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: 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: 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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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: 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.