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: 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”

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. 

Monday Motivation: An Irish Blessing

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***Yesterday, a beloved member of my church retired and this song was sung in honor of the new path that lay ahead. I then learned that my pal gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. This morning, a friend’s beloved dog had passed on. All of these moments seized at my heart. So I’ll share this blessing with you…and if someone else you know needs, it’s okay to pass it on.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall softly on your fields
and until we meet again
May you keep safe in the gentle, loving arms of God.

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. 

Sandy Feet

A few years ago, I retired…from flip-flops.

Yes, that’s right. I decided I was DONE with cheap plastic tearing up my toes. I bought two pairs of rubber Birkenstocks during my pregnancy with Gus and never looked back (bonus points: you can adjust these! Which came in handy when my then-pregnant feet were swollen).

Since that time (and long after I gave birth to the 4-year-old pictured above), I’ve been walking the Earth promoting these shoes in a loud voice because everything about them is good: durable material, washable in the kitchen sink after a trip to the beach or pool, and they come in lots of punchy colors reminiscent of ice cream and beach balls.

Pretty soon, there will be no sandy feet.

Pretty soon, my baby-blue toenails will be tucked into hi-top sneakers or boots.

Pretty soon, the beaches will be deserted and the classrooms will be bustling.

Leaves will crunch under my feet and it will be far too chilly to stroll around in my favorite summer staple. So today I will be okay with sandy feet. Sandy shoes. Sandy everything.