Yea I started this bad boy in November….
1. Alexi Mandolini, Rob Armentino and Sarah Carbone for running the Chicago marathon in my honor. Cuz if I could run I would totally do it. Really. Nothing sounds more enjoyable than running 26.2 miles on a football Sunday. It is an unbelievable feat and internal challenge to yourself with a lifetime reward (I heard).
Getting back to Alexi, my family grew up with all 4 of the Mandolini kids, our parents were friends. They were all great. Aimee and Jenna were close to my age and we hung out a lot growing up. And Alexi was Josh’s age. I remember the first time I really talked to Alexi was at Notre Dame visiting Josh. After some brief small talk, she told me a dirty joke, I volleyed one back. Friends for life.
Alexi ran her marathon to benefit Les Turner foundation, an ALS charity near and dear to me. Here were the awesome shirts and napkins she had made:
Rob Armentino is a longtime friend of Lindsay’s. But now he’s just as much a friend of mine. He and his wife Shana graciously donated their wedding favors to my medical trust 2 summers ago. Rob ran in support of me and Les Turner.
As a matter of fact, Lindsay’s high school group of friends could not be nicer people. In a script taken right out of your favorite daytime soap opera, Lindsay’s Ex-boyfriend’s twin brother, Joe, recently married Lindsay’s long-time best friend Amanda. It was a real fun situation to walk into. In a bubble, Joe and I were supposed to dislike each other. Then a really funny thing happened these past 4 years. Joe and I became friends. Actually, real good friends. I couldn’t imagine anyone treating me better than he has, especially given the peculiar situation in which our relationship began. At a recent annual Elmhurst Thanksgiving party, Joe commented to me about how far we’ve come from that first awkward introduction. Then we ‘locked it up’ for another drink, of course mine going down the feeding tube. Amanda, Joe, Mike, Rachel, Rob, Shana, Jeff, Carrie, Chris, Meg. Those are Lindsay’s high school friends I see the most, and they could not be more supportive of me or better people in general. If I was able to, we’d be going on many trips with them. Sucks a lot. Mike and I together, though, would probably be trouble. A huge shout out to what amazing people they are.
Sarah Carbone ran it last year for me and her whole family bought and wore my shirts (check them out here!). What an awesome family she has. Sarah and I became good friends thru Mesirow, always trading dating stories. Sarah was one of the first to know I liked Lindsay so much. She has a really good heart. I try to look out for her like a sister. Give her the real scoop about us game-playing guys.
2. Janene Ingram
I met Janene through Les Turner's “Young Professionals’ Group” (YPG!). They are a really fun group, and I wish I could hang out with them more. Janene was a freshman in college when she got the call that her Grandpa was in need, Dx’d with ALS. She dropped everything to move and be his caregiver, witnessing every last brutal stage of this disease until death. The courage she showed as a teenager is remarkable and she has continued to advocate for us pALS relentlessly, holding her annual event “Holla for ALS.” She honored me with this great award. Thank you Janene, you’re the best! Here is a video of her amazing speech. Janene also won the highest bid on the live auction for the Cubs painting, bidding over $1k!
Susan Hackney is also really involved with YPG and someone I’m honored to call a friend. Linds and I always half-joke Susan is the single nicest person on this planet. I haven't met anyone nicer :) Her family is awesome, too. They have donated so much to me.
Why does time seem to blow by even quicker as you get older, often judged by some trivial recurrence…”Damn it, toe nails, clip, again, so soon?!” And where was this speed as we sat staring at Big Ben’s doppelgänger in 8th period English, where the clock (of all things) ticked counterclockwise. Why does it seem to accelerate even faster now that I need it to stop? For one fall weekend last year, anyway, it slowed down long enough to freeze into my memory for a lifetime. It was my personal Indian summer.
Back in March 2015, our department head Maureen Flood floated an idea to me. Why don’t we have our annual Chicago department meetings the days leading up to my barn benefit? That way they would already be here and could all attend my benefit. The only thing that I dread more than opening presents is talking about my fundraising. Rather be dead. So I sent Maureen to my Mom to coordinate any ideas.
I still remember my 1st interview with Maureen. Ten years ago this past May. I had to first briefly interview with the HR lady across Chicago at 321 N. Clark. She ended it by saying “now you’ll go interview with Maureen Flood over at the famous John Hancock building, you know where that’s at right (as she points from the window)?” I have no clue where but I’m a prideful bullshiter at heart so I said (waving my hand assuredly) ‘Oh yeah yeah yeah of course.’ I could have starred in a Home Alone: Lost in Chicago. Two taxis and a big long triangle walk later and I was at our now old Hancock building office, in the illuminated conference room with a gorgeous Lake Michigan view. By the end, I still had no clue what my job prospects looked like because Maureen talked nearly the whole time! But I remember walking down Michigan Ave. after with a feeling that we shared some commonality. Little did I know. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Maureen has been like a 2nd mother to me long before I had ALS. She supported my business growth and dealt with me trying to run before I could even crawl. She saw the drive and work ethic I had and thus dealt with all my bitching, especially about how slow I perceived my career development was going. Her and Casey McCarthy (my technical mentor) were the biggest influences any young person could have. Looking back, I laugh - who the hell did I think was? Early to mid-twenties making demands like I was someone. She no doubt laughed internally, but she still had my back. Getting approved a $2,500 Dale Carnegie communications/presentation class in my first year was just a start. She even created a new hybrid sales/support position because I was so eager to start building my book of business.
The thing I miss most now, without question, were those after-hour talks with Maureen. Wanting to advance as soon as possible, I often worked late (knew all the cleaning ladies by name!). Maureen would usually be there too, giving me advice on everything I asked for, from work to personal and everything in between. Maureen’s the kind of person that you wanna run through a wall for. I suggest you never cross her cuz she can bite :) but there’s nobody I’d want next to me more in a bunker. I’d like to think I may have helped her through some tough times too! From Sammie signs to my proposal boxes and too many other things to type, a friendship like no other was built.
Fast forward 6 months to Thursday, September 24th. It’s the night of our annual department dinner at the extravagant Langham hotel. All 16 business partners and our entire department was on hand. You’ve never been to an event until you’ve been to one Maureen orchestrates. Elegant in every sense of the word. You don’t realize how much effort goes into it unless you stay to clean up. Every chic décor Maureen personally buys (I had always thought the venue provided all that!).
Being Maureen, I should have known. My parents, Lindsay and Josh also attended. Still, I was completely blindsided by the night. I literally had no idea what was about to happen. My first clue came as we left the lounge area [with our Global Marketing rep :)] and entered the dining room. There was this big poster outside with my ugly mug on it. It read something like “Mesirow Financial Structured Settlements Annual Meeting: A Night dedicated to Eric Von Schaumburg.” Wow. What the hell was this. My curiosity meter went up a bit. As I went in and glanced around, there were more interesting tidbits. Like a huge banner upfront that read "Every Reason I Care" spelling out 'ERIC'. Or the mentions of me and “Survive and Advance” in the night’s programs. (Yes, of course we had programs for freaking dinner!)
One event of our annual meeting week is the awards ‘ceremonies’ to employees deserving of some recognition (Think a more spruced up and less offensive version of The Office’s Dundy awards… this video is fuzzy but too hilarious not to post: here it is). And yes, you get something really nice as a momento of your award. In 2010, I got a slick glass Tiffany’s plate engraved with my name and “Mesirow Financial’s Rising Star.” It left an impressionable mark on a 27 year old and made me want to work harder.
But this year I could sit back and be a smart ass, typing wise-cracks on my screen and making fun of the winners. Just as my internal clock says we should be wrapping this up any minute, Maureen describes someone that sounds like me. I sit up a bit, my neck freezes with embarrassment, what the hell is this?? My eyes swell up, my ears burn more as every word passes. When she was done, I noticed the servers even crowding our room and clapping. My mom recorded the final 2/3 of it (check it out here). As you’ll see, I was caught off-guard and teared up publicly for the first time probably since high school football was over. It was an out-of-body feeling, like you were listening to your own living eulogy. I didn’t wanna go out like that. I still had a full career ahead of me. It was tears of pain, joy, and appreciation for a woman who made me feel so special time and time again. Even now, it's hard to explain what that moment, that night, meant to me. And always will.
Outside of my family, no one has done more for my life than Maureen. I want to dedicate this blog to you, Maureen. Thanks for being my business mentor, my personal mentor and above all else, thanks for being my friend. I love you.
And it didn’t end there. Casey, Lynn, Neil and Betty all stood up and nailed hilarious stories involving/making fun of me. The last thing I ever imagined was getting the prestige of being ‘roasted!’ I’m telling you, not easy to stand up in front of everyone and patiently tell a story, waiting for the punchlines. They nailed it.
In fact, every member of our department family, I have a unique, personal and special relationship with. They all have done so much for my battle, but even better they did so much for my career pre-ALS. We all have each others’ backs, we are so close knit. Casey McCarthy, Lynn Petrouski, Neil Herald, Dan Goodmann, Elizabeth Real, Colin Finn, Melissa Parsons, Lisa Bloodgood, Catherine Cacy, Kathryn Criswell, Irene Najera, Connie Klingler, Pete Klingler, Johanne Graham, Maeve Kelleher, Jeannette Campos and former employee Jason Weinstein.
Them and 4 other business partners/close friends (Ravi Vaswani, Betty Gregware, Michelle Caine and Martha Hunt) attended my barndance fundraiser as workers, signing up for all sorts of jobs and wearing matching shirts and bandanas. I’d be remissed if I didn’t mention Melissa Parsons’ brother, who passed in a house fire the night before the fundraiser. Though she had to fly home to Dallas immediately, she ended up surprising me at “A Toast To Life” fundraiser this past April. In reading about Ted, it struck me that he inspired many people with his positive attitude and generosity.
In other sad news, my “Uncle” Mark Hansen (One of my Dad's best friends from 1st grade) died unexpectedly recently. So many good memories growing up with his family - Aunt Gaye, Kyle and Kimmie. Uncle Mark was THE most obnoxious Cubs fan on this planet. So, I know he is watching this great Cubs season with utmost pride. In fact, he just might have enough pull now to bust the curse. RIP Uncle Mark.
This seems to be the appropriate place to end. I’m just about finished with Part 2 of this blog and will send soon.