Okay, Open Your Eyes

“Should I close my eyes yet?” I asked as I heard him nearing the top of the stairs. He had been downstairs rummaging around in the basement for a few minutes. Excited to give me my Christmas present early. I was a little apprehensive because I hadn’t even bought his Christmas present yet.

“Yes close your eyes.” he said as he peered over the top of the half wall. A hint of mischievousness in his brown eyes.

“And put your arms down.”

I complied. Next thing I knew something large was placed on my lap. “Can I open them?” I inquired.

“Okay, open your eyes.” Came the reply.

I opened my eyes and peered at the large box sitting on my lap. I could see through the corner of my eyes that he was recording my reaction with his phone.

I had suspected what the gift was, and I was right. What I was wrong about was my reaction to the gift sitting on my lap. In imagining the moment, several possibilities of my reaction to the expensive gift now sitting on my lap ran through my mind from excitement to asking him to take the gift back. None of them were what actually happened.

“You gave me a TV.” I squeaked. I brushed my fingers across the cardboard box and couldn’t bring myself to look at him. “Thank you.” I said because that’s what you are supposed to say when someone gives you a gift.

“You’re welcome” he smiled. He stopped the recording and put the phone away. I still couldn’t look at him. “Are you gonna cry?”

I didn’t know. “No.” Came the immediate reply.

“Do I need to leave the room so you can cry?” He began to back away.

I peeked at him over the large box sitting on my lap and nodded slightly. “No.” Came the word.

I looked back at the box. So many thoughts and feelings had hit me at once that I wasn’t thinking or feeling anything at that moment.

“Why did you get me a TV?”  I whispered.

“Because it’s something you would never get yourself.”

The moment he said the words, I knew it was true. I had just bought my house and was loving having my own place. The fact that I had day dreamed about having a house for myself and my son and I was finally doing it as a single mom. The fact that I was giving hope to other single moms because I owned my own home. The fact that at least once a day still four months after buying my house the thought I’m actually doing it, I have my own house. I can do this. ran through my head. The fact that I remember hearing somewhere that the best gift to give someone is a gift they would never buy for themselves. All these things and still I knew that buying a TV was at the bottom of the totem pole of things I wanted to buy for my house.

I nodded my head. It was the only response I could give as all those thoughts hit me at once.

I set the box down on the floor next to me as he sat beside me on the couch. I was panicking a little because I was worried that what I had in mind to buy him would not be good enough. Then the memories began to flood my mind. I bit the inside of my lip.

I remembered the day my ex and I went looking for a new car for me. I remember how I felt like I didn’t deserve a new car and I couldn’t have one. I remember how when he got a new car it was for him to drive and I wasn’t allowed to even back it out of the driveway. I remembered leaving my ex three days before Christmas and staying in the woman’s shelter with my then 12 month old son during the holidays and leaving all the gifts under the tree, including the scrap booking gift I knew my ex had gotten me that I had wanted really bad for so very long. I remembered the engagement ring my ex had given me, the tiny diamond and thin metal, meant to be a fashion ring. He hadn’t paid more than he would for a video game for himself.

Tears began to brim my eyes. I bit my lip harder.

I began to cry.

I buried my face in his chest. He just held me. “Why are you crying?” I couldn’t even answer him, the thoughts keep flashing  into my mind. I only cried harder. His husky moaned and came over to the huddled mess I had become. “Why are you crying?” I still could not bring the words to my lips. I cried harder. “You’re making me and Sammy worried.” he referenced the husky still standing next to us. And then he let me cry until I could talk.

I told him the memories that had flashed through my mind earlier. “And for some reason I tied the value of the gifts I have been given to my self-worth.” I ended the memory flash. Then I pointed to the TV, “And I’m worth that?” I choked out as more tears flooded out of my eyes and sobs filled my throat. I had no idea what he was thinking of the crying mess curled up on his lap. I felt ashamed for my outburst and I felt my tears would be seen as manipulation.

He held me as I cried. He let me get it all out. Then he did something unthinkable. He asked to see me. He asked me to look at him. I was a blubbering mess with hot tears and slimy snot and smeared makeup all over my face, the last thing I wanted was for him to see me like that. I slowly pulled my hands away. They were filled with snot. Everything in my being was fighting against this. “You’re not supposed to see me like this.” I complained.

“Why not.”

“Because I’m ugly.”

“You’re beautiful.”

I looked in his eyes skeptically. I could see he meant it. I cried harder.

“It’s okay to be vulnerable.” he continued. “I love seeing who you really are rather than you trying to hide it all the time.” I grabbed a tissue and mopped up my face and hands.

“I don’t want to be seen as weak.”

“Did you ever think you don’t have to be the strong one all the time? I know how hard Christmas time is for you and I know how hard receiving gifts is for you. Why do you think I started small with a camera and then moved up to a laptop from there?” He said listing the gifts he had given me over the few years we have been together.

I stared at him shocked that he even cared enough to ‘see’ me.

“You are worth a TV. You are worth so much more than that. You are worth marrying.”

I calmed down and just listened to him. He was saying the words I have longed to hear, the words I did not believe about myself. I knew as he spoke that I wasn’t ready for marriage, even though I wanted to be. I knew that if I couldn’t handle a TV as a Christmas gift that a proposal would be way over the top. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to have it and how much I wanted to be ready for that next step that I wasn’t. I knew what I had begun to suspect a while ago, that even though I said the words often that I wanted to get married, if he actually did ask me to marry him, my true answer would be no. Not yet. Despite my frustration that it has been 9 years since I left my abuser, I was still healing. There were deep and lasting wounds from both my marriage and my childhood that I need to work through first. And I knew somehow that this moment, this admitting to myself and to him that I was still afraid and not actually ready was a big piece to that healing. And it was okay to be exactly where I am on my journey.

Little did I know  when my boyfriend had told me to open my eyes, I would see much more than a TV on my lap. I would see that it’s okay to be vulnerable, it’s okay to be imperfect, and it’s okay to just be.

Open your eyes.

10 Life-Changing Books Paving Your Path to Healing From Abuse

I began writing this post months ago and stopped. Probably mostly due to life getting in the way, and other blog posts taking precedence. Last weekend I was blessed to attend a Gala for an amazing organization, WOW Utah, helping women who have overcome domestic violence, substance abuse, polygamy, debilitating illness and simply not having a voice to build a better life for themselves and their children. Besides having the opportunity to support the seven women who were being celebrated that evening, I spent the evening talking to wonderful women who all had beautiful stories to tell, and I was inspired to complete and share this post.

Why Does He Do That By Lundy Bancroft

While I was staying in the women’s shelter, this book was mentioned more than once, I have the feeling that out of all the women who would attend the Domestic Violence classes with me I was a small percentage that actually bought and read the book. I am forever grateful I did, and it is always the first book I suggest to others who are or have experienced domestic violence. I took it with me everywhere I went, I read it on my breaks and during my lunch at work, I had a pen and highlighter in hand the entire time I read it so I could take notes. I called it my bible to healing from domestic violence. There were times it was hard to read because it brought back memories of the abuse, but it also helped me to understand the thinking behind an abuser and helped me feel empowered, something I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Left To Tell By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Before I left my ex, I hated my job. I was a seasonal data transcriber and spent 8 hours a day typing at a computer, as quickly and accurately as possible. Not the kind of job for my bubbly and humming bird like personality. I liked variety and a challenge. Once I found myself a single mom, no one thing changed about my job, except my attitude. I suddenly needed a good job. I applied for and got a permanent position and began using my time to listen to books on tape. My mom was in a book club, and suggested this book to me. I remember sitting at my desk typing as I was listening to this book, and the story and words ringing so true with me that at times I could feel my body tingle from head to foot. This was the first book that introduced the concept of visualization to me. Or choosing what you want, focusing on it and believing and trusting in God, the universe, a higher power (use what rings true with you) to bring your desires into your life as you do your best to work toward it.

The Gift of Fear By Gavin de Becker

When I left my abuser for the first time, I drove a state away and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My uncle was chief of police and I felt I had to get that far to feel safe. My uncle had been in law enforcement for years and had trained with the FBI. It was him who recommended this book. This book helps you to learn and recognize the difference between fear that helps you survive vs fear that keeps you from moving forward in life.

Remembering Wholeness By Carol Tuttle

This book opened a whole new door for me. I don’t even remember how I heard about it or what prompted me to read. It pretty much just materialized into my life. I can hardly think of the words to express my feelings on this book. It’s one I still listen to on occasion and learn from. There is so much content packed in and it’s a great book to really expand your healing journey.

The Child Whisperer By Carol Tuttle

Suddenly becoming a single parent can be overwhelming. So many thoughts rushed through my head, I wanted my son to have as normal a life as possible, be a successful, contributing member of society, and I wanted to guide him to still have a good relationship with his dad, while not taking on the abusive traits that had been passed on through the generations. Not to mention I had this little person who had his own personality that I wanted to learn and understand. This book revealed so much to me about my son and helped me understand him and parent him to the best of my ability and then some. I became a child whisperer. (It was also super helpful to me with all the other kids in my life).

Loving What Is By Byron Katie

This book is an absolute delight. I bought the audio version and since much of the book comes from excerpts of Byron Katie having one on one discussions with real people, I was able to listen to the original recording and hear the emotion behind the words that were spoken. This book completely changed the way I viewed people and myself. I have used the technique she teaches to improve my relationship with my boyfriend. He and I went from frustrated and hopeless to thriving and growing as a couple.

Women Who Love Too Much By Robin Norwood

If you’re looking for something that will help you break destructive patterns and truly look at yourself and your relationship and know without a doubt if it abuse or not, this is the book for you. I love this book, the stories it tells, the insights it provides and the tools it teaches to help you to truly heal and move beyond that pattern of abuse in relationships.

Creating Affluence By Deepak Chopra

These ‘A – Z Steps to Creating a Richer Life’ are simple and full of impact. This is another book I bought the audio version, and believe it or not, it is a book I re-listen to often. It is only an hour long, and besides Deepak Chopra having a pleasing and gentle voice to listen to, there are things I either learn every time I listen to it, or things I need to be reminded of. I am still on my journey to creating more affluence in my life, and I know this book continues to have that impact and I am loving watching what unfolds in my life as I learn, understand, and apply these practices.

Feeling is the Secret By Neville Goddard

In my life, I have had the pleasure of knowing and meeting several successful and self made millionaires. These are the people who have become my mentors in my life. These are the people who I follow and learn from. When teaching at a seminar I was attending, one of them challenged us to not only read this book, but spend ten minutes transcribing it every morning. I took the challenge, and even though at times I was tired and didn’t really feel up to it, I would get up and transcribe the book for ten minutes while I listened to it. The book is only about 30 minutes to listen to, but it is so jam-packed with content, that slowing down to transcribe it really helps the principles to sink into your head. This is also a book I listen to again and again and am still learning from.

Chakra Clearing By Doreen Virtue

Whether you believe in chakra’s or not, this is another great audio book. I has a 20 minute morning and a 20 minute evening meditation. I love listening to it to either start my day or as I drift off to sleep. If you have a hard time shutting down your brain at night and drifting off to sleep, this is  a great audio to play as you drift out of consciousness. This is one I listen to nearly daily and again, whether you believe in chakra’s or not, it has great trains of thought and uplifting messages thought out.

7 Pillars to Healing From Domestic Violence Introduction

7 Pillars HalfI woke up Christmas morning to what was perhaps one of the most horrible days of my life. I could feel the fear coursing through my veins and pumping into my heart, all I wanted was to take my 12 month old back to the shelter where I knew we would be safe. I rolled out of my sisters bed that we had shared that night and checked on my son. I honestly don’t even remember much more of that morning. I’m guessing we opened gifts and ate breakfast, although I do remember there wasn’t much for me or my son. Our Christmas was all wrapped up underneath the tree at my house, the one place I wanted to be the least. I decided to stay at my parents house that night rather than the women’s shelter I had checked in to 3 days earlier, after all, it was Christmas. I remember most how frightened I was that night that my then husband or father in law would find out where I was. I had visions of them breaking in through my sisters window in the middle of the night and taking my son from me. I had parked blocks away down a small forgotten street and carried my son through all the snow in an effort to keep them from knowing where I was. All I wanted to do was to get back to the safety of that shelter. There was a part of me that thought about my then husband, sitting in our house, all alone, with the Christmas tree and all our Christmas presents. My heart ached for him, a little. Still, I knew I was making the right choice and that going back was not an option. I had to turn off my emotions in a sense, and instead focus on survival. I couldn’t dwell on those thoughts or worry about him, not any more. My safety and future as well as that of my son were at stake.

I packed everything up and drove back to the women’s shelter. I walked up the four flights of stairs and in to the empty shelter, my son and I were the only ones who were currently seeking shelter. It was quiet and lonely. There was at least one intake worker at the shelter at all times, a woman could come seeking shelter at any moment, it wasn’t just a Monday through Friday type of deal. She asked where I had been, and I explained that I had stayed at my parents house for Christmas Eve. She berated me telling me that I could be kicked out for not coming back to the shelter before curfew the previous night. I fumbled around in my head and remembered checking in and being told of the 9 o’clock curfew. I honestly just thought that if I wasn’t back by curfew time, that I would have to stay somewhere else that night, I didn’t realize being gone past curfew was grounds for being kicked out. Luckily, she forgave me my misunderstanding and I was allowed to stay. She brought me several age appropriate toys that had been donated by complete strangers. She explained that usually the kids at the shelter only get one toy each for Christmas, but since my son and I were the only ones there, she gave us a few more. She asked if I wanted to wrap them. I don’t know if I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit or if it was just because my son was 12 months old and I figured unwrapping gifts wouldn’t be such a big deal to him. I declined and took the toys out of their packaging and gave them to my son. It was shortly after that that more women some alone, and some with children began to check in to the shelter.

In the four weeks I was there, I was the one who stayed the longest. Women and and children checked in and out of the shelter, some there for their second, third, or fourth stay. I remember sitting in a classroom full of other abused women, we were being taught what domestic violence was, how the cycle worked, how to recognize it, and how to avoid getting into another domestic violent relationship. I remember the teacher talking and my mind wandered. I was thinking ‘This is never where I thought I would end up. This is never how I thought my life would be. Now I’m going to be divorced and a single mom. My dreams of being a stay at home mom with several children running around are over. What am I going to do with my life? Who is ever going to want me? I have nothing. I have three days worth of clothes for me and my son. I’m considered homeless. This is never where I thought I would end up. What am I going to do now?’ Immediately the answer rushed into my head, and it was this answer that got me through some of the darkest moments, it is this answer that I think of on nearly a daily basis and drives much of what I do to this day. I heard a voice say ‘Brandy, you are going to be alright. You are going to make it through, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you have learned.’ 

Since that day, I have invested nearly a decade of my life, and thousands of dollars in to learning everything I could so I could truly help others, and I am continuing to do so. The 7 Pillars to Healing from Domestic Violence covers the 7 types of abuse, and how to heal from each one. I am continuing to expand on these 7 pillars and will be releasing an in depth program soon.

7 Pillars back 2

3 Laws (& Assignments) for Successful Dating After Domestic Violence

Law 1: Individuality

Let’s face it. After experiencing living in an abusive relationship, you most likely don’t know who you are or what you want. You were probably told many times over the past few years who you are, what you should be and do and what you shouldn’t be and do.

I highly recommend staying out of serious relationships for at least a year. I know it’s hard. I know you long for that companionship and you may even have kids and would love for them to have a positive influence in their life, all of that will come, in time, when it is meant to.

The first three and a half years after leaving my ex were spent going through my divorce, dedicating my time to my then toddler and socializing. Yes, I went out. Yes, I spent time with men and with women. No, I did not date. Once I began to date, it was a year and a half of nothing serious with a lot of first dates with a lot of different guys. These dates were wonderful because I learned about myself and about what I want and don’t want. You can do it.

Now I am in a relationship with an amazing man who I met almost three years ago. I get to experience what a  healthy relationship looks like, feels like, smells like, tastes like and sounds like. It’s wonderful.

Guess what? Now is the time to discover who you are. Take time for yourself. Seriously. Date yourself. Go out to dinner and a movie. Go for a walk. Go bowling. Do fun things just for you.

Law 2: Vulnerability

Telling a person who’s been surviving most of their life by being guarded out of necessity for their safety is like telling them you have removed all the mines from a mine field and it’s safe to run through a mine field they have navigated for years. They know where each hidden mine had been placed and they still instinctively avoid stepping in those places, even with the knowledge that the mine field is clear. For them it’s a matter of life or death.

The tragic part in all this, is that in order for a person to have the happy, thriving, and successful healthy relationship they want, that vulnerability and trust needs to be there.

The best way to get through this is to be patient with yourself and allow yourself to experience the emotions. Grab a piece of paper and a pen, play some good instrumental music, and write (for at least 10 minutes) ‘I am afraid to be vulnerable because…’ and see what comes out. You’d be amazed at the insight this will give you into yourself.

Law 3: Love Yourself

This may be the most important thing you can do to help yourself. Often times people who experience abuse have fought a daily battle with their partner. And the daily message they give you that you are not good enough, not worthy, no one else will want you, takes a toll on even the strongest self esteem. Especially because it comes from someone you love and someone who should be lifting you up every chance they get.

The ironic thing about loving yourself is, once you truly get there, then the right person will just meander unexpectedly into your life at just the right time. The more you do to help prepare yourself for that time, the better off you’ll be.

Sure I can say ‘love yourself’ all day long, but how do you actually do that? It actually takes a little work and a little effort on your part.

For the next 30 days write down five amazing things about you each day. The best part? It gets to be something different each time. So at the end of 30 days, you’ll have 150 amazing things about yourself written down. These can be things about you as a person, a friend, in your work, your body, as a parent, as a romantic partner, anything you like. Just make sure you do it. And make sure you stay positive.

Reprogramming your brain is a lot of hard work. Don’t let that scare you though, you’ve already allowed it to be programmed the way it is currently if you want a better life, it’s your responsibility to take ownership and create it. You got this.

3 Simple Tips For Loving Your New Normal Now

Were you like me? Did you daydream about how your life would turn out? Would you marry your prince charming and raise beautiful children together? Be present for your children as they progress though all the stages of life? Be a stay at home mom? Be totally spontaneous and decide last minute to go on some fun mini family vacation out of state? Have one of those wooden signs hanging above your door with your last name and the words ‘established 20??’ via Pintrest style? Would you be pregnant at the same time as your sister or cousin or best friend and really bond together over that shared experience?

These are some of the dreams I had growing up and especially after I was proposed to. I used to daydream of the life I wanted to have, everything being so perfect. That is not how things turned out for me. Instead I married an abuser, we are divorced and have one child whom we co-parent (sometimes well, sometimes not). Since my son was one year old I have sent him to his dads house for visitation and I haven’t had the privilege of being involved in every facet of him growing up. I have missed out on loosing teeth, boy scouts ceremonies, caring for him during illnesses, being the first to take him to a movie he was looking forward to in the movie theater (sounds silly, but ask other single parents, it’s kind of a big deal), and many, many things that I don’t even know I missed. I work a full time job while I grow my business and I have taken on a second job here and there as needed. Per the divorce decree, I have to inform my ex 30 days before I take our son out of state. I have no ‘established’ wooden sign hanging above my door. I had one pregnancy and never got to experience it at the same time as a sister or friend.

I have spent many nights crying over these lost dreams, things I always wanted and never got. There are some things I have since let go as never going to happen and there are some that I still hope and pray for. A few weeks ago I was talking to a woman who was asking for help for her sister who had recently left an abusive situation, and she said one of the hardest things for this sister was learning to live in a new normal, and I instantly knew exactly what she was talking about. In the years since my divorce I have found some things to help navigate the new normal.

Trust In The Greater Good

Whatever it is you believe in, God, Buddha, the Universe, Karma, what ever your higher power is, trust that if you keep believing in a better life, keeping dreaming for the life you want, keeping speaking words of growth and encouragement, what it is you have lost will in fact be restored. There is truth in the fact that whatever it is we concentrate on, focus on, dream about, and think about is what will happen for us in our life. So why didn’t things work out for me the way I thought? I look at this two fold.

Part of being alive on this planet right now is learning the lessons we want to learn and are meant to learn. In order for us to learn something as divine as forgiveness, someone has to do something to us to be forgiven for. How can you forgive if you have never experienced something that needs forgiving for? Why did I have to experience a domestic violence marriage and following, a divorce? Maybe so I could create an even better marriage after. Maybe so I could know how to help others who experience it. Maybe so I could learn forgiveness, understanding and love. Maybe because I am the person who could help stop the cycle of abuse from my ex husbands family from continuing forward in my sons life. It could be any of these reasons, all of these reasons or reasons I am not yet wise enough to know. I trust that there is a divine reason.

Before I did marry my ex, I had this nagging feeling that maybe I shouldn’t do it, but he seemed so great and I couldn’t actually place my finger on any reason why not. I talked to my mom about it, and she agreed that he was a great guy and that I probably just had cold feet. I think that it really was my subconscious seeing the truth about my ex and trying to give me a warning signal, maybe it was even a small whisper from my higher power saying ‘this one isn’t the one.’ But I was 20 and thinking that since I had lived in seven states across the country, I was preparing to graduate with my associates degree, and that I was a mature 20 year old, I was ready for marriage and all would be well. Even on my wedding day I had doubts on the way to and during the ceremony. Clues I should have listened to. After my divorce, I thought of my divorce as the end to my life. Who would want to date someone who had a failed marriage? Who would want to date someone with a kid? All these other people I knew (family and friends) had long successful marriages, what was wrong with me? Now I look at my divorce as a gift of freedom and life from the uniformed decision of a naive 20 year old. I am grateful I am no longer married to the man who treated me with little respect and more like an object than a person. I now have the gift to move forward in my life with love and respect, love and respect that I now give to myself.

The bonus? Universe, God, Life, has a knack for knowing what is better for us than we do, and the gift of restoration. Yes, I miss out on the children I could have had, I am sad for the companionship I lost. When I look at my life now, I find in addition to my son from my ex husband, I am blessed with the two sweet children my boyfriend brings into our relationship, and I am blessed with a healthy relationship in which I feel encouraged and safe to be myself. I was blessed with time to enjoy my 20’s and make and meet wonderful friends. Not bad for messing up in choosing my spouse the first time around.

 Mourn and Let It Go

Go ahead and go there. Imagine what might have been. Imagine what could have been acknowledge what you feel you have lost. Even when leaving a relationship for your own safety or the safety of your children, there is still a loss and still a reason to mourn. Allow yourself that time and space and don’t feel guilty for your grief, Write a list of all the things you feel you will never experience and all the things you have lost because of your divorce. Maybe it’s your house, maybe it’s having to share the kids, maybe it’s having to work now to support your family. As you write feel the emotions that come with each item on your list. Feel the loss, the anger, the sorrow, allow yourself to cry, allow yourself to yell. And then in a safe, controlled environment, (like in a grill or a coffee tin) burn that page. The burning is symbolic of you letting go of that life and starting fresh, anew.

Find New Dreams

Part of the process of buying a new car or a new home, is giving the other one up. You may love that old car, maybe it was your first car and you have been through a lot together, you’ve got memories and nostalgia built up with this car. Buying a new one is scary and exciting at the same time. The new one has new features, it drives differently, it breaks differently, you have a lot to get used to, including the unknown. Same thing with your new dreams, once you let the old dreams or life go, you get to create new ones. These new dreams can be frightening and feel different, you have a lot to get used to. But you get to create them however you like. You have the power. Dream big dreams. Create a vision board with all the amazing things and goals you want. Remember with a vision board, make things quantifiable, you need to have a measurable goal for yourself. Something like ‘Be a better mom’ could be replaced with ‘complete a parenting course’ and once one vision is achieved, you get to replace it with a new one. You are the author of your future, go out and make it amazing.

Changing Your Clothes Will Change Your Life

One of the most important things women who have experienced domestic violence can do is to build up their own self-esteem and start loving themselves. In my very first guest blog post, Kami Woodward, Wardrobe Mentor (kamiwoodward.com) explains how to give yourself permission to be you and love yourself!

Perfect Pink High Heel
They were the perfect pink high heels. I was 11 years old and they were the most beautiful shoes I had ever seen in my life. My mom and I were shopping to replace my worn-out scuffed-up black church shoes and I spotted the pink ones. There were only two obstacles: 1) they weren’t on sale and 2) my mom thought they were ridiculous.

I grew up in a family where you didn’t ask for things because the answer was always “no” for money reasons. But I wanted these shoes. I didn’t want another pair of boring black flats – I wanted grown-up fancy pink high heels! I begged. I pleaded. I promised the moon and more…and finally my mom said “yes”. She also said, “You’ll end up not wearing them because they won’t match anything – they are bright pink!”

I love my mom but she was wrong. I LOVED those shoes! I felt beautiful, feminine, and all grown up. They were my “power shoes” that I wore when I needed extra confidence. And as a nerdy pre-adolescent? I needed extra confidence a lot! I wore those shoes over and over and over until the bottoms fell off and the heels cracked SIX YEARS later. Like I said; they were the perfect pink high heels!

Do you remember your first piece of clothing that you LOVED? That went beyond function and practicality and transformed the way you felt about yourself? Think for a moment.

I’m a wardrobe mentor specializing in the emotional and energetic side of fashion and I often ask my clients this same question. Do you remember the feelings that piece of clothing (or accessory) sparked inside of you?

Confident. Beautiful. Powerful. Happy. Courageous. Joy. Strong. Giddy. Feminine. Sexy. Fun. Comfortable. Like YOU.

What you wear is powerful. Everything we put on our bodies has an emotional energy to it. This is the difference between that first piece of clothing that you LOVED and the old t-shirt your ex-boyfriend left at your house. The difference between your wedding dress and the sweater you had on when you found out your mother passed away. Fashion is emotional and what we choose to wear perpetuates those emotions in our lives.

When you get dressed in the morning, do the clothes in your closet make you smile? Do they make you feel as amazing as I did in my pink high heels? Why not? What the heck happened?!

There are 4 levels of wearing clothing:

1) It covers your naked bits
2) It is practical (coats in wintertime) and functional (pants to ride a bike)
3) It is what you like and in your unique style
4) It is 100% perfect energy, emotion, style, ideal for the occasion, and makes you look like a million dollars

The vast majority of people have achieved level 1 (they aren’t naked) and level 2 (what they are wearing allows them to function in their lives). Your wardrobe transitions from logical to emotional when you take it to level 3. Whether it’s your whole wardrobe or just a few outfits, this is where changing your clothes will change your life.

Those feelings you had with your first piece of LOVED clothing? Those are level 3 feelings. You can decide to feel that same confident, beautiful, powerful, happy energy each day when you get dressed. That’s a level 3 wardrobe. Imagine getting dressed into something you enjoy wearing and that’s your unique style. You are feeling powerful! There’s a smile that’s big and permanent on your face, shoulders are back, and you’re walking tall. You’ll go downstairs to breakfast and interact with your family differently because today, you are powerful! Then you’ll go to work and your relationships with your coworkers will be better because today, you are powerful! Throughout your whole day, you are successful, accomplished, and respected because you physically put on power that morning in the form of an outfit you love.

Remember: what you wear is powerful. Changing your clothes will change your life. And if you ever get off track, just remember your most LOVED piece of clothing and the feeling it gave you.

I challenge you to pick an emotion from your memory of most LOVED clothing and apply it to your wardrobe today. For example, if your emotion is “powerful”, then ask yourself when you get dressed: “Does this make me feel powerful? Why or why not?” Then make the adjustments necessary to move towards a more “powerful” personal style. You can do this! Find YOUR “perfect pink high heels”!

(If this is all a little overwhelming but sounds good and you’re ready to make a change, reach out to me at kamiwoodward.com for a free 30 minute wardrobe consultation.)

Re-wiring the Brain for Healing after Experiencing Domestic Violence

My heart was pumping and my mind was whirring even though my body was still. I was lying on the floor looking up into his eyes, he was straddling my waist and holding my wrists above my head, pinned to the floor. I was helpless. I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape. I had already learned from previous similar experiences that he was much stronger than me and no matter how hard I struggled, I had no power to move his body even the slightest. I felt the cold, hard linoleum kitchen floor pressing up against my back.

This was the moment that I would just listen to him, let him scream at me. Let him get all his frustration out. I would agree that I was in the wrong, that I was a horrible person, that everything I did was a mistake because I was too afraid of what would happen to me otherwise and I knew it was the only out of his physical trap.

People who experience domestic violence, have more effects on their lives than the abuse itself, whether physical, mental, emotional or other forms of abuse. Seldom talked about are the lasting effects of abuse, the chronic health conditions that can and do happen as a result of Domestic Violence.

Healing from Domestic Violence is a journey, and it actually takes a lot of work. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t instantaneous. People who experience Domestic Violence actually need help in this healing process, and they cannot do it all alone. I have explored many ways to heal and this post is about one of my favorites: affirmations.

Changing your thoughts and the way you think about yourself and your body actually can and does cause healing to occur and it’s not just woo woo stuff. It is backed up scientifically. Let’s look at the brain for just a second.

Inside our brains is the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is considered the brains attention center, is the key for switching on your brain, and is considered the main center of motivation. The RAS is connected to the spinal cord where it accepts information that travels to the mid brain and forms a complex neuron collection.

These neurons create thoughts and beliefs in the form of fibers called axons  which release chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses. The more and more we think a certain thought, the more we create the synapses, the more we build up neurons or new beliefs that begin to take over our core thinking. Conversely, the less we think a thought, those pathways disintegrate and no longer exist.

We do this, already, all the time, our negative thoughts and emotions actually create disease in our bodies because it is a dis-ease in the way we think of ourselves and thus care for our bodies.

This great infographic shows the link between domestic violence and chronic health conditions.

Louise Hay, one of my great mentors and a pioneer in discovering the link between our thoughts and the effects they have on our bodies, has written several books, one of which, You Can Heal Your Body, reveals the hidden messages our bodies are telling us.

70 percent of women suffer from chronic health conditions. 44 percent of women admitted they have experienced domestic violence. I took the information from the infographic and from You Can Heal Your Body and linked them together, the result is fascinating.

Health Condition in bold

Probable Cause in standard text

Affirmation in italics

High Blood Pressure

Long standing emotional problem not solved.

I joyously release the past. I am at peace.

Lower Back Pain

Fear of money. Lack of financial support.

I trust the process of life. All I need is always taken care of


Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.

I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.


Dislike of being driven. Resisting the flow of  life. Sexual fears.

I relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. Life is for me.

Difficulty Sleeping          

Fear. Not trusting the process of life. Guilt.

I lovingly release the day and slip into peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself. 


Anger you feel you do not have the right to have, Hopelessness.

I now go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.


Not trusting the flow and the process of life.

I love and approve of myself. and I trust the process of life. I am safe. 

Yes, you can heal completely from domestic violence. Yes, you can have a better life than the one you did before. All you have to do is the work. You’re future is up to you.

5 Reasons Why Marriage is Improving

Recently an article was posted listing 5 reasons why marriage doesn’t work any more. The truth is divorce rates are lowering and we as a society have been learning (and doing) what it takes to make marriage work. Here are my 5 reasons marriage still does work.

First, take a glance at the article to see what he listed.

Second, know that what he talked about are social agreements we have made that aren’t true.

The truth?

1. Sex is Important in a Relationship and We Don’t Have to be Supermodels in Order to Enjoy it

We all have the capability to show case our own natural beauty by exercising, eating right and learning how to do hair, make up and dress for own personal beauty and bodies. And the choice to make sex a priority. http://www.dressingyourtruth.com

2. Finances Are Just an Experience, Not the End All Be All
We all have the ability and the right to create a lifestyle of luxury and affluence. Money does not have to be a struggle. Money is a actually a spiritual experience. We have the ability to heal our negative experience with money are begin enjoying a positive experience.

3. The Ways We Communicate Doesn’t Change How we Communicate, We Do
We have the ability to use texting to connect to each other on a deeper emotional level to enhance the relationship. My boyfriend and I work opposite shifts and don’t see each other during the week. We text. We talk on the phone. We snapchat. We stay connected. Yeah sure I could worry about who else he is doing all those things with, but I don’t. I trust him.

4. Your Love Life is Your (and yours alone) Responsibility
Before we can experience love, we have to first love ourselves. We expect other people to solve our problems for us or to change so we will love them more. The truth is, we have to change ourselves. Our love life is our responsibility.

5. It’s Getting Better
It’s not getting worse. It’s getting better. We are aware that too much media is damaging. Step one is admitting you have a problem. We can’t control other people, but we can control ourselves. It starts with us. We make the change in our lives then we help others to make the changes for themselves. http://www.3keyelements.com

The links I included are some great resources to learn more

50 Shades of Domestic Violence

With all the talk about 50 Shades of Grey, the experience I had with domestic abuse, and the fact that I speak out about it, I figure I would speak my peice on the subject.
No, I have not read the book (I don’t even have the desire to). Yes I did see the movie (a friend took me along, and thank you for taking me, I love girls nights,  but it wasn’t my cup of tea, and here’s why):

I think the first red flag that stood out to me was a scene where Anastasia was at a night club with friends and drunk dials Christian. Sure, that’s something fairly normal when you first meet someone, Should I call him? Should I not call him? Drunk you however, has a loose filter and calls him. It raised the hair on the back of my neck when he went to the bar to find her, punched her male friend who was awkwardly trying to hit on her and then berates her for drinking too much. When she passes out, he takes her to his home, changes her clothes, and puts her in his bed. Without hardly knowing each other.

How would a man in a healthy relationship have handled the situation? He would have chatted with her on the phone for a little bit, made sure she was okay, and then trusted her decision to go out drinking with her friends. IF he had been at the club with her, he would have at least gotten her a cab, or gotten her friends to take her to her own house, and let her sleep it off.

It’s not romantic to stalk someone and tell them what to do. Sure he can talk to her and let her know he thinks she drinks too much and that it would be better for her in many ways if she backed off, and he has the choice if he wants to be in a relationship with someone who drinks as much as she does, or he could move on and find someone who drinks less. It really is that easy.

Similarly when Anastasia goes on vacation to see her mom, and Cristian just crashes her vacation and shows up unannounced. This is not romantic. This is creepy. It is stalker behavior. I would personally like to be in a relationship where I trust my man and I feel that my man trusts me in return. This is what makes a relationship last long term. And besides the fact, sometimes distance and space is a good thing. It’s good to miss each other. It’s good to disconnect with each other so you can connect with yourself and not forget who you are, because who you are is who they fell in love with in the first place.

As far as the sex goes, yes, sex is vital to a healthy relationship, yes, couples should experiment in the bedroom and try new things. Yes, it is good and healthy to build that intimate bond with each other. Talk about sex with your partner. Even have sex when you don’t really want to. It’s okay to have a quickie when you don’t feel up to it, and often times it will make you feel better anyway. And the more you have sex, the more you will want to.

A healthy relationship is NOT one where one person is made less (through their own feelings or through actual physical means) than the other in any way. Anastasia is bound and must do Christian’s bidding, obey him, and if she doesn’t, she is punished. Yes, I know the argument of that being what turns some people on, in a healthy relationship though, I think there is no place for it. Healthy relationships are about lifting the other person up and helping them feel good about themselves. You know that euphoric feeling when you feel good about yourself? What if you were able to extend that euphoria to the bedroom?

In order to stop the cycle of abuse, we need to change the way we think, speak and participate in relationships. I challenge you to expect respect, love and trust in your relationship. You start it by setting the intention, giving those things yourself amd changing what you speak about, think about, participate in amd understand about relationships.

Can we Remove Abuse from the World?

Abuse is in the media a lot. People who haven’t experienced it question it a lot. I’ve already written about it, and I have more to say. I want to help others understand what abuse is, and what abuse isn’t.

Abuse sneaks up on a woman
The first date isn’t wrought with emotionally or physically abusive jabs. The abuser doesn’t share stories about his abusive behavior in past relationships.

It’s fun and light and you talk about future plans and personal favorites. You try to impress each other a little bit. It’s a normal first date. And the relationship builds from there. You are courted and pursued and easily fall wonderfully in love. Yeah sure, maybe you have an argument or two. Maybe he yells at you and you yell back, after all we are all human, we all have emotions we are learning to process. We all have bad days.

So when does it become abuse?
You know, it’s interesting. As the abuser changes, he actually blames his partner for changing. And he’s usually pretty good at making his partner think they are the one who is changing. When you’re the one who is experiencing abuse, your world becomes so entangled in your own head, you don’t know up from down.

When the abuse happens
The very first time real abuse happens is usually a shock for the person experiencing abuse. After all you have already been together for months or sometimes years before something happens, and you have never seen this kind of behavior before. It’s easy to dismiss it as a one time thing, especially when the abuser is so apologetic.

When it happens again, you begin to wonder and right around the third time, you see the pattern setting in.

The Three Phases of Abuse


Once abuse happens, the cycle starts. First, there’s the explosion: physical, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, spiritual, etc abuse. This phase doesn’t last long and it is the most dangerous. Often times this is when the person experiencing abuse takes action, protecting themselves, the kids, the pets, calling police, or leaving.

Second is the honeymoon phase. The abuser fills his partner with apologies, gifts and promises of change, reform and counseling or church attendence. Anything he can do to get her to stay.

Third is the tension building phase. This is the longest phase and often the most frightening. The abuser starts to get moody and demanding. He often times starts falling back into old patterns, far away from the reform he promised. The person experiencing abuse can sense that an explosion is going to happen, so to avoid that, she does anything and everything she can to make him happy, often withdrawing from the outside world. This phase is a frightening waiting game. I don’t even know if I can explain how it feels. It’s terrifying, you feel like you are walking through a mine field, trying to pick your way through, but scared to death that one misstep will lead to that dangerous explosion. Every nerve on your body is on edge and it is exhausting.

And of course, after the explosion does happen, the honeymoon phase starts right back up again, and she thinks maybe, this is the time things will be different.

All of this centers around a pocket of denial. We buy into this denial as a society even, not really talking about abuse or believing it happens, especially if someone we love happens to be the abuser. What if we could change that? What if we started talking about abuse more? What if we helped the world realize this is something we no longer have to participate in? That we could perhaps teach people how to have healthy, loving relationships and how to get their needs met without resorting to abuse?

This is the world and the society I am working to create.