Life is one continuous trust fall.
Laughing or crying,
Eyes closed falling back,
Or leaping in faith
Into the Savior’s waiting arms.
“Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? …For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little… ”
Isaiah 28: 9-10
My Grandmother, my father, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, and I all walked on this wall along the sea, and now my children’s children walk the same wall. Each one of us learned to walk the wall holding a grown-up’s hand until we all insisted on letting go. Step by step, starting with our first baby steps we learned and grew.
Seaside summer evenings were often spent walking as a family to the ice-cream shop. Twenty or more of us strung out along the promenade or Prom on the beach laughing, chasing children, holding our lover’s hands, pushing baby strollers, or watching our parents, aunts, and uncles smile and talk.
We learned about more than how to balance on a cement wall by the sea. We learned trusted loved ones had rules because they cared about us. We learned through quiet conversations on the mile-long walk to town for ice-cream. We learned by watching the grown-ups hold hands and treat each other with respect. The journey was so much more than a walk on the wall. We were building little people and a large family.
Life is a lot like our walks by the sea. It looks like you are doing dishes, going on a diet, teaching your children how to plant a garden, but you are actually doing something much deeper and wider, you are building love, trust, identity, connection, and a family.
A month ago, I committed to making some health changes. I was going on a cleanse. It absolutely made me giggle. For the first time in my life, I joined a group, bought some shakes, and began a sugar fast. All the laughter covered my terror. Remember, I am the girl on the prom wall. All our major childhood accomplishments were followed by dessert or sweet reward, and family gatherings always had food.
I set a goal. One month without refined sugar, caffeine (Diet coke which always led to needing Hot Tamales and a bucket of popcorn), as well as a TON of other foods like corn, honey, potatoes, and soy that I wouldn’t eat.
A few days ago, I finished the month! I was changed. Did I look different? Was I thinner and prettier? No. Was I changed? Absolutely. But the change was on the inside. I felt healthier. I had gained the strength that comes from setting out to accomplish something, anything, and finishing it. The sense of self-worth that comes from seeing something through, especially when it is difficult. I had endured with honor.
Just like the walk on the Prom, it looked simple, fun and easy but the results I hope will be much deeper than improved health today. Years down the road, I hope I look back and find I am grateful for the things I chose to change, the lessons I learned along the way, and the blessing of inner strength that comes from striving to be just a tiny bit better each day.
Every step we take is a choice. Even when we try to take random road trips through life, we are making a choice. But when we choose a direction and take one small step after another toward our goal we just might find we reach not only reach our destination, we have changed along the way.
Special thanks to Hilary and the group at Designing Health. I may stumble and I may fall, but I have a new network of friends headed the same direction. See you all at the Salad Bar!
Storms roll into the Pacific Northwest Coast and change the beach, the trees, our world in minutes. I don’t know about you, but I love to watch a good storm. The power of the wind and water change rolling dunes to flat sand or new cliffs. Trees are tested, dead branches are torn from trunks, deep roots hold while others give way.
Today I ran the beach after the storm. Everything was wiped clean. Logs had been washed into the dunes and it was a new and different kind of beautiful.
Storms of all shapes and sizes roll through our lives, test our roots and strengthen us as we wrestle with the wind. Storms can change us in minutes. I think they can leave us a new kind of beautiful, molded by experience.
Isn’t it interesting that the creator of this world didn’t create manicured lawns with perfect white picket fences? He created majestic mountains, raging oceans, cascading waterfalls, frozen tundras, and storms. His creation is a work in progress. Storms still change it daily.
How many times have I stood looking in a mirror for an imperfection, a new wrinkle, a misplaced curl, signs of my storms? How many hours have I wasted angry at the storm?
Today, I worked on embracing all my imperfections as visible signs of the storms in my life. I believe in goals and choosing the direction of my journey, but I also believe in having compassion for myself.
I may have been broken by storms, shaped into someone new, changed forever, but I like what I have become. I am a testimony of endurance. One more day, I choose to lean into the wind and journey on.
We all have stress in our lives. We don’t have to be trauma survivors to feel overwhelmed.
The world is full of quick and easy ways to soothe ourselves when we feel like life has not only run us over, but it has backed up and parked on us. The question is, what do we choose?
Do you open the freezer and say hello to Ben and Jerry’s Ice-cream like it is a long lost love, or do you call a friend and go for a walk?
High-cost methods may not be expensive, but usually, they have costly consequences. For example, when you smoke you might gain quick relief from stress, but the long-term outcome is costly.
Low-cost methods may or may not give you immediate relief but they don’t cost a lot and they lead to long-term positive outcomes. For example, it only costs time to take a brisk walk but it is a great coping mechanism. It gives you time to process or a place to escape thinking for a minute, as well as improved health. The only financial cost is a good pair of shoes and permission from your doctor.
I took some time to practice one of my favorite low-cost methods of coping with stress. I rode my old rusty beach cruiser (Coastie talk for a one-speed bicycle with a basket on the front) on a 12-mile trail and listened to some great tunes. A garage sale bike and the beach! The best!
Here is a little live movie on my favorite subject, how to heal. I hope you listen and remember, there is nothing wrong with Ben and Jerry’s as long as you share it with a friend like me!
Yup! There it is! True love! After all the Disney princesses, the romance novels, vampires, and werewolves, I never expected to see true love demonstrated so clearly. On the left, my cousin (more sister) Jami and on the right her husband Joe in their natural habitat- the kitchen. But first, the back story.
Time Out For Women (TOFW) is a long-standing L.D.S. tradition hosted by Deseret Book. Thousands of woman meet for a weekend to listen to best selling authors and musicians while taking time out from our crazy lives. Sounds like a weekend at the spa, right?! Wrong!
It is a weekend for us girls to meet at some poor unsuspecting friends house, talk non-stop, eat all their goodies, and laugh until the sun rises. We spend hundreds of dollars our favorite books, art, clothes, and music (Oh, that old book?) and eat mounds of ice-cream and drink diet coke. That’s right. Mormons drink coke.
Friday night we started by driving hours, waiting for parking, running for good seats and ended by talking over ice-cream until well past 1 AM. At that point, we decided to be grown-ups. So, we talked for another half hour and promptly went to bed. Joe, being amazing, sat up and waited for us to get home, made sure the house was clean and took care of the family left behind.
Early Saturday, before the sun even rose, we got up to get ready to do it all again. While we chatted non-stop over cold cereal I watched Jami lay a towel over the burners on her stove. Without missing a beat in the conversation she plugged in an iron. She got me more cereal and while chatting away ironed the front of the shirt she was wearing. No lie! Without taking it off! It was amazing! If circuses didn’t involve creepy clowns, she could have joined as a contortionist.
Where does the love come in? Somewhere between telling me about babysitting and her son’s new school she called Joe. Magically, he was there. The chatter continued. She handed Joe the iron and with three words, “Iron the back.” Without missing a beat he started ironing the back of the shirt she was wearing. True love, right there in the kitchen.
What is true love? I don’t know what the rest of the world thinks it is, but I learned a lot about it at TOFW. In this case, true love was as much unspoken as spoken. True love was a connection between people who dance through life gracefully as a team. It is a dance this author only knows how to observe, and one I wish for everyone on earth.
I want to share with you some of the great things I learned at TOFW about true love and more. Later this week, I will share my favorite quotes. But for now, here is a personal lesson I learned about love.
Here is a group shot we had taken in 2014 at TOFW Portland. Little did I know, it would be one of the last few TOFW’s we would be able to spend with our beloved Aunt Joann. This year, while we took new photos, I relished every second, no complaints. Life is short. Time with friends, family, and loved ones has become more precious to me with every passing year, and loss.
True love, to this author, is making time, spending time and giving time to the ones we love. Connections are created in long lines, great music, late night laughter, and in the simple moments like ironing a shirt.
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 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:
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.
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:
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.