Sandy Bliss’s motto was “Equanimity Through Adversity”
Our long-standing tradition of giving a member the mic before our keynote speaker helps us get to know what our colleagues are working on. Our 5+5+5 guidelines (5 minutes of backstory, 5 minutes to read, and 5 minutes of Q&A) help emerging writers polish their professional skills.
This month, three of her colleagues will bring Sandy Bliss to the Member Spotlight before our September speaker, Bronwyn Emery. Get tickets here.
When community organizer Sandy Bredt joined the Berkeley Branch of the CWC to fulfill her new identity as writer Sandy Bliss, she leaned right in to enliven, enrich, connect and otherwise support her fellow writers in a variety of ways. As the Club adapted to the pandemic, she co-hosted the 2020 book launch on Zoom, pulling raffle tickets out of a variety of hats. She helped streamline the new member process and posted events on Meetup, even sponsoring our club’s membership. She’d even interviewed writers for this very column! Sandy would have liked to have volunteered more, but when she discovered this year that she had leukemia, she spent her summer preparing for her final exit.
She called former president Kristen Caven to thank her for welcoming her to the branch and tell her the news. Kristen thanked her for all she gave to the Club. On behalf of the CWC, Kristen brought Sandy some fancy French savories “because you should have all the pleasures you can before you go”, and they talked about Sandy’s writing.
Before dedicating herself to writing, Sandy had retired from a career in environmental education, community building, and nonprofit administration. In the years she was a member of the CWC, and the Berkeley Writers Circle, she wrote a memoir that she decided not to publish, in which she viewed her life experiences through the lens of her relationship with her brother, who was living with her and her son when he died suddenly in 2007.
Kristen: “Sandy, your wisdom and guidance when my mother had a broken back was invaluable. I’ll never forget it.”
Sandy: “Well I certainly had my experiences!” She was too-frequently inconvenienced by a progressive bone disorder that required annual surgeries and healing time.
Kristen: “One surprising, sad, and inspiring thing that we experience being in community with other writers is how others face death. I’ve seen so many examples of incredible grace, and I feel honored to be able to interview you. Of course I want to ask you the obnoxious question: how has facing death affected your writing routine?”
Sandy: (Laughs) “Although there’s a lot of writing to do, like my memorial service, I’m actually doing more talking to people now. It’s such a blessing to be able to hear what people say about me before I am gone. I didn’t realize how much I’ve done, the little ways I’ve touched or helped people. At this point it’s all about love.” She was amazed by the impact she’d had on others.
Kristen: “Your motto, Equanimity Through Adversity, is so inspiring. It’s hard to keep balance even when things are going against you.”
Members of the Berkeley Writers Circle had made beaded bracelets for her friends to take, to wear when they wanted to remember Sandy.
At Sandy’s memorial service, this theme was repeated over and over. The generosity of spirit that was normal for Sandy was exceptional for others. As director of Kehila Synagogue for ten years, Sandy left a profound legacy, helping the community purchase the building, and creating a queer-friendly Jewish space in Oakland. Her friends and family offered many of her wise, memorable quotes:
- “I could be bitter…but then I’d be bitter!”
- “Will this choice enlarge and expand me? Or will it diminish me?”
- “Suffering is optional.”
- “In spite of what it may look like, I’m living my best life!”
- “Yay, team!”
Sandy shared her writing, and her wisdom, generously. During the pandemic, her newsletter was full of book reviews, cultural reflections, and links to her personal writing.
- Looking Ahead: Newsletter future, Strength and Structure, Balance and Harmony; Being a “good citizen”
- Verging on Sanity: Pandemic Stereotype, Curiosity and Discovery, Assessment One Year In
- Unexpected Gratitude and Joy at the Start of the Year: An Unexpected Epilogue; Don’t Believe Everything You Think!
- A Lot to be Grateful For at the End of an Awful Year: Border Crossing Narratives, The Biggest Loser, and more
- We’re In It For The Long Haul: Keep It Moving, People!; The Angry Memoir Blues; We’ve Got The Keys
- Race Reckoning and Creativity Issue: Model Minority In The Middle, Why Write Memoir Now, Embodying Anti-Racism, and Love, Love, Love
- Still Hunkered Down: When Memory Fails, What’s a Memoirist To Do? plus Talk Ain’t Cheap
Sandy’s friends Kristen Caven, Henry HItz, and Amarjit Pannu will be reading her words at the October 15th membership meeting. Since Sandy was all about community, she’s a perfect opener for our guest speaker,
Bronwyn Emery, on writing in community.
“Everyone can smile at others. Everyone can find the good in situations, once a day. Everyone can cultivate gratitude. And if you do, the love will come back to you.”