Lux Lesson #001: The Abandonment Legacies (and why I cooked twice in the past 15 years)

This is a story I was encouraged to share.

For myself or for you, I am not sure… Both, I imagine… I hope.

Let’s start at the beginning.

And this beginning is before my beginning.

It starts with my Dad’s first wife and daughter being killed in a car accident. My Dad has never said the words to me, but I believe that part of him felt abandoned by his first wife and daughter.

(And here’s where I forgive and let go of my anger towards Kathy and Jeannie for dying. I’ve been angry – without realizing I was angry – about this for so long that I haven’t ever even learned how to spell their names. Embarrassingly, that’s a true story.)

Several years after the accident Dad met my Mom in a bible study group at the Lutheran church in town. At the time (and in my humble opinion) my Mom looked very similar to my Dad’s first wife. Growing up, there were definitely times when I thought that my Mom was “the replacement wife”.

It was only recently that I became aware that the next logical step in that train of thought meant that I was “the replacement daughter”. (THAT was quite the moment. Thank you Access Consciousness.)

Growing up, I don’t ever recall consciously being aware of thinking about myself as “the replacement daughter”.

Although I did constantly try to earn love…

…which is another lesson for another time.

So, Mom and Dad met, and for the next three months generally spent time together with groups of people, were engaged and dated for two months, and then married.

A few years later and my maternal Grandma allows the family to know that she has cancer, a disease that many of her 12 siblings shared.

Three months later I was conceived.

When I was born, I was born with “baby pneumonia” and kept in the hospital for a week. My lungs were filled with fluid, and I didn’t cry when I was born. Often times when the parents are filled with sadness, the baby is born with pnemonia. As if the parents’ tears filled up the child’s lungs.

I know how “woo-woo” that may sound.

And yet… here my parents were…

… my Mom coping with her Mom being diagnosed with breast cancer, a fatal disease (at the time) and Grandma desperately wanting grandchildren…

… my Dad grieving the loss of his first family while existing with his second. (Grieving to the point that my middle name and my sister’s middle name come from his first wife’s grandma. That way my sister and I would always share a name – Ann. My Mom wanted to go with Jo in honor of her mother. And Mom did what comforted Dad, and went with Ann.)

There I was, Sara Ann Carlson. The apple of my Grandpa Hill’s eye and the absolute JOY of my Grandma Hill’s heart. I could do no wrong and I was spoiled with love. Don’t get me wrong, my Grandma and Grandpa Carlson loved me very much. And they already had quite the collection of grandkids. On the Hill side of the family, I was the first grandchild, the oldest. And Grandma Hill had cancer. The ladies at her church even put together a special “Grandma’s Shower” for her and I. I still have the baby shower cards.

Grandma Hill was a school cook. And I’m very proud to share that she was actively against school lunches being processed and packaged. Grandma Hill cooked and baked. It’s what she did. She taught my Mom to cook and bake. My Mom taught me how to bake. We never quite made it to cooking…

By the time I completed fifth grade, I had written a book for a class project titled, “Sisu, Strong-Willed One” in honor… in memory… in grieving of my Grandma Hill’s death. My Grandma was 100 percent Polish and my Grandpa Hill was 100 percent Finish. Sisu is a Finnish word, engrained in the Finnish culture that means strength of will, determination to succeed and perseverance against all odds. It’s tattooed on my left forearm in her handwriting.

What I’ve realized and learned since then is that I was angry at and filled with resent for my Grandma Hill dying. I felt abandoned by her. Who was she to not take care of herself, to not go to the doctor earlier, to hold onto her diagnosis for years before sharing the news and getting support and treatment?

She was a person who put other people’s happiness before her own. She was protecting her family from sadness. She didn’t want to be a “dark cloud” on her children’s weddings and family celebrations. She protected. She kept the news to herself. And I was angry at her for not taking care of herself – to the point that the family literally had to roll my Grandma up in a quilt and bring her to the hospital before she’d get help. I was angry at her for “abandoning” me and the family.

This pattern of anger and abandonment I can see again and again and again as I look back over the course of my life. Ad nauseam, truly. Friends, jobs, etc. This onion peels, layer after layer:

(*Abandoned is what I perceived to have happened. It is not what ACTUALLY happened. It’s the meaning I gave to what happened. Does that make sense? And it’s not something I even recognized as going on behind the scenes for me until recently. I simply knew I wasn’t happy and that I had a really, really short and violent temper.)

Last fall I met with a therapist several times who offered up an intriguing diagnosis rooted in my Grandma’s death – PTSD. And I was surprised with the idea that I was under THAT kind of stress. I hadn’t killed anyone, I hadn’t been raped, I hadn’t been in a horrible accident. Post. traumatic. stress. disorder. I just kind of thought everyone lived like this and that I was just different in a way that kept me shy, reserved, and awkwardly desiring to please everyone around me so I could fit in and earn friendship, love, attention.

Let’s take a breath.


Since this fall, I’ve worked with my coaches, husband, friends and family,  and have forgiven the anger, the resentment, the abandonment. And it was a gut-wrenching process. It’s HARD to believe, to acknowledge that you’re angry with someone you love. It’s HARD to put the word “abandonment” on your own situation and claim it as your own. Yet, that IS what I felt. And I’ve finally been able to put names to those emotions.

My parents weren’t emotionally available. They didn’t have those tools in their toolkit. They did thee best they could with what they had. Emotions weren’t their strong suit. I grew up in a stoic home where we checked out of our emotions through working long hard hours and sinking into obsessions. And, later on in life we sank into our own addictions –  perfectionism, alcohol, drugs, sex, food.

Taking it a step further. I’ve forgiven my laundry list of abandonments. I’ve forgiven my Grandma for abandoning me and not taking care of herself, and understanding that her positive intention in doing things the way she did was to protect the family and keep everyone happy for as long as possible.

And what I’ve most recently noticed is the connection between abandonment and my kitchen. The kitchen was my Grandma’s space in the home. It was her kitchen. Organized, well-used, much-loved. It’s where she created meals and memories. And its as if being in the kitchen is too painful of a reminder of this abandonment. So the brilliant strategy I’ve been using to emotionally check-out has been to feed my hunger AND avoid letting myself feel abandoned AND continue the family pattern of not taking care of myself until it’s too late by choosing to find fast food, junk food, restaurant food. Bloody brilliant. I’ve already landed in the emergency room once and told I may die by this strategy working so hard behind the scenes for all these years.

You’re always winning at the game you’re playing. And I LOVE to be a winner.

So first, it’s been too painful to deal with real food and cooking because it reminded me of being abandoned. And second, I’ve been honoring my family’s legacy of not taking care of one’s self until it’s too late. Brilliantly, I’ve combined these aims into one solution: consume junk.

With this awareness comes a solution, a new strategy to try out.

And a few different things come to mind. First, I’ve been looking at going raw and vegan for quite some time. Seriously, have you SEEN the women who rock this life style? Google “Mimi Kirk”. PETA’s hottest woman over 50… and she’s in her seventies! And it lines up with my values, BIG TIME. And the food I had at Cafe Gratitude was AMAZING so I know it’s completely possible to eat tasty, nourishing food this way. To start this, I’m going to be walking myself through my 7 Step Slam Dunk Meal Planner… raw and vegan style. Which means, I’m starting with mastering the art of eating one fruit and one veggie daily and getting my snacks in order.

Week One Snacks:

Mastering One Fruit & One Veggie:

With both the snacks and mastering the one fruit and one veggie, I’ll be kind to myself. Taking really good care of myself and nourishing my body is not the legacy that was passed down to me. Nourishing my body actually goes against how I was raised.

And to say “Thank you” to the way I was raised, recognizing that that way did an incredible job of getting me to where I am now, and thanking said way for all the work it’s done for me AND LETTING GO OF IT, is, to be honest, a bit sad. It’s like a piece of me is dying. Or a part of my past is dying. It’s like I’m going to a funeral for part of my past. It’s a piece that has served me well for years, and now it’s time to say goodbye to that piece. And goodbyes are HARD. And that’s okay.

And I’m enough “ME” now to say goodbye and move forward into my own truth of taking really good care of myself. Because, worst-case scenario, I know I can always go back to the old way.

Okay, back to taking really good care of myself… As part of this, I’m looking at the kitchen in a new light. What if instead of the kitchen being a reminder of abandonment, what happens when I approach the kitchen as a space to connect and deeply nourish myself and my loves? I wonder what happens then?

Part of this may even be making one of my Grandma Hill’s recipes on a special day like her birthday or anniversary. Maybe. Part of me feels like that’s too… sad? And this work is about constantly moving towards happiness. Happiness chooses love and life.

What is landing for me is getting our kitchen in order, and to start going through what we have and organizing and presenting it in a way that we love and is useful, as we’ve done more and more with the rest of our home. Just this morning I noticed how every other room in our home has had more design and attention paid to it than our kitchen. Our kitchen is literally black and white and organized in a way that makes next to no sense. Interesting awareness…

So, bottom line. Patterns run rampant. Legacies continue until their noticed. Strategies are brilliant. And I’m stepping deeper into my own truth, as the truest version of myself. Letting go of the past, leading with integrity, nourishing myself – mind and body.


Now then, it’s time to be playful in the kitchen as a confident and happy woman!




About Sara

Sara Hefty (B.B.A. and H.H.C.) teaches workaholic women how to have it all and flourish without burning out, binging or being spiteful. As an expert in transformational health coaching, she holds women accountable for letting go of unwanted weight, being brilliantly nourished, grounded in truth and feeling confident, happy and playful every single day.

As a woman with her own weight loss story, wide-ranging family heritage of cancer, and a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Sara’s appreciation for convenient nutrient-dense food, personal growth, inspiring design, financial responsibility, and social entrepreneurship led to her “Pursuit of Ownership: Health, Home, and Legacy” model of heart-on-fire-hot empowered living.

Sara is the founder of PROJECT LUX and She currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with her husband Brian and hound-dog Raja.