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West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Heavy hearts still filled with hope

Bittersweet.

How else to describe this holiday season? I woke up on Christmas morning with a heavy heart. I had to stop and figure out why. My kids were home safe. And then I remembered the Wauwatosa police officer gunned down by her own husband...and the families in Newtown, CT...and the families in Oak Creek...and Aurora, CO. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on.

And yet, life goes on as well.

I will be honest, this past year has been very challenging for our family. Due to health concerns, we moved my parents to the Milwaukee area. For a time, they lived with us. If you've cared for or lived with an elderly relative, you know that it might be the hardest job you will ever do. But thanks to my husband and siblings, we somehow cobbled together a new life for my parents who just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

SIXTY years. I've never known anyone married that long. If you asked my parents, they'd probably tell you that they're surprised they made it that long. But that generation is short on relflection and long on just simply living. They didn't stop to think about what they were doing, they just simply did it.

Today, my husband and I celebrate our 29th anniversary. That, too, is a long time. Our marriage is so different than my parents' marriage and yet, we faced similar challenges along the way, including cancer and the death of a child. How people get through that without someone beside them is beyond me.

As my family and I sat in church on Christmas Eve, I looked around. I saw many familiar faces - people who also had faced death and cancer and loss. Yet there they were - together - weathering the storms of everyday life with someone by their side. The fact that the church was packed, for me, spoke of peace and hope. In a year that has been bittersweet, it felt very right, even if it was very temporary.

But that's life, isn't it? The happy moments are fleeting and it isn't until we've been through a few daunting challenges that we figure out that we need to pause and embrace the joy because it's often gone before we know it.

For my parents' 60th anniversary, my kids recorded a song that I've loved for my entire life - "Somewhere" from West Side Story. When Tony and Maria sing this song, they too understand that their love and their joy might be short-lived and yet they sing of hope and a better place. This song speaks to my parents' journey this past year but I also think it's a message for our world right now. We need to hold each others' hands and look ahead to a better, hopefully more peaceful world without violence and tragedy and horror.

In that spirit, please enjoy "Somewhere": 

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