Why Chicago?

Why Chicago?

Fifty-one years-ago this past May, aboard an Aer Lingus 707, I arrived at JFK to meet my adoptive parents for the first time. I spent the first night in my new Northern New Jersey home…and basically, I never left.

I couldn’t wait to leave for college, but after four-years in Philadelphia, I gravitated back to northern New Jersey. My first apartment with friends was only 5 miles from the home I grew up in and the home I just moved out of, where I raised my daughter, was only 6 and half miles away.

There were lots of times that I fantasied about a change of scenery. There was the time back in the 80s when my friend and I made plans to move to Charleston, South Carolina after college even going as far to spend a weekend there looking at apartments. My late husband and I had considered Vermont, Oregon, and yes, Charleston again (because its warmer in Charleston).

Ultimately, proximity to family was the biggest factor that kept us here and then once our daughter was born we wanted to have roots. The plan was always that we’d finally consider a big move in June 2018 – the month our daughter would graduate from High School and we’d celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Our gift to ourselves: a huge reduction in property taxes. (I wrote about how I continued to make that dream a reality few weeks ago).

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The view close to the end of my road trip last week. June 2018. Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago has been pulling me for a long time. My first trip was in 1985 with my college boyfriend who grew up here. I loved it (although this New Yorker didn’t admit that to him at the time). We came back again the following summer. In 1994, just after leaving my first big job, I went to work for a Chicago-based company and spent a week out here for training.  I did a lot of exploring by myself and remember feeling very at home.

Work I was doing with a national non-profit took me on a couple business trips here in 2012 – once for a meeting at the Admiral’s Club, where I never left O’Hare. I was also aware of a former work colleague from that first big job who went to work for the Chicago Tribune and was transferred here in 1994. There was just something about Chicago.

In 2015, I ran the Chicago Marathon. In 2016, my daughter’s Sweet-Sixteen present was an all-expense-paid trip for all four days of Lollapalooza for her and a friend (it was what she wanted and was cheaper than a party). By December of that year, I was starting to make some regular trips to the Windy City, because that “former work colleague” was now my boyfriend.

When my daughter started looking at colleges, with all my other family gone, I was acutely aware that there wasn’t a lot keeping me in New Jersey. I told her to select the right school and not worry about the location. I would just move to be closer to her…wherever that was. Of course, that was when we were looking at schools in Southern California, not Chicago.

By the time Chicago became an option, I was invested in a life here even if it meant more cold winters. It certainly wasn’t cold when I arrived on Friday, although I know that will change come fall. But as I said to someone who questioned my decision, “I have my love to keep me warm.” So, why Chicago? It was just meant to be.

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First day in my new neighborhood with the keys to my apartment. June 2018. Chicago, Illinois.

 

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.

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A gorgeous setting for the high school’s 110th Commencement ceremony.

A friend posted on FaceBook recently that he was working on his column and asked that we contribute “things we love about the Garden State.” There were a lot of the usual suspects like Springsteen, the Shore, Taylor Ham (or pork roll?), and proximity to New York City (or Philadelphia, depending on who was contributing).  There were debates around whether or not pumping one’s own gas is a benefit or a curse, or whether not having to pay sales tax on food and clothing balanced out the high property taxes.

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Sunrise on the Hudson. Palisades Interstate Park. Englewood, New Jersey.

My boyfriend (who was a transplant from New Jersey before moving to Chicago almost 25 years ago) said the things I will miss most about Jersey will be (real) pizza, Chinese food, and spring.  My daughter thinks for her it will be good bagels. I think I will miss not having to pump my own gas only in the winter. I’m renting, so I can’t give an assessment on property taxes; but I can tell you that I got a really nice 2-bedroom apartment in a great residential neighborhood in the city for considerably less than New York City rents. And I’ve always wanted to live in a city.

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Summer hike with Enzo. Ramapo County Reservation. Mahwah, New Jersey.

So quick list of things I will miss about (specifically Bergen County) New Jersey that pop into my head…

  1. Proximity to New York City and the countless wonderful things it has to offer like Broadway and Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, Central Park, the High Line, and the Brooklyn Bridge
  2. An hour drive north to a ski resort; an hour south to a beach resort
  3. Sunday driving (and those from Bergen County know what I’m talking about here)
  4. Accessibility to several major cities from Boston to D.C.
  5. The Atlantic Ocean, especially along the beach in Montauk (my happy place) and the boardwalks of the Jersey Shore
  6. Seeing the New York City skyline on the horizon from numerous high places just minutes away
  7. Running the hills of Palisades in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge or not having to even leave town to find a hill to run
  8. Hiking trails that lead to the top of high mountains
  9. Running races and knowing the courses – and the competition!
  10. Being relatively close to the final resting places of my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles
  11. Countless friends and the memories of life here for the last 51 years
  12. And finally, the thing I will really miss about New Jersey – which also happens to be the same thing that gave me incentive to leave – is familiarity.
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Seen on many, many runs. Saddle River County Park. Paramus, New Jersey.

Back in May, I talked about my life currently as so familiar that it was one I could “lead with my eyes closed.” The part of me that likes to be comfortable, also likes the fact that around here, I can steer my way out of any traffic jam without relying on Waze. I know the history and the stories, about our towns and businesses, and people. I’ve met my elected officials, I understand the politics and I always run into people I know everywhere I go.  When people talk about someone in a New Jersey diner, I’m that person in the booth behind them who knows who they’re talking about…and yeah, add “diners” to the list. 🙂

 

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New Jersey Meadowlands. Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

That all makes life here very comfortable, but it can make it boring, too. I am also someone who likes a challenge (and if I’m honest with myself, I will admit that I’m in a little bit of a rut here recently). So off I go to be challenged. This kid who sometimes suffers from separation anxiety is armed with the security of friendships maintained on FaceBook and off to a whole a new adventure. An education awaits. I’ll find you again as soon as I get to Illinois (don’t leave me).

What we should have been thinking about this Father’s Day weekend

What we should have been thinking about this Father’s Day weekend

I spent Father’s Day weekend doing what I have done for 16 of the last 22 Father’s Day weekends: getting away to the East End of Long Island and running the Shelter Island 10k. I’ve written about it here, and here.  This year was a little different. Instead of using the weekend as an escape, it was a relaxing weekend of quality time with my boyfriend.

I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to come to New York and give up spending the day with his kids (they’re adults, but still, spending time with them, I know, is very important to him). Since I will be officially an Illinois resident in a few weeks I’m not sure what will happen to this tradition in future years, so I was grateful that he chose to come along. I truly enjoyed sharing it with him.

It was my parents that introduced me to the East End as a child and we spent our summers in Montauk and Shelter Island. These places remain special to me because of the memories they hold. This weekend involved lots of reminiscing and probably way too many stories that began, “when I was a kid…” If he ever got tired of them, he never said so.

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The beach in Montauk with my Dad. 1971.

I had an incredible childhood. I always knew unconditional love from my parents. These were my adoptive parents, and I have always felt blessed for the life I was given with them. I wrote about my early years in My Story: Part 1. What I didn’t include in that story, however was how I had anxiety attacks (that at times made me really sick) every time I was separated from my parents…until I was a teenager! It is not uncommon for adopted children to experience separation anxiety.

“Today, we realize that this separation is traumatic for both the mother and the child, and we recognize that early experiences have a disproportionately large impact on the structure of the brain.

“When an infant or child is separated from his or her birthmother, it is undeniably a traumatic event. All of the once-familiar sights, sounds and sensations are gone, and the infant is placed in a dangerous situation — dangerous that is, perceived by the infant. The only part of the brain that is fully developed at birth is the brain stem that regulates the sympathetic nervous system, that is, the fight, flight or freeze response. The parasympathetic ability to self-soothe isn’t available and baby needs his or her familiar mom to act as the soothing agent to help with self-regulation but she’s not there. Events that happen age 0-3 are encoded as implicit memories and become embodied because they place before language develops.”

– Johnson, L. 2013. “10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know,” Huffington Post.

I lived in institutional care for my first two years. It was wonderful care, in a convent, with a nun  that loved me and continued to be a positive part of my life – as well as my daughter’s – until her death in 2009.  There was nothing negative at all about my adoption experience, and yet, I was still affected by being separated from my (biological) mother.

I have worked for social service agencies who were part of the foster care system. One had a Family Preservation program whose goal was to keep families in tack. These were parents at risk of losing their children due to abuse, neglect, illegal drug habits and other criminal activities. They used an evidence-based model that showed rehabilitating parents and giving them the tools they needed to succeed as parents, was in the best interest of the children. The goal is to keep kids out of foster care.

So why am I talking about all of this? Think about it. Think about when you were a kid. Can you imagine being separated from your parents? What about now, as a parent? How would you feel about being separated from your child? Can you imagine for a moment what it would be like for your child? Think about it. Really think about it! Then read about what is going on in this country and tell me you don’t care.

Start here: “Here’s what’s happening with immigrant children at the U.S. border, policy wise” USA Today.  This is the most non-partisan view on what’s happening that I could find. I don’t want to hear, “But Obama…” At this point, I  don’t care who you voted for or why you voted for them. What’s happening at this very moment has to stop before we contribute any further to the PTSD of these children. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Please act! If you don’t think this is okay, make your voice heard. Do something. Start by calling your Representative. Use this number to be connected to his or her office: 1-855-660-1185. Here are some additional ideas: “Seizing Children From Parents at the Border Is Immoral. Here’s What We Can Do About It.” New York Times.

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The Beach in Montauk. June 2018.
Traditions and transitions mark the start of summer

Traditions and transitions mark the start of summer

Last Memorial Day, I talked about 5 great Memorial Day weekend races, and said, “some creative time on your travel apps could get you on the starting line for one each day.” While I didn’t quite do that, I did fulfill my desire to do the Soldier Field 10 Mile again…and continue my Ridgewood Run tradition for one more year. Read more

My next goal

My next goal

A few things came together last week which quickly launched me into a plan to accomplish my next goal. That goal is to have two cars, two pets, two people and the contents of a four-bedroom house packed up and transported to Illinois before the end of the summer. And no, I’m not running there. Although that actually seems less daunting. Read more