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Cave to Cliff

One woman's journey from darkness to light

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September, In Which We Begin Again

Autumn is in full swing with the first good rain visiting us in the last day or so. The temps at night have dipped low enough that we no longer keep the fan in our window as we sleep. Our air conditioner has run on high for much of the summer, but it’s been absolutely quiet for days.

I love it. This is my absolute favorite time of year.

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Ireland is now in the 8th grade, her final year at school up on the hill. Volleyball is in full swing and we are having so much fun cheering her and her team on. Watching her play volleyball and basketball have become one of my favorite things to do!

Sage is in now a Sophomore. He’s loving his drama class and comes home every day telling us all about it. He has been chosen for the part he wanted and has plans on how to execute it well. I can’t wait to see the play!

Lennox and I are both encouraged in the growth of the kids over the summer. It started a little rough and we’ve had some challenging moments. Yet, we have all grown in relationship with one another. Both of the kids are more open in talking about some struggles and we all really enjoy being together. We love how each one of the kids will come home and chat with us for a long time about their day.

Last spring Lennox and I attended a training that specialized in how to connect with our teens and help them heal. It was specifically for parents of kids from hard places i.e. adoption, foster care, trauma, etc. The main thing we took away from it was to have one-on-one time with each child every week for about an hour. No screen time or money spending and the it’s totally child directed. It was hard at first and not very enjoyable for any of us, but we kept it up. No matter what, the kids couldn’t lose this time with us. Even if they had been raging and angry, when our time came around for one-on-one time we did it. We had already been doing weekly Family Nights, so with that we just made sure we kept it up consistently. If we were all separated for a couple of days for any reason we made sure to have a Family Night right away. It helps ground us all by connecting as a family again.

As any foster/adoptive family knows, navigating trauma triggers can be tricky and can come at you from out of nowhere. It can be something a friend or family member said, a a birthday (which it often is), maybe it’s food, or any number of things that we have yet to discover. We just had our first fall birthday of the household, 3 more to go before Christmas is here. All of these can be hard. Valuing relationship over everything, including poor choices and behavior has helped make these challenges more smooth.

One of our great successes involves laundry. One of my kids hates mixing their laundry with any one else’s, even if it’s a only a sock. They’ll take everything out of the washer to start their own laundry. In the past, if I’d ask them to just leave a few of the towels in there to get washed with their laundry it would set them off. The other day they came to me saying, “Mama, does the laundry in the washer need to be washed and do you have anything to wash? I just have a few things I want washed.” What? This is a HUGE thing to us.

As we are flying through the month of September we are feeling so encouraged in how things are going. We are looking forward to little Christopher’s 2nd birthday party this month. October brings a birthday and pumpkin patching. November brings 2 birthdays, Thanksgiving, and a baby shower for a new grandson. Then Christmas comes along with said grandson being born around then.

What are you most looking forward to this fall?

 

 

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Total Eclipse of the Heart

Today is the first time in 38 years a total eclipse has been visible in our part of the world. There are countless memes, millions of travelers, and lots of money exchanging hands to capitalize on this event.

Yet for me, I’m remembering a different kind of eclipse. 33 years ago on this day I woke up knowing it was the day my mom would die. My 9 year old self just knew. My dad asked me that morning if I was coming with him to the hospital to see her. I replied, “No, I don’t want to see her die. She told me not to.” His eyes were sad as he turned to leave. He simply said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.” I did want to see her, but she told me not to so I didn’t go.

I spend the day 4 houses down from my own house. We were sitting down to eat dinner. I remember looking around the table and feeling like everything was quickly fading away. I started crying and screaming, “She’s dead!”. I have a vague memory of my friend’s dad carrying up the stairs to her room. I must have fallen asleep. Next thing I know, my dad is at the front door. I take one look at him and run home. I burst through the door to see my sister and her husband (at the time) in our living room. I think he told me mom had died, but I can’t remember the words.

Anguish overtook me. The world literally went black for me.

Nothing was the same after that.

I had already spent my early years feeling out of place as the brown adopted kid that wasn’t wanted. The days and weeks after that only confirmed the lie I believed about not belonging. It followed me around for decades and even now will rear it’s ugly head. Only now I can recognize it as a lie and dispel it before it has any power over me.

I spend the next 6-7 years crying myself to sleep every night. In fact, I think I’ve spent more than half my life crying myself to sleep. I spent decades entertaining suicidal thoughts and basking in depression. A quiet rage filled me. Sometimes it wasn’t so quiet.

I missed having mom at my highschool graduation. When she was in the hospital she told me to promise her that I’d graduate from highschool and not do drugs. I was committed to that. I was the first girl in our family to graduate from highschool. I don’t know if she did and I can’t imagine her mama did either since it wasn’t so common for a woman to do so back then.

I missed having her as a grandma to my firstborn.

I missed holidays. They pretty much quit after she died.

I missed watching Portland wrestling with her. My dad would watch it with me, but it wasn’t the same.

I remember her and a friend, Lois, singing Goodnight Irene. We were sitting at the kitchen table. I was in my dad’s chair as the two old ladies sang Good Night Irene. For some reason, it’s this moment that stands out to me. Her laughter came easily that evening and her green eyes shone brightly. I was sent to bed soon after that. I loved falling asleep listening to them laugh together.

I recently went to Buck Hollow Cemetery where my parents are buried. As I entered the graveyard I could clearly remember that first moment at the funeral. A group of people gathered, lots of flowers, and people looking at me with sad eyes. I’m seated in the front row. I look at the flowers and think, “Mom would like those flowers.” Then I remember why we’re there. I can’t remember crying. I don’t think I cried much in front of people. I’m more of a lone cryer.

Who was going to take care of me?
Who would love me?
How am I supposed to live without her?

I really did feel like life stopped for me.

I was surviving until I died and I hoped that happened sooner than later.

Those feelings have changed now. I don’t want to die. More than ever, I want to live fully in this life I’ve given.

I still wonder what it would have been like having a mom in my teen years. Yet, I’m also incredibly grateful for my life, even life without her. My dad was the best dad ever. I miss him more than I can even describe.

I will watch this eclipse with my family and friends. I will fully enjoy every moment with them.

What are your plans on this eclipse day?

 

 

 

 

 

Three Months

Well, we’ve made it to the 3 month mark, people! You know what that means, right? On the 14th of each month we dress up in our wedding clothes.

So, here we are after church with a small group of people that we had lunch with afterwards.

Church was special yesterday. It was an all worship day. The musicians are skilled with hearts for worship. Lennox does a brilliant job of bringing people from different backgrounds to mesh beautifully into one amazing worship band. We had visitors from several churches blessing us with their voice or instrument.

Afterward, we threw together a potluck with several of the visiting musicians and some new friends that came down from Portland. If you ever have the chance to meet Edwin and Lisa, do NOT pass by that opportunity! Their story of how the met one another and how they met Jesus is nothing short of amazing.

I left with my heart full. I love how sitting around a few tables sharing food can bring all our hearts together. There is purpose in eating together.

Our hearts bond. Our tummies get filled. We get to know people outside of rushed conversations after church. We begin to dwell together.

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A Day To Remember

Life is precious. It’s short. We get old and talk about how quickly life passes us by. A loved one dies and not matter how old that person is, it simply wasn’t enough time with them.

I went on a walk with my dog today. We cried. Okay, I cried. I cried because I’m so proud of my oldest son, Christopher. He’s been in Georgia at boot camp then his cavalry scout training. I’m so happy for him and I’m so sad for me that I couldn’t also be there. (Truth be told, I’m struggling with feeling angry, left out, and jealous about the whole thing, too. Yes, I realize it’s wasted energy to entertain those emotions.)

Winter sent me a short video clip of the end of the graduation ceremony. I cried then, too. My little boy has become a man. The baby picture of him is when he was 10 months old on our first Mother’s Day together. Now, he’s a 20 year old military man. I don’t know how these 20 years have past so quickly. One day he’s here cuddling with me on the couch and the next day he’s a soldier. One day he’s telling you all about Star Wars characters and the next day…oh wait, that hasn’t changed. He can still talk all about that.

This day feels important. A day that we’ll come back to.

Life

We never know how much time we get to be in relationship with the ones we love. This photo is such a good reminder to me.

8 years ago I was given this card, flower, and key ring full of encouragement from my friend Sarah. She had enlisted the help of another friend, as well. Here’s what I wrote about this in a previous blog:

This is a gift I found on my table one morning after dragging myself out of bed. In fact, it was the Fourth of July. I had kept my kids up really late the night before so they would sleep in and not be so tired for the celebration that night. I also wanted to sleep in. I did hear my door open, but I thought perhaps the kids were letting a cat in or out of the house. I had no idea that I had a visitor. She let me sleep. This friend knew I was having a hard time getting out of bed each day so she came up with 32 reasons why I should. I keep them with me. I pressed the rose petals in my Bible where they remind me of the love of my friend. The still smell good. I cried as I read them out loud to my children. When I am stuck in my cave, afraid to move, I look at these to remind me why.

Sweet Sarah went home to Jesus 3 years ago today. I think of her crazily dancing with our Jesus and making people laugh. I love that she was never afraid to ask the hard questions and loved you even if the answers weren’t pretty.

Another dear friend of mine, Elaine, went to be with Jesus recently. I’m nearly laughing at the thought of those 2 together! It’s a riot up there!

Mensiversary

That is to say, it’s the one month anniversary of my wedding. I can’t really say “anniversary” can I? After all, it hasn’t been a year. According to the website Grammarphobia, the correct word for monthly anniversary is “mensiversary”. Honestly, it sounds too much like a female bodily function for me to be comfortable in using it. So, I’ll just continue using the word “anniversary” incorrectly.

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I had to run in my heels through rough terrain from my camera to Lennox in only 10 seconds since I had set the timer on my camera to get this shot!

I cringe a little when I begin to say this has been the best month of my life. There is pain in that statement. There have been amazingly great things about it, but there have been some challenging and downright scary moments, too.

If you’ve been reading my blog or know me at all, you’ll recall that a few of my children are adopted. With that comes some emotional and mental challenges often caused by early childhood trauma. They live in a constant state of fight or flight and any sort of change can trigger it.

Marriage is a BIG change! I knew there would be rough times. The kids and I have been together for 10 years, I know their triggers. I know that having a dad in the home will be scary since they’ve never had one stick around. In their minds they wonder if they are the reason they’ve never had a dad. As adults with life experience we know that’s not true, but their little hearts don’t. There is the fear that they will, once again, be left by a man who promises them he’ll always be there. So, they yell and scream and demand my attention late into the night.

I may have been a little naive to think that this wouldn’t be such a challenging month. Police were called and DHS came for a ‘friendly’ visit. I was afraid. Other foster/adoptive parents assured me and let me know that I had a good clean 10 year run with no investigations, it was bound to happen. I’m not sure that it was put quite like that, but that’s what I heard. In this world of parenting kids from hard places this in not unheard of. Our kids are literally running scared. It can cause PTSD and secondary trauma in us parents or other siblings. I can feel tears rise to the surface and my heart clench as I wrote that last sentence.  I went over to the blog: Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent to link back to their latest post about trauma. I looked through the post only briefly as to not get distracted, but my heart was in my throat and I wanted to cry.

Why do I want to cry right now? Is it because the weight of my children’s heartache is too great for me to bear? Is it relief at knowing I’m not alone in this journey, that we’re not alone? Am I worried for my new husband? What if he starts showing signs of PTSD or secondary trauma, what then? Or is it simply the realization that this unrest and pain is real? I’m not making it up.

Maybe it’s all of the above. 

Here’s what I do know as truth.

We were all meant to be in this family together. God is in this and with us. His word says He will never leave us. This battle is spiritual. Therefore, my weapons need to be out of this world, too.

Lennox and I have a great routine of reading the Bible and praying together each morning. I’ve been writing in my gratitude journal and steeping myself in the Word. I am listening to other believing men and women who encourage and teach me. There is hope beyond hope. I think it’s in Nehemiah where I read something to the effect “we are prisoners of hope”. I read that many years ago as a young woman, it has stuck with me. We cannot escape hope. Christ is our Hope.

It is so good to have a husband. I feel stronger. I am able to face battles that I couldn’t withstand before. This marriage thing is good.

I am happy. I’ve never known what that is before.

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Whew! I made it this time! 

On the 14th of every month we will dress in our wedding attire and take some pictures. Today we went to therapy and the DMV before stopping in a field for pictures.

(Lennox isn’t wearing his wedding shirt because it’s at the cleaners. Oops.)

 

Woop Woop! I’m Married!

Well, as of today I’ve been married for 9 days! Eeeek!!!

I don’t even know what to say about it! There is so much in my heart to say! I love being married. My wedding was amazing. I have so many friend that helped make it a stupendous day. I feel so loved. I am so loved. There were so many people there! There wasn’t even enough room for people to sit or even be in the same room. Standing room only that poured out into the foyer! Wow!!!!

I have heard stories about weddings being so stressful. That wasn’t my experience. At one point I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me because I didn’t feel stress. Then I realized that feeling stressed was totally unnecessary! We’re having a party! We’re celebrating an incredible story of healing, redemption, and restoration!

Here’s a short clip of a fun time of us dancing during the ceremony.

I have much stirring in my heart about getting married and the changes that are already happening, but those will have to wait. I have a bedroom to rearrange!

You can read more about us from Lennox’s point of view over on his blog at lennoxfleary.com

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Blurry Days

Days are passing by so quickly. So much is happening and yet, there is still so much to be done. I am awake at 1:30 a.m. It is now Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday literally flew by. 

I can barely remember Monday! I do know that Ireland, Chani, and I got pedicures together. I also got some fake nails so my hands will look nice for photos. I had no idea that my fingers would ache when I got home! I laid in bed wondering if it was worth it! The pedicure was nice, though. Ireland thought some of it felt funny, I think it tickled her. At one point she reached over to hold my hand. Sweet memory right there. 

Tuesday morning Lennox made breakfast for his mom, dad, and I. Since they’ve been here I haven’t cooked. So I told them that I really did know how to cook. Lennox said I’m busy planning a wedding so I’m off the hook. 

After breakfast my friend, Alex, came over and helped out SO much! The night before she had texted to see what I needed help with. I told her I was doing alright, I would just be cleaning. I hated to ask someone to help me clean and organize, but she jumped at that idea. I’m so glad she did! I got to spend time and get to know her more in addition to having cleaner cabinets! She also attacked Ireland’s room. So that was a huge burden off of me. 

Alex took Marcella (Lennox’s mom) and I out to lunch while Lennox and his dad, Leo, went to fetch a nice fridge for us. There was lots of rearranging and cleaning happening today. Lennox kept escorting me out of the kitchen and telling me that it’s all going to be alright. It was chaotic and I was having a hard time envisioning the end result. 

There are so many amazing things happening! I don’t even know if I can possibly express all that I’m feeling. I want to be so present in what’s happening each day while not losing sight of my goals ahead. 

For now my next goal is sleep. By the time this is published I will have been up for awhile already!

We Survived Mother’s Day 2016

I’m just gonna say it right off the bat. Sometimes Mother’s Day is really hard. I’ve written about it on this blog many times. Neglect, foster care, adoption, and other traumas can leave their scars on us. I wrote blog in 2014 of how good Mother’s Day was. Last year wasn’t a disaster, either. This year wasn’t too terribly trauma inducing.

Listen, I have a wedding coming up. My parents are dead. I’m feeling rather orphaned at times. Then I come home and kid acts out and I’m so over it. So the other kid and I get away for some time together. It was a blurb of sadness and frustration in a whole day of goodness.

First of all, Christopher calls me from basic training. It’s Mother’s Day and he gets to call his mama. I’m so glad to hear his voice. He tells me of how he wants more mail and how he earned the rank of expert in marksmanship. He’s working hard and keeping his head above water. He has no idea when I’m getting married or if I am already. I think he’s lost track of time. It’s so good to talk with him. When we get off the phone Ireland and I sit together crying because we miss him so much.

Lennox made us a good lunch! There were pigeon peas grown by his father, pumpkin also grown by his father, fried potato, fried plantain, rice, and a drink made from sorrel that his father grew. It was so good. His father told him, “You did good, son.” That was a beautiful moment right there. What son doesn’t want to hear that?

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After our lunch some of us rested for awhile. When I woke up I went to go see Winter and the baby. She gave me such a lovely card and gift. I reread the card just a few minutes ago and I wanted to cry. I love our story and how our family has been formed over this past year. It’s so beautiful. I’m so grateful!

_MG_0516Then for our final meal of the day, Mom and Dad make what Lennox called “bakes”. It’s a bread that is lightly fried. It’s thicker than an elephant ear. It’s more like a bun or biscuit. Lennox tells me that he would eat it with egg, cheese, or peanut butter. What he didn’t tell me is that he’d eat it with cheese AND peanut butter. He sliced that baby open, covered the inside with peanut butter, then layered cheese on it. What kind of crazy is that? I tasted it. It wasn’t horrible so I had to taste it again!

It is Monday the 9th. I marry Lennox in 5 days. It’s coming up so fast. I am soaking in these last few days before becoming a Fleary. I want to remember so many things. I don’t know if I can. It feels like this is a sacred time.

Dear Winter – Happy Mother’s Day

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Dear Winter,

Remember this day? It’s a memorable one, for sure. I don’t know what you were feeling and thinking, but I was thinking “I can’t believe I’m becoming a grandma! I felt so  unprepared.  I was afraid that I wouldn’t love you and the baby enough. As soon as we knew the baby was going to be a boy Christopher told me to call Lennox. I remember having to force out the words, “It’s a boy!” as I held back tears. Love for you and this baby flooded my entire being.

_MG_7610A few days later we went to an Iris Festival. I think we were all underwhelmed with the entire experience, but maybe we were there for just this shot. It’s one of my most favorite pictures of you.

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I couldn’t resist this one. Erica is telling you stories of bears in Canada where she grew up. I love the look on your face. I feel like this was our first field trip together! I think we need to take a trip up to the zoo again!

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Ah, my son’s first Father’s day. I know this is a Mother’s day post, but I had to include this one. This is beautiful to me.

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Ah, dearest Winter, you are a warrior. I can’t look at this picture without feeling intense pride at how strong you were through labor. I feel like those days laboring together bonded us. It revealed to me what incredibly strong women we both are.

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Winter, I love you so much. You have brought so much joy into our family. You’ve reminded me how to laugh and relax a little.My son is a better man now than he was before you. He is doing many brave things these days. My children have learned to expand their love and not be afraid.

Happy Mother’s Day, beautiful one. You are such an important part of who we are as a family.

I’m so grateful for you.

Love,

Ma!

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