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

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. 

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. 

City Girl Confessions: A Moment to Savor

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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.