The Way Toys Were – Ode to the Sears Wish Book

Every fall, just after Halloween, I begged my mom to order the Sears Wish Book. I spent hours poring over the book, making a list of the toys I wanted most. My parents always let me pick out one really impressive toy for the first night of Hanukkah and a few small “stocking stuffer” gifts for the other seven nights. My kid sister Janet and I would fight over the book and had to take turns, until my mom realized she should order two copies. Yet even with eight nights of celebration, I suffered from Christian envy and was a bit jealous of my best friend Joan’s beautiful large Christmas tree with colorfully wrapped gifts underneath. I fondly recall when her parents graciously invited me over for a few hours before their Christmas eve celebration. Thus, via a scaled-down version, I  experienced the joy of Christmas along with my potato latkes, chocolate gelt, picking hardened dripped wax off the menorah, and my eight gifts. The best of both worlds, you might say.

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Intriguing Finds through My Looking Glass – An Eclectic Sampling

I count my blessings that I have a lifelong antique collection to fall back on for a bit of extra income. A PR and communications professional, I found myself unemployed in mid-June for the first time in 20 years. I could write a 5,000-word blog just about my last employer, but I know that diplomacy will serve me better than spite as I strive to land a new position. So back to the matter at hand – a few of the high points in my hunt for treasure over the years. For this blog, I am posting an eclectic sampling of some of my most memorable finds – not necessarily because of the resulting sale, but for the memories associated with the acquisition.  My mom bought this complete set of Hartland Plastics musical cupids in 1976 at a fantastic store that sold new old store stock from dime stores. Our close friend Bebe turned us onto this treasure trove of a shop called Mary’s. It was located near Yoshi’s Cafe, in the 3200 block of North Halsted – long before it became a hip neighborhood. In any case, Mary decided to pack up shop and move to Michigan while I was away at RISD, so my mom visited the shop and bought a few things at close-out prices. Mind you, Mary’s prices were fantastic to start, so this was quite a deal. I held onto this wonderful set until a few years ago, at which time I sold it to a lucky collector.

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Mom’s Fall in the Big Apple Reawakens My Passion for Injury Prevention

It can be very disheartening when your parents age and are subjected to declining health. One of the most common health concerns among seniors is falling, and alas, this has happened far too many times to my dear mom.  Having launched many PR/media campaigns on head injury prevention in my last position over the course of seven years, I know quite a bit about traumatic brain injury, causes, and statistics – and I am passionate about injury prevention. While my mom has fallen quite a few times and sustained broken bones as a result, this is the first time that a tumble has led to a serious head injury. I was quite upset when she called me from NYC (after having recovered sufficiently) and told me they walked back to the hotel after she fell outside the Chrysler Building. She was bleeding profusely from the wound sustained in her head, exacerbated by being on blood thinners. They should have called 911 immediately instead of walking back to the hotel and then calling an ambulance. My mom spent 17 hours on a gurney in the infamous Bellevue Hospital ER as a result of this fall, but the good news is that she did not suffer a concussion. And thankfully there was not a traumatic brain injury such as a subdural/epidural hematoma  or skull fracture, which can be deadly.

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Ode to My Sweet Tooth – A Candy Lover’s Reverie

I blame my dad – but all of my dentists can thank him. My lifelong love affair with candy began when I was just a youngin, thanks to my dad’s unique love for sweets. I say unique because back in the 1960s when there were no gourmet candy shops in Chicago, my dad would order bountiful amounts of gourmet candy from Russ and Daughters on his annual December business trip to New York City. Among his favorite candies were pastel-colored chocolate lentils and dark chocolate covered raspberry jelly rings . I visited Russ and Daughters the last time I was in NYC and they carry very little candy now. My personal choice for an awesome array of candy in the Big Apple is Economy Candy. I must say we had the best candy in our house when I was growing up. One year my dad ordered a gingerbread house kit complete with gumdrops from B. Shackman Company. Before my sisters and I finished making this wonder, it became infested with ants and my mom had to toss it. My dad told us stories about growing up dirt poor in Brooklyn and saving money so he could buy a broken candy bar for 2 cents at the corner store – he couldn’t afford the whole bars. He certainly made up for this over the years, buying high-end gourmet chocolate from near and far at candy makers/shops including Bendick’s, Fortnum and Mason, Bissinger’s, and a now defunct Ma and Pa candy shop in Chicago called Martha’s Candies. He really didn’t care much for Frango Mints or Fanny May, but would reluctantly eat them if bought as a gift.

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My Lifelong Love Affair with Hunting Vintage Treasure

Revisiting my earliest memories, I have always loved antiques – but it is the hunt for that elusive piece that really rocks my boat. Actually, it is finding a treasure at a bargain price that keeps me hunting, although that has become increasingly challenging with the advent of the Antiques Road Show and American Pickers. My parents allowed me to gallivant alone at an enormous antique show at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago at the age of 6 or 7. I was transported to a magical place, imagining how people lived in the past surrounded by these beautiful objects. I only had pocket change and bought a small piece of natural turquoise. That following summer, I cannot remember where we went on our family vacation, but I do remember a cool coin and collectibles show at the motel where we were staying. Once again, my parents allowed me to roam alone at this show. I was drawn to the antique coins, but didn’t have money to buy anything. By the time I was 12, my mom would take me every summer to the Park West Antique Fair in Chicago. This venerable fair was an institution in Chicago for as long as I can remember, with dealers setting up shop in alley garages near Orchard Street. What I liked most about this fair was the European-like set-up – an upscale flea market where you could browse outside at leisure. We didn’t buy a lot, but this fair impacted me so greatly that I do remember exactly what my mom bought me over the years – a gorgeous ornate doll from Yugoslavia with a composition face and red leather boots; a Chartreuse Art Deco plastic department store butterfly display; a delicate Victorian gold ring with tiny opal; and a sterling silver brooch with a green art glass centerpiece.

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Some Staples’ Employees Need to Take a Chill Pill

I was kind of at a loss as to what to write about next until my visit to Staples yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I like to browse when I am in an office supply store, even if I know what I am after. In this case, I knew what I needed to purchase – down to the color of the Canon 226 ink cartridges that I had written on a post-it note. I was on my knees picking out the cartridges when a young man came up behind me and pounced on me – metaphorically, not literally. “Are you finding everything you need or can I help you?” I replied, “I know what I am looking for and I have already found it.” Not 2 minutes later, I spun around and he shoved a flier in my face hawking a $9.99 PC tune-up. He said, “Is your computer working OK at your house and do you know how to use it – how about a $9.99 tune-up?” I said, “No thanks, my husband is a computer expert.” What I really wanted to say was, “Get out of my face you little punk – my husband is in the next aisle and could run circles around you with his computer skills.” Later on I witnessed him ambushing every customer that came in the door and then following them around. And Jeff confirmed that he had bugged him.

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This Grouch was Singing the Windy City Weekend Shopping Blues

Boy did this past weekend spawn my inner grouch shopping blues. Bad experiences all the way around with clerks who didn’t know the first thing about customer service. Let’s start with our visit to Hobby Lobby on Saturday morning. I buy art supplies there because with the 40% off coupon, they tend to have decent prices. In this case, I was looking to buy an inexpensive picture frame for a photo of my daughter’s that was juried into an art show. I certainly don’t shop at Hobby Lobby for its atrociously gaudy selection of home furnishings and giftware – but back to the matter at hand. I gave the clerk a $10 bill and she ripped a $5 bill in half as she took it out of the register. When I asked her for an intact bill, she stubbornly refused and told me that she always rips bills in two when taking them out of the register! Then she called over another clerk to help tape the bill up, as the line grew longer and longer. All of this because she refused to give me an intact bill. What difference did this make to her and wasn’t it my right as a consumer to ask for an intact bill as change?

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The Long & Short of it – The Pros and Cons of Being Short in a Tall World

I was born into a family of very petite people – let’s face it – with a mom who is now under 5 feet (she was 5 feet 2 inches in her prime), and a dad who stands at 5 feet 4 inches tall ( he hasn’t shrunk much), genetics pretty much guaranteed I would be born a shrimp. I have wavered between acceptance and resentment for the “shorthand” that genetics dealt me. The cons of being short are offset by the pros, which oddly are sometimes the same, but in different situations take on a negative or positive connotation. Size may matter (in some instances), but unless your life’s aspiration is to become a professional model or athlete, height really doesn’t matter so much. The unfortunate thing is that height discrimination exists. It is more a state of mind than body when my petite stature has impacted me negatively. In other words, I have suffered from “height envy” in certain situations – from the superficial to the sublime. I have observed many behaviors in tall strangers that I do not detect in petite strangers. For one thing, really tall people seem totally and completely oblivious about other people’s space. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have nearly been obliterated by tall people running right into me as if I don’t exist. Do they think I am insignificant because of the small space I inhabit? I use the term strangers because I personally know a handful of really tall people who are very kind and considerate, but they know me. I don’t know how they act in public among strangers – for instance in the grocery store.

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Occupy This – That Doesn’t Include My Petite Space, Buddy

The word “Occupy” has become the darling of the media in recent weeks, as in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Chicago, etc. An interesting piece on NPR yesterday morning spoke to the etymology of the word. Shortly after hearing a portion of this broadcast, I occupied the Rolling Meadows Post Office. I was the first person waiting in line with two patrons already being helped at the counter. Then seconds later, a disgusting heavy breather sidled up so close behind me that I could feel him touching me. He was grunting heavily, and constantly making sucking and sighing noises. And then he started talking in some Middle Eastern tongue on his cell phone in way too close proximity to me. I kept moving closer to the counter, but I didn’t want to get too far beyond the line which you are supposed to stand behind. Did he think by hovering so close to me that he would get helped quicker. There was nobody behind the heavy breather!

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A Primer on Rude Drivers – A Bumpy Ride, Indeed

It was just a matter of time before I tackled a subject that has been percolating in my inner being and roaring to escape. Beware – my inner grouch is about to be unfurled and it isn’t going to be pretty. I could write a tome on this subject since rude drivers are encountered every day – this is a behavior that is not just annoying – in its worst form it can prove fatal. And shame on the perpetrators who take others’ lives in their hands due to rudeness and ignorance when they get behind the wheel. Let’s start with the basics – in America, this is what most teens should have learned in Driver’s Ed at age 15 or so. That is if you weren’t goofing off, a stoner, or passing notes to your pals. Guess what folks – that little wand on the right side of the steering wheel was installed by car manufacturers for a reason. Turn signals are underutilized and it is so damn easy to take a second to use them, yet every day I encounter rude drivers who are too lazy to do so. Yesterday it was pouring rain and some jerk in front of me suddenly turned right without signaling. I nearly slammed into his rear end and I would have been ticketed had I done so – wow, that is justice!

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