Monday, March 19, 2012

New Adventures, New Blog!

So, I've had tons of exciting adventures since my last post, the most important of which has been GETTING MARRIED!!!

I love being married! Steve is a great husband and takes great care of me. Although the Adventures of Valerie Shoemaker will never end,  I am now recording my adventures with my new family on a new blog. Please visit it at

Thanks for visiting!

Happy Adventures!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Patriotic Duty :)

When Steven and I first started dating, we joked that my motivation for dating him was based solely on feelings of Patriotic Duty. While this is not entirely true, (Steven has many amazing qualities that would have been attractive to me whether or not he was serving in the military) I must admit that it has been fascinating to me to follow the events of the war in Afghanistan with a more personal interest. Learning about Afghanistan and why our military is fighting there has helped me develop more appreciation for the rights and freedoms that I enjoy on a daily basis and have taken for granted. I am so thankful for Steven and the hundreds of thousands of other military members that are fighting to protect our freedom and provide assistance to governments all around the world that are trying to improve their societies and establish basic human rights for their people.

When I first thought of Afghanistan, I imagined it being some small, insignificant, barren wasteland, sparsely populated, and without any remarkable amount of interest or beauty. I imagined it as always having a history of backwards views and oppression towards women and I assumed it was a country full of uneducated people living in huts. However, as I have listened to Steven's description and after doing some more personal investigation, I have found some rather interesting and surprising facts about this country:

-Afghanistan has a population of about 29 million, about 4 million more than the population of Texas.

-Afghanistan covers an area of 652,230 sq km (251,760 sq mi). The country could fit easily inside the Eastern half of the United States.

-Afghanistan actually has some really pretty areas. Steven is stationed at Forward Operating Base Wright (FOB Wright or Camp Wright) which is located in the Kunar Province in the Eastern part of Afghanistan at the base of the Hindu Kush mountain range. I looked it up on google and found some photos of this area that are really quite beautiful. I think it is somewhat similar to Utah's terrain with lots of mountains and valleys, although I'm pretty sure the mountains there are much bigger.

-Women in Afghanistan were not always oppressed as they are now. In the early part of the 20th century, Afghanistan's government made efforts to modernize the country and grant equal rights to women, abolishing the muslim veil and establishing co-educational schools. (And yes, I do get much of my information from the all-wise and possibly completely incorrect wikipedia) However, through many years of war and political upheavals, many of these progressive efforts have failed. It has only been since 1998 when the Taliban imposed restrictions on women's rights that the treatment of women and children has seriously declined. It is my opinion that many of the problems associated with young men joining the Taliban and becoming a part of insurgent groups would be alleviated if women were allowed equal rights and could have access to health care and education that would improve the stability of their families, and therefore the stability of the country as a whole. I believe that the family is the fundamental unit of society. Women are an integral part of the family, therefore they are an integral part of society. If the women of a society are not allowed to enjoy basic human rights, the family will disintegrate and the society will fail, which is exactly what has happened in Afghanistan. I can't imagine what it must have been like for a woman my age to have grown up in that country, to be able to go wherever I pleased without restrictions, and then all of a sudden, in 1998 ( I would have been 16 years old then) to be required to wear a burqa whenever I needed to go out in public, and to be accompanied by a male relative everywhere I go.

I found this photo album on facebook that has pictures of the people in the Kunar region. I look at the faces of these adorable children and wonder- what does the future hold for them? I hope and pray that our military will be successful so these people can enjoy peace and these children can grow up to have happy and fulfilling lives. Perhaps I am being too naive and idealistic for having this hope, but how can I look at these faces and hope otherwise? I know that it is a sacrifice for our military, and for us as the American people who are paying taxes to pay for this war, but how can we, who have been given so much, stand by and NOT do something to help these people?

Anyway, maybe I should either get off my soapbox now or go and join a humanitarian organization to do something more than just talk about what I think should be done. What this all boils down to is that I am very thankful for Steven being willing to do what he is doing and I love him all the more for it. It is really hard being separated from him and not being able to talk with him very frequently, but I fully support what he is doing.

For those of you who are not up-to-date on your current events, here are some links to help you out. I am extremely surprised and, frankly, quite disappointed with how many Americans have no idea why our military is even there.

This video explains why not helping Afghanistan establish a stable government would be a threat to America. The most pertinent info is towards the end of this clip, so be sure to watch the whole thing. (Although this lady's hair really bugs me, I can't figure out why it looks straight on one side and curly on the other. Did she look in a mirror before she went on air?)

I don't want this to sound morbid (because the title of this website is a bit disturbing), but I check this website pretty frequently because it keeps a good running synopsis of current news and recent events happening in Afghanistan. I look at the casualty numbers occasionally, but I figure that if anything ever happened to Steven, hopefully I would know about it before his name showed up on this website. :-S

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Year in Review

For those of you who didn't get a mailed copy of my Christmas letter, here is an electronic version:

December, 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

As I look back on the events of 2010, I have much to be thankful for and many reasons to smile. It has been a fun and eventful year and I am thankful for the goals that I have accomplished, the people I have met, the places I have been, and the precious moments I have enjoyed. As I look forward to next year, I am excited for the many adventures that 2011 will bring.

I am currently living in Provo in a Condo that I purchased a couple of years ago and had been renting out. I have a wonderful roommate, Laura Rivera, who is an excellent cook and a great friend. I also live with my dog, Buster, who constantly entertains me, and who really is a nice dog once he stops barking at strangers! ;-) I am serving as the secretary in the Relief Society Presidency of my singles ward and enjoy the friendships I have developed with the people in my neighborhood.

I began the year working in Real Estate part-time while finishing up my last few classes at BYU. The last home stretch seemed to drag on, but I FINALLY finished my courses and graduated in August! Wahoo! It feels so nice to finally be done with my Bachelor’s degree! I have learned a lot from my degree in Humanities with an Art History emphasis, and I am thankful for the way it has broadened my horizons and challenged the way I view the world. I feel that I am much more understanding, tolerant, and culturally aware because of my degree. I have increased confidence in forming and defending my own opinions, rather than relying on others to create an opinion for me.

With my schooling out of the way, I joined the ranks of many recent college graduates with the question of “What now?” Though my degree in Humanities has little direct relation to the Real Estate industry, since I have had a background in Real Estate for several years now, I decided I would continue with that profession. I transferred my license to Coldwell Banker, where I am currently working as an assistant for a team of Real Estate agents and where I have more resources and education to help me build my business and provide better service to clients. I hope to be able to implement some of the skills I am learning to have a productive and successful year in 2011. Despite the economy being what it is, I am noticing that those who are committed to their job and their clients have continued to be successful despite what market reports may predict. I am looking forward to the many challenges, successes, and learning opportunities this next year will bring.

I was able to go on a family vacation to Idaho in July where we had all sorts of fun boating, hiking, and playing on a home-made water slide. I enjoyed spending time with my adorable nieces and nephews. In September I visited a good friend, Noelle Temple, in Michigan. While I was there, I was also able to visit my Great-Aunt Ruth and Great-Uncle Neil who also live in Michigan who were in their nineties and whom I hadn’t visited since I was an infant. I’m very glad I took the opportunity to do so, because Aunt Ruth passed away earlier this month. Her passing has reminded me that life is so short and fleeting. We must seize opportunities to do things like meet people, visit places, dance to our favorite song, fall in love, and enjoy precious moments, because tomorrow is promised to no one, and some chances may never pass our way again.

As many of you know, I enjoy social dancing very much. I had the opportunity to attend several dance “events” this year where I was able to meet new dancers and improve my dance skills. In January I attended the Utah Lindy Exchange which was a 3-day long dance event full of all sorts of fun Lindy-Hop, West Coast Swing, and Blues dancing. In February I went to Sacramento with a bunch of friends to the “Capital City Swing Dance Convention” which was a weekend full of West Coast Swing classes, competitions, and social dancing. I also enjoyed lots of dancing at local venues throughout the year including the Murray Arts Center, Ballroom Utah, and Blue Tango in Provo.

It happened to be at Blue Tango that one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments came to pass! One night in July, I met a handsome, friendly fellow named Steven Kinkead. When we first met, he told me he would soon be leaving to California for some specialized training for the Army. I thought he was a really nice guy, but with him leaving, I didn’t think there was a chance for anything to really develop between us. However, when he returned and I saw him dancing again, I was once again intrigued by him, he asked me to go to dinner the next evening, and then we dated for a few weeks before he left again to Fort McCoy, Wisconsin for more training. We continued our relationship long distance and were able to talk on the phone almost every day while he was gone. When he came home for Thanksgiving, he asked me to marry him and I gladly accepted! He is a wonderful man who treats me like a princess, and I am very thankful to have him in my life. He is a member of the 744th Engineering Company from Ogden, Utah, and is currently serving in the Kunar province of Afghanistan until November 11th of next year. Having a long-distance relationship has been hard, and the next 11 months are going to be tough, but as Thomas Paine once said “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only which gives everything its value.” The rewards of loving and being loved by an amazing person are worth whatever price must be paid. I fully support Steven’s decision to do his part to help keep our country safe, despite the sacrifices that are required. Steven and I are excited to be married when his deployment is over and look forward to the adventures life will bring to us. I pray for him constantly and for the rest of our troops that are fighting for our country and to promote principles of freedom around the world. I am thankful for the precious moments he has brought into my life and for the sweet and gentle way he has encouraged my heart to open, in spite of the wounds life has given it in the past.

It is my hope that your holiday season and the coming year is filled with many precious moments for you and yours. May we all open our hearts a little wider to accept the love that is offered us in both big and little packages each day.

With Love this Holiday Season,

Valerie Shoemaker

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Surprise!!

If anyone had told me back in September that I would be engaged by Thanksgiving, I would have rolled my eyes, shaken my head, and with an appalled tone of voice would have replied "What-EVER!! I would NEVER do something that ridiculous, and I would NEVER get engaged to anyone I hadn't dated for at LEAST 6 months!!"

Well... I have now learned to

On Friday, November 26, 2010 at approximately 3:30 pm, just over 2 months since our first date, Steven Kinkead knelt down on one knee in a beautiful grove of pine trees (aka a Christmas Tree lot) in Mountain Green, Utah. A fresh layer of snow covered the ground, the sun was low in the horizon, the air was crisp, clean and quiet. He asked me to marry him. I enthusiastically said "YES!!"

He slipped a sparkly ring on my finger, we kissed and hugged, I jumped up and down with excitement and proclaimed with delight, "We're gonna get married!!!"

As I stood there wrapped in the arms of this sweet, loving, brave, strong, amazing man, I marvelled, as I often have, at how quickly life can change. I am so thankful that this time it has changed for the better. :)

How We Met

As many of you know, I enjoy dancing a lot. Since I moved back into my condo in Provo, I have been frequently visiting a little dance venue just a few blocks from where I live called "Blue Tango" where they have Blues dancing on Thursday nights.

One night, back in July, I danced a couple of times with this nice, handsome guy named Steve. He told me he was in the army and had a couple weeks off before he was leaving to do some training in California. Then he would have a couple more weeks off before he would be deployed to go to Afghanistan. Maybe it was due to an over-zealous sense of patriotic duty, or maybe it was fate prompting me to action, but initially, I thought, "That's kind of cool that he's going to Afghanistan. Maybe I can get to know him a little bit so I can send him an email once in a while and find out how things really are out there from a soldier's perspective." Romance didn't really cross my mind, and I didn't really think there was enough time to allow any chance for anything more than a casual friendship to develop anyway. He seemed like a really good guy though, so that night I asked him to give me a ride home so I wouldn't have to walk the few blocks home in the dark. We chatted a little more in his car, then I wished him well with his training and told him that I hoped I would be able to see him again before he left for Afghanistan. That night I added him as a friend on facebook, (although Steve insists that HE was the one that added ME as a friend, I distinctly remember that I was the first to send him a friend request ;-p) but we didn't really have much communication for a while after that.

A few months later, on September 23, I once again went to Blue Tango and-lo and behold-Steven was there again! I was excited to see him and I asked him how his training went and how much time he had before leaving for Afghanistan. We chatted for quite a while, and he asked me to dance several times. I admit, I was feeling quite flirtatious that night, and it was nice to have someone reciprocate my flirtations. :) At one point in the evening, Steven asked me if I would like to go to dinner with him sometime. I told him I would love to. That night I asked him again to give me a ride home, and we made plans to meet in Salt Lake the following evening for dinner and dancing.

Our First Date

Since Steve lives in Mountain Green, which is about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Provo, though he was willing to drive all that way, I felt bad making him drive that far to pick me up which is why I agreed to meet him in Salt Lake. It turns out that traffic in Provo on Friday nights is HORRIBLE! So though I had planned to meet Steve at a certain time up in Salt Lake, it ended up working out better for him to meet me at Thanksgiving Point where we had dinner. I remember that the dinner I had wasn't as impressive as I hoped it would be, but the conversation was great! I learned a lot about Steve and I began to recognize that he is a very good-hearted man. We had planned to go dancing after dinner, but I had had a long day at work, and that added to the horrible drive in Construction-ridden traffic had given me a headache, so we decided that maybe we should watch a movie instead.

It was a really good first date and I was surprised at how comfortable I felt with him. We seemed to have a lot in common, having both grown up most of our lives in Utah. We had similar interests in dancing, movies, and music. Overall, I was impressed with his ability to keep an interesting conversation going and with his variety life of experience. He was intelligent, humorous, and most importantly of all, he was just a REALLY NICE guy! I felt that he really appreciated having me as company. At this point I still didn't think we would ever be more than just good friends because of the timing of everything, but I was definitely intrigued and was bummed that he was going to be leaving soon.

We had a pseudo-second date the next day. We met each other in Salt Lake at Ballroom Utah for more dancing and then made crepes and watched another movie. Then Steve left for a couple of days to visit family in Washington state. He ended his trip a little early just so he could come see me a few more times before he left. We went on several more dates including watching General Conference together, going to his best friend's kid's soccer game, dinner with the Poll family in Mountain Green, a Halloween Cruise on the Provo River, dinner at the Blue Iguana, and of course, more dancing. :-)

By the time it was time for him to deploy on October 10, we had spent the majority of the last 2 weeks together. Like the words of a certain really cheesy country song, "As the days got shorter, our talks got longer, the kisses got sweeter and the feelings got stronger..." and before I knew it, I was in love!! I couldn't believe that this had happened so quickly! I was really concerned about the fact that it had happened so quickly and I was still nervous about what the future would bring. I was worried that what I felt was just infatuation or the result of feeling that time was passing me by and I just wanted to be married again.

Though I had a lot of questions and concerns, one thing that I did know was that Steven treated me like a queen and that I was always happy to be with him. He is so thoughtful and caring. One example that shows the sweet thoughtfulness that this man is capable of happened the day after we had been watching a movie called "Stranger Than Fiction." Mr. Crick, the male character in the movie brings Miss Pascal, the baker, a dozen "flours" and tells her "I want you.... In no uncertain terms." Later, Miss Pascal brings Mr. Crick "Bavarian Sugar Cookies." While we were watching, I just made the small comment, "I don't know what Bavarian Sugar cookies are, but that sounds really good right now!" The next day, Steven showed up at my door with a bouquet of red rose flowers and a huge batch of Bavarian sugar cookies that he had made and frosted himself! He gave me a big hug and said, "I want you. In no uncertain terms." It was SO cute!! Steven continues to do sweet little things that let me know that he is thinking of me. (Some of these cute little things he says and does also pretty much make him the King of Sappy, but don't tell him I let his secret out!)


On October 10th, Steven left for Fort McCoy in Wisconsin for 6 weeks of specialized training as part of his deployment. I went to the Browning Reserve Center to see him off.

Steven warned me then that when he came back for Thanksgiving, that he just might be asking me some crazy questions, so to be prepared for it. Though part of me was excited at the thought of marrying this man, the more sensible part of me was telling me that this was way too crazy, way too fast. I had a lot of strong feelings for Steven, but would they be strong enough to last through a long-term, long-distance relationship? After he left, I thought and prayed a lot about this relationship. I also went through several periods of doubts and concerns, at one point telling him that I thought we should just be friends, and that if I was still available when he got back after his 14 month deployment, I would be happy to pursue a relationship. The night after I told him that, I felt absolutely sick to my stomach and wondered if I had done the right thing. After I had been on a couple of first dates with some other guys that turned out to not be nearly as great as my first date with Steven, I realized that despite my concerns, if there was even a remote possibility that things could work out with him, I wanted to give it a chance. During this whole time, Steven never faltered in his feelings for me. He continued to call me and we would talk for at least an hour almost every day. He continued to tell me how much he cared about me and I knew that he would be willing to do whatever it took to make this relationship work despite the odds being stacked against us. I was really impressed at how much our relationship was able to deepen and grow stronger despite the physical distance between us. Every week or two, I get a CD in the mail that has little videos Steven has made just for me. His willingness to take time out of his day to show me what is going on helps me to feel included as an important part of his life and helps bridge the distance between us. (Also, the fact that he is willing to endure ridicule from his army buddies while he makes these little videos for me makes them that much more sweet to me. ;)

Stay tuned for more information about Steve, the wedding, etc.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It's official!! In August, I finally finished my last class at BYU and satisfied all the requirements for graduation. A few weeks later, in September I opened up my mailbox to find a nice big envelope with my Diploma in it! YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!! It feels great to finally be done with this goal of getting a Bachelor's degree that I started 4 years ago! I can't believe it took me so long to finish, but I have learned a lot of valuable lessons that I wouldn't trade for anything.

My degree in Humanities with an emphasis in Art History has been a very fulfilling and rewarding field of study. I was able to travel to Europe to study the works of the masters in person, and get college credit for it! Who could frown at that? I have improved my reading, writing, and critical thinking skills and have learned to appreciate the beauty that is all around me. I have also become much more open to different schools of thought, and have learned to appreciate differing opinions that allow me to see the world from a new perspective.

My favorite teacher at BYU was Carl Sederholm. He taught several of my American Humanities classes and one of my capstone courses. He is a very humorous, caring and thoughtful instructor. Some of the works of art and literature that I now consider some of my favorites were ones that I studied in his classes. We read a book called "The Coquette" which was very entertaining and helped me to look at my own dating habits from a more cautious point of view. We studied paintings by Joseph William Mallord Turner, which exposed me to what is now one of my favorite paintings, "Dido Building Carthage."

I like this painting not necessarily because of its visual appeal, but because of the story behind it. Dido was a widow who was able to overcome many obstacles to build a great city. I guess I like it because I can identify with her character and hope that I can also do great things with my life despite my challenges. We also studied Thomas Cole and his "Course of Empire" series which I also really enjoy.

I really enjoyed this exhibit because it was interesting to see the development of different artistic styles and movements and how the Savior has been a common theme as a subject of art through all these changes. I was really struck by some of the paintings by Ron Richmond, and I chose to write about Exchange No. 8. I liked the representational idea behind this painting, how it represents Christ without showing an actual image of him. It calls to mind the verse in Isaiah 1:18- "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." I would post excerpts from my paper here, but I can't seem to find the file. If anyone has actually read through this post long enough to reach this point, 10 points for not getting bored out of your mind. If you care enough to read what I actually wrote for this assignment, send me an email and I'll find the copy. :p

So basically what I am saying is that my major totally ROCKED and I loved the opportunities I had to study amazing works of art by amazing people.

The End. :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I like hiking

This is a post I started back in August, but I didn't post it until now because I wasn't quite finished with it. It is interesting to me to see that a lot of the things we talked about on this hike have actually been accomplished! Yay for setting goals and hiking! We did this hike on August 24, 2010.

"I have a new goal to go on at least one hike every week until it gets too cold. We have been having such gorgeous weather here these last couple of weeks, it pains me to let a perfect, cloudless, late summer/early fall blissful day go by without taking a chance to head up to the mountains and enjoy nature's beauty.

Last week, I dragged my two brothers down to Payson canyon. I had never been hiking there, and I've heard some good things about it, so I found some trails online and decided to check one of them out. We didn't have tons of time, and it takes a while just to get down to Payson, so I chose a short "hike" called Grotto Falls. It turns out that it took us a whole lot longer to even find the trailhead marker from the Canyon road than it did to do the actual hike. We walked for about 10 minutes before we got to the end. It was pretty cool, though. There is a little waterfall formation where the water has carved a little "Grotto" out of the conglomerate rock (yes, 'conglomerate' is a word I am proud to say I still remember from my high-school geology class.)

It was fun to go with Ammon & Hyrum. We had some brotherly-sisterly bonding time while we walked and talked about the goals we all have set for ourselves. Hyrum's goal is to get a job, a driver's license, & do well in school. Ammon's goal was to get a better job, which he has ALREADY done! Congratulations! And he wants to go on at least one date every week. My goal is to meet 3 new people every week, and hopefully find someone I can marry."

Stay tuned to future posts to find out more details on how I am doing with my goal.... :)

Yesterday, September 3, 2010, I went hiking again. This time I was with my friend, Daniel, that I met dancing at Blue Tango (I'll post more about dancing later.) We hiked up to the Y and then went past the Y to the little canyon behind Y Mountain. It was really pretty. I wanted to go all the way behind the mountain, but we started our hike at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and it was getting dark before we could get as far as I wanted to go, so we turned around and headed back down. By the way, hiking to the Y at 4:30 on a hot, sunny, cloudless afternoon is a HORRIBLE idea! That's pretty much the worst time to start because its so dang hot. I felt really embarrassed because I was huffing and puffing all the way up. I've done that hike plenty of times before and haven't ever had a problem, but I usually start in the morning or later in the evening when its cooler. The hardest part of the whole hike is getting to the Y. After that its a lot easier and there is more shade and better scenery.

On the way back down, we almost ran over this HUGE tarantula that was just sitting in the middle of the trail. YUCK! It totally made my skin crawl. I have lived in Utah my whole life and have never seen a tarantula in the wild, which makes me think that maybe this was someones pet that escaped or something. I don't think they are natural habitants of this area.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


I know I haven't blogged for a while, and I do intend to repent of that soon...but I just wanted to take a moment to write down some thoughts I have been mulling over lately.

Today marks 6 years from the day that Lucien died. I look back on these years and sometimes can't believe that so many have gone by already, and other times I think "Really? Has it only been 6 years? It feels like so much longer." I think about how different my life today is from what I imagined it was going to be when Lucien and I married. We probably would have had a couple of kids by now, Lucien would have been done with his flight training and probably would be working for an airline. We might have had the kind of house I've always wanted, etc. etc. Although part of me gets a little depressed when I think of all the could'ves and should'ves and would'ves, a larger part of me is so thankful for what I DO have.

I am thankful for the calm serenity that comes from feeling the effects of the healing hands of time and God's grace after experiencing the turmoil of a shattered heart.

I am thankful for the emotional strength that comes from knowing that I have survived the intense heat and pressure of the refiner's fire, and have become more resilient and luminous because of the experience.

I am thankful for the greater sensitivity to the simple pleasures of life all around me that comes from knowing that the sweetest moments in life are also the most fleeting.

There is much more that I am thankful for that I could list here, but another thing I have come to appreciate is the opportunity to spend more time living life than blogging about it, so I will end this here and say thanks to everyone who has been a companion with me on my journey. Your love and friendship is appreciated. :-)