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Blessed with Brothers and Sisters

img256For the first 28 years of my life I had one brother.  A big brother separated by only 18 months.   As kids I was the typical (adorable) baby sister. He was the outgoing older brother.  Growing up, many times we would be asked if we were twins.  Big brown eyes.  On the smaller side.  Running around playing till we passed out.
I followed him around, while being my bratty self.  We were playmates. My family’s version of a vacation was going camping, so Cody and I would get to play with different kids every day.  I remember meeting other kids came so natural to him and I usually was the one that would tag along.  I watched hours and hours of video games, Bronco football & WWF.  We were buddies.
Our family of four was (literally) small, but mighty.  We have stuck close through the seasons of life.
As any sibling relationship, we would fight, like seen in the picture to the left.  I would have never said this then, but I’m sure I had no due cause to be pouting like I was.
Also like many siblings, we grew apart a bit during middle and high school.  Even in those distant times, when we were too cool for each other, there was an unsaid understanding.  Now as adults, we are closer than we were when kids.
Those with siblings may start to connect with my story.  My brother Cody gets me, a bond from being siblings I never quite appreciated until lately.  The quote below tells our story well

We know one another’s faults, virtues, catastrophes, mortifications, triumphs, rivalries, desires, and how long we can each hang by our hands to a bar. We have been banded together under pack codes and tribal laws. – Rose Macaulay

It was around middle school that I began to wonder what it would be like to have a sister.  The same kind of wonder like me asking, what it would feel like to be six feet tall or grow up in Europe.  None of these things would happen.  I don’t wish they would have happened.  I just wondered.  The thought of other siblings came and went fairly quickly.  Soon my life was filled with countless extracurriculars and preparing for college.
Fast forward ten years and I was getting married.  I had met Lloyd’s family a number of times before, so call me ignorant, but it was not until I was back from my honeymoon that I had a moment of surprise…

No longer the youngest, with brother Travis

I have more siblings!  Two brothers, one older and one younger.
Travis, the youngest, who I can talk about holistic health, yoga and well actually just about anything.  We share our youngest siblings bond in more ways than one.
My ‘new’ older brother Kirk

Kirk, now my oldest brother, who knows more show-tunes and cooking recipes  than most people could dream of.  I could laugh with him for days.
By 2009, I had a total of three brothers.
Brothers are a backbone.  These men in my life I know at any moments notice I can rely on, no matter if we ever had conflict or not.  No drama can dictate their support.  An ability to tell me like it is.
But life was not done ‘adding’ to my life with just brothers.
My very first sister, Suzi

At the time of my wedding, my brother was single.  One year later, he was getting married to one of the most amazing women I know.  After Cody proposed I squealed instantly because I knew I was getting a sister!  How quickly life was changing.
I knew instinctively what it meant to have a brother, but was new to the sisters role.  I didn’t want to scare her off with my excitement.  As little sisters seem to do, I quickly came to admire her kindness, faith and strength.
A year after getting married she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and soon went through a 14-hour surgery.  From finding the lump on her throat to the post surgery recovery, she took it on with an angelic ease and grace.  I found myself a few months later going into surgery, so I called upon my inner sister Suzi to be a bit more brave.
My ‘newest’ sister Tiffany

But I’m not done yet!  Two years later I would again be blessed with another sister.  Remember younger brother Travis?  In December 2012 he married Tiffany.  In her not only did I get another fabulous older sister, but a woman who can share in the experience of being married to an Ahlquist.
Being outsiders bonds us closer, as we figure out the Ahlquist boys.  I know that might sound strange, but we have big shoes to fill from their late mother Rosemary, who I also wrote about a few weeks ago.
I have learned sisters are teachers.  We learn from each other through our highs and lows.  Ongoing text messages and phone calls that remind me of such behavior most girlfriends do.  However, the difference I have seen is that like a good teacher, sisters display an extra level of care and protection.

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”
― Carol Saline

Within three years I have added four new siblings into my life.  Good thing I love to shop when Christmas comes around.  I wrote this post because I woke up the other day thinking about each of them.  My mind going through moments like a yearbook from our times together.
What makes it hard is we all live in different parts of the country: California, Colorado and Florida.  When you add in our parents, also in different states, holiday plans get tricky.  I realize that not everyone reading this may have such fond feelings for their biological siblings nor their in-laws.  Family dynamics are not easy.  Our relationships are not without conflict or compromise.  Especially being so far away from each other, it takes work.

The Ahlquist’s after Cody & Suzi’s wedding

You may also argue that I technically can’t call my in-laws my real brother or sister.  For my family, I knew the lines between biological and by-marriage siblings would be different.
When Cody and Suzi got married in South Dakota the entire Ahlquist clan arrived from three different states to attend.  Not only was I fully embraced into their family, but their love and support extended to my brother and future sister.  This is just observation, but I don’t think most in-laws do that.
So yes, I am very grateful.  I will admit that this is a boast post, showing off my siblings.  Each so extremely differently from the next.  I am blessed to have each of them.  I hope I am not alone out there for my adoration of their siblings.  Blood or by marriage.
If not, maybe this weekend you would consider it.  Give them a call, send a text, write an email, make plans for lunch, anything.  Keep in touch.  The relationship is worth it.  Trust me, your parents will thank you.
To Kirk, Tiffany, Suzi, Cody and Travis: Thank you for you willingness to let me talk about you in my blog today.  I hope I gave justice to each of our relationships.  Sending you all my love!

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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