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Walking in Darkness: Part 2

** The contents of this post may offend your sensibilities, gross you out, and/or not be something you wish to fill your pretty little head with– you have been warned. **

Walking in Darkness

If you follow my blog at all you are probably wondering… part two? What was part one? Well I am getting ready to revamp the blog a little bit and that also means renaming some of the previous posts and giving them a featured image that makes more sense. Here is part one, if you missed it last time. Now, on with this post:

I have NOT been coping well with my mom’s passing– when I should be turning toward God I find I am more inclined to turn away. I used this analogy recently to explain my feelings about God right now to a friend of mine:

You know those movie or TV scenes where Person A is angry, sad, scared, etc– feeling lots of hard emotions– and Person B, who may or may not have anything to do with the feelings Person A is experiencing, either approaches or just happens to be in the way of Person A and Person A lashes out fiercely against them? Incoherently screaming at them, beating them hard in the chest, unleashing all of the pent-up rage that has boiled up inside for too long? And Person B, stands there and takes it, eventually trying to restrain Person A–not to protect themselves, but to protect Person A– because Person B knows the rage and emotion comes from a primal place of fear, sadness and longing and really they aren’t trying to restrain Person A so much as they are trying to embrace them and let them know they are not alone?

I am Person A. God is Person B.

But I am still raging.

BLAH BLAH BLAH, I know God didn’t CAUSE my pain and BLAH BLAH BLAH it is not right or okay to be angry at Him and BLAH BLAH BLAH again and again with all the things people say to you when you tell them you are angry at God.

Just because I know it, doesn’t mean I feel it AND it doesn’t help to hear it again– you are not telling me something I don’t know.

Eventually I’ll let God embrace me but not right now– I can’t.

This isn’t meant to just be a rant about God but it felt like the place to start before I moved on to why I am really writing.

On March 5, 2018 my husband and I were informed the heart of our 8 week little life was no longer beating.

Yes, I was pregnant.

Yes, I just experienced a miscarriage.

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The only photo of my precious child before their heart stopped beating. 2/23/2018

But because my body had not “purged the tissue on its own” I had to do it with medication. I had to FORCE the husk of my unborn child out of me. Wanna guess how you do that?

Let me just tell you. You shove four little pills into your vagina as close to your cervix as you can get and lay flat for four hours and wait for the meds to do their thing. My doctor also prescribed me a percocet so I didn’t have to feel the gut wrenching physical pain of forcing the miscarriage to happen. So then I wake up, deed having been done, and deal with the weirdest period ever for the next week, week and a half.

That’s how, IDEALLY, it is supposed to happen. Except I woke up, four hours later and nothing happened. SO, I got to take the remaining two pills orally and wait to see what would happen– and this time, I didn’t take a percocet. I get very nauseous when I take medication like percocet and vicodin so unless I am going to go to sleep immediately after taking it, I would rather be in pain than be sick.

So I felt every massive, gut-renching cramp as my uterus seized up and spit out the amniotic sac with the tiny little fetus inside. It was by far the most horrific thing I have ever experinced.

Apparently, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage… I realize that is only 25% but that seems high to me… especially since I know of only like FIVE people in my life who have openly told me (or the world) they have experienced a miscarriage/still birth. This means there are a LOT more women out there not sharing their stories… and as a result making us ALL feel alone during these tragic moments.

Just as a side note, we should most definitely not be doing that to each other– or ourselves. I’m not saying walk around introducing yourself like, “Hi, my name is Valerie and I’ve had a miscarriage. What’s your name?” That is obviously silly, but the notion behind it is not. What do we have to lose by being open about this sort of thing with our sisters? What do we have to gain? Personally, I think there is a lot more to be gained. #sisterhood

Back to the regular scheduled programming: Here is my pain. My mom is gone– that hurts like hell. We accidentally get pregnant, there is mixed emotions of elation and fear not to mention thinking about how my mom will never see this child, but I warm up to the idea. This baby will be a light for me, for my family, for all impacted by my mom’s death. Then in an instant it is gone, the little glimmer of hope, the bright spot in my darkness vanishes, and I am left wondering why give it to me, to us, at all if it was just going to be taken away? The cherry on top, though? The one person more than anything that I want to comfort me is gone…

Gone.

I have not been coping with my mom’s death well and this latest devastation is making it harder; I am still fiercely beating my fists against God’s metaphorical chest as one thing after another comes crashing down on my head.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.

— C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Even one of the greatest giants of faith struggled with fear and grief at the passing of his wife in the 60’s. I, too, still have much to wrestle with and I am sorry if you have become collateral damage in my path of grief– please allow me some grace while I walk, or sit stubbornly, on this dimly lit or darkened path.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

— Revelation 21:4

I cannot wait for this day.

But this isn’t a post about how to find yourself during a time of great turbulence or how to make your way across the desert unscathed– it is not that kind of post because I have not found myself and I am only 50 yards into the desert and I have already hit a cactus, been stung by a scorpion, and scorched by the sun… I have not yet made it to the other side to tell the tale or hope and redemption.

But I believe these stories are just as important and are so rarely told be cause everyone likes a good “happily ever after”. It is important to know we all struggle, and trudge, and trip, and get snared, and plummet, and bruise, and scar, and collapse. It is important to know there are times when others, like ourselves, do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, but hold out hope that it is there and plod along, however slowly or circuitously the journey may progress.

I am already making great strides, though! I started writing this post in anger and stubbornness because I was unwilling to be anything BUT angry and I wanted to VENT… then as I wrote, something amazing happened. I began to feel a little weight lifted from me and I felt freer than I had in a good long while. Just like the fortune I randomly decided to keep in my phone case shortly before my mom passed away says, “…sorrow shared is halved” I believe sharing my feelings here has helped me to wrestle more completely with them. If you get one thing out of this post I hope that it is to find whatever method of halving your sorrow works best for you and pursue it whole-heartedly– and you are not alone. Unfortunately for all of you, that means you get to hear from me more.

Don’t be afraid to share your mess.

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8

Coping with Death and How to Help

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last family photo we took with mom – 2013

I have been wrestling with this post in my head for over a month now and it still doesn’t get any easier to think about so here I go, biting the bullet, making it happen. This is as messy as it gets…

My mom passed away December 18, 2017 somewhere on the cusp of midnight the next day.

I am still tearing up and holding back sobs as I write that. I am still in shock and disbelief when I REALLY allow myself to think about it. I am still expecting it to all be a joke and she will walk back into our lives and everything will go back to normal.

But it won’t.

Logically, I know this, but my heart doesn’t want to let go to this stupid, nonsensical hope that it could happen…

… so dumb…

When my sister called me, calm and collected, to tell me mom passed out and wasn’t breathing and was being rushed to the hospital my heart sank further than it ever has before… I think in that moment I knew.

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i literally both hate and love this photo. i look awful in it but it is also the only four generation photo i will ever have with my mom, grandma, and the Bean — Fall 2016

I struggled to get dressed as I was already in bed when my husband grabbed my in an immense hug and I just started to bawl. I just knew this wasn’t going to be okay but he told me that we didn’t know anything yet and to not give up hope.

I drove myself to the hospital with promises to call Patrick with developments and his assurance that he would grab the Bean and be there in a flash if we needed him. Seems they were just waiting for the rest of us to get to the hospital before they dropped the bomb on my dad and the rest of us.

I had watched a video posted by a friend on facebook, almost a month to the day earlier, from a chaplain about grieving and in this moment the video returned to my mind (I highly encourage you watch it; grab a tissue). I knew I had to see her but I didn’t want to– I wanted to remember her just the way she was… before… We walked down the long hallway together after hours of waiting and entered her room.

It was like she had fallen asleep except not… that’s the best way I have to describe it. I won’t go into further detail but will tell you it is not something I will easily forget. I couldn’t bring myself to touch her because I didn’t want to know how cold her skin was. I turned and buried my face in Patrick’s chest (whom I had called and arrived shortly after) weeping, really for the first time since we got the news.

“No… no, no, no…”, was all I could muster.

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bridal show for brother and future sister-in-law — Summer 2017

Eventually everyone left the room except my dad, my sister, and my brother. I brushed her hair with my fingers, whispered my last “I love you”s to her, and then the four of us held hands and prayed over my mom.

I can confidently say if you have not yet entered a storm of equal or greater ferocity as that of losing someone you care DEEPLY about, suddenly and unexpectedly, you DO NOT know what true faith is. Seriously.

Don’t try to tell me differently either.

The strength and confidence and hope you have to have in order to believe in a good and loving God when something like this happens is immeasurable. I am still wrestling with my feelings about God in light of this new age my life has entered– the age without my mother.

And guess what?

I don’t want to hear how:

  1. She is in a better place.
  2. She is dancing with Jesus.
  3. She is no longer in any pain.
  4. She was so proud of me, my siblings, little E, etc.
  5. (insert other common platitudes spouted at the grieving with the intention of giving them comfort)

You know why I don’t want to hear it?

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my mom made everything more fun and exciting and our trips to Disneyland are some of my best memories — Spring 2007

Because I already know it. In fact, I have probably been on the giving end of these phrases, and if I have said any of these things to you– I am INFINITELY sorry. For those of you who have never experienced this sort of loss let me just tell you… nothing you say to the people who are grieving is going to a) make them feel better about losing their loved one or b) snap them out of the grieving process and back to normal. We don’t want to hear it because as selfish as it is, for some of us, we would MUCH rather have them here with us– this is their place.

WAS their place.

I am struggling with this as we speak and as I continue to wrestle with my emotions, beliefs, and knowledge I do not need the cliche Christian sympathies to add to the inner turmoil in which I am already engaged.

Let me stop being a bitch for a moment and tell you what might be more helpful:

  1. Saying things like, “I have no words”, “we love you”, and  “I’m so sorry”. I am telling you, I would rather hear you are sitting with me in my pain and at as much of a loss as I am than hear you have all the answers– because chances are you don’t and, further, I probably know you don’t either.
  2. Letting your actions speak louder than your words. “Let’s do [insert various social mediums– coffee, lunch, dinner, a movie, girls night, etc.] soon” is not helpful to me unless you back it up with action. I am not at a place where I am going to reach out to you to set up this “lunch date” you have offered to take me on. I may need it. I may even want it. But I am not going to want to burden you– and don’t you dare say it isn’t a burden. You know how you SHOW me it isn’t a burden? You propose a date, you set up a time, you plan the outing and then invite me to it. That is how it works.
  3. Random texts and message letting you know you are thinking of me. My mom was really, I mean REALLY, good at making people feel known and valued and sometimes it was just small things. I won’t ever have someone in my life who thinks of me like my mom did but it does help when I randomly hear from people who care.
  4. Love on my daughter. One of the hardest parts of this whole thing for me is knowing little E will never remember this amazing woman and the incredible love she had for her. Help me keep my mom’s memory alive for her, so she can remember her grandma through your words, stories, and love you have shown her.
  5. This is kind of a don’t, but also a do– Unless I ask for resources on grief, death, etc., please don’t offer them up to me. If it comes up naturally in a conversation, great, but pushing something on me that I might not even want just yet is not helpful. However, I have recently started a new Pinterest board I have dubbed “The New Normal” where I am pinning quotes and articles and such that I may want to look back on when I decide I am ready. If you have any suggestions for that pin board, I would gladly take them to read later. Here is one quote from that board that has really resonated with me:

lost all of them

Man… This post became so much more convoluted than I had intended. I was going to write two separate posts but it just kept flowing so I just kept writing. Maybe later I will split them and make them more coherent and defined but for now this was more of a cathartic thing than anything.

If you made it to the end here I’d love to know, if you have experienced a loss, what are some ways people have best helped you during your time of grieving? I also want to know how to be better for people in the future.

(Featured Photo taken By Cherrie Lonkar of Hello, You Photography)

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The Scars We Carry

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The above photo was a Timehop I posted a year ago– meaning this is the 10 year anniversary of what has since been lovingly called my “sharkbite”.

People who don’t know the story or have never seen the “before” photo gasp in horror or awe or sometimes both. I know people stare at my leg and want to ask questions but are too afraid to ask. It doesn’t bother me much anymore but it took me a few years to get to that place. At this point, I honestly don’t mind the questions– I mostly make up stories about how it happened anyway since I get a kick out of watching people’s faces while they try to decide if I am telling the truth or not.

I’m a pretty bad liar, so I can pick out the most gullible listeners in a heartbeat; they are the best ones to tell the stories to as they usually accept what I say at face value and think I am pretty B.A. for enduring my circumstances– ’cause you know I always paint myself as hardcore when I tell the stories.

The thing is, when, on occasion, I do tell someone the REAL story, I rarely get that reaction– and that story is the one that really shows how truly resilient and “B.A.” I am.

The one that shows the real me.

If you’ve been holding on waiting for me to tell stories, real or fake, about my leg you can go ahead and stop reading now (I only tell them face to face) but if you are interested in reading about my reflections the 10 year anniversary of this injury has given me, read on.

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My dear friend Libby feigning disgust at the hideousness that is my leg after it had been grafted. (2007)

I have learned a lot about myself through this scar over the years…

2007: I learned I am stronger than I know. I persevered through the initial incident, the multiple surgeries to debride (spell check keeps telling me that is wrong/not a word but I am not and it is) the wound and graft in new skin, the emotional pain of being, yet again, on crutches and missing another season of soccer, and the idiotic comments of people (including doctors) with no filters/people wanting to touch it (ew!). I learned how to get back up.

2008-2009: I learned about how real post traumatic stress is and how difficult it can be to combat it. I learned that dwelling on the “what ifs” does nobody any good– especially myself. I learned to not let fear control my life (sometimes I have to be retaught that last one).

2010-2012: I learned that my scars don’t define me and even though I saw this as a hideous disfigurement that no one could ever look past that the people who truly love me and care about me don’t care about it. I learned I can still find love even with the scars and emotional baggage marring my skin and heart. My beauty isn’t skin deep and even it were I would still be beautiful if only to the people who really matter. I learned how to be light-hearted about it and move on from the pain (it still weirds me out though when people want to touch it).

2013-2017: I learned that people want to connect with you in your pain. I still hesitate when people ask to touch it but ultimately I realize that they want to feel what I feel and they a curious about this piece of my story that is so vividly displayed for the world to see. I learned that this is not the worst thing that could or would ever happen to me and that while the trauma of the moment seems daunting, time rolls on and, as they say, “heals all wounds”.

This last little cliche has always been interesting/vexing to me. For people who have endured serious pain (losing a loved one far too soon, receiving a terminal diagnosis, never being able to bear children, etc.) the wounds don’t feel all that healed. I believe, however, my before and after picture of my leg says it all:

Sure, scabs form, the skin grows back, or maybe you even had skin grafted in place to decrease the length of time it takes to heal but when all is said and done your leg never looks the same. Time rolls on, you pick your life back up slowly one piece at a time with the help of loved ones– maybe someone new even enters your life to help speed along the process– but you will never be who you once were.

And you have to learn to live with that.

I had to learn to live with that.

So happy 10 year anniversary to the beginning of a weird path of self discovery, understanding, and forgiveness. May those of you at the beginning of your journeys find comfort and peace along the way.

We a pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but are never destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 (NLT)

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Loved and Not Alone (pt. 2)

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

Thank you, one thousand times over, to everyone who reached out to me after I wrote my last blog post (and the prequel to this little diddy– so go back and read it before you start on this one). Your words of hope and solidarity were so overwhelming for me that I wish now I had posted it sooner rather than held back in fear and heartache.

I promised you my story wasn’t over last time; there was a lot that got me to the point I could post about my fertility issues and I intend to keep my promise and share with you my more recent story.

After August I still struggled off and on with the general feelings of discontentment wrapped around my dysfunctional body but it began to die down significantly as I opened up to more and more people about my struggle which meant more and more people were praying for Patrick and me on this issue. But I think the number one thing that helped me begin to overcome my negative self talk was leading the student ministry at Central Christian Church‘s Glendale campus.

The Glendale campus is a LOT different demographically and culturally to the other four Central campuses located in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. Glendale is in the West Valley– which, even if you aren’t from Phoenix, you know that there is always a sort of “rivalry” of lifestyle and demographic between east and west anything. The greater demographic of the area the campus is located in is middle to lower-middle class, blue collar workers, and Hispanic– again, a generalization of the area and not indicative of the entire population. I grew up East Valley, served/worked in East Valley youth programs, and I began to awe at a few of the girls that have attended our junior high program in Glendale.

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Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

Working at the Glendale campus was my first ever exposure to working with students who were living in a group home situation. They have always been girls, and each girl I encountered taught me something new about resilience and faith and beauty that I don’t believe I could have learned on my own. Some of their stories were so so tragic, some were filled with hope and longing, and some stories I never heard but I know were creating deep pain in their hearts and souls– but I would still see them every Sunday, smiles on their faces (usually) and new stories to share with me.

I never knew my heart could open so wide.

It was my interactions with them that really got me over the hump. I knew that if I couldn’t have a child of my own that I wanted to love ones like that– ones that, of no fault of their own, had been cast aside or experiencing pain and loss. I thought that, if I couldn’t have a child of my own, I could adopt/foster a young person who just needed someone to believe in them and love them.

Patrick and I are friends with a couple who have been doing this for years– their niche is babies with special needs– and it has been such a blessing to watch the two of them with every child that comes into their home. They adopted one of the little angels not too long ago and are just the cutest little family you ever did see. But it isn’t always that rosy; two of the kids, brothers, they had in their home for quite some time and were in the process of adopting when suddenly they were taken from them with little warning and placed with family that had crawled out of the woodwork. Patrick and I had watched how it devastated our couple friend and we wondered if that was ever something we could deal with (this was all prior to my even knowing about my fertility issues).

My relationship with the young ladies from the group home changed that for me but Patrick was still fearful of that pain.

While we were talking about what it might look like to start fostering, we were also talking about going to a fertility doctor recommended by my new GYN. We had decided that once we got back from my brother’s birthday trip that I would schedule an appointment and see what our options were.

I hadn’t cycled in awhile (which isn’t weird, remember) and my brother was turning 21 on this trip so, just to be safe, I took a pregnancy test– you know, in case by some MIRACLE, God had decided to open up my previously dusty and difficult womb– fully expecting a “Not Pregnant” to appear on the screen.

Not even the obligatory 2 minutes later…

“Pregnant”

SAY WHAT?!

So long story short, I discovered God had finally deemed me ready to have a child of my own on a trip, to Las Vegas, to celebrate my brother’s 21st birthday. Ain’t that somethin’?

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Courtesy of Central Christian Church Creative Arts Department

As of today, Mother’s Day, I am 13 weeks along. This time last year, Patrick was celebrating mother’s day for me even though I didn’t think I could ever be one and now here I sit today, 6 months away from being one.

I know this isn’t the case for everyone struggling with infertility, but for me–

It felt like God was waiting for me to realize that even if I couldn’t be the mother of my own flesh and blood I could be the mother of someone else’s flesh and blood. I still fully intend to follow up on that with God and foster/adopt a preteen/teen some day. I wasn’t given that call for no reason, I know that. I want them to feel loved and not alone as I have come to feel over the past 7 months.

Thank you EVERYONE who has walked with us through this very difficult journey– you all know who you are– and we are so blessed to call you our friends and family. Welcome to my mess.

13

Loved and Not Alone (pt.1)

I apologize, I began writing this post last August and couldn’t bring myself to finish it, but I am ready now, so here it is! If I inserted something more recently to the older part of my post it will look like [this]. So read on!

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Get ready to be candid with me for a moment…

A year ago today (give or take a few days either direction) is the day I unknowingly began a journey I never wanted to be on. A journey I never considered I would have to take. A journey full of pain, self-loathing, sorrow, and despair. For every step forward I’ve fought to achieve, I’ve been thrown back a few 100 yards on my butt where I would sit and cry for a moment then slowly pick myself back up and start all over again.

Some of you may know this pain, whether you have experienced it in the same way as me or not, and you understand how excruciatingly difficult it is to get back up after being knocked down…

so.

many.

times.

You know what it is like to doubt God’s plan, whether he really cares about you at all.

In August of last year[2014] I unintentionally stopped taking my birth control (BC). It was a miscommunication with the pharmacy and so on and suddenly I saw myself two weeks late on taking my next round of pills. I decided I would wait until I got my next period to start again. Patrick and I had discussed going off BC somewhere around December anyway so I didn’t think it would be a big deal if something happened earlier than that anyway.

August crept by…

…then September…

… next October…

… and suddenly I am very aware of the fact that something is wrong. No period in 3 months. Every test I take tells me it isn’t due to pregnancy. I scheduled an appointment with my GYN and prayed for the best (I am going to intentionally leave the name of my [FORMER] GYN out of this as I am NOT happy with the way my case has been handled by them and I don’t want to get in trouble for defamation or something…). A pelvic ultrasound and blood tests reveal a couple things:

  1. I’m not ovulating.
  2. My ovaries a ridden with cysts. [A more recent test indicates that it was not as serious as I was made to believe]
  3. My hormone levels are all out of whack.
  4. The lack of ovulation is not due to anything they can determine at this time.

Okay… so what do I do next? I began WebMD-ing things that could be wrong (bad move by the way– learn from me, don’t do it) and I had myself worked up into such a frenzy about it sleep was ridiculously difficult to achieve. I had myself believing I had Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (I’m still not convinced that isn’t what is wrong) [better doctor now, better explanations, pretty sure it wasn’t PCOS now] because everything my GYN told me seemed to point to it. Here is link to some of the WebMD articles I was reading to try to better understand what was happening to me.

[Okay, present day me talking here, PCOS is very serious stuff and I don’t want this post to, in anyway, diminish the real and raw pain that any woman, facing this issue, is wrestling. Just because it didn’t happen to be true in my case, which I discovered thanks to a much more competent and communicative doctor, doesn’t mean I don’t sympathize 100% with those looking at that diagnosis. My struggle is and was still real and I was grasping at answers– because even a crappy answer was still and answer– so I knew what I was fighting.]

At my next appointment with my GYN, they tell me they are pretty sure it is my hormone levels. One hormone is a little higher than the others and could be suppressing ovulation which in turn is preventing me from getting a period. To force my period, they want to put me back on BC again. By the time I am having this conversation with my GYN it is late December/ early January and this was the time Patrick and I had previously discussed taking me off BC and letting whatever happen. So, obviously, I wanted a different solution to my problem.

December and January [of 2015] were two of the hardest months of my life. Ladies who know my pain, didn’t it just tear you up inside that the one thing God created you to do, the one thing that sets you apart as a woman, was not something you could do? You were broken, and not just emotionally or spiritually, but physically…

I’ll tell you exactly what I thought.

I am broken, defective, insufficient. I’m letting my husband down, he would be such a good father and I can’t give that to him. I’m not good enough for him anymore, maybe I should give him an out, set him free so he can find someone who will give him children. I hate myself for the defective monster I am.

Some of you read that and think I am being dramatic and that my identity was WAY to wrapped up in this issue [I’M reading this right now thinking the exact same thing!]– you would be right. Some of you think I should get over it, let it go, or just adopt if I want to have children — you are also right.

Some of you read this and relate so deeply that you may be crying with me. Maybe some of you have been afraid or unable to express your real feelings on this– or haven’t told anybody yet because then it becomes REAL.

[Present day me again. The reality is it is already REAL. Just because you are having trouble admitting it to yourself doesn’t mean it isn’t still your truth. And isn’t life so much better lived in communion with others? Mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, sister, brother, spouse, aunt, uncle, friends… We were given these people so we were not alone when we hit difficult times like this. This may be hard for some of you to hear– it was for me in some ways– but you NEED people. You need people to lean on and, yeah, that means running the risk of getting hurt further because you’ve made yourself emotional vulnerable but no relationship is worth anything if it doesn’t carry a little bit of vulnerability risk to it. Genesis 2:18-22 tells us God knew it was not good for us to be alone and that is why he created Eve for Adam. The same is true for you– it is not good for you to be alone.]

I’ve come a long way since December and January [again, of last year]; I am coping better and I don’t randomly cry throughout the day anymore. I have accepted that I am not broken or defective and that my husband still loves me. I am voicing my pain in healthy non-destructive ways and can even bring myself to be happy for the plethora of friends that are now popping out their own little bundles of joy.

But it is a journey, not a race to the finish.

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That is where I ended 8 months ago, plus my present day addendums, and I sounded like I was getting to a better place– which is true, but not the whole story.

I still wept on occasion, and in fact I cried as I typed away at the above which is why I couldn’t finish– that and I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to perfectly explain my pain so my readers would fully understand.

I realize now that it isn’t worth it to try and make it perfect because someone somewhere is not going to understand and is going to judge. What is important is that I got it out of my system and onto paper (or the web, as it were).

I’d like to finish my story now, up to where I am currently, but I need more time to write it. I am in a much better place (for real this time) but also still very fearful of my future. In the meantime, if you are struggling against infertility I hope you realize you are not alone and you are loved.

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How I Roll: Disney-Style

So I live in Arizona (duh) and just a short 6 hour drive west on I-10 is the grand city of Los Angeles. The City of Angels…

and horrible drivers.

But that is neither here or there because what I wish to talk about is the magical place of dreams and make-believe that resides in a little suburb called Anaheim.

A little place called…

The Happiest Place on Earth!!!

Yes indeed folks, Disneyland, touted as the “Happiest Place on Earth”, is a mere 6 to 7 hour drive away from me at any given moment. All the wonderment and excitement and crippling debt lives so close I can taste it!

This past weekend (well, two weekends ago now because I started this post last week and am only just now finishing it), Patrick and I went on a little sibling trip (my sibs, not his) to the Disney Parks and it was pretty dang magical if I don’t say so myself. So magical that even God cried tears of joy for us that poured forth from the heavens and threatened to drown us. But the sparks of our merriment were not doused and we rallied forth into the rain and claimed all we saw…

From left to right: Marcus (bro), Morgan (bro GF), Kim (sis), Patrick (hubby), ME (me) We were looking for Nemo on the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. Two of us are claustrophobic so this was a silly ride to be on ;-).

From left to right: Marcus (bro), Morgan (bro GF), Kim (sis), Patrick (hubby), ME (me)
We were looking for Nemo on the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. Two of us are claustrophobic so this was a silly ride to be on ;-).

Okay, so in a normal person voice now:

It was awesome to have a little bonding time with the fam at Disney. And yes, it rained, A LOT. Which didn’t bother me so much except that my shoes got soaked and I hate having soggy shoes and wet feet– UGH! Also, on the way there we broke an axle in the Outback (henceforth to be called ‘Seabiscut’) at like… 11:30 p.m. and we had to call a cab to drive us the remaining hour and a half we had left to hour hotel and our cabbie was something special, oh yes indeed, talked our ears off and my favorite conversation starter was, “how do you fear the world will come to an end?” Philosophical musings at 1 a.m. is just not fair. It was 2 a.m. before we got to sleep and then it was up and at’em at 7 a.m. so we could walk to California Adventure to start our Disney weekend…

Crazy, huh? Amazingly enough none of that dampened anyone’s mood and we tackled the parks with the same fervor the Love’s (my family/madien name) usually do.

My family has been “Doing Disney” since before I was born. I’m a born and bred Disneylander and I know how to roll Disney-Style. So here are my tips and tricks, with pictures of the trip interspersed throughout, to rocking Disney Williams/Love-Style.

#1 – Always have a game plan.

You should never EVER walk into the gates of Disneyland or California Adventure without your game plan in tow. Some key things to remember when making a Disney Game Plan (henceforth known as DGP) are:

A) Get there when the parks open. You’d be surprised at how many rides you can walk right onto just by being the first ones through the gates. By noon the parks are crawling with parents w/ littles and foreigners who have no clue what personal space means. The burdens all Americans must bear ;-).

splashmountain

We lucked out and got to Splash Mountain just as it was reopening after a short closure. Relatively short wait 🙂

B) Know what is most important to you/your group. Is your DGP to get through lines as quickly as possible and hit every ride twice before lunch? Then strategize (mini side note: Google Chrome keeps telling me I am spelling “strategize” wrong… like it is not a real word. Had me convinced for second that it was right. Okay moving on…) based on ride popularity and fastpass time. For example, in CA Adventure, ALWAYS fastpass the Radiator Springs Racers if at all possible. The waits for that ride are ridiculous and will definitely slow your roll and crush your dreams (just sayin’). Another good one to fastpass is Soarin’ Over California. Simple ride with a astronomical wait. Finally, good rides to try and fastpass are the Tower of Terror and California Screamin’, their lines usually move at a good pace but they can still be quite long. In addition to being the rides to fastpass, they are also the ones to hit first upon entering the park. ToT and the Racers are near each other with Screamin’ not too far away, I usually recommend that course of action as your initial go to plan.

In Disneyland, you want to hit the mountains first. Fastpass one, wait for another, fastpass one, wait for another, and so on. Your mountains are Space Mountain*, Splash Mountain*, Thunder Mountain*, Matterhorn, and I’d even include Indiana Jones’ Temple of the Forbidden Eye* in this as well as Pirates of the Caribbean, even though neither of them are remotely mountain-like (* indicates rides with fastpass service). These rides will always be the ones with long waits. Always. Also, if the rides are what get you off (sorry to be crude), and you could care little about anything else, then always hit rides up during parades and shows. While those suckers are watching Mickey ‘Paint the Night’, you are riding space mountain 3X in a row.

First thing we saw when we entered Adventure? Oswald the Rabbit! Had to get a photo with him 😉

Now if your DGP is to get the full Disney experience, and you want to see the shows and the parades and meet the characters, be sure to know ahead of time when the various events are happening. Most shows, parades, and character sightings will happen more than once through out the day– schedule accordingly, you can look that stuff up online also there are some awesome apps in your app/play store that will help you keep everything straight, even ride wait times. Also, if you are interested in World of Color in CA Adventure a fastpass is a must! Well, its not like a requirement or anything but if you want any chance of having a good vantage point of the show you’ll want to get a fastpass for this. The fastpasses can be picked up at the Grizzly River Run Fastpass Kiosks early in the day. They are first come first serve so if this is important to you, you’ll want to beeline here and get your passes. I think Fantasmic in Disneyland has started doing fastpasses too but I wouldn’t know where to tell you to get them.

Whatever your game plan might be, it doesn’t matter, you do you and get the most from your Disney experience.

#2 Eat ONLY one meal in Park

I don’t want to say NEVER eat in the park because some of the Disney food is AH-MAY-ZING. I haven’t tried everything on this list, but this blog has a great list of Disneyland Resort Must-Haves, as far as food goes. We made special runs by

http://www.foodspotting.com/reviews/1148448

I borrowed this photo from a review on Foodspotting.com. Does the Monte Cristo not look amazing???

The Enchanted Tiki Room and Pooh Corner just to pick up some Dole Whip and Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwiches– it was worth it. Also, and I wish I had taken a picture of it, the Monte Cristos of Cafe Orleans are TO DIE FOR. Seriously. TO DIE FOR. OMG. Hands down, the best thing I’ve ever eaten in the Disney Parks. It is going to set you back $18 but it is worth it and, if you don’t eat a lot, you can split it (I didn’t. I pigged out all on my own, but you totally can!) as it is way more food than one person should eat in a sitting (did I already say I ate it all by myself?).

This all being said, eating in the park is *CHA-CHING* expensive! Monstrous wallet denters, if you catch my drift. I suggest packing light snacks that will tide you over throughout the day (you can bring in food and liquids as long as none of it is in glass containers) and maybe even pack a PB&J or two for lunch time. If you aren’t about all the prep time that requires, across the street to the east of the parks is a lovely McDonald’s that is clean and cool. There is also an IHOP, Denny’s, and a Buffet called Captain Kidd’s. I wouldn’t recommend the IHOP though, their prices were just as bad as eating in Disney. The one nice thing was eating inside, away from the humidity but we kinda wish we had just gone to the buffet– more food, lower price.

#3 Shop, but don’t buy, Mid-day

Part of the fun of going to a Disney Park is coming home with awesome souvenirs that you can either share or rub in everyone’s faces (to each their own). Each land has its own special feel and the shops are no exception to this. That is why I am all for the occassional “we have a fastpass that doesn’t start for another 30 minutes and we don’t want to wait in line for another ride” shopping. This kind of shopping stresses hubby out as he doesn’t like to look at all these things we can’t afford/won’t be buying but would love to have. I, on the other hand, love to get ideas of what I want to buy AT

my one and only souvenir from this trip, courtesy of the hubby-- he knows me quite well.

my one and only souvenir from this trip, courtesy of the hubby– he knows me quite well.

THE END OF THE NIGHT. That’s right, you heard me, END OF THE NIGHT. There are a couple reasons for this:

A) If I buy earlier, I have to carry it around with me. So for the rest of the day I am tethered to this item AND, as any avid tea drinker who loves to collect mugs fromplaces you’ve been, your souvenirs are often breakable items. One little jostle on Thunder Mountain and your awesome mug that looks like Chip is now in 152 pieces. Or that sweet shirt you bought for dad because he towed Seabiscut home for you is now covered in gross Splash Mountain water and sitting in a bag getting dank… these are unacceptable scenarios. I like to be unencumbered by things when doing Disney (as you will see in point #4) and early-purchasing of souvenirs does just that– and by that I mean encumbers.

B) I have a tendency to get overzealous and purchase something I only kinda like and then can’t afford something I REALLY like. Can I get an AMEN? I know there are people out there just like me. Every time I see a Stitch pillow pet I

Don't forget to get your Mickey/Minnie ears!

Don’t forget to get your Mickey/Minnie ears!

just want to buy it. Why? Because I like Stitch (more importantly, hubby likes Stitch) and I think the pillow pet is awesome. Now… If I buy a $30 pillow pet of Stitch (which, lets be honest, hubby couldn’t care less about) then I can’t afford what I really want which is the mug that looks like three tea cups stacked one on top of another (I have a serious mug addiction, it is bad). Also, what am I going to do with a pillow pet? Actually I can think of a million things, but that is not the point. The point is… if I allow myself some time to stew on a purchase, I can usually talk myself out of it or decide it is something I do absolutely want, and since part of doing Disney Love/Williams-style is saving as much money as possible, I need to capitalize on the souvenirs that I will be most happy to drive home with in hand.

The one downfall is this is a lot of people’s go to method for souvenir shopping in Disney so the stores can be busy. Make sure you have done your pre-shopping, know what you want and where you can find it ahead of time, and head straight for it. Don’t be distracted by other goodies along the way. Get in, get your stuff, get out. Simple as that.

#4 Do NOT bring more into the Parks than you ABSOLUTELY need

My parents both tell me I am crazy for this one, but I get so fed up with strollers (mostly it is just strollers) being all up in the way that when I have kids I am convinced I am going to do this. Plus, I get nervous for people who bring in strollers and leave personal belongings in there. Who says everyone who comes to Disney is pure of heart? You are just asking for people to steal from you. My dad informs me nobody messes with strollers but my question is… how do you know???

So I have decided, while I am BEYOND excited to have a kid of my own that I can take to Disney and experience the wonder and excitement with, I will not do it while they are still needing a stroller/wearing diapers. Nope, not happening, Strollers and diaper bags are cumbersome, I won’t do it. I won’t be that jerk who clips peoples heels because I am pushing a stroller around and trying to wrangle the child who is supposed to be in said stroller. No. I just won’t. The paths in that park are not big enough for your massive Bumbleride Indie Twin stroller to be carving its own path through the masses.

A saint AND a beast! Look at him go at this barbell in ToonTown.

A saint AND a beast! Look at him go at this barbell in ToonTown.

OH! and to the woman whom hubby so patiently assisted (the man is a saint sometimes, I swear) while pushing her two seat stroller THROUGH the Astro Blasters line… there is a reason they have designated stroller parking. Ugh, stroller parking is a double edged sword because it keeps strollers from being in lines but also makes narrow spaces even more narrow! I wish I had thought to take pictures people, I really do. Then you would see how miserable it is to walk through Tomorrowland and Adventureland with the way they have had to set up stroller parking. Kudos to Disney though, they do try their best to keep it all out of the way as much as possible. They even have what I can only assume are stroller parking attendants who keep everything organized. I do not envy their job.

Do us ALL a favor. Don’t bring more into the park than you feel comfortable carrying (that may include children, just sayin’).

#5 Stay in a hotel close to the Parks

I’ve stayed with my grandparents when they lived in Cali., I have stayed in a hotel several blocks away, I have stayed in a hotel across the street, I have stayed in the resort hotels– I have done it all. My best advice in this area, if you are from out-of-town visiting the Parks: Stay close by.

There are a few hotels further away that have free shuttles you can use or there are the paid shuttles for a small fee you can walk to a bus stop and they will take you directly to Disney. These are okay but if you get tired and want to nap, or

The car park wait... ha! Since we booked a hotel so close it is just a short walk and we are there!

The car park wait… ha! Since we booked a hotel so close it is just a short walk and we are there!

have little ones who NEED to nap, this can be a time consuming endeavor, and your Disney time is precious (or at least mine is). Staying in the resort hotels is awesome. I’ve stayed in two of the three Disneyland Resort hotels and it has not only been a great experience, but the convenience of it is super nice. The price tag, unfortunately, is not so nice. If you are looking to plan a budget-friendly vacation like we like to do but you want the convenience of a close location, look at one of the MANY hotels in a one mile radius around the Parks. There are some decent inexpensive hotels just across the street (and some not so decent but hey, you really are only going to be sleeping there, right?) that are just a short walk to the front gates of the Parks. Plus, a few of them have continental breakfasts (yay for “free” meals!) which is a bonus time and money saver.

I’m going to end there because this post is already so long, but if you have your own Disney advice, please share it below! I’d love to hear how you guys make your Disney experience the most magical it can be. Or, if you have questions about something I’ve talked about, or didn’t talk about, feel free to post those too! I’m looking forward to the feedback.

Stay messy, friends!

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How to Fall in Love with Anyone

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Our “first” photo together as a couple… can’t see me? My reflection is in the bean… it’s a fun game of “Where’s Waldo”. Early on in our relationship I was afraid to ask him to take photos with me in case it would be awkward… Sometimes I couldn’t even take pictures of him. I was such a weirdo; I’m amazed he stuck around 😉

Link diving – Verb

The act of clicking further and further from your original subject of research. Commonly related to the popular website Wikipedia.com (UrbanDictionary.com)

Link diving is dangerous.

It is dangerous for many reasons I won’t get into but the main reason it is dangerous is because procrastinators, like myself, don’t know when to Shut. It. Down. I could spend hours link diving away from my original purpose only to find myself on BuzzFeed (the death of all procrastinating link divers everywhere) looing at a list of “11 Reasons Why Things Are the Color They Are” (which is highly informative, you should definitely check it out:-)).

The point is… My name is Valerie, and I am a link diver (this is where you say ‘Hi Valerie’ and we move on).

So when I was sifting through my WordPress Reader for new posts and came across the latest from the Daily Post titled “The Socratic Method“; I was intrigued and had to dive a little deeper. Needless to say, I didn’t make it all the way through the post (I have since gone back and read through it and if you are looking for a little writing inspiration it is definitely worth the read) because the first two paragraphs touched on a study and an article about 36 questions to accelerate intimacy between two strangers.

Interest piqued yet? In the original study, two of the participants, completely unknown to each other prior to the experience, ended up married later on in life. Crazy, right?! Who wouldn’t want to link dive away to check that out?

So I ventured to the New York Times article, “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This“, and read Mandy’s very interesting story. I want you to read it too and if you think you are up for the challenge here is the link to the 36 Questions that could quite possibly change your life. (I recommend using their app to go through the questions as it makes the process much easier and they kind of explain how it all works in more descriptive terms).

Her article struck me personally because my dearest hubby, Patrick, has a very practical view of love. It was something we talked about often when we were dating. He isn’t romantic in the sense that he sweeps me off to faraway places and brings me flowers and little gifts daily; his romantic is bringing in the groceries, doing the dishes, walking the dogs, helping with the laundry. This article reminded me of him and how he CHOOSES to love me everyday rather rely on fleeting FEELINGS and EMOTIONS to rest his love. This article touches on walking, not falling, into love and I think, unfortunately, most young people today want the head-over-heels when in reality… the practical is so much better and so much more attainable. So read the article and see what I saw:

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To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This 

By Mandy Len Catron, New York Times, January 9, 2015

More than 20 years ago, the psychologist Arthur Aron succeeded in making two strangers fall in love in his laboratory. Last summer, I applied his technique in my own life, which is how I found myself standing on a bridge at midnight, staring into a man’s eyes for exactly four minutes.

Let me explain. Earlier in the evening, that man had said: “I suspect, given a few commonalities, you could fall in love with anyone. If so, how do you choose someone?”

He was a university acquaintance I occasionally ran into at the climbing gym and had thought, “What if?” I had gotten a glimpse into his days on Instagram. But this was the first time we had hung out one-on-one.

“Actually, psychologists have tried making people fall in love,” I said, remembering Dr. Aron’s study. “It’s fascinating. I’ve always wanted to try it.”

I first read about the study when I was in the midst of a breakup. Each time I thought of leaving, my heart overruled my brain. I felt stuck. So, like a good academic, I turned to science, hoping there was a way to love smarter.

I explained the study to my university acquaintance. A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.

“Let’s try it,” he said.

Let me acknowledge the ways our experiment already fails to line up with the study. First, we were in a bar, not a lab. Second, we weren’t strangers. Not only that, but I see now that one neither suggests nor agrees to try an experiment designed to create romantic love if one isn’t open to this happening.

I Googled Dr. Aron’s questions; there are 36. We spent the next two hours passing my iPhone across the table, alternately posing each question.

They began innocuously: “Would you like to be famous? In what way?” And “When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?”

But they quickly became probing.

In response to the prompt, “Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common,” he looked at me and said, “I think we’re both interested in each other.”

I grinned and gulped my beer as he listed two more commonalities I then promptly forgot. We exchanged stories about the last time we each cried, and confessed the one thing we’d like to ask a fortuneteller. We explained our relationships with our mothers.

The questions reminded me of the infamous boiling frog experiment in which the frog doesn’t feel the water getting hotter until it’s too late. With us, because the level of vulnerability increased gradually, I didn’t notice we had entered intimate territory until we were already there, a process that can typically take weeks or months.

I liked learning about myself through my answers, but I liked learning things about him even more. The bar, which was empty when we arrived, had filled up by the time we paused for a bathroom break.

I sat alone at our table, aware of my surroundings for the first time in an hour, and wondered if anyone had been listening to our conversation. If they had, I hadn’t noticed. And I didn’t notice as the crowd thinned and the night got late.

We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

The moments I found most uncomfortable were not when I had to make confessions about myself, but had to venture opinions about my partner. For example: “Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner, a total of five items” (Question 22), and “Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met” (Question 28).

Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate others into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion.” Saying things like, “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you,” makes certain positive qualities belonging to one person explicitly valuable to the other.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

We finished at midnight, taking far longer than the 90 minutes for the original study. Looking around the bar, I felt as if I had just woken up. “That wasn’t so bad,” I said. “Definitely less uncomfortable than the staring into each other’s eyes part would be.”

He hesitated and asked. “Do you think we should do that, too?”

“Here?” I looked around the bar. It seemed too weird, too public.

“We could stand on the bridge,” he said, turning toward the window.

The night was warm and I was wide-awake. We walked to the highest point, then turned to face each other. I fumbled with my phone as I set the timer.

“O.K.,” I said, inhaling sharply.

“O.K.,” he said, smiling.

I’ve skied steep slopes and hung from a rock face by a short length of rope, but staring into someone’s eyes for four silent minutes was one of the more thrilling and terrifying experiences of my life. I spent the first couple of minutes just trying to breathe properly. There was a lot of nervous smiling until, eventually, we settled in.

I know the eyes are the windows to the soul or whatever, but the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me. Once I embraced the terror of this realization and gave it time to subside, I arrived somewhere unexpected.

I felt brave, and in a state of wonder. Part of that wonder was at my own vulnerability and part was the weird kind of wonder you get from saying a word over and over until it loses its meaning and becomes what it actually is: an assemblage of sounds.

So it was with the eye, which is not a window to anything but rather a clump of very useful cells. The sentiment associated with the eye fell away and I was struck by its astounding biological reality: the spherical nature of the eyeball, the visible musculature of the iris and the smooth wet glass of the cornea. It was strange and exquisite.

When the timer buzzed, I was surprised — and a little relieved. But I also felt a sense of loss. Already I was beginning to see our evening through the surreal and unreliable lens of retrospect.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I wondered what would come of our interaction. If nothing else, I thought it would make a good story. But I see now that the story isn’t about us; it’s about what it means to bother to know someone, which is really a story about what it means to be known.

It’s true you can’t choose who loves you, although I’ve spent years hoping otherwise, and you can’t create romantic feelings based on convenience alone. Science tells us biology matters; our pheromones and hormones do a lot of work behind the scenes.

But despite all this, I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be. Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible — simple, even — to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive.

You’re probably wondering if he and I fell in love. Well, we did. Although it’s hard to credit the study entirely (it may have happened anyway), the study did give us a way into a relationship that feels deliberate. We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 2

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK --- Childhood nightmares / night terrors --- Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

Harrogate, North Yorkshire, England, UK — Childhood nightmares / night terrors — Image by © 2/Andrew Bret Wallis/Ocean/Corbis

I told myself I would post once a week, just to help get me into the swing of things and to keep this fun and not let it become overwhelming.

But I REALLY wanted to tell you about the other night terror regarding the spiders I mentioned in my previous post. If you didn’t read it yet I suggest you do. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

So now that you have background information on the subject, let me tell you about the spiders.

This story starts with me quite asleep; like that kind of sleep that takes you awhile to wake from when you are startled from it. Which is exactly what happened. I’m fuzzy on how it all started but am all too familiar with how it progressed.

I begin to wake up when he is, again, thrashing about in bed. I roll over and prop myself up, my usual stance for night time questions of, “what’s wrong,” and, “are you okay,” and “what the hell are you doing?” (I like my sleep, people, and I don’t like it interrupted).

By the time I am “up” he has gotten out of the bed and is telling me, “they are coming.”

This is a terrifying little notion but since this is not my first rodeo, and I am pretty positive he is still asleep, I indulge: “Who is coming, hun?”

He just repeats, “they are coming,” a little louder this time while he moves around to the foot of the bed. He continues shouting, “THEY ARE COMING,” and all I can do is stare at him, wide-eyed and confused, while he shouts and screams at 2 a.m.

Finally something snaps:

“THEY ARE COMING! THEY ARE–
OOWW!!

IT BIT ME!

IT BIT ME!

AAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!”

This is the point where he takes off running out of the room and down our narrow hallway where I can only assume he collided with a chair in the dining area because I hear a crash.

The running out of the room thing was new, and deeply concerning. I shout after him (without leaving the bed, of course),  repeating my questions of, “what’s wrong”, “are you okay”, and, “what the hell are you doing?!”

He is still shrieking. I’m not sure if he hears me, but he is making his way back to the room because the wails get closer and louder. He appear is the doorway, still whimpering loudly, still claiming he was bit by something.

From what I pieced together from him, the following is what happened:

He “awoke” in our bedroom to see dark shadows moving in the corners of the room. He sat up and at some point deduced that they were MONSTROUS spiders (okay, maybe we need to lay off Skyrim for awhile) that were coming to get us. He jumps out of bed and was “trying” to get me out of bed to come with him when the spiders attacked. One bit him hard on the foot which is when he screamed and fled, leaving me to fend off the hoard of angry spiders by myself.

He is still crying about being bit by something though so I am worried that maybe there really was something attacking him, although not as dramatic as he was making it out to be.

I still don’t get out of bed (I’m almost certain he is nuts) while he searches the ground for evidence of what “bit” him. He discovers a safety pin in the carpet. I’m pretty sure the thing was closed so I could not tell you how it poked him, but the man is positive that is what did it.

Whatever helps him sleep at night.

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Things that Go Bump in the Night: Part 1

The stuff of nightmares...

The stuff of nightmares…

I started this blog post with in depth re-tellings of a couple night time experiences with my darling husband of 2+ years when I realized something:

I’m long winded and you don’t need that. You don’t WANT that.

When I realized I was not entertained by my own writing I decided scrapping the post was for the best… but I still want to tell you the stories! So I’m going to do two things:

  1. I am not going to give you the unnecessary details, making it shorter and more enjoyable.
  2. I’m only going to post one at a time. One story now, one story later…

So, without further ado let me tell you about my husband’s night terrors.

You might be thinking, “Valerie, you are a horrible person and wife! Why would you write a post about something so personal/frightening for your husband?” Maybe you have experienced terrors yourself or know someone close to you who has. There are many people for whom this is a serious and super scary experience. Sometimes they even hurt people they love, not aware that they are not fighting a monster/enemy but their spouse or significant other. I totally get that they are awful for some people, in fact, when I was I kid, I had some pretty awful night terrors. But let me tell you something… this is not the case with my husband’s.

First, they are funny as heck. Seriously, I sit flabbergasted after the ordeal wondering what on God’s green earth did I get myself into by marrying this man! Okay, that is an exaggeration, but I do marvel at the ridiculousness of the terrors. He has never hurt me while he is experiencing these very vivid, very bizarre hallucinations (at least not yet) so I just get to laugh and roll over and go back to sleep. Second, he tells everyone anyway. They are fun stories for us share tandem style– him from his perspective, me from mine. He knows they are crazy the minute he snaps out of the delirium of the waking nightmare and the only thing he can do is laugh.

So we both get to laugh.

Let me help you laugh too.

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One night, shortly after we were married, I am lying in bed trying to drift off to sleep unsuccessfully. Patrick (who, I just realized I didn’t clarify, is my husband) begins to toss and turn and mutter. I ignore this, as he has a tendency to say unintelligible things in his sleep that he never remembers in the morning anyway. Suddenly his wiggles and mutters turn into thrashing about in the bed and bellowing loudly. I hear him shriek what I think to be a word sounding something like … “bug.”

Well that had me out of the bed because if there was a bug in the bed making him freak out this bad, I wanted nothing to do with it. I jump to the light switch, flip it on, and whip around. I wanted to find this bug and kill it immediately. DEATH TO THE INVADER!

What I see puzzles me. Exceedingly. This was my first experience with his terrors, mind you.

He stands hunched over the bed, eyes wide in a state of panic (and possibly confusion), breathing heavily and not saying a word. His body language tells me he has no idea what is going on, which makes two of us.

When I asked him what happened he began to tell me that he “woke up” and rolled over to look at me and instead of seeing my beautiful face he saw my face…

… with a hawk perched on my forehead trying to peck my eyes out.

I’m dead serious.

So when he was thrashing about and I thought he said something about a bug, which neither of us actually knows what he said at that moment, what was really happening was he was desperately trying to save me from the evil hawk that had me in its clutches. My hero.

So I do the only thing I can.

I tell him I love him, that he is CRAZY, and I am going back to bed. Then I switch off the light.

At least I know that if some monstrous creature were attacking me he would be up to the challenge…

That was until spiders attacked. But that story is for next time so STAY TUNED!

Have you ever experienced a CRAZY dream you could have sworn was real when you woke up? Tell us about!

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A Tale of Two Woes

girls worship at camp 2014

This was my small group of freshmen girls I lead at camp last summer.

I began writing this in October and am only just now posting it. I hope it sparks something in you like it did in me.

I work and serve at Central Christian Church in Arizona, specifically in the Student Ministry. I’d like to point out that my story is just that: my story, my opinions, my flare. What you read next in no way reflects my awesome church or all the awesome people who work and attend here. So now that is out of the way I can tell you my tale of woe…

I love students. I love mentoring the young minds and encouraging and challenging them towards a greater potential. I love that, occasionally, they also do the same for me– a symbiotic relationship, if you will. But in the very same moment it can be the most taxing, the most frustrating, and the most disheartening thing I have ever invested myself in. There are tons of quotes from respected people saying that the best things in life are often the most difficult things in life as well– which is so true, but saying that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

I recently have had two separate freshmen ladies that I know and love approach me and tell me woeful stories about life taking turns and directions that they were not prepared for. Both involved them losing some part of their innocence and feeling lost and confused about where to go from there. They were clearly in a place of deep pain as the related their tales to me with tears rolling down their cheeks. I do not posses the gift of mercy by any means, but watching these two girls suffer caused me to ache inside. While part of their pain was brought on by themselves, which they were keenly aware of, the fact that this was something they had to deal with at all broke my heart.

So what do we do, as caring leaders/adults in the lives of these teens, when we have a fourteen year old telling us something horrible, wrapped in pain, and earnestly staring you down to receive comforting words of guidance and assurances that everything will be okay? What do we do when the spotlight hits us and they expect us to speak but we have no words to say?

In the case of these two lovelies, I prayed hard and fast that the Lord would remove my brain and replace it with his knowledge and wisdom so that hopefully whatever would come out of my mouth would be his words, not mine, because I was ill prepared to help these girls.

While I know my responses were not perfect, I also know that I conveyed to them both that I cared for them and I was there for them whenever they needed someone. I have made my own mistakes and have been haunted by my own sins and the key to being able to empathize with them was to remember that I had been there– in some ways I was still was (this blog is not called the Messy Phoenix for no reason). Was it my place to judge them? No, absolutely not. Was it my place to to chastise them and tell them what they did was wrong? No, absolutely not. Their own spirit had convicted them and they felt awful enough without me adding fuel to that fire.

They both hated themselves in different ways– I was not going to be someone else they thought they may have disappointed. Was I disappointed? Yes, I won’t lie, but does that mean I did not love them and want them to rebound and to heal? No!

The book of James in the New Testament of the Bible is one of my absolute favorites. While not technically considered a Book of Wisdom, like Proverbs or Job, I believe it imparts so much to us; I think this book is the slap in the face most Christians need in their life:

11 Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[d] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. 12 God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?

James 4:11-12 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

These verses make me think of Jesus’ teaching in the Book of Luke, chapter 6, when he speaks to a large number of followers telling them not to be a hypocrite; if there is some sin in their own life it is not their place to be pointing out the sin of another. We are, ALL OF US, in this thing together. No matter our stage of life, no matter our experiences, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

The beauty part is, in our brokenness, we have support:

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

Galatians 6:1-3 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, tells us we are to share each other’s burdens! Yeah! And if you are believing yourself to be too good for that, check it again because Paul tells you to get over yourself (clearly I am paraphrasing here). Jesus even tells a parable in Luke 18 that condemns the Pharisee for believing himself to be better than the tax collector.

Friends, Listen!

Just like I had to do with these two teenage girls, we need to put ourselves aside; we need to find it within ourselves to lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. Does this mean we condone bad things done? No, absolutely not; that thinking does not reflect Jesus’ heart either. What we do is understand that, heck, we’ve been there too. I may have not experienced the same fall from grace that these girls did, and it may be I have, but that does not mean I cannot look at them and say, “You are beautiful, you are loved, and not just by God but also by me, and I’m telling you we can fight through this together. Let’s get back on track TOGETHER.”

I’m not sure this is the direction I initially meant for this post to go but I do know God spoke it through me for a reason and I hope you have been challenged or given hope by it today.

I’d love to hear from you! When have you been confronted with a similar situation and how did you handle it?