Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts :: Part One

January 20, 2017

Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts //

The past three weeks of my life have been good. I am healthier and happier than I’ve been in a very long time. But rewind to the twelve months that came before this, and it was a completely different story.

A year ago, my life took a difficult & unexpected — but necessary — turn. My entire life got flipped over on its head. I will write about that eventually; but right now, I’m going to write about the consequences that followed.

* *

When my life got turned upside down, it was a perfect storm of disaster.

My stress levels were completely out of control for so many reasons that I can’t even start to explain. Again, I’ll write about it in the future.

Marina was still breastfeeding and she was waking up, on-average, every 45 minutes throughout the night to comfort nurse. Indeed, there was a solid three-month stretch where I didn’t sleep for more than 45-minutes straight. I was dangerously sleep-deprived.

To cope with the stress, I started drinking more than usual. Alcohol was a quick, easy way to forget about my problems and my pain, even for a little while.

Exercise and nutrition went completely to the wayside. As exhausted as I was, exercise was an impossibility. As far as my diet went, I did whatever was easiest, with no regard for the consequences. At that point, I simply didn’t have the emotional capacity to care.

There was my perfect storm. Stress. No sleep. Too much alcohol. Poor nutrition. No exercise.

It is no small wonder that eventually, I fell apart.

It all came to a head one morning when I found myself lying in the emergency room of an unfamiliar hospital, paralyzed by fear, waiting for a series of test results to tell me “what was wrong with me.” Because as crazy as it sounds, I was so lost in the mess, that I really didn’t know.

* *

That was a hell of an introduction. So what happened next?

My estrogen was dangerously high and my melatonin was dangerously low. I had gained nearly thirty pounds quickly. I had developed a large cyst in my left ovary. And finally, and most terrifyingly, my doctor found precancerous cells in my cervix.

It was a nightmare. I was so scared. I feel compelled to write that it was one of the lowest points of my life, but the truth is that the past few years have been filled with so many incredibly low points that they all blur together. I can’t be sure which point was really the lowest. There were so many.

My head and my heart have been completely shattered. I found myself in impossible situations and I had to claw my way out. There had been so much darkness and fear for so long.

As difficult as it was to hear those things from my doctor, I’d already been through so much that I wasn’t really surprised or hurt. The best word to describe what I felt then was: numbness. I felt very numb. I was so lost and ready to resign myself to whatever fate would take me.

Yet, when I came so close to giving in, somehow I grabbed onto the strength I had left and decided to fight back.

During those darkest of days, I had a conversation with my sister. I was completely down and out, I felt that I had no strength left. But she said something to me that I will never forget. She said that when it came to my children, I was the strongest person that she knew. I was fearless. And that I should take my strength from my role as a mother and if I couldn’t fight for myself, then I had to fight for them.

And so I did.

* *

I had a lot of false starts. I would gain some momentum toward turning things around, but then I would fall back. I would have a good week, followed by a terrible week.

My health was still on the rocks. I would get my diet right, exercise, cut back on drinking, and feel in control. But then as quickly as I gained the control I would lose it again. I would double-down on unhealthy habits, destroy my progress, and feel more discouraged than ever.

I prayed a lot. I prayed and I prayed.

And then one day, things actually started to turn around. This time, I knew that things were going to get better. I was going to make sure of it.

Slowly, slowly, some good news started coming into my life. While there were only promises, I held tight to the hope that those promises held — and I’m still holding on.

In order to regain control, I had to make enormous changes and I had to cut out all of the things in my life that were not critically necessary. I had to focus exclusively on my health and my children. I had to let go of every single other thing. I am still in that space and I will be for a long time yet.

As far as my health, it seems that things have stabilized in a way. A little over a month ago, I was asked to do a campaign with Jenny Craig which I’ll write a lot more about very soon. The Jenny Program has absolutely changed my relationship with food for the better. I’ve also started exercising regularly again and it feels amazing.

Marina finally started sleeping through the night about six months ago, and while sleep is still touch-and-go with two toddlers, it’s way better than it was before. I’ve stopped desperately using food and alcohol as a crutch to cope with my pain.

I will continue to have follow-up tests done to monitor the cyst and the cells. Right now, there are no immediate threats. I’m hopeful that getting back to my healthy, active lifestyle will allow my body to heal itself in time.

* *

It’s all very much a “work-in-progress.” When I look back over the course of my life, I could have never imagined that I would have wound up here at this point. I had a vision of what my life would be, and it turned out nothing like I expected. But ultimately, looking back, I can see how necessary all of these challenges have been. Now that I am finally on the right path, I’m just going to keep going.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again. ♥ This. Always, always this.

Thoughts Upon a New Year…

December 31, 2016

Nature in Winter //

Disclaimer: I’ve been working on this post for a week. I’ve had a few bursts of inspiration, but there’s also been a lot of “dead air.” As has been the case every time I’ve tried to write for the past three-to-four years, it starts to come… but then it stops. And now, it’s 7:00 pm on New Year’s Eve, and knowing the way things usually go with me and my babies, I will be fast asleep very soon. The changing of the year will come & go, and I will be dreaming through it all. And so, I’ve decided to share this post exactly as it is, an unfinished draft.

"The Journey"
 By Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
 what you had to do, and began,
 though the voices around you
 kept shouting
 their bad advice--
 though the whole house
 began to tremble
 and you felt the old tug
 at your ankles.
 "Mend my life!"
 each voice cried.
 But you didn't stop.
 You knew what you had to do,
 though the wind pried
 with its stiff fingers
 at the very foundations,
 though their melancholy
 was terrible.
 It was already late
 enough, and a wild night,
 and the road full of fallen
 branches and stones.
 But little by little,
 as you left their voices behind,
 the stars began to burn
 through the sheets of clouds,
 and there was a new voice
 which you slowly
 recognized as your own,
 that kept you company
 as you strode deeper and deeper
 into the world,
 determined to do
 the only thing you could do--
 determined to save
 the only life you could save.

I know that poetry isn’t everybody’s “thing.” And so even though it has been a huge part of my life since I was about seven years old, I’ve always hesitated to share it here. Still, on occasions when it’s really appropriate, I’ve shared a handful of poems or so in this space. Because sometimes words alone fail me and the only thing that allows me to feel like I am expressing myself at all, is poetry.

Today is one of those days, or I should say, now is one of those times. So at the top of this post is a poem. You might see them here more often. I’ve decided that for the next while, my writing here is going to shift. While I intend to continue sharing useful content and mommy-style blog posts, much of my life-focus is turning inward. As always, this blog will reflect the changing tides of my life. This is my space to share my heart, whatever that might mean.

Nature in Winter //

Nature in Winter //

That said, for today a few things–

First, there is the poem. It’s something that I discovered in the autumn of 2015 that happened to coincide perfectly with the journey that I had just started at that time. I won’t offer much further explanation than that right now. I’ll say simply that if you appreciate poetry, then I hope that it touches you in the deep, profound way that it touched me. And if you don’t appreciate poetry, then I hope that you found it easy enough to skip right over.

Nature in Winter //

Nature in Winter //

Second, I want to speak about my “Words of the Year.” For the past two years, I have ascribed a word to each year at its start. In 2015, my word was Survive. In 2016, my word was Bravery, accompanied by two quotes:

➳➳➳ “Fortune favors the bold.”
➳➳➳ “By acting bravely, we become brave.”

In 2017, my word will be STRENGTH, accompanied by three quotes:

➳➳➳ “Be the strongest person that you know.”
➳➳➳ “You have a spine like a sequoia.”
➳➳➳ “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.”

Nature in Winter //

Nature in Winter //

Third, let me take a moment to speak about the images in this post. It’s winter here. Most of the plant-life died awhile back. The temperature usually hovers around freezing. When we go out for our walks these days, we are usually bundled and rushed. We went for a walk earlier this week. I had a desire to bring my camera and snap some photographs. But I stopped, thinking, “There will be nothing beautiful to photograph in this awful time of year.” Suddenly something came over me, a streak of rebellion against that thought. My mind challenged back, “Take your camera. Try to find the beauty hidden in the awful.”

Nature in Winter //

And so, I did. I bundled my babies up and I took my camera out on that bitter-cold, gray afternoon. The photographs that you see in this post are the result. They reminded me that there is beauty to be found, always. Even in the ugliest, most awful times. It’s always there if we look hard enough.

Happy New Year, my dear friends. Here’s hoping that two-thousand-seventeen is full of every love and light for all of us. xo


Let Go

July 29, 2016

let it go
let it leave
let it happen
in this world
was promised or
belonged to you

all you own is yourself — rupi kaur

Let Go //

We all struggle with something. Certainly there isn’t a soul among us who has it all figured out.

For me, the thing that I’ve struggled with the most in recent years, and over the course of my life, is the illusion of control. I say the illusion of control, rather than simply saying control, because there really is no such a thing as control.

As my wise therapist once pointed out– You were never really controlling things, Dena. You were simply manipulating situations frantically and convincing yourself that you had power. You never really did. No one does.

There are only choices and consequences. A brutal truth, but a powerful one nonetheless. Choices and consequences. Recently, I’ve been making more of a valiant effort to let go and let God. Instead of trying to “control” situations and people, I am instead focusing on my choices — which is the only real thing that I can control. I am trying to make healthy, loving choices. If I can accomplish that, it’s all that matters. From there, whatever happens next is in God’s hands.

Perhaps this is a simple and obvious conclusion, but for me it’s been deeply helpful. What a weight off of my shoulders to stop squeezing the life out of everything with a white-knuckle grip and to simply let go.

Wishing you love and peace, friends. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like this one: We don’t have to suffer. We can choose happiness.

HALT: A Simple Reminder for Self-Care

February 27, 2016

purple flower

So many times in life, we discover that the little things really are the big things. As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been going through some major life changes and they’re far from little. But what I’ve noticed is that although the big things are always looming in the back of my heart — it’s the little things that tend to have the most bearing on my mood.

Throughout the day, there are times that I feel irritated, stressed, anxious, or just “off.” I’m sure that you have those moments, too. Often times, these feelings are a simple result of lack of self-care. Life gets in the way, we focus on doing the ten thousand things that need doing, and self-care falls to the bottom of the list.

Lately, I’ve been having more of these moments than usual. So I’ve started making an extra effort to be mindful. Recently I stumbled across the acronym HALT which stands for: Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? Four simple questions that I can ask myself when I’m feeling off. Stopping to pause and ask myself these questions almost always leads to the root of the problem.

  • If I’m hungry (or thirsty), a snack, meal, glass of water or tea can fix things instantly.
  • If I’m angry (or sad or scared), I identify the thought that is causing my feelings. I quickly assess whether there is a quick fix and if not, I pray that my anger, sadness, and fear be replaced with acceptance and love.
  • If I’m lonely, I pause to speak with God; read a bible verse; or call/text a friend. (Side note: For moms with little ones, I don’t recommend seeking more time with your children to cure loneliness. Motherhood is nearly synonymous with loneliness and even though we love our babies dearly, most of the time, the loneliness of motherhood can only be cured by adult interaction.
  • If I’m tired, well, this one is a bit tricky for me at the moment. There are lots of nice solutions to exhaustion such as going to bed earlier, waking later, taking a nap, or meditating. Unfortunately, these things aren’t always possible, especially for mothers of little ones, but if at all possible — rest. If you can’t, take an extra long shower and have another cup of strong tea. 😉

These things seem simple, but frequently stopping to check in with myself, goes a long way. Self-care is critical, especially when we’re going through difficult times.

Take care of yourself, friends. I’m sending you love & light.


heart spill // february

February 24, 2016

Be brave.

I’m tired and sad in a heartbreaking way. I think perhaps I shouldn’t be writing this today. After all, I felt fine yesterday. But perhaps I only felt fine for a little while at a time. Perhaps, I really am just sad and tired. And that’s okay.

My life has been turned upside down recently. A series of long anticipated events coming together, a perfect storm, if you will. And now I’m existing in an inexplicable state of chaos, a stepping stone from one place to another, limbo, purgatory.

On top of all the things that I can’t talk about, there’s the mothering. Marina is about to turn one and while things are far better than they once were, she’s still about as needy as any one-year-old you could dream up. Roman is good and sweet, but he’s a few months away from turning three and he needs so much. He craves constant interaction, conversation, learning, activity. He craves everything. He’s just exploding with wonder & curiosity — and it’s beautiful but it’s devastatingly exhausting.

Marina is sleeping on her own, but she is up between two and four times each night, needing to comfort nurse back to sleep. I’ve tried letting her cry — I have no mercy at this point, but she will cry endlessly. She has a force of will unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. It’s difficult now. But I believe that it will serve her well later in life.

I’m not apt to self pity. I’m not prone to negativity. I’ve spent half a lifetime learning to see the positive in everything. I’m always one to pick myself up by my bootstraps, make a plan, and take action. Fuck sitting around in a stew of misery, you know. But lately, things have deteriorated so severely that I’m rendered nearly helpless.

It’s like I’m constantly standing on a skateboard over a gorge. It’s taking every shred of strength and energy to keep myself upright, to stop the board from slipping out from under me so that I tumble down and break every bone in my body or worse.

I know, I know, it sounds dramatic and extreme. But it’s where I’m at. Once again I’m writing in metaphors, unable to talk about the reality of what I’m going through. But that’s been a theme in my life for a long while.


On the other hand, I have to be true to myself. And even though I’m sad and exhausted to my very core, my true self still focuses on the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it’s there. I know it’s waiting. I know that the night is darkest just before the dawn.

My ‘word’ for 2016 is bravery and I’ll be damned if I am anything but brave this year. I’m facing all of my demons head on and slaying them one by one. And even when I am scared, even when I don’t feel brave at all, you can bet that I will put on my bravest face and keep on trudging forward. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I will keep doing.


All rights reserved © Live, Love, Simple. · Theme by Blogmilk + Coded by Brandi Bernoskie