You Own Everything That Happened To You


image created by fromtracie and used with permission

One of the most powerful decisions I’ve ever made was to open up and tell my stories. To be brave with my words on behalf of those who haven’t found the strength to talk about their past shame or their present sorrow. By way of the internet, I found a strong support system, a welcoming community, and other people who have chosen to be brave with their words. I sometimes even share my words “in real life” thanks to the transparency I’ve gotten in the habit of having on my blog.

September 9-15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. If ever there was a week to be brave and tell your story in the hopes that just one person might read and feel validated, understood, or more hopeful, this is that week.

I am a survivor of several forms of abuse
I suffer from depression
I had undiagnosed PPD and Post Partum Anxiety for several years
I woke up during an abortion procedure when I was 19
I went through an ugly custody battle and am in the middle of a divorce
I have experienced PTSD, experienced detachment and had intrusive thoughts, and have considered suicide.

I have written about mental illness awareness and invisible disabilities, and talked about what goes on in my head sometimes.

I have written about the topic of self-hatred, and emotional dysfunction, and about what recovery looks like.

I read this wonderful post from Alexandra of Good Day Regular People and it further encouraged me to be brave and tell my story.

My story is told from my perspective. It may not match up with the other person’s experience of the situation, but that doesn’t mean that my perspective is wrong or invalid. My feelings are my own. My perspective is always valid, and it doesn’t require anyone’s approval or permission for me to speak or write about it.

The same goes for you.

You own everything that has happened to you. It has contributed to who you are, but your past doesn’t define you. Mental illness doesn’t define you, divorce doesn’t define you, abuse doesn’t define you. It’s part of your story. But it doesn’t have to be your whole story.

There are people who will read these words, wishing for the darkness to end. Wishing for a hand to reach out and hold theirs. Wishing for someone to see through their facade and ask, honestly, “are you okay?”. Wishing they could trust someone enough to reply honestly.

There are others who will read these words who can’t yet take the risk of showing anyone who they are and how they feel. Who still feel that they cannot ever truly be vulnerable because they might break open and never be able to pull themselves together again.

I know that feeling. I know that fear. I lived through a long season where I had to be strong all day every day because there was no one to hold me if I collapsed. I had pushed everyone so far away that there was no one there to pick up the pieces with me.

But the day came when I could begin to relax, begin to trust, begin to open up again. I reached out when I was in pain to friends who had been brave and shared their pain with me. I could find a safe place for my feelings of fear and despair.

You are here today, reading my words. If you need to talk, I am someone safe to share with.

Trust me.. there is nothing you could tell me that would shock me or repel me. I may not have experienced your exact situation, or felt your exact pain… but I have walked my own road and have scars, too. Seeing the open wounds you have only makes me have more compassion and understanding toward you, and respect for your story. I would encourage you to risk reaching out.

If anyone is reading my words and someone you know comes to mind to reach out to… please reach out. Send a simple text, write an anonymous note of encouragement, offer a hug, look into their eyes and ask how they are.. really. And wait for a “real” answer.

I don’t think anyone wants to commit suicide. They’re just so. damn. tired. of fighting. Everything is so hard all the time and the endurance to cope is overpowering. Having suicidal ideation is scary, but you know what else? It’s also understandable in the face of trauma, abuse, abandonment, anxiety, and unrelenting sorrow. You’re not crazy. You’re not a bad person.

You’re just tired of being alone.

I would encourage anyone who has a story to tell, either using their own name or anonymously, to submit it to BandBackTogether. I would also encourage you to become a part of the To Write Love On Her Arms organization and People Of The Second Chance. The community that these three organizations provide for those who are hurting and need mercy, grace, love, and encouragement, is truly amazing.

Thank you for taking the time to read what’s been on my mind this week.

If you need to talk, day or night, the HopeLine is a call away: 1-800-422-HOPE . The Suicide Hotline is staffed 24/7 also and can be reached at 1-800-SUICIDE .

Thanks to my friend Aunt Becky for these words: “we are none of us alone”

Author’s Note: Please read the links I included, and feel free to share my post if you think it might help someone.

Wordless/What I Wore Wednesday – BlogHer

This is my favorite outfit right now:

The shrug, corset top, and slacks are all Dress Barn. The slacks are flowy and very comfortable, and the fit of the top hugs my curves so well that I own several different colors in this same style. There’s a white and navy one that just came out, so I will need that one, too.

MamaKat put forth a prompt that asked us to link up our favorite outfit. And, well, that seemed sort of easy (and in my case, rather boring) with the one picture and all. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to show you what I wore and who I spent time with at BlogHer this past weekend.

with Melanie at the volunteer training session on Thursday evening

with Yael later that evening

with Melysa at the Cali Dreams rooftop party

Meeting Kir

with Denise!!

This outfit is incredibly comfortable. The dress and shrug are both from Dress Barn. The dress feels like a nightgown, and has an empire waist below a wide black band, so it flatters my hourglass nicely.

meeting Jenny Feldon at the VOTY reception, a great picture of both of us!

with Shari at the VOTY reception!

I wore black yoga pants and flat sandals, but my accordion pleat top and necklace are cute and both from Dress Barn. The top is from the early spring collection.

meeting Helen Jane while I worked registration on Friday morning!

Different pleated top from Dress Barn this time, my favorite of the two, and a lot of photo ops from Saturday because I worked 2 three hour shifts at registration and kept seeing friends walk past!

with Liz at the registration desk on Saturday morning

with the lovely Alexandra

my new friend Jennie!

after I had my makeup done at the Centrum/Chapstick sponsor booth!

With one of the three awesome BlogHer founders, Elisa!

with two of my favorite women on the planet, Denise and Eileen!

Then there’s the dress. From Dress Barn, of course. It’s incredibly comfortable, and I love it.

Pow. #blush

after Sparklecorn. With silver unicorns on my cleavage because, well, obviously.

This was taken by @bridalease before Sparklecorn with all of the fun ladies who had balloon animals and unicorn horns made by @craftyb as we waited in line!

Even with my recent medication induced weight gain, I felt pretty in everything I wore to BlogHer.

What outfit are you loving this summer?

Mama’s Losin' I

and

GFunkified

80s Flashback

Last year, my friend Liz hosted a hysterical linkup called “I Was A Senior Hottie” and more than 100 bloggers linked up with pictures from high school. It was really fun to see everyone’s before and afters, and get a look into what styles were popular in what parts of the world in the different years represented. I hope you’ll follow the link above and check out the other submissions!

I grew up in the midwest, where fashion trends took at least two years to arrive, so we were always behind the times. But the popped collar and add-a-bead necklace I was wearing, as well as the triangular hairstyle were at the absolute height of midwestern fashionthat year. Very few girls were not sporting this particular hairstyle, as is evidenced by the 1988 yearbook I have.

This is me in the fall of 1988

This is me now, approximately 24 years later:

Then:
Big hair was the only hairstyle for a girl. You did whatever it took to add volume and curl. Ratting your bangs, ratting the hair at your temples to make it stand out away from your head, and using either Rave or Aquanet to plaster your creation together.

In 1988, I was tight rolling my jeans, stacking my scrunch socks, wearing a perfume called Illegale, and my best friend Susan (pictured below in the dark blue dress) was wearing Exclamation. I was dating Jim, and I was driving a car that looked a lot like this.

I was in band (earlybird 7 am class) and chorus (2nd hour), and I listened mostly to Top 40 pop, but preferred U2, Depeche Mode, Erasure, and New Order. This was also the year I made All State Choir and had my first car accident.

I love that I still have so many pictures from high school. Here are some of my favorites:

big hair, tightrolled acid washed, ripped knee jeans, AND you can tell what instrument I played in band

with my BFF Kim, at the photobooth in Alladin’s Castle (which I wrote about here)

sporting an INXS concert shirt, acid washed jeans, an acid washed jean purse, and white rimmed sunglasses. Our band took a trip to Colorado that year and I was standing with my friend and fellow sax player, Dave, on the bridge over the Royal Gorge

Me with my BFF Susan, in my parents’ living room, before Homecoming 1989.

With my boyfriend at prom, in an of-the-moment pastel peach dress that my friend’s mom had made me. I was wearing a matching peach garter underneath that was removed later in the evening by said boyfriend. (Too bad for him, there was no “brown chicken brown cow” going on afterward, I was still barely holding on to my virginity.)

Songs I was listening to then and are part of the 80s nostalgia playlist I have on my phone:

Wait
Patience
West End Girls
If You Leave
Strangelove
So Alive
We’ll Be Together
Just Like Heaven

Do you have awesome high school pictures to link up with?

Were they all burned once you realized how hopelessly out of fashion your wardrobe had become?

Do you dare post and link up with the I Was A Senior Hottie link? I’d love to see you in high school.. but even if you’re not brave enough to post, tell me what you looked like back then!

Year In Pictures

Linking up with FourPlusAnAngel and PorchSwingMom as we share pictures and memories from 2011.

January

My view from the balcony at the Opryland Hotel during the Blissdom Conference

February

my sweet little fella

March

at the park

April

my daughters

May

cheesy fella and smallish girl at their favorite park

at the park

June

Oldest Sister graduates from 5th grade

July

With Michelle Putnik at SheCon in Miami

August

With MamaKatsLosinIt at BlogHer11

September

with my kids on my birthday

October
Middle Sister on school picture day

November

The front door to my new apartment

December

with my daughters at Christmas

My Experience With Flashmobs

Just in case you’ve never heard the technical definition of a flashmob, here is the definition from dictionary.com:

“a large group of people mobilized by social media to meet in a public place for the purpose of doing an unusual or entertaining activity of short duration: A flash mob brought joy to commuters waiting for their train.”

Blissdom Flashmob

In January of this year, I was a few weeks away from attending the Blissdom Blogging Conference. My friend Jana asked if I was up for participating in a flashmob. I love to dance, and thought this was a great plan, and I wanted to be involved. I chose to be among the first dancers to stand up and start the flashmob, because I don’t feel much intimidation and fear about performing in front of people. I’m not the best dancer, but I do okay, and I love it.

Jana posted several videos on a private facebook group, to instruct the different waves of dancers, and those who could skype were able to do one on one sessions and dance to the music as Jana watched to critique and direct.

The Blissdom flashmob was set to the song “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus, in light of the line in the song about “definitely not a Nashville party!”, and it’s intent was to honor the Blissdom creative team for their hard work. The closing keynote finished, and the music began…

It was such a rush to have participated with so many of my friends, and to honor the team that brings my favorite conference together. I knew the routine well, and had the presence of mind to look around, be aware, and really enjoy the moment.

BlogHer Flashmob – #mobHer #OperationGlory

This summer, I was set to attend the BlogHer conference in San Diego. I received a facebook message from someone I was connected with on twitter to ask if I would be interested in doing a flashmob. I jumped at the chance a second time, and said I would volunteer to be in the first wave of dancers again.

The routine for this song was much harder, but I watched videos from the choreographer and the dancers who lived locally to her and got together in her studio. When we all arrived at BlogHer, I found out there would be a practice session for anyone who wanted more instruction. I went to the practice session, and about 45 women showed up. We ran through the song a few times, and I think most of us felt a lot more secure, having worked out parts we didn’t get as well through video.

During lunch on Friday, in a huge open atrium room with at least a thousand women looking on, the opening notes to Lady Gaga’s “Edge Of Glory” started and #operationglory began. Our choreographer stood up, walked to the middle of the room, and began a solo dance. You can hear on the video that there were people in the room who knew this was the beginning of a flashmob….

This routine was captured on the news in San Diego!

Because this routine was harder, I spent a lot more time watching others dancing so I could stay on top of the moves. But again, I tried to look around at my friends who were dancing with me, and see the joy on their faces.

Having successfully completed my second flashmob in a year, and a more difficult routine, I was ecstatic, and had a newly formed sisterhood with my fellow dancers.

If you ever get a chance, put flashmob on your life list of things to accomplish. It’s really amazing.

Three of my favorite flashmobs:

Hallelujah Chorus in the Mall:

Dodge Rock and Roll Marathon Flashmob:

Black Eyed Peas Oprah Concert Flashmob

Linking up with

Mama's Losin' It

prompt: dance

What I Thought Was Awesome This Week

I KNOW, right?
The return of What I Thought Was Awesome.
I’m glad it’s back, too.
I’ve been writing again. For the first time in months, words and thoughts are flowing. As a result, I’m reading a lot more. So I have to share what I read with YOU.

I know this will shock you, too, but most of this week’s list are heavy things. It’s what resonates with me. You know that. Posts that are filled with emotion, posts that are cathartic and healing for the writer, and validating and that inspire compassion and acceptance from the reader.

That’s my favorite stuff. Posts that advocate for themselves and that I want to honor by promoting.
Here is the long and distinguised list of awesome reads I have collected for you:

Heavy Thinking

from @schmutzie
This Is The First Anniversary Of My Sobriety
The Girl Who Couldn’t Leave
from @maxdubinsky
Stop Serving Jesus Breakfast In Bed

from @sheswrite (at Huffington Post!!)
Fiction That Moves You




Closing Shift – a free ebook short story!!
Just Be Enough
Advocacy
from picsprayersandpompoms
from @wusf
A special subsection of related posts regarding mental illness, suicidal thoughts, community, and the #ppdarmy
Write On Edge : Worst Memory Prompt
(these will be hard to read. They are the entries to the linkup that had the most impact on me, and I wanted to honor the bravery of these writers by spotlighting them here)
from picsprayersandpompoms
from accidentallybydesign

Various And Sundry Awesome


from @5minutesformom (Janice)
from @alliworthington (Happy Birthday to you!!)

What I Thought Was Awesome This Week

Please let me know about any awesome I missed, and I will update between now and Sunday night!
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Late Additions:
From Deeper Story, written by Emily Wierenga. Oh my GOSH the bravery. Huge, huge props to Emily for sharing this chapter of her life and advocating for those dealing with and recovering from eating disorders. This will kick you in the gut and inspire you all at the same time. Wow wow wow.
From JackiYo, a true life look into a mommy breakdown moment, and the aftermath. I have been there. Have you?
This might be a surprising addition to you, but I read this article and because it is such a rare find, I wanted to make sure I linked it. I had a brief relationship in college with a guy whose ex had been physically abusive, and I suspect I know more guys who have lived through this too. I included it on my list of awesome because someone is talking about it, and it’s a conversation that needs to be had.
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1) From TheJackB: A fragment of fiction, loaded with emotion.. mostly regret and longing. Evocatively written, I could feel it deep down.

2) Dafeenah writes for the MamaKat “Love Story” prompt.. a vivid and disturbing story of courage and strength from a young girl.
3) From Lizz, a look into insecurities and not being ashamed of your body or your scars. Some validation from a very unlikely place.
4) Just Plain Jayne writes out some honest ugly about depression.
5) Schmutzie. Of course. Like I said last week, she will have a regular spot in my awesome list. This post was about feeling exposed and vulnerable now that the last shreds of her online anonymity have vanished.
6) My friend Galit Breen writes about her experience in an Israeli marketplace, and being an Israeli-American. “For you, eh, because you are a sabra.” In this shuk, I was seen.
7) Let Me Start By Saying has some practical advice for the guys. And it’s pretty on target, so I thought I would link you to it. Hopefully you are not a cretin and these things are all things you are aware of, but maybe there are a few new ideas for you.
8) NaynaDub at Mommy Is In Time Out writes about the first time she knew her words made a difference. I love the validation, and it has clearly stuck with the author her whole life. I have a moment or two like this myself
9: From the writers at IndieInk
Cab writes an honest reflection as a parent: Son
Cope writes a heartbreaking perspective from laying in a child’s bed: Stars Are Cool
Kat puts an artful voice to Resentfulness
Mean Girl Garage shares a shocking realization from a teacher’s perspective: The Only Thing Certain Is Uncertainty
RachelintheOC tells a lonely tale about one mistake: Gone
San Diego Momma packs a powerful punch about alcoholism in few words: Eight Hundred
Sir writes about a moment of clarity that someone so young should not have to realize: Recall
CDG writes about being a writer, incredibly well and metaphorically: She

What I Thought Was Awesome This Week

I hope you’ve got some time, I think this is the biggest list of links so far! As always, if you find an awesome post, please link me in the comments or on twitter, I will add links through Sunday evening.


Late Entries:

1) One Crafty Mother writes honestly and persuasively on shame, perfection, and truth after being inspired by a post at Single Dad Laughing


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1) Let Me Start By Saying has a powerful memoir post about being a cheerleader and having the opportunity to stop a fight between two teenage boys. I thought it was incredibly well written

2) International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8th this past week, and I thought the poem in this post was beautiful. Also in the links prior to the poem, one of my favorite projects is listed. The Good Women Project :)

3) Tulpen’s storytelling is a thing of beauty. I was easily able to imagine having a friend like this, and was transported into her passenger seat almost immediately.

4) Deeper Story provided Kati a wonderful opportunity to speak about depression from a Christian perspective. I would say this is a fairly accurate portrayal of my experience. Christians who have not battled depression have told me “well, why can’t you just pray?”. It can take days, weeks, months, years, to come to the place where you can reach out, or feel worthy, to ask for help from God or anybody else.

5) Any Mommy posted about being the mother to a child who is being bullied, the mommy guilt and heavily burdened heart aspect, and the fellow student who empowered her son. Powerful.


6) Two incredible posts by my friend DancesWithChaos. The first is about being the big sister and having to defend your little brother, I was right there with the writer in this one.
The second is a magnificently told, and heartrending, five minute look into what it’s like to be an outsider, and the lifelong effects your coping mechanism can provide. In this case, it’s a good thing.

7) From Honest Convo, a response to the prompt A Song with Significance from Mamkat’s Writing Workshop this week, an absolutely fantastic description of the bond between father and daughter who are both musicians. Strapping on the Les Paul in her wedding gown. Hell yeah!

8) From RantsFromCyberspace, a fantastic piece of fiction about an underage girl and the older boy next door.


9) From LeadingMama, a well written look into how a sweet moment, this time in song, can impact a day you thought could not be saved. Also from the Song With Significance prompt.

10) From the Good Men Project, an essay about father, son, and a teacher that made a difference.

11) My Friend JT Whitaker did a poet volley with ArtemisRetreats last night, and this was the poem they created, tweeting back and forth. Beautiful.

12) My friend Lauren wrote this, a powerful and emotion filled look at having had ENOUGH with negative feelings

13) This entry into the finding the beauty in something ugly prompt from The Red Dress Club was my favorite. I have been talking about this post all week, online and offline. I have been this person. Her post inspired a poem I wrote this week, published on my writing site.


14) CrayonWrangler gives a great look into the Neverending Story’s Swamp of Sadness. My favorite lines: “ Yank on the reigns with all of your heart and scream your love to them. Fight against the sadness because you are stronger.”

15) My friend Danica Kombol has been paying attention to what I have and have not been saying. She told me this post would resonate with me. And boy did it. It’s worth the entire read, I promise.


16) From Schmutzie. You will see her on my list every single week. I can’t imagine not linking to her awesome. This post was spotlighted at StoryBleed magazine, and is SUCH a ride. She’s a fantastic storyteller, a unique voice, a tender and beautiful heart, and one of my very favorite people. Really.

17) From the incredible writers at IndieInk:

From Philip Dodd a thoroughly haunting look at a house that used to be a home. Is there a better word than vivid? I was walking through the house with the writer…
From Lesleyfamily a look into the tentative beginning of a relationship

From Cab at Wordletting. The raw, honest truth. So much respect for this post.


From JenO, writing about a bond stronger than any other

March Love Drop Mission – Katie

As part of the Love Drop Team, as well as their blogger network I am provided content to share on my blog. Katie is a blogger who is part of the Blissdom community, like I am, and I would love for you to learn about her here!
Last month the Love Drop Team raised over $13,000 (and 3 iPads!) to help two little boys with autism receive a service dog. They were beyond touched, and we did this in only 1 month – that’s it. Everyone came together and gave a few bucks each to impact one family’s life. If you were a part of it, THANK YOU! You can check out the final video of us showing up to their house here – it’s pretty cool.

This month we start all over again and rally behind Katie, a single mom out in Dallas battling not only two brain tumors so far (she’s knocked out one, and currently working on the other), but who’s also dealing with hydrocephalus. We’re teaming up with folks at Blissdom this month to not only bring the community her way, but to make a huge dent in her medical bills.

Wanna help? Here are 3 ways we could use you:

  1. Give $1.00 – This is the best way to help out and join our team at the same time.
  2. Join our blogger network – Blog about our Love Drops each month like I am :) It’s easy, it’s rewarding, and it REALLY helps spread the word (which in turn helps our families). Love Drop will give you all the content you need.
  3. Give a gift or provide a service – Gift cards are always helpful. Places like Target, Safeway, gas stations, etc would definitely help them out.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to love, baby.
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Our links that may help:
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Love Drop, P.O. Box 274, Germantown, MD 20875

Love Drop – Small Giving Makes a Big Impact


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A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about my friend Lauren. She is a member of the Love Drop team, and I had the pleasure of meeting them at the Blissdom blog conference in January. I have spent the last several weeks getting to know Lauren, J. Money, and Nate through twitter conversation, email, and reading just about everything I can get my hands on related to Love Drop. I like to do my research :)



photo courtesy of Rachel at Southern Fairytale

Simply put, they are my kind of people. Authentic is really important to me, and there is no pretense to any of them. What you see is what you get. And they don’t make much secret to the fact that what they have been through in life has fueled their compassion for others. They know we’re all the same inside, and we all need support and community sometimes. It has inspired them to find simple, reachable ways to change the world.
The basic idea behind Love Drop is called micro-giving. You can go here to sign up to contribute as little as $1 a month, more if you want to. The big idea is that if hundreds or thousands of people do it at the same time, the $1, $5, $10 per month add up in a really impressive way. People from more than 100 countries are already part of the team.


The Process
Each month they take suggestions from Love Drop team members who know an individual or a family struggling to cover some expense, and the team comes together to cover it for them. Examples of the expenses are things like their mortgage, medical bills, or groceries, things you might expect.
However, for the Love Drop team, it’s about much, much more than money. They also want to help the recipients of the Love Drop mission get back on their feet in tangible ways: by offering love and support, by strengthening their local support system of friends and family, and sometimes getting business local to them involved in helping as well. Love Drop tends to focus on people in particular who are working to give back to others, even though they are struggling at the moment.


The story of every month’s Love Drop gets told in increments each week, through videos, pictures, blog posts, and interviews posted on http://LoveDrop.us. The team reaches out to people who have expressed interest in helping through social networks and via email to find more resources and generate buzz, if you will. At the same time, they are building an active, engaged community around the Drop recipient. At the end of each month, founding team members Nate and J. Money spend several days promoting and making the Love Drop in person, shooting video and posting on social networks to keep the rest of the team all over the world involved in what they are supporting.


February’s Mission
This month, Love Drop is trying to raise $13,000 to place and train a highly skilled service dog with a family touched by autism through 4 Paws for Ability . More information about this months mission can be found here.

They are just under $9000 toward the goal, it’s down to the wire, and I have posted here hoping that you will be inspired to join me in giving. The February mission is THIS WEEKEND! If you can, please sign up to be a part of the team. If that’s not in your finances right now, then help me spread the word on twitter, facebook, and any other social network you are a part of.
Would you post this for Love Drop?
The Love Drop for Ethan and Alex is this Saturday! Small giving can make a big impact: #autism @LoveDropTeam
Thank you for listening. This is really important to me, and I was compelled to share.
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Additional links for you:
To get a button to display on your blog like the one I have at start of this post:
Become a member of the Love Drop Blogger Network
More information about Love Drop
A Question and Answer Session with Nate St. Pierre of Love Drop:
An Interview with J. Money of Love Drop: