Tuesday, July 31, 2012

from victim to survivor to thriver

Victim: a person hurt, killed, damaged or destroyed
Survivor: a person who manages to live or exist or keep going despite hardship
Thriver: a person who grows or develops well or vigorously

They say everyone has a story to tell. A part of their lives that will help others, touch others and make a difference. I don't know if my story will do that but in my quiet heart I have hidden a story that longs to be told. It is a simple story of overcoming rejection, seeking validation and of thriving under difficult circumstances. This may be one of the hardest things I have ever written but it is a story busting to be told. My heart gently encourages me to tell it. 

My story wants to be set free, to be recorded and remembered. As I type out the words I start to feel the last strands or chains that were holding me back, snap and disappear as I vigorously grow into the future. This is the story of my journey from moving from victim to survivor to thriver. It is a story that continues to be written as I continue to grow and what is most important to me is that I keep moving forward, I keep feeling and living my life in a way that helps me to progress.

Part 1: Victim.

I have been a victim to several unfortunate experiences in my life. There is no need to share exactly what they are or all of the details of what happened. But, to give you a brief picture, it involved me at a young age being hurt, damaged and violated. Now those three words are powerful words and I do not share them lightly. At the time I received no support and my survival technique was to store away those emotions, those memories and that anger. 

As I grew into my youth I came to see more clearly that I was a victim of unfortunate events. The life of a victim is one of sadness and misery and of no self esteem. You know you have been treated unfairly and you start to blame everything that goes wrong in your life on that one event or those events where you were taken advantage of. I felt helpless, over powered, defeated, crushed, trampled on and left an empty shell of a person. My heart was broken, my trust was taken away and I felt lost and alone.

Even though I felt that way I felt comfortable living the life of a victim. The pain and hurt each day was familiar. It was constant, reliable, always there and almost a friend. But after years of suppressing those emotions and memories, I began to grow tired, weary in my mind. It became too hard to lock them away, to push them back and they started to push to the front of my mind. They wanted to consume my thoughts, to be lived in a real way and acknowledged. I began to have trouble seeing past it, it started to consume me and found myself getting angrier and angrier. I started to fear for my own life, my own actions and knew in my heart that living the life of a victim was not the life for me.

I made a decision that would change my life forever.
I decided to be a survivor.

Part 2: Survivor.

The life of a survivor is one of waking up each day, preparing yourself, arming yourself and going into battle. For me, I went into battle each morning against myself, against my own mind and my own thoughts. Some days I won the battle and some days I lost. During this time I struggled, I fought, I wrestled and I gave myself permission to become raw, to become open and to feel pain like I had never felt before. 

I unlocked my mind, I turned the key, I unleashed the fury and hurt and pain that was stored away for years and allowed it all to flow from my mind, my soul and my heart. It is very hard to describe the sorrow, anguish, the frightening details, the anger, the bitterness, the hatred, the absolute terror that was contained therein. Needless to say that I was not in a very stable state during this time as I had strapped myself in to a roller coaster ride with more lows than highs. Being extremely kind to myself was my main focus to survive this ordeal and I went out of my way to do anything that would allow me to feel happy or make me smile.

Unlocking my heart and mind has been a precious gift that I have given myself. I was so scared to turn that key. I remember physically shaking the moment I made that decision. I feared what was stored away, what I had tried to protect myself from and if I was strong enough to deal with what lay hidden, protected in the dark of my mind. I also remember knowing in my heart that this was the right decision to make and I knew that the only way to progress and to move forward was to do so. 

I can see why some people chose to remain living a victim mentality. In some ways it is easier to live with the sorrow and pain each day. Sure it hurts but fighting against it to get better, to be healthier, to be happy takes effort, hard work and is beyond exhausting. It means standing up each day and deciding to be strong, to face reality and to let yourself really feel the emotions that life throws your way. 

During this time I continued to function with my life. I pushed myself to keep going, to try my best to live a normal life all the while fighting the demons in my own mind. I moved through different stages as I worked through my emotions. I worked on anger issues, I worked through depression, I planned ways to take revenge, I fought to stay alive, I clung to any reason to live, I worked hard to forgive, I sought validation, I sought acceptance and I sought peace of heart and mind. 

Seeking validation for the pain and suffering during my short lifetime took up a great deal of my thoughts. I wanted to push, search and seek for validation to come my way. I wasted precious moments of my life letting myself be consumed and depressed that validation was not to be mine. I really believed that I needed to have that acceptance of truth from others to heal me. What a glorious day it was when I realised that I could move forward with only self validation. I reached a stage where I did not need the acceptance from anyone else to heal myself. I knew the details, I knew the pain and I gave myself validation for those feelings and events. It was a wonderful gift I gave myself to move forward to the next stage of my life.

I then made another decision that would change my life forever.
I decided to be a thriver.

Part 3: Thriver.

I am a little passionate about living life as a thriver. To me a thriver is not someone who is happy all the time, I really don't think that is possible, but more someone who is always working on moving forward and who makes it a priority to grow and develop. You may have noticed I am big on taking time out for yourself and of encouraging other women to take care of themselves. Taking care of myself has taken up so much of my life and is a big personal goal of mine. My ultimate goal through all of this has been to stay mentally sane, to keep it real and to respect and acknowledge how I feel each and every day. I have worked really hard to earn every ounce of self esteem that I possess, every ounce self respect and every ounce of happiness. 

I no longer live a life where I am always seeking the approval, the acceptance and the validation of my  actions or thoughts from others. I get up each day and count my blessings. I plan my life so that I move forward and I fill my life with love and light. I still have days where I feel low and I allow myself to feel that. I know that after feeling depressed and having post natal depression that I am more likely to have bouts of depression in my life and I prepare and plan for how to deal with those moments.

In my quiet heart I no longer have hidden boxes of sorrow and hurt and anger that the eye can't see, I have a heart full of love for my family and for life. I have replaced those boxes of sorrow, hurt and anger with fun family moments, of heart bursting joyful moments that are a treasure to me and with the every day moments of life. My life is still not easy and on some days it can be a battle but I am no longer a victim or a survivor, I am a thriver and a thriver knows how to take a stand for what will bring her happiness and for what she wants in life. A thriver spends her time growing vigorously and that is what I plan to do for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

it's a love story, baby just say yes!

I love a good love story and thought it was about time I finished off my own.
It is not the most romantic event but it is mine and I treasure it!

It involves me and my handsome, spunky husband, who I adore.
I have already shared Part 1 and Part 2 on my blog and since it was so long ago I have decided to just repost them to make it easier.

Here is Part 1:

I first met Matt when I was 20 years old.
It was at a church dance {not the slow dancing, waltzing type of dance but, the loud pop music shake your booty type of dance} and I said 'hello' and 'goodbye' in my first sentence.

It was the last church dance I was going to before I went away for 18 months. I was leaving to go on a full-time service mission for my church to New Zealand and the Cook Islands. To serve in the community and to talk to people about Jesus Christ.

So we spoke very briefly. We said hello and I told him I was leaving that week.
He wished me good luck and we parted our separate ways.

Matt was 22 years old and I was 20 years old.
He was a full-time student studying to be a teacher.
I was a full-time student studying Literary studies with one subject left to finish my degree.

We did not met again until I was 23 years old and he was 25 years old.
There were no sparks and no fireworks, just conversation.

He really was not my type.
I liked guys with dark hair and brown eyes.
He had blonde hair and blue-grey eyes.

Our conversation was polite and normal.
He seemed like a lovely guy, friendly and nice.
It was hard to tell with a conversation that only lasted 5 minutes.

I had no idea that in the future he was going to be the man of my dreams and sweep me off my feet.
That we would share a union of great love and have seven cherbus together!

Here is Part 2:

When I left off my story I was going overseas for 18 months and Matt was staying behind in Adelaide to continue his study at University to be a teacher.

Upon returning I found some work and settled into a new routine of life. I had left one semester at University to complete and began the schedule of work and study to keep me busy and happy. At this stage of my life I felt ready to get married. I knew clearly what type of guy I was looking for after having dated a lot and having learnt from bad experience what not to look for.

Matt was still studying at University and was at a stage where he too felt ready to get married. He had also dated a lot and was beginning to wonder if he really was going to find the right person for him.

Both of us were busy and did not know what the next step should be in trying to find and date others. Then something wonderful happened.

I attended a church fireside and was very impressed by the first speaker. It was Matt.
He spoke very well, he touched my heart and he looked handsome in his blue suit.
Still love it when he wears that suit!

After the meeting I was speaking to a friend and Matt came up and had a quick chat with me.
He asked how my service mission went when I was overseas and then simply said goodbye.

There still were no sparks. Just friendly chit chat.
But my heart had been pricked. I was impressed and I was interested.

During that same week I had promised to call a friend to chat. For the life of me, I could not find the right phone number to contact my friend on. Everyone I tried to call did not have it. Eventually, someone gave me Matt's phone number as they knew he would have it.

I had a difficult choice to make. To call him or not?
You see I am a big believer in guys asking girls out and not the other way around.
I know, very old fashioned but that is the way I am.

I decided to call, to get the number and then get off the phone as quick as possible.
Imagine my delight when he actually was home, answered the phone, had the number and in our brief conversation asked me to go out with him on a date!

I of course said 'Yes' and we organised to meet for a day out at the Zoo.
Can I just say here that if you ever want to go on a first date, that the Zoo is an excellent place. If you have a lull in conversation you just turn to the animals and say 'Look at that monkey, isn't it just gorgeous' etc. So easy and less pressure.

Well, Matt and I did not have that problem. We talked all day, pretty much non-stop.
Having just returned from overseas I had plenty to share and say and we both had a lovely time discussing the different service missions that we both served in different places. We had something in common immediately and it lead to feeling connected, united in helping others and respect and admiration for the experiences we each had.

After our day at the Zoo we made another time to meet.
We continued to do this for four weeks.

At the end of the four weeks I knew this was the guy for me.
He was kind, loving, funny, sweet and everything I was looking for.

Lucky for me, Matt felt the same.
At the end of the four weeks, Matt asked me to marry him.
I said Yes. It was the best decision of my life.

It was a bit of a shock for some people, especially my family. 

Four weeks is not a very long time. For us it was all the time we needed.
When you know, you just know!

Here is Part 3:

So when I left off with Part 2 Matt had just asked me to marry him.
I was happy, I was excited and I felt at peace because I had found the right man for me.

We faced a variety of reactions from different people and family members. Some people were delighted for us and some were too shocked to be happy about it. I did not blame them, it was pretty quick!

But, despite all this we knew. We knew we were right for each other and determined to keep planning and moving forward with our life together and started setting the wheels in motion to get married.

As we were both studying at University we decided to wait until the semester finished to get married. This meant that we had 3 months left until our wedding. Most people who know me, know that when I know and feel that something is right, I don't wait, I act immediately and make it happen.  The same applied to getting married. Why wait? My attitude was, let's make this happen and keep moving forward.

So we started planning our wedding. I wanted simple, I wanted easy and my focus was just going to be on my husband, that was all. As I am a Mormon we were married in a temple. The only temple at the time in Australia was in Sydney so made plans to travel from Adelaide to Sydney to be married.

This was a easy and difficult decision. Easy because I knew that was where I wanted to be married and difficult because I am the only Mormon in my family and it meant that I would have no family at my wedding.

The three months went by quickly and to our shock, Matt and I both passed our semester at University and I finished my degree. With my degree finished I felt ready to start a family and to be a stay at home mum. So we made plans to save some more money and to prepare for children to join us.

During this time Matt and I continued to talk and to plan and to share our hearts on how we wanted to be as husband and wife, as parents and as individuals. We grew closer together, our hearts became one as we shared our desires and we grew to love each other more and more.

By the time the day arrived to be married, our hearts we connected in a way we did not think possible and even though it had only been a few months we knew we were making the right decision and were about to embark on a life of joy and happiness together.

The day was beautiful and simple. I had no bridesmaids, I had no flowers, I did my own hair and I did my own makeup. I had no family there to support me but I was wearing the dress I wanted, I felt completely at ease and I was happy to be with Matt. I was happy with the decision I made and being married in the temple has been a great blessing to us.

As a married couple we have been determined to stick together, to work out whatever challenges came our way and to support each other in whatever we chose to do in life. From the day we were married we felt we were ready to face the world together and to love each other with all our hearts.

I am happy to say that after 14 years we still feel the same way and our love has continued to grow in ways we did not think possible during that time. Whenever challenges have come our way we have clung to each other and worked our way through it. It has not always been easy for us, seven children in nine years will do that to you, but we have worked hard to stick it out.

Now we are loving the opportunity to raise a large family and to work on it together as parents. We support each other in what we want to do in life and our lives are happy, full and fun. I am so thankful that I was blessed to find the right man for me and that we have a union of great love in our lives.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

the mental health of a mother

I am often asked if we ever took anything into consideration when planning to have more children. I have shared already on my blog how we would write out a pro's and con's list on when to have a baby to get an idea of if we were really ready to have another child join our family. In reality, for Matt and I, the only real consideration we looked at was my emotional and mental health. 

I say, my mental and emotional state, because generally Matt was away from the home working and I was the one who was handling most of the pressure and burden with raising the children, dealing with the finances, disciplining the children and keeping our home running smoothly whilst being seriously outnumbered!

There have been times when my mental and emotional state was not as good as I wanted it to be and we held back from having children. I know, this sounds weird seeing as we had seven children in nine years BUT we did not plan on twins and basically I would have had my children closer together if I felt I was more able to cope.

Of course with seven children so close together my main goal for myself has been to stay mentally sane, which at this stage of my life, as I start to now have teenagers, is highly questionable!

I believe that taking care of your mental and emotional health is so important if you are a mother. Children can test you in ways you could never dream of and the pressure of caring for so many young children can seem like a great burden some days.  I also believe that many women suffer from some sort of mental health problem in those early years of having children and don't take the time to nurture themselves as much as they need to.

I am a big advocate for taking time out for yourself. I have had times where I have had to just stop and let life go. I have had to give myself permission to fall apart so I could see what state I was really in. To stop, to acknowledge and admit that yes, mentally and emotionally I was a mess and was struggling.

I guess for some women, admitting that they were mentally and emotionally a mess is not something they would ever do but for me I don't have a problem admitting it at all. I don't see myself as weak or a failure as a mother, I know I was just tired and had lost my way.

As I took that time out to rebuild my mind and to change my thoughts I was able to feel stronger, more able to cope and more able to lead and guide my family. Taking the time to say no to helping others, to attending events and as many commitments as I could allowed me to find the time to help myself, to find a new direction and to nourish my heart and mind.

Mothering is mentally and emotionally challenging. It tests you and stretches you. It also uplifts you, inspires you and allows you to use your mind in a new way as you ponder and dream of ways to raise your children. I find that being a stay at home mum gives me enough mental stimulation to keep my mind active and I love the challenge and find joy in the work I do in my home.

Even though I do enjoy it and love it, I still have days and weeks where I struggle. That is why keeping my mental health well is a priority for me. So much so, I wrote an ebook about how to find more meaningful moments in your life and to find those little pockets of happiness during your day. 

Every so often I get so busy that I let it slip and it becomes not as good as I would like. I start to speak badly to myself and put myself down. When this starts to happen I know I need to nourish and care for myself as much as I do for my children and family. I am after all, the one they look to, the example of what happiness is and if I don't care for myself then how will they know to care for themselves....

Friday, July 6, 2012

write for your readers or write for yourself

I took myself and my cherubs off to the park today. To enjoy the sunshine and to soak up some warmth. Whilst I was there I lay down on the grass and let my mind wander and ponder about my blog.  You see, I just have no been feeling happy about my blog lately. Probably for the last six month actually. I have been having a battle: to write for my readers or to write for myself.

I know the people who read my blog want to hear more about how I organise our home, what meals I cook and how I budget our finances or how I discipline my children. But, writing about those topics does not interest me at all. Every so often I write a blog post on those topics but I would much rather write about how I am feeling emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I much prefer writing about feelings and how life is a struggle, how life is awesome and how life is complex. I love keeping it real writing. I love to write from my heart, from a certain point of view and to write deeply from that angle. I know people don't like this because when they read it they see a different angle and disagree. I know there are other angles, I just choose not to write about them.

I am struggling to find a balance between the two. To write for my readers or to write for me. I need to find that balance quickly because it is making me feel so unhappy I want to stop. I want to walk away from my blog. I am bored. I need a new challenge, a new opportunity and a new adventure. I am the type of person who works hard to achieve a goal and when I have achieved it, I walk away and start a new one. I have achieved all of my goals for my blog. This is normally the time when I would walk away and work on something new. 

But, part of me wants to stick it out, to try something new and to write just for me. To be a little braver, to touch more hearts and to do more good. I want to share more stories, to leave a record for my cherubs and to just write and not worry about what others think or will say. I have been trying to do this for the past 6 months without much success and have been trying to push through it. Now, I need to make a decision. I can't keep feeling this way or functioning this way. 

Any advice? What do you do?
I am at a loss of what to do next.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cherish your children/cherubs project

One of the reasons I have a blog is to encourage me to cherish my precious children or cherubs as I like to call them. To take the time to write, record and remember the special and not so special moments we have in our home and family. As a way to do this and to encourage others to do this in their homes, last year I ran a 'Cherish your Cherubs Project'. I shared ways that I personally cherish my children and invited others to link up and share how they cherish their children as well. It was great fun and I really enjoyed reading what other Mum's do to appreciate and show love to their cherubs.

In my project I shared six different ways that I cherish my children:

To read more about each topic click below:

This year for my Cherish your Cherubs Project I have a different plan. Instead of sharing ideas that I use in my home, which I feel I write about all the time, I have decided to only share what other Mum's do in their homes. I have sent out a bunch of invitations to Mum's that I admire, with a bunch of interview questions on how they personally cherish their children in their homes and lives. 

I am really excited to share these interviews with you over the next couple of months and am looking forward to reading about what makes these Mum's tick and how they show their cherubs that they are cherished. I asked them to be honest, to be heartfelt and to keep it real. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. Stay tuned for more cherishing ideas!  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

running a 10K marathon and achieving my goal

So, where do I start? First of all, I have to say that I am very excited that I can even write this blog post and say that I have finally ran 10K in a marathon. Woo Hoo! An impossible dream of mine accomplished. Tick. Check. Cross that one of the list and insert excitement and cheering!!

My morning started very early at 3:30am where I woke up, showered and got myself ready to be picked up to drive down to the Gold Coast. My lovely running companion was Tish, who I have only met once before, but know well from our friendship we have online. We arrived there whilst it was still dark and was immediately surprised by the amount of people gathering on such a chilly morning to run in the marathon. We went about the usual preparation, leaving our bags at the storage tent, lining up for the toilets and generally feeling nervous and excited about running in our first marathon.

We found our starting zone for the race and joined our group. We had placed ourselves in the last running group for the 10K marathon as my goal was not to try to run the race fast but to simply run the race non-stop and to make it to the end. It was incredible to see just how many people had entered the race and it was wonderful to see such a variety of people from all ages, sizes and shapes. As we were waiting for the race to start I felt happy with the training I had done and felt so pleased that I had pushed myself to get to this stage.

The atmosphere at the start of the race was loud, fun and exciting. It was great to be amongst a large crowd and to move with them as we went from walking to running to begin the 10K. You could also tell that many people were ready for a run full of laughter and happiness as well as sweat and hard work. I loved looking around observing the different characters of people running for different reasons. People had t-shirts sharing charities, others promoting teams they were running with and others dressed up just for fun.

Tish was a brilliant running companion as she just let me set the pace and stayed with me the whole race. My goal in running the race was to start off running at a speed I felt comfortable with and to stick to that speed for the whole race. I am really happy to say that I was able to do that for the whole race.  Except in one part, where I was surprised when Tish mentioned to me that I had picked up the pace and was running faster than normal. I explained to her that it must have been because I was watching the 'fast' runners on the other side of the road. Without knowing it, as I was looking at them, I realised that I was pretending that I was running like them and had started to run faster!

The kids made me some signs to encourage me along on my run and I really appreciated my family coming down so early to support me in my big race. Matt did a brilliant job of getting them to different look out points to catch a glimpse of me running by. No easy feat with so many people watching the race.

Everytime I saw the kids I ran over to where they were and gave them all a high five. Here I am red faced, sweating it out, high-fiving my kids. Great photography Chelsea! Thanks :)

Sadly, my goal of running my butt off did not work and it was not left on the road at the Gold Coast but is still firmly attached to my body! Running off after high-fiving the kids and that is Tish in the striped top in the background laughing.

Mentally, the race was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. There was so much to see and hear and so much laughter happening in the race that I did not feel the need to really push myself. It was the first time that I had ran without music and physically it was a challenge to run the 10K non stop but I really felt happy to be out there doing it. As we passed each race marker I would yell out who that Kilometre was for and would celebrate that I had made it that far. Tish and I did a big high five at the half way mark and let out a yell of excitement for making it that far.

Tish and I after the race. Running the last kilometre of the race was awesome. There were a lot of people yelling and cheering to spur you on and it was so fantastic to see the finish line. I crossed the finish line in 1:22mins. I am not a fast runner but was happy that I finished before my goal of 1:30mins. It was the fastest I had ever ran the 10k so I was delighted. I could still walk fine afterwards and felt great!

Here I am with all the family, who had waited around for a long time for me to finish, had been up very early in the morning and had simply had enough. As you can see it was very sunny that morning :)

Now, I have a new necklace to add to my jewellery collection: my first running medal. A little exciting for an ordinary mum who never ever thought she could run in public, in a race, for 10K. Thank you so much for all of your support and for following me on my journey and encouraging me when I had those moments where I did not think I could do it.