My experience of tragedy, trials, and triumphs!
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Name is Julie...*Update*

It has been two years since my story has been circulating around.  My story was originally written in November of 2012, so a lot has happened in our family.  I thought I would post an update of how we are all doing.

      Curtis and I are doing really well in our marriage.  I am so glad that we pushed through every time we came upon new challenges.  Our love has grown stronger through each challenge that has tried to break us apart.  When things were very difficult and I was considering divorce I had a profound realization.  I was struggling because our life was so hard.  I wanted it to be easy.  I remember realizing that if I were to divorce Curtis that wouldn’t make my life easier.  It would still be hard, for different reasons. I decided that I needed to stop looking for my life to be easy.  When Jake died my easy card was taken from the table, and it will never be put back.  My life will always be hard.  It will be hard to be in a blended family or hard to be a single parent.  I would have to pick the hard, that would bring me the most happiness.  For me, staying married to Curtis would have the best chance of bringing me the most happiness.  Once I stopped looking for life to be easy, I was able to start finding joy in my life.  I will always be grateful for that lesson.  
        We make sure to have weekly dates at least once, and try for more.  Curtis and I have found things we both like doing and make an effort to spend quality time together everyday.  We take weekend getaways at least once a year,  but try for 2 or 3 a year.  We have taken a few really nice trips together over the years as well.  One benefit of a second marriage is the obvious need to spend time away from the kids.  When you get married with 8 boys under 8 it is essential to get away from them and be a couple in love, not just mom and dad all the time.

I am truly happy in my marriage now.  We have found ways to make each other the priority and really stay connected to each other.  We will always need to work hard on our relationship and keep our love alive.  Curtis makes me very happy and he claims to be very happy too.  I am grateful for Curtis’ ability to allow me to continue to love and grieve Jake.  It is a blessing in my life.  He feels strongly that it isn’t a competition between himself and Jake.  He knows the importance for the kids and I to always be able to have him in our life.  We have learned to keep a balance between the two worlds I love that I can love them both so completely.  Curtis is a great example of grieving with those that grieve.  

       Curtis has a new job that he has been with for over a year now.  It is an investment firm in Salt Lake City and he really loves it.  It has been great to have that stress relieved for both of us.  It has great benefits that have helped with all the medical issues we deal with.

The kids are all doing very well.  We have had ups and downs with Curtis’ boys, but have worked through those issues over the years and we have a great relationship with all of them.  The kids are all so excited to see their brothers and anxiously await the weekends we get to have them.  Curtis’ oldest Dakkon is currently living with us and working on his mission papers.  Ethan is in an accelerated High School program and is doing well.  He is on track to graduate with his associates degree next year.  He is involved in the local High School’s sports as well.  Kalten is a freshman in High School and is looking forward to starting the same program Ethan is in.  They are very smart kids and have bright futures.  We are very proud of all of them.  Oliver is the youngest and is in 5th grade now.  He is treated like a celebrity when he comes over.  He is the favorite among my kids and just a real sweet kid.  Everyone loves to be around him.  

Little Sis, is 4 years old now.  She is sweet and kind and so adorable.  We all love her so much.  She brings joy to everyone in the family.  Her power over her daddy melts my heart.  I love seeing Curtis completely softened by her love.  It has been more than I could have hoped for to have a daughter.  I am thankful I had to wait so long for her.  It has made having a girl more precious, with the perspective that waiting gave me.  She is a smart little girl and loves gymnastics and dance.  She is a princess, but is sweet too.  I love the mommy daughter time I get with her.  

Cameron is doing really well right now.  Over the years we have learned more about his Syndromes and health problems that have come up.  He was recently diagnosed with Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome in addition to his other issues.  This is what has caused his main heart problem.  We continue to follow his heart and kidney very closely.  We are watching for signs of seizures as well.  PVNH patients usually start seizure activity between the ages of 10 and 20 years old.  He will always be at high risk, but we are so grateful he hasn’t had any seizures yet.  He is in first grade now and is doing better than we expected.  He is able to tolerate a full day which is really great.  He is in a main stream school, but is supported by an IEP and is considered self-contained in the resource program.  His teachers adore him!  We take it a day at a time with him, and I am just thrilled with any progress he makes.  His strength and perseverance is above anyone I know.  He still fills my soul.

Jacob has been a joy to watch grow.  He is in 5th grade and really loves school.  He is more like Jake than any of my other boys.  Jacob never had a day on this earth with his dad, but seriously is just like him.  He thinks like him and has the same personality traits.  He is sweet and loving all the time.  He is always happy and smiling.  When he was younger he served as therapy for my mom and several of my sister’s.  If you are having a bad day you just need to spend a little time with Jacob and he will make everything seem better.  He is a hard worker just like Jake was.  He watches people work and loves to learn.  He helps me cook all the time and is always 3 steps ahead of me.  My dad often has him come do projects at the cabin with him.  Over the years he has fixed sprinkling systems, laid tile, built rustic coat racks and log headboards, he puts furniture together, and will help with anything that is going on.  

Jordy is doing pretty good.  Challenges come up with school and in the neighborhood regularly but we deal with each issue as it comes.  He has friends in the neighborhood that watch out for him and are very protective of him.  This last summer he had a traumatic accident.  He had several deep wounds and needed stitches in several places.  One of the wounds became infected and had to be drained.  We were in the Emergency Room 5 days in a row for the infection.  He had panic attacks every time we went in.  I found an intense trauma therapy program that he went through to hopefully help prevent post traumatic stress disorder.  He is in 7th grade now and we are learning to navigate the secondary education system now.  It is tough, but I continue to advocate for him and hope to help him succeed as best he can.  He has a great sense of humor and makes everyone laugh constantly.  He is a lot of fun to be around.

Josh is a sophomore in High School.  He is looking forward to driving and dating.  He loves to read and is really into politics.  His goal is to be the President of the United States and has been since 5th grade.  I don’t know if that will happen, but I am confident that if anyone is capable of changing the world it is him.  He has a passion for politics and has a deep sense of patriotism.  I am very proud of him and love watching him grow.  He has been trying to discuss politics with his friends since 6th grade.  It wasn’t very popular in that setting, but now that he is in high school more of his friends are seeing the importance of it and often come ask him questions.  He still struggles the most with the grief of losing Jake.  He has a tender heart and remains slightly wounded from the loss.  His experience has given him a profound sense of empathy for others during trials in their life.  

Jaxon is 18 years old now.  He graduated with honors and was accepted to Brigham Young University.  He has earned scholarships to help with his schooling.  Jax had a strong desire to put school off for two years to serve a mission for our church.  He put his mission papers in this spring and awaited his call.  We expected to receive his call around the beginning of May.  A few things put it off and it ended up coming later.  We waited all week expecting it on Wednesday the 20th of May.  It didn’t come.  On Friday May 22, 2015 Jake’s birthday his mission call arrived in the mail.  It was so sweet to have it arrive on Jake’s birthday and we all knew it was a way for Jake to remind all of us that he is in the details of our lives and continues to watch over us.   He was called to the Ukraine Dnepropetrovsk Mission speaking the Russian language for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He would leave on August 26, 2015 and will be serving for 24 months.

The last year I have really been dreading his mission.  I knew it was something he wanted to do, and that it was the right thing for him to do, but I couldn’t convince my heart of that.  I really didn’t think I could survive having him leave.  He has been my biggest help these last 11 years.  I rely on him for help in every area of my life.  He is one of my best friends and has helped me through the darkest times in my life.  I never really wanted him to have that responsibility, but he took it on and has been a great support.  I really worried about having post traumatic stress with him leaving, and that it would feel like losing Jake all over again.  I knew my heart couldn’t take another loss.  

The weeks leading up to him leaving I felt a quiet strength.  I wasn’t losing it like I thought I would.  I felt excited for him and was really enjoying getting him ready.  He asked a couple times, “Are you going to cry yet?”.  I was doing really well.  We got him ready to leave the last week in August.  The day came for him to go.  We had him say his goodbyes to all the family over the last few days.  The family went to breakfast and then we drove Jax and his luggage to The Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah.  We stopped by the temple for some last pictures and then pulled up to the curb at the MTC.  We all got out and a young Elder came and helped him with his bags.  We said our final goodbye and he started walking away.  I made him promise to turn back and wave.  He did, twice.  We were all teary in the car ride home and the car was very quiet.  Some of the kids struggled more than others.  

Sending Jax on this mission has taught me yet another lesson in trials, perspective, and life.  I wasn’t losing it with Jax being gone.  In fact I felt so much peace and happiness with his choice to serve the Lord and the people of Ukraine.  I realized that one of the positive things my trials have brought is my perspective of loss.  I know what it feels like to attend your husband’s funeral and deal with his loss everyday.  I buried Jake 12 years ago and have wished for one more embrace and one more ‘I love you’ everyday since.  I don’t get emails every Monday from heaven.  Jax is alive, happy and doing exactly what he wants.  He is having an adventure and learning opportunity of a lifetime, and I get emails and pictures every Monday.  He left a boy and I am confident will return an amazing man.  

One of the other struggles with sending out a missionary is worrying about them.  My life experiences have also helped give me perspective with this as well.  I have so many worries with my special needs kids that having a son on a mission isn’t my biggest worry.  It says a lot that it has been a harder adjustment to deal with Jordy going to middle school, than for Jax to be in Ukraine.  I have faith that Jax will be protected and watched over.  I am very proud of him and wouldn’t want him anywhere else.  That doesn’t mean I don’t miss him and can’t wait for that hug at the airport.  I have felt our family have a tremendous amount of blessings from Jax serving as well.  There is a feeling of peace that is different than it has ever been before. Jax serving isn’t a trial in my life.  It is a tremendous blessing.  My life has been hard, but also comes with the perks of perspective.  I have great loss perspective and great kid stress perspective as well.  I am grateful to have this insight.  I have too many things in my life that are very stressful.  I can’t waste negative energy on positive things in my life.  I have found that I really love being a missionary mom!

The last two years have been so fun for me as I have traveled around speaking to many different groups.  I have spoken for church groups of all varieties.  I have been a presenter at many different women’s conferences, and conferences focused on healing the trials in our lives.  A couple of times I spoke to troubled teens in a rehab group as well as a women’s rehab center.  Every time I share my story I am lifted.  I love hearing other’s stories and how they can learn from the lessons I have been taught.  This last year I have been working on my book.  I am really excited to be able to have my entire story down for posterity, and anyone else interested in reading it.  It has been something I have wanted to do for a long time, and the timing finally feels right.

I continue to strive for becoming better everyday of my life.  There are days that I choose bitter and struggle with the weight of my load, but I make sure I never choose bitter 2 days in a row.  I have struggled with mild depression on and off for years especially during the winter and around the time of Jake’s death.  I have found many coping techniques that keep it manageable.  I make sure to take care of myself as well as everyone around me.  Curtis and I make sure to have alone time often which also really fills me up and gives me renewed energy for life.  I have come to accept and appreciate the trials in my life.  I am grateful for all that I have learned.  It is overwhelming sometimes when I look back on everything that has happened and take it all in at once.  The fact is that I just take it one day at a time and find happiness in each day.  I look for the hand of God in my life continually and thank Him for all the tiniest details.  I love seeing the miracles and blessings he has given me along the way.  It is proof of his deep love for me as His daughter.

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