Tag Archives: Jennifer

Twenty Years and Counting

Friday was 20 years since Zack and I went on our first date.

20 years since we sat in a restaurant overlooking Atlanta, and talked about our backgrounds and our futures.

20 years since we saw the movie Dangerous Minds.

20 years since we first held hands.

20 years since I got back to my dorm room and told my friends that I knew who I was going to marry.

We’ve lived through a lot together in twenty years! Of course not every day has been easy. But the hard times pale in comparison to the seasons of fun and laughter, adventure and unknowns, excitement and opportunity. It’s been crazy, and it’s been great!

I love getting to spend each and every day with my best friend.


As we walked through our city Friday night, I looked around and once again tried to take in the fact that we’re living on the other side of the world, speaking another language (or at least trying to!), the parents of two pretty rockin’ kids, with friends and family from one side of globe to the other…

… and then I looked at Zack and said, “could you have imagined all of this twenty years ago?”


They say time flies when you’re having fun. And I believe it’s true.

Here’s to twenty more… and twenty more after that!





17 Years

Yesterday marked 17 years since we first said I do. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder. What did those two naive 22-year-olds think life would be like? What would we have done if someone would have come up to us and told us all that was in store?


Yes, we were young and naive. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We were holding on to that classic American ‘anything is possible’ spirit. And I think that’s a pretty good thing in fact! It takes a bit of that and a whole lot more to face trials and challenges.
(And I’ll admit that so far, our challenges have not been near as tough as many couples face!)
I could say that love conquers all. And we do have an incredibly strong love for each other, and for the Lord. But there is also respect, commitment, honesty, lots of laughter, true teamwork, and a promise that we’re in this for the long haul.
I am grateful that our good times far outweigh the tough times. We haven’t handled everything perfectly and we’ve both made our share of mistakes. But God has taken difficulties and challenges and made something beautiful. And the beauty of our years together far outweighs any brief not as glamorous moments.
Happy Anniversary to my partner in crime, the peanut butter to my jelly, the one who can finish any movie line I start, who tolerates my nuances and encourages my dreams. The one who laughs uncontrollably at my typos, serves as my food critic, motivates me to get in shape, and then sits down with me for the occasional eat-the-cake-right-out-of-the-box night. Although we didn’t meet in a chat room, I’ll still love you always and forever. Here’s to 17 more. And 17 more after that.


Thanks to sweet friends and cousins visiting from the states this week, we got to have a date night last night. What’s even better was having a date night in Oslo, our first night out in the capital city without kiddos since moving here.


Our celebration included a long walk, incredible Indian food, coffee at our favorite cafe, and dessert on Karl Johan’s Gate with some great people watching.

Art with a Story

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, it’s a painting, and it tells a story that is near and dear to our hearts.

We asked our friend Anna to create something for us, and didn’t provide many specifics. We wanted it to have something to do with adoption, and at one point we had talked about the colors of Ukraine’s flag (yellow & blue).

We were already familiar with Anna’s work so we knew whatever she did would be good. But when we picked it up on Sunday afternoon, we were amazed. It is incredible how an artist can take a request and make it into something so personal and, in my opinion, powerful. That is exactly the case with this piece. I also think when it is an artist that knows you well, the depth and power is even greater.

It really does say a lot about us.

It shows the boys’ interests. And their individual background colors reflect their Ukrainian heritage.

Daniel, the artist
William, the athlete

The red at the top reminds me that it all started with a love story 🙂 And the rainbow reminds me of promises: from God to us, from us to God, in our marriage, and within our family.

I think the use of color symbolizes a lot as well. The colors are beautiful on their own. But their real beauty is seen when they come together. Kind of like our family: each of us holds gifts and talents that become more when we come together.

We are so excited about the way this turned out. As Anna pointed out, someone that didn’t know us would simply see it as a piece of art. But those that know us can see that it tells so much more!

20 Years Later: What cancer took from me, and what it gave me

©Billy Howard Photography
(1994) from the art show & book
Angels & Monsters: A Child’s Eye View of Cancer
(find it HERE on Amazon)

Twenty years ago today, my oncologist confirmed that all of my scans were clear. Thirteen months of chemotherapy behind me, and loads of possibility and unknowns ahead. I was officially in remission, off-therapy, and a cancer survivor*.

Twenty years. I don’t remember a lot of details. Partly because it has been a long time, and partly because that’s what chemo does to your brain. But I do remember what it feels like to be so sick that you start to wonder how cancer could be worse than what the chemo is doing to you. I remember the feeling of receiving Benadryl through an IV (amazing what that can do for nausea – and how quickly it makes you sleep!). I recall how good it felt each time the scans would come back clear after  an MRI or spinal tap. And I remember how excited – and scared – I was when they said I was finished with chemo.

Cancer took a lot from me. It took my hair – quite devastating for an 18 year old girl. It took my energy. I felt tired all the time. It took the majority of my senior year. I completed most of the final semester from home. It took me away from friends and activities. It took what should have been my first semester of college. While most of my friends were off to school, I was spending my days in the hospital or sick at home.

Yes, cancer took a lot. But cancer gave me a lot as well.

There were little things: an amazing hat collection, more flower deliveries than I could count, gifts and visits from family & friends, a standing ovation at my high school graduation, and lots of other fun little things. But the big things are much more memorable and important.

Cancer gave me the chance to really examine who I am and what I believe. And even though I was sick and my body was weak, my faith grew stronger. I felt God’s presence, and I knew He could make something beautiful out of my circumstances.

Cancer gave me more time with my family. It gave me a chance to evaluate relationships and priorities. It opened doors to my participation in/with newspaper, television, and an art exhibition. It provided me with the opportunity to set goals. It gave me (and continues to give me) so many opportunities to share my faith with others. And cancer gave me the chance to start college a semester late, at the right time so that I could meet the man I would one day marry.

I am a cancer survivor, but that is only a part of who I am. It is a journey that I would not have chosen. But it is a journey that made me stronger in many ways, and one that ultimately led me to, among other things, my husband, my children, and a life overseas. I am grateful that God has given me this testimony, and twenty years of life and opportunities. God is good!

You can read more about my cancer experience HERE.

*And FYI – once you’ve lived a moment beyond your diagnosis, you are a survivor in my book!

More baby steps

Photographic evidence of my short outing today

I got out this morning, for the first time since coming home from the hospital last Tuesday. One week in this house will definitely give you cabin fever!

I rode around with Zack while he ran some errands. I even went in a couple of shops with him (when we could park close!). We were only gone for about an hour and a half, and I spent the majority of that time in the car. It felt good to be out.

But I. am. tired.

Now I’m back home, resting up so I can stop by for a quick visit this evening for a dear friend’s birthday. Amazing how much motivation birthday cake can provide, isn’t it?

Change of plans: the latest in the surgery saga

It has been quite a day.

The short version is that my surgery has been postponed…

We arrived at the hospital at 8:00 this morning. I had followed all of the instructions to the letter, including no food after minow and then the nurse stopped by for some small thing, like sending me for a blood draw or giving me medicine.

By noon I had the pre-op meds in my system, was settled into my lovely hospital garb, and had begun napping in my bed. Soon a lady came by to start my IV. That was a disaster all its own. She struggled to start it, and reluctantly said she thought it should be okay. But as soon as she was gone, the nurse tried to begin the IV fluids, and realized it was no good.

After a few more delays, it was now past 2:00. And by the time the nurse came into let me know the surgery wouldn’t be happening, we had been there almost 7 hours.

Side note: the combination of medication and limited language skills can result in very slow processing of important information. Like the nurse saying ‘the operation is NOT happening today.” Yeah, I missed the word not. But once the words finally sunk in, the waterworks turned on rather quickly.

So all of this to say, no surgery for now. The two procedures before mine took much longer than anticipated. Of course I was not happy about the news. But I did appreciate that the surgeon came by to explain what happened and apologize.

Because of the upcoming holidays, looks like I’ll be waiting until the new year to get this behind me. Just another little surprise in this crazy chapter, but hopefully it won’t last too much longer!


A bonus, a surprise! (And my experience with Norwegian healthcare)

We’re getting an unexpected treat…

Mom and me at the ‘pink fountain’ in Sandefjord
during her last visit

Next week we’ll get a ‘bonus visit’ from my (Jenn’s) mom. We didn’t expect to be seeing her again until we visit the states next year.

But due to a little ‘medical surprise’, she is coming to help out for a few days.

I’m having surgery next week. But while the thought of having a hysterectomy isn’t exciting, there are much worse things I could be facing. And having mom here to help out – and to see our city during the holidays – makes it much more bearable!

In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t so bad. I’ve been very pleased with the Norwegian health care system so far. And on December 3, I will have surgery and will then hopefully be able to put all of this latest ‘adventure’ behind me.

That also explains part of why I haven’t been so active on the blog, or with life in general. I’ve spent lots of time at appointments and having tests run. And my energy level has been pretty low as well. So I look forward to getting back to normal activities and normal life!

It’s a Little Known Fact #wheniwasyounger

I guess I’m dating myself using that title. Of course, if you immediately thought of Cliff Clavin when you read it, you are admitting your age as well 🙂

I have had some pretty cool opportunities in my life so far. Here are some interesting things – aka little know facts – you might not know about me…
I’ve placed a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
  • I’ve been interviewed on both local news and a national television show about university opportunities via the internet.
  • I met Hillary Rodham Clinton in the First Lady’s Rose Garden.
  • I was once an action hero (not quite, but there was a character on a TV show with my maiden name – http://soldiersofthefuture.wikia.com/wiki/Jennifer_Chase)
  • Zack and I were ‘models’ for a bridal and formal wear shop on a local TV show
  • I’ve been on the cover of a magazine.
You’ll have to take me at my word for most of these, as they were pre-digital cameras and the photos are back in the states. But I do have proof of the last one. Here I am, cover model at age 3 1/2 for a local cable television magazine 🙂
I would love to hear some of our readers’ little-known-facts!
Have a great weekend!