Watching the skies on July 4th

By Caryl Clem:

Night’s opaque curtains close

Across America, waiting, watching

For the breathless spark igniting

 July 4th’s freedom show.

Searing red, white, blue flashes

Breaking the darkness into pieces.

Shattering the cloud of Britain’s domination

Our Forefathers wisdom illuminated citizen voices

A government shaped by rebels

Breaking bonds with outdated norms.

A continual battle seeking balance

Citizens united and divided under one flag

Feeling inspired by the fireworks

Aspiration’s symbols showering bright energy

Washing away the fear of a dark night

Observers, our marbled veined granite foundation   

Sharing Hope to strengthen our country’s diversity.

Chicken Soup of the Soul: Navigating Eldercare and Dementia

I did not even know when I would begin reading the book of 101 true stories, including one of my own, describing the written contributions of those who have experienced dementia and eldercare in some way or another. Many writers are family detailing the devastating effects of illness through caretaking. I didn’t know if I wanted to experience the depression that stories like these usually create. I was on vacation! But this week, I began to read and the first narrative was absolutely beautiful; eloquently comparing the decline of a mother to Alzheimer’s like an Autumn tree. From that story on, I could not put this book down and was truly honored to become a member of the Chicken Soup of the Soul family.

Chicken Soup of the Soul shares some amazing stories of hours, days, years, and sometimes a lifetime, of navigating the world of eldercare and dementia. Stories talk about how eldercare can be like a disconnecting phone line but not steal one’s spirit. They share their experience of that last, gleaming smile of a loved one. Stories relate how choices of new places are never easy but the impressive communities of assisted living are available.

Some stories help us empathize that special walk down memory lane. They talk of the loss of one parent while the other completely declines in health and it takes a village of caregivers to help. How simple notebooks, coloring books, special games, phones or IPads have made a difference. Stories share the beauty of music, projects created and, ultimately, reinventing purpose. Humor is related in stories about missing teeth and snoring. Many stories just focus on having a good day and embracing love.

But, most important, they really inspire support and hope in helping readers who may feel alone while empowering them in their role as a caregiver. Chicken Soup of the Soul: Navigating Eldercare and Dementia is currently available for purchase at a variety of retailers. Check out there website for more information. I have spent many years as a Chicken Soup of the Soul reader and since there beginnings, they have published over 250 books. However, I had forgotten their motto, Changing Your World One Story At Time…..that they have truly done…once again.

The amazing life of Miss Frances

I don’t remember her since I was only about 3 or 4 but my Mother, who died the same year in 2001, did not like her because she always told the children on television to run and find their mother. And that is what I did, supposedly, every time I watched her. Miss Frances would then discuss with Moms what supplies were needed for projects. Miss Frances was the host of the children’s television program Ding Dong School, seen weekday mornings on the NBC network in the 1950s and nationally syndicated between 1959 and 1965. Each began with the ringing of a handbell. Miss Frances Horwith was extremely bright and grew up in Ohio skipping many grades because of her intelligence and love of academics.

She came to Chicago and earned her Bachelors degree from the University of Chicago in 1929. She taught first grade from 1929-1932 at a school in Evanston. According to sources, she then became the supervisor of the Works Progress Administration‘s nursery schools in Chicago until 1935. She earned a Masters at Columbia University, directed junior kindergartens and became Dean of education at Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus Teachers College. Finally, she earned a doctorate at Northwestern and was in variety positions as a Chicago school counselor positions and taught at Roosevelt University.

Ding Dong School was a half hour children’s TV show which began in Chicago in 1952 and the first pre-school series before Romper Room by one year. Just after the show aired for the first time, the station received 150 phone calls praising the show. She was the only one on air admired by Fred Roger and activities could range from modeling clay to finger-painting. She had over a million viewers and won the Peabody Award but the show was cancelled because she refused to commercialize childrens education.

She was the author of over 25 children’s books and had moved to Arizona since her husband was having health issues in the 1970’s A month before her death, Horwich was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of the Television Arts and Sciences on June 2, 2001. She died of congestive heart failure at the age of 94.

Good Old Days: Strange parallels with 1918 and the Asian Flu in 1957

My grandmother had saved 50+ copies of these comics in the 1950’s. She, too, was a published writer for a newspaper and artist. As I searched through the copies this week, I found a group called Miserable Moments, having no idea that this comic, written by Erwin L Hess, described the Spanish flu from 1918 comparing to the new pandemic of 1957 that was just beginning. The grandfather talks about 1918 when churches, school and theaters were closed…most people still getting it regardless of wearing mask. The author also talks about the flu which would probably get them in October, 1957 when this was published.

The “Asian flu” was the second major flu pandemic outbreak of avian influenza(H2N2) that originated also in China early 1956 lasting until 1958. It originated from a mutation in wild ducks combining with a pre-existing human strain. The virus was first identified in Guizhou. By June 1957 it reached the United States. Some of the first affected were United States Navy personnel at destroyers docked at Newport Naval Station, as well as new military recruits elsewhere. 

The first wave peaked in October which he talks about in the comic and the second wave, in January and February 1958 among elderly people, which was more fatal. It was spread among children but not harmful to them.The vaccine was available from October 1957 in the United Kingdom in small quantities but once sent to the US, it was effective. According to sources, about 100,000 people died in the US and almost two million died world wide but considered the worst flu epidemic. Some only experience mild symptoms such as a mild cough, fever while others developed severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia. 

Comic artist Erwin L. Hess (1913-1999) featured nostalgic memories in his popular newspaper comic panel The Good Old Days. His detailed art combined with easily-recognized themes from American family history resonated with readers who grew up in small towns and farms across the country. The Good Old Days was published from 1946 to 1981.

After reading about the history of the Asian flu and the onslaught of H1N1 in 2009, one report commented about in spite of the scare stuff in the lay press. When it comes to social media and the news emphasizing fear over faith, some things never change.

Backwards Day…January 31,2020

By Caryl Clem:

Recall old sayings,” Absence makes the heart grow fonder “or “You don’t miss it until it’s gone.”   Try turning back the clock and live Backwards Day on 1/31/2020 in a different decade.  Pick a time period before cell phones, or the internet.  Remember the 1970’s when a phone call could still mean being put on hold and you were trapped to a phone plugged into a wall? Your fingers went in circles or pounded on numbered squares.  Advertisements chanted, “Let your fingers do the walking”.  Convenience offered by a touch screen wasn’t available before the IBM Simon in 1992.  Phones did not fit in your purse or pocket.

If you want to feel out of touch and out of the loop, try surviving your day without the computer. The driving force behind most activities today is the computer. Computer data use did not include the World Wide Web until after 1991. If email and social contacts rule your day, pretend you are living before 1993.  Two giants that dominate sales by using the internet both started in 1995, EBay and Amazon.  Facebook’s debut was in 2004 followed by You Tube in 2005.  Online grocery service originated in the Chicago area with Peapod, Inc.  formed in 1989, aligning services with Jewel and Safeway Food supermarkets.  Online shopping is causing 50 year old stores to crumble.  I still prefer touching and feeling a product before I buy it, something the younger generations feel comfortable skipping.

A myth exists that the “good old days” were better.  Planning healthy meals depends on product information to reach nutrition goals. I love the fact I can identify what is in any package I purchase. I would never want to go back to guessing what was about to be eaten.  After reading the contents of “Spam”, I lost all desire to reconnect with a previous food favorite.  I used to special order information that I can search on the 24/7 internet.  The library offers family services, workshops imparting knowledge in so many areas beyond books.  Going back in time is an exercise to renew your appreciation for what today offers.

Depending on your job environment, encourage a group to join you to choose a style from the past.  Explore ways to break your routine, put it in reverse. Show your backbone, another part of the definition of backwards, reference your backside. Carry a sign, “Back Is Back”.   Backwards Day is a chance to see the world from a different perspective. The birth of a new idea is often stimulated when you break the “norm”.  Let ingenuity guide and renew your mental energy!

Dan Ryan Woods/Swallow Cliff Tobaggon

As the winter has finally arrived with snow, I thought about playing in the snow. I did not ski or ice skate but as a child, there was sledding and the closest tobaggon slide was at Dan Ryan Woods in Auburn-Gresham/Beverly. I did not have a toboggan but other friends and parents of friends did. I followed; all bundled up, mainly to watch, but I do remember how terrified I was taking a fast trip down one of the wooden shoots.

When my children were young, it was not Dan Ryan Woods that we visited, it was Swallow Cliff in Palos Park watching my children use the slide. My husband was a skier and he helped them down. Unfortunately, I was too terrified to try. My first time skiing I was in my early twenties before children. I went down a steep slope with a friend at Alpine who tried to show me what to do but I had problems going way too fast and broke my ankle. I never went skiing again. With the exception of building a snowman, winter sports were just not my thing though the hot chocolate and a fire in our fireplace was always appreciated.

Swallow Cliff slides were officially closed down in 2004 but were operable for decades. However, weather had to be cooperative for them to be used with enough snow (at least 4 inches) and temps of 25 degrees or under. The cost to keep them safe was expensive. Constructed in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, 125 limestone stairs lead to the top of a former toboggan run on Swallow Cliff’s 100-foot bluff.  So in 2016, the Forest Preserves added another set of stairs with an additional 168 steps, creating a full circuit. They do have an active sledding hill during the winter. Just north of the 100-foot bluff and popular fitness stairs, the Swallow Cliff Pavilion is perfect for any occasion and was also built in 2016 with a cozy fireplace during the winter and a kitchen prep area with refrigerator.

Dan Ryan Woods Commissioner found out how popular the stairs at Swallow Cliff was and he actually polled walkers in Palos. He decided to do the same and the project was approved recently. The Dan Ryan Woods now has a brand new set of outdoor concrete stairs made for walking just last year. The 63-step fitness stairs are officially open near the northeast corner of 87th and Western in the forest preserve near Auburn-Gresham and Beverly.

It was just a year ago that I wrote about the storm of 1967 called We Share Our Memories that actually happened this day, over 50 years ago, which was January 26th. We missed school which was the good part, the bad part is the city was not prepared for the disaster. Then there was the storm of 1979. Between 7 and 10 inches of snow were already on the ground, after an earlier blizzard the previous New Year’s Eve. More snow began to fall with a vengeance on the night of Jan. 12, and it kept piling up until 2 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 14. The new snowstorm alone topped out with 18.8 inches on the ground. My mother had taken her first vacation to Hawaii and was scheduled to land at OHare on that Sunday. I was going to pick her up. Fortunately, she got to stay away for a few more days since her flight was re-scheduled and one of the first to fly into O’Hare. The storm of 1999 had wind gusts over 60 miles per hour and 2013-2014 saw its share of snow that totaled over 60 inches.

I have seen enough winter storms over the decades.  As the winter slowly disappears into spring, I am going for a trip on the stairs.

 

Conversations in the den

It all started in the den. That was the only phone we had that sat on a desk with an old fashioned printed Rolodex of phone numbers that sat next to the phone so that we did not forget. Sometimes when you would pick up the receiver, there would talking on the line though you always hung up quickly….never listening to the party line. Or the obnoxious busy signal that could go on for a long time. You would have to hang up and try again later. There was no leaving messages and it would ring and ring and ring if nobody picked up the phone. Presumably, no one was home. You couldn’t be sure what number you dialed either. No screens, no caller id. You didn’t have to dial….that is right…dial the area code but in Chicago it was BAYPORT 5-5936 which was actually BA that you dialed or Essex 2-7390 which was ES. Some were three letters with four numbers.They were considered different automatic exchanges  That was the phone of the 1960’s. And in some small towns in Illinois, there was actually an operator that you talked to first and she would connect you to who you were calling.

I always wanted a princess phone when I was 12. Never did get one as a pre-teen or high school student but actually found one at an antique store that my daughter wants.

Hand held mobiles were introduced in the 1970’s but very expensive and seldom used. A traditional landline telephone did become push button phones instead of dial and it was the answering machine that you bought to attach to your phone still available today but much more streamlined. My Panasonic was large and ran on tapes that would sometimes run out of room to record calls if I got too many. You had to record a message and again, no caller id.

In the early 1990s, I did have a business cell phone that was huge and plugged into my car as well as a pager. And it was then that voicemail became popular. In fact, I actually worked for company called CommuniTech in which I traveled to businesses throughout the United States to train them on the use of voicemail. No emails then… just voicemail and people were excited. They could leave a message through their company voicemail. They could set up their own voicemail message on each phone and I would train them on how to do this. I would train company users on the type of messages they could record and keep. I would also train administrators how to run the voicemail system helping recording many company greetings that included. Eli Lily, Center for Disease Control, and United Airlines to name just a few. Voicemail etiquette was extremely important to emphasis.

Today, people cannot live without their cell phone. Mine died one night and we had one hour to check it out and buy a new one before the store closed. An early Christmas present this year. And we don’t have a land line anymore and I do like my phone. If I am bored, waiting for something….I can play Solitaire easily. Solitaire truly helps me remain patient.

I can take pictures without having another camera device. And with a cell,there is no reason for someone not to get back to me.  As I age, that is important to me and I love texting. Never was much of a talker on the phone so texting is the best for the writer. I like not being tied to a cord attached to a wall. And my phone goes with me whenever I leave home. It is my map on the road and has made my life easier. As someone said, it is a guardian angel in case of a friend, family or me emergency. Yes, there are many that are too addicted to technology but what a different world we have now.

We don’t have to pick up a receiver in only one room in the house and wait for our neighbor to stop talking.

 

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!

Magical summers

Many Baby Boomers growing up did not always have their summers planned with vacations. Some went to summer camp and many, like me, waited anxiously for best friends to get home from camp so we could play or create the next adventure. Some of us had no place to go during the summer with the exemption of exploring the neighborhood because we did have full freedom to go outside and play on a nice day.  Full freedom to explore and be back by 6 for dinner or for some until the street lights came on. No fear of stranger… danger!

Sometimes, we would go to the local playground or city park such as Chicago’s Bessemer which had a community pool or Stoney Island Park, which was popular for its ball fields, now known as Jessie Owen Park on the South Side of Chicago. Of course, riding our bikes(without helmets) often doing all sorts of stunts to get there. Many families had plastic, above ground pools in their backyard…not so different as those today.  The backyard sprinklers were are last resort but always fun once turned on. We never got sick drinking from the hoses either. Playing hopscotch, kick the can, red light, green light, red rover, Chinese jump rope, jacks( inside and out.)

I am not sure if it initially came from boredom or just not sure what to explore next but we produced plays, musicals and all sorts of summer shows for our families. One my friends and I did was about Betsy Ross and instead of the infamous lemonade s tand we re-created the Sip and Stir on a front porch which was originally an ice cream shop in Old Town. We made chocolate shakes and decorated the porch with tissue flowers. Though unless we had help from a Mom, we had to make sure that cooler was stocked with ice.

If in junior high and a Chicago city kid, sometimes we would ride the local Illinois Central Train downtown for lunch in the Narcissus room at Marshall Fields. Sometimes we would ride the bus to Evergreen Plaza in Evergreen Park on the west side; one of the first indoor malls.

However, screens did come into play when it was a rainy day. You could select from 3- 5 channels. If it was Saturday morning, you had a variety of cartoons to choose. Prime television was generally in the evening and reserved as a family event after your friends returned home. Board games or blind mans bluff were always an option and some of us had indoor ping pong or pool tables that we were allowed to play in the cooler finished basement since some did not have air conditioning.

Saturday afternoons could offer corny black and white horror movies such as Attack of The Crab Monsters,Teenagers From Outer Space and I Was A Teenage Werewolf. This was all after adjusting the TV antennas which could take some time especially if weather was poor and Mom watching over you while you made Jiffy Pop, the best stove- top popcorn that you loved to gently slide back and forth over the burner and watch the foil expand to new heights. Evenings were always spent with my favorite paint by number set from Bargain Town or reading which was encouraged before I went to bed. We always took trips to the local Chicago Public Library branch. Today, I am an avid reader and love to paint for fun.

Raising children in the 1990’s actually was pretty similar to the 1960’s though there television sets had a lot more channels to select. And they still made Jiffy Pop and my kids loved to help. Personal computers were just showing up in homes and they were pretty bad. So were pagers used mainly for work and more Mom’s needed jobs. I still let my children take over the neighborhood on bikes.Though, they did not have the run of as many blocks like we did in the old days. They did play outside and established some creative plays to perform for parents. Games were similar like tag, Red Rover with the exception of Marco Polo, a new game at the pool. I found sometimes, as parents,we would get too involved in the preparation of games and adventures. Maybe,we should have taken a back seat more often and just watched them build their creativity and love for one another. A very difficult exercise.

Today, just give kids markers, chalk, paper, and even washable paint. Let them go for it outside. Give them boxes, paper towel rolls, saved cereal boxes, tape and let them create their own summer houses, vehicles or forts. Pull out old clothes, dresses and see what they can do. Let them play with their friends and learn together. As far as games,Duck, Duck Goose and Monkey in the Middle seems to be popular. Gathering by themselves to play without you is the best of time for your children during the summer.

But never limit your field trip trips to the local library. You can actually cook Jiffy Pop on the grill outside. And watch the entire shows and movies from the past on Netflix. Maybe true summer fun hasn’t changed that much after all.

Could the answer to affordable living lie with Airbnb?

JUNE 2019, UK: A recent study by leading travel comparison site dealchecker, analysed the cost of living across the USA. The study compared the average cost of renting an apartment vs Airbnb which uncovered that in Joliet, IL, AirBnB is an eye-watering 4% cheaper than renting.

Findings revealed that the estimated daily rental price is $39.83 vs Airbnb at $38.15 per night. The high rental charges for residents reflect the changes seen in the national average market, with increased rental rises across the entire country. According to Yardi Matrix apartment rent reached an all-time high of $1,405 in June 2018, an increase by 2.9 percent year over year, and by 0.9 percent ($12) month over month.

So savings are to be had in Joliet, but what if is not quite the place for you? The study shows that on average it is cheaper to live in an Airbnb versus traditional renting in 18 of the 21 cities analysed across Illinois state. In Chicago, IL one of the largest cities in the US, Airbnb is $38 cheaper than renting, a substantial 48% saving for the 2.7 million strong population.

In Aurora, the estimated rental price per night is $54.25 taking into account bills and living costs attached to traditional renting, whilst choosing to Airbnb hop could offer a 29% saving, costing on average $38.42 per night, a price difference of $15.

City/Arbnb Rental Price/ Price Percentage Difference/ Savings per night

Joliet: $38.15, $39.83, 48%, $1.68

Naperville: $46.00, $59.88, 23%, $13.88

Aurora: $38.42, $54.25, 29%, $15.83

Peoria: $33.86, $58.17, 42%, $24.31

Springfield: $32.39, $58.17, 44%, $25.88

Chicago: $41.30, $78.88, 48%, $37.58 (largest savings)

Further findings revealed that in fact, it is cheaper in a staggering 74% of the 1,127 cities analysed across the USA with five Illinois cities sitting in the top 100. Renters could be saving in Glenview, Carbondale, Urbana and Campaign.

Airbnb has been flying the flag for flexible apartment stay for over a decade and since it’s conception 2008 has taken the world by storm. In 2017, alone, a colossal $93 million dollars in net income was generated by the company. The concept was born out of not being able to afford apartment rental prices and embraces a nomadic lifestyle for those who enjoy the flexibility of short-term stays providing the opportunity to explore different areas within a state, city or country.

For a generation of digital nomads where the appeal lies with fluidity in both work and living, it offers a sense of freedom and empowerment and the rise in choosing this way of life has coincided with the rapid global rise of remote work which is fast becoming a viable way to work, especially across global tech companies. This study has shown that Airbnb could become a viable living option in a climate of increased rental prices across the USA offering both affordability and flexibility to future generations.