Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When Things Fall Apart

I am actually writing this is the morning, like I planned, like on my schedule, when I wanted to. I like to write in the morning because it is quiet and peaceful and begs for reflection and new beginnings. And, I am full of hope because I haven’t burned anything, yet, or broken anything, or rescued Belle, for the twelfth time, from that hydrangea bush she gets stuck in, every, single day. I like writing in the morning, there’s a lot of hope I might just get it right, today.

So, after I burned the tacos last Tuesday I fell into a rabbit hole of worry and doubt. I can live in fear, sometimes. I fear I’ll never get it right. I’ll never move forward, juggling and balancing all I have to juggle, especially, when I burn or break most of what I am trying to juggle. The eating healthy and the self-discipline will never work, things will continue to break. I start to believe, when the little things all fall apart it means the big things will, too. And, they will. And, all at the same time. And, it's all okay.

I haven’t written the past few days because when I get to this place, this place of inner chaos - a place where I judge my hope, my dreams, my failures, and my fears - I know it is time to get still. Other than posts that might read like, I did my chores, made some avocado toast, or drinking tea and turned off my ringer and the news, again, because I am sitting still, I couldn’t say much because silence and stillness are a practice and require breaks, from everything. Even when I don’t want to take the breaks. 

I used to think these stillness breaks meant there was something wrong me. I thought I was shutting down. I do shut down, but not because there is something wrong with me, but because I need a moment to know I will be okay. Stillness and silence allow me to hear my worries and my fear and my sadness and reassure them all...all will be well. I must reassure these parts of me that it’s okay to want to get it right. It’s okay that getting it right looks like a clean house and folded laundry and healthy food and a working body and meeting goals. It’s okay to want to act and speak and serve and love well and adhere to practices like mindfulness and meditation because I want to get things right, too. It’s okay to want to keep going and want to get it right, even, while I fail and break things, big and small. It’s okay to want to get it right, even when I don’t, most of the time. Stillness and turning off the noise and going to bed early and taking long, deep breaths reminds me that getting it right lives in all these things - joy and failure and sadness and hope and peace and chaos. Living through all of these things, not eliminating them or ignoring them, makes me better and more human. I can’t get it right, big or small. Clean the house or fold laundry or act, serve, love, and speak well, if I don’t do things for me when I need them most. I can not even attempt to give away what I do not have. Things will always fall apart - big and small - when I stop taking time to nurture and grow and trust the parts of me that heal and repair and begin, again.

If I calm down enough I clearly see, just like when things fall apart, little and big, things, also, go right - little and big. Last Monday, I was full of so much gratitude because I had a normal day, that ended with a fire, a bowl of truffle popcorn, and a cup of tea. Yesterday, little things fell apart and I didn’t fall down that rabbit hole. Instead, I did the dishes, wiped down the counter, shut off the noise, and made a bowl of truffle popcorn, a fire, and a cup of tea. I saw the popcorn and the tea sitting on the table and remembered how, a week before, I saw these things as a treat or reward for, mostly, getting it right. And, tonight, I see them as a reward for getting through things not going right and wanting to keep going anyway and still going to bed and still setting my alarm in the hopes that I get it right, tomorrow. Cause it is okay to want to be okay and get it right. It is okay to want these things, when things are going well or if they are not going well. It is okay to want to get it right.

I need to finish this cup of tea, pick up the house, and get on with the day. Oh, and wash and chop the cauliflower for tacos tonight. After all, it’s Taco Tuesday, again. And, yes, cauliflower tacos. I’ll let you know how this goes, even if I burn them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You Can Turn the World on with Your Smile

Take chances, make mistakes. That's how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.

-Mary Tyler Moore 

So, yesterday. I woke up, yesterday, willing to face the world. After all, I had a normal day. I was smug enough to think I had this whole life thing figured out.

And, then, I burned the quinoa. The quinoa, for the black bean and quional tacos, I found on Cookie and Kate. Yesterday, was Taco Tuesday, after all.

My very best days are when I can straighten up the house and get all the necessary things done for the day, have time for using my mind, and a little bit of time leftover for a walk, at the river, with Belle. After one normal and really good day, I, falsely, assumed the next day would follow suit. And, it did not.

Not because I am a victim or stuff just doesn’t work out for me. But, because, this is life. One day, we have it all figured out, and then the next day we are smacked over the head with the realization that we do not, in fact, have it all figured out.

I celebrate Taco Tuesday like it’s an actual thing. I try to think of a new taco recipe, every Tuesday. Even, just to keep me grounded. It’s silly, I know. Much like hanging twinkly lights when the outside world tells you, you aren’t just perfect enough.

So, I made the tacos. A quinoa and black bean taco recipe from Cookie and Katie. A recipe, I swear by, since I changed my food thoughts.

Food thoughts. That is it’s own post. Because, food is complicated for me. It heals me, yet it also scared me.

Anyway, I burned the damn quiona. I burned it after I tossed the diced onions and garlic around for a bit, until they were tender. I burned the quinoa because I didn’t trust a gas stove. I learned to cook on a gas stove. And, then, when I moved into space that weren’t exactly to my preference, I learned to cook on an electric stove. And, then, I bought my own house. And, I had a gas line installed and bought the best gas stove I could afford. And, I burned the quiona because I forgot the dance of the gas stove.

I salvaged enough to pretend I put together and celebrated Taco Tuesday and I was all twinkly lights for the evening.

But, the truth is, I burned most of the tacos. A mistake I knew how to handle. But, it happened anyway. And, I was mad. I even went into the bathroom, my wailing wall, and had some words with my tile.

And, I went to bed. Because I had nothing left.

I woke up today, ready to start over. And, it was hard. My sheets and down comforter begged me to stay put, in my bed. Luckily, my dog walker was on her way. And, Belle, is something I never ignore, despite how low I feel.

So, I pulled myself out of my bed of perfectly soft and warm sheets. And, I tried again.
I ate the, salvaged bits of the tacos for lunch and I took a picture for you. So you know what redemption looks like. To be clear, this is redemption, not perfectionism.

I know both.

This is the real me. The girl that burns the dinner and is devastated and cries into the early hours of the morning. But, I get up. I get up, again.

I want to live the hell out of this life. Even if I am a day late or burn my dinner.

I will get up. I will keep trying.

"You're gonna make it after all."

The End.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Normal Day

“Later on, when they had all said “Good-bye” and “Thank-you” to Christopher Robin, Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for a long time they were silent. 
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what's the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What's for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting to-day?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It's the same thing,” he said.” 

-A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Everyday I ask for a normal day. A day when my body basically works and I can do normal things like cook and eat. There was a long time when the normal things I love were not possible. I also spent a long time fighting for exciting adventures. And, after I fell really, really ill a few times, I begged for normal days. 

Today was a normal day full of routines and rituals that make me feel normal. Things like, iced coffee and sparkling water, and avocado toast and meditating, and folding laundry. I ran errands, started more laundry, and even had time to purchase a, very fancy and expensive, cup of hot water with a tea bag in it from Starbucks. I came home to a clean house, thanks to Angie, and still had time to start a fire because it is just cold and rainy enough. I popped popcorn, made a cheaper cup of tea, and caught up on reading and writing. 

Today was a very exciting and normal day. 

Only Love is Real

*Yesterday's lights from Instagram and Facebook post. 

Today's twinkly lights. I hit the ground running today...or so to speak. The very last of Christmas is packed away in hefty bins. I thought I gathered all of the decorations and then the timer on the last set of lights turned on, right on time. This made me so happy. And, then, I looked at what these lights illuminated. Only love is real. My very favorite quote from A Course in Miracles. Is this a coincidence? I don't know, especially after yesterday. So much hope for this quote and feeling and truth. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't agree with its sentiment. These twinkly lights just may stay right here, next to the love sign.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Cup of Tea

Sometimes, twinkly lights show up like a simple cup of tea and sweater leggings and fuzzy slippers and a fire, even though it's too hot. I drink tea because my one of my sisters is an Irish immigrant and my first real sister friend. Clodagh is a force to be reckoned with. She taught me to dance, far too long into the evening. And, then she taught me to eat bolognese sauce to get ready to dance again. Clodagh will laugh with you the most and will cry for you the most. Days after 9-11, we visited ground zero, together. I smelled so much burning and saw pieces of metal and buildings just laying next to us. And, Clodagh, put her arm around me, The American. Every time I screw up and call her sobbing, she says, in her Dublin accent, "Ahhh Sar, you are only human. If people can't love you and forgive you for who you are, well then, that's their issue, not yours,". And, tonight, she imparted her wisdom, once again. "This is my last stop. America is where I raise my children and where I will be buried. I love this country,". Clodagh does not give up on anything. She just keeps going and going and going. She does not give up. Not on anything, her birth country, her country where she raises her children, and her friend, she met years ago. Because I had to pick her up at the airport. She sent me fresh tea bags and a tea cup for Christmas. Because, she knows better than me. That, sometimes, our best moments are a cup of tea before sleep. A ritual before rest. So, we can get up again and dance the day and night away, again. So, we can dance, again.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

First day of Project Twinkly Lights and eleven super food salad. It was a good day.

So, the twinkly lights I hung, today, are an easy tale. When I was just a few weeks out...after paralysis. I say this, because the idea I walked one morning and couldn’t, the next, still isn’t lost on me. Say that out loud. I walked one morning and couldn’t, the next morning.  It’s not an easy thing to say or accept. Despite all of my critics. Anyway, I make a point to tell you this story because it has a lesson. And I just love a good lesson.

There was this woman I met because my mom decided to sign me up, against my will, and better seven-year-old judgment, for Irish Dance Lessons. One thing led to the next, as they do, and, along with a friend from school, I ended up practicing at the Pleasant Ridge Community Center as a part of the McGing Irish Dancers. I loved these practises, and these teachers, and this community...center. And, then, one day, this woman walked in, with her three ducklings. And, I knew I loved her.

Her name is, Eileen. And, for whatever reason, whatever gift from fate, she was the very person, who walked into my hospital room, after an accident, at just twenty-one years of life, that took my legs, my life, my entire identity, and somehow she made sense of it in three minutes. This woman, Eileen, whom I met because my mom insisted I take Irish Dancing lessons, said, “Oh thank God. Oh, your face is just fine. Not even a chipped tooth. You are still, Sarah. You will be fine. You will be just fine. You, are still, Sarah. But, honey, that haircut is awful. I need to get someone in this hospital to fix your hair.”.

And, in that very moment, that moment when this woman saw through the breathing tubes and the giant back brace enough to say, “You need a good haircut,”...I thought, okay. Okay. Everything will be okay.

Eileen scheduled that haircut and then she arranged a night out to her home, with her family. She picked me up, in her husband’s car, and it was the easiest transfer, since ‘transfer’ became a part of my vocabulary, that I accomplished. I bought the exact same car her husband owned and I have never looked back.

I arrived at her home, full of butterflies. Would her kids still accept me? Would they be scared of me? Would they know who I was?

Kevin and Ron and Eileen, very carefully, carried me up the single step they have when entering their home. And, after I entered, the three girls ran up to me, one pushing me, one playing with my hair, and one running along, asking a thousand questions. Not questions about my wheelchair, but how I was. Was I happy. Was I okay. And, if I was getting ready for the holidays.

We ate dinner and the rest is history. I have four mentors that are younger than me. Four teachers who taught me to be better and more alive. Four teachers who saw me. Yup, just me. No chair, no issues, just me. Four teachers who taught me to be better because they believed in me.
And, their parents’ did too. But, I know their parents, and they would rather I brag on their kids. Because, these parents, they are the real deal.

Eileen taught me the art of home. She taught me home is a sacred space we must nurture and grow. In so many ways.

I learned to cook because of Eileen and Ina Garten. And, the whole cooking thing, that’s several stories, for several different days.

But, last night, I wrote about inspiration. This moment of spirit. The way it has changed my life. And, today, I lived it, again.

My twinkly lights today, are for washed and prepared vegetables for the twelve-super food Kale salad Laura sent me to approve for ‘healthiness’, this summer, and hand delivered to me for a test run. 

I forgot the blueberries, because no matter how much growth I have, my hair will, always, always be naturally blond.

So, Eleven Super Food Salad is my dinner, tonight. Because, I am, still Sarah. I might forget the blueberries, but I will never forget the people who made me feel like it was okay to forget those blueberries and made me feel like it was easy to love, a person who was super damaged, but was, after all, still Sarah. Even when I thought she didn’t exist.

Thanks for your breath of life, Johnston Family. Each of you has saved me. Each of you has made me healthier. Just like this Kale salad, in your honor.

I do love you. Each of you.

The Beginnings of the 'eleven super food salad.'. If you want the real recipe, google Twelve Super Food Salad. http://www.averiecooks.com/2016/06/twelve-superfoods-salad.html  My tip. Don't for get the blueberries. Laura's tip, double the dressing. I agree with Laura and the blueberries. This salad gets better with time. Just as it should be. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Project Twinkly Lights

I tried to hit publish on this post about two hundred times. I tried to hit publish late at night, early in the morning, or just a random time in the afternoon. But, I failed. I failed to hit publish.

And, then, one of my very favorite people, sent a text, asking me, did you hit publish?

No. I did not. Yet. I did not hit publish, yet...

I live in this house because the building I love, in the area I love, sold to developers. I moved and bought a house, in a week, because of my parents. My parents, who have a whole history of their own, a whole lifetime before they knew me filled with scars and devastation of their own. Because of my parents, whom I didn’t always understand, but who always, always gave me a roof over my head. Always.

And, then there is Ashlea. When I couldn’t find anywhere to live, I remembered the neighborhood where Kyle and Ashlea purchased their first home. I moved into my home, in that same neighborhood, in a week. Ashlea, was my first friend to visit my new home. Later, she visited with her two kids, then three kids, and then when there were four, we visited, here, alone...for girls’ night. And, Christmas rolls around every year, and Ashlea, from the day I moved in, asks, Sar, can I please just hang a strand of twinkly lights...even if it’s just in your room. She will even stand in my bedroom, like Jeff Lewis, and all designer-ish spread her arms around my windows, and point out just where she will hang them.

And, I say, no, no. I am not doing any decorating until things are just the way I want them. 

And, a few years go by. And, I realize an accessible house is neither easy, nor is it cheap. No matter who is paying, a home that works for me isn’t easy or cheap. As the contractors come through, pointing out just how many times I crash into the small doorways, as evidenced by the black marks, or how they can tell I jump uneven tresholds because of nicks and crash marks, I realize, even in this chair, I do not understand just how much I adapt and accommodate. I live in a world that doesn’t work for me. I get by in a world not made for me. Things, just the way I want them, are a long, long way off.

And, that’s okay. It really, really is. 

Or, so I thought.

And, this this summer happened.

After enough time with Glenda, the Good Witch...aka Ashlea..., in early January of 2016, I decided, to finally hang the twinkly lights in my room, around the windows...in December of 2016. I would prepare the entire year to make things just right for the lights. Right around this same time, I heard an interview with Joanna Gaines. And, she mentioned she worked to make - where ever she lived - a home, doing whatever she could to make it a home. Well, I am very aware of my limitations. Not in a cynical way, just in a practical way. But, I am also very aware of my strengths. I know, even though I live in a fixer upper and would love to tear down the old wall paper myself, it just isn’t going to happen. But, I also know I can move furniture and organize and hire people to change light fixtures and learn how to do things I didn’t know I could do before. And, I can buy appliances that make my life easier. Like, front-loader washers and dryers. Because, after, seventeen years of Mary Lou Retton style laundry, it’s nice not to have to climb and bend and twist to wash my clothes. I knew my limitations and I did what I could do when I could do it. And life started to get a bit easier.

And, then I got all brave. My neighbor is this crazy urban gardener. She grows every vegetable - all on the side of her house. I quizzed her about her method and the work, insisting I just wanted to start with herbs and pretty flowers. She gifted me her nutrient rich and magic soil recipe, and I ran around to stores, purchasing everything on the list. I white washed my Terra-cotta pots. I hired someone to refinish my back deck and build custom cedar planter boxes - all along its railing. Because, damn-it, this was going to be the year I finally decided to hang the twinkly lights.

And, I worked in that little garden. And, out in my front yard. My nearest and dearest all contributed. Every, single one of them. Planting and mixing soil and carrying in plants and approving color schemes and putting up with my ideas. 

And, then, one day in late June, I went in for a routine MRI. I, actually, went in, still wearing my short Hunter boots, all covered in soil, because I was gardening and almost forgot about my MRI. 

I knew my health was declining. I was getting signs. All kinds of signs. I just actually thought...enough. This is not happening again. I am sick of stuff getting in the way of my life. 

Well, that’s not really how things work. Happiness doesn’t really come from the outside or what we want to happen. We get to believe this for a long, long time. We believe it is up to the outside world, our successes, our facebook status, or how we meet the check list of all-the-things-that-are-supposed-to-make-us-happy. 

And, slowly, over time, we learn we are not in charge. We are human and vulnerable and breakable.

I got a really bad phone call when I didn’t want to answer that call. I heard I was sick when I didn’t want to be sick...again. And, I had to go through it all, again. The IVs and the surgeries and the visits to the hospital.

But, I still watered my garden. I still ran to the garden center when the temperature cooled enough to plant the purple kale, just like Joanna Gaines. 

And, this Christmas, I hung the twinkly lights. In my bedroom, in the living room, in the bathroom, and in the kitchen. And, on the real, live Christmas tree my parents carried over and put up for me.

Look. I am the first one to tell you not to give up and the first one to tell you I understand why you want to give up. Right before this whole June thing happened, I received a private message from a friend, asking me how I continue to keep living, even when I don’t want to. I felt like a fraud. Because I couldn’t answer. Because I had no idea how.

And, I still have no idea how. I just do enough to get by.

I feel inspired by those around me and I try to do them justice.

I cook a recipe from a book each day.

I insist on organizing the insides of cabinets and the sweaters in my closet.

I plant a garden because my friend did.

I watch fashion shows on line and read fashion blogs, as if I wear anything but crew-neck sweaters.

I try out every skin treatment on the Today Show and pinterest.

I move furniture around and change hardware on the kitchen cabinets I can reach.

I build real wood fires and, bravely, I might add, clear the cold air with wadded up newspaper I have to light and hope to anything that is listening that it doesn’t fall back on me.

I drink tea, in front of the fire, with the twinkly lights on, and am grateful for the day.

Because that is all any of us has. Today. 

I don’t have a clue how to get through the hard stuff. But, I can tell you how to do enough to get by. I can hang the twinkly lights, even when everything isn’t perfect, and sit and enjoy them by the fire I built.

And, my house still isn’t perfect. For a lot of reasons. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t make it a home and choose to live, even when I am told I am dying. I can plant a garden and I can hang the damn twinkly lights around the windows in my bedroom.

I’ve been doing this all along. This living when I was dying. Just ask the nearest and dearest to me. Not because I want to prove myself to you. But, because I need to prove  I am okay to me.

I have a long life ahead of me. I want to hang those twinkly lights every singe day. Just as I always have. I want to remind me --- I do this. I want to remind me that I am okay. I want to show up for me.

The word inspire comes from spirit. To, breathe-in. So many people have inspired me. So many people have watered parts in me I didn’t know existed. I need to believe in me a little bit everyday. Even if I don't believe I am able to document those few moments - even if they are that cup of tea in front of the fire - that inspire me most, I need to do it for me. Because I am starting to believe my place is to be broken. I am starting to fear living. And, that's not okay.

I, finally, need to write that friend back and respond...I don’t know what I do or how. But, here are all the things I love about life and I do every, single day.

I just hope, like the people who inspire me most, we all continue to inspire each other to keep on living.

There are twinkly lights to hang. Even when it isn’t perfect.

Time to hit publish.