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Family ties grow stronger for Sullivans

Working and studying from home provides more time to enjoy the simple things together

Series: Flattening the curve | Story 2

Last updated 4/1/2020 at 4:08pm | View PDF

Mike and Michele Sullivan and their daughters, Gabrielle (left) and Mia, find reassurance in their faith and in spending time with each other while sheltering in place. "It is bringing families - I think - closer together, bringing people closer together, bringing communities closer together," Michele said. (photo provided)

Mike Sullivan hasn’t been traveling to his office in the Loop for a few weeks now, but he’s been busier than ever.

“I have been crazed all day and am going to be even crazier after 3 p.m. when everyone calls to see what they should do after the shutdown,” Sullivan said the afternoon of March 20, minutes before Gov. JB Pritzker issued his stay-at-home order. Sullivan has been an attorney for 29 years and currently is head of the labor and employment group at Goldberg Kohn Ltd.

“I’ve been on the phone almost continuously during these five days with employers all over the country trying to sort out what to do and how to do it,” he said.

Of course, he’s not home alone. His wife Michele and his daughters, 18-year-old Gabrielle and 11-year-old Mia, are there, too.

As CEO of the household, Michele is used to working from home, Mike noted.

“She has taken on the job of home-schooler as well,” he said.

E-learning is going well, Michele said Tuesday. Gabrielle, a senior at Hinsdale Central, is working independently from the desk in her room while Mia, a sixth-grader at St. Isaac Jogues School, is stationed at the kitchen table. Mike and Michele praised Mia’s teachers in particular for the work they’re doing.

“St. Isaac Jogues’ teachers have done a phenomenal job continuing with the lesson plans just as if they were at school,” Michele said, citing FaceTime calls with teachers, entertaining and informative YouTube videos and platforms that allow students to share videos of their work.

The girls are participating in other activities virtually as well. Mia can watch some dance classes from Expression Dance Studio in Westmont on YouTube and participate in others on Zoom. Gabrielle has been doing yoga classes online with a group of friends.

“It’s amazing with the technology we have today that they are able to participate in some of these things virtually,” Michele said.

Of course many things cannot be conducted virtually. Gabrielle will miss her senior prom and likely will not be able to participate in a traditional graduation ceremony at Central before heading to the University of Illinois.

Like others in the Class of 2020, she was born in the months following Sept. 11, her dad noted.

“Now she’s got to worry about whether she is going to be the first generation to not start college on time,” he said.

Although the Sullivans have family members they have not been able to see and likely will not be able to vacation in Italy this summer, they appreciate the slower pace and the chance to spend more time together. Michele and the girls are enjoying long afternoon walks before sitting down with dad for dinner. The 10-by-10-inch canvasses and acrylic paints Michele bought before the stores closed have kept the family busy in the evenings.

“I have no experience painting whatsoever, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well our paintings are turning out for all of us,” she said.

Other highlights for Mike have included watching Gabrielle vote for the first time and receiving friendly greetings from other runners in town, he wrote in a March 17 email to The Hinsdalean.

“And finally, during this Lenten season when my faith demands more thoughtful attention to self-reflection, I prayed tonight with my indefatigable 11-year old for those less able to bear these difficult times — and for those who don’t have families or friends to comfort them,” he wrote. “She inspired me to reflect and share these thoughts about my first two days of ‘remote seclusion.’ ”

Mike and Michele have noticed the efforts people are making to connect, whether by waving hello while on a walk or making the most of a virtual meeting.

“In particular I had to go to a meeting where I actually saw some faces of my friendly workmates. We’re trying to do that so we remember each other,” Mike said with a laugh. People were reluctant for the online gathering to end.

“I think everybody is craving some social interaction outside of their own house,” he said.

In his email, he shared this hope for fellow Hinsdaleans.

“(A)s we fret over canceled spring breaks and social gatherings, I hope that we can focus some of our repurposed energy on what is most important in our lives: our health, our families, our neighbors and friends, our faiths.”

Author Bio

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 630-323-4422, ext. 104


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