Surviving the Valley Series

Surviving the Valley Series
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Thursday, November 24, 2022

30 days of Gratitude

Well, I had all intentions of getting a pumpkin and writing something I'm thankful for on it every day this month. I saw it on Facebook and thought it was really cute. But, I missed almost half the month before I got home, and then I never got a pumpkin. So, I'll write all 30 here, even though the month isn't quite over yet. 

This year I am especially thankful for:

  1. All 3 of my boys (David, Juan David, and Julian) and the distinct relationship I have with each of them, even from a distance.
  2. David's positive attitude despite a huge (and humbling) disruption to his life.
  3. A peaceful location to live (though the house isn't the most peaceful place to live in just yet)
  4. The possibilities and potential that lay ahead on our new property
  5. The chance to see a few friends (and family) on my unexpected trip to Dallas to help David after his accident and surgery, especially the friend who I've been missing the most
  6. A chance to spend a few extra days with my mom and dad this last month and a couple quick visits with my brother and his wife (had to be quick because they were both really sick)
  7. Prayers being answered at New Song with new houseparents moving in soon and then several students moving in at the beginning of the New Year
  8. An incredible team to work with at New Song
  9. A teammate who shares my passion for missions and ministry
  10. A beautiful place to work that truly feels like home
  11. Staff meetings that start with prayer
  12. A chance to work in ministry, specifically with the Mom's retreat we just had in October, pampering the moms of old and new students and/or campers at New Song
  13. A chance to see a few old coworkers from Bullock Elementary for a brief few minutes while in Texas, specifically two special ladies that have been through significant loss that I got to hug and let them know personally that I am praying often for them.
  14. People who helped financially toward our airline tickets to not make the trip to Texas and back a burden
  15. A close relationship with my sister-in-law, Chrissy, and our deep conversations we get into about life and spiritual things
  16. A chance to get to be in my little nephews' and my young niece's life
  17. Chrissy's family and the way they have loved on us so much and just consider us family
  18. A chance to spend more time with my mother-in-law and get to know her in a way I never have before
  19. A husband who enjoys what he does and has a more predictable and manageable work schedule
  20. The chance to see Mike and his brother (sometimes brothers) together so often
  21. A pastor (previously a youth pastor) who has always cared so much about my son
  22. A new church with a huge heart for missions and outreach and new friends there that really inspire me
  23. A chance to mentor a young friend and know that God is using experiences in my life to help guide her
  24. LakePointe Church and the way I can stay connected through online services on Saturday nights, different groups that connect digitally on a weekly and monthly basis
  25. The chance to still attend LakePointe with David (when he's in Texas) because he texts me often to say he's there and then I jump online to "attend" with him
  26. My friend Martha (and her husband Warren), who demonstrated true friendship to me and my family in a million ways over the last month, starting with dropping everything on her schedule at a moment's notice to drive to the hospital 40 minutes away to be there for my son in his greatest hours of need when I was a thousand miles away, staying with my other son to wait through David's entire surgery, showing up early at the hospital the next morning to talk with the doctors, and then opening her home to both of us for almost three weeks while we waited for his first follow up appointment before we could make plans to travel home. During those weeks, she opened her home to anyone who wanted to visit us and even let me invite family over to celebrate Juan's birthday with him. They also let me drive Warren's car any time I needed or wanted to go anywhere. I honestly think I could have filled all 30 days and more with all that I'm grateful to them for. I can never repay them for all they did for us (not that they would ever want to be repaid), but I hope I can pay it forward to a friend in need in the future some day. I never even reached out to her personally when the accident happened. She just responded to to a group prayer request that I sent as soon as I found out that David needed surgery. Friends like that are priceless, and I hope that David and I both can learn to be that kind of friend to others.
  27. Friends that intentionally keep in touch or write to me
  28. Progress on my house and the hardworking, talented men who have done the bulk of the work (and the friends who have come over to help with smaller, but tedious jobs on the house, like painting--I can't tell you how thankful I felt to come home to painted walls and trim in my kitchen, living room, and hallway.)
  29. Not having to miss either of my boys' birthdays with them, even though I moved pretty far away
  30. A Black Friday reunion with a close friend who will always be family (can't wait till tomorrow!)
Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Making ourselves at home

I got Juan to come over one last time after work so I had a chance to get another picture, another hug, and say goodbye again. This time goodbye consisted of: Happy your brother's birthday, Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year. I was just thankful he had the chance to swing by and eat a quick dinner with us one last time. 

We are "home" now and still trying to settle in after a whirlwind of a month. Today was the first day I've actually had to be able to be still and feel like I could catch my breath. I ended up getting sick with a nasty head cold for a few days from getting very little sleep the last night there (waiting up for David when he went out with his college buddies one last time) and the first night home (getting in at 2:30 a.m. and waking up to my cats at 6:00ish), and just over-extending myself catching up on doing laundry (not at home), getting groceries (after not shopping for 3 weeks), seeing family (for the duration of a Cowboy's game), and celebrating David's birthday (at a movie till 10:30 at night). So I spent Friday night in bed, all day Saturday in bed, and then we did online church today so I could just rest and make sure I'm well enough for work tomorrow (no, we don't get the whole week of Thanksgiving off here, just Thursday and Friday). Thankfully I feel 90% better today than yesterday.  I think God and my body just found a way to force me to stay home and rest. 

David and I flew back to Indiana on Friday, November 11th. We really struggled to know the best way to get him home (and almost resorted to our friends' offer to drive us home), but after David got new casts on on at his appointment on Tuesday, everything started to change. He got the use of his elbows back, and his wrists felt much more secure and stable in the new casts, so he started using his fingers a lot more. Within 24 hours, he found himself able to eat finger foods by himself, use a fork and spoon, put on and remove certain items of clothing, and hold and manipulate his phone a little more easily. So we decided we could attempt a normal flight, as long as it was a non-stop flight so he could avoid a restroom as much as possible. We checked in all of our luggage except for our backpacks, and our friend Warren helped us get the luggage up to the counter. Once we got to the gate, we explained (showed) his handicap, and they let us pre-board. That was a big concern, especially on Southwest because there are no assigned seats. We needed a middle seat and an aisle seat, leaving the window seat open for a last minute person boarding. Thankfully, it all worked out just right. 

Our flight got in a little early, and we got off just fine without any issues. But Mike got stuck trapped in a bunch of traffic outside the airport, and he couldn't park to come in to help us with our luggage. We waited and waited for a really long time before any of the luggage came out for our plane, and then when it finally did, we found one of our suitcases open in a container because the zipper had completely broken. (Could be my own fault for packing it too full???) When I saw my underwear hanging out, I knew we had a problem. LOL. This definitely added a bit of stress to the fact that I was already trying to figure out how to handle 3 suitcases and 2 backpacks without David's help. When I figured out there was no way to close the suitcase, I had to figure out what to do with the luggage. So, we put the winter jacket on David, shoved the other winter jacket into one of the other suitcases, and shoved all the underwear, socks, and shirts into the 2 backpacks. Poor David was beyond frustrated that he couldn't help, and then once he had a jacket on, it wasn't obvious why he wasn't helping. I left David with the broken suitcase and a backpack, while I wheeled the other two suitcases and my backpack out to the truck sitting in park right outside our gate. I couldn't even hug Mike because he then rushed in to help David with the broken suitcase and his own backpack.  Not quite the reunion I envisioned after being apart for 3 weeks, nor the way Mike wanted to welcome David back to Indiana under his already unfortunate circumstances. I probably could have asked for help, but well, you know me. We figured it out. So, the flight was fine, and all went well, except for that last hiccup.

Then we still had an hour or so to drive home after that. David was hungry and wanted to stop at McDonald's, but we quickly found out that Indiana is not like Dallas. Not many things are open 24 hours. So we pulled in to our driveway around 2:30 in the morning. Just in time for the grand tour! The house didn't look the same as I left it 3 weeks prior, and David hadn't seen it at all since we looked at it for the first time back on July 20th, when it was filled to the brim with stuff everywhere and the walls looked like a clown had thrown up inside. 

When I left, we had absolutely everything in the living room. Mike and I had been painting the spare bedroom so we could at least sleep and have our stuff in a more private location when people came over to help work on the house. We had two fireplace looking heaters that kept us pretty warm at night. We had plywood sitting on the counters for a makeshift countertop. The sink was hooked up enough to use with a 5 gallon bucket underneath, so you had to use the water sparingly and make sure you emptied the bucket outside often before it got too heavy and ended up splashing all over the place. We had a microwave, stove, and oven, but none were hooked up yet, so I did all my cooking with an electric skillet or a crockpot. The other two bedrooms were completely unusable and shut off at all times. The basement wall was 3/4 of the way done, probably. I will not say that I was at all disappointed to stay in a finished house for awhile in Texas. 

I knew that Mike worked non-stop while I was gone (except for a couple times to celebrate his birthday with family), but he wouldn't show me pictures or tell me anything he was doing. He didn't want me to have any opportunity to set myself up for something and then be disappointed, and he just wanted me to be surprised. He did warn me, though, that I was still coming home to a lot of unfinished, still-in-process projects. 

My new countertops, and flowers and a candle that Chrissy's mom left for me after working for several days at the house. 

The one and only closet in the house for now that Mike worked super hard to completely redo with new drywall and everything. Now we all three are sharing it. 

One of the heaters in the room (which actually keeps it quite toasty), a new door, new trim around the door, and freshly painted walls (painted paneling, actually) with a toasted almond color that I picked out. 

A new little cabinet/counter that Chrissy's dad built for us to fill in the space between the stove and the wall. It's just not set in yet. 

The stove and microwave are hooked up now, but the propane tank is still empty, so I still can't use the stove or oven. But, hey, the microwave is a big step up from where we were. 

My sink is fully functional now, as well as the garbage disposal. 

Chrissy's dad removed the built in cutting board and made me a new one. 
(He's very crafty with any wood-working task).

The spare bedroom walls (painted paneling). Mike and I took the spare room for now, and David took the mattress in the living room so he can stay up later than me. 

The doorway they framed/built between the other two bedrooms, making it a doorway from the master bedroom into what will be the master bath and large walk-in closet. 

A new window in the master bedroom.

A now bigger master bedroom (after they extended the wall 19 inches, plus they put in a new door. Mike hoped so badly to finish this room and get our bed here from storage before we got back, but he just ran out of time. It will be done soon enough, though. 

An elongated living room (with an 18 inch longer wall, a freshly painted wall, a fully-functional woodburning stove, a red-brick platform, some firewood outside, and a new electric-reclining leather couch (that we found on market place and picked up Saturday night). 

We also got our table from storage, so it will be nice to eat our dinners as a family at the table rather than on plastic trays in the living room. 

A room ready for the foam insulation guy to come insulate it so it won't be so chilly in there! (It's been in the teens and 20's at night the last few days!)

After the grand tour, I fell immediately asleep, only to wake up super early to two cats who wanted fed and a lot of snow falling. A few hours later, I went out to get a massive amount of groceries, came home and took a long nap before we went back out to go pick up a couch.

Sunday we went to church, went out to eat, went to storage to get our table and some cubbies to store our clothes, went to New Song to do laundry, and went to Matt and Chrissy's for dinner and to watch the Cowboys' game. Monday and Tuesday I took David to work with me, and Wednesday he went to work with Mike. Somehow he turned 21 overnight, so we went out for dinner at Chili's after work (while it snowed for his birthday), and then we went to see Black Panther--Wakonda Forever, a Marvel movie that had just come out a few days earlier. Surprisingly, it looked like we had the whole theater to ourselves (except for the 6 people that trickled in right before it started). 

Not the 21st birthday party he envisioned, but it warmed my heart to spend it with him. Even Matt and Chrissy couldn't join us because all their kids got sick. But we'll get a cake and have a postponed celebration with them later. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Blessings I never could have seen coming

David breaking both of his arms and getting wheeled straight into surgery definitely wasn't on anyone's radar. We all dove into this new chapter of life courageously, each of us looking forward to the adventure ahead. Mike and I looked forward to the experience of an empty nest and the ability to both do what we love and what energizes us. Juan looked forward to having his own space to decorate in his own way and not living on anyone else's schedule for the first time. David looked forward to increased independence to match his independent spirit. That's not to say we all didn't have to swallow something hard in seeing our family spread out, but these are the things we looked forward to experiencing over the next year or so. 

But not even four months into this new season, and the adventure scene looks quite differently than any of us ever dreamed. Our empty nest is soon to be full again with a very independent young adult son having to depend on us for most of his needs over the next two months. Juan's apartment is coming together very slowly, though I will give him credit for sticking to his desire and making it exactly like he wants it. That takes determination and patience that a lot of guys his age don't have. I admire him for it, actually. And David, well, he's super thankful to have his elbows back now that they gave him smaller casts and he's able to use his fingers a little more now, but he's still not too thrilled about this huge interruption to his junior year, his social life, all his canceled plans, and most certainly his upcoming 21st birthday less than a week away. Instead of experiencing prime independence, he'll spend it a thousand miles away from his friends and housemates, with his parents (and other family that will be thrilled to see him and love on him), and will need help to cut his steak that we'll have to order from his favorite restaurant to take home and eat. 

But, alas, it's time for me to go home and taking him with me is really the only option that makes sense at this point. He can't go back to school this semester, and his needs are too many and too personal to leave him with anyone else. 

So tomorrow evening we will attempt traveling by plane together back to Indianapolis. I ordered his ticket with a note that he'll need special assistance. We'll need to get there pretty early to ask for any assistance they can give and hopefully get to board early, but thankfully the flight is only two hours. At least he has his elbows and can sit a little bit more comfortably than he could the last two weeks. 

While it's been super nice having this unexpected "break" and ability to see family and friends that I didn't think I'd see again for quite a while yet, I'm anxious to get back to my husband, my kitties, Mike's family that I'm growing closer to every day, my new job, my New Song family (and yes, that's really what it feels like at New Song), and my new community that I've been building little by little. As much as I've loved being back in Texas for the last three weeks almost, I know it's not home. I'm a guest here now, as my home and my classroom now belong to someone else. 

I think being here has made me realize that, as much as home hasn't really existed over the last four months because I've had no place to settle in, home is where my husband is. And I know he's been working doubly hard while I've been gone to make our home a cozy place to finally start to settle in. He's only given me a couple sneak peek pictures, so I am super excited to see what all he's done. 

Here are some pics in random order of some fun and memorable adventures we've had here, despite the double broken arms. 

Corn dogs from a place called Two Hands, something David doesn't really have right now. The corn dogs were good, though!

Some good food from Raising Cane's. Been missing it in Indiana!

Watching church online on a big screen!

David's first time getting dressed up to go to church a week after he got out of the hospital.

Attending service at Lake Pointe Firewheel, where we attended and served for 12 years--pretty much for all of David's school years. That pastor up front started as a youth intern when David was in sixth grade, moved up to be the youth pastor, then moved up to be the campus pastor, and he's now someone David considers a very close friend and mentor. Love that guy. 

David determined to find a way to communicate with his friends

Driving by my old house, knowing somebody else owns it now

Celebrating my boys' birthday month with them

A friend brought us coffees, and said, "Merry Christmas!" Lol. Starbucks, it's too early for that, especially if Pumpkin Spice is still on the menu. 

Two new fall shirts (funny how fall weather is just starting to come around here, while winter is pushing in pretty quickly in Indiana already)

There are not words to describe the blessing to be able to spend the day (and two more) with this friend

Visiting our favorite coffee shop, though I'm not sure I like the way it's been repainted and redecorated now that it changed hands in management.

You know you're staying with a good friend when you find your own books tucked away in her library, the room where I'm staying. 

A visit from Uncle Matt and Sam
A visit from a high school buddy from church
With a really sweet gift basket filled with our favorite treats

Getting to celebrate Juan David's 25th birthday

Juan David got to play a virtual reality game at our friends' house

Which let him take a virtual reality visit to Colombia

to the market on Monserrate

to the park where he used to play soccer
to the streets he grew up on
to the different houses in his orphanage

and even to our new house in Columbus, Indiana

David getting the first splints removed for x-rays

Seeing the pins for the first time made him pretty nauseous

Getting the stitches out from the surgery where they put the plates in both of his arms

Getting new casts, BELOW the elbows this time!

All set

Twin teachers with matching shirts!

David's last night out with his buddies

I got to go to my ReEngage group, visit Bullock Elementary to specifically see two very special friends that I've stayed in touch with, watch one of my toughest students from last year literally run as fast as he could down the hallway to give me one of the most endearing hugs I've ever gotten from a student, go out for coffee with my bestie, visit twice with another close friend, have lunch twice with my parents and spend a few other times with my mom, visit with my brother and sister-in-law, go to DBU twice, go to my favorite bookstore, and spend a lot of good, quality time with my son. Everything I've needed has been provided while we've been here. Yes, we'll have a lot of medical bills coming in, but God has made it obvious that He's always ahead of us, preparing a way. It's all been a huge blessing that I never could have asked for. 

But now I'm ready to get back to these two guys, 

Mike and Boots (and Spaz, who didn't get in the picture)

and the rest of the Alspaugh family, who happen to be standing in front of our new church, Terrace Lake Church (that we call Mini LakePointe), where we hope to build relationships as real and as deep as the ones we have here.