Lauren, myself and I with Opa


The Life Lessons of My Sisters

As kids on Saturday afternoons, my sisters, Lauren and Grace, and I trekked with our dad to Oma’s (German for grandmother) to hangout and have dinner. I always enjoyed the 40 minute drive from our house to Oma’s, sprawling through Chicago’s southwest suburbs to its north suburbs. Once there, we caught Oma up with everything going on in our lives. She listened to every detail with incredible interest, though never shying away to voice an opinion.

Oma sat at one end of the table; Lauren sat at the other end. My dad quietly listened to us as we talked on one side of the table; Grace and I sat together on the other. Meals were always cheery. Afterwards, Oma and my dad usually talked business — there was something that always needed fixing. My sisters and I sat quietly, sometimes giggling at the various tasks Oma asked my dad to accomplish.

One time, we must have been teasing one another, because Oma watched us and grew quiet. Then, she smiled. “You know,” she told us happily, “you guys bicker now, but you three love each other.”

“Love?,” Lauren readily replied, “No way.” All three of us made faces at one another.

“Sure, sure,” Oma continued, “One day you’ll move away from one another and you’ll miss each other.” We all told Oma “No way” this time, wearing a face of disbelief. 15 or so years later, I can safely say Oma was right on the money.

We wear our personalities, don’t we?

The gap between the three of us is an even three years, with Lauren as the middle kid and Grace the youngest. Today, all three of us live in separate sections of the country: I am on the East Coast; Grace is in the Midwest; Lauren lives on the West Coast.

Thanks to technology and the incredible relationships we all have with one another, Lauren, Grace and I remain “close”. They all might get a bad reputation, but social media, texting and all the various ways to communicate remain vital for us. Despite all the ways to communicate, being separated by thousands of miles makes our relationships challenging. I hold close in my head to the wellspring of memories of all three of us hanging out and being together. Now, the three of us are together one (twice, if lucky) time of the year. There are no easy ways to forge new memories being far away this often, yet we somehow do. (The endless fun of award show group messages is a highlight of the ceremonies.)

While this all may seem sad, which part of it is, I tend to look at this — like 99% of life — positively. All three of us are off on our own, learning how best to succeed and doing so among new found friends in new, exciting places. We are all healthy and incredibly determined to better ourselves each and every day. That alone is truly amazing, and I could not be happier for all their successes — with more coming.

Having siblings — especially younger ones — there are countless quibbles and disagreements. We do not see eye to eye on everything, but, contrary to what 14 year old me believed, siblings are not supposed to be in equal step with everything. My sisters and I are own separate person and should be treasured as the individual we are. The disagreements over the years are just our point-of-views bursting out. As we grow older, our self-confidence grows and we become more confidence with ourselves and each other. In the end, these disagreements really help establish a stronger bond between each other.

Sister, sister!

I have yet to meet a person stronger, smarter and more brilliantly independent than Lauren or Grace. They are the two people that know me the best; their opinions are always taken with a serious note. My sisters are the friendliest people around, easily making a friend with anyone. They show respect to those who give them respect, a life mantra us three really believe in. On top of this, Lauren and Grace are really damn funny.

They both possess individual traits that make them unique and incredibly vital in sustaining a relationship. Through these traits I cherish, I recognize the life lessons Lauren and Grace have taught me. I am eternally grateful to have them as sisters. These were not deliberate lessons, though, but traits that came almost naturally to each sister. As I have learned to navigate this crazy world, I have turned to my sisters and grown as a person (and hopefully brother). I also reflect on past memories and events that offer warmth and comfort, knowing this sibling bond is too strong to be broken by rivers, mountains and plains.

To reflect deeper on these lessons, let me introduce you to Lauren and Grace.

I know I am talking a lot in absolutes, but, if I may, let me throw one more at you: Lauren is the smartest person I know. And it is not close.

She seemingly knows everything, which may say more about her confidence, too. Anytime one engages in a conversation with her, Lauren has an opinion no matter the topic. If she does not have an educated opinion, she is, at least, aware of whatever the topic of conversation. Being aware is key. It opens new perspectives, yet allows one to bookmark something to look up later.

Growing up, Lauren’s smarts were never really “bookish”. One Christmas, while three of us cheerfully opened presents with our mom watching, Lauren lugged a heavy gift toward her. With a curious look, she opened the gift and without missing a beat, she announced, “Mom, I think Santa gave me one of Alex’s gifts.” She held up a book titled An Encyclopedia of the History of the World. (Thanks, Santa! Though I am happy she eventually found the greatness of books.)

Lauren’s intelligence has always been (and continues to be) instinctual. No matter the situation or who is involved, her ability to read people and act accordingly is unreal. I can not remember a time where Lauren was truly afraid of something. Her calm resolve is apparent no matter the situation. Once, as kids, we were in the car with my mom and our friends with Pink’s Get the Party Started blasting. The kids were having a blast singing along, but my mom, always attentive, quickly turned down the part where Pink swore. Lauren, who knew exactly what was coming and with a confident smile on her face, continued singing as loudly as she could. “Lauren!!!,” my mom angrily shouted. The kids all laughed. There was never an ounce of fear on her face.

Whether she has been scared or not is behind my point; Lauren walks around fearless. When I speak of fear, I am not talking about confronting danger without any fear. We all are human. But, for a shy kid like me, Lauren could do almost everything with a calmness and a poise that left me in awe. The thing is, Lauren and I both moved to polar opposite corners of the country. A major move as such can be jarring and can throw both of us out of their comfort zone. I know it has for Lauren, but she has shown incredible inner strength to not show that loneliness. She attacks every day with a positive viewpoint and knows how to get the most out of her time.

On top of her amazing intelligence, her inquisitive nature is something I have admired about Lauren. She challenges anyone with fresh viewpoints and different perspectives. Whether something is trivial (pop culture) or carrying a moral weight (race in the United States), I always turn to Lauren for advice or an opinion. Our conversations are full with tangents and opinions, but I learn something new each time. Whenever entering a conversation with Lauren, she always a thoughtfulness to any issue. Having these conversations with her has changed the way I view the world. She always is asking questions and always wants to know why.

Her intelligence is just one of the many traits that make Lauren so unique, special and important. But it is her intelligence and how she gains and uses that intelligence that has changed my life for the better.

In 2016, the greatest moment of my life as a sports fan occurred: the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Ever since I could remember, I lived Cubs baseball. Through trading cards, the local paper with all the stats (some I knew, some I had no clue what the numbers meant) and watching games on TV, the Cubs were my favorite team in all of sports. When the team made the post-season and had championship aspirations in 2016, I was locked into every game.

This great sports moment will always be remembered for what the Cubs did on the field, but what makes it truly the happiest memory, personally, is that Grace was also locked into the series. When Game 7 of the World Series happened, Grace and I watched at a party at my dad’s house. Throughout the playoffs, Grace and I watched each game whenever we could and with whoever we could. I knew Grace was not the biggest baseball fan, or even A big Cubs fan, but she liked the excitement of the playoffs and the closeness it brought us every game night.

When the Cubs won a game, Grace and I cheered endlessly. When they lost, we looked around whatever room we were in, bummed, and hoped they next game would end with a win. In a Game 7, this was it. Win or wait til next year. The game was incredibly back-and-forth, with the Cleveland Indians tying the game in the 8th. A rain delay stalled the game late, and the party began leaving. As Grace and I raced home, we listened to the game on the radio. The Cubs scored the go-ahead runs while we were driving home. In the pitch black of night, we were the only ones on the road. We cheered our heads off all the way home.

Grace’s loyalty to those she cares about is unmatched by anyone. She is completely devoted to those who show her the respect she deserves, but Grace leaves room for those who need an extra push of support. Her heart is big and full of a loving spirit that this world needs.

Whether it was the Cubs, watching the NHL playoffs or watching shows like Big Brother or Viva La Bam, I could count on Grace to be there and watching. Coming together and watching TV is a simple act in the grander scheme of things, but, most of the time, we watched stuff that (if I was a betting man) Grace would not have watched by herself. We could be watching anything, but we were watching together. That is what mattered to me. It did not matter to me (or to Grace) what was on — though we had our favorites. She enjoyed the entertaining nature of what we were watching and, most importantly, the company we shared. We laughed our asses off and talked about things we normally would not have brought up. That our time to hang out, catch up and enjoy the sibling connection.

Grace is always there, ready with anything one may need. Emotional support, advice or a distraction, there is no complaints from her about being together. She always is pushing for myself and others to do what they love — and is genuinely excited about the adventures I and Lauren have. There is no one more positive and full of life than Grace. She always sees the best in people.

In life, I believe having someone around who pushes you when needed and is interested in what you can achieve is an important person to hang on to as we get older. Thankfully in my life, that person is Grace.

(She is also the funniest person in the family, but I will not start World War III today.)

We are always cracking each other up

These life lessons of thoughtfulness, courage and loyalty are just the tip of the iceberg of what makes Lauren and Grace such amazing people to know — that I incredibly get to call my sisters. Over time we all have changed and grew, each realizing the importance it is to have each other in our lives. I have learned that lesson many times, and, despite living thousands of miles away, am reassured that our bond is not broken because of the distance separating us.

I have wondered, too, how each of us have grown up to be role models in each other’s lives. I spend little team, however, thinking about that answer. We have been blessed with the people in our lives who look out for us and set up with the best chance of succeeding: my parents (who always put their kids first), our relatives (who showed us how much a supportive family can achieve) and each other.



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