I Used to be Tall (and four other twists I didn’t expect my life to take)

I used to be (1)

In elementary school class pictures I was always one of the tall girls in the back row. In this picture, I am nine; my sister Linda on the far left is eight and our little sister Kris is four.

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When I reached junior high, one of my teachers remarked to me one day that I was kind of short. I still remember feeling shocked. “Short? What does he mean, short? I’m tall!” Looking back on it I was probably about 5’2’’ at the time, two inches shy of my all time high of 5’4 ½”. Apparently I was one of those children who got my height early. But what a surprise, to suddenly become a short person!

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As my life has gone on I’ve found many other surprises along the way. I’d like to share a few of those with you now, and hope you will be reminded of some of the unexpected times that have shaped your life as well.

Not a Real Major

When I was a senior at Brigham Young University I decided to finally check in with a counselor and much to my surprise was told that my major—the one I had diligently been fulfilling requirements for the previous three years—wasn’t offered and probably never had been.

Fortunately for me I had saved the class courses book from my freshman year where it described and named my chosen major: Language Arts Education. It would certify me to teach speech, journalism, and English in the secondary grades, without receiving enough credits to have a separate major in anything.

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When I showed this to my counselor, he readily agreed that I had indeed fulfilled all the requirements for that now non-existent major, and would therefore be allowed to graduate in it.

I am pretty sure I was the only student to ever graduate from BYU in Language Arts Education.

A Colorado Non-Native

Bruce and I met and married in Salt Lake City. After being married for two years we moved to Littleton, Colorado and I was very homesick for Utah for many years. However, now, thirty years later, there are many things I can happily say I’ve come to love about Colorado:

  • Knowing that the snow that comes with spring snowstorms usually melts off the road the next day; our beautiful Indian summers that last well into November; and the 300 days of sunshine we really do have each year.
  • It was here that I grew to love baseball and the Colorado Rockies; discovered what a frontage road is; and learned to give directions as east, south, north, and west by looking at the mountains. Non-Coloradans get annoyed when you do that but that’s just what we do!
  • I love the friendliness of the Colorado people. Visiting in Florida one time, it was as if someone had told the whole state “Don’t talk to strangers.”  Then when we were eating dinner one night, we had a very friendly waitress. It turned out she had just moved there from Colorado!
  • But most of all I love the six  authentically native Coloradans that are my children. They think of Colorado as their home, so it is my home, too.

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We Are Columbine

On April 20th, 1999 the lives of all of us in the Columbine area of Littleton changed forever, as our children’s high school was attacked by two student gunmen. Two of my daughters were there that day and experienced shock, horror and a loss of their sense of invincibility that has affected them and their classmates ever since.

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Yet, as time has passed we have seen how this experience has bound us together as a community. We understood that it wasn’t a matter of getting over it, but of helping each other and our families get through it. I am immensely grateful that despite the horror of that experience,  my daughters today remember the outpouring of love they received during the days, weeks, and years following that trial, and that they still say with love and pride, “We are Columbine!”

The Missing Boy

Although I had four daughters and a son, I always felt in my heart that there was supposed to be another boy. However, by the time I was 41 I was content with the size of our family, and had begun telling our six -year-old daughter Katie that she would be my baby forever. When I realized I was pregnant I was scared—I would be 42 when this baby was born. How could I take care of a totally dependent little human being and five other children as well at my age?

When we told our children,

Katie burst into tears and said “I want to be your baby forever!” The older kids were all excited, and so was Bruce. But it was a difficult pregnancy and as I got closer to my due date I experienced complications and had to be on bed rest. Michael was born early in December, and from the moment I held that new little baby I knew I had fallen in love with him.

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I needn’t have worried about being able to take care of him, because the rest of the family fell in love with him, too and I hardly ever got to hold him.

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He was definitely the little boy missing in our family

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We Found Cancer Cells

My mother had breast cancer at the age of 42, which was one of the reasons I was so scared when I found out I would be having a baby at that same age.Having cancer in your 40s often indicates a genetic link, which I feared I inherited. But 42 came and went and I did not get cancer.

How grateful I was! I was sure I would always be cancer free. So years later, when a mammogram, followed by another mammogram and a biopsy showed I did have breast cancer, I was stunned. And once again scared.

When the results of the MRI confirmed that I had DCIS—a stage zero breast cancer, one that almost certainly would not recur elsewhere in my body, and was fairly unlikely to return in either breast, I felt indescribable relief.  I am so grateful that this cancer was caught early and that my prognosis is so good.  I do not take this for granted and truly count my blessings every day. I recently underwent genetic testing through Counsyl (which I received for free), and as I await the results, I hope and pray my children don’t go through this. Despite a good prognosis, cancer is never something a person wants to have.

The week I was diagnosed, a good friend of thirty years was also diagnosed with cancer—pancreatic cancer that had spread throughout her body. As I was recovering from my surgery, my dear friend, Sue, lay dying.  She was just as loved as I was—just as needed.  Why was I given this second chance at life as hers was ending? I do not know the answer.  But I do know that I am grateful beyond words for this gift.

A friend posted this tribute to Sue on Facebook,

“You were thoughtful and kind and always smiling, and I am going to try harder each day to be more like you.”   I try each day to remember those words.

As I reflect back on some of these milestones in my life, I’m reminded of the following quote by Jenkin Lloyd Jones:

“Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

Our lives hardly ever follow the path we think they will. Some of the detours and side trips are better than we could have imagined. Others bring us heartache and sorrow. But if we hold on tightly to those people we love, and recognize the blessings that come even in trials, we will find it can be an awesome, amazing journey.

I used to be

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Counsyl. The opinions and text are all mine.

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