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Spring is here, even if we missed its arrival

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

Many of us probably missed it on Saturday night, especially if you were out socializing. But come to think of it, even if you were sitting on the couch watching “Saturday Night Live” you may have been unaware that something has occurred.

At 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, spring was officially in the air. Yes, spring is here. It just arrived at a peculiar time. We had a sunny day that saw the temperatures drop to about 37 degrees at night. That sounds about right for our springs.

And what constitutes the beginning of spring? The vernal equinox, or the arrival of spring, essentially means that the sun’s direct rays are crossing over the equator from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. During the equinox, nearly equal amounts of daylight and darkness are experienced throughout the world.

Equal amounts or light and darkness should be experienced every day in spring. But of course, we live in the Chicago area. Many of those spring days remain dark. A typical spring day here features temperatures in the mid-40’s with rain or a constant drizzle. We were expecting some rain this week. That is not an unusual occurrence in many parts of the country at this time of the year.

The cold, damp temperatures we could do without. Hey, I realize we have gone through a mild winter by our standards. We had a few cold days in January and February. We expect that. We had some snow but not all that much. I believe the largest amount of snow we had was in November. But that melted before we served our Thanksgiving meals.

December was anything but frightening. The weather was pretty mild all month.

Does this mean we will have a spring without snow or freezing rain? I’ve been here all my life so I know there are no guarantees. But the weather pattern would suggest that temperatures will continue to be mild. The sun is out as I bang away at my keyboard. I believe we all feel a lot better when we can see the sun a lot more.

We have not had a cold or snowy winter. Yet, I look forward to spring even if I know it’s not always going to be warm. I still take precautions because of the uncertainty of Chicago area springs. I still have a shovel on my front porch -- just in case. I still have my windshield scraper in the back seat of my car. I have had to use that scraper in April. Why bother putting it in the trunk too soon?

Neighbors tend to hibernate during the winter, it seems. I’m beginning to see more people walking down the block. Some kids were actually playing baseball just the other day. That would indicate that spring has arrived.

We are in late March and what that means to me is even if it does snow, it won’t be around that long. We have had temperatures in the 60’s a few times already this month. I think that means that temperatures in the 70’s can’t be that far behind.

I can’t say I remember spring days when I was a kid. I think we usually choose to remember the good times. During my youth in Roseland, I walked from 100th and Michigan to 102nd and Vernon to St. John De La Salle School. That was just over a mile. I do remember wearing my coat on many of those spring days. The mornings were a little chilly. It became a little easier when our family moved to the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood when I was in the fourth grade. I only had to walk two blocks to school after that. So, even the cold days weren’t so bad.

Spring brings with it a lot of expectations. Even kids can get tired of winter, especially when it continues to drag on. Easter is this Sunday and it symbolizes new life. We know that April is just around the corner. For kids, that means they are getting more anxious because they know the school year will soon be coming to a close.

For us adults, the mornings are not as bleak and cold. We may even be leaving for work and can see the sun.

But don’t put those coats away yet. We have been fooled before. But we do know that winter is gone and spring is here. And baseball is just around the corner. But that’s a column for next week.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Never take your health for granted

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

Would you know if you were having a heart attack?

I apparently don’t know the telltale signs because when I went to the emergency room on Feb. 27, my symptoms warranted hospital staff to suspect a heart attack.

I’ve had ER waits upwards of eight hours, so when I got through triage and wheeled to the back within 10 minutes, it felt like God’s favor. I thought, “Christ Advocate’s ER is awesome, they get people right in!”

Ta!

I was only upbeat until I realized why I was getting that VIP treatment. Being asked,   “Ma’am, does heart disease run in your family?” turned the sprinklers on in my eyes. My mother died of heart disease, at 52. I didn’t respond immediately. I was having a conversation in my head. “Is that what they think this is? No! I’m not having a heart attack! Am I?,” I thought to myself. I sniffled and started bawling. “Yes, my mother had heart disease” I replied. I tried to answer other questions, but my husband, Don, answered mostly. I sat in disbelief.

WebMD reports six heart attack symptoms common in women: Chest pain or discomfort; pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw; stomach pain; shortness of breath, nausea or light-headedness; sweating; or fatigue.

It was about 8 a.m. on a Saturday that I opened my eyes after being abruptly wakened by my 5-year-old, Rhonda-Rene’s, joyful gibberish. I’d gone to bed with a backache. When I woke up, I still had discomfort. I was lying on my right side, and turned awkwardly to my left to glance at the clock when I felt a sharp pain penetrate the upper left side of my back. It overwhelmed me. I felt lightheaded, started sweating and lost consciousness. When I came to, I remember rationalizing whether to call 911 or Don.

“The paramedics are liable to break down my door, that will scare Rhonda-Rene,” I thought. I opted for Don, who was playing basketball at the gym about 30 minutes away.

Rhonda-Rene is normally attached to my hip except this day. As I lay unconscious, I guess she played independently in her room. I remember looking at her little concerned face. She approached me only after hearing me moaning on the phone to Don, “Something’s wrong. I can’t stay conscious. I hurt my back. Help, help,” I pleaded. Rhonda-Rene’s eyes asked, “Mom? You OK?” She has special needs and isn’t able to speak. This kid had stripped her Sophia the First pajamas off and dressed herself in a pair of pastel pink tights. That was the entire outfit. Tights. Since the more pressing issue was my health, I let that one go.

My medical results ruled out heart disease -- that was a relief! I was discharged with a clean bill of health aside from my persistent back pain. There’s still an ongoing investigation as to whether I’ve pinched a nerve after experiencing a back spasm or slipped a disc in my back. I have several follow-up appointments scheduled.

My friend, Eric Way, 43, of the Southeast Side of Chicago, wasn’t as fortunate. His ER visit with similar symptoms got him an express check-in with an uncomplimentary two-night stay. He was indeed having a heart attack. “You know the feeling you get when you drink something too cold. The brain freeze?” asked Eric.

“Of course,” I told him. He replied, “That’s what it felt like for me except through my chest and arms.”  

Eric said he didn’t lose consciousness but did feel sluggish and light-headed. He said, “I experienced similar feelings last August on a trip to Memphis, Tenn. I went to the ER there and they didn’t say it was a heart attack. So, I thought it was that extreme Tennessee heat and the heavy salt the restaurant had put on my fries.”

Since we’re in an electronic age, Eric did what many do. He Googled a treatment plan for himself. “I learned eating certain foods can act as medicine to counteract health problems,” said Eric. He said he didn’t want to be that person who took a pill every day. “I ate two bananas and a Bayer aspirin. I felt fine afterwards.”

That regimen didn’t work when symptoms returned March 6. He said chest pain began about 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 5. “I took my Bayer Aspirin but I only had one banana this time, when I woke the next morning, I took another Bayer and felt better.” Had it not been for the persistence of a friend suggesting it could be a heart attack, he may not have gone to the ER.

Eric had a blocked artery, requiring a stent. Stents help keep coronary arteries open and reduce the chance of a heart attack. A stent is inserted into the clogged artery with a balloon catheter. The balloon is inflated and the stent expands and locks in place. This holds the artery open and allows blood to flow more freely. It was successful and after six days, he was able to return to work, light duty, but he now takes five different medications daily.

“My diet has been reduced to plants, I feel like Tarzan,” said Eric. He’s making the necessary changes because he has more than himself to think about. He has an 11 year-old daughter named Zaria.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss my mom. I never want my girls to long for me as I desperately long for her. I don’t want to die prematurely from something I could’ve prevented. That’s why I work out, even when I’m tired. I abstain from overindulging when I eat and I make it my business to schedule routine medical appointments. On those rare instances when something in my body doesn’t seem quite right, I don’t ignore it. You shouldn’t either; it could cost you your life.  

This presidential race is one for history books

  • Written by Joe Boyle

I went to a boxing match the other night and a Trump rally broke out.

Well, sort of. Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in the race for president, has been recently met with protests. Some skirmishes broke out during some rallies and public appearances near St. Louis last week. We all know what happened at Trump’s scheduled ill-advised rally Friday night at the UIC Pavilion.

Trump took his act to Ohio on Saturday. Secret service agents grabbed a man who tried to rush the stage to get near Trump in Vandalia, Ohio. Is this a case where some people are either over enthusiastic or are fed up with Trump’s rhetoric?

Well, Trump has many fans who like his “tell like it is” style. The UIC Pavilion event resulted in many opponents of Trump entering the free event. Some of this was due to organizations that essentially topped Trump at his own game. But many of the Trump opponents who ended up inside the Pavilion and outside protesting were students.

Trump overestimated his appeal. That part of the city is more diverse and UIC reflects that. Trump’s comments would have been more appealing at the Rosemont Horizon or in Rolling Meadows, where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz spoke to an appreciative crowd.

At least we have an Illinois primary that has more impact than in the past. In many instances over the past 20 years, the Illinois primary was an afterthought in the race for president. Unless there were heated local races, the presidential nominees were all but decided before the Illinois primary. That means we are visited by few candidates.

That is until this year. Even with Trump canceling his appearance at the UIC Pavilion, he received coverage across the country. You can’t buy that kind of publicity. Of course, Trump will also continue to spend money to do just that. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders received a warm welcome from a packed house at Argo Community High School in Summit on Friday night. While Cruz could be seen in Rolling Meadows and Glen Ellyn, Hillary Clinton stumped for votes in Vernon Hills and Chicago’s South Side.

The fact that the Illinois primary means something for both Democrats and Republicans is unique. I can’t really remember when that has happened this late in both campaigns. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Perhaps you have to go back to the Watergate hearings or turn a few more pages back to the 1960s. The year 1968 comes to mind because I was entering high school and became more aware of the rapid changes in our culture. It was an explosive year in which many people were angry over our involvement in Vietnam. The battle lines were often drawn between the youth movement -- the baby boomers coming of age -- and the middle-aged.

In some ways there are parallels that can be drawn from that time and today. It is strange that Sanders, 74, appeals to so many college-age students. But his anti-Wall Street message, a need to create more jobs, and to make colleges affordable resonates with younger voters. Trump seems to appeal to people who are angry in general. His problems at recent appearances are his own fault. He has created an atmosphere of hate and intolerance. He will have to tone down the rhetoric if he is going to receive support throughout the country. It may be too late for him.

My father was a Chicago firefighter and that meant he would work various side jobs to help support six kids. I occasionally would assist him when was installing chain-linked fences throughout the city’s South Side. He would often talk about the “Hippies and Yippies” that were arriving in Chicago during that summer. He would discuss it and share some laughs with a co-worker by the name of Charlie Jones, who we would pick up mornings at 95th and Peoria.

I was aware of some activity going on. I mean it was a news-filled summer. I recall after hanging out with friends on a hot summer night in August, I came home to see my parents staring at the TV screen. They told me to sit down and watch. And I did just that. I saw arguments occurring at the Democratic Convention at the International Amphitheater in Chicago. Cameras then began to show the fighting in the streets.

My dad was not too happy with what was going on. It was a lot to register for me as well at the time. But he did pause to tell me that I was living through history.

I believe we are living though history again.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Trump continues insults but no specific plans

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Donald Trump has insulted a female TV news broadcaster, promised to build a wall along the Mexican border and have that country pay for it, and has railed against the family ownership of the Chicago Cubs and even the pope.

Welcome to reality TV, or what has become the Republican presidential race. When there were 16 candidates, the assumption was that the Donald would soon fade away because of his big mouth. Well, hardly. His strategy, if that’s what you want to call it, is to state his intentions on a controversial issue in which he knows little about. When he is either questioned or challenged, instead of trying to defend his beliefs, he just insults the person who brings it up.

Trump continues this barrage through a series of TV spots and tweets. His strategy appears to be working with a segment of this country that either feels disenfranchised because of a lack of work or they believe they are not being paid enough. Bloggers, social media types and even TV and print journalists continue to follow the rantings of Trump. This constant onslaught results in the insulted persons having to either explain themselves or respond.

The only problem with that is that Trump rarely responds to the issue at hand. And since this race up to this point resembles an episode of “Survivor” or one of the many battling housewives shows, we move on to another outrageous statement. Maybe the GOP race should invite Flavor Flav or Vanilla Ice. That would be good for ratings.

Make no mistake about it. The Republican debates have done quite well in the ratings. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio felt it was necessary to challenge Trump on almost every statement he made in the last slug match. The only problem with that is it made Rubio look foolish as arguments centered on the size of Trump’s hands and other parts of his body. The intense and seemingly humorless Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was actually fairly quiet during this debate. He probably thought it was best to let these two implode.

The only candidate that seemed to be a voice of reason was Ohio Gov. John Kasich. He did not engage in any inane arguments or insults. He just stuck to the issues.

But here is the problem. Kasich is a distant fourth among these candidates. His campaign hardly has a pulse. No one appears to be listening to him. Trump has sucked all the oxygen out of these debates.

I suppose a lot can happen in the next couple of months. Trump is in a solid position and accumulating a lot of delegates. Of course, he could always say something stupid. However, that does not seem to matter. His most recent gaffe is not to disavow himself from David Duke, a white supremacist who supports Trump. He grudgingly said two days later that he “disavows” those remarks.

I never felt Trump was stupid. He is arrogant, egotistical and confrontational, traits that can make a good politician. But he appears to be inpatient and not well read. His response to more complex issues always appears to be that I need to look at that or we are going to form committees. He does not seem to grasp issues like immigration and terrorism.

Yes, obviously it plays well to mobs when you say build walls and prevent Syrian refugees and Muslims in general from entering this country. This is not another business deal where you are building another hotel. Some of those problems he solves by throwing money around. But the presidency is more than having money and power. It entails making some tough decisions that are not always popular.

I will say this about Trump. He is confident and has a swagger. Those are traits he probably had for a long time but became more pronounced during his days on “The Apprentice” and “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

That’s what sort of concerns me. During this age of so much reality TV, can people distinguish between real life and fantasy? Shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” professes that someone is going to fall in love between takes. The real reality here is these individuals want to become stars and are willing to do anything to reach that goal.

So, this current version of Trump seems to follow that pattern. I think for the most part he is calculating and knows what he is doing. He continues to play his role as the bully that attracts many voters who like his “tell it like it is” stance.

But at this point, I’m not sure what Trump is trying to tell us. I think he realizes he is getting closer to the finish line and is eventually going to have to say something.

My opinion is that Donald Trump cares about Donald Trump. I suggest people start turning off reality TV and really listen to what this man is about.

Joe Boyle is the editor of The Reporter. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Replacing fear and ignorance with a new perspective

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

 

This may be rather risky, but I’m going to share a spring break story from my past. It’s one of those trips where I did something that could raise an eyebrow or two. It occurred in March of 2013.

My family and I were on a frosty spring break vacation in Lake Geneva, Wis. We've been there numerous times but never while the lake was frozen. A crunchy layer of snow covered the glass block ice that sat atop the freezing water beneath. “Magnificent” I thought, as we strolled along the beach. We were fortunate that 40 degree temperatures and the sun had graced us with its presence. In weeks prior, the highs had been 28 degrees. Those consecutive cold days had strengthened the confidence of the tourists. They were dancing, skipping and fishing on the ice.

“Are they nuts?” I commented to my spouse, Don. "That’s just not a risk I’d take." I pointed to a little girl presumed to be the age of 3. She was frolicking on the ice with her parents.

I engaged a person passing by saying, “They’re super brave, huh?”

She stopped, adjusted the zoom on her Nikon and snapped a photo. “Or super stupid,” she replied.

The more I observed, the more I wanted to know. I thought. “Why aren’t they afraid? How are they comfortable standing in a cluster? Call me antisocial because I’d have no problem saying, “Naw, don’t stand by me. There’s no need to apply stress to the area I’m standing.” I mean, if I had the audacity to try such a thing.

Funny thing is, the longer I watched the more enticing it became. Then, I dropped the hand of my then 5-year old, Donae, and said, “Stay with Daddy. I’m going on the ice.”

She tugged and pleaded. “No! Mom! It’s gonna crack. You’re gonna die!”

I wasn’t totally convinced it wouldn’t. That I wouldn’t, so I settled on a part of the lake where my feet would hit the bottom should a spontaneous plunge occur. After observing me stand successfully, Donae tore away from Don and joined me. It was about five minutes of our living wild and dangerous before we carefully eased our way back to the shore. We were high-fiving and giggling about our spring-break-gone-wild moment when one of the locals said, “You were never in any danger. The thickness of that ice can hold the weight of a car.”

I love it when the Lord allows me to have moments where He shows Himself in simple ways with meaningful impression. Our ignorance had brought about judgement and unnecessary fear. It happens more often than not. Our lack of understanding keeps us constrained by our limited experiences. Sometimes it’s a bold move that breaks the cycle of mundane. Other times its education that gives us the edge in our exploration. But, when the pull within our heart remains lured to the Call within, it’s our faith that must thrust us into the fullness God has positioned us for.

Do you find yourself standing on the sidelines in life? Are you scared and maybe even judging others for what ‘you presume’ to be a risk? Romans 14:3 says, "Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him."

God has great things in store for all of us. Have a little faith to come off the shore. You just might enjoy the experience.