Take a break? What does that mean?

The last 4.5 months have been very busy, stressful and transformative. I have been looking for a new job, working full-time, trying to care for my kids and clean out my mother’s four bedroom home that is absolutely cram-jam filled to the gills with clothes, shoes, boots, jackets, coats, scarves, knick-knacks, glassware, photos, photo albums, journals, hand-bags, backpacks, suitcases, electronics, files, mail, dishes, cookware and smells that trigger vivid memories which trigger intense grief. Somewhere in there I have also made time for self-care in the form of a regular Bikram yoga practice and I process the loss and grief as it comes. I also managed to plan a funeral and write a eulogy. Throughout much of this time I have felt profoundly lost despite my commitment to gratitude and manifesting the life of my dreams. I haven’t slept well in months. I feel tightness I my chest and almost constantly overwhelmed. Where is the pressure release?

Part of my commitment to gratitude and manifesting relies on my asking the universe for guidance and remaining open to opportunities. Guidance and messages come to me through many forms. I pay attention to any synchronicity in my path – this could be a street sign, a license plate, a passage in a book or words coming from a friend’s mouth….or a yoga instructor….or a colleague. I am so grateful for these messages and synchronicities because they seem to come to me when I need them most – which is actually quite often.

One of the most important messages I’ve received in these last 4 months came from a dear friend of mine who is coincidentally on a parallel path of discovery and transformation. She actually recommended the book I am currently reading about manifestation, called “Manifesting Made Easy,” by the Queen of Manifestation herself, Jen Mazer.

This dear friend and I were out to happy hour one Tuesday evening. She and I don’t get to catch up often so when we do we typically spend several hours together filling each other in on every detail- outlining the good, bad and the ugly. We are those type of friends. No limits. No judgement. Brutal honesty and endless depth of vulnerability. Thank the universe for friends like this – those people who know you through all the shit and not only do they still have your back and genuinely love you, but their love and loyalty seems to grow through each phase of life’s journey. I was spilling my guts to my treasured friend, recounting the most recent of events dripping with emotion of fresh loss when she looked at me and said,

“Summer, why don’t you just take a break?”

“Excuse me, what?” I paused, perplexed.

“Why don’t you just take a break after your position ends and not look for a job right away? Give yourself a certain amount of time, like 3 months or 6 months or whatever, to just….be…..grieve…..finish up your mom’s estate…..do whatever you need to do.”

“Ummmm, huh? I don’t understand,” My brow furrowed with confusion and contemplation.

“Like a sabbatical,” she explained.

“A sabbatical?” I said with hesitation while nodding my head.

The more she spoke, the clearer the message became. She talked about how she had recently been able to take a sabbatical – how she had taken a “lump sum” of money instead of a dispersant over time. She said multiple times that she really, truly, in her heart believes that my mom would want this for me. She would want me to have this time with my kids and to not feel stressed.

It wasn’t as though a light went on over my head. It was more like the light was dimly lit – a low glow. I was still clouded with fear and couldn’t wrap my head around living off of my savings which is my mom’s retirement money- that I for some reason chose to take out as a “lump sum,” without much thought. But, I heard this message from my dear friend and I took note.

I slept better that night than I had in months. I felt lighter. I felt a weight off of my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe. I felt awake. I was more present at work than I had been in months. I was smiling again. I felt alive. That was when I knew this was a true message for me. The fear was also a good sign. Taking time off and not working is a little crazy. Living off of my nest egg don’t make no good sense. Yet, it is exactly what is right. I know this because I am listening to my heart and my gut. I am releasing the fear and choosing peace.

My job should be ending sometime in March/April. I plan to take 3-6 months off. During this time I will take a couple of trips related to my mom. I will scatter some of her ashes as part of a road trip. I will celebrate her life with my extended family who couldn’t attend her funeral. And I will sleep. And I will grieve. And I will be with my children. And I will practice yoga. And I will allow myself the space to do whatever it is I need to do. And I will try my hardest to NOT worry about wtf comes after my sabbatical – to remain present and trust that my path will continue to reveal itself.

All I have to do is remain open and receive the messages.

You can laugh or you can cry

Truth be told, I have struggled to come back to this blog since my mom’s passing.  I guess you could say, I am a little gun-shy about continuing my journey to be a Bad Ass. Ultimately I know that these experiences are part of this journey to my inner Bad Ass – but the pain of loss is all too fresh still.

So I’ve avoided it.

Every time I sit down to make an entry there is undoubtedly something that comes to mind that must be done – in that moment. So I justify closing my lap-top, setting it aside and moving on to this all-too-important but yet so very unimportant distraction. Here I am today though, making it happen. Today I want to share with you the moment I truly committed to choosing laughter and acceptance over tears and resistance.

Does anyone remember the Roller Racer? It turns out that they still make them.  I am surprised to learn this because as awesome as this toy seemed on TV when I was 6 years old, it was a HUGE disappointment. I remember the unexpected amount of effort that was required to get this thing to move! In the TV advertisement packs of kids would be flying along the sidewalks on their roller-racers, wind in their hair. In reality I could barely get this thing to roll. Being a 6 year old genius, I thought “all I need is a little momentum,” as I scanned the landscape of my cul-de-sac. Then, it came to me. My drive way had this lovely little down-hill slope. If I couldn’t get that thing rolling on flat land, at least I could enjoy the ride down the driveway. What I didn’t take into account was the seam at the bottom of the driveway that connected it to the garage floor. This seemingly insignificant 1/8th of an inch became very significant on my first voyage down the drive. My plan to gain momentum worked. As I approached the garage floor my Roller Racer hit that lip of the seam and came to a sudden halt and threw me forward, teeth-first, onto the garage floor. I remember screaming in pain. I screamed as hard as I could as an alert for my dad, who was inside, to come and get me. He did. Off we went to the ER.

That was the day that set my fate for 31 years later. Those teeth that broke my landing on the garage floor were my adult teeth. My front two adult teeth. They both took the hit but the one on the left (my left) died that day. It stayed in my head and even stayed straight but it lost blood flow. This led to years of discoloration, followed by cavities, fillings and root canals. This past year my dentist and I were making final plans to put a crown on it. I never got to that crown.

One day, the week following my mom’s passing, I was in bed, eating dark chocolate from a Wonka Bar. I aimed for a small bite, nibbling the corner of the square when “CRACK.” I heard the sound deep in my head. I ran to the bathroom mirror to find that my left front tooth (my left) was slightly ajar – it had shifted forward. Being that I was all full-up on shit to deal with, I went back to my bed and finished that bar with my back teeth. I managed to avoid using that tooth for 3 weeks before I admitted I needed to deal with it. I couldn’t avoid it any longer. By this time I was feeling some pain and the gum above was becoming more and more red. I made an emergency dental appointment.

My dentist, someone whom I’ve built some rapport with over the years, sat down and said,

“Summer, you did a number on that tooth. I am going to give it to you straight.”

In that moment I smiled big. I knew what he was going to say. That tooth had to come out.

In that moment it would have been ok if this had been the straw that broke me. It would have been appropriate to fall apart and ask the universe “WHAT MORE???? Are you kidding me? Now my front tooth too?????”

I chose to laugh.

My dentist proceeded to explain that for best results with a dental implant I would need to let my jaw heal for 6-12 months before we could even start to prepare for an implant. In the meantime I would have a “flipper.” A flipper for my front tooth. A flipper is essentially a temporary denture. A temporary denture for my FRONT TOOTH.

Yes, you are hearing this all correctly. I no longer have a front left (my left) tooth. Yes, it has been replaced with a “flipper” that comes in and out. Yes, I have a fake front. Yes, I gave my mom’s eulogy with this thing in my mouth. Yes, I had a lisp and I got used to it and yes, sometimes if I take bites that are too big it literally falls out!

Thank you universe for modern dentistry because as ridiculous as it is to have this thing in my mouth that gives me this fake front, at least I have a pretend tooth!!! Thank you universe for this being temporary. I will have an implant soon and it will actually be stronger than my dead tooth. Thank you universe for equipping me with joy and perspective so I can appreciate this leg of the journey.

 My “before” picture.


My “after” picture.

All the things I learned from my mother – a daughter’s eulogy


My mother’s funeral was held on Dec. 15th, 2017. These are the words I shared:

“When one has the opportunity to be with their most cherished loved one when they are at their most ill, most in need and most vulnerable, it offers the opportunity to reflect, in a deeply profound way, what that person has meant to you. 21 days gave me a lot of time to reflect on my mom, who she was, what she meant to others and what she meant to me. As I reflected, what kept coming up most for me, was how much I am like her…..and how much I am not like her. And I realized, just how much I have learned from my mother.

There are, of course, the tangible things I learned; the daily life skills that my mom taught me with intent. She taught me how to drive a stick-shift and parallel park at the Mt. Angel Abbey; she taught me how to change a tire; how to paint my nails; how to balance a check book; how to follow a recipe; how to write a cover letter; how to edit my writing. The list goes on and on.

Then there are the things I learned from her that I learned just by being her daughter – by watching her, listening to her and subconsciously observing her. I took on mannerisms such as how I take my glasses off and how I use my pointer finger to tap cues on my phone even though I don’t have the long nails she had – and many more I’m sure I am completely unaware of. I learned how to be a good hostess – which mostly requires having a full bar at all times so your guests can have the cocktail of their choosing, or the wine of their pleasure or their favorite type of beer. It also requires knowing how to set a beautiful table and create a warm and cozy atmosphere complete with the smell of cinnamon (or nag champa) and music playing in the background. I learned that “Alice’s Restaurant” is a Thanksgiving tradition. I learned to appreciate diversity and to love people truly and deeply. I learned how to be kind. Kind to the person at the DMV who is bluntly telling me I cannot achieve my goal because of a minor technicality – kind to the person on the other end of the phone who is telling me they are going to transfer me to another department….again. Kind to the stranger on the street, kind to those I can relate to and kind to those I can learn from. Kindness extends to everyone.

I learned that it is okay to be different and to be myself…and to stay true to that.

Finally, there are the things I’ve learned from my mom that I aspire to. The characteristics and qualities that I’m still developing. I could stand to have more patience. She was so patient. She was determined and perseverant. She had the most positive of attitudes – even in the most challenging of circumstances – she would find the good in it and a reason to smile.
She was so accepting of all people without judgement. She truly lead with love, kindness and acceptance for everyone over everything else. She made you feel warm, safe, appreciated and loved unconditionally.

I cherish all of these things I have learned from my mother and I hold on to them so tight, because by holding on to them, I feel I hold onto her.