Staying Home: 11 Things We’re Doing

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Feeling anxious? Me too. These are wild times. Hang in there, I’m here for you. Also, here are 11 things we are doing to keep our sanity:
1. Lunch Doodles with famed children’s book author/illustrator Mo Willems.
2. Cincinnati Zoo’s Home Safari at 2pm CST. Yesterday we learned about porcupines.
3. Highlights Grade Level Workbooks. My kids LOVE these books and activities. Wells is especially excited that his 2nd grade workbook has cursive exercises.
4. Cut, glue, and draw on paper. I tasked the kids with creating a little garden and we taped up their creations on our front door.
5. Chores. The irony is that my kids are loving this time of the day. We change sheets, make beds, arrange stuffed animals, and make sure nothing is on the floor. I am not too strict with this; just encouraging them to take ownership of their bedroom space. Gus loves running around the house wiping off light switches and doorknobs with Clorox wipes.
6. Moments of gratitude. On St. Patrick’s Day, I read the Irish Blessing. Then we shared 3 things we were grateful for.
7. National Geographic Kid Videos: 50 birds, 50 states. The birds rap out interesting content about each of the United States in a 3-min song. We then locate the state on a map.
8. Popcorn party. Sometimes we eat popcorn while watching a movie. Sometimes we look outside to check for birds, squirrels, or dogs. Sometimes we just sit at the table and talk about our favorite flavors of popcorn.
9. Painting Rocks (if you don’t have paint, stickers are a solid substitute)
10. Dance party or a few exercises in reps of 10: 10 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 10 stretches.
11. Bake. Yes, this will be messy. But letting kids crack eggs, use measuring cups, and press buttons on the oven is a culinary adventure. Follow it up by watching Kids Baking Championship (a great family show) on The Food Network.

Happy Love Day

Last night, I was zooming home from a biz event. My eyes were heavy and exhausted from a wild schedule that day. The car slowed to a stop and I turned to my right to see the city lit up in cheerful pink and red. Immediately, something lifted. I felt loved.

(I hope you feel loved too)

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

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. 

An Evening with ‘The Niceties’ at Writers Theatre

I love the escape of theatre. I love that I can pause my life to steal away into a dark room, watch art that will spin my brain around, and return to my world feeling transformed. And I’m so very lucky to have a world-class theatre right here in Glencoe.

This past week I was invited to take in a performance of The Niceties at Writers Theatre. On an evening so cold the air stung my cheeks, I grabbed three friends and walked into the show, ready for whatever the experience held.

Two women 
A professor’s office 
A conversation on American history 

Your first thought might be…that’s not exactly riveting. But oh, the simplicity of this story  should not be overlooked. For one, the dialogue is sharp- I got the feeling that writer Eleanor Burgess placed every syllable of this play with purpose. At first, these women are chatting, then suddenly they are deep diving, threatening, accusing, worrying, chastising, provoking, and revealing. It’s a game of verbal volleyball. And you will feel bumped, set, and spiked.

In the show program, there was a paper insert. In it, the theatre broke the fourth wall: ‘you might find yourself tempted to choose a side. We urge you to resist that temptation. There are no heroes and no villains in this play.”

This is entirely true. The audience is also a part of the show. Just listen…you will hear cheers, jeers, guffaws, whoops, and even stunned gasps among your fellow viewers. It’s as if we were all crammed in that professor’s office together. You will get the sense that some of this uncomfortable dialogue has been waiting to be let out for hundreds of years. You will be shocked as you consider your own understanding of history- what are the parts you celebrate? What are the parts you don’t know? What are the parts that have been swiftly erased altogether?

As for the verbal volleyball game…it’s emotional as well. You will fret that as soon as you identify with one character, you quickly align with the other. You will be puzzled, concerned, and dismayed. You will realize that a happy ending is not coming. You will sit in silence when the lights go dark, and you will listen. And keep listening. And think that listening is the best thing you can do right now.

I walked into the cold night transformed once again. The conversation among my friends was wild- dissecting bits that stung, rehashing the dialogue that stayed. As we split off to drive home, we hopped on phone calls to marvel about the show. Then woke up this morning to do more of the same.

So why do we watch a story that confront uncomfortable truths? I will borrow a powerful line from the character Zoe: “We want to know the pain was worth it.”

I remain grateful for the chance to see The Niceties. I hope you see it, too.

Editor’s note: I was gifted four complimentary tickets to the show and encouraged to share my opinions, whatever they may be.