Tag: healing

When the Holidays stink and so do you!

Elliott Christmas Day

Do you watch endless Hallmark Christmas movies and feel more people of Walmart? I do. Do you feel like everyone is in love but you? Do you wonder how everyone else does it as you sweep up more dog hair than the dog is wearing, and the cat knocks the tree over for the third time? Does your gingerbread house look like a gingerbread ghetto? Does everyone have their lights up before you? If so, you and I should be best friends!

Christmas, Bountiful Utah, the year is %$ AD or (Not telling because it will date me) After Divorce. My ex-husband had just bought all five children very loud musical instruments, toys that required batteries and assembly with no less than 1 million moving parts. My mother was taking video #nofilter and no way to disguise my sleepless life. I was dating someone new, but neither of us had a Christmas budget. All the packages were coming from my sweet mom and dad.

Imagine my kids’ joy when they opened their new coats, hats, gloves, and boots. Wrong! And we caught all the complaining on film. Even though it was one of the worst winters on record and snow was as high as my mother’s eaves, they were not thrilled. My 3 and 5-year-old sons had grown so much they couldn’t zip their leather bomber jackets, but still cried when I said it was time to give their old coats up.

We decided to put the new coats on, load the kids in our VW Van and go to see the lights on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. The kids were crying and I was the Queen of this particular pity party! I had been feeling sorry for myself all day.

As we drove to Temple square the radio reported that local homeless shelters were overflowing due to the extremely cold weather. There was a shortage of blankets and coats. Anyone having coats or blankets to donate should go to the shelter and drop them off as soon as possible. It was a crisis.

We just happened to be an exit away from one of the shelters. We pulled off the freeway through mountains of snow and chugged into an icy parking lot. The shelter looked like a refurbished grocery store with automatic sliding doors. People were in line behind the glass doors.

We parked and the kids began piling out of the van, while I gathered their old coats. My kids were crying and complaining. The boys were refusing to let go of their old jackets when the glass doors slid open and a man pushing a shopping cart came out.

The man’s clothes looked paper thin for the freezing winter weather. We all froze. Startled at the gaunt figure. The cart was full of layers of newspaper and I wondered if he was going to use them to pad his clothing.

“They’re full!” he called to us as he came closer. “But don’t worry, there is a Christmas dinner being served at the freeway underpass and I will find you a place to keep warm.” I was shocked. There he was with nothing in the world but a shopping cart full of paper and he was taking care of us!

“It’s ok.” I stammered. “We are just bringing coats to donate.”

He smiled and said, “Kids! Look! Coats!” The papers fell away and two small children in torn, dirty t-shirts emerged. My heart broke and all I could do was hold out the coat in my hand. Meanwhile, silently, my kids began throwing in the leather bomber jacket, all the other coats, their new gloves, and their new hats.

The kids in the cart will forever be burned into my memory and heart. Joyfully they celebrated as they put on the coats and hats. “Merry Christmas!” Their father called as he wheeled them over the icy ground towards the freeway. And suddenly I knew. I knew no matter how bad my life was, there was always something I could do for someone else.

There will always be someone in more need than me and some way for me to forget myself and see angels among us like this sweet man. This man, who had nothing, and yet was ready to take care of all of us.

I did stink! I had been indulging in self-pity when all around me were opportunities to love others. The Savior was born on Christmas day to a circumstance as humble as this man and yet we celebrate that birth and look to that small baby in a manger to save all of mankind.

Christmas. The first Christmas was never about getting. It was always about giving. The message that changed the world and caused the angels in Heaven to sing was one of love and hope for all mankind, even you and me. Even when we stink just a little.

Merry Christmas

Here is a Thanksgiving message from Elliott. He grew up to smile and can’t wait for Christmas Day.

 

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Joy! It’s right in front of you! A little to the left…..

A Christmas Story

Once upon a time, there was a little princess who lived in my castle with her 5 brothers and sisters. She loved to read. She had a favorite, “Harry Potter,” by J.K. Rowling. She was given the first book, the first year it was released and she was a major fan and Christmas was coming.

The King and Queen met in the counting-house and counted all their gold. Each prince and princess would receive special gifts from their royal parents in the amount of $100 dollars! It was a fortune.

The King and Queen called all their little royals to the throne room and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. The little princess was the first to announce her request for all things Harry Potter. She wanted the broom, the hat and most of all the wand.

The King and Queen wanted very much to make the little princess happy, but their kingdom was in the country of Oregon, in the City of Seaside, far, far away from any Malls or shopping. This was a dark time, before Amazon, and they did not know how they would ever fulfill the princess’s request.

The Queen immediately announced the need for a quest. She had the King gas up the royal junker and with peanut butter and jam sandwiches they made the long trek over the mountain, through the snow, hours of driving with only an AM radio, to the magical mall in the city of Portlandia. But, alas and alack, no sign of anything Harry Potter.

They charged from mall to mall while calling with their magical 3-pound cell phone, Finally, as the sun set and rain fell, they located all things Harry Potter in the mall of Washington, at the All Things Expensive, Rare and Must Have store. The shelves were almost bare, but the King wasn’t afraid.

He joisted past the paisley hippie and lept over the Tickle Me Elmo line. Glory was in his grasp. He had 4 action figures and a magic wand all for a little more than gold he had saved.

As he and the queen went to pay the merchant they found one last thing, a 7-dollar pair of Harry Potter Pajamas. It was a sign! They bought the pajamas, even though they were far too small for the little princess and would have to be given to the royal toddler.

The night before Christmas, the royal parents began preparations for Christmas Morning and the royal family social media Christmas photos by having elves deliver new Pajamas to each of the royal princes and princesses.

When all the princesses and princes received their new, clean photo ready pajamas, they were thrilled, except for the little princess. When the little princess saw the little toddler in Harry Potter pajamas, her Harry Potter pajamas she wailed! She felt betrayed, heartbroken, unloved and green with envy! The little toddler, however, felt wet, so she giggled, laughed and ran for the bathroom with joy. The little princess chased her. The little prince chased the little princess. The dogs barked and the Royal parents, royal mouths fell open. How had they made such a tactical error! What would they do!

“What shall we do?” cried the king.

“Oh, what shall we do?” Cried the queen.

They could have given the little princess her Harry Potter toys but then she wouldn’t have any presents to open Christmas morning. They couldn’t find another pair of Harry Potter pajamas in their tiny kingdom. All they could do was try to comfort the little princess.

The king called the little princess to his royal throne. He pulled the little princes onto his lap, hugged her and wiped her tears.

“Don’t worry,” the king whispered to the little princess. “Have faith,” he said. “You know I love you and want you to be happy. Your Christmas is coming.”

That night the little princess went to bed early wearing her “Fozzy the Bear” pajamas. She lay in her bed, tossing and turning because as everyone knows, Christmas Eve is the longest night of the year. The clock kept forgetting to tick, time kept forgetting to pass, and Santa kept setting the clock back to eat just one more cookie and maybe some dough.

Finally, the stars got tired of twinkling and Santa’s sleigh was empty. It was time for Christmas morning. Excited to see the joy on the little princesses face, the king and queen snuck downstairs and tried to program their new ten-pound video camera. One by one the little royals began to stretch and open their eyes. It was Christmas morning!

The Royals ran from their tower. They ran downstairs, around hallways, through ballrooms and finally made it to the throne room and the royal Christmas Tree.

The camera was rolling and the paper was ripping. Squeals of delight and joy came from every child, but the little princess in Fozzy Bear jammies.

The king was dismayed, the queen was faint and swayed. The little princess opened package and after package, Harry Potter action figure after action figure and finally a magic wand. She tossed each gift aside and cried!

Not knowing what to do, the king turned off the camera, got down on one knee and said, “Oh my little princess, what can I do to make you happy?”

There stood the littlest princess, surrounded by everything she had wished for, prayed for, written Santa for and she pointed her finger and cried. “I don’t have any Harry Potter pajamas!”  The king followed her pointer finger to the end. It pointed to the toddler wearing Harry Potter pajamas. There, the princess’s gaze was fixed. The room was full of Christmas and all she could see was the Harry Potter Pajamas she didn’t have.  

Do you have a pair of Harry Potter pajamas in your history? ‘

Many of us have had disappointments, bad experiences and major losses in our lives. Maybe we had a failed marriage and now find ourselves alone. Maybe we did everything right and lived every commandment and still were abused.

Maybe we have prayed, wished and wanted to be healed for years, to find joy. Maybe we are like the little princess. Are we surrounded by Christmas? Are we surrounded by children who love us, have a good friend, have a home, food, blessings so many people in the world lack and still focused on Harry Potter pajamas. If you will just look a little to the left…..

The night before your Christmas can feel like forever, but we have a loving Father in Heaven who wants us to be happy, and as our Heavenly Parent knows what is best for us, what we need and what will bring us joy. Is he showering you with little blessings, while he asks you to be patient, little princess, and have faith? Your Christmas morning is coming.

It isn’t too early to celebrate….is it?

 

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Stand by Survivors in October 2017 Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Safe House discounted in honor of survivors

In honor of

October 2017 Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Cedar Fort and I have partnered to give you

Safe House

on Kindle for .99 Cents!

Go to Amazon HERE.

And because we believe everyone deserves a Safe House, there are 8 copies of Safe House in a Goodreads Giveaway HERE!

AND just to make sure you are aware and have a great autumn read we are giving away a copy of Safe House on New LDS Fiction

during October Thrills and Chills HERE!

AND to keep you in good books for the winter, we are giving away another copy of Safe House at the Rockin Book Reviews Blog Hop HERE!

Haley Miller of Captures photography created the photo above for you to share and let the world know you stand by survivors. Make it yours and pass on the message to the world, we are more than victims, we are survivors who can heal, and help others.

I believe survivors and those who have never experienced abuse need to stand together and choose love, hope, and healing. We can make the world a better place one heart at a time.

Here are some inspirational quotes from a recent LDS conference to get you started. I hope you enjoy them.

 

In Loving Memory of Robert D. Hales

 

 

Please standby survivors.

Share our Domestic Violence Awareness photo or an inspirational quote and let the world know, we are so much more than what happens to us.

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The reviews and interviews!

They are wonderful!

When I wrote Safe House, I never really thought about the world reading it. I wrote it alone in the winter by sea. I sat by a hundred-year-old fireplace which blew more smoke than heat on rainy Northcoast nights. Night after night I fell into the story and although I had an outline, it wrote itself as the characters came to life.

I confessed I was writing a novel to my sister Stacy. Stacy is an avid reader and was a teacher. She had a friend who is a famous novelist, in fact, she knew a few. She asked to let her read it. I sent it to her, another family member and a friend. It was like sending a baby to the babysitters for the first time.

Stacy was my little sister. She was never afraid of telling the truth to me or anyone else. When she read it, she told me it had to be published. She saw what my heart was trying to say. She felt my message to survivors of hope, that the world needs to know your story, that we see you and we love you where you are and as you are. She understood my desire to wake the world up and ask it to witness just a sliver of what I have seen and learn to love the children involved as deeply as I have.

Stacy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. She began an almost two-year battle that should have only lasted a few months. Even though she was sick, every time she called, we visited or spent time together she asked, “How is the book.” It is her faith in me that pushed me to send the book in on another quiet and dark winter night.

Time and summer flew by. Then I heard Safe House was going to become a paperback book that you may have already held in your hands.

I spent that last summer with Stacy. I walked with her whenever I could. On death’s door she would return to the sea to search for seashells, or what she called, “God’s blessings…little I love you messages from Heaven,” on the sand.

I went to Utah to say goodbye to Stacy in June the year (2017), a month before the book became touchable. But I was able to let her know it was dedicated to her. It was with her in my heart I gave you my first novel, Safe House.

Stacy gave me courage. It took all of that courage to let you see into my little world and share Grace, a small part of myself. Grace is more perfect, thinner, prettier and has 4 less children, but I know her through and through. It took someone like Stacy and my beloved cousin Kristi believing in me to risk criticism. And it took a wonderful marketing director Vikki to push me off the cliff and onto a Blog Tour! How grateful I am for Stacy, Kristi, Vikki, Hali, Erin and Mom. My first readers.

The results are in and the critics have spoken! Winter is on the way and I am gathering firewood in our little truck. Soon the old fireplace will be smoking and I will be typing on rainy winter nights by the sea.

Here is what the critics have to say, Stacy. Thank you all for being there with me… 

My Love for Reading Keeps Growing

“I have to admit that reading books about abuse of any kind is very hard for me.  I like to read books to escape reality and not read about it.  Having said that, this book ended up being such a great book to read.
 
I loved this story.  I am saying this will all love behind it.  My sisters and I love these kinds of books.  We call them “Mormon Smut Books”….hehe.  I really do mean that as the best compliment.  I love to read books that have to do with my religion and love.  Or any religion for that matter.  I know that when I read it, it will be clean.
 
I loved that this book covered a hard topic, and showed how people could get out and move on to bigger and better things.  I am a HUGE advocate for Sexual Abuse, and the author of this book is a HUGE advocate for Domestic Violence.  I think that’s why I liked the book so much.  Hard topics are hard to read, so they have to be done well.  The author definitely did well with this book.
We all take the chance when we marry someone, that they are not all they say they are.  We may not know what their demons are until after marriage.  Then sometimes they have groomed you so well, that it’s impossible to leave.  Amber and Kelly realize this after they have gotten married and are both faced with the challenge of what to do now.As they navigate their lives with the help of Grace, they realize that there is a possibility of life outside of an abusive marriage.  They find their faith in God again, and the power to fight for what is missing in their lives.
This is such a good book about love, life, faith, religion, and suspense.  Their stories are heartbreaking, and life changing all at the same time.
I hope that you take the time to read this book.  It is so wonderful.”

The Reader’s Salon Review & Author Interview

“I connected with this book. It reeled me in and kept me there with an intense and fast-moving plot. The emotional intensity was a unique aspect of this book for me. I had never read a book addressing domestic violence and abuse, and I found myself incapable of putting it down because I just couldn’t leave these characters in the unjust and demoralizing circumstances.”

Read the author interview HERE

“Q.1. Do you plan to write any more books? Could there possibly be more to Grace’s story? (I’d read it!)

Thank you for asking! I would love you to review it.

I planned another story as I was writing this one. It has been taking shape for a while now. I have a working outline and can’t wait to get started! This autumn when the rain starts falling, it will be me, a fire in the fireplace and “Insert surprise name here.”

The next book will be in the same location, same characters with some new friends.”

Meridian Magazine by Jennie Hansen

“Safe House by Shannon Symonds is not an easy book to read, but it is impossible to forget. It deals with the difficult subject of domestic abuse. If anyone has ever wondered why an abused spouse doesn’t just leave, this story will answer that question. An abused spouse is usually penniless and worries about how and where she’ll live if she leaves or worries about her or her children’s safety if she leaves and becomes homeless. Shattered self-esteem is another factor. This book also points out how to find help. It’s also a great story.”

The Singing Librarian Book Review & Author Interview

“Author Shannon Symonds brings to life the bitter and devastating truths of domestic violence in her novel Safe House.  Her story is heart throbbing and gut wrenching.  It hurts so much to read these truths, but powerful at the same time.  It teaches readers of the hardships of the people in these situations and about how hard it can be to get out, but that it is possible.  The story is a little hard to follow at first due to the way it switches between characters and their stories, but once that is sorted out, readers will not want to put this novel down.  It is a captivating and powerful read!”

Read Author Interview HERE

“Q.2. What is your favorite beverage?
Well! Here is an indication of my inner oddball. If I could have anything I wanted it would be a coconut milk, banana, peanut butter, protein powder smoothie with spinach and a tiny bit of raw ginger. But, since I am a writer and often find myself up until all hours of the night creating, I often resort to a drink that you can also clean your driveway with, diet coke. If I could just stay on the wagon and give up caffeine I know I could write and not be weary, but movie popcorn simply screams for diet coke.”

Literary Time Out

Rorie’s Review:
“I liked this story, and it had me on the edge of my seat at times. It was heartbreaking reading about what each of these families were going through with all of the abuse. It was also kind of eye-opening to see just how much psychological damage can be done by the abuser. It’s easy for someone who has never been through it to say “Well, if they’re in a horrible relationship, why don’t they just leave?” but for someone who has been beaten down so much, that they’re worthless, and been made to feel like they are completely dependent on their spouse, they feel like they have no choice but to stay.

I liked Grace and her caring and empathetic manner towards those she was trying to help. It must be pretty emotionally draining to have a career like her, especially knowing that you can’t save everyone, no matter how hard you try.

The two complaints I have about this book are that there were so many characters in it, and the chapters were so short, switching back and forth so quickly, that it was really hard for me to keep track of who was who. I had to constantly flip back a few chapters to remind myself who I was reading about. Also, I don’t feel like things were resolved with Emily’s husband Berk.

Other than those two issues, I did enjoy the story and would read more from this author.”

Seaside Signal Newspaper: One woman’s quest to end family violence and abuse

“On the heels of the release of her new book “Safe House,” longtime Seaside resident and local author Shannon Symonds was the guest at the July Lunch in the Loft author series hosted by Beach Books.

‘I’m very happy to have Shannon. Her book is fantastic,” said Karen Emmerling owner of Beach Books. “It highlights things you probably didn’t know were going on in Seaside, or hoped weren’t going on in Seaside, but it’s definitely a tribute to her work and to her faith. I hope Shannon and her characters will be back at some point, soon.”….by Rebecca Herren

Books and Benches Author Interview

“Q. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Grace, the main character in Safe House, is an advocate who responds with handsome Officer Joe Hart to serve survivors of domestic assault. She works twenty-four hours a day to offer survivors and their children safe shelter and a way out. She is the stranger that shows up when your whole world comes crashing down and asks you to trust her and leave everything you know behind.

Grace is also a single mother trying to keep her family going. Grace’s mother Mable, one of my favorite character’s, lives in an in-law apartment in Grace’s house with her younger brother. Grace is only thirty-eight, but she is already a survivor herself and wonders if there is anyone for a clumsy, curly blond.

Grace’s talent is to be the eye of the storm. No matter what dangers swirl around her, she is calm and when you are with her you can’t help but believe that maybe, just maybe, everything is going to be alright.”

Robyn Echols Books: Wednesday Wonder & Book Review

“In addition to the social issues and the tensions they provided the characters, this was an exciting adventure as the characters in the town find themselves dealing with a force of nature that threatens to overpower them all, including the modern technology we take so much for granted in this day and age. The action kept me reading….The focus of the book was not romance, but the romance elements present were sweet and clean. Not all romances were resolved, which leads me to hope the author may have a sequel to this novel. It was an enjoyable and enlightening read, and I recommend it.”

Mel’s Shelves Review & Author Interview

“The author did a great job of giving enough detail to let you know these women lived in bad situations without getting too graphic. I am fortunate to not have firsthand experience with this and cringed at what I read, while also realizing that the author didn’t go too dark.

Grace, as well as some other characters, are LDS (or Mormon) so there are some religious references. Each of them are able to help the women and their families in different ways. Women in these situations can be misunderstood and blamed for the situation they are in and Ms. Symonds did a great job in humanizing them and helping the reader see how they can get there. She also shows the incredible courage it takes to accept help and gain control once more of their lives.”

Click HERE for the interview

“Q. 1. Safe House is your debut novel. Have you written anything else?
You’re the first person to ask me!

Recently, I attended a book signing at a hospital where I worked last year. I confessed in front of a large group of friends that I had been a closet writer for years. I explained that I had written around 200 self-help articles for FamilyShare.com or Deseret Connect. I had written for the BillionClicks.org blog created by Hilary Weeks, singer and songwriter. I had also written lyrics to a love song which is on a CD sold on the coast. I am hoping the song stays hidden! The music is great but the lyrics are sappy.

I came home from the signing and told my mother my secret was out. I was no longer an anonymous writer. She laughed and told me I was meant to be a writer. She said even when I was a small child, if I got into trouble, I would write her an apology letter.”

Jennifer Beckstrand Gentle Love in a Harsh World Review & Interview

“While Safe House deals with some difficult and troubling issues, it is also full of faith, optimism, and healing. It gives me hope to think that there are people who genuinely care and truly want to help those who are victims of domestic violence. I really enjoyed reading this book. It is exciting and eye-opening, and it has just a little bit of romance mixed in for good measure. Safe House is written from a Mormon perspective, so if you are not a Mormon, some of the language will not be familiar to you, but it also contains a universal message of faith in God that all Christians can identify with.”

Read the author interview HERE

“Q. What do you hope readers will get from it?

I honestly hope readers will be drawn into the story. I don’t want readers to think about statistics or anything but the characters and the seemingly impossible conflicts they must overcome to survive. I want readers to be surprised at every turn by the life-threatening situations the characters are faced with and their ability to not only endure but to overcome. I would love it if readers laugh at the absurdity of Grace’s life, believe characters with broken hearts can love again, and glimpse the miracles I have witnessed over and over.”

Getting Your Read On 

“I first have to say that I think the information and overall message of this book is so important.  I haven’t had a lot of experience with domestic violence and knowing there are so many women and children (and men) in the world suffering through this is heartbreaking.  The author of this book works as a victim’s advocate so her personal, first hand knowledge and experience go a long way in making this novel valid and real.  And honestly?  Thank goodness for Shannon and people like her to help, support and love to people when they need it the most.”

In loving memory of my sister, Stacy Farmer

 Click Here to WIN a copy of Safe House at New LDS Fiction!

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Sunday is for heart work!

“For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, honoring the Sabbath is a form of righteousness … Truly keeping the Sabbath day holy is a refuge from the storms of this life. It is also a sign of our devotion to our Father in Heaven.” Quentin L. Cook

I don’t know what you believe, but my church commands me to rest! We are given lists of commandments, but to be told to just stop and rest….and for me read ….is the best commandment ever!

What a gift it is to spend one day focused on family, yummy dinners, visiting,  and today reading one of Jennifer Beckstrand’s Amish romances, “Sweet as Honey,” and it was.

Now, I didn’t appreciate being commanded to rest as a child. I felt like it was keeping me from going to the city pool, hiking or fishing. But as an adult, I am totally converted. I try to stay offline, off grid and if I reply to your email, consider yourself special to me.

Sunday is the day I use to rest, rejuvenate and do my heart work.

Heart work is anything I do for others without expecting something in return.

This Sunday, I am going to share my efforts to find some support for Operation Underground Railroad, an organization working to end human slavery in the form of sex trafficking. I invite you to leave this website and look at all the good work they do.

What is your heart work? 

Here is mine! A portion of the proceeds from Safe House will be donated to Operation Underground Railroad and I will share their story whenever I can!

Yourrescue.org donations to end sex trafficking and heal survivors.

 

 

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Broken

Have you ever felt broken?  As an Advocate, I have heard survivors use the term over and over.

 

 Beautiful Broken Heart 

What you didn’t know

When you shattered me

Is you left my heart wide open,

Making space for hope to get in,

Letting passion burst through the cracks,

Blinding sun

Lighting the way to a better life.

 

I choose to keep the myriad fractures,

Places to look out from within,

Space to see other broken.

Let them in.

Patterns mapping the way,

Beautiful broken symbols revealing my power,

The power of survival.

 

Shattered designs,

Only visible to the broken,

Survivors carrying the gift of seeing out,

A glance,

A nod,

Connection,

Support.

 

You didn’t know when you shattered us

You improved our view,

And now,

Clearly,

We all see you.

There is no place to hide from the broken.

All of our pieces bring us together.

And when the mosaic is complete,

We will be more beautiful,

More powerful,

Than ever before.

By Shannon Symonds

After a particularly difficult day, I once again said to a family member, “I feel broken,” while driving to Washington to hear Jeffrey R. Holland speak.

Holland began his talk, and then stopped midsentence. He said he felt inspired to talk about something else, and then he said the words that will forever be written on my heart. Frantically I typed them on my cell phone, so I would never forget.

He said, “God loves broken things.” Those words struck members of the congregation, silencing the room. He went on to explain, “He loves a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” A contrite spirit is someone who feels guilt and remorse.

Shortly after Hollands talk I wrote this article for FamilyShare: Why God loves broken things

Embrace your unique heart.

Photographic art by Haley Miller Captures Photography may be copied, shared, printed and used for the benefit of survivors and personal use. FaceBook link hereInstagram here. More about Haley Miller and Captures Photography here. More about Shannon Symonds novel “Safe House” here.

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Wrestling with change….

No one knows your story better than you do.

We all wrestle our own demons and crave the ability to choose our own destiny. No one knows your challenges, hopes, dreams, and fears like you do.

Why don’t they just leave?”

This is the question everyone asks me when they learn I work with survivors of intimate partner violence.

So to answer the question, I have a question for you. Look around you right now, wherever you are and ask yourself, “Would I be willing to leave my partner, home, job, car, possibly children, extended family, and phone today? Right now?  

Survivors wrestle with this question and more. Blaming them is not the answer. Maybe the question should be, why do people abuse each other, hit, assault? Maybe the question should be, “Why doesn’t the abuser leave?”

The average survivor leaves 7 times before they choose to permanently be on their own according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-safe).

Usually, survivors are harder on themselves than anybody else ever could be.

What survivors of abuse need from you.

  • A listening ear
  • A compassionate heart
  • Friends who are willing to go through the hard times as well as the good
  • Your kind words,  prayers and service

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Photographic Art by Haley Miller of Captures Photography

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Find your inner creator and heal your art scars

My father Jeffrey was in the 5th grade in the 1940s. Christmas was coming and his class prepared to sing carols at the school Christmas concert.

The teacher stood at the front of the class and told all the children to close their eyes and put their heads down on their desks. She said she was going to walk up and down the rows. If she touched their head, they shouldn’t sing or they would ruin the concert.

Jeffrey listened to the teacher walk and then felt a tap on his head. Jeffrey stopped singing. In fact, Jeffrey almost never sang again.

At every church meeting, his children asked why he didn’t sing. He would tell the story of being asked not to sing and assure us he was terrible.

Finally, Jeffrey was the bishop in his church and sat in front of the congregation weekly. His grown children didn’t just encourage him to try singing, they badgered him. Bravely, Jeffrey did something unusual, he took a risk and sang.

Admittedly, when I heard his first attempts, I wanted to say, “You’re right. Please stop Dad!” But somewhere in his wobbly tones, there was a buttery voice and potential, so we smiled and he continued to sing, every note and every song just a little better than the one before.

No one who hears him today would think he had ever felt so much shame about his voice, that he had been silent for over 40 years.

Brene Brown, the author of “Daring Courageously,” said 85% of adults she interviewed remembered experiencing an event in school which was so shaming it changed their lives forever. 50% of those people shared the shame wounds were around creativity. Brene called these wounds, “Art Scars,” in her podcast with Elizabeth Gilbert on “Big Strong Magic.”


My father had a deep and painful Art Scar. But unlike most of us, he chose to risk being creative and sing. In taking the risk he has healed.

Do you have art scars? 

We have learned the human heart and brain are beautiful things, able to change and heal. Trauma survivors, wired for anxiety and stress can rewire their own brains by learning healthy “go to” ways to cope involving creativity and movement. But for many victims the thought of sharing their innermost feelings in a tangible way is terrifying and creates a fear of rejection, inflaming old art scars.

Many years ago the person I loved the most told me my writing and painting were foolish wastes of time for a young mother. Overcome with grief, and believing this older man, I put the toys of my youth away. Gradually something inside me began to grow. It was an unmet need, painfully growing until I recognized the importance of self-care and dusted off my paint brushes.

by Shannon Symonds, High School Years

Writing my book was a wonderful, private experience. I enjoyed every minute of it until I decided to take it to the next level and risk ridicule again by publishing.

I remember filling out the online book submission form and staring at the send button.  You could have sliced my fear of rejection with a knife. The triumph was hitting the send button. Success or failure, taking the risk was a moment of healing and personal growth.

Is there a dream, a wish, a creation waiting inside your heart?

Some survivors share their art scars or fear when I talk to them about letting go of addictions and filling their lives with healthy coping skills like writing or artwork. Do you doodle all day, but dream of creating a masterpiece?

Shannon Symonds First Watercolor

 

Brene Brown went on to say she used to believe there were creative and non-creative people. But after her research, she understood there was no such thing as creative people. She said, “There are just people who use their creativity and people who don’t…unused creativity is not benign.”

Find your inner creator!

It never occurred to my father, even after years of repeating his story, that maybe the tap on his head was just a mean boy sitting next to him playing a prank. If you have ancient art scars, speak as kindly to yourself as you speak to others. Take another look at your story and give it a happy ending.

Displaying your creation is not necessary for healing. The process is powerful enough.

It is my belief we are all children of the greatest creator of all time, our Heavenly Father. Everything we do is worthy of a magnet and space on our own personal refrigerator.

Creating can be a spiritual experience in a lifetime of consuming. Creation is our chance to organize our thoughts and share our feelings in a tangible way.

This week, if you have a buried desire to create, take a risk. Don’t compare your first steps to world class musicians or feel pressured to share your beginning work with anyone who isn’t safe. Safe, as in has your back, will laugh with you if you hit a sour note and cheer you on for your courage.

 

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How to avoid being eaten by a bear

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good life really is.”  Marianne Williamson

Today I leaned into the joy!

It all started when I found five dollars during my morning run. I thought to myself, it’s a sign! Today is going to be great! Then my morning coconut milk, mate tea was free. My punch card was full and I thought, see! Today is going to be great!  I leaned into the joy instead of thinking all my fun tickets were spent and any moment something would go wrong, maybe even a random bear attack.

As a trauma survivor, I remember living for years with the fear that someone or something else was going to jump out and hurt me. Then one day I decided to take my life back. I remember the exact moment.

Choosing to change my thoughts

It was a summer day, I was 28, a mother of five children, in the middle of a two and a half year divorce. I was on the phone for hours with the gas company, insurance company and well you name it, struggling with everyone and everything while my children played joyfully in the yard.

Suddenly it hit me. The sun was streaming through the windows, the kids were waiting and I was letting the person, the trauma, the things that had hurt me poison this moment. The banks had closed. The courts had closed. Anyone who had traumatized me was far away and yet I was allowing them to consume my thoughts like a hungry bear.

That’s it! I thought and I took back my life. I decided I was not going to give them one more minute of this beautiful day. I opened the door, stepped into the sun, put the kids on their bikes and went for a run.

Okay, it wasn’t quite that simple, but that day began my personal struggle and journey towards taking back my life.

A few things I have learned along the way

Trauma and adverse childhood events change our brains. If you have a pulse, there is a better than good chance you’ve experienced trauma, and it’s rewired your brain. You may even spend some of your time on high alert waiting for something else to go wrong.

The Adverse Childhood Experience study reports that one in six adults have experienced 4 or more childhood traumas and two-thirds of adults have experienced at least one.

What happens to your brain if the bear lives at your house?

Nadine Burke Harris, explained in her Ted Talk, “… imagine you’re walking in the forest and you see a bear. Immediately, your hypothalamus sends a signal to your pituitary, which sends a signal to your adrenal gland that says, “Release stress hormones! Adrenaline! Cortisol!” And so your heart starts to pound, Your pupils dilate, your airways open up, and you are ready to either fight that bear or run from the bear. And that is wonderful if you’re in a forest and there’s a bear.

But the problem is what happens when the bear comes home every night, and this system is activated over and over and over again, and it goes from being adaptive, or life-saving, to maladaptive, or health-damaging. … High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune system, developing hormonal systems, and even the way our DNA is read and transcribed.”

The good news

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 
― Brené Brown

We now know we all have something called neuroplasticity. To put it simply, we can change our brains.

Dr. Amen in his book, “Change your brain Change your life,” said, “Most negative thinking is automatic and goes unnoticed. You’re not really choosing how to respond to your situation, it’s being chosen for you by bad brain habits.”

Today is a good day to make new thinking habits and to stop waiting for the bear in the woods to jump out and eat you!

Here are some ways to change your brain and your thinking habits:

  • Practice spending time in the moment focusing on things that bring you joy
  • Set aside time to do things to fill your emotional bank like gardening, writing, walking or listening to music
  • Recognize what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control
  • Look for beauty in your home, the world and the people you choose to spend time with
  • Choose friends who think positively
  • Invest in hobbies
  • Learn to meditate, practice yoga or find a prayer that quiets your mind when you feel anxious
  • Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you do others

It is my hope that you allow yourself to be happy because joy is one of the few things we are entitled to. We are entitled to find joy, feel joy and create joy whenever possible.

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Holistically You! Let the Healing begin!

Great news! You can heal! For years research focused on the damage done to victims brains and well-being by abuse, but as it turns out survivors are more resilient than anyone ever dreamed. They may feel broken, but they don’t have to stay that way.

Although after trauma, our brains are rewired, leading to the release of stress hormones and anxiety, we can choose to create new neuropathways and new responses to stress.

Trauma survivors have a personal basket full of coping mechanisms they use at times of stress. Some of the ways they use to cope worked well during trauma, like abusing alcohol, however, after the trauma passes abusing alcohol becomes an additional problem. Survivors can work on adopting healthier ways to cope.

Once a survivor finds a healthy way to self-sooth, like exercise, they can reinforce it through practice, making it easier to let go of some of the costlier methods.  It’s hard to let go of a habit that has served a survivor well unless they replace it with a habit that serves them better and gives them a healthier sense of self-worth.

Here are some healthy coping mechanisms. Try one or try them all. Find out what comforts you and put it in your basket of coping mechanism for difficult days:

  1. Exercise. It isn’t necessary to run a marathon to benefit from exercise. It is important to find something participants like doing so they want to do it again. Anything from a calm nature hike to a cross-fit class constitutes a healthy way to reduce stress and combat depression. Remember, variety keeps it interesting.
  2. Read a book. Whether it’s a romance novel or a self-help book, it can be a mini vacation between covers. The library is free and filled with adventures to give readers a short break from life.
  3. Garden to Table. Gardening is a way to move, find peace and grow healthy food for interesting meals. Gardening can be a quiet solitary moment or a place to connect with family and community. Community gardens may offer free or low-cost space to plant vegetables and grow a healthy salad.
  4. Yoga or meditation. Trauma survivors often spend time disconnected from their feelings or their body. Sexual assault survivors sometimes feel their body has betrayed them. Yoga is a way to reconnect in a safe environment. Survivors should ask instructors if they are trauma informed and inform instructors if they are uncomfortable being touched. Learning to control breathing and relaxing are skills that can transfer outside the yoga studio.
  5. Art. Any form of arts or crafts that allow free expression of inner feelings is powerful. Be aware that art therapy is a safe environment to explore feelings and express them. Survivors, who are new to art, may experience powerful emotions as they process feelings.
  6. Music. Whether a survivor sings plays or is a part of the audience, music is therapeutic. A song can express a feeling a survivor hasn’t found words for, or lift an aching heart with hopeful notes.
  7. Writing. Anything from a short poem, journal entry to an autobiography can help a survivor process the good and bad experiences that make up all of our lives.
  8. Spiritual healing. Read, ponder and pray. Search out good books and spiritual connections that fill your basket.

What do you do to cope? Comment below and share ideas with other survivors.  Let’s stop examining the trauma and start focusing on healing.

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