Mayday Monday

Today was not the kind of Monday that I wanted. I literally ran around ALL day and finally at 7pm got to crash for some down time!  I was so busy that I never found time to fit in a workout.  Which is a totally bummer because after our weekend trip to New Jersey, I needed to burn a few calories.

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We did a quick two nighter in the garden state to celebrate my cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah.  The weekend was full of activities and surrounded by family.  It was truly an incredible time!  We miss everyone already!

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Sadly, the BOY came back sick and I think that the rest of us are coming down with something as well.

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BTW, since it was a 13 year old event, my SIL and I thought it would only be fitting to take as many selfies as possible : )

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We flew in late last night and I happily crashed in my bed where I slept for as many hours as possible!  Then it was Monday and off in many directions I went.   I treated a few patients, ran to the grocery store, did laundry, and then cleaned up our house for the real estate agent who came by to help us decide on our next step.  You guys are so amazing!  And I appreciate all your support and excitement with our move.  You may also have to be a bit patient with me as I now have a lot of house cleaning, organizing, and decluttering to do, which will definitely take A TON of time!  On top of that, I am creating my anatomy power points for yoga training and working on a state certification.  We also have another big family event coming up this month…all of that means that there may be a few less blog posts.  But I will try to make them fun and meaningful : )

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Kind of like this weekend : )

 

Meal Planning 5/09/16

Monday: Thai Food

Tuesday: Crockpot Butter Chicken

Wednesday: Chicken Burgers

Thursday: Tacos

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Still Sad

Thank you all so very much for your sweet words and support his past week!

When I learned that my grandfather had passed, I was somewhat surprised.  He was 2 months away from 103 years old, how could you be surprised, you ask?  My grandpa has been a fixture in my life for 33 years.  While other grandparents got sick and eventually passed, my grandpa was always bright, strong, and healthy.  When he ended up sick and in the hospital for the first time EVER in his 90’s, I was sad but not the slightest bit shocked to learn that he pulled through open heart surgery well and was telling jokes to the nurses day one after surgery.  After that, I made sure not to take for granted any of the time we had left together.

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I have been down to Florida for at least his last 7 birthdays (and possibly more) documenting everything with photos and creating memories that are still vivid today (ie driving with him home from his birthday brunch the day after his 101st birthday).  I made sure to take a trip down with the BOY to introduce him early on and we often visited since, enjoying pancakes and stories by the pool.  I made sure that my grandpa knew that I loved him and shared all of the exciting moments of the past years, including my engagement with him.

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Although we knew that his health and independence were declining, it was shocking to hear that grandpa’s body was aging and his quality of life impaired last week.  The news broke my heart but to hear that he passed quietly, without suffering, after recent visits from family and friends in the community was comforting.  And then, it was a quick transition to GO time.  Planning for a drive out east, rearranging my work schedule, coordinating phone calls with family, and taking care of the last minute little things before leaving for almost a week.

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My mom and brother arrived in New Jersey first and it was a pleasant reunion when my dad, sister in law, the BOY, and I arrived.  We stayed with my cousins who have two young kids who were thrilled to see us and we were equally excited to spend time with them.  The week progressed with a mix of disbelief and celebrations of life.  There were stories to share, laughter amongst family, and hugs and tears.  I actually do not know the last time that I was in a room with my brother and all 5 of my cousins and I couldn’t help but appreciate this as the 7 of us, plus spouses, and kids got to know each other better at a family dinner.  The energy in the house was electric.  The celebration of life with the underlying tone of sadness.  At almost 103, there was more appreciation for the lifetime of lessons and legacy that Grandpa Al left us than loss.

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I spent time in New Jersey and strolled through Washington Heights, NYC.  I bonded with my sister in law over family dynamics and smiled brightly as the BOY engaged in deep conversations gaining the trust of my family in between playing games with the kids.  His support during this time left me speechless with an entirely new level of appreciation for the life we are about to start together.

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The days went by and at 5am yesterday morning, it was time to return home.  We ended up renting a second car to caravan home, reflecting on the week while beginning to plan for back to work, getting opinions about wedding plans and texting pins back and forth with my sister in law in the other car.  Once we crossed back into Illinois, we had a stop in the city, drove out to Ohare to return the rented car, then back to my parents to pick up our car before returning to our home and a slightly dazed and mostly annoyed Cooper. 

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I sat back on the couch to sort through emails and bills and see the adorable face of my grandpa popping up on my blog screen and my throat gets tight as my eyes tear up as the overwhelming reality that I won’t hear him scream Jennifer loudly into the phone when I call hits, no slams into me.  And I am still sad…so very sad.

But I am also happy to have had 6 days surrounded by the love and support of family, creating more memories and passing down wisdom to the newest generation of great grandkids.  My grandpa would be so happy to know that we were all together!

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And so along with the sadness, this is what I will take with me over the next days, weeks, and years!

Whirlwind Weekend

It all began last Tuesday night…

After work, I drove to my parents, changed into comfy clothes, piled into the backseat of my parents car, drove to the city to pick up my brother, and the four of us headed east for Thanksgiving. 

 

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I slept through the night crammed into the back seat with plenty of pillows and blankets.  We hit some snow and ice in Indiana, but for the most part, made great time.  We arrived in New Jersey Wednesday morning just in time to go pick up my cousin’s adorable kids from school.

 

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First (of many) vacation selfie

 

My cousins live in an awesome town in New Jersey and our first stop (after lunch) was downtown for some tax free pre Thanksgiving shopping and Starbucks.  When we got back home, everyone sat around the dinner table to catch up on life.

 

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After dinner, it was back to the kitchen for Thanksgiving prep.  It was a team effort pulling together homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes before crashing for an early evening.  Thursday morning, we were up WAY before the sun for parade day.

 

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We drove into the city and found a parking spot within walking distance of our location on 68th.  A few of us went off to Starbucks for a warm beverage and a bathroom.  The line was outrageous, but thankfully Magnolia Bakery opened up at 7am with warm coffee and tea and incredible pastries.

 

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We had over an hour before the start of the parade, so a simple game of I Spy kept us all busy!

 

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When the clowns came skating down the street, we knew the parade would be right behind!

 

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Two years ago when we went to the parade, I took tons of pictures, so I tried to get some different snap shots this year.  There were some old favorites and a few new faces along the route, plus a local Chicago marching band.  As you can see, despite the threat of heavy winds, it was a gorgeous day!

 

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After Santa’s arrival (signifying the end of the parade), we followed the masses back to our car.

 

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We drove up to northern Manhattan to pick up some family members who opted out of the parade and then drove out to Rockland county where my cousin and his wife were hosting this year’s Thanksgiving.

 

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It was a beautiful feast and the house rang with chatter and laughter (from the adults as much as the kids) from the moment we arrived until the last person fell asleep!

 

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After dinner, the kids were super excited to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah!  I should tell you that the BOY and I do our own Hanukkah celebration, but it is WAY more fun celebrating with family, especially this enthusiastic crowd.  Friday morning, I woke up to an adorable girl in pink plopping into my bed and asking if I wanted to see what was in her purse.   How sweet is that???

 

I have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but 4 days surrounded by amazing family is definitely top on my list!

Maybe One Day

Throughout our time out East, we moved between New Jersey and New York, visiting and passing through most of the 5 boroughs.  On our way from New Jersey out to Long Island, we drove through Staten Island.

 

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I don’t know if I have ever been to or through Staten Island before, but after the Chicago marathon last October, I added the NYC marathon to my bucket list.  As we were crossing over the Verrazano Bridge, my cousin mentioned that this is the exact start of the marathon…right here on the upper and lower levels of THIS bridge.

 

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I pulled out my camera to snap a few photos of the bridge, and as we drove across, I began thinking that MAYBE one day, I would be back here in running shoes, filled with anxiety, and about to start a 26.2 mile adventure!

 

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My goal would be to try for 2013, but with a race this popular, I’m not sure I would get it.  But, who knows???  Maybe one day!

 

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We headed on about our day driving through new neighborhoods and over different bridges, but I couldn’t help thinking about the Verrazano bridge leaving Staten Island and leading runners on their latest endeavor.

 

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Have you run the NYC marathon? 

Anyone else have it on their bucket list?

Family First

The reason my family and I headed out East for the weekend was in honor of my Uncle who passed away last August. After some debate, I blogged about our weekend in NY. Although it was a truly sad occasion, it really brought our family together (under one roof actually thanks to Hurricane Irene), and good memories, laughter, and joy followed. I found writing about the weekend to be a challenge as I am not the most articulate person, but the process helped me cope during a sad time and emphasized the importance of family. Since our family lives so far away, I cherish the adventures that we have together and every day I am so thankful to have such a warm, compassionate, and supportive network of people to lean on. For all of these reasons, I didn’t think twice about taking an afternoon off from work to jet out to NY last weekend!

 

On Saturday night, we had the opportunity to attend the local Relay for Life.  My aunt and cousin are both cancer survivors, and they were being honored at a ceremony before the event.

 

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After the ceremony, we made our way down towards the track for the start of the walk.  If you have never attended a Relay for Life event, it is a huge outdoor community-supported fundraiser where teams of people take turns walking (usually around a high school track) for up to 24 hours through the night.  In our town, the high school students plan, organize, and run the entire event.  They form teams, make creative shirts, sleep in tents, and pull the community together to support The American Cancer Society.

 

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My cousin teaches at a nearby elementary school, and he was recognized by numerous kids as we made our way down to the track.  It was sweet to see how excited they were to see him and meet his family!

 

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It was an absolutely gorgeous evening!

 

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And we enjoyed spending the time together to honor my uncle and celebrate life!  When it came time to start the relay, the survivors walk the first lap together.  It was hard not to get choked up thinking of all the people I know who have been touched by cancer. 

 

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The second lap is for ‘caregivers’, which is anyone who has cared for and supported anyone with cancer. We all joined in and walked this lap together.  I definitely got teary eyed thinking about this past year, and all of the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital who inspire me every day!  I am unable to express in words how I good it felt to share this weekend with my family.  I just felt so lucky to be apart of this special day!

 

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It reminded me of the meaningful life lessons I learned on my 30th birthday!

 

 

The next time life throws you a hurricane…

Surround yourself with the people you love.

Take time to talk, tell stories, laugh, and cry.

Create memories that you will share with generations to come.

And be thankful you’re able to sit back, reflect, and find the joy hidden inside the storm!

Garden State

When I woke up last Saturday in New Jersey, I was determined to go for a run.  It was a gorgeous morning, and I got out before the heat!  My cousins have a 3.1 mile loop in their neighborhood, and I set out to run a 10k.  I love exploring a new neighborhood by foot, and I was shocked to see how many garage sales there were.  People were also leaving tons of fantastic things at the curb for garbage pick up.  One such thing, was a balance beam!!!  As I ran by, I was in awe of what good shape the beam was in.  As an x-gymnast, I so badly wanted to scoop up the beam and fly it back to Chicago with me.  Instead, I kept on running and by lap 2, I half expected the beam to be for sale at one of the garage sales.  However, it was still just sitting on the side of the road waiting for a new home.  When I made it back to my cousin’s house, I found the crew exercising in the living room.

 

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After a sip of water, I mentioned the beam (both of my cousin’s daughters are gymnasts, and I thought it was a GOOD find).  Everyone agreed, and we immediately hopped in the car as I tried to remember where I had seen the beam.  We made it there moments before the garbage pickers and easily moved the beam into the minivan.  It fit perfectly in their home, and we all took turns performing our most impressive moves 🙂

 

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I told my cousins that once they won their first Olympic medals on balance beam, they would have to thank me for finding their in home balance beam.  This was arguably the BEST garbage find ever although my dad did argue that the bowling ball he found at the side of the road 35 years ago was cooler, we all had to disagree!  After a quick shower, we headed out for the first of two softball games in town.

 

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We were joined by some more family and spent the morning playing at the park and cheering on the Koalas!

 

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And then headed back home for an outdoor lunch.  We had a little bit of time for shopping in town.  I always love shopping in New Jersey because there is NO sales tax, and there happened to be LOTS of sales!  We grabbed a Starbucks and headed off to softball game number 2 to cheer on the Braves!

 

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We made quite the cheering section, and the Braves looked strong.  It must have been their amazing coaches!

 

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We had one more event to attend at the local Relay for Life where my cousin and aunt were honored as survivors before finally making our way back home.  We ordered New York style pizza (my favorite!) for a late dinner.  After a jam-packed day, everyone crashed comfortably on the couch to watch the Devils game.

 

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Except those of us who were engaged in a highly competitive game of Apples to Apples, Junior.

 

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The kids had never played before and they immediately got right into the game!  There was a lot of negotiations and laughing throughout the night.  When the game was over, we had to promise to play again soon.  I told them that we have Apples to Apples at our house and there would be a rematch when they came to visit in August.

 

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Sometime after 10PM, we wrapped up our game, and it was time for everyone to return home.  I headed upstairs and collapsed into my bed.  We packed a lot into the day, and it was seriously a blast spending a busy day with my family in the Garden State!!!

 

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Start Spreading the News

Let’s see…when last we met, I was sitting at the airport sipping on a red tea latte from Argo Tea and waiting for my plane to Newark with my parents.

 

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We boarded our 2:55PM flight in great spirits and looking forward to the weekend ahead.  After a small discussion, we figured out our seating arrangements (the three of us where packed into one row), and ‘prepared for take off’.  For me, this meant pulling out the most recent Chicago Magazine and my mom studied the in flight menu finding us a delicious in-flight snack.  We ordered the tapas platter, consisting of hummus, cheese dip, bruschetta, olives, and crackers along with some red wine.

 

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Don’t we look so fancy?!

 

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The bruschetta was the best and the hummus on-the-go was better than I expected!  Laughing and enjoying our meal made the flight fly by and we had our last sip of wine as the captain announced that we would soon be on the ground in Newark.

 

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Cheers to family fun!!!

 

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While my parents made the inevitable post plane ride pit stop, I watched the luggage and flipped through the Newark airport shopping guide (who knew such things existed!?).  I discovered a Crumbs in the airport.  I had my heart set on BabyCakes this trip and was holding out for one of their cupcakes, but I will tell you it was hard to walk past the Crumbs counter without picking out a few treats.

 

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My cousin picked us up at the airport and we made it back to his house just as everyone was getting home.  Even though we were all together for Thanksgiving and just celebrated our Grandpa’s 100th Birthday in Florida, it was great to see each other again!

 

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We made ourselves right at home and had a wonderful BBQ dinner.  After cleaning up, we gathered around to watch the first Mets no hitter in history (my Dad is the Mets fan while the rest of the New Yorkers are Yankee fans) and read a few stories before bed.

 

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Feeling exhausted after a long day of travel, I headed up stairs where I found my old friend Derek.  The two of us at gotten cozy after sharing the same room when we visited last November.

 

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And since I Just discovered the effect options on my phone, I thought it would be fun to send this dreamy picture to the BOY before crashing into bed.  I needed a good night’s rest because we had a LONG Saturday ahead of us.

 

To Be Continued…