Rain, storms and August tornado memories

It was always after school….generally around 3 o’clock when it would begin. That was the most exciting. The determination whether to play with my best friend inside or out. When it began, the soft lights were lit inside our 1960’s neighborhood homes that brought comfort and clarity. Sometimes it would happen on the way to our ballet lesson in South Shore on a Tuesday….we worked hard on those days, occasionally glancing at the long windows to see what was happening outside before Mom would pick us up.

I loved late afternoon rain storms with thunder and lightening. Somehow, they would inspire and energize me. I always wanted to be a storm watcher but job and family got in the way. So I would watch from home. Watching them form were the best of times, even though we had watches and warnings through the years, you never knew the end result before Doppler.

I remember watching the green, overcast sky of the Oaklawn tornado approaching on April 21, 1967 though when sent to the basement for that one,  excitement was quickly exchanged for fear, forecasting destruction and the loss of lives. Storms, then, took on a different meaning.

When my children were toddlers, they, too, were taught to love storms. I had two neighbors who would be knocking on the patio doors; pointing to the sky and telling me it was time during the spring and summer months. We would watch the impending doom together, watering our flowers just in case, while the kids could care less and played outside. And it was the month of August I remember offering significant tornadoes in the surrounding suburbs of Downers Grove.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, August 28, 1990 we heard the reports that something was happening further south. We sat on our deck and tried to watch the changing sky though we seemed pretty safe among the warnings of a tornado.  It was an F5 tornado; the only F5 Chicago had ever seen. The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm for the entire Northern Illinois area from 1:30 to 8:00 pm. A bad storm had formed just south of Rockford. We watched, waited and we were safe.

The tornado struck Plainfield, Illinois, around 3:28 p.m. Around 3:30 p.m. the tornado directly struck the Plainfield High School, killing three people. After an alarm was pulled by a dean in the main office, the volleyball players preparing for a game in the gymnasium rushed to the nearest door and took shelter in the hallway. It is reported that as soon as the last football player was pulled through the door from an outside practice, a coach quickly closed it, only for it to be immediately destroyed by the wind. The gymnasium proceeded to fall apart and crash down filling the gap in the doorway. They took shelter in the same hallway as the football team, and once the tornado had passed, that was the only hallway left standing in the building.

The tornado crossed Route 59 and ripped into St. Mary Immaculate Church and school, claiming an additional 3 lives, including the principal of the school, a music teacher, and the son of the cook at the rectory. Fifty-five homes were destroyed in Plainfield itself, a few of which were swept away.

The storm then worked its way southeast towards the large city of Joliet, damaging homes in the Crystal Lawns, Lily Cache and Warwick subdivisions and killing five more people. Sixty-nine homes were destroyed in Crystal Lawns, 75 homes were destroyed in Peerless Estates, 55 homes were destroyed in Lily Cache, and 50 homes were destroyed in Warwick. Moving on to the Crest Hill, Il where it caused F3 damage and claimed another eight lives. After reaching Joliet, the tornado began to lose strength and finally passed the Indiana border at about 4:30 when it had dissipated.

Another storm took place on August 15, 1993 in the late afternoon and my children were home. My husband was playing golf in Lemont. My neighbor and I once again were watering flowers, my garden more luxurious than ever before. But this time the sky was a smokey color with a slight green tinge and nothing was moving which immediately scared us.  Something was too close and we heard a sound like a nearby train. I have never heard that sound since. We ran, gathering the children and headed inside. The power went out as we waited. There were no cell phones to check on others. There was a crashing sound; not far from the neighborhood.

As is turned out about an hour later, as the lights came on, the TV and my husband walked in the door, some sort of tornado/wind calamity damaged a store under construction in Woodridge about a mile away and the tornado did pass the golf course. They had no time to find shelter and laid flat on a low point in the grass. The tornado was an F2 and did finally touch down in New Lenox but no serious damage or injuries were reported.

My daughter was only a baby in 1990 but in 1993 she remembered, to this day, the shaking hands of her Dad. Today, my adult daughter and son sends me text messages, Nexrad and pictures of the sky ahead of time to give me warning that the forecast will be bleak.

And I am eagerly ready!

 

 

 

Family reunions

WRITTEN BY CARYL CLEM:

Across America, families plan reunions during the summer months.  My Dad was the youngest of 13 living siblings.  I was the youngest grandchild.  On my calendar the 2nd week in August had stars to signal my relatives congregating in southern Illinois for a reunion extravaganza. After the 6 hour car ride, I felt like a time traveler roaming through Grandma’s cozy farmhouse, touching the immense, cool cast iron wood burning stove, examining lace covered carved wood tables and chairs under glowing Gone with the Wind kerosene lamps; exchanging hugs with relatives in every room. Outside, the foul smelling 3 dirt hole bench seat under a decaying sun speckled wood roofed shed was still in use. There was no plumbing until after 1962.

Every family was assigned a dish to bring at either the Saturday or Sunday meal, depending on your arrival time.  Tables and chairs provided by the local church covered the spacious front yard with predominantly red and white checked tablecloths. Large washtubs lined with plastic were filled with ice for the lemonade and tea. Grandmother would not allow any beverage served in a bottle including milk, soda or pop.

All of the family members, without gray hair, took turns passing water buckets from the pump to the porcelain kitchen sinks. No motels or hotels were close. By 7 p.m., caravans of relatives spread out to neighboring family farms to spend the night. Country breakfasts featuring eggs with homemade ham, bacon, sausage, gravy and biscuits would start the next day.

After feasting, musical entertainment was provided by a large assortment of musical instruments forming an impromptu band accompanied by several vocalists. Voting by elected judges would begin on whose fried chicken, pie and homemade ice-cream deserved the “Best” of that year award.  A photographer came on Sunday after our church service to take a photo before the last dinner together. Sisters Aunt Edith (English instructor) and Aunt Inez (culinary chef) compiled a yearly newsletter with a family collection of favorite recipes and stories to give everyone before they left.

Leaving suburban Chicago to jump into haystacks, feed livestock, eat finger-picking good potluck dinners followed by sleeping with 8 or more cousins in one big room was a summer highlight until Grandma, 98 years young, died in 1965. The attendance started to drop with grandchildren putting careers first.

After 10 years, the original 4 who did the organizing were aging and tried to find a younger core group to keep the reunion going. However,with no success. A property developer wanted to build a subdivision along the winding creek.  Just before the farm was sold, the final reunion was held with over 125 members, all wearing name tags with ages. Progress also brought hotels to provide lodging. Currently, sections of the family living near Windsor County, Illinois still unite on the 2nd Sunday in August to eat and celebrate another year.

My brother’s wife’s family includes me in their family reunions as an “outlaw” with privileges.  Each year celebrates new members, honors those who have passed, as we eagerly exchange photo albums and stories of the past years events.  The elephant gift trade is hilarious.  Hotels provide lodging but meals are at family members’ homes.  At the close, there is the T-shirt with a landmark picture to wear through the year.

Family love is the strongest when shared; the magic feeling of a reunion keeps me looking forward to the next one.

Courage

BY CARYL CLEM:

A soldier’s uniform, fire men drowning  a fire,

Ambulance sirens screaming, roaring past red lights

Brave workers humbly avoiding spotlights

Common symbols of experiences to inspire.

 

Courage , a catalyst,  shapes determination

Pushing you forward, empowering action

Motivation to fight any battle

Challenging  consequences of the struggle.

Courage cleans anger and fear’s pollution

Courage forms pioneers seeking solutions.

 

Courage wins struggles hidden from view

Healing for a heartbroken victim

Daily doses vital, courage stronger than a vitamin.

Opens doorways to a path to pursue

 

Selects steps towards achievement

Ending isolation, disappointment

Now ,  the  letter V  stands for victory

Courage leads into support, love, a new life story.

Heroes

POETRY BY CARYL CLEM:

When life is thrown wayward

Unasked, coming forward

Beside us, courageous collaborators

Humble companions, even champions

Faithful, loyal, upholding honor

A pioneer discovering solutions

Forced by coincidence or circumstance

To save others with intelligence and grace

Never expecting rewards or recognition

                                             Thanks for being my Hero 

Reflections song

POETRY BY CARYL CLEM:

Just a note unlocks a memory

A mix of love and mystery

Holding on, then letting go

Loves continual ebb and flow

In just a note, magic returns

Remembering passions burn

Time heals, the music plays on

Finding desire embraced in a song.

Summers in Saugatuck

We climbed out of the Vista cruiser after pulling up along side the small white cottage. The trees towered above us as we began to grab our suitcases and, of course, my pillow. I could hear the waves of Lake Michigan located across the road which was called Lake Shore Drive in Saugatuck Michigan.

The rental was tiny inside; only two bedrooms for the adults which was Mom and her friend. Me and Rita’s two daughters …my same age… slept on cots and sleeping bags in the expansive living room. Our Dads would come up from Chicago in a few days for the weekend and then travel back with us to Chicago.

We read, we swam, we cooked hot dogs on the beach and visited quaint shops in downtown Saugatuck.  The entire week, I had a stomach ache and constantly complained. They took my temperature. They gave me medicine. And still my stomach ached and ached. And sometimes my head too. But when my father arrived, it was amazing how the pain began to subside as we played miniature golf and took a trip on the ferry. Unfortunately,when we all left together…I never felt better. I was only eight and the first time I had ever been separated from my Dad.

I returned to Saugatuck many times in the, 1970’s, 1980s and 1990s with friends and family. And did find the cottage that had been renovated in a more upscale environment and could not believe the disappearing beach caused by erosion. Those vacations usually included a stay at the Blue Star which has been revamped over the years or Lake Shore Resort though today, Saugatuck is filled with excellent bed and breakfast mansions.

I remembered shopping downtown; a much more powerful experience when I was an adult. My mother returned on a trip with me in the 1990’s and said that the artistic shops and culture had truly expanded. This included a variety of antiques,collectibles, and art galleries which were just beginning in the late 1960s.

Now, Saugatuck is named one of the best art towns by Expedia, which included the plein air painters of the early 1900s, the Art Institute of Chicago’s OxBow students, and the artists who continue to live their today. Through its affiliation with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ox-Bow still offers one and two-week courses for credit and non-credit students.

There were also more places to eat and drink but the Butler, once an historic Inn, offers spectacular waterfront dining. Today, live entertainment can be enjoyed every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day

Saugatuck is one of Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 25 Beaches in the World,” and also a great place for hiking and fishing.

I remember sitting on the dunes trying to enjoy the sunset and the amazing beauty that surrounded me. I didn’t think I missed my father; I had no idea why my stomach hurt.

But now, I can go back; still mesmerized by sun, sand, and water without stomach pains. and with an amazing understanding of the love a daughter has for her father.

 

 

Capture

By CARYL CLEM

Never too late to capture a dream

Rekindle hopes, aspirations redeem

No limits, ahead an endless stream

Emotions on fire, bright as a diamond’s gleam.

A day lost in time with no tomorrow

Love, generosity, absolutely no sorrow

Nothing regretted, nothing reserved

Momentum builds as does nerve

Finally free from the past

Roles, rewards newly cast

Soul’s freedom of expression

Uncovers thirst for exploration

Just ahead out of view

An adventure is waiting for you

Holding on is letting go

Faith tempering ego

Jump forward, risk it all

Possession is perception’s recall.

 

Through the decades: Lake Lawn Lodge/Lake Geneva

My father loved to drive. He had a massive 1959 Oldsmobile Super Olds when I was four and then bought a 1966 Vista Cruiser. From the south side of Chicago, it was perfect for our summer trips to Wisconsin. The first time I met Bucky was at Lake Lawn Lodge, a wooded resort that was closed and re-opened in 2011 after 4 million dollars in renovations.

Over 130 years old, the lodge was built on Lake “Waubashawbess” or “Swan Lake”  which was the original name for Delavan Lake, given by the ancient Native Americans who called it home. Bucky, the friendly Native American, was on every wall, in every passage way, escorting us to the indoor pools, the gift shop and of course, restaurant and lodge. Over the years, Native American artifacts have been found on the property. This is the first place that I learned how to play patio shuffleboard on a deck overlooking the lake.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s. Lake Lawn was a popular retreat were you could stay at the Main hotel or one of the lodges that had its own indoor pool. Timber and Boulder was established in the early 1960’s and in the 1970’s; Shorewood, Norwood, and Woodlawn. The main hotel, however, was demolished in 1984.  Now, a new lobby and reservation area beautifully awaits guests.

And during the late 1970’s and 1980’s, since I could now legally drink, though the drinking age was only 18 in Wisconsin compared to 21 in Illinois, I spent more time in nearby Lake Geneva. Some preferred to stay at the Abbey; others… members of the Playboy club in Geneva which opened in 1968. We stayed for a pool and drinks in the late 1980’s at the resort…no longer the Playboy, but was the Americana. Now, the resort is the Grand Geneva.

However, it was the Sugar Shack that brought out the worst; still a world-class Gentleman’s club. Though, it was great for a bachelorette or bachelor party, and when I was there, the men kept their underwear on…thank God.  The Sugar Shack is one of the only clubs in the world to offer a completely nude male venue today.

Today, I would rather go back to the Treasure Cove which originally opened in 1985; now a true historical landmark. You can’t miss it on Broad Street with the giant mermaid out in front. The store was a great place for souvenirs that included fudge, mugs, t-shirts, jewelry and just a wonderful variety. Today, Turkish lamps can be purchased for a reasonable price, planters and Kisii Soapstone by Kenyan women who you are helping with employment opportunity.

Worthpoint offers a great collection of items you can purchase of vintage Lake Lawn Lodge

You are loved

Christy Utterback, 47, is a retired social worker from Clarkville, Arkansas and currently holds the county title of Mrs Peach; smiling with her grandfather who began his life in Kankakee, Il. The family moved in the late 1960’s to California.

Christy was born and raised in southern California experiencing divorce at the age of four. Her biological father was abusive even after the divorce. Her Mom re-married who is married to the same man today. In high school, Christy continued to face many obstacles with men and she was raped.  Throughout the tragedies, her self- esteem would terribly suffer but her belief in God; always a part of her heart. Christy would see a light and hear a voice saying “you are”, encouraging strength in life’s journey rather than weakness.

In college, Christy volunteered for the Special Olympics Ski Team on campus and learned sign language. That same voice and light in her dreams gave her confidence to help others and get a degree in social work. But Christy was also building walls against harms way, gaining weight rapidly to protect herself from hurt. However, she met a man in college and he proposed on Christmas Eve; they married in 1994. Her husband joined the Air force and they tried to become parents. Christy kept having one miscarriage after another because of her weight and too much testosterone.

While living in Montana due to Airforce orders, Christy started to become extremely ill with liver and kidney failure. Without a gastric bypass to lose weight, she would die. The doctor said those words to her on a Thursday; the surgery scheduled that Monday. Immediately following the surgery, Christy had five procedures and was able to lose 100 pounds. Her love for herself began to grow. But her husband became angry, frustrated and stated drinking heavily.

She gets a phone call. Her grandparents need her in California to help take care of Grandma, compression fractures all over her spine, Grandpa can’t lift her. Christy drives all day/night on 9-10-01. On 9-11-01., Grandfather wakes her up, “get up get up, call your husband, we are under attack”  She calls home, no answer, we watch the USA crumble… all day, no answer. Finally, a call. Can’t come home, base on lock down, unknown when she can return.

Christy stayed a month with her grandparents while Grandma recovered. In 2003, her grandparents moved to be with her parents in Arkansas. In February of 2004, Christy arrives in Arkansas, beaten horribly by her husband. Intensely distraught, her family came together to help. She explained little, but enough to let them know; this was it.  She filed for divorce and was also pregnant. By the grace of God, there was a heartbeat. Ultrasound after ultrasound revealed, a baby……a boy.

It was shortly after that Christy met her husband, Bob Utterback. The first time they talked she asked him if he was into big girls. He said, Oh I don’t know, I am just looking for a friend. Me too, Christy said. Bob had been married before and had four children. On August 23,2004, with Bob by her side, now her glorious husband, Seth Riley was born via C-Section.

Food was still Christy’s only comfort, her armour, her wall,and she began gaining her weight back; suffering from kidney failure again.  However, those in her life, including her doctor and her husband, refused to give up on Christy. At one point, she was 400 pounds.

Since 2016, she is has been down 200 pounds while continuing to work out at the gym and bicycle. Now a mom of 6, the pageant world was a dare. Her niece, who is big herself, was an inspiration. She was confident, beautiful and she dared her to enter. Christy entered one pageant on a dare and won. Since, she has entered many; winning many crowns.

Currently as Ms Peach, she represents the county at many events including business openings, parties, ribbon- cutting ceremonies and other planned social occasions. Consequently, Christy loves to help others while thanking the community for their support.

But most of all, her reason for sharing this story is so that many women who struggle with weight loss, abuse, and lack of self-esteem realize that they are not alone. Her prayer right now is that you see yourself differently. Begin your own journey of accepting that you are…that you are truly loved and see what comes forth. It may surprise you, it may hurt at first, but you can overcome and see nothing but the best.

Blessings & Love always,  Christy

\

Thoughts on Father’s Day

When I looked up the definition of father, I was amazed at how many categorized fathers we have today. From the weekend/holiday father, surprised father, stepfather, second father to just mothers partner or husband; all of which define “the Dad”.  And, believe it or not, there is the DI Dad who is the social/legal father of children produced via donor insemination.

Father is also considered a founder of a body of knowledge or institution like George Washington; the Father of Our Country. And now I can understand why fathers are seen as authority figures and are suppose to possess experience and knowledge in life to pass onto others. That is what being a father is about; the active father who speaks of wisdom and guidance.

My father passed away when I was twelve and Fathers Day was not a Hallmark occasion that was at the top of my list. My mother never re-married and someone said that a father is a girl’s first love.

With time, I realized my father, John, was gone and could not be replaced though I would always be grateful for the strong memories of his love for me. Some didn’t have any example in their lives. And as the years passed, I figured out that I could have as many fathers as I wanted; a trusted male friend who nurtures and helps you live a more fulfilling life.

They can be a neighbor that offers support when you struggle, comfort when you are down and their snow blower when there is a foot of snow in your driveway. They can be a manager who reminds you that you are truly worth it regardless of your awkward stumbles at work. They can be a co-worker that offers you a smile, something to laugh at, thumbs up and a cup of coffee when you are having a bad day.

They can be a brother who offers unconditional love and commitment regardless of how you frustrate him. They can be any relative who is protective, concerned and sees your success rather than incompetence. They can be your best friend’s father who spent hours tutoring you in math and building your self-esteem in a subject you never thought possible.

They can be the salesman or contractor that is really looking out for your safety and best interests. They can be your postman who always makes sure your mail is delivered on time and doesn’t rush off without saying hello. They can be teachers and role models to all children of any age and family.

Most of all, they can be the one above…you may not be able to see, but truly loves you.