Thursday, April 11, 2013

Growing Pains aka Today is Moving Day

Today is a big day!

I've moved the blog.  It was scary and exciting at the same time.  Blogger has been my blog home for several years now, and it has been great.  I would still recommend blogger to someone new to blogging.

But it's time to spread my wings, so to speak.

You can read future posts....and the old posts too (everything was moved, even the comments!  Phew, I did it! wasn't really a big deal, but I didn't know that until I did it!) at....

Heh, heh, own's part of my platform building for my wish me luck! or break a leg or something!  :)

Come on over, and check out the new "digs".  If you get updates by mail, you can do that at the new site also.  If you read it in a reader, then you will need to change the addy in your reader.  I will still post updates at facebook and google plus!    I don't want anyone to get left behind, so come on over!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Monday Mitzvahs: Little Things Mean a Lot

Vera Kratochvil

Years ago, I worked for one of the Sheraton resorts during a time when they were working on getting their “fifth star”  (a prestigious hotel rating).  They had a motto, “little things mean a lot”.  As a hotel operator, it mean going the extra mile, being as polite as possible, and smiling.  They say you can hear a smile through the phone (do you think that is true?).

Honestly, that was one of my favorite jobs, I really enjoyed it.  The phrase “little things mean a lot” has stuck with me over the years because it is so true…for individuals as well as resorts.  Recently, I posted about how inspired I was by Linda Cohen’s experience and book 1,000 Mitzvahs.  She challenged others to try it…1,000 acts of service.  I decided to take up her challenge and invited you to join me.  Some of you did, thank you!  For you this blog post is a reminder.  Some of you haven’t taken the challenge yet and I imagine that it is because you are thinking that you don’t have enough time to take on one more thing.  If that is the case, then I have good news for you…acts of kindness do not have to be big, or time consuming to bless lives (YOURS and the person you help!)  This challenge is particularly for my fellow survivors, it may be hard to believe now, but doing small acts of kindness is healing. 

The hardest thing for me so far is asking myself, can I really count that?  I have a journal where I am keeping track of my Mitzvahs…simply to keep track so I will know when I have reached 1000…and to keep me from forgetting my goal.  The latter being the more important!
Here is an example.  I have decided it counts.  Linda talks about debating with her husband about whether changing a roll of toilet paper in a public bathroom counted, and they decided it did!  You can read about it in her book.  Here’s my “roll of toilet paper” moment.

My daughter and I went to the store, and we got a cart because we planned to pick up several things.  Our first stop was looking at some fabric.  While we were trying to decide, an older gentleman, with his arms full of items stopped and said, “Hey can I have this cart you aren’t using?” 

My first thought was, “I AM going to use it.”  But then I smiled and said, “Of course, I was just saving it for you.”  Later as my daughter and I were walking to the register with OUR arms full, I told her, “I should have kept the cart and told him ‘Go away, we don’t talk to strangers!’”….she gave me that “you’re weird Mom” look that teenagers are well known for because she knew I didn't mean it.

The truth of it is giving that gentleman my cart (that I did in fact need myself) gave me such a great feeling.  It was a little thing for me to do…a really little thing, but it made me feel good.  Give it a try.  Today try and do a small tiny act of kindness for someone else.  Something so small you wonder if it really even counts, and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face!

Photo attribution: Vera Kratochvil

Monday Mitzvahs was inspired by Linda Cohen and her book 1000 Mitzvahs.  You can learn more about her here on facebook.  Or read her book!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter: He knows our Shame

Lucy Toner
One of the many difficult things survivors deal with is an overwhelming sense of shame.  I remember well how it crept into my life, like a horrible disease that begins with symptoms that are almost unnoticeable, then grows in severity until it becomes crippling.

I fought it. Know that I did.  I didn't go down without a fight, but while my logical and surface part of my mind told me "what happened was not your fault", my emotional and much deeper rooted belief was that it was.  It happened because I was bad.

One day I was asked to substitute in one of the children's classes at church, the 4 yr olds.  I panicked.  I felt too unclean, too ashamed to be with those sweet little children and talk to them about the things of God.  I felt I had no right to speak of such things.  I was startled by this, but powerless to overcome it.

Then I was asked to give a prayer in a meeting...something I had previously enjoyed.  I couldn't do it.  I was embarrassed to say no, but I would have been even more ashamed if I had said yes.  How could I speak to God on behalf of the group?  I couldn't.

I stopped sharing comments in classes.  I had previously loved teaching, or giving a talk, but I could do none of them anymore.  What felt like the greatest blow was when I went to the temple.  The temple had always been a place of peace and comfort to me, but no more.  While I was in the temple, I felt miserable, ashamed, unworthy.  The pain was terrible.  I tried again another time with the same result.  My peace was taken from me.

I am doing better now.  I have begun to pray in church again, and well who knows...perhaps soon I will feel ready to speak or teach again. I am thinking of going to the temple has been a few years, maybe it is time.  I hope it is.

The reason I am sharing this today...of all for my fellow survivors.  I know your shame and your pain.  I know that telling you it is not your fault will not be enough to make it go away.  But I want you to know, that the Savior understands our shame.  He can help us, and we can turn to Him because He knows.

Philosophers throughout the ages have asked "why does God allow bad things to happen to good people".  I have asked that question myself, as a deeply personal question, not a philosophical one.  I don't know the answer, but I find comfort in knowing that Christ suffered too, so that He could help us with our pain.

He chose to come to earth during the time of the Roman rule.  He chose to be born in poor circumstances.  He chose to associate with people who were outcasts, the lepers, the sinners, the tax collectors.  And when it was time for His death, He allowed Himself to be killed in the most shameful way the Romans could think of.

The usual Jewish form of capitol punishment was stoning.  Pilate seems to have given them permission to do this, and yet that would not appease them.  They sought for crucifixion precisely because it was shameful.  Even the Romans did not use it for their "good" citizens.  It was reserved for slaves, and the most base criminals.

They always chose to do crucifixions in public areas, like well traveled roads, so that people would see those  who were being crucified, see them there naked.  Romans disrobed the people being crucified and attached them to crosses like animals, intentionally, they wanted the experience to be dehumanizing.  And all this in addition to the physical horrors.  No one deserves that sort of death, but especially not Christ, who had spent his life serving others, teaching, healing and uplifting, and yet there He was.  Innocent and treated with shame.  We, survivors, are too often weighed down by a shame we don't deserve.  Christ understands.  He has conquered death, and overcome shame.  He can help us do the same.

Photo Attribution: Lucy Toner

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter to the Editor: "...could not cope"

Marilyn VanDerbur, author of Miss America By Day, is one of my heroes.  She is an incest survivor, and she encourages other survivors to speak up and write letters to magazines and newspapers about this issue particularly when things are said that are incorrect or hurtful.  I am taking her advice to heart and learning to speak up in a new way.  Another survivor friend, suggested that I share this on my blog because people besides the Editors could benefit from it.

Petr Kratochvil

Dear Editors,

I'm writing to you because of something I read in the (magazine name redacted) that troubled me.  I understand that it was not the intention of the author to give offense, nor of the editors.  However, words can sometimes speak what is in our hearts, more than we had intended.  It is my hope that discussing this will help avoid this sort of painful error in the future.

Recently, I opened the current issue and saw an article on the Atonement.  I am currently working to heal from the impact of childhood abuse, and so with high hopes I started reading that article first.  I was felt as if I had been slapped when I read the author's' words: "As a child she had often been abused, and this had led to years of therapy—and at times institutionalization—because she could not cope."  

The dictionary defines cope as "deal effectively with something difficult."  The implication appears to be that if someone cannot cope, it is because they are weak, or deficient.  I considered that I was being overly sensitive and so asked a group of friends to fill in the blank, "He _______ because he could not cope."  The answers were things like: self-medicated, drank, quit and prayed.  As you can see, three of the four are negative coping mechanisms, which seems consistent with a negative connotation of the phrase "could not cope." Or in other words, supports the inference that the Survivor mentioned in the article was weak and deficient in some way.  It is very common for survivors of childhood abuse to suffer from anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation, which may led to years of therapy, and sometimes institutionalization.  This is not because they are weak, or cannot cope.  It is because the damage of abuse during ones formative years, and the pain of healing is so great. 

It may seem at first that survivors of childhood abuse are overly sensitive and writing for or about them is a veritable minefield.  Yet, I believe that if two things are understood, much pain and misunderstanding could be avoided.  Those two things are: survivors need their pain validated, and they need to know that people care.  For example, in the article, "could not cope" could have been worded, "because she suffered a great deal of pain".  The later validates the pain, and gives a feeling of empathy from the writer.

Also potentially hurtful, are messages that emphasize forgiveness as the solution for the pain.  Certainly forgiveness is important.  However, before a survivor can forgive there is a lot of grieving and healing work that needs to be done.  Cheiko Okasaki discussed this in her powerful talk, Healing From Sexual Abuse.  Therefore, telling someone who is still healing to forgive is the equivalent to suggesting someone pray away cancer.  It is just not that simple.  Some survivors feel invalidated by the forgiveness message, and may also feel shamed by it.  Shame is a very difficult thing for survivors to overcome, and being told to forgive may reinforce their idea that they are somehow inherently flawed as in, "If I had more faith I could forgive, so this proves I am bad and deserve this pain."

Thank you for your time and consideration.  Survivors can heal with the Atonement, but it is a difficult journey and we need validation and support..

Sincerely.  . .

NOTE:  I removed the names of the magazine, article and the author's name because I felt it appropriate to speak with them directly about the matter (a copy of this has been sent).  But because some newspapers, and magazines print letters to the editor, I felt it would be appropriate to share here to help others understand this important issue.  

UPDATE:  I received a response from the editor.  I was not expecting one, so that was a pleasant surprise.  The response was very kind and thoughtful.  It was personal, not a form letter.  It was very appreciated!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Centering Prayer: Sabbath for the Mind

Vera Kratochvil
It's been a month since I last posted about my foray into meditation and centering prayer.  Time to check in and report.

Yes, I am still doing it and yes, I still love it.  I wish I could tell you it has gotten easier, but so far that is not the case.  I try to spend some time meditating before I sleep and again when I wake up. 

Meditating when I wake up can be tricky because I'm not a a morning person, so I'm often pushing "snooze" to many times and getting up late.  But when I wake up and make time for Centering Prayer it is a wonderful way to start the day.  It feels grounding, seriously like I am pushing my roots deep into the earth while simultaneously turning my face up to the sun...or The Son.  It's lovely. 

Meditating before I go to sleep is different.  Usually my mind is churning and not necessarily with worry or concerns, but ideas and inspirations, questions, ponderings....trying to quiet it feels like standing in the eye of a tornado and asking the wind to stop.  Part of the problem is sometimes I want to think about the inspirations instead of being quiet.  During one such a time, I was trying to reassure myself that the "great ideas" would still be there later and would be better for having given my mind a rest (which, in hindsight, has proven to be true).  It was then that I realized that meditating is like Sabbath for the mind.  Resting your mind does help you feel renewed and refreshed later.

Grounding, and resting are wonderful, and if they were the only fruits of meditation, that would be enough to continue...but that is not all--no that is not all!  (said in my best Dr. Seuss voice)   The greatest benefit I have experienced so far is a partial realization of the hope that I mentioned in my last blog post about Centering Prayer...that feeling of coming home.

One of the hardest things for me in this journey of healing from abuse is the separation I have felt from God...its the Jaws of Hell, I tell you!  There are many reasons for those jaws gapping after me--which I won't get into now--the point is that after practicing meditation I feel that gap closing. 

Of course, I considered if I could be certain it is the meditation that is making this difference, or perhaps it was something else that I did...perhaps that something else was also inspired by the meditation. . . The conclusion is that I can't really say for sure, but I believe Centering Prayer is helping me Come Home again.  I had forgotten how wonderful "home" feels.

Photo attribution Vera Kratochvil

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Mitzvah Challenge

Photo credit  Petr Kratochvil

I have found that something really helpful for me is finding things that give me a sense of childlike wonder.  I didn't get to experience that as much as I should have as a child, but I can experience it now.  And it is very healing.

I experienced it recently at a Yo-yo contest that an acquaintence had told me about.  Wowzer! They do some amazing things with yo-yo's these days.  I sat there with my 6 yr old on my lap and whispered in his ear, "Look at that! It's like magic!" 

From this experience, I decided that I wanted to be watchful for other events that might give me that sense of awe and childlike wonder.  So I started looking on an "events calendar" on line.  I discovered that this weekend Seattle University will be hosting a Book Festival on the Search for Meaning.  Forty plus authors will be there, all authors of books related in some way to spirituality and religion.  And it's free!  

I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to do, and started browsing the speaker/author list.  That is how I came across Linda Cohen and her wonderful book 1,000 Mitzvahs:How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire, and Change Your Life.

When Linda Cohen's father died, she took a "spiritual sabbatical" from her home-based business.  She decided to take some time to grieve and heal.  Somewhere along the way, she decided to honor her father's memory by doing 1,000 Mitvahs.  Her husband suggested she create a blog and write about it to help keep track.  It took her two and half years, but she did it!   The blog and the experience turned into a book.  You can learn more about Linda, her blog, and her book at

Immediately, I loved her idea of doing acts of kindness as part of her healing.  Remember I mentioned in a previous blog post that one of my heroes is Admiral James Stockdale.  He was a POW in Vietnam, and one of the things that so amazes me about him was how even as a POW he looked for ways to strengthen and uplift his fellow prisoners.  I decided that if he could do that in his situation, then I could find ways to serve also even in the depths of my pain.  I have tried to do that, and it does help.

So when I read in Linda's book (and heard in her TED talk) that she would love for this idea to catch on, for other people to "copy" it.  I said, Ok.  I'll do it! 

I'm taking the challenge to do 1,000 Mitzvahs--acts of kindness, small or large.  In the book, Linda shares a funny story about changing a roll of toilet paper in a public bathroom and a philosophical discussion that followed with her husband about whether or not that counted for the challenge.  Her final Mitzvah was to help a local food bank by asking for 1,000 bags of food.  They accomplished well over her goal.  She was/is a busy mom.  All of us are busy too...but if we count small acts of kindness like changing a roll of toilet paper, we can all find time to feel the joy that comes from helping others. 

So what do you think? I have a journal that I am going to record my Mitzvahs in, but I'll update here periodically too.  Who's with me?

Photo attribution/credit HERE

Friday, February 22, 2013

True Confessions II

Uh oh!  There was no school this week, yay!  But being away from my normal schedule (and weathering a bout of nasty stomach bug that plowed through my family. . .) I almost forgot to blog this week!  Yikes, we can't have that!  So I'm pulling a busy blogger trick and presenting you something from the archives...but to assuage my guilt (yes, I have guilt about everything), I will add something new.

You've heard stories about harried parents leaving a child behind right?  I think we have all heard those and swore to ourselves that we would never do that--until we do.  Well, I confess I have done it a couple times, sigh.  It was usually just a matter of leaving one behind at a friend's house while loading up the others...but once, horror of horrors, I actually left my daughter at a stranger's house!

A post about "confessions" needs a fun picture.  Isn't she adorable?

That needs explanation, right?  Here's what happened.  She was 13, and had plans to spend some time with a girl, whose family our family was well acquainted with.  The father was/is my husband's dentist.  I knew the mom and other some of the children from our homeschool co-op. My daughter, Vienna, and my teenage boys were friends with the girl, Vienna was going to hang out with.  So I felt very comfortable with Vienna spending time there.

The trouble resulted because neither Vienna or I had ever been to their house.  Vienna googled their address, and I drove her over.  I work graveyard shift and it was my bedtime, so I just drove her up to the house and waited while she went to the door and knocked.  She was invited in and I drove away.

The battery on my cell phone was low so I turned it off to save energy for emergencies (like if I was in an accident and needed to call 911.)  Meanwhile, Vienna had been invited into the house and told by the dad that "the girls are outside swimming".  So Vienna went outside and found the girls...trouble was, she didn't know any of them!  There was a misunderstanding, and she was at the wrong house.  When she told them who she was trying to see, they said they got the same mix up with mail and packages all the time. 

So she borrowed their phone and called me on my cell, which of course was turned off--for emergencies.  Oh my.  When I got home, my son met me in the driveway and told me that Vienna had called and explained the situation.  I was mortified.  I got the phone number and headed back to pick her up...a 15 minute drive.  I was scared to death, and yet I was exhausted too. 

Someday when I am on my death bed, Vienna will probably still tease me about our phone conversation.  I asked her if she was alright, was she scared?  I assured her I was on my way and then said, "I am so tired." 

She says, "I was stranded at a stranger's house and your response is you're tired?!"   

What can I say?  One of my less stellar parenting moments all the way around!

Now, for my other confessions...I hope they bring you a smile...

I have gone to Dairy Queen, right after working out at the gym (I know, I know)

I love Jane Eyre but I'm bored by Jane Austen.

I would give a stranger the shirt off my back, but I wouldn't give my last piece of chocolate to my own child...

I have a thing for rogues...I particularly love Captain Jack.

I hate the color orange. My Bishop has an orange tie and everytime I see him sitting in front of the congregation wearing it, I just want to have Dart Practice!

Sometimes I listen to my music louder than my teenagers do. They are very embarassed by this...they say it wouldn't be so bad if I didn't do it while driving a mini-van...

Don't leave me hanging...share one of your embarrassing moments, or a confession.  You'll feel better!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Jaws of Hell

It recently occured to me that of all the things I have talked about on my blog, during this healing journey, one thing I have not really talked about is how it has affected me spiritually.  I have alluded to it a couple times, but never really discusseed it.  I don't know why.  It's not that I was intentionally holding back.  Maybe it is just an unspoken feeling I have that one's relationship with God is a deeply personal thing. 

Yes, that is likely what prevented me.  It's kind of like this....a great piece of advice I received when I got married was: when you are upset with your spouse, don't talk to other people about it.  The rational being that later his awesomeness (as you see it) later makes you inclined to forgive him, but your mother (or friend...), who doesn't see him as quite so adorable is less likely to forgive him.  I guess in that same light, it was hard for me to talk about the difficulty I have been having with God, because I don't want to pass on my frustration to anyone else, and then have them not 'bounce back' when I do.

Fortunately though, my relationship with God was strong before all this healing stuff started, and though the relationship has been rocky, I am mending the wounds.  In fairness, to myself, I must say, that DID has played a big part in the seperation I have felt from God. 

I don't really want to get into that right now, suffice it to say, that some how, some part of me decided that the Spiritual aspect of myself was much too precious and too pure to be subjected to all the filth that was about to come forth.  So the Spiritual One was whisked away to a far, far room of my Haunted Mind.  It took me a long time to understand what had happened and why.  Then to develop some inner co-operation to bring her back.  I know that probably sounds really strange, but rather than thinking of it as strange, I hope you can see that it is actually a testament to the amazing power of the mind. 

Perhaps, I will write more about that another day, but today it feels like a side-trip, so back to my main point.  Even though I haven't really talked about the spiritual aspects of my healing here on the blog, I am writing a book about it.  The book I have wished for to help me, but couldn't find.  Good grief, as I write that it sounds maybe a bit egotistical, but here's hoping you know me better than that.

My intent is to help others navigate this rocky path any way that I can.  That's all.  So, the first chapter of the book is about the spiritual divide that has been part of the process for me and why it happened (aside from DID).  The rest of the book is about healing that divide.  The first chapter is tenatively called, "The Jaws of Hell"  from Doctrine and Covenants section 122...". . .if even the jaws of Hell should gape after thee. . . (paraphrased because I am too impatient to look it up right now). 

As I pondered and later researched "the jaws of Hell", I learned that the phrase has been used at least since medeival times, likely longer.  It was very common in their art.  I just have to show you a picture I found. 

Photo Attribution:  HERE
Isn't this picture great?  I showed it to my daughter, Vienna, but she didn't share my enthusiasm. I don't get it.   And yes, in case you were wondering, this whole blog post IS just so I could share this picture.  I think it is perfect and I am wondering if I can get permission to put it in my book!

So can any of you reading this relate?  If you would like to tell me about your "jaws of Hell" experience (meaning that you felt separated from God due to anger, shame, DID, or another reason).  I would love to hear YOUR story.  As always you can share here, or privately by sending me a PM to lesliesillusions at gmail.

Oh, and have I told you lately...thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Coming Home through Centering Prayer

The other day on the radio, I heard a country song-- STOP-- Side Bar -- my daughter is going through a brief country music phase (let's hope it's brief). So I blame her for my few moments of listening to a country music station. Bleh. Something good did come out of it though.

So, I heard a song about a woman visiting her childhood home. Some strangers now inhabited it, but she talked about the bedroom upstairs in the back where she did homework and learned to play the guitar, and her favorite dog that was buried under the big tree in the backyard. She expressed the need to come "home" because perhaps that would help heal the brokeness that had occured since she had left. I was touched by it. I thought it would be nice if I had a place I could go to, somewhere before I was "broken".

Yes, I still feel broken in so many ways. There is hope though. I had a really great month which included Christmas. Since my oldest son is 18 and looking forward to leaving home this summer, this was our last Christmas "as a family." I am grateful for that reprieve. The drawback, and I suppose in comparison it is a small price to pay, is the disappointment I felt at coming back to the pain. Still it did give me hope in a future where there is less pain and sorrow than this place I'm in now.

While I can't go "home" to some physical place with healing memories, I have found a few things that give me "coming home moments".

The first is contemplative or centering prayer. I'm LDS/Mormon so this has really not been a part of my faith tradition, but I see no conflict with it.  Centering Prayer is a form of meditation with the goal of bringing oneself closer to God. I think of it as the "listening" portion of prayer. It is a mantra-based meditation. I'm really new to it, so likely not the best person to explain it, but I'll try anyway. If it peaks your interest, I'll share a couple resources at the end of this post.

First, I want to clarify, when I say "meditation", I don't mean deep thinking, I mean meditation in the Eastern sense of attemptling to clear your mind of thoughts and be still.  I start with a short "traditional" prayer. Much like the way we begin church meetings with prayer. Then I sit quietly and focus on my breath and repeat with my breaths a "sacred word" that I have chosen. The "sacred word" is whatever you chose. At first I used, Atonement, because I wanted to emphasize being one with God again. Later another idea came to me and I am using that now. I want to keep my new word sacred, something that I only share with God, but you get the idea.

During Centering Prayer you try to keep your mind quiet. As you can imagine, that is difficult to do as thoughts creep in and before you know it, you are in the middle of a "mental paragaph" before you remember that you were meditating and return to focusing on your breath, and your sacred word. That's ok. I heard a story of a woman who went to a retreat for Centering Prayer. After one of the sessions, she approached the leader and expressed her feeling that she had failed because she got distracted about 80 times. He said, "How wonderful, 80 times of returning to God."

Father Thomas Keating who has taught and written books about Contemplative Prayer recommends two sessions a day, 20 minutes each. I have not been able to make that much time in my day yet. And in fact I don't dare. It is hard for me to sit quietly. Quite frankly, I am afraid of the repressed emotions that will use that time to come forward. This is not unique to me, Fr. Keating talks about this sort of thing happening in his seminar "Contemplative Prayer" (available on CDs). My therapist is encouraging of my meditation practice. He says if I can only start with 5 minutes at a time, that is fine. It's a start. And so I do.

So far, I have found it to be amazingly refreshing and soothing. So much so that when I am in public and I start to feel stress or anxiety, I will take a couple deep breaths and repeat the sacred word to myself and it helps. It is powerful, and it is more than relaxation.  I have used relaxation techniques before that were helpful, but didn't affect me in this same way.  It's hard to explain how it works, different people have different ideas about this.  I will just share how I understand it.  I believe that I lived with God before I came to earth, I don't remember it, but my Spirit does.  When I meditate, I believe it is a way to connect with my Spirit, that part of me that remembers God.  It is like reaching towards the Divine within myself and at the same time reaching toward Heavenly Father. 

Another way I have found to come home is another form of meditation called Mindfullness. I feel even less adequate to explain it, except to say that we live much of our lives either thinking about the past, or the future, mindfulness is about being in the moment we are in. And again in a way that is difficult to fully explain, I find it very healing as well. Though I had been introduced to the idea before, my interest really began with a book by Geneen Roth called Women, Food and God. It has really been influential for me.  Another proponent of this form of meditation is Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has a PhD and works with patients, teaching them mindfulness to help with chronic pain and stress reduction.

Women, Food and God is about compulsive eating, and Jon Kabat-Zinn uses it to help people with chronic pain. The Buddists and some Christians (myself included) use it as part of their spiritual practice. And so I wonder, is there any part of our lives meditation doesn't affect in postive ways? My experience so far is no. It is truly a form of coming home and working to heal the brokeness.

Here are some resources if you would like to learn more:

Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth  I love this book.  I found it immensely helpful and healing.

Mormon Matters: The Kingdom of God is Within You--   In this podcast Dan Wotherspoon interviews two LDS men who have a meditative practice.  This podcast and Geneen Roth's book both resonated with me, partially because what they talk about is similar to things I have learned/experienced through therapy. 

Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Keating is available on CD (I borrowed it from the library) It is an a recording of a Seminar he gave on the topic.

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault I am reading this now, I haven't finished, but I am enjoying it so far.

Jon Kabat Zinn-- He has written so many books on Mindfulness it is hard to know where to begin, but he is next on my list of "must reads".

Photo Attribution:  George Hodan again.  I love his work.  See more of it here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Living Outside the Bubble

George Hodan
Once upon a time, a friend of mine (it’s always a friend, right?) related this story to me.  I will tell it in her words as if, you know, as if they were my own, but of course they aren't.  Maybe this sister lives in your ward. . .
When Church Hurts
On Sunday, I went to Relief Society.  Something I do tentatively because it is often painful for me.  I went because I wanted to feel like a “part of things”.  Part of a larger group, you know?  During the lesson they talked about the scripture, “mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.”  They shared stories of how they had helped and been helped. 
I sat in the back all alone and thought, “Wow, that sounds amazing.  You are all so lucky to belong to a church like that.  I wish I did.”
The odd thing is, we belong to the same church.  The last few years have been the most difficult of my life.  I have mourned.  I have hurt.  And I have never felt more alone.
I tried to tell myself that it is just that they didn’t know…surely if they knew, things would change.  So I told them.  I told people personally and I wrote on my blog a few times about how to help when you don’t know what to say.
And yet nothing changed.  I still feel utterly alone.  In Relief Society, they still shared the same stories.  They talked about how sometimes it is hard to know what to say or do…but also talked about a situation where they had overcome that and done—something. 
People tell me, “we do care about you [Leslie’s anonymous friend], we just don’t know what to say.”
Well I don’t know what to say either except--I don’t believe you.  For a couple years, I have said, “I just need to know that someone cares.  I want people to look me in the eye and say, ‘How are you?’ as if they were really willing to listen.”  I have said this over and over…and yet nothing changes.  So…yeah, sorry, I don’t believe you.
You’ve heard the saying, If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  And I wonder, if you say you care, but do nothing to show it, do you really care?


My friend is looking for a new church to attend….somewhere that won’t be so painful because living outside the bubble hurts.
Photo attribution...this photo like many I share on my blog is from George Hodan.  You can see more of his work here:  George Hodan

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Betrayal of the Mind--OR--Embarassing Moments with Art Therapy

Very Basic see something better check out the google link below

Awhile back, when my therapist was going to be on vacation for a week, which at the time felt like forever, I decided to give myself some homework.  I got some books from the library on art therapy.  I've been doing it on and off ever since.

ON--I do it because it helps bring things from my unconscious mind forward, and can be helpful in therapy.  Kind of like dreams.

OFF--sometimes I don't do it because it helps bring things from my unconscious mind forward, and I don't always like that.  Kind of like dreams.

In my on again, off again way, I have filled about 7 sketch pads with my randomness, some of it revealing, some mysterious, some dull.  Each sketch pad is more personal than a journal simply because I have more control over what I say in a journal. 

If you haven't tried art therapy, that may seem like an odd thing to say.  But I will give you an example of a time art therapy took me by surprise.  Part of the problem was that I had not intended to do art therapy at that moment, but the subconscious doesn't care about little things like proper timing.

So, I was in my son's Kindergarten Art Class.  They were learning Notan.  It is a form of art that uses contrasting colors and paper cutting to make designs.  Some notan is really intricate and beautiful.  You can see some google images of notan HERE

As I often did in that class, I helped my son with his project and then I made my own.  (I had so much fun in that class!)  After we all finished our pictures, the teacher had us hold them up (parents too) and show them to each other.  So I held mine up for this class of Kindergarteners and three or four other moms.  Then we sat them on the table and started on a second one. 

That is when I looked down at mine, blushed furiously and turned it over so no one could see it.  This happened on a therapy day, so I took it to therapy.  My therapist burst out laughing when he saw it.  Then said, "Can I take a picture of it for your file?"

"A picture?  You can have the horrid thing.  I don't want it!"  I said.

He just smiled, took a picture with his cell phone and told me he would email it to me.  Much later, I was glad that he did.  But it has taken me a year to overcome my embarrassment enough to post it here on the blog.  I'm sharing it to show you the power of the mind, and of art therapy.

So....what were we talking about?  The about that fog we've been experiencing in the Seattle area. . .

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Miss America By Day by Marilyn Van Derbur

Talia Felix

Ok perhaps you are thinking, " Leslie,  Miss America By Day doesn't sound like your kind of book." And you would be right.  I don't think it sounds like my kind of book either.  I think this book is mis-named.  I never would have picked it up on my own, but it was recommended to me.  And I LOVE it. 

The reason I don't like the title is that I feel it is misleading.  It makes it sound like a girly-girl book.    Since I am not a girly-girl, it's not the kind of book I would normally pick up.  But the author Marilyn Van Derbur says she's not a girly-girl; she's a tom-boy.  And a very competitive one at that, which is how she somehow ended up in the Miss America contest, and won. 

What the book is really about is in the subtitle: A guide for parenting. . .resource for professionals. . .handbook for survivors of sexual abuse. . .love story.  It truly is all these things.  The first part of the book is a memoir.  Don't worry there is nothing graphic about the abuse.  Survivors may find it triggering though.  She talked about things I have felt, talked about and written about here on the blog. It was so validating! Here is an example:

(note-Larry is her wonderful husband, and Jennifer, her daughter that she shares a close relationship with.)

"A dear friend stopped by one day.  She couldn't have been more loving but her words cut me to the bone.  'Lynn, its a beautiful day.  You have Larry, Jennifer, this wonderful home, an increidble career, you need to let this go now and move on with your life.'  Not one word had been said with malice.  She had always been supportive of me byt her words were so hurtful.  If only she knew how desperately I wanted to move on.  The feelings and emotions had become more than I could suppress or control anymore.  The recovery process has nothing to do wtih willpower or choice.

"I wish I had known that many--if not most--adults sexually violated as children, are in their 40's before they begin to deal with their childhoods.  Just knowing that this is 'normal" for many survivors would have helped me cope with friends and family members who were saying, 'This happened a long time ago.  Just move on with your life."

I didn't realize 40 is a common age either, and yes, I have gotten the "move on" message from well-meaning friends. 

The second "half" of the book is a "guide".  I thought I knew a lot about this topic--not only from living it, but from my study and work.  But I learned a lot of new things from this portion of her book.  Chapters titles in this portion include: How Common is Forgetting; Do Babies and Toddlers Remember?, Seven Things You Should Never Say, Why Don't Children Tell?  etc. There is some wonderful information about protecting your children that will enlighten and empower you.

I want to fill this post with tons and tons of quotes, because I love her book so much.  But, you know, they have copyright laws about that sort of thing. So I will limit myself to one more that I feel highlights my favorite thing about her book.  She is so very encouraging and positive.  She gives me hope.

"The good news is that the pain can end.  The bad news is that recovery is an indescribably agonizing process."   In another part of the book she says the pain can end, but you have to do the hard work.

I think anyone: survivor, friend of survivor, parent etc could benefit from this book.  Read it!  You won't be disappointed.  That is a money-back guarantee (money back that you spent on this blog post-- that is!)

When I "grow up", I want to be just like Marilyn. 

Photo Attribution:  Talia Felix