Menu

Never take for granted your wonderful neighbors

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

the jarretts photo 9-8

 

Neal and Jessica Jarrett

 

 

Keeping up with the Joneses is an expression of comparison to one's neighbor used to figuratively measure social class or the accrual of material goods.

In this case, the Joneses are the Jarretts, as in Neal and Jessica Jarrett of Evergreen Park. They’ve lived smackdab next door to my husband, Don, and me since we moved on this block back in 2005. A local builder demolished a modest house sitting on a large lot and built two, medium sized, newly constructed homes. The Jarretts snatched one and we swiped the other.

During the time our offers were accepted, both houses were in their infancy stages of being built. Therefore, we were able to customize certain aspects. Each of us found ourselves often visiting the construction sites. With each encounter, we’d discover more about one another.

I said to Don, “What’s the likelihood we have this much in common? Neal and Jessica’s birthdays are the same month as mine, our wedding anniversaries are one day apart, and they dated four years prior to marriage -- just like us!”

Similarities began to manifest in our home selections as well. Once we moved in – them in September of 2005 and us on December -- I noticed we even had parallels in décor. I honestly couldn’t distinguish if we were influencing each other’s purchases or if we were just that much alike?

After living next door a few years, our differences became quite obvious. For starters, no matter how hard we tried, our lawn wasn’t ever quite as nice as theirs. “Don, Honey, did you try that new fertilizer we discussed?” While gazing out an upstairs bedroom window I whined, “Neal and Jessica’s grass just looks so much greener.”

Have you heard the saying, ‘this house doesn’t look lived in?” as in, it’s so clean and beautifully arranged people couldn’t possibly dwell there? Yeah, that’s the Jarretts' house. And, when anything within their home needed to be repaired, you didn’t witness a handyman pulling into their driveway. Neal, a licensed tradesman, could fix anything. When things malfunctioned in our home my frequent statement was, “Babe, can you call Neal?”

Never mind keeping up with the Jarretts, sometime you have to recognize when a person’s skill set or abilities supersede yours. Instead of competing with them, employ them!

I can’t recall one instance Neal didn’t come when Don and I needed him, except last November. Don had had a medical procedure that required him to stay in the hospital a few days. I wanted to surprise him by taking a few ‘honey-do-list’ items off his plate. Having just returned home from visiting Don, I saw Jessica pulling into her driveway simultaneously. Because of our sisterly friendship I knew she didn't mind me asking Neal for favors. But out of respect I’d never asked him directly. I found it more appropriate to go through her. “Hey Jess, do you think Neal might be able to come by and do a few things for us," I asked? "Don’s in the hospital.”

   I didn’t expect her response.

   “Sorry to hear that, but Neal is in the hospital also,” she replied. As generous at heart as she is, she followed with, “What kind of work is it? Maybe you and I can do it?”

There was no chance of that, I know my gifts and carpentry isn’t one of them.

Jessica and I spent the next several minutes going on about our husband’s ailments, finding yet another commonalty in life’s journey. Neal’s recovery didn’t go as expected. He's spent the last several months being checked in and out of hospitals -- fighting valiantly for his life. Tragically, on Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 2:30 p.m., he surrendered this life and transitioned to the next.

Neal was 49 years old and leaves to cherish his wife Jessica of 16 years; four children, Brandon, 25; Myrisha, 25; Shannon, 21; and Jasmine, 15. He also has a 4-year-old grandbaby named Mariah, who called him, ‘Papa’.

Over the previous 11 years I’ve watched the Jarretts work hard for what they have, give generously to those in need and go out of their way to help others. I’ve admired their playful love for one another and the dedication they’ve put into parenting their children and even children they didn’t birth. I’ve been there during birthdays, proms and graduation celebrations. And I’ve been there when they’ve mourned loved ones who’ve gone before them. First we were neighbors, then we became friends, now we’re family.

Please keep the entire Jarrett family in your prayers during this difficult time. And, allow me to encourage you to do something kind for your neighbor today. It could be the last time you see them.    

Labor Day images change like the weather

  • Written by Joe Boyle

Some random thoughts went through my mind as we quickly approach Labor Day. The first obvious thought was that I would have the day off. Of course, there could be a breaking news story somewhere or some photos may need to be taken. You are never really off in this business.

I can’t say that I have any special feeling when Labor Day approaches. When I was young, I knew it was my last day of summer vacation. I shared those depressing thoughts in last week’s column. By Labor Day, I grew to accept the fact that school was on the horizon. The next day was kind of exciting in that you were eager to see who was in your class.

You have an opportunity to meet up with some friends that you have not seen in a while. On the other hand, you might be in a class with your close friends. That meant you had someone to goof off with for the next coming year. That made school more palatable for me.

Besides school, no specific memories come to mind about Labor Day. As we get older we realize the importance of Labor Day as we recognize and salute the American worker. I think I’m more aware today how important that is as opposed to when I was young.

Parades may be occurring in certain suburbs and communities in Chicago as residents are reminded that we should honor the American workforce. Labor Day also represents the unofficial end of summer. When I entered my classroom for the first day of school, in my mind summer was over. Actually, summer continues until the middle of September. The first day of fall this year is Thursday, Sept. 22.

So, we actually have many summer days ahead. But on Labor Day, we feel the tug of autumn. That’s why some of us have friends or relatives come over for the last summer bash. That is why we set up the grill one more time. Brats, hamburgers and chicken sounds good on Labor Day.

Speaking about football doesn’t seem early anymore. The high school football season already began this past weekend. Reports on the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks will soon be appearing on TV. And if you step into some stores now, you will begin to see some shelves stocked with more candy. Halloween is no longer a day, it is a season. TV and print ads will have specials on candy and costumes, if they haven’t already.

With the arrival of September and Labor Day, the major league baseball season is coming to a close. In Chicago, September usually meant the season was over because both the Cubs and White Sox were well out of contention.

Not this year. Even after losing a weekend series to the Dodgers, the Cubs were 82-48 on Tuesday with a 13-game lead over their closest rivals in the National League Central, the St. Louis Cardinals. Even though some cracks have appeared in the Cub armor, they will win the division title and should be a force in the NL playoffs.

The White Sox, at any rate, guaranteed or not, are mediocre. They are not terrible, but they are also not that good. They took three out of four from Seattle this past weekend but lost a 4-3 heartbreaker to Detroit on Monday. They were 63-67 as of Tuesday and in fourth place in the American League Central. Injuries and a lack of a consistent offensive derailed the Sox.

One more thing used to remind me of Labor Day. For many years, the Jerry Lewis Telethon would be televised beginning on Sunday and through most of Labor Day. It was covered by stations throughout the country and was shown locally on WGN-TV (Channel 9). It was for a great cause, raising money for research to find cures for adults and children who have muscular dystrophy.

I would watch portions of the show from the 1970s through the early 2000s. Where else can you see Norm Crosby, Ann Miller, Joey Heatherton, Lola Falana and even once Dean Martin? Heck, even John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared and sang on the telethon.

But times change. The organizers managed to steer Lewis away from the telethon a few years ago. And due to social media, websites, fundraisers and other events, the telethon is a thing of the past. They can raise more money by not filling up air time and save on costs.

Labor Day has changed in that regard. I say enjoy your day off and get the grill ready.

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. .

Back to School’ does not mean July

  • Written by Joe Boyle

It seems to me the print ads and TV advertisements for “Back to School” promotions are seen earlier every year. Many local students completed the school year at the end of May. But there were already ads for school in July.

From the standpoint of a kid, I would find that kind of depressing. But just last week as I drove to work, I saw kids walking to school. Yellow school buses were picking up students. Again, I don’t think I could get that excited about going to school when the weather was around 92 degrees with the usual Chicago-style humidity.

If I were going to school today that would mean I would be in a classroom for my birthday. That would have been unheard of during my days at school. Being born late in August, I was still assured of having a least another week of summer vacation. Now I would be sitting in a classroom on most likely a hot summer day.

Not only that, but I would have probably started school as early as Aug. 15. My line of thinking means that these kids will miss out on some days lounging at a local pool or going downtown to see some of our local sights.

I attended a Chicago Public School when I was very young. I don’t remember getting out of school in the middle of June. My parents had me transferred to a Catholic grade school (St. John De La Salle and later St. Margaret of Scotland in Chicago) and I would complete the school year the first week of June. Believe me, at that point I had one foot out the door looking forward to a summer of baseball, hanging out with friends, and some summer vacations with my family.

The days were becoming a little warmer as well. That was enough to make me eager to close my text books and spend some leisurely summer days to myself. Those three months seemed like an eternity to me now. Back then, I probably didn’t think it was long enough.

I viewed teachers as tortured souls who enjoyed sitting in classrooms all day. Now that I have gotten older and have talked to teachers, I found out that they were no different than me as a kid. Many of them are eager for some time off of the daily schedule of trying to teach young minds, give tests and quizzes, pass out homework assignments and grade papers and tests.

I guess I did not view teachers as human. They are no different than us. Now that I’m older, I look at teaching as a rewarding profession. I respect what they do for a living. Not all teachers work in the greatest environments so they deserve respect. The majority of teachers I have met enjoy what they do and pride themselves on igniting a flame that makes students become more curious and grasp the importance of knowledge.

I can’t say that flame was always on for me. My mind often drifted. But I always did well enough because I enjoyed reading. Eventually I finally got it. A good education can provide more options for kids. That is one thing that has not changed.

Some schools still do start the day after Labor Day. Chicago Public School students will arrive to school that day, unless there is a teacher’s strike. Back when I went to school, everybody started in September after Labor Day.

First of all, it was just practical. The weather is significantly different in September. The nights are cooler and the days are becoming shorter. We can experience hot days in September and even October. But the nights will always be cooler.

We did not have central air-conditioning in schools during those days. We did not even have portable air conditioners. Beginning school in August just seemed unnatural to us. Yes, some kids had to go to summer school. But we figured that was part of their punishment. A lot of fans would get a workout at these schools.

But times change and students are required to be in school a certain amount of days. Schools begin sooner due to a number of reasons. In the Chicago area, that could mean our unpredictable weather patterns. We had a relatively mild winter last year but that doesn’t mean we will be that lucky this time around. Days off due to winter snowstorms will mean that kids will have to go to school longer at the end of the year.

But I still believe kids go back to school too early. I think kids should be allowed to enjoy a full summer. Of course, some parents may have a different opinion.

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. .

Learning to occasionally say no only means that we all have some limits

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia-NEW

I’ve felt overextended lately.

This exhaustion could possibly stem from giving heaping portions of myself to individuals that haven’t shown any gratitude. “You’re being taken advantage of,” said one family member. “Ya just working yourself into a frenzy -- learn how to say NO!”

While that may have been true in a few prior instances, it’s not common. I’m not naïve when it comes to discerning the intentions of others. Nevertheless, there are instances where we’re supposed to stretch ourselves for the sake of our fellow brethren. The 25th book of Matthew says, "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

This is the doctrine I follow. Many of the miracles of Christ are carried out by ordinary folks who have a heart to hear the cries of the people. Some recipients will show gratitude and some will not. Those familiar with their Bible may have read the story of Jesus healing 10 men with leprosy and of them, a measly one of them rascals came back to say thank you.

Don’t we all appreciate hearing the ole’ ‘Atta girl! Thanks for all you’ve done’? Well, if it doesn’t get said you’re probably dealing with a descendant of the nine lepers who took their gift of healing and never looked back. That typically happens among those with a sense of entitlement. You could slave away on their behalf without a single acknowledgement because in their mind, either you or society owes them.

I have pity for any individual or organization holding true to this sentiment. When they over-utilize and take people for granted they’re inviting reciprocity in the same measure. However, we’re not helpless in these matters. We always have a choice. We’re not required to oblige every request that comes in our direction. No one should say yes to everything another person asks, especially if we’re being inconvenienced. People who know their value won’t allow unreasonable demands of others to impose on their lives.

It is an illogical thought to believe you will lose the approval of everyone you say no to. In actuality, you may gain their respect. It’s perfectly OK to communicate your wishes and establish boundaries. An example I like to share is when people used to ask me if they could borrow money. I’m not a bank and don’t make it my practice to lend money due to several prior promises-to-pay that defaulted. I stopped these said lending requests by saying, “I’m not in a position to ‘lend’ you $500, but I can give you $50 as a gift.” In this scenario I was offering help without risking a violation of trust if the loan wasn’t repaid. Using this method pretty much ceased these requests altogether.

That dam is dry!

However, some people can be aggressive. If their flattery fails, they may attempt to use manipulation to get what they want out of you. If and when this occurs honor yourself by communicating your needs and feelings clearly. No one should be made to feel guilty about denying a request they can’t accommodate. You can be assertive without being aggressive. Speak the truth in love. If you don’t do well with conflict, seek out a trusted friend or colleague to be a mediator.

Not everyone will take offense.

Discussing areas of concern often brings resolution. Sometimes you’re suffering silently for prolonged periods of time merely because it’s never been addressed. Speak up for yourself and your situation could change in an instant.

When you find yourself weary because you’ve been pouring into others, let it be because your heart has prompted you to do so. Even when it’s laborious, it’s worth it because you have a sense of fulfillment in knowing it was God’s leading. Galatians 6:9 tells says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Conversely, when optional assignments find themselves barging into your life, do not waiver. But let your communication be, “Yes, yes or no, no!” Matthew 5:37.

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

Bears get creamed, buat least it did not rain

  • Written by Joe Boyle

 

It all started with a phone call from my sister, Jean. We talked about a variety of things and she mentioned that her husband and my brother-in-law, Pat, had tickets to the Chicago Bears game.

The Chicago Bears? I then got my bearings and realized the NFL preseason begins the first week of August. I guess my mind was still on baseball because it was hot and humid outside. It turns out my brother-in-law’s cousin is a longtime season ticketholder.

The Bears were scheduled to play hosts to the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, minus retired quarterback Peyton Manning. Hey, I thought, why not? The chances of the Bears winning this exhibition game (oh, sorry NFL, I mean preseason) were remote at best. I had not seen a Bears game since the early 1980s when St. Rita product and offense tackle Dennis Lick suffered a knee injury. He never played for the Bears again.

I had not been to Soldier Field since had been renovated. The last time I was there was for a Rolling Stones Concert in 1998. And this was a chance to see the Bears play again, win or lose. They lost the first time I saw them play.

In a recent column, I mentioned how I had an unfortunate string of bad luck attending White Sox games. In two instances, I never saw the end of the games due to passing thunderstorms. The first game was called after eight innings with the Sox trailing. Two days later with my son, the rain returned. At least the Sox were tied when they suspended this game.

So I figured what bad can happen at the Bears game? I left with Pat for the game and arrived at his cousin’s house in the western suburbs. Pat told me that his cousin knew his way around Soldier Field and would get us there in great time. He did just that and we had time to tailgate before the game. We had a few sandwiches, some fruit and some beverages. The bus picked us up and we got there quickly.

For someone that had not entered Solider Field in this century, it has changed dramatically. I could see the area where the old seating was at old Solider Field. You could fit a lot of people in those seats but they were far from comfortable. The renovated Solider Field seating is much better and closer to the field.

Everything was great until the game started. Jay Cutler was the Bears quarterback for the first quarter. He had little time to throw and spent most of the first quarter on his back. The running game never got going. The offensive line could not handle the outstanding and quick defense of the Broncos. The game was essentially over after the first quarter.

The only thing to look forward to was to cheer the Bears when they finally scored. And we waited and waited. Since the Bears were losing 22-0 in the fourth quarter, there was no need to wait any longer. Still, I had a fun time and I can say I was at the new Soldier Field.

We then went outside and waited for the bus that would bring us to a lot near McCormick Place off a street called Moe. I never knew there was a street in Chicago called Moe. The only name that comes to mind is Moses Horowitz, who was better known as Moe Howard. In any event we waited for our bus. People who were going to the lot near Millennium Park were more fortunate. They had several buses pull up and pull way as we continued to sit there. We waited and waited. My brother-in-law asked someone is this normal? The person’s response was it is the first game and this happens. Pat was incredulous. “The first game, that’s no excuse. Some of these people have been working here 25 years. You would think they would get it right by now.”

Well, after nearly an hour, our bus finally arrived. Someone mentioned that the tunnel was filled with vehicles. That must have been the reason our bus driver began to go north on Lake Shore Drive, turn at Balbo to Columbus and go south back to Solider Field. Al this took place on a jammed bus. Nearly 45 minutes later we got back to Moe Street. What took place after was fit for a Three Stooges short.

We crawled along Moe Street only to face cars heading in our direction. Drivers were coming out of the lot and taking up all the lanes of traffic. The bus driver did show patience because these cars had to back up to allow us through. She finally stopped her bus near our parking lot and put up her stop sign. A passenger on the bus got in the middle of the street and held up traffic with his outstretched hand.

That allowed for us to cross the street and enter our car. On the bright side, it was supposed to rain and did not. At least I stayed dry, unlike those Sox games. It was a fun experience.

I’m going to see the Sox play the Oakland A’s on Saturday night. The weather forecast calls for rain.

Somewhere, Moe Howard has to be laughing.

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. .