The Secrets we Keep

My senior year of college my final Communications Degree project was a thesis of my choosing. I decided to research the theory of trauma being helped through the telling of it. And how photos can help powerfully tell people’s stories of trauma they have endured.

I was personally drawn to this as I myself had experienced deep trauma. I was after all in a car accident at 19 that killed my father and permanently disabled my mother. Was it healing when I told my story I wondered? And then I had all those years of sitting next to my grandmother as she recounted her traumas of surviving WWII in Germany. She must of told my sister and I the same stories of her war years 100 times. Years later I realized it was her way to deal with it. To help herself heal and move on. It is interesting to note that my grandfather was the opposite. He refused to talk about it. To this day I don’t know how he survived his years as a prisoner of war, or how it felt when he finally made it to America for good. His healing was silence I suppose.

So with my project set, I first how to figure out how I was going to get people to tell me their deepest secrets. Pain is something we all endure but how many truly want to tell it and then be photographed and remembered for it? So I posted in the college newspaper that I was looking for trauma stories and people could either anonymously submit or contact me to talk.

Within two weeks my mailbox was flooded. You would think to yourself, how much trauma could college age kids endure? Apparently, a lot. I was amazed at the abuse I read about. Parents, siblings, extended family. I chose a friend of mine as her abuse story really stood out to me. She would be locked in her room, sometimes for days at a time, with nothing to eat. She endured emotional and physical abuse for years. For her photos, we took them outside in the sun, portrait style. To show the freedom to open spaces she now had.

One day a girl contacted me about her eating disorder. She was recovering from anorexia. She felt it would help for her to talk about it and agreed to be photographed. When I photographed her I just told her to stand natural and smile or not smile, whatever she felt like. Ironic that most of the photos I took that day had her arms crossed around her midsection, almost as if in protection. Afterwards she did mention to me that it helped her to come forward. She had suffered for years from anorexia and was finally feeling like she was moving forward.

There was one story though that rocked me to my core. It was anonymously sent to me with no contact information. She had sent me pages upon pages from her journal. As I read her story I learned that she had been raped in high school by two guys at the restaurant she worked at. One night after work, in the basement. She then admitted that she had never told anyone. I was the first person she had confided this to. She was in college! She had been keeping this trauma to herself for years!

I was floored. With no contact information to her, I felt powerless. Here I was, with this massive trauma of hers sitting in my hands, and I had no way to help her. I decided I would help her be silent no longer. I ended up using her story and the pictures I used to represent her was a shower. She had mentioned that no matter how many showers she took, she still didn’t feel clean. To this day I think of her and hope she has found peace.

My project ended up being a success and I got an A. I graduated with my communications degree and a few months later met Brian. But this project is something I still think about.

The secrets we keep.

This is for my mom

My health and wellness journey started with losing my mom.

I lost her to a massive heart attack in July 2015 after years of health struggles including diabetes and stroke. She was only 63 years old.

I was at work when I got a phone call from my sister that mom was in the hospital. I called and was able to talk to her. She was very drugged but seemed optimistic that she would be OK. When we hung up I truly believed that she would be.

She died around midnight that same day. I remember getting the phone call from one of the nurses saying they were trying to resuscitate her. It didn’t work. Immediately my heart started racing, and I had a panic attack. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was only 36 years old and had just lost my remaining parent. I sat there in my bedroom in shock, and grief, and pure anguish. The kind that waves over and over you again as though its a brand new feeling. I hated that I was living states away and couldn’t be there to say goodbye. I hated that she was gone. As I sat there on the floor of my bedroom I let it all pour out of me. The realization that my life was forever changed slowly becoming more real.

The thing is I hated that my own health was putting me on the same path as hers. At the time I was very overweight, with a 1 year old son and stressed and overworked. Exhausted all the time and constantly battling some cold or bug my son was bringing home from daycare. I knew I had to do something. The next few months I slowly started making changes, the biggest one replacing toxic products in my home with natural ones. My son and I finally stopped getting sick all the time and I was finally sleeping again. But it would be years before I successfully started to lose the weight.

In January this year I started the Keto diet. I have lost 27 pounds so far. I still have a ways to go but it is amazing how much better I feel. I am working out again too, building muscles and feeling the strongest I have in years.

This journey I am on will be lifelong. But it is happening! And I am dealing with my trauma along the way. Never give up hope guys. Whoever is out there if you need someone to talk to I am here. Please reach out. And start your own journey. Own your story. Change your future. Just start.

Birthday Wishes

Today is my birthday.  39 years young 🙂

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 Someone asked me this morning if I dread getting older.  I replied back heck no!  To me age is the great leveler.  The older I get the more I actually feel like I can relate to people.  I have always been an old soul but burying parents, struggling to have a child and otherwise growing up way before my peers has made me feel different.  It is hard to relate to people when they complain that their parents won’t pay this for them or they complain about their parents not watching their kids when my parents weren’t even there for the birth of my son and never will be there for him.   I am a strong person but yes it gets hard and some days I struggle with it.  So yes, I am loving getting older.  Every year makes me feel less different and the wisdom that comes with age is pretty nice too. 

 Brian’s birthday was yesterday.  He made a cake for both of us.  It was delicious and I am sure to have another piece today. Lol.  He truly has become a master in the kitchen and I am so lucky to have him in my life.  We are going out just the two of us Friday night.  It will be nice to get away for a few hours and enjoy a nice dinner.  

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 This next year will be a big one.  Transitioning out of one decade into another.  Lots of changes.  But regrets about getting older?  Not here.  Not here.

 

 

 

One and Done. Not by Choice.

I recently joined a one and done not by choice Facebook group and quickly realized how so many in there were still in the fresh pain phase. My heart broke reading their raw posts about how they were struggling to accept they would not have another child. So I decided to share my story. Many were thankful and said sweet things. A few couldn’t see past their pain to see mine and their comments reflected that. We are all on our own journey to acceptance. I decided to share with you what I wrote and hope this opens you to see that when you see families not to judge or ask why. It is our journey and story and we have the right to feel and decide what is best for ourselves.

My one and only was conceived naturally after almost 6 years of unexplained infertility. I suffered Post-Partum Depression. I am almost 39 years old and all of our parents are dead except for my husbands mom. Not a lot of family support. So we are one and done.

You can choose to focus on the negatives or look at the positives and celebrate what you do have. I remember spending entire nights in trying to conceive forums and every month obsessing over every twitch to convince myself I was pregnant that month. Don’t bring those feelings to your current life. You did it! You are a mom! There are so many in the TTC community who just want what we have – remember that! It is human to feel anger, or jealousy or sadness. You can control however how you react to those feelings. Focus on the good in your life.

For me I have decided to embrace the freedom that having only one gives us. We can afford vacations every year. We can afford to give him a college education. I can give my son all the attention. I have a partner that loves our son and plays with him and allows me to work a side job that fulfills me. There are a lot of positives to having one. As I touched in above I have also buried both parents. I could drown in grief and anger or use my experiences to strengthen me and make the most of the life I have.

Society and social norms make us like to think that a “multiple family unit” is still the normal. But it isn’t. Take a look around you and you will see families of every number, and you see non-traditional families and blended families more and more every day. I used to think that no one could understand my grief. That I was the only 34 year old out there who had buried a parent and couldn’t get pregnant. But the truth was I was only allowing myself to see what I wanted to see. Don’t let people own your emotions. You do you.

Below is a picture of my “family”. It is perfect and it is mine.

My leap of Faith

Today I am flying to Salt Lake City, Utah for the first time to attend Young Living’s Convention.  I will be with Young Living 2 years next month.  I knew that the oils would be fun,  but I truly didn’t know the full extent of how life changing they WOULD be and HAVE been!

There are no words that I could express just how grateful I am to the Lord for persisting in nudging my soul to purchase.  I read and saw about Young Living oils FIVE TIMES over a span of FIVE MONTHS until I finally said YES,  Yes, to better health and yes, to a better life! I want each of you to realize that I want that for you and your family. Where my family was 2 years ago, seems surreal to me.  My mom had died unexpectedly.  I had a chronically sick 6 month old baby that only slept 2-3 hours at a time and I was EXHAUSTED.  My hormones and emotions were all over the place.  I was barely hanging on.  Seriously I look back at those first few weeks when I lost my mom and I honestly don’t know how I made it.  But then a kit of oils arrived on my doorstep.  I started diffusing and wearing them.  I made rollerballs and creams.  And I started to feel better! Still skeptical, I started reading into them and researching.  Amazed at what I saw I decided I had to share.  Adventure In Oils was born that day.

But you see, I didn’t start sharing Young Living with others with the mindset of doing this as a business. I simply shared something I was excited about. I joined Young Living for the sole purpose to support my family’s health. I was desperate as a mother, and willing to try anything, no matter how crazy it sounded. I took a leap of faith. Sometimes we must step out in faith and just move!  So it was with this mindset that I started.  Getting my oils paid for sounded nice but it was not my end game.

But now? Now I see the abundance and freedom that Young Living gives!  Instead of having to use medicines with side effects I can try oils first.  My now growing 3 year old has even started to ask for oils and it is part of our daily routine! And the business? Unlimited opportunity for those that want it.  Whether it is just getting your oils paid for (which is where I am at currently) to making enough to retire now money, it is there if you want it.

So, why am I telling you all this? Because I know somewhere there is someone struggling. You have that thing that you are holding onto wondering if this is it. Maybe its money problems.  Maybe you are facing some major health stuff for or your family and fear is trying to grip where you stare. Maybe you are kicking yourself for not fully embracing oils and even the business because you are still waiting for it all to be perfect.

Stop.
Lean into this.

What is it for you? Where are you staring? Come jump in this intentional faith thing with me, whatever that looks like, I promise it will be the best ride ever!!

Live without regrets

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I will be visiting this farm Wednesday.  So excited!

The Holiday Breakdown

I cried in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru line this morning.

It started innocent enough. A image of my dad holding his coffee mug while shuffling to his home office and my mom yelling at Cindy and I to run to the car as we will be late AGAIN for school ran through my mind as I waited for my coffee and bagel breakfast.   But then I thought about Omi’s Christmas cookies, and how dad would hoard his cookie tin from all of us because he loved to drink his coffee while eating them. And how on Christmas Eve mom would make us take naps so “Santa” would come and when we woke up we would open presents before heading to church that evening. Santa always came on Christmas Eve at our household. Maybe because we had to drive two hours on Christmas Day to see dad’s relatives. Santa was on a timeline you know.

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I miss them. My parents. My sister and I were talking over Thanksgiving how memories are growing thin, especially with dad. 18 years now since he died. He would have loved Bryce. Bryce loves trains just like he did. They would have bonded over that.   The funny thing though is the year before his death was hard. We were not close as a family. Mom and dad had just moved us from South Jersey to North Jersey and the transition didn’t go well. Mom would spend all day in the bedroom depressed and dad would sit at night alone in the basement playing his old vinyls. And the fights. So intense between them. And then all of a sudden he died. Less than a year after we moved. Just like that. No nice ending, no goodbyes. No I am sorry and I love you please don’t leave me. It was bad and then it was over. And mom fell apart. Her depression, along with her injuries from the car accident left her unable to care for us emotionally. She never recovered. And with it our relationship with her never recovered. When she died in 2015 Cindy and I were only talking to her sporadically. When I got the call from the hospital at 1:00 AM saying she had passed I remember screaming in my head “NO! I never was able to fix us! It cannot end like this!” But it did. It ended messy, with no kodak moment goodbye like I had envisioned for us.

But oh do I miss them. Because before it was bad it was oh so good. My sister and I had a great childhood. Mom and dad loved us and provided for us. We lived in our little bubble in South Jersey where we had a pool and a dog and during the summers we would swim all day and play too many video games. And along with our other relatives, holidays, birthdays and vacations were amazing. We had fun as a family. So that is what I choose to remember. The good.

As Bryce gets older I am starting to incorporate family traditions from my childhood. This year we are doing one of those chocolate advent calendars with him. Last night while opening the little door and extracting the chocolate prize I clearly remember doing that with my sister and mom. I love that I am passing it down. Because in the end those family traditions are what you will remember when you start crying in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru at 7:30 AM on a Thursday.

Life is messy. We all will have regrets when it comes to our family and life choices. But you can’t let it consume you. I encourage all of you out there who are challenged by the holidays to just embrace the good. Hold on to those good memories. And create new ones where you can.

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Mother’s Day Highs and Lows

Prior to having Bryce this was one of the most depressing days of the year for me. I so badly wanted a child and it just wasn’t happening. I feel for all the women out there that hate Mother’s Day because I once was one of them.  But now I am a mom.  And I embrace Mother’s Day.  Last year, for my first Mother’s Day, I was so tired from lack of sleep that I don’t really remember anything.  Hopefully I showered? Maybe ate a hot meal? So this year Bryce made up for it by not only sleeping through the night, but sleeping for 14 hours straight, which is unheard of for him!  So that was my Mother’s Day gift.  It was wonderful and I have told him he can repeat that gift anytime he wants.  Lol.

The day was not without grief though. It was my first Mother’s Day without a mom. It will be a year in July since she died.  I miss her. Her death has been more complicated for me to handle this past year since we had such a strained relationship at the end.  Her addiction and health issues made it that I did not have a healthy relationship with her.  We would go weeks without talking.  We lived states away from each other.  So yesterday I mourned.  I thought of mom and tried to remember the good times, before disease and addiction took over.  I thought about what I would have said to her yesterday on the phone and how I would have told her how Bryce can now say thank you and I would have told her that he loves to jump in puddles and play with water hoses and sprinklers.  That having him has turned on a light inside me that is helping to heal the darkness.

She loved him. When I told her I was pregnant she was so so happy for me.  When he was born and she couldn’t come to visit me she broke down in tears on the phone.  We both knew she would never be able to visit.  That she would never be able to do the “mom” things one does for their daughter who has just given birth.  I told her it was OK, that we would visit that fall or Christmas.  It was the last time I had a real heart to heart conversation with her.  We did go up at Christmas, which ended up being the last time I saw her before she died.  I am so thankful she got to meet Bryce.  She died 6 months later.

As I embark on this motherhood journey I hope to be the best mom I can for Bryce. That he will know how much I love him and how very much I want him to live his dreams.  Even with all the issues I had with my mom, she equipped me with what I need to make it in this life which is grit and determination.   It is because of her that I plow on and believe that I can actually do anything I want to.

Thank you mom. I miss you so very much.

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The mom I remember. She was so beautiful and the life of every party.

 

 

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Meeting Bryce at Christmas

Grief is a Curious Thing

My sister texted me yesterday that she has been driving past moms house weekly to see how it looks – we are both still coming to grips with her sudden passing away from a heart attack on July 7th.

I hate when people say your grief will get better. No it doesn’t. You move on, but your heart never truly heals. A part of it will always be missing, especially when the person that you lost was very close to you. I had a complicated relationship with mom but she still was my mom. After dad died, she WAS the only parent. And even though we were very different and didn’t agree with a lot of each others choices, she still was always there for me when I needed her. I could call her and know she would listen. Now that is gone. Forever. Parentless at 36 years old. It feels weird. A club that I never intended to join.

There is no one size fits all with grief. When I walked into moms house the first time after her death I saw all the grandkids photos on her piano and I started balling. The meals on wheels ladies stopped by to talk to us and said she would talk about the kids daily. She was so proud to have them. Yet she never called to talk to Bryce. She never called me to say she was so happy I was a mom. Yet she was playing show and tell with the photos we gave her. She did care. I lost it.

The other hard part of the week was seeing her at the funeral home. A hard thing for anyone. But I hadn’t seen her since Christmas. She was so withered. So frail. I had NO idea it was that bad. I knew she was trying to make it sound better than it really was when I talked to her, but seeing her lying there I knew she had to have suffered at the end. I felt bad. Guilty. All the complex feelings we face with our loved ones, staring me down at 10 AM on a Wednesday. I lost it.

I guess what I am trying to say is right now I am hurting. But I am not giving up. I know life will move on, and the pain will dull. I am trying to concentrate on what I DO have and what my future COULD be.