Hate, hate and more hate

A child asked me why there was so much hate in America…..a child!!!!

So I looked up hate in America on the Internet where a child could easily access the information.  After the Charlottesville incident, the latest news articles listed what states had the most hate groups and the type of prejudice that they evoked. In fact, Florida was exemplified as one of the worst states for Americans….Americans.. I will state again…not to get along.

You have got to be kidding me!

I went to school in the 1960’s and grew up in a Jewish neighborhood with some of my best friends being Jewish and Black. And thank God in heaven the access to the virtual Internet, social networks and the media that is completely out of control didn’t exist for people to spew their dangerous name calling and insanity. These are virtual friends, for the most part, we may be talking to though I have known real intimate relationships deteriorate because of what that child called….what is it again???….hate. That is what it has become.

Back in the old days…better not say…automatically more grounds for discrimination and maybe hatred, we did not have to constantly verify what was fake news and the truth. And if we did not like someone…or hate someone which will always exist, we didn’t have social networks running with the highly exaggerated opinion or article so that writers could get a viral count in views for their work. Because that is what they want in the long run…they love to see us jump on ourselves, maim and murder others. They are right there to assist in anything that we need.

Hate articles bring in money. Because we read, we think, we have a bad day, think back to someone who we did not get along with in the past, watch more violent videos, suddenly, we too, are on our personal road to destruction. And you know what….hate, emotional pain, depression, animosity brings on the same in our own lives.

We begin to see our jobs suffer, our relationships weaken, our children struggle and illness take on new meaning;  becoming a part of our community, family and friends. All we have to do is read and think anti semetism, white supremacy, racism, KKK and we are creating lives for ourselves that will lack opportunity, happiness and ultimate peace. Wayne Dwyer constantly said what you think about, you create!

We are not Jewish Americans, Black Americans, Mexican Americans, Irish Americans or German Americans, the latter many will call me. I don’t want to be known as a German American. I want to be known as an American that supports her fellow countryman…..that’s a line I haven’t heard in awhile. I want to be someone I can help to improve the lives of others. I want others to feel safe in my community and be understood for there differences. I want to be able to focus on the positive….because guess what, greater gifts are given to me when I can bring a smile to someone that may be living a life much worse than my own.

And I never want to be asked by children why there is so much hate in America. Because I can’t answer that question…nor do I  ever want to!

What professional care giving taught me about marriage

He let me in the door. He looked afraid.

I was a substitute professional caregiver and no one told him I was coming, or he just couldn’t remember, another symptom of progressive dementia. I followed him to the kitchen, sat down at the kitchen table and tried to introduce myself again but he had a difficult time…wondering where Sharon was; his full-time care giver.

I tried to create conversation asking about his family, but he seemed confused. He did have a daughter who was responsible for his care. He must have been having a bad day…he couldn’t remember her either. However, as time wore uncomfortably forward, he did remember. She lived in Colorado or was it Chicago?

In most homes, the refrigerator usually displayed the identifying factors of life, love and the family tree. A colorful ‘Happy Birthday Grandma’ magnet caught my eye but his wife, he explained, had left some years ago though he wasn’t specific on a date, time or year, even whether she had passed away. He did mention that they had done a lot together, his eyes less fearful of his own loss of memory and my reason for being there. He was still not sure.

Though emergency caregivers were always briefed about the client’s condition and a file was present at every home with the most recent documentation, the refrigerator offered a compilation of discovery. It serves as a file of life, the latest pharmacies visited as well as medical clinics and an array of family photos of all generations.

I was told to clean up the bathroom upstairs in this tri-level home so I attempted to do so. But not without his companionship…he was suspicious while I constantly tried to reassure him.

As I began to pass a bedroom, a miniature dark blue Victorian two-story dollhouse with white trim dominating most of the room, caught my attention. It was huge, my eyes wide with excitement since I had a passion for the small and lifelike.

It started with the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago when I was young. The Colleen Moore Fairy Castle, the dollhouse of her dreams and every young girl who spied it, containing over 1500 miniatures; Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill in one room, Cinderella’s drawing room, and King Arthur’s round table in another. Every fairy tale imaginable was displayed in the castle.

This beautiful Victorian sat on a platform that extended pretty much the length and width of the bedroom with workbenches surrounding it along with a few cabinets…low against the walls for materials.

“My wife and I worked on this together,” he spoke in a small, peaceful tone. “We worked on everything together up until the end.”

Each room was intricately decorated with furniture from the 1930’s and 1940’s. Each room was uniquely wallpapered sometimes with wainscoting or borders as he pointed out who did what. There were clocks, and artwork that adorned the walls along with bookcases, removable books, and ornate oriental rugs that covered the floors. He still knew what switches worked as he lit each room; one adorned with a Christmas tree for the holidays, even rooms designated for the grandchildren with dolls and toys.

He described their fascination for completing the house. How they began, their challenges with each room, there determination to work together. And it was then that I glimpsed how the Victorian represented the floor plan of a marriage.

The porch was somewhat empty compared to the rest of the home and he knew I noticed.

“That is where we had to stop…that is when she…” He did not finish his sentence and walked out of the room.

He sat back in his chair in the kitchen, lost in confusion for a brief moment. “Who are you?” He asked again somewhat disturbed and we called his daughter to explain. She was able to get through to him, but during my brief time there, he was quiet, still not sure of the next moment.

Before leaving, I noticed that each room in the dollhouse was still glowing with soft light…even the Christmas tree blinked with color.

“The lights in the dollhouse are still on,” I reminded him.

At first he looked at me with fear, and then his eyes finally relaxed as he thought.

“Maybe I will keep it that way,” he said.

Finally, I got it…my own lights shimmered in realization. The collaboration of the Victorian dollhouse truly defined the magic of what marriage should be.

Not just words of endearment spoken between two on a journey but the action taken to building a meaningful partnership. Enthusiastically addressing the challenges together displayed in various rooms. Passionately obtaining knowledge and recognition to improve each other’s craft.

Not a superficial marriage, as many dollhouses can display, but an ongoing demonstration of how to truly stay in love. Regardless of his Alzheimer’s, he was able to remember the details of his love; offering him peace during moments of question.

Ultimately, he had taught me the true meaning of unconditional love; how it is challenged and how it can be rescued.

In the end, what else matters? I knew then that I wanted to travel the same glorious journey in my own life.

Now, he and his Victorian Dollhouse remind me of my destiny; the beginnings, the struggles, the joy and the finishing touches, as I build my own dreams of love, companionship and total commitment to the one I love.

Picture: Courtesy of the Strong Natural Museum of Play

Favorite Chicago land clubs, taverns and suburban bars: Gone but not forgotten

After exploring extinct restaurant favorites in one article, I decided to check out the bar scene; the gone but not forgotten taverns/clubs in the Chicago land area. Though I don’t drink today, my most frequented places were generally lounges attached to restaurants. I visited my first vodka gimlet and last vodka gimlet at Cavalinni’s in Dolton on Sibley and Chicago Rd. My first was wonderful but after visiting again years later, my last vodka gimlet took everything out of me. I was celebrating a South Suburban College dedication which was once known as Thornton Community College; not knowing I had a serious case of mono. That drink lead me to a doctors visit and was confined to bed for three weeks.

Balducci’s in Willowbrook when my children were little was another lounge/restaurant I liked to frequent with my husband. However, during a Halloween party after trick or treating with my little ones covered in trash bags due to the rain, my stamina was not there. One shot sent me home shivering. Maybe that is why I don’t drink!

After my research, two that I enjoyed during my hayday or whatever it was called was Lassens in Homewood and  Blarneys Island where you traveled by boat to the wild island in Fox Lake. Still open today, Lassens has not changed. Blarney’s Island, located in Grass Lake ,was and still is, the place you wore your swimsuit, danced to local bands , drank alot of beer, always got picked up: catching a ride in a boat. Today, when Blarneys Island is mentioned, I get the usual wide eye looks like you went to that place. Yes, I, too had my moments.

The following gone but not forgotten bars and clubs may bring that smile of oh no, (or oh yes) to your face too!

Nicks Sports Page  was filled with autographed sports stars and pennants because this truly was the American sports bar and only appreciated by the oldtimers from Dolton, Riverdale and South Holland.  For me, Nicks was the best place for a beer and they had excellent hamburgers if you were hungry.

Jukebox Saturday Night had three locations; one on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Oak Forest and Lisle. Lisle is where I went for a casual return to the 50’s with a girlfriend that always said this was the place she could release all tension and get crazy. It was here that we danced are problems away with contests that included the twist and you could show off your expertise with a hula hoop.

Studebakers owned by Walter Payton was located in Schaumburg/Woodfield Commons and was quite a success. People really had fun with an active dance floor, crazy bar attendants and not potentially dangerous in anyway. They closed but opened to another venture-Thirty Fours. All of this between the late 80’s and early 90’s.

PJ Flaretys in Evergreen Park hosted many rock legends that included Three Dog Night, Edgar Winter,Leon Russell,  Rare Earth and the list goes on since they really tried to pack in new local and national talent. They had a capacity for over a 1,000. Blue Oyster Cult played there on Feb 8th, 1992 with a set list till available on line. You had to buy tickets in advance which were only about 10 dollars and 12 dollars at the door.  Today, that would be the cost of your drink.

Poor Richards Pub in Gurnee was a northside landmark finally torn down and located on Grand Avenue. I remember the bar back in the late 70’s and they actually held one of the largest Miller beer accounts. Halloween parties were always fun while always hosting special events.  It was a comfortable place to wind down and meet people.

Last Chance Saloon was a Grayslake institution for nearly 20 years owned by father and son. Again, known for some fun parties that took place surrounding a Western decor. I actually remember making my first toga and toga party at the Last Chance with a date. It is now Emil’s Tavern on Center street.

Finally, Fiddlesticks in Lincolnshire was a place I enjoyed with a square bar where you could sit on one one side and flirt with others, not too far away, but far enough if you decided it wasn’t the right move. A small, crowded dance floor existed behind one end of the bar.  People always talk of the bars that they met their significant other and I, too, met the man I married and had two children in this bar on Olde Half Day Road. He was quiet…not your average flirt who liked to read books on bar stools rather than assume the normal pick up role. And I loved to read.

(Picture:  a Chicago Speakeasy 1920)

The Ghost Army: Hero lives in Arkansas…raised in Kankakee, IL

Born and raised in Kankakee, Illinois, Leslie Gates, 93, currently lives in Arkansas and is finally able to share his astonishing secret. The top secret unit that he was involved in during World War II, the Ghost Army. Officially known as the 23rd headquarters of special troops….Operation Quicksilver.  After D-Day in France and until the end of the war, over 20 battle deceptions were staged very close to the front line deceiving German soldiers and officers between 1944-1945 ending in the Rhine Valley.

A secret for over 40 years, some information still considered classified today, the Ghost Army was finally able to share their personal experiences in the last couple of years. Consequently, able to share the fascinating battlefield illusions they created whose American purpose was to fool Hitler with fake strategic games and theatrical events.

These disguised missions were composed of inflatable tanks and false radio transmissions. Giant speakers were used to broadcast the sounds of men and artillery to make the Germans think that the units were larger and deflect their concentration from other battles. Painters designed hundreds of rubber tanks, jeeps and aircraft. Aircraft could be inflated with gasoline fueled air compressors that looked authentic to Nazi military. They also pretended to be members of fellow units by sewing patches on their uniforms going as far as spending time at French cafes dressed up as Generals. Only the best of actors and creative artists were part of the 1,100 elite men in the Ghost Army.

Les Gates lived on the 400 block of  Harrison street in Kankakee during his childhood and high school years; his father a lifelong resident who worked for the post office. He has visited Kankakee several times and I, too, went back for him; the picture I took where his house once stood bought by one of the churches in the early 1970’s and now torn down.

Les talks about his experiences with the Ghost Army who saved tens of thousands of lives because of their unique deceptions. Les and his one brothers talent was music and composition. In 1938, in Kankakee they formed a band that included the band director from his high school and was sponsored by the Rural Letter Carriers Association of Illinois.

Delighted they were selected to play in Washington DC and it happened that the Hardin Simmons University band was also playing. Les’s brother was offered a music scholarship to attend the University. After attending, Les Gates traveled with his family to visit his brother in Abelene Texas and often played trombone for entertainment there.

Of course, the college heard his brilliance and offered him a scholarship too. However, the war changed all of that.  Beginning his training in the Army, because of his musical talent, he began at Fort McClellan and learned the art of radio dispatch. Voice transmission were not as popular as morse cord and it was the dots and dashes that was clearly easy for him as a trombone musician.

I spent the better part of three years with the 3132nd and 3133rd  signal service companies. I got to the 3132nd from the A S T P program when it was dropped. The 3132nd was the first organization that started training in the art of sonic deception at Pine Camp, N Y . We were all ushered into a room with guards outside the door and we were told we were not to speak to anyone about this. I developed appendicitis at Fort Slocum-Port of demarcation and “missed the boat” and was transferred back to Pine Camp to join the 3133rd. The 3132 operated in the European theater .

The 3133rd went on to Italy and operated there until the end of the war. Both units were reported to have been VERY effective in their operations. There were VISUAL deception units, also, and of course you couldn’t suddenly have a division of armored tanks appear without the appropriate sounds, thus the sonic units were VERY important to the overall operation. We had amplifiers that could , project “sounds” for 5 or more miles, and were very convincing. We could actually bounce speakers off the clouds to get as much distance as possible. The tanks were not just inflatable and if hit by artillery, just pop like a balloon but had a framework of tubes so the enemy could shoot and it would not fall so quickly.

Only a few dozen members of the Ghost Army are still alive throughout the United States as the ranks continue to dwindle.  According to Ghostarmy.org, as of May 2017, bipartisan legislation has been re-introduced in both the House and the Senate to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops for particular recognition. “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign,” In the past eight years,  World War II units including the Native American Code Talkers, Women Air force Service Pilots, the Monuments Men and the Doolittle Raiders have received the Congressional Gold Medal. “The dangerous, life-saving, top-secret work of the Ghost Army is well deserving of similar recognition,” Rep. Kuster says.

Les Gates ended his army experience, actually, as a band man. Since World War II, he has played in numerous bands, concerts, dance bands and symphony orchestras. Since his move 10 years ago to Arkansas he has not played.

I would be incredibly honored to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. Not just for me but for so many of my comrades whose lives were saved. Though at 93, I do hope they make a decision soon.

Please feel free to contact Les if you know anyway to help him and share his story at lesgates@suddenlink.net or me at karlasullivan17@yahoo.com

Fond memories of fine dining: Restaurants now extinct

Fine dining was a special favorite for my Dad and we went to a new place frequently. He was a business owner and that was the way he felt he could thank those that purchased his product. That was the way he thought he could teach his only child manners and grace. Though, I loved to explore new places , it was always the same as far as my food choice, a kiddie cocktail and a steak sandwich/medium rare without the bread. After he passed away, my Mother continued the tradition with me through the decades. Though long gone and my list could go on and on, I just included places that I had visited in the outlining suburbs/towns of Chicago back in the day.

Green Shingle in Harvey had exemplified true love from the early 60’s. It with my first date with my Dad in my best dress, shoes and gloves. It was my first steak sandwich medium rare but would not be last.After my Dad passed away, it was my second date with my college professor who helped to celebrate my birthday with fellow students;  that same college professor who passed away from cancer a few years ago. And finally, a date with my first boyfriend as we first held hands at the candlelit tabkle; killed in a car accident shortly after.

Dunlaps started as a concession but moved in 1937 to its Palos Heights location on 123rd lasting for 60 years. My father owned a business in decorative and auto glass. One of his clients was Dunlaps in which he created the smoked glass that enhanced visitors behind the long, bar still in exquisite condition when the restaurant closed. Even as a child and adult, I remember staring at my self, proud of my family contributing some part to an institution for great food including real relish trays with pickled beets.

Yesteryear in Kankakee,IL was a restaurant situated in the Frank Lloyd Wright home the B. Harley Bradley House located on Harrison Avenue. In the early 1940’s, my Mother lived in Kempton, IL and wanted to go to college. She rented a room from the Gates family who lived in the 400 block of Harrison Avenue  and attended Kankakee’s Business College.  The Gates, George, Ruth  and son Les became her adopted  family until they passed away in the late 1970’s. Les, who is 94, is still alive today. As a very young child, we would walk to Yesteryear which had opened in 1953. As a young adult, I attended a 50th anniversary of a family member from Cullom, IL.

Phil Schmidts, on the border of Illinois in Indiana, had been opened for 97 years . It was a place of many memories that included the celebration of events such as graduation parties. Known for their seafood, their most popular was frog legs and perch. Beginning in 1910 and closing in 2007, also made their own amazing tartar sauce.

The Tivoli on Glenwood Rd in Chicago Heights was also a favorite establishment especially for weddings or other family events. Though older when I visited the Tivoli, I had graduated from a steak sandwich to a wonderful porterhouse they served there and a broiled filet mignon topped with blue cheese.

The Old Barn in Burbank was a beautiful, elegant adventure for me as a child and adult dating back to the 1920’s when it originally was a speakeasy during Prohibition. Another great choice for wedding receptions and family dinners which had closed in 2008 and was 87 years. The Old Barn was especially beautiful during the holidays with leather chairs in the dining area and beautiful sofas and fireplace in the lounge.

Country Squire in Grayslake, IL was originally built in 1938 as the residence of a Sears family member and it was a mansion that became the Country Squire Restaurant in 1954. A breathtaking estate that I enjoyed often as an adult, experiencing on a date and also enjoying a wonderful wedding of a dear friend. I remember celebrating Mother’s Day with my own Mom  as she cried for its beauty and wonderful food.

The Flame, finally, in Countryside became another family favorite celebrating the same Mom’s  65th birthday there with her grandchildren. The restaurant was a classic with another dress me up atmosphere and the best in seafood and steak.  My love still was always steak or a Chateaubriand for two and for Mom, the best orange roughy she had ever tasted!

CHILDREN IN CRISIS:New Book Seeks To Bridge Trauma Gap for Children In Disasters

New Orleans, LA, July 25, 2017– PrepBiz, LLC announces the release of Hopper’s Hurricane Adventure, a first-of-its-kind children’s book aimed at preparing youth ages 5-9 for natural and human-caused disasters. The publication is the first in a series of children’s disaster preparedness books designed to reduce trauma, and provide a kid-friendly, non-threatening approach to teaching young people about disasters.

Children and youth represent a quarter of the U.S. population. Kids are strong and resilient in the face of disasters, often adapting to stresses that weaken most adults, and yet they are also incredibly vulnerable. Young children, in particular, are completely dependent upon many systems in their lives for their survival: their parents, their broader families and communities, the institutions and organizations that care for them and teach them, and the officials and policy-makers who shape their environment.

The Hopper Series focuses on improving the outcomes for children when these systems are disrupted during a disaster. “With the growing number of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, and other natural catastrophes, and the ever-present threat of man-made acts of violence and trauma, children’s preparedness is a priority for survival,” said author Kenneth Bibbins.

A clinical physiologist and entrepreneur, Bibbins is CEO of PrepWorld, LLC, an educational technology company. He led the housing repatriation efforts, providing services for thousands of New Orleans residents returning after Hurricane Katrina. Regarded as a subject-matter-expert on childhood trauma, Mr. Bibbins witnessed first-hand the enormous suffering and trauma from the Katrina disaster, and decided more needed to be done to protect children in disasters. Bibbins previously authored Tired of Diets? Hate Going to a Gym? Want to Lose Weight? Let’s Talk! (2000), which talks about ties between trauma, weight loss, and obesity.

In 2014, he designed and created PrepBiz, a game-based trauma informed educational solution to improve children’s decision making in emergencies.

Hopper is a central character in the PrepBiz suite of products, which Bibbins hopes to release later this year. The full color Hopper’s Hurricane Adventure book provides children with a relatable character they can easily identify with. Hopper is not a superhero, just a normal kid who experiences the onset of a hurricane in his hometown. Books are a tangible way of bridging the gap between preparedness and providing the muscle-memory kids will call upon when faced with the real thing. “Our intent is to reduce unnecessary trauma, and improve resiliency among children, Bibbins said. The Hopper series books are an important step toward achieving that goal.”  The book is available on Amazon Books or through the website at http://www.prepworld.org

FAQs

Why was the Hopper Book created?

With the frequency and intensity of disasters increasing and more kids being affected by school shootings, increasing acts of terrorism, rising crime and the lingering aftermath of both natural and man-made disasters, we face a growing public health crisis caused by trauma that touches us all.

What is the primary purpose of the book?

Given that natural disasters have increased in frequency and intensity, the need for both present and future generations to actively undertake emergency preparedness and hazard awareness activities has heightened in recent years.  The Adventures of Hopper book series provides collaborative guidance in the form of “engagement knowledge” to help kids build confidence when faced with these types of incidents and may help ameliorate psychological morbidity that some youth may experience when faced with a family disruptive tragic event, emergencies, hazards or disaster.

How much does the book cost?

Book 1 entitled “Hopper Faces a Hurricane,” from the “Adventures of Hopper” disaster literacy book series for ages 5-9 cost is $9.99

Is the book available in eBook and print?

Currently the book is available in print and soon on Kindle

Where can I obtain the book?

The Adventures of Hopper book series can be purchased from Amazon under ISBN 9781548651268 Title ID: 7323142

PrepBiz is a private educational technology firm specializing in preparedness products and tools for trauma informed solutions. If you would like more information, please contact Kenneth R. Bibbins at http://www.PrepWorld.org  or email Kennethbibbins@yahoo.com

Best HOPE campaign: Hope’s Front Door

Contributed by Janell Robinson, Executive Director of Hope’s Front Door

On her second birthday, Jill made her first visit to Hope’s Front Door. You see her mother, Teia, lost her job two months ago but has a lead on a new one through an area employment agency.  Jill and her brother, Jon, were as patient as they could be while their mom learned about Hope’s Front Door’s weekly job list and job coaches.

Jill and Jon received new donated Beanie Babies to play with as their mother explained that she was really hopeful the new job would lead to an improved life for her and her children. “Things have started to get tight and this new job could mean stability and better things for the kids; receiving the gas vouchers to go to the interview means a lot to me and my family.” Teia explained.

While the family is hopeful about the future job opportunity, they are still concerned about how to meet financial challenges occurring right now. Jon said he would be in 1st grade this fall and was excited.  Part of helping Jon maintain that enthusiasm for a new school year is making sure he has the tools needed to succeed. But with limited resources, purchasing school supplies can seem daunting. The family will be attending the READY. SET. LEARN! back to school supply giveaway at Hope’s Front Door to make sure the school year starts off on the right foot.

Life was a blur and out of focus for Kayla when she was 16 years old. But with the help from Hope’s Front Door, life became much clearer.

“I have had glasses since the fifth grade. Last year, I outgrew the prescription and they broke. My eye sight was getting blurry when I looked at things. I can see close up, but far away is a problem when looking at chalkboards or whiteboards in the front of the class,” Kayla said.

Kayla’s mom was newly separated and unemployed. So, Kayla tried to make due while her mom looked for a job that would provide insurance. They also waited for their application for Illinois’ All Kids insurance program to be approved, which could take up to 45 to 90 days. She did not want to bother her mom when she knew that money was tight in their household.

“I used to really stress about it myself. It was hard knowing my mom was worried about money and providing for us and looking for work. She’s my mom. I tried to put some of the burden on my own shoulders, so she wouldn’t have to worry. I tried wearing a pair of my mom’s old glasses and that was okay for a while. Then they broke and that was no longer an option,” she explained.

Kim, Kayla’s Mom, came into Hope’s Front Door seeking assistance in search of vouchers for her job search transportation and food for her and Kayla. Not only was she able to receive those items, but an eye exam and glasses for Kayla were provided as well!

During HFD’s Back to School Project, which runs through August, Kayla was also thrilled to have been able to receive school supplies.

“I got pens, pencils and a book bag. I used all of the paper. I at least had something to start out with for the new school year. It’s important to have folders and paper for US History and workshops. It would have been bad to start the first day having to ask another student for

So many of the children who have participated in HFD’s Back to School Project echo Kayla’s comments.

“Thanks to Hope’s Front Doors generosity Kayla, now 17 years old, can see just fine and had the necessary supplies to help her succeed in school. Last year, their investment helped over 1100 area children, kids like Kayla” said Kim.

Hope’s Front Door often acts as a “first responder” to neighbors who are facing financial and/or medical crises. They play an integral role in ensuring the well-being of individuals, families and the overall communities they support. When clients walk through the doors, they determine their immediate needs. They help them with either food, medical, dental and/or transportation vouchers, plus a clear pathway into the network of social agencies that can assist them with the long-term restructuring of their lives, by helping move them out of living a “crisis to crisis existence”.

They serve the homeless, as well as those seeking assistance in six local communities. Childhood hunger is not just something that happens in other cities or counties. One in six children living in DuPage County experiences food insecurity. Everyday Hope’s Front Door provides food vouchers to help area families have access to fresh food.  Over 72,000 live in poverty in DuPage County, once known as a fairly stable employment community, with over 27,000 living in extreme conditions.  Currently,Hope’s Front Door is seeing an 18% increase in the number of children assisted compared to last year.

As a community, we can help children like Jill, Jon and Kayla as their families experience a financial rough patch. By donating to the READY. SET. LEARN! school supply drive you can help Jon and other kids have the things needed to learn on day one.

By giving to the Best HOPE Campaign you can ensure that kids like Jill have access to basic necessities like food, transportation, medication, oral healthcare and eye exams/eye glasses. Please join us at Shanahan’s Food & Spirits (1999 75th St, Woodridge, IL 60517) to support both projects! On August 2nd we will be accepting school supplies…and 20% of the sales from your dining bill, with event flyer, will to help children through the Best HOPE Campaign!

Please join the Best HOPE Campaign to benefit area children. Now until September 30, Hope’s Front Door would like to raise $20,000 to help more than 250 children with food and school supplies as well as access to medication, dental and vision healthcare . . . even financial literacy.

Your donations will make a huge difference in the lives of our neighborhood children! 

For more information on the READY. SET. LEARN! project and Best HOPE Campaign, please visit www.hopesfrontdoor.org.

Chicago land vintage amusement parks

All summers in the 1960’s always included a trip to one of my favorite amusement parks. Only about three or four years old, the first I can remember was to Riverview where I traveled in the tunnel ride with my aunt and got a tiny stuffed animal, a monkey, no less, as a souvenir. One of my father’s favorites was the Kiddieland on 95th street in Oaklawn across from the old Branding Iron restaurant; my parents looking forward to a cocktail and dinner after my rides on the flying planes and the toy boats. The Little Dipper was the best at the Kiddieland in Melrose Park and Adventureland was the largest amusement park in Illinois from 1967-1976. Today, Santa’s village continues to capture the excitement of our children, grandchildren and some great grandchildren. The following offers more historic information on each park and the anticipated adventure every vintage child shared.

Riverview operated from 1904 to 1967….closing over 50 years ago this year. My aunt who took my father to Riverview in the early 1920’s remember him being deathly afraid of what became the most popular ride; the Bobs.  She also told me about her and my uncle Frank in the Tunnel of Love….though harmless for lovers in tunnels. Riverview was located in an area bound on the south by Belmont Ave.,on the east by Western Ave, on the north by Lane Tech High School, and on the west by the North Branch of the Chicago River.

Green Oaks Kiddieland located at 95th and Pulaski Road was the closest for me to visit as a south side child in Chicago and was closed in 1971… now a KMart. Opening in the late 1940’s, it offered all sorts of rides that were great for the very young such as army tanks. a beautiful merry-go round and a small Ferris Wheel which my Mom was always afraid. The Branding Iron restaurant across the street continued on until the 1980’s and had a second location in Downers Grove.  My father loved to bowl so having lunch or dinner at the Branding Iron was a treat since Oaklawn bowl was a part of the establishment.

Funtown Amusement  was located at 95th and Stony originally called Kiddietown. This park used to have a fire truck that would pick kids up for birthday parties. This kiddieland I did visit with my neighbors since it was in the same neighborhood I lived and do remember the moon rocket and go carts.

Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park  at the corner of North avenue and First Avenue was opened in 1929 finally closing in 2009. Now home to a Costco store. It began as a pony ride park and then a few years later, they added miniature gasoline-powered cars  which my family loved. The train, the German carousel and of course, the Little Dipper were my loves. The Little Dipper I could never tire even attending the park with my own children; all of us loving that thrill  when taking off and arriving  back in one piece. It was just enough to ride the coaster over and over again.

Adventureland was originally a restaurant know as Paul’s Picnic Grove and an attraction from 1958-1961 known as Storybook Park. This was the largest park in Illinois until Great America opened in 1976, another an amusement park that deserves its’ own article soon. Adventureland offered numerous rides that included Italian Bumper Cars and the Italian Bobs. But I always wanted to visit the Storybook Park that included Cinderella’s Coach and Prince Charmings Castle.

Santa’s Village, now called the Azoosment park,  is located in Dundee, Illinois, a field trip we would have to plan in advance when I was a child as well as taking my own children. Probably the most fun for myself and family were the bumper cars, twirling inside a snowball during summer and the pumpkin coach. On Memorial Day, in 1959 Santa’s Village opened and many went a few years later to the state of the art ice rink. Over twenty million people have visited Santa’s Village through the decades.

Unemployment can be a blessing

Since the early beginnings of the millennium, I had been in more than one job followed by doing time on unemployment. Being a single mother at the time and sole provider, I had always taken the first job offer to put food on the table.

For most, becoming unemployed is a serious professional crisis that depletes energy, reputation, self-esteem, health and, of course, money but unemployment can be a gift.

Unemployment offers quality time to be there for others in our life who may be suffering from crisis that is much worse than our own. Our purpose is not what we do but what we can do for others.

Maybe it is in the divine plan that we are forced to take a break and focus on what is important. If not a coincidence, then how do you explain the repeated stories of individuals losing jobs only to find themselves taking care of aging and ill parents during their unplanned sabbatical?

One friend admitted about being able to spend time with Mom located in another state, planning and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday and experience her passing shortly after.

Three months after her mother’s death, she was offered a job better than the one before her unemployment.

One of my own unemployment stints allowed me to travel daily and take care of my son who was hospitalized and my Mother, who was in a nursing home, all at the same time. My mother passed away in the month of August and I was offered a position a month later.

Maybe we are rewarded with our return to the workplace because we utilized our vacation time without pay to extend our hearts; a gift of love that keeps on giving love to others.

Ultimately, being unemployed offered me exploration; time to become aware of my own passions and realize that we are meant to utilize our talents with the sole purpose of sincerely guiding others to a better day rather than spend time off strategically figuring out how to win the lottery. Not knocking those that do. If you have the answer to that one, feel free to share.

What talents of my own could I use to reach those goals? For me, it was by being able to write about my struggles in life and career that could express hope in volatile times.

Unemployment allowed me to develop my writing talent and consistent belief about the price of gold in a positive attitude and becoming a true survivor. It was time for me to write about being a true friend. As a result, I have contributed to several publications but my message remains the same; for my readers to believe in their own greatness.

Maybe we are in transition in our career with a job that is not paying the bills and though we keep applying, interviewing, we just never receive the results we expect. Maybe we are suppose to be in that position, not for ourselves, but for the sake of our co-workers who really need us. Another divine purpose we may not recognize.

Small gestures, smiles, words of encouragement, and determination can define the blessings of unemployment. Helping others will find a place of life-time achievement in own our hearts; more important than any other type of awards we could add to our resumes.

It has been said that most in their final days never seem to reminisce or talk about their career, financial accomplishments and wishing for that bigger house….only the love we have shared with others .

Quieting the Storm

After grabbing the key that had been securely hidden from the eyes of most, I unlocked the door and stepped inside. As her professional caregiver, these were the instructions for taking care of her. She would wander the streets if the doors were not locked from the outside.

At first, it was quiet; maybe Emily was asleep and then I heard it.

“I don’t remember, you should know where Dennis lives,” her voice angry and desperate. “That’s why I called you,” she pleaded.

Knowing Emily was on the phone, I followed her anguish to the bedroom. She was pacing back and forth, the cordless in her hand. I noticed that directory assistance was talking to her. Emily had a son who lived in town named Dennis. Her husband of over 60 years was still alive, but recovering from a stroke and currently in a rehabilitation facility.

His absence played more havoc with her dementia, especially shortly before the hours of sundown. Emily’s symptoms of memory loss and confusion were much more enhanced during this time of day.

Gently taking the phone from her hand, I quickly apologized to 411 and put the phone on the receiver. Simultaneously, I grasped her arm, and looked into her eyes.

“I have Dennis’s phone number,” I said, waiting for some recognition before I continued. “Let’s call him”.

“Hi Mom,” he said and assured her that Dad would be home soon. But she would forget, and in a matter of minutes it would have to be repeated. She may not be sure of the time, date or even season. After she hung up, it seemed she had not been satisfied and started to become more agitated. Emily needed constant stimulation.

I got up and removed the painting from the nearby wall. Maybe she could tell me about the majestic movie house called The Chicago Theatre, with 1941 written on the marquee. Built in French Baroque in the 1920’s, the theatre was one of the most lavish in the country; remodeled in the 1980’s. As I brought the picture closer to her eyes, the tension began to fade.

“Oh my,” she started as she began to search for the answer, “My first date with my husband. Oh, he was such a good-looking man. The line of people that night reached all the way around the block to see The Lady Eve.”

Emily couldn’t remember if he was in the military, or his involvement in World War II, but she could remember how he held her hand in that line that seemed to stretch forever.

Giggling and moving closer while grasping my hand, she said, “I could tell he just didn’t have too much experience with the girls like I had with the guys.”

“How could you tell?” I asked.

“His hand was perspiring and shaking,” she laughed again.

“And you hooked him for sixty years…I imagine!”

“I knew he was the one the first night. He gave this painting to me for our anniversary.” She responded tenderly.

“Which anniversary?”

“I have no idea,” she giggled, “there were so many!”

Later, I found her wedding picture; a breathtaking bride with large eyes, dark hair and beautiful smile. But Emily seemed more interested in talking about her mother, after eyeing this photograph, who did not see her dressed in white because she had passed away before her marriage.

“My mom passed away just a few years ago,” I commented.

“You have a Dad,” she stated matter of fact.

“No, he is gone too.”

“Brothers and sisters?”

“Only child.” Emily just couldn’t fathom a 50+ woman to be the only one and parentless.

“I do have two children. I am a Mom like you too.”

That didn’t matter much to her; it was about who was going to take care of me. She asked if I was hungry…most mothers do. Her vivid heart and mind remained cognizant, regardless of the disability, of her partner’s love and parental obligation.

Love always somehow survives in the end. Every time I visited as her caretaker, we did it all again; sometimes the phone call, the Chicago theatre and their wedding. Always before leaving, she asked if she could cook me something to eat.

However, one Monday the routine had changed; allowing an astounding new journey to begin. Her son had told me that his daughter had just gotten married and because Emily was not in the best condition to attend the wedding, they brought the party to her the Saturday before. Emily dressed in her finest while receiving the wedding party, between the service and reception, in her living room.

New pictures were shared in front of the family fireplace; cake was cut and served along with dribbles of champagne. As I viewed the new pictures, the bride and grandmother shared the same tears.

On that autumn afternoon, with brilliant color shading the home, Emily displayed a new color in her cheeks and vibrancy in her eyes. This time she remembered every exciting detail of blossoming new love in front of her own fireplace that weekend; just like her own in first encounter in 1941.

(Originally published in Maria Shriver’s Architect of Change- Taking care of those with Alzheimers/2013http://archive.mariashriver.com/quieting-the-storm-karla-sullivan/