Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd opened on May 30, 1932 and for some time it has been the largest indoor facility in the world. I vaguely remember trying to catch site of the floating seahorse with plants in the background which was new to the Shedd back in the 1960’s; it is home to many species. The highlights for me was the beluga whale or the sharks. I loved watching the trainers giving toys to the whales. The Caribbean Reef exhibit was built in 1971, making me approximately 15 years old then, on the site of the aquarium’s very first exhibit, the Tropical Pool. A feature of this exhibit is a diver that interacts with the animals while talking with the people. A part of the exhibit is a 90,000-US-gallon (340,000 l) circular tank that allows for maximum walk-around viewing. My own daughter was going to be a dolphin trainer or a marine biologist which she never became after bringing her to visit in the 1990’s. We loved spending time checking out the beautiful Chicago lakefront and eating lunch on the outdoor patio.

Shedd Aquarium was the gift of retail leader John G. Shedd, a protégé of Marshall Field (benefactor of the adjacent Field Museum), to the city of Chicago. Although Shedd only lived long enough to see the architect’s first drawings for the aquarium, his widow, Mary R. Shedd, cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony. Shedd has expanded twice, with both additions carefully respecting the original architecture that earned the aquarium a National Historic Landmark designation. The modernistic Abbott Oceanarium, which opened in 1991, was linked physically and philosophically to the original structure by using the same white Georgia marble on its exterior. Wild Reef, which opened in 2003, was constructed 25 feet below street level under the original south terrace.

Today at Shedd ,you should check out the Giant Pacific Octopus. The average arm span is 14 feet. With no bones to encumber it, however, this soft-bodied animal can slip through a hole no larger than its hard beak—2 inches or less. It’s also great at camouflage, blending its color, texture and shape into the seascape to ambush fishes, crabs and other prey. Watch them feed the sharks. Bearing horns and hammers, stripes and spots, sharks come in all shapes and sizes. They’re found in every ocean, in habitats ranging from shallow tropical reefs to the deep, cold seafloor.

Christmas reflections 2021

By Caryl Clem

Holiday’s allow us to travel through time

Bouncing back and forth between then and now

Cherished Christmas tales lit by fireplace flames

Imagination casts a spell over moonlit lawns

As children fight sleep to spy

Or hear the whisper of a silent sleigh

Pulled by reindeers hooves on frozen stardust

Trails in the starlight sky

Shining proof he has stopped by

Musical bells heard below

Blend with Secret Santa’s HO! HO! HO

Every tradition and custom feels brand new

Timeless wonder the magic surrounding Christmas

Another year passes with grace

As we reflect on the love in our lives

Eager to begin another year

Celebrating promise and hope

Stepping forward into a Happy New Year.

Pretty soon you will hear them prancing!

She found the book a few days ago; sharing her memory as well as my own. Twenty one years ago, my daughter wrote a Christmas poem, given to her teacher at Indian Trail school in Downers Grove to be submitted to the Anthology of Poetry since she loved writing. Though at times, I wonder if it was me more excited about my love of writing; guiding her my way. However, both of us strongly remember sitting on the bed working and I think there was a great deal of time spent at dining room table where arts, crafts and homework always took precedence.  I, too, had published in poetry anthologies and now they were looking for young writers. If hard to read in the picture, the copy of the poem is written in this article.

The poem was accepted in the 2001 addition. The editors accepted the poems in their format and punctuation; extending a warm thank you to those they selected as well as expecting great things from them in the future. Just being able to spend a wonderful time with my daughter then and appreciating her love now is what I call a great things in the future that the editor had hoped for all who had been published in the book.

Anthology of Poetry still exists since their first publication in 1990. Working with elementary, middle school and high school teachers throughout the United States, the AOP offers a professional forum for students’ poems and short stories. They also engage teachers in the selection process for our Teacher’s Selection anthologies. We recognize how challenging it is to develop a love for reading and writing in students when there are many distractions and few tools.

Christmas

Hang the stockings

Trim the tree

Make snowman cute as can be

Watch the snowflakes fall to the ground

Grab your boots and let’s run around

Drink hot chocolate from a Christmas cup

Build a fire to warm you up

Check the sky for Santa’s sleigh

He sure won’t be far away

Very soon you’ll hear them prancing

Santa’s reindeer will be dancing

The time has come for you to hear

Santa Claus’ jolly old cheer

You leave your room to sneak some peeks

At the man with the big red rosy cheeks

He piles packages under the tree

And turns around to smile at me

Then we go to find a treat

And we both sit down to drink and eat

When he is ready to leave I go to bed

And out of my window I see his fabulous sled

From high in the sky he waves goodbye

Until next year comes for my friends and I!

Home alone and more of John Hughes

It had occurred to me to write about this Chicago based movie last year since in 2020 we would be celebrating its movie anniversary, produced in 1990 but the draft had been put on hold. Everybody was writing about the infamous movie’s anniversary. Then I talked to a student at school this month and he could not stop talking about his field trip from Downers Grove, Il to the northside. He wrote about it in his first grade journal. He saw the Home Alone house! The Home Alone house is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois. and so I pulled some pictures online for him to verify. Oh my,,,,that was it though I had to be extremely careful. He knew the difference between older pictures of the home that did not have a fence around the house. The fence was fairly new to the property; keeping current onlookers at a distance.

My 30 + year old daughter and I have taken several field trips to the house too; some years ago with Starbucks in our hands. No fence! Home alone was and still is one of the favorite movies in our family. My daughter became a connoisseur of John Hughes films especially produced in Chicago. Another family favorite was Sixteen Candles is a 1984 American coming-of-age comedy film starring Molly RingwaldMichael Schoeffling, and Anthony Michael Hall. It was written and directed by John Hughes in his directorial debut. In 1985, he produced the Breakfast Club. It stars Emilio EstevezAnthony Michael HallJudd NelsonMolly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy as teenagers from different high school cliques who spend a Saturday in detention with their authoritarian assistant principal. (Paul Gleason). Again, we traveled to Maine North High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, which had been closed in May 1981 and filming took place here for the Breakfast Club and Molly Ringwalds home in Sixteen Candles. Again, Sixteen Candles was mainly filmed in the north suburbs of Chicago. The Baker house is located at 3022 Payne Street in Evanston. The church (Glencoe Union Church – 263 Park Avenue) and parking lot where the final scenes take place are in Glencoe. Glencoe has become our favorite spot for a field trip to walk the beach.

Home Alone premiered on November 10, 1990, in Chicago, and entered wide release in the United States on November 16, 1990. With a total gross of $476.7 million, it was the highest-grossing live-action comedy until 2011. An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. Home Alone has won one award after another and considered one of the best Christmas films of all time. A sequel, Home Alone 2, Lost in New York was released in 1992. According to NBC Chicago, this year you can actually book a one night stay at the Home Alone house this holiday season. This can be found on Airbnb’s website for only 25 dollars but you must pay for travel expenses to Chicago.

The wonderful world of untapped innocence in the classroom

One kindergarten student was visiting a classroom and having such a terrible moment in class that within five minutes of him crying, two other kindergarten children gave him their special classroom rewards they had just received from their teacher.

For the last 40 days of school, a first grade student always makes sure the special needs child is securely sitting in their carrier seat on the bus and and tries to cheer him if he is having sad day.

Julie always helps five-year old Amanda on the playground when swinging on swings or going down the slide just to make sure she is having fun safely.

Five year old John helped another another boy, Tom, who was angry, pick up blocks that he had thrown so that Tom would have a better day.

Seven -year old Mary made a special picture for her friend that is very sick and was not instructed to do so. This gesture was created during indoor recess at school.

One boy always makes sure a friend that is new to school finds the right classroom he is in everyday.

Mira always asks another to play with her at recess or when they have a break because the other one feels left out.

Robert struggles with assignments but will sit and concentrate for a long time reading The Pigeon has to Go to School and many of the Mo Willems books as a special treat with his teacher.

A second grade student, Elisa shared her favorite book patiently with a first grader and helped her improve her reading, reading some words for her and sounding out others. She asked if she could help her in the future if she needed assistance.

Sheri McCabe, fourth grade instructional assistant, made a great Wonder Wall last year for a student she was working with and learned about the teaching idea from others on the Internet. She wanted to use it again so she put it in the room she is working in this year. She told the class about. Whenever they have a question about something they wonder about, they can put the questions on a post it and put it on the wonder wall and they will discuss them once a week. Sheri went back to the class a couple hours later and all these post it’s were up on the wall. Here are the questions they asked: How does it feel to be blind? I wonder how a rocket blasts off? Why is there school? Who made books? How do you drive a car? How is candy made? Do plants fart?

It doesn’t get much better than this. God bless them all!!!

I

It only takes one…….

As I was sharing my story about Prairie Avenue to the many Facebook sites, I was thinking about my cousins comment to me when I would become discouraged. It only takes one to read your story and become inspired. Right at that moment when God’s angel was reminding me, someone wrote a response on how she enjoyed all of my stories of Chicago field trips. All? It can also take one negative comment… why I write without getting paid more. My passion…..do ya think?  What are other examples of… it only takes one…. to positively change your attitude? Read on…..

After years of infertility and sickness, they found a lady had only three mature eggs. One was fertilized. The miracle egg became the perfect baby. It only takes one!

After years of addiction, he finally quit and remained sober meeting the love of his life.

After a few years in a public school, a child was not doing well. A change to a smaller, private setting was a much better venue and the student prospered. She became a teacher. She became a principal.

She had lost her family to death, as well as her job and really wanted a new start. She moved to the state she had always dreamed and her life changed for the better.

Sometimes, it takes just one phone call, email or conversation to open new doors of hope.

Sometimes it just takes one smile on someone’s face.

What about that son, daughter or loved who says just the right thing at just the right time?

What about the one friend that has known you for decades and all of sudden shows up in color or in a message?

And what about your Mom or Dad telling you how proud they were of you before passing away many years ago?

Maybe it is the phantom driver behind you who paid for your lunch in the McDonalds drive through line that made a difference in your life.

Let’s not forget the people who shoveled your driveway after a massive snowstorm while you slept and never let you know who did the work.

Or the plumber that changed out a toilet for free after a huge leak on the weekend and no one was there to help.

Even the dentist who fixed a partial denture that had a chip for no charge because he knew your insurance would not pay.

And what about that one email from Chicken Soup of Soul that tells you they are going to publish your story and the book arrives in print.

The man that was dying of cancer with no hope from any physician meets a friend at a high school reunion who is a doctor that specializes in his type of cancer. The man is still alive many years later.

How about the man that could not stand to watch his wife of 50 years die; her health had been failing for months but kept hearing a voice saying he would be okay and when she died, he heard her voice saying that she was great.

Or the millions of angels stories out there of tragic accidents being halted.

When you have been told that as a teacher, you have been an Angel to their child, you finally put your decisions in God’s hands.

And sometimes, it only takes ……that one prayer.

National Stress Month

By Caryl Clem:

April is a National Stress Awareness month, ironically during a time America is facing the most traumatic event in decades. As uncomfortable as you may currently feel staying home, flip your feelings using this time to your advantage. Everyone has a story to tell about their experience. Telling your story releases the pent up emotional baggage, reducing stress while increasing brain activity according to research from Harvard. Writing or taping personal experiences turns your brain on to creating a cause effect scenario. ‘Stories are the way we understand and make sense of the world we find ourselves in.’ says Clare Patey, Director of the Empathy Museum.

Creating a story folder could combine your feelings and images. Keep the stories short, they provide a future window to revisit how you faced the pandemic. I remember finding an antique food stamp book in my Mother’s dresser drawer. I had no clue what feelings surrounded this relic. I wrote about how I changed during this time. When I couldn’t fall asleep, I started cleaning blinds at 1 a.m. Never in my life have I tackled a job I hate the most to get so tired I would fall asleep. A friend of mine called ,she felt she was living in a science fiction fantasy, driving down an empty street with empty stores. Years from now these stories will breathe life into the pictures being taken.

During the 1930’s, America was recovering from the epic Depression Era. A phrase heard on the street reflecting the economy was,” Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”. This meager amount could buy a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, or a gallon of gas. Couples would gather to share a pot luck dinner and play a game. A popular game was buying and selling real estate, invented by Elizabeth Magie in 1903. There were no written rules, game procedures traveled by word of mouth. A frequent player of this game, Mr. Darrow, unemployed, low on funds, asked his friend to write the rules down. Darrow sold these rules to Parker Brothers. The allure of wealth and power skyrocketed, Monopoly, into a financial success.

A common theme in games is overcoming hardship. If you feel creative, design your own board game that mirrors surviving with practices of stay at home and social distancing. Design a card deck with short examples given either positive or negative points. Running out of food, lose 5 points, utility bill forgiven, 10 extra points, sunny, warm day to walk the dog 5 extra points, free pizza with delivery coupon, 10 extra points are examples of what is possible.

Volunteer work accomplishes releasing stress reducing body chemicals. Health care professionals are notoriously independent. If you know one, reach out and ask if you can help by doing laundry, shopping for groceries, checking on an older person they know, preparing food for their families. These saints among us don’t have the time or energy to conduct their lives normally. Food pantries are short on help. The key to managing stress is STAY POSITIVE. Relish creating memories your family can look back on in the future.

The Good Old Days: Grandparents and Thanksgiving

Kempton was always known as the small town with the big heart; the town of my mother’s family beginnings; her grandparents, my grandmother who had passed away in 1958, aunts, uncles and my great aunt, Lulu Pearl. My earliest memories of Kempton were on Thanksgiving Day at Aunt Lu’s two bedroom corner, blue cottage neatly painted in white trim. A vegetable garden was meticulously maintained in the back with her specialties of beets and tomatoes while well-trimmed shrubs surrounded the foundation of the home.

Coming from the city, my immediate family was always the first to arrive while Aunt Lu called the others to join us on her believe it or not box phone with crank and real receptionist named Jenny. That gave me plenty of time to cut out the latest Betsy McCall and her clothes. After the rest of the family arrived, we took our places behind the long table in the dining room eating from her blue willow dishes. Pumpkin pie was always her winning recipe.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving break is Grandparents Day at school; a wonderful time for those traveling to see their grandchildren. For our district, Grandparents Day is usually one of the biggest attended events with just grandparents…not sons or daughters who have kindergarten or early elementary children. Just for Grandma,  Grandpa and Grand friends…sometimes Aunts or Uncles if Grandma can’t attend. Over 300 attended today. Many become new Grandparents on that day for children who do not have a guest. A study out of the University of Oxford found children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are better able to cope with traumatic life events, like a divorce or bullying at school.

Though she never learned to drive, Aunt Lu would find her way to our house in the city by my cousin every summer. I could always count on a game of Yahtzee every time I offered and she always made the best fried potatoes in town. Because of unpredictable weather, the winter months were generally confined to her little town in Kempton but one year she came to stay and had arrived two days after Christmas. It was unusual for her to venture out in the cold months but my father was in the hospital. Children were not allowed to visit during the 1960’s and Aunt Lu felt she could help.

During her first night’s visit, the phone had disturbed our usual game of Yahtzee and after that I found that Aunt Lu could offer so much more than games. It was a nurse from the hospital; my father had passed away. Though I was 12 and tried to be adult, Aunt Lu let me cry as long as it took, keeping her arms around me, never tiring or disturbing me from my tears. What incredible timing for Aunt Lu’s calming patience in such a terrible storm. Ten years later, Aunt Lu passed away after passionately celebrating her 90th birthday with her family.

Today, I appreciate the towering strength she provided that day and the strenuous days that followed; never perceiving the no pomp and circumstance woman as one of the most salient women I was blessed to know. And I try to follow her loving example everyday reminding myself that every tragedy as has a reason.

Happy Thanksgiving!

50th Woodstock Anniversary

I really wanted to go in 1969. I still want to go in 2019. Back then, I picked out the shirt I would wear for three days;  a peasant blouse with puffed sleeves that was an orange color with yellow flowers. But nobody asked me to go with them. I was too young to drive, just graduating from junior high. I knew one acquaintance that was going but he was much older who had been drafted to Vietnam. He didn’t want some kid in his car and my mother would not let me go anyway.

Many felt the same way as I did but no one ever expected the numbers that showed up and that Woodstock 1969  would be considered the greatest festival of all time.Only two people died at Woodstock 1969 though over 80 were arrested on drug charges and we did see the news reports on TV. Because of the torrential rains, many adults considered it a disaster and local businesses were threatening lawsuits, but the kids, as they were called, were happy. The bands were just beginning with the exception of Joplin and Hendrix. Carlos Santana was only about 13.  Now, the grounds are the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts; considered a National Historic site. No festival has been the same since. They have tried numerous Woodstock festivals through the decades and they just didn’t work.

Woodstock was a music festival held between August 15–18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, it was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock. The festival was headlined by legendary performances of Joe Cocker, Hot Tuna (Jefferson Airplane), Starship (Jefferson Airplane), Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald, Richie Havens, Melanie, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Levon Helm (The Band), Arlo Guthrie, John Sebastian, Leslie West Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, and Santana. Santana will be playing at the 50th in Bethel.

There are two festivals that are gaining popularity throughout the country to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Woodstock 50 is a planned American music festival, scheduled to be held on August 16–18, 2019, at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Supposedly a free concert supported by Michael Lang, line up is not official and some have dropped out.

Bethel Wood Center for the Performing Arts on the original 1969 Woodstock site is  constantly holding concerts, festivals; a year round center for events, programs inspiring others in the arts as they are a (501) (3) (C) Arlo Guthrie will perform on the festival field, 50 years to the day that he played Woodstock. Guthrie’s performance will be followed by a screening on the field of the Woodstock documentary. Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band will perform on Aug 16th at the Bethel Woods pavilion. Woodstock veterans Edgar Winter and Blood, Sweat and Tears are also performing that night. On Aug. 17, Carlos Santana will return to Bethel for a show that will feature the Doobie Brothers as the opening act.

The still married, husband and wife pictured on the iconic album cover wrapped in a blanket will also be attending the 50th Bethel Woods festival.

My daughter walked the grounds of Bethel Woods on a trip to visit family a few years ago; a man who worked there attended  the original Woodstock and showed her where Jimmy Hendrix played. “An old man,” she said. Ah, Yes…that is what we have become. At that time, the grounds were quiet but she was impressed since she has been a follower of rock and roll beginnings.

Though, I have not gone yet, that’s what I want to do….soon. Not necessarily to listen to music, but to spend that quiet moment just to see, to relive the news reports, to imagine, the peace, the love and a vision of my young self in the pretty peasant shirt I had picked out sitting and experiencing such a treasured moment in time……..50 years ago.

 

 

 

A special trip to Chicago’s Our Lady of the Angels

Of course, what comes to mind for many of you my age and older, is the tragic school fire on Dec 1. 1958 at Our Lady of Angels school in West Humboldt Park. I was only three when my mother began to cry when watching the news. But I will never forget. Being taught fire safety in elementary school, teachers always referred to the horrific event that killed 92 children, three nuns and hundreds who walked away with significant injuries. Consequently, the fire did lead to major fire reforms in schools throughout the country and over 60 years later, you rarely hear of a child being hurt in a school fire.

Over decades, I have visited the neighborhood, saying a prayer, feeling the unrest and watching the massive decline. If you or your family were not involved in the fire, you certainly knew someone on the street that you lived who may have lost a child. The pain was too great and many moved on to begin a new start. In the late 1960’s, blockbusting occurred in many parts of the city where real estate practices essentially forced whites from their homes to create high housing prices for blacks. Whites also took the jobs with them and blacks were unemployed. Our Lady of the Angels couldn’t survive and the parish closed in 1990.

The school closed as a Catholic school first but was a charter school until approximately 2017 when given back to the Franciscans at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels . Fr. Bob Lombardo came to Chicago in 2005, at the special request of Cardinal George, to set up a mission outreach to help the poverty- stricken neighborhood that struggle with gang infiltration and drug trafficking on Chicago’s west side; one of the most violent areas in the country.

Many may not realize that  Fr. Bob erected the first on-site outside memorial for the victims of the tragedy, which was blessed by Cardinal George in 2007. He is a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. In Chicago, Fr. Bob has functioned as the founder/ director of the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, founder/ superior of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, a newly established religious community of young men and women living and serving at the Mission of Our Lady of Angels.

Fourth of July weekend I visited their monthly food pantry with an added bonus in which they gave away 80 mattresses for those in the community. They provide fresh produce, non perishable food, clothing, and household goods to about 250 families each month at their Mobile Pantry. They have 75+ volunteers that help and you can sign up at any time. Families can take a cart filled with food and volunteers will help walk the family to their homes as long as it is within a block from the pantry. But the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels does so much more.

The Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago are an extremely educated and talented group who have been invited to take part in pilgrimages throughout the world. In the beginning, Fr Bob graduated from Notre Dame University in 1979 with an accounting degree and worked at Price Waterhouse. It was shortly after when he found his calling to become a Franciscian and a priest with over 30 years of religious experience.

Sister Kate, originally a nurse, talked about her humbling experience working in the community and their excitement in being able to renovate the school for more program space and retreats. The Church currently provides Eucharist adoration as well as neighborhood prayer services while the original Convent houses the female Franciscans and their offices. The rectory currently houses Fr. Bob and the male Franciscans. Kelly Hall hosts their monthly food program as well as senior programs. And they have received incredible donations that have allowed them to re-build and continue their unwavering commitment to help others. It not easy being who they are, but their graciousness towards others is genuine, constant and truly God’s gift to all of us.

Those who believe that all was ultimately lost in that community after the unforgettable fire…..maybe not. For the Franciscans do pray for those lost in 1958 and their survivors. But their current passion is not giving up on their mission to improve the lives of others they meet today; reminding us who is always in charge with them.

They improved my life in just a few hours and maybe the blessings of the community angels……. many so young…… are assisting the Franciscans to trust and always have faith in God’s timeless love.