Category: Blogging


blossom1There’s an old, familiar face lurking in the shadows of my heart, and it doesn’t look as though he’s going away any time soon. Grief. He started out as disappointment and sadness, when the first of our babies passed very early in my womb, leaving What Could Have Been to linger where Hope and Promise and Joy used to be. He stayed a while, but Optimism shushed him, till the second miscarriage happened, then the third, and finally the fourth where he rose up in my heart and flailed and screamed and cursed the earth and the sky and everything in between for all that was promised and stolen from us. His rage would come and go like the wind, rolling dark clouds upon my horizon before the crashing storm of of his despair consumed my every breath. Then he would leave again, and I would wrap my  empty, motherless arms around myself, waiting for the pain to stop and life to move on. Eventually it did. Until that one day when it didn’t.

On April 19th, 2017, my beautiful boy dog, my Hooch, passed from cancer and made his journey across the rainbow bridge. Though we had a few months to prepare ourselves while we gave him medicine and love, fighting against the losing battle of the cancer attacking his lymph nodes, we weren’t ready. I don’t think there would have been any sufficient amount of time to be ready, to be honest. I was blessed with a period of being home, a fortunate place to be for it meant I could lie with him on the floor, wrap him in blankets and spoil him completely, and whisper all the promises of peace which awaited him on the other side of the bridge. Though I couldn’t bear the thought of saying this goodbye, I held onto this one, simple truth – he wouldn’t be alone for he would have our beautiful children to play with while we waited for the day we would all be together again. When he passed in our arms, my heart shattered so completely I thought there would never be a day again where I would breathe without crying.blossom2

How it all began

Hooch came into our lives in 2008, at the approximate age of two years old.

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One of the first pictures of Hooch

I told hubs that if he wanted a dog, he had to go to the shelter and meet the dogs, then pick the dog he wanted me to meet, and I would meet that dog. I warned him – perfectly seriously – that if he introduced me to three dogs and asked me to choose, we would be leaving the shelter with three dogs.

He chose Hooch.

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Hooch after we took him home

Hooch was a skinny, nervous nellie and had been gifted the name Spruce because he was found in December and he didn’t have a name that they knew. We don’t know his origin story, but we fell in love with him immediately. When he bounded over to us with his huge, goofy grin, there was an unmistakable Turner & Hooch moment. And so his name became Hooch.

He was a gentle soul and – if not for his nervous disposition – he would have made a wonderful therapy dog. He could sense when you needed a hug, and he would worm his way onto your lap wherein he would roll over and beg for belly scratches. Whatever you were feeling before melted away into a peace and love. All thanks to this goofy, big chicken, rescue of a dog.

Two years later, we got him a little sister…

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Sonny Valentine

…and they became inseparable.

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Sonny & Hooch

There was much joy and laughter in our lives but, just like everyone’s story, they were punctuated with events which left us wrecked and asking what we could have done differently. Through the housing crash that saw us lose our home – and the little room we longed to turn into our child’s nursery – Hooch was there for us. It was as though he knew what we needed, and in his furry, in-the-moment innocent and loving way, he would gift it to us. He was our grounding when it felt as though nothing else was going the way we wanted.

It’s hard not to rage at God when you are facing unending infertility. Eight years, four losses, and no baby in our arms, the unfairness seemed destined to swallow us whole. Intercut that with our beloved friends effortlessly growing their families with beautiful little humans, and it wasn’t hard to find yourself questioning what you could have done to be punished so mercilessly.

blossom3Yet Hooch continued to gently love on us, even in those darkest moments when we couldn’t love ourselves.

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Bathroom buddy

He would sit by the bathroom sink on “Trash Truck Tuesday” because – though he feared the bathroom for reasons we couldn’t fathom – he feared the monstrous rumbling of the garbage truck more. He saw us as his protectors, as much as he was ours, and we loved him all the more for it.

When he started to get sick, we did everything we could for him. It was hard because we needed to be fair to him even as it meant overriding our heartache that our time as his family was being cut short. The decisions needed to benefit him the most, not prolong his journey through selfishly trying to squeeze out more from him just because we weren’t ready to let him go.

The day my heart shattered

When my beautiful boy finally crossed over the rainbow bridge into the loving arms of our children, my world crashed around me. That old friend, Grief, tore through my heart with such ferocity there were too many nights where the physical act of breathing was too much to bear.

Who could have imagined that the loss of my beautiful boy would unleash the pent-up rage and devastation I’d long thought silenced into submission. Losing him was like losing each of our children all over again, only this time I’d got to hold him and love him, and fill my heart and my memories with the very essence of who he was. There were no ultrasounds of our babies, no handprints or footprints to say they had been there inside my womb. There were no photographs or sounds of laughter to fill my dreams. There was only that old, familiar darkness of Grief pouring through my heart as he teased of What Might Have Been. And now he had Hooch.

Grief is brutal. And he is merciless.

I try and take solace in the fact our children get to know our love for them through the love we have for Hooch, and I try and draw comfort in the knowledge that we will all be together again some day, across that rainbow bridge.blossom4

Meanwhile I have their memories etched upon my skin in beautiful tribute tattoos: four blossoms for the four babies who bloomed all too briefly, and Hooch’s paw print forever upon my shoulder.

Though the shadows of grief have blackened much of this last year I look to this anniversary as a defining moment. My heart aches for my beautiful boy, my goofy peacemaker who could skin a tennis ball in the blink of an eye, and whose idea of a kiss was to come right up to your face, then sneeze. He was a darling of a dog, and despite all the heartache we went through trying and failing to grow the human half of our family, he really did know how to soothe the hurting until it became something you merely carried in your pocket. We had eight and a half years where we had the honor of being his family, and I like to think we did him proud.

I miss him every day. And I still find myself crying because the pain of not having him here is insufferably loud.

But I do him a great disservice when I weep for him to be here with us. He only ever wanted us to be happy. He only ever offered comfort and patience, even if we didn’t feel we deserved it. As I said, he would have been a great therapy dog if he weren’t so ridiculously afraid of random things.

So I will try and do better. I will hold onto the memories and the photographs, and the beautiful moments he gave us. I will endeavor to live my life in a way that would make him know his love wasn’t wasted on me.

And when the time comes that I walk across the bridge and see him and our little ones all fully grown and wrapped in the light of Jesus, I know everything that hurt will melt away, the grief will be silenced once and for all, and there will be only Joy.

It will be a beautiful day.

I love you, Hooch. I will always love you.

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My beautiful boy.

💙

 

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Allowing for suffering.

This is a beautiful and raw look at what faith looks like while you’re suffering. ❤️💔

And Then She Was Free.

Who first said “Time heals all wounds”? Was it Shakespeare?

Whoever it was, they lied. Wounds don’t simply go away, they need dealing with.

It’s one of those revolting bromides that serve only the speaker in the face of another’s pain. A platitude surely sibling to other such unhelpful phrases as:

“It could be worse! Lucky you.”

Or, “It’s not as bad as you think.”

Or, “Calm down, getting upset isn’t going to help.”

Or, “I’m sure they didn’tmeanit.”

Or, “Brave girl, no more tears!”

Or finally, “Don’t cry, dear heart. The milk is spilt.”

What is it about another’s suffering that plants in the human heart such a profound desire to minimise? Isn’t it just about the discomfort of the observer?

Ironically, Christians can be among the worst offenders.

“Well,praisetheLord!They beam as you weep your guts out.God is in control and He…

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Source: Allowing for suffering.

I remember it fondly. It was a beautiful day and the other children were outside at recess (which we call ‘play time’ in Scotland), and I was sitting beside my teacher as we formed each letter on the page, transferring the story in my young mind onto the crisp sheet of paper before us. There were finger spaces between the letters, and I’m sure the letter themselves were untidy, not unexpected since I was perhaps five or six at the time. This was my first story.

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I have no idea what the actual tale was, nor how well it was received, but the memory of the teacher’s patience, and my determination to tell my story have lived with me ever since. And I’m still trying to tell the darn story.

When I moved to the USA, I had a nugget of an idea, and perhaps a dozen chapters of an almost-story I’d started after college. Both were sitting unfinished as I’d lost confidence in the project. Adventures about magic, it seems, aren’t ‘Christian’, so I held onto that as the excuse to no longer continue.

It was at a friend’s Christmas party in Malibu that my new friends found out I was a writer. My wonderful hubs blabbed. They knew I was an actor and had done theater my whole life. They knew my beloved had proposed while I was performing in a show in Balloch, Scotland. They knew I’d moved five thousand miles for love. But they had no idea this half-started book and this knot of an idea still lived inside me, till my darling spouse told them all at the party. And therein started the journey through taking this idea and actually turning it into a novel.

Full disclosure: it’s almost finished. There are only a few chapters to go, and I’m very excited to write it. I’m also terrified and intimidated to write it, but it’s too good not to finish. I owe it to myself to at least get to the end of the last chapter. Not to mention, I owe it to my hubs and the many, many wonderful friends who have cheered me on as I have planned, mapped it, written, re-written, and edited all the chapters so far to within an inch of their lives. I’m so in love with my book that I can’t believe it’s actually mine.

The funny thing is, some of the most wonderful changes have come from taking the things I’ve learned in acting. When we break down a character to understand what they’re feeling, why they’re acting this way, what the relationship is with each of the other characters in the scene…. all those things translate to the written word too. When I was working through the core of the storyline, and pushing my character into and out of different scenarios, I tried to stay anchored to her drive. What was her purpose in this moment. What was she feeling over there. Why is this important to her? All the things we do and decide when we take a script and try to tap into the authentic person we’re wanting to represent.

Sometimes it’s easier to create a character on paper because you are in full control of all the scenarios and emotions that you want to showcase in the moment. Sometimes being a character on stage is easier because you have other cast members pushing the narrative with you. For me, both are similar yet different, and both require a great deal of being able to connect and react to emotional, challenging, or extraordinary situations. And, I can tell you, it’s wonderful.

Across the road, lanterns glowed like blurred suns against the inky blackness, their burnt-orange aura easing a finely drawn path through the narrow, cobbled streets.

The Hideaway, Chapter 1

A dear friend of mine asked to read the chapters I had so far, and the feedback came back that I had “major writing chops” but they didn’t know where the story was going. This wasn’t unexpected since I was writing every chapter on a whim, and trying to work out where it was going as I did. That doesn’t work when you’re trying to engage readers. So the re-write began.

At that time, he suggested I also start posting extracts online, to garner interest as well as accountability for finishing the story. The feedback was wonderful and – with a lot more rewriting – I finally reached the point where the finale was right around the corner.

Then I stopped.

In all honesty, it was a massive panic attack that stopped me from writing it. What if it sucked? What if it was disappointing? What if it was a letdown to all those wonderful friends who had invested all that time and effort into reading it?

And on the flip side: what if it was actually any good?

 

I think the latter was the hardest to grapple with. Having grown up the way I did, I struggled with a fear that all good things are temporary and therefore will disappear. So would I lose my book? Would it be swindled away from me, or somehow accidentally deleted from my computer so that it no longer exists? What if they wanted another story? What if this labor of love is all that I have?

Just so you know, anxiety sucks. It’s the hardest thing to battle because it’s all inside your head and your imagination, writing one “if only” on top of another until you are literally too scared to leave your house in case something tragic happens. It’s easier to stay quiet, resign yourself to living in the smallest space possible, hug your dogs, and will the world to leave you alone. Facing the anxiety is like trying to slay a dragon that refuses to die, while it insults you and and tells you all the things about yourself that you’re trying to forget.

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So this is me standing up to the dragon.

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I have four chapters to go till my book is done. I’m posting the new, fresh, beautifully revised chapters on a site called Patreon that any and every budding creator should check out. People can pay to read your work, and having people actually wanting to pay to read your work is surprisingly humbling and exciting. They give feedback if they want to, or they simply ‘like’ your work. It tells the anxiety dragon to be quiet. It tells you that you’re not half bad. And it persuades you to keep going.

Everybody has a story in them. I  truly believe that.

Now, go write it.

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