My Hero. My Daughter.

I originally posted this four years ago. She is still my hero.

My daughter, Natalie, is my stable rock. My ballast. My hero. She has recently turned twenty-five and moved to Seattle about a year ago.  I had the great fortune to spend a recent weekend with her in New Mexico where she was born.  It was great fun to return to a state that has many natural marvels and be able to give context to how her life began.  Some twenty-six years earlier, my first husband and I moved to Albuquerque to run a restaurant and try our luck as entrepreneurs.  The restaurant eventually failed and put immense pressure on our marriage.  The wonderful shining glory that came out of that ill fated move to Albuquerque was a delightful, precious blue-eyed baby girl with an infectious smile and laugh.

Outside of a return trip to New Mexico when Natalie was eight, she has not returned.  She has faint memories of that trip and certainly does not remember her first four months of life in the Land of Enchantment. We had a lot of fun returning to where it all began. It also brought up some of the reasons I have depended on her for so much in her quarter century on the Earth.

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My brother, Rick, my daughter, Natalie and I hiking in New Mexico

Here are the ways Natalie is my hero:

Open. Natalie is open to any and all adventures. We did not have much of an agenda once we landed at Albuquerque’s Sunport except for a restaurant reservation or two.  Whether it was strolling the plaza in Santa Fe or taking a hike around a reservoir, Natalie was open.  She had no deadlines, no agenda, no must-see spots.  I feel like so many people in life have hidden agendas or hidden intentions.  Not Natalie. Anything goes. Wanna hike?  Sure.  Shop? You bet. Sleep in? OK. It makes me rethink how open I am to what is next. Be open.

Decisive.  Natalie may be open to all the options but once she has made up her mind, or the group has made up their mind, she goes after it. We had decided to hike Tent Rocks located outside of Santa Fe with my brother, Rick.  Once the decision was made, there was no going back.  I’m pretty sure that even if it was raining or 110 degrees, Natalie would have made it to the top of that slot canyon. She was committed. Even a random crossing of a rattlesnake on our path could not deter her from her destiny. Once you have weighed out all your options, be decisive.

Empathy. I have always had an issue with balance. I pause at the top of steps and escalators to get my barring. There were several times along the hike that Natalie grabbed my hand. I didn’t ask. She knew. When navigating very narrow footings, she said, “just one foot in front of the other.” I didn’t ask. She knew. As we hiked she would insist on a water break.  Not for her. For me. She pays attention. She senses the discomfort. She anticipates the need. It’s such a gift that I don’t know she is even aware she has it. Be in tune to those around you.

Navigator. Natalie and I had explored a trail near Santa Fe around a reservoir.  The trail was not well marked.  Towards the end of the hike we lost the trail. Pretty soon we were hiking through low uncharted brush and no fellow hikers were to be seen.  We had no GPS.  No cell coverage. I felt a bit of concern. There was no need. Natalie had a feel for where we were and led us back to the trail head and parking lot. There have been many hiccups and storms in my life over the last year and Natalie has been the calm navigator seeing me through. Make sure you have a sound navigator to help you through the storms.

Ballast. Every boat has a ballast to weight the boat upright. Natalie is my ballast. She is rarely rattled by events and keeps an even demeanor.  I can be easily flustered and fly into worst case scenarios. Natalie keeps me balanced by listening and asking questions to help me understand my own thinking. I may be ready to unload all the cargo on the boat or drop anchor but Natalie is the voice of reason.  Who is your ballast.  Maybe you are a ballast for someone else.  It’s important to have a ballast to even things out.

Joy. Natalie has infectious energy. She also happens to be a great selfie taker.  There she is in the center of the photo flashing her enchanting smile.  I cannot look at a photo of her without smiling. She is joy. She is possibility. She is magic. There are very few people that I know who exude that joyful energy. It sparks action. Everything seems possible when there is joy in the room.  I am so fortunate to have her in my life. Find joy.

I am so proud to be Natalie’s mother and, most importantly, that she is in my life. She makes everything brighter and more amazing. Who is your hero?

My daughter. My hero.

My daughter, Natalie, is my stable rock. My ballast. My hero. She has recently turned twenty-five and moved to Seattle about a year ago.  I had the great fortune to spend a recent weekend with her in New Mexico where she was born.  It was great fun to return to a state that has many natural marvels and be able to give context to how her life began.  Some twenty-six years earlier, my first husband and I moved to Albuquerque to run a restaurant and try our luck as entrepreneurs.  The restaurant eventually failed and put immense pressure on our marriage.  The wonderful shining glory that came out of that ill fated move to Albuquerque was a delightful, precious blue-eyed baby girl with an infectious smile and laugh.

Outside of a return trip to New Mexico when Natalie was eight, she has not returned.  She has faint memories of that trip and certainly does not remember her first four months of life in the Land of Enchantment. We had a lot of fun returning to where it all began. It also brought up some of the reasons I have depended on her for so much in her quarter century on the Earth.

32105357_10156289247988688_8586567131481505792_o

Here are the ways Natalie is my hero:

Open. Natalie is open to any and all adventures. We did not have much of an agenda once we landed at Albuquerque’s Sunport except for a restaurant reservation or two.  Whether it was strolling the plaza in Santa Fe or taking a hike around a reservoir, Natalie was open.  She had no deadlines, no agenda, no must-see spots.  I feel like so many people in life have hidden agendas or hidden intentions.  Not Natalie. Anything goes. Wanna hike?  Sure.  Shop? You bet. Sleep in? OK. It makes me rethink how open I am to what is next. Be open.

Decisive.  Natalie may be open to all the options but once she has made up her mind, or the group has made up their mind, she goes after it. We had decided to hike Tent Rocks located outside of Santa Fe with my brother, Rick.  Once the decision was made, there was no going back.  I’m pretty sure that even if it was raining or 110 degrees, Natalie would have made it to the top of that slot canyon. She was committed. Even a random crossing of a rattlesnake on our path could not deter her from her destiny. Once you have weighed out all your options, be decisive.

Empathy. I have always had an issue with balance. I pause at the top of steps and escalators to get my barring. There were several times along the hike that Natalie grabbed my hand. I didn’t ask. She knew. When navigating very narrow footings, she said, “just one foot in front of the other.” I didn’t ask. She knew. As we hiked she would insist on a water break.  Not for her. For me. She pays attention. She senses the discomfort. She anticipates the need. It’s such a gift that I don’t know she is even aware she has it. Be in tune to those around you.

Navigator. Natalie and I had explored a trail near Santa Fe around a reservoir.  The trail was not well marked.  Towards the end of the hike we lost the trail. Pretty soon we were hiking through low uncharted brush and no fellow hikers were to be seen.  We had no GPS.  No cell coverage. I felt a bit of concern. There was no need. Natalie had a feel for where we were and led us back to the trail head and parking lot. There have been many hiccups and storms in my life over the last year and Natalie has been the calm navigator seeing me through. Make sure you have a sound navigator to help you through the storms.

Ballast. Every boat has a ballast to weight the boat upright. Natalie is my ballast. She is rarely rattled by events and keeps an even demeanor.  I can be easily flustered and fly into worst case scenarios. Natalie keeps me balanced by listening and asking questions to help me understand my own thinking. I may be ready to unload all the cargo on the boat or drop anchor but Natalie is the voice of reason.  Who is your ballast.  Maybe you are a ballast for someone else.  It’s important to have a ballast to even things out.

Joy. Natalie has infectious energy. She also happens to be a great selfie taker.  There she is in the center of the photo flashing her enchanting smile.  I cannot look at a photo of her without smiling. She is joy. She is possibility. She is magic. There are very few people that I know who exude that joyful energy. It sparks action. Everything seems possible when there is joy in the room.  I am so fortunate to have her in my life. Find joy.

I am so proud to be Natalie’s mother and, most importantly, that she is in my life. She makes everything brighter and more amazing. Who is your hero?

7 Ways to Take the Road Less Traveled. My Daughter, My Hero.

I’m not here to give people voices because I don’t have the ability to do so for anyone but myself.  All I do is merely remind them that we are all human and that all stories are deserved of being heard.” – Natalie Robles

My daughter, Natalie, graduated from Duke University this past Sunday. I could not be prouder of her accomplishment. Not that it’s Duke or that she is graduating from college period. It’s that she has always taken the road less traveled; thrown herself into and embraced every experience. She has always followed her heart regardless of naysayers along the way. She has always been true to herself. She is my hero. My Daughter, My Hero

Natalie started school a year early. At the age of 4, she knew her alphabet and numbers and tested into kindergarten. In a time where parents are red-shirting (holding their kids back a year) so that they can excel at sports and academics, she was a maverick. She held her own and still placed into the accelerated classes throughout elementary school and into high school. As a sophomore in high school, she auditioned for an elite residential arts school (some 3 hours from home) and managed to be accepted into their prestigious music school. These are very brave steps for a 15 year old fledgling clarinetist but she did it. Her fearlessness, resilience, fortitude and aspirations made her my hero.

Natalie has a laundry list of attributes, but these are the one’s that stand out for me:

1. Resilience. Natalie bounces back even when things are tough. She had a terrible experience her Junior year of high school with a roommate. The roommate left school but Natalie returned the next year. She has had frost bite from backpacking in the snow and returned the following year for the same subzero experience.   She had an unpaid internship in NYC, living hand to mouth for 8 weeks and went back the following summer for yet another unpaid internship in NYC. She may struggle and stumble but she will not fall.

2. Curiosity. In Natalie’s freshman year of college, she hiked for 2 weeks in the Pisgah National forest, performed in a dance recital (she had never taken dance), played with the symphony, tromped around at half time at the football games in the marching band, joined the water polo team (yeah…a newbie), and taught at local elementary schools in her..ahem…”free time”. Natalie inhaled every opportunity. Not all of them were her cup of tea, but she tried them all on for size.

3. Openness. Natalie’s passion is documentaries. It aligns with her ability to let folks find their voice. She doesn’t rush. She doesn’t push. She is present and listens. She distills and edits and blends and creates magic. She is open to all possibilities. And we get to enjoy the product of her openness.

4. Empathy. Her first experience with documentaries was in Medillin, Colombia. She was selected for a Summer program during her freshman year to travel to South America and document families displaced by drug violence.  When she was instructed to interview some three to four families a day, she balked. She could feel the tension in folks as she tried to film. She knew they weren’t comfortable. She wanted to spend time with one family. She wanted to go back to the same family so that she could create trust. She did. She connects with folks and regardless of the cultural and language barriers, she honors them.

5. Decisiveness. Every family has disagreements. It might be what restaurant we are eating at or which movie to rent. The rest of us can get into a quagmire of indecisive infinite possibilities and unspoken agendas. Natalie takes the reigns and makes a decision. Done. Resolved. (Thanks)

6. Joy. As I write this, Natalie is having her wisdom teeth removed. I can hear her in the exam room laughing. She has an infectious laugh that I would recognize anywhere. She brings that joy and laughter to endless folks. No one is immune to her joy (especially her brother). They can crack each other up with just a look. She brings joy.

7. Bravery. Natalie went to a camp in the golden hinter lands of Northern California at the ripe old age of 8. It was emotional to leave your first born in what we later referred to as the “hippie” camp. When I returned to pick her up some three weeks later, she showed us the 20 foot high platform she had, while harnessed, jumped off of as she took a leap of faith to grab a trapeze. She has run a 10k obstacle course race, tried zero gravity and Bikram yoga, auditioned for countless music camps and organizations, and, her greatest feat, repelled up a mountain side after several years of conquering her fear. She faces her limiting beliefs.

I remember when Natalie left for Colombia some three years ago, she read a diary of a journey I had taken to South America some 30 years before. She said, “Mommy, I’m following in your footsteps”. In reality she has gone way beyond the steps I’ve taken. I can only hope to be as accomplished in my entire life as she has been in just 21 short years. My hero.