to meet these people, especially since I love vibrational remedies - i.e., homeopathy, flower remedies and crystal elixirs. It must be my DNA.

10) Best decision of the weekend?   Just one day of this conference was so intense,  I couldn't  bear the thought of going back. So, the next day, I drove to Encinitas where I meditated at the Self Realization Fellowship and watched the surfers from high up on a cliff above the world famous surf spot known as Swami's. Pure Bliss.

p.s. much love to Britt Bravo for inviting me in the first place, spending a hilarious night watching cable in her hotel room and teaching me that people love lists and numbers.

Monday, August 1, 2011

When Dreams Come True

Several events inspired me to reach out to my spiritual mentor last week: the dream about the waves that I shared in my previous post, another dream in which I served pizza to "god" (who was a movie studio executive), and a retreat I recently attended. I arrived at the retreat with the intention of working on my book about mother/athletes. I left, considering that my best contributions may not come  through worldly endeavors such as book publishing, etc., but through  esoteric pursuits such as reading people's cards and being a channel for spirit.

Without giving any details, I dropped her a brief e-mail requesting a phone conversation. As divine grace would have it, she was flying into LA the very next day and I managed to meet with her, in the flesh, yesterday afternoon.

As usual, we talked,we laughed and we inquired into spirit. Less usually, we had pizza.

Even though, as a registered shaman herself, she may have a bias towards seeing me as a fellow person "of the cloth", I also trust her judgment and her discerning nature. She's never led me astray and she confirmed what I'd been sensing. Yes, even though it's scary, counter-intuitive, and financially terrifying, the spiritual path is mine to walk. As much as I've always longed to be an artist, an author, a person of influence in the culture at large, she is not the first person to observe that my path lies elsewhere. And yesterday was not the first time I've said in response "But where's the money in THAT?"

In response, her only instruction was that I make an offering.

Prepared with something I knew I wouldn't want to part with (a pint of raspberries) I arrived at the beach to make my offering. And there, in front of me, lay the waveless expanse of my dream. There was no wind and sunlight glittered gloriously on the water's still surface. I grabbed my camera and took the above photo. And then, as I continued to shoot some more pictures, the tide came in.

Within minutes, where there had been only the lapping of still water, there were now waves.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Doing, Being, Dreaming

Last week I had a surfing dream. I haven't had one of those in a while and this one certainly gave me something to think about. To minimize the bore that it can be to read about other people's dreams, I will be as brief as possible:

1) I paddle out behind a huge pack of men. If we surf in this configuration, someone will certainly get hurt. I  paddle around to the side, so that no one will crash into me.

2) I paddle out between two piers in a marina. Dolphins splash in the water in front of me. Then they start swimming towards shore. One of them almost crashes into me and gives me a very annoyed squeak.

3) My "surf instructor" tells me to surf into an empty house, through open windows and doors. "This is your wave," he says. "Take it."  "Screw that", I say. "This is NOT my wave"

4) Later, my "surf instructor" tries to fit his surfboard through the open windows and doors. Of course they don't fit. But he can't figure out why. He was sure they would.

5) Lastly, I sit on my board in the open ocean looking towards the shore. The water is glassy, not a wave in sight. I bob on the current, going nowhere. It's beautiful.

Sections 1through 4 suggest that - between the danger of other surfers crashing into me, dolphins annoyed at me for being in their way and going against the current, and "surf instructors" ordering me to do the un-doable - there's somewhere in my life that I'm not going with the flow. 

Section 5 suggests that, perhaps, sometimes the only thing to do is just sit.

I don't think there is a single spiritual teacher who would disagree with that message.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Expanding Beyond Balance

A good friend sent me this link today from parenting coach Scott Noelle. To all you mommies and daddies -  and all you children of mommies and daddies out there -  I recommend you read it.

In it, Scott points out that, while the catchword for most parents is "balance" - i.e. how to balance work vs. home, them vs. me, permissiveness vs. boundaries - a more potent kind of  power  is available for parents who explore "expansion": of ideas, of lifestyle, of possibility.

Ever since that day on the beach when I realized that I am not "separate" from my children (or from anyone), I've been exploring the possibilities of expansion. Parenting is not what I thought it was. In fact, I can't even say that I'd really "thought" about what it was at all. Instead, I'd inherited a mass of assumptions - from my own family, from history, from culture - that had gone largely unquestioned until now.

Truthfully, I started surfing to get the hell away from my family. I needed something for "me". Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with that. Everyone, parents and kids alike, needs some time to themselves. The irony, however, is that the joy I've found in the water is bringing me closer to my family and more willing to spend time with them. And more likely to enjoy it. Not because I've necessarily found  "balance." After all, two hours of surfing a week does not equal the remaining 24/7.

Instead, I've been inspired to expand myself and my vision of what is possible for my family and for all families - including yours. Because  family is the foundation of any society, where families are unhealthy, stressed, and basically dysfunctional, the society that is built on top of them will suffer the same.  But where families are nurtured, functional and at ease - imagine what is possible.

Monday, July 11, 2011

More People From My Village

One day I stood in the waves lamenting the fact that - because I'd sent out a group e-mail announcing my summer vacation field trip schedule - I now had to answer an almost equal number of questions. Questions such as: what time will you be going? do you think you'll go again in August? Can you get back to me closer to the date?

Sheesh, I thought, it'd be nice to have some company on our field trips, but it's really easier to just do it on my own. If I'd died last week, thought it would have been easier to do it on her own could have been my epitaph.

But standing there in the water, I started to giggle. I'd always thought my problem was that nobody wanted to help me but right at that moment I realized my real problem was that I didn't want to deal with all the baggage I associated with accepting help - the tit for tat, the expectations, the relationship-piness of it all.

I'd been blaming my loneliness on the world, when it was really me who was to blame. Really, I started giggling. To myself. In the water.

And then this guy looks at me with a serious expression on his face. He says something like "if you leave your hands on your board after you catch the wave, your balance will be better." And for the next hour or so,  Ernie - 50ish father of four, plumber, former gymnastics coach at Venice High and lifelong surfer - coaches me through the best surf session ever. He gives me tips on my hands, my board, going under, turning, catching the wave - everything I could have wanted, really. And I receive it with gratitude.

Finally worn out by Ernie's strenuous training regimen ("paddle, paddle, paddle!" he yells constantly) I say thank you and head to the parking lot. There I meet Mark - another Venice old timer - who admires my beat-up 1980 Mercedes Surf Wagon because it looks like the one his dad had back in the day, when he was a kid and they used to go on surf trips. We talk  cars and beaches and discover we're practically neighbors.

A few days later, when I wonder why all the surfers are gathered on the north side of the Venice Pier rather than the south, I'm schooled in swells and tides by John, the surfer foregrounded in the photo above.

What more can I say? Maybe it's not easier to just do it on my own.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

In Case I'd Forgotten...It Takes a Village

This week, my friend Grant's family was in town from Kansas City to celebrate his college graduation. On Monday, they invited us to spend the day on the beach. While other family members kept an eye on the older kids, Grant's Mom Connie volunteered to look after Ashton while I hit the waves.

It was a beautiful day - sunny and warm. The waves were not big, but they were big enough. There was a strong rip current, but otherwise conditions were perfect.

Even though I could see that Connie was a watchful grandma, I kept checking on her and Ashton from my location in the water. Due to Ashton's new red hat, they were easy to spot.

As I watched them, it occurred to me that it was due to Connie that I was surfing. And it occurred to me that, as a mother, it is only due to other people that I am able to do anything. And that is because, as a mother, I am not only responsible for myself but for other people as well.

And because I am responsible for those others, I am essentially, no longer an individual. I may inhabit one body, but I am no longer "one."

So much of my conflict as a parent has stemmed from my insistence that I am still an individual. So much of the conflict I think so many parents experience stems from the fact that our society, our culture, expects all people - each of whom inhabits only one body - to be an individual when, in fact, many of us are not. When in fact, none of us are, though for some of us - estranged from family, estranged from community, "single", childless -  it may be easier to deny.

The  realization that a statement like "we are all one" is neither metaphor, nor abstract ideal, has, frankly, blown my mind. Previously, I'd thought it was something a person "gets" when on acid, or ecstasy, or once they have achieved enlightenment. It was never something I thought I'd grasp from simply standing in chest high waves on Venice Beach.

Friday, June 24, 2011

God Bless Us, Everybody

Strangely enough, when I got to the beach, I saw these two Buddhist monks.
I guess I'll have good company in hell.

On Wednesday, I was at Euphoria Loves Rawvolution, a raw/vegan cafe near the beach in Santa Monica. It was my first chance to go surfing since being back in LA, but I was so hungry that I had the shakes and knew I'd better eat first. It was the raw/vegan lunch rush and the only seats available were at a community table already occupied by two older ladies. I asked if I could join them. They said yes and we started to chat. They asked what I did and I told them that I'm a stay-at-home mom and that I write. Then they asked  what I write about.

"Sports, family and spirituality," I said. When they asked what kind of spirituality I meant, I told them how much strength and wisdom I derive from the water and how I feel  god is everywhere and in all people and that spirit is alive in everything.

Who would have thought that those two nice looking ladies at the raw/vegan cafe in Santa Monica would be Born Again Christians with zero tolerance for earth-based spirituality? And that, minutes later, they would tell me I was going to burn in hell forever? I mean, really. It's not what I expect when I'm in Santa Monica drinking a spirulina warrior shake and about to go surfing.

On the one hand, I'd  never told a complete stranger that I write about sports, family and spirituality - and then gone so far as to describe what I mean by "spirituality." On the other, I'd never been told, to my face, that I was going to burn in hell for eternity due to said "spirituality".  It was certainly a day of firsts: one which made me see, unequivocally, that when a person chooses, with all his or her heart, to walk (and talk) their path, not everyone is going to like it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Save the world in 250 words or less...and win a surf vacation!

Late Thursday night, I was browsing the internet and discovered that the fabulous Las Olas Surf Camp was having a scholarship contest. The prize was a one week surf vacation. Because one of my goals for this year is to take a fabulous  surf vacation - and because I can't afford a  fabulous surf vacation - I jumped at the opportunity and wrote the required 250 word essay. In response I got a lovely email from Jackie at Las Olas saying she'd enjoyed my essay (and my blog) but that, because I'd missed the deadline - I'd missed the deadline.

In the past, I wouldn't have even applied in the first place. I KNEW I'D MISSED THE DEADLINE. But I took a chance. You can't win if you don't play, right?

The assignment was to name a challenge facing the world right now and to come up with a practical solution. Coming up with challenges is, well, not a challenge for me. Coming up with solutions? I usually plead ignorance. So I made one up on the spot. A first.

The challenge: America is prosperous and yet too many Americans feel they do not have enough. America is crowded and yet isolation and despair are epidemics. America has so much to offer and yet most American families struggle so hard to get by that they can't contribute to the world at large.

The fresh, concise, innovative and inspiring solution? Redesign education so that a peaceful future is possible. Redesign housing so that community is possible. Redesign technology so that health is possible. Redesign our society so that it flourishes. And do it in the name of the family.

For our solution to work, we need a team of interdisciplinary thinkers and doers who can put thoughts into action.

This solution demands synergy between visionaries, activists and entrepreneurs so that they all address the family as both the root of our present despair and the root of our future well-being. It demands that the people who create our culture not only dare to believe that sustainability, community and joy are possible, but excitedly work together to create those things and then inspire the American people to join them in the cause.

The solution demands we gather such people together on a retreat and maybe, just maybe, take them surfing. They’d catch waves, have beers and solve the world’s problems. It’d be like TED, with an agenda, on a beach. Who wouldn’t want to attend a summit like that?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Choosing Passion

   Recently I’ve been re-reading an old college favorite: Adrienne Rich's "Of Woman Born." In it, she writes how unreasonable it is for one person, or even two people, to be entirely responsible for the entire alpha-to-omega existence of a child, or children. What they need is so much more than any one or two people can give them. And then a mother is stressed, too much demand is put on her time and attention, and she turns on her own children and her partner. As Rich says, the mistake of the mother is in thinking that it is the children themselves, or as I like to add, the husband himself, who is to blame for her upset. When, in fact, the upset is a product of external circumstances which are so taken for granted as to be nearly invisible.

Contrary to what I've heard, rather than becoming more conservative  in my old age, I am getting re-radicalized. And it makes me nervous. The deeper I get into my new commitments to surfing, reading, writing, thinking and feeling, the more vulnerable and out of my comfort zone I feel. I am always comfortable if I can be logical and “safe,” if I can repeat what someone else has said, regardless of how provocative - and if I can stay detached from what I am saying.  

But when I begin to care, really care - as if what I think and say makes a difference - I feel like a target. I remember being in college, caring so much about my ideas, and getting into debates with boys that felt so mean-spirited. Boys I liked - not romantically, but whom I enjoyed – would, I felt, turn against me in debate when I was passionate. Because a passionate me is an easy target for teasing.   For them, it would just be an exercise – in legalese or debate – and they would enjoy how worked up I would get and how seriously I would take the discussion and myself. And I would get increasingly frustrated.  

Because, in the heat of the moment,  I would feel as if I had lost my faculties, as if my gifts had dissipated under a tornado storm of passion. And it's true, passion can turn into righteousness and, often, intelligent, educated people can dismiss the passionate as zealots.  So I fear this. That, because I am passionate, the people I most want to impact will not take me “seriously” and will be less likely to listen to me, not more.  

And yet, passion is a necessity isn’t it? It is the life force flowing through one. So I will continue to choose it and all the risks that accompany it. When I started surfing, I wanted transformation. But I wanted it to be effortless and beautiful, I wanted it to make me look better not worse. But true transformation is bound to take us to unfamiliar ground that leaves us, at least for a while, confused and at sea. And I can accept that.
Because I do care. And I do want to make the world a better place for all living beings.  And I believe it's possible.

So I'll take it - with all the insecurity and doubt that comes with it. Because it's better than the alternative. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What Surfing's Had Me Think About

Writing this blog for over a year has inspired me to know other mothers who have committed themselves to pursuing their own athletic dreams –  amateur or Olympian. Over the past few months, I’ve interviewed several such moms and started work on a book exploring the ways which such women have found to simultaneously pursue their passions and serve their families. But the more I've explored these women's experiences, the more convinced I’ve become that the very structure in which families exist is unstable,  unsustainable and just plain unfair.  

That structure, of course, being the nuclear family.

In my interviews, again and again, I’m reminded that family life, as it is lived by the vast majority of people in our country, seems to be a zero sum game - when one parent gains, another loses. If Dad plays golf, mom stays with the kids. If Mom surfs, Dad’s on house arrest. If a kid has an activity, one parent has to drive and then spend an hour or so sitting in a studio or on the bleachers.

The nuclear family – it’s clearly a game of winners and losers.

For women, the majority of whom are either inherently or culturally inclined to care for others, the thought that our pleasures come at the expense of the people we love can seem unbearable. In my case, it causes me to cut short my runs and my surf sessions. In other cases, a woman may not do anything she loves to begin with. Or when she does, she may do so overcome with a sense of doubt and guilt that diminishes what would otherwise be a purely joyful experience.

On the one hand, at times I imagine this is a small problem to have. So what if the average mainstream American middle class mom has no time to have fun? 

On the other hand, I believe that the more time a person spends in flow, experiencing authentic joy, the more he or she can give to the world at large. Conversely, the diminishment of joy leads to a diminishment of inner resources and to an experience of scarcity that is at the root of so much addiction, despair and general dysfunction. And let me just say it - so much divorce.

Over the years, we've heard much about the collapse of the nuclear family - as if  that's a bad thing - as if the shattered nuclear family is responsible for so much that is wrong with our otherwise healthy and wholesome country. But what if this model was not effective to begin with?

If the nuclear family was a product created by a manufacturer, it would have been discontinued a long time ago, recalled due to the many hazards it presents  the consumer – among them isolation,  stress, divorce, infidelity, child abuse and depression.

This week I’m reading an incredible book: "Half the Sky", by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is reminding me that there is so much work to be done all over the world and that it is a crime that so many American families should be so drained by just getting by that they, that we,  are too overwhelmed and stressed to effectively help those who are so less fortunate than we are.

But if the nuclear family is not the way for us to live, then what is?

Monday, May 30, 2011

More Thoughts on Feeling Un/Comfortable

I got a lot of feedback from my last post about not feeling comfortable being approached by men I don't know. The issue of public safety - for both women and men - coupled with the challenges of male/female relationships certainly struck a nerve. I received several anecdotes about being harassed on the street, on the subway or in movie theaters, and agreement about how difficult it can be to let go of those experiences.  

On the one hand, they can leave a person feeling hardened or scarred. On the other hand, they can leave a person feeling tough and  triumphant for having survived them. Either way, they inevitably help form our attitudes towards ourselves and the world around us. And how we let them impact us in the long run is certainly a part of every life's journey.  

Curiously, however, the real point of my post seemed to have gotten missed...

I've spent enough years hardened and scarred. I've spent enough years tough and triumphant. I'm tired of having the same old reactions in new places and tired of telling the same old stories to myself and others. As scared as I was  growing up, to a certain extent I always knew I could defend myself and fight for my life.  What I didn't know was how much it cost me to always be on the defensive.  Not that self-preservation doesn't have a place. It certainly does.

But  surfing has presented the opportunity to consider that there may be different ways to relate to the world - to dangers, real or imagined, and to men - that I haven't considered before.While I don't know what those new ways are,  I certainly know they exist. 

In the last year, I've identified the true passion of my life as transformation in all its forms, and I've identified transformation - whether overt or subtle - as the common thread running through all the pursuits and passions of my life. Surfing is just the latest embodiment of my life's quest for liberation, oneness and wisdom.  

My relationship to "strange" men is just the latest area to which I can apply that quest. And it never would have occurred to me if I hadn't been approached in the water. Not by a shark, but by some pretty average guys.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Doesn't Feel Comfortable Around Strange Men

Almost a whole month has gone by without a post to this blog. On the one hand, life can get rather busy and distracting sometimes.  On the other, I haven't made an effort to write.

The last time I went surfing, this guy, a pretty nice, harmless seeming guy named Mir kept trying to talk to me in the water. I was having none of it. As Brian says of me when I get this way, I was "on the subway." As in, "get away from me you creep or I'll stomp on your head." When I get that way, Brian usually adds "but you're not on the subway anymore."

No, I'm not. But while you can take the girl out of the subway, can you ever take the subway out of the girl?

I started taking the subway at  very impressionable age. I was twelve and had been admitted into a prestigious public school in downtown Manhattan. I could have gone to another, also prestigious, school walking distance from my home in The Bronx, but I wanted to go downtown more than anything. Despite the one hour I'd spend travelling each way to and from school I would not be deterred.

From almost day one I was harassed, felt up, leered at and generally accosted by men of all ages. Freshman year, on especially crowded afternoons, there was a man who would stand behind me and stick his hand between my legs. I could never see him but I knew he was there. One day, I lifted up a boot-clad foot and stomped as hard as I could on the foot behind me. That was the last time that particular perp ever touched me - and I never even knew who he was.

Add to that the men I did see - the ones who mugged me, jumped me late at night, or generally made life uneasy for me as a young attractive woman - and it's clear why the attitude I developed towards men was not warm, fuzzy or welcoming. To say the least. By the way, this is directly related to my previously mentioned reluctance to bare cleavage or wear anything  that might seem otherwise revealing, seductive or, in my eyes, dangerous.

But that was a long time ago, right?

Since then, I've prayed for surf buddies who have not materialized. I've prayed for a surfing mentor who'd go out with me and help me improve my technique.  But when Mir offered himself (as buddy) and his friend Grant (as mentor), I was like "no fucking way, dude."

Until then, I hadn't realized how much I'd hoped surfing would turn me into someone else. That it would wash away the old traumas and hurts, that it would turn me into someone who welcomes the world with open arms and is able to relax, have fun  and go with the flow.

When I got home from the beach and realized I was still the same old me, I was troubled and discouraged. And that was the last time I went surfing.

Still, I'll be back.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Run, Pray, Love

My Dad ran marathon after marathon when I was a kid and had me and my brother running two mile loops around our local reservoir from a very young age. I was never very fast and never very enthusiastic about it.

Nevertheless, in college I did run the beautiful trail around campus for fun and as part of rugby practice. Living upstate in the early nineties, I ran the beautiful country roads of Rhinebeck, NY, and in grad school, I ran along Lake Michigan. I even did a 10K one Sunday morning. But running was never something I actually looked forward to. It was a maintenance thing -when I had nothing else going on -  to get my heart rate up and earn some cookies.

When I started, I thought surfing would be a short cut to perpetual mellowness. Little did I know how a newfound dependence on tides, wind and weather could make me as cranky as I'd ever been. So I started thinking about what I could do when I wasn't surfing, that could make me a better surfer.

First I joined the Y.

Then I bought the shoes.

Yes, earlier this week I bought running shoes. And yesterday I used them. The conditions were blown out and I'd brought them with  me just in  case. I ran about two miles and it wasn't bad at all. I liked the rhythmic sound of my breath in time with my feet hitting the ground. And I liked getting hot and sweaty.

So hot and sweaty that, even though there weren't any waves, I went back to my car and grabbed my board anyway. And went surfing. And it was so awesome, I can't wait to do it again. Maybe I don't hate running. Maybe I just hate running when I don't get to go surfing afterwards.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter, People

There were lots of happy easter people down at the pier this evening just as I arrived for my twilight surf session. So many happy easter people, in fact, that I couldn't find a parking spot anywhere. Except in the parking lot of Islands, my favorite beer and burger joint. So I pulled in, thinking I'd have a beer and write. But when I checked my wallet, I discovered I'd left my money at home.

Which certainly gave me time to reflect.

So I pulled out my marble composition notebook and jotted down a few plans and goals, some reflections on my gifts, and a few words about play and fitness.

Here are a few highlights from the parking lot of Islands:
  • A plan: a website to celebrate, connect and inform mothers who are athletes.
  • A goal: an electric Honda Element. I don't think it exists yet, but I'd sure like one. Or something like it.
  • A gift: extrapolating the universal from the specific and the mundance.
  • A reflection on play and fitness: even if I can't make it out to surf, increasingly, I'm able to do things that support my habit. There's yoga, pilates and swimming at the Y. There's a bike I love that just needs a tune-up and some TLC. And there's the possibility of a new pair of running shoes. In the past, I've hated running, but I've read a couple of books about it lately, and it's sounding really good to me.
Taking up surfing continues to give far more to me than I'd imagined when I began. In fact, it was almost exactly a year ago that I took a walk on the Venice Pier with my friend Josh  and told him my idea. My life, my marriage, my everything, felt as if it had run out of juice. But I'd realized that if I wanted the juice, I'd have to give it to myself.

Yeah, he said, and maybe you can get a surf company to thow in some money and sunglasses.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Further Reflections on the Bikini Top

My current research into the state of women's athletics  - as well as plain common sense - led me to suspect that posting a photo of myself in a bikini would generate more comments than usual.

What I didn't suspect was that posting a photo of myself in a bikini would generate a conversation about youth, maturity, fantasy, ideals and dreams.

What I also  hadn't realized was that posing for said photo was the outcome of giving up youthful fantasies of omnipotence and universal acclaim in favor of a more authentic life - that a genuine grasp of my own gifts and limitations had lead to a greater acceptance of myself in a bikini.   

On the one hand, life has certainly humbled me - kicked me down more than a few notches. On the other, it's given me a greater capacity to be real, to love, to express my flaws, to give what I can rather than waste precious energy trying to make myself into someone I was never meant to be.

Buckminster Fuller was a man who, in his own words, had failed at everything until he decided to put his energies towards serving the universal good.  It was only the death of his own youthful fantasies and ego drives that permitted him to become the widely admired and influential man he became - a man committed to engineering solutions for the world's greatest problems.

If giving up my own youthful fantasies and ego drives has permitted me to pose in a bikini for the world to see and subsequently inspire conversation about what really matters in this confusing world of ours- then I say to everyone - Ego Death! Bring it on!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bikini Tops

Until recently, I never wore them. Almost never - though you might be able to dig up a photo of me from 1973 wearing a pink one with white polka dots. Or a1950's style one I got  in 1998 to wear at the Jersey Shore and in Puerto Rico.

And then there was the one I bought in 2003 so I could breastfeed Trinity at a friend's pool.

But otherwise, as much as I've always mostly approved of my body, I always secretly prided myself on never being "stupid" enough to think I could get away with flaunting the gut which I'd mostly accepted. Or exposing my D cups to that much scrutiny

A couple of months ago, my friend Clare gave me this brown and pink hand-me-down string bikini that, she said, needed to go to someone with big boobs. I put it on. "It's really revealing, don't you think?" I asked her. "Um, yeah. It's a bikini."

Just yesterday I was saying how tired I've gotten of being cold. This was the first winter (and early spring) that had really gotten to me since moving to California fourteen years ago.

But it was surprisingly warm when I stepped outside today.

I was gonna drive to the beach wearing my rash guard and fleece yoga pants. But after I stepped outside and felt the life giving rays of the sun, I walked back inside and put on a bikini top.

Very surfer girl of me, I thought. Even with the gut.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I want to surf. I need to have some fun. Where's my board?

Ashton naturally knows how to have fun. With me it takes more practice.
I didn't go surfing last weekend - photo shoot, drinks and fight with husband one day, baby shower the next.
I didn't go surfing during the week either - the kids got sick and I got sick.
At the same time, I've fallen off the wagon of a regular almost-daily yoga practice that had been going strong for three years.

The combination of a lack of fun times in the water and a lack of peaceful times in my head has left me angry, sad, judgmental  - and without a proper sense of perspective. Everything seems like a dire emergency.
I started surfing partially because I wanted to create a new circuit in my brain that says: "I need to have some fun. I want to surf. Where's my board?"

This would replace that old worn-out circuit in my brain that says "I'm a worthless piece of crap.I don't want to do anything. What's the point?"

"I'm a worthless piece of crap.I don't want to do anything. What's the point?"

I want to surf. I need to have some fun. Where's my board?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Behind Every Great Woman...

I love this picture of wetsuited siblings at the edge of the surf with their boogie boards.

Speaking of pictures...

Instead of surfing this weekend, I took a trip to Encinitas with my friend and photographer Jessica, to shoot some photos of fellow mom-surfer Jamie G. and her family -- at home and on the beach.

Not too long ago, I interviewed Jamie about her life as a surfer and how she manages to pursue something she loves while also handling the responsibilities and stresses of having a family.

What we witnessed during our shoot was something that keeps coming up, again and again, in the lives of mother/athletes --- significant support on the homefront.

Not that a woman can't pursue the life she loves without support at home. She certainly can. But when she does, pursuing her passion can become an additional source of stress rather than a source of pure joy.

Every step of my surfing and writing adventure has benefitted from the support I've gotten from my husband and friends. Two weeks ago, when I was able to get the support of a women's surfing community, my joy increased tenfold.

The more deeply I delve into the lives of women performing remarkable feats of athleticism, elite and amateur, the more conscious I am of this: no one does it on their own.

Behind every great woman, therefore, is not simply another woman, or a man, but a village.
It's a cliche for a reason. It's true.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Do Unto Others

I woke up this morning to learn that big wave surfer Sion Milosky had drowned up north at  Mavericks.

A couple of weeks ago I had an idea at the water's edge. Was the ocean like me? I thought. A mother who loves all her children, but nonetheless has her good days and her bad? Who has days when she feels generous and others when she doesn't want to be asked for one more thing?

That day I thought I'd start treating the ocean the way I'd like to be treated. Maybe a strange idea. Maybe not. But there it was - my own version of neoprene clad goddess worship. And since then I've been talking to the water the way I wish my family talked to me; what do you have to tell me today? what can I do to please you? how can  I thank you?

Today I arrived at the water's edge and found it colder than usual, rougher and deeper too. The white water kept coming,  and getting past the impact zone was a struggle. I tried to catch a wave and, for the first time, experienced being held down by successive waves. After getting knocked down a second time, I stepped back and started talking: do you not want me here today? should I get out? are you not in the mood?

She just boiled and boiled and I related it to my son wanting to nurse, or my husband wanting to have sex, when I've got other things on my mind, other things to do, and a whole world inside me they can't imagine. So I stepped back farther - like I wish they would on those kind of days. Because I know how I can snap when I don't want to be bothered.

I watched other surfers struggle where I had struggled. Get knocked down where I'd been knocked down. Finally I watched a lifeguard help drag lifeguard station 20 a couple of yards away from the water. With this storm coming and the current budget crisis, he told me, they can't afford to lose the station to a surge.

Today was definitely a day to respect your mother.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday with the Surf Chicks

Brian took Trinity camping in Joshua Tree for the weekend, leaving me and Ashton to our own devices. Yesterday was a slow bore that ended with ice cream for dinner. Consequently, the little man was bouncing off the walls at what should have been his bed time. Determined that it would NOT be the case again, I promised I'd wear him out today. So I took him to the beach to hang with some surfer chics.

I'd run into Amanda Schmitz, the organizer of the 310 Surf Chics, a couple of weeks ago and it had been so nice to see her I thought that, even if I didn't get to surf, it would be cool to hang out on a Sunday morning with some other surf ladies while babysitting my boy. And for the most part, that's what I did. Ashton's current obsession is ping-pong, so I brought some paddles and an orange ball and we hit it back and forth for more than an hour.

But then, the miraculous, the long-hoped for, the wonderful, happened. One surfer, a mom in her forties,  volunteered to look after Ashton and another surfer volunteered a board. I spent a few minutes on the fence - due to what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder - but then realized a little pain was not going to stop me from the surf session I've been dreaming of for almost a year.

You know, the one in which the surfing village gets together to support this mom to get in the water - even when she has her kids with her. Yeah, that dream.

It came true today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Be a Surfer

Today was a glittering gorgeous day. One of those days that makes me extra-aware of the fact that I live in Southern California and not The Bronx, London or Chicago.

Still, I was on the fence about going out. There were so many ways I could have used those precious two hours during which a friend promised to watch the kids: a last-minute private school tour, a coffee shop wi-fi session with my book proposal, a yoga class, a veg-out with Netflix or Hulu.

But surfing is fun, serves my life's purpose, stirs my creativity and keeps me fit. I mean, really. There was no contest.

The waves were flat at first. There was a lot of paddling. I got lazy. And I got pounded. By some really small waves. Why? I wasn't paying attention. I was lollygagging, hanging out, non-committally going for waves, but not really meaning it. I was a "kook", as surfers would say with derision: in surfspeak, a loser.

But then I remembered something, Many years ago, I had a boyfriend named Tim. When I'd told him that I wanted to be a filmmaker, he pulled an old business card out of his rolodex. It said "Spike Lee. Filmmaker." This guy that no one had ever heard of had given it to him years ago at a party.  If you want to be a filmmaker, he was telling me, BE a filmmaker.

And then I got it - be a surfer. Even if I have to pretend. Even if I have to put it on.  Don't ask what Jesus would do. Ask "what would a surfer do?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I haven't yelled a single time this week...

This morning I found out my mother-in-law was giving a talk at her church before she kicks off her walk-for-peace across the country on Tuesday. I found out as I was about to walk out the door to go surfing. My board was already on the wagon.

I gave my sister-in-law a ride to the church and as she got out, she said something to the effect of 'If you change your mind, you should come to the talk. It'd make her real happy."

"It'd make her real happy."

Ouch. Potential Kryptonite to me, who has spent years prioritizing everyone else's "real happy" at the cost of  my own.

It wasn't an easy call. Doris is going to be walking for seven months. I won't have many chances to see her between now and September. I hadn't gone surfing in two weeks and was thrilled I'd finally made the opportunity to go this morning. Doris would have been "real happy" and maybe people would have said nice things about me for having made the sacrifice.

I had been tired and cranky at breakfast. The day was cold. It had taken a seemingly colossal amount of energy to get me almost out the door when I got the call. It would have been an easy out.

But I couldn't.

Even though the water was stormy and the waves crappy, the ocean was calling me and I heeded the call. Even though I didn't catch a thing, I played and played and played. And I'm really glad I did.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Stranglehold, Part 2

While my dilemma is not an uncommon one for mothers, the only people who offered advice were men, single women, or grandmas whose kids are long out of the house: suggesting to me that while solutions were right under my nose, something about being a mother was preventing me (and other women) from being able to see them, act on them, or accept what they are.
What is this something that prevents me and so many mothers from believing that they can pursue joy free from the strangleholds of domestic life?

I believe it is an impossible, internally imposed, standard of motherly conduct that precludes the common sense actions we need to take care of our own well-being. (A standard which men don’t share, and of which single women may not yet be aware.) To make an analogy, we  impose on ourselves the maternal equivalent of a 38D bust, a 24 inch waist and the body mass index of a supermodel.  In other words, we've got the maternal equivalent of eating disorder.

Having sat with this for a few days, on Sunday afternoon I grabbed a page from the green kitchen pad and wrote was for me a new manifesto of healthy mothering:  
  • I will never yell again.
  • Nothing is "that" important.
  • I am no longer responsible for everyone’s feelings - or their futures.
  • I will only say things once.
  • The children clean up with their parents.
  • Hungry children must ask nicely for food or go to their rooms until they can.
While I didn’t follow the advice of my readers to the letter, what I got in spirit was the belief that something new was possible. And what I got in reality was something yet to be tried and a whole new frontier for this mother/athlete/surfer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Stranglehold, Part 1

Last week my post garnered more than a few comments from readers – the majority offering support and some kind of advice on how to escape the stranglehold of house and mommy work so that I can surf and write more.

While my initial reaction was to be touched by the recommendations, my next was to dismiss them. As I wrote on a Facebook status update: what has seemed to help me most in the past is being listened to and supported  – not advice.

But after that knee-jerk…jerkiness...I recalled those many times I could have avoided a world of pain if only I’d listened to the people around me. Something which my stubborn reluctance to accept advice, of course, had prevented.

So this was actually the opportunity to do something different.

And then I saw something else; even if I didn’t take my readers advice literally, its existence signified that I was, in fact, being listened to and supported and that I had what I needed to solve what seemed to be an intractable problem.

So thank you readers, for all your helpful words and suggestions. Thanks to you, I believe I am seeing a light at the end of a tunnel.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hitting the Wall

It was a rainy day and Trinity and I watched 180 Degrees South. A really good documentary that just brought home how stuck I've been feeling the last week.

Here's how it goes  - Life is going along and I get an idea. It's a good idea and it excites me.

Life gets really good.

Having such a good life gives me more ideas, excites and inspires me, and I start doing more stuff.

But maybe I don't have enough room in my life for more good stuff, just enough room for a little good stuff and the rest of the room is for the kind of draggy everyday stuff I was trying to escape in the first place.

But I'm really inspired now and I just want to do this great stuff I've started - in this case, the surfing and the book featuring other moms doing sports. But there's still all the old stuff to do: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dishes, laundry, potty training, homeschooling, trips to the park, and the stuff I really hate - trying to get my kids to do things they don't want to do.

So here's the $64,000 question: how to do the stuff that excites and energizes me while still having all that stuff taken care of, but not having to do it myself?


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fit to Surf

I've been on a crazy Amazon book ordering binge and this one came this week. I LOVE it.

In addition to surfing, my usual workout is an almost daily 20 minute yoga session from, but I've been feeling like there've been gaps in my fitness and conditioning.
I just started doing this book's flexibility and strength training program this week, but I already feel some new muscles a-hurting: particularly the glutes and hamstrings, which I've known were weak.

To fully get the benefits of Rocky's program, I'll either need to join a gym or buy some equipment so I think I've got at least a pull-up bar and some free weights in my near future.

Also, my dream for this year is to get back on my bike so that I don't have to get all blue when it's been raining and I have to avoid the water. There's a women's bike club/team in Culver City that just started and I think it's calling my name.

Today's recipe for a perfect life: someone else looks after kids 30% of the time, cycling, surfing and having fun working on my book: interviewing mom-athletes all over the country.

And lots of good sex with my hubby.