Love Wins In Marriage Episode #47
How should I write about the width and depth of twenty-two years of marriage, life, kids, vacations, pain, joy, adventure, family, depression, death, new beginnings, addiction, career, sexual intimacy, and money? In this podcast, my wife Leith and I offer a gritty and raw re-telling of our story.
Instead of writing a post about what we share in this podcast, I will share something I wrote for our friend’s wedding, The Way of Love, adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4. I am not a pastor. I am just a simple guy who learns best when I can relate by practical application. I hope The Way of Love encourages you as you throw yourself into the mysteries of choosing love.
We printed this and put it up on our refrigerator to remind of us how Love Wins.
The Way of Love
If I speak with you using fancy persuasive words or if I write you love songs that I sing to you under a star light night, or if I buy you a house with a white picket fence with a new Lexus in the garage, but if I don’t have love as my motive, love as my guide, love as the silver thread woven into the fibers of our marriage, then all of my words and actions will make you grow weary like the creaking sound of a rusty gate.
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. I want to learn to love you like this, Love never gives up. The Way of Love doesn’t use the word ‘divorce’ in our home. Love isn’t self-centered.
The Way of Love studies and learns the deep desires of your heart. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. The Way of Love develops daily rituals to remind me to be grateful.
Love doesn’t strut, Love doesn’t have a swelled head. The Way of Love humbly owns how I am unfinished as a person. The Way of Love is to admit that I am under construction and in need of constant renovation. The Way of Love is to never pretend that I’ve got this whole thing figured out.
Love doesn’t force itself on others, Love isn’t always talking about “me first”. The Way of Love is tender and patient waiting with an open hand, not a tight grip. Love doesn’t fly off the handle. The Way of Love punctuates every conversation with restraint.
Love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. The Way of Love never participates in the battles of blame. The Way of Love grows forgetful together and remains loyal, no matter what the cost. Even when your spouse blows it, is terrible to be around, is sick, depressed, disappointed, angry, irritating, obnoxious, or temporarily impersonates someone you’ve never met.
The Way of Love forms an alliance with God about who He designed your spouse to be, despite how ugly that part of them is right now. The Way of Love never stops believing the best about each other and always expects the best from each other.
The Way of Love always stands your ground in defending your spouse even when it’s with your best friend, your family, or someone who intimidates you. The Way of Love also knows when its time to let them come to their own defense.
The Way of Love always trusts God’s good heart and intentions towards you even when life’s road is steep, rocky, and full of dead ends. The Way of Love never looks back, but finds a way to keep going to the end.
The Way of Love adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4 by aaron mchugh | The Message | NIV | Amplified
Transcription of with Leith McHugh on Work Life Play, March 2016
Aaron: Say something about what your beliefs were about life back then, like kind of what, what was our, what were your view of what your life was going to look like of what your marriage was going to look like and what your kids were going to look like? Just kind of what were some of the things when you started out that you now know differently, but just kind of that early beginnings. Everything’s brand new, everything’s possible.
Leith McHugh: I think, I thought we would have a perfect world. We have always liked each other a lot, so I thought that our marriage would just be easy. I thought you would put the toilet paper on the roll correctly.
Aaron: Just for the record. Say which way is correct.
Leith: Well, listeners, I think you might, most of you, especially women, might agree that the toilet paper should go over the toilet paper heading down, not coming from underneath the roll.
Aaron: Hey friends. Welcome to the work life play podcast episode 47. Today is titled love wins. And I interview my wife actually after 22 years of marriage on this journey, the story of work in life and play. We just crossed over 22 years with our anniversary in December. We recorded the interview actually back in January, but it’s, you’ll find today as you listen, it’s a long-form interview and there was some actually quite a bit of editing and stuff just to make sure it was tight and make sure that we all, all that we said and all that was involved in the storytelling that we were comfortable with it being. As my wife says, once you put it out there in the world, you can’t take it back. So get a chance to listen to that discussion between us, just an intimate, raw story of from the beginning to today and all that that has entailed all of the ups, all of the downs and all of the in-betweens from kids to marriage to in sickness and in health and just, it’s a lot.
Aaron: So I hope that you will choose to listen to it with your spouse, significant other partner, friend for single folks. If you’re not married yet, it doesn’t get any more real than that. Nobody really ever shared a lot of that kind of story with us when we were dating and young, I’m married. So when we encountered a lot of those hardships, they just felt like a punch in the gut. We didn’t know that it was quote-unquote normal. So hopefully that will be encouraging to you guys today. It does run about an hour and 40 minutes long and we debated back and forth whether or not to cut it up and put it into multiple episodes, but I think it’s just better for a single episode, give you an opportunity to listen to it 10 or 15 minutes at a time or all in one sitting.
Aaron: But I think you’ll really find that it’s, it’s the honest version of life. So in the work in life and play, I feel what’s earnest on my part is to offer you the story of life. And truth be told, I struggle at times to give that version over a microphone. So my wife is much more I guess yeah, she is much more, has an ease about her in that way that you’ll hear today. So before I push play on the podcast and he listened to that, by the way, his, she says too, she’s my first in-studio guests, which is kind of fun. Most of my other podcasts are done over the phone or maybe it’s somebody else’s location. But never actually here sitting in my home office. So before we get into the podcast today, I want to tell you a couple of things.
Aaron: Yesterday we really had a cool day. We’re big fans of the work of Rob Bell and he just came out with a new book, “How to be here”. Do you want to check it out? I think it actually comes out on Tuesday, but we got signed copies of it yesterday, which is pretty cool. And what I love he talks about is whatever you do, and here I am, I’m staring at a microphone saying this is what I’m doing. Throw yourself into it. And if it’s work that you love and actually like wake up in the morning and say, I want to do that here, regardless of whether or not it’s your vocation, but when you find that thing that you’re supposed to do, then you throw yourself into it and you let go of results and outcomes. And what’s cool is this morning I woke up and I, this marriage podcast has been on my list of making sure I needed to complete, but also wanted to spend some uninterrupted time on it and not just rush through it and hammer it out just in honor of what it actually is.
Aaron: It’s a big deal and a big story in something I wanted to take my time, but when I, my eyes cracked open this morning at 6:this30 I, I felt that I want to get out of bed for this, I want to do this. And what’s so interesting is one of the questions I got to ask him yesterday was, Hey, say more about vocation and work you do work you love and that they may not be the same. Like you may actually just have a day job that you punch time in and it provides for your family. But the thing that actually gets you stoked in the world that you’re supposed to do is this thing you do on the side. And so it was cool that I felt that this morning waking up. So I just want to own that too with you. My friends, I love doing this.
Aaron: It really, really fires me up to have an opportunity to just tell stories. I feel like over the course of my life, I’ve learned how to tell stories in ways that can frame out nuggets for people. And the reason I love them is because they help me find a different way than the way I would find on my own. So my hope is as you listen to these podcasts and 47 in and I believe they continue to improve over time. And some of the reasons they continue to improve over time is cause I just get deeper into it and deeper in my commitment to say, you know what I’m showing up here I am as Brene Brown says, you know, be present, be vulnerable, and give over and release outcomes. So here I am releasing all those outcomes. I hope that what’s impactful for you is that these stories help you ask different questions about your life, about what you’re up to in your work up Europe, up to in your life.
Aaron: What’s your aiming at what’s happening on accident versus what you’re purposing to happen and then the areas that need a course correction. So I’m doing that for you in real-time and offering that blood, sweat and tears and joys and fun and adventures in hopes of you doing the same. So with that, the book that I wrote is called titled fire your boss. If you’ve listened to other podcasts, you’ve heard me talk a little bit about that, but I want to say a little bit more. That was helpful for me to learn yesterday in listening to Rob was that the difference between this idea of craftsmanship and success, and I was, would definitely say it was a better language than I’ve been able to describe a mound. So when people ask me, oftentimes when you wrote this book, which fire bosses available Amazon, it’s about, it’s a manifesto to rethink how you think about work.
Aaron: And it’s an invitation with a bunch more questions in it. His answers is not a how-to manual. I’m very intentional about not making it like everything else that’s out there. It’s like follow these five tip tips and techniques and instead it’s, it’s at a heart level of how we approach work, how we do what we do and why we do it every day. And I offer an alternative a different way. A third way to go about it. And what it is for me, I realize is that people ask me, what do you hope will happen with the book? And they immediately go to how many copies have you sold is kind of the answer or what’s going to happen next? Or it’s just this interesting question I realize is like, you know what, now in listening yesterday, it’s that I’m exercising my craft.
Aaron: What I’m hoping will happen is I hope I’ll have some opportunities, which I know I will because I’m now in the game. If you’ve ever heard that Teddy Roosevelt famous presidential speech the phrase about being in the arena, that the credit goes to the man who’s in the arena, who’s actually showing up doing the work, who’s failing, who’s stumbling, who’s fumbling, and who’s daring greatly. So in my case, this book that I wrote that I hope you’ll have an opportunity to check out is, is that exactly that it’s my craftsmanship that I’m exercising saying it’s not about to me success and how many books I’ve sold, and I’m pretty pleased with how many books I’ve sold so far. But what I’m realizing is that what the better way to answer that question is, what do I hope happens is I hope I become a better craftsman.
Aaron: I hope that as this book number one is released, that I have two or three others in me that I know of already and that I continue to be in the arena. I’m fumbling, stumbling, daring, greatly forward, and that my eye is on the fact that I’m in the arena. And then I feel a deep sense of pride and gratitude and humility and just, yeah, gratefulness that I’m even in the game. And what I love about it is this, doing work you love and throwing yourself into it and differentiating between, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your vocation, but whatever the thing is that you love to do. And so I have a good friend who has his day job but with think he loves to do and gets up and thinks about when he wakes each morning is coaching little league baseball. He couldn’t be more fired up about the three different little league teams he coaches.
Aaron: And so that’s the thing. And he’s really, really good at it. You should watch him with these 11-year-olds and seven-year-olds, nine-year-olds, he’s phenomenal. So when you find the thing you’re supposed to do and it may not be your vocation, then the choice we have is do we do it or not and then how much of ourself to be offered to it. So hopefully today you’ll, as you listen to this love wind’s story, one of the things that you’ll want to do also is just keep in context that as a continued to offer these pieces of work, this craftsmanship that really is like I’m, I’m under discipleship of becoming more convinced and exercising more of these muscles all the time, recognizing this is the work I’m supposed to do. So I hope that you’ll hear that as invitation for yourself of whatever you’re up to, that thing that nags you, that thing that invites you, that thing that you keep putting under the pillow or you keep saying not until or only when.
Aaron: Well, I found that not enough of those days come in a row so that it actually became a point of decision to say, and you hear my wife talk about it today too, about organization. She started called brave beauty. That it actually just started with a decision of like, you know what? I’m just going to do this and I’m going to put one foot in front of me and I don’t know where this is going to head, but I know as I keep saying is that this story is going to be a good one and we went down the path and the road of another set of stories in our lives and we kind of reached the end of that trail where now we are on a brand new trail headed in and aiming direction that we’re headed towards things that we want, what our life we want it to look like, the rhythms, the sustainability in which you want to live, the commitments to things like emotional fitness and excitement and adventure and decisiveness and anticipation and abundance and activations of our call.
Aaron: It says we’re aiming towards that. All we know is it’s going to be a good story. We don’t know where it’s going to end and we don’t know what outcomes will be, but we’re going to continue to risk daring greatly as we inch forward in the direction we want to go. Hope you enjoy this today. Make sure you go to the Aaronmchugh.com for the blog post notes. Also to go with the show. And what I’ve posted there is for a wedding that we did where we were asked to read for some younger friends of ours this summer, they had asked, Hey, would you guys do a reading. So wow, that a real honor. Sure we’d be happy to. And as the writer of the family, I just really struggled at first with what do you say?
Aaron: Like what do you say that hasn’t already been said or what do you say that doesn’t just sound like droning on. And on that 50,000 things people have heard before, it’s titled the way of love. And what I did when we were getting ready for this wedding was Corinthians first Corinthians 13 four is a relief famous passage in the Bible that people read at weddings all the time. And so what I realized though is like, man, this just feels like I pulled up three or four different versions of it and, and I really felt like, you know what, we’ve been living this for 22 years and it just feels I feel removed from the text when I read it. Just kind of as it is word for word and it feels less messy than my life feels. So what I did and is I took these couple versions and adapted them together and kinda retitled it.
Aaron: So hopefully you’ll understand that it’s really a, a story inserted within an ancient text to give it, in my case, a modern-day tangibility of the way it actually looks like in love. So it’s titled the way of love, and I’m just going to go ahead and read it to you. So if I speak with you using fancy persuasive words, where if I write you love songs that I sing to you under a starlit night, where if I buy you a house with a white picket fence with a new Lexus in the garage, but if I don’t have love as my motive, love is my guide. Love is the silver thread woven into the fibers of our marriage. Then all of my words and actions will make you grow weary, like the creaking sound of a rusty gate. So no matter what I say and what I believe in what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Aaron: I want to learn to love like this. Love never gives up. The way of love doesn’t use the word divorce in our home. Love doesn’t fly off the handle, okay? The way of love punctuates every conversation with their stint love doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. The way of love never participates in the battles of blame. The way of love grows, forgetful together and remains loyal no matter what the cost, even when your spouse blows, it is terrible to be around. Is sick, depressed, disappointed, angry, irritating, obnoxious, or temporarily impersonate someone you’ve never met. The way of love forms in Alliance with God about who he designed your spouse to be or partner or significant other, despite how ugly that part of them is right now. The way of love never stops believing the best about each other and always expect the best from each other.
Aaron: Love isn’t self-centered. The way of love studies and learns the deep desires of your heart. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. The way of love develops daily rituals to remind me to be grateful. Love doesn’t strut, okay. Love doesn’t have a swelled head. The way of love humbly owns how I am an unfinished person in the way of love is to admit that I am under construction and in need of constant renovation. The way of love is to never pretend that I’ve cut this whole thing figured out. Love doesn’t force itself on others. Love isn’t always talking about me first. The way of love is tender and patient waiting with an open hand, not a tight grip. The way of love always stands your ground in defending your spouse, even when it’s with your best friend, your family, or someone who intimidates you. The way of love also knows when it’s time to let them come to their own defense.
Aaron: The way of love always trusts God’s good heart and intentions towards you. Even when life’s road is steep, rocky and full of dead ends. The way of love never looks back, but finds a way to keep going to the end. Love wins. So we have the way of love hanging on a refrigerator as a reminder of what are we aiming at and what are we trying to be about? If you’d like a copy, you can find email@example.com here we go. With my first ever in-studio guest, my wife of 22 years, Leith McHugh who’s already crying. Can you say hi?
Leith Mchugh: Yeah. Hi.
Aaron: Hi. So what we’re going to do today is in this storyline of work in life and play and living the life you want to live, doing work that you believe in and you love.
And you’re on this planet. To do and playing a lot more. All of that intersects marriage and Leith and I just crossed over 22 years of marriage last month. And in a lot of ways we barely made it. This last year has been, on record our most difficult together. And it felt like it was important too for all of the other stories that I share with you. That I should share this one with you that we should share this one with you. So what we’re here to do today is just have a conversation in some storytelling about what it’s been like for 22 years of marriage. And I think what’s compelling about this as you, the work-life play it listeners, most of you, many you, lots of you are married or have been or thought, thought about it or thinking about it. And it’s just one of those things that a lot of people don’t talk about, but lots and lots and lots of marriages in and around us all in ours was on our way, at least in the category of that. So we thought it might be helpful to just share some of the story with you. So Leith welcome.
Leith: Thank you. There you go. All right.
Aaron: Would you mind starting with kind of the, in the beginning story once upon a time story of, from your, in your words, how does self-start
Leith: Well we were doing young life together down in Waco, Texas, Baylor, what year is this? 93, no, 92 I think. And you were playing guitar. Wait, do I talk to you or talk to them however you want. Okay. I’ll say he was playing guitar for our young life team and he was very serious, very intense. But he was really cute but he had a girlfriend so I was not interested and I was a little bit crazy and wild so he wasn’t really interested and intrigued. He was intrigued. And so, I don’t know, a couple weeks later I heard that he and his girlfriend broke up and I felt like I needed to ask him about that as I was giving him a ride home cause he only had a bike. So I would give him rides home a lot. And so I asked him how he was doing with their breakup because I knew they had been together for a long time and that led into a two-hour conversation with the car running and Mmm. Yeah. We just had a really okay. Vulnerable two-hour discussion. And so I think it was a couple of weeks later I stopped by one night to see what you were up to and we started just talking more and then ended up going to play for an afternoon in Dallas. And that’s the day that we kind of referred to as our really first date. And I think it was about two weeks after we had kind of hung out and I knew that day that we would get married.
Aaron: Yeah. So we went on that date, that magical day and we still talk about a lot. We were in Dallas and we kind of made it like a whole day of it. And we went to, we found this little Cajun restaurant that we loved, that I’ve actually even looked up a few times, see if it’s still there. And I think it’s called shuck and jive. And so it was like gumbo and Creole and that kind of stuff. So we ended that. We ran around downtown Dallas, went to the JFK. Yeah. Assassination Memorial in the Grassy Knoll and all that. And then ended up finishing the evening at, I think we, all we could afford was coffee, but up in the reunion tower restaurant and that circular restaurant that goes around, I’m above the city lights of Dallas. And then I think we got in the car and drove back. And then the big deal was, I’ll give you a piggy back in the park or something. Right?
Leith: Yup. And we bought matching webbing belts at Patagonia store or one of those, something like that.
Aaron: It was about all we could afford to. Yeah. Okay. So that was the beginning. So then talk us through a little bit of the marriage beginnings, career beginnings, kids, beginnings, moving to Colorado. I just love to hear it from your perspective.
Leith: Well, there’s a lot, but I think, so. We started off living in our little apartment in Waco while Aaron finished his last semester of school and I worked at a little daycare in town. Then he had a chance to work at young life’s wilderness ranch and Creede Colorado. And that counted as his last credit before he could graduate. So we took that job is a volunteer position, but we took that. And so after we got married, we packed up all of our belongings, which is more than we have today. And moved to Colorado. So we worked at young life camp for four months and then a family that was there during the summertime offered for us to live with them for several weeks or months. I think they actually offered rent-free if we ended up moving to Colorado Springs. Bill and Judy Benson, who were very dear to our family and their kids are dear to our family. So we ended up living with them for five weeks while we gathered together our first deposit money for an apartment. And, yeah, so we stay in our little apartment for a couple of years until I got pregnant with Holden, which was pretty quick. And then we kept having babies. Where else should I go with that?
Aaron: Say something about what your beliefs were about life back then, like kind of what, what was our, what were your view of what your life was gonna look like of what your marriage was going to look like, of what your kids were going to look like? Just kind of what were some of the things when you started out that you now know differently, but just kind of like that.
Leith: Early beginnings. Everything’s brand new, everything’s possible. I think, I thought we would have a perfect world. We have always liked each other a lot, so I thought that our marriage would just be easy. I thought you would put the toilet paper on the role correctly,
Aaron: Which just for the record, say which way is correct.
Leith: Well listeners, I think you might, most of you, especially women might agree that the toilet paper should go over the toilet paper heading down, not coming from underneath the role. I didn’t think I’d be so controlling and I think I thought it was just going to be like we used to say a little house with a white picket fence that kids would, we’d have several of them and we would just roll through life and everybody would grow up and get married and have lots of grandbabies and we’d go on happily ever after. Yeah.
Aaron: 22 years later. It looks a little different. Both the joys of that as well as the pains of that. Yeah. Yeah. So when we were back in the first beginnings of our life here in Colorado, when we moved to town, as Leif has mentioned, we were living with his family. We just finished up our young life gig and we didn’t yet have our first paycheck. I was working at a backpacking store, kind of a, an REI local version of that called green Outfitters. And I, my job was somewhere in the neighborhood of seven bucks an hour or something like that. And we were waiting for our paycheck to come in. We just, we didn’t have any money, like zero to our name. Didn’t own a credit card, didn’t, didn’t have a nickel. I think we, we debate whether it was $34 or $29 we moved to town with which one?
Which one do you say? 29 29 okay. I think I say 34 so, so we have a $5 difference in our memory. But that was what we moved to town with and we would drive around downtown trying to see the city and just kind of get acquainted with the new place that we lived in looking for parking meters that still had time on them. And this was like a lunch break or something. We’d cruise down or before I go into work. So it was really, I think really great stories and we were so optimistic and I just kind of felt like that phrase of the world is our oyster. Like we can do anything we want. And here we are in Colorado and now we’re out of college. And who cares if you don’t have any money that’ll come. We’ll figure that out. And who cares? We don’t have any stuff. Like stuff slows you down. And it just felt like it was, it felt like the perfect beginning.
Leith: Is that, yeah, I just got distracted because I was thinking about us using a coupon cause we used coupons everywhere we went. So we finally gathered up some money to eat out and we used a coupon and ended up being that gay bar-restaurant called the hide and seek. And we were sitting there and we kind of looked around and we were like, why was only guys kind of staring? It was all guys. And they were, they kind of kept giving us funny looks and we realized that we were in a gay bar with our coupon,
Aaron: With our coupon. Yeah, that’s right. Okay, well there you go. There’s a good story. Okay. So let’s talk about kids and as they entered on the scene. So it was very quick, we were here, Colorado, we were married for a couple of years and our son Holden was born in 1995. So say a little bit about what that was like being a brand new mom and what perfect world look like back then. That’s okay. Ugh.
Leith: Well, I couldn’t wait to be a mom that’s all I ever wanted to do. And tried to convince Aaron that we needed to stop taking birth control and do the natural rhythm method which was advertised as more sex too, right? That there’d be more practice. Yes. And instead, we got pregnant on the first day I got off the pill or something like that. So along came Holden. we named him before he was born and saw his name in a magazine somewhere and he would like it to be the story to be that he was named after Holden Caulfield, so we can change it to that. But originally it was from Rick Schroder who had two kids, Luke and Holden. And when I saw that name, I just knew that that’s what we needed to name our boy. He was a fat, happy, bubbly, jolly cracking up all the time, baby.
Leith: Super easy, super fun. So we, I think we had him about two years after we got married. Two and a half. And we had so much fun. I got to stay home with him. I decided not to finish nursing school because I got pregnant while I was just starting out and decided not to finish up but to stay home with him and we played a lot and giggled a lot. We’re going to ask something. No, just lots of playdates, lots of friends at the park, lots of field trips and you know, walking with friends. I remember you guys just, you guys had a pretty killer time. Yeah, we did. We all stayed home together, bake cookies together and put all the babies in the little playpens together and it was fun. Tony Rochelle, some of my old friends, Kelly. So we did that for a lot of years and then we all start having second babies and thirds and fourths.
Leith: They’re divorced and they went on to fifths. So then had Z, well, first of all, we bought our first house, saved up our little pennies and bought our first house and Hadley was born a couple of days after we moved into that house. It was a brand new house. It had, we didn’t build it, but it was a spec home. And I remember feeling like we were like the richest people in the world because we got to move into a brand new house and no one had ever lived in it and it smelled new. And so Hadley was born a couple of days after we moved in there and gosh, yeah. What do we talk about heads? Yeah. Yeah. How did, how did perfect world change? Well, when she was born we felt like something wasn’t right, but there was nothing we could point to. It was nothing that we talked about laying in bed at night.
Leith: We just kind of both felt something in our gut. And her app guards were good at the hospital. There was nothing that anyone seemed concerned about. So we went on home and she did have a little bit of a hearing loss, but they thought she just had fluid behind her ears or inner ear drums, however that works. And we found out within about 10 days that she had a hearing loss and we thought that was all that was wrong and had a therapist coming to the house to start teaching us sign language and helping us walk down this road of having a deaf child. And we thought that was the most traumatic thing you could imagine was super hard news. We kind of at the time couldn’t imagine anything much worse than having our child not be able to hear. And within a few months when she was four months old her headset had, had not grown at all.
Leith: And so our sweet pediatrician, dr Coutts, wanted to do an MRI on her brain. And we did and we both thought really good going int the MRI and got the news, I dunno, week later so that she was born without part of her brain and the rest of it was underdeveloped. What was that like? A million times, but tell it again. At the time, I think it was the most heart-wrenching thing I’d ever heard and experienced. Shock, disbelief, fear, a lot of fear about all the unknowns about whether she would ever walk or talk, get married, go to college, leave our house, talk to us on the phone. And our Doctor had told us, you know, she could be kind of mildly retarded or she could be super severe and require care for the rest of her life.
Leith: And so I wasn’t going to settle into the idea that she might need to require care for the rest of her life. And I remember us both just fighting for her and doing everything that we could possibly do. Every therapy, every alternative food supplements and determined to not ever have to have her have a G tube. And we did that for a couple of years until, for me, I remember kind of my turning point the whole time we had, you know, Oh, one thing we forgot to talk about was just kind of where we were spiritually in our life. And I think when we first got married, we were pretty, what I would now say legalistic in our faith. And so I feel like we both did this, but I’ll speak for myself, but we, I maintained that for about the first three years of Hadley’s life that, you know, God is good and we can do this, we’ve got this.
Leith: And you know, God doesn’t give you anything more than you can handle and we must be really special people that God would give us this girl. And all the things that people told us and we believed. And for me, a turning point was when had they got her G tube when she was two. And what is a G T and G tube is a tube that goes directly into the stomach and you do feedings through it for calories and nourishment. And she was not able to swallow well, she could swallow more, but she couldn’t suck very well, so she wasn’t getting enough calories. And so we finally had to do that. So about a year after she did that, she just had thrown up a lot during that year. And finally one morning Aaron was out for coffee with our friend Matt and Hadley started throwing up what looked like coffee grinds and I learned was old blood and I just sat next to her on the floor. She was laying there, a little boppy pillow and just punched the floor until I couldn’t, I couldn’t punch anymore. And I pulled my hand up and it was broken up. And that was a huge turning point for me with all of our smiling through it all and saying, Oh, we’ve got this, we can do this. God is so good. And that was a big shift.
Leith: Yeah, it feels like that’s worth a pause, huh. But if we pause, I’ll start crying. Yeah.
Aaron: So as you guys are listening, we haven’t, we agreed before we turned on the mic, we would only tell stories or say things to each other that we’ve said previously. So none of this will be new ground, but covering just like for you guys in your life when you go back and cover your tracks and go back over your tracks again. Especially the hard painful stuff that you never anticipated happening. It is the, it’s just, it’s sobering, especially given the, in our beginnings of just what we just always knew there was some big, big story we were going to live in. Even when we were, I remember at our rehearsal for our wedding and we kind of told the audience here we were these 21-year-old kids and we were standing out front and saying, we know we’re supposed to do this and do it together.
Aaron: And the combination of our lives together is more powerful than our lives apart. And yet the truth is we had no flipping idea what we were saying, that the magnitude of what was ahead for us. And what’s interesting is that as leaks, telling that story and punching the ground, she’s told 100,000 times and spoke to women about and there’s a family video that we have that was produced after our daughter’s death. So we’ll tell you about that as well. But what I am struck by and always have been about Leith that you should know, you are the most resilient person I know, and life is in you and always has been. And if you could see the pain in her eyes right now but if also you could see the delight in the way she lives, in what she’s rebounded from. So any of you that are moms out there, you can imagine what that must be like after nine months of carrying your second kiddo.
Aaron: And many of you have probably lived something similar or know someone who, who’s lived something similar. One of the things we learned in one of our counseling sessions was just that as a mom, the impact on Leith is what he said 300% more than what I as a dad or a husband carry related to our kids. And I think that’s true, but I’ve watched you be resilient. So we’re telling part of the story about how these birth holdings on the scene, but we’re already kind of skipping to punchline of, or one of them of that Hadley passes away five years ago this month. Do you want to head down that path or do you want to head down the path of the grand finale? Avery entering the scene first and then we get all the characters in the story before we go any further.
Aaron: Okay. All right. All right. So tell us about Avery, the grand finale and why we call her the grand finale. You want me to start? Okay. Mom’s crying. So Avery is our grand finale in that she is, she is spunky and gorgeous and tough and this perfect blend of sturdy. We talk about it. She’s like the most grounded person we know on the planet and knowing who she is, what she’s wants to do, not want, doesn’t want to do. She answers questions with single words like, no, I’m not going to do that. And she just says she’s really amazing. And what’s been delightful for our family in this is that we were so afraid to have a third kid. I most especially was after Hadley was born with her, all of her special needs. It was just a high risk to try and to me it felt like it was really scary.
Aaron: You want to say something about that? Go ahead. Well, I just think it’s funny because we had made a decision on whether or not we were going to pursue having a third child and we were super scared. And yet I knew in my deepest places that I, I needed a baby girl. So she’s 14 now. She’s the youngest, she’s still at home with us. The other two are no longer at home with us today and she is adventurous and brave and quiet. Deep, deep. Yeah. So she has made, we’re so, so, so grateful that God intended all of our children and we’re so grateful that all three of them have a place in our life. So as we call Avery the grand finale, she just is kind of a perfect last kid. The perfect youngest kid. Alright, so how about we transition just a little bit, let’s talk just a little bit about work kind of career stuff.
Aaron: What was going on? What, what that part is like, what the topic of money and sex are. Like what rearing kids were like. So we’ll pick up kind of the chronological part related to kids. But let’s go back and just tell some of that story. So you were staying home, three little kids at home under the age of what? Nine and under? So five and under. Okay. So we, they were all ankle biters at the time. And you’re breastfeeding, you are pushing two kids through the grocery store, one in a wheelchair one not walking, hanging in there. Yeah. So tell, tell some stories about that. So that’s those are, we call them our blackout years, which are, we don’t remember. It was like you blacked out and your memory. And I think some of that’s just kind that we don’t remember those. But what do you remember about those years?
Leith: Well I was just telling someone, I think it was yesterday about trying to go, I was telling staff about trying to go to the grocery store and I would have Avery in a front pack baby Bjorn and Hadley in her wheelchair and hold in on the shopping cart. Like he would be on the end of the shopping cart. Yeah, the front of the shopping cart and I would push the shopping cart, pull the wheelchair cause it was easier. No I pushed the wheelchair with one hand and pulled the shopping cart with one hand cause it drove better. But that was just to get to the grocery store.
Aaron: And some of those like I remember is like, even though there’s lots of difficulty in that, we had a lot of fun. Like we had a lot of fun at meals and we had a lot of fun like driving in the car together.
Leith: I remember wearing our underwear on our head night for dinner. Yeah, I told that story. That was a fun one. I don’t even really remember it. I just remember one night saying, I think we should all put underwear on our head and come to dinner. And so we did.
Aaron: That’s right, so Everybody went and got a pair of underwear and wore it to dinner and we all wore it through the whole meal and then took pictures. Yeah, I have got a couple of those pictures. I’ll put them up on the podcast notes. I also remember one night we did shaving cream sculps and basically I got the kids in the shower and we all did our trunks on and stuff, some suits on and all did shaving cream. I don’t even know beards and has ears. And so it was like we were, we were having a good time and I think marriage wise during those, I felt like we were super solid teammates. Yeah. And just for each other and a lot of tag team wrestling, a lot of honoring each other and like, I know you need rest. Okay great. You know, I need rest. There wasn’t a lot of rest when you’re home because the wild Indians just needed so much and there was a lot going on. But I also think that we also developed some patterns in those years where we became partners in the tag team, but not, we began to develop life outside of our marriage by necessity. But I think that is later produced challenges for us in how we come back together and how we do life together, which is what we’ve been working on. These last few years. So what do you have about, what comes to mind about those years?
Leith: I just think, I mean we mostly in survival mode and if you were watching from the outside you would have thought that we were in survival mode, but we really fought for a joy in life and wanted to keep having fun. And you know, whether we let the kids draw mustaches or whatever on Hadley or dress up the dogs or just whatever. Like I feel like we were silly. We really, really longed for joy and we fought hard to
Aaron: To do that. Say about one of the things that I think about when people ask us about how have you made it 22 years of marriage. So we hang out with people now, some younger folks, they’re newly married and there are a couple of months in or a couple of years in and they ask that question, Hey, what’s the rebar that’s held you guys together? So I think it’s, there’s been some things I can see through the years, but what stands out to you has kind of our structural integrity of how we’ve been able to make it 22 years.
Leith: For me, one of the biggest things is our communication and just saying things how they are and shooting straight and being honest, vulnerable, even when it’s painful. But I think communication has, has saved us. I think the more that we’ve grown in our marriage, the more we assume the best about each other. And what does that mean? Say more about that. Oh, I guess just if I’m, I can’t think of an example right now, but if it’s something that was said or something that was done instead of taking it personally and feeling like, I guess just instead of taking it personally, I can assume that you’re for me, you’re not against me, so you probably didn’t mean to do whatever that was or say it that way or
Aaron: I don’t know if that helps, but that’s just kind of what comes to mind. Yeah. Just believing the R our intentions for each other are good and that’s the beginning place. No, I think what we’ve been growing in is out of that core belief, then that becomes how we interpret circumstances that are happening. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t get our feelings hurt or bothered or ticked off or offended, but it does seem to lessen it when you start with a core belief. Okay. I know Leith is for me, I know if she’s saying this or doing this, she might be having a bad day. She may not have intended to say it that way with that sharp piece on it or vice versa. But it helps I think because in the past when we haven’t maintained that belief, you just, I’ve gone just super quickly to negative, nasty, not very helpful stuff. They just makes whatever it is we’re going through worse because it’s just toxin early, I think. And we’ve also pursued a lot of help along the way. I think we started marriage, well, we did premarital counseling and then we, I think we started pursuing counseling pretty early on. And if we weren’t necessarily counseling, we were inviting trusted folks into our story to be a third person to speak into us. And of course, in the most recent years, I think one of the best things that we’ve done for our marriage is to focus on ourselves and just getting ourselves well. And as we say, staying in our own lanes and being open to, well for, for us, we needed to un-mesh and find our independence from each other because we got married so young and really grew up together. And I think this last year in particular finding ourselves again has been really important.
Aaron: So let’s go back to, I want to say more about what we’ve staying in our own lanes. Discovering independence again, new construction, kind of, this our current story that we’ve been under under working on I guess on a renovation. Let’s go back to, so the kids were, Susie had leaves five years ago today or this month, Hadley was 12 years old, Avery was nine and hold was 14. Is that right? And so talk a little bit about what had led up to Hadley’s passing, what her 24-hour care looked like and then talk us through what her, the event of her death was like.
Leith: well ‘Hads’ had always been super healthy given her little bodies fight? She was a really healthy girl. So specifics about what was actually wrong. So well, okay. So she was born without part of her brain and the rest of her brain was underdeveloped. So her, her head was literally physically tiny. But what that meant for her is that she had, she was legally deaf and blind cortical vision, blindness and auditory neuropathy. And we know that she could see and hear some things, but that would kind of go in and out. So sometimes it would see, like, seemed like she could see us or hear us better. And sometimes it seemed like she could not. She had seizures. She was for the better part of her. Later years she was on oxygen. G-Tube diapers, wheelchair. Yeah, three times a day. Yeah. A lots of meds, a Broviac line that we kept in her for access also. I’m trying to think what else. Hospital. Yeah.
Aaron: I mean oxygen machines and wheelchairs and wheelchair vans and tubes and medication and value them. And I mean it was, it was 24 hour care in-home patient care. Right?
Leith: Yes. Yeah.
Aaron: And you were predominantly her care provider during those years?
Leith: Yeah, yeah. I actually got paid from the state to take care of her. So I was her CNA and that was an awesome program that started about the time that she was born that allowed parents to be able to get paid to stay home with their kids. So we did that and she, she suffered several broken bones. She broke her femur, I think three different times. And drug overdoses. Yep. Pharmacy overdosed or once a nurse overdosed or once she really endured a lot. I mean, beyond a lot. But she had pneumonia several times, but we weren’t, that was never really scary for us cause she bounced back through every time she got sick she would bounce back. And she actually didn’t really get sick very often. So I think her death was quite a surprise because Hadley never died. She always kept going. Even when we thought she was going to die two years prior, she almost died and all the kids from her little school came to say goodbye to her and they made her a quilt and lined up outside of our house. And one by one came through to tell her goodbye and a couple of days later she peeked open her little eyes and start bopping her hands around and was ready to roll. So she was back at school within a week.
Aaron: After everyone wrote her goodbye letters. She was like the school mascot. So even that like as dreadful a terrible, Someone came to the house to play greeter.
Leith: Yeah, Eric Eaton came
Aaron: Yeah and showed people through the house for everyone at the front door. So we didn’t have to be, yeah. And then would show them back over to Hadley’s room, near the front door, and escort them so they could come in and say goodbye to her because the coroner had come to the house and said, yeah, this looks like a medically expected death as hospice came. That’s what it was called. The coroner. Yes. Sorry. But even just that, like that, that was insane. It was so out of the body, not even like a movie. It was just somebody else’s life. It was just so impossible to believe and so painful and so painful. Like for me, I was incapable, especially during those years of processing any of it. I mean, not any of it, but I wasn’t shut down, but I wasn’t able, it was too much. And that was during the years where I developed, actually, I refined my already developed skill, to hold my breath and wait until it’s over and then think about how I feel about it later.
Aaron: And that didn’t subsequently hasn’t served me well. But that was, you and I both during those years just developed true like survival skills and both of us had survival skills coming into our marriage because of family of origin related survival that we both learned how to survive, which I think is fueled our resilience. But it’s also what we’ve been having to undo the last two years. That sounds accurate.
Leith: And I think we forgot to mention too that some of it started making its way out for me with depression. Right after Avery was born I think is the first time we realized that I was struggling with depression. And then that was really for several years. Probably a good five to seven years that I dealt with that and off and on it would be worse and sometimes it wouldn’t be as bad and sometimes meds helped. And then but I, yeah, I think some of mine started to make its way out in the form of depression.
Aaron: Yeah. Okay. And I think that for you guys are listening, couple of things come to mind is the topics of watching your children suffer and in what, how impossible that is as a parent.
I have watched their kids suffer medically and that maybe through things like Asberger’s, maybe things like, medical condition, maybe emotional anxieties that they’re socially unable to be out and do life. And so there’s just, there’s such a huge variety of why and how parents suffer by watching their kids struggle. But I think it’s a really, really, really real thing when it comes to marriage because we suffered differently and it’s super easy to accept the temptation to say, you should suffer like I do. Why don’t you do it like me? You know, in my case I’m like, are you kidding? You’re crying again? And what I realize is that it was, I couldn’t handle your crying because I felt like I had to do something about your crying. So he was like a double whammy. Whatever was happening with the kids I was hurting about, but then whatever is happening with you then I was hurting about.
And then I always in my dysfunction always thought it was my job to make everything better for everybody. So that was a lot of where that family system, the marital system began to get formed with us. But I think, no, our empathy, I think this is a fair thing to say about marriages that break up and don’t last has changed severely from what, when we first started, when we started it in that perfect world story or like never get divorced. There’s no chance, there’s no way we’ll always be able to pull this off. And then as life has happened and we’ve navigated through life, we totally get it. We totally get why you now we’re here today and we’re committed. But from a, I guess just a more humbled perspective of it’s just fricking harp. Life is hard and watching children suffer or watching each other suffer and not be yourself and not be available to be yourself. And we talk a lot about marriage vows when you first go through a wedding ceremony, listened to in sickness and health, richer for poorer. And it’s like, Oh my gosh, I had no idea what I was saying. I had no idea the depths of what that actually meant, what it meant to be emotionally poor.
In sickness and health, emotionally sick, to be physically sick, to just brutal. And I think that there’s a grace about not knowing when you get married and that lovely beginning, but then when the rubber meets the road as we’ve found out 22 years later, that stuff becomes, it means a lot, something very different to me today than it did back then. So say something about, you’ve mentioned many times, During those years, especially when the kids were younger, how much we fought to give our life marriage, our marriage life, and how we really did, we really were intentional. So as I want the people listening to hear that, how we made it, how we’ve made it through all this is one of the things is we really did always put our marriage as important, whether it was with the kids or vacations we would go on that ended up being more respite than they were sometimes holiday. But say more about that.
Leith: Well, we were always very intentional about getting away together. And I think sometimes I as a mom felt a little bit guilty for, I feel like we, we left a decent amount of the time because we had trusted help that we could leave our kids and go away, but we had to or we were not going to survive. And in hindsight, I think it’s the best thing that we ever did for them. But at the time I wasn’t sure, I felt kind of selfish, but we had some dear friends who were kind of our mom and dad back in Texas. Brett and Laura Miller, we babysat their, their kids. We called the weasels before we got married and right now and after we got married when we still lived in Waco and they had Brett had told us once to just about the idea of always keeping your marriage first, even before your kids.
And that I think we really held onto that. Because it’s so easy to put the kids first, cause it seems like that’s the natural thing that, well, we gotta take care of the kids, but kids wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the marriage. And if we don’t keep the marriage, that’s worse for the kids. So we were very intentional about traveling together. We actually traveled a lot. We always had a lot of great caregivers. Always we had the best girls Katie and Brookie and Manda and the Terran and Bella who just, we could leave Hadley with in particular. And my mom. Your mom helped a lot. I’m sure there’s a ton of other people that I just can’t think of right now. But we had, we had the solid help to be able to leave. And so we went away a lot.
We, I remember us going to the salon in Calistoga and I was literally taken out with anxiety and so we were trying to figure out what was the next step and getting me help because meds were mildly helping, but I was a wreck, depression, anxiety. And we decided that instead of looking into a hospital, we would go to this place and kind of call it our hospital. And so we went for, I don’t even remember how many nights, four nights. And it was Napa Valley area. So I remember having to take medication for anxiety to get there and then sleep in the car on the way to the resort. And then I was in my little hospital for four days and it was great. And we rode our bikes and we had wine and really good food and laid by the pool. And I was almost like perfectly fine. And then we had a lot of sex that trip. Oh my. And then I remember we started packing for the airport and my anxiety hit and I had to take meds again, had to lay down in the car 30 minutes before we got in the car. Yeah. Crushing down almost like it didn’t happen. Yeah. But that was a way that we fought for life in our marriage and chose to call that our hospital instead of going to a real hospital. Hawaii trips that we took.
I don’t know. We did a lot of weekend stuff in the mountains. We were intentional about date nights. We did date nights regularly. I feel like we did them once a week. I don’t really remember about,
Aaron: Well we did that era where we trade off other parents or another set of parents with three or four kids. And then we couldn’t afford a lot of childcare. They couldn’t. So we would timeshare, we get one week and we watch you watch our kids and then the following week we flip flop and we’ll watch your kids. And that way you had like a trade system going on. But that, I mean that stuff made a huge difference where we really did pursue our marriage, our relationship, and amidst tremendous odds of what else was going on. And during those years to career-wise, I think I started traveling for work too, which was another whole brutal compound factor on Leith managing a household that had young kids and special needs. And it was rough. It was super rough. Let’s transition back to, talking about Hadley’s passing and then we can talk through the last couple of years and kind of bring, bring people to current or where we’re at today. So Had’s did her, we call our dress rehearsal back when she looked like she was going to pass two years prior to when she actually did. And then she peaked up, perked up, went back to school. I’d say we had our best two years with her. And so it was our perspective on giving credence to maybe she’s more aware of than we think. Maybe she, when she cries, when she’s in front of the television, maybe she just sick of watching TV or the same show or the same show or maybe she’s lonely and she just wants to be with us over at the kitchen table or, and so we started really paying a lot more attention to what she was responding to.
And I think being a better student and just saying, okay, we can’t improve our circumstances, but we can improve how we choose to live within them. And I think that was a fundamental huge shift for us as a family and for us as individuals to say, yeah, this is a full on shit. Show the circumstances, but work, we can do something about how we choose to do it. So we started playing music in the house. We’re our wheelchair van. We started calling the w, I don’t remember what the something sunshine gang was and we were talking about logoing it out, you know, and like we’re going to have a wheelchair van with a ramp on it. We might as well be fun. And it was just, it seemed fun, but her health was worsening for sure. And then emotionally and spiritually, physically, everybody else kind of started doing better in our family. I felt better, you know, during those years. And then, then all of a sudden she goes in for pneumonia again. And then like you said, she 25 other times she been sick or had issues or we’ve been in the hospital and she always bounced back in this time. She didn’t associate him. Tell the story about that.
Leith: Well, I was at yoga on a Tuesday. I’m up at the club and I had to, I was probably the only person in the yoga class that kept my phone on my mat or right next to it. But I had to, in case I ever got calls for Hadley. And just as soon as I unrolled my mat that morning, I got a call from school and I was surprised because at the time, miss Amy, Hadley’s aide CNA at school, she didn’t call me unless things were bad. She was very comfortable with knowing that I was comfortable trusting her judgment and, and unless Had’s was really not well, she would try to keep her at school. And and so when she called, I was like, that’s a little concerning. And so she just said, yeah, she’s just not breathing well, we’re having to crank up her oxygen and we’re gonna run out.
Leith: Her tank’s gonna run out. I think she had a five-liter tank on her or something that day. I don’t remember. Actually she was up to five liters. That’s what it was. But nonetheless, it was what she never had needed that much oxygen before. And so I called Dr Coutts on the way to school and asked him what he thought we should do. And I remember him saying, if she’s still having that hard of a time breathing when you get to school, take her to the ER. So she looked terrible when I showed up at school. This was, she had only spent one semester at discovery Canyon. She was a middle schooler at that point in she looked terrible and I was a little bit concerned so race to over to the ER and actually thought about this not too long ago that that was the last time I technically held Hadley is they had me put her on the scale and she was a hundred pounds.
She had such a fat butt in her chunky little arms. But they immediately said, yep, she’s got pneumonia and the flu. I don’t think she’d ever had the flu before. And so they admitted her that was a Tuesday afternoon and by Friday afternoon she was gone. And in between all that, nobody thought she was going to die. You know, friends came by, tons of friends came by the hospital and said, you know, had, she’ll probably be out of here. And no time, you should be fine. And people were coming by calling and she didn’t look good and she was on that BiPAP machine and it was awful forcing air into her face. And my best friend Sherry, it’s had said that someone might even mean her dad had had it on and what an awful experience the BiPAP was.
And that really got us to thinking like, do we want to keep forcing this air into her? So we talked as a family on Thursday about not, not putting it in the kids’ hands to choose what we’re going to do, but we just cared what they thought about. We had a family meeting to see in the hospital to say, here’s the story. What do we think? What do we want to do? What’s kind and loving? And is this machine is Darth Vader machine that she was hooked up to that was basically creating an airway for her and shoving air down her throat because she couldn’t breathe on her own with enough oxygen is this kind and loving and basically asking the kids at age 15 and nine and the four of us meeting up in the lobby and saying, what? What do we want to do? It was super sweet though.
It was sweet. If I remember correctly though, buggy wasn’t sure. Yeah. The three of us felt like we really wanted to take that machine off of her, but she wasn’t sure about that and she was so little trying to think about all that. Right?
Oh it’s rough. Too little. But we decided to take it off and just put her on a nasal cannula.
Aaron: which, what does that mean to people who are nonmedical? It’s basically the little oxygen just in your nose. Those little tubes that go across your face loop behind your ears and give you a little bit of oxygen, but nothing like that. Forced air machine, which meant it was a step towards, let’s see if her body rebounds and so at that point was just w is their spirit up for fighting I think was really what question we were trying to provide room for her.
Leith: And I think as her parents, we knew that she was tired, she was tired
Aaron: And we also knew that she knew we were tired. We were tired. Kids were tired. Our marriage was tired of so hard.
Yeah. So she chose a couple of hours later. Right when we had that family meeting, was it the next day?
Leith: It was the next day we took it off. I thought we took it off on a Thursday and then she made me, made it through the night and yeah, one o’clock on Friday, 11 o’clock on Friday, three o’clock is when she actually passed,
But we had been up there. They had nurses turned off all her monitors too so that we wouldn’t just be watching them. We would just be present with her and I and I hadn’t taken a shower and several days and I thought Hadza I had an agreement that I would look hot whenever she decided to pass. And so I was on a mission to get in the shower, but I didn’t want to leave her side and had been laying in her bed next to her and Sherry had been reading to her and friends were coming up and bringing us stuff and ah, so sweet. That was such a sweet day. It was sunny outside and I got up to go take a shower. Avery was laying on one side of her. I was laying on the other and when I got up, Holden stepped into my spot, laid down next to her.
And I went to check the monitor just to make sure before I headed out to take a shower. And her numbers were all really down. Her oxygen saturation, can’t remember now, pulse, everything. Blood pressure was down. And so I went to grab the nurse and she came in and just said, yeah, this is, this is not good. And so I went back in there and I really wanted my spot back next to her and I was looking at Holden and watching him caring for her and realize how much she needed him to be in that spot and not me. And he needed to be in that spot more than I did. And it turns out he was coaching her. I’m just telling her, you know, baby girl, you got this. I’ll close my eyes with you and you could do this and I’ll be with you. And so he literally coached her to her last breath. Yeah. Into heaven. Yeah.
Aaron: Yeah. So for you guys listening and that movie, heaven’s for real, that book, it’s been out last few years. We believe heaven is for real. We, we, not because of that book, but because of what we experienced and believe that the life of God is for real. We sat in a room of 20 something people centered around her bed holding, coaching her into heaven and watched her physical spirit leave the room. It was one of the most dreadful, one of the most dreadful, terrible moments ever, but also one of the most Holy, that all I hope I’ll never forget of just a reminder that there is, there’s more going on here than we know and that there is, we are spirit and our spirit is alive and in us. And then when your spirit is not alive in us, then you’re just a body. So we all witnessed that together as a family. I don’t know how much the kids can remember that we talk about it with them, but they were so young and little and it was so traumatic too, but it was foundationally true for our faith and how we see things today. Why don’t you just say that again? Wait, did you just start it again? Just say, Say that. I think that’s important. So here we are unedited. Flip the mic on and we’re fumbling through.
Leith: Just want to clarify with our kids a couple of things that we’re saying. To honor them. I think I feel really tender and sensitive to the fact that sometimes parents’ perspective of your family story isn’t necessarily clear and or, or sometimes maybe even true according to the kids’ perspective. And so I want to clarify a couple of things with Avery and Holden that we’re talking about to make sure they’re in agreement with what we’re saying. Because I think it’d be real easy to say a couple things and then they’d be like, well, that’s not actually how I felt about it and I want to honor them in this too.
Aaron: Yeah, that’s good. We’ll do that. So that means that you’ll hear your, a somewhat edited version to honor everybody and make sure as we’re doing this too, just want to say like, talk about, this is, on the one hand, I feel like this is great. I’m really glad we’re doing it. And on the other hand, I feel like this is ridiculous. I can’t believe we’re doing this. But the reason that we’re doing it is that Leith and I both believe that in order to have the life you want to have and in order to do work, you believe in and play a lot more, and all these things is foundational, this is keeping it real. This is what life looks like. There are so many people that we know, this is what life looks like, different versions of these stories. Life is just, it’s hard and it’s Holy and good and we want to find both. And what we’ve found is that the approach of ignoring the hard are pretending through the hard or it just, it doesn’t work. So we’re, we’re taking the path of embrace the hard so that we can then live beyond it and live through it and not just survive, but actually thrive. So hopefully what you’re hearing is, is a combination of all of those things mixed into a big pot of soup together. But we’re, we’re offering our story on behalf to others to hopefully serve as an encouragement to you in your own story.
Leith: We’ll talk more about my business brave beauty in a while, but, you know, one thing well, okay. But one thing I was thinking of with all of this is that I, my heart has been too, I’ve always been an open, honest person anyway in sharing my story for the most part. And I realized that part of that for me is that I want women in particular with brave beauty but people to have hope. That, and I don’t mean that in the cheesy way. I mean true, true hope that we’re still standing and we’re not only just standing, we’re actually thriving and living a really joyful, playful life. And we’ve walked through a lot of trauma and pain and I hope that we would be an encouragement to someone who’s in the thick of it and not sure if they can stay standing.
And I currently today have four women who I’m walking with who have traumatic, traumatic, painful stories. And I want you all as listeners to know that the sun will come up, it will always come up. It might take a while to come up. There might be a lot of fetal positions in between this moment and when your son actually comes up. But things will always get better even when they are at their very worst. The amount of times that I’ve spent laying in fetal position thinking that I might actually die because my heart was hurting so bad and aching so bad, especially over our children. And over our marriage last spring today it doesn’t look anything like what it did just months ago. And so I know that things always get better even when it seems like they, they’re the worst they could possibly be.
Aaron: All right. So let’s talk about brave beauty and what, say more about what is brave you use, talked about hope and how you want people to see you still standing through all that you’ve been through and the women that you’re walking through. But talk about how that translates into brave beauty as an organization, this calling, this mission that you’re up to.
Leith: Well it all started after attending a storyline conference with Donald Miller. One of the things that stood out to me that he said, which was probably a really small thing, but it was big to me. He told us too if there’s something that we are afraid of, afraid of pursuing to at least point your toes in the direction of that thing. And that was super helpful. But I also wasn’t sure even what it was that I wanted to pursue. So I didn’t even feel afraid of anything. I just didn’t know what to do. And so came home from that and just knew that there was something in me that needed to get out and started brainstorming with some friends and we ended up doing an event pretty quickly within a few months, I think it was and sold out 75 spots in a few days and we decided to call it brave beauty and we didn’t even know what we were offering, but women wanted it, whatever it was.
We’ve done a couple weekend long events now and brave beauty, you ask what it was. It’s a space where women are invited to connect with each other vulnerably and authentically as they explore their own story of bravery and beauty. And what that looks like today is we do a once a month super soul event. I’ve teamed up with my dear friend Elaine Prechtl and her blog and cookbooks, everything that she does it’s called sharing our life love and food. And we just collaborated together and start doing these happy hours. And she had gone to Oprah’s super soul sessions back in the fall and LA and there were 11 speakers there. So we’ve just been going month by month, taking each one of the speakers and sharing what they talked about at that event. And we’re going to keep doing that of women came to the first one and said, we want more. So we came up with this plan of doing this once a month. And from that, a bunch of moms suggested that we needed to do this with our daughters. And so one of them agreed to host. So we started B2, we call it brave beauty B2. And so we call the one with moms and daughters b2 teen. And Avery’s not a huge fan of that name in particular. She would really like to change it, but the girls kind of agreed that it actually fits. And so we do once a month, moms and daughters and again, it’s just a, a place for us to all connect and for hopefully for moms and daughters to build an enriched their relationships with their daughters. And so we do that once a month also doing yoga retreat, yoga, writing retreats. So the morning portion is yoga and then we do lunch together and have the afternoon to do a writing workshop. And we had a beautiful time last month doing that together. So we’ll continue to offer those probably every three to four months and looking forward to doing another weekend event potentially next fall. So yeah. Is that.
Aaron: Yeah, and I think it was cool about this story is that we talk about a lot on the podcast about doing work that you love and you believe in and you want to do. Like this is a white canvas. Like nothing was written on this canvas that you started with. You went to the storyline, Donald Miller talked about living a better story that was in line with what we were feeling we were up to in life already. He said, point your feet in this direction and go for it and do the next right thing in front of you. And then I just told a story on the podcast, I recorded a previous episode about Rob Bell and his Robcast talking about doing the next right thing that’s in front of you and that that’s how these things unfold. And so now here you are with brave beauty doing this, providing hope in life, in restoration for women and then you end up, you know, we’re, we’re doing that in our neighborhood.
So it hasn’t taken a lot of money to do. It has taken a lot emotionally to do. Like it’s, it’s a lot of risks to put yourself out there. And it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of heavy lifting, but it’s also, it’s just in you. So it’s this thing that’s in you that you don’t have a choice about. You didn’t go through a menu line of a selection, Oh I want some of this and some of this and some of this. It just, it’s in you. So now it’s in you and then your only choices. Do I choose to engage this thing and let it out and share it or do I just keep sitting on it and being disappointed that I’m not doing work? I wish I was doing right. So you’re not Taylor Swift but you, but you are ironically you, you have an opportunity to have that stage part of you that living out loud part of your exercise, right?
And you’re doing it on behalf of others to provide hope. And you’ve gotten some phone calls recently from women saying, Hey, I know you’ve been through a lot and you’re still standing, so I’d like to talk to you. Right, right. So that’s, so it’s actually happening what you originally envisioned and yet it’s not like you’re making $1 million doing it, but that isn’t why you’re doing it. Either. You’re doing it for the call of what you believe you were supposed to do with your life. All right. Yup. I’m really proud of you.
Leith: Thank you.
Aaron: Yep. Going back to suffering and watching our children suffer and told the story about some of your own suffering, some of having these sufferings of our marital suffering. Talk about Holden’s suffering our son and what that’s looked like. I don’t really know where to begin with it. Other than
Leith: Somewhere, I think it was the summer after eighth grade he and I began to have some discussion about his sexuality and as he says now in his humor he officially came out three times. Yeah.
Aaron: We just didn’t believe in the first two,
Leith: So it’s not funny, but it is kind of funny. Anyway, three months before Hadley died, Holden was really, I would call that kind of the official coming out with us. And that was pretty painful at the time. It was painful for him as he carried a lot of shame for a long time over that. And it was painful for us not knowing what to do with that and how to do that and what that actually meant and why. And yeah, that was a really rough season and ironically it was right before Hadley died. So then when she, after she died, that was still fresh and new for our family and Mmm. Yeah. Can you ask me a question or something too?
Aaron: Yeah, I think what was difficult about, about it as a parent? Well, first of all, the Holden coming out, well, we knew all along from when he was really little that just something was different and something different in him too, like amazing creative, imaginative leader like he had, it was all these amazing things out him. So in that way, he was unique, but then there was something you could just tell. And, and without going too much into the story, there’s, there were enough other things going on that were harmful for him that was difficult for us as we couldn’t, we didn’t know if what he was experiencing with his sexuality was because of harm and trauma and things going on in our home with related to our daughter and mobile hospitals. And so we didn’t know the source or which part is just, that’s just how he is.
So I think that made it additionally complicated. We were very crisis driven in the way we learn to live. And so it was just another crisis. Like hold on, timeout. And he had just been much further down the road than we in, in years of knowing, Hey, I just am, I’m gay, period. And so I think it took us, unfortunately, and there’s been lots of healing and restoration in our relationship for asking forgiveness for us not handling it well and doing it well and responding well and you name it. But then what we’ve learned is that love wins. And we don’t, we don’t know what, we don’t know about how, and what and why, but what we know is that we’ve already lost one kid and we refuse to lose another. We’re settled in, we love our son and we love him. We love who he is. Love that this is who he is and love all the expressions of what his life is taking fold of two now and what his life is starting to look like. But maybe talk a little bit more about your version of that.
Leith: Yeah, I mean, I think at the beginning when he and I were just having talks about it, it was you know, I, I told him immediately that we would love and support him no matter what he ever does or chooses or anything like that in his life. And so he felt like we were safe at that point. But when he had met a guy at school and came to tell us about it, that’s when we did not respond well. And I have I have regret over the way that we handled that. I’m grateful that we’ve had honest communication with him about that since then and have made that right. And he’s been very gracious to us in that. And then I think, you know, once we started to settle into, to just trusting that this was actually the story that was unfolding.
I mean, it’s a lot like Hadley. It’s like once you start settling in to the surprise of the night, you know, the 180-degree turn, you just trust what’s real and what’s actually in front of you. And so as it stands today, you know, we’re crazy about him. Well, we’ve always been crazy about him, but we love him as him whether he’s got on fingernail Polish or purple hair or any of those fun things that we love, his creative expressions. And it’s been a wild ride to walk this road and to learn. We’ve educated ourselves a lot over the last few years to learn more about him. And yeah, I don’t know what else to say.
Aaron: I think the other part of the story is, is that concurrently to all of this was he was wrapped up in major addiction and drug use and alcohol, alcohol and just really, really the disease of addiction had taken over his life. So think that was another complication, this whole story is it wasn’t just that this great kid was straight A’s and you know, dad, I don’t know, doing great things in the world came out gay. It was that there was just, there was something wrong, substantively wrong, and we hadn’t really nailed down what it was. And he was depressed and miserable and there was a lot going on. So today he is, and this is a big fast forward, but he’s been through recovery programs and is and is working his way towards a 10 month sobriety chip, which is a super big deal.
He lives out in California, had to take a pause button on going to school to university, but it looks like he might be picking that back up and we’re immensely proud of him and what he’s done in his life and choices he’s making. And he’s so mature and wise and it’s a full-on resurrection because a year ago, right now, he was in enrolling, he was active probably a week into a recovery program. Started at onsite workshops in Tennessee and in milestones program milestones program. Yeah. So it was dark and despairing and terrible, full-on, terrible. And today it’s not, and that’s what you were saying earlier about the sun came up and it was like impossible. So he’s doing great and we’re, we love him and he’s happy, joyful, joyful, and sober. And he’s, it’s a good, good story. And to our marriage, it has been another really, really, really difficult thing to navigate of, you know, what do you believe?
What do I believe? What do we believe? What are we going to do? How are we gonna handle it? Who said what? Who’s taught? We tell who do we not tell this is brutal. But today we’ve made it through that and we’ve walked through that and navigated it. I really haven’t done it perfectly at all. We’ve done it really wrong. I’ve done it really wrong in a bunch of ways, but love has won out and forgiveness and redemption have one out and now we’re all in a really good place together as a family and everybody’s Lincoln arms on this new chapter of our story.
Leith: And I would add to this too that I think one thing that has been unique about us, our whole marriage is that we, we are most often in alignment with each other. And if we’re not in alignment, we work hard to get to alignment. And so I can’t imagine us navigating Hadley’s story if we weren’t in alignment and agreement on what kind of care to provide for her. The alternative things that we chose like we could have been at odds through a lot of that stuff, but, we have come to alignment on what we believe about all of it. And I think that’s a huge thing that has saved us. Also,
Aaron: Okay, last kind of category topic of where we are today. So 22 years is difficult to encapsulate down in a 32 minute podcast, which usually are linked through that long. So we were just talking, we’re not sure if this will be version one, version two, episode one, episode two or if it’ll just be one long form. But the last bit of ground we want to cover is about this last year as we let off the podcast talking about how we almost didn’t make it this year and that some of the reason why we’re doing this now is that we did make it and it’s a story that’s worth telling and we’re doing really, really well and it’s been brutal, brutal, painful and what we’ve had to undo together in our marriage or our life, we’ve had to undo and unravel. And so where do you want to start talking about that? They’ve heard my story, you know, in terms of that on-site and not doing well. And, but maybe it’d be helpful to hear some of where you were at in that and then your perspective of where I was in that. Well, I think, you know, for
Leith: A good chunk of our marriage, I was the one that struggled with depression and anxiety and I was the one who would not be what we would call well at times. And so I had been in a season of not doing well in the last, you know, well, two years ago really started a new season of, of not being well. And that wasn’t technically depression. But I definitely had some depressive moments and just had a lot of trauma I was finding about from my own story. And so I was in a, what I would call a bad place. And then simultaneously Holden was in a bad place. We didn’t know how bad he was at the time. And in, and through all of that, Aaron began to not be in a good place and ended up in what we would call a bad place.
And this is all emotionally I’m speaking of. And so there was so much that was not well in our home and I’ll just speak to kind of last year in particular, but everybody was just not well except for Avery. And so I started to get, well, I pursued a, so healing at onsite that we’ve talked about. I attended their milestones program for 15 days and received a ton of healing there. And then Holden ended up going to milestones also for 55 days and he did a workshop, the living centered program workshop while he was there and encouraged Aaron to do that as well. So Aaron did that. Then I went and did that workshop. Then I also attended a healing trauma workshop. So we spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting well last year. And but I think that there in the spring is really when we started to realize the Aaron wasn’t doing very well. And so I think there were so many things that landed us where we were we were both fighting to, to just be well emotionally and our marriage was just, was just in the shitter. It was bad. And I’m trying to think of how to kind of narrow that down.
Aaron: Well, I don’t know if you’d say it this way, but, I think what happened is we reached an end of the system that we had for 20 years leading up to that we had created a system of the way we do life together and the way we do marriage and that produced all kinds of great things and we survived the death of our child, which usually breaks marriages up. We survived special needs, you know, and full-time medical care. We survived severe depression and bouts of just being not available to each other and lots of homosexuality. And like there was all this stuff that we had survived, but we realize that all that stuff, those tools and those ways that we use just stop working. They weren’t serving us well anymore. They weren’t serving as well anymore. So I think what started happening was I got to the point where I just couldn’t, I couldn’t do my role anymore that I had elected myself to, but also everyone in my world was happy to participate in or receive, dissipate or receive from.
Aaron: And I thought everything that was broken in the world was my job to fix it. And so that stopped working and I just became frustrated, bitter, resentful, exhausted, tired, angry, depressed, like everything. And some of that was at our families, at our marital system to of what we had, what began to stop working, stopped working in a severe way for both of us. But I think what was so painful was the tearing the old apart and down, which left us with nothing. So we didn’t, we didn’t have any, anything to rely on. It was, we call it new construction and like burning it, burning it all down to start over. So what would you add?
Leith: Yeah, I think, you know, it, it got to a place where I thought we were going to have to at least be separated for a time in order for us to both get well, I didn’t ultimately think that we would get a divorce. I really didn’t feel like that was even really where we were headed. But I thought it might have to be a long separation. And part of that was that we couldn’t be together without there being tension. Was this for six hours? I mean, we couldn’t, there was just such intense tension and it, it wouldn’t stop. We couldn’t get ahead of it. And so I thought that it was going to mean that we needed to be a part so we could both get well and then come together to get our marriage well. But we had an opportunity, well, first of all, we talked about selling our house.
We knew that we needed to get out of our house. Emotionally we had built that house for Hadley for accessibility and a lot of pain happened there. That’s where Hadley was. That’s where Hadley died or you know, in the house, but that’s the home that we lived in when she died. And Holden’s life was unfolding there and there was just a lot of pain. And so we had agreed that all of us wanted to sell it and then I kind of had the idea that we should sell everything in it. And I thought my family would think I was crazy. But they agreed also. And so we did, we sold, I would say 98% of our furniture and probably 85% of our things. We of course kept all of our photos and all of Hadley’s stuff. We kept Holden’s things cause he was in rehab and wasn’t able to come home to sort through his thing. So we did keep all of his stuff, but we basically got rid of everything. And like
Aaron: Wedding China, wall hangings, picture frames, dishes, dishes, silverware, cups, patio furniture, our bedding, right. Like every, our mattress. So like we’re not sleeping on that mattress as a married couple ever again. Like, we don’t, I don’t want to lay in the same rut in my bed that was in the depression of the mattress. I want a brand new mattress where we’re going to start this whole thing over.
Leith: Yup. Yup. And we had to, I think some folks around us were a little concerned about us and a lot concerned and we just knew that no one, no one could understand what was really going on for us and how much, even though we both were struggling with being well, we were very clear about needing to get rid of everything and we’ve not regretted it at all. You know, Holden hasn’t been here for a lot of that, so he might have a little bit different take on some of it, but Avery and Aaron and I all are grateful that we are out of there. Avery cleans house for the folks that bought our old house and we just always, you know, she’ll come home from that and be like, yeah, just don’t really miss it. We miss our home. We miss being in our own home. But yeah,
Aaron: A rental house, which has been great. Jerry’s house, Jerry’s house, it’s been super perfect in many, many, many ways and it’s not ours. So tell them about what we’re up to with this season of new construction, what that means emotionally in reality, spiritually.
Leith: I just wanted to touch on us going to frontier ranch because that was, that was there that I thought we were going to be separated and then we had the opportunity to go work, volunteer at young lives, frontier ranch this summer as a family. And that was a huge honor that we were invited to do that. And so we were there for probably close to five weeks which was hard and rich and beautiful and fun and painful all in and of itself, just where we were all coming from. And but we were there for five weeks or so and then lived with some good friends of ours for close to six weeks and visited Holden during some of that time and just kind of, we were just kinda, as Avery said, we were homeless, totally homeless for a while this summer. And we didn’t know what we going to do.
Aaron: Well, we were living in 500 square feet. Three of us got rid of all our stuff and then we moved in with the knots when we got back from being in California. Then we were you and you and I were in a bedroom and then Avery was sharing a bedroom with their kids. So it was, he got skinny and that our stuff was in storage across the street at another neighbor. So it was like certifiably look like we’d lost our mind right outside. But it was like, what else? What the hell else are we going to do? Keep living the old way and try and keep doing this thing or let’s just start the whole thing over.
Leith: And we literally didn’t know what we were doing. We had thoughts of possibly packing up and moving to California. At one point our friends, the totes said that they had some friends who were selling a tour bus and we were like, we asked Avery as we were driving out of frontier ranch, heading to a wedding. We just said, Hey, should we consider living in this tour bus? And she said, Nope. So we did. We decided not to live in a tour bus. But we did not know what we were doing and we didn’t know until the last,
Aaron: Like, we didn’t know where you’re living. We didn’t know I was going to work if I was gonna work where I was going to work. I mean, nothing like genuinely, like just like in 1994 when we packed up and moved to Colorado and we didn’t know. We knew we were moving there and that was it. So we made it as far as coming back to the Springs, Colorado Springs, but it really just kind of unfolded from there. So then say a little bit about new construction of what we’re doing and then about kind of our mantras in what we’ve been doing through marriage coaching. And we’ll kind of end on that note of what we’re doing today and where we’re moving forward together.
Leith: Yeah. So a couple of years ago, I had it in my belly again. That’s where brave beauty came from too. That we needed to build a new house. And there were times where I thought that was possible. There’s a new neighborhood going in called the farm and to look like a fun new community, a hip idea that Colorado Springs was trying out. And at times it seemed like it was possible that we could maybe be there. And then when our marriage went in the shitter, it was like, no way are we going to be building a house. And then we sold our house and we were at camp and homeless and there was no way financially or anything else that we would build a house. So I just kind of was like, what was that? The thing about that was in me that I just couldn’t shake.
And it turns out we are going to build a house. We are building a house. Hopefully they start framing this week. And it was really important to me to have new construction and not buy somebody else’s house and remodel it or repaint it or I just felt like we needed a brand new foundation poured into the ground follicly about our life. Yeah. And Avery was on board with this as well. And so we decided to go for it. And that’s what we’re doing right now and it’s been great to have Jerry’s house where we, it’s fully furnished and they have their snowbirds, so they’re just gone for the winter. So they’ve left their dishes and silverware and everything. So we
Aaron: Perfect eight-month long lease and perfect neighborhood close to the, our daughter’s school, like everything has worked out for better than we could have ever imagined. And it’s nice to have a transitionary period of, as we’re trying to get this new or new marriage or new life, our new way, our new MODOT work, our new everything, kind of a lot of kinks worked out because it is new and it’s herky-jerky a lot of times it’s not smooth, it’s getting smoother. But we’ve talked about it. It’s been really nice too that we’re not immediately in our new construction place because we’re working out some bugs right now. And so we’re hoping when we get there and land and actually start this new chapter of our life, that this transitionary period will have served us really well across the board.
So talk about what we did for, with our marriage coach and what you see, what it says on this board here that you gave me for interview.
Leith: Yeah, so we’ve been seeing Robin for marriage, Aaron likes to call her a marriage coach. She’s, she’s really a marriage counselor but, or she’s a counselor and she also does marriage, but he feels better calling it coaching. Counseling. Yeah. We’ve done a lot of counseling. We’re, we’re kind of over it, but coaching has been super helpful. So we still see her about once a month. Sometimes we need to get in there a little sooner and sometimes we’ve got some time. But we came up together with some words that just kind of describe where we’re headed. And so we had this air and actually had this idea of having our friend create this wooden board with painted words on it. And so I surprised him on our anniversary with it. And should we each just take a couple of them?
Aaron: So these are the things we’re saying that this is what we want to be known for in our life and in our marriage moving forward. And this took us six months of marriage coaching to get to this, right? I mean, this is really tough to find what we were so focused on the things that weren’t well, but now this is our new mantra that we want to say. So it sits above our fireplace now and
Leith: We’ll go through and read it and it’s titled R us. A unity is our foundation. We are for each other. We are good at laying things to rest. Self care is love.
Aaron: Our shared mantras, our path forward belief, dreams and commitments. We forgive and move forward without delay. I am on your team. We believe the best in each other. Healing and time work together. We live in abundance and we believe, believe in alignment.
Leith: We are each other’s best player. Home run hitter. Jesus’ life is our true North. We ask for help, we surround ourselves with healthy people. We find ways to play together, we choose joy. And our favorite one is love wins.
Aaron: So that’s what we’re working on, being known for. And all of those have deep meaning for us because they’re born out of like specific conversations or events or just a lot. That’s 22 years and we want the next 22 years to be, to be better and we think this gives us a framework and an outline for how to get there. It’s been pretty good, huh? Yup. I love you.
Leith: Love you too.
Aaron: Friends. I hope you’ll accept my invitation to do your best work, to live the life you want to live and play a whole lot more. If you thought this was fun and you’d like some more visit Work Life Play podcast.com.