Our family went on a cruise over Spring Break of 2017. MIke booked us on an excursion in Jamaica where we visited a plantation in Montego Bay. Part of the tour included the option of doing a ropes course with a zipline at the end. Because Mike was physically limited, he was unable to do this. I am not really one to do these kind of adventurous activities. I prefer the kind with a sports ball. So, I declined. However, as I watched my kids getting buckled up to go up there and saw my daughter stepping up to do it even though she did not reach the age requirement, I changed my mind. Something kicked in and I just went for it. I had to remind Austin to watch out for his sister who was behind him and to not go too far in front of her. I had to teach Marissa how to do this hook and climb thing (which I had never done) and make sure she was strapped correctly. All of this at the same time as conquering my fear and figuring out what I was doing. This was Mike’s department. The kind of extreme sportsy stuff and fixing buckles and adjusting straps. So, it turns out that all three of us got through the course, Mike cheered us on from below, took pictures and beamed with pride. It was invigorating and I was so proud of myself as well as my little girl who seems to have no fear.
I looked back on that moment that evening and I knew it was the Holy Spirit pushing me through. Somehow I knew that I had to show the kids that I could step up and do things that were out of my comfort zone and I could take care of business. I had to show Mike that we would be ok. I had to show myself that I could handle it once I needed to. Mike and I talked about this later and how weird it was that we both just knew the significance of this moment even though we did not want to acknowledge it.
I know it’s been a while since I have posted an update on here. I think the memory I shared above can be somewhat of an update. The three of us have been navigating our way through a ropes course. I lose my footing a lot. I wobble a lot. I have stopped and restarted. We have had to conquer the fear of the unknown. We have had to keep calm and let go. I have had to I have one eye on one kid and talk him through it and when I am not doing that, I am adjusting the other’s buckles and straps. But, like the ropes course, we have also laughed, run on adrenaline and surprised ourselves. Sometimes I do not know how we are getting through, but we do. I went back to work a few weeks ago. It was not easy and it has been a bit of an adjustment for all of us both at work and at home, but it happened. My work family was welcoming, the student’s hugs were therapeutic and I showed my son that it is healthy to move forward. Austin dove back into the baseball grind and is finding his passion again for the sport he loves so much. Marissa has felt more comfortable opening up to me and has learned to respect that her brother and I are sometimes in a different place emotionally than she is. I cannot tell you how big all of these wins are.
We made it through Halloween in kind of a fog. I was not ready to face the evening at our house. It was already weird enough to not have Mike stealing the Reeces before they were in the candy bowl, not eating his homemade chili and not having him take the kids trick or treating. So we accepted the invite and escaped to the warm and welcoming home of the Armstrongs. We ventured to Great Wolf Lodge the following week for our first family of three trip. It was weird and empty, but we found our way through with some fun and giggles. November also brought one of my closest longtime friends, Wendy, to spend a week with us. She provided priceless comfort and assistance. We went to California to spend Thanksgiving week with family. I was flooded with memories the second that I got on the train to the airport gate. Marissa’s birthday brought another milestone, which she tackled with grace and grit. The Reedy family opened their home to us and went out of their way to make the 3 of us feel comfortable. The entire trip was tough, comforting and peaceful all at the same time. Despite the circumstances, love from my extended family made it easier to be thankful for all that we do have. However, we were blindsided by the emotions that we would face when we returned to Colorado and the emptiness of our house. Something seemed to be missing when we came back to reality. The kids and I discussed what we wanted to do about holiday traditions and decorating and then we pretty much did not follow anything that we decided on. Instead, we just went with how we felt each day. Marissa and I bought some new decorations (Thank you Michaels and Hobby Lobby) and had a lot of fun creating a new look. But we never quite motivated ourselves to take the decorations out of the packages and the mini tree sat without ornaments until some Boykin elves came and took matters into their own hands. Uncle Chad took Marissa to the Daddy/Daughter dance and were fortunate enough to create memories with a new Sock Hop theme this year.
And so we moved through most of December just trying to get our footing. Mike sent us special signs which made us smile and every day was a new day to push us to put one foot in front of the other. Every time it seemed like I was at the end of my rope, someone seemed to send me a loving text, a card or package in the mailbox, drop a dinner off, call me from the grocery store or one of my kids wanting to cuddle.
Our winter break came at a perfect time. It was much needed, following the fatigue from Austin’s first high school finals, baseball, Battle of the Books, work, chores and all of our other outside activities. It was a relief to get on that airplane, partly because we got through the week and partly because it meant our California Christmas was about to happen. Up to this point it was a daily reminder to remember why we celebrate Christmas and to focus on preparing for Christ’s birth. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit propelling me to be present for my kids, to give to others and to be grateful for all of our wonderful support. I was filled with words of wisdom from different homilies urging us to have compassion and patience for others, but especially our families.I listened to the voice telling me to stop having expectations and to make my decisions based on what felt right that moment. And that it was okay to kind of skip the traditions and turn away from the painful memories this year and deal with them next year. When I literally could not remember some of my children’s gifts and if they were equal, I realized that it did not matter. No gift of any size was going to fix anything. The kids would likely look back at the memory of this Christmas in a fog and mostly remember the time they spent with family. I was graced with moments of fog myself to get me through stuffing stockings all by myself. I was graced with my teenage son finding his Christmas spirit and smiling with his cousins. We were graced with very unique gifts and family gatherings filled with love and thoughtfulness. And when I allowed others to try to make our Christmas as special as possible, I am letting Jesus shine his light through them.
We have one more holiday to tackle this year and I, again, find myself wondering how I am going to get through it. Because I am a slow learner, I will probably need to keep reminding myself to take a deep breath and rely on the Holy Spirit.
I again, thank all of our families, friends and communities for being so good to us in 2018. I wish all of you a year full of blessings in 2019.
Laura, Austin & Marissa