Henry’s Jet-Set Baptism

I’ve come to believe that life is really about connection. All the working and the saving and the spending and the running from place to place on this little blue-green planet doesn’t matter, not really. The only thing that really matters is connecting with people, loving others, and being loved in return. I still have several close friends from childhood and my middle and high school days, but it wasn’t until those years in New York, until I had been completely broken down and began to build myself back up, that I learned how to open my heart and really let anyone in.

I was just 17 when I arrived to Concordia with just two suitcases and a backpack, both excited and anxious to begin this brand new chapter. I spent the next nine years in New York, and they were some of the best (and the worst) years of my life. I lost myself, and found myself on those crowded city streets. I fell in love there. I learned to love myself there. In so many ways, New York made me whole. And little did I know that the people I would meet there would forever change the course of my life.

I first set foot on the Concordia College New York campus for the first time in the spring of 1998. I was in the final stretch of narrowing down my college choices, and Mom and I decided to fly to New York to visit two schools I’d been accepted to–Sarah Lawrence College and Concordia. At that point, Sarah Lawrence was at the top of my list by mere reputation. I’d spent months poring over the admission materials I’d received, and marveling at how beautiful the campus was, and how much fun it would be to live in an old mansion that had been converted into a residence hall instead of a traditional dorm. For a writer like me, it was something of a dream school. I imagined myself ignited with a creative muse the moment I set foot on campus, and yet I found my heart sinking as Mom and I followed our tour guide, listening as she waxed poetically about the history of the grounds and the old stone buildings. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in any of the lecture halls or casually strolling across the campus between classes or eating in the dining hall. Somehow, I just didn’t fit.

Just 2.5 miles away, on the other side of the little village of Bronxville, Concordia shone like a beacon. As our taxi driver pulled into the circle drive in front of Feth Hall, I was hit with a feeling of deja vu so strong I had to close my eyes for a moment to stop the world from spinning. We hadn’t even attended the Open House and I already knew I’d come home.

Mom and I spent the night on campus in a room in the lower level of Romoser Hall. With most of the students away on Spring Break, the campus was eerily quiet. We took a cab into the heart of Bronxville and ate dinner in at a little restaurant called Underhill Crossing, marveling at the enormous homes and the quaint main street that looked like something straight out of a movie.

The next morning, we made our way to Schoenfeld Hall where dozens of other prospective students and families were gathering for the Open House. We were greeted immediately by John Bahr, the Dean of Students, and Tom Weede, the Dean of Admissions. I spent a good half-hour talking to Dr. Mandana Nakhai in front of the English Department’s table, entranced by her exotic accent and the fact that she had not only read the portfolio of writing I’d submitted with my application, but that she actually seemed genuinely excited to have me join Concordia’s English program.

Mom and I returned home with our heads spinning, and I couldn’t help but feel like I’d left a very large piece of myself behind. Six months later, I was back. I left everyone and everything I’d ever known to start my new life in New York.

It was the best decision I ever made.

Stevie and I like to tease each other about the way we first met and how long it took us to actually start dating. These days, it’s getting hard to remember what my life was like without him in it. One of the few things that we have ever really disagreed on are the details of our bizarre courtship. We became friends almost instantly since we hung out with the same social circles, yet it took more than five years for us to actually start dating. My mom likes to remind me of the phone conversation just before Christmas break my freshman year, when I told her that I’d met the nicest guy, Steven Romano, and how if he asked me to marry him tomorrow, I’d say yes.

It all reads a bit like a cheap TV sitcom script. Whenever Stevie was single, I was dating someone. When I was single, Stevie was in a relationship. We just couldn’t seem to get the timing right.

There is a photo of me in the yearbook (or rather, a photo of the back of my head), as I turned all the way around in my seat to watch Stevie harass Josh Reiker, a fellow freshman, who was seated behind me in the crowd. I think that photo accurately sums up the five years I knew Stevie before we officially started dating–we were always right there, dancing around each other and having a blast, but we were just a few too many steps apart.

Looking back, I can see that it all happened exactly as it was supposed to. Both of us had a lot of growing up and a lot of healing to do before we could actually be a good fit for one another. We had those five years to stroll around campus discussing everything from movies and music to philosophy and religion. We had five years to have dinner together with our group of friends, five years to spend together at parties and campus events. We had five years to see each other at our best and our worst, to celebrate each other’s highs and offer support during our lows.


Shortly after I graduated in May 2003, Steven finally asked what I thought about us officially dating. My response was the same as everyone else’s when we announced that were were finally a couple:

“Well, it’s about damn time.”

The rest, as they say, is history.


Stevie and I left New York in July 2007. We were young (and probably stupid) and looking for a little adventure to start our married life together. We always said we could move anywhere as long as we were near family, and that basically gave us four options–New York, Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona.

When I was offered a teaching job in Arizona, we thought it might be fun to try something new for awhile, so we packed all of our worldly belongings in a POD and set off on a roadtrip to our new desert home. The Arizona Experiment (as we call it now) lasted just three-and-a-half years. And while a life in the desert wasn’t necessarily a great fit for us, it made us homeowners, dog owners, and parents. And we even got lucky enough to make some really great friends along the way.

In December 2010, Stevie was offered a job at the University of Nebraska and we packed up again (this time with a whole lot more stuff), and transitioned to a new life in Lincoln, where we have been ever since.

It has been eight years since we left, and not a day goes by that we don’t desperately miss New York. For both of us, it still feels like home. And who knows, maybe we’ll even find ourselves settling back East one day permanently. But until then, we will have to settle for whirlwind vacations to visit our family and friends–trips that are too infrequent and rushed and always leave us feeling a strange mix of happy and homesick.

After losing Steven’s mom, Diane, in 2012, and then losing our dear friend John Bahr this August, Stevie and I decided that getting back to visit New York just once every year or two just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Come hell or high water, even if it meant stretching our budget to the max, we are determined to find ways to reconnect with our loved ones out East more often.

We’d been discussing a jet-set baptism for Henry since before he was even born. Back in 2010, we had a “destination baptism” for Cadence in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where our good friend Money (aka Pastor Scott Geminn) had been called to serve at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Ater Money was called to serve as Associate Pastor at Village Lutheran Church, directly across the street from the Concordia campus, Steven and I joked that if we had another baby, it would be awesome to have Money baptize the child back at Concordia.

After Henry was born, our first thought was to wait until the summer of 2016 to have him baptized, when I would be traveling to New Jersey for work, and then stay for a vacation and have the little guy christened. But somehow, losing John hit us both harder than we expected. Stevie came home from work one day and asked me what I thought about trying to get to New York for a visit and a baptism before Christmas. I still had a few weeks left on my maternity leave, so we looked at the calendar, called Money to see what he thought and if he had time in his schedule, and I reached out to Concordia’s President, Viji George, to see if it might be possible for us to have Henry baptized in the chapel.

Almost immediately, everything began falling into place, and we took that as a very clear sign that we were supposed to make this trip. We reached out to Chris Foerth and Betty Geiling to ask if they would be Henry’s godparents. And then, in just a week’s time, we booked the chapel, designed/printed/sent out the invitations, booked Burke’s Bar & Restaurant for the after-party, bought plane tickets, and set the wheels in motion for what would be our very first trip as a family of four.

It all seemed just a little surreal, and before we knew it, we were waking up to catch a sunrise flight out of Omaha to bring our children back to the place where it all began…

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3179 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3180

Cadence has traveled so much, she’s an old pro when it comes to airplanes, but I have to admit, we were a little nervous about flying with a 9-week-old. Our sweet little Henry was an absolute angel on the plane, sleeping through half the flight, then waking up cheerful and smiling at all the folks seated around us. He fussed for just a few minutes when we began our descent into La Guardia, then fell back asleep before we even landed.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3184 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3190 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3191

We arrived to typical fall weather–warm, humid, and rainy. Cadence had high hopes of being able to swim in Pop-Pop’s pool, and our determined little girl even donned her bathing suit and hopped right in as soon as we arrived. She lasted a full two minutes before she finally gave into the cold and admitted defeat, giving us strict instructions that our next visit needed to take place in the summer when it would definitely be warm enough to swim.

We spent the next two days soaking up quality time with Pop-Pop, Keith, John, Michele, TJ, and Tyler, and gorging ourselves on all the NY pizza, egg bagels, and deli sandwiches we could find.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3193 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3194 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3200 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3204 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3206 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3211 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3213 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3214

My parents flew in Thursday night and Stevie picked them up at the airport, and then the six of us were up early Friday morning to head to Westchester.

Stevie, Cadence, Henry, and I dropped our things off at the hotel (Dude, they built a Hyatt in the parking lot of the Cross County Mall!), and then we headed to Concordia to try and catch up with as many people as we could. We dropped in the Admssion Office to visit with Evie Cea nd Tina Osso and Jen Jules. We headed over to the library to harass Gary Gollenberg and Aaron Meyer. We caught up with Amy Heath and Ken Fick and Neil Tarangioli in the lower level of Feth.

We walked around our old campus with our children in the cold and drizzling rain, and everything just felt right with the world. Once again, it felt like we had come home.

We took a short dinner break with my parents and then they settled in for a relaxing evening at the hotel while Stevie and the kiddos and I headed over to Money and Becca’s house to hang out and spend some much needed time with some of our favorite people in the world.

Looking around the room at one point in the evening, I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn’t all just a beautiful dream.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3222 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3223 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3224 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3225 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3226 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3227 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3233 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3236

Baptism day dawned cool and clear. Hurricane Joaquin, which had been threatening to put a serious damper on our trip, finally made a sharp turn and began to head out to sea. We got a chance to sleep in a bit and have a little breakfast before it was time to check out of the hotel and head to the campus.

Shortly before 1:00, our guests started trickling in. Cadence set herself up in the lobby as the official greeter, welcoming family and friends and culling all the children away to play before the service began. Stevie and I were so afraid that most people might not be able to make it to the  baptism on such short notice, but with the exception of just one or two, almost everyone we invited was able to join  us. We hugged and kissed family we had not seen in years, and marveled at how many of our friends walked through the doors to fill the chapel.

Looking around that room at all the beautiful, smiling faces of the people we love most in the world, I was afraid my heart just might burst.

Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8212 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8213 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8214 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8220 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8225 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3240 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8228 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8216 Henry_Baptism_2015_003 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8229 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8233 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8234 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8235 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8238 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8242 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8243 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8244 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8246 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8247 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8250 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8251 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8254 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8257 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8259 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8260 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8263 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8267 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8270 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8271 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8272 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8274 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8278 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8279 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8283 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8285 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8286 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8290 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8292 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8294 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8295 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8296 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8301 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8302 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8304 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8305 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8306 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8308 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8315 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8320 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8329 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8334 12068452_10153694158932710_289663881635883205_o Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8347 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8355 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8358 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8362 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8368 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8374 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8395 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8400 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8427 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8436 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8438 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8446 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8460 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8458 Henry_Baptism_2015_DSC_8476

After the the ceremony and dozens of photos, we all headed to Burke’s to relax, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. I don’t know how many times I stopped to look around the room and smile as my heart swelled with joy within my chest. And yet, with the joy came a pang of sadness, knowing how much Diane would have loved being there in that room with us and welcoming her youngest grandchild to the world, the sweet little boy we named Henry in honor of Diane’s Uncle Henny whom we all loved and miss so dearly.

Yet even if they couldn’t physically be there in that room, there is not a doubt in our minds that they are with us every day.

All too soon, the party was over and our guests began to say their goodbyes, and all I kept thinking as I hugged everyone was that I wished there was a way I could press pause and make those moments together last forever.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0814 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0815 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0817 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0818 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0820 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0821 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0823 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0824 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0826 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0827 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3241 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3246

Stevie and I woke Sunday feeling like we’d been run over by a truck. All the prepping and the planning and the running around and squeezing every last moment of our time together with our friends and family had taken quite a toll. Both our bodies and our hearts were hurting. We spent the rest of our trip close to home, soaking up as much time together with the family as we could and missing everyone we’d already said goodbye to.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3281 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3264 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3265 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3279 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3283 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3284 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3287 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3289 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3290 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3294 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3298 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3295 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3300 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0757 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0760 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0763 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0769 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0776 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0777 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0780

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3308 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0788 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0789 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0796 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0798 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0804 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0805 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0809 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0810 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0813 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0830 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0832 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0837 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0850 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0861 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0870 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0889 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0900 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0905 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0915 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0916 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0926 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0928 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0929 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0937 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0968 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0971 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0976 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0977 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0980 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0982 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0986 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0988 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0991 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP0996 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1001 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1005 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1012 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1015 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMGP1017

And then, as quickly as it began, it was over. Time to head back home (and back to reality). We arrived early at the airport and made it through La Guardia’s security in record time. We settled in at the gate with our snacks and a new deck of cards to help pass the time. We watched the sun sink below the city skyline as we waited to board.

The plane was half-empty and Henry was already asleep as we found our seats and settled in for the flight home.

As the plane lifted into the air, we craned our necks to see the lights of the city sparkling in the darkness below us. I still remembered the first time I ever marveled at those city lights. It seemed like both yesterday and a lifetime ago. I hugged my sleeping baby to my chest and smiled across the aisle at Stevie and Cadence thinking that this weekend proved once again that I just might be the luckiest girl in the whole world.

Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3309 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3311 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3312 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3322 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3326 Henry_Baptism_2015_IMG_3333

Prank War 2014 – Rats

Okay, since some people saw my friend Sam Bates’ Facebook post earlier today (the one where she called Steven and I maniacal, little geniuses and vowed to exact revenge) and wondered what the heck was going on, I figured I would fill in a few holes in the story. So here goes…

Sam Bates and Danielle Beebe are quite the practical jokers. I hadn’t even known Beebe a week before she hid a remote control spider in my desk at work. After that, the prank war was on. Any of the really crazy photos you saw me post last year (with things in jello, banana bombs, people sneaking up on each other wearing rubber horse heads, etc.) likely involved Sam or Beebe.








Now that we no longer work together, the prank war has hit home. The girls had free reign in our house while we were in New York, and we came home to find some giant, hairy plastic spiders hidden in drawers and under pillows around our house.

Ha! Good one, ladies.

It’s not that we were letting it slide exactly, we just like to take our time when it comes to plotting our revenge.

Saturday, Beebe arrived at our house bright and early to sell some things on our garage sale. Sam and Katiana arrived shortly after to help keep Cadence occupied. When Bates and Beebs disappeared into the house for awhile, I knew something was likely up, but didn’t think much about it. Later, after the sale had been cleaned up and everyone had gone home, Steven and I found the first of the little black rubber rats the girls had so thoughtfully hidden around the house. I found one in the doughnut box on the counter. Steve found one in the silverware drawer. I found one hiding in my coffee stash.


Later that evening, I was even startled when I stepped out of the shower and saw one peering at me from behind the toilet.

We decided it was time for a little revenge.

It started with a text on Sunday evening: “Hey…question for you both, and Kat since she was here too…did you guys notice Electra eating anything weird or acting strange yesterday? She has been coughing and gagging today, and threw up some black stuff. She has never done anything like it before. Maybe she got into something yesterday during the sale? I just remember her lying in the yard a lot. Never saw her eat anything. We are thinking we are going to call the vet and try to get her in.”

Nope, they never noticed anything.

I asked Sam if she would be on call to babysit in case we needed to run Electra to the vet during the night. She agreed.

This morning, I got a message from Sam asking how Electra was. I spun an even wilder tale about how she seemed okay Sunday evening, but then woke us up coughing and gagging in the middle of the night. I talked about how we got up this morning and she refused to eat (which should have been a big clue that the story was bogus).

I mixed together a concoction of water, ketchup, and cut up pieces of one of the rubber rats and sent along a little photo, telling Bates and Beebe that we’d taken her to the vet and were waiting to hear if she needed surgery for some kind of obstruction because she’d thrown up a bunch of black chunks and red bloody looking stuff.

I give you Exhibit A…


Yeah, we’re mean, but when you start a prank war with the Romanos, you better watch yourself.

There was 15 or 20 minutes of silence before Bates started blowing up my phone with a full confession and apology in texts. I managed to get the location of the last few rats out of her, and then told her I needed to call the vet with an update.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 12.53.22 PM

Instead, I texted Stevie to let him know our plan had worked, and then spent a little time arranging this photo to call out the pranksters and let them know the tables had turned…


I have no doubt that we’re eventually going to be the victims of some pretty epic prank war retaliation but, for now, we’ll enjoy our victory.

The Next Chapter

Somehow, even when things are messy and chaotic and stressful, you’re there because that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be.

There’s something you’re supposed to do, something you’re supposed to learn, someone you’re supposed to meet.

It’s not always easy sticking with it. It’s not always easy toughing it out, finding a way to manage it. But you do, and eventually you realize that storm clouds are beginning to break apart and rays of sunshine are starting to shine through and you’re still there, still standing, still smiling.

When I found myself back in an office working full-time after staying home, freelancing, and serving as the primary caregiver for my daughter for the first three years of her life, I won’t lie…I was anxious. I worried that maybe I’d gotten rusty, that maybe I wasn’t as sharp or talented or capable as I was before I stepped into the world of work-at-home-motherhood. But it didn’t take long before I was back in the groove–making new friends, connecting with clients, writing stories, taking photos, and publishing things that I was proud of.

It felt good to get back in a groove again.

If there is one thing that I am really proud of when it comes to my work, it’s my unquenchable thirst to always do better, to be better. I’ve never been the type who can do just enough to get by. I can’t just meet a standard; I have to exceed it. I can’t take a shortcut if it means compromising quality. I can’t sell myself or anyone else short. I set lofty goals. I have high expectations. I believe that if you can’t look back at the end of the day and truthfully say that you’ve done your absolute best, you’re not doing it right.

Those are values I hold near and dear to my heart, and they are values that I will never compromise…not for anyone.

Tomorrow, I will be wrapping things up at News Link, writing the final words in that short chapter in my life and I will tell you, I am thankful for every moment spent there.

I am thankful for the fact that I got to spend this past year earning a paycheck doing the three things I love the most–writing, taking photos, and connecting with people.

I am thankful that I got to meet and connect with some of the most hardworking, down-to-earth folks on this earth. To all the men and women I met in the shops, yards, and stretches of railroad tracks across the country, thank you for welcoming me into your lives, teaching me, sharing your stories, and keeping me safe. The folks in the Lincoln Diesel Shop, the UP Track Programs crews, the G&W Pacific Region employees, and all the folks at the Terminal Companies in California, Washington, Oregon, and Kansas now hold a very special place in my life, and I certainly hope our paths will continue to cross in the future.

I am thankful for the adversity I faced, for the people I didn’t see eye to eye with, for the frustrations I dealt with both in the office and on the road. It has made me stronger, wiser, and more confident in myself, my beliefs, and my vision of the future.

And, most of all, I am thankful for the beautiful souls I encountered on this crazy journey. The friendships forged in the past year are friendships that I know, without a shadow of a doubt, will last far into the future. We’ve laughed together, shared meals together, played sports (badly) together. We’ve shared frustrations, celebrated each other’s successes, and helped pick each other up. We’ve kept each other sane, driven each other a little crazy, and made each other laugh. We’ve pulled pranks, shared secrets, and exchanged quizzical glances when the morning meetings suddenly took bizarre turns. I love them, and I think I must have needed them, and maybe, just maybe, they needed me too (whether they really care to admit it or not).

I’m ridiculously excited for this new job and the new opportunities stretching out before me. I can’t wait to see where this fork in the road will lead.

All is as it should be. Life is good, and it’s time for the next chapter to begin…


Elf on the Shelf 2013 – Day 21

The best thing in life–better than money, better than chocolate, better than just about anything you can imagine–is spending time with the people you care about.  Friends, family, spouses, kids. People who “get” you. People who make you laugh. People who put up with (and call you on) your bullshit. People who think about you, and miss you when you’re not around. People who love you, no matter what.

Those are the people and the moments you live for. Those are the ones you do your best to hold onto–in your memory or in a photograph, something you can pull out of a box 10 years from now and it still makes you laugh.

In the end, those are the only people and the only moments that really matter.

And the bad ones? The frustrating ones? The ones that threaten to drive you to the very brink of insanity? Those are stones in the road, lessons to be learned. It’s okay to face them, to study them, and to put a little effort into moving them out of the way. But that’s where it ends. Don’t carry them with you. Don’t let them weigh you down. Respect them for what they are–a necessary step in your soul’s evolution–and then kiss them goodbye and let them go.

As the time draws near for Cosette to say her goodbyes for yet another year (less than 5 days to Christmas people!), it’s apparent that our little elf is not quite ready to say goodbye to the friends she made. So, last night, while Cadence slept, she gathered the gang together for a picture–something she can look at , maybe hang on the wall of her little elf house when she returns home to the North Pole, something that will bring a smile to her face when she remembers all the fun she had this year with the Romanos.







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!
My before picture
My amazing hairstylist (and old high school friend) Desirae (Fowler) Tira
12 inches cut to donate, and a whole lot more on the floor
What’s this?
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.

365 Project – Day 325 – You’ve Got a Friend

Today Cadence’s Pawpoo Shawn, Granny Wendy, Uncle Collin and Aunt Whitney arrived from Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with us. We’ve been counting down the days since we left their house in July, and I think we all agree that the 4+ months since we’ve seen each other have been exceptionally long.

Even Electra seems to agree.

She was just as excited as the rest of us when her buddy Mojo arrived, and after several laps around the yard, a series of obligatory butt sniffs, and even a rowdy match of tug-o-war with Mojo’s stuffed raccoon, Electra is now passed out at the food of the bed, resting up for more fun with her friends tomorrow.

Boy is she going to be depressed when they leave. We all will. Maybe we better start planning the next visit so we all have something to look forward to.

%d bloggers like this: