New Jersey continues to be a piece of my puzzle

New Jersey continues to be a piece of my puzzle

Last week I was back in New Jersey. It marked my first time back in a little over a year. I know that January is perhaps not the best time to leave Chicago for New Jersey (the escape to someplace warm is coming later this week), but I have an annual check-in at Memorial Sloan Kettering that I use as an excuse to spend time re-connecting with friends…and the landscape.

In spite of not being on Facebook (or Messenger), I had absolutely no trouble communicating with the people I wanted to see. Armed with cell numbers, I texted friends to let them know I was in town and to make plans. First up was a run through the familiar park where I’d logged probably over 1000 miles. I connected with members of the running club I helped start in 2014. Some new faces, but lots of familiar ones.

De Novo Harriers. Saddle River County Park. Ridgewood, New Jersey. January 2020.

For some reason – and maybe partly because it had been over year – this trip triggered some unexpected emotions. While I enjoyed the comradely of the group run, I was glad to have a few extra miles on the schedule to take in the trail for a while on my own and reflect on who I was and who I’ve become as the miles unfolded on that very path over more than two decades.

On Saturday evening I attended mass in the gym at my elementary school. If you read my post “Lessons learned in a humble gymnasium” you know it had been over 37 years since I attended mass in that gym. When I walked in it was like walking into my childhood home and having everything appear as it had been. Emotion over took me at the sight of the faux stained glass that served as a backdrop to the alter now as it had decades ago. The last time I saw this scene I was 16…long before so many events, both happy and tragic. I had arrived early enough that I had time to exit briefly to compose myself, only to return to the sight of Sister Anne, my religious education teacher who prepared us for first communion – in that same gymnasium – during the 1972-73 school year. She was there as part of the reunion my friend coordinated. Between illnesses and weather (northern New Jersey saw about 4 inches of snow that evening) our group of 30 shrunk to 10, but it was so nice to reconnect.

On Sunday morning I did a solo run near my friend’s home in Lyndhurst. That’s when I realized that one of the things I miss about New Jersey the most is being high. No, not in a legal weed kind of way, but in a top of the mountain sort of way. I ran along Ridge Road, appropriately named as its at the top of a big hill (or maybe what my Illinois friends would call a mountain). My view to the west included the vast New Jersey landscape and more mountains. My view to the east was the Manhattan skyline. There are lots of high places in northern New Jersey like that. Northern Illinois, not so much.

Seen on my run. North Arlington-Kearny, New Jersey border. January 2020.

I love Chicago. I love running on the lakefront. I love exploring new neighborhoods. It’s a smaller, more manageable city. It’s calmer. The people don’t seem as busy and are a little more apt to give you their time. But if I’m going to live in the suburbs, I’d take New Jersey hands down. And maybe a lot of that is familiarity. And maybe some of it is the landscape. Or the distance I now feel from a city. Or the relationships.

This trip also allowed me to check in with my New Jersey-based coach with whom I’ve been training virtually. There is no substitute for actual FaceTime. I realized this too in getting together with some of my favorite “Ramsey Moms”. Between that and staying part of the week with my BFF, Martha, it sunk in that perhaps what I miss most is female friendships. I just haven’t made those connections here – yet. But when I was in New Jersey, I missed Kurt. And when my daughter is not with me, I miss her too. I guess it comes down to nothing’s perfect. We live our lives constantly in search of missing puzzle pieces hoping to find a completeness that will never truly exist. When new pieces are found, others are lost. And yet, we can still focus on what’s new and good about what we have built and move forward.

Ultimately what was perhaps best about this trip was another clear check-up at MSKCC. Good health is, after all, the one piece of the puzzle we can’t do without. Coming up…marathon #10.

Chicago a year later

Chicago a year later

This time last year, was my last week in my New Jersey home. This was the week the movers took our stuff away and we turned our keys over to the new owners. This is the week I had one last great party with my friends before heading for I-80 West.

The predictions about what I was going to miss about New Jersey were pretty accurate. Read more

Who says you can’t go home

Who says you can’t go home

When the calendar turned over to 2019, I was ready to hit the ground running (literally and figuratively). I had some great networking experiences in the last month and felt I was on the cusp of some fabulous new things. I followed up on connections made and set up next steps. The only problem was this trip to New Jersey. Read more

The truth about the move

The truth about the move

As I write this I am sitting at DMV. West Randolph Street. Chicago, Illinois. So far doesn’t appear to be all that different than New Jersey. They are telling me I need to take the written exam even though it’s technically not a requirement (“agents do reserve the right to choose whether or not you take one”). So much for 36 years of driving experience. They took my picture already, so I guess they’re assuming I’ll pass. I’ve been here for a half hour. Read more

Twelve things I will miss about New Jersey

Twelve things I will miss about New Jersey

High School Graduation is now behind us! I am so proud of my girl for all that she has achieved here and for setting herself up right for what’s to come. The movers are on their way. Today is the day I move out of my house. It is going to be bitter sweet closing the door for the last time this week. There will certainly be a lot of things I’m going to miss about life in New Jersey. Read more