Things You Save in a Fire Book Review and Mental Health Tips

books, Mental Health

If you haven’t read Things You Save in a Fire, I highly recommend that you do. I recently had one of my social media followers ask about books I recommend for mental health. Personally, I have a hard time finishing self help books. I follow podcasts, Ted Talks, and watch a lot of documentaries. I read ALOT, whether it be a book or an article. I personally relate more to story telling. I love books that I am able to escape reality with but also learn something. Things You Save in a Fire taught me how to begin to move on from something that caused me severe trauma and PTSD. The steps to forgiveness and why it is important to forgive even when someone will no longer be a part of your life completely changed my thought process. I didn’t believe that it was possible to see the good in a situation so devastating. I thought that if I admitted that any good had come from that situation, I was saying that was slightly less awful. As a mother, how do you feel okay saying that something good came from a situation that stole your child’s innocence?

Step One: To forgive you must admit that someone hurt you. That sounds easy enough, right? While I will admit that most of the time this is the easiest step, for fellow empaths or others who overanalyze every situation, this isn’t always a piece of cake. I have always been hard on myself. As the saying goes, you are your own worst critic. I realized that in an attempt to control the uncontrollable, I caused myself destructive anxiety. I believe that there is such thing as a worry that is productive. Being excited about something can be an exceptional motivation factor, but being anxious about something that you have absolutely no control over is destructive. I have a desire to fix everyone and every situation. I want to know what I did wrong and I’d rather be wrong because then I can be proactive about the situation. Admitting that someone else caused me pain and the situation was not within my power to alter was extremely hard for me. Seeing those words in writing while reading someone else’s story put everything into perspective. I knew the answers all along and I was fighting to change something that I had no choice but to accept or let it destroy me. Admit to yourself that you allowed someone to get close to you. Admit to yourself that you were a victim of a crime. Admit to yourself that you are a little bit broken right now. Admit to yourself that you are allowed to feel pain. To become a survivor, you have to feel what you need to feel first. Feeling the pain now allows your body to time to process the emotions. As someone who still suffers from PTSD, I thought that avoiding the emotions would keep me from feeling pain.

For example, I tried my best to stay off social media. Don’t misread what I’m saying. Taking a break from social media and distancing yourself from any kind of negative environment is a good thing. In my case, social media was important to me before the trauma. I stayed in touch with my family and friends and by avoiding it all together, as well as not allowing myself to process my trauma in a healthy way, I cast the entire trauma off on social media. I didn’t know who to blame anymore. I didn’t even have a lucid version of what actually happened in my mind. I became triggered everytime I received an email or text message. I dreaded checking social media accounts to the point where I had anxiety attacks just thinking about reading a message. I associated any pain that I was feeling with social media. In the process, I missed positive messages from friends and family and pushed people who wanted to support me away.

It’s important to admit what happened. I am all about taking responsibility for what I do wrong, and I would never tell you to place blame where it is not due. However, we have so many negative thoughts that go through our head every single day. Telling yourself that something was your fault when it wasn’t will not make the pain go away. It will not give you any more control over the situation. It will only prolong the healing process. Admitting what happened is important for the next step.

Step Two: Acknowledge that the person who hurt you is flawed, like all people are. To me, this was a lot bigger than just saying that someone sucked. It was saying that in a way, we are all a little broken. Our flaws can add character, and they can cause some serious damage. In acknowledging that the person who hurt me is flawed, I also acknowledged that I was. I learned that sometimes it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes two people can be toxic for each other. People don’t always apologize and you won’t always receive the closure that you so desperately hoped for. Part of the healing process is gaining an understanding of what happened. In no way do I mean fixate on the situation or allow it to control your life. But you need to have an idea of what went wrong, the parts of the situation that you do have control over, and the parts that you do not. You can control your reaction to someone else’s actions, but you cannot control their actions.

What do you do when the person who hurt you is blaming you? This question is precisely why forgiveness is so important. Forgiving someone else is not always for them. It’s so that you can move on. If you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in life, not only will you be miserable, but you will limit yourself in ways that you cannot even imagine. So again, feel what you need to feel…and then move on. You are in no way saying that because all people have flaws, someone’s flaws did not hurt you. You are simply saying that imperfections can cause pain and gaining a better understanding of boundaries that you may need to set in the future.

Are you ready for step three? I know I wasn’t, but here goes.

Step Three: Find something positive that would not have happened if the situation had not occurred. For the longest time I thought that finding something good discredited me. I thought that finding a glimmer of light and hope would give someone the power to say that I spent no time in the dark. The trauma we suffered was real. I know this because I finally allowed myself to feel. That doesn’t mean that I’m never allowed to experience joy again. That doesn’t mean that I can’t find peace and move on. It doesn’t mean that I wanted this to happen to me. Finding the good in a bad situation allows you to change your story. It doesn’t delete the chapters before it. They will always be with you. But it allows room for new characters and events. Someone once told me that the reason some people stay stuck in the worst moments of their life is because that’s all they have. They live in that moment because it was significant.

I don’t want to give too much of the book away because you really should read it for yourself, but I will reference a part of the book (with no spoiler context) that was super relateable to me. One of the characters mentioned that when she envisioned her trauma, she pictured herself as scared and hopeless. When she finally embraced the power of forgiveness, she pictured the woman that she had become sitting alongside the scared little girl. She pictured herself giving her a hug and letting her know that it will be okay. That might sound crazy to some, but for trauma victims it’s common to feel as though your life was split into two parts: the part of you that lived before the trauma, and the person that you became afterwards. The middle can be kind of hazy sometimes. Your body has a way of shutting down some of those thoughts and preventing you from remembering certain things. Don’t spend so much time wishing that the past didn’t happen. It did. But what are you going to do about it? Are you going to remain stuck in the moment? Will you use your knowledge to help others see the light?

If you found this helpful, let me know in a comment and feel free to follow along! Follow me on IG: @ashleeleighann and TikTok @ashleelemay.

-The Zombie Mom

 

 

How Setting a Reading Goal for Yourself can Improve your Mental Health

books, Mental Health, Motherhood

No matter how busy you are, you can and should make time to experience the positive health benefits associated with reading.

This year I set a reading goal for myself. I wanted to read 50 books by the end of the year. Obviously life happened at the end of last year. Negative thoughts occupied my mind for far too long. For months I have worked on growing as a person, avoiding negative thoughts, and keeping a positive mindset no matter what. It’s something that I have to work at every day, but it’s getting easier. Now when I set a goal for myself, I try to spend time actually reaching that goal and avoiding all excuses. There’s no reason why I can’t accomplish something that I’m passionate about. Negative thoughts will consume your mind if you let them, and it’s estimated that about eighty percent of the tens of thousands of thoughts that go through our mind every day are negative. Crazy right? Let me share with you how reading positively impacted my mental health and helped me escape.

Learning to love myself didn’t happen overnight. First, I had to realize that I’m an empath. I am happiest when the people around me are thriving. I feed off of other people’s emotions, and that’s only okay when I set healthy boundaries. I’m still learning to say no, but I have found ways to make the most of my time and not allow room for unhealthy thought processes. As a teenager, I remember letting go of any anxiety as soon as I walked in a book store. I could spend hours enjoying the magic of picking up a book and reading the plot summary in an effort to make the best selection for my next read. I was one of those nerdy kids that looked forward to purchasing books during the summer for required reading.

When I feel a destructive or negative thought coming on, I take a deep breath, count backwards by 5 (utilizing the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins LIFE CHANGING), and replace that thought with something productive. I love to read and learn new things. I also love to create and escape through travel and books.

I’m sure you can come up with a million and one excuses for why you don’t have time to read. But I’m a toddler mom and I can play this game all day. Leggo.

I don’t have time.

Yes, you do. We make time for the aspects of life that we find valuable. Find value in yourself. Invest in who you are as a person. Tell yourself that you are worth it every day until you finally believe it. I have four children, work full time on night shift as a laboratory scientist, homeschool my kids by choice, have a photography business on the side, and about 20 different things from day to day. We throw the words “don’t have time” around way too freely. We shut down suggestions before we even hear someone out.

I remember graduating college with my five month old a few feet away from me as I walked across the stage. Any time that I would talk to someone who either didn’t attend or didn’t graduate college, their reasoning was that they couldn’t study or couldn’t focus. I’m ADHD. I couldn’t take medication for the majority of my college career due to pregnancy. But I did read. The more I read, the less I struggled with it. Picking up the book is the hardest part. Sometimes we are so reluctant to welcome change. We are so scared to fail that we limit ourselves before we even try. That gets us no where.

I have kids and they deserve my full attention.

You’re absolutely right. They do. I’ve been there. For years I took my kids to the zoo on no sleep after working the night before. We constantly went on trips and honestly I was happy…for awhile. But somewhere along the way I forgot to fill up my own cup. I forgot how to reset. I had four babies that absolutely gave me joy, but when you forget who you are as a person, you lose the ability to truly be present. You lose the ability to give back to them.

After so many years of going through the motions and just trying to stay awake, I stopped seeing a beach sunset as magical. I stopped looking back as we left a pretty field during golden hour. I couldn’t picture it anymore. I was there, but in my mind I was constantly searching. Your kids know when you aren’t really there. They don’t want a warm body. They want Y O U.

Fitness isn’t just about tightening your core or a good cardio routine. We have to put our brain to work also. Stop acting as if your brain doesn’t control everything else because it most certainly does.

Reading increases your critical thinking skills, vocabulary, and writing skills. Links to decreases in blood pressure and even longer life expectancy have been made in correlation to reading. Reading for pleasure helps us relate to others, be compassionate and empathetic, and reduces stress levels. It’s good for your mind. Daily reading keeps your brain engaged and aids in preventing memory loss.

Good Reads helps me track my reading goal. When I can see progress, I am more likely to stick with something. I can mark books that I’d like to read, books I’ve purchased, books I’m currently reading, and books that I have previously read. It’s also fun to see that other people are reading and discuss the characters of a book that felt so real to me. I’ve related to so many characters in books and I carry them with me. Being an empath can mean feeling things way too deeply. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up being able to ride the Magic School Bus, or walk into a tree house and end up in ancient times. I wouldn’t give up feeling the sand between my toes at a beach I’ve never physically visited. I wouldn’t even give up having my heart break for a fictional character.

I utilize Book of the Month club because it helps me with book selection when I’m feeling overwhelmed with options, the book is shipped to me, and I can read reviews from an app on my phone. I can discuss the book with other members as I’m reading or by leaving a review when it’s finished. If I don’t like the book choices that month, I can skip. In my experience, the few times this has happened I used my credit to pick two books the next month. I am able to support up and coming authors and have access to books before they are released to the public. Who doesn’t love having something exclusive?

Get a discount on your first BOTM here!

Thrift Books, The Book Bundler, and a local thrift store are all good outlets to keep you looking forward to your next read. I typically pick out my next book as I’m reading my current selection so that I have something to look forward to. Sometimes I give myself a day or two to process the book that I just read and then I start a new book. Don’t give yourself too much time to get out of the routine.

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Magic Tree House books are THE BEST

Here’s the thing. This year I have lost more than I can count. I lost my sense of security, I had my car stolen, my marriage was barely hanging on by a thread, and I saw the true colors of the people I thought were “my people”. Plot T W I S T…those colors weren’t so bright and wonderful. I lost financial freedom, my daily routine, and my ability to stop the racing thoughts and go to sleep. But you know what I didn’t lose? Knowledge. And it really is power. I’ll admit that my thoughts weren’t always positive, but one day I was able to say enough is enough. On that same day, I already had the tools to begin taking my life back.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”.

I didn’t engage with people because I felt like I could no longer bring value to the conversation. As moms, we do this all the time. Look, I get it. I’m a mama to four little girls. The youngest hasn’t even turned two. They are the best thing about my life. But was I the best part of theirs? I see the smiles returning to their faces when they are around me now. I see the relief, and as much as that breaks my mama heart…I’m so glad that I finally see it. Reading helped give me something to contribute again. We feel as though our lives are boring or others won’t relate. Sometimes it’s easier to relate to a character in a book and mention his or her story in conversation. In my experience, your friend is probably feeling the same way. She is just too afraid to say it out loud.

Let me know if you found this helpful! I’d love for you to follow along. Drop a comment with your favorite book <3.

-The Zombie Mom

 

Dear Alyssa…Do you Really Have to Grow Up?

Motherhood

Dear Alyssa,

You like to remind me every day that it’s getting closer and closer to your 9th birthday. Birthdays are a time to celebrate, and you know that I find any excuse to throw a big party and have all our friends together. But then I reflect on the last year of your life, and it’s always bittersweet. Something about the fact that you are almost T E N is really not okay with me. I know this year hasn’t been the best, but to be honest you probably think that it has. I hope you never lose that light you have to offer the world. You really are something special.

You’re a dreamer. You get that from me. I hope that you never waste time viewing that as a flaw or trying to fit in.

Thank you for telling me it was okay so many times when it really wasn’t. Thank you for seeing the positive in every situation and finding the beauty in this ugly world. I am so proud of you for fighting through your fears. You handled all the struggles of this year with grace, sometimes much better than I could as an adult. Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that you look back at this time and know that everything I did was to protect you.

You’re such a cool kid. I’m not even saying that because you’re my kid. The fact that you still want me to pick you up, spin you around, and “squish” you at almost nine years old makes my mama heart so happy. Your Pokémon pajamas, desire to learn everything possible about sharks, and your independence make me so proud to be your mom.

You know that dance parties require 90s music, that the only way to cure a broken heart is by eating a Snickers ice cream bar, and sprinkling glitter everywhere is just a part of life.

I know it won’t be like this forever. This past year you have learned to play violin, found a love for reading, and gave the best dang soldier performance during the Nutcracker that I’ve ever witnessed. You are so intentional with everything that you do, and sometimes I really do love you so much that it hurts.

You find the best in people, even when they really don’t deserve it. It used to worry me, but after this past year I’ve realized that the world needs more people like you.

Sometimes people need just a little bit of your magic. I know that your smile, despite the worst of odds, made me commit to becoming the best version of myself. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And it’s not okay in any sense of the word, but you made me so proud to be your mom by showing everyone what you are made of. Never stop standing up for what is right. You are your only limit, baby girl. I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to because I’ve watched you do it. I watched you pick up your violin and play when all you wanted to do was hide under your blanket.

I want you to know that I support you. I love hearing all your dreams and no matter how exhausted I am, your energy gives me life. You love to create, and I am so blessed to call you mine.

So many people have told me that kids are resilient, like you can just move on and forget about the trauma you’ve been through. They’re right in a way. You have shown so much strength. But you also have the biggest heart, and you understand things that an eight year old should have no clue about. Sometimes you’re the only adult conversation I have all day. You’re an empath, like me. I want you to know that it’s not easy for me to leave home at night when I know you need me there to feel safe. But I get to spend my days watching you grow.

There have been so many positives this year. You had your first dance recital, you played basketball and had nerf wars. You went to Mexico and swam out in the middle of the ocean and slid down a slide into the water. You jumped off cliffs into the lake. You drove your scooter to your friend’s house all by yourself. You learned your multiplication facts and read your first chapter books.

I won’t ever be ready to see another year go, but I am always up for a new adventure.

Love you allllllll the way to the moon and back,

-The Zombie Mom

How a Room Makeover can Change Everything with DIY Tips

DIY, Mental Health, Motherhood

Back in December, my daughter went through a very public trauma. Our lives were completely turned upside down, and while I can’t go into the specifics of that right now, I can say that her doctor recommended a room makeover for her bedroom. I have four girls. The older three chose to share a room, and before this happened they basically just slept up there and played in the playroom downstairs. I loved having a simple, clutter free space for them to sleep at night. This made cleaning soooo much easier as toys everywhere drives me nuts, BUT it’s super hard to avoid with four kids.

First of all, this kind of wrecked us all emotionally and it was right at Christmas. We had definitely seen better days financially, but you do what you have to do for your kids, right? Alyssa is usually extremely happy, talkative, and has no trouble sleeping because she’s like the energizer bunny all day every day.

Picking the Theme: I wanted something bright with happy colors. My daughter is super obsessed with space, and the younger two really like unicorns, and everything Jojo. It took some time, but between Target, Amazon, the Dollar Store, and Lowe’s we were able to combine this theme and didn’t spend very much money! So here goes!

Glow in the Dark Stars and Twinkle Lights: I ordered these on Amazon and they were very inexpensive. The twinkle lights came in a pack of 6, and we hung them behind her pastel rainbow colored curtains that I’ll get to later. I also picked up a few extra strands of twinkle lights at the dollar store. I pinned these to the higher parts of the ceiling to keep my younger littles from pulling them down.

For the glow in the dark stars, I used spray adhesive to make sure that they stayed on the wall. They came in multiple colors, which really helped with combining the themes of space and unicorn/whimsical. The stars do come with a sticky back, but it took some time to put hundreds of stars on the wall so I only wanted to do this once.

Paint: I love getting Valspar paint samples from Lowe’s. There are always multiple colors to choose from. I used a bright blue, pink, and purple. The samples are less than $5 a piece, and one sample of each color was enough to complete my project. I painted one wall a dual toned blue and pink, and another wall blue, pink, and purple .

For the dual toned wall, I just used painters’ tape to make a line, and since there was nothing (like a bed) going against that wall, I used the glow in the dark stars to make the separation blend a little better.

For the galaxy wall, I painted a spot blue on the wall, and started blending other colors with a grocery sack. I watered the paint down just a little bit since it is pretty think.

Curtains: I got the curtains on Amazon. They are blackout curtains and this was important since I wanted my daughter to feel secure in her room again. These were such a great choice for the focal point of her room and I loved these colors even more in person.

Bedding: Since I have three girls, originally I wanted to get three different color bed spreads, but it was messing with my OCD too much. I ended up purchasing two pink bed spreads and a white bedspread with pops of purple, pink, and blue for my oldest daughter. Her bed is in the middle so it turned out super cute.

Hanging Stars: A couple years ago, I got these huge gold stars from Dollar Tree. They are actually Christmas ornaments, but they look super cute and sparkly (perfect for a little girl’s room(. I picked up a few more white stars at Target (these were also ornaments). I used ribbon that I already had at home and hung them from the ceiling.

I wanted to get the girls a doll house for Christmas and I spent hours looking for the perfect one. I love DIY projects so I thought about fixing up and older dollhouse, but I became obsessed with this one. I watched for sales and got it for about half price closer to Christmas. If they were going to have toys in their room, I wanted them to be cute.

Playhouse/Reading Loft: We had extra wood laying around the garage, so my husband put it together to make a fun reading space for the kiddos. There is a little bookshelf, and the kids grab sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and whatever else they can find to hang out in there. Alyssa chose some books about space since that’s where she found comfort at the time.

I changed everything about their room, from where their beds were placed, colors, bedding…everything. My aunt and cousin helped out so much and I will forever be grateful. This was at a time when my oldest wasn’t able to sleep at night. I am so glad that she has regained a sense of normalcy through all the chaos.

If you don’t like your story, change it. Don’t just go through it, grow through it. And remember that it takes a village. We are all in this together.

Thanks for following along on our journey!

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!

-The Zombie Mom