Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Simple Moments

Last year I told Mike I wanted a tent that we could easily put up for the kids in the backyard or at my mom's or at the lake. I explained what I wanted and he got to work. We used pvc pipe, two shower curtains and shower curtain rings. Easy peasy!

It's nice to have some shade and it's not something that kills the little bit of grass that we have. We put it up a lot last summer. And sometimes... sometimes the magic happened.

One day I was sitting in my dining room listening through the open windows as Liza, Jason and two of their friends took turns telling stories and laughing hysterically.





Soon the ground will be dry and the tent can be used again... and hopefully the magic of a simple moment happens again and again and again.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Whole 30 Lunch Ideas

I recently posted about why I believe in Whole30 and some ideas for Whole30 breakfasts. I'm still sticking really close to Whole30 eating because I found that too many things bother me and I just feel better when I leave them out of my diet... and when I say diet I really mean change for life.

With only changing my eating since the beginning of the year (still trying to motivate myself to add in the exercise) I have lost 22 pounds. I've dropped a pants size and need to go try on the next size down again. My clothes are big and ones that haven't fit in forever fit again. It's nice.

Anyways... coming up with what to eat can be one of the hardest parts of being successful with a Whole30 so here are some things I like to do for lunch...

Chicken Salad
This is similar to something that Panera Bread serves on a sandwhich. I'm sure that Panera's is not Whole30 even without the bread so here is how I make it at home:
Cook and cut up chicken.
Add some Whole30 mayo.
Slice grapes.
Sliced almonds.
Mix it all together and eat. It's delicious!

Chicken Apple Salad
This is what I have most days.
Cook and cut up chicken.
Sliced almonds
Cut up apple
Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

If you get tired of lettuce and want to mix it up, this also goes real good with broccoli slaw instead of the lettuce. Broccoli slaw is also a good way to get more veggies.

Walmart has a brand of tuna that is W30 compliant. Most tunas have traces of soy but Wild Oats Organic tuna is ok. I like to mix my Whole30 mayo and salsa in with the tuna.

For salsa, many have added sugar but Wild Oats Organic brand once again saves the day! (Found at Walmart and it's only $2!!!)

We really don't have a lot of variety in our lunches. Leftovers are always good. You can make egg salad, potato salad, deviled eggs. Lots of veggies. Lots of salads.

What do you eat for lunch when doing a Whole30?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Netflix Shows

When I first tried Netflix I didn't think I would stick with it... but then I did... and I watch it... a lot. We used to get movies because we don't have cable but it just seems like movies aren't as good these days. Most are loaded with sex and cussing. We watch tv after the kids go to bed but I know that they don't always fall asleep right away and they can hear what we are watching. Little ears are always near so we are careful about what we watch.

We are finding that Netflix is full of shows that we can enjoy. Shows that aren't full of what we consider to be trash. I'm going to list some of the shows we have really enjoyed.

We loved the characters (how can you not love Robin Hood!?) and the stories and the determination to always fight for what is right.

The saddest part of this show is that there is only one season on Netflix right now. I hate getting hooked on a show but not having all the seasons! It left me hanging. I NEED to know what happens next and I am anxiously awaiting more seasons to become available!

Yes... we like superhero shows. Arrow is a little bit Robin Hood and Spiderman and Batman and Lost all mixed together.

Who doesn't like a good bad guy? A con man who works for the FBI? But then again... we never really know if he is truly becoming a good guy or if he is always going to give into the con man side.

This is a show that I am currently watching and enjoying. 15 years ago there was a mysterious blackout that caused all electronics to stop working. In the show we follow a group of people who are trying to figure out why that happened and how to get the electricity back.

This is one that me and Mike have been watching together and we are both liking it. The main characters of this show are a homicide detective and a veteran who has been turned into a beast by a military experiment gone awry. They become allies and work to protect each other.

What have you been watching on Netflix?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

From Survivor to Advocate of Sexual Assault

Yesterday I shared part one of Jessie's story... from victim to survivor of sexual assault. Today we are picking up six years after the incident... six years of Jessie keeping it all a deep secret. Today she is sharing about how she took steps to get out of that silence and how that drove her to become an advocate.

During the six years after the assault I gave birth to two daughters, earned two bachelor’s degrees, one master’s degree, worked full time for the Department of Veterans Affairs and part time for the Department of the Army.  However, I do not have many memories associated to these years.  I remember bits and pieces but I don’t have any real memories.  My therapist has used the terminology of autopilot.  I was simply going through the movements of life and not really living it.

In the spring of 2011, I was leading my daughters' Girl Scout troop.  To help reinforce the idea that police are the good guys, I invited some to come talk to the girls.  During the event, we got onto the subject of "bathing suit areas" and who was allowed to touch  those areas.  We discussed safe adults that we could talk to if someone was hurting us.  One of my girls asked the question What if it’s a "safe adult” that is hurting us?  I told her to tell another safe adult.  I told her to tell me or her teacher or nurse or police officer, just tell someone. 

At that moment it hit me, “how can I properly lead these girls if I didn’t tell?”

The next day I told my best friend my secret, then later that night I told my husband. 

My friend was supportive. My husband was not.  The first thing my husband said to me was, “call the VA, I can’t help you”.  His second response was, “please tell me you were already pregnant.  Don’t take our daughter away from me.”  His words were hurtful.  I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I’m pretty sure those were not the words I expected.  Next I told my mother and she responded very similar to my husband.  She told me to, “blow my nose and get it out of my head, bad stuff happens to everyone.” 

I felt alone.
I felt ashamed.
I felt like a victim all over again.
I felt dirty.
I felt like it was my fault.
I felt like I was tainted, that no one would love me again.
I felt like every person in my life would look at me as damaged goods.
I felt like I should just have kept my secret and maybe my life would have been “normal”.

Then my dad told me he was sorry this happened to me and that he would be as supportive as I needed him to be.  He encouraged me to seek the help I needed and gave me faith that I would be ok again someday.

I started treatment at the VA Butler Medical Center the following week.  I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I was told that I wasn’t alone, 1 in 4 women in the military are survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).  My therapist told me that recovery would be a lifelong process and that it was possible for me to get my life back.  She told me that it wasn’t my fault and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of what happened to me.

The symptoms I often have with PTSD are the pretty standard ones; nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, trouble with authority, anxiety, lack of trust, sabotage of healthy relationships, memory loss, lack of emotion.  If something makes me uncomfortable, I avoid it.  I could go on and on about the symptoms I face every day and how they affect my daily life.

After I started treatment, I began to own my story.  I was able to piece together events and look back on the assaults that happened.  I came to terms with the fact that there was no way I could have known that my friend would turn on me.  There was no way I could have prevented the assaults.  There was no physical way I could have fought him off.  (He was about a foot taller than me and outweighed me by about 100 pounds.)  I was pregnant with my daughter and my mind and body automatically did what they had to do to survive to the best of my ability.  That’s what I had done.  I was not a victim any longer.

I was strong.  I was confident.

I began talking more freely about my rape.  In 2013 I was no longer afraid.  I decided to report my rape to the Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division).  This was a decision I did not take lightly.  It was risky and would be a long process with an uncertain outcome.  I also knew that the stigma of the Army was to blame the victim.

Luckily, I had an amazing Special Agent (SA) assigned to my case.  She was an amazing young woman that really kicked ass when it came to investigating.  Through the evidence that she found, my attacker was titled (that’s a military word for charged) with “cruelty to subordinates”.  Since nearly 8 years had passed and I had no physical evidence, I was actually ok with the findings.  I felt like someone besides my therapist believed me.  I felt vindicated.  My attacker was given a GOMAR (General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand) and then allowed to retire. 

A GOMAR is basically a scolding from a General.  It means that a General (you know the guys that wear the stars), the highest ranking officer in the Army, told him that he was bad and that he shouldn’t have treated me the way he did.

Since 2013, I’ve become an advocate.  I speak to other survivors of sexual assault and let them know that they are not alone.  I’ve been in their shoes and I know what it’s like to live in fear.  I know what it’s like to not trust anyone, even you.   I still attend therapy every week at the VA.  We actually just started a group therapy program where a handful of other veterans, including me, get together once a week to discuss our assaults and the affects they have had on our lives.  We have all been diagnosed with PTSD, stemming from the sexual trauma we encountered while serving our country.  This group of women has given me strength just by being there.  With them by my side, I truly know I am not alone.

My husband and my mother are now two of my biggest supporters and they have both expressed to me their discontent with how they approached things in the beginning.  My husband has stood by my side through the recovery.  I’m sure it’s not easy to be married to a survivor.  I know that at times I can be a very challenging person to live with.  Our relationship has improved drastically over the last two years.  We’ve fallen in love with each other again.  He has become my rock and my biggest supporter.  I could not advocate if it were not for his support.

My mother is now my best friend.  She loves me for who I am.  She is proud of the woman I’ve become.  She realized that society was wrong and that there is no reason to be ashamed of a rape survivor.  We are closer now then we’ve ever been. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with the after effects of sexual assault, please feel free to reach out to me at advocatemst@gmail.com.  I’m willing to help guide you through the process and even try to get you set up with a counselor in your area.  If you don’t feel comfortable contacting me, (I’m not a trained professional, just a survivor) then please contact the Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.  If you are a veteran, press 1 to be transferred to the VA Crisis line.  The VA Crisis Line also has a text number that I’ve used several times.  I find it more anonymous this way.  The text number is 838255.

Thank you for reading my story and remember, you are not alone.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From Victim to Survivor of Sexual Assault

Me and Jessie are longtime friends. We grew up three houses apart in a neighborhood where kids played outside from sunrise to sunset. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month and Jessie has been posting facts and tips on her Facebook page every day. She is a survivor.

1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That ratio increases to 1 in 4 serving our country.

Jessie is the 1 in 4 and I asked her to share her story. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

I was born and raised in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania.  I was raised by my loving parents who will celebrate their 38th anniversary this June and I have one older sister.  Growing up my family was the picture of middle class.  We always made ends meet but it wasn’t easy.  When the high school years passed for my sister and college started, the financial burden was clear to me.  I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send both of us to college.  I knew if I wanted higher education, I would have to find a way to pay for it.  That’s when I started talking to recruiters and decided to join the Army.

I joined the Army Reserve on July 12, 1999, the summer before my senior year of high school.  I initially joined to help pay for college, but the second I met the men and women in my reserve unit I realized there was way more to the military than college.  The comradery, the pride of serving our country, and the amazing ability of helping others soon became the reason I stayed in the Army.  I loved helping others, especially the youth in my hometown.  I loved talking to them about the opportunities outside of Elk County.  How else can a middle class girl from a small town in Pennsylvania travel up and down the east coast before heading to Japan for a 3 week training mission?  How else could she pay for college without working so much that her grades suffer?  I was living proof that there was another option to youth in my community.

That is when I decided to get into recruiting.  I started working with a local recruiter in Clarion while attending college there.  I loved helping the community and showing the young men and women an alternative.  I worked under this recruiter for four years until the opportunity came available for me to work full time as a recruiter.  The man I had been working with just got a promotion and wanted me to work for him in DuBois.  I graciously accepted and attended recruiting school during the summer of 2004, one month after I got married.

This was my dream job.  I was serving my country and making a difference right here in my hometown area.

It was also a tough job.  Recruiting required long hours and countless strategies in order to be successful.  I was not afraid of hard work.  I put in the hours as needed, worked around the clock to succeed and my efforts were not without recognition.  I was awarded Top Reserve Recruiter for the Pittsburgh Recruiting Battalion during fiscal year 2005.

Then in May of 2005, my life changed.  I found out I was pregnant with my first child.  This was a glorious time for my husband and I!

The same day I found out I was pregnant, I told my Station Commander (my friend) the exciting news.  His attitude towards me immediately changed. We were scheduled to take a physical fitness test that day.  He told me that since I didn’t have a doctor slip stating I was pregnant, I was required to take the test.  After successful completion of the test; which required push-ups, sit- ups, and a 2 mile run, I began to spot.  I saw the doctor and it was confirmed my baby was ok. That baby is now and amazing 9 year old girl!
As far as my boss’s attitude towards me, this was just the beginning.

The next few weeks were met with inappropriate comments about me and other females that entered our office, but it wasn’t until mid-June that things really got out of control.  I was working in the office while the other 4 recruiters were out on appointments or school visits.  I walked into the back supply room to make copies of a pamphlet I was working on when the Station Commander came into the office.  He followed me into the copy room and cornered me.  He told me that my breasts were getting larger and that he needed to see them. We were always very professional in our relationship and had never had any type of sexual tension between us.  I respected his rank and his knowledge in the service.  He was my mentor and now he was demanding to change the dynamic of our friendship.  I refused but he insisted.  He forced my shirt off and he began touching me.

I froze until he finished and left the office again.  I made sure he was gone before I left. 

In case you are wondering why Jessie froze... here is something she shared...
The phrase fight or flight is not exactly accurate when it comes to sexual assault. It's common for the victim to have a freeze reaction during the attack. This often happens when the victim knows the attacker. The brain cannot compute the attack. It cannot make the distinction between friend and enemy that quickly which causes a freeze response.

The next day was as if things were returning to normal.  The tension in the office was gone.  This lasted for a few weeks, until one day I was working alone in the office again and the Station Commander came in.  He told me he needed me to send a fax for him.  He handed me papers and went into his office.  I started down the hall to the supply room and he followed me.  He told me that he was going to touch me again and I needed to obey his orders.

This time I immediately froze until it was over.  The next day a friend of mine noticed a change in my attitude and asked if I was ok.  I told him I was, but that I would let him know if I ever wasn’t ok.  The same type of assaults occurred 3 more times over the next few weeks. 
I felt like I had control over it.
Then one day, I didn’t.
The assault started just as the others had, but this time things were different.  This time I wouldn’t be ok.  It was now August and the assaults had been occurring on and off over the last two months.

He was touching me and I cried for him to stop.  I said “NO”.  I thought that was the magic word that made men stop, but not this time.

He didn’t stop.
He raped me.

I was crying the whole time, “no, no, no, no, no….stop, stop, stop…no, no, no!” Tears streaked my face.

After what felt like an eternity, he stopped.  He left the office and I was still frozen.  I remember thinking, when does my savior come?  Shouldn’t someone come find me and make this all better?  No one came.  It was just me.  I picked myself up, got dressed and ran out of the office.

I went home and told my husband I wanted out of the Army, but I wouldn’t tell him the true reason why.  The following day I told my friend that I was no longer ok and asked him to never leave me alone in the office again.

I continued to do my job to the best of my ability until the Army would approve my decision to get out and raise my child.  I had to see that man every day of my life for the next 4 months.  The man that raped me still had control of my life for those 4 months. 
Thanks to my one friend and the one man I could trust, I felt safe.  I kept the secret as to the real reason I got out of the Army for 6 years. 
For 6 full years I did not tell a soul what had happened to me that day in August 2005. 

Come back tomorrow to find out what happened after six years of silence.

Friday, April 17, 2015

What I'm Listening To

I think that music just makes life better. I currently have some favorites that are always being played. Here is a list of what I have been listening to lately...

1. Taylor Swift 1989

I love TS! This cd has helped me get through long car rides or a day of cleaning. It's also been played while having extra kids in the house so we could have dance parties. It's playing as I write this. Oh... weird thing... I had a dream with Taylor Swift the other night. We were becoming friends.

Favorite song: Bad Blood

2. One Direction - Four

Don't judge! I like their songs.

Favorite song: Where Do Broken Hearts Go

3. Yes Ma'am

This was the group that I found while walking the streets of New Orleans. I'm still loving their music.

4. Jeremy Camp - I Will Follow

I enjoy every song on this cd. Another great set of music that gets me through long car rides, is good for cleaning the house, or I can have on just because I want some music on.

Favorite songs: Finally Home and Can't Be Moved

5. Mat Kearney - Just Kids

I just bought this last week and can't stop listening.

Favorite Song: One Black Sheep

What are you listening to?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Whole30 - Breakfast

In the past I would eat a bowl of cereal... and I would have to eat a whole lot of it to feel full. And then I would be hungry long before it was actually time for lunch. That doesn't happen when I do the Whole30. Instead, I eat a good breakfast and don't feel hungry again for hours.

So what does breakfast look like for me when I am doing Whole30?

Most days it is two eggs and some sausage. Sometimes I'll have a small piece of fruit and I should probably add some veggies... but that's more work and I'm just not ready to do that much work that early in the morning. (I hate cooking.)

Breakfast sausage recipe:

1 lb turkey
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp pepper
dash of nutmeg
1/4 tsp oregano
Optional - dash of garlic powder

Mix everything together. Divide into small patties. Cook in a skillet.

Mike enjoys something we'll call a Whole30 "cereal". The link I have is broken so I'll just have to explain it for you...  It's a sliced up banana, coconut milk, pecans and unsweetened coconut flakes. Warm it in the microwave. He also adds either cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder to mix it up. I don't like coconut so I haven't tried this but Mike has it often.

Walmart has unsweetened coconut.

The coconut milk that is compliant can be found in the baking isle of Walmart. This is the kind that Mike found...

We love to buy our nuts at Aldi. Most are Whole30 compliant but you still have to read the ingredients as some are roasted with peanut or sunflower oil.

I have also found that I have to check the ingredients on spices.

My last breakfast tip is this... hard boiled eggs. Because there will be mornings where I just can't stand the thought of cooking or I run out of time for it. But if I have hard boiled eggs in the fridge I will have something quick and easy.

I hope that helps some of you that are doing or considering doing a Whole30!
Do you have any Whole30 breakfast meals or tips?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



I love butterflies.

It probably has something to do with the fact that my grandpa was a butterfly collector. He had an amazing collection and I always loved looking through them when I was a kid... and an adult. I'm pretty sure I remember catching butterflies with my grandpa too.

When I think of butterflies I am reminded of my grandpa.
When I think of my grandpa I am reminded of butterflies.
They just go together.



A few weeks ago, one of the crochet designers that I buy patterns from began talking about how she lost her daughter three years ago. Her daughter would have turned 8 in a few days and every year she celebrates her daughter's birthday with a yarn bombing. This year she chose butterflies and asked for help.

Combine my love of butterflies, love of crochet, the opportunity to participate in something really great and my commitment to use up my yarn stash before buying more yarn... I was in. And I found out it was really fun to make butterflies. They were quick and it felt good to be using up my yarn scraps and finishing butterflies one after another. (It feels REALLY good to finish a crochet item and since I've been working on a baby blanket it was awesome to be able to bust out a bunch of butterflies in a short amount of time.)

I mailed my butterflies on Saturday and I look forward to seeing pictures of #brynsbutterflies flying.





Saturday night I had some friends over for a Paint 'n Party. I met Sara at one of my scarf parties two winters ago and she told me how she had taken something she loved and started having parties as well. I am not an artist. I am creative but not artistic. Painting is really far out of my comfort zone but I knew I had to try it. We were finally able to get something scheduled and I chose to do butterflies... because it's spring... and who doesn't love a butterfly!?

I was nervous but the step-by-step instruction was great! It was so much fun to try something new and actually have it turn out pretty decent for not being an artist. 


Sara... showing us how it's done.

And thanks to Sara for the following photos...



There is just something about butterflies...

I love butterflies!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Whole30

I've mentioned Whole30 a few times now. It's an eating plan that is designed to help your body recover from overloading it with things that are not good for it. And then helps you identify foods that are a problem for you. It's a reset... an eating plan that lets your body get back to a normal state of functioning. A plan that allows your body to heal.

Whole30, when done right, becomes an experiment. It's different for everyone and I am still experimenting with food and its affects on my body... and my mind!

Before I go on let me just say that I am not receiving anything for promoting the Whole30. In fact, the Whole30 people have no idea who I am. I'm promoting it simply because I believe in it. Because I have had great results and learned some amazing things about my relationship with food that are changing my life.

I know there are a lot of programs and products out there that tell you that you can lose a bunch of pounds in a few weeks time and have tons of energy again. If that's the way you choose to go then good for you! I'm glad it's working for you. :)  But that wasn't for me. Why? Because I don't think those special (and in my opinion, too expensive for my budget) drinks and programs would not have taught me what Whole30 did.

Whole30 taught me:
-gluten gives me headaches
-I CAN kick the sugar and carb addiction
-dairy gives me stomach issues
-when I eat the right-for-me foods my hormones don't give me as much trouble
-dairy is the reason for my achy hips and knees
-dairy is my enemy
-I sleep better when I eat right-for-me
-food is the cause of my mind fog
-I don't have to live life bloated
-I CAN say no to food
-peanut butter (or peanuts) doesn't agree with me like I thought it did
-I can learn how to eat right-for-me
-I can continue eating right-for-me long term

I'm sure I'll learn more as I continue my experiment with food. The past three months have been eye-opening.

I have also officially hit the 20 pounds lost mark! The only thing I did to lose those 20 pounds (in three months) was to change the way I eat. I have not exercised at all. (That doesn't mean I don't believe exercise is good for you... it is! And I do plan to add some in eventually.)

Whole30 is changing my life and I am liking the changes!!

I have several friends who have done, are starting or are planning to start the Whole30 soon. The hardest part is that first time out shopping when you have to read all the labels and find products that are Whole30 compliant. The second hardest part is coming up with meals. Over the next few weeks I plant to put together a few posts with the things I have learned along the way... products and what stores to find them in and recipes and tips for each meal throughout the day. I am finding that I am sharing this stuff over and over as friends continue to ask about Whole30 so I figure I might as well put it all in one place.

The best thing about Whole30, in my opinion, is that I didn't have to join anything. I didn't have to pay anyone to be able to participate. I just had to do a little bit of research and go for it. I also don't have to continue the strict way of eating for my entire life. As I figure out what foods are ok for me and which ones aren't, I can expand my menu options and still maintain a healthy body.

I once was talking with my kids about Whole30 and why I was still trying to eat close to that way even though my 30 days were up when Jason made a great point. He said something along the lines of "Instead of Whole30 it's WholeLIFE!" And he's right.

Why Whole30?
Because it taught me about food and how my body reacts to it... but it is also something that I can adapt and use FOR LIFE.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ryan and Caitlyn - Engaged

My husband spent the winter working at the library and that's where we met Caitlyn. When she got engaged, Mike passed on that I do photography and the rest is history. We tried several times this winter to schedule engagement pictures but the weather just wasn't happening.

Thankfully we were able to get a decent day recently and even though it was still a really cold day we toughed it out for an hour and got some great photos for Caitlyn and Ryan! I look forward to photographing their wedding later this year. :)













Monday, April 6, 2015

Letter to Jesus

This little story happened quite a while ago. I wrote it down with the intention of posting it and then forgot all about it. But it's super cute so here is a little conversation that I once overheard...

JASON: I can't find my letter to Jesus.
LIZA: Maybe he's tooken it.
JASON: Yeah, maybe he wanted to see it cuz I can't find it.
LIZA: Or maybe an angel took it to him!
JASON: Yeeeaahhh.

Still talking about it.

JASON: I need it back. I'm not done with it yet. I'm gonna pray to God out loud. God, I need my paper back cuz I wasn't done with it yet.
LIZA: Yeah he needs to write more stuff on it.

Shortly after, they found the letter to Jesus.

LIZA: It's a miracle!


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