Monthly Archives: April 2023

Their Best!

A recent Chicago Bears draft pick answered many questions for the news media but ultimately he said, “I’m going to do my best.”  I thought, “Hmm. Simple, but powerful words.” I then thought of all of those who have come before us and all who have worked up to the end of their days trying to make a difference. They too gave their best 

A long line of predecessors from all walks of life  gave all they had until their tanks were empty, but each one made a determined effort to try to attack some of the ills of society. They may have been playing sports, singing, acting, dancing, writing or on the political stages. Yet, they wanted to eliminate some of the pain that they had either felt or witnessed or maybe they just wanted to be the first in some achievement.

Regardless of the motivation,they took swipes at the oak trying to tumble the trees of pride (haughtiness), greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony or sloth – the seven deadly sins (Proverbs). Many left here wondering if their lives’ efforts had even mattered because those trees still appeared to stand tall.

The other day, here in Chicago, there was a news story about a gigantic bur oak tree that stands in Lincoln Park Zoo.. It has been there since the beginning of Chicago’s founding. It even survived the Chicago Fire and other local catastrophes. It appeared to be in bloom, but guess what?  It is coming down because in spite of its strong look, it’s dying.

Several onlookers stood there getting a last glimpse of the tree and its far-reaching branches. The horticulturalists have decided to bring it down because it could otherwise be a danger to the public. They have done the study and see that it is on its last leg and must sadly come down. On the positive side,they have many wonderful plans for the use of the bark and other parts of the tree to be used in key ways.

So, to those who have come before us that  gave all that they had within their God-given ability to eradicate those things that are wrong in our society, it was not in vain. Those continuous swipes at the oak worked though it looked as if nothing was changing. They may have not lived to see the tree fall nor hear the shouts, “Timber!”  

But, they now have a bird’s eye perch from high above and they can smile. They know that they gave their best during their allocated time and they can see things are getting better and better for those coming behind them!. And, they can rest assured that those pulling up the rear will also give their best!

Lynn M.
April 29, 2023

On Vernon Avenue!

We lived at 7031 South Vernon Avenue from about 1967 to 1970 in Chicago. One sister had already flown the coop and the other two were married in 1968 while living on Vernon Avenue. Of course, we partied and celebrated both of those unions.

And then, there was just me with the parents. I graduated from high school in 1968 during the turbulent 60’s and that’s where we lived as several historical and tragic moments played out. But on a lighter note, it’s where we were when I bought my first car, a mint green 1960 Ford Falcon. I had saved $87 and Daddy gave me the other $13 to purchase the $100 car. Unbelievable.

I was working as a cashier at the High-Low Foods about a block away which was on the corner of 71st Street and King Drive. {Then called South Park Way). There were many shops along that stretch of 71st Street such as Harvey Collins BBQ place or his laundromat. We could walk about two blocks east and get a small bag of hot shrimp of White’s Shrimp. Or, if me and my friend, Corliss walked west across King Drive, we could buy Mod watches with the interchangeable faces and straps to match our outfits. What fun!

During my last year of high school at Hyde Park High, I drove to school after having to catch two buses for a brief period of time. After I had the freedom of wheels, I shot west to 68th and Stewart to Chicago State College. It became a university right before graduation in 1971. (Hurray!) Sometimes, I drove with one eye open because we had been out dancing all night at the Concept Ballroom at 79th and Halsted. Then, we would go over to the White Castle at 79th and Stony Island and hang out into the wee hours of the morning. My mother said, “Fine. As long as you make that 8:00 AM class.” I always did.

I advanced from the locally owned High Low Foods to the nationally known A & P Foods which was located on 71st, far east close to Jeffrey Avenue. I rang the register all the way through college. I sped past the Oak Woods cemetery wall every time, never dreaming that it would one day be the resting place for both of my parents. Selah.

I missed out on many weekend out-of-town trips because I was always studying or working, but I was on a mission. But for fun, we often went in carloads to the movies or even to the US 30 drag races to see the races and the funny cars. Our favorite eateries were driving up to get hot fish from Lawrence Fisheries off of 18th Street. Or we’d jump on the Calumet Expressway (Now the Bishop Ford) and go for food at the Tollroad Oasis out off of I- 80/294. We were young and fearless and thought nothing about hopping on the Dan Ryan to get where we wanted to go.

The stories are endless but reliving even small bits of those years give me warm, fuzzy feelings. How glad I am to have had those great memories of days gone by!

Lynn M.
April 24, 2023


After the recent teen takeover in the Chicago Loop which caused mayhem, chaos and personal injuries, I reflected on my teen years in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  I came along right after the turbulent sixties, and I reaped some of the gains from the civil rights struggle.

Oscar Brown Jr. had a television show called Opportunity Please Knock back then. Well, it did for me because I was able to get a Teacher’s Scholarship through the state. I went to college at no cost after promising  to teach in the state of Illinois for five years. I did joyfully teach for six years and left with many rich memories.

During my college years, we had access to the beauty of the Chicago Loop. I went to several gatherings in hotels such as the Palmer House, the Congress (formerly the Pick-Congress), the Playboy Club, the Holiday Inn and the Lake Meadows Country Club, to name a few. We only needed to know if it was after-five or formal wear when getting ready to go. If it was after-five, we wore short, fanciful dresses and if it was formal, we wore floor-length dresses. And, we all had plenty of choices in our personal closets. This was before the blue jean and pants era, so we took great pride in getting all gussied-up, as the Southerners say.

This added to our self-esteem and we felt welcomed while being given a pass to engage in a civil society. As a Brownie and a Girl Scout member, I was taught mottos that encouraged me to become  a productive citizen. But most importantly, we had access and we knew how to conduct ourselves in public. However, our youth today are crying out for help. 

Sometimes, great programs have been put in place and new politicians come along and decide to dismantle someone else’s good work. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  There had been an expansive summer teen employment program put in place in the early 70’s by Richard J. Daley’s administration. I worked with the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program each summer helping as a camp counselor, a payroll clerk, a payroll supervisor and an area coordinator. It was my summer gig because back then, teachers did not receive summer pay!

We hired teens from all over the city from the ages of 14 to 18 to do things such as cleaning up the neighborhood, supervising day camps or whatever was needed in their communities. I remember the very young being taught how to get their Worker’s Permit as they excitedly learned how to earn a paycheck. I was helping them and also helping myself as I enjoyed working in the Loop and later driving around the city to check on various worksites.

While working in the Loop, we had the run of LaSalle Street where our Y office was located. We enjoyed the local bakeries, bookstores, banks and going in and out of City Hall to buy stamps or money orders. I got my first credit card at a clothing store called Pollyanna’s which was close to where I enjoyed my first Wendy’s hamburger. At lunch time, we sat on plazas and listened to people like Herbie Mann and other musicians while enjoying the busy Loop.

What happened?  Who decided that our local teens should be left out of the normal flow of accessing the Loop and carving out a path forward?  Why do they feel that they have been left behind and choose to rebel by destroying the property of others? They obviously feel unwelcome and now everyone is scrambling and trying to figure out what should be done. 

It’s simple. Do the research and go back to what worked in the past. The wheel does not have to be reinvented, but just pulled out, oiled and put back into operation. It may take time, but ALL youth should be allowed to find a path towards becoming a decent, productive citizen. Restart the mass employment programs, give well-chaperoned functions in the hotels and give the youth a chance to enjoy life.  It may have to start with a selective sample of teens to show the stakeholders that they too can sing America in a respectful way. They may need a little guidance on manners and dress but a small beginning can end with a big finish when minds and hearts are open to inclusion for all!

Lynn M.
April 22, 2023

Poems Are!

Poetry speaks as an easy flow,
In fewer words but has a glow.

Concrete messages spewed intact.,
Which takes a poet’s skill and knack.

Poems are a quick way to connote,
Saying, “We are in the same boat.”

They touch our hearts and soothe us,
Giving pointed balm in a rush!

Lynn M.
April 15, 2023

British Expat Authors-2023

Over the past few years, I have enjoyed reading the memoirs of British expatriates that have chosen to live in other countries. Some moved for lucrative means and others were retiring to warmer climates. In several cases, the author-wives were following their husbands who worked for the British government as contractors in fields such as engineering as they built structural systems for the Commonwealth.

My first acquaintance through Twitter was with the prolific writer, Valerie Poore. She now lives in the Netherlands and has written several books of her life on a boat. She is an English professor who decided to live on a vessel in Rotterdam. Some of her works such as Watery Ways is from her Ways series. Then there is Faring to France on a Shoe which covers a boat journey to other countries with her mate, Koos.  Before moving into the world of the Dutch, she lived in South Africa and her memoirs from there are both colorful and amusing. She describes the beautiful countryside and everyday life in works such as African Ways and her latest book from the SA days is Beneath A Copper Sky which is quite riveting.

From that point on, Val began to recommend books for me that have been written by her other expat writer-friends. So I moved on into the works of Lally Brown. Her husband worked as a British engineer, and she always found work on the Caribbean Islands to contribute to the community. There are several laugh-out-loud moments as she writes about everyday life in High & Dry in the BVI, Tree Frogs, Don’t Drop the Dolphin along with other works.  At one point, she even lived on the island of St. Helena where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his last days in exile.  She did in-depth research of those times and wrote a grand tale of his life while there in The Countess, Napoleon and St. Helena.

I was later led to Victoria Twead’s Two Old Fools six-book series where she and her husband Joe leave the UK and move to Spain. While reading of their daily happenings one feels as if he or she is sitting right there with them on their patio watching the Spanish villagers. They even leave their El Hoyo abode for a year to teach in Bahrain. It is hilarious as they attempt to teach the wealthy, entitled Arabian middle schoolers. After returning to Spain and spending several more years in El Hoyo, they move to Australia to be closer to their daughter and her growing family. The adventures continue as they learn to maneuver the new terrain of Aus, as they call it, and once again look for a new home.

Then, Beth Haslam wrote a five-book series called Fat Dogs and French Estates where she and her husband leave the UK and head for the South of France.  We see them in their car going through the Euro-Tunnel and getting out on the French side. It made me pull out my Atlas (book) and follow them as they drove to the south of France. They visit several properties and meet all types of people as they look for their new home. After many disappointments, they find a place that looks fine until all of the sellers’ furniture has been removed from the house. They stand aghast when they realize how much work needs to be done for the place to be truly habitable; but they’ve already signed on the dotted line! Reading the series is quite like being a family member as Beth takes us through each everyday occurrence. This year, she released Fats Dogs and Welsh Estates as a prequel which shares her rich childhood in Wales and the events that shaped her life.

I was also introduced to Susie Kelly, who also lives in the south of France. In The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette, we see Susie and her husband bike up to the Versailles area as she gives an in-depth history of the last days and movements of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before they met their fate at the guillotine. She has a great sense of humor as she informs yet gives comic relief along the way. In her work Safari Ants, Baggy Pants and Elephants: A Kenyan Odyssey, she revisits the African nation of Kenya 40 years later where she spent several childhood years. Her descriptive words made me feel as if I was right there with them while on safari!

Lastly, I just finished Karen Telling’s first book of a two-book series called Another Day in Paradise. When she and her husband Nick rode with their car through the Euro Tunnel, this time I was familiar with the process. They too drive through the French countryside, but this couple is on their way to Portugal!  Once there, they rent a few properties to see if this is right for them and after deciding a resounding yes, they buy a small fixer upper. They thought that they were ready to retire, but instead Karen finds work as a real estate agent, and Nick starts a small moving service. The adventures continue to flourish as they thrive in this new land where again business ventures move as slow as molasses.

All of the books are available on Amazon, and it is a great way to go knee-deep into countries and places that I will probably not visit in person. Several of these women writers are accompanying their mates who are on higher missions, but they chose to pick up their pens and share their daily experiences. They: battle insects and varmints of all types; gain and lose precious pets; or deal with archaic bureaucratic systems while trying to see doctors, get drivers’ licenses or obtain other needed permits while living as foreigners and expats. Mostly, they have to try to learn another language and a new culture as they make lifetime friends along the way. But most agree that a warmer, sunnier climate is worth it all!

Lynn M.
April 8, 2023