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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Gratitude List

For anyone planning to move soon, especially if you are of a certain age, before making your multi-page to-do list, may I suggest starting instead with a gratitude list? Trust me, you’ll need it to get you through the thornier and more tedious parts of the process.

I moved last Thursday and literally counted down the days, then hours, before the movers arrived. There were many reasons for this, most having to do with the actual apartment I was living in.

In fact, the landlord had early on acknowledged the problems therein, enough to reduce my rent for almost half of the seven months I lived there. So, my gratitude list would certainly include that. Plus these:

--The places I could escape to work while living in that apartment, starting back in January: Starbucks, public libraries, the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, Whole Foods in Edgewater;

--Jeff at Bookends & Beginnings Bookstore in Evanston who came and picked up my eight cartons of donated books back in March;

--The small tap room in the back of Cardinal Wine & Spirits in Lincoln Square, including Bob & Herman, the evening bartenders, and all the regulars who were welcoming to me, a relative newbie;

--Gene’s Sausage Shop & Deli in Lincoln Square where I got the great sandwiches to go with my beers on those nights I hung at Cardinal;

--those neighbors from my former neighborhood in West Rogers Park—to where I was returning—enthusiastically welcoming me back even before I officially arrived last week;

--those sunny, warm days in early April when I sat in Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square and watched all the little kids run around, laughing, chasing each other, falling down and getting up with smiles still on their faces;

--St. Gert’s church in Edgewater, which kept me relatively grounded as I made my way through the sorting/recycling/packing process that began in March;

--and, of course, Valencia and Ramiro, my movers who arrived two hours early last Thursday to move me.

There’s much more to be added to the list, of course, including that I am blessedly back where I belong.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Those Irish Eyes Really Did Smile

A former landlord died recently—at 89, in his sleep, while on a cruise. Some might say this is the winning trifecta of how we’d all like to go. But for those who mourn him—his wife of 66 years; his five children, 17 grand- and 7 great-grandchildren; the many friends, workmates, neighbors, fellow parishioners; and me, his one-time tenant—one very bright light has been dimmed.

John—born in County Mayo, his brogue still prominent—and his wife, Noreen, first generation Irish—owned a lovely two flat with a garden apartment in West Rogers Park. It was a family occupied building and I felt like an extended part of that family not long after moving into the downstairs apartment in 2012.

John, with his easy friendliness and perpetually smiling face—a good word for everyone he met on his long walks around the neighborhood—certainly had something to do with that. As did Noreen and their kids and grands and various tail-wagging dogs. I was invited to their holiday parties and back porch summer parties and given vegetables they’d grown in their backyard garden.

But I grew restless in my slightly subterranean apartment, my outside views—except for the front room bay windows—narrowing as I moved through to the bedroom, to the kitchen, to the bathroom. And I wasn’t crazy that my back door led directly into their basement. Or that I wasn’t welcomed to use their basement washer and drier, instead having to schlep my dirty laundry up the street to the nearby Laundromat.

But, from the distance of these past five years, these are mere quibbles, especially given all that was good and worthy about my landlords, the building, the many neighbors I grew to know while living there.

Truth is, I was driven to move by my hopes of returning to a parallel universe, one where I could still afford to rent a place in Chicago that was near the “L,” especially the Red or Brown lines. I hadn’t yet accepted that those days were gone and not likely to return.

At John’s wake and funeral last week, while deeply embracing his grieving family and neighbors, I was again reminded of the real sense of community I felt while living in that the West Rogers Park neighborhood, truly regretful that I’d ever left.

But sometimes we’re given second chances, can even go home again—which is what I’ll be doing next week, when I move back to the neighborhood. And while it saddens me to know that I won’t be seeing John’s radiant smile as I walk past his house, he will forever live in my memory, including those moments of the many ways he made me feel so welcome there.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Acting Locally

Like many people after The Odious Orange One was elected, I took to the streets, marching in the Chicago Women’s March, joining thousands of like-minded spirits on a gloriously spring-like day in January.

I knew there’d be more of these marches—and for a range of causes—and anticipated I’d be joining those as well. For starters, there’s plenty of information about these gatherings on my Facebook page: dates/times/places/themes.

But though I’ve put several of the marches on my calendar, I’ve yet to make it to any of them. I keep getting diverted by several local issues and causes, including the one nearest and dearest to my aging heart: affordable housing, including for seniors.

And so it was that I found myself at a meeting last Friday hosted by the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, one specifically focused on affordable housing. I was so inspired by the presentation that I signed on to volunteer for two of their current campaigns, including “Keeping the Promise.”

But first, from their website, by way of introduction, here is the organization’s Mission Statement:

Jane Addams Senior Caucus is a multiracial, grassroots organization led by concerned seniors in the Chicago metropolitan area. We cross neighborhood, racial, religious and socio-economic lines to find common ground upon which to act on our values. Through leadership development, organizing and popular education, we use the power of our collective voice to work for economic, social and racial justice for all seniors and our communities.

Jane Addams Senior Caucus has over 500 members from diverse backgrounds fighting for social justice. We know that seniors are valuable to our community and that seniors coming together can improve their lives and be active in civic life.

The issues we work on come from the concerns of our members. Presently, we are working on a wide range of issues, including affordable housing creation and preservation, retirement security, voter registration and Get Out The Vote, and progressive state revenue.

Now anyone who’s followed this blog knows that one particular sentence in the Statement (which I’ve italicized) resonates with me, particularly as it speaks against ageism and for continued involvement in public life as we age.

As for that campaign I joined? Click on the link below to learn more about it. Then click on Campaigns and Housing. And maybe consider joining me on it, ok?

Monday, March 27, 2017

With Gratitude: Transition Stories

You reach a certain age—I am well past it—when every other thought is one of gratitude: for waking up in the morning; for being able to still see, smell, hear; for the old friends who’ve stood by me through my worst and craziest moments; for the new friends who enhance my life in ways I could never imagine.

The gratitude list goes on, gets more specific, even prosaic: Thanks for that unexpected sunny day yesterday; for the two open dryers at the Laundromat; for the ride to church; for those delish chicken patties at Gene’s Sausage Shop & Deli.

And sometimes the cause for the gratitude surprises in its enormity: the unsolicited offer of temporary shelter—a warm and comfortable place to live as I continue along my affordable senior housing search. And that this place comes with both a two- and a four-legged friend is all the more reason to be grateful.

Then, of course, there are the blog posts that this entire adventure will inspire. After all, it’s been quite a long while since I’ve shared a home with anyone. I expect some pretty good stories to emerge from this much anticipated transition at such a ripe old age.

And so I’m grateful as well to be able to write and share those stories.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Application Process: Part II

Last Thursday, I dropped off what may be my last application for an affordable (subsidized) senior housing apartment. The building is owned by CHA and it took me awhile to make my decision about which of their buildings I wanted to apply for, especially since you only get one choice if you opt to choose a specific senior building.

The application itself is pretty short—barely four pages—and includes the basics: race, citizenship, income, and contact information.

The longest housing application I filled out was more than twice as long—10 pages for a studio apartment in one of the North Park Village buildings, in a non-CHA building run by the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation.

In addition to the basics, that application required my "Housing History" for the past 10 years, including name and contact information of landlords, and a list of doctors visited regularly. Plus, since the building I applied for allows pets--one, I think--there was a long list of common household pets for a pet-owning applicant to check. 

Four of the other applications I filled out were for buildings owned by various other corporations and entities, not-for-profits in some cases. All are on the far north side, which again is where I’ve lived most of my adult life in Chicago. And most of those were “pre-applications,” all one pagers that included not only the basics, but sometimes a driver's license number or present employer or apartment size preference.

I’m not certain, but I think the brevity of these pre-apps might have something to do with the long waitlists for these buildings. Maybe once someone inches up the list--typically over the course of six months (if they're lucky), one year, or perhaps longer--a more detailed application will need to be completed.

If memory serves, the very first place I looked at back in early February—the Johnston R. Bowman Residential Apartments—didn’t require an application until I visited the building and saw the apartments. I wasn’t all that crazy about the location of the building, it’s part of the Rush University Medical Center on S. Paulina, but what sealed the deal against my considering it was that the windows in the apartments didn’t have screens, didn’t even open. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that.

And for a couple of places I looked at—Friendly Towers, the Belle Shore Apartment Hotel, the Farwell-Jarvis Apartments—I didn't submit applications for several reasons, including how onerous the process was and/or the size and amenities of the apartments.

Also, it's important to note that for most of the affordable senior buildings I applied for, I never got past the front desk or the property manager's office where I was handed the application. It's not until an apartment becomes available that an applicant actually gets to see it. It took me some time to digest that this is exactly the opposite of what it's typically like to rent an apartment. And it may have something to do with the fact that these are subsidized units.

If any of my blog readers are interested in more information about my search—again, whether for themselves or for friends and family members—please email me at I’ve done a lot of research and footwork during this process and am happy to share what I know with others who’d benefit from it.

But as for my own search, I feel I may be done. Over the past six weeks, I've submitted applications to those buildings I'd consider living in, especially the two that allow pets. And in the meantime--and this is especially the best news so far--a friend has invited me to move in with her, in the Rogers Park home she grew up in, until one of my applications is accepted. In deepest gratitude, I told her that if that takes longer than she can stand having me around, I'll make other arrangements.

Until then, I feel blessed beyond all measure.