Dear mom

It’s been five years since we said goodbye, but even that phrase “goodbye” doesn’t seem exactly right. We talk all the time. You flood my YouTube feed with Mormon Tabernacle Choir music, and when I ignore you, you up the ante by sending a Mormon tabernacle choir rendition of ABBA’s Dancing Queen. Yeah you knew I’d click it and I did and about died of laughter watching it. Why am I not surprised you’d be pulling off goofy antics even from heaven?

I mean seriously a bell choir is performing ABBA. It’s amazing 😂

You’d be thrilled I took the day off work to grieve/celebrate YOU…and to make some art while rocking out to music. (Don’t worry, I’m not only listening to new wave. I’ll throw some Linda Ronstandt and Streisand in rotation too.)

Mom and me.

We’ll be having a slice of chocolate cake tonight to celebrate your life. Zoey says you get some too, and she’s pretty sure you can eat as much as you want in heaven without getting a belly ache! I bet she’s right. We love you. Keep a listen for the sound of bells….we might put on some tabernacle jams in your honor.

Love,

Sarah Joy

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The heart wants what it wants

The heart wants what it wants. If the heart wants something that triggers intense pain or strong reactions, resist the urge to shut it down. The goal is not to repress what the heart is stirred to express (hopes, losses, despairs, longings) but rather to hold it all in love….and then release. Staying in the flow of life means feeling what needs to be felt. This alone does not make you a victim of life–it’s the story you tell about the feelings that create liberation or victimization.art by Lori Portka.

My mother’s day, as told with Leslie Knope gifs

It’s been almost five years since I lost my mom and just when I think, mother’s day – it’s all good, I’m cool! Totally got this!…well, you can probably guess where this is going.

Let me walk you through all the feels this weekend, assisted with the imagery of Leslie Knope of Parks and Rec. (Gosh I miss that show!)

Me at 8pm Saturday, Mother’s Day Eve, if you will:

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Me at 9pm on Saturday (after seeing the first sprinklings of mother’s day posts on social media)

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Me Sunday Morning:

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Happy and grateful that my mom was my mom. Tears of joy at the love she gave and continues to give me. Tears of sadness that she isn’t with me other than in spirit. Tears of gratitude for my daughter and for being a mom. Tears for losing a pregnancy and struggling with infertility. Like I said, ALL THE FEELS.

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Sunday progressed and was good. It turns out that once you face the 5,000 pound grieving elephant in the room you feel much better.

Sunday night arrived. Was I ready to look at social media?

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You guys, I did okay. It was all good.

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Like I said, no big deal!

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(Yeah this one doesn’t have to do with anything…just couldn’t resist some awesome Leslie Knope wisdom.)

Hope the day landed gently for those who were struggling with loss. (Also hope all you moms were able to treat yo’self! Literally treat yo’self. Okay I’ll stop now.)

America’s Latest Mass Shooting was Local—and I Refuse to Stay Numb

My heart breaks at the news out of Las Vegas. I am sharing the post I wrote about the aftermath of Orlando and a shooting at a dance club in my home of Fort Myers. The words I wrote then remain true today: I refuse to remain silent. I refuse to stay numb. And I am tired of this madness.

Just Follow the Joy

This morning I found myself standing in a strip mall less than a mile away from where I used to live, a dozen roses in my hand and more than two dozen reporters in my face.

I was standing on the site of the latest mass shooting in America.

A reporter asked me was why I was there.

I’d thought about this as I purchased a bouquet of small yellow roses at my local Winn-Dixie this morning. (What types of flowers are suitable to leave at memorials for mass shootings? I wondered. This is now a question we have to ask ourselves in America.)

I thought about gun violence as I made the twenty-three minute drive north from my home, driving past my church that only five short weeks ago hosted a vigil for the Orlando mass shooting victims. I thought about it as I exited the…

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Sunrise, sunset! Wherein I (quietly) proclaim the genius of lesson #3

The kiddo was up very early today which meant one thing: I had to blog, just like old times! All those early mornings where I wrote as the sun rose. The days where writing daily was a necessary part of my routine.

I got to thinking about it all. How writing was a daily ritual of healing. Only now can I see what a courageous and life-sustaining act it truly was. Day by day, scrubbing away pain and loss. Transmuting the pain. And now, today on August 2, 2017, the fact is that there is so much less pain to transmute – the main reason I don’t feel the need to write as frequently. A good problem to have, no?

In hindsight I have so many questions for my former self. Why did you, former Sarah, take so long to start writing?  Why didn’t you start using anti-aging face cream sooner? And why oh why did you sit in that suffering place for so damn long?  (Ever notice that “why didn’t I let myself suffer longer?” has been asked by nobody ever.)

There are a lot of reasons. But mostly it is because I hadn’t learned lesson 3.

Memes, Pain, and Truth: I. You must let  the pain  visit.  2. You must allow  it to teach you  3. You must not  allow it to overstay.  Ijeoma Umebinyuo  three routes to healing Truth from @thisspirituallife

This is from the incredible Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo. I remember the day I discovered this – I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “THIS! THIS!!!! LESSON NUMBER THREE! THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT PEOPLE! Don’t let it overstay!

(Thankfully I did not proclaim it from the rooftops. Probably good since my neighborhood is full of highly suspicious retirees who would likely bring such an incident to the attention of the HOA.)

Touch and release. Touch and release. So freaking hard. Feel the feels but don’t succumb to them. Swimming without wearing a huge heavy backpack. (It just weighs you down and plus everything inside gets wet. Who wants that?!)

It takes a helluva lot of courage to set down the backpack full of feels. Once you do, you realize what a heavy weight it had been. Really, it doesn’t need to overstay its welcome. Bye Felicia.

Anyway where am I going with this post? OH yes, sunrises, sunsets! Sunrises full of writing and healing and transmuting pain. Sunsets of saying goodbye to the pain. Lesson number three. Touch and release. Healing. Dropping the heavy backpack at the shore so you can swim. 

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A list of 20 things I am grateful for from the hell that was 2016

2016 WENT LOW BUT WE WILL GO HIGH!

Yesterday I started a list lessons from the little bastard teacher that was 2016.

Numbers #1-10 were posted yesterday.(My spirited child hindered efforts to finish this in one fell swoop.)

And now, I present #11 – #20.16, Lessons, gifts, and gratitudes (is that a word?) from 2016:

#11. SWEATY PALMS. Lot’s of sweaty palm moments. I’m not talking about gratitude for my generalized anxiety (though I do have lot’s of love for Paxil….) No, I’m grateful for all the SWEATY PALM moments that seemed to culminate in Summer-Fall 2016. Those scary but good moments when I pushed a lil’ bit outside my comfort zone with people I trust to support me. That’s right, I decided to share my writing publicly not just with strangers but with people who know me. (!!!) I started by sharing  a piece I wrote about my grief and healing journey. It discusses fun topics like the loss of my mother and miscarriage!  The reception I got from family and friends was incredible. This paved the way for me to write and share some other pieces – see item #20.16.

#12. A greater appreciation for family in all shapes and forms. I miss my mom. I miss my extended family that lives 1200 miles away. But it makes me savor the moments I do share with them that much more.

#13.Peppa Pig— because without her I could not be writing right now. As my husband says, turn on the child pacification device!

#14. Loving my kick-ass body. The year started off really crummy – I had a miscarriage. And what I did not expect about this experience was how hard it would be on my body image. Every ounce of extra fat reminded me of the fact that my body had been pregnant…and lost a pregnancy. I wanted all reminders gone (as though that would magically make it all better). Well, I finally decided to change the script. I’m not saying it was always sunshine and roses but little by little I have morphed the ways that I view my body. I started swimming and found myself in a flow experience a lot of the time. And now that pool temps have dropped I have started running. I used to hate running. Now I love – and I mean love- the feel of my thick muscular legs, my strong arms pumping, the wind in my hair. I don’t look remotely like I did at the start of 2015 but dare I say I am in awe of this bigger, stronger body?

#15. It’s getting a little serious on this list. I am grateful for ambient music even though it won’t put my kid to sleep. I am grateful for dark chocolate even though it kept my kid up very, very late. My child’s refusal to sleep came up again and again and again. BUT GUESS WHAT. We have instituted new routines and last night my child was down, in bed and left to her own devices to sleep in 20 minutes flat. <—- CoNTACT the PONTIFF cuz THAT THERE IS A MIRACLE!

#16. Sharing my healing journey with Sound of Music gifs.Because if you can laugh instead of crying, or heck, even while you are crying, it makes it all a little bit better.

# 17. Slinkies.Apparently the cheaper and simpler the toy the more it keeps my kid entertained. (And the plastic kind doesn’t bend and warp like those old metal ones we had did! Brilliant. And it comes in rainbow colors. Hoo-ya!)

# 18. Blogging friends. Which are simply friends in my book. Thank you, dear readers and fellow bloggers, who have supported my writing and my journey. I am beyond thankful. (Also, you need to read these blogs asap: One Blue Sail, Plainmama, Dana Schwartz-Writing at the Table , Kimberly Harding Soul Healing Art, 20-20 Spiritual Vision and more I’m sure I’m forgetting. 

# 19. Coffee. I stopped drinking it for a cleanse and I subsequently wrote about it nearly every. single. day. that i was without it. Coffee, my dear friend, I love you. And clearly I cannot live without you.

# 20. Peppa pig playing in one continuous loop in Amazon video streaming. Bless Peppa for still keeping my kid entertained so I can write.( Also, factoid, did you know the Brits pronounce “Zebra” as “Zeh-bra”?!)

and. . .because I am a dork who wanted 20.16 items, here is 

item # .16!

#20.16 This number is tiny,  which is perfect because I am only .16 grateful for this one. I’m grateful for the awakening that has resulted from Trump’s election. See, I didn’t say I was grateful FOR Trump, that would be going a tad too far. Here’s the deal. Trump’s blatant misogyny–seeing patriarchy laid bare–compelled me to break my own silence of surviving sexual trauma. It has compelled me and so many others, too. I am hopeful that the pain of this election will lead to an awakening and a stirring of voices who have remained silent for too long. Or who have been silenced for too long. Change starts with ME.  

That about sums it up. Tonight, join me in dancing on the ashes of the fire monkey year from hell.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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A list of 20.16 gifts from the year 2016. No for real, I’m done bashing 2016. (For the moment.)

I have decided to take the high road with 2016. I’m done whining. Here is my attempt to make peace with the worst year ever.*

20.16 lessons and gifts from 2016

[amended: this is only parts 1-10 because my kid is mixing paints and that spells trouble.]
  1. A YEAR of this blog!

  2. Discovering the show “Jane the Virgin.” (A true blessing indeed.) yiyjlx05aq0fo

  3. Continued health for myself, my husband and daughter. (Wow, that is a big one. Probably should have put this before Jane the Virgin.)

  4. My husband watching my daughter so I can write right now, which involves keeping her and her toy drill out of trouble. It is much harder than it sounds.

  5. ALL OF YOU READING THIS. Because for real, the greatest joy is when people care about what you write and then, to blow your mind even more, care about you the human too. Which you do. Which is freaking amazing.

  6. Rediscovering my artistic passions and painting lot’s and lot’s of birds.

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#Hope. I found myself doodling the word the other day. And then today I painted 🎨this woodpecker who is chiseling the word into a tree. Sometimes we need to spell it out, engrave it into a tree, tattoo it on our heart. All shall be well. All manner of things shall be well. 🌟🌟🌟 Coincidentally (or maybe not at all), it turns out that 'hope' is the theme of the first week of #advent. A gentle reminder to light a candle🕯and await our own reawakening that follows the darkness. #artistsforlove #watercolor #birdsofinstagram #inspiration #watercolorsketch #artistsoninstagram #sketchbook #sketchaday #woodpecker #nature #writersofinstagram #blogger #writeeveryday #unitarianuniversalist #spiritual #spirituality #julianofnorwich

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7. Singing in my church choir with the greatest bunch of people you could ever meet. I am surrounded by wise, loving elders who cheer me on and lift me up. I LOVE IT.

8. My husband who is still entertaining a child who is now trying to make potions out of toothpaste and dear god I think I’m going to have to split this into two posts.

9. Using my writing to heal.

10. Muddling through the year with tears and laughter– including surrounding myself with Peter Gabriel hugs, by taking cathartic swims, swinging from palm fronds, and leaning on the kindness of strangers like Jeanine.

Items 11 through 20.16 will come tomorrow because my kid is causing ruckus!  

*but also I can’t wait to burn this list. Come Saturday night I’m doing a ritual I just learned about. I will write on slips of paper all the things from the past year I want to leave behind. And then I will burn the papers. (My favorite part!) And then I will write on slips of paper what my intentions are for 2017. I will put them in an envelope that I can open in six months or so to see where I’m at. I’m told my mind will be blown.]

A year later: broken open but not broken

I started this blog a little more than a year ago and so much has changed in that time.

I thought about this earlier this week as I rolled a pie crust, dancing to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, belting out old standards that my mom loved. I felt so much joy. This was possibly the first holiday that wasn’t overshadowed by grief. Yes, my mom popped in my head often but it was met more often with smiles than tears. I know she would love my crooning to Lush Life, the same song she belted out when playing the Linda Ronstadt record. And certainly, there were moments of sadness and longing this holiday (this is inevitable, you can’t ignore the empty chair at the table) but overall I felt more peace this year.

And it’s fair to say I feel more rooted than in November 2015. A few days ago I walked the dogs in nearby pine brush woods, collecting tropical flowers, palm fronds and scarlet berries to make a homemade flower bouquet. This act now feels normal. Routine. Familiar even. This landscape of my life–both literal and figurative–that shifted so dramatically beneath my feet three years ago now feels like home. 

I recently heard a moving interview with the poet/philosopher/spiritual writer Mark Nepo and he talked about how humans are unique animals because we can experience multiple metamorphoses. Periods of darkness that take us into a cocoon, often several times in the span of a liftime, and if we choose to we can emerge from these periods anew–with new wings, new eyes, new colors and stripes. 

Twice I have entered this cocoon. The first in my early twenties. My second unfolding occurred with your help, dear readers.

I started this blog steeped in grief, and along the way suffered an additional loss–a miscarriage–that came close to breaking me. Instead, it broke me open. What a gift. I am grateful for it all, the darkness of the cocoon and the light that shines on newly spread wings. Many blessings to you and your family this holiday. I’m certain the best is yet to come.

 

 

The doing will come

Today my daughter woke me up while I was in the middle of a dream. In my dream I was urgently helping and doing. I was a woman of action. When I woke up I quickly reminded myself that there is no doing. Not yet. The doing will come. But for now, it is being. Being with shock and grief and anger and despair and fear. There is no way out but through.

Last night I went to choir practice and sat among friends. There was an unspoken agreement that we wouldn’t talk about it. What would we say? What we were lacking in words could be sung.