It’s wise to double check that calendar


Claudia Mug Shot-Color During a recent Friday, I felt like I was being cast for an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
  For those unfamiliar with this 1960 television series, it was like being “Punk’d” on MTV by Ashton Kutcher.
  Upon stepping into my doctor’s office for a routine appointment, I was pleasantly surprised to find no other patients waiting. “Nice,” I thought. “I won’t be needing my Kindle after all.”
  It was tucked under my armpit. I just knew I was about to finish the last few chapters of “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” by Lysa Terkeurst. However, a vacant lobby was an indicator of no waiting. Relief set in.
  My morning had been rushed and stressful.
  I’d taken great care in obtaining a sitter and cleaning up prior to her arrival. I’m energy deficient until I know someone is coming over. Heaven forbid, someone judge me for my lived in home.
  Once my rendition of “Bewitched” magically made my house presentable, I scrambled to fix the kids something edible, but not quite what I’d call breakfast. A good prayer before they eat is my consolation.
  With a slurp of juice and swallow of a multivitamin, I dashed up the stairs to dress them. This is usually an intense saga as my kindergartener likes to insist on the opposite attire I’ve chosen. My parenting style encourages communication and articulate expression. However, I was running late. There was no time for negotiation.
  I went old school with a Clint Eastwood statement.
  “Go ahead. Make my day!” I told her.
  Needless to say, I welcomed my child-free, laid back, routine, doctor visit. I approached the counter and said, “Hi. How are you?” to the registration clerk.
  She didn’t respond.
  I proceeded with, “Nice and quiet in here today.” I picked up her pen. Upon writing the first three letters of my name on the sign-in sheet, she spoke, “I’m sorry. Do you have an appointment?”
  Smiling back at her dazed glare, I continued signing in and said, “Yeeaahh!”
  She turned to her colleagues petitioning help with her eyes, “With what doctor?” she asked.
  “Dr. Axel.” I replied, this time with a frank tone.
  “What’s her deal?” I thought.
  She fired away at me like bullets. “He’s gone. We’re done for the day. Have you been here before? What’s your name? Do you know your chart number?”
  I was taken aback by her apparent oblivion.
  “Did I walk into the wrong building?” I thought, while quickly scanning the room for familiarity. After rumbling to find my chart, this registrar concluded with, “Your appointment is for next Friday. Not today!”
  I wanted her to be wrong. I wanted her to fix it and fit me in anyway. I wanted the cameras of MTV or ABC’s “What Would You Do?” with John Quinones to come zooming in but they didn’t. I felt like my preparation and effort had been wasted but it hadn’t. I learned a life lesson.
  There have been various times in my life that I’ve been prepared for an opportunity and found myself banging down doors I had no business going through. Trying to force my way in only begot frustration. When the timing is right, the door opens easily. Just as it has for me to have this column. My fantastic editor, Jeff Vorva has been eating samples of my correspondent work for just shy of a year now. He’s thinks my loopy life may provide you comic relief on a few occasions and a bit of encouragement or reflection on others. Look for me every second and fourth week of the month. I don’t know much but what I do, I teach, coach and encourage…usually as a result of my flaws.
  Oh, and if you’re finding yourself in a place where you’re doing the right thing and not getting the desired result, check your calendar. It’s probably, the wrong day.

Claudia Parker is an Evergreen Park mother, author, runner whose columns appear the second and fourth Thursdays for the Reporter.


What (not) to do when you drop your phone in the toilet

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorI now consider myself an unofficial expert on what-not-to-do when your phone gets wet.
Let’s start with why one shouldn’t clip their Blackberry to the back pocket of their unbelted-pants before entering the bathroom. Once I heard it plop that would be the phone, feelings of disgust were overcome with a kneejerk reaction to preserve its electronic-life.
“Please don’t die,” I thought as I anxiously pulled out the battery and sim card. I didn’t see any signs of moisture inside. Convinced the leather case had absorbed the disgusting water, I wiped the phone down, popped the battery back in and turned it on.
Tip No. 1- Anytime your phone comes into contact with water, take out the battery and sim card immediately and leave it exposed to air for at least 48 hours.
I had ran the Chicago Spring Half Marathon that morning. Moments before my phone took a plunge in the toilet, I posted a picture on Facebook adorned with bib and finisher medal. My social media etiquette left me itching to respond to the lovely comments I was getting. There was NO wisdom in that decision. My phone had a brief light-spasm and went fade to black.
“Uh oh,” I thought. I quickly tore it apart staring wide-eyed with regret. “I shouldn’t have done that.’’
Desperate to undo the damage. I grabbed my laptop, toggled over to You Tube and found a skateboard dude with a home remedy.
He said, “I can show you how to fix your water damaged phone in one hour.”
I perked up.
His instructions were brief and easy to follow. In a nutshell he explained that contaminated water like in the lake or toilet, have minerals that cause corrosion within the mechanisms of the phone. He said soaking the phone in 99 percent isopropyl alcohol for one hour would remove those properties restoring the connection if followed by drying the phone in a bag of rice for two days.
Tip No. 2- Following these instructions will void your warranty.
I spent two hours on a wild goose chase to at least six drug stores looking for 99 percent isopropyl alcohol. Apparently only that level of potency is effective. There was 50 percent, 70 percent, 91 percent but no one had 99 percent.
I settled with 91 percent.
Skater-boy mentioned one hour submerged in alcohol would do the trick. I extended that timeline. I left the house and didn’t get back for five hours.
As I retrieved the phone from its disinfectant bath I noticed a lot more than corrosion coming off. With each stroke of my index finger the keyboard began falling apart. The acrylic covering that once caused the exterior to shimmer peeled up and black coating on the surface of the phone left its presence on my pointer.
“Oh. Ooh. Auh nah!” I sighed.
Hope was fading but not lost.
“It’s OK if it’s an ugly phone, so long as it’s functional,” I thought.
Tip No. 3- Back-up your contacts, pictures and calendar by syncing your phone to your computer or exterior hard drive regularly.
After it was buried in rice for three days, I eagerly reassembled the phone with a new battery and waited for the resurrection.
There was no Easter Sunday in this house.
The only miracle I experienced was not getting lectured by my husband, Don. He looked at me and shook his head when I said, “Babe. It didn’t work!” I was disappointed in myself for being so gullible.
I purchased a new phone and let my three-year-old daughter have the old one as a toy. She likes to mimic me. About a week later, I saw her carrying it around pretending to chat when I noticed the screen was lit up. I raced over to her and pulled it from her tiny fingers. I snatched off the back, inserted my sim card and I’ll be darned…I made a call!
I guess if you submerge your phone in the alcohol for five hours instead of one hour it takes six days to dry instead of two.
Tip No. 4- Skip home remedies. If your phone gets wet, avoid having to replace it and get to a cell phone repair store in your area.

Never thought a cop would be asking me questions during ‘Viewfinder’ assignment

Bobs Column - The B SideEvery other week, I perform one of my many responsibilities for the Reporter. I head out, camera and notebook in hand, to complete “The Viewfinder,” a man-on-the-street question that we pose to five regular folks. We print the answers to the question along with the photo, name and hometown of the people who are nice enough to participate in both the Reporter and Regional News.
It’s not always easy. There are times when one person after another refuses to participate. Heck, some just walk past me without breaking stride, saying something or another about not being interested or having enough time.
That’s OK. I’d rather they take part, but I can’t make them. I just move on to the next person. Other folks are happy to answer. In some cases, they subscribe to the Reporter or the Regional. They stop, listen to the question, come up with good answer and pose for a photo. They ask when their photo will appear and seem genuinely pleased that they were selected.
Still other folks are willing until they see my camera, and that’s when they decide not to be part of our weekly feature. It’s frustrating, I’ll admit, to have someone volunteer a great answer only to become camera shy. Again, though, I can’t force them to participate.
That’s where Mary from Evergreen Park comes in.
I encountered Mary last week at Lake Katherine Nature Center in Palos Heights—my favorite place to do “Viewfinder” since the weather has warmed. Mary had a great answer to the question: “What are your favorite summer activities?” She said she enjoyed coming to Lake Katherine and talked about what a gem it had become since it was turned into a nature preserve.
But when I pointed my camera at Mary, she turned her head away. I snapped a photo, but it would have been unusable. I asked her to pose a second time, but she refused. Then she got a little skittish, asking for my name and identification. I did not have my press card, but I told her to call my office if she had any concerns. She said she didn’t and again asked for my name before walking away.
But Mary’s concerns must not have subsided because she called the Palos Heights Police. Several moments after speaking with her, I drove out of the parking lot and was stopped by a police officer who approached in his SUV and asked if I was taking pictures of people.
I explained who I was and what I was doing.
He asked for my driver’s license, called it in and apologized for the stress. We talked for a moment, and I recommended that he call my office to confirm who I was—a simple step Mary from Evergreen Park chose not to take. The police did call the office and the issue was settled.
I wondered for much of the day, what makes people like Mary tick?
If she was uncomfortable with participating, say so and walk away. If she was camera shy, say so, and walk away.
Instead, she allowed me to take a picture of the side of her head, walked away and called the police. What did she expect would happen? “The Viewfiner” is a ruse and in reality I’m some creep who prowls Lake Katherine with a camera? She could have called my office, but there’s no drama in that. Far better to call the police and make something out of nothing.
I get that these can be troubling times. I cover crime in six towns and see weird police news every week. Just read our police blotter and you’ll know what I mean.
But when did some people become so suspicious, so paranoid, so distrustful that everyone they encounter is a con man or villain?
Lake Katherine is a great place for walking or stopping for lunch and ideal for interviewing folks because there’s a steady stream of people there, most who are happy to chat. I’ve met some interesting people there.
Bill Moore, also from Evergreen Park, answered my question and we chatted about how he was told 10 years ago that he had only months to live. A decade later, Bill’s still around and loves to hike at Lake Katherine, the Little Red School House and Starved Rock. He thanks Jesus Christ for saving his life. I enjoyed my time with him.
My painter friend is often stationed at the picnic table near the entrance of Lake Katherine. He’s always working on another scenic oil painting that captures the beauty and essence of the scenery and wildlife. We’ve talked about this and that and he’s a regular reader of this column, which is always appreciated.
Two weeks ago I met some older men who hail from Ireland. They explained to me that Claire is the best county in Ireland. I defended Mayo, where much of my family comes from. We had some laughs and both participated in “The Viewfinder” Thanks, fellas.
Unfortunately, I did not have the same luck with Mary from Evergreen Park. But I won’t forget her. I’ve been doing this kind of work for more than 25 years and no one has ever found the need to call the police.

Inside the First Amendment — ‘Freedom of speech for me, but not the other guy’

  • Written by Gene Policinski

Campus collisions over commencement speakers. Over-the-top public reaction to celebrity shockers. And genuine fear of physical reprisals over controversial issues.
Clearly, we’re a nation vigorously exercising our lungs as well as our rights.
Vigorous give-and-take in the “marketplace of ideas” is part and parcel of the First Amendment. The amendment’s 45 words protect our right to speak out, but certainly don’t mandate politeness in public comment or shelter those in that marketplace from less than full-throttle debate in the hope of changing minds or winning elections.
The U.S. Supreme Court over the years has reaffirmed our right to speak out even when it brings pain to others — at military funerals or by allowing Nazi-wannabes march through a predominately Jewish neighborhood near Chicago.
But we can go from “rights to wrong” — by preventing speakers from being heard simply because we oppose their views. By threatening harm rather than challenging ideas. And by trying to extinguish voices in place of speaking out ourselves.
William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, used his commencement speech at Haverford College just days ago to criticize a small group of students and professors who campaigned against the original speaker, Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. The critics attacked Birgeneau for his 2011 decisions in an incident involving police and student demonstrators.
Vocal protests and the threat of more led former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to cancel her commencement speech at Rutgers University. International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde withdrew as speaker at Smith College’s graduation ceremonies. Brandeis University pulled back an invitation — along with the offer of honorary degree — after opposition arose to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Muslim women’s advocate who has made comments critical of Islam.
If nowhere else in our society, universities should be places where differences of opinion and opposing views are aired and discussed, not shunned or victim to political correctness and closed minds. But lest we think this rampant aversion to being offended by those whose views we oppose is limited to academia, let’s take a broader view.
Mozilla co-founder CEO Brendan Eich resigned some weeks ago after an orchestrated campaign by some staff and businesses to damage the company’s business. Criticism erupted earlier this year over a $1,000 personal donation Eich made in 2008 to an California petition effort opposing gay marriage.
One column writer, in the online publication The Daily Beast, advanced the theory that Eich invited such retaliation because he didn’t just express his views, but rather urged using the “power of the state” in support of them. I believe Madison and Jefferson and others called that the democratic process — advocating policies and laws based on one’s views, in a freely conducted political campaign in which all arguments may be heard.
The Dixie Chicks’ country music career hit a slump in 2003 after singer Natalie Maines slammed then-President George W. Bush during a concert in Great Britain. Critics stopped buying “Chicks” records and concert tickets — but others made death threats.
As Maines later asked in song: “How in the world/ can the words that I said/ Send somebody so over the edge/ That they’d write me a letter/ Saying that I better shut up and sing/ Or my life will be over.”
Threats of over-the-top retaliation have led to legal attempts — unsuccessful thus far — in California and Washington state to hide the names of those who signed petitions in support of referendums opposing laws legalizing gay marriage — advancing the theory that public debate will be diminished if one side fears violence or intimidation simply for participating.
In court filings, those advocates presented multiple accounts of vandalism, threats of being “gunned down,” ongoing public harassment at home or work, and even of people being fired from jobs though no political activity had taken place at work. In other words, mob over mind.
There’s no ready answer — or bright “don’t cross” line — in determining when sharp and pointed debate turns into what’s colloquially called a “heckler’s veto,” hushing a speaker by shouting them down.
But there is value in allowing an opponent’s views to be fully heard — if only to be better prepared to counter those ideas, and to ensure the right to be fully heard oneself.
Long-deferred national conversations over race, gay rights, religious diversity and more have been prompted remarks and proposals that have been uncomfortable to hear, at times even repugnant to many. Time and again, the key to countering such views — and advancing our nation — has been more speech, not less.
Freedom of speech means all can set up and “hawk their wares” in the marketplace of ideas. It does not empower someone to, figuratively or literally, burn down the opposition’s display.
Gene Policinski is chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and senior vice president of the Institute’s First Amendment Center. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Graduation is worth yelling about, just don’t do it during ceremony

Bobs Column - The B SideGraduation ceremonies are meaningful.
They represent a combination of closure and celebration for students who have worked diligently during three years of middle school or four years of high school to achieve a goal.
The “Pomp and Circumstance March” plays, students proceed into the gymnasium and proud family and friends position themselves to capture the moment on camera.
A few meaningful speeches are delivered, the chorus sings and then it’s time for diplomas to be distributed. But at some point before students proceed across the stage, the assembled are asked to hold cheering and applause until the presentation of diplomas ends.
Waste of words. Waste of time.
I’ve attended three graduation ceremonies at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School as well as last week’s ceremony at Oak Lawn Community High School and in each case; the request falls on deaf ears for far too many families.
When the name of their loved one is called, they stand up and scream his or her name or simply shout as though they’re at a Blackhawks game.
“Way to go, Jessie!” “Whoo-hoo!”
I sat near a group of girls at last week’s Oak Lawn Community High School ceremony who stood up, shouted and waved glow red glow sticks when the name of their friend or family member was announced.
I’d be embarrassed to do something like that, but it’s become commonplace. And the thing is, there’s nothing school administrators can do to stop it. I’d love to see a principal or superintendent stop a ceremony, step to the microphone and says, “Knock it off.”
I often wonder what’s goes through the minds of these folks when the request is made to hold applause until the end. I’m guessing they figure it’s an instruction meant for others. No one tells them what to do. I’m also convinced that the hooting and hollering is more about them than the graduate.
It’s especially amusing to look at these folks immediately after they make fools of themselves. They’re so proud, looking around to see who noticed their silly performance. I get the sense the screaming and shouting is more about them than a salute to the graduate.
Don’t misunderstand. You have every right to be proud of your son, daughter, brother, sister when they walk across the stage to receive their diploma. They worked hard for their sheepskin and are ready to take the next step in their young lives. It’s an achievement to be sure.
For some, the graduate may be the first in the family to finish high school. There’s good reason to be excited. But again, you’re not at a pep rally. Go out to dinner, have a party, raise the roof. There’s plenty of time for revelry and partying. But not during the ceremony. It’s inappropriate.
The Class of 2014 is graduating. It’s their moment, not yours. Don’t embarrass yourself.

Props to Mike Riordan

Mike Riordan, principal and superintendent of Oak Lawn Community High School, told me that each year he praises graduates for their community service during his commencement speech. This year, that remark was greeted with a hearty round of applause.
There’s no doubt in my mind that most people think Riordan did the right thing when he stood by school policy and prevented more than 40 students from participating in the ceremonies because they never performed the voluntary hours and submitted falsified documents indicating that they had.
He sent the message that the school takes its community service requirement seriously and actions have consequences even if means telling a young man or woman that they will not don a cap and gown and graduate with their peers.
Riordan has taken some heat and criticism for his action, but he understands the importance of integrity and teaching it to students even if a hard lesson is needed to do it.

On a personal note…
I saw my son in his cap and gown last week and could not have been more proud. He’s not college bound, but has a made a career choice and is making strides to flourish in the field. He connected with several teachers and counselors at Oak Lawn Community High School that helped point the way, though he probably didn’t know it at the time.
My thanks to them.