Ask Van & Jean

Ask Van & Jean


Dear Van and Jean:

I read the RRT regularly, and a bit ago, out of the blue, your column appears.

I don’t know who you are, what your area of expertise is, if this is tongue in cheek, or what. I don’t understand why there is no explanation at the end of your column as most of them have that tells this information.

And who are these people who are writing you for advice?

This has bothered me and several coworkers for a few weeks.


M. B.

Jean says:

Who are we? Van and Jean, from the Rockford area. We don’t have fancy Ph.D.’s or doctorates or fancy letters after our names. We are graduates of the School of Life, and very experienced in the Trial and

Error Method of practicing our knowledge. We are kind of beat up from matriculating at the School of Hard Knocks—and furthermore, we are still learning, not having graduated YET!

As you can see, we both have a sense of humor, and the above paragraph is indeed, tongue in cheek, as you say. But we do give our honest, sincere opinions on the subjects that we write about. We are both in our 50s, have had good things and bad things happen to us throughout our lives, and have tried to learn from it all. And we can still laugh at funny stuff, and we think we have some good old-fashioned common sense to share.

When we would read the advice columns in the other papers, many times we would be aghast at the lousy advice. We figured that we could do better, and that is what gave us the idea to write this column. We don’t get paid for it either.

Who are these people who are writing to us for advice? Obviously, when we first started, we didn’t have a reading audience yet. We asked our relatives to send us any personal problems/questions they might have. Then we waited…..and waited…..for strangers to send us their questions……when that didn’t happen, finally we had to write our own questions and answer them. We introduced a few subjects, like the body piercing, that finally hit a note with some people —we started getting responses.

And we are glad to get yours! We don’t mind a bit getting challenged, and we hope to always be honest and forthcoming with our answers. We don’t pretend to be anything other than who we are, just plain us, just Van and Jean, with common sense.

Here is a repeat of our very first column which introduced us:

“Everyone has probably read Ann Landers or Dear Abby in their local newspaper at one time or another. Those columns have been around a long time. Sometimes their answers are right on, but sometimes they are so far out in left field that they are under the bleacher seats.

We always got the feeling that while sometimes interesting to read, the answers were for people in another town and place so far removed from our reality that we chuckled our way though the column.

So we thought why not write an advice column right here. No, really right here. Where you and we live. And do a better job than Ann or Abby, or at least give it a good shot. And what about a male/female view of things? Sort of a Siskel and Ebert review of each question.

So here we are, Rockfordland. We’ll take your questions and give you an honest answer, sometimes humorous, sometimes not, but always down to earth. We will protect your identity. You can just sign your letter with a made-up name. And we never reveal e-mail addresses.”

Van Says:

Now who’s on a roll, Jean? I’m glad you wrote, M.B.; we know the local reader base is smaller than the national one, but we are hopeful that more people will ask questions or discuss local things. I have found over the years that having a degree, while a good thing, doesn’t guarantee common sense and a perspective of events you get from experience. Now, not to intimidate those with their degrees at all… It’s wonderful that they were able to achieve them. Life is sometimes the best university, and some of the teachers are pretty harsh and unforgiving sometimes. What do you say, Rockford? Machesney Park, Loves Park, Belvidere and all the other towns, including our readers in DeKalb…? Write us. Any subject. We will do our best to reply, and you don’t have to agree with us, either. Let’s get some discussion going.

On another note: We, too, are saddened by the events of terrorism in our country. We are so thankful for all the wonderful people who are there helping and for those of you who help from afar. Let us all pull together as one nation, one people. God Bless America!

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