Monday, June 27, 2016

Passing confidence and joy on to my daughter

Yesterday, my talented, amazing daughter, Katie, and I celebrated her 27th birthday by trying SUP--stand-up paddle boarding. I'm all about giving her an empowering experience to celebrate her special day rather than buying a trinket that would soon be forgotten. She'd mentioned she wanted to try SUP. I was happy to provide this adventure.

In the past few years, I've arranged several mother-daughter adventures that bond us together. These experiences have made us stronger, more confident women, too. And we always have fun!

One Mother's Day a couple of years ago, I took Katie to an archery range and taught her to shoot a bow. She's become a very good shot.

On the archery range for Mother's Day

We've gone hiking in the Columbia River Gorge multiple times. 
Kate hiking in the Columbia River Gorge

Last summer we rode a zip line at a family reunion. 
Kate ready to ride a zip line last summer.

Yesterday I was not surprised that Katie was a natural on the stand-up paddling board. With her years of dance experience and the muscles she's developed as a baker for Salt & Straw, she stood up with ease. When I was still summoning the nerve to try standing up, she was already paddling with confidence. That made me smile. 

A couple of years ago, I'd tried SUP twice, and it was easy. Then I was strong and balanced easily on the wide board. My dragon boating and kayaking instincts took over. I didn't have any fear. I was the Mighty Woman who reinvented myself at age 50 and went on one fearless adventure after another. Along the way, as I changed and grew, I modeled strength, courage and resilience for my daughter.

But yesterday on the paddle board, it was different. I was different. Although Katie and her boyfriend, Keegan stood up effortlessly and paddled along the lake, I still was kneeling on my board. I had to dig deep within myself to find the courage to stand up. 

It was the first time I'd tried SUP since crushing both my wrists 10 months ago. I knew I've lost strength and agility. I was prepared for that. But what I hadn't realized until I climbed onto the board is that I've also lost my Dragon Diva dose of confidence. My fearlessness. Preparing to stand up, I moved from kneeling on the board to crouching with my feet placed so they were perfectly balanced. At that point, the old me would have stood up and started paddling. But I couldn't. Irrational fear gripped me. Instead, I had to give myself my go-to pep talk: "You're a Mighty Woman. You're the woman with the dragon tattoo. You can do this!"

After breathing deeply to calm myself, I tried to stand up, but the board wobbled and I quickly knelt back down. I tried again, and again. At one point, I stood, started paddling, but lost my balance and fell hard on my my hands--and therefore, my wrists. That scared me. I have permanent titanium plates in both wrists. My surgeon said it would take quite a force to damage my wrists again. But falling so hard on my wrists made me even more tentative. When I finally stood up, my legs felt like Jell-o. The paddling part was easy. The balancing part? Not as easy. But I did it!

After I stood up and was paddling, I looked over at my daughter. She'd fallen off her board into the lake. Immediately she climbed back on and stood up again. Just like that! I smiled at my beautiful, courageous daughter, who has climbed some pretty tough mountains the past couple of years. She's a survivor, that daughter of mine. Just like her mama. With the sun shining on the lake, she paddled with a strong stroke--and grinned. Standing on wobbly legs, I paddled strong strokes too. We are Mighty Women, after all.
Kate and me after stand-up paddle boarding on Lacamas Lake.
 I didn't take any  photos of her paddle boarding because 
I was busy trying to stand up on my own board.
This weekend I gave my daughter another gift: my purple bike named Joy. I bought the sturdy, fat-tired Schwinn at a neighborhood estate sale years ago. I named my bike Joy because at the time, I hungered for joy in my life. Together, Joy and I explored the neighborhood and the Columbia River waterfront. Riding Joy gave me the courage to face the unhappiness in my life and to reach toward the hope of a joyful future. I've certainly found a joyful life. But I hadn't ridden Joy much in the past couple of years because my life was so full with dragon boating, kayaking, hiking, learning to swing dance and having many other adventures.

Last week when Katie mentioned that she'd like a bike with a basket to ride to the grocery store and around the neighborhood, I replied: "I'll give you Joy!"

"Really? I've always loved Joy!" she beamed.

When we unloaded the bike at Katie's house, I told her: "I am giving you Joy. Remember that Joy now lives in your house. You can ride her around the neighborhood whenever you need a dose of Joy."

Passing the torch of Joy to my daughter felt so right.Now she will be filled with joy and confidence, too--and ready for her next adventure.

My purple bike named Joy on a ride to the Columbia River.

Passing Joy, my purple garage-sale bike, on to my daughter.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Surviving a tough week: Work layoffs and hanging up my dragon boat paddle

The Mighty Women paddle a dragon boat!
This week, I had to hang up my paddle. 
Have you ever had a week that knocks the wind out of you? Last week, the daily newspaper where I work announced it was laying off 10 percent of the staff. Although I was not laid off, that news sent me reeling.

Here's why: It opened wounds from five years ago when I was newly divorced and was laid off. I had to sell my house in the lowest housing market in decades. In weeks, I emptied a four-bedroom house and gave away much of my possessions.

Because I was unemployed, the only apartment I could afford had homeless people scavenging in the garbage bin right outside my door at all hours. I didn't feel safe. I had a hard time sleeping. My life had turned upside down. Overnight, my status changed from secure, middle-class soccer mom to unemployed woman living on the edge.

Five years later, I'm a different woman. I'm stronger--and not not just physically stronger. After having endured hard things, I've learned that I'm emotionally, mentally and spiritually stronger too. I am grateful for the hardships because they have molded me into the woman I am today.

But that doesn't mean I'm requesting an encore in hardship. When the news of layoffs came last week, they dredged up those past hardships and the panic--of feeling that I couldn't control what was happening in my life. I started thinking about what would happen if I were laid off too. I don't have a house to lose anymore. That's already happened.

I do have a wonderful place I call "home." For more than two years, I have been housemates with my retired minister and his wife. I pay below-market rent for their mother-in-law suite, which has the perks of a view of the woods, a hot tub, and fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries just steps outside my door. I've also forged a friendship with this long-married couple. It's been good for me to witness a healthy, long-time marriage. If I were laid off, I likely wouldn't lose my home. I wouldn't be homeless. That was a relief, yet I still worried about the "what ifs."

As much as I'd like to avoid further hardship, life has a way of flinging it our way. Last week, I also had to come to grips with this hard fact: It's time to hang up my dragon boat paddle. It's been nine months since I crushed both wrists in my four-wheeler accident. After surgery and months of physical therapy, this spring I returned to the Mighty Women's dragon boat and paddled with my team. I even paddled during the races in Tacoma. That homecoming was sweet.

But paddling a dragon boat takes a lot of strength, not to mention arm range of motion and wrist mobility. After every paddling practice, my left wrist was in pain. I have to listen to my body and give up the sport--and the team that changed my life. So I reluctantly told the news to Jeanie, my coach who has pushed me, molded me into a Mighty Woman.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to work on my physical therapy on my own. I am determined to get more range of motion, more mobility, more strength. I may not be able to paddle a dragon boat, but I'm confident that soon I'll be able to leisurely paddle a kayak on flat water. I can strap on my backpack and take a hike. I have already done a little swing dancing--another activity that requires lots of arm movement. And while wearing my buckskin skirt, I beat my drum around a campfire while surrounded by friends. My transformation from soccer mom to hippie chick is complete.

My transformation from middle-class soccer mom to hippie chick is complete!
Yesterday, after a week of panic, I reminded myself of this truth: The only thing in life I can control is my attitude. If further layoffs come, let them come. I can handle it. After all, I am the woman with the dragon tattoo. I am confident I will always be a Mighty Woman.

I'm the woman with the dragon tattoo!
I can handle anything.