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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

north carolina, day 4 & 5. the beach and celebrating.

back when we were naive, in love, and child-less, we decided that a wedding 2 days after christmas was a genius idea.  10 years later, we realize that if we want to celebrate the day we promised to each other, it would most likely never take place on the actual day, but more likely several months either before or after it.

since most of our anniversary celebrations consist of a nice dinner and a couple of hours on our own, we decided that on our 10th, things would be different.  {which is a decision i'm grateful we made ahead of time--seeing that i took care of barfing children on our actual anniversary.  our already-set plan gave me something to look forward to amid vomit-filled laundry.}

and so, when carmella called to let us know she was engaged and we were invited, we decided to leave the kids with family in utah and celebrate our ten years the way we had planned so long ago:

less naive, still in love, and child-less {temporarily}.

we had less than 48 hours staying in the beach house on topsail island, NC, but we made those hours count.

a beautiful book.  my mind swallowed it up in 3 days, 
and left me crying on the plane as i read the chapter of her father's death.

we spent hours talking just like this.  about our past, present and future.
me reading excerpts from my book.
meanwhile, the sun spent hours turning our previously fair skin a nice shade of red--
despite our efforts with sunscreen.

face time with the kids, showing them how we could walk out of the doors
of the condo and feel sand beneath our toes within just a few feet.
after the phone call ended, we promised each other to bring 
these 3 pieces of our heart back with us one day.

 we went out to a fancy dinner one night.  
if i were asked what meal i would bring with me on a deserted island, 
i would strongly consider this bruschetta.  
i am a lover of bruschetta, and this one beat any i have tasted before.  i still dream about it.

what happened to ben's eye?  who knows.

the tourist shop, where ben told me to endure some form of psychotherapy while posing for this picture.

humidity!  my skin was in heaven, my hair was, well...
when i woke up in the morning, ben took one look at me and just said, 

and just like that, it was over.

as rain began to pour over the beautiful beach, blending into the waves, 
we found ourselves in the rental car on our way back to durham 
for our last night in north carolina.

Friday, August 16, 2013

north carolina, day 3. the wedding.

the wedding was beautiful, and fun.... and yes i cried.  i couldn't help it!  the song that played when carmella was walking down the aisle was absolutely beautiful.

also?  i looked like a complete fool walkingslashdancing up the aisle.  we were asked to "get our hips into it" and i tried my hardest to get my groove on, but my attempts were ridiculous, and ben has the video footage to prove it.  oh well.

carmella's husband and all of the family there were so warm and welcoming to us, we felt like we fit right in.  i love that, and made a conscious thought to myself to work harder to be this way with others.  after the wedding everyone danced, and ben and i were no exception.  let me say, we did not have the moves that everyone else seemed to have, and we laughed at ourselves the majority of the time.  but we let go, and it was fabulous.

after the reception, we took off for the beach!

here, are the pictures from the wedding.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

north carolina, day 2.

we woke up late, got lost several times trying to find a place to eat, ate breakfast when everyone else was eating lunch, and started on our 2 hour drive to make it in time for the wedding rehearsal and dinner.

i read to ben, one of our favorite things to do together {or was on our pre-kid road trips}, and couldn't stop staring out of the windows at all of the green.  i know i've vented quite a bit about life in arizona, and i've searched--and found--beauty here, but my soul needs green.  i felt myself coming more alive just being close to it.

we were excited to see carmella again, she was our right-hand lady at the group home, who was there with us from beginning to end.  we honestly couldn't have made it through that year without her, she brought a hilarious sense of humor mixed with a no-nonsense attitude and by the end of our time together, we considered her family.  i was so honored when she asked me to be a bridesmaid.

after the wedding rehearsal, ben and i split up--me going with the other bridesmaids and carmella to get our nails did--ben joining the groom and groomsmen for a movie.  then we drove back to our hotel and went to sleep.  pretty non-eventful, but a fun, relaxing day nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

north carolina--day 1.

we started the trip with a lot of sleep deprivation, a killer migraine, an extremely early flight, and a missing iphone.  BUT, we smiled regardless--we were on our way!  nothing a little caffeine, excedrine {with more caffeine}, travel neck pillows, and a lot of money to replace the missing phone couldn't take care of.

because our flight was delayed, we almost missed our connecting plane.  we were literally running through the airport, with full bladders, praying it wouldn't leave us--and that we could use the nearest restroom before the flight took off.  we made it, but we were nervous.

we checked into our hotel, took a nap {well i was hopped up on all of the caffeine, so i didn't sleep much}, then went to dinner.  when we booked our trip, we contacted one of the only kids from the group home we still keep in touch with.  his name is harley, {or homeboy, from the private group home blog} and even though he was only in the home for a couple of months, we quickly bonded with him.

 he was a strange fit with the other boys in the home because he didn't have severe mental health diagnoses like they did--his issues at the time we spent with him were mostly behavioral.  he had a great sense of humor, was extremely intelligent, and fun to spend time with.  he ended up running away from the home to avoid some heavy consequences he knew were coming his way, but he contacted us later when he was found.  he will always have a special place in our hearts and we were happy to see him doing so well.  he brought his beautiful girlfriend and their adorable daughter with them, and honestly as i sat across the table, i could see that the future for him holds a good life.  i felt myself getting emotional when i heard him talk about the things he had been through the year after we knew him.

after dinner, we decided to get really crazy--and went to a late night movie.  WHAT!  i know, we're wild without kids.  wild, i tell you!  we had about 15 minutes to kill before the movie started so we did what any normal couple would do--- took ugly pictures of ourselves.

the movie was great, but the feeling of not returning home to let the baby-sitter off the hook felt even better.  we went back to our hotel beds, and slept really well that night.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


whoo!  it's been quiet over here.  the end of a long vacation, continuously un-packing as we move in, then a purposeful earlier bedtime {for me} have contributed to the silence.  now i feel bursting with things to write, without the ability to follow through on it all.  so, one step at a time.

first things first.

oh, little junebug has become a toddler.  she turned 2 while we were on our eternally-long-but-fun vacation, the official day of her birth was while ben and i were in NC.  i know what you're thinking,

poor 3rd child...her parents weren't even home on her birthday!

but there are some things out of our control, you know?  one of them being the day june was born happens to be a very popular day to get married, or so we're quickly finding out.  on her first birthday, we were traveling to california for andrea & shawn's wedding, on her second we were celebrating the love between carmella and jersen.

but, that doesn't mean we didn't party with this girl before we left!  we decorated, sang, and had cake with family, laughing as we watched her eyes light up and her entire body tremble in excitement when she opened the Ariel doll from her cousins, and the Tinkerbell bracelet and phone from us.  the girl is a sucker for a mermaid with flowing red hair, or any type of fairy.

on her actual birthday, we facetimed with our sweet little chunk, and i stared at her eyelashes, fuzzy hair, and chubby cheeks, wondering how there could have been a day in my life that i hadn't known her. 

she talks so well, carrying on conversations while using words like "interesting." she sings and dances, and can get easily grumpy and then just as easily brought out of it.  she loves to make us laugh but is also taking after caleb in the serious department, in the way she inspects things and views life.  i can tell she's going to be more grounded than leah, the two have become such good friends in the past couple of months and it will be interesting to see how the dynamics play out as they grow up. 

the evidence is continuing to mount that she's just like me--in more than just the looks department.  all signs point to her being an outgoing introvert, just like i am.  she's not shy at all, but doesn't love the spotlight of attention on her in a crowd.  when people first meet her, i tell them to pretend that she's not there and she'll warm right up.  it's funny to see a younger-version of myself in her this way, and i think she and i will always relate to each other in this place, more than i can my other two complete extrovert children.

she is still my shadow, wanting to do anything i do.  if i put on shoes, she needs to also.  sunglasses are the same.  she's also my snuggliest child, and my best sleeper.  every night she begs her dad to "rockaminute" with her before she goes to sleep.  he holds her and hums to her, and then she calmly goes to bed without a fight.  ben has always had the magic touch with her.

we absolutely love you, june.  
from the calm baby you were to the spunky toddler you are now, you add so much to our family.

we couldn't picture being us without you.

and now, for a june photo montage....because you know, third children deserve it.