little sarah Big World

Pictures of Home

In My Mothers' Kitchen

I’ve been home (in Japan) for 2 weeks now, which is as long as I was home (in Utah).

Rocky Mountain High

A lot can happen in two weeks.

(But you know this).

Danky Pres

When I moved to Spain, then back to Salt Lake, I had this unshakable transitory feeling. Madrid was not my home, not my place, but after living there for almost a year, I couldn’t fit back in to the Wasatch Front so easily, either.

Sugar House Rising

It took me over a year of being “home” again to feel that I belonged, to form new friendships and shed old ones, move out of my Moms’ basement (the infamous “Shame-ber“) and build a life for myself, something I could hold up to the light and recognize. Something to call my own.

Bo(ris) the Sheep

And then I went and threw everything back into the blender, like I do. As my mom pointed out, “For somebody who doesn’t deal well with change, you sure do go putting yourself at the center of it a lot.”

Thursday Eve

What can I say? I never learn, or I learn too late.

(Too late to say I’m sorry).

Sled Boat

Now nowhere feels like home, again. So I must make a home for myself, inside. Like Gwen, I will “find myself as something that was stronger than anything anyone else could give me.”

Tucked Away

Last summer, not 10 miles out on I-80, heading west towards the Monterey Bay, I wrote:

Saying Goodbye

What is that feeling? That feeling of not enough, of missing someone in advance, while they’re still with you, on when they’ve only been gone from your life for an hour or two.

Snow Spawn

Because you know how long it will be, you know–or think you know–the future, and all the pain it holds. Fists balled up and eyes squeezed tight in anticipation of some future want, some acutely foreseen longing.

Presents by Post

Really, the distance is not so far, from here to home. Nothing insurmountable.

So goodbye for now, and until next time.

Front Runner by Night

Thanks for all the memories.

Wasatch Panoramic

Homeward Bound


Give me all your poetry. Send it straight to my soul.

Christmas in Japan

City Sparkles

The beautiful thing about Christmas in Japan is that, in a country where Christians account for only 1% of the population and upwards of 70% of Japanese claim no religious affiliation, they’ve dispensed with the sacred and spiritual altogether, distilling the holiday down to a pure, commercial venture.

In this sense, it’s exactly like in the US, but without any of the pretense, which is equal parts refreshing and disturbing. Blind devotion transcends nationality, but Disney must have signed a deal with the devil for the level of allegiance and sincere enthusiasm it garners from most Japanese.

The Mouse is in the house, friends. So Chad and I went and searched him out.

Lights, Crowds, Chaddo

We began at Tokyo Station, following the crowds through the mid-town shopping district to see what amounted to twinkly lights on busy tree-lined streets, though to surprisingly stunning effect.

Taking Pictures of Picture Takers

From there we were herded from one Disney-themed tree to another. Don’t be fooled by photography–most of these were only slightly bigger than you’d see in someone’s house; for us, the real fascination was following the fervor.

Princess Tree

Also not captured in these photos: policemen with bullhorns corralling throngs of thousands as snap photos of light displays that are easily trumped by many US front lawns at Christmastime.

Roller Coaster...of Love

From Tokyo Station, we caught the subway over to Tokyo Dome City, where the Christmas “Illumination” continued, but with fewer people.

Light Tunnel

Tunnel of Love

We explored a light tunnel, and then rode the Thunder Dolphin, a roller coaster with a drop so long (218 ft) that I ceased feeling fear and accepting that this was my new reality–that I would fall into nothingness, forever. We purchased a commemorative photo, in honor of: best coaster faces, ever.

All the Pretty Little Colors

We ended our night at Wins, nearer to the Tokyo Dome, where we bowled 3 rounds and poured illicit (and cheap) whiskey into our vending machine-bought cans of ginger ale. Then Chad ate a burger at a boardwalk-style eatery, just before closing, and we rode the train home, in bed before midnight.

Tokyo Dome, December, at Night

The next morning (Christmas Day), we traded in Japan’s traditional Christmas Cake (strawberry shortcake) for pancakes with fresh fruit and yogurt. And for Christmas dinner, we opted for soy meat with broccoli in place of fried chicken. (The whole Christmas cake and fried chicken phenomenon in Japan is a prime example of the ways in which advertising has directly and intentionally warped and misconstrued the holiday to glorious, frightening all-American effect. They order buckets of KFC in advance, like we would do with Turkeys for Thanksgiving).

Lights in the City

Then went and saw Gravity in 3D. All in all, a magical, one-of-a-kind Christmas.

Merry, Scary Christmas

Christmas Altar

Sundah Dolfin


This is how we did it. Details to come.


A Year in Photos

Anti-Divorce Mural

So maybe I was wrong in that last post, as Chad said that I’m becoming a professional at making these murals.

Go figure.

Go us.

The Rest of Your Life


What I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

*       *       *


1 – I am not a professional videographer, dancer, singer, or ukulele player.

2 – I am not a professional anything, actually.

3 – My grandparents, on the other hand, are obviously old pros.

4 – By contributing to this video, all singing, dancing and otherwise foolish parties implicitly and unwittingly agree to be on the internet. Which is basically just a consequence of being alive these days, so…

5 – I am in no way responsible for destroying the image you had of me vocally, visually, or otherwise by shifting from a photo-and-text blog format to a video format. May you be less traumatized than I was the first time I saw what Ira Glass looked like in real life, as opposed to how I’d pictured him in my head all those years. (Ditto for Garrison Keillor).



What’s Different Here?

On a Bike Ride

I find myself in a writing state of mind more and more lately, but they are brief flashes, fleeting as a summer rain shower, and always at the most inopportune times–always when I’m without paper or pen. Out for a run, in the tub, on the train, with thoughts swimming and ideas taking shape. But just as readily they float away, though I beg my inspiration to stay and let me do it justice. Notions that start in a personal email and later get fleshed out on the blog, or an urge to journal that gets channeled into letters, then sent out to one of my pen-pals or friends.

And then there’s the sudden return of my inclination towards poetry, an impulse I’d thought had died out in my teens, but apparently was only lying dormant. I can feel something inside of me opening up, and with it the lines are beginning to blur. I’m not sure yet, but I think (I think) that I like it. Rainy days, muggy and muddled thoughts gave way to clear brightness, and a sharp-defined vision, which nevertheless remains just out of reach.

River Flowers

*       *       *

I dislike the feeling of repeating myself, relearning the same lessons and reliving the same mistakes. But I’ve looked at my life, as it presently stands, and seen long commutes, foreign customs and cultures, an inconsolable distance between me and my tribe. Me, in the back of the classroom, “the assistant,” writing in my journal and biding my time.

And I think, “Haven’t we been here, and done this?”

Red Bridge

So I ask myself, what’s new? What distinguishes this chapter? Why did you come here and what are you going to do about it?

And the answer is, this time, I am savoring the silence. I am okay with not knowing what will happen, for now. The answer is patience (through counseling) and presence, a meditative step towards grace, away from fear.


The answer is: writing, learning discipline, meeting goals. Rising early, staying focused, and seeking inspiration (instead of wasting time browsing lifestyle blogs, which I still do way too often, if we’re honest). In this area, I’ve still a ways to go.

Way to Go

The answer is: creativity, and space. An open time-frame and mindset that allows for pretty postcards and dance-party running warm-ups, instead of just dinner and dishes and deadlines.

*       *       *

When I picture what’s new in this season of my life, I see myself at home, working at my desk, taking breaks to run or snack or meditate. I see myself reading on the train, when I’m able, and being okay with just being, when I’m not. I see simple meals, good books, hot tea and health. I see studying, sitting, contemplation and growth.

Chaddo Reflections

This, the 27th year of my life, is a sweet vanilla silence, a blue-green color, a reflecting pond.

Alien Bridge

*       *       *

But also, it is sunshine, and warmth and cheer. It’s a pioneering spirit, a can-do attitude. In this, the land of the rising sun, I have learned to rise each day with purpose; and like the land, to be solid, yet ever-growing; like the water–clear, deep, and still.

Blue On Blue

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming…

Dear Readers,

I’m not normally a fan of wishlists or specific gift requests, believing that gift-giving is more of a test of how well the other person knows you than an way of getting exactly what you want for free. In the past, I’ve even decried my step-mom’s family’s straight-to-the-point manner of Christmas exchange–“give me this, this and this, please, and thank you.” Where is the mystery? The equal potential for disappointment or glory?

All the Colors of the Wind

But that’s when I still lived in The Greatest Country on Earth, if our lone criterion for greatness is the ability to buy and consume whatever you want, whenever you want. Yes, this has led to rampant obesity and wanton ingratitude…but it’s also led to widespread kale, and unbridled vegan options.

Of course, no gift could ever compare to the love, patience, and kindness of my family, friends, and anyone who has ever read this blog and shared with me a moment of connection. It goes without saying that all I want for Christmas is to feel loved, love, and loving. To know that I make even the smallest positive impact on the lives of others, and to let everyone know what a world of difference their presence makes in my life.


But I’ve thought up some second place items, just in case. IF you are at all inclined to mail something all the way to Japan, then this, dear Santas, is my Official Holiday Wish List:

– All of the dried fruits and raw nuts and seeds

– Good, fancy, dark-as-night chocolate

– Herbal teas, and if you can track down Celestial Seasoning’s Almond Sunset tea, I will give you my first born. It is the great white whale of herbal teas, like what “For the Love of Nancy” is to Lifetime: Television for Women

– Biographies and/or diaries of amazing women–Frida Kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Lucille Ball, Shirley Temple Black (etc). Lately my reading list has included Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Hesse’s Siddhartha, and the collected writings of Theodore J. Kaczynski. I maybe need to go in the other direction for a bit.

– Any and all of the books by Mary Roach, or other such fascinating, well-written non-fiction

– ProBars for days, or other, similar, on-the-go chow for running vegans

– Vegan protein powder, but only if you work for TwinLab and your name is Sperry and you made it yourself and can get it for free

– Letters, pictures, kind words, gentle thoughts. I am making almost all my presents this year, trying to take good care of myself and be a cheerful, helpful and strong presence in the lives of those around me. As I wrote to my friend Eric today, “I want to be bigger and better than myself.”

But I also want good things to read and healthy food to eat. So, that’s the list, if you are so inclined. Thank you for indulging me in this non-standard post, and happy December!

Another Happy Little Leaf, Hibiya Park


This Is For You (You Know Who You Are)


Worrying ≠ Thinking

Hey there, little happy leaf

I am no expert. At anything, at all. I try to share what I know, because I have not learned it on my own. I have been boosted up and helped along every step of the way, a living tower of family, friends, and mental health care professionals beneath me, so that I may survey my own inner landscape with some distance. From this vantage point, I can look down and say that it is not all bad.

I can tell you that this, too, will pass. That this awful, binding darkness, is fleeting, not forever. The sun will peek its rays through clouds of self-loathing and dark fear, slowly expanding to shed light and warmth on your oh-so lovable (I promise) body and soul.

Of course, as you’ve pointed out, this sunny intermission will pass, as all things do, and the darkness will come again. Yes, it is true.

But I’ve found, or been gently guided to see, that if you hold to the fleeting nature of feelings, a deeper sense of self will emerge, grown-up strong, like roots from the hard ground. And those emotions will not be yours; they will be like a storm front, passing through.

Then the vicious cycle of ups and downs will seem to have some forward motion, the anger and nothingness no longer blotting out the all light and air, nor even competing. Just shady spots, just clouds, over smooth, still waters.

Your cup is so full, and I know that feeling. Negative, poisonous thoughts and looming to-do lists, frustrations and obligations and days where even happy memories hurt. A brain so tormented, and tormenting, that it’s like being locked in a room with a crazy person hurling the most horrible, personal insults your way, with no end in sight. Of course you’d do anything to get away from that person. I know, because I have been that person, have wanted to kill that part of myself.

I know, because my cup is like your cup, too. All I’m asking you to do, as an experiment, is to empty your cup.

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Mary O. Has My Heart