Caught in the Chaos

I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t really know how to handle my life if  suddenly slowed down and took a turn toward the mundane. Just when we think we’re starting to get a handle on things, get into some sort of a routine, we round another corner and realize we’re only halfway up the hill, and we’ve hit another fork in the road, and somewhere along the way we managed to misplace our map and our compass, and we may have even forgotten to make a pit stop to fill up on gas.

At least our lives aren’t dull, right?

Today marks a month at my new job, and I am absolutely loving it. I’m challenged, but not overworked. I’m learning, but I don’t feel overwhelmed. I’m meeting some wonderful people. I’m fitting in well with my new colleagues. And I’m finally feeling (for the first time in a long time) like I’m in a place where I can stay and grow and be happy.

They even pranked me on my very first day. Yeah, this is definitely the right place for me…

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Barely a week into my new job, Stevie’s car decided to official shit the bed on us. Can’t say we were surprised. We’ve basically been biding our time, watching the odometer climb as the car slowly deteriorated. It finally got to the point where I refused to drive it because every time I did, something fell off.

No joke.

First the armrest. Then the plastic casing beneath the steering wheel that holds all the wiring in place. I can’t say I was sorry to see the ol’ Lumina go.

After some research, some test drives, a whole lot of discussion and a little help from Mom and Dad, we settled on a new ride and kissed the Lumina goodbye.

Goodbye, Lumina. Hello, Buick Enclave.

So far, we’re loving the new car, and we hope to get as many years (and miles) out of it as we did the Lumina and the van.

Fingers crossed!

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About the time the dust was settling with the new job and the car-buying chaos (which Steven and I both agree is far worse than buying a house), Duane was checking into the hospital in Omaha for surgery. After a laryngectomy a year and a half ago, his doctors found more cancer, so it was back in for another procedure. He spent nearly two weeks in the hospital, slowly recovering and battling an infection. By the time he was released Monday, both he and Mom were exhausted and ready to be home. Luckily, he is doing well and feeling a little better every day.

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And now? Now, we’re just waiting for the dust to settle again, looking for a little calm in the midst of the chaos. And we’ll find it, I’m sure, a little respite before the next thing comes along. But whatever that next thing is, I know we can handle it the way we always do, together, and with our own special style…

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Elf on the Shelf – Day 8

For those of you who may not know, my father, Duane, was diagnosed with throat cancer three years ago. He underwent several radiation treatments, finishing his last treatment just two days before Miss Cadence was born. He and Mom arrived almost as soon as we were released from the hospital, to stay a week with us while I recovered from my C-section, because, well, that’s just what good Dads do, and anyone who knows Duane knows that he’s a great one.

Since then, 2010, he has been cancer free, but it has been a slow battle recovering from the treatments and healing. There was a small spot, an ulcer, that didn’t seem to want to heal, some risidual pain in his throat, and a bit of raspiness in his voice that lingered even after several voice therapy sessions. And yet, every check up came back clear, and we all hoped that he would continue to improve as he healed.

This past year, Duane has experienced quite a bit more pain in his throat as well as his ears. And, since August, has lost about 35 pounds. Just before Thanksgiving, he underwent a biopsy and CAT scan and we got the news that the cancer had returned.

As I sit here writing this, Dad is undergoing surgery to remove the cancer which has affected his voice box and one lymph node. His doctors are extremely optimistic, not only for a complete recovery (including the return of Dad’s voice after speech therapy), but also for a much improved quality of life for many years to come. Mom, Lindy, Richard and I are all at the hospital right now, watching Dad’s name on the Leaderboard (that’s not really what it’s called, but we all agreed it feels like we’re keeping an eye on the current score at The Master’s). It will be a long day of surgery, and at least a week of recovery in the hospital before Duane is released home to relax and heal.

For those of you who are the praying kind, please include us. For those of you who choose to send kind words and well wishes instead, I know Duane would love to hear them. Keep in mind that he won’t be allowed to speak for at least three days after the surgery, so now would be the time to repay him for all of the jokes and harassment he may have doled out to you over the years. (And I know there are a lot of you who should be jumping at that opportunity). I promise I will be checking in when I can and posting updates. It’s times like these that I am especially grateful for being able to reach so many people between this blog and my Facebook page, so please spread the word. And thank you all in advance for all of the support!!!

And wouldn’t you know that our sweet Cosette even wanted to let Duane know she was thinking about him when she returned from her nightly North Pole visit. This is where we found her this morning, having a drink in Duane’s honor.

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All he asked is that Cosette leave him a little so he can have a celebratory drink when he “gets out of jail.”

Don’t worry, Duane, we’ll have one waiting for you. 🙂

Happy Hair Twin Day! – Kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Katie (then Luekens) was one of the first people I met at Concordia College when I arrived in August of 1998. During the flurry of Orientation, I walked into the Dean of Students office to have my ID photo taken. With a camera in her hands, Katie ushered me in and asked for my name.

“Lori Luethje,” I said. “It’s spelled L-U-E…”

I know you!” Katie squealed as she jotted my name down on a piece of paper. To this day, she is one of the only people I have ever known who could spell it right on her own.

“Well, I know your mom anyway,” Katie explained. “I love it when she calls. It’s always the exact same thing…” she paused, cleared her throat and softened her voice for the impression. “‘Hello. This is Jayne Luethje from Holdrege, Nebraska…’”

I laughed. The impression was spot on.

Katie snapped my picture mid-laugh and I spent the remainder of my college days carrying an ID with a goofy grinning photo staring back at me. Whenever anyone commented, I blamed Katie.

For the rest of my days as a student, Katie and I remained friends, and even spent two years living together in staff housing after I graduated and started working in Concordia’s Admission Office. I fell in love with her sweet dog Scherzo, and spent several holidays and vacations dog/housesitting while Katie traveled to out West to visit her family.

It’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to Katie like moths to a flame. She’s funny and feisty and full of energy. She’s one of those people who is such a natural performer it’s as if a spotlight follows her wherever she goes. And she still has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. When I lived in New York, I used to count down the days to her performances, and make sure I sat near her in chapel so I could mouth the words to the hymns while I listened to her sing them.

When Katie was diagnosed with breast cancer, the thing I hated most (apart from seeing one of my dearest friends so ill) was not being able to physically be there for her. After all the years we’d spent being friends, hanging out, working together, venting to each other, and being roomies, the thousands of miles between us suddenly seemed to grow. I wanted to be able to drop by her house to see her, to hold her hand, hug her. Instead, I had to keep up with her through texts and photos, and send her all the positive thoughts and prayers I could from halfway across the country.

But I knew Katie is a fighter, and that she would never let a little cancer keep her down.

Earlier this year, Katie and I made a deal. I think it started one day when I made a comment on Facebook about wanting to cut my long hair, and Katie suggested I try her post-chemo hairstyle and we could be hair twins. I told Katie I would love to be her hair twin, and we settled on October 1 as our official Hair Twin Day, as a way to kick of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and celebrate Katie being a survivor.

It also gave me a little more time to grow my hair as long as possible for donation.

So, I made an appointment, and had Katie send over a few photos. A few people asked if I was nervous making such a drastic change. Nope. Not one bit. Not for my Katie.

Happy Hair Twin Day Roomie!

The one and only, Katie Luekens Chan Chee lookin’ fabulous as a redhead!
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My amazing hairstylist (and old high school friend) Desirae (Fowler) Tira
12 inches cut to donate, and a whole lot more on the floor
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Bye bye hair! It’s off to be made into a wig that will be donated to one of the American Cancer Society’s wig banks.
I don’t think I know how to make a normal face in a photo, so I’ll just show you my hair
Pretty sure the neighbors thought I was nuts taking self-portraits on the front porch
It may be Breast Cancer Awareness month, but October is not the only time to show your support.
It’s a lot of hair, but it’s the least I can do.

To all my friends and family who have bravely battled cancer–whether breast, brain, throat or thyroid–you are loved. You are courageous and tenacious. You inspire me to be a better person, and to be thankful for every moment I get to spend on this earth.

Keep fighting. Keep fighting. Keep fighting.

One Charity Gallery Down, and One To Go

May was officially one of the busiest months on record for me in 2012, and as it draws to an end, I’m finally feeling like I’ve got a little bit of breathing room. Tonight, I finally finished up the photo gallery for the 9th annual Wear Yellow Ride, sponsored by Wear Yellow Nebraska, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer. I shot a ton of photos and ended up processing nearly 400 total.

I’m surprised my eyeballs haven’t fallen out of my head. That’s a whole lot of photos folks. But man, there were so many great shots! The gallery just went live for the participants to see, and now I’m working on a deadline to finish processing the photos and uploading the gallery for the Sheridan Scramble golf outing fundraiser I shot to benefit the youth group at Sheridan Lutheran Church this weekend. The goal is to finish all of those photos before Sunday, since I have an engagement shoot scheduled Sunday evening.

One step at a time.

So, for tonight, here are a few photos from the 9th Annual Wear Yellow Ride. Over 350 riders turned out for the event, and I was honored to spend the day among them as they rode for such a wonderful cause.