Monday, August 31, 2015


Today would have been my Oma's birthday. She died peacefully in her sleep nearly 10 years ago, from what, we don't know. My Opa woke up one morning and went to kiss her good-bye. He found her cheek cold, but the bed under her body still warm. It was heartbreaking.

Oma- Ursula, called Ulla for short- was born in Germany in 1939 and could remember the air raid sirens of WWII. She told me a story of her and her mother being admonished by Gestapo because she had turned on a light to use the bathroom during a raid, then never shut it off. Her father, my Opapa,  was forced to join the German army and went AWOL while in Russia, taking more than two years to work his way back to his family. They left Germany until the war was over, then returned to open a restaurant/hotel.

Oma met my South Dakota-raised Opa during his deployment with the army some twenty years later. She was a waitress in her father's restaurant and Opa and his friends came in. His friends were so rowdy that she threw the whole group out, and Opa returned the next day to apologize. That was that. They married in Germany and my mom was born at the army base hospital.  When my mom was 9 months old, they moved back to the US.  Oma and Opa had four more children- all boys!- over the next 10 years, during which time Opa was finishing medical school and his residency.

Opa finally graduated medical school and went on to enjoy a successful career as a urologist. After years of literally going through couch cushions looking for change for bread, they began to live a more comfortable life. They bought a house in Bloomington near Lake Normandale and raised my mom and her brothers there. The house remains in our family today, and will always be Oma and Opa's house to me.

Oma had a thick German accent but never taught us German. (I don't think it was too popular to be German after WWII!) She was fiercely practical. She had expensive taste in everything from clothes to chocolate but rationalized If you buy quality, you don't need as much! (How true!) She carried the plain leather version of Coach purses, which always smelled like Trident gum, and you'd be guaranteed to find a pack of it, Chapstick, a travel pack of Kleenex, and a tin of Nivea if you dumped out its contents. She loved walking through the woods, gardening, and cooking. She taught me that if your husband was on his way home, but you didn't have dinner started, throw some butter and onions in a pan to make it smell good and tell him Dinner's almost ready! when he came through the door. But most of all, she loved Jesus.

She lived the verse to whom much is given, much is required. Both Oma and Opa were very active in their church, in missions, and opened their home to many people in need. She kept a prayer journal and talked about Jesus as though she had met with him that morning. That relationship she modeled serves as a benchmark for me.

I've also inherited her love of  thick sweaters, Kraeuterbutter, and Eileen Fisher. I find myself shoving Kleenex up my sleeve, leaving just a bit poking out at my wrist, just like she used to do. During Ulla's bouts of fusiness, I'll say  ja, ja, ja while we bounce. I abide by her belief that it's not spoiling, it's nurturing! My mom looks just like her (watch the video below and you will see!).

Even though she is gone, she is very much here.

When we found out I was pregnant, the name Ursula was the front-runner for me. John took some convincing, due to a certain sea witch sharing the same name! Suffice it to say, Ursula does not make an appearance on any Top 100 Baby Names list here in the US!  I wanted Ulla to have a name that meant something, that had a legacy. Ursula means "little bear; will; determination." Oma was all of those things, and I want Ulla to carry my Oma's mantle of strength, compassion, and great faith.

For those of you that never knew her, this was the video that we played at her wake. It does such a beautiful job of capturing who she was!

Monday, August 3, 2015

last august 3rd

I found out I was pregnant a year ago today. It was Sunday. My sister Juli had just gotten into town earlier that morning, on a break after AF basic training, and was staying with us.

We went out to lunch after church and came home to hang out a while. I was reading this book and reviewing my chart for the last month. John and I had been trying for a baby since we had gotten married, and I had wanted a baby since, well, forever. I was getting frustrated and worried that I wasn't pregnant, and tired of living in two-week intervals. It's probably safe to say that I was getting a little obsessed with all things pregnancy and fertility. 

Juli asked me if I had a tampons, and John remarked how terrible it was to be trapped between a girl reading a fertility book and a girl talking about her period. Poor John! I teased him that I wouldn't be bothering him any more with anything pregnancy related (wink wink), and when I did get pregnant, he'd be the last to know.

Fast forward 15 minutes. Both Juli and John dozed off, and I was still pouring over my chart (it was the first month I had actually charted). I noticed that even though my temperatures were erratic, they were consistently higher since I thought I had ovulated, a sign of pregnancy in the charting world. Earlier in the week, Tuesday, I had taken a pregnancy test and it was negative. Now it was five days later and still no sign of my period.

I went to the bathroom to take the last pregnancy test I had. (I don't even want to think about how much I spent on them over seven months!) I forced myself to not stare at the test while it was developing and distracted myself by washing my hands. When I could stand it no longer, I looked. Two lines. TWO LINES.  I actually said Oh my gosh out loud to myself, and my hands started shaking.

I ran to the couch where Juli was sleeping and woke her up, test in hand. She looked at me, bewildered and said Who are you going to give that to?  Ha! After shaking her to wake her up more, and then convincing her that it was mine and not faked (how one would do that, I have no idea), she demanded that I take another one immediately. By this time John had woken up, but I hid the test and told him we were going to the store for a "personal errand."

We drove to the grocery store and bought the most expensive digital test we could find, and I took it in the bathroom there, both of us huddled in the handicap stall. Juli watched the test and when the word Pregnant popped up, she cried and said You're really pregnant!

Juli made me take this photo in the parking lot

When we got home, John was on the couch and I walked over to him and handed him the digital test. He paused a moment and said, Which one of you is pregnant? 

ME! I shouted, and there was a round of hugging and kissing and more crying.

And that is the story of the day our lives changed forever, in the absolute best way possible.