About the Author · Family · What's Going On

Is Maternity Leave Really Over Already?

How does 40 weeks waiting for a baby to arrive take an eternity but 12 weeks (sleep-deprived) while caring for a newborn go by so quickly?  Ah, America!  While I appreciate the 12 weeks that I am “allowed” to take off work from my employer to care for my newborn child, who just started sleeping through the night at 10 weeks, the thought of going back to the daily grind of work is met with mixed emotions.

For us, a lot has happened between Halloween – MLK day.  Here are some highlights: My parents sold our childhood home, moved to a new 55+ condo community and both retired! Our second son was born and baptized and has brought great joy to everyone in our family.  We also bought a new car, well actually a new minivan which I am thrilled about! My husband and I both celebrated our birthdays and we had tons of Christmas / winter holiday fun.

I had this grand plan in my head that because it was my second child I was so ready to really be productive on maternity leave.  You know, unpack boxes from when we moved over the summer, organize my file cabinets, update baby #1’s baby book before baby #2 arrives… ha, yeah right.  Clearly I forgot that I also have a toddler who is my shadow, always wanting to know and see EVERYTHING his Momma is doing while also caring for a newborn.  As you can imagine, I learned and appreciated quite a lot while on my 2nd (and final) maternity leave.  Here are the highlights:

Colicky Babies DO Exist!

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I actually thought this was just something people said when they had a fussy baby. BOY WAS I WRONG! About 3 weeks after our son’s birth he was crying all the time and nothing would console him.  I tried everything to calm him down.  While working on my “I don’t want to compare my two boys” language in my head I really couldn’t have had two more opposite newborns, despite the fact that they look identical.

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Jimmy on the left and Marty on the right – both at 12 hours old. 

After two weeks of trying to change formulas and adjusting my techniques on how to comfort our son, I finally went in to see the doctor.  My exact words to the doctor were, “I don’t want to be one of those parents who says my child won’t stop crying…but my child won’t stop crying”.  He informed me that he’s probably a little colicky, potentially having a bout of acid reflux and gave us a few tricks to try, but ultimately he said that “this too shall pass.” Those words were like throwing gasoline on the fire to sleep deprived parents.  Looking back, I’m so glad we went to the doctor.  Lesson learned: having some piece of mind when parenting is key, even if you don’t have all the answers. It gave my husband and I some piece of mind to know that yes, you have a screaming baby, but you are doing everything you can – and that’s the best you can do.  And yes, the doctor was correct –  about two weeks after our visit our son turned a corner, the screaming stopped and he has been a very good baby since.

Sometimes you’re in survival mode, and that’s okay.

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I know there were days when my parenting dos and don’ts were totally mixed up.  If our toddler wanted to play games for a while on his tablet so I could sit down and have lunch – sure! Actually questioning when was the last time I had a shower or “did I really just have my 5th cup of coffee today?” – common place when you’re in survival mode! Yes, I realize that you need to take care of yourself in order to be a good parent for your child, but sometimes just getting to nap time with the kids or reaching the end of the day without a blowout diaper was the greatest accomplishment.  Lesson learned: everything in moderation is key to keeping balance in our household.  A little time on the tablet when requested was just enough to keep a little toddler happy (and Mommy could enjoy her one a day cup of coffee in peace).

Appreciate the little things in life – like wine and dates

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There were a few days when I would tell my husband I just needed to get out of the house for a bit.  As this maternity leave was in the winter months, cabin fever was raging in our home for everyone.  Taking time to leave the house to shop at Target alone or to get a mani/pedi were far and few between but extremely appreciated when I did them.  I felt like ME again.  I am used to leaving the house at 7am for work and not arriving home until close to 5pm.  Those hours on my commute to and from work and my lunch break were always ME hours.  Having that little ME time when I was able to was and is still clearly something I need to keep my sanity. Date nights were few and far between but we were able to sneak away from the boys to see Rogue One and have dinner at Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Chicago. Lesson learned: Needing to take time away from being parents while still taking care of yourself and your spouse will refresh everything.

A strong circle of other parents is key.

When I was pregnant with my first child and I was trying to put together my baby shower registry, I had posted on Facebook asking what essentials do you need / not need for a new baby?  Once I read all the responses from my post I was totally overwhelmed.  I learned that if I have a question related to a hot button issue of parenting, a text, call or email might be a better form of communication.  Thankfully my husband and I have a good circle of parent friends who are able to share parenting successes and failures about our kids without judgement.  Viewing other people’s posts on group discussion boards or on your own Facebook feed regarding their children can be daunting and really not give you the outcome you desired.  Lesson learned: Trust your instinct regarding your kids.  Every time I have done this my gut has not steered me wrong, including the time when I thought my toddler was having explosive diarrhea from teething with his two-year molars which was the case (and is totally a post for another day).

Kindness of strangers should never be dismissed.

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After our youngest son was born (and he gave us a little scare in the NICU) I returned back to my church to become a regular attendee in mass.  My lack of attending mass had nothing to do with losing my faith in God or anything, I would like to have categorized myself as a lazy catholic. It seemed like such a chore to attend weekly mass when I could just pray daily at home. After much self-reflection, I decided I needed to go back to the roots that my parents instilled in me and start attending mass on a weekly basis.  During our family’s first trip back to mass, I had the good fortune to be greeted after mass by a woman from the parish named Meg who was the group leader for a tiny tot program hosted by the parish on Friday mornings. Meg invited us to participate in the program and our toddler has loved every second of being a part of the class. I call Meg our little angel who in her own sweet way guided our family back to church. I could have just dismissed her kind offer of inviting us to the class, but I’m glad I didn’t. Thank you, Meg, I am forever grateful for your kindness and I hope to pay it forward one day.  Lesson learned:  reflect upon who you were, where you’ve come from and what you’ve become in order to shape your future self. 

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During this maternity leave, I’ve learned to appreciate all the little things that life has to offer.  The boxes in the basement are still not unpacked, the file cabinet is still a mess, and yes the boys baby books are still unfinished.  And it’s okay! Someone once told me that the days are long but the years are short – and that totally rings true for us.  As a Mom, I’m lucky that each day is a blessing, a challenge and a new learning opportunity.  My thought for today – smile through the spit-ups that just landed on your new dress before work, as they are only little for so long. 🙂

About the Author · Family · Health & Wellness · What's Going On

What I’m Thankful for in 2016

While I’ve been a little MIA the past few weeks, it’s all for a good reason.  On October 26th, my husband, our son (and new big brother) Jimmy and I welcomed a new little member to our family, Martin “Marty” John Reaney at Prentice Women’s Hospital at Northwestern Medicine. Marty was so excited to meet his new family that he came into this world super fast arriving at 7:07am weighing in a 7 lb, 14 oz and 21 inches long.

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As many of you are aware, I take daily blood thinners to prevent any blood clots and because of this I was induced for Marty’s arrival.  We arrived at Prentice at 1:30AM and, after checking-in and getting settled in the L&D room, my IV and Pitocin was started about 3:30AM.  After the contractions became unbearable, I asked the nurse to have the anesthesiologist issue my epidural at about 5:30AM.  About an hour into the epidural I started to think that it wasn’t working because I was having some major pains, but unbeknownst to me it was because Marty was trying to arrive on his own.  My doctor barely arrived in time to deliver the baby!  I labored from start to finish about 3 hours and barely pushed three times before he shot out of me!  Because his arrival was so quick he developed a grunting, which sounded like a soft wheezing sound, due to the amniotic fluid still in his lungs.  While we thought this sweet sound was cute for about the first hour, when it lasted more than 10 hours post-birth, the pediatric team said it was actually caused from fluid in his lungs which usually would have passed within an hour or two post-birth.

Since Marty was still making this grunting sound, the pediatric team admitted him to the NICU for observation until he was discharged from the hospital 48 hours later. While his oxygen and blood levels were completely normal, the NICU started him on two antibiotics via an IV to prevent any infection he might be fighting off, which was another possible cause of the grunting sound.  After his lab work came back all clear, he was finally released from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

We had a few more bumps in the road medically during Marty’s first weeks (i.e. tongue tie which sent us on an ENT visit to Lurie, an abnormal newborn screen blood test which required four days of isolation at home until the test results came back normal–which they did–and the return of the grunting sound which is the result of his esophagus muscles still developing which is also normal). All of these little bumps in the road had me praying a lot to God and all my angels to make sure our little “Miracle Marty” was safe and healthy, and I have also returned to regular mass attendance (which is a post for another day).

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While each year I am so blessed and thankful for my family and friends, who are the best support system I could have ever imagined, this year I am truly thankful for the medical caregivers in my life.  I am so thankful my OB/GYN, my hematologist and our pediatric offices are all connected on the Northwestern system and talk to each other on a pretty regular basis.  I never have to explain my medical history because everyone seems to already know my “case” and is informed on all my medical issues.  Over the past month I have received many calls and follow-up calls directly from my doctors checking in on how I’m doing and how Marty is doing.  It has been overwhelming, and delightfully comforting, to be known as a patient in a large medical practice, not just a number.  Thank you so much to all the caregivers in my life, but especially the unnamed staff and faculty of Northwestern Lurie and Prentice hospitals who continue to give the best care to my little family.  You have made this family so very blessed!

Happy Thanksgiving to All – Love:  Colleen, John, Jimmy & Marty Reaney


 

About the Author · Family · Health & Wellness

When you want your child to have a sibling….

*This is a post regarding our personal journey and desire to have a second child. The purpose of the post is to educate and inform our family and friends of our journey. Note that the first par of this post was written in November of 2015. 

From the minute a couple becomes engaged the question most people ask is, “So when do you think you guys will start TRYING to have kids?” Trying – since when did that become something people talked about? Even now, I’m very cautious when talking about trying with other couples as you never know what people are going through….like my husband and me.

About two years ago, after trying for several months to conceive, my husband and I had a miscarriage, which broke our hearts terribly. At that time it was hard for us to process what we were going through.  Our doctors, however, said that we should take this event as a positive one and look at the bright side that we were able to conceive and that we should just keep trying now because I would be the most fertile after a miscarriage…and we were! I became pregnant with our son the very next month.

My pregnancy was not an easy one, not by a long shot. Because I have an undiagnosed blood clot disorder, (undiagnosed being that I’ve had two severe blood clots in my legs, DVTs, but no one really knows how or why I got them), I was put on blood thinners even before we started trying. So between the first trimester spotting episodes, the 27 weeks of constant vomiting (and peeing my pants), and rounding out my pregnancy with 24/7 heart burn and uterine contractions, I finally delivered a little boy at 40 weeks and 3 days. My labor was about 24 hours long but the delivery was less than 10 minutes (I’ll spare you the rest of the crazy labor/delivery details).

About 5 days post-delivery I passed a baseball-sized blood clot, which scared the crap out of me! I was taken back into the doctor’s office for an emergency ultrasound to make sure nothing was left over from the delivery. While only a few smaller clots remained in my uterus, the OB/GYN and ultrasound techs were 99% sure that everything was removed. That was until I didn’t stop bleeding! About every two weeks from Sept – January I was getting my period with a much heavier flow than a regular cycle. Could something be wrong? Was my once “like clockwork” period now totally out of wack? My doctor ran some tests which showed that I had precancerous cells on my cervix.  They needed to be removed and could have been causing the abnormal bleeding. Once the cells were removed, I was told, my normal 28-day cycle would return, but that didn’t work. So, after many consultations, the only remaining option was to have a D&C to reset my system. Come February, my very predictable 28 days cycle had finally returned.

That was until my husband and I started trying for our second child. We thought we would love for the kids to be two years apart in school and age, so we started trying. What was different this time around is that I’m not on blood thinners anymore. Currently with my doctor’s support I am in a trial period of being off of blood thinners, as long as I don’t have another clot. With all my doctors giving us the green light to start trying for another baby, and being in good health, I thought this would be an easy process, but in fact it has not been. Since starting the process to try for another baby, my cycles have been off having a period about every two-three weeks. This week I decided my next steps are to see my OB/GYN soon to see her thoughts and to check to make sure everything is a-okay.

At the OB/GYN, she did an exam and ran a few tests, believing my results would take a few days to get back.  The next night, however, my doctor contacted me at home to tell me that my results came back unfavorable.  My AMH levels, which measure fertility in relation to the quantity/quality of egg reserves, was a very low 0.49 (average should be about 4.0).  My doctor explained that, with a low AMH level, the chances of conceiving naturally would prove difficult.  She recommended that we seek the assistance of a fertility specialist, which we have just started to do. While the glass-half-full person in me wants to say, “so you’re telling me there a chance,” realistically, I’m aware it’s a slim one.

While this news was actually shocking and quite disappointing, my husband and I came to the realization that there is nothing we can do about it.  You cannot control nature nor should we ponder the how or why my egg reserve is low.  I’d like to still think that 37 is young, but clearly not ideal for my baby-making. After a good cry, we realized that our road to each other wasn’t easy nor was our path to parenthood, but it’s going to be okay.

But what is the most challenging part of the process is when people ask me, “So are you guys going to have any more kids?” My standard answer has always been “yes, God willing we would love to have more” but reality is starting to set in that maybe our son really is all we are going to have and we might have to be okay with only one child. Yes, my husband and I tell ourselves all the time, “if our son is the only child we ever have then we are really blessed with the best kid in the world!”

What truly breaks my heart is seeing my son wanting so desperately to play with other kids when he’s by himself. He learning how to give hugs, kisses, how to play with others and to share. With his easy-going personality he would be an excellent big brother.  I picture him in my perfect world always going with the flow of a new baby in the house, and with his crazy sleep-deprived parents.

***UPDATE as of 4/20/2016***

At the advice of our doctors we starting seeing a fertility doctor to start the process of having our best odds of becoming parents again. Everyone’s journey is a little different from this point on and with the help of some very talented doctors, it was decided that we would be best suited to try Clomid to maximize our changes of having another baby.  After two months of testing and re-testing, we were given the okay to start Clomid in February.  However, by the grace of God, we didn’t need to start the medication as we conceived a child in January all on our own!41M3p5PYnsL._SY355_

Today, I’m happy to say that I’m in the beginning of my second trimester and Baby Reaney (who we refer to as Baby T-Rex) is progressing nicely.  Just as I experienced with my first child, I’m extremely sick so I’m taking the anti-nausea medication Diclegis to try to limit the amount I am vomiting daily.  Also, to combat any troublesome blood clots that may arise due to the biological complexities of pregnancy, I’m taking a small dosage of Lovenox daily.  I’m also hoping the excessive fatigue wears off soon so I can stay awake past 8:30PM – the DVR is getting pretty full! 🙂

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My husband and I are thrilled to be welcoming another little baby to our clan and we cannot wait to see Jimmy in action as the best big brother ever.  He is already practicing how to be quiet when the baby is sleeping and he gives kisses to my belly often.   This is what it is all about for me.  I knew my body would take a toll carrying another baby, but to give my son a sibling is all I have ever wanted.

Family · Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: Work-Life Balance from a Small Business Owner

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. This month’s post is by Susan Rescigno, President of Rescigno’s Marketing Connections who I actually met professionally a few months ago back, found out we have mutual family/friends and now I’m happy to call her my friend too!

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Running your own small business and balancing your life is like the teeter-totter on the playground.   Sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down; and when everything aligns, you’re balanced.  The problem seems to be in learning how to balance. Remember when you were little and your friend would jump off the other end and you would go flying down? Well, that’s exactly what happens if you don’t set yourself up for a balanced life.

Now, you’re probably wondering how do I maintain that balance? I thought maybe, after 24 years of experience, I would share with you some things that have worked for me:

  • Prioritize what is most important to you. My priority was always my family so I set things up accordingly.  I scheduled my work day so I could pick the kids up from school and be home when they were home.  This doesn’t mean that I left the office unattended or that when there were issues I didn’t go back.  It just means that the majority of the time, I was able to pick my kids up and take them home and put on my Mom hat.
  • Create a support system for the family of my husband, my mother, and my mother-in-law that I relied on for all things family.
  • Create a support system at the office of three key employees that could always handle things when I wasn’t there. My rule was if they made a decision in my absence, I would always support them.  If I had a different idea of how the situation should have been handled, we would discuss it privately, just so they would learn how I would have handled it.
  • Make time for family and friends. I find it to be very helpful to get out with my friends and laugh.  Sometimes you just don’t want to make plans for the weekend because you need the down time, but it’s very important to get your mind off of the business and relax.
  • Make time for vacations. When we first started the business the only way the family could take a vacation together was if we closed down for a week.  I realized that we were very slow the week of July 4th so, from the very beginning, we have closed that week.  This has continued to this day and fortunately, I have developed a staff that can run the business in my absence.  I take at least 3- 4 weeks of vacation a year.   I have to add that I always do my best thinking when I am away from the business.  It really clears my head and enables me to see the forest through the trees.
  • Get involved in other things. Join boards, volunteer, take classes or join associations.  All of these things will help you stay balanced and fulfilled.  They may even get you more clients.
  • Stay involved in your church and keep the faith.

As we all know, balancing is never easy and life is never going to be perfectly balanced all the time, but if you set a few things in place your life will be more balanced and fulfilled.  Remember a teeter totter never stays level unless you are riding it.  You need to be in control.

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Susan Rescigno has been in the Direct Marketing and Fundraising field for over 30 years. In 1992, she started her business in her garage and, to date, she has helped over 800 clients with counsel, planning, design, print and direct mail. She works with her team to help clients bring their annual fund programs to the next level. She has doubled and tripled annual fund programs in 2 – 3 years. Her philosophy is doing the fundamentals consistently well.  She believes in sharing the knowledge that she has gained over the years to help organizations bring in much needed annual donations.  Sue also manages the daily operations of her staff and helps generate new business, as well as managing existing business through a variety of proven fundraising and marketing strategies and tactics.  Sue’s passion is living life to the fullest, enjoying what she does and pushing herself to be all that she can be!

Family · Mommy CEO

CEO Mommy: One of the “lucky” ones

*This post is part of a monthly series called CEO Mommy which will be guest written by a few amazing ladies in my personal and professional network. This month’s post is Mallory Simms who I actually met professionally a few years back and I’m happy to now call her my friend. 

I am writing this as one of the “lucky” ones.

Yes, definitely one of the “lucky” ones that was able to turn my 50+ hour work week into a part-time, work-from-home consulting business practically the day I became a mom to my 1 ½ year old son.

I use the word lucky because I hear from moms how they love their job, but want to scale back hours, and I did that.  I read posts from moms about how if they could dissolve their commute and obligatory happy hours they would have that precious time at home, and I do.

I use the word lucky loosely because while I’m thankful for the hours at home and flexible schedule, the work-from-home mom resume comes with challenges and on its worse days, disappointments.

As a full-time mom and a part-time market research consultant, I teeter between the parent and corporate world on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.  For example, take the “mommy’s helper” that I hired.  She always arrives just as I’ve finished preparing the day’s activities and before I’ve even begun to walk into my office, she’s asking if I want to eat lunch with them because of course, she knows I want to, and I’m home.

So I have lunch, and the rest of the afternoon is spent fighting off the urge to get dishes in the sink and the “I’m home” guilt as I hear my son engaging in an activity I’m not part of.  This typically results in me spending more time laboring over which world I should be in, mommy or professional, than actually working.

Mommy issues aside, there are also real concerns of lost opportunity and lack of visibility working from home.  Despite a steadfast work ethic and seamless communication, the work from home mom will still miss out on interoffice conversation with peers and will never get to strategically attend an office social event knowing her boss’s boss will be there too.  Little things maybe, but in my experience, they matter.  Being heard and not seen makes it that much more difficult to get your ideas in front of those that matter.

As the months have gone on I have learned that the keys to making it work are balance, persistence and redefined expectations.  No, you can’t attend to your child’s every need during the day and still perform at work.  You just have to reach equilibrium. You will still get countless more hours with your little one than you would if you went to the office every day, and you will be a happier, and therefore a better, mom.

Also know that it will be harder to have an edge at work when you’re not there every day.  You will likely need to send more emails, follow-up more diligently and create your own opportunities more than ever before.  But it can be done, and if you can take the lost happy hour invites and missed inside jokes with a grain of salt, you’ll be able to cut out the office ‘clutter’ and spend that extra time being mommy.

So, I still feel lucky. No, I might not be able to make a homemade lunch everyday, but if more often than not I get to sit down and eat it with my son, I’m lucky.  It might have taken three calls and five emails to get feedback on my last report, but for me it’s worth it.  I never thought I could have my job and be at home with my son too, and albeit not perfect, I do in fact have both.  If you’re considering doing the same, or hope to some day, just remember that no matter how it feels for you, if you can make it work, you’re one of the lucky ones.  In fact, if we make it work at all, full-time, part-time, in-office, at-home, aren’t we all lucky?

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Mallory is a wife, mother and a professional.  She has been married for eight years and her son is a year and a half old.  She is currently a part-time market research consultant with 10 years of experience in brand research and competitive intelligence.  Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Atlanta.

About the Author · Family

Passing the baton to a new family

Last fall, my parents started to have the conversation with my brother and me about their interest in selling our childhood home in Tinley Park.  Selling their home, and downsizing to something smaller, is a step toward the next chapter in their lives – retirement. This smaller home would be less work for them to maintain, while still allowing them time to travel with their camper or go to their home away from home in Indiana.  Of course everyone wants their parents to slow down and retire with less stress on their minds, but selfishly, I was really sad to know I’d have to say goodbye to this house!

For 30 years, my parents created an amazing home and a safe place to raise their family.  We moved from Chicago (Bridgeport) to Tinley Park in 1986 when my brother and I were in elementary school.  It was a rude awakening for this city kid when I arrived at Kirby Elementary in Miss Garretson’s first grade class only to participate in a tornado drill on my first day, which was a completely foreign concept to me at the time.

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Most kids in our neighborhood knew our house as the “Irish house” on the block.  My Mom made our home on Shoshone Trail her own little Irish cottage with green siding, shamrocks shutters, a shamrock stained glass window and even a shamrock in the shingles of the roof, visible even on Google Maps.

My parent’s house has always been a safe haven for me.  As a kid, no matter what troubles we may have gotten into, home was always a safe place.  After I graduated college in December of 2001 and had no job prospects, there was no question that I would be moving back home with my parents until I was ready to move out.  Even after I divorced my first husband in 2011, there was no question that I would move home for a while until I figured out what I wanted in my life.  My parents have always welcomed me back to Shoshone Trail without reservation and with open arms.

As a kid, we had the BEST neighbors anyone could ask for.  Many nights in the summer I remember playing flashlight tag around the neighborhood or “running bases” in the front yard with the Cohens, Cusacks and Zamzow kids.  As children of the 90’s, everyone had a basketball net in the driveway and a Nintendo in the basement.  I was one of the older girls in the neighborhood so I did my fair share of babysitting many of the younger kids in the neighborhood who, these days, are having kids of their own. Our little neighborhood did expand over the years, but the bond we created as neighbors, even today, is still very strong.

When my parents decided they were ready to start telling our extended family they were moving, many of my cousins had the same reaction of shock and sadness.  For years my parents hosted Christmas Day for our McMahon cousins and the family parties my parents threw “way out in Tinley” were legendary! From the super fun pool parties with my cousins, to watching Big Jim and Uncle PJ “Pogo-Balling” down the driveway on Easter Sunday, family gatherings on Shoshone Trail were always a blast.  One party at my parent’s home that stood out was in January 2004 when my brother was being deployed to Iraq.  From receiving his orders on a Monday to being deployed on Thursday of the same week, our neighborhood, community, parish, family and friends came together to send my brother off to war with so much love and appreciation for his service to our country.  Even Fr. Jay, our pastor from St. Stephen’s, had a toast with our family and said a lovely prayer for my brother.  The outpouring of support and community I felt that day is one I’ll never forget.

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My family at Timmy’s homecoming party from Iraq in 2004.

As my parents prepare to move from our childhood home, I am reminiscing of not just the house I grew up in, but all the childhood memories I made in Tinely Park.  Memories like going to the park district’s day camp as a kid (and eventually becoming a counselor myself), playing for the BYAC softball teams, taking piano and dance lessons, participating in arts & crafts at the park district, and enjoying all the friends we’ve met over the years at St. Julie’s, St. Elizabeth & St. Stephen’s.

I have so many stories and memories that I know I need to write them down to remember what Shoshone Trail meant to me, and to one day share these stories with my kids too.  As I feel this is a new chapter in my parents lives, it is also the closing of the door to my childhood.  For now, I leave this note to the next family of 8055 Shoshone Trail:

Dear New Family:

My name is Colleen and I was the youngest member of this home’s previous and first family.  I moved into this house when I was 7 years old and for 30 years it has been my home sweet home.  Since 1986, this home has been a wonderful place for my parents to raise their children and grandchildren.  I hope you make and have as many memories on Shoshone Trail as we have.  Here are a couple of fun facts about this home:

  1. The basement crawl space has a secret little room with a light which makes it a great “clubhouse” for a young child.
  2. The kitchen has a hidden cutting board next to the stove under the counter top. I was about 10 years old before I knew it was there.
  3. There was not a single bad memory in this home as it was always filled with love, a few Irish cocktails, good food, amazing neighbors, family and friends.
  4. Our family’s hand and food prints are worn away on the back patio but know that those hands built an amazing home for you and your family to love.

Please take care of 8055 Shoshone Trail.  It has been good to us and we know it will be a wonderful home for you.

With love: Colleen Fashing Reaney

PS – In a few years, if a woman named Colleen shows up with her family and claims to have lived here as a kid, please invite her in for a cup of tea so she can take in all the new memories you’ve created in her old home. 🙂

Book Review · Family

Book Review: Rolling Up The Rug – an American Irish story by Michael Scanlon.

Starting every February 15, many homes in our neighborhood transform to cottages of glowing shamrocks, leprechauns, dishtowels/potholders and multiple shades of green decor to celebrate what my family would call “St. Patrick’s Month.”  While St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th, many weekends in the month leading up to it are filled with several family traditions of parties, concerts, parades and celebrations to embrace our Irish heritage.

Many years back I started my own tradition of reading an Irish-themed book during the month of March to learn more about my Irish heritage and to discover new Irish authors (or sometimes they are just new to me).  This year, after reading a book review on the Irish Central website, I knew my 2016 selection was going to be Rolling Up the Rug: An American Irish Story, Vol. I by Michael Scanlon.

When I ordered my copy from Amazon.com, I noticed that it was being sold directly from the author, which isn’t that unusual, but something of note.  Then, when the package arrived, it was addressed to me, hand-written, with Mr. Scanlon’s return address.  After reading the first 25 pages I was moved to contact Mr. Scanlon to see if he would be okay with me writing a book review for my humble little blog here in Chicago and, graciously, he sent me back this very lovely note:

2-24-2016

Dear Colleen,
Thank you for your kind words. Here is a recent photo and a short biography as you requested.

I should tell you that you have a great blog. I am forwarding it to my daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon and to my daughter-in-law in Los Angeles. The blog is beautifully presented and very clearly written. Congratulations!

All the best to you and thanks again.
Michael

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Michael Scanlon, 76, the son of Irish immigrants from County Sligo and County Leitrim, was raised in the Bronx and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He is married with two children and four grandchildren. He served as an officer in the United States Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and went on to teach English at the City University of New York. The first volume of his memoir Rolling Up the Rug: An American Irish Story (Amazon) was published this past year. He writes for IrishCentral.com where he continues to explore what it was like growing up in New York City in the 1940’s and 50’s.

While there is some truth that no Irishman knows how to tell a short story, Mr Scanlon has accomplished this feat in his 100-page autobiography about growing up in an Irish home in the Bronx.  The title alone, Rolling Up the Rug, grabbed my interest right away as I’ve heard tales in the past from family members on how this tradition of clearing the home’s floor for Irish dancers and musicians was the norm during gatherings.

Each chapter in his book describes a different memory of Mr. Scanlon’s life and the lessons he learned. From his first communion at Sacred Heart, to gathering after Sunday mass at “Croke Park” in the Bronx – which also had a restaurant/bar and was later renamed Gaelic Park – to watch the Gaelic games (crazy, right?  I read this passage as if he was talking about the southside of Chicago), his memories are uniquely Irish-American yet universally identifiable. Rolling Up the Rug gives some insight into Mr. Scanlon’s family and, especially, the hardworking man his father was, working two jobs to support his family in their apartment in the Bronx. There is also a funny tale about his father getting in trouble at the airport for carrying on his small, homemade cigarettes – too funny!

While reading Mr. Scanlon’s autobiography, I was transformed to many kitchen tables in my family (including our own) where family stories are shared over a few shots of VO, pints of Magners or cups of tea.  In an Irish home, the kitchen table is where all of life’s problems are solved and where you can find solace at the end of a long day.  Even on my first trip to Ireland this past summer, while in Williamstown, County Galway, my husband and I were invited into a home of a family friend (whom we just met) where were sat around the Burke’s kitchen table for a cup of tea and some delicious homemade brown bread to talk about our travels in Ireland and how our family was doing back home in Chicago.

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Donna & Mrs. Burke, Ireland 2015

As a child I would hear the same tales over and over again, but I never found the appreciation for why these stories existed or what lessons were learned until years later. Many of my older relatives, including my grandparents, passed away before I was able to appreciate where they came from, the lessons they learned from their parents, or even to remember the stories they told. Even now, I have very few solid memories of stories told by my elders. Luckily I have family members like my cousin, Mary Eileen, who can share these stories over a shot of honey whiskey.  🙂

I would highly recommend Mr. Scanlon’s book to anyone with strong family and/or childhood ties, but especially to those with Irish-American roots.  This book tugs on the heartstrings and captures the boyhood of a child of Irish immigrant parents striving to make roots in America as his parents intended.