My husband Brad and I both grew up in Northern Michigan near Traverse City . I lived in TC till I was 12 and then moved out to Benzie, which is about 45 minutes southwest of TC. We moved there after my mom got re-married and I lived there through high school. My husband grew up in Lake Leelanau , which is about 40 minutes north of TC. He lived there his whole life until we got together. We both have a lot of family members and family history in Leelanau County so we are pretty well known in the community.
I spent a year in college at Grand Valley State and ended up having to move back home due to financial difficulty. I quickly found a job at the casino in Peshawbestown, which is 25 minutes north of TC, and began working full time. That’s where Brad and I met. He was a cook in the restaurant and I was a bartender. We dated for a little over a year and then got engaged. Shortly afterward I transferred departments to work security at the casino. We got married a year later in 2004 and moved into our newly built house 2 weeks after the wedding. We spent all our wedding money on appliances and furnishings for the house so we never got a real honeymoon. We were pretty broke but very happy.
I went back to school a year later at NMC in Traverse City to work on my criminal justice degree. That winter I applied for a corrections officer job at the jail in Leelanau 20 County and after a years worth of testing and interviews I finally got the job. It was a big deal for us financially and was a more secure job for me. Plus it was in the field that I was going to school for.
About 9 months after I got the job at the Sheriff’s Department Brad and I decided that we were ready to have kids. Just 2 months later I found out I was pregnant. I immediately went off my medication that I took for epilepsy, assuming that I would be better for the baby. My doctors didn’t like the idea and decided to keep me on my meds. At my 7 month ultrasound we found out that our baby had a cleft lip and palate. We were pretty devastated and I felt extremely guilty for staying on the meds. But we dealt with it as best would could and on 09/28/07 Judith Renee Steffens was born. She was a very healthy 9 pound baby, which was a positive. Judy was named after my late grandmother, whom I was very close to, and took the middle name of Brad’s late sister, who was killed by her boyfriend in a tragic murder-suicide incident. She was named after 2 angels, who we knew would be watching over her throughout her life challenges.
Judy’s first surgery, the lip repair, was done on January 28th, 2008. It’s a day that we will never forget. We had to be to the hospital at 5:30am and ended up driving through a terrible blizzard. We’re pretty much used to driving through the bad weather up here, but this was one storm that topped the charts. It took us 50 minutes to make the 8 mile trip to the hospital. The State Police closed roads that day and advised people to stay off the main roads. So none of our friends or family were able to make the trip to the hospital that day for support. But despite the weather, everything went really well and by the time she was ready to go home the roads were cleared and we made it home safely.
Judy’s second surgery, the soft palate repair, was done on January 30th, 2009. When we found out the date was going to be on almost the same as the first we were immediately worried. Thankfully the weather cooperated this time. Her surgery went well except for some unknown bleeding afterwards. She stayed the night and went home the following afternoon. The next 3 weeks were hell. She was on=2 0a liquid diet and had to be put in arm restraints occasionally. Not fun at all!! But since then her progress has been really good. She began speech therapy in April and is using more words and communicating better. Judy will probably have her palate surgery a year from now so it’ll be a nice break for her.
Brad’s been working at the casino for over 10 years now. I think he’s ready to move on to something else but it might be awhile before that happens. I plan on working at the Sheriff’s Department for at least 20 years to lock in my retirement and I should be done with school next spring. We definitely plan on having more kids in the future, but I think this time we’ll go against all doctor orders and stay off the medication. It’s not worth it for the child. We love living in Northern Michigan and will probably be here forever. Everything we need is here and it’s a great place for our lil’ Judy Bug and her future siblings to grow up. Everybody, feel free to come and visit!!
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