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My Testimony: Eyes Wide Open (Part 6)

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

(click here to read the previous post)

Complaints about various employees (including myself) were regularly filed with upper level management by our EMS program’s director, and eventually the company announced they would not renew the contract at my base. This meant that I would need to find an open position somewhere else within the company’s hundreds of bases across the country.

A few months earlier, when Noah was 9 months old, we discovered that Anne was pregnant again, and much more stress came flooding over us. We suddenly needed to hustle and find a new position for work, complete renovations, sell our house, find a new home, move to a new place….

We hurried to complete the house remodel and we put it on the market. The end of the work contract was approaching faster and faster, and we still had no idea where to go. One morning, on my drive home from a night shift, I heard God’s quiet voice say, “Pull over. Pull over and pray.”

I immediately pulled to the side of the road and waited quietly for God to speak. I remember saying, “I’m listening.”

He said, “I want you to apply for an open position in Utah.” So I went home, excited that God spoke and gave us some kind of direction. Anne was excited too.

So I applied for the position in Utah, and soon flew out for an interview. My interviewer showed me around the area, and it began to seem as though they were trying to convince me to take the job.

I said, “It’s awesome that you want to show me around, but please shoot straight with me - what are the chances of me getting this position?”

He answered, “My boy, you had the job before you even stepped onto the plane. All you have to do is accept.” So accept I did.

When I got back from Utah, we aggressively tried to sell our home since we finally had a place to go. My mother and father came from Hawaii to help us get our home sold and then move to Utah. The specific aircraft I would be flying in Utah was different than the one I had been used to, so I was required to go out of town again to attend a week of specialized flight training for the new aircraft.

A really nice young lady made us an offer on the house, but due to her finances, we sold the house to her for much less than its worth - we lost more than $12,000. Our Victorian style home was really hard to walk away from - we had finally completed the remodeling only a few weeks prior to the sale.

We signed the papers on October 8, and the long drive to Utah began… with a U-Haul truck, a very young son, and pregnant wife, two dogs, and my parents. Amazingly, we made it to Utah without excessive fights.

We arrived in Utah and moved into our new apartment, and my father returned to Hawaii without my mother. Tensions were higher because they were fighting more, and he began to realize that my mother had put him at the bottom of her priority list.

Before he went home, my mother persuaded my father pay for a short term rental house near our apartment so that he and other family members could come visit the new baby.

As soon as I officially started the job at the new base, I realized I was in for more than I had bargained for - one pilot wanted to see me fail and leave, so he convinced some of the flight crew that I was inexperienced and unsafe because I didn’t know how to fly in the mountains, since he knew I was coming from an area of mostly plains. What he knew, but didn’t tell people, was that I had learned to fly in Hawaii, where mountains and ocean are constantly necessary to avoid, and changes in elevation were a regular hurdle; I also had flight experience in the heat and high-density altitudes of the desert around Las Vegas.

Most of the crew I was flying with liked me and felt I was safe, but they were afraid to stand up for me because they didn’t want to jeopardize their own employment.

Nobody went out of their way to help me get familiar with the area, which could have ended in my failure. The troublesome pilot left the program for a position in another state, but the alienation he began lasted the entire time I worked at that location. For 6 years, the bullseye on my back was constant, more or less, but never completely went away. Again, I had high standards in doing my job, and nothing I had ever done warranted their treatment of me.

Anne went into labor around 8 pm during a snowstorm in early January, and we got her loaded up to drive carefully to the hospital 5 miles away.

A sheriff’s patrol car was sitting near the turn out of the apartment complex, and as soon as we turned onto the main road he flashed his lights and had us pull over. Anne, in active labor, began to get worried - I rolled down the window with the snow dumping into the car and the deputy asked if I knew why he pulled us over. Just then Anne had a strong contraction and yelped.

The deputy asked, “You all right, ma’am?” She responded, “NO! I am NOT all right!” I quickly informed him that she was in active labor and we were headed to the nearby hospital. He apologized and asked if we needed an escort; we declined his offer but thanked him.

We arrived at the hospital and three hours later Anne and I were proud parents of a beautiful baby girl whom we named Averie Joy.

For about a week, the stress at home subsided and there was plenty of family to share in the celebrations, but when my father was ready to return to Hawaii again, he wanted my mother to come home with him. When she said no, the sparks really began to fly.

Because of my mother’s refusal, my father subsequently began throwing adult-size tantrums - he began screaming and yelling and even blew up at my 18-month-old son.

At this, my eyes began to open to the severity of who my father was and the dangers he posed to our children’s emotional and physical safety. Anne and I began discussing the need to remove him from our lives. My mother was a huge proponent of this decision because she didn’t want her husband having any say over her choices, nor did she want to share her grandchildren with him.

My mother’s involvement only further caused marriage struggles for Anne and I; we wounded each other so much that every fight was only ripping our wounds right back open, over and over again.

My youngest brother and his wife left Hawaii for the second time and decided to move back near Las Vegas again, where he had secured another pilot position for a much smaller tour company than before. Our place in Utah was only a 7-hour drive to their apartment, so we would often drive down and see them once a month and enjoy the warmer weather.

At this time, my brother was angrier than ever, and he and his wife fought over everything. If she said “up,” he would say “down.” She would make a snide comment and he would blow it out of proportion.

Their fighting spirits weren’t limited to attacking each other. Averie refused to go anywhere near him for about a year because he had snapped and yelled at her for getting in his way when she was beginning to crawl. Both he and his wife (Anne’s sister) would tease Noah over his intelligence and looks. From the sound of it, they didn’t want our kids around, so Anne and I stopped visiting often because we didn’t want our children to be attacked. Both my brother and Anne’s sister complained to my mother that we didn’t come as often, and my mother would give me a lecture about my attitude.

My cousin in Hawaii was graduating nursing school and getting married within the same two weeks, and my parents paid for us to fly over to attend. Anne and I and our two children stayed with my mother’s sister and her husband, not with my parents, because my mother believed my father was becoming more unstable. This was the last time Anne saw my father.

Looking back, I believe that my mother was simply trying to punish my father for her unhappiness. He was not a terrible man as I was led to believe by my mother, but she sure made it look that way. I believe she was starting fights with him on purpose so she could sell her narrative to her kids.

Hawaii was supposed to be fun and relaxing, but because of all the family drama, I got into a huge fight with my aunt, and everything went quickly went downhill from that point.

After Anne and I returned from Hawaii, my mother called me and said she had had enough of my father and his craziness. She had filed for legal separation.

Here’s the funny thing: with all my parents’ discontent, it never occurred to me that my mother could have stopped all of this trouble dead in its tracks if she had chosen to show her husband respect and love the way God asks us all to love each other. I regret that we helped my mother as much as we did because she should have had to face the problems she helped cause.

We truly believed that my mother was in trouble. We invited her (and my middle brother, who still lived at home) to stay with us in Utah, but because my paychecks were barely enough to get by, we couldn’t afford to help them without me working overtime and traveling on my weeks off.

I honestly wanted to help my mother, so I began lining up travel for her and my brother, and that’s when a huge blessing came in: the company I worked for had finally adjusted their pay scales based on the cost of living for all their base locations. The area where I worked had such a high cost of living that I suddenly received a 60% raise in pay as long as the base remained in the current zip code, and as long as I remained employed at that base.

This was an answer to prayer, for us to financially survive as a little family, but also to be able to help my brother and mother. The extra income helped cover most of my mother’s major expenses and we still had enough money left over to pay for everything we needed. What a generous God we serve! He didn’t have to do that for us.

Because I wanted to distance myself as far as I possibly could from my father and everything he stood for, I petitioned the local court to legally change my first and middle name. I was born Thomas Jr, but now I will forever be Ethan Baier. Thomas meant “twin,” and my father had always treated me like I was his property, a trophy in his image. I was done with that.

I chose my own name: Ethan meant firm, enduring, strong and long-lived; Baier was an alternate spelling of Baer, a childhood nickname I had gone by all my life (which was the German word for “bear,” but also was a reminder of bear-like qualities, including brave, hardy and strong).

My mother persuaded me to send Anne and the little ones to Hawaii to stay with her and emotionally support her for a few weeks as she packed up and prepared to move her belongings to Utah.

After five weeks of loneliness, I flew out to Hawaii to join my family and help finish packing up. While we were there, we reconnected with some of the people we hadn’t seen for 7 years.

When we stepped down as youth leaders years before, we had met a young man who helped us with the youth group, and the church placed him as their youth pastor after we left. Not long after that, the church pushed him out, and God used that experience to lead him to start a completely new church on the island.

During our visit, we attended a few services of the church he started, and discovered that God had changed this man into a completely different person than when Anne and I had met him - he had become one of the most humble and faith-filled people that we have ever known.

After all of this, I must tell you how much I love the way our God works - He stretches our faith more and more by using open and closed doors. He uses difficult moments to push us harder and further, and this is how He gets us to where He wants us to be. Events that seemed negative at the time were actually positive in disguise.

Anne and I were both beginning that to see that everything was changing because God’s hands were changing the fabric of everything; He was opening our eyes and actively pursuing our hearts to draw us closer to Him. Unfortunately, other pursuers were in on the chase with an objective that was completely the opposite.

My mother and middle brother moved into our Utah townhome, and again, Anne and I were at each others’ throats. Our arguments got bigger and bigger over even stupider things.

I woke up and saw the light after a specific fight we had.

For context: every time we argued, Anne deliberately disrespected me by walking away in the middle of the conversation and giving up on communicating. Conversely, I was insistent that things should be my way or the highway, and my attitude showed her no love.

So this day when she walked away, I chased her up the steps and pushed her against the wall, pinned her in place, and punched my fist through the wall, inches from her head. I wasn’t going to hurt her, but I was so frustrated that I felt this would get her attention.

It got the attention of BOTH of us!

I had never laid a hand on her or either of our children, and this was the first time I ever touched anyone in anger. It freaked me out.

This is the only time I was ever glad my mother was present to step in.

I take all the blame for that fight, and it was never acceptable to treat my bride with such anger.

My eyes opened wide to my issues regarding myself and my family. If I didn’t show love to my wife, how could I expect her to show respect to me? I realized it was a two-way street.

My mother was insistent that we needed more space, so we moved into a 7-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom house that she rented, a few miles away from our previous rental townhome.

In early 2013, my mother faced my father in Hawaii court in an effort to divorce him. I believe that my father still loves my mother, but he wanted to preserve his reputation as an upstanding member of the community, and divorce would tarnish that.

My mother claimed that she needed half of their shared assets because, in her words, “I am entitled to the same quality of living I have become accustomed to.”

So to keep her from further pursuing divorce, my father compromised; the proceedings ended in a mutual marital agreement with my father paying my mother a generous monthly sum and evenly splitting ownership of all his current assets. He placed no stipulations on her living arrangements or location. That was the last time I saw my father.

My mother saw an opportunity in the increasing tension between Anne and myself, and volunteered often to take our little ones on trips to Las Vegas to visit my brother and sister-in-law, to get the kids away from the fighting. My mother had slowly and deliberately insinuated and inferred to Anne that she couldn’t handle her own children alone, and she began to believe it. We couldn’t see that our little ones were beginning to learn that their grandmother was more capable of raising them than their own mother.

Anne became pregnant again. A month before her due date, my mother and middle brother were visiting my youngest brother in Vegas, and Anne and I and both kids had gotten sick and had all camped out on our bed. Gunner, our vizsla, was on the bed with us, but one of the kids moved in some way that caused Gunner to snap and nearly bite.

Anne moved to discipline Gunner for inappropriate behavior, and as she leaned in toward him, he snapped and bit her, deep on the chin. I immediately kenneled Gunner and rushed all 4 of us to the emergency room in our pajamas to have Anne’s face stitched up.

Because the injury was a dog bite, it was reported to the authorities and we were required to quarantine Gunner in our house for 10 days.

This attack was uncharacteristic of him, so we investigated the cause of his reaction. Upon veterinary inspection, it was discovered that he suffered from an extremely painful case of hip dysplasia. He had bitten Anne (and almost the kids) to defend himself and avoid further pain and discomfort.

We could medicate and manage his pain, or we could relieve his pain completely by putting him down.

We ultimately decided that it was best both for him to be out of pain and for the safety of our children, so I took him to be put down; this was two weeks before the new baby was born. Gunner’s death was devastating for me because he had been my constant companion and everything-buddy who went with me everywhere.

In the spring of 2014, our third child, Dresden James, was born. When Dresden was 6 weeks old, we decided to fill the doggy void in our home with a Great Dane puppy named Michael Alan Westen (*nod* to you Burn Notice fans out there). “Westen” had been born 7 days before Dresden.

Meanwhile, my younger brother left his tour pilot position in Las Vegas to take an EMS pilot job in the southern desert states, commuting from Las Vegas every week.

In 2015, he and his wife welcomed their first child, a daughter, and my brother decided to find a job in a place where he didn’t have to commute as far. He found an open position in Idaho, and as soon as their house sold, his wife and baby daughter moved in with us while he temporarily lived on an RV in Idaho near his base. A few months later he put in an offer on a house in the area.

Anne and I had also bought an RV and had two trips planned for travel over the summer - one to visit my mother’s sister who had moved from Hawaii to Colorado, and another trip to visit Anne’s family in Oregon. Oh, and Anne was pregnant again.

The trip to Colorado was definitely interesting… I was not sure how this visit would turn out, and we didn’t want to intrude, so we decided to bring our RV with us and park it at my aunt’s house. Anne and I and our 3 kids lived on the RV while my mother, middle brother, sister-in-law and niece stayed inside my aunt’s house.

Anne and I visited an RV dealer while in Colorado, interested in other options for RV layouts. When we originally bought the first rig, there were certain expectations we had, and plans changed as the years went by. We found an RV that fit our whole family and would work perfectly, so we traded in the RV we had brought to Colorado and left with a brand new, larger trailer with a more appropriate layout for our current needs. This rig later became our full-time home: stay tuned for that.

We brought the new RV back to Utah and prepared to tow it to the Oregon Coast for the next trip we had planned in August.

Myself, my mother, middle brother, three kids and pregnant wife made it safely to Oregon. We stopped for fuel only an hour from our destination on the Coast, and made a wrong turn that boxed us into the parking lot. We had to make a tight, almost impossible turn, and Anne had been watching the rear window of the truck to make sure the trailer would not get close enough to break the window, but she had a “squirrel” moment and the trailer’s front cap directly contacted the window with a loud snap. That mishap caused us to abandon getting fuel at that station. I just shook my head and went on to the destination, running on fuel fumes.

When we arrived at our reserved site at the marina, the spot was so tight that I couldn’t make the turn without destroying our truck even more, so we canceled our reservation and headed further south near the dunes for a chance to find a solution.

Anne still has fond memories of getting up early the next morning and taking a long walk through the dunes with Westen as the sun came up.

That day, we returned to the marina to see what could be worked out… and discovered that on the drive back up, a low branch had caught on the edge of our roof and had compromised the waterproof rubber membrane. I was livid, but Anne found a shop a mile away that would be able to fix it quickly.

Just before pulling the trailer into the parking lot of the shop who would fix the roof, a car pulled out in front of us. I slammed on my brakes to avoid them and heard an awful crunching sound in the bed of the truck… the sudden stop had completely compromised the trailer hitch and done damage to the truck bed. Now I was more than livid, if there’s a word for that.

I’m not proud of any of these moments. I am eternally grateful that God gave me plenty of chances on subsequent family trips to make up for my nasty tantrums on this one.

We got the roof fixed and came to the solution that we would be dry camping on the RV at the marina because there were no actual sites available, but the whole point of the trip was to be on the ocean.

So we filled our water tanks, cranked up the generator, and settled in. My next priority was to arrange a replacement for my bent hitch.

A fishing tournament moved in to the marina, which was why every site was full, but our dry-camping neighbor had been part of the events and was giving us loads of fresh seafood that he had caught and prepared, ready for us to eat! God’s blessings strike again!

The rest of the trip went well until we made the detour to visit my youngest brother’s new property in Idaho. As I was turning the corner to enter his driveway, I misjudged the turn and my RV entry door caught the hinge on his property gate. It tore a massive gash in the door, which remains a structural issue to this day.

As I'm sure you can imagine, that vacation was so far outside our expectations that the details have been forever burned in my memory.

While staying in Idaho, we fixed the $800 truck rear window (for $650 cash - thank you God!), and stayed a few weeks longer than planned. We ultimately decided to upgrade our truck to a dually, and my mother pushed for us to consider moving to Idaho, so that she could be near all her grandchildren. We discovered that my brother’s next door neighbor wanted to sell his 20 acre property, and my mother had made up her mind that property was what she wanted. She persuaded Anne and myself to put in an offer and split the ownership with her three ways.

Those 20 acres of property would be an awesome opportunity for us to get out of the city, and was truly a step in faith because we were cementing our ties to our family, who lived with us as well as right next door. Buying this property would usher in the biggest eye opener yet.…

…for the continuation of this story, click here.

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