Wednesday, June 6, 2018

To Hell and Back

Shortly after my last blog post, I went through hell.  The PA that had been increasing my doses of medication to addict levels.  How do I know they were addict levels? You'll see in a bit.

Shortly after my last blog post, she dropped me as a patient without telling me.  I kept trying to call her because I would run out of my medication early, and she would call in the refill. Except this time she wouldn't because apparently she'd gotten into some trouble for calling in refills without actually seeing me since it was a controlled substance.  And she was writing 15 day prescriptions, not 30, but scheduling me for 30 day appointments.

So she wouldn't answer my calls.  I could hear her in the background telling the office staff not to let me talk to her because "It would take ten minutes to talk to her." And so I started cutting my pills in half until my last scheduled appointment.  And then, I finally ran out.  At that point, I went into full on withdrawals symptoms.  I had been on 6mg of Lorazapem, 225 of Effexor, and had nothing.  So my body rebelled.  It was horrible.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't eat.  I was in hell.

In desperation, I got a hold of the office and they said I could see the primary psychiatrist.  I scheduled an appointment for the next day.

And then the ice storm hit Houston.  And everything, including my doctor's office, was shut down.  Again, I panicked, and was desperate.  Luckily, I was able to set up on online, Skype-like appointment with him.

We talked for over 45 minutes. That's when he told me that if I stayed at the level of medication I was currently being prescribed, the pharmacy would flag me as an addict and no longer give me medication.  He also told me that the two medications I was on were not meant to be given together...that the anti-anxiety medication would actually counteract the anti-depressant and cause me to become more suicidal.  So he wrote up a new anti-anxiety medication prescription and put in my regular anti-depressant.  Only problem was that my pharmacy was closed because of the ice storm.  Luckily, Walmart was open nearby, and they filled my prescription.

My body was filled with relief as soon as I was put on the correct drug combination.  I could tell immediately that it was the right combination.

The battle I had to face next was tapering down off of the addict levels I was on, particularly for my anti-anxiety medication.  It has been a slow, and difficult process, but I'm now down to 1 mg per day.

In the midst of tapering down, and seeing improvements daily, I received news that had been previously thought impossible:  my insurance would cover a treatment for depression known as TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation.  So every week day for six weeks, I went in and had the treatments done.  When I went in, I took a depression evaluation to determine just how depressed I was.  The most severely depressed score a 26.  I scored a 21.

Halfway through my treatments, I scored a 1.

These last six months have not been without difficulties.  As anyone who has had to taper off an addictive medication will tell you, it is difficult.  My personality had changed significantly.  My dose was so high at the beginning that I was overly social, overly talkative, very loud, very high energy...which sounds great and was great, but was not me.  Chris would often have to pull me aside and let me know that I was being a bit...much...which of course I didn't take kindly too because  I felt like "Well, at least I'm not suicidal!  Let me be me!"....even though I wasn't really me.

In case you're curious, I sought out a possible medical malpractice suit.  Every lawyer said the same thing: "If you'd actually killed yourself, we could take on your case.  But you didn't, so we can't".  Consider the message that sends.  I also reported the PA to the Texas State medical board.  She told them I had never mentioned suicidal ideation (a lie...she asked if I'd thought about hospitalization after I mentioned my attempts), and that she had gone over the side effects of the medications together (another lie). 

As I've tapered off, I've gotten back to my "normal" self. I still have days where I'm more irritable, where I tear up easily, but they're at least reasons I'm feeling that way.  The cloud of hopelessness and despair has left.  I'm still a little fragile, but am no longer having panic or anxiety attacks, no longer feel a burden to my family, and feel that I do have a purpose in life and that God continues to walk alongside me.  I am actually interested in life.  Interested in people.  Able to attend my kids school functions.  Able to be present.  I still need alone time to recoup after school, but am not doing so in darkness and hopelessness.

I am grateful that He carried me when I needed Him to, and that I had a supportive family, a wonderful husband, loving children, a counselor that was able to meet me at my moments of need, and an encouraging and accommodating school family that allowed to me to receive the treatments that I needed.

Mental health issues are every bit as serious as physical health issues.  Please take them seriously.  Please do not belittle or try to talk someone out of their mental health issues, including yourself.  Seek help.  And if you don't know where to find help, contact me.  I've been there.  I know what it's like.  It's real.  It's horrible.  And it only grows stronger in isolation and darkness.

I finished school yesterday, and am looking forward to a lot of time with my family, and lot of strong Texas sunshine and pool time, church activities, and rest.  Thank you for your continued prayers. And don't be afraid to tell someone if you're experiencing feelings of hopelessness, a lack of interest in life, a feeling a of being a burden to your family, a feeling of not being good enough.  It is your brain deceiving you, and you need help for it, just as you would if you had diabetes or cancer.  You cannot think  your way out of it, pray your way out of it...And I realize as a pastor's wife that seems harsh, but it's true.  I would never tell a cancer patient not to seek treatment and just to find a hobby to try and get over their cancer, or to just pray away their cancer.  It works the same way with mental illness.

May we break the stigma and shine a light on the seriousness of mental illness and know how to help those battling it, including ourselves.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

On why I've been the way I've been

My first episode was in July, on the third afternoon before Vacation Bible School.  The night before had been wonderful in the drama department where I was teaching.  The discussion after VBS that night and the next morning with Chris hadn't been so nice.  We'd had a very emotional discussion about something that we'd argued about before, and it had been pretty intense.  We went out to lunch the next day, made some good strides as I apologized for what I needed to and Chris communicated what he needed to.

After paying for lunch we got in the van and stopped by McDonald's to pick up some lunch for our kids who Kadee Joy had been watching just a few blocks away.  And that's when it hit.  I couldn't breathe.  I couldn't talk. I couldn't lift my arms.  I couldn't communicate.  It was terrifying.  Chris finished getting the food and then drove us home.  He carried me up the stairs (I still couldn't walk or talk), and put me in bed.  He called several medical professionals we knew at our church.  The one thing I was adamantly able to communicate was that I didn't want to go to the hospital.  I made horrible, animal sounds as I tried to communicate.  Once I was able to talk I kept crying, saying "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!"

After about 45 minutes, Chris was able to convince me that we should go to the ER.  They ran EKG's, did a CT scan, ran blood tests, and determined that I'd....had a panic attack.


But I was DYING.  I COULDN'T TALK. I COULDN'T BREATHE.

I began seeing a psychiatrist shortly thereafter who prescribed me some sleep medication that complemented my antidepressant, and the panic attacks seemed to stop.  I didn't really even think about them anymore.  I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and continued major depressive disorder.

Things seemed better until October 1st, the morning of the Las Vegas shooting, the same day I also started a new medication.  I experienced a level of anxiety that I hadn't experienced since starting at a new junior high at age 13.  It was horrible. I had trouble teaching that day, but was able to make it through.  The next few days were fine.  And then it hit back with a vengeance that Friday.  I barely made it through the day.  I called both my psychiatrist and the doctor who had prescribed me the other medication.  We immediately stopped the other medication, and then added an anti anxiety medication to my normal meds.

It helped....a little....but the panic attacks came back. I had two to three every single day after school as soon as I got home.  I couldn't be with my family.   I would just have the attacks, collapse, and wake up to go back to school the next day.  We tried changing my other medications, but the panic attacks wouldn't go away.

It got really bad the Monday before my second grade program.  I had one in front of students and other staff members.  My medical team, husband, and principal determined that I would not be able to go back to work that week.  I missed a program.  That's a big deal. When I say it got bad...it got as bad as it can get for someone dealing with mental illness.

I started seeing a counselor on top of all of my other doctors.  She was helpful immediately.  I started seeing a family physician also so that we could get a better "whole" picture of my health instead of just bits and pieces.

I went back to school after Thanksgiving, pushed the Christmas program back a week, had a pretty successful last two weeks and program (got down to one panic attack after school per day), and than slumped into Christmas Break. 

I have started painting.  Chris, the one who has carried me through this, created a prayer station for me when I needed a quiet place to go.  I journal my daily episodes.  I have a list of reasons of why I should still be alive.

Mom came down for Christmas and is visiting.  She's been wonderful about getting my house into order.  She's had to drive me home a couple of times after I start having a panic attack in Michael's or in the celery section at HEB.

My sister is coming to visit in a couple of days.  She's had her own run-in with mental health, and is good about finding things that are helpful.

I tried to go to church today for Christmas Eve.  I only made it about 30 minutes.  My church attendance is spotty because of it.  And I'm a pastor's wife.

My daughter has been amazing.  She calls when she knows I'm about to have one, helps me get into bed, puts the lavender on, stays with me until Chris can get there.

I worry about my kids.  I worry about what they will think of me.  I worry about what they are missing during this time in my life.

I cry a lot out of guilt.  I cry a lot out of sadness.  I cry a lot out of frustration. 

I pray a lot.  I pray for my kids.  I pray for my husband.  I pray for my students.

And I pray for healing.  I pray for normalcy.  I pray for a day where I don't have to even think about having a panic attack.  I pray that I will get to a point I can focus on my kids and husband as much as they are focusing on me. 

And I pray that God can help use my story one day for His greater purpose.

Friday, January 6, 2017

An Evening in a House Where Autism Lives




Jeffrey and Andrew begin it.  We've just finished eating, Grandma and Grandma have gone home, and Daddy is watching a basketball game while Mommy sits next to him.

"Tag!" Jeffrey screams.  Andrew giggles loudly.  Andrew always giggles loudly, and sincerely.  Jeffrey giggles as he runs away from Andrew, who catches him a few seconds later.  On the game goes, with yells of "No tagbacks!" and giggles trailing up and down the stairs.  I use the word giggle a lot as I write this.  But giggles are what I hear.  Up and down the stairs they go, chasing, tagging, giggling more, chasing.  Round and round the downstairs they go.

This sounds normal.  But soon, the script comes out.  It's usually accompanied by a British acccent.  Lines repeated over and over again, as one gets tagged and the other one runs away.

"What is that from, boys?" I ask.

Andrew answers that it is from a Veggie Tales movie.  The game is sincere, but their verbal interaction is scripted.  I always ask where their lines come from.  They can tell me now.  For me, it makes me feel like I'm getting into their heads a little bit.  What scene in what movie made you think these lines were appropriate for this situation?  And now they can tell me.  For years, they would just repeat lines, and I didn't know why they said what they did, when they did.

Then Luke joins in.  "Jeffrey, if you come here I'll give you 'Just Dance'!"

Jeffrey falls for it.  Luke tags him and Jeffrey runs away.  Jeffrey keeps waiting for Luke to deliver "Just Dance".  But Luke is neurotypical, so Luke lies.  Jeffrey takes Luke's promise literally, even though he is four 1/2 years older than his brother.  Jeffrey will always take you literally, although he's starting to show some understanding in joking, as he questions following a ridiculous statement, "You're just teasing me!"  Yep, we are, Jeffrey.  Jeffrey is easily upset by statements like "If you keep watching that TV, your brain is going to turn to mush."  He grabs his head, cries and says, "No!  I need my brain!"

Andrew delivers a line that displays his autism.  "Jeffrey and Lukie, I need you to stand still so I can tag you!"  It's honest, although unlikely. Most 11 year-olds would not make such a request during a game of tag.

"Let's play Duck, Duck, Goose!" Luke says.  "I'll be the Duck Duck guy!"

Luke often dominates the play between the brothers, even though he's the youngest by far.  His 11 year old brother often does what he asks.  His 9 year old brother forgets that he can just say no if Luke asks him to do something he doesn't want to do and instead just cries or screams.  We're working on it.

"Come on, Jeff!" Luke yells.  Jeffrey has refused to be called anything but Jeffrey for years.  One day, several months ago, Luke started calling him Jeff.  And Jeffrey responded to him.  I don't know why I love this, but I do.

Side note: 

I remember teaching Andrew turn-taking starting when he was 18 months old.  He had already qualified for speech.

I would hold a ball.  "Andrew's turn!"  "Your turn" meant nothing to Andrew.  Who's "your"?

I roll the ball to Andrew.  He giggles as he grabs it.  "Mommy's turn!" I say.  He rolls it back to me....after the first 3 sessions.  We rejoice.  He is turn-taking.

Every communication and social skill has been taught, sentence by sentence, modeled, practiced.  Disney, Pixar, Veggie Tales, Peppa Pig, and an inordinate amount of other movies and shows have been the source of most of my children's learned language.  They have a picture and can see characters interacting while they speak.  Then they take what they see and hear, and try to use it in real life.

Back to tonight...

Jeffrey is the first to finish the game.  He loves the game, but grows tired of the human interaction.  It's exhausting for him.  He prefers "Just Dance" because he "interacts" with digital characters that always do the same dance moves with the same music.  No changes, no spontaneity, no confusing questions or requests.

 Andrew lasts much longer.  He has empathy, loves companionship, and is naturally more patient. Plus he loves to have fun.  And tag is fun.

Luke doesn't realize his brothers are different yet.  His communication and social skills at his current age of 5 are significantly better than both of his brothers already.  I wonder what he will say when he realizes that they are different.

The beauty of tag and Duck, Duck, Goose is that Andrew or Jeffrey initiated the play, and the other agreed to participate.  That is HUGE.  Would not have happened even a year ago.  And they stuck with it for about 15 minutes.  That wouldn't have happened either.

Some parents wouldn't allow tag in the house.  With my boys, I have to see the forest instead of the trees.  Yes, they might run into something playing tag...but they're using skills that are incredibly difficult for them to master.  And they just started that skill at nine and eleven.

I'm a pretty inflexible person, or at least I have been during much of my life.  I remember with Kadee Joy feeling like her behavior or "performance" defined me as a parent.  Then I had my sweet Andrew, who couldn't talk until after age two, and who wasn't potty trained until age 7.  Having children who have a disorder that changes the speed of the learning process broke my inflexibility when it came to them.

The games are over.  Jeffrey is playing "Just Dance."  Andrew is making battle sounds while playing with all his Star Wars figurines.  And Luke is sitting next to me, asking if he can "help me work."  They are back where they are comfortable.

Side note:

We got the kids a basketball hoop for Christmas.  The boys ask to play with it everyday.  All 3 of them.  It's a wonderful thing.  I've been teaching them skills, like what to do if the basketball goes into the street (come get Mommy so she can check the road after telling you to check the road so that you don't get run over...then we cheer when the ball is brought back safely).  It's a beautiful thing. I remember the days of locking all the doors because Andrew was such an escape risk, and he didn't even have the ability to tell people his name.  Both boys have had multiple close calls of getting run over because they run away in the parking lot, or just head towards the car from a store or church without even looking to see if any vehicles or people are coming towards them.  This is still somewhat of a problem, but nothing compared to their earlier years.

Back...

When it's time to go to bed, Luke is often already in bed.  He doesn't wait for me to tell him...he tells me.  "Mom, I'm tired. I'm going to bed now."  Jeffrey freaks out a little bit, but goes to bed after a promise from me that he'll be able to do something tomorrow.  "I'll go to sleep, and then I can play basketball tomorrow?"  "Yes, Jeffrey."  Sometimes he has to ask it a few times, just to make sure..

Andrew can't turn his mind off.  I remember Chris and I taking turns laying next to him from the time he was two until he was four because he was so unsettled and couldn't go to sleep,  These were the same days that he would often try to go out the front door.  Nowadays, there's no risk of escape...just that he won't be able to fall asleep until 11 or 12, and then won't have enough sleep to  face the next day.  Tonight isn't as big of a deal.  It's Saturday tomorrow.  He could sleep in, but Andrew doesn't sleep in on weekends or days off.  He and his brothers are up and at 'em right at 6 a.m., even though they would be dead to the world until forced to wake up at 6:45 on school mornings.

The fire is going, it's cold outside, and Jeffrey heard that snow could be coming.  He plans on building a snowman and making snow angels.  At least, that's what he tells me.

Jeffrey made plans.  This is a skill he's had for a couple of years.  I love when Jeffrey makes plans, although sometimes I dread the times when I have to tell him that his plans will not happen.

Jeffrey is reading this blog.  "I love playing basketball.  But snow is coming, so I can't play basketball!"

I'll end it there.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.





Thursday, December 31, 2015

Different

Hello. All four of you. :)

I write when I am inspired and I write when I get a break. Apparently those two things did not happen simultaneously until today.

These past four months have been hard. Moving is always hard, a new job is always hard, transitioning into new schools is hard, starting up in a new church is always hard...But these past four months have been really, really hard.

First of all, let me say that we have been welcomed pretty much wherever we've gone. Overwhelmingly welcomed at church, welcomed by our new teams, our children welcomed by their new teachers (both at church and at school), we have nothing to complain about as far as being welcomed. So perhaps I should say that it could have been even harder than it was...but it was still hard.

My new school is hard. It just is. It's a completely different population than my last school is and we're in school improvement.School improvement is when the state tells you that students in certain sub groups (race, economic level, etc) didn't make enough gains or meet enough goals in the standardized tests, and that you therefore have to not only raise those scores but spend hours in writing goals, training, doing research, documenting, documenting, documenting (seriously, it's ridiculous), and of course, teaching.

  If you've never taught in a school that is in school improvement, than you have never experienced watching the state make the already impossibly challenging job of teaching even more impossibly challenging. It's kind of nightmarish. It doesn't affect me directly, but it certainly affects me. I'm not in the "war room" going over kids individual strengths and weaknesses (as far as their test scores go), being constantly challenged on how or why I approached that particular lesson with that particular kid in that particular way, and missing hours of actually being in the classroom going over ways to teach in ways that will bring up our test scores. But I see the teachers, administrators, and specialists who are doing that, and they're completely maxed out...all the time...And have very little margin for additional stress. So I am affected when I bring in an additional request that sends them (unintentionally) over their already taxed limit. School improvement pretty much bites the big one, and I think it is a horrible, horrible way to try and improve test scores (which I also think are pretty horrible in and of themselves), and leads to even more teacher burn out in our current climate in education in which we are ALWAYS short on teachers.  And goodness knows that this burnout is evident to our students.

But the silver lining in this madness is that I love, love, love, LOVE the students I am teaching.  I always do, but these students are very, very different from many of the other populations I've taught.  The vast majority of these kids are at risk for a variety of reasons, and I have to have my game face on pretty much as soon as I get out of my car.  But they are so FUN.  I don't have to convince these kids to get into the activities, games, songs, etc.  They are just ready, willing, and want to do everything well.  I'll admit that sometimes their behavior makes me crazy, and I have encountered difficulties in management that I haven't seen in a very long time (if ever), which has caused me to make a very close look at how I craft each lesson with each class.  But with these kids, I know that I'm making a difference in their lives...and they are making a huge difference in mine.  I didn't know how to whip or nae nae when I showed up in Humble, but you'd better believe I know how to now.  :)  God has been gracious in showing me how beautiful, precious, and unique ALL of His children are, and in doing so has shown me how worthwhile what I do is.

I didn't touch on the other stuff that is hard, probably because I realized that much of it is hard from a perspective other than my own, and also because I know that while it has been hard, it has also been getting better as time goes on.  Pray for me, for my family, and especially for Chris as he is juggling two jobs that are (in and of themselves) hard.


Saturday, August 29, 2015

On How It Happened

I'm sitting on my couch in my living room downstairs typing while my boys watch their current favorite movie, Madagascar. A typical Saturday morning.

Except I'm living in Humble (pronounced "UM-bull"), just outside of Houston, TX. Not in San Antonio.

I've just finished my first week of teaching. But it's not in Alamo Heights, the district I thought I would retire in.

It's at a school in the Humble Independent School District. My students could not look more different than my last students, and the expectations for me in my job are very different. It's me, 700 kids, and no teaching partner. So you know...what normal districts do.

In June, I had agreed to start teaching Junior High Sunday School at our church in San Antonio. In July, I had called my teaching partner to discuss when we were having a going away party for one member of our team, and an engagement party for another. I had my kids' teachers all lined up, Kadee Joy was all set for the Junior School, and I was looking forward to a busy summer and then returning to my dream job.

And then, Chris went to NYC. Not New York City. Nazarene Youth Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He and the youth pastor at our church were taking 5 teens from our church to it with the South Texas district of the Nazarene Church. He would be gone for nine days. Then he would come back for a couple of weeks, we would go to Hawaii with my side of our family, and then it would be back into work mode. He would continue to be a volunteer Associate Pastor at our church and a 4th Grade teacher in the North Side school district, and I would go back to Cambridge.

Except of course, that's not what happened. A couple of days into NYC, he called me.

"I think I may have just gotten a job offer," he said.

"Okay," I said. He's gotten job offers before. "What church?"

"Lake Houston Church of the Nazarene."

Just that morning, I had been trying to have some quiet time and thought to myself, "I really we lived close to a lake." No joke. Never had that thought before.

"Where is that at?," I asked.

"Just outside of Houston."

For as long as I've known him, Chris has wanted to live in Houston. He's an avid sports fan of all Houston teams, having been born there. When I first told him God had told us to move to Texas, he kept asking (non-seriously)if I was sure it was to San Antonio and not to Houston.

But that had nothing to do with my thoughts. As he said it, a sense of excitement and direction hit me. Just as I'd known that all the other job offers were not God's will for us, I knew that this one was.

We continued the conversation, and he told me how he had talked with one of the senior pastors at the church for a long time (there's a lot of down time when you're driving to Kentucky from Texas), how they had shared their life stories with each other, and how eventually it had gotten to where somehow that message that the senior pastor was interested in Chris as the youth pastor the church had been looking for for three and a half years was addressed.

Over the next several days, Chris made strong connections with some of the kids in the South Texas district. He found out later that those kids were from the Lake Houston Church. While he was doing that, I was investigating everything I could about Humble, TX, the town where the church is. I was looking up housing, I was looking up jobs, I was looking up just about everything I could gather from the internet. And the more I read, the more nervous I got. Not because I ever doubted that we should pursue it, but because the full impact of what it would mean to uproot from the life we lived in San Antonio was hitting me hard. I also was struggling with the logistics of moving. We still had a year left on our lease. It was July, and we would be leaving for Hawaii soon. I would be leaving so many ends untied at my school with my teaching partner who I could not imagine leaving. And our church! We were so involved in our church. It felt unfair to leave so suddenly.

Chris got back from NYC, and then a day or two later, the senior pastor and his wife (who had already been in contact with me) drove over to San Antonio to have a more in depth conversation. We talked for about three hours. The position would only be part time to start out because that was what the church could afford. At one point, the detail/reality side of me took over, and I brought up the logistical issues. I brought up the lease. If we broke our lease, there was no way we could find housing. If Chris was only part time, I would have to have a music teaching job, and those are typically not easy to find, particularly in July, and definitely not in August if we waited to make a decision until we got back from Hawaii. And I could not imagine how we could get our kids prepared in so short a time to make such a big change, particularly Kadee Joy. She was so excited about Junior School, had friends, and I knew would be in an outstanding school. I asked if waiting until next June would be an option. They both said that it would be less than ideal, but that if Chris was the guy, then they would wait for him.

Once we got back to the house, I told Chris that I really thought it would make more sense to wait until June. The terms of our short sale from Idaho were such that after November we would be able to purchase a house. It would make much more sense for us to finish out our lease, save up for a down payment, and then just buy a house in Humble rather than rent. I also felt it would give us time to really prepare for a move, and for our kids to prepare especially.

And I kept this fight up. With Chris. With myself. And for sure with God. I wrestled with him for 3 days. Arguing, pleading, negotiating. On the second day, I called our realtor and had her check to see if there was any way we could get out of our lease. She called back saying that we could get out of it, but at a significant financial price. I hung up feeling like that was our answer. And then Chris called the senior pastor, who assured us that the church would cover the cost of any loss. More wrestling, more struggling.

And then, late in the night of the 3rd day, God gave me a vision. One of the things my investigating had brought up was a school in the Humble school district where there was a music teacher opening. I had found a Facebook page featuring the Honor Choir and Percussion Ensemble, and knew that it was way out of my league. I knew that I could not get the job. It freaked me out to even think of it.

But the vision...I saw it as clear as day. It was me, with a group of students behind me getting ready to do a performance...and I knew it was the kids from Humble.

And that was all I needed. I woke up a few hours later, told Chris that I was calling my administrator, called her in tears, and then resigned my job. Then I called my teaching partner...and told her...and that was even harder. And being a good friend, she tried to talk me out of it. :) But I assured her that I knew that this was God wanted us to do. In between calls, I told Chris what I was doing. After panicking a little, he called the senior pastor and told him our decision to come. I started applying for jobs in three different districts, one in Humble, and then two outside of Humble.

I should mention that Chris had not been officially offered the job yet. The board and the other senior pastor were aware of the conversations that had been going on, but had not yet met Chris. After Chris called, it was determined that we should come to Humble immediately to meet with the staff of the church. Some of them knew Chris from NYC, but most did not. Our family went over. We toured the church, and then went to lunch. At some point during lunch, the other senior pastor asked what I was thinking about everything. I told him I had already resigned my job. He was rather shocked by this, and I asked if he thought we were crazy. He SAID he thought it was awesome (although he may have been thinking something else). I told him that it was cool if they decided that we weren't the ones...we were going to come anyway. :)

We drove back home. There were four very silent, nerve-wracking days where Chris had no official job offer, and I had no job prospects. Then on Thursday, July 24, I got an email from the New Caney District asking me to come in and interview. We ended up meeting with a large group from the church on Sunday night, and then we woke up early the next morning so that I could go interview. I thought the interview went fairly well, but felt a little discouraged by what the job would be. And in the back of my head, the vision of the kids from the other school was still there.

We drove back to San Antonio. I was told that I would hear about the job by the end of the week. It was Monday, and we were flying out to Hawaii that night. When we got home, Chris came to the realization that he would need to be bi-vocational, and so he began to apply for teaching jobs.

About two hours before we were supposed to leave for the airport, I got a call that I thought was from the principal from New Caney. Instead, it was the principal from the school in Humble. She had just gotten the email that I had sent to her and wanted to know if I could come in for an interview. I told her that we were actually leaving for Hawaii, and wouldn't be back for almost two weeks. She asked if I would be willing to do a phone interview, which of course I said I would. She said she would need to pull a few staff members for the interview and then would call me back. Surrounded by luggage, I did the phone interview. I cannot tell you how much better I felt about that job interview than I did about the other. About 20 minutes after the interview, she called me back, telling me that my references were so strong that she wanted to offer me the job immediately. With the vision at the front of my mind, and said yes. About 20 minutes later, I got another job offer from New Caney. I had to tell her no, and she groaned, saying that "her rival" had stolen another teacher from her. Turns out she is the wife of the Superintendent of my school district. Apparently he slept on the couch that night.

About 10 minutes after that, I got another email and phone call asking for an interview in the third school district I had applied yet. I told them I had just been hired, but thanked them for thinking of me. I finished packing, and with a huge sense of peace and relief in my heart, we got on the plane.

But God wasn't done yet. While in Hawaii, Chris got called for an interview in the same district I had just been hired at. While I was interviewing, I had asked my administrator which school she would recommend for our boys. She named a school that was close to mine. The school Chris was called by was the same school she had recommended. He interview over Skype the next day, and was offered the job.

Meanwhile, the church was moving forward with officially calling Chris as the youth pastor. After an amazing trip to Hawaii, we began packing up our house and drove back to Humble to look for housing. We found one, put in application, and then had several impatient days of waiting to hear if we had gotten the house. We knew we would be moving on Saturday, and didn't find out that we had actually gotten the house until the Thursday before.

After saying many tearful goodbyes, we moved. Our new church family came and moved us from San Antonio and into our new home. We went to church the next day, and then Chris and I started our new teaching jobs the day after that.

God has been so faithful in accomplishing all that needed to be accomplished. We know, we know, we know, we know that none of this would have been possible without his hand in it. While the adjustment has not been easy, he has put so many people in our paths to encourage, support, and come alongside us. From childcare, to meals, to cleaning, to coffee (SO IMPORTANT), and in helping us understand the ways of our new jobs, he has sent us people who absolutely have been His hands and feet.

And now we're here. I miss San Antonio, our dear friends and coworkers, and many aspects of our old schools and church. But I also have a great sense of excitement and challenge in facing the new opportunities we have been given. Thank you for your prayers, your support, and your love. Our kids are adjusting really well to their new schools, loving our new church, and Chris and I are grateful to be exactly where God has called us to be. In that, we know there is no better place to be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Disabled

In order to help build an informational foundation for Andrew as he moves forward in public education, his educational team has (with my approval) been putting him through a battery of tests. He's been tested for speech (needs help), OT (needs help), and most recently, intelligence.


I don't know why this one's results caught me off guard, but it did, and not only did the results catch me off guard, but they kind of brought back the early days of his diagnosis of autism...and not in a good way.


Andrew was classified as Intellectually Disabled. He scored quite poorly on almost everything. And not just poorly...he scored in the <1 percentile in many of them. Reading what this meant for Andrew was not the problem. The accommodations suggested were things we've been doing with Andrew his whole life...simplified vocabulary, one-two step directions, visual cues, modeling. But the "intellectually disabled" label...that threw me. No, actually, it pushed me down on to my knees and then sat on me. I should be good at this by now. I should know that a series of tests with scripted questions given by a stranger cannot possibly sum up who my Andrew is. I know that labels are meant to help explain the why's. And yet, for a brief time, it did sum up who he was, and I hurt. I hurt for Andrew. I hurt for what his future became with those two words. It was explained to me that this is a good thing...it will open him up for so many more community services when he finishes with school. It will provide a good record so that he can qualify for assistance throughout his life. But, selfishly, I don't want him to have to qualify for those things in order to be more independent. I want him to reach a point where he can do anything he wants without needing assistance. And not because I mind providing that assistance, or trying to find it. I kind of feel like that's my job as a mom anyway, and just becomes a little more intense having children with autism. I just want him to be able to achieve anything any other person could Shortly after (actually, about five minutes later), I ran into another mom of a beautiful boy with autism. I said everything I was feeling, and she reminded me of what I already knew, and what I've told so many other moms with special needs children...This paper changes nothing. It does not make Andrew any different than he was before the testing results were shared with me. And it cannot POSSIBLY say who Andrew is. No testing can do that. And certainly, no testing can predict what he will do in his life, and how much he will grow. I know. I KNOW. I KNOW.

It is the season for giving thanks. It is not the season for despair.

Andrew is different. But Andrew is not less.

Andrew is silly. Andrew is loving. Andrew is affectionate. Andrew will work hard for praise. Andrew wants to do the right thing. Andrew wants others to do the right thing. Andrew hurts for others. Andrew loves his family. Andrew is a wonderful big brother. Andrew is a wonderful little brother. Andrew is sensitive. Andrew says inappropriate things from movies sometimes. Andrew says perfectly appropriate things from movies sometimes.

Andrew is a good speller. Andrew has terrible handwriting. Andrew is a great runner. Andrew loves to play. Andrew cannot sit still. Andrew claims people poke him when they don't. Andrew laughs at things other people can't see. Andrew can now explain what he's laughing at, and 10 times out of 10 it is a scene from a movie he is seeing in his head.

Andrew still eats a very limited number of things. Andrew eats more variety than he used to. Andrew has friends. Andrew's friends still are trying to figure him out. Andrew loves the computer. Andrew doesn't love to write because it is painful to his hands. Andrew is getting therapy for his handwriting. Andrew has a hard time in Art. Andrew can have a hard time in music. Andrew loves to sing. Andrew does not love for others to watch him sing.

Andrew has to work much, much harder than most kids at following very basic social and academic rules.

Andrew gets tired of trying. Andrew keeps trying anyway.

Andrew is beautiful. Andrew has my big teeth. Andrew has his daddy's big lips.

Andrew is a gift from God. Andrew inspires me daily.

My world is better for having Andrew as a son.

Thank you, dear Lord, for Andrew.

I don't know his future, but I know that You have it in Your hands.

You made him as he is.



"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

Psalm 139:13-16

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Old and New

Fall. Kind of. You know, in a South Texas, still 95 degrees kind of way.

School has started back up again and all three of my school-aged children are at Cambridge with me. I have every single one of them in music class with me. And I LOVE it.

Kadee Joy is such a beautiful girl, inside and out. She wants to make everyone feel comfortable, included, and important, and she does what she can to make that happen in each new school situation. She is still very much a kid, which I also love. She's under a lot of pressure to become boy crazy, fashion forward, and cool...and she lets everyone know that she just wants to be her. Not sure where she got that confidence, but I am grateful for it.

Andrew is in a public school setting for the first time since kindergarten and is transitioning remarkably well. I was full of fear right before school started. I didn't know how he would handle the many new situations he would encounter, and I didn't know what the students I love would make of the son I love. He has handled each new situation beautifully, which I attribute to the great hearts and helping hands of the many teachers who surround him daily. They have made him feel comfortable and built up his confidence. One of his biggest areas of strength has been in PE. Oddly enough, he has excellent hand eye coordination, and has been surprising his classmates on a daily basis with his speed and ability to dominate games. :) His classmates have really stepped up in encouraging him and helping him, and I am so glad that they have contributed to his smooth transition.

Jeffrey has had a great start, and is surrounded (again) by teachers and classmates who love him. He caused a big stir yesterday when he stood on one of the ramps leading out from the building and screeeeeeeaaaaaaammmmed! Teachers surrounded him and found...that he had lost his first tooth. He had been perseverating on it's looseness for many days, so it was a relief when it came out. He now wants "a new tooth" to replace his "empty tooth." Losing teeth only to gain new ones really is an odd concept when you think about it.

And then there's Luke. He's a typical two year old...He can be sweet, affectionate, and compliant one second and then turn devious, physical, and obstinate the next. It's a good thing he's cute. He still seems to be developing normally (both physically and mentally) and goes to the same daycare he's been going to for the last year and a half. Chris takes him there now, so I don't know too much of how he does, but we've had no biting reports so I'm satisfied.

Chris is in his fourth year of teaching. The difference between his class sizes in Idaho vs. here is ridiculous. He has 19 students in his 4th grade class (compared with the 36 he had his last year in Idaho), and has so far really enjoyed each of them . There have been so many times when I wish I could just be a fly on the wall and see him teach...one day perhaps, when we don't have to use all of our sick and personal days on our family's health. He's also recently become an associate pastor at our church and is set for the last part in receiving his district ordination in January. I am grateful to be part of a church who lives out reconciliation and rebuilding, and I am so incredibly proud of my husband and his obedience to the One who set out a path for him to receive both.

Besides starting my twelfth(!) year of teaching, I am heading into Christmas Cantata season. This year, with the help of my friend Sunshine, I grabbed onto a BEAUTIFUL Celtic Cantata that I will be directing, starting this Wednesday. I'm super excited about it.

Right before the school year started, our family went on the longest vacation we've ever taken together to Idaho and Oregon. It was marvelous. It was so rejuvenating to see friends and family who have been with us through the best and worst of times. When we were in Idaho we were able to hang out with so many friends with whom hanging out was just...EASY. So easy. They knew us well, knew where we came from, knew what we'd been through, just knew US.

I love living here in Texas. I know this is where I'm supposed to be, and I know this is where my family is supposed to be. I love the weather, the culture, the welcoming people, the education...

But I do miss the ease of my old friendships. Friend-making down here has been hard. Not hard to develop acquaintances. Not hard to find people to invite over for meals. Not hard in having a team that I work with who I feel I can be myself with. Not hard in finding church people to connect with.

Friend making has been hard in the sense that I still have very few people I would feel comfortable with just calling and talking with just because. Or even calling to hang out one on one. I feel like there are some people who make friends so easily, and who can just open up and be themselves and have no problem just hanging with people they've only been friends with for short while.

For me, friendships take time...lots of time. Like, years sometimes. And I think that's why it was so easy in Idaho. So many of those friendships were developed over the course of years, sometimes even decades. I could just pick up with them where I'd left off and it was fine...

Here, building relationships take a ton of effort, and many don't even work out. There have been so many times where I have made plans with someone and they cancel last minute leaving me feeling defeated. They probably have easy friendships to go to...I just don't yet.

I see the same things with my kids. They are doing remarkably well in so many areas, but they really don't have friends with whom they have a strong, easy bond with. Not yet, anyway.

So I'll make myself vulnerable on this one...please pray for friends. For me. For my kids. Friends that are encouraging, loyal, and who GET us. And friends who are here. We have old friends whom I love and cherish, and who have stood the test of time. I have no doubt that I have connections with people for whom a friendship like this is possible. This is what's been on my mind and heart, and this is what I would ask your prayers for. And thank you to those of you who are here, and who have been extending welcoming hands to our family.