Meet A Mom: Zee | Libertyville Area Moms

Where are you from and how long have you lived in town? What brought you to the area?

Our family moved to Grayslake a little over six years ago. The school district rose to the challenge of working with our son, who has special needs.

Do you have child(ren)? Age(s)

Twin boys, a year shy of being legal adults

What are your favorite things to do in the area with and without your kids? Family friendly restaurant? Date night?

The Grayslake Public Library was probably the first place we frequented together as a family. Whether it was for the family friendly programs or the resources.

We always attend the Tree Lighting as a family. Granted, that’s a once a year thing but it’s something we look forward to. Especially these past two years, being able to enjoy the open spaces and walking paths of Grayslake Central Park was invaluable.

My husband and I like to take picnics on the hill at Gelatin Park. It’s such a beautiful view of the townscape. Especially at night.

Downtown Grayslake restaurants is our go-to for Date Night but Blufish in Vernon Hills and Chocolate Sanctuary in Gurnee are also staples for special occasion.

In addition to the restaurants you mentioned, can you share your TOP 5 favorite local businesses? It could be stores that you frequent for clothes, kids, home decor, healthcare, fitness, wellness, beauty salons or spas, or family resources (photographer, financial advisor, lawyer)… We love supporting local.

In no particular order …
This Old Book I always take out-of-town book lovers here. Never disappointing. Even if just for the ambience.
Something’s Brewing Every. Single. Time. I’m downtown. It’s my out-of-office office where I meet clients.
Closet Traders There’s always something new and fun to see.
Doppler Audio There’s no shopfront for this business but they have provided sounds and video for me (and the community) for various events
Zshots Photography Because they make photo sessions fun and genuine 😉

Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization, a creative endeavor or in the corporate world?

Zshots Photography: I started this in 2008 I’ve watched families grow while the business also grew. One thing that makes our company different is not that we just provide photography services but that we also teach budding photographers how to use their cameras. While we offer one-on-one workshops year round, our SummershotZ program for middle school and high school students teaches them how to use a DSLR. The students also have the opportunity to exhibit their work and sell them. I’m very, very proud of what SummershotZ students have accomplished.

Author Woolgathering Series: Reverie & Revenant: Zshots Photography shut down temporarily during the pandemic. At that time, I decided to focus on writing and published my first book in a series, Reverie, in 2020. It is a Young Adult Magical Realism Fiction. It’s since been globally distributed and was a finalist at the 2021 Soon To Be Famous Illinois Author Project. Revenant was published the summer of 2021. Learn more on the website!

Focus on Grayslake: Is a photography social media project I started in 2020 to celebrate Grayslake’s 125th anniversary. The goal is to randomly interview and photograph 125 residents to be able to document what life is like in Grayslake at 125.

Grayslake Flag: My husband, John and I designed the new city flag for Grayslake. It was voted on and unveiled earlier this year. I almost cried when it was raised for the first time.

I’m also active in the following organizations but more on that later …

Grayslake Arts Alliance
Grayslake Library Foundation Board

Grayslake Chamber of Commerce

In an effort to keep it real, and not just show the sunny side, can you share with us a past or present struggle in your personal or professional life? Please also share how you overcame it or cope with it (or plan to)? We love gaining new tools for our mental wellness toolbox.

I know that it isn’t original for me to say that 2020 was the start of a shocking sack of challenges. It can go without saying that the health crisis was our biggest concern. We lost family and good friends to it, making it personal and not just a theoretical discussion. That was very hard too because the issue caused such diversity that it was very easy to feel isolated. We were fortunate that our sons were old enough to make distance learning effective but it would have clearly made it less of a challenge for our special needs son for things to be in person.
I made the conscious decision to temporarily suspend Zshots Photography and was very concerned that it would spell the end to the 12 years in business. I was worried that we would eat into our savings and bills would not be paid. It was financial concerns on top of health concerns on top of parenting concerns. That does not bode well for one’s mental health.
“In times of crisis, we turn to the Arts”
That resonated with me. It was in this chaos that I published Reverie. It was in this chaos that I discovered digital painting. It was in the arts that I found balance. And when I didn’t have any income coming in from my business, I sold my artwork. My book was published. It helped keep us financially afloat and it did wonders for my mental wellness. These are all things that would not have come to be had it not been for these challenges or how I chose to respond to them. 
After all, it’s not about avoiding the storm but learning how to dance in the rain.

How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?

I’m blown away by the love and support from our small town. This is a place where people genuinely value Community over Competition. There is so much negativity in the world but whenever I’m feeling jaded, there will be one person that surprises me and restores my faith in humanity. People give around here. And that fosters the desire to give back. That’s the kind of thing that SHOULD be contagious.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another Mom?

You don’t have to do this alone.

I think as a mom, we tend to feel like we NEED to be able to juggle everything or else we are failing. It’s like we forget that it DOES take a village to raise a child. Helping each other helps us all. A friend of mine said this to me at a particularly vulnerable moment in my life and it absolutely changed everything moving forward.

Are you involved in any volunteering or philanthropy? Do you have a favorite local non-profit or charity?

I’m the Education Chair of the Grayslake Arts Alliance. The GAA promotes the arts through education, participation, and development. We provide opportunities for the community to immerse themselves in art. My pet project for the moment is the recently launched Writer’s Group.
I’m an officer of the Grayslake Library Foundation Board. We are revamping just as the library itself is revamping and hope to raise funds to be able to meet the needs of an ever evolving community.
Throughout the year, I work with The Kids Equipment Network. They provide equipment like wheelchairs to families with special needs. They came through for our son when we needed it the most so I understand first hand how much of an impact they can make.
I support Keeping Families Covered because I was a struggling mom myself.
Every year, I work with Cory’s Project. They provide support for families of children battling cancer. I’m close with the family that founded the organization.

What are your favorite places to travel near and far and why?

Philippines for family. Europe for adventure.

Which podcasts and/or TED Talks inspire you the most?

Ooops? I don’t actually do podcasts or TED Talks.

Tell me about your favorite books. I love receiving fiction and non-fiction recommendations!

I’m biased to the Woolgathering Series, of course. Hahaha!
Maggie Stiefvater is one of my favorite YA authors so I like to read a lot of her work. She’s my I want-to-be-like-her-when-I-grow-up author.
Le Petit Prince is my all time favorite book and I hope to be able to read it in French someday.
Anything Star Trek feeds my sci-fi addiction.

What is your favorite thing about the Libertyville Area Moms Network?

How it’s a genuine useful resource for moms and not just a business gig. You also provide an additional platform for local businesses that don’t have the marketing budget of bigger corporations without compromising your service to the community.

What is next for you?

2020 has taught me that the best laid plans can sometimes be flushed down the toilet. 2020 has also taught me how to pivot.
I’m looking forward to completing the Woolgathering Series and immersing myself in the world of Writing and Authors.
I’m also looking forward to bringing back SummershotZ this summer after the two year hiatus.
Our kids graduate HS this year. That’s a whole new adventure.

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