EVERYTHING is an excuse for cake!

My ex-husband and I separated in 2016 about 8 months after that photo on the left was taken. The recent photo is 2 1/2 years post divorce and lots and lots and lots of love, support, and self discovery. Oh, and a low carb lifestyle.

If you have read one or two of my posts then you can probably infer that I am divorced from an alcoholic, have 3 mostly grown kids, and am generally enjoying this time in my life rediscovering who I am and redefining who I want to be. A humongous part of my journey for the past 20 years has been a cycle of destroying and repairing my battered self image. I think this is quite a common struggle among women. Most women I know are losing weight, wanting to lose weight, striving to include exercise in their routines, reading and engaging in productivity workshops, and going to counseling, etc.

My self image was destroyed by ME. I did it. I gained 100 lbs in avoidance of my circumstance. I used food to escape, to feel good, to feel loved, to NOT feel, and mostly, to insulate myself. When I am overweight I feel invisible and invisibility limits engagement with life. I spent so many years at such a heightened emotional level, feeling lost as a stay at home mom and in the feeble attempt to guard my family against the invisible enemy of alcoholism (ok, I know thinking I had the ability to guard us from this disease sounds ridiculous, but this coping mechanism is a subject for another day) that I could not or would not allow myself to experience anything that might create an emotional spill over. I mean this in the most ridiculously strict way possible – I could not, really still do not, watch movies or read novels that I know up front might prick a sorrowful feeling in me. That would be risking tears. Crying was to be avoided at all cost, according to my old paradigm. I needed to be numb at most because I feared the emotional release – I feared what I would have to acknowledge in my life – and I feared that I would never stop crying! So, when I began to feel almost anything, good or bad, I ate. I ATE IT ALL.

I realize this may all sound super dramatic. “Really, Bonnie? You thought you could regulate your entire emotional well being with food?” And, well, I did, sort of. I also have a beautiful group of friends and an insanely supportive family who loved and nurtured me as well. But food took a place in my life it should never have held.

I have worked hard to repair both the emotional damage I have collected as well as the damage I caused by weight gain to my physical body. These toxic habits of mind and body are excruciatingly difficult to break, bend, and mold into ones that serve me instead of battle me.

I have lost 40 lbs since the divorce. I still have 50 or so to go.

I am at a plateau of sorts. I AM HAPPY. It is a terrifying and strange place to be. It turns out that when I allow myself to feel the good feelings I am also bound to feel the bad ones. “Bound” in that I have no choice but to feel the entire range of emotions. Going from mostly numb to enduring the colossal spectrum of emotion from elation to grief has been, honestly, VERY unsettling. When I feel some of the same emotions that were triggered during the bad times, even though these emotions do not carry the same weight or impending doom, the habit is to allow the old fear to take over. And, this of course requires cake. (Not really, but you can see where my habits may be screaming this.)

I am in an emotional plateau and I recognize this and am working on acknowledging it and creating habits and a mindset that will better serve me. I want to feel beautiful again. I want to be able to go on adventures and not feel hindered by my physical body. I am also done with being invisible. I am ready to fully participate in this world and to do that, I need to be SEEN and to be HEARD. How terrifyingly thrilling!

Sometimes it is ok to pivot . . .

A dragonfly symbolizes change, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. I created this painting the first time I separated from my now ex-husband. it was a declaration for myself of all of those things. It hangs in my house still as a constant reminder of my resilience.

For years, I have planned to write extensively about life with an alcoholic, specifically, the lessons I learned about life, love, and grace because of it. Recently, I have been narrowing the topics and making a plan, forming questions that I know my answers to will help other women who find themselves in a similar place. And, you know what?? It is a good plan.  

But, I can’t do it.  

I am not ready to be so vulnerable or to share my brokenness. Ok, that is not true. I am ready in that I am confident in the woman I am and have become in large part to that season of my life.  I am choosing not to do it for fear that the vulnerability I would feel from writing about these years would somehow pull me away from the life I am loving right now. It could possibly regrow the walls around my heart that have finally been obliterated due to a salvo of good fortune rained down on me for the past few months. I am choosing to just love where I am for the moment. 

I suspect I will occasionally be moved to write about some of the topics I have planned, but I will not make it my main focus as I originally planned. Instead, I am focusing on writing to encourage women to be confident, to be healthy, to embrace creativity.  

If you love an alcoholic or suspect your loved one is an alcoholic, let me offer this resource:  https://loveoveraddiction.com/blog/ 

The program, Love Over Addiction, gave me a community of women I could turn to when I needed to know I was not alone. This program fit what I needed in a way that Al-Anon could not. The courage of the founder, Michelle Anderson, to share her story and to share in understanding of the beauty of living a life through a lens of love was a tremendous gift to me and truly shaped the way I was able to approach my day to day life.  

You need to know that you are not alone and that you can find your way to happiness, wherever you find yourself in your journey.  My inbox is always open.

Easter Sunday

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I made this stick cross door decoration for my door a couple of years ago. I changed our the ribbon and added pink to it this year. I like having the visual of the Easter season on the threshold where I am reminded everyday!

The kids and I attended church today for Easter Sunday Service. I haven’t been to church for a very long time – in fact the last time I was in church could have been Easter of 2019. I have had a strained relationship with God and our reparation is fairly new. But, aside from the one year off for Covid, I have never missed an Easter Sunday in an actual church with my family.  

Today, the pastor was relating the Easter story, as one does this time of year, and I was struck by one part in particular. Although, as a good teacher I was at the ready with pen to bulletin, I missed her direct quote, so here is my paraphrase –  

Jesus was dead. He WAS dead. There was no doubt. It had happened. People had seen it, his lifeless body was placed in the tomb by people who know what dead looks like. He. Was. Dead.  

But he wasn’t.  

Because God is like that.  

He can and DOES take situations and parts of us that we think are dead and gone and he resurrects them as something new. This right here, this is an amazing and wondrous thought, isn’t it? God can raise the dead. If he can raise the dead he most certainly can breathe new life into someone who feels broken and lost. I have spent my Easter Sunday reflecting on how He has done this for me. He raised my spirit from the dead through my divorce. He built me up as I began to build a life as a single person with three almost grown kids. And, He did this when I was not happy with Him.  

He is continuing to build me up, through my dearest friends, through my job, through my kids, and through my art. All of a sudden I see that anything is possible, I may just need to rely on this relationship I have been obstinately ignoring like a pouty teenager because I did not want to have an alcoholic husband (or ex-husband for that matter) or have to endure all of the ugliness and anguish that entailed. I did not want to make decisions that needed to be made. I absolutely did not want to do it all on my own. Yeah. See the irony there????? I see it now, God. I really do.  

Forgiveness

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This is a photo of my daughter, creating a heart out of the sand in the dunes on the coast of Oman – one of the most beautiful, natural places I have ever been. 

              “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ,                           God forgave you.” Eph. 4:32

Have you ever been so angry that you just can’t see straight? You cannot hear your friends and loved ones when they even suggest something contrary to your justification of your anger? This is where I have been. I have been angry. Angry for a myriad of reasons both valid and completely irrational. I have run the gamut of “if only. . .” and “what if I had just . . .” and many other ridiculous thought patterns that have no constructive purpose in moving me forward through this (apparently very angry) tiny little section of time in my life.

I may have been hard hearted and resistent, but if anyone can get my attention, it is God. The theme of forgiveness is running through all that seems to touch me right now. My God is screaming at me to forgive through literature in my classroom, through the novel I am reading for fun, through my personal Bible study, in the book my school has been assigned as professional development, commercials, memes, even a cleverly placed STOP sign when my head is swimming in angry prose- I mean you name it, FORGIVENESS is a running theme God is placing before my every turn. I know He is doing this so my heart is free to heal and free to love my children in the way they deserve and need and – well, just free to be myself through the power of forgiveness so that I can be His servant in ALL of the roles He has assigned me.

In her book, Add more -ing to Your Life, Gabrielle Bernstein shares some advice she gave to one of her Life Coaching clients, “I made it clear that if her desire was to change her life and be set free from her resentful patterns, forgiveness was in order.”  I am my own obstacle. Wow. Ok, then I am the ONLY one who can get over myself!

I forgive. I forgive it all.

I forgive the real transgressions against me.

I forgive the ones in my head, made up to avoid facing my real anger or to avoid taking responsibility for my own life.

I give the anger over to God to transform into positive energy.

I will find my inner Pollyanna again and she and I will tackle this world of ours with fun, laughter and love once again!

And, since I ABSOLUTELY hate the saying “One day at a time” I will simply say that I look forward to planning my tomorrow as I live today in peace and in positivity!

My inner child is a brat.

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Me. Circa 1977ish

My sweet, precocious, persistent inner child. She love sweets. She loves to use the vending machine. She hates being told “no” and throws temper tantrums when she can’t have what she wants. (And don’t judge her uber-chic, in style for the times “Dorothy Hamill” haircut of the 1970’s. She is very cute and in style 🙂  She is still inside me and, although I love it when she is creative and spontaneous, I am not so thrilled when her extreme sweet tooth is screaming to be fed!

Recently, I found that I am going to have to have a very, very  minor surgery to remove a small benign cyst. No big deal really, except that I really don’t WANT to have surgery. (duh) So, what is my reaction? I go to my favorite bakery (the one mom got my cakes from when I was that little girl in the picture) and make it all better with FOUR large petit fours. UGH. You know what? Eating those did make it better – for like 10 minutes. The regret I felt was a wee bit longer than that and you know what else? I. still. have. to. have. surgery. So, it didn’t work. It didn’t really help.

I have also discovered that my sweet inner child takes over around 3 or 4 every afternoon. I used to think this was because it coincided with the end of the school day – the end of the part of my workday involving  students and therefore the point where stress of the day eases up- but it is summer and I am still experiencing major sweet cravings at this time. This tells me I must need a heavy protein snack somewhere around 2 each day to head this off.  I will be working on this, including this snack in my meal planning, and see how it goes.

I need my inner child throwing her temper tantrums to get me to try new things, go on adventures, and be creative. NOT eat a cake. I want her working for me, not against me.

Planning, preparing, organizing and journaling will get us working together.

When you travel and you are on a diet, you should plan. Just sayin. . .

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Photo is from the parent orientation luncheon and presentation. 

The unadventures of getting happy and healthy – lesson #1 PLAN YOUR FOOD AHEAD OF TIME. Obvious right? But the thing is I was READY. Remember? Ready to start to change THAT VERY MINUTE. So, no real planning, just a do it sort of thing. The day after I have this wonderful epiphany, I take off to drive 6 hours with my oldest son to go to his college orientation. . .

Here I am, at the “parents of incoming freshman” college orientation, trying to adhere to my re-instituted EAT SMART (low carb, esp no man made carbs), drink tons of water, and eliminate artificial sweetener way of life. Geez. It is like I subconsciously chose this particular moment to challenge myself and prove my conviction or sabotage myself.

Day 1 – the 6 hour drive

There are no choices of a caffeinated drink that is not diet and does not contain sugar in convenience stores/gas stations. I can have water. But – I MUST HAVE CAFFEINE. I drank Diet Pepsi (now aspartame free, but still a cola) sparingly to head off caffeine headaches. AND TONS OF WATER. So, I give myself a B+ for effort here.

Days 2 & 3 – the stay

Continental breakfast at the sweet little hotel I am staying in consists of a lovely array of tempting muffins, bagels, and toast . . . and fruit. I had fruit. A+ (I resisted the carb loaded deliciousness for natural deliciousness)

College campus lunches are heavy on the carbs – not veggies. I did enjoy some baked chicken and some potato salad (yes I know this is a carb but just chicken was just sad). On the up side – my kid is going to love the food. C

I did drink water every day, all day. Which means that I now know where every women’s bathroom on campus is. A+ (but an irritating A+)

Exercise – well, I walked all over campus for two days. I was staying alone in the hotel while eldest son was on campus and I used this excuse to NOT walk any more than this. Even though I could have gotten up early – I am a night owl, not a morning glory – and walked the lovely downtown area, I did not. I did not feel safe at night and couldn’t bring myself to get up early. B

I made it home mostly proud of the choices I made. See, really, it’s not about a diet or counting calories I eat or minutes I exercise, it is about making the choice in the moment.

It is about choosing ME each time and not the temptation, etc. So, here’s to success not sabotage 🙂 

Today, I am READY.

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“When we settle we sacrifice ourselves, and in doing this we hurt our authentic connection wth others.” Shannon Kaiser Adventures for Your Soul

I am no longer a spring chicken. I have cracks in my armor and it seems to just be missing in places. I have had my head down and my blinders on, peeking out only when necessary only to look up find a life I didn’t exactly plan – one that just happened. I have settled. I have been hiding behind my job, my kids, and around 80 extra pounds instead of taking life by the nose. And today, today I am done with that. I am done settling and being afraid. I’m done avoiding and I’m done hiding. Today I am READY.  Life as me, the best I can be.

Yeah, yeah, I know you have heard this before. What is different this time? Why will I succeed in getting healthy and happy this time? I don’t know exactly I just feel it in my bones. I will do this and it will be a struggle but it will be worth it!

I will be documenting this crazy journey here – as an accountability tool. I love to write. . .

Thanks to Shannon Kaiser for her awesome book Adventures for Your Soul – this book is currently my daily dose of positive “you can do it” inspiration. You will see more inspirational quotes from this awesome book as I move along this journey to a healthier, happier me. 

The Dread of Decision

When trying to make a decision, my family looks like we are engaged in desperate game of volleyball – no one wants to be the one to let the ball drop in the sand by making a decision!

Decision making has become an albatross in my family. No one wants to bear the weight of it. This albatross passing happens most often when it is time to decide what we will eat for dinner – or say today – where we will go for lunch after church (with the added dreaded decision of – do we go have a sit down dining experience? or do we get it and bring it home?) On this occasion the dread of decision led to a stalemate where we stomped off to our cars discussing it along the way. Inevitably, one of the kids chose to get sandwiches and take them home.

Now, I am sad. Sad I didn’t get a sit down dinner with my entire family where we talked and enjoyed each other’s company. But, perhaps in the mood we were in because of the dread of decision it would have been more of a verbal volley of irritation. Who knows. What I do know is this dread of decision is getting in the way of peace in my family.

Why don’t I want to just make all the decisions? Well, I could. But, when my dream is to share the responsibility with my family because we are “all in this together” then my being sole decision maker sort of defeats the purpose. I want my kids to understand and respect what others want as well as how to make a decision without bickering.  I do not want the almighty matriarch role – I just want to hang with my fam!

In my classroom, instead of choosing who will be in groups, I have a set of cards with each kid’s name on one. When its time to do group work, the kids pull random cards to choose groups so the groups are totally random. I was trying to think of a less obvious way to do the same thing with the dinner decision. One of my very best friends once told me that when she and her husband were remodeling their house they made decisions based on how they ACTUALLY live not on how they WISHED they lived. I think this is brilliant. So, in the spirit of how we each really, really hate to be the one to decide, I will get us together (family meeting!) and come up with two lists – one of restaurants close by to get something to take home and another of our favorite out to eat restaurants. I will write them down as suggested. Then when time to decide, we just go to the next name on the list. (I keep my planner with me all the time! I can have it out in a snap!)

As far as deciding on whether we need a take home or a sit down meal, I think this is a decision we will just have to make on the fly.

How else is this dread of decision affecting my life? I will be looking out for this one in the weeks to come to see where else this weird little fear is raising its head!

P.S. I would also like to note the irony: In the spirit of not having a conflict over differing views over something as inconsequential as where we eat, we are having conflict. There is confrontation in avoidance as well as disagreement.

Going to Church OR Feeling Naked

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A roadside sign warns drivers along Alabama Highway I-65 North in Deatsville that they need to to church the avoid the wrath of the Devil. The sign was erected by the late W.S. “Billy” Newell in the late 1980’s as a way to “wake up the people,” Newell told NPR in 2005. Newell briefly changed the sign to, “We Love Lucy,” when 2006 gubernatorial candidate Lucy Baxley. Newell died in 2009. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright)

Thanks to  Carmen K. Sisson for her awesome photograph! Click her name to check out her photography and free-lance journalism bio! 

“In his moments of insecurity he was haunted by the suggestion that life might be, after all, significant.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Beautiful and the Damned)

“The important thing isn’t what other people think you are; it’s who you are.” – Shannon L. Alder

“You can even say that I hated myself at certain periods. I was too fat, or maybe too tall, or maybe just plain too ugly … you can say my definiteness stems from underlying feelings of insecurity and inferiority. I couldn’t conquer these feelings by acting indecisive. I found the only way to get the better of them was by adopting a forceful, concentrated drive.” Audrey Hepburn

I have not been active in my church community in several years.  This is for a myriad of reasons – all having to do with me and some very trying times in the life of my little family. In the interest of being a more centered, effective person, I know that going to church makes me feel connected to my God, my community, and my purpose.  So, why is it so hard to go?

1 – I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON! And, here in the South, Sunday School and Big Church are where the action (or discussion) is.

2 – I FEEL COMPLETELY EXPOSED. Which is scary (and avoidable by NOT going to church).

You see the conundrum.

So, today we went to church. I felt exposed and judged and I acknowledged with every step that this was my problem, my perception, not reality. I know this because I saw smiles, and welcoming greetings, and invitations to Bible studies. I left today feeling good, not stripped naked, which is my worst fear.

Next week, I will make it to Sunday School and I will brave the fear that I will regret something that I say while there. (Which, really is strange. I rarely misspeak while in my classroom of judgmental teenagers, and when I do I acknowledge it and move on, no big deal. But, in church, I truly feel as if I am being sized up with every word.) I will also be brave enough to be self-confident enough to remain focused on the benefits to ME – I will be a more centered and effective person by participating in worthwhile studies meant to help me be a better person and manager of my time in order to truly live life.

How often am I inhibited by my self-doubt? How much do I miss simply to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable social anxiety? How much of my life am I not living? Church is just one example and even if you are not a particularly religious person, can you relate to the social anxiety I am describing?

HOW TO ORGANIZE MYSELF TO GO TO CHURCH:

  1. BUY a couple of church worthy outfits that I feel comfortably hidden in (lack or wardrobe cannot be an excuse anymore).
  2. Choose a Sunday NIGHT Bible study, buy the book, and GO this Sunday.
  3. Prepare the clothes for all of the family BEFORE Sunday morning to avoid my lack of morning person-ness getting us all off to a bad start.
  4. Reach out to one or two if my church friends so I feel more comfortable when I go.

P.S.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a group who would reach out to people like me to let me know what was going on and invite me to join? Something more personal than the newsletter? Someone who could make me feel welcome whenever I chose to jump back in again??? Ah well – one step at a time. Maybe this is something I can do when I am not wearing so many hats at school and when I am feeling comfortable at church!!