Being present and feeling gratitude got me through an incredibly tumultuous year. The simplest visual for what it feels like being a family of five with three teen daughters is a game of Whack a Mole – two down, one up, then three down and one up, one down and so on. Insert laughing and crying emoji here.
We started the year watching our daughter, Katharina being wheeled off into surgery to be treated for a rare kidney tumor that was discovered after a routine MRI for minor back pain. So, in January our then 16 year old daughter underwent a laparoscopic, radical nephrectomy aka removal of one of her kidneys. Luckily you can live a long healthy life with just one. There is no prep for something like this. While we were quite unlucky to be part of the less than 1% of kidney tumors, we were also incredibly lucky. The surgery seems to be all she needed, as the tumor was “mostly” non-cancerous and did not appear to have spread. For now, we live with quarterly scans and regular check-ins with her oncologist.
On a personal front, outside of my roles of wife and mother, I had a pretty 2x year. I continued to evolve as a runner, enjoying a PR (personal record) with an 8.30/pace running my 5th half marathon. Following the half, I ran my first full marathon, 26.2 miles in 4.32 hours. Outside of being pregnant and nursing three babies in five years, it was the single most challenging achievement of my life. As I hit mile 21, I said to myself, “Finish this race and I will not make you do this again.” But I find myself lately thinking, just one more. I have the awareness that I told myself much the same after I had my first child. Although experience and maybe muscle memory did in fact make each of the subsequent baby years easier.
I had an incredible run professionally, during this same timeframe. In January I started an exciting new role as the senior director of partnership development at a WOC-led social justice non-profit organization. On paper it was a dream job. The mission to dismantle racism within the institution of education so that all children can thrive was incredibly motivating. I was charged with building out the sales and marketing strategy and systems to accelerate the growth and triple the impact. I explored the full experience and my learnings in this blog post, Unapologetically Myself.
Returning to our game of Whack a Mole – while we were navigating Katha’s cancer scare, our firstborn, Elke, was enjoying a magical senior year of high school. The culmination of her college search ended with a surprise twist with her choosing the University of Washington over the Southern California schools as well as her hometown behemoth, UT. But once the decision was made, she never looked back. Just one quarter in, she is thriving in her new life in Seattle as a Husky! While the decision from an economic perspective makes zero sense, Marcus and I were united in wanting her to experience college in a big city with a more socially progressive culture.
Our youngest daughter, Natascha, was having a very good sophomore year of high school. Strong academics, a great group of friends and overall, growing out of her role as the baby of the family. But we had an unexpected and abrupt end to her life as a soccer player. Not gonna lie, it was a shock to our girl and to her parents who have been cheering her on from the sidelines for as long as we can remember. Now that our emotions are a bit in the rear view, I can say that I am honestly proud of our girl for overcoming intense anxiety to play and compete for as long as she did. I am worried and hopeful that she will find a new path for herself.
As I write this on the first day of the new year, our house is filled with the sounds made by our new puppy, Lola and her big brother, Ollie squeaking their toys and playing together. I hear the laughter and happy chatter of Elke and her friends all home from college and happily relieving their adventures from New Years Eve the night before. I count an additional nine or ten friends of Katha and Taschi respectively, sleeping on couches and beds throughout the house, having enjoyed various celebrations before but all ending up at our house in the end. Feels good that all the girls had friends with them to bring in this New Year.
Bring it on 2023. I am ready for you.