Michelle Kroll.

Today is Michelle Kroll’s birthday (I think she is turning 29 again?) As I sat and thought about what I wanted to get her for her birthday (and I realized that I still haven’t even given her the Christmas present I bought her in Paris yet…), I decided what better present than to dedicate an entire blog post, just to her.

But, of course, words can never express the love, admiration, and respect I have for this lady.

Michelle Kroll is my best friend, Steph’s, mom, but really became my second mom. When I was in high school, I probably spent more time at Michelle’s house than I did my own. I remember her leaving the safety of her house to come pick me up in a blizzard. Whenever we needed drivers for poms events, it was an unspoken sentiment that I would be in her car. She was always eager to cater our homecoming dinners for us, and always served as the group photographer (I learned SO much about how to take good pictures from her). She is so talented, goal oriented, selfless, encouraging of others. She is always striving to improve herself, to be a better person, to live a healthier life. People beg to have their senior pictures taken by her, not just because her pictures are GOOD, but also because she welcomes each of her clients into her family; she tracks her seniors throughout their last year of high school and beyond, and is always their biggest cheerleader when they graduate, commit to a college, get the lead in the Nutcracker, obtain their first jobs. For some reason, she tends to attract these really great, really smart, really gifted seniors.

But, I think that is because greatness attracts greatness; you can always tell the character of a person just by the people they surround themselves with, and Michelle certainly has built herself a strong community. I watch how loyal her friend circle is, how they clear their calendars to show up to the hospital when children are sick, and create a dinner sign up sheet without even being asked. I am the luckiest girl in the world, because I had two moms as role models: my own mom, of whom I gained my spunkiness, my stubbornness, and my ability to forgive, and Michelle, of whom I learned what an awesome Field Trip mom looks like, how to host Bronco parties, and how to be supportive of others. She is always the first to like my stuff on social media, religiously reads my blog posts. She is rational, understanding, and always offers me perspective on life (even if it’s not the answer I necessarily want to hear).

Today, Michelle doesn’t have to pick me up in the blizzards anymore (although I know that she would if she had to), and she doesn’t drive me to pom events anymore. Instead, I have the privilege of spending most Sunday mornings with Michelle. Our routine is I get the coffee, she picks me up on the corner, we go to church, brunch, run some errands together. I always look forward to these mornings, and our philosophical conversations. We talk about love and romance and marriage (and sometimes divorce), and about religion and God, and how we both teared up when Amazing Grace came on during the baptisms. We talk about books, and movies, and Pride & Prejudice. She always fills me in on what the kids I graduated with are up to, and we laugh about the strange things Steph and I did in high school. We take bets on how long this relationship is going to last, and when we think this person is going to propose, and what kind of job so and so will end up in. On the heavy weeks, she always offers a listening ear, and I know that her door is open for me at anytime.

I think her greatest quality, however, is her strength. This woman is a pillar of strength. I wrote about her son, Ryan, a few months ago, who recently underwent brain surgery. Despite the fact that Michelle spends a plethora of time at Children’s Hospital, she always finds time to support other people. I can’t imagine what she goes through in sending her son into MRI’s and surgeries, and always on edge, always nervous, always anticipating an outcome–but she withstands, and withstands with grace. And, when other people find themselves in similar positions–traveling to Children’s Hospital to hear the fate of their child–Michelle serves as an example and is able to help coach them, even if that is just through a silent, unspoken understanding. She certainly does not have an easy walk in the park, but she always holds her head high, she always looks towards the positive, and she always puts others first–no matter what.

As humans, I think we are always trying to make our mark on the world. We try to outdo our peers by buying swankier cars and fancier houses. We try to tell the most elaborate stories, and sometimes, do the most outlandish things, just our presence extends into lives bigger than our own. And, even when we die, our families try buy headstones that make us standout. It’s because we want to be remembered. In one of my favorite poems, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death–” by Emily Dickinson, the main character achieves immortality through the writing of her poem; even though the character dies throughout the poem, her existence and influence lives on every time one of us picks up the poem, and reads it.

So Michelle Kroll, for your birthday, I can’t afford to buy you a new camera, and I am certainly not providing any grandchildren, but I can perhaps give you this gift of immortality.

Thank you for all that you do.
Happy Birthday!
You REALLY deserve the best.

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