Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hazzard Hearts

Sometimes, love just sneaks up on you.

Brett and I have never been highly romantic people.

We ARE both affectionate and loving toward one another. I’ve never doubted his love for me, and I hope the same is true on his end.

However, after being married nearly nine years and going through all the marriage trials we’ve gone through – particularly adding in all the stress of this past year - sometimes you get stuck in a rut. You know you love each other, but it becomes part of your personal scenery.

“Yeah, I’m married. Yeah, to that guy.”

The high passion of first love can get mired in the everyday.

Brett is the only man I have ever kissed. It wasn’t because I was some high-falutin’ don’t-kiss-until-you-get-married whack job or pure as the driven snow. The full truth is Brett is the only guy I’ve ever wanted to kiss.

(Realistically, I mean. All Hollywood leading lips fantasies, aside.)

I’ve never regretted it and hold that truth dear. I thank God for protecting my heart and giving me a love that was wholly and fully returned by a man who wants it to last our lifetime. I consider myself blessed.

Not to say that it hasn’t been - that it isn’t - hard. Marriage is by far the hardest thing I have ever taken part of in my life.

But what’s that old saying? You appreciate it more when you have to work for it?

In my case, that’s true. Every light at the end of the tunnel, every lift, every moment of joy, I recognize as such. I’ve learned not to take progress for granted. It sustains me through the dark times and thrills me during the high points.

Lately, both of us feel like we are just existing, just surviving. Like we were – are – getting by only by holding tightly to the grace of God. We’ve had tunnel vision as we watch our pennies, look for an apartment, pack, prepare for Sam, search for jobs, and pray, pray, pray for provision.

Last night, we went to Wal-Mart to buy more packing containers. I was driving, and on the way home, Brett urged me to go through an arrow that was just turning yellow. I complied, and as I swerved into the left lane, I teased him.

“You just want me to be in trouble with the law!”

Those words seemed to bring up an old memory, and before I knew it, I was humming along –

“Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born”

As I wracked my brain to recall where those words were from, Brett piped up with –

“Just'a good ol' boys

Never meanin' no harm.
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

“The Dukes of Hazzard,” I exclaimed. “That’s right.”

We started an impromptu concert, finally managing to put all the lyrics together.

“Just'a good ol' boys

Never meanin' no harm.
Beats all you never saw
Been in trouble with the law
Since the day they was born

Staightnin' the curves
Flatnin’ the hills
Someday the mountain might get 'em
But the law never will

Makin' their way
The only way they know how
That's just a little bit more
Than the law will allow.

Makin' their way
The only way they know how
That's just a little bit more
Than the law will allow.

I'm a good ol' boy
You know my momma loves me
But she don't understand
They keep a showin’ my hands and not my face on TV”

By the time we got home, we were laughing so hard, we were almost crying. The laughter peeled the stress off, layer by layer.

I spent the rest of the night sorting and packing. Brett worked by my side toting, hauling, and arranging. We couldn’t stop smiling at each other. It was like the spark that brought us together had somehow, surprisingly, re-kindled and was burning brightly.

When we tumbled into bed, exhausted but fulfilled by all we’d gotten done, I said the same thing I say every night, but with more fervor and appreciation.

“I love you.”

Brett mumbled the same sentiment before promptly dropping off to sleep. And snoring almost immediately.

I stayed awake for a minute, feeling Sam’s feather light kicks, and thought how I really do love my husband.

Even if it’s easy to forget sometimes.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I wasn’t going to update my blog today.


Over the weekend, my hotmail.com address book was hacked!

We don’t have internet access at the house right now, so I had NO idea until I came into work and took a quick peek at my e-mail.

I had 72 e-mails.

As I am SO not that popular, I realized something must be off. I also had a few e-mails to my work account letting me know about the situation.

I was totally and completely embarrassed. I rarely e-mail anyone from my hotmail account, so the fact that over 100 people received a spam e-mail from my account was just humiliating.

I apologized on Facebook, here (see right), and then sent out an e-mail to all the offended parties with another apology. Everyone has been so kind and understanding.

My friend Alice (one of the few people I DO e-mail regularly though hotmail) said, “I knew it wasn’t really from you when it started off, ‘Hello, firend.’”

My pastor also commented on Facebook that he knew it wasn’t from me, because the spelling was so very awful.

(Kudos to Miss Bull, my second grade teacher at Rockford Baptist School. She may have been a dragon lady, but boy, did she drill proper spelling into us by the end of the year! If I never, ever see another Victory Drill Book again, it will be too soon.)

Reassurances were forthcoming from friends who had been through the same experience. I felt much better when I learned I was not the first person (and certainly not the last) to have their technology privacy hijacked and violated.

It reminded me of a storyline from one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes books.

Calvin’s family leaves for a vacation, and Calvin forgets to pack Hobbes (his stuffed tiger and very best friend). During the whole vacation, he whines, nags, and pleads with his parents to go back home and get Hobbes. His parents are steadfast and stick to their vacation, even though Calvin is driving them nuts.

When they finally pull up to the driveway, Calvin sprints out of the car and goes racing through the house looking for Hobbes. His exhausted parents step in the house, and his mom says, “Boy, it’s cold in here!” Then she realizes the front window is broken.

“Oh, no!” She starts screaming and dashes through the house looking for Calvin, while Calvin’s dad calls the police to report a break in.

Eventually, the police arrive and take statements. Calvin’s parents board up the broken window, and Calvin finds Hobbes under the covers on his bed.

My favorite panel at the end shows Calvin’s mom talking to Calvin’s dad in bed.

“This sort of thing is supposed to happen to someone else,” she says, snuggling up to him.

He wipes his glasses and puts them on the nightstand. “We’re all someone else to someone else,” he notes wisely.

That sums up exactly how I felt this morning upon discovering the skullduggery achieved using my personal communication!

(Side note: One of my other favorite C&H lines happens in this series. Calvin is near hysterics when he can’t find Hobbes. He’s convinced the burglars have taken his friend. His mom tries to calm him by saying, “Calvin, thieves only take valuables. They aren’t going to take a stuffed tiger.” Calvin sniffs and gives his mom a heart-breaking look, “But I think he’s valuable.” It’s such an utterly sweet moment!)

One of the immediate pieces of advice I received was to create a non-hotmail account. I am seriously considering it.

However, I am reluctant, even after this boondoggle. I’ve had this account since college! I created it back when “e-mail” was a brand new concept.

(Oh my, I am undeniably aging myself with that statement.)

I still remember when I decided on it. It was in a Communications class with one of my absolute favorite professors, Billie Sue Thompson. She advised each of us to get an “e-mail account,” and my old Comm. pal, Parke Brown, shared how he had one.

It convinced me to get my own account. It’s got my maiden name in it, and it’s nice to still be “Trotter” somewhere.

So, I’m not quite ready to give it up. However, it only gets one more chance. It’s not worth the hassle to be apologizing all over the place for something I had no knowledge of.

And, I’m sorry, Miss Bull, if I’ve misspelled any words in this post. I’m still under duress.

Just please, please, don’t make me go get the Victory Drill Book!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Consignment Couture

Have you ever done something without rhyme or reason, and then it came surprisingly together? And you end up a little stunned, wondering how it all worked out?

I guess, as a Christian, I shouldn’t be surprised, as God is always working behind the scenes in my life. But recently, I was pleasantly surprised when something worked out.

I mean, the way things have been going for the Scrappy Soderstroms, something working out is rather good news, I’d say.

I’ve always been a clotheshorse. I come by it honestly, as my mother suffers from the same affliction.

During college, the 5% of my life when I was at a normal weight, I managed to amass a large collection of conservative, career clothes. Since I spent three years in college interning at the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the clothes were extremely necessary.

When I entered the workforce, I continued to add to my career clothes collection. As my size tended Heavenward, I was forced to put my smaller clothes aside.

I loved my clothes! I had spent time and put hard-earned money towards collecting a classic, professional collection I had hoped would stand me in good stead over the years.

For some reason, I just couldn’t part with them! I had no aspirations to ever attaining my college waistline again, so I wasn’t holding on to old hopes. I just felt strongly, for some reason, I shouldn’t drop the whole lot off at the Salvation Army.

At the same time, I began to collect wire hangers. I have absolutely no idea why. People would give them to me; I’d pick some up at the dry cleaners; they’d be in a stash in someone’s basement, etc. By 2009, I’d managed to fill an entire laundry room closet rack with wire hangers.

Every so often, I’d peer in the closet and think, “Man, I need to get rid of those things!” But I never did.

In 2008, I got a sudden burst of energy. I ransacked my over-stuffed closet and weeded out all my smaller-sized clothes. I neatly sorted and stacked them into four Rubbermaid containers by size, color, and season. Everything stood ready to be packed and hauled off to Goodwill.

And yet, once again, I couldn’t do it.

Not understanding my desire to keep these clothes (I am a clutter-eliminator!), I once again stacked the containers in my closet, sighed, and shut the doors.

A couple of months ago, Mom told me about a consignment shop where she and my Lovable Aunt Louise (LAL) were taking some of their gently-used clothes.

“They price the clothes for you, and if the clothes sell, you get 40%! It sure beats sitting out in a hot, dusty garage all day.”

Mom and LAL are absolute garage sale nuts, so if they say something is better than a garage sale, they know what they’re talking about.

At about the same time Mom was saying, “Maybe you should see if they’d take some of your old clothes,” I was saying, “Gosh, I wonder if they’d take some of my old clothes!”

Great minds, friends. Great minds and good genes = psychic connection

Mom told me how the folks at the consignment shop go over every inch of the proffered clothes. There can be no stains - no matter how minute - no yellowing on white, and everything must be ironed.

“There’s something else. Everything has to be on a hanger. Do you have any extra hangers? Maybe some of the old wire ones?”

Oh my, Mom probably didn’t understand why I broke out into near hysterical laughter. I thought of my massive collection of wire hangers and just couldn’t stop the giggles.

“Oh Lord,” I breathed out, smiling. “You were preparing me, and I had no idea.” I laughed again as I told Mom how God was, once again, present in the smallest details of my life.

So, this weekend, I pulled out the old, faithful blue Rubbermaid containers and began the process of re-sorting my clothes collection. I had no idea how many clothes I had saved!

After I had put the last shirt on a wire hanger, I went back to my laundry room closet. There was exactly one wire hanger left.

It took Brett several trips to get everything to the car. Once we were at Mom’s, it took all four of us numerous trips to and from the car to get everything into Mom’s spare bedroom.

Mom served us a delicious dinner. We sent Gary to watch TV, and Brett to surf the internet. Then, the two of us attacked the mound of clothes piled on the bed in Mom’s spare room.

We separated the clothes by season, by need-to-wash, need-to-iron, and need-to-mend.

A couple of times, Mom would wrinkle her nose at an item and hand it back to me, “You can give this to Salvation Army.”

“You don’t like my red pantsuit? I think it’s cute,” I’d say defensively.

“Maybe in the 90’s,” my fashionable mother would acquiesce, sweetly.

Apparently, I am not the style maven I thought I was. I’m just descended from one.

Most of my clothes were in the fall/winter collection. It seemed to me, at the time, I didn’t have very many spring/summer clothes. (Imagine my surprise later; when Mom told me I had 62 spring/summer items!)

The consignment shop will only take one season at a time, so the fall/winter clothes went into the closet in Mom’s study.

In an outpouring of unbelievable generosity, Mom offered to wash all the need-to-wash and iron all the need-to-iron. Gary even got in the spirit, assailing every stain with his arsenal of Amway stain removers. My lovable Aunt Louise stepped up and took all the need-to-mend to her house for a session with her sewing machine.

The offer to iron was especially appreciated, since Mom knows how I HATE to iron. I mean, I would rather BE ironed myself, than iron.

Back in 2002, right before Mom and Gary got married, I threw Mom a bridal shower. Aunt Louise showed up early, stripped down to her slip, and asked me if she could use my iron for her dress.

I almost gave her a heart attack when I had to go rooting through our wedding presents to find an iron and pulled it, brand new, out of the box.

“Oh, Ann-Marie,” she shook her head and sighed, as I peeled off the already-expired manufacture’s warranty sticker.

My aversion to ironing is well known in my family. I am not apologetic. Why would anyone create a garment that needs extra work just to be worn! It’s ludicrous and a ridiculous waste of time.

No. Thank. You.

So, I embraced Mom’s offer with utmost gratefulness and gave thanks my family loves and accepts me, faults and all.

Yesterday, Mom and Aunt Louise went to the consignment shop. I called Mom to see how it went. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, so I was hoping the shop would accept maybe 10 or 15 of my items.

Holy smokes! I was bowled over when Mom reported the shop had accepted 53 of my 62 items. WOW! All those torturous years of wishy-washy waiting had finally paid off. Whatever the shops sells, I’ll get 40% percent to put towards either our apartment or second car fund!

I offered Mom and Aunt Louise a cut, since they did so much work, but they refused. They want the money to go towards helping us save. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

Although, Mom did say they wouldn’t object if I took them out to lunch sometime.

“I mean, I WAS up until 11 p.m ironing,” were her exact words.

What is totally mindboggling to me is the fact that the spring/summer collection didn’t even make up 50% of my collection. I mean, just wait until we can take in the fall/winter collection!

After I got off the phone with Mom last night, I offered up a prayer of thankfulness to God.

He who made sure I saved those clothes until the timing was perfect.

He who made sure the wire hanger collection was fruitful and multiplied.

He who led the consignment shop people to take the majority of my clothes.

He who is evident, even the smallest part of my life, down to the wire (hanger).

If only I could take God out to lunch, too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One New Thing

When I was growing up, my dad taught me to be grateful for one new thing a day.

He always said “thoughtful thankfulness” warded off a gloom and doom attitude. (No wonder Pollyanna was my favorite childhood movie!)

With all the earthly, dismal news I’ve been reporting in my personal life lately, I’ve decided to heed my father’s advice and add a new element to my blog. I’m posting a “Today, I’m grateful…” on my sidebar and will try to update it regularly.

I hope it serves to remind me how blessed I am and how very much God cares for His own.

In other news, I’m wishing my step-niece (Gary’s granddaughter) Brigitte a very happy birthday! She turns SEVEN today and will spend the day with her family, grandparents, and friends at McDonald’s party.

Happy birthday, B! Wish I could be there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Questioning Quintuplets

I love going to my OB’s office.

I love it mainly, because it’s entertaining. My OB practices in a “Specialty Center” which also houses doctors who specialize in hearing impairment and allergy treatment. When I was dealing with infertility, I liked going to my OB’s office, because NOT every second woman was pregnant. Now that I’m pregnant, I enjoy going for the entertainment.

The hearing impaired patients are the most fun.

Generally, they are older individuals. Some have acclimated to their situation and often read or smile politely. However, a lot of the older couples have shouted conversations, often bellowing out what they had for breakfast or the timing of their last bowel movement.

Yesterday, I watched as a woman kept yelling about “the gardener,” and her husband thought she was calling him “pardner.”

At one point, he said, “I’m not one of your Westerns!” Seriously.

I should mention my best friend in high school was hearing impaired. We liked to joke that half our relationship was me saying something, and her saying, “Huh?”

(I never thought of Tania as being “impaired” in any way. The fact that she bravely faced struggle, the fact that she was the most completely unselfish person I’ve ever met, just made me incredibly grateful to be her friend. )

As I was sitting in my OB’s waiting room today, I indulged in one of my favorite pastimes – eavesdropping! I admit it. I sort of go by the “Listening Tom” rule – if you talk loud enough for other people to hear, you are giving tacit permission to be overheard.

(And therefore, in certain cases, reported on via eavesdropping blogger)

Anyway, one of the men waiting for the hearing doctor (audiologist?) saw an old friend in the waiting room. The two of them proceeded to have a conversation, while I proceeded to pretend to read Fit Pregnancy (while the rest of the room thought, “It’s too late for that, honey.”)

Older Man: I ran into your husband the other day! He said the babies are just opening their eyes.

Older Woman: Oh, they are! It’s so cute. I can’t believe he actually knew that. I mean, he listens to me go on and on and just pretends to ignore me. Then when he talks to people, he gives them the full update.

Man: How did everything go?

Woman: Oh, it went fine. She delivered the first four one after another, and I thought we were done. So, I laid down for a while, and when I got up, she squirted out another one.

At this point, I was amazed. This woman was grandmother to quintuplets! I wondered if her daughter was from Rockford or somewhere else, as I assumed “Quintuplets Born to Local Woman,” would definitely make the papers.

I thought it was a little gross she used the word “squirted” for the miracle of childbirth. But tacky has to originate somewhere.

I had tuned out during my ponderings and picked my eavesdropping up a minute later.

Man: So, when is your other one due?

(At this point, I was thinking of the presents this grandmother was going to have to buy!)

Woman: Oh, her! We think she’s a faker.

(What? She’s faking pregnancy?)

Man: Well, I’ve heard that happens sometimes.

(It does?)

Woman: Well, we’re actually kind of grateful. I mean, taking care of five puppies will be hard enough.

(PUPPIES? They’re talking about puppies?!)

Once again, one of my favorite pastimes managed to burn me. That’s what happens when you eavesdrop. You make certain assumptions without knowing the full story.

All in all though, a very entertaining waiting room experience. I couldn’t help smiling as I was finally called in for my appointment.

Inside, I showed the nurse practitioner my hands. “Are my fingers supposed to look like Vienna sausages?” I demanded.

“I’m afraid swelling in the hands and feet are normal,” she told me, as I wiggled my fat fingers inches from her face.

I told her how I’ve been jonesing (and I mean, seriously drive-through-a-plate-glass-window jonesing) for a Diet Coke. I asked if the fact that I’ve abstained from caffeine thus far would affect Sammy if I decided to have some caffeine now. She told me I could have one caffeinated drink a day no problem.

But I’m still too cautious. Last night I had a root beer with dinner (because the sugar is SO much better for my baby. *dripping sarcasm*).

My favorite part of the appointment (as it is with every OB appointment) was listening to the whop-whop of Sammy’s heartbeat. 144 precious beats a minute. Right on target.

I told my NP I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d felt the baby move yet. She told me it was normal for first pregnancies (and for those of us with more “insulation,” shall we say) to not “feel” the baby move until later in pregnancy.

“Rest assured, he is moving around in there,” she told me. “I practically had to wrestle him to get that heartbeat!”

I had a particularly exhausting weekend, so I was tired and sore, but yesterday afternoon I left my OB’s office on a baby high. Full of good news about Sam’s progress.

The next big event is this Wednesday when I go to Maternal Fetal Medicine for Sam’s fetal echocardiogram which is done via ultrasound (another ultrasound for ME!). Please pray for me and Sam!

Also, today, I go in to meet with my boss about my projects. She, understandably, wants to be fully briefed and prepared, so she can handle whatever happens with my pregnancy and how it may affect my work and our production schedule. Please also pray everything will go smoothly.

All in all, a very busy time for me.

I guess I can be grateful I won’t be squirting out five of anything.

At least, I sure hope not.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Weekend Weakling

I wrote this post on Sunday but couldn’t grab a wireless signal to post it! So, when I say yesterday – I mean Saturday!

Yesterday was quite the day.

I’d been doing pretty well all week. In spite of all the unemployment, foreclosure, money-involved goings-on in my life, I was actually physically feeling a mite better. I only had morning sickness twice.

For some odd reason, my morning sickness has switched time zones.

(Okay, I’m going to have to abbreviate “morning sickness,” but I don’t want to use “MS,” because that is a way more serious abbreviation for a way more serious disease. So, I’m going with “MOSI.” Sound politically correct (PC) enough for everyone? Okay and now back to our regularly scheduled post…)

Anyway, my MOSI used to be worse in the morning. I’d feel great during my shower, but afterwards, pretty consistently, I’d be studying the inside of a porcelain bowl (if you know what I mean, and I’m sure you do). I learned, fast, not to eat ANYTHING before my shower. This way, I’d still have the nausea and sick feeling, but nothing would actually happen.

About this time, I figured out a significant MOSI trigger was a change in temperature. Whether it was going from a steamy shower to a regular temp room or going from my heated office to a cold parking lot, I was bent over and retching.

This is the MAJOR reason a confirmed winter-lover like myself is now THRILLED beyond belief the spring weather seems to regulate indoor and outdoor temperatures. I have felt so much better with the arrival of temperate weather!

As I said, I would usually have “shower sickness,” as I thought of it, then about three hours of touch-and-go, and then the majority of the work day would be okay. One co-worker told me I didn’t have MOSI, but instead had “afternoon health.”

Well, now, I still have the MOSI after my shower, but then I’m usually golden until the evening hours.

MOSI likes to show up after dinner (bad, bad timing) and before bed. As miserable as all this sounds, it’s actually preferable to me, since I can now go to work feeling pretty good, function well all day, and spend my sick time at home in private (except for lucky, lucky Brett).

As I said earlier, this week I’ve only been to Porcelain U twice. However, my MOSI came roaring back on Saturday and is still boarding today. This was VERY frustrating to me, since we (originally) had a busy weekend planned.

Michelle, our valiant HRS friend, was coming to pick-up the bunnies, and later, Brett’s sister had a birthday party and game night planned in Geneva. I was so ready to be active.

Instead, I felt like a gummy bear in a Cracker Jack box.

Brett and I kicked it into high gear (as much as I could) to get the bunnies and all their supplies ready for Michelle. Brett did the majority of heavy lifting and gathering while I got the bunnies in their carriers. For once, they all went easily and quietly. Thank the good Lord.

Michelle was amazing! She came and spent time with us as we said goodbye to the bunnies. She told us she would give us status updates and keep us in the loop. Then, we loaded up her van and waved goodbye to her and the three little furry friends who brought us such joy these past few years.

While it wasn’t easy to say goodbye, I have absolute conviction we are doing the right thing. We aren’t abandoning the rabbits to a shelter where they might be euthanized. We are entrusting their care to a wonderful, knowledgeable group of people who love rabbits as much as we do. I am so very grateful we joined HRS and are able to have this peace of mind during such an overwhelming time.

After bidding the bunnies goodbye, I told Brett there was no way I could muster up the energy to do anything else. He was an angel! He got me comfy on the couch and put in DVDs of House (Season 3) we got (for a $1!) from the video store. Then he went and DID DISHES!!! (it was like a miracle, but with a much stronger word).

I spent the rest of the day watching an entire season of House. It was nice, because it was entertaining, but bad because I kept wondering what symptoms I had! As much as I love that show, it makes me medically paranoid. Not to mention that two of the episodes were about “pregnancies in peril.” Talk about making a woman anxious!

I think I felt Sam kicking around, but I’m still not sure. The one thing everyone has said is that it “doesn’t hurt” when the baby kicks, and I have to say these…movements…I feel sometimes DO hurt. Not tremendously, but like a mini-cramp or a scrape. So, is it the baby? Or is it some random pregnancy pain? Am I a complete pain wuss? I just don’t know.

If I were an inventor, I would totally invent a “Womb Cam” that you can strap on your stomach and see what the baby is doing inside whenever you want to! That would be SO reassuring.

I hated having to bail on Brett’s sister’s party and game night. Brett was actually going to go by himself but got caught up in a House episode. He ended up falling asleep on the couch and missed the whole thing!

Oh, and just so you know how sick I really was (am) – when Michelle came to pick up the bunnies, I didn’t even shower! Now, those of you who know me, know I ALWAYS try to look my best in public or when I meet people. However, I literally met Michelle in my fur-blurred maternity sleep shirt and sweats. I didn’t shower; comb my hair, or even BRUSH MY TEETH!

This proves how icky, sick MOSI makes me. I can’t even summon the energy to do basic hygiene! (Again, I ask your sympathies for lucky, lucky Brett.)

Today, I woke up feeling mostly the same, although a little better for the extra sleep (not having to spring out of bed in the middle of the night to stop the bunnies from ripping up carpet).

I hope this passes by tomorrow, since I have a busy week ahead. Not that MOSI will care!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The What If on Weight

Irrational crying jags are normal in pregnancy, right?

I only ask because yesterday I dissolved into inconsolable tears after discovering Brett put a carton in the fridge with only an inch of milk in it.

To his credit, my husband had his coat on and one foot out the door, on his way to the grocery store, before I stopped him. I told him I thought it was likely pregnancy hormones and not the nearly empty carton that made me blubber like a cranky toddler.

He, at least, had the good grace to look embarrassed (as he should! 39 years old and still pulling that teenage trick!).

I have had to accept that I’ve lost part of my emotional control.

I get giddy at the certain things. For instance, there’s a car commercial right now welcoming the beginning of spring. One image is of newborn baby birds stretching their necks eagerly out of the nest in search of Mother Robin. Every time I see it, I ooh and coo like I’ve never seen birds before.

It makes me positively hyper with joy.

Of course, I also cry at the drop of a milk carton and worry every time some kid at church bumps into me.

Worry is one of my new universal constants. My latest worry (like I needed a new one) is that Sam will be born with autism or be one of those ADD kids you want to duct tape to the wall.

All of this, because I read an article about how those conditions are more likely to happen when a kid’s parents are older.

Now, obviously, we’ll love Sam no matter what. But, we’ve also found a nice distraction from worry. We play the What If game.

What if he’s tall? What if he’s chubby? What if he’s blond? What if he wants to play sports (gulp!)?

It all started way back - before we even knew if we could have kids.

Having been fat 95% of my life, I always told Brett I hoped, if we had kids, they would get his family’s super-metabolism. All Soderstroms are beanpoles growing up!

Being a fat girl was not a pleasant way to grow up. Just take a breeze through my recollection of the Bully Chronicles (at right).

Now, I’m going to make a blatantly sexist statement here, but it is my firm belief it is much easier to be a “big boy” than a “big girl.”

We expect men to be bigger and stronger. We even use phrases like, “big, strapping young man.” Coaches reliably recruit big young men for football and big ticket sports.

Even schlubby guys like Seth Rogen and Jack Black make big bucks starring as the fat, funny guy in movies. And they usually end up with the hot skinny girl.

The societal expectation of women is much stricter when it comes to size and perceived level of attraction. Camryn Manheim and Kathy Bates are the exception, not the rule. Positive role models for women of weight are not abundant.

All that to say, I am grateful to be having a boy, just in case he inherits my portly genes.

Part of me is torn, however.

Being a behemoth brought me strength of character. It helped me build a tough outer shell and honed my sense of self-deprecation and sarcastic wit. It held me back from certain temptations (Oh no, Chuck wants me to sleep with him! Whatever will I do?)

I think of my dad. All that sterling character, moral fortitude, and fierce conviction packed into a 5 foot, 6 inch frame. I have to smile as I weigh the chances of Sam taking on the characteristics, physical or otherwise, of his maternal grandfather.

The world could always use more Bob Trotters.

In my tiny school, I was one of maybe three girls in my weight class. The majority of girls were slender or at least thinner than me (by 50 pounds or so).

I felt like a platypus who accidentally waddled into a swan sanctuary.

I elevated these girls to supermodel status in my own mind, and it wasn’t until college I learned differently.

I have to credit my cousin Charity with steering me in the right direction.

After a somewhat adversarial relationship as children, Charity and I became unlikely and fast friends after high school. She faithfully wrote me letters in college, even convincing me to take a long distance trip to visit our cousin Aaron.

When Brett asked me to marry him (for the third time), I asked Charity to be my maid-of-honor, as she was the closest thing I had to a sister.

The two of us were sitting around talking one day, and I mentioned how difficult it was growing up as a fat slob next to such beautiful girls.

“Who, exactly, are you talking about?” Charity asked me.

“You know, So-and-so. She was so skinny with long, blond hair, and she could play the piano.”

“Yeah,” Charity said, “You know her hair was WAY over-processed, right? She had no chest and really noticeable varicose veins.”

“She did?” I marveled. “What about Such-and-such? She was a cheerleader and always had a boyfriend.”

“She also had horrible acne and caked on make-up.” Charity stated, matter-of-factly.

“Huh,” I thought.

Sure enough, I pulled out my high school yearbook and looked at the girls I had admired.

Charity was right on the money. We were certainly not the cast of America’s Next Top Model. We looked exactly like what we were – somewhat dorky Christian school kids.

Our hair was teased and sprayed in full 80’s style, a full decade behind the rest of the world. We all had high necklines, shiny faces, and cheesy grins. I couldn’t help but laugh.

All of us that is, except the exquisite and ruggedly handsome Mike J. He was freakishly attractive with other worldly blue eyes and an enticing “aw, shucks” grin. His photo still holds up to scrutiny today.

Poor Mike, a swan among platypuses.

I don’t know if Sam will struggle with his weight like his mom, or eat his way through buffets (as Brett did) and stay rail-thin.

I only hope and pray that whatever the scale tells him, he’ll have developed the wit and wisdom not to care.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Still “Secund” To No One

Well, first the bad news.

Brett will not receive his unemployment benefits for the past two weeks, since “Secund” ratted him out about turning down the Green Giant job. (Ouch! I mean, this definitely hits us in the pocketbook!)

The good news (and plenty of it!) is the woman from unemployment Brett spoke with yesterday was kind, compassionate, and understanding (score one for the prayer warriors!). She even called her supervisor to be sure Brett’s case was handled correctly and to ensure he wasn’t being unjustly shafted out of any benefits.

She gave him the positive news that, in spite of losing two weeks benefits, all he has to do is apply for some jobs and bring the paperwork down to the unemployment office. His benefits will then be re-instated!

She even said he can apply to places that aren’t currently hiring, just so he has paperwork to show he’s trying. I thought this was especially sensitive on her part. This was in response to Brett’s telling her about us just having the one vehicle and waiting for the Cadbury job to open up.

The woman from unemployment racked up another point in her favor when Brett brought up what “Secund” suggested about him finding a job near a bus route. The women said that was “ridiculous,” since “you live nowhere near a bus route!”

Since that is EXACTLY what Brett and I thought, we were both happy with her professional assessment of the situation.

Take that, “Secund” suckers!

Overall, the outcome of the call was very positive. I’d like to thank everyone who prayed for us. It obviously made a difference, and we deeply appreciate your prayers.

Yesterday, in the middle of all this, we received word from a “third party liaison” that we should receive our foreclosure papers in 3-5 business days. This is sooner than we expected, but we knew it was coming eventually, so it wasn’t a big surprise.

The foreclosure papers should give us a time frame for when we need to be out of the house. The time frame, we’ve heard, can be anywhere from 30 days to 3 months.

You would think getting this news would make me even more frazzled. But, the truth is it energized me! I immediately grabbed the paper, circled the apartment ads, and started cold calling.

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve looked for apartments (eight years, to be exact). This time the process is made more complicated since our credit is for crap (pardon my French).

Also, we are probably making it more complicated ourselves, due to our “druthers.”

For instance, we’d rather stay in the Roscoe area. We really like it there. However, at this point, we are willing to go as far north as South Beloit and as far south as Loves Park.

We want to stay out of Rockford, if at all possible. It’s farther from Mom than I’d like (I know…I’m an overprotective only child!). But I don’t really want to be far away if she needs me (or if I need her!).

Secondly, with a baby on the way, we really want a ground level unit. I don’t want to be juggling a baby, carrier, and folded-up stroller on my way up icy stairs in the middle of winter. Not with my klutz factor.

Also, because of Sam, we would really, really like a washer/dryer in our unit. This is a tough point for me economically, since it’s something I want desperately, but units with washers and dryers are significantly more money. *Shrugs*

That point may (I hate to say it) have to be negotiable. Drat!

So, let’s say we find this perfect unit – Roscoe address, ground level unit, washer/dryer, in our price range – there is EVERY possibility the landlord still won’t rent to us, thanks to our phenomenally bad credit, Brett being out of work, etc.

So, as you can see, this item will also need a lot of prayer! I hope you don’t mind if I enlist you all again to pray for our living situation. With the foreclosure notice nipping at our heels, our immediate short-term living arrangements will be in much need of your prayers.

And, as always, they are MOST appreciated!

As I mentioned, I spent part of the day on the phone with apartment owners. I have to say the experience was really (strangely) fun. Almost every person I spoke to was a gruff, burly, construction-type guy who gave me way more “specs” than I needed. Still, every single one of them was sweet, funny, and helpful.

Sometimes, God gives you a morale boost exactly when you need it!

When I got home and received the good news about unemployment from Brett, we decided to celebrate by driving by a couple of the apartments I had checked out.

One unit in particular had us enjoying the beautiful weather as we drove, car windows down, through a winding neighborhood in Roscoe where the apartment complex was neatly tucked away.

In spite of this struggle, God has been giving me tremendous peace. To be honest, I’ve also felt a thrill of exhilaration to be “starting over.” A new life to nurture, a new place to live, a new perspective on what our version of the American Dream will be.

I can’t say that any of this comes naturally. If I weren’t a believer, if I didn’t believe God has a plan and a purpose for these things, I would be incredibly discouraged. Anyone would.

But, because I believe, God is able to bring me peace in the storm. He is showing His hand in so many ways – the wonderful lady from unemployment, the funny apartment guys, and so many other ways that can only be attributed to Him.

My dad used to say, when going through struggles in life, there is a time you keep your head down, shoulder to the plow, and then suddenly there is giant burst of sunlight above you. You look up. There, as clear as day across the sky, is a handwritten signature, “Done by God!”

And you realize that all of the struggle, all of the trial, is part of the picture God is working on, part of you that needed to be changed, refined, and shaped. The end result is a breathtaking picture, done by the Master Himself that brings honor and glory to His name.

So whether we live in an apartment, a house, or even someone’s basement, I have faith God is still making those broad brush strokes in our lives.

I’m eager, hopefully waiting for the day I look up and see “Done by God!”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Secund Status, Seconds, Starlets & Sisterhood

Okay, I know I just asked you to pray for us at 4:30 p.m. yesterday, so I hope you don’t mind repeating the action at 4:30 p.m. TODAY.

When Brett checked in for the unemployment conference call yesterday, he was told to call back again today at the same time. In a way, I’m glad we got the extra day to pray and prepare for the call.

When I left this morning, I told him I loved him, to do his best, and to accept it’s all he can do. We both prayed over the matter and are leaving it in God’s hands. (Like we could do anything else!)

And now I am DONE dwelling on the depressing unemployment situation and crappy economy. There are too many GOOD things going on!

First, I want to send out happy congratulations to my cousin Dave, his wife Cari, and their son Dawson! They are going to be adding another family member in October!

Cari and I join my cousin Jason’s wife, Jennie, to make THREE currently pregnant Rehfeldt family members. If this keeps up, we’re going to have to find a bigger place to hold family get-togethers!

Cari and Dave had their very cool reveal at Dawson’s first birthday party. When they were down to the very last wrapped gift on the table, they asked both Grandmothers to come to the front. Then, they “helped” Dawson unwrap a T-shirt proclaiming, “I’m going to be a big brother!”

I could totally identify with the expression on Cari’s face (captured here, on Mom’s blog). It’s such a relief when you’ve pulled off the big surprise and can share the exciting news with everyone!

Secondly, I want to encourage you to go see Christian Youth Theater’s presentation of Peter Pan. The play is the last week/weekend of April at Hononegah High School in Rockton. My second cousin Megan has aced a part as a Pirate Wench!

(Seriously, how cool would it be to portray a pirate wench?)

I had the opportunity to watch Megan perform in CYT’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and it was a wonderful experience. Megan is such a sweet, polite teenager; you wouldn’t think she had the driving desire for drama in her. But she is a seriously excellent actress.

As an only child, I was engrossed in drama for most of my life. My poor, sainted Boehm cousins were forced to play make-believe with me anytime they came over. In fact, I credit them for helping me express myself creatively though my entire childhood.

Hopefully, the experience didn’t scar them for life.

I loved drama, but unlike Megan, didn’t have the opportunity to be involved in theater life. I was only in one play, Mister Co-Ed, in high school.

I tried out for the lead (because that’s what you DO!), but the lead was a romantic character, and I’m sure my drama teacher didn’t see a 300 pound girl galumphing around the stage as all that romantic.

I can’t complain though, since I did get a nice, juicy part as Cobina Colgate-Brewster, the disapproving grandmother. I had more than my fair share of stage time and got to chew scenery with the best of them.

So, if you are looking for a family-friendly activity and want to support positive arts for young adults, please consider attending this play. Visit the website to purchase tickets, and when it asks, be sure to give credit to Megan Erickson.

Lastly, I want to invite you to attend our church’s upcoming Grace & Truth Conference on April 24-25. This year’s event will be hosted at Wesley Willows with the theme being The Beauty of Holiness.

(I rallied for The Beauty of Being Me but was turned down).

Mom and I went last year and had an amazing time! The food is spectacular, the speakers engaging, and most of all, I’ll be there! Mom, too! Think of two days of stuffing yourself with fabulous food and laughing uproariously with me and Mom – can you imagine a better two days? I think not!

The speakers this year will be Dave and Lucy Burggraff, Holly Stratton (always a crowd-pleaser), Theresa Bixby (cute story from last year!), and our very own Pastor Bixby!

Check out the website for all the details.

I want to assure you - this is NOT your mother’s ladies conference! Like many of you, I’ve just about Laura Ingalls’, hatted, fashion-showed, and gardened-themed myself to death at previous ladies conference.

This one is a truly life-changing experience.

Have I mentioned I’ll be there?

P.S. – Brett and I will appreciate your 4:30 p.m. prayers for us today!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Secund Sham

Can you pray for us at exactly 4:30 p.m. today?

I know that is rather specific, but that’s when we are really going to need it.

Let me start at the beginning.

As you know, Brett was laid off from his temporary job at Cadbury-Adams a while ago. He was told the layoff was temporary in nature, only for about 30-90 days.

His plan was to collect unemployment for those days and put that money towards a second car for us. This way, with a second car, he could easily go back to his job at Cadbury-Adams and start working again at a job he really enjoyed.

I don’t want to mention the temporary agency he works through, since we don’t want to burn any bridges, but let’s just say it isn’t “Secund Temporary Agency.”

Anyway, about two weeks ago, a representative from “Secund” called and told Brett there was an available temporary job at Green Giant in Belvidere.

Brett explained how we are down to one vehicle and said he would be okay waiting until the job at Cadbury-Adams opened up again. The representative said that was fine, that she understood, and she would call him when that job was available.

Two days, later we received a letter in the mail. The representative from “Secund” had reported Brett to unemployment for not taking the Green Giant job.

Brett was stunned. We both were, really. We were hot under the collar about the fact the “Secund” representative hadn’t given Brett the slightest clue he would be reported to unemployment if he didn’t take the job.

All the representative had to say was, “Well, unfortunately, if you don’t take this job, we have to report you to unemployment.”

But she didn’t! She lied to him, saying that everything was “fine,” when clearly that wasn’t the case.

If she had told him that one simple sentence, he would have told her he would do his best to work it out somehow.

His conference call with unemployment is today at 4:30 p.m. From all indicators, he will most likely lose his unemployment benefits over this debacle.

Now his unemployment is rather pitiful, since I work, and we don’t (currently) have any children. However, it was SOMETHING. It was helping us. When you’re facing the financial beast we are, every little bit helps.

If he loses his unemployment, there goes any funds for a second car. We are still trying to pay all our bills, buy groceries, and save for an apartment (not to mention the BABY!).

We know - with the unemployment rate being so high in our area - the unemployment agency is no doubt looking to cut people loose, and Brett was put directly in the crosshairs, thanks to the deceptive “Secund” representative.

So, we really need prayer today, at 4:30 p.m., as Brett talks to the lady at the unemployment agency.

He has prepared what he is going to say. He is going to be honest and explain how he was misled while offering his genuine desire to work at whatever job is next presented to him.

However, we are prepared. I have talked to several knowledgeable, well-meaning people who, unfortunately, had to give me the grim perspective that when unemployment has the remotest reason to cut someone off, they almost always do it.

We are both so thankful God has granted me the ability to continue working! I know God is gracious, and that He will provide for us.

Please pray that whatever happens today, God will see us through. Please pray God will give Brett wisdom, along with the right words and tone to honestly convey our situation. Pray that the lady from unemployment would have a soft heart and receptive ear.

Most of all, pray that we will continue to trust God to provide, no matter what. It’s all His money, anyway.

When it comes to taking care of His children, we know God is “Secund” to no one.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Feeling Better About Boys

I must say I have been most appreciatively inundated with happy congratulations on our boy news. This was most unexpected, since most people thought I would have a girl (being such a girly-girl, quasi-feminist, whatnot and so on, myself).

My friend Jill e-mailed me her congratulations and comforted me with the good-natured thought that “boys are easier, trust me I have one boy and two girls!” Others have popped out of the woodwork to say how wonderful boys are.

This has reassured me to no great end, since I am only a little terrified to become a parent to a boy.

Being on only child, I had little experience with babies and no experience with little boys at all. My first experience with boys, as a child, was not favorable (see The Bully Chronicles at right). So, I am doubly grateful so many of my friends and family members have boys and are willing to share their experiences and advice.

One of my co-workers offered this little gem, “He may have one more thing to clean, but by golly, he’ll steal your heart from the second you lay eyes on him.”

So I am most steadfastly waiting to have my heart stolen. Although, if I’m honest, he’s got most of it already.

I am among three women in our church who are pregnant. The three of us run into each other more and more (made easier by the expanding waistlines), and this last time, I joked we should have a photo taken together and entitle it, “Generations.”

The youngest of us is 25 and having her first baby. I’m 30 (ouch!) and having my first baby, as well. The other woman is “over 35” and having her fifth child (I almost accidentally typed fiftieth, Lord have mercy).

We may be all over the map with our ages and experiences, but I’ve sincerely enjoyed having these women with whom I can compare pregnancy-woes-and-wonder. The fact that we share the same faith and the same warm, loving church family intensifies those feelings of camaraderie and sisterhood.

A few Sundays ago, we were standing around and chatting. Another dear friend was with us, holding her 10 month old daughter. During the course of conversation, it was revealed to me that BOTH of my pregnant friends are having girls.

This was before it had been officially confirmed we are having a boy, but I was assuming it, anyway.

One of the women asked me if I was “going to join the girl club.”

I told them how I thought the baby was most likely a boy. “I’ll be kind of sad if I can’t join the club,” I joked with the other women.

“Well, now, I don’t know about that,” said one of my friends. “Just think. When he’s a teenager in youth group, he’ll have his pick of beautiful girls to date!”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” I said, laughing.

On the way back home, I was relaying the funny story to Brett. Being the proud, manly papa bear he is, he puffed up slightly at the thought of his son dating.

“Well, let’s hope he doesn’t have to wait as long as his dad to find the right one,” said my husband who married at the age of 31.

Then he looked at me and smiled, “Hopefully, he’ll be as lucky as his dad when it comes to women.”

So, it appears that any charm our little Sam possesses will most likely come from his dad.

Fathers, plan on locking up your daughters in, oh, about 16 years!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Snips & Snails & Puppy-Dogs’ Tails

That’s right! We found out today - at our gender ultrasound - we’re having a BOY!

(And the pressure is off us spending the next 18 years massaging the self-esteem of a possibly seven foot tall girl with size 16 feet.)

Mom and Gary met us at the OB’s office at 10 a.m. We didn’t know how many people were going to be allowed in the ultrasound room, so we were pleasantly surprised when all four of us were allowed to go in. (I mean, I knew I would be allowed to go in.)

The technician got right to work, busily examining the inner parts of my anatomy and making notations on the screen. She measured and weighed, letting us know how everything looked.

A little ways into the ultrasound, she asked us if we wanted to “know.” Since we are not complete cheese balls (wink, wink), we said we most definitely wanted to know.

At first, Brett thought he might not want to know. But, he said he figured eventually Mom or I would let it slip, and he’d find out anyway. He said if he was going to find out and hadn’t been able to see the actual ultrasound, he would be disappointed.

“Well, I think you have a son,” the technician said. “But I’m not totally sure, so let’s keep looking.”

A minute or so later, the baby - our son - spread his legs wide open and left no room for doubt.

The technician pointed up, then down on the screen, and said, “Yep. You’re definitely having a son.”

I was thrilled! With Brett’s family history - 10 of the 11 grandchildren being of the male persuasion - I had been assuming from the outset that the baby would be a boy. We had chosen the baby’s name and were just acting as though we were having a boy. And now we KNOW we are!

Mom was holding out hope for a girl, but she couldn’t help oohing and aahing during the ultrasound. None of us could. It was so gosh darn cute.

The technician took stock of all the baby’s vital signs with everything getting the thumbs up.

The baby is 10-12 inches long and weighs 13 ounces. Right on target for 20 weeks.
There were no immediate signs of problems. The baby doesn’t have a cleft palate, and the kidney and heart functions were quite good. His little spine is curving as it’s supposed to and makes him look just a tiny bit like a lizard. (My own personal opinion).

I was a bit concerned, because I’ve yet to feel the baby move. To put me at ease, the technician held the scope absolutely still on my stomach, and we all watched as the baby flipped, swam, and changed positions.

“You may not be able to feel it, but he’s definitely moving around in there,” she reassured me.

We also saw a nice big yawn and were awestruck when the baby started sucking his thumb right in front of us!

“I wonder why he’s sucking his thumb.” Gary asked later.

“Well, Gary,” I countered. “There’s probably not a lot to do in there.”

The technician was nice enough to give us several photos, including some 4D ones, along with the definitive photo that proved her “boy” prediction was correct.

Afterward, we stopped by Annie’s where Mom bought me my first official “baby boy” gift.
It was a mostly-white onesie with blue trim and a fuzzy bunny on the front. Underneath the bunny, it said “Bunsie” and came complete with a little round, fuzzy white cottontail stitched on the back.

Say it with me, “Awwww

We had picked out a boy’s name a long time ago. We had decided, if we had a boy, we would name him after our remarkable fathers. We had chosen "Robert Alan Soderstrom" and were quite content with it.

I figured we would call him “Rob,” and if he wanted to change it to “Robert” or “Bob,” he could.

After my last heartbreak with infertility, I began to find comfort in the book of I Samuel, in the story of Hannah.

Like me, Hannah had a husband who loved her. Like me, Hannah was infertile and wanted a child. Like me, Hannah cried out to God.

And, unbeknownst to me, I was about to have my prayer answered by God, just as He shed his abundant grace on Hannah and her barren womb.

In my reading, I came upon these verses:

I Samuel 1:20, 27-28a
“Now the time came when Hannah, being with child, gave birth to a son; and she gave him the name Samuel, Because, she said, I made a prayer to the Lord for him.

My prayer was for this child; and the Lord has given him to me in answer to my request:

So I have given him to the Lord; for all his life he is the Lord's.”

The verses struck a chord with me, and I began to wonder what it would be like to tell my son he had been “asked of God” and named thusly. Those verses would become his own, as well as mine, a special symbol and promise of God’s graciousness written ages ago.

I tried out the name “Samuel Soderstrom,” then “Sam Soderstrom,” and finally, “Samuel Robert Alan Soderstrom.”

I approached Brett and asked his thoughts.

This was one of those times I was especially grateful to have such a laid-back husband. He said the name out loud a couple of times, and then, “I like it!”

And since then, the baby’s been Sam to us.

We had two girls’ names picked out as back-up, but in my heart, I was treasuring the name “Sam” for what it had come to mean to me.

Today, when we learned we were having a son, I was able to look at Brett and say, “Sam.”

The unspoken conversation as our eyes met was so much more than that simple word. It was a worship song of thankfulness to God our Heavenly Father who, as my Pastor’s wife said at the outset of this journey, “is the giver of all good gifts.”

Like our beautiful little boy. Our precious, perfect, asked-of-God, Sam.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Better Late Than…Dead, I Guess

I grew up with a matched pair of early risers.

My parents were extremely happy morning people. Some of my first memories are of my mom parting my bedroom curtains – while it was still dark outside – and singing that old Patch the Pirate classic, Rise and Shine, Lazy Sleepyhead! with determined gusto.

(That song is burned into my memory, and I can’t sing it or hear it without mentally revisiting childhood mornings.)

Our house ran on a schedule. We were up early, out the door early, and to school and work early. The clocks in our house were set ahead fifteen minutes, so even if we were running late, we were early.

Personally, I liked being early. It meant I could have my pick of seats or have extra time to study for first hour tests.

My first real job as a teenager was working the before-school morning shift at Berean daycare. My dad would get me up at 5:00 a.m., drop me off at Berean at 6:00 a.m., and be at work himself by 6:30 a.m. I cherish the pre-dawn memories of the two of us talking and laughing in the van on the way to work.

I learned by example. Being up early and being happy about it was ingrained in my whole being. I would hear the tingle of my alarm and practically jump out bed, singing and humming. I lived to greet the day.

Since I was an only child, I had no one to compare my early morning ritual against. So, it wasn’t until I went to college that I learned not everyone was as excited as I was to leap out of bed in the morning.

I had a succession of three wonderful roommates. None of whom were morning people. While I sang and danced my way out of bed and into the shower, they pulled the covers over their heads and mumbled death threats in raspy voices.

I was among the valiant breakfast crowd at Moody. A handful of us like-minded morning people cheerfully lined up for breakfast and called greetings to the grumpy servers who were almost all - I’m sad to say - NOT morning people.

Being early - at the very least being on time - was part of who I was. If I could have defined myself, I would have been an Early Or On Timer, or EOOT.

As the saying goes, opposites attract, and I married Brett. Otherwise known as a Late Or Really Later, or LORL.

I didn’t notice it at first. Probably because Brett was trying his hardest to impress me. The man would have jumped over the Tribune Tower if he thought it would get my attention.

Still, I didn’t see it for the herculean effort it was the first time he joined me for breakfast. At least not until the third morning in a row of him falling asleep in his coffee.

It progressed from there, as I watched him begin to rant angrily about the quality of the breakfast foods and soon realized my teddy bear was as good as covered in razor wire when it came to early mornings.

Being the EOOT of a girlfriend I was, I released him from further breakfast outings.

We never had the same classes, and our four years of dating were really laid back and casual, so I didn’t really know I was in love with a LORL until after we’d said our vows.

Soon, I learned Brett came by his LORL tendencies honestly.

The Soderstroms are almost all LORL’s. For me adapting - as an EOOT - was very difficult.

While my family planned ahead and stuck to a schedule, Brett’s family was spontaneous and elastic. In our early married years, it was not unusual for one of Brett’s family members to call us up and invite us to a birthday party that was in TWO HOURS.

It used to shock me. I mean, it takes us an hour and a half to get to Geneva, and what was I supposed to do? Drop everything and run right over? This was not on the calendar, and if it’s not on the calendar it doesn’t exist, right?

Secondly, I learned that LORL’s believe “time” is a flexible concept.

When an EOOT says the family picnic starts at 1:00 p.m., they mean 1:00 p.m. is when food will be on the table and ready to eat. In reality, most of the family is there at 12:30 p.m. to set-up.

When a LORL says a family picnic starts at 1:00 p.m., they mean they take a shower around 1:00 p.m., leave the house at 2:30 p.m., get to the park at 3:00 p.m., and start the grill around 4:00 p.m. Anyone who actually showed up at 1:00 p.m. is stuck with three hours of down time.

Brett’s family is beyond hospitable. They are one of the most loving, warm, and accepting families I’ve ever met. We’ve been invited to many wonderful events, and I am appreciative.

However, I learned my lesson early on. When they say “lunch” starts at 1:00 p.m., and we show up at 1:00 p.m., we are most likely going to find people with curlers in their hair, fresh from a shower. Now, I automatically tack on two hours to our arrival time. In spite of this, we are almost always the first to arrive.

While I was being raised as an EOOT, my LORL was being tended to by night owl parents. Even when we would visit Brett’s parents in college, the three of them would be up into the wee hours of the morning, glued to the TV, while I was yawning my way to the spare bedroom.

In contrast, I was up at the crack of dawn, bored to tears. The whole house slept until nearly noon.

In marriage, this used to drive me crazy. I was convinced EOOT’s were conscientious and courteous - the backbone of civilized society. LORL’s were immature, lazy, and an inconvenience for anyone on a schedule.

I could not understand how my LORL could sleep through his bleating alarm. I had to threaten divorce just to get him out of bed on Sunday morning in time for church.

Often our conversations went like this:

Brett would ask me, “What time does it start?”

“Seven,” I would reply.

“What time do we need to be there?”

I’d lift my eyebrows. “Seven.”

“That early?”

“Honey, that’s when it starts. We might even want to leave a little early.”

“Seven, huh?”

It was like the concept of actually being on time was completely foreign to him.

In the meantime, I had started to despise the fact my husband was making me a LORL. Thanks to his devil-may-care attitude about time, we were late for church, late for family events (mine, of course – you can’t be late for a Soderstrom party), and late for dinner reservations with friends.

The worst was being late to meet Mom and Gary. As I explained earlier, Mom is an EOOT - she’s really an EOOT to end all EOOT’s. So, whether we were five or fifty minutes late, my cell phone would ring.

“It’s Mom,” I’d say to Brett. “She’s wondering where we are. She thinks we may be dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“How can you know that? You haven’t even answered the phone yet.”

“Oh, I know,” I’d assure him. “Because if it wasn’t me, if we were other people, it’s exactly what I would wonder.”

“Well, just tell her we’ll get there when we get there,” says my husband.

“Oh well, then why don’t I just shoot her in the heart? You KNOW she timed the dinner so it would come out of the oven at 5:00 p.m. It’s 6:30 p.m. now, and in her mind it’s ruined!”

“Why’d she start it so early?”

“She DIDN’T start it EARLY! She asked us to be there at 5:00 p.m., and she meant 5:00 p.m.!”

“Huh,” say my husband unaware of the massive struggle Mom will have to go through not to kill him the minute he walks through the door and hour and a half late.

I’m not saying I didn’t try. I would wake Brett up extra early and try to prod him along. Have you ever tried to prod a 6’4”, 250 pound man whose early morning attitude reflects that of a surly 15 year old boy?

It ain’t easy, folks.

I was running myself ragged trying to turn my LORL into an EOOT and to avoid being turned into a LORL myself.

In the midst of all this, came our rough, ragged marital patch of 2006. Those were dark times, but we had an excellent pastoral counselor who helped us over some of the bumpiest roads.

I was ranting and raving at some point about Brett’s always being late and his tendency to want to go “out” after 10 p.m. (I already had my pajamas on. If the pajamas are on, they aren’t coming off!), when Pastor said something completely unexpected.

He said that the world needs all different personality types. God created us to be different from one another. It was okay for Brett to be spontaneous and flexible, because that’s who he truly was.

Would I consider the fact my rigid schedule and strict adherence to always being on time stifled and irritated Brett as much as his LORL personality bugged me?

I was speechless. I had never considered the possibility. EOOT’s were right; LORL’s were wrong. The concept was rock-solid in my mind.

Pastor asked us to try an experiment. Brett would make an effort to get up on time for work and church without my having to beat him over the head with blunt instruments. I would try to be flexible the next time Brett wanted to go to a late night movie, and I was already all tucked in for the night.

Secondly, Pastor asked me if all the irritation I was feeling was worth always being on time. Would letting my EOOT guard down and accepting the fact the being late wasn’t the end of the world relieve some of my stress?

I wasn’t sure. But I began to try to see if I could adjust to Brett’s circadian rhythm.

It sure didn’t come naturally. My EOOT inclinations weren’t easy to turn off. I had to grit my teeth at first, but eventually I learned that keeping a magazine or book handy was a way to spend time wisely while Brett putzed around.

I stopped yelling, screaming, and berating. Instead, I would calmly repeat to myself, “It’s not the end of the world if we’re late.”

Brett noticed my efforts (It would have been hard not to, it was a complete about-face) and told me how much he liked being with me when I was “relaxed.” In his defense, he also went full bore against LORL policy and started getting up on time Sunday mornings without complaint, bringing my stress level down another octave.

We both had to adjust to new schedules when Brett worked the night shift, and it actually helped draw us closer together as a couple. The EOOT and the LORL were still in love and working hard to make time a non-issue.

There are still times when it’s tough. Like when we’re late for Mom and Gary’s, or I end up twiddling my thumbs on a Soderstrom porch for a couple of hours.

But the harmony it brought back to our lives was worth it. I stopped freaking out about being late, and Brett made sure I knew what events were coming up, so I could put them on the calendar.

We started being able to love each other for who we really were, whether EOOT or LORL. Together, we became WWGTIGE – Whenever We Get There Is Good Enough.

One of my favorite movies is the Hallmark presentation of The Secret Garden.

My favorite line from the movie is when the cranky old caretaker, Ben Weatherstaff, is being badgered by a boy, Dickon, to go look at the animals.

Ben has places to go and work to do, but he looks at the boy’s eager face and says, “Well, I guess the work’ll wait ‘til I gets there!”

So, I guess the world will wait until this reformed EOOT and rehabilitated LORL gets there, even if we are just a little bit late.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Finally Paying Attention

When I’m passionate about something, I’m REALLY passionate.

However, when I’m apathetic about something, it’s exactly the same way. (If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when people try to MAKE me care about something I don’t WANT to care about, i.e. politics.)

Which is probably why God gave me October for a college roommate. Until I roomed with Tob, I was happy and secure in my little ethnocentric bubble.

Tob shook up my world with new and (literally) foreign ideas. She was the first friend I had who spent more time trying to get out of her comfort zone than happily ensconced in it. When we would go out together, she would insist on trying new places to eat (often places where they didn’t speak English) and talking to strangers who looked “interesting.”

She also had a passion for missions I never could understand.

To be honest, I’ve never had a passion for missions. I’ve never cared about other cultures. I mean, I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own screwed-up culture.

While other kids excitedly paid attention in missions’ classes at Moody, I spent my time calculating how many more minutes until lunch. My writer’s destiny had been hard-wired into my brain since the second grade, and it certainly didn’t include any time purposely spent in a third world country.

All in all, it worked out rather well for me. Other than having to stave off guilt trips from Tob and other mission-minded friends, I was able to mostly go on my merry little way.

Not much has changed, I suppose. But recently, an opportunity has come my way that I think would make Tob quite proud of me.

Three years ago, the CEO of my company asked me to join our local committee for Women’s History Month (March). I was glad for the opportunity, since I’ve long enjoyed publicizing the amazing efforts of women.

As a Christian, of course, my viewpoint is different as I see how God has worked THROUGH women to accomplish His perfect purpose.

This year, our committee was looking for a venue to hold our annual Kick-Off Party. We had a unique offer from an unusual place. The Muslim Association of Greater Rockford (MAGR) was holding its Women in Islam community event and wanted us (Women’s History Month) to be a part of their event.

From the beginning, I was tapped as the link between our two organizations as we coordinated our efforts. Eventually, I joined several committee members on a tour of the MAGR to see how it would be set up for our event.

I don’t know what I was expecting, since I know next to nothing about the Muslim community. What I found was delightful!

Our hostess was this sweet and caring woman who exclaimed over my pregnancy and shared stories of her own. She’s a mother to three boys and told me that she really, really wants a girl “this next time.”

The MAGR also includes a school, so we were able to see the children participating in their physical education classes as we toured the gym.

On one side of the partitioned gym, the boys played basketball. They were a little more dressed up than the boys I went to school with but the shouted encouragements and enthusiasm for the sport was the same.

On the girls’ side, we found a volleyball game in progress. It was a swirl of gorgeous color as the young women in their floor length dresses and headdresses (not sure of the correct word here) sent the ball flying from one side of the net to the other.

My committee was struck by the overt friendliness of everyone in the place, including the little children in their classroom chanting the familiar chorus of ABC’s and 123’s. The only difference was in the conservative dress. And, really, as a former Christian school student, I should feel absolutely at home in such an environment!

I could tell my sister committee members were just as enchanted and charmed as I. Our hostess explained how we would be folded into their event. She told us the annual Women in Islam event is a free, women-only, open-to-the-public event to explain and celebrate the Muslim culture in the community at large.

Participants will receive a nametag with their name written in English along with their name inscribed in Arabic beneath it. There will be henna tattoos available and a delicious Middle Eastern food buffet. There will also be a special speaker, a professor, and a discourse on “Mary: The Chosen One.” Another highlight will be a mother/daughter fashion show.

Our hostess said the fashion show is designed to show how Muslim dress can be incorporated into today’s styles and trends. There will also be styles on the “runway” from India and Palestine.

Understandably, we were all quite energized by the end of the meeting. I have found myself looking forward to tonight for quite a while. For a person who has never been all that interested in other cultures, I’m thrilled to see the inner workings of the Muslim culture, especially here in the community where I live.

As a believer, I have also taken this opportunity to pray and ask God to prepare my heart. I’m sure there are many things I am supposed to learn and take away from this opportunity. He clearly pulled all this together, and so I know I am supposed to pay attention (and not just eat my fill of Middle Eastern food!).

I hope to take some photos and relay my experience as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’ll appreciate your prayers as I attend this event tonight, mingle with different women, and attentively learn about another culture.

Wouldn’t Tob be so proud of me?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Lowe Blow

As you all know, my husband was unjustly and somewhat nastily fired from the Lowe’s distribution center in Rockford.

You can read about it here.

Since then, we have boycotted Lowe’s completely. We mute the TV during Lowe’s commercials. We make derogatory comments whenever we drive by a Lowe’s, and we often tell our friends and acquaintances about our bad experience.

I’m sure none of it actually hurts Lowe’s bottom line, but it makes us feel better.

As you may also know, my husband (Lord love him) was born without a sense of humor. However, every once in a while, there is a spark of dry humor that rolls out at the most unexpected of times.

The latest round of Lowe’s commercials shows a variety of ways a “T” can be added to the end of the Lowe’s sign – making it “Lowe'st.” As is the “lowest” prices.

A jogger stretching forms a perfect “T” in front of the sign; a little girl breathes on a car window and sketches a “T” in the condensation; a broom handle intersect with the sign and forms a “T.”

Ad nauseam.

Last night, while we were watching TV, the Lowe’s “T” commercial came on. I hit the mute button, but the message was still obvious.

Brett looked at the TV in disgust and turned to me. “Instead of spending time adding all those 'T’s,' they should just put a ‘B’ in front of it!”

Ah, the man is not bitter in the least, is he?

Still, it cracked me up. Genuine humor from the statue I married is so rare I just had to share this little gem with you!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Plainly Popular

After what happened today, I thought I’d better post an update of the Panera situation.

This morning I stopped by Panera for my weekly treat of a (hopefully) plain bagel and plain cream cheese. The restaurant was extremely busy (what bad economy?), and I was patiently waiting my turn behind about five people.

The tiny-girl server who had so long-sufferingly waited on me the past two times was busy ringing up customers. She looked up from her register, and our eyes met across the room.

She sent me a huge smile and enthusiastically waved her hands above her head. “We have plain bagels! We have plain bagels,” she shouted excitedly over the crowd.

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing, as the other bewildered customers looked at me and then back at her in confusion.

“That’s great,” I yelled back. “I’ll take two!”

In no time at all, the other customers had been redirected to another line, and I was practically ushered to her register where she had the bagels and cream cheese already packaged and waiting.

“Here you go! Now you and the baby will have a better day,” she assured me as I waved goodbye.

I couldn’t help but appreciate her cheery attitude and exemplary customer service.

So for those of you in the area, I feel duty-bound and customer-satisfied enough to highly recommend the Panera restaurant in Machesney Park on Route 173.

And if you see a tiny Asian girl working the register, be sure to tell her the pregnant lady who loves plain bagels sent you!

Also, as many of you know, this past Tuesday was the first official decade since my dad passed away. Mom and I both took the day off – her from her "busy" retirement schedule, and me from my actually busy schedule – to spend time together and remember the man who will always joyfully bind us together!

She has done a lovely post about our commemorative day on her blog. Head on over, and check it out.

Oh, and BONUS - you’ll see photos of my new pregnant self! I’m the one who looks like a weather balloon.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Registration Frustration

I need help.

Beyond the obvious, I mean.

The time is drawing near (sounds biblical) for us to start registering for baby “stuff.” My cousin Candice has generously offered to help Brett and I register.

This is great for several reasons. First of all, I trust Candice to know what we really need. Secondly, Candice will not mock us for knowing next to nothing about “birthin’ no babies.” Lastly and frankly, she’s just fun to be with. Brett and I rarely like the same people (rarely, rarely, rarely), so Candice is a gem!

What I NEED is expert advice from people who spend time with babies.

For the moms:
Where did you register? Did you have a good experience there? If not, why not?
What did you register for that was the MOST useful? LEAST useful?
Anything we should definitely NOT register for?
Are there any sales/registration traps I need to be aware of?

For teachers or nursery workers, etc.:
I need to know what play items are most stimulating and enjoyable for babies. Any recommendations would be helpful. (After all, if the kid is anything like either of us, he/she is going to need as much outside help as possible.)

Lastly, I need to make something clear. We are not too proud to accept donation items for the baby. Any “new and unused” pride we may have had is completely gone – vanished with our long-lost Jeep and soon to be former house.

If you have baby items you no longer want and think would be helpful for us, you will not offend us by offering them! We can’t accept everything, of course, since we don’t know how small our apartment is going to be.

But it will ease financial burdens to not have to register for every single thing the baby will need. Not that I know what that will even BE yet! :-)

The big “gender” ultrasound is next week on March 12. If the baby cooperates, I’ll be able to make the announcement then. If you have items, but they are “genderized,” you will know (almost as soon as I do) if they will work for our situation!

In the meantime, please, please help out with my registration survey! As you can see, I need all the help I can get.

Beyond the obvious, I mean.