Parenting in the best of times can be hard – parenting during a pandemic is intense!
“Putting your oxygen mask on first” is not a cliche, it’s a necessity to create a healthier you which directly results in a healthier child and family.
Join Krista Kotz, PhD, MPH and Roxanna Smith, MA for a free, one-hour webinar where we will share findings from brain science about how you can strengthen the mindful circuits in your brain to allow you to be more of the parent you want to be.
We will also discuss simple concrete ways to reduce your stress levels and create a healthier, more relaxed environment at home.
More than just a meditation class, you’ll get tools to apply “in the moment” when stress levels are high and resources are low.
After this webinar, we will be offering a 4-week online series that willdelve more deeply into the unique environmental challenges you face collectively as parents in Lamorinda, as well as your own individual childhood experiences that shape who you are as an adult and impact your parenting.
We’ll spend time helping you learn to identify and mitigate your triggers. Every class will feature techniques to apply at home, and opportunities to share with the group.
Both Krista and Roxanna live and work in this community. Krista raised and educated herchildren in Orinda. Roxanna raised and educated her children in Boulder, CO, a community with similar opportunities and challenges.
This story is about love, all the good ones are. And forgiveness. Before there was that, an incredible amount of wrong-doing happened, because it seems we always hurt the ones we love most, don’t we? As I type on this wintry night in Colorado, the coyotes howl right outside my back door, the sky darkest ink on this new moon. The last few months have been a blur – a kaleidoscope of beautiful experiences colliding into one another and creating a smear of bright colors. I haven’t had the time to stop and fully reflect on each moment and give them the time they deserve. Each experience is worthy of its own chapter, so perhaps this post is just an outline for future writings, each experience building upon the next and setting the stage. Here goes the continuous stream of miracles:
December 11th, my 50th birthday. Friends gathered and a book was presented to me, with photos and writings from loved ones. My god-daughter fanning me in the native american tradition with a hawk’s wing, her beautiful mother holding the smoldering cedar. That night, on that birthday, for whatever reason, I was able to receive all the love directed my way and feel full.
Early January, Varanasi, India – under a full moon, on a sandbar in the Ganges, sitting with friends and strangers around a fire, I chant prayers for others, for my family, for myself, and make offerings with sweets, flowers and incense. Of all my experiences in India, this remains one of the most generous and beautiful ones and I come back to it in my mind again and again. I am not always given the gift of knowing how special something is in the moment, and this was one of those moments, one to remember and re-tell.
Mid January, Rishikesh, India I dipped in the frigid waters of Mata Ganga (Mother Ganges) with my 80 year old mother. The night before I had led our group through a Kundalini yoga kriya called the Hour of Your Death and the next morning I led us in a rebirthing. Smiles were wide, hearts were light and my mother and I embraced in the yoga room as everyone danced to Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison. My birth had not been an easy one 50 years prior and this day felt like a do-over for both of us. We all took our newly born selves down to the water for a dip. There was a chilly fog that made things look even more mystical than they already felt. I felt like daughter and mother all in one, watching over my mother gripping the chain in the rushing water. We submerged, coming up baptized.
Early February, Boulder, Colorado. My daughter came home for the first time in 10 months. The breath I had been holding all this time, slowly exhaled as I felt her presence once again in my house, heard her voice, followed her trail of clothes. She was home for a family occasion, the Bar Mitzvah of my son, her brother. Family and friends came to witness this rite of passage. My children’s father and I, divorced now for 11 years, put aside old quarrels and came together, united in our love for our children. My husband (of almost 10 years) and I shyly presented ourselves at a family dinner where I would see friends and relatives that I hadn’t seen or spoken to since the divorce. Both grandfathers have died in the past 11 years and they were honored and spoken of. Both grandmothers are alive and well and graced us with their presence. In front of the congregation and our community, I released my baby and blessed him into manhood. Symbolic of course, but powerfully potent like all ritual can be. I felt it. He did too.
Last weekend, family therapy at my daughter’s school. My ex-husband, my husband, my daughter and son and me. We all showed up with vulnerability and an unflinching commitment to do our work. There were moments of despair, pain, tears and also such compassion and tenderness. The weekend was deep and hard. The weekend was light and full of love. Forgiveness was the oil that kept us all on track, even if sometimes we looked like the most sorry-assed jalopy on the lot. On the last night, before I had to leave, I held my daughter for over an hour, stroking her hair and singing to her. Rearranging my DNA. Deeply comforting. Another rebirth. Our own ceremony.
It never fails to amaze me – the redemptive quality of families – of forgiveness, love, laughter – the messiness and imperfection, the prayers for patience and tolerance, the unexpected kindnesses, the tears as we go around the table saying what we’re thankful for. I started the day out with a “raisin” heart – all small and shriveled, feeling protective and prickly and ended the day with a large, spongy heart = like those little pills you drop into water and they expand 10 xs their size into a giant snowman or pine tree. That’s me.
Things that touched me yesterday: my mom home with the flu, alone. Making the best of her day, knowing someone would deliver some delicious food to her later in the evening. FaceTiming with my daughter and son and their father and laughing over the airwaves with them. Spending the day at the beach with my husband, playing volleyball in the sunshine. Sitting with my step-daughter at the dinner table and feeling how thankful I am for her in my life. Ruby, my heart companion of a dog, almost drifting off to sea, as a wave came in – she doesn’t float! Grateful that the wave subsided and she ran to shore (I would have saved her.)
Dear family & friends texting, messaging me, facebooking me, from all over the world = global village. People posting on Facebook and inviting others to their table, recognizing that people can feel alone and sad on holidays. Another friend, alone on Thanksgiving and feeling the freedom of that! Skating at Rockefeller center, watching the parade and enjoying New York’s first snow fall of the season. Light and dark. Vulnerable and tenacious. Hearts beating. Breath catching. Eyes watering. Lips curling. I felt it all yesterday. It was beautiful. Thank you.
If you only say one prayer in a day, make it “Thank You.” -Rumi
I once heard a woman say that as soon as she sat on her yoga mat, she was home. I will go one step further and say, when I sit and connect to my heart, I am home. There’s a lot going on right now for me around the concept of ‘home.’ For years I have prayed to be a “Citizen of the World” living the life of a gypsy, meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures. I imagined I would have a home base somewhere (Colorado? California?) but most of the time I would be off having adventures – sometimes by myself, sometimes with Andy and sometimes with the kids. As I write this, I think it sounds like the musings of a young girl and perhaps sounds immature. Yet, these “adventures” I’m referring to stem from a deep desire to be of service, to connect from the heart with humanity, to experience the “oneness” in all things and to show this world to my kids. To expand my boundaries into the unfamiliar, because in doing so, I get out of my ‘self’ with a small ‘s’ and see that I am a drop of water in a vast beautiful ocean.
I once went to a homeopathist for a consultation. After several hours of questions, she gave me my personal remedy – not for an ailment, but for who I am: Falco peregrinus.
Know what that is? Falcon. Peregrin Falcon. I looked it up. Falco Peregrinus is Latin for Falcon Wanderer. Yup. Sounds about right. I’ve lived in 2 countries and 11 states, and moved over 23 times. In some Native American culture, Falcon is referred to as “The Stranger.” I can relate.
Andy and I drove out to California this summer on our 3rd annual road trip. Just us. No cell phone service, no computers. Just the two of us, a great playlist and a lot of sky.
Want to know what’s living for your partner? Sit in a car with them for 2 days. And listen, really listen, to what they have to say. Turns out, sweetie has been phoning it in on our daily life. (I knew it!) I’ve been extra busy with kids, India, death work while he’s been busy with work but with a growing dissatisfaction with his time off. This is a guy who is feeling his mortality, a man who loves the ocean and has never lived near one. A man nearing retirement who has never had the luxury of time to himself. I’m all about freedom (falcon, remember?) I never want to feel trapped and sure as hell don’t want my partner to feel trapped.
For the next hour, somewhere in Utah, under the vast expanse of sky, I listened to my husband talk about how unhappy he was in his daily life. How he longs to live near the ocean before he gets too old to appreciate it. How he’s lived in Boulder for the past 28 years and how he’s ready to leave. A life lived for others…wives, companies, children – and now maybe it’s his turn…
The blessing of this talk was that I heard – really heard – him. I took it seriously. I love him and want him to be happy. I want us to both feel free, never trapped. Andy’s conclusion was that he could never live in CA because I wasn’t ready to make a permanent move – yet. And so, he was trapped. Stuck. Grounded.
Long story short…we signed a year lease on a beach cottage in Santa Cruz. Over the next year, Andy will live there two thirds time. I’ll be there at least a third of the year. This means we will be spending some time apart. This means that sometimes I will be living in Boulder without Andy. As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I have been surprisingly challenged by this new arrangement. My beliefs around home, marriage and parenting are crumbling and there is no manual for this! Where is my manual!!! (shaking fist!) Once again, I am pioneering a different vision of what is “normal” (I don’t think there is a normal per se) and I can’t find the “how to” manual.
When I am in Santa Cruz, I feel suspended in amber – like I have stepped out of my “real” life into a fantasy life I have dreamed up for myself. I have a beautiufl yoga practice in Santa Cruz with an amazing community that has welcomed me. I ride my bike everywhere. I have a beach house where every thing in it has been carefully chosen by Andy and me. I sit at the harbor and watch dolphins (yes, dolphins) play in the surf. I surf! I paddleboard. I am going to learn the ukelele and paddle the outrigger canoe with other women on Thursday mornings.
When I’m in Santa Cruz, on a long weekend with Andy, I miss my kids. half of my heart longs to be with them. When Andy and I are apart, I am loving that he is filling up at the beach, giving himself the gift of being near the ocean and I am missing him and looking forward to the time we will be back together. When I am in India, skyping from outer space, nothing could be more poignant that calling my children and getting the answering machine. It’s rare that we are ALL together and when it happens, I cherish it. Heart overflowing.
“There is nothing from outside. Try to understand that. All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.”
When I was a kid, I would spend every 4th of July in Narrangansett, RI with my grandparents. Just me and Mimi and Grandy. It was idyllic. Not just the romanticizing of childhood that can happen with sepia toned memories, but truly perfection…and unconditional love. Lots of that.
It took me a long time to figure out why I get so emotional about fireworks (they’re magical to me) and an even longer time to consciously “get” why the 4th of July is such a big deal to me. I love gathering friends together and burning sparklers, kids running around like crazy, sweet treats and later…fireworks in the black night. I’m embarrassed to tell you that it wasn’t until a few years back, with the help of my husband who gently pieced it together for me, that 4th of July goes hand in hand with happier times in an often grim childhood spent with alcholhic parents. This is one holiday I don’t have a single memory of alcohol crashing in like an unwelcomed guest.
For the past 3 years Andy and I have been spending the 4th in Santa Cruz, a beach town in California. The thrill of spending this holiday at the ocean is beyond description. The part of my brain that holds all the sensory memories of summer gets stirred and a peace and joy comes over me. Salty air, sunburned skin, charcoal fires, music playing, the occasional loud ‘POP!’ down the street from a clandestine fire cracker, the holiday goers lugging their coolers and cranky babes, the locals sitting outside Deke’s Market, playing ukeleles…all of it weaves an old familiar tale with new traditions.
My daughter is backpacking in the mountains of Colorado, my son is in Europe on a cruise with his dad. Both unreachable by phone or email. But my step-daughter arrived today for her first experience of 4th of July, California style. Andy and I sat on the shore and watched her step into the ocean… uncertainly at first, then more and more sure of herself. Soon she was was out past the breakers. As the sun tried to burn through the fog, I had a vision of my grandparents watching me in the waves years ago: “Don’t go out too far Zan!” Mimi would call and I would laugh.
I’m filled with gratitude for the all the love my grandparents showered on a growing girl that needed it. Grateful that they can live on in my heart for as long as I do. Concentric circles of love rippling out and lapping at other’s hearts like gentle waves. I miss you guys so much. And was and continue to be so lucky that I was loved by you.
“The wave is the same as the ocean, though it is not the whole ocean. So each wave of creation is a part of the eternal Ocean of Spirit. The Ocean can exist without the waves, but the waves cannot exist without the Ocean.”