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Monday, November 23, 2020

in which i discuss my new one win philosophy of life and try video blogging

 "Vlogging," as they say. 

Maybe I will do this again. Or maybe not. 

Are you surviving out there??

I am not sure. Every now and then I am like, oh, look at me, I just made sugar cookies because the kids asked and I said yes and now we are decorating them at 7pm LOOK AT ME I AM A GODDESS. And then I get crabby because the children are too loud. TOO LOUD. So. Who knows how I am doing. 

But, here is my video blogging thing. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July blues

Folks. Folks. Folks.

What a past few months, huh?

SO. Not only COVID and etc. The roller coaster of emotions and worry and euphoria but...then we had the George Floyd murder, right in the neighborhood of one of my nonprofit clients, and everything felt/feels so big and....big...

And here I am. Sitting in my living room, fan on, coffee by my side, once again contemplating homeschool because the thought of managing four children in distance learning programs next fall makes me want to scream, silently, inside my own head, whilst bugging out my eyeballs, and making faces at the world.

Do you catch that BIG BIG FEELING?

I just can't. Its July and I am already despondent about fall choices.

But you have to stay positive! For your kids! For the good of society!

But. But. But.


Honestly I am sitting here on the couch with my coffee ready to cry. My parents are on a two week vacation. My dryer isn't working and I don't want to call my landlord. Ugh. So I suppose I am writing myself out of a funk right now. Or trying to. LUCKY YOU.

I also am trying to buy a house. Folks. Trying to buy a house is like the worst. I mean. The decisions. And the thought of writing a check that big. The thought of making choices that will impact us and our relationships and so on. How does one do that? That kind of choice? I have been in constant transition for so long now. So long. Five years really. Life was turned topsy turvy with Hawaii move and then topsy turvy with divorce. And now I think I don't know how to face transition anymore. Its like this ugly beast and I just want to hide in my tiny rental house and work and not make any decisions. But tiny rental house. COVID lockdown once again looming (do you think it'll happen again? I am just imagining winter in this house with homeschool and four kids and OMG I need a bigger house.)  Okay. I don't feel any better. Shoot.


And for some reason I thought this was a perfect time of life to engage in a doctorate program. So. There's that. Why did I think that? Because I am dumb, that's why. I got a B+ on my first paper. I started crying. I actually emailed the professor in shock, like some whiney entitled 19 year old. HA HA HA. Oh Lord. Save me. I ONLY GET As! UNACCEPTABLE. Good grief, I am ridiculous.


But Child A, who is now taller than I by several inches, my little man, so big, just made more coffee. Children B and C are upstairs playing American Girl dolls, and Child D is at summer play school for the morning (outside, only a few children, temps taken every day and etc.) And I have house options, and the wherewithal (can you tell I am back in school, using that word, HAHA) to actually buy a house, which just blows my mind. And work is steady. And my kids are healthy and happy.

And things will work out. I mean right? They will. Right?

Still. The BIG FEELINGS seem to blow me away. 2am. Staring at my ceiling fan. Clutching my pillow. Just SO FULL OF BIG FEELINGS.

So that is where I am at. July blues. You?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

love in the time of covid 19

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Yes. I haven't posted in awhile.

You know. Its like.....I don't know.

I have been so busy. SO DAMN BUSY.

My work is busy (hashtag blessed) but so chaotic, unpredictable. Up until two weeks ago I thought nightly I was having a panic attack. One doesn't really blog when one is in such a season. If I did my posts would consist of .....




So. I didn't post. Something about the "strong post-divorce mom" vibe makes me feel like its not allowed.

And then.


AlL ThIS CrAP...... iS thE WorLD FaLliNg APART?????


I just. I can't even.



But also. I have clients. Who expect me to be on two hour conference calls smack in the middle of the day. And. Two university classes. That now have to be adapted to be online. I swear to God I am getting hourly emails from students about this or that technology that isn't working.

Deep Breaths.

I have come here, back again, June apron on, to express/remind myself about healthy homeschool habits in times of transition.

We, my babes and I, have had a shit-ton of transition in the past few years.

And now. THIS.

So. Reminders for you, for me.....pour a class of wine with me. Let us talk.

1) lower your expectations. Ok. Good. Now lower them again. Keep going. THERE. NICE AND LOW.

2) Don't try to pick up the house until the end of the day. Leave the crafty clutter on the table. The legos on the floor (tread carefully). It is POINTLESS TO SHOVEL IN A SNOWSTORM. Unless you are my over achieving neighbors all good Midwestern folk know this. It also applies to the homeschool life.

3) They can do more than you think they can do. Make a list. Put it on the fridge. Even if you don't follow it the idea of a routine is comforting. Let them wash up the lunch dishes. Pair the socks while listening to music. Etc.

4) Play is learning. Build a tower using different kinds of blocks. Is it easy? Hard? Hand them needle, thread, some cloth, and a small doll and let them try sewing. Set up obstacle courses with the furniture (dont YOU do it. LET THEM). Time who is the fastest.

5) Think creatively about what "education" means. Now, I adore the educators in my life, but a lot of days my kids come home from school with 0.25 hours of schooling to talk about and 3.75 hours of social drama to tell me. This applies here too. For instance:
- Math and home economics (child B made spaghetti for dinner. Child C stirred the chocolate chip cookie dough. Child D "helped" by dropping an entire dozen eggs on the floor - yes they all cracked- and yelled about it for 27 minutes)
-Computer skills (All children learned to google, youtube, and etc. from drawing flowers to what ventilators really do)
-Outside nature exploration (GO OUTSIDE. no other instruction required.)
-Extracurricular - photography (Child A discovered his camera still worked and walked around taking pictures for 15 minutes)
-Music (Child B/C/D made up a routine to some pop song, rehearsed it, until Child D claimed his part was not extensive enough and threw a fit and everyone started crying)
-Art exploration (Child B/C/D spent hours digging through old crafty boxes, painting, taping paper airplanes together, taping paper together, coloring said paper, playing with sand, creating flowers to hang on the door, etc. etc. etc)
-Group dynamics, team play and social interaction (All children got all up in each other's faces over and over again and SURVIVED)
-Social skills/etiquette (Child D was reminded, firmly, that screaming about going poop when Mom is on a client call is not polite)
-Health and cleanliness (this one is a given)
-Physical education. (GO OUTSIDE. no other instruction required.)
-Current Events (Child A spent much too much time on reddit reading pandemic news)

See. Leave out all the remarks in parentheses and TADA, you are a bonafide HOMESCHOOL PRO.

You are welcome.

Seriously though. Parents. Be easy on yourself. Be easy on your kids. Mine are looking for more hugs. We are reading a book at night together again, Mama has been too tired to do that. I sit up late with teenager watching his dorky humor shows (yes, with laptop open). Take a nap with your toddler. Plant some flowers to get ready for spring.

This is tough. Yo. BUT SO ARE WE, DAMMIT.

Love you all.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

let's talk about self-care

"Make sure to take care of yourself," she said, wrapping her arms around me in an embrace. "Those kids depend on you, gotta fill up the well to give."

I know, I replied, guilt dripping off of me.

I hadn't been taking care of myself. Working nights, kids in bed. Running to various evening activities. Dammit forgot to send a check for school pictures to the pre-school. Checking off items on the to do list. Barely remembering conference calls, let alone their topics. Doctors appointments. Etc. Then the kid's principal calls, you can hear your child crying in the background, a moment of bullying at the playground, you are driving, barely getting home in time for a phone meeting. Can she stay? Does she needs me? Your voice catches. The principal reassures you. You hang up and sob.

Self-care is a topic we all hear about right? The above scenario happens all the time to parents. Young moms, exhausted, trying to see a friend for coffee. "Are you okay? You can't let yourself get so run down! Your baby needs you!" Visiting with relatives over the holidays. The chiding reproach from your family member, "You look tired. Try to get some sleep."

God. Another thing we have to do to be good at life.

So we schedule a massage. Sit and drink coffee until 11am on a quiet Saturday morning. Meet a friend for a glass of wine. Go to bed a half an hour early, even as the milk curdles in the sippy cups in the sink.

Internally though. I am, thinking about the cost of the massage. The hour wasted in the middle of the day that should be spent billing hours. The dishes sitting on the counter while I sip coffee at 11am. The kids who are with a sitter on a Wednesday night, because that is the only time your friend can meet, wondering if the pre-schooler wet his pants again or if the 5th grader got her homework done.

We should be in a thousand places at once doing a thousand things. Lists upon lists. But. I need to recharge, so I can do it all better! That is the internal cry. We try to relax at the massage. We try to not complain about work sitting with the friend. I am relaxing. So I can do better. Be better. Do more. Be more.

Is this self care?

Post-divorce my self-care tended towards a pint of ice cream and Game of Thrones, maybe with an entire bottle of wine (currently up to season 5, you can tell this has been my self-care of choice for awhile).

I would buy myself books. Wander a nice store. Go out to coffee. Try so HARD TO RELAX AND RECHARGE SO I CAN DO IT ALL.

We all get this. Not just divorced moms.

"I've got to get over this cold, otherwise I am never going to make it through this latest round of teething."
"Get some rest. The kids need you."
"You need to get in some therapy, so you can handle all of this."
"Take the afternoon off," your boss says, "I need you at full capacity for the presentation tomorrow."

Missing in all of this.




The self part of self care.

I read something to this affect over the weekend. And its truth startled me.

Self-care has somehow become YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF SO YOU CAN DO BETTER AT TAKING CARE OF OTHERS. Apologies for the all caps. But. God. Right? This is what it is. This obligation to be in top form. This is why it is so acceptable. We have an obligation to be at full capacity. As women, especially. We tend the children. Clean the house. Go to work. Come home. Dinner on the table. Remember to sign the homework slips. ALL OF IT. So, better take care of yourself so you can DO IT ALL.

GAH. Right? This is why we are okay with it!! This is why we are allowed!!

Damn. Its a hard truth.

But, to say no to something, be it serving on the board of yet another fledgling nonprofit, or helping out with your kids school play, or serving store bought cookies at the church get together, instead of homemade because you forgot and didn't have time. That is lazy. Selfish. Not put together.

I say. It is self-care.

Self-care conversations we have today are missing an essential element. SELF.

We need to stop getting a massage or taking the day off or any of it to "recharge so you can fill up your well and give better to all the others around you," so you can "do it all and more and better."

Start doing it for you.

Because you matter.

Say no to the cookie bake-off fundraiser. Get frozen pizza in the middle of the week. Drink coffee until 11am. Get that massage. Take a walk. Make yourself a nice dinner with a glass of wine.

But, don't do it so you can do more do better do it right make everyone happy.

Do it for you.

Because. YOU matter.

And encourage others to do the same. We are all very very well aware that our families, our children, our jobs, need us in top form. A simple change from "Take care of yourself, your kids need their mama," to "take care of yourself, you need yourself," kind of mindset, even as we talk to one another, can start to shift this. We need to give and seek permission from others to self care, as a society, because we need to take care of ourselves, for ourselves.

And by the by, self-care and self-soothing are different. Sometimes Game of Thrones and ice cream is all I can manage. Self-soothing. Sometimes what I really need is to get to the gym. Or hike the bluff overlooking town. Or check off a couple dreaded tasks on the to do list because it takes one more weight off my shoulders. Or write. Or get my butt to my therapist.

Let's care for ourselves because our Self is a precious precious gift. Not because it helps us to be superhumans once again (or simply make it to bedtime.) But because WE matter.

God. It's so much harder though, isn't it? That shift of motivation. It requires what feels selfish, wrong. But I say we all start a movement, of shifting the conversation, giving each other, society, a new perspective of why this is so essential. Because we, as beings, deserve peace, health, fulfillment, joy. And we can't claim those things in our frantic lives if we are constantly under an obligation to "refilling the well" for others.

Okay, doing for others brings joy. I know this, but, the reasons shift when you are centered in yourself. Giving out of energy and love. Not out of a need to do so.

More thoughts on this to come. But please, can we make this a thing?

Much love on a sunny Saturday morning. Take care of YOU today, friends, for YOU.

Monday, September 9, 2019

thoughts on unravelling, authenticity, and wonder

So it is fall. You know my love of September. Schedules. Rhythm. Routine. Not to mention, now that I am back in the Midwest, digging out cozy sweaters, making tea mid-afternoon, all that.

What a weird year this is though.

Instead of hustling kids to get out there books and schoolwork, juggling toddler and home duties and canning the end of year garden produce.

Instead. Well, that hasn't been my September in a couple of years. Still, it feels like it SHOULD be my September.

Instead I am hustling big kids out the door to catch the bus a block away. They are big enough to set their own alarms, make their own toast, put together their own lunches (really they do!) Little guy and Green into the minivan, the clouds and sun mixing into shadows on the drive down our big hill to the elementary school and the little preschool next door. And then I go back home. Flip open my laptop. And work. Some calls. Some errands. Scheduling out my week. What deadline is approaching. What work is looming. What work I need to hustle to find. Then pick up the littles. Big kids come home. Victorious or not at another day in another new school. Swim practice. Dinner prep. A half a glass of wine as the wind swirls outside, leaves shuffling around the yard. Bring in the trash cans. Bath time. Bed.

Big sigh.

The day in and day out of life, as a single mom.

And yet. And yet. The emails from friends. Texts from colleagues. Intriguing ideas to float. New projects on the horizon. The ever present novel manuscript that needs revising (again).

It fills me.

I find myself surprisingly, able. Able. Somedays more than others. There is no panic, on the other days. Just a sense of exhausted pondering. Am I doing too much. Am I giving enough energy and time to the kids (the answers always feel yes, and no).

But I sit down with a friend for a glass of wine. We walk down to the river and talk. And I hear the heartache. The unraveling of bullshit that happens in the 40s seems to be all around me. Therapists and heart searching. Boundaries and bravery.

This is what it is.


The real.

I may not be crafting wooly hats for babies. Or writing funny posts about misadventures with applesauce canning any longer. Instead the "real" of this era of my life pushes into my present. So, I must write REAL. Not that I didn't before. There is so much goddam real in early years of motherhood. But instead, I realize, that part feels capable. I mean, I made a kick ass apple pie the other day. Two of them. With apples the kids and I picked on the way home from church one day. I mean, holy fucking June Cleaver of me, right??

Friends. I made the apple pies from scratch, no recipe. And they were amazing.

But. How do you write real, expose it, let it breathe out there in the open? I have been thinking so much about this era of unravelling. Is it in the air of the nation? Are we all kind of feeling the "real"? Or, am I hyper aware of it, now that my unravelling has happened, my story changed from the ending I thought I knew was coming, into something new? Something unexpected? Something liberatingly unknown?

The unknown is terrifying. But it is also insanely freeing.

As we open up to each other. About the real. The unknown. The unravelling. We find each other. And in that we find ourselves. And, I have discovered, we can still give, even as we feel undone. It is so possible. So beautiful. SO much more authentic.

Here is my realization for you in this month of September. This, the importance of LETTING EACH OTHER SEE OUR UNRAVELLING, but also. This.

When I find myself, now that my life has stabilized into a norm (work comes in, checks follow, bills get paid, and etc.) I realize my gratitude gets stabilized too. Now, I am not talking about gratitude, sure sure, healthy kids, place to live, meaningful work, no. Not that.

I am talking sheer WONDER, AMAZEMENT at life and how it is unfolding.

This is the gratitude I find myself need to go to. Gratitude is a cliche these days. So, yea, let's call it wonder. Eyes wide open, taking in the unbelievable goodness at life, in a wondering attitude of blessing, even amidst the shit life is always throwing. That goodness is there for the taking. GRAB ONTO IT.

Friends, who text to say GIRL, LETS GET A DRINK or, sure you can randomly stop by with your four kids for some coffee! Colleagues who say, OMG let's do this awesome cool thing together. Work that comes in from people who believe in my abilities and want TO PAY ME TO DO IT.

Wonder. Wonder and authenticity.

These are my words for this month.

Go and conquer friends. And, if you need an ear. Message me. We are all in this together. Maybe you are being asked to move a mountain to show someone else how it can be done.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

coach sara emerges

Here is the thing.

When you get to a certain age you start to see the trajectory of your life.

You think.

And when that far off road is altered, even in the slightest, it can stagger us. For weeks. Months.


So, I had that kind of staggering. But the thing is, it helped me see something.

Well, lots of things. But, for our purposes here in this conversation, it got me thinking about what I am good at, mostly.

Listening. Digging into problems. Giving advice. Helping people figure out their next steps.

I kinda have done that all my life, in one form or another. Even here on this blog, to an extent.

So I figure. Maybe I could just do...that. For like, a job.

Turns out this is a thing. A life coach. I mean, kind of. But my thing isn't really just that.

Here is what I am thinking.

You are at home with your kids. Watching Dora...again (Dear Jesus, why did they bring that show back??) settling fights, making Mac&Cheese, wishing to God you had SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT.

I was there.

I had a few projects. A bit of work. And it kept me sane in those years.

Maybe you have a degree, lying stagnant (so you feel) or you have a passion issue you always get fired up about when you are (finally) having adult conversations with grown ups.

I was totally there too.

And then occasionally you think to yourself, I wish I could DO SOMETHING, with x, y, z issue/pet project/community problem/skills set lying dorment under layers of stale crackers and playdough.


So. Here is the thing. I want to help those people activate their hidden selves, bring them out from hiding, and DO THE THINGS that get you fired up.

My thought?


It's funny how your mindset impacts so much of what you are capable of. I, for example, had a shitty mindset yesterday, taking my children to the city's big annual festival this weekend. I pleaded with my parents to come with me and help. I dragged this kids out of our nice AC house with promises of treats and interesting things to look at, slapped on some sunscreen, and off we went. Two hours later (naptime) I am sweating in a 100 degree porta-potty wrangling a 3yr old who er, soiled, his pull-up inwardly (possibly outwardly) cursing the damn fair and my need to project some kind of FUN MOM vibe while really just wanting to go for an evening walk here and there. WHY DO WE NEED TO BUY ALL THE THINGS AT THE LOCAL FESTIVAL TO BE FUN.

My point. Yes.

My point is that my mindset needed swung out of the groove that it was in. We all know those moments as parents. But that is true of so many bigger things in life too. Asking for a raise. Saving money for a house. Going back to school mid-career. All of those moments where we are like, I can't, I can't, I have to, okay, shit, I CAN. And we find ourselves DOING THE THING.

I have been blessed this past year with some amazing friends and family who believed the heck out of me and my capacity. And I want to be that somebody for you too. So, this is my new little business venture. Over coffee (Facetime or Skype!) or the phone or email we talk. We connect. We explore. We figure shit out. We plan. Then we do.


Let's talk. sarajohnsonsteffey (at) gmail (dot) com

OR for more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

my next venture / this is what it is

Writing is unclogging my brain. Thinking through all of the mess. Finding the clumps and clogs, pulling them free. Letting the water flow again. What is it? And why not? Let's keep the juices going. Keep the rhythm flowing. Even if some words and images and thoughts and memories stick like gum to the bottom of the shoe and where are we and what are we and I am pretty sure that there is nothing left in my brain if I can't empty the good things too because they are there but there are so big they are foundational. Solid things that don't move. All of the toxins that have eaten them away though. I am not sure what they actually look like anymore. This is the discovering. After the years of wrong thinking. And now I lie here. Unsure of what is good. Sometimes it all looks like sludge in my mind. So. Get it out. Flush with cold water. Air dry in the sun to stop the spread of slow decay.



This is what it is.

And where are we then once the dry has come. Assessing the damage. Looking, sifting sorting, at all the pieces left. Hands cold from the icy water. Soggy mind comes alive as the piles grow.

Yes to this.

No to that.

Get that out of here.

And here we are then.

Standing above the piles.

Time for the slow burn.

And I watch a movie with the kids. The superheroes mother says to him, "Stop being who you are supposed to be and start being who you are."

Do you hear that? "Stop being who you are supposed to be and start being who you are."

But not just any self. Your fullest self. Your best self, not your basest instincts. The best you that is in you.

And what then? Become more of you. Keep becoming. It never ends. Find and be more of that person.

Sometimes though, people spend so long being who they are supported to be that they forget who they are, or they never discover that glorious person inside.

And oh my god. This is your 40s. Or where I am in my 40s.

Opening your eyes and saying, who has the world said I am supposed to be?
And...who am I really? can I be, more and more, who I really am?

I mean, if we all stopped being who we are "supposed to be" and stopped living in fear, resentment, drudgery, and started being who we are, our glorious best selves, alive, full of purpose and energy, can you imagine the vitality of such a world?

That isn't to say, shrink from responsibility, or spend your days on the slopes or on the beach or running from your problems or any of that. Thats indulging in our base side, our impoverished "lack" selves.

The full side. The whole side. The flourishing life side.

The side who says "I've been driving bus for 20 years but dang, I am going to cosmetology school." (An overheard conversation at church the other day)

The side that says, "I have been afraid of filing my LLC for years to start my own consulting and coaching business so I am going to do it, dammit. I am."

The side that says "My pieces of art doodles are worth my time. I am going to take a class and do this more."

Or. "My book manuscript is good but I am going to hire someone to look at it and help me make it better."

The side that says, " I've been teaching Sunday School because my mother in law wanted me to for 10 years but I don't actually LIKE teaching Sunday School, so I'm not gonna do it anymore!"

These are the pieces that we need to feed. This is the self we are unravelling.

Find your joy.

Invest in it blossoming.

The world needs you to flower.

And so. This is my next venture. Coaching. To do this. Filing an LLC (finally) to help others going through this. I have thoughts. Ideas. And I think you might just dig it.

More to come. Much.

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