Gratitude and Depression

In January 2019, I was laid off from my day job. My manager said the company’s intention was to rehire me if their workload picked up again. I had no return-to-work date. Being rehired was not a guarantee. I felt very low.

(Disclosure: While this post contains information about my experience with mental illness, this post is not intended to be medical advice. I am not a licensed, certified or trained medical professional. If you suffer from mental illness, I encourage you to seek help from licensed, certified medical professional.)

In 2004, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder by my doctor. Job losses, for me, trigger depressive episodes. During a depressive episode, negative thoughts arise which impact my behavior. When I’m feeling stable, activities such as getting out of bed and leaving the house every day are easy. Depressive episodes make those activities into hurdles difficult for me to leap over.

But no matter how I’m feeling, I enjoy listening to podcasts. Podcasts encourage my creativity and lift my spirits. After the layoff, I listened to a podcast host speak about the benefits of having a daily gratitude practice and how having a gratitude buddy helps with accountability to the practice. The podcast host was offering to match listeners with an email gratitude buddy with the intention of helping the audience cultivate their own daily gratitude practice. The rules—every day, email your gratitude buddy three things you are grateful for, and the buddy would reciprocate.

My inner voice said, “Sara, you need a gratitude buddy.” I listened to my inner voice.

Now I find that practicing gratitude every night allows me to reflect on the good parts of my day. I cannot be negative with gratitude, so I have to find the positive within the negative.

During low points, like being unemployed, my gratitude lists looked like this:

  • Grateful I got out of bed today.
  • Grateful I left the house today.
  • Grateful I went to the library to read some magazines.

These small acts feel like huge triumphs. I was jumping over previously difficult hurdles.

In March 2019, I received a re-hire offer from my then former employer. I accepted the offer. When I returned to work, my confidence rose and my negative thoughts subsided. My gratitude lists developed and now look more like this:

  • Grateful I got a good workout in at the gym.
  • Grateful I went to the opera with my mom.
  • Grateful I stayed in bed today for a chance to recharge and relax.
  • Grateful for my job.
  • Grateful for my gratitude buddy emailing me every day.

I learned how to shift my perspective from negative thoughts to positive ones while I was going through a bad situation. I continued practicing gratitude during the good times, and that practice developed a daily habit. That daily habit is a new skill I can add to my arsenal to continue living with my depression. Stressful situations have arisen since the layoff, and I keep going with my gratitude practice. I keep showing up and finding the good within the bad.

I take medication for my depression in addition to my gratitude practice. I’ve taken medication much longer than I’ve been practicing gratitude. Medication and gratitude, in my opinion, are not cures for depression. Medication helps my moods stay stable. Gratitude helps me deal with thoughts. My gratitude practice helps me find light when I feel like I’m in darkness and the medication helps me stay in that positive zone. Medication and gratitude are a good combination for me.

If you are reading this, I’d like you to know I’m grateful for you, dear reader! Thank you for reading my blog posts.

You can always connect with me, ask me questions, or tell me about you at I’d love to connect with you!


Finding Bliss

I found bliss today.



Bliss was waiting for me at the Cherry Avenue intersection.

There was beauty every direction I looked today. Recognizing beauty on the same street was as simple as looking left and right and up and down.

So, at the intersection of Bliss and Cherry I saw this massive view of Chicago on one side of me…


And I saw this bird’s eye view on the other side…


Bliss led me to beauty. I had to work (not so) hard to find the beauty.

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. And I can say that beyond a shadow of a doubt because I was there!


Keep your eyes open people! Beauty could be staring you right in the face. And you may not have to look for beauty on Bliss Street! Beauty might be on Cherry Avenue instead!



Art Kitchen

I’ve always had a fascination with making food smile since I was a little girl. I would take vegetables, fruit, egg yolks or pretty much any food I could get my hands on and find a way to make two eyes, a nose and a smile out of the materials available. I started doing this as a surprise for my mom. Whatever materials she was using to make us a meal were the materials I would use for my kitchen art creations. When my mother wasn’t looking I would assemble the food she was using into a smiling face, leave the room and wait.

I would wait to hear my mom laugh. She would discover my creation and laugh and say, “Oh Sara.” She may have sounded annoyed on the surface, but deep down I know she loved it!

Because I kept creating kitchen art for my mom to make her laugh we decided that this smiling creation needed a name. We decided on Art Kitchen. First name: Art. Last name: Kitchen.

I kept creating various versions of Art Kitchen into adulthood. Thankfully my husband Pete, much like my mother, finds Art Kitchen humorous. The surprise is the kicker. Assembling the ingredients and leaving the room and waiting to hear the person laugh is so satisfying to me. Knowing that I’ve made someone smile and laugh makes me feel good inside!

Here are two pictures of Art Kitchen that I’ve made for my husband over the 10 years we have been together:

Art Kitchen appears as smiling pasta:


Art Kitchen appears as a smiling peanut butter and jelly sandwich base with carrots topping the bread for the eyes and above the eyes as eyebrows and a bed of potato chips for the smile.


In my 33 years on this planet I’ve never seen food smile on its own. Nature is a curious thing. Pete cut open a pineapple one day. He called me into the kitchen. The pineapple had its own smiling face! So I decided to dress up nature’s version of Art Kitchen with a hat and body. I had to add my own flourish to nature’s version of Art Kitchen seen below.


I hope my kitchen art creations made you smile and laugh!



The Gift of Movement

A wiggle. A waddle. A bob and weave. A hand stand. A walk in the park. A bike ride. A foxtrot. A cartwheel. It doesn’t matter how or where or when but we were made to move.

Dancing and yoga and walking in the city and biking down paths and country roads are the forms of movement I’m most into right now.

I am sarathlete! I’m on the move!

I’m so grateful for the ability to be able to move. I was inspired to write this post today by my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law can barely move. I had lunch with Pete’s side of the family today. My mother-in-law is in her early seventies. She’s so overweight she couldn’t walk from the booth to the front door of the restaurant today without being out of breath and having to sit down before she walked out to the car. Her back hurt. She was out of breath. Want to know why? Because she barely moves. She will tell you that she cannot move. She sits in a chair all day and chooses not to move. Instead of trying to to things for herself my mother-in-law chooses to order her husband around all day having him do simple tasks like getting her food or whatever.

I don’t feel sorry for my mother-in-law. I’m not taking pity or making a judgment of her. This is my observation of her.

Watching my mother-in-law today made me so grateful for the gift of movement. I don’t envy her choice not to move at all. I’m also grateful, as a friend once said, that I still have all of my original factory parts! My mother-in-law was such an inspiration to move that I came home and went on a fast 20 mile bike ride. I pushed myself harder on that ride than I ever have when I’ve ridden in the past. Why? Because I could.

I can move. You can move. The choice to move is up to the individual.

For me movement gives me freedom, provides a means of transportation, gives me a form of emotional and physical expression. Movement fulfills me and helps me sustain my life. Movement makes me joyous.

I hope you choose to move because movement makes like so beautiful and interesting, in my opinion! I love it!

If you choose to move then honor yourself and your movement by moving right now. Get up and do a happy dance. Do tree pose. Go jump in a lake. Make a joyful noise. Why? Because you can. You made your choice. Relish in that fact.

Life is a gift. Live it. Move it. Shake it up a bit! Get out of breath once in a while! We can’t choose to move when we die. So move now and celebrate the wonderfully fabulous gift of life!



Me after a glorious 4 mile walk in Chicago! So happy!



Selfies have been around for years. Why do you think old fashioned cameras had the timer on them giving you enough time to get yourself into the picture.

I realized why selfies are so important this morning. Selfies are important because they humanize a photo and make it more relatable to people.

For instance, here’s a picture I took on my lunch hour in Chicago:


To me, it’s a gorgeous shot of downtown Chicago. But to you, my fabulous reader, it’s just another picture of downtown Chicago that I happen to think is gorgeous. But you may not view it that way.

I’ve been practicing taking selfies this week. I’m not the best selfie taker! I’m getting better.

Here was my first attempt on my iPad before I figured out that pressing the button on the tap screen only put my fingers in the way of the camera.


My husband says I look happy-scared! I was just glad to take the selfie. Even the picture of me looks goofy, in some ways, it’s more fun to look at because there’s a human in the photo. I took this picture at work (when I probably should’ve been working—ssssshhhhhhh don’t tell!!!!!!).

Let’s go back to Chicago and the downtown shot. Here’s a more improved selfie in the same location:


You can see Chicago in the background. At the same time you also see me. Maybe not my best photo in the world, but there’s still a human in the picture. The human part is cool because it adds another element to the picture called emotion. There’s smiling going on which usually means happiness! That smile is darn right genuine because I was in a location I enjoy and also because I figured out how to take a selfie properly on my iPad! You press the right volume button (the button closest to the ringer on/off button). Aaaahhhhhh that moment when you get it right! What a relief! What a happy moment!

Be happy! Be sad! Be mad! Be whatever you want to be. Take photos and put yourself in them sometimes. The photos are more interesting because you can and other people can connect and relate to them more easily. The photos and selfies reflect you living your life and how you felt at that moment in time. The photo itself becomes its own interesting story!


Meet the Sawochka-Daltons!

(Check out my “What’s in a Name?” post before you read this. This post will be much clearer if you do.)


After yesterday’s visit to the Social Security office Pete and I are now legally known as Sara Sawochka-Dalton and Pete Sawochka-Dalton.

My last name change hasn’t taken on too much attention because most people expect a woman will either stay with her maiden name or hyphenate her maiden name with her married name.

But I’ve been fascinated by people’s responses, both negative and positive, to Pete’s last name change.

Pete’s last name change has received the strongest positive response from women (with a few exceptions). Female friends, co-workers and family that we’ve told generally have been in favor of Pete changing his last name to take on my last name in addition to his own. Women have also been the most appreciative of his change. Men’s responses generally have been more ambivalent—they think it’s a bit odd and typically want to know why he bothered.

One exception to the generally favorable response from woman has been Pete’s mother. After our visit to the Social Security office, Pete called his mother to let her know about his new last name. Pete’s mother asked why he did that because men don’t do that—at least she’s never heard of the man hyphenating his last name. Legally, of course, any couple can change their last names the way Pete and I did.

But most don’t, because the idea that a woman should take the man’s last name, but not the reverse, is a tradition in our culture. This tradition comes from the stale, patrilineal belief that upon marriage a woman becomes a part of the man’s family (and even the man’s property in many times and places), so she must change her last name to reflect her new family’s (owner’s) last name. But marriage isn’t a one-way union, and no woman should be considered property of any man (or vice versa) in a day where women and men have equal rights. I’m a member of a two-party union. However, I do not belong to Pete and Pete does not belong to me.

We aren’t the only married couple in the country that has legally done a dual last name change. We won’t be the last. I’ve read stories where the man even takes on the wife’s last name only, with no hyphenation.

I’ve learned that my husband is more of an out-of-the-box thinker than I’ve ever given him credit for. Pete went against the norm to change his last name change. I’m so proud of him! When I presented my idea of both of us changing our names, Pete was open to it. Pete didn’t see any arguments against it.

It takes guts for a man to change his last name. I admire and very much appreciate Pete so much for his decision and willingness to make the change! To me, the change shows that he honors our union as much as I do, and our newly combined last names reflect that honor!


Sara Sawochka-Dalton

“What’s in a Name?”

First of all I’d like to wish my husband, Pete Sawochka, a happy 2nd wedding anniversary in advance. Our anniversary is this Sunday, April 13, 2014!


My father-in-law and mother-in-law sent us a cute card and a monetary gift for us to put towards our annual trip to Bloomington, Indiana. We received this monetary gift in the form of a check made out to: Pete and Sara Sawochka. Both of us are very appreciative of the gift towards our trip! There is one problem with that check, though.

Legally the “Sara Sawochka” on the check doesn’t exist! And soon the “Pete Sawochka” on the check won’t exist either.

When we got married two years ago my intent was to keep my maiden name—Dalton. After the wedding I decided I should probably adopt my husband’s last name of Sawochka. That’s what most women do after they get married. I told my employer that I wanted a new name plate to read “Sara Sawochka” and I changed my last name on Facebook from Dalton to Sawochka. Legally I did nothing. Two years later I’m still Sara Dalton.

About six months or so ago I finally got the urge to change my last name to something completely different. And not only did I want to change my last name but I wanted my husband to change with me. I asked Pete if he would mind changing his last name as well to reflect the combination of both of our names together. Pete agreed and said he was willing to make the name change as well. My plan was to hyphenate both of our last names to either be Pete and Sara Sawochka-Dalton or Dalton-Sawochka.

Why did I want my husband to change his name to match mine? The reason is that I define marriage as a union of two people’s lives. The two people, in my opinion, can be any gender combination (male–male, female-female or male-female). I believe, as a part of that union of two lives, the names should reflect the legacy of both parties involved.

This is not the traditional way we do things in this country. However this country is changing. With gay marriage becoming legal in more and more states terms such as “maiden name” will become part of the past—even in the traditional marriage of a male and female. Think about it like this—in a marriage between two men there is no “maiden name” to be found. Neither is a maiden!

As a part of the celebration of our 2nd anniversary I’ve finally decided to head to the Social Security Office to make a name change. I even took off Monday 4/14/2014 so I’d have time to do this. Pete and I are still discussing what order the combination of names will go in. The important thing is that we’re going to make the change together to reflect the union of our lives that we made two years ago.


Meet Monster—My Favorite Vegan!

Meet Monster, a.k.a Kasey! She is one of my three dogs. She’s also vegan, but she didn’t start out that way.


Kasey is her real name and Monster is her nickname. As a puppy she ate…everything. It was like having a little monster around, hence her nickname. This habit of eating everything never quite ended, even though Monster will be four years old in August.

As a puppy Monster really liked to tear wallpaper off the walls and eat it. She also liked to dig into wall corners and gnaw her way to the drywall. Monster still enjoys feasting on sneakers, stinky socks, running shorts, underwear and my husband’s waded up napkins that he leaves laying around. Thankfully she leaves our walls alone!

Here’s a picture of when Monster decided to redecorate my roommates’ wall 3 years ago.


When Monster was one year old we found out from the vet that she had a food allergy to animal protein. Monster would bite all of the fur off of the back of her body and her sores would get infected. She even had to wear one of those Elizabethan collars. My vet recommended we switch her dog food to a prescription dog food with hydrolyzed chicken, processed in a way so that her body wouldn’t recognize the animal protein. She ate this food for two years. This food made her stool black and very difficult for her to eliminate.

I have a friend who is also a vegan. She feeds her dogs V-dog which is a vegan dog food (contains no animal products or animal byproducts). I decided to give V-dog kibble a try for Monster. V-dog food targets dogs with allergies to grains and animal protein. My vet approved this vegan dog food after she saw all of the quality ingredients it contains. I eventually started feeding V-dog to all of my dogs because it worked so well for Monster. Monster eliminates regularly and her stool has returned to a normal color.


Since I’m vegan and my husband is a vegetarian we eat a lot of the same foods. I enjoy making all sorts of smoothies for breakfast. Last Sunday I made a smoothie for us with avocado, cocoa powder, banana, dates and almond milk. I blend the ingredients with ice in my Vitamix and serve. Yum!

The smoothie I gave to Pete wound up sitting in a coaster on our end table by the couch. When we were busy in the kitchen that morning we discovered Monster decided to drink most of Pete’s chocolate smoothie. While the smoothie had no animal protein, it did contain chocolate, which is known for making dogs sick—not Monster though!

Here is a picture of Monster after she drank ¾ of the glass of Pete’s smoothie. She had chocolate all over her beard! We were laughing hysterically. Fortunately there wasn’t that much cocoa powder in the drink.


Here is the culprit with my husband trying to clean up the smoothie on Monster’s snout. I think Monster won the battle!






Monster is my favorite vegan because she started us on the path of vegan dog food. She’s also my favorite vegan because she will snuggle next to me while chopping veggies on the cutting board just letting me know she’s there!

I hope you enjoyed meeting Monster, a.k.a Kasey, and hearing her story!



I Swore I’d Never Teach Again

That’s a big deal to me—to swear I’ll never do something again. It’s also a very closed off way to approach and deal with whatever it was that made me decide to swear off the something—in this case, teaching.

Despite my vow to myself that I’d never teach again I’ve come to realize that teaching is one of my strengths. Since I swore off teaching at the end of 2010, I’ve since trained a co-worker how to do my job at my workplace. We also now have a new employee that is starting in our department. It’s looking like the co-worker I trained is going to train the new employee we have at work. It’s very exciting when you see that little piece of yourself and the knowledge that you imparted upon someone else be passed on as they teach the skill you taught them to someone else.

When I said I’d sworn off teaching what I really meant to say was that I’d sworn off teaching ballroom dancing ever again. I wasn’t quite so detailed in my description. I’m a really good, patient teacher. I’m also a really good ballroom dancer. Both fit me and they are both things I really miss. However, what I really miss about ballroom dance is the movement. And what I really miss about teaching ballroom dance is teaching movement to people. What I do not miss was the excess garbage of things I had to deal with as a professional ballroom dance teacher. I’ve never had a thick skin and mean comments about my weight, my makeup, my clothing, and my lack of money to commit to more ballroom gowns, and the constant competition between myself and the owner of the studio, became things I no longer wanted to deal with. These are things that go with teaching ballroom dancing. This dancesport is not about the quality of movement or quality of teaching. It’s about what you look like, how much money you have, and how little you weigh. I couldn’t deal with the pressure anymore because it was making me paranoid and getting through my thin skin, and was contributing to depression and constant anxiety to the point where I said, “I’m done and will never teach again.”

Nearly 4 years later, I found myself sitting on the wood floor of the yoga studio at which I’d been practicing hot yoga intensely for about the past 6 months. I was at a teacher training meeting. I was only there because I wanted to deepen my practice of the different poses or asanas. The teacher trainer told us that if we ever wanted to teach to do the teaching practicum of the course. There was an option to just audit the class and not get the teaching certificate. I figured I would go for the teaching certificate because if I was going to go I wanted to go the whole way. This time the teaching option would be on my terms. If I want to teach I can and if I don’t then I won’t but at least I’ll have the knowledge.

I went home on Friday night March 7, 2014 with assurance that I wouldn’t ever be pitted up against another teacher, I wouldn’t be criticized for my weight or my looks, and most importantly that I wouldn’t need a particularly thick skin. These were my biggest fears and I asked my teacher trainer Catherine about these fears and she assured me that none of them would come to fruition.

Since that Friday night I have had time to really think and I came to realize that I needed to not bring into teaching yoga what made teaching ballroom dance so hard for me. My fears were a typical residual effect of ballroom dance. Those are things that almost every teacher in the ballroom dance industry face and it was my choice to give them up. Oddly the things I was never criticized for were my skill as a dancer and as a teacher. No one ever told me that I was a bad teacher and no one ever criticized me for my dancing. In fact it was quite the opposite. Those were the two things that I always got complimented on. I just couldn’t look past that and all I chose to see and still see today are the negatives. Ballroom dancing is something I would love to get back into somehow. However the glamor addiction fallout of the sport sends me reeling.

Looking forward, I decided to do the teacher training for yoga. I like yoga a lot but it’s not something I’m naturally good at like I was with dance, which I had been in since childhood. I’ve practiced yoga on and off here and there since I was in college. Yoga has always presented me with a way to calm myself down since I tend to be a person that gets hyped up about everything and anything. I’m hoping that by learning to teach the postures that I will learn more about the spiritual side of yoga and the connection of mind and body.

Going forward in my journey in life I hope I never say that I swear off anything again. Swearing anything off is a closed-minded way to be in my eyes. I hope I can fall in love with yoga the way I did with dance. I’m hoping to enter a less competitive world where glamor and money are not the most important thing on the playing field. Irsquo;m hoping my teaching skills and new knowledge of the postures are what will shine through for me on my journey of learning more and more about yoga. Who knows, maybe it will be a healthy way for me to rebuild my love of dance that I set into flames 4 years ago. I hope that I can rebuild bridges and become a stronger person in the outcome.

On Saturday March 15, 2014 I start my journey. I will be posting regularly on here as on my blog as form of journal-keeping so my readers can grow with me.


13 Things You May or May Not Know About Me

1. I have a TON of energy.

2. I’m left handed.

3. I’m really strong…physically and emotionally.

4. I’m very childlike. I’d still believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy if I could but apparently they don’t exist.

5. I drive fast.

6. I’m a natural dancer.

7. I’m a horrible runner.

8. I’ve struggled with eating disorders three times in my life so far.

9. I’m a former professional ballroom dancer who can’t stand the “Glamour Addiction” behind the sport (it’s a it if you want).

10. I stand up for what I believe in.

11. I’ve had both my mother and 2 bosses (each at a dance studio) tell me I’m overweight.

12. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut.

13. I’m superstitious and think 13 is an unlucky number.

14. I’m giving you a bonus one so we don’t have to end on 13: I LOVE Costco!!!!!!