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Success In The Suburbs



I have lived in the suburbs for 12 years. I've gained 30 lbs and a really bad attitude. But I'm ready to change all of that nonsense.



Updated: 2017-09-07T15:37:55.508-07:00

 



A Puppy, Please!

2016-09-10T16:44:00.051-07:00

I just came across this photograph. A few years ago our family was in negotiations for a puppy.  My husband had mentioned this family feud to a client.  

Our daughter, wrote and mailed the following note to the client;

Dear Mr. Esptein,

Thank you for telling my dad he should buy me a dog.  It is starting to work.

From,

Randi Burks





Blue Ice on Lake Huron

2011-04-01T11:01:44.263-07:00

allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='https://www.youtube.com/embed/J7Is-pnWs50?feature=player_embedded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />I have never seen anything like this.  It seems that huge piles of blue ice are a phenomena that can happen in the Great Lakes, on occasion.  We found this formation off of a sandy shore of Lake Huron near Cheboygan Michigan State Park.  It was beautiful.  I begged my family (and one of Lizzy’s friends from college) not to climb on it.   They all poo-poohed me and had a great time while I fussed and worried.  I was literally sick to my stomach watching them climb over the huge sharp shards of ice.  But, obviously, that didn't stop me from shooting a few pictures with my tired old Canon pocket camera.As you can see in the photos, everyone is safe but I have read several articles since that warn about the danger of falling through a pile of this sharp ice.  I am not one to contain my anxiety to what could happen.  I let my anxiety run free and wild with Googlie thoughts of what could have happened, also. So today, my husband and I were telling a friend about the blue ice phenomena.  He grew up near Lake Michigan and has seen blue ice.  He added, "Yeah, every now and then some idiot would get seriously hurt climbing around on the piles.  It is very dangerous."Uh.  Huh.  [...]



I'm Not A Bitch! I Just Have Allergies!

2010-04-20T12:26:11.591-07:00















For the last several years I have been tormented by splitting headaches.  I was always tired, too.  A simple trip to the park with the kids left me feeling exhausted.  In typical guilty mother form, I felt bad for feeling so bad.  But last year I had a knee surgery and, for the first time in our family's medical history, we met our health insurance deductible so I went crazy!  I went to an allergist.

Guess what?

I have allergies!  All this time I thought my fabulous suburban life was giving me a headache and sapping my energy.  I called it the "ungrateful bitch syndrome."

But I have allergies!

Yahoo!

Seriously.

Yahoo!
  

I have always loved this time of year, when everything is blooming, but this seemed to be the time of year that I was the most uncomfortable, too.  I am so thrilled to know that there is a physiological reason for my syndrome.

I have a runny nose and itchy eyes and I am short of breath so I am test driving allergy medications.  So far I am successfully using Optivar for my itchy eyes.  (It burns soo good!)  I have also developed a new appreciation for those kids that are crushing up little red Sudafed pills (the kind you have to sign for at Walgreens.)  I am beginnning to think that it is possible that all of those meth makers are just kids with really bad allergies gone bad.  Those little red pills are amazing and despite the fact that my doctor and pharmacist and webmd.com insist that it is not possible to become addicted to Sudafed it doesn't feel right to love a drug like I do.  On the advice of my doctor I also started a prescription of Allegra D.

I don't like having allergies but I am really happy to know that my problems aren't just my bad attitude.  Look at our lovely yard.  Everything is so colorful and alive.  What kind of monster would be grumping about while living in the middle of this suburban bliss?




Spring Break 2010

2015-08-29T10:21:17.990-07:00

allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='https://www.blogger.com/video.g?token=AD6v5dwWxcHOF8s_MYIqnwS429yFOpMhXjamvSJ9a29d4tnsf4LgRAMJ13rD4swvHuKuAoSI-LX_vRNFAe_cr9W4YA' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />
Shedd Aquarium with Friends!

Music:
Hard to Believe by VOTA

Photos:
Taken with a Blackberry so the quality is lacking but I believe the message was captured! The little kids seemed really happy (and exhausted) on the ride home.



Brochure For The Suburbs

2010-03-27T06:27:25.479-07:00

School Assignment
Designed by Alex, Age 10.



Tell Me Your Story

2010-03-20T19:26:27.934-07:00

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Are you willing to share your suburban success story?
Tell me your story by clicking on this link.





Tami Kidd-Brown

2010-03-12T20:52:58.042-08:00

Read my interview with a Successful Suburban Woman, Tami Kidd-Brown by clicking here.


I ask each of the women I visit to share some of their "favorite things."  Shoes.  Make-up.  Jewelry.  Awards.  Purses.

At first it feels a little funny but once I am able to prove that I am sincerely interested in what kind of moisturizer they use they kind of dig it.  One of the things that I was able to convince Tami to share with me was her favorite purse, a Choette Sac (in the picture above.)  The purse is really cute and it feels so sturdy that it might last for a couple of generations.  These bags are a bit pricey at $800, but as proof that I have spent too many years in my suburban universe I have somehow made peace with this price and am contemplating a purchase.  The amazing thing about this purse, that makes $800 almost palatable, is that it can be manipulated into 20 different styles.  Watch the video and check it out!



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Can I Buy You A Burger?

2010-05-02T11:17:28.437-07:00

Meatheads is Messing with Me!Have you ever heard of the saying, “Kill them with kindness?”   Well, Tom Jednorowicz from Meatheads Restuarant has and he is using it on me.  After posting a sassy little blog entry about one of his restaurants, I got one of the most gracious and practical responses I could have imagined.  It's killing me.   Perhaps the real note is in a trash bucket on his computer or in tatters in some landfill.  I'm certain there is a cleansing letter his mother taught him to write, then destroy.  In it he calls me a bored, spoiled, under-engaged, over-functioning, chubby, suburban white-bread, old navy wearin’, credit card wieldin’, mini-van driven, antiquated, thinks-you-know-everything-because-you-toiled-away-in-advertising-designing-billboards-and-jingles-before-Al-Gore-invented-the-internet, chick-a-dee.I haven’t had the guts to show my face at Meatheads Restaurant again although it is located right next to my regular pit stops at the busy corner of Route 59 and 75th Street in Naperville:  Costco, Starbucks, Home Depot, Whole Foods, Chase Bank, Noodles and Nordstrom Rack.  Every time I cruise by I try to see what is happening inside.  Are there customers?  Are those two guys still playing office in the dining area?The lights are still on.  There are cars in the parking lot.  There are customers with winter coats stacked in chairs next to them, but no guys in shirt sleeves with laptops and cell phones.  Of course everyone in my family knows that I have a complimentary $50 Meatheads gift card burning a hole in my penny pinching pocket.  I originally joked that I was going to give it to our 18 year old son, Jonathan, and a bunch of his obnoxious friends.  (I mean that with love, guys.)  But that didn’t seem meaningful enough and it seemed unnecessarily cruel to the crew at Meatheads.  (Ooops.  There I go again, slandering my teenager.  Sorry, again J-Bear and buddies.) Instead, this is what I have decided to do.  I am going to use this gift card to feed another suburban family (up to six people) at Meatheads.  The catch is that you have to eat with me and my family!  Just send me a quick email at deniseburks@successinthesuburbs.com by March 1 with the word MEATHEADS in the subject line and I’ll pick a winner and be in touch, soon.I can’t wait to here from y’all! [...]



Comment from Ron Prchal, Lisle, IL

2010-04-05T19:03:34.258-07:00

I live in Lisle and read about you in the Naperville Sun today and I thought about a quote I once heard .... the only normal people in this world are those you don't know very well!






Carolyn Finzer

2010-02-21T10:42:04.308-08:00

I wanted to meet Carolyn Finzer since the first day I saw her watering flowers at the post office.  Eventually, I met her and she invited me to her home and gave me a tour of her garden.

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Carolyn Finzer, a successful suburban woman.



Meatheads

2010-02-21T08:25:23.955-08:00

I wrote this post about Meatheads Restaurant on a Friday night.  On the following Saturday morning, around 9am, my 10 year old was out shooting hoops in the drive-way when an employee from Meatheads Restaurant delivered an envelope to him.  Inside was a $50 gift card, that I have yet to use.At about the same time that morning the following email appeared in my inbox.  I was so taken aback that I still am not sure what to say.  I’m convinced that the guys from Meatheads are messing with me.Mrs. Burks,My name is Tom Jednorowicz and I am the owner of Meatheads.  I am not one of the gentlemen that you saw/met in the restaurant.  I read your blog and, although entertained by your writing, am extremely disappointed in your experience in our restaurant. We have very fundamental principals around which we expect our business to be operated; Serve simple yet high quality food, take care of the customer, provide an atmosphere where people can escape a bit from the rigors of their life.  We failed in embarrassing fashion.  You provided much more than “something [for us] to think about.”   You have rattled the very foundation on which the vision for our company and culture is built.  We obviously have gotten lost in the less significant aspects of operating our business and forgotten about the most important element…You.  I assure you that your wake up call will be amplified throughout our organization.  As painful as it was to hear, your message provides an opportunity for me to reinforce what we are SUPPOSED to be about.  We will use it to create immediate change within our company and in those that work here.I want you to know that we absolutely, positively appreciate your business…but actions speak louder than words and we need to deliver.  We embrace and react to customer feedback and now we need to demonstrate to you, and to ever customer that comes through our doors, that we are better than what we have recently demonstrated.  In all honesty I wouldn’t blame you at all if you never came to back to visit us.  I’m not sure that, in your shoes, I would.  I am going to sincerely and humbly ask you for another chance.  In hopes that it will make it a little easier for you acquiesce, I will have somebody drop off at your home today a $50 gift card for you and your family in an effort to get you back in the restaurant.  If you choose to use it you should expect a radically different experience.  No matter what you choose, I want you to know that I am truly and deeply sorry, and I thank you for your honesty.Take Care,Tom JednorowiczMeat Head Management30 West Monroe, Suite 1000Chicago, IL 60603[...]



Goodnight Christmas 2009

2010-01-09T12:35:05.374-08:00

Tonight we say "Goodnight" to Christmas 2009!

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Once again, the music on this little piece is compliments of Cross Wired, featuring my lovely and talented cousin, DaVal Johnson and his even more lovely and equally talented wife , Cheri. Enjoy!

"Silent Night"
Adapted by Cross Wired
Arrangements by DaVal Johnson
Vocals by Cheri Johnson



Blessed By The Little Baby

2010-01-09T12:18:39.080-08:00

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The music on this little piece is compliments of my lovely and talented cousin, DaVal Johnson, and his beautiful daughters, Cherelle and Lauren. Enjoy!

"Children Go Where I Send Thee"
Original Arrangement by Natalie Merchant
Adapted by Cross Wired
Arrangements by DaVal Johnson
Vocals by Cherelle and Lauren Johnson



The Happiness Project

2010-01-04T11:19:31.981-08:00

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Gretchen Rubin's new book The Happiness Project will be hitting the bookstores soon.  I've been following her blog for the last year and have already ordered my copy of the book at Amazon.  Above is a video clip from September when she appeared on CBS and I think she gives a nice description of her book.

It has been my experience that when I told people, "I just want to be happy," I ended up feeling a little bit immature.  Depending on my company, I would feel stupid or spiritually weak.  Gretchen makes me feel "OK" in my personal quest for happiness.  After spending a few minutes each day with Gretchen I feel like my happiness is important, not only to me but to my husband, children, neighbors and the complete stranger driving next to me on 75th Street!


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Meatheads

2009-12-06T17:36:49.145-08:00

I’ve got a problem.  My husband and I tell one another everything.  When I get a pimple on my butt he knows about it and, unfortunately, vice versa.  But I am not going to tell him about the little episode that happened to me today because he will just say to me, “Denise, you’ve got a problem.”But I’m terrible at keeping secrets and I’m pretty confident that he isn’t reading my blogs so this is a safe place for my confession, so here it goes.  He was in LaJolla, California tonight eating Oolong Sea Bass at PF Chang’s (I told you he tells me everything) so back at home I took the two little kids to Meatheads for a special treat.  We have taken the kids to the Meatheads restaurant four different times since they opened.  The name alone is reason enough for my kids to love this joint.  Each time we have been there, this guy, sometimes two guys, obviously the owners, are seated at tables in the restaurant.  They have laptops and piles of papers and cell phones going.  At first I thought, cool, these guys are on site.  They are making sure everything is running smoothly.  This is going to be a successful business.  But on this visit I realized that we, and other customers, were making an effort to stay out of their space.  One of the guys, the regular, is a big handsome sort who, I’ll bet you, drives a Hummer.  He started pacing around the tables while talking on his cell phone.  My husband does this all the time.  I like to call it the “I’m working on a big damn deal with lots of zeros attached to it and, wow, does it ever make me feel like I have ants in my pants prance.”So, the crazy, loud and wild, Meathead dining experience that my kids, miniature meatheads, were looking for felt more like eating dinner at home where we have to keep our voices down because Daddy is in the next room doing that same “... ants in his pants prance” instead of sitting at his desk in his office with the damn door closed.  Now, believe it or not, I don’t consider it my responsibility to mother the entire planet.  I just want everyone to reach their full potential.  That’s why I had to talk to them.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to make eye contact with either of them.  Twenty years and twenty pounds ago I probably could have gotten some kind of attention, but I couldn’t get either of them to acknowledge me.  So Mohammed would have to go to the mountain.  I sent my two little kids outside the restaurant, where I could see them through the glass windows.  I have to do this because none of my children appreciate my need to make the world a better place. I walked towards the prancer, with my hand up as if asking permission to speak, he just put his head down and turned on his heel so he could continue his phone conversation.  Then I walked over to the fellow who was seated, also on his cell phone.  After a few moments of standing at his table, he still didn’t acknowledge me, so I finally spoke, “Hi!  Are you one of the owners of this restaurant?”He nodded yes, but he didn’t remove the phone from his ear.“We just finished eating and I thought that you might appreciate some customer feedback.”He let the phone drop down from his ear, clearly intending to get right back to the conversation. We looked at one another with perfunctory, fake smiles. “Sure,” he said.By now you can see where this is going.  Don’t get ahead of me.  My problem is not Meatheads.  My problem is that I can’t keep my opinions to myself.  I worked in advertising and marketing for 25 years a[...]



Birthday Gifts

2010-01-09T07:11:50.634-08:00

It is hard for me to make sense of the opulent suburban gift giving.  My family never had a lot of money and I remember having one birthday party as a child.  My husband is equally uncomfortable with the overly-generous gift giving but that's just because he is a real tight ass when it comes to spending money.  (That is kind of mean to say but I'm kind of mad at him right now but that's another blog entry, besides, it is true.)  So, instead of birthday gifts I encouraged our little kids to ask for dog and cat food for the local animal shelter. We don't have birthday parties every year.  Our daughter, Randi, is an animal freak and the idea of forfeiting gifts to help animals in the shelter totally worked for her.Our son, Alex, was a different story.  He has had a few more birthday parties than Randi and a few times he really, really needed presents.  I think we still have a couple of $25 hunks of plastic from those parties loitering in our basement. I didn't choose the animal shelter because I am a big "save the puppies" kind of gal, I just didn't want my kids to be getting gifts out the wazoo just for being born.  I was unnerved by the piles and piles of gifts that I saw at parties.  We were invited to birthday celebrations in our neighborhood that were hours long and one of those hours was spent watching the birthday child open gift after gift after gift. A few days later we would get a hand written note, obviously from the child, thanking us for our specific gift.  I'm not criticizing thank you notes.  Despite my backwoods country upbringing, I do know that thank you notes represent good manners, but I couldn't get my kids to sit still for twenty seconds on the toilet let alone get them to sit still at a table and scribble out twenty thank you notes.The whole birthday party gift giving thing intimidated me.  So asking for pet food was my way of avoiding that scene.  Asking for donations was met with lots of comments, mostly positive.  Although one mother said her older son had seen the invitation on the refrigerator and kept asking, "What kind of kid doesn't want birthday presents?" But my departure from the excess of suburban birthday gift giving has an interesting twist.  My lovely over-achieving suburban party guests brought bags and bags and bags of food for the animals.  When we drove up to the animal shelter with our bootie the employees and volunteers were shocked at the amount of food and supplies that we delivered.  They were very appreciative, took pictures of our kids and heaped tons of praise on them. In a way, we were making our own little suburban scene.  I realize now that we were the stereotypical over-achieving family but instead of a mountain of gifts we had a mountain of smelly dog and cat food which is kind of obnoxious, in it's own way, too.[...]



South Carolina Weekend

2009-12-17T09:26:36.961-08:00

The two little kids and I followed my husband on a business trip to South Carolina.

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Chores

2010-04-13T06:49:35.283-07:00

Whenever I see someone doing lawn chores I give a big encouraging smile and wave, especially when it is a kid.  When our older kids were young, we spent entire weekends teaching and supervising chores.  Specifically, lawn chores.  Both my husband and I thought it was important.  My husband, trained as a mechanical engineer, wanted everyone to understand the basic workings of a lawn mower, a simple small gas engine.  “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would say.  “But I want you to understand what happens when you push down on that pedal.”  He also wanted them to know how it feels to do a good job and get paid for that job.  “Anyone can push the pedal down on a Mercedes,” he would repeat.  “But I want you to be able to pay for one.” Of course, the kids couldn’t always get to the chores especially once school started.  So one brisk fall day I strapped our baby boy to my chest in a carrier.  I thought that my daughter, 14 months older than our boy, would just toddle about and play in the yard with us.  That didn’t fly.  She freaked out when I walked the 30 foot distance of the yard behind the lawn mower.  So I put her in a baby carrier, designed for hiking, on my back.  That meant I had one baby tied to my front and one to my back and they loved it.   I looked a little bit like Flick, in the beginning of the movie Bug’s Life, when he was marching around with his one man band grain harvesting system.  Like Flick, I saw immense practicality in my little get-up.I mowed and bagged and mowed and bagged.  I had to take several little breaks and sometimes it took us a couple of days, but we got the job done.  I was always a sweaty, grassy, exhausted mess but I was so proud that I had accomplished a chore for my family, my little kids had a little fresh air adventure and I had exercised my body.   Then one day while the three of us were mowing, one of my neighbors stopped her mini van at our curb.  This particular lady was the go-to-mom in our subdivision.  She and her husband owned a successful small business and she had that suburban air of competency.  If you wanted to know what company should clean your carpet or who should take your children’s photograph or the best place to stay in Disney World, she had a definitive answer, at the ready.  She obviously wanted to chat so I released the handle on the mower, allowing the engine to turn off.  I hated to do that because it was so hard for me to bend down and pull the cord to restart the darn thing.  I had to do a perfectly straight-back squat, hold it, and then pull the starter rope with one arm.  With one baby strapped to my chest and one wiggly toddler perched on my back, standing up again was nothing short of a miracle.  I walked across the lawn, knowing that she was probably going to comment on how silly I looked strapped to two babies and I decided that I was OK with that.  In fact, I told myself, my hard work and ingenuity had garnered the attention of one of the well networked neighbor women.  Good for me!        I walked up to her van with a big smile.  She rolled down the passenger side window, leaned towards me and offered, flatly, “Kip’s Lawn Service can do that for $30.”In those few seconds, I went from feeling like a hard working entrepreneurial ant to feeling like a big dumb unsophisticated country broad.  I suddenly became intensely aware of how heavy my babies were and I c[...]



Pigs n Heels

2010-01-14T11:45:41.760-08:00

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Pigs 'n Heels, originally uploaded by Denise Burks.
"Of course I can catch that pig!  And I'll do it in heels!"

This picture sits on a table in the entry of our house.  I think I'm around seven years old.  It is one of my favorite pictures of myself.  I imagine it is a favorite because I remember that day, vividly.  We were playing dress-up and we needed a baby.  Someone suggested that we use one of the new baby pigs but the idea was dismissed quickly.  "We'll never be able to catch one."

I clearly remember the kids and adults cheering for my success.

This picture represents all that I love about myself.  That funny little quirky talented girl that can't resist a challenge and loves to wow the crowd every now and then.  It also showcases one of my many lusty attempts to be fashionable.

In the frame, hidden behind the picture, I have a 40th birthday card from my sister.  It says, "Things could be worse, Mom could still be cutting our bangs."



A Civilized Life

2009-12-20T18:39:26.388-08:00

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A Civilized Life, originally uploaded by Denise Burks.
I guess when I commissioned this drawing of my daughter I thought that my days would be filled with soft classical music and fresh flowers and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. I was a 20 something single mother, living in Charleston, SC when I traded services with the artist Martha Thomas.  I designed a brochure for Martha and she created this beautiful portrait.  For years, I would stare at this acrylic drawing of my oldest daughter, JC, and it made that life feel possible. I used to say that it is the one thing that I would grab in case of a fire. It wasn't just that it was a picture of my sweet little "Bubba". It represented a lifestyle. Well, I still love my little girl to an unhealthy, heartaching, distraction and I still long for a tidy, serene, cerebral existence in which I drink Illy coffee served from our very own cappacino machine. But after a few hours of that kind of quiet on Sunday mornings, I'm actually ready for the noisy, messy, tooter-joke-filled hubub that comes with the suburban family package.  Although I still would like to have one of those cappacino machines sitting on our kitchen counter.



I smell like dog poop!

2011-11-08T08:39:31.179-08:00

Last week, I was standing on the elementary school playground with a few other mothers waiting for our kids to be dismissed. One woman kind of stomped up to us and said, “I just had the worst day of my life.”

That got our attention.

“This morning I found wet carpet in the basement so I called my husband and he said, “Don’t call a plumber. I know what is wrong. Just turn the water off for the day and I’ll fix it as soon as I get home from work.” ”

This launched several of us into tirades about lawyer and banker husbands with tool belt fetishes.

“Well,” she continued, “since I couldn’t really do anything productive in the house I decided I’d mow the lawn. Now, I always make sure that I pick up the dogs’ poop in the yard but  ... “

This launched all of us into a collective, abhorrent shriek.

“Millions of little pieces of dog poop sprayed all over me! So I ran into the house and stripped off my clothes in the bathroom.”

“But you don’t have any water,” one of us yelled!

“But I didn't have any water," she repeated.  "So I used nearly an entire box of the kid’s wet wipes to clean-up.  I’m here to get the kids and we’re going directly to the swimming pool so I can take a real shower and soak myself in chlorinated pool water.”

That, my friends, is what life in the suburbs really looks (and smells) like.