Eye on the Prize

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Things are getting harder. It is 98 degrees outside and our air conditioning died yesterday. We came home from church at 1:00 pm and the inside of the house was 85 degrees. The A/C was barely blowing any air and what air was being blown was warm. Normally we don’t play in the pool on Sundays. Yesterday was an exception.

Heath emailed the landlord informing him of the issue and how we had not heard back from the A/C guy in over three weeks. Magically the response was the part the A/C guy needed was in! Miraculous. He will come fix the problem on Tuesday. Yay. We get to melt for another day.

Do you know how hard it is to stay motivated to pack and clean when the house feels like a sauna? It’s getting hard to stay motivated to continue living. Okay, that may be a little overdramatic. But it is so hot and uncomfortable in here I have been snippy all day. I don’t want to be but my fuse seems to be quite short.

Gavin left for the week to Scout Camp this morning at 4:00 am. That is so early in the morning! I miss him like crazy already. Camping out in the heat almost sounds better than what we are dealing with at home. You expect the great outdoors to be hot and miserable. The insides of houses should not be. I had to move my test strips downstairs in the hopes that they won’t overheat. The thermostat is downstairs reading a good 20 degrees lower than what is happening upstairs. I moved my current insulin bottle into the fridge. I can’t let that stuff go bad because the landlord thought he could blow us off until we move!

I don’t believe for five seconds that it took this long for the part to arrive. We have complained about the A/C every summer for nine long years. Prior to moving in we were told the unit was not sufficient for the house’s needs. It would be replaced. That never happened. No one seems to want to deal with it. We are just told to suck it up and live in uncomfortable conditions while still paying outrageous amounts of money in rent. I hate it here!

Heath has been flip flopping on his feelings of getting our deposit back. I have remained adamant the entire time that I am prepared to fight for it. We took care of the house as best we could with a flaky handyman and all other issues going ignored or otherwise unresolved. I will not lie down and take it on this one.

We complement each other in that he can catch more flies with honey. When that still doesn’t work, he turns me loose. I look forward to giving the property management company a piece of my mind because this is ridiculous.

Heath’s coworkers suggested we charge the landlord $100 a day for every day the A/C is out. Nice idea but I want to give them the power bill instead. The fans we normally use to supplement the inadequate A/C are now overheating and randomly turning themselves off.

All day I keep thinking of things I will not miss when we move. It’s funny because while I am in the house I hate so many things. I want out of here like you wouldn’t believe. Then we go out into the community and I miss the people. Church is the hardest. Some people are taking our news harder than others but everyone is bummed we are leaving. We will miss them all too. Nine years is a long time.

I just took Gwen to her last well-child checkup and I could cry. We love our pediatrician and he was genuinely surprised and sad to learn we are moving. He gave both me and Gwen a hug. He suggested we take a picture of the blue sky in case we forget what it looks like when we are in Seattle!

On the desk, in front of the keys with no names, is a picture of the front of our house. In that picture the sun is out and the sky is blue. On the top right of the garage is a big red sign saying “Sorry! SOLD” This is our house! This is the cave at the end of the brutal hike. That hike to the Timpanogas Caves was the perfect metaphor for this move. Right now everything hurts. Everything is uncomfortable and frustrating. I just have to keep my eyes on the prize. Thanks again for the picture, Dawn! It is wonderfully motivating.

One Down, A Few More to Go!

Saturdays are sacred. It is the one day Heath doesn’t have to work. Except we both have to work. We have to get things prepared for church the next day. While we work on many church jobs throughout the week, there are some things that cannot be done any sooner than Saturday night. It’s hard to have to stop what we’re doing as a family to get these things done but at least we have a system. We can get that Primary room set up lickety split!

This sacred Saturday was especially precious. It was the first full day that Heath could help me pack. We made the most of it. We attacked the garage today. It was a job that intimidated me. With everything spread out between six shelves it felt like a monumental task. There were several moments where I would feel really good about it because most everything was already packed in a box. All we really had to do was make sure boxes were full before taping them shut.

I’m so glad Heath was able to help me. It took pretty much all day but we got it all done. It was 95 degrees today and we worked in the hot garage all day. But we got it done! Every single one of those shelves has been broken down and plastic wrapped together. Every box has been appropriately filled and stacked. I look at the neat stacks of boxes left over when we were finished and I feel even better about the move. If the whole garage could be reduced to those manageable stacks, we can do this!

It is hard for me to visualize things sometimes, particularly volume. The more we pack things into boxes the more I can see how it will fit on a truck. At first I was discouraged. It took so many boxes to pack books. The space those boxes took up seemed so much more than the space they occupied on the bookshelves. But then we started boxing other things and it was amazing how much stuff could fit in one box.

We got a lot done for our first six days of packing. We are very much looking forward to Sunday’s day of rest. We earned it!

More Road Trip Stories

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One of our favorite family traditions is to go to Desert Star Playhouse. The plays are funny, the service is great. It’s just a really fun time all around. This time did not disappoint. We saw Perfect Pitch – Despicable Glee.

The kids sat at a table below us. They loved having a whole table to themselves. We ordered them a pizza to share. Gwen felt very grown up with her caffeine free Diet Coke. She kept asking for it the rest of the weekend as we drove home. She doesn’t understand that it’s definitely a Utah thing to offer caffeine free Diet Coke! In Gwen’s defense, she used to be able to get it at The Habit. For some reason they no longer have it as a beverage option.

We thoroughly enjoyed the play with the villain being a man dressed as a woman. After the play and before the Olio, the villain came out to keep the crowd entertained. That’s the part of the show where they recognize birthdays, anniversaries, out of towners, etc. Our family was mentioned first as coming from out of town.

Dean Reno: Where are you visiting from?
Heath: California Bay Area.
Dean Reno: Which bay? San Diego … San Francisco …
Heath: The San Francisco Bay Area.
Dean Reno: You came all the way from San Francisco to Murray, Utah to see a man in a dress?
Heath: We didn’t have to go that far to see that!

Several tables of people burst out laughing at that comment. The next thing I knew there was a couple standing next to the kids’ table looking up at us. They had been sitting at a table right in front of the stage and recognized us when we were introduced to the crowd. I was so excited to see our friends from the Timpanogas Caves! She was the girl who talked to me while I ate fruit snacks while the kids used the last chance bathrooms. Heath said we must have had the same itinerary!

The guy who played the villain Dean Reno was great. He asked about couples celebrating anniversaries next. The couple celebrating their fifth anniversary was sitting at a table in the very back of the room. “Hey big spender! Five years is the worst table at Desert Star?” The next couple was sitting a little closer but still in the back middle of the room. They were celebrating their 15th. “At 15 years you upgrade tables little bit!”

That evening was so much fun. We did a lot of fun things on our trip. We enjoyed the pool. Gwen was this close to going down the water slide. She would have gone on Friday but the slide hours didn’t work out. It’s only open for a few hours starting at 4 pm. She was really bummed.

On Thursday after our hike we had lunch at a pizza place in Lehi. Maybe it was because it was 3:30 and we were finally having lunch, but that pizza was so good. After pizza we met our friends Abigail and David at their newly built house. They moved from CA to UT last summer. Their house was complete several months ago. It made me miss one, miss them, and two, feel really excited for our new house and neighborhood.

On Friday we played in the pool one last time. We watched Finding Dory at the mall. It was a much different experience than when Heath and I went to that mall for dollar movies as kids. We got Slurpees and drinks at a 7-11 on State Street before heading to Desert Star. Saturday morning we headed off to a hotel in Sparks, NV. We played in the pool there. More like we hung out in the hot tub because the pool was icy cold.

Gwen splashed for a little bit before she did her “I’m making a friend” walk. She walked straight over to the other little girl there. Within seconds they were best friends. How does she do it? Gwen is so funny with how she instantly makes friends wherever she goes. Ron and Margo think that Gwen will be our ambassador when we move. She will get all the doors open for us to meet people! I’m thinking that’s true.

While Gwen and her new friend played, Heath and I talked to the mom. They were on their way back home to Redwood City. Trust Gwen to find another California family spending the night in Sparks who had just returned from vacationing in Yellowstone and the Tetons! We had a lot in common and much to talk about.

Sunday morning we rushed home. The goal was to not stop at all for the four hour drive home. We stopped just across the freeway from home because Parker was bursting. At home I had enough time to shower. We managed to make it to the other ward’s sacrament meeting.

It was a little awkward because our ward members were leaving as we were arriving. They thought we were abandoning them already! The other ward members were confused to see us. One lady thought we were a new family. I think she was disappointed to learn that we are in the other ward but just got home from a road trip.

Cleaning and packing has ruled my life ever since. The next road trip will be to our new home!

Metaphors at 6000 Feet

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Since we had to can the staycation to The Mystery Spot, we tried to come up with fun alternatives for our trip to Utah.

We considered Lagoon but decided it was too expensive. We thought about water parks but realized that would be stupid since we were staying at a hotel with a great indoor pool and water slide that can be seen from the freeway. The water slide goes outside the building and back in. It’s so much fun! In the end we settled on Desert Star Playhouse and a hike to the Timpanogas Caves.

Heath and I have both been on that hike multiple times. We know it’s not an easy hike. We also know the caves are worth the effort. Our kids are at a great age for this hike. It would be fun. It’s an outdoor activity just like The Mystery Spot. It felt like a no brainer.

And then Heath opened his big fat mouth.
It would be a metaphor for us to look back on.

I wasn’t upset because I thought that was a cheesy way of experiencing the hike. I was upset because the hike was extremely difficult 14 years and 30 extra pounds later. The more Heath compared the hike to our move the more I wanted to cry.

Besides being completely out of shape (I used to work out!), we were not really prepared for this. We wore sturdy shoes and that’s about it. When we bought the tickets the lady asked if we had enough water. Heath and Gavin were the only ones with water bottles. We bought two more reusable water bottles at the info desk for $5 apiece. They don’t sell disposable water bottles anymore.

The lady also asked us if we brought jackets. Um, I thought about it. I honestly could not remember if I had a jacket with me in the past. I landed on no. The lady informed us that the cave is 45 degrees inside so jackets would be nice. My babies were going to freeze to death! We weren’t buying overpriced sweatshirts to go with our fancy water bottles.

About all we had going for us were vague memories of how difficult the hike is. Well, we bought the tickets so … let’s go!

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We saw this sign after stopping twice. It says “Stop If you have heart or breathing difficulties or are under a doctor’s care, the trail ahead may be too strenuous. The distance to the cave is 1.5 miles, or 2.4 kilometers, with a vertical rise of 1,065 feet, or 329 meters.” In other words, turn back now if you are an out of shape Piquant Storyteller. You will most likely die on this hike.

I am often accused of being over dramatic. I speak in hyperbole. Let me assure you, the grade of the trail is perfectly vertical. Any steeper and they would be selling mountain climbing harnesses along with their water bottles. Imagine a ladder leaned against the side of a building. The trail is like that only without the convenient steps. For a mile and a half.

The distance doesn’t seem too bad. Who can’t walk a mile and a half in two hours? Walk, climb, crawl all while gasping for air. By the end, the trail practically goes upside down it’s so steep. But you keep going out of a matter of pride. You paid for this torture, time has not run out yet, and by golly, you will go through that cave if it kills you.

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Every time I get to this natural arch I kind of feel like that should be it. The 1/4 way marker mocks me. The first quarter is the easiest. It only gets more lung burning from there. Somewhere I have a picture with my mom at this exact spot. I have the fakest smile on my face as I give a thumbs up with one hand and desperately clutch my water bottle with the other hand. Fear and exhaustion are behind my eyes.

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I set the pace while my ducklings follow.

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Heath brings up the rear and captures the beauty of Utah’s mountains. I’m glad he took these pictures because I did not enjoy the breathtaking views at the time. The mountain literally took my breath away. Every time I stopped I had a kid shoving a water bottle in my face. Sometimes I needed it sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I just needed to stop to prevent a heart attack. Because sometimes my heart would cross the line between major exertion and inevitable death. So I stopped hoping my burning lungs wouldn’t explode.

The worst sight was when I saw two rangers carrying a stretcher down the mountain. I am not even kidding. I don’t know if someone actually needed it. I tried not to think about that. Add stretchers to my list of fear inducing images – ambulances, fire trucks, and now stretchers. The more life experience you have the scarier life can be.

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This sign is found at the mouth of the cave. Realize that I live almost at sea level. Traveling to Utah can be challenging. The air is bone dry and thin. My nose fills with suffocating boogers as soon as I fly over Utah. We forgot chapstick on this trip and our lips cracked immediately. I hardly needed a hair dryer since wrapping a towel around my head after my shower seemed to be enough. Dry, thin air and a hike. It is a wonder I am here to tell the tale.

At the “last chance” bathrooms (read pit toilets) I ate another package of fruit snacks while waiting for the kids to make their last pit stop. A girl and I bonded over being diabetic. She’s Type 2 while I’m Type 1. We were both grateful to be on that mountain still intact.

Our group was assembled and into the mountain we went.

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Definitely worth it.

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I have been to Lehman Caves and to Minnetonka Caves. Timpanogas is by far my favorite.

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Even our ranger guide said that Timpanogas has unique formations not found in other caves. The whole place is beautiful. My childhood education rushed back to me. I remembered all the formations by name and wanted to share everything I knew with my kids.

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The heart is iconic. Gwen liked that part. She wanted to see the wedding room but the guide never pointed it out specifically. I couldn’t remember which room was the wedding room.

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It’s all amazing.

Gwen was cold. Or at least she said she was. The rest of us were fine. It felt nice after the hot hike up. That’s what I remembered about Timpanogas Caves. The cooler temperatures inside are a welcome relief after the trial of getting there in the hot sun. I rubbed Gwen’s arms for the whole hour long tour inside.

At one point they turn out the lights inside the cave to show just how black pure darkness is. I had told the kids ahead of time to expect that. They were excited to hold their hands in front of their faces and not be able to see anything. It was an anticlimactic moment when we realized that Gavin’s shirt was glowing! The guide asked if we could see anything. Parker and some other kid said, “I can see his shirt!”

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The trail down has been moved. Apparently there were too many rockslides. By the way, Gavin asked, “Why don’t they just remove all the rocks so people can be safe?” I’m not sure if he was serious or not. The new trail down suspiciously goes uphill all the way around till it rejoins the original trail up to the caves.

That was where Gwen decided that even though she used the potties “one last time” she could not hold it one more second. Her options were to hold it until we had hiked all the way back down to the visitor’s center or climb back up two switch backs to the “last chance” potties. Guess who took her back up?

I lovingly hated her the whole way up. She genuinely apologized repeatedly. I told her she owed me so much Diet Coke for making me take her back up the steepest part of the trail. She told me she had $20 at home and wondered how much Diet Coke that would buy! I told her it would buy a lot. I was happy to take her up on the offer. Although I never did.

We made it up there and I saw a ranger rappelling down the side near where we had just clawed our way up with bleeding fingernails. He had a line that crossed in front of the bathrooms. Gwen didn’t care. She ducked to find relief on the other side. I just stood there waiting for her. The other rangers noticed me and asked if I needed to use the restroom. I managed to gasp out that she did. They told me they would be finished in a minute and we could get in. Ten seconds later Gwen emerged refreshed. She ducked under the line again and we were on our way.

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I don’t remember ever having to stop on the downhill climb. Until this time. Man, I was stopping almost as often as I had on the way up! That second sprint up the mountain for the bathrooms did me in. I found myself encouraging every uphill hiker.

One guy was honest. He came around the corner and upon seeing us said, “This is brutal!” Why yes it is! We assured him it was all worth it. Gavin was a bit of a brat about it all. He kept being extremely impatient with his slow and tubby parents. We kept reminding him that he is 12 years old and in the best shape of his life as a runner and obsessive nightly sit upper.

We saw a guy in his early 20’s resting. He proved our point by saying that the first time he went up that mountain he was in 5th grade. He practically ran the whole way. Now he was feeling it. He was young and in shape. But he was also no longer a child. Gavin wants to go on the hike again when he is 41 to show up his dad! Go for it kid. I hope your daughter has a poodle bladder too.

My Fitbit said I had well over 10,000 steps and 116 flights of stairs. Every leaf imaginable was on that movement flower. I had lung burn for another half day afterwards. Coughing felt like my lungs were frozen and on fire at the same time. My legs were like Jell-O. Five days later I can finally go up and down the stairs without feeling like I might wind up in the hospital. I can walk normally too. The kids created their own underground spa at our hotel in Sparks. The leg massages were lovely but my muscles were still impossibly tight.

Now that we are home and in the throes of packing and cleaning, we all look back fondly on the hike. We encourage each other when it hurts. We are still eagerly anticipating the prize. Sometimes it feels out of reach. I do dread what the extra hike to the bathroom will translate into later. No matter what we know that we made it to the caves. We all did it together. This house journey will end well. It just really has its trying moments in the meantime.

Boxing Day in June

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I was planning on writing the Timpanogas Caves story today. I was also planning on only working for a few hours. One thing led to another and before I knew it I had puttered most of the day away.

Most of the books are packed, all the pictures are off the walls. My fingers are sore from scraping vinyl off of mirrors. The laundry is done and the kids helped clean around the house. They are rock stars! We warned them that I would have jobs for them to do every day. Nobody complained but got straight to work.

Gwen had all her assigned jobs finished by 9:00 am! She cleaned her bedroom and a bathroom! By 9:00 am! The kids want so badly to help me pack boxes. We finally relented and allowed Parker to pack a box of toys. I know he still uses those toys but can wait several weeks before seeing them again. Gwen needs to wait on filling boxes.

After dinner Heath bought me more boxes and lots of wrapping film of various kinds. Tomorrow the knickknacks get it.

It is such an exciting adventure to move like this. My favorite blessing is how close we are getting as a family. I love that the kids are old enough to be involved in the whole process. They are a joy to work with. With common goals, I have never seen them so cheerfully engaged in cleaning. Nor have I ever seen them clean so well. Through it all we dream together as a family. “In the new house …” It’s really great.

Love at First Sight

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My mom married her best friend on Wednesday. The wedding announcement arrived on Monday. We were so excited to tear into that envelope. What was this guy’s last name? The announcement provided no answers. Sharon and Steve invited us to join them at their sealing in the Bountiful, Utah Temple.

We got up crazy early Tuesday morning to make the long drive from California to Utah. The goal was to meet Steve that night. Obviously I don’t need to approve of my mother’s fiancé. She’s a big girl and can choose for herself the man she wishes to marry. If she liked him then he must be great. My brother and sister had already met him. My sister seems to have had many visits with him. Izzy refused to call him Grandpa until after he was married to her Grandma! My little family was the last to meet this mystery man who had swept my mom off her feet.

We were making good time on our drive. I took a turn and drove a couple hours through several Nevada counties. Heath readjusted our ETA after my drive. I was feeling pretty good about everything. Heath said he had rested enough and was fine to drive the rest of the way.

Just outside of Elko traffic came to a stop. Both lanes on the freeway were completely stopped. We had no idea what was happening. For one whole hour. Heath got out like many other drivers to stretch and see what he could see. Nothing but a long line of stopped traffic. A good mile or so of cars ahead of us and a growing line of cars behind us.

Across the divide traffic was moving in the opposite direction at normal freeway speeds. As mysteriously as we had stopped, traffic started to slowly creep forward again. Soon we were moving at a reasonable pace. That’s when we saw the car-b-que. A truck had somehow caught fire melting most of the cab, particularly on the driver’s side. No other cars were involved in the incident. All we could do was hope the driver made it out safely because it looked like it was a nasty fire.

The problem with driving to Utah is gaining an hour. So with the time change and the major delay we didn’t get into town until about 9:30. Not before being diverted for a bit because of another accident. It looked like a bad rollover crash. The newscasters said the next morning that the teenage girls were not wearing seatbelts and one of them was in critical condition.

Steve had already left for a friend’s house well before we got to town. My mom had some last minute things to do so she gave us her blessing to just check into the hotel. Looks like the black sheep out of towners would have to meet Steve on his wedding day.

I got up early the next morning to shower. Heath came in to tell me that he just heard a news story of an officer involved shooting in my sister’s city on a street with the same name as the one she lives on with her family. My heart stopped for a moment and finally resumed at a very brisk pace.

Heath texted Candi and Ed to check on them. Ed had confirmed that it happened twenty feet from their front door but his family was okay. Apparently some guy got into a fight at a bar. He shot some guy in the leg then drove to a nearby city. An off duty officer happened to spot the car after the APB was put out on the guy. That’s when things got crazy right in front of my sister’s house at 1:00 am. Ed told the story later and he joked a lot in his telling. That’s what being violently ripped out of a deep sleep will do to a man I guess. So scary! Last we heard, the guy was in critical condition.

My mom said everyone had to be at the temple by 9:45 am for her 10:15 sealing ceremony. We managed to get there a good 15 minutes early. Not early enough to meet Steve. We did meet several of his co-workers who were more of less having a staff meeting in the sealing waiting room! They were all quite nice and of course spoke highly of Steve.

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My kids were happy to see their cousins. They kept each other entertained in the temple waiting room while the rest of us went inside. The kids had filled our church bag with the three pads of paper I had bought for this trip, three new mechanical pencils, a couple of Friend magazines, and a seek and find book. Candi had asked if my kids could babysit her kids at the temple. They were so excited to do that. I did feel better when I saw Daphne and Calvin walk into the waiting room. Two more babysitting aged cousins would definitely help keep the little ones happy.

At the appropriate time we were all taken into the sealing room. My mom walked in holding Steve’s hand. After the ceremony we were able to shake his hand and welcome him into the family! We also learned Steve’s last name from the sealer. Finally a full name and a face to go with the name of the man my mom just married.

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He seems like a great fit for my mom.

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It was the windiest day. I’m happy that with so much wind the pictures still turned out well. This one was taken by one of Steve’s friends so that Heath could be in the picture.

I feel really bad that after the ceremony, I lost our bag. Everyone had gone outside to wait for the happy couple. I put the bag in between a bench and a pillar. Then I promptly forgot about it. It never crossed my mind again until we were nearly at the Salt Lake County Health Office to replace our stolen birth certificates and marriage license.

Gwen was very upset. Heath quickly said that we were not driving back to Bountiful for a church bag of stuff. I knew he was right and I felt that much worse because it was my fault! Gwen tearfully listed the items in the bag. Gratefully it could all easily be replaced. That night we went to Deseret Book and replaced the one book but not the bag because they didn’t have a similar bag. Amazon probably has one. At the end of the trip Gwen excitedly shouted, “I knew the Easter Bunny shopped at Deseret Book!” Heath wonders where he shops for the Jewish kids!

At least we got our birth certificates replaced along with our marriage license. I feel almost whole again after that obnoxious robbery. I still need to get my SS card replaced. The nice security guard said it’s best to do that over the phone because it’s a federal government thing. Over the phone I can skip the line and the long wait. Have I mentioned that the burglars have tried to open three accounts using my info? I have had to update my fraud alert. With the rest of this vital information proving my identity I can now request a longer fraud alert period.

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We finished up at the county health office in perfect timing to go to the open house. It was a catered affair in my mom’s backyard. (that she now shares with her new husband) It was quite lovely. The food was good. The cake was beautiful. You would never know that the flowers were such a source of angst!

As soon as any adult female family member walked through the door, Candi was asking if they could help her arrange the flowers on the cake. She was terrified of doing it wrong! My mom can be quite particular. When Steve heard the problem he agreed to do it! My mom naturally wandered in after him and between the two of them the flowers were arranged on the cake while the rest of us daughters and sisters simply watched. That’s my favorite way of helping – watching.

Eventually the party broke up so the happy couple could be on their way. It was a lovely wedding day.

Another Miracle

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My grandpa used to talk about learning to love adversity. Learn to love it was always his mantra. I have learned that it is through adversity, trials, or challenges that the greatest blessings come.

We cashed out an investment account to help with the down payment on this house. The check was supposed to arrive by mail. Only it was taking a very long time. There was no mail at all on Saturday and we were starting to get really nervous. Where was all our money? It is hard to be patient in the heat of the moment.

The check arrived in today’s mail. Sigh of relief! Heath kept checking the stock market and could see that we needed that money, and cashed out, at the peak. The very next day the market showed a fast decline. That was lucky. The miracle was that the check was for the full amount. The company did not take their cut. Amazing.

My day started with the news that Heath is free and clear to relocate. My day ended with more check than we were expecting. It has been safely deposited. Every step of this journey continues to be filled with miracles. It’s not easy but the blessings more than compensate for any discomfort.

God is in the Details (part 2)

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I never would have guessed that a post on the challenges of fasting that first Sunday in May would turn into the perfect fasting opportunity by the first Sunday in June. Be careful what you wish for? I never would have ever guessed my family would be counting down the days till Fast Sunday in June. Or that our purpose would go from vague to extremely specific so quickly.

All three kids fasted and all three enjoyed the experience. At one point, Gwen even told me that fasting felt easy. She wasn’t hungry at all. She survived the two consecutive meals without any whining, complaining, or asking for snacks. Proof that Heavenly Father never asks us to do more than we are capable of. Having a purpose to fasting definitely makes it easier.

At first we just wanted to know where the Lord wanted us to live. Here or somewhere else. Then we found that house. The perfect house. The house of my 1950’s dream. Parts of that dream have been in my mind for years. It seems more clear now, with a house I recognize as the centerpiece of the dream. We fasted for the house.

Our prayers were fervent and sincere. The way we all felt was that was our house. We were in love with the schools, the community, the street, and most especially the house. The house we couldn’t even pick colors or finishes for. We loved it. By the time our fast was over we all felt like it was still the right move. Parker had a very eloquent response to the question of how he felt after fasting. He said he still felt like it was right, that he was not afraid to move even knowing parts of it would be scary. He said he had no regrets and he was excited to get the house.

The more we learned as the week went on, the more that house had to be ours. Heath talked to the bishop of the ward we would move to and learned more about the neighborhood. Two member families had recently moved onto that street. One family has a 13 year old boy and an 11 year old boy. For real. Dawn reported seeing little girls running around the day she and Barry looked at the house. This, of course, all contributed more to my dream!

Heath had to fly to San Diego on Sunday afternoon. He packed in a hurry after our last grilled dinner of hamburgers ran late. While he was grilling burgers I was gathering all the metal I could find. The next morning between 6-9 a truck would come by to pick up any metal. The boys helped me move the pile out in front of the garage later that night. The grill was part of the pile. It was a sacrifice for another step of faith we were willing to make.

Before he left, Heath also put in a lead for a mortgage loan officer. She contacted me on Monday. By Tuesday Heath was able to submit everything she needed. I was prepared to meet her in person but she was fine doing everything via email after calling me. Unfortunately this particular bank that employs Heath is notoriously slow. Even more unfortunately it took until Thursday night, after Heath finally arrived home, to learn that she had a family emergency and had given us to another MLO. We never heard from him until after letting him know we were going with the builder’s mortgage people.

Every day that Heath was gone we talked on the phone several times a day. So much was changing so quickly. I welcomed a Primary presidency meeting to pass the time and get my mind off of the what ifs. I also welcomed, with great enthusiasm, a walk with Stephanie. I almost told her what was going on. Instead I basked in lighthearted conversation about nothing in particular. My mind needed the break.

Some days I was so nervous waiting for Heath to call. Everything was real and so scary. I hated that he was so far away. Getting home didn’t calm my nerves. If anything, I was more nervous. That time worry was back in full force. I had dressed up thinking we would swing by the bank to meet the MLO. At that point we didn’t know she had a family emergency. Since she never returned calls or emails we didn’t go.

I kept telling Heath we had to call the builder lady. He called the next morning after we had both freaked out. That pressure to move quickly was intense. I was not losing a house because of someone else’s delayed reaction. It’s a spec home on the perfect lot on the street. How long do you think it would really stick around on the market? I didn’t want to wait and see.

We explained our money situation. Stressfully enough, we are still waiting on a check from an investment. She had to know we still wanted the house and she had to know what was going on. She had a logical solution to all our concerns. We realized we would get better perks with the builder’s MLO than what Heath could get as an employee of the bank. We made that switch. She was willing to work with us on the other issues of not having the full amount of earnest money yet.

It was another miracle. We took the step forward to secure our place in the race for the house and the money worked out. We were pre-approved for a mortgage only a few hours later.

We went to Chili’s for lunch. The miraculous morning made me jittery and anxious even though I had just witnessed God’s loving hand again. More than anything we hoped to see Mike, our favorite server.

I actually don’t like Chili’s. I agreed to go one day when I wasn’t in the mood for anything else and Heath wanted sit down but different from the other places we go. Mike was our server. He is sunshine personified. We love him. He gets us our drinks right away, brings us refills before we’re even halfway finished with the first mug, and fills giant to go cups before we leave. Without us ever asking for to go cups! Diet Coke is the way to this girl’s heart! After several times of this he asked us our names and remembered the next time we went in. Mike is an angel in a Chili’s server’s body.

He is also a faithful Christian. He is always saying things like “God bless!” and “God bless you!” His every interaction is peppered with this kind of remembrance of God. We wanted to ask for his prayers. Of course he and his lovely wife, whom we also like as a server, readily agreed. They were sad we would move but they totally got the faith aspect of all of it. I loved the mini spiritual lesson Mike gave on faith right there in Chili’s. He believes the way that we do. That there is one God and we all believe in Him in one way or another, calling Him by whatever name we know Him as. He loves all of His children and wants the best for each of us.

Talking to Mike and Vicki calmed me down. I knew everything would work out before but finally I was at peace. I picked up the kids from school and told a bunch of teachers we were leaving. I had worked hard to zero out the lunch accounts, not sure if we could get a refund. They have one shiny quarter left. Good enough!

By the time Gwen and I went to the glam camping activity, our offer on the house had been accepted. Finally it was official. As of yesterday, the house is now listed as sold. It has been a whirlwind of a week. From seeing the house on Zillow to actually being the ones who will occupy it first.

Things keep moving. We are quite nervous that something may derail the whole project. I may have failed to mention that we are moving on the assumption that Heath can stay with his current job. This was a plan of ours when he accepted this position a few years ago. We didn’t realize it would happen so soon. With no response from other potential employers, this was our only chance to leave. We knew it was time to leave. We felt the house was right. This was going to happen.

We can’t get full loan approval until they receive a letter from Heath’s superiors saying it is fine for him to relocate. It’s been a long weekend of waiting for that approval. It is unlikely this part will go south but you never know. So keep praying! And the whole mortgage can fall through. Anything can happen. The doubt-faith-miracle cycle continues.

God is in the Details of Our Lives (part 1)

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One of the speakers at church today spoke about how God is in the details of our lives. The part of his talk that stood out the most to me was when he talked about wind. Winds of inspiration, winds of adversity, winds of trial, winds of change, etc. We can trust God with all these winds that come our way. Then he said to trust the wind at your back. God is behind the wind at your back. We take a step into the dark, operating on nothing more than faith. God directs the wind to help our path become successful.

His examples spoke to me because of what has been going on in our family for the last little while. I know that God is in the details of my life. I have been in a state of remembrance for some time now. As I look back I see the hand of God all over my life, directing me through it all.

We have been taking steps of faith recently. We would pray and still not know what the right direction was but know it was time to act. So we would take another step into the dark having faith that the wind at our back would guide our steps toward success. It has been an amazing journey.

Now that we are at a point where we feel comfortable making the story public, I wish I had at least draft posted my thoughts as the story unfolded. Time gets confused in my mind during these faith stretching moments.

For several months now Heath and I have been wondering if it was time to move. There were politics at work. I remember countless lunches at Chili’s where we discussed his friends at work and the things that were happening. What did it mean for us? What did we want to do? That’s where it started. Although looking back on it, it seems like a weak excuse for the moving bug to bite. We didn’t know so we didn’t openly discuss it.

Somewhere in the early stages of all this dreaming of moving, Heath told me about an opportunity to attend a conference in San Diego. It would be the last week of school. I was not happy about that. We started seriously considering checking our kids out of school early and going as a family. Heath could do his work thing during the day. The kids and I would play and then we could play more as a family in the evening.

How fun would it be to hit Disneyland or LEGOLAND on the way home? It would be a great kickoff to summer. Gavin missed his last week of 5th grade, maybe it could be a tradition! We were prepared to ask the kids their opinions when they got home from school that day. Suddenly we extinguished all plans for this impromptu family vacation. It didn’t feel right.

We had plans for a staycation in Santa Cruz for the boys birthdays. Even though their birthdays are in July we decided we would go to the Mystery Spot in late June. That way we were better set up for our family reunion trip to Seattle in July.

By the way, we had been planning on flying to Seattle all along. Just like the quick turnaround on a San Diego trip, we changed our minds about flying to Seattle. Honestly, I don’t remember what prompted the decision other than we felt we needed more flexibility. Driving would give us the flexibility we felt we needed.

One evening Heath came home from work and I felt nervous for some reason watching him walk through the door. He opened a letter from our landlord. My heart dropped when I heard, then read for myself, the significant rent increase. Anger was my first reaction.

The handyman has a list of jobs he has not completed, including fixing the hole in the fence. He is unreliable at best. There are many issues in this house that the property management company refuses to deal with. Otherwise they put the handyman on it. We had to move on. There was no incentive to stay. We would never be able to own a home here. Why stay? The dramatic increase in rent wouldn’t even bring us up to what rent should be for our home. It was only going to continue to go up.

Heath started applying for jobs. On the days that he was working from home he started browsing Zillow listings. Sometimes I would allow myself to get caught up in the excitement of it all. Other times it felt so overwhelming. I would tell him he had to update his resume before looking or things like that.

Somewhere in there my mom announced her engagement. The timing was anything but ideal. We sadly waved a final goodbye to our plans for a Santa Cruz staycation and The Mystery Spot. Gwen was upset because it canceled her father daughter camping trip. At first nothing consoled her. She was angry because even though she loves weddings, she couldn’t actually attend the ceremony because it would be in the temple!

The kids thawed quickly, including Gwen. Grandpa Steve, as they lovingly refer to him, was filling a hole in their hearts. It has never sat well with any of them that they were missing a grandpa. Going to that absent grandfather’s funeral two years ago kind of made it worse. Grandpa Steve to the rescue! Plus, he was from Florida. Their cousin Garrett is now serving his mission in Florida. Grandpa Steve must be awesome because he lived in the same state that their hero of a cousin was serving in!

Heath pointed out the irony that we were considering a move when another Clarke woman was getting married. If you remember, we moved to California two days after my sister got married. I admit I was a pretty skeptical of this whole moving idea until the coincidences really started to pile up.

I didn’t suddenly become okay with the idea like we suddenly changed our vacation plans. It was a gradual process. For several days in a row I was constantly feeling panic over the concept of time. The more I thought of the tight window we were hoping to make a move in, the more I worried. Heath kept telling me that we didn’t have to move this summer. It would be nice to move before the kids started school but we didn’t have to. We would wait and see.

There were a lot of those wait and see moments. They made me crazy because I could not shake this panic over time. I felt like we needed to do something and fast. Heath was not getting responses from job applications. Time was threatening to crush me. While I counted down the days till summer break, I panicked that much more.

Soon the time consuming end of year school projects eased. My mind did not. It only meant that Heath was leaving me for the last week of school. And my reward? A mother daughter Activity Days glam camping activity from 6-8:30 on the last day of school! I would rather do anything else than go to a tiny little house filled with 21 girls and their mothers on the last day of school eating food I was not the least bit interested in and playing games.

I did go. Maybe in another post I will tell about it or at least post pictures. We left early. I told myself I could do it until 8:30. My anxiety suppression expired at 8:45. Gwen was upset at first but soon realized how tired she was. She thanked me the next morning for letting her go home early and just go to bed.

That last day of school was eventful. Actually the last week of school was very eventful. On Friday June 3, Heath found a house on Zillow. He said it was a spec home and still under construction. I told him we had to look into that house. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt this pressure to do something.

We looked at the video tour of the house and fell in love with it. For all the beautiful, large, expensive homes we hoped we could afford, this house spoke to us. Compared to the other homes we had drooled over, this home was perfect in its relative simplicity.

We realized it was exactly what we needed. Nothing more and nothing less. It was the Goldilocks home. Just right. The price was in a much more comfortable range. The size is larger than our current home. I think we pick up an extra 900 square feet. With that we get an extra bedroom. The house is listed as having five bedrooms. Four official bedrooms and one bedroom or den. With this house the kids would all get their own rooms, we would have a home office/craft room, and a bonus room. Perfect.

Heath contacted the builder who got back to us right away. Could we swing by the next day to look at it? Being out of state made that impossible. Arrangements were made for Heath’s parents to look at it for us. Suddenly we had something to fast and pray about.

To be continued …

 

 

Gut Busting

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My abs are screaming. It feels like I have been punched in the gut. I’m assuming that’s how it feels anyway. I don’t think I have ever been punched in the gut.

My muscles are reacting to my walk this morning. Who knew that walking could do such damage to hardly been used ab muscles?

For all the time I have prided myself on walking around the park, I can’t say I have actually worked hard at it. My pace is probably a nice, leisurely stroll. Mothers pushing baby strollers are definitely much faster than me. I’m more proud of myself for getting out of the house and enjoying the nature provided in my own backyard. Good for me! Tick that off the list.

Walking with Heath provides a bit more exercise. He has long legs and isn’t afraid to use them. I trot alongside him until I can’t anymore and I remind him I’m a tiny little woman. To which he laughs because I’m not but he knows I’m going for funny.

Lately I have been setting up walking dates with my friend Stephanie. She lives on the other side of the park. I take the kids to school and pick her up at her house. We walk through the neighborhood, not far, into the park and then all the way around and back to her house. It’s a little longer of a walk with her than it is walking from my house around the park. I am always impressed that I get home about an hour after I have arrived at her house.

When I first started walking around the park on my own I could complete the less than three mile round trip in about 45 minutes. I got slower over time. I like having someone with me to help me keep pace. Talking with someone also makes it more enjoyable. The voices in my head don’t always respond back.

Stephanie walks my legs off. She has always been a bit of a fast talker and her legs move even faster. We breathe hard as we carry on a conversation. It reminds me of when my brother ran cross country. He would talk about conversation pace. That’s when you still run but you can huff out a back and forth of words with a friend.

There are times when I feel like I am holding Stephanie back. She walks so fast that the shin splints come on quickly. I try to walk through it but sometimes it’s hard. I almost apologized to her the last time we walked because I noticed that we weren’t really punctuating with heavy breaths anymore.

Today was a good day speed wise. I arrived at her house a good ten minutes later than I expected. She did say 9:15 ish. She knows that mornings can be hectic. She was cleaning out her fridge trying to get all the food tossed into the green waste before it was picked up. I didn’t pay attention to when we left her house, probably around 9:30. I pulled into my driveway around 10:26. Keep in mind, I have to drive home when we finish our walk. Since it’s all right turns home and the lights don’t affect things as much, I can do it in about five minutes.

I’m not a math wizard but that seems fast. I think we must have sprouted wings on our heels as we nearly flew around the park. My shredded abs, savagely ripped from exertion, are a constant reminder that I earned the miles on my Fitbit.

The secret to success? Find a trivial topic you both identify with. Suddenly you will find that you’re back at the starting point, out of breath, and thoroughly satisfied with your morning.

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