Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eight Years

 Eight years ago, I made a decision that ultimately affected my life forever.
I married my then-husband in the Mesa, Arizona temple.
 Soon we had children.
 The cutest freaking children in the entire world!
 Although marriage wasn't perfect, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.
 My whole life revolved around raising children. I was home with them all day and all night. I felt like life was what I had hoped it would be.

Eight years.

I was exactly 19.5 years old the day I got married (So happy half-birthday to me today!). I hadn't planned it that way. In fact, as my friends were dreaming of marriage, I was planning on becoming a nanny in another country or attending college in another state. I wanted to move out and have some time to grow.

But I did it exactly the way I was supposed to do it. I fell in love and got married. I was exactly the age I was supposed to be and it all fell into place.
 Life was rocky and beautiful. There was so much good.

Last year, as April 14th crept up on me, I knew I didn't want this day to be full of sadness for what could've been. I wanted it to be full of good memories and happiness. So we started a tradition of celebrating the day our family became a family.

It may look different. We might be a split family. But without April 14th, 2007, my children wouldn't be here. So today, we celebrate the choices two people made to bring those amazing little chicklets into the world.
 We celebrated today by having dinner at Texas Roadhouse and I told my children stories of my wedding day. I told them how happy we were and how amazing it was to welcome each of them into the world.
 And when they asked why it ended, we talked about how sometimes things don't go the way we planned them.

But God is always there. Even when the hardest thing we ever thought possible happens, we are never alone.

And each time they would start to get stuck on the heartache of our divorce, I would bring them back with a happy memory.

I emphasized how real those memories are. I emphasized that no matter what life is like now, back then it was how it was supposed to be. I loved their dad and he loved me. And together, we love the two of them so very, very much.
I really can't believe it's been 8 years since that sunny April day.

Sometimes I'm sad that it turned out this way but then I look at my two children and how much I've grown and all I have is a heart full of gratitude for these past 8 years.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Put Your Brave Pants On

I've been thinking about bravery and heroism lately. As I've struggled to crawl out of the hole I fell into, I've had to learn a few things about what bravery really means to me.

I've struggled a lot with the fear of abandonment. I've never had an explanation that makes sense in my mind because this is something I feared long before divorce.

Because of this, I'm often paranoid that the people in my life will leave me.

So for me, making friends is really brave. Even just meeting new people is really brave.

Being authentic and vulnerable is extremely brave.

But every day, I try. I go out into the world, most of the time with a big smile, and I try to make sure I'm making the world brighter. And when I can't make the world brighter, I at least try not to make it any darker.

Bravery is about trying. It is about getting up each day and deciding to do things that aren't always comfortable. It is breaking out of the square box we would normally live in.

Bravery is showing the world it can't break you. It is waking up with a smile when everyone expects you to fall apart. It is trusting your heart and believing in yourself.
Because as much as we want to believe others will pick us up, sometimes the best thing for them is walking away. And I'm not here to determine whether that choice is right or wrong because it's different for everyone.

So you have to learn to save yourself.

Be your own hero. 

Believe in who you are.

This is one of my greatest parenting goals. Teaching bravery to children is an every day, every minute task. Most of the things my kids experience are new to them and often times, they look to me for reassurance. Each day, I try to emphasize the importance of putting our "brave pants" on and trying our best.

This ranges from trying new foods to attending school to giving a talk in primary and sometimes it even means dancing in front of hundreds of people.

My kids do brave things every day. 

Princess struggles with this the most. She isn't as outgoing as Ninja and she often clings to my leg in new situations.

I remember the day she started kindergarten. I remember walking away as she cried and tried to run after me. I remember feeling like the worst mom in the world, even though I knew that brave moment would help shape her into the girl she is today.

That moment taught me a lot about my own life. Because more than once in my life I've watched people walk away and I've cried and wanted to run after them---but in my heart, I knew the best decision would be to stay put and put my faith in myself.

And the first few times, I was lost for a long time and couldn't find my way back. But the more I choose bravery, the stronger I become. The more I fight for myself, the happier I am. The more I trust myself, the healthier my self-confidence becomes.

I think God knew this. I think He needed to push me over the edge so I would find myself. I told Him over and over and OVER that He was giving me too much to handle but the thing is, He didn't. I found my way. In fact, I pushed further ahead than I've ever gone.

I've started reading my scriptures and praying and spending more quality time with my kids. I've started reciting positive affirmations in front of my mirror to remind myself every day that I DO HARD THINGS. 

Whether I wanted to or not, God gave me this particular life because I am supposed to be this particular person. And as the Suzanne that I currently am, I can sit here and tell you that I am just as worthy as anyone else. I am worthy of life and love and happiness.

And happiness doesn't need to include a husband or more children or a million friends or a ton of money---happiness is an inside job. It is something I get to create within myself. It is something I get to share with the people around me.

I am extremely lucky to be Suzanne. Often times, I've wished to be someone else but this person that I am is pretty cool. The empathy and patience and optimism that God blessed me with is something I wouldn't trade for a million dollars.

I am not breakable because I am a daughter of God and I know He will always pull me through---whether that means dragging me by my toes or walking with a hand on my shoulder, He won't ever leave me.

I am brave. You are brave.

Life is brave. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Days Like Today

 Oh today.

Today felt amazing.

Strong. Happy. Peaceful. Capable. Hilarious.

The only bumps in today consisted of two separate whining sessions from my favorite 6 year old---and both of them ended in giggles and huge belly laughs. In fact, I even saw some tears in her eyes.
It felt like freedom. Freedom from anxiety. Freedom from heartache. Freedom from the millions of worries that often plague my mind.

We woke up on time. Nobody complained about what I made them for breakfast. I got my girly off to school and my son to my sister's house and I headed to school.

School was awesome today. I spoke up about my eating disorder in Sociology. I rocked the hell outta my Geology lab. I understood every single thing in math class.

After school pick-up ran smoothly. I had some extra time to talk to Princess' teacher and I was reassured of her love for my daughter. We stopped at Chik-Fil-A for a snack and I let P do her homework there---and she finished it in less than 10 minutes.

No complaints. No whining. Just family life.
 We dropped P off at dance and came home for some quiet time. Ninja had earned Kindle time and I fell asleep on the couch for a few minutes.

Any time a worry would come into my mind, I was able to shut it down with logic and patience.
You guys, I was patient with myself!

We ate dinner as a family. We read books together. The kid took turns showering and bedtime was a breeze.

And now I'm sitting in bed thinking, "Was today real?". At first, I wasn't sure. I wasn't sure it was possible to have a day that could run this smoothly.

But I decided that today was my gift from God.

He knows me. He loves me.
I am worthy of days like today. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Warri()r

 I wanted to come here and tell you how stupid life is and how much life sucks. I wanted to complain and be angry.

But throughout the week, God has taken my anger and taught me with it. He has given me peace and hope when I really didn't deserve it from Him. And I feel humbled.
I was angry at God for a life that seems to flourish in trials. I was angry that He would allow so much in just a span of three years.

I've been told that publicly declaring that I can do hard things seems like an invitation to God but I didn't agree. Doing hard things and wanting to do hard things are two different things. Just because I do them doesn't mean I want to do them.

But I started learning this week. I started listening to my heart more instead of letting my anxiety control my thoughts. Something changed in me this week. I thought my insecurities had snapped me in half but what really happened is that I got so damn sick and tired of fear ruining me that I started to trust myself. I started to find confidence. I started to love myself and recognize some of the really amazing things I've done throughout the years. I started to hear truths about myself that I've never been able to believe before.
I started focusing on the most important thing...family. I am fighting. For the first time in a long time, this feels like real fighting.

Like warrior fighting.

Because although I've lived through a lot and have done some really hard things, I think most of the time I've fought for others, most specifically for my kids.

But today, this fight isn't even about them. This fight against Satan is about me. It is a fight I am going to win because Satan knows who I am and that scares him. He hates me. He wants me to fail and be miserable.

In the LDS hymn, We Thank Thee Oh God For A Prophet, it states, "When dark clouds of trouble hang o'er us and threaten our peace to destroy, there is hope smiling brightly before us."

There is hope smiling brightly before us. 

Dark clouds come from Satan. Hope comes from God. 

This week was a turning point in my life. As much as I don't like being refined through trials, I have been given so many opportunities to learn. I have been given so many opportunities to be stronger. In a spiritual body building contest, my strength would take me to the very top.

I don't have much doubt in myself today. And although I can't promise it will always be that way, today I have confidence in my character and my ability to make my life amazing.

I started out the week so angry at God for all of the things in my life but today, I am humbled that He has brought some of the miracles I've been praying for. They just didn't come in the exact way I had requested them. Instead of erasing some of my trials, God gave me a trust in myself that I have never felt before. He gave me the ability to discern truth, to have empathy, to function as a mother, to come closer to my family members and many of my friends.

It is because of my God that I am the warrior that I am. None of this would be possible without Him and today, my anger has been softened. My heart has opened up and I have seen how much I have to offer the world.

On April 1st (ironically), I made a decision that some have been excited about while others haven't quite understood. But it is a decision I felt was right for me.

In fact, I have not felt a single ounce of regret since that night.
Now as I look down at the feet that I plant on the ground each day to fight a new war, whether big or small, I am reminded that I am a warrior. No matter what comes my way, I will continue to fight. I will do it for my kids, for my family, and for my friends.
But most importantly, I will do it for myself. 

I am worth it. As I stare at the eating disorder symbol that represents the "o" on my foot, I am reminded that no matter what I look like or how much I weigh, my God believes in me and I can believe in myself.

As I've tried to listen to General Conference through the fights and mishaps with my wonderful children, I caught a quote from Elder Bednar's talk on fear. He said, "Godly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concerns that we can never be good enough. In truth, we cannot be good enough relying solely on our own capacity and performance. After all we can do, we are made whole only through the mercy and grace through the Savior’s infinite and atoning sacrifice." 

This spoke to my soul as I've struggled with feeling "good enough" for most of my life. 
I have realized that my measurements of 'enough' have never included the atoning sacrifice that my Savior paid for me. He makes up the difference when I fall short. I will always be enough in His eyes because I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father and He loves me. 

If ever there was advice to give that I hoped people would listen to, it would be that you are already enough. You are already loved by God. You don't have to prove anything to anyone because God knows who you are and He loves you as His child. 

Believe in yourself. Be kind and have courage. Get out of bed and find gratitude in the little things. There is so much power in gratitude. You and I have so much power over how we live our lives. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dear Women

Dear lady who judges the less active members at church,
I used to be you.
I have sat in a congregation and wondered why certain people weren't there. I have thought to myself, "If they would just pray more, read their scriptures more, etc., their testimony would be stronger and they would be here." I used to judge that they didn't have their priorities straight and that all it would take is them trying harder.

And then I became the girl who struggled going to church. I became the girl who often fought prayer at night because she didn't have the energy to recount every hard thing that had happened that day. I became the girl who was afraid to cry because she feared she wouldn't be able to stop---and prayer always brought tears.

I have learned that this isn't black and white, that my Heavenly Father understands my intentions every single night. He knows my choices and He waits patiently for when I come to Him. But He never scolds me for not showing up. He knows I am doing my best right now.

Dear mom who judges other moms for allowing their children to watch exuberant amounts of tv,
I used to be you.
Before I had children and even for a few years after having them, I made sure they didn't watch too much television. I thought moms like that were just lazy and didn't want to spend the time with their children. I vowed never to be that mom.

And then I became the mom who allowed her children to sit in front of the tv for hours on end. Although not a daily thing, on my hardest days as a single mom, I turn the television on and lay down in my bed or get homework done. I try my hardest to make the other times count, the times when the television isn't on, and I feel like for now, that's the best I can do.

I have learned that this isn't black and white, that parenting is different for everyone. There is no one right way. I have learned that parenting is hard and that no one is perfect at it. We all make mistakes...but the important thing is that we try again the next day.

Dear woman who views divorced couples as weak and selfish,
I used to be you.
There was a time when I looked down on divorced couples because of their lack of commitment. Why choose to get married and have children if you're just going to break up your family? Why not fight harder, try harder, be better?

And then I became the woman who filed for divorce. Years ago, I would've judged my choices as selfish and the thing is, maybe there is some truth to that. Maybe filing for divorce was selfish---because I was losing myself. I knew I had done everything I could do up until that point. I knew my husband wasn't coming back. I wanted relief from the pain that had been present in a lot of my marriage.

I have learned that this isn't black and white, that on the outside we might judge why a couple is getting divorced but we will never know the full story. We have not been there every second of their lives. We don't know their emotions, their pain, and their betrayal. And even to the couples who seem to get divorced when "they could've made it work", it just doesn't matter. Who are we to judge their decisions?



Life is tricky. It's messy and confusing. We have all been the judge and the judged. We all know what it feels like to wish the whole world knew our pain so they would understand why we make the choices we do.

But we aren't perfect. We all make mistakes. The best thing we can do is own our mistakes and try harder to have compassion the next time.

We may never be able to walk in someone else's shoes but we can choose to trust that they are doing the best they can with the life they're living.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Owning Our Stories

Blogging isn't always easy for me. Often times I worry about how my words will be perceived when I hit that orange "publish" button.

Owning who I am right now is scary because who I am right now is messy.

I've seen the blogs where everything seems picture perfect and many times, I've later found out that things weren't picture perfect. I try to make sure I'm not just showing you 'picture perfect' but I also don't want you to think that it's all bad or that I am always struggling.

It's a rollercoaster.

I'm currently experiencing an emotional hangover from The Togetherness Project, which was held in Phoenix over the weekend.
I felt a lot of feels this weekend. Some were highs but a lot were extreme lows. It's hard to trust life the way it currently is. It's hard to spend a weekend with friends while feeling guilty for leaving my kids after a busy week where I hardly spent time with them. Balance has been tricky and it's incredibly exhausting.

The classes at Togetherness were my favorite by far. The day was long but I was able to hear some pretty remarkable people teach and tell their stories.

I was able to meet some out of town friends that I had only cultivated a relationship with online. They came from all around, including Kansas and Alaska. Although I already knew I loved them, meeting them in person cemented those feelings much deeper. Togetherness is an interesting world. It is a place made up of women who live all different lifestyles but understand and empathize with each other. It doesn't matter what religion you are, where you live, or how you dress---Togetherness blends us all together to create an amazing group of warriors.

Enduring the addiction of a loved one is painful and hard. Often times you feel alone. You lose hope and feel discouraged that life will never get better. You may try and rescue your loved one or cut yourself off from them but no matter how you deal with it, you experience heartache.

A few years ago, this was me. I didn't even understand my feelings of anxiety back then. I didn't know why I always felt unstable in my seemingly stable marriage. It took years for all of the pieces to fall into place and when they did, I felt so alone and rejected and terrified of what the future would hold.

Togetherness changed that. I was suddenly meeting women who understood my fears and I was able to provide support for others who had felt alone.

It was beautiful. It is beautiful. 

As I fight through the despair that tries to grip my heart and diminish my faith, I am reminded that I am not alone. I am reminded that people love me. They love the things that I hate about myself. They stick around even when I struggle to believe that I am worthy of them. They are my heroes, my sisters, and my friends.

And in my life, I am blessed that they are not only the people I've met this past year. They are childhood friends and church members and neighbors and family. They surround me and pick me up when I fall to the ground.

I am truly scared of how my life will turn out. I am angry and insecure and my life feels unstable---but during these times when owning my story means telling you it's really hard, I also need to own the part where others pick up my slack. I also have to include the many times I've found others loving my children and giving them the attention that I can't always give or the people who have pulled weeds or helped with the housework I find myself struggling to accomplish.

Although I am struggling to love myself, I am so very loved. I am so very wanted on this earth and when I repeat that over and over again, it helps me to get through these times when I don't feel like I'm worthy of life.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Purple Everything

 It was a crazy week.

Every day, my Facebook notifications were 20+. I tried to scroll through all of them but once in a while, I'd miss one and see it later.

Purple.

Purple everywhere.

Purple shoes, purple nails, purple cups, purple hair, purple clothes...people were posting purple and sharing it on Facebook to honor National Eating Disorder Week.

It was beautiful. And scary. And overwhelming.

I'd like to tell you that the week was easy for me, that I didn't have to fight my eating disorder because of the recognizable love and support. But it wasn't easier. In fact, it was harder. I felt unworthy of the love. I felt worried that my story being shared over and over would land me in a place where no one would want to be my friend.

But it isn't true. That was ed talking.
My warrior friend, Tc, started this all. I remember when I first read her story and saw that she was asking people to wear purple for eating disorder awareness and then send her the pictures. I wore purple that Wednesday...silently...because I had yet to meet this friend in person and I was nervous.

I wasn't yet ready to open up about the severity of my struggles.

But I cannot believe what this year has done for me. I cannot believe what Tice has done for me.

Seeing all of the purple this week was powerful. Some of my coworkers wore purple on Wednesday and I had to hold back tears. It really touched my heart to see the support.
 On Wednesday, I decided it was time to put some wild color in my hair again and obviously I chose purple. I love it so much and am so happy I did it.

All week, friends were tagging me in their purple photos. These are just a few of them...




 And every day as I struggled to feel worthy of this love, I was able to keep going as I would stare at these pictures.

Saturday came and I was getting super excited for the National Eating Disorder Awareness walk the next morning. Last minute, I decided to make shirts for everyone we were walking with (15 of us total) so I stayed up late and painted NEDA WALK 2015 on all of them and on the back of each, I wrote "I walk for..." and filled in the blank with a personal message on everyone's shirts. Tc's family did the walk with us and I made each of them a shirt that said, "I walk for my (daughter, sister, aunt, mom, wife, etc)."
 As I walked behind my beautiful children and read the messages on their shirt, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the beauty of my life. We had talked ahead of time and I had explained a little bit of why we were doing this walk. Both of my children were proud to do it for their mom.

 Princess had a blast pushing the jogging stroller most of the walk.
 Tc and I had different shirts than everyone. Mine said, "I walk because I have worth" and hers said, "I walk because I am a warrior". We did this walk for ourselves. We also did it for others who have or are struggling with an eating disorder.
 Even the baby got NEDA pants. I painted NEDA on the bum and the front knees said NEDA 2015. Everyone loved her pants and she looked adorable.
 Not only did I walk for myself, I walked to teach my children a little about eating disorders and how real and scary they can be. I had the opportunity to have so many talks with them this week on body image and loving ourselves.
 I am so proud of them for taking that journey with me and being so willing to walk for their mom.
 If you didn't know, Princess and I are pretty similar in personality. :)

 Princess and Bella are two of my favorite girls in the whole world. I love both of them so much. Bella is Tc's daughter and it was so fun for these girls to be able to walk with each other.
 They are both brave warriors.
It was an incredible time and as we drove away from the Phoenix zoo, my daughter said, "Mom, can we please do that walk again next year? I loved it." And the answer to that question is yes.

We will do that walk every year we are able because it is personal. I have fought and continue to fight my eating disorder. It might seem like it isn't that big deal. Maybe it seems like I'm doing ok because I'm not a size 0 and my bones aren't sticking out---but eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. This is real for me and I hope and pray I will be able to teach my kids to honor and love their bodies, no matter the size of their clothing or the blemishes on their skin.