I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. Boyfriend, married, single or otherwise… Not because I hate love or chocolate or teddy bears, but because I don’t like being told what to do and when to do it.

Christmas: A time for peace, love and joy. Ok.
New Year: A fresh start. Ok.
Easter: A time for rebirth. Ok.
Halloween: A time to be creepy and eat candy. I don’t know. I don’t get Halloween. Yeah, yeah… It’s another Biblical reference. All-Saints Day. But we all know that nobody cares about that any more. It’s about the candy and wearing things you can only wear one day a year… Ok.
Valentine’s Day: A time for acts of love that you should be showing people throughout the year but most of us don’t. Ok, people. Hallmark! And every co-conspiring store imaginable! What about the single people, like me? What if cherubs freak me out? What if I’m allergic to chocolate and teddy bears? What if don’t want to? Huh?
(Deep breaths…) I’m ok.
So, yes I do have plans on Valentine’s Day. I will be spending it with my beautiful daughter. In the evening I will be giving an interview on a TV show called Bully No More. It airs on Skye Cable TV Channel 13 every Sunday at 6:00. I will be discussing the fact that February is Teen dating Violence Awareness Month. This sparks a great parallel between bullying, teen dating violence and domestic violence. I’ll also be discussing my non-profit organization, Sarah Speaks Up.
After that my daughter and I will be meeting my fabulous, talented, motivated friend Rita, for dinner. We have decided to spend this holiday making a difference, loving each other, and most importantly LOVING OURSELVES! We are doing what we have decided. Not feeling forced to find a date, but to share friendship and simply enjoy each other’s company.
All that being said, my daughter is still getting a necklace, pad and pen set with hearts on them and an oversized Hershey’s hot chocolate mug with candy and a teddy bear inside it. My Valentine this year, Rita, is getting… Well, Rita might actually read this so I’m not telling.
Valentines Day, I have complied with your theme of love, but on my terms.
XOXOXO,
Sarah Gallardo

sarahspeaksup.org

Leaps of faith are not for the faint of heart. They are for the resilient ones among us. You need gumption, determination, panache, and a sprinkle of crazy. You need to be the person who, in conversation with someone trying to convince you that your path will be hard and riddled with bumps and detours, simply says, “Yes. I’m sure it will.” and smiles.

We aren’t trained to take these leaps. We have been taught that the path to security, financial or otherwise, is through college, love, work, marriage, career, kids, credit, insurance, grandkids, 401K, some place warm where our arthritis wont flare up any more and we can play golf and eat dinner at 4:30pm, and a plot of Earth adorned with granite that has been pre-selected and paid for.
If you live this life, if you are currently on this path, good for you. Although I’m sure you have stress (we all do) you are on a road so etched and deep that the dirt has created a wall of safety around you as you move forward. You know that you have a plan. You are checking off the boxes. You’re climbing, achieving, creating, doing, being what you set out to. There is great satisfaction in that.
I…(as I chuckle)… I took the leap. I did the thing that people said would be hard as hell. My stress keeps me up at night sometimes. How to build something new, something that will help people and effect change…and make ends meet while doing it? Well, that’s the hard stuff. All I know so far is that you work. You work hard and then some more…until your eyes sting and your brain hurts and your schedule is bulging at the seams.
I’ve started a nonprofit organization. I am the Founder and Executive Director of Sarah Speaks Up. My experience? Surviving domestic violence, volunteering for the Prudence Crandall Center, and most importantly being Sarah. So, yeah. I leapt like a gazelle.
Another leap? The first fundraiser for Sarah Speaks Up. I planned this event for months. I envisioned the hall, the decorations, the auction table. Months of contact this person, follow up, print this, post this, meetings, designing promotional items, asking for donations and so on. I worked. And yes, my eyes did sting.
The day of the event felt magical. My vision was coming together. I was so excited! The hall could have fit 150 people. About thirty people showed up. Of course, I felt like I didn’t do enough. I didn’t promote enough. Didn’t reach out enough. (Cue Catholic fist beating of chest)
But, no. As some very dear friends reminded me, it was what I meant for it to be. I made something out of nothing. I did what I set out to do. The bands were awesome! Shout out to Rockin’ Rhythm and the Chris Barba Band for donating their time and talent, and thanks to Jim Neri for booking them. The food was great! Thanks dad, for cooking and donating all the food. Thanks to my friends Erin, Gordy, Bridget, Tom, Brenda, Chrissy and Will for all your help. Thanks to my fabulous Board for being such an important part of this journey. Thanks to all the people who donated auction items, including my mom and my sisters.
We will be having another fundraiser this Friday December 4that the Masonic Lodge, 80 Walsh Ave. Newington Ct. from 6:00-10:00. Tickets are $20. There will be dinner, beer & wine, live music, & a silent auction (pretty much like the first one, but more intimate) I’m excited to see how many more people we can reach.
So, here’s my takeaway… First of all, thirty people matter. I touched their lives and that is more than enough for me. Second, leaps of faith are not for the faint of heart. I’m not faint hearted. I am resilient. I have gumption, determination, panache and a sprinkle of crazy. I am that person who, in conversation with someone trying to convince me that my path will be hard and riddled with bumps and detours, simply said, “Yes. I’m sure it will.” and smiled.


Thanks for reading.
As always, Love and Light. 

I wasn’t prepared for this. I thought I was, but how could I be? How could anyone be? The more I stand outside of that belief and look in, the more real it all becomes to me.
This kind of thing happens every day. A thing that victims, survivors, navigate. And then there are those who don’t make it. The people whose navigating days are over.
My ex husband was released from prison two days ago.
Maybe typing those words, much like saying them out loud, makes them more real. It makes them exist in the world.
I’ve toyed with overwhelm. I’ve battled fear. I conquer the want for isolation daily. I have embraced what makes me real, what makes me human. It is not easy. For those who don’t know what it feels like to have been abused, imagine your own personal Hitler, Stalin, Castro, or dare I say ISIS. Imagine a person seeking complete control of every aspect of your life. Someone who wants that power and control and will take it at any cost. One who is energized by the very fear you feel. Who feeds off your panic, terror, paranoia, tears, sorrow, exhaustion, lonliness & despair like a leach.
When you’re in this state of panic and exhaustion you start to get tired, you don’t take care of yourself or the things that you are responsible for nearly as well as usual. You get sick, maybe gain weight, maybe lose weight, make little mistakes that could be costly; run a red light, forget an appointment, forget your wallet, miss deadlines at work, seem flaky or forgetful to people, become withdrawn etc.
Thus begins the slow and painstaking breakdown of a person.
Sometimes, even if you’re aware of what’s going on, you have little power to stop it. You feel like you’re falling down a spiral staircase with no end in sight. I tend to feel like I’m pulling a heavy load while neck deep in quicksand. And this…this very feeling is what the abuser counts on, hunting the weak and wounded to feel powerful.
These empty, insecure cowards are in among us all. We see them, just like we see their victims, every day. At the grocery store, the hospital, our children’s school, dance class, soccer practice, on TV, on a sports team…
I wasn’t going to write this. I was going to keep the appearance of a strong stoic woman, while fighting this battle in silence. But then who would I be? If I am not true to my brand, who am I? This is not Sarah Shuts Down, this is Sarah Speaks Up! And so I will share that I am scared too. It hurts. I struggle. I know how it feels to fight this battle for freedom, for life, again and again, wiping the tears from my face as I hear my daughter’s footsteps approach, hoping she wont see me crying.
I made this decision before I was posed with the question, “What will you do when he gets out?”. I decided that I will continue my work. I decided that I will be an example of boldness and tenacity. I decided to fight harder for those in need, including myself. No matter how tired I feel, how much my head aches, how badly my eyes sting. I will reach out to friends and family for help and support, just as I am there for others in need. I am no different from any other survivor. We are all one family, sharing a common thread, the understanding of what the other is going through.
For my friends, for my family, for my clients, for my coworkers, for my kindred spirits, for my daughter, for myself…

I decided that I will not be quiet even if I am afraid. I will not shrink or shrivel even if I am trembling. Against all odds, I will not stop Speaking Up.

What I wish I thought to say…



On Tuesday I had my radio interview with the amazing Renee DiNino. She was gracious, thoughtful and incredibly insightful. (Thanks for that, Renee.) Our topic of discussion was, you guessed it, domestic violence. And although this is a topic I discuss every day, it’s not one that I discuss on the radio. Usually I get to preview the questions that will be asked during interviews so that I can prepare my answers mentally before we begin. With Renee? No dice. She wants the raw, real un-canned answer. A genuine conversation. Of course she does, because that’s what listeners what to hear! 
Me: So, can we go over the questions you’re going to ask?
Renee: Don’t worry. It’s just going to be a conversation. Talk about whatever you’re comfortable talking about. But try to keep it to a twelve year old audience. Remember, kids might be listening. 
Me: “Ok, I can do that.” (in my head) Holy crap! Most of my story is pretty terrible. Can I say miscarriage? Can I say he shot at me? Can I say he strangled me so I couldn’t sing any more or that he gave my cat away while I wasn’t home so that I would stay with him in order to get her back? (out loud) “Can I say miscarriage?”
Renee: “Yes.” (she paused and looked at me) “You’re ok. This is going to help a lot of people. It’ll reach about 2 million.”
Me: (in my head) Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap! Smile. Deep breath. (out loud) “Ok.”
And so the interview commenced…
I think I did alright. I get stuck on the weight of what I’m doing sometimes. The fact that I want to save as many people as I can. I want to help people improve their lives. I want healing to go forth into future generations. It can get heavy. If I let it, it could probably derail me. Self doubt. Insecurities. And the grand asshole in my head, the one I lived with in person for ten years. “Who do you think you are? Who’s gonna listen to you? You don’t know anything! Stupid Bitch!” That was my name for a long time. 
No. More. 
But there is one question I wish I had answered differently. And since I have this platform, I’m going to make use of it. Will it reach 2 million people? Maybe not. Maybe it will if you help me by sharing this. Either way, I have to put it out there. And even if it saves one person, then it will have done what I had hoped it would. 
Renee asked me what I would say to someone who is experiencing domestic violence right now. Heres what I wish I had said…
I know what you’re going through. I know you’re scared and hurt and embarrassed and confused. You can’t see past surviving today. You’re probably angry about what’s happened to you. Maybe you blame your abuser for hurting and manipulating you, maybe you blame your family for judging you or not saving you. Maybe you blame your friends for being distant or turning their backs. Maybe you blame yourself. Its not your fault. I know you feel totally alone, but you’re not. I’m here. There are places for you to go for help and so many other people to help you. YOU ARE WORTH SAVING! You don’t deserve to be abused. Nobody does. You deserve to be happy, to be free to make your own choices, whatever they are. You are NOT broken beyond repair. You are NOT worthless. You are beautiful, gorgeous, handsome, smart, worthwhile, special, intelligent, ONE OF A KIND! Your children need you. We need you. I need you. There can be a beautiful life waiting for you. I can’t promise it will be easy, but it is possible. Recovering from abuse takes hard work. I know that because I’ve done it…I’m still doing it. But every single second of reclaiming my life has been worth it. You deserve real love and respect, from everybody…including yourself. 
I love you. 
Please stay safe.
Help is a phone call away.
National DV Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-888-744-2900 (English)
1-844-831-9200 (Spanish)
Prudence Crandall Center Hotline:
1-888-774-2900
(860) 225-6357

International Domestic Violence Hotline:
To contact the toll-free crisis line from overseas, first dial your AT&T USADirect access number and at the prompt, enter: 866-USWOMEN (879-6636).
Or email at crisis@866uswomen.org

Something happened at the park yesterday.

I had been having a rough day and decided to bring my daughter and her friend to the park down the street. We only had an hour to stay there because my daughter had soccer practice at 5 o’clock. With 20 minutes left to play, the girls ran up to me and asked if they could go fishing in the pond with their friend from school. The friend was with her mom and little brother. I told the girls that they could do whatever they wanted with their 20 minutes, so if they wanted to fish that was fine with me.

At this point I think it’s important to share the fact that although I know how to fish I don’t like to. I am the girl who picks up worms off the driveway after it has rained and almost causes the occasional car crash for a turtle crossing the road. I honor and appreciate the life in all living things. Well maybe not ALL… I don’t like mosquitoes, ticks, flys & other such pests, but I still save spiders and mice if I can. Anyway, I love to eat fish but not to catch it.
So here we are standing at the railing at the edge of the concrete slab that allows the kids to get right up next to the water. I, of course, was holding the book I had been reading and looking through emails on my cell phone. I had no intention of getting involved with the whole debacle.
The mom produced three fishing poles out of her van. There were two small ones for the kids with rubber fish at the end and one big one for her. It was obvious to me that the kids were just going to cast and reel. She seemed to be doing the same because she only had a fake worm at the end of her line and a plastic bobber.
None of them knew how to cast at all. It was like watching a sea lion throw an apple pie. No offense to sea lions… At one point my daughters friend tried to use the big fishing pole. She got the line caught in a tree and we had to snip it and put a new worm at the end. This is when the mom proudly produced a tackle box full of brand-new shiny, never been used hooks, bobbers and glittery colorful fake worms. She was beaming like a kid in a candy store. She had no idea what she was doing. Then she told me, “I could never use real worms. I can’t touch them. (She made a disgusted face.) I don’t look much like a girly girl but I really am.” She was right. She most certainly did not look like a girly girl. She was wearing some old navy blue capris made from sweatshirt material and an oversized mauve t-shirt with four cartoon pictures of the Hulk’s face on it. At that point it made sense to me why we never got to know each other. She proceeded to put a hook at the end of her line and stuck a fake rubber worm at the end. Then she cast, in true pie throwing fashion.
About one minute later there was a tug. She immediately started screaming and freaking out, jumping around and almost letting go of the fishing pole. It was resting on the edge of the railing and flopping from hand to hand. Then she exclaimed, “How did this happen?!?! I didn’t mean to catch a fish!!!”
(Pause)
I wish I had a picture of the look on my face. As I mentioned before I had been having a rough day. A nice stroll in the park in the beautiful sunny breeze would have been ideal. As par for the course I was stuck with gangly clueless girlie mom and her sea lion offspring. I wanted to scream, “You absolute imbecile! You’re fishing! You caught a fish because you’re FISHING!” , but I didn’t.
(Unpause)
I took the pole. At that point the fish had gotten stuck in a branch floating in the water. I successfully reeled it in and maneuvered it from the branch. I pulled it out of the water and did what I had seen people who actually fish, do. I held the fins down against its body and squeezed to keep its mouth open. At this point I noticed its teeth. Yay. Gangly girlie mom and her sea lion offspring were screeching. The two girls who were with me were fine. I was not at all amused.
The hook was stuck inside the roof of its mouth. I had to bite the line with my teeth because there were no shiny new scissors in the candy coated tackle box. I was holding the fish and looking into the eyeball that was closest to me. I started to apologize to it for not being the best person for the job. Then again, it could have been left to Mrs. How Did This Happen, so I guess it was better off with me. Tears were coming to my eyes. I was holding a living creature, acutely aware of the fact that the more time I took trying to gingerly remove the hook from its mouth the closer it was to dying in my hand.
I composed myself. After another minute I successfully got it dislodged and threw the fish back in the water. It swam away.        
It’s a good thing that there aren’t laser beams that shoot out of my eyes. Because when girly mom told my daughter, “Your mom is the bravest woman I’ve ever known!!!” then turned to me and asked, “Are you mad at me?”, I know for a fact she’d be a goner. There’d be nothing I could do but ask, “How did this happen?!?!”
I placed the hook and accessories in her hand and told her never to fish with a hook again. Then I turned quickly and told the girls we had to go to soccer practice. I washed my hands five times before we got there and they still smelled like fish.
Moral of this story: If you don’t want to catch a fish, don’t use a hook. (Rocket science, I know.)
Or
Stay away from stupid people at the park. You just might end up holding a fish.

As a trauma survivor, I developed the ability to turn my feelings off. I started at an early age.  It’s easier to live through your days when they aren’t riddled with anguish, confusion, disappointment and isolation. With the flip of a switch I could just feel nothing. How beautiful is that?

When asked if I was ok, I could simply say, “Yes.”
As life went on and things got harder, I honed my switch flipping skills. It was no longer something I had to invoke, but something that became automatic. Difficult situations would arise and the switch knew what to do.
This was a lovely feature. No fuss, no muss. But there was a problem. I couldn’t control it anymore. I couldn’t tell which feelings were genuine and which were missing. So much time, so much training, so much energy spent not feeling, that I couldn’t feel anything any more.
I’ve researched about PTSD. This is not an uncommon occurrence. But how does one turn it back? How do you start to let yourself feel when it becomes safe to do so? As is true about most  things, every individual has their own way of processing. Pain, loss, grief, jealousy, gratitude, loneliness, happiness, failure, success… Your way to deal with those emotions is different than mine.
So here is where I am right now. I have recently been through many hard blows in a short amount of time. Not only that, but I feel like every major area of my life is in transition and/or upheaval. It’s all new. It all takes work. It all brings FEELINGS! I could choose to let the switch keep doing its thing, turning off and on as it sees fit. Or I can finally let myself feel.
Crossroad.
I have chosen to do the thing that I think is the bravest for me right now. I dove into the sadness I felt. It was as terrible as it should be. I ate too many potato chips, burgers, and pieces of cake. I drank too much red wine. I stopped doing the things that I enjoyed before. I watched more TV and read less. I was out of focus and I knew it, but I assumed that it was all part of the process, so I let it happen. Before, when the switch was in full effect, sadness was just visited. I only ever stuck my toe in it. The water was cold, so I opted out. “No thank you. That doesn’t work for me.” Funny, right? I was afraid of sadness, I was afraid of happiness, I was afraid of fear! These automatic parts of the human experience were not genuinely mine.    
Through this process I’m making sure to surround myself with supportive people. I make an extra effort to be kind to myself; read a book, watch a favorite show, listen to music, take a bath, go out to dinner, write in a beautiful place. I’m reconnecting with the things that I loved before and learning what new things I can add to that list. I’m going to the gym and hitting the bag again. I’m revisiting my healthy eating habits. I’m going to book stores & live music. I’m making sure to pay attention to my needs and not judge myself so harshly for being in a vulnerable place.
So, here I am. Feeling. It’s interesting. The world is a little bit brighter, a lot more real, and a little bit more beautiful than I had known before.

And I am more a part of it.
As always, thanks for reading!
Please feel free to post a comment.
I’d love to hear from you!
Love & Light

When I was in high school I wanted to be a famous singer. I did everything I could to make that dream come true. I took voice lessons, I was in every kind of choir I could join, I did solos at our schools talent show and won first place two years in a row. I worked hard.

When it was time to apply for college I only wanted to go to one place; Berkelee College of Music.
And so I did.
When I found out I had been accepted to Berkelee I was ecstatic! I felt like I was going exactly where I needed to go and doing exactly what I needed to do. All my hard work paid off.
Arriving in Boston was exciting and scary. All my life I lived in little Berlin Connecticut. My exposure to the city, any city, was almost nonexistent. I did my best to adjust, though, making new friends and going to my classes. All the while there was a storm brewing inside of me but I didn’t realize it until it was too late.
It started with my dreams. I would wake up in a cold sweat, in a strange place, with people I had only just met. I wasn’t home. But I guess I had to leave home in order to begin to process what had happened to me. Of course, I didn’t want to face it and I couldn’t tell any one about it. I felt totally alone, confused, scared, hurt, overlooked, & abandoned. I didn’t want to face the truth.
The truth is, I was molested.
Not much else could have more successfully derailed me. And it did. I began to sleep more and more. As much as I could. Not because I wanted to dream, but because I wanted to not be awake. I didn’t want to feel any of the things I was feeling. I didn’t want to remember any of the things I was remembering. I worked hard to forget, but I couldn’t. The only thing my mind would not reveal is who the perpetrator was. I wanted it all to go away, but it wouldn’t. I started struggling in my classes because I couldn’t focus, which wasn’t like me. I was an excellent student and I always gave my all to anything that had to do with music. But I was failing at this. My big break, my chance to do what I always wanted to do, my dream come true was crashing. I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression with no lifeline.
I tried everything I could think of to make me feel better. Sex, drugs, shopping. None of it helped. All of it created a bigger problem in my life, exacerbating my already deep depression. I sunk deeper. The means by which to “fix” my problems made it worse than it already was. Smoking pot affected my voice. Shopping racked up credit card debit, a card that wasn’t in my name, & that was for essentials and emergencies only. And having sex got me pregnant. Did I love the person whose baby it was? Yes. As complicated as our relationship was, I did love him to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, at the time, my ability to love someone else was so skewed and distorted because my ability to love myself was the same. He was good to me. It felt so strange. It scared me so much that I couldn’t get over it. I was young, only 19. I had an abortion.
That was it for me.
I was failing at my life’s dream. For the first time in my life I realized that I had been molested as a girl, over the span of five years. My friends didn’t recognize me anymore. My family disowned me. And I gave up on myself.
My family would not come pick me up at the end of the semester. I had no place else to go, so the guy I was dating at my summer job before college, came to get me. Things got worse before they got better. I attempted suicide three times. He was there through it all. And although he had asked me to marry him, our relationship didn’t last. I was still in such a bad place, and at the time on way too much antidepressant medication. I was no semblance of Sarah.
(I’ll be skimming over quite a bit of what happened after that just because I will cover those things in detail another time. And if I got into it all now this would be a book not a blog post.)
Once he left I met my abusive ex-husband. After years of not singing because I felt like a failure, I tried to join a choir. After a few practices he strangled me. When it was over he said, “Let’s see if you can sing now.” 
I couldn’t.
That is the worst it’s ever been for me. I know I could have died on several occasions. There were times I wished he had killed me. At least I wouldn’t hurt so wretchedly any more.
But I lived.
And here I am. I worked very hard in counseling to process a lot of my past. Four weeks ago I went to a hypnotist to figure out who molested me. Now I know.
Through it all, for better or worse, I had my voice. Glorified. Praised. Beautiful. Stifled. Fearful. Oppressed. Stolen.
Whatever it was, whatever it is, I have taken it back.
My voice is mine now. It will always be mine. Weather singing solos or in a choir, screaming for help, or telling my story, this is my voice. I will use it as much as I can to help people, to teach people, to comfort people & to inspire people. These things that I’ve been through are not who I am, they’re just part of my journey. I am not perfect, but I know I am strong. I’m still here, after all. I know I have something to say that can change people’s lives. And so I will. Because I still can.
Sarah Speaks Up.
As always, thank you for reading.
Love & Light

August 5, 2013
The day my world turned upside down.
Shock. Loss. Grief. Despair.
Grief. Not only a word, but a process.
I don’t know why I thought she was going to be Okay. Maybe it was the fact that throughout my entire life she was the strongest person I had ever known. Or it could’ve been the fact that I assumed my needing her so badly would keep her here. She fought the cancer. She was in remission. The fight was long and hard, and I admired her for never giving up. In the end, it wasn’t the cancer that took her. She died suddenly of congestive heart failure. She was on a business trip. To this day it bothers me that she died alone in a hotel room at the casino. She always hated the air in those rooms. She said it was so recycled and stuffy. No matter what they tried to do they couldn’t take the cigarette smell out.
Nancy Alice Spitko
Nancy was my aunt, but she was so much more like a mother to me. She paid for my dance classes, taught me how to write school papers, brought me school clothes shopping…really, she was an example of the kind of person that I wanted to be. As dysfunctional and convoluted as my childhood was, she was constant. I could always count on her. She was there for me no matter what. She was my rock. Not only did she help me get out of my abusive marriage, but she helped me stay out by giving me and my daughter a place to live that was safe and supportive. We didn’t need to go into a shelter because of her. As if that weren’t enough, she picked up the other parent role in my daughters life. When I needed help or someone to watch my daughter she was always there. She would do the same things for my daughter that she used to do for me. When she died, my world turned upside down. More than two years later, on Wednesday, August 26, I will begin the conscious work of turning it right side up again.
Two years later, I wasn’t exactly looking for a wake up call. I didn’t need to be blindsided by the fact that I still had a lot of grieving to do. After experiencing some very traumatic events as a young girl, I had become extremely adept at convincing myself that I was more OK than I really was. In fact it was almost involuntary. Put on your blinders and carry-on. The world doesn’t stop for my feelings. And then the Facebook posts began. One of my best friends from childhood, Nathan, had just experienced a loss of his own. His cousin had died in a tragic accident.
August 13, 2015
Tyler Bresnahan.

Tyler was 20 years old when he fell to his death. He was 6’5″ and in amazing shape. He worked as a lifeguard. He was making a movie about pushing past limits. He would film himself swimming under the water, cliff jumping and other types of thrill seeking activities. His father died in a house fire when Tyler was 18. Being that his mother has MS, after his fathers sudden death, he followed in his father’s footsteps, taking care of her to the best of his ability. Tyler was a dreamer who planned on seeing those dreams through. He was interested in becoming an EMT and also wanted to go to film school. It’s safe to say that Tyler was an amazing person. He loved to push the boundaries of what most people would do. Hearing about him made me realize the yin and yang of his personality. He was a dreamer who loved excitement and fun, trying to share his stunts with the world through film, but he was sole to the Earth, in his desire to help people as a lifeguard, steadfast caretaker, and desire to be an EMT. He loved excitement and living life to the fullest, but he was grounded by a profound love for his family and dedication to his mother. Tyler died too soon at the age of 20. All the people who loved him, family and friends, their  lives will never be the same.

My blog is about the healing process. About what I have to do, steps I have to take, to heal my heart and soul of the pain I have experienced in my life. Grief is my most hated part of that process. I have no control of it. I don’t know when it will sweep over me like a dark cloud bringing sudden thunder and rain. Or when it will hit me at the most inopportune time, like in the store or on an important phone call or during a meeting, that I feel like I want to cry and scream and crawl out of my skin. There is no one for me to bargain with. Neither God nor the universe has been willing to negotiate with me thus far. I miss Nancy. I want her back. I can’t have that.
Yet, here I am reminded of all the things I learned from her. About who I want to be and how I want to live, or don’t want to live. I’ve been able to meld the lessons I learned by her example, and my own wants and desires, into a beautiful mosaic of my life vision. The truth is, as cliché as it may sound, that these people leave their footprints in our lives and on our hearts. That can never be taken away. The gifts they’ve given are more than just these lessons. The gifts they give are themselves. We are all entwined. Our lives are not singular. Our influence goes further than just our own reflection. The same footprints those people who we have lost, have left on our lives, are the same prints our own feet are leaving. We have the real true opportunity to affect every single living being we come in contact with, during the entire span of our lives. 
In Nancy’s memory, I move forward. Not because I would be stagnant if she were still here, but because in her absence I think it’s important to be an example of the strength that I learned. Because I’ve literally got bigger shoes to fill than I was made to. But much like Nancy taught me, and much like Tyler showed us, we are capable of so much more than what we think we were made to do.
To the Bresnahan, Selwyn, & Brouillette families, I am truly deeply sorry for your loss. If you are moved to help the family with burial expenses please visit their gofundme page at

http://www.gofundme.com/pfbws37s

Maybe it’s just me. Right? Maybe everyone else has it together and I’m the only one who is struggling, drained, exhausted, burnt out & overwhelmed; stretched in too many different directions.
I’m sure that’s it. I’m alone in my zombie walk from my car after doing a job that hasn’t fed my soul in years, with my arms too full of stuff to bring inside. Of course, I get all existential with it, and equate the stuff I’m carrying into my house to the emotional baggage I carry with me every day. Because that’s how I roll. Pile it on! There can’t be more people who feel this way. Like trying to hold a dry sand castle in my hands with nothing but the fingers they were provided.
My healing journey starts here. In this place. Here is where I say, “I need to fix this. This isn’t the way I want my life to be.” My healing starts in this mess of puzzle pieces. At least I can say that I love the pieces I’ve created for myself. There was a time when even the pieces; my house, my friends, my interests, my partner (specifically my ex-husband), even my clothes were not what I wanted them to be. That’s a tough place to be. OR it’s a beautiful place to be. A potential blank slate. It’s the opportunity to look at life and say, “NO. None of this works for me.”
By seeing all the things I didn’t want, I was able to check them off the list of possibilities.  No, having no friends because I wasn’t allowed to, didn’t work for me. Check! No, living in a crappy apartment in a scary neighborhood with crazy neighbors didn’t work for me. Check! No, being ridiculed for reading books and wanting to sing in a choir didn’t work for me. Check! No, wearing far too baggy clothes to hide my body and try to please my ex-husband didn’t work for me. Check! And no, my ex himself, in all his violent manipulative degrading splendor, most certainly did NOT work for me. Check!
Look at all that work!
Knowing what you don’t want is the path to finding out what you do want. Our experiences, our failures, teach us if we let them. I’ve been known to be a repeat mistake maker. You know, because I’m thorough and I love learning. J
So, yes, I have some bad zombie days. Yes, I make mistakes (repeatedly). Yes, I’m staring at a pile of beautiful Life puzzle pieces waiting to be put together. I’m also staring at a pile of laundry and paperwork. (I’m sure I’m the only one with those things too.) I get frustrated. I lose focus. BUT…that’s ok. I forgive me. I’m not perfect…yet. Ok, ok. I’ll never be perfect. My goal is not perfection. My goal is to be happily me & to make that happiness utterly contagious. If you don’t have it already, I hope you catch it!
A special thanks to all my friends and supporters who shared my blog link!!! In no particular order: Bridget Cooper, Kimberly Chabot, Dawn Plante, Rita MacRae, Kim Montana Grace & Josh Raymond. Thank you to my mom, Carol Spitko and my sisters Michelle Leone & Andrea Agostinucci. And a VERY special thanks to Joe Day for helping me set the whole thing up. I am grateful for all of you. I couldn’t have done it without you guys…I mean that about more than just the blog. (If I missed anyone, please let me know.)
Thanks for reading.
As always,
Love & Light

My healing Journey…
It’s funny. I thought I had my thoughts together.  Throughout the day I’m like, “Totally blogging about that!” (Yes, all you organizers, I have several idea pads now. They tell me to “be brilliant”, so I have no choice but to step my game up.) As I sit down on my swinging banana chair on my back deck, I feel the pressure of the first blog post. (Cue menacing piano music.) It’s the one that is supposed to make me interesting to people so that they’ll keep reading what I write. The truth is, I’m just a normal person who, like most people, has been hurt by the actions of others and by the decisions I have made for myself. It can turn into a spiral. One hurt begets another, begets another until you’re swimming in hurt soup without a spoon.
I think emotional pain is a universal human experience. Different people get to different depths than others. Some people are convinced that nobody else could possibly understand or have felt what they’re feeling. Some people get stuck, get lost in the victim mentality. Some people get so used to pain that they create more of it for themselves even after the initial cause has been eradicated, because they feel that’s all they’ll ever know or deserve. Some people hurt so badly that they become hopeless, in the real sense of the word. They give up. I’m here to share with you that I’ve been every one of those people at one time in my life or another.
Now, here’s the hope (cue choirs of angels and bright beams of light). I’m not any of those versions of me any more. Do I ever feel sad? Yes. Of course! I’m still human after all. But what I’ve been able to do is pick myself up, brush myself off, and keep trying at happiness & peace of mind. I’ve found that the key for me is never giving up, trying new things, staying as positive as I can, exercising (don’t knock it, it helps), broadening my horizon, changing the people I’m surrounded with…and continuing to change them until I get it right, caring about myself, relaxing (or trying…it’s hard…I’m pretty busy), making goals: big ones and small ones, talking to people, stepping out of my comfort zone, helping others, and the most important job I’ll ever have, being the best mom I can be.
This blog is devoted to sharing my healing journey. Whatever twists and turns it may take; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I hope it will help someone. I’ve seen the domino effect of saving one person from pain and despair. I see it every day when I look at my daughter.
Thanks for reading.
As always,

Love & Light