Falling Fast

photo of roadway surrounded by trees
Photo by KIM DAE JEUNG on Pexels.com

This morning I exited the yoga studio, hopped into my car, and drove home with my mouth agape. It’s here. The most stunningly beautiful part of the season is here.

The leaves are on fire.
The leaves are falling.

It’s mesmerizing. It’s bittersweet. I know that in just an hour’s time, I could look up from this laptop and see a completely different view. The most exquisite moment makes the quickest exit.

I was struggling to communicate this to my kids this morning- they were more intent on yelling in silly voices and sticking their tongues out at one another. It’s fine. Someday they’ll get it. Someday, when life is good or hard or both, they will look up and lose their breath while thinking, “Wow…nature is amazing.”

(back to work. I’m putting together a nonfiction book proposal. I wrote a LOT about Theo this past summer. We’ll see if it goes anywhere…)

10 Things on my 10-Year Anniversary

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Last month marked a big milestone: a decade of marriage. Here are ten random things I’m sharing in honor of the occasion:

  1. We took our kids to Vintners Inn, the site of our ceremony and reception in 2009. They loved running through the vineyards and eating grapes right off the vine.
  2. Each anniversary, I usually throw on my wedding dress for 5 minutes and drink my morning coffee. My kids are totally entranced by this and for a brief moment in time, I reminisce about our special day. However, this year we were traveling and I did not get to wear it. Oh well.
  3. Fitz still has the custom green Converse he wore in the wedding with ‘FitzAndKelly’ embroidered on the side (fun fact: these were also gifts for our groomsmen). For our 10-year anniversary, I gave him a new green pair. Embroidered on the side is ‘Since 09.’
  4. Of our attendants, the three ringbearers and one flower girl are all teenagers now (!)
  5. It was Fitz’s idea to get married in wine country. We got engaged in Big Sur in 2008 and as we traveled through northern California in a haze of starry-eyed bliss, he turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we got married here?”
  6. Our wedding cake was super unique: dark chocolate made with ground up beets! It was absolutely delicious.
  7. We honeymooned in Hawaii. I’d love to go back there with our kids- best beaches ever.
  8. When I look back on our wedding, I’m so thankful that we were able to incorporate nature. It was really special to be outside at dusk, in a beautiful part of the world, with all of our friends and family. And thankfully, Mother Nature cooperated! It was a perfect 75 degrees.
  9. To this day, I’ve never seen so many people simultaneously cry in my entire life as they did when my dad gave a speech at our reception.
  10. Though a wedding is a very special day, I am most proud of the life that Fitz and I have created together over these ten years.

City Girl Confessions: The Details that Stay With Us

IMG_6810City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor.

One of the best parts about living in a city…is escaping it. Yes, I’m a firm believer of restorative exploration and getting out of a comfort zone. If density and skyscrapers are your thing, time to venture to green grasses and quiet evenings. And vice versa: it’s good to dial up the energy by sneaking away to the city lights. 

Years ago, back when I called Chicago home, I craved the occasional escape. It felt good to get away just as it felt good to come back. Would you guess that one of my very favorite times of year to escape the city and soak up the suburbs was early October? 

Driving along residential roads, I would gaze out the window at the various front porches and doorsteps, completely lost in bliss. Each home’s doorstep was fully decked out in seasonal splendor: smooth, round pumpkins, tall corn stalks, little hay bales, and oodles of potted chrysanthemums in shades of gold, orange, and aubergine. 

Call it basic, but these artful doorsteps were an intricate fantasy for me. I didn’t just see jack-o-lanterns and flowers…I saw a vision of what my life could be like. I thought about a doorstep that children would come home to, fresh from the school bus. I thought about trick-or-treaters in October, reaching high on tip-toe to ring the doorbell. I imagined a dog perched near the window and birds in the trees out front. But mostly, I thought about the notion that our front doors really do represent the most beautiful welcome for visitors- whether they be expected, or just driving by while lost in daydreams.

Perhaps that’s why I find myself scooping up armloads of gourds  and positioning potted mums in just the right place. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind stringing orange lights on the bushes. Because there is a weirdly cool feeling that comes from realizing that the thing you fantasized about has come to fruition. The holiday-themed patio? The whimsical decor? The bus stop, the trick-or-treaters, even the birds chirping out the window? I can claim all of it as reality…and it’s a wonderful reality to hold onto and lock away in a memory bank.

I’ll confess: I will always covet returning to my city girl roots. I will always champion restorative exploration. And maybe one day, far into the future, my kids will drive around Glencoe in those early moments of October, and they will look out the window and dream. Whatever the vision, whatever takes hold, it will be theirs to cherish. 

Let us not forget the details that stick around, for it is possible to find significance in something very small. As a new month unfolds itself, someone, somewhere is opening a car door, stepping a foot out in the world, and breaking into a wide smile. 

Monday Motivation: An Irish Blessing

foot path in the middle of a forest
Photo by Nicolas Veithen on Pexels.com

***Yesterday, a beloved member of my church retired and this song was sung in honor of the new path that lay ahead. I then learned that my pal gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. This morning, a friend’s beloved dog had passed on. All of these moments seized at my heart. So I’ll share this blessing with you…and if someone else you know needs, it’s okay to pass it on.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall softly on your fields
and until we meet again
May you keep safe in the gentle, loving arms of God.

City Girl Confessions: The Magic in the Mess

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

If you want to see my anxiety shoot through the roof, just say the word ‘messy.’ I get a little cringe-y and creeped out when it comes to certain things, and let’s just say that paint, play dough, clay, and slime are the stuff of nightmares for me. Yet, children covet this squishy stuff. They cherish the mess. And there are loads of studies that point to the benefit of this creative play.

It hit me on one of those last, lingering summer days…the kind where minutes pass by like hours and adults are just craving that first day of school. Don’t get me wrong, summer is a glorious, heavenly existence in the Midwest. Ours was filled with camps, trips up north, pool days, popsicles, and explorations of every mini-golf park in a 40-mile radius. But those last days of summer? The ones right before school? Those days are kind of excruciating. The emotions are high, the energy levels higher, and that presents some interesting clashes. Bottom line: new transitions can throw us all for a loop, and everyone in my home was feeling the stress of that. 

So I decided to break my own rules and bring on the mess. Long ago, my sister gifted my child a Jackson Pollock art kit from the Museum of Modern Art. It came with acrylic paint, a canvas, drop cloth, and information on ‘action painting.’ Now if you’re not familiar with Pollock’s work, just imagine wildly tossing, flicking, and splattering paint all over a canvas. Yes, this is the very messiest form of art one can embrace. 

My children absolutely loved it. Pollock once said that putting a canvas on the floor and walking around all four sides to paint allowed him to feel as though he were literally within the painting. I can confirm that my children seemed to have felt the same way based on the colors that sailed through the air and the shrieks of glee that came from my backyard. It was a mess indeed: on their hands, their clothes, their bodies, the pavement, the grass, the canvas, the drop cloth…paint really does travel when the artist is at work.

Witnessing this mess was oddly joyful for me. Let’s face it- life will always be messy. It will always necessitate a clean up- literal and figurative. Making peace with this notion allowed me to put down the stress baggage that I so willingly carry. 

When the paint dried and my backyard sort-of recovered, I walked into Signature of Art in downtown Glencoe. I placed the canvas on the front desk and said, “I need to frame this. It’s the memories of my summer.”

The gentleman working nodded; he understood exactly what I meant. And I’ll confess: one day, I will see this paint splattered canvas hanging somewhere in my home, and I will think of this particularly messy day. A day with paint-splattered hands and backyard shrieks. I will not remember the details of the clean up. But I will remember the magic of the mess. 

Hello September

hanged green white and gray umbrellas
Photo by Matthew T Rader on Pexels.com

This month snuck right on in, didn’t it? I awoke to pitch-black skies and a whole lotta rain. Everything seemed different. Somewhere, nature is quietly whispering, “Autumn is coming, you moron.”

Today, Gus begins her very last year of preschool!

Fitz and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary this month. We’ll be heading back out to wine country (where we were hitched in 2009). Fun fact: the morning of our wedding, we wine tasted at Silver Oak Winery. There were so delighted to hear that we were getting married that day that they handed us a bottle and said, “Congrats and cheers!”

I am really missing having a dog. Is it time for us to adopt one? Maybe. We went through MWBTR when we rescued Theo in 2010.

That’s all for now. Stay dry!

Sandy Feet

A few years ago, I retired…from flip-flops.

Yes, that’s right. I decided I was DONE with cheap plastic tearing up my toes. I bought two pairs of rubber Birkenstocks during my pregnancy with Gus and never looked back (bonus points: you can adjust these! Which came in handy when my then-pregnant feet were swollen).

Since that time (and long after I gave birth to the 4-year-old pictured above), I’ve been walking the Earth promoting these shoes in a loud voice because everything about them is good: durable material, washable in the kitchen sink after a trip to the beach or pool, and they come in lots of punchy colors reminiscent of ice cream and beach balls.

Pretty soon, there will be no sandy feet.

Pretty soon, my baby-blue toenails will be tucked into hi-top sneakers or boots.

Pretty soon, the beaches will be deserted and the classrooms will be bustling.

Leaves will crunch under my feet and it will be far too chilly to stroll around in my favorite summer staple. So today I will be okay with sandy feet. Sandy shoes. Sandy everything.

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.