City Girl Confessions: A Moment to Savor

blue commuter bike
Photo by Paul Theodor Oja on Pexels.com

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column featured in The Glencoe Anchor.

This morning, I walked out of my house excited to meet up with a friend. Just one problem- a large carpenter’s van was blocking my car in the driveway (I had forgotten that one of our kitchen cabinets needed repairing). Hmm…what to do? Then another thought…I have a bicycle. Why not take a ride to meet up with my friend?

So I threw on my helmet and started pedaling. It was a lovely summer morning: about 72 degrees, cornflower blue sky, a nice breeze. When I hit the brakes at a STOP sign, a monarch butterfly fluttered past and I had to stop myself from chuckling. The picturesque moment felt straight out of a movie. 

But I didn’t chuckle. Instead, I savored. I drew in my breath and felt the wind on my face. I thought of outdoor reading, the smell of sunscreen, and the colors of the sky at dusk. I thought about weekend getaways, drippy ice cream cones, and bare feet racing over the grass. I pondered fireworks, Glencoe Art festivals, French Markets, sidewalk sales, Pride Month, parades, and many al fresco dinners. There’s been an awful lot of fun that has filled up these past Summer months.

For all those reasons, August is my reserved time to savor. I know that the first day of school is just around the corner. I realize that more structured schedules are on the horizon. I accept all of this. It’s for those reasons that I say, go ahead, have ice cream before dinner. Take an extra long bike ride that might stretch past your kids’ bedtime. Invite someone over for a drink or impromptu popsicle party. Turn on a sprinkler. Turn off the iPads. Look for shooting stars. Open your windows. Say yes more than no. Get outside everyday, even for just a short walk. Pet a dog. Look for birds. Talk to your neighbors. 

Riding my bike that morning reminded me of something: the absolute bliss of simplicity. Do you remember riding a bike for the first time? The feelings of independence or the excitement of choosing your destination? It’s euphoric (also decent exercise). Hopping on two wheels brought me back to my childhood, where any neighborhood adventure was possible. Why don’t I do this more often? Why don’t I get back to basics not because my car is unavailable but because it just feels good?

I’ll confess, back in my city-living-days, I rode a bike to escape the endless concrete. I sought the clarity of being out in nature, savoring all of its elements. If density was driving me mad, I could always get on a trail or a path and find my way.

Those memories, and this month, are reminding me to savor what is right now- the calm before the storm. The last of the very best season. That when the world feels stressful and upsetting, we can hit the reset button. And savor the moment. 

City Girl Confessions: Focusing on What Was & What Will Be

IMG_9918City Girl Confessions is my recurring column via The Glencoe Anchor.

A couple months back I recall the idea of a dog park floating around town. There’s just something about that notion that connotes joy: it’s a gathering place to meet new friends and, overall, it’s a cherry on top of the stellar parks already existing in our town.

At the time, I also accepted that the dog park would not be a great fit for my 10-year-old Boston Terrier, Theo. His energy level was subdued and we always knew that he preferred humans to other dogs. However, I still welcomed the dog park idea because pets connect us in wonderful ways- and how great to have a meeting place for those connections to occur?

My dog has endured many milestones since we adopted him in 2010. Theo started out as a city pup where he often enjoyed long walks in the South Loop down Michigan Avenue and being near the Lake. He easily welcomed the addition of two kids to the mix, following them happily wherever they went.

When we moved to Glencoe, I was astonished at how active the pet owners were. In Chicago, dog walking is mandatory given the lack of yards. In the suburbs, where yards are plentiful, people still leashed up their pets and took to the sidewalks. It was oddly comforting- it made me feel like I didn’t have to give up every part of my urban lifestyle just because my geography had changed.

So I happily joined the unofficial active dog-walking club. Perhaps you saw us over the years. For a good chunk of time I rolled deep with a red stroller, a kid on a scooter, and a leashed black-and-white dog. When my babies became big kids, our walks became just me and Theo. A morning walk, a bus stop pick-up, a family stroll after dinner…these walks were our treasured time for nature and introspection. 

I’m sharing these special memories because this week presented something unexpected: the sudden passing of my beloved Theo. As you might imagine, my family and I are absolutely devastated. My children have lost their best friend. My husband and I have lost our treasured companion. The joyful light in our home has dimmed dark.

Yesterday, I took a walk. By myself. The same, long neighborhood route my Theo had loved for so many years. Everywhere I looked there were dogs. Dogs riding in cars, dogs lazing around yards, and dogs passing by in the street with their owners. Big dogs, mini ones, furry ones.

Maybe there will be a dog park here some day. Maybe, if I’m lucky, I will love another dog the way I loved Theo. In the mean time, I will continue my routine walks alone and remember a special time. If I see you with your pet and give you a tiny smile, just know you are helping me heal. You are helping me celebrate what once was.

 

City Girl Confessions: Embracing Inclusion, Diversity In Our Town

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column featured in The Glencoe Anchor.

There has been a colorful burst of cheer in our town lately. It has been peeking out on Vernon Avenue. It has been defying gravity and retail awnings. It’s been taking over social media. I’m talking about the delightfully cheerful balloon installation honoring Pride Month at The Flower Shop.

With rainbow colors and whimsy that just keeps going, I have marveled at this art for many days now. Created by Balloons by Tommy and orchestrated by store owner Brooke Lawler, this symbol of inclusion takes a joyful form in commemorating June and what it represents to the LGBTQ+ community: unity, empowerment, acceptance. The Flower Shop isn’t alone either- take a look around and see many businesses, shops, and restaurants in our area who are taking on inclusive practices and promoting acceptance this month.

All of this reminds me of a Welcoming and Inclusivity Pledge that the Village of Glencoe rolled out in 2017. Said pledge promoted the notion that “a community must stand up against any and all discrimination, harassment or hateful acts that are based on race, ethnicity, color, immigration or refugee status, religion or creed, gender or sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, veteran status, or other social identities, as well as discourse that disrespects or degrades people’s identities, needs and beliefs.”

I’m really empowered by this pledge. It keeps our community accountable to being our best, and serves as a reminder that we are all different, we are all the same. More information on the Pledge can be found on the Village of Glencoe’s website. 

In expanding the Pledge, the concept of inclusion, and its many subcategories, Glencoe Public Library will be hosting ‘Inclusivity: A Faith Panel Discussion’ on Monday, June 24th at 7pm. It will feature a myriad of Glencoe faith leaders and will be moderated by yours truly; come out and lend a listening ear. I always find it enlightening to take in a panel- the differing ideas and opinions can stir the brain and the heart mutually. Plus, the library is the place to be if the topic of inclusion leaves you wanting more- there are books, resources, and DVDs to further one’s learning and understanding. And sometimes they even have cookies, which always makes learning more fun, in my humble opinion.

More on the learning topic…I found it particularly inspiring to learn that Central School recently selected a day to encourage students to wear rainbows or rainbow-themed clothing in a nod to Pride Month. I imagine the day was filled with a lot of color, excitement, and unity. What’s not to love about promoting acceptance and diversity starting at a young age? 

I’ll confess: inclusion is an ever-evolving topic. Each day we learn new terms, new groups, or come to new understandings of what it means to identify or express oneself. But when I think of inclusion, I think of all of us being on the same journey together. We’re walking, we’re going somewhere, we’re just at different paces. And it’s a beautiful thing. 

City Girl Confessions: A Slice of Americana in the Driveway

IMG_4735City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor.

I have distinct memories of childhood centered around a basketball hoop. We had one in our driveway for nearly 20 years and it was the nucleus of entertainment. It was where I learned to dribble a ball, outshoot my brother in a game of ‘HORSE,’ and it was where I went to de-stress and cure boredom.

Basketball was blissful competition for me and my siblings and we wasted away the summer hours playing the sport. We were sweaty, happy, and giddy. We didn’t want the fun to end, didn’t want to think about dinner, bath time, or anything logical that would take away the fun of the moment.

When I moved to Glencoe, there was a wish list for what features my home would have, but near the top of that list was a driveway that could accommodate a basketball hoop. I bought one a few months ago for my son’s birthday but cold weather and relentless rain did not permit installation until now. The waiting not only enhanced the excitement for this new childhood chapter, but it made the reveal all that more meaningful. 

While my son was at school, a team rallied together to plot the correct hoop installation, the proper height, and to pore over every detail with careful attention. Despite rain showers earlier that morning, the weather eased into a very comfortable seventy-five degree day. The sun literally shone on our efforts. 

My husband snuck home early from work and the whole family waited eagerly at the bus stop for my son. When he arrived, he didn’t seem too surprised that we were all there, more so just pleased with the very nice day in front of him. 

My husband and I exchanged nervous, giddy glances at one another as we walked down the street. Suddenly, I was reliving every moment of the past seven years: our move to this town with a newborn baby, our urban-to-suburban adjustments, our bewilderment at just how quiet everything was. Here we were, on the cusp of what we had hoped for, a dream that was just about to come true.

Our feet reached the end of the driveway. I turned toward my son. “Do you notice anything different about the house?”

Long seconds passed. Then he whooped with joy, tossing his backpack and paper airplane to us as he raced toward the hoop, eager to grab a basketball and get to work.  It was a gold medal parenting moment, one that I won’t soon forget. 

The late afternoon was spent dribbling, shooting, and chasing basketballs all over the driveway. We were sweaty, happy, and giddy. We didn’t want the fun to end, didn’t want to think about dinner, bath time, or anything logical that would take away the fun of the moment. It was a perfect slice of Americana; a recognition that everything old was new again.

City Girl Confessions: Sneaking in Those City Escapes

IMG_4542.jpg.jpeg copy.jpg

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column via The Glencoe Anchor.

Life zooms by from the window seat of the Metra. It’s a blur of colors, textures, and weather. Time seems to suspend as well. Heading south into Chicago brings me back into my past, back into the roots from which this very column was born. 

It’s a pleasant experience, though. Sometimes there are hints of longing or bittersweet memories. I feel it in seeing the way retail has flipped, the way that condo buildings seem to have sprouted from nowhere. 

I walked through an old neighborhood haunt and was shocked to see a favorite long-term grocer had closed. I was bummed- they had the best bakery bread there. Down the block there was a fully remodeled grocery chain. It’s enormous panes of glass shimmered like a skyscraper.

And yet…this was not some beautiful, poignant moment. Sheets of a snowy-slushy mess were pouring from the sky. Sidewalks and curbs bore inches of freezing water that sloshed into waves any time a cab zoomed by. The monstrous wind seemed to turn everything horizontal. The sky was an angry gray that muddled the views of Lake Michigan. It was smack in the middle of Spring and a snowstorm was taking over Chicago during my visit. It was not a pleasant experience.

The occasion for the city jaunt: a celebratory dinner for my brother and sister-in-law, who are moving across the country for the summer. Kind of like studying abroad, but for business reasons. We made a fancy dinner reservation at the end of April, believing that to be ‘safe.’ Maybe it would be one of those perfect 70 degree days and we could walk around for a pre-dinner drink in the area. Maybe we could seek out a rooftop deck to stare at the architectural marvels of the city. Maybe we would be laughably wrong in all of these assumptions. 

Yet, the dinner went on as planned. The laughter went on. Our lives went on. No matter how frantic things seemed, talking through it made us feel better. I imagine that when my brother and sister-in-law truly leave, and we feel the heaviness of their absence, we will recall this snowy Spring night and grin. We will remember that we somehow made it work. 

Our ride home was an Uber. ‘Train in, Uber out’ seems to be a method that works well for our urban visits. As we cruised along the highway, I stared out the window, watching life zoom by. It was a blur of colors, textures, and weather too wild to be believed. Time seemed to suspend as well. I thought about the changes that lay ahead. I thought about the way things used to be. Outside, the snow accumulated, blanketing the green grass in endless white. 

We slowly pulled into Glencoe, back into familiarity, back into the present. The snow had finally ceased. The sky was now clear. We were home.

A Most Enduring Mother’s Day Gift

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing a favorite column of mine written in 2016 for The Glencoe Anchor. Its words are some of my favorite as it pertains to this holiday and the mothers and mother-like figures we celebrate.

I feel as though I’m drowning in gift guides. Each day brings about an email, a tweet, or a conversation that starts with something like, “What are you getting your mom for Mother’s Day?” and ends with “Hmm…well, at least I have some time.” I’ve seen lists, flash sales, quizzes, and even a heart shaped pizza touted as the ideal Mother’s Day commemoration. 

This is a tricky holiday and a very good one. Fortunately we have an occasion in which we can recognize incredible women in our lives that have mothered and mentored us in a capacity that has had profound influence. But let me be candid: we are all conflicted about our mothers in the best possible way. You see, those little personality traits that they have that drive us a bit nuts? Let the world come full circle when you find yourself yelling at gridlock traffic, folding socks a peculiar way, or preparing a recipe in the same dedicated fashion. We ARE our mothers sometimes and that can be a wild roller coaster reality to accept. 

It’s okay to idolize your mom, too. No matter your age, acknowledging the deft multi-tasker, expert advice giver, master chef, gentle soul, and kind disposition of this person resonates deep in the heart. I still get a little emotional when my mom bakes me a banana bread or presents me with that perfect, most thoughtful gift. Mothers just have that way of getting to us like no one else can. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on something delicate: we aren’t all lucky enough to have a mother. Maybe she doesn’t live nearby or perhaps she is simply not here. For this extra special group, I implore you to exercise gentle consideration. No matter what happens in life, a mother is a constant. She is a wave in the ocean or the rising of the sun. To be without a mother on Mother’s Day can feel like you’ve lost your own hands. It’s a good time to check-in with these friends and be the constant for someone who needs it. At the very least, it’s an excuse to gather together and share one of those heart-shaped pizzas. 

Back to those endless gift guides. Society might have you considering spa appointments or sparkling jewelry, but I’m here to share a secret that will change your gift-giving forever. It is meaningful, exquisite, and you won’t find it on any ‘must have’ gift guide: This Mother’s Day, share with your mother a time or memory when you were proud of her. Pick up the phone and tell her about it. Don’t text or clog her cell phone with emojis. Don’t pen a longwinded email. Let her hear your voice when you speak. Let her recognize your connection to that memory. Let the moment be authentic even if it feels weird or emotional. 

As for me, I will share this: Mom, I remember seeing your smiling face in the audience at every dance performance of my life…every recital, half-time show, competition, and awards ceremony. I was so proud of your unwavering support. I was proud of all the times you enjoyed my performance and the times when you were candid about me doing better. Now that I’m a mother myself I deeply appreciate how you constantly carved out time in your life to cheer me on. I know that it wasn’t easy but you sure made it look effortless.

City Girl Confessions: So Much More Than A Candy Store

IMG_3494.jpg

City Girl Confessions is my recurring column via The Glencoe Anchor.

A few years ago I covered the grand opening of The Sweet Buddha in Glencoe. I shot photos, interviewed owner Sarah Miller, and had a sugar-filled day at her cheery candy store. 

But here’s the thing: I just walked into The Sweet Buddha this past week and found myself taken aback. Everything was different. Is the candy still there? Yes, delicious candy is still present and accounted for. But the vibe of the shop has evolved. I suspect its growth can be traced to the evolution most local businesses adapt to- tailoring your shop and its products to consumer demand and laboriously tweaking that formula to stay fresh and current.

Fresh and current are two words that came to mind when I walked into The Sweet Buddha. There is a lovely display of jewelry that runs the gamut of easy, everyday bracelet stacks to delicate rings and earrings with a bit of sparkle. I noticed several handbags, scarves, and zip pouches along with go-to gift items like glassware and candles. I grinned when I saw a whimsical station of the store in which shoppers could make customized dorm room signs using letters from old license plates. 

My youngest child, who happened to be tagging along, busiest herself by making friends with stuffed animal unicorns. A quick glance let me see that the store was a treasure trove for young ones and their bright imaginations- colorful backpacks, rainbow reading pillows, notebooks, glittery signs, etc..

When I gestured to the brightly lit event space, Sarah passed along information on birthday parties, personalized candy baskets, and event hosting (not just for children either- think jewelry making or painting).

The genius herein is that the store owner is a parent and knows how to balance the shopping harmony among the age groups. Sarah wisely set up a couch, coffee table, and TV so kids are welcome to hang out, relax, and enjoy a sweet treat while parents shop for a few blissfully uninterrupted minutes. Yes, you read that correctly: this store has a spot specifically for your kids so you can shop in peace. 

I’ll confess: I thought I had this local shop figured out. I had written about it long ago, I had known its story. The problem was that I didn’t check back in- something that often happens when we consumers get busy with and opt for convenience over shopping local. What I learned is that The Sweet Buddha still satisfies a sugar fix but it shines as a fresh specialty store. 

As my visit came to an end, I made a promise to myself that I would not fall into this kind of trap again- the trap that removes curiosity from our daily lives. Small business owners work exhaustive hours to ensure a positive consumer experience in our community. Let’s stay curious about how these stores are doing. Let’s walk in and look around when we have an extra five minutes. Let’s share the secret of what makes a local business so great. In doing so, you might learn, as I certainly did, that this is so much more than a candy store. 

Photo credit: Sarah Miller