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June and Ward Cleaver Leave it to Beaver 1958

It’s said often that many Americans would like to return to the “Leave it to Beaver” days because it reflects a time when America was a lot less complicated.  The truth is this country has never been uncomplicated.  Some of my favorite television shows were produced during times of social upheaval.  “The Andy Griffith Show” is a prime example.

I remember watching an interview of Andy Griffith and he said the show reflected 1930s America more than it did the decade of the 1960s in which it was produced.  It was done that way on purpose.  I hadn’t stopped to think about that before.  Watching the show today, one would think everyone was getting along so well in the country in the 1960s.  I know history paints a different picture.

The news this morning that Florence Henderson had died was a bit of a shock.  I grew up on Brady Bunch reruns as did millions of Americans.  No matter how many times I had seen the episodes, they offered an escape from whatever was going on in my life.  We all need to escape once in a while.

Maybe the scripts were idealized versions of reality but what’s so bad about that?  Shouldn’t we strive to be better kids, parents, spouses and citizens?  I don’t think these shows make us collectively stick our head in the sand and ignore real problems around us.  We’re aware of all the problems, probably too much.

Andy Griffith Don Knotts 1970

The constant negative news articles and being connected 24/7 to everyone I know through social media is too much sometimes.  Once in a while I have to walk away and remember life before we were all so “together”.  I recently saw a cartoon on Facebook that stated, “My need to be well informed is at odds with my need to remain sane.”  Isn’t that the truth!

I need a reprieve and I think our entertainment should offer a reprieve from all of the junk we’re bombarded with daily.  It should also inspire us to be a little better, a little kinder, and a whole lot more hopeful.  Considering that much of the news out there isn’t even true anyway, I’d rather put my kids (and grandkids) in front of the television, tablet, smartphone, or whatever they’re watching and find some enjoyment and peace.

There’s a lot to learn from Charles and Caroline Ingalls, Ward and June Cleaver, Mike and Carol Brady, Andy, Barney and Aunt Bee, Gilligan and the Skipper, and even Herman and Lilly Munster.  We all need to learn to laugh again, especially at ourselves.  If there’s anything missing from this narcissistic, over-informed time we live in, it’s that.  We need to laugh again.  We take ourselves entirely too seriously while standing on our social media soapboxes lecturing the rest of the world how it ought to be.  I’m as guilty as anybody.   In reality, I just want to laugh again.  I want to find some peace and I’m forever grateful to the shows and entertainers that were able to deliver on both.


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Thanksgiving is just a couple days away and I can’t think of any more appropriate holiday to address the mood and seemingly deep (let’s face it, an abyss) divide between red and blue Americans.  For my family, Thanksgiving was always an awkward day – at least through the eyes of a child.  It was the one day of the year in which family members from near and far gathered under one roof and caught up on the past year’s events.

This was way before Facebook and other forms of social media.  Most of us had absolutely no contact with each other except for Thanksgiving.  The event was always held at my Great-Grandmother’s house in Taylorville, Illinois.  She had a small, old house located across from an old train station that had sat empty for years.  Peeling paint, gray weathered wood, large and sagging overhangs over the wooden platform where so many had waited for arrivals and departures sat as a reminder of days gone past.  I always felt like I missed something by never seeing the station as it had been.  It represented a time before me that begged to not be forgotten.

And now Thanksgiving is so different.  Many of the people that filled that little house are gone but I remember them well.  How could I forget my great-uncle’s new wife that we were all, well, basically terrified of.  As soon as she entered the house everyone took to their battle stations.  Those that were in the kitchen hoped that by looking busy that the dark cloud about to descend would pass them by.  Us kids ran into the bedrooms and hid.  My dad suddenly felt the need to go wash the car, in November, when it was 20 degrees.  My mom chopped celery with precision, trying to hide behind the bowl of stuffing.

Then with a swift dreaded arrival she entered the kitchen and swung her tin cans of cookies onto the counter with a clang.  A chill went down my spine.  I think I heard someone scream faintly.  Everyone tried to remember how to breathe.  Suddenly she clapped her hands and said without abandon, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

She had a habit of clapping her hands whenever she entered a room or had something important to say.  Even though she was new to the family, she certainly wasn’t sheepish about trying to fit in.  She barreled her way in and we were scared.  But she was family and families learn to put up with each other, no matter what.

Donald Trump (5440995138)

This Thanksgiving feels a lot like that in America.  We have a president-elect who is a lot like that new odd family member we’re not quite sure of.  Can we trust him?  Is he as awful as some are saying?  I don’t know yet but yes, we are all one big family now nonetheless.  It’s never been easy to get along but if my family made it through Thanksgiving with the clapping aunt, America can make it through with Donald Trump.

Oh and in time, I grew less scared of her.  She was still loud and never one to fade into the wallpaper but we learned to hold our defenses.  I certainly wouldn’t remember those Thanksgivings nearly as well without her.

Btw, the featured image for this post is from my dad’s side of the family.  Sadly, there’s no photos of any Thanksgiving from my mom’s side.  Imagine that.  Back then, nobody even thought to take photos at family events.  All I have are the pictures in my mind.

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Well now that the election is over, for better or worse (don’t get me started) I’ll turn my focus once again to good ole Decatur.

Overlook Adventure Park New Aquatic Center

On one hand I’m happy that the park district is moving ahead with an aquatic facility for Nelson Park, aka Overlook Adventure Park.  With the amphitheater coming soon, it makes sense to get much of the original vision coming together in a timely fashion.


The new aquatic center is going to be located adjacent to the miniature golf course.  Looking at the conceptual drawing the plan looks okay and that’s the problem – it’s just okay.  If it’s trying to be marketed as a waterpark then it really needs to have waterpark features.  Probably the two most important ones are a lazy river and a wave pool.  They did leave the option to add a lazy river in the future, so I guess that’s good.

I’m also not thrilled with closing Fairview’s Pool.  It seems like such a waste.  I’d rather it be leased to a private club than just have it sit and decay or be demolished.  Having both facilities would ease overcrowding.  I stopped taking my kids to Fairview a long time ago because it wasn’t enjoyable.  It was always too crowded to truly swim and I spent most of my time frantically keeping an eye on my then young son hoping he didn’t get separated from me and drown.  Honestly, I think Decatur needs both facilities open to ease overcrowding and leave an important amenity for the West End.

New Playground

I hate to be a party pooper but I’m not really all that thrilled about the new playground for Nelson Park either.  It’s pretty much the same thing we already have at Scovill Zoo, which isn’t that far away.  I think that money could have been put towards neighborhood parks or something else that we don’t currently have.  That’s just my two cents.

City Is Going to Demolish 1,000 Structures

The city is really getting aggressive and serious about demolishing dilapidated houses in Decatur.  The city council will be discussing this more soon and I’ll wait to comment in detail about it till then but I think it’s a good idea.  Some parts of town just need to start from scratch again.  That opens up so many possibilities.  I’d love the city and private developers to push for ultra-energy efficient homes. It’s something that isn’t offered yet in Decatur or nearby communities but it is the future of home design.  Imagine living in a home with no power bills!  It would definitely help paint Decatur as a progressive (not talking politics), forward-thinking community.  Go for it!



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I questioned whether I should post this or try to compose or more positive and polished response but this is the raw unfiltered emotion I felt soon after the election. This is why many continue to march in the streets.

There’s only a couple events that compare to the level of emotion I felt Tuesday night – 9/11 and the day I sat in my old bedroom weeping as my mom was nearing her last breaths from cancer down the hall.  On Tuesday night I wept for my country and the pain was visceral.

9/11 was an attack from the outside and though the fear I felt that day was paralyzing.  I remember walking outside on that beautiful September day and though the sun was bright it couldn’t touch me.  The flowers and butterflies were still marvelous but dumb to all the fear and uncertainty that veiled my eyes.  I couldn’t listen to music for weeks or enjoy laughter.  But at least I knew my country was together.  I knew that if this country were to ever be destroyed, it would be of our own doing.

There I was with my hat from Hillary’s 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination and my “I Voted” sticker, anticipating at long last a win. But I wasn’t angry about my candidate losing on Tuesday night.  It wasn’t the source of my overwhelming sadness.  It wasn’t about partisanship or even the disappointment of not seeing a woman elected president.  I felt as though I had watched the country I loved and thought I knew die that night.  The disillusionment I felt was searing.

Everything my parents and school teachers had taught me to be – kind, tolerant, polite, humble, forgiving, and even the Golden Rule itself, had been tossed out the window by millions of fellow Americans. How could I accept that?  As flawed as we are as a nation, I always thought we were good at heart but are we?  Hate had won for the whole world to see and I was mortified. I mourned for human decency.

It felt as though my mother’s memory had been dishonored.  Then I thought about the neighbors I grew up with that were of the Greatest Generation.  I learned so much from them and on 9/11 their example gave me hope and strength.  They had been through hell and they knew what mattered in life.  They had defeated the worst kind of hate imaginable.  How did people forget?  Electing a man like Donald Trump dishonored their memory as well.

A man that is openly and unashamedly cruel, rude, racist, sexist, and xenophobic had won the presidency in America.  How could that be?  Over the last couple days, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what I’m supposed to do over the next four years.  How can I fit into this picture without losing my mind or my hope in humanity?  I’ve thought a lot about the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr, Robert F. Kennedy and others who carried the torch of equality and civility through dark, turbulent times. I thought much of the work had already been done and only a few loose ends were left to be tied.  I was wrong.  That torch has been passed to you and me now.  Let’s carry it forward.


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It’s almost Halloween, which means I usually have a blog post about, well, Halloween and maybe I still will but I am absolutely swamped with assignments this week.  I’ve felt overwhelmed before but this quarter takes the cake. Have mercy!


I also discovered yesterday that I have 6 or 7 additional classes that I have to complete before I can graduate.  What a kick in the gut.  I thought I was going to be done in the spring.  Nope!  I’ll still get to participate in the graduation ceremony in June but I won’t officially be done until the summer, or fall, or I’m still holding out hope for this lifetime, depending upon when the remaining classes I need are offered.

The bright side is, I keep telling myself, is that I’ll be able to gain a lot more experience this summer before I enter the job market next fall, whether it’s an internship or lots of volunteer work.  I’ll be gaining hands-on experience and important professional contacts, which I do need.  I also won’t have to spread myself so thin trying to take on 6 classes a quarter just trying to finish by a specific date.  Still, it’s a major bummer.  I was really looking forward to being done.

Well, it is what is.  I’ll just have to suck it up. I’m definitely not the first college student to find out they have extra classes to finish before they’re able to graduate.  A friend of mine thought she was done and even went through the commencement ceremony.  She cried.  Her parents cried.  It was a wonderful day.  A few weeks later she thought she was opening her official diploma but instead received a letter informing her she hadn’t met all the graduation requirements.  She cried again.  Cue the Price is Right Loser Horn.

I just hope that after all of this work, sweat, tears, years, and debt that it will have been all worth it.  I think it will but there’s days when I question it all.


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