I Am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful

Have you ever heard of the Japanese art of Kintsugi? Artists will take a broken piece of pottery and repair it with a special lacquer that is dusted with silver, gold, or platinum. The broken piece becomes even more beautiful as the precious metals gleam through the seams which were once broken. Kintsugi is a celebration of seeing beauty in the flawed, expressing regret when things are wasted, and the acceptance of change. As I spent more and more time in the world of addiction, betrayal trauma, and abuse I began to feel like on big broken mess. There were little pieces of who I was scattered across the floor of my life, and I couldn’t see myself or my beauty anymore. As I have worked on healing the past few years I have allowed God to Kintsugi me back together.

I am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful | muchnessmama.com | Japanese art of Kintsugi | repairing pottery with gold | betrayal trauma healing | addiction recovery

God Uses Broken Things

Not only does God find glory in repairing broken things he actually requires that we be broken before he can use us. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) God can not use us until our hearts are humble enough to accept his will and instruction. None of us escape trials in this life. We all face things that can leave us feeling cracked and broken. If we allow God into our hearts he will put us back together stronger and more beautiful than we could ever be on our own. As he works in us we can begin to see the beauty in our flaws, refuse to waste our precious time and lives, and accept the changes that are an inevitable part of this mortal experience.

Seeing Beauty in the Flawed

When I was in my twenties I listened to the same radio station every morning on the way to work. They would often have a fun little trivia question with a prize for whoever called in and got it right. One day they asked what is the #1 thing people criticize about themselves that the opposite sex actually finds attractive. All sorts of answers were given. It was fascinating to hear men and women both talk about the little things they loved in their spouse or significant other that they wished that person loved in themselves as well. Answers ranged from a little bit of extra weight to freckles. The correct answer according to some survey somewhere was a gap in the two front teeth. I wonder how many people have spent money on braces trying to remove that gap that others may find incredibly attractive. How many things about myself have I seen as flawed or broken when they were the exact things about me that God could use to bless others? I can’t reach out to someone in my own perfection and be received. It is through our imperfections, our weaknesses, our struggles and our trials that we are able to connect with others. It is our willingness to let others see those cracks that allows us to truly serve them.

Regret in the Wasted

How much time have I wasted over the years trying to put forth a perfect image? How many relationships have fallen by the wayside because neither of us was willing to be vulnerable and form a real intimate connection?  How much money have I wasted on trying to look perfect, have the perfect accessories, or say the perfect thing? How many opportunities to truly serve others have been wasted because of my inability to see the beauty in my brokenness and the value in what I had to give? I don’t want to just float through life unconnected and unfulfilled because I allowed my brokenness to become trash instead of beauty. I want to connect. I want to be used. I want to let the light of Christ shine through me. I can’t do that in broken pieces on the floor. I can only do that through the beautiful glints of gold Christ repairs me with.

Acceptance of Change

Change is inevitable. We all know that, and yet we all fight it. Even when the life we are currently living is broken and ugly we resist change because we fear “what if it gets even worse?!” Well what if it gets better!? I have spent so much time in my marriage walking on eggshells trying to avoid rocking the boat. The biggest change that I have embraced through working my recovery is the need for boundaries. Not only can I embrace change, but I can create it. I can say no more. I can decide what I will and won’t live with. I can open myself up to the threat of more pain because I know that I am strong enough to handle it. I know that I have an amazing support network of women surrounding me and a God standing under me to lift me up. I can embrace the changes in life with not only trust and humility, but with excitement at what the future may hold. Sure I may trip and fall. Sometimes I may even tumble end over end back down that hill. As long as I keep getting back up, patching up each new crack with a little more gold lacquer, I know I’m not only going to survive, but I will thrive!

I Am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful

I am Broken and That Makes Me Beautiful | muchnessmama.com | Japanese art of Kintsugi | repairing pottery with gold | betrayal trauma healing | addiction recovery

Yep I crack under the pressure. We all do. There was only one perfect man to ever walk this earth, and even Jesus needed alone time to rest and recuperate. So how do we embrace our own broken beauty? For me it starts with owning my story. Being vulnerable and sharing my heart makes me stronger. As I share my broken parts with others they have so graciously shared theirs with me. I see the beauty and strength in these women. I see their courage and their hearts. I listen to their laughs and see their tears. Every one of them is radiant and beautiful. As I see and embrace the beauty in them it becomes so much easier for me to acknowledge it in myself. It is only in the dark of night that we can see the stars. So it is with us. It is only in the cracks and broken pieces that we can truly see our beauty.

How do you find the beauty in your broken pieces? What has helped you to stop wasting life and embrace change with optimism? Who has inspired you through their broken beauty? Do you have a story of brokenness that you’d like to share as a guest blogger? Come join us in the Muchness Mama’s group on Facebook and let’s chat about it!

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide

When you are married to an addict and/or abuser a lot of the typical marriage advice just doesn’t apply, in fact it can be downright dangerous. Tips on how to love your husband more and serve him more can just feed the abuse. For example following the  telling you to never go to bed on angry feelings just might be forcing you into a difficult conversation with an addict who is in a bad frame of mind which can then escalate to full-blown abuse. Remember you are not a codependent; you are a spouse in betrayal trauma. You and your spouse each need to heal yourselves before you can heal the marriage.

Most marriage and relationship advice is based on the assumption that there are two willing partners both ready to give their all to the relationship. When dealing with addiction and abuse this is frequently not true as the addict/abuser has no interest in changing their ways to make the relationship more healthy. Their goal is to change their spouse to fit their expectations and fantasies. Even when your dealing with an addict in active recovery there are a lot of unhealthy thought patterns that are ingrained into the way they handle relationships. Healthy boundaries are still essential and will be different from the ones a couple in a healthy relationship maintains.

The Ultimate Betrayal Trauma Resource Guide for Women Who are Dealing With Addiction and Abuse in Their Partner | muchnessmama.com |

The following is a list of resources that myself and others I trust recommend for those dealing with an addict and/or abuser.

Healing From Betrayal Trauma

Your Sexually Addicted Spouse: How Partners Can Cope and Heal

Intimate Deception

Helping Her Heal (directed towards the sex addict, but very good info for wives and extremely validating)

Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts

Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed

The Body Keeps the Score Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Feelings Buried Alive Never Die

Transcending Post-Infidelity Stress Disorder: The Six Stages of Healing

Before the Dust Settles (Advice from a Sex Addict’s Wife): 8 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately After Discovering Your Partner’s Sex Addiction

Mending A Shattered Heart

Living with a Sex Addict: The Basics from Crisis to Recovery

Moving Beyond Betrayal: The 5-Step Boundary Solution for Partners of Sex Addicts

What Can I Do About Me?

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Treating Trauma from Sexual Betrayal: The Essential Tools for Healing

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

The Gifts of Imperfection

Make My Burden Light Blog

Boundaries Blog

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Blog, Podcast, and Coaches

Healing From and Dealing With Abuse

Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men

Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse

30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control In Personal Relationships

In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Becoming the Narcissists Nightmare

How To Kill A Narcissist: Debunking The Myth Of Narcissism And Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries in Marriage  (be cautious, this is NOT a good book for the addict/abuser NOT in recovery to read. They can use some of the principles to abuse you)

Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships

Boundaries Blog

Rebuilding a Marriage

**These resources are for when you are dealing with an addict/abuser who is in active recovery. Please study and apply these principles with caution and only after reading the book Boundaries and having a solid grasp on their effective use**

An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples: The Two of Us

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

Created for Connection: The “Hold Me Tight” Guide for Christian Couples

Seven Desires: Looking Past What Separates Us to Learn What Connects Us

International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy

What are your favorite resources for understanding and healing from betrayal trauma and abuse? Is there a resource on this list that is new to you? What are you reading now/next? What has been the most useful thing that you have learned in your study? Is there anything you would add to this list? Come on over to the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s chat about it!

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships

To say being married to an addict is difficult would be the understatement of the year. Let’s face it, even without addiction relationships are hard work. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is crucial to finding health and happiness both for the addict and their betrayed spouse. When I first heard the word boundaries I was both empowered and confused. What exactly are boundaries? Are boundaries Christlike? How do I go about setting a boundary? How do I know if my boundaries are healthy?

Creating and Enforcing Healthy Boundaries in Relationships | muchnessmama.com| addiction recovery | betrayal trauma recovery

What are Boundaries

Boundaries allow us to take responsibility for ourselves while not shouldering responsibility for the actions of others. Boundaries are invisible lines that say what we will and won’t tolerate. Boundaries are like the fence that defines our property line. There is a gate and we can let people in when we choose and boot them out if they are disrespecting our wishes. I love what Dr. Cloud, author of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, had to say in a recent blog post about boundaries.

Personal boundaries allow you to have ownership over your own thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions, while freeing you from being responsible for anyone else’s. Virtually everyone sets some form of boundaries without thinking about it, but when we consciously define our boundaries, we gain a huge degree of control over our happiness, comfort and the quality of our relationships.

A boundary is a simple statement saying what you will or won’t tolerate and what you will do if that boundary is violated. Remember, a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Boundaries are not about controlling the actions of others. Boundaries are about controlling yourself and defining how you will respond to keep yourself safe in unhealthy situations.

Are Boundaries Christlike

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for me when I first learned about boundaries was the feeling that I wasn’t showing Christlike love when I was enforcing them. President Russel M. Nelson said “Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” God himself has given us the perfect example of healthy boundaries, we call them commandments. He does not force any of us to obey, but he does withdraw his spiritual guidance, peace,  and certain blessings when we choose not to follow the requirements he has laid out for us. There are also many examples of healthy boundaries from Jesus Christ’s life here on Earth. Remember the rich young man? Christ told him to sell all that he had and follow him. Christ did not encroach upon the man’s agency, he simply said if you do these things then you will be welcome in my presence and in heaven. Let’s look at the story of the young woman caught in adultery. Christ didn’t tell her accusers that they couldn’t enact justice. He simply reminded them of their own imperfections then allowed them the opportunity to make the right choice. Jesus also took time to care for himself. He had boundaries that said “I need time to commune with my Father” and there are a few different accounts of him going alone into the mountains or wilderness, once for 40 days! If you want to read more about Christ setting boundaries this post from Soul Shepherding is wonderful.

How Do I Set Boundaries

As stated above a boundary without a consequence is simply a threat. Threats are useless. Remember boundaries aren’t about controlling others, they are about controlling yourself. We all set boundaries naturally every day through our choices. We choose not to spend time with someone who is unkind. We choose to rest and engage in self-care rather than accomplishing yet one more to do task on our list. We choose to disengage from emotionally abusive conversations. We choose to speak up when we something unfair happening. When dealing with an addict I’ve found that my boundaries around his addiction need to be very clearly stated. This is the pattern I use for most of my boundaries:

  1. State the action that you can’t tolerate
  2. State how that action makes you feel
  3. State the consequence/boundary you will enact to create safety for yourself

Three Steps for Creating Healthy Boundaries | muchnessmama.com | addiction recovery| betrayal trauma recovery

Here are some examples of some actual boundaries written out by some of my fellow WOPA (wives of porn addict) friends.

  • When you choose to watch pornography I feel betrayed, hurt, and angry. I need to detach from our relationship and sleep separately from you.
  • When you are not actively engaging in recovery work on a daily basis I do not feel safe in our relationship. When I feel unsafe I will need to detach from you emotionally.
  • I can not remain in a marriage with infidelity. If you choose to act out with another woman then I will file for divorce.
  • I can not accept any form of pornography in my home. I will be placing filters/blocks on all electronic devices that are brought into this home. If you do not want filters on your device then it will have to remain outside fo the home. If you can not agree to this then I will enact a physical separation.

Also check out this post from my friend Kate about boundaries. She has a ton of great advice about the nuts and bolts of setting boundaries along with some other great examples.

How do I Know if My Boundaries are Healthy

A healthy boundary is one that keeps you inside your fence and keeps things that will hurt you out. A healthy boundary is about controlling yourself, not others (though it is ok to hope that our boundaries will motivate them to a healthy change). At the Determined to Rise retreat this past September Dr. Sharon Rinearson of Core Relationship Recovery described boundaries as a hedge of thorns. Because fo the thorns people who want to hurt us can’t get in, we will protect ourselves from them. At the same time the thorns keep us inside our safe zone. Sometimes boundaries hurt. Healthy boundaries are hard. When you have been a doormat in your relationship setting healthy boundaries will most often result in resentment, anger, and a lot of push-back from your spouse. Sometimes the addict will even try to set counter boundaries that are meant to control you and your boundaries. Good, this means you’re doing it right! The hardest part of a healthy boundary is continuing to enforce your boundary even when it hurts you. Separation from your spouse isn’t easy, but it is necessary if they are abusing you. A healthy boundary is paradoxically also flexible. If you are setting healthy boundaries then you are able to recognize when they are not working or no longer necessary.

Setting Boundaries Requires Support

Healing from addiction can’t be done in isolation and neither can healing from betrayal trauma. If you had a physical injury you would visit a doctor, go to rehab with a physical therapist, and find others to help and support you through your healing. Emotional injury isn’t any different. You need help and support. A good therapist who is trained in betrayal trauma can be an amazing help in setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. You can find therapists who have been certified in betrayal trauma on the APSATS website. Support groups are another great source of strength. When I initiated a separation from my husband earlier this year I never could have followed through on healthy boundaries without the support of the amazing ladies in my support groups. In person, online, and phone support groups can be found via ARP support, S-Anon, and Betrayal Trauma Recovery. There are also several Facebook groups available for support. For safety and privacy these groups are secret, so you will have to find a person who you know struggles with these issues as well and ask them to have you added. It can also be helpful to reach out to a few people you trust that can support you, even if they haven’t endured this specific trial. I have two amazing friends who have been there to help and support me whenever I need it. I have also had some amazing bishops (religious leader) who have given me strength to create and maintain healthy boundaries. I have also had friends and religious leaders say less than helpful, and sometimes even traumatizing things to me when they hear my story. Prayerfully consider who you will seek support from and it’s ok to set a healthy boundary around who you talk to and what you share with them.

Have you struggled with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries? Where have you found help and support? What are your biggest struggles with boundary setting? What advice would you give to someone who is just learning to set boundaries in an unhealthy relationship? Come join me in the Muchness Mamas Facebook group and let’s talk about it!

Five Steps to Deal With Trauma Induced Anxiety

Anyone who has ever dealt with trauma can tell you that the worst moments are when triggers hijack our brain causing anxiety that makes it nearly impossible to function. When you get stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode it can be really hard to get back into your rational brain. And the best part is that anything can trigger these episodes! Here are five techniques to help you deal with your out of control brain when you are dealing with trauma and/or anxiety.

Five Steps to Deal With Trauma Induced Anxiety | muchnessmama.com | betrayal trauma recovery

1- Identify Your Trigger

It’s hard to know what to do if you don’t know what you are dealing with. Often we can feel anxious or triggered without really understanding exactly why. Sometimes we don’t even realize that a triggering moment is building up until it overwhelms us. Learning to recognize what a trigger feels like for you then follow it down to identify what caused it is crucial to being able to master your brain and control it. For me I notice that my shoulders and neck get tense, and my heart starts beating faster. I will start to breathe faster and shallower. If I am in a conversation my speaking will pick up speed and frequently raise in volume as well. In extreme cases my hands will shake and my right arm and hand will get numb and tingly. I also often experience brain fog, where I can’t seem to string two words together into a coherent thought. When I start to notice any of these symptoms I try to take an immediate self assessment and identify what exactly is triggering me. One simple technique to identify triggers is to take a deep breath then say, think, or write the first word(s) that come to your mind.

2- Get Out

Once you have identified your trigger the first step is to get away from it if at all possible.  That may mean turning off a show or movie, walking away from a conversation, or even just putting on some noise cancelling headphones. In some cases it may mean limiting your contact with certain people or places that you know will be a problem for you. It is much easier to deal with your triggers if you can get to a calm quiet space far away from outside influences and distractions. Sometimes I hide in my bedroom or the shower. When my husband is the main source of my triggers I have to take a break from being with or speaking to him.

3- Ground Yourself

Once trauma brain takes over the challenge is to get yourself back into your logical brain. One of the best ways to do this is by grounding all of your senses in the real world. Sit or stand straight, plant your feet, take a deep breath then do the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 senses check-in. Name 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 4 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. If you can’t identify that number then just move on to the next thing. The key is to get all five of your senses involved to place you securely in the real world. Many women choose to have a trauma box they can use for their grounding. For example they may have a soft piece of fur or silk, a couple of pieces of chocolate, a favorite essential oil, an mp3 player of favorite music, or any other pleasant thing with which to engage their senses. One friend of mine has a large soft microfiber blanket that she can literally cocoon herself in as she runs through her grounding exercises.

Five Steps to Deal With Trauma Induced Anxiety | muchnessmama.com | betrayal trauma recovery | Essential oils for anxiety

4- Breathing Exercises

Once you are grounded in reality then it’s time to calm the body. Breathing exercises are the quickest way to take control of your mind and force your body to slow down. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your belly or forehead. Breathe in deeply for five seconds then exhale forcefully with a sigh. Do this a few times then switch to lions breath. Put your hands on your knees or down to your sides. Clench your fists and as you inhale raise your shoulders tensing your body. When you exhale stick out your tongue, roll your eyes up to the top of your head, splay your fingers wide and huff out forcefully. I dare you to do this without giggling!

5- Do Something You Love

Hopefully by this time you are feeling more grounded. Now it’s time to do some self-care to solidify your foundation. This can be any thing you love. Art journaling, writing, listening to music, do yoga, go for a walk, take a bath or shower, eat a healthy meal, talk to a friend; he options are endless. Anything that fills your bucket and makes you feel safe and secure.

Have you dealt with trauma induced anxiety? What are your favorite grounding items or breathing exercises? Do you have any favorite smells, tastes, or other sensory items in your trauma box? Come on over to the Muchness Mama’s Facebook group and let’s talk about it!

Getting Started with Art Journaling

Recently, as part of my healing from betrayal trauma, I have started an art journal. Now I don’t work in it nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life as a mom of young children. It has definitely been a hugely therapeutic thing for me. I’ve shed tears more than once while creating. I also consider a lot of my digital art therapeutic journaling as well. Added bonus no messy supplies to get out and put away! There’s just something about working with actual medium on paper that is just so healing for me though. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less in control and there’s no undo button.

Getting Started with Art Journaling | The Muchness Mama | muchnessmama.com

What is Art Journaling

Art journaling is simply putting words and images together to express yourself. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There are no grades. There are no rules. Oh wait there is one rule: there are no mistakes, just happy accidents (yes, I love Bob Ross). Simply use whatever speaks to you to give a visual aspect to the thoughts and feelings inside. Put aside any thoughts of what is right in art. Forget about focal points, color harmonies, balance, unity, or any other “rule” you’ve been taught. Just get your feelings out on paper!

Art journaling has been around since the dawn of time. In fact many of the great artists in history kept these visual journals. The British Library has actually digitized one of DaVinci’s journals and made it available to the public. It is quite fascinating!

Therapists have also found the value in using art to unlock suppressed memories and feelings. It can also help to heal trauma as you process through those feelings in a creative way. By processing using your physical body and incorporating both words and images you use your entire brain. The more of your brain that is activated during therapy the more thoroughly traumatic experiences can be processed. You don’t need a therapist to guide you through art journaling. All you need is a willingness to dig deep and be honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a prompt and other times it’s best to jsut start makign a mess and see what happens.

Art Journaling Supplies

All you need to get started is a writing implement of some sort and a piece of paper. Don’t let a lack of art supplies hold you back! It is far better to do a simple pencil sketch than nothing at all. Of course art journaling is a lot more fun with some color, so here are a few of my favorite things to use.

For starters let’s talk about paper. You can use a basic notebook, but you’re going to be a bit restricted on what you can do with the flimsy paper without destroying it. If you just want to use dry media (pencils, crayons, chalk, pastels, etc) you’ll be fine with a simple sketchbook. If you want to use more paints, glues, and other embellishments you’re going to need a heavier duty paper. A mixed media book is a great choice. If you really love to work with watercolors then it’s even better to get a book with watercolor paper pages.

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Colored pencils are my go to for sketching. I really like that they are hard to erase. It forces me to accept imperfections and mistakes, and allows me to just think about creation rather than perfection. Your basic Crayola pencils that you can get at any grocery store will do just fine. I have also recently discovered and am loving Arteza. They’re a bit higher quality and still a very reasonable price. If you really want to splurge then Prismacolor is the way to go. Their pencils are super soft with vibrant colors that get great coverage and blend beautifully. 

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Watercolors are another fun medium to use. When you think watercolor you’re probably remembering those cheap pan sets from grade school that gave you pale washed out paintings on wrinkly paper. Watercolor is so much more amazing when you have good paints on good paper. For a decent starter set The Artist Loft pan sets are a bit better than the grade school stuff and still very budget friendly. If you want to step up your quality a bit then Sakura Koi, Arteza, Prima, or Kuretake are a great choice. Jane Davenport is another middle of the road brand price wise and I am totally in love with them!  The neutrals pallet is perfect if you want to paint a lot of skin and hair tones. If you really want to get the top of the line watercolors Holbein, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith are all highly recommended. If you want to start out with the higher quality, but still on a small budget you can get individual pans or tubes of the three primary colors along with white and black then mix your own colors. For painting on the go water brushes are awesome! If you really want a good brush at a great price I also really like my Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes.

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In addition to the traditional pan or liquid watercolors you can also play around with watercolor crayons, markers, brush pens, or pencils. There are so many fun and creative ways to use these that would be an entire blog post in itself! Some recommendations for pencils are Derwent, Arteza, or Faber-Castell. For crayons check out Neocolor, or Ranger ink. Sakura Koi and Tombow both make a great felt tip watercolor marker, and I LOVE my Arteza real brush pens.

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If you prefer more control and opacity then Acrylic paints are the way to go. For a simple art journal I haven’t seen a need for anything fancier than the bottled craft paints that you can get at any craft store or Walmart. If you want to do a finished piece to hang you may want to get something a bit nicer and more professional because of their light fastness.

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Washi tape is so much fun! It is easy to reposition and you can get so many fun prints. I may have a slight addiction to washi lol. I like to go to Michaels craft store and check out their bin of individual rolls that are around 3 for $1. Here are a few of my favorite patterns on Amazon as well.

[amazon_link asins=’B0795KK1HV,B0769KLCFD,B01H29AV2I,B0782SBNBR,B07D489CLB,B01NB09CYO,B072LWP6GB,B06W55V7WP,B073QGC3TX,B0754SJ11T’ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’mymanmon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’78b008fe-a67f-11e8-8032-0d5c10ad638b’]

There are so many other paints, pens, markers, etc. that this post would get WAY too long if I listed them all. Instead I’ll just put a few of my favorites in the product carousel below.

[amazon_link asins=’B0721NWG1S,B0779J4YGP,B01N34I4CV,B017A1BIUM,B0765CYR84,B01LRF5416,B0733W73QS,B0008G8G8Y,B009YZLKPQ,B002LJRKN8′ template=’ProductGrid’ store=’mymanmon-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’2f7b3060-a67f-11e8-a77c-9dc2b528e06d’]

In the future I’m planning to do more detailed posts on each medium that I use as well as some great art journaling prompts. What other products are you interested in learning about? What are your favorite products for art journaling? Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook and lets chat about it! I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for Art Journaling if you’d like to see more tips and inspiration.

What is Betrayal Trauma?

In my previous post I told you that I have betrayal trauma induced post traumatic stress (PTSD), adrenal fatigue, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Some of you may have read that and said “huh? What in the world is betrayal trauma!?” I know that’s what I thought the first time I heard the term. Understanding is the first step to healing, so this post is all about understanding betrayal trauma and it’s affects on the individual and the relationship.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | When you are betrayad by a spouse or caregiver it can leave deep wounds. Did you know that the symptoms of betrayal trauma are the same as the symptoms of PTSD?

Betrayal Trauma Definition

The term betrayal trauma was first introduced by Jennifer Freyd in 1991 at a presentation at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. According to Freyd “Betrayal trauma occurs when the people or institutions on which a person depends for survival significantly violate that person’ s trust or well-being: Childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by a caregiver are examples of betrayal trauma.” (link) So as a wife of a sex addict I experienced trauma when I discovered the ways in which my husband was acting out. When this trauma hit it was a HUGE betrayal because it felt like there was more harm that could come from confronting and standing up to it than there was in putting my head down, walking on eggshells, and trying to maintain the peace. For me personally betrayal trauma has also been sustained by my husband’s anger management problems in our early years as well. Double whammy!

The Affects of Betrayal Trauma

Freyd further tells us that when trauma involves a betrayal we are less likely to be aware of what is occurring or recall the details. Why? Because when we confront the perpetrator it threatens an attachment that we feel is necessary to our survival. Those awesome survival instincts can kick in and literally erase our memory or change it to make the betrayal seem like less of a threat.  I felt like I was all these monkeys combined into one! I refused to hear or see the abuse in my marriage and definitely terrified to say anything about the things I did notice.

What is Betrayal Trauma? | muchnessmama.com | wife of a sex addict | spouse of an addict | PTSD Joao Tzanno

When our conscious mind is protecting us, and our subconscious mind is screaming that everything is not ok it can lead to some pretty severe problems. In a recent study it was shown that ~70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Yep, the same thing that military folk come home with is what traumatized wives deal with. Lucky me, I got both! I will say, however, that my trauma from deployment was VERY minimal to the extent that I didn’t even really realize that it existed for a long time. My betrayal trauma due to addiction has been much more in my face and in control of my life. PTSD comes with a lot of really fun symptoms including:

  • Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
  • Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
  • Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
  • Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
  • Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
  • Persistent avoidance of distressing memories, thoughts, or feelings about or closely associated with the traumatic events or of external reminders
  • Inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic events (not due to head injury, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations about oneself, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “No one can be trusted,” “The world is completely dangerous”).
  • Persistent, distorted blame of self or others about the cause or consequences of the traumatic events
  • Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, or shame
  • Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment or estrangement from others
  • Persistent inability to experience positive emotions
  • Irritable or aggressive behavior
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Problems with concentration
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep

Yeah, that’s a lot. All of these symptoms can also take their toll physically. Adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, joint and/or muscle pain, headaches, weight gain, and even more often manifest themselves when a person is suffering from trauma. “The Body Keeps The Score” is a great book to read if you are more interested in this topic. It’s WAY too much to cover here.

How To Heal From Betrayal Trauma

Quite frequently all these symptoms are lumped into one happy little diagnosis of anxiety and/or depression. Here pop a pill and be on your merry way! While I’m all for medication if and when you need it really healing trauma requires far more than that.

4 Steps for Betrayal Trauma Recovery | muchnessmama.com | you can heal from betrayal trauma, but it requires a lot fo work. Here are 4 important steps to get you started.

First and formost you need to get out of your isolation! That is why I have ripped the curtain off my life and decided to start sharing here, thankfully with my husband’s full support and even cheerleading. You need to know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! As I said in my previous post 64% of Christina men admit to at least monthly viewing of pornography. I dont’ think there is a single woman in this world who has not been affected by sex addiction in some way. Whether it’s harassment from schoolmates or coworkers or a deep betrayal of a spouse we’ve all been touched. It is not your fault. You don’t deserve it. You are worthy of love and respect. There are a few different groups out there that you can meet with in person. S-Anon is the partner program to Sexaholics Anonymous. They provide pretty good support, but they follow a codependency model which I believe is very unhealthy, so I would not personally recommend them. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints offers a Spouse and Family Support Group. These meetings are based on some beautiful principles. The leaders, however, are missionaries called by the church. They may or may not have any actual education or experience with trauma. Some meetings can be further re-traumatizing. If your local meeting is not a supportive safe place for you there are many phone meetings to choose from as well. Lifestar and Healing Through Christ are two other groups I am aware of. They both lean towards codependency though, so once again not my highest recommendations. I am also a member of a few different groups on Facebook. Due to the sensitive nature of the topics discussed these groups are secret. If you are interested in learning more about these groups please feel free to contact me. Determined to Rise is also a great resource for connection. I am REALLY looking forward to attending the retreat that they are hosting next month in Utah.

Second, and equally important, is counseling with a qualified therapist. Finding the right therapist can be very difficult. While there are all sorts of certifications you can look for ultimately it all comes down to do they know and understand betrayal trauma. It is also really helpful if they are trained in EMDR and/or neural feedback therapy (more on those in a future post). Both of these help to integrate the mind/body connection and speed up the healing process.  Betrayal Trauma Recovery is an excellent resource for finding a good counselor. They are coaches rather than certified therapists, but they have focused their training on betrayal trauma and most are victims as well. One last note on therapy. NEVER EVER EVER do couples therapy with a man who is still in active addiction. It usually does far more harm than good as it provides a platform for the addict to further abuse you through manipulating and gaslighting both you and the therapist. I would recommend that an addict is working a solid recovery program and attending weekly counseling sessions on their own for at least 3-6 months before you even consider couples therapy. When you do start couples therapy look for a therapist who uses Emotionally Focused Therapy techniques. Addiction is at the root a disease of connection. Learning to reconnect to your own emotions and your spouses in healthy ways is far more important than directly working on any specific marriage issues, especially in the early stages of healing a relationship.

Third, become  a learn it all. No one is ever going to care as much about your healing as you do. Knowledge is power and you need all the power you can get to escape the pit that you find yourself in while dealing with these issues. The first book I would start with is “Your Sexually Addicted Spouse“. If you are dealing with verbal abuse or out of control anger as I was then I would also highly recommend “Why Does He Do That“. For dealing with your own insecurities adn regaining your individuality and muchness anything by Brene Brown is pure gold. I’m currently working through “The Gifts of Imperfection” book via the art journaling class.

Fourth is some solid self-care and self-love work. Self-Care is NOT selfish! You matter. You are important. You can not give to others what you don’t have for yourself. Your capacity to love others, including and even especially your own family, is limited by your ability to love yourself. If you struggle with this I would encourage you to find ten minutes every day where you can just do something you love. Take a walk, do some art, sing in the shower, just do whatever makes you happy. Then look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am a beloved child of God with infinite potential. I am worthy of love. I love you Emily!” Please put your own name in there though. While I do enjoy adoring fans this is about you.

What is Betrayal Trauma | muchnessmama.com | Positive Affirmations | you are beloved | Child of God

Are you or a loved one suffering from Betrayal trauma? What more do you wish you knew about it? I’d love to see you over in my Muchness Mamas group on Facebook where you can discuss this and other topics in a group of supportive and understanding women.

 

Military Suicide- It isn’t Just About War

Lately I have been reflecting on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our time in the service. We accomplished difficult things. We deployed to Iraq. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is all well and good, but what you don’t hear from today’s veterans, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally unwell places that I have ever seen. My time in the service was very dark both emotionally and spiritually. The decisions in my life that I most regret were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of the military culture. It was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

anxiety, depression, military service, military suicide, suicide,

 

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. Sorry “experts” I don’t buy into that. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves you. It is especially powerful if you have been in active combat. Just because you fight you demons off for years it that doesn’t mean that or that your suicide is now unrelated to those demons.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my first enlistment I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours. My command would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors business hours were the same as my work hours. No more counseling for me. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. It wasn’t until the cops were called and a judge ordered counseling that they helped him get it. When a young Marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life our Staff Sergeant said “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because they thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few Marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I learned to show towards my Marines. While my junior Marines appreciated me my superiors didn’t like me at all. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies”. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below. 

Weak Things Become Strong

We all have weaknesses. Character flaws, not yet achieved ambitions, desires to do or be better. We also all have strengths. A big part of self-love and self-care is being able to accept our current state of being while still pushing forward to always be better. With that intent we often quite vigorously hunt for our weaknesses, catalog them, make goals for change, collect accountability partners, then proceed to beat ourselves up over our perceived imperfections and lack of acceptable progress. We all know that God can make weak become strong. He can change and refine us to be more than we ever could on our own.

Weak Things Become Strong | muchnessmama.com | self love | make your weaknesses strengths | weak things of the world | you are unique

What if we changed our perspective a bit? Maybe the things we consider weaknesses can actually be our greatest strengths WITHOUT being changed. Maybe with some things exactly who we are is exactly who God wants us to be.

I was first introduced to this idea when I read the book “Parenting the Ephraims Child” by Jaime Theler and Deborah Talmagde. In this book they talk about traits that are often considered weaknesses in children and challenges parents to reframe them and strengths in need of refinement. For example stubbornness is VERY annoying when your 3-year-old won’t stay in their bed. That same trait, however, can lead them to say no when they’re a teen and their friends offer them drugs or alcohol. A child who is very sensitive and always having hurt feelings can become incredibly compassionate and charitable. 

Weak Things Become Strong | muchnessmama.com | self love | make your weaknesses strengths | weak things of the world | you are unique

Take a moment a jot down a list of your perceived weaknesses. If you’re anything like me things like eating healthy, exercise, yelling at the kids, etc. might be on your list. Some things really are just weaknesses that need to be improved on. What things are on your list that maybe could be strengths if just refined a little? I’ll give you one of mine as an example. I am a very easily distracted person. I have a hard time sitting and completing a task all in one go. I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this blog post three times now! I’ve always thought my lack of singular focus was a weakness. Then I started to really think about why I was so distracted. It was because I was acutely aware of what was going on around me. This awareness leads me to notice things that need to be done, and often allows me to bless others. I am aware of the woman sitting on the edge of the room alone who looks like she may need a friend. I’m aware of the person in a wheelchair coming up behind me who may appreciate having a door opened. I am aware that a child is struggling with a task that they haven’t thought to ask for help with. This awareness allows me to bless others. This awareness also made me a really good intelligence analyst in the Marine Corps. My husband really appreciates it when we are watching movies with complicated story lines and I can point out the small details he missed that pull everything together.

God made each of us unique. We all have different talents and abilities. There is no one else on this earth who has the exact same mix of strengths and weaknesses as you. You aren’t a mistake or an accident. He created each of us quite intentionally. I would challenge you to take some time this week and identify those things that you have perceived as weaknesses that could become your greatest strengths. Celebrate who you are instead of comparing to others and wishing that you had their talents. Now take your newfound strengths out into the world for a test drive and let me know how it goes.

Paparazzi accessories $5 "I am Strong" necklace | muchnessmama.com | self-love | self-care

Come join our Muchness Mamas Facebook community and share what weaknesses turned strengths you’ve identified. We’d love to hear your stories of how you have used them to bless yourself and others.

The Leaky Bucket-Managing Your Daily Energy Reserves

I had always imagined my energy reserves as a big metal bucket full of water. This bucket had holes all over the bottom constantly spitting out water as a small stream ran in. In my little mental cartoon I was manically trying to plug as many holes as I could to make sure my bucket didn’t drain faster than it could fill. As you can imagine that was a rather messy and quite impossible task.

managing your daily energy reserves | mucnessmama.com | introvert | extrovert |energy draining | energy filling | leaky bucket

Then I watched “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” with Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans on CreativeLive. They had the students make a chart. On the chart they were supposed to list their top 10-15 tasks that they typically did every day. Then they were supposed to use a bar to represent whether that task was energy filling or energy draining. Make sure to really think about this part. Draining doesn’t always mean unpleasant. I LOVE our weekly homeschool coop meetings. Being surrounded by 20-30 noisy kids for ~3 hours is still VERY draining for an introvert mom, no matter how much fun we are having. What they said next surprised me. I thought they were going to talk about how to get rid of or reduce the energy draining activities, AKA plugging the holes in the bucket. Instead they started to brainstorm on how you could manage your overall energy reserves by either changing the draining activity to a filling one, or creating a fill-drain-fill sandwich.

Changing an Energy Drainer to a Filler

So how do we CHANGE that draining activity into a filling activity? One example they gave was the daily board meeting. Instead of having it in the boardroom why not meet at the coffee house around the corner before going in to work and have some drinks and snacks while you talk? For those of us who stay at home why not turn on your favorite dancing music and sing along while doing dishes? By pairing a draining activity with a filling one your total energy balance after the activity will be much higher than before.

The Energy Fill Sandwich

What do you do when you can’t change an activity to make it less draining and more filling? Bill and Dave suggested the fill-drain-fill sandwich. In a work setting maybe you go for a short walk before the awful board meeting then treat yourself to a yummy healthy lunch afterwards. At home you may have hot shower, do the house cleaning, then take a quiet moment to read a book. By sandwiching a draining activity in between two filling activities you make sure your bucket is overflowing before it starts draining and then replenished after it’s drained.

Balancing the Fill and Drain Rates

While getting rid of energy draining activities certainly helps self care isn’t all about getting rid of the things that drain you. Fact is there are certain draining things that just have to be done. Living life drains energy. It’s just impossible to plug every hole in the bucket. When I started to shift my focus from plugging holes to increasing the water flowing in my energy level has gotten and stayed higher throughout the day. Instead of a 2 hour laundry marathon I now write a blog post (energy filling), fold a basket or two (majorly energy draining), then take some time to do a little art. I’ve been able to enjoy my kids more, feel more satisfied with my life at the end of the day and I find that I am getting a LOT more accomplished. Washing dishes doesn’t seem like quite the same torture it was before when I know my calligraphy pen is waiting for me when I’m done. The best part is that when the unexpected drains occur (three year old temper tantrums come to mind) my energy reserves are higher allowing me to better handle stressful situations.

What are your biggest energy drains and fillers? What can you do to restructure your activities or schedule to better regulate the flow of incoming energy adn keep your bucket full? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community to continue the discussion!

You Don’t Have to Enjoy Every Minute of Motherhood

“The time will pass so fast. Just enjoy every minute!”

I call big fat BULL$***!!

You Don't Have to Enjoy Every Minute | muchnessmama.com | motherhood is hard | self-care | self love |

Are you seriously telling me that I should enjoy rinsing poop out of my three-year-old’s underpants? I should be whistling a happy tune while scrubbing the make-up off my walls? I should be in the throes of euphoria while repeating “JUST PUT YOUR SHOES ON!!” for the tenth time when we are now ten minutes late getting out the door? Or do you think I should be laughing through every moment my baby screamed and there was nothing I could do to comfort him?

Nope. I don’t buy it. Life is full of all sorts of emotions, and none of them are bad, shameful, or to be avoided. Stop telling moms to stuff their feelings!

Instead let’s tell moms that it’s ok to feel however you feel, this too will pass, and everything will be ok.

Your nipples hurt every time that little chomper needs to eat and it sucks.

Your baby will stop crying eventually and you are not a failure if you feel like ripping your ears off while you wait.

Your hormones are totally out of whack and your emotions may not make sense, get some drugs if you need them!

Lack of sleep is the pits! Being a Mombie is miserable. It’s ok to take a nap instead of washing the dishes and serve dinner on paper plates.

Just don’t bother repainting the walls, they’ll just color on them again. Sorry, you won’t have anything nice that stays that way until you have no more toddlers.

Waiting it out is sometimes the best you can do. You’re still a rockstar.

Toddlers asking the same question for the ninth time are very annoying. It’s ok to be irritated, just try not to be mean when you tell them to please just stop talking!

You don't Have to Enjoy Every Minute | muchnessmama.com | toddler tantrums | motherhood is hard
Mommy took the bag of marshmallows away after she worked so hard to climb up to where mommy thought they were out of reach.

It’s ok not to worry about the dead cockroach on the floor before taking a picture to show your husband (and all of social media too) just how much your day is totally sucking.

Give yourself permission to hate this moment. Cry through it if you need to. Get out for a bit if that’s what it takes. Go ahead and throw that underwear in the trash because you just can’t handle washing one more pair. Eat some chocolate while hiding in your closet. Then pull up your big girl britches and get back to work. Because it is work. It’s rewarding and fulfilling, but it’s still work. It’s going to be ok.

Feeding your child can become a joyful bonding experience, even if it’s because you switched to a bottle.

Your baby will finally smile with tears in their eyes and completely melt your heart.

Hormones will balance and emotions will stabilize.

You will eventually have more time to sleep than you know what to do with.

Some day you can have white walls and carpet if that’s your desire without danger of markers grape juice destroying them.

You’ll make it. You’ll still be a rockstar. You’ll miss those sticky little monsters, but you won’t miss every single moment, and that’s ok.

What are your favorite, and least favorite, parts of being a mom? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community and let’s chat about it!