Opinion / Guest Commentary


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  • A long awaited puppy love

    Kelly Abate|Updated May 22, 2024

    "What's his name?" we asked the young man at KLM park, some dozen years ago. At the end of the leash he held in his hand was an English bulldog, adorably plump and wrinkly. My daughter and I petted the dog, whose tail wagged furiously at us. "Juice Box," the man said. My daughter and I replied with delight, "Juice Box?! What an awesome name for a dog." The man laughed and said, "No, not Juice Box. Maddox." Or Randolph or Tree Tops or some other name that was not, in fact, Juic...

  • Chasing totality in all its forms

    Carissa Kapcar|Updated May 15, 2024

    Last month my husband and two of our kids went to Ohio to visit family and be in the "zone of totality" for the solar eclipse. It was difficult for our middle daughter, a high schooler, and me, to take a day away from school and work. We had a memorable experience here. We put on protective glasses and had all sorts of fun with coworkers and friends. It was great. But when I saw the photos and heard accounts from my parents' backyard in Ohio with everyone together as the sky...

  • Free advice for the college bound

    Kevin Cook|Updated May 15, 2024

    I recall the unsolicited advice I received before heading off to college. I didn't want nor care for the free wisdom at the time, only to recognize how prescient it was much later in life. So, for all the high school graduates headed to college this fall, I offer a few pearls of wisdom. And remember how lucky you are for the gift of the next four (or five) years. • Don't let your ideology become your identity. Having core personal beliefs - political, religious or otherwise -...

  • For the love of the game

    Jade Cook|Updated May 15, 2024

    My son, Eli, and I recently returned from a quick two-day trip to Dallas. Our shared goal was to see as much good baseball as possible. My own objective was to soak up as much one-on-one time with him as I could. Everything about this stage of his life feels like it's reaching forward and away. His body is poised for a growth spurt, ready to emerge Hulk-like at the breakfast table. His voice is slowly deepening, his knowledge on many subjects far surpasses my own, and his...

  • Irony is stalking me

    Bill Barre|Updated Apr 10, 2024

    Knowing the definition of irony is required before reading this column. Ready? OK. Hold on to your dictionaries. Irony is stalking me around every corner. And that's no small thing when you're trying to live - as the trendsetters say - your "best life." You're loving, you're caring, you're giving, you're successful. But irony is lurking. It's ready to pounce on your "best life" at any moment. Ah! How to avoid it? Well, we could avoid turning any corners. OK, OK. That's...

  • It happened on a Metra train

    Kelly Abate|Updated Apr 4, 2024

    A few weeks ago, I had an appointment in the city and decided to take my preschool-aged daughter along for a girls' day out. We had a wonderful day planned, and we dressed for the occasion, in dresses and fancy shoes. We decided to take the train to make the day even more special. I had packed snacks and books and stickers, as I know all too well that a special day can go south if your young date becomes hungry or bored. The train was a bit full, so we couldn't sit on top as w...

  • The healing power of a hummingbird

    Kevin Cook|Updated Mar 20, 2024

    March 15, 2020, marked the first day I worked from home due to the COVID pandemic. Everything about that day was different. I fired up my computer and just stared at the screen. As COVID raged, schools, businesses, churches and transportation hubs of all kinds suddenly shut down. Stores ran out of supplies. Goods ceased to flow to and from ports. Streets and towns were eerily empty. People got very sick, and in the end, millions died. Not just faceless people in far flung...

  • Laken Riley is running on empty

    Katie Hughes|Updated Mar 15, 2024

    The beginning of the run is the hardest part. It takes time for your body to warm up, settle into a new rhythm and get used to the higher level of oxygen. People don't think that, though. They think that the longer you go, the harder it gets and the more tired you are. But that's not the case. I have been a runner for as long as I can remember. As a former athlete, running has always been a part of me. I've had the same 3-mile running route through Hinsdale since the seventh...

  • What are you afraid of?

    Jade Cook|Updated Mar 6, 2024

    When I backed into a neighbors parked car a couple years ago, I developed a fear of driving through narrow spaces. Embarrassing? Absolutely. Seemingly irrational? Of course, but fear doesn’t always make sense. My sister visited recently and was highly amused as I slowly maneuvered through the Portillo’s drive-thru, my hands at 10 and 2, my car’s camera programmed on the screen to help guide me. “I should be videoing this and sharing it with the rest of the family,” she giggl...

  • An extra day to have some fun

    Leah Packer|Updated Feb 28, 2024

    As I began to write this column, I realized it would be published on Feb. 29, a leap day. Now as everybody knows, leap years only come once every four years, making them a special and somewhat rare occasion. However, for me at least, and I'm sure for many, they aren't very significant. And I don't mean to be rude to the lucky (or perhaps unlucky) few who get to have their birthday only once every four years. I wish you all a very happy birthday. Anyway, as I was pondering the...

  • You just can't get too much football

    Bill Barre|Updated Feb 21, 2024

    This past football season, I finally realized a long-standing dream of mine to watch football 24/7. Impossible, you say? Way, I say. First of all, there is some kind of football on broadcast TV, cable TV, streaming, online, etc., nonstop, all day, every day. Now, don't get me wrong. You do have to be flexible. It's not all pro or college. Sometimes you have to watch games that were decided decades ago. Sometimes you have to watch high school football, flag football, Falcon...

  • Business trip a welcome respite

    Kelly Abate|Updated Feb 14, 2024

    I used to think that business travel was glamorous. This was back when it was called taking a "business trip," when '80s TV shows featured beautiful, cosmopolitan people in power suits. Before I chose medicine as my career, I imagined myself striding through the airport purposefully, designer briefcase in hand. I would do impressive and important paperwork on the plane, wow clients and colleagues at my destination, eat gourmet meals and stay at fabulous hotels courtesy of a...

  • Mystery of the Italian bagpiper

    Kevin Cook|Updated Jan 31, 2024

    I enjoy a good mystery. I found one Christmas Eve. A small, beautiful figurine was strategically placed next to a creche at my sister's house. I was immediately drawn to it: an elderly man, seated on a rock structure, dressed in old-world European garb, playing a bagpipe-like instrument. The detail and craftsmanship were stunning, down to the minute wrinkles in his face and tiny fingers on the pipes. It reminded me of a Lladro in quality and artistic aesthetic but crafted from...

  • What the tide could bring

    Katie Hughes|Updated Jan 24, 2024

    My dad and I do not look one bit alike, but I did get one distinguishable trait from him: his love for movies. My own admiration began when I was a kid, when he would take my brother and me to see the big new movie. I loved the hours spent in the cold, dark theater, but my favorite part of these outings began when the movie ended. My dad would take us out to eat (Chipotle, California Pizza Kitchen, Portillo's) to review and discuss the movie - what our favorite scenes were,...

  • A story about moments of grace

    Jade Cook|Updated Jan 17, 2024

    I grew up nestled together with my family of four on a puffin shaped lake in Michigan. My mom stayed at home and my dad managed his business in town. Lazy summers were spent on the water, and in winter we built snow forts, went ice skating or cozied up inside reading and watching movies. In lots of ways, my childhood was enchanting, but like many families, there were tiny fissures happening beneath the surface. During my junior year of high school, my parents decided to...

  • Riding into the new year refreshed

    Leah Packer|Updated Jan 10, 2024

    Sometimes high school feels like trying to board a train at a busy station. Platforms and classes and trains and deadlines and tickets and papers and times and due dates and people and people — so many people trying to hold on and get to their destinations. When winter starts to approach, all the passengers turn their focus toward riding to the end of first semester, waiting to finally be able to rest from the flurry of activity. But, for the past few years, final exams a...

  • My dream New Year's Eve

    Bill Barre|Updated Jan 3, 2024

    We flew out Dec. 31 from O’Hare and the airport was completely empty. The weather was sunny, clear and 60 degrees. TSA waved us through, smiling and wishing us a wonderful flight. Then, they called us an airport transport and whisked us to our gate. The ground attendants upgraded us to first class and we boarded immediately. The captain came on the intercom and said we would arrive in New York City 40 minutes early due to the westerlies. Meanwhile, we drank champagne and ate c...

  • Best presents are true gifts

    Kelly Abate|Updated Dec 27, 2023

    I've been thinking about presents. It's the season to do so, right? I'm not talking about gifts, which can be intangible or abstract; for example, the gift of friendship, of good health or family, etc. Rather, I've been thinking about the physical things we give one another, the things we shop for and wrap, exchange, perhaps even return. What are the best presents you've been given? I'm sure we've all been given presents that have been amazingly thought out, beautifully...

  • Dickens calls us all this holiday

    Kevin Cook|Updated Dec 13, 2023

    My sentimentality tends to spike during the holidays when I take comfort in Christmas music from Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby and the Ray Conniff Singers (anyone?). I bore my children with stories about some of the tree ornaments that belonged to my great-grandparents. I find time for my favorite holiday movie classics. I’m particularly fond of Charles Dickens’ timeless story, “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens’ inspiration was born out of the socio-economic state of...

  • Sometimes paper is preferred

    Leah Packer|Updated Nov 21, 2023

    One night I was sitting at my desk, contemplating the very mundane task of either moving my tired body to the closet to grab my math textbook or jumping through the hurdles of pulling up the textbook online. I chose the latter, clicking through my teacher's information page, clicking the website, clicking the textbook and clicking on the page number on the little box at the bottom of the screen. Clicking, clicking, clicking. And all my lovely hard work was well worth it as I...

  • Those dear old analog days

    Bill Barre|Updated Nov 15, 2023

    Once upon a time, in the good old days of analog, I could do no wrong. In fact, some said - mostly me - that I was the King of Analog. Yes, as the song goes, "Those were the days." During those dear old analog days, I was smarter than all my kitchen appliances. And they darn well knew it. Yes. I knew how open the fridge, turn on the stove and even use the oven without a YouTube tutorial. Now, all my kitchen appliances are smarter than me. My fridge knows when I've left the...

  • Gratitude in its Swiftest form

    Carissa Kapcar|Updated Nov 1, 2023

    "So, make the friendship bracelets. Take the moment and taste it," my newly minted 13-year-old sings along as we string tiny colorful beads and letters on elastic. "Yeah, Mom, that's my favorite line," she claims. (Yes, this is a column full of love for Taylor Swift. So, if you're a hater, who's "gonna hate-hate-hate," apologies. You probably "need to just stop" - reading, that is.) The way my daughter starts the statement off with "yeah" makes me smile. It's as if she thinks...

  • A Shangri-la within our reach

    Kevin Cook|Updated Oct 25, 2023

    It was a benevolent stand-off. Me and my dog, Dakota, and a doe and her two fawns. We startled each other into a frozen sort of bewilderment. After what seemed to be a forever stare-down, mom and her babies faded away into a wooded camouflage. Return visits to the place of the stare-down have yielded more surprising and beautiful encounters with wildlife. Great egrets and great blue herons stand lifeless in a river waiting for bluegill to present an easy meal. Familiar ground...

  • Need help? You just have to ask

    Jade Cook|Updated Oct 11, 2023

    When the children in our family were going through their toddler years, our uncle would often repeat, "Need help? Just ask!" I thought the idea was to teach our little people to ask for help before their frustration escalated into overwhelm. Asking for help doesn't always come easily, whether you're a child learning to put on your shoes or an adult juggling responsibilities. We live in a culture that values independence, busyness, hard work and self-care. Asking for help can...

  • Finally in the thick of school

    Leah Packer|Updated Oct 4, 2023

    I have always hated getting shots, COVID, flu - and I am sure I hated getting the chickenpox vaccine when I was young, too. Flu season would come around, and I would push off getting the shot until the leaves on the trees had curled and crisped and crumpled on the ground and the air had a hint of winter breeze. When I was younger it was the pain that scared me, but also the second of anticipation right before the jab. I like to think I am a lot less scared now, but that...

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