June 30, 2020

Pets: A Remedy for Lonely Solitude

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 6:04 pm
This was my GeNarrations story for the Spring 2020 session on the subject of Solitude.

When I was I my teens, I longed for a day when I would have a place of my own. I wouldn ‘t have anyone telling me what to do, where to go, or when to come home. The only one to bear any consequences for my choices would be myself. I didn’t, however, get that freedom until both of my parents had died. My father in 1987 and then my mother in 1997 Now. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. I had three cats to care for and keep me company. We didn’t have them while Dad was alive but Mom and I took them in and now they were my sole responsibility.

The cats died, one by one, and I thought it was probably better for me to not have a pet. They were somewhat of an encumbrance. I couldn’t take t the cats with me when I wanted to go anywhere. I had no one to cat sit for me, so I had to be home to make sure they were fed.

When the last of the three cats had died, I had total freedom again and I enjoyed it for a time. But, I began to get lonely after a few years. I’d always had pets growing up and I missed having them to talk to and love and care for.

My first real pets were parakeets. My father had been very good at teaching them to talk and sit on his finger,or shoulder. I thought maybe I should try that. They were easier to care for and less expensive than dogs or cats. So, I bought a blue and white bird I named Tweeter, after a parakeet I had written a short story about. The bird, however, would not come on my finger or copy my speech. I lacked the patience my father had with animals.

When Tweeter died, I again spent a little time alone before deciding to try again , This time I bought a pair, because I heard they needed to have company and I did not spend a lot of time at home. Those two I named Twitter and Chitter. Since they had each other for company they weren’t interested in me, but I liked hearing them chattering to each other in the morning. I had them a couple of years . Twitter died first and the next year Chitter did. I again went without a pet but broke down and bought another parakeet I called Chatter. About a month later, I bought a companion bird for Chatter and named it Pratter.

One morning, when I went to check on them, I only found one bird. I searched all over but did not find the other one. A window in my apartment slips down from the top on windy days and there is no screen at the top. I saw that the window had opened and realized that the bird must have gone out through it. In another day or two, I did not find any birds in the apartment. I don’t know if Chatter saw Pratter and went to join him or if she just found out she could get out the window on her own, but I hope they found each other. I put their cage and food on the back porch hoping to entice them back, but I never did see them again and gave up. I was through with parakeets and I determined to go pet less.

I had been volunteering at Chicago Animal Care and Control and I felt that I could get my needs met doing that. Because the dogs there are mostly large, muscular breeds that I didn’t feel I could safely control to walk on a leash I preferred to stay in the room with the cats, and liked interacting with them, especially the younger ones. But I felt bad for the older ones owners have surrendered and people didn’t want to adopt. That ‘s how I wound up getting Squeakie.

About once a quarter the shelter has an event to try to get as many animals as possible out of there and into homes, so they waive the adoption fees for a weekend. Usually, they are very successful, bringing in many people and it ‘s great to see happy people taking happy animals to begin new lives together. It was at one such event that I met Squeakie. . After my Saturday volunteer shift, I mentioned on our volunteer Facebook page that I was considering getting another cat and asked for suggestions. Squeakie was mentioned. She was one of the older cats of 12 years and most people only want ed kittens or very young, playful animals, so she has been there longer than most and would likely remain there many more days..

I empathized with her, being a senior citizen and needing to have companionship and love, so I decided that if she was sill there I would go back to get her on Monday, The adoption fees were being waived for the rest of the month, so she would be free. That morning I checked the Pet Harbor page that shows what animals are available for adoption and she was still listed.

On September 10, I2019, I brought Squeakie home with me. She settled in very quickly. Squeakie likes to be close to me and loves being petted, even though she doesn’t sit on my lap. She sleeps in the bed with me and naps on a cat bed a volunteer gave me, or on the couch. We are good match, both about the same age and we each needed the love and attention of the other. It ‘s especially good to have her now that I am spending all of this time at home. I don’t feel lonely and I am pretty sure she doesn’t either.

March 9, 2019

Clowning Around

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 1:28 am

This is a story I read at the Goodman Theater’s GeNarrations program based on their play How to Catch Creation. The theme was creativity.

Missy Chrissy was created in 2011. She’s been a calendar girl since 2013, posing with her clown friends in pictures in the Senior Calendar of the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

The Chicago Senior Clown Troupe began in 2006 when Joyce Gallagher, now Executive Director of the Chicago Area Plan on Aging, began a class to teach clowning at the Renaissance Court Senior Center. The purpose of the class is described in their mission statement as “To learn how to be a clown – to explore all the skills needed and then go out and perform with the Chicago Senior Clown Troupe in Chicago area events and in nursing homes and retirement centers.”

And that is what we do, no more than twice a month, mostly in the Spring and Summer. If you’ve ever been to Senior Fest, you should have seen at least one of the troupe walking around among the crowd doing whatever we do. Missy Chrissy often has puppets, either a big, red fluffy animal of some kind, marionette, one of the other clowns gave her, or hand puppets. Some of those I had since my childhood.

We posed for many pictures at Senior Fest in Millennium Park, either by ourselves or with our fans and pictures of us have probably been shared all around the world because some of those taking the pictures are tourists from other countries. As a song says, “All the world loves a clown.”

We once had a pretty active group of about 10 clowns, that was the most I counted in one photo of us at one event, there were others who came to class but did not go with us to gigs. We had a father and son and the father was 90 years old.Those people all dropped out and only one clown and myself are left of that bunch. Now we are growing a new troupe and have six regulars who have gone out to perform and a couple of others who have been coming to the class but not joined us on a gig yet.

It was suggested by Joyce and our clown teacher, Karen Hoyer, that we create a clown identify for ourselves, such as Bozo and Ronald McDonald, but only a few of our former members did that. Now we have Lovey, a hippie clown, Pickle Puss, a very girly clown, and Salty, a sailor friend, or relative, of Popeye’s. They dress in pretty much the same costume every time they go out. Missy Chrissy was a gypsy fortune teller, but since we seldom do a fortune telling skit and she gets bored wearing the same clothes, she creates new outfits for every gig. The main part of the costume will stay the same and change with the seasons, but some little item will be different each time. She has many silly glasses and several wigs. A couple of the wigs she bought last Halloween and has not worn yet, so the next time you see her, she may be in one of them.

The main parts of the costumes she wears are always something multi-colored, some items of outdated clothing she had not thrown away and some she has purchased. She is always looking for inexpensive, colorful clothing items she feels will make good costumes and bought the wigs on sale. The silly glasses and other accessories she uses come from dollar stores. You don’t need to spend a lot of money getting professional clown clothes.

If you have ever considered being a clown, you are welcome to come to our classes. As I told you Missy Chrissy is a calendar girl and I have her most recent picture with me. If you join the class and come with us to Senior Fest this year, maybe you will be in the next picture.

December 14, 2018

Volunteer to Help Animals

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 8:17 pm

If you love animals but are not able to care for one, or live in a facility which won’t allow you to own one, consider volunteering at an animal shelter. I work in the cat adoption room at Chicago Animal Care and Control and I get to play with and pet some very lovely cats, which they say lowers blood pressure. If you are a dog person, you can take dogs out for walks and play with them outside, or teach them basic commands like sit, stay and heel, which will make it easier for them to be adopted. 

I have heard and/or read that grandparents like the fact that they are able to interact with their grandchildren but don’t have to live with them and working with animals at a shelter would be similar. You get the benefit being with them provides both of you, but the animal does not have to come home with you.

If you can have animals, but don’t want to commit to one for a lifetime, (theirs or yours) please think of fostering. While it may be hard to say good-bye to those you become attached to, you will prepare them to be better housemates and can provide potential adopters with valuable information about the animal’s personality and behavior.

December 9, 2018

GeNarrations 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 10:06 pm

I have signed up again for the GeNarrations writing workshop. Beginning January 15, I will be writing on a theme assigned by our Goodman writing coach/instructor on a theme from the play How to Catch Creation. That is the production the Goodman will be presenting during the weeks of our class.

If anyone think they would be interested in joining, classes that meet at the Alice Center at the Goodman Theater there are 3 options:

Tuesday mornings from 10-12;  Thursday afternoon from 1:30-3:30 or Thursday late afternoon from 3:30 to 6:30.

Contact Julie Ganey at

If you are in another part of the city, go online and look up the program or contact your local Chicago Department of Aging center to see if they offer the class or where they have one  nearest to your location. It is free and a great way for seniors to jog their memories and meet new friends. I will be blogging more about this later and keep you updated on my progress through the classes.

This was me at one our our first readings.


December 5, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 1:03 am

I finally received two contributor copies of The Clarion Call No. 4 Fairy Tale Riot. My poem story The Road is in it. That is a revision of the one in my eBook THE HUNTER AND THE DEER. More such poem stories are in my second book THE SALTY PRINCE. They can be bought on Book Rix or Amazon. TYLER AND THE ATOMIC COLD is a picture book sold only through Amazon on their Kindle Direct Publishing program.

November 17, 2018

The Item in the Suitcase

Filed under: My Writing Experiences — ccassello @ 12:19 am

I just read the story I wrote for the GeNarrations program at our local performance today. This is a 7 week class in which writing coaches from the Goodman Theater work with senior citizens (and I think some non seniors too now) at various centers around the city to help us write stories from our lives that relate in some way to the play they are showing and we get to see the play. The program is free and so is our ticket to the play.

After we write our stories, we read them to an audience of other writers from the other classes the instructor teaches (Julie Ganey has three now) and guests we invite. Then we pick one from each class to represent our group at a citywide performance in which members of all of the locations are in attendance.

The play this session was A Lady in Denmark and the theme was about music and memories because in the one woman show, she relates how music played an important role in her life and the things she remembers when she hears certain songs, singers, etc. Billie Holiday was an important person she remembered being a fan of and getting to meet in person.

I called my story The Item in the Suitcase to give it a little suspenseful beginning. Of course my group had heard my draft as we wrote our stories, so it was no surprise to them. I got several compliments after the program ended and one person requested a copy of it to send to a relative. I can post it, if I get comments asking me to do so. If you would like to read it, let me know.

June 15, 2018

More Crafts

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 8:49 am

Here are the latest craft projects I did in the course at Renaissance Court.






June 2, 2018

Publishing Successes

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 10:09 am

I have not been updating this blog because it does not look as if people read it, but I do want to share some successes I have had. I wrote song lyrics and had one published in Scene & Heard Journal. It went online on February 15, I think. It was for a Valentine theme contest but they were late posting.

Agorist Writers Workshop accepted a story poem of mine, THE ROAD, for the 4th volume of Clarion Call which will be out (in print) in July. This issue is based on fairytales and folklore, but with twists.

March 7, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 10:39 pm

I have always liked to learn new artistic and crafty projects. I seldom stick with one long enough to become really good at them, but I like to dabble in a variety of things. When I found out the library branch I go to had craft lessons and was doing one I had not tried, I went to it. This was my first coiled basket. The pattern has a lot of mistakes but I think it is pretty good considering this was my first try at it. What I like best about classes like this at the library and the ones I have been in at our senior center is that there is no charge for them and they provide the material as well. So, if you are retired or unemployed and want a fun way to spend some time and meet new people, see what your senior center or library, or both have to offer. You will be amazed at what you can do.


March 2, 2018

Popularity Prejudice

Filed under: Uncategorized — ccassello @ 11:51 pm

Today, I read a story from my life that I wrote for the GeNarrations program Goodman Theater began with senior centers. A writing coach meets with us and helps us come up with stories from our lives which fit the theme of the play they are showing. We then perform them, first for our immediate groups, (two meet at Goodman during weekdays under the direction of Julie Ganey). From them, we vote on one to represent our group in a citywide reading, at which all of the centers around the city who have this program take part. When Goodman began this program, it was tried only at Renaissance Court and we all read.

As the program expanded into more centers, we were voting on two people to represent each group. But now, it has grown so much they can only take one from each group. It is really interesting to hear all of the stories. We learn many things about each other that we  may never have gotten to know in simply having conversations with them. These are things one usually only tells closest friends and it takes many years to develop that kind of friendship. At our age, we may not have enough time left to make those kinds of intimate friends anymore. This speeds up the process.

The theme for this session was about enemies and prejudices we experienced in our lives. I shared how I used to avoid popular, successful people, so I never learned how to benefit from “networking.” It is almost impossible to advance in a career or job without having that skill. As they say, “It is not what you know, but who you know.” That is still true today. I have attached a picture of me reading at what I think was my first GeNarrations program.Me Reading my story at The Best Years of Our Lives Peogram on Dec. 4, 2010



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