Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Saturday Post? Really?

Good Saturday morning!

As promised, a Saturday morning post.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Roxie and Kelci made the high school basketball team. This has been a full week. Term papers, exams, projects and TWO, count 'em, TWO tryouts!

We need a better word than "stressful" to describe a week like this past one... but I'm too tired to come up with one.

Kelci and Roxie worked hard this week, and it really paid off.

I'm not sure how to spell everyone's name yet, so I'll be coming back in an hour or so and "fixing" this little blurb to include the two girls on each end of the picture... because they definitely deserve it! (The three chicks in the middle are Roxie, Taylor and Caroline.)

RANDOMNESS #2 - Josh's Journey - Part Four - As I told you Wednesday, since A Simple Life will be coming to an end after my 1,000th post (sometime in September, I think), I wanted to make sure the important stuff was covered one more time.

QUESTION - You may be asking what we were doing with Austin and Roxie during these two years. We were dating them like crazy. Breakfasts, dinners, Saturday afternoons, Sunday afternoons... anytime we could squeeze in a one-on-one date, we did. We knew we had to work harder to maintain the relationships with the other two children than ever before. While Austin would have let it go and not said a word, his unselfishness made us work all the harder. As for Roxie, she demanded the attention. She didn't take away from Josh, but she knew what she needed from us even more than we did, and she would plan her own dates and outings with us.

FUNNY NOTE - One night Josh did something extremely irritating to Roxie. Instead of "letting it go," as we had all been doing over the months, she had had enough. "Josh, this has nothing to do with your OCD. You are just being a big ol' BUTT!" Normally, I would have jumped all over that, but it was music to my ears. It was the most normal thing we had heard in our house in almost 18 months. It caught Josh off guard, and he apologized and straightened up. Roxie speaking up helped remove some of the eggshells we had been walking on in our house.

When I first started this series, I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. Just figuring out which details to leave in and which 1,000 to leave out has been mind boggling (and I'm a little limited in the mind department sometimes). In saying that, today I'll be talking about three friends and how they stuck by and helped Josh, as well as a timeline of his 7th grade year.

Josh's behavior was very erratic, and he was unable to leave the house for several months. We were very worried about so many things, one of them being his social life. I know you're thinking that is not the most important thing, but it is one of many, many aspects of this illness we had to consider.

I decided to call two women, explain to them as best I could what was going on and ask if their two sons would be able to visit Josh on a regular basis. I have to give them enormous credit, because although I was very honest with them, you had to see it to believe it. I gave them an out saying if at any time their boys were upset or did not want to come over any more, I would totally understand... and I would have. They explained the situation to their 12 year-old sons, and they were willing to help.

It was always good to have three because if Josh had to retreat to the bathroom to wash for an hour, the other two boys could play X-Box or pool or jump on the trampoline together until he could join them again. We started out slowly, just one or two hours at a time. The boys saw Josh praying, shouting "Amen" five, six or more times, jerking, washing. It didn't seem to phase them at all.

As we started trying to take him outside of the house to do things, they were understanding of the fact we might have to leave early or even turn around and come home as soon as we arrived. They understood Josh wasn't being "selfish" because he couldn't play just anything they wanted to play. They played what he was able to play on that particular day... I'm sure whether they wanted to or not.

One day, Josh came down and his hands were bleeding. I was putting Neosporin on them when one of the boys came up and asked me, "Miss Belinda. Have you ever seen the movie The Aviator?" I had not, but I knew it was about Howard Hughes who suffered from OCD, as well as other mental illnesses.

"No. But I know it was about Howard Hughes. Do you understand? Josh has some of the things shown in that movie."

The young man looked at me and looked away, and I thought I understood what he was thinking. Howard Hughes lived a miserable existence and died a horrible death because of his mental illness. "There are some similarities, but Josh isn't going to end up like Howard Hughes," I told him. He looked at me again. "He WILL NOT end up like Howard Hughes."

"Okay, Miss Belinda," and they went off to play whatever Josh wanted to play.

Those two guys hung with Josh for three years, and even though time and interests have changed, they still speak and are very kind to him.

Also, during the three years, another friend emerged, and after speaking to his mom, he was happy to socialize with Josh, also. His mother was comfortable enough to let Josh come to her house to visit, which was not an easy thing to do. There were so many things to "watch" for, but she and her family were warm and welcoming and took very good care of the situation.

At the end of 8th grade with high school sports starting and friends going in different directions, I prayed for another friend or two to be faithful and supportive, and God answered that prayer with another fine young man. His mom is also kind, warm and understanding.

Austin and his friends have definitely taken up the slack in the friend department, and many of them accept Josh and are kind to him just because of his relationship with Austin. That's okay. We'll take anything we can get. We're also blessed to have my sister's children, Brad, Katie and Zac, who are most definitely more than cousins, and have offered him friendship and unconditional support over and over and over again.

I'll tell a funny little story here. The Christmas of his 7th grade year (one year after diagnosis), I had written notes to the two boys who had been so wonderful to Josh the past year. It was a little mushy, so I ended the note saying, "I know some of the things I've said will make it a little embarrassing the next time you see me, but come up to me and talk... or I'll have to find you." I enclosed a gift card to McDonald's for milkshakes. The mother of one of the young men said he came to her and her husband and read the card and kept it on his dresser. I didn't know how the other friend had taken the letter... until the Christmas Eve service.

This was a highly emotional time for me, because as I said in earlier posts, this was the first time Josh had been to church in exactly one year... and this service had always been his favorite service of the year. He had always said that from the time he was a little guy. I was tearful and grateful and excited and hopeful.

And then I noticed his friend making a beeline toward us. He stopped right in front of me and leaned down (almost in my "space"), and I readied myself for something very emotional and touching.

"Is that McDonald's gift card for $5 or $10? My mom said since it was for a milkshake, it was just for $5, but I told her I bet it was for $10. Who's right?"

You've got to love boys! I wished I had bought a $10 certificate, but unfortunately it was for $5. When I told him, he grinned and said, "Well, thank you very much." As he was walking away, I asked him if he would be interested in going to Krispy Kreme sometime during the Christmas holidays, and I think we all know what the answer to that was!

The following is the time-line for Josh's 7th grade year.

1. Josh began school in Honors classes, but was unable to go into the building without me. The first three or four weeks of school, I sat outside his first period class. The remainder of the day, I sat in the office.

2. Josh was more comfortable in first period as long as I remained in the office down the hall. For four or five weeks, I sat in the school office from 8:00 until 3:00.

3. Josh was unable to stay in band. The noise made from all the different music played at the same time was torture. He came out of band. I sat in the office for three hours, we would go home for 45 minutes and then return for the rest of the day.

4. Josh was able to go to school and on days when there was not a chance of bad weather or a cloud in the sky, I could sit in the van. I stayed in the van for three hours, checked Josh out for 45 minutes and returned for the rest of the day. This lasted for over five weeks.

5. Somehow Josh continued to make straight As. (I continue to mention his grades because many people associate mental illness with poor grades, and that is not always the case.)

6. After the Thanksgiving holidays, Josh started to "break down," and he was unable to get out of the car. After two weeks of trying, we resumed the Homebound Program and the liaison brought our work to the house where we completed assignments and tests and returned them to her.

7. Our 7th grade year finished just as our 6th grade year finished...at home, incredibly lonely and isolated, but still praying and hoping this would not be our life.

8. Mike and I had started sitting on the front porch during rainstorms with Josh sandwiched in between us to desensitize him to weather.

9. One of us had to stay with him at all times. When Mike came home from work, I would go to Wal-Mart for 30 or 45 minutes every night. It was the only time I got out during the day.

10. After a year of getting dressed on Sunday mornings and walking into the doors of the church... then turning around and leaving immediately, Josh was finally able to occasionally attend church, but not music services. He had to leave before the invitation was given. Mike and I worked in the Middle School Department. He would go to Sunday School for the most part unless the subject matter was disturbing. If he needed to leave, he sat with us while we prepared the attendance rolls.

11. If the weather was bad or going to be bad, we stayed home.

12. There were three more times when we had to decide about hospitalization during this year, but each time, God and our doctor helped us avoid what we considered too drastic a measure.

Tomorrow, we'll do the 8th grade time-line as well as the Top Ten Things You NEVER Say to a Parent With a Child Suffering From Mental-Illness... David Letterman style.

NOTE - As I've said before, please feel free to leave comments and questions regarding Josh's Journey privately through e-mail (mfaulkner1306@charter.net) or "message" me on Facebook. Thanks!

Okay. That's it for today. Faulkner Farms (circa 1842) looks like an individual bomb has been set off in each and every room... including mine. The Faulkner Five do not know it yet, but we're about to get really, really busy around here.

Have a super Saturday. I hope you get a lot done. (I hope I get a lot done!)

Take care, and I'll talk to you in the morning.


The Enchanting Belinda

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