Blizzard of 2011

It started Tuesday afternoon at about 1 p.m.  The snow did not stop falling and blowing (30 – 40 mph) until Noon on Wednesday (today), leaving 19 inches of snow with 3 – 5 foot drifts.  This is the 3rd largest blizzard in our area.

My mom always talks about the blizzard of ’67.  It was my sister’s 4th birthday, I wasn’t born yet.  But she spent the day cooking and cleaning and preparing for a birthday party, she was unaware of the snow falling until my dad walked in from work late that evening, covered in snow.  The whole issue with that blizzard is that no one knew it was coming, so it paralyzed many areas.  With this storm we knew it was coming, the weatherman had been talking about it since last week and gave everyone plenty of time to prepare.  Those who weren’t prepared probably just chose not to believe it was coming.  With history repeating itself, Elijah’s birthday is today, with the blizzard coming to an end in the afternoon, I made sure I was fully prepared to have a birthday celebration at home.  Monday we went to the store to stock up on food and stuff.  Tuesday, I baked the cakes and cooked his favorite dinner (Italian Beef sandwiches), just in case we lost power.  With the way the storm was coming in, the worst of it hit us while we slept.  Not taking any chances I also made a pot of coffee before I went to bed.  If we lost power I could still heat things up on the stove.  I also cranked up our heat so it would be nice and warm in the event the power went out in the middle of the night.  Thankfully we did not experience any major difficulties.

This morning we all went out to shovel and got some welcomed help from a neighbor with a snow blower.  Cook, Joshua and Olivia went to her friend’s house the next block over to help her shovel out, and helped another lady whose husband was out-of-town.  They had fun helping.  After that Elijah had his cake and opened his presents and we’ve just been hangin’ out inside enjoying this quiet lazy day.  As Elijah is known for saying, he summed up the day as, “the best day EVER!!”

This is what our backyard looked like before we went to bed, and then what it looked like when we woke up in the morning.

Being so close to Chicago, I have been watching the news and seeing what they are dealing with in the city.  Last night they closed down the major street that runs right along the lake called Lake Shore Drive (LSD).  This was after 3 accidents occurred, but not in time to prevent 900 drivers from being stranded.  Emergency crews were able to get the people to safety leaving their cars stranded.  I have never seen anything like it!!  Lake Shore Drive looked like a parking lot with cars buried and stuck between snow drifts.  Today they have crews out there to dig the cars out and tow them away, there’s about 200 cars left to remove.  I am so thankful that I didn’t have to be anywhere or try to get home like so many people experienced.

Even though the snow has stopped and some people are slowly getting dug out, I don’t know that the worst is over.  Tonight and tomorrow we will be experiencing dangerous wind chills of 25 to 35 degrees below zero.  One thing we can say for sure is, the snow isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.  But hey…I like snow…right?!?!  Anniehow!

Photos by Olivia Jakira

Chicago Bears Training Camp

My family went to the Staples Bears Training Camp presented by Chase on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, and we had a lot of fun.  This is the 9th consecutive year of them being at Olivet Nazarene.  This training camp is open to the public, and there’s free admission and free parking, it’s a great time for the family, especially Bears fans.  The training camp started on July 30, and ends today, August 19, 2010.  

There are three different practice times, Noon, 3 p.m., and 7 p.m.   The gates open one hour prior to start of practice and close one hour after.  It’s a lot of fun to watch them practice, and you get a chance to see your favorite players.  There are several Theme days, where they have extra activities going on throughout the camp ground.  There is the Staples Kids Only Autographs on select days.  Where the first 150 kids ages 4-12, in line will receive a pass for the autograph session for that day.  Kids are allowed one autograph per person, but they are not able to take pictures with the players.

There is also the Staples Bears Pride Poster Contest on select days as well.  Kids ages 4-12 can make a poster, and are entered into a random drawing.  The winners receive a pass to enter Staples “Front Row Kid Zone” along the players exit from the field.  There were several booths and tables with free things available.  We each received a Bic marker and a folder for  autographs.  There were free roster posters with pictures of different players.  Staples had a booth and were giving away free Bic markers in all kinds of colors.  I was excited about the free markers!!  Staples also had a Back to School day, the day before we went and they were giving away free  Bears/Staples brand backpacks to the first 500 kids.  I didn’t know about it until after we went.  The website didn’t list that as one of the theme days until probably the day before.

Jewel-Osco sponsers the Inflatable Kid Zone where they have this huge obstacle course shown here with Benji sliding down.  They have other inflatable things as well as a basketball toss and football toss.  Benji and Elijah really enjoyed this.  We were there at a good time, since there weren’t a lot of kids waiting in line.  Throughout the camp grounds there are concession stands to purchase food, and they also have hydration stations for fans to access free water and Gatorade. 

There is also a Pro Shop that has everything Bears to purchase, hats, mugs, footballs, jerseys.  We were there the second to the last day, and they were selling the Training Camp T-shirts for $10, which had originally been $25.

There’s just enough things to see and participate in.  The day we went was very pleasant, the sun was warm, but there were some areas of shade to cool off.  Of course Elijah thought it was the “best day EVER.”  It is a lot of fun, especially for the younger kids.  For anyone in the southern suburbs, its a pleasant drive to Bourbonnais.  I look forward to going again next year.

What a Concept!!

The other day I was talking with the kids about going to the store.  Olivia had received a shirt for her birthday that was the wrong size, so she needed to take it back.  Benji then says, “Yeah, mom, I need to take my shirt back too, I don’t want it anymore.”  If that wasn’t funny in itself, but I looked at the shirt that he was wearing, and I quickly calculated that it was about 12 years old!!  It’s a red polo shirt with a black, grey and white stripe across the middle.  I had to pull out a photo album to see if that was correct, 12 years?  Yes, I have a picture of Joshua wearing it for his 2nd birthday and he wore it until he outgrew it, Elijah wore it, now Benji is wearing it.  It’s still in good shape.  But I had to laugh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could return hand-me-down clothes back to the store because we don’t like them anymore…after 12 years of use?!?!?!

Chuckle of the day

The other day my oldest son Joshua decided that he was going to start getting up at 6:00 a.m. He was having trouble getting up in the morning to start school at 9:00 a.m. so his solution is to take it to the extreme and get up way before he needs to.  Me, I like to sleep as long as I can, but that’s me.  So he set several clocks to be sure he would get up.  I did inform him to be quiet as to not disturb anyone else.  Well Elijah (8) decided that he was going to join his big brother.  So he got ready for bed and off he went to sleep.  The next morning the clock(s) goes off and they both get up.  While Joshua was in the bathroom, I heard Elijah get up and he knocked on the door and said, “Josh, is it still night time?”  He had never been up that early.  So that was the joke for the day.  Later that day he was having some trouble focusing in school since he was up so early.  So I told Cook what was happening, and Cook said, “Give him a break, you know he just woke up last night.”  We also heard him telling Olivia that him and Josh had so much fun “last night.”  

Well we made it through those first couple of days, and now they get up early every morning with no problem.  We’ll see what happens when we have to set our clocks back!!

An Era Gone By

First it was the Archway Cookies. Now it’s the place where I had my first job. Each week on the news we hear of store after store closing their doors. Family owned businesses whose establishments are icons in small towns and neighborhoods are closing as well. I am saddened to hear that Whiting News Company is no exception. This company served the residents of Whiting for over 100 years. This is where I had my first job.

Many of you are probably wondering what is a Whiting News Company? Well I’m going to take an enjoyable trip down memory lane and tell you all about it. Keep in mind what I am describing took place in 1981 through 1987. Over the years the company had to change with the times, so a lot of the things I did no longer were done. This was a family owned company where families worked. That is how I got my job. Both my brothers and sister worked there before me. When I was there we sold newspapers like the local Hammond Times, the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Whiting News was the place where you ordered your home delivery of these newspapers. So they also employed paperboys. The store also sold office supplies, party supplies, greeting cards, boxed Fannie May Candy and had a HUGE candy counter. Well…HUGE to maybe a 4-year old…fairly large to the average adult. We sold penny candy, when it actually cost a penny. We had boxes of Swedish Fish that stood open on the lower shelves of the candy counter. That way a kid could help himself to as many as he could fit in the little brown paper bag he was given to hold his treasures. Also on the shelves of the candy counter were all the other penny candy we all grew to love; Sixlets, Mary Jane’s, Bazooka Gum, Smarties, Laffy Taffy, Hot Dog Gum, Jolly Ranchers and my favorite Flying Saucers. For ten cents you could get a small box of Lemon Heads, Red Hots, Jawbreakers, or Boston Baked Beans. We had every candy bar imaginable including Zagnut, Clark Bars, Marathon Bars, Zero Bars and my all-time favorite Mallo Cups. At the top of the counter was a clear plastic container that housed individually wrapped marshmallow ice cream cones. We had something for everyone. Lifesavers, Dentyne Gum, Bubbalicious Gum, Mentos, and something called Chowards Scented Gum that was in a purple box and smelled like violets. It was violet flavored gum, can’t say that I ever tried it. As a clerk, we kept the trays and boxes full from stock we kept stored behind the counter. If we ran out of an item, there was a piece of cardboard taped up behind the counter and we would just write down what we needed, like M&M’s, Hershey Bar or simply red fish. No fancy order forms or product numbers. Our boss then took the list each week and ordered what we needed. We as workers could eat whatever we wanted. It became a natural reflex to grab a fish every time you passed the counter.

There were always three of us high school girls working, along with an older lady named Sophie who worked on the “card side”. She was in charge of all the greeting cards. One of the girls would work in the office and the other two would work up front helping customers. Even though we sold office supplies, we never took note pads off the shelf to use. There were always these cut up scraps of paper for us to use. Instead of throwing used paper out, we cut them into small pieces and used them for notes. We were able to use the pens though, but only if one had run out of ink. So when we came into work, the two of us working up front would decide who would “do shelves”. That meant we took a couple of the scrap pieces of paper and would walk up and down the aisles jotting down what we needed to restock. All the stock was stored in the basement. Oh….the basement. It had very low ceilings. Everyone had to duck walking down there, especially around the light bulbs. Though, many a time I did hit my head on one of those!! OUCH!!

This was a place and time that didn’t have computers. We used a newer cash register, but we had to know how to count change. We were not allowed to use the function on the register that did it for us. This was beneficial because the cash registers in the office and on the card side were older models and when we filled in back in those areas, we needed to know how to give change.

All of us “girls” that worked there came directly from school. One of the things we didn’t particularly like was the dress code, no jeans!! We could wear pants, but they could not resemble denim in any way. This was enforced by the owner’s wife, Kitty, who was dressed meticulously. Every day she wore a suit or a nice blouse, skirt and usually pearls. I guess enforced is a strong word for such a petite woman. It’s just that when you were hired in there, she told you about the dress code, and you didn’t try to undermine her authority. Kitty worked in the office and on the card side. She was the one that kept us girls in line. We were not allowed to just stand around. Definitely could not stand around talking to one another. We had to straighten shelves or straighten the cards or stock the merchandise. She always kept her eye on us. Around the holidays, we kept busy by gift-wrapping the boxes of Fannie May Candy that we stored in the freezer. That was one of my favorite jobs. We had this huge roll of wrapping paper under the counter, and you pulled out the amount you needed and tore it against the straight edge attached to the roll. We also had these large tape dispensers where you pushed on a lever and tape was dispensed. We would wrap quite a few boxes at a time; these were big sellers especially around the holidays. I only worked with Kitty for a couple of years. Even after she was gone, we kept up her high standard, kept busy, and dressed nicely for work.

When I think back of the records we kept without a computer, still boggles my mind!! When the bundles of newspapers came in, a guy named Dutch would know exactly how to distribute them. I couldn’t tell you how many came in, but it was a lot. We supplied the papers to all the local stores to sell and for the people in town who had home delivery. All of the information Dutch needed was written on cardboard pieces, in pencil, and slid into these makeshift clipboards with plastic covers. The “guys” that worked at Whiting News drove the vans that delivered the bundles of papers to the stores and to the different homes for the paperboys to deliver. This is what my brothers did. This of course was after they had been paperboys.

I don’t remember what each paperboy received to let them know where to deliver the papers. Each route had a number and encompassed certain areas of the town. I do remember early Sunday morning waking up to help my brothers “stuff” the papers with all the inserts, roll them up and put them in a plastic bag or put a rubber band around them. It was usually still dark out. My dad usually drove them on Sundays since the papers were thicker. I also remember how black your hands would get from the newspaper ink, and the smell of it.

To keep track of the customers for home delivery, we had these wooden file boxes that held the large index cards of each customer’s account. We used a typewriter and typed their name, address and phone number at the top of the card. Their monthly payments, however, were written in pencil. Each month we would take the cards, letter by letter, and would prepare the bills to be sent out. We had little green slips, and in pencil, we would hand write the information for each customer. We then stuffed them in window envelopes and sent them out. I was probably one of the few that really enjoyed doing this. I love to write. It was done at the same time every month, so on those days I looked forward to going to work. Once the bills were sent out, we then took the cards out again, customer by customer and wrote on the index card the next billing cycle dates. When payments or customers came, we would pull their card and write down that they paid for that cycle. This was the only place we had all this information. So each night when we closed the office, these file boxes were stored in the metal safe. By storing them in the safe each night, allowed them to withstand the fire that broke out in downtown Whiting. We lost a couple of stores that day, but Whiting News only suffered water and smoke damage, mainly in the front of the store.

When I was there, the owner and his son ran the store. But it was John, the owner, who always kept us on our toes. He was an older gentleman and did things his way, but had a sharp business mind. All his work was done in pencil and he would use the same one until it was so tiny. But I tell you what, that tiny pencil would fly across the paper to add things up. John always kept after us to stay busy. He had these funny ways of saying what he wanted us to do, which you caught on to quickly. With all the newspapers we sold, there were always little bits of paper on the floor, and we had a little push broom to get them up. If we didn’t get to them before John saw them, he would walk by and say something like, “there’s some snails by the front door.” That meant we needed to sweep them up. Then there were these rare times when he would pull out his harmonica and just start playing. This of course was when there were few customers in the store. He would then end abruptly and with half a smile and a twinkle in his eye he would make sure we all got back to work. He was pretty good too.

The people I have told you about have long been gone, but their lessons have stayed with me. This weekend, Jay, the son, will close the doors and probably begin his well-deserved retirement. I don’t want to think it’s closing due to the recession. I would rather think it’s due to an era gone by.