A few days before we left to take the RHL Project to Decorah, Iowa, I proposed something to those who follow and support this project…especially those who have been participants. I asked that they show these girls in Decorah that they are already becoming part of a new community, one which may have started across the country, but that is fully supportive of them and understands their struggles. These ladies came through – they posted these as #rhltoiowa and can be found with that hashtag on Instagram.
Join the community! Get on Instagram and add your own #rhltoiowa photo of support! Thank you, all of you ladies!!!
Get the Raw.Honest.Loved. Project to teens in Iowa!
Can you help?
Even the smallest donation helps and is greatly appreciated.
Recently, this Tacoma, WA based project was contacted by Rebecca, a high-school senior that lives in the small town of Decorah, Iowa.
She had found the project through a friend and Facebook and hoped it could possibly make some sort of change for teens in her area.
Rebecca is very familiar with loss in her community – when we originally became acquainted, their community had dealt with the death of five young people over only the last few years – two to accidents, three to suicide.
Since our original contact, Rebecca lost yet another friend to suicide just a couple of weeks ago.
She and I recently got to FaceTime about self-esteem, its effects, suicide, and the RHL Project.
I am excited to announce that there is now an opportunity for us to go to Iowa to do the project with Rebecca and six of her peers.
If you are able to help us in any way toward this cause, we and this group of teens would greatly appreciate it.
We need to round up funds for this quickly, as this group needs to take place at the end of April.
We’re very excited about this opportunity!
Please share if you feel so inclined.
Please go here for the GoFundMe Link: Get the Raw.Honest.Loved. Project to Iowa!
“When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement.”
Those were words written in and spoken by Melissa, the first mom to share her story. Melissa had participated in Group 1 and was ready/nervous/frightened/determined to participate in this group, as she thought it would be beneficial to share the same honest and open experience with her daughter.
This project had been going on for a year and a half by the time this group took place back in June.
Every group is eye-opening, every group is relatable, every group has compelling stories that evoke much emotion.
This group was all of those things and more.
The emotion involved this night was the most intense of any yet.
Why? Because being a mom is an emotional roller-coaster that none of us are really fully prepared for. And most of the time, we’re not all talking about the tougher side of motherhood.
We’re not talking about how much anxiety it can cause.
How isolating it can often be.
We’re not talking about how sometimes being a mom fucking sucks.
How much we question every. single. step. that we take.
We talked this night about all of it. We talked about the mistakes we’ve made. We talked about where we think we may have done things right. We talked about so many things.
***The mom with the son and daughter whom she feels she’s failed. She never wanted kids anyway…is that wrong?? Is it wrong to vocalize??
***The mom who had to work full-time to support her alcoholic, drug-abusing husband, who had to leave their daughter there to care for him at these times because there seemed to be no other option. Who watched her daughter not get to experience a real childhood…did she totally screw up?? Will her daughter be okay??
***The mom who has always cared too much about others’ feelings toward her, who feels she has set a bad example for her teen daughter, especially in respect to men. Who became a victim of abuse and stayed…did she completely fail her daughter with that example, even though she finally left?? Will her daughter make the same mistakes??
***The mom who experienced tragedy and powered through, seemingly stoic. Who has always been the pillar, the strong one on the outside…should she have shared more?? Should she have cried in the open more??
***The mom who never feels like she’s enough, who has also experienced tragedy and loss you and I could not imagine experiencing. Has she been too emotional?? Is she setting the right example??
***The mom who felt like a huge failure simply from stepping into that role too young, who is always trying to live up to expectations of someone she’ll never be able to actually get approval from. Is he proud of her?? Did she work hard enough??
I promise you that you will relate to at least one of these stories.
We all seem to have these thoughts running through our heads. We compare ourselves to everyone else. There are often overwhelming feelings that the other moms are, simply, just doing it better. ‘They’re not possibly almost losing their shit as we feel like we are…they’ve got it together. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!’
And then you sit down and talk to a few of them and there’s a big “A-HA!” moment – we’re all the same. We’re scared. We’re exhausted. We’re scraping by. We’re overwhelmed. We’re insecure. We’re desperate for some validation that we’re each doing, at least, ‘alright’.
This particular group came about because, not just do we need some solidarity as moms, but, we need some as moms raising daughters. The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the most influential (and just happens to be the one we’re talking about this time). Our daughters most often learn from us what it means to be a woman. A father can see his daughter as separate from himself, but, this can be much more difficult for a mother. In my own experience, my mothering of my daughter versus my son differs in ways I often wish it wouldn’t. Affection comes much easier with my son, especially now that my daughter is a teenager. Do I think this is because of my own relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother growing up (more on that and the mother/daughter dynamic here)? Because of the lack of affection that went on in my own childhood home? Definitely. I often simply do not know how to show affection to my daughter. It feels so foreign. And it KILLS ME. It’s the number one thing I wish I could change in our relationship. I am her biggest cheerleader and her main advocate in all things – I will take on the world for/with her, but it’s difficult to give her a hug. WHAT?! Crazy, I know. Which is why I had my daughter (14) join us this evening as well. We could relate to so much of what was said. We needed to talk this stuff through also.
It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the similarities in insecurities between the mothers and daughters. I watched the pattern as all of their write-ups came through to me in the days before…and it made me cry. We pass these things on to our daughters (maybe our sons, too. probably our sons, too.) without even realizing it. It’s devastating. The recognition on each of these moms’ faces when realizing how similar their daughters’ insecurities are to theirs…it was a very shocking and enlightening moment. A teaching moment. Where maybe we didn’t realize this before…we thought we weren’t vocalizing these things…if we’re not vocalizing them, it’s okay, right?? Seems to be wrong. We, as their moms, are the number one influence on how our daughters feel about themselves. Our kids are sponges, not just of our words, but, most definitely of our actions. And, really, not all of this can be helped. We can’t just be these super shiny examples of doing everything perfectly, that’s just not realistic. But, we can be aware. This made us aware. I know it taught me to share. I already share quite a bit and try to do so at appropriate times with my daughter, regarding different experiences in life, but, it was emphasized even more to me how important it is. Being “real”, being honest, is vital.
I’m breaking this group up into blogs of each mother/daughter duo (or grandma/mother/daughter trio, in one case) in the order of the evening, for the sake of telling each of their stories in a less overwhelming package. The most important things that were said this evening were the things said in-between what had been written. There was so much conversation that went into much more detail. So, I will be including a bit of that with each mother/daughter story. Hopefully, this will give each woman the chance she deserves to have her experience told…as a mother…as a daughter…together.
(links to previous groups can be found at the bottom of the page)
Melissa & Lily ~
Melissa J. ~ “What am I insecure about? So, this is my second around at this. Facing my insecurities the first time wasn’t easy. Who knew I had more skeletons in my closet?! Round 1, I spoke about my insecurities with my weight, body image and lack of self-esteem.
A major insecurity for me now is that I’m not making the right decisions when it comes to my kids. When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement. I’ve tried to raise my kids with morals, values and respect. I raised my kids like my parents raised me, minus the things I thought they did wrong. What I missed was self-worth.
When my son was young, he was so confident and so happy. So I didn’t worry about him. My daughter was shy. I was so worried she would be like me, shy and afraid. So I signed her up for different classes, made her talk to people when she didn’t want to, and made her ask for things she wanted. Today, she is a confident and strong young woman. She knows who she is and I am very proud of her.
What is more painful for me is her brother. I no longer see that happy, self-assured boy and that kills me inside. He cowers and retreats when he’s challenged or questioned. He doesn’t see his value, questions his worth and the love we have for him. I don’t know where the line of being too stern or not begins and ends. How can I trust anything I say and do now if this is the result of parenting thus far? This is my biggest insecurity.”
Melissa’s friends and family ~
“One of the things I admire Melissa for is how she looks after her Mom and teaches her children to do the same. She’s a great mom, very loyal to her friends, takes good care of my son. I wouldn’t trade her.” – Evie
“She is always there to support family and friends.
She is passionate for food and culture.
She has strong opinions on what she believes and stands by them.
She is kind and caring.” – Tina
“I love how you are a great Mom – having patience, understanding, and the follow-through to enable our children to be the best well-rounded people they can be.
I love your sense of humor as we almost always are finding the humor in life.
I appreciate how you are a great daughter as you take care of your mother in a selfless, patient and loving way.
I appreciate how you always take the time to put your love into your art of cooking.
I love you for your patience with me and all of my faults.
I love how you make me want to be a better husband and father.” – Scott
Further from Melissa: “My kids think I’m this tough ass, kick-your-ass type of mom if you mess with me – part of the whole “failure” thing is sometimes I think, when it came down to it, I didn’t do it when I should have or when I needed to. And that’s part of the failing…I was raised with girls and having a son is SO different. And all of the expectations that come with having a son – and having a husband who has a son – you see that our expectations are even different…even at three, the expectations of being a man were already on my son…in hindsight, I can see where we could have made a difference, could have changed something, but it’s about moving forward from this point. Where do you go?”
We then spoke a bit about the men’s group that we did earlier this year, in which we discussed very much about that connotation of “be a man” and what that does to boys, and later, men. More on that can be found here: Group 7 – Men!
Lily (age 13) ~ “My main insecurity is failure. I feel like I fail at everything. At being a good friend, keeping my grades/GPA up, meeting my parents’ expectations, personal goals, and being perfect.
I really want to be perfect, but whenever I try to get an A, get perfectly skinny, have perfect hair, perfect anything – I always end up failing. And sometimes I’ll start to reach that goal of being perfect, but, as I said, I always end up failing for reasons that are, honestly, pretty dumb. Most times I will overthink WAY too much and beat myself up for failing and take my anger out on myself. People say that I don’t fail and I’m doing perfectly fine but I just think they are lying and I am that much of a failure that I can’t even get my friends or parents to tell the truth.”
Lily’s friends and family –
“Dear Lily, You are so beautiful and sweet and always have the cutest outfits. If anybody ever thinks otherwise then they must be crazy in the head because they don’t know who they’re dealing with. I’ll always love you!” – Abby
“They are very kind and nice and she’s pretty.” – Jaqueline
“She is a wonderful girl. She is my twin, not by blood, but by heart. We love the same things, eat the same things and do the same things. We may not see each other a lot, but what I admire most about her is that when she does something, she tries the hardest at it.” – Kaitlyn
“Lily, I love you because you are such a wonderful person inside and out. You are kind, smart and respectful. You warm my heart and make me happy and very proud.
I admire you because you are strong and brave, so much more than I was at your age. You make great decisions and choices when it comes to friends and doing the right thing. Since you were young, you have always known who you are and have done things in your own time.
You have so taught me so much, how to be a better mom, friend and person. I can’t imagine my life without you and your brother.” – Melissa
Melissa then comments about the last part of what she wrote to Lily: “The reason I say that is because I never wanted to get married or have kids, and they knew that. That’s something I told them since they were young – that I didn’t want kids. They’d then say, “Well, you didn’t want me” and I’d say, “I didn’t KNOW you. It’s not that I didn’t want YOU, I just didn’t know you.” To Lily she then says, “I just want you to know…I want you.”
Really, though, are we not allowed to say that? “I didn’t want kids…I got pregnant. I had kids. Originally, however, I did not want kids.” “GASP! YOU MUST BE THE WORST MOM!” No. Not the case. Why is that some sort of faux pas? Don’t we all know at least ONE woman who is a great mother but swore she’d never have kids? Who maybe was pissed and terrified and angry when she got pregnant, and still maybe is pissed and terrified and angry often as a mom, but, she’s still a great mom? You do know at least one. Even if you don’t know you do, you do. I’ve had many a conversation lately with moms who can attest to this sort of thing. I don’t think there’s anything crazy about it. There are many super insane and stressful situations I’ve had to meet in my life that don’t compare at all with the energy it takes to be an ever-present mom. When my kid (three year old son) has multiple nights on end where he awakens me several times through the night, it results in a version of myself that I find even scarier than the occasional super-hormonal version of myself. Sleep deprivation will turn any decent mother into a terrifying nightmare. There are many, many, many things that make being a mom the most rewarding job, but there are many, many, many things that make being a mom the absolute most difficult job…and a job that many, many, many moms maybe didn’t intend on signing up for. Doesn’t mean they love their children any less. As Melissa said, she didn’t know her children yet. Does she love her children more than anything else in the world? Absolutely. Would she give up being a mom now? Absolutely not. Does she sometimes still hate it? Absolutely. Is that normal? YES. So ridiculously normal. And this night gave us a chance to talk it all out. And I’m thankful to Melissa for addressing it.
…look out soon for the next story: Liz & Caitie. A story about growing up quickly, about living around substance abuse, about feeling incredibly out of place, about bullying, about starting over.
Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences, if you feel so inclined.
the reason behind the start of this project can be found here: If you don’t have anything nice to say…
previous groups can be found here:
We just had our reunion of the nine groups that have happened so far and it got me thinking about beginnings.
This project started about a year and a half ago, in February of 2013, as merely a “thought”, more or less.
As an idea.
As a little shift from the “normal,” just to see what could come of it.
It started because, simply, I feel that communication is powerful. Conversation can breed change.
It continues because that communication has become more powerful than I ever thought possible.
As I’ve said many times over, it started because I was more and more disgusted by the gossip, slander, trash-talking that is common among women. The ONE goal I had was that the eighteen of us in that first group would walk away with a little more understanding and a little more empathy – that we would check ourselves before we think something disparaging about another person, definitely before we voice such a thing to someone else. That we would take the time to realize that, more often than not, there is SOMEthing we have in common with them – that if we took five minutes to really listen to them…to listen about things that matter…our quick-to-judge opinion would change.
The project has continued because that has definitely happened. But, that’s not all that has happened. I receive letters over and over from participants who have gained more self-respect, more self-love. Who, besides being slower to judge others, are also now slower to judge themselves. They are equipped to recall the positive traits about themselves that their loved ones believe to be their overwhelming qualities. They’re not just equipped to do it – they actually DO it.
The project continues because I also receive letters and feedback from those who haven’t even been directly involved yet – those who take comfort in the words of participants that are friends and strangers alike, finding that they’re not alone in their feelings, in their insecurities. That we’re all more and more alike than we sometimes imagine.
One of the things that has impressed me the most about this project is that every. single. time. I orchestrate/facilitate another group or ANYthing related to the project – no matter how nervous I may get – everything flows so effortlessly and easily. It tells me every time that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Things just flow and work with this because it is based in positivity. Because it is solely for building up, supporting, and loving one another.
Even when it came down to organizing a party that would consist of about 130 people – I’ve NEVER thrown a party in which I would need 130 people entertained and happy! But, as I said, because it was for the project, it just came together beautifully and perfectly.
I cannot thank enough those involved with that night.
But I’m going to try.
For those of you that didn’t get to attend, however, I will give you an idea of how the night went down, in list form.
– 80 photos and insecurities – (every single participant) were hung on the wall
– amaaaaazing finger foods
– ridiculously delicious beer and wine
– a photo booth (SO FUN!)
– a spot for the little kids to entertain themselves
– a video that made everyone weepy
– a raffle and silent auction featuring awesome goods from small businesses in the area
– music! My favorite kind of music.
– laughter, tears, and more laughter, with an overwhelming feeling of solidarity
The night was amazing.
I’ve said many times since that I wish I could have stepped back, taken a breath, and just listened. Just looked around and taken the whole thing in.
I didn’t really get that chance, as there were so many people who stopped me that I desperately wanted to talk to. Everyone was there because they were supporting the project. That alone gave me a constant overwhelming lump in my throat. To see so many people there, whether they have been in my life for long periods of time or short, meant the world to me.
There really are no words to accurately convey how that felt. But, I would not be far off in saying that it was one of the best feelings ever. Like falling in love with 130 people at once. Whoa.
What I can possibly state just in words: the buzz was phenomenal. The party was constant and joyous. I was told multiple times that when guests entered the building, the energy was awesome and contagious. THAT means everything went as it should.
Once again, the project was a success. And it enforced my desire to continue. So, continue I will.
This party served as a fundraiser as well – as I know that many who attended are curious, the amount raised basically allowed me to break even as far as the cost of the party itself. So, thank you all whom were there for helping me to throw an awesome party!
I will be releasing the Group 9 – Mothers/Daughters blog in the near future, as well as a Kickstarter for the project, so that this can be something that continues as long as possible. Hopefully, this will be out sooner than I currently think.
Now, I’d like to thank some people specifically:
Rhiannon – my right hand lady – the one who has filmed almost every single group; the one who serves as the part of my brain that is often lacking; the one who tirelessly sets up and tears down all of these things with me. You are amazing. You have my undying appreciation always.
Jamey – I could not have thrown this thing without you. No joke. Your handling of the food – organizing and creating such a delicious array of selections – brought such peace of mind to my planning. Everyone would have had to eat some Little Caesars pizza if I had been handling the food. You and your family did more than I could have ever expected. And I know you had a few other awesome helpers with you – to all of you, THANK YOU. I love you guys.
Glenna – for tirelessly lending your home time and again for us to have a meeting place. I don’t know what I would have done without you. ❤ Also, a big thank you to you and Abby for more wine!
Kt – You are just awesome. You are reliable even when you think you’re not going to be reliable. Not really sure how you do that, but you do. You have been so damn supportive of this whole thing and I appreciate all you’ve put into it. I love how our friendship has grown since the start of this. You are definitely a part of our little family now. Thank you!
Ian – THAT VIDEO. WHAT?!?! That is the most beautiful thing. I still can’t watch without crying. You are ridiculously talented and I appreciate every stressful and exhausting second you put into this for me. Thank you so very much!
Aarde, Cheryl and Alan – THAT VENUE! Seriously, you guys, THANK YOU SO MUCH! That was such a perfect place to hold this and I appreciate your kindness in providing it so very much! I don’t know what I would have done without you guys. Aarde, thank you for making it happen.
Ash – While I include you in my thank you to Jamey, you definitely need your own. You were like a machine in your assistance with food and tables and cleanup and music and and and and…so many things I know you did that probably even went unnoticed. You are a great dude. Thank you. So much.
Rosie and Jennifer – You’ve photographed various groups and shared your experiences at each of those and I couldn’t thank you enough for your support in that way. Rosie, I love the photos you’ve shared from that night. I am so thankful that you were kind enough to capture the evening for me, as I was too busy to even take it all in.
Heidi – That wine was so good! You are the biggest of champs for providing that for us. I appreciate you and Precept Wine so very much. Love you, lady.
Dylan and Austen – THAT KOLSCH! Soooooooooo good! Thank you for brewing for me and sharing the deliciousness with everyone there. I know people now can’t wait for you to get some tap room/brewery going’. Love you both. Thank you so much!
Peni – Having my best friend here for this event was just perfect in itself. The fact that you organized and helped orchestrate the raffle and silent auction to take it off my plate, that was even beyond perfect. You helped silence my crazy mind where that was concerned. Thank youuuuu!
Kristen, Ana-Elizabeth and Jen – Thank you for conquering any fears you may have had (except Kristen; you love that shit) and speaking in front of the crowd. Your experiences still speak to me on a huge scale. You are the reason this continues. I love you guys.
Mara and Melissa – GIRLS, I would probably only have made $5 if not for you both! I cannot thank you enough for your mingling and selling and handling of money! You guys are the best. I love you long time.
All of you who donated for the auction/raffle – Melissa Huston, Peni Massure, Singe Candles, Anna Bailey, Thisisrhi, Heidi Hedge, Justin Tamminga, Dagmar Simard & Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls, Jennifer Jones, Jamie Haskell, Becca Macdonald & Compass Rose, Mara Christensen, EarthNerd Treasures, Jake Pendle, Drollinger Designs, Kt Wright, Karla Corona & The Red Hot, Erin Stiner & Salon Parente and anyone else that my crazy brain may be forgetting…THANK YOUUUUUU GUYS SO VERY MUCH!!!!! You were essential in the raising of funds. I appreciate it sooooo much!
Jenn, Rhi, Austen, Dylan – Thank you for helping me clean up everything remaining the following day. I think I would have just sat on the floor and sobbed if I hadn’t have had your help.
To EVERYONE who donated money and contributed to raffle/auction monies, I thank you! (To Shari Kalsta and Laura Rossi who donated toward food before we even went shopping…all my love.)
If I forgot anyone, I’m so incredibly apologetic. My brain has been fried since this event and is only sort of coming back to me. You are all amazing.
TO EVERYONE: THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES FOR YOUR SUPPORT. Your support keeps this project in the forefront for me. It makes me keep going even when I think that the work is too hard – when I think of the daunting paperwork it will take to become a non-profit organization; the hours of social networking and administrative work it takes to keep this out there; the exhaustion that is super emotional and, yet, fulfilling with each group. You keep all this love and positivity as the main message for me.
You are this project.