Month

July 2016

Friendships {Transformation Tuesday}

Experiences that continue to manifest themselves over and over like a merry go round, I now believe are just necessary lessons  for me that I have not yet learned. 

Or I’m just truly completely insane. 

As a believer, I know that God has created me for so much more than to just struggle. But how does one learn to overcome a struggle?

 Because I have personally experienced true victories, I know its by going through it head on and really understanding it.  

For some people it takes just once, for others it can take a lifetime. I’m really hoping that this particular struggle I’m writing about today is not something that will take me a lifetime. 

We women can be great actresses. We are definitely strong, smart, and gifted. But many of us deep down are truly lonely. 

 In our world today,  social media, reality tv, women’s Christian ministry,  they all have a way now to project publicly to the world what they are all doing together and remind those who don’t share in this blessing – what we are missing.

For me and many like me, female relationships can be dramatic, intimidating, and full of conflict if we have never truly experienced the love and safety of a really good friend.  

I have read this a millions times…

I want to know that this statement can be true. 

 Today I’m finding it necessary for my own well being as a woman to seek out more relationships with like minded women. 

I have been really working on looking within myself to focus on who I am as a woman and what I can bring to the table.

 I really do believe that true sisterhood can exist. Even for the “complicated” mind like me. 

 Some of you might be reading this and have absolutely no problem in this area. You my friend are truly blessed. 

I on the other hand, well…. 

I used to believe that God had it out for me. Especially in this department. I believed he picked and chose certain people to bless and certain people to suffer. It’s pretty easy to see things this way when you have been deeply wounded by people. 

But I know that is a complete lie.  
The Lord created me to be just as special as he created everyone else. We all matter and though we all won’t get along there are people out there that will “get” us. It’s finding them and knowing when they are there, that’s the key! 

I know that God gave us the world, and he also gave us the opprotunity to make choices here as well.  Terrible circumstances that have happened and been completely out of our control most times can still somehow be traced back to the choice of another human being.  Not God like most would like to think. We are all broken in ways that can and will affect others. 

 It’s not God hating us, it’s us hating us. 


I have been so guarded most of my life, that I know I have shielded any blessings that might have been there at the time. I wasn’t open enough to ever receive them.

 However today, there is something so beautiful about this journey of learning and facing my own hard lessons. Looking into the mirror as I have,  has not been easy. But it it has brought much clarity and understanding. 

 Today I’m choosing to look at something really closely. I admit I’m on a girlfriend merry go round that unfortunately I’m still riding and really want off. 

Over the past few weeks I have done a lot of soul searching and figured out I do have a choice in this. That I am a really great person, and I don’t have to be a victim of toxic or selfish people.  But on the flip side, I do really need to change the part of myself that expects everything to look or feel a certain way in order to believe it can work out. 

Fear. Trust. Insecurity. 

These are the evil 3 that I have not only allowed to rule over my feelings and reactions in most of my relational experiences, but they also eventually destroyed many of them.

I have a choice. 

I can choose to look fearfully at every friendship through the eyes of my 6 year old self who was once punched in the stomach for absolutely no reason by a girl in a white dress with the blue embroidered tulip on it wondering why she didn’t like me or I can decide to remember her as the one who was screwed up. 

I can choose to discard the memory of a  preschool teacher who wouldn’t ever allow me to use the restroom when I needed to on several occasions but instead allowed me to wet myself  during naptime and would then shamed me for it after. 

 And I have the power and courage today to share my story of the day I told a female relative about what her son and a boyfriend of her daughter had done to me. 

The day she called an 8 year old a liar and told her to never mention it because it would ruin the family. I can choose to say she should have protected me but she didn’t but I have power now. I’m not 8 anymore.

Those memories of shame seeping into every part of my being from these days forward have  changed me just as much as the abuse itself. Memories that told this girl to build some big strong walls against men yes and even women. Memories that have kept me alone. 

I ask myself all the time, do I even want a best girlfriend now? 

I’m 40 years old. The thought of even trying to intentionally seek out women who have already established friendships from a childhood I probably can’t relate to is scary and daunting.  To think I could be possibly rejected again? 

10 years ago I would have said hell no. 

Do I really want a best friend? 

True Answer is:  

I already have one. I’m married to him.

 BUT- 

I’m a woman that has girl stuff that I would like to talk about that is completely irrelevant to him. 

So yes. I would.  There are things about myself that I have never experienced because I haven’t given this part of me a real chance to see it through. 

Good thing is, I’m on my way to being whole.  

Healthy, beautiful, fun, spiritual,  friendships with women are all part of that. As a momma of a daughter and being a daughter of a momma, yes I have had my moments of special girl times.  

But now I’m ready to take a chance on learning more from women like me. Because I do believe someones out there. I cannot be the only one feeling this way. 


Healing has been a process where people have come in and out of my life. I’m completely guilty of that behavior with others as well. 

I also believe that all people serve a purpose in our lives at the time they are in our life. Even if it’s temporary.  Some are in our lives always, some will come back and forth, and some won’t ever come back. 

I understand this now. I’m okay with this. 

I’m also willing to make the choice to trust that God has got my back in this. Being in a much healthier place than I ever have been, seeing the world through eyes I have never seen before, I know I’m ready.

My female friendship merry go round hasn’t exactly stopped yet, but with every relational conflict and struggle, I’m coming to understand more whys so I can learn more how’s.  

I know this for a fact. God didn’t create me to be alone in this. He also doesn’t play favorites and choose certain people to bless, it’s all ours for the receiving.  

We just need to be open to it. 

So with my palms up, my arms wide, and my heart open,  I will make choices that will no longer include expectations based on my past memories.
I will choose to look forward to the possibilities of what true friendships can really bring into my life and have faith that God wants this for me. 

Because I am worth it and no I wasn’t meant to do life alone.  

I’m also ready to start having some fun. 😉

#MondayMemories (Letter to my 6th Grade Teacher)

Dear Ms. G,
(My only teacher I had ever had to use the term MS.)

Remember me? I was that chubby little red-head who wore the clear framed glasses 2 sizes too large. You know… they had the little white daisies on the sides? I couldn’t seem to find a picture with me IN those glasses, but anyway, it was 1986 and I was at my prime of childhood awkwardness.

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You may not know this but out of all of my teachers I liked you the best. That out of all of my teachers you taught me the most. I don’t remember squat about the books we read or your school forte… MATH.  YUCK. But what I do remember of you was learning a valuable lesson that would later teach me about life.
You see, I had never been chosen by anyone in school for anything. When it came to kids choosing me to be on their team for whatever dumb sport we were playing in gym, I was the one they didn’t have the choice on. They just got me. Last goes with team whose turn was last. It’s okay. I hated gym anyway.

But you know, those kids who always seemed to get out of school work and run errands for teachers? Up until I got into your class, I was never chosen, but for whatever reason you picked me. Not just once, but a few times! I remember even thinking to myself, could I possibly be a “teachers pet”???? Oh how I wished to be disliked by everyone for a reason like that instead of the multiple reasons they already had.

The seasons were changing and the bulletin board needed updating. So you chose myself and another girl in our class to cut out several letters for the board. To this day I cannot remember what they even said.  I hoping to remember one day,  now that my good childhood memories are slowly coming back.
Now let me tell you, you have no idea how big of a deal this was for me. First of all, I LOVED art. The closest thing I ever got to art while attending St. Hyacinth School, was a xerox copy coloring page that had pictures of the saints or bible characters on them. I never got lucky enough to have a teacher that valued art as a subject in my dear old catholic school.  But here was my chance. Not only did you,  my awesome teacher choose me,  but you gave me a project you thought I could successfully execute.

I can see myself now, sitting at my desk earnestly cutting away with my eyes laser focused on my scissors.  I was going to give you the best letters EVER. They were going to be WAY better than the other girl’s letters for sure.  So with excitement and unfortunately no attention to detail, I handed them in way before the other girl.  The next day when I arrived at school, expecting to see my work stapled to the cork boards, I quickly realized you hadn’t put them up yet.  SO I sat down at my desk, and reached for my first book of the day, and I found a ziplock baggie with the letters I had cut for you.

In the bag was a note that said:

Chantel,
Please look at the edges on the letters. You can do much better than this. Please take your time and fix them.
Ms. G

Now at first, I was really, REALLY upset. Questions of self pity flooded my mind like “Why wasn’t anything I ever did ever good enough?”But regardless of how I felt, I took my time to recut the letters more smoothly and later that week you hung them up as you intended.  What you don’t know is that entire season I remember not wanting to look at those letters because of my feelings of failure. (probably why I cannot remember what they said)
You didn’t know how my mind saw things back then or why, but I didn’t have the emotional capability to look at the situation simply for what it was.

Instead I saw it as:

I screwed up because I was a screw up. I remembered myself as the fat, dumb 6th grader who couldn’t even cut correctly.

For years this memory haunted me.

But today,  as I am now slowly peeling paging back and looking straight on to my memories as they were,  I see that it wasn’t rejection you showed me.  Instead, it was that you BELIEVED in me.  You wouldn’t have given me the task if you thought I couldn’t do it. Yes, you saw I rushed through it and knew I could do better.

Period.
Because you gave me a chance that day, I DID DO BETTER.

when-you-know-better-you-do-better

You CHOSE me AGAIN even when I didn’t meet your expectations.

So Ms. G, even if it wasn’t intentional, you taught me that one day I would have to grow up and enter into situations where there would not be anyone to tell me to try again. EXCEPT FOR ME.  This taught me that I would have to look at my failures, my pain, my past straight on (sometimes for seasons or even years) and even though things aren’t always as fixable as your letters, that I can still TRY again. And even DO BETTER.

Because of you seeing that potential in me, I always had the stepping stones to one day see potential in myself.

Thank you Ms.G

Teacher-Influence-Erased-Appreciation-Printable-LollyJane.Com-Influence-Good-Teacher-Never-Erased(pp_w670_h867)

Sincerely,
Chantel A. Szyka

(btw, I’m still trying to cut)

 

Transformation Tuesday: Forgiving Me 

This almost decade long journey of self discovery and the tiring process of learning how to forgive those who had harmed me has not been easy. Not easy for me and really not easy for those around me. 
Your going to read this a lot in my blogs- “Hurting people hurt people.” Thank you Celebrate Recovery


In my opinion, Joyce Meyer, (my most favorite women ever in ministry) describes this kind (my kind) of brokenness best.  

Those who have struggled through life because of the mental trauma childhood sexual abuse brings, we often struggle with having a bit of a broken personality. 


Whether you agree or disagree with her terminology, I’m going to say that as I am now beginning to live on the healed side of recovery, I sure the hell didn’t look at things correctly.  

As a child and well up into adulthood I believed that anything and everything that ever went wrong was my fault. I believe this thinking started after I had tried to tell an adult about the “things” that were happening to me. Instead of concern, she responded with calling me a liar and to shut my mouth. I never told anyone again … until many years later. I didn’t understand it then, but that feeling of everything being my fault all the time was rooted in the guilt from that time. You see after that was said to me, the abuse continued and then I KNEW what was happening was wrong. But I didn’t stop it. I never even tried. I don’t even know why. Maybe I was afraid. Maybe I just couldn’t comprehend. I really don’t know. 


But this guilt and shame allowed me to take everything that happened to me to a new level of personal. If the kids at school were mean to me, I thought it was because of something I was. That’s why bulimia was such an easy thing for me to fall prey to as a tween. They usually made fun of my weight so I got to believe that maybe if I were thinner, they would like me more. If my hair was blonder they might like me more, if I got rid of my glasses I might get a boyfriend. 

You get the picture. 

So with all that being said, you can bet I didn’t handle my relationships correctly either. I tolerated half hearted friendships where I was only good for them when there was no other option. I observed my parents relationship and longed for my father to take some interest in our family and all the things my mother had to offer. 
But instead all I saw was his interest in a cute waitress that might have been serving us at the time or his 90 hour work weeks. 

So as time went on, my personality changed. You can say it broke. The More and more people began to disappoint me the more I became angry. So I became one to hurt people too. Regardless of desperately wanting and needing healthy friendships and family relations, navigating my emotions was almost impossible for me as I got into my teens. I was turning more inward with my struggle with body image. Bulimia was a constant friend in helping me control.  I would also  smoke and put out the cigarettes in my wrist so the burn would mask my feelings of hopelessness.  


My friendship problems had typically blew up in my face when I came to figure out I could not control how things were going to go.  

I never handled conflict well. 

It’s textbook really. 

I didn’t have control when all the abuse took place, so I learned how to survive by trying to control everything that came my way.We all know that the only one we have complete control over is ourselves. And as Dr Phil would ask.. “How’s that working for ya?” To which I then could reply … well Phil, my fright, fight, and flight knee jerk reactions are getting pretty old. Really old after age 30. People got really tired of me. I was getting really tired of me and I knew this wasn’t who I wanted to be.  

I didn’t know how or even why then. All I knew was, back me in a corner and I’m going to do anything I have to, to survive.  

So if that meant saying the absolute most terrible thing to hurt you because you hurt me, I did. If that meant writing you out of my life for good if I felt you might never understand, I did.  I just couldn’t open my heart one more time and have it trampled on again because of my vulnerability.  No more was I going to allow people to hurt me. 
 But I did allow one person to hurt me most.

Me. 

I took myself out of life before I even tried. Even though I was a wife and a mom I slowly started to become cynical and depressed. I didn’t understand it then but every single person, place, or thing that we invest our love and time in is a big risk. Fear can have a way of slithering its hooks into our minds and hearts while stealing any possible joy from us when we have been hurt. Fear reminds us of the past like a broken record. 

Fear says it may not work out. But reality says… Yes, it may not… But it just may! Nothing and no one except God himself is a SURE thing.  When your talking relationships, failure and disappointment are not if’s, they are WHEN.  

What I have realized now is my fear allowed me to behave like all that I hated. It was an endless cycle of self hate. I’d go into a friendship thinking super positively, but the minute something would change, my trigger receptors would start my train of self sabotage. The lies I would tell myself would eventually fester and destroy. Sometimes the person was toxic and these instincts were good to have. But a unfortunate majority never saw it (me) coming. 

It has taken me years to see into my own reflection and my own self construed destruction. But regardless of my journey , my past is not an excuse for any bad behavior I had.  

I had lost many friends and the possibility of friends because of my severe trust issues. Even recently this has been a challenge for me. But I continue to keep working on myself by being open and honest with those who still remain in my life. 


It’s a total mind douching process. 

To actually believe that not everyone has an underlining plan to destroy. That some definitely do but not everyone sucks. And sometimes I suck as a person too. A lot. The thing is I know me. I know my heart. It’s trusting others that’s the daily fight. 

We all can be selfish at times. 

We all get mad or angry.  

We all have gossiped. 

We all have said or done things in anger or sadness we have regretted.

Yes I know. 

We all have.  

I have too. 

Up until the last few years, I had looked at most relationships pretty black and white. If trust was ever questioned or if an argument ensued I would pretty much write the person off.  
Sounds wrong, immature, and drastic but if I felt threatened, that’s how I handled it. I just moved on. 

The problem was I realized I moved on from EVERYONE. I had virtually no friends and family because I couldn’t figure out a way to wait and see what could happen if we tried to see it through.  
There’s nothing like loneliness in the midst of recovery to make a person look hard in the mirror at what part she played in this.  

Now there’s a “teeny” victim in me that wants to stamp her feet and scream and cry and say this isn’t fair. I’m the one who is screwed up because of sick people. 

I’m the one having to heal, and put my own pieces back together and NOW I have to humbly own all the damage I did to others because I didn’t know how to be because they don’t understand me!!!?!? 

Yes boo hoo. 

And with my pity party dress on I can say that Life can suck. 

But after my tantrum, I realized how I had to own my wrongs to move forward.  

It’s all I could do. I’m the only one who can control me. 

It’s been really hard.  

But when I owned up to the wrongs I had done to others, look it dead in the face and humbly asked to be forgiven. Be forgiven by God and by them. In doing this it forced me to come to terms with why I did it to begin with. 

My coming to terms with why had been leading me to acceptance of it all. 

Which now is moving even into forgiveness of those who had hurt me and forgiveness of myself for not knowing better.  
I’m still going to struggle. 
History will sometimes repeat itself in reactions or behaviors – because I’m still not there yet. 
I know better today, so I’ll do better today. 
I have said I’m sorry to those who’ll hear it from me and leave the acceptance of my apology to them to make.  

I cannot control whether or not they choose to hear my heart or not. 

God knows my plan to do right and better for myself and for him. He says I am forgiven and I believe him.

Other peoples resentments toward me I’m no longer owning.  

I just will be here for them when they choose to see things differently like I have. 
Because it’s so much better on this side of it. 

LOVE happens and grows in the grey. 

  It was July 2nd, 1996. I was 20 years old, 70lbs more than I was 9 months prior and 2weeks past my due date. Yep 2 weeks because back then they allowed that bullpoo to happen. 2 weeks prior My legs didn’t look like over cooked hot dogs that exploded in the microwave.

2 weeks prior I had prepared our bedroom for our new life and was ready to begin anew. I was so excited 2 weeks prior. 

But by July 2nd, I was done. 

Fat. Swollen. Hot. Moody. Miserable. Don’t let the smile below fool ya. 


But finally it happened, ouch… The tightening  of my belly and then ouch again 5 minutes later. So off to the hospital we went. Finally!!!

Because I had never done this birthing thing before, I was kinda afraid of the pain I was going to endure since I was determined to go at it the “natural” no drugs way. 

Well after 6 hours and still only being barely dilated to 3, they decided to induce me into the depths of hell. 

No time for pain progression. Just non stop hard back labor, and so much for the all natural thoughts on no drugs and doing like Jesus’s mom. 

F that.  

Drugs were the only thing I wanted other than to be done with it all. 12 more hours later and 1.5 hours of trying to push in positions only a pro yoga instructor could do, his heart rate began to drop. There was no more time to waste at that moment and in a flash I went rushing into an emergency c section where the last thing I remember was a mask on my face and the words 3, 2, anesthesia out. There was no time for daddy to scrub in so he stayed back. 

When I see the pictures and hear about the beautiful birthing stories of countless others I think what the heck happened here??? Literally not my story. Even my husband was traumatized. He was like …Chantel I’m not sure anyone REALLY knows how it’s all going to end. Anyway. 

I began waking up as the nurse was bandaging my belly dressings that were bleeding and stapled like Frankensteins head. I slowly opened my eyes and I got my words together enough to ask What was it? And is it okay? You see, we chose to not know the sex cause I wanted to be surprised and I honestly really did have the instinct that he was a boy. 

And I was right. 🙂 
He was a big beautiful baby boy. 9lbs 2oz and all I could said was hell yes to that!!! And thank you Jesus for almost 10lbs off my body. Head start! Now at this time in recovery, I still hadn’t see him yet. Don’t ask me why. 1996 wasn’t the dark ages but … Neither did his scared clueless daddy. Mike who happened to be remaining in the hallway where they left him 45 minutes prior to rushing me into surgery was still in the same hallway waiting. 

He always tells that story of how the moment he met his son for the first time in a hallway of the hospital. There was a nurse that happened to be passing slowly by with a baby (our baby) through the same area Mike was.He stopped the nurse and asked “Hey, whose baby is that?” The nurse looked down, picked up the card and asked, “Are you Mr Ferraro?” Which he replied yes… Mike noticed him wrapped in a blue blanket and said … “I have a son?” And she replied, “well it looks that way.” And in that moment, our life was changed. Me in the recovery room waiting to meet the boy who made me a mommy,  and Mike in the hallway marveling over his junior.

Our life was changing … Drastically. 
But regardless of the known and unknown obstacles ahead, for the first time I was confident about the fact that I was going to be a mom. My mind always feels safe and works best dealing with situations you have no other choice but this or that. You know… Black or White. Control freak is another way you can look at it. But we all know that 98% of our lives are spent in living and surviving in the shades of grey. The uncertain, scary, unpredictable shades of grey. Screw you grey.  

But for a moment, 20 years ago today, my purpose for living appeared to be crystal clear in the grey. 

I was a mom now.  

Something no one could ever tell me I wasn’t. Something that I really always wanted for my life. Something I knew would be the absolute most important part of my journey in this short time here on earth. 

Our Michael who would grow up to love Elmo, Lion King, Pokemon, and eat only eggs toast and jelly for breakfast for years. Our Michael whose gentle, protective, strong, spirit weathered through some crazy times with his momma growing up. 

Michael whose greatest gift has been to continue to be himself regardless of what other people think or say. My anime-loving, geeky kid, whose tender heart really loves people and because of that I love him even more. 

Michael the one whose greatest strength is compassion for those whose struggle with life and connecting with them through listening and helping them through. 

Our last 20 years were not black and white. Life has made sure that we would all learn to know for certain there is no map that takes you exactly to the golden gates of perfect motherhood. 

That even moms who really want the best for their children can screw up – struggle- and even fail at times. 

I know I have. 

But what Michael has taught me these past 20 years is that just because things don’t look the way you thought they should, doesn’t mean they won’t be good.
And that they are better than they ever could be BECAUSE of the trials survived it took to get to right now and the people who stuck in there with you. He’s my first born, my boy, but he will always be my baby. 


A mothers love, my love, is unconditional, strong, never failing, and true. 

So to honor my boys birthday, I want to say thank you to the one who may not know the degree of importance his life has played in mine yet. But one day when he is a daddy, I know he will. 


One of the best scriptures I believe was written about love, most use for weddings, but I think it’s message is universal. 

 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhoodbehind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Cor 13:4-13