Fists of Fury

“5 Activities to Help You Be A Good Mom”

That was the caption under a pin on Pinterest I scrolled across a few days ago. No sooner had I read those words, an intense rage boiled up inside of me. Not just normal rage- “Momma Bear” rage. My husband likes to joke that I am sweet until someone brings out the “Philly Fire” in me and then people better watch out! And nothing stokes that Philly Fire more than my momma bear instincts. Why was this stupid Pinterest pin making me so angry? I wanted to punch the fake smiling mom in the photo in her face. Okay, that’s a tad violent, but who is she to tell me I’m not a good mom? And why would her activities ensure I was a good one? She doesn’t know me or my life!

I truly believe this is why so many women feel like they aren’t good enough. There’s this constant flow of ads on tv, magazines, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram making us feel like we are falling short. Social media in general can make one feel extremely bad about themselves if they are not careful.

Mantras For Mommas

Repeat after me ladies: I am NOT a bad mom!

Whew! Doesn’t that feel good to say out loud? Take it from my own experience: I hear at least once a day from one (or all) of my darling children that I’m “stupid” or that “I’m ruining their life” or that I am the “worst”, etc. etc. – you get the point. Normally these just bounce off of me because I know they don’t mean those words, but on those occasional bad days when their words do cut me down, actually saying I am NOT a bad mom out loud to myself helps! I’m serious! Next time you are feeling pretty low about your ability to parent, just repeat those words to yourself (or any personal variation) and you will feel better.

Some other popular mantras I like to repeat to myself are:

It’s Almost Bedtime

Mommy Is Not A Maid

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Mommys Need Time-outs Too

They’re All Alive So I’m Calling It A Win

I mean, this list is pretty much endless, and yes most of these are supposed to be funny! I would not get through most days without a little humor (and caffeine!)

If you’re day is going south fast, just take a few minutes to yourself. Take a breather, take your caffeine source of choice, sneak one of those treats you hide from the kiddos, repeat a good mantra to yourself and head back in there! It will all be okay.

The Year of No

By May of this past year I was feeling extremely burnt out. Between my kids sporting events, art classes, my sporting events, our church callings, Scouts, traveling, Jess needing to leave for Boise in April until September, my work with the American Cancer Society and with the Rape Recovery Center I was feeling at the end of my rope. We were just TOO busy! I felt like we weren’t spending enough time as a family unit, and it was starting to show. Not in any huge obvious way, but as a momma I could tell my kids were struggling with it.

In June after the Hope and Healing Gala I helped with for the Rape Recovery Center, and my epic trip to Rwanda with my Grandpa, the kids and I made our way to Boise to spend the rest of the summer with Jess while we worked. After the first week of pure summer fun and no plans whatsoever I felt so recharged, happy, and steady. I decided I needed more of that in my life; this coming school year, we would start saying NO!

This means that other than the things we have to do, we will not add more to our load. If we don’t need to commit our precious time we could be spending together, then we won’t. Our kids actually WANT to be with us, and who knows how much longer we can enjoy that? I really felt like we as a family needed some time without extra responsibilities and stress. We are going to focus this time on spending it together and strengthening our family unit while the kids are still little. I stepped down from helping with this year’s event for the American Cancer Society because frankly I was feeling so burnt out, and I needed to spend that quality time with Jess in Boise. Coming home only after a week or two would have not been a good decision.

Without any prompting, our kids have started saying no as well. Calvin after much debate decided he didn’t want to play football. I was proud of him for making that decision on his own, because I knew it was hard for him. Jess and I did not put any pressure on him to play or not, and he felt like it was not something he wanted to pursue this year. He has many years ahead of him left for sports, so I am not worried at all about him “falling behind” or any of that mumbo jumbo. Him not playing  has been a huge change for us from last fall in a positive way. He had practices every day and games every Saturday and by the end of the season he, and us were exhausted! It was fun, but a lot of time commitment. It was also a time commitment that Memphis and Shay had no say in.

So far this school year has been easy peasy. Our days aren’t as hectic and full as they were last fall, and it’s just what we needed right now.  I’m sure next year we will pick right back up and be busy with activities, but I am glad I listened to my gut and decided to start saying no.

Put Up Your Dukes!

As a mom it’s extremely easy to get offended and defensive when it comes to our kids and our ability to raise them. A prime example is me and that pin that made me so angry. I mean really, I have no reason to get so riled up by 9 words, I already know I am an amazing mom to my kids. The word that sticks out in that sentence is MY. These children are mine, and I am the only one who knows them intimately, and know how to cater to their individual needs. No one else would be able to do that! Each child is different, and each family is different.

All I know is, that I love my children fiercely, and I try my darndest to do my very best to raise them right. I make sure they go to bed every single night with kisses and knowing that they are loved. My husband and I parent together with what we feel is right for our family, and what’s right for us isn’t right for the next family- and that’s okay! Every family has unique challenges and beliefs and that’s what makes this world so diverse and beautiful. Our differences and acceptance of those differences is what makes a community better.

So keep doing you moms of the world, cuz you’re doing great!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Remember to Never Forget

“No, my Mom is dead.”

I had to flat out say that to someone a few weeks ago, someone who KNEW she had passed away, but forgot for some reason. It made me cringe to say those words and watch the realization and horror cross their face. They apologized profusely and really, it was fine. It’s not like it was news to me or anything.

Unlike them, I haven’t forgotten and never will.  Even coming up on four years of her being gone, I still think of her daily. It seems impossible for such a huge loss in my life to be forgotten.

You would think the same would apply for huge world events to never be forgotten, but every year when September 11 rolls around it seems like on Facebook and other social media that everyone has to let the world know they haven’t forgotten what happened. Obviously any of us who in some form witnessed that horrible day will never forget any of it. But we have all forgotten in a way, haven’t we? What I mean by that is on September 12, 2001 American pride was booming. Flags were flying off the shelves and were literally everywhere outside. Whether you agreed with your neighbor or not it didn’t matter anymore. Your sexual preference, race, religion, social or economical status, what kind of car you drove, and how big your house was no longer mattered. We were all Americans and proud of it. The coming together of the people was so inspiring to witness, but the news these days shows a much different America.

17 years later, and America seems to be filled with so much hatred, violence, and death.  I think the Black Eyed Peas said it best:

“Where is the love?”

Well, I could go into what I think happened, but honestly, that’s not the point of this post. The point, is what I think we should do to be proactive in mending this broken country in our own little way. Obviously, I’m a stay at home mom in Utah who doesn’t have a huge impact on the world, so starting small seems logical to me! Small and simple things can make big changes too.

Today, for instance I sat down and hand wrote out five cards to people that I haven’t seen in a while that I love dearly. Writing out these personal notes became very emotional, and as I sealed and addressed them all I felt accomplished. Maybe it’s not much, but for me, receiving snail mail is so thrilling because in the days of email, a hand written note seems like a relic. It’s also more intimate and heartfelt. I hope those 5 people get the same amount of love and joy I felt writing them.

We get sort of deceived by social media that we are in touch with the people we love and care about, but it’s all kind of a counterfeit relationship. Social media is sort of  smoke and mirrors effect of the good, which I mentioned in my post here. As we scroll through our feeds we feel like we are in touch with people, but really it’s just a small portion of their life. It’s scary sometimes to think of the impact social media and smart phones has had on people and relationships.What should we do then? If they live close, go see them! Not close? Call them! Really catch up with people and keep your relationships strong.

Speaking of smartphones, put it down! Our phones seem to have become another appendage on our bodies. My four year old the other day called me out and said:

“Momma put down your phone and look at me!”

I listened and put my phone down and focused solely on him and we had a great afternoon together of play-doh and transformers.  So maybe once a day, or at a certain time of day, put down the phones! It’s amazing how much fun you can have when phones aren’t involved. Good, old fashioned fun.

Another thing I suggest is to get to know your neighbors, all of them! One thing I love about the city we live in is that every September 11 we have an emergency drill. Each neighborhood has a “block captain” and when the drill happens we all have to check in with them. If we don’t show up, they need to call us. This drill is to ensure if there was a real emergency that we would know where everyone was in our block, as well as have a record of specific tools and supplies we all have on hand. I love it because we are all taking care of one another, and isn’t that how it should be? I know all of my neighbors in our cul-de-sac and can rely on one or all of them if I’m in a jam to help watch kids or anything else. We have had help shoveling snow without being asked many times, had food brought when tragedies have occurred, and treats for the holidays. I feel very blessed for the great neighbors we have.

Its hard sometimes to see the good when watching the news and hearing story after story of injustice, racial profiling, murders, hate crimes, and the chaos that is Washington D.C.. Sometimes we have to be the light when there is none to be found. Spread a little love, do something kind for someone else, be that good example that people need to see. I have always loved this quote:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” -Dumbledore

If you can’t see any light around you, be that light. Others will notice- believe me. So on this September 12 let’s all try a little harder to be that light we need right now, so people can be reminded to never forget.

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Photo by Christine Todd Photography

 

I almost drowned once. I was an adult too, 26 to be exact. I was snorkeling on a reef in Belize, and I had wandered from the main group following a group of fish. Unknowingly I had gotten pulled by a current into the dangerous part where these enormous waves crashed down onto the edge of the reef.

Before I realized the danger I was in, a wave crashed onto me. It engulfed my snorkel and sent a tube-full of water down my throat. I began coughing, but the salt water made my throat close. I began to panic, gasping for air and nothing was going in. When I finally felt my throat opening again, another wave hit me and flung me into the reef. I inhaled water again and was flailing around in the confusion of the waves and the rocks. When I resurfaced  I was still coughing and managed a ragged breath before another wave took me under. I was terrified; I was going to drown. I have been a swimmer since the age of 6 and a lifeguard for 4 summers in high school. Swimming has never been a problem for me, yet here I was about to die in the ocean.

I was suddenly being brought to the surface by my friend who had been close by. She saw me struggling and bravely came to my rescue at the risk of being tossed around like I was. I was still struggling to catch my breath and she held onto me and slowly swam me to safety. At this point our guide spotted us, (like hello? Where were you this entire time?!), and jumped into the water in extremely dramatic fashion, and helped me back into the boat.

Obviously, I’m very glad I didn’t drown that day, but I can’t help but think of this story as I reflect on a year ago when I almost drowned a different way.

The Perfect Storm

Last summer, my anxiety began to become uncontrollable for me. I talked about all of this in my blog here. By the end of July when I was back in Utah, it had gone from being an occasional issue to a daily issue. Pretty much as soon as I woke up, the panic would start. I would honestly dread the mornings and what the next day would hold for me. I attempted my best to hold it together but it got so bad that I eventually broke down. I’m not sure I know anyone who would not have broken down after enduring the nonstop panic. Thinking back on how fuzzy and how detached from my body I was is scary. I never felt like I was “all there”, and constantly worried about the next panic attack. I didn’t feel comfortable even in my own home and would try to escape that feeling by leaving and staying busy, but being in public also made me feel panicked because I did NOT want to make a public scene if I had another attack. I was exhausted but couldn’t shut my brain off at night, and being so sleep deprived exacerbated everything astronomically. I was literally feeling like I was losing my mind.

As scary as it may be to say, I got to the point where I understood why people with severe mental illness commit suicide. I was never contemplating it, but it was such an exhausting mental cycle I would go through every single day, that I longed for it to be over. I just wanted all of it to stop and to feel like myself again. I had a full fledged breakdown on the day when everything came to a head last summer. It was so bad that my husband drugged me so I would just go to sleep because I was so spectacularly  hysterical. I felt like I was drowning in this mental anguish.

S.O.S

I was clearly in trouble, and my ship was sinking fast. Thankfully, I had the good sense to reach out to people that I loved and trusted to help. I sought help from my doctor who prescribed me life-changing medication for my anxiety. By the next day I could feel a huge difference and that fuzzy fog-like feeling I had was lifting.

I also started going to a therapist who specializes in anxiety disorders, and even after my first session with her I felt SO much better. Over a few months she helped me develop some mental tools to help me combat my anxiety when it would rear its ugly head. I finally was feeling myself again, although it was a rough road at first.

The best thing I did for myself was to ask for help. Instead of enduring this scary anxiety- filled world alone I made sure I had my people there to help me. If I had tried to go it alone, I’m not sure where I would be today, or in what mental state.

For anyone out there who feels like they are drowning in their own mental health issues, just know that you are NOT alone. Here is the number for a suicide hotline:

Suicide Prevention

1-800-273-8255

XoXo

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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A New Rhythm

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This was a juvenile male of the family who I called my handsome boy

As cliche as it might sound, pretty much as soon as we landed in Kigali the popular 80’s song, (you all know it), “Africa” by the band Toto was on repeat in my head. There was even a day I jokingly played it on my phone while we were on safari in the Akagera Game Reserve.

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you.

There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do.

I bless the rains down in Africa…

Don’t you lie to me, I know you’re all now singing it either in your head or out loud. It’s okay, this is a safe space; I am a huge fan of this song myself. It’s interesting that an almost comical song has become such a classic. For me, it really inspires me. It’s also one of those songs that when it comes on the radio, you turn it up and sing along! It’s really hard to be in a bad mood while this song is on.  More than anything, this song makes me want to go back to Africa very badly.

Good Vibrations

The trip to and from Rwanda was about 40 hours one way. This sounds long, which it was, but I was too excited to be tired on the way there. As I stepped off the plane in Kigali and my boots met the ground, my entire body was buzzing, almost like the energy from the Earth itself was transferring to me through my shoes. This was my first trip to the African continent, and I’m determined that it will be the first of many to come. I swear, the magic of it’s energy hummed through me on our whole trip.

The Rwandan people, greatly added to this good energy. I liked them immediately; it was hard not to! They are such friendly and warm people, and my friend Anne, who I met on this trip, perfectly described their smiles as their entire face smiling. You cannot help but smile back, and feel the good vibes from these incredible people. They work hard, love hard, and have bravely endured some of the most harrowing events before, during, and after the Rwandan Genocide.

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We met Iman on the street and he gave us a tour of a local market in this small village we stopped at for gas

It inspired me to be a much better version of myself after meeting the Rwandan people. I have been through my own traumatic events and trials in life, but can never compare to the things they struggle with on a daily basis. I want to be a much more positive person and help spread that love and good energy to others. Keep those good vibrations going.

I Bless the Rains

Water. It’s essential for all life. Yet, it’s something that I take for granted here in the United States. I am so privileged to have clean, drinkable water available to me always. It’s not like I have never known how lucky we are here, but going to Rwanda my eyes were quickly opened when I realized I needed to have a bottle of water on me at all times so I could drink.

The kids would always wave and yell at us through our open windows of our green Land Cruiser we traveled in with our guide, Mr. Kirenga. We learned fast that “mzungu” means “white person” in Swahili. It was often squealed by the adorable masses of kiddos in the streets who saw us. When they weren’t immediately asking for money, they would be asking for our empty water bottles so they could go fill them with water from the public wells. It soon became our mission to seek out a lone kid on the side of the road that we could toss an empty bottle to. If there was more than one kid, a fight would break out, so one child was preferred. The roads were a popular hangout, so it would never take us long to see one. They always quickly dashed and grabbed that bottle, often holding it up and jumping around triumphantly. It made my heart ache a little when I thought of the things my kids say they “need” like toys, when these kids only worry about collecting water.

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These darling kids greeted us by the bamboo forest on our way to see the gorillas.

I have always loved the line in the song Africa “I bless the rains”. We often prayed and thanked God for rain (or snow) growing up in my home, but like I have said before, I grew up priveledged to never have to worry about drinkable water, and we did not live on a farm where water is needed to sustain crops.

Once I was in Rwanda, and saw with my own eyes the daily struggles many people go through to attain water for their family, it made me feel guilty for never having to worry about water where I live. Just tonight, my four-year-old son came out of his bedroom demanding his third cold drink before bed. I couldn’t help but think what some kids in Rwanda would give for even one cold drink before bed. I’m not saying I will deprive my kids of water. But I will continue to educate them and make them aware of how privileged they truly are, so that they do not take it for granted.

Music and Magic for the Soul

The magic of Africa cannot properly be described to someone who hasn’t been there. It may only be described as just that: magic. It’s a continent where many believe life first began. And today, it remains a place of majestic landscapes, people, and creatures unrivaled in most other places in the world.

I was charmed the moment I arrived. Even as I sat on a plane traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, the idea that I was going to be in a place that had long been a dream of mine to see, it didn’t feel real.

I can attest that the magic of Africa – Rwanda specifically, is in fact real. That buzzing I talked about earlier? That’s it. It comes from the earth itself, almost as if it is absorbed through your feet as they meet the ground. It is radiated by the beautiful people and their kind hearts and bright smiles. The breathtaking landscapes never ceased to amaze me, with high rolling terraced hills, and seemingly endless vibrant green tea fields. The streets lined with women and men in brightly colored native fabrics with unbelievable amounts of different items piled on their heads. I witnessed some of the world’s most incredible animals in the wild that let me tell you, is in fact NOT the same as seeing them in a zoo! I also had the extreme privilege to hike up the volcanoes and sit feet from a silverback gorilla and his family of 15 females, juvenile males, and infants. Watching them, and being so close took the literal breath from my body and is by far one of the coolest things I will ever have done. Magic.

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Our group with our guide, porters, and trackers when we tracked the Chimpanzees

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This cute little guy hopped aboard our boat hoping for food. He was disappointed

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There are 5 million fruit bats on Napoleon Island

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The handmade fabrics were unbelievable

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I was never a fan of giraffes but now I am a huge one!

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The green Land Cruiser we traveled in

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I told him he was my handsome boy and he smiled for me

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A section of the Rwandan Genocide Memorial in Kigali

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The bamboo forest

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Canopy Walk in Nyungwe National Park

To once again quote Toto:

“It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you”

Just like in the song, I feel it will be hard to take the things I felt in Africa from me. The moment we landed in the US, I longed to be going back. A piece of my heart was left behind, and a piece of Rwanda replaced it. My heart, and life for that matter, have forever been changed by it. The new piece has given my heart a new rythym, a drum beat if you will. It is forever beating onward leading me to the new and better person I want to be, and to what changes I hope to make in this world.

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Little Pieces

Rwanda filled my dreams yet again last night. It was so real that when I awoke and found myself laying on the mattress on the floor in Boise, (our makeshift home for the summer), I was thoroughly confused for a good 15 seconds. I must add though, that the malaria medication I took on the entire trip and a week after coming home gave me the weirdest dreams. Not sure if it’s still in my system or not, or maybe the side effects are permanent? Who knows. Anyway, once I realized where I was, (or should I say where I was NOT), I was disappointed. I had expected this trip to Africa with my Grandpa to be amazing, but not as life- changing as it ended up being. Rwanda changed me- of that I have no doubt. The woman who flew home was not the same woman who flew there.

Almost nightly visions of the beautiful country of Rwanda have become commonplace since being back in the states. The only difference from last night is that my mom was in my dream this time.

Holding On

I have been home from my trip for two weeks now, and I find myself trying to hold on to every detail of Rwanda. I’m afraid of losing it in my memory, so I find myself grasping for even the minute details of smells, colors, and names. This trip opened my eyes and changed me so deeply, that I think this is why I have dreamed of it almost every night since I have been back.

It’s interesting to me that mom would be in my dream last night as well for a few reasons. I still am grappling to hold onto memories of her since she passed. I think of her voice, her laugh, her smell, and even how her hands felt . Today also happens to be her birthday.

I woke up this morning with an oh-so-familiar dull ache in my heart for her. She’s always in my heart, but on the special days like birthdays or holidays it gets hard to bear that she’s gone. The good thing about holding on to her memory, much like my trip to Rwanda, is that it keeps her alive to me. That helps me keep going on the hard days.

Puzzle Pieces

On our third leg to Africa I found myself on an 8 hour flight from Doha, Qatar to Kigali, Rwanda. I was seated in between my sister and my grandpa, DeVon. Aly had a terrible allergic reaction and was knocked out from Benadryl I had given her, and DeVon had attempted to watch the same movie for the third time now and was asleep in 5 minutes. This became quite a joke on our trip that if you had trouble sleeping to just simply watch this clearly riveting show.

Ten years ago I would not have ever guessed that here I would be on my way to Africa with my biological grandfather. The fact that we all found one another still astounds me, but it has been such a blessing to me to have them. I leaned my head back to try and get some sleep myself, and had to smile over at DeVon before I nodded off. I am so happy to have him in my life.

As our trip continued, it was solidified even more so just how amazing of a man he is. DeVon has devoted so much of his life to helping others as an infectious disease doctor. This was his 37th trip to Africa since the 1980’s, and at 76 years old here he was making the journey again. Not only is his work inspiring, but he truly accepts and loves all people. I got to witness him talking and making friends with complete strangers everywhere we went, and he did it with such an ease. His genuine love for others definitely rubs off on you, and makes you want to be like him.

On a more relaxed day in Kibuye right on the gorgeous Lake Kivu on the border of the Congo, Aly and I spent the day with him while the rest of our party went into town. We traveled to Napoleon Island to see the 5 million fruit bats who live there, and when we got back had a nice lunch at our hotel.

While we ate, we began to have a deep discussion which continued that night when we had dinner as well. DeVon told us in detail about how hard it was for him when Sherri, his oldest child and our biological mother, decided it was best to put us up for adoption. The emotions were high as we spoke, and I know he was truly heartbroken for both what his daughter was going through, and to have his first grandchildren not be in his life.

When I was ready to know about Sherri, even though at the time we didn’t know her name, my mom handed Aly and I two folders (which we both still have today). On each was taped a colored ribbon which was in our hair at the hospital, and inside were ultrasound photos, some birth records, two letters, and a journal. The journal was from Sherri which she wrote out to each of us during her whole pregnancy and right after we were born. The letters were from her parents, Diane and DeVon, but they were signed “your biological grandpa” and “your biological grandma”.

DeVon’s letter in particular really struck me, and through his words I could feel just how deeply we were loved, and how deeply our missing presence in his life would be felt.

As I sat with him in Rwanda talking about this same subject, a thought occurred to me while I held back tears that for him, a lifetime of heartbreak was healed when we found them. His broken heart was able to be made whole when his first two grandchildren that he mourned for were back in his life. Aly and I were these missing puzzle pieces that had finally been found.

Bread Crumbs

We spent two weeks on our trip to Rwanda with DeVon, and I am grateful for every moment. He is such a loving presence in my life now, and I want to soak up every moment I can with him now that I have him. So, when the day comes that he too passes from this earthly life, that I can then hold on to every detail of him like I continue to do with our trip, and I continue to do for my mom.

So today, being mom’s birthday, I will tell the kids stories about her like I always do. We will do something meaningful to celebrate her special day, and I will keep her memory alive with my children as well.

These small details we hold onto of the important people, places, and experiences in our lives are like the breadcrumbs that can lead us back to them when we need to remember. When we need to feel that burning in our chest, and have tears fill our eyes because we are re-experiencing the joy and the love of this beautiful crazy life we live.

 

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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Where we dined amongst hippos on Lake Ahemi in the Akagera Game Park

 

These Tears Do Not Make Me Weak

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Photo by Troy Koltermann Photography

It’s a pretty pitiful site. Crying so hard that your eyes are swollen. The tears have been non-stop and you can’t believe your body isn’t dehydrated from the loss of fluids. Tears and snot are both streaming down your face and converging on your neck like two rivers. Finally giving in and curling into a fetal ball on your bed surrounded by a sea of soggy tissues, you continue to cry so loud and violently that your body convulses.

A good old fashioned cry; who hasn’t been there? I know I have countless times in my life. I’m an extremely emotional person so crying isn’t unusual for me. To all my friends I’m THAT friend who is a guarantee to cry if things get emotional. I used to hide when I needed to cry, especially in front of people, becauseI felt ashamed. The problem is, that I literally cry if a commercial hits me in the feels, so sometimes it can’t be controlled. But I always felt super embarrassed about it, like it made me weak. But it doesn’t show my weakness- in fact I think it shows my strength.

Cry It Out

Any parent has heard of the “cry it out” method. It’s referring to when your child wants you in the middle of the night, and instead of giving in to them, you let them cry it out in their crib, and essentially cry themselves to sleep. Over time, they learn to just self-soothe and will no longer wake up every hour or so wanting you. It’s not easy, but it’s good for both parent and child. Sometimes just crying it out helps you in the long run.

Honestly crying in my opinion is good for your health! Releasing those emotions helps you to heal, instead of holding them inside and letting them fester until you boil over and explode. Holding onto feelings is pretty toxic, and makes you feel worse, whereas just dealing with them head-on and gets them out of your system.

My favorite places to cry are the shower and the car. The shower is great because it’s one of the only places I am alone, unless a child HAS to come tell me they have a hangnail or some other life-threatening issue. And it’s great because the water washes away the mess so there’s no soggy tissues!

The car is great too (if I’m alone). I love to blast music, sing along, and just let the tears flow. I’m sure plenty of people have seen me on these outings, but frankly I could care less. In my car, I’m in the zone. Isn’t it funny how we feel invisible in our cars? Yes I CAN see you nose picker at the red light!!

No matter what the reason, just let the emotions out. Whether you need to scream in a pillow, or just have yourself a good sob-fest in your car, it will only help you to release those emotions.

The Moments Between the Tears

Obviously, life is not meant to be sad. It would be a really miserable life it it was! But just like in the Pixar movie “Inside Out” the emotions inside Riley’s head realized that the character Sadness was required in order for her to appreciate life. Some of the most tragic moments in my life have led to some of the most triumphant and life-changing ones after.

**Trigger Warning**

In 2004, I was sexually assaulted by a guy that I knew in college. There really is no other way to explain it than me being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I entered my friend’s dorm room on my floor, and was surprised to see she was not alone. There was very loud music being played and two boys whom I knew from the football team were with her. As soon as I entered the room, I realized I was in danger and tried to leave, but the door was shut, and instantly I was grabbed by one of the boys.

Without going into too much details, the one pinned me down on the bed and had his way with me as best he could (I fought as hard as I could the entire time). I wasn’t going to let it be easy for him. So, not only was it a traumatic incident for me, but I had to listen in horror as my friend was being raped in the bed next to me. Our yells were drowned out to anyone else by the music that had been playing, but her screams will haunt me forever.

It was a moment in my life that changed me. It led me to some extremely unhealthy life choices, and a few toxic relationships. I really didn’t talk about my own experience until about a year ago, and once I started to talk about it, and really deal with the emotions that came from it, I was able to heal myself. Bringing up this incident in therapy unleashed some strong emotions that I tried to suppress over the years and had been extremely toxic to hold onto. Releasing them, was like opening a dam. I cried a lot more than I had expected to. It was messy, but felt SO good afterwards.

Now that I have faced my demons head-on, a fire has been lit inside me to help other survivors of sexual assault. I have become involved with the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake City. My sister and I were asked to co-chair the auction for their upcoming Hope and Healing Gala which will be June 8.

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Please come join us! It will be an amazing night with live music, a silent auction, great food, and it all benefits a great cause. We have tickets left, so if you’d like to attend either visit the website above. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask me! Shoot me an email if you’d like: therawbrunette@gmail.com

 I’ll Cry If I Want To

I feel every emotion very deeply, which is a blessing and a curse. People who are more in touch with their emotions are more intelligent, (okay so I made that up, but it sounded legit, right?). I feel blessed that I am so in touch with my emotions because it helps me to connect with others on a much deeper level. I wrote before about my experience with energy healing and I absolutely believe that our emotions and energy can not only be felt, but can also be healed by others.

A few weekends ago I was able to attend a Women’s Retreat in Eden, Utah. It was put together by Utah Womens Retreats   and was hosted by Aaron and Veronica Benson, a husband and wife duo who are both life coaches and counselors. The theme of the retreat was “Recharge, Refocus, Reconnect”. We stayed in this incredible house, and in the two days we were there we did some group sessions which initially, I was hesistant about speaking up and participating at first because all these women were complete strangers to me. After about 10 minutes though, during an exercise we did where each of us had to write down a word that described ourselves, and I wrote down “trying”. I explained to everyone that even though I know I’m not perfect, and things don’t go as I plan, that I keep trying.

A woman whom I had just met in our group, Jessica, raised her hand and said that I should change my word to “doing” because she said trying seemed like a negative, and she looked me right in the eyes and said “Cuz girl you’re not trying, you’re DOING it!”. It may not seem like a huge moment to some of you, but I needed to hear those words. I needed to know that my efforts are validated and that despite me feeling like nothing getsdone or goes how I planned, that I’m still doing it and that’s all that matters. Of course, this hit me in all the feels, and she and I hugged it out. I’m telling you about this moment, because even though I had just met Jessica, she and I were connected through our energy and emotions. She was able to reach me without even knowing me.

The rest of the women’s retreat was such a great experience. We all opened up and there were plenty of tears and laughter too. When we left to go home the group of strangers was more like family. That’s the power of emotions and being open to expressing them.

Feeling All the Feels

I feel sorry for people who don’t express their emotions freely like I can. I cannot imagine what I would be like if so was not so comfortable crying when I’m feeling emotional. And it’s not just crying, it’s all emotions. Sadly, so many people feel like they need to keep any and all emotion under wraps.

How many times have you heard “boys don’t cry”, or “man up” referring to men and how, according to “society” they cannot show emotion. Emotions are “feminine”, which is a bunch of BS. I personally love a man that isn’t afraid to show his emotional side, and feel very lucky to be married to one who has openly wept many times in front of me. At our wedding in 2005, he cried WAY more than me! I thought it was the sweetest thing ever. Jess by far is not as emotional as I am, but I love that he’s comfortable enough to cry if he needs to.

I see nothing wrong with being very sensitive to my emotions, because it really does help me be a better person. How could you go through this roller coaster we call life without truly feeling anything? Is that even considered living? Or is it just going through the motions?

I for one, will continue to cry if I need to. There is no need to hold back my tears, and it doesn’t make me weaker to let them freely fall. Crying for me, helps me reach to conclusions in my most trying times. Sometimes, our tears are our bodies physical expression of how we are feeling even if we cannot vocally express it. The tears that fall all tell a story of the heartache, loss, anger, or joy that we are unable to vocalize, and it’s human. It’s also extremely beautiful.

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

Are You My Mother?

It’s Mother’s Day again, and I find myself relating so much to that little bird who is searching for his mom in the classic children’s book  Are You My Mother? There are still so many times I find myself needing and aching for her and waking up on this day really regurgitates a lot of emotions for me; none of them good. Mother’s day was always such a lovely day to celebrate the woman who raised and loved me, but now I wake up and instantly feel unsettled because I know she’s no longer here. With an ache in my heart I am bombarded all day by thoughts of her that are so bittersweet.

Oh dear, I’m being a total buzzkill aren’t I? Well the good news, (yes there’s good news I promise), is that I am incredibly blessed to have many other mothers in my life. So, obviously on this day I will always honor my own mother who raised me, but today I will be celebrating the many other mothers who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today.

A Mighty Woman

When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1996, all of our worlds were rocked. Even though this tragic thing was sprung on our family, life still needed to proceed as “normal”. What I mean by that is that Aly and I still needed to go to school, we still had music lessons, activities to attend, meals to eat, and not to mention the house work and laundry that still needed to be done. My dad was still working a full time job and traveling a lot, and my older brother Rob was serving a religious mission in France for two years. This left Aly and I on our own a lot. This is where Judi came in.

In my opinion, everyone needs a Judi Quinn in their life. She was my mom’s best friend, and growing up it became tradition that our two families would celebrate holidays together since neither of our families had family super close by. I consider them family, and know to them the feeling is mutual.

There were other guardian angels too, who helped us during this time, many in fact. I have such a strong testimony of the love we can have for one another in times of tragedy because of the great kindness neighbors and friends showed us. Judi, however, is the most prominent to me. Our fridge and freezer were always full of meals, and if we ever needed a ride we would be taken care of. Even though life was incredibly chaotic, I always felt comforted knowing that she would be there for us in heartbeat.

Even when my parents moved away from Philadephia in 2004 my mom and Judi were in constant touch. Distance doesn’t end real friendships. They saw each other as often as possible, but talked on the phone all the time. Judi flew out to Utah and spoke and my mom’s funeral, and did a lovely job, but I did not expect any less. She still to this day is always a text or call away should I need her.

The Quinn’s family motto has always been “The Mighty Quinns”, and it honestly could not suit them more, especially Judi. It takes one mighty woman to not only care for her own children, but her best friends children when they were in need. My love for Judi can also be described as mighty.

An Education

When I was to get married in 2005, I was nervous because Jess is the baby of his family and I know how protective moms can be of their youngest children. From the beginning, I always felt loved and welcomed by Kathryn, my mother-in-law. I feel extremely blessed to say that I genuinely love her, because I have many friends who do not feel the same way towards theirs. She is a sweet, kind, and loving woman who herself has been through years of health struggles. She raised five rambunctious boys, (seriously some of the stories I’ve heard are unreal), and lived to tell the tale. I admire her for her strength and enduring faith through her trials of health, and truly love having her as another motherly figure in my life. Over the years she has been there to watch my children when I needed help, to give me advice on many subjects, and to be a tremendous support to me when I lost my own mom.

Not only am I blessed with my mother-in-law, but my sister-in-laws are pretty spectacular as well. Not just from my husband’s family, but my brother’s wife as well. I am surrounded by some incredible women who are there should I need them. When I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant in the summer of 2015, the first person I called was my sister-in-law Jacie. I wasn’t planning on the pregnancy to begin with, and still had my IUD in so I was feeling extremely panicked. Jacie is a nurse, and just all-around knowledgeable, and she was the person I was compelled to call. She was there for me in my full panic mode and I was extremely grateful. I feel so blessed to have these amazing women who are now my family that have taught me so much about motherhood. Becoming a mother has been so much easier because of their influence on me.

My dad remarried after my mom passed away. It was difficult to hear at first when he told me over the phone that he was engaged, but when they flew out to Denver and I met Christy for the first time, I could see what he saw in her. She is a very kind, sweet woman, and she has taken such great care of my dad. Seeing him so happy again has been so good to see. She also loves not only my children but my brother’s kids as well, and has done her best to make sure they each know it. Christmas of 2017 as we were packing up the kids in the car to head back to our house after having a dinner at my dad and Christy’s home, I felt strongly that I needed to run back inside where she was washing dishes. I tearfully told her that I needed to tell her that I loved her and appreciate her and we both hugged and cried. I do love her, and she is a part of our family now, and another great motherly figure for me to turn to.

The Branches of My Tree

In August of 2013 I finally came face to face with Sherri, my birth mother. We had been in contact since 2007, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I knew I was ready to meet her. Since that wonderful day, my family tree has expanded immensely. Not only did it expand, but it strengthened the roots, because I now have some incredibly strong and amazing women who are examples to me of motherhood. Suddenly I had three half sisters, a step-dad, grandparents again, (both sets of my grandparents passed away before I was in high school), aunts and uncles, and so many new cousins! I met pretty much all of them in one weekend, and you would think it would be overwhelming but it never was. To be honest, I felt like I had always belonged, and instantly felt welcomed and loved by everyone.

I have always felt connected to Sherri even before I knew who she was. Even still, figuring out our similarities cracks me up, and have connected the dots on so many things in my life. and why I am the way that I am. She had such an influence on the woman that I have become even before we met each other. But now that she is in my life, she’s someone I turn to constantly for help and advice.

The night that my mom passed away as I left the hospital to head home Sherri was the person I needed to call. I’m sure she could barely understand what I was saying because I was hysterical, but in that moment of absolute heartbreak I needed to hear her voice.

Her presence in my life means so much to me, and in these three years since my mom passed away I have had the opportunity to not only continue to strengthen our relationship, but to have another mother figure in my life. I’m extremely blessed to have two mothers in this crazy, beautiful life.

Twinning

Obviously, my twin sister Aly is without a doubt a huge part of my life, so why wouldn’t she be just as big a part of my children’s lives? My oldest son Calvin when he went into kindergarten told his teacher that he had two mommies, and she looked quite surprised when at the first parent-teacher conference I showed up with my husband Jess. I thought it was so sweet that Calvin considered Aly his other mommy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All three of my kids as newborns would happily transfer to my sister. A lot of people would ask me if I thought the babies could tell the difference. Clearly, a baby knows its mother’s smell, but I honestly believe my babies instantly loved their Aunt Aly from day one and imprinted on her because she is my twin sister. They all love her very much too.

Even though she did not give birth to those three babies, she is a mom to them. She teaches me about motherhood without even knowing it. I complain and vent to her all the time about things that frustrate me with being a mom, and she always has answers I hadn’t even considered or helps me to look at things in a different way.

I have zero doubts that when she is a mom one day, that she will be an amazing one. She has helped me raise my three kiddos in more ways than she will ever know.

A Storybook Ending

Sadly, I won’t be like the little bird finding it’s mother at the end of the book. I know my mom is gone from this earthly life, and even though it makes my heart ache and me feel all the feels today it’s going to be alright. Just thinking of just how many other mothers I have in my life makes this bitter pill a little easier to swallow. To be honest this has been an extremely emotional post to write, and I have cried (a lot) typing out my feelings.

Life isn’t like a storybook at all, in fact not even a little bit. But the way that story of my life has played out is that when a tragic chapter comes up, an amazingly beautiful chapter immediately follows it. Losing my mom was definitely a long, painful chapter, but the beautiful chapters that came right after it have been life-altering for me. Sometimes we need to experience a huge loss in order to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers who enrich my life. I love you all very much and treasure your presence in my life.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

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Photo by Mckenzie Mcdonald Photography