Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yellow Joy - It's Not Just for Dishes Anymore

I'm one of "those people" who normally keeps her house pretty clean. I usually enjoy doing my housework because thanks to FLYlady.com and the awesome housecleaning and management tips available on that site, I can (9 times out of 10) have my house TOTALLY ready for company in 15 minutes or less. We're talking toilets scrubbed, mirrors cleaned and all. If family or friends show up at my house unexpectedly, I don't have a bit of a problem letting them in for a visit because I'm usually on top of my house cleaning routine.


Last week, I had one of those days. You know, one of those days when you wake up and you realize that you haven't touched your house for about a week because things got busy and crazy and you had no time to clean. One of those days when you fix supper and you go to set the table and since almost every dish in your house is dirty and you just don't have the energy to wash anything, you start debating on whether or not you can get away with serving the beautiful healthy gourmet meal you just whipped up Hamburger Helper on the lids to your pots and pans. You wonder if you can convince your family eat with those tiny little three-pronged shrimp forks that are always lurking in the shadows of your silverware drawer.

Ah, those days. Those days make me want to pull my hair out and surrender to the dust bunnies and the creepy-looking goo that's congealed on my kitchen counters. Those days make me want to whine, whine, whine. They make me wanna crawl up under the covers and hire someone to come and scrub my house from top to bottom. They make me wanna cry.

Last week when I woke up to the disgusting out-of-control mess that was sure to send me into one of those days  (after I got past the wanting to cry part of things) I reminded myself that (just like FLYlady says) I can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes. If I could focus for just 15 minutes on one part of the ick, I could get things back in check pretty quickly. I've done this before. I know it works. So I shuffled over to the kitchen to set my timer, turned on some upbeat music, and reluctantly focused on the pile of dishes all over my stove and my counter. I was not in the best of moods. I was thoroughly aggravated because I had let things get so piled up. (Here comes another "BUT"!)

Here's what I spotted when I got ready to run the dish water:

 Yellow Joy!
(If you don't know why yellow Joy is such a big deal to me, click here for an explanation.)

The funniest thing about this yellow Joy dishwashing liquid is that it's not my usual brand. My husband picked it up the last time he ran to the store for me. He says it was the cheapest thing on the shelf. I like to think what really happened is that he saw the yellow Joy and chose it because it made him think of his beautiful wife since she's all the time talkin' about yellow joy. 

Needless to say, there was a very quick shift in my thinking and my attitude and I got those dishes done pretty quickly.

I then moved on to running my YELLOW sweeper. Yup. YELLOW! (I don't know why, as much time as I spend running the sweeper after my kiddos and singing the praises of yellow, it had never dawned on me until last week that - YAY - my sweeper is yellow!)


While I was running the sweeper I noticed that the bookshelf was pretty dusty so I grabbed my yellow dust rag and tackled the bookshelf too.

By the time I finished cleaning I had shifted from thinking about all of the energy it was going to take to get this place in order to thoughts of what a JOY it is to actually have all of these chores to do. The dirt and grime are evidence of the full lives being lived in our home. The mess is proof that we have enough. It's proof that my God supplies all my needs. What a blessing!

I'm pretty sure that yellow Joy is going to be my dishwashing liquid of choice from now on. I'm pretty sure that I'm gonna hold on to my yellow sweeper until it falls apart. And although I have several perfectly good dust rags to choose from, I'm pretty sure the yellow rag will be my duster of choice until it's no longer able to do its job.

I'm definitely living in a Yellow Joy Machine! Are you?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Birthiversary to Us!

This is what I had for breakfast. I'm celebrating today!

Today is a very special day. Today is the birthiversary (I can't decide if it's a birthday or an anniversary or both) of the support group known as "The Mack Group" - We Support Mackenzie Phillips & ALL Survivors Speaking Out Against Abuse. If you're not familiar with the support group click here to read a little blog about it. If you're already a member of the group, be sure to stop by today to see what's happening on the Wall and the Discussions. Some of us are having our own personal mini-parties to celebrate our journey together and may be posting thoughts and photos as we go. If you're interested in becoming a member of our support group you may visit the link on Facebook and request to become a member. (There are some group guidelines, so be sure to read them carefully before joining.) In celebration of our birthiversary, I want to share with you my personal top ten list of things I've learned by being a part of the group:

10. Sharing my story of survival is empowering.

9. Resources for survivors are everywhere and sharing the great resources I've found is an encouraging way to help others find what they need to heal.

8. Moving on and letting go of the past is scary but I can do it.

7. I am not the only person in the world who's struggled with horrendous coping mechanisms.

6. I am definitely not alone.

5. Setbacks suck, but they don't suck nearly as bad when you have somebody cheering you on as you struggle to get back up again.

4. Blood may be thicker than water, but it's not thicker than the tears you've shed with your fellow survivors. I can choose my family.

3. Grace and forgiveness are beautiful things.

2. Thanksgiving is not a holiday, it's a state of mind.

1. I am loved.

Our Support Group's Logo

Are you already a part of our group? What have you learned in the last year? In the comments section of this blog, share your own top ten... or your own number one... or just your thoughts. How has "The Mack Group" changed you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chutes & Ladders (and The Blame Game)

The last time I sat down with my boys to play a game of Chutes and Ladders I came to a conclusion. I decided that I'm going to blame my late-in-life grasp of "choices equal consequences" (cause-and-effect) on the fact that nobody ever played Chutes and Ladders with me when I was a kid.

I'm the baby in my family. My siblings are much older than me so they never had much interest in childish board games, and the kids in my neighborhood hated board games. We used our imaginations too much to slow down for board games. Our favorite pastimes included playing Barbies, playing with She-Ra: Princess of Power action figures, and challenging each others' choreographical genius by making up outrageous dance routines to songs like "Eye of the Tiger" and "Walk Like an Egyptian." We were a creative bunch, and we just didn't have time to sit still. Board games? More like bored games! Not a chance!

As a child, I had time to literally beg my mother to make me an "Annie" dress 
so I could (as authentically as possible) sing "Tomorrow" at the top of my lungs 
and drive everyone in my neighborhood absolutely crazy until I outgrew said dress, 
but I simply did not have time for board games. I was too busy for those.

The object of  "Chutes and Ladders" is to get your pawn to the "WINNER" square by spinning a spinner and moving across a series of squares which are numbered 1 to 100. Some of the squares have cartoon-y pictures of kids on them. If your pawn lands on a picture square at the base of a ladder, you get to immediately climb up the ladder. Once you get to the top of the ladder there's another picture. If you look closely at the pictures you can see that the kids at the bases of all these ladders are doing nice things: good deeds, making wise decisions, helping others. For example, the kid who's eating a balanced meal at the base of the ladder on square 36 moves up the ladder to square 44 and is rewarded with growing taller. The little boy who's taking out the trash on square 71 climbs to square 91 and is handsomely rewarded with an ice cream sundae. If you check out the pictures on the chutes, you see the same kind of thing going on in reverse. When you land on a picture square at the top of a chute, you slide down and have to start your pursuit of the WINNER square from your landing point. The kids at the tops of the chutes are doing things like drawing on the walls and riding their bikes with no hands, and their descents end with those kids cleaning up their messes and sitting in wheelchairs with broken bones and black eyes. I'm sure this game was developed to teach preschoolers all kinds of things. One purpose is to reinforce the cause-and-effect rule to the kids who are playing the game. Good choices result in wonderful things, and bad choices lead to a load of cleanup work and pain. (What a concept!)

So the next time my therapist asks me why I think I made a particular decision that resulted in catastrophe, I'm just going to look at her and say, "Well, don't blame me! I never played Chutes and Ladders!" This will, by way of diversion and deception, place the blame on my parents, who bought me things like Easy Bake Ovens, Rock Star Barbies and Pogo Balls instead of silly old boring educational board games. Ah, The Blame Game. Now that's a fun one!

In all seriousness, the "blame game" often becomes a coping mechanism that allows us to shift focus (from ourselves and the consequences of our actions) on to someone else. Since I've been on this healing journey one of the things I've learned to do (almost reflexively at this point) is to check myself when I start playing the blame game and ask myself what it is that I need to change about a situation in order to move on. When I notice that my rants about a situation become more about "the other guy" and what he's done to me and less about myself and how I can fix it (or let go of it when I truly can't change it), that's a red flag. That's my "wake-up call" to shut up and stop whining. Anyway, 9 times out of 10 I've landed in the muck I'm in because of a decision that I've made... and the sooner I take responsibility for it, the sooner I can climb up life's ladder and move toward that winner's square. Do you sometimes find yourself playing the blame game? How do you recognize that that's what you're doing? How do you stop it? Share your tips and tools in the comments section.

Until next time... May you be blessed - and inspired to pass it on!

Monday, September 20, 2010

(We All Live in a) Yellow Joy Machine

You may or may not have noticed my blog's recent redesign. You also may or may not have noticed that over on the right-hand side bar there's now a button labeled The Yellow Joy Machine.

How do I define the yellow joy machine? I tried to sort through "tweets" from my Twitter account to get back to the inception of this "Yellow Joy Machine" project so I'd be able to adequately explain to you what in the whole wide world it is. One hour and 2,879 tweets later, I realized that this project was born before my Twitter trauma (but we really don't need to dwell on that now, do we?) and so I'm left trying to explain it without the aid of the tweets that caused the whole "yellow joy movement" in the first place.

Let's just say that two very special Twitter friends and I happen to pride ourselves on our dork factor. We've shared many "dorky mom" stories throughout the last several months. In March of this year, the three of us talked a lot about a conference that we were planning to attend. I had grand plans to travel to the conference in style. I was busy working on a way to decorate my vehicle with big yellow smiley face magnets and window paint. We spent a lot of time talking about how we'd need a "joy machine" to ride around in. Somehow the color yellow got thrown in there (I think it was because of the yellow smiley faces) and we decided that we'd start living in a Yellow Joy Machine.

The three of us started collecting pictures of yellow things from our everyday lives. Yellow things reminded us of each other, made us feel happy, and helped us remember that we're sisters on a mission... a mission to find joy everywhere! It doesn't matter what kind of mood I'm in, when I see yellow it is impossible for me to feel alone because that yellow reminds me that there is always joy to be found. Six months later, we're still collecting yellow and finding joy in everyday moments.

This past Saturday my family and I had planned to visit a local church for their youth group's chili supper and fireside praise and worship service. Saturday was a very strange day for me. It started off great and got really weird somewhere around 1pm. I almost backed out of attending the event. My kids were so excited about what we had planned, and - brutal honesty - I seriously contemplated letting them down because I'd ended up having a rotten experience that day. When I realized that staying home and sitting around in the "funk" would do me absolutely zero good and disappoint my kids, I purposefully dressed my kids in yellow and sort of forced myself to go. I'm so glad I did! We had many joyfully yellow moments that evening and I ended up having a really great time.

What color brings you joy? Wanna join up with us and contribute your own joyful pictures? Visit the group at Flickr and hop on into the Yellow Joy Machine!

The two other (awesomely dorky) ladies who are equally responsible for this yellow joy movement also have blogs. Check them out here:

From Tracie 

Modern B*a*g* Ladies 

Follow us on Twitter:

@fromtracie - http://twitter.com/fromtracie

@believeactgo - http://twitter.com/believeactgo
@MzMeggs - http://www.twitter.com/MizzMeggs

Sunday, September 19, 2010

For the Boys (International Days Part II)

First Annual International Days: Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence

Male survivors of sexual abuse and violence

Today is the second and final day of 2010's International Days for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence. Yesterday I shared advice from male survivors. Today I'm sharing some of their favorite online resources. The following links are helpful not only for male survivors themselves, but also for their supporters. Please take the time to browse, bookmark, and utilize the wonderful tools that are available online:

http://www.1in6.org - "... a place for you to learn more, find answers to your questions, reflect on your situation, and explore your options - all at your own pace, and in complete privacy" with a mission to "help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives. This includes providing resources for people who care about them."

Burying Jack:
http://buryingjack.com - "One man's journey through therapy for childhood sexual abuse."

Child Abuse Survivor:
http://www.childabusesurvivor.net - A site complete with resources and a blog "About a male survivor of childhood abuse, and the issues he faces in adult life."

Lavender Men:
http://www.freewebs.com/mypainfulsmiles/lavendermen.htm - "Stay Informed • Keep Connected • Be Inspired"

http://www.malesurvivor.org - "We are committed to preventing, healing, and eliminating all forms of sexual victimization of boys and men through support, treatment, research, education, advocacy, and activism."

Shattering the Silence:
http://menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com - "Help for male survivors of sexual abuse." This blog belongs to the author of "When a Man You Love Was Abused" (Cecil Murphey). To read my review of  "When a Man You Love Was Abused" click here.

Thoughts Along The Road to Healing:
http://danlhays.wordpress.com - "Overcoming the Effects of Growing up in an Alcoholic Family"

One of the things that has really spoken to me in the last couple of weeks is that when I look at the statistics on my blog, views on the entries tagged "Male Survivors" outnumber views on my other most popular entries 3-to-1. I feel as though that's a pretty good indicator that males and their loved ones are looking for help, advice, support, resources. What will we do to bridge the gap and help these men garner the strength and courage to tell their truths?

Until next time... May you be blessed - and inspired to pass it on!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

For the Boys (International Days Part I)

First Annual International Days: Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Violence*

Male survivors of sexual abuse and violence

I recently posed a question to male survivors in my online community: If you could give just one piece of advice to the spouse/partner/friend/family member who wants to support you, what would it be? I got a few responses, and I'd like to share them with you in honor of International Days.

"Try to bear in mind that I don't act the way I do just to irritate you.I'm using behaviors that used to be my only survival techniques. They're not effective anymore, but I'm kind of stuck with them because I'm terrified of trying anything different." -Lars

"Be strong when I am weak, uplift when I am depressed, be calm when I am angry, come find me when I am lost…… but most of all be yourself, there is good reason why God chose you to be with me." -Don

"If I had to choose just one piece of advice, I think I would go with 'educate yourself'. There are a number of great resources online and elsewhere that can help you understand what's happening and what he is going through. Take the time to learn what you can, but also realize that you both need to stop and have fun every once in a while too. Life is going on all around him and spending time living it is an important part of healing." -Mike

In a recent book review blog, I mentioned that I was surprised at the similarity in male and female survivor experiences and coping mechanisms. Many male survivors are afraid to reach out for the same reasons females don't reach out. They're scared. They feel ashamed. They need to know that we'll be there for them. For many (ridiculous) reasons the majority of society doesn't look at male survivors the same way they look at female survivors. Let's do what we can to show society that EVERY victim of abuse deserves the support of someone who'll be willing to walk beside them as they heal. We cannot expect to see a change in society's ways if we personally don't do something to reach out to these guys. What's that famous quote? BE the change we want to see in the world? Yup. Let's do it!

*In celebration of International Days, I'll be posting two blogs specifically for male survivors and their supporters. Today's blog addresses how we can help the male survivors in our lives. Tomorrow's blog will be a list of online resources for males seeking help and healing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ice Cream and Cake (and Cake!)

When my kids got home from school today I wasn't feeling all that great (just a headache, nothing major) so I let them decide what to do to occupy themselves for the afternoon. I had decided that if they wanted to run around the living room giving each other wedgies until bedtime I'd survive. I didn't have enough energy to be Super-Mom or referee. During their usual 30 minutes of 'winding down' time, they decided that baking a cake sounded like a good idea. As a family, we have mastered the art of baking cakes without creating drama or disaster, so this seemed like a great idea to me. Minimal mess. Easy clean-up. Good deal. Besides, I love CAKE!

Now I'm not big on keeping a major stash of junk food around the house. I'm one of those moms who places limits on the sugar intake of myself and my children. I try to make the healthiest choices I can 99% of the time. But I will confess that I do usually have an off-brand cake mix or two in the cabinet for emergency baking purposes. Today was definitely a 'break out the emergency cake mix' kind of day.

We hardly ever use oil and eggs in our cake mixes. we usually use applesauce as a substitute for the oil, and egg whites instead of whole eggs. Sometimes we do the magic cake mix and diet soda Weight Watchers trick. Today we had no applesauce and no diet soda, but we did have two bottles of my husband's favorite carbonated beverages in the fridge. Our 9-year-old, decided that we should use a variant of the Weight Watchers recipe (remember, Mommy has a headache and Mommy's feeling generous today so Mommy says why not) so he opted for 6 ounces of Mountain Dew and 6 ounces of A&W Cream Soda and a yellow cake mix. (Yes, Mountain Dew. I know. Go ahead and lecture me in the comments section. LOL)

We buttered and floured the cake pan and baked his experiment according to the box directions. 35 minutes later we had a cake that tasted like something from a restaurant menu. Rich and moist and simply delicious, especially when served with a little vanilla ice cream. Speaking of ice cream and cake... DANCE BREAK!

We'll be making a very special "Mountain Dream Cake" recipe card to keep in the family recipe box. This will be his first official contribution. Pretty exciting stuff for him. He's so proud of himself.

Today's cake recipe is one we will most likely be trying a few times a year. I know it probably sounds horrific, but if you're feeling adventurous you might want to give it a shot. We were all so pleasantly surprised by the results that we couldn't wait for the cake to cool down to eat it! (Kinda reminds me of how we work so hard to keep from trying something NEW on our healing journeys, only to find that when we break down and do it we end up realizing that it's something beautiful that works really well for us. Remember my Inner Child adventure?)

We've often joked that my husband delivers some delicious culinary creations when we just let him go in the kitchen and play. Looks like our oldest son is definitely taking after his dad. (That's a good thing on many levels. He's a great husband and father!)

Do you have any accidentally amazing recipes to share?

Until next time... May you be blessed - and inspired to pass it on!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wacky Wednesday Wrap-Up

In keeping with my "seeking joy in every moment" theme here at the bloggy-blog, I thought I'd be a little silly today and share a secret joy of mine with you. Every now and then I get the urge to be surrounded in warmth. Most of the time this happens in the dead of winter, so I can't just trot outside and find a sunny spot on the lawn which is what I usually do on hot summer days. But sometimes even on those hot summer days, the sunshine doesn't quite do the trick. Here's what does:

(I dare you to follow along with my most sophisticated photo-illustrated instructions and do this NOW. You deserve how awesome this feels, trust me.)

Step one - Go to your blanky pile (or your kids' blanky pile - which is what I always do) and choose a favorite. YAY, Spongebob!

Step two - Stick the thing in the dryer and set the heat on high. Turn on the dryer.

Step three - Grab a watch or set a timer and wait five minutes. (I have learned over the years that five minutes just happens to be the perfectly precise amount of time it takes to heat my blankets to the desired temperature. Times may be adjusted to suit your particular preference.)

Step four - Remove the blanket from the dryer REAL quick-like, make a beeline for your favorite spot on the couch and enJOY until the warmth wears off!

My "inner child" loves this warm wrap-up. What's a silly calming and comforting ritual or coping mechanism you secretly enjoy? Dare you to share!

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Promise the Stomp, the Whole Stomp, and Nothing but the Stomp!

I feel like taking some time out of my crazy stress-filled day to share a joyful song with you. I was just in the shower trying to sing the blues away, and this song came to mind. (Don't worry, I got dressed before coming here to post... Haha!)

Now, If you're *ahem* my age or anywhere near it, you've heard this song about 50,000 times and then some. If you're a Jesus-lovin' survivor like me, this song may hold special meaning in your life. If it doesn't, let me invite you to hit the "play" button, close your eyes, and just dance. Pay special attention to the message of JOY and VICTORY. Now if that don't make you wanna have church I don't know what will.

"When I think about the goodness

and the fullness of God

Makes me pity the hateful

I'm grateful the Lord brought me through this far..."

Just out of curiosity, what song(s) hold special meaning for you as a survivor? Please share them in the comments section of this blog. (By the way, they don't have to be Jesus songs.)

Until next time... ♥

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Remember (09-11-01)

I remember.

I remember a time when religious zealotry wasn't the topic of every conversation. I remember a time when I could step into a church without wondering if I'd make it home to my family. I remember being able to turn on the television to be entertained for an hour without the interruption of overly-political and incendiary news stories. I remember what America used to be, and I mourn the loss of innocent lives. Not only the loss of the lives of those who perished, but the loss of livelihood for those left behind.

I remember.

And every day I make a conscious choice to honor those lost lives by doing the best I can to LIVE in what freedoms remain.

I remember.

How could I forget?

Friday, September 03, 2010

When a Man You Love Was Abused

Statistically speaking, we all know and love a man who's been abused. 1 in 6. That's what the experts say. 1 in 6* males will experience or have experienced some type of sexual abuse before the age of 16. I personally have three male friends who have shared their stories of sexual abuse with me. I've received countless emails from abused men since I started reaching out to people through Facebook and on this blog. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a burden on my heart for male survivors of abuse. These men are fathers, brothers, sons, friends. These men are hurting, and they need our support.

A few months ago I received a free book from Kregel Publications entitled "When a Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman's Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation" by Cecil Murphey. If I'd been aware of how helpful and insightful this book is, I'd have gladly paid for it!

Cecil Murphey is a New York Times best-selling author with a heart for God. He is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. In this book, Cecil shares his own healing story as well as healing experiences from other male survivors. From the male abuse survivor's perspective, he gives us valuable resources and advice about how to help our loved ones. I've read numerous articles and visited websites and blogs and searched high and low for answers, and literally every question I've ever had about how to help my male survivor friends was answered in the 256 pages of this book. I found myself reading and re-reading, and - quite surprisingly - relating to so much of what these men have to say about being a male survivor.

The effects of sexual abuse are far-reaching and truly devastating, and when we see the devastation of silence and shame taking its toll on a man we love, hopelessness sometimes becomes a part of our everyday lives. If you are a woman struggling to find a way to reach out to a man you know who's survived childhood sexual abuse - especially if you feel hopeless or lost - I highly recommend reading "When a Man You Love Was Abused" because the insight it provides may give you the hope and the tools you need to support your loved one as he hurts and as he heals.

Click here to see the Amazon.com listing for this book.

Click here to visit Cecil Murphey's blog, Shattering the Silence.

Watch this video to learn a little more about why Cecil wrote this book:

It's easy to see why Cecil Murphey is the latest addition to my "heroes" list. I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to share this book with you all. I believe in it. I believe in its message. And I believe in the God who heals, who gave this task to a man brave enough to SPEAK OUT and shatter the silence.

Until next time... happy healing!

*Click here to visit 1in6.org - it's also a great site dedicated to reaching male survivors and their supporters.
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