Not at ALL What You Thought

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sleep Study

It was an evil thing.

The day after T'giving, I carted my daughters off to Mama's. It was 830 pm. I had packed me pjs, extra undies, toiletries, and a book. I had to be at the sleep study lab by 9.

It was very dark and very windy by the time I made it to the lab. The outer door was locked, but I remembered my instructions to call up and get somebody to buzz me in. Upstairs, the clinic was quiet and deserted. The carpeting swallowed my footsteps, so when the technician opened the clinic door, looking for me and saw me right there, she jumped. She was a cutie: young, light-skinned with very black, shiny hair, regular black woman's shape (though she told me later that she was overweight), round, friendly face, square black glasses.

She took me to my bedroom and told me to put my jammies on. The room was spacious and clean, as was the full bathroom, and the bed was really big. But it still looked hospital-y. I changed into my sleeping clothes and left my stuff bag in the bathroom. I took my book with me, but when I got on the bed, I played around with the remote.

The technician came in and commenced to festoon me with probes? electrodes? sensors? I dunno what they were, but I hated 'em. First, she parted my locks in quarters, and then she scrubbed my scalp hard with alcohol preps in various and sundry places. Then she put some unidentifiable goop in the same places, so the electrodes? probes? sensors? would stay on my head. "This stuff'll melt in hot water," she promised. Then she rolled up my pajama pants and scrubbed my shins with preps right below the knee.

"Did you put lotion on?"
"No." (I had followed directions not to. Nearly killed me not to slather myself with lotion, emollients and unguents when I got out of the shower. I have a terminal fear of ashiness.)
"Well, you sure are shiny! You don't shave your legs, either, do you?" she asked (not because I'm furry, but because I'm so not. It's my theory that women of a certain blackness don't hairy much, for some reason. Light-skinned women tend to be really, really hairy, also for some reason. I remember one of my light-skinned gfs telling me that when she was last pregnant, and hairier than usual, her husband called her "Sasquatch." Good thing they were friends at the time).

She asked me about the book I was reading and endeared herself to me immediately when she told me that her favorite subject in school was literature. In fact, she had taken her undergraduate degree in English. (She is now a psychologist and a professor.) She is the only medical professional I've met who has professed a love for English. Every other doctor, nurse, technician or assistant has said, "I hated English in school!"

After putting electrodes on my shins, she had me draw the lines? cords? through my pant legs and under my pajama shirt through my neckline. Then she put electrodes on my chest at the collarbone. Then she wrapped me tightly around, at my bosom and my waist, with thick, white, velcroed thingies that would, she said, record my breathing and heart rate. She put thingies in my nose to detect snoring. And she put a clamp on my index finger for my pulse. She put thingies all around my chin and one thingy on my face near my right eye.

"I don't think I'll be able to sleep with all this stuff on," I said.
"I've never seen anyone who didn't eventually fall asleep," she replied. She took my blood pressure. It was higher than I'd ever seen it. I hoped it'd go down when I began to relax.

I went to the bathroom for "the last time*" and she hooked me up to the computer (I assume). Then she went out of the room and spoke to me through a speaker above the bed.

"Lie on your back, Ms. B, and flex your feet forward, then back. Good. Now take some deep breaths. Again. Good. Now snore for me, please. Okay, good. Now grind your teeth. That's good. Now blink your eyes ten times. Okay. Good. Thank you. Now, any time you call me tonight, I'll hear you. You don't have to push any buttons or anything. Would you like some water or something?"

"No, thank you."

"Okay. I'll be in at eleven to turn the lights out." I channel-surfed and found the end of a Nick Cage movie, The Family Man. At eleven, the technician came in.

"You find something to watch?"
"Kind of."
"Okay. Time for lights out. You want it really dark?"
"Mostly." She turned off the lights and went out, closing the door.

I. could. not. sleep. First of all, the evil technician wanted me to start by sleeping on my back. I had stopped sleeping on my back long ago because I snore and that wakes me up. I told her so.

"That's why I want you to do that," she said. "Most apnea happens while people are on their backs." Well, honey, I snored, but I didn't sleep. That's how it works with me. After a while, though, the technician said I could turn over. Problem was, because of the length (short) of the cords I was attached to, I could turn over only on my right side. I sleep on my left side or my stomach. My stomach was out of the question. So I just lay there, looking into the darkness, not sleeping, yawning occasionally, and wishing I was at home, with the girls and the dogs sleeping in their rooms down the hallway. At one point, I asked the young lady the time, and she said she wasn't supposed to tell me.

I had figured as much. The long night wore on.

Finally, finally, finally, I drifted off, and I dreamed: I was standing at a table with a sheaf of forms before me. I had filled them out. And I was being interrogated about them by somebody over a speaker. I remember answering one question, "I wrote, in three places on this form, my brother! What about that don't you understand?" Then I heard laughter from several people from the speaker. I was winning points somehow. And then I woke up.

The technician said, "It's 5:40 am. Do you want to get up?"
"Yes!" I said, and immediately hoped I hadn't hurt her feelings. I felt so down. I was exhausted and unhappy. As the technician un-electroded me, she told me what else she had been doing all night: grading the "research" papers of her students and getting ticked off. Yes, she's my favorite of all the med-heads I've ever met.

Thank You, Jesus, for sleep.

*The first time, really. I had to get permission to go pee three more times that night. Well, I'm 46. So sue me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So This is What Took So Long. . . .

I lost my home this past summer. I've Been Told that I have to tell this story before I can post another blog for y'all, and the stomach-rattling humiliation's almost dissipated, so I'm gonna quit stalling.

The short version of the story (the version I've been giving squeamish friends) is that my experience with mortgaging, refinancing, and foreclosure began with stark ignorance and ended with stupidity.

The slightly longer version is that, because of my (poor) credit, when I wanted to refinance my home at a particular time, I allowed myself to be talked into an interest-only loan. And then when, because of my (better) credit, I was able to apply for an FHA loan, I allowed myself to be talked into an ARM.

See the ignorance turning into stupidity?

When my mortgage rose $500 more a month, it took me a minute to figure out how I'd pay it. I could, but by the time I knew I could, I was behind. And the mortgage company wouldn't work with me. For months, I ran between home and Western Union, trying to catch up, getting farther and farther behind. Finally, the mortgage company wrote me off and gave me about a month to move out.

The girls and I, when we weren't at school, scoured the classifieds for rentals, townhouses, and apartments. Nothing I could afford panned out, primarily because of the dogs. Nimue would fit any landlord's criteria, but Frody definitely would not. And then, of course, there was my (sucky and getting suckier) credit. Eventually, the mortgage company enlisted one of its realtors, aware of our financial situation, to find somewhere for us to live.

The best prospect, for a while, was a townhome about forty miles away from our current home. And in a city zoned for different schools. But (I was told at the time) that the neighborhood would take our dogs. The girls and I had to decide where our priorities were. Actually, the schools in the new place had a much, much better reputation, better network, and better facilities than the ones Juice and Goobs were currently attending, but Juice and Goobs, of course, did not care: Juice is in her penultimate year of high school, and Goobs is in her last year of middle school. Both of them are cultivating a dubious and nebulous concept they call “rep,” which, apparently, would have to be redesigned, or something, if we moved to another school zone.

Discussions about priorities became rather heated.

We finally agreed that it was more important that we not have to put Frody back in the animal shelter, and we met with the property manager about the townhome. And then the property manager told us that Frody would have to go if we moved in: he was too big. Goobs immediately burst into tears. The property manager asked me how I’d feel about having to give up the puppy. I pointed out that we had just rescued him, and so it’d hurt to abandon him, “But beggars can’t be choosers,” I added. Then the property manager asked Juice what she thought.

“I’m angry,” she said. And many other things did she say before I cut her off. And then the property manager said that since I was going through a foreclosure, my security deposit would be substantial. And then, two weeks later, the rent would be due. "Will you be able to handle all of this?" He asked. We all decided that the girls and I needed to get together and talk everything out again. We did it in the car. Somebody (I think it was Goobs) suggested that we apply at another apartment complex, one that would take big dogs.

So we went to one, obviously a last resort. I began filling out the application. I had no hope, to tell you the truth. I knew my present credit would get me blown out of the water, we’d have to put Frody in the Young Dogs’ Home, and we’d have to start all over in a new school zone. But the girls and I, for some reason, were in a good mood. Personally, I believed, in spite of everything, all appearances to the contrary, that everything would be all right. I finished the application and gave it to TPTB,* waiting to be rejected.

And then my cell phone rang. It was the property manager. He said, “Ms. G., I’ve decided to take $800 off the security deposit.” He didn’t explain why he’d decided to do that. Of course, he wanted the townhome rented, but it was really, really nice, in a lovely neighborhood, with great schools in the vicinity. It wouldn’t be on the market long. I thanked the gentleman profusely and hung up. Told the girls that the security deposit wouldn’t be as huge as originally planned.

We waited some more for the application to be rejected, laughing and joking. We were sitting in a lovely, spacious lobby, the furniture all white and plush. The sliding door opened onto the pool. It was a beautiful day. All was right with the world.

My cell phone rang again. It was the property manager. He said, “Ms. G., God is on your side. We have a house in your city, a three-bedroom, two bath, that will accept both your dogs. I just remembered it. I had been saving it for someone else, but that person keeps jerking me around, so. . . .Here’s the address. Here’s the directions. Go look at it and call me back.”

Tears actually filled my eyes. I thanked the property manager more profusely. Hung up and thanked Jesus even more profusely, told the girls, got up and began walking out of the lobby. The apartment landlord was walking our way.

“We can’t take your application, Ms. G. Your credit history. . .”

“Thank you, then, for your time,” I said, and the girls and I ran out to the car. We found the house. It was wonderful: a little smaller than the one we were leaving, but big living spaces. Siding and brick. Quiet, clean neighborhood. Huge back yard, with pear, apple and fig trees (first time I’d ever seen one of those).

Of course we took it. And now y’all are up to date**.

This is my advice, if you're ever in the fix I got myself into:

1. Contact these folk. Early.

2. Ask somebody ELSE for help if the mortgagor won't work with you. I realized, too late, that this kind of trouble is what family is for. But I was too proud to ask.

3. If all else fails, sell your house before you get too far down the road. It's better than having a foreclosure on your credit. But be careful: don't sell it to just anybody, or you might find yourself still obligated to the mortgage, though somebody else has your house.

*The Powers That Be
**Because I’m not telling you about moving. Nobody should have to suffer through that story, much less the experience.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your brand-new mercies and countless do-overs.