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

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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.

City Girl Confessions: So Much More Than A Candy Store

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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

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. 

City Girl Confessions: Desperately Seeking Spring

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

There’s something really disheartening about checking the weather forecast and seeing single digits…again. I get that we live in the Midwest, but c’mon! The first day of Spring is slated for March 20th. How may I rejoice in the switching off of seasons if I’m still shoveling snow and wearing the same oversized sweater for the 176th time?

I’m bitter (and bitterly cold). March really seemed like the finish line. If we could just soldier through the snow days, the blizzards, the Polar Vortex, the sleet storms, the ‘thundersnow,’ then surely we would come out the other side a bit dazed but ultimately grateful to see a patch of grass here or there.

In this winter haze, I’ve found myself craving odd things. In walking through a Target, I stare longingly at little seedling packets and ceramic flower pots. While it’s true that I loathe gardening, I find myself desperate to do anything involving sunshine, warmth, and quality time outdoors (sans parka). I’ve even taken on extensive decluttering and reorganizing, despite the fact that the Village of Glencoe’s Spring Clean Up event is not until early May.

Mostly, I find myself longing. I glance at the barren trees in my backyard and wonder what the branches will look like when the green leaves fill in. I wince when our garage door opens and my kids spot their bicycles, begging to take a ride down the street. I miss regular neighborhood walks with my dog (the ice-melting salt wreaks havoc on his paws).  

I’m daydreaming of that one perfect Spring morning: the kind where we are inexplicably running early and have time to burn before the school bell rings. So we hop in the car and head east on Park Avenue so that we may sit on hard stone benches that overlook Lake Michigan. We don’t bring coats because the weather doesn’t warrant it. Maybe I sip coffee and prop up my feet. Maybe my kids point out a galloping dog or a tiny wildflower peeking through the dirt. The sun is up and out, the breeze softly whispers. It’s perfection even if it hasn’t happened just yet. 

Confession time: we all have our moments of frustration. Sometimes we just need to yell into the void and move on, owning our deepest feelings of seasonal stress. Once we have that release, it’s almost like the world finally bends in our favor, recognizing that we are open to the newness around the corner. 

So what’s getting me through this freezing cold week? An intricate risotto recipe. Scrabble Junior with my children. Concentrated belly breathing in yoga class. Ongoing commitment to my down coat and pom-pom hat. Documentaries on Netflix. A sense of humor. 

That one perfect Spring morning is on its way and when it actually gets here, I’ll be ready. The bicycles will be set up, the dog leash will be in my hand, the coats will be stashed in the closet, and the Lake will beckon. It will be warm, perfect, and brand new.

Sunset by Andy Warhol