"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Full Disclosure

It has been so long since I’ve blogged that I almost don’t remember how! But I need to get some stuff out…I have agonized over whether or not to share, but in the interest of honesty, vulnerability, and transparency, I feel that it’s something I need to do. For one thing, it will feel good to get it out. And for another, maybe my experience (and musings!) can help someone.

When the great Colorado Flood of 2013 hit our town on September 12, we had already had a rough few months. Among many, many things, we were down to one vehicle and were about to spend $1200 to get Ryan’s car out of the shop.  The day of the flood, I sat in my office at work hearing horror stories of what was going on in Aurora…roads closed, ceilings falling in, etc. Our family room carpet had been damp that morning, and my imagination began to run wild picturing what may have happened to our home in the hours we were away. I was my family’s sole transportation, so at 1:00, I headed out to pick Ryan up from work. Rain pelted my windshield, and the highway was nearly empty and felt very lonely, like a scene out of an end-of-the-world movie. Entire stretches were blocked off. I finally made it to his restaurant, and thus began the obstacle of picking up Ryley from school. The three miles between Ryan’s work and Ryley’s school were the most treacherous and hardest hit in the main metro area. We navigated westward and found ourselves winding our way through back roads, as many routes had been closed due to flooding. Water was about 18 inches deep in places, and cars were pulled over and stalled out along the road. People were wading through water. I tried to stay on the highest part of the street, but it didn’t really matter. It was bad everywhere, and it was each man for himself. At one point, I remember panicking about a large wave of water coming my direction and pulling quickly into an empty lot to try and avoid it, only to find that there was no way out of the lot without either flooding our engine or driving through a 300-foot-stretch of sharp rocks and risking puncturing a tire.  It was insane. All the streets surrounding Ryley’s school were literally closed with blockades set up, and we had to backtrack and wind our way through a neighborhood to come in a back way. Ryan ran through the rain to get Ryley, where he stood in line with 12 other parents and got grief from the unsympathetic front office staff, who obviously hadn’t been hearing the news.  The ride home was even more insane. The main road was closed, so we cut through yet another neighborhood, where a man standing in the street flagged us down and said, “You can’t come this way; there’s been a terrible accident down there!” Some roads had been completely washed out, and there was a sinkhole in one. All we wanted was to get safely home, and there seemed to be numerous obstacles in our way.  It was the craziest few hours of our lives – apocalyptic, adventurous, and (mass destruction aside), kind of fun. I never felt like our lives were seriously in danger, but it was certainly an ordeal I will never forget.

We finally made it home, and Ryan ran downstairs to check on our damp carpet. Well, it was more than damp. The entire downstairs was a wet, sloshy mess. The water had even seeped into the bathroom, where we keep our dog Juliet during the day. We found her sitting and shivering in cold water. The whole thing felt like a dream, and I think I was kind of in shock. I mean, what do you do but laugh in a situation like that? The world hasn’t ended, but the expense of flooding is certainly not what we needed. We called around to local Home Depots, and everybody was already sold out of industrial fans and WetVacs (not that we would have wanted to drive back out anyway!). Ryan busted out the 6-gallon ShopVac, and he spent the next four hours vacuuming water out of our family room, an exhausting task. School was canceled the next day, and I worked from home, attempting to vacuum out more water whenever I could. But more rain came in on Saturday and Sunday, and every time it rained, the carpet got soaked. Thinking the fireplace/chimney was the culprit, we tarped the roof, but since it didn’t stop it, we couldn’t figure out where it was coming in for sure. We received close to 15 inches of rain over four days. By Sunday evening, our house smelled like musty fart, and we estimated that Ryan had filled the ShopVac 20 times, sucking up over 100 gallons of water.


The next day, a Monday, I was driving Ryley home from school when suddenly a white mist starting blowing from the A/C in our van. Within seconds, I found myself on the verge of passing out. I could hardly breathe. Thinking the white gas was suffocating us, I rolled down my window and pulled the van over onto a side street.

“Oh my gosh, what was that? Ryley, do you feel okay?”

She shrugged. “I feel fine.”

I had her call Ryan while I got out and walked it off, clearing my lungs with fresh air. I was trembling all over.

I was afraid to drive, but Ryan couldn’t come get us because his car was still in the shop, and I had already taken him home. So I gathered my courage and practically hung out the window all the way home, taking deep breaths and willing myself to stay conscious. I was so scared. Pulling into our driveway brought the greatest feeling of relief. I knew I would be safe if I were with Ryan. We talked through the situation, and since Ryley was feeling fine, we decided it must have been a blood sugar low or something. The white mist was most likely condensation. I felt lousy the rest of the evening, wondering several times if I should go to the ER, but knowing we had no money for such nonsense. I lay in our bed, staring at the ceiling, hyperventilating, praying, and feeling like I was going to die.

I felt better the next morning, but I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment for later in the month.

We got our car back that day and paid the necessary $1200.

Keep in mind, this whole time we were still living with wet carpet in our main area, and the stench was nauseating. I tried to cover up the smell by sprinkling baking soda on the carpet and running our box fans to help it try to dry. We moved some furniture upstairs to the living room, too, but not knowing how long it would be before we would be able to re-carpet, we left our couch and TV set up downstairs in the swamp.

Three days later, I was on my way to work, going about 70 mph down the highway, when I felt a sudden gust of air out of the A/C and began suffocating and trembling yet again. This time, I knew for sure that it was an issue with the van, so I got off at the next exit, and after conferring with Ryan, drove it to the Honda dealership.

I did enough Internet research that day to suspect that we had a Freon leak and that I was suffering from Freon poisoning. The problem was, the dealership couldn’t replicate it. The A/C system looked good. I began to wonder if I was going crazy.

The next day, the dealership gave us a loaner car since they had found a lot of problems with the van besides the seemingly non-existent Freon leak (of course), and it would need several days of work and $250. Yep.

But as I drove the loaner car home, I experienced the same symptoms as I had had when driving the van. I felt short-of-breath, and I fought to stay conscious. When I got home, I googled “sudden allergy to car” and “Honda allergy,” all to no avail. By now I really wondered if I was going crazy.

Then I googled “panic while driving,” and that’s when I started getting somewhere. All my symptoms seemed to line up with anxiety and panic attacks. And the crazy thing was that the more I worried about having anxiety, the more anxious I became. Yes, it was worse when I was driving, but that weekend, I felt like I lived in a constant state of panic no matter what we were doing. All I wanted was to sleep it off. Meanwhile, Ryan took the family room by the horns and cut up and dragged out all the smelly carpet while I napped, revealing a circa-1980 paint-splotched linoleum floor.  Lovely.

I was deathly afraid of getting behind the wheel again; that’s when things always seemed to spin out of control for me. We went for a Sunday afternoon drive so I could regain my confidence. Looking back, it was so silly, but at the time, I remember seriously wondering if I would ever be able to drive again. What if I lost my job because I didn’t have the ability to get to work? What if Ryley had to change schools? I imagined our entire lives being turned upside down because of the stupid flood and my inability to handle stress.

Deep down, I knew it was fear, and I knew that it was an attack from the devil. But when you’re in the midst of something like that, you don’t always have a lot of faith for yourself. I have long understood the power that fear has to literally freeze you from moving on with your life. And it's true. It curls its way up your backside in the form of chills and then sighs its ugly breath in your face so that you feel like you're suffocating. The scary part is that you have no control over it, and you don't know when it's going to appear again. So you live constantly on edge, with your throat tight in anticipation, ready at a moment’s notice to do everything in your power to keep your body under control should that ugly spirit of fear and panic rear its head again. You're not dumb. You realize the silliness. It's a cycle. You're panicking over panicking. You're fearful of fear itself. And you just want things to go back to the way they were before. You’re so concerned about just staying alive for the next 10 seconds that you don’t have the energy or capability to resist this thing longterm.

On Monday, I had no choice but to continue with our routine – school, work, etc., so I had to drive, taking deep, slow, deliberate breaths and praying all the way to my destinations. I sat in my office, feeling terribly alone, dizzy, breathless…feeling like I could pass out and die and it might be hours before I was found.

Do I call 911?

I called my doctor’s office and scheduled an emergency appointment. I couldn’t see my actual doctor, but I met with her associate who seemed to not take it quite as seriously as I felt it was. :-) He prescribed some anxiety medication and told me to follow up with my regular doctor in a couple of weeks.

Around this same time, Ryan began experiencing horrible stomach pain and chronic nausea. It went on for about a month before he finally made it to the doctor, and they diagnosed him as having a peptic ulcer and gastroesophageal reflux disease. I guess we all deal with things in our own way! Panic attacks for me, ulcer for him! :-) It seems that all the stress of the last few months finally got him too. He is on a high dose of medication to help heal everything, but it could take 6-8 weeks for the ulcer to disappear. In the meantime, we are eating wholesome, non-spicy, non-acidic foods, and he is learning to change his diet and eating/drinking habits throughout the day. 

We met our insurance adjuster, who denied our claim, and we met our FEMA rep, who also denied our claim. As bad as the storm was for us, it seems that a lot of others in our community had it much, much worse. We had a carpet estimator come out and determine that new flooring would be about $2,000 out-of-pocket. We decided not to do anything with it. I imagined people in Africa and other impoverished places, living on dirt floors. Even Jesus had dusty feet. It is what it is. 

Our house was in perpetual disarray, but I started not to mind so much. It became more important to care about my mental health and Ryan’s health than to worry about the cleanliness of our home.

But the problem was that it was fall, my favorite season of all, and all I really wanted was to bask in the coziness of our candlelit family room, coffee in hand and laptop perched on my knees…pumpkins scattered about for decoration…and I felt like my fall was ruined. And I grieved it for awhile. But then I took it back.

Ever so slowly, things started to improve. We paid $250 to the dealership and got our van back. I turned in a couple of freelance stories. After a few weeks, I found the energy to finally mop the family room linoleum so that we’d feel comfortable walking barefoot down there again. Two weeks ago, we decided to purchase some cheap area rugs, and I threw some white Christmas lights on our mantle. I plugged in some air fresheners, and Ryan moved the furniture back down. I finally got around to putting out my pumpkin decorations.

It's funny what you can live with...what kind of pride you can swallow in the decision that its okay to live with a crappy floor. And someday we might even be brave enough to invite people over again. But in the meantime, we can’t let it ruin our lives. We have to keep living and fully embrace  this rocky season with all of its quirks that God has thrown in. Even in this season of death, we will continue to grow.

I still have occasional bouts of anxiety, but I know how to recognize it when it’s coming on, and I know which foods and drinks to avoid. Overall, I have been so much better. Life doesn’t seem quite so dark as it did. Ryan seems to be getting better, though I feel like he’s not always completely honest with me because he doesn’t want me to worry.

All it takes is reading Facebook to realize that everybody has a lot of crap going on right now. I found myself hugging the Muslim Iranian mother of one of my piano students the other night when she poured out all the really heavy things she is dealing with in her life. I felt like it was such an opportunity for me to share the love of Jesus with her. She often falls asleep on our couch during her daughter’s piano lesson, and I like to think she has sweet dreams and that she feels God’s peace when she is here. Because carpet or no carpet, smelly or fresh, I believe God’s presence is here in our tiny, unworthy home. :-)

Ryan is constantly reminding me that “Jesus’ yoke is easy, and His burden is light.” I’ve heard that scripture my entire life, but all it took was the events of this fall for me to realize that I am still learning and understanding the reality of that truth on a daily, (sometimes hourly!), basis.

Good night for now. :-)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tales from 5th Grade (and other cool stuff!)

I guess it’s obvious that my blog has been taking a backseat recently. I’ve been doing a lot of other writing, which is really good (make sure you read all the way to the bottom for some exciting news!), but unfortunately it leaves little time for my musings about life and motherhood. And I have to admit that that’s a problem that stresses me out a bit….Writing about my life is cathartic for me.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Ryley is already in 5th grade, and other times she seems every bit of 5th grade material. I am beginning to wonder if I need to change my voicemail to “You’ve reached Ryley and Joy.” That’s how many calls she gets on my cell phone each night. It’s actually quite annoying, and every day I get closer to thinking that it’s time for her to have a phone of her own. Ryan’s all about putting it off, but he’s not the one with the constant influx of calls and then inaccessibility to his phone while she wanders off with it. But I’m glad that she has lots of friends. Smile

1 Kindergarten063

(Kindergarten vs. 5th grade! It makes me sad!)

The biggest change this year is Ryley’s decision to join the volleyball team. She knew absolutely nothing about volleyball beforehand, and I think the initial interest was because she’d get to wear a team uniform to school on game days! Haha. But her confusion at practices combined with difficult coaches (she’d never had a coach yell at her before) and the fact that she doesn’t really have any friends on the team made for several tearful evenings. It also drudged up some terrible memories for me! *tear* As a mom, it’s difficult to guide your kids through stuff that you remember to be hurtful…and yet, you know it built character in you and it’s important to forge on!

So Ryan took her out and bought her a volleyball. With a little practice in the backyard, she feels so much more confident! After a couple more weeks, she’s also making new friends and enjoying being a part of the team dynamic.

Ryley has a hard time allowing herself to keep doing things that she knows she’s not good at. She’s very competitive and wants to be the best, so if she’s not automatically the best, then she figures “what’s the point?” But these experiences are so important for exposing weaknesses and immaturity that we didn’t previously know were a problem, so we can work on them. She’s grown so much in the last couple of weeks. She’s still the worst one on her team (her words, not mine!), but at least she says she likes it!


Her school is finally offering orchestra this year, so she has also decided to take up violin! I taught her the basics over the past weekend, and within an hour she could play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Music definitely comes more naturally for her! Smile She’s only had one rehearsal so far, so we will see how it goes!


But Ryley’s favorite thing so far was being accepted into Student Council! It’s been her goal for several years, and we are very proud of her. 

I remember sobbing on the gymnasium steps when I was in 7th grade because I was so stressed out by all my activities. My volleyball coach (whom I practically loathed at the time!) sat down next to me and said that she had always found that the more she was involved in, the better she did at everything. Her mind stayed active, and she learned to work quickly and more efficiently. Over the next few years, I found her advice/experience to be extremely true for myself as well. The busier I was, the better I did. And ever mindful that Ryley doesn’t over-work herself, I have been carefully watching her these last few weeks. She does seem to be actually doing better in school, using her time wisely, completing projects early, etc.

But of course, today is a good day. I can’t speak for tomorrow. Smile But so far, 5th grade has been really great!


Down below, beneath the surface of Ryley’s sunny disposition and the success of 5th grade, lies the harried chaos that is our home. Clean laundry stays in baskets until it’s worn, thrown in the pile of dirty clothes, and ready to be cycled back through again. Complete honesty here? Sometimes clothes don’t even make it out of the dryer. A thin layer of dust covers the piano, and if we dare to make dinner, we will have to clean the kitchen first.

It’s been a month of changes and stress for both of us at work (my company moved and my dear Leahh left, and Ryan’s assistant manager went on disability), and by the time we get home, we don’t have any mental or physical energy. Add to that our little Hyundai Sonata that only sometimes worked for over a month, and the failure of three mechanics to figure out what was wrong. Then, Ryan had a car accident during the first week of school, and for the next three weeks, we shared a vehicle while the car was towed yet again to a body shop and then a dealership so that at last they could figure out it was a failed fuel pump.

Add to that, the Colorado Flood of 2013, which left its muddy remnants all over our family room and guest room floor, after Ryan vacuumed up 100 gallons of water. Yes, it absolutely could have been worse…soooo much worse. It wasn’t standing water. Even so, the carpet is not salvageable, and with insurance coverage seeming to be a longshot, and our savings blown on car repairs, all we can do is praise God in advance for His provision. It’s not that much money when put in perspective…but you know how $20 can seem like the world when you have nothing? Mold remediation and carpet replacement seem completely out of reach. And yet, we know that to God, it’s completely do-able. In fact, it’s easy. Ryan texted me “Luke 12:22-31” today in a moment of my unbelief. Somehow, some way, we will be okay. Smile

And when we’re 70, we’ll look back and say, “Do you remember the Flood of 2013? Remember how our basement flooded and God provided for us to get all new carpet?” And we’ll smile and think back on this little cozy house with fondness.


On a great note, my dad had ankle surgery to re-set his foot after living for years of pain. They inserted a metal rod through his heel. (I know!) But he is definitely on the mend, and I cannot wait to see him walk without pain! My mom has been amazing through the process (he’s in a wheelchair while he recovers), and she has been taking care of him while working full-time and managing their lives. I love my parents so much!


My freelance writing at Good Catch Publishing has definitely gone up a notch. I have completed four stories since the beginning of August. My two most memorable were 1) a testimony of a former prostitute and how she came to Jesus, and 2) a woman who adopted a frozen embryo and had a baby girl so the embryo wouldn’t go to waste. Both books are available for pre-order on Amazon (click the links above), and the second one will be featured on Katie Couric on Monday, September 30! If you click on the second book’s “About the Author,” you will see my name listed! My name’s on Amazon!! Yay! Praise God…These are such powerful testimonies, and I am so excited to be a part of sharing what God has done in these people’s lives! And I have two more stories scheduled to start within the next five days…Yay!!! I cannot tell you how excited I am about all of this!


For those that followed on Facebook, I finally allowed Ryley to try her made-up recipe for “cookie cupcakes.” I offered some suggestions on how to make the ingredients a bit “wetter,” and you know what? They turned out great!!!!!!! Very delicious. You should have seen the joy and pride in her face when Ryan asked for a second cupcake! And Ryan does not particularly care for cupcakes!!!



And here are some pictures from the last couple of months…


Four-Mile Park


5th Grade Classroom


Italian Lunch Date (we later discovered that soda is the cause of Ryley’s frequent tummy problems this summer…no more carbonated drinks for her!)


Broncos Pre-season game


She’s flying!


Ryan’s work gave us tickets to the Rockies game!


And I’m all caught up. Maybe by the next time I blog, we will have new carpet. Annnnddd, let’s be honest…I will probably be 36 and have a book available for SALE (not just pre-sale) on Amazon. Winking smile

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fun with Family

So, back in June, my mom came for a week to spend time with Ryley. Then, at the end of the week, they went to Texas to spend time with my brother and his family. At the end of that week, Ryan and I drove down to Oklahoma, and they all drove up to meet us and have a bunch of wonderful family time together. It was complicated to the naked eye, but meticulously planned out. :-) And other than some minor homesickness on Ryley’s part, it was a great time for all!


Yes, that is a real snake…My mom took Ryley to an event our library was having.



In between arriving in Oklahoma and driving to Texas, Ryley got to spend a fun day with her Pappaw too…She caught five fish in their pond, and they played with his Lionel trains!





2013-06-29 12.34.51

Cousins… :-)

2013-07-01 19.32.19

2013-06-30 21.21.57


2013-07-02 09.24.34




2013-07-04 14.31.39















A surprise birthday celebration for Ryley!




Thanks to my mom, dad, brother Justin, and sister-in-law Alyson for such a wonderful summer! We had so much fun together!!!! We love you all!

The Treehouse (and other happenings)

Everything decided to happen at once.

Throughout the last few weeks I have had several freelance writing projects, for which I am extremely grateful. I interviewed some fascinating people, including a former prostitute, and wrote some very interesting stories. I love that work, as it is so satisfying and rewarding! I wish I could do more of it. :-)

But at the same time, my company’s lease expired, and when renewal negotiations fell through, we were left without a place to go. Every day for two weeks we went in to the office prepared to move should a new lease agreement just happen to fall into place that day. We finally moved yesterday, and I am so glad it’s over. I look forward to organizing and arranging everything on Monday. This is the third time I have helped my company move in the seven years I have worked for them. The ironic thing? We are ending up back in the same building where we began! ;-)

Then, there’s Ryan’s car issues. We have had his car at three different mechanics in the last three weeks, and nobody can figure out what’s wrong with it. If it’s sitting, say, in front of our house, or maybe in the parking lot of his work, it will not start, leaving him stranded on multiple occasions. It doesn’t respond to jumping, and we’ve actually had to call tow-trucks twice. But if it’s sitting at the mechanic or dealership, the car starts just fine, and when they hook it up to their machines for testing, everything checks out normally. This is extremely frustrating on many levels. Ryan actually suggested today that maybe we should drive it around and then park it back at the mechanic, all the while making comments like, “It’s good to be home!”, thereby tricking the car into thinking it’s in front of our house! And yes, after all the back-and-forth we’ve been through, this logic actually makes sense to me!  :-) The sharing a car thing has been complicated, especially since we work 16 miles from each other, and every day our schedules are different. We’re praying that after sitting at the shop untouched for a full weekend, the car won’t start on Monday. Maybe then we can at least get a diagnosis!

On top of all of this, our house’s swamp cooler motor went out during a week of 90+ degree days. But Ryan was able to replace it. Yay!

Also, in an effort to save some money, we canceled our satellite dish service at the end of our contract period. Ryan purchased an antenna for indoors, which we thought would hook us up with local channels. But alas, we can only pick up Fox and some Spanish networks, and we will need to invest in a roof antenna if we want more than that. So we’ve been without TV for three weeks. It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be, although when fall comes, I will be antsy to get something in place!

In summary, it’s been a strange few weeks for us!

But here are some pics from earlier in the summer, when Ryan, inspired by “Pete” from Treehouse Masters (“I’m the treehouse man!”, decided to build a doozy of a treeless treehouse in our backyard while Ryley was visiting family in Oklahoma and Texas:


(Please don’t judge our grass situation. Yes, it’s embarrassing. Yes, we’ve given up.) :-)


Ryan had so much fun with power tools!


We didn’t really have any specific plans, other than a hodgepodge of ideas Ryan pulled from the internet. And with no previous building experience, it was quite a project. We took multiple trips to Home Depot and hauled a lot of wood in the back of our van, then ended the nights with trips to Dairy Queen to cool down. :-
) But it was so much fun working on it together.


Getting the roof installed was particularly dramatic, as Ryan teetered on a 16 ft ladder wedged between a fence and me after the sun had set. I prayed the entire time he was up there.


Ryley got home and was super pleased!!!


Ryan built an amazingly sturdy ladder that I trust even for myself!

And he included a pulley system!


And a secret compartment…


Even Juliet wanted to be part of the finishing touches:

After we moved some of her stuff inside, Ryley invited me up for a tea party.


Then, we decorated the outside a little, and she invited my aunt and uncle up for a tea party as well…






Then, Ryley and my aunt busted out the sewing machine and some scrap material, and they made curtains and a table cloth!


When it was all complete, Ryley and her best friend had a sleepover…There was some drama about bugs, but overall, it was a fun time!


This has been quite a project! I am so proud of Ryan for all the research and effort he put into it. It is highly rewarding for him to look at it and realize he built it with his own two hands, all from ideas in his mind! It’s that whole “build something from nothing” thing. Kind of crazy, actually. We both learned a lot.

We know that Ryley will enjoy this labor of love for years to come. :-)