Top 10 Songs That Have Touched My Life and Helped Me To Heal

I think we can all agree that music is the language of the soul. There are so many songs that have helped me heal and become a better person. Actually many many more than I could possibly list. I did decide to pick the first 10 songs that came to mind. The ones that I still pull up and listen to every once in while no matter how long it’s been.

1.Stupid Boy
Keith Urban

First, I want to apologize to my readers…. I am not a country fan (my extended family would cringe at those words). So it was my lawyer who introduced me to this one. And it was actually the first song I remember ever hearing about domest violence.

2. Face Down
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

This one I heard on the radio driving home from work one day. It was reassuring to me that there are so many men who stand against abuse. This song gave me faith in humanity.

3. Over It
Katharine McPhee

Yeah sure, I know this song is about a break up, and just the lyrics alone was what I needed to hear.
“I’m over your lies,
and I’m over your games.”
“I’m over your hands,
and I’m over your mouth.
Trying to drag me down,
and fill me with self-doubt.”


4. Fly & Moment 4 Life
Niki Manaj

Fly (featuring Rhianna)
This one hit me in two ways. One it filled me with the belief that I would make it through the divorce and rebuild my life. And two it still gives me the fire to keep going and help others, no mattet what naysayers may say. (There will always be critics).

Moment 4 Life*
The lyrics in the first verse hit me the most (in fact that’s all I usually listen to. Over and over again).
” I fly with the stars in the skies
I am no longer trying to survive
I believe that life is a prize
But to live doesn’t mean you’re alive”

5. Russian Roulette 
Rhianna

I love going to the gym and doing classes. It’s what works for me. One of my favorite classes is Les Mils Body Combat . And my favorite track ever was to this song. It’s an older track, so it’s hardly ever done any more, but if you ever get the chance it’s super empowering. In fact, I would love to teach a 3 day class helping people to heal from abuse and have a Les Mils instructor come in and teach this one track to my entire class. It’s that good. It helped me to feel powerful and like I am in control of my life.

6. Titanium
David Guetta feat Sia

I was volunteering at 3 Key Elements Master Your Influence class and the instructor played this song and had the entire audience of 500 people walking up to each other, pretending their fingers were arrows and pointing them at each other, then bouncing off of an invisible shield really giving everyone the visual for ” I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away”. I listened to that song non stop for months after that.

7. If I Were A Boy
Beyoncé

How could I have a list of power songs without Beyoncé? I could actually choose a lot of her songs, but this one in particular describes so well how we sometimes feel as women. Powerful.

8. Guts Over Fear*
Eminem feat Sia

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The first few times I listened to this song, I listened to Eminem’s lyrics, I didn’t pay much attention to Sia. My sister text me a few days later asking me if I had heard it and I told I had and that I loved it. A few days later I heard it again, and this time I listened to Sia. I couldn’t hold back the tears, even 8 years after leaving him, I could feel the emotions of it all over again.

9. Be Still My Soul
Hymn sung by Vocal Point

I had this illusion that after my divorce relationships would be easy. I was so wrong. I still knew very little about what made a healthy relationship. I had my heart broken and broke other hearts along the way to learning what that healthy relationship looked like. I remember one day when my heart break was particularly deep this song was the only song I could listen to. It was like a healing balm and while it didn’t take the pain away completely , it did ease the sting.

10. I Wanna Get Better
The Bleachers

I don’t know what other people have done to heal from their trauma and abuse, but for me it’s been a journey spanning many years and actually a lot of hard work. I went to classes, I prayed, I journaled, I discovered energy healing, I even hired mentors. And this song reminds me of the first mentor I met. He taught the concept of expressing our emotions in a safe way rather than taking them out on someone else or holding them in. Both of which are extremely damaging.

11. Trouble
Never Shout Never

Okay, this one is a bonus. So I once hated love songs. I didn’t believe in them at all. I didn’t think that a man would ever really love a girl enough to write a song about it and sing it for her. I thought they were fake. When I started dating my now boyfriend, he made me two cd’s with nothing but love songs. So this one song actually represents both CD’s and it was right about the time he gave me those CD’s that I began believing in love songs, and so, believing in love.

*some of these songs contain explicit lyrics, veiwer discression is advised

Messages from Men

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I sat across from a complete stranger. A man. He was looking me straight in the eyes and telling me how amazing I am. Telling me I am strong and beautiful and a warrior. That I have a great mission to accomplish on this earth. My eyes were brimming with tears. I knew I was safe as 50 other couplings were doing the same thing. My job was to listen and not say a word. At the end of his minute, we all stood up and moved down the line to the next person. I looked at the person sitting across from me, and though the room was filled with men and women, again sitting across from me was a man and he began telling me all the good things about me. As that ended, there was a third rotation and even though it was slightly uncomfortable and scary I again sat across from a man with nothing but amazing things to say about me.

And that was part of my healing journey. I was taking a class designed to teach us all how to be trainers. I was on my path to becoming a trainer and speaker so I could teach others and help them overcome their experience with abuse. And I was healing along the way in unexpected ways.

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I cannot tell you fully the effect on me it was to sit across from these three strangers, all men who spoke so highly of me. And who were in awe of me. I know it was a gift from God to experience that. The best I can explain it was I could feel the broken and hurt pieces of my heart being stitched together.

Some people tend to think that when a woman is abused she just stands there and takes it. ‘Why doesn’t she just leave’ has been in the media a lot. It’s harder to leave than you might think and for reasons you may not even ever fathom.

There were times as my abuser sat on top of me pinning my 5 foot 10 inch frame to the floor and holding my arms down so I couldn’t move that I would say to him ‘You can’t treat me like this. It’s abuse.’

His reply? ‘No it’s not.’ Many abusers have an invisible line in their heads of what abuse is and isn’t or even what is not okay for others to do, but okay for them to do. His ‘line’? He wasn’t hitting me. But he frightened me and he terrorized me. Day in and day out.

And after living that way for so long, stuck in this world where I felt spider webs were being spun around me in every direction, constantly moving and breathing as if they were alive, where no matter what I did I would be caught, where men were only these forces in my life to be obeyed and to be feared. Where it was safer to conform than to be myself lest I be caught and eaten alive, I developed a fear of men.

I have been blessed to overcome that. And it’s taken some basic steps as well as time and patience and a little bit of work on my part.

1. Write a Note to God
This was the beginning of me healing my relationship with men. I wrote a letter to God. Telling him everything. All my worries and fears, my anger, resentment and bitterness. How I felt toward Him and felt I had been betrayed by Him. I wrote it all.
After pouring my heart out, I got another piece of paper and wrote a letter back to me from God. Words flowed to me and through me and I felt nothing but love, acceptance and understanding from God in return as the words filled the paper.

2. Forgive
I forgave my ex, I forgave his entire family. I forgave the person who sexually abused me when I was a little girl. I forgave my family. I forgave my friends. I forgave strangers. I forgave God and I forgave myself and on and on.
Anyone and everyone who had ever done anything big or small to hurt me. I forgave them. And I continue to forgive people as life goes on. This is one of the most freeing experiences of my life.

3. Be Vulnerable
I hate this one. I really do. Alright. Wait. I am learning to be aware of my words and that what I say creates my reality. I have struggled with this one. It’s like I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which actually is probably true and fairly common for people experienced any trauma including domestic violence.
I have had to work at this one. It’s been tough. And oh so worth it. Brene Brown gave an amazing talk on the power of vulnerability and as I have sacrificed the walls of security and safety I created for myself, I have opened up myself and my life to infinite possibilities. To a stronger connection with my son. To an amazing relationship with my boyfriend and to building my business to teach and mentor others to shift from surviving to thriving.

Enough is enough

I have heard many people spout opinions of Janay Rice, wife of Ray Rice, after the video of him hitting her in an elevator surfaced recently. “Why would she stay” “He’s just going to do it again.” Fact is, you don’t know what it’s like. Stop making her decisions for her. Here is what it’s really like to be married to an abuser, and why women stay. And why it’s important to let them make their own decisions.

I sat on the stadium bleachers next to my boyfriend of six months on my birthday in the cool early November afternoon sun.  I had just finished performing the half time show with the color guard and marching band at our college football game. The week prior to my birthday had been amazing, it all started with me walking to my car after class, I opened the door to find a small stuffed story book bear dressed in a princess costume on the seat, along with a bottle of lotion, a small jewelry box containing a silver necklace with a heart, a circle and a star strung through it, and a note that said:

“To the princess in my life It has been said that a birthday should be a week long affair…

A necklace that symbolizes 3 important parts of life

💜 – The love that I have for you

⭕ – For eternity the time I look forward to being with you

🌟 – For the hope and dreams that you are to me as an answer to my prayers”

Each day after that I had been showered with three gifts and a note, jewelry, clothes, other members of the story book bear collection and even a beautiful crocheted blanket with my name stitched in all my favorite colors. It had been beautiful.

My boyfriend and I were sitting at the game holding hands, and I expected no other gifts from him that day when all of the sudden his best friend walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a huge bouquet of colorful flowers with tickets to Disney on Ice tucked into the leaves and walked away. I was stunned. I had no words; I simply turned to my boyfriend with a goofy grin on my face, kissed him and reveled in the attention of such a spectacle.

My boyfriend knew how to make me feel special, another time, he woke me with a kiss and a red rose and a sweet note tied to the stem, relating the color of the rose to me “The red rose is to compare your beauty to. The rose is a weed compared to your beauty.”  He left me in bed and when I opened the door and walked out, there was another rose of a different color with an accompanying note on the floor, I picked it up and read it, and as I walked down the hall, I found another, and then roses on the steps as I walked downstairs, each rose a different color and a note relating that color to me. It was romantic as hell.

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I still have those notes in a scrapbook, the notes from my birthday and the notes from the roses, and dozens of other hand written notes my boyfriend, turned husband had given me over the years we had been together.

We used to lay in bed together and tell each other our dreams, the kinds of cars we wanted to drive, the kinds of jobs we wanted to have, how our home would look and the toys we would one day own. We became pregnant and prepared for the birth of our baby together, he would rub my feet and rush to fulfill my crazy pregnancy cravings.  He talked to my belly and we looked forward to the day our son would be born. That day came and we were parents. Things were happy.

At least most of the time. That is what the good parts of my marriage to my abuser was like. I sometimes think people think it’s all bad all the time. The truth it’s it’s only bad about 20% of the time, the rest of the time, it’s a normal and happy marriage. This is part of why women stay. It’s not always bad and we as human beings inherently believe in the best of the people we love. Can you see how I could have fallen in love with my ex husband? He was an unapologetic romantic and it felt so good to be treated like that.

Then there’s the fact that all couples argue. Not one couple agrees on everything all the time. Domestic violence relationships often have the same amount of disagreements as regular relationships, DV relationships often turn into to fights with yelling, degradation and even physicality. That’s what makes the relationship abusive.

A women leaves a DV relationship on average 7 times before leaving them for the final time. There are so many reasons a woman stays in a DV relationship and if she is talked into leaving, she is much more likely to go back to him because she didn’t make that decision on her own.

People can change. Sometimes experiencing or going through something horrible is the very thing that inspires us to change. I find it funny we often cheer for bad guys to become good in tv shows or movies like Once Upon a Time or read stories in the bible of men who used to preach against Christ, and then become one of his greatest disciples, like Saul who became Paul and still we often forget to love and forgive our fellow men and belive in them to change. Sometimes the person experiencing the abuse is the one to  change and miracles can happen and the power of someone believing I that is stronger than we know.

And maybe, just maybe we are meant to go through the hard times, had I not experienced the abuse I did, I would never have even thought to advocate for domestic violence. I once heard a little story that explains beautifully how experiencing hardships and pain can be a gift and why it is important to forgive the abuser.

After experiencing domestic violence myself, I have spent years studying, learning and teaching. I have found many tools to help me along my way in my healing process. I love Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and this is an amazing free tapping for me, it works wonders in helping to let go and to heal. I also suggest doing work on yourself to improve your self esteem, write down the good things about yourself, even the things you wish you were or had, read it every day. Remind yourself of how beautiful and amazing you are and believe in yourself and your success.

If you know a woman who is in a domestic violence relationship, I urge you to love her, to support her, to forgive her for not heeding your warnings, to be there for her and to let her decide what is best for her and her children. The answer still may be for them to leave and hopefully one day they will realize that before it is too late, that’s why I work to make domestic violence a conversation in hopes to change it. The answer may also be for them to stay, just remember, it is not for you to judge.

14 Tips to Becoming the Right One

Ive had my fair share of relationships and break ups. At 31 I’ve been married and divorced and dating and a single parent. I’ve learned a lot from these experiences.

We’ve all heard dating isn’t about finding the right one, it’s about becoming the right one, these tips will help you do just that.

1. Look for the Silver Linings
Every relationship you are in, you learn more about yourself, about others, about relationships. Look for the wins and the lessons rather than the losses and the failures.

2. Get off the Merry-Go-Round
When you mess up and experience something that causes a break up, a similar situation will come up in the next relationship, (or even in the same relationship over and over again) will you do the same thing again, or will you react differently?

3. Be True. Be You!
You have to learn what you don’t want in order to know what you do want. Stop going by what others tell you you should and should not want, figure it out for yourself.

4. Would you Date you?
Always always work on you whether single or in a relationship. Give yourself the gift of growth, opportunity and me time.

5. Listen Up
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. This is key and perhaps even the most important component to a happy and healthy relationship. Be vulnerable, express your feelings and thoughts, your dreams and fears, your worries and hopes.

6. Don’t Judge
Honor your partner, where they are coming from and where they are now. It’s not your job to change them, it’s your job to love them for who they are.

7. Who Are You?
Stop letting your relationship be all consuming. Have your own hobbies and interests, allow your partner to have their own hobbies and interests. Spend time apart.

8. Words Matter
Speak positively about your partner and to your partner. What you speak about, you bring about. Stop teasing with harsh words or degrading jokes. Words stick. (Be aware of your tone too! The way you say what you say makes a difference).

9. Use declarations
Wake up every morning and declare how much you love yourself, how much you love your partner, how much you love your kids, and how beautiful your life is. It’ll help you be open to seeing the good day to day.

10. Monkey See Monkey Do
Be aware of what your kids learn, hear, see and experience. What are you modeling for them?
11. Do the work
It’s worth it! Having a loving and committed relationship doesn’t just happen, you have to make sacrifices. If you want a spouse, kids and a beautiful home, you can’t also have a girlfriend/boyfriend and go out partying every night.

12. Seek out learning and help constantly.
And stop expecting your partner to do the same or do it with you. It’s okay for you to learn all you can, they will benefit from your knowledge naturally.  (I love books, podcasts, classes etc).

13. Patience
Keep repeating yourself if you have to. People are ready to hear certain things at certain times. Stop getting caught up on I already told you that once (stay away from taking it too far and being a nag either). Realize your partner sees and experiences the world differently from you and that’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Think of all you can learn from and teach each other.

14. Be forgiving. Be forgiven.
We all mess up we all make mistakes, in fact, we’re supposed to. Forgive your partner, forgive yourself. Relationships are going to bring up a lot of stuff. That’s what they are designed for. If you choose to see ‘problems’ in relationships as ‘learning experiences’ instead, new doors will open for you that you never saw possible.

5 Tips to Help Grow Your Connection With Your Child

I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant. I’m pregnant. I sat on the toilet in disbelief. I was staring at the blaring positive on my at-home pregnancy test. It was a quick and swift positive, and I was unprepared to be a mom. In fact, I didn’t want to be a mom.

I had been thinking of leaving my husband for a while. Being pregnant, changed things. I remember praying to God, explaining to Him why I didn’t want to be married any more, why being pregnant would make everything so hard, begging Him for an out and since for me abortion wasn’t an option, I actually prayed for a miscarriage.

The answer I got was immediate and sure, I would not experience a miscarriage, I would carry my baby full term and all would be well. What I did not know at that time was having my son in my life, would change me for the better and was what encouraged me to finally leave my abusive marriage.

After my son was born, I didn’t feel a connection to him, I hardly felt he was mine. The baby the nurse held in front of me after I had given birth seemed alien and strange. I wondered if all mothers felt this way? Was there something wrong with me? Did it just take time to build a connection? I had always assumed it would be this immediate bond, for us, it was not.

Eight years later my connection to my son not only exists, but is stronger than ever and continues to grow. I had to learn a lot, understand a lot and accept a lot in order for that to happen. I had to do a lot of work.

Whether you instantaneously connected with your child or not, these tips will help you deepen and grow your connect (after all, if you don’t take time to water something, it will die).

1. Trust Yourself

I remember thinking I had the mom thing down, after all I was raised the oldest of four and had grown up in an in home daycare, I had a great understanding of child development and entertaining kids.

I did not realize how afraid I would be to leave the hospital with a three day old infant. Walking in my mud room with my baby in his car seat, I became keenly aware of each and every thing that I hadn’t baby proofed and the danger my once safe home seemed to be suddenly filled with.

Rather than give in to the worry and anxiety that threatened to take over, I took every event one moment at a time, from poop all over my hands due to a bowel movement mid diaper change to the Christmas falling on him while he was rocking in his swing (there was no injury and we replaced that old tree with a newer more stable one).

Trust yourself and your instincts, you were born with parental insight for your child and I think kids are built to last through most of our mistakes.

2. Clear Out Past Trauma

The emotions and energy you experience while pregnant and during the birth process actually do affect baby. When I found out I was pregnant, I was afraid and knew I wanted to leave my husband so I didn’t want the pregnancy. Is it any wonder that when the nurse showed me my son for the first time, I felt disconnected?

Letting go of any negative feelings and trauma that may have occurred during pregnancy and birth will help mom and baby connect even more.

3. Forgive and Love The Other Parent

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and in which case it bears repeating, if you haven’t heard it, read carefully: you already know your child is half you, please remember your child is also half the other parent.

If you hold anger, a grudge, or negative emotions toward the other parent, don’t be surprised if you hold those same emotions in some form toward your child. It’s much easier on you and your child if you just let go of those emotions toward the other parent, realize they are doing the absolute best they can with what they have been raised with and been given and remember how much your child loves both of you.

4. Ask For and Accept Help

I was sitting in the insta-care of my pediatrician’s office giving my twelve month old his first breathing treatment for the RSV he had just been diagnosed of, I had been in the women’s shelter for only a few days, and while i had always prided myself on being strong and capable of anything, I was so grateful to have my mom and grandma sitting in that examining room with me.

Asking for and allowing help in your life does not mean you are weak, but rather that you are strong. I remember a mentor once teaching me to practice accepting help by allowing people who offer to hold open a door or help carry an arm load or whatever it may be, to do just that, help. It takes strength and courage and a bit of humility to admit you can’t do it all, just remember the little lives that are counting on you, and be open to any help that is offered you. (If you’re like most people you already do plenty to offer your help to others, it’s okay to accept it in return).

5. Put Down The Phone

I know, we hear this a lot, and I know it should be obvious, and I’m going to say it again Put Down The Phone. My own son has even said it to me, and I sheepishly put it to the side.

Spend time with your child. Dedicate at least 30 minutes of undivided attention to your child every day. Play what they want to play, cook what they want to cook. Cook something together, Play outside, play inside, read books together, go out, stay home, do whatever to make it a special moment for your child to help them feel important to you and loved by you.

Taking Responsibility: Why Being in a Domestic Violent situation was my fault

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

“But you’re 20 years old and he’s the only boyfriend you’ve ever had.”

“And we’re getting married in a month. Everything will be fine.”

Yes I was young and naive, yes I knew nothing about relationships and yes, I was that 20 year old girl, marrying a 24 year old man I had only dated for just shy of a year, the only guy I had ever dated.

When I left him 3 1/2 years later and began my journey staying in the women’s shelter with my then 12 month old son, I was told I was the victim, and I bought it. Hook, line and sinker. It was refreshing and easy to believe that everything that had happened was no fault of my own. That the way he treated me was because he was the jerk, he was the one at fault. Truth is, I had 100% of the responsibility for how I allowed him to treat me.

It was hard when my thoughts began to open to the idea, that maybe I’m not really a victim, it was so much easier to believe that life just happened to me, and so much harder to grasp that I had actually created the life I was living.

I think we are doing a disservice to every person we tell ‘you’re the victim here’. If we instead ponder ‘what did I do to get me where I am today?’, we begin to open our minds to the reality that we have the power and ability to actually create our own life. And if we don’t like it, we change it. We change our life by changing our self.

1. Love Yourself

As we begin to work on first  loving ourselves, forgiving ourselves, allowing ourselves to make mistakes and stop expecting so much of ourselves, our hearts soften toward ourselves and we are able to give love to others even better. How can we love and serve others, if we do not love ourselves? The biblical quote is even ‘love our neighbors, like unto ourselves’ do we really love ourselves?

Write yourself a love note. Tape it on the mirror and read it to yourself everyday.

2. Love your partner

I know the thoughts and turmoil you go through when you’re not in a healthy relationship. You love your partner, and yet you’re afraid of what they might do. You want others to think the best of both you and your partner, you don’t want to air dirty laundry. Take time to remind yourself that they are hurting too, when someone acts out in anger or violence, it is because they have a wounded child in them from their past. Remember that their innermost part if them self wants to be loved and wants to be a good person. I don’t belive any person is born into this life as a bad person. Loving them will help you forgive them, and forgiving them will help you heal.

3. Be Prepared to Leave

Just because you love yourself and you love and forgive your partner does not mean that you stay in a dysfunctional relationship. If you need to get out, then get out. You can love yourself and still get out. You can love them and still get out. In fact sometimes it is because of those things that you do leave. Staying in a broken relationship will be worse for both sides in the long run.

If you do choose to leave, have an escape plan, if possible have copies of important documents hidden away in your car or friends house or work, and have three days worth of clothes for yourself and your children (including diapers) have some food and water stashed away (including formula), try to hide away cash, and have a safe place to go to like a women’s shelter (I’m advocating for men’s shelters) or a friend’s house. Don’t hesitate to call the police if necessary. They will help you and it will be okay.

Take power over your life. Do not claim being a victim. You are a person who experienced abuse. Every person who does their part to stop the cycle of abuse in whatever way that is, helps with the bigger picture and world wide healing from and stopping of anger and hurt and dysfunction. May God and angels go with you.

Being Single and Being a Parent

There is one simple fact making single parenting difficult. And that simple fact is, you are single, and you are a parent. Okay this may be obvious, but here’s how it goes:

being single
So I know there are those few out there who are perfectly happy living a life without a partner, but for the most part, the majority of us want to find someone to be with. A partner to have and to hold, someone who makes us laugh and brightens our day with a small token of affection, someone to share life’s joys and challenges with, someone who puts the scissors away in the wrong place, someone who pushes all our buttons and someone who we love, learn, and grow with. That does not change after a divorce or separation, we still want those things. Of course there must be time taken to heal however, after that there is this whole brand new world if singledom.

So here you find yourself after a divorce once again in the dating world, getting asked out out to dinners, movies, bowling, dessert, a plethora of dates and sometimes having to say no, or schedule something a week out, or go home after the date earlier than you normally would, because you are also something else, and you are that first, a parent.

Being a single parent is a different and interesting world. There are some parents who have their kids always, some who are custodial parent (having their kids 3/4 time) or non custodial parent (having their kids 1/4 time), and still others who split kid time 50/50, and every imaginable combination in between.

being a parent
There is so much that goes on in the single parent world. Some parents take their kids with them every where, to singles parties and functions. For the most part, it works out well, the kids have other kids to play with, the parents spend time mingling with each other forming bonds and alliances, enjoying the sisterhood of single mothers and the brotherhood of single fathers with some good flirting mixed in.

Sometimes it is to the detriment of kids, being dragged to strange places to meet strange people, not receiving the time and attention they need from their parent as that parent talks and flirts with other adults, being kept out past bedtimes or through nap times, all for the sake of the parent having some much needed down time and adult time.

Being a single parent is exhausting, whether you are co-parenting or have no interaction with the other parent, you often still don’t have the support needed to truly offer what you think is in the best interest of your children because the other parent has their own idea of what they think is in the best interest of the children, or they act on their own personal interests. Or you lack the support all together.

being a single parent
I really believe there is a reason families have been structured with two loving parents, it is so much better for the kids and the parents, to have the love, support and solidarity that comes from a complete family unit.

I was lucky enough to have a dear friend who was a single parent for much of the same time I was, and we vacationed together, went to events together, took our kids to the park together, we were able to offer that support to each other of giving our only child a playmate and each other that adult counterpart to talk to.

There is a solution for each single parent out there, a balance between the single life and the parent life. Remember to keep your kids needs and interests in mind, most especially that time with you. No matter what role you play as a parent in your own family, love yourself, be patient with yourself, know that you are doing the best you know how. Put your child first as much as possible, listen to their needs and wants, and ask for help; ask your extended family, ask your friends, ask your neighbors, ask your fellow church goers and religious leaders, ask angels, ask God or your Higher Power. The saying ‘it takes a village’ is as true today as ever.

I’m a Real Mom

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“Nope, no more media time for the day, you’ve had enough and it’s bedtime.”

“Just let me watch one show on Netflix.” My seven year old begged.

“No, school starts tomorrow and it is 8:30, it’s time for bed.”

“Just a little…”

“Nope, downstairs to your room and pick out a book.”

He swiped at me, clawing me with a soft hand across my belly.

“You do not hit mom, that is not okay. Apologize.”

He sank to the floor at the top of the steps.

“No!”

“It is not okay to treat mommy that way. Apologize.”

“No!”

At a loss of what to do, and only knowing that if I continue to let my son win these battles, it will teach him he does not have to listen to and respect authority, knowing that no matter how much I just want to send him to his room without the apology and wash my hands if this entire situation, if I do so it will do him no favors, and it was doing exactly that kind of thing that got us into the situation we are in now, I straddled him with my feet.

“Apologize.” I demanded.

“Only if you let me go.” Again, I knew that by giving into his little demands, it was teaching him he could control and manipulate others, having left his controlling and manipulative father six years ago, I remember lamenting that his mother never did anything while he was growing up to teach her son how to respect others, I was not going to make that same mistake.

“No, Apologize.”

He struggled. “No. Only if you let go first.” I sat on him, being careful not to put my full weight on him, but keeping him still. I held his hands back from hitting me.

“Apologize.”

“You’re hurting me. Let go and I’ll apologize.” I knew my hands were loose on his wrists and my full weight was not on his hips. I knew I wasn’t physically hurting him and I knew his exclamation was again a tact or ploy to get me to let go.

“Apologize and I’ll let go.”

When he realized I wasn’t letting up, he yelled out “I’m sorry!” I instantly stood up. He ran downstairs to his room and I walked somberly to the kitchen, holding back tears.

My phone rang. It was my boyfriend. I picked it up an explained what had just happened. He showed his surprise and disproval at my tactics. “I just didn’t know what to do.” I lamented. “I want him to learn who’s in charge.”

“Well, you certainly taught him who’s bigger.” That hit me like a ton of bricks, not exactly what I was going for, but true, I thought.

“I just don’t know how to do this. Sometimes I think he would be better off with his dad, his dad seems to handle his disobedience well. I want to give my son the best possible life I can and I want him to understand how to treat people.”

“You know sending him to his dad wouldn’t help. You can do all that. You need to make sure you follow through. You need a little help and some coaching.”

“I know. I have that appointment with that new counselor in a couple of weeks…”

“Baby, you’re fine. Everything with be okay. He’s a good boy and you’re a good mom.”

“Thanks.” I manage, though I don’t fully believe it, and he knows I don’t.

My son is not officially diagnosed as of now, however, I do feel he falls within the large umbrella of behavioral disorders. Perhaps a touch of ADHD and a bit more Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD).

For those who don’t know what ODD is, I’ve done some research and really like the information the Mayo Clinic has on their website. Here’s a brief overview:
“Even the best-behaved children can be difficult and challenging at times. But if your child or teen has a persistent pattern of tantrums, arguing, and angry or disruptive behavior toward you and other authority figures, he or she may have oppositional defiant disorder (ODD).”

I am also concerned with his future, Mayo Clinic lists complications of ODD: “If these conditions are left untreated, managing ODD can be very difficult for the parents, and frustrating for the affected child. Children with oppositional defiant disorder may have trouble in school with teachers and other authority figures and may struggle to make and keep friends.”

What parent wants their child to struggle with those difficulties? And I can easily see how if left untreated, that’s how my sons life will turn out.

So I find myself in nearly every challenging and frustrating experience with my son with all those things running through my mind simultaneously while staying calm, using energy healing, calling on all the information and advice in every parenting book I’ve read (I’ve read several) and from the counseling appointments we’ve been to, and holding a prayer in my heart asking God and angels to help teach, be patient with, and understand my son.

I have mixed feelings about putting a label on my son. On one hand, I don’t want him to be prejudged as that ADHD/ODD kid and I don’t want him to use those labels as a reason or excuse to either do or not do things. On the other, hand, when I talk to other people about why my son acts the way he does, I can put a label to it and people instantly understand rather than me having to explain in detail which helps others treat my son with the extra patience and attention he needs as he grows from this experience.

In my dark moments i allow the thoughts: my son is struggling, daily life is a constant battle, school is a challenge, church is a challenge, home life is a challenge. I sometimes feel like I’m the worst parent on the face of this planet, and if only I had been better at being consistent when setting boundaries in his earlier years, then maybe my son would be better behaved now, maybe all of this would be easier.

When I let those thoughts take root, more follow, like ‘I don’t even have my son full time (he is with his dad Tuesdays and every other weekend), how could I handle him full time?’ Or ‘I have been raised with my mom doing in home child care, parenting should come naturally to me.’ Or ‘I should just let his dad have him full time, my son doesn’t need or want me in his life anyway.’ And it all boils down to ‘I’m not a real mom.’

And then I remind myself what I have come to see, beleive, know and understand in recent years, what we say and what we think becomes our reality, if I allow those thoughts to continue to run through my mind and come out in my words, then I am creating that life daily.

It has been six months since that day at the top of my stairs. I learned a lot from that counselor, he is amazing and exactly what I was looking for (I went through half a dozen other counselors before I found this one be patient if you too are on that path, the right counselor for you will show up) I have begun to change the way I speak to and parent my son, I have changed those thoughts of struggle to thoughts of love and peace and hope, even if current reality shows me something different, I know as I continue to speak positive words and phrases about my son, about my parenting, and about all other pieces of my life, that eventually it will reflect in my reality, after all, I have spent many years thinking and speaking in the reverse, I can’t expect instant change and I will be tried and tested to see if I really will and do hold to the opposite of pain and struggle and lack. I do so more and more each day.

I’m here today to say ‘I am a real mom.’ I love my son fiercely and want nothing but the best for him everyday. I do the best I can do with the best I know how and I continue to learn better parenting techniques though counseling, reading, and classes. So I may not get it perfect every moment of every day, but who does? No matter how it may look, no one always is a perfect parent. And I know that I am a real mom.

In all of this at one point in the middle of my work day in the middle of a prayer I was reminded of Helen Keller. I remembered as a little girl watching the movie about her life and how much her teacher and parents struggled with her and how challenging it was to teach her how to be civil and how to speak sign language and how to get along in this world with her disabilities. And then, years later, she became a strong and influential woman, an inspiration to many others. The thought that things could be similar with my son came to mind, that even though there may be struggles and times may be hard, as I do my best, and continue to rely on the help of others, as I change my words and thoughts to the positive and as I keep God at the center of it all, everything will be okay, my son has all the potential any other child has. And I am a real mom.

Can Abusers Change?

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Side Note: there are several “easter egg” links in this blog post with lots of great information, I highly suggest checking them out!

I lay on my bed alone as my husband was in the front room watching tv, yet again, I was going to bed without him. My heart yearned to feel loved and cherished rather than an object or convenience.

My mind was slowly meandering and I settled on questioning why the man I was married to acted the way he did and treated me poorly. I began to pray:

“Please Heavenly Father, I am doing everything I know how to do, I am a good person, I go to church, I read scriptures, I pray, I pay tithing, I attend the temple, I am doing everything right, I was promised a good marriage to a good man in my Patriarchal Blessing. Please, please, please just change my husband, it has to be better than this, I can do even better, I can be even more perfect if you’ll just change him”

My emotions felt as if they were pouring out of my heart as I begged, at that time I didn’t even open up my thoughts to any other option. As I look back, I think I was quietly and softly being told to leave then, and in my stubbornness, my only thought was God should just change my husband and I was waiting for my prayers to be strong enough to call that change into existence. It took some compelling by the Lord to finally open my mind to the fact that God wasn’t going to just change my husband, that he has his own free agency, and instead I needed to leave.

Here’s the truth about abusers: they CAN change IF they make that choice and IF they get outside help from family, friends, and counseling (I also suggest checking out energy therapy) It is possible, though it’s not a quick fix by any means. If this is the road you and your abuser choose to go down, it may still be safer to leave or ask them to leave for a while during treatment.

Don’t just rely on promises or what appears to be effort, abusers still can woo counselors and other help to make it seem like they are changing when you in fact know they are not. Go with your gut, listen to the promptings in your mind whispering the truth to you. Ask for God (or whoever your higher power may be) and angels to guide you.

In most cases, abusers choose to not change, and often times if they know you are considering leaving or wanting them to change, they will do their best to spin their webs of deception around your mind until you can’t think straight and you believe there is no other life without them. Don’t believe it!

I know how much you may wish and beg and plead for them to change, I know first hand of the fear and panic and danger of leaving. Be strong. Carry on. Do what is right for you and your children.

The Shelter

I could feel the soft pull on my nipple and let down as my twelve month old suckled in the early morning hour, the soft yellow of the rising sun. I half dozed as he nuzzled in close, and I was cherishing this sweet bond between mother and son, enjoying the sweet flow of life in this moment I so rarely experience.

A knock rattled the wooden door, I lifted my head, “Time to get up…” sang a woman’s voice. I let my head drop back down to the pillow as thoughts ran quickly through my mind. I’m nursing my son, can’t I just have a moment of peace. I’ll get up soon, I’ll be a good girl, I’ll do what I am asked, just let me have this moment. “I’m nursing my son.” I called out. “We’ll be out in a minute.” I planned on weening him at twelve months, but when our world was suddenly turned upside down, us homeless and me a single mom, living together in a shelter with strange women and unknown children, our schedule dictated to us by some random third party who did not know us, our lives, or our circumstances; battling the justice system, all while terrified of what my then husband and father-in-law might do, the words of my father-in-laws threat constantly running through my mind, influencing all the decisions I was making I have worked for the city, I have worked for the county, I know all the judges and all the judges dirty laundry, if you leave my son again, you will not get custody of yours.” With all of that, I knew we could both use the comfort and normalcy nursing provided.

The Shelter
I finished nursing, but not before another knock rattled my door, this time with the woman coming in. There was no real privacy here. After dressing myself and my son from the limited clothing options I had and changing his diaper, we were out in the common area of the shelter. Shelter life was not quite what I expected, I remember walking in with visions of something like an elementary school cafeteria with cots set up in rows and public bathrooms. I expected meals to be served from the school kitchen on plastic trays with little milk cartons, the whole scene with a faded tonal quality. Instead there was a large open area divided into two sections, a living room with three couches set up in a ‘U’ and a large flat screen TV on the open end, we even had Dish network, and a dining room with two large tables and benches, there were three or four highchairs lining the back wall, satelliting out from the main living area were offices for the counselors, a play room with donated toys and movies, a large kitchen and pantry where we prepared our own meals, and five bedrooms each with their own bathrooms and the capacity to sleep 5-6 women and children.

Shelter Rules
We had to take turns doing daily chores, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and moping, cleaning our bathrooms, and preparing the meals they told us to. They provided a washer, dryer, and laundry soap, I remember walking down the five flights of stairs into the dark unfinished basement where we did our laundry, the other women staying there told ghost stories about the creepy room, though I never saw anything. One evening the assigned meal was meat loaf, while I had seen my parents make it all growing up, I never had prepared it myself. I’m not sure why she was there, because she rarely was, but the director taught me how to make the meatloaf, it was a tender mercy to be standing there in the kitchen, cooking dinner together she felt like a mother figure to me and that brought me a small bit of peace in a then otherwise cold world.

There was a 9 o’clock curfew, if we weren’t in by 9 o’clock, with a few pre-approved exceptions we would be kicked out, period. One night, shortly after beginning my stay at the shelter, I found myself in the doctors office with my son at 8 pm I was lucky enough to have my mom and Grammy in the office with me, my son had just been diagnosed with RSV the nurses instructed me on how to give him a breathing treatment and had ordered a machine for me. It was miserable to stick the silicone mask in my one year old’s face as I held him tight and he cried and tried to get away. When I knew the appointment would get me back to the shelter past curfew, I called and told them what was going on, this was obviously and exception, and I had no problems getting back in when I showed up half an hour past curfew.

Shelter Living
We lived on the fourth floor, no one was allowed in except those of us staying there and a handful of counselors. It was that fact that brought me the most comfort, I knew my ex and his family had absolutely no access to me. There were legal advocates to help us file temporary custody papers, divorce decrees, and protective orders as needed, she was a liaison between us and the legal system, some thing I was particularly grateful for as I had absolutely no experience with the justice system. There was a daycare we were allowed to leave our children at free of charge for when we absolutely needed it. We had to take Domestic Violence, Self Esteem, and Parenting classes that would continue on after we left the shelter and optional one on one financial and sexual assault/abuse counseling available as well. We could only stay in the shelter for 30 days, then we were kicked out, we had the option of getting assisted living, and in order to be approved for that, we had to have a job and pass a drug test. That was my first and only experience being drug tested, and having a woman assigned to you to watch you pee was a little weird.

The Other Women
When I walked into the shelter, my son and I were the only ones staying there, the first woman to join us was older, in her 50’s or so, she had left her abuser several times before. I was blessed enough to have a car, and after my ex canceled my sell phone service, my Grammy gave cash to buy a new cell phone, the woman knew I was going to get a phone, and asked if she could come along and visit her bank while we were out, I drove to a mall far away from the one my ex and I had frequented, when I took her to the drive through for her bank, she found her accounts had all been frozen, she had no access to money and shortly after returned to her abuser again.

Another girl had two children, and pre-teen boy and a four year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome the mother had little time and attention for her daughter, as she was so wrapped up in everything else going on, I stepping in as I could, and I now understand her come from as my son falls somewhere in the behavioral needs spectrum.

One girl, somewhere in her 30’s I remember as being super cute and nice, I even let her borrow my shoes, then had to claim them back after she cut herself and they kicked her out for drug use.

A mother came in for one night with her five children, the children were frightened and unsure of everything going on, I remember talking to one of the daughters about anything that didn’t have to do with the shelter to help comfort her, that family was out the next day as the mother had taken legal measures to kick her abuser out of the family home.

There were many more who came and went in the 3 weeks I stayed there. I was surprised how many women had been in the shelter before, and come back several times. We would put all our children to bed and sit up on those three couches in the living room with the TV off talking about our lives, children, and abusers. There were woman who had it far worse than I had, I was the only one with a car, steady job (even though it was seasonal and I was furloughed, I knew I would begin work again soon), I had a strong support system of family, friends, and angels. Some women had no hope of living a life on their own, believing they didn’t have the skills to do so. Some women had been beaten so bad they had had hospital stays, one had been locked in her house with her children whenever her abuser left with absolutely no access to the outside world. I remember being told I was beautiful and tearing up over it, it had been so long since I had heard those words and I had forgot I was. It was humbling and frightening to hear each others stories, but we lifted each other and buoyed each other up, we were all we had.

Shelter Classes
For me, it was in the classes that I began to find hope and faith again. I didn’t think I really needed them at first, I thought I was above them, and as I continued to go, I began a journey of self improvement that has not stopped in the seven years since I left. I remember sitting in the Domestic Violence class as the teacher was speaking and letting my mind wander, I was pondering the fact I never thought I would be where I currently was, I never thought I’d be a single mother leaving an abusive marriage, I realized there was a long road a head of me, and my life had taken a complete 180 degree turn, and I didn’t know where to go from here, anything was possible, it was then I had a thought come to me, Everything will be okay, you are going to get through this, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you learned. It was four years later that I found a company that teaches how to be a trainer and a mentor, I knew this was the start to my journey as a teacher to help these women, and I have taught in several locations, including the very shelter I once stayed at.

All in all, I am truly grateful for the shelter experience, it opened my eyes to the truth of the world by taking off my rose colored glasses, it gave me a safe place for myself and my son. The shelter taught me lessons I could have learned no other way and set me on a new and invigorating life path, I won’t trade that for the world.