Thursday, October 23, 2014

the article that can't help your marriage

This is an essay on marriage that can't help YOUR marriage. No article or book or well-meaning advice from a friend can. But the good news is- YOU can. Like most important things in my life I have learned this the hard way. Every article I perused didn't cut it for me. "Five ways to fix your marriage" the title beckoned, but it just doesn't work that way in reality. An article can't put in the hard work and communication and honesty and tears. "You need more date nights" many suggest- so we tried that. We sat there at a restaurant opposite each other like strangers. Besides the children we didn't know what to talk about any more. Our problem wasn't due to a lack of quality time spent together- it was caused by fissures in communication and intimacy.

As the years passed we grew further apart. Our upbringing caused us to speak two very different languages and both of us were left feeling unseen and misunderstood. He speaks in facts and to get things done. I speak to emotionally connect. Finally four months ago we made a tough choice to begin marriage counseling.  Both of our precious boys have autism and many assume that is was caused the a break-down in our marriage. That is not the case for us- our communication and intimacy problems have been here since the beginning. The truth is, I don't think most marriages disintegrate over one big thing, but instead over many little hurts compiled and swept under a bed day after day. 

Through hard work, a willingness to try and counseling we are working to connect with the things that made us fall in love and get married in the first place.

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My husband Michael and waiting to go into counseling. It's the hardest yet most important part of my week.

It's taken me a long time to realize that my marriage is a living breathing thing and it needs attention and upkeep. Like children- no two relationships are the same and what works for one may not work for another. Here are a few things that so far have worked for me.

"How often do you and Michael fight?" Our counselor asked. "About once a week", I told her. "How often do you get mad at him?" She asked, rephrasing the question. "Oh- probably every day- I replied. I'm a lover- not a fighter. I really HATE fighting- so when I get angry, I stuff it down inside and file it away. Once a week or so- something makes me mad, like really mad which sets me off and a week of his misdemeanors all come flying out at once. "But I'd rather fight once a week instead of every day." I told our counselor. "Why does it have to be a fight in the first place? She asked. Hmmmmpfff. Good point. I am working on expressing my feelings in the moment instead of bottling them up. I am also working on using words more specific than angry/pissed/mad. Anger is usually born from sadness, disappointment, frustration and fear- so we are using those truer labels instead. 

Just do not. I CAN NOT. After a long day with our 5 and 3 year old my brain is FRIED in the evening. My brain is amazing at watching BRAVO TV then, but it does NOT function on serious life topics after 6pm. I can easily see myself bursting into tears while trying to decide between ketchup and BBQ sauce after 6pm. At night- KEEP IT SIMPLE. A friend told me that her and her husband ask first -"Is this a good time to talk?" Before having any serious discussions- and if the other person says "No"- you aren't allowed to push it. If there are things to be discussed, make sure you do it at a time that works for both of you. Go grab a latte on the weekend, keep an open mind and talk.

This is one is tough. I am much better at doing it ALL by myself while getting more and more pissed off at him for just sitting there on his phone. I want him to want to do the dishes!!! If you don't know what quote I am referring to you HAVE to watch this clip. Please!  I've never been more serious about anything. (But I want you to WANT to watch it. Don't just do it because I just begged you).

You see, many men are just NOT wired this way. Sometimes I feel like I do everything. Why can't HE see that the kids need to be fed or that the floor needs to be vacuumed or the dishwasher needs to be emptied? Why do I have to ASK him to do these things for OUR family? BECAUSE I DO. BECAUSE I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. It's just part of the gig. I can do them ALL myself and stay pissed - or I can ask for his help. It's also important to note: When he helps- I am NOT ALLOWED to correct him, redo it or tell him that he's doing it wrong (aka- not doing it MY way). If I ask for his help- I've got to accept the help that he offers.

One person can't be your everything. That is too much responsibility for another person and leaves too much empty inside you. You are in charge of you- and here's the thing- you are not a burden. You are a life. You are an adventure. You must have other outlets and friends and hobbies that give you the things that you need to be the person you want to be. You were your own complete person before you met your spouse and it's important that you don't ever let that person slip away. The more robust your life- the happier you are. The happier you are- the better your relationship will be. 

If your toilet broke you'd go to a plumber. If you were sick- you'd go to a Doctor. So when your marriage is hurting- go to counseling. We don't know it all and sometimes we can't do it on our own. Don't wait until you're beyond angry and frustrated. You deserve a happy and healthy relationship and chances are you've tried everything you could yet it still isn't better. Going to relationship counseling isn't a declaration that your relationship is doomed- it simply shows that it is worth working on. It isn't something to be ashamed over. Be proud and remember your pledge to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.

Monday, October 20, 2014

mary friggin poppins

Friend, How many more days until the weekend?

Yes, yes, I know it just ended but Michael was out of town working a pharmaceutical convention from Thursday to Sunday and I was home flying solo. He stayed at The Wynn and had room service every night! Doesn't that sound AMAZING?! Let's all take a minute to feel sorry for me. 

I was DREADING flying solo for days leading up to his trip. Weekend days are even more intimidating because I have no therapy or therapists to fall back on. 

Single parents- You are my hero. 

But we did it. We really did it. And it wasn't NEARLY as bad as I was making it out to be in my mind. I totally channeled Will from About a Boy.  

"The important thing in island living is to be your own activities director. I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It's amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I'd ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?"

Something about that quote has always stuck with me and now I know why. Ah ha! I needed it this loooong weekend. Thirty minute units were too intimating- too many to fill. Instead I broke the days into hour long chunks.

Taking a bath. One unit. 

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Watching Blue's Clues: One unit. 

Playing at the park... One and a half units.

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This picture stopped my heart. Every time he looks at me- I mean like really looks at me tears spring up in my eyes and my throat gets tight. Hey, I know you, I think. I smile back at him almost shyly, partly standing firmly in the moment and partly hoping it lasts forever.

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He kept going down the slide like this. I say- anything that takes extra energy and makes you fall asleep faster this evening- SIGN ME UP.

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Parker is a roamer, so sometimes I let him roam in wide open spaces while I follow closely behind. (Also see note above about GETTING ENERGY OUT ANY WAY WE CAN).

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Right after this picture he scooped up some disgusting water floating in the fountain and drank it. Immunity boosting.

We examined leaves...

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And climbed trees.

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And threw dirt. Because they refuse to just stand there idly and look adorable.

When we went to leave Greyson started to run away. I was so (SOOOO) done running. I was sweating. I was angry. I was going to put Parker into his car seat and then run and grab Grey- but Parker began to tantrum because he didn't want to go in his car seat. He was screaming so hard my throat hurt for him, he was as stiff as a 2 x 4 and no matter what I did I couldn't get him to bend to snap on his seat belt.

I was at that moment, and I knew I was at that moment. I was shaking with rage. I wanted to spank EVERYONE. I wanted to scream and yell so loud that people turned their heads- and at that moment I honestly wouldn't have cared at all. I DARE YOU TO STARE AT ME. I started breathing deeply. I looked over the side of the ledge- going ape shit with the boys was SO enticing. But I knew I would feel like a horrible person afterwards.

So made myself stop and regroup. I pretended like I was watching a friend's children. YES! These were my friends (terribly behaved) children. When it's not your own kid going crazy- it doesn't push those emotional buttons like it does for your own blood. I got into it. I was an amazing actor and I was Mary Friggin Poppins calm and cheery. A programmed nurturing robot. I was even smiling while they screamed which I'm sure looked hilarious.

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We made it out alive. Next stop: Jamba Juice smoothies and sitting in the parking lot OUTSIDE of the car seat- One unit. 

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They think roaming around the car is a sister of Disney Land. Sometimes we will go sit in the car in the driveway and they think we are actually playing (and because they think that- we are!)

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I shared this picture on my Facebook Page along with the words: This picture is a great conversation starter to use with your kids. "If you saw this boy playing alone during recess- what would you do?" People with autism usually lack the social skills typical children possess- but often still long to have friends and be included.

Sometimes on the weekend I like to pass the time on school playgrounds because they are always deserted. Sometimes I want to be outside but I need a break. I don't want to constantly remind Parker that he has to wait his turn- or tell Greyson to stop climbing UP the slide while someone is waiting to come down. This way- they can play however the heck they want to play and I can just sit there for at least 83 seconds in a row.

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We passed the rest of our weekend playing and relaxing.

Now we are all back together and life is good. I still believe in happily ever after once I figured out "happy" and "perfect" aren't synonyms.

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Much Love,

Chrissy (Michael, Greyson and Parker)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

instructions on how to feel alive

Use your senses... We already have everything we need inside.

SEE. See all the things! The sun that sets every single day. Even if it doesn't feel like it, bookending our day into calm normalcy. Notice all the colors all over everywhere. Pay attention. 

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The ways the boys pay attention to details AMAZES me. Greyson eats each sprinkle one by one- thick in awareness and concentration the entire time. Both boys will be spellbound by wheels or water droplets or their fingers. They remind me to be amazed by life every single day. Their amazement is exactly how to feel alive.

Black and white is beautiful for pictures, but the real world is best viewed in color. See their thick black eyelashes. The bark on a tree. The million different shades of green on the leaves. It's art- the world. Masterpieces right in front of our eyes.

TASTE. Don't hold back. Let the savory dance and the sweet melt and calm. Don't just chew and swallow. TASTE. The rain on your tongue. Crisp sour apples. Hoppy beer. Drizzled honey. Sweet icing. Strong coffee. Pay attention. Savor. Describe what you find to your mind. Be amazed by it all.

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LISTEN. Hear squeak of the trash truck noting its arrival. Hear the birds sing, the buzz from the street, the gurgle of the brook reminding you that you are alive. Listen to the music. Your favorite music with lyrics meant just for you. TURN IT UP. Get the chills. Sing along- LOUD. Close your eyes. Feel the music in all the places of you inside that need music to heal. Music is medicine that reminds us to feel alive. If you have ears that work- CELEBRATE. So many people do not. Find a song that makes you move or cry or feel or laugh and listen. Just listen.

FEEL the world. The wind on your face. The water touching your skin in the shower. The sand on your feet. The scruff of his whiskers. The smooth touch of their soft intoxicating skin. The furry blanket that tickles your nose. The rough asphalt under your fingers. The dry crisp leaves.

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The pop of the bubble in your face and the bubbles in your drink that sparkle and rise. The smooth cool glass of the window where you look out into the world. The kiss on your lips. The perfect pillow on your tired head.

FEEL on the inside. Feel love that feels like drunk and crazy and perfection. Feel happy. LAUGH uncensored.

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Laugh like it's your cardio and you are kicking serious butt.

Be nervous. Do something unexpected that makes you nervous and makes you GROW. Nervous is good- it's where life begins. Nervous makes you better.

Feel angry. If you are angry- GET ANGRY. Get it out. Yell at them. Write them a letter you never send. Tell them to screw off a thousand different ways in your mind.  Feel the angry- they deserve it- but you don't - so after you feel it- LET IT GO. It's heavy- you are light.

Feel grateful. I'm so grateful that YOU are here reading. So incredibly grateful for you.


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Jump up and down and clap your hands and yell out WOO HOO. When was the last time you did that? Felt that? Yelled that? (WOO HOO) You are entitled to that feeling. Do it now- even if you have nothing to WOO HOO over. WOO HOO. Do it simply because you are alive and beautiful and breathing and aware.

SMELL. Smell the air. Crisp. Alive with leaves. Cool. Forgiving. Healing. Beginning. Whispering amen and yes you certainly can. Smell the apple pie or microwave popcorn or garlic in the air. Take time to breathe it all in. While at the grocery store- put "smell" on your to do list. Oranges. Fresh basil. Cilantro. Lime. Paper bag. Roses. Vanilla. The icy air conditioning. Our nose is on purpose -it's a gift for sniffing out treasures. It's a gift from God so we can be amazed more often. Smell your mom's favorite perfume. Remember her. Smell coconut lotion so you can be transported to 16 years old, lying in the sun without a care in the world. Smell fresh laundry and be amazed.

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Bury your nose deep in your dog's fur and smell the calm and loyalty and unconditional love.

We are all here on the same earth and we can notice all the gifts waiting for us or just let them pass us by. Awareness of the gifts is an optional add on. We are what we fill ourselves up with. Pick good things. Beautiful things. On purpose things-- because we aren't on earth to run errands and buy a carton of milk or rush around in a grumpy hurry.

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We are here to be awesome today. And the best part is your awesome creates more awesome in other people. It's like paying for the car behind you at Starbucks- BUT IT'S FREE. And I know, I know (boy do I know) we can't be awesome every single day- but when we do remember- WE MUST TRY.

And together we can try. 

So much love,

SIGN created by our friend at BARN OWL PRIMITIVES.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

gracefully letting go

I think all day long. All damn day in fact.

Sometimes I think out loud. I have fake conversations going off on people that I'm angry with- and that I'll never really get to go off on. I perfect my response like it's a script and I can't mess up. Sometimes I think out loud so I don't forget things. I realized I was doing that at the grocery store the other day. I just needed a few things and I was repeating them over and over again so I wouldn't forget. Flour, corn starch, chocolate chips. Flour, corn starch, chocolate chips. I pick up the natural peanut butter and double check the ingredients while repeating flour, corn starch, chocolate chips. An older mind gives me a curious look, probably because I was not holding any of those ingredients but I didn't care.

And thinking is good because it helps me place perspective on so many things in the world. It helps me work through problems or situations. It helps me remember things. And it sometimes it brings up happy loose memories- like going to get a cheapo massage with my friends Annie and Wynema after a couple of cocktails a few weeks ago. I asked the guy up front with the spotty English if they gave "happy endings"- while I smiled and nodded my head. He smiled so big right back at me while nodding his head and saying, "Yes". We will take three, I told him- much to my mortified friends surprise. To be honest- I don't know exactly specifically what happy ending means except that it's sexual and illegal and absolutely nothing I would really ask for ever in my life. I just wanted to make my friends laugh.

But much more often than not- my constant thinking is a burden. It's heavy. The constant thinking part of me convinces me that it's necessary simply to preserve itself. THINKING is the exact opposite of living in the present. It can ruin a moment or sometimes even a whole day. I don't want to be her anymore- the overthinking worrier. She's absolutely no fun and completely self-limiting. Now I know I'll never be laid back- but I'm hoping that I can find a comfortable place in between.

Today we met friends at the pumpkin patch. I tried to recreate our yearly wheel barrel picture.

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Try #1

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Try #3,450 Grey: fascinated by the wheel. Parker: SICK OF THE DAMN POSED PICTURES

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Parker: I'm outta here lady.

We had fun exploring and playing.

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Can you believe Sawyer is only $3? I want three.

Driving home I started to think about how sad I was that my boys are no longer babies. I can no longer pose them in gourds or force them stay in wheel barrels. I thought about how sad I was that my time in babydom is over. No more little teeny outfits. No more sweet- my baby smell. No more first holidays and a million other things I was mourning all at once. I got angry that I can't have any more children. Angry that I will never have #3. I ached for that baby that will never exist. I got angry and felt like life was so unfair. And it really is sometimes. IT ISN'T FAIR. But the thinking in circles just makes me feel awful. And it CERTAINLY doesn't make a baby. (I think that's maybe where the happy finish comes into play.) And now I ask myself- what can I do with this pain? Sometimes I just don't know. Sometimes I don't want to look for the good. I just want what I want. One thing I CAN do is stop with the constant thinking. Work to be more present in my body and just simply be. Focus and refocus on the right now- which is usually really really good.

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I found this picture on my camera hiding. And you know what? It's perfect. It's not what I set out to do. It's not perfect- but I love it. It's mine.

It's funny- when they were younger I ached for them to be just a little more independent. To just feed themselves or walk instead of crawl so I didn't constantly have to be nursing or holding them. And now- they are...and I spent time today wishing they would just be babies and need me again. I was so busy thinking about that I didn't realize how lucky I really am. For the first time in SO LONG- they are getting so much EASIER!!! More independent. Big enough to go out and create happy of their very own.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

awesome at love

I'm totally zapped of inspiration. I'm itchy and twitchy and craving adventure and change. The rubber band needs to snap. 

Whenever I'm feeling like life is out of control- I hold on tighter. I hermit myself in the house when I can. I busy myself being busy. I suddenly cannot function until I organize a junk drawer or pull out the label maker. And that control makes me feel better for a little bit, but this is life and there is no such thing as an absence of chaos. A crossed off to do list buzz only lasts so long. So today I felt the cool feels-like-Fall breeze come through my window to remind me that there is a whole big wide world of change and adventure out there waiting for me. I remember that I actually do NOT have to hold on so tightly. I slowly let loose the twine tied tight so it doesn't snap.

Today we had a morning free of therapy. WHAT DO WE DO?! I felt like an alien. What do human mothers do on a random Tuesday? Therapy is my normal, and without it at first I can feel lost. I don't always know what to do when I have too many choices. I get overwhelmed and sometimes just want to hide away inside. 

But outside was actually EXACTLY what we needed. Sometimes I get so caught up inside my head that I just need to get out- outside in the world and outside of my head. 

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We decided to visit our furry friends at The Fresno Chaffee Zoo- the best zoo in the world. Okay- so maybe they aren't ranked or voted that way by anyone official- but we love going there. It's just tiny enough and big enough all swirled into one.

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Parker LOVES this guy. He has always LOVED this carved wooden monkey.

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A year ago. Oh Parker- please stop growing so fast. It's hard to be a mom- it breaks your heart so good every single day.

I think Parker and "Woody" were soul mates in a prior life. There were real live monkeys right behind Parker but all he wanted to do was talk to this guy. He frequently sounds like a Minion from the movie Despicable Me. Crazy fast paced gibberish that sounds like its own language with a random totally understandable word thrown in there and he was having a deep conversation with his wooden monkey friend. Jimmina Jimmina bopp bopp chow lock chow zimmina zimmina "banana".

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Isn't she so gorgeous? She is so majestic and beautiful and when she walks it's like a slow dance. 
Her eyes were so serene and calm and kind. She's 21 years old- so we had a glass of wine together. I'm certain giraffe's have super powers of their own.

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One being her tongue. Wowzer.

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Grey preferred to watch at a distance. 

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My favorite place: Sea Lion cove

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Oh- I forgot to tell you- we brought Parker's stunt double with us and his awesome Mom, Annie. (The outfit was a total coincidence and made me smile all morning long).

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Here they are doing the EXTREMELY dangerous stunt of riding a real actual sea lion. 

I showed Parker a picture of Liam and said- "Who is that?" Parker said- "Puck-uh". See- even he can't tell the difference.

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Sometimes I watched the sea lions- but sometimes I watched my beautiful boys, soaking it all in. Wonder, joy and awe. The combination of the sea lions swimming and our babies squealing with happy reminds me why I am alive. Sometimes I don't know what the heck I'm doing as a Mom- but I usually just remind myself that I am awesome at love. The rest always falls into place.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

sunday blues

I'm trying my best to make nice with Monday already. Eating extra cookies to take off the edge. Taking deep breaths and letting go of the weekend.  Two songs I'm listening to- to chase the Sunday blues away- GUARANTEED to cause an increase in happy:

This one makes me cry. But sometimes crying makes me happy. I love Prince the best, but I love covers of the song too.

And this one just makes me full on happy. I used to have his 8-track. (Stick that in your Google youngins).

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who'd have believed you'd come along.

Hands, touchin' hands
Reachin' out, touchin' me, touchin' you


Here are some pictures from the weekend...

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Water: His favorite place on earth

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We did lots of baking.

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I keep my pictures organized by month and year. As I was uploading to October 2014, I saw the files for October 2013 and 2012 sitting there so I opened them up. I saw old pictures of the boys from the pumpkin patch we went to today. Looking at the past makes my heart ache. As tight as we hold on time goes by so fast.

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And today...

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Parker finally loved riding some rides.

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Until he didn't. Is it crazy that I'm happy he's still young enough to be scared of the rides?

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The faster the rowdier the better for Grey.

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Parker was happiest watching.

Even if Monday lasts forever, one day we may look back at it longingly. Maybe things won't go as we planned but that isn't always a bad thing.  Did you know Coca-Cola, one of the world’s most famous brand names, was originally invented as an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and relieve anxiety? And Viagra was originally conceived as a treatment for hypertension, angina, and other symptoms of heart disease. But Phase I clinical trials revealed that while the drug wasn’t great at treating what it was supposed to treat, male test subjects were experiencing a rather unexpected side effect. 

Keep that in mind the next time you things don't look like you expected. There may be something greater up ahead.

Much Love,