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I’ve been struggling with a way to sum up this past year in one perfectly wrapped year-end post, all tied up with ribbons, nice and neat. I’ve begun this post countless times, always trying to find the best way to convey to all of you exactly what this year has been like. I have wanted to share with you how much your love and support (and mustaches) have meant to me this year. But it’s been a complete waste of time. I could never sum up what I have taken away from this year in one pretty post.

This year wasn’t pretty. This year was hard. It rocked me to my core. I am still fighting to reclaim much of who I once was, rebuilding pieces of who I want to be, and learning to make peace with the loss of things I can’t get back. Throughout this year, I felt an incredible range of emotions, from anger and fear, to acceptance and gratitude. The one thing I never felt was alone. In so many different ways, your tweets, your emails, your offers to help, your prayers, hugs and smiles, you guys helped me navigate through this year with hope and gratitude, and some days, maybe, just a little bit of grace.

Some of you, and you know who you are, sat at my bedside and held my hand. Others held my children, and made sure my family was fed. Some of you, without being asked, just kept showing up. It is something I will never forget, and those acts of kindness will shape the way my children live their lives and how they treat others. We are forever changed because once upon a time, a girl fell down, and an entire community came together to pick her up, dust her off, and carry her awhile until she could walk on her own.

I cannot think of any words of my own to express what I feel when I think back on this year. More than anything else, the thing that resonates most was more than just never feeling alone. You made me feel protected. Protected. That’s huge. It meant more to me than you could possibly know. There were times when it was harder than normal to pick myself up and get through one more treatment, one more hospital stay, one more fucking MRI. It’s those moments that I don’t talk about. I don’t tweet about them. Those are the moments that I have to dig deep. I have to forgive myself for feeling so weak, so sad. I have to pull it all back together and remember that my life is beautiful, even if this moment is not.  I remember earlier this year, sitting in the quiet, listening to this song, it made me think of all of you. Loving me, protecting me, never letting me stand alone, and I thought, “This is going to be okay.” You did that. I am forever grateful.

Timshel, Mumford and Sons



Thank you, for everything. I’ll eat you up, I love you so.

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Hello. My name is Sara. On May 20, 2010 I had brain surgery. I also have  fancy new titanium plate in my head. I’m feeling relatively badass lately.

Here’s the skinny folks. I have a brain malformation that causes the bottom most part of my cerebellum to grow out of my skull, through the forgem magnum and into/onto my spinal cord. This creates several problems. First of all, it creates pressure directly onto my brain. This causes daily headaches and migraine-like-holy-shit-headaches 2 to 3 times per week. In my case, it also caused double vision, hearing and vision loss and nerve damage. Secondly, the pressure on my spinal cord caused a serious interruption in the flow of spinal cord fluid. This caused a cyst, or syrinx, inside my spinal cord causing additional nerve damage, change in my gait, weakness in my limbs, loss of feeling in my face and partial paralysis. I have had this malformation since birth. The severe headaches began over a decade ago. I have had a headache every day for seven years. In the last 6 months I have had increased trouble with balance. Some days, it was hard to walk or hold my children.

I have been able to hide this very successfully for many years. As neurological symptoms have progressed, it became harder to hide these things. I ruined family vacations. I frequently had to back out of plans. I figured that if I could be strong enough to be a good mom and be good at my job, that it would be enough. I was totally used to it. I still had an amazing family, the world’s best friends ever, and a life that made my heart truly glad every day. Maybe it was a little harder than a healthier person’s life, but it was mine and I still loved it.

Lately, it didn’t matter how strong I was. I couldn’t be the mom I know my kids deserve. I had to put too much onto Augie. I was struggling to accomplish everything I needed to do in a day. Slowly, I was becoming so physically worn that all the positive attitude in the world couldn’t cut it.

I went back to my doctor recently and told that same story. A failed neurological exam led to an MRI. (I wasn’t too worried, it sure wasn’t my first MRI with all these headaches…) A neuroradiologist caught something that several other neurologists had missed. I had a 6mm Chiari Malformation bilaterally. My brain had escaped my skull. (Come on, this is totally badass though right?) I was referred immediately to neurosurgery. Upon further research, an earlier diagnosis of MS was finally dismissed (can you imagine how miraculous this was?!), symptoms were explained, and most importantly of all, my diagnosis was one of “We think we can help you, Sara.” not “Tough break, kid.”

It has been a long long journey. On May 26, 2010 I sat on my bed and cried tears of joy. For the first time in 7 years, I did not have a headache. I had forgotten what that felt like. I was overcome with gratitude.

I am healing now. I am 9 days from surgery and some of my symptoms are gone. (I can breathe so much better without pressure on my brainstem!) Some will stay. Some spinal cord damage cannot be repaired. (YET!) I’m ok with that. I’m ok at 90%, because with gratitude in my heart and all of the beautiful people in my life, I will achieve 125% every day.

So, that’s my story. This is the very first time I’ve told it. I’m glad to be able to share it with you.

P.S.

I very specifically asked the surgeon NOT to touch the Jackassery Lobe. He complied. Fair warning.

Also, FACT: My husband can sneak video ANYWHERE. I plan to continue to share my experience with all of you over the next months. We have captured this entire experience with wickedawesome video, photos and words. Some of it is happy, some scary, some just plain gross. But it’s all part of this journey.

If anyone is sick of my dailymile.com lovefest posts, check ya later.

I came home from a conference last night to find that my dailymile family had been up to some shenanigans, again. I have been unable to run for a few weeks and will be unable to run until after a surgical procedure and recovery period. (While I will be back to regular activities within days, it’ll take a bit longer to get back on the running trail.) Might not be a big deal to some people, but running is important to me. It’s not just the physical benefit, it’s the mental “dumptruck” I can accomplish by leaving everything that pisses me off somewhere along the trail. Maybe most importantly, I enjoy drinking beer. A lot of beer. I occasionally eat my feelings. Running keeps me in Southwest Airline’s seats.

Aaaaaanyway.

My beloved dailymilers decided to have a Friday Night group run. For me. Because they love me. This is what the route looked like:

Love Route

They checked the route on the Garmin, they actually ran in the shape of a heart.

I can’t run. That sucks. I have to have surgery. Also sucks. This is temporary. Totally awesome. So, I’m trying not to whine about it. (I fucking hate whining.) My running pals kind of get me in a crazy-runner way. They also happen to be damn fine human beings. They make me want to be a better person so that I can maybe-actually-someday deserve the kind of support and love and heart shaped shenanigans they bring me.

Thank you. I love you. #lovefest #getaroom

Random: I find the phrase “surgical procedure” as somehow slightly gross, like “feminine napkin” or “viral load”. I have no idea why that is.

Until just a couple years ago, I didn’t need outside motivation to run. It fit neatly into my daily routine, and I was accustomed to just getting a certain mileage in each week. Having generally been a solo runner, I never had an interest in running clubs, or even a running partner. Other than the occasional run with my sister, I’d just hammer out some miles and get on with my day.

In the last few years, that began to change. Life got a hell of a lot busier. The kids, getting older, have schedules, my husband has a schedule, and my schedule has, of course, gotten insane. Why? Because I’m the mom, that’s why. In juggling family, business, random life crises, etc. I stopped paying attention. Missed days turned to missed weeks, turned into “run? what’s that?” My trainer recently said, “You didn’t lose who you are, you just stopped paying attention.” I like that. Makes me feel a little more confident as I reflect on when and how I started to lose focus on fitness, and begin to find myself again. Life changes, we change too. We need to find new ways of reaching goals. We need to grow.

One of the things absolutely vital to this process has been an online community called dailymile. I was turned onto it by my friends Anne (@bananza) and Tracey (@tmgessner). Here I am, the “lone runner” turning to a community of runners, cyclists and athletes for motivation and support. Never thought that this kind of community would be a good fit for me, but times change. I love my dailymile friends. Some days they ARE the difference between a pity party on the couch or a solid (even if its slow) run to keep me on track.

There are athletes of every fitness level in this community, from marathoners to nightly walkers. Our common ground is a desire to be healthy and to achieve our best level of fitness, as different as our actual goals may be. I love to watch the younger, child-free crowd train. It brings back memories of a Sara-that-once-was. It motivates me. And I couldn’t train the way I do without the parents on dailymile that are juggling all the same things I do, and still get out there and train. I have found a good balance of “push harder Sara” and “keep your priorities (kids) in focus too”. I owe them so much for that level of support and camaraderie.

I am so fortunate to have found this amazing group of athletes. I am glad that I have graduated from “solo runner” to “dailymiler”. Turns out, it’s the perfect place for a #beerrunner like me, who needs a lot more running and a little less beer.  🙂

dailymile

Later Gators.

MJPWD9BXDQ6G

I love Twitter. I really do. But if you tweet on the regular, you cannot escape the gigantic amount of bullshit floating around the twitter-webs. There are many kinds. Luckily, I have found a number of tweeps that are pretty down-to-Earth, no bullshit kind of people. I like them. A lot.

So why are some people so bullshitty? They are afraid of losing friends, losing potential business, losing *GASP* followers. Every single social media expert on the planet has warned them about “damaging their personal brand”. So, they are told to keep it nice, and polite, and well, kind of boring. I’m guilty of it too. I routinely ignore things that I might otherwise respond to because I hesitate for a second and think, “Is that going to be hurtful? Will they read too much into it? Will they be terribly offended?” Then I usually just leave it be.

Even “THAT GUY”. You all known him (or her). Yeah, I have even ignored THAT GUY when what I really wanted to say was, “You irritate every single person on Twitter. Are you okay with that, or do you want to dial it back some?” We all have a THAT GUY in our streams.

NOTE:

If you don’t have a THAT GUY in your stream, it may be you. You’re welcome.

*sigh*

Twitter is one of the very first places I go for feedback, recommendations, fast, real, information. If everyone is just being nice, where does that get me? I will love you MORE for being real! Be funny! Be angry! Be YOU! (Just don’t be douche-y.)

So, in honor of the real, genuine, AWESOME conversations happening all over the interwebs, I will be taking a shotgun to my personal brand once a week.

For one night a week, Monday night to be exact, I will provide honest, uncensored “no bullshit” feedback on a particular topic. Maybe I’ll pick it. Maybe I’ll let someone else pick it. I don’t know. Whatever I feel like. I get to make the rules.

This isn’t to say that I won’t offer up my opinions, unsolicited or otherwise, during the week. This will be more direct question/answer forum.

So there it is, no bullshit.

Oh, and thanks to @TheGlenn and @TeeCycleTim. This is 100% all your fault. 😉

On the recommendation of a fellow Milwaukee beer snob, I recently read Andrew Wagner’s post, My beef with “beer snobs”, on onmilwaukee.com. The following is my response.

Whoa, brah. Dial it back a second. Don’t confuse the term “beer snob” with the term “douche bag”.

As many of my 13 readers know, I am somewhat of an authority on douchebaggery. After all, my mission in life is to stamp out douche-y behavior whenever I encounter it. What Wagner describes in his post is clearly super-douche behavior.

And I totally agree with him.

Why does anyone care what kind of beverage anyone else drinks anyway? How totally weird is that? (Very.) When someone walks into a bar and acts like a know-it-all asshat, it’s clearly done in an attempt to look special, or wicked-awesome, or… something. Sadly, it’s pretty lame and douche-y. THAT is not a beer snob. THAT is just a plain old douche bag. (Related: It’s totally ok to want to kick those people in the nards. I’m not encouraging you to do that. I’m just saying, it’s ok to feel like you want to. We all do.)

I am a self-proclaimed beer snob. I enjoy craft beer. I enjoy the amazing aromas and flavors that have been created by people who imagined a new combination of malts, hops, yeasts and spices and just said, “Fuck it, let’s give it a go then…” I enjoy beer in the same way I enjoy great food. Most real beer snobs do. We bear the title with a lot of love for delicious brew and a little bit of humor. We don’t really take ourselves that seriously, we just like beer.

That being said, anyone who knows me knows that I am a champion of the Pabst Blue Ribbon Tall Boy. *genuflects* I like it. In fact, I can dig the original recipe Schlitz too. I don’t enjoy Budweiser or Miller Lite, however, I do find a shorty High Life acceptable (meh) as a bloody mary chaser. (It is the champagne of beers, after all.)

So Andrew, I’d like to buy you a Schlitz. I’d like to have a few laughs over a few brews and show you what real beer snobs are like. I think you’ll like us when you get to know us, and there are advantages to having beer snobs for friends — we’ve always got cold beer in the fridge. 😉

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a surgical waiting room wondering if I could possibly be losing the love of my life.

The nurses were sweet. Too nice. I hated that. I know which wives get special treatment. The ones that the nurses feel sorry for. The ones whose husbands are really, really sick. I didn’t want their coffee, food, water, or their warm blanket or their offer to sit with me until the surgeons came out. There were too many hugs. That’s not normal. I didn’t want any of it. I wanted them to be irritated that I was even a little bit worried. I wanted them to blow me off with a “This happens every day, Sugar. Now, you just have a seat and everything will be just fine.” I wanted to be anywhere but sitting in that chair, pretending that I wasn’t ready to crumble into a heap on the floor.

Two weeks ago, I rushed Augie to the emergency room. Two weeks ago, he was down to less than half his normal blood volume. Two weeks ago, no one had any idea where he was bleeding. Two weeks ago, doctors used words like severe hemorrhaging and possible malignancies. Two weeks ago, doctors sat in front of me and “wished they could give me a definitive answer”.

In the last two weeks, a team of physicians and nurses have worked to stabilize my husband and give us back some piece of mind. While we aren’t 100% there yet, Augie is on the road to recovery from this episode, and we are closer to determining the exact cause of his condition. He’s weak and beat up, but I have him back. That’s all that matters to me.

I did realize, throughout all of this, how lucky I am. I don’t need a medical emergency to appreciate my husband, to appreciate the health of my family. I consciously treasure that every day. I didn’t have to waste any time in that waiting room wondering if I show my husband enough love, or compiling a list of regrets for things unsaid or undone if I did lose him. I was able to concentrate on the only task on my to-do list as of that day:

I AM GOING TO GET HIM WELL. NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES.

I was in full strategic planning mode. I hired and fired doctors in the space of a week. I pissed off more nurses than I can count. My only job was to be the best advocate for his care that I could be. He was weak and sedated a lot. I had to buck up, put on the “medical mustache” and orchestrate a brilliant recovery. I was equal to the task. Why? Because I love that man so fucking much. That’s why.

Augie is home now, resting and healing and ready to continue treatment. I am grateful and thankful to wake up to his face every morning.

Something else happened in the last few weeks.

So many people in our lives have quietly and lovingly come forward and supported us in some amazing ways. There are far too many to name here. Our family and friends jumped in to take over childcare, carpooling, meal planning, and carried out “Operation Keep Augie Smiling” and “Operation Make Sure Sara Doesn’t Fall Apart” with expert skill. My mother in law took charge of the girls. My mom jumped on a plane without blinking an eye. My siblings and neighbors took care of our home and our pets. My work family jumped in to make sure that my clients never felt a thing and simultaneously supported us emotionally throughout all of this. (I even had a “Director of Sara’s Nutrition” appointed.) Our Twitter family wrapped their arms around us with gifts and meals and visits and hugs (virtual and IRL). My dailymile training buddies were incredibly supportive, and continue to support me as I ramp back into a normal life and running routine. Meals have been dropped off, groceries and gifts were delivered, our kids have been doted on and distracted. But the most important thing we received throughout this: L-O-V-E. We are loved. That is the greatest gift we have ever, will ever receive.

From the most honest and vulnerable place in my heart, thank you.

The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return.

-Eden Ahbez

I enjoy a good mustache. I know I’m not alone in this. You all know it. A really bad ‘stache is really, really funny. If a particular mustachioed gentleman is a giant douche, I blame it on the mustache. If a circus ringmaster has no mustache, he loses all cred. A hard-ass, Harley riding, roadhouse regular m’erf’er without a mustache? Harder to spot than a purple unicorn. Femme-stache, nuff said. The mustache is more than facial hair preference. It’s a way of life. And it’s funny.

Okay, so recently, I have found myself in a mustache dilemma that isn’t so funny. For many ladies, especially us dark haired girls, taking care of our unwanted facial hair is a right of passage. At some point, usually in our teens, we realize that our eyebrows are a little unruly, or that dainty peach fuzz above our lip is looking more like a 15 year old boy’s than a 17 year old girl’s. We begin the life long ritual of waxing, plucking, or (good gawd) laser removal. It’s life, no biggie. I have two girls, I thought I’d be ready for the day that one of them came to me with concerns about their little Latina ‘staches and Brooke Shields brows. I just always figured this was a Jr. High kind of conversation.

Grace is six years old. Last week she complained that she has, “A little mustache.” She looked oh-so-forlorn and continued, “ …and I really don’t like it.” So. Yeah. Wasn’t ready for the Kindergartener to lay that one on me. (And believe me, what this kid’s got is nothing! Sheeesh!) So, where did this come from? How is she so self-aware at age 6? I was a complete idiot at 6. My mother had to remind me to comb my hair before running out the door to catch the morning bus. I couldn’t have cared less about matching clothes or wearing glasses. I was a happy 6 year old idiot, and life was good.

Now, the concerns I began having at 15 are troubling my kid at 6. What do I do? Do I let her foray into this grown up world of vanity and excessive grooming? Hell no. For a few reasons:

  1. Dealing with your own physical uniqueness is part of growing up. This is how we are made. All little 6 year old Latina beauties should have tiny baby ‘staches and wicked-awesome eyebrows. It’s beautiful.
  2. If we teach our kids at an early age that if they don’t like something about themselves they should hurry up and change it, what kind of message are we sending? (Hint: A crappy one.)
  3. I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if my mother hadn’t taught me to settle for the Shopko clearance plastic glasses, (it’s what we could afford and it served it’s purpose – I could see the chalkboard), home perms at the kitchen table, and last year’s hand-me-downs. I wasn’t a cool kid. I wasn’t a pretty, best dressed, most popular kid. BUT. I was a decent kid, a good friend, and an honor student. I learned early that there is more to a person than the way they look. My best friends from age 12 are my best friends today. Score one for the mustache.
  4. Today, more than ever, I want my girls to love themselves, love the bodies God gave them, and be proud of their uniqueness. I want them to have a strong sense of self worth, a strong sense of heritage, and the confidence to become whatever the heck they want.

I’m here today say that the mustache might help my save my kids’ childhood. I’m learning new respect for the mustache. And this is my plan:

In a show of solidarity to my mamitas lindas, I am going to put my facial hair grooming regimen on an indefinite hiatus. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to take this opportunity to show my girls that you can be beautiful and different, and, well, hairy — all at the same time.

Frida KahloSo, if you run into me in the coming months and I am rockin’ a wicked peach fuzz, or you happen to notice that my unibrow seems to be creeping into my hairline…give me some props, make sure my kids hear you. Show us some hairy-ass love.

And if you think I’m nuts, and judge me for my new, au naturel look, don’t worry, I’ll chalk it up to mustache envy.

Later Gators.

Get up from your computer and go outside. Stop. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath. This is the time of year when “outside” smells so good that you can actually smell it on other people after they have come back in…I love that. I love it when people smell like “outside”.

As the growing season in Wisconsin comes to a close, my favorite time of year opens up the familiar colors, smells and traditions of a Midwestern Fall. We hiked around the Trout Lake bike path recently. It begins its 15k stretch in Boulder Junction (Musky capital of the world, if you please), and winds around the Trout Lake area. Not only did we enjoy the vibrant colors of the Northwoods foliage at its autumn peak, but also found an awesome park in Boulder Junction to teeter-totter the rest of the beautiful afternoon away. The weekend was filled with leaf piles and popcorn, hikes and naps, a bright and beautiful full moon, taking care of Gracie’s baby Black Hills spruce (he was planted in August under her careful supervision), Nana’s home cookin’, dancing with Pahkie, and lots of laughs.

I just finished planting no less than 14 different varieties of flowering plants, bulbs, and shrubs. The morning started with the official final harvest of the Santiago vegetable garden at my in-laws house. As the girls ate oatmeal with their Abuela, I was stripping the last batch of peppers and tomatoes for canning and drying. We’ll have plenty of marinara and pickled peppers to get us all through to Spring. (I’ll admit that the orange habaneros actually came from one of Eli’s co-workers, but we don’t discriminate when it comes to making good hot sauce ya’ll.) Right now my kitchen looks like a harvest celebration (so says Grace). I’ve got three types of peppers strung along my pot rack to dry, and baskets of tomatoes ready for jars sitting there staring at me. (That along with the apple pies I have to bake with the apples from my parent’s “orchard”.) Better get to work.

So, if you have been following the comings and goings of the Sancheez household, you may know that we had our CD party a while ago. Dammit, it was fun. Here’s the short of it: 24 funky folks with some of their favorite music to share. Everyone brought enough copies of their “mix tape” for everyone to take home and sample the madness. Everyone’s music was shuffled in the CD changer all night, and we had more food than we could handle. Despite the occasional rain shower, we had a great time. It was a night of old friends, new friends, old music, new music, sunshine, rain, food, drinks, party games and a rather nice bon fire. At the end of the night, everyone left with a party bag filled with CDs to keep their playlists filled all week. I can’t tell you how fun it is to listen to everyone’s mix, okay, well technically I can tell you, but it’s just not good enough to tell you. Come on over and I’ll throw on some tunes and you can meet my friends.

Sidebar: Thanks to everyone who actually accepted this wacky music mission and showed up with music and a dish to pass. We love all of you, and we were so happy to have all of you in our home. How lucky we are…

So, here comes Fall. We are planning our Trick o’ Treat Chili Dump, our annual trip to Swan’s Pumpkin Farm, and pulling out the scarves and sweaters. Come over for a fire, a mug of hot chocolate, or just hang out with the tiny mamitas. Talk to you soon…

© Sara 2009

Posted on Juneteenth Day 2007. 🙂

In honor of eight years, here are eight little-known fun trivia facts about our wedding day…

1. Yes, we were, in fact, thumb wrestling at the altar. He won 2 out of 3.

2. Our nephew, Miguel, was introduced at the reception as the “pall bearer” instead of “ring bearer”.

3. Our wedding was crashed by at least a dozen people. (We still think that’s hilarious.)

4. The story that Pastor Guetzlaff told as part of the ceremony was about a woman named Grace.

5. As if the pall bearer thing wasn’t enough, Augie’s parents were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez. (Hence, the mutated “Sancheez” nickname we often use to refer to ourselves.)

6. After the reception we got stuck in an elevator at the hotel with four very drunk people. When I say “stuck” I mean the elevator actually malfunctioned and we were stuck for a short period of time. When I say “drunk” I mean they just rolled off of a few bar stools trying not to slosh their “roadies” on my white shoes. Remember, we were in full bridal dress, and after a few jokes about them being hungry I was seriously guarding the fried chicken we had just scored from the Popeye’s Drive-thru.

7. Guests from the wedding in the other banquet room asked several people if they could join our reception because our music was so much better, and also because they thought it sounded like we were having a much better time. Some of them offered to bring additional booze to set up shots for our guests’ enjoyment.

8. Augie outlawed the playing of any ABBA songs at our reception.

Eight years later, it is still one of the most amazing days of my life. I love you Augie.

Really, really.

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