Thoughts on Notre Dame

Dear friends:

Yes it is truly sad that #NotreDame cathedral has been damaged. I want you to know that if you only associate the church with art and history, it’s ok to talk about that with me. I also want you to know that the structure is first and foremost a Catholic Church that was literally built for Catholics to practice Catholicism. I hope that you’ll understand why so many Catholic people would really take this hard; it’s not just a museum to us.


I commend the French government and Macron for stepping up to reassure people that the cathedral will be rebuilt. However, I want to remind you again that this is a religious structure. If you should make a donation, do it from the kindness of your heart, and keep your politics out of it–otherwise, leave it alone. Really.

Rebuilding Ourselves:

To my Catholic neighbors, I ask you for as much mercy as possible toward people who have only learned to associate the cathedral with tourism, or art, or history. People who have not discovered the Church simply don’t know that we used to be “The” folks to teach about what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful. Can we say that about ourselves today? Not just as a Body, but can we say that within our own neighborhoods or even our families? I know far too many people who only associate Catholicism with the same corruption and hypocrisy found anywhere else. No, I do not think this fire was of God. BUT, I do think God can use it.


I believe that it is entirely possible that a merciful God would give the contemporary generations an opportunity to rebuild our churches and ourselves back into beacons of beauty and hope. I believe that a merciful God could use a fire to remind us that this world passes away, that none of us are perfect (I’m pretty darn much at the top of that list). I think the process of rebuilding can teach us that even though we are so flawed, God can use people to do amazing things, and that we can do them because the simple truth is: we have souls. Whether you are Catholic or not, can do this on a huge scale for a cathedral, or simply work within your own family, I hope you take this opportunity to breathe, relax, know that it’s ok…and then get started on rebuilding your soul, and really truly valuing the work you are doing within your own family to make things where YOU are beautiful and good.

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Biphasic Sleep: I tried it for a week!

Here’s a breakdown of my progress during my exploration of biphasic sleep.

Daytime: wakeful the entire day.
Bedtime: 8PM
Nighttime Wakefulness: Nope. Slept through the whole dang thing.
Takeaway lesson about my sleep: I seem to need more of it than I’m getting.

Rise Time: 4:30AM. Felt rested, felt great!
I loved being up before the sun, before the day began. I did chores, wrote, did schoolwork, had a huge workout, shower, and completed an entire beauty routine all in the morning.
Midday Rest: Slept 1.5 hours.
I woke up feeling as though I had slept a whole entire night all over again. I woke up feeling as though it surely must be sometime in the evening, and it blew my mind when I checked the phone and saw it was only noon!
I had a hugely productive afternoon doing grad work, author work, and entrepreneur work. I gassed up the car and felt rested and almost optimistic about things. Also, my appetite was really normal! I didn’t need an afternoon snack, or even a pick-me-up in the form of a soda or a cookie.
Bedtime: 11PM, after staying up to have a late dinner and watch some television.
Nighttime Wakefulness: Nope, I slept through the whole dang thing tonight as well.
Takeaway: Quality rest produces a quality work/home/life/mood day.

Rise Time: 7 AM. Felt groggy. Really needed some coffee.
This morning I felt a little directionless and very cranky. I wondered if it was due to insufficient planning for the day or if it was because I was yet again on my older schedule. I lamented a little bit–now that I had gotten a reminder of what it felt like to be rested, it was a little frustrating not to get to enjoy that today. I decided to go to the gym to let off some steam.
My appetite was off the charts. I ate sugary foods and pre-packaged ramen–anything that could be ready quickly.
Midday Rest: I tried to see if I could repeat yesterday’s success with a nap, but I was restless and couldn’t settle my mind down.
Bedtime: 8:30PM. Tossed and turned from being too sore and from starting (unwisely) to think about wedding planning instead of writing down ideas to think of later.
Nighttime Wakefulness: Wasn’t able to fall asleep yet, so I put on some old YouTube Videos of Mother Angelica to help me drift off to sleep with happy thoughts.
Takeaway: I need to train myself to have a sense of completion about my day, and to give my mind permission to let things go when it’s time to settle down and rest.

I did not log my sleep today.

Rise Time: 7 AM. Hit “snooze” a few times. Got up and had to hurry. Today was a good day, as I got to visit with friends, and house-cleaning efforts left the house still in pretty good shape today.
Midday Rest: Had a short snooze in the very late afternoon. Woke up groggy, but otherwise in a good mood.
Appetite was huge today! I had three-bean salad with olive oil and tuna, and it really hit the spot. Also, I was pretty thirsty today.
Bedtime: 9PM-ish. Eugene and I like to look at funny articles together and comment about them until we get sleepy.
Nighttime Wakefulness: Nothing yet!
Takeaway: Maybe I have recovered after several days of good sleep, and I no longer really need bed by 8:30 PM. I feel my clock changing and natural waves of sleep beginning to emerge.

Rise Time: 5:30 AM. Naturally woke up at this time, but still wanted to rest a little more.
Midday Rest: I did take a nap for about an hour.
Appetite: Was good, not great. I think considering symptoms of Long-Distance, I was doing pretty darn well today.
Bedtime: Around 10. Felt a natural wave of sleepiness, which allowed me to drift off pretty quickly.
Nighttime Wakefulness: STILL nothin’! It’s like I am needing and using every moment of sleep that I’m getting.
Takeaway: When I am going through waves of coping, more rest, and more meaningful rest, seems to be beneficial in helping me get through it.

Rise time: 6 AM. Hit the snooze button a bunch.
Midday Rest: Didn’t want one. I was plenty satisfied following right along with the work day, going right into grad schoolwork and author work, even working through lunch.
Appetite is normal, maybe a little on the low side. I had a slice of bread and butter for breakfast, and several cups of green tea. My body seems more interested in the warm tea than in anything else.

Takeaway for the Week

I’m more convinced than ever about the benefits of adequate sleep. It’s also fascinating to note my body going from needing an extreme phase of recovery, to now starting to fit into a natural sleep rhythm from about 9:30 to around 5 or so in the morning. Anything outside of those hours seems to make it inevitable that I’ll either need a nap, or will likely hit “snooze” more often than I should.

Perhaps when I’m not feeling so mentally taxed, I won’t need such extreme amounts of sleep. It’s a theory. In the meantime, my plan is to continue to nourish good, healthy sleep habits.

Summary: Did it help me at all?

I initially wanted to know if following a biphasic sleep pattern would improve the quality of my life and my mental health. Here are what I’m measuring and how I’m doing, now that I’ve been practicing this sleep pattern for a week.

  • Sleeping through the night: IMPROVED. Not only am I sleeping through the night, I feel as though I have been getting extra sleep that I’ve sorely needed, probably due to the current mental load my brain is dealing with.
  • Enough energy for daily demands: IMPROVED. Not perfect, but at the very least, I’ve had time every day for health, hygiene, paperwork, author work, schoolwork, social time, and extra things like putting on makeup and keeping up with chores.
  • Extra energy for working out and/or tackling projects: IMPROVED. I have started having enough energy for longer, more intense workouts every day.
  • Relief from depression-like symptoms: MILD IMPROVEMENT. Im still experiencing some blah’s, but having enough sleep has helped me with finding words to communicate with loved ones, and for prayer as well.
  • Appetite (not over- or under-eating): IMPROVED. I’m the type who will either eat too much, or forget to eat at all. Having enough sleep has helped me naturally enjoy healthy food, plus feel satisfied with small, consistent meals.
  • Naturally-occurring pattern of two phases of sleep per day: NO IMPROVEMENT. Not only was I sleeping through the night each night, I often found a ton of rest in midday naps this past week. Whatever it is that I’m recovering through psychologically, I clearly have needed the recuperation.
  • Peaceful time of wakefulness during the night where I could spend time in prayer and meditation without distraction: NO IMPROVEMENT. I’ve been sleeping, seemingly round the clock! BUT, lll
  • Productivity; in other words, the amount of work I am able to accomplish every day: HUGE IMPROVEMENT. As much as I’ve been sleeping, I feel as though I’ve accomplished 10 times as much as I usually do, and without being over-stressed or strapped for emotional energy afterwards.
  • Memory; the amount of information I am able to retain: IMPROVED. I’m currently studying for exams, and actually starting to feel more confident about them. A little.
  • Synthesis; the quality of my ability to think about what I am learning in school, and to synthesize ideas and discussions from it: IMPROVED. This has been a huge week for developing more creative ideas in my studies, in business, in writing, and I’ve even been able to help encourage others who are developing their ideas as well.

Well I’m convinced.

So typing up my experience and the improvements I’ve seen, it’s pretty clear that this has been a beneficial exercise for me.

I can feel my body naturally craving sleep at different times–and hey, that’s a huge step too, right? It’s a big accomplishment to know what being sleepy actually feels like, much like someone who overeats has to learn the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Now I know when I’m sleepy. So I just go to sleep.

In the coming week, I hope to have more regular times for sleep. I have a feeling that the exercise aspect of my routine is directly related to the quality and quantity of my rest. Perhaps as my body gets accustomed to physical recovery, the mental aspect of rest will be something that will be more routine as well? Plus, I’d really like to get to a point where I am so “caught-up” with rest and recovery that I actually naturally do get to enjoy some quiet nighttime hours of repose, prayer, and thoughtfulness. I’m looking forward to that a lot.

Margaret Nelson is the founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, available on Amazon

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Fiance Visa: A Real Timeline

Buenos Aires, Obelisco.
Copyright 2017, Margaret Nelson.

Getting married to someone from a different country is a long process. Here’s a look at the time it took for Eugene and I to get that stamp!

I’ll be updating this post periodically to give you an actual timeframe of the time it took for the whole process. Hopefully any engaged people out there can use it to plan things with their significant others accordingly.

This is just how it was for us; I have no idea whether we’d be a typical case or not. And neither of us are affiliated with any immigration offices–we’re just ordinary people, and I’m hoping this information helps bring comfort and more experience to other couples who find the process a little intimidating and need hope and community, like we did.

Our Timeline

-Completed and submitted paperwork for I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiance
-Bank statement showed check for visa processing fee had been withdrawn from my account.
-Received text message notifying me that USCIS had received paperwork and would begin processing our case (Form G-1145 gave USCIS permission to use my phone number in order to text me that our packet had been received.

Wait time so far: 13 days

-Received form I-797 in the mail. This form is an Official Receipt Notice, and told us which processing center would be handling our case.
-Checked USCIS webpage practically every day and plugged in receipt number to check status of our case. No change.

Wait time so far: 42 days

MARCH 2019:
No change in Visa status. We’re still waiting for processing.
-Oh my GOOOOOOSH it’s so hard to wait for news!

Wait time so far: 73 days

APRIL 2019:
-Received a notice of approval! Now to wait for approval form to arrive in the mail. This will inform us of our next steps!
-Received our notice of approval in the mail! Now to wait for the NVC to process our paperwork and send everything over to Argentina, where Eugene will have his interview!

Wait time so far: 103 days

MAY 2019:
-We hadn’t heard anything for 30 days, so I followed instructions on our last notice about how to inquire about our progress.
-Received notice that our packet has been processed by the NVC! Now we wait for the U.S. Embassy and/or Consulate to process our information. My understanding at this point is that they’ll take several weeks to go through everything, but once they do, they’ll schedule an interview and make sure Eugene’s applications are in.
-It’s our first bit of homework time to do since putting our initial packet together; now it’s time for us to make more applications and gather documents to bring to the interview.
-Finally got an official packet of instructions from the consular office in Eugene’s country. Luckily, it’s the same information as the stuff we found from our own research, but it was great to get some validation that we are “officially” on the right track!

Wait time so far: 134 days

JUNE 2019:
-This month is all about getting Eugene’s paperwork in order. He has to fill out some forms, get biometrics done, and get his police report printed.
-Once these things are done, we can call the NVC and schedule his interview at the Consulate in Argentina! It’s getting close, folks!

Wait time so far: 164 days

JULY 2019:
-This month has been busier for Eugene than for me. We have gathered as much evidence to prove the duration and commitment level of our relationship as possible, including written things from my family that vouch for us, too. Eugene has been running around meeting with translators, notaries, biometrics appointments and such.
-His interview is scheduled for the end of the month! I hope we’ve remembered everything!

Margaret Nelson is founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, available on Amazon

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March: At a Glance

When I got back from Argentina at the beginning of the month, I knew I’d be hitting the ground running, what with getting ready for the last leg of my graduate program, planning a wedding, and finding time to actually figure out what it is I want to do with my education.

You know me; I’ve always got several dozen kooky ideas cookin’.

Here are my big blocks of life goodies this month:


This Easter will mark two years since my Confirmation in the Catholic Church. I have been trying to have a deeper experience, and a closer encounter with Christ. I really believe this is such an important season–one that helps me remember the things that are truly important in life.

In my opinion, there has never been a better time to be Catholic. Why? Because there is some serious, SERIOUS work to do. There has never been a greater opportunity to rid the church of corruption than there is now, much thanks to social media. There has never been an easier time to access tons of information about living liturgically. There has never been a more mind-blowing time to consider life in a day and age when technology is infused into so much of our experience, and yet we physically encounter our God, who comes to us in the form of bread so that we can look at our God and not die.

Transubstantiation, counter-cultural lifestyles with focuses on mysteries, the environment, contemplating/tracing/participating in life force all the way back to its source, AND sweeping out some long-standing villainy in an all-out battle of good versus evil–one in which WOMEN are keepers of mysteries that prove time and again how they become better leaders of warriors the more womanly they are? Catholicism is so metal.

If you’ve ever wondered what Catholics actually believe, I think these are available on Amazon for about $8.


They say absence makes the heart grow fonder…well, since Eugene and I are currently almost 7,000 miles apart, you can imagine that I am feeling pretty darn fond of him at the moment. Long-Distance anything is terribly difficult. I’m hoping to write more posts about it, with the prayer that they might help other people who are going through the same thing.

Yes, it’s a blessing. We have learned so many things from being long-distance, and I have to believe we will use these lessons for the rest of our lives. It’s not for the faint of heart, you guys! But when it’s with the right person, there’s no amount of miles that can separate or jeopardize your relationship. True Love is always easy…no matter how hard it is :P.

Buenos Aires, Image (C) 2017, Margaret Nelson. Do not use without permission.


You know. It’s tax season. Crippling student loan debt. Visas are expensive. After visa, we’re gonna be newlyweds, which traditionally means utilizing lots of financial strategies for setting up a new life and a new home. For me, it’s really a race against time–can I complete my degree and get going on a passionate and meaningful career before the car wears out? Can I find somewhere to do digital job-interviews so I don’t have to go buy new dress pants? How many dollar store Pop Tarts is too many dollar store Pop Tarts? How often do people actually need dental work, anyway?

Image from Pexels.

Wedding Bells

Speaking of finances, wanna know what every immigrant wants to do immediately upon entering the United States? Why, pay for a customary, over-the-top, North-American wedding, of course! Let’s just say that Eugene and I have been having several strategy meetings lately about how to keep The Big Day focused accepting God’s will for our vocations, on our love, with warmth and welcome for all our family, and without breaking the bank. Stay tuned for the things I discover in my foray through the Pinteresting charybdis that is THE DIY WEDDING!

Image from Pexels.

Oh Yeah,

And I’m in grad school. Pray for me, guys.

Image from Pexels.

Margaret Nelson is the founder and contributor to Maggie O’the Valley, and author of THE TEN MINUTE QUIT, available on Amazon.

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It’s a Big World, After All

And get ready to hit the road with me and Eugene!

Being in a multi-cultural, international relationship means really getting those airline miles, but we’ve also managed to find trains, boats, and taxicabs as well.

On deck soon: a road trip up the California coast (since the rest of the state has basically been on fire lately). After that, we’ll be heading down south…way, way south. I’m talking South America.

Did I mention being a digital teacher is kind of the best job ever?

God has blessed me with such an amazing man. Together we have opened each other’s worlds to so many new horizons and adventures! It seems so amazing to me when I realize the extremes: from back home in my little valley town to all over the globe…it’s a roller-coaster! But, I guess that’s life, yes?

Here are some photos from our first vacation together in Buenos Aires, back in 2017!

(C) 2019 Margaret Nelson

All photo images in this post are owned by me. Copying and/or use by persons other than myself or Eugene is strictly prohibited.

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