5 Reasons To Live

I just finished Netflix’s new series, 13 Reasons Why, and I’m feeling inspired but also incredibly saddened.  A couple of years ago (May of 2015, to be exact), I witnessed a man attempt suicide.  How’s that for an opening?  The year before, I was depressed and had thoughts of suicide myself.  Going even farther back, in 2010, my plan that I lied about not having was identical to the one he carried out.  This show is bringing all of that back up to the surface and I know that I’m not the only Netflix junkie out there watching this show, so it seems like a pretty appropriate time to address the deeply emotional, tragic, and widespread issue of suicide.

I’ve touched on my own story a little bit in the past, but I suppose if there was ever a time to put everything out there, it’s now.  I’ve always been sensitive to the world around me and in some scenarios, that’s a good thing, in others, it can make things (and life) more difficult.  I can remember seeing the school guidance counselor when I was 10 or 11 because I had a ton of anxiety and worried about my grades to the point that I was developing ulcers. In the sixth grade, there were days I didn’t want to go to school because it was too much for me to bear and I was miserable because I was depressed and just didn’t know what to call it.  High school came and by senior year, those feelings of depression surfaced again.  My parents had divorced, my mom was working two jobs to make ends meet, I was in a toxic relationship with a boy who made it a point to regularly made feel terrible about myself, my self esteem was nonexistent, I was suffocating under the weight of AP classes, and I was trying to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I found myself breaking down behind the wheel on a frighteningly regular basis, and it took every single ounce of self control I had to not follow through with ramming my car into the guardrails on the parkway going as fast as my Mustang GT would take me.  This time, I opened up to my mom and my then-boyfriend, I had an appointment with a therapist who I lied to about not having the plan I just described in order to avoid hospitalization, and decided I’d get over it on my own.  And I did… for a while.  Then in 2013, I was a newlywed struggling to balance my marriage with a full time job, online electives, weekend classes, 20 hours of practicum each week, and homework.  I was stressed, we were strapped financially, and I was just trying to cope with being an adult out in the world on my own for the first time.  Aside from all of that, I was just depressed, plain and simple.  I drank vodka in the bathtub while I cried more often than I like to admit, and I spent even more time crying in bed, unwilling to socialize or leave the house.  Depression feels a lot like having an elephant strapped to your chest while you try to swim through hurricane-strength waves 6 miles from shore.  But I got through it because I was finally open about it with a select few and I refused to let it control my life.

Fast forward to 2015: I was on my way home late one night from a neighboring town.  My mom was driving and suddenly, a white, ’90s model Buick floored it past us in the left lane, swerved in front of us, and slammed into the rock on the side of the road easily going 80+ mph without ever hitting the brakes.  The car flipped up into the air and landed right side up.  We immediately called 911 and ran to help the person behind the wheel.  The front end and the driver side of the car were wrecked to the point that the motor of the car was resting in his bloodstained lap.  The amount of blood on his person and the car was sobering; it covered the bottom of the driver side door and the man behind the wheel, and he was screaming for help while at the same time asking us to just let him die.  While we waited for the ambulance to get there, my mom and I talked with the driver.  He asked us to tell his two young daughters, whose names I still remember, that he loved them.  As if the lack of brake marks on the road weren’t indicators enough, talking to him that night proved he never intended to walk away from the accident that night.  Thankfully, a doctor happened upon the accident on his way home that night just before the ambulance arrived.

I couldn’t sleep that night.  Every time I closed my eyes, I could hear the sound of the car racing past us and the crumbling metal hitting the rock.  I could see him screaming in pain and crying out for help.  I could see all the blood and the motor on his legs, and I wondered if he would ever have use of them again.  For months after, I was very skittish on the parkway when people passed me because I had flashbacks of his desperate attempt to end whatever suffering he was dealing with, and I would relive the incident in my head.  The day after the accident, my mom called the hospital he was taken to to check on him and the nurse explained he was doing well.  The local newspaper and the police who arrived at the scene called it an accident and said he lost control of his vehicle.  I’m sure they saw that as doing him a favor, but I hope he got the help he needed.

Being present that night, sharing in such a traumatic experience with a stranger, gave me a different perspective altogether when dealing with my own rounds with depression from that point forward.  In typical Amanda fashion, I ended up binge watching 13 Reasons Why and it made me think about my reasons for wanting to end it all in the past, and looking back, it’s clear to me now that my reasons for living outweighed the list of negatives in my life.  Sometimes, it can be really, really difficult to think of even one thing worth living for when you’re in the thick of the soul sucking monster that is depression, so I’ve made a list in case you’re currently in that situation.

Here are 5 reasons to live:

  1. The Future
    Here’s the thing about all of my bouts with depression: they got better.  I hate to think about everything I would’ve never experienced had I ended my own life when the thought originally occurred to me.  I graduated high school as a valedictorian, a lifelong goal at that point.  I graduated college with honors.  I met the love of my life, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who thinks the sun rises & sets with me, and I have an amazing job doing what I love.  I’ve held my best friend’s firstborn, stood next to her at her wedding, celebrated multiple births in my family and several birthdays.  I’ve taken trips, saw George Jones at his very last concert, flew for the first time, and laughed until I cried instead of crying myself to sleep.  If it seems like you just can’t go on, give it another day.  And then the day after that.  Eventually, things will improve, even if you can’t fathom the possibility.
  2. Your Testimony
    You know what happens when you’re open about your own struggles?  You open the discussion about things that NEED to be discussed and you help others overcome the same struggles.  Instead of being another tragedy, you can be an inspiration to someone else who is struggling to keep their head above water. As someone who has dealt with depression in many forms in the past, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy and I would much rather be their inspiration to keep going.
  3. The Poor Soul Who Finds You
    The scene in 13 Reasons Why during which Hannah’s parents find her lifeless body absolutely broke me.  I found myself crying hysterically along with her mother because I could empathize with her.  How would I feel if I found my own daughter, my pride and joy, in a pool of her own blood because she felt her life was worthless and she didn’t have any other way out?  How would I feel about my mother finding my body?  What about a stranger whose life is forever changed in the worst way because of a decision you made?  I have the unique perspective of someone who has both contemplated suicide and witnessed a suicide attempt.  I can tell you that the man’s suicide attempt shook me for more than just a couple of days. I thought of him and his family everyday for the longest time, and even though it’s been 2 years, I still think of him and that night often.  And I didn’t even know him.  And he lived.  Imagine if things had been slightly different.
  4. Your Life Has Value
    I know it may not feel like it, I’ve been there, but your existence is a good thing.  If you feel like you aren’t contributing anything by being on the planet, change it and not by choosing suicide.  Sign up to be a bone marrow donor and save a life instead of taking yours.  Volunteer at a local nursing home and hear stories of how life is full to the very end.  Help out at an animal shelter and spend some quality time with a furbaby who definitely appreciates you and your presence.  The list goes on and on.  You matter, you are worthy, and you belong here!
  5. You Will Be Missed
    Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Alexander McQueen.  Do you really think the world is a better place without them?  Yeah, me neither.  I knew none of those men,  but their deaths still sadden me.  Why would you ever want to inflict the same pain you’ve been experiencing on someone else?

Help is out there, people care, there is hope and I’m living proof.
Your story isn’t over yet:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Project Semicolon
You can even email me if you need someone to talk to: marriedwithfurchildren@gmail.com

Child-like Faith

While I was pregnant with Ellie, I heard countless cliches about pregnancy and parenting, and some of them hit home a little more than others.  This week, while Ellie was throwing a fit because I’d taken something away from her, I was reminded of this particular bit of insight from some of our church family: “Being a parent gives you a whole new perspective on God’s love for us.  It gets you a little bit closer to fully understanding it.”

Once I remembered our friend saying that, I made a list of the other times it clicked with me that day alone and I’m basing this post on said list.  I can only imagine how long it would’ve been if I had been keeping a list from the beginning!

“I don’t want you to hurt yourself!”

Ellie spends the majority of her day actively trying to kill herself by seeking light sockets in which to stick her itty bitty baby fingers and attempting to swallow items that pose as a choke hazard.  You know, typical baby stuff.  She’s also really good at bypassing every single toy she owns and, instead, searching for cleaning products that I thought were out of her reach.  On this particular day, she proudly presented me with her latest hazardous treasure (I’m racking my brain trying to remember what it was and it’s just not coming to me!) and I immediately snatched it up.  Her mouth, which had previously formed a huge grin, displaying her bottom two teeth, quickly contorted into a full blown chin-quivering frown accompanied by furrowed brows and plenty of tears.  “I don’t want you to hurt yourself!” I said, as I picked her up to comfort her.
It was then that the first parallel formed for me.  She was so proud and excited about what she had in her hand, I thought, but it’s because she doesn’t see the danger that it causes.  She was just happy to have it in the moment and doesn’t understand that I’m just trying to protect her from what I know will happen.
Are we not the same way as adult Christians from time-to-time?  We get so angry and disappointed when something we wanted just doesn’t work out, or we just assume God wasn’t listening to us in the first place.  Jobs fall through, relationships fail or never happen to begin with, so on & so forth.  Instead of trying to see it from His perspective -that He was protecting us- we, too, pout like toddlers. See where I’m going with this?

“I’m right here!”

Now that she’s nearly 9-months-old, separation anxiety has set in full force with sweet Ellie.  Sometimes, I leave her in her room with the baby gate up in the doorway so she’ll stay put  (like I said, the kid thinks of a thousand new and exciting ways to put herself in harms way every. single. day).  I’m out of the room long enough to go get a sippy cup or grab a ringing phone and she can still see me, but that doesn’t stop her from screaming at the baby gate as if she’s been abandoned in the wilderness to fend for herself.  “I’m right here! I haven’t left you, you’re alright!”
As soon as the words leave my mouth, I’m almost always reminded of Deuteronomy 31:6, ” So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
I can’t really get frustrated with my child for screaming at the top of her lungs because she thinks I’ve left her when I do the same thing with God, now can I?  Multiple times just in the last year, I’ve found myself feeling as though God had abandoned me.  It felt like I was in this on my own and He’d just left me to drown, when in reality, I have just been throwing a tantrum at my metaphorical baby gate.  He hasn’t, even for a second, left me and I am, in fact, alright.

“I’ve got you!”

You know how I said that Ellie is forever putting herself in harm’s way?  Well, sometimes I’m not quick enough to stop the inevitable from happening.  Earlier tonight, I was bathing her in the sink and she decided to put her face in the water to blow bubbles, but it backfired and ended up going up her nose instead.  This is a mild example.  A better example would probably be one of the many times she’s rolled off the bed or put all of her weight on something flimsy and fallen in the floor.  I may have told her no a thousand times, but when she falls on time 1,001, I’m there to pick her up when she’s bawling her eyes out and hurting from what is basically a self-inflicted injury, and I tell her, “I’ve got you!  It’s going to be okay.”

I don’t think that one needs any explanation.

If I really thought about it or kept this list longer than one day, I’m sure I could come up with a million other comparisons between parenting Ellie and God’s love for us as our Father.  The most important lesson I’ve learned in being a mama, however, is a little different.  I’ve learned that I need to be more like Ellie.  She might get a little impatient with her meals, but she knows I’m going to provide them.  She crawls to me when she’s hurt because she knows I’ll take care of her.  She wants nothing more than to be with me simply because she loves me.  I’ve said in a previous blog that I am her comfort & her life source, and she is aware of both of those things.  It’s my hope that I can demonstrate these same behaviors in my relationship with God, and everyday I’m learning.  My 8 month old is the greatest teacher when it comes to child-like faith.

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

A couple months back, I ran into my ex’s mother, the woman I assumed would one day be my mother-in-law, with my  daughter in tow.  Even though I’d seen her once or twice around town while I was still pregnant, something about Ellie looking at her with carbon copies of Phillip’s eyes made this interaction different than the others.  I left the store that day feeling nostalgic in a very bittersweet way.

Her son and I were together for 4 years throughout high school and the beginning of college.  He was my first love and I sincerely believed we would get married someday… until I learned he had the ring I wanted hidden in his room and I guess the weight of the impending question set in with me.  Our relationship was one of those that was awesome when things were good, but toxic when they weren’t which was more often than not.  Allow me to quote Eminem in describing it as, “That’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano.”

I won’t bash him, but I won’t romanticize our teenage love affair either.  The good did not outweigh the bad.  I’m referring to both of us when I say that there was a lot of negativity along the way.  Emotional (occasionally, physical) abuse, punching of steering wheels after a fight, screaming, yelling, tears, and a couple of break ups thrown in for good measure made up our time together.  We were jealous, controlling, and overall, immature. I’ll admit, part of the appeal of our relationship was that it was never boring.  I think I was addicted to the chaos in the beginning, and over time, I wanted it to work so badly that I just ignored all of the red flags along the way. However, none of those things were a foundation on which I wanted to build a marriage, and it was when I started picturing our future together without my rose colored glasses that I realized we didn’t really have a future.

We were not good for each other and it took me a while to realize that.  Judging by the posts I see everyday on social media, there are plenty of other women out there struggling with the same relationship problems, which is why I felt compelled to write this blog.

It’s a little sad that someone who was such a major part of my past is now a stranger to me, sure, but I love my life now.  I never imagined myself being happy with anyone else while we were still together even when things were terrible simply because I was afraid of the unknown.  Did we love each other?  I can’t speak for him, but I did, absolutely.  Was it the kind of love that endures a lifetime?  No, and I never would have been able to experience the kind that does if I hadn’t been brave enough to leave.

Despite knowing we weren’t right for each other even back then, I can remember saying to him more than once that the idea of one day running into him in public with another man’s baby broke my heart.  But when that actually happened on Friday (given, it was his mom, not him), it was fine.  I’m doing well, his mom says he’s doing well and has a family of his own, and I can’t imagine that would’ve been the case for either of us if we had stayed together.

Looking back on our time together, I can see everything so clearly and I’m happy to say I don’t recognize the person I was back then.   As badly as I wanted it to work with him at the time, I’m glad that it didn’t.  My life now is everything I hoped it would be and I genuinely hope the same for him.  Life is long and complicated with a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way, and emotions & memories tend to go hand-in-hand, but sometimes you’ve got to see things for what they are instead of what you want them to be.

Forcing pieces to fit never made a pretty puzzle and relationships, I’ve found, are the same way.  I try not to draw comparisons between my marriage and that relationship, but I will say that God’s plan for my love life has gone much more smoothly than my own, which isn’t really all that surprising.  Like I said before, I was addicted to the chaos because I confused drama with passion, but Phillip is easy to love.  Our relationship is calm, not to be confused with boring, and I wish I could’ve understood that at 17 just as badly as I wish I could get that through to the women on social media who are forever back and forth with boyfriends because of history.

I left the store wondering what my 16-year-old self would have thought about my run-in in the baby food aisle and all that’s happened in between.

Life’s weird, y’all. But hindsight is 20/20.

 

 

 

I am Mama, Hear Me Roar

I’ve been 100% open and honest about the challenges and less than pleasant parts of motherhood,  so I felt it was only fair to be equally as transparent about the good stuff.  I know, I know, you read all the flowery stuff on your Facebook newsfeed, but I mean there is a reason people continue to procreate.

If you’ve not read my other posts, the first few months were rough, and not in a normal newborn/first time mom kind of way.  She had a tongue tie which made nursing all but impossible, we learned when she was around 4 months old that she has reflux, and she was, still is, a high needs baby.  Everyone told us that it would get easier, that we would eventually wish that time would slow down.  When she screamed all day and stayed up all night, I called those people liars (that’s the G-rated version of what I called them anyway) but they ended up being right.

My sweet Ellie is 7 months old now and despite all the hard times, I really do wish I could put time in slow motion because it’s all going by so quickly!  I’ve grown to truly, madly, deeply love being her mother.  Nothing else I do in life will ever be as meaningful as caring for and raising my tiny human, and I think that has finally started to sink in with me.

Everyone says that you can’t imagine the love you have for a child until you experience it for yourself, and while it’s a massive cliche, it’s completely true.  I was drinking my morning coffee in her bedroom floor with her a few days ago, watching her play, and I was in awe of what her little hands were capable of doing.  She has gone from being my 8lb 15oz newborn to being this inquisitive little creature who crawls and uses her tiny hands with impressive dexterity to turn the pages in her books and inspect whatever she can reach.  She noticed me watching her, looked up at me and smiled before crawling up into my lap and jabbering.

She’s mastered dada and recently learned how to blow raspberries -she’s especially fond of the noise she can make by blowing onto hard surfaces which she thinks is hilarious- but the rest of the time she babbles like we’re having a conversation.  Her little eyebrows furrow and raise as though she’s experiencing a thousand different emotions during her monologue, and I can’t wait for the day that we can have a real conversation.  Nothing I’ve ever done has ever felt as fulfilling as raising her, especially when I have had the gift of watching her learn and grow over the last 7 months.

The world is still brand new to her and I get to experience everything through her eyes.  She views everything with such wonder and excitement that I can’t help but marvel at her.  The love I have for this child is too intense for words.  I sneak into her room at night just to watch her sleep and, in the morning, I make a fool of myself just to see her laugh.  Her eyes crinkle up, dimples form in her cheeks, her mouth opens wide enough to expose her two bottom teeth, and she buries her face in whatever is closest because she can’t control her laughter.  And my heart swells.  And I know that I’m doing something right because she’s thriving and happy, which makes me thriving and happy.

Ellie is beautiful and smart.  She’s curious, funny, adventurous, bubbly, social, and sweet.  She’s independent, sassy, and expressive.  She’s a Texas-sized blessing in a petite little package, better than any baby I could’ve ever dreamed up, and God knew exactly what He was doing when he put us together.

She is a ton of work –a full time, unpaid, no days off or vacations ever, kind of job, but the benefits are worth it.  I am the center of her entire world, and the smile she gives me over the edge of her crib when she wakes up in the morning lets me know it.  I am her comfort, I am her life source, I am her caregiver.  I’m a milk making, pattycaking, lullaby singing, bedtime story reading, peek-a-boo playing superwoman.  I am Mama, hear me roar!

 

Say Say Oh Playmate

“Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the Ya-Yas.”
― Rebecca Wells, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

In 1996, a wire haired dachshund named Mitzy changed my life.  My dad had gotten her for me from the local shelter when I was insanely sick as a way to make me feel better. The problem was, the saying ‘have legs, will travel’ definitely applied in this situation because she ran away constantly.  Fed up with having to go back to the shelter on a regular basis because animal control had picked up the little fugitive again, my parents suggested that I give her to the little girl whose house Mitzy had chosen as a regular hideaway.

“This little girl has a fenced in back yard.  Her mama said she’s been outside playing with her all day, maybe we should give Mitzy to her.”

I thought it was a complete injustice because Mitzy was supposed to be my dog.  I didn’t give a rip if that little girl had a fenced in back yard.  Good for her, what does that have to do with me?  I thought to myself.  After being told that I was free to visit whenever I wanted and it was explained to me that the fence would keep Mitzy from potentially being hit or taken into the Humane Society for the umpteenth time, I agreed.  And I immediately took the family up on their offer to  visit Mitzy, which is when my best friend, Tabi, came into the picture.

As it turns out, the fence did little to suppress Mitzy’s gypsy soul because she ran away from their house too and never returned, which devastated her dad but had no effect whatsoever on our friendship.  Because of that awful little dog, she and I became best friends instantly and for the next several years we practically lived at each others houses.  We were nearly polar opposites, but we got along like siblings.  She was very athletic and I painted my nails to match her softball team’s colors.  I played with Barbies, she collected them and tortured me by keeping them in their boxes.  I insisted on arts & crafts, and her mom banned those sorts of things because she knew we’d ruin the carpet. She tanned easily, I fried like bacon, which leads me to my first anecdote.

Like all southern mamas (and probably moms everywhere, I can only speak for those in KY), her mother told us to ‘quit running in and out’ and forced us to pick one or the other.  As I said before, Tabi was very athletic and never endured a sunburn, but I agreed to play outside anyway because she had a trampoline and my mom would never let me have one because I was accident prone and she’d seen a kid break his arm on one when I was still in diapers.  (Honestly, her swing-set was way more dangerous.  The only time I ever got close to having a swing level with the top of a swing set was at her house.  I stopped trying to do that because the chains broke and I hit the ground with a solid thud that knocked the breath out of me.  Thinking I was dying, she took off running to her house screaming, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Manda’s hurt!”  I swear, if ever a child came close to being as clumsy as Eugene from Hey! Arnold, it was me.) We spent hours on that trampoline competing to see who could jump higher.  Mom didn’t know until recently that we hosed it down with water because we thought it was more fun that way and it kept us cool.  No one ever got hurt, though Tabi did end up nearly falling off at one point; her bathing suit strap caught on the springs on the way down and kind of yo-yo’d her, but she never actually hit the ground!  On one occasion, I fell asleep on that trampoline… in the middle of the day, in the middle of the summer, and she never woke me up.   Once marshmallow white, I became Mattel logo red and experienced sun poison for the very first time in my life.  My lips quadrupled in size and my mom slathered me in aloe for days after that.  Fear not, reader, Tabi got hers.

My brother used to race motorcycles in the AMA Midsouth series, which just means he raced in the woods instead of on a motocross track, pretty much every weekend and my dearest Tank (if you’ve not read my older posts, my iPhone used to correct Tabi to Tank and it stuck) would tag along to keep me company.  As long as we didn’t wander too far, my mom let us explore the woods to keep ourselves entertained, and during a race when the weather was just starting to turn cool, we discovered a little creek.  While exploring the bank of the creek, we noticed that it narrowed a bit and there was a hill on the opposite side we wanted to climb.  Slightly taller than me at the time, I convinced Tabi that if she got a running start, she could probably make it across and we could explore some more.  Unfortunately for Tabi, she listened to me.  In my defense, she did make it across, but she lost her balance and windmilled her arms for a few seconds before landing in the middle of the creek like she was about to make a snow angel.  Like I said before, it was starting to get a little chilly out so she needed to change clothes, but didn’t have any with her since my mom didn’t expect us to get wet.  Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) for Tabi, my mom had some garbage bags full of clothes to be donated to Goodwill in the trunk of her car, and Tabi had to sport a teddy bear sweater and green stretch pants for the rest of the day.  I like to think it was the universe paying her back for my potential case of skin cancer later in life.

So much of my childhood was spent with the girl I still call my best friend that I can, and likely will in future posts, go on and on with stories like these. Tabi was and still is like a sister to me; her family is my family and vice versa.  We were in each others weddings.  If

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Say say oh playmate, come out & play with me…

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…& we’ll be jolly friends forevermore

not for her, I may not have met Phillip because it was her idea to go out that night.  She was there the night he proposed and she was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant.  She keeps Ellie for me on a regular basis and she gets it when I don’t immediately respond to texts because she, too, is busy raising a tiny human.

Last week after I went to pick Ellie up from her house following an out of town meeting, we went to eat lunch together along with our munchkins.  When we were getting ready to leave, Tabi told her little boy to give Ellie a hug bye; Ellie grabbed his face with both hands and gave him a slobbery kiss.  Later that day, I was telling my mom about it and how precious it was and she mentioned how she loves watching as the generations continue, and it really put things into perspective for me.

I don’t know many people who are able to say that they even speak to their childhood best friends, but I’m blessed enough that our kids adore each other and will grow up together.  I’m so blessed that I can lean on her for prayer or just someone to listen to me rant about the same things I’ve been ranting about since the ’90s.  She’s my brutally honest voice of reason when I need it (she couldn’t lie to me if she tried, the girl doesn’t have a poker face, bless her) but she listens without judgement.  Out of all I’ve been given in life, my best friend is one of my biggest (and oldest!) blessings, and I am just so very grateful for her.

And I guess I should also be grateful for the Amazing Disappearing Mitzy: official sponsor of a 20 year friendship.

 

Nightmares

Last night was a long night, and unlike months past, it had nothing to do with the little one refusing sleep.  Around 4AM, I woke up nearly in tears because of the nightmare I’d just had.  It was so vivid and realistic that I’m positive this one is going to haunt me for a few days, if not longer.  This was not like nightmares of my childhood that often involved monsters or leprechauns (long story, basically I saw the movie Leprechaun at a very early age and not gonna lie, I still have a little bit of an irrational fear of the creatures because of that creepy, low-budget movie) after which I could wake up and tell myself it wasn’t real.  This one was terrifying because it was filled with things that can and have happened.

This is the second dream in a week in which I was terminally ill.  It started a few days ago with a dream that I was at a wedding and suddenly couldn’t see or walk straight for no apparent reason, and though it was never directly stated, it was implied that I was not well.  In last night’s dream, similarly, I had vision issues but I was also having serious difficulty talking and no one could tell me why.  Phillip drove me from doctor to doctor and not a single one had an answer for my sudden loss of motor skills.  He helped me onto and off of multiple elevators in various hospitals, tests were run, symptoms were noted, but nothing got better.  Towards the end of the dream, I strained to say to the doctor seeing me, “Please help me.  I don’t want to die.”

While en route to the last appointment, there was a bombing locally and we didn’t have Ellie (our daughter) with us so I instantly started to panic because we were not safe and I wasn’t sure she was either.  I didn’t know where she was, who was watching her, and if they had been affected by the bombing.  People were dying all around, violence ensued and I was still dying with no way to protect her from any of it.

Fast forward to real life:
I kept thinking about this terrible dream all morning including while I watched her play.  She is so innocent and blissfully unaware of the horrific realities of the world around her, and it crushes me that I won’t be able to protect her from it forever.  The kid was not even 24 hours old yet, and the Dallas shooting was plastered all over every news station imaginable as I ate my breakfast from the hospital bed.  The NY Times called it, “…the deadliest [attack] for law enforcement officers in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”

When I look back on 2016, I don’t have a lot of fond memories aside from the birth of my daughter.  The year was peppered with mass shootings, violence, natural disasters, and division nationwide on virtually every major issue.  North Korea tested nuclear weapons, ISIS still exists, and racial tension still exists. I am terrified of the world in which my daughter will grow up and all that she will experience along the way.

Just in the last week, there was a major fire in the Smoky Mountains leaving the death toll (so far) at 14 with 130 injured and 17,000 acres of some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen were destroyed in a fire they believe was man-made.  Her dad & I hiked through those mountains on our honeymoon and she will never be able to see them the way we did, even if the trees were replanted today.  There couldn’t be a more appropriate symbol for 2016 than that.

I don’t want her to live a life full of fear, sorrow, and suffering.  I want the world to be a better place for her, one that allows me to sleep at night knowing that she’s safe.  My only hope is to raise a child who is genuinely good, who not only cares about the world around her, but does something to change it for the better.

My life was simpler when my nightmares stayed tucked away in my imagination.

 

The 12 Hour Date

Every year, I retell the story of how Phillip & I met because I’m still amazed after 5 years at the fate of it all.  It’s a good story, but it’s been told.  What hasn’t been told is the story of our first date.

I can remember asking my mom when I was little how you are supposed to know when you meet The One.  I don’t think she ever gave me a direct answer aside from, “You just know.”

Her answer was not very specific but the meaning behind it, much like the love you experience for your child,  never really sank in with me until I was much older and experienced it myself after finishing up my 12-hour first date with Mr. Cooper.  There hasn’t been a single day since we met that Phillip & I haven’t spoken, and that includes the week after we met leading up to our first date.  Every day, I found myself looking forward to talking to him and I can still remember how my heart jumped each time my phone dinged because I hoped it was him.  I had just gotten out of a 4-year relationship, so the prospect of something new was equal parts exciting and terrifying, and I had a lot of nerves about that first date.  Thankfully, it went far better than I ever could have anticipated.

The date started with us going to eat Chinese food because earlier in the week he had asked me what my favorite food was.  When I say it’s Chinese, I mean that I kept the lights on at my favorite buffet, Imperial Garden, for a couple of years with my regular trips for cashew chicken takeout.  I had joked with my best friend’s mom, “That’s it!  I’m going to marry him!” based entirely on him saying that he, too, loved Chinese food.  However, the plan was to eat Hibachi (which I know isn’t Chinese, but it still falls into the Asian category) and that plan quickly went awry.  Folks, this was the end of July in Kentucky.  If you’ve never been here, know that it gets hotter than the hinges on the gates of Hell in the summer here and the humidity only makes it more miserable.  You combine that with the heat off of the hibachi grill and you end up with a recipe for the sweatiest first date known to man.  Approximately 5 seconds after entering the doors, we decided to go next door for some cashew chicken & general tso’s instead.  We ate, we talked, we laughed, and I loved every minute of it.

When we finished, he paid like a gentleman and we went back to my house for movies and more talking.  He showed up to my house promptly at 6 that Friday and that date didn’t end until 6 the next morning.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, but there was no walk of shame happening.  In fact, nothing physical happened at all aside from a goodbye kiss at the very end.  Instead, we talked for half a day and would’ve kept going had it not been so late/early.  It was after he’d left that I realized the length of the date, we hadn’t run out of things to talk about and I hadn’t been bored even for a second.  Nothing was forced, nothing was awkward, and I’d had a genuinely good time with a genuinely good guy who had a charming smile and a great sense of humor.

Speaking of humor, mine is either loved or people don’t get it at all.  Phillip laughed at my jokes and didn’t look at me as though I might be a little off in the head. He appreciated my taste in music, though he admitted he was surprised by it because apparently I look like a Billboard Top 40 kind of gal and he was impressed when I recognized his Eric Clapton references.  I liked the new music he introduced me to, but the fact that everything was new wasn’t even the most appealing part of this blossoming relationship, it’s that it all felt old like the perfectly worn in sweatshirt we all reach for on lazy Saturdays. And I knew.

I originally wanted to detail every moment of our first date, but I realized in typing everything that the details aren’t important.  When I look back on that time, I remember some of the stuff we said, that we played Super Nintendo, and that he introduced me to Edward Sharp  & the Magnetic Zeros, sure.  I remember what we wore and how his cologne smelled.  I remember the lingering feeling of the  goodbye kiss on my lips too, but what stands out to me the most was the ease of it all.  It felt like we’d known each other all along and I understood what my mom had told me when I was little.  I just knew.  I was able to be myself around him and we just clicked.  He got my references, I laughed at his jokes, we filled each other in on the parts of each others lives we had missed and it was like we just picked up where we left off even though that was the beginning.  When he left that morning, I just had this overwhelming sense that it would work, and I was right.  That 12 hour date  led to 3 years of marriage (and counting!) and a 4 month old baby with his eyes.  Has it been easy?  Not always.  But I wouldn’t dream of sharing this life with anyone else, because even after all this time, he’s my best friend, my other half, and I’m so so glad I agreed to that first date.