I think it’s safe to say that our definitions of trauma are all very similar BUT how we experience and recover from trauma – that is very different.

I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself and I say that trauma is a sneaky little bitch.

I’d much rather her rear end me, sending me flying head-on into a brick wall BOOM instant shatter. But no. No, that’s not her style. She waits. Patiently. Searching for an open space then swiftly but silently infiltrates and once she’s in – there’s no escape.

She starts chipping away. Not even every day. But little pieces here and there from specific places at strategic times. Fragments start falling from everywhere and once the unraveling starts, there’s no stopping it.

She wants to break me and she wants it in the most painful way.

If I had to give her a name it would be Valerie. Valerie was my middle school bully. Much like middle school Valerie, the blows of trauma started small. So small I can’t even really call them blows. Not a gust of wind but rather a gentle breeze. I guess you could call it the calm before the storm.

A simple eye roll
A point and a laugh
A bunch of books knocked off a desk
A trip in the cafeteria
A shove in the line
A piece of gum in the hair
A pin against the wall
A scream in the face
A punch in the gut

That is trauma. My trauma. That sneaky little bitch Valerie.

She makes moderate, measured movements – all generated to effortlessly penetrate barriers. Barriers I built to protect myself. Then she flanks me in a battle I’d yet to know I was facing. It wasn’t until I reached for my belt that I realized all of Valerie’s chipping away had left me defenseless. So there I stood, caught off guard and completely disarmed.

It wasn’t until the dust finally settled that I was able to see what trauma had left me.

Nothing.

They are lost souls
Reaching out for hope
Screaming, crying, slowly dying
But no one ever knows

Round and round they spin
A battle deep within
Feeling like they cannot win
Load the chamber
Watch it spin then lock it in
Glide their finger to the trigger
And pray to God for the answer
It’s the game they play
Because they know no other way

They are lost souls
Reaching out for hope
Screaming, crying, slowly dying
But no one ever knows

Dashing towards them
As quickly as I can
Reaching out my helping hand
The spring releases
Anticipate the sound
Anticipate finding them there, laying on the ground
But instead
Misfire
It’s a second chance
This is where I take my stance
And this is where you take yours

They are lost souls
Reaching out for hope
Screaming, crying, slowly dying
But now you all know

If you know me then you know that even if the rest of the house is a mess, my kitchen and my bathroom have to be clean before I go to bed.
BUT I didn’t wash my dishes last night.

Before I continue I think that’s important to note that I have OCD – obsessive CLEANING disorder. I am constantly cleaning something, rearranging something, organizing something – it’s almost as if I cannot stop moving. From a very early age, cleanliness was ingrained in me. I’ve come to the realization that I find comfort in it AND I’ve also come to the realization that my stress levels often spike when things aren’t clean.

Almost every weeknight around 7 o’clock you will find me in the kitchen meal prepping, washing dishes, scrubbing the counters and stove or sweeping the floor. I have to have a clean home. Or in the very least I have to have a clean kitchen (and bathroom). So when I say, I didn’t do my dishes last night, please know that this is a big deal for me.

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to devote my days to being with my children until it’s time for Kindergarten. An average day includes morning routines, getting my oldest ready for school then rolling on the floor with my youngest, building block towers he will only knock down, helping him put puzzles together, reading books, watching my his favorite movie or show for the millionth time, running errands, going to appointments, attending playgroups and (when weather permits) exploring the great outdoors. Then it’s time for helping with homework, checking off a book from the school’s weekly reading list, extracurriculars, dinner then bedtime routines. Hopefully with enough time for a tv show or quiet time with my husband (although I prefer the latter).

Having a clean home is crucial to my days running as smooth as possible.
So, evenings are for cleaning.

BUT I didn’t wash my dishes last night.

Instead, they sat in the sink while I snuggled on the sofa with my husband and children as we watched a movie. We curled under cozy blankets. We ate snacks. We laughed. We even let them stay up past their bedtime.

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If you’re like me, I’d like to offer you this perspective…
Yes, it’s great to have a clean home. But what’s greater is the time spent with your family. Yes, we should wash our dishes (and clean our homes) but we should also make these moments a priority. Even if that means leaving that last thing on your list unchecked to read one more book, to snuggle for five more minutes, to sip wine slowly with your spouse while you talk and fill your love tanks.

 

Tonight, don’t wash your dishes.

There’s a box she once gave me. It’s beautiful. It’s creme colored with little angels all over. Totally her. I can see it now. It’s sitting on my closet shelf. Perfectly in sight – but up high. High enough so my little ones can’t reach it. Inside is every letter my husband wrote to me while he was away at basic training. It’s old. Decades-old. Worn. One of the corners is broken. Very broken. In fact, sometimes the letters stick out. I should probably replace it. But I won’t. You see, that beautiful box is one of the only things I have left. Aside from my memories. So many truly beautiful memories. Memories filled with delicious food, laughter, dancing and love. So much love. And while each and every one of those memories are great, it’s not the same.

This box was once hers. This box once stored treasures of her own inside (maybe love notes Tio had written to her during the early years of their marriage). This box was once held in her petite but powerful hands. This box was special to her. She told me herself. So this box will never come off the shelf.

At least not until I’m old and grey.
Maybe I can give it to my sons’ wife one day.

I don’t have many mementos from my childhood, let alone ones passed down from other family members. Truthfully, I never understood the importance of keeping these little trinkets.
Now I do.
Now I understand that they are very vital when it’s all we have left.

As my family finds themselves mourning again, all I can think about is her – how it still hurts, how it will always hurt. But I have this box. And this box, it means A LOT.

Back in December, I celebrated the launch of my first book, Unveiling Ellie. I shared the magnitude of that celebration previously. Seeing my book on display, hearing the laughter and chatter, looking around the room seeing unknown faces scattered between the faces of loved ones. It was wondrous. Little did I know, it was just the beginning.

Amongst those unknown faces was a young couple who approached me while I was signing books. We began to chat. After about four minutes the woman purchased a copy.
How great is that? A stranger buying my book!
No.
That’s not the part that’s great.
It’s what began to transpire after.

This same woman reached out to me online recently and shared this story with me…

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After reading Unveiling Ellie she immediately thought of her aunt Ann and wanted to share it with her. She mailed her copy from Connecticut to Florida. A few days later her aunt called her crying.

You see, Ann and her husband Adam were expecting their first daughter on April 26, 2016. Everything went well; the pregnancy, the labor, the delivery. But their time with their little Amy was brief. She died only hours after she had arrived.

“I knew that day would be the worst day of my life but now I know better, now I know that I was wrong. That day wasn’t the worst day. The days after became the worst days. Feeling my body recover from a pregnancy, walking by the pink nursery, holding the blanket she was wrapped in for just a few hours. That was worse. But when Alex asked for his baby sister that crushed whatever was left of me.”

Depression quickly became her companion. There was even a season she struggled to enjoy her son or connect with her husband. She sought help and she is gradually getting better. But her life was changed forever.

Two weeks before receiving the book from her niece, Ann found out she was expecting again. She said it was bittersweet. Ironically, the poem that moved her the most was the one titled Bittersweet. It gave Ann just a bit more hope.

Now that, that is great.

Honestly, there are days that I doubt my abilities as an author but then I remember that there is someone, somewhere waiting for my words, waiting for my stories to invade their innermost space and show them that they are not alone. So, what other choice do I have than to continue connecting with them?

*Photo captured by ZaiPhotography
**names and dates were changed to protect the privacy of the family

Originally, I had intended to share this on New Year’s Eve yet here we are eleven days into January and it was just sitting here, unfinished.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Our minds are everywhere all at once, ALL. THE. TIME.
We constantly find ourselves feeble, worn out, weary and ready to throw in the towel.
We literally watch time slip through our fingers and we still hadn’t gotten that thing done; the thing that actually brings us joy because it was lost amongst the chaos of our complicated lives, amongst our mundane, neverending checklist, amongst all the other things that require our attention before we give it to ourselves.
I believe that’s because our time and energy are on the wrong things.
Okay, maybe not wrong.
But definitely not on what should take precedence.

What do you aspire to accomplish?
Do your top priorities line up with that target?
If the answer is no, what can you do to change that?

I’ve been reading this book by Emily Ley and within the first few pages she says,

“When we pare down life to its simplest, most beautiful basic parts, we’re left with room to enjoy each other, to rest and to truly savor life with all our hearts, minds and spirits.”

 

This year my top priority is to live an intentional, simplified life; to choose less so I can have more, to eliminate the excess and enjoy the extra, to take every aspect of my life and analyze it.
Does this thing bring me joy?
Will this person or place bring me closer to a peaceful life?
Will saying yes to this task force me to say no to another that deserves my yes?
Does this take away from me?

I don’t have all the answers.
Not yet.
But I believe if I’m intentional with each and every step I take, the path I am paving will be fluid and full for years to come.

The week leading to my book launch (which was wondrous) and the week after was rough, for lack of a better word. With tear filled eyes I sent a text to a dear friend and the conversation that followed was very raw, very real.

I spent the next several days reflecting on that conversation and this is what I’ve gathered…

Throughout the last twenty-five years, I’ve accumulated all these pieces.
Pieces passed down genetically, from parents and other members of the family, from the places I lived and the people I surrounded myself with, from the schools I attended and the trips that I took, from the things I read in a book, from the things I saw on tv – a piece from each and every thing.
Eventually, all these fragments began to form this picture and this picture began to provide the guidelines of what my life is supposed to look like.
Yet time and time again I have found that my life looks nothing like what it ‘should.’

Not because my aspirations aren’t attainable. Not for a lack of love and support. Not for a lack of determination or anything else. But because, as Michelle Obama so eloquently said, you cannot have it all at the same time because “that shit doesn’t work.”

That perfect picture is actually an impossible illusion.
An illusion I intend to dive deeper into throughout the next few weeks and I’d love if you’d join this journey with me.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “A new world…breathing dreams like air…” I certainly felt like I was breathing my dreams like air this past weekend.

And it was wondrous.

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About three years ago I wrote a blog about a woman named Ellie who was tormented by nightmares of her childhood sexual abuse. I ended this particular blog admitting that Ellie was me. A whirlwind of comments and private messages followed. Women I had never met before began opening up about their own trauma. I was immediately moved to continue sharing Ellie’s story. Ellie (although originally stemming from my own suffering) became a name to bear the burdens, the scars and secrets, of ALL women.

This past Sunday I celebrated the first installment of my Ellie’s story trilogy called Unveiling Ellie.

With the help of an amazing friend, Zaibel Torres of ZaiPhotography, a special edition was created. As you flip through the pages of this version of Unveiling Ellie you will see 17 women of different ages, races, shapes and sizes. Each one representing Ellie.
Why?
I want women to open this book and see someone that looks like them, someone with the same scars and secrets. I want to provide hope to the hopeless and light in the darkness. I want others to know that they are not alone.

Becoming a publishing author has been a dream of mine since childhood and seeing that dream come true still feels so surreal. Maybe that’s because I created more than just a book. I created a movement. You see, we are all Ellie.

If I’m honest, I tried to cancel this celebration, twice. But my husband said and I quote, “You’re not stopping me from celebrating my wife dammit!” I will always be thankful for those words because it was indeed a ravishing gathering.

So much laughter. So much love. So much joy. So much breakthrough.

Unveiling Ellie is my ode to every woman, everywhere who has ever felt she needed to keep her scars and secrets hidden from sight.

Order your own copy of Unveiling Ellie today.

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xo,
Kimberly Cruz-Lopez

P.S. Please enjoy this beautiful promo of the second installment Ellie Exposed courtesy of another dear friend of mine AJ Lovelace

“The wind grows cold and with each blow, the leaves fall fast yet somehow still slow. Creating colorful pavements beneath the trees and with a new breeze, they start to flee. Swirling, searching, settling somewhere new but we cannot see this journey, we’re distracted by their hues.”

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I jotted this down in my journal just yesterday while watching the leaves dance in the breeze. When I read what I had written I realized how much it reflected my own life. The past few months have been miraculous but even in the midst of the miracles, they’ve also been messy.

How can that be?
How can someone have both delight and distress?

Well, I’ve been in a season of creating new ‘colors’ and while most see the beauty of what’s before them, only a select know the shedding (removing, discarding, replacing) that had to happen in order to create it. Seeing how my description of these leaves paralleled so perfectly with me, it was evident that I needed to be more tactical with my thoughts.

Why?

Almost one year ago, I vowed to voyage down a path of positivity. A path of love and light, a path not of perfection but of peace. And in order to stay on this path, I need to do things differently.

How is this shedding process shifting the way I see things?
How is it affecting my actions?

It’s easy to see the negative and I think it’s because we’re all a little pessimistic; pointing out what’s wrong with this or that, focusing on all the worst case scenarios, immediately finding ourselves disillusioned before even beginning. But on a path of positivity, there’s no room for pessimism. Positivity promotes optimism. Positivity shifts the way we see. So, positivity tells me that shedding trees represents the start of a new season.

Share some ways you stay positive with me!
Then take a look at these other noteworthy November blogs 😉

How many times have I sat down at my laptop to write only to stare at my screen making a mental checklist of all the things that need to get done in and for the house, wondering what activities I could be doing with my BabEs or how I could help my husband?
But none of these things are for me.
Writing – that is for me.
Yet somehow it’s usually put at the bottom of my list (if it even happens at all).

Today a dear friend of mine pointed out that this is something I struggle with. Actually, his exact words were, “You’ve forgotten how to put yourself first, which you should. The better you are, the better your family will be.”
Upon reading that text, my eyes watered.

There’s an immense difference between selfish and self-care.
I have a hard time remembering that.
Today I was reminded.
And tonight I’d like to remind you.
Take the time to do something for yourself this week.

Don’t wash those dishes and dive into that book you bought months ago that is now collecting dust on your nightstand, say yes to that friend who’s been wanting to meet for coffee and chat, try that new yoga class or whatever it is that you haven’t been able to enjoy doing in a while.

Now, this part is important…don’t feel bad about it!

As for me, I have this beautiful new journal just waiting to be written in.

xo,
Kimberly