This day, last year…

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Started far too early. The alarm rang at 4:30am, and as much as I wanted to turn it off, roll over and go back to sleep, ignoring all obligations, it was not an option.

Broder’s check-in time was 5:30am.

Surgery was scheduled for 7am.

It had been just six weeks since that weird lump on the ridge between his shoulder and neck had been removed. And less than 4 weeks since it was confirmed as cancer.

Everything had moved so fast. And none of it seemed quite real.

We knew that Broder’s cancer was a couple of things: very rare and very slow growing.

What we didn’t know was if there was any cancer lurking, if in the cleanup process of this second surgery if there would be nerve or bone involvement, if he would have feeling in his neck, if he would be able to move his arm, or (unlikely, but mentioned too many times to ignore completely) if his arm would be removed at the shoulder.

As Broder waited to be taken back into surgery: the regular vitals, surgery site and identity checks all happened as one expects. (It felt like every surgeon for miles was a part of this, as a number of people introduced themselves with “when I heard what kind of tumor you had, Broder, I asked if I could be a part of things, this is a once in a career kind of opportunity” but in reality, I think it was really only 6)

Each person: nurses, CNAs, medical assistants, MDs, asked Broder the same thing.

“How are you doing? Do you have any questions about what is going to happen today?”

And to each one he responded with exactly the same answer.

“I am great! Can I go home today? I really want to be home for Christmas”.

And every single person looked at me, with an almost imperceptible shake of the head and said to Broder.

“Well, we will just have to see”.

To which Broder replied.

“I really want to be home for Christmas”

Just before they took him back, his surgeon took me aside and told me she fully expected we would be admitted for a couple of days. This is what I figured I would hear, but decided I would wait to call Dave to let him know until after surgery was over. (Dave had stayed in Tulsa, as he had his own colonoscopy/cancer check up with the colorectal specialist on the 23rd as well). I just needed to wait. And pray.

The longest ever 3 hours passed (I swear it was really 4 days I sat in that family waiting room) and finally, the surgeon came out to talk to me.

And she said “surgery went well. Better than we could have ever hoped. I had to take some minor nerves, and some layers of bone off the scapula, as well as some muscle in his shoulder, neck and pectoral area, so he will have some loss of sensation and there will be significant pain, but the brachia plexus nerve is untouched and the surrounding muscles will learn to compensate, so I anticipate no permanent loss of function”.

“But”. She continued, “there is one thing I want to talk to you about”.

My heart sank. I just knew we were spending Christmas at MD Anderson

“The last thing he said, before going under, and the first thing upon coming out of anesthesia, was ‘can I go home today? I really want to be home for Christmas’.

So, I asked the anesthetist to give him a little extra. And I asked the medical assistants to round up a few extra pillows and blankets. The recovery room nurses are standing by to give you a quick lesson in wound care. The way I figure it, if you can leave by 2pm, and drive like hell, you can get home before the pain really kicks in.

You have quite the kid there, and I can’t wait to hear what he does what amazing adventures are in store for him. Merry Christmas!!”

And so, packed in like the priceless cargo he was (is), on a cloud of pillows and blankets, Broder slept in the passenger seat of my rental car.

And I drove like a bat out of hell. Across Houston. Past Waco. Beyond Dallas. And then, all the adrenaline left my body.

I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

All I could think of was getting home. Getting my arms around Dave, Kjell and Sunny. Having all my babies together. Being complete.
But each mile was a struggle. And I had to pull over.

After a 2 hour nap in a truck stop parking lot, it was back on the road. It became apparent, about 2 hours later, that my nap was not quite long enough, as I took the wrong exit on the toll road and headed west for 49 miles before I could turn around.

And by 5am, Christmas Eve morn, we pulled up to the house.

Home for Christmas<

Catching up, finally…

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Oh goodness, it’s been months since I last wrote.

This fall has been a blur of college applications, football and volleyball games, and marching band contests.

It started out innocently enough. Just the 2 boys in football.

But then Sunny heard an announcement stating there would be try outs for middle school volleyball. So on a whim, she went, and ended up being one of three 6th graders picked to join the team.

Then, as I sat at my desk one morning, a friend of Kjell’s approached me and asked “would you consider hosting an exchange student?”

Always one to speak before I think, my response was “yes! That would be fun”

4 days later, many many phone calls, and an expedited State Department background check (apparently we passed), Louisa moved into our home.

Hence the marching band component.

She is 16 and hails from near Hamburg, Germany. She fits in with our kids as though they have been friends, or even cousins, since the dawn of time. Sunny is thankful every day that her dream of having a sister has come true.

So now we are a family of 6. And it is very busy, and very very fun.

22 years. 8-28-92

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My sister Lucy loves to tell people that Dave and I owe our marriage to her.

And it’s true.

Set up on a blind date, Dave was the second of 3 young men my sister had deemed worthy. (I have this sneaking suspicion that Dave was considered maybe only marginally worthy as he was not Scandinavian and had no idea what lefse was, but older sisters can’t be exactly right on everything!)

That first meeting was awkward and uncomfortable, but something must have intrigued me, because it wasn’t a week later and I found I absolutely needed to go watch this near stranger play hockey.

After the game, sweaty and stinking like only a hockey player can, he asked if he could call. I said yes.

On our first real date, he brought flowers, took me to a way out of the way, hole in the wall restaurant that served the most amazing food. He didn’t blink an eye as I put away plate after plate. We talked for hours. (I can’t remember what the conversation was, probably due to the onset of a food coma). He drove me home, walked me to my door, did not kiss me (coward) and asked if he could see me again.

I said “no”.
I think I saw his eyes widen just a tiny bit, but he just nodded and said “ok”.
Then I told him I was kidding and that I would love to see him again.

He tells me that is the moment he knew he wanted to marry me.

There was another date, more flowers, another great restaurant.

Then a 3rd date, this time he brought me chocolate, but no flowers.

It was after this date that I called my dad and told him I had fallen in love, and I was going to marry this guy, even though he drove a Chevy (and not a Ford).

56 days after the first time we met, he asked, and I said yes.

6.5 months after that first dinner at Lucy’s house, we were pledging our lives to each other in front of our family and our friends.

It’s been 22 years since we stood in the front of that church.

22 years of (sometimes hard) work.
22 years of (more than I dreamed possible) adventure.
22 years of (never too much) fun.
22 years of (exactly the right amount) of love.

School starts soon….

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11 days to be precise.

It’s a big year here.

Sunny begins middle school.
Broder begins high school.
Kjell begins his Senior year.

It’s tempting to focus on how fast it has gone, since that first day of kindergarten for Kjell, walking him to school with Broder toddling alongside me, and Sunny kicking from inside my womb, determined to make sure she was a part of things, even then.

I could wax about the days when they were sweet and little and they really had no choice but to adore me, as I was their whole world. (Those were good days, days that validated my choice to be home with them and stroked my ego).

But I would be missing so much of these days.

I see Sunny, strong and confident, entering into 6th grade after a rude awakening to the world of mean girls during her final year of elementary school. She could have let the cruelty of unhappy, petty people crush her. Instead, she faced them. Told them they were wrong, and not nice and removed herself from their talons. There were wounds, that is for sure. And she will carry those scars forever. But, just as the physical scars she sports on her face (car accident at 2.5), she is not ashamed, she is proud to have survived.

Broder has been waiting for high school since he was born, I am convinced. He worked hard in middle school, he learned to study. He found out what it was like to be afraid and learned that his dreams may take more work to come true than he could have ever expected. It would have been easy to give up. To be a victim. Instead, he is marching into this next phase with fierce determination. And he will make his mark.

Kjell, after so many years my sweet one, he is now(though still sweet) firmly on the path to manhood. He makes good decisions, not always the ones I would make, but the right ones for who he is and who he wants to become. His growing independence both thrills and terrifies me. My heart breaks knowing this is the last year he is my baby at home. My heart soars seeing him walk into his future.

Over the last week, I have said a couple times, to a couple different people, the following:

I love this time of my life, my kids lives. I am look at them and I get excited about the adventures that lie before them. The unbelievable potential each child holds, and how that will blossom as they move away from the tethers of my mother-love, my sometimes smothering mother-fear. I know I can’t protect them forever, I know too, that I can’t dream big enough for them.

That is theirs.

And I can’t wait to see where those dreams take them.

2 years today…

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Dave landed in Tulsa to begin our Oklahoma adventure. 2 weeks later the kids and I joined him.

The move was so so so hard. So hard. The first months were spent mired in self pity, it was too hot, I had no friends, my kids had no friends, Dave was never ever home. Even church, which had always been home no matter where we lived, was hard. And it was so hot.

I spent many many days while the kids were at school walking around Tulsa, big sunglasses to hide my always on the verge of tears eyes. And when I couldn’t walk anymore, I would head back to the house and sit on the couch, cry and then nap.

Slowly things began to change. The kids started to make friends and that gave me hope. The weather started to change, and my neighbors came out of their houses, sitting in the evening on their wonderful porches and inviting us to join them.

Dave fell into a rhythm within his job and was home more.

And I found things to fill my time, volunteering in the classroom, volunteering in the community, a mom’s group, lunches with Anne (who graciously let me cling desperately to that thread of early friendship).

By the time 1 year had passed, I had moved through the stages of grief that seem to follow me in all our moves. I still missed our friends and family in, our life, in Alaska, I no longer burst into sobs when I saw a picture of a mountain. I was learning to truly appreciate what I had been telling my family for months to learn to love.

I forced my family into road trip after road trip, and they loved it.

Anne now shares the burden of my friendship with a few wonderful and fun women.

I have a job that I enjoy, with hard working and caring coworkers and that keeps me from sleeping the days away in a dark funk.

Church is still hard, we have made some dear friends there, but overall, it’s a very square peg/round hole kind of thing. This is painful and often feels like rejection, not just for me, but of many of our choices as a family. We are using this to evaluate what we can both offer to, and need from, a church home.

It’s still really really hot, at least this time of year, but even that is not so scary now, I am learning to look forward to the sweat, because goodness knows, all the sweating and my skin has never looked this good!

So 2 years in, Oklahoma is truly home. Whether we stay here forever, or if we move again, right now there is nowhere I would rather be.

I hate cancer.

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Today, I got news that a friend in another state lost her battle with cancer.

As cancers go, her Fight was both long and way too short. She was diagnosed with a type of sarcoma about 18 months ago. There were surgeries and radiation and chemo and wheelchairs and walkers and canes. Weeks away from home, in the hospital as she fought for her life. As she fought for more life with her husband and her children.

The prognosis was bad, then better and just a few short weeks ago, good.

Just 6 weeks ago, she had a check up.

NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.

Just earlier this week she was throwing out ideas for the tattoo she would get to cover her scars, and how she could add to it each year, in an evolving celebration of Life.

just 3 days ago she posted that she was battling wicked migraines.

And today she is gone.

My heart breaks.

For her husband, her kids, family and friends.

And in raw primal fear, my gut wrenches.

Goodbye to a Great Year!!!

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2013 ended in the most dramatic fashion.

Cancer is a big, ugly, invasive, terrifying, shattering word.

It would be easy to let Cancer define the year.

And it would be a damn shame.

2013 was a year to remember.

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska.

After so many years of talking about the many wonders, finally….

There is no picture that can convey the feeling of standing on at the edge of the Grand Canyon. (And no postcard can capture the fear in a mother’s heart as her children get a little too close to the drop off)

And no travel writer can adequately express the joy of retirement planning over endless pots of camp coffee with a dearest friend.

And no one on earth could ever have predicted North Dakota would thrill us with a speedboat and kneeboard.

After too many years too far away, the time spent with my family seemed less like reality and more like a really wonderful dream. Visits from, and visits to, were too short, too few, and completely fantastic.

In 2013, football captured my heart. As Kjell stood on the sidelines, strong and ready, (next year he will play),those Edison Eagles became my team.

Kjell changed in 2013, gone is my little boy and in his place is this incredible young man. One who makes good choices. A young man who has made a group of friends, the kind of friends one has for a lifetime.

2013 will be remembered as a year of success for Broder. Awards and accolades were showered upon him for academic prowess and his brief (prior to surgery) wrestling days proved he has what it takes to be among the best.

2013 was the year that my sweet Sunny became a warrior princess. Conquering her academic world was not enough, she worked to earn her green belt in Taekwondo, moving forward with quiet determination.

2013 was the tipping point for our marriage. This is the year in which we passed the 1/2 way mark. More than 1/2 our lives have been spent together.

2013 will always be the year that Broder was diagnosed with cancer.

2013 will always be a year in which we lived our lives with abundant enthusiasm.

2013 will be remembered as a great year.

Because it was.