December’s daily #OneGoodThing was dedicated to celebrating extraordinary women I know. Many of the 31 bold, beautiful, brave women featured shared stories of perseverance after abuse, addiction, miscarriages, illness, and loss. They represent various fields and backgrounds, and I admire each for their passion and strength. The series was so deeply inspiring that I felt it needed to live on as a weekly feature in 2020. Each Monday, I’ll introduce you to another incredible superhero—including artists, businesswomen, union organizers, nurses, writers, teachers, movie makers, designers, reporters, and all-around badasses. It’s about finding the extraordinary in each of us!
Sasha Appelbaum was born and raised in Orange County, California. She attended a small Jewish college in Los Angeles, was married at 22 to her lifelong friend and “bashert” Aaron, and received a B.A. in Bioethics and Natural Sciences and Psychology at 23. Sasha and Aaron moved to Washington state, where Sasha eventually pursued an MIT in secondary education with endorsements in biology and general science. After a few years of teaching, she started a family and is now employed as a SAHM to two incredible kids.
1. What did you want to be “when you grew up?” When I was really little I wanted to be a doctor. As I got older, I found that I loved genetics (thanks to my 8th-grade science teacher!). In my early high school years, I had set my goals on becoming a genetic counselor. The fantasy that I never talk about is that I loved singing and daydreamed of becoming a singer. I knew it wasn’t possible, but I still dreamed about it!
2. What makes you the most proud of yourself? Having the strength to start a new day even when the day before was a total disaster. Always trying to be a better person and mother for my girls. Parenting has definitely helped me grow my practice of self-reflection!
3. What darkness have you overcome? How did you find strength? There have been a few darknesses during my life: crippling anxiety, major surgery, and chronic pain. But, none of these compare to the devastating realization that something was wrong with our newborn baby (my firstborn) and then watching helplessly as she crashed on day 4 of her life. There are really no words that can adequately describe the deep, soul-crushing pain I felt while my little girl fought for her life in the NICU. She did make it through, but we left the hospital without a diagnosis. Just as a small kernel of hope was growing inside me that maybe everything was going to be alright, we got the call. The last pending genetic test was positive for a rare genetic syndrome. Once again I found myself spiraling uncontrollably into the darkness as I grappled with the news we had received. As I struggled to come to terms with our new normal, a community of people rose up around us. Close friends became chosen family, people we hardly knew brought us meals, our families rallied, and I was connected to an incredible online community of parents and kids just like us. I started to see my little girl instead of a diagnosis, my little girl with the sparkling blue eyes that shine with determination, joy and fierce life despite the daily struggles. Therapy helped me through the grief and PTSD from the NICU. And slowly I felt myself come back to life. I still have hard days. Being a parent of a child with special needs can be quite the rollercoaster. Add a very active younger sister to the mix and some days are bananas! My strength comes from my girls, from within, and from our community.
5. What makes you smile the most? Watching my older daughter accomplish things she has worked so hard to master. Experiencing the wonders and discoveries of the world with my younger daughter. The funny things that young kids say. And, silly science jokes.
Bonus: What advice would you give your younger self? I would tell myself to make more time for fun activities. To appreciate and really take the time to enjoy life because life is fragile, unpredictable, and beautiful.
Today’s #OneGoodThing is dedicated to sharing this extraordinary woman and my friend, Sasha Appelbaum, with all of you! We are stronger together, so let’s shine a light on our extraordinary sisters! If you’d like to participate or nominate a woman to participate in this weekly series in 2020, please send me a note or leave a comment! What was your #OneGoodThing today? Please share in the comments! Kindness is Everything.