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


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. .

Chicago’s better off passing on torch

  • Written by Joe Boyle


The 2016 Summer Olympics is about to complete its first week of competition as Rio de Janeiro plays hosts. It is the first time the Olympics have taken place in South America.

It was not long ago that Chicago put in an aggressive bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, led by former Mayor Richard Daley and a group of high-profile investors. President Obama had great things to say about Chicago, his adopted hometown. So did first lady Michelle Obama, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side.

Politicians, business leaders and sports figures lobbied hard for Chicago in the way this city knows best. But when the announcement came for the first round elimination, Chicago was given the quick boot. Daley, city and business leaders were speechless. The torch was passed to Rio for the first time in Olympic history.

That seems so long ago because so much has happened since 2009. Daley is no longer the city’s mayor. He has since been replaced by Rahm Emanuel, who is dealing with a series of problems that the Olympics would not have shielded. Many columnists have noted that if Chicago did win the bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, Daley most likely would still be mayor. I agree that Daley would have stuck around for this occasion, cutting the ribbon and viewing the torch rising above Second City.

But the devastating defeat was probably too much for Daley to bear. He most likely knew the problems that now grip the city were inevitable. It was time for him to pass the torch to Emanuel.

But the Summer Olympics proposal for Chicago had plenty of critics. Opponents predicted that this mammoth undertaking would lose money, as has been the case for other Olympic sites. What lasting effect would the Olympics have on the neighborhoods of Chicago? The critics pointed out that it would have little effect.

I had mixed feelings when Daley and his investors put on a full-court press to bring the Olympics to Chicago. On one hand, we would have had people from all over the world here and Chicago could have been shown in a more positive light. Maybe some of that glow could trickle into neighborhoods that were marked by crime and poverty. Other neighborhoods may have not shared those problems but were usually ignored by City Hall. Maybe the Olympics could give these sections of the city a boost, I thought.

But after the shock of Chicago’s quick departure from the Olympic bidding, I began to realize that was a pipe dream. City planners said that old Michael Reese Hospital site would have been a prime site for the Olympic Village. The city had purchased the land for $86 million. Other proposals would have included a tennis center for Lincoln Park. Canoeing and kayaking would have taken place just north of Northerly Island. Rowing would have taken place near Monroe Harbor. Beach volleyball was proposed for that location as well.

Cycling was being considered at Douglas Park on the city’s West Side. The largest proposal would have been an 80,000-seat track and field stadium for Washington Park on the South Side. The stadium would have played host to opening and closing ceremonies. Organizers also said that an aquatics center would have been at Washington Park. Diving and swimming events would also take place there.

After the Olympics, the main stadium was to be deconstructed and replaced with a smaller 10,000-seat venue.

But I did not hear anything about Chicago’s Southwest Side or the southwest suburbs. Perhaps Toyota Park in Bridgeview would have been utilized, but I’m not so sure about that. It was never mentioned in the original proposals.

My thoughts are that although it would have been historic, the problems that currently seize Chicago and the state would not change. And we could even be even more broke than we are now. The pension crisis, budget woes, a pending Chicago Public School strike, and investigations about a series of police shootings would be greeting visitors to Chicago for the Olympics.

Some problems can’t be washed away. Take Rio, for instance. They have the glorious beaches, parties and beautiful people. But peel away that veil and there is rising crime and poverty. A lack of organization has created long lines to get into events. That is tough for the visitors waiting under a hot sun.

So, I believe we are better off. The Obama Library will be coming to Jackson Park and should draw more tourists and attention to sections of the city that are overlooked. Hopefully, it will help nearby Washington Park.

No changes were planned for the city’s Southwest Side or southwest suburbs. But maybe that is OK. Local municipalities will work hard for their communities. That will not change. I would rather see involved communities because that will mean more in the long term as the torch leaves Rio.

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. .

Bodybuilding mom provides muscle and inspiration

  • Written by Claudia Parker


Cheryl Harris is a personal training director who has been competitive bodybuilder for the past three years.



Cheryl Harris of Chicago had no idea she was a source of inspiration to me until now. She’s a personal training director at LA Fitness in Oak Lawn. I have to drag myself through their doors most days. I’m primarily there to deflate my stubborn muffin top. About 30 minutes, three times a week, and spanx can usually keep everything in perspective.

However, for Chery, there is no corset required. She paces LA Fitness like a lioness commanding the jungle. She’s altogether different than us average cubs on the gym floor.

“Wow! You’re a beast. You look amazing,” I told her recently.

She was fresh from competing at the Gary Udit 2016 National Physique Committee (NPC) Teen, Collegiate and Masters National Championship in Pittsburgh, which was held July 22.

Many consider the NPC the largest amateur bodybuilding organization in the United States. Amateur bodybuilders compete from local to national competitions sanctioned by the NPC.

Cheryl is a NPC Master Figure Competitor in the category for those age 45 and over. Contrary to what one may believe is possible for themselves after a certain age, Cheryl’s bodybuilding has revitalized her youth. This just shy of 48-year-old mother of two daughters ages 20 and 27 has only been competing professionally for three years.

“This is my fifth competition,” said Cheryl. “The first was a local, amateur competition. I placed first in all categories taking home a trophy for Overall Fitness, Miss Figure and Master Figure. The other four have been National NPC competitions. Much harder, my recent show was a Masters National Pro show. There were over 1,000 competitors. It’s hard to get noticed among that many people. It was my first attempt at getting my Pro Card.”

A Pro Card could open the door for Cheryl to earn a primary income from bodybuilding. Competition winnings, sponsorship by local companies and supplement manufacturers are just a few income streams that could result from a Pro Card. Not to mention print marketing, television and in some cases feature film opportunities.

“I just want the street credit. I placed much lower than I expected in this recent show,” explained Cheryl. “I was ranked 16 of 28 in my category. The judges’ feedback was for me to work on getting smaller, leaner and tighter. They said I need to focus on my hamstrings and glutes/tie in -- that’s the muscle between the hamstring and glutes. You know, that hook the sisters have,” she said with a giggle. “That muscle needs to be smooth and tie in with the glutes and hamstrings.”

“What in the world,” I wondered? “Everything looks perfectly tied in to me!”

I wanted to know the cost. Not just monetary but the full spectrum price tag for the excellence before me.

“Growing up, I wasn't athletic; didn't play sports, but I was fit. I focused on maintaining my health and well-being. I even worked out during both pregnancies up until my ninth month. Fitness has always been important to me,” said Cheryl.

Sometime the thing we find most important becomes the very thing we neglect.

When circumstances in Cheryl’s life began to change rapidly beyond her control, she said her fitness regimen and desire for wellness went by the wayside.

“I lost my job in corporate America that I’d had for 10 years. I was a single mother, things got too hard and I couldn’t maintain. I depleted my savings, lost my house, my truck and even my relationship of four years went sour," explained Cheryl. “I started eating emotionally until it was out of control. At the height of my weight, I was 166 pounds, which was what I weighed nine months pregnant. My body fat was over 30 percent. For my optimal health, it should’ve been between 23 to 25 percent. I suffered from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, migraines, and shortness of breath. I couldn't run a half-block without being exasperated.”

Cheryl’s turning point was watching a bodybuilding competition.

“Just after my 45th birthday I attended my youngest daughter’s godfather’s bodybuilding competition. During his show I began to wonder what it might be like if I were on stage; I’d always been drawn to the sport.”

A nine-month training regimen with a professional trainer followed a meal plan, dietary supplements, cardio and strength training. Cheryl said her workout schedule at its peak was six days per week, three times a day with workout durations of 70 to 90 minutes per session.

“Training for competition is hell. It drains your body, mind and your pocket.” Cheryl said, “The cost to compete for a local show could be $1,500 to $3,000 and Nationals range $3,000 to $7,000 easy. We’re paying for airfare, hotel, ground transportation, makeup, hair and bronzer. Our bathing suit costumes can cost $200 to $2,000.”

She said sponsors are a huge help. “It’s all worth it. I’m not giving up on my goal to earn my Pro Card. My story isn't over. My next show will be in November.”

Cheryl had no idea I was being positively motivated by her fitness success from afar, but she told me she feels obligated to stay the course. She said, “I know people are watching.”

I told her, as I now tell you. Our lives are always on display. It’s never too late to make your influence a positive one.

Cheryl is the owner and founder of Cheryl Harris Enterprises C.H.E. Knows and Profound Touch Mobile Spa where she’s a massage therapist. She’s also a self-proclaimed health, wellness, fitness and lifestyle expert who gives various talks throughout the Chicago area. Learn more at

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