What the Star of Bethlehem Tells Me About Our Upcoming Adoption

It’s been over two years since my husband and I began all the hard work associated with adopting a little boy from Latvia.  The first step was obtaining Erik’s (husbands’) Latvian Citizenship as we learned that Latvian citizens who reside in the U.S. could receive a referral of a relatively healthy child of any age range (see my previous post for more details here We are adopting (again!).  After about a year of collecting/filling out paperwork, last November (of 2016) Erik and I were finally able to put our names in the hat for one boy, ages 4-7, with moderate health issues, from Latvia.  We were told by our agency that we would be presented with up to three referrals and would most likely be able to travel during the spring or the summer of this year (2017).  I was so excited with the idea of traveling as a family this summer and finally giving Logan a little brother.  And, for the most part, finally completing  our family.  This is a big deal for me as we have been in the process of building and completing our family since I turned 30. I’m now in my mid-40s.

That’s fifteen years and counting, people.

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Just a portion of all the paperwork we did (and are re-doing) for our upcoming adoption.

Spring came around, so I emailed/bugged my coordinator for an update.  Still no word.

Then early summer came, and I emailed/bugged my coordinator again.  Should I start switching bedrooms and buying clothes?  Can I be doing anything to get ready? My coordinator said to hold off, as there was still no word.

The fall came, still no word.

Late fall came and I received an email which was very discouraging.

I will get to the email in just a moment, but I want to first tell you about a documentary called The Star of Bethlehem, as it relates to our adoption situation.

Here is the gist of this Christmas documentary:

A lawyer/researcher/computer nerd named Rick Larson conducted research to figure out the mystery of the Bethlehem star, and whether it was a true, astronomical event which announced the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jewish King. From Wikipedia:

As a lawyer,[9] Larson examined the text of Matthew, finding nine pieces of evidence in the nativity passage.[10] Using astronomy software to return to the skies over Judea[17] by using Johannes Kepler’s math to calculate positions of celestial objects, Larson thinks he found all nine elements found in the book of Matthew.[10] He also believes that the Star of Bethlehem, is Jupiter, a wandering star,[18] and it stopped over Bethlehem during its retrograde motion on December 25, 2 BC.[19][20] 

But here is the coolest part of the documentary (and why people are really watching it). So apparently, a triple conjunction of planets and stars occurs not once, but twice during the time of Jesus’ conception and birth.  The first one (at his conception) occurred when three stars/planets aligned:

  • Jupiter (the King planet)
  • Regulus (the King star, connected to the Leo the Lion constellation – Jesus is from the tribe of Judah, which is associated with the Lion of Judah)
  • Virgo (the Virgin planet).

Do you see all the connections with the Christmas story?

Nine months later, at Jesus’ birth, another amazing and extremely rare triple conjunction occurred:

  • Jupiter (the King planet)
  • Regulus (the King star, connected to the Lion constellation)
  • Venus (the Mother planet)

How cool is that? No wonder the Magi, those who studied many prophecies and  predictions using the stars, came running to Bethlehem to check out the “one who is to be born King of the Jews.”

For the skeptics out there, let me fill in a bit of historical context. Back during this time in history, most people depended on the stars in the sky for navigation and predictions (and even magic: think astrology).  The whole entire shipping and nautical industry depended on the stars for direction and navigation.  Later, the Sextant was invented to help sailors to navigate using the stars. (Many years ago I read a really cool book about this called Carry On Mr. Bowdich.)

Apparently, this Bethlehem triple-conjunction-star was a HUGE deal back in the day; think of a widely noticed phenomenon, much like the solar eclipse that just occurred this summer (of 2017).

Rick Larson says:

This conjunction was so close and so bright that it is today displayed in hundreds of planetaria around the world by scientists who may know nothing of Messiah. They do it because what Jupiter did makes such a great planetarium show. Jupiter appeared to join Venus. The planets could not be distinguished with the naked eye. If our magus (Wise Men) had had a telescope, he could have seen that the planets sat one atop the other, like a figure eight. Each contributed its full brightness to what became the most brilliant star man had ever seen.

So here is the bad news we had received about our adoption:  our coordinator told us that more and more Latvians are adopting older children, and that what we are looking for seems be “more popular” with Latvian citizens (which is great; I’m so happy more kids are being adopted).  But here is where the news broke down: we are “number 13 in line” for getting one boy, ages 4-7, and that she didn’t think we would get a referral “anytime soon.” I also found out later that we can be bumped by a Latvian family at any time.  She also said that we should consider changing our home study to allow for either an older child, a sibling group, or a child or children with moderate special needs.  And here was the kicker:

“Oh, and by the way, you should start to update your home study (in other words, re-do a bunch of your paper-work) sooner than later because everything expires soon.”

I was discouraged with this news.  It put me in a foul mood about this adoption specifically and adoption in general. Erik and I talked about it and decided that we are now open to raising the age range, possibly adding a moderate special need, and here is the kicker: allowing for a sibling group of a boy and a girl.

I can’t even imagine going from three kids to five, but I’m just not sure how long we will wait for a referral if we don’t adjust our home study to reflect reality.

So how does our adoption relate to the Bethlehem star?

1. God is all about timing.  

Timing is important to God.  He had to line up two planets and one star (and not just any planets, very special planets with specific meanings) in order to announce the birth of his Son, not once, but twice.  Timing is really important to God, not just with the ‘big things’ but with the little things, too. I can safely say that it must not have been God’s timing to adopt up until this point in time.

2. God’s timing seems slow.

I have often wondered about the slowness of God’s timing and have grown impatient with it numerous times.  But think about how slowly those stars and planets seemed to move to the naked eye.  Each day they were a bit closer to each other, but only barely discernible.  However, stars and planets actually move very fast in space.  So really what seems slow to us, at the naked eye level, may actually be the speed of light in space.  This really messes with me, but the bottom line is that even if it seems slow to me, it really may not be slow.  It may just be that it seems slow to me.

3.  God’s timing is perfect.  

Everything had to line up perfectly in order to have a big miraculous splash to announce the birth of Jesus.  God had to send Gabriel at just the right time to announce to Mary that she would be the Mother of Jesus. God made Elizabeth pregnant at just the right time so that John could be the fore-runner of Jesus. Mary and Joseph left their home at just the right time to travel to Bethlehem for the census, so that Jesus could be born in a manger, in Bethlehem, in order to fulfill prophecy, as well as to the be at the precise place where the triple conjunction seemed to “stand still.” God even had to allow some “back up” time to get everything and everyone aligned perfectly, including the start-time of the Magi, the location of the Shepherds, and the alignment of the stars in the night sky.  So with all of that being true, I can safely assume….

If God is in control of the timing and events of the birth of his own Son, then surely I can trust Him to be in control of the timing of our adoption.

4. God will usually give you just enough information to help you to walk in faith and believe that His timing is perfect.

He did this to me just two nights ago with a devotional we read at dinner time.  I will put a portion of that devotional in my closing paragraph.

Before I close, just a little Christmas confession: I have found that I am more frustrated and impatient with this adoption than I was with the previous other three!  I guess I’m tired of all the B.S. that’s associated with adoption.  From the waiting, to the paperwork, to the re-doing of paperwork, to the back and forth, to the issues with the kids that you have to think about and pray through first, and then deal with secondly…I’m just kinda sick of all of it.  Deep in my heart, I’m starting to think that this may be our last adoption, at least our last “on purpose” adoption.  I am still open to orphan hosting down the road, and if that leads to another adoption…great!  But I am in my mid 40s and don’t feel like doing this over and over again. Adoption is just plain hard.  Is it worth it? Of course!  I have my three beautiful kids to show for it and I would’t trade them for the world.

But adoption is really hard.  And there is always a wait built into the process.  At least there has been for us.

And we are smack in the middle of our wait.

In closing, Khloe (our daughter) read a devotional at dinner just two nights ago that really spoke to me and reassured me that God’s timing is perfect and He is completely in control of our adoption.  Here is a portion:

December 21: (This is God speaking, by the way)

I have a perfect plan for your life.  But I don’t show it to you all at once. It is like a road that you must travel one step at a time.

Sometimes the road feels blocked, or it opens up so slowly that you feel frustrated.  But then, when the timing is right, the way before you suddenly clears.  All that you have longed for and worked for is given to you freely – as a gift.  And that is when you catch a glimpse of my power and my glory.

Just keep walking along the path I have prepared for you, depending on my strength to keep you going.  Expect to see some miracles – and you will. Not everyone can see my miracles, but those who live by faith can see them clearly.  When you walk by faith going step by step with me, you are able to see my glory.

— Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

This adoption has been a huge step of faith, but at some point, “when the timing is right, the way before you suddenly clears. And all that you have longed for and worked for is given to you freely – as a gift.”

I can’t wait for that day to occur!  Lord, help me to wait patiently and purposefully.

Merry Christmas!

P.S. For those who believe in the power of prayer, we would appreciate your prayers that the Lord would allow us to adopt one or two children in His timing. But I pray that the timing would be sooner rather than later. :). Because it’s already been two years. Please pray that the child or children would be a wonderful fit for our family, and that Logan would especially click with his new younger brother. And, if possible, that we could all travel as a family to Latvia to adopt.  Thank you so much!!

PSS: For those who are interested: The Biblical data points of the star are as follows: it signified birth, it signified kingship, it was related to the Jewish nation, and it “rose in the East”;[11] it was not known to King Herod;[12] it appeared at a specific time;[13] it endured over time;[14] it was before the Magi as they traveled south to Bethlehem from Jerusalem,[15] and then [16] it stopped over the city of Bethlehem.[6]. (source, wikipedia)

PSS: all research for this post was used by googling “The Star of Bethlehem”, watching portions of the documentary, plus Wikipedia.  You can find Rick Larson’s website at www.thestarofbethlehem.org.

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The Five Ways to Survive a Serial Killer (part III – protecting our kids)

On July 26, 2015, Neal Falls (a serial killer) responded to an online ad for an escort service and arrived at the home of a woman named Heather in Charleston, West Virginia.  When the unsuspecting woman opened up the door, he stood there with a gun pointed at her face and said these chilling words: “Live or die?” He then proceeded to start choking her to death.  The fiesty woman grabbed a rake and smashed him in the side of the head, which distracted him long enough for her to grab his gun and fire behind her, killing him instantly. The woman ran from her home and sought refuge at her neighbors’ home. When the police arrived, they found a chilling discovery: the bad guy had a ‘serial killer tool kit’ in his car (consisting of a bullet proof vest, axes, and hand-cuffs, etc.) and a list of the names and ages of 10 women in different states.  The police believe that this serial killer was potentially responsible for the deaths of nine women across three states.

This hero woman basically knocked off a serial killer in one fatal blow, thus saving many other lives. (full story here.)

Is it possible to survive a serial killer?  And what can we learn from the ones who got away and lived to tell?

The short answer is yes, it is possible to survive a serial killer, however, it’s not very likely. 

But first, two somewhat depressing statistics about serial killers: only approximately 7.5 percent of victims survive a serial killer attack, and 75 percent of the victims of serial killers simply had the bad luck of being targeted by them at random and were not able to evade or disengage from them. (source, Serial Killers, Peter Vronsky, p. 371. and also here.)

But please remember this: your best bet is to not become a victim in the first place, and there are definitely things you can do to avoid these bad guys, which I discussed in part II (here).

In this final post on protecting our kids (and ourselves) from serial killers, I will share the following:

  • Research on how the victims actually survived a serial killer (there are five ways);
  • Compelling survival stories;
  • Things we can learn from these survivors, including if my Top Ten list was applicable (or not);
  • God’s protection and the serial killer;
  • Closing (deep) thoughts to wrap up this series.

After spending several hours studying this topic and identifying over 40 serial killer survival stories (using books and the Internet), here are the Top Five Ways a person can actually survive a serial killer attack:

45% survived by using their SKILLS.  These were the heroes who fought off their attacker, were kidnapped and locked in a bedroom but escaped out a window, or they talked to the serial killer in such a way that he let them go, etc.  They used their physical and intellectual abilities and skill to escape their attacker.

20% were LEFT for DEAD but lived to tell.  The bad guy thought they were actually dead (but they were barely alive) when he left them to die.  These were the stories of victims who were stabbed, run over, strangled, shot, beaten over the head with a pipe, thrown into a well…you name it, they went through it.  But the common thread is that by some miracle, they survived their harrowing ordeal.

18% were saved by DIVINE INTERVENTION. The way these women and men survived can ONLY be described as completely miraculous, with even the victims and the serial killers themselves admitting as much (at times).

12% were saved by LUCK.  First of all, I don’t really believe in luck and was super tempted to lump this all into the “divine intervention” category.  However, I hesitated because the common thread of these men and women is that they had a random turn of events break in their favor for no apparent reason.  They didn’t use much of their own skill (sorry to say) and I’m not sure if their escape was a direct miracle of God or not (although to me the fact that they got away was God’s intervention, in my opinion), but either way, God allowed them to be super lucky.  🙂

5% were saved by the POLICE.  There were two stories where the cops burst in literally in the knick of time to save the life of the victim who was very close to death.  This category deserves a mention as I strongly support the men and women of law enforcement.

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Two more final statistics for you.  First, I wanted to see how many victims were innocently targeted and taken completely by surprise by the bad guy, and here is what I found:

The victims that were targeted at random and were subject to a sneak attack by the bad guy for which they had no control accounted for 50% of the cases.

The second group were the ones who were either a. Tricked or lured by the serial killer b. Were in a vulnerable situation (drunk and alone late at night, for example), or c. In a vulnerable demographic (for example, a prostitute) or d. Did not use the best judgment.

The ones who were tricked, lured, or became vulnerable to an attack of a bad guy accounted for, you guessed it, 50% of the cases.

  • So, by studying the survival stories, I learned that about half of the time there is nothing you can do to avoid a serial killer if you are targeted by them in the first place. 
  • However, the other half of the time there are still things you can absolutely do to reduce your chances of encountering these killers.

So without further delay, here are some Serial Killer Survival Stories.  I have to be honest with you and admit that I was able to keep my emotions pretty much in check until I read a lot of these stories.

My deepest admiration goes out to these amazing, bad-ass men and women for surviving these horrible monsters.

Skill stories:

I will start with a story involving the infamous Ted Bundy.  One day, a young woman named Rhonda innocently accepted a ride from him and he ended up taking her to a canyon, where he strangled and raped her for several hours.  She woke up in pitch blackness and noticed that he was in his car with the dome light on (that was the only light in the canyon, she said) most likely looking over his serial killer toolkit that he kept in his car. Rhonda managed to stand up and began running away from him and fell into a swiftly moving river.  She was stopped by a dam grate, crawled up out of the rive, and was able to get help.

She wrote a book about her experience here: I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape, And PTSD That Changed My Life. Her on-line story is found here.

In 1991, Tracy Edwards (a man) made the fateful decision to accept an invitation to go home with a man he had just met at a bar named Jeffrey. When he arrived at the man’s apartment, he noticed that it smelled strange and was very cluttered, and that his date began to act strangely as well. He didn’t realize that his new friend Jeffrey was actually the serial-killer-cannible Jeffrey Dahmer.  At one point during their evening, Jeffrey put his head on Tracy’s chest and declared that he would cut his heart out.  Edwards remained calm, and kept talking to Dahmer, and essentially stalled him from carrying out his sick plan.  Edwards punched him in the nose and ran from the apartment, found the police, and they arrived to discover 17 dismembered bodies scattered throughout the apartment.

There were many other stories of survivors who used the skills the Good Lord gave them to sneak out of windows, escape out of cars, fight off their attackers, quietly call 9-11, or just plain trick them into thinking they liked the bad guy.  One lady even kissed the killer and gave him her number for later.  He left without killing her.

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Left for dead stories:

One day I received a Facebook message of a friend who told me that she just read Serial Killers part I and relayed the following true horror story (YES, this really happened to my friend):

Are you sitting down? When I was fourteen years old I had a job as a paper carrier.  One morning around 5 am, a man drove past me while I was loading my papers at the spot where the carriers met. The boys on my route hadn’t arrived yet. He parked his car down the street and came walking up to me. A few days prior a neighbor had walked over to to me to get his paper, so that’s who I thought it was. When I realized it wasn’t the neighbor I got a bad feeling, but I kept loading the papers.  A voice inside told me to run and when I turned to do it he grabbed me from behind. He told me he had a gun and a knife.  He put his hand over my mouth and put me in his car.  The first thing I noticed was there were no door handles on the doors in the back seat of his car. He then proceeded to tell me about “all the other girls” he had raped in our local area, which made me very afraid. He drove me to the desert and brutally beat me with his boot — crushing my collar bone — and raped me.  During the rape, I tried to talk to him both to make a connection with him (so that he wouldn’t kill me), but also to get details about him so I could give them to the police.  When he was done with me, he rolled me up in a sleeping bag and ran over me with his car and left me for dead.  But I didn’t die. I got up and hobbled about a quarter mile to a canal, where I was able to call for help when I heard the voices of men and women on horseback.  Later, I was able to identify this man in a line-up and, because of my testimony, he went to prison for five years. 

Yes, it’s hard to write that. It’s only been recently that I can talk about it. I was terrified. By the grace of God I lived and He has blessed me with a beautiful life.

I’m so glad my friend was able to share her story with me.  God has done so much in her life to heal her and set her free. Today she is a happily married mother and grandmother and has a very blessed life.

A waitressing friend of mine shared a similar story years ago: she was riding her bike alone one night coming home from work when she was grabbed by a man who took her to another location.  She was beaten and raped for hours.  When the man was done with my friend, he attempted to kill her by drowning her multiple times in a nearby body of water.  The only problem for him was that my friend was a lifeguard and very adept at holding her breath under water.  He kept shoving her head down – down – down, holding her under for about two minutes, and then would bring her back up to see if she was still  living.  This went on for several minutes until the bad guy just gave up.  By some miracle, he decided not to kill her and drove her back to the place where he kidnapped her by dumping her limp (but still alive) body on the side of the road, near her bike.

In 1978, Ted Bundy was near the end of his killing season so he was more crazy, more bold, more reckless, and more violent than ever.  One night he broke into a Florida State University sorority house (he let himself in the unlocked front door) and assaulted three women living inside in the most horrific ways (several of them died), but one of the victims — Kathleen Kleiner — miraculously survived.  You can read her story here.

Divine intervention stories: 

On July 5, 1986, Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker) broke into Whitney Bennett’s home and brutally attacked her with a metal iron. He pulled out a telephone cord to strangle her to death, but sparks began flying. Ramirez took it as a sign from God that the young woman wasn’t intended to die that day, so he left her alive and fled the scene. (story here.)

David Gore would often develop a very strong “urge” to kill that would not be satisfied unless he found someone’s life to take.  One day, the urge came over him very strongly but he was unable to find a “fresh” victim, and he grew frustrated.  He remembered that he had a back-up plan— his sister’s best friend — so he drove over to her house and small talked his way inside.  After a few minutes of chatting, he was waiting for just the right moment to grab her or smash her when the phone rang.

Guess who was on the line?  His own sister, calling her friend on the phone!

In his own words: “While I was waiting for that moment (to grab her) my sister called her and she was telling my sister that I was there visiting and when that happened I had no choice but to abort because I’d of been the first prime suspect…I mean, I was just seconds away from getting her friend.” (Source, The Serial Killer Whisperer.)

He went on to write about other near misses:

“These girls don’t know how close they came to being a statistic…some of them were no more than 30 seconds away from being put down. (Source, The Serial Killer Whisperer.)

The woman who got away from serial killer Fred West explained there there were two groups of men who picked up hitchhikers back in the day when hitchhiking was more socially acceptable. The first group were the slightly perverted or flirtatious but otherwise harmless men.  The second group were the fatherly types that were concerned about her and tried to warn her to stop hitchhiking. The ones that  probably thought “if I don’t stop to pick her up, the bad guys will.”

Unfortunately, this young lady didn’t listen to those fatherly types and was instead picked up by a third group that she didn’t know existed: sadistic serial killers.  Fred West and his wife murdered at least 12 women.  One day, Fred actually picked her up and then dropped her off later safely, but they made plans that he would pick her up later on the other side of the highway.  In her own words:

“Later I started going over the details in my head and it suddenly struck me – Oh my God! – he (Fred West) promised to come back and pick me up on the other side of the motorway. The lorry driver who stopped so instantly, and as if out of nowhere, seems like my guardian angel – if he hadn’t been there I would have had to get back in West’s van.”

You can read her account here.

Finally, Margy Palm was kidnapped by one of the country’s worst and most notorious serial killers  – Stephen Morin – but talked to him for several hours non-stop about God.  Stephan ended up beaming a Christian that day, let Margy go, and then peaceably surrendered to the authorities.  He spent the rest of his life in prison sharing his story and God’s love with other prisoners.

I actually found a youtube video about her amazing experience, and I encourage you to watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZUTtUAy5E8.

To read a New York Times article on this story, click here.

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Luck stories:

(Heather’s note: Erik, my editor husband, when reading the Divine Intervention and Luck stories, blurted out: “hon, some of these divine intervention stories are luck stories.  And some of the luck stories are Divine Intervention stories!” Welcome to my world.  There is definitely cross over with a few of the categories.)

Probably my favorite luck stories involved the women who used conversation with the bad guy to (unknowingly to her, and without necessarily trying on purpose) get him to change his mind. A victim of Bobby Joe Long confided to him that she was abused as a child and then he let her go.  A victim of Monte Risell let her go because she confided to him that her father had cancer, because his own father had died of cancer.

Another great “luck” story occurred back in the early 1970s in Houston, TX, where a serial killer named Dean Corll (better known as the Candy Man) tricked and lured about 29 young men into his home where he proceeded to murder them.  Dean Corll and his family had owned and operated a candy factory and he had been known to give free candy to local children.  The only known survivor of Dean Corll was named Rhonda Williams.  She was good friends with one of the Candy Man’s co-conspirators named Henley.  Henley had actually helped Rhonda escape her abusive home life, so she thought he was a good guy.  When Henley brought Rhonda to Corll’s house of torture, the Candy Man became very angry. Henley assured Rhonda that he would help her escape and eventually shot the infamous serial killer to save Rhonda’s life.

In other words, the serial killer’s bad-guy-accomplice actually shot and killed the serial killer in order to protect the innocent victim.  That’s pretty darn lucky if you ask me.

Police-rescue Stories:

While walking down Sunset Boulevard one morning, Rodney Alcala approached a young girl named Tali Shapiro in his vehicle and asked her if she wanted a ride. She refused, saying that she was not allowed to talk to strangers. He assured her that he knew her family and told her that he had a beautiful picture to show her. Though hesitant, she approached his car and was kidnapped by Alcala.

Luckily, another man saw the abduction take place and called the police.

When the police arrived at his door, Alcala tried to stall them but they kicked the door in. Alcala escaped out the back door and the officers found young Tali on the floor of his apartment in a state of near death, as if Alcala had just been pinning her down when they arrived. She was rushed to the hospital and, thankfully, survived her attack.

Tali Shapiro later testified against her assailant, helping to convict him. He was sentenced to death for this and many other crimes, including the murders of four other victims. (this story is taken from: http://listverse.com/2014/05/25/10-survivors-of-serial-killers/)

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So what can we do to avoid serial killers (based on the survivors themselves)?

Since I wrote the Top Ten List before even studying the survivor stories, I was worried that perhaps I got it wrong, and none of my Top Ten would apply.  I was grateful to see that much of what I wrote was reiterated by the stories of the survivors themselves.

Here are the some ways to avoid serial killers and other bad guys that showed up in my research and also on my Top Ten list:

  1. Trust your gut and don’t get tricked
  2. Don’t get into a car with someone you don’t know
  3. Talk to the bad guy, let him see you are a human being; it could help
  4. If taken, call 9-11 (very quietly) if you can
  5. Use any amount of intelligence or skill that you can
  6. Don’t open up the front door if it’s someone you don’t know
  7. Don’t be lured by a Tricky Person
  8. Don’t go out alone at night
  9. If you see something, say something (or call the cops)
  10. Serial killers use social media just like the rest of us do, so be careful
  11. Lock your windows and doors at night
  12. I go into greater detail on all of the above in my previous post: here.

But listen up: the two common threads I saw again and again, in addition to a vulnerable situation or a risky lifestyle, were:

So many victims unknowingly got into the car of the serial killer, so don’t get into the car of someone you don’t know or trust;

So many victims were lured by a ruse or a scam, so trust your gut and don’t get scammed by a Tricky Person.

If these two points are the only points your remember of this entire series, I will have done my job.

God’s Protection and the Serial Killer:

I am a Christian who is very intellectually honest. As I read story after story of these men brutally raping and torturing and killing so many young girls and men and other victims, I started to wonder: “Where were you, God?  Why did you not protect these girls?”

But then I remembered that my husband Erik (a statistician) always tells me that in order to figure something out, you have to first ask the right questions.  So I decided that the question I was asking was wrong, and instead asked: “God, did you protect these girls or not?” And the answer I got back was yes, I did.

Once I started looking, I actually saw God’s hand of protection all over the place.  From the divine encounter stories, to the stories where something changed and within thirty seconds the girl was saved (by a random phone call, for example), from father figures picking up hitchhikers and warning them to stop, to someone being left for dead but surviving, to the guy who saw the girl get snatched and then he called the cops, to my own friend who heard a voice inside her head telling her to run…I saw God’s hand of help and protection in a variety of different ways.

I also saw God’s hand in my own stories of being watched and followed by creepy men, yet I was able to take notice and evade them.

What about the ones He didn’t seem to protect? What about the very existence of evil? I am not really sure I will have a good answer for this, but as a Christian I believe that someday God will make everything right.  There is a verse in the Bible which gives me great hope for all of those who have suffered unjustly:

“He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4, NIV

Right now we are living in the “old order” of things where evil is allowed to prevail to some degree.  God does give boundary lines for evil, but sometimes young girls get snatched and murdered by these bad guys as they are caught up in the crosshairs of these boundary lines.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to live through an attack of a serial killer or to have someone close to you murdered by one.  The only comfort I can offer you is that God sees, God cares, and someday, God will bring justice to your situation.  And, someday, He will wipe away every tear.

And, I am so sorry.

Closing Deep Thoughts:

I will leave you with the top 8 thoughts that went through my mind as I studied serial killers on and off over the last few months.

First, I am convinced that many, if not all of them, are influenced by evil spiritual forces.  A few serial killers even admitted as much.

  • “I actually think I may be possessed with demons.” Dennis Rader. (source: here)
  • Joe Methany stated the following: “Do you demons ever tell you or make you feel like want to murder or hurt someone?  Mine does!  And I used to act on it when I was out there on those streets.”  (source: The Serial Killer Whisperer.)
  • Ted Bundy would often go into a “trance” in the middle of his murders (as would Arthur Shawcross).  Some serial killers themselves admit to being controlled by evil forces: Sean Sellers, the Son of Sam, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Daniel Rolling, for example.  And finally, David Gore admitted to slipping into a dark side and being controlled by an evil force.

The methods of serial killers seem to be changing, at least to a degree: Take the recent serial killer caught in Tampa, Florida.  His method was not to trick or to lure, but to shoot people randomly.  That exact method recently happened in Las Vegas and happens all to often in our schools.  However, the story I shared in the beginning about the woman who shot and killed her serial killer only happened two years ago, so both methods are still operational today.

There are definitely threads and connections between serial killers and other things that threaten our kids such as the use of social media, being targeted, tricked or lured, and putting yourself in a vulnerable situation or lifestyle.  I will be doing some more posts on other topics in the future including protecting our kids from sex trafficking, which will be my next post in this series.

The serial killer often had a bad childhood himself: One serial killer was raped by his own mother and that profoundly impacted him in terrible ways. Another confessed that he was a lonely little child whom “nobody cared about…who made up personalities to hide behind whenever he felt threatened or insecure.”  Many other were emotionally abused by their parents who called them “stupid” many times a day year in, and year out.  Many were psychologically and physically abused and many experienced severe head trauma.

Many serial killers later regretted their actions: From the worlds of Joe Methany: “Christmas is the one time of the year that makes me realize that I am truly alone. And I have no one to blame but myself and the bad decisions I have made in my life. If I have learned nothing else during my incarceration, I have learned to appreciate every little good thing that comes my way.  I also never forget there are a lot of people out there that will not be able to enjoy life’s little pleasures or holidays because I put them in the ground.” (The Serial Killer Whisperer, pg. 117)

(I need to be intellectually honest and admit that many researchers would disagree with me and say that serial killers are hardened criminals with no conscience and no morals (think psychopath).  I think this is partially to mostly true.  But I did read many testimonies of very lonely and very sad and remorseful serial killers who were very honest with themselves near the end of their life on earth and regretted much of what they had done to their victims.)

Some of them became Christians in prison: It is only fitting that I use the last words of David Gore before he was executed: “I would like to say to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott that I am truly sorry for my part in the death of your daughter. I wish above all else my death could bring her back. I am not the same man today that I was 28 years ago. When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior I become a New Creature in Christ and I know God has truly forgiven me for my past sins…I just want to say I have had a tremendous amount of remorse and pray you and your family can forgive me.

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Last words of David Gore, quoted heavily in this series.  (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Alan_Gore)

They all deserve justice: What they did to these women and men is despicable, horrifying, and deserving to be severely punished.  If they are not caught and incarcerated (and put to death) here on the face of the earth, God will judge and punish them when they die and stand before Him. There is no escaping God’s judgment.

Finally, I am approaching the serial killer and other bad guys both from an educational standpoint (what can we learn? how can we avoid them? how can we survive them?) as well as from a spiritual perspective.  Since these men are being influenced by evil, you have to consider that as you consider them.  As for me?  I will continue to pray for God’s protection and wisdom so that I don’t need to come across them in the first place, and then use the authority God has given me, and all the skill I can muster up, to deal with them should something bad ever happen.

Last closing story:

The other night I picked up my daughter from basketball practice, right outside of an elementary school.  It was dark and she was standing with another young girl.  Both girls were alone.  When my daughter bounded into the car I asked about the other girl.  “Oh don’t worry mom.  She has a phone and her mom just texted her.  Her mom will be here in four minutes.  So we can go.”

As I circled around the lot, debating on whether to stay with the young girl who was standing completely alone now, I noticed a man walking his dog near the school about fifty feet away from her.

I said to Khloe: “A lot can happen in four minutes.  Let’s go hang out with her until her mom comes.”

We pulled up to the girl and chatted with her for a few minutes until her mom came so she wouldn’t have to wait alone.  She was such a cute little 13 year old girl and was super glad that we stayed with her.

In some ways it really does take a village to protect a child.

Albert Einstein said the following quote: “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Although I partially disagree with this quote as there are a lot of evil men and women in this world, I do believe we all have a part to play to help keep ourselves and our kids safe.  This three part post is my way of “doing something about it.”

I will leave you with two main points.  First, trust your gut and don’t get lured or tricked by a bad guy (and don’t get into his car!).  Secondly, pray!  Pray that the God of heaven will protect you and your children from serial killers and all other forms of evil.

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  • If you missed part I, where I share my own creepy men stories and give you the bottom line of serial killers throughout the decades as well as currently, click here.
  • I talk about ways you can avoid serial killers specifically and bad guys generally, in part II, found here.
  • Finally, I am now DONE with researching serial killers.  As I started my research on this topic way back in the late summer, I found there was just too much to learn about and chew on when thinking about these twisted men and women.  I am happy to now move on to other (less depressing and scary) topics.
  • My next post in the Protecting Our Kids series will be about child and teen sex trafficking, especially combined with social media.  Stay tuned!

The Top Ten Ways we can protect our kids from serial killers and other bad guys — Part II

Many years ago my best friend Sandie, age 9, was riding her bike on a sidewalk in Salem, Virginia when she noticed a man sitting in his car on the other side of the road, motioning with his arm for her to come over. She heard him saying something about being “lost” and “needing help.” She stopped her bike and was about to cross the street to go see what this man wanted when all the sudden a huge wave of fear washed over her.  She heard something in her spirit say “do not cross the road.”  She immediately got back on her bike and pedaled away.  She took one last look behind her and noticed that the man in the parked car was now driving away as another car had pulled up behind him.  In her young heart, she had a thought that the man was a bad guy and that the other car came up behind the bad guy’s car and forced him to leave.

She felt God’s protection that day.

And she trusted her gut.

And by the way, the guy who was asking for help was a “Tricky Person.”

These are all things (and many more) I will be discussing in today’s blog post as well as in Part III.

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Sandie, at the age she was approached by a tricky person on her bike.

First a qualifier: the information I am about to share is not rocket science, and maybe you know some or all of it, but hopefully it will be useful to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime in general or a serial killer specifically.

Serial killers in brief:

If you missed part I, please click here, but here are the cliff notes:

  • Although serial killers are less common than they once were, there are still approximately 50 of them trolling for victims at any given time.
  • They typically choose young women as their victims, but they also can choose a wide variety of victims including young men, prostitutes, and the elderly.  They tend to choose people who are in a vulnerable situation or those who won’t be missed. Sometimes the victim is what they are ‘looking for,’ other times it’s just a case of wrong place/wrong time, and finally, sometimes the serial killer sees an opportunity and decides to “go for it.”
  • Serial killers trick or lure their victims, sometimes by asking for help or pretending to be an authority figure (like a police officer).  Sometimes they target their victims.  Sometimes they act suddenly if an opportunity presents itself.
  • Serial killings have changed over the decades: first, there are statistically less of them; second, they now use social media as a tool; and finally, they are more apt to use other methods of “mass killings” such as using mass gun violence or using vehicles that plow into a greater number of people (as just happened in New York City and Texas).
  • I tell my three creepy men stories; two of the stories were about men who followed me, and if you just want to quickly read my own stories, click my three stories.
  • Ever wonder how serial killers are made?  I found this article and it supports what I have read elsewhere: here.  Ted Bundy admits that pornogrpahy played a huge role in his eventual murder of so many women; you can watch a short video clip here: Ted Bundy’s final interview right before he is executed.
  • And to be super well-researched, to read an official FBI report about serial killers, click here.

So how do we protect our kids from serial killers (although less common) and other bad guys (way more common than we realize)?  I think it first starts with an awareness, and then it moves to education.  First we educate ourselves and then pass that onto our kids in an age-appropriate way.  The awesome thing about the list below is that it applies to serial killers but you can also apply it across the board to other situations.  So without further delay, here is the Top Ten list.

1. Trust Your Gut (As mentioned in Part I):  If something feels off, it probably is, so back away, or run.  

I read Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear years ago and I still remember the bottom line of the book is to trust your gut.  When dealing with a potential bad guy, here are four tricks he might use: forced teaming, too many details, unsolicited promises, and feminine references. Let me give you a short paragraph that encompasses all four qualities at the same time (I got this idea from watching the end of the The Lovely Bones (a movie about a serial killer):

At the end of the movie, the serial killer sees a young woman out alone on a cold winter night smoking a cigarette and he says to her: “Wow, it sure is cold out here for the both of us tonight  Brrrr.  Do you need a ride? I have to go pick up my wife.  I can take you where you want to go.  It’s not good for us to be stuck out in this cold weather. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything. I was once out in the cold for a whole night and I almost froze to death.”  The bad guy used four deceptive tactics to reassure the girl that he is safe.  The problem is that he tried too hard and thus gave himself away.  But you would only know this if you know what to look for.

Tell your kids:  Trust your gut, and if something feels off, then run and don’t care what the other person thinks of you.  And if someone is trying too hard to convince you to trust them, they could be a bad guy, and you should leave.

2. Never get into a car with someone you do not know, and NEVER hitchhike. 

Since my blog is all about complete and utter honesty, I must confess to you that I have broken this rule a few times in my life.  One incident occurred in my early 20s. My car had broken down on the side of the highway and I started walking towards a pay phone (about a mile up the road, at a toll booth), when all of the sudden, a man in pick up truck pulled over and asked me if I needed a ride.  He was smiling and had long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.  I hesitated a moment and then said yes.  I got in his truck.  As I entered his truck I blurted out: “I truly hope you are a good guy and not a serial killer.”  🙂

He laughed and said “nope, not a serial killer.  Where do you need to go?”  I told him “just after the toll road there are pay phones on the right, please stop there.”  After he paid the toll I held my breath, and for a moment in time I thought: “this is it — if he is bad guy — I’m toast.”

Thankfully, he pulled right over and dropped me off at the pay phones. Looking back, I should have walked the mile or five miles or whatever it was and NOT accepted a ride from a stranger.

So many serial killers hunt hitchhikers or offer people rides.  A study of serial homicides states that in 78 percent of the cases, the bad guy used a vehicle directly or indirectly in the murder, and that 50 percent of the bad guys who did use a vehicle used it to offer their prey a ride.  (source: Catching Serial Killers, James, p. 196).  Wow!!!

Here is a direct quote from David Gore, who killed up to twenty or more young women:

“Our favorite target was hitchhikers. We used to laugh and call them FREEBIES because there was basically no risk involved and they were easy to catch.”

Tell your kids: when we were growing up, a lot of people hitchhiked and a lot of bad guys would do bad things to them.  Do not get into a car with someone you do not know.  If you are stranded with no phone (we don’t allow our girls to have a phone yet, but they have an iPod with apps on it), find a store clerk or police officer and ask for help. Keep walking until you find help.  And be aware of Tricky People who may use their car to lure you over to them.

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The car that Ted Bundy used to kidnap and murder perhaps over a 100 young women (exact number was never admitted to). Never get into a car with someone you don’t know.

3. Beware of Tricky People.

Tricky People are bad adults who act like they need help from kids or teenagers, in an attempt to lure them, like in Sandie’s story above. Tricky people are also adults who are not known to your kids, who are unusually interested in them and try to communicate with them (or try to befriend them or gain their trust) for a bad agenda.

Since when do grown adults EVER need help from kids or teens or want to show them something cool inside their home?  They usually don’t.  Unless it’s a super frail elderly couple lost in your neighborhood, don’t let people lure you over to their car because they need “help with directions” or “hey, I lost my puppy.”  Nope.

Tell your kids: Adults are adults and don’t need kids to help them with ANYTHING, and most adults are not really that interested in other people’s kids, anyway. 90 percent of the adult and teen population have smart phones and can google almost anything, including directions.  Never go with an adult who “needs” you to assist them with anything.

To watch a slightly dated but still relevant two minute video of Oprah Winfrey explaining how easy it is to lure young children away, click here.

For more information on tricky people, click here.

4. Use social media very wisely.

As parents, it’s our job to help our kids wisely manage their social media interactions.  I will be doing a separate blog post on this topic later, but serial killers and other bad guys often use social media to both find/identify, “follow”, and then later meet up with a potential young victim.  Please be aware of how much information is getting out to the public about you and your kids.  Be especially on the lookout for “location services” on your phone.  Make sure it’s turned off on the pictures you (or they) post.  My girls have private Instagram and Snapchat accounts and they are only followed by people they know. Social media use on their iPods is a privilege and can be taken away any time.  We as parents need to check in on their accounts from time to time.  For example, we found out one of our daughters had 300 Instagram followers on her account, almost all of whom she did not know.  We went through and deleted 297 of them.

She was not happy, but she is safe.

Serial killers have used the internet and social media and I suspect that, for some of them, this is the new easy way of locating victims (here and here).

Tell your kids: (now this is just my opinion) please be careful about who you are following and who is following you, do not post provocative things on social media, and keep your accounts private.  Sometime gross older grown men who are overweight and in their 40s or 50s pretend to be a young teenagers on Instagram or Kik or Snapchat etc., because they want to trick you, meet up with you, and then do bad things to you.  Other times a kid you don’t know that well might be a “go between” between you and people who want to do bad things to you.  If you are not sure about someone or get a weird vibe about someone, tell mom or dad. And if someone uses social media to try to meet up with you, you freaking better tell mom and dad and absolutely don’t meet up with them.

To read an article that talks about how sex traffickers use social media to target girls, please click here.

4.  Never open the front door to a person you don’t know.  

Whenever the doorbell rings, I always hesitate to even go to the door.  But I do, because it could be a neighborhood kid asking my kids to play.  Which I love.  But I always tell my kids to NEVER open the door for a person they don’t know when mom and dad are not home.  It’s probably a person trying to sell them something or getting information or sharing information, but my kids can’t do anything about that anyway, so why have them even open the door?

I can’t tell you the number of stories I read about serial killers who, in my opinion, took the ‘easy way out’ and just went up to the front door and smooth-talked their way inside the house (Bobby Joe Long for one, as found in the book My Life Among the Serial Killers, Helen Morrison, p. 152).  One young girl was targeted after school and followed home.  Bobby Joe Long waited a few minutes, rang the front door, and the naive girl let him in. He very easily killed her a few minutes later.

Tell your kids: keep the doors and windows locked while we are gone, and don’t open up the front door.  Don’t even go to the door if someone knocks.  If it’s an emergency and police officers are at the door, tell them to call mom and dad (on our cell phones) first to get permission.  A lot of serial killers pretended to be police officers and fire fighters.  Stay in the house.

5.  Be alert to your surroundings and walk with your head up, looking around, and with confidence.  Don’t get caught just ‘sitting in the car’ and ‘looking at your phone.’

There are so many people out in public walking with their head down, looking at their phones, or just sitting in their cars, looking at their phones.

Bad guys look for people who are vulnerable and distracted and busy and won’t notice them launching a sneak attack.  If you do need a moment or two to respond to a text in your car after you are safely pulled over, always keep your door locked and windows up.

From David Gore: “I could sit in a parking lot and watch and observe women and I could tell you how alert they were.”

Tell your kids: keep your head up, looking around, walk with self-confidence, and stay off your phones.  And, if possible, walk with someone else. Notice what seems good and what seems “off.”

6.  If you see something, say something.

If you see a random car just hanging out at your school, like watching the kids at recess for example, get the license plate number if possible.  If there is a man you’ve never seen walking at an odd time through your neighborhood, pay attention and observe him. It could be absolutely nothing.  But it’s good to be on the lookout just in case.  Credible eye witnesses make the law enforcement world go ’round.

One time I went to my local library (lots of kids everywhere plus across the street from a school) and noticed a man sitting next to me in his car, with his pants down, doing something that men should only do in private. I called 9-11 and reported him.  Maybe doing what he did was as far as he will ever go with his sexual issue, but what if it’s not?  What if he is practicing up to be a bad guy?  Call 9-11 or your local area’s non-emergency number if you see suspicious activity.

Tell your kids: pay attention to things that seem “off.”  Stay away from men just sitting in their car, or from people watching you closely whom you do not know.  Watch out for a ruse or a scam from a bad guy (more on that in Part I).

7. Don’t go out alone at night.

This goes without saying but please, for the love of so many things, do not go out alone at night, on a nice long jog with your headphones on, all alone on a back country road.  I read a story of one lovely young 19 year old out jogging on a MARINE BASE one night who was brutally murdered.  Go jogging or walking with a friend or go during the light of day. If you are a woman who frequents bars and clubs, please find someone to walk you to where you are going.

Tell your kids: have a plan and don’t be out alone at night.  And if you are at a party, and there are things going on there that you know aren’t good, or if you get stranded somewhere, call us and we will come get you and you will not be in trouble.  If you don’t have your phone with you, try finding a store clerk, a pregnant woman, a bus driver, or someone else that seems safe and ask them for help (as a last resort).

9. Have a plan of where you will sleep.

Years ago Sandie (all grown up) took off spontaneously for a quick beach trip with a friend.  They ‘assumed’ they would find a cheap hotel on the beach. They assumed wrong as there was ‘no room for them at the Inn.’  They decided to buy some blankets and camping gear and thought it would be fun to ‘sleep on the beach’ that night. Bad idea. Sandie woke up the middle of the night with a creepy man wearing all black watching them from a distance.  She tried to stay awake but then fell back asleep.  About an hour later she felt something brush her leg and she woke up with a start.  She noticed the creepy man in black not five feet away just staring at her. Not a great thing to wake up to.  They abandoned their “beach sleepover” and got the heck out of dodge.

Tell your older kids (and tell yourself!): If you decide on a spontaneous road trip, make sure you plan ahead for where you will end up sleeping for the night and don’t try to wing it.  You may not find a hotel or they all may be full.  Make a plan before you go.

10. If the worst case scenerio happens, and you find yourself taken in a car by a bad guy:

Obviously, if you have a cell phone, use it. Call 9-11 and just let the operator pick up and don’t say anything.  I did some research and apparently there’s an app for kidnapping victims here.

If you have no phone or your phone gets taken, then let’s use the above example of how I was picked up and given a ride by a stranger.  Lets say the worst case scenario happened and instead of pulling over at the pay phone, the guy with a ponytail gunned the engine and took off a high speed, intending to take me to a secondary location.  What would I do?  I first would fasten my seatbelt.  Secondly, I would say a silent prayer for safety.  Third, I would either do the following: attempt to crash his car (when he reached a slower speed), or attempt to talk to him about God. If you want to be really inspired, listen the testimony of Margie Mayfield who was taken and later released by a serial killer, Stephan Morin.  How?  She spent several hours talking to him about God’s love. By the end of her day long captivity, they actually became friends.  He became a Christian that day and said that all the rage and hate he had inside of him his whole life was gone in that moment.  Later, he was captured and spent the remainder of his years in prison being a witness for God.

Margie’s amazing story is here.

Le’t get back to talking as a diversion tactic. Ted Bundy stated that he avoided getting into any extended conversations with his victims because that might remind him of their personal characteristics.  The FBI suggests that talking is probably the most effective and promising way to diffuse a violent situation.  (Serial Killers, Peter Vronsky, p. 376). Talking to the bad guy helped a young woman go free when her potential killer found out her father was dying of cancer.  Another bad guy let his victim go free when he learned she was sexually abused as a child. (source: ibid, p. 377.)

Tell your kids: First, of course, try to escape and do not go anywhere with him!  If taken, call 9-11, or try to talk to the bad guy to get him to see you as human. And because we are a Christian family: pray silently for God to protect you, pray aloud that God will protect you with his Angels, even pray aloud for the bad guy.  If your hands are free, try to make him take the car off the road, and if you get away, and if he has a gun, run anyway (it’s very hard to hit a moving target) and try to escape.

I know talking about these 10 things could alarm our kids.  I get that.  And talking to your kids about worst case scenarios are difficult at best, and possibly wholly inadequate in the moment.  I get that too.  My advice isn’t perfect. The way my husband and I approach our safety talks is that we tell our kids that God is their ultimate protector and, generally speaking, God protects His children.  We tell them that we pray regularly for God’s protection over them.  But we also tell them that bad things can happen to good kids, and we want to prepare them for something ‘just in case’ it happens.  We tell them that there are many things that they can do to avoid bad guys, and it’s our job as parents to equip and educate them. The culture of our family has always been complete honesty and talking about grown-up things in an age-appropriate way, so my kids are not overly surprised or scared about anything.  I don’t know what your family’s culture is, but consider telling them a few items on the Top Ten list if you think it could help them.  Just my two cents.

The other day I went over a few items on the Top Ten list with my own kids and started talking about the Tricky Person when my son interrupted me and said “yeah, yeah mom. Tricky people are bad adults who pretend to want or need something from kids.  But adult are adults and don’t need help from kids.  Can we stop at McDonalds on the way home from school?”

‘Nuff said.  The kids now roll their eyes at mom when I go over safety items with them, but I would rather them roll their eyes at me in annoyance than to be tricked our lured (or targeted) by a bad guy. I love them too much to avoid this topic.

Above all, I pray God’s protection over them, and tell them to pray, too. Because at the end of the day, my words and warnings may not be enough. I am grateful that their lives are in the hand of the Lord, and He is their ultimate protector, and He watches over them.

I wil close with two verses which bring me comfort:

Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from the violent, who devise ways to trip my feet. Psalm 140:4

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber, indeed, He who watches over you will neither slumber or sleep.  Psalm 121:2-4

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Please feel free to share other safety tips with me (or any other comments) in the comment section!

In Part III, I will share stories of people who survived a serial killer.

Stay tuned!

Protecting our Girls from Serial Killers – Part I

“It places the lotion in the basket.”

These seven words immediately send a shiver down my spine as I recall the famous scene from Jodie Foster’s classic movie, “The Silence of the Lambs.”

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The Silence of the Lambs, more than any other movie, shaped my view of serial killers. So are they still around and what do we need to know about them in the year 2017?  I am writing this post from a protective mom’s perspective, so I did a bunch of research to figure this out.
I’m a child of the 70’s and 80’s, so I vividly remember what I call the “outbreak of the serial killers” that spiked in this time period.  It seemed like every other week there was another serial killer on the loose.  These creepy, deranged men were lurking behind every corner, just waiting to kidnap our kids or steal young girls from college campuses.

But here we are in 2017. Are serial killers a thing of the past or still a threat?  And why this post?

I am writing this post because I am a mom and I have two girls who are young teenagers and I want to prepare them to face many different threats.  God is their ultimate protector, but I am their mother and it’s my responsibility to educate them as much as possible so that they can make wise decisions and safely grow up to be young women whom God can use to make this world a much better place.

This post actually started two months ago in August when our family took a vacation to Jackson Hole, WY (you can read about it here), and the place where we stayed for the first two nights did not have a room available for all of us to fit in, therefore we were given two adjacent cabins.  For just those two nights, we let the kids have one cabin, while we had the other (our two cabins were five feet apart). When we tucked them in at night, we stressed the following: “do NOT, under any circumstance, open this door for anyone; keep the door locked at all times.  Call or text us if you need anything.  We will be right next door. Stay in your room. We love you.  Go to sleep.”

And because I’m a child of the 80s and watched one too many scary movies (you can read about that lovely period of my life here:  One, two….Freddy’s coming for you) I had a schizophrenic conversation with myself that went something like this: “Heather, what if there is a serial killer in this small mountain town, who noticed that you left your kids in a cabin next to yours….and what if???  You are a terrible mother, putting your kids at a huge risk like this.”  A moment later another voice would chime in: “Heather, this is a small adventure for the kids.  It’s a quiet mountain town.  The chances of a serial killer being here are slim to none. Pray for God’s protection and trust in the Lord.”

The “pray and trust in the Lord” side prevailed and all was completely well.  There was nothing to it.

But it got me thinking…what’s the deal with serial killers?

And then I thought a bit more deeply about it and a bunch of other questions surfaced as well….

Are serial killers a relic of the past or a current threat to my kids?

Haven’t serial killings gone down over the decades?

How have serial killers changed their methods over the years?

What types of victims do serial killers target?  How often do serial killers kill?

Why do they kill?

Are serial killers just waiting to kidnap our daughters from the local mall, grab them as they walk to school, or steal them from their comfortable beds?  

What about girls from suburbia with doting/loving/protective parents (umm, like me and my husband), are they at risk?

How can I prepare my girls (and my son) for serial killers?  What can I tell them to do/not do, in order to protect them?  And not freak them out?

Oh and by the way, did any girls ever get away from serial killers?  What can we learn from them?

And while I’m at it (for some future posts) what are the other top threats and dangers that this demographic (young, teenage girls and young women) might come face to face with?

Before I get into the nitty gritty of my research, I have three stories to share with you.  I call these my “perhaps/perhaps not serial killer stories.”

(Mom, I’m so sorry if you are reading these for the first time….)

The first one occurred when I was only 22 years old, on an a trip to Europe as a part of a large student tour group.  I was alone in Rome one day when I was approached by an Italian man who invited me, in broken English, to join him for a coke. I politely declined and headed for the underground subway system.  Unfortunately, the Italian dude followed me into the subway (in a very sneeky, creepy manner) but I pretended I didn’t notice him following me.  When the subway pulled to a stop, I entered one of the cars right in front of me while he (sneakily) entered into the next car attached, but hid behind people so I wouldn’t know. I pulled a fast one on him — and at the very last moment — I quickly exited my car right before the door closed.  He was trapped in his car.  When he went past me, we both stared at each other.  His was a look of surprise and frustration, almost anger; mine was a smirk and a “ha ha” — while I laughed at him.  I’m so glad I was hyper-vigilant based on all of the 80s horror movies I watched growing up, but why the heck was he following me in the first place?

Se La Vie, creepy European dude.  

Another time, Erik and I went to a mall to shop, and while Erik was in a store, I decided to do some people watching; I was on the second floor, looking down at the ground floor. That’s when I noticed a man watching me, partially hidden behind a column.  Several minutes went by where it appeared that I must be completely alone at the mall.  Occasionally I glanced over the man.  He never stopped starting at me. There was something eerie about him and the way he was watching me; almost like he was targeting me.  When Erik came over to me I immediately looked over at him to see his reaction.  His eyes grew big, he ducked completely behind the pillar, and turned and left the mall in a hurry.

I Saw You, Creepy Mall Dude.

The last story occurred in PERFECT serial killer demographic form (more on that in a second).  First of all, this story takes place in CALIFORNIA in the 1990s.  As much as I love California, it has the largest number of victims of serial killers (source here). (Hello, there was even a MOVIE, set in the 1990’s, called Kalifornia, that took place in California, that dealt with…you guessed it….serial killings that occurred in California.)

So in my mid-twenties I flew out to visit one of my friends who lived in California named Marla (I actually interviewed her here) and we decided to drive up the famous Route 1— California’s beautiful coastline — doing some tent camping along the way.  Everything was going well until we ran out of camping fuel and had to stop at a K-Mart in Monterey, right off of Route 1.  We walked into the store and went directly to the camping aisle.

So there we were, two young girls, with little make-up on so we looked extra young, both of us attractive (if I do say so), standing in the camping aisle, looking at camping fuel, alone.

We were easy targets.  

Out of nowhere a man in his 40s approached us and said “hey girls, I am new to the area and was wondering if you knew of a good camp-site or state park that I can go to.  I’m camping like you are, and I would love a recommendation.” Sensing a creeper, I told him, quite bluntly, “sir, you can go down to the Chamber of Commerce and get recommendations for state parks.”

He then proceeded to tell me that he already knew he could do that, but that he wanted to hear our opinion of where we had already gone, and where we were planning to go to, because he needed a good recommendation.

Ummm, no.

I told him of a State Park we had just visited (and had no plans of returning to) and he said thank you and left. Or so we thought.

Unfortunately, Creepy Kmart Dude did not in fact leave but followed us around the store, always staying just out of sight from us.  Marla and I furtively got into the check out line (always looking out for him), and at the last second he was right behind me in line (he came out of nowhere), so we pretended like we had to return the camping fuel, dashed all around the perimeter of the  store, and quickly left.

The last time I saw him he was standing in the middle of Kmart, turning in circles, looking for us.

We Tricked You, Creepy KMart Dude.

Were these three men serial killers?  Probably not.  But you never know. However, these three stories just confirmed to me that I always need to keep my head held high and be alert to my surrounding, and not put myself in foolish situations.

Now onto the questions I asked at the beginning of this post. I am a research nerd and love knowledge and information, so I will put a bunch of interesting research stats in the P.S. section if you are interested.

For the rest of you, I will briefly answer the above questions and then close with a couple of good stories.  After all, my blog’s theme is story-telling.

The Bottom line of Serial Killers today:

Serial killers are still a current threat, but a smaller one.  But before you relax in your easy chair and watch the new Netflix series about serial killers and think “well, that’s from the 80s,” just remember that approximately 50 of them are still out there at any given time, trolling for victims. Serial killings peaked in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

The stat you need to remember is this: somewhere between 3,500 and 5000 persons are killed each year by a serial killer.  (Source: Serial Killers, Peter Vronsky)

But even if serial killings are less common, it seems Americans are still fascinated by them. I guess it’s because of the brutality and sadistic nature of their crimes.  Or maybe it raises up a primal fear in all of us of a worse case scenario happening to perhaps our own teen daughter as she rides her bike home after work or school one afternoon.  Americans like to be in control.  Serial killers make us all feel nervous and out of control.

As far as the victim profile of serial killers, let’s take a look at the girl in the movie the Silence of the Lambs, as she pretty much sums up both the demographic and the method serial killers use.  First, she was in a vulnerable situation (out walking alone at night), she got tricked by a scam of Buffalo Bill, and she was what he was looking for, specifically he was looking for a larger young lady, (although statistically larger-boned or bigger girls are less likely to be targeted).  So the movie got that pretty much right.

Sadly, prostitutes seem to be the number one target of serial killers. Other vulnerable demographics include runaways, hitchhikers, the homeless, and mentally ill.  Basically people that authorities won’t miss for awhile and/or that the killer feels “safe” to exterminate.

Vulnerable situations include, as mentioned, being out alone at night, kids outside with no adult around, hitchhiking (as touched on above), and just plain old super unlucky people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.   And yes, they choose a wide variety of victims including men and boys and the elderly.  For more information on who they target and why, click here and here.

What about choosing kids?  Certainly, children can be the victims of these killers, but the reality is that the abduction and murder of children by stranger is a very rare crime (approximately 43-147 children are kidnapped by strangers every year).  Most kids who disappear are runaways and most return home. (source: Serial Killers by Peter Vronsky.)  If you teach your kids how to use their intuition and avoid tricky people (I will cover this in part II), you will help your child to be safe.

These killers will most likely not snatch your beautiful 12 year old daughter (or your freshman home from college) from their bed, as long as you lock your doors and windows (and as long as they were not targeted beforehand).  In all my research, if a serial killer broke into a home, it was usually through an unlocked door or window.  They also have preferred “hunting grounds” which are rarely private homes as the chances of being detected and engaged or killed by the residents or neighbors is exceptionally high.

As far as where they kidnap their victims, I would say mainly from public places, and yes, even the mall or just outside (like on the side of the road).  However, I would say your kids and mine are most likely fairly safe as long as they do certain things which I will outline in Part II, but most importantly not being tricked our lured by a bad guy.

Serial killers have changed over the decades in that they use social media a lot more and mass gun violence or gun killings seem to be the new “method” of serial murdering.  (here)

I can speak directly to this as years ago, in October of 2002, the Beltway Snipers paralyzed the greater DC metro area where I live (and in fact, several shootings took place just miles from our home).  I vividly recall passing FBI agents on the side of the road, toting huge assault rifles, inspecting vehicles, looking for the mysterious “white box truck,” while Erik and I nervously drove past.  These two modern day serial killers (John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo) basically paralyzed our entire area for weeks.  I was afraid to go to the store, sit on a bench, or put gas in my car. These two serial killers were later apprehended due to the quick thinking of a truck driver.

The question of why serial killers kill is a matter of much debate, but in a nutshell many believe the following factors could contribute: trauma/abuse/brain injury/social isolation as a child, mental illness, a personality disorder such as psychopathology, and I would add another: demonic possession or oppression.

And now to the one thing I hope you will remember after reading this post:

Most victims of serial killers were lured away by a ruse or a scam by the serial killer.  In fact, 65 percent of serial killers attracted their victims this way. (stat: here.) Many serial killers then took their victim away with their vehicle.

Ted Bundy was a prime example of a serial killers who lured or used a scam.  In addition to being very handsome, smart, and volunteering as a suicide hotline counselor (and a very good one at that, according to his friend Ann Rule who wrote a book about him), he was charming and friendly and caring and had “normal” relationships.  However, he had a super dark side.  If an opportunity presented itself and he saw the “right looking” young woman at the right time, he either a. pretended like he had a hurt arm and then asked these girls to help him with something or b. pretended to be a cop/security guard at a mall and lured girls that way, and then he committed the unspeakable, up to 100 plus times. (His exact victim count is unknown.)

There were at least three young women who did not become a victim of Ted Bundy.  How?   In April of 1974, when Ted Bundy was literally snatching young girls off of college campuses, there were two curious reports that came in.  One girl reported that she was approached by a young, handsome, neatly dressed man with his left arm in a cast who approached her in front of the school library.  He asked her to help him carry his books for him to his car.  She reported that as she approached his car, she noticed that that front passenger seat was missing.  For some reason that she could not explain, she felt suddenly afraid and placed the books on the hood of the car and hurried off, feeling embarrassed by her “irrational” fear.  The second young woman reported that Bundy asked her to help him start his car while he fiddled with the engine in the back (he drove a VW Bug, with the engine in the rear) but she, too, became fearful and suddenly left, saying she was in a hurry and she had to go.

Based on those two stories above, here is my first piece of advice for everyone out there:

TRUST YOUR GUT.

If something feels off, it probably is.  It often takes a minute or two (or sometimes longer) for your conscious thought to catch up to what your subconscious is trying to tell you.  If you’re not sure about something, and you get that weird feeling, run.  Who cares what the other person may think of you.  It might just save your life.

(Gavin De Becker calls trusting your guy “the gift of fear” and writes two books about this, and one is oriented to protecting children and teens: here.)

Our kids and teens can also be tricked especially through social media.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google “To Catch a Predator” (or click herefor just one way that older men are trolling for your younger daughters.  It’s disgusting.

We all want to protect our girls from various threats and dangers, and while serial killings may be statistically less than they used to be, (and yes other threats may be more prevalent), it’s still good to know how you can avoid them.  I will also be looking for common threads between serial killers and many other dangers that face our daughters and sons today.  For example, I have already shown the connection between serial killers and sex trafficking.  Are there other connections between all of these threats?  If so, what are they? Stay tuned for future posts addressing other threats facing our daughters and sons, such as sex trafficking, gangs, bullying, etc.

In part II, I will tell you what you can do (or teach your kids) to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a serial killer, and what we can learn from women who got away from them.  

In closing, as I was debating writing a post about this topic, I was channel surfing one night when I caught the very end of the movie called The Lovely Bones about a fourteen year old girl who is lured by a serial killer into his underground bunker and murdered (her body was never found).  The part that got to me the most is when her mom finally went into her bedroom for the first time since she vanished.  Her mom looked around her bedroom, which was untouched since the day she had disappeared, and then tears welled up in her eyes.  She felt her daughter’s presence and said to her:

“I love you, Susie.”

I cannot even imagine what it must be like to lose a child to a serial murderer.

That’s when I decided to write this post, if only to educate myself and my kids.

The movie closes with the following lines:

When my mother came into my room, I realized that all this time I had been waiting for her. I had been waiting so long. I was afraid she wouldn’t come.  Nobody notices when you leave.  I mean, really leave, when you choose to go.  At best, you might feel a whisper, or a wave of a whisper, undulating down. 

My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name: Susie. I was fourteen years old when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

I was here for a moment, and then I was gone.

I wish you all a long and happy life.

________________________________________________________

Stay tuned for Part II

P.S for all the research nerds, and those who are secretly fascinated with this subject, here are some more interesting serial killers stats:

  • A serial killer may be on the loose in New York City as we speak (click here.)  Also, the person or people responsible for the recent deaths of six women in Ohio remain at large (read the story here).
  • Concerning the number of victims: there are more than 185,000 unsolved homicides committed since 1980.  I can almost bet that a significant number of those homicides were the work of serial killers.  So between that and the fact that known serial killers do not always admit to all of their victims, and that many of them have never been caught, the stats, in my view, are off.
  • Women accounted for 70 percent of the 1,398 known victims of serial killers since 1985. By comparison, women represented only 22 percent of total homicide victims. (please see this article).
  • U.S. serial murder cases with prostitute victims accounted for 32% and/or 35% of all U.S. serial murder cases involving female victims only, 1970-2009, according to these sources: here  and here.
  • And as for the age that they target, the average age of a serial killers victims was 34 years, with the median age was 29 years and mode being 22 years. (here)
  • After peaking at age 29, the chances of being murdered by a serial killer dramatically decrease in one’s 30s, 40s, and 50s. (source here)
  • Serial killers sometimes choose a wide variety of victims.  It’s hard to completely peg the victims of serial killers, as sometimes serial killers choose unique demographics, such as a straight serial killer choosing gay men as his victims, or hospital-staff-turned-serial-killers choosing elderly patients. And yes, there are women serial killers too.
  • And yes, they sometimes target men and boys.  There were many young men that died at the hands of John Wayne Gacy and others.  Again, these boys were out walking alone at night and/or lured because Gacy pretended to be a police officer or wanted to hire them for a job.  He tricked a lot of young men in different ways. Male victims tend to be young men either hitchhiking or seeking work. (To read about this, click here for about 40 different serial killers who targeted men or boys.)
  • However, in the course of doing research I found this: the most common circumstance surrounding serial murders in the U.S., however is a home invasion. Roughly 1,500 Americans have been killed by a serial killer during a home invasion since 1900. (source here). However, in a book I read called Serial Killers – The Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky, only 10 percent of serial killers invaded their victims homes (page 307).
  • There were cases of kids walking to school, or going to the mall, or just outside riding a bike or walking to the store, who just disappeared and were later murdered by a serial killer.  In fact, in my local area, they just closed a 40 year old case where two little girls walked to the mall in the mid 70s and were never seen again. (you can read about the Lyon sisters here).
  • There are several theories as to the decline in serial killings but it boils down to better police work, technological advances, they-can’t-get-away-with-it-as much-as-they-used-to (due to Internet and surveillance cameras), lack of the celebrity status and air time serial killers used to receive.
  • There are three theories of why serial killers kill: some type of childhood abuse or neglect, mental illness or personality disorder (such as sociopath, psychopath) and brain injury (source here.) In my research, it also seemed to extensive bed wetting, cruelty to animals, being bullied or excluded by other kids, etc. that were factors to them becoming future serial killers.
  • After the serial killer has tricked and distracted his victim, oftentimes he will quickly smash them over the head with a heavy object. Once they are unconscious, they are moved to another location.
  • Serial killers are generally thought to be very approachable and friendly and are able to mimic decent and kind human behavior.  Most of them don’t “look” or “act” like a killer.  They are charming, handsome, community leaders, and suicide hotline volunteers.  They can live next door to us and we’d never know.
  • An example of serial killers who targeted: there were serial killer cousins who would troll Florida’s coastline looking for women sunbathing on a beach all alone.  They would disable her car in some way and then patiently wait.  When the woman came back to her car and it wouldn’t start, there the sadistic cousins would be, being super nice, and offering her a ride. If the woman took their offer for a free ride, it ended up being the last ride of her life.  (To read more about David Gore and Fred Waterfield, click here.)
  • The source for the first point about serial killings being statistically less came from the FBI’s report Serial Murder: Pathways for Investigations and Radford University/FGCU Serial Killer Database. Updated 9/4/2016.
  • Some serial killers pretended to be men in authority.  David Allan Gore used his auxiliary sheriff’s badge to trick girls into obeying him. (see source above.) And finally, John Wayne Gacy and the Hillside Stranglers also used a police badge, among many others.

Interview with a Preparedness Expert/Mom

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Marla is a regular mom with a great skill set — family emergency preparedness — and one of my best friends from high school. I visited her last year at her home in Southern California.  We are standing on a picturesque hill directly above their home in the above photo.  Crazily, the entire area where we are standing caught on fire a few months after this photo was taken.  The out of control wildfire traveled downhill and almost burned down her house.  Read the full story below.

Marla is a preparedness expert/mom who lives in a major wildfire and earthquake zone: Southern California. I met Marla at the start of ninth grade when I took a two year break from public school to attend a small, Christian private school in Syracuse, NY (where I grew up).  Ironically, I was going through my rebellious/class-clown phase during those two years (not so compatible with a strict Christian school), and Marla was my very first friend; we met at my locker.  We’ve kept in touch all these years and I visited her a year and half ago at her home in California and that’s where this interview began. In this interview, Marla discusses the top three ways a family (or individual) can be prepared for a disaster, how to approach thinking about the unexpected, the number one thing you need during an emergency, social unrest and the zombie apocalypse, and how her house literally almost burned down due to an out-of-control wildfire.  I interview her from her well-stocked underground bunker in California.  (Kidding…her garage is well stocked, but no bunker.)

Heather:  Marla, last year you had a wildfire almost burn your house down.  Please tell us what happened.

There were some wildfires in my general area, but due to the wind direction, we were told that our home would probably be ok.  I was at a garage sale in town when my friend’s husband who was fighting the fire said I better get home, because he was pretty sure we’d be evacuated soon, so I drove home.   I could smell smoke and the sky turned a very dark but also a weird orange color as I drove.  I arrived home, and power was out, so no AC, but because of the smoke cover, what would have been 104 + degrees was about 80 something…we packed a few things in the car easily because I had our valuables gathered, consolidated and organized. My new neighbors on either side of my home were pretty panicky. They admittedly couldn’t think straight- so I was able to have the privilege of talking them through what they needed to do and how to prioritize. I asked if I could pray for them and prayed for God’s peace to be known to them.  That was pretty instantaneous after praying. He is a present help in a time of need 🙂  Awhile later I looked out the window and saw a huge plume of black smoke barreling down on our house.  I went out to my back yard to pack up our chickens and just as I finished, I heard a sound like rushing wind — almost like a tornado, and a loud crackling sound.  It was the wildfire coming over our hill behind our house!  My girls and I got in the car and drove out of there, and like an idiot I was almost out of gas and the roads were really backed up.  My husband and some other husbands decided to stay at the house and fight the fire with their garden hoses.  At that time there was no firefighter support. The fire was super close to my house at this point, and according to my husband, had reached a fort my kids had built and it all had to be aflame. My one neighbor came up to my husband and she prayed something like this: “God, you have power over the wind and waves, and over the fire. We ask you to push this fire back, preserve their home and land, do a miracle, and keep the hill from burning.”   And God answered.  All the things that my husband and neighbors saw, with their own eyes, as being consumed by the flames, were not even burnt.  Or near burnt.  Our house was saved.  It was a miracle.
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Above: the wildfire that was coming straight down the hill towards Marla’s house.  It was a miracle that her house and land were saved.

 

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A helicopter sprays water and chemicals over the wildfire.
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Keep your valuables (documents, keepsakes) in one place for easy grabbing.  Marla was able to quickly put those important items into her car, and leave her home, in a moment’s notice.

What did you learn from that experience?

Keep between half and a full tank of gas in your car.  Keep your keepsakes, important documents, and valuables in one place so you can quickly grab them.  Prepare your neighbors for peace (more on that in a moment). And honestly, nobody came to tell us to evacuate; there was no announcement that I was aware of.  Sometimes you have to trust your instincts and not necessarily rely on the authorities to tell you what to do.

Why did you become interested in preparing for a disaster?

Because I do live in a place with earthquakes (Southern California, near the San Andreas fault) and that terrifies me.  I didn’t think much of it and put it off, even after I had children.  Until there was actually a little earthquake one day and I had two little tiny kids in a shopping cart.  It made me realize that I would have no idea where to go or what to do or how to get ahold of my husband or how to get home if the roads were blocked.  And I was in Walmart, in the camping section, so I was very thankful for that.  So I grabbed a few things and left.  But that got me thinking that I should really think a lot more about preparedness.  So I learned a lot about it, took some classes, and started a website.  (Her website is here.)

Let’s start with the two recent devastating hurricane events.  How would you advise a family to be prepared for a hurricane and its aftermath?

First, if you live in area prone to hurricanes and if you haven’t taken the time to make sure you’ve assembled an Emergency Supply Kit, build one now! A few other things: board up your windows, fill the bathtub with water, go over the evacuation plan with the family, and know the location of the nearest hurricane shelter. If you are instructed to evacuate, do so!  You cannot be certain that help will come later if you find yourself in a deadly situation after evacuations have taken place.  Remember to do the following when you prepare to leave home: turn off lights, gas appliances, heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems, keep refrigerator/freezer turned on (and turn it up to the coldest setting), and of course, lock your home!

(For more information on hurricane preparedness, please go directly to Marla’s website. CNN.com also had a great article on this topic; some of the information above was taken from the article: here.)

What are some questions that individuals and families should be asking about being prepared for a disaster?

What are the dangers we could have locally?  What are the natural disasters that may be prevalent in our area?  What kinds of man-made disasters could we face?  What would I like to do in those situations?  Do we want to high-tail it out of town?  Where are we going?  Is that place stocked with what you need?  Natural disasters include hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, flooding, and wildfires.   And in some locations, a tsunami. Man-made emergencies include power grid problems, terrorist attacks, EMPs, etc.

What are some simple ways a family can get prepared?

I think families are loathe to prepare for emergencies because you would rather not think about those difficult scenarios.  But I have three words of advice for you:  SKILLS TRUMP STUFF.  Knowing how to do things is better than having stuff.  The first order of business is coming up with a plan. First, come up with a fire exit plan.  In about four minutes a fire can be raging and almost impossible to escape.  If you live in an earthquake region, practice an earthquake drill.

Figure out where your family is going to meet up in case of a natural disaster or social unrest.  Maybe you work in one corner of the city/county, and your spouse works in another area; maybe your kids attend school in another area.  How are you getting them?  Where are you meeting?  What if traffic is blocked up?  Do you have good walking shoes in your car? Do your kids have extra water, sneakers, and a food bar in the car?  Even schools need to have good supplies in the event of a lock down situation, including a privacy screen.

I will bottom line it for everyone: what are the Top Three Ways to get prepared for an emergency?

First, make a family plan (see above); talk to your family about what you can do to prepare.  Learn about what you already have that can prepare you. For example, big garbage bags can line your toilet for sanitation when there is no plumbing (for sewage purposes, if it comes to that).  Learn how to get water out of your hot water heater.  What are all the water sources in your house? And trust in the Lord.  Secondly, make sure you have a 30 day minimum of WATER (one gallon, per person, per day).  And if there is a big disaster in the city, the Suburbs are the last area to be addressed.  It’s the high density populations that gets addressed first.  Where I live, about 40 minute outside of a big city, they told us it will be two to six months before anyone is able to get out here to address anything.  That’s a long time. Thirdly, have a month’s worth of food.  Start with two weeks and then incrementally increase it.

How do people get started preparing for difficult scenarios?

Start with the basics. Most houses have anywhere between one and two weeks of food.  You need to think: how am I going to cook it with no electricity?  What is my fuel source?  Do I have enough canned food?  STORE WHAT YOU USE AND USE WHAT YOU STORE.  Rotate your food. Know that children and elderly are more prone to starve in a time of distress.   Take small steps.  Be a little more prepared today than you were yesterday.  Preparing for the apocalypse is completely overwhelming and impossible.  Don’t become obsessed and fearful.  If you sense the Lord nudging you to become more prepared, that’s wisdom.  Take small steps.

What can people do to help their community prepare?  

So make your plan for fire exits, make your plan for a couple of natural disasters, then say to your neighbors, “Hey guys!  We’ve never met, we just drive into our garage, but I wanted to give you my contact information, if ever there is an emergency or something suspicious, and hey we made a fire safety plan, and one for a hurricane, if you want we can all brainstorm together and be prepared as a neighborhood.”

People don’t love it.  They are kinda slow and suspicious.  Neighbors can feed and save each other.  There are plenty of stories about the Northridge earthquake where everyone pulled their grills together and grilled all of their meat before it rotted and fed the entire community.  That’s a beautiful thing.  However, 20 percent of the neighborhood will do 80 percent of the work.

What is the number one thing people need access to during a disaster?

Water.  You need to access water.  You can live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food.  We came home one day and our water had been off all day.  And if that had been prolonged — you realize in those moments where your water is: in your ice cube trays, in the back of your toilet tank (not the bowl!), etc., but how long is that going to last me?  You realize how badly you need water for so many things!  Watch out for those foil pack waters – they taste wretched after a short period of time, and your kids won’t drink them.

Is it important to have access to a local water source such as a lake?  Should you purchase a hiking water filter like Erik and I have for our back-packing trips?  

Here’s the challenge: everyone is going to go to that lake or stream to get water.  There are really great tools like the UV Water purifier.  Like a huge thick pen with a filter; they are battery powered.  You can stick it in your cup of water to purify it.  Have your bottles of water; have your gallons.  Don’t set them straight on concrete, though, because that leeches in.  Sometimes you can use tablets and drops.

(Heather’s note: honestly, if this is the one thing you take away from this interview — think about water.  Do you have a nearby water source?  And do you have a dependable water filter? If not, order a water filter today (google “water filter for back-packing.”) If there is no water source nearby, go buy water at the grocery store and store it in your basement or garage on a shelf.)

Can you talk a little bit about situations that can lead to social unrest?

Extended power outages, “social justice” issues, rioting political protestors, EMPs, terrorist attacks, power grid problems, terrorist attacks.  You could have localized black outs with a nuclear power plant problem or an aged electrical grid. I get paranoid about social unrest.  I have a quick story: the power went out in a grocery store one night.  The doors wouldn’t open; you had to pry the doors open because there was no power.  Everything was pitch black except a flickering green light.  In a very short time I started to hear people chant, with nervous laughter, “Loot the store!”  I left my cart of groceries and got out of there.  I got to my car in pitch blackness.  Did I have anything to light my path?  Or keep me safe? I really didn’t.  When you don’t know the time when things will resolve, people get crazy.

I had wished I had a flashlight on my keychain that didn’t need constant pressure to stay on, and maybe a whistle. Happily- I didn’t need either.

But can’t we all go to a cabin in the woods?

A really nice idea, but your biggest problem is actually getting to the cabin.  And eventually the hungry hoards are going to come looking for food.  People will say “I want an RV.”  You can’t go off-roading in an RV.  Roads are going to be clogged.  What are my back ways of getting there?  How much gas do you need?  Keep your cars half to three quarters full of gas at all times.

(Heather’s note: everyone will come after the RVs, people, just like in the movies and on TV. But I’m not going to lie, I totally want one anyway!  I have heard people say that if the roads are clogged or blocked, try driving over the railroad tracks.)

Marla, let’s talk The Walking Dead.  End of the World.  Zombie Apocalypse.  What then?

Honestly, you’re a goner.  I mean, there is nothing you can do for that stuff.  It’s going to chaos and mayhem.  And you have the Lord; like….that’s it (and really, what more do you need?).  Your days are numbered; He knows when your end is going to be.  Some, even Christian believers, are like “I will kill anyone I have to – to protect my family.”  Others are like “absolutely not. I know where I’m going; if we get taken out, we get taken out.  We are not going to wipe someone off the planet before they have a chance to repent and turn to Christ for salvation.”  I feel like in those times of crisis it’s an opportunity to lead as many to Christ as possible.  It’s our last chance to bring people into eternity.  Our life is fleeting and short; this body is temporary.  That is what I am trying to tell my girls.  If you don’t believe that, I have no help for you.

I fantasize about setting up a bunker; I’m not going to lie.  It’s nice to find like-minded people with whom you can live in community if it comes to that. But it is really going to take a lot of financial investment and a lot of educating yourself in order to prepare for that. And is that really what you’re here on earth for? Maybe. Maybe not.

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I’m not sure if an RV, a bunker, or a cabin in the woods will protect us from zombies or normal people who act like zombies during a period of social unrest. So let’s spend the little bit of margin we all have to store about a month’s worth of food and water (and a few other necessary items — including a water filter — see the list below), and pray that the above scenario never happens!!

You’ve touched on this a little bit, but should you help people that run out of food in a crisis situation?  

That’s lovely, but you only have so much.  Also, when people find out that you have food and you help, more people are going to come, most likely.  The best thing you can do is to help your community be prepared.

How do you know when it’s time to leave your home?

I always say to my husband: “what is our clue that things are getting bad and we need to high-tail it out of a situation?  What would be the catalyst?”  So we would leave and have a two week or two month vacation, and maybe we would come back and maybe we won’t.  I think that is where you have to be led by the Spirit and not led by fear.  It’s a delicate balance.  Perfect love casts out fear, but we also want to be prepared and protect our family.

Advice for how the faith community should approach preparedness and social unrest?  

Christians have an opportunity to be more prepared for PEACE.  So we help those around us more effectively, and be a light in a dark world.  Jesus is the prince of peace.  We want to be deliverers of that peace.  And ultimately knowing that your life is in His hands brings peace.

Joseph’s life is a cool example. God showed him to prepare for hard times ahead and when famine came, not only was Egypt saved but many people from far away received aid.

Closing thoughts?

You cannot avoid the inevitable and unpredictable, but you CAN plan for SOME of it.  You have to prepare yourself mentally before you are out of time. Remember two words: peaceful preparedness….anyone who is a little more prepared or has put a little bit more thought into how something might be like is going to be calm when that thing happens.  SKILLS TRUMP STUFF.  We hate thinking about it….but thinking about it is going to get you further along than buying an emergency pack at Walmart and never looking in it or figuring out what its lacking for you is practically fruitless.  Know things.

Preparedness in one sentence?

There is a quote in the book of Proverbs that I think sums up preparedness well: “A wise person sees danger ahead and prepares for it.”

A little bit of wisdom goes a long way.

Thank you Marla for sharing your tips with us!

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Marla and me on a beach, when all was well in the world and there was no emergency to think about.

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Closing thoughts from Heather:

If you are a back-packer/hiker or love to go camping, you will already have a bunch of preparedness items in your basement or garage (think camp stove, propane, water filter). The one thing I cannot stress enough is: do you have a plan to access water?  I think my biggest take away, after interviewing Marla, is that I actually don’t have much of a family plan in place in case of a disaster.  My kids go to school across town and in case something happens, and the streets are clogged or shut down, I’m not really sure how to get to them.  A couple of other takeaways:

  • It’s good to pack sneakers and water bottles (and protein bars) in the car – just in case.
  • I’m glad I already have a water filter and live near a lake.
  • I’m glad skills are more important than stuff.
  • I need to organize all of my keepsakes and important papers in one spot.
  • I need to remind the kids about the fire plan we made a long time ago.
  • I hope I can get to the grocery store before everyone else does. 🙂
  • I have a long way to go.

One last note: when you are making any sort of plan, please don’t forget your pets!!

Thanks for reading!!

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For further resources:

Click here for the Red Cross, which already has emergency kits put together for you: here.

The CDC also recommends you should have an emergency kit prepared.  Whether or not you actually do that, scan the list below to make sure you have most of these items around your house in case of an emergency.

Please go to the CDC here.

The CDC recommends the following:

At Least a 3-day Supply of Food and Water

Water – one gallon per person, per day

(Heather: I am adding in water filter right here.)

Food – foods that are easy to make and won’t spoil, like canned soup, dry pasta, and powdered milk

•Manual can opener

•Basic utensils to prepare and serve meals

•3-day supply of all medicines, at a minimum

•Medical supplies like syringes, a walking cane, or hearing aids with extra batteries

•Soap

•Toothbrush and toothpaste

•Baby wipes

•Contact lenses or glasses

•First aid kit

•Emergency blanket

•Multipurpose tool (that can act as a knife, file, pliers, and screwdriver)

•Whistle

•Flashlight

•Radio (battery-powered, solar, or hand-crank) for updates on the situation

•Cell phone with chargers

•Extra batteries and cash.  Find out where your gas, electric, and water shut-off locations are, and how to turn them off.

There is more to this list, so please visit the website.

Wine in the Woods: Back-Packing with three kids, and Jackson Hole, WY

Imagine the following:

You are sitting by a beautiful mountain lake out in the middle of nowhere, high up in the  mountains.  You’re in the middle of a good book, sipping wine, while your kids happily play (screen-free) somewhere in the distance (somewhere FAR in the distance, because you found a rock very far from camp, over-looking the lake).  You hear a splash in the water and look up — the juvenile-sized trout that inhabit the lake are just beginning to “rise.”  You gaze at the ripples descending across the water.  Your eyes glaze over.  You reach for your phone to take a picture (or more just out of habit, really) but realize you don’t have it with you….for why should you?  There is no Internet availability out here — six miles into the middle of the woods.

You think about what could be going on in the world or who could’ve passed away while you’ve been disconnected from society for the last three days.  You say a quick prayer for someone in your family.  You start back into the book but those darned trout are rising again.  You wonder if you should go grab your pole and drop a line.  Suddenly, the wine hits you and you find yourself getting a wee bit sleepy.  Time for a little nappy-poo?  Of course!!

You quietly sneak into your tent (without your family knowing) and lay on your very comfortable blow-up mattress pad and…

TAKE A NICE, LONG NAP.

Welcome to my version back-country camping.  

It’s a lot more fun (and fun for moms and ladies) than you may think.

Before I get deep into the woods (I mean weeds) about our back-packing trip, let me back up for a moment.  I wrote this blog post for two simple reasons. First, to chronicle our family trip.  Secondly, so you, My Dear Reader, can copy our trip out West to Jackson Hole, WY, down to a tee if you would like. Because it’s so much easier to copy someone else and steal their ideas than to do all the research and endless Internet searching on your own, right?

Of course!

I will start with Jackson Hole, WY: what we did, what we recommend, what to skip, and where we stayed.

First, if you have never been to Jackson Hole, please, if you can somehow make it there (and afford it), GO!

So without further delay, here is the summary of our trip out West starting with…

Our trip to Jackson Hole:

We flew into Salt Lake City as it’s cost prohibitive to fly directly into Jackson Hole (it’s a five hour drive to Jackson Hole from Salt Lake City).  We stayed at the Rustic Inn at Jackson Hole (www.rusticinnatjh.com) which we highly recommend for many reasons which I will put in the P.S. section below.  As soon as we arrived at the Rustic Inn, we promptly swam in the cool and clean mountain creek that runs directly behind the establishment.  Such a blast!  People actually brought tubes and did tubing down the creek.  That night we made smores at the fire pits that they have on the side of the mountain there.

 

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The next day, Erik (husband) organized our hiking gear, we walked around town and ate at the Merry Piglets for lunch (Mexican, highly recommend), and then that afternoon we visited the Teton Village and took a gondola up to a restaurant overlooking a beautiful view!  (Quick tip: taking the Gondola is much cheaper than the Aerial Tram but the Tram takes you higher up.)

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We rode the gondola up to the top of a mountain at the Teton Village.

Later that evening, we went to the Jackson Hole Rodeo (www.jhrodeo.com).  The rodeo was so much fun for adults and kids alike.  The cowboys had some trouble staying up for eight seconds on the bulls.  Do not spend the extra money to purchase the expensive, covered seats.  We paid about $15 per person (after a 5$ discount if you order tickets on line) and had great seats in the general seating area.

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The rodeo was a lot of fun!  Only one cowboy made it 8 seconds on the mighty bull!

The next day we went back-packing!!!!  Which I will get to in a moment.

After we came back from back-packing, we promptly went on a river float tour followed by a whitewater rafting trip! (Dave Hansen Whitewater and Scenic River Trips.)  It was super fun.  Honestly, to save money, you could probably skip the scenic river float tour (which occurs first thing in the morning, before the white water rafting trip).  First, it’s very cold.  Secondly, you see just a wee bit of bird wildlife. Put it this way: if you are dying to see a bald eagle and an osprey, do the river float.  We saw both!  But, you can just skip that and just get to all the action of whitewater rafting.

By far, whitewater rafting was the favorite activity of the kids the entire vacation.  It was not overly scary (only class 1 and 2 rapids, with perhaps one class 3) but the kids got to sit right up front and got a ton of action (and water) up there.  Erik and Claire got out of the raft and went “swimming” in the Snake River.

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The kids LOVED whitewater rafting on the Snake River!

The next day, we woke up early and watched the sunrise over the Grand Teton Mountains — breathtaking — and then continued on to Yellowstone National Park.  It’s only 55 miles from Jackson but takes about an hour and a half or so to get there.  Beware, the traffic can be very bad once you are inside the park.  You must go see Old Faithful, visit some of the super-piping-hot lava pits, and be on the lookout for wildlife, including bison and bears! (Quick Tip: we watched Old Faithful go off from the raised outside porch located on the second floor of Old Faithful Inn — highly recommend.  Very easy.  You can purchase food and drinks while you wait for Old Faithful to erupt.)

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The beautiful Grand Teton Mountain range.  THIS is why you do all of the work to get here.
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Why…hello Mr. Bison.  Please stay clear of my car.  I would appreciate it.  Yellowstone was awesome; we saw Bison up close.  We also saw a wolf through a high powered lens that a nice man let us look through.
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Old Faithful, at Yellowstone National Park, 55 miles from Jackson Hole.
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Please don’t attempt to enjoy this “natural hot tub.”  You will die.  Plus, they smell like sulphur.  But they’re super cool.  But keep your small children close-by.

The next day we did the ‘Walk Around Town Day’ (shops, restaurants, beautiful artwork, photography, and souvenirs for the kids).  And then at night (6 pm) they have a “shoot out” in the middle of the town square!  Super fun “play” put on by real actors with some real cowboy “shootings” (with blanks, of course) and old-time Western drama.

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Every night at 6 pm in the middle of the town square there is a “shoot out” along with a short, Western, dramatic production.

That night for dinner we ate at the Lift Restaurant.  Great view of the side of the mountain where everyone goes skiing in the winter.

On our final day, we drove back to Salt Lake city but not before I spotted some wild moose by a small creek.  We promptly pulled over and took some pictures.

Back-Packing with three kids:

For those who cannot imagine ever doing this with your kids and plan to skip this part,  please give me two minutes of your time.  Back-packing is hard and wonderful and fun and a pain all at the same time.

Let me first address some of the top fears of non-back-packers: bugs and bears.  Yes, there are a few bugs, mostly mosquitos in August, and you can deal with those quite easily with various bug sprays and products.  Wildlife: in all the years Erik and I have been hiking, we have rarely seen wildlife in any kind of a dangerous manner, or up close.  That being said, we have seen bear and moose from a distance, as well as elk, deer, and bird-life.   As for bears: we always bring Bear Spray with us wherever we go. If you hang your food properly you should not have any issues.

On to back-packing:

We drove about 1.5 hours up to the Bridger Natural Forest and hiked 4.5 miles to Middle Sweeney Lake.  We camped one night.  The next day we hiked only 1.5 miles to our destination: Eckland Lake.  It was beautiful!  The kids helped Erik pitch both tents, and then Erik promptly made dinner.  So what was on the menu for dinner, you may ask?  Erik made each of us a personal pan pizza!  It was the best pizza I’ve ever had!  (I will put some info on camping food in the P.S.S.S. section.)

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The lake where we went fishing.

Before dinner however, while it was still relatively warm (it gets chilly that high up), my daughter Claire and I found a large rock that was located on the side of the lake and jumped into a deeper part of the lake (it was cold!). We were just about to jump in a second time when I saw a leech swimming in the water right near the large rock.  The leech was about five inches long and looked like a small snake or eel.  I must admit that after I saw the leech I had visions of that small creature slithering up to a certain area of my body, where it does not belong, so I did not jump in the lake after that.  🙂

Over the next few days we we went fishing (Logan caught a rainbow trout and learned how to fly fish!), roasted marshmallows/smores, played charades by the camp fire, hiked a few miles here and there to get a beautiful view, (quickly) bathed in the lake water, kids were silly running around the camp, played UNO in the tent while it rained, waited for Erik to cook us the next meal, and just spent some awesome time together as a family.

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This is why we go back-packing.  Just good old-fashioned screen-free time in the woods, connecting as a family.
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Little boy.  Big lake.
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Logan caught a fish! Don’t worry; we threw it back.

Just a quick note to all you ladies and moms reading this blog thinking: “no way!! I could never do back-packing and camping.”

Ladies, things have changed.  Camping is different than you may think.

First, you can bring COFFEE and DARK CHOCOLATE into the woods.  You can also bring WINE into the woods.  You can bring a GOOD BOOK into woods.  You can bring a light-weight AIR MATTRESS into the woods. You can bring portable, light-weight CAMP CHAIRS into the woods.  You can unplug, relax, read, and spent time with family and friends.  And yes, there is hiking and activity involved, but it is often rewarded with excellent views.  Bottom line: back-packing is great for relationships, and it’s great for you, too….to unwind and see the beauty of nature, and to unplug.

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My survival items: first and foremost, my Bible.  I always appreciate God as Creator out on these trips. Secondly, my coffee.  Thirdly, a good book.  Finally, a small bottle of wine.

On the fourth day we hiked out of the woods (about six miles) while the kids asked “when will we be at the parking lot?” about 100 times, got caught in a hail storm, met some people (vegetarians) who drive around the country in their RV looking for wild mushrooms to pick off of logs, and got ready to eat the famous “post-hike cheeseburger!”

We stopped at the The Bird restaurant on our drive down the mountains, which has one of the best mountain views in the area.  And then spent the next four days in Jackson Hole, as mentioned above.

In closing, I am happy to say that in the midst of all the activity, hiking, Yellowstone, white water rafting, doing various activities, and driving for hours at a time, we grew closer as a family and had some great conversations and a lot of fun.  We also appreciated God as the Creator of all the beauty that we saw…from the mountains, to the beautiful birds, to the clear and cold lakes and streams, to the sunrises and sunsets.

I highly recommend both Jackson Hole and back-packing.  Put it on your bucket list, because it was our:

best.vacation.ever. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

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Khloe, dropping a line.

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P.S. We stayed at The Rustic Inn, which we highly recommend for many reasons but mostly because of the unique cabins (try to get Creekside if you can), free breakfasts, and most importantly, it backs up to the most lovely mountain creek I’ve ever seen — and you can swim and fish in the creek to boot (there’s abundant wildlife around the creek as well).  Also, there is a hillside area above the creek that they’ve recently developed into an area with a nighttime Tex Mex bar as well as a fire-pits to roast marshmallows at night from 7-10:30.  Several nights in a row we roasted marshmallows at the fire pits.  Great for memories with your kids!  Below: sunset on the creek and the view right outside of our room.

P.S.S.  Other things to do in Jackson: I highly recommend Jenny Lake. There is a short hike you can do that gives you a wonderful view.  You can also take a tram up the side of the one of the mountains.  Gorgeous!  Also, we heard from fellow whitewater rafters that horseback riding up in the mountains was also really fun and that their 13 year old thought it was the best part of their vacation.

P.S.S.S.  Food for back-packing: this will be the hardest part of your entire back-packing trip (mostly the planning, careful packing, carrying it around, and execution of the meal).  My husband is an expert at it, and if you want to contact me directly, that might be the best way to go about this.  But in a nutshell, you need to order some yummy back-packing meals that need to be re-hydrated with boiling water.   A few ideas for meal planning starting with breakfast: instant coffee, bring powdered cream and sugar, instant oatmeal, just-add-water-pancake mix (we put m & m’s in them), and there are some really good egg-wrap meals you can make with rehydrated eggs.  You can also add cheese to the eggs.  Lunch: individual peanut butter packets with individual jellies with mini-bagels, dried salami, cheese, protein bars, trail mix.  Dinners: check out http://www.packitgourmet.com for excellent ideas.  We love the cheeseburger wraps.  Erik made personal pan pizzas using a heat diffuser.  You will need plenty of propane (about two small canisters), a pot for boiling water, a small frying pan, olive oil, small fold-up spatula, camping cups, camping bowls, and camping soap.  Don’t forget a water filter and a fire starter, or camping matches.  You will also need light-weight sleeping bags and a light-weight tent.  There’s more you will need but this will get you started.  Have fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Exorcist

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I remember being scared out of my mind when watching the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist.  So I decided to interview Dr. David Appleby, who performs exorcisms.  Most exorcisms (or deliverances) are not like the movie.  Read his story below.

I interview Dr. David Appleby, founder and president of Spiritual Interventions, Inc., which is based in Lynchburg, VA.  Dave is also a graduate counseling professor and pastoral counselor.  He has been involved in the deliverance ministry for more than 35 years.

Heather’s note: Dave doesn’t see like a demon-slayer: he has warm and kind brown eyes and has a very fatherly way about him.  He’s also very soft-spoken.  But don’t let that fool you.  In addition to being super smart, well-educated, and possessing an impressive professional pedigree, he gets rid of things that literally go bump in the night.  People come from around the world to see him, after they’ve tried just about everything.  He then performs an exorcism (or deliverance, in evangelical Christian terms) on them, and their whole life changes for the better.  Below is his story:

Do you consider yourself an exorcist?

By definition an exorcist is one who is able to cast out demons or spirits.  It is usually a word associated with the Catholic tradition.  Protestants often use  the word deliverance, or deliverance ministry.   That would be me.

How in the world did you end up in this line of work?

When I was an associate pastor I was responsible for providing counseling services for my church.  I kept running into good solid Christian people who apparently weren’t able to overcome their problems when I used the standard psychological or spiritual protocols.  I knew that I was missing something so I went back into the Scriptures to look for indications of supernatural change.  I saw that change occur when demonic spirits were cast out.  Back in the 1980s there were no books explaining how to do deliverance available (though there were several who made a case for it) so I just started experimenting.  After 35+ years I’ve developed a methodology that seems to work consistently.  I got into the field because nothing else was helping my clients.

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Dr. David Appleby has developed a model he has been using for 35 years to help people with demonic oppression.

Please describe your typical client?

Our clients are all Christians.  We won’t work with anyone who is not. Deliverance is for believers.  Why would one who has refused to be submitted to the Lord want, or hope to be set free from things when their whole attitude is in rebellion against the one who can provide their freedom?  Plus, if you remember the story from the Scriptures about the strong man and the stronger man.  When the house was cleaned out but not filled, the stronger man could come back with others that were seven times worse than the ones that were there to begin with.  Why would we do that to anyone?  Please see my book, It’s Only a Demon, for a more detailed explanation.

We see men and women, children and adults, professional people and not so professional people, the wealthy and the poor.  We see the physically and emotionally well and those who are not.  We see a huge range of clients.  The consistent factor is often that they have been damaged in some way, which in turn, opened the door to demonization.

What are some symptoms of spiritual oppression?

There are many.  First, feelings of shame or guilt that don’t resolve, accusatory voices in the mind that won’t stop, ungodly coping mechanisms (such as cutting, binge drinking, drug use) that just make the situation worse, difficulty making connections with people and with God, recurring nightmares or thoughts that disrupt sleep, and sins that don’t yield to traditional spiritual disciplines like meditation, prayer, fasting.

Some of this will be psychologically based, some physiologically based, and some spiritually based.

Here are a few more: a feeling that your life is not your own and that something else is working against you, personal or family problems that don’t respond to therapy, physical or psychological problems that don’t respond to medication, and finally, an inability to really, truly change.

How do you specifically make the demons leave the person? 

I don’t have the authority to make anything leave anyone.  As believers, however, we have all been given the authority by our Savior to command these things to leave in the name of Jesus.  When we do that in faith, and stand firm, they go, not because they want to, but because they have to.  Sometimes, however, we have to address the situations where these things gained access to the client before we can move forward.  It is only through the name of Jesus Christ (and his power) that a client can be set free.  While he is fully human, he is also the Son of God.  He created everything that is, including Satan and his demonic kingdom.  He defeated death when he died on the cross and rose from the dead.  In him we find life and supernatural authority over demonic spirits.

So you’re telling me that some Christians are under the influence of demons.  How does this happen?

Oppression is a non-biblical term that believers have decided to us to describe some level of demonic involvement that keeps the demon outside of the believer.  If you don’t believe that a believer can be demonized you have to have some explanation of what is taking place in the person.  Saying that the person is oppressed keeps the demon on the outside so you don’t have to deal with the theological issues.  The common doorways are generational (coming down through family lines), occult involvement (such as Ouiji boards, divination, witchcraft, sorcery, false religions, Masonic involvement in the family, drug use), trauma and victimization (physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse, abandonment or betrayal by parents or loved ones, etc.), and long-term sin (a commitment to disobedience).

So there are four doorways for demonic oppression.  What is the most common one you’ve seen?

Trauma and victimization is the most common.  We are constantly astonished how many children are traumatized by their families and sexually assaulted by friends and family members.  When a person finds himself/herself traumatized, victimized, and isolated, with no support from the people who are supposed to care for them, they can become prey for the Enemy.

What are some of the strangest things that you’ve ever seen during your sessions?

Physically I have seen people act like spiders and try to climb up a wall, writhing on the ground, screaming, changes in voice and mannerism, etc.  Just a variety of weird stuff.

Can you elaborate on this a bit more?  I know there was a young man you mentioned in your book where it took you several men to pin him down.  Can you give at least one more example of odd/crazy behavior?

One time I was speaking at a conference where I normally do a public deliverance at the end of the training.  Actually seeing what takes place during a deliverance helps to normalize the experience for those observing.  It also normally makes people more comfortable with the thought of them joining a team and participating in the ministry.

In any case, in preparation for the conference, I asked the host to find someone who was willing to have a public deliverance.   The host was such a believer and had such confidence in God’s ability to deliver people that he went out and found the worst client that he could find.  What I did not realize at the time was that my client was about 6’ 4”, weighed about 300 lbs., and had a long history of mental illness.  He had also just been released from a mental hospital that morning.  He had also not attended the conference, nor was he a Christian.  I had no idea about any of this.  I try not to work with openly mentally-ill people in public settings as it often leads to a whole other level of complexity that is not helpful in a teaching setting.

In any case, all the attendees were sitting in rows behind me while I was sitting in a chair facing him.  He was an enormous, powerful man.  The first part of the deliverance went well.  When I addressed the demon, however, things deteriorated rapidly.  Suddenly he stood up, put his face about four inches from mine and began roaring, I mean screaming with a power and volume that was new to me.  I could feel his breath and spittle on my face.  After he got finished roaring at me he stood up, still screaming, and moved to the back of the room, where he started picking up and tossing chairs and tables around.  I sat in my chair without moving silently praying, “Lord, big angels, big angels.  Lord, big angels.”   Eventually he calmed down and told the host that he had to leave as he had to go to work.  He walked out the door.

The observers, who were sitting behind me, didn’t say a word the whole time as they sat there in total shock.  Needless to say, there were not many people who were interested in joining me in the deliverance ministry after that.  🙂

Another time, my team and I were working with a young woman who was suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (Sometimes what appear to be alters are actually demonic spirits.  Other times they are legitimate alters; parts of a fragmented personality.)  In the midst of this deliverance I excused myself to go to the bathroom while a colleague continued working with her.  When I came back into the room I recognized that something unexpected had happened.  In the midst of the deliverance the main personality, with whom we were working, disappeared and a pure demonic spirit took its place. It was not fettered by the presence of a human personality.  As soon as I walked into the room it recognized me and began to speak to me.  As it spoke every hair on my body stood up as an overwhelming sense of evil and terror filled the room.  It then went on to suggest all kinds of sexual things that I could do to myself.  It was a little unsettling.  In any case, we went ahead and removed this spirit and several others.  When we finished, our client was completely healed and never again had any episodes of dissociation.  In this case, what appeared to be alters were actually demonic spirits.  That is not always the case.

I hesitate to mention these extreme examples, as they tend to reinforce the Hollywood stereotype of what deliverance looks like.  Events such as mentioned above almost never occur.  I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times such incidences occur out of literally thousands of deliverances.  When these manifestations begin to occur I just tell them to shut up and sit down and they do.  We have authority.

Have you ever been afraid during or after a deliverance session?

Rarely, mainly startled, because sometimes the unexpected can happen pretty quickly.   Plus, I do have big angels (I am told).

Have you ever encountered a demon you could not cast out?

I have discovered that I cannot cast a demon out of someone who wants to keep it or who refuses to submit themselves to the Lord.  I can’t help that person.  I have encountered situations where I was unable to figure out what needed to be done in order to cast the demonic spirit out so we were not successful.  Over the years we have, by God’s grace, become more discerning and have seen more success.  We now just assume that the demonic spirits will be gone by the time we get finished working.  That regularly proves to be true.

Can you tell me, briefly, about principalities?

These creatures, along with powers, thrones, and rulers, are mentioned in only a few places in the Scriptures ( Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10, 6:12; Col. 1:16, 2:15, and Tit. 3:1).  Not much is said about them.  I believe (and this is just my opinion) is that they are the same creatures that are referred to as Celestial Beings in 2 Peter 2:10 and Jude 8.  They appear to be demons or angels of a higher order that are often responsible for overseeing specific territories or have specific responsibilities.  Sometimes they find their way into people.  We are able to help people remove them.

Does your ministry do anything else such as clearing out peoples houses of ghosts, or other paranormal activities?

Sure.  I do that on occasion, as people request.  When I do, the manifestations stop.

What are ghosts, and do you believe in them?

The Bible is really unclear about it so I leave the question open.  When the Witch of Endor called up Samuel at Saul’s request it was apparently really Samuel.  Would he have been a ghost? Probably.  That is the only place in the whole Scripture where such activity is recorded.  I suspect that most of what people encounter aren’t ghosts, but familiar spirits acting like ghosts.

We’ve all seen movies with Catholic priests reading from the Bible, using holy water, and symbols like the crucifix. How is what you do similar or different compared to this? 

Sometimes we will read the Scriptures, sometimes anoint with oil, sometimes lay hands on the person.  I’ve not used holy water or the crucifix, but others have with some success.  Bless them.  We try to do nothing unless we are directed to do so by the Holy Spirit.

What is the actual deliverance process like, and who is typically on your team?

Not generally dramatic.  Quiet.  Intense.  Fun.  Lasting about three to four hours.  Successful.  My team consists of men and women, some in their 20s and some in their 70s, all of whom love the Lord and are delighted to have found a place where their unique spiritual gifts can be respected and utilized.  Each one blesses the other.  It’s wonderful.  Please see the book for more detail.

Is the devil real? 

I think so.  It is hard to look around the world and not see the fruit of evil surrounding us.  If you believe in good, it is hard not to believe in evil.  Whether or not that good is personalized as God or the evil as Satan is a matter of opinion.  Since the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin, I don’t spend much time trying to convince others one way or the other.  I am too busy seeing people be set free.  🙂

What does it mean to be possessed?

Bad word, as it springs from a bad translation of the Greek in the KJV of the Bible.  Better translation would be demonized (which says nothing about ownership), which means being under the control or influence of a demonic spirit.

Do you believe in angels? Have you ever seen any of them?

Yes, I believe in them. I’ve never seen an angel, but I have been aware when they have been around. Sometimes I can feel their presence. Those who can see them tell me that they are often around me.  I need all the “air” support that I can get.  🙂

How does someone know that they may be spiritually oppressed and in need of deliverance?  In other words, advice for someone out there reading this who thinks they may need some extra help in this area?

Lots of times these folks wrestle with guilt, blame, and shame that will not go away, in spite of the fact that they know that they have been forgiven by God.  They find themselves tormented with no relief even though they are doing all the normal things that most churches teach should help to relieve such things such as more Bible reading, more prayer, more fasting, more worship, more church attendance, more small group participation or even, in the most desperate situation, working in the church nursery.  Most churches believe that the remedy to such torment is simply more.  The trouble is that that doesn’t fix the problem because these disciplines aren’t designed to address the issue of demonic spirits.  Only deliverance can do that.

Can you tell me about the gift of the seer? How does that gift manifest? Have your seers seen angels and/or demons?  

Sure.  Seers are people who are wired to see spiritual things, as did many people mentioned in the Scriptures.  Most of them have this gift from childhood but find it repressed by parents and churches who have no category for one who can see into the spiritual.  Parents will keep telling the child that they didn’t really see anything; it was just their imagination.  Those who are so gifted rarely tell others about this for fear of being seen as strange.

When such people join me in my work it is often like God suddenly opens a door and they find themselves seeing all kinds of things that they’ve never seen before.  Some have impressions.  Some see things in their mind’s eye.  Others see things as clearly outside of themselves as clearly as you and I see people.  We value these gifted people, affirm them, and train them to use their gift, particularly in deliverance settings.  They bring a very unique flavor to deliverance sessions.  Some can see demons.  Some see angels.  Some see both.

What are some of the positive changes the clients tell you about post deliverance?

A man with whom we worked a few weeks ago sent me an email.  This is what he said happened to him:

  • I must say that there is much that is different since we met. It has taken a couple of weeks to come to clarity and take shape. Let me describe what I feel is different.
  • I don’t hear the noise of condemnation constantly in my head. And when I feel something threatening it is much easier to redirect.
  • I feel at peace more often than not. I routinely sleep in when I want to instead of waking up to anxiety way earlier than I should be.
  • I don’t feel powerless. Even when I don’t do something I want to do I don’t relentlessly beat myself up. I am much better able to create and implement a plan than I have in years without feelings of pressure and hopelessness to perform. I have developed several plans and have actually followed through. Who knew 😊.
  • I do not feel a profound sense of incompetence.  I feel much more like other people.
  • When people ask how I am doing I more often spontaneously say ‘great’ – I never used to say that – ever.
  • I do not feel a profound weight of hopelessness around my spouse like I have for these few years, though this is still a matter of prayer.
  • I experience myself as uniquely gifted by God. Several have told me recently that I am anointed and I am actually experiencing that in a humble way.

Other common experiences include the removal of voices, fear disappears, there is more peace.  Even if nothing overtly can be reported, everyone will say that they feel more peace than they have ever had.  It’s all good.

Can you tell me an example of a client where the deliverance was not successful?  Why was it not successful?

Sorry, but I can’t.  I can think of people who have walked away from deliverance because they decided that they wanted to keep their demons because it gave them a sense of power that they didn’t want to lose.  I can think of people who stopped the process because they had, in infancy, been so traumatized that the demonic spirit had so closely identified with the human personality that they didn’t know where they ended and the demon began.  As we removed the demonic spirits the person became more and more fearful as they felt like they were losing themselves.  The demon that they knew was less threatening to them than the freedom that they had never experienced.

Have demons ever come after you personally because of your line of work?

Sure.  I am a target.  After 35+ years of doing this I suspect that somebody from the other side knows my name.  I’ve been impacted personally and professionally.  Of course, the Lord has always used if for the good.  Sometimes I’ve found myself demonized as a result of trauma, or personal sin.  Sometimes the Lord has delivered me spontaneously. Sometimes I’ve had to call my team to help me. Fortunately that doesn’t happen a lot.  I’ve always viewed what I do as like being in a boat.  As the water gets deeper the boat floats. As  long as you stay in the boat it doesn’t matter how deep the water is.

What is the biggest misconception about the devil?

That if you leave him alone, he will leave you alone.

In your view, what is the Devil’s primary role in someone’s life?  

His desire is to destroy everything that God loves because he hates God so much.  God loves you and he loves me.

What is the biggest misconception about God?

That he isn’t good.  That he doesn’t love us.  That he wants to punish us.  That we can’t trust him.

What have you learned about God through your participation in this ministry?

He is more loving, forgiving, accepting, and powerful than anything that I can conceive.  The Enemy has already been defeated.  God has chosen to use his children to set other children free.  That is so cool.

Second to last question.  What would you say to readers who would not yet consider themselves a Christian? What evidence can you give to them that points to a loving God?

You don’t know what you are missing.  The fact that all of creation has been created for our pleasure and that we are surrounded by a God who loves us and gave his Son over to death that we might experience all these good things.  After all, he is love.

Finally — If you could sum up your entire ministry in one sentence — What would it be? 

My six year old granddaughter was trying to explain to a friend on the school bus what it is that her grandfather does.  She said, “My grandpa is a doctor who takes bad dreams out of people’s lives.”  Love it.  🙂

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P.S. from Heather, in bullet format, because bullets are fun:

  • I have been fascinated with the Dark Side since high school and used to read a lot of books about the occult and watch a lot of horror movies. I’ve always wanted to interview someone who has direct contact with the spirit world — so here you go peeps!  I hope you enjoyed it.
  • I have my own demon story to share, and will do so in a later post.
  • I am always hyper sensitive to people’s reactions when I post a blog.  First of all, not everything that people experience is demonic oppression.  Problems and issues can be physical, psychological, mental-health, emotional,  chemical, or spiritual (demonic) in nature.  Or, more likely, a combination thereof.
  • I also don’t want people to think that only Christians can be oppressed by demons.  That is far from the truth.  Everyone certainly can, from every walk of life.  Christians are able to be set free from Satan and demons, however.
  • Deliverance is a ministry that can help some people.  If you think you need help, or have further questions, please contact Dave directly at: dappleby@spiritualinterventions.org.  His website is www.spiritualinterventions.org.  His book is “It’s Only A Demon.”  You can find it on Amazon for $16 bucks — however there are only a few left, as it’s being replaced by his new book.  Fair warning, the cover of his book is creepy and weird.  The book itself is super interesting.  He also just released a new book called “Transformative Encounters” which will be available shortly.
  • Thanks for reading!!

The Choice That Saved My Life — (my birthday story)

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My mom — pregnant with me. She wasn’t allowed/invited to graduate with the rest of her Senior class because of her ‘situation.’

It was the winter of 1972, and my mother Linda, a beautiful girl with long black hair and green eyes, was set to graduate Salutatorian of her senior class in just a few short months. Because she had already completed her credits necessary to graduate, she was able to finish her senior year in January, but was still planning to officially graduate with her fellow classmates and even give her Salutatory speech in the spring.

Linda had the whole world at her feet: a great family, a handsome and great boyfriend (Mark) whom she’d been with for nearly three years, college in the fall, and great friends.

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My young parents.  My mom had everything going for her.

It’s funny how things can change almost overnight.

That day came when her period, which she was expecting for some time, never came.  She had heard that  Planned Parenthood, located downtown, offered free pregnancy tests, so she nervously drove to their facility.   Once there, she took the pregnancy test, which confirmed her fears:

She was pregnant.

Not only did Planned Parenthood offer free pregnancy tests, they also offered counseling.  She met with the counselor who told my mom that, due to her young age (17, almost 18), and because she was still in high school, that she should get an abortion.  The counselor also explained that although abortion was illegal in most of the U.S., it was legal in New York state, and that my mom should consider this option.  My mom left the clinic that day with her head buzzing with questions and her heart pounding with anxiety.

What to do?

Back in early 1972, getting pregnant in high school was very rare.  And there was certainly an element of shame and embarrassment that went with it. After telling her boyfriend Mark about her pregnancy, they both decided that they would like to keep the baby and possibly get married.  But first, they had to work out an opportunity to confess to her parents that she was pregnant. She knew that her parents would be distressed by the news, as their family was a moral, church-going family.  Although they were clearly taken aback by this disclosure, the only comment was made by Linda’s father was this:

“Nothing like this has ever happened in my family!”

After Linda revealed the news, her parents decided to go to their Presbyterian Minister for counsel and support.  Linda’s mother, Inge, was also this Pastor’s secretary, so it was easy to set up an appointment with him.  A few days later they met with their pastor and told him of their daughter’s pregnancy.  They asked him what they thought her daughter should do, and what advice they (as her parents) should give to their daughter.

After hearing their story, their pastor told them: “Linda is young, and she is very smart.  She should go to college.”

He paused for effect:

“In my opinion, she should get an abortion.”

My grandparents were shocked at his advice, coming from someone they considered a religious leader. Abortion was something that was only heard about in whispers, and no one they knew had ever had one.  My grandparents strongly disagreed with his advice, and went home confused and frustrated.  After my mom talked further with her parents, they all decided that it would be best that she should not seek an abortion, but rather that she would get married to Mark, set her college education on hold, and have that baby, even though her whole future lay ahead of her.

The spring rolled around and my mom was not even invited to her own high school graduation, or to give her speech.

Then one hot summer day my 18 year old mom, her new husband, and her parents, all checked into the local hospital in Syracuse, New York, and eventually delivered a healthy, blond-haired baby girl weighing 9 pounds and 4 ounces.   They named her Heather Lee.

That baby girl was me.

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Me, as a baby.  There is a rumor that this photo was displayed on the wall of Olan Mills (a photography company, back in the day) for a period of time.  But I can neither confirm or deny this rumor.  🙂

I can’t say it was easy for my mom to have a baby at 18. She proceeded to have another baby (my sister) two years later, but it was a difficult marriage, and my parents divorced a few years later.  She was able to squeeze in a one year degree to be a Medical Secretary, and she indeed pursued that career for many years as a single working mom.  It was very hard during some portions of my childhood for each of us.  Years later, my mom remarried and had two more kids, and now she is working as a nurse.  Things all eventually turned out really well, and through it all she never regretted her choice to have me, and neither have I.  🙂 To read more about some of the struggles my mom (and I) went through, click here.

As for me, I grew up, got my undergraduate degree, then my Masters, had a wonderful career, met an awesome man, got married, and become the mom of three great kids, with one adoption on the way.  In a strange twist of fate I ended up working for a leading pro-life Senator, working on pro-life policy.  (You can read about it here).

In another interesting twist, I actually had a chance to talk to that same pastor (who recommended my abortion) several years ago. I basically told him that my grandmother (his former secretary) had recently passed away, and then transitioned to tell him that I disagreed very strongly with his very shi*&%$#@ty advice he gave to my mom and grandparents many years ago.  (Actually, I was very kind and just told him respectfully that I disagreed with him, and that I was very happy to be alive.) We got into a weird debate/argument on the phone and he told me that “abortion is God’s will because it can naturally happen anyway,” (in other words, a miscarriage) and other things I won’t go into here. I honestly wasn’t looking for an argument, I just wanted to state my case.  I guess somewhere deep inside of me I wanted him to apologize to me.  To say something like “wow, I”m so sorry for the advice I gave to your mom’s parents, because, duh, if they had listened to me, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.  I am so freaking sorry about what I said and did.  Can you ever possibly forgive me?”  But he didn’t.  I think he felt defensive, so he was somewhat curt with me.  The call didn’t give me the closure I was looking for, but I felt he needed to hear from me, as one of his Pastoral Advice Survivors.

I wonder how many kiddos are not here because lots of good Presbyterians listened to their Pastor during his 30 year tenure.

Every year around the time of my birthday, in addition to studying how much my face is changing and looking older and how hair keeps magically growing on my chin (shallow, but true), I sometimes grow introspective and wonder what this world would be like without me in it (kinda deep, but true…and I don’t mean that to sound arrogant or prideful. It’s just my own, personal introspection).  I instantly think of my immediate family.  Would Erik have even become married?  He is a super picky guy.  One of his friends said he was like an oil-change service, with an 18 point check- list of what he needed/wanted in a future girlfriend or wife.  What about Claire?  Who would’ve adopted her?  And Logan, we almost didn’t even get him in the first place.  What if he was being raised by his birth father right now? His birth-father who has a criminal record, by the way.  How would he turn out?  And what about Khloe?  I’m pretty sure she would still be stuck in a Ukrainian orphanage, just waiting to age out.  I don’t believe she would do well out on her own.  And those are just four people in my immediate circle.  (And since we are on topic, I just have to say how thankful I am for all three of my kids’ birthmothers.  It would have been so easy for them to choose a different outcome for their pregnancies.  I am so glad they chose life, because I can’t imagine not having the privilege of being their mom.)

I believe God has a purpose for each of us on the face of the earth. We are here not just for ourselves, but to help and serve and to love other people.  Every human life matters and every human life is meant to interconnect with other human lives!  We all need each other. Maybe your story is supposed to intersect with mine, and vice versa.  And what we do makes a difference, even if we can’t see it.  Please read this post for more encouragement: Small Things with Great Love.

I will close with one final story.  Many years ago, Erik and I hiked up to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  I was about to turn 30 years young and was feeling “depressed” about “getting older.”  (HA.  Foolish person.)  Anyway, I was up on top of Mount Washington in the restaurant/building on top of the mountain, and my eyes wandered over to a list of people, mounted on the wall.  This is not an ordinary list: it’s a list of all the many people who have died up on Mount Washington.  This mountain is surprisingly very dangerous and is said to be the home to the “world’s worst weather” and has winds that have been recorded up to 231 miles per hour!  As I read through the list, I noticed something specific:

I noticed the ages of all the people who died. Their ages were varied: fifteen, eighteen, ten, twenty, twenty-five.

So many young people had lost their livesSo many young people who died on the mountain who never reached their 30th birthday.

That was a reality check for me.  Ever since seeing that list, I am grateful, rather than depressed, whenever I hit another birthday milestone.

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Just a small portion of all the people who have died on top of Mount Washington.  Many had never reached their 30th birthday.

To read more about this list of folks who have died on top of Mount Washington, which is quite extensive, click here here.

In closing, I am so very glad my mom chose to have me despite the sacrifice and difficulty that choice brought into her life.  And I’m glad this story had a happy ending (as I know that not all stories like this do).  And I just have to add, as I get older and older myself, I absolutely LOVE having such a young and healthy mom.  She is a volunteer firefighter, full time nurse, and she and my step dad run a homestead.  She is a super busy and active grandma. As for my dad — he is still going strong and healthy.  He retired from full-time work but still works part-time.  It’s great to have such young parents.

So mom, if you are reading this post, thanks for bringing me into this world and giving me a chance at this thing called life. I am super happy to be here!  I love you!

Happy Birthday to me!

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P.S. from Heather : I know abortion is the most controversial issue of our day, and lots of people have strong opinions on either side, and lots of women have experienced abortion.  My intention is not to judge, cause hurt or pain in someone else, to make someone angry, for you to unfriend me on Facebook, or for you to send me a scathing text.  My intention is to share my own story as it pertains to this difficult topic.  Perhaps it can help someone out there, or plant a seed.  It is not my intention to cause division. And remember, this is only a story…my own story.  Finally, I welcome all comments!!  Even comments that have a different perspective.  But I just ask that we all respect each other as we comment.  Thank you for reading.

P.S. from my mom: Even though I was so young at the time, and I did not come to have a personal relationship with Jesus until several years later, I was still able to recognize the unfairness of depriving my baby a chance at life so that I could go on with my own life undisturbed. The choice I made did lead to hardships and difficulties that I would not have experienced otherwise, but I feel that these problems were used by God to develop my character and also to make me see my need of Him.  So I am grateful that I gave the gift of life to Heather!  As are Erik, Claire, Logan, Khloe as well as her many friends and extended family members.  It is heartbreaking to me to think of how many relationships have been lost to abortion, and that is part of the reason why I have been involved in pro-life work ever since I became a Christian.  Thank you for reading our story.

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So thankful my grandparents did not accept the advice of their Minister.
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Me, today.

 

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Happy birthday to me!


 

Blowing Stuff up with an EOD

I interviewed Paul, who was an EOD with the Air Force.  He dismantled IEDs (home-made bombs), blew stuff up, protected the President, completed top secret missions, and kept people safe.  Below is his story. 

When Claire was just a little baby, she was in foster care for three and a half months.  After we adopted Claire, we became great friends with her foster family, and still have a relationship with them to this day. One of their sons, Paul, was already in the Air Force at the time of Claire’s adoption, working as an EOD Technician. (EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal.) Claire’s foster mom Robin would often email me and request prayer for Paul, because he was often in very dangerous situations.  I am finally interviewing Paul to figure out exactly what he did for a living. Paul is now retired from the Air Force (even though he’s fairly young) and I had the opportunity to do a Skype interview with him.

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Paul (center), with Afghan soldiers.  Paul was retired as an EOD Tech after 16 years of service in the Air Force.  It’s a small miracle that he even survived. Below is his story.

 

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Paul and Claire, being silly.

First of all Paul, tell us about your job?

EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, basically disarming anything that was ever created since the beginning of time from any country, whether chemical weapon, biological weapon, nuclear weapon, hand grenades, or IEDs.  We deal with them all.  And then, where appropriate, detonating the bomb.  We deal with anything that goes boom or zoom.  We also do range clearances and also Secret Service detail for the President.

(quick research note: according to Airforce.com, an EOD Tech is “trained to detect, disarm, detonate, and dispose of explosive threats all over the world…assigned to some of the most dangerous missions.  They do what needs to be done to keep others safe.”)

Why did you choose to go into EOD?

I wanted something more, and that was definitely it.  If you google the most dangerous job in the military across all the branches, it’s number one.  We all go to the same school — the Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army — we all attend an EOD School on an Air Force base in Florida that’s run by the Navy, but all of us are in the exact same school, even mixed in the same class.  I went in for the action, the adventure, and to blow stuff up.  What little boy doesn’t love that?

What was training like?

Training was very difficult.  We started with 100 people and we graduated with 7.  EOD has an extremely high wash-out rate.  You have to be able to do a very high-intensity job with zero errors.  And you have to be able to do it in a 90 pound bomb suit when it’s 115 degrees outside.  You have to be able to function well while you are exhausted.  All of our studying was done through books and publications.  All the studying had to be done at the classroom for up to fourteen, fifteen hours a day.  Because it’s classified, you couldn’t bring anything home.  And you do that for nine months straight, and that’s just for the basic course.  You will continue years of additional school and a lifetime of training.

Are there any women that go into EOD?

Yes, there are.  A lot of women don’t make it through the pull-up part of the test. But there are females that do it and many of them are actually really good bomb techs.

How long were your deployments?

Six months to a year for a deployment.  Some don’t deploy for awhile and some deploy back to back. I left Iraq because Bush told us we were pulling troops out of Iraq and everyone cheered, but then I got shipped straight to Afghanistan.

What do you actually do in the field?  Sounds like you dismantle bombs and then blow things up?

Yes, we try to disarm them first, where they are at. Usually, the bomb is in a bad spot, we disarm it enough to where it’s safe for transport and then we bring it out to the middle of nowhere and dispose of it.  We blow it up.  We try to get the intel part we can keep first.  We also do range clearances, which is essentially where we clean up bombs that don’t go off at military training sites, especially in Nevada.  We also dispose of things for the Military (by explosives).

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Paul, on one of his deployments.

Have you ever disarmed a bomb that you weren’t quite sure how to properly disarm?

Yeah, all of them, kinda.  A bomb that is dropped from an aircraft, all are pretty much the same and there are publications and books to deal with this, step-by-step.  With an IED (which stands for an Improvised Explosive Device), which is a home-made bomb, it’s different, as they are all slightly different.  But that’s the challenge – to figure it out.  That’s why I like it so much.  How does it function?  How does it work? And then figure out the safe way to disarm it.

Were you afraid to die?

For me — the reality of what just happened or what you just had to do never really hits me until after.  Even afterwards, when you are heading back to camp, you are still on the “mission high” and you really don’t think about all the “what ifs” and what could go wrong.  Thinking about ANYTHING else but the problem in front of you will get you killed.

Where did you serve?

Texas, Mississippi, Colorado, Florida, Europe, California, Nevada, then deployments: Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places (top secret).

Tell us about your Presidential Detail?

We are the bomb squad for the President, so wherever he goes, we go.  We get there long before he does.  We also provide service detail for Foreign dignitaries, First Ladies, Vice Presidents, U.N. Counsels, anything where there will be big people at, where there could be a threat, we work with that.  I was face to face with President Obama once; we both nodded at each other.

Tell me about a typical mission?

When you are deployed, you get a call, most of the time it’s a group, maybe a convoy somewhere, that came across an IED and they set up a safety circle and evacuate everyone out of that area. And they call us and say, “hey, we need an EOD for an IED.”  At that point, we either convoy or fly out to that location.  We also bring a whole security convoy. We go out to the location and deal with it.

Tell me about one of your more memorable missions?

That’s a hard one.  There are so many and I don’t know how to categorize.  There are some missions that you will never forget; they leave a scar on your heart.  There are some where you get a good feeling.  For example, once we took an IED out of a school.  They try to blow up their own schools with their own kids in them.  Another time, there was a magnetic IED that was stuck to the side of a fuel tanker. In front of hundreds of other fuel tankers, all side by side.  Had that gone wrong…

Most dangerous mission?

Night missions are always some of the most challenging and dangerous missions.  But a lot of work is done under the cover of darkness, at night.  Other dangerous missions are when you are going after the bomb maker; their homes are well guarded by the products they make.  But I have to say that the most dangerous missions I did as an EOD Tech are the ones we are not allowed to talk about.

Your mom told me that she prayed constantly for you.  Was there a time where you know for sure your mom’s prayers for your safety were answered?

Yes, there were at least three times that I remember.  First, before I was an EOD I was a Firefighter in the military.  One night we got called to a building to put out a fire.  The building had ammunition in it which we had no idea about.  While I was in the building the ammunition started going off, so  I was immediately pulled out of the fire. When I got out they checked my jacket and sure enough, there was a bullet lodged in my jacket, through my clothing, but somehow, miraculously, had not penetrated my final layer of clothing — it hadn’t pierced through my chest.  However, my jacket did end up with so many holes in the front and back that I had to replace the jacket the next day. Come to find out, my mom had been up all night, unable to sleep, with a huge burden on her heart to pray for me.  Everytime she’d fall asleep, the Lord would wake her up again to pray for me.

Another time I was in Iraq and was afforded the opportunity to Skype with my mother.  During the Skype call we had a rocket attack.  One of the rockets exploded close to the area I was in.  The “wood building” I was inside (that was really more of a shack), had sustained massive damage.  I was blown to the floor and the shack was full of holes going in one side and out the other.  I got up, a bit shocked with ears ringing and a massive headache, but I was alive with no real injuries.  The moment the rocket hit, all Internet was killed.  The last thing my mother heard was the sirens warning of incoming rocket attack, and then everything went black.  A few days later I went back to that same shack; it was closed off due to damages but I went inside anyway.  I sat there scratching my head asking myself over and over again: “How did none of that hit me?”  There is no way I should’ve survived that.  Come to find out, my mom had been praying.

Lastly, one time we went out on a post-blast analysis, after there’s been an explosion somewhere.  We go out there and determine what type of explosive was used, how it was detonated, are there any more, gather intel, look for patterns, and make the area safe for other personnel to get in and do their job. The enemy knows this and will sometimes use that to lure us into a trap.  The enemy waits for us to arrive because they want to take us (the EOD) out because we are a high-value target to them.  There were a couple of times when I got to the scene that I got this weird feeling — the hair on the back of my neck stood up; it didn’t feel right.  To this day I can’t tell you what it was that was “off.”  But it’s listening to that inner voice, not just hearing it, but doing something about it, is what keeps you alive.  I had great fellow EOD team members with me whom I also trusted with my life.  When they didn’t like the way something was being done, or had a bad feeling about something, we would switch things up.  We wanted to keep the enemy constantly guessing at what we would do next.  I know my mom’s prayers were heard and answered on some of these particular missions as well.

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Aunt Robin, and Claire.  They are so cute together.

What did you love about your job?

I love traveling.  I love blowing things up.  It’s a lot of fun, like fireworks, but so much better; you are so close it just rocks your world. And then seeing the dust and everything flying up around you. I also enjoy the camaraderie.  I used to be a Firefighter in the military– EOD is similar to that but even stronger.  And you truly made a difference.  When someone steps on an IED on the ground, if there is one IED, there will be more, it’s like a land mine.  You gotta run to the front, sweep up, but that guy is screaming and you have to get to him.  To make a difference and do all of that, it’s a gratifying feeling.

I absolutely loved my job and I miss it.  I wish I could still do it.

Even though it was so much pressure, stress and danger?

Absolutely.  They only want people in this career field who absolutely love it.  If you ever decide that EOD is not the job for you, they will immediately cross train you into another position in the military.  Again, they only want people who love their job.  And you have to be of the right mind to work in this job.  If your wife just left you, they will pull you off the field, so you don’t make a mistake. Everyone you’re working with loves their job and wants to do well at their jobs. Plus you get extra money for it.

What is the mortality rate of an EOD?  It seems pretty high.

I don’t know.  I know the injury rate is really high.  I know for our class we started with 100, we graduated seven (the rest washed out).  Of those seven, three are now dead.  And two of us are out.  There are other ones that keep working longer. The EOD motto of “Initial Success or Total Failure” could not be more true.

Was the movie The Hurt Locker an accurate portrayal of the life of an EOD?

The movie is great for showing you an idea of what we do while deployed and a rough idea of what the life of an EOD Tech is like.  However, this is a lot of Hollywood added.

What did you dislike about your job?

I had some long deployments.  I was never married, so it was a lot easier for me, but that’s why I never married.  I chose not to because of that.  There was a woman I was dating, she was in the military, she said she would refuse to date me if I went EOD, because she had lost too many friends who were EOD.  She said she wasn’t going to lose a husband.  I can respect that.

Why did you stop working?

I was medically retired early from the military, due to injuries sustained while I was deployed, mostly due to TBIs (traumatic brain injuries).  Some of it was due to explosions, being too close, things that hit me in the head, anything and everything that wasn’t supposed to happen, did.  I had 19 TBI concussions and 13 knock-outs.  So I had to retire.

What is the number one piece of advice to give anyone going into EOD?

First is, you gotta know you want it.  Because when you’re sitting there in school, for hours and hours, and you’ve been studying your brains out and chugging five hour energy to stay awake, you have to know you really want it.  But it’s very rewarding.  It’s a brotherhood much like the Fire Department but stronger and tighter.  That leads to my second point, you cannot do this job without your team.  You have to work as a team — period.  And you’ll be deployed a lot which is really hard on families. EOD stands for “Every-One’s-Divorced,” — due to the amount and length of deployments.

What are you doing now?

I am converting a Mercedes Sprinter Van into a custom RV so I can travel the country.  I’ve cut out a lot of people in my life that just waste my time.  I want to spend my life with, and my time with, the people I love.  So right now that’s my girlfriend, and her son.  I’m working on getting my health back.  You only have so much time, so I want to spend it with the people I love.

Has it been an easy or hard transition?

It’s actually weird and difficult.  I joined the military right out of high school, and I was always told what to do.  So now I still feel like that kid right out of high school again.  I don’t know where I want to go or what I want to do.  I have the financial means and the time, which is even better, but at the same time I’m like “I don’t know what I want to do or where I want to go.” And also, the civilian world is different.  There is less of that sense of camaraderie and brotherhood.

Describe your EOD job in one sentence?  

It was a blast!

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A quick note from Heather:  Sadly, most EODs end up six feet under.  Maybe not most, but many.  That fact that Paul survived is a small miracle.  I credit that both to Paul being an outstanding EOD Tech, but also to Robin, Paul’s mom, who prayed for him constantly.  It really is true that when it’s your time, it’s your time.  And when it’s not, it’s not.  Grateful that Paul is still with us to share these stories! And….I hope he gets married someday because he’s a great guy!  I’m glad he’s part of our extended family and we wish him the best as he gets to have a second chance at the rest of his life!

To watch a video of Paul blowing stuff up, click here:

 

 

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I wish Paul all the best as he enjoys the first day of the rest of his life!  Thank you so much for your outstanding service!

 

 

Blue Collar Girl Trapped in a White Collar Marriage

I want to take you back to the 1970s and 80s and reminisce about what it was like to grow up somewhere on the spectrum between poor and blue-collar in Upstate, New York, where I grew up.  Back to the days when it was common to see a 1971 Plymouth Baracuda cruising down the streets of Syracuse, windows open, driven around by a guy in a dark blue uniform with a name-tag, blasting “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven.” Maybe there’s a cigarette dangling from his dirty/greasy hands, hands that are hard to get completely clean.

Maybe there’s a little blonde-haired girl in the back seat with him, looking out the window, hoping the smoke will stop blowing into her face.

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Me, as a young girl.

That little girl was me, and I want to share with you my perspective of what it was like to grow up in a blue collar single-parent family — both the good and the bad— and what I have learned since then.  I will also share how I have changed (or not) since transitioning to a white collar marriage several years ago.

Here is my super quick back-story:

I grew up the child of a single working mom after my parents’ divorce at the age of four.  My dad worked at a local car manufacturing company and we didn’t see him very much because he was always working (overtime, double-time, and other terms his union negotiated for him), and did not consistently seek out a relationship with my sister and me. There were also some dysfunctional elements of my childhood in the mix as well.  My single mom was poor, and we (my sister, mom, and me) survived on her small secretary’s salary.  Child support was very low back then so I always noticed how hard she struggled.  Our small family of three drove around in a brown pinto and didn’t go out to eat much because we couldn’t “afford it.” On hot summer days, we would beg my mom to stop at Arctic Isle (the local ice cream stand) for a $1.00 soft serve ice cream cone and the answer was always “no, it’s too expensive, we have ice cream in the freezer at home.” My mom was very cheap and often said no to buying almost anything that wasn’t a necessary item.

Not having a lot of money growing up made me take a good, hard look around me and make some serious inner vows. Vows such as:

“I will work really hard, go to school, and make good money so I won’t have to struggle.”

“I will marry an awesome guy and we will NOT get a divorce.”

“And if don’t get married, fine.  I will do really well in my career.”

“I will show everyone that I am not a loser and will make something of myself.”  (Not sure exactly where that one came from, but I think it stemmed from some deep-seeded self-confidence issues.)

With those inner vows in the back of my mind, I started babysitting at 11, worked my way through high school and college (clocking in between 20 and 30 hours per week as a waitress during college), and then landed a professional job in my early 20’s.  I eventually got married and ended up in what I call a white-collar marriage. On a side note, I was also very picky about the guys I dated, making sure I wouldn’t end up with a “creep,” a “perv,” or a “loser.”  Bottom line?  I didn’t go on many dates.

Below is just a portion of the more difficult aspects of growing up in the poor/blue collar income bracket. Perhaps you can relate to some of these?

  • …First, I remember all the CIGARETTE SMOKE.  Smoke in the house.  Smoke in the car.  Smoke in a tree.  (How can that be?) I have so many memories of just sitting in front of a various TVs that sat perched on the green living room carpet, watching maybe Star Trek, Evel Knievel, or Scooby Doo while someone smoked behind me in an easy chair, reading a newspaper. Growing up in a smoke cloud gave me (subconscious) permission to begin smoking myself very part-time through high school and college.  I finally quit in my early 20s.
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I am a proud survivor of years of second hand smoke.  I began smoking part-time in high school but quit in my early 20s.
  • …We MOVED a lot.  I have many fond/not so fond memories of various apartment buildings, houses we shared with other friends, and yes….I even spent some time in the coveted trailer park.  I will never, ever forget how tiny those little trailer bedrooms were, and the trailer closets were ridiculous.  On an up note, I was able to share a house (different units) with my best friend Hillary, who was also in a single-parent home, which was awesome. We also lived in the same apartment building a couple of times.
  • …We had NO MONEY.  I heard “we can’t afford that” about 1000 times.  Want to stop at McDonalds?  Nope, not gonna happen.  If you want money, you had to get your butt off the couch and go earn it, all by yourself.  So that’s exactly what I did. I have never stopped working and to be honest, it’s so strange for me to not work in a way that earns an income to this day (more on that later). I am still so grateful that my grandparents were so generous with my sister and me — they provided everything from new Trapper Keepers for back to school (remember those?), to new clothes and shoes, to very generous Christmas gifts.
  • …As mentioned above, I didn’t see much of my DAD. Early in life, I developed some father-figure issues and ended up crushing a lot of older men, and men in positions of authority over me. However, I did appreciate his hard work ethic.  He even built our house from scratch and much later, my mom moved back into it and still lives there to this day. We now have a great relationship (as adults), but again, he wasn’t around much growing up and that was hard for me.
  • ….Finally, I struggled with some TOUGH EMOTIONS.  I often felt ashamed of my clothes, house, and cars.  I felt insecure and unworthy of love.  I feared rejection.  There were some things that happened that caused some deep wounds, that I have (thankfully) since healed from.  But they were very hard to go through at the time.
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Yes, friends, that is a beer in my hand 🙂

But growing up blue-collar was also a blessing in many ways.  Here are just a few of the positive elements of growing up in a blue-collar family:

  • First and foremost, I developed an amazing WORK ETHIC.  I have no problem with doing “real work,” “physical work,” and “working with my hands.”  Because my grandfather was in the farming business (he built silos) and also we lived near a farm, I actually have helped neighborhood kids with their farm chores.  I have also actually picked the following: rocks in a huge farm pasture/field, tomato horn worms off of tomato plants,  and weeds from my mom’s garden.  I mowed the lawn consistently (when not living in apartment complexes). In fact, I still happily mow my own yard here in Suburbia while my neighbors watch me curiously from their windows.  Bottom line?  I am not lazy and I’m not afraid of real work.
  • Secondly, I KEEP IT REAL with no BS.  You will always get the real deal from me. I will always shoot 100 percent straight with you.  I don’t like to lie; it makes me uncomfortable.  The only lie I will tell you is if you ask me directly if you look fat in that dress, and if you do, I will feel bad, and I will lie and say no.  You have been warned.  But that’s about the only lie I feel okay about.  Sorry not sorry.
  • Thirdly, I will never be pretentious. I will never think I’m better than you.  I will always treat everyone THE SAME.  And I will always be generous.  I will always over-tip waiters and waitresses, and I will always say “hi” and “thank you” to all the people who make my life easier.  Why would I be snooty with waitresses and maids?  I actually did both of those jobs for many years to earn a living.  Those are my peeps.
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Having fun at one of the restaurants (the Ground Round) I worked at during college.  I sometimes clocked up to 30 hours per week waitressing during school.  Growing up blue collar gave me a kick-butt work ethic.
  • Lastly, I developed an appreciation for the CLASSICS, and no I’m not talking about classical music or classical home-schooling eduction.  I’m talking about Classic cars and classic rock, baby.  Whenever I go back to Syracuse I still see folks driving around in a classic car blasting classic rock.  I just went to one the Eagles’ final concerts last summer before their lead singer passed away.  It was a blast!  (see photo below.)

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    My dad owns five classic (muscle) cars purchased in the last ten years.  These were the cars I grew up around.  I want one.
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His Plymouth Baracuda.  My appreciation for classic cars came from my dad.

So what have I learned since “moving on up” to a different income level?

First, I actually really appreciate money and where it came from.  It is a blessing to actually have some of it.  But here’s the deal: I never want to rely too heavily on money or grow accustomed to being upper middle class.  Why?  Because I developed a deep financial insecurity early on. I know deep in my heart that you can have money one moment, but then the next moment…POOF! It’s gone.  And then you are back to square one. So I decided to not even leave square one in the first place.

Secondly, I am still cheap (especially with myself) and don’t like to spend money.  I still clip coupons (if I feel like it, because coupons are really a pain), and try to limit my children’s material possessions so they don’t become “spoiled.”

Thirdly, I still feel weird about not working outside the home in a way that generates an income. I still feel a little bit like a “moocher” even though my husband assures me he is fine with me being a stay at home parent.  I do plan to work again when my kids are older and after our next adoption, but I would prefer to work part time.

And on that note, I think that’s one of the best things money will buy you: options.  I have the option of working part-time rather than full-time down the road. Our family has the option of spending our money on nice vacations (we have created memories for our kids and have taken them to some nice places). We have the option of buying my kids sneakers exactly when they need them, rather than waiting until the next paycheck comes in.

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There is one thing money can buy: precious time with your family!  We do spend money on making memories with our kids, for sure.  Above, Claire and Erik enjoy fishing in a back-country lake in Utah.

Fourthly, I have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness or inner peace.  However, it does buy time and convenience.  It’s either time or money.  Either you spend the time on something and save the money, or spend the money on something and get back some of your time.  So in that way, it’s a lot easier to exist in a white-collar world.

Finally, the number one reason I believe God has blessed us with a little bit of extra income is a. because God is good and He just chooses to bless us in this particular way, b. we both worked very hard to get here, c. to afford to adopt our children, because adoption is expensive, and d. so we can be generous with other people, and also with ministries and other worthy causes that need financial assistance.

Bottom line?  I believe money is a gift to help support and enhance human relationships and to support worthy causes.  If you have money, chances are, God wants you to help others in need.

So why did I choose the title of this blog?  Honestly, I’m not really “trapped”in a white-collar marriage per se, but I feel as though I really don’t belong some elements of this world, deep down.  One night we spent time with another couple who are also in our income bracket.  Both the husband and wife were very cultured and came from solid families, and they had lived all over the world.  Both of them had PhDs from prestigious universities.  As they shared about their childhoods and current successful careers, I felt like I just couldn’t relate to them.  I felt like I had to impress them with something about my life, but I just couldn’t think of anything to say.  I also didn’t feel like I could be completely myself around them.  (Qualifier: most white-collar folks are super, duper nice and not pretentious at all. Maybe they’re a lot like me and didn’t grow up that way. But if they did grow up with wealth, they seem to have a certain self-confidence about them that poor kids lack.  I think I sense this subconsciously and feel I cannot relate.)

In closing, Oprah Winfrey once said that obtaining money just makes you MORE of something.  So if you are kind, you become more kind.  If you are generous, you become more generous.  If you are an arse, you become more of an arse.  I agree with her assessment.

Since transitioning income brackets I have become the following:

More cheap (with myself)

More generous with others

More unpretentious

More hard working 

More efficient with my time 

More grateful for money, but knowing it’s limitations

I am grateful to be where I am today, but I will never forget where I came from.  My childhood made me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for all the lessons it taught me.  Blue-collar workers truly do make the world go round, and I am proud to be counted among them.

So if you see a suburban woman driving around a really nice convertible, blasting the Eagles, drinking coffee from a coffee mug from home because she didn’t want to stop at Starbucks because it’s too expensive, all the while thinking about how she needs to mow her lawn when she gets home, well…that would be me.

I’m teetering between the two worlds, not really fitting into either one at this point.

But that’s ok, because that old saying is true:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while I may be in a white-collar marriage, I’ll always be the same blue-collar girl, deep inside.

Peace out.

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Off to the Eagles concert with my dear friend Ragan!

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PS: Stay tuned for a future post: Raising Blue Collar Kids in a White Collar family.

Thanks for reading!!