Friday, March 06, 2015

Tribute to Mom: One Year Ago

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my mom's death.  I have wrestled with her loss in ways that have affected the entire core of my being.  My greatest struggle has been dealing with how quick and painful her final weeks were. By the time we found out it, it was just all too late ... and here we are a whole year later, marking this commemoration.  Stupid, damn cancer. It robbed my mother of the opportunity to experience the joy of seeing her oldest granddaughter walk down the aisle, her youngest granddaughter head off to college and the ability to enjoy retirement with her husband.

Mom and her favorite oldest granddaughter and
her favorite youngest  granddaughter
Before she died, I got to tell my mom how much I loved and appreciated her sacrifices for me. I shared with her that one of my greatest fears/sadness would be having to go through the rest of my life without being able to share any of it with her.   I can never again buy a Mother's Day card for my mother or take her on a trip to a place that she long had dreamed of visiting.   I can only honor her by living a life that reflects the way she raised me.  
The following is the speech that I gave at her funeral service:

My mom loved Tootsie Rolls and despised heights. I have often punctuated conversations with my husband and friends with phrases like, “my mom would never do this.” Or, “she could not handle parking up this high.” When Janice and I went to Paris and made to the top of the Eiffel Tower, it was an incredibly windy day; I joked how my mom would never had ventured out onto the steel girded balcony on such a day. Five days before my mother passed away, she called me crazy. I was trying to get her to eat some ice cream and she was having a hard time remembering what it was. I was doing my best to coax her to eat and probably talking way too child-like to her. So, she was either annoyed with me or remembering all of the stupid, crazy things that I have done in my life … or it was all of the pain medication doing the talking for her. Whatever the reason, it was the funniest thing my mom had said to me after her months of excruciating pain. 
My wedding day

When I was a kid growing up in Bucktown, whether I was next door inside Diana and Sue’s house or all the way over on Bell Street at Jennifer Smith’s house, I could still hear her calling me home from the 3rd floor backporch – “Meri!” She watched from that same 3rd floor backporch as I labored for hours clearing out a strip along the fence in the yard to plant some flowers in order to create our own "Urbs in horto" (city in a garden). She laughed as she later watched the rats pull out and carry away all of the plants that I had meticulously planted. 

Sidewalk pickets. My mom was arrested during the hey days of Operation Rescue in the early 1990’s. She took part in the “Summer of Mercy” sit-in protests in Wichita, Kansas. Darrin and I had on at least two occasions gone to pick up my mom upon her release from jail at Area 3 headquarters at Belmont and Western. Despite how some people like to label pro-lifers as only caring about babies in the womb, my mom was an example of someone who cared about that life outside of the womb as well. She took in my own best friend and her infant son when they had no where else to go and they lived in our small four room apartment. She was a faithful Sunday School teacher to 1st and 2nd graders in our urban church. She prayed incessantly for my friends when I shared with her their problems, health issues, and crises. 
The night my mom really got to see and hear Paul McCartney
(Driving Rain Tour, United Center, April, 2002)

Music: Mom took me to my first concert, which was Dr. Hook at the old Taste of Chicago at Navy Pier. We saw Franky Valli, James Taylor at Grant Park (where she ended up falling down the ‘el steps on the way to Grant Park); Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel during the “Old Friends” tour at the United Center in 2003 while Darrin recovered from emergency surgery. Her coolest and most classic story is when she saw the Beatles at age 15 perform at the old Comiskey Park on August 20, 1965. While she was exiting the park and walking down the ramps, some of the girls started screaming because someone said they say the Fab Four. If you know my mom well, you know that she has never done well in crowds. She passed out on that ramp with the girls running all around her and had to be taken away in an ambulance.  Since she really couldn't hear any music that historic day, I made it up to her in April of 2002, by taking mom to see Paul McCartney during his Driving Rain tour.  It was also Alex's first's concert.   My mother grew up in an era where music was helping to shape the culture of the world in which she lived (in some good and not so good ways). It was always the music that filled our little third floor apartment on Hamilton – from the Bee Gees and Rod Stewart, to Harry Chapin and Pink Floyd. At Christmastime, we always played The Christmas Album by Nat King Cole. 

My mom was the first person that I would call when disaster struck. Last April, on the day of the Boston Marathon, she called me at work just as news of the bombing broke. She told me that there were two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me at first because I had been tracking our friend Sue who was running that day. We were both worried about her and all of the other runners. On 9/11, we both cried over the phone with each other from work as we watched the second tower fall. We had planned escape routes from the Loop in case of terrorism attacks. Two little news junkies – my mom the Baby Boomer Fox News’ loyalist and her daughter the Generation X independent. The two of us were like our own news bureau. 
The Song of the Lark, Breton, 1884

 I credit my mom for planting in me my love for art. She had a framed print of the painting “The Song of the Lark” by French realist painter Jules Breton that hung in our front room. It’s a hauntingly beautiful picture of hope, natural beauty and the dawning of a new day. Mom loved historical black and white photography books which showcased our City’s rich architecture gems and lost treasures. The places she remembered as a little girl. We would go to the Art Institute together to see the big exhibits, like van Gogh and Renoir and Monet. She loved Impressionism as much as I do. She was crafty, herself. Years ago, she started to make bracelets. We tried to convince her to rent tables at local craft fares to sell her goods, but she just gave them to friends and family as gifts. 

 My mom loved: 

  • To bring gifts  
  • The musical Big River
  • Clay Aiken 
  • QVC 
  • Her granddaughters and great-grandson 
  • To garden 
  • Her friends dearly  
  • Her pets: Max, Kitty, Ebony and Ivory 
  • Her son-in-law (I will tell you the tartar sauce story on another occasion) 
  • Her lilac bush in the Springtime.

Things I have learned from my mom: 

  • How to run from a bear in the Minnesota woods;
  • How to serve faithfully; 
  • How to cook (I will miss her potato salad); 
  • She showed me the elegance of Lincoln Park row houses; 
  • How to stand  against racial stereotypes and injustice;  
  • The value of hard work and a little elbow grease;
  • Integrity;  
  • To work hard at everything; 
  • How to clean my home;  
  • That education matters; 
  • The history of this great City;  
  • To never quit and always give it a try .

I stand here having confidence that I will see my mom again –“ I wanna feel sunlight on my face.” And when I do, she will be completely whole and able to do all that she was unable to do these past few years. “… and I can breathe. Breathe now.”

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Five Months

Today marks the five month anniversary of my mother's death.  In some ways, the remains of our lives have moved at a snail's pace and in some ways, it feels like we have been moving faster than the speed of light. She has missed out on so much to celebrate.  We have ached daily at her absence.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of her.  I am haunted by the pain she endured.  There is pain all around us ... family and friends suffering in ways quite unimaginable.  Yet, there are people who will try to prey upon and bully others in an attempt to dull their own pain and sadness.  Wouldn't it be nice to have those lost moments back with our loved ones - whether dead or alive - for just one more time?  To feel their warm hands in ours. To see the familiar lines, birth marks and scars.  To hear their voice call out our name.      

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Year in Music

The National - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved

Court Yard Hounds - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

Mumford & Sons - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

Mumford & Sons - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

The Vaccines - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

Robert Smith/The Cure - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

Phoenix - Lolla 2013 © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved 

Glen Hansard at Downtown Sound -  © By Meridith Canning Photography 2013 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And I Remember ...

2012, December. A week that ended in unspeakable tragedy. Our words fail to amply describe this ache we feel. These cycles of pain and anguish ... life lived within a 24-hour news channel with a constant barrage of breaking news text alerts. Can we unplug and disconnect to escape? Is there anywhere left to hide? We run home to be with the ones we love and cling to our sure foundation. It’s all we know.
“And I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we've known
Will blow away with this new sun.

Happy 1st Birthday, Taj!

Caitlyn is busy keeping up with her school classes and raising Taj. He’ll be 22 months on Christmas Day. Taj loves to play with cars and is quite the dancer. He also likes to watch football with his Papa. Taj also enjoys picking out Thomas the Train and Curious George episodes to watch. Brody is very patient with him and puts up with his growing harassment.
And I'll kneel down
Wait for now
And I'll kneel down
Know my ground

Alexandra is now a high school junior. Last Spring, she scored the winning goal in the girls’ varsity soccer regional playoff game. She is now in the middle of her basketball season, which remains her favorite sport.  She's quickly approaching ACT test-taking time; so, there will be lots of emphasis on her college entrance exams in the months to come.
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

Alexandra (right) and her teammates celebrate their win as IHSA 1A Girls Soccer Regional Champs

Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker
When he’s not installing or repairing DSL lines, Darrin continues to pursue his passion of golf. His ultimate highlight this year was attending and working the Ryder Cup at the Medinah Country in September. We were able to watch the celebrity scramble earlier in the week and during the tournament, Darrin worked as a security guard and was assigned to Team USA’s clubhouse. He got to meet a lot of his favorite golfers and was absolutely thrilled to just be there.  Lasting impression: Phil Mickelson is a genuinely nice guy.

At CARA's Newton 20 Miler (Sept., 2012)

Darrin around Mile 20
It was a big running year for the two of us. I had committed to run the Chicago Marathon back in January after a teary lunch with a girlfriend as we discussed our goals and conquering fears. Darrin caught the marathon bug after we stopped at the Team World Vision booth at a race expo and watched their promo video which featured a friend of ours from church. Our starting base was the Soldier Field 10 Mile, which we ran together on Memorial Day weekend. The following week kicked off the official 18 week marathon training program. In late July, we ran the Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon, which was one of the hottest races I’ve ever run. For the final long run before the taper, we took part in the Chicago Area Runner’s Association Newton 20 Miler. Darrin and I were feeling very confident and hopeful of reaching our goals after that long run because we felt strong and our times were right on target. As you know, this past Summer was a hot one. When the morning of October 7th rolled around, it was about 27 degrees. Unfortunately, our bodies did not deal with the cold temps very well and our legs cramped us for most of the marathon. We both finished - not in the time that we had hoped or trained for; but, we finished and raised some money to help provide clean drinking water for families in Africa through World Vision.
Post-marathon group photo
So break my step
And relent
You forgave and I won't forget
Know what we've seen
And him with less
Now in some way
Shake the excess

Noel Gallagher
Music and running continue to keep me sane as my work responsibilities at the firm pull me in many directions. I’m grateful to be able to sneak off at lunchtime to get in a workout down in the gym or run outside down along the lakefront path. I snuck in a few concerts this year: Snow Patrol and Ed Sheeran at the Aragon Ballroom in April; Coldplay at the United Center in August; and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Snow Patrol (again ... I have a weakness for Irish bands) in November. I also got to attend
Snow Patrol at the Aragon Ballroom
Lollapalooza for two days, but with a slight catch. I worked two separate shifts at Graham Elliot’s (“Master Chef”) Chow Town “Grahamwich” booth and once I was done, I was able to enjoy the festival. I was working in the food tent the day when that crazy storm caused an evacuation of the entire Grant Park area. Graham gave all of us a quick pep talk and told us to get somewhere safe. They eventually reopened Lolla and I was able to see Franz Ferdinand. The next day I was able to check out Jack White’s set. My big claim to fame was being able to make a truffle popcorn for Mr. White while at the Grahamwich booth.
But I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

Franz Ferdinand

Statute of Peter in St. Peter's Square
Field of Miracles in Pisa

Sunset in Florence over the Arno River
Felice anniversario! Darrin and I decided to celebrate our 20 years together by heading over to Europe in October for our own Italian adventure. We spent an amazing 8 days discovering Rome, Florence, Greve, Panzano, Pisa and Siena. The Tuscan countryside was all that we had hoped it would be. Rome is a bubbling metropolitan city that oozes with history and culture at every turn and its hallowed streets are filled with people from all over the world. The food was absolutely some of the best we’ve ever had; every meal was an event. Long walks that took us from one end of the city to the other, uncovering sites made famous hundreds of years ago by events that shaped the world. The art: Michelangelo’s David at The Accademia; Giotto and Botticelli at The Uffizi Gallery; works by Raphael; Matisse; da Vinci; and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, The Sistine Chapel. We saw a lot, but we missed so much, too!  We’d love to go back one day.
So I'll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So take my flesh
And fix my eyes
That tethered mind free from the lies

At the Villa Cafaggio Winery in Panzano

Galileo Galilei's Tomb
And I remember ... dancing with my grandson; early morning prayers with a friend; the joy of freshly brewed coffee at 5:30 a.m.; still dreaming of Florence mornings and Roman nights; seeing my girls at Mile 2 on the #CM12 course; walking out of the Metro station and looking up to see the Colosseum; the other boys from Ireland jumping right into “Hands Open” with such raw, pure energy at the beginning of their set and then sliding right into “Take Back the City”; our last Wednesday night yoga; meeting new friends from around the globe; running with m’lady for 6+ miles during #CM12; gelato; honeysuckle growing wild and fuller hydrangeas; the community of runners and walkers that greet me during my weekend runs at Marquette Park; learning how to perfect grilled salmon; long runs; greeting Hall of Fame Olympians; bachelorette night karaoke; a good Samaritan helping me out when I ran out of gas; climbing to the top of the Duomo in Florence; cheering on Team USA at the Ryder Cup; Nonna Gina's Amaretto; the wisdom of older women; high-fives; celebrating Taj’s 1st birthday; POTUS' motorcade; singing along to "Set Fire to the Third Bar” as Gary stood on the stage and I was feet away at the Aragon Ballroom; morning croissants; watching Alexandra participate in her sporting events; missing trains and trying new foods; pushing myself to a point physically in weather conditions that I began to wonder if I had truly gone over the edge; Chianti Classico; NATO Summit 2012; seeing the city come back into focus from south Michigan Avenue around the final 7-8 miles of the marathon; pushing myself to forgive; saying good bye to those we love; hugs from the 4's and 5's on Sundays; answers to prayer; burgers in Summertime at Sweetwater; lunchtime runs along the lake on those hot Summer days; hearing a voice that’s still whispering; crossing finish lines; “The Scientist”; the ability to fill my lungs with air to breathe and muscles that continue to propel this still 40-something body; and just how good God is.
Running across the Chicago River

But I'll kneel down
Wait for now
I'll kneel down
Know my ground

2013. May the new year bring much love and peace to us all. We pray that during this holiday season, you will be reminded of the blessings and gifts that money cannot buy. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow

Cause I will wait, I will wait for you ... .”
I Will Wait for You” Mumford and Sons

Inside of the Colosseum



Friday, November 23, 2012

The Flavian Amphitheater a/k/a the Colosseum

IMG_8287, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.

Only a third of the original Colosseum stands today due to earthquakes and pre-cut travertine stone being taken away during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for use in other buildings.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Under a Tuscan Sun

Tuscany was amazing!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10.7.12.  Marathoners!  

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith." 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

It's So Hot That You Can ...

And we're supposed to be training for a marathon in this weather? I was relegated to the dreadmill yesterday for 5 miles, while I listened to my long run 2 playlist and watched some dessert shows on The Food Network (that was tough). I'll have to leave the house at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday at this rate to escape the sun's wrath in order to get my 10 miles in.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hot Coffee, An Ice Bath & Expired Chomps

I'm pretty sure that when I glanced at the Weather Bug app on my phone around 6:45 a.m., it stated "95% humidity." Ideally, I should've been out of the house much earlier; but, it probably would not have mattered much.  After the first two blocks, I could feel my skin crawl with beads of sweat.  By the time I was a 1/4 mile from the house, I was yearning for a cup of coffee and an ice bath. (I know, the oddest of combinations; but, I made an amazing pot of coffee this morning). 

I knew I was running slow by the time I made it to Marquette Park and hit Mile 1.  Long runs should be run at a slower pace than your weekly training runs; but I was disappointed, nonetheless, once I heard my pace from my Nike+ running app.  I knew that this run would be tough because I had to skip Thursday's training run after coming down with a stomach bug.  I felt beat up all week.  This humidity and heat just added to my problems.  As I passed the playground after 7:00 a.m., there were people already playing in the water sprinkler. 

I felt "off" the first two miles. My legs would not turn over properly.  I could hear my feet dragging on the pavement.  I totally needed GU (energy gel) for this run; but we had none at home.  All I could come up with was a bag of GU Orange Chomps that had expired last fall.  Darrin wanted nothing to do with it, but I tucked it into my Spibelt "just in case."  2.5 miles into the run, I desperately tore open in the bag.  It was almost unpenetratable.  I tried opening it with my teeth, fingers and a water fountain.  Finally, it opened and I nudged out a carb-filled orangey square.  I ate another.  Awful.  I know that within 10 minutes of taking regular GU, I can feel the effects (glycogen levels go up and I'm back in business). Nothing was happening after I ate these Chomps.  Ate another.  Nothing.  Feet still dragging.  Ate another.  No pep in my step.  There really is something to say about expiration dates.  Lesson learned.

Today's run required two laps of the "big" loop (2.4 mi.) and one small loop (1.2 mi.) and the up and back from home.  On the last of the big loop, it felt as if I had lost every ounce of sodium in my body.  Since my fingers were starting to tingle, I played along to Adam Clayton's bass line on Mysterious Ways just to keep my fingers and the circulation moving.  Of course, then, I start to think about their concerts and being on the field for the opening night of the U2360 tour at Soldier Field and I begin to feel energized and it helps propel me on ... especially as All Because of You comes up next on the playlist.

"I'm alive.
I'm being born.
I just arrived, I'm at the door.
Of the place I started out from and I want back inside.

All because of you ... I am."
This was a challenging week (the week after vacation) and a difficult long run to complete.  It wasn't pretty, but it got done.  Things I'm grateful for this week:
  • Under Armour HeatGear Shorts
  • Body Glide
  • Sun Visors
  • My mom's prayers
  • A pedicure that has lasted all of June (and toenails, as well)
  • The gift of music
Most of all, I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to help change lives in Africa.  All of this training and sacrifice is for a purpose: we want to help bring clean, safe drinking water to women and children.  Did you know that 4,200 children die each day from dirty water?  You can help change lives in Africa by making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts:

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Yesterday began official marathon training.  I just wanted to post up a link to the fundraising page because I'm such a procrastinator with things. It's a work in progress (as we are).  The journey lies ahead; only 124 days to go. 

Darrin & Meridith's World Vision Fundraising Page

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chicago Hope Academy Girls Soccer: Conference & Regional Championship Game 2012


These games are always nail-biters. The kids work so hard during the season to make it to the championship round and you hate to see them go down in defeat; but, Friday night was sweet for us. It was nice to be on the winning side and to be the mother of the kid who scored the winning goal. A great way to start off my Mother's Day weekend!