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.
Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.
Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?
Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!
This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!
This 2018 I thought I might actually make a video for you WITH my makeup on and NOT after running 3 miles! Still breathless!
I love visiting at book signings. I can promise you if you struggled with anything in 2017 you weren’t alone. I heard a few statistics this year. Don’t ask me to tell you where….but I heard half of all adults under 35 live with their parents, like my kids. I know 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic abuse. I also know the statistic that says 1 in 3 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime is only for those who report. I hear from more who never, ever told a soul.
But there is still reason to be happy in 2018. We have so much to be grateful for! This video includes my recipe for joy.
Hope. Don’t give up hope. You may feel alone or overwhelmed. You may or may not believe in a higher power or that God has a plan for you. If you’re not sure, just take a good look at me. I live in the middle of nowhere on the edge of the continent in an old money pit and you and I are chatting. I believe there is a God and a plan for you and me. Every day I look for something to be grateful for. I will often share my gratitude list online. In the process of hunting for reasons to be grateful, I have become keenly aware of the miracles that surround me.
Last year, I decided in December to find a way to volunteer and give to Operation Underground Railroad. At the same time, my sister became critically ill. I drove from Oregon to Utah to spend as much time as I could with her during her last moments. While there, someone from Operation Underground Railroad actually reached out to me and I was able to donate a book to a Utah event. We got to talking, and it turned out we had a friend from my small Seaside town in common. It becomes a small world when you start to recognize Heaven’s pattern.
Healing. After years of research, the C.D.C. announced at a national sexual assault conference and training I attended that we have “neuroplasticity” and the ability to heal. The best way to heal is to choose a list of healthy self-soothing activities and turn to them when we have anxiety, are overwhelmed by memories, or need comfort following a traumatic event. Anything that makes you feel better and is good for you works to rewire your brain to turn to healthy soothing methods in times of stress instead of addiction. For example, I take a short run regularly and write to soothe myself, find time to think and make sense of my world. For me, it’s run or turn to chocolate and peanut butter.
Helping. Reaching out and helping someone who may be struggling with something you understand or have experienced is a great way to heal if you are able to keep healthy boundaries. When you are ready, seek ways to volunteer, donate or just be kind to others in need. A pot of soup may be nothing to you and everything to someone else.
As a survivor, I never want anyone to feel as confused, lost, or absolutely overwhelmed as I did. I will always seek to make other survivors experiences better. The sooner someone is helped following trauma, homelessness, job loss, or other life crisis the sooner they will return to as normal a life as possible.
Giving to others can keep you really busy! Serving others reminds me daily how blessed I really am. You may be the one who needs to be served like I once was. Even in the worst times, there are ways to give back.
What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.
We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.
This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!
I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.
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…
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 inSeaside, 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
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
Many times I have sat with a survivor of abuse while they wrestled with the decision to stay or go. It is a decision they have to make for themselves because no one knows their story better than they do. Ultimately they alone have to live with the consequences of their choices.
Change, leaping into the unknown can be totally overwhelming. But, every once in a while a survivor doesn’t get to choose. Life, police, a call from a neighbor who heard the fight change the course of their lives in one day, like a storm blowing in and washing away anything familiar and comfortable. They find themselves battling for their children, their freedom and the right to choose.
July 4th we celebrate Independence Day, or the day our nation declared independence following the Revolutionary War.
As a mom and peacemaker, there is a part of me that wishes we never went to war and that peace would follow a lovely bake sale, awareness march and agreement to disagree. However, some of the greatest warriors I know have had to face some of the darkest places on earth to win, maintain and fight for our freedom. Just like some of the most amazing survivors I know have endured the worst kind of abuse, power, and control.
The definition of freedom, “Noun. The power or right to act or speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
Safe House is a fictional novel about two women who crave freedom and yet love their families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (www.ncadv.org), 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 4 men have been victims of some sort of intimate partner violence. The National Human Trafficking Hotline took 7,572 calls from people reporting they were being trafficked in the United States in 2016. It is estimated 20.9 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.
What does this mean to you?
This means the battle for freedom is far from over, but the battlefield has changed. It is now our own homes and neighborhoods. And while a part of me wants someone else to fix it, as survivors, or supporters of survivors we can choose to become Advocates.
From survivor to advocate!
Many times I have spent long hours with men and women who came to my attention as victims and then decided to become survivors. Every once in a while I see a survivor come out of their own personal storm and become an advocate, fighting for the rights of other survivors, sharing their stories, and celebrating their freedom. When I see that spark of fight, that fiery survivor and warrior say, “No more!” I have been known to smile and declare, “Happy Independence Day!”
I may be a little unraveled, like a dress caught in the rip tides of the cold Pacific Ocean, weighed down by sand and coming undone, but I survived. And even if the tide comes in again and tries to drag me back to the cold, dark sea, I will survive. I have learned to swim, I have learned to navigate the currents. If I can just reach God’s hand someday, I will learn to dance on top of the water in celebration of finding the joy beyond the horizon of endurance.
There was a time when I spent my nights watching the moon and moving stars, anxiety rolling me over and over. Then I realized, I could travel with fear or faith, the outcome was always better with faith.
When I looked at my life through the lens of fear, the sun never seemed to rise and the day was a chain of storms, and energy spent trying to control an uncontrollable universe.
When I finally let go and swam, I looked up at the Son, and let the mighty waves carry me to shore. I learned that I arrived at the almost the same destination, filled with joy. In the light of hope and faith, I saw the miracles which had been there all along. I was delighted by the blessings laying scattered on the sandy beach. In the watery reflection of each day, I caught a glimpse of Heaven.
New Testament, Matthew 14
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?