Over the last decade I have been privileged to contribute to a lot of wonderful publications, but very few are as respected and world-renown as Chicken Soup for the Soul. My five feel-good stories have appeared in seven different anthologies. And since it seems an appropriate time to share some virtual chicken soup with my followers, I thought I’d offer my first round-up post of ‘Soul Stories,’ as I’ll call them now.Continue reading
as seen as “Prenatal Nocturne” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven
“The tie which links mother and child is of such pure and immaculate strength as to be never violated.”
After my mother’s death in 2007, I dreamt of her quite frequently. Some evenings I spent hours telling her how life had been treating me, and other nights consisted of dreams in which her death had never taken place. No matter the content, each dream gave me solace. Sadly though, as time went on the dreams were fewer and farther between. Several years after her passing, her visits only came every few months.
Then, in late 2012, my husband and I found out that we were going to be parents the following June. Although I was thrilled, the idea of going through a pregnancy without my mother’s support made me anxious; I began to imagine all the milestones Mom would miss. My husband was supportive and as understanding as he could be, but my anxiety slowly turned back into grief. Still, I took the necessary actions to confirm our pregnancy test results.
The following week, the evening of our first doctor’s appointment, I fell into a deep sleep, filled with the warmth of seeing my baby for the first time. As my dream began to unfold, I found myself waking up in a hospital bed. I was alone in a sterile, dark room. A feeling of panic washed over me. Suddenly, the door opened and my mother entered. Her smile illuminated the tiny space. I couldn’t help but smile back at her. I tried to get up and give her a hug, but realized I was restricted by the IV attached to my arm. Mom motioned to me to stay on the bed, and she came to my side.
“Oh, I am so excited!” she began. She was glowing, but not because of some ethereal warmth. Happiness was simply oozing from her every pore. Mom pulled out a compact mirror, powdered her nose, and adjusted her hair.
“Where am I? What are we doing here?” I inquired.
“Silly, you just gave birth! The nurses have your beautiful baby in the other room, and I just can’t wait to meet my granddaughter,” she cooed.
“D-daughter?” I said, a tear coming to my eye. “But I don’t understand. I was just four weeks this morning.”
“Well, I can’t explain that, but it’s June 15th and you’ve just done a beautiful job delivering my grandchild. Oh honey, I’m so proud of you. Well, I’m off to meet my granddaughter!” With that she kissed my forehead and left the room as quickly and smoothly as she had entered, as if she was floating on a cloud.
My tears continued to flow, and as I woke up, my mother’s warmth seemed to fill every fiber in my body. I felt closer to her that night than I had felt for so long. Still, my sleep was fitful for the remainder of evening as I wondered whether I had been granted a true visit with Mom or not.
The next morning, I pried myself out of bed and got ready for work. My mind replayed the dream over and over again as I began my commute. I was jarred from my thoughts a little over a mile from my house when, a few feet from the freeway entrance, a bus cut in front of me. I slammed on my brakes. At first I cursed the driver, but then I noticed the number and destination on the digital screen above my head. “152,” it read, “No Longer in Service.”
I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Mom was born in January of 1952, I knew in an instant this was yet another message from her. It was also confirmation that her visit the night before had been very real. “No Longer in Service.” I chuckled lightly at the euphemism and felt empowered once more. I knew in my heart my mother was there with me, with my baby, and she was most definitely part of the incredible biological process I was embarking upon.
It wasn’t until my twentieth week of pregnancy that my mother’s visit was validated once more; my husband and I found out that we were having a baby girl, just as my mother had shared with me four months earlier.
I’ve written about grief a lot over the last decade or so. And much of that writing has helped me put in to perspective some of life’s biggest moments and emotions. Ones that could have easily swallowed me whole, and if I’m being honest, almost did.
But with reflection and the right tools, I feel confidently about the direction my life has taken. So, to celebrate my mom’s birthday on January 26th, and all the ones that were stolen because of her murder, here is a list of the pieces that helped me feel less alone while writing, and may help you as well. Especially if you have a hole in your heart where a loved one left it, too. Because I think that’s all life is about: connection, community, and catharsis.
Hi there 👋🏻
Chances are you stumbled upon this post because you have at least one social media account and somehow came to follow a “blogger” like me. You might even have a friend who just made the leap, and now you’ve got a lot of questions.
To be honest, I’ve been blogging for six years, and people still ask me what I it is do all the time.
So, if you’re still asking yourself, “What is a blog?” here’s a simplified answer: a blog is the shortened term for a “web log.”
Blogs began as an online diary or way for people to document emotions/experiences via the Internet. As the internet’s capabilities grew, bloggers potential for content creation did, too.
And when bloggers’ networks (or “followings,” as they’ve become known as) grow, their natural reach does, too. When they can connect with a large enough range of people, some are able to create a business or career out of their content in a few ways:
1) selling physical space on their site for ads to be placed.
2) contributing to larger websites or profiles, being paid by piece (individual followings matter less in this instance as the larger media outlets use their own to amplify for your work)
3) linking products on their own network that they have used and/or believe in to receive product or a commission-like paycheck for sales they ‘influence.’ The majority of this occurs in a barter-like system.
4) creating campaigns that highlight products or missions at a cost, independent of commission (generally this requires the largest-sized followings). These are often called paid partnerships.
Hence the reason your favorite blogger may take a break from their humor, homemaking, recipes, videos, or articles to sell a product they love… because otherwise they’re a self-published creator who’s earning nothing simply for the sake of your entertainment.
So, to answer your question in a different way, bloggers are entrepreneurs who have found a burgeoning market: the Internet.
BTW, if you’re looking for some inspiration or fun content to spice up your feeds, try some of these blogs/accounts 👇🏻
My List of Must-Follows (in no particular order)
Life of Mom for all things Motherhood
Fab Everyday for a fabulous lifestyle
Brooklyn Active Mama for all things fitness & NY
Orly C on YouTube for all things beauty & entertainment
Let’s Talk Movies for all things movie-related
Life of Dad for fatherhood
We Sow We Grow for those with a green thumb
Amother Adventure for all things family travel
Grateful Wellness Co by Sinead Quinn for wellness
Megan Baca for hard truths made easy
AmandaMuse for honesty & inspiration
Mom Forum for mom-related inspiration
The New Stepford for all things funny
The Food Artist for all things yummy
From Carpool to Cocktails for the best shopping inspiration & flatlays
Mommy Dearest for honest mommyhood
Moms Meet for all things green parenting
Mom2Summit for all things community
…and be sure to follow my accounts to find more fabulous shares/accounts to watch!
I don’t keep it a secret that life can be isolating.
I don’t sugar coat it that people need a healthy support system, and that without it, adulthood (and most especially parenthood) is nearly impossible.
So, if you feel like you’re struggling, you’re not alone. Maybe it means you haven’t found your village yet, the group of people who help pull you up when you’re down, or wipe away your tears when you can’t bite them back.
And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
It is, however, something that can be changed.
Each day is a new one, and with it brings unlimited potential.
I find whenever I leave myself vulnerable to the people and experiences around me, I am given quite a lot of delightful surprises from the universe.
Like the lovely ladies from the photo above, who have quickly become my village because our relationships are sowed in openness.
I found them at Starbucks, no joke.
In both meet-cutes I left my heart and mind open to finding new friends, and even more importantly, spoke what was on my mind. No cares for what was “cool” or “normal,” I made it clear who I was from the getgo and forged connections on honesty and openness. And I scored some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life in the process.
Simply by being raw and open (both with myself and others), I gathered a village that no amount or type of distance can ever weaken.
So, to those who are still searching for their familial friends: remember that life doesn’t just take a village, it also takes openness.
Learn to be yourself with respectful abandon and like will certainly attract like.
A few years ago I wrote a piece called “Where Does Hatred Come From?” In it I discuss my mother’s murder and what (I think) compelled my brother to do such a thing. But something else has been on my mind, a question I get quite a lot that usually makes my heart race and my tongue trip up:
“How on Earth did you survive?”
Let me begin by saying that if I’m being totally honest, it still feels some days like I haven’t. Survived, that is. The cycle of abuse is a road that is twisted, long, and arduous. I am still traversing it, and live with the bits of shame that victims often do. On other days, however, I have an answer to the question everyone is really asking – how do two people born from the same parents go in such vastly different directions: one a murderer, the other a motivator?
In more general terms, “How Can Love Find a Way?”
The reality is, it’s almost so simple it’s painful. The answer is that love and hate are both born from attachment.
See, for almost every experience my brother had where he felt alienated and different, I had one where I felt accepted or celebrated. Or maybe even just O.K. with being different.
I came second. By the time I was born, my parents had been separated for a year. They were divorced when I was two, but my dad never lived with me. So, his absence wasn’t an absence to me, it was my norm. Thus, when dad ripped himself from our lives, it was only devastating to one of us.
Then came all our moves. Within my first sixteen years of life I lived in eight homes. I got used to change, and loved switching schools or classes. It gave me the chance to reinvent myself and make new friends. Jesse, however, was a bit of a pariah. Not by choice, of course, but by social design. He was short, chubby, and an easy target. I was short, chubby, and an easy target, but apparently the world thought that was more acceptable in a girl. I got bullied less and made more friends. So, when people didn’t allow either of us in to their lives or picked on us because we looked a little different, it was only really devastating to one of us. Especially since he had already been rejected by our father.
Soon, my brother started attempting suicide. He was institutionalized and given “help.” Here, at these bleak homes for ‘troubled youth,’ he learned to believe he was even more different than he could have imagined. That now, with a triple diagnosis of “mental illness,” he’d never really escape. This was probably the worst time of Jesse’s life. My dad never visited him; Mom and I were the only ones that seemed to care. And so, while I was in middle school, I visited mental institutions and wrote him letters, begging him to stay here with us. He would keep one of those notes in his wallet for years. Through all of this I learned how dark people can feel. But more importantly, I learned how good it felt to give people reprieve from their darkness. These failed suicide attempts were devastating for him, and of course, extremely devastating to me. But I had my studies to throw myself in to and excel at and friendships to seek asylum in. Thus, it was really only life-damaging for one of us. Especially since Jesse had already been rejected by our father and peers.
When my brother left high school after being told he didn’t fit in to the mold they provided, he eventually found exercise and drugs. He grew fit and powerful, more toxic. He had grown sick of being told by society how different he was, and with his newfound strength his previous shame was gone; now his emotions had morphed in to anger. In turn, he became extremely violent towards Mom and me. We were his scapegoats. There were tires slashed, holes punched in the walls, swift kicks to our guts (literal and figurative), obscenities screamed, and so much more. It was Hell.
Mom, left with little other options, called the police on him several times. When he was released, Jesse slept in an old car he bought from Craig’s List, other times at friend’s houses. But he wheedled his way back home each time, as many abusers do. Then Mom would eventually kick him out again. Within this cycle he somehow found his way in to the army twice, despite a juvenile record of domestic violence.
Mom and I reveled in our freedom from him whenever he was out. Without him home we were able to focus on our personal and professional endeavors. I was sailing through college with a 3.9, was an officer in my sorority, and had a great job working for Arnold Schwarzenegger right out of high school. For every hurdle Jesse had collided with, I was jumping over two at a time. And when he was eventually kicked out of the military a second time for erratic behavior, he came home to find me even more successful. Which made him that much angrier. Especially since he had already been rejected by our father, our peers, the school district, mental health professionals, and now the military.
He brandished his isolation like a sword, swinging it at anyone he saw as a threat, which eventually became everyone. Girlfriends, strangers, it didn’t matter. However, he swung most often at home. Jesse reached out to my dad a few times at this point, but Dad was dealing with his own demons. So, while my brother’s identifying parent was slipping deeper in to a depressive, drunken state far from us, seeing us less than he ever had before, Mom and I grew closer. She and I became best friends. We didn’t speak of our heartache much, because I’m not sure we ever had a grasp on what ‘it’ was, but our bond was deep and inexplicable. We knew we needed each other to survive the toxicity in our lives.Which made Jesse hate us even more.
Thus, two weeks after I finished college, Jesse killed Mom. It had been a long time coming; there were aerosol cans sprayed at lighters, knives thrown in to walls, online dating and email accounts hacked and spoiled. And despite my world being rocked, I survived. Because I had been shown in life that bad things happen. A lot. However, they always stop. And there’s always love on the other side. Or on the underside. Or somewhere; it can always be found somewhere. In the encouraging words of a teacher who didn’t know why I was at school as much as possible, but still let me have my safe place. In the stalwart support system of a sorority. In the home of a best friend whose parents may not have known exactly what was going on, yet still had an open door policy. In believing in someone even when they don’t. In my mom’s encouraging words and resiliency. Where there is hope extended, wherever connections are made, love can be found. That’s the answer to what saved me from a life of hatred and bitterness: hope in the form of attachment & love.
So, remember that next time you see someone who may seem different, struggling, isolated, or even angry. A little love can go a very long way, especially for those who haven’t received much. In some cases it could be the difference between a life of love and a life of hatred.
Thank you to everyone who helped me see the love when it may have been difficult to do so on my own.
If you believe you or someone you know may be the victim of domestic violence, please read the resources on the National Domestic Violence Hotline and consider reporting the abuse to the authorities.
I had the pleasure of being a part of the Expressing Motherhood cast for a third time this past month. Originally, I wasn’t going to share my piece online because as much as I pride myself on my openness, I know some things are too much. However, it was pretty damn freeing to share with a bunch of strangers and also well-received, so why not with my online community? 😬
A huge thank you to everyone who came to see it live this time around, and especially to Lindsay Kavet for giving me a little soapbox.