Thyroid surgery number 2

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Last Monday, June 30th, I had my second thyroid surgery. They took out the left side of my thyroid, so now I am thyroidless. (I was really hoping that the thyroid weighed somewhere around 25 pounds, but alas, no.)

The original plan was to do an outpatient surgery, but I bled more this time and they had to install a drainage tube. I had the pleasure of staying overnight again. I was a little more alert this time after getting out of recovery. My husband was there for the surgery, but he had to leave at noon to take our church kids to camp. So I spent most of the day sleeping, flipping channels on the TV, and dining on chicken broth and jello.

I met with my surgeon yesterday. He said the incision looks good and the swelling and puffiness above the incision should go away in a couple of weeks. He’s confident that he got everything and that I should be fine from here on out. He has now referred me to an oncologist that I will see every year and a radiation oncologist. The radiation oncologist is the one to administer the RAI (radioactive iodine) and that appointment is next Tuesday. Unfortunately, my husband is out of town that day, so I will be going by myself. But I’m a big girl. I can handle it. If you know me, you know I am just a little bit independent at times. I am starting to write down questions to ask the oncologist so I can make sure I know what all is going on and what to expect. I need to write stuff down or I know I will forget something.  When you try researching on your own on the internet, you get all sorts of stuff to muddle through. I’ve read that I have to be away from my girls anywhere from 2-7 days. My doctor doesn’t think it will be a whole week, but that’s a question for my oncologist. (I finally gave up looking online. It can get depressing.)

Since the hubby was gone last Wednesday, we had a guest preacher. He preached on Psalm 121. What a great reminder of the God I serve. The creator of the world is my God. He created all that there is and He created me. The God who created the billions of stars cares about little me. He is my helper and my keeper. He will not suffer my foot to be moved. Psalm 37:23-24 states “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” I may stumble, but the Lord is there picking me up, protecting me, establishing my goings. Verse 4 of Psalm 121 tells me that “he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Nothing takes God by surprise. I usually sleep 7-8 hours at night. Do you realize how much can happen in 7-8 hours? Yet, my God does not sleep, He is never caught off guard, and He watches over me day and night.

My cancer is no problem for my God. I may never know this side of glory why He has chosen me to travel down this road, but I know He is beside me every step of the way. I will trust in Him and follow His leading.

 

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Surprise! 2011 was a banner year.

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So far my husband and I have experienced infertility, adoption, and a miscarriage. When we lost our first baby in June 2011, we had no idea what God would do next.

In August of 2011, we found out we were expecting again. I told my husband, “Go figure. 15 years and nothing. Then I get pregnant twice in less than six months.” 🙂 We went to the doctor and sure enough, I was pregnant. Our due date this time was April 28th. I was still 39, but by the time this baby would get here I would be 40 years old. 40 years old having my first baby. God sure has a sense of humor. I think the medical community calls this a geriatric pregnancy. Some call it crazy.

This pregnancy went really well. I got past week 11 and that took a load off of my mind. Then I got past the first trimester and I started to breathe a little easier. They say your chances of miscarriage really decrease if you get past week 13. Right before Christmas we found out we were having a girl. More pink, more froo froo, and more hair bows! I was starting to look pregnant and not just like I had too many burgers the night before.

In the middle of January, I got really sick. I had a bad case of the flu (we think) and was sick from Sunday evening until Wednesday. Thursday I felt well enough to paint Lydia’s bedroom, although I was having some sore muscle pain on my side. I called my best friend who suggested it might be from throwing up for 2 days. She also suggested if it got worse, to call my doctor. About 2pm I decided I needed a nap. When I woke up around 4, I was still having this weird pain. It wasn’t very strong, just annoying. And it wasn’t constant. It would happen about every 8-10 minutes and last about 10 seconds. Yes, I timed it. My doctor’s office closes at noon on Thursdays, so I called my sweet friend again and she suggested going to the ER if it continued to get worse. I told my husband about 6:00 pm that we should probably go to the ER and get this checked out. The worst thing they could say was that it was gas or something and send me home. He was not very excited about sitting in the ER for hours to find out it was gas, but he humored me.

There is an advantage to being pregnant. When we got to the ER and they saw I was pregnant, they took me straight back to labor and delivery. No waiting room for me. Nope. Pregnant women about to enter their third trimester are special. 🙂 I didn’t even have to walk, they wheeled me back there in a wheelchair. They hooked me up to some machines and told us I was in labor. Ummmmm. Excuse me? I am only 26 weeks along. I can’t be in labor. Besides, don’t you watch TV and movies? Women in active labor are screaming and writhing in pain. I was not in labor. The nurses hooked me up to something like magnesium to slow down the labor and monitored me for a little while. Once they felt I was stable, they transported me to Tulsa. Bartlesville is not equipped for babies born earlier than 34 weeks, so I got to ride in the not-so-comfortable-and-not-so-fast ambulance 40 minutes south to Tulsa.

At one point on our ride I asked the ambulance attendant guy when this magnesium stuff was supposed to kick in.  He looked puzzled. “The contractions aren’t lessening?” “Nope.” Instead of lessening, the pain was getting stronger. He nervously answered, “We’ll be there in about 10 minutes.” During this time, my husband was following along behind us in the car. Unknown to me, he had already started calling people and asking them to pray for whatever was going to happen that evening. I was in the ambulance praying God would intervene so that by the time I got to Tulsa I could say, oops, false alarm. But, regardless, I had this unexplainable peace that everything was going to be okay. I had no idea what condition this baby would be in, or if she would even survive, but I knew God was in control. Again, nothing happens to us that God does not allow.

I arrived at St. John in Tulsa at 9:00 pm. and was wheeled (this time on a stretcher) straight to labor and delivery. They checked all my vitals and told us we would have a baby sometime that evening. Ummmm. No, I was only 26 weeks along and we hadn’t agreed on her name!! Right after 9:30 the doctor I was sent to see said I had a couple of hours yet, so she went into a c-section. I would ask for an epidural, but the nurse would say she was waiting on my labs to come back. It wasn’t a problem, she said, I had plenty of time. Just before 10:00pm I told my husband something wasn’t right. The room at this point was empty so he went into the hallway for help. The nurse came in to check things out and then went back for reinforcements. In less than 1 minute my room was full of nurses and doctors. Our tiny little bundle was born at 10:01 pm weighing 1lb and 14 oz. and was 13 1/2 inches long. (and I never got my epidural. Do you hear the Wonder Woman music playing? HA!) She was small, skinny, purple, and looked like an alien, but she was one of the most beautiful things I had seen.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

Teeny, tiny baby. The nurse is holding the tube up so she can breathe. They were in the middle of intubating her.

She couldn’t cry because her lungs weren’t fully developed. We quickly decided on a name (I won!) and little Emma LeeAnne was brought over to me. I didn’t get to hold her as the NICU doctor quickly brought her over, let me get a glimpse, then whisked her away to the NICU. A couple of hours later, Brian reminded me I was only 39. I had her before I was 40!

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It's her tickle button.

Here she is. All purple, all covered in cords and cables and stickers and all beautiful. She still has a scar from one of her stickers holding a cord in place. It’s her tickle button.

The first few weeks were touch and go. Emma would have a couple good days and then take a big step backward. I will never forget the day the nurse practitioner came in and gave us the worst-case scenarios. Pretty scary stuff. But we continued to place Emma in God’s hands, the best place she could be. It was very hard for me. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to do something to make everything better and ensure Emma would survive. But I couldn’t. I firmly believe God places us in situations that require us to rely on Him for our strength. I couldn’t do it on my own, but I knew Someone who could. I don’t like the phrase “God will never give you more than you can handle.”  If we could handle it on our own, we wouldn’t need the Lord. I believe God gives us just enough to make us turn to Him and not rely on our own strength.

We spent 89 days in the NICU at St. John in Tulsa. I have to say we had the absolute best medical staff you could ask for. We absolutely loved our nurses and nurse practitioner. (We loved the doctors, too, but the nurses saw her and took care of her every day.) They took care of our sweet baby like she was their own. The first day I got to hold her was February 14th, almost a month after she was born. The day before our nurse found out I hadn’t held her yet. At this point Emma was intubated and she was so tiny, there was very little room for movement with her equipment. I received a phone call at home the morning of Valentine’s Day and was told Dr. Siddiqui wanted to arrange it so I could kangaroo with her. (Kangarooing is holding your baby skin on skin. It helps them feel the rhythm of momma’s heartbeat and many believe this is the first step to them really starting to grow and develop.) He told the nurses to tell me Happy Valentine’s Day. It was quite the task to get her moved out of her bed and into my arms, but I was told I could hold her as long as she would tolerate it. So we took advantage of it. I know we were there together for at least an hour.

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

February 14th. The first day I got to hold this precious gift. (Laying her head on your shoulder is still her favorite position.)

Those 89 days were an adventure. She had numerous brain scans, pic lines, and lumbar punctures (spinal taps). She developed pneumonia at one point, so she had scans for her lungs for a while. She had countless bradycardia episodes and some tachycardia episodes (those usually happened when she was mad at the nurses.) She developed retinopathy, so she had a pediatric ophthamologist come visit often. She had a grade 3 brain bleed, and up until the week before she was discharged, the neurologist wanted to put in a shunt. But God held Emma in His arms and protected her from any major permanent side effects.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

Lydia meeting Emma for the first time. Looking at her baby sister through the open nicu nurses window.

We finally got to take her home April 17th. Lydia didn’t even get to meet her until the day before we brought her home. Emma was born in the middle of RSV season, so no one under the age of 18 was allowed in the NICU. Lydia only got to see her via facetime on our phones. The first day she met her was through the nicu window.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

In her car seat ready to go home. Big bow on her head and heart monitor on her body.

She was 3 months old and weighed 6 pounds the day we took her home. They never did install a shunt. She went home hooked up to a heart monitor and wore that until June.

 

She is now a very happy, healthy, and funny two year old. She wears glasses due to a weak eye muscle and ankle braces because her ankles turn in slightly when she walks. Both situations we hope and pray are temporary.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

Emma playing in the church nursery. The smile on her face says it all.

She is still a little behind in her speech, but I have no doubt that she will catch up. To us, she is a miracle.  It has been said that preemies usually are caught up by the time they are two. Our physical therapist told us that they are rewriting the book on micropreemies, that they should be caught up by the age four. We have great physical and speech therapists working with her to ensure that happens.

We may never know why God allowed this to happen. But believe me when I say Emma is worth every second of every minute. I can’t wait to tell her her story when she gets older. We even ordered a doll that is her exact birth weight and length so she can see just how tiny she was. I hope she realizes what an absolute miracle she is. And we are blessed to be her mommy and daddy.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Lydia and Emma coloring Easter Eggs.

Pathology Report Findings

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This past Monday, June 16th, I had my thyroid surgery. The doctor removed the nodule and the right half of my thyroid. He said I did really well, which is good to know, because all I remember is “We’re going to put this oxygen mask on for right now and then (insert Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice here) blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, wah….” Then I was waking up in recovery. I had already warned my husband that if any embarrassing videos showed up anywhere in cyberspace, he’d pay dearly. They decided to keep me overnight. I wasn’t real thrilled about that until I got to my room and couldn’t keep my eyes open. The only reason I woke up at all is because of the blasted automatic blood pressure taker thingy. It went off every 15 minutes. Pretty annoying if I do say so myself. My fabulous hubby stayed with me all day. At least I think he did. He said he did. I was pretty out of it.

I have this great little incision at the base of my neck being held together with surgical tape strips. Strips I am not supposed to take off. My husband says at first glance it looks like some piece of chunky jewelry. Ha! I can even make surgical tape look good. The doctor told me to use lots of sunscreen if I go out in the sun. He said it would scar kind of funny if I don’t. So I have decided to stay out of the sun for awhile. I don’t need permanent chunky jewelry.

After removing the nodule, they did a second biopsy. My surgeon called Thursday afternoon with the pathology report. The biopsy did indeed show signs of follicular carcinoma, or cancer. It is the second most common form of thyroid cancer. Success rate is about 90%. So now the plan is to go back in on the 30th and take out the other half of my thyroid. My doctor said the next procedure will be even easier and the surgery should be outpatient. Yippee! No automatic blood pressure taker thingy! Once that is done I get to take some radioactive iodine that is supposed to “kill” everything off. Rumor has it that I will have to stay away from my family for a day or two, but I’ll have to confirm that with my doctor. Going through airport security is pretty much out as well. Last thing I need is to be detained by Jack Bauer or Homeland Security for setting off radiation detectors. After about 6 weeks he will start me on some medication, but in the mean time I will feel “very sluggish.” I was also told to be prepared to be dumb for the next 6 weeks. I’m excited about this. I’ve used mommy brain as an excuse for about 2 years, and it will be nice to have a new excuse.

I’m doing okay with all of this. I keep telling myself, “Thousands of people before me have been down this road.” And, of course, it could be worse. I try not to complain about my health issues. They are what they are. No matter where I am, there is always someone who wishes their medical situations were as “easy” as mine.

This morning, as I was playing offertory, I realized what I was playing. I started smiling as I sang the words in my head:

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Cookies are dessert.

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For his Father’s Day dessert, my hubby wanted chocolate chip cookies. His favorite recipe is one I have had for years. Let’s face it. Chocolate chip cookie recipes are like meatloaf recipes. Everybody has one, and everybody thinks theirs is the best. Difference is, people actually like chocolate chip cookies.

When I was a girl growing up at Vandament Avenue Baptist Church in Yukon, Oklahoma, we had a sweet little old lady member named Blanche James. She lived in a little house in Yukon and she quilted like a dream. She was very crafty and made me handmade items when I was younger. My mom was able to get Blanche’s chocolate chip cookie recipe before she passed away (Mrs. Blanche passed away, not my mom), and it is the recipe I use over and over. The card it is written on is wrinkled, taped up, stained, and the one card we won’t lose. It is usually taped inside the cabinet door. Mrs. Blanche has been gone for years now, but I always think of her when I make these cookies, and it makes me smile.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. shortening (or 3/4 c. butter)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 t. soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 pkg. chocolate chips (I prefer semi-sweet)
  • 1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together the shortening and sugars. Add eggs to creamed mixture and mix in vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture slowly. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. (I use a small Pampered Chef scoop.) Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Makes approximately 5 dozen cookies. (The recipe might make 6 dozen if you don’t eat a bunch of the cookie dough.)

A plate of comfort food. Chocolate chip cookies. I can't eat just one.

A plate of comfort food. Chocolate chip cookies. I can’t eat just one.

I sometimes make up the dough and keep it in the fridge. That way hubby can have fresh baked cookies each night. Yummers!

Father’s Day dinner

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I’m behind, I know. Just think of me being really early for next year. Of course, this isn’t necessarily Father’s Day Only specific.

Hubby's plate of stroganoff with a side of garlic bread.

Hubby’s plate of stroganoff with a side of garlic bread.

One of my husband’s favorite meals is beef stroganoff. I got the recipe from my mom, but it has evolved over the years. Her original recipe was round steak, cooked, and a container of sour cream. I started adding cream of mushroom soup and like it better that way.

Ingredients:

  • 2 T. oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs round steak, cut into cubes
  • 1 can (10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 small can sliced mushrooms (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Wide egg noodles, cooked

Heat garlic in oil over low heat, until tender. Add round steak, turn heat to medium and cook until done. Do not drain. Add soup, sour cream, and mushrooms (if desired). Heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over egg noodles.

We usually also have garlic toast with it and sometimes a side salad. It’s nothing fancy, and it is really simple, but we think it is yummy. Enjoy!

 

Just Call Me Sarah (continuing down infertility road)

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Hopefully by now you have read our story about Lydia and her miracle adoption. God’s hand is all over her story. Even our case worker said, “I have never seen a case go this quickly and this smoothly. I just can’t explain it.” I can! It was God’s timing and for whatever reason, He orchestrated the whole process to go like it did. I personally believe it is so that neither I nor my husband can claim any credit. Only God can do what He did.

Fast forward to 2010, two years after Lydia’s adoption was finalized. I had weighed in at my heaviest weight ever. At ?xx lbs (did you really expect me to admit to it?) I was tired and sluggish. With PCOS, the heavier you are the more complications can develop. I was tired of being tired and knew I had to do something about it before my health got worse. A friend encouraged me to start Weight Watchers, so I started that journey in late summer of 2010. By the end of April 2011, I had lost 49 lbs! I felt good and my body was starting to get back to normal.

The first week of May I had a funny feeling, so without telling my husband, I bought a pregnancy test. Mind you, I have bought tons of these and always with the same result, though I hadn’t bought one in years. I always threatened to just use a stick from the back yard. The result would have been the same! May 6th, 2011, just a couple of weeks before our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband was getting ready to walk out the door to go to work. He was getting his keys when I walked into the bedroom. “Honey, you need to sit down.” says I. “I have to get to work!” says he. I start laughing, which makes him more annoyed. “Deidre. What?!? I have to get to work!” (Did I mention he is the only one on staff at the church and we lived across the parking lot at this point?) With each question I laugh even more. The more I laugh, the more he gets annoyed. “Will you just spit it out?!?!”

“I’m pregnant.” The look on my husband’s face was priceless. I so wish I had a camera at that exact moment. Surprise!! When he finally came to, he said, “But you’re old!!” (I had just turned 39.) Needless to say we were both in shock. I now have a new perspective on Sarah and how the Bible said, “Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I am waxed old…?” Been there. Lol…out loud.  I found a little place here in town that did pregnancy tests and, yep, I was pregnant. We called and told just a few people, told our mothers on Mother’s Day, then we told our church that night. (My husband started out so serious, I think some people thought he was tendering his resignation.) Needless to say, word spread of this old lady being pregnant for the first time. I found a doctor and we started down pregnancy road. Our due date? January 8th.

We started picking out names, looking at bedding, and dreaming about the first of January and our miracle baby. We were very excited. I remember telling a friend of mine, “I can’t imagine God allowing me to get pregnant after all these years only to take the baby. I’m sure everything will be fine. But, God is sovereign and can do what He sees fit.” Little did I know then that my conversation would be put to the test.

The middle of June (17-18) we had a Purposeful Parenting Seminar scheduled at the church. I got up that Friday morning and started baking and getting things ready. Late in the morning, I started bleeding. I called the doctor and the nurse said as long as it didn’t get worse I was fine. (I was trying not to be a hypochondriac. Ain’t nobody got time for that!) We got to the church, starting talking with the pastor doing the seminar, and only one parent came. After that parent was done speaking with the pastor, we went out for ice cream. Unfortunately, things did get worse, and on our way home I told my husband we needed to get to the hospital. We spent the next 6-7 hours in the ER. A very long 6-7 hours.  I remember how compassionate the doctor on call was, how sweet the nurse was, and how they blew a vein in my left arm. (I had the bruise for over a week to prove it.) I also remember John Bishop’s chorus ringing through my ears that night. “God is good and God is right. God is good both day and night.” That’s actually all of the song I could remember, but it was enough.

I remember these dates because the day you find out you’re pregnant is a big deal. Plus, we found out Mother’s Day weekend and miscarried Father’s Day weekend. Were we sad? Yes. Were we disappointed? Absolutely. Were we in despair? No. Years before this we had given our fertility (and lack thereof) to the Lord. Our lives were in His hands. So are the lives of our children.

II Corinthians 1:4 states, “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”  To those of you who reached out to me after those events, Thank You! Many of you have been through what we experienced and your testimony was a blessing to both of us. You lived out II Corinthians 1 and encouraged me to do the same. I may never know why God chose to take this baby, but I need to learn from it. The only way to be an encouragement to someone going through trials is to respond correctly through mine.

 

 

Today we celebrate 16 years of wedded bliss (and 18 years of marriage)

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There are two times in my life I would never want to repeat. The first is junior high. Ugh. There is no reality show prize money large enough to tempt me to go back. The second is the first two years of marriage. Oy ve. An anniversary is a big deal, but especially when you thought you weren’t going to make it past the first two. I’m sure it was ALL his fault. I’m so easy to live with.

On our wedding day staring lovingly into his eyes. As they say, “Love is blind. Marriage is the eye opener.”

I did not marry my best friend. My best friends stood beside me that day. I might have spoken the typical, (insert engaged sweet sappy voice here:) “He’s my best friend…” But truly, he did not know me like my attendants did. He had never seen me without make-up, he had never seen me without my hair being perfect, and he had never known me to look frumpy in worn-out sweats and ratty t-shirts as I cleaned. He did not necessarily know my ugly side, the first thing in the morning face, my aversion to putting the toilet paper on the roll, the hives I develop from  putting my shoes in the closet (so I don’t), or my morning breath side. But he was going to learn. And love me anyway.

To say the first two years were rough would be a HUGE understatement. I was raised you argue until someone gives in (usually him.) He was raised that a married couple never argues. We had a lot to learn, because both sides are wrong. I was the baby and he was the oldest of three boys. Before we got married his idea of conflict resolution was beating up your brother and going on your way. He did at least know that wouldn’t work with his wife. Thankfully, we learned to get along. We learned to work together, control our tempers (most of the time), and pray for each other. Only God can truly change a person.

Each year gets better and better. I remember the night before we brought Lydia home, I told him, “I really like you.” He informed me I was supposed to. I reminded him the Bible says I have to love him, it never says I have to like him. And I really like my husband. We have endured a lot over the years: those rough first years, tough jobs, crazy family members, infertility, loss of family, health issues, and the list goes on. But God has been faithful in every situation and He has drawn us closer to Him which in turn draws us closer to each other.

I can now positively state he is my best friend and he loves me despite my short comings. We have a good time together. We laugh all of the time, we finish each others sentences, we think the same thoughts, and we’re working on him reading my mind. We love to spend time together. It’s much harder now with our three beautiful daughters, but I appreciate those times we do go out all the more. There is not anything he does not know about me. He has seen me at my best and he has tolerated me at my worst.

So to my fabulous husband: Happy Anniversary! I love you more than I could ever express. Thank you for being you and loving me through the crazy times as well as the good. You are the cream in my coffee, the root beer to my float, the cheese to my burger, the peanut butter to my chocolate, and I could never imagine life without you. May the next 18 years be even better than the first.