Courage to go on..

I was at a get together recently, where I witnessed several stories of survival.  Sometimes I sit back in awe as I listen to other people: loss of family, cancer, depression.  There is no way to judge one person’s story of survival over the other.. one thing rings strong through most of the stories and that one thing is depression.  I’ve experienced two incredibly dark times and since I only share my stories, I will.

I believe strongly that most survivors struggle with many questions and victims of abuse are no exception.  Your self-esteem bounces quickly up and down, depending on the people around you and the situations you are in.  The feelings of self worth, or should I say lack of self worth can be overpowering.

I had put myself into a relationship that left me with overwhelming guilt.  I was married to a man, who had his own struggles, and had little empathy left for me.  My abuser had been outed and our family was a topic of conversation, speculation ran wild, and I was a mess.  I was driving for work most days and there was a coulee that looked especially inviting.  I thought about it many times driving by.  What made me get up the next day and try?  Why did I not turn the wheel?  I had some good friends, my children, people that mattered to me, that needed me.  I still had purpose; I could find purpose; it’s what saved me, I’m sure of it.

There was one day, I was so overwhelmed that I went to a friends house, told her I just needed a place to be.  She opened her door, and I crawled onto her couch and fell asleep.  She and her husband’s house was a safe place to be.  I thank her in my heart right now, for not peppering me with questions, for just opening her home and letting me in.  The tears are rolling down my face now, not out of sadness, but because of the profound gratefulness I have for her and others who have done similar things for me.  I eventually divorced, worked through a few issues, started college and began another  chapter,  but it was because of this friend’s kindness and compassion and the sureness that my children needed me, that I really began the process of surviving.

Surviving is not easy; that day was 28 years ago; twenty eight years of knowing I wanted better, deserved better and could work towards it.  Surviving isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon; a marathon with hills and valleys and days you want to quit.  Don’t quit; I have a couch; I promise you, I have a couch.



This is my 13th blog! A fourth of the way to my goal of 52 weeks..  Every goal is different: some are physical, mental, or emotional.  All require self- discipline; I don’t like self-discipline, one of my challenges, if you want the truth….and I always try my best to give you as much truth as you can handle.  🙂

I recently took on an additional goal.  There is a bike ride called the CANDISC. (Cycling Across North Dakota in Sakakawea Country)  This year we will cover 416 miles in a week; more if I can handle the centennial ride challenge.  I rode this 13 years ago….13.. years.. ago……I was younger, and weighed less….weighed less….  🙂  I was divorced at the time and wanted to challenge myself physically. Every once in a while I feel the need to do this.. OMG…  So here I am training to achieve this goal, afraid that I will fail.  Really honestly, afraid that I will fail…like I have tears in my eyes right now, thinking about it.   I hate failure..

Wait a second:  What is failure?  Seriously, failure only happens when you don’t try to do something in the first place.  Failure is living your life so safely that you are bored. (I don’t like being bored.)  I won’t fail!  I may end up walking up a hill, I may end up taking more Aleve ™ than I did 13 years ago, I may cry…., but I won’t fail.

One day, my middle son, was taking a risk.  He was borrowing money to buy something and was worrying about failing.  “Son, if it was a sure deal, everyone would be doing it.”  He said, “Mom, what if I go bankrupt?”  I told him it was the right time to be taking chances…he tried and he did not fail… chew your fingernails off, if you have to, but try… you’ll never know unless you try..

I’ve always been good about encouraging my children to try new things, things that were risky, that might not be as successful as they imagine, but it took me a while to encourage myself, and now I want to encourage you!

Now if I get hit by a car… if 6 months from now, no one is reading my blog… diabetes escalates because of my weight…those would definitely be set backs, especially getting hit by a car 😦 …but I’m going to keep trying..

What are you thinking about for a goal?  What is your purpose?  Looking forward helps shorten the looks back..  I do this a lot; It’s a way of coping for me.  You’re a survivor! You won’t fail, unless you don’t try… Now if I could just work on that dieting self-discipline…..


There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!



The last few weeks have been interesting.  Blogging was a new experience for me; one that I knew I wanted to do, but didn’t consider all of the consequences of it.  Most families have a closet, in their minds where they bury the past.  Some people lock that closet door and never let anyone in; others open the door wide open and parade the contents to everyone.  I’m trying to find the balance and it’s challenging.  The challenge is to be the survivor and not the victim; I don’t want pity, or even understanding, I want change.  Opening my closet door means I have opened myself up to criticism and scrutiny; I understood that when I started the blog.

What I didn’t consider strong enough was that, the journal I told you I wrote in?, in the Courage to Heal story?; it’s been opened as well.  I am dealing with old emotions along with some of you.  It’s nothing I can put my finger on, but the emotions sometimes bubble to the surface.  I understand your fear: of exposure, your grief of things lost, the key on your closet door.  I understand.  It’s hard.

I hear from you and you tell me that a blog was welcome, or that it hurt; you tell me to keep writing, and that you can’t read anymore.  Thank you for your honest feedback.  My motivation to blog is change and I know that it is slow coming; that fear is sometimes all consuming, and that you can only crack the closet door open once in a while.  It’s ok.  I’m going to be here; I’ve made a commitment to myself to blog for a year.  Sometimes closing the damn door is healing!  Lock that sucker up and rest up; get strong.  If you need to open it again come back.

My disappointment and something else I didn’t consider is that people are reluctant to share and so my audience stays small.  Someone I love said, “I don’t want to share it and have everyone think I was abused.”  Lol, I get it!  If you get a chance, would you talk to one person about generalized abuse, physical, sexual, emotional, verbal….talk to one person about the subject.

I am so proud of you because you are a survivor.  You’re not blaming someone else, you’re stretching and growing, and I know how hard that is.

Being at a place in your life, where you’re happy with who you are (most of the time), is a wonderful place to be.  I wished with all my heart that I could have had the innocent adolescence, the secure male relationships, and the confidence that comes to a young woman, when those things are provided to her.  But who would I be then?  Would I have the same amount of empathy?  Would I be as brave as my journey has made me?  Would I be me?  Our past shapes us; the good and the bad.  Can we embrace it?  Can you embrace yourself?


Feminism? or Survivalist…

Helen Reddy’s song was released in 1971..  I was 12 and have been singing ever since.  I didn’t always understand every nuance of what it meant, but I loved the rhythm and it felt like a powerful song for a woman even at 12.

It’s sometimes easy for me to write personal things about myself; I have few secrets, although every woman needs a couple…  What I do struggle with, is writing and including anyone else in my stories.  The responsibility to write about any one else, in a way, that totally depicts my thoughts can be overwhelming.  I have spent a couple of sleepless nights, thinking how I could tell this story..

I tend to be strong willed, there was a period of my life where I had my control taken away from me, then I over compensated by seeking more and more control (another blog 🙂   My parents would tell stories of me jumping off the barn, of arguing so much my Dad was sure I should be a lawyer, of wanting things to be black and white.  I didn’t try out for anything in high school, unless I felt like I could win, and if I thought I would lose, I wouldn’t try. My mom always encouraged me to do things, that she felt like she had missed out on, but she had little experience to share with me.  She was a woman of her generation, as I am a woman of mine, and even Mom sometimes thought I was too independent.

One dictionary definition of independent:Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting.

Relying on others; whoa that is a scary thought, one even now I don’t entertain very seriously.  Years of training to not rely on people, because of disappointments, that I bear part of the responsibility for, have taught me to rely on myself and to encourage others to rely on themselves.  Stop blaming everyone else, take responsibility, flip the switch.   Ok, so I’m stalling..  🙂

Mom and I were standing in the kitchen, of the old farmhouse; she was doing dishes and I was standing 12 feet away.  We were talking about “what had happened to me.”  “Mom, did you know?”  She turned and looked at me and said, “No, I didn’t, but even if I would have, what could I have done?”  My heart broke in a million pieces.

It didn’t break just for me; but it broke for Mom too.  She thought she was powerless; it wasn’t that she didn’t love me, because she loved her children, was loyal and steadfast.  She was raised in a time, when few woman, stood their ground, especially in rural North Dakota.  If any woman was to divorce?  You were a hussy!  Create a scene? You were crazy! Deal with your own trauma? Unheard of!  Go to the police?  Mom was raised by strong Baptist parents, you worked hard to raise your family, buried your head and survived.  She survived, but I choose to survive in a different way.  The shame is not mine, it is not yours.  We survive.. we thrive.. “to make a difference, in the life of one child”, regardless of that child’s age.  🙂

I am teased about how can I be a Conservative Feminist;  I laugh because I am who I am, a complicated Christian, believer in the separation of Church and State, fiscal conservative, believer of individual state’s rights, feminist.  Be who you are.  Whatever brought you to this place, made you who you are and it’s a beautiful thing.

Hugs to my survivor friends and family.  I am so proud of you.  We are going to make the changes..


Happiness? Finally!

The last few weeks, I have had a weird feeling; every once in a while (it happened both times when I was driving), I have felt this sensation.  Wanting to sing, and smile, I have thought, “What the heck?”  Believe it or not, I spent time thinking about what could this feeling be.  The feeling is happiness!  There have been a challenging few years in my past; dealing with one crisis or turmoil, after the other.  I had forgotten what true, clear, bell ringing happiness felt like.

Coping becomes second hand to us; it becomes natural after a long period of time.  We don’t necessarily feel unhappy, but happy?

There is a friend of mine,  who has had a similar couple of years. I shared my happiness thoughts with her, and she said, “I’m always feeling like the other shoe is going to drop.”  “Life is good, but how long can it last?”  This is what I told her and told myself, “Whatever is going on today, if it’s good, hang on to it!  Embrace it!”  If we enjoy and embrace the good days, we will have lots of energy saved up for that one day, “when the other shoe may drop” or at least droop.

Wikipedia says happiness is: a mental or emotional state of well-being which can be defined by, among others, positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.

“Reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being”, that sounds like we have some control?  🙂  ahhh, so if I have some control, what are some steps to take?  My comment I make to my children sometime is, “Did anyone die?”  They usually give me that look, but really unless someone died, it can be fixed or at least overcome.  That sounds like an insensitive thing to say….but coping is sometimes insensitive.. it’s tough, and challenging, and honestly…you have to cope in order to be happy.

Google “steps for happiness”, and you can have a hundred (more) opinions on what it takes to be happy.  One that pops up a lot is giving.  I agree with that 100%, but giving all the time makes you codependent and an enabler, topics for another blog for sure!  How about taking?  Can taking make you happy?  Taking time, taking love, taking a compliment, taking credit for your good works, taking a hug, taking a hike, taking a trip, taking help?

Hopefully some things to think about; take happiness.  I wish you all “that feeling that you can’t describe”; be happy.


Counting your blessings!

Today is a great day, “I’m awake, alive, and blessed!”  Ok, maybe I’m not dressed, still in my pajamas, but I know I am blessed.  Do you?  There have been some very dark days in my life when I have wondered about many things.  It’s easy to slip into the gray of despair, when things just don’t seem to go your way.  I have literally stopped in my tracks, when I felt a mental melt down coming on, and said, “Ok, what are you grateful for? What is going right?  The kids and grandkids are safe, healthy and happy. ”  Those thoughts, for me, are often enough for me to pull myself back, from what ever cliff, I’m on the edge of.

We all have some level of those days, regardless of what we are surviving!  I found two things that help: the first is prayer. I offer up my concerns to a higher power.  We can’t control everything (a topic for a later blog :), heck we can hardly control anything, certainly not other people’s behaviors, the weather etc…  What can you do?  Acknowledge your need of help with prayer to your God, or if you are agnostic or atheist, to the nature around you.

The second thing that works is counting your blessings.  Feel free to google, this isn’t my idea or a brainstorm that’s unsubstantiated; there are many sites that will tell you that counting your blessings will calm you and help to heal you, spiritually, emotionally, and even physically!

Counting your blessings is another way to take care of you…. whether you do it as part of a prayer, while you’re out for a walk, or driving in the car.  What are your blessings?

I found this aid to counting your blessings at rabbi  It was originally published at the New York times.  It’s a very nice site, whether you are Jewish or not, you may enjoy it.

1. Give thanks. Once a day take quiet time to feel gratitude for what you have, not impatience for what you don’t have. This alone will bring you halfway to happiness. We already have most of the ingredients of a happy life. It’s just that we tend to take these for granted and focus on unmet wants, unfulfilled desires. Giving thanks is better than shopping – and cheaper too.

2. Praise. Catch someone doing something right and say so. Most people, most of the time, are unappreciated. Being recognised, thanked and congratulated by someone else is one of the most empowering things that can happen to us. So don’t wait for someone to do it for you: do it for someone else. You will make their day, and that will help to make yours.

3. Spend time with your family. Make sure that there is at least one time a week when you sit down to have a meal together with no distractions – no television, no phone, no e-mail, just being together and celebrating one another’s company. Happy marriages and healthy families need dedicated time.

4. Discover meaning. Take time out, once in a while, to ask: “Why am I here? What do I hope to achieve? How best can I use my gifts? What would I wish to be said about me when I am no longer here?” Finding meaning is essential to a fulfilled life – and how can you find it if you never look? If you don’t know where you want to be, you will never get there, however fast you run.

5. Live your values. Most of us believe in high ideals, but we act on them only sporadically. The best thing to do is to establish habits that get us to enact those ideals daily. This is called ritual, and it is what religions remember but ethicists often forget.

6. Forgive. This is the emotional equivalent of losing excess weight. Life is too short to bear a grudge or seek revenge. Forgiving someone is good for them but even better for you. The bad has happened. It won’t be made better by your dwelling on it. Let it go. Move on.

7. Keep learning. I learnt this from Florence in Newcastle, whom I last met the day she celebrated her 105th birthday. She was still full of energy and fun. “What’s the secret?” I asked her. “Never be afraid to learn something new,” she said. Then I realised that if you are willing to learn, you can be 105 and still young. If you are not, you can be 25 and already old.

8. Learn to listen. Often in conversation we spend half our time thinking of what we want to say next instead of paying attention to what the other person is saying. Listening is one of the greatest gifts we can give to someone else. It means that we are open to them, that we take them seriously and that we accept graciously their gift of words.

9. Create moments of silence in the soul. Liberate yourself, if only five minutes daily, from the tyranny of technology, the mobile phone, the laptop and all the other electronic intruders, and just inhale the heady air of existence, the joy of being.

10. Transform suffering. When bad things happen, use them to sensitise you to the pain of others. The greatest people I know – people who survived tragedy and became stronger as a result – did not ask “Who did this to me?” Instead, they asked “What does this allow me to do that I could not have done before?” They refused to become victims of circumstance. They became, instead, agents of hope.

Most of these are, of course, integral elements of a religious life, which may be why so many surveys have shown that those who practise a religious faith tend to live longer, have lower levels of stress and report higher degrees of wellbeing than others. This is not accidental. The great religions are our richest treasuries of wisdom when it comes to the question of how best to live a life.

Life is too full of blessings to waste time and attention on artificial substitutes. Live, give, forgive, celebrate and praise: these are still the best ways of making a blessing over life, thereby turning life into a blessing.