Tomorrow I turn 40, which I suppose has made me reflect on this closing decade. Ten years ago, at the beginning of my 30s, I had three children, ages 8, 5, and 3. The three-year-old was giving me a run for money, as three-year-olds will sometimes do, and the eight-year-old was having a particularly trying year in school, partly because his dad was on a military deployment in Greece for an unknown length of time (turned out to be just a few months) and he wasn’t sure how to process that. He also had a teacher and principal that weren’t very sympathetic or knowledgeable about the issues that went along with Asperger’s syndrome and his frustration and anxiety with his school and home situation was creating some significant behavioral problems for the first time.
We were living in San Bernardino, California, and had been for 7 years. It was hot there, over 100 degrees most of the summer, and smoggy. We lived in a three-bedroom, 1300 square foot house next door to drug dealers. When Sammy was a newborn and my mom was visiting to help, we saw a SWAT team in the neighborhood, one guy in full gear standing on top of the cement block fence of my back yard, searching for a criminal. We actually got that house for a steal of a deal since it had foreclosed and was the site of a murder, giving it a “stigma.” The schools had graffiti and were not in ideal aesthetic condition. They were also somewhat loud and chaotic, which I only fully realized after we moved and were exposed to quiet and organized schools. Many houses in our neighborhood had been broken into. We managed to avoid that, although we did have a car stolen and various other items from outside. San Bernardino sees its share of murders, crime, and gang activity, but it also contained wonderful people that we loved and cared about, people that influenced our lives for good, helped our children, and made lasting impacts on our family.
I had been in school part time, taking a class or two here and there, for several years. I had completed most of the music classes offered at my community college of choice, enough to get an associates in music, which I never bothered to actually get the degree for, and also classes to fulfill the prerequisites to get into the nursing program. In fact, I applied for and was accepted into the nursing program for the fall of that year. I was taking a microbiology class and lab that semester in early 2003, the last classes I needed before starting nursing, and I also had a family member staying with me while going to rehab (or so I was being led to believe) for a drug addiction.
My health was not particularly good. I had a chronic cough and often felt tired and achy with low energy, wondering sometimes if I would ever be healthy enough to actually be a nurse. Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me and I gave up trying. Years later the cough resolved somehow (leaving the smog helped I imagine) but it took me most of the last decade to discover that the biggest key to feeling healthy was that sugar was not my friend and that sleep and exercise were, something that seems awfully simple to have taken so long to realize.
All of that may sound depressing, but really it just sets the stage for how much things have changed in the last 10 years. There were a lot of good things in my life along with the stress and difficult things, and I was not unhappy. My kids, while challenging, were also adorable and sweet and brought me a lot of joy.
I had then, as I do now, a loving and dedicated husband that worked hard to support our family. I loved my church experiences, where I served in the Young Women’s program and played the organ. I loved the opportunities I had to accompany talented singers and the relationships developed through music. Scott and I both had family within a reasonable distance and we loved the time we could spend with all of them. We especially spent a lot of time with my brother Patrick and his family since they lived so close. And despite what I said about the home and neighborhood, we felt very blessed to own a home. That home and the increase in property values that occurred while we lived there is what made our move and owning our current home possible.
A lot of things happened the year I turned 30 that changed our course. I decided one day, in a flash of clear inspiration that I couldn’t deny or argue with, that I had to kick out the family member that was staying with me and that I needed to drop out of school and postpone my nursing plans. Both of these were dramatic decisions, but I didn’t waver or question it because I was so confident that I was being led by the Spirit, one of the few times I have felt that quite so strongly. That summer, with Scott back from his deployment . . .
. . . we went on a 10th anniversary trip up the coast of California and Oregon . . .
. . . during which we started dreaming of living in Oregon someday, a goal that would be achieved three years later.
Ten years later here I am, living in the beautiful state of Oregon, blessed to have a lovely home in a lovely neighborhood with lovely schools in a lovely city that after seven years I still feel lucky to call home. Noah joined us, bringing so much love and joy to this family that had been without a baby for awhile. It brought out a protectiveness and fatherly behavior in the big brothers, which was sweet to observe, and continues still.
The boys are happy and well. Gabe, now 18, is enjoying his college experiences, loves biking, and is preparing for a mission. Josh, 15, has found a passion for water polo, is working hard in school, and is getting so mature and grown up right before my eyes. Sammy, 13, is excited to start high school and is creative and funny (and much, much easier to live with than when he was three). Noah loves to learn, is curious and excited about everything, and has become quite dedicated lately to the piano. Scott is also doing well. He doesn’t have to work as late here in Oregon as he did in California, which has opened up the chance for him to participate in sports officiating, which has been a fun hobby for him.
I’m back in school, retaking classes that had become outdated, working toward nursing again. I feel like a healthy person, able to keep up with my very busy and stressful life for the most part. I exercise regularly and eat well most of the time. Life isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I still struggle with many weaknesses and have tons of room for growth and improvement, which I’ll hopefully make some progress on in this next decade and then I can talk all about that and how much better things are! In many ways life looks different for me now than it did ten years ago, but in a lot of important and good ways it is the same. I’m looking forward to seeing what new and exciting experiences the next ten years bring!