Oh, Right. You.

Yes, we’ve finally got back. Long story short, the new landlord is gutting the house and we have to be out by November first. Good news is we’re already paid for October, so our millions of dollars per paycheck (HA!) can go to renting a new place. Do I want to pack up all my shit all over again? No. But we have to. I hope this is somewhere we can stay for a while. Just settle and put up some artwork and shelves and take a breath. Although I don’t know when I’ll have time to get THAT done.

I have no less than five alarms set on my phone, most of which revolve around trying not to forget where each child or car is at any given time based upon my location and when I need to leave to retrieve that child. I love taking classes again and working for the university, but managing the schedules of four different people for six different activities is really hard, you guys.

Today I dropped off Bea at her school, then took Ellie to her daycare that’s about ten minutes away (the one across the street from us no longer takes kids under two/argh), then drove my car down to Roscoe Village where I parked it to get on the brown line , transferred to the red line at Belmont, and went down to the Loop for one class. I then went to work for a little bit before taking two different trains back to where I’d parked the car, drove back home, took a shower, and now I’m leaving again to pick up Bea from school and then collect Ellie. I will return home to make dinner before Charlie gets back from work.

My hope is that this program, as intense and different from what I’m used to as it is, will just catapult me into a position with the university. Right now I’m editing, indexing, proofreading, and writing for the newsletter. I’m also supposed to be working with a professor on an inner-city rail project, but I’m clueless as to what that looks like right now.

Suffice it to say we’ve been busy and I suspect that will continue for the next ten or eleven weeks.

It Can (and Probably Will) Be Worse

Charlie thinks it’s because he made a post on Facebook announcing our move. I think it’s because I told someone a week ago, “Well, things can’t possibly get any worse for us than they are right now.” Either way, if you are a superstitious person, then one of us has brought down the wrath of the fates. Today our landlord in Chicago, Dave, sent Charlie a text that read something like, “I have some news that will benefit the both of us. Give me a call when you can.”

Let me also mention that today is a national holiday, when most Americans are otherwise engaged in some sort of alcohol- and/or grilling-based activities. So. Bad timing on Dave’s part, who proceeded to tell Charlie that he has sold the two-unit building we were moving into. The house he grew up in, the house he raised his son in, the house we have been planning on relocating back to for the past couple of months at least.

It’s been since April that Dave and I have communicated about coming back and when. He knows about my job, school, Bea’s school, and the baby’s daycare choices. We have a pediatrician there. We had their shot records forwarded. I have changed our address with the USPS. I have switched our internet and cable provider. I have accepted a job and offer from my alma mater. I have promised Bea that we will be in the same place (just on the first floor instead of the second) in twenty-four nights, and that she will go to the same school as her friends from preschool. We have reserved a truck and movers to help us unload there.

Dave swears up and down that the new owner is a great guy, super relaxed, and this guy knows we’re moving in, plus how much we’re supposed to be paying. Chris, the new owner, closes “next week. The week after at the latest. It’s basically just a handshake,” he says, and we don’t need to worry about some weird legal stuff cropping up. Everything is taken care of, says Dave, and Chris isn’t going to raise the rent on us. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’m going to throw up. We have nothing on paper, no guarantees, just Dave’s word that it’s all going to be okay. I think, at one point, Charlie started to cry.

We’ve had to weather so much together, and especially the past year, when we’ve had to feed our kids with SNAP benefits, get them to daycare with CCDF vouchers, and live off pennies every day, sometimes unable to put gas in the car or make that auto payment. Our insurance has dropped us, our last month’s rent here is now four days late, and I’m down to just one part-time job before we were supposed to move.

I have no idea what will happen next. I just know that it can get worse.

Edited to add: We have spoken to the new landlord. His plan is to gut the house and he doesn’t want tenants while that happens. He knows it will take time to secure proper permits and permission, so he’s allowing us to sign a three-month lease, then go month-to-month thereafter. Apparently Dave told him that we were “interested,” not that he’d told us via text that the place was ours on July 30th. I hate the idea of moving again in four months, but I’d rather have 90 days to find a place than twenty days. If that’s what we end up having to do, then we just won’t unpack a lot of boxes.

In Transition

I’m currently working two jobs while Charlie is in between two and three. He’s training, was working at a bar on Friday and occasional Saturday nights, and is now going to be painting houses with a friend. I’m back at the coffee shop one or two shifts a week, plus the retail job, which is sucking the life out of me. Another friend has offered to pay me to clean her house. People donated over a grand to get us back to Chicago. But our food assistance was cut, our childcare was raised, my hours at the retail job were cut, there aren’t enough for me to go back to full time at the coffee shop. There are less than two months before we move and I’m going batshit.

I’m tired of heading to work, wondering if the person I’m schedule with is up or down today. Is she going to be pissed off? In a bad mood? Bitchy? Crying? Stomping around the store? Am I going to be condescended to today? Will someone call in sick and I have to find another person to cover? Perhaps something everyone else does gets blamed solely on me? One employee who’s getting ready to leave just mentally checks out completely, messes some orders up, and then tells me she doesn’t give a fuck anymore. So, probably best to lay it all on my shoulders. That’s how it has felt lately.

Yesterday Charlie got neutered. I’d requested the weekend off a month in advance. I was the only manager in town, so I was asked to open. I was told to “just find someone” to watch my kids. No one was available other than my brother in law, who came over for a few hours, got bored, and left for a concert. Charlie was home after a vasectomy with two kids, neither of which he could pick up. He had to sit on the floor with the baby and try to keep her entertained, feed her without holding her. I was late because a coworker called in and no one else was in until five. I said I could work only from until four. Yes, worse things have happened to people in the world. But it’s still obnoxious.

Sometimes I have to come home, stand in front of the cabinet with all my degrees, and remind myself that I am not mentally defective. Despite what a twenty-five-year-old young lady may think of me, I am intelligent, capable, and worthy of respect.

July 30th. That’s our move date. I start at my alma mater in the beginning of September. They’re paying for the entire program, giving me a job, offering me scholarships and study abroad. During my interview, the professor asked me what I was doing there. “You have a strong academic record, a solid resume.” Why would I want to go back to them? Why would I need another masters degree? Had I not found anything worthwhile in Indianapolis? I asked if he could answer that for me, because I certainly didn’t know. I gave a dazzling response about my love for the college, the campus, and my desire to be well prepared for a career with them. Because here, all I have been offered is retail and, even there, people treat me like an idiot. And, no. I did not say that last part out loud.

Screw It. Let’s Just Go Back.

I’ve posted maybe a handful of times since we relocated back to Indy. But we are officially trying to get back to Chicago. In the past two weeks, the universe seems to be leading us there. First, our previous landlord casually mentioned that the downstairs apartment would be available at the end of July. A week later, I was accepted to another graduate program at DePaul, which may be covered 100%, included a scholarship, and a modest stipend. This one is in the field for which I’ve been job searching the past ten months: higher education. Don’t get me wrong, though. Colleges and universities in Indianapolis are not the only places to which I have applied. I’ve been working in retail since January and have applied everywhere from ExactTarget to Target. IUPUI, IU, Purdue, University of Indianapolis, Harrison College, Ivy Tech, ITT Tech, Herron, Butler. Am I forgetting any? Angie’s List, nonprofits, other retail shops, social work, social services, community organizations, web sites. Maybe 120 different apps since August or September? 

Then the landlord here finally returned our calls. We’d both been sweating it because we signed a two-year lease and discovered the girls on the other side of the double didn’t give any notice. He found out they were leaving when their new place called him for a reference. But when Charlie spoke to him, he said this sounds like a great deal and we should go for it. Simple enough.

Then we started crowd funding after a friend suggested. She said she would happily contribute to something like that and we should set up a GoFundMe account. Two nights ago, I did, and we’re already up to almost $800. Granted, this is only part of what we’ll need. First and last month’s rent, a truck, a couple of movers to help us unload, and then juggling our bills while we transition in the month of August. I shouldn’t have to take out any loans with a graduate assistantship, but I’m not going to refuse the possibility for a little cushion when classes start in September. 

Right now, Charlie is riding pretty high on the things that have gone in our favor. I’m still skeptical, but hopeful. We were happier there. We missed everyone, but there was no shortage of things to do. Here, I am so down and depressed and stressed out that I’ve lost weight, I’m not eating, my hair is falling out, my skin is a mess, and I feel like I have to force happy conversation when I do see the people I love. I have nothing positive to talk about anymore and it’s killing me. 

Significant Denial

I have been living in a pretty serious state of denial for the previous eleven months. That doesn’t include the months prior to the actual move when I talked myself and my family into relocating back to Indianapolis. My husband is looking for a scapegoat–trying to blame all of this frustration and dead-end job searching on someone else. “Oh, so-and-so said they knew a higher up at X. And such-and-such told you that he could guarantee you a job at Y. I blame A, B, and C for telling you they could get you an interview.” 

The truth is, whether or not I took those promises to heart, and whether or not they were empty, I still felt like the best thing for us was to come back. For a number of reasons. My pregnancy was complicated. Ellie’s birth was complicated. We didn’t have a lot saved and there was no way of knowing we could get through much of any maternity leave. We couldn’t afford to put two kids in daycare at the same time. We wouldn’t qualify for daycare assistance without me being employed. We were coming back to Indy all the time to visit people. I wanted Bea to be closer to family and friends.

And now I’m reconsidering all of that. Yes, it would mean moving our kid yet again, and she would no longer be going to kindergarten here with her little friends from preschool and with whom she has grown up (a former co-worker whose son is five months older than Bea was accepted to the same school). And it would mean not having the kids around their new cousin, due the beginning of June, because his dad and mom are trying to move to Indy. It would mean coming back to Indy a lot for visits with two kids in a very small car. It would mean trying to figure out a way to break our lease here without having to pay the landlord a shit-ton of money. I guess it would mean a lot of things. But it all boils down to the fact that I am pretty unhappy here and cannot survive on the pay I make at my current full-time job selling crafts and local artwork, as much as I enjoy the business.

Our old landlord just let us know that the people on the first floor of our duplex in Chicago are moving out. The rent will be higher, but he now pays all utilities. We would go back to one car and save over $200 a month in payments, not to mention gas and insurance. 

So I broke down and applied for an advising position at my alma mater. I was in the running for several jobs there before I decided we couldn’t stay. I don’t know if leaving decreased my chances of getting something else, or if being a graduate will increase my opportunity for an interview.

Suffice it to say that Charlie and I have had some pretty serious discussions over the past two days. I don’t yet know what will happen one way or another. If we’ll stick it out here for another year until the lease is up and try to save? Or just say fuck it and go. 

Social Experiment

Oh, hello. I’ve been busy doing nothing in any way, shape, or form related to the eight years I spent studying writing. Other than applying, interviewing, and being rejected for jobs that are somehow related to writing, college, universities, or teaching in the past seven months or so. 

A couple of weeks ago I performed a little experiment. I came across a position at a very well-known company based here in Indy for which my husband, Charlie, and I, on paper, appeared to be qualified. Keep in mind that I had a stellar phone interview with this company for a different position back in October. I haven’t heard back about that, despite three different attempts to contact them. 

I applied us both for the latest position. I did both of our resumes. I did the research on the company necessary for a phone interview. Charlie has already had a phone interview for this job and was just asked to come in for one on site today. He’ll be going in next week. I haven’t received so much as an email. This position is not something either of us would really love to do, but it’s a company everyone wants to work for. My gut tells me they’re going to offer him something. Which would be great. For him. For us. Right?

I did leave the coffee shop for a different job. It’s still retail and it’s not great pay, but the people are better and the owners are kind. I don’t know how long I’ll be there. Will I have to change hours in order to be home with the kids? I’m currently almost full time but with no benefits. I’m working from the early afternoon until close five days per week.

We all know daycare is ridiculously expensive, especially for babies. So will I have to quit? I don’t fault any mom (or dad) who wants to stay home with her (or his) kids. But I just don’t think I can do it much longer before going completely bonkers. Bea needs to be with other kids. I need to do something besides cart these children to various activities that will keep them entertained. 

And don’t tell me to “just freelance.” I really don’t have the energy or time.

Home Schooled

I just met someone at work whose sole life goals are to get married, have children, and homeschool her kids. When she said this, I was floored.

My reaction bothered me, though. I’m a feminist insofar as I believe women should have the ability to choose what they want to do with their bodies and lives. If you want to marry a man and have children, what do I care? I did the same thing, despite my ideas to the contrary. I chose not to have children for most of my adult life, and then I changed my mind. 

What seemed to get under my skin about this girl was twofold: First, she has no other aspirations and moved to “the city” in order to find someone to marry because she was homeschooled in a very small town that had no suitable prospects for her. She has no desire to go to college because her job will be as a stay-at-home mom, “so why go into debt over something I wouldn’t use?” Second, she apparently feels adequately prepared to homeschool her nonexistent children as a twenty year old with the legal equivalent of a high school diploma.

When she told me this, I admit I probably responded in an offensive manner. I asked her what sort of education one needs to homeschool one’s children. What if your kids have questions about science or physics or fractions? Can you do calculus? Can you really provide children what they need when you only have a high school diploma? Public school teachers have four-year degrees in education just to teach second graders! And so on.

I realized my barrage of questions was bordering on interrogation and backed off a bit. I mentioned that, when I found out I was pregnant with my first, I was still completing my undergrad and chose to take some child and human development courses. I also told her how Bea had not attended a daycare until starting preschool at age three. How she is so outgoing and social that I couldn’t meet her needs.

The conversation ended when she just said, “Well, if my kids are like that, that’s something to think about.”

I felt bad afterward, because I knew I was haranguing her about something that was none if my business. Here I am, sitting on three degrees and more student loan debt than I care to admit, working the exact same job she is. And those things were all choices I made. I chose to go to school and I chose to come back here and work weekends at my old job so I could be home with my kids. I don’t want to put a baby in daycare, so I’m not utilizing my masters any more than as a reference in conversation. 

I still don’t feel an education is ever a waste and, if I could, I would just be in college forever. My experiences in Chicago were not something I would want to take back. If someone could erase my debt, but also my memory, I would say no. But that doesn’t mean this girl isn’t capable of going to a library and checking out books on development or traveling with her kids. Just because she was homeschooled does not mean her mother didn’t teach her to think critically about information. Who am I to assume she can’t learn as goes? What gives me the right to assume she’s made such terrible choices in life that she deserves a lecture on the value of education? Was I merely projecting my fears on her? Why am I so worried that “this is all” for her?

And yet I still firmly believe that the least she could do is take a few courses on early childhood education. I think what bothers me most about the whole thing is the idea that “homeschooling is good/right/best” versus determining whether each individual child is suited for that type of learning environment, or that people believe they are able to somehow protect and shelter their kids. But I’m making a lot of assumptions here, so I’ll just bid you good night.

Wanna Hear Something Gross?

I’m not sure I ever posted the birth story for my first. Suffice it to say, that was a cakewalk compared to the second, despite me being pretty freaked out through the entire thing. I timed contractions for a day, my water broke, I went to the hospital, I pushed for a while, baby came out. All was good.

We had a last-minute get together for Bea’s fourth birthday on Sunday, June 23rd, at my aunt’s house this year. I’d been having contractions off and on for a couple of days (not including the Braxton Hicks that had been going on since month five). They weren’t consistent enough to worry, but I knew “real” labor was imminent. I went home around 3pm because I was exhausted, and Charlie stayed at my aunt’s with Bea. They came home a couple of hours later. I was still having contractions.

Around 9pm, I went to take a bath, hoping it would help with the back pain. I hadn’t been in the tub more than five minutes when I felt that telltale “pop” inside and I knew my water had broken. I stood up and surveyed what sort of fluid was escaping. It was pretty slow.

I texted my aunt, who came over to pick up Bea and take the kid to her house. Charlie and I got some stuff together and headed to the hospital. I found myself extremely calm and almost emotionless during the entire scene. My contractions, though getting closer together and more painful, weren’t bothering me that much, and I was not nearly as freaked out as I’d been during my first birth.

We got checked in and I got checked out. Rather than the five centimeters I’d made it to the first time around, I was barely at two. I knew I only had 24 hours before they’d threaten to take the baby out on their own, so I chose to labor without any kind of drugs.

The contractions began to get worse, but nothing was happening by around 9 the next morning. They hooked me up to some Pitocin, which I had really, really wanted to avoid. Every time they increased the dose, the baby’s heart rate began to drop. By the third round, I opted for an epidural. I was sweating and crying through the contractions. Charlie kept trying to nap, but felt compelled to try and comfort me through those harder waves.

As Charlie lay down on the couch in the delivery room, he began to snore and I began to feel like something was wrong. I couldn’t twist my head back far enough to see the monitors. I called to him to ask what heart beat monitor said. He had just stood up to walk over when the room was flooded with nurses and doctors and some sort of emergency warning beep was going off.

Suddenly, nurses were hooking me up to oxygen. The baby’s heart rate had dropped a fourth time, and had been below 70 for a few minutes. A doctor was shoving my innards around and announced the baby was on her umbilical cord. The doctor couldn’t get her shifted and the heart rate continued to slow.

“We’re going to have get the baby out. NOW.”

A piece of paper was in my face. “Sign here,” someone said. “It’s a waiver.” I tried to skim through it but felt like I was going to pass out. I remember I was crying and trying to control my breathing as they wheeled me out of the delivery room into the operating room. Just like in the movies, they had me “hug” myself and they shifted me up and over onto the table from my bed. The resident anesthesiologist said he was going to give me more of the epidural to numb me from the waist down. If it didn’t work, I’d have to be put under.

A big blue sheet was up and over my face, my arms were being taped down, the head anesthesiologist was by my face, probably trying to decide if he should hold my hand, making jokes about his sons while I hyperventilated. I didn’t know where Charlie was, if he would be allowed in, what was happening to my baby.

Maybe ten minutes passed with this flurry of activity around me. I heard the doctor say “Scalpel,” just like in the movies. I heard him say, “You’re going to feel a lot of pressure. You’re doing great, Courtney.”

Then there was the sound of a baby crying and Charlie was standing by my right side, in a big white surgical suit and mask with one of those funny hairnets on. My tears had been pooling in my ears and he was still crying.

“The baby’s okay,” he said. And I just started crying even harder. I’d spent the entire nine months of that pregnancy on eggshells. A month before I got miraculously pregnant, I’d been told I couldn’t carry a baby to term. Every blood test and ultrasound, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the worst news. Up to the moment she was born, I feared she wouldn’t make it.

The c-section was the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me. I hated every moment of it. I had planned for a standard birth like Bea’s was. The recovery was difficult, especially at my age. Major abdominal surgery is not something I would have opted for and I don’t understand women who schedule unnecessary c-sections. But we are both okay, which is what matters.

Even after, I thought the worst. Would she have a physical problem? Would she be deaf or blind or have that weird disorder where people don’t feel pain? Instead, she’s a happy, healthy, chunky little bag of farts that smiles all the time and rarely cries. I couldn’t have asked for a better baby.

Homesick

So here we are, entering our fourth month as Indiana residents. Again. I’ve gone back to the coffee shop on the weekends, we’re back in the old neighborhood. It’s like nothing has changed.

My diplomas sit neatly in their frames, doing nothing more than reminding me of my student loans accumulating interest.

It dawned on me today that, though I don’t regret much in my life, I do regret leaving Chicago. As I lay in bed, exhausted and feeling run down from lack of sleep and hours on my feet for the first time in a couple of years, I found myself ruminating. Playing the What If game.

What if we’d negotiated lower rent with the landlord? What if we’d really stretched out our savings. What if, instead of a couple grand in rent, deposit, and truck rental, we had just paid our rent in Chicago in advance? What if we’d started a garden and eaten from that, made a strict budget, and taken Bea to summer classes at the parks instead of paying for her preschool there? What if we’d sold a couple things to get by while I applied for full-time jobs on campus, and if I’d gotten one, Charlie could stay home? What if I’d made a lot more money than him? What if I’d taken those job offers and just asked to start a few weeks after the baby was born?

I don’t play What If with the baby. I don’t regret or resent her. She didn’t ask to be born.

I can’t stop thinking that we made the wrong decision moving back, though. I can’t help but feel more alone in Indy, a city supposedly filled with family and friends who were dying to help out with the baby, most of whom I haven’t seen more than twice since we moved back. We’re more sedentary, bored, overweight, and disappointed.

I have applied for more jobs, but each one leaves me feeling like I’d be settling. I feel like we settled for this house, for that job, for this neighborhood, for this city. I feel like I didn’t get a chance to put down roots in Chicago and every day, my heart aches a little bit for what we left behind.

We wanted Bea and Ellie to grow up around their cousins, and the kids our friends have. But it feels as if no one has the time and I’m left struggling to fill up our weekdays with mindless activities in the house. I’m spending all my mornings biding my time before Bea goes to her measly two-hour preschool program when what we could be doing is getting on the brown line and hitting the Lincoln Park Zoo, the beach, going for walks, taking a bus to the Shedd or a museum on the free days.

I missed Indy and people for a while after we’d moved. But it didn’t take long to find myself busy and happy and loving Chicago. Leaving felt like the “right” choice when we made it, but now I just don’t know. Was it the “only” one?

Today my heart told me it’s never too late to move back. It’s going to take something big to fill this windy-city-sized emptiness.