Monday, April 28, 2014

The Togetherness Project

A month or so after my husband moved out, one of my friends from high school messaged me on Facebook with some supportive words and a link to a blog post that she thought might help me.

Pioneer Woman was a post that changed my perspective and helped me feel like there could be support in the decisions I was making. I was feeling backed into a corner and I wasn't sure whether to fight or flight.

I felt an instant connection to the words on Jacy's blog and I spent some time reading posts upon posts upon posts to learn more about this Brave Warrior Woman who I had never met.

Gathering from her blog posts, I assumed Jacy lived in Utah so when I emailed her to tell her how much her blog had helped me in my journey, I was surprised when she emailed back to tell me she lived literally 20 minutes away from me. What?!?

I kept on reading Jacy's blog and she would sometimes refer to The Togetherness Project and I was a bit intrigued by what seemed like a community of women who had been in similiar situations as myself. But I was nervous. Oh so nervous. I knew NO ONE besides my friend and at the time, I wasn't sure if she was going to attend the conference.

But through Jacy's blog, I came across an incredible post written by Tc and from there, I reached out to her and met her in person...kind of by force. :)

What I'm trying to say from all of this blog tagging and name dropping (because in my world, these people are famous) is that I feel like my connection to The Togetherness Project was a bunch of tiny little pieces that created a completed puzzle.

So I finally signed up. I did it. It was a step of bravery for me and this is my year of BRAVE so I did it.

Weeks upon weeks before TTP (The Togetherness Project) and I started to look forward to this band of amazing women who were very supportive of me. Countdown had begun. I had hope that I would find new friendships and a healthy amount of support and also that I would be able to support other women and love them.

My vision of TTP was almost spot on. Support, love, friendships---it was all there.

Mark Bell started the day off with a bang, teaching us about empathy vs. sympathy. "Sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy is feeling with people. When does an emphatic sentence start with, "At least."?" I connected to this message because having gone through a few crappy things in my life (infertility, divorce, etc.), I've heard a lot of these messages. At least you have two kids. At least your husband didn't die. At least you get breaks from your kids every other weekend. For the most part, I could understand that when people would say these "At least's", they were trying to help me feel better but once in a while, those sentences just plain hurt. The phrase "at least" seems to minimize the pain I'm feeling because at least I don't have it worse.

The other message I wanted to touch on was a class taught by Marilyn Tenney. If you've known me a long time, you might know her as well. Marilyn was a youth leader in my church growing up. I was so excited to attend her class just to see her and her class ended up being my favorite! I really related to the things she spoke about regarding "Codependency as a Trauma Response". I have had a hard time in my outside world (my world outside of TTP and the women who get this trauma) explaining how traumatic this has been for me. I feel like I get a lot of weird looks when I refer to my divorce as betrayal trauma because it's not like he did anything to me. I wasn't abused.Abuse is outwardly traumatic and everyone agrees but it's hard to recognize trauma that is all emotional. There is no proof and it's harder to understand. I felt shame for even feeling like I had suffered trauma because I felt like maybe I'm just overreacting. One of the first things Marilyn taught was, "If it affects how I see my world, that's trauma." Then she went on to explain that I need to, "Identify the truths and lies of my shame." Why am I feeling this shame? What are deep-rooted feelings behind all of this?

I could go on and on about codependency and what I have learned from those feelings. I had a late night/early morning talk with a great friend (you know, the night before the conference when we pulled an ALL NIGHTER) about how I hate myself when I start feeling codependent. I can hardly stand it! When I start feeling lonely, I get angry at myself because I WANT TO BE INDEPENDENT!
My friend taught me that there is a difference between being codependent and lonely. They are not the same thing. When I'm lonely, it isn't because I'm weak, it is because we, as human beings, want to feel connection with other people.

Honestly, I'd pull an all nighter all over again, despite the effects on my body from 2 days post-all-night, to learn what I learned that night---and that was BEFORE the conference had even started!

There were so many other amazing speakers and classes that I attended. I learned so much about myself, about my situation, and about the strength I CAN have in any situation!

Not only can we do hard things, we can do AMAZING things! As human beings, we have the power in any situation to come out on top.

Together, we can rise above.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday FUNday and a Weekend of CrAzY

 Here we are, Monday. The start to a new week, a new week that I am very much looking forward to.
I spent the first day of my weekend doing a lot of this---yes, I really did take a picture of you, Tc. Next time I'll warn you...or maybe I won't. I painted and untaped and laughed and layed down in the grass and was tackled by a 6 year old approximately eight times and listened to beautiful singing and SOMEBODY even touched me with their feet. Gasp! {I hate feet}

So that was Friday. Imaginably the best day I've had in a while.

As you read on Saturday, things started to get rocky for a bit. I had a hard morning and I layed around watching tv and/or dramatically crying about how life just isn't fair.

But then I decided that I was NOT about to spend an entire day feeling sorry for myself so I picked my butt up off the couch, cranked my music up, and started cleaning and de-cluttering and getting rid of 90% of Petey's toys and 60% of Spidey's toys. Booyah. Then I organized the family room and planned to add wallpaper to one of the walls but it was 2am so I decided it could wait for another day.

Sunday morning came and I realized I had forgotten another plan I was going to accomplish on Saturday---changing my hot pink hair streak to teal blue. I had 2 hours until church and since I suck at math, I calculated that I had plenty of time.


I had to bleach it all first and that took over an hour and there was still some pink left. No biggie, right?

By the time I added the teal, I had 30 minutes before church which meant I had 10 minutes to leave the color in, 10 minutes to wash it all out, and 10 minutes to dry my hair enough to get to church. Hmm...
It didn't quite work out how I had expected and I went to church looking like a freaking Easter egg. Good thing it was actually Easter, right?!!
I came home from church and dyed it again. This time it took all the pink out but was left looking purple, blue, and green.
So after dinner, I tried ONE MORE TIME, and it is as good as it's gonna get right now. It's blue and greenish blue. Oh-freaking-well.
Maybe I should leave that crap to the professionals! Knowing me, I probably won't have learned my lesson and you'll probably hear about me doing this all over again in a few months.
At least I was the world's cleanest person yesterday after THREE showers.
So today, stuff got real. I was bound and determined to make today productive!
{Ha! Its 9am and I'm on the computer blogging.}
Petey had crazy hair day at school and I was so excited!
We sprayed it hot pink and put gold sparkles in it. I ratted 3 crazy buns and added a few ostrich feather bows. She loved it and we were both happy that this meant it was also a "dress down day" meaning no uniform!
I love uniforms but once in a while, it's fun to dress her up.
Then stuff got really real when I decided to sweep the floor in the kitchen...
 Yes, that's the pile I was left with. Why am I showing you? Oh, I don't know, BECAUSE I'VE LOST MY MIND!
I even did the dishes---because I'm such an overachiever.

It's 9am and I think I deserve the rest of the day off. Oh wait, I'm just kidding. Maybe I'll put that wallpaper on today. Or maybe I'll get some laundry done. Or maybe I'll just sit on the couch.

We shall see...

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Good days can be the best and the worst. Good days show me what I want in life.

Happiness. Freedom. Laughter.

Free from the chains that seem to bind my fragile mind.

Yesterday, I was free. I really felt it. The things that usually bind me down were almost non-existent and when they did exist, honesty talked them out of my mind.

Yesterday was real.

And I went to bed listening to a song on repeat and crying and yelling---and it was so good---because I don't cry often enough and crying can be liberating.

I woke up at 11am feeling the lowest I've felt in a while. It took me a while to figure out why but I know it now. Yesterday wasn't my every day reality and it can't be. I can have days like yesterday but I can't rely on everyone else to make those days possible because I still wake up alone the next morning and have to face this as my reality. Pieces are missing and pieces are broken and I'm trying my damndest to put them all back together but it hasn't worked out yet.

This is my fight.
I hate that.
It's a hard fight, sometimes seemingly impossible.

I don't like feeling fragile. My "I am woman, hear me roar" fights with my "co-dependent".

I don't know what the point to all of this is, other than feeling like I'm whining because yesterday was a good day---as if that makes any sense---but I'm trying to learn from my feelings and not have everything feel so hard. It shouldn't have to be extremely happy or extremely sad. I shouldn't need others surrounding me. I feel like I should be fine by now. Hello, it's been 8 months or 4 months or 2 months, depending on what fragile, broken piece we are talking about. I should feel better.

Or maybe I shouldn't. I wish there was a timeline to this sort of thing.

All I feel like doing is going back to bed and pretending yesterday was my everyday and today hasn't happened yet but it's 1pm and that just might make me feel crazier than I already feel.

So instead, I'll try to be brave. I want to be brave enough to be alone. I want to be brave enough to fight. I want to be brave enough to cry and feel and learn and be real.

Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.
No matter what I say or do
I'll still feel you here 'til the moment I'm gone.

You hold me without touch.
You keep me without chains.
I never wanted anything so much
Than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.

Set me free,
Leave me be.
I don't wanna fall another moment into your gravity
Here I am and I stand so tall, just the way I'm supposed to be.
But you're on to me and all over me.

Oh, you loved me 'cause I'm fragile
When I thought that I was strong.
But you touch me for a little while
And all my fragile strength is gone.


I live here on my knees
As I try to make you see
That you're everything I think I need here on the ground.

But you're neither friend nor foe
Though I can't seem to let you go.
The one thing that I still know is that you're keeping me down.

You're keeping me down, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
You're on to me, on to me, and all over...

Something always brings me back to you.
It never takes too long.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy Half Birthday To ME!

 Exactly seven years ago, I was doing this.
Yes, I got married on my half birthday. I loved it that way. I loved having a reason to celebrate something really special exactly 6 months before my birthday each year.

This year, I decided I needed to focus on my half birthday and what this day can now mean to me. Because really, 26 1/2 is such a big deal.

So I ran in the Blacklight Run on Saturday.
 And my goodness, I'm still finding colored powdered in my hair after 2 showers.
 But it was worth it to be with so many of my amazing friends---and ALL of their husbands. Not awkward at all, right? Ok, it actually wasn't. They must be really amazing. Also, I'm a spaz and it looks like I'm photobombing. I promise this is really my group. :)

Then yesterday, I got an opportunity to spend 1.5 hours alone in my car while driving to Tucson to get my kids and it was perfect. I'm serious. I had so much time to think and sort through some things and pray and belt out really awesome songs.
And I wore two of my favorite pendants yesterday, each representing a very special time in my life.

The weekend was good. Today will be good. I have a good life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

I Did It Anyway

One time, I hiked the Y. Actually, let me rephrase that, one time I barely hiked the Y.

I had been home from ANASAZI for over a year but had done an extra "dawnstar expedition" on the trail a month or so prior so I just knew I could handle hiking up a mountain. I felt like a mountain woman after ANASAZI, even though I hardly ever did any physical activity once I graduated from high school. I would often drive up to the mountains just to sit and write in my journal and meditate. I still do this sometimes when I'm kidless. Can I emphasize how much this does not count as physical activity?

But really, how hard could it be?
Hard. Really hard. That's precisely how hard it was---hard. Have I overused that word yet?

I remember getting halfway up the Y and I was no longer worried about being cool in front of my friends. I wanted to quit. My asthma was kicking my butt and I felt like I couldn't take another step. I told them to head up without me.

I could not do this! I convinced myself it was too much. It might've just been a small mountain but that day, it was too much. I sat there for a while feeling silly that I couldn't make it up a stupid mountain that thousands of people have hiked. Where was the fighting Suzanne?

On that particular day, I had a choice to make. So I took a little time to think about it and then I got up and started walking. I took one step, and then another, and then another.
When I got to the Y, I may not have been as enthusiastic as I would normally describe myself but I had done it. I had done something that, 20 minutes prior, I was convinced I couldn't do.

Isn't this kind of how life goes for all of us? We look at other people and the trials they face and we mentally pick which ones we would or wouldn't be able to handle it.

So what happens when we're given the trial we decided we couldn't handle?

This is what I was faced with when I was diagnosed with infertility almost 3 years ago (Oh my heck, THREE years?!). I couldn't handle it. But I did it anyway.

The marital problems came flooding in a year later and at the time, I wasn't sure how I could stay married. I wasn't convinced this could be my life forever. But I did it anyway.

And then my marriage dissolved and it wasn't my choice. I had found happiness in my marriage and it dissolved right before my eyes. I was CERTAIN I couldn't handle it. But I did it anyway.

Sometimes I tell myself I won't be able to handle school AND being a single mom AND babysitting but each day, I do it. I do it because I know it is important. Sometimes I do it just because I have to. Sometimes I handle it gracefully and sometimes I'm convinced my kids would be better off being raised by someone else. But I do it anyway because that is what I need to do.

When you have yourself convinced that you cannot handle the things you've been given, remember that you are stronger than you think. Your Heavenly Father gave you the ability to fight the things you need to fight if you let Him help you.

You can handle anything with God. You are a fighter and you can do hard things.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Fearful, Fighting Warrior: My Messy Beautiful

One of the reasons I blog is because I like free therapy. Really, who doesn't?
So today is all about the real in my life right this very minute on this very day.

My name is Suzanne and I fight fear.

Seven years ago, I entered into a commitment that was supposed to last forever. In my mind, it really was going to last forever. That seven year anniversary is coming up next week and yet, six weeks ago, that commitment was dissolved. I thought I would never have to search for love again but here I am, feeling empty handed of the love I once had. I fear being loved.

I was once a little girl who felt judged. I am now an adult who feels judged every day. It doesn't matter if people are actually judging me, I over-analyze every move I make because I'm just certain someone is going to be unhappy with what I say or do. I fear judgment from others and the judgment I receive from myself.

I had have an eating disorder. I always will. Truthfully, it's something I've struggled with since I was 14 but eating disorders don't just up and walk away from your life {I wish they did}. I fear telling you all that because I'm overweight and that just seems ironic. I fear telling you that because I am scared you'll think I'm unstable. I'm not. Well, sometimes I am but it has nothing to do with my eating disorder. Eating disorders are something I want to fight against. Being so personally affected is one of the main reasons I keep choosing to write my English essays on body image or eating disorders. I fear my own body image.

The reason I said I fight fear is because every day, every dang day, I fight these fears. I don't always succeed but I fight.

Throughout my life, dealing with loss, infertility, divorce, shame, etc., I've learned that there are always two roads I can take. Always. I always end up with a choice.

Isn't that a brutiful thing? Sure, it's scary. Sure, I'd like someone to make choices for me once in a while. I ask my therapist to make my choices for me all of the time! Just ask her. Oh wait, I'm kidding. Don't ask her. You don't know you?

Because I was born feisty, I was born with an innate sense to FIGHT for myself. As a teenager, I thought fighting for myself meant defying anything anyone told me because they had no clue. I've heard this referred to as the "eff you teenager" phase. That statement is truer than true for me and reflects a lot of the feelings I've been stuck with. You know, those hard feelings that aren't always surfaced without a lot of work.

So here's what I've learned:

The hard feelings are the ones worth surfacing. The hard feelings make me who I am. They explain my fear and they explain my fight.

I have been betrayed before and I will feel betrayed again before my life is over but I am a single mom with a fighting chance. I choose to fight and fight and fight because life is worth a fight. Life is worth the relief I feel for 5 minutes before the next fight tries to knock me down.

My life is messy. My life is beautiful. My life is beautifully messy.

I like to refer to my life as "icky sticky". I often feel like I'm trudging through honey or peanut butter or maybe even Nutella {who doesn't love a little Nutella?} and I pick those particular foods because they're
sticky and yummy. I pick those foods to explain my feelings on "icky sticky-ness" because everytime life gets "icky stick" {Am I over-using that phrase?}, I learn. I grow. I get stronger. And it ends up feeling a little sweeter and a little better than before it started. Heartbreak becomes beautiful when you choose to learn and grow and have empathy and compassion.

I've learned that life isn't about perfection. Ok, fine, maybe I'm still pretty obsessed with being perfect and maybe I still struggle to find a balance between my fears and my faith but I'm fighting!
This girl is a fighter. This girl has found strength in the BRUTIFUL life she's been given. This girl is WEIRD for posting that picture twice on her blog but she's trying to accept the weird because there are a lot of cool things about this girl.
This girl is grateful for life and love and trials and hard days and wonderful days because they all intertwine to create a beautifully messy life.

This post was inspiringly written for the Beautiful Messy series on Momastery.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude

Today I have an overwhelming amount of gratitude for life.
When President Uchtdorf talked about living through our trials and finding gratitude, Satan was sitting close by and whispering to me, "You aren't doing enough. You are a complainer. You whine about your life so tell me exactly how you are grateful at all." He started to win as I was ferociously writing words to try and remember so I could learn how to be a grateful person. I started to feel unworthy and bad about some of my posts lately because they didn't show my gratitude.
And then almost instantaneously, I received two text messages from separate people, telling me they were thinking of me during his talk and how thankful they were that I was an example of gratitude for them.
It was God's reminder to me that when I have bad thoughts, they are from Satan. God doesn't ever tell me I am ungrateful or unworthy of love because I complain. He shows me what I'm good at.
On the other hand, Satan takes what I'm good at and tries to belittle it.

Today I am thankful for a loving Father in Heaven who knew I was getting lost for a second during a talk that was supposed to be empowering me. I'm thankful He sent two earthly angels to remind me that I'm doing ok and I'm extremely grateful that those two people were listening to God when they were prompted to send me those texts, whether they recognized it as that or not.
I feel so lonely so much of the time but God always sends me what I need, when I need it. It's when I recognize His hand in my life that I realize I am anything but alone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Body Image Issue

Disclaimer---kind of: I feel a teensy bit like a hypocrite for writing this because I struggle every day but I'm going to write it anyway. This isn't meant to say that I'm super awesome and love myself always and never struggle. It's actually because I struggle that I'm super passionate about issues like this.

The Body Image Issue

I wrote an essay this week on body image and how the media affects this issue and a lot of what drove me to choose that topic is based on my own personal experiences mixed with my anger toward some of the things I've seen in the media lately.

Let's get real, friends. The media does, absolutely does, affect our world! Everywhere we look, we see images of flawless, stick-thin women and toned, athletic men. What are our children going to grow up thinking about themselves if we don't take a stand and teach them of their worth from a young age?
I know it gets hard. I know most of the things parents say are out of love but please promise me or yourself or your children something today. Never ever ever ever EVER comment on your child's body size to them. Never. Because they already get that from the media. They will already struggle with whether they are perfect enough or worthy enough for their dream guy/girl to run with them into the sunset and live happily ever after. I can assure you they will worry about it. What they need from us is to teach them that the media is WRONG. What they need are people to fight against the model-like body type that probably 2% of women can actually attain and celebrate who they are for who they are.

In an article I recently read, it stated that "body dissatisfaction manifests throughout the lifespan with girls as young as nine years of age desiring to lose weight." source NINE YEARS OLD, friends. I was 9 years old in the 3rd grade and actually, I mentioned weeks ago in my Eating Disorder Awareness post that I was dissatisfied with my body at age 6. I distinctly remember it and it wasn't fun...and it still isn't fun.

''For the modern woman, being thin is the ultimate form of perfection, the kind of personal control required to become the new Superwoman parallels the single-mindedness that characterizes the anorectic" source

I’ve witnessed some pretty appalling commercials and advertisements in my adulthood; advertisements for shoes that sexualize women, advertisements for hair products that sexualize women, advertisements for jewelry that sexualize women, etc. In each of these commercials, I have recognized a similar trend of a half-naked woman with a flawless body. I grew up watching these things on television and having this idea in my mind that thin would make me wanted and beautiful and worth something. For teen girls and women, this is a dangerous cycle and for teen boys and men, this is a detrimental view of what women should be. Men are being raised to see images in the media of perfection and not very many women are able to attain that perfection men might desire. For women, this creates a serious eating disorder problem. For men, this creates a serious pornography problem. The life we all want to obtain is demoralized by the things we have become insensitive to on our televisions and through the internet.

One of the key factors in body image is the depression so many adolescents face because of the stigma that being thin is the best thing you can be. This creates a pressure on our youth that many of them will carry well into adulthood. “A young woman between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four years has a 7 percent chance of being as thin as a catwalk model and a 1 percent chance of being as thin as a supermodel. Models and many actresses are abnormally thin, but teenage girls who are not thin may view these images and believe that something is wrong with them.” source How do we change this ideological behavior? When will enough be enough? Most of us would agree that we want our children, our peers, and ourselves to love who we are for what we are but how do we change the world’s stigma of “thin is in”? We can start by advocating for real women in magazines and teaching our children and friends about these distorted images. We can also start by accepting the people around us, no matter their looks. We need to throw away the ideas in our minds about body image and start accepting who we are for what we are. This comes easier for some than it does for others. A lot of women already struggle with eating disorders because of the massive amounts of pressure they get from the media about being thin. We are bombarded daily with commercials, advertisements, billboards, and many other types of media influences that we are having to fight constantly.  

There is one commercial in particular that I've had the unfortunate opportunity to watch and ponder. You all know what Reebok is, right? You know, that shoe company...the shoe company that sells shoes...that shoe company that sells shoes and apparently sex, all in the same commercial! Friends, if you'd like to look up the Miranda Kerr Reebok commercial on your own, feel free. I can almost assure you that you won't be happy with it. And if you find yourself unhappy with it, I'd be really happy to help you stand against this type of thing with me! I have already emailed them, tweeted them, and Facebooked them and since I put links on each of those phrases, feel free to send them your own opinions as well. We need Reebok to know that their shoes can sell without sexualizing women. They are shoes! What in the heck do shoes have to do with sex?!

It's a sad world we live in when advertisers of all types are using sex to sell their products. Hmm, shouldn't your product be good enough as is?

 The effect the media has on body image is scary and sad but we can fight! We can fight against commercials that are distasteful. We can fight against the very thoughts in our heads that tell us we aren't good enough. We can fight for our children and future generations!
Let's not allow the media to define who we should be.

Let's try so so so SO hard to be good enough as is.

We are enough. We have always been enough.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dear Divorce, You Suck

Dear Divorce,

You suck. You really really really really suck. You have brought way too much pain and way too much loneliness. No one can fix you because you're a constant dark cloud. You'll always be there. I'll always have your label, no matter where I go and no matter what I do.

You make me angrier than angry. The choices that caused you make me angrier than angry. You make me feel stupid and vulnerable and out of control. Some days, I lose hope because I've seen what you cause and I've seen what you can do to a family.

You are a liar. People look at you and think you might be easier but I am on the fence.

You have caused me to lose family that I loved. You have caused my children to miss out on being close to family they love. None of this seems fair for the people who didn't decide to lie and deceive. But life isn't fair so now we just get to decide how we will make divorce the best possible situation it can be...even though my sarcasm wants to speak up and laugh at that thought.

It isn't actually you, it is the person who listened to you. But you still suck.

And Dear Lying,

You suck. You really really really really suck. Shall I copy the rest of the above here?

I think you all get the point.

If you have a hard time telling the truth, get help. I'm not being mean but I am being harsh. Get help. Compulsive lying is so harmful to you, to your relationships, and to everyone you are around.

Compulsive lying just ticks me the frick off!
What if it were you? What if you had spent almost a third of your entire life building up something great only to find out everything was based on lies? And literally the day your marriage fell apart was the day you started to find out about these lies, one by one, little by little. You'd probably feel about as stupid as I felt. It's one thing to trust someone you should but it is a whole different ballpark when you find out you've been trusting someone you shouldn't have.

Yeah, that's where I'm at today.

Do I think you're a bad person if you can't stop lying? Not necessarily. I believe compulsive lying can be an addiction. So get help.
Manipulating the people you are supposed to love is not an actual relationship, it's a power struggle.

So if you can't stop lying, take a step back and try to figure out why. Are there choices you are making that are causing these lies? If so, get help.

And seriously? Can we just set this debate straight? Intentionally deceiving someone is the same thing as lying. It's the exact same thing! So don't do it. And if you can't stop yourself, get help.

Marriage, relationships, life in general would be better off if we were all willing to be truthful. Keep that in mind the next time you think of telling a little white lie to cover your tracks. Because little lies turn into medium lies that turn into big FAT lies.

I think I'll go fold some laundry now and calm down.