Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I Finally Figured It Out!

I always told my kids to find their passion and then figure out how to make a living at it.  I am glad they are living that advice.  I don't think I ever realized what my passion was until recently.  In some ways, I have been living mine and didn't know it.

Back when I was going to school, options were fairly limited.  Girls normally became nurses (not doctors), legal assistants (not lawyers), secretaries (not CEO's) or teachers.  There may have been many other options but, I didn't know about them.

Looking back, it seems my passion was "Community Organizer".  What is the education for that?   Other than life, I don't know.  I have been a part of many "communities" over the years.  Schools, prisons, drug abuse and public housing are all sort of communities and I have worked in all of them with varying degrees of success at organization.

Retirement has brought new opportunities!  I live in a "transitional urban neighborhood".  Whether that transition is positive or negative is a matter of much disagreement.  Some focus on the negatives, others on the positives.  Crime watch reports tell me some of the negatives.  Occasional gun shots do the same.  Police cars speeding down the street in response to trouble provide more evidence.  There is litter in the street, graffiti on garages and houses in various states of disrepair.  I welcome the cameras, shot spotter and neighborhood police officer.

When asked if the glass if half full or half empty, I am the type of person who knows it is neither, it just is, but will likely respond "half full".  It seems that I continue to get more and more involved in the neighborhood.  The calendar fills up fast!  Build It Up meetings, CONNECTIONS! meetings, Senior Advance meetings, East Village Growth Cell meetings, neighborhood association meetings, East Bluff Food Pantry and East Bluff News.  Public art is appearing and more is planned.  Paint the Street, actually an intersection, received a lot of attention and the first East Bluff Sunrise 5K Run was a success.

There is a great deal of work being done with homes in disrepair.  Community Core and "In As Much" did a lot of work in a targeted area.  From landscaping, painting and porch repair, residents have homes in much better shape that before.  There is new construction by Habitat For Humanity and through the Attorney General's Grant that provided the funding for new accessible duplexes.  More new construction is planned and a different area will have Community Core designation next year.  Assistance will be available to homeowners within the East Village Growth Cell beginning in January, 2016.

Communication is the key!  Perhaps my favorite endeavor is East Bluff News.  Several of us put together a newsletter every other month.  It is distributed at various locations around the neighborhood and is emailed or snail mailed to others.  The other half of East Bluff News is our Facebook page by the same name.  We attempt to let members know what is happening that may be of interest to them.  The newsletter is also posted on the page.  We are up to over 330 members.

All these efforts involve many people who also recognize the glass just has water in it, but continue to believe and act as if it is half full and getting fuller!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Indeed It Is Illinois

For a brief period, I made an attempt to follow the Surgeon General's advice to get outside and exercise for at least twenty-two minutes a day.  It was fun while it lasted.  Just did not last long enough.

Five trips around Glen Oak Park lagoon is about a mile.  I did that several times and often took one of the dogs with me. I normally saw very few people near the lagoon and it was quite nice.
I frequently walked in lower Glen Oak Park and am so disappointed with the lack of maintenance done there.  Sidewalks washing out and fallen trees across the trail were some of the problems.

Spent a lot of time hiking in Springdale Cemetery.  Usually ended by sitting by the little stream for a bit.  Matilda, the Rat Terrier, enjoyed a cool drink of water after hitting the hills!

The Pimiteoui s always a challenge.  The weather has been hard on it this year.  I would really like to go from Grandview Drive to Forest Park and back again, but don't know if I will ever be able to work back up to that again or not.  I may try again next year.

Cooper Park in East Peoria is always a fun hike.  It suffered quite a bit of flood damage this year, but the variety of plants and the river views make it enjoyable.  It is nice and flat with wonderful boardwalks.

There is a trail going up from the park at the bottom of Grandview Drive that is a good one to tie into a walk along the fence by Route 29.  Am really glad that the shelter there has been preserved rather than torn down.

And then, there was the hike from Detwieller to the tunnel at Route 6.  That was fun!
Few more excursions I would like to take while the weather is still decent.  Maybe I need to take up cross-country skiing!

And On It Goes

Still busy.  Some things have been fun, some not so much.  Never one to focus on the "not so much" stuff.  The individual Faces of the East Bluff now have a permanent home.  They are hung throughout the East Bluff Community Center. 
We gave completed the branding and logo.  We were able to introduce both to the neighborhood in time for the first annual East Bluff Sunrise 5K Run.  We painted the street.  Actually, we painted the intersection of Nebraska St. & Wisconsin Ave.  Hope it becomes a bigger project next year along with being a fundraiser.
The strategic planning process we went through for the improvement of the Wisconsin Business Corridor earned recognition of the Illinois branch of the American Planner's Association.  They liked that the plan is a poster and not a book sitting forgotten on a shelf.  Rather it hangs on a lot of walls to be seen by the entire community.
East Bluff News has completed a year of publication.  It continues to grow in readership through hard copy and the East Bluff News Facebook page.  The Facebook page is such a good way to keep in contact with neighbors and people interested in the East Bluff.  As the transitional neighborhoods in Peoria improve, Peoria improves.  Communication is part of that process.
With several months of no food pantries in the neighborhood, we were able to open the East Bluff Food Pantry at the community center.  It serves residents of 61603 exclusively.  Times are pretty tough for some of our neighbors and the churches and volunteers involved want to make an impact.

A new activity this year was "Coffee With The Cops".  The idea came from a Senior Advance meeting.  Four sessions were held this late-summer & early-fall.  Meetings were well attended and very useful!  We will pick the meetings up again in February or March, but are taking the worst weather months off.
There are many naysayers in the neighborhood, but that is okay because it forces myself and others to dig deeper and try harder to make the East Bluff a decent place to live and raise a family.  We have a lot of work to do!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy Camper

Well, I am not really camping but, I am indeed happy.  Nothing is ever perfect, but I would have to say that I am quite satisfied with where my life is at this point.  Any fear that I had about being bored in retirement had have proven to be unnecessary!  I started simply.  I volunteered to walk dogs at PAWS.  I did for a couple of years but took this past winter off and have not found the time to go back to doing it on a regular basis.

I am not there yet, but I am on the way to becoming a "Neighborhood Advocate", in other words, a loud mouth!  I live in a neighborhood where people are encouraged to move elsewhere.  A neighborhood that people tell new arrivals to the city to avoid.  Some people look around and see insurmountable problems.  I look around and see potential. 

I attend updates for the East Village Growth Cell, the East Bluff Build It Up group, the East Bluff United Neighborhood Association meetings and the board of Senior Advance at the East Bluff Community Center.  I have delivered 18 "Pride in Peoria is Picking Up" signs around the neighborhood in the last couple of weeks.  I only have one left in supply. 

I am most pleased with my involvement with the "East Bluff News" publication and the associated Facebook page.  It has proven to be a good source of information for residents and people who are interested in East Bluff activities.  Four editions of the newsletter have been published thus far.  It was started with a small grant from LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).  The first edition was November/December 2014.  The Facebook page was started last October.

There are plans for the redevelopment of the Wisconsin Avenue Business Corridor.  There are empty storefronts that need to be filled, but there are also businesses that are doing well.  We are starting to work with a consultant on "branding" the East Bluff in a way that emphasizes the potential for the neighborhood to be a great place to live, work and play. 

We have only just begun!

Sunday, March 22, 2015


The mural, The Faces of the East Bluff, has been unveiled!  If you have not seen it, it truly is worth a drive past 1902 N. Wisconsin.  I was honored to be asked to speak at the dedication and to help pull the cords to reveal the masterpiece.

I have lived in my home  for 23 years and have seen a lot of changes over that time.  There has been ups and downs.  I am really hopeful that we are on a  real upswing now! Most of my neighbors who have lived here for some time agree with me that it is better now than it was 10 years ago.  Change does not  take place in a matter of days.

I see that the foundation for one of the duplexes is going in and even more construction will take off once the weather breaks for good and the ground is thawed and relatively dry.

Ran the tiller over my garden spot and another time or two and it will be ready to plant.  Took my hyperactive Rat Terrier, Matilda, for a long walk this afternoon.  She is sleeping right now, but I know that won't last.  It is nice enough to have a couple of windows open.  Great to have some fresh air  in the house.

Life is good!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Neighborhod, Sweet Neighborhood

This is the mural that will be installed on a building in the neighborhood.  The project is called Faces of the East Bluff.  Yours truly is second from the left in the bottom row.  It gets installed on March 18th. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Delivered copies of the East Bluff News to various businesses yesterday and today.  Passed out a few to some neighbors.  Updated the East Bluff News Facebook page today.  Tomorrow is the East Bluff Build It Up meeting.  Taking  a friend to work and picking her up tomorrow and Friday.  Senior Advance planning group meeting is next Tuesday.   Wednesday, two of my cats go to  the vet for their annual check up and rabies shots.  Neighborhood  association meetings come off of Winter hiatus next Wednesday evening.  Haven't even started entering things on the calendar for the week of the 15th.

Retirement is wonderful!