Friday, March 28, 2008

A Decision...Almost

So this is where things stand. First of all, I still have the horrible cough. Since it's been so long, I'm assuming that my initial cold morphed into bronchitis. There's not much I can do at this point but wait it out. But every night as I lay here coughing more than sleeping, I just think how grateful I'm going to be when I can breathe again and my throat doesn't ache. Honestly, if you feel good today, stop and thank God for that. Because it is a serious blessing.

I'm going to try another day in bed to see if that will speed up the healing. I'm getting a bit nervous about taking so much medication (I've been doing a small dose of Robutussin every four hours for 5 days straight), but without it I'm completely disastrous (I ran out in the middle of the night and it was no more sleep for me). At least baby's still kicking around in there plenty, so I'm pretty sure she's OK. I hate to overmedicate with her in there; and I'm eating beyond what I feel like to make sure she gets her nutrients. I just keep telling myself that my throat meds are staying up in my throat and not getting to her; it's probably not true, but it makes me feel like a less bad mommy.

Oh, and my sister in law is being induced today, so that's super exciting. Pretty soon the world will have another beautiful woman in it, to add to the ones my oldest friend and cousin already provided this month. What a month! Can't wait to meet Naomi.

Anyway, my provocative title probably has you wondering if I've chosen a school. And the short answer is yes, I have, but the longer answer is that doesn't mean my decision is completely set. I have decided that I definitely most want to go to GTU: it's the best fit for me academically, spiritually, socially...and it just reflects me, who I am. Living in Berkeley would be a dream: the foodie epicenter is an obvious location for my studies. And the more I dug into myself the more I realized that, at heart, I am more a theologian than anything (note the last four years of blogging mostly on theology - this is my "fun" activity). I've felt called to working in the church (to change it, usually, but still within it) since I was quite young, and I did go to seminary because I wanted to study liturgy. GTU would put me in a fine position for impacting the church and being part of its liturgical development. And really, that's all pretty much my dreams coming true. So it's perfect, right?

Well, almost. The thing is, it's just so damn expensive. Not going there, because they nicely took care of that (and that was my prayer when I was there - I asked God for them to give me the most they could, and they did). But beyond the tuition, there are books to buy and health insurance and fees that are part of school expenses and are not covered (my stipend will cover probably one of those items, not all of them). And the insurance is going to be toughest - we'll probably have to have just me & baby covered and J have none, which I hate, because he needs his meds! It is always so stressful for one of us to be without insurance. And that's what I'm talking about: because beyond these expenses, there's the overall cost of living there, the rising cost of groceries and gas and rent on a place that simply has GOT to be bigger than 400 sq ft. I can't deal with living in a place this size anymore. I hate the thought of going back to being without insurance, being insecure about paying bills every month, being, well, poor.

Yesterday we went grocery shopping and it was $100 and we only got like half a week's worth of stuff (plus coffee, meat, and cat food - which were about half the cost) - and I left the store thinking we can never spend like this on food if we move to Berkeley. But then, that means we're going to go back to eating crappy processed food instead of organic ethical food, and that undermines my whole dissertation project! So I basically left the store in a panic because I realized that if I want to keep eating well - and I'll be feeding another mouth soon - then I might have no choice but to move to Canada where we can afford more. We can afford more house, more food, more insurance, more everything. It's just way cheaper there.

So I honestly am starting to think that although I know where I want to go to school most of all, I might be forced not to go there simply because of money. And I know that God provides and all that - it's been evidenced in my life for years. But people, I'm not materialistic, really, and I'm not greedy, but I'm so so so tired of living like this. I mean, this last year it hasn't been bad - it's been wonderful - J's got his great job and we have been able to afford to live like...well...normal people. Not quite well-off, but certainly middle class (well middle class with 400 sq ft living space). We can afford to eat out, to buy fancy groceries, to get a nice stroller, to take a little vacation last Christmas. We don't have to count every penny and every month the bills are paid without problem, and we're socking away tons for the savings to live on in the fall. It's been really, really good.

And I'm not saying I need to live like this, I realize that this has been a huge luxury all year. To be making this kind of money (mind you, it's like $40k for the year - but we're excellent at stretching it) has been such a blessing. And we're probably not going to live like this for a long time again. But that's the life we've chosen. I think about all our younger siblings and their houses and steady jobs and I get depressed now & then, but then J reminds me that they live in the Midwest and we live in exciting cities on the coast, and we have jobs that don't just pay the bills but actually fulfill us, fit who we are, make us better people (not that our sibs aren't fulfilled, they have their reasons for their choices too) - and I like to think, make the world better for our having been in it.

Anyway, the point is that I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to take the safer but less desirable path. I have to think about not just us, but our baby too. And I keep thinking about that sermon illustration in which God sends the boats and helicopters to the drowning man, and he waves them off because he's waiting for God to save him. What if this offer from Canada is God's provision for us?

I don't know. J says he's OK to go back to being really poor. But he is SO annoying when we're poor - I've lived with that, and I hate how he questions every purchase (it's good that he does, but it drives me nuts). And it might mean more debt, and that is so depressing. I don't want to live on credit cards. And would it really be that fun to live in Berkeley if we couldn't afford to shop the farmer's market or go to Chez Panisse? I know that in LA we've found lots of ways of living thriftily but still having lots of fun. Maybe that's available there too. We'd just have to start enjoying hiking instead of movies, I suppose. Which makes more sense with a kid anyway.

This is where I'm at. I want to go to GTU. I can afford to go to WLU. A devil of a choice.

And, worst of all, I have to decide before I know the two other biggest financial factors: whether I got the ECF fellowship (announced May 15) and whether J's summer classes fill up (which we'll know end of April). Either one of those makes a huge difference; both together make GTU completely fine. But I have to step out in faith...that's really what this is about. I completely have to make this decision - not blind, exactly, but certainly without my full prescription. I can't see all the elements. I can't know how it will all work out. Gee, it's a lot like life, isn't it? An interesting life, anyway. A life less ordinary.

The best decisions I've made, the things I am most glad I did, have been decisions that were made without knowing how the heck I'd get by...touring with the Continentals, moving to LA, quitting my good job to return to school. In all of these, I jumped without seeing bottom - without even knowing if there was a net. And they've all paid off, haven't they? When I did safe things - like when I worked at a bank for a year because we were first married, and J didn't have a job, and I was scared, and friends were paying our rent for us - I was never happy playing it safe. I got by. But that's not living. That's getting by. Maybe I'm just masochistically addicted to risk. Or maybe risk is the only way to really live.

Should I go with what my heart and gut and mind and spirit are telling me, finances be damned? Should I reject the real, generous offer that comes from an excellent program where I'd learn tons, and feel safe, but maybe not quite be fully myself? It's funny. I never realized how much this process would force me to really figure out who I am. Want to find yourself? Start looking to get a PhD. It's incredible how much soul-searching it requires. I think I've discerned myself more in this process than I did before I got married or even got pregnant! It's about the same amount of "know thyself" that's gone into my ordination discernment process (but we won't bring that up - hey, there's an example of me out on a limb and the limb breaking - I knew there had to be at least one instance of the leap of faith not working out).

Even as I write this, I know what the right decision is. I know it. I just have to find the courage and strength to choose it. I'm so lucky to have a husband who's on board with this - who's willing to take over baby care and put his own career on hold for me, and who's willing to go without health insurance and whatever "toys" most men think they need. I'm really blessed with him. And though there aren't many ways for me to find more money at this point (barring a random scholarship dropping into my lap), my family is being so generous with the baby gifts - most of our big stuff is taken care of - and our friends and church are really supportive. The emotional support is just as necessary. And we have everybody we know on the hunt for a place for us to live - even the sweet CDSP people have alerted the local parishes about our situation! That's so incredibly generous of them. So here's praying that a back house or a basement or an above-garage space opens up, and our little family can have a cozy little space to call our own, that's close enough for me to get home to my baby post-haste when my boobs are full of milk!! :)

I'll let you know when I make the final move. 'Til then, thanks for praying for me, listening to me, being there. I know I get about 700 hits a week on here. I like to imagine you all surrounding me with positive energy and warm wishes. I'm trying to draw your good thoughts and love in like a magnet, to shore up my courage and put my mind at ease. You get me through life, you really do.


rbarenblat said...

It sounds to me like you've made your decision, on some deep levels. My prayer for you is that you be able to take the leap you need to take, and that when you do, you find abundance opening up all over your life.

You're in my thoughts and prayers! I can empathize with so much of this. I'm planning two months in Jerusalem to work on my Hebrew skills this summer, which is financially terrifying, but it's good practice for me in trusting that abundance will flow in the ways it needs to if I'm only able to open up to it...

M.J. said...

Hey lady there are plenty of ways to cut corners here in the Bay - you get creative but that is what Berkeley is the best at. It's amazing what I have learned to do in the past couple of years.

As for insurance remember you live in the wonderful land of CA and there is such a thing as CHIP for kids - your little one will more than qualify I am sure.

Hang in there - your heart is telling you where you need to be for the time and to do anything less is to cheat you and your family out of watching God's provision for you and the lessons to be learned.

movabletype said...

Can't help with the basic decision, but a couple of side issues:

Living in Berkeley would be a dream: the foodie epicenter is an obvious location for my studies.

The whole KW/Guelph/Elmira area is very good for organic food - part of it has to do with the Mennonites, part of it with the Guelph ag school, and part with what happens when bright people meet good farmland. Try Googling guelph ontario organic. It's a beautiful part of the province, though the WLU campus itself is kind of charmless.

Because I'm a bad person and have too many blogs to decently keep track of, I've lost track of when you're due. Were you thinking of giving birth in Ontario? We've had an excellent experience with midwifery here, but since it's covered by OHIP demand tends to exceed supply, and it's best to establish a relationship early in the pregnancy.

One thing I'm not sure about, and apologies if you've mentioned this, is your husband's employment status would be here.

But enough to endure Canada's winter?

It's not that bad ("But we don't call this cold in Quebec ..."), though we had a real one this year. They're mostly kind of grey and slushy.

Stasi said...

GAH! Patrick, what are you doing to me? See, it's people like you that make this so hard. Every time I start to make up my mind, I get somebody throwing me more reasons to not have my mind made up. Can't you see I'll be better off once the decision is made?!

I'm only slightly joking, it really does stress me out when new factors are introduced, even if you're just defending your beloved Canada. Believe me, I have nothing against Canada (although the winter would be seriously bad after living in So Cal for 12 years, there's no way around that), I just HAVE to make this decision, and that's going to mean giving myself reasons NOT to go one place.

As to due date, it's June and it will be here. As to husband, as far as we can tell from our research, he would have the ability to work (but whether there would be work is another question).

shay said...

i've been reading this blog for a while but never commented. i wish you all the best on your new journey.

just wanted to say that i am a former continental as well. toured with the young cons in 96. so yeah, just wanted to say hey to someone in the family! *grin*

JTB said...

positive energy & warm wishes beamed your way.

Hagar's Daughter said...

Hey Fem,

I know from reading your posts where you want to go, and I think it is wonderful that J supports you and your decision. A supportive spouse is a must.

IMHO the security of your family is important. Attending WLU would allow you to both fulfill your career goals and take care of your family. Extra stress is not what you need.

I'm praying for you, J, and your little one.