Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I've been thinking a lot about blessings lately.  The past three weeks have been very busy at work, and I have had a lot on my mind.  Often when I am overwhelmed by things I need to get done, I have a hard time sleeping (I doubt I am alone in this).  But a song has been on my mind through this period.  If you've seen White Christmas, maybe you remember the scene when Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney are sitting up late one night near the fireplace in the lodge and they sing "Count your blessings instead of sheep."

In those times that I had a hard time sleeping, I have been mentally going over the list of things I have been asking God for over the past few years.

Many of you know how difficult this past year was for us.  We were just not prepared for how difficult parenting traumatized children can be.  We had no idea the depths of pain that our girls were dealing with, and we were shocked at how they seemed to take that pain out on us over and over and over again.  I don't think I can ever express in words how miserable we all were during that span from about Oct 2011 to July 2012.  Those of you who were near to us during that time know.  The rest of you will just have to imagine.  The closest thing I can compare it to is torture.  Slowly, daily, we were both worn down.  We were both physically and mentally attacked so many times it became hard to believe that any other life would ever be possible or that we deserved the happy lives our friends seemed to be experiencing.

So our biggest answer to prayer has been a return to normalcy in our home.  Yes, we still have challenges almost daily.  We have two children that are emotionally much closer to 3 than to 8 and 7.  We have to constantly be vigilant to protect our girls from getting too charged up, but we know the triggers now.  We know what to do to avoid going to that terrible place where our daughters need to be restrained for everyone's safety.  The girls are aware of it as well and have talked at length about not throwing fits anymore.  We can do some "normal" things and enjoy them together in moderation.  They are both doing much better in school.  We have teachers and adult friends around them who are aware of how things can be for them and can help. I am more grateful for this change than probably any other answered prayer than I have ever had in my life.

But there are many other blessings I have been counting during these sleepless nights.  I remember a time when I felt I had a lot to offer an employer, and no one would give me a chance.  I remember the decision we made together for me to go into the corporate world once the photography gig ran its course.  We both felt that this would be a difficult transition for me, but a necessary one.  What we didn't know at the time was that it would take nearly three years before I could get on that track that I had envisioned back in late 2007.   I have a great job in a rapidly growing company.  I have been given a position of responsibility and leadership at TrellisWare.  I have been honored with raises and recognition at work.  None of this seemed possible a few years ago.  This blog contains many posts where I complain about fruitless interviews and short-lived opportunities, financial stress and fear.  God has taken us through that time.  We never missed a house payment, we never had to sell all our possessions, and through it all, we have learned the necessary lessons of financial responsibility.  I'm thrilled to be able to report that our mountain of debt will be paid in full sometime around June 2013 (six months earlier than our projections).

I remember a time when we wondered if we would ever be parents.  Last night, we watched The Sound of Music together. I have a mental snapshot of my girls snuggling up on the couch that I will cherish forever.  It is a joy to watch them develop and learn.  The other day, Lynn was reading every sign we drove past. I was remembering how at one time I thought that was a really annoying habit - I think there is a Seinfeld episode about that!  When she did it, I was so proud of her.  I've had bedtime talks with Ohana and enjoyed her heart for others and can see what a loving and caring young lady she is growing into.  In so many ways, the experiences we were hoping for are playing out before our eyes and they are even better than we imagined.

Through it all, Jenetta has been faithful and supportive.  Next week, we will celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary.  Time has flown by, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather have spent it with.  I admire her independence, her tireless research, her consistency with the girls, and so much more.  She is loyal and loving, and exactly what I need.

We are surrounded by friends and family that are doing well and enjoying life.  We have friends that are getting to travel to Hawaii twice this year.  We have friends that are finding love.  We have friends that are enjoying special times with their children, and we have friends that are enjoying challenging and meaningful work.

So during those times when I have a lot on my mind or am stressed out by something I am facing, I have been counting my blessings.  There are so many!

My prayer for you this Christmas is that you can reflect on the joy and answered prayer in your life and that we can all be truly grateful for it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Two good weeks

I know it has been a long time since we posted - several months now. I just got tired of posting how hard it is and complaining about behaviors we are seeing at home.

I even considered just not ever going back to the blog since I can do a 2 second FB status update that reaches most of the same people, and I don't have to bother with writing a long drawn-out essay about how crappy we feel. But there is something good about taking the time to process feelings by writing them out, and it is often helpful for me to review things I've written in the past and re-read comments left by people who love us and support us in so many ways.

The past 6 months have been probably the hardest we have experienced since we've been parents (Almost three years has gone by now!). We are just beginning to understand how much trauma Ohana has been through and how that rejection has damaged her emotionally. She is old enough now to begin processing some of those feelings and to expressed how pissed off she is about it all. We have seen levels of violence and anger from her that is truly frightening. We have had to change work and home schedules to minimize problems or to have me be a physical presence when meltdowns happen. I won't go into the details, but at times it has been very scary for all of us.

Probably the hardest part of this all is the feeling of Lynn, Jenetta, and I all walking on eggshells being extremely careful not to do anything that sets Ohana off. So even when things are quiet for a few days, we live in fear and an exhausting state of hyper-awareness.

With all that being said, the past two weeks have been really good. We have seen several times where Ohana was on the edge and she could easily have chosen to explode and react with violence and anger, but she has been able to calm herself down eventually. That is a really good sign. In the past, it didn't seem as though she was capable of that and sometimes it even seemed like she wanted to go over the edge and erupt in screaming and kicking and destruction. As if somehow that choice was better for her...

We even did something fun as a family this weekend. We haven't been able to do things that are exciting because we would pay for it for days and days afterwards. Jenetta got a free pass for a petting zoo up in Orange County, so we drove up there for the morning and had a fun time together. It started to get really crowded after a while as several birthday party groups assembled, and we could see that it was getting to be overwhelming for Ohana. So we were grateful that we got there early enough to see and do everything they had to offer.

Then we drove to Oceanside and walked out along the pier to enjoy lunch together at Ruby's. The day made Ohana very tired, and she was a little challenging to deal with, but once we got home for a nap, she was fine.

A few weeks ago, we would not have been able to do an activity like this, and if we had forced it, we would have seen meltdowns and aftershocks for many days following.

So it was good to feel like a normal family if even for a few hours.

If you are praying for us, please continue to pray for Ohana that she feels safe and secure. That is her biggest need right now and something that we work toward in nearly every way we interact with her.

Here are some videos of our outing:

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