Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009


It’s tough to watch your dreams, aspirations, and hopes dissipate. I think it’s also hard to watch it happen to someone else.

I’m talking, of course, about my husband. Home ownership was a much bigger deal to him than it ever was to me.

I’ve admitted to everyone that I’m more of an apartment dweller by nature. The less space I live in, the less I have to clean. And don’t even get me started on the joy that wells up in my soul when I think about having no yard work, snow removal, or fix-it-yourself repair jobs.

To me, an apartment feels like freedom. I’ve felt tied down to this monstrous house ever since we moved in. It’s been too much to clean. I hate yard work (or even being outside) with a passion, and as much as I liked our neighbors, there’s a certain amount of anonymity I crave.

While I appreciated the security of having our own home, I also still thought of it as “just four walls.” Losing it is hard – because of the timing and the situation, but it isn’t like we are being tossed on the street or heading to the rescue mission. We will still have the four walls and ceiling we need, you know?

I don’t know if it’s because he’s a man or because he was raised in a family where home ownership is looked upon as the Holy Grail of accomplishment, but Brett is taking this very hard. I find myself dealing with a grumpy 15 year old with each box packed, sent off to the Salvation Army, or shipped to Mom and Gary’s basement.

We’ve been having our struggles getting on the same page. For instance:

Me: Starting over! No debt! Great apartment!
Brett: Obvious failure. Losing everything. Throwing money away every month.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know this reflects my Pollyanna nature, as well as Brett’s Eeyore nature.

There are other obstacles that have me feeling like I’m jumping hurdle after hurdle.

One is actually kind of funny. Brett has inherited his family’s tendency to pack-rat. Now, I love this man dearly, and it is that love that has prevented me from strangling him due to this proclivity.

I mean, we are talking about a man who saves empty medicine bottles to collect change. A man who will not throw away a scrap of old dishtowel, torn underwear, or ripped sock – but instead “collects” them to turn into rags. We currently have 8 (EIGHT!) industrial-size bags of saved “rags” sitting in our laundry room. He also saves slips of paper, advertisements, and out-of-date magazines, like they will someday turn to gold.

I, on the other hand, am ruthless with clutter. Sentimental items that are not going to be displayed are packed away lovingly. Decorative items go up. Everything else goes in the trash.

For nine years, we’ve been able to juggle this problem. He secretly saves his stash, while I mercilessly toss out every non-essential I can get my hands on. This is because we’ve had the space of the house to hide our Mr. Hyde sides.

Now, of course, as we pack and prepare to move, Brett’s addiction to clutter comes to light.

I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to throw away old dishtowels – OLD DISHTOWELS!!! I’ve taken a very hard line, no sympathy approach. I keep threatening him with, “Do you WANT our apartment to look like your parents’ basement?”

He doesn’t give in easily, and I get dirty glares with each empty medicine bottle I toss.

The other funny thing is that he also thinks we can “sell” our old junk.

Now, when I say “junk,” let me clarify. First of all, yes, we can sell some things – Mom has already collected a nice pile of house wares to take to the secondhand shop.

However, Brett thinks we can sell actual junk – like the Gift of Jesus 1982 coffee mug he got in – oh, 1982. I try (I really do) to tell him NICELY that the only people who will take that is the Salvation Army, and that’s only because they HAVE to.

He just doesn’t understand. He wants to sell our old VHS tapes. I explained VHS is already a twice-expired technology. I pointed out it would be like trying to sell old 8-track tapes. But he still won’t let me pitch the whole lot – or at least make them the Salvation Army’s problem.

I don’t know what it is that makes him want to hoard or profit off of the junk we’ve managed to accumulate. My guess is that “stuff” is very important to him while it’s (frankly) “just” stuff to me.

My viewpoint is A.) We don’t need it. B.) We don’t have the space to store it. C.) Maybe someone else would want it, and if we give it to SA, a very good cause is helped.

Oh bother.

We have this battle every time we start pack. Just ask Mom and Gary. If I didn’t act the part of callous, uncaring, hard-nosed shrew, we’d have packed exactly one box so far. But because I can be calculating and cunning when I have to be, most of the house is packed up.

No one loves me for it, but there you have it.

Today, I got a burst of energy to do some more packing. Call it nesting if you want, but I attribute it to the four hour afternoon nap.

Brett silently helped out as I packed, wrapped, and sing-songed about everything going on. Finally, I noticed he looked slightly disgruntled. I needled him about it, thinking it was just laziness or a bad attitude, but when I looked closer, I saw he was actually disturbed.

Finally, in the great tradition of wives everywhere, I accusatorily blurted out, “What is WRONG with you?”


Stony silence.

Finally, I waddled my pregnant self into the dining room (now our “staging” area) and eased myself down in the chair next to him.

This time I changed my tone of voice into something civil, and asked, “Seriously, what’s wrong? I can tell something is bothering you.”

At my changed tone, he seemed to relax a fraction. “It’s just that it’s becoming real to me now. I mean, we’re packing. It’s actually happening. We’re losing the house. It’s real. I worked so hard so we would have security and equity and be able to have our own home, and it’s gone. It’s really gone.”

He ducked his head down.

I felt bad. I really did. It was like watching a dream die.

I tried to reign in my Pollyanna who wanted to chirp out, “But we’re not dead yet!”

I wanted to say so many things. I wanted to point out we are having a baby and with that comes a joy to eclipse the loss of material items. I wanted to start counting out the blessings, name them one by one, as the song says. I wanted to inform him how we are fortunate in so many ways.

But I didn’t.

I’m not there often, but I have been down in the dumps occasionally. I may visit, but my Eeyore lives there. Still, I know nothing is more discouraging than a well-wisher thumping you on the back when all you need is a listening ear and a comforting smile.

And so I listened. And smiled. And encouraged him to pray about it. I’ve learned sometimes that’s all you can do for someone who’s not ready to let go.

Heaven knows, I’ve been there myself.

And so, with the induction scheduled for Monday, we start a new chapter in our lives. Hopefully, an uncluttered start to getting back on our feet. Think of us during this time, and pray for the contentment that only God can give.

And, if you really want to do something to help us, tell Brett you are willing to pay top dollar for the fabled rare edition of the 1982 Gift of Jesus coffee mug – if only you knew where to find it.

You’ll make his day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Trotter Traditions

Do you remember when you were growing up, and you thought every family did things just like your family?

For instance, when I was a little girl, I had very long hair. Every Saturday night, Mom would give me a bath and wash my hair. Then, she’d sit on a chair in our living room, put me on the ottoman, and comb out my wet hair.

She’d empty out my drawer of teeny-tiny socks. Then, she’d separate out sections of my hair, put a sock at the bottom, roll it up to the crown of my head, and tie it in a knot. I would sleep on the wet, knotty mess all night.

In the morning, Mom would un-sock my head, comb out the mass of curls, and hose me down with Aqua Net, before we’d head off to church. There we’d go - two well-dressed adults and a brunette version of Little Orphan Annie.

I’m sure it was adorable. But, I HATED sleeping on all those socks. My head felt like a dented soup can in the morning.

The sad thing is that I think I was about eight or nine years old before I realized that none of my friends had to go through this Saturday night ritual! At some point, Mom took mercy on me and stopped socking my hair.

The funny thing? To this DAY, I use hot rollers on a daily basis. Something just doesn’t feel right if my hair isn’t bouncy or curly or (at the very least) big, sexy hair. Flat, straight hair just seems like an anomaly to me.

Personally, I blame the socks.

That’s not to say all my family traditions are drenched in inflicting pain, of course.

Perhaps the most wonderful Trotter tradition was our nightly ritual of ice cream consumption.

I don’t know when it started. I just remember it always being thus.

Every night, Mom would scoop us each a nice, big bowl of ice cream. The flavors varied over the years. So did the portion size. When we were on Weight Watchers, we switched to frozen yogurt and had ½ cup portions carefully measured out. When we didn’t feel like being good, we had the full-fat, two-bordering-on-three scoopfuls.

The best was when Mom was out of town, and Dad would bring the entire gallon into the living room with two spoons. Ah, those were the days!

I was fully aware that ice cream was a “treat,” but for us it was a daily treat. When I was visiting at friends’ house, I often wondered how they could fall asleep without their daily dose of dairy!

As I grew up, I discovered other families had THEIR unique traditions, as well. When we visited my parent’s friends, the Waggoners, I was awed by their tradition of ordering takeout pizza EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT! Wow. We hardly ever ordered pizza.

Some traditions, though, were just plain weird to me. My friend Jenny’s parents used to wash their girls’ hair in the sink. I was surprised, since I knew that Jenny and her sister could easily use the shower (like I did). But their mom and dad made a big production out of the hair washing, and they seemed to enjoy the family time splashing around in the kitchen.

My friend Sarah’s family had a tradition of having breakfast and then each family member retreating to their room to do devotions for a HALF HOUR. Do you know how long a HALF HOUR is to a kid?

When Sarah dragged me to her room and set the timer for a half hour, I didn’t think anything of it. I figured we’d read books, or play, or talk, but Sarah was dead-set on us reading her devotional book, memorizing a verse, and praying together.

Oh, come on!

I was exasperated.

But, I loved Sarah dearly, so every time I visited her, I faithfully had devotions with her while I dreamed about running through the sprinkler in her back yard.

I suppose I didn’t adhere to structure well, since my parents allowed me a lot of space to grow into myself. I was used to freedom, asking questions, and discovering things for myself.

I obeyed rules, but I easily chafed under rules I felt were unfair or even ridiculous. Such as those imposed on my friends by their parents.

My parents had rules, of course, but I was always allowed to ask why the rule was in place. They were more than happy to explain it to me.

When I visited my friends, and asked their parents “Why?,” I was given a peevish look and told I was being impertinent. To me, if you couldn’t give me a reason, there was no reason why I should have to follow the rule.

The words “because I said so” were not spoken in our home. My parents respected my power of reasoning and understanding and thankfully did not treat me like a brain-dead robot.

To this day, the “why” aspect of my personality drives my husband nuts. He will tell me something, act like it’s the absolute truth, and then get defensive when I ask for back-up facts or reasons.

“Just believe me,” he’ll say.

“But I really need to know why,” I’ll respond.

He usually ends up shaking his head and muttering something under his breath – something I’m probably better off not hearing.

Back to traditions, we had plenty. From my tire swing concerts - to all three of us reading books at the breakfast table - to popcorn and Murder, She Wrote on Sunday nights.

I revel in the recollection of those warm and fuzzy family times - those unique Trotter traditions that make up so much of who I am and what is important and sentimental to me.

I can’t help but wonder what our Soderstrom family traditions will be. Nightly ice cream? Marathon Sequence games? Family devotions?

All I can say for sure is that I absolutely will NOT roll my son’s hair full of socks.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Maybe Baby

Hello, friends. I write to you this morning at the blisteringly early time of 3:00 a.m.

I am, not surprisingly, wide awake. Whether it is from the pregnancy hormones, or from the extremely large quantity of chocolate I consumed at Mom’s last night – we’ll never know. In any case, both Sam and I are awake and kicking.

We’ve had quite the roller coaster week. Okay, to be fair, if you’ve been reading my blog at all, you know it’s been a roller coaster kind of year.

First, some big news. Do you remember the two bedroom apartment we applied for in Roscoe? The one with the spacious layout, the glorious location (next to the library, bike path, and Dairy Queen), and the reasonable monthly rent?

Well, we GOT it! Hallelujah!

In spite of our horrible credit and past financial history (and because of the mighty prayers being offered up on our behalf), we sign the papers and hand over the security deposit this week for our bright, shiny new apartment.

Originally, we had hoped to move into the unit that was available August 1. However, another couple beat us to the punch. BUT, the property manager told us a unit would be available September 1, and we had been approved for that one if we were still interested.

Still interested?! We were practically salivating over the opportunity. The first of September should put us at 40 days (of the 90-100 days) that we still have in the house. Also, Lord willing, we will have the month of August with Sam. Hopefully, a month of getting used to new parenthood will help us be less nervous about moving with a newborn in tow.

Again, we were thinking August, but obviously God’s timing is September. It’s hard to doubt His wisdom, seeing He provided a place for us to live (as always in the nick of time)!

I was prepared to hear “no,” prepared to accept it, so when the “YES” came back, resoundingly clear, I was left with the impression of being a doubting Thomas, having to witness something by sight I should have taken by faith.

A mustard seed is so small. How come my faith never comes anywhere near its mass?

Our other big event? In case I forgot to mention it, we ALMOST had a baby Thursday night.

During my standard non-stress test, the OB nurse and my APN were worried Sam’s heartbeat had slowed to unacceptable levels. Now, up until this time, Sam’s non-stress test numbers have been great, nigh phenomenal, for a high-risk pregnancy.

Right off the bat, they explained there were several non-worrisome reasons for a substandard non-stress test. First, Sam might have just been in a long sleep cycle. Second, the time of day combined with my last meal may have made him sluggish.

They could easily confirm Sam’s health with a biophysical which can be done via ultrasound right in the OB’s office. Unfortunately, my OB is on vacation and since my appointment was late afternoon, there was no one able to operate the machine.

So, we were sent packing to the Labor and Delivery Ward at Swedes. Thanks to our prenatal class, at least we knew where it was and what procedure to follow (Thank you, Dr. Cuddy).

God sent comfort in the form of a friendly face. Amanda from church was working the L&D registration desk, and just seeing someone familiar eased the hundred clenched muscles in my stomach. Her sweet smile sent floods of joy through my heart, as I knew God places His people where they are supposed to be – and we were both supposed to be right there, at the right time, together.

Soon, we were settled in an L&D suite and what had seemed like a normal, routine test back at the OB’s office was starting to freak me out. I was so apprehensive I couldn’t even get into my hospital gown. I must have held it up at least twenty times in the bathroom. No matter what way I flipped it, there was only ONE arm hole.

Now, I am a reasonably intelligent person who had managed to dress herself for the better part of my 30 years. Yet here I was, reduced to tears, by an impossible, one-armed, stupid hospital gown.

Practically dry-heaving, I cajoled Brett into the bathroom. In face of my frantic, saucer-eyed appearance, he calmly buttoned up the other side of the gown (using snaps I SWEAR were not there before) and held out a two-armed garment which I meekly stepped into.

Settled back into bed, feeling foolish, I tried to talk myself down. I gave myself rational reassurances in spite of my hysterical brain screaming, “NOT TONIGHT! NOT TONIGHT!”

We had heard that a Dr. C was on call for the ward that night. Now, I should tell you that my OB, Dr. S, is a wonderful OB – his personality is calming and quite serious. Being a studious person myself, I have always appreciated his level of professionalism.

However, Dr. C was, well, to put it succinctly, a hoot.

From the moment he set foot in my room, he was joking and laughing and had Brett and I (and the nurse) in stitches within seconds. He even managed to joke me though that horrible, horrible exam where they have to root around and figure out how far you’re dilated.

Not that I didn’t feel it. But it was much less uncomfortable than it could have been were I not distracted.

After reviewing the second non-stress test, which we also failed, Dr. C presented us with our choices. He said they would do the biophysical via ultrasound. They would be looking for four things. Each thing was worth two points. A perfect score was eight points.

“You get eight points; you get to go home tonight. You get six points; you stay overnight, and we do the test again in the morning. You get four points or less; we deliver tonight.”

We sat shell-shocked. We had never considered immediate delivery as a possibility.

The starkness of what he said jabbed my stomach. I did not want to give birth right there, in a room where everything suddenly seemed dingy and scary. I know it was just common fear crowding my brain cells, as I nodded my understanding and tried valiantly to act cavalier about the whole thing.

We called Mom and Brett’s dad and gave them the scoop, telling them not to come just yet, since we didn’t have the test results. It all seemed so surreal, like an out-of-body experience.

A few minutes later, the ultrasound tech rolled a giant cart in my room and set about doing the exam. As she started to mark things down, I held a silent mind-meld conversation with my son.

“Sweetheart, Mommy doesn’t want to bully you, especially before you’ve seen the light of day or taken your first breath. I promise I won’t be one of those parents who pressure you to be competitive or scold you for not getting straight A’s. But, Momma would really appreciate it if you could just wake up long enough to score eight perfect points, so I can take you home tonight. We can come back when you’re ready.”

According to the tech, Sam scored a six almost immediately, which meant at the very least, a 12 hour reprieve. However, she kept me hooked up to the machine for another 20 minutes, and just as she was about to close – Sam’s wafer-thin diaphragm lifted four times in a perfect symphony of practice breathing motions.

“Eight points!” The tech exhaled with the breathlessness usually reserved for home team touchdowns. I joined her with an excited squeal (Brett’s sigh of relief was heard in several surrounding counties). My little boy had scored when it really mattered.

And, even though I know it was just a physical, I was strangely and staunchly proud of my little guy.

We called Mom and Brett’s dad and gave them the news. Unlike us, they were disappointed at having to wait a little longer to meet their grandson. But they took it in stride.

I don’t know what it was, but it was a certainty in my brain that I not supposed to have Sam on Thursday night. I don’t know when his time will be, but I think (after this experience) that I will know it.

So, as you can see it’s been a busy – emotional – couple of days.

This may be the last week before (or of) Sam’s arrival. It’s hard to believe 39 weeks have gone by. It seems like I was just announcing my pregnancy, and now I’m like a beached, sun-bathing walrus (who just couldn’t be happier…or more slow-moving).

It feels weird not knowing if this will be my last blog post before Sam. I keep thinking that way. This might be my last movie, my last book, my last load of laundry, my last everything – before my life changes forever.

I know it will never be the same. There is an element of apprehension, of suspended breathing, of watching everyone treat me like a ticking time bomb.

And yet.

I can’t help but think, “I prayed for this, and it’s actually happening.”

It’s like a 39 week miracle, and I’m getting to watch it in slow motion as it builds to the crescendo.

I don’t know if this will be my last pre-Sam blog post or not. But in any case, I want to thank you all for the prayers during infertility, the many, many encouraging comments after the BIG announcement, the advice, and your collective shoulders on which I frequently lean.

Technically, I know it just took Brett and me to make this baby. But in many ways, I can honestly say, I couldn’t have done it without you, my friends, my family, and my cohorts.

Could you please pray for the successful end of a healthy pregnancy, a safe delivery for Sam, and the comfort, strength, and blessing Brett and I are going to need?

We will appreciate it. And so will our perfect-eight-scoring son!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trying Not to Be the Only One Offended

We all say offensive things.

I mean, I know I am a walking example.

When my movie buddy Angie wanted us to go to the (now defunct) $1 movie theater, I said, “Isn’t that in a sleazy part of town? I don’t really want to be there after dark.”

Then, she said, “Hey, I live down the street from that theater.”


Thankfully, she forgave me. Although, she still enjoys teasing me about my faux pas. Good friends are allowed to needle you about those things.

And when I try to think about all the times I’ve said something innocently and put my foot in my mouth, I have to give everyone else a wide berth before being offended.

I think sometimes it’s easy to say or do something offensive, simply out of ignorance. Now that doesn’t make it totally excusable, but I always hope someone will give me the benefit of the doubt and perhaps EXPLAIN why what I said or did may have been perceived as offensive.
As you might have guessed, I’m tippy-toeing my way to explaining why I took offense at something the other day. It, too, was said totally innocently and matter-of-factly.

In fact, it was the matter-of-fact tone that actually sent my blood to boiling - as though this particular sentiment was widely held by the vast majority of people.

I was asking someone about their second child, and they said, “Well, of course we wanted to have another one. We didn’t want *Jonah to be an only child or anything like that.”

Well, color me offended.

I know I’ve pulled out this old soapbox before, but let me just say that I was/am/always will be HAPPY to be an only child. I did not feel deprived, and if you follow this blog at all, you know my childhood was quite idyllic.

There is this widely held, blatantly false, assumption that ALL only children are spoiled, lonely, selfish, socially maladjusted miscreants.

I’m not saying that SOME of us aren’t. I’m saying not ALL of us are. You are NOT intentionally doing your child a disservice IN ANY WAY if he/she is an only child.

I’ve spoken to a wide variety of only children. There are some who resent their sibling-less childhoods. And yes, there are the lonely kids out there, too. But the overwhelming response I get from my “only” compatriots is that they were happy kids and feel quite blessed.

I mean, how would people like it if I pointed out that I’ve met more than one “mess” of a family due to sibling rivalry?

My husband has advocated strongly for Sam to be an only child because – while he, of course, loves his four siblings - he grew up withered in the shadows of their popularity and needs and feels the poorer off for it. He looks at my childhood and sees the ocean of possibilities I was offered, and he wants those same things for Sam.

I’m not saying that everyone should have/be an only child. I’m just hoping to revise the notion that being/having an only child is a FATE WORSE THAN DEATH.

Because, I can gratefully, happily, assure you it is not.

It can be a blissful, fulfilling, and rewarding experience, and it’s time it was recognized as such.

I’ve said this before, but my mother was one of 12 children. I can’t imagine not having a single one of my aunts or uncles, and the mirthful myriad of cousins who share my sphere. My closest cousins, the Boehm’s, number four, and I wouldn’t give one of them away for the world.

So, I’m not bad-mouthing a family’s decision to have multiple children. Of course not. Nor am I saying that I KNOW for sure Sam will BE an only child.

I’m just still stubbornly trying to de-bunk a stupid myth that has annoyed me since childhood.

I’m loud. I’m proud. And I’m (most joyfully) ONE.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Coming Home

You know how they say you don’t appreciate something until you lose it?

With us losing our house, I have found myself thinking more and more about my impression of “home.”

“Home” is such a beautifully fluid concept. I mean, we’ve all heard that “a house is not a home.” In spite of that, many of us do think of our house as our home. Home can simply be where you go after work is done – which is usually your house.

Then there are those warm and welcoming places where we say we feel “at home.” One of my favorite sayings is “Home is where your mother is.” Perhaps the most evocative feeling of home is the recollection of where we spent our childhood years.

My own first official memory happened at four years old. I remember wading through the green and yellow shag carpeting in our tiny house, climbing onto the 70’s-era blue-green couch, and demanding Dad read the comics to me.

What do I remember about that moment?

The shag carpeting? The paisley couch? The confines of our small house? Nope.

I remember my squeal of joy as Dad lifted me onto his lap, cracked open the newspaper, and did funny voices for Lucy and Charlie Brown which sent me into gales of laughter. That’s what I remember.

That is what “home” will always mean to me. Unconditional love and acceptance.

As Christians, we have another perception of “home,” being encouraged to look toward Heaven as our final place of residence.

When my Aunt Kathy lay dying in her hospital bed, her brother, my Uncle Scott, led us in singing Amazing Grace. Afterwards, he talked about Aunt Kathy gathering her skirts around her (Aunt Kathy loved wearing skirts. She once told Mom that wearing skirts made her feel closer to God.) and wading across the river before stepping onto Heaven’s shore.

It was a beautiful mind picture, and I could almost see Aunt Kathy’s face breaking into that unforgettable smile and hearing her tremendous belly laugh as those gates rolled back to reveal her new Home.

I suppose I remember more about how I felt during Aunt Kathy’s passing that I do Dad’s. Dad was taken from us so suddenly that most of my reflection is on what happened to Mom and I immediately following his death.

However, I have no doubt that he stepped on those same shores and was welcomed into his Savior’s embrace with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Yesterday at church, we were singing an “old favorite.” I have sung this song as a child, and you probably have, too. However, this time, one of the secondary verses caught my eyes and touched my heart.

With all we are going through right now, not knowing where we are going to live, not knowing if we will have a tangible home to call our own, this simple stanza from Amazing Grace brought tears to my eyes -

Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I have already come.
T'was Grace that brought me safe thus far,
And Grace will lead me home.

I was reminded, again, that I can trust God’s grace to provide an earthly place for us to call home.

But, even better, I know, in the end, that same Grace will also lead me Home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Worth It Wednesday

Sometime during my first trimester, I decided I wanted to do something special and unique for myself during this time of pregnancy – a time I NEVER thought I would have. I waffled between getting a manicure/pedicure or getting a pregnancy massage.

In the end, I figured I could give myself a manicure, and since I can’t see my feet, a pedicure would be a waste of time. So, I decided on the pregnancy massage. It was no cheapie treat, either. I had to save up for a couple of months to swing the $60 splurge!

My cousin’s wife, Cari, is also pregnant, so I asked if she’d like to go with me. After rescheduling our original date, we set ourselves up for pampering this past Wednesday.

When I set up the appointment, I had no idea of the chaotic and complex direction my life would be taking this month. So, presented with a day off for the massage, I also had to schedule two apartment viewings and my non-stress test. At the last minute, we also decided to have lunch with Mom, Aunt Louise (Cari’s mother-in-law), and Cari’s sweet little boy, Dawson, after the massage.

I was stressing out a little, thinking I had way over-scheduled myself on what was supposed to be a relaxing spa day.

In the morning, Brett and I checked out Apartment #2 (our Apartment #1 experience is here). We really liked the apartment’s spacious 2 bedroom layout, the monthly rent amount, and the convenient location. We decided to put in an application, knowing full well our credit, bankruptcy, and current housing situation could possibly weigh against us.

But, you have to start somewhere.

I’ve been praying God will “put us where He wants us.” So, if the answer comes back “no,” then we know it isn’t there, and if it comes back “yes,” we will be praising Him all the same.

It’s hard to wait - even harder to know the answer might very well be “no” - but trusting means trusting. And so, I’m trusting and trying very hard to be patient.

After the showing, I headed across town to the Tranquility Café inside SwedishAmerican Hospital. If you have never been to the café, I can highly recommend it! There is a wonderful gift shop (lots of supplies for new moms, too!), a coffee shop, and a massage therapist on hand.

I signed in for my (FIRST EVER) massage. Let me just say – WOW! – it was truly amazing! All that scrimping and saving was TOTALLY worth it. The massage therapist, Linda, spent over 45 minutes massaging me, helping me relax, and seemed to bring all my energy back to the surface.

I could have run a marathon after she was done!

The baby must have liked it, too, because he slept like a little lamb through the whole thing.

My cousin’s wife was next in line, and while she was getting her massage, I sat in the coffee bar and just let the relaxation seep in from my head to my toes.

Afterwards, we met Mom, Aunt Louise, and Dawson for lunch at Red Lobster.

With my extended family, I am often torn when it comes to what to disclose about our financial/living predicament. Being a Rehfeldt, I’d rather have it all out there in the open. However, Brett is much more private, and it understandably annoys him that my family tends to be frank and sometimes VERY judgmental about situations they have not experienced.

It’s remarkable how people like to judge you when they know next to nothing about your unique situation. (I’m sure we’re all familiar with that feeling.)

It’s not so hard on me, as I am mostly anesthetized to family rudeness and the smart comment or flippant remark tends to roll off my back.

And, as you know, I am more than able to give back what I get when it comes to smart-aleck-ry.

Anyway, as we sat down to lunch, I told Mom how much we liked Apartment #2. She started to tell Aunt Louise, and I jumped in quickly to remind everyone that we aren’t counting any chickens just yet. Neither Brett nor I want to get our hopes up, because we’ve had enough hopes dashed lately.

Before I knew it, I spilled out all the financial hurdles that stand in our way to renting a decent apartment. I’m not sure what I expected from my Aunt Louise, perhaps a comment about how we should have made better financial decisions in the past, etc.

Instead, she nodded her head in agreement. She began to tell me how hard it was for her when she was looking for an apartment – a single teenage mother who had been kicked out of my grandparent’s house, addicted to alcohol, and completely on her own.

I felt a hot prick of tears come to my eyes. It amazing how hearing someone else’s hard-knock story can make you appreciate what you have. In my case, a husband, a family support system, and no addictions that could put my child in harm’s way.

I know how far Aunt Louise has come. Thanks to AA, she is a recovering alcoholic, sober for many, many years. She raised an incredible daughter, my cousin Tammy, who is, herself, a caring and loving mother.

Aunt Louise is also a generous, kind, and supreme grandmother. Which was firmly evidenced by Dawson who spent the entire lunch hour trying to crawl into his grandmother’s arms.

My family can be bluntly candid, sometimes even offensive. They can be loud, opinionated, and I can guarantee they’ll rarely let you finish a sentence. But they are also beautifully honest and truthful when they need to be.

Aunt Louise’s non-judgmental story reminded me how much we learn from our family. When she smiled that sad smile in memory of her darker days, I found myself wanting to comfort her all these years later. I knew she was telling me her story to comfort me in the midst of my trial.

At that moment, I was never so proud and grateful for my extended family. God loves the whole dysfunctional lot of them (just the way they are), and so do I.

After lunch, I went to a (thankfully) non-eventful, non-stress test. My OB was very pleased with Sam’s heart reactivity. He went as far as to say Sam’s numbers were some of the best he’d ever seen in a high, double-risk pregnancy such as mine.

Somehow, even with all this stress, our little Sam is holding his own.

The last appointment of the day was viewing Apartment #3. It was a very nice one bedroom layout, small but not tiny. The rent was more than reasonable, and it’s very close to where we currently live. We took an application but are waiting to hear back from Apartment #2 before proceeding any further.

By the time I got home and settled, I definitely felt like I’d had a full day. However, looking at the apartments made me feel like at least I was going in SOME direction towards getting ready for Sam. And reflecting back on Aunt Louise’s story gave me back the joyful heart and thankful spirit I’d been lacking.

I was also happy the $60 I’d saved had been more than worth it for the pregnancy massage.

I would have thought all the appointments and driving all over town would have left me stressed out, but the truth is that I felt like I’d been given a reprieve. Spending time with family, spending time with Brett looking at apartments, getting good news at the OB’s – all made me feel relaxed (I’m sure the massage didn’t hurt either!).

It was a middle-of-the-week blessing, and I’m counting it among one of the nicest days in this (soon-to-be accomplished) pregnancy.

P.S. – If you don’t mind, can you please pray God will provide a place for us live – that He would put us where He wants us in His perfect time? We would REALLY appreciate your prayers!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Don’t Panic!

Deep, cleansing breaths.

Don’t panic!

I said, “DON’T PANIC!”

*slaps self*

Oh, how I love it! After all my blathering yesterday about “working without a net,” God decided to call my bluff.

After work, I headed to my OB for my bi-weekly, non-stress test. As the nurse hooked me up to the monitor, she asked if I was having any pain the doctor should address. I told her the only pain I have felt is the ever-increasing pressure on my pelvic bones.

When the doctor came in, he asked, “I see you are having increased pelvic pressure.” He paused for a minute and then asked, “Did you drive yourself today?”

Startled at the sudden change in topic, I said, “Yes. Why?”

He just smiled and slipped back out of the room, as I was left there somewhere between confusion and hyperventilation. A few minutes later, he was back informing me that he would perform an exam just to see “if that increased pressure means anything.”

I patted my stomach and said, “I’ve been telling him to stay in there until the 27th!”

My OB said, “Or he could be born on Thursday.”

I laughed. He didn’t. I guess only one of us thought he was joking.

As he cruised out of the room again, I looked stoically at my belly. “Listen kid, you’d better stay in there until the 27th, or you’re in big trouble.”

Sam kicked just then, and I chose to take it as a kick of acquiescence, not his first act of willful disobedience.

A long wait and a VERY uncomfortable exam later, I learned I was only dilated 1.5 centimeters. Which is the equivalent of bupkis in terms of labor and delivery. Thank you, Sam!

They let me go home, after extracting a promise that I’d be back on Wednesday for another non-stress test, and back again on Friday, for my final ultrasound.

When I arrived home, I found Brett sitting glumly on the couch. All my funny comments and thoughts about my semi-scary OB visit vanished.

“What is it?” I asked, concerned.

He told me he had taken the foreclosure paperwork down to our lawyer’s office. The lawyer was unavailable, but his secretary made a copy of the paper. Then, she told Brett that, in her understanding, after July 22, the property would be sold. We most likely would NOT get 30 days. We would be lucky to get a couple of days.

“I would recommend you try to be completely moved out by the 22nd,” she advised. “Because if they foreclose on you, anything left in the house becomes their property.”

I thought of all our precious baby supplies scattered around the living room and literally gasped out loud.

Stunned, I dropped to the couch beside Brett. Our minds reeling together.

We had thought – we had assumed (and you know what that means) – that at the VERY least, we had 30 days to find a new place and get moved out and moved in again. Now, we had 15 days from that very moment. I had been operating on that 30 days – thinking that no matter when Sam was born, at least I’d have a couple of weeks to pull a move together.

I thought back to my post yesterday and realized I’d been using the unconfirmed promise of “30 days” as my (albeit short) safety net.

God called my bluff.

“Trust me NOW, girl.” He seemed to be challenging.

I am a woman mobilized by crisis. Immediately, I pulled out the apartment listing I had located earlier in the day. I called the property manager; a very nice woman named Michelle, and asked if we could see the apartment immediately. She was more than accommodating, and I made an appointment for 7:30 p.m.

I drove, and as I turned down the street to the apartment, Brett pointed out the first building. “Condemned,” he said, as if he were the one being condemned, not the building in front of us.

“Oh relax, Eeyore,” I said, with a sigh. “Those aren’t the apartments we’re looking at.”

The fact that the apartments we WERE looking at were only three buildings down from the condemned one did nothing for my depressed husband.

I am Pollyanna-istic,b y nature, so I bounded out of the car to meet Michelle while Brett unfolded himself from the car and looked around in clear distaste of the surroundings.

Michelle, who was as nice in person as she was on the phone, greeted us warmly. She told us she lives in the building and acts as the property manager. I liked her instantly.

She took us inside the tiny, tiny apartment. The “living room” was (I’m not kidding) half the size of our walk-in closet. If more than two people stand in there together, they'd be living in sin.

The kitchen was very nice. Small, but big enough to fit our kitchen table. Also, it boasted all new appliances and a back door that opened out into a nice, wooded area with a grassy landing. There was also a cement area for backyard grilling.

Michelle led us down very narrow stairs (with a rickety banister straight out of the Bates motel) to the miniscule basement which boasted its own washer/dryer hookups and some storage space. Since, I desperately want to have my own laundry room with a newborn on the way, I was happy with this feature.

Brett looked around cautiously as if hockey-masked Jason from Friday the 13th was about to burst out his chainsaw in the darkened, spooky space.

Michelle cheerfully led us back up the stairs of death, past the “main floor” (it’s so small, calling it the main floor is really laughably ridiculous), up another treacherous stairway with yet another breakaway banister.

The top floor included two bedrooms. The first bedroom (would be the baby’s room) had a large closet (currently sans doors), no light fixtures, and was (as the rest of the house) teensy-weensy. The second bedroom was slightly larger (maybe by a foot?), but had a smallish closet (and I mean “smallish” on a molecular level).

The bathroom was actually a decent size with baby blue porcelain – everywhere. Appropriate for people expecting a baby boy?

As we descended down to the main floor, I peppered Michelle with questions about the neighbors, the neighborhood, apartment expectations, etc. Trying to distract her from Brett’s face, in which the disgusted sentiment clearly read, “What have I done to deserve this?”

I eagerly took the application and asked our hostess if there were any stipulations that would automatically disqualify us from renting. I was thinking about our bankruptcy and dismal credit rating.

She assured me the only disqualification would be if we were felons - which I was glad to assure her, we are not. She also said her opinion holds great sway with the owners of the building. She told us that the buildings and the neighborhood was in bad shape ten years ago, and the owners have been steadily trying to improve it with “quality” tenants.

Michelle told us she liked us very much, and she would recommend us for the rental. I was flattered and honored with her kind words. She reiterated that she and her family live in the building, and so it MATTERS to her who ELSE lives in the apartments.

She also told me there are several families with new babies and quite a few with kids, so it is a family-friendly place. I saw this for myself as several families traipsed in and out of the parking lot while we were there. I took comfort in the fact that at least if I was up with a crying baby – I wouldn’t be alone.

We waved goodbye to the likable Michelle and headed back home. Brett was completely silent on the way home, as I listed the pros and cons.

Cons – the death-trap stairs, cramped rooms (and if I, at 5’4,” felt squeezed, you can imagine how claustrophobic my 6’4” husband felt), limited privacy (the unit we’d be renting is smack in the middle of the building), one parking space (no garage),fixing up that would have to be done – closet doors, main bedroom, etc., small everything…

Pros – affordable (even on unemployment), washer/dryer hook-ups, on-site manager, two bedrooms, new kitchen appliances, family-friendly, across the street from a grocery store, between two main drags (Alpine, 251)…

“It’s not like we have to live there forever,” I pointed out. “It’s just a stop-gap measure until things settle down.”

Brett chose the old, “If you have nothing nice to say…” mantra and was pretty much silent the drive home. When I pestered him - as I am wont to do - he said he was just “thinking.”

“About how much you hate it.” I said to myself.

To appease him, as well as cover as many bases as possible, we rode around Roscoe for a while. We drove by several For Rent apartments, so I wrote those numbers down and made appointments for showings on Wednesday.

One of the apartment managers I had spoken to earlier in my apartment search did tell me that “Credit matters,” so my guess is that we would be automatically disqualified for those apartments. But, just to be sure, Brett is checking on our credit, so we know whether to put in the effort to go see the units or not.

It was past 8:30 p.m. when we got home, but with the July 22 deadline looming in my head, I threw myself into packing baby stuff. Up until then, I’d been opening one gift at a time, writing a thank you note, and then putting the gift away. Now, I haphazardly slapped cards in an I’ll-do-it-later envelope and sorted the baby gifts by category until a good majority were packed away.

I called Mom and Gary and arranged for more packing help on Thursday and Friday. Combining that with an already full day on Wednesday – pregnancy massage, 2 apartment showings, non-stress test, and more packing – should make for a very busy week.

After all my phone calls, I did laundry and finished packing my hospital bag. I dove into bed and waited for sleep to overtake my exhausted pregnant body. But my mind was still going a million miles a minute.

As the thoughts of the gotta-do-it-now circled my head, I prayed.

I wanted to say, “C’mon, God! Seriously? Like I wasn’t stressed ENOUGH, now you throw THIS at me? Seriously?”

Instead, I had to admit that if this was God’s perfect timing, then, well, it was. Maybe I didn’t understand it. Maybe I was overwhelmed. Maybe I was an untrusting, faithless idiot. But, that didn’t make God any less right, any less perfect, any less all-knowing.

And at this point, I had to face the fact that clearly He knows something I don’t.

Maybe this level of stress through my pregnancy will make Sam a genius? We can only hope. It’s not like he’ll come by it naturally.

Last night, I prayed myself to sleep. This morning I read my devotions and prayed again for guidance, stamina, energy, and wisdom.

When I was eating breakfast, the phone rang. It was the lawyer’s secretary again. The lawyer had looked at the papers Brett had left.

The secretary informed us she had been incorrect. The mortgage company would be obtaining permission to sell the house on July 22. From that date on, we had 90-100 days, called a “redemption period,” in which we could still legally be in the house.

Relief rushed through me as the deadline had inched back enough to allow me some room. As breath rushed back in my lungs, and I felt the lessening weight, I realized God had put a challenge in front of me to see how I’d react. Then, He’d mercifully extended His hand to offer help just when I needed it.

So, I’d panicked, sure. But I’d also prayed.

I felt a little burst of the Refiner’s fire brush past me. All of this – and really it seems like a quite a lot to me – is truly making me depend on God, not myself. I keep realizing (over and over again) that my lesson needs to be full dependence, not this piecemeal where I think I have some sort of magical power over my situations.

So, while I may be married to Eeyore, I can’t help but find my inner Pollyanna and play the glad game when I reflect on this -

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 1:2-4

Now, there’s something to be glad about!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Oh, Help.

One of my most beloved movies is The Sound of Music.

One of my favorite scenes is when the atypical nun is coming down off the high of singing I Have Confidence in Me. She’s been singing, dancing, and hanging off streetcars for the past few minutes, renewing her vigor, her anticipation, of succeeding at this new challenge in front of her.

You can practically see the wind leave her sails, as the music stops abruptly, and she finds herself staring, open-mouthed, at the monstrous estate of her new employer, surrounded by a high fence.

Her face drops all manner of built-up confidence, as she stares blankly for a minute, before uttering my favorite line in the whole movie.

“Oh, help.”

This is most often how I feel. I have an optimist’s nature and realist’s perspective. So, while I wish my life was a spectacular musical, complete with applause and catchy dance numbers, I know it is not.

I have never fully understood the concept of walking by faith. Perhaps, because I have never had to do it. I have to say – it is terrifying.

I am a “planner” by nature. Not a perfectionist, thank the good Lord, but an organized planner. My whole life has been dictated by a do this and get that mentality. Study in school, get good grades. Obey your parents, receive trust and privileges. Go to college, and get a good job. Get a good job, enjoy profit and security. Etc.

For the first time in my life, I am facing an uncertain future where there is no solid ground. The ground feels mushy and quicksand-y, like if I make the wrong step, everything will come crashing down.

“Oh, help.”

Let’s start of the beginning of the maze, shall we?

My OB has said if I don’t go into labor “naturally” by July 27th, then he will plan to induce on the 27th. This fits in fine with “my plan,” since the 27th is a mere three days before my “official” due date.

However, Brett and I received notice that the foreclosure papers should arrive around July 22nd. We don’t know how long we will be given to vacate our home of the past eight years. We are hoping at least 30 days. However, even at 30 days, we are looking at moving on the cusp of pregnancy or with a newborn in tow.

Of course, this doesn’t even take into consideration, the fact that we have no place to go. I have saved up roughly two months of paid leave, after which time, my company will dissolve, and I will quite possibly be unemployed.

Not knowing (even slightly) what our income will be in the next six months, leaves me in a quandary as to how to look for an apartment. I don’t even know what price range I can look at, since I don’t even know what our income will be.

And, of course, on that same road, I am torn. Do I immediately try to find a new job and leave my newborn? Or do I accept unemployment and stay with my child? Do I look for at-home work that offers no insurance? Or do I bite the bullet and head back out into the world in search of a reasonable paycheck that offers insurance and benefits?

I continue to pray God will guide us in His perfect timing. Knowing full well, that God’s perfect timing is often down-to-the-wire in human terms.

While I wrestle with these issues, I find myself speechless at the blessings God has bestowed. Through a miracle (the only way I can describe it), we have acquired a second car!

I also find myself increasingly grateful God gave me a burst of energy at the beginning of my pregnancy, so I was able to pack up the majority of the house. All we have left to pack now are the baby accoutrements, books, and kitchen cupboards.

The generosity of family, friends, and co-workers, has left me amazed. The sheer volume of baby gifts is pleasantly overwhelming.

And yet, I feel profound sadness as I pack everything up. Wishing I was preparing the baby’s room, instead of simply hoping the baby will have a room.

I feel alone in this drift. Hoping a white knight will ride down the mountain and hand-deliver a solution, and yet knowing my wishful thinking does nothing but bring me down.

I am a woman of action. I want to be proactive, tackle the situation, and beat it into submission of my will.

Of course, unable to do this, I feel weak, stupid, and clumsy. Trusting and praying seem like the coward’s way out.

I know this to be untrue. That trusting and praying and WAITING are the hardest things one must do by faith. But, bear with me, operating without a safety net is new to me. It feels wholly uncomfortable, treacherous, and paralyzing.

I wish I knew the right way to proceed. I wish I had the assurance that everything will work out perfectly. I wish I wasn’t facing uncertainty.

But, as we all know, wishing doesn’t do anybody any good, and it certainly doesn’t solve anything.

So, for now, I’m standing on my tightrope, balancing the best I can, looking heavenward and uttering.

“Oh, help.”

And praying God will deliver some of His Favorite Things.