Faith is rewarded beyond the summer bash

  • Written by Claudia Parker



My track record has proven that my faith can manifest almost anything I desire. I’ve tested this theory from the supernatural (prayer changes things) to the superficial. A couple of tangible items my faith has relinquished include acquiring ownership of a vacation timeshare for $99 valued at $30,000 and a $45,000 Buick Enclave that I won on a TV show.

I also exercise my faith for trivial items, such as concert tickets. Every time my eyes lock on one of those radio station mobiles, I’ve been known to walk away with something free in my palm. I always believe I’m going to win and as a result, I usually do. But, in June of 2014, things didn’t look like they were going in my favor.

Chicago’s Pop chart FM station 96.3, also known as B96, had a mobile at the Walgreens on the corner of 87th and Kedzie Avenue. It was swarming with people attempting to win a pair of Summer Bash concert tickets. I figured whatever prize I gained could take care of the expenses for a much needed child-free evening out for me and my husband, Don.

I hurriedly scribbled my info onto the entry ticket. I had a smolder face as I placed it inside the fishbowl. It was just before 2 p.m., the last drawing of the day. This 20-something dude in skinny jeans was yelling out contest rules. “The form must be filled out in its entirety with accurate information,” he snapped. He was a radio station disc jockey with a drill sergeant personality. Once all entries were obtained, he started announcing winners. I moved to the front, certain I’d be called. Three pair of tickets were awarded and I wasn’t one of them.

So it seemed!

I thought, “That can’t be right. I always win.” Dumbfounded by the upset, I just stood there. The crowd quickly dissipated. Those that remained were the B96 employees and the rightful winners of the drawing. I didn’t leave because I couldn’t accept that my name hadn’t been called. My reputation was on the line, I had assured Don I’d be home with something good.

As I stared disappointedly as the winners collected their prizes, my attention turned to Mr. skinny-jeans. “The address on your contest entry doesn’t match your driver’s license,” he scolded. “Your entry is disqualified.” He then turned to those of us still present and pulled another name from the fishbowl.

Yep -- my name! I was the only eligible contestant because the others present had already won and were filling out prize claim forms. The concert took place at Toyota Park on June, 14, 2014 and included Jennifer Lopez (J. Lo) , Pitt Bull, Austin Mahone, Jason Derulo, Iggy Azalea, Little Mix, Chelle Rae, Icona Pop and G.R.L.

Don and I had no idea who 80 percent of the lineup even was. It wasn’t an ideal date for a couple in their 40s. We were surrounded by screaming teenagers who wept at the sight of some of the acts. We cried too, from laughing hysterically. We got into a groove when J. Lo came on stage though, finally someone from our era. “Next time I’ll be more specific in the criteria I desire when I put my faith in motion,” I told Don.

He and I have been together for 18 years and married for 14. Throughout the years he’s seen God move various times in our lives as a result of my faith. He said, “Your faith gives you special powers, now you just need to hone it and start believing we’re going to be millionaires.”

I have bigger things to believe in God for than money. I have faith that my daughter, Rhonda-Rene, who has a severe language disorder called apraxia, will one day speak effortlessly. I have faith that my siblings, whom I lost connection with after the passing of our mother, and I will reunite and re-establish the closeness we once shared. I have faith that my memoir, “Becoming a Mother While Losing My Own,” will gain international success and perhaps even grace the silver screen.

And while it may appear to many that I’m standing dumbfounded, refusing to accept the reality before me, I will remain immovable in my faith just like I did on the corner of 87th and Kedzie. As long as I don’t move, I will hear the voice of authority call my name and reward me with what I’ve been waiting for.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author and runner whose columns appear in The Reporter.


Businesses make profit and customers get good night's sleep

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The presidential nominees have discussed the state of the national economy – that is when they take a break from calling for a jail sentence for one candidate while the other is accused of not being fit for office.

According to the National Federation of Independent Business, expected conditions over the next six months should improve. However, that as offset by significantly weaker inventories and hard-to-fill job openings.

Conditions in Illinois typically reflect national trends, said Kim Clarke-Maisch, state director of NFIB. She said there is room for improvement.

One way of looking at it is that “we improved from awful to bad,” said Juanita Duggan, NFIB president and CEO. “The bottom line is that small business owners are deeply uncertain about the future, and that is affecting their decisions.”

The NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism dipped 0.03 points in September for the second consecutive month. Increased inventories fell seven points while hard-to-fill job openings plunged six points, landing at 24 percent. Six of the 10 indexes dropped, washing away the rise in expected business conditions.

Small businesses won’t be hiring or building inventories, according to Bill Dunkelberg, the NFIB chief economist. The top issues for small business owners will not be addressed this year, he said. And he points to that heated presidential election as one reason way.

“The presidential election is so divisive that it offers little promise of a bipartisan effort to deal with any of these important issues,” said Dunkelberg.

We have come a long way from the Great Recession, but I agree with the NFIB officials. The legislators in Washington, D.C. are so polarized, Illinois included, that little gets done. Compromise has become a dirty word. The finger-pointing in this presidential campaign has dampened the mood of small business.

But I wonder if there are some businesses that are prospering despite the political climate. And one look at some local suburbs indicates to me that there is one item that is registering high sales. All you have to consider is what most of us want – a good night’s sleep.

All you have to do is drive along some main arteries and strip malls and you see them. Mattress stores seem to be everywhere. I was driving along 95th Street in Oak Lawn and saw about four or five in just over a mile. Ken Murphy, the CEO of Mattress Firm, agrees that Chicago has probably too many stores. But the reason you see so many mattress stores is because of a series of acquisitions by Mattress Firm. In the best markets, Houston-based Mattress Firm aims to have a store for about every 50,000 people. Right now, that company exceeds that limit.

But my main question is why? Some duplicate or unprofitable stores will be closing but not right away. I actually confirmed that belief with an employee at a Mattress Firm. This person has been told that stores will be closing within the next year. Most closures will come as store leases end.

It just seems odd that an item that used to be purchased let’s say every decade or so has become so plentiful, and in many cases, profitable. Roughly 9,000 specialty bed and mattress stores in the U.S. generated about $11.5 billion in revenue in 2015, according to a report last year from market research firm IbisWorld.

But again, why is there so many?

A new mattress was an easy purchase to delay during the recession. That resulted in more demand as the economy slightly improved. Industry analysts also said an increase in bedbug infestations may have been the reason for a hike in sales. Mattresses are a high-margin product because stores do not need that many employees. Each location does not have to sell a huge number of mattresses to break even, according to industry analysts.

These mattress stores are profitable for the owners. I don’t know how well the employees do. One facility I went to had a young woman working evenings. I noticed there was not a rush of people coming in. After talking to her, I learned she was the store manager. Of course, she was the only employee. She explained that if a couple of people come in and purchase a mattress, it was a good day for her.

I guess the bottom line is that these mattress stores will continue to be profitable for the employers. I’m not so sure about the employees over time. But I’m all for a new mattress. The economy may be uncertain but we might as well get a good night’s sleep.

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. .

Quest for family photo eventually turns out picture perfect

  • Written by Claudia Parker

the parkers photo 10-13

Submitted photo

The Parker family smile for the camera during their outing to Matthiessen State Park in Utica, Ill.




Monday marked several observances of Columbus Day with parades, festivals and events to occupy those of us looking to spend our highly anticipated day off wisely. As most know, Christopher Columbus was an explorer said to have been determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but instead discovered America.

In lieu of Mr. Columbus’ voyage I took my family and a few friends on an exploration as well. After all, the day wasn’t solely about Christopher, it happened to be my birthday. “All I want for my birthday is a family picture in a beautiful setting we’ve never been,” I told my husband Don. “Starved Rock has a ton of canyons and waterfalls that would make a beautiful backdrop for a family photo.”

I’m one of those moms who like taking fall family photos for Christmas cards. I will spend weeks scouting locations and selecting coordinating outfits while watching the fall foliage forecast to ensure we look magazine publication worthy.

Don’t most of us get our inspiration from magazines? Could someone pa-leez tell my family how they’re supposed to conduct themselves during a photo-shoot? Clearly they haven’t been briefed! “How do you expect us to want to smile if you keep yelling at us,” questioned Don? I swear he asks me that every year. I wouldn’t have to subject them or myself to such harsh conditions if they’d just cooperate. No matter how many times I ask him to refrain, he still points at the lens to instruct the kids where to look. Who wants a picture with his index finger pointing at the camera?

Not me!

Then, as if on que, he closes his eyes on almost every-single shot! What starts off joyous typically turns into a highly stressful experience for all of us. I usually guilt them into posing. “I can’t believe you’re doing this to me after all I do for you,” I’ve been known to scold.

Of course this year was going to be different because it was the only request I desired of them for my birthday. We were dressed in white shirts and denim jeans with an ideal 68 degree day to keep our temperaments in check. The setting was beautiful. There we stood at the foot of the French Canyon at the golden hour, which most photographers refer to as the magic hour because it’s either before sunrise or just before sunset. In our case, it was the later.  

Did I get my photo? NO!

Rhonda-Rene continuously maneuvered out of the frame while Don gave chase during my tutorials to those around me on how to work my DSLR camera. By the time all was said and done, it was too dark to get a viable shot. The pictures came out grainy and out of focus. I didn’t hike back to the car. It was more like a grumpy stomp!

Don was quick to snuff my flame by offering a ‘do over’ the next day at Matthiessen State Park in Utica, IL. “Let’s forget the photo,” I told him. “Let’s just go have fun.”  

Off through the forest we went down several flights of wooden staircases until we arrived at the bottom of a gorgeous, gushing waterfall. Don said getting to it was like auditioning for a slot on the television series, “American Ninja Warrior. “ We had to hop tree vines, and balance walking over creeks on wooden planks and partially submerged rock trails.  

It was adventurous, exciting and absolutely the most fun I’ve had in a long time. There wasn’t matching outfits, perfectly applied makeup or fancy hairdos to capture a picture worthy of a Christmas card. Nonetheless, we just so happened to capture a beautiful family photo of authentic happiness. I, like Christopher, didn’t accomplish what I set out for, but I absolutely found something more valuable.

Golf wasn’t perfect, but time with old friends was

  • Written by Joe Boyle

The skies appeared threatening as I checked to make sure I had enough golf balls, sun screen and my sunglasses. And I was not going to forget those new golf shoes.

The second annual St. Margaret of Scotland Golf Tournament was held last month at Gleneagles Country Club in Lemont. I decided to participate this year along with my brother, Terry. While I marked off the check list for the tournament, there was one thing I could not change – my golf game.

For nearly a decade, I usually only go out to golf once a year. My brother has sponsored an annual golf tournament just after Father’s Day. We have gone on long weekends at courses in Wisconsin, and before that, Nauvoo, Ill. Those golf tournaments featured relatives, in-laws and friends. The majority of us who tee up are all over the course except for where it matters – the fairway. We have a handful of good golfers that helps make it interesting. The main thing is we have a lot of fun.

For the uninitiated, golf is a difficult game to play if you hardly tee up. Even if I played every week, there is no assurance that I would improve. Golf demands concentration and the ability to use a variety of clubs. You might be able to drive well, but if you can’t make your chip shots or putt, those scores will go up. It is difficult to master all facets of this game.

That’s why sometimes I’m a little apprehensive to go out and golf that frequently, especially with people I don’t know that well. I want it to be an enjoyable day and I don’t want to hold anyone back. But with the St. Margaret’s Tournament, I thought just go out and have fun. The main thing is that it is for a good cause. The funds raised from this tournament go to assist St. Margaret’s.

I attended St. Margaret of Scotland School, 9833 S. Throop St., Chicago, starting in the fourth grade and graduated from there. The majority of golfers also went to the school, along with a few guests who arrived just for the dinner afterward. St. Margaret’s was like a lot of Catholic parishes on Chicago’s South Side -- predominately Irish. But like many neighborhoods on the South Side, demographic changes took place. The surrounding community is now largely African-American.

But many of the graduates of St. Margaret’s from the 1960s and early 1970s still have ties to the parish. Early Saturday afternoon Masses draw some of the graduates from nearby Beverly and other communities. An anniversary celebration was held last year and the parish still holds an annual St. Patrick’s Day party. The parish has also been doing a better job of marketing and drawing back graduates, like me. The golf tournament happens to be one of those fundraisers.

But while my golf game is shaky, I came prepared -- at least sort of. I had a discussion with my brother about having a foursome but ultimately we both showed up that morning two players short. But I was assured by organizers that another player or two will most likely be available. I was not going to worry about it. This was about having fun.

When I arrived at Gleneagles, I began to see some familiar faces. Some may be a little grayer or heavier, but once they smile at you, it is like I’m transported back to my days hanging around 95th Street and Loomis Avenue. I can recall Carole Goeing and Pat Manning -- who I graduated with from St. Margaret’s -- being cheerleaders for sports teams and playing sports themselves. They were also active in various organizations at the school and in the neighborhood.

So, who greets me when I go to sign up and pay for the tournament? Well, it was none other than Carole and Pat. They were were handling all the information, payments and organizing the foursomes. Some things don’t change.

My brother and I were resigned to the fact that we were going to have to be a duo. But suddenly someone called out to us and asked if he can be part of our team. The person was Jody Favia, who had just come in for the tournament from his home in Dallas. He was accompanied by his younger brother, Joe. They both grew up in the old neighborhood. Terry and I said sure. We now had our foursome.

While sitting in our golf carts waiting to tee off, a slight drizzle started to come down. I may have had a hat, sunglasses, sun screen and new golf shoes, but I did not have an umbrella or jacket. Dave Curley, who I grew up with and went to St. Margaret’s with, noticed my dilemma and offered me a hoodie to deal with the elements. I have to remember that jacket next time. Fortunately, the rain stopped.

The one advantage of this event was that it was a scramble tournament, or best ball. You use the best ball hit by one of the foursome. It moves the game along faster and helps us struggling golfers. Terry and I agreed that if it was just us two, it would have been a long afternoon.

How did we do? Hey, we made some nice shots. We contributed. But it turns out Jody Favia, who I haven’t seen in about 40 years, plays about four times a week back at his home. He told me he shoots in the 70s. And that explains why we were one of the winners at the end of the golf tournament, shooting one under par.

What was our winning gift? We received more golf balls. Maybe that’s an omen. I think I’m going to play more golf this fall. I just have to remember to bring a jacket.

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. .

Clinton and Trump can clear the air with debates

  • Written by Joe Boyle


Fall is officially in the air today with cooler weather just around the corner. The winds of change will greet us soon. This upcoming presidential election is a forecast for a typhoon in the eyes of many. But ready or not, we will be witnessing history on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

These elections seem to get longer and longer. That’s because they are longer. The only way candidates who don’t have glossy resumes have a chance to defeat well known and wealthy figures is jump in the race as early as possible. Not too many people knew who Bernie Sanders was before this race started. But the Independent Vermont governor, who refers to his views as socialist, ran as a Democrat.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed him in the beginning, believing that she was the anointed choice of the Democrats. But Clinton forgot that the opposition could resonate with a changing electorate. State Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois became that choice in 2008 and Clinton was unable to recover.

Now Clinton has the support of Obama, the first black president, and other Democratic leaders in her bid to become the first female president. While there is no denying her intelligence and experience gained as secretary of state, Clinton has not made a convincing argument of why she should be our next president. She often plays it too safe and attempts to straddle the fence. That is why many college students and Independents began to follow Sanders. While Clinton first said Sanders’ ideas were a pipe dream, he continued to win caucuses and primaries.

Clinton eventually prevailed but she received a valuable lesson. Do not take possible younger voters for granted and become a little more passionate about subjects you support. Clinton’s mistrust of the media began during her husband Bill Clinton’s presidency. Some of the stuff being said about her or implied were off base, like linking the Clintons somehow to Vince Foster’s suicide.

She is not always comfortable in the public eye and that probably led to her separate personal email account, which, quite frankly, I did not know initially was considered improper. Her use of the emails was careless and could have created headaches if someone sabotaged her computer.

She also had a rough week when during a recent fundraiser said that half of the followers of Republican candidate Donald Trump were “deplorable” and racist and so on. I knew what she was trying to say but it did not come out right. It was not a good idea to say half. The word some would have been better. Then a couple of days later after a Sept. 11 ceremony, she stumbled going into a car but was caught and led into the vehicle quickly. Turns out she had pneumonia. Suddenly her health becomes an issue. I thought that was nonsense. People get sick. A few days of rest and she was fine.

Clinton had been mostly silent up until her screw up. She has been reportedly preparing for the upcoming debates.

And then there is Trump. Regardless of what anyone thinks about this race, the only thing I’m convinced of is that Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump. With Clinton literally stumbling and dropping in the polls, the best advise aides could have given Trump is to be quiet. Instead he holds a press conference to essentially promote his new hotel in Washington, D.C. and had veterans who support him lined up behind the candidate as props and told us that President Obama was born in the United States. Of course, this was never an issue for most of us except for Trump, who continued to question Obama’s birthplace since 2011, event after the president’s birth certificate was posted.

Look, there is no use continuing to go over this stuff. Trump has his supporters and they are not all deplorable. Some of them are average middle class people who are frustrated with politicians who they feel do not listen to their complaints. Some of these voters are going to support Trump regardless of what he says.

So, when Trump says at the press conference that the president is born in the U.S., period, and turns around and states that it was Hillary Clinton who was one of the leaders of the birther movement in 2008, many of his followers are not concerned.

This is where we are at right now. But I’m encouraged that the debates are going to take place because Trump will actually have to talk about issues, and Clinton has an opportunity to outline why she should be the next president. The debates will most likely be watched extensively even with NFL games and the Cubs in the playoffs.

The winds of change are coming. We will find out soon in what direction.

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. .