“Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter”
-Fighter by Christina Aguilera
Many of you who read this blog know my friend Noelle very well. Others of you only know her through this blog and don’t really have a true taste of the real “Nomo”. Well, here’s her story (through my eyes):
I met Noelle the first day of preseason volleyball at Rollins our freshman year, ahem, in 1999 (that sounds like it was so long ago!). She was born and raised in Orlando and had this confidence about her like no other. I was already homesick (day 1) and Noelle acted like she had been on the team for years. She towered over most other RGs (Rollins Girls) at around 6 ft. tall and had a presence about her everywhere she went. She did then and she still does now. When she spoke, people listened. Not much has changed.
Although she and our first coach didn’t get along very well (soooo many funny stories about their quarrels) she stepped in and was a force on the volleyball court as a freshman. We weren’t very good, in fact we had losing seasons (think like 7-26) our first two years, but we had fun and laughed…a lot. Thank goodness the final two years were much better with winning records.
Noelle, who earned her nickname “Nomo” because her last name was Moore – Noelle Moore – was never at a loss for words and had (and still has) the best.laugh.ever. I always admired her drive, passion and willingness to do whatever it took to make something happen – on the court and off.
We obviously weren’t the cutest girls at Rollins (see below) but I’m positive we made the best memories.
The Rollins Volleyball Days – Noelle #7 and Me #9
Nomo was one of our middle hitters and had the guts to talk trash across the net and back it up. I was her setter, was always right next to her in all of our rotations and loved having her by my side. She was one of the most fierce competitors I have ever played with and when it came down to getting a kill during crunch time she would look me straight in the eyes and say, “Give me the (expletive) ball.” So, 9 times out of 10 I did. Would you tell her no? Didn’t think so. The best part was that 9 times out of 10 she would get the kill. Talk about fighting spirit (or spighting firit – inside joke). She left everything on the court and wanted to play every second of every game (even defense, lol); and if she wasn't in the game she wanted to know why. The girl is a fighter.
Nomo and I played all four years together and graduated in 2003. Of course the morning of graduation she was still looking for her tassel to go on her cap…while I was trying to find some yarn to make her one. Genuine Nomo.
She was and still is the one who is always up for anything, has no problem laughing at herself and has a heart of gold. She is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met and always puts others before herself. Whether it’s dressing up, playing a marathon game of “Nuts” or eating candy, Noelle always gives it her best.
Just a taste of “Nomo”.
After college Noelle landed a big time job headed off to California for a while and we didn’t see her for many years. We kept in touch through email (Facebook wasn’t that popular then) and after she moved back to North Carolina we all seemed to reconnect – and we didn’t miss a beat.
You know you have a friend for life when you can be apart for years and pick up exactly where you left off. That’s us, all of us, from the good old Rollins days.
Dogsledding in Breckenridge, CO – February 2010
I think the first time we were all back together, and I mean all of us, was for our wedding in November 2010. I LOVE the picture below and just smile thinking of all that we have been through together – college, babies, engagements, divorce, living overseas, grad school, dental school, relationships, job changes, city changes, etc. These girls are the absolute best and having Noelle back on the east side of country and able to be near us made the group whole again.
All of the Rollins Girls at our rehearsal dinner – 11/5/10
After finding out that Nomo was dating a guy named Tim we were thrilled. She seemed on top of the world and we loved seeing her glow just talking about him. We all kept up with their goings on via Facebook and were thrilled when they announced their engagement. We didn’t know Tim, but we knew if she loved him, so would we. They were married in April of 2012 and among moving around their first year of marriage, they made it clear that a family was on their mind.
When we found out that Tim and Noelle were expecting, and better yet, when we found out it was a girl – we were all SO EXCITED! Another Nomo running around – watch out world! Noelle is the biggest kid I know and we knew that she would make a fun and fabulous mom. We also knew that Finley would be a firecracker and ready to take on the world just like her mom; we just had no idea how much of a fighter she would be from day 1.
So, if you know Noelle, or if you have followed my quick synopsis of what makes her tick, you can imagine how much my heart sank when I read this text. You don’t ever want to see any of your friends in pain, but it hurts even more when it’s your toughest, strongest and most confident friend that is in need.
“I’m gonna need you guys, Lane. She’s so sick.”
I can’t get it out of my head. My heart literally broke at that moment and I immediately called our other friend Kamrin (we are the only two in town) and could barely speak. I knew Finley’s situation was not great, but just knowing that my friend, my tough friend, was so scared and in so much pain, I felt like I couldn’t get there fast enough.
Luckily I had been at the dentist near downtown when I got her text and drove straight to the hospital (mouth numb, probably drooling, but I didn’t care). Mike was watching E that morning and just said, “Go to Nomo. I will figure out the rest.” He ended up calling into work for the whole day so that I could be there. Kamrin dropped everything as well and we got to the hospital within about 20 minutes of the text – we would have been in her room quicker except for the fact we got lost about 100 times…that hospital is a maze!
The rest of that day and the days since seem like a blur. Many visits, many tears, many laughs, but a blur. I still just find myself, along with all of our other friends asking, “What more can we do?”
I know that in times of crisis I am not the best; heck, I even Googled “How to help a friend in need” because I didn’t know what to do in the midst of the chaos. I don’t often know what to say, but I will be there listening and documenting and trying to help in any way possible. Kamrin and I both have been trying to brainstorm more ways to help, but besides taking dinner to her house (Noelle was discharged on Sunday and now has to commute), sustaining her candy cravings (see below), taking treats to the NICU nurses and setting up a fundraising website, we can just be available. Any time, any place for any reason.
I have also learned that we physically can’t do a lot except pray (sweet treats only go so far). We can pray our hearts out and just hope that Finley has a miraculous outcome. We can pray that Tim and Noelle continue on their quest to stay positive and take one day at a time looking towards the future.
They have both handled this situation with such poise and grace and I have personally learned so much from their approach to this simply tragic event. I have not once heard either one of them ask “why”. They have both just said, “We’re ready to fight. If there is a chance, we will fight.”
I guess now we know where Finley gets it.
I just ask that you take a minute and send love, prayers, hope and hugs to the Oblander family in the coming weeks. We all love you, sweet pea, more than you will ever know.