Saturday, April 14, 2018

Living in the Land North of I-80

I have something I should really be doing right now, so as usual, I’m writing a blog post instead! This is my sad history. I could probably rename my blog “I Should Be Doing Something Else.” Actually that’s kind of funny, and I would consider it, but it wouldn’t have that cute play on words with Chestnut. Well, I think it’s cute.

Moving on, I’ve been wanting to do a review, if you will, of my move up to the land north of I-80, what I used to just call “Chicago.” I am about an hour and 15 minutes west of Chicago, which is not at all considered Chicago up here, but back where I come from….. I say that a lot, usually with a twang, because it’s fun, and many people here think it’s real.

Credit Below
I now live in the part of Illinois where a lot of people think of the Peoria, Champaign and Springfield areas as “Southern Illinois” which always amuses me because If they would look at a map, they would see there’s half of a state below those cities, and there really is a Southern Illinois, but it’s actually in ….. yes, Southern Illinois.

Now that I live here, though, I realize I can’t call everything north of I-80 Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, I’m in the far western suburb of Huntley, a place many people here call “the country.” That really amuses me because back where I come from, this is definitely not the country. There are some farms, though, within smelling distance, which was discussed online all day a couple of days ago.

I am part of an online group of people who live in Huntley, and the other day, my Facebook was lighting up with all the posts about the horrible smell that (1) I didn’t notice; (2) kept people from even going outside; (3) had many people calling Public Works; (4) gave people headaches; and (5) made some people wonder if they were being poisoned. I’m guessing many of you reading this, especially the downstaters, are already chuckling because you know the smell just means that farmers finally had a nice day and were fertilizing their fields.

What really cracked me up were all the comments about living in the country. I love that people think this is the country. I suppose it all depends on where you started, but back where I come from, trust me, this is not the country. I went to school at Western Illinois University, which is located, I think by all accounts, in the country. It was my first experience living in a rural area, but it was not unfamiliar to me. Unlike some of the kids from the Chicago area, I did know there was such a thing as a farm report on TV because it was broadcast every day on the noon news, and I had actually seen cows before. I do remember, though, my small-town friends called me the city girl, which confused me greatly because I was just from Peoria, which to me was kind of a small town. All my relatives in New York sure thought it was!

All of this was a very long tangent from what I had intended to say, which was, I am relieved that although it’s a bit different living up here, it’s not as different as I was afraid it might be. I will always think of myself as a downstate girl, and I was a little concerned I wouldn’t like it here because I would feel too out of place. Fortunately, I like it just fine. I almost never have to fly commuter flights to get to a hub airport; I just drive down the road. I’m not intimidated by “Chicago” drivers; I can hold my own, and frankly, most drivers here are not rude as I imagined they would be. Although I do miss my downstate friends and family A LOT, I am closer to old college roommates and other friends I finally get to see, I’ve made new friends here, AND of course, there are those grandbabies.

The shopping, well, that advantage goes without saying. Of course, I can find just about everything I want, but I have to tell you about this fabulous grocery store here called Woodman’s. It is huge. There’s a little backstory first. When we had our two Romanian gymnasts stay with us back in 1992, we took them to a Schnucks grocery store, and I have this great memory of them when they walked in. They were holding hands, and they just stopped and stared. Their eyes were wide open, and their mouths were wide open, and we quickly realized they had never seen anything even remotely like that before. On my first visit to Woodman’s, I had to message my girls to tell them I was feeling very much like the Romanians must have felt that day at Schnucks.

I’ll do my best to describe it for my downstate friends. It’s as wide as two Mahomet IGAs (minus the sloping floors), and they have everything … seriously, everything. There is an entire aisle of chips and other munchies. I mean not just a regular aisle … an aisle that spans the entire width of the store. I think they have every gluten-free product ever invented, which, if that matters to you as it does to me, is huge, and rare. With that, I’ll stop on the description because I’m not doing it justice, and I really just wanted to throw in the comment about the sloping floors at the IGA, which always made me laugh as I’d watch my cart roll away. But here’s what I quickly learned. You have to have a smart plan of attack to get through in any reasonable amount of time, and you definitely do not want to start at the frozen food section because by the time you go to check out, your frozen food will be halfway thawed. True story.

More About Food (Surprise)
As I once wrote, one of the perks to moving up north was that I would be able to eat at Portillo’s or Giordano’s whenever I wanted. I lived in Champaign County for 26 years. For 26 years, if I wanted Portillo’s or Giordano’s or Red Robin or Oberweis, I could only do that after a three-hour drive north. I swear as soon as I announced my move, all four of these restaurants decided to open in Champaign. Not one, but all four. Twenty-six years, people!

Go, Cubs, Go
I had to save the best for last. Let’s think back to that fabulous day in 2016 when the Cubs won the World Series. (I still can’t say that without smiling.) You know, back where I come from, there is a fierce rivalry between the Cubs and the Cardinals. Even the Chestnuts are divided about half and half. So watching that beautiful win up here ….. well, it was even sweeter than sweet. It seemed like everybody here was happy. The next day, teachers understood that most of their students had been up past midnight. Schools even played “Go, Cubs, Go” over the intercom as the kids walked in. And as grateful as I was to witness the win, I have to say I was even more grateful that I was able to watch it up here in the land of horn honking and fireworks.

So there you have it. You know, sometimes I finish a post, and I think, “Maybe this can make a difference.” I would just like to say this is not one of those times. But I did have fun, so if you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me. I hope maybe you chuckled a little bit too.

Graphic Credit -

Monday, April 2, 2018

Our Expanded Family

It's probably a strange thing to hear that I like my ex-husband, Dave, and probably what’s really strange to hear is I like his wife, Cindy. She once said she thought if we had met under different circumstances, we would have been friends anyway, and I totally agreed. I guess we’re lucky, but we also all behave like grownups, so there’s that.

When Dave and I had “the talk” about 11 years ago, we agreed we would always put the needs of the kids and any potential grandchildren before our own, we would not fight over time spent with them, and we would stay in each other’s lives so our kids’ and grandkids’ lives would not be completely disrupted. We have stuck to that, and it has worked.

Leah, the boys and I just took a trip east to see Lindsay in Baltimore and to see Dave and Cindy in the DC area, and we all had a great time! Here’s the thing …. when we all work together, we outnumber the littles, and that, my friends, is a big win. Seriously, those two little boys will take us down in a heartbeat if they sense any sign of weakness. I am only slightly joking here!

I guess we are proof that divorce doesn’t have to be horrible. In fact, I can list so many ways we have all benefited from the expanding of our family that now includes mine, Dave’s and Cindy’s. One important moment comes to mind. I don’t remember all the details, but Lindsay was in a bind moving between apartments and having to leave town for something, and she texted me this: “I’m at the airport. All my stuff is in a storage unit, thanks to Cindy. She came up and helped and got me to the airport. Don’t think I could’ve done it without her.”

It warmed my heart more than I can tell you that Cindy stepped up to help Lindsay while I was 800 miles away and could do nothing. At one point, long before Dave and Cindy were a couple, I remember thinking that no other woman could be a big part of my girls' lives, that I was their mom, and that was that. Looking back, wow, how mature was that? Obviously I got over it, but I have to admit those were my first thoughts as we were starting to plan our new normal. 

Unfortunately, in order to be, as I call us, “happily divorced,” it takes both exes behaving like grownups (are you sensing a theme?). I know of a case where one “side” has done everything to make their divorced relationship work, but the other side refuses to. I know of another case where I’m not sure either parent has worked to keep the kids out of the middle. It’s especially heartbreaking to see children pay the price for something they had nothing to do with.

If I could advise those parents, I would say this. Even if Dave were a total jerk, which is absolutely not the case, he is the father of my children, and for that alone, I should be respectful when talking to him or about him. It really isn’t that difficult. You just need to … say it with me, will you? …. behave like grownups!

Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now. My kids would say at this point, “Mom, you’re watching too much Dr. Phil.” And they may be right (he and Judge Judy are my guilty pleasures), but seriously, if you’re reading this and thinking I may have described you, then you need to do better. Be nice, be respectful, and be a grownup. If you don’t want to do it for your ex, do it for your children and all the others who are affected by your fighting. Life is way too short.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Crying Woman in Florida

Something happened recently, and I can't get it out of my mind. While I was in Florida, I was going to start my walk (yes, naysayers who know me too well, I was going to walk!), and I was close to the starting point, when I heard a sort of commotion. I realized pretty quickly that what I heard was an elderly woman crying. I saw people walk by her, and when I got closer, I heard her asking if anyone had seen Bill. She saw me and asked if I knew where he was, and because I had spent a lot of time with my parents in their last years, I realized pretty quickly that she probably had dementia, and there probably was no Bill.

So I stopped to talk with her. She was very upset because she didn't know where he was. I could tell she probably didn't know where she was, and I noted that although it was in the afternoon, she had a bathrobe on over pajamas.

I asked her if I could help her, and she asked me if I knew where Bill was. I told her I didn't, and I asked if she was staying near there. She pointed to one of the cottages not far away, and I said, "Tell you what. Why don't we go sit down over there, and we'll figure this out." She continued to cry, but I could tell she was relieved that someone was helping her. She said her feet hurt, and that's when I realized she was just wearing socks. So I gave her my arm, like I used to do for my mama, and she thanked me, and we slowly walked back to the chair in front of her cottage. The front door was wide open, and I asked her if I could go inside to see if I could find anyone. She didn't care, I could tell, so I walked through saying "Hello?" repeatedly. I could see there was no one else there, but it was definitely lived in, so I went back to her and suggested we could sit there and visit for a while because I guessed someone was just running an errand and would be back soon. By this time she was calm, so we sat and chatted. I was getting my game plan together in my head. I knew eventually, I'd have to call the police, but I could tell she hadn't been neglected for long, so my gut told me someone who knew her would arrive shortly.

I told her my name, and she told me her name was Phyllis. I told her I was just out for a walk, but I would love to sit with her instead (a little more believable, right?). We chatted for a few minutes about nothing I can really remember. She said something and motioned to the upstairs of the cottage, and I asked her if she knew people staying upstairs. She sort of nodded and didn't really answer, which I knew meant she couldn't remember, and I told her I was going to go up the outside stairs to see if there was anyone up there. She seemed to think that was a good idea and agreed to stay where she was and wait for me.

When I knocked on the first upstairs door, someone opened one of the other doors. I asked her if she knew a woman named Phyllis, that she was downstairs and had been crying and looking for Bill, and she nodded and said that was her mother. She put on her shoes and followed me downstairs. As we walked, I first told her I don't normally walk through houses of people I don't know (I wanted to clear that up right away), and also from the past few years of my life with both my parents, I realized pretty quickly her mom had dementia. She acknowledged she did and said, "My sister went to the store, and Mom was taking a nap." I had a feeling that was the case. I also was thinking that as nice as this woman was, it was probably her sister who cared for their mother, and this woman had left her mom alone way too long assuming she was still asleep. At the same time, I was grateful to my own sister who would not have spaced out and forgotten to check on our mother.

When we got back to Phyllis, my new friend looked up at her daughter, and said, "Where the hell have you been?" I couldn't help but laugh. It brought back some memories. Her daughter said, "I was just upstairs doing some work. Come on, Mom. Let's get you dressed." Her mother replied that she was dressed and pointed to her clothes. Again, I chuckled. You go, Phyllis!

At this point, I knew I could leave, and I told Phyllis I had had the best time hanging out with her. She held on to my hand for a little bit longer as she said she had enjoyed our visit also. I wanted to hug her, but I didn't know how she'd react, so I didn't. Her daughter was very grateful and really appreciated my help; so this moment had a happy ending, and I left them alone.

This was about two weeks ago, and I still am thinking of Phyllis and her daughters. I hope this was a wakeup call for them to pay close attention to their mother. I did feel like Phyllis was getting good care, so I wasn't worried about that.

I think the thing that keeps bothering me is the number of people who walked by her while she was obviously in distress. All the experts are saying that the number of people with dementia will continue to rise, and I think incidents like this will continue to increase.

So I guess my point with all this is if you see an elderly person who is clearly disoriented or upset, please don't keep walking by. Granted, I have experience in this area and knew instantly she had dementia; but anyone paying attention would know something was not right.

I guess maybe I can use this as a teachable moment. That's what my daughters call it. Maybe I need to make people aware that there's a good chance they'll be in a situation like this, and although I am in no way an expert on dementia, I do know from experience that in most cases, when someone elderly is angry or upset, they are most likely just scared, and a simple conversation will usually help calm them. And if it doesn't, we need to call people who do know how to help.

I was telling my friends about this, saying I didn't feel like a hero or anything, but instead I believed I was placed there at the right time. I said, "Call it God or the universe or whatever you want, but I feel like I was supposed to be there when I was, that I was meant to help someone like I would have wanted someone to help my mama."

My wise friend, Tonya, said, "Maybe it was your mom who sent you there." Wow. I sure did like the thought of that. And right now, I sure am smiling just thinking about her. Maybe Tonya was right. Let's just go with that.