Week 10: A difficult week

Week 10: A difficult week

Our country approached 100,000 dead from COVID-19, fittingly, over Memorial Day weekend. I’m sure you saw The New York Times piece An Incalculable Loss that listed all the names. It was all over social media. 

I remember on September 11, 2001 when then New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was asked about the death toll. “The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear” he said. (CBS News). The number of lives lost in the September 11 attacks is but about 3% the number of lives lost in the U.S. (to date) due to this pandemic. 

And then there are the others lost to another type of pandemic; human beings whose final stories are punctuated with a hash tag: #BlackLivesMatter. I ran on May 8 in memory of Ahmaud Arbery on what should have been his 26th Birthday, then in the last week I have read countless posts about the murder of George Floyd. My head hurts. This all has to stop.

Ten weeks of staying at home hasn’t really been all that difficult. I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to keep working, even though the idea that could change weights heavy on our minds. I am grateful that we and our loved ones have remained healthy. I am grateful for the privilege I’ve had my entire life.

I understand the push to open back up. I can imagine the difficult toll this would have taken on my parents’ restaurant and gift shop so long ago and what this is doing to small business owners. But what is the price of premature decisions? Endangering the lives of the very people we are trying to help? If we are able to go out and do the things we once did, are people going to cooperate and follow recommendations for everyone’s safety like wearing a mask or keeping a distance? Based on what I’m seeing, answer is, sadly, they’re not.

One of the things my parents – and most of their generation – understood was sacrifice for the greater good. They were children of the depression and the young adults that supported the right side of history during World War II. They were the people who fought for the rights that many of those of privilege take for granted today. 

We are living in a world were we’ve taken so many steps backward. I’ve witnessed hopelessness and much cynicism among our young people and I believe the difference is that all they’ve seen is examples of failed leadership. It is hard for them to create a vision for the life they want to live. The path between what that might look like and where they are now seems so daunting (The unluckiest generation in U.S. history, The Washington Post). Especially when people aren’t willing to work together for the greater good.

I don’t know what the answer is and I realize this post is a bit of a ramble. The challenges seem monumental; the solutions require buy-in from far too many than I think are willing to cooperate. But maybe we start with ourselves. Check our privilege. Think of others. Act for the greater good. Be part of a solution, not the problem. It’s a start.

“Observe who you won’t yield to, then think about why. Observe others who won’t yield to others, then think about why.” – Lori Lakin Hutcherson, A letter to friends who really want to end racism, GoodBlackNews.org.

Alone with my thoughts. Vernon Hills, Illinois. May 2020.
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.

7 Ways to Survive the Holidays after loss

7 Ways to Survive the Holidays after loss

This post is meant as a complement to what I wrote in August about ways to survive and thrive after the loss of a spouse. Holidays obviously can be difficult for anyone dealing with loss. Admittedly, even this year, my fourth holiday season since my husband died, I’ve really only mastered “surviving.”

Last Thanksgiving I hosted “Friendsgiving” (read about it here). That alienated my daughter. Not knowing all of the invited guest very well, she opted to spend the holiday with her friend’s family. So that didn’t feel right either. This year I asked her what she wanted to do. She asked that we cook a meal together (anything but Turkey) and put up the Christmas decorations.

What have I learned about at least surviving the holidays? Read more