Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Sally: Part 2

As Sally finishes her timeline, we come to a question that will apply to all of us, regardless of the various levels of opinions or thoughtful input we might have about her truths and lies. It is one we've all considered at some level at a point in our lives:

When did "It" become Sally's fault and how is she responsible for her own suffering?



We have all sat with a Sally at any given point in our lives. Sally may be a parent, a spouse, a friend, a church member. We have listened within a moment of time hearing Sally's problems and we have either thought or said,"It is your fault. You need to get over it. You are causing the problems in your life."

No reasonable person would look at seven-year-old Sally and tell her that her poor choices caused her suffering. But she could've called 911. She could've confided in a teacher. If she would have done those things, then perhaps she wouldn't have had to raise her siblings. 

Then what? Foster care? Parental retaliation? It would seem that in the timelines of many there are the "what-ifs" that cause the most frustration either because we'll never know what might have happened or we acknowledge that in choosing another path, suffering was inevitable either way. 

Let's go back to the original question--was Sally responsible for the care of her younger siblings? Factually, yes she was. She became the caretaker. Intrinsically, was she responsible? No one would ever put the responsibility of other children primarily upon their siblings, but it was a difficult choice made by a fearful seven-year-old. As we are forced to consider her timeline we recognize that she was betrayed by her parents, that she must have lived in constant anxiety of someone finding out what was going on at home, and as the caretaker of her siblings often neglected her own needs. She would have also had to rely on her parents in some measure as she could not pay bills, buy food, or operate the washing machine, stove, or any other number of appliances. Instead they often went to school hungry and dirty, welcoming ridicule and more suffering. 

What lie did Sally internalize at a young age? I am responsible for my siblings. I can't buy food. I can't wash clothes. It is my fault they are hungry and dirty and when they are bullied, that is my fault too. 

As Sally details her timeline, she recalls other painful moments that stem from the years of neglect. The helplessness that arrives when you cannot stop an adult from molesting you or your siblings. The anger and outrage in the aftermath when it is your own mother who welcomed in the abuser and denies the abuse occurred. The guilt and disgust felt when you are faced with betraying a parent's secrets or revealing them only to endure the terrifying unknown. 

When lies produce negative emotions, these emotions solicit more negative emotions that help feed the lie. They also produce unhealthy oaths that we use to reinforce the lie's destructive path. 

Sally's negative emotions caused by years of neglect and abuse were fear, helplessness, anger, depression and outrage. As a result, the oath she made to help protect herself became close to her as her only ammunition in a world of chaos and disorder:

I will never allow anyone to hurt my siblings like that again. 

This oath gave Sally a feeling of empowerment. She was older now. She received praise from her teachers concerning her academics. She was smart--too smart to allow drugs and alcohol to overtake her life and hurt the ones she was supposed to love. She could work and take advanced classes--just like she could mother young children and still go to school and get good grades. She would show everyone. She would prove that she was capable.

And Sally did achieve great things. She never did drugs. She never got pregnant. She earned her scholarships. She married a man who did not abuse or abandon her. These are tremendous accomplishments given Sally's history. 

So why is Sally almost 30 years old and still terribly depressed and unfulfilled? 

Sally at 30 shares her frustration, anger, and sadness. It falls on deaf ears. Why is an adult woman still caring for her adult siblings? We would readily give love and compassion to the seven-year-old who lived in constant fear and neglect. When Sally the adult comes to us with her brokenness, it is time to tell her she needs to leave the past behind and move on. 

Sally believed the lie and made the oath. Therefore when her siblings continue to make mistakes and suffer, she relives the failure--and all the emotions that accompany them. If Sally does not accept her brother at 3 AM, drunk and on a methadone binge, he might get arrested. He might crash his car. He might find more drugs and overdose. 

And it would be all her fault. She knows that it disrupts her family, which causes more guilt. In her anger as a child and young adult she vowed she would never let them feel that pain again. Now she is hurting the people who love and need her the most--the ones who need her in a healthy, appropriate context. She is failing everyone, including herself. And she is isolated because no one really understands. They reinforce what she already knows--it's all her fault. No matter what she does, she can't win. She is tired of the failure. She is ready to finally give up as depression, uncertainty, and hopelessness take hold.

This is why as we write our own timelines, we will be asking God to show us through each word, each event, each struggle and moment of pain, what lies we believed, what oaths we may have pledged, and rely on Him to mend our brokenness. It is God who has seen each moment. It is God alone who can address the most painful wounds we carry for ourselves or on behalf of others. 

This is also why as we journey with one another through healing and restoration, we will never have to address how Sally or anyone else is to blame. Each will be accountable for their own journey. Each will focus on their own pain and suffering, their own shortcomings, and their own sin. As we seek God to deliver us from the issues we have failed to address, we will allow Him to direct and guide us through our own faults, and rely on Him to show us where forgiveness, repentance, confession, and truth meet practicality. We will trust God to address our wounds in love and compassion.  

Our role in the healing and restoration of others is not to establish blame and punishment--it is to pray, to encourage, and to ask God how our own attitudes are blocking our opportunities to help other broken people find wholeness. 

Questions:

If Sally renounces the lies in her past to embrace the truth, what do you think she would say to herself as a 7-year-old? As a 17-year-old? What compassionate, encouraging words would she have for herself now?

What do you think is more difficult for Sally--to realize the lies she's believed about her mother or the truths? What are the lies and what are the truths? What are the judgments? 

What are some of the lies we believe about forgiving others? What are the emotions we experience as we consider forgiving the people who have caused us the most pain or who have caused pain in the lives of loved ones? 

Sally: Part 1

Sally is the oldest of four children. As she began to construct her personal timeline, she was asked,"Start at the beginning--whatever the beginning is for you--and as far back as you can remember, begin documenting the events that were meaningful in your life. It's important that you don't follow the direction that others might feel are important--a graduation, a marriage, a birth. It's important that you recall what events or circumstances were important to you."

Sally's father left when she was seven and her mother started abusing drugs and alcohol. Sally recalls getting up for school one day, while her mother was passed out with a stranger, and her two younger siblings were on the kitchen floor eating dog kibble from the pet bowl. That was the first of many days she would be responsible for dressing herself and her younger siblings, fixing breakfast and school lunch (when there was food in the house), and ensuring the babies had a bottle and were changed before getting on the bus.





Let's stop here to ask a few questions about Sally's timeline:

Was she responsible for the care of the younger children?

What do you think was her inner dialogue as a seven-year-old child during school hours?

What was her inner dialogue concerning the truth about her parents? How did it relate to her and her siblings specifically? How did it inform her decisions?

Fast forward ten years and Sally has not only "assisted" in raising her siblings but is about to graduate High School with several scholarship offers to universities. As she constructs her timeline she recalls her graduation, not just because it is a life-marker for most of us, but for her it is a unique demonstration of her hard work and effort despite all odds and statistics.

Several years prior, Sally's mother entered a drug and alcohol program which was successful. She got remarried to a man who, although not perfect, was supportive to her mother as well as her brothers and sisters. At a glance, we are happy for Sally's accomplishments given her revelations about her childhood.

Let's stop here to ask a few questions about Sally's timeline:

What has been Sally's dialogue about her mother during all the years she has raised her siblings?

How has that inner dialogue colored her perception of her mother's ability to raise the remaining siblings? 

What emotions did Sally internalize in her youth that are still her personal truths as she considers graduation and leaving home?

As Sally continues her timeline she shares some of the struggles in her first semester. She places a marker on her timeline near the end of her second semester because that is when her younger brother got into trouble at school, endangering another youth to begin a lengthy record he would continue to have with law enforcement.

Sally left college to go home and intervene. She never returned.

Sally had finally earned the opportunity to go out on her own and enjoy the rewards of her hard work. She was free of the stressful circumstances at home. College would be difficult, but certainly could not be as difficult as a child alone, raising other children.

What lies did Sally believe that would cause her to interrupt her life in order to leave behind an open door to freedom and opportunity?

Sally recalls meeting her husband at age 25. She finally met someone that loved her for who she was and was joyful that her oldest sibling Mary was her maid of honor. He realized she had some family problems, but remained supportive for the most part. She got a decent job working at a bank and they started talking about having their own family.

It is now four years into their marriage and Sally's husband, who already has an elementary age child from another relationship, is frustrated by the continual drama her siblings initiate but is even more hurt and confused when Sally drops everything to run to their assistance. She's an intelligent woman--why can't she see that her youngest brother has a drug problem and that it's affecting their marriage? He's stolen money from them (which Sally tried to hide from her husband), he's brought drugs in the house. The police have shown up at all hours of the morning when he has to be up at 6 AM. How does she think they will have a baby and continue to enable the bad behaviors of her family? Can't she see that she's compromising his relationship to his own existing son?

Sally makes the last tick on her timeline. She and her husband have separated.

From the minimal examples listed before, what is the most likely to be Sally's inner dialogue at this point in her life and why? Feel free to make up your own:

"Why do bad things always happen to me?"

"People like me don't deserve to be happy."

"If (a person or people) would just do this (whatever "this" may be), I could have a normal life." 

"It's my fault that (parents, children, spouse, etc) are suffering. They would be better off without me."

"No one ever listens to me."

"It's too difficult to try to change now."

"If I forgive (parent, spouse, abuser, etc) they will get away with what they've done and my pain will continue without vindication." 

"People never love me as much as I love them."

"If I wouldn't have made that mistake, my life would be different. My suffering is my fault. I have gotten what I deserved."

"You can't trust anyone because people will just hurt you."

"If I don't take care of it, no one else will."

Based on what we know of Sally so far from her timeline, what are the possible "truths" accepted by her siblings, her mother, her peers, and her husband about her? 


Just Getting Over It

At some point in our lives, all of us have likely heard or said this phrase:

"Just get OVER it!"

If you're on the receiving end of this phrase, regardless of what "it" may be, you're probably aware of how damaging those words can be.

More often than not, we do not have the capacity to "just get over it." Because it is painful. It is angering. It is wrong. And it won't go away.

The It is a wound. People, events in our past, and even our own beliefs that stem from It then start to contribute to the It as if it were a pet. It is fed. It grows. It takes up more space. It metastasizes and even becomes part of our identity so that the idea of parting with It is even more frightening than living with It the rest of our lives.

We all have our version of It. It robs us of our self esteem. It causes problems in our marriage. It makes us angry and resentful at family, friends, and God. It has taken control of our thoughts, beliefs, and actions and has left part of us in a cage.

As we begin to construct our own timeline of our lives, we'll begin to make discoveries. Our goal is to not only document and consider the facts about what have happened to us, what we've done, or what we haven't done, but to thoroughly attain a deep understanding of the underlying emotions, consequences, and wounds that are still affecting our ability to obtain freedom.

What lies have we learned and embraced as we've navigated life within our own unique circumstances and experiences? 





It is inevitable that whether we are a group of 5 or 25, we have shared several life experiences that have caused wounds: grief, suffering, anger. We all have an inner dialogue. It may sound something like this:

"Why do bad things always happen to me?"

"People like me don't deserve to be happy."

"If (a person or people) would just do this (whatever "this" may be), I could have a normal life." 

"It's my fault that (parents, children, spouse, etc) are suffering. They would be better off without me."

"No one ever listens to me."

"It's too difficult to try to change now."

"If I forgive (parent, spouse, abuser, etc) they will get away with what they've done and my pain will continue without vindication." 

"People never love me as much as I love them."

"If I wouldn't have made that mistake, my life would be different. My suffering is my fault. I have gotten what I deserved."

"You can't trust anyone because people will just hurt you."

"If I don't take care of it, no one else will."


If you can relate to one or more of those inner dialogues, then this study and support group will share tools collectively that may be a conduit to healing from the brokenness and wounds of your past and present.

As you begin to construct your own timeline you may:

Share or keep private any of the information that goes onto it.

Focus on timeline events at your own pace.

Feel free of guilt or pressure if there are some events or circumstances you are not yet able to face.

Commit to participation on your own terms.

We ideally would like to meet as a group, but if you are unable to do so we still want you to be able to get the help and support you need. We will offer online forums and you may set aside times of discussion within the group.

Our ultimate goal will be to discuss and consider several issues or questions:

Is "hate the sin, love the sinner" a Biblical principle?

Who are the people I hate/am angry with/fear/hurt me the most?

What are the Biblical truths about the emotions I experience and how do they relate to my life in a tangible way?

My next post will be about how to construct the timeline of your life, what it may look like, and how it may be used to help you answer tough questions and begin a journey to freedom from the lies that play over and over in our inner dialogue. 




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Discount Yoga Pants (Lucy.com)

Part of the joy of reading Woman's Day has been keeping the back issues to check for sales on the ads. In the February 2017 edition under the style section Feel-Good Clothes, I noticed a pair of Studio Hatha Leggings from Lucy.com.


Usually what I do is wait for a month or several months to pass, then I go back to check which styles or items have gone on sale since advertised. Typically, brand name fashion items will sell through another major department store like Macy's, Belk, or Dillards, or in this case, a sports retailer like Dicks or REI. I always check those stores to compare prices or availability (you can also buy cosmetics through the same avenues--always use a search engine to type in exactly what you want). 

Often I find the brand's own website (for instance, Aerosoles) has a cheaper price than major retailers. Sometimes this is not the case, like another pair of shoes I found in Woman's Day from Mia Shoes. Always check your venues to determine who has a better price with discounts and shipping.

These athletic pants from Lucy.com  were by far, one of the best deals I've seen. My last pair of favorite yoga pants developed a hole in the seam so I needed a good pair (I will expect them to arrive May 2). Lucy.com offered 25% off clearance prices plus an additional 10% off for signing up as a first-time customer (sign up for their email at the bottom of their site). The pants were on sale for $29.97 so with free ground shipping before tax the total came to $20.23. 

Unfortunately, either by a system error or a mistake of my own, the order went through twice (the initial order they cancelled was the higher-priced identical order) and in the midst of attempting to clarify what had gone wrong, I discovered that not only did they cancel the first order due to incorrect stock, but also the second order during the duration of my live chat with the customer service representative.

Having worked for J. Crew direct for a total of 10 years, I realize that sometimes, through no fault of the associates, this can happen because of returns and computer inaccuracies. I was able to call the customer service number to reorder another size (which will hopefully be a better fit after looking at the size charts) at the same price. 

So instead of paying $93.45 (with tax) I paid $21.30--a savings of $72.15 PLUS Swagbucks shopping program allowed me to earn 2 points per dollar which comes to 41 points (the equivalent of $0.41). 


Friday, April 14, 2017

How to Start Healing From Religious Rejection (And the Rest of Them)



As I continue to go through a therapeutic journey, I repeat the scenario in my mind,"How would my life have been different if I stayed in Bible College (like I felt I was supposed to all these decades--deep down, or within denial, or in other contexts)?" The underlying foundation of truth supporting this returning question can also be presented in one specific inquiry: Why would God ask an incapable teenager to remain in a place that was lonely, full of rejection, misery, and darkness?


I have mulled over this question the last few days during depression--a time when I am incapable of doing much more. God has asked,"What have you repeated as truths you learned about yourself during that time of your life?"


This is easy because Bible College was one of the first traumatizing experiences in my life. I went down the list:


1. No good man can ever love a girl like me.


2. I look and act weird. Even though my behavior is correct, if I don't look and act a certain way, I'll never be accepted by religious leaders.


3. Godly leaders accept people based on the way they dress and act, regardless if behind the scenes, they are committing the sins that I'm accused of because I do not dress and act a certain way.


4. Religious leaders are cruel to my mother and want me to accept that cruelty as righteous behavior.


5. People who are like me will be targeted and punished. People who are superficially spiritual will be rewarded and promoted even when they are committing any number of transgressions behind closed doors--or sometimes out in the open, because not all sin is equal. My sin is worse than the sins of these people.


I am still processing this. But God did address the first truth I learned. I thought about a guy I had not recalled in probably 9 or 10 years.


He was from a very religious, pure, Dugger-like family. He was enigmatic although strange and outlandish. He was funny, all the guys liked him. He wasn't afraid of what people thought of him and that especially flowed over into one specific category: his love for me.


I was involved at the time, long distance, with one of the worst boyfriends I've probably ever had. This guy was your prototype Christian male--he was a virgin, committed to purity, he had never dated, he worshiped, read the Bible, quoted Scripture. Yet he loved me. Many of the guys at Bible College warned him about me (even though I myself was still a virgin I was considered sullied). He didn't listen and also defended me.


He snuck up to the women's dorms once and wrote on the dry erase board on my door. And I remembered a conversation that we had in the laundry room. Why I hadn't ever thought of this during years of bad relationships, I thought to myself, I'll never know. But then, of course, I knew: I accepted the lies of others about myself--people who were intended to protect me, love me, and guide me--as truths instead of recognizing their own short-sighted, prideful neglect.


I accepted the lie as truth.


In the laundry room that day, I attempted to dissuade his arguments for why I was worthy--your parents would never accept a girl like me. I smoke. I'm in a relationship. I've done drugs.


I recalled a conversation from 1999 in which this epitome of a good, Christian man rebuked every word and action I wielded to reject him: "My parents will love you because my love for you will demand that they do so. I'll help you stop smoking, because I don't want you to do anything that damages your body. You're in a relationship with a man who treats you poorly and doesn't recognize what you're worth. I know my family would disagree, but I really don't think pot is that bad."


I could not accept him because I could not accept the truth--the real truth--about myself. I left college after my second semester. I can honestly say I have either rarely or never thought about him or those moments of pure, unique affection since they happened.


We had to return a book to Liberty University's library yesterday. We passed the chapel and I had a flashback to praying there after work one night with a very nice-looking, homosexual young man who always wore a suit to work and rarely spoke to anyone. I am certain I have never thought about the event until yesterday. But it came back to me. We had worked the same department one night while I was still part time and for some reason, he opened up to me about some problem he was having.


I can't imagine what would've possessed me to take him to LU's chapel and pray with him and in his standoffish behavior and dignity I cannot fathom why he accepted the invitation. But he did. I don't remember his name or the problem, but what I do remember is his face after the prayer. He looked at me with genuine love and affection.


I'm not quite sure why I thought of that moment. God has asked me,"How would things have been different if you had been the person you are now? How would Bible College have affected you?"


It's an obvious answer to me. I would've known how to act in order to be accepted. I would've seen the same people do the same things but it wouldn't have mattered. I would understand that they are flawed human beings and I would've done the work and accepted the opportunities and ignored the imperfections because people don't change until it is imperative they do so--or a miracle occurs.


"So did you change because it was imperative that you do so or because a miracle occurred?"


Oh. I see where this is going. Kind of.


"I changed because it was imperative that I do so and before You ask why, it was because I had to stop the pattern of rejection by men in my life, I was getting older, and I was still unmarried and childless which I had always assumed was my purpose."


"So if you were the same person you are now and went back in time to Bible College, you would've used what you've learned so far to become married and have a family?"


I thought about the wonderful guy who said all those powerfully gracious and intuitive things to me, about me. Would I have wanted to marry him?


The answer is no. I wanted the truths he spoke to me. I wanted to recognize and accept the value and worth of being loved for who I was.


"Then note number 6: you accepted the lie that being unmarried and childless for all these years was a failure at being who I've wanted you to be."


When I was 26 years old I stood in my office at work and resigned myself to the fact that my life had not turned out as I had planned. I spent the next decade just accepting the loss of identity, half of which I did through the worst kinds of trauma: death, betrayal, loss of lifetime comforts, rejection. Wash, rinse, repeat.


I was warned by spiritual people who loved me not to come back to Lynchburg. But I did it, I suffered, and here I am now. They said there were bad people living here who would hurt me. Did that happen? Yes. If people who served God (allegedly) rejected me, then I would forgo the purity and aversion to certain behaviors and embrace the ones who accepted me.


Did I suffer? I suffered immensely. I can only imagine that had I stayed in Bible College I would've suffered as well. There may have been ways that I would've avoided troubles that I brought upon myself by participating with the wrong people and things, but the problem was within. It had to be fixed. What did my life teach me?


All people are hypocrites who hurt others because of their own refusal to accept the truth about themselves. I became a receptacle for all kinds of garbage from people of all walks of life.


If the me now was back in college, I would've told that young man that I simply did not want to get married. I could have accepted his love but added,"I want to get a degree. I want to write and travel. I won't be able to do that and invest entirely in marriage and family."


I could not say that unless I loved the person I am now. And I wouldn't love the person I am now unless I had suffered. Believing lies causes suffering, regardless of your reality or circumstances. You can thrive in sports, activities, and grades throughout High School and college. You can marry the right person. You can be promoted in the right jobs. You can look fit and healthy and have great kids who do all the right things. Painful circumstances result in suffering. But if you believe in a lie--even lies that put you in good favor--they will cause you to suffer.


Which brings me to another truth. Often God wants us to suffer. We have to accept that as not only a Biblical truth that is evident in Jesus, but one that is necessary as the outcome of sin and iniquity. Have I been mad at God? Absolutely--especially over the last 9 years. Is He silent at times? Often.


It is the truth that I do love who I am. It is not enough. I must search for excellence. I have to become whole.


One of the major disappointments we all share is not being able to accept we did not get what we wanted from people who were supposed to give it to us. Close to the core of that are failures that are rooted in our lives (or the lives of loved ones) because things did not turn out the way we knew they should. When people talk about grief, this is a grief that causes wounds that often go unrecognized. Death is obvious loss; dreams that continue to go unrealized after decades of trial and error, faithfulness and perseverance--these are grievances that cost us so much yet continue perpetually as they are ignored, stuffed down, and unrealized because of the threat of unbearable pain and mourning.


Don't be afraid. If you start to realize the truth about yourself--all of the yous from infancy to now--what happened to you through no fault of your own, what you've done to others, what you've lost, how people who are close to you have hurt you or continue to hurt you--you will start to see. You will begin to have insight, let go of destructive behaviors. You will become whole.


This is a new and lengthy journey for me. I am pleased that throughout my depression--a depression I am genuinely thankful for since it allows me the time and stillness to truly give these issues attention--I have been helpless to recognize these issues except for the grace and freedom to ask and actually endure the answers.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Synergy Soup

This is the recipe I used in 2014 to encourage the termination of sugar from my diet. I ate it for breakfast and lunch in various forms which resulted in a 20 pound weight loss in 3 weeks. My personal experience is that you can feel the soup as soon as it enters your bloodstream. It's a soothing, energizing sensation, due to super foods like vinegar, garlic, and turmeric.

You can really include any types of vegetable you like. If you want to make a carrot-based soup I recommend boiling the carrots first to make them soft and adding chicken stock. I more often make an avocado base because of the health benefits . If you use a tomato base alone, it can turn out as a gazpacho.

1 tbl olive oil
1 cap full Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 of a small red onion
1/2 clove garlic
1 small avocado
1 small tomato
1 cucumber, unpeeled
1/4 cup cilantro
dash of cinnamon
dash of turmeric
salt to taste
pepper
1/4 cup Fage 2% Greek yogurt

I top it off with a healthy dollop of Greek yogurt and pepitas.



Alternative/extra vegetables to add/replace:

kale
spinach
carrots
peas
peppers
parsley
celery
cooked squash


Friday, January 6, 2017

Crowne Plaza, Houlihan's, and Hooligans (Review and Giveaway)

I work all over the Eastern United states and that means mainly the Northern Virginia and Richmond areas. It sounds more important to add on states though, so I count that I've been to them and gloss over the rest.

I found myself near Herndon December 28th after traveling almost 9 hours. By that time, I had tired myself by standing in the cold and watching two men move a heavy cabinet for me. It's really hard being in the Jeep that long and having to sit in traffic and go over bridges with water or that still look like The Jetsons to me. So tiring.

My husband would rather drive 5 hours at night and get home at 11 PM than stay in a hotel. I would rather stay in a hotel because I don't feel guilty for neglecting to tidy up (I don't feel bad about that at home either) and I work too much to go on vacation. Working is my vacation. Vacation to me consists of eating at new places and staying in hotels. I understand some people go to the beach and think it's the best thing in the world. My aversion to heat, crowds, filthy water, and tourist traps limit my choices in that vein and I'm nowhere near Alaska or Maine (I haven't been up the ENTIRE East Coast ok?) which is where I really want to go. When I get there I'm going to embrace the cold, sit in a hotel, eat seafood, and watch bears or moose.


(puffins and I understand one another)

One time my mother and I went on a tour of the Shenandoah Valley and 4 bears crossed the road in front of us, three of which were babies, and she urged me to please get out of the car and take photos. I hope this explains the money I've invested in therapy.

Speaking of my therapist, she told me to write more often so I am. I'm not calling this a review, which it is more or less, but more of a commentary and observation of my relationship with the world around me and since I've recently married, my observation of how my husband compliments everything that is probably very wrong with me but I enjoy thoroughly and have no plans to change.

I'm am a member of both Hotels.com and Swagbucks.com so I booked through both sites to get points from both (if you're interested, I've made $175 in cash in the last 30 days from Swagbucks.com--cash in bank--and used it for 4 years but please allow me to send you a promo link) so we parked at a local McDonald's (great for free, fast WiFi) I found the first hotel that looked nice and affordable, and less than 10 minutes later we were at The Crown Plaza in Herndon, VA.

Now here's one thing you have to understand: I almost always look like white trash, I'm overweight, and I have no concept of caring about how other people perceive me based on this alone. My last job before self-employment was at a retail call center and although I started off looking fashionable and damn sexy, my mental health and overall high esteem for comfort unraveled that cocoon of image as I sauntered into work in sweat pants and baseball caps (and always on time). The people who model perfection get the raises and promotions: the people who don't give a shit either stay where they are or own the business one day. I'm sure of it.

Since I've added Chuck to my entourage, I have become more self-conscious but that is mainly due to his unruly and embarrassing behavior. I haven't really determined if it's really me that's embarrassed or that sometimes I don't want other people to be embarrassed just so I can selfishly continue to be entertained. I'll let you know when I arrive at a conclusion.

We we get there with a 5x7 Uhaul attached to our Jeep and it says "valet parking" and I'm all like,"Oh my god, will they valet a trailer?!" It's a huge pain to drive a trailer, especially when backing up or trying to understand where it's legal to park. Not that I hardly ever drive it. But still.

Then when we got into the lobby they tied a Christmas tree to a space thingy like it was levitating into a supernatural trance of heavenly hosts that resembled hoop earrings.


Everyone up here is foreign and by "up here" I mean not Lynchburg, Virginia or any of the surrounding counties who voted for Trump. 

Drat. I swore I wouldn't bring politics or controversy into a simple review/this-is-what-my-life-has-become blog, but what I'm saying is, it's so refreshing to see people of color (and by "people of color" I mean more than just black) having jobs and speaking foreign languages all without the obligatory harassment by an obese man wearing camo, spraying spittle into their faces, sputtering something about pressing one for English. 

So a lovely (I'm guessing French) young lady checked us in and offered to upgrade the room without us asking. The marker of a good hotel is always a hostess who will upgrade a room which you booked through Hotels.com without you making veiled threats and causing a huge scene. And she gave us free TOOTHBRUSHES (yea...I know), while the manager of the restaurant shamelessly flirted with the other clerk who was Iraqui (I tried to tell her she was from the Czech Republic but she insisted she was from Iraq and that perhaps I had heard of a war in the nineties).

The room was nothing to write home about, but it was clean and had a desk and that's mostly my requirements besides having a tub, but I do always notice how many toiletries they offer and this time I really enjoyed this little spa packet by Temple Spa.


This relaxation packet included Repose, an overnight moisturizing cream, Quietude, a calming mist for the air and bedding, and AAAHHH, a stress relieving massage gel for aching muscles. They are all made with essential oils, including the spray, which contained patchouli which smells like a dirty hippy but can also do an adequate job of masking cigarette smoke in a non-smoking room. 


(scraping the lettering off a smoke because I wasn't paying enough attention to him)

I did have a hard time trying to figure out how to turn on the lights. I unplugged the heating unit and it still kept working, and then I kind of figured it out, and then I woke up the next morning at it was -7 degrees in the room which isn't actually a huge problem because I stay hot all the time due too being fat and probably some terminal illness that I have yet to discover.

They had phone charger outlets and that made me more happy than I should be, then I realized I'm poor and simple so it all made sense.


So let's talk about dinner.

Houlihan's is a Leawood, Kansas-based American casual restaurant & bar with locations operating throughout the country, 60% of which are franchised (I totally ripped that from Wikipedia). I was hungry and wanted a martini which was, by the way, not good, and the bartender appeared to have an attitude but this is because I am fiercely judgmental about my martinis because only 15% of restaurants ever get them right. 

Our waiter was Ken Jeoung and by that I mean he looked and acted like him and I thought I was in "The Hangover 4" for about 2.5 seconds and started looking for a tiger. 



I ordered the mushroom appetizer since it seemed to be famous (it was pretty impressive) and then split a fish and chips meal with Chuck. Not too bad for the cost. 



(shrooms have never done me wrong)

Houlihan's is also part of the Recork Project




The next day, after Chuck made sure everything was nailed down, we took a little tour of the hotel. Since it was before New Year's Eve, we took pictures of the regular AND Christmas decor and Chuck said and did embarrassing things within earshot of strangers. 



At breakfast they offered a buffet, but I hate buffets, so I ordered a turkey sausage sandwich with Gouda and fruit and I'm pretty sure our waiter was also French but Chuck very loudly called him Iranian within earshot and then when he left our check, Chuck yelled something to him in French which, when translated, meant,"Are you going to the mountain?" The elderly couple behind us were appalled by more than several things he did, including but not limited to bringing in his portable coffee cup and refilling it 10 times, loudly asking if the buffet were free, and farting.

Then I had to do a little work so Chuck disappeared for about half an hour (never a good sign) and apparently found things that were not nailed down.


I won't need shampoo until spring. 

In summary, some of the good things about The Crowne Plaza are:

  • Guests enjoy complimentary 24-hr access to Life Fitness lifecycles, elliptical machine, treadmills, dual cable cross machine, free weight equipment, and medicine & stability balls. While exercising, watch your favorite show on the Flat Screen TV.
  • Restaurant and bar attached (obviously, the most important besides free WiFi)
  • Valet parking
  • Airport Shuttle
  • Languages I've never heard of are spoken here
  • Business services like copiers and printers (we learned that when we got the corporate rate)
  • There's an IHG club (the brand of hotel) that has pretty high ratings if you travel


There is a giveaway involved and I know you didn't read that blog that I spent 3 hours writing just so you could get to it. So here it is:

You will win a $25 gift card (by mail or email) and a sample of Temple Spa's products (by mail). 

1. You must go to www.screwlucy.com (which is not pornographic and I'm sick of having to say that) and join my brokering site on Facebook to qualify.

2. An added entry is commenting on one of the items for sale.

I don't require you to tweet or like anyone else on Facebook because these companies give me nothing and I review them completely for free without any compensation. You'd realize that if you read my reviews on Yelp.com because a lot of them are deservedly mean and totally hilarious.