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Learning life’s lessons and value of dollars and ‘sense’

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

 

 

I’ve been working on teaching my 8-year-old daughter, Donae, fiscal responsibility. She’s developed a liking to saving money, which had just about filled her baby-bottle shaped, bank. I felt it was time we take a field trip over to the ole’ brick and mortar bank so she could make her first savings deposit.

Together, Donae and I tallied every penny, nickel, dime and quarter and packaged them into the appropriate coin wrapper. “Wow, I’m rich,” she said. “If you need to borrow money for the taxes, I can help.” This statement came as a result of her eavesdropping on me telling my husband, Don, it's almost becoming too expensive for us to continue living in Illinois. “Mommy doesn’t need your money. That’s for you,” I explained. “C’mon, I’m taking you to the bank so your money will be more secure.”

I grinned elatedly. I pulled the deposit slip from its slot in the bank lobby. It was one of those “Mommy moments.” I felt I was doing well. “Write your name here,” I instructed. “Once you’re done, you’ll need to fill in your account number and deposit amount.” She filled out the form as requested and we stood in line. A smiling bank teller requested we step forward and Donae hoisted her loot onto the counter, pushing the deposit slip behind it. I stroked her long pigtails as the teller counted the loose change, rolled coin and paper money totaling $74.36. “And here you go,” said the teller, as she handed Donae her deposit receipt.

Donae's reaction caught me by surprise. Stiff as a statue she stood, with not a peep. I was a bit embarrassed that she wasn’t reciprocating the teller’s expression, which beamed, just as I, knowing this was her first ever bank transaction.    

“Well? What do you think about your first ‘real’ banking experience?” I asked, completely puzzled.

She bit her bottom lip and raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know how to feel?” she questioned. She handed the deposit receipt to me as if she’d just been duped. “I gave her ALL my money and all she gave me is this piece of paper?”

When I was growing up, the finances I understood was that my mom’s money stack was much shorter than the stack of bills. “Overdue” was stamped across most while others read, “Collections Department.” Just when I’d think our situation couldn’t become more severe, we’d slump into a further state of destitute. I was a little like Donae. I looked at what I saw and felt like I was being duped. Ours was a life of day-to-day struggle. My mom couldn’t provide the bare necessities, let alone luxuries like new clothes and school supplies on the first day of school. I was disappointed and often judged her unfairly for the life she couldn’t provide. My self-righteous judgement began to shift as I matured. I came to realize later in life that my mom gave me something far more valuable than money when she taught me how to have faith. “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

As told in my memoir, “Becoming a Mother While Losing My Own,” I recall one evening near dinnertime my mom having nothing to feed me and my three siblings. Yet, mom said, “Claudia, go set the table.” I was thinking, “For what? The fridge is clearly empty.” But since I had the type of mother you didn’t talk back to, if you wanted to keep your head on straight, I complied.

But this was no joke. Within an hour a woman from our church came walking up to our door with bags filled with groceries. “Sorry for dropping by unexpectedly, but the Lord laid it on my heart to bring these items to your family,” she said.

That blew my mind. That was the first of several miraculous experiences I witnessed firsthand as a result of my mother having the audacity to believe her circumstance would change.

Is Donae’s logic really that uncommon?

Don’t most of us believe more in what we can see than that of which we cannot? In time, she will learn that keeping her money in the bank isn’t only a better option because it’s more secure, it will also accrue interest, thus putting her at a financial advantage. A simple lesson, but sometime I suppose it can be difficult to understand the benefit that comes with trusting another source.

Are you giving life everything you’ve got and finding the reality you hold in your hands to be less than a fair exchange? What would happen if you dared to believe more in what you hoped for rather than what you were experiencing? I wonder who might come strolling up to your doorstep, “figuratively or literally,” to share what the Lord laid on their hearts to do for you?

If you’ve experienced a faith manifestation, I’d love to hear about it. Connect with me at www.ClaudiaParker.net and click “Contact the Author” tab.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.  

 

Experiencing all the seasons in one day

  • Written by Joe Boyle

If you don’t like the weather in Chicago, just wait a while. We have all heard that old saying. But the longer I live here, the more I realize that old saying really does apply.

The weather on Saturday had to be the strangest I have ever encountered. I woke up in the morning and began preparing my breakfast as the coffee brewed. I saw that the sun was out so I figured the temperatures were not that bad.

But as I took a few sips of my first cup of coffee, I noticed that the sky suddenly grew dark as the clouds rolled in. A few minutes later, it was apparent that some snow flurries were falling. Now, that is not unusual In the Chicago area. Hey, just a couple of weeks ago I dedicated a column to the city’s eccentric weather patterns.

But while the wind whipped up and the snow fell, suddenly the sun came out. The temperatures got a little warmer as I drifted outside for a few minutes. At this point I’m thinking that the weather is going to clear up. I was wrong again.

By the time I finished my breakfast and had a couple cups of coffee, the dark clouds rolled in again. More snow flurries were coming down once more. I may not have noticed this odd weather so vividly but since I was helping moving items from a nearby condominium, I could not help but notice. During the early afternoon, I arrived at my destination only to notice that the dark clouds again swooped in and was quickly followed by snow. But this time it was much heavier. It was a combination of hail and snow.

The snow was coming down much harder. Within about 10 minutes, there was about an inch of snow on the ground. Entering and leaving the condo I was greeted by high winds as well. And the amazing thing was that within 20 minutes, the sun again came out as the dark clouds rush past. The one inch of snow that had fallen melted away.

This weather pattern continued throughout the day. On several occasions I felt warm in my coat, especially when I was driving in my car and the sun was shining. It was time to put on my sunglasses to take away the glare. And then it happened again. The sun disappeared behind some dark clouds. Now I was familiar with the drill. A few minutes later, the snow began to fall once more. I didn’t need my sunglasses anymore. Well, at least for 20 minutes or so.

This weather pattern continued through the late afternoon. I have never seen anything like it. The weather finally settled on just being cold at night.

In my previous column, I mentioned that I don’t put my scraper in my car trunk until May. I actually had to wipe some snow off my car windshield on Saturday. If I was 

patient, the sun would have come out and melted the snow. Temperatures were still cold on Monday. While I was working, I noticed snow flurries were falling again.

Well, it did not snow on Tuesday but I did have to scrape ice from the front and back windshields of my car during the morning. So, I bring my coat and even gloves to work even though we are in April. We have had snow in April before and we will again.

I can recall watching baseball games when it snowed. I remember one game in particular at old Comiskey Park in the early 1970s as Terry Forster pitched for the White Sox in an extra-inning game. I don’t remember the details, just Forster throwing from the stretch as snow was falling and blowing around the field.

Another time I can recall either in eighth grade or freshman year snow falling lightly to the ground as I hung out with friends near 95th and Loomis in Chicago. I do recall that the grass was covered with snow, enough to make some small snowballs.

Since experiencing this odd weather the past few days, I thought I would look up some information. O’Hare Airport has more snowy days, 28.5 days a year, according to Weather and Science Facts. Midway Airport averages 26.7 snowy days. However, Midway Airport has more snowfall, about 37.1 inches annually.

We know that better weather is on the way. I mean it can’t snow in May, right? Well, the latest the Chicago area has experienced accumulating snow was May 3, 1907. One inch of snow fell.

I don’t have my shovel on the porch anymore. However, it’s close by in the garage.

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. .

Cubs look for more magic while Sox look to surprise

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

April begins tomorrow and that is no joke. Baseball is just around the corner for the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.

And in the spirit of opening day (or in the case of the Cubs and White Sox, opening nights this Monday), I have two quiz questions for you.

We all know about Kyle Schwarber’s massive home run in game four of the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. But who did Schwarber hit the home run off of?

The White Sox broke an 88-year drought with a sweep of the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series. Sox fans know that Geoff Blum hit a pinch-hit homer in the 14th inning to lead them to victory at Minute Maid Park in game three. But who was the winning pitcher of this five hour, 41 minute marathon that lasted 14 innings? And who got the save?

The answers to the quiz questions will come at the end of this column.

The Cubs have created a buzz since their amazing finish in 2015. The Cubs finished third with a 97-65 record behind Pittsburgh (98-64) and St. Louis (100-62). All three teams had outstanding seasons. But the Cubs were the most amazing, defeating the Pirates in a Wild Card showdown. The Cubs then toppled the Cardinals in the National League Division Series.

Yes, the dominant starting pitching of the New York Mets and the hot bat of second baseman Danny Murphy ended the Cubs season in the NL championship series. But the Cubs had a long list of highlights, including Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta and Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant. But maybe the most valuable commodity is Joe Maddon as manager. The Manager of the Year dug deep into his bag of tricks that included magicians and animals in an attempt to keep the Cubs loose. He did this frequently as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

However, when you haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years and counting, the expectations become greater. After five years of last-place finishes, the future is now for the Cubs. To solidify the starting staff, the Cubs signed gritty veteran righty John Lackey, who was with St. Louis last season. Lackey has won World Series titles with Boston and the then Anaheim Angels. He is a hard worker who enjoyed a strong season with the Cards.

Add Jason Heyward to the Cubs outfield. Dexter Fowler surprisingly resigned with the Cubs to give them a strong outfield. Arrieta, John Lester and John Lackey will anchor the staff. Kyle Hendricks has also been outstanding this spring on the hill. The bullpen appears solid as long as Hector Rodon continues to do well as the closer.

Starlin Castro has been sent to the Yankees for starter and reliever Adam Warren. Schwarber will split time in left with Jorge Soler, for now. Fowler will patrol center and Heyward in right. This team has depth at several positions. All-purpose Ben Zobrist, who won a World Series with Kansas City, will mostly play second. Addison Russell is the shortstop, Bryant is at third and Anthony Rizzo at first.

One concern for this team is the hype. Many magazines are not only predicting the Cubs to win the division, they expect them to win the World Series. That can be a heavy burden to bear. Injuries can occur and players can have slumps. It will be up to Maddon to spread some more magic.

The Chicago White Sox are hardly receiving the same fanfare, but that’s OK with Robin Ventura, the team’s skipper. Actually, USA Today predicted the Sox would win the American League Central. That seems a little surprising since the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015.

The Sox appeared ready for an overhaul before management again decided to plug some holes and compete. The White Sox traded for third baseman Todd Frazier, who brings some swagger, a good glove and power to third base. This meant recently acquired Brett Laurie moves to second base. Both players bring an attitude that was missing from the laid back Sox. Shortstop Alexis Ramirez and his inconsistencies have left town to be replaced by veteran Jimmy Rollins and Tyler Saladino. Both shortstops will get playing time. After all, Rollins is 37 but has had a great spring. Jose Abreu is back at first and will continue to put up great numbers.

Travis Ishikawa, a playoff batting star for the Giants in 2014, can play first and outfield. The outfield now has reliable Austin Jackson in center, which pushes Adam Eaton mostly to left. Melky Cabrera will play left, right and DH. Avisail Garcia looks more alive this season and may tap that potential in his second full year. With the departure of Adam LaRoche and his son, the DH spot can be split between these outfielders.

The White Sox have solid starters in Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon. Jon Danks and Mat Latos are question marks. The bullpen is deep and potentially great.

The White Sox will contend but we still like the Royals. The Cubs still have to play the games and defeat the Cardinals. This promises to be an interesting season on both sides of town.

Oh, those quiz questions. Schwarber launched his bomb off Cardinal reliever Kevin Siegrist. Damaso Marte, who got into manager Ozzie Guillen’s doghouse, was the winning pitcher in that World Series game. And Mark Buerhle actually got the save.

It’s time to play ball.

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. .

 

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.