Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome Home Foresters! You're Gonna Make This Place Your Home!

Twenty-three years ago this weekend, my mom rented a van and drove me and my carefully selected and packed stuff to Lake Forest College to begin a four-year journey that would change my life. Like probably every other first-year college student, I was excited to be on my own and terrified, all in the same breath. I think I'd been away from home without my parents or other family twice, each time for less than seven days.

What I discovered from the moment I stepped into Deerpath Hall, which was then an all-freshman dorm and looked nothing like it looks now, was that LFC was like no other place I'd ever been. Yes, it was a small liberal arts school situated in a very affluent suburb 30 miles north of Chicago. Yes, it had a football team, a swim team, a tennis team, a basketball team, and a national-championship winning handball team. It also had an art department and theatre department. LFC had majors in everything I could imagine and extra-curricular activities in things I'd never even heard of. And yes, most of those things existed at almost all other schools around the world.

But there was something else. Something I couldn't ever quite put my finger on or verbalize during any of those four years and I've only come to appreciate in the 19 years since graduation.

Faculty, staff, and students genuinely cared for and about each other and it showed in every decision that was made and every action that was taken. Faculty members held office hours in dorms in order to make themselves more easily accessible. Administrators took students under their wings to mentor them from day one. The Admissions department didn't just recruit us to campus, they stayed with us throughout our college careers and checked-in with us.

Twenty-three years later, Spike Gummere, then the head of the Admissions Department, knows what I'm up to. I had more conversations with Ron Miller, the late Dean of Students, than I can count during my college career. After graduating, I enjoyed social dinners with him where he still challenged me to reach beyond myself and he even came to a Christmas party at my house one year. Jill Van Newenhizen, my calculus professor, not only worked with me when I struggled in Calculus, but her door was also open to me when I moved to Multi-Variable Calculus with Dr. Troyer the next year. Jill and I are still close and have dinner periodically. Nancy Brekke, Bob Glassman, and Arlene Eskilson left indelible marks on my life and fought for me when I secured an amazing internship in Washington, D.C. after graduation only to almost lose it because the agency failed to understand that I would have already graduated when I started the internship. Ultimately, thanks to their persistence, I got to keep the internship. Then President Eugene Hotchkiss knew me by name. He still does and so does now President Stephen Schutt.

When my mom tried to kill herself the summer I stayed on campus for summer school, faculty and staff came out of the woodwork to help me. They moved my final exam in my business ethics course so I could be where I was truly needed, with my family. They sent me notes. They opened their doors and arms to me. Students living in my dorm, some of whom I barely knew, helped me make the best of a very difficult summer by including me in everything.

I fell in love at Lake Forest. I dreamt bigger than I ever imagined possible. I went places I never thought I'd go. I made friends who remain my inner circle all these years later. I don't have to be anyone but me with them and they love me anyway. I explored my core beliefs and most fundamental values to answer the question, "why do I believe what I do?" In some cases, I discovered I didn't believe what I thought I did. I found my voice and believe me, it's never been silenced.

Those four years were filled with the highest highs and sometimes the lowest lows. And I wouldn't have it any other way because, no matter what, one thing remained constant.

That constant was the thing I couldn't put quite put my finger on back then, but I can now. Lake Forest College isn't just a college. It's a family. What separates Lake Forest College from all the other schools friends of my went to is the sense that LFC is home. The phrase "You're a Forester Forever" isn't just a cute catch-phrase. It's a way of life.

As I sit here tonight writing this post, I think about the new students who will be moving into Deerpath and the other residence halls on Friday. I imagine the journeys they will take. If I could give them a few words of wisdom it would be to open their hearts and minds to all that LFC has to offer. Find mentors in the staff, faculty, and the alumni. Experience everything. Be fearless. You're a Forester now. And you're gonna make this place your home.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Watervale Mail!

You'll never guess what I received yesterday from my friend Shari! Watervale Mail!!! Yay!

Okay, okay. I suppose the title of this post did give it away. Trust me, just because the title gave it away does not diminish the value of Watervale Mail.

You'll recall that a little over a week ago, I posted about how I couldn't go to Watervale this year and made a plea for my friends and family to not only have an extra great time for me (I even gave them a custom Watervale To Do List), but I also requested Watervale Mail in an effort to ease my pain.

Shari came through. She sent me the best letter I've received in ages and it sounds like she had an incredible time.

This is the card Shari sent me. It's a picture of the Outlet looking North to Frankfort.

During Shari's three weeks at Watervale, she hiked Baldy, watched the sunset, canoed to BooHoo and swam from the Point to the Millsite, water skied a couple of times each week, played in the surf, savored the creme brûlée, read, slept, wrote, drank wine, laid on the beach, stayed up to watch the Perseids, enjoyed Honey Oatmeal bread at dinner and toast with blackberry jam at breakfast, hugged many family members and friends, told ghost stories about the Farmhouse, visited Sleeping Bear Dunes. I think she also biked the Betsie Trail to Beulah and around Upper Herring Lake, had a beach fire and at s'mores, hung out at the Outlet (that's not a mall for the uninitiated), climbed BooHoo, hiked Green Point Dunes, and visited the Upper Herring Nature Preserve.

She was busy. No wonder she needs 3 weeks. Maybe I can do some of that when I do the Lake Michigan Circle Tour in October.

Even though I was at home, I had a great week too.

It started with a mani-pedi on Friday. Sunday shifted into high gear when I spent an awesome day with my friend Vincent at the Art Institute's Roy Lichtenstein exhibit, lunched at the Park Grill, had my breath taken away with one of the best secret views of the city, and enjoyed a day full of phenomenal conversation about many topics, including his new play, Venus Envy. Monday evening I attended my condo association board meeting. It was 2 1/2 hours. In the middle of it, my dad sent me a text message saying he was watching a Watervale sunset and my brother called to rub it in. They obviously love me. My work week was filled with alumni events and work lunches. On Thursday, my department enjoyed a summer outing to Arlington Park and I stopped to visit my mom. Finally, last night, I was seranaded by Tony Bennett at Ravinia with my friend Robert and a few thousand of our closest friends. The Chicago Tribune and I agree that he nailed it.

Take a look at my week. I think you'll agree it was terrific.

All in all, a solid week, although to paraphrase myself, the worst week at Watervale still beats the best week at home. At least I've got Watervale Mail to help get me through the next few months. Thanks Shari!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take a Hike

No. No. No. I'm not telling you to get lost. Well, maybe I am, but I'm NOT telling you to go away and leave Little Merry Sunshine. That I can tell you with certainty. I like that you are here and I like that you keep coming back.

The other night, my friend Jen posted a link on Facebook about Lake County Forest Preserve's annual Hike Lake County Challenge looking for friends to join her and her husband, Alan (who is one of my co-workers), for this fun way to get fit this fall.

Lake County has a number of beautiful forest preserves and hiking through them you can see all kinds of wildlife and plant life. One of the things I love about Lake County, and Lake Forest in particular, is the commitment to open lands and the preservation of nature. Within a 5 minute drive from my house, I can be out in the middle of the country and away from the hustle and bustle of suburban sprawl. It's heavenly.

To participate in the Challenge, you simply need to hike 7 of the 12 designated trails (each less than 3 miles), record them using the Travel Log or the mobile phone app, and send your hiking log to the Lake County Forest Preserves. Plus, there's a scavenger hunt to add to the fun.

No matter where you are in Lake County, there's a trail near you:

  • Des Plaines River Trail (North) in Wadsworth
  • Des Plaines River Trail (North) in Gurnee
  • Des Plaines River Trail (South) in Libertyville
  • Des Plaines River Trail (South) in Vernon Hills
  • Fox River in Port Barrington
  • Herron Creek in Long Grove
  • Lyons Woods in Beach Park
  • McDonald Woods in Lindenhurst
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest
  • Nippersink in Round Lake
  • Ray Lake in Wauconda
  • Rollins Savanna in Grayslake

Jen, Alan and I are going to get out on the trails this fall to enjoy the beauty of Lake County and get in some easy exercise. In fact, I've heard Alan is already planning his hiking stick. Ya, we take this seriously.

Interested in joining us? Send me a message here or on Facebook and we'll make a plan.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's Official: I'm Not Going to Watervale

A classic Watervale sunset over Lower Herring Lake.

I've been procrastinating officially making this announcement, but it simply can't wait any longer because I'm supposed to be headed to Watervale in less than 18 hours.

For a variety of reasons, I'm not going to Watervale this summer.

Yes, I know. I've spent at least part of every summer at Watervale for three-quarters of my life. That's right, I've been going to Watervale for 30 years. And I'm not going this year.

This summer has flown by and although I haven't been able to get away, I have had quite a bit of fun. An awesome Cubs game rooftop party on Memorial Day. A great dinner cruise on Lake Michigan on my birthday. Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw concert at Ravinia. Kenny Loggins concert and fireworks in Lake Forest for the 4 of July. The Blues Brothers movie at Wrigley Field. An amazing evening at Place de la Musique where I even rode the carousel! James Taylor concert at Ravinia. Fabulous lunches, dinners, and movies with friends. This weekend I'm going to the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute and next weekend I'm hoping to see Tony Bennett at Ravinia.

It's been a good summer. But it won't feel complete because it lacks Watervale. Watervale is my touchstone. It brings me back to me. I arrive stressed out and leave rejuvenated. I sleep. I read. I write. I swim. I hike. I play in the surf of Lake Michigan. I lay on the beach and let sand run through my fingers. I drink wine with friends. I watch sunsets. I kayak. I stay up late hoping to see the Northern Lights. I count the meteors I see each night during the Perseids Meteor Shower. I swing on the swings. I eat good food.

So why am I saying all of this tonight? Am I complaining? No. I'll take a vacation later this fall, but it won't be the same as going to Watervale in August.

I'm writing this tonight because I need your help.

How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

You can . . .

You can also do one more thing for me . . . send me some Watervale Mail.  That's right. Fill my snail mail box with Watervale postcards. Need my address? Ask my dad for it or send me a message on Facebook and I'll send it to you.

Above all else, savor your time at Watervale for all the poor souls (like me) who can't be there this year or who have never experienced it for themselves.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Finding My Greatness

I have always admired Nike's ability to create inspirational, simple and creative advertising.

Just Do It. The Swoosh logo.

Time and time again, they get it right.

But there's always one nagging thing I don't like about Nike (or other athletic company) advertising. They always use super skinny people who make it all look super easy. Show me someone who's struggling to get through her workout, but does it anyway even when she'd rather be anywhere else, and I'll feel like Nike gets me.

And finally Nike does. The result is Finding Your Greatness.

Watching this ad today made me want to buy new Nike's, which I need anyway, and get my butt back to the gym. Watching this ad reminded me that it's not about looking Brandi Chastain ripping off her shirt after that awesome soccer victory in 1999. It's not about how slow I swim or that I walk faster (and further) than I run.

It's about just doing it. It's about finding my greatness in just getting out there.

Watch the ad. You'll agree.

As always, if you read LMS via email, jump over to the blog and watch the video. I'm sorry the emails exclude the videos, but I don't know how to fix that.