Tuesday, December 17, 2013

miracles on Pink House Street.

woah, my goodness.

here it is--almost christmas...yet the high for tomorrow is predicted to be 80 degrees.  80!  this afternoon i cleaned the backyard while simultaneously playing house with leah (she was the mother, i was the daughter, and Hippo played the newborn baby), and i began hosing off some of the dusty/dirty outdoor toys.  i rolled up my jeans to hit just below my knees, preventing them from getting wet with the spraying water.  i worked from one end of the yard to the next, throwing away broken plastic, sweeping leaves and wiping surfaces, all the while quietly cracking up as i watched leah bounce around with baby Hippo on her hip.

when i finished, i came inside to dry off my legs, and noticed i had new flip-flop tan lines.  tan lines!  on december 16th!  i'm a girl who was born of christmases filled with frigid temperatures and falling snow, and though this will be our fifth winter in arizona, the december warmth still takes me by surprise.

we are currently working on Miracles over here, in our Pink House.

ben is scrambling to write his dissertation, with the hope he will be able to actually attend the interviews for internship he has accepted to show up for all over the country during the month of january.  his adviser has (again!) told him to accept the fate of not going out on internship this year, with the very unlikely possibility of his dissertation being finished and defended by the date of january 31st, 2014.  we are continuing to (again!) ignore his persistent opinion of ben's demise and push on as though it's meant to all come together.  are we delusional?  quite possibly.  at this point, delusion is all we have.

so although he has been unemployed since the end of november, i have not seen much of him and expect to see even less with the coming weeks.

i have signed myself back up in a group therapy, have i written that yet?  probably not, since i haven't written much lately.  this is something i've wanted to do since the beginning of the year, and for several reasons purposely held off until october.  i am back to fighting that fear again, pushing myself out of my comfort zone in many ways--and then in other ways i am so comfortable in this environment.  i absolutely love it, surrounded by women who are digging out unhealthy while uncovering the source of its roots so they can be moved, changed.  i still have roots there, more subtle and less deep than the last time i started, but they are there.  i sense them when i feel discomfort or fear of vulnerability or desire to be liked.  this environment helps me to sense them quicker and more often, so i can begin my own digging again.  it's both exciting and terrifying, in almost equal parts.

it's come at a perfect time, when i am giving so much that monday mornings have turned into my sanctuary--what i have to count on, just for myself.  i used to feel guilty about needing this.  i no longer do.  after what i learned the last time in group therapy, i know this will mold me to becoming a better version of myself, spilling over into all of my different roles.  i know good comes from this, when my heart is open and vulnerable.

i have my theme for 2014 already picked, but i won't say it yet.  it was a thought that came to me a few days ago, and once it was there, i knew that was it.  working on eliminating fear in 2013 was a stepping stone to getting to this new one, and i can already feel the difficulty that lies ahead.  but i look back at what i have learned this past year, and how free i have felt.  the best part is that i can't remember a time when i didn't feel this way, which is surprising on its own. i used to recognize this feeling as foreign and new, and was hungry for more of it.  now it is what i know--and i feel this is my own small Miracle.

the kids are doing well--leah has recovered from her tonsillectomy but unfortunately still has the sleep apnea we hoped would be cured.  we'll do another sleep study in january to see where things are at with her.  caleb has lost his two front teeth, and went on his first bike ride without one of us there with him.  another Miracle.  ben and i cried when he came home and we heard how well he did.  these things that are so easy for some and a struggle for others--that's what life is all about, isn't it?  recognizing them, overcoming them, crying when we return from the battle.  june is fighting a beast of an illness right now, and is passing it on to us as we drop like flies one-by-one, but otherwise is her usual chattering, puppy-pretending self.

we are busy and happy and stressed and grateful.  i don't love that i haven't made the time to write, because when i look back it appears i've missed so much that's important to remember.  even though i'm living fully in them, when i can't look back and read about them, the hours seem to slip through my fingers as if they've never happened.

though now that i'm looking back, it seems december is like this every year, isn't it?  so i guess we'll just roll up our jeans, enjoy the tan lines while we can, and keep working on Miracles. 


Friday, November 15, 2013

sometimes a little Katy Perry is a good thing.

{ben on the airplane--how many photo bombs can you see? i spy 3, with a potential 4th}

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

this past wednesday morning found all five of us buckled into our dark blue minivan, driving along highway 60, heading west toward the phoenix airport.  only one small suitcase was in the back and the clothing inside didn't belong to me.  i looked around my shoulder to see the two girls happily munching on snacks.  caleb was further back, with his seatbelt on but laying down with a garbage bag resting next to him because he'd been complaining of stomach pains--something we straders have learned not to take lightly.

the song changed on the radio, and the beginning of katy perry's "roar" came through the speakers.
"oh mom, this is my favorite song!"  leah squealed with her cute lisp.  "PLEASE turn it up!"

as much as my alt-indie-music-loving side wanted to protest, i turned up the volume for my beaming 4 year old.  within a few seconds, all of us began loudly singing along to the words, caleb included.  even i had to adimit the song is catchy.

ben and his suitcase were packed in our van for texas, heading there to meet with the court he's working with for his dissertation research project, as a last-ditch attempt to save the ability to write his dissertation this next month and go out for residency next fall instead of waiting another year.

when i wrote a blog post about this, i assumed it was over for us.  i had found peace in the idea of staying in arizona for another year, even if it wasn't what we had planned or hoped for.  ben had been given the date of when he needed to have his approval letter from this texas court, and as the due date grew closer i began looking for the positive in our lives--trying to soften the blow i knew this was going to be for him.  that week was emotionally taxing.  i was recovering from a miscarriage while trying so hard to be the cheerleader and positive force to pick him up and motivate him to keep going.  and he kept going--in every way possible.  physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  he pushed through and refused to quit.

as we talked more and more, our perspective on the situation began to shift.  we spoke of looking forward to enjoying december together, spending quality time with the kids and their needs, possibly traveling a little, and then finding a new job in january while we waited.  we actually became excited with the idea of staying.

on the due date of his approval letter, i sat down in the early afternoon and opened up the computer.

and there it was.

the court in texas had months to send this letter, but now, just a mere three hours before ben was scheduled to meet with his advisor with the sad news that he hadn't received the acceptance letter on time, it showed up.

i sat still for a moment, rereading the words, trying to believe it.  and then, i could feel it--Him, there with me.  because i had learned to recognize God's voice when He speaks to me, i knew it was Him.  it was not me who made my back tingle, and goosebumps cover my arms and legs.  it was not me who caused a feeling of overwhelming Love and Peace to wash over as tears filled my eyes.  as He made me aware of his presence, i knew He was saying that the timing of this email was because of Him.  i can't explain it any other way--except knowing this.

"thank you," i whispered as those tears spilled over, down onto my cheeks.  i reached for the phone and called ben.

"DID YOU SEE WHAT JUST CAME THROUGH THE EMAIL?!"  i screeched when he answered.

"no, what?"  he replied.


"are you SERIOUS!"

ben took that letter into the meeting where his advisor had been planning on telling him he needed to wait another year, and promised to call me afterward.

i wanted to shout from the rooftops that the approval letter had been sent just in time, but i knew the fight wasn't over.  instead i sat by the phone, nervous but hopeful --this advisor is known at ben's school for being tough, and ben has felt disapproval from him several times as they have worked together the past couple of years.  he is the one who required ben to re-take one entire year of school initially, and had made it clear that his intention this year was to do the same with having him wait to apply for residency until next fall.  i worried that even though ben had what the advisor asked for, he would find a way to tell him no.

the phone rang, and i listened as ben told me his advisor had allowed him to continue, but only on the condition he would now need to have all of the data for this research project from texas in his hands by november 15th, otherwise he would still be held back for the year.

they had given him two weeks.

inwardly my hopes sank, knowing the two-year-long history we've had working with this court in texas.  their severe lack of communication, along with doing anything in a timely manner was the reason ben had to be held back for the second year, and was all i could focus on.

"welllllll," i said hesitantly on the phone, "we're still in this fight.  it's not over yet.  you have two weeks, so let's do what we can to get this to happen."

which is what brought us to wednesday morning, driving to the airport, all of us singing katy perry at the top of our lungs, in a desperate attempt to show up in person and light the fire under the rear ends of the people at the court in texas.  we knew it would take a miracle for this to come together, for them to actually be able to hand it over to him by friday, but we promised to do our part to make it happen.

as embarrassing as it is to type, while we were mid-family-sing-along, suddenly i became emotional, and looked at ben with tears in my eyes.

"this is it, this is your theme song.  no matter what happens, this is what you're not only teaching others, but teaching me, your children, and yourself.  you're going to do everything you can and not quit, even if someone tells you no.  you're not giving up.  and every time that lame advisor says something that makes you feel like you're beneath him, or a loser, i want you to stand up and start singing him this song at the top of your lungs!"

we laughed about that visual, and i said maybe instead he could just to have the song run through his mind when his advisor was hard on him.

i kissed him goodbye at the airport, and waited.

this morning, just after i dropped caleb off for school, he called.


and he texted me this picture:

today is november 15th, the due date for having the data in his hand.  and he has it.  if it wouldn't take days to write out the details of the journey of the past two years--all of the bumps in the road and soul-wrenching moments we have both had, i would do it.  but since i can't, please believe me when i tell you the tears of gratitude we both shed during our phone call this morning were justifiable.

i felt Him again, with us as we cried and spoke to each other.

i know in the grand scheme of life this will probably be a minor deal some day to us.  today though, it is not minor.  i write these things down to remember Him.

this is obviously not really about an approval letter and data.  for ben, after years and years of being told he was not smart enough for school, and entering a doctoral program anyway, this is material evidence that fighting through those lies are worth it.  we both felt this is God's way of telling him to keep going.

i'm sure i could dismiss this as mere coincidence.  that the timing was just because of one thing or another--but i won't, because i undeniably know He is the reason this came to happen.  i have the choice to recognize it, and i do.

so, the journey for us continues.  i'm crying again as i type those words.  ben will now work his tail off to write and complete his dissertation by the end of december--while also flying around the country interviewing at potential residency sites at the same time.  i will do my best here at home trying to hold it together.  i'm not going to lie, it's going to take more miracles for him to finish in time, pass his dissertation, and match with a residency.....but we're grateful we're still in the fight.

and i know
with God's help,
miracles happen.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

embracing the possibility. {on miscarriage, fear, and faith}

"no more kids during grad school!"

i think i've spoken those words more than a hundred (or a thousand?) times since 2009.  i look back on the year leah was born, and if i could draw a timeline of my life, that space would have tiny grey clouds hovering over it, with intermittent downpours of rain.  emotionally i disappeared.  it was a tough one, and i lost myself, not emerging from the gray-ness of it for quite a while.

"no more kids during grad school!"

was what i used as my platform, until the day when two pink lines surprisingly showed up without my wishing for them.  and i was terrified, but accepted what was and tried to smile.  following those pink lines came the pregnancy with what felt like unending months of nausea and unable-to-keep-my-head-up exhaustion followed by a house whose underbelly possessed mold that made my children and i beg for mercy as they vomited and i coughed up blood.

"no more kids during grad school!"

i continued to say, though the months with newborn june are some of the most precious i have ever encountered thus far.  i consider her my Gift for living through the most physically taxing year and not succumbing to negativity when i could feel it pulling from all sides to take me under.

"no more kids during grad school!"

i say this now still, and with fervor as we know our future for the next year or two is so muddled and unclear.  not only that, but one important thing has been missing:  the desire for another.  but, this is normal for me.

i have been content from the beginning--if we only had caleb, i would be content.  only caleb and leah, i would be content.  and now with the three, i feel the same, completely content if this is our family unit.  my problem is that my lack of desire is not necessarily an indicator as to whether or not having another child is what is best, because i'm certain that my fear (of pregnancy, labor, colic, and lonely days and nights shouldering most of the responsibility on my own, and another little body to tend to, just in general) is partially what brings about my contentedness.

and yet.

months ago, i knew something was off.  i felt strange--more drained than i was used to, more sore.  i didn't take a test because i didn't want to know.  it feels awful to type those words, and i'm worried who might be offended but i want to write honestly.  so, i waited.  two more weeks went by and i still refused to make anything official.

then, during one week that was already overflowing in stress, i felt it.  pain in my abdomen that doubled me over.  sitting, standing, or laying, i could not find relief.  i don't take a lot of medicine normally, but was unable to function or perform just the daily activities, so i took something, but even that didn't provide relief from the pain.  this went on for 2 days, accompanied with other details of miscarriage i will exclude here.  i didn't say much to anyone, because i hadn't said anything to anyone of the possibility of being pregnant.  only ben and a couple of others knew, and i preferred for it to stay that way.  it was still just an assumption of what was going on.

during that week, i wrote this.  like i mentioned, it was a stressful time.

i think what surprised me most was the feeling of relief.  then, the feeling of guilt piled on top of relief, because what type of person feels relieved about this?  i am surrounded by those who have prayed and would do almost anything to have this, but i am relieved?  

i wrestled with the words selfish and ungrateful, pushing them away with my acknowledgement of the blessing and miracle of life, and of the love i have for my children.  i knew if i could, i would bless everyone who had a desire to have a child with one.  i don't understand why those desires are granted for some and not for others, as much as i didn't understand why the desire was lacking inside of me at this time.

i know others who have felt connected from the start, only weeks or mere days of just knowing.  i have heard them mourn the loss of the connection they loved and had felt so sure of.  with each pregnancy, i struggle to feel any sort of connection--even up until my new baby is placed in my arms. it is then the feeling of an undeniable bond of love from God for this new soul overcomes me and i can't imagine being apart, even for a moment.  but when i'm pregnant, it all feels like a surreal dream or figment of my imagination, and i struggle to feel connected.

this was one of my main purposes for staying silent.  i wasn't sure how to talk about it without sounding cold or callous, though i didn't feel either of those.  i can only describe it as calm acceptance of what is, and the knowledge that my fears of "no more kids during grad school!" had been temporarily washed away.

before my pregnancy with june, and since then, we've been doing what we can on our side of things to prevent.  we jokingly said we were going to name june Three Percent, because those were the odds we had been facing when i held the positive pregnancy test in my hand.  it was obvious to me that i was clearly not in control of this situation, as much as i wanted to be.

last week, i found myself in the same boat.  drained and nauseous, sore and hyper-sensitive to smells.  i was on a work trip, and began counting backwards in weeks, my suspicions mounting.  once the idea was there, i just knew.  there was no denying it.

while i was away i was receiving daily updates from ben about his school situation, regarding whether or not he was going to be allowed to apply for next year's internship.  i could hear in his voice he was devastated and frustrated, and hadn't really wanted to tell him over the phone anyway, so i waited to say anything.

once i was home and he and i were alone to talk, we both tried to wrap our minds around what this meant for our family.  we fell asleep holding hands, a reminder we were in this journey together.

on saturday afternoon, the pain hit, one i had felt once before.  it increased as the sun went down and i lay in bed trying to find a comfortable position.  i told ben about it and saw the worry on his face.  in the middle of the night, i was woken from the pain, and more.  i knew then it was official and lay back down.  the next 24 hours were miserable, and i stayed in bed as much as possible.

after the worst was over, i rose again, ready to face the emotions i expected were awaiting me. but like before, i only felt calm.  ben admitted to me he was sad, that the idea of another sweet little baby turning into a most-likely outspoken toddler turning into an excitable child was something he was looking forward to, though he also knew how difficult it would be.  i agreed with him, the idea of it all sounded wonderful.  it was the getting there that held my heart in the place of fear.

then, i was silently reminded of my theme for 2013, eradicating fear in my life.  if fear is what is holding me back from this opportunity, is it enough of a reason anymore?  this wasn't a new job or a big move, or making myself sing a solo in front of a crowd.  could i really take a leap of faith this big?

i do not know the answers, yet.  i do know i needed to write about these experiences, if only to hold myself accountable--the words a tangible reminder of a promise i made to myself. maybe the beginning of this year was only preparation for getting me to the place at the end of it where i could let down my wall of "no more kids during grad school!"

and instead, embrace the idea of giving up control ruled by fear, leaving me open to beautiful possibilities.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

blooming and fighting.

But I'll still believe though there's cracks you'll see,
When I'm on my knees I'll still believe,
And when I've hit the ground, neither lost nor found,
If you'll believe in me I'll still believe

--Mumford & Sons, "Holland Road"

whew, it's been a while, hasn't it?

life has been a roller coaster the past month, in pretty much every way possible, and i'm not sure where to start--so i guess i just will.

ben's dissertation has (again) taken its sweet time in becoming anything except the back-and-forth of one approval after another, leading to his school giving him a deadline to be officially approved by the court he's working with in texas for his project by this thursday--yes, in two days--or else he will have to wait another year before he can apply for residency.  we have both been so frustrated with this situation that sometimes i feel we might explode with it.  it is so much out of our control and it's difficult to leave our fate in the hands of another.  so, all signs are pointing to another year on hold in arizona, with ben now job-less by the end of november.  we will be floating, waiting.

however, we were talking last night about this and have observed that:

it could be worse.

we're both grateful we moved to the bigger home that provides the ability to stretch out, and have guests while not killing our nearly-empty pocket books.  we are happy and comfortable here, in this home and neighborhood, and feel for the first time we have roots.  neighbors, friends, and schools we know and love.  as much as we want to move forward with school, and finish it for crying out loud, it would be hard on all of us to leave. this has been the longest place we have lived in 11 years.

i just wish so fervently the torture for ben would be over.  because honestly, that is what school has become for him--and consequently, me--and the longer it continues, the further i feel away from that finish line, and i know he feels the same.  i trust it will happen though.  i hope.

we have talked about other options, as far as him going to another school, or just accepting a master's degree and working within it. both of us feel unsettled about those ideas; whether it's because we have come so close that change now would feel like giving up, i'm not sure.  i'm guessing that is part of it, but not all.  there is something bigger in this for us, i feel it in my deep-down squiggly parts that are my compass to tell me what is Truth.  there are things at work here and in this arduous process i do not understand yet, but can sense them.

and so, we have concluded that:

we will continue to bloom where we are planted.  and be happy.

surrendering control is easier here for me than it is for ben.  accepting another year of his idea of a hellish state means battling his demons that whisper "you're just not good enough, and you never will be" which have been his constant companion since 2008.  can you imagine hanging on for that long?  i guess we all do, in some form.  but he is choosing this battle, instead of running from it, like i believe the majority of us would.  he squares his shoulders and walks through those doors every time with decades of memories of being called stupid and lazy that flash before him and nauseate him and attempt to stop him in fear.  somehow he has twisted this to say he is a glutton for punishment--because who in their right mind would choose this?  what dyslexic, attention-deficit, high school drop out would actually attempt a doctoral program?  yet he does, and calls himself insane for it.

but i call him the opposite; the very essence of the word courageous.

i do know that if he gives in, this process of school has the potential to be the undoing of him.  i don't know how he's holding on right now, but he is.  we are.  and somewhere along the past couple of months, our love and bond has become even stronger.  i look at him with so much admiration in my eyes and pray to God there will come a day when that admiration will not just sit on the surface of him, while he sets it aside with the "of course she has to feel that way about me, she's my wife" nonsense.  some day it will pierce through his skin to help him feel what i do--that this world is chock-full of men who are giving into those demons, letting themselves be swallowed whole in shame and self-hatred, or lust or whatever it is that haunts them.  these soul-wrenching decisions that can break apart a family with one moment of letting their guard down.  but he carries on, with weary shoulders and his eyebrows furrowing.  with the tiny, daily choices he makes, he stays on the winning end of the fight.

i'm so proud of him, i get tears in my eyes just typing about it and full-on weep when i let myself really process it.

he (we) will get there.  even if we have to wait another year.  i can feel it.

there is more to write about--from surgeries to miscarriages, to work trips and relationships...but this will have to do for now.

Friday, October 4, 2013

searching for silver, part 2.

{around the campfire, with no idea what was ahead for us}

after stopping for dinner and multiple potty breaks, getting lost, then being pulled over for speeding just outside of city limits (our first-ever warning ticket only! we couldn't believe our luck.)  we pulled into the campsite after dark.  the kids were bursting with excitement, and i found myself joining in as we bundled up in jackets, unpacked the car, and began to set up the tent.

a short while later, we gathered around a big campfire with the other ward members, chatting and roasting marshmallows.  caleb showed up at my side with a cup of hot chocolate in his hands.

"are you doing okay, bud?"  i asked, remembering the last time he drank hot chocolate while he was on the fathers & sons campout with ben just a couple of months ago.  in the middle of the night, he randomly threw up an enormous amount of liquid, covering his entire sleeping bag with a puddle of regurgitated hot chocolate and marshmallows.  it only happened once, so we figured his upset stomach was due to an overdose of sugar.  (throwing up is a common occurrence when caleb has too much many sweets)

"don't worry mom, it's only half a cup," caleb replied confidently.  we talk a lot at home about listening to our bodies and taking care of them and i let go of most of the control so he can feel confident in his decisions--and learn from his own mistakes.

for a couple of hours, things went great. the girls told us they were ready for bed around 9:00, so we set up our sleeping bags and planned on getting the kids to sleep and then joining some of our friends outside of our tents for games.  leah and caleb snuggled into their sleeping bags, laughing and talking for a few minutes before quieting down.  june however, had other plans.  she hadn't had much of a nap that day, and was overly tired and really grouchy.  after an hour she finally lay down beside me on the air mattress.  (yes, i said air mattress.  this is still considered "real camping" in my book.)

the temperature had dropped so much i could see my breath in the air and i put a third pair of flannel pants and another pair of socks on.  i looked across the row of children to find ben already asleep, huddled so far into his sleeping bag all i could see was the top of his forehead.

i settled down and just as i was drifting off to sleep, i heard caleb's voice--in a much higher pitch than normal.

"mom, my stomach hurts.  i think i'm going to throw up!"  his tone was panicky.

i jumped out of my blankets as quickly as i could without disturbing june, and frantically grabbed for the backpack i had stuck several unused garbage bags in its front pocket.  i'm no fool--we've been down this road many times before, and i came prepared.  as one hand was retrieving the garbage bags, the other was smacking ben's sleeping bag by his feet.  he sat up, his eyes squinty and confused.

i loudly whispered, "caleb's gonna barf, get up!" and ben sprang into action.  he helped caleb up while i unzipped the tent for the two of them to walk outside.  i heard caleb begin to retch and knew then, we were in for a long night.  after he had finished, we tried to give him some medicine and only a minute later, he threw that up as well.  even though he had made it in the garbage bags, there was some residual on his shirt and he needed to be changed.  his entire body was trembling from the cold as ben and i worked to quickly switch his clothing.  to warm him up, ben sat down with him in his lap and wrapped a blanket around the both of them.

"i'm so sorry you're sick, buddy," i said softly as i wiped his mouth and nose.  "and i know you're old enough to make your own choices, but i'm just going to go ahead and take the lead with this decision:  you're off of hot chocolate for the next couple of years, okay?"

he nodded with a little smile on his face.

for the next few hours, this is how they sat as caleb continued to vomit.

i was awake the whole time, but laying down across the tent next to june, who continued to stir.  i could tell she was cold, and kept trying to put more layers on her but she would irrationally thrash around and scream when i would try to help her.  the only thing she would let me do was stand and hold her wrapped in a blanket, but would wake back up again if i tried to lay her down her own.  i finally rocked her to sleep, and carefully inched my way to lay back down while still holding her.  i was hoping my body warmth would be enough to keep her comfortable, though by this time i was also trembling.  the blankets on top of us were stiff with cold, and anytime i moved, a breeze of freezing air would chill me to the bone.

i remembered i had brought essential oils, so i motioned to ben where they were and he put them on caleb, speaking calmly and encouragingly to him as he held the garbage bag near his mouth.  a few minutes later, caleb fell into a deep sleep.  ben continued to hold him and hummed songs softly as he waited to make sure caleb was okay.  once he was sure, he slowly laid him down, and climbed back into his sleeping bag.

i hugged myself around the stomach to try to find warmth and closed my eyes to go to sleep, when june woke up again, crying loudly and waking up leah.  she said she was scared, so i told her to climb up on the air mattress, on the other side of me.  she did, bringing all of her belongings with her, and i realized there was not enough room for the three of us and our piles of blankets.  june settled back down, and i tried to find a way to get comfortable, but ended up waking her up again.  this time, she was ticked.  she screamed and yelled something i couldn't understand but was positive it sounded like cursing in toddler language.  she climbed down and tried to walk, immediately falling and becoming even more enraged.  this woke up leah again, who whined loudly, saying she didn't want to sleep by me anymore.

and this was when i had had it.  vomiting children is hard enough on its own.  freezing, and having freezing children is hard enough on its own.  camping with kids is hard enough on its own.  serious sleep deprivation is hard enough on its own.  but combine all of them??  it felt like too much.

delirious with exhaustion, uncontrollably shivering from cold, and extremely frustrated with the situation, at the sound of leah's whines and june's cries (again), i said under my breath, "oh my hellllllllllllllllll,"  and it was from the heart.  then i realized we were surrounded by families from our church who could have heard me, and was embarrassed, but only for a second.  :)

i looked at the clock on my phone.  3:48 am.  i helped leah back to her original sleeping place, while ben picked up june.  i was feeling so done with this night.

then i heard it, ben's soft humming again.  i looked up to see june wrapped in his blanket, as he stood in the tent in only his thermal shirt, pajama pants and socks.  he rocked her patiently, humming several songs.  she quieted down, and he kept rocking.  i looked at my clock once more, 4:13 am.  though i was still shivering, i somehow found a way to finally drift off to sleep....

the morning sun was shining through the red fabric of the tent as i was woken to caleb's frantic pleas.  "mom, i think i'm going to throw up again!"  ben sat up at the same time as i reached for the last garbage bag we had, and held it next to caleb's mouth.  when he was finished, i wiped his face and looked at the time.  6:09 am.

ben scooted closely to me, and looking directly into both of my eyes, said with a serious tone,  "that's IT.  we're outta here."

"oh, THANK YOU!" i replied.  ben turned on the car with the heat blasting, we helped caleb in with the garbage bag, then picked up each of the girls and strapped them into their carseats.  ben told me to stay in the car to help entertain the girls and assist caleb if he needed to be while he began taking down the tent and throwing our belongings into the back of the van with a determination i hadn't seen in a long time.

within 20 minutes, we were ready to go.

we told our friends good-bye, to enjoy the warm breakfast we could smell cooking, and began our 2 1/2 hour drive back home.  within 10 minutes of leaving the campsite, leah announced she needed to go to the bathroom (yet somehow didn't when i had asked her before we left?  anyway.) so we pulled over, took out her travel potty seat and ben helped her.  while of course i took a picture.

i wanted to be in a bad mood--i really did.  it was a long, extremely arduous night.  our optimistic attitudes had definitely been deflated.

instead i forced myself to start searching for the silver lining, because i believe there always is one, in every situation no matter the difficulty.  as i thought through the details of the night, i started forming a mental list:  the vomit was contained--that was a blessing, no one else vomited, we had a car with a working heater to turn on in the morning, there were flushing toilets at the campsite, soon we would be in the comforts of our own home/shower/bed..... but through all of the positive things i could list, one stuck out more significantly to me:

"i want you to know, as awful as that experience was, my love and appreciation for you grew even deeper over the past 24 hours,"  i said aloud to ben.

"oh, really?"  he said with surprise.  "how so?"

"i watched you and was amazed, yet again, at your unending patience--sitting there with caleb and taking care of him while being so close to his vomit, talking to him kindly and keeping him warm.   then with june, doing the same thing when you were so tired, standing and rocking her while she was insane.  your patience never wore out....well, maybe this morning it did.  but in the middle of it all, you were so great at handling it.  i definitely wasn't so fabulous at this, and it made me realize how grateful i am for you.  i have several friends who married men who are not helpful with these things--saying ridiculously that it's the 'woman's job' and checking out.  thank you for not being that kind of a man, or husband, or father."

"well, you're welcome!"  he said with a small laugh.  "sooooooo....does this mean you'll go camping as a family again?"

"are you seriously asking me this right now?  seriously.  so you're delusional then.  NO.  i'm not even entertaining the idea for at least 5-7 years.  i love you, but even love has its limitations,"  i said, and we both laughed.

we happily drove the rest of the way home in the morning sunlight, talking, eating snacks, and realizing that if you search for it, you can always find the silver lining---even after a horrendous overnight camping experience.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

searching for silver, part 1.

{the beginning of the end}

it's no secret that i'm not a fan of camping.

when ben and i were dating seriously, we discussed the fact that i'm a self-proclaimed 'indoor-girl', and i asked if this was something that could potentially damage our bright and shiny possible future.

{side note:  my definition of 'indoor girl' is this:

  • an absolute lover of the outdoors and nature, until it requires me to:
  1. sleep on anything aside from a mattress and box springs.
  2. sleep/eat/live inside four walls made of material that cannot provide protection from inclement weather, dangerous 4-legged predators, or shriek-inducing creepy crawly things (when the enter/exit door is left unzipped, of course)
  3. dig a hole in the wilderness, or hover over a non-flushing, fly-covered latrine, or even worse.... (cue the dry heave) asking me to "pack it out."  for any of you reading who knows what that statement means, i am so sorry.
  4. sleep while sharing the same 100 ft space with my three children (whom i love and adore) because of their severe inability to sleep anywhere unless they're tucked in their own beds.  (and even then, their sleeping habits are extremely questionable)
other than those requirements?  nature and i get along quite well.  there's no place i feel closer to God than when i'm surrounded by the beauty He has created.  i just don't like to sleep, or use the bathroom there.  end of side note.}

ben thought long and hard about my question.  he was not only a self-proclaimed 'outdoor guy,' but he had actually communed with other nomads/hippies/earthlovers by joining in the "rainbow gathering" and accepting this way of life as his own, for a time.  this was who we were when we met in high school... my curly hair, overly-mascaraed eyelashes and show choir uniform vs. his poofy white-boy fro, Grateful Dead tie-dyed t-shirt, frayed jeans and ever-present hacky sack.

i told him i wouldn't stifle his love of sleeping under the stars with dirt in his teeth and the next morning's trail mix near his pillow--he was welcome to go on trips and expeditions when he pleased.  i asked the same of him, to marry me without the thought of changing me, knowing i would prefer always to sleep in a hotel, with flushing toilets and my tube of mascara waiting by the bathroom mirror.

we agreed that our love for each other and immense compatibility in other areas far out-shined this measly indoor girl vs. outdoor guy conundrum.  for the past almost 11 years, this has worked for us.  ben has found male friends and family to go on weekend explorations through slot canyons and steep mountains, while i've found girls who appreciate a night away tucked into egyptian cotton sheets and showering with small tubes of complimentary shampoo.

but then our children grew up, becoming old enough to love the idea of sleeping in a tent and eating fire-roasted marshmallows until their bellies distended with sugary goodness.  

i wrote about the last time we went camping as a family; the sleepless night and flustered morning when i handed 5 month old leah over to a stranger while i made a mad dash for the outhouse before my bladder exploded.  i still remember that moment of panic.

we hadn't been "real" camping as a family since that time, until the ward campout was announced a month ago in church, and immediately the kids begged us to go.  my instincts told me to pretend i didn't hear them, but i looked into their adorable, pleading eyes, then into the chocolate-y brown eyes of their father, and i found myself saying yes.  i knew it would be a sleepless night, but my sense of optimism took over.  i pictured dirty faces, hiking among trees together, sitting around the fire playing games...and convinced myself i could just take a nap the next day.  i wanted to be a good sport, to try again.

in the back of my mind, i knew i didn't want to be someone who always says "no" to things just because i don't love it and know it's going to be a lot of work.  how could i teach my kids to try again and do hard things, if i wasn't willing to?

knowing it was going to be cold, we packed multiple layers for each family member, and left mid-afternoon, ready for our adventure....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

on choosing this life.

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
― Jodi Picoult, 

during weeknights, i'm mostly on my own for the dinner/bath/bedtime routine.

i've been in this boat for about 5 years now, and used to find it draining--to be at the end of a long day with three tired children who all have needs that are expressed in the urgency of their voices, their small hands taking turns wrapping around my neck as they ask for just one more of one thing or the other.  i felt unsettled and uncomfortable at the inability to attend to everyone at once, running up and down the stairs before another erupted in a request, focusing on the settling down so i could breathe my own air once more.  i was duty-bound, and soldier-mom, demanding order, calm, routine.

right around 5:00, just before the sun began to set in the desert horizon, i recognized the feeling of  suffocation with just the thought of the impending next few hours.  i realized i was doing what i could to ease my burden--yes, burden--that is how i used to view my nights alone with my children, by taking the lazy way out.  story times and songs were rushed, tickle fights and spontaneous imaginary games were left for one of the rare nights when dad was home with us.  

but just like everything else, this life of mine is a choice. 

"well, here are your options:  you either accept that you have made this choice and do it with a good attitude, or you choose something else.  don't say "yes" to something and then spend your time angry and resentful toward being in this situation, because you only have yourself to blame.  either choose it and own it, or figure something else out.  listen to your inner voice, and take care of your needs." 

these are words that have actually come from my mouth, while helping others work through some difficulties in their own lives. 

so yes, i had yet another humbling moment of realizing my hypocritical-ness and decided to change.

i looked back at the choices i have made, and i don't just mean this temporary job that makes the nighttime duties my sole responsibility, but i go further back:  to the choice of grad school, then motherhood, and even marriage.  i know that i made these choices naively, without knowledge of either the hard or the good that was attaching to them, so i let myself off the hook--but just a little. because regardless of my ignorance, i did make these choices.  and every day, i continue to make them.  to be a wife, to be a mother, to continue to support the journey of grad school, to be an active partner in decision-making when it comes to jobs that will require a lot from each of us.  even down to the small, daily decisions like making the choice to feed my children, to pay attention to them when they speak, to kiss and hug them, to meet their needs, and bathe them, read to them, sing to them, and pray with them.

i reminded myself that i am not trapped here--i have seen better people walk away from more--and i could actually just leave, if i wanted to.  {side note: i'm not saying i actually want to, there honestly hasn't been a day when i've even entertained the thought, just making the point that i could} however, i have chosen and continue to choose this life;  with this wonderful man, and these beautiful children, and this blasted grad school, in this pink house, driving these more-often-than-not dirty cars....and this mostly-alone bedtime routine.

so, i snapped out of the victim-y-ness of it all, and reminded myself of the advice i had so easily doled out to someone else, and gave it to myself.  i re-read this post that i wrote almost two years ago, most likely when i was having the same "get over yourself and be thankful you made these choices" moment. 

for the past few months, things have been different, because i have been different.  there is still routine in certain areas- -i will most likely always believe some routine is important for children--but i have relaxed and let go, and just enjoyed the time i have, rolling with it instead of pushing against it.  changing my attitude has made the up and down of the stairs much more enjoyable.

we go outside and play together until the stars appear instead of letting them watch t.v. while i get the dishes done, we grab a big stack of books and all climb into my bed to read together instead of separating them to avoid bickering. we pretend caleb's bunk beds are a spaceship, he is the captain and myself and the girls are the astronauts, finding random articles around his room from different "planets" to bring back with us when we return to earth. 

and each night, i spend time with them one-on-one.  for caleb, it's right before his lights are out, we talk about whatever he wants.  we laugh about 8 year old boy things,  he tells me about the current book he's reading,  he asks me to listen to him pray.  with leah, it's during her "settle down" time.  she's in her bed, playing with her choice of toys for the night, and i come in for a few minutes to sit on her bed and play with her, astounded again with her ability to imagine.  for june, it's when her eyes are droopy, just before she begins to dream.  i stand and hold her to "rockaminute" while we sing her favorite songs about the moon and she clings to my shoulder and her blankie.  every night, i feel her soft forehead under my chin.

the nights are not perfect; there are moments of whining and arguing and times when i fight weariness or frustration.  but when their little bodies are all tucked in, and their cheeks have all been kissed, and the lights are all out, and i tell them how good they are and how thankful i am to be their mom, i take time for myself.  but i don't check out as i used to, immediately turning to my phone or facebook to escape.  i sit down in one of the chairs in my bedroom, and listen to the quiet, and thank God for another night i was given to be the one who chose to put these three amazing little children to sleep.   

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”
― Howard W. Hunter

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"sometimes you break your own heart, to set yourself free."

this song has been on repeat for the past week....

She said " I love you know I love you so; when you love someone well you’ve got to let them know.”
And I said:  "Nothing’s changed I love you the same, but when you love someone sometimes you gotta let them go.”

She handed me a stone in the perfect shape of a heart,
She said: "I’m gonna take this home for I know you’ll only lose it somewhere after dark,
‘Cause some faces so terribly seem to lose everything you own.”
She didn’t mean it how it sounded, what she meant was she would stay and I would go

I said: " I love you know I love you so; when you love someone well you’ve got to let them know
She said: “Nothing’s changed I love you the same, but when you love someone sometimes you gotta let them go”

Sometimes you tear it all apart, to see the wood from the trees.
Sometimes you break your own heart to set yourself free.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

catching up with our 3rd grader.

well, let's take a break for a minute from the intense, shall we?  i know i need it.  i have to be in "the zone" to write those emotionally-charged posts, and then i need a rest.

so, onto a-day-in-the-life-business!

the kids have started school.... 

caleb is in third {what?!} grade, loving his teacher who i believe is going to be amazing for him.  he's in a class with a few of his friends and doing fantastic academically and socially.  his hand dexterity is still a little behind--as much as i tell myself at the beginning of each summer that we will keep up on these things, life and having fun always seems to take precedence--so what do i expect?  but he's reading on a 5th and 6th grade level, flying through spelling and math and whatever else they throw at him.  sometimes i think he might get a little bored with it all, {he's expressed it a few times} but it's okay, because he's excelling and feels confident in this area.  much more so than he does physically, which seems to be his constant uphill battle.

today he told me that another kid asked him if he was in kindergarten....i told him to get used to it, because i clearly remember the day a kindergartner came up to me to point out she was taller than me--when i was in the sixth grade. 

he seems to be rolling with the punches now, those that seem to swing at us short folk.  this is a big improvement from the past two years, when these things used to devastate him.  but he seems to be really enjoying the school year so far, and quite possibly gunning for the role of "funny kid."  when i hear the things he says and does at school, sometimes i have to fight from covering my face in my hands because i'm not sure whether to laugh or be completely embarrassed, but i keep my composure.  he's seeming to find his niche, and is really well-liked in school by others--so i say, if he wants to smack himself in the rear and dance around like a fool to make his friends laugh, but he feels confident while doing it, then go for it!

he's back to playing piano, and i've seen again how hard and good this is for him.  his little fingers don't work the way he thinks they should, and he can become easily frustrated.  when i sit down and play with him, we get through it much easier.

we're signing him up for karate this week, and soccer starts in a month.  he is still very weak and seriously stiff, with underdeveloped muscles--although that is improving.  when he's overdone it at school during recess, his legs ache and it's hard for him to walk.  i am so grateful that even though he can be easily physically taxed and worn out, he has so much desire to do it.  i can't imagine what strings we'd have to pull if that desire didn't compel him to keep trying.

he loves spending time with ben or myself one-on-one...whether it's a run to the grocery store, or building legos--he doesn't care.  he just loves the undivided attention, and i can't blame him.  sometimes because he's older and more independent, we assume he's just fine without as much of a need for emotional filling-up from us.  ben and i decided to make a more concerted effort to focus on quality time with him.  

this kid is so lovable.  he is honest and silly, obedient and easily excited, wears his emotions on his sleeve, a complete and true extrovert, and growing up before my very eyes.  i'd love it if he stopped trying to control his little sisters, but realize this is him working out his independence.  we just keep it in check.

favorite books right now:  diary of a wimpy kid series, captain underpants series {where i'm sure he gathers his best one-liners for his comedy routine at school}, the magic treehouse series {he reads them in one day}, how to train your dragon series, and mysteries.

favorite shirts:  star wars, wolverine, angry birds, and anything that looks "tough."

favorite sports:  football and soccer.

favorite tv shows:  teenage mutant ninja turtles, wild kratts, avatar {the cartoon series}

favorite movies:  chicken little, the rise of the guardians, despicable me 1 & 2, the kroogs

favorite ipad game:  clash of clans

here's to another great school year!

Monday, September 2, 2013

swinging and bending, part 6: the tempest of divorce.

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings."

--Anais Nin

Read the first part of this story, here.  
the second part, here.
the third part, here.
the fourth part, here.
and the fifth part, here.

through my childhood, my parents had separated and spoken of divorce so many times that i grew to expect it.  each time they wouldn't follow-through with the threats of dissolving their marriage, i became more callous to the idea,  disconnecting myself from the tumultuous thunderstorms of their relationship in order to protect my heart.  i loved both of them deeply, and internally struggled navigating my dynamic with them as their child, while watching them hurt each other as spouses.

so when the separation and impending divorce was announced, i was taken by surprise.  the timing was off--they were through the most stressful parts of life, on the other side of child rearing and the growing pains of early marriage.  there was a lot of heartache in their years together, and i viewed them as either survivors and characters of a great love story, or two people who had learned to cope, settle and enable.  i guess when things grew quiet for them, reality set in and it was too much.

when we were told the paperwork for divorce had actually begun, my siblings and i were all grown, married, and living with our own families.  i naively assumed we would be left out of the gritty details we had been sheltered from as children.  instead, the underbelly of their relationship was exposed, bringing forth details of resentment and pain that had lasted for over three decades. i found myself questioning all i thought i had known--and felt tricked by a life of possible hypocrisy, being brought up in a home i was now being told was run by two people who, at times, were doing the opposite of what they had taught me to do.  i didn't know how to make sense of a childhood built on an idealistic viewpoint, unable to decipher truth from what was now being told to me through tears, humiliation, and gritted teeth that were searching for validation.

during their separation, i felt placed between two victims who wanted me to fight their battle and join their side--one thundering so loudly at times it was deafening, the other like lightning, striking quietly and randomly but leaving a singed scar.  emotionally i shut down, tuning out the conversation when it turned to character defamation and verbal assaults.  forming any type of boundary was extremely difficult for me during this time.  i loved my mom and dad, and wanted desperately to try to ease their pain and carry some of their burden.  when i couldn't, it tortured me to realize there was nothing i could do to stop the tempest between them that continued for months.

with my lack of boundaries, i felt like a ping-pong ball in a wickedly fast and angry game.  i continued trying to fill my role as the "good child" and be there for them no matter what.  this quickly took its toll, because you can't be the "good" everything to everyone, especially in situations like this.  my siblings were in the same boat, trying to navigate their love for them outside of the mistakes they had made toward each other and move forward in this new dynamic.  we couldn't find a smooth transition, and my parents' need to defend their own characters against accusations form the opposing side only made it more difficult.  i worried we were pawns in the death match of a 32 year relationship.

when ben and i accepted the job in north carolina, i felt relief with the distance of moving across the country.  i could no longer physically be put in the middle of their divorce, and managing the group home gave very little space for me to give to anyone else emotionally.  i could listen to details of the latest fight through the phone, and stay detached.

unfortunately, my older sister bore the brunt after i left, and i could hear from the despair in her voice how she was slowly being destroyed.  i felt guilty for abandoning her, and am just now realizing the full effect the year of my parents' divorce had on her and her family.

while we were in the group home, i was quickly learning two things:

1)  all about boundaries:

what they were, why they were healthy/necessary, that i did not know how to have them, and that i not only needed them in my relationships with the teenagers, but i needed to implement them in every relationship.

2) that i had true anxiety:

i knew i had issues with caleb driven by fear, but i assumed it was because of the trauma we had been through with him.  living in the group home triggered a deeper form.  i had been thrown back into an environment that was out of my control;  full of contention, chaos, and anger.  just like my childhood, i could not love them enough to make the madness stop.  i rarely slept, and when i did, i had terrifying nightmares.  there were moments of happiness and laughter, but my heart could not find peace.  when i finally brought my symptoms up to ben, i realized the environment in the group home was mirroring much of the environment of my childhood home.  i talked about the idea of therapy, but wanted to see if leaving the group home would help settle the anxiety inside.

once our year contract was over, we left for arizona to start grad school.  in between our moves, i stayed in utah for a few weeks to visit family.  during my visit, my little brother handed me a book that completely altered my course in life.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

swinging and bending, part 5: a friendship with fear.

“I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always ... so you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” 

Read the first part of this story, here.  
 the second part, here.
 the third part, here.
and the fourth part, here.

after we moved from my parents' basement, ben and i settled into our quiet life in the apartment in spanish fork.  my anxiety as a mother to my son with special needs continued, and fear took on a new form:  isolation.  most of the time i kept to myself, taking long daily walks with caleb during good weather.  i convinced myself it was just my homebody tendencies, but deep down i knew it wasn't true.  this was more than just loving the comforts of my own home, this was creating a life of control, structure and order out of fear and survival.  ben and i went through the motions of church callings, accomplishing what was required, but didn't open up to anyone outside of family and close friends about caleb's struggles and continual demands.

the high maintenance of caleb's care kept me occupied, and when others volunteered to baby-sit for me--even family--i kindly refused.  truthfully, i still couldn't trust anyone except myself and ben to take care of him.  on the rare occasion i said yes, i didn't relax during my time away, tortured with the "what if" questions spinning in my head.  i was a classic "helicopter parent" before i even knew the definition of it.

fear continued to surround me in a storm, becoming my best friend.  it fell like raindrops in every facet of my life, helping me create obsessive control that built a false sense of security.  i didn't know that the frail bubble of fear i had formed to keep my son safe would soon pop, as they usually always do.

caleb had been having minor seizures starting at 10 days old, but when his 31 minute grand mal seizure happened when he was 18 mos old, i was traumatized.  i realize that most mothers would be traumatized, but because i had already been working so closely with fear, letting it trick me into believing i was the one keeping him safe and alive....well, in those terrifying days following the seizure when i was home alone with him, i had to sit in the knowledge that i actually had no control over the situation.  the trauma of having almost two years of built up fake-control and false-sense of security ripped away left me completely vulnerable and alone.  i knew then that my best friend was my worst enemy, and a liar.  the problem was, i didn't know yet how to fight back, combatting the lies with truth, or more importantly, how to leave the relationship with fear.  so, i coped.  i inched through each day, continuing to isolate, praying for God to help me to find a way out.  i see now how He was preparing me to find that way, guiding me to a path that would require extremely hard work.

we were in our apartment for a year when we came to the conclusion that ben was in a dead-end job, and decided to put our life in God's hands.  we prayed and made a list of what we could do to find a career path that would help us not only financially, but also emotionally.

ben knew he would never be satisfied in a cubicle.  more than anything he wanted to help others but was unsure of which path to take.  go back to school?  take another pay cut to start in a field that was severely overworked and underpaid?  so, we set a date, giving ourselves two months of searching every avenue.  we told God that after two months if we were still out of options, we were going pick up our belongings and move to texas, which was where ben's oldest brother and family were living.  we would risk it all for a fresh start.  we picked january 22, 2007 as the day we would make our decision, and got to work.

i began job hunting for ben during the day, sending in resumes everywhere i could.  he continued trying to transfer within his company, letting his boss and co-workers know he was looking for other options. they loved and valued him, but told him their hands were tied.  ben interviewed for several jobs, and looked into higher education, but was only met with dead ends.  as the date crept closer, we prepared ourselves for what seemed the inevitable--moving to texas. we began to get excited about a scary, but fresh start.

on the afternoon of january 22, i sat down to the computer one last time, searching for any other options.  i found an online local newspaper and clicked on the classified section.

and there it was.

goosebumps ran up my arms as i read the job posting for a married couple to become "Family Teachers" in north carolina, managing and running a home filled with teenagers who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioral problems.  tears filled my eyes--not because it was something i wanted to do.  in fact, i felt the opposite, with zero desire to take this position.  but when i read the words and researched the company, the tears filled my eyes because it was one of the very few and far-between moments in my life that i knew without a doubt, it was what we were supposed to do.

when ben arrived home that night, i showed him the job opening and he felt exactly the same way.  we sent in our application and put off the move to texas, knowing we had been led to this very moment in our lives.

it was during this same time that my parents decided to divorce.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

north carolina, day 6....on Bakers Mill Road.

we left the beach to head back to durham, and had a few hours before we were meeting others for dinner, so we decided to take a stroll down memory lane and drive past the group home we had once managed.

we passed the Food Lion, where we used to grocery shop with the teenagers, and shopped at the mall where one of the clients ran away from me for a few hours.  that was a terrifying day, let me tell you.  i had to get security involved to help me find her, and was panicking with the thought of the phone call i was going to have to make to her mother, telling her that i couldn't find her 10-year-old daughter.

once she was finally found, she knew she was going to lose all of her privileges when we returned to the home, so i had to endure an hour long temper tantrum, standing among a crowd of strangers all fresh from Christmas, innocently enjoying their day off, while she screamed curse words at me with mucus running down her nose and into her mouth.  as firm as i tried to stand during that afternoon, and as calm as i attempted to look, inside i was shaken.  

we kept driving, passing the elementary school we had visited for reasons no one should ever have to visit an elementary school.  as we turned down Bakers Mill Road, i was brought back to the different life i had lived. i had driven up and down this street more times than i could count, the wheels of the group home van rolling over the pavement as we went to and from one therapy appointment to the next, tensely gripping the steering wheel while taking one of the clients to the hospital, going to church and praying for them to make it through the 3 hours without losing it, on our way to one of the schools to pick up a teenager who was expelled for attempting to kill the vice principal with a stapler {true story}.

we pulled up to the house, which was now just a home for a family.  i wanted to run up the stairs and throw open the front door, inhaling to see if the scent that used to turn my stomach was still there, to see if the piano she had stood and jumped on while screaming the F-word was still there, to look for the patch-jobs on the walls from the multiple holes that had been punched in them were still there, to see if the office door with the glass squares that had been broken while i was just inches away was still there.  i wanted to see if the upstairs bedroom that had become a sanctuary for my then-family of 3 was still Bracing Blue, the color ben and i had loved so much and picked out together.

i wanted to know how life could be lived differently in that home-- without the anxiety, stress and fear i had attached to it.  i wanted this house to lose its power over me.

i held my hand out of the window, taking a picture of the brick and the green with my phone.  as we slowly drove back down the tree-lined street, i thought of the last time i had looked at the house in the rearview mirror, finished with our year contract, already a day behind schedule from a faulty moving company, frantic to get on the road and taste the peace of just our family again.

this time as we drove i only felt content. i knew how much i had changed from those experiences, from that year, and i realized as we turned off of Bakers Mill Road that the memories i had were just that now.  moments of my life, not what defined it.  i had kept the good with me, and left the hard and traumatic within those walls.

the house that was no longer a group home had already lost its power.

we arrived at dinner, meeting up with our bosses, co-workers and friends--part of the small group that helped us to not lose ourselves during those 12 months.  it was so great to get caught up on the changes that had taken place in the 5 years since we'd last seen them.  i remember the loneliness--i had no friends outside of them, no social outlet, aside from them.  i'm grateful for their support, the kind that can only come from someone who has lived that life.  that was the year i started blogging, desperate for a way to reach to the outside world.  

which brings us full circle, i guess....blogging about when i began blogging. it's funny to me how life can do this, showing you shadows of yourself just from a drive down a familiar street and dinner with familiar faces.

our last night in north carolina was a meaningful one for me, and the perfect way to end our visit.