Notes from my Minivan: The Path to Vibrant Communities


I spend a lot of time in my minivan driving four kids here and there, there and here. It’s one of the few places where I can actually think, sometimes. These are my thoughts, scribbled on napkins and receipts—a look into raising kids and living in Lake County.

Note: all opinions belong to me and only me and do not reflect those of our advertisers, partners, or other writers.

notes from my minivan

Over the last five years, my city girl heart has been courted and wooed by my suburban home. The quiet nights, the massive garages (that I don’t pay monthly for!), the fenced-in yards. There is just one area that is so frustrating it makes me want to pack up my bags and head back to the city or run for local office;


Now I knew moving to the suburbs that I would be sacrificing walkability. In the city, a day of errands meant walking, not driving, but not being able to walk to a neighborhood park. A park I can see? Maybe America’s obesity epidemic is because we’ve decided that sidewalks are…are what? A safety concern? Too expensive? In my neighborhood, we have some sidewalks, and I am thankful for the ones we have, albeit frustrated that we can’t walk to nearby places because one block here or there doesn’t have sidewalks.

I think even more frustrating is the complete lack of respect for the sidewalk. I sometimes feel like most of the population would prefer to have people not walk in front of their house.


Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandma’s house. Unlike us, she lived in a neighborhood with rows of houses and sidewalks. I loved her community. Neighbors knew me; police waved as they drove by, everyone said hi. I didn’t know who lived underneath us in our building in the city.

Vibrant neighborhoods, communities are built on this foundation. Simply seeing your neighbors, so you know who they are, a head nod, a hello. You would be surprised how far a tiny action can go to making another person’s day or making a block feel like a community. Branches left on paths, cars parked across the sidewalk, overgrown bushes – these all say Get Out! Keep Away! Get lost!

We want communities that thrive, neighborhoods that feel homey -like people are looking out for one another. That starts with clearing the path (if you have one) and using it. Talk a walk around your block, say hello to those you see: walkthrough your downtown and window shop, chit-chat with the store owners. The heartbeat of a community isn’t in the clogged arteries of the roadway. It’s in the smaller vessels and paths spread throughout it.

Is your neighborhood walkable? Do you walk it? Why or Why not?

Notes from my Minivan: The Path to Vibrant Communities
About Melissa Haak 626 Articles
Melissa is mom to 4. She used to dream of traveling the world, now she dreams of a clean kitchen. She can be found on most social media sites as @PBinmyHair because with this much hair and four kids, you're bound to find something in it.


  1. We are very walkable where we are – with sidewalks in most places and our local schools are primarily walkers. BUT interestingly enough, the frequency with which people choose to walk in the (middle of the) street instead of on the existing open sidewalk flummoxes me. We do periodically have cars that block sidewalks, but our local police stringently ticket for this, which means it doesn’t happen all that often. We purposely moved somewhere that would provide us with sidewalks because it’s important to me to be able to walk and to teach my kids that it’s important to walk, too. We can’t walk to our elementary school, but they’ll be walking the mile or so to middle school and to high school soon.

  2. I live in an old neighborhood…we don’t have sidewalks in the actual neighborhood but once I get to the main road (about 1/2 mile) there are sidewalks that take me into town, to all the parks, the pool, etc…. I don’t touch my car at least 2 days a week, instead getting everywhere via bike or foot & stroller.

    I used to drive to a large neighborhood with sidewalks to run, thinking it was safer. In truth, half the sidewalks were blocked by massive SUV’s that don’t fit in driveways. Therefore, I ran in the road. Where I was stuck by a car. Yep, so frustrating that even when we have them, they are treated right!

  3. The old neighborhood where I lived in Grayslake actually ADDED sidewalks to the 60 year old neighborhood.
    I used to walk my then baby daughter in her stroller on the streets praying that we wouldn’t get hit by a car.
    Of course they added the sidewalks AFTER we moved.
    So for a year, I would go back, park my car at a nearby park and go for an hour run in my old neighborhood on those sidewalks while my youngest was in preschool.
    It was my favorite part of the week.
    I should go back ……

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