Pandemic spring cleaning


By Mat Cohen and Daniel Patton

Spring cleaning comes every year, but with the addition of Illinois’ stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone in Chicago has extra time to take precautionary health measures. Local organizations and businesses are taking extra steps alongside residents to start fresh as summer begins to roll around.


The Chicago Transit Authority

The CTA has created a new “Coronavirus Info” page on its website detailing their response to the current health crisis.

Daily procedures for CTA train stations include cleaning and disinfecting fare gates, turnstiles, Ventra machines, escalator handrails and elevator panels.

The daily schedule for buses and trains includes cleaning and disinfecting seats, straps, handrails and fare boxes. The vehicles also undergo routine deep cleans that include intensive floor scrubbing.


The Chicago Loop Alliance

Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA) and Power Washing Systems took to the streets March 25 to wash sidewalks, trashcans and any other public structures from Ida B. Wells Drive to Wacker Drive.

In a news release from CLA, Bill Mologousis, president of Pressure Washing Systems, said the company is taking extra measures for everyone’s safety.

“We’re not just allowing this wastewater that’s generated from these cleaning operations to enter the storm sewer system and maybe create an environmental impact,”Mologousis said. “Anyone can pressure wash this into the sewer, not many companies have equipment that will prevent it from going into the sewer system.”

CLA will team up with Pressure Washing Systems to clean and disinfect sidewalks, trashcans, and other infrastructure each week in the Loop. The process will use a quaternary disinfectant cleaner called QuatSan, which is “effective at killing a variety of bacteria and viruses, includingCOVID-19,” according to a news release.


McHugh Construction

The company responsible for raising Vista Tower 1,200 feet into the air is “still working,” according to a recent post on its Facebook page.

Construction is among the categories that are exempt from Governor Pritzker’s March 20 stay-at-home order.

But McHugh is also “taking significant steps to ensure we are extra vigilant as the situation involving coronavirus continues to rapidly evolve,” the post continued. Among them: requiring employees who have a house member that is sick with respiratory illness to stay home, limiting business travel and large gatherings, allowing employees to work from home, and monitoring supply chains and CDC guidelines.


Local Residents

On the residential side, Mission 2 Organize and Organizing With You are professional companies that offer many different services, including virtual sessions to help people de-clutter and organize.


Mission 2 Organize

Schae Lewis and Bahar Partow founded Mission 2 Organize a decade ago after reassessing their own lives and deciding they’d rather work for themselves. As the business took off, the duo quickly realized they were getting five-star Yelp reviews and adding value to people’s lives.

Pooja Gugnani shared a similar experience when she founded Organizing With You.

“I noticed I was helping people to get organized and I felt like I could add value,”Gugnani said. “I decided to look in to setting up a business.”


Organizing With You

Organizing With You has just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. It offers reorganization in any area of the home or business and helps with time manage mentor relocation. The company also offers customized virtual organizing, a process that begins with clients walking Gugnani through their space while she develops a maintenance plan.

Gugnani said that in Chicago, where space is limited, it’s important to stay clean and organized to help with mental clarity, especially after a big life event or the new stay-at-home order.

“It will increase mental and physical well-being,” she explained. “After a death or a divorce it can truly help, it can save a lot of time and help with mental challenges.”

Visit and for more information.

Organizing With You is offering a first-time client special in honor of its 10-yearanniversary.

You can also visit Mission 2Organize’s blog with many helpful tips at

Streeterville doctor’s class helps expectant parents know what to expect

by Stephanie Racine

Expectant parent classes can cost a substantial amount in downtown Chicago. For example, classes at Northwestern Hospital cost from $50-$120.

 But Dr. Daniel Weissbluth, a pediatrician who has an office in Northwestern’s campus in Streeterville, is out to buck the trend.

We figure it should be free,” he said. 

Dr. Weissbluth’s office offers free prenatal classes on topics including CPR and infant safety, breastfeeding, sleep and newborn care. 

“We saw an educational gap and we wanted to fill it,” he said.

The classes include important information for new parents. Dr. Weissbluth said most first-time parents are unaware of the sleep deprivation that comes from having a new baby.

New parent Jessica Kushner took the classes at Dr. Weissbluth’s office in preparation for her son Lorenzo, born Oct. 14, 2019. The most valuable class she took was Newborn Care: The First 48 Hours and Beyond, Dr. Weissbluth said. Newborn Care covers the delivery process in the hospital and what to expect once new parents arrive home.

“I would have been walking in blind,” Kushner said.

The internet is inundated with information about having a baby, but Dr. Weissbluth’s classes gave Kushner a baseline of truth, she said. 

The classes are intended for first-time parents and family members who want to attend are welcome—as long as they register in advance. 

The instructors offer their email address for participants to follow up with any questions they may have. Dr. Weissbluth’s office is also available for information. 

“We encourage questions,” Dr. Weissbluth said. 

Northwestern Hospital offers free tours of their triage, labor and delivery and postpartum floors at Prentice Women’s Hospital. Registration is required. Visit for information. 

For other expectant parent classes, UChicago Medicine offers free classes at their Hyde Park location. Visit for information.

Dr. Weissbluth’s Streeterville office is at 737 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 820. For questions about the free classes or the practice, call (312) 202-0300. Register for classes at

Dr. Weissbluth also has offices in Bucktown and South Loop.

Treating yourself has never been so active

by Mat Cohen

River North has become a haven for luxury workout studios.

From the Red Room of Barry’s Bootcamp to the cryotherapy at GOAT Climb & Cryo and the infrared heat of Yoga 2.0, the neighborhood has plenty of top-of-the-line fitness options to treat yourself to a new kind of workout in 2020.

Yoga 2.0 opened its doors in May of last year at 215 W. Ontario St. The loft-style studios, located on the second floor with artistic murals in the lobby and Limitless Nitro Brew on tap, has taken yoga to the next level.

“Considering the area, there isn’t really something like it that exists for yoga,” director of content and branding, and Lululemon ambassador Manny Garcia said. “People have different experiences, but there really isn’t one for yoga, and we wanted to make it.”

Yoga 2.0 found the best products to offer, including filling the room with triple-filtered humidity that’s cleaner than tap water.

“Every detail was thought out for the entire studio, from our rental mats being the best mats on the market, to the EO products in the bathrooms,” Garcia said. “And when it comes to the class experience you have to reserve the mat space, so that takes the pre-class stress away. Everything is done for you.”

GOAT Climb & Cryo, which opened in June, sits right across the street. The studio uses versaclimbers to provide a full-body workout, as well as Cryotherapy to offer innovative recovery sessions. Being so close allows the studios to work together.

“It builds a community,” Garcia said. “So many of our students take class with us, but might also go boxing, or pilates in the area. It’s such a fitness forward community, which makes our typical student outgoing and want to socialize.”

On Thursdays, GOAT members get to take class at 2.0 on discount and members from the yoga studio get Cryotherapy on discount.

Mayweather Boxing and Fitness, a new gym opening this month at 219 W. Hubbard, will be offering the gold standard of fitness just like its leader, boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. This is the first franchise in Chicago, but there are plans to open three more.

The space will have treadmills, rowers, strength equipment, as well as boxing equipment. There will even be virtual reality set up where you can be trained by Floyd himself, box against him, or partake in a number of different workouts.

A big reason the franchise wanted to be in River North was the mix of residential and business buildings in the area.

“It was a no-brainer for us to look at the neighborhood,” franchise owner Sara McSpedon said. “I think there’s (workout studios in the area) because the mix between the residential and the business, it’s very rare to find a neighborhood within downtown Chicago that has so much of both.”

If you’re in the area and you’d like some more options, you can also visit Studio Three, Shadowbox, Row House, Studio Lagree, Kick@55, Solidcore, CycleBar and many more.

Beating the Blue Monday blues

by Doug Rapp

After a white Christmas, there may be a Blue Monday.

Blue Monday is the name given to what some  consider the most depressing day of the year—usually the third Monday  in January.

The idea originated with a Welsh academic as a marketing plan for a travel company, according to the  British newspaper Tele- graph. A formula involving debt, time past since  Christmas, winter weather and failed New Year’s resolutions add up to the infamous day in January. 

A Northwestern Medicine psychologist believes Blue Monday is a myth.

“There are so many other factors that contribute to depression,” said Dr. Stewart Shankman, chief of  psychology in the department of psychiatry and  behavioral sciences. “I don’t think there’s a certain day of the year that’s the most depressing day.”

Shankman allowed that  even without Blue Mon- day, January may be the  most depressing month of the year.

“What’s interesting is seasonal affective disorder (SAD, a seasonal type of depression), the onset of that actually tends to be in the beginning of winter,  more like October or November,” he said. “As the weather starts to get worse, that’s when you see the onset of SAD. It might hit its peak in January.”

Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist who founded the multi-location counseling practice Urban Balance, agreed.

“More of the population is impacted by SAD in Chicago, due to the cold and gray weather during the winter months,” she said. “Poor weather can worsen any underlying mental health issue, such as anxiety and depression, and decrease motivation.”

Chicago’s brutal winters limit social and physical activity while possibly raising fattening food intake, according to Heloisa G. R. Roach, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance’s South Michigan  Avenue location.

“In January, we might also experience  stressors of post-holiday financial concerns and seasonal unemployment (which)  intensify these feelings,” Roach said.

Several mental health professionals said  even if Blue Monday isn’t an actual phenomenon, they do see more patients in the  first month of the year.

“January does tend to be a busy time for therapists,” said Alicia Hoffman, a licensed  clinical professional counselor with a private practice in New Eastside. 

“A lot of people put off starting therapy during the holidays and understandably wait until after. Some people are coming to fulfill a New Years resolution, and some people come because they had to spend a  lot of time with family which can be triggering and high stress.” 

There are several ways to fight winter de- pression according to healthcare providers.  Light exposure is essential, through limited sunlight or a sun lamp. A healthy diet with plenty of Vitamin D , while avoiding  excessive alcohol use, can help. Maintaining physical activity, whether indoors or  outdoors, is important, along with keeping social contact with friends and family and avoiding too much “hibernation” and screen time. 

Marter added that cultivating a positive, grateful attitude is also beneficial,  and, if possible, arrange a trip somewhere warm between January and April. She said research indicates the anticipation of a vacation could be more helpful than the trip itself. 

If none of these lift your spirits, professionals said it may be time to seek help.  Roach said if you experience a significant  loss of energy in the winter, it’s worth consulting a mental health professional to see  if you’re experiencing a seasonal episode of depression.

Shankman said anyone can have sad  moods, but if it impairs your work or family life, seek treatment.  

Realistic resolutions: Keep ‘new year, new you’ working

Gym managers say setting smaller goals along the way helps

by Mat Cohen

You’re not alone. According to  Strava, a social network for athletes, most people don’t keep their  New Year’s resolutions past Jan. 12. That’s when, just nearly two weeks after the start of the year, lack of motivation creeps out like a monster from under the bed. 

Roughly 55 percent of resolutions are health-related, according to The Personality and Social  Psychology Bulletin, so how can we avoid biting off more than we  can chew in early January?

Head trainer Kelsey Slotter from Planet Fitness at 240 E. Illinois St. has some ideas. 

Slotter says finding other people with like-minded goals can  keep people motivated.

“We offer free fitness training that is included with all our  memberships,” she said. “Utilize group training classes to provide the encouragement, energy and motivation you need to reach your goals during the holidays.”

Lakeshore Sport & Fitness assistant general manager Luis  Davila says having a solid foundation to grow upon and utilizing  a fitness assessment the gym includes for new members, is important for hitting goals.

“It’s important for people to  understand resources when setting fitness goals,” said Davila  who explained that setting smaller goals can help along the way. 

“One thing might not be the answer for the full year and you might  need to change it up,” he said. “I think that’s critical to understand when people are setting their goal.”

Slotter believes enjoying small victories on the path to reaching a  bigger goal is as important as celebrating the final accomplishment.  Planet Fitness has a pizza party planned for January to keep the pressures of a resolution at bay.

“Ten minutes on the treadmill can lift your mood and help you get through the day,” Slotter said. “Schedules this time of year may  not allow for a longer workout, which is okay, but just hit the gym when you can.”

For those with kids, Davila, a  father, says the family member- ship at LSF which includes free  childcare and a family play space is great for him.

“It’s hard for me to even come in and work out in the mornings,” he said. “Having that option during group classes, during your  regular routine, that is an absolutely huge help as far as breaking  a barrier to entry and a commitment to year-long fitness goals.” 

Both locations offer new year promotions on membership. For more information visit and  

New Eastside seniors stay active and grateful

by Mat Cohen

No matter how many times you’ve been through it, the winter months never get easier.

Despite the weather, New Eastside seniors can get out and about downtown and enjoy a new class to help combat the winter blues. Some use services to get around, some use their own motivation, some use the Pedway and some use volunteering as a means to stay active, while many people just want to stay inside. Overall, seniors are thankful for time spent connecting with other people.

For Win Eggers, who lives in Park Millennium at 222 N. Columbus Drive, it takes personal motivation and a drive to get out of the house and volunteer.

“I’m retired and I could be sitting in the Lazy Boy,” she said. “I could be getting fatter and all that stuff but I just won’t let that happen to myself.”

Eggers volunteers at the Chicago Architecture Center and the Chicago Cultural Center and is grateful for interactions with different people during the holidays.

“It’s neat because you’re meeting a lot of tourists,” she said. “You learn about what their country is like this time of year and then compare it to what we’re like here. It’s just a great way to meet people and I’m thankful I’m able to do it.”

She said it’s easy to get around in New Eastside while staying relatively warm.

“I can take buses, trains, cabs, I got it all right here,” she said. “Also the Pedway, you don’t have any excuse for not walking because it’s always there and always nice in the winter time.”

The Renaissance Court Regional Senior Center, at the Cultural Center, offers bridge, movies, clown classes and a choral group. Joyce Gallagher, director of senior services of the Department of Family and Support Services, knows how important these programs can be during dark days of winter.

“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “And if there’s not, we actually go and create them for you.”

The City of Chicago operates 21 senior centers, each hoping to reach the senior population, from delivering an at-home meal or providing a new educational outlet.

For Gallagher, who lives at Harbor Point, looking at Lake Michigan is something she cherishes, no matter how cold it gets.

“I love to sit and look at the lake because it’s ever-changing,” she said. “We are so fortunate in the New Eastside to have that at our front door.”

Mercy Home Marathon Runners Run for Home

By Stephanie Racine

Mercy Home is a privately funded full-time home for displaced youths that has operated in Chicago since the 1800s. 

In 1887, Reverend Dennis Mahoney put together a plan to refuge homeless young men. Mercy Home’s 1140 W. Jackson Blvd West Loop location still exists as its headquarters. Today, Mercy Home offers comprehensive support for youth in need.

“We provide kids with safety, housing, food, therapy, job opportunities, tutoring, and career guidance 24-7 throughout the year,” said Director of Communications Mark Schmeltzer.

Running the Chicago Marathon as a Mercy Home Hero is a way to support the organization. The Chicago Marathon is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 9.

Mercy Home Heroes can be anyone. Two heroes running this year, Reggie Williams-Rolle and Patrick Zamkin, both former youths at Mercy Home, are running to support their home.

“I’ve made it my life’s mission to do everything I can to make sure that folks know about [Mercy Home]” Zamkin said.

This is Zamkin’s fourth year running the marathon. Despite a number of metal replacements following a motorcycle accident when he was 20, Zamkin is gunning for five Chicago Marathons.

“It gives my orthopedic surgeon fits,” Zamkin said.

Zamkin was dropped off at Mercy Home on his 15th birthday. He said the support he got from the home helped him move forward. He works as a financial advisor after 10 years at the Chicago Board of Trade. 

“You got these guys in your corner. There’s nothing you can’t do,” Zamkin said.

Williams-Rolle is preparing for his first marathon. Training has been difficult, he said, but he’s excited to be giving back to Mercy Home.

“It’s just been a matter of being able to give back in any way that I can because I understand the importance of Mercy Home,” Williams-Rolle said.

Williams-Rolle was at Mercy Home for his final two years of High School. He graduated from St. Ignatius and got his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Emory University. He works in HR and is working on his Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Both runners are looking forward to the point in the marathon that passes by Mercy Home at mile 16.

“It’s at the perfect time because you’ll be at that point in the race where it is a little exhausting,” Williams-Rolle said.

“What a boost, seeing my family out there, all the employees, and the kids, they’re really out there rooting for you.” Zamkin said.

Mercy Home invites everyone to join their cheering section on Jackson Blvd. between Aberdeen and Racine.

For more information about Mercy Home, visit their website

Chocolate, tea a perfect pairing for Chicago fest

By Elisa Shoenberger

Ever wondered if Earl Grey tea should be paired with milk or dark chocolate? Or how to make a cocktail infused with matcha or other green teas? These are two of many lectures set for the Chicago’s International Tea Festival.

Taking place Nov. 1-3 at Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, 350 W. Mart Center Dr., the festival will bring 35-40 vendors from around the world, including vendors from Nepal, Japan, and Sri Lanka, as well as local tea vendors. Tickets start at $25 for a one-day consumer pass.

The show will be Chicago’s first tea festival, started by Festival Director Nicole Burriss and six founding board members. 

Burriss, a Kansas City structural engineer, was inspired by the Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle, now entering its 11th year. She created the Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City five years ago. 

“We tried to convince Nicole to come here and organize a festival because Chicago is such a diverse city,” said Agnes Rapacz, President of TeaGschwendner and a founding board member. “We believed this location would be successful for the tea festival.” 

Burriss agreed to run the fest as long as she got help.

The tea festival is open to both consumers and people in the trade. The first day is meant for people in the tea trade, though dedicated tea fans can come, and the second two days will be open to everyone.

For the price of admission, people will get a ceramic tea cup and a tote bag and will be able to taste teas from the many vendors. Burriss said people could try up to 100 teas. 

It’s also a great place to deepen knowledge about tea. People can attend more than 80 lectures or classes for an extra fee. Classes will include “Tea & Chocolate” by Sheila Duda and “Tea Cocktails” by Rapacz. There will also be a free lecture room and people can talk to the vendors.

For the “Tea Cocktails” lecture, attendees will taste cocktails and learn how to mix alcoholic drinks with tea. TeaGschwendner has also hosted chocolate and tea pairings. Rapacz recommended pairing chocolate with an opposite kind of tea, like dark chocolate and white tea, or complementary flavors such as pairing a pumpkin spice truffle with chai tea.

Back to school can be stressful for students—and parents need to look for the signs

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

For parents, a new school may reduce stress as the kids leave home for the better part of the day. But for students, it could be a different story. 

A new school, or just a new school year, can bring on subtle signs of stress and anxiety which can lead to trouble.

Simple things, like sleep trouble, can cause—or be a sign of—problems for a student, according to Emma K. Adam, a Northwestern professor of human development and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research.

“That’s something that is both a reflection of stress and contributes to more stress,” Adam said. “So that’s one area I would suggest intervening.”

Sleep problems can be caused by something as simple as a return to a school schedule, and they can create a host of problems for the student.

“When you’re thinking about the back to school transition, it’s important to get a child’s routine on track prior to beginning school,” Adam said. “It can lead to a form of jet lag to suddenly switch your child’s schedule to a much earlier wake up time. When they have that jet lag, essentially when they’re sleepy or they’re short on sleep [and] they’re less able to engage in social relationships.”

Adam said research has shown adolescents tend to fall asleep later, meaning getting a solid sleep is difficult even under the best of situations when facing early school days.

“There is, in adolescence, a biological shift where they don’t get sleepy until later at night and that runs up against the early start times for high schoolers,” Adam said. 

“It’s not just the social demands that are keeping adolescents up late, it’s actually harder for them to fall asleep,” she said. “But you can slowly change you adolescents to get them on track to a slightly earlier bedtime.”

Adam said some adolescents don’t want to talk about emotional problems, so they hide what they’re feeling. Even so, parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their child if they see behavioral changes.

“By adolescence, kids can be good at hiding emotions,” she said. “But parents can see it turn into anxiety and depression, or the adolescent may be less interested in activities.

“Some kids can express stress by externalizing problems, through anger and lashing out. Whenever you see a major change in a child, it might be time to sit them down and find out what’s going on in their lives.”

Downtown cancer survivor runs to raise funds

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastside resident Alan Goldman remembers what it was like when he got the news he had prostate cancer 12 years ago. It was during a routine physical.

“My first thought was, this is the first time I was exposed to something so severe, that could affect my entire life,” he said. “I wanted to fight it aggressively, and I wanted it out of my body ASAP. I wanted it done swifty and I wanted a finality so I wouldn’t have to fight this my entire life.”

The prostate is a small gland useful for reproduction found only in men. It is also a common source of cancer—after skin cancer it is the second-most common form of cancer in men. 

Goldman made it through OK. He said his brother in law had prostate cancer, so he had a support network in his family and these days, he is fit and healthy. 

“The surgery was very successful,” he said. “I’m very healthy. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess.”

But he is not done fighting—if not for himself, then for other men across the nation. 

For the past three years, Goldman has been raising money and running in SEA Blue Chicago Prostate Cancer Walk and Run. This year’s run is Sept. 9 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lincoln Park. 

The walk and run is Chicago’s oldest prostate cancer fundraiser and it raises money for Us TOO International, a nonprofit that supports men who are dealing with prostate cancer and their families.

“I wanted to get involved in something that’s had a big impact on my life,” he said. 

Goldman did more than get involved. He is now on the board of Us TOO, and he is co-chair of the SEA Blue walk and run. Goldman’s charity work helps hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

“The money goes to support groups around the United States and we have over 200 support groups,” he said. 

Goldman explained that prostate cancer is a disease that afflicts men, but it affects the family—even after the patient beats the disease. One of the side effects of removing the prostate, for example, is erectile dysfunction and that alone can cause trauma. 

“That could be devastating to a person’s psyche,” he said. 

Goldman also suggested men over 50 get a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test every year. This blood test can screen for prostate cancer and it can save lives. 

“Most men don’t go in for an annual PSA test,” Goldman said. “Men think they’re fine if they feel fine. But you could have a cancer growing in your prostate and you can feel fine.”

To sign up for the charity walk and run, visit 

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