mom to the rescue

I was a freshman in high school, playing in a weekend basketball tournament down in San Diego. It was the off-season and this was sort of like an extra-credit team, separate from the high school team. It was for those of us who wanted to improve and hone our skills before the real season started up again. My parents weren’t able to come to this tournament because my dad had to work and my younger brother had a track meet. My mom was president of the youth track club and had a million-and-one things to do at the meets—especially back then, in the days of dirt tracks and non-computer timing. Plans were made for me to drive down and stay in a hotel room with one of my new teammates and her mom. I didn’t know her very well, but she seemed nice. My parents made me promise to call between games and tell them how I did.

After the first two games, I felt close to tears. I had traveled all this way… just to sit on the bench. They weren’t even close games, but the coach didn’t put me in once. I felt embarrassed and unworthy. Like everyone was laughing at me behind my back. Why was I even on this team? I had busted my butt in practice, the same as everyone else. Why was I singled out as not good enough to get a chance in the game?

{Side note: at the time, I thought this was unfair, but I also felt to blame. Like there was something wrong with me and that was the reason I sat on the bench the whole game. Now that I’m older and can look back with some perspective, it makes me angry. This was a high school basketball summer league. This wasn’t even Varsity, but Junior Varsity. This was not the WNBA. These games were not life-and-death. If I was good enough to make the team, I should have been good enough to play in the games. Coaches of our youth need to remember the power and influence they hold. Sports are meant to build up the confidence and character of kids and teens—not tear them down. For a long time, basketball was something that tore me down and made me feel bad about myself. But that’s a post for another time…}

When I called during a break after our second game, my mom answered the phone. “Hi sweetie, how’d it go?” she asked.

“I didn’t play,” I reported numbly.

“What?” she said. “What do you mean?”

“I sat on the bench the whole time.” I bit my lip, trying to keep the shame from leaking out of my eyes. I wanted more than anything to teleport home, to my snuggly warm bed, where I could just pretend this weekend never happened.

“Sit tight,” my mom said. There was a firmness in her voice I recognized. My mom is the kindest woman I’ve ever met, yet she is also the fiercest. She has taught me, by example, that one should never mistake kindness for weakness. “Hang in there, Dal. I’m on my way.”

I’m on my way. When you are feeling sad and alone, are there any more beautiful words in the English language than those?

Never mind that my mom was exhausted from being on her feet, running around, leading the track meet all day. Never mind that it was a 3-hour drive to San Diego. Never mind that I would be home the next day. She knew I needed her right then. So she was coming, right then.

You know in books and movies, when a superhero will sweep down from the sky and save the day? That is how it felt in my little world when my mom arrived that evening. She swept me off to dinner, and suddenly I could breathe again. I was safe again. I could just be myself. I could cry if I wanted to. I could be angry if I wanted to. I could be anything I wanted to. My mom was there with me.

The tournament continued the next day, and even though a large part of me wanted to just quit and go home early, a larger part of me did not want to be a quitter. I wanted to stick it out. I was hopeful that maybe I would get game time the next day. Mom said not to worry, she would get a hotel room and I could stay with her. The next day, we would go to my games, and hopefully I would play. And then she would take me home.

Only… the hotel where our team was staying was booked up. “No problem,” Mom told me. “We’ll just go to a different hotel nearby.”

As we drove around, every hotel glared at us with NO VACANCY lit up in red fluorescent lights. Later, we would find out that there was a NASCAR event in the city that same weekend, and all the hotels were booked up for miles around.

We drove and drove and drove. Eventually, when we had almost given up hope, we found a motel with one room available. The person working the front desk excitedly informed us that it was the king-sized suite with the whirlpool jacuzzi tub. I don’t remember much about that room. I’m sure it was overpriced. I do remember we were both too scared to try the ancient jacuzzi tub. The bed was probably not very comfortable, but I slept like a baby because I was just so relieved to have my mom there with me.

That basketball tournament may not seem like a big deal, but it was for me then. I felt so lonely at the beginning of that weekend, but then my mom came and the rest of the weekend I felt so loved. Her presence turned everything around.

That was just one of many times my mom has come to my rescue. When I broke up with my first real boyfriend, I flew from Los Angeles to the Bay Area because we were long-distance and I wanted to do it in person. Then I had to fly back home. I am usually a nervous flyer, but I was not nervous on that flight because I was too overwhelmed and sad. My mom picked me up from the Burbank airport with a chai tea latte from Starbucks and a great big hug, and seeing her made me feel just a little bit better. Four years later, she would be the one boarding a plane, this time to Indiana, to come to my rescue in the aftermath of the second big break-up of my life. She helped me pack up my belongings, sell my car and all my furniture, and tie up all the loose ends of that chapter of my life. I remember eating cheese and crackers and drinking wine, binge-watching Friday Night Lights together. I remember her neat lists of tasks that brought order to the days and made me feel less unmoored. I remember laughing with her about some childhood memory, and feeling for the first time like I would be more than okay—that I would not just survive, but thrive, without him. My mom has always made me feel stronger than I feel by myself.

I know that Mother’s Day has come and gone, and this post might seem a little belated. But for some reason, the memory of that hotel with the whirlpool jacuzzi tub popped into my head this morning, and it made me think about my mom, and all the times she has dropped everything without a second thought to come to my aid. As a child, it is easy to take that sort of thing for granted. Now, as an adult, I feel suffused with gratitude that I somehow got so lucky to have her as my mother.

Sometimes, when I am feeling discouraged, I think of driving with my mom down that nighttime freeway towards the next exit, searching for a hotel room in the midst of all of those NO VACANCY signs. At times, that can feel like a metaphor for life. At times, it can seem like there will never be a room that is meant for you. But, I promise, there will be. You just need to keep driving long enough to find it.

When I get discouraged, I try to remind myself of that night. Because it was not an experience of despair. In fact, I don’t even remember feeling very worried. I felt sure that, eventually, we would find what we were looking for. And I was content, in the meantime, to be in the passenger seat, my mom behind the wheel, Bonnie Raitt singing on the radio. I looked out the window at the lights of San Diego, dotting the hillsides like fallen stars. I knew everything was going to be okay. After all, I had Mom by my side.

 

Your turn {if you want}:

Grab your journal or open a new document on your computer and use these questions as jumping-off points for some “free-writing” of your own:

  • What are some memories your treasure with your mom?
  • When has someone come to your rescue? When have you come to the rescue of others?
  • If you ever feel lost or discouraged, what gentle words might inspire you to keep going?

fabulous friday #46

Happy Friday, everyone! I don’t know where this week has gone. Crazy that we’re approaching the weekend again already. Hope you’re having a terrific day, and if you’re back East dealing with the crazy weather, please stay safe!

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My care packages love continues. I have such amazing, loving people in my life! This week I received Valentines from my parents, a wonderful card from Julie, and a card and poetry books from my friend Carand.

julie card

carand poetry books

2. My butternut squash chili turned out really well! It is so hearty, savory and warm. I have been enjoying a bowl for lunch the past couple days and it is the perfect midday comfort food.

butternut squash chili

3. My friend Peter Yobo has released an amazing ebook, The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day, now available on Amazon. Here is a brief synopsis:

“Peter shares the 7 steps, that, when implemented daily, will create true life transformation. If you share Peter’s passion for living fully and achieving greatly, then you’ll have a blast reading The 7 Steps to Creating Your Masterpiece Day.”

masterpiece day peter yobo

4. My grandma was going through old photos this week and she found some adorable ones of my mom as a little girl. Too cute! I also love when I can see glimpses of myself in old photos of my mom. 🙂 I think she is the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I have ever met! I love you, Mama. ❤

Mom first day of kindergarten

mom little girl xmas

5. Tonight I’m meeting up with Allyn in San Francisco for a really neat event co-hosted by his MBA program: a screening of the documentary film Girl Rising and a panel discussion about “Girls, Women and Sustainability” with experts in the field, including a producer of the film. After first watching Girl Rising with my brother a couple years ago, I was inspired to seek out books on the topic such as Half The Sky, which I detailed in this post. I have become more and more passionate about women’s rights and girls’ education around the world. I’m super excited for the event tonight!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

fabulous friday #39

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

lit up pumpkins

What fun things do you have planned for today + tonight? Allyn & I are dressing up as Sebastian the crab & The Little Mermaid and we’re going out for dinner in Walnut Creek, then out to see the murder-mystery play Deathtrap. I’ll show you a picture of us dressed up in our costumes in Sunday’s blog post, but for now here’s a sneak peak at my wig that came in the mail yesterday! This is actually my first Halloween ever wearing a wig, so I am probably more excited than is normal, haha. {And yes, I’m dressed in my yoga clothes, getting ready to head out soon!}

mermaid wig

Also, I want to back up and wish my sweet Mama a belated HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! It was her birthday yesterday but it was such a crazy day that I didn’t get around to doing a blog post. {But don’t worry, I did call her yesterday and send her a card & present!} My dad sent these beautiful roses to her office… they are USC colors, since Mom is a huge USC fan! Go Trojans!

mom usc roses

Also, because I think this photo is way too adorable not to share, here is a pic of my mom when she was a little girl that is hanging in the hallway of my grandparents’ house. I can totally see the woman I know in her little-girl eyes and face. What a cutie-pie!

mom little girl

Mom, thank you for being my role model and inspiring me every day with your loving heart, genuine kindness, generosity and grace, quiet strength, and beautiful soul. I love you so much. I count my blessings every day that I won the lottery ticket to get you for a mother. It is a true privilege and a gift to be your daughter! ❤

Here are 5 things I’m loving right now:

1. So remember last week when I finished writing my novel? And remember a few weeks ago when I went to the Orchard nursery with Dana to revel in all the pumpkins and autumn decorations, and I spotted these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles and mentioned wanting to someday get one for my own kitchen?

sunflower tiles

Wellllll, guess what my sweetheart did? He surprised me with a gift to celebrate finishing my novel that I’ve been working on for the past three years.

sunflower tile

Not to mention, I hadn’t even said anything about the sunflower tiles to him. He just read it here in my post and remembered, and last weekend he drove to the nursery to pick it out and surprise me. I was pretty much speechless when I opened it. Allyn, your thoughtfulness, love and support blow me away! Thank you so much for celebrating with me! Now, every time I look at this gorgeous sunflower tile hanging in my kitchen, not only will I smile because I love sunflowers and it is soooo pretty — I will light up inside with such a warm memory. 🙂

2. T-Swift’s new CD. OMG you guys. I am crushing hardcore on this CD. I am in puppy love. I am obsessed. I can’t stop listening to it. SO GOOD! I didn’t even mind when I had major traffic driving home from teaching last night, because it meant more time to bop around in my car dancing to these songs. Is it weird that Holly and I are already giddy with excitement about going to see her in concert when she tours for this CD? Because we are.

t swift 1989 cd

If the music itself weren’t amazing enough, check out her Halloween costume. One of the lyrics to her new song “Blank Space” is “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream”… the caption to her Halloween costume says, “cause, darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a PEGACORN.” {unicorn + pegasus = a possible daydream?} She is so goofy! I love it.

taylor swift Halloween costume

3. These wise words from Heather Waxman… the first time I read them, I felt like she was talking directly to me. As someone who is not often loud and does not prefer to be the center of attention, I love her message that quiet strength and quiet confidence are equally true and beautiful:

Sometimes, we think that we have to be loud and obviously the center of attention in order be confident. But that’s not really it at all. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman carrying herself with soft strength. Quiet and ease. Grace and a smidge of grit.  That’s just so beautiful. She doesn’t feel like she has to prove anything. She doesn’t care if she’s the primary focus of the conversation or sitting and listening as a few people spearhead the conversation. Because she just is. She’s just being. 

4. This week I finished knitting a scarf to donate to the wonderful nonprofit organization Knit With Love that donates knitted and crocheted items to people in need, whether they are impoverished, homeless or struggling with illness.

knit with love

Here is their mission statement: “We believe that the gift of a hand-made item can provide physical warmth to people who may have little else, and can also be a tangible showing of love and support that will serve as an encouragement in this difficult time. Every item is donated to a person who greatly appreciates the hand-made gift. As of June 2014, we have donated over 5,000 knit items to people in 37 countries.” WOW, right? Amazing!

It makes me happy to think of someone wearing this colorful scarf I made and feeling loved!

scarf

5. Finishing with a bang: The Giants winning the World Series on Wednesday!! It feels like the whole Bay Area is celebrating! Everywhere you go, people are wearing Giants’ gear and Giants flags are waving from cars and houses everywhere. I’m enjoying the special feeling of camaraderie with everyone, even strangers in line at the grocery store 🙂 Dana was so cute, waving her Giants rally rag from back when they won the World Series in 2010!

dana giants win

Have a fun and safe Halloween, everyone!!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What are you doing for Halloween?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?

happy mother’s day!!! + goals for the week of 5/11

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone! I feel so lucky that I get to spend part of today at home with my amazing mama. She is one of the sweetest, most kindhearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and getting to grow up {and, let’s be honest, I’m still learning and growing!} with her as my mom and role model feels like winning the lottery. I love you, Mom!

me and mom balloon festival

I hope that you are getting to do something extra-special to celebrate the mothers in your life today! We are making brunch for my mom: nothing fancy, just toast, bacon, fruit salad, and her favorite scrambled eggs with veggies + potatoes. {But if you’re looking for fancy, scroll down to the end of this post for some drool-worthy brunch recipes!} Here is a post I wrote a couple years ago about trying to do little things to celebrate Mother’s Day every day.

It has truly been a fantastic weekend at home with my family and friends, celebrating my cousin Julie’s wedding! Recap post coming soon, stay tuned. 🙂

In the meantime… it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write eight pages
– send out three query letters/submissions
– finish midterm evals of students
– finish reading The Kitchen God’s Wife
– go to one yoga class
– have an amazing time celebrating Julie + Chris’s wedding!

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write ten pages
– send out three query letters/submissions
– finish midterm evals of students
– read up to page 400 in Wolf Hall
– go to two yoga classes
– connect with two friends

And here are some fantastic brunch recipes:
cornmeal waffles with blackberry compote via Two Peas & Their Pod
raspberry almond scones via Two Peas & Their Pod
blueberry multigrain french toast bake via The Pajama Chef
healthy vegan banana bread via the real-life rd
sweet potato muffins via Peanut Butter Fingers
snickerdoodle bread via Chew Out Loud
my own french toast bake based on The Pioneer Woman’s recipe {I need to make this again sometime! it was ridiculously good!}

french toast

Questions of the day:

  • How are you celebrating Mother’s Day?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

goals + recipes for the week of 3/30

Aaaaaand just like that, it’s Sunday again! And the end of March! Where does the time go?

My mom is here! My mom is here! 🙂 I’m so happy to see her. Yesterday evening we had a nice, low-key celebration of my grandma’s birthday with the fam. Tonight we are going out for a fancier dinner to celebrate.

grandmas bday

me and gma

The cake turned out wonderfully! It was a big hit! Confetti cake mix + white chocolate chips stirred into the batter + homemade cream cheese frosting + rainbow sprinkles expertly sprinkled by my cousin Bianca.

bday cake

Before I head off for the day, it’s time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:
– write 12 pages
– send out newsletter
– go to two yoga classes {I made it to three! woooot!}
finish reading through three lit journals from my AWP stash
– connect with three friends
bake an amazing cake for Grandma’s birthday! {perhaps this one?}

And here are my goals for this upcoming week:
– write 12 pages
– send out newsletter
– go to two yoga classes
– prepare for my Steinbeck Fellowship reading
– connect with three friends
– have a wonderful time with my mama in town!

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
these 3-ingredient recipes via Buzzfeed
– black bean pumpkin soup via Sarah @The Pajama Chef
– crock-pot salsa chicken via Danica @It’s Progression
– flourless pb & j snack cookies via Robyn @the real-life rd
pumpkin toffee chocolate-chip muffins via Two Peas & Their Pod

Questions of the morning:

  • How has your weekend been so far?
  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

fabulous friday #16

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you are having a delightful #TGIF. It’s been a little damp and drizzly up here in the Bay Area this week, which is wonderful because we need all the rain we can get! And even with the gray skies, I’m in a sunshine-y mood. Which brings me to…

5 things I’m loving right now:

1. My sweet mama is coming into town tomorrow!!! I haven’t seen her since Christmas and I’m sooooo excited to pick her up from the airport and give her a ginormous hug. It’s gonna be a great weekend!

Mom and Me

2. Tonight Allyn and I are going to a play! I haven’t been to a play since September, and I’m really excited. There’s something about live performances that I just love so much. Plus, it’s opening night, which makes it all the more fun! We’re going to see this mystery play called “Sleuth” in Walnut Creek.

3. Look at this mini library in Allyn’s neighborhood! How amazing is this?? I want to start one of my own!

mini library

4. One of my favorite local cafes has lovely photos & quotes on the back of their order numbers. This was the one I received when I was there with Emy over the weekend. It warmed my heart. Such wise & true words! And the elderly couple dancing — swoon! “Love doesn’t make the world go round, but it makes the ride worthwhile.”

love quote

5. Baking time! I need to make my grandma a birthday cake {the current front-runner is funfetti! with cream-cheese frosting!} aaaand these bananas are just screaming to be made into banana muffins, don’t you think?

spotty bananas

**BONUS! {Because it seems there’s just too much to love on this Friday!}: This adorable video documenting a woman’s growing baby bump and her husband’s sweet serenade to the new member of their family: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ7-v7xVm3I

Questions of the morning:

  • What are you loving right now?
  • What’s on your agenda for the weekend?

fabulous friday #4

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m writing this from the beautiful new John McKay Student Athletic Center at USC … so excited to be back at my alma mater for Homecoming weekend!

Here are five things I’m happy about:

1. Getting to hang out with my brother! This guy makes me laugh like no one else on the planet. I love him so much!

dal and greg

2. The USC Homecoming football game! I’m going with my friend Ben, who I haven’t seen in far too long … can’t wait to catch up. My parents are also driving down tomorrow morning and we’re going to tailgate with them and my brother’s business school friends. Should be a ton of fun! {Apparently last time my mom went to the tailgate with my brother, everyone thought she was a Dean, haha. She’s just such a dignified lady.} 🙂

Greg USC

3. This morning I had a coffee date with Erica at our favorite local coffee shop Simone’s. Nothing like a pumpkin chai latte and two hours of laugh-filled conversation with this beautiful lady to get my weekend off to a great start!

me and Erica at Simones

Simone's chai

4. My dad took me out for a sushi lunch date before I headed down to USC. He’s such a sweetie! When I was living at home we’d try to go on lunch dates every Friday, so it was extra special to continue our tradition when I was home today.

Dad at sushi

Pops says, FIGHT ON!

5. Mr. Murdog was oh-so-excited when I came home and gave me the most exuberant, tail-wagging welcome. And I got to take him out on a walk with my mom last night after dinner, which is one of my favorite rituals. I love walking and talking with my mama!

me and Murray

Murray!

If you couldn’t tell … I’m happy to be back home for the weekend!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your weekend plans?
  • What are you happy about on this lovely Friday?

happy halloween!

Before we get to Halloween, I first want to give a shout-out to my beautiful Mom whose birthday was yesterday. The older I become, the more and more grateful I am to have been raised by such an amazing, kind-hearted, intelligent, generous, and loving woman. She is my role model. I feel like I won the lottery to get her as my mom! She makes me laugh and she makes me feel loved every single day. Mama, I can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks and give you the biggest hug!

BallonDalMa

Today has flown by and I can’t believe it’s almost time for trick-or-treaters to hit the neighborhood. I’ve got my candy ready at the door, my pumpkins carved, and my costume on!

halloween pumpkins

minnie mouse

I had the Halloween Party Pandora station going, but it seemed to devolve quickly into random ’80s tunes that had no Halloween association whatsoever {I think the train ran off the rails after I thumbs-upped Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”…} So now I’ve got the Wicked soundtrack blasting, and you better believe I’m singing and dancing along! I forgot how fantastically catchy this music is!

What are you doing for Halloween? Whatever it is, I hope you have a fun night!

shrimp + sausage stew

Before I leave for my new adventure up north, I asked my mom to teach me how to make one of my favorite dishes of hers: shrimp + sausage stew! This soup is healthy, hearty, veggie-filled, and light enough that it works as well for dinner in the summer as it does in the winter. And turns out it’s not as tough to make as I would have guessed! Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

my mom’s shrimp + sausage stew
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 1 lb potatoes {my mom uses Yukon golds}
– 3 carrots
– 2 tsp minced garlic
– 1 medium onion
– 1 pkg {approx. 4-5 links} Italian-style chicken sausage
– 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
– 2 tbsp flour
– 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
– 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
– 1/2 cup chopped parsley

1. Scrub the potatoes. Peel the carrots. Thinly slice the potatoes, carrots and onions. {According to my mom, this is the most intensive step of the entire recipe!}

2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the minced garlic, potatoes, onions and carrots. Season with cayenne, salt and pepper to your own taste. {Side note: your kitchen will smell AMAZING!}

3. Cook potato mixture for 15-18 minutes, until the potatoes are crisp-tender. You might have to keep stirring fairly frequently to ensure the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan. {If needed, you can always add a little water or chicken broth to unstick.}

shrimp stew 1

4. In a separate pan, cook the sausage over medium heat, turning occasionally so it doesn’t burn. Once the sausage is fully cooked, remove from pan and allow to cool on a paper towel before slicing.

sausage

5. Sprinkle flour over potato-and-veggie mixture. Add chicken broth and sausage. Bring to a boil.

stew cooking

6. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 5-8 more minutes.

7. If needed, clean and de-vein the shrimp!

shrimp

8. Add shrimp, cover and simmer 3-4 more minutes, until the shrimp are pink. {Mom’s tip: be careful not to overcook the shrimp!}

stew finished

9. Top with chopped parsley and serve. Ta da!

Optional: In my house, we love to serve this stew with freshly baked corn muffins! Yum!

corn muffins

Hope your weekend is filled with rest, relaxation, sunshine, and of course delicious eats! 🙂

What do you have on tap for this weekend?

—-

if you liked this recipe, you might also enjoy:
potato, sausage & veggie bake
california white chicken chili & corn muffins
blended cauliflower and potato soup

happy mother’s day!

I feel so blessed that I am able to celebrate my sweet, kind, beautiful, brilliant mama today!

me and mama

We went for a morning walk at the beach, and now are relaxing on the couch. Later I’m making chili & corn muffins for dinner and pb cup brownies for dessert. Oh, and I whipped up some apple-cinnamon-oatmeal muffins for breakfast this week. YUM!

apple oatmeal muffins

I hope it’s a restful, peaceful day for my mom — she deserves it! She works a full-time job managing her department at work, and my whole life she has been a living example that it is possible for women to have fulfilling careers AND be amazing, full-time mothers too! She is not just my mom, she is my best friend. We have shared so many fun memories, from hiking Mt. Whitney together when I was in high school to driving cross-country together when I moved to Indiana for grad school — plus innumerable shopping trips, girl talks, chick flicks, and lunch dates! I know I can call her anytime and she will always be there for me. I love you, Mom!

What are you doing to celebrate the mothers in your life today? Whatever your plans, I hope your day is marvelous!