All posts by T-Mommy

T-Mommy is the mother of two beautiful daughters and the eternal sidekick to T-Daddy. You can catch her at T4Treasure.com or on Twitter: @T4Treasure4

Out of the Darkness 2018

T-Mommy from T4Treasure and CW from Truly Loved both completed the 2018 Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk in September. It was both of their first time participating in the Walk and they sat down to discuss. This post is a collaborative post co-written by them and appears on both blogs.

Signing Up/Why I Signed Up

Truly Loved: I signed up for the walk because I no longer want to remain silent about my personal struggle with depression and suicide. It also felt like a tangible way to share the message of God’s love, mercy, and hope with the world. I want to allow God to use my past to help fight the lies that this world teaches us about our worthiness and purpose. To show that through our weaknesses and imperfections God makes us strong. To proclaim that even if you have never felt loved, appreciated, or worthy you are more precious, important and loved by God than you could ever understand. 

T-Mommy: I first found out about the Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk in 2015 when I was looking for anxiety and depression caused and organizations to give back to. I had recently been clinically diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder and Mild/Moderate Depression. My diagnosis both freed and scared me and I felt emboldened to be an advocate for others like me. 

In my research, I came across the Out of the Darkness walks. I was excited to register. So I thought. Turns out the Walk conflicted with my wedding and TD1’s bday. Maybe next year with better planning.

Maybe next year. It’s what I said in 2016 and 2017 too. Then 2018 came. Maybe this year. I marked the event as Interested on Facebook and Truly Loved commented she’d walk with me. Yay!!! I don’t have to walk alone! But I didn’t sign up. I wanted to wait to be sure there’d be no conflicts. Then one day, the walk pulled back up on my newsfeed. The Walk was approaching. I knew it was now or never. 

Being an advocate for those that are hurting, helping to provide a safe place for those feeling despair that they don’t know what to do with, it’s something I care about. But I wasn’t as ready to be their voice as I though I was. In my rush to not chicken out, I totally forgot to let TL know I was in fact doing the walk. After she found out and reminded me she’d walk with me, T-Daddy agreed to walk too. I decided to make it a family affair and signed the remaining three T’s up.

Prepping for the Walk

T-Mommy: I didn’t prep much for the Walk. I didn’t fundraise. I told my family I was walking but I didn’t talk much about it. I went to a kickoff event, recorded a video to promote the walk, but I never posted it. Was I ready to have this convo in public? How deep was I willing to allow people to dig into my own life in order to have this much needed convo?

I wanted to both scream from the mountaintops that I was doing something that I cared about and let other people know about it, but something inside me kept quieting my voice. Was it shame? Fear? Unworthiness? I busied myself with my already busy life and kept any thoughts about the Walk on a low simmer on the very back backburner of my mind. Before I knew it, Walk weekend was here. Maybe I can just sit it out and walk next year. I didn’t tell anyone I was walking. Is there still a point if no one knows? That same voice that had talked me out of walking the prior years was back. I already committed to this, so I have to see it through. I will see it through. I need to see it through.

Writing on The “Why I Walk” Wall

Truly Loved: As I stood there facing the “Why I Walk Wall.” I knew I wanted to write something but there was too much to say. So, I simply wrote “Because I’m a survivor, and through God there is always hope.” It felt wrong. It still feels wrong. My reason for walking – for breathing, for hoping, for loving, for caring, for existing– is so much more than that. I walk because I was once a prisoner to hopelessness, hate, and anger, but I no longer wear those shackles. I walk because I once lived every moment of my life in fear of man, but I now know God is bigger. I walk because my heart was once closed to those around me but it now remains open so that I can love and be loved. I walk because I now know what hope feels like. I walk because of God’s unlimited goodness and grace. I walk because He saved me and since then He has changed every aspect of my life. I walk because I want to share God and His goodness with the world. He is the only true opponent to despair.

T-Mommy: Writing on the wall wasn’t super emotional, at the moment. I wasn’t sure I was going to write on it until I was waiting to write on it. I hadn’t thought about what I was going to write until I was writing it. I wrote three names. A group – family and friends. A statement – Because God’s grace gives me hope. Even writing the names, I was so hesitant. Did I have the right to put their names up there for others to see? Would I be asked to tell stories that weren’t mine to tell?

One of the names that I wrote on the wall was my godbrother’s. He’s a big reason why this Walk first stood out to me in the first place. But, I have struggled a lot with his suicide. To this day, I find it extremely hard to look at a picture of him. It’s been almost nine years. I vividly remember getting the phone call from his sister. I remember trying to make sense of it all. Not really knowing how or what to feel. I remember feeling like I didn’t have a right to grieve or be sad. At that point, I wasn’t extremely close to him anymore. Going around the family, seeing his sister and mom, the mother of his child, his girlfriend – all these people that were a big part of his everyday life, hurting so inconsolably made me feel selfish for my own pain. I was in the process of moving 20 minutes from where he lived and I was super excited to rekindle my relationship with him, my godmom and my godsister, to get to know his little girl, when everything happened. So now here I was sad because it was never going to happen. I was mourning a dream and they were mourning a huge part of their already life. Did I, do I, have a right to walk in his honor when I didn’t know one thing about what was going on in his life at the time?

The other two names carry similar tales – one was a friend of my granny’s who used to babysit me as a kid. When she found out my granny died, she couldn’t take the news. The other was a family member, whose death wasn’t ruled a suicide but an accidental overdose. I don’t know if she committed suicide, but I do know that she was really sad about the passing of her husband and her death caused a forever split in my family that still hasn’t been repaired…almost 15 years later. So I walked for them, the pain they felt while alive and the pain that still permeates long after the news of their deaths traveled and the funerals were held.

But the biggest thing about the wall were the things I didn’t write. The names of people I know who have attempted. The times suicide threats have been used as a manipulation tool on me. My own struggles. Writing on the wall was far more complicated than what I bargained for.

Memorial Wall

Truly Loved: As I stood there staring at the memorial wall it suddenly became difficult to breathe. All those beautiful faces, all those precious lives coming to such a devastating end. As I glanced over the collage of pictures, I focused on a few of the faces. They were smiling as if they didn’t know what was waiting in their future. I tried to imagine what their lives had been like. What demons had eventually forced them into a darkness so deep that they stopped seeking the warmth of light.  That’s what despair does, it takes away all possibility of light and joy and leaves nothing but never-ending darkness. I reflected on my own struggle with despair. Those years where I suffered silently, smiling for cameras, making my sadness bearable to those around me while internally battling overwhelming feelings of self-hatred and shame. All those smiles. Were they really happy in those photos or were they already chest deep in despair? It’s so hard to tell. 

And then came the realization: My face should be up there. I too had lost the battle to despair…yet, I’m here. Feet firmly planted. Alive. Breathing. HAPPY. In so many ways it seems unfair.  

I thought about my husband and daughter. What would my husband’s life be like if he had never met me? My daughter- those precious fingers and toes, those big dreams of hers, they never would have made it into this world. 

I could have missed so much. 

I tried to understand how I made it from that place of pure, devastating, life-ending despair to a place of hope, joy, and love. It’s still hard to comprehend. There really is no worldly explanation. I am here and have all of those things because God saved me and He enriched my life with those gifts. 

In those moments, I also considered who would have cared enough about my suicide to walk for me if I had died that day. But I stopped myself before I got too far down that path because in my heart I already knew the answer. I had never experienced real love in my life until I met God. God. And then I realized that if I had died that day I never would have passed from this world unloved and forgotten like I had always assumed. There would have been mourning for my soul. Maybe not from the people that mattered to me at the time, but I would have been mourned more than I can possibly comprehend because I am loved more than I can possibly comprehend.

God and the angels in heaven would have intensely mourned the loss of my life, as they have mourned the loss of each person posted on that wall, and the lives of all others lost to earth’s despair.

Because each one of us important.

We are unique.

We are here for a purpose.

We are God’s children.

And we are loved and cherished more than our hearts and minds can possibly imagine.

T-Mommy: I didn’t look at or go near the Memorial Wall. Earlier, I talked about the internal struggle I had with writing the names on the “Why I Walk” Wall. That struggle, particularly my godbrother, is why I didn’t look at the Memorial Wall. I have not been able to look at his picture since I did his obituary for his funeral. That was almost 9 years ago. I’ve tried a few times since then, but it always seems to haunt my spirit. I’ve been to many funerals in my life, looked at tons of obituaries and even written/designed my fair share of them. None of them have had the same kind of impact on me as his. Not even my granny’s, and that was a hard one to write. Maybe it’s what his death represents – a life gone too soon (I’ve officially lived longer than he did); a battle with internal demons that I too share; an outcome that I don’t want to fully admit is a real possible one; unanswered questions that I partly am not ready to ask, scared of the answers if they exist, or not ready to accept that I’ll never truly know the answers. I don’t know. But I know that the fear of conjuring up his face in my mind is what kept me from going near the Memorial Wall. Maybe next year will be different.

Walking The Walk

T-Mommy: Once we arrived at the walk, it was exhilarating. I immediately recognized the magnitude of what I had signed up for and was happy to be a part of it. I was happy to have included my family and friend. I wished I had included more people. Had made more people aware of it. While my heart is deeply saddened by the number of people that suicide has touched – much more than the 7,000 people that showed up on that day – I am so grateful and elated that so many people rallied behind this cause to let those impacted know that they care, we care. 

I nervously posted on social media some photos of us at the Pre-Walk and the most memorable and touching comment was the one that said how happy she was that we were doing this as a family and laying the foundation for our girls to have emotional intelligence. I questioned my decision to bring the girls. How could I get them to do this without shattering their innocence? As they questioned me about what the different color Honor Beads meant and I struggled to explain to them why I had so many colors on, I wondered if this was too much too fast for them. And I know just because one person said they were happy I took the TDs, doesn’t automatically mean that T-Daddy and I made the right decision. But, it did reaffirm why we made the decision in the first place – because we want to raise emotionally intelligent children that are empathetic and compassionate to those around them. We want them to know that if they are blessed enough to live a life of comfort, security and minimal pain and sadness, that they should care about those less fortunate around them. That some of those people will be their friends, cousins, teachers, adults. I felt super uneasy trying to navigate TD2’s curiosity as she enthusiastically asked questions in sometimes inappropriate tones. 

Doing this walk alone or with just adults would have given me the opportunity to really sit in my feelings – whatever they may have been – without having to put on a face or “adult” for the girls. But having them there gave me so much hope for the future. I walked away feeling like I can make a difference. We can make a difference. 

We have a team name, a motto, logo, and a Scripture to stand behind. I’m excited to get back out there next year and walk again. Hopefully, I won’t let my fears stop me from inviting others to join us.

Truly Loved: This walk made me realize that I want to do more. I want to speak out more about my experiences, to push for resources and education regarding mental health justice. I need to put a face to this epidemic for those still in denial and for those who are silently suffering.  I am excited to do the walk again, and I am relieved that we are going in more prepared with our logo and scripture, but my hope is that between now and the next walk I will have also done something to bring education and acceptance to my community.

T-Talks: Fires and Zombies and Death

We were having dinner as a family a few nights ago when random comments and jokes turned into an impromptu emergency prep talk. One of the TDs made a comment about waking up and mommy and daddy not being here which led me to ask what would they do if they woke up and me and T-Daddy were gone. Their answers led T-Daddy to talk them through different scenarios including waking up to an empty house, tornadoes and fires.
 
We were in the middle of this conversation when TD2 burst out in tears.
TD2: I’m scared.
T-Mommy: What are you scared of?
TD2: I don’t want to die!
T-Mommy: Why do you think you’re going to die?
TD2: Because these all sound like bad things that I’m going to die.
 
This led to a convo about how having these types of convos can actually save our lives. And LOTS of cuddles and hugs and kisses. I promised her I’d lie down with her and as we were climbing into bed, she grabbed her customized stencil with her name on it.
TD2: I’m going to sleep with this because Anna* gave it to me and I don’t want it to burn up in case there’s a fire.
 

Because fires are scary, I got to snuggle with this cute little face.

The next day:
We were looking at T-Daddy’s toenail when TD2 walks in. He stubbed his toe months ago playing basketball and has just been waiting for his toenail to fall off.
TD2: What are you doing?
T-Daddy: Mommy’s going to try to take my toenail off.
TD2: Why? What’s wrong with it?
T-Daddy: It’s a zombie toenail.
TD2: *in tears* Noooo. I don’t want it to be a zombie toenail. I don’t want to be eaten.
 
*Name changed to protect the innocent. Plus who doesn’t love a Disney princess name!

T-Talks: Got Hurt

A few days ago, TD2 got hurt at school. I was working in the office when her teacher brought her to me to console her. He told me what happened and I showered her with lots of Mommy love and a bandaid. We took some deep breaths to calm down and I walked her back to her class. A short while later, she came back with a picture.

T-Mommy: What’s this a picture of?
TD2: What happened when I got hurt.
T-Mommy: What happened sweetie?
TD2: I was walking on this and I fell.
T-Mommy: And this is you after you fell?
TD2: *nods*
T-Mommy: Who is this?
TD2: Mr. Banana

*Mr. Banana is her nickname for her teacher.

TD1: The Big 7

Today, TD1 turns the big 7.

It’s technically not a milestone birthday, yet it feels so special and worthy of being honored. To celebrate, we took some family photos with Truly Loved Photography, and will do family mani-pedis and have a bday meal at the restaurant of her choice.

I am filled with so many emotions about this day. Mostly disbelief and awe. I can’t believe that T-Daddy and I have a 7-year-old. I can’t believe that she’s closer to being a tween than she is a newborn. I can’t believe the time passed so fast. I still can’t believe God trusts me to be her mom. I’m in awe of the person that she is. I’m in awe of how no matter how much I question if I’m doing this mommydom thing right, she somehow seems to be just right. I’m in awe of the maturity she possesses already. I’m in awe of how understanding, compassionate and gracious she can be to others, both adults and children.

I find myself staring at her more these days. Talking to her more. Wanting to cherish her touch, her voice, her laugh, her presence. She has ideas, dreams, fears, opinions and feelings. Regardless of who or how I want her to be, she is her own person. That becomes apparent more and more each day. And the moments she chooses to share with me seem all that more precious now. Because she recognizes that she has a choice, and still chooses me. I know it won’t always be that way. It’s not always that way. Sometimes she chooses her friends. Sometimes it’s TD2. Sometimes it’s T-Daddy. I naively thought it would be me and her until she was at least 16, but those days, weeks, months came 10 years early.

As she excitedly embarks upon year 7, I can’t help but wonder the person she’ll grow up to be. I want her to soar higher than I ever thought I could. I want her to be so grounded in her faith and love for Jesus that not even T-Daddy or I can come between her and God. And I pray that, even at 7 years old, she feels the love and respect I have for her.

Happy 7th birthday to a girl who “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time On”!!!

Year 3: Protecting Our Marriage

9+6=15

Today makes 3 years since T-Daddy and I said “I Do!” Since that day, there have been giggles, smirks and infatuation with most things lighthouse, nautical, infinity or storm-related. It’s like a forever inside joke. 

There have also been some very real and raw moments and conversations in those 3 years. I’m constantly reminded by a very dear mentor-turned-friend to protect our marriage. And be intentional in doing so. What she already knew but I didn’t fully realize till this year is that the biggest threat to our marriage isn’t other women and men, friends that don’t like him or me, or even our family. No, the biggest threat to our marriage is us.

She was telling me to protect my marriage from my insecurities, my fears, my overthinking, my grievances, my anger, my desires, my busyness. Even our children. As I set out (and failed) several times to really listen to T-Daddy, I realized that in so many instances, I was our own worst enemy. I was so busy looking for the enemy on the front lines that I never noticed the one who snuck in the back door. 

The biggest threat to our marriage is us.

Every time I chose to scroll Facebook or Instagram instead of being fully engaged in my husband’s presence, I was attacking our marriage. Every time I led our daughters to believe they were somehow equal to and therefore entitled to the same respect, authority and priority as T-Daddy, I was attacking our marriage. Every time I failed to truly become fluent in and speak T-Daddy’s love language, I was attacking our marriage. Every time I vented to my friends about how much he annoyed me, I was attacking our marriage. And every time I cringed at his words and behaviors in public because he was “embarrassing me,” I was attacking our marriage.

Hiking in Georgia

As a married woman, my biggest ministry is my family. And I know that “the overall health of our family cannot and will not exceed the health of our marriage.” It doesn’t matter what kind of daughter, sister, friend, worker I am if I’m a horrible wife. Doesn’t matter how nice or kind I am to other people if I’m rude and mean to my husband.

I was attacking our marriage.

This past weekend, I was talking to my brother and the subject of our anniversary came up. He asked how long had it been and when I told him 3 years, he enthusiastically said “That’s so cool!” Funny, that wasn’t my first, second, third or fourth thought. But he’s right. It is so cool! Today, I get to celebrate three years with a man I am perfectly happy lying with under the stars, watching the moon rise. I get to do life with a man who is most definitely cheering the hardest in everything I do and carrying me when I can’t go on, even if that means he isn’t the loudest or even seen doing so. Who’s the yin to my yang. The ice cream in my root beer float. 

And he is so worth protecting…even from myself. Especially from myself.

Back to School 2018

The 2018-2019 school year is officially underway!

Summer came and went way too fast for me personally. I definitely was not ready to start another school year. The girls both had mixed emotions – ready to see their friends, but not ready to give up their summer freedom. TD1 also had a little added anxiety of meeting her new teacher (more on that in another post). TD2 knew she was looping another year with her teacher so all she cared about was whether or not she could still play video games. (Because those Super Mario games won’t beat themselves.)

Like any good mom, I placed 100% confidence in Amazon having what I needed and waited until a few weeks before school started to order the guinea pig book bag and lunch box I promised TD1 this year. And now, TD2 had decided that she really needed a JigglyPuff book bag (which later turned into a Hatchimals book bag). Hours down the Amazon hole, one long delivery, and one wrong product description and subsequent return later, we were back down the Amazon hole looking for replacements. Who knew guinea pig book bags weren’t actually a thing?!? After agreeing upon a Plan B, then having said Plan B fall through after the first week of school, TD1 now has a very small guinea pig book bag to be used for a change of clothes and an emoji style matching book bag and lunch box set and TD2 has a different Hatchimals book bag. Kohls for the win both times!

All in all, though, we survived. Through school supply shopping and reshopping, last minute uniform runs because we didn’t account for growth spurts, uncertainty and change. For all the tears, tantrums and big opinions, the TDs were all smiles when we dropped them off the first day. 

It’s a new school year with a new teacher, new pet, new friends, new routines for TD1. TD2 learned that while some things stay the same, some don’t. Same teacher, same class pet, same classroom, same friends, but new student teacher, a few new friends. It may or may not have taken her a few days to realize a few faces weren’t returning this year. While it wasn’t met with grief, it was met with lots of confusion and questions. Why aren’t they coming back? Why are they going to another school? Why can’t their brother come to my class? In other words, “They were supposed to be here with me!”

All things considered, the first week was a success! The school year is off to a great start. TD1 has an amazingly sweet teacher who has more than stepped up to the challenge of being a new face in their community of familiarity. TD2 has the same amazing teacher who has already shown them that just because they know each other, they have no idea what to expect this year.

And T-Daddy and I have two T-Daughters who are growing and maturing and amazing us every day.

Watch out world, TD1 and TD2 are ready for ya!

Whole30 Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2-28oz cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt

 

Steps:

  1. Brown ground beef/turkey in a skillet. Add it to crockpot.
  2. Add other ingredients and seasonings to crockpot.
  3. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Serve in bowls. Enjoy!

Pico de Cado Omelette

This quick omelette with a Mexican twist is amazing! AND Whole30 compliant.

Ingredients:

  • Omelette
    • 1 egg
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 avocado
    • 2 spoonfuls of pico de gallo (You can buy some from any supermarket – I used Pete’s – or make your own.)
    • Tajín seasoning
  • Pico de Gallo
    • 1 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
    • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tbsp jalapeno pepper, minced
    • 1 tbsp lime juice

Steps:
Pico de Gallo:

  1. Mix tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeno pepper in large bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors blend.

Omelette:

  1. Crack the eggs into a bowl.
  2. Season with salt and black pepper to preference. Beat well.
  3. Heat a small amount of extra virgin olive oil in a small frying pan on a low heat.
  4. Add the eggs and move the pan around to spread them out evenly. The omelette will begin to cook and firm up, but still have a little raw egg on top.
  5. Use a spatula to ease around the edges of the omelette and fold it over in half. When it starts to turn golden brown underneath, remove the pan from the heat and slide the omelette on to a plate.
  6. Slice the avocado and place it on top. Add the pico de gallo on top.
  7. Sprinkle with Tajín. Enjoy!

Coconut Date Balls

I was looking for a Whole30 compliant snack to hold me over between meals (and to help make sure that I was consuming enough calories) when I came across these sweet treats. They are delicious and an instant hit with T4 (and friends).

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pitted dates
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried coconut flakes

Steps:

  1. Blend dates, almonds and coconut flakes in a food processor (or blender) until well mixed.
  2. Roll the mixture into small balls. (The dates are very sweet, so I personally prefer smaller balls.)
  3. Toss balls into dried coconut flakes. The mixture is very sticky, so the coconut coating makes the balls less sticky.
  4. Enjoy! Refrigerate the rest.