Summer 2014: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Summer 2014 has zooooomed on by! (Don’t they all…)

‘Lotsa weddings and fun in the Seattle sun! (Yes, it does exist!)

Here’s some summer snapshots thus far:


Bryan’s been working extra long hours this summer so our fantasy to-do list has barely been scratched but we’ve made the most of it by cramming lots of fun stuff in where we can!

I’m very blessed in this life and I am thankful everyday for those blessings. Despite the happy faces, the gratitude, and freedom I’ve had this summer, I am still very much struggling, something I do not talk much about.

I don’t talk about it because I know I have so much to be happy and grateful for and I often feel guilty for feeling sad, angry, or anxious, whatever it is I’m feeling at the time.

However, those “bad” feelings are just as valid as the joyful ones.

Do you ever feel like you live in your own head? I do. So much so that sometimes I look at Bryan and I actually see him. I’m present, I’m in the moment, and when I look at him I realize I haven’t seen him in days or sometimes weeks. This is usually followed by a spontaneous kiss or hand grab, something tangible to reinforce the present moment. Also known as a grounding technique if you’ve ever studied anxiety or trauma.

Yes, I am blessed. Yes, I am struggling with depression and anxiety.

The two are not mutually exclusive, they can occur at the same time. I’m not new to the mental illness scene, these are things I’ve dealt with since childhood. They just happen to be at a new height of impairment.

Three large transitions contributing to these current struggles:

  1. Cross country move. I love Seattle, it was absolutely the right decision for me. I have made several wonderful friends coupled with the great support of Bryan’s family, but I miss my family and friends on the east coast. Technology makes it very easy to keep in touch but nothing compares to a hug from your loved ones, or a face to face conversation.
  2. Career. Not knowing where I fit in in the professional world. Knowing I have unique skills and talents that can make a difference but feeling stuck, not knowing where to go next. And those pesky things called bills that don’t wait around for you to figure it out.
  3. Trauma. There is a lot of icky stuff I haven’t dealt with because my M.O. is to bury it and never touch it again. But finding love with Bryan has opened a set of dormant issues that I can no longer ignore, for the sake of my own health and the health our relationship.

I’m talking about this today because it’s something that’s often shunned from discussion. Mental illness is as real as cardiovascular disease.

It’s OK to be struggling and smiling at the same time.

Also, just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.

It’s OK to ask for help.

Let’s take more time to listen to each other and ask the tough questions.

Let’s be brave enough to answer them honestly, without fear.

Let’s spread the love a little more, a little farther.

Thanks for listening today, friends. Hope your summer is going swimmingly! (<- See what I did there?!)

HB xoxo

IMG_9931

Hibernation: Complete!

...ZZZ...

…ZZZ…

This week wrapped my first “big girl” job and I feel much like the big, burly bear above. I’ve emerged from the cave, stretched wide but still need to stop every so often for a snooze. I could move into an earth/springtime metaphor, the options really are endless this time of year, but I’ll spare you.

So, yeah. I’ve learned a great deal the past nine months in nonprofit management:

  • Earning a salary is real nice
  • Healthcare is a transformational field
  • Nurses are the most compassionate badasses around
  • Sitting at a desk for nine hours a day kills me slowly inside
  • If it doesn’t light you up you’re not the right person for the job

While I don’t know what my next move is, I know removing myself from a toxic workplace and returning to center within is more progress than I could ever make “sticking it out” somewhere that I don’t belong.

Ze boyfriend builds things, I make them look pretty and turn them into yet another metaphor for life.

Ze boyfriend builds things, I make them look pretty and turn them into yet another metaphor for life.

I’m on the first step looking upwards and it feels real nice.

Most recently I’ve begun taking stock of why I moved to Seattle in the first place. Part of what drew me here was the thriving art/creative scene and sense of community found throughout the diverse neighborhoods. Another is the abundance of natural beauty surrounding the city.

While I’ve begun tapping into exploring the great Pacific Northwest thanks to dating Bryan, Washington native and mountaineer extraordinarie. What I hadn’t done at all in a year’s time is get involved, with anything other than meeting Bryan and job transitions. Not to diminish finding great love but I still long for feeling connected in other ways… making friends, finding a community, being of service, developing my art.

I didn’t move 3,000 miles away from everyone I love to be complacent. This was a real wakeup call a few weeks ago, “what the heck are you doing, HB?” I’d taken the leap, landed, put some roots down but building had stalled.

With all this rolling around in my head, I reached out to a girl I was following on Instagram who posted a photo about a women’s writing workshop she’d taken. We exchanged emails then phone numbers and BOOM! I’d made a wonderful new friend who happens to be a beautiful black and white street photographer with two self-published books. Yeah, she’s kind of a force.

Gari then introduced me to a host of other fabulous, likeminded creatives working on a community art based project. (More on that later!)

Suddenly, through one simple connection, my network grew exponentially.

And that’s where I’m at right now, folks. I’ve been interviewing like a madwoman for nanny positions and recently accepted a part-time summer position caring for an adorable 8 month-old girl and 3 year-old boy. Ideally I’d like to find another position to supplement the other two days of the workweek but for now I am welcoming the opportunity to develop and explore this newfound creative side, and just get back to taking care of myself.

Here’s to S P A C E.
And the F R E E D O M to take it.

Springtime is alive and well in Seattle!

Springtime is alive and well in Seattle!

20-14!

Heyooo!

I hope everyone had a delightful end to the holiday season and a very happy new year!

My Christmas travels home to Rhode Island were short, sweet, and definitely stranger than anticipated. It had been seven months since I’d stepped foot on the east coast and this time around I could feel the difference instantly.

Walking through Boston-Logan Airport I noticed a Red Sox World Series Champs banner… for 2013. Huh. Weird. I knew they won of course but I didn’t watch more than half an inning of the series and had obviously forgotten. This would have been a HUGE deal to me a year ago, I thought to myself.

And so began a trip that felt more like time traveling.

I felt increasingly different sitting in the bedroom I’d occupied from fifth grade through the age of 23. In a good way. In the kind of way you visit an old classroom after years gone by. I felt older, wiser.

Scenes from those thirteen years danced across the ‘ole brainwaves. And ya know what? I liked what I saw. I’ve lived a lot of life in my short 24 years, a life I now have a greater appreciation for after moving on to the next chapter.

Love. Heartache. Loss. Joy. Hardship. Risk. Fun. Heart.

Growth.

When we’re knee deep in the tough stuff, or even the fluffy stuff, it is hard to maintain perspective that everything happens for a reason. How we react to trying experiences, how we move forward and apply these lessons is where the gold is. You’re being prepped for greatness if you choose to ask for it.

The universe knew I wanted more, that I needed more than what my life in Rhode Island could provide. Though patience isn’t my strong suit, I needed pockets of it as my Aunt Kelly would say. The universe opened a window for me when I was good and ready.

In 2013: I moved across the country, cared for an infant, fell in love, didn’t get into Grad School, took on my first management position, lived on a sailboat, started a blog, and moved into my first apartment. Ch-ch-chaaange.

What do you feel called to be a part of?
What are you born to do?
Where does your heart lie?

Let’s ask for more in 2014.
2014Love,
HB xoxo

Why Seattle?

You wanna hear a story of how effortlessly cool life is if you just let it happen?

I have a good friend named Laura. Laura and her older sister Sara used to babysit my brother and I when we were little tikes living in Sturbridge, MA. After moving to Rhode Island we lost touch until Facebook brought us back together in 2007. (Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg.)

Winter of 2012 I was dating someone who lived in North Carolina; I purchased a ticket to visit him on Spring Break. Well, that brief relationship quickly dissolved and suddenly I had a plane ticket to nowhere. Not wanting to burden my friends by having to come up with the money on short notice I thought of friends I could visit solo. I hadn’t seen Laura since the age of 7 but had no qualms about visiting her, she and Sara were solidified in my mind as the older sisters I didn’t have.

And so I booked a flight to Seattle to visit a long lost friend. I was quickly smitten with the city but that wasn’t the only noteworthy development… Laura was pregnant! Later in my trip, after a lot of discussion, sitting on her couch I had a crazy thought… what if I moved out here to help with the baby and go to Grad School? She returned from walking Cody-Dog, I pitched the idea and the rest is history, really.

I wrapped up my degree at Rhode Island College the following fall, applied to the University of Washington’s MSW program, spent the holidays at home, packed up my car and moved to Washington State two days after Christmas. (With the help of my best gal pal, Ali and trusty Corolla, Steely Dan.)

Boom.

People gave me all kinds of opinions on the move, some supportive, some not so much. I only had ears for my intuition. It wasn’t anything tangible, it was a gravitational pull, a feeling of knowing that I can’t quite describe. I grabbed hold and didn’t look back. It was a massive leap of faith but the best decision I’ve ever made.

And it all started with a breakup. Let that sink in.

You have to make space for your future to show up. Sometimes that means letting things fall apart so they can expand even further.

Timing is everything, just show up and let go. The universe is organizing everything for your benefit.

Be brave.

Keep the faith.

Trust yourself.

HB xoxo

A Real Woman.

(Insert photo of Marilyn Monroe here.)

You’ve seen it circulate before and you’ll probably see it again.

But let’s think about the message we’re sending, ladies.

I’m a big girl; I grew up in America. I get it, it’s hard out there for a plus size gal. And I see what we’re trying to do here but the message is all wrong.

As women we are all in this judgmental world together. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, brown, orange, purple, or green. Or if you’re tall, short, or average. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny, thin, average, stocky, thick, chubby, or fat. Or if you have freckles, wrinkles, scars, pimples, or gray hair.

beauty1

We are all real women.

Every single one.

You can even have a penis and be a woman. If that’s what you identify with, then go on with your bad self! And more power to you!

What makes Marilyn Monroe a “real” woman, eh? Her hips? Her breasts? A white bathing suit? Red lipstick?

By marginalizing a group of women because they don’t have exaggerated curves makes us just as bad as the ones marginalizing us for having them.

Cut it out.

Cut it out.

I have a girlfriend who would “kill for my curves” and I would “kill for her slender thighs.” We are never totally happy with what we’ve got, mainly because we’ve been conditioned by society to critique every single thing about ourselves in pursuit of the “ideal.”

beauty

Well, the ideal is bullshit. You’re beautiful; I’m beautiful; we’re all beautiful.

beauty2
So the next time you feel the urge to lash out because some dweeb called you chunky or because you’re sick of flipping through magazines of pencil thin models, don’t retaliate by criticizing others (I am fully aware this is not usually the intent but an indirect result), instead list three things you love about your body.

Love it.

Own it.

HB xoxo

(PS- All pictures are courtesy of Google.com.)

Tales of the Cleanse.

Or something like that.

Things I’ve learned since starting a clean eating challenge two weeks ago: Eating clean is very difficult after 11 months of eating whatever whenever you wanted.

2013 has been a series of transitions: home, work, love… you name it, it’s changed since January 1st. The first things to go down the tubes when I feel overwhelmed/stressed are my eating and exercising habits. Easy to do, right? When you feel like things are out of control and you need to prioritize in order to get through the day, self-care is the last thing on the list.

  • “I gotta get this project done for my manager by tomorrow, I can just get a burger at Wendy’s later.”
  • “I don’t need breakfast, I gotta get to the office.”

You know how it goes. Gyms? Exercise? Forget ‘ah ’bout it.

This is nothing new for me; weight, nutrition and exercise will be lifelong struggles like they are for countless others. How do we make our health a priority, even in the face of daily stressors? I don’t want to wait for the things to “settle down” before I start feeling better.

Small, nearly undetectable changes at first until they become routine and gradually build from there. These past two weeks I did not eat gluten free, dairy free, or free of anything but I learned that guilt and shame have no place in the process of change.

Things I did accomplish:

  • Packing healthy snacks all week long: fruit (bananas, oranges, apples), roasted seaweed (100 calorie packs, Kirkland brand found at Costco), almonds (plain organic), tupperware filled w/ organic baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and grape tomatoes and organic greek olive/garlic hummus.
  • Eating breakfast, even if it was a Kind bar. (Yummy and gluten free!)
  • Making smart choices when eating lunch from the office cafeteria: One day I had a cup of vegetarian chili, the next a cup of the garden vegetable soup. When I decided to get a sandwich on Wednesday I ordered only half of one and resisted the urge for chips, settling on the apple already at my desk.
  • DRINKING WATER. My golly, why is that so difficult? I don’t drink nearly enough water so the past two weeks I have been religious about filling up a water bottle as soon as I get in. It holds just over (3) 8 oz. glasses of water which means I should be drinking three bottles full a day. If I drank two bottles, fan-stinkin-tastic. One bottle? Good but not good enough. Baby steps, I hope to have it so routinized that I don’t even think about it. Before you know it, 3 bottles and 5 million pee breaks will seem like nothing.
  • No beer or liquor (for a week). The social calendar was full this week… drinks with a friend, weeknight concert, ugly sweater party, combo birthday/going away celebration… and I kept my drink of choice to hard cider. Gluten free? Yes! Sugar free? Not so much. Even these were kept to a minimum though, 5 drinks spread over 4 events.
Tedeshci Trucks Band (holy talent!) and a mediocre, overpriced pear cider.

Tedeshci Trucks Band (holy talent!) and a mediocre, overpriced pear cider.

Breakfast of champs! 1 banana, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, 2 scoops SP Complete, 4 oz. almond milk, ice.

Breakfast of champs! 1 banana, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup blueberries, 2 scoops SP Complete, 4 oz. almond milk, ice.

clean eating for the win! Nom.

clean eating for the win! Nom.

Staples in the Brown/Matthews household.

Staples in the Brown/Matthews household.

Produce haul, mostly organic but didn't get too crazy over it.

Produce haul, mostly organic but didn’t get too crazy over it.

Produce continued :-)

Produce continued // Side note: Bryan sautéed the beet greens in a veggie stir fry and they were a great addition!

Small changes but I’m already feeling better, if only because that sense of control has returned. Here’s to progress and putting our health first!

What small change could you tweak in your daily or weekly routine?

HB xoxo

November Round-Up // A New Challenge!

Currently: Seated in an internet cafe open ’til 1am (on a Sunday), sipping African Nectar tea, listening to 80s rap bump through the walls… Seattle, it’s love.

Until I can afford to hookup WiFi in the apartment, posts will continue to be a little sparse. Womp. Working wonders on my productivity at work though. Huzzah.

November Round-Up:

  • Moved from boat → apartment in the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. 570 square feet never felt so good! Location isn’t the best but rent is relatively cheap (for Seattle) and we’ve got a wood burning fireplace, balcony, and W/D in-unit. I can’t tell you how much better I feel after making this change, we are now working on furnishing the apartment. ;-)
  • Thanks to a generous set of parents, I booked a short trip home to Rhode Island for Christmas 12/24 – 12/30 // very much looking forward to a break from work & time spent with family and friends!
  • Joined a book club that kicks off January 7th at 7pm! (Coincidence my lucky/favorite number is 7? Probably not.)
  • Anyone ever experienced that point at a new job where you either decide it’s not the one for you or you take on the challenge and bust-ass through the wall? I think I’m on top of the wall peering down hoping it is smooth sailing from here.
  • Thanksgiving was bittersweet as this was my first away from family. I spent the holiday with good friends (might as well be family!) Laura, Jose, baby Macey, and Abby. Lots of love, thanks, food, and laughs! It is a joy to watch Macey grow, she is walking like nobody’s business and becoming more and more outgoing.
  • Tomorrow I begin week one of a clean eating personal challenge!

The Scoop: Back in May I attempted the Standard Process 21-day Purification Program with hopes to aid severe health concerns at the time. This program is ultra strict with an accompanying supplement program in addition to the dietary guidelines. Bryan and I made it 5 days before caving and going out to breakfast. We also dropped a pretty penny to attempt the program.

This time around I am making more gradual changes… cutting out processed foods, eating only organic fruits, veggies, herbs, proteins, and fats. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no alcohol.

The goal? Purely to see how my body reacts, really. Weight gain, digestion, acne, hair thinning/loss, fatigue, and headaches are all symptoms I hope recede by making these changes. While there are likely more factors at play such as hormone imbalances which I will eventually consult an Integrative MD about, I believe majority of my health issues stem from nutrition.

So, my first goal is to make it a week with clean eating and build from there. Ideally I’d like to see it through for 3 weeks which brings me to Christmas Eve when I’ll be home in Rhode Island. It’ll be a week by week scenario so the pressure of a grandiose 21-day cleanse doesn’t ruin my efforts before they even begin.

To hold me accountable and make this process enjoyable, I hope to document this journey daily for the first week!

Welp, there’s a pizza with my name on it before this shindig kicks off tomorrow. Stay tuned, folks! Any words of encouragement, clean eating recipes/ideas are greatly appreciated. :-)

HB xoxo

Monday Mindfulness

Do you ever encounter a message so necessary at that particular moment  in your life that you can do nothing but look upwards chuckling, “you, you’re good, you!”

That swift kick in the pants came via e-mail this morning. One of my favorite (and relatively recent) finds on the strings of the interweb is Ms. Danielle LaPorte. She is indescribable, you have to check her out for yourself. Once I came across her website I subscribed to every newsletter and blogpost possible… I can’t get enough of her wisdom, realness, and divine feminine prowess.

‘Lo and behold in my inbox this morning was this little ditty from Danielle: Remember, you said Yes to this.

Something I have been really struggling with, like most mid-twenty somethings, is figuring out what the heck my calling in life is. Something I have been struggling with further is knowing my current job does not contain the answer I seek. I’m not one to spin my wheels for the heck of it, if I know something is a dead end then sayonara!

However, I’m in the real world now and it’s hard out here for a pimp. (I know this song lyric will be lost on the older generation, go with it, folks.) Life is expensive and I am very grateful for a job that affords me the luxury of owning a vehicle, having a roof over my head, putting food on the table, etc.

In my impatience to “figure out” the next step in life I have taken on a poor attitude at work, not given 100% over the past 3.75 months, and found myself easily distracted wanting to research and create.

My job is plenty demanding without sabotaging myself in these ways, today I find myself at a crossroads and Danielle gave me a push in the right direction.

“If I’m a yes to my desire, I’m a yes for what it takes to fulfill that desire.”

Whoa.

If I go back and read journal entries during the job hunting process this is EXACTLY what I asked for. (Dagnabit.)

“Yes – I wanted this. Yes – bring it on. Yes – I’m up for this.”

Boom.

Is it my dream job? No. Would I rather being working my tush off for my own goals and gains? Yes. But right now those don’t pay the bills, that’s reality and it’s perfectly OK.

If I focused on work 100% of the time at work maybe I wouldn’t be working so many hours. (Duh, HB.) Nights and weekends could be devoted to fueling my dreams, whatever those may be.

Something major happened last weekend and I think it is really going to help me get back on track: Bryan, Onyx kitty and I moved off boat and into an apartment!

HUZZAH!

HUZZAH!

Time to take back my power, own my choices, and make new ones if it’s time.

Being sure to do everything in my power to follow those choices through before deciding it’s time for a new one.

HB
xoxo

Thank you.

Holy smokes, guys.

In 48 hours my blog jumped to over 1,300 views, 244 of them stemming directly from Tuesday’s zinger. And three new subscribers to boot!

I keep relaying how “thank you” doesn’t seem adequate to express my gratitude for the outpouring of support through e-mails, messages, texts, and comments. But I’ll say it anyway…

Thank you.

Change is great and all, I know I’m a huge proponent of it, but there comes a point where the body literally cannot handle anything else. That’s where I was at on Monday when I received the most recent news. Being 3,000 miles away from ¾ of my support system, growing pains at the new job, boat life, and the dealings of my assault… overwhelmed about covers it.

Tuesday’s post was angry; I know that’s how it came across. It was also a cry for help on my behalf; I was quickly travelling to a dark place I haven’t visited in a while. In large part though, it was a call to action.

You all not only pulled me back into the light but held me up. I wish I could hug every single one of you, in my head I am, I hope you feel it. I no longer feel alone or like I have this black cloud following me. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

To the brave individuals who shared their stories, you guys are rock stars. I’m so glad we can take this journey together.

I want to clarify that while my last post was angry, it was a fleeting response. I don’t wish to linger in such a place; my heart wouldn’t tolerate it for very long anyway.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr.

The system may fail us but love and good intention never will. I’m committed to love, the beauty of life and using my voice to empower others.

In one of the comments on Tuesday my friend Danielle shared a quote:

“You’ve got a voice… you’ve got a story… do us all a favor and use it. Without any apologies. Without any stepping back.”

Challenge accepted.

We’re all in this together and together we can bring about real change.

Thank you all for bringing me one step closer to peace, my only hope is to one day return the favor.

Love,
HB xoxo

Bullshit.

Yesterday I learned I am “ineligible” to prosecute the man who raped me in 2012.

According to RI law “a person is guilty of first degree sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person, and if any of the following circumstances exist:

  • The accused, not being the spouse, knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless.
  • The accused uses force or coercion.
  • The accused, through concealment or by the element of surprise, is able to overcome the victim.
  • The accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or stimulation.”

The loop hole in our justice system being the terms force and coercion, defined as:

  • “Uses or threatens to use a weapon, or any article used or fashioned in a manner to lead the victim to reasonably believe it to be a weapon.
  • Overcomes the victim through the application of physical force or physical violence.
  • Coerces the victim to submit by threatening to use force or violence on the victim and the victim reasonably believes that the accused has the present ability to execute these threats.
  • Coerces the victim to submit by threatening to at some time in the future murder, inflict serious bodily injury upon or kidnap the victim or any other person and the victim reasonably believes that the accused has the ability to execute this threat.”

What happened to no means no? Where is consent throughout this definition? Rape is often portrayed as violent in the media and I am not discrediting its prevalence but what about the other perpetrators who are not violent but savvy? Those who know how to force and coerce a victim without violence, thereby slipping through the legal system. My perpetrator was a Brown University Medical Student before the first sexual assault report was filed against him in 2008.

My rape was not necessarily violent by the standards described above. He did not jump out of the bushes or hold a knife to my throat, nor did he restrain me or even threaten me. I was on a date, went up to his apartment and found myself in a quickly escalating situation. My date simply did not listen to my demands to slow down, nor did he care about anything I had to say. And so I froze, alone in an apartment with a man who knelt over me.

I have no evidence to meet the law’s criteria of “force and coercion,” aside from pictures taken by the hospital of the bruises I sustained. Even those are not credible enough to charge this man.

Survival instincts are miraculous things; I don’t know why I froze instead of fighting or trying to get away but those instincts are the reason I am here today. No one knows what that man was capable of should my body have reacted differently. Does that make me feel guilty, ashamed, and angry? Every goddamn day but it wasn’t my fault, there was no right choice.

You see there was no choice. I did not choose to have sex with that man, he violated me. I did not choose how my body reacted to the situation, it did what it thought was best at the time.

A year and a half later I learned he’s harmed others and I feel strong enough to reopen my case with the police department. Turns out my experience doesn’t fit into the box RI law defines as first degree sexual assault. Yet again my voice is silenced, only this time at the hands of the system that is supposed to serve and protect the public.

Rape doesn’t fit into a box, it never will. I want to know why it took four women going on record for someone to pick their head up off the desk.

And why I can’t do a single thing to ensure he doesn’t harm anyone else.

Bullshit.