The Best Summer Ever! – that wasn’t

The Best Summer Ever! – that wasn’t

The plans were hatched during the winter break. Summer 2020 was going to be the best summer ever. Two young women halfway through college were going to spend the summer in Chicago living on their own. The apartment belonged to one; her roommate would be moving out at the end of the semester. It was located just a few short blocks from Lake Michigan and about a mile and a half from the beach!

Her friend was from back home – New Jersey – and was at college in North Carolina, so they didn’t see each other much anymore. Unless you count all the FaceTime calls and snapchats and whatever else it is the kids are doing these days to stay in touch. This summer was going to make up for that! 

The calendar was beginning to fill up with concerts and other plans. And of course there was Lollapalooza, the four-day music festival in Grant Park they had been attending together for the last four years. Year five was going to be monumental they mused across cellular service more than 800 miles apart. 

One secured a job at a Chicago concert venue where the hours were limited, but the tips were excellent. And of course there were perks! Her friend was looking for a job in Chicago too, so there wouldn’t be too many financial limits on all they dreamed this summer could be.

I wasn’t privy to all the plans. I’m the mom of one. I had my own aspirations of what this summer could hold for my girl and her friend, and I was hoping that at times they’d let me crash the party – or at the very least, ask me to drive them somewhere. The only small piece of the puzzle was getting buy-in from the friend’s parents and I was willing to help with that. 

Everyone ignored the signs that 2020 was going to be different. I did deliver a bunch of paper goods, non-perishable food items and frozen dinners to fill her freezer at some point in February just in case this virus they’re talking about had her stuck in her apartment for two weeks.

By the week of March 8 though, COVID-19 was here. Their colleges were beginning to plan for online learning that would begin after spring break. The NCAA announced that the spring season for all sports would be suspended. She talked to her friend on Thursday evening. She played varsity lacrosse for her university and this left the team wondering how they would navigate their future as collegiate athletes.

That was the last time they would speak. In the early morning hours of March 13th, something went terribly wrong for seven college athletes. It would change their plans forever. Summer 2020, for my girl, would become something to get through. There was the weekend back in June when she imagined her friend would have arrived. There were dates of cancelled concerts; Lollapalooza weekend being especially hard. There was no job anymore. No FaceTimes. No snap chats.

Her new roommate moved in last week. I won’t be spending as much time with my girl in the city as I did all summer long. I’m usually one to hold on to summer for as long as I can. This year, I’m prepared to close the book on it now. Summer 2020 left us with a reminder that nothing is ever certain. “These uncertain times” are really all of the time. 

Still, we make plans and courageously move forward into the unknown.

One, moving forward. Navy Pier. Chicago, Illinois. July 2020.

Six ways to go on living after loss

Six ways to go on living after loss

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” – Anne Lamott

Have you ever looked so particularly sad that someone would suggest that “you look like you lost your best friend.” So a deep sadness is defined by what you would feel if you lost your best friend? What if you have?

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When Rules Don’t Apply to Me…I get anxiety

When Rules Don’t Apply to Me…I get anxiety

Rules always apply. For everyone. I’m a “rules follower.” I always follow the rules. Doing the right thing is something that was ingrained in me in childhood. I hate getting scolded. There are times though that the choices we have to make aren’t so black and white and put our values in direct conflict with the rules.

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3 months and counting

3 months and counting

It’s been over six months since I wrote about the countdown to high school graduation. While I am committed to being respectful of my daughter’s privacy, sharing only minimally about her here, I am entitled to a proud mom moment every once in a while, right?

My daughter was accepted into a four-year college in Chicago (one of her top choices). This might not seem like an impossible feat. Especially here where we live. 89% of our high school graduates go on to attend four-year colleges (95% go on to some post-secondary education). But for us it seemed like a long road.

My daughter was always someone who has marched to the beat of her own drum. My parents described her as “a spirited child.” One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as her parent is that she never accepts the status quo; always looking deeper, always challenging. Her middle school guidance counselor said this was a personality trait that would serve her well in college and career, not so much in middle and high school.

She encountered a structure perhaps too rigid for her personality and learning style. While that was somewhat demotivating for her, my cancer diagnosis and then losing her father when and how she did certainly had an impact on the secure life she had known at home.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl

My daughter’s high school transcript does not show the good choices that she has made and the maturity and growth that she possessed in managing grief and loss on top of the struggles of adolescence. By her junior year she was facing the possibility that maybe a four-year college wasn’t in the cards for her.

But I believed in her. And she believed in herself. We both ignored the naysayers and last summer I took a risk and made an investment in a 3-week college program for her at this school in Chicago. It wasn’t in the budget.

She got an A in the course and proved to everyone she could do college level work. Then she came back to start her senior year and made the honor roll! She finally took the SATs and did much better than expected. She courageously applied to a bunch of four-year schools.

There were a number of disappointments before the email from Chicago. Her surge in the last quarter of the race however, paid off. But most importantly – and what makes me the most proud – is that she mustered the courage to start; she put herself out there when others were telling her that it was a long shot. She didn’t settle for anything less than what she wanted. She set her sights higher and didn’t listen to anyone who told her it couldn’t be done.

That should be a lesson to all of us. Ignore the naysayers. Don’t give them power over you. Be courageous. Focus on your own dreams. Don’t back down. One foot in front of the other. Forward. Commencement.

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The New York City skyline as seen on my run through the Heights of Ridgewood, New Jersey. March 2018.

This week in Marathon Training (getting real now! -only 5 weeks to go)…Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 11.04.35 AM

Twenty miles was the longest I’ve run in almost 2 years and was a big jump from the 16 miles I ran 2 weeks ago. I took it slowly with a goal of only covering the distance comfortably.