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

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.

City Girl Confessions: In the Quiet of Morning, Preparations Begin

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

My weekday mornings begin in the dark. Under a pitch black sky, I slowly drag myself from a warm bed, throw on some clothes, fill a water bottle, and drive to Reach, our local yoga studio. The drive is less than five minutes, but there is always some kind of action to keep things interesting.

For one, the wildlife is running amok. I see it all: skunks, coyotes, raccoons, and foxes. It’s a jolt every time to spot the nocturnal zipping around, and to notice them when they are used to going unnoticed. 

There is the occasional taxi or Uber, lingering to take someone to an airport, their headlights illuminating a dark street.

There’s construction projects and street cleaning as well. I’ve even see water main repairs and workers lowering themselves under the ground, headlamps shining.

There is such stillness in these early hours- any small movement is magnified and ripples throughout. In a way, it’s a gift to see the world before everyone wakes up. To watch solitude settle on the houses, the roads, the businesses is very soothing.

This past week, I’ve encountered something surprising when I’ve turned onto Vernon Avenue: the trees are illuminated and glowing. In the quiet dark, Village of Glencoe Public Works methodically place cords and wrap twinkle lights as needed, adjusting the bucket trucks to reach new heights. Though Halloween may be on the calendar, clearly, the Village is planning ahead.

Now, I’ve attended the ‘Light the Lights’ event in our town before. It’s festive and filled with community cheer. But I’d never really seen the work that went in behind the scenes to the big lighting reveal. After what I’ve witness this week, let me just confirm that the work is time-consuming, meticulous, and a lot of patience is required.

This little realization stretched further for me. For it made me recognize all the times that our community workers were hard at work while I was fast asleep. It’s one thing to appreciate our little town, it’s another to see how every bit of effort plays a role in creating a community.

In late November, we will have the chance to see all of this early morning diligence pay off. Light the Lights will take place in downtown Glencoe, complete with family activities, shopping specials, beer and wine stroll, etc.. In a matter of mere seconds, the lights will turn on and months of hard work will come to fruition.

I’ll confess, there is always something beautiful to take in when you rise before the sun. Maybe it’s stillness, maybe it’s a yoga class, maybe it’s a lighted tree. Or perhaps it’s something that causes you to stop and pause for just a moment. But in that moment, whatever you see or experience, is yours to hold onto. 

City Girl Confessions: Knocking Out The Scary Bits

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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.
Continue reading “City Girl Confessions: Knocking Out The Scary Bits”

Convos With Writers: 11 Questions with Amanda Simkin

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‘Chicago mom’ is a term synonymous with Amanda Simkin. When I was freelancing for parenting websites, our paths kept crossing in such unique ways that by the time we officially met I thought, “Wait- how have we not been friends for years?!” Good news, we are friends, and I glean inspiration from this mama-of-two everyday- her luminous smile, candor, and entrepreneurial spirit make for a high-five-worthy convo.

Amanda’s writing went viral when she wrote a blog post about the best Christmas lights in the Chicago area. She swiftly crafted her blog into a full-blown business that helps guide parents and families, while celebrating all things Midwest.

So let’s dig in.

Continue reading “Convos With Writers: 11 Questions with Amanda Simkin”

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.