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THE ADVENTURES OF BUDDHAMOM by LeeAnne Pronitis Matusek

How I DON’T do it all!


When Linda asked me to write about how I do it all: producer, bodhisattva, mom to three boys, one with special needs… I had to laugh. These last few months it seems that life has bombarded me nonstop with challenges and obstacles. I have not been doing it all.


A few months ago, I was stoked to have brought two amazing people on board my feature film production team. We had some great momentum going as we sought investors for our epic retelling of the life of the first black horse racing jockey. We started talking about getting an investor meeting together in Kentucky so we could discuss this important project in a room full of vetted investors. Then the writer’s strike struck.


Things slowed down to a crawl in the entertainment industry as we walked the picket lines with our WGA brothers and sisters. Most of us creatives had to get creative and try to make a living at something else since our way of making a living was being taken from us.


I reconnected with an old friend who thought my wellness brand, Fittin’ It In! – about integrating physical and mental wellness into your life – was really timely and agreed to help me with developing content for pitching, or perhaps my own YouTube channel. I got busy gathering all my content and got it over to my friend via Dropbox. I knew we could get cooking once my special needs guy Lucas was back in school.


But when school started, Lucas had no teacher. Apparently, the teacher quit, and no one told the parents of the students, the students, or the student’s aides who were starting school that week. Three days went by, and we finally heard from the school district – a very casual email letting us know they have no qualified teacher for their deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Oops! Our bad – that there was no good. No teacher. No apologies.


Lucas is an incoming freshman. Remember starting high school? It has been a while for me, but I was so excited for him. He is my one son who loved school, despite all the discrimination he has experienced in the past. He had finally found his fit in the Total Communication program in the school district – a very specialized program with specially credentialled ASL signing teachers, aides, and interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing students who choose to use ASL and spoken language.


My son is very lucky in that he has one of the best signing educational aides around. We are grateful for her expertise every day, but his homeroom teacher also doubles as his case worker – the person who helps the inclusion teachers navigate the curriculum for Lucas. It seemed like these students were an afterthought and BuddhaMom had to kick it into high gear to make sure my kiddo with multiple disabilities could access his educational environment fully and safely.


As humans, we have only so much bandwidth for life. There must be space to navigate work, family life, and our children’s lives. It is so much more complex when you have a child with diverse needs.


As I do every day, I turned to the Gohonzon and chanted desperate daimoku – Nam-myoho-renge-kyo – to guide me through this difficult situation. I needed courage, skills, and determination to make things happen for my kids, and to find work so I could support them. I chanted like my house was on fire, which, thankfully, it wasn’t. That would have been one catastrophe too many.


I shifted my focus from developing my wellness business to helping my son’s team get it together so he would be able to navigate the new campus safely. I am still working on getting a medical order from his doctor so his aide can have a key to the elevator. The school is three stories, and his classes are on opposite ends of the campus. So far, the only thing they have approved of is agreeing to have someone meet them at the elevator to allow them inside to ride up. To date, no one has come to meet them in a timely manner.


I love how chanting daimoku during some of my most stressed-out times has grounded me and brought me back to my center. The rhythm of morning and evening gongyo has soothed my tired soul as my mind keeps replaying the idea that someone thought my son didn’t matter. He didn’t need to know he would not have a homeroom teacher. His aide did not need to know she would have zero guidance on his Individual Educational Program, IEP, goals, or how to navigate the new campus. His inclusion classes and the respective teachers did not understand his goals so they could adapt their curriculum for him. The caseworker is supposed to take care of all of that and now there was no caseworker for Lucas and all his fellow students in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program.


While I was chanting about all this, I realized that the better question was not how I do it all, but how do I not do it all and still stay motivated and positive? Can’t lie – this last go-round with my son’s school was a gut punch that I am still working through. Burbank Unified School District is wrapping up week four of back-to-school and no appropriate teacher for my son and his peers.


The strike happened when I was finally close to getting our first in-money for one of my feature films. Another gut punch.


Most of the good stuff in my life has come late in life to me. Even my production company's name is Better Late Than Never. That came about because, instead of getting down about delays whether in love, life, or labor, when I was finally victorious, I would say well at least it’s better late than never!


That drives some people crazy. How do you keep pitching that project after all the NOs? How can you keep fighting for your kid to have an education even after all the discrimination? How can you not let depression take over?


I had the great good fortune to be severely depressed 22 years ago and was introduced to Buddhism: the philosophy and daily habit that saved my life then and continues to help me polish the mirror of my life and continue my human revolution now. I know that this is my karma – and Lucas’ karma – and that karma doesn’t just magically disappear with a few daimoku. Practicing Buddhism is the hard work we must do to overcome our karma and triumph. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo keeps me going, keeps me fighting, and keeps me climbing that mountain of difficulties that leads to success.


It's not the actual victory that matters. It’s our determination to never give up, to face what we need to face, to appreciate the amazing benefits we have already achieved, and to not complain that everything isn’t just handed to us on a platter. We are here to change the world – the world has MASSIVE karma to overcome! Every cause we make, every daimoku we chant, goes towards that goal. Only the strongest, most capable, most determined were chosen for this mission. I do my part with my own fighting spirit and positive outlook on life no matter what the circumstances. NMRK!!


So, maybe Linda was right – I still am BuddhaMom. I am in the game, fighting for peace, and tackling my personal challenges which cause good things to happen in this crazy world. From that perspective, yeah, I AM doing it all! It’s all about the journey, not the fabulous prize at the end.


But I’ll gladly take it when it finally comes.


LeeAnne Pronitis Matusek


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I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 40+ years and making beaded jewelry for 25 years, specializing in Buddhist chanting beads, also known as JUZU.

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