Geneva East Book Club marks 15th anniversary
Kim Chismark of Geneva calls "The Secret Life of Eve" one of her favorite books. But she likely never expected it to result in the formation of a book club and friendships that would last for years.
"I was reading that book years ago and my son, at that time probably age 10, told me his friend's mom was reading the same book because he saw it at their house," Chismark said. "It was the kind of book you felt like talking to someone about."
As in, maybe a book club discussion?
So, Chismark set out to start a book club in her Geneva East neighborhood. As a result, the Geneva East Book Club will celebrate its 15th anniversary next month.
"It was a time before I started using email, so I just printed a bunch of fliers and threw them in people's mailboxes," Chismark said.
The response wasn't particularly overwhelming, as many women in the neighborhood didn't want to commit to monthly book club meetings. Knowing most were mothers with young kids, Chismark pitched a more flexible club schedule of meetings every couple of months.
"We started with about 10 or 12 members and then it got sort of popular and we started using email to recruit," she said. "Right now, we have 35 people on our email list and, for any given meeting, between eight and 12 show up."
Like any other book club, food and wine can be part of the fun. But it's also a time for friends to catch up on each other's lives -- for about a half hour before book discussions begin.
"We saw each other more when our kids were little, so now we just catch up on what everyone is doing these days," Chismark said.
The Geneva Public Library makes book club bags available to club leaders when a title is ordered a month in advance -- and is not a new title in which multiple copies would be hard to obtain.
The club inspired Chismark to ask her husband to build a couple of Little Free Library stands in front of their home -- one for children's books and one for adult reading.
The club also takes on any volunteer task it can -- such as decorating the Christmas tree for the Lazarus House shelter in St. Charles so it could be among those on display at the Geneva History Museum over the holidays. Visitors vote for their favorite tree and earn donations. Lazarus House won the competition this year.
Avoiding unnecessary conflict, the club does not tarnish itself by reading current political books and getting pulled into the current divisive political landscape.
But topics about human challenges and historic events are not off limits.
"We read a lot of history books about World War II and we've read a lot of books about racism," Chismark said. "Those types of political talks come up, and we voice our opinions, but we are respectful of those who don't have the same viewpoints."
Where is Fox Mill, exactly?:
In driving past the popular Fox Mill subdivision along LaFox Road the other day, a question popped into my head. Where is Fox Mill located, other than obviously on the west side of the Tri-Cities region?
Is it St. Charles, Campton Hills, Wasco or something else?
Turns out, it is all three -- sort of, but not really.
"Fox Mill is in Campton Hills," said Campton Hills Village President Harry Blecker.
That's what county maps would show, of course. But Blecker knows why there can be some confusion.
"The problem is that 11 years ago when the village was formed, we actually had four different ZIP codes in the village -- St. Charles, Elgin, Elburn and Wasco."
Because the U.S. Post Office operates through ZIP codes, as opposed to town names, Campton Hills hasn't had any luck in getting that changed.
Fox Mill residents live in the 60175 ZIP code and students attend St. Charles schools, feeding into East High School. So a lot of mail coming to them proclaims they live in St. Charles.
Blecker knows firsthand the annoyance of not being able to show where you live through state-issued licenses.
"I had to fight with the state over getting the name Campton Hills, rather than Elgin, on my driver's license," said Blecker, who lives in the north part of the village in the 60124 Elgin ZIP code. "I told them I was the village president and didn't want Elgin on my driver's license."
After convincing the licensing folks that they could override the town name on their computer, they finally issued Blecker one with Campton Hills on it.
"It's kind of nice to know where you live," he said.
The message was sad, but I'm glad Tim and Doris Trout of Batavia sent it to me.
I wrote about their 26-year-old son Dan more than two years ago. He was an ALS sufferer, and his parents were making it known that the sidewalks and curbs in their neighborhood were not too conducive to taking Dan around in his wheelchair, and that many businesses don't offer handicap parking right near building entrances.
Unfortunately, Dan died not long after that article. It was only 10 months after he was diagnosed and 14 months after he felt something was quite wrong with his body.
As his parents noted at that time, he went from dancing with his wife and leading a normal life to being confined to a wheelchair in just a few months.
The note came this time because the Trouts appreciated my story a couple of weeks ago about ALS sufferer Gil Ferreira and the challenges his St. Charles family face in caring for him.
"We hope that, with more awareness, there will be more support for funding a cure for ALS," the Trouts wrote. "Thank you for increasing awareness of this disease."
About the hot dogs:
Oddly enough, here's something I've just noticed after going to, or driving by, Portillo's restaurants hundreds of times.
The sign on the building proclaims "Portillo's Hot Dogs."
That's not the first thing that comes to my mind when considering Portillo's for lunch or dinner. The Italian beef sandwich or cheeseburger is almost always my pick. Also, a friend sings the praises of the Polish sausage when we've gone together.
The bottom line is, I've never had a hot dog there.
Someone will need to inform me about what I might be missing.