Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Praying for Santa

In spite of consisting of (mostly) devout Christians, my family firmly and fervently loves Santa Claus.

Every year as far back as I can remember, Santa has visited our Christmas Eve party.

Rehfeldt Christmas Eve parties are the stuff of legends. We head out in the winter weather to sing carols, enjoy fantastic family favorite foods (Aunt Judi's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Grandma's Potato Salad, and Tammy's Reuben Dip, etc.), and listen as Grandma reads the Christmas story from the Bible. We watch little kids sing songs and quote verses.

We hear a poem from Aunt Jan, laugh our way through one of BJ's mind-bending skits, and shed a tear or two during a sentimental reading of Christmas past. We play Uncle Scott's crazy games and catch up with our long-lost relatives who traveled over hill and dale to attend the party.

But there is always that magical moment.

The moment when Uncle Scott holds up the sleigh bells and merrily jingles them to the delight of everyone in the room. An electric tingle races through the room.

We switch from singing Silent Night and O Little Town of Bethlehem to Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman, and the grand finale...Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. The singing gets louder and louder until the very last word is sung. When the last note dies out, a hearty HO, HO, HO rings out as Santa makes his entrance.

He waddles into the room resplendent in red and white, a huge sack thrown over his shoulder. He makes some glib comment about his reindeer and settles himself next to Grandma in a comfy chair at the head of the room. He digs deep into his bag and pulls out a present.

"Noah? Is there a Noah here?"

And before you know it, Noah is perched atop Santa's lap as photos are snapped, the flashes nearly blinding. No one is safe from Santa. No matter how old you are, there is always the possibility of getting called to sit on Santa's lap, the requisite requirement to receiving your gift.

Santa was there when I was a child, and Santa will be there for my child. Santa lives on.

Many men have contributed to Santa's long-standing longevity. There was the first Santa, my grandfather. I have a treasured family photo that shows a little red dress bedecked ragamuffin (yours truly) sitting on Grandpa Santa's lap, although I don’t remember it.

Over the years, my Uncle Timmy, Cousin Brad Molander, and even my dad helped fill Santa's shoes.

But the man who has pulled on those red trousers more than any other, the Santa of my childhood, is my Uncle Dave.

Any other time of year, Uncle Dave is one of those uncles.

You know the kind I mean. The loud uncle. The one with the constant beard stubble and the gruff voice. The one with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. He's the one person who always calls you "kid" no matter how old you are.

Underneath his hard-boiled exterior, however, lurks the teddy bear, revealed in small doses through sly winks, hair-tousling, and the rare and treasured hug.

How Uncle Dave inherited the Santa job from Grandpa I'll never know.

He is certainly not sentimental like Uncle Timmy, not gregarious like Uncle Scott, not uber-intellectual like Uncle Ronnie, and not likely to be featured in the pages of GQ like Uncle Bruce.

Perhaps what Uncle Dave is...is real. Making it especially ironic that he slips into his Santa persona, into character as one of the most fabled fiction entities of all time, with an ease the most seasoned actor would envy.

For those few minutes every year, Uncle Dave IS Santa. Even long after I figured out exactly who was hiding under that beard and felt-tipped hat, I found it easy to trust Santa walked among us.

If it was only for ten minutes a year, I had the opportunity to relive my childhood through that gravelly voice, the familiar belly laugh, and the slightly smoky hug I got from the man in red.

(As kids, we were told the “fireplace aroma” was from all the chimneys Santa had been sliding down!)

But this year is different.

This year, Santa was told he is suffering from six cancerous lesions on his brain. Stage four brain cancer.

My Uncle Dave is fighting back with all his typical bravado. Going up against cancer with a ferocity that should make cancer shake in its boots. You do not mess with Uncle Dave.

And you especially do not mess with Santa.

When asked, his doctor said he will be fighting a losing battle. Uncle Dave has not given up though, because Rehfeldts don’t give up. We trust, we pray, we love, and we hope.

I know Santa will never die. Santa will still come to our party. He will hand out gifts and delight children and adults alike. It will be his voice our children remember as they look back on their holiday memories.

But the man underneath, in all the white fur and red velvet trappings, will know he has some big shoes to fill.

We are Christians. We believe in miracles. We believe God can heal Uncle Dave if it is His will. It would be an answer to prayer to have Uncle Dave distributing presents and ho, ho, ho-ing his way down the aisles again.

Personally, I want Sam to receive his first Santa gift from Uncle Dave. But I know it will take an act of God.

It is because of this, I ask you to join my family in praying for Santa. Because while we love Santa, we firmly and fervently believe in God.


And we believe God can save Santa. In more ways than one.

Thank you for your prayers!

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Never Mets

Sometimes, I just sit back and think about people who I have never met.

People who have influenced my life without ever knowing it.

Like the guy who started the Africa Prayer Band at Moody in the 1960’s.

That’s where my parents met - Mom praying fervently on her knees for Africa, and Dad staring at the pretty girl in the tight sweater. Not thinking, I’m guessing, all that much about Africa.

One of my favorite “never-mets” is DL Moody. Good, ol’ DL.

I think about how he started a school where eventually my parents met, then Brett and I met, and I start getting a little sentimental about the guy.

In my mind, DL is sort of like Hagrid in Harry Potter. It’s not just that they look alike (although they do), but they seem like genuinely nice people who want to help people as much as they can.

To me, DL is sort of like my really, really old uncle.

If you know me at all, you know I resist jumping on bandwagons. I like to take my time and formulate an opinion on whatever the topic is.

Recently though, I noticed a lot of my Facebook friends and family were joining the same group.

Now, my friends are a very diverse group of people. I’ve got conservatives and liberals, homeschooling/organic /granola moms and career women, old school chauvinists and ardent feminists, etc.

Now, I obviously care about them all. After all, they *are* my friends.

However, because of their variety, it was very rare to see everyone virtually supporting the same cause.

Not Starbucks or Farmville. Not Li’l Aquarium or the Happy Sunshine Gardner. Not even the enormously popular “Add a Dislike Button to Facebook.”

It was the Pray for Sydney Ives group.

I didn’t know Syndey, her parents or even - I think - anyone in her extended family.

But a LOT of my Facebook friends knew her or her family and were joining this group.

So, I got curious.

I googled Sydney Ives and learned she was a local 11 year old girl with a brain tumor. At that time, I decided I would join the Pray for Sydney Ives group on Facebook and would pray for her and her parents.

This past Sunday, I was scanning updates on Facebook and learned Sydney had passed away.

I was sad. It is always sad when children die. It’s the normal human emotion to feel.

But then I pulled up the posted YouTube videos and listened to the family’s message of overwhelming faith and outpouring of blind trust in God’s perfect will, and I began to sob.

Both Sydney and her parents demonstrated tremendous faith in God’s will. Whether Sydney would live or die, they wanted God lifted up and glorified in the circumstances. As a result, their pleas for prayer and the turquoise (Sydney’s favorite color) ribbon campaign lit up places as far away as Nepal and South Africa.

They built off of Lance Armstrong’s “Livestrong” campaign, using their last name as a springboard for “Ivestrong.”

I watched those videos, and I began to think about when Sydney was a baby. I thought about how her mother had no idea she would have such an (earthly speaking) short time with her.

Of course, that made me start thinking about Sam. I started crying at the prospect of losing him even as I held him in my arms. I know our children are “on loan” from God, but knowing it and bravely living it are two very different things.

Other friends have blogged about Sydney. They knew her in person and were able to capture her spirit and loving, joyful heart, even in those last days. They have blogged her dear family’s witness far better than I ever could.

I speak as an outsider. I have watched this family’s testimony from afar and have been humbled and heartbroken by their sorrow and their loss.

But (heavenly speaking), I am not an outsider. I am Sydney’s sister and her friend. I did not have the pleasure of knowing her here on this earthly sphere, but I will sing with her someday far above the clouds.

I send my warmest condolences to the Ives family as they mourn this passing and look hopefully to the day they will all be reunited.

And I add Sydney to my “never-mets” list – the list of people who have changed my life without ever knowing it.

And I look forward to singing in that heavenly choir alongside my father, my sweet aunt Kathy, kindly DL Moody, and now brave and forever cancer-free Sydney Ives.

More on the Ives family:

http://www.rrstar.com/news/x1972894633/Girl-loses-fight-against-cancer

http://mystateline.com/content/fulltext_news/?cid=114172&shr=addthis

www.ivestrong.com

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Gossip Girl

Did you know today is National End Gossip Day?


I can’t say I’ve ever been all that hurt by gossip. When you’re a 300 pound teenager, you’re already aware of how people perceive you. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises.


And while I can’t say many good things about my middle school bullies, they were boys and therefore didn’t gossip about me as much as shout things to my face.


I wish I could say I have never gossiped about anyone. But it’s not the truth.


I love to talk, and I hate secrets. So sharing “secrets” was always fun for me. I don’t recall ever trying to gossip maliciously, to hurt someone. But I have to admit there were times I gossiped to fit in.


I remember sharing a cabin with several girls at Camp Northland one year. There was this one girl, Sherrie, who had frizzy hair and weighed even more than I did (highly unusual). She had only brought two outfits to camp and hadn’t really started caring about hygiene or taking daily showers like the rest of us.


In spite of all the Christian messages during chapel, we made fun of Sherrie behind her back. We mocked her hair by making air spirals and holding our noses when we *thought* she wasn’t looking. We didn’t make fun of her weight, I’m guessing, since the other girls thought I might be offended.


Sherrie was no dummy. She picked up on her status as a pariah pretty quickly. She tried to fit in, but since mocking her was the only thing the rest of us had in common, it didn’t work so well.


We thought we had been discreet until the morning Sherrie came running out of our counselor’s room with tears streaking down her face. She raced toward the door and went down the hill to the lake.


The counselor came out and sat us all down. It turned out she had been more than aware of our unkindness. She had been praying and hoping God would change our hearts, but Sherrie had come to her demanding to go home. We got a stern lecture and grounded to our cabin for the rest of the day.


I was embarrassed at having been caught and more than a little ashamed of myself. When Sherrie came back to the cabin, we all apologized to her. I doubt she thought we were sincere.


I learned a big lesson that summer. It could have easily been me who was labeled as the outcast. There were only a few strands of frizzy hair and a couple months of maturity separating Sherrie and I.


Since the “Sherrie Incident,” I tried to be more conscious of gossip. Or, should I say, my tendency to enjoy - to indulge in - gossip.


To me, gossip was (is) like a rich, chocolaty dessert. Plus, it helped me to connect to people (as a gossip, I know, but semantics, semantics).


As a writer, I soak up stories like a sponge and spin off my own web of words. Sometimes what I write teeters perilously close to gossip. I depend on my honest friends to call me if it ever dips into that pot.


And they do. Sometimes. And I get defensive. As one does.


I say all this to congratulate myself on what I haven’t yet said.


I love to write, and I especially love this blog. I pound on this keyboard, pouring my heart and soul into writing about my life. I’ve blogged about many topics, and I’m sure there are many more to explore.


There aren’t many topics off limits in my blog. Politics. Sports. Flip-flops. You know, the basics.


I had gotten so used to being able to blog about anything that when something came up, I automatically started a blog post in my head.


So, you can imagine how hard – very, very, very hard – it was when things came up that I couldn’t, in good conscience, blog in depth about. I tried to use only the most generic terms about the bankruptcy, losing the house, losing our car, having to move the same month I had the baby, etc. I tried to use gentle terms in talking about my husband, who is as human as the next person.


I hated having to couch everything in politeness. I wanted to be real. Not necessarily nice.


The day we moved was one of the worst days of my life. The whole week was terrible. I was exhausted, and we didn’t have nearly enough help. Due to a miscommunication, it was a small crew (who are extremely grateful to) who helped us move, and most everyone had to leave early. Essentially, without Mom and Gary, we would still not be moved in.


My husband spiraled into a deep depression (he would tell you this himself). It was horrendous.


I have been praying for God to change my husband’s heart since the great Marriage Trial of ’06. I knew my marriage would most likely be a lifelong trial. I had been honest with my pastor in saying I didn’t know if I could stay married to Brett. I felt like I was wasting my life with someone who chose to live in a dark hole of negativity and ungratefulness.


I knew leaving was the easy way out. Staying was the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make. Every fiber of my being was trying to convince me to leave. To just take Sam and leave. Start over. Start fresh. Walk away.


Except.


Except the Bible is pretty clear about it.


Frankly, at that point I didn’t care so much about the Bible. The Bible didn’t have to live with my husband.


Pastor did some pretty frantic counseling with me over the phone as I sat at my mother’s dining room table, sobbing like a child. I could tell Mom’s heart was breaking, too. She didn’t know what to do either.


After praying with Pastor and listening to his advice, I decided to take Sam and go home.


Brett had been awaiting my decision and met me at the door. He wrapped me in his arms and thanked me for coming home. I was skeptical of his promises to change. Although, he’d never tried before, so what did I know?


(I should stop at this point and say that Brett has never, ever been physically or verbally abusive. He has never been intentionally hurtful to me. He is a faithful husband who loves me. Our issues resolved around his spiritual condition, constant depression, and choice to live pessimistically. )


The moment I came home, I sensed something had happened, but I didn’t know exactly what.


Over the next few weeks, it became obvious God was working in Brett’s heart. His attitude began to change.


He started talking to me about joyful things. He wanted to spend time reading the Bible and praying. He wanted to go to church and fellowship with friends.


At first, I thought maybe it was an act. Just something to convince me to stay.


But Brett is a horrible faker. So, now, after two months, I have something to say –


The man I married is back! How I had missed him!


We were talking about it the other night, and he said how God had to take away all of his “things” in order to get his attention. He lost his house, his car, his hobby, and his employment. Finally, he realized God was making a point.


It is strange to suddenly be back with the man who was my best friend in college. To be able to joke and talk and work together happily without that ever-present string of tension that had been tightly wound around our hearts.


We bond over taking care of Sam. We sit on the bed and marvel at his ten tiny toes and slightly upturned nose that represent God’s blessing in a time of great trial. We realize how we have been given a second chance.


A chance to be in love again. A chance to be redeemed again.


I was a basket case the first month after Sam was born. No one told me how incredibly hard it was going to be.


My friend Alice confided to me that it is the unspoken code to withhold the knowledge of that first horrible month from prospective parents. “It’s just not nice,” she explained.


As I sat on my bed crying, holding a screaming baby, my husband sat down next to me on the bed. I stared at him blankly. Brett is not a talker, so it surprised me when he said, “You know, you’re not alone in this. We’re a team.”


Sure, it sounds generic now, but man, was it what I needed to hear. I latched onto it like a mantra and hung tightly to it. The “team” concept helped me feel not so alone and got me through the rest of that despicable month.


It was hard not to share these trials when I was going through them. I wanted so much to empty my heart onto these pages! But I knew I would be violating the marriage code in a big way.


So now, instead of gossip, I can share this in gratefulness.


I know there will still be trying times. People don’t change overnight. We all backslide at some point. But God can and does bring us back up to where we’re supposed to be.


The way I grew up, people don’t talk about their marriage issues. I think this hinders us so very much. It was the women who came alongside me and shared their marriage trials who helped me get through this.


And of course, God who graciously answered my prayer and changed my husband’s heart.


If there’s such a thing as good gossip, I’m passing this on!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Transparently Talkative

I have always talked too much. And too loudly. And too much about myself.


Even as a kid.


When I had my adenoids taken out as a little girl, the doctors warned Mom and Dad that I wouldn’t feel like talking for a couple of days. My parents’ dream of peace and quiet was shattered as they entered my hospital room, and I chattered on like a monkey about my surroundings, my surgery, and the ice cream flavors I expected.


Growing up, I remember Mom constantly making a hand gesture that looked like she was frantically trying to stop an explosion and her calm, patient voice repeating “Lower your voice,” over and over.


Specifically, in high school, I remember talking to one of my girlfriends in the public restroom during an on-the-road stop-over with our volleyball (girls) and soccer (boys) teams. When we came out, the entire soccer team was staring at us.


Later, we learned everyone could hear every word I said. And I, apparently, had given a little TMI.


When it comes to saying too much, I am queen.


At four years old, I marched up to the wife of my Dad’s boss and told her the mole on her face made her look ugly. Dad rushed in to tug me away. Later in the car, I heard him lament to Mom, “I knew I was in trouble as soon as she headed over there!”


I have spent a good portion of my life apologizing for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. My mouth tends to process the words, the quips, the barbs, and the absolute worst thing to say at a much faster pace than my brain seems to be able to censor them.


And, as we all know, once the words are out – they’re out for good.


This was my Achilles’ heel. If Ann-Marie was known for one thing, it was being too much of a blabbermouth. Go ahead and ask my friends and family from those days. I shared way too much information at the top of my lungs.


It wasn’t until after college when I learned about a new word.


A word that would change my life.


Transparency.


I don’t remember where I heard it first. I do remember thinking it had something to do with being skinny, such as “She was so skinny you could see right through her! Man, she was transparent!”

Later, of course, I learned what it really meant.

As people bandied the word about, I was sort of surprised. My whole life I had been told I needed to keep my life to myself. As my husband likes to say, “No one needs a degree in Ann-Marie.”

Now, apparently, telling the whole world about your sad sack life was considered a heroic, selfless act of character. Being a loudmouth was suddenly in vogue!

Again, apparently, most people like to put on a brave face about how great their lives are, or at least not harp on how bad/dreary/depressing they are, and dropping that fa├žade was this wonderful breath of fresh air. Finally being able to share the struggles, the trials, and the disappointments was a breath of fresh air, and the whole world was all a twitter about transparency.

Many well-meaning people have told me how much they appreciate my transparency. I have to be honest and say, “No, thank YOU for listening to me drone on and on.”

It is NOT hard for me to be an open book. I am the kind of open book that would follow you around the store and demand you read me, if you know what I’m saying.

One of the reasons I’m such a fan of blogging, is that it gives me an outlet to exposit my life, and people can choose if they want to “listen” or not.

Like bloggers worldwide, my eyes light up when people leave comments, and I feel the connection between my cyberpals, near and far.

So, going forth, you can continue to expect transparency at The Lefthanded Rabbit.

It’s just the sort of heroic, selfless, character-building thing you would expect of me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back from Hiatus

Oh, blog! How I have missed you! I never realized how much I would miss writing.

Can I tell you what has really shocked me these past few months?

I had nothing to blog about.

Seriously, I’ve been so busy, and yet…nothing.

There’s the baby. Of course, there’s the baby. But, I found I didn’t want to blog about the baby. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the baby. I adore the baby. I don’t get to spend enough time with baby, etc.

But what was going on with baby…goes on with every baby. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatically happy our sweet Sam is healthy and (for the most part) happy. For a time, I became consumed, on a practical level, with pacifiers, bottles, feeding, fussiness, etc.

But I didn’t want to blog about that. It isn’t the least bit interesting. Babies are like decorative plate collections; they’re only interesting to people who currently have them.

I am unbelievably grateful to my wonderful friends, family, co-workers, and church family for supporting me, giving me advice, and standing by my side. I am indebted to Candice, my baby guru; my friend, the incomparable Carleen, for having her son a mere two months before Sam, and all my church friends for stocking the baby nursery to FULL – there’s five babies in the nursery now, and Sam’s still the only boy!

In midst of becoming parents, we managed to finish downsizing our foreclosed two story (plus basement) house into a small two bedroom apartment. We finished grieving over our bankruptcy, car loss, and Brett’s unemployed status.

We are still fighting an uphill battle financially with hospital bills and a legal argument with unemployment (they want their money back, and we (duh) don’t have it to GIVE back). Thanks to the tenacity of the money-grubbing, ruthless, temp company Brett worked for briefly, he is not receiving unemployment benefits. Instead, we are being solely supported by my small paycheck.

I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for us. I’m not throwing a pity party.

In truth, I didn’t really struggle with going back to work – not like some women struggle. Sometimes, God is crystal clear in His plan for you. It was like that for me. God shut all the doors, but one. So, I stepped through it.

For the meantime, Brett is a stay-at-home dad. And a good one, at that. The Lord gave me great peace in going back to work, and one morning, as I was struggling with leaving, a thought came to me that eased the pressure tremendously.

“God is the one providing. I am only the conduit.”

Now, before I break into a chorus of “Channels Only,” let me break that down for you. I had to realize I couldn’t “boast” in my job or being a provider, because I am not the one who is providing. God is, and He’s chosen to use me, for now, as the one through whom He will channel His provision.

Do I wish I had the choice to stay home? Sure, I wish I had the choice. But I don’t, so in a way it was easier for me. God wanted me out in the world for His own reasons. By the same token, He wanted Brett home with Sam. He is at work in both of our lives, and who am I to question it?

I am blessed beyond measure with a job I dearly love. There are times when I feel the hammer hitting home on the things we’ve lost, and then I realize there is still so much to be grateful for.

My Pollyanna spirit can’t help but be thankful for my job, a roof over our heads, food in our pantry, and family and friends who bolster our downtrodden spirits on a daily basis. Add in a healthy baby, and shower gifts that have provided so fruitfully for Sam that we’ve hardly had to buy a thing!

In a lot of ways, going back to work helped me preserve a little of the sanity I had felt slipping away. Immersing myself in the hubbub of our office, currently in an ever-changing state of moving offices and changing personnel, made me feel like I was part of the human race again.

Those first few weeks after giving birth, I felt like an alien. Everything is so foreign and unfamiliar. I had never believed it was possible to be so tired. And no one had told me that everything hurts – for a long time – after having a baby. I couldn’t sit or stand without gallons and buckets of ouchies.

I fly my pain wuss flag bravely, and if I’m ever pregnant again, it will be an act of God (it was an act of God the first time, anyway).

And not to keep beating a dead horse (lovely analogy for an animal lover, eh?) but if one more person acts shocked that we’ve decided to have one child, I’m going to hit them over the head with my ovaries.

Please. It’s what we want. Do we criticize people for having more than one? I mean, we could. Anyway, I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Getting back to being back at work – I must say that I’d forgotten how much I love what I do. My new job has me buried neck deep in creative copy – my favorite – and happily writing, editing, proofreading, and spending time developing my very own specialized Girl Scout troop.

I truly love working with the girls. It’s amazing to watch them grow and change. I love the first time they interact with a news crew or get interviewed by a reporter. Their eyes just light up and I remember the first time I realized what I was born to do. I see how that same love of sharing information, becoming a spokesperson, and learning how to be an informed and passionate gatekeeper sparks their interest in just about every way.

I don’t mean to criticize my mom, but I truly wish she had signed me up for Girl Scouts. These girls develop a tight knit community where they accept one another and bond over shared experiences apart from traditional school, neighborhood, and church groups. Girl Scouts is living proof that you can make a community out of any group of people who come together with the desire to build relationships while changing the world.

It’s not a sales pitch, but after nine years of working for the Girl Scouts, I can honestly say I agree 100% with the Girl Scout Promise –

On my honor, I will try
To serve God and my country
To help people at all times
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

I do miss Sam while I’m at work, of course. But it also makes coming home that much sweeter. It makes me appreciate his smiles, coos, and laughter even more.

My friend Angie said it best. “When some men come home after working all day, they just want some peace and quiet. Instead, their wives often thrust the children at them, because they really need a break. With you, it’s different. You come home from work and what you want most is to see your baby! So, Brett gets a break, and neither one of you feels guilty!”

Angie always makes me feel better about my life. She’s the friend who will find a silver lining, even if it’s just the duct tape holding up your cardboard house. I don’t know what I’d do without her.

I know our situation is hardly unique, what with so many men out of work here. I recently read how this generation of children is being raised by their unemployed fathers while their mothers work. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Fathers are parents, too.

Being part of an “untraditional” family is certainly challenging, and there are days I wish I had normal family circumstances.

But, when you think about it, when have I ever been normal?

Uh-huh.

So why start now?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Not My Most Refined Post

Note: I did write this on Sunday morning, but Blogger refused to let me post it then. So, here’s my second attempt!

Okay. So here I am at 4:45 a.m. on Sunday morning. Wide awake.

For once, the baby is sleeping peacefully. He’s cozied up next to Brett in the bed – which seems to suit them both very much. I can hardly put Sam in his bassinet before Brett is reaching in to take him out for “snuggle time.”

I have to say I think I am the only one NOT surprised by Brett’s reaction to fatherhood. Anyone who knows Brett knows he is not a fan of kids. I always knew it would be different once it was his own.

I was right. He adores Sam with every fiber of his being. And God knows I’m glad he is so patient. It helps that one of us is.

Sam is very much his daddy’s boy, and I couldn’t be happier. I know he loves me, too, but there is something very moving about watching a father and son bond. Especially when I happen to be head over heels crazy in love with both of them.

Over the past month, I’ve really wanted to blog.

There have been many topics I find myself needing to write about, wanting to explore. So much to say and no time to say it in.

I “knew” about the sleeplessness. At least, I’d heard about it. I had no idea it could be relentlessly exhausting. I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – how do single mothers do it? I am endlessly amazed and impressed with the caliber of these women!

I mean, I have live-in help! I’m on maternity leave, and Brett is unemployed. There are two of us right now with the singular purpose of taking care of a little ten pound human being. And still. There is no time to eat, sleep, organize, and (my life’s breath) WRITE!

I had no idea how much I would mourn the loss of my time. Not that I don’t cherish the time with Sam.

I just miss being able to eat three times a day when I was hungry, as opposed to now, where I have to jam in whatever is available when the baby gives me a break.

My life had changed, as I knew it would. I’m glad, but also still adjusting.

Everything is compounded, of course, by Brett’s unemployment, my looming and possible job loss, our recent move to the apartment, and our race to clean out the house pre-foreclosure notice.

Perhaps the biggest change (aside from the lack of sleep, as that is the ever-present elephant in the room – God knows if there is ever need of evidence that man has indeed “fallen,” the newborn parents’ lack of sleep is rock solid), has been my membership in the circle of moms.

I find myself needing advice, wanting advice, on subjects that would have sent me snoring only a few short months ago.

What’s strangest of all is that – when I ask for advice – I receive it, on a variety of subjects, from wonderful women the world over. I have never been so grateful for the advice of relative strangers. God bless the pea-pickin’ internet.

I am also most appreciative for my cousin Candice who serves as my toll-free number for absurd baby questions.

Case in point, last night I was trying to sort Sam’s clothes. I called Candice, mystified, as to whether “24 months” was the same as “2T.” And what does the “T” mean, anyway? As I rambled on, I found myself peppering my long-suffering cousin with questions about clothes size, babies, and bottles.

Eventually, I just flat-out asked her, “How did you do this?”

She laughed and told me that the key is taking it one day at a time and not giving in to fear. “Every baby is different. You’ll figure it out,” she promised me.

Thanks to her help, I just might.

Speaking of bottles, I have to say my vocabulary has completely changed. Never in my life have I said “nipples” as many times a day as I do now.

My nearly-40-year-old husband still has a 15-year-old reaction to the word. Which leaves me rolling my eyes and asking if and when men ever grow up.

I also use the word “poopy” much more than I ever thought I would. I am not proud of this fact, but I am nothing if not transparent on this blog, and so now you know.

I am no longer ashamed of my “poopy” word usage. There I said it. Do you believe me?

There are so many things I am uncovering about motherhood. Some are hard (constant crying – me and the baby, not knowing what’s wrong, exasperation, and exhaustion), but there are moments.

Like singing my father’s favorite hymns to Sam and watching the wonder and peace move across his face. Seeing Brett lift Sam up for a kiss. Being the only one the baby wants. The joy in my mother’s eyes when she sees “her Sammy.”

Suffice it to say, the one thing I am most aware of is that Sam’s very existence is proof of God. Proof, even, that God answered my specific prayer.

Sometimes it’s easier to remember this than others. When Sam’s crying, and I don’t know why, I find myself praying, “Okay, Lord, this is YOUR child…”

Other times, like when I sing hymns to Sam, the realization that I hold tangible evidence of God’s love for me is overwhelming. And humbling.

I hope to find more time to write and balance it with my new life – with our new life.

Not writing, not blogging, is just not an option. I mean, I have to write.

Anything else would just be…poopy.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Being the Noisy Neighbors

Freedom!

That’s what I think when I sit in the living room of our new apartment.

I mean - screaming, flag-waving, kilt-wearing, blue-faced Mel Gibson charging his horse down a hill - FREEDOM!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love apartment living. I always have.

Far less space to clean. No more yard work. No more snow shoveling. No more home repairs.

I like both the social opportunities and delightful anonymity apartment living provides. I like knowing if Brett isn’t home, at least SOMEONE in the building is, and if some desperate robber/rapist (I say desperate because we don’t have any money, and I am about as far from a supermodel as one can get) breaks in, I can scream my lungs out and there’s a good chance someone will call 911 on my behalf.

I love hearing the bumps and thumps that come from living near other people. I love hearing a shower come on at 3:00 a.m. I like the thumping bass of our neighbor’s guitar. I like the sense of community. It makes me feel young, alive, and vital. In an apartment, I am urbane, engaged, and wired.

It also helps me not feel the least bit guilty when Sam screams his lungs off at 2:00 a.m., since we can barely hear him over the roar of hard rock emanating from the walls.

It’s funny how life comes full circle.

Back when we were first married and in an apartment, we lived above a couple of young guys who worked the night shift. They’d come home around 1:00 a.m. and turn on their game system full blast. Unfortunately for us, their game room was situated directly underneath our bedroom.

The incessant blare of gunfire, bombs, and witty dialogue present in Grand Theft Auto did not lull Brett to sleep. I, however, enjoyed the free massage thanks to the vibrations coming from the floor boards.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, Brett went downstairs several times and politely asked the “boys” to turn it down. They were polite right back with promises to turn it down. And, of course, they never did.

Brett (in the running to become the cranky old man who calls the cops on his neighbors) called the cops. But, in a strange twist, he was actually the one who got scolded.

I tried to talk him out of it. I did.

“It’s just not that big a deal,” I said. “They’re, like, 20 years old. Don’t you remember 20?” I said this from the perspective of actually BEING in my 20’s at the time.

He swore up and down that he had never been that obnoxious. I believed him. He’s actually a pretty polite guy (except in traffic. Oh, no. Not. In. Traffic.).

Now, you have to remember Brett grew up in the quaint, country town of Geneva. This was Geneva of 40-odd years ago, not the shopping and development metropolis it is today. I, on the other hand, grew up in crime-ridden, gritty Rockford, Illinois, where – while corruption may not be king; it is at least governor.

Don’t ask me when or how I knew this, but I KNEW that you ONLY call 911 in Rockford if someone is a.) dead, b.) dying, c.) bleeding profusely, or d.) actually on fire.

However, in Geneva, you call 911 if your cat is up a tree.

So, when Brett told me he was going to call the police and invoke the wrath of our downstairs neighbors, I ASSUMED he meant he was going to call the non-emergency number.

Ah-ha.

Instead, he called 911 where, when he explained the reason for his call, the dispatcher rightly reamed him for “wasting our valuable time.”

Brett was shaken, and I bit back the “told you so,” on my tongue.

When we moved to our house, Brett insisted a huge part of his happiness was due to leaving “those rude neighbors” behind.

During our first night in our new apartment, Sam got us up at 2:00 a.m. screaming his precious little lungs out. Brett’s eyes got as big as saucers as he frantically tried to shush our son.

I had to laugh, since Brett just kept saying an irritated, “Shhhh” louder and louder, as though that would have any effect on Sam. Meanwhile, I could see the thought coasting through his mind – “What will our neighbors think?”

We eventually got Sam calmed down and back to sleep. The next day Brett was freaking out about what the neighbors thought.

I told him I could give a rip because a.) we already know three people in the building have babies – they’ve been there, done that, b.) apartment living means making concessions to other people’s noise, and c.) what are we going to do? Move to a deserted island? Babies make noise, plain and simple. No matter where we live, Sam will have the volume cranked up to MAX occasionally.

Still, I could tell it really bothered Brett that we had become “those” neighbors.

Until last night. Blessed last night.

We arrived home late from moving some more house-to-apartment stuff. As we climbed the stairs, we reached our floor and were instantly surrounded by the pulsating rhythm of our neighbor’s stereo – a screaming lead vocalist accompanied by a raucous band of guitars, drums, and (I’m pretty sure) a cannon.

The noise continued well into the twilight and morning hours. Sam wasn’t the least affected by the noise, and we were both relieved our little boy would not be the annoyance we had feared.

As Brett expressed his gratefulness for our neighborly noisemakers, I made the observation that he might just owe an apology to those young kids from our early apartment years. He smiled, just a little ruefully. Oh, the lessons parenthood brings!

A few minutes later, he looked over at me. “You know, if they ever DO call the police on us, I hope they know not to call 911. If they do, they’ll really be in trouble!”

Oh, the lessons being a cranky old man brings.


P.S. - Have I mentioned how much I love my new apartment? Do you know how much I love it? I totally didn’t notice it doesn’t have a microwave! Oops. Don’t care. Still love it!