Surrounded by milestones, we might as well celebrate


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Ken Trainor

Everywhere I look, lately, I've been running into milestones. Friday evening, after a very busy week, we pried ourselves out of the office and reconvened at the home of one of our editors to celebrate the departure of Ashley Ernst, an esteemed colleague, whose family is moving to Seattle, starting over after her father died last year.

Actually, we weren't celebrating her departure so much as the remarkably upbeat attitude, creative energy and even temperament she brought to a very demanding job?#34;otherwise known around these parts as grace under pressure. She made working here a lot more pleasant the last two years. But we were also celebrating fresh starts in new places?#34;turning a page in life's ongoing adventure saga.

Arrivals and departures are a regular fact of life in this workplace, as they are in every workplace. But for some you have to stop and acknowledge the impact.

I had to leave the party early, however, to meet friends for dinner at Szechwan Beijing?#34;to celebrate a house purchase. One of my oldest friends went through a painful, grueling divorce in the past decade, and it took him some time to realize that it's OK to build a new life for himself. Two years ago he bought a new car. Last year, he trained for and ran the Chicago Marathon. Now he's a homeowner and wanted to celebrate with us.

His desire to mark the event was as significant as the home purchase itself. We drank a toast to reclaiming life and moving forward.

Another friend's son had just gotten off crutches after almost half a year, and he was there, too, experiencing the relative freedom of a walking cast?#34;yet another reason to celebrate.

On Saturday, my son and a friend, my brother and his family, and another brother drove down to South Bend to sit in the arctic chill and watch the annual Blue-Gold spring football game at Notre Dame. My niece, Bridget, a sophomore there, is trying out to be a manager for the football team. She spent the game chasing to and fro, picking up equipment blown over by the gale and keeping a ready supply of footballs handy, while rubbing elbows with Joe Montana, Chris Zorich, Tim Brown and Joe Theisman, honorary coaches for the game.

Heady stuff for a sophomore whose dream it has always been to attend this university. Today she learns if she's one of 21 chosen from 42 contenders for the privilege of working her butt off on the sidelines next football season.

If she is?#34;and even if she isn't?#34;it's worth celebrating, not because she gets to paint the helmets gold but because she's aggressively pursuing dreams and making some of them come true.

Sunday morning, I took my mother to Ascension church, where we were privileged to witness a rite of passage for an adorable group of very serious 7-year-olds, dandied and gussied and dressed to the max, as they received First Communion. What they thought was happening isn't all that was happening. They were also being inducted, enfolded, affirmed, and celebrated by a larger, loving community, the benefits of which, they are only beginning to comprehend.

On my way to work afterwords, I passed the Carleton Hotel and spotted one of our staff writers, Drew Carter, chatting outside with guests from his wedding, held here the night before. He was preparing to take off for a honeymoon cruise, and his departure is one of the reasons I was heading to work this Sunday, but I was happy for him anyway. Taking leave of the guests is one of the sweetest moments in the nuptial afterglow?#34;a final, quietly celebratory moment.

Milestones everywhere. Sometimes life feels as rich and abundant as spring in full bloom.

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