Four-Year Reflection: One Step at a Time

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October 4th marks four years since the day we abandoned our beloved home of eight years. Leaving behind the memories and our possessions, we vacated because we knew a clean environment offered our best hope for recovery.

Though the pace of our recovery has felt agonizingly slow at times, I’m surprised by how quickly these years have passed. When life gets hard, the hours seem endless. When we feel hope, time surges.

How are we? Are we better? Yes and no.

No, because we still have impairments. Each child carries a scar. Mood issues remain. We struggle with trauma and fear.

Yes, because in comparison to four years ago we are dramatically improved. I stand in awe at how far we've come.

Here is an update on each of us:

Brandon: Is in 6th grade at a local charter school. He loves math. He plays the piano and guitar. His ability to focus, while still a challenge, has vastly improved. His arm rashes continue to diminish. Give Brandon any task and he'll pour his heart into it. He's also quite the creative cook!

Colin: Is in 7th grade at the same charter school. He reads incessantly. Given his previous migraines and abdominal pain, it is fun to see him read for hours on end. He still has type 1 diabetes, but his A1C (average blood sugar) was an astounding 5.9 last week thanks to our major dietary shift two years ago. He loves making avocado ice cream!

Kaitlyn: Is in 9th grade at the local high school. After missing nearly three years of school, she has surprised herself by excelling in physics, history, math, and English. She is a singer/songwriter and loves to perform.

Reagan: Is 16 years old and excelling in math at the local community college. He completed his GED recently and is an avid filmmaker. With his "one-sided" hearing he has taught himself to play the piano, literally playing "by ear." Here is an example of his combined filmmaking/keyboarding skills.

Kristen: Is 18 and pursuing her associates degree in art/photography at the local community college. Kristen passed her GED with flying colors after missing all but one semester of high school. The depth of her journey and her extraordinary eye is evident in each of her photos.

Ryan: Is 21 and an ardent guitarist, songwriter, and food preparation specialist. He makes yogurt, fermented fruit leather, water kefir, and anything else that helps him stay the course. It's hard to decide which is bigger: Ryan's talent, or his heart.

Shannon: Is 23 and enrolled in an intensive one-year course at Massage School. Watching her climb out of a deep abyss is nothing short of miraculous. She loves speaking French, hiking, and helping others on their health journey.

Megan: Is 25 and works with Tucson's Somali Bantu Association, an organization dedicated to helping refugees. Her serious bout with malaria while in Africa seven years ago, along with her mold exposure and other health challenges, helps her relate with her refugees in powerful ways. She continues her "side job" as a singer/songwriter.

Erin: Is 27 and does all of the packaging and mailing for our family's line of all-natural products. She also does scriptwriting for the radio program Unshackled. Her greatest joy is found in investing in the lives of others, embracing any and every opportunity to offer a voice of comfort.

Chris: Continues his writing career along with his daily radio program. It's hard to see someone who has worked so diligently and responsibly over the last 30 years have so little to show for it in terms of "financial security." Nothing stops my husband, however. His latest book, Borders of the Heart, released this week and offers a hint of our journey in the desert. More than that, it shows his ever-expanding heart and talent.

Me: I started running this summer, and while I'm not doing any marathons, I am grateful for my renewed ability to exercise. To my surprise I have discovered a love for soapmaking. This has expanded into a natural line of products called Just So. Life without chemicals, at one point such a burden, is now a bright spot. I love helping others discover the benefits of living with less chemicals.

My vision to help others who encounter a toxic mold tragedy continues to grow. We have established a non-profit organization called momsAWARE with the hope of one day offering financial assistance to families in crisis.

On this fourth anniversary I find myself looking back with less pain and looking forward with a little more hope. I find myself less consumed with our health and more focused on embracing the twists and turns of this unpredictable, daunting journey.

Photo by Kristen Fabry
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step." —Chinese proverb