32.

Today is (thankfully) the last day that I am 32 years old and I am ending this year of my life with such absolute peace, joy and gratitude in my heart. I really am. It’s been a hell of a journey getting to this point, but in recent weeks I have suddenly realized that there’s a stillness and a peace in my mind and in my heart that I’m not familiar with, that can only be explained as a divine gift–and I’m elated to begin a new chapter, a new year in my life this way. For the first time in a long while, maybe ever, I feel like I can breathe.

32 has taught me many things about myself and about life. Here’s just a few of the things that I’ve learned this year:

Time, is the biggest and toughest one. There’s never enough. You can’t have any more. When it’s gone, you can never have it back. It’s finite, and there are no second chances–no do-overs. Along with time, however I’m learning more about forgiveness. We all know to forgive others, but this year I had to learn to forgive myself. I’ve been notoriously terrible at hiding behind busyness and not being intentional at making time for the people and things that truly should have come first in my life and it took the events of this year to give me the biggest wake up call of my life and make me realize that these years are flying by, and there are precious moments that I’m missing that I will never get back. I’ve been much more intentional about my time lately–and I’ve had to stop beating myself up about the past. Forgiving yourself is critical to moving forward.

Then, there is the truth. Which, although it can sometimes really (REALLY) suck…the truth will, indeed, set you free–just like the Bible says. There are things that I needed to learn about myself this year that I didn’t like very much initially but have helped me grow. For example, I’m a hardcore control freak which can manifest itself in crazy nitpicky and naggy behaviors as well as yelling and generally being mean to those closest to me when I’m super stressed–and for no good reason. Mostly, because I have huge issues with anxiety and didn’t have good coping mechanisms in place. I’m a work in progress, but things have improved. In losing my own mom, this year I realized how important having a good and stable mom is, and I really had to acknowledge that I haven’t been a part of my oldest child’s life at all since he was very young (and only minimally back then) and give his dad and stepmother the credit they deserve–and I’ve intentionally become a more attentive, more involved and better mom to my two younger kiddos as a result of mistakes made and missed opportunities with my oldest child. The truth is, I needed help with managing my stress and anxiety, I’ve had to let go of control and I’ve been a less than perfect and often selfish mother. I’m thankful to have had the chance to learn and work on these things.

Next, Codependency…ah, the topic of codependency. Codependency is generally defined as, “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” Codependent relationships can take many forms, and have, in my life. In my personal life, from childhood, codependent behaviors were ingrained in who I grew to become due to my mom’s mental illness issues–I grew up feeling the need to take care of her and keep her happy, to make her proud and not upset her in any way. Certain aspects of my codependent traits are a part of my personality and they’re not ALL bad–wanting to make people laugh and be happy, helping others, being concerned about others’ well-being. Being a Nurse, my career is built around helping and “fixing” others. It is what I love, what I feel is my calling, and what supports my family. The issue is that subconsciously, codependency crept into my romantic relationships throughout the years and presented itself most vividly in my relationship that ended this year, leaving me in a state of utter depletion financially, emotionally, mentally etc. I’ve come to learn through a combination of studying the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (my former fiance is an alcoholic/addict) as well as my own journey through Celebrate Recovery that I have struggles and victories with Codependency and enabling behaviors. Thankfully, this year I’ve learned the steps, listened to speakers and their stories, spoken and listened in groups and done a whole lot of work on myself to get to the root of some of my thought processes and behavior patterns. I will likely always battle some degree of codependent thought patterns, but it doesn’t have to have such a big part in my life if I do the work, and I’m so thankful that it’s come to the forefront this year. Maybe someday when I’m ready I will be able to have a healthy relationship.

Lastly, I’ve learned that when you go through tragic and truly life altering circumstances, when you truly surrender your heart and life to Jesus–open your hands, and drop to your knees in surrender and admit that you can’t handle it anymore…. He will step in and lead you through it. Be prepared though, because you will change. I’m still me, but things look different now. Things feel different now. Things are processed emotionally and mentally differently now. At the risk of sounding trite, He has taken my mess and turned it into my message. He has taken some of the most soul crushing loss and pain and stress and devestation and turned it into peace. I truly praise no other name but Jesus for this past year and give Him alone the glory for every victory, for every day I was able to wake up and move forward, for every choice I was able to make correctly, for every single moment that I was able to hold it together when everything inside was falling apart–it was all Him. It’s still all Him. And I see Him in my amazing (did I say AMAZING?!) friends and family and colleagues and loved ones near and far who were there day in and day out through crying spells and yelling spells and mood swings and innapropriate humor and silence…and who just listened. Or sat with me and didn’t talk. I’m such a blessed gal.

Is there still some pain? Yes.

Unfortunately, the presence of joy and calm doesn’t negate the pain. I will always feel the ache of my mom’s absence in my life. Many days, I’m okay….but I miss her terribly at times like now, knowing that she won’t be calling me at midnight for the first birthday in my adult life. She was everything to me, and I will honor her memory with everything I do and know that I make her proud. As far as W goes, I pray for him every day…that he’s clean/sober, that he’s happy and successful and that he’s laughing that great laugh of his and having fun in life the way we used to do before life got so messed up for us. If he’s reading this, I want him to know that I will always love him, his cats are super snuggly and happy and well cared for and that if I ever have a chance, I have a 9th step for him.

Please join me in welcoming the next year of my life. I eagerly anticipate the lessons and blessings that 33 brings for me. Thanks for reading and God Bless you all!

Reality Bites.

I find it totally and completely odd and funny that I can blink and the weeks have flown by since I’ve written. It’s an uncanny reminder that time slows for no one and these precious moments of our lives slip from our hands like sand through our fingers–some of which we are thankful for, others we wistfully wish we could hold onto just a bit longer.

At any rate, life has been “busy.” I’m a self-proclaimed personal champion of busyness– Want me to work overtime? Sure! Cook and clean and run errands and chauffer kiddos around and snuggle kitty cats–AND AND AND…?? Absolutely. This is truly one of my biggest faults–being “busy.” Truth be told, I hide behind my busyness, the many tasks that demand my attention (sometimes all at once) and I immerse myself into the mix of DOING…so that I don’t have to do much thinking. Or evaluating. Or, to be painfully honest, feeling. The past six or so months have had me moving from one thing to another–highs and lows in rapid succession. Relationship ending. Christmas time! ICU training! Mom dying. Meeting a new friend at work and spending tons of time together…and later his return to his home state. Concert I’ve been anticipating for months! Trip to Chicagoland to see some old friends!

And now? Back to reality. But, like the 90’s TV show title states, reality bites.

Reality means that the lengthy period of distraction that I’ve been living in, whether intentional or unintentional, is over. It’s time to officially face life as it is right now. It’s been a blessing in disguise, the busyness getting me through the most fragile part of the grieving process, but life continues and like Ellis Grey (of Grey’s Anatomy, obviously) says, “It’s awful being a grown up, but the carousel never stops turning. You can’t get off.” Isn’t that the truth? It’s like life just expects us to be resilient, to keep on truckin’ despite the painful and wonderful and harrowing and hard things that come our way. It’s odd and sad and hard when things stop long enough to evaluate it all.

It’s been 2 months now since my mom died. The death certificate has been filed, I have copies of both the police report and the autopsy findings. For all intensive purposes, things are finalized. But when I actually stop the busyness long enough to let it hit me that she ACTUALLY DIED–she’s GONE FOREVER?? Well, it’s like being hit by a truck. Oh, and Mother’s Day is next week–the cruelest of reminders that I AM a mother, but I’m WITHOUT a mother. I hate it. I miss her so much it physically hurts to think about it. I see her in my mannerisms, my patterns of speech, hell even the way that I defrosted hamburger yesterday! I still hold tight to the assurance that God has a plan, that He orchestrated all of her days and has orchestrated mine as well, but man it hurts.

And there’s the whole relationship thing. For months and months I was so ANGRY at him, that it didn’t really hurt that he was gone. I was so focused on the crap that I had gone through with and for him, that I didn’t stop to think about the good things. They say that holding onto that much anger doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself, and through these past 6 or so months, I’ve really tried to let go of the majority of it–to give it to God. For the most part, I’ve been successful at doing so–but in doing so, gradually the mourning has begun. I do miss him, that is the parts of him that were truly mine. The parts of he and I that included cooking and laughing and inside jokes and motorcycle rides on country roads. Those times I’m tucking into my heart for safekeeping, knowing all the while that in the grand scheme of things, we just weren’t meant to be. I do wish him well, I pray that he is clean and sober and successful in all he sets out to achieve–I’d like to say that maybe we could be friends someday, but I know him too well to give that much thought.

Apparently this is what I meant when I initially wrote, “Learning to live afterward,” I guess THIS PART RIGHT HERE is afterward. To be honest, I don’t know how to do this part. No clue. This is as bare and as raw and as clean of a slate I can imagine at this point, and the ONE EFFING PERSON in life I would generally call to talk about all of this with is dead. Sure, of course I have wise counsel–friends and family members and mentors etc and I’m not discrediting any of them by any means. But it’s like being the lone oak tree standing in a field. The birds and animals stop by periodically, but at the end of the day the tree stands alone. I’m never alone (thanks Jesus!) but sometimes it sure feels that way…and sometimes it’s that way intentionally. It can be hard learning how to be around people when things have been in such a tailspin. Reality bites. But you know what mama always said?

Saturday.

Today is Easter Sunday. Today is also the first Easter–the first holiday–after my mom’s death. I haven’t stopped to write recently because life has been crazy and busy and I get so caught up in DOING that sometimes I forget to stop and make myself process the many emotions that days like today bring up inside me.

I do, however, have a pretty fantastic writer and activist that I look up to who can sum things up in a way that I can’t articulate. Glennon Doyle Melton is the bestselling author of “Carry on Warrior” and”Love Warrior” as well as a blogger, an activist and a self-proclaimed “truth teller and hope spreader.” In a Facebook wall post dated 5/7/16, Glennon writes, “That’s the thing about truth and God: They will set you free but they’ll hurt like hell first. First the pain, then the rising. First the pain, then the rising–again and again forever.” This phrase rings so true in my life–and in the Easter story. Good Friday we were hopeless–the Savior was defeated by death and all the hope we put in Him died too. The pain. Then, the rising–Easter morning. The tomb was empty, the Savior was risen, death was defeated forevermore. The afterward. The “bounceback,” if you will.

As a Christian, obviously the Resurrection is one of my favorite Bible stories–the one that gives me hope of Heaven, the one that solidifies my faith–but this year, more than ever, I’m reminded that you don’t get the Resurrection without the loss, without the death. You just don’t get Easter Sunday without Good Friday. You don’t get to rise above without going through the tough times first. What I want to talk about though, is Saturday.

On Holy Saturday, it is pretty likely that those who were followers of Jesus were doing one of two things: Hiding or mourning–maybe both. The disciples of Jesus were very likely hiding, because they were in fear of being imprisoned for their faith (John 20:19). The Bible states that they scattered when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:50). I can only imagine that those who had put their faith and hope in Him and in the miracles and teachings of Jesus were reeling with disbelief, grief and loss–how could their Savior be dead? And what happens next?

Much the same, I’ve been living in a very long state of Saturday. It seems lately as though those that I encounter expect me to either be in a Friday or Sunday state of mind (absolutely grief-stricken or moving on and totally fine) but to be completely honest–it’s all Saturday in my mind and my heart. I’m not doing too much hiding, because I really believe that if I let myself get swallowed up in the grief and hide from the world, my responsibilities and my life–the darkness wins. But the disbelief, grief and loss? Yep, all of those. These days, I swing wildly between “duty calls” and business as usual….and feeling like I’ve been punched in the gut. I cruise through the day, clean the house, take care of my kids, go to work and in between all of the doing–WHAM–out of nowhere, a song comes on…someone talks about their mom…something funny or great or crappy happens and I wish more than anything that I could call her. That I could hear her laugh. That I could just hug her and tell her that I love her so very much and that she means the world to me. But then, I take some deep breaths and wipe the tears and continue with life. I know the rising will happen, I’m bound and determined to make my life a life well-lived, a life that will honor my mom’s memory. The darkness in my mom’s mind may have resulted in her taking her own life, but it didn’t win. I effing refuse to let it win. And thanks to Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, death doesn’t win. Not in the Easter story, and not with my mom.

See today, Easter Sunday, reminds me that after the pain, there’s the rising. After the rain, there’s the sun. After the heartache, there’s hope. Without Good Friday (the sadness), Holy Saturday (the waiting) and Easter Sunday (the rising), there wouldn’t be hope of heaven. Now that’s a blessed assurrance you can take to the bank. Sunday’s coming for me, eventually, but right now I’m totally learning to work through Saturday and that’s okay.

I’ll end this with another awesome quote from Glennon’s Facebook page on April 13, 2017, “When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don’t try to take it away. Forgive yourself for not having that power. Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They’re sacred. They are part of each person’s journey. All we can do is offer relief from this fear: I am all alone. That’s the one fear you can alleviate.”

Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone, and Happy Easter!

Shovel the Sh*t.


We’ve all been there, the moment where you’re walking along and minding your own business…and then something stinks. Congratulations, you’ve stepped in poop. It’s slippery and smelly and makes a huge mess, even if you discover it right away. It’s one of those clean-up jobs that seems to get worse before it gets better. Now, the best case scenario is that you’ve discovered it immediately and although it’s disgusting, the clean up is generally easier. The flip side, is that sometimes you step in it…and have no idea. You end up figuring it out later when you’re searching for the stench and realize that it’s you and you’ve successfully tracked it everywhere you’ve walked as well. Cleaning up this situation can take much longer because of the widespread nature of the mess.

Similarly, there are situations and people in life that cause some “stinky” situations. Maybe your workplace causes you more than the average amount of stress, and you have huge panic attacks while you’re getting ready for work. Your significant other is struggling and you’re staying up all night feeling sick worrying about making ends meet. Or your closest friends decide that they have strong opinions that you oppose, and the interactions that you have with them are causing you to want to avoid spending time with them. Perhaps your family isn’t on board with your life choices and they go out of their way to tell you all the ways you’ve let them down. These are just a few of the MANY life situations that stink.

When you’ve got an animal who uses your backyard as their toilet, you need to get out there and clean up the mess so the yard doesn’t stink, the grass doesn’t die and poop doesn’t get tracked all over your house by Fido or Fluffy. The solution? Shovel the sh*t. You’ve GOT to take control of your life and your emotions, similarly to how you’d avoid stepping in poop. The people, places and situations that cause you the most distress, the most grief, the most trauma–they need to be dealt with or “cleaned up.” Obviously some situations are delicate and a great deal of time and planning can be required (for example finding another job or setting aside money to leave a relationship), but whenever you’re able to safely and confidently move forward with resolving the situation–don’t make excuses, just do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many people stay in our lives out of duty or obligation, how many uncomfortable situations we ignore rather than address, how many times we complain about something without taking action–and for what reason? It’s important to be intentional about the situations and people that we willingly permit to be a part of our lives. Naturally, we cannot control other people and every circumstance that presents itself, however we can react in a proactive and meaningful manner that will set a precedent for the type of behavior that you will willingly tolerate and the situations that you’re agreeable in participating in. I absolutely believe in being kind and civil and polite to everyone that crosses my path, to look for the good in humanity; but there’s a certain point in which loving yourself will help you to love others better.

Earlier this week, I had a very necessary encounter with someone whom had at one point in my life been very important to me–my late mom’s husband. He and my mom had dated from when I was about 12 until I was 18, and then reconnected later in their lives and eventually married. Without sharing all the details, I will just mention that he and she were very happy together for the first period of time that they were together and my teenage years were a lot of fun. He definitely contributed to my upbringing, and was involved in many of my milestones (taught me to drive, cheered at my graduation, etc). Later in life, even after he and my mom had split, we kept in touch. He held my babies when the kiddos were born and we would go out to lunch from time to time and I was happy to keep him as a part of my life. When he and my mom reconnected a few years ago, things changed a bit and we lost touch. Their relationship this time around had a myriad of ups and downs, largely due to her uncontrolled mental illness and his relapse into alcoholism–and to be honest, I developed a lot of resentment towards him. My mom had significant medical needs that he refused to acknowledge or address, and while I don’t blame him for her eventual death, I don’t think that he was the type of husband that she deserved. We made it through her memorial service in a civilized manner, however from that point forward every time I would think of him or hear from him I would instantly feel angry. I’m not generally a very angry person, and I totally agree that anger (although at times, healthy) can be harmful to someone if they harbor the emotions. After some serious thought and discussing things with some wise council, I made the choice to write him a letter sharing my feelings in a calm, non-blaming manner. I also thanked him for being there for me in my youth and then requested that he and I have no further contact.

Anger, resentment, grief, sadness etc. left unadressed WILL end up getting tracked into other areas of your life. Do your best to work through the situations and relationships. Be kind but be firm, and deal with things. Does “dealing with things” mean that you have to end contact with the person or situation? No. What it does mean, is that you bring whatever feelings you’re having to the forefront and let the other person know how you’re feeling and/or what you’re thinking. It may be as simple as an honest conversation with people who likely do care about you enough to listen. Life is short. Honor the relationships and people and situations that make you feel safe, loved and happy. Shovel the shit–and if you can’t do it alone, ask for some “landscaping” help from those who love you.

So it begins…

Hi there, and thanks so much for checking out Being Unbroken. In this first post, I just want to take some time to explain how this blog came into existance and my humble explanation of what it means to live (and be) Unbroken.

Honestly, I’ve mulled around the idea of starting a blog for 3-5 years now–but just didn’t take the initiative to get things up and running. Like many others, I have kiddos and work full time and life just gets busy. How many times have we all put things off that are “non-urgent,” sometimes indefinitely? Well, lately it has been made very apparent that life is SO super short, and I’ve been making a point to change some of my ways…like letting dreams and goals go unrealized, so here we are. I’d like to give a huge “thank you” to my friend Angie for suggesting that I use the word “unbroken” and brainstorming with me about how to make this all come together. I totally know that God puts people into our paths at certain points for a reason and I’m so thankful for friends like her.

The concept of Being Unbroken comes from the thought that so many things happen in our lives leaving us a bit broken. Trauma, loss and change are inevitable in this life, and they can leave us reeling. Being broken is something that we all have in common and truthfully, brokenness is part of the human condition. We all have stories of how various circumstances have “broken” us.

The issue, however, is that some of us set up camp in the middle of the brokenness and decide to just stay there. I’m all for taking time to pause and work through the emotions that may arise during tough times (sadness, anger, fear, grief, etc.) but part of processing the brokenness is deciding what to do next and attempting to carry on with life–creating a new normal. I know, for me, at some points in my life it just felt easier, or maybe even safer to just pull the covers over my head whether literally or metaphorically and refuse to make any steps towards moving on. Many times, the biggest issue with moving on with your life means that you have to actually acknowledge that the trauma, loss or change has happened and things have changed irrevocably. The good news, however, is that we have a great big God who meets us right in the middle of our brokenness. In the Bible, the book of Isaiah says that God will give “beauty for ashes” which has always meant that the hardest worst most terrible things that occur can and will be used for His glory if we just trust in God to get us through them. But how do we get from broken to UNbroken?

We all have a story, a path to becoming broken. Here’s an excerpt of mine: In the past 3 months, I have broken an engagement with someone who meant the world to me. Then, my mother was found to have suddenly died at the age of 56–cause of death still unknown. I’m in the process of a major financial overhaul. I also completed a Critical Care course which required 56ish hours online, 3 months of clinical hands-on experience and classroom learning and a test. Talk about stress. All I wanted to do was hide and eat things that aren’t good for me and cry. But here’s the thing: how does stopping my whole life and hiding under the covers and eating Nutella out of the container with a spoon help me long term? It totally doesn’t! Because the truth is, the longer that I spent in the thick of my grief and shock and stress, the worse I felt. The more I tried to control every last detail of every little thing, it actually imprisoned me, rather than setting me free! So, I started intentionally choosing to live “UNbroken.”

Living an UNbroken life is somewhat of a new concept to me–one that I have come to refer to as “living in the afterward.” My life looks totally different from how it did 6 months ago, and although I still grieve my relationship and most definitely my mama (at the time that I’m writing this, it’s been less than a month since she passed), I have chosen to live. It has become so apparent to me that I can either be stagnant, or I can MOVE. I chose to move. I choose to live. I choose to laugh and love and try my best to find joy. Without all the heartache, I never would have been able to learn and grow in the ways that I am–and for that, I’m so thankful. My faith has never been more intact. I absolutely know that God has a plan for my life and while I am here I will make it a life well-lived.  By no means do I have “the afterward” all figured out, but I’m looking for joy in the simple things–my big soft kitty purring next to me, the way my kiddos snuggle and make me laugh, midnight lunch and laughs at work and especially making the time to connect with people that mean the most to me. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far is MAKE THE TIME. The rest? I’m still on the journey…

Thanks for reading my incredibly long-winded explanation of Being Unbroken’s origin story. My hope is that through this blog, I can post some things that offer hope, humor, distraction and some random tidbits along the way. I’m totally open to guest posts, so if you have an idea to share, click the “contact me” tab. Let’s learn how to Be Unbroken together.