Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2009-2011

I am determined to finish this before my 31 days is up! So here is my plan: three years today, three years tomorrow, and then a reflection on Friday. Thank you again to everyone who has read and encouraged me and said so. Wow I feel loved. Even in the midst of some of the deepest pain I've been in, this has been a small flame for me and you all are part of that. THANK YOU.

2009

January of 2009 I started grad school at UALR. I had already been through a lumpectomy, double mastectomy, and my first plastic surgery for breast reconstruction from March-December of 2008. I also had had 6 weeks of radiation. I was super excited for grad school because I  needed something to set my hands to that didn't involve needles and surgery, and grad school did not disappoint.

My mind came alive again. All that interested me in my BA program only deepened and widened and I felt awake and alive in my writing. I felt affirmation in what I produced for my instructors. I began to examine writing theory and see its relevance in the greater scheme of the world of rhetoric and writing. It was good. Thank You Lord for good!

We had also discovered that Dwayne only lacked two classes to have his Associates' degree and so he went back to school with me that semester, and then graduated. I know it was a huge blessing for him to have at least an Associate's degree behind him. He had sacrificially given so much for me to finish school and then to go to grad school. I am still humbled by him and his love.

This was the year I moved my blog from Xanga to Blogger. Here is my first post.

Around this time I had my "exchange" surgery, which is where they exchange your tissue expanders for real breast implants. This surgery was super minor and easy compared to the others. Then in April I had a total hysterectomy. This was by far my most difficult emotional surgery. Pain wise, it was easy because it was done laparoscopically, but I was not ready to be done with all my girl parts. I was not ready to be done being pregnant. I was not ready to say goodbye. I knew it had to be done though. My ovaries were a ticking time bomb for cancer and just having them put  me at greater risk for my cancer returning. So I did what was necessary. And part of me died inside. Here is my post from the day before.

For all the naysayers, though, who had thought we were so stupid for having kids when we did, I laughed at them, because had we not had kids at that point, we never would have. Thank You Jesus for my babies!



When we came back to Little Rock in 2008, we picked up for a short time with our old church that we loved so dearly. But the church was different because many families had moved out of state and we felt ourselves seeking community and we joined up with a new church plant with some of the original members of our former church. Dwayne was asked to lead worship there, which was such a blessing. We stayed there for a year, but just continued to feel like we wanted more and were invited back to the church we had left wounded. We had minimal expectations, but we walked in on Palm Sunday and the Spirit of God was there. There was true worship and we found a people who were hungry for a true King. Not only that but something felt resolved in us, that God would bring healing to our souls in a place where there had once been woundedness. We immediately joined up with a small group of couples of similar age and number of kids and it was a blessing.

It was around this time that our faith slipped some in regards to our finances. We had spent all of our marriage determined to not  use credit cards for any reason because we knew how risky that was. When we lived in Kansas City, our bank required us to have a credit card through them to have overdraft protection, so we got one. We had it for over a year and didn't use it, but then when our bills started to slip away from us we would use it to pay those bills, and then to buy groceries sometimes, and other necessities. Not one time did we ever use it to make extravagant purchases, but we were living off of the credit card sometimes because we just simply didn't have enough money. But we were foolish and should have continued in the faith that we had been living on for all those years.


Our small group guys and girls


Cayle played tball for the first time



After Dwayne graduated, we found out that a high school friend of mine who owned a roofing company needed a sales person and so Dwayne went to work for him. This job was a huge blessing and Dwayne was so glad to be out of the food industry and learning something new and different. And Sam was such a great employer.

I took some classes in summer school to help me stay ahead of the game and work on my thesis project. I had already decided my thesis was going to be  my cancer story. I was going to edit my cancer blogs and use that as my jumping point.

I decided to teach as a Grad Teaching Assistant in the fall to help pay for my school. We decided to send Cayle to public pre-k that year and Alaya would go to Mother's Day Out two days a week. We did this because between school and teaching, I would essentially be working full time. I was not thrilled about this at all but I knew financially it's what we needed to do. I was not excited about sending my baby boy to school all day five days a week, but I trusted the Lord would help us in that. I went on field trips and volunteered with his class and survived, but the Lord was showing me a ton in that about my heart for education for my kids and what my kids needed. More on this later.


Alaya turned 3, and we celebrated our 6th anniversary, and then Cayle turned 5.



Family Christmas picture

2010

I decided not to try to teach again in the spring semester. I was due to graduate at the end of the semester and I was very overwhelmed when I was trying to take 9 hours of grad school and teach 6 hours of writing classes. I decided I would save teaching for after graduation. I knew ultimately my focus after graduation was going to be on teaching and writing, and I planned my classes accordingly.

If you remember, during my radiation treatment I started having panic attacks, migraine headaches, etc. Well after over a year of these persistent symptoms, finally my neurologist discovered I had hypothyroidism. I had gained weight and the thyroid medicine did help my symptoms, but my weight never went back to normal. It was around this time that my thyroid condition was discovered and it was very frustrating that it took so long because I knew in my heart that's what the problem was from the beginning. I'm pretty sure the radiation killed my thyroid gland. Or began the process.

Also during this time, I fell on ice and broke my elbow. It was crappy. I had just started trying to exercise again and I didn't see some black ice in the parking lot of our townhouse complex and I cracked my radial head. I had never broken a bone before and do not wish to again, Thankyouverymuch.

Because of our financial situation, I started to try to make some side money. First I tried selling Arbonne. They make great products, by the way, but are so expensive that most people can't afford them. And then I jumped on the Premier jewelry bandwagon with some girlfriends who were also doing it. I was more successful at this, but ultimately I am not a salesperson. No, I'm not. (PS-If you supported me during those ventures of my life, thanks for that. You were a blessing!)

Alaya started taking dance classes

Cayle lost his first tooth

Easter

I got to go with our small group ladies to the beach for a few days. That was the first time I had ever done anything like that with friends and it was such a blessing.

My crazies. 


We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Just a couple of crazy kids!

Over the summer as we began to evaluate Cayle's year in public school, we knew that was not what we wanted for him long term. Cayle had been exposed to 4 year old boys who watched inappropriate shows on television, listened to inappropriate music, and cursed at school. I wish I was exaggerating. He had teachers who would show the kids movies like High School Musical on days when they couldn't play outside, rather than something educational. He didn't really learn anything that year that he hadn't already known. So as I began to pray and seek the Lord and talk with lots of friends, I felt the Lord leading  me to homeschool. I did a ton of research over the summer and decided to start kindergarten at home and take it year by year. We also signed up for a homeschool co-op for both Cayle and Alaya because she was going into K4. I was excited and nervous.


First day of K4 and K5

In August, Dwayne was hired as the salesman for office supplies at a local packaging supplies company. He was super excited about this opportunity and it was a salaried position which was good for our family. Dwayne had health insurance for the first time in our marriage. After years of struggle, we became hopeful for the first time that maybe we would climb out of our "poverty" status.

I finished my final semester of grad school and graduated with honors and my MA in Professional and Technical Writing.

2011

In January we found out about a new subdivision that was being built near Dwayne's job. These were smaller houses, but were new construction and they really tried to work with people from all backgrounds to acquire a loan. Since we had been able to pay down some debt and Dwayne was making decent money, we decided to try to get preapproved for a home loan again. We had been renting for three years at that point and really wanted a home with a yard and bedrooms for both kids, so they wouldn't have to share. We prayed and asked the Lord what His will was and put our fleece out. We were blessed because they approved our loan and we began the process of building a home from scratch. We picked a lot, and floorplan, and all of our colors and fixtures. It was so awesome!

Then Dwayne had a crazy health scare that led to us finding out he has hypoglycemia. It also put us way behind financially because of the high deductable on his insurance. But we were determined not to go into debt over the matter, so we just began to trust the Lord again. And then these things happened.

In the spring, some major things began to churn in our Body. We all felt like we were on the brink of something important. The Lord was moving. One Sunday morning, the 9am service continued on into the 11am service and church did not let out until 2pm that afternoon. People were getting baptized and crying out for prayer. I wrote about it here.

Then our townhouse was flooded with 14 inches of water and we lost all of our living room and kitchen items. I wrote about this  here and here. God was so merciful to restore everything we had lost just in time for us to move into our new house.

 

 

 

 

These are all of the flood damage. I lost every yearbook I had to water damage. I had every single one from Kindergarten through 12th grade. I lost family pictures and Cayle and Alaya's baby books. Those were the things that were irreplaceable that still hurt my heart.

Cayle graduated from Kindergarten and my brother Spencer got married while we were living with  my parents and waiting for our house to finish being built.

 
Cayle's kindergarten graduation party

 
Cayle and Alaya were the flower girl and ring bearer

 
We clean up pretty well

Then finally our house was complete and we could move in!

New house!




We settled into our new house in June and I was preparing to homeschool for our second year. Dwayne's contract with his job was for a year and as his year approached it's end, he found out that they were going to let him go. His division for the company was not producing enough revenue to keep him. So, just to be clear, we had just bought a house--had a mortgage--and my husband lost his job two months later. After a flood. After cancer. After. After. So he did some odd jobs and then decided to go back to work for the restaurant he had been a manager at when we first got married...as a cook. Making minimum wage. Because that is all he could find at the time. And we were trusting God to provide. 

The first day of the 2011-2012 school year



I started to look for work too. I was able to secure a position as a faculty member with University of Phoenix and I started in September. Then toward the end of the year I had an interview with Pulaski Technical College and was offered a position as an adjunct there starting in January 2012.

Goodness that deep pit of a year. I'm starting to see how closely that deep pit resembles the one we are in this year!


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