Round Two

We are thrilled to have the boys back in town…Wilson arrived home from Ft. Knox a week ago today and Max got home Sunday night after his month long tour!  Yay!  We have just one week more with Wilson before he heads back to APU and Max will be home for a couple of weeks before he returns to Point Loma.  The summer has passed by much too quickly…as it typically does.

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Olivia is particularly happy to have her big bros home!!!

Since the boys were both gone on the 25th, we appreciated having a little time together at the cemetery so they could experience the “mountain of cars tribute” for themselves.  They got a chance to arrange them all and, as boys do, had to stop and play with them before they all got placed.  Ha Ha!  Rudy would be so pleased.

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Thank you Lucas C. for the fun hat you left for Rudy!!!

Last year on this day, August 7th, we laid our boy to rest.  I’m reposting the video of Rudy’s funeral service and his memorial slideshow below…followed by a few images from his burial that I didn’t post last year.   It was a remarkable day…so full of love and many tears but laughter too.  In the days following Rudy’s death, his journey back to California from Guymon, OK by way of Oklahoma City was such a long one and the arrangements for his service and burial here at home added another week to the whole process so when the day finally came, as painful as it was to say our final goodbye, it was time…it was time to lay Rudy to rest.  Commemorating today is definitely part of observing the 1st year anniversary for us and I thank you all for your part in holding us up these past couple of weeks in particular through your prayers and love.

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Rudy’s burial at the Goleta District Cemetery.

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“I’ll Fly Away”

So many wonderful sights and sounds of love that day!!!

Early Wake Up Call

Rolf, Olivia, Harley and I ended July 25th cuddled in bed and fell asleep watching “Cars” the movie.  🙂  Thursday July 26th started off with an early wake up call for us all as Olivia headed off to volunteer at a local kids camp and Rolf & I headed to my appt with the neurologist.  Because of a scheduling delay, I haven’t had a neurology consult since March so I was bracing myself for a tough reality check as we discussed my progression of the past few months.  I’ve noticed increased weakness in my legs (especially in my knees) and I’m beginning to notice weakness in my arms.  Dr. D confirmed both in her physical examination.  In addition, she confirmed my need for a wheelchair based, at this point, on my inability to lift my left leg against gravity (anti-gravity).  This led to a discussion about mobility.  One of the things I’m finding confusing in the management of this disease is the seemingly contradictory but equally passionate recommendations out there.  I’m told to conserve the limited number of neurons I have left by limiting how much I walk and exert myself while at the same time to keep walking…to walk as long as I can.  What?!  Dr. D confirmed both are true but it’s a delicate balance.  Conservation is key but maintaining mobility is also important especially in maintaining my ability to transfer from one surface to another.  The goal is to not push myself to the point of fatigue…I feel fatigued EVERY day (particularly at night)…another indicator that it’s time to manage my movement a little better.

I know the whole situation is out of my control but one of the things that makes these milestone moments in the progression of this disease so difficult for me is not wanting Rolf or the kids to ever think I’m not trying hard enough…as if my efforts could have any impact on whether or not I need a wheelchair.  I know it’s an irrational concern but I just want to scream “MY BODY MAY BE GIVING UP, BUT I’M NOT!!!!”.  Rolf expressed it well when he said that when we managed Rudy’s care, there was always hope of improvement in some areas and ultimately hope of getting him to another treatment option, for example, a heart transplant; with me, we’re in preservation mode…it’s a totally different mindset.  There were a lot of emotional realities we had to face yesterday on the heels of an already emotionally charged week.  I’m still feeling pretty wiped out today and praying for relief from the physical aches of grief…stinging eyes, neck and back pain, headache.

So what do we do now?  The ALS Association hooked us up with a loaner wheelchair to use for now.  I asked Dr. D if I could just get by with loaners and not bother getting my own…she said loaners are okay for now but as my needs change, it’ll be important for me to have a chair custom fit for my specific needs.  Makes sense.  So we begin that process that includes PT evaluations for the insurance company, etc.  In the meantime, Rolfi was johnny-on-the-spot, came home yesterday and already built me ramps giving me access outside our bedroom to the kitchen and outside our front door!    Grateful for that man.

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Rolf on a test drive!

Ironically, Olivia volunteered at a wheelchair camp this week (and made a quick appearance on our local news!  Ha Ha).  I’m proud of her for making the choice to be a part of this camp this week (we had hoped Rudy could attend this camp at some point but he wasn’t independent enough when he became age-eligible).  Her week was filled with long, fun days surrounded by great friends and being a special help to new camper friends!  I admire her strength and grace.

Wilson made it in from his extended field training and is back on base at Ft. Knox.  He honored Rudy on the 25th with a 12 mile, timed ruck that completed his formal summer training.  We can’t wait for his return next week and will soak up the last couple of weeks we’ll have with him before he starts his senior year at APU!!!

Max and the band are back in California and helping to staff a summer camp down south this week.  We catch glimpses of him on social media working hard and having fun!  He and his team have one more week of camp and then, he too, will be home for a couple of weeks before heading back to Point Loma.

Pursuing things we are passionate about is truly life-giving and I find it profound that all three big sibs were pursuing their passions individually this week while at the same time collectively honoring their little brother by living full.  Grateful for these kids of ours.

🙂

 

One Year

The MOHD Squad is grateful for the quiet day we shared…it included yummy food and a quiet afternoon at the cemetery.  We talked a little but mostly just sat quietly.

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Rolf and I reread ALL the cards we’ve received in the past year!  (The way this basket is stuffed is deceiving…there are A LOT of cards underneath too!!!!)
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Olivia painted.
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Olivia and Harley flew a kite.
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And we arranged cars…
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…lots and lots of cars!!
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I’m pretty sure Rudy saw them all…and is delighted! Thank you friends! (Amazing art by caracelvanart.squarespace.com)

We received so many lovely texts and messages today but one I got from Katie’s mom stands out…she wrote, in part, “Wrapping you all in our love today and remembering how hard the ‘last first’ was…”.  Yes, there is truth in that.  As hard as the this past year has been and as sad as today is, it is our last “first” without Rudy…from here on out our memories of Rudy will be in a more distant past and that doesn’t feel good either.  So, we cling to the memories we have and the memories you all continue to share with us and recall them often so as not to feel so far away from this treasure of a boy we loved well in his lifetime and continue to love & honor in our day to day.  Thank you for helping us celebrate him with your CARS cars (I’m going to miss those daily Amazon deliveries!! Ha Ha) and for “Paying it Forward for Rudy” today.  We are grateful for your investment in his life through your hands on care, your friendship, your prayers, your support…and now in his legacy.  We are beyond humbled and, as always, forever grateful!

 

Rolf’s poem sums it up beautifully:

A whole year past                                                                                                                              But I’m back there in an instant
Growling like a bear
You giggle and set off on an escape you hope won’t succeed

Pressed so close we breathe the same air                                                                                          I shake with your laughter                                                                                                          Aware of the tapping in your chest against mine
Yearning that the overwhelming love in my heart could somehow add to the beating of yours

Holding My Breath

This time last year we were enjoying our last full day with Rudy – a day Rolf eloquently captured in this post.  Today, I’m holed up in my bedroom with a window air conditioner because of rare extreme heat hitting Goleta this week and lying in my bed immobilized by legs that are fatigued and weak.  I feel trapped as tomorrow closes in and I find I’m holding my breath in between bouts of tears that spring without warning.  I want to run away…I want to escape.  The reality, though, is that there is no escape so I guess my physical reality represents the emotional reality of today.  The goal is to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe.

The SBRM graduation on Saturday was, once again, amazing.  I wish you could experience one.  The event really is beyond explanation…it’s a moment in time the memory of which, we pray, is seared into every graduate’s mind and heart because it is not only a vivid picture of their success and hope for the future but, more importantly, it is a vivid picture of God’s presence and the support of community going forward.  When life gets hard for the graduates, our prayer is they will have the strength and clarity of mind to use the tools they’ve been taught, to know they are not alone in the journey and reach out for a stabilizing hand.

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This is my favorite moment in every graduation.  This is the moment when past graduates are invited to come to the altar and pray with the new graduates at the close of the ceremony.  Often there isn’t enough room for everybody and the crowd spills up the aisles!  It’s profound and humbling and powerful.  It’s authentic love and it impacts everyone in the room whether you’re in recovery or not.  I’m so grateful to God that this powerful celebration occurred in the days leading up to this sad, sad week.  How grateful I am to share in a celebration that has soul significance in the midst of such deep, personal heartbreak.  How very grateful I am for the community that surrounds our family and the hundreds of hands outstretched in our direction.  Thank you God!  Thank you, dear friends, for the texts, emails, notes, flowers, LMcQueen cars, food, for running errands, doing laundry, making the day to day function smoothly…for your ongoing outstretched hands both near and far.

Please pray for us specifically this afternoon.  I’m getting measured and fitted for a motorized wheelchair today.  Practically it’s a good thing but it is a tough pill to swallow.  If it’s true that the symptoms of ALS are exacerbated by stress and anxiety then I’m screwed!!!…(this week anyway).   The goal remains to not get overwhelmed and to remember to breathe!  😉

 

 

Quietly Slipping Away

I’m going to need you to bear with me the next couple of weeks, dear friends.  I’m feeling particularly reflective these days and when that is combined with a heightened awareness of grief as we approach the year anniversary of Rudy’s death and burial, I could err on the side of over posting.  My brain is firing at warp speed and, as always, I’d like to somehow capture all the thoughts and feelings and not get totally lost in them but then again maybe I won’t have the energy to do the hard work of processing it all and I’ll go radio silent…it’s hard to know.  The vivid memories of Rudy this time last year are already haunting me and Rolf which makes me wonder how we’re going to get through this next week.  Awww Rudy, you are beyond missed.

I have a long list of questions for God when I see Him face to face.  I have a lot of questions about how this past year unfolded specifically.  Aside from the obvious trauma, this has been a very strange year.  For reasons beyond our control, many important, traditional events in our family’s annual calendar were cancelled…for example, you may recall that the Thomas fire back in December took out most of Christmas, more recently the major remodel at the Rescue Mission forced the cancelation of the 4th of July celebration for the homeless guests (which is by far our family’s favorite holiday at the SBRM) and just this past week our church decided to cancel Vacation Bible School for a variety of perfectly logical reasons.  On the one hand, it could be described as God’s grace to not have to face it all this first year without Rudy (because he was such a big presence in it all) but on the other hand, my disease is taking me faster than I want to go and for that reason I feel like I’m being deprived of the opportunity to fully engage one last time in the special traditions in which I take such great delight.  My body is changing and how I interact with my world is only going to look more and more different from here on out.  I kinda feel like I’m being deprived of a “victory lap” so to speak (aka Satan’s mockery).  Now since I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t revolve around me, I suspect the truth of the situation falls somewhere in between God’s grace and Satan’s mockery of me but the emotional ramifications remain the same…it makes me feel like I’m quietly slipping away behind this thick fog bank of loss & grief and crazy, random life circumstances.  I certainly continue to pray and hope that things plateau for me physically and life will stay unchanged for just a minute in the coming year but, if not….

In addition to preparing for Rudy’s 1 year anniversary and contemplating the meaning behind life’s crazy twists, I made the difficult decision to step back from leading worship at the SBRM graduations which means this Saturday will be the first graduation in 11 years where I haven’t led worship (actually, I think I did miss one graduation but it was so long ago I can’t remember why).  It’s painful to step back but it seems like the right time as my symptoms become more distracting.  I have considered it an incredible honor to share (through worship) in the sacred-ground celebrations of sobriety and freedom with dozens of heroic individuals who successfully completed their year long program over the years…and I will miss it…but I certainly am no less proud of the work of the SBRM staff and residents as I continue my support from the pew!  Yay Graduates!!  Yay God!!

Thank you again for the fun collection of Lightening McQueen cars and for your prayers leading up to next Wednesday.  We are planning a private day but feel surrounded by our loving community as represented by all of Rudy’s cars!!!  We are beyond blessed and don’t take any of your expressions of love for granted.  Thank you dear ones.  We love you too.

 

Discovering My Voice

Well, it’s a HOT Monday in Goleta and we’re back to a normal weekly schedule after our trip to NYC and the 4th of July holiday week.  A big thanks to everyone who reached out to us on Friday and Saturday during the fire that broke out in our town.  I was actually down south when the Holiday Fire started on Friday night but Rolf and Olivia kept me updated via texts and phone calls.  The mandatory evacuation zone extended to a 1/2 mile from our home so R & O did end up packing a few suitcases full of pictures and important papers but never actually left the area.  It was a relatively small fire that was well contained within a day but, sadly, 20 structures (most of them homes) were lost.  It has been a tough year for our community.

To be honest, I’m starting the week off pretty overwhelmed.  I blame the heat because my perspective is definitely warped in extreme heat but I was kind of anticipating this would be a hard week even before the heatwave hit.  We’re back to the daily grind and that’s a BIG let down after our special family time away in NY and my weekend in San Diego with dear friends…both boys are gone now until the first week of August…and the looooooong, heartbreaking month of July is ahead of us.  I have a desk FULL of things I simply must sort through, bills to pay, medical stuff to follow up on and I can’t seem to muster up an ounce of motivation…my body is moving as slow as molasses.  At the end of our NY trip I wanted to get back to my bed and the comforts of my space at home while at the same time not wanting all the fun distraction of being away to end.  I still feel that way and just want to throw a toddler tantrum today because I want what I want…and what I want is, well, the impossible.

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The last of my summer travels ended in San Diego with my dear friends and former co-workers! 25 years may have passed since we worked together but the connections are just as tight! Love you all.
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I couldn’t have done the trip without these gals!
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The trip to SD also allowed me to personally send Max off on his Point Loma summer ministry team adventure…
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…he gets to tour for a month with a PL band leading worship at summer camps and churches in the southwest! So fun!

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So, what’s next?  I think Rolf and I are gearing up and bracing ourselves for all the unknowns that are headed our way as we prepare for the year anniversary of Rudy’s death.  It’s hard to know what to expect…it’s hard to know how the next few weeks will unfold emotionally and how that will impact our day to day.  The awareness of our grief is certainly heightened and the unpredictability of grief continues which is maddening.  I must say, though, the plan to have you all send us LM cars to honor Rudy at his gravesite on the 25th was GENIUS because we have a nice collection so far and every delivery brings us great joy and delight!!!  🙂

On the ALS front, I’m continuing my infusions of Radicava every two weeks (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off).  My home health nurse who comes to access my port tells me that her other clients are eager to start the next round after their 2-week break because they notice a difference when they are on the Radicava.  I can’t say I’m noticing much of a difference but maybe I’m not as “in tune” with my body.  So, I’m still acting in faith that it’s working to my advantage.  Because of a delay in scheduling, I don’t see the neurologist until the end of this month.  I haven’t seen her since March so it will be interesting to hear how she thinks I’m doing.

I received a BIG box in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  It contained an insurance-approved speech generating device that my speech pathologist has been working to get me for a few months now.  In fact, when we got news the device was being shipped to me, he sent me an email that read “Congratulations on your new Tobii-Dynavox device…”.  It took me back a bit.  I realized that, yes, this is something to celebrate.  It’s a big deal that I have it and a real gift for sure.  I am grateful.  It’s just that it’s the start of another chapter in this ALS journey.  It’s a device that will speak for me when I can no longer speak for myself…it’s a device that will keep me connected to the outside world when I can no longer engage the outside world for myself…it’s a device with a learning curve and I need to start learning how to use it now.  That’s heavy and heartbreaking.

Just to give you a little sneak peek into my process…within weeks of my diagnosis, Rolf and I began researching the many options out there for voice banking…a process where you record hundreds of sounds, words and phrases to be used later with the speech generating device to make a computer generated voice that sounds like you.  I actually ended up deciding not to voice bank.  My voice was already beginning to sound slurred and I just didn’t feel like it was worth the effort.  If I made the wrong decision for my family, I apologize, but I feel okay with my choice.  I just didn’t want to hear a slurred version of myself chirping back at me every time I wanted to say something…adding insult to injury.  I mean, if I have a choice, I’d much rather program a cool Australian accent or sophisticated British accent to switch things up a bit.  🙂  I share this cautiously as I know for many voice banking is a real life line and I’m not typically that vain but it’s how I felt at the time and I’m trusting my instincts.  I get a few hours of training with a company rep that I’m trying to set up now so once I get some time with the technology, I’m sure I’ll grow in my motivation to interact with it…I’ve said it before but the journey of ALS requires a daily assessment of where I’m at and what needs to be adapted to make life doable.  Where the focus up until now has mostly been mobility, communication now shares the radar and life charges on.  I’ll keep you posted and let you know what voice I land on.  🙂

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Olivia captured a rare picture of me and Rolf at an outdoor concert at El Cap a couple of Saturdays ago…
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We LOVE portrait mode!! Ha Ha

 

Our Concrete Jungle Adventure

Ahhh, we made it home safely from our epic adventure in the city that never sleeps and are taking a few days to slowly find our footing again (well, me anyway).  🙂

Actually, the fun began for us the weekend BEFORE our flight to New York on June 18th.  Rolf and I drove up to Palo Alto on Friday the 15th to celebrate our niece who graduated from Stanford that weekend.  It was refreshing to spend the evening with good friends and a beautiful afternoon on campus with Rolf’s sister, brother-in-law and niece.  We returned home late Saturday in time to celebrate Father’s Day with the boys and later with Olivia when she returned home from a lacrosse tournament in San Diego!

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Yay Heather! Class of 2018!
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Olivia’s first summer lacrosse tournament in San Diego…Go Mission Lacrosse!
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Happy Father’s Day Rolf
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More Father’s Day fun

Then, we got up early Monday morning for our flight out of LAX to NEW YORK CITY!

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Thanks to our friends Rob and Susan, we enjoyed stress free car service to and from the airport in Los Angeles…and again to our hotel in Times Square!  Such a huge practical help!

This trip was made extra-special by the number of details arranged by friends that added to the fun the Dream Foundation planned…and, of course, there were a number of divine blessings too.  Bottom line?  An army of earthly and heavenly angels had our family’s back and the trip couldn’t have gone smoother!  🙂  Here’s more detail than anyone would ever want (Ha, Ha, Ha)…

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Saddled up and ready for some FUN…
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The first divine blessing came in the form of a flight delay (a delay I prayed for) during a layover in Indianapolis which allowed me to have a quick visit with two of my best high school friends. ‘Grateful to have friends that drop everything to meet me in an airport food court. Ha Ha 🙂 
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Due to our delay getting into Newark, we didn’t make it to bed until nearly 3am on Tuesday but everyone was still all smiles for our 6:30am arrival to the ABC studio in Times Square…
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Thanks to Shelley, we got VIP tickets to GMA!

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Kevin Costner shaking Olivia’s hand…she got to tell him how much she liked “McFarland”. 🙂
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The audience handler singled out the boys (surprise, surprise) in his off camera schtick…
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Olivia and Amy Robach
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Ginger Zee…adorable.
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Michael Strahan was the sweetest.
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We left GMA and headed straight to Tiffany & Co on 5th Avenue for an appointment arranged by my friend Chelsea from the SB Tiffany & Co…

 

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Outfitted with my Audrey Hepburn sunglasses and black dress,  we were ushered into a private shopping suite and served croissants and tea/coffee…we literally had breakfast at Tiffanys!
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So fun!

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Thank you Chelsea for the fun surprise.
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Later that night we enjoyed “Wicked” -the first time for all of us…thank you Tami!!!…
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…and a late night trip to the top of the Rock after the show…
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A beautiful view of the city thanks to the Dream Foundation!
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Inside Rockefeller Center…album cover perhaps?

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Aaaaaand that concludes DAY ONE!!!  Ha Ha Ha

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On Day Two I met my favorite New Yorker…Kevin the ticket taker at the Empire State Building.  There was a small glitch with our tickets and we couldn’t get to the top but it was worth the walk just to meet Kevin…seriously!  🙂
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The kids set off on an excursion around town by themselves in search of this cool building that was the subject of a school project for Olivia this year…
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…$500 shoes…
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…and subway tile in an actual subway (with New York attitude)!
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The DF sent us to Aladdin that night…another excellent Broadway choice.
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We ended the day with a walk through Times Square…
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A stand-out even in a giant Times Square crowd.
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We braved the subway system with the scooter on Day 3 to go see the 9/11 memorial and museum…we spent two hours in the museum and still didn’t see everything. It was very well done but a little overwhelming after a couple of hours.

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A camouflaged World One Freedom Tower…

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It was such a beautiful day!
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Manhattan
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The Hudson River
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The East River and Brooklyn Bridge
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Later that night Rolf took the kids to see Bruce on Broadway while I rested back at the hotel.
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A highlight for Rolf for sure!

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Day 4 was spent with family as Rolf’s sister and her girls came down from Boston for the day…we walked along the High Line above Chelsea Market and spent the afternoon in Central Park.
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Cousin fun in Central Park

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On our last day in the city, we fanned out and spread a little Rudy love in the Big Apple. He wouldn’t have liked the crowds or noise in New York City but he would have really loved the colorful, crazy people we met!
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We squeezed in one last show…the matinee of Phantom of the Opera…
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…and did a little shopping at an outdoor market. Well, Livy and I shopped while the boys hung out looking at their phones. 😉
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We extended our trip a couple of days to tour around Rolf’s hometown in New Jersey.
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We spent a few hours on the Jersey Shore…

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…and enjoyed an evening with old, family friends and Oma (who just happened to be visiting friends in the northeast that week too!)
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Rolf worked here in high school…
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…ate here in high school…
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…and hung out in this pretty park!
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We got one last look at NYC from Jersey City the night before we flew home.

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God was very gracious to me all week with amazing weather. I don’t tolerate heat and humidity well and we ended up enjoying mild temps in the high 60s and low 70s ALL WEEK! It was amazing and the cooler temps allowed me to thoroughly enjoy all the excursions we took…a HUGE blessing!

Rolf and I had the added blessing of connecting with friends from long ago that just happened to be in NYC for various reasons…such a small world!

So, how do I sum it all up?  Certainly the collective effort of this trip is deeply touching to me…I feel loved and surrounded and lifted up…not only by those who participated in the particulars of the trip but also by those who took care of things at home and lifted us up in prayer.  The trip itself was precious family time together.  I’m not sure we could have squeezed anything else into it. 🙂  Being in the city was invigorating but also exhausting.  I think it was perfect timing for me physically…my limitations in navigating the typical world were very apparent to us all.  I needed the boys’ help to get out of the sitting position most places and Rolf’s help getting off the toilet and in/out of the shower.  As the week wore on, I felt my speech and body maneuvering slower and it was stressful to battle the crowds all day, every day.  I’m hoping a few days in bed will help me bounce back a bit but regardless, it was worth all the effort to go.  I love my family…I love doing life with them…and I love them even more as we journey ALS together.  Thank you, Dream Foundation, for making this trip possible.  Thank you, dear friends, for all the “extras” that made this trip even more memorable.  Thank you, family, for rolling with the punches, making our ever-changing life together look effortless and normal and for making me laugh.  There is so much for which to be grateful.  #iamblessed

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Thank you all!!
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There is much that inspires in a place so diverse, so big, so active!