The Art of Chrisie | The Art of Her Project
Introducing "The Art of Chrisie Ballard. If you haven't met Chrisie yet, I highly suggest you put it on your list. She is a Tucson native and the proud owner of BNI SoZona. Beyond the titles of mother, grandmother, wife, and business owner, Chrisie shares the intricate chapters of her life – a journey marked by overcoming a challenging childhood, navigating the complexities of divorce after a near 20 year marriage and ultimately making the courageous decision to forge a new path. With candid reflections on divorce, resilience, and self-discovery, Chrisie's story unfolds as an inspiring narrative of personal growth and empowerment.
This is the Art of Chrisie.
This is the Art of Her.
Jessica: Tell us about you, The woman.
Chrisie: I am a Tucson native and I own BNI SoZona. We are an international organization that helps entrepreneurs and business professionals create communities within their community! I am a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a business owner and every day all those pieces of me overlap.
Jessica: Tell us about Your Story.
Chrisie: I grew up in a volatile home, where my father was an alcoholic, and my mother was doing what she could to keep the family together. There are 17 years between them, and my mother is older. Although I am the only child of theirs, my mother has 4 other children. I was on my own a lot and learned early on what I did and didn't want in a relationship. Many times, I stood in between them as they fought because my mother would push my father to a point where he would hit her. He never hit me, so I made sure to stand tall and protect my mother. As I look back on so many unhealthy circumstances, I am still forever grateful that I went through it. I am a better human because of what I endured. I was a strong and independent child and spoke my mind even when it was frowned upon. I never wanted to be looked at as the victim. The moment someone told me I couldn't achieve something, I made sure to prove them wrong. I was born with a birth defect causing my right leg to be 3 inches shorter. So, there were many times when I was told things. "You can't play softball, you can't run track, you can't play volleyball, you can't roller skate. Well, I did them all. When I reminisce, I realize that I made a conscious decision over and over again to be the best ME I could be. I fell short so many times and yet I am really proud at 54 of the woman, wife, grandmother, daughter, friend, ex-wife and business associate that I am today. My "defect" does not define me. My past does not define me. I was married to a man for over 18 years and helped raise his children and then we had one of our own. Although we aren't married anymore, I am so very thankful for all that he brought to my life, all the love he showed me and continues to and the children and grandchildren I wouldn't have were it not for him. I am amazingly happy as I was blessed with another man 9 years ago that loves me exactly as I am NOW! He and my first husband are like best friends, and we have created a wonderful life filled with love and a family that works together. Our blended homes create a safe space for our grown kiddos and grandkids. I will finish my book someday, so be on the lookout for..... "Standing Tall even on my short leg" I promise it will be an entertaining read!
Jessica: Tell me about a specific experience as it surrounds your story of what you had to endure or work through as you pushed to rise?
Chrisie: When I realized that I was truly unhappy in a marriage that I'd been in for almost 20 years, it was the hardest decision I have ever made and yet I knew it had to be done. Not one person was happy with me, not my first husband, not my daughter, not my parents and most of my friends. I felt pretty alone except for the BNI friends that surrounded me and kept me safe. I knew after enduring a really terrible relationship with his first ex that I would not put my child in the middle and that somehow, we were going to figure out how to be a family even if it was going to look different than we had thought. I made sure to vent at my friends and not to him. I gave him grace because I knew this was hard on him. I hurt for what "US" was and yes, I was worried about what "US" looked like for the future. He came around, he realized that I wasn't going anywhere, that I wasn't going to leave, I was going to be here to help with his business, with our family, with anything he needed. I loved him, I just couldn't be married to him anymore. He wasn't happy, I wasn't happy, we were just going to the motions, and I couldn't live like that. We had a really good life and it just stopped working. I can honestly say that we are so much better for each other now than the last few years of our marriage. I still don't like the term divorced, it will always be painful to say and there will be guilt for what he, my daughter and I went through because of my decision and it's ok, I'm ok, we're ok and I learned so very much.
Jessica: What surprised you about yourself in the moments surrounding the event?
Chrisie: When I got married after dating him 3 years, I really thought we'd be together forever. I tried my best to love him the best way I could and I know he did the same for me. When I look back, we stopped communicating, we stopped being mindful of what the other person needed and we just grew apart until one day I woke up and I didn't know me anymore. When I made the decision, it was painful and a relief all at the same time. I was scared to death...could I afford to take care of ME and my daughter? What would dating look like? I remember standing in Big Lots buying canisters and realizing that I didn't have flour or cinnamon, I was really starting over. As scary and hard and devastating as it was, it was exciting at the same time. The hardest part was how angry my daughter was, it created so much guilt and as happy as I am, there will always be a part of me that will feel that. I know that I showed her how a strong woman can be, I showed her love for her father even in the midst of a divorce and I'm thankful that I had the strength to do that.
Jessica: What surprised you about others?
Chrisie: I was surprised by how many of my friends fled the scene. How many took "his side" and stopped talking to me. That piece I wasn't expecting! I knew things would be different, I just didn't realize how many would write me off.
Jessica: Do you feel being a woman had any significant bearing on this event?
Chrisie: I was the one that made the decision to leave. I was the one that left him the house because it was his before we got married. I was the one that made sure his business was taken care of when it came to the things that I had handled. I was the one that didn't fight him for anything or ask for anything. I was bound and determined to be strong and not be the victim in it. I made a choice every day to be the best ME and be the best that I could be for ME, my daughter and him. Being the woman felt harder for sure. So many of our family and friends felt badly for him and were angry with me. Not sure how it would have looked had he made the decision and it really felt like I was blamed. Looking back, it's really ok, I had to go through it to get to where I am.
Jessica: What would you say you learned about yourself through this?
Chrisie: I am stronger than I feel most days and I have so much to offer. I am a woman that will help those that are willing to help themselves. I have very little time for victims or that mindset. I realized that some of the worst advice I received was from people who had never been divorced or even navigated a bad break-up. I realized that some of the best words of encouragement that I received were from people that loved me without judgment and for those people, you'll never know how you helped me step out of the darkness and sadness into the light!
Jessica: How did this change you?
Chrisie: I am proud, I don't know that I'm different. I'm just a better version of ME. I have an understanding that I didn't have before. I know that my story will help others. The way we handled it, can be a road map for those navigating divorce if they'll choose to take the higher road and remember that at one time we all loved each other beyond measure.
Jessica: Have your values changed since the event?
Chrisie: No, I think I just lost who I was and now I know exactly who I am and who I want to continue to be. I forget on some hard days and I am thankful that I have someone in my life that reminds me.
Jessica: What is the one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Chrisie: Communicate more about things that don't make you happy. Don't shove them down as if they don't matter. Don't act as if they're little and insignificant. It's really ok to share IT ALL with the person that loves you. They'll get it or they won't. Either way, you're in YOUR OWN ROOM AND HAPPY!
Jessica: What would you say has helped you along your healing journey?
Chrisie: Forgiving. I know my parents did the best they could with the skills they were given. I know Craig did the best he could with the skills he was taught. I'm thankful and I continue to look forward so that I can share the great life that I've been blessed with. Awareness is another thing that I believe is important. We can't change our past or the things that happened to us caused by others or ourselves, what we can do is control how we respond. It's painful to look back and realize and see and feel those things and yet without them we don't grow, we don't learn and we have no way to be better humans.
Jessica: What is your story of now?
Chrisie: I am loved! We just had Christmas at our home. My bonus daughter, husband and two grandsons, my bonus son, my daughter and her baby boy, my parents, Craig, my granddaughter and Bill. We sat in our living room and opened presents, ate and shared stories about when the kids were little. It was the first time in almost 20 years that we were all together. I am so proud of my son, he has been clean for almost 2 years and for so many years, I wasn't sure we'd ever have a relationship again. I helped raise him and I was definitely the bad guy so to have him here, to have him hug me and to respond I love you too when I said it to him, was a beautiful blessing that proves prayer works and anything is possible. I am so very thankful for Craig, for his love, for the lessons we learned together and the ones we've learned since the divorce. I love that I have a man that loves me all the way through and stepped seamlessly into an already made family. To watch our blended family work so well makes my heart happy.
Jessica: How would you like people to describe you?
Chrisie: My hope is that people see me as a strong passionate woman that would fight to the death for those that she loves. I would like to be seen as understanding & compassionate and willing to stand up for what she believes. I want to be known as thoughtful and kind with the understanding that I have boundaries that will stand the test of time.
Jessica: When in your life, so far, have you felt the most confident?
Chrisie: I feel confident when I am training in BNI. When I am coaching and mentoring and helping members, I feel confident that I have the experience and knowledge to create an opportunity for them to grow. It's up to them to take it, and yet I know that I have the ability to help if they'll allow it.
Jessica: Describe when you have felt most attractive.
Chrisie: I feel most attractive when I'm with my husband. He is so loving and caring and even when I'm feeling down, he has a way of making me feel really beautiful. It's a gift I'm glad he possesses.
Jessica: Have your perceptions of what being 'attractive' means changed over time?
Chrisie: With age and experience, perceptions change for sure. I guess, being happy creates beauty more than the outward appearance. I know some beautiful people that aren't attractive because they're unhappy. I also know some people that the "world" would not call attractive and yet being around them makes me a better person and so they're attractive to me.
Jessica: What is an ongoing challenge you face?
Chrisie: I feel like I used to be so much better at doing the things I know I need to do to feel better and I still struggle. Menopause has been really hard for me and I have gained weight that I never thought I would. I am really working on getting to the gym consistently and getting my body strong again. I know I'll never weigh what I did when I was 30 and I want to be healthy for me, for my husband, for my kids and my grandkids! Gotta start somewhere!
Jessica: It would be really interesting to hear about any ambitions you have for the future?
Chrisie: Growing my BNI region is really important to me. I just renewed my franchise for another five years so I'll be 59 when the next one comes up and I'd like to have 600+ members by then. I'd like to start investing in real estate with my ex and Bill so they don't have to work as hard as they do and we can create a legacy for our kids and grandkids. We are looking forward to taking a family trip to Europe in 2025 to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary and share Europe with our family. I want to continue to give back to the community working with different non-profits and making a difference.
Jessica: How do you think you being a woman is perceived by men?
Chrisie: I believe that strong men who are confident in themselves appreciate strong women. Men who are intimidated by women and treat them differently don't make it into my room or circle very often. I've always had a big personality and so I can "take up space" pretty well and have been confident too, so I have had friends that were men my entire life. I love sports and have a good sense of humor, so I've always enjoyed hanging with men, sometimes more than women. Women can be very inauthentic and petty especially when they lack confidence.
Jessica: What do you wish other women or young girls knew about themselves?
Chrisie: I am no feminist. I'm sure that's a shock to some and yet here's why. We are not fighting against the men in this world. 99% of the time, we end up fighting each other as women and that for me is sad. We are strong, we are powerful, we have the ability to grow a human being in our bodies and then push them out. We have the ability to go through that pain and want to do it again. We feed our children from our bodies. There are so many things that make us amazing and beautiful and different. We don't need to prove our worth to anyone, not a man or another woman. Be the best YOU that you can be and realize that in order to BE HER, it's going to hurt. There are going to be lessons that you are going to wish you didn't have to learn and then once you're through them, you'll look back and be thankful. Taking a lesson from my BFF that is so true.........Keep your side of the sandbox clean! You can only control you and your responses, and you are not in control of how other people perceive you. Be authentic, be genuine, be amazing! Laugh at stupid things, cry when you need to and don't apologize for it. Yell and get out the hurt so it doesn't eat you up! BE YOU, everything else will fall into place. I PROMISE.
Jessica: If you could talk to advertisers right now about advertising to women, what advice would you give them?
Chrisie: Use real women, women with sags and bags and cellulite. Women that aren't perfect looking, women of all colors and shapes and sizes. Set us up to look strong and confident. Place us alongside other women that are different from us!
Photography by Jessica Korff Studios
Makeup by: Renee Lanz | Radiate with ReneeJ
Dress Draping: Dresses draped and created by: Jessica Korff