Pinch me

Apr 09

Remember last Monday when I got the news about my new cancer spots?

I shared the news with Brad first: we have new spots.  Telling him news like that is kind of like watching the distorting scenes from the old Matrix movies: we bend and absorb to accommodate news we simultaneously revolt against and commit to thrive in.  We are in this together, and he has the obviously-harder job of being the hand-holding half of us.  Next I began calling my family who all respond in their own ways.  I sent a short text out to the few folks who knew I was having a scan: Three new cancer spots found today; I will blog details sometime before bed tonight.  I choose joy.

I arranged for Phenom to keep Greta a little longer so that I could have a quiet after school hour alone with Maren.  We had a cuddle on the couch where I told her the news about the spots, what it means, and what it doesn’t mean.  We prayed and we talked about three good things that happened to each of us during the day.  She is so strong, that girl.

Brad came home from work and gave me a long, tight hug.  Our girls mingle around, among and between us, as they always do.  In the middle of our evening shuffle dance around the kitchen, Brad looked at me with the weight of love in his eyes and said, “I think I know what we should do tonight.”

I looked at him, puzzled, thinking to myself, “What is the thing we should do tonight?”

He said with conviction, “I think we should make the arrangements to send you to Australia.”

Let me explain that because in a normal family that sounds cra-cra-crazy.  (And to be clear: my family is not normal.  We are abnormally awesome.)  My mom (aka NanaRoz, aka The Rozzinator, aka Nurse Roz–she has many hats) is Australian.  She was born and raised in Australia, came to the USA as an exchange student, met my dad, and married him five years after they met after they had lived apart for four of those five years.  They got married in Australia, then promptly moved to the USA where they have lived for the past thirty-nine years.

Mom moved here alone though; she left her parents, four siblings and extended family all in Australia.  Over the decades, the family has grown so that I have four pairs of aunts and uncles and eight cousins there.  All of them have been here at sometime or another for fabulous bursts of visiting.  We are marvelously close, especially given the miles between us.  Mom and Dad committed to traveling to Australia with my sisters and I every three to five years as we grew up, and Brad has encouraged me to managed to maintain a similar schedule as I’ve become an adult.  Some might say I’m well-traveled, but for much of my pre-Brad life I only knew the Midwest/coastal US and southeast Queensland, Australia.  Our trips there were not about the exotic country of Australia, though it is a wonderful place to visit and explore.  It’s all about the people I love who live there.

The first of my eight Australian cousins gets married on Saturday; Mom and Dad have been planning to attend the wedding — Dad’s first trip to Australia in nine years — since she got engaged eighteen months ago.  I’ve wanted to come, but I’m a grown up and wanting something doesn’t mean I get it.  I was very, very, very hesitant to spend our hard-earned money on a trip that was so Jen-centric.  I want to spend my time, energy and resources with Brad, Maren, Greta first.  And that’s as it should be.

But Brad, being the sensational man that he is, knows the dynamic of the Australian family and how rare it is for everyone to be together for such a wonderful occasion.  He knows that one of my triplet cousins (three of us have long red curly hair and light eyes) is marrying a wonderful man and we adore them both.  He knows that a week of normal-school-and-work-and-routine for he, Maren and Greta is something that should be an acceptable sacrifice for me to miss.

So, he insisted.  “Jen, this is the best thing you can do for your family this year.  This is a gift.  I want to give them the gift of you for this.”

And so, through happy tear-filled eyes at the anticipation of my adventure and the bottomless capacity with which my man loves me, I clickity-clicked my way through itineraries and bought myself a ticket to Australia for ten days.  It’s the shortest trip I’ve ever made there, and I do miss my loves a great deal.

But I’m here.  I’m in Australia sitting in my aunt and uncles gorgeous home as a caucoughony of whip birds, mynas, lorikeets, and butcherbirds sing and the wind blows.  The scent of the orange jasmine tree wafts in through the open windows and tropical air.  But, as I said, it’s not about the setting: it’s about the people.

I told the fiancé I was coming, so that he could graciously accept my very-very-very-late RSVP to the wedding.  I told my sisters — lifetime co-conspirators that we are — hoping that they could juggle logistics so that they could come too.  Baby Sister, fresh off the ship, was able to pull it off, and she arrived three days before me; she looped in one uncle and cousin to our mission, and began the wave of surprises for everyone else.

As I sat in LAX airport, I was texting my parents — who were sitting at their layover in DFW — and wishing them safe travels.  They thought I was safe at home with Brad, watching the Badgers play in the NCAA Final Four.  I flew on the same fourteen hour flight as family friends–an American brother-from-another-mother and his wife–who were also flying in for the wedding.  I managed to dodge them all along the way to keep my surprise intact.

As I exited Brisbane customs I saw them: a tight circle of my my family laughing and talking with the family friends who exited a few minutes before me.  I ran around the barriers, into the middle of the circle and said, “Who’s ready to party???!!!”

Everyone began shrieking, as we do in our family, and half began crying.  I went around the circle with hugs and gotcha’s and yay’s and WOO HOO’s.  That moment of surprise is so fun.  Our family is so fun.

After everyone regrouped and our hearts resumed normal heartbeats, we began talking logistics: Mom and Dad — who didn’t know I was coming either — were due in two hours later because they had a connection through Sydney.  Some members of the party would stay/return to welcome them off their long flight.  The rest of us were preparing to load into cars, freshen up, relax together, and plan the surprises for the rest of the week.  From behind us we hear a very Roslyn, “Hey! There they are!”  We all spin around.  (It turns out that Sydney was fogged over, so they were diverted — very conveniently — to Brisbane ahead of schedule.)

Mom’s eyes lock on Baby Sister — whom she didn’t know would be in Australia, and she starts yelling over the barricade, “Woo hoo!”

Dad’s eyes lock on me — stunned and thrilled — and we all make our way around the barricade to hug and love each other.

Immediately we had to explain the Chief Sister’s not here: she couldn’t come without losing face at her work, a job she likes and a company wants to advance in.  But she’s here in our hearts.

That airport moment is one that I won’t forget: we’re all talking over each other and laugh-crying and bursting with energy and fun.  The welcoming party was sizable because our family does airport welcomes in big fun ways, but there were still a lot of family members scattered up the coast to surprise.  Over the past few days I’ve gotten to shazam them one-by-one with my appearance.  Each moment sticks with me because it’s such-a-big-deal to get here and be here.  No one was expecting it.  Brad and I pulled it off.  They have graciously rearranged their schedules, opened their homes, and extended their tables to welcome us with open arms.

Brad’s was right; this isn’t a Jen-centric trip.  It’s about our one-big-happy-family who happen to have a lot of miles between us  — most of the time.

Because of both the surprise and the short lead time of the trip, very few people at home knew I was coming.  Brad called his parents with the news and SuperGramma jumped onboard and rearranged her schedule so that she could come to Cincinnati and maximize the quality time with Maren and Greta.  Isn’t she amazing?  When I booked the trip on March 23rd, I realized I would be to Australia and back within three weeks.  Pinch me.

I’m here because of my one-big-happy-family and because my husband is the most selfless and wonderful man who loves me in the biggest, brightest, happiest ways he dream up.

Pinch me; I am living a dream.


  1. Karin /

    This. Is. So. AWESOME! Live, love, dance, laugh, be filled with joy!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!

  2. ShannonK /

    This made me smile BIG after folding 8 loads of laundry! Love you girlfriend! “And Bob’s your Uncle” – I hope you know what that means in Aussie land or else I sound like an idiot!

  3. Julie Hines /

    Jen so happy for you. Enjoy your special time with your family. Greta has filled us in on Mommy’s trip to Australia. We are taking good care of her in the Zebra class 🙂

    Thoughts & Prayers,

  4. Patty /

    Wow! You are blest to have Brad but he and the girls know they are blest to have you! Have a great time.

  5. Melody Smith /

    Still smiling over this wonderful, wonderful trip for you. I’m always reminding my two girls that surprises are to be cherished as they are special gifts from God. The surprises you have provided to your family will be cherished FOREVER, I’m certain of it – ENJOY JEN!

  6. Christin /

    Oh my gosh! It sounds like that was so thrilling!!! Ha, I just texted you today- hilarious that you were actually in AUSTRALIA!!! I’ve been praying for you tons and now will also be smiling with you imagining all your time with family!!! Have a wonderful trip!

  7. Bonnie J /

    Funny, I was thinking and praying for you today wondering how the surprise went !! All I can say is Thank You Jesus !! Have a stupendous time with your family Jen – this is truly a lifetime memory 🙂 Brad is the man the Lord uses to make your dreams come true !!

  8. Reggie /

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Have a great time!

  9. Abby /

    Thank you thank you thank you! needed this post today 🙂 So glad that you get to have this crazy-amazing opportunity… *pinch* nope not dreaming. God works in the weirdest ways. Ner gonna understand it. I’ve given up trying and have learned to accept it. Have an awesome time!

  10. Katie /

    Love hearing the details of this!! Your family sounds so fun and boisterous and cool. I’m so glad you got this opportunity! Brad is one amazing hubby…kudos!! Enjoy your next half of your time there!

  11. Love love LOVE this!!!!
    Have a fabulous time with so many of your loves 🙂

  12. Michelle /

    My face beams as I smile while reading your post. Surprises are wonderful! Loving family members are wonderful! Have a fantabulous time and soak it all in!!!

  13. jen gev /

    Jen, that is the best story EVER.

  14. peggy /

    WOWIE…WOWIE…WOWIE!!! What a fantabulous story! It’ll go down in the record books as the best surprise ever! enJOY!!!♥p

  15. Jules /

    Jen, you are right on all counts…you have the most wonderful husband and the most awesome, fabulous, fun, crazy, beautiful family that anyone could ask for!!! Enjoy them all and give big hugs to all of them for me!!! Love ya!


  16. Janya /

    You’ve painted such a beautiful picture, I can just see that awesome reunion! Have fun!!

  17. Lindsay /

    I love this!!! So fun!!

  18. Lisa Smith /

    Can you adopt me? I want to be in YOUR family.

  19. Melissa Pizzato /

    Brilliant Jen!!! I just read your blog post out to Mum as we travel the final leg North to home (Brisbane) in our motor home from the Blue Mountains where we spent an amazing Easter with Peter and his family – our extended family, and yours too! Is there anything better than family fun time??? If you have any time free while you’re here, even if only an hour or two, please let us know as we’d love to spend some time with you too!!! And, congrats Eloise – we hope tomorrow goes perfectly for her and everyone involved! Mel xxxooo

  20. Lori6NV /

    Amazing! Safe travels and enjoy every minute! You probably flew over us on your way!

  21. Incredible! I love the way that this trip came together. God has blessed you with an amazing man.

  22. Margaret /

    I have been a part of a Mathie family surprise once before and Woo Hoo!!! How right you are. Have a wonderful time Jen.

  23. Jen powers /

    This is all kinds of awesome. Keep the schazam going. 🙂

  24. ohiofishergirl /

    What a great surprise!! So happy that you’re in Australia and going to the wedding! Congrats to Eloise and give the rest of the Aussie family hugs from us!! Have a great time and party on Jen!! xoxo

  25. kathleen /

    What a heartwarming story to read first thing in the morning!! Amazing story…amazing family! Have a well-deserved great time with the Aussie family 🙂

  26. I love surprises! This is a most marvelous one! SAVOR and ENJOY! You do have a most awesome husband – and he has a most wonderful wife. Perfect way to start a Friday – full of smiles for your joy!

  27. Rita O'Brien /

    Jen, Reading of this wonderful surprise reminded me of the excitement at seeing my family at the airport to welcome me back to the land downunder. Enjoy this special time with your family. You so deserve it.

  28. Marsha Vonderwish /

    So Very Happy for You ALL! I know you are enjoying each moment! God Bless you Jen and your wonderful family!

  29. I’m in the toyota service waiting room, smiling and weeping! Love everything about this post. Have so much fun! Praying we all live our lives as your family does, in love and joy.

    • Shari /

      I can relate to the “laugh-cries” because I was doing a “smile-cry” all through your post. It is wonderful that you traveled so far to be surrounded by people who love you so much! Safe travels and cheers to you and your loved ones!

  30. Valerie Nimeskern /

    wow. What a tribute to your marriage, to your family,and to your will. Your details made me cry. Enjoy this time and the family on your return to Cincy

  31. Tonja Hemmerick /

    How wonderful!!!

  32. Jennifer /

    Loved reading about the airport Love-Fest & WooHoo’ing. Your family sounds incredible. Lucky you-Lucky them!