Monday, December 21, 2009

Looking Back 2009

2009, December. Chicago experienced its earliest bout with sub-zero temperatures last week. The bitter sting of the frigid wind slapped every one of us making our daily trek walking up Randolph to our various office buildings on Thursday morning. We are of Midwestern stock. This is nothing new to us who call this city home. Sure, the first taste of it during the season is never pleasant; but, over time, you learn the proper way to bundle up, head out and carry on. So, we continued on walking up Randolph, with a shred of sunshine peeking out, and we moved forward – holding on tightly and breathing in life’s sweet breath.
“Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn. Every day I have to find the courage to walk out into the street with arms out, got a love you can’t defeat; neither down nor out. There’s nothing you have that I need, I can breathe, breathe now.

Caitlyn with her friends, Larissa and Aaron

Caitlyn’s junior year of high school came and went and she is now in her Senior year at Chicago Hope Academy. She spent a lot of time this fall working on college applications, taking her ACT and writing essays. Darrin and I cannot believe that our oldest will be graduating and heading off to college next year. It has been a tough few months, but she has pushed herself and done well. She has now received acceptance letters from eight different colleges and universities, and she has also received a few merit scholarships. Caitlyn is interested in studying forensic science. We are very proud of her and look forward to what God will be doing in her life.
The roar that lies on the other side of silence.
The forest fire that is fear so deny it.

Alexandra is now an 8th grader and counting down the days until graduation when she will get her cell phone (as well as how many more months until she gets her braces off). Practice just began this week for the upcoming basketball season at St. Andrew. The Bruins had a successful volleyball season this fall, taking first place in the conference tournament. Alex was also named an all-star. For this year’s Chicago Area Lutheran Association’s forensics competition, she placed 1st in Declamation for her rendition of a speech by Indian Chief Seattle.

Alexandra and her friend, Dominique, at the softball tournament in September.

In June, the contract between Darrin’s union and AT&T had expired; so, we were in limbo for a few weeks as to what was going to happen. There were lots of rumors swirling around about what the company was offering and what the union was demanding; but, after many weeks of slow negotiations, both sides finally reached an agreement. They now have a three-year contract, which, in this day and time, is all that we can ask for. Darrin has taken up a new sport/hobby: golf. On his days off (and in much warmer weather), he likes to head to the driving range to practice his swing or to a local golf course for a few rounds. In October, the family celebrated Darrin’s parents 50th wedding anniversary by throwing a surprise party in his mom and dad's honor. Many family and old friends came out to celebrate this special day with us.
Walk out into the street, sing your heart out. The people we meet will not be drowned out. There’s nothing that you have that I need. I can breathe now.

This past year I set out to reach some big goals in celebration of turning 40 in September. My friend, Jennifer, and I had talked during one of our runs last fall that this would be the year that we would run a half marathon. So, right after the Shamrock Shuffle in March, we started training for the 13.1 Chicago half marathon, which took place in early June. Jennifer had registered for the Chicago Marathon months beforehand and kept asking me to run it; while a few months earlier, my church announced that they were putting together a running team to raise money for frontline HIV/AIDS caregivers in Africa through World Vision. I felt my heart being tugged at. If I was ever going to run a marathon, it was going to be here in my hometown and it would be for a goal. So, after we ran the half, we started the 18-week marathon training program which required a lot of juggling of schedules, support of my family and sacrifice of sleep. I was grateful to have a few other friends running the marathon this year and we were able to provide encouragement to one another through our Facebook wall posts and chats at church. When that morning of October 12th finally rolled around, it almost seemed dream-like. All those months of training were done and it was time to just go out there and run the course. It was a cold, windy, and sunny Sunday in Chicago that day. The crowds that lined the streets were unbelievable. Just seeing all of the people cheering as we made our way through the different neighborhoods and hearing your named called out as you ran by was such a motivating feeling. The last six miles were tough because of calf cramps and the final three were the hardest. I could not have made it without the help of Jennifer who stayed alongside me the entire course. Darrin and the girls met us and different places along the course to cheer us on. It meant so much to see my parents out at Mile 21 and then to have my entire family, my best friend Janice, and the Zabors at the finish line. I ran as strong as I could and through the generous financial support of family, friends, co-workers and strangers, we were able to raise $ 985.00 toward helping to make a different in Africa through World Vision.

Paris in September ... this is where I celebrated my actual 40th birthday. My best friend, Janice, and I decided that we wanted to mark our milestone birthdays with a unique trip. She choose Ireland in ‘07 and I picked France this year. What can I say about the City of Light? It was more amazing than I had imagined. The culture, cuisine, the sights, the sounds ... it is easy to see why so many writers have gone to Paris for inspiration. We stayed in a hotel in the Latin Quarter and from there we set out each day on an adventure. We visited the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay (where my love of impressionism was further deepened); took the train down to Versailles to tour the palace and stroll the vast gardens of the former monarchy; took a cooking class with Chef Pino at Cook'n with Class (which was the highlight of our trip); rode to the top of the Eiffel Tower; walked around Montmartre; toured Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur; continued our Summer concert tour with another Coldplay concert in Parc des Princes soccer stadium and rode the Metro everywhere! I especially enjoyed my two runs along the River Seine while I was there. It was very surreal and awe-inspiring to be able to take in all of the history and beauty as I wandered the city during my runs there. I will post the rest of the pictures with links to my flickr albums in the days and weeks to come, so check back.
We are people borne of sound.
The songs are in our eyes, gonna wear them like a crown ...

And I remember ... the beauty that you can sometimes miss in the every day moments of life; early morning prayers with a friend; the joy of freshly brewed coffee at 5:30 a.m.; dreaming of Paris mornings; winning tickets to meet the boys from Ireland at the Metro courtesy of ‘XRT; the working the concession stand along with other Chicago Hope parents at Altgeld Park on Friday nights; "you're Italiano"; honeysuckle and fuller hydrangeas; the community of runners and walkers that would greet me each weekend at Marquette Park during my long runs; watching Alexandra participate in her sporting events; chocolate croissants and cafĂ© au lait; July road trip up to Alpine Valley to see Coldplay; Espresso Love GU; reconnecting with old friends; the last two miles of my first half marathon; singing the line "Chicago bursts to life" during the song "Hands Open" with Snow Patrol; seeing the city from Jackson Park on a Sunday morning; the long good-bye to my daughter’s classmate, Marcel; celebrating more “40th” birthdays; the day we lost the 2016 Olympic bid; hugs from the 4's & 5's on Sundays; landscaping the corner garden; running along the Seine River in Paris as the sun came up; opening night of the North American leg of the U2360 tour at Soldier Field and then going back the next night with Yvonne and the girls; Guitar Hero and Rock Band jam sessions in our basement; the sound of the people cheering as I ran up Roosevelt Road with Jen as we approached the final turn onto Columbus and made our way to the finish line; answers to prayer; celebrating an engagement; lunchtime runs up to the Adler Planetarium; hearing a voice that’s still whispering; 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.
Walk out, into the sunburst street, sing your heart out, sing my heart out.

2010. May the new year - this new decade - bring you much love and peace. 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.
Thank you for being a part of our lives.
I’ve found grace inside a sound; I found grace, it’s all that I found and I can breathe, breathe now.”

“Breathe” by U2 (Hewson/Clayton/Evans/Mullen)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moulin Rouge

IMG_4159, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.

Finally getting around to uploading the rest of the photos from my trip. This was taken towards the end of our afternoon walking around Montmartre.