The New Normal: #MaskingForAFriend

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Wow, masks are uncomfortable. The first time I put one on, I had to resist the urge to rip it off my face. It was stifling, itchy, and awkward. Is it possible for a nose to sweat?! All of this and yet I only wore it for a brief few minutes, to pick up a curbside, no-touch dinner at Guildhall, one of our fave local restaurants.

It was a lesson in humility. People wear these all day at their jobs? For HOURS?! They do this daily?! I was, and am, in awe.
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City Girl Confessions: The Last Column

IMG_9086.JPGNote: 22nd Century Media ceased publication as of April 2020. At the time, my column was submitted but never made it to publication. I share it with you today as the last in my City Girl Confessions series. 

I’ve had the honor of being your local columnist for six years. Every day, I’ve woken up feeling extraordinarily blessed to live here and write about living here. I love the picturesque lakefront, our local shops, and the people- the people make this town extraordinary. I don’t take any of this for granted.
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City Girl Confessions: Beachfront Views in Blizzard Weather

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When the air is frigid, the ground snowy, and the forecast uncertain, perhaps it’s time to head to the beach. As in our beach. Glencoe Beach. The frozen, grayed-over Glencoe beachfront. Yes, I’m being serious. 

Recently, my father-in-law picked up my daughter from school and they decided to go on an adventure. January adventures in the Midwest are not exactly resplendent but hey, I give them credit for optimism. So off they went…and somehow, they ended up standing in snow-covered sand staring out at Lake Michigan. Naturally, there wasn’t another soul around (did I mention the freezing weather?!).

It was at this time that I received a text alert with a photo of them. Two smiley faces, frozen in expression, but excitement in their eyes. “We’re the very first people at the beach this season!”

It made me chuckle. But then it also gave me a moment of contemplation. It must feel stirring to be so small next to something so vast. This is the kind of unnerving curiosity that comes with walking alone in an empty shopping mall or standing atop a mountain after a long hike. I am so big yet I am so little. I am never just one thing. 

Also, I’ll confess: I think they enjoyed the quiet, reflective moments by the water. Life is very loud and hectic sometimes. Preschools, grocery stores, dog walking, morning traffic, sports games, concerts, and travel seem to swallow up our schedules (and raise the noise level in our home). It probably felt refreshing to stand somewhere and just be.

This adventure reminded me of something unusual my family did last summer: we traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho in June. Right as the weather in the Midwest was warming up, we flew to the mountains…right back into 30-degree weather. There was a unique day in which we took a gondola up to the mountain top and snowflakes swirled all around. Later that same day, we went swimming- in an outdoor pool. As we swam and splashed around, the snow continued to fall. There was nothing to do but smile and laugh at the juxtaposition. 

I like the notion of seizing an opportunity for adventure, and I think it’s important to check in every now and then. I have no doubt that as they stood on the shoreline, my father-in-law and daughter imagined the exciting days to come. They looked out at the lake and thought of warm sand, rhythmic waves, and beams of sun. Just imagining what could be, what will be…was probably enough to propel them forward in these bleary winter days.

As the months turn over and seasons persist, may we not be afraid of beachfront views, even in blizzard-like weather. From this, we remember that we are so little, we are so big. We are never just one thing.

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

City Girl Confessions: A New Kind of Al Fresco Experience

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

When they first caught my eye, I thought they were bubbles. Or perhaps new-age moving pods, meant for quick storage during renovations. Either way, the sidewalks on Vernon Avenue were filling up with giant, clear orbs at the precise moment that freezing winter temperatures rolled on through.

Turns out, they are igloos. And the igloos are for everyone! Hometown Coffee & Juice has found a decidedly clever way to keep their patio cozy even when weather is lingering around freezing. You can reserve an igloo for an hourly fee and receive beverage/food service while lounging in style. The igloos have chairs, blankets, coffee tables, heaters, water, water glasses, and even a portable Bluetooth speaker, should you desire music. 

When a friend asked if I wanted to join her for coffee and a catch-up in the igloo, I thought, Why not? How often do I get to lounge outdoors in the middle of winter? My curiosity was stoked, so the plans were made. 

I’ll share the obvious: sitting in an igloo is a whimsical way to enjoy a cup of coffee. You enter and exit through a long zippered portion. The service is attentive and quick. You can fit a surprising amount of people in the space without it feeling cramped. And yes, I was warm (our igloo had two space heaters; I cranked ours up to 74 degrees and was quite cozy). 

But I think the most surprising element of the igloo is the perspective. The view was beautiful. It felt very intimate, yet we were very much on display (igloos do not subtlety blend in). Passerbys would occasionally walk by, stare, or peer in. Someone even called out, “Are you actually warm in there?!” This was not intrusive; everyone is sort of in on the whimsical nature of igloo dwelling in the Midwest. Any conversation that came up was kind and met with a lot of chuckles.

I’ll confess, this igloo excursion reminded me of something that I often tell my children: try something new and take in a different perspective. When it’s 30 degrees outside, I typically don’t linger outdoors. Yet this was a scenario in which I welcomed the chance to- and that in doing so, I had a chance to marvel at how beautiful the sunlight is in winter months. I saw a busy town with busy residents bundled in colorful coats and hats. I saw dogs on their morning walks, also bundled in colorful coats and hats. I saw stillness. I saw the season stretching outward. I saw winter from a whole new perspective. 

Christmas & Other Things

  • New stockings to welcome the newest family member (Putter the dog)
  • Annual holiday party, with candied bacon winning again for best bite
  • A Home Alone-themed party in which Fitz dressed as Gus Polinski, polka king of the Midwest (he took clarinet lessons, people. CLARINET LESSONS)
  • Hot tea, green juice, water, repeat (also: prayers for my immune system)
  • Taking advantage of that free gift-wrapping service at Nordstrom
  • An amazing hosting gift: the Saveur cookbook! I made this ham, egg, and lemon sandwich on brioche for dinner on Tuesday.
  • No snow. Bummer.
  • Lots of twinkle lights. Delightful.
  • Frasier Fir candles
  • Carols are great but do you ever listen to Christmas jazz? (*swoons*)
  • 4th place in chess championship for Wells, ice skating lessons for Gus
  • Off Campus Writers Workshops for me, paddle season for Fitz
  • Shivers for Putt-Putt, who does NOT like the cold (she is from Mississippi)
  • Menu planning for Christmas Eve: maybe baked ziti and roasted salmon with dill sauce
  • Holiday tea with my sis, U Club with the A-team (solid city escapes)
  • Lightscape at the Botanic Garden

And a partridge in a pear tree!

 

City Girl Confessions: The Soothing Art of Consistency

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Each morning, around the 8am hour, my car curves around a corner and I see the same familiar sight: two people out for a walk, clad in matching red parkas.  

It was 23 degrees this morning. The chill was of no concern for these two friends on their stroll. Clouds of breath were visible in the frigid air but still, the sun was shining and welcoming the start of a new day.

Our mornings often follow a strict routine. Along the way of brushing teeth, showering, changing clothes, eating/drinking, there are also little pieces that fit into this routine puzzle. There are dogs that are walked at the same time each day. There is a cyclist doing dedicated laps around the hilled streets. Construction crews are arriving and removing tools from their trucks. School buses heave with exhaust as they begin their dutiful routes. 

But there is something very interesting about this couple in their red parkas. My children have noticed their dedicated morning walks over time- walks in the warm Spring sun, walks in the crisp Fall, etc.. But it’s fascinating to them to witness such consistency in these wintry months. 

I’ll confess- I love this notion. Sure, it takes a little motivation and pep talk to get psyched about venturing out into the cold. But nature has always been restorative. It’s accessible and soothing for stress. We just have to get ourselves moving. It helps if we also approach this with the right layers. You gotta bundle up in the whole shebang: gloves, scarf, hat, boots. Yes, this is a groan-worthy bunch of extra effort. Yes, you still have to do it if you want to be comfortable (and yes, bonus points are awarded if you have to dress young children; it’s practically an Olympic sport wrangling snow pants, coats, and mittens onto a tiny human).

I once read that in Scandinavia, families are encouraged to get outside everyday, rain, snow, or shine. That in doing this, one can experience stimulation that can’t be replicated indoors: fresh wind on skin, the crispness of a snowflake, or the crunch of boots against the Earth. This act might feel really daunting, especially when temps plummet to single digits. So why not start small? Why not start with something easy and free? Something like a walk in your neighborhood. 

A few years ago, I made the decision to wake up before the sun and start going to a 6am yoga class. As a sleep-deprived parent, this was NOT easy nor enjoyable at first. But I was consistent and made it a part of my morning routine. I am soothed by this practice now, even though it took time to get my footing. 

I imagine it was the same for the folks I see each morning, rounding the corner, two bright spots of red. Yes, our weather and seasons are changing. Maybe a little consistency can soothe that. 

 City Girl Confessions is my recurring column in The Glencoe Anchor

City Girl Confessions: Knocking Out The Scary Bits

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

It’s the most wonderful time of year…for me. I am positively delighted by Halloween and all of its orange-and-black spooky splendor. I’ve been this way since I was a kid, poring over costume ideas and scouting haunted houses while immersing myself in scary books and movies. A witch’s hat has permanent residence on my shelf.
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Falling Fast

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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…)

City Girl Confessions: The Art of Missing Home

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

My husband once proclaimed that five days is the ideal getaway. Shorter than 5? That’s great. But longer? That’s when home sickness can start to creep in.

Hold up, though. I’m not talking about the slow ache that can come from deep longing- say, how I felt when I first went away to college and missed my family. I’m talking about the gentle pull I feel when I’m away from my usual routine for too long. It’s those times that I begin to miss the mundane elements of everyday life: walking my dog down the street or writing in my favorite arm chair. Oddly enough, I even miss the feeling of standing in my kitchen gazing into my yard. It’s something I do every morning. I notice the sun’s position, the growth on trees, and how still the weather feels.

For Spring Break, I traveled to Texas with my family. To get away from chilly, rain-soaked Glencoe was a welcomed respite. We visited extended family, rode rollercoasters, ate barbecue, and jumped into swimming pools. Everything was beautiful and oversized (yep, the old saying is true). The warm sunshine and endless acres of hill country were soothing, fascinating, and enjoyable- precisely the emotions one hopes to get out of a vacation.

One evening, during dinner, someone raised a toast our visit to the Lone Star State. “Yes,” I chimed in, lifting my wine glass. “Here’s to experiencing a little southern living!” The table fell completely silent. It was then that my father-in-law casually pointed out that Texans “don’t consider this ‘the south.’ it’s just Texas.”

Hmm. Okay. Learn something new every day. 

While that take is certainly one that I didn’t see coming, I also recognize that the whole point of travel is get away, shake up our understanding of the world, and see how other people live. How we exist in the world is entirely our own- there is not one ‘right’ way to do it. And Texans are not alone in their declarations- whether we want to admit it or not, us Midwesterners have our quirks. And that’s okay- those differences make us unique.

After more than five days of wildflowers, cattle ranches, and hotel pools, I was beginning to feel that gentle pull of homesickness. I found myself yearning for the routine of my yoga mat and a regular dinner schedule. Oddly, I even craved bundles of freshly folded laundry (living out of a suitcase for a week will make one long for unusual things). 

I’ll confess- this emotion is what brings a vacation full circle. As fun as it is to get away and see how others live, it can be equally soothing to return to our regularly scheduled lives. For this reason, I will openly welcome a return to chilly, rain-soaked Glencoe. When I arrive home, I will stand in my kitchen, gazing outside at the usual view, marveling at the way things are changing and growing.