An Open Letter of Gratitude

People often wonder why I allow (just kidding, I encourage) my children to participate in countless activities at any given time.  We are BUSY….sometimes it’s hectic….and there are great reasons to just “relax”….but let me just say this:

  • My children are ENERGETIC (oh yes…my son’s activity tracker recently told us that he had “0 minutes of restfulness” by the end of the day) and sports gives them an outlet for their energy.
  • I believe that organized sports and activities build character and teach life lessons.
  • I would rather my children be exercising and outside than anywhere else.
  • Being proactively busy kept me out of trouble as I got older…I hope it does the same for my kids.
  • They LOOOOVE it.
  • I LOOOOVE it.

But here’s the real reason….and I realized it as I was teaching a class about GRATITUDE the week between Christmas and New Years:

I want my kids’ lives to be filled with positive and influential adult role models (and I want them exposed to other people – both kids and adults – of different backgrounds)…as much as I can possibly allow.  Besides those listed below, there are countless others that have shaped my life.  My parents, of course:  My mom has always taught me that sometimes even our worst fears are our greatest blessings.  Then there’s my dad, from whom I learned that humor and logic can positively influence almost any situation.  My husband…..who always supports me, though he rarely understands me .  My children, who give my life purpose, and meaning, and motivate me to keep trying to be better.  My circle of amazing and beloved friends that keep me laughing and playing.

But beyond the obvious, my coaches have always been my greatest role models.

In the spirit of gratitude as we begin a new year, I want to share my deepest thanks to the people that had a profound impact on my life, to whom I have likely never expressed my thanks:

  • My childhood swim coach, Mark Bernett. I started swimming competitively when I was 6.  From the time I was 6, to when I moved away from Bend and the Bend Swim Club at age 11, Mark was my coach.  He was awesome…I loved and hated him during every single workout: Sprints, distance, dryland, daily doubles….He was a hard-ass, but he was one of the most genuinely encouraging people I have ever known.  (He was also one of the loudest.)  When I moved to the Portland area at 11 and joined the OC Swim Club, I still saw Mark at most of my meets.  He would seek me out, ask how I was, and always cheer me on (even though I was no longer one of his athletes).  Mark taught me how to work hard, be dedicated to my sport at an early age, and that technique was as important as speed, whether or not it won races.  Above all, he showed me that good coaches care about their athletes as people first.

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  • My piano teacher, Lois Thayer. I started playing the piano when I was 2.  (You see a pattern here? I was raised to believe in early starts).  Mrs. Thayer didn’t take me on until I was about 12….Every week I would go to her house (which held no less than 6 pianos on the first floor) and every week we would begin at the beginning…scales, chords, octaves….it didn’t matter that I had been playing for 10+ years at that point…the fundamentals ALWAYS came first.  She required me practice at home for an hour every night.  It was Mrs. Thayer that taught me to juggle, so that I wouldn’t look down at the keys as I was playing (a skill that thrills my children to this day).  Mrs. Thayer taught me that you always start with the first things first, that practice never makes perfect but it does make markedly improved, and that there is always more to learn, and higher to reach.

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  • My high school dance teacher, Robin Knight. Robin was freaking amazing.  I mean the woman was so cool…By the time I was a sophomore in High School I was dancing about 3 hours a day.  Always 2 hours in the morning, usually at least an hour in the afternoon.   Robin called me “Fish”, and believed in me long before I believed in myself.  She let us play with different styles and taught us that we could do anything we wanted, and she cheered us on relentlessly.  If we  didn’t come to class, didn’t give our best, or didn’t show up with an attitude to kill it…you better believe she called us out.  I loved her for her craziness….she had a raspy voice, killer red wavy hair, and cat eye black liner.  She yelled, she cheered, she pounded on the floor.  She made us work out with the football team to show them and us that the girls were as tough as the boys….She cried when she was proud of us.  She cried if she was disappointed in us.  She didn’t let us get away with anything, but gave us the opportunity to do everything.  Robin taught me how important it was that our insides match our outsides….be who you are, let others be who they are, but be true to you.  To this day, I love her dearly.

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  • Speaking of dance, I was devastated in my junior year when I failed to make the Varsity Dance Team. I remember looking at the posting, and thinking my heart had stopped beating.  Were it not for my parents (who were sympathetic but not so much so that they would let me wallow in my own self-pity) I may have quit.  My coaches wouldn’t let me quit, either.  Instead, I was encouraged to embrace the opportunity and  become Captain of the JV team, choreograph with the coaches, and pave the way to my senior year.  It was because of my experience on JV as a Junior, I believe, that I became Co- Captain of the Varsity dance team in my senior year, and  earned placement on both the All Star and All State Dance Teams.  My Dance Team Coaches, BJ Cerny and Ms. B (Debbie Bujanski), taught me resilience.  That if I really loved something, I couldn’t give up on it.  That there are no mistakes, just circumstances.  That sometimes our disappointments are really just blessings in disguise.  I also learned about joy, and friendship, and fun.  Through their leadership and love, I gained confidence and an ability to take myself less seriously – to enjoy the gifts I was given…I also learned how important friendships are to having a rich life.  I remain in touch with these amazing women today….they are ageless and wise and hilarious, and I am so filled with gratitude for them.

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So here’s the moral of my story….it takes a village to raise children that are kind, and intelligent, and resilient, and strong, and passionate, and respectful, and independent.  My parents used their village….and I believe that I turned out better for it.  I’m using mine.  The people that teach and coach my children bring things to their lives that Aaron and I might not, and for that, I am eternally grateful.  It is why I coach youth sports.  It is why I coach adults for personal and professional development.  It is why I mentor teenagers.  It is why I will always do my best to be nothing but grateful for the adults that bless my kids’ lives as coaches and teachers.  Because we all need a village.

Thank you to anyone that is a part of mine.

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