Thursday, May 25, 2017


If you’ve spent any time reading my writing in the past, or living as my neighbor, or being Facebook or Twitter friends with me, you know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. I have lots of thoughts and feelings, more than enough opinions, and passion that runs through me like a river. After Drew was diagnosed with CF back in 2010, I remember looking at my husband and saying to him, “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to tell people.” Now that we are moving, it’s not that I don’t know what to say, but rather that I don’t know how to start or finish.

I met my husband at a bar, or rather on the way to a bar back in 2003. This was before Uber and practically before cell phones when friends or friends of friends would see one another out on a Friday night and all pile into a car, lapping up to make sure everyone fit so that we didn’t have to walk the block to our destination. It wasn’t love at first sight, but intrigue. We connected and then we dated before I broke up with him. He didn’t go away though, and I’m sure glad he didn’t. He was working in Philadelphia, having graduated from NYU with a degree in Actuarial Science - a man who didn’t get as excited about exciting things as I did about non-exciting things, and as a senior in college he was exactly what I was looking for – someone with money to buy my drinks at the bar. When I graduated and moved to New Jersey, he stuck around, taking the train to visit me on the weekends, before we eventually moved in together. I started to commute from Philadelphia to New York every day for work, and he quietly and kindly walked me to the train station every morning and met me back there when I returned home, tired and cranky, every night. We talked about our next adventure, and looked for jobs where we might be able to both live and work in the same city. When he was offered an opportunity in Cincinnati to do marketing research, we decided to embark on that journey and made the move. With no new job in place for myself, I was free to explore the great wide world of…Covington, KY. I cried most days, wanting to go home, but put on a brave face and stood in line at the grocery store doing this thing they did in the Midwest that I was unfamiliar with called “talking to people”. In Philadelphia and New York we just bustle past one another, moving from thing to thing, and this new, slower pace was strange for us. But after a year in Kentucky and my having found myself a job and some new friends, we decided to stay. We bought a house and a year later got married. Our parents thought this was backward but it worked for us. Building a deck as newlyweds would have surely been the beginning of the end, so we did things in reverse at the start.

Then in 2007, we learned that alcohol can be a leading cause of pregnancy. Now married and overjoyed to be expecting, we turned our second of two bedrooms into a nursery, promptly purchased a minivan, and welcomed our precious Ella in June of 2008. I stopped working but never lost the friends that I made during those 3 years. We thought we might return “home” once we had kids, but things were going well with work and we were happy in our neighborhood. Our marriage survived a bathroom remodeling project in 2009 before we decided that we were ready for the suburbs!!  

We moved into our new 4 bedroom home on a Tuesday, then found out on Friday we were expecting again. About 3 weeks later we learned that there were not one, but two babies. We were deep in the middle of a kitchen remodel when exhaustion sunk in. Ella was one and I was enormous. This house in the suburbs felt overwhelming. Drew and Lily were born in March of 2010, and shortly thereafter Ella broke her leg just to make sure we were paying attention.

We were introduced to Cincinnati Children’s that year too. The smell of the NICU isn’t something that ever leaves you. I’ll forever be grateful that we hadn’t left Cincinnati after Ella was born, as Cincinnati was exactly where we were supposed to be when Drew was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. I don’t remember a whole lot from 2010. Or 2011. In 2012, Jake came along and we felt complete. And by complete, I mean completely overwhelmed. My head was just far enough above water to breathe, and drink wine.

We had the great pleasure of worrying about how much our preschool choice would influence our kids future, and regularly consider how our parenting style will be described by them in therapy as adults. All jokes aside, we landed at the perfect place for us. Immaculate Heart of Mary has become our home. All four kids went through preschool, and some of them up to 3rd grade, and the support and accommodations shown to us by both the staff and our friends has been tremendous in the 8 years that we have been attending. Leaving school is one of the hardest parts of our decisions to go. As our first graders sang “God Bless the Open Road” to their 8th grade buddies this morning I dissolved into a puddle.

I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn’t see how every sign pointed straight to you
That every long lost dream lead me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms

This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you”

Oh Cincinnati, as much as I never called you home, now that we are moving on I know that God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you. Cue the tears.

Since moving to Cincinnati, we bought our first (and second) house, we got married, we had 4 kids, one with a serious health diagnosis, and have made a billion memories and friends. We’re still married and on the other side of the diagnosis and way more home remodeling projects. People have seen us during our crazy (I say that as though its past tense but it’s very much still present). I’m grateful for neighbors who alerted me to naked wandering toddlers when I had too many to keep track of. I salute friends who showed up with Starbucks and wine, sometimes at the same time, during our darkest days.  We’ve had so many visitors – some who stayed for a while and some who just passed through – and every single one of them has made a mark on our life.

I started my second career here in health advocacy and activism, and I was introduced to a whole new world. The opportunities afforded to me with my colleagues and mentors from Cincinnati Childrens are innumerable. I got to see the world through an entirely different lens and I wouldn’t change any of it. The flexibility of my work has allowed me to share my vision for healthcare improvement with the world while I volunteered as the leader of a girl scout troop or coached a volleyball team in between business trips. Cincinnati pulled out my strength and courage, and carved friends out of the woodwork when I needed them the most.

I met my very best friend here when our paths collided in Cincinnati nearly 11 years ago. She moved from the west around the same time that I had moved from the east and we both landed in this place that moved more slowly. Our shared confusion created comradery that we’ve had to this day. She showed up at 5am to watch Ella when we went to have the twins, and over time graciously adopted my family as her own. She is the Godmother to our youngest and brings junk gifts with her every time she shows up. She left first, about 3 years ago, moving for her husbands job, and I cried and cried. She was the first to know that we made the decision to move a couple of weeks ago, because I needed someone to psych me up before we told the kids and she cheered me on. She’s been our family’s biggest cheerleader, and I wouldn’t know her if it wasn’t for my time in Cincinnati. On this rollercoaster of emotion that is selling a house and buying a house and explaining to kids why we have to go, I was complaining that I was eating nothing but junk and didn’t fit into my jeans anymore. She told me to lean in to the fat. That’s true friendship.

I don’t know what the best or hardest parts of living here have been, but there are lots of memories. Marriage is exciting! Parenting requires wine. Having sick kids is really freaking hard. Going to your friend’s kids funerals is even harder. But is it “living here” that’s handed me these ups and downs or is this just life? I think I’ve learned what it’s like to grow up, and that it’s not easy and it can be a ton of fun. I also don’t know what it means to be “growing up” because it’s not really a thing or a place but a process that leads us home. (Does she mean to heaven? I don’t know, let’s not get sappy.)

I have a friend who either bails me out of every jam I’m in, or laughs with me when I forget to wear shoes to preschool drop off and it’s a non-car line day. I’ve learned where the best karaoke in Anderson Township is on a Tuesday night when a friend pops in to ask if I want to go have a drink. I’m grateful for ATM’s that dispense stamps and McDonald’s who don’t judge when I order milk alone because it’s an easier option than dragging 4 kids into Kroger in the rain. Neighbors have graciously tolerated us playing 90’s hip-hop in our backyard until 2am on an occasional weekend night. I’ve learned of the generosity of my community that shows up every time we need a Girl Scout cookie order or foodbank donation or fundraiser for whatever cause I’ve recently gotten behind. I have friends who take my kids at the drop of a hat when something comes up, and I’ve lost friends who were scared away by this diagnosis that has brought more love and awareness to our lives than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned that I will never be good at checking the red homework folder, especially not at the end of the school year while trying to sell my house.
In a final quoting of lyrics to describe this bittersweet feeling of our relocation, I was at an event last week where a friend paid tribute to another friend that we had lost too soon with the song “Home” by Philip Philips. It goes “Hold on to me as we go, as we roll  down this unfamiliar road. And although this wave is stringing us along, just know you’re not alone, cause I’m gonna make this place you’re home. Really hoping the “Settle down, it’ll all be clear” part that comes next happens sooner rather than later, but honestly, it just feels like what it’s time to do. Hershey is calling us now, and it’s time to make that place our home.

This could be a letter to the patient man I call my husband whom my colleague respectably refers to as a hero. Maybe this ends up as a blog post or someday I can use it as a commencement speech when I’m a famous healthcare change agent! Or maybe someone will be reading this as my obituary when I actually do not survive this physical move or the days leading up to it. Either way, this is all to say thanks, Cincinnati. You’ve given us more than we could have ever dreamed of. Your kindness and generosity is more than we will ever be able to repay. We may finally purchase something that says “Cincinnati”, or root for the Reds now that we are on our way out. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later. We’re going home.