A July of strife and awe: Part I

So before I tell you the story of Simon’s arrival and the adventures of subsequent weeks, I have to tell you about the days and weeks leading up to it.  But first I need to make two disclaimers:

1)I PROMISE I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP.  Any of it.  At all.  I totally realize that it sounds too implausible to be true, but I promise that every single word below is honest truth.  Ask our friends and family if you don’t believe me.

2)I have been assured by umpteen medical professionals that none of the below activity could have possibly brought on Simon’s early birth.  100%, absolutely sure, didn’t happen.  So hold your tongue on that, k?

Now.  July.

It all started at the beginning of the month, with car troubles (capital C, capital T).  If you follow me on Twitter, you may recall me mentioning how much I hated Jeff’s car:  it was a 2003 Grand Am, and in the 5-ish years that we had it it cost us umpteen-thousands of dollars in repairs: each repair just expensive enough to make me clench up, but never expensive enough to justify selling the thing.  Worst car that’s ever existed.  Ever.

So when the engine shook itself apart (no, really – three of the six cylinders liberated themselves of their housing, to the tune of an estimated $2,500 repair cost), Jeff and I put our collective feet down:  that damned car had pushed us just a bit too far (or, more often than not, we literally pushed it).  In short, the Grand Am was dead, and we had no further goodwill to offer it.  We decided not to have the repair done, and we’d get around St. Louis using Ahura the Mazda (my non-air-conditioned-but-reliable 1995 Protege, which I’ve had since high school) then buy a non-shitty car once we got to LA.

Good riddance to the Grand Am, even if there would be resultant logistical challenges.  Huzzah!

Then, Jeff flew to LA to find us a place to live.  We’d spent the months of May and June searching for places, but everywhere we called told us that they wouldn’t even *think* about leasing for August until July.  So even though we were dying to have it resolved much earlier, we duly waited until July to make firm inquiries.  And since neither of us are familiar with the city, we decided that he really needed to see these homes in person before signing a lease.  So a quick, low-cost trip was in order.

He flew out on 7/5 and spent the next two days looking at apartments that we’d found together using Craigslist and Padmapper.  He rented a Prius and stayed in a cheap-but-clean hotel and got to drive all over Silverlake, South Pasadena, and Eagle Rock.

And he found us an apartment.  A very, very nice place, in South Pasadena.  It’s in a small building, it’s within easy walking distance of a sushi restaurant, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and a yarn shop (!!!), and it has plenty of space for a baby/large yellow dog/surly orange cat/thousands of books/yarn stash/canning supplies.

He put in the application, we were approved, made a deposit, and everything is awesome:  it was a huge load off both our minds!

Meanwhile, though…

I was coming up on my last couple of weeks at work.  My replacement (hi, Bethany!) had started at the end of May, and I’d been training her and working on the transition for much of June.  Since Bethany proved frighteningly competent at my confusing-ass job-of-many-hats, I had the end of June and beginning of July free to focus on wrapping up a couple of my own projects at work.  While I was technically redundant by that point, it was pretty nice that there were two of us doing the job for a time:  a multitude of boring (and irrelevant to this story) work issues had cropped up which meant that two CERL Coordinators were a good thing to have.

But then…

My granddad has been in poor health for about a year now, and while Jeff was in LA Granddad became quite ill.  Mom advised me that it would be good for me to come to Kansas City post-haste.  So I left St. Louis early in the morning on Friday 7/6 driving the aforementioned beloved Protege, taking Roxie with me and plying my friend Morgan with some homemade apple pie filling in exchange for Macbeth-sitting services.

But because the universe apparently hates me, this happened:

Just 15 minutes from my parents’ house on that hot Friday morning (it was 108* at 11am), her check engine light went on.  Then the light started flashing.  So I pulled off the highway and begged Mom to come pick me up (lucky it was in KC and not, like, Boonville), called Jeff to whine and bawl about having “another fucking problem”, then called the Mazda dealership to ask how ominous, exactly, a flashing check engine light on a 1995 Protege was.

Turns out, that’s pretty damned ominous.  So Ahura got towed to Northtowne Mazda for diagnostics, and Roxie and I got a ride home in the air-conditioned bliss of Mom’s minivan.

(Oh, and my nose stud fell out while I was sobbing there in the QuikTrip parking lot.  So we got to detour to a local tattoo shop first, before my piercing had the chance to close up.)

Most of our family (on my dad’s side) was in town that weekend, and I spent the next day or two either at the hospital with them, or at my parents’ house making sandwiches (that’s what I’m good for: smearing mustard on whole wheat).

If you’re keeping up, though, you might think “but where was Jeff?”

Excellent question.

Jeff was in LA.  Then Jeff flew home from LA.  Then Jeff took the MetroLink back to our neighborhood, and walked the last mile and a half home at 11:00 at night, with a suitcase, in still-100* temps.  Then Jeff slept for six hours, walked back to the MetroLink, took it to the Amtrak station, hopped on a train, and began the journey to Kansas City.  (Because the Grand Am was dead, remember?)

But even this was fraught with difficulty.  Because someone in mid-Missouri was having an even worse day than us:  just west of Sedalia, a car had gotten stuck on the tracks and was struck by a train, resulting in a giant mess and an “indefinite delay” on the Amtrak journey: Jeff’s train was stuck in the Sedalia station.

Here’s something sorta cool though (call it a silver lining?): my aunt and uncle live in Sedalia, and were just about to leave for Kansas City to see Granddad in the hospital.  I called them and begged a favor just as they were literally driving past the Amtrak station.  Jeff was able to hop off the train and into their car, catching a ride to Kansas City while causing no one any inconvenience, delay, or expense whatsoever (hooray!).  Clearly the universe only hates us 99%, not 100%.

While those logistics were being sorted out, I got a call back from the friendly Mazda service desk.  Ahura had a mis-firing cylinder, which wasn’t such a big problem, but a safety check also revealed that one of the axles was about to die, the clutch’s master/slave cylinder had an ever-worsening leak, and oh yeah: the AC still didn’t work.  To get my little car totally up to snuff (a car valued on my insurance at about $300, mind you), it would cost $2,000.

Ahura, too, was dead.  So long, old friend.

And just like that, both of our cars had died in one week, leaving us effectively stranded in Kansas City.  And my granddad was still sick.  And I was still EIGHT FLIPPIN’ MONTHS PREGNANT.

Oh, and did I mention the bar?  Like thousands of other recent law grads, Jeff was busy prepping for the single biggest test of his life:  watching Barbri videos, making arrangements to fly to Virginia for the test (the firm he’ll be working for prefers their associates to take the Virginia bar), staying up all night reviewing notes.

Yeah, all things that are really conducive to study:  travel, sick family and now car shopping.

The good news about the car thing is that we had a secret weapon: my dad.  Dad is somewhat legendary for his negotiation and no-bullshit-tolerance skills.  So here was yet another silver lining:  by car shopping in Kansas City, we’d have the opportunity to get some tips from him and even check with him as needed during the negotiation process.

Here’s Dad and Jeff, sitting in Granddad’s hospital room, as Dad regaled us with the story of that time he actually made a car salesman cry:

Jeff and I stayed up late that night researching makes, models and years, and narrowed our search down to a few cars.  Then Mom lent us her minivan the next day, and we went car shopping.

Long story short (too late)*, we were successful:

Under extreme duress, we bought our first ever non-crappy, made-this-decade, non-hand-me-down car!

Jeff with his new BFF, our 2011 Hyundai Elantra:

We also learned that together, Jeff and I are a negotiating powerhouse.  We were on FIRE, man.  We traded off playing good cop/bad cop, we stood up and walked away a few times, and I even got to look important and point at a piece of paper and say, “I am willing to buy this car, but I will not sign this agreement as written, because [blah blah blah]”.  It was pretty damned sexy, let me tell you.

And yes, we did step outside once or twice and call my dad for a pep talk, but each time he just verified that we were on the right track with our negotiations.  We weren’t screwing up!

Just after securing the car, we got another bit of good news: Granddad’s health was improving, albeit slightly, and that situation was no longer dire.

So the next day we went to the hospital one last time to say goodbye to the family, then drove our new Hyundai back to St. Louis.  Due to the family emergency and the car stuff I’d missed three of my last five days of work while in KC, and had to compromise the integrity of those projects (that is, to say, I wasn’t able to finish them before leaving).

Back in St. Louis I had my last two days of work (was given a lovely going-away party that involved a to-die-for key lime cheesecake and ceremonial presentation of my work-issued iPad), and spent that Wednesday and  Thursday evening (July 11 and 12) cooking and baking.

Oh yeah:  because we also had our annual family gathering the following weekend in Kansas City.  And with Granddad’s health in question, it was more important than ever not to miss it.  In 2011 my grandmother had passed the food-preparation torch to me, and that year I fixed a big Friday-night dinner for the whole extended family.  My plan had been to do that again this year, but when the gathering took on a different tone due to Granddad’s illness, Dad persuaded me to just make snacks instead.  So that’s just what I did.  (I also made a cake, to go with Saturday’s Jack Stack barbeque).

(To the Monsons reading this:  I promise, next year I’ll cook a proper meal again).

On Friday morning (we’re up to July 13th by this point) Jeff dropped Roxie at the kennel and we loaded up the car with all those baked goods and snacks, and headed back to Kansas City.

In another happy turn, we found out that Granddad was deemed well enough to return to his room in the retirement home’s assisted living facility, so we spent the rest of the weekend eating barbeque and cinnamon rolls and snickerdoodles and visiting with him and the rest of the family in Grandmother’s apartment.

On Sunday afternoon (7/15) we headed back to St. Louis and just a few hours later, things got *really* crazy…

Call me a liar if you want, but that is all the absolute truth.  And just wait ’till you hear what happens next!

PS:  Spoiler alert!  This is the position from which I wrote the entire post above:



*Thanks, Linda! 😀


10 responses to “A July of strife and awe: Part I

  1. Long time lurker – occasional commenter here. Haven’t had a moment to say this yet, but wanted to tell you how happy I was for you that Simon is here, healthy and home. And FWIW, I totally believe your story. Life doesn’t make this shit up.

  2. Holy cow, what a month!

  3. Dude. That totally sounds like something that would happen around here. I prefer to think that rather than HATING me when it throws more poop than I can possibly deflect in a short period of time, The Universe is simply trying to maintain a little BALANCE, because gosh darn it, it just loves ME best (but doesn’t want, you know, the OTHER kids to know it!).

  4. You need a vacation! And, of course, you and the baby look great!

  5. I believe it. I do, I do. We lost both our cars in one day (story for another day) too.
    So when I was texting you a picture of the back of a truck on the way home from Sara’s……..you were in labor????????
    I’m on the edge of my seat…….

  6. I just laid to rest my 2003 Grand Am as well. That model was so hit or miss- mine did great up til the end, but I’ve heard of others with your woes. I also bought a 2011, but I bought a mazda 3. Huzzah to new to us cars! So happy to hear your Gpa is doing okay, and the baby is here! =)

  7. What the what? Okay, post part II!

    (Hi, Simon!)

  8. (To add to the random-ness of your life just now I’m on holiday from the UK in the mountains on the France/Spain border) I just found your blog while searching the internet for evidence that someone has finished the Invisibility Shawl that I am struggling with but determined to love – yours looks great so I’m going to keep going with mine! Your lovely baby pic reminded me so much of MY Simon as a baby – he’ll be ten on 16/8 – he was early and very sleepy – we called him ‘hedgehog’ – but he is blond and bouyant now – great name choice IMHO! Good luck with these early days and I’ll check in for Part II…

  9. SunflowerCrochet

    Wow. You got on the universe’s black list, somehow. But, it seems like things are getting a little better. Simon is so adorable, and you look beautiful! Also, I just moved into an apartment in walking distance of a yarn shop. I can’t wait to head over there. I haven’t gone yet for fear of my wallet. I can’t wait to read pt. 2! The spoiler pic makes me happy–you two look so cozy and safe!

  10. Pingback: The Celebrated Arrival of Simon Neal Hoops | KateOhKatie blogs

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