Water Dreams



From my earliest days, I have had a connection to the water. One of my first memories is bouncing around in my dad’s truck on a canal bank outside of Firebaugh and stopping every so often to throw dirt clods into the canal. Like osmosis, the stories of the life giving medium that brought forth the most productive farmland on earth and the appreciation for the life that water produced for so many were passed on to me from my grandfather and father.  My grandfather was on the State Water Board when the Central Valley Project brought water to the westside of the Central Valley and my dad was a State Assemblyman who worked tirelessly to develop more water for California as the population of our state has doubled since the last water was developed. Today my family still operates a third generation diversified farming operation on the westside of the Central Valley.  All of these statements are read as controversial in this black and white political world of today, environment versus ag, labor versus land owner but there was a time when this wasn’t so. The lives of the people who have created that place have instilled values in me and cultivated my traditional soul for as far back as I can remember. 

When I was in sixth grade in Fresno, CA , my class took at trip to Camp K.E.E.P. and as I stood on the beach just outside Montana De Oro State Park, I remember asking my mom who was a  parent counselor there that week, "why have I never been here before?”  My soul was once again being moved by the water as I stood next to the ocean taking in all the environmental education that the camp had to offer that week about the tide pools, land marks and the delicate environment that surrounded my new favorite place, the beach.  That trip made such an indelible mark on me that when I had the choice to go to Cal Poly SLO or UC Davis back in 1992, that trip to Camp K.E.E.P. was close to my heart that I made the decision to  major in Agribusiness at SLO and spend 4 years studying the business that connected me to the Valley and spending as much time as I could at the water in at Avila Beach and Morro Bay.  


The years went by, quickly as they do, and in 2009 I found myself living back in Fresno raising four amazing children. My youngest, Matthew, is on the autism spectrum and in those days was a handful to keep up with.  My connection to the water taught me a giant life lesson on Labor Day Weekend 2009 when I found him at the bottom of our family swimming pool.  By the grace of God and the proximity of the fire station, I was able to pull him out and resuscitate him before the fireman arrived and got him to the hospital. He is a walking, talking miracle today.   I can’t write this story without saying, never turn your back on a child around the water, it is a silent killer and I will never understand why I was spared the pain of losing my child that day, but will be forever grateful for it.  Ironically, Matthew’s accident never created any fear in him and to this day is still drawn to the water. 

To say life changes quickly is an understatement and in 2013 I relocated with my my family to Hermosa Beach in Southern California. While there are so many things that I miss about Valley life, having my feet in the sand daily, playing beach volleyball and raising my kids by the ocean has been a dream come true in other respects. Just about a year ago, Matthew said he wanted to learn to surf, and being that he has struggled with coordination and sensory issues his entire life, it sounded like a long shot to me but off to Costco we went to buy a longboard so he could give it a try.  I watched as he tried and tumbled over and over before he stood up on his first wave and hasn’t looked back since.  Surfing has given him confidence, physical strength and a socially relevant topic he can discuss with his peers. It has been such a game changer for him that he is out of all other therapies and is in the water every day before and after school doing what he loves and thriving in a way I never imagined he would. 

One day, not too long ago, I stumbled across something called The Surf Ranch on Facebook.  As I clicked and read, I was shocked and amazed to find out that multi generationally famous surfer Kelly Slater had built in the perfect wave.  That in itself was fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating to me as where it was located…Lemoore, CA.  The Westside and surf culture were being connected in a way I never could have imagined and Matthew soon began asking about how we could get to see the “Kelly Slater Wave” as he calls it. When the World Surf League Founders Cup was announced for May 5-6, just a few days shy of Matthew’s 11th birthday, I knew what his birthday gift had to be.  On Saturday, he and I will spend the day watching the surf competition, not far from where I spent time floating and boating on the Kings River, but never dreaming that a surf board would make any connection with this place. 

The water connects us all in ways that we may not see at first and maybe never dream possible, until one person does.  Innovators, big thinkers and dream catchers define every part of my story.  I look for them now and observe their habits and ways, I’m even beginning to think that I am one of them.  Big dreamers make waves along and create controversy.  I think controversy is there to make us think and contribute in the way that is true for each of us, not just to anger and inflame. As a human race, we have so much more that unites us than divides us.  Professional surfers in Lemoore and a little boy who almost lost his life to the water and has found his life because it remind me of this fact every day…connection and community in the most unexpected places.  My life is a blessed place as I get to connect the core strengths that being raised in the Valley gave me and the freedom I feel every time I stand at the oceans edge.  


My Happiness Contract

Today I opened up a fortune cookie and it read, " Don't pursue happiness - create it.”.  Seeing it spelled out so simply made me realize that although I have entered into a contract with myself mentally, it is time to get it down in writing. It seems in general, the older we get, the more sidetracked we become about what leads to true happiness.  Watching my niece and nephews over Easter, I found myself concentrating on what made them happy, especially the 4 year old. When he was rested, a scoop of ice cream or a dinosaur easter egg were reasons for laugh out loud, jump up and down celebration...simple pleasures. Fast forward a few years, and the modern day perspective, so many times, creates a slip…happiness seems to be more expensive and more elusive, when the reality of what brings happiness hasn’t changed, we have.

There are a few things about my personality that I am thankful for that seem to make it easier for me to be happy than the average 43 year old.  I have been tested by real trials, among them having my life drastically upended with the end of my 20 year marriage, and  coming through the other side of that incredibly sad experience confident in my ability to grow through struggle and always find reasons to be grateful. Another trait I am grateful I possess is that I enjoy (even crave) the mundane and find pleasure in the simple things.  Choosing my coffee cup in the morning makes me happy, watching planes take off makes me happy, real connections with everyday people make me happy.  So today, here is my contract with myself, spelled out, so when I need a reminder, I have something to come back to. 


1. I will slow down and be grateful.  I have learned through hard times that I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude. 


2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that lead to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost. 


3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist.  My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness. 


4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect and understanding, but will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked. 


5. I will seek the place where my mind, body and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts, books, articles and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram, and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back.  Adequate sleep, healthy food and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness have happened when I silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.  


5. Most importantly, it is no one else's job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other.  It takes courage to find that place…and I will seek it every day. 

Signed with intention,


To Raise a Champion

In April of 2016, as my almost 20 year marriage was falling apart, I turned around to grab a ball to serve as I was playing beach volleyball at 2nd St. in Hermosa Beach. Immediately,  I recognized one of the players on the court behind me and said hello, thinking at the time that she looked familiar from one of the kids schools or teams. We hadn’t lived in Hermosa Beach long and I didn’t know that many people.  As I went to serve though, it dawned on me, that’s not a mom from school, that’s Misty May. So, with my new “seize the day, what have I got to lose attitude”,  I went over and introduced myself telling her about how my two oldest kids (one of them being the only boy in attendance) had participated in a clinic she coached when we still lived in Fresno. Being that I’m older than Misty but still feel like the kid who had the Hovland/Dodd and Stoklos/Smith posters covering her walls, I was happy enough with that quick conversation and got back to my game thinking that was a pretty good story to tell the kids later where they would definitely laugh and chastise me for being a dorky "fan girl".

After the next game, I went over to my towel, grabbed some water and checked my phone for messages and as I scrolled through, I saw a text message from Kerri Walsh Jennings. At that point, I almost decided that I hadn’t really woken up that morning and must still be dreaming. What were the odds that I would have and encounter with the both players on the winningest team in beach volleyball history while I was playing “mom volleyball” on a regular Tuesday morning?  As I read Kerri’s text about Abraham Hickes and the Law of Attraction, the goosebumps rose on my arms and the tears came to my eyes as this champion of a human being recognized the bond that I have and the  energy that I put into my kids. If there is anything I have true confidence in, it's that bond. Kerri and I had only met a few times because our kids were taking jiujitsu at the same place but her instantly thoughtful, caring and beyond empathic nature saw me, and took the time to recognize it, at a time in my life that I was working overtime to keep my optimism and zest for life at its usual heights. She, of course, made a massive impression on me with her humble nature and helpful ways.  I was reminded as I read the text of how I watched her one day at jiujitsu run over to help an older man pick up a bunch of mail he had dropped all over the street. I was amazed at the attentive way she managed conversation with complete strangers and wondered how she could manage the energy she was putting out into the world with so many eyes on her all the time. It’s not that one person’s opinion or relationship defines my view of myself, but her intuition and attentiveness blew me away and provided so much inspiration as to what I am attracted to in this amazing, beautiful life. The real thing that has come out of this ongoing dialogue between the two of us that started way back at jiujitsu over 2 years ago and continues today, is the insight it has provided me in how to raise a champion. What I have learned from Kerri has given me so much perspective on how I want to raise my four to be champions in the game of life. The court is just one place to learn; but the world, full of its adversity, trials and tribulations and matched by its amazing beauty and potential is where the real game is won. True champions aren’t defined by their medals and results but rather by their character, work ethic, and ability to positively impact others every day. Champions leave other people's days a little better for having showed up…and that is exactly what this champion has so selflessly done for me.