My mother’s slippers

They were slim and satin. She kept them next to her bed, or on cold days next to the heat vent. When we went Christmas shopping together, in between buying gifts for others she would stop by the racks of ladies’ slippers at Hudson’s Department store. This was a long time ago, before it became Macy’s. She would pick them out for herself and then wrap them with all the other presents, feigning surprise when she opened them on Christmas.

They were usually white or ivory, sometimes made of cotton or terry cloth, but always Isotoner Signature Women’s ballerina with the suede sole. In the later years she wore a white satin pair that would turn to gray, despite my father’s efforts to keep them white. (Nobody could do laundry like my mother. It was an art and science. Without her at the helm, we no longer had special containers going at all times dedicated to pre-soaks and stain removal.)

Her feet changed in these slippers. From strong and fast to warped and curled.1m7ZhI3

She carried the slippers with her hot tea and settled into them both at the end of a long day spent tending to others. She would tuck her feet under her legs, her legs under an afghan. I can see her, scooting over on the couch, a small sweet in her hand (chocolate or perhaps a cookie she unearthed from the freezer). She would look at me and say, Oh honey let me make some room for you. (As though her tall slender body was taking up too much space.)  And after I joined her on the couch, she would tuck in my feet under the blanket, too.

When she died, my sister took possession of mom’s slippers. I was relieved. I could not bear to see them, but it made me glad to know my mother’s slippers were still tending to toes, once again keeping strong feet warm under a blanket.

 

 

Taking the Long View

Grief is seriously unreasonable sometimes.

Last night I found myself getting annoyed with the photos I took in my teenage/twenty-something-years. And no, it wasn’t because of my fashion choices, though some of those were suspect. (Hello high-waist jeans and flannel shirts.)  I am talking about the subjects of these photos, or lack thereof.

So very few of these photos include my mom.

There are countless pictures of high school shenanigans. And don’t get me started on my twenties. My twenties were basically a series of pictures of cats. (Those years were rough.)

Gosh, I wish I had taken more photos of my cat.

 But my mom? There were hardly any photos of my mom. Hello, how could I have not known that those would be the last few years she would be healthy and vibrant?!

Heck, I would even be happy with some mom-daughter selfies. That’s right, I was pining for some way up close, slightly-blurry photos of me and my mom hamming for the camera.

But let’s be real: even if I had been taking selfies in my early-twenties I doubt that many would have included my mom. There would have been a series of Sarah plus cat selfies, and Sarah plus questionable-choice-of-boyfriend selfies, and on and on.

I get it: hindsight is 20/20. Plus, your teens and twenties are supposed to be egocentric. You are focused on your own development outside of your little family unit. This is good. This is healthy.

I realize what I am asking of myself is unreasonable. But grief is unreasonable sometimes, isn’t it? 

So there I was, stewing over these photo albums, when I remembered a photo I recently came across. It’s a picture of my parents with some friends at the beach, probably taken in the early ’70s. They are maybe twenty-two, twenty-three years old, and they look ridiculous. (Dad, is that a perm? ) And I am just going to say it: my mom looks smoking hot. She is wearing ultra-short cut-off denim shorts and her hair is long and flow-y and (out of a bottle) blonde. She looks amazing.

This picture is the epitome of youth.

It dawned on me that these photos of me, these silly ridiculous photos of me goofing around with friends, wearing my chucks and flannels and dark lipstick—these photos hold value that I can’t see with my griefy-eyes.

These are photos of a mom, just not the mom I was looking for last night.

Someday my own daughter will certainly laugh, and possibly even treasure, these albums.* And yes, I will too, when I am not looking past them in search of something else.

Sometimes you just need to take the long view of things.

*Except for those cat photos. Not sure anyone will ever treasure all those cat photos. 

If you can relate to the struggle of never having enough photos of you and your late parent, I’d love to hear your experience too.

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Changing the Script

Nobody is looking at my upper arms. Nobody is tracking their girth or tone.

And yet lately I find myself at times scowling at them, sighing and fretting about the state of my triceps. 

I am typically at peace with my body. I do my best to practice self-love and compassion when it comes to my body image. After my daughter was born, I wasn’t very phased by the extra weight I still carried. I was grateful for the extra fat my body had to fuel nonstop nursing and to help my child gain the weight she needed as a preemie. Then, I lost my mom later that year and I gained more weight, and for the most part I was ok with that too. Oh, Paula Deen grief pies, I loved you so. Worth every calorie.

All this to say that I generally do not fret about weight.  Except right now. 

My recent miscarriage resulted in more weight gain than I would have expected. In retrospect, I began grieving immediately after the baby’s heartbeat stopped, which was nearly two weeks before I found out that I had miscarried. I ate all the chocolate. All the potato chips. Kummerspeck, if you will.

Well, some of the kummerspeck came off quickly, and the rest, well…it is slow-going.

The other day my sister pointed out that I have been talking about this weight A LOT. She is both a great listener and perceptive. My first response was, what on earth are you talking about?! And then I was like, oh wow, she is right, because now that she mentions it, I can see that not only am I talking about it a lot, I am THINKING about it a lot.

Why is my body image on my mind so much?

Because the excess weight reminds me of the loss. Because removing the excess weight will set a reset button, and magically make it OK if I get pregnant again, protect me from loss…Yes, I think that is basically the magical thinking. 

I need to change the script. 305690403_052ff73cfc_o

Last night I did the seven minute workout. I love this thing. Seven minutes! I feel great after I do it. The heart gets pumping fast and I love that I no longer have to nearly lay my entire body on the ground as I attempt to do push-ups.

I had an a-ha moment where I realized that I feel stronger and have better stamina even compared to several weeks ago. I feel GOOD. I have more energy.

I want these to be the things I think about my body. Which got me thinking about what else can be part of this new mental script. Here are a few to start with:

  • working out makes me feel good, and I love feeling strong. My body is capable of powerful things.
  • When I feel triggered by this extra weight, I want my message to myself to be: this weight is a reminder of the life I was able to carry, however briefly, and I am grateful that I could be a mama to this baby who could not join this physical world.
  • This weight might remind me of the sadness too, and that is ok. I mourn the baby who could not come into this world. This weight makes me sad, because instead of joy at being pregnant, it reminds of sorrow for a baby who is no longer with us. 
  • When I see my large thighs and butt, I want to think, wow, my body was prepared to birth a baby, to carry extra fat to feed this baby. This is both beautiful and sad—beautiful because of the amazing things my body is able to do, and sad because my body was not able to do it for this child. 

 

I like this new script. I rings true, and I hope that it helps me to be gentle with myself. To give myself a mental hug when I need it, and to also celebrate my strength.

Have you had a script you had to change after miscarriage? I would love hear what worked for you. Blessings! -Sarah

Feeding the Feminine

It might be that I simply dreamed about an almost-dead cat. But I’d like to think it was something more: A sign that I am starting to feed the feminine, magical side of my psyche.

Two nights ago I had a dream that I came home to discover a long-forgotten cat. I found her lying on the floor and I was aghast. Yes, that’s right, I did have a cat didn’t I. I had left for a while but I was back, and I was scared she was dead.

She slowly stirred. She’d survived without food or water for some time. She was barely holding on—but she was alive.

I began to pour food kibbles onto her, literally blanketing her with food (definitely more than she needed). Slowly she began to eat. I knew she would be OK.

Whoa, right?! 

Sure, it could be I had too many nachos the night before. (Actually, I definitely had too many nachos.)

OR it could be that my psyche is telling me something.

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Bastet. Image Source.

Google informs me that the feline has long been revered as a symbol of the feminine, of mystery and magic. The Egyptian Goddess Bastet took the form of a cat. Cats often symbolize the ability to see in the dark, and the parts of our nature that are curious and independent.

This would not be the first time I’d had a deeply symbolic dream. And heck, I’d been deep in the muck the last six months, but I’d begun to emerge from it all and writing has been a big part of that shift.

Could it be that this dream was reminding me how I’d nearly forgotten to feed the feminine, magical mystical side of myself? That it was without food or water for some time?

But wow, am I feeding her now. 

 

 

In praise of the ordinary

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Image source.

The three-year-old who wants a ganilla (granola) bar, and as she eats it, occasionally walks over to silently spit the almonds into my hand.

The now-cold coffee, abandoned after chasing around the three-year-old who is spraying water into the air with glee.

The mail, the coupons, the unread newspaper. The unwashed clothes. The dogs whose nails need to be trimmed. The sweet crowing of a bird out back.

These moments that are so ordinary. You can almost miss them. Sometimes I am bored in them, sometimes I want to hurry them.

Today, I am choosing to sit with my cold coffee and smile.

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Bird Songs

This was a morning I did not want to get out of bed. Not even to write. Not even to stick my nose in the can of Cafe Bustelo! (That is highly, highly unusual.)

I eventually got out of bed. I had to—the little girl needed to get dressed and fed and cajoled into getting her mop of curls combed.

I have reason for not wanting to face the day. My sister has a hard day ahead with a medical procedure. A lot of unknowns. Unknowns are the worst, the worst! I’m anxious and worried and fretting and pretty pissed off that there is nothing I can do to make it all go away.  As much as I wanted to remained curled in a ball, hiding under the blankets, I faced the day. I got up, dressed and readied the child for daycare, made the coffee, and sat down to say a prayer for my sister.

I felt a little better.

Then I sat down and did a bit of work. (I work from home. The commute is from the coffee pot to the office desk.) Well, I realized I could not continue on with this hard day without writing for at least a bit. So, off the clock I am, writing.  My heart is in ‘Cago (what my kiddo calls “chicago. She’s cute, huh?)

 

morning in South Florida

So here I am. As soon as I sat in front of my computer a bird began a beautiful song. It lured me onto the back lanai, and I hoped I could get a look at creature. Well, it stopped.  Bashful, I guess.

I don’t know what bird sings this song. My bird identification app was no help. (Yes I have a bird identification app. No I am not secretly an aged retiree living in Florida.)

None of my usual feathered friends have a song quite like this one. It was really quite lovely. It lifted my heart and for that I am glad. It made me step outside and breathe in the fresh, damp Florida air. My sliding door to the outside is now ajar, and the noises of animals and creatures puttering about is filling my space.

I will face the day, outside of the bed. Heart in ‘Cago. Keeping an eye and ear out for that bird.

UPDATE: everything went really well for my sister. Phew. Very much relieved. 

Sleep. Writing. Time alone. What’s on your list?

Last night I found this list tucked away in my journal:

  • Sleep.
  • writing.
  • time alone.

It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. Then I remembered it was from a journaling workshop I participated in before Christmas.

The question that was asked on the call was:

What is essential to your self-care?

Ah, yes. The universe is wise. I wrote that list two months ago not knowing I would need to see it again yesterday. And there it was, tucked away in my journal. An unwrapped fortune written for my future-self, by my past-self.

I needed this self-care reminder today because the last several weeks have been hard. I’ll spare the details right now, but anyone who runs a household that includes a small child plus two parents who work full-time will understand how easily routines can be thrown into disarray by illness and other unexpected events. Why, even my last blog post was about this exact issue.

Which brings me back to the list of essentials.

What is essential to your self-care?

I don’t easily abandon my writing time, and I certainly had good reason for doing it the last few weeks. (Namely, the first item on the list: SLEEP). But as days dragged on to weeks, it became clear to me that sleep alone is not enough for my self-care.

Why is that the case? Writing is not a mere joy (though it often is) but more like the anchor that keeps me grounded.  I’ll defer to Flannery O’Connor who said it best:

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

Yes Flannery, exactly! Without my time for writing I don’t have a full grasp on all the thoughts rattling around in my head. I get twitchy. Off balance.

This morning, I woke up before everyone else and I sat down and wrote. It felt so good. And, it doesn’t hurt that writing time is also time alone with myself, the third item on my list.

Just call it the introvert’s guide to self-care: sleep, writing, and time alone.

(I’m a blast at parties! No, really—as long as they are small intimate affairs where I don’t have to talk to strangers.)

What’s on your self-care essential list, friends and fellow bloggers? Something tells me your list might include writing-time, too.