my heart in words.

my heart sunk sharing this.

Two years ago, the love of my life led me up to the top of the Historic Gasparilla Island Lighthouse-the same lighthouse I was so mystified by when we first moved to the area…the same lighthouse that had been closed for refurbishment and no one was allowed to climb to the top, yet Luke pulled a lot of strings…yes, that lighthouse-and asked me, Kelsey Lynn Crossen, to be the “light of his life” and become his wife. Can you tell I was shocked? My forehead vein was poppin’, y’all. This always means extreme emotion.

It was the eve of Mother’s Day. We had his Momma in town visiting us. My mom was “in Ohio eating crepes with Papa” (lies). Here is where she really was:

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He got me good. My mom is my person. She is my hero since day one. Having her there to be a part of this unforgettable question made complete sense. In true Luke fashion…somehow, he made it happen (& did so without me having a CLUE). I didn’t do a thing with my hair. Wore all black (very bridal, wouldn’t you say?). I completely ignored his subtle hints to wear my new blue sundress. Nope. His Momma didn’t pack a dress and it was her weekend, after all, so I told him I would stick with my jeans to make sure she didn’t feel underdressed. When we walked to the car, I realized I forgot to do my eyebrows. Luke smiled his sweet Luke smile, cupped my face in his hands and said, “You’re perfect, Kel. Don’t worry about that.” Looking back, I now understand why talking about my eyebrows got him so misty-eyed.

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I’m a crier, guys. I cried the other day when a coworker referred to me as “KP”. Aside from Luke, I’m called this name so rarely. One of my very dearest brides got me a thank you gift the day of her wedding. The envelope was addressed to KP. I kept it and tucked it into my drawer full of happy thoughts in the guest room. It’s rare that my two worlds collide: “professional” Kelsey & KP. Whenever they do, it brings me extreme gratitude, and, of course, emotion. Yet, when Luke asked The Question, I was so shocked and so tender-I didn’t cry. I barely spoke. I nodded my head and gasped. A lot. When he slid the ring on and hugged me, that’s when I wept. Joy. Relief. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. It was one of those moments that was so enormous that sounds echo, movements slow, colors become more vibrant, and everything blurs. Know what I’m talking about?

Like many other women, I had played this day out in my head countless times. I had known since the start that Luke was the one I would one day say “YES!” to. All the little questions of hows and wheres scattered across my mind as I awaited the when.

That night, Momma Jane took the guest bed, and Mama Ang took our bed. We slept with our fold-out cot haphazardly wedged between the coffee table and couch in our small living room, me on the couch and Luke on the cot. We held hands the entire night. Both of us peeking our eyes open every twenty minutes or so all night just to look at each other, look at my left hand, and giddily smile.

The next morning, we called family and dearest friends to celebrate with them. Once everyone was invited into the Big News, we shared it on social media.

I was so thrilled. I was so at peace. I was so very certain of it all. And yet, a piece of my heart sunk when I shared it.

I knew that my top of the world chapter was happening in someone else’s rock bottom chapter. The chapter we have all been in. The chapter where if you see one more promotion, one more pregnancy announcement, one more friendship reunited, one more illness cured…without any of your questions being touched…You just might break. It’s unbearable.

I knew that as we shared this news, someone else was receiving a no, a not yet, a not the right fit, and a we need further scans.

I think about this a lot. Shortly after we got married, I watched at work as all eight of my May brides were whisked off to their honeymoons. I then watched for the rest of the year as the remainder of my 83 2018 brides did the very same. Meanwhile, we waited. My healing spine wasn’t quite ready to travel just yet; especially internationally. I am sure all of my fellow chronically ill peeps can attest to this feeling: being the sick spouse, sister, daughter, coworker, leader…when your illness holds you back from something and effects someone you love, it’s hard not to step into the arena and battle the “this is my fault” fight. I will take the physical side effects over the mental anyyyy day.

And so, as I gleefully hit “Share” on Facebook, my heart sunk for those in the rock bottom moments; or, sometimes even worse, for those in the weird, in-between what-the-heck-is-this-what-do-I-do-next-what-do-I-do-with-my-hands-help-me-Lord moments.

While Luke and I were on our honeymoon, this very thought kept interrupting me. That incredible server we had atop the mountain in Capri, who, long story short, changed our lives and touched our hearts so deeply I was in tears and Luke was misty-eyed (who is surprised?!)…he might not have been our server had we arrived to that restaurant an hour earlier, a month earlier, a year earlier. The hilarious donkey who sauntered across our paths at the small vineyard we stumbled upon in San Gimignano…he might not have been there an hour earlier, a month earlier, a year earlier. Matteo, the humble Disney character like vineyard worker who we met our first day in Lucca: the one who introduced us to our now most treasured bottles of wine-he might not have been in the hotel lobby hosting that tasting an hour earlier-a month earlier-a year earlier. All the precious “only God” moments…all the stumbled upon bakeries…all the otherworldly views and flavors…they all might have been different at any other time other than the exact time we got to experience them: one year later than expected.

I know what it’s like to be in the rock bottom chapter. I definitely know what it’s like to be in the weird, in-between, what-the-heck-is-this-what-do-I-do-next-what-do-I-do-with-my-hands-help-me-Lord moments. I know what it is like to see that engagement announcement. I know what it is like to see that baby on a billboard. I know what it is like to hear another promotion announcement in a staff meeting and physically feel your heart clench and your gut sink. I know what it is like. Often times, the announcement that makes us shrink down isn’t even something we ourselves want. But why.

WHY are their lives moving forward and ours are wondering what the heck do we do with our hands?????

We celebrate their victory. We feel genuine joy for them and Their Moment. And yet-there is still sometimes this little, nagging, annoying, why.

Had Luke proposed any other time, Momma & Mama might not have been there. Heidi Gibson Designs might not have been able to find the most perfect shade of aquamarine. Our photographer-who had returned to Italy that very morning-would likely not have been able to capture it all. Luke getting us into the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse-definitely would not have happened. It happened exactly when it did because it was Our Moment. Not meant for anyone else. It was ours. All the ways God nudged us and showed us this to be true were vast; much like the moments on our long-awaited honeymoon. Much like the moments in those delicate hours leading up to my emergency surgery. Much like the moment Luke & I met. Much like the moments that will reveal themselves whenever we reach Our Next Moment. And guess what? You, too, will get all of those nudges. But you can’t rush it. You can’t miss out on the immense once in a lifetime nature of your ordinary days. Do not rob yourself of that. You can’t dissolve into puddles of questions every day. You can’t weep wondering when Your Moment is going to arrive as you watch everyone else board theirs. It’s coming. I promise you. It is coming. You don’t want her moment. Her moment is lilac colored and rose scented with jazz music. When yours shows up? It will be aquamarine. Salty sea scented. Dusted with Mumford & Sons tunes. And all of the right people right alongside you. And everything will make perfect sense. That is Your Moment. Not a second too soon. Not a second too late.

Big, Healing, I-Don’t-Know-What-To-Do-With-My-Hands-Either Hugs,

KP.

Photos by: Love Letters Co.

Ring by: Heidi Gibson

Venue: Gasparilla Island Lighthouse

when the Pain sneaks out.

I got my blood drawn last week. It’s the proudest I have been of myself in a long time. No drugs and no one but the nurse next to me to talk me through it. Just me-frazzled and disheveled, walking into an itty bitty clinic in Key Largo, welcomed with a smack in the face of two-thousand tons of panic.

Sometimes, pain sneaks out of us as unexpectedly and freely as joy does. Sitting in the middle of a meeting, the way someone says something suddenly reminds you of that time you asked your nieces to be your bridesmaids, and you’re left fighting a swelling heart; hiding an unprofessionally beaming face behind your laptop screen. The sight of a passing toddler tugging at his mama’s dress hem with such strength and excitement it nearly knocks her over as they topple to the beach fills you with such pure joy you’re laughing out loud before even realizing it. I’ve realized: pain does this to us, too.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Luke and I were decorating our little 4 foot tree in our little 786 square foot island home. Luke walked out of the room for a quick moment to grab another box of ornaments. My favorite bulb started to roll off the low coffee table. It crashed right in front of me. Luke came out and I was already in tears-to both of our surprise. Pre-tumor, pre-surgery, pre-spinal fusion, I would have very easily been able to quickly squat down and catch the falling bulb before it burst into a million pieces. Watching it happen and knowing all of this, I was struck with instant pain. Crying for a good 10 minutes, the tears spilling out of me freely and uncontrolled, I thought about this. It was like something giving me the giggles out of the blue; only the dark opposite.

Around this same time, my tumor took the reigns, as it often tries its hardest to do, and forced me to swallow my pride and take a sick day. Not one that has mastered the art of stillness, I FaceTimed into each meeting and responded to all needed emails all throughout the day to ensure Hamilton wasn’t going to burden anyone else but me. The next day, when I returned to work, someone who is unaware of the tumor said to me, extremely condescendingly, “You certainly don’t look sick. Hope you had a good “sick day”.” Rolling their eyes, they walked out of my office. And just like that, pain snuck out of me; capturing everything like a jubilant belly laugh on the big drop of Splash Mountain.

I was never one to fear needles. I always made fun of my Luke for being so fearful of them. When I was in the hospital, all of that changed. My sister believes my body was clamping down in trauma and distress, causing my “good veins” to shut off their open flow. In the fuzziness of unexplainable pain and so much pain medication I still ponder how my body accepted, there are two instances that stick out as clear as the Key’s shallows. Ever since then, every scan needing CT contrast fluid injections and every blood draw I have needed, I’ve been given anxiety medication to get through it. I will spare the details…maybe for another day. Let’s just leave it at this: for now, needles and I are no longer friends. For now. I’m determined to get over it. I will get over it.

I was shaky all day leading up to the appointment. Flashbacks of the hospital moments kept intruding on my thoughts at work. When I walked into the clinic, greeted by the surgical white colors and fluorescent lighting of any medical building, panic gripped my chest and nearly took me down. I registered with the nurse, talking entirely too much in an attempt to distract myself (poor lady…I should send her a bottle of wine and a hug after listening to my ramblings. Looooordy.). In 5 minutes, I planned how I was going to excuse myself and reschedule the appointment a full 78 times. I sat down after finishing my registration. Crossing my legs. Uncrossing my legs. Breathing in. Breathing out. Shifting. Shuffling. Crossing my legs. Help me Jesus. Help me Jesus. Help me Jesus.

“Kelsey Pfleiderer? We are ready for ya.”

Hi. I’m so sorry. I’m sick and I was sicker a little while back and I’m having a hard time thinking about that needle in that drawer. I may cry. Please don’t mind it. How was your day and what’s your favorite color????”

I think the nurse planned her escape a full 78 times in that 5 minutes. To do: send 2 bottles of wine and 2 hugs to the Key Largo Urgent Care. Bless them, Lord. 🤦🏻‍♀️

I think it’s important to address and be OK with the moments when the pain sneaks out. Just like the times we address the moments the joy sneaks out. Tuesday night, I cried tears of joy during the opening credits of the new David Tutera wedding show. The opening. credits. y’all. Luke and I will laugh about that one for a while. Just like we find a way to laugh about and talk through the sneaky pain moments. The sneaky pain moments and the sneaky joy moments are exactly the same: always best when shared; judgement and shame free.

I wish you a weekend ahead of sneaky joy moments. And if you find yourself with a weekend of sneaky pain moments instead? I wish you the blessing of someone next to you to share it with; judgment and shame free.

Big Hugs. Always.

KP.