Monday, December 19, 2011

And I Remember ...

Blizzard of February, 2011

 2011. December. A week of intense work deadlines and everyday life had left me spent and empty. All it took was Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies singing their version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" to cause me to tear up and let it go. It’s usually when we think we’re doing our very best to keep up our fake facade that those cracks begin to slowly show up. You only see them when you look close enough and life is hard enough already. It’s good to let it go and exhale. Rest. Remember. Worship. That is what the song is calling us to do.
“God rest ye merry gentlemen; Let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ our Savior was born upon this day.
To save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray.
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Comfort and joy.
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Caitlyn gave birth to a little boy on February 25th. Taj arrived a little early due to a few medical complications; but, he is healthy, growing and a beautiful addition to our family. His two bottom teeth finally came in and he is busy standing up with the aid of furniture, trying to bypass crawling altogether. I enjoy watching “Little Einsteins” with Taj because he enjoys the music and I like the art. On Christmas Day, Taj will be 10-months-old. He makes us laugh and has given us new names, “Nana” and “Papa.”
From God our Heavenly Father, this blessed angel came;
and unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same.
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.
O tidings of comfort and joy ...

Let's go, Alex; let's go Hope!
Caitlyn and Alexandra are busy with their respective schools. Caitlyn continues her pursuit of her chemistry degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She added a French class this past semester, which was fun for me to talk to her about. Darrin and I are very proud of how hard she has worked to balance her school work and motherhood. Alexandra is now a high school sophomore at Chicago Hope Academy. She joined the volleyball and indoor soccer team this fall; but, basketball remains her favorite sport. During the Summer, Alex spent four weeks up at Honey Rock Camp in Wisconsin. She was able to kayak with her friends on Lake Superior. In November, family and friends helped us celebrate Alex’s 16th birthday with a Sweet 16 party at Palermo’s.
Alex (3rd from left) and her Honey Rock friends

O star of wonder star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding;
Guide us to thy perfect light.

Papa and Taj
Darrin continues to work at AT&T, but things are getting tough. Their union contract with the company is up next year; so, the union is telling everyone to prepare for the worst. Darrin’s joy and release comes from playing golf. Two of his friends, Kevin and Jay, are always willing to join him out at an indoor driving range in the colder months or at a park district course in the warmer weather. I was able to finally convince Darrin to sign up and train for two long-distance races, which we completed this past year: the Soldier Field 10 Mile, which we ran together on Memorial Day weekend and the 13.1 Chicago in June (his first half marathon). The 13.1 Chicago race was actually black-flagged due to weather conditions, but we were able to still make it across the finish line and receive our medals.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain.
Gold I bring to crown Him again.
King for ever ceasing never;
Over us all to reign.
Foster the People
O star of wonder, star of night ...

(I get my music appreciation from my mom).

Sir Paul McCartney

Bright Eyes

Jonny Buckland and Chris Martin of Coldplay

My year has been full of learning my new job responsibilities, training for two half marathons and lots of concerts (the music and running keep me sane). I probably attended more concerts this year than ever before. Arcade Fire and The National in April; Sugarland and Little Big Town in May (let’s say I accompanied the family because many know I’m not a country girl); the Go-Go’s in June down in Florida (Taj’s first concert); U2 and Interpol in July; Def Leppard and Heart; Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field in August; and I finally attended my first Lollapalooza, with headliner Coldplay on an incredibly hot Summer night at Butler Field surrounded by thousands. 

The second half marathon that I ran this Summer was the Chicago Half Marathon on September 11th. It was a special day as our country marked the 10-year anniversary of the
9-11 tragedy. A restored fire truck from New York was the lead vehicle for the race. I had purposed in my heart back at the start of my training that I'd run to honor the memory of the 2,977 people that were killed. It was a beautiful day for a run and we all stood together to remind the world that we will never forget. We ran strong in tribute to our fallen.
Glorious now behold Him arise.
Jennifer K. (left), me and Mark at the start of the Chicago Half
King and God and Sacrifice.
Alleluia, Alleluia.
Worship Him God most high.

Todd, me, Aunt Mickey and Uncle Bill
And I remember ... seeing my grandson for the first time; early morning prayers with a friend; the joy of freshly brewed coffee at 5:30 a.m.; still dreaming of Paris mornings and Dublin nights; Win Butler & company jumping right into “Ready to Start” with such raw, pure energy at the beginning of the set and then sliding right into “Keep the Car Running”; Wednesday night yoga; watching Taj roll over; cheese from Pastoral; honeysuckle growing wild and fuller hydrangeas; the community of runners and walkers that greet me during my weekend runs at Marquette Park; The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; the wisdom of older women; high-fives; singing along with Ann Wilson to all the songs that I grew up listening to on WLS; the hot sand of Cocoa Beach; a Winter wedding; watching Alexandra participate in her sporting events; hanging with my cousins in October; hearing of cancer diagnoses, but knowing my friends are winning the battle; chowder in Boston; apple picking; Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire; witnessing one of my bosses find love and marry at 65; Friday night lights on the West Side - Chicago style; pushing myself to a point physically in weather conditions that I began to wonder if I had truly gone over the edge; seeing the city from Jackson Park on a Sunday morning; pushing myself to forgive; hugs from the 4's and 5's on Sundays; singing along with everyone to “Hey Jude” and dancing in the aisle when the old guy told me to sit down; answers to prayer; burgers at Sweetwater; lunchtime runs along the lake on hot Summer days; hearing a voice that’s still whispering; completing the 26.2 Windy City Challenge; watching and hearing the boys from Ireland perform an impromptu and rare version of “One Tree Hill”; 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.
"With or Without You" U2360 Soldier Field
July 5, 2011

O star of wonder star of night;
Star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading still proceeding ...

Taj napping in my garden

2012. May the new year 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.
Guide us to thy perfect light."
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” Old English Carol

Aunt Mickey and I atop Pack Monadnock

Layne and Caitlyn

Alex, Judi, Sandy, Taj and Caitlyn
Canning-Nevills-Corona-Osborn Family

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking Back ... 10 Years Later

Looking toward lower Manhattan from Liberty Island in August, 2004.

Some days, it seems as if it happened yesterday ... my recollection of that day can be way too clear at times. It was a beautiful, sunny, Tuesday morning walk down Leavitt to the 'el station at 35th & Archer. I walked on the right side of the street. At that point, it seemed like a typical work-day morning on the train. I was happy because I was actually going to be early getting to the office. Since the back door to our office was broken, I had to enter through the side front and cut-thru the file room, somehow finding myself passing our main conference room with all of the attorneys circling around a fuzzy TV picture. I asked what was going on and someone said something about "some type of air plane crash ... some type of possible terrorist action."  I rushed back to my desk where the lady next to me had one of those mini-TV's on. I saw the smoke rising from the Twin Towers ... ABC News was on and I picked up the phone and called my mom right away.  "Mom, something terrible has happened in NY ... call Aunt Mickey."  (We have family that lives in NY -- Long Island). It was impossible to get on the Internet.  Everything was jammed and it's impossible to pick up AM radio stations downtown. We heard rumors that there were missing planes ... that a plane was headed towards the Sears Tower ... then a plane crashed into the Pentagon ... next, all the planes were ordered down to land at nearby airports. It was so surreal -- everyone was trying to pickup whatever info we could from whatever sources were available.  There were lots of phone calls to family, friends, coworkers we knew in other places.

To say that we were in shock as we watched the first tower fall was, well, an understatement. I mean, I just couldn't believe it. It was a horrific site --- just knowing that there were people trapped and then to see them killed in that manner. I cried ... a lot of us cried. Our building was ordered to evacuate.  The entire Loop was shut down. We were on the top floor at LaSalle and Washington (43rd floor), which was kitty corner from City Hall and 3 1/2 blks. from the Sears Tower. You could look down from the windows and see a mass of people fleeing downtown heading towards the Metra and 'el stations. We heard more rumors: that all public transportation was shut down. Calls were made to find out that this info was not true. I would say, by 10:00 a.m. our firm was officially closed.

I had to call family ... call the girls' school to find out what was happening there. Mrs. Murphy, the school secretary, said that they were keeping school in session because it would be better to keep the kids there locked down and secure because no one really knew what was going on yet. The principal went to each classroom and in an age-appropriate way, briefed the kids on what was happening. The older kids were able to see a little bit of the images from TV. I called my mom and made sure that she was getting out of downtown.  My dad's steel plant was shutting down and they arranged to meet each other. I left the office sometime after 11:00 a.m.  It was a ghost town down here. I ran into an old co-worker on the 'el platform and we cried. Lots of tears on the train.  We were scared to be down here, too. Got off the train and it was so incredibly quiet. I have never heard it that quiet in the city before.

So, that same walk down Leavitt to my in-laws' house was different. My father-in-law was waiting on the porch for me ... cried again.

I picked up my car and went to Jewel to pick up a few things just in case there were curfews and/or food delivery problems. Everyone was talking to everyone, yet it was quiet. Lots of courtesy and sadness. Left the store and finally went home. Opened the door and found Darrin somberly sitting on the couch watching the coverage on TV. Hugged and cried. Watched TV and cried. I called Uncle Bill to make sure that my cousins in NY were okay. He told me that when my cousin Mark first heard, he jumped in a boat and headed down Long Island Sound over to the East River and tried to make it down to help. He was blocked by the Port Authority police from getting any further ... he saw the last tower fall as he watched from his boat.

I was walking from one room to another in our apartment when I heard a loud booming noise in the sky.  I rushed to the window in the sitting room to see a fighter yet flying above our McKinley Park neighborhood. I knew at that point that the world had changed forever. We decided to head over to Archview (a local neighborhood restaurant) to just get away from the TV and wait to pick up the girls from school. The skies were again eerily quiet being that we live fairly-close to Midway Airport ... and yet they were clear and bluer than any blue sky I've ever seen before.

I've never seen that many parents, all at once, picking up their children at school. Alex was in kindergarten and Caitlyn was in 4th. Miss Ehlert, Alex's teacher, asked us if it was really true. I think all of the parents tried their hardest to keep it together in front of their kids without breaking down. It was hard to sleep that night ... lots of bad dreams and the only noise I heard was the scary rumble of the sonic booms coming from the fighter jets patrolling the skies above.

What do you remember when you look back?  Never forget.

Monday, September 05, 2011


42, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.

I have lived half of my life at this point. It's a privilege that a few of my friends have not had.

"Those who are dead are not dead
They’re just living in my head;
And since I fell for that spell
I am living there as well
Oh ... "

I still can recall the sound of their voices. The tones; the accents; the familiar way they'd call my name. And then there are some voices that I strain to remember. I can see mouths move in pictures from memories past, but nothing comes out. Just like a bad dream where you're falling and you never seem to hit the ground.

Perhaps, that memory of their voice is just a gift that God leaves us when He takes home the ones who leave this earth a little too early.

"Time is so short and I’m sure
There must be something more." - "42" by Coldplay

Sunday, May 01, 2011

My Brush with Royalty

PICT0097, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.
King Albert (waving) and Queen Paola of Belgium just happened to be on an official state visit the day Janice and I were at the Cliffs of Moher during our trip to Ireland in October, 2007. I wonder if they attended Kate & Will's wedding.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Freedom Has a Scent ...

IMG_4602, originally uploaded by Meridith Louise.

"... like the top of a new born baby's head." - Miracle Drug by U2

Happy one month birthday, Taj!