In the incredibly powerful imagery shared by Stephen Colbert, that I first read about in this GQ article, I'm learning to "love the bomb."
Let me back up. On the Fourth of July, my favorite holiday, we got the best news ever: four positive pregnancy tests. The story is awesome. I will save it for another day, but I have to share it eventually so that when my hole-filled autism mom brain forgets I can go back, read it, and marvel. But, and this is crazy, the nausea and morning sickness started the next day. At 29 days pregnant. I had some nausea with Rog and Jules, throwing up a few times with each, peaking and then fading from 8-10 weeks or so. With Bébé Trois, on the cusp of the hardest two months of our lives to date? Right. A. Way. This will matter later, so read on, trooper.
|When I get around to the full story you will understand.|
But this is evidence of, "What. No way. Oh. Yep. Maybe? Ok. Definitely YES."
On the following Tuesday, workers began dismantling our laundry room. There was a small leak above our hot water heater, which was kept out of sight behind a panel. Unfortunately the pan beneath filled and dribbled slowly behind into the wall, instead of out onto the floor where we would have noticed it, which is what is supposed to happen. Long story short, after many, many hours on the phone, workers told me that the leak was only a week or two old and that it indeed qualified under the "sudden damage" clause in our renter's insurance policy. If it were a few months old, it would be considered "not sudden" damage and a hotel stay would not be covered.
But because of my persistence, and complaints about the incompetence of the claims adjustor assigned to our case, we finally received coverage after a week of living in our ripped apart condo. We paid our rent to the insurance company, and they covered the rest of the bill for our hotel stay. Insert sadness: the policy person said, "Up to 12 months!" I laughed and said, "Oh, it will only be like 2-3 weeks." I want to punch me of 10 weeks ago in the face.
Let me just say now, while getting hotel coverage was such a relief, it was incredibly hard. We had to move to different hotels three times in four days and in three different cities. Our kids were a hot mess. We were stressed. It was super hot, and the housing vendor wasn't doing a great job of finding us a hotel because they were located several states away. They were like, "Well here's a place that's only 10 miles away!" Ten miles in Phoenix and 10 miles in the Puget Sound are VERY different commutes!
I had to spend hours and hours on the phone trying to find a room for our family, and my word, the kids were frustrated all day and cried and cried every single night. They had meltdowns at random, and not a day has gone by in the last 10 weeks that Roger has not, in his sweet way, randomly mentioned our "broken laundry room." That first month was hell. The very first night, Jason took a hysterically screaming Juliet home to our water-less condo just to sleep at 3am because we sincerely feared getting kicked out of the hotel. He put her in her crib and she passed out in mere seconds. But it took a solid month in the same hotel room before our kids quasi-adjusted. Roger still won't sleep unless pressed into Jason or me, and some nights Juliet won't sleep for hours and needs to be snuggled incessantly before she'll finally let us put her to bed. Neither child ever required such things, unless very sick, before this mess. It's been super fun.
On our fourth day in a hotel, we found out that the awesome new insurance coverage Jason's company was switching him to, that we were supposed to be really excited about, had one fatal flaw: it didn't cover autism. At all. It is exclusively not covered, and believe me, we tried every angle. They aren't breaking any laws, as they are self-funded, thus no state mandates (such as the one Washington State has) for autism would apply to them, and there are no federal mandates at this time. While they may add it later, this is not likely to happen before 2017. Not to mention that it's not a guarantee; we're simply taking them at their word that they are seriously looking into it. Jason even looked into another job, but his job really values him, he did get a promotion that covers about a third of our 2016 costs, and most importantly we know he has true flexibility to be able to work from home and help with some of the therapy needs (like being home with a sleeping Juliet while Roger is in therapy). A new job might not have that, or he may have a workload that would make it impossible to do even if technically allowed.
In the midst of this, I was consistently throwing up. Remember how the nausea started so early? Constant nausea and dizziness. I fainted in the shower but caught myself on the curtain rod before I fell. The vomiting episodes were so sudden and violent that, just telling you the truth, I would empty my bladder every time and had to start wearing huge pads. Not to mention that every time I got sick it was at least 10-15 minutes of first vomiting and then dry heaving, sometimes up to a half hour stuck at the sink, before I could finally crawl back to change my pants and then back to the couch. And we were at the hotel, remember, so I didn't even have the luxury of our giant metal "vomit" bowl that we have at home for times like these. Just had to pray I could make it to the sink in time. It's ok to cry for me. ;)
It got so bad that, just before Jason left for a 5 day conference in Michigan, I had to be taken to the ER on a Saturday. Why is it always a Saturday? Never a Tuesday. SMH. Anyway, I received multiple bags of fluids via IV and an emergency ultrasound to make sure the baby was ok. I had dehydration to a fairly severe extreme; one look at my lips and the on call nurse who first saw me ordered up the IV and said she'd need multiple bags. The doctors diagnosed me with Hyperemesis Gravidarum and, while I am somewhat better now (consistent nausea but much less frequent vomiting) it has been intense. Not to mention the medical bills we received, since autism therapy *with* insurance coverage wiped out our FSA (into which we pay the max allowed) by June. Praise God, the baby is ok and, as I remind myself consistently, praise God my nausea is due to a sweet baby and not treatment for life threatening illness. Forever the optimist, this one.
|My body looooooooves IVs. This was a week later.|
And yes, yes I was Netflix binging on FRIENDS.
So that is a snapshot of July and August. But then, as the repairs back home dragged on and on--technically no repairs have happened, just crazy amounts of demo, with so many ridiculous things that if I laid them all out this would be the length of a Game of Thrones novel plus you might not even believe me that it was that much ridiculousness (was informed today that we're back to the drawing board with another company backing out and someone else going to our home to write up an estimate, then go through the insurance wringer to get it approved, blah blah effing blah)--guess what? Some old damage was uncovered the first week of September. Our insurance informed us that, because of that damage, they would no longer cover our hotel stay. We had 7 days and then, if we found nothing, out on the street.
I asked if the 7 days could start upon our return from staying with family in Montana for 5 nights since they weren't paying anything for those--nope.
I asked about the fact that the guy in charge of the repairs said the old damage added max a few days of work and it was the new damage that still would take weeks to repair (subfloor, thick gypcrete, tile, drywall, on and on). Doesn't matter--they have their loophole, they don't have to pay anymore.
In fact, they felt quite generous for giving us 7 days. Sigh.
[We're likely changing our renter's insurance, even if every other company has this same loophole, pretty much out of spite. The thought of continuing to give them our money after all they put us through makes me want to die. And we paid the extra money to have a *good* policy. Jerks.]
So, the frantic search began. We looked into short term rentals, but the biggest problem (beyond uprooting our kids again) was that we could only commit to a week at a time past the initial 30 days; our landlord agreed that even if work finished before 30 days (ha) he wouldn't charge rent until those 30 days were up, so as to help us have better options. But still, if someone else wanted to book for a longer period of time after that first month, we could lose our place. And then we'd have to start all over. Plus, the rentals were still much, much higher than our regular rent plus deposits and such. And with two toddlers, you never just assume nothing will go wrong and you'll get the deposit back.
|Because why wouldn't this randomly happen when the rest of life has gone to crap?|
Another consideration was just finding a new place to live. Legally, if we can't inhabit the home, we can break our lease. We didn't love this option, because when we moved in 3 years ago our landlord gave us a killer deal, at about 2/3 of market value with a promise to not raise the rent for 10 years. He wanted a stable family that would be there for a long time when we moved in, and we wanted a place to stay for a long time without rent rising hundreds of dollars every year like most places in this area. Plus, and this isn't nothing, we love where we live. The location is ideal for Jason's work commute--ample bus routes to DT Seattle--and it's close to our various therapies. And we just like the condo and plan to stay until we just can't bear the small-ish space anymore. It's home.
But we did look. We found a place on Craigslist that was in the right zone for Roger's (and soon to be Juliet's) special needs preschool, it was way less nice than our place, smaller, and almost $700 more a month once you factor in the utilities included in our rent (water/sewer/garbage and cable, which I appreciate!). But we realized that a: we wouldn't be guaranteed to get it, b: if not we were screwed because it was the *only* place even remotely in the right neighborhood that wasn't $1000 per month over our current rent, plus utilities and c: it didn't matter.
It just. does. not. matter. Why? Because we couldn't move even if we wanted to. When you open our front door, on the right side the floors are torn down to the joists and then are open to the unit below, save for some plastic stapled to the lady's ceiling. You can carefully walk through our front door if you aren't carrying much, but we can't get our stuff out. So no beds, no furniture, no kitchen stuff (because we can't get to it anyway), not even towels and shower curtains. And my word, no internet or TV! But in all seriousness, Jason has to be able to work from home with reliably fast internet multiple days a week plus pretty much every night doing his side job that helps us pay for therapy. Yowza. Anyway, even if we got a new place we wouldn't have anything necessary to live other than our clothes until repairs are complete, and then we'd have the hassle of moving. Nope. Not to mention we aren't planning to move anytime soon and haven't saved up the $6k you have to have for first and last month's rent and deposit that have become standard in this area.
|Our only entrance. And why I might lose my mind if one more person asks me|
why we don't just get a new place. Due to liability, we couldn't get our stuff out even if
we were willing to try and navigate this while moving out all of our stuff.
We considered a free option, such as crashing with friends (there were 3 solid offers), but there were many issues there. For one, our kids get really stressed out around other people; ask anyone who delivered a meal to our room and was here even just for 10 minutes. Secondly, all but one option was far enough away that we just could not make the commute work. Thirdly, a month minimum with no guaranteed end date is a LONG time to be in someone else's home, sharing bathrooms and kitchens and living space. Add in that our kids would certainly cry a lot, probably mostly laaaaate at night, and struggle to adjust, affecting the hosts and their children, and just yuck. Fourth, even the closest one didn't have a king bed (I have had excruciating back pain and a month on an air mattress would be...hell. Just hell) and since Rog now needs to sleep in the same bed as Jason and me, we need that king bed. So that was not a legit option unless absolutely unavoidable.
But a miracle happened. When we were checking out to go to Montana, an hour after I got the awful call that came out of nowhere telling us we were losing insurance coverage on our almost $400 a night room--about $350 a night more than what our rent is per day--I tried to tell the clerk what was happening and started crying. They knew our situation--two kids with autism, me with a hard pregnancy, my husband losing coverage of autism benefits starting 9.1--and she teared up, too. I left in a rush before I started really sobbing, and the hotel manager chased me down in the parking lot. He said we had been here for 7 weeks, were like family to the staff, and he would do whatever he could to give us a room at the best possible rate he could get away with, so to let him know if we wanted that. I walked away saying, "I don't know; financially it might not be possible."
But after hours of research and weighing every pro and con and exhausting every option, we decided that would be for the best. And guys, it's amazing. It's $79 a night (for a one bedroom suite that is typically $300+ a night in downtown Bellevue at a nice hotel), and if we committed to a minimum of 30 days we wouldn't have to pay the hefty tourism / hotel taxes, and he would waive parking fees and give the access code to free upgraded internet.
There are some other nice perks, but the BEST part? When we came rolling in from Montana, our kids chattered from the back, "We go back to our hotel! It's our hotel!" They were excited and smiling and running and jumping around when we parked and came into the familiar parking basement door and headed to the elevator. It's only about $300 a month more expensive than the best short term rental we found, but the fact that our kids have settled right back into the routine of the last 8 weeks in the same place? Plus knowing we don't have to go anywhere else until we get to go home? Priceless.
And you know what? Even after getting some criticism for not figuring out how to do the cheapest thing, I am realizing that I can have the backbone to willfully choose to not care what people think. It's really ok to figure out the very best option for us, and the thing is, for people who don't live day in and day out with autism, they just cannot understand what it's like. It's not the same as cranky or temperamental neurotypical toddlers. I spend most of my life trying to figure out how to not offend people and, any time someone questions me, I question myself about 80 times harder. Because if they questioned me, is that not likely a sign from the Lord that I'm probably wrong and just can't see it so I should reconsider?
Nope. Being open and entreatable? Great thing. But constantly trying to make everyone happy and being afraid of offending people who have no right to even claim offense? No no no no no.
A sweet friend kept offering to start a YouCaring page for us. I said no. She persisted. So then I asked Jason, like maybe I was wrong to decline, and we agreed--no. Our church and a few close friends had brought us some meals and oh. my. word. Home cooked meals? Life changing. Seriously. But that should be enough. Those pages are for devastating things, like tragic, sudden death or cancer or other extreme events. But we were fine. No one should have to help pay for our kids' therapy, either; it's not their problem that Jason's job took away the coverage.
But she offered again. And one more time. You know what broke me? When she said, in my summary, "I am pretty sure you would want to help someone in your situation; it's a legit need. But even if you really say no, how about I just send you something? You could spend it on Starbucks! I know you love Starbucks!"
I'm so used to Christians thinking that if their money from God is involved then it needs to be spent so carefully. Do the cheapest thing. The most practical, sparse thing. That's the best option, outweighing all other factors. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened in my lifetime, to me and to others. And NO luxury, you greedy waster of the Lord's resources! Do you know how many kids in Africa could eat for the cost of your grande latte? For shame, fat American Christian.
But then I see freedom and grace. Like the joy I feel when someone in a really dark and hard financial time, even someone we gave money, made the choice to get a rare massage. Even though money was super tight. She simply chose to have thirty minutes to feel human and not like life is only the heaviness and difficulty she was facing. And I make sure to tell her that, to buoy her spirits, so that when multiple people question her and post comments on her happy Instagram post and say, "I thought you were broke," and insinuate, "We gave you money for rent so you could do this?" she can know that not everyone thinks God is harsh and ascetic.
And I realized--why don't I accept that there are lots of other people who share that standard? The one in which you give grace to people and trust them to do the best they can? That there's a difference between unhealthy people who actually would abuse your generosity and those who simply might choose one small luxury to help cope with hardship? Not to mention that not everyone thinks they know the best for everyone else, and the ones who do that are the ones who are wrong.
Like, can you even believe this, that God actually is gracious and loving and generous and gives without strings of performance attached? Yet the honest truth is we Christians are frequently awful at displaying his character. But if we're willing to to be vulnerable, to take that risk of being honest and real? Then yes, we'll likely be failed by some Christians who aren't in the place of letting grace freely flow from them. They'll apply the same suffocating laws they by which they harshly govern themselves, and you will not experience joy and freedom.
But not everyone is that way. There are others who get it. They know what it's like to feel kicked in the face by life and then stomped on by those they thought were extending a hand. So they just come sit with you in the mess. Maybe they can offer that hand that helps you get on your feet, be it practical help or even financially. And to the shame of many Christians, these can often be unbelievers who simply get that life is hard and people need one another. Either way, there will be people who support you. They help you endure the Job's-friends-types around you, with all the unsolicited advice, correction, and rebuke if your attitude doesn't perfectly align with their "right" abstract theological precepts.
I'ma be honest with you. I aim to be that friend who sits with others, but man alive, I do not like being the person who needs sat with. This summer has sucked, but it's also revealed a lot of pride. I don't like to ask for help. I don't even like to ask for prayer for things that might not work out, and then I'll look stupid for asking. Like, obviously my faith was misplaced so how can I be taken seriously as one who seeks God?
And sometimes I do step out and ask for the bold thing--like asking God to heal my health stuff enough to have another baby--and then I feel ashamed like I was the bad guy when it falls on deaf ears and people look at me like I'm foolish. So they pray for other stuff, like that I'll trust God's good will if I am not meant to have more kids, but the kids I already have are so great. Be grateful. Hint hint Tami. But I think, "Yes, that was the faithful thing to pray. It displays submission to the Lord's divine will. Who am I to think God was speaking to me and asking me to pray boldly for the miracle?"
I don't like doing anything that challenges others. I like to think I'm bold and don't care what people think about me, but I obsess over what things mean. Is the lack of response because people hate me? Probably is the case that no one likes me, they just tolerate me. But no one wants to tell me I suck to my face, so I should just disappear.
What ugly thoughts. Ugly to think about myself, ugly to presume of others thinking that of me. A dam broke Friday. I had enough of the fears and worrying. I opened up to a few trusted people. They responded with grace. And I realized that a lot of people do care about our family. They want to help. They aren't worrying about if I get a mocha and am "wasting resources." They want us to not worry about making sure our kids get uninterrupted and very needed therapy, and they aren't so naive as to think a $4 drink ruins that. They trust that we are doing everything we can to make that happen and just want to help us. People told me that. Others shared their own stories of similar suffering and helped me realize that this yuck we have been feeling about needing some help is nothing new under the sun, and that grace flows when we open up to help, not when we try to help ourselves.
I shared with a friend my fears of people helping us financially. Like everyone will be watching us. I told her that we'll likely upgrade our phones when eligible, because we always make a net profit after selling our old phones on Craigslist and make the most money right when new ones come out, but now I'm scared of being judged and thinking I have to explain myself. So we'd be all secretive about upgrading. And she said, "That is stupid, and even if you didn't make a profit, if you are being prayerful then you don't need to answer to anyone else. If people think that helping you cover your kids' therapy costs when you lost coverage unexpectedly means you shouldn't be allowed to upgrade your phones then those people didn't give with a gracious heart and they are the ones who likely have repenting to do, not you."
Just...I want to live with that kind of freedom. Because I sure would be the one saying that to a friend in my shoes, yet somehow I never think it applies to me. And I mostly think that because of the harsh legalism I have experienced in various churches and "Christian" environments. Bad experiences and wrong teaching combined with my own sinful fear of what others think has led to quite the jacked up mess.
Enough. Just enough of that. I was telling Jason how done I am with status-quo American Christendom, namely our experiences in the church (meaning with Christians writ large, be they in our local churches throughout our lives or no), just so done with the judgmentalism and preachiness and criticism and stone cold silence when suffering we and others we love have encountered again and again. And likely that we have been perpetrators of these very behaviors more than we realize. But now God has been sifting us the last few years, and he's blown wide open our notions of the Christian life and "godliness" and living by faith, yet I feel like we're fighting an uphill battle to live the way he's called us to live, and I'm just over it all. He said, "Maybe our problem is that we actually expect Christianity to be true and we don't want to sit around and play the game." And I had to write it down, because that is exactly how I feel.
[I'm not quite arrived because I really wanted to entitle this, "Suck It, Summer" but was worried about who would get offended. So there's work to be done.]
Can I just say PRAISE GOD for the people who do live out life that way with us? If you are reading this and you are one of those people, you know who you are. And I praise God for you. The grace and life you are able to offer to us time and time again because you have yielded to Christ--and graciously receive from us when you are the one in need--is a lot of why I haven't given up on Christianity. Thank you.
So, guess what? Ten weeks into the hits from every angle, I'm finding that the Lord is busting me free. He's bidding me to receive help with the same joy I get when giving it. He's reminding me that our best laid plans--all the care we've taken financially to never need help from anyone again, unlike in earlier years of struggle in our marriage--can be wiped out with a just a few bummer events stacked on top of one another. He's making me have no choice but to depend on him, for that dependence to not be private prayers for faith in his provision, but in having to actively seek that provision by asking for help.
God's grace has been manifest to me in not having other options. In his hand clearly leading us, for example, to the not-free option of the hotel even though the lure of "free but incredibly hard in every other way" was very alluring. It took a lot of, "Are you sure, Lord?" when I realized that not paying rent for a month, crashing on an air mattress in a basement or spare room, would cover therapy for a month to the dollar. But after wrestling in prayer and conversation and options weighing, it was the hotel, the option that pretty much forced us to accept the offer to create a YouCaring page, that was the one to which the Lord said, "This."
There's still some fear. I'm a sinner, duh. A lot of me says, "Thank you thank you thank you I wish I could return it a hundred fold," to every dollar and every meal and every text or message of, "Hey we can't help but we love you and support you," we are given. But then a hefty portion of me also says, "I wish we didn't need this and I wish you didn't know how much we need this because I want to never need anything from anyone," at the very same time. I'm glad the Lord knows better.
Work in progress.
So I did something insane on Friday--it took me a few days, but I finally shared the YouCaring page to my Facebook and Twitter pages. And I'll be crazy and post it here. And then do my normal sharing of this new post on my various social media sites. More people will know we had to ask for help. And more people will probably help. But I won't die, and I'm pretty sure I'll actually feel more and more free because I'm stepping out and trusting the Lord's strength and provision and not my ability to summon up my own. Which is terrifying. The dark always seems like it's safer. Which is ridiculous. But you do it, too, so don't even pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.
I'm learning to embrace the bomb. Eventually, to love it.
And you know what? I almost had a panic attack figuring out how we'd get our kids to alltheplaces this week, particularly with Jason still working both a full time job and as many hours as possible at his side job to keep making sure we can pay all our bills; that means almost every night of the week, after loooooong days of therapy and travel, I am alone with the kids while he goes downstairs to work. Because no matter how much help we get we're still going to do everything possible to ensure that he's earning as much as he can. We're just that way, and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that knowing that about ourselves relieves a lot of the fears that come with letting people help us. Maybe it's pride. Maybe it's a healthy work ethic. I dunno, but it just is what it is.
But anyway, even with peace that the Lord will take care of us financially, I still felt like I couldn't breathe when I tried to map out who will be where and when. This is still SUPER hard, because just normally doing all this stuff when we're at home, closer to everything and not stressed about paying for it all, is super hard. But then it hit me: someday, we'll be back home. We'll have our normal hectic life of 3 or more kids that we wanted, plus all the stuff that we never wanted, going out from place to place and therapy to therapy and dealing with IEPs and the like. Maybe we'll even have insurance coverage for our kids' therapies (if I get my way, I'll be working from home for a company that covers it at 100%. I've applied 39 times--huge company that rhymes with Schmapple--so feel free to pray with us for someone there to finally notice my application and hire me!) and the financial strain will be relieved. And we'll look back on this summer and we'll remember how much it sucked to live in a hotel, how we never knew we could get that tired of Jimmy John's and Chipotle that fast; and yes, we'll probably remember a few of the things people have done that made us feel kind of shitty this summer.
But there have been so many sweet moments, too.
Because the beauty? What I know we'll remember the most of all is how Jesus never did forsake us, not even when weren't admitting to him how angry we were, how unfair it is of him to pile suffering and frustration on us over and over when regular life already had us ragged. Nor did he forsake us when we did admit it to him, and not with a good attitude. And we'll remember the people who supported us, who laid a hand on our shoulder to pray for us, or who had no words but gave a hug with tears in their eyes. The people who sacrificed in a way that they actually felt the cost to bring us meals and give us money. The messages from people who couldn't even afford to give a dollar, but then they opened up to us about how our vulnerability made them feel safe to share their struggles with us, and they were thanking us for how open we were in sharing our needs because it made them feel less alone. Goodness, Jesus, you doing how you do never ceases to amaze me.
You know what we'll never forget about the summer of 2015? The Gospel, the real gospel of selflessness and sacrifice and gentleness and grace and love and trusting God enough to not try and control others because he actually is GOD. We'll remember how such a shitstorm helped us experience the real and true and beautiful Gospel at work in and through and around us, setting us free and giving us grace. Uncomfortable grace, to be sure, but grace all the same.
All the same, summer of 2015, you sucked. You were way too hot. Way, way, waaaaaay too hot. And you brought too many trials to too many people we care about plus the hot mess of #HagglundLeakAdventure2015 (I hate my optimistic self for calling it that, on day two when it wasn't going to last very long and it wouldn't even affect us financially so let's just make the best of it for a coupla weeks! and BLAH) and just because it brought redemption doesn't mean it didn't suck.
When it turns to fall on September 23rd I will REJOICE. We won't even be home yet. I don't care. It means that the BEST SEASON has come. This year it won't just include Juliet's and my birthdays and all the other reasons fall is the BEST SEASON. It will also include finding out our baby's gender and the very best part? WE WILL GET TO GO HOME. And summer will be OVER. So good riddance, summer. You can suck it.
Oh, and here is that YouCaring page. Sincerely, I almost forgot. I got all excited thinking about how this REALLY will be over someday and we actually will mostly remember the good stuff. For a hot minute I was seeing the joy that awaits and forgetting that we aren't there quite yet. But someday.
Hagglund Family Fundraiser
And to all who have supported us, in every way, thank you. We love you and are honored at your gracious extensions of support to us.
Oh, and the iPhone 6S Plus?
I'm getting the pink one.