Thursday, October 27, 2016


I think there is something wrong with my bike.

No, I promise it’s fine.

That was our only exchange about my bike, between my aunt and me, as we traveled up a mountain, on Mercer Island, Washington. She lives there. She always bikes and swims. She had the bikes checked. 

I peddled hard. My thoughts were racing...why am I so out of shape if I am a dancer? Why am I out of shape if I go to the Sports’ Mall every single day? Why am I out of shape if my job is chasing children around or teaching them dance, an active sport? Was it that McDonalds’ cheeseburger last week? Was it because I didn’t eat breakfast today? Why is it so hard to peddle this bike up this hill?

The next day, my uncle, after listening to my story of aching legs at breakfast, checked the bike I peddled up the mountain. He came back into his dining room, where we all sat, and said, with an incredibly perplexed look on his face, Sarah, both of the tires on that bike are flat. You rode seven miles, up a mountain, with flat tires.
Yes. I did wheel up the mountain with two flat tires. And, yes, I had no idea the tires were flat. If there was ever any doubt my blonde hair is one hundred percent real, you now know the truth. I rode the whole way, thinking I was out of shape, thinking I ate one too many cheeseburgers. But, I was wrong. Dead wrong.

I hesitate to tell you the story I will tell next -  because I don’t want anyone to think life is filled with only bad stuff. But, then, I think it isn’t only filled with bad stuff, it’s filled with all of it...the good stuff, the mediocre stuff, and the bad stuff. But, I also know, no one wants to hear about the bad stuff. So I keep all the bad stuff and lock it in the safe that lives by my heart and soul and save it for later. Save it for when someone needs or wants to hear it. Like one of my dearest soul friends, Shan, says, “Sarah, you talk a lot in analogies, and I get that, so thank you,”. 

But what Shan doesn’t know is, she taught me, years ago, exactly the way I learn, when she first uttered that sentence about analogies. Yes, I do learn a lot from analogies or stories of comparison. Yes, I do. Even if those analogies come from my very, own life.

I read a book by, Barbara Brown Taylor. And, then I watched her on Super Soul Sunday and I knew I loved her. She shared she keeps ‘the Sabbath’, Sunday. I decided to do the same. Sunday is my very, special holy day. I keep it for me and I keep it private. 

A few weeks ago, my mom called. She offered to drive over to my house and pick up Belle and take her for a walk. I replied to her that I was about to head out the door and I was happy to drop Belle off at her home. 

I dropped Belle of at my parents’ house. I turned off my car and attached Belle’s leash and handed her off to my mom.

And, then, I tried to start my car again. The car would not start. I waited, impatiently, starting my car over and over again. I cried to my mom. I asked, out loud, why I couldn’t just have one Sunday without problems, just one day. And, then, I tried to start the car again, and it started, and with my dad following me home. I made it safely, home, in my garage.

Two days later, after my dad drove me to the repair shop after a funeral, he called to tell me, “Sarah, someone took my car today. I can’t get into my house, can you call Mom, please?”. 

I called my mom and then, five minutes later, I broke into a moment of hysteria, only akin to Hollywood movies. I remembered my ‘car wheelchair’ was in the back of his Four Runner - a Four Runner that someone just decided to steal out of a parking lot. 

I broke, for so many reasons. I worked seventeen years to try to prepare for the inevitable. I fought for a second wheelchair, because after having your wheelchair resposesed, because your insurance didn’t pay, you realize the importance of a back up. I broke because I actually thought I could control what I thought I could control.

Here’s the big truth. The big moral of the story. You can’t control anything. The only thing you are ever offered is grace. 

Today, I drove to the river, in my repaired and fully functioning car, to walk Belle at the river. And, half way through our walk, I realized, my bearing on my wheelchair was awful. My wheeling at the river was more like pushing 1200lbs up a hill. I broke, again. This time for real. Like, I didn't think I could push anymore, at all. Not at all. Not one more time. And I let the break happen. I was so tired and it was so hard to push and I just had to surrender to the break. The wheelchair and me. And then the grace came. 

As I wheeled, on a flat surface, thinking I was out of shape, knowing I only eat avocados and tomatoes and cilantro and whole grain bread, I thought, for the first time, I may not just be sick, I may not just be out of shape, this wheelchair might actually be broken again, even after I had it fixed four weeks ago, it just might be broken.

I continued on, pretending to allow Belle to sniff, while I took moments to breathe and shake out my arms. And then I, finally, realized my wheelchair might just be broken.

I work and worked seventeen years to prevent silly problems like wheelchairs breaking and medical supply issues from happening. But, guess what, everything will happen. Prevention or not. There actually was a mistake in a medical supply shipment today. A very important shipment. And my ONE wheelchair doesn’t work. And I chose not to believe said wheelchair did not work, until mile three.

Guess what else, though? That’s when I felt the grace. Not because a huge gust of wind propelled me forward into my heated and waiting car with a cowboy, star of Hamilton the musical, George Clooney type, who was waiting in the driver’s seat and said come on in.

No, because, when my arms just COULD NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE and I stopped to smile at a runner, who lapped me twice, and I was trying to keep it all together and, instead, I broke down, right down there, at the the middle of the perfect Instagram pictures -  of the rowers on the river - with the caption that conveyed, something like, you know it’s all fall when you see a crew team on the river...I started, right in front of the hydrangeas and the crew team, sobbing and hyperventelating and asking...why, why, why, why, what did I ever, ever do to you? What did I ever do wrong? I know I fail. I know my mouth is awful, but what did I do to deserve this? Please just tell me. I will fix it. I just want to know why all of this bad stuff just keeps happening even when I beg and pray and try to think thoughts and act and act and again to prevent the bad stuff. Just why?

I heard an answer. Not the one that comes with some prize or gold medal or whatever. But, an answer. And here it is, from whomever or whatever you believe it came. It’s what I heard, it’s what I felt. The answer is...

This is what is called grace. This is the knowing. The knowing the odds are stacked against you. You are stuck. You are paralyzed. And, then, you move, ANYWAY. YOU MOVE ANYWAY. You move with the odds, you with with the sticky and the stuck. YOU MOVE ANYWAY. AGAINST THE ODDS.

That’s grace.

Grace isn’t shiny and sparkly and noteworthy.

Grace is coming home and building your own fire, after your dad - who had his car ripped from him - with your wheelchair in the back, taught you how to build your very own fire. Grace is sitting it front of said fire, that I made all on my own and feeling like you belong. Because this wasn’t supposed to happen. You weren’t supposed to be okay after all of this happened. That’s not how the story normally ends. But, then, grace happens. And Grace teaches you that you are okay. You made it today and yesterday, and you will make it today. And still come home. And still build your fire. 

Grace is knowing you will be okay no matter what happens. Your plans will not work out, even if you read a book about how to make plans work. Even if you earn a degree in anything. Even if you have your dream job. Your plans will not work out. And that's not because I am all pessimistic and all scary. I tell you this because you will need to know, even when the bottom falls out, even when you can't move, even when you feel you are paralyzed or maybe you really are, you need to know, YOU will be okay. YOU will be okay. YOU will rise, YOU will fall, but through it all you will be okay. Yes, you will. 

That’s grace.

Grace is not winning. Grace is not fancy. She is inevitable. Grace is the survival after the uphill climb, during the uphill climb, at the beginning of the uphill climb - especially the climb with the flat tires. She is always there, asking you trust her, asking you to believe you are okay...even when everything else in the world tells you not to trust yourself, much less Grace...Grace waits and is there for you, granting her wisdom, once again, repeating, you are okay. You are okay. I am okay. We are okay. That’s it. That’s grace. 

You are okay...all of it and all, winning or not, you are okay. Broken or whole. Sinner or Saint. You are okay. Grace is yours and mine and all of ours. Yup. No exceptions. Ever. Even me. 

I built this fire. All on my own. And I noticed the banner above, that reads, GIVE THANKS. Yes, give thanks. Even when thanks is super hard. Because all will be well. You will be okay. Give thanks. WE ARE OKAY. WE ARE OKAY. 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

I am not strong. I am worthy.

I hate when anyone tells me I am strong.

Dear anyone who has every felt less than or unworthy or inconsequential or objectified,


Everything you think, everything you hear, it's not you.

No one will ever know the fight you have inside of you. No one will every know how many times you recovered after your many, many, many falls.

No one will ever know.

You just have to keep moving forward in the very best way you can, the very best way you are able.

You just have to tap into those parts of yourself you, suddenly and protectively, wanted to forget, those parts that showed up when you had your first big fall.  Those parts of yourself that everyone calls, 'strong and brave and tough,'. Those parts of yourself you wish you didn't have to know. Those parts of yourself that make you human and want to do things...despite all the pulls to stay in bed, despite all the hurt. Through the pain, you just have to tap into the parts that make you want to get up the next day, despite the crap. Those parts. I don't know their name, but they are certainly not called strong...maybe reluctantly strong or painfully beautiful or heroine when all else is lost? I don't know. 

Because, let's be real, none of us ever really wanted to be strong. We all wanted to be happy and easy breezy and peaceful. We all wanted it to be okay. We all wanted to achieve and succeed. THIS I know we have in common. But, then life showed up and other people and circumstances showed up and some of us were casualties. And we were lost because we watched as everyone else achieved and succeeded and went on vacation and fell in love. And we felt lost because we knew we didn't matter and we knew we were forgotten because we were STRONG and just had to deal with things. The luxury of success and achievement were not ours. We are strong.

You are not stronger than anyone else. You do not need to live up to, yet another, expectation. YOU ARE WORTHY BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU. Weak or strong or sensitive or brave or courageous or chic or cool or perfect or well or abled or disabled or white or black or whatever or Christian or Jewish or bi-polar or menopausal or prisoner of war or leader of a country or anything at all. 

You are worthy, just as you are. No matter what anyone ever says, ever. The fact that you woke up today and faced life...knowing you had to show up and pretend you are, STRONG...well you are worthy.

YOU are. No matter what anyone will ever tell you. You are worthy. You are worthy. You are worthy. 

And now you know what I do when I feel defeated. When I feel all hope is lost.

I try for, just a minute, to believe I am worthy. I try to believe every, single one of us is worthy. Oh, so very worthy. Especially the girls. Oh the girls. Oh the girls. And then I watch, Steel Magnolias and I pretend I am Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis and Sally Field and Julia Roberts and we are gathered in a hair salon and I feel better. And, maybe, some bleeding armadillo cake will change some minds, just maybe,

We may not be strong, but we are more. We are worthy. Worthy Magnolias.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

No title because I have no idea.

Each day, I want to write to you and share with you. I want to tell you what happened, why I was absent from this space. I, desperately, want to explain the lessons I learned and personal discoveries I made. But, I couldn’t and can’t. Not because I don’t trust you, but because I don’t know how to put any of these experiences into words. I don’t know how to tell you what flirting with death feels like. Because when that date with death actually happens, I am not thinking, remember this, record this, you will remember this one day

I stood under the Sistine Chapel and can tell you, in detail, about the moment I looked up, and noticed the ceiling and felt my breath leave my body. I remember the first time I witnessed the birth of a baby and the magic that fills the room...especially right after she is here. This time though, without magnificent ceilings and magical babies, I only thought about survival and the unknown. I only thought, please dear Lord, do not make this whole death thing painful. If this is your will, then so be it, but please make it easy. My thoughts weren't beautiful like the ceiling and they weren't magical and filled with love like those few moments after a baby arrives. They were confusing and unknown.

One Friday, this past June, I planted and potted, all afternoon, on my deck. This kind of day is not unusual, I have done this for days and weeks, since the first week of May. I remained determined to create my simple, container version of a garden. A true and tangible realization of a dream. A real, flowering garden watered by my heart and soul. My philosophy has always been and forever shall be, do what you can when you can. So, I designed a container garden in March. 

I researched deer resistant flowers and plants, and watched more YouTube how-to videos-- how to plant Dahlia tubers-- than you can imagine. I planted the tubers when they arrived and I made an obnoxious number of trips to the local nursery. I killed and over-watered and didn’t realize the importance of soil and sun and drainage. I chose difficult to grow plants and easy to grow plants, and I learned from each of them. But, then, this Friday, in June, I had to leave my garden for a few hours to go in for a quick and routine test. An MRI. Moments after the test, as I was quickly transferring mounds of laundry from the washing machine to the dryer,I received a call. The caller told me I was septic and must go to the emergency room as soon as possible.

I yelled and screamed. I tried to convince everyone these results weren’t possible. I was, after all, moving forward. I was working on a dream. I was paying my bills and showing up and doing all the things we think we need to do to live well. And then, boom. All was not well. I panicked. I refused to go the hospital. I insisted I could not do this again. I could not be sick. I would not take IV medications. ‘I am not doing this again’ is all I could say, over and over again.

And then I went into my bathroom, my very safest place. And I called my friend. The friend I call when I can’t do it anymore, the friend I call when I don’t believe in anything anymore...especially me.

I said, “ I have to go to the hospital because I am septic and I don’t want to.”

He said, “ Well, you understand this feeling more than most people.”

I said, “ I know, and I don’t want to go. I just don’t think I can. Just please tell me I can do it. Just say I can and I will. Just say it will all be okay. ”

He said, “ Sarah, you are far more resilient that you give yourself credit." 

And then I cried and asked him what the damn meaning was of the Book of Job, in the Bible. I cried and sobbed and asked. And he answered.

He said, “Well, I think there is some comfort that lies in the unknown.”

And I didn’t get it. At all. I thought the letting go and the unknown were full of fear, not hope and love. 

And then I suffered through these months of the unknown and only came out with more peace and comfort than before. And tonight as the rain poured, so did my a baptism, and I thought of my friend. And I messaged him. And this is what I wrote. 

And then I sent pictures of the silly little deck garden I stared in March.

We do not know anything for sure. Our only power lies in hope and love and faith...all things  unknown. We can force anything we want, we can ask for anything we want, but when we let go, when we let go of the requests and the have to's and should's and would's...our true self takes over. Our will to live outweighs our fear of the unknown. We take the risk, the leap of faith, that all will be well, even if we are not in control.   

I am having a hard time this time around, because I know so many things for sure and I don’t feel qualified to share these things. Because I am just human and make so many mistakes and lost my faith and fail at love and I hurt people. However, in the moments in the bathroom when I continued to repeat, Your will, not mine. Your will, not mine. I only thought of the mark I will leave when I am gone. Nothing about success or rules or time or right and wrong. Only thoughts of how I made people feel. And some thoughts had to be handed over to the unknown. And some thoughts were certain. I didn’t know the mark I would leave. I just hoped and prayed and loved. Because it was all I could do, in the end. It’s all any of us can do, ever. Just love. Just hope. And just pray in anyway you can.

The unknown sounds so scary and dark, like the night. And then the stars start to twinkle and shine and you know you are safe to let go and just admire...the unknown. Forever and always. 

I will be back. I will share more. I think of you, daily. 

Thank you for showing up during the certain and the unknown. You are loved. Each of you has left your mark. You helped a stranger. You are loved. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Tulips Will Grow

Ordinary. That’s how I describe my day, today. Just, plain, old ordinary. I woke ten minutes before my alarm and heard the coffee maker timer ding. I smelled the coffee, then peeled my body from the bed, and headed out to snuggle Belle for a minute. So, very ordinary. I let her outside, made a cup of coffee, and poured a huge glass of water. I let Belle inside. I sat in silence and read and meditated. Just so ordinary.

My day continued to be simple. I worked at my desk, which is a luxury some days. I planned an herb garden, window boxes, and potted porch plants. I washed and folded several loads of laundry, I ran errands. Belle and I walked miles at the river and because it was so stunning outside, we just couldn’t stop. I ended the day, with the sun peering through my white, wood blinds, as I sat at my table, and ate a salmon and cucumber relish salad. Belle slept at my feet and I turned on music and just ate alone and felt so ordinary and so excruciatingly happy and peaceful and full of hope.

Hope rises. For as long as I can remember, my only hope or dream for my life, is a simple life. A house filled with love, healthy food, soft-landings in every room, and peace. I hope for a garden and hot summer days on the porch with iced tea and good friends. I hope for over-flowing window boxes and a yard covered in crunchy, orange and red and yellow leaves. I hope for twinkly lights and wreaths and snowmen. I hope for tulips and thunderstorms. I stopped hoping for the big stuff a long time ago because those moments are fleeting. Yes, the big moments are magical and unforgettable, but they pass. The small moments, the little hopes, they happen constantly. Every day, every week, every season, every year. The faith that the tulip bulbs will flower come Spring is simple and eternally hopeful. The tulips will grow and I will notice on an ordinary day.

Hope rises and, some days, we actually get to live in the middle of that hope. We notice seeds, turned flowers, and we eat our dinner, quietly, as the sun peers through the white, wood blinds and our hearts overflow with gratitude for this life. This simple life, that if only for today, is so beautifully ordinary. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I Cried

Hail falls in April. In Cincinnati, Ohio. My dog refuses to come inside. I do not make her. Instead, I open the front door. I watch her sit and sniff and turn her puffy head, with the long ears, from side to side. I watch as she watches the wonders of life in the way only she can. 

Just about twenty four hours ago, I took her to the vet for vaccinations and regular blood tests, followed by a long walk along the river. After we returned home, Belle did not wake, except for the few moments she lay by my side, as I ate falafel and pea shoots. I turned off the lights and fell asleep, too. 

At sunrise, I wheeled out to her favorite spot, my old green chair, and she wasn’t there. Instead, she was on the floor, near the old green chair. As if, she tried to jump onto the chair and didn’t make it. I cried. And, then, I petted her. She rolled on her back, all four of her legs in the air. I scratched her belly. I coaxed her upright on all fours and outside to the grass. Belle did her business, came inside, asked me to help her on her green chair, and fell asleep.

I worried. I worried all day. I worried she is old and these vaccinations did something to her she just couldn’t handle. I googled about vaccinations and lethargy. Don’t google about medical issues is a lesson I learn often. I did it anyway. And then I had to get my haircut and had to leave. So I left. I left, worried.

And when I returned, she barked. She ran for her Green Man, the favorite toy, and brought him to me. She ran to the treat cabinet and started scratching and begging. She wanted to go outside. I let her. She wanted back in, I let her. She wanted a treat, I gave it her. And then Fed Ex dropped off something. And she barked like Kujo. I cried.

I cried for the silence and cried even harder for the bark. I thought I wanted this little, cute dog who looks like a bear cub who never sheds and never barks, but I got this little dog, who went through stuff I don’t even know, who protects me, with all the hair and twelve pounds she has, from mailpeople and Fed Ex people, and friends, and who knows what else. She barks. And, somedays, I wish she would stop.

Today, though, I want her to bark forever and sit outside in the hail. I love her barking and craziness more than ever today. I will sit here and watch her and wait for her to scratch to come back inside because I love her. Barking and all.

And this is how we love. We love the barking, the hail, and the fluffy, cuddly snuggles...while we can.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Don't Discount the Parenthesis

“We are travelers on a cosmic journey,stardust,swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” 
― Paulo CoelhoThe Alchemist

So, as you know, I set my alarm for five o’clock in the morning again.  I do this alarm setting ritual when I feel out of control and lost and out of sorts and in control and in the groove and doing well. Basically, five o’clock in the morning means I am aware.

As the clock turned to five, the rain started to pour out of the clouds. I sat, waiting for my coffee, and I listened. I listened to my skylight, that I used to hate. I listened to the steady and consistent downpour that a skylight offers. I listened and felt. I listened and felt memories of steady and consistent rains. Rain that is loud enough to soothe, like the best of all sound machines, and gentle enough to build a cocoon of temporary safety around everyone who chooses to witness her momentary dance. 

And I thought. I thought of the tin roof that covers the cabin at my camp where I was a camper. I heard the raindrops hit that tin roof and melted into the white noise the constant pouring provides. I remembered I must shout to be heard. I must shout, as I wore my green parka with the hood, and run from cabin to cabin. I must shout because I was part of the oldest cabin and we run, because we check on the youngest cabins. 

I went to a girls’ summer camp, much like the summer camp the movie, Parent Trap. We checked on the each other and played a mean game of SPIT while the rain pounded the tin roof of the cabin and snuck out in the middle of the night to play pranks. We swam miles, only to earn the honor of seeing our names engraved on a board in the Dining Hall. And we lived for Hanging Breakfast. Hanging Breakfast, is basically packaged food hanging from trees in the woods that must be found at dawn in pajamas. I thought this Hanging Breakfast was so fun when I was twelve and at camp and in the dream world of camp.

And then so many years later, I moved into this house. A house with a skylight, that I don’t care for, and I insisted should be filled in and exonerated. Until I heard the first rain. The rain, pounding down on this skylight I think I hate, reminds me of camp and the tin roof and my friends and the cinnamon rolls hanging from trees. And this sound, it is magical. This sound transports me to a moment in time when the world was okay and I met friends because we tossed notes from bunk to bunk at nap time and because we shared a tent on that long and grueling Appalachian Trail Hike. This sound transports me to the night we returned from the hike, covered in bites and with swollen limbs because we accidentally trampled through a nest of yellow jackets. We were so very, very happy for a dinner of beanie weenies. So very happy. Like, it’s a tradition happy and we just did hiked and camped with giant, swollen hands and necks and all happy. This sound transports me to that night. That moment.

The sound of rain can bring me back to a moment I knew I was alive. Which is my new goal, to look for these moments, these I knew I was alive moments. The sound of rain brings me to a place of peace. I play cards and talk about nothing when it rains. I run from cabin to cabin, in my hooded rain gear, to check on the younger kids. I am at camp. Camp is a world where we all get along and we all care and we all listen to the rain and feel the dirt under our boots. Camp in a place where we hear the rain and we listen and we watch. Camp is a place where we live in the parenthesis.

I do not take rain lightly anymore. Rain taught me that the parenthesis of life teach us about the sentences of life. I loved camp. I loved rainy days at camp.  I loved the cards and the unscripted camp moments when we went off schedule and embraced mother nature and what she has to offer.

Yes, she had rain. Mother Nature, that tricky gal, with her downpour, she also throws in a bit of magic. She throws in togetherness and sameness and love. And a really good game of SPIT with some girls you met, on a bunk, in a cabin, at camp.

You will know these girls a lifetime even though they only existed in the parenthesis. Parenthesis moments will return return and my camp days taught me to notice them. Don’t discount the parenthesis. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Fade to Black

I don’t have a big almost death story. Because I don’t remember the death part. I only remember blacking out -  which I am not quite sure is a good thing or a bad thing. I feel like Tony Soprano when he alludes to the whole ‘fade to black’ end of life bit. But, then, he is Tony Soprano so I am not sure that’s the best idea to conjure when thinking of death and the after life. 

Earlier, I sat on my porch with a friend. And she asked me the question. The question I hate because I don’t have an answer. Not even a little bit of an answer. “What is it like to die, even if just for a few minutes?”. 

Lordy, I want to give a whole lights and magic and flying on birds and seeing my old pets and grandparents kind of answer. My answer though, “I have no idea, all I saw was black. I only knew when I was alive.”

I think of this often. I only knew when I was alive. I think of it often because I try, so very hard, to be alive each and every moment. I try to remember that day as the day I woke up, instead of that day, I almost died. And then, I think of this story. I remember it because I woke up to this story. This day. Riding on a scooter. In Italy.

The wind tore threw my hair and my tight, brown skinny pants clung to the legs that grasped the scooter between them. The heels of my shoes were huge and could barely fit the pedals. My hands wrapped around Marco’s stomach and I had the sense to think and remind my eighteen-year-old self to think and to pay attention. I remember, more than the salt water air and the warm, but cool night...I remember, I sat on the back of a scooter with my arms around the stomach of my Italian boyfriend, in Italy, on the water, after a day in Rome. After a day I looked up and saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and assumed it would be just meh, but, instead, I was rendered silent and my eyes looked up for hours and days and minutes as I just tried to absorb the awe and wonder.

And you know what? This scooter scene is what I remembered after my whole fade to black scene. I remembered life. I remembered living; I remembered reminding myself to live. I  woke up from my accident still riding on the back of that scooter in skinny pants and huge heels. I woke up and I was still living.

Very few people know this story because it embarrasses me. This isn't a story about the after life. That part was all dark to me. But, the waking up, oh I remember it.

I remember the night I brought home my puppy. I remember the night I went to my first baseball game after my accident and my friend carried me all the way down to the good seats. And he secured my wheelchair and carried me up and down anytime I needed or wanted anything. And he explained the entire game of baseball to me. And I listened because he was explaining it. I remember the day I picked up my car. Not because it was a new car, but because it meant freedom after so much entrapment. I remember the football games with Ashlea and Kyle and Justin and Brandon and Natalie and how I just felt twenty years old. Not a paralyzed twenty years old, just twenty years old. I remember laughing and the kids I used to babysit and studying for exams and writing papers well into the early mornings with these joyful girls and boy. I remember grilling lamb kabobs at dusk and late night walks with my dog that turned into early mornings because I ran into a friend and we just couldn’t stop talking. I remember flying to New York City to feel loved by the only older sister I’ve ever known and I remember the smell of the wreckage at ground zero after 9-11. I remember the night we got stuck in my driveway in heels and sparkly dresses because it was snowing and some cute guy at the party kept telling us, it wasn’t snowing as hard as it looked, it was just the lights. I remember long walks at the river and the huge hills and the coaching it took to master those hills. I remember laughing over homemade dinners and gushing over dinners out and downtown. I remember watching the rain steadily fall and listening to her calm, yet ominous presence and talking about hurt and pain and loss and love. 

I remember the living.

I don’t have an almost death or after-life story. I just have a life story. I woke up and remembered living. I woke up still remember the living. 

We worry so much about the after life. About how we will be remembered. About what people will say. And these things are important. What is more important, though, is how we live now. What is more important is what we pay attention to now. 

I do not have a grand story. I have a story filled with a lot of really fantastic moments and some really hard moments. And it's in all of the moments I finally woke up and started living. It wasn’t the promise of an after was the truth, that right here and now, amongst the weeds and the dirt there are some pretty amazing wild flowers and trees and sun and lots of life to be lived and a scooter to ride, in Italy, along the water.

End of scene.

Fade to light.

And this. In the middle of all of the pain and hurt, I smiled and tailgated. Last Friday, I stole Will and took him into Ashlea's office to read books and keep quiet. We found this old picture book. He opened this page and pointed us out. 'Mommy and you." I remember this moment when we were young and I remember looking at the picture of this moment in an office with this gal's baby. I remember life. I have a life story. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Super Woman

A few months ago, I told Ashlea I was worried about life. I told her I worried about my endurance to keep up with its stamina and, even though, I have dreams, I worried how I would add just one more ball to the never ending sphere of balls I juggle, well drop, on a daily basis. Ashlea looked right at me and said, “Oh come on Sar,  you are Super Woman. Why can’t you see that?”.

I just kind of looked at her and thought, “Oh, right.”

My dad dropped off some stuff from my grandma’s house that my aunt collected for me. I dug through the age-stained boxes and cursive writing labeled vinyl picture books and I found this photo. A photo of me dressed as Wonder Woman - knee high socks, buckle shoes, wig, and all. I guess I did think I was Super Woman or Wonder Woman or some woman like that at some point in my life. 

I guess we all thought we were something special at some point in our lives. I guess we all think someone else is pretty special. I guess we all have something special. I guess we are all special. 

Tragedies remind us of humanness and sameness. Tragedies remind us of love and last moments and randomness. The brother and sisterhood we see in each other on days like today, should be the sameness we see in our fellow people every day. We can use this reminder to close our hearts or to open our hearts. 

We can use this reminder to see the dreamer, and the super hero, and the lawyer, and the artist, and the teacher, and the doctor that lives in each of us.  Or we can use this tragedy to build another wall and stop seeing and stop believing and stop dreaming. We each get to decide. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

My Samara Story

This story will start off sad. I promise you, though, it is not a sad story. Rather, a story of one of the greatest lessons I learned in my life, so far. I say so far because, lately, every single day seems to be a new lesson. Just the other day, Ashlea and I joked that we were tired of learning so many lessons. And, then, I remembered, my Samara story. A story I wrote weeks ago. A lesson I learned and carry with me each day since our encounter. Samara changed me in a huge way. Samara showed up when I needed her most. Samara is only six years old.

Just so you know...whenever I go quiet and am absent from this space, it’s usually because I am having a really hard time. I don’t go quiet because I can’t write or function anymore. I go quiet because my goal is to lift you all up, as you have me. I go quiet because when life gets really, really hard, I become a mack truck of not so lift you all up emotions. I stay quiet because a wise friend once told me it is better to just stay quiet sometimes. 

The defintion of really, really hard, well, it changes daily.  A few years ago, I would be grateful for my recent definition of hard. Even, I, forget those long and dark days when survival was my only concern. Which, hopefully, gives the suffering some kind of hope - this too shall pass and the worst moments will be hard to remember and normal stuff will be hard again. 

So, life got all regular hard, and as I do, I shut down. After a few days of this state, I went to the well. I set the alarm again for the crack of dawn and meditated in the bathroom, long before the sun rises. I meditate in the bathroom in January and February because it is the warmest room in my house. I wrap a blanket around my shoulders, light a candle, turn off the lights, and try to forget about the toilet. The bathroom works for me right now and I go with it. Sometimes, I need to do what works and, sometimes, that just means quiet and alone time in my warm bathroom. This ritual brings clarity and peace. And, it is during this quiet time that I allow all of the soot to filter to the bottom and for all of good and sparkly to rise to the top. Sparkly stuff, like that early morning, when I thought about Samara. Like, the many early mornings, I thought about Samara.

Right in the middle of my shut down mode, I drove up to Ashlea’s house for a bitterly cold, January afternoon toddler, milk and cookies themed birthday party. Not much beats a cold and icy January day with toddlers and sugar and working in Ashlea’s kitchen. Her house is kind of like church. And this sentiment, the whole church thing, was never more true than this day. This random and cold January day.

I think I was drying a dish or putting a straw into a chocolate milk bottle, but around the corner I noticed a girl. A little, toe-headed girl with hot pink glasses who wore a tutu over her leggings. Her arms, outstretched, and her face, wearing the most concerned look. She walked closer and I heard her say, “Awe, awe, awe.”

I must admit, my first thought was she was scared of my wheelchair. I know Samara has a few sensory issues and I worked with kids with sensory issues and fear of my chair goes with the whole sensory thing, every once in a while. I wasn’t offended in the least, I just wanted to make sure to handle the situation correctly. As she approached, I stayed calm and assumed I was the adult in this situation. Oh how wrong I was. Samara was the adult. Samara was the voice to hear. She grabbed my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes, and bore the most empathetic and intuitive expression I have ever seen, and said, “Oh my, oh my, oh my.”

Samara fell into my arms and hugged me. Then, she asked me if she could sit in my lap. And then, she asked me every question in the history of questions about paralysis. I usually tell kids about this wire that connects from the brain down the back and this wire tells the body what to do and mine is broken and now my legs don’t get the messages and usually that’s enough. But, Samara, she wanted to know why my wire was broken. Why did ‘your wire have to break.’ I couldn’t answer her, only tell her that wires just break. She jumped off my lap and went back to twirling in her tutu with her friends.

A little while later, I heard some noises in the other room. I went in to check and noticed two toddler boys smashing trucks. I tried to explain the virtue and fun in just moving the trucks across the rug, without the crash scene, and they weren’t having it. They ended up proving me wrong. Smashing trucks is way more fun than just driving them in a single file line. Ashlea came in to the room to see what we were doing and to tell us it was time to open the gifts. She and I gathered the two truck smashing toddlers and started to head out of the room. And then, Samara came through the living room door. Again, her arms were out-stretched. Only this time, she walked right into me, threw her arms around my neck, and said, “I just love you so much. I love you. I just love you.”

Ashlea and I metled right then and there. Literally, melted. Ashlea fell forward and put her hand on the back of my head and I fell foward and hugged Samara. The three of us stayed just like this for quite a bit before we could catch our breath. Ashlea and I kept trying to explain our actions to each other, but then realized we were both just overwhelmed and brought to our knees by a child and her ability to offer such unconditional love.

You see, I can’t tell you Samara’s story because it isn’t fair. It is her story. When she is older in age, than she is now, she may tell you if she chooses. Notice, I didn’t say wiser, because her wisdom far outweighs adult wisdom. Regardless of her wisdom, her story is her story and six or twenty-six, I respect her and her story. I assure you, however, that Samara has reason to shut down. Samara has reason to give up. Samara has reason to be afraid of love and curiosity and genuineness. Samara could close her heart, but she keeps it open. And not only is her heart open, but she shares it with everyone she knows.

Not long after this moment, Samara asked about each of my broken bones. She wanted to feel my broken collar bone. She felt the broken bone and then hugged my neck one more time. She didn’t say a word this time. Just hugged me.

Samara sees and she feels. She knows when someone is broken and instead of judging her she tells her she loves her. She isn’t afraid of darkness. Samara grabs darkness by the neck and embraces it and continues to try to bring light to the darkness. When she left, she walked over to me, one more time, hugged me, and said, “Please remember I love you. I just really love you.”

This is it. When we are broken, when we see our fellow friends broken, we don’t say, “You are broken and need fixing.” No, instead, we say, “I see and feel your brokenness and I love you, I just really love you.”

Thank you, Samara. Thank you for bringing me back. 

Me, trying to get Samara's baby brother to eat quinoa and cranberry baby food. I think wisdom runs in the family. I believe he is thinking, "I will not eat that stuff from this crazy lady."