Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ross's Surgery

In August 2005, Ross had surgery to remove a lump. I was absolutely a wreck about the whole thing, completely worried and not sleeping in the days up to the surgery. I was so distraught that I didn't know what to do except write. The notes below are from the week of his surgery and are emails I sent to my friends and family to keep them updated. Again, these are from August 2005 and aside from a little anxiety, Ross is perfectly healthy - although fat. I'm sorry, I mean stocky. He has a football player's build. My mistake. PLEASE don't tell Ross I called him fat and don't tell him I published these emails, especially the one he wrote to Diana, and the pictures.

My Cat Ross - Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 9:25am

Good Morning!

I am writing you this morning because I need a favor.

You probably know my two cats - Betsey & Ross, who I adopted 9 years ago when they were mere kittens. I was living in Washington DC at the time and the best we could estimate, they were born on the 4th of July - hence their names. :) My friends Karen & Kelly went with me to look at them (it was Karen's idea, as I recall). At the time, I had no idea I would ever grow so attached to them because I didn't have pets growing up and never understood how people thought of their pets as part of the family. Boy was I in for a shock!

If you know Betsey & Ross, you know how much they absolutely love each other (and me) and how much I have fallen in love with them. Despite their age - 9 years - they both still race around my house like they were kittens, fly through the air for their feather toys, and the unconditional love Ross gives to everyone. Betsey, on the other hand, is a bit more suspicious of everyone other than me. But when she warms up to you, her love is unconditional too.

About a month ago, I discovered a lump on Ross's left hip. Because I've been traveling so much since then and my vet was out of town, the surgery to remove it is today. They don't know yet if it's cancer or if it's just fatty tissue, but in cats, lumps are of much greater concern and more likely to be cancerous then lumps in dogs. I dropped him off last night and to say I'm a nervous wreck is an understatement. And since I walked back in without him, Betsey has been searching high and low for him - sitting in all his favorite spots and "talking" up a storm questioning his whereabouts.

The good news is that Ross's bloodwork is normal, his disposition has not changed and his eating, etc. habits are all normal. Given the speed at which he was racing around yesterday afternoon and since I've gotten home from Michigan, he has no idea that he's even got this lump and is not in any pain from it.

As I said, I'm a nervous wreck and so I'm turning to my friends for help. His surgery is between 12 and 2 (Chicago time) today and I'm supposed to be able to bring him home this evening. The biopsy results won't be returned for a week (hopefully sooner). If you could just say a little prayer around noon today that he's ok and that it really is just a lump of fatty tissue, I would greatly appreciate it.

I will email you later with the results. Thank you very much.

Jessica & Betsey & Ross

Your Prayers Worked, Thank You! - Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 2:41pm

Ross Update:

Dr. Kinnavy called me at 12:50 to say she was getting ready to start Ross's surgery and that all last evening and this morning, he was very social and talkative to all the staff and wanting to play. That sounds just like him! She explained that it would probably be about an hour or so before she called me back.

At 1:25, as I was standing in Costco, she called back. I was a little nervous becuase it was so early. But my fears were only temporary when she said she was done and that it had been the easiest procedure she'd ever done on a cat.

She opened him up and found a very small lump - about the size of a raisin encased in a layer of fat under another layer of fat. It turns out that what I was feeling on him was the fat casing around the lump. She also said that this explained why the lump was so difficult to isolate and could not be aspirated and most people would never have felt a lump as small as Ross's. The best news for me was that the lump itself came out very easily and there was no blood with it, which leads her to believe that it's probably just a fatty cyst. In any event, she's sending it out for a biopsy and I'll have those results in about a week.

Ya know, sometimes it feels so good to know I'm a good mom to my cats and will be a good mom to children someday.

All in all, Ross was very well behaved and I can pick him up today at 5. Oh, he's coming home in a full little kitty gauze body suit and Elizabethan collar so he won't lick or scratch the wound. I'll send pictures because it's certain to be a sight!

Thank you so much for your prayers and your warm wishes.

Jessica, Betsey & Ross

Ross - Wednesday, August 24, 2005, 7:15am

Ross came home at 5:00 yesterday afternoon. When the vet tech brought him to me, he was calmly curled up in his carrier under his favorite towel and wearing a bright yellow gauze body suit. To appreciate how silly this looked, Ross definitely thinks of himself as a man's man. He reminds me of the men of the Old West. Likes to be loved, but not in public. He's rough and tough and would never be caught wearing clothes like you see Paris Hilton dressing her little freaky dog in, Tinkerbell. To see him wearing this bright yellow body suit made me laugh outloud!

The tech told me that Ross was still very groggy and would probably just spend the night in his carrier. No matter what, I needed to keep him from running and jumping and doing all the things he loves. And I was not to feed him until this morning. I just looked at the tech and said "Have you met my cat Ross? It's easier to nail down wind than to keep him still." She then explained that cats typically self-regulate their behavior after surgery. I took him out of the carrier and gave him a big hug and let him know how handsome he looked - not sissy-ish at all. He would be the envy of all the cats in the neighborhood.

Upon our arrival at home, our welcoming committee, Betsey, walked right up to the carrier, stuck her nose in the grating and gave him a kiss. I only wish I'd had my camera. No sooner had I opened the door to the carrier than he was off and running - without the body suit that must have taken Houdini-like efforts to remove. 15 minutes later, I had caught him and put the suit back on. He continued to race around the house in what I can only assume was an effort to ensure that all was still safe and no one had breached the security of the house. He jumped and flew around reminding me how I almost named him Air Jordan (after Michael).

It turns out his groggy behavior at the vet was all an act for which he deserves an Oscar.
He will be quiet today because he's confined to my bedroom without his sister. When I left this morning (at 6:00), he was wearing the body suit, but I don't expect it to still be on when I return. Tonight, I'm adding the Elizabethian collar to his outfit. He'll just LOVE that!

Pictures will follow as soon as I figure out how to download them from my camera.

Jessica, Betsey & Ross

When I arrived home from work late Wednesday night, Ross had not eaten, drank any water, peed or pooped all day. In fact, he hadn't even moved off my bed. This continued into Thursday, so I called the vet who told me to bring him in right away. Because I was at work, I called Diana who told me she'd cover for me for a couple of hours so I could tend to Ross's health. To say the least, it was not a good sign that he was so lethargic. Ross insisted on personally writing Diana the following thank you note Friday morning. It seems that he had developed a bit of a crush on her (because she called him cute once), which much to his dismay was an unrequited love because Diana is allergic to cats.

Thank You - Friday, August 26, 2005, 11:08am

Dear Diana,

I've asked my mom to write you this thank you email because you would not be able to read my kitty scratch and I don't know where my mom keeps the stamps.

I truly appreciate that you are such a good friend to my mom and that you were able to help her out last night.

You have no idea how badly I had to poop, but all the drugs they gave me on Tuesday made it too difficult and it hurt. I feel very bad that I worried my mom so much, but I didn't know how to tell her I couldn't poop. So I just pretended to be sick so she'd get Dr. March to help me.

I didn't even mind having to sit quietly at Slender Lady while you helped mom clean the fans.

When we got home, I ran and played all night and even pooped on my own (in the litter box so mom wouldn't be mad). I slept well and am back to my normal studly-self.
I know my mom is a bit irritated that I made her get me kitty liposuction, but as you could see, I'm quite a sexy cat and despite all the exercise I get and the very healthy diet mom has me on, I just could not get rid of the lovehandles. Now they're gone and I know I am much more attractive to the babes. The only thing I didn't anticipate was that Betsey - my main squeeze - would be so jealous. All she does is hiss at me!

Oh, I think you're very cute too. :) Maybe once I get these stitches out and my hair grows back we could get a drink - if you know any bars that allow very handsome and charming cats.

Thank you again for helping me out last night. I don't know what my mom would do without you!

Ross (as dictated to Jessica)

The Ross Chronicles - Conclusion & Statement from Ross - Monday, August 29, 2005, 11:11pm

Dear Friends,

All was going well with Ross, until I realized he hadn't eaten, been drinking any water, peed or pooped for almost 3 days. Oh, he was quite lethargic as well. According to the post-surgery information I was given, these are all bad signs.

I called the vet and rushed Ross back in to determine the source of these new problems. After a few moments of private consultation with Ross, Dr. March walked back in and informed me that all of his vital signs were good, but that he was dehydrated and constipated and she was certain he really needed to relieve himself and she could make him. Trust me, you don't want to know how they make cats poop.

After about 15 minutes of blood-curdling screams by Ross (all while I was in another room - I'm still squeamish about some things and believe we all deserve privacy during some moments), Dr. March brought him back to me and announced that he had now pooped and would be fine.

We walk out to the front desk and am told that Ross's poop just cost me $75. As I wrote the check, I just looked down at my poor baby, who was in a bit of discomfort from being forced to poop, and told him that I must love him an awful lot to pay $75 for him to poop! As I was standing there just shaking my head, Dr. March says "Oh, your toxicology report just arrived. It was a benign fatty lump."


Betsey, Ross and I thank you very much for your support and prayers last week.


Statement from Ross:

Thank you very much for your prayers over the last week as I had a small medical procedure. I feel grateful knowing that you all care about my mom and me so much.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to clear up a few rumors:

1. Despite what my mom says, I was not having "kitty liposuction." I had a legitimate procedure that will help ensure my health for years to come. I'm a very sexy cat who must look good for the ladies (both Diana and Shannon have commented on how handsome I am since my procedure last week), and I must deny these rumors that I had cosmetic surgery. I am 9 years old now (I don't know what that is in People Years), and that isn't young anymore. At some point, the clock starts ticking for all of us and we must make decisions about our health. I feel that I was being proactive and luckily my health insurance (Jessica) covers preventative medicine.

2. I must also firmly deny the rumor that I was rushed back to the vet because I would not poop. My reasons for seeing Dr. March on Thursday evening are personal and it is unfair (and possibly illegal) to have my private medical records made public without my consent. I'm having my people look into this.

3. Finally, it seems that some paparazzi took some unauthorized photos of me wearing a yellow onesie in some compromising positions. This was a necessary medical device and I resent that anyone tried to take advantage of me in my time of vulnerability. Any postings of these photos on the web or anywhere else are entirely without my consent and I will offer a reward for the identification of the paparazzi and the return of these photos.

Once again, I thank you for your support. Trust me, my mom wouldn't know what to do without all of you. :)

Ross Gardner

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Weeding the Garden - Metaphor for Life?

Today was "weed the garden Sunday." Truthfully, it was not a task I was eagerly anticipating and I did not fly from my slumber early this morning singing "Oh what a glorious day! I get to weed the garden!" But since I'd procrastinated this job for a few weeks and, in a few cases, the weeds were taller than my plants, today was the day. Oh, and of course, there's the added benefit that tomorrow is yard waste day, so I'd pull the weeds and then they'd be gone from my life forever. Well, at least until new weeds grow.

Out I went, my iPod in my pocket, in my grungiest clothes and gardening gloves. Listening to my favorite playlist of motivational music, I stood there bent over pulling the weeds one by one. And slowly but surely, the ground started to reappear. And what was important - the beautiful flowering garden - suddenly came back into focus. The plants had space to breath, spread out, and flower even more.

As I stopped to admire my work, I started to wonder if pulling weeds from the garden was really just a metaphor for life. In life, sometimes I have struggles. I have challenges. I guess everyone does. "Weeds" start to clutter up my life and I lose focus on what's important. Sometimes those weeds come in the forms of negative thinking, too much stress from not taking care to keep balance in my life, or simply procrastinating tasks I don't enjoy doing. But sometimes, those "weeds" are from watching, reading, or listening to too much negative news, carrying a grudge, not letting go of something painful, or being around people who simply bring me down.

When I take the time to clear my life of its weeds by being proactive, finishing those tasks I'd rather procrastinate, listening to music that speaks to my soul, being positive, remembering what I'm grateful for, surrounding myself with uplifting friends, and clearing out the clutter regularly, my life is pretty weed-free and what's important is clear and easily accessible, just like my garden. Keeping my life weed free allows abundance to take its place, and abundance always begets abundance, just like in my garden.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Learning to Garden

About a week before my birthday earlier this summer, I decided to plant a garden and host a BBQ. For most normal 30-something adults, this might seem like a no-big-deal kind of task. Turn some dirt and plant a few flowers. Well, I knew nothing about planting anything. The only thing I've ever successfully grown was weeds and that was only because they thrive on laziness (mine, not theirs).

I had no idea the amount of back-breaking work that went into weeding a garden and turning the dirt hardened by a lack of attention over multiple summers of Chicago sun. I had also never trimmed hedges, a badge I'd worn rather proudly. I'm not really an "earthy" kind of girl. I really only go outside to sit on the beach and even then I insist that my towel be entirely sand-free. Despite my last name ("Gardner"), sweat and dirt have never really had a prominent place in my life (or any place at all) and I never had any interest in finding out just how much dirt I could collect under my fingernails. So this gardening thing was really a gigantic leap for me.

The Gardening Gods, in their infinite wisdom and knowledge that if this wasn't easy I wouldn't do it again, were keeping a watchful eye out for me. They caused me to drive by a lovely little old lady's home in my neighborhood who happens to be a master gardener. She was having a sale of all the beautiful plants she had lovingly grown from seedlings and then divided - and they were dirt cheap (pun intended). She guided me through the basics of plants that need full sun and off I went with 3 varieties of tomato plants, 2 primrose, 3 geraniums, the biggest Hasta I've ever seen, 2 lambs ear, and a few other plants for $27. A few days later, a woman on Freecycle was giving away a dozen iris plants for free. Some lavender, orchids, and a few other plants on sale at Home Depot and I was set. Already in my garden were 2 gigantic purple sage bushes, random day lillies, and an orchid plant that had not produced a flower in at least 4 years.

That was 7 weeks ago. Today, I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with (they're not ripe yet though) and gorgeous hot pink orchids each the size of two fists. The purple sage has taken over a third of the garden and the lavender calms me each time I walk by it. The irises, however, won't bloom until next year. I think there was a little trauma while being moved. And if it weren't for those damn rabbits, my hastas would look great too. My garden is full with all the colors of the rainbow and lots of bumble bees. I even have the occasional butterflies and birds.

If I'd only known how much peace I'd get every morning when I head out to water and how happy I am each time I look out the living room window, I would have tackled this gardening thing years ago.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Banana Pudding for Joan

When I was a kid, I would sometimes come home from school and my mom would have just made a banana pudding. It was one of my favorite desserts/snacks and she always made two. One for us and one for a family two doors down. They were the kind of family that always had their door open to everyone. The mom, Joan, was a mom to the entire neighborhood of kids and the dad, Don, was the kind of guy who would come to the assistance of everyone. He knew everything about everything. His lawn was always greener than all the others. His trees and shrubs were sculpted to perfection. His flowers blossomed bigger and more vibrantly than anyone elses. And, of course, his garden never had weeds. He could fix the furnace, the plumbing, and anything else that might break. Their son, Billy, was a friend of Dave's. Having neighbors like them really was the true meaning of "it takes a village."

They were good friends of ours, especially once Mom went back to work after she and my dad got divorced. Joan was also a huge sports fan, and she and Billy had season tickets to the Bears and never missed a game. In fact, Joan took Billy, Dave, and me to the Cubs game the night they turned the lights on at Wrigley. No matter where I've gone in life, Joan has always at least been in the background. She was such a presence in Dave's formative years, that he sends her Mother's Day cards.

The last ten years have not been good ones for Joan. She's survived breast cancer twice, mourned the sudden death of her granddaughter-in-law, had a heart attack at her retirement party and was brought back to life twice, and earlier this year learned that the cancer had returned, but this time to her liver. She's lost 55 pounds over the last few months and is now a mere shadow of her former self. She's been hospitalized twice since the beginning of July and the doctors say there's nothing they can do that will improve things much.

And then this weekend, there's been all kinds of commotion at her house. All the out-of-town family has gathered. Joan's in the hospital again. Other than that, everyone is pretty tight lipped, but sad.

So tonight, I thought I'd make a banana pudding and walk it down in the morning, just to let her family know how much my family and I love her and her family. I'll miss her when she's no longer with us, but am grateful and blessed for all that she's meant to me and my family. I believe there are angels who walk among us and if I'm right, then Joan is definitely one of God's finest.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Damn Harry Potter!

For as much as I love to read (I think I came out of the womb with my nose in a book), I have pretty much escaped this whole Harry Potter phenomenon. I know. I must have been living in a cave since 1998 to have avoided these books. I tried. I really did. I've actually read about the first third of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (book 1, which is even dedicated to ME!), but just couldn't get into it. I was bored. And I believe life is too short to trudge through books I don't enjoy just because everyone else loves them. So I put it down and never picked it back up.

I don't know why I never became obsessed with all things Harry Potter. It might have something to do with that I've never been into fantasy, witch craft, wizardry, or anything remotely scary. Of course, I realize that these are children's books and by their nature not particularly scary, but I get spooked very easily. Just ask my brother. I'm famous for this.

But thanks to Shannon, I'm not a total loser. I have seen four out of the five Harry Potter movies. In fact, usually on opening night. And I've pretty much enjoyed them. I can honestly tell you that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is my favorite HP movie (I saw it Friday). I give it 4 stars (out of 5). But even the movies have never inspired me to read the books.

And then this morning, I was reading my friend Brad Meltzer's blog. His July 16th post, "Harry Potter Guesses" linked me to the Tamar Siegel's (age 12) winning entry in a contest run by the Miami Herald to guess the ending of soon-to-be-released series finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

WOW. The 12 year old managed to do something that the movies (and the 1st 1/3 of book #1) hadn't done for me to date: make me want to read the books.

I wonder if I can clear my schedule and read all 6 by Friday at midnight. Hmmmmmmm.

Damn Harry Potter!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


On my friend Tim's blog, his latest post is about the rating that his blog received from a site called Mingle2 (the 2 is as in "squared"). Tim's blog received a NC-17 rating because he uses the word "gay." I thought I'd check out my own rating since I have used some words on Little Merry Sunshine that might not be kid-friendly. Interestingly, my blog only rates a PG for 4 uses of the word "death" (oops! make that 5) and 1 instance of the word "crap" (I guess that's 2 uses now). I thought the Bull Durham quote alone would have garnered me a PG-13 rating, but it didn't.

So I'm left wondering the same thing Tim wonders: Who's running this blog rating system anyway?

Online Dating

Update: No sooner did I post this topic and my rating jumped to PG-13! All the sudden Mingle2 found some slang for a woman's va-jay-jay in my blog.

Free Online Dating

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Baseball's All-Star Game

I have been a Cubs fan my whole life. I don't even remember a time when I didn't know how to keep score at a game or how to intelligently talk baseball-ese (at least enough to initially impress a guy). I'm sure I'm a Cubs fan because my dad is a Cubs fan. I'm just not really sure why he's a Cubs fan. His dad, my grandfather, was a diehard White Sox fan and so were all of my dad's brothers.

My relationship with my paternal grandparents was always complicated. But there were two topics that always brought my grandfather and me together: politics and baseball. Despite our team loyalty differences, we could watch baseball together or talk about it for hours. Close to 30 years ago, Grandpa and I started an annual bet on the All-Star Game because this was the closest our teams ever got to playing each other, except for the Crosstown Classic (WAHOO! The Cubs won the Crosstown Classic this year 5-1!!!!!). Every year in mid-July, Grandpa and I placed a bet - him for the American League (where the White Sox play) and me for National League (with my beloved Cubbies). The bet was small. In fact, it started out at a $0.25. Yep, we bet a whole quarter. And the loser would drop a quarter in the mail the next day.

Even though it was an annual bet, it had to be solidified with the day-of-game phone call. And in order to be valid, the call had to be made prior to the first pitch. It was all very official.

For a string of years in the '80s, I won every year. And I got cocky. So we raised the stakes. About 1984 or 1985, the wager went up to $1.00. The National League continued to win. It got so bad that one year, I invoiced Grandpa (typed and everything!) and let him know that he could send his payment to the National Association for Retired Cubs Players (an organization I made up). He laughed and returned the $1.00 in my postage paid and addressed envelope, but insisted on sending cash. He simply couldn't bring himself to write a check to any organization that had "Cubs" in the title.

As I got older and Grandpa got sick, he wouldn't remember to make the call, so it became my responsibility. The All-Star Game in 1990 was especially memorable. That was the summer I worked at Watervale. I forgot to make the call early in the day, as was my practice, and in the middle of trying to get dinner served to almost 200 people, I stopped to call him on the kitchen phone before that first pitch, just so the bet would be official. This bet was our thing and nothing could derail it. Not even something as inconvenient as me working in a very busy resort kitchen during dinner. The American League won. At Wrigley Field. In Chicago. That's sacred National League ground. And Grandpa never let me forget it. He gloated about it until the day he died.

Even after I graduated from college and moved to DC, we still made the bet. And it continued to be $1.00. When I lost, I always tried to make a big deal of sending him my dollar and making it special. The photo below is of the $1.00 I lost to Grandpa in 1993. The American League had won for 6 years in a row. At that point, he was living in a nursing home and completely incapacitated due to having had both legs amputated. Grandpa died 18 months later in January 1995 (after not paying up for my 1994 win), but that note with the $1.00 taped to it was hanging on his wall over his bed when he passed away. Just days after his death, Grandma mailed it to me with a note telling me how much he loved our bet and how important it was to him.

Twelve years after Grandpa's death, the bet continues. But now it's with my dad. I still take the National League and my dad is a good enough sport to step in and take the American League (as much as it pains him) for Grandpa. After 20+ years of betting $1.00, yesterday, Dad and I raised the stakes. Now, we are betting a beer at one of our favorite dive bars in Michigan.

Grandpa's a pretty happy White Sox fan today. The American League won last night for the 9th time in the last 10 years (the 10th year - 2002 - ended in a tie). He's celebrating with Shoeless Joe and all the other White Sox legends. And despite missing him more every year during the All-Star Break, I'm happy to buy my dad a beer in Grandpa's honor.

Mark my words, though. 2008 is the National League's year. The All-Star Game will be deep in the soul of the American League - Yankee Stadium. And the overall series is tied - 30 wins for the National League and 30 wins for the American League. Like Cubs fans have grown accustomed to saying, "wait til next year."

Sunday, July 8, 2007


I'd never been to a concert before, when my friend Jan invited me to join her and her older brother at a Rick Springfield & Corey Hart concert that Friday night in 1984 at Poplar Creek Music Theater. Certain my mom would never let me go, I was 13 after all, I asked anyway. Rick Springfield's music was my music back then. He was my first celebrity crush. Like every other teen-age girl, I had his picture in my locker and I swooned over his every music video, not unlike the way our mother's swooned over Elvis' hip-grinding on Merv Griffin. But, by some great miracle, my mom said yes, and we were off.

We sang and danced the night away in our pavillion seats, and the whole night I had strange feelings running through my body. Feelings, that as a 13 year old, I'd never experienced before. I didn't have a word for the tingles that ran through my spine, I just knew the urges were strong. I now know that word is "lust."

I grew up. Rick Springfield faded from the covers of 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat. I never became Mrs. Rick Springfield or Mrs. Dr. Noah Drake. But every time I hear an old Rick Springfield song in the car, I turn it up and sing just a little louder. I've often wondered if my lust for Rick at 13 is why every significant man in my life has had that Rick Springfield look - dark wavy hair, dark eyes, olive skin.

Until last night . . . when I was a lusty teen-ager all over again.

For the first time in eight years, Rick headlined at Frontier Days (his only free concert of the year!) and my girlfriends and I planned a "Night of Rick" to relive our youth. Cheryl and I met at Rec Park at 5:45am to save our front row spots on the lawn for his 8:00pm show. Much to our dismay, we were not the first to arrive. Many women had spent the night, camped out on the ground.

By the time Rick took the stage 14 hours later, the park was full with screaming fans. And Cheryl, Shannon, Diana, Sheelagh, Lynn, and I were in the front row. Pressed up against the fence that separated the stage from over 8,000 lustful women. We could feel his sweat. When he sang "I've Done Everything For You," "Affair of the Heart," "Don't Talk to Strangers," and "Jessie's Girl," I thought he was singing only to me. His eyes were still piercing. We screamed, danced, swooned, fantastized, and sang for the entire 1 1/2 hour show. By the time he came into the audience to sing "Human Touch," Sheelagh had moved from the fence and happened to be standing in the exact spot he stopped in. As he sang, she grabbed his ass. Telling me about it later, I took her hand and touched it to my face fully believing I now had a little bit of Rick on me. It was a moment straight out of the Brady Bunch when Davy Jones kissed Marcia and she swore she'd never wash her face again.

At the end of the night, Rick answered every woman's prayer when he returned for his encore . . . SHIRTLESS. WOW. I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven. In spite of his 57 years, his body was better than that of most 30-year-old men. Not only did he have 6-pack abs, but I think they may have been an actual 12-pack. Cheryl, Lynn, and I were still pressed against the fence just feet from Rick, and I'm certain I went home covered in the sweat from his naked body.

Yes, Rick Springfield taught me about lust at age 13 and gave me a 90-minute refresher course last night. I may never be the same.

Friday, July 6, 2007

6 Degrees of Separation

So I have this theory that there are only about 100,000 people in the world. Before you tell me I'm wrong, let me give you some examples . . .

Two weeks ago, I went to see the Indigo Girls at Ravinia with Diana, Shannon, and Shannon's husband, Tom. As Diana and I were driving over, stuck in some of the worst traffic Chicago has to offer on Lake Cook Road, Diana received a phone call from a mutual friend, Andi. It turned out that Andi was on her way to the Indigo Girls concert as well and unbeknownst to all of us, she was 3 cars in front of us! Once we arrived at Ravinia, Diana and I found Shannon and Tom who had picked a spot 15 feet from an Economics professor from Lake Forest College and another 15 feet from my sophmore year roommate! Of course, Shannon & Tom had no idea that they'd done this.

About 2 months ago, I was reading CNN.com and discovered that one of the first friends I had in Washington DC was now the Communications Director and Environmental Advisor to Al Gore. We'd lost touch and I'm thrilled to be back in contact with her.

In 2003, I received an email petition protesting the US invasion of Iraq from a friend of mine from DC (who now lives in Chicago like me) and the name below hers on the petition was the name of my grandmother's neighbor in Crystal Beach, Florida (a town of about 300). When I asked my friend about the name on the petition and how she knew the woman, my friend told me that this woman was her neice! When she asked me why, I explained that I knew her and her kids and her husband and that they were some of my grandmother's favorite neighbors.

In April, I was at a Chamber event and from across a very crowded room, I saw a friend from Watervale I hadn't seen in probably 16 years. It turns out that he was invited to join the Chamber by my life insurance agent.

Today, I was in Starbucks when this very sharp woman got in line behind me. We started chatting and although we'd never met, within 3 minutes, we discovered we knew over half-a-dozen people in common.

Oh, and my best friend, Shannon, is the daughter of my high school history teacher. She and I only met 4 years ago (we didn't go to the same high school) and it turns out that not only do we know a bunch of the same people, but her sister and my brother have been friends since high school.

And then there's Mika Brzezinski, who recently had a fit on MSNBC because she (wisely) did not want to do another story about Paris Hilton. I used to work with her brother Mark when I was at Hogan.

I could go on, but instead I'll simply ask if anyone knows Bradley Whitford, Jon Bon Jovi, or Jimmy Smits. I want to meet them and by meet them, I mean do things with them that I would never post on a blog my mother reads. Oh, wait, I have met Jimmy Smits. But that's a story for another day.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Things I Believe In

There’s this amazing monologue in Bull Durham, where Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner) lays out all the things he believes in. That got me to thinking about what I believe in. My list isn’t comprehensive, but rather what came to mind immediately. I may add more later.

"I believe in the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days."
- Crash Davis from Bull Durham.

He's pretty much got it covered, but here's a bit about what I believe in . . .

I believe in love at first sight and have been blessed to have experienced it once.

I believe that my never-ending belief in Santa makes Christmas morning more exciting. But if that Easy Bake Oven (that I asked for when I was 5) doesn't show up soon, I might start doubting.

I believe in the 10-feet rule - I smile at anyone who comes within 10 feet of me.

I believe in the Golden Rule and surround myself with others who hold this belief dear.

I believe that no one cares how much I know until they know how much I care.

I believe respect is the foundation for the healthiest relationships.

I believe that all food tastes better when eaten by candlelight and on good china.

I believe that children are proof of God.

I believe that the Cubs will win the World Series in my lifetime (if the BoSox & White Sox can, so can they!).

I believe there is a man out there who will love me as much as I love him, who will treat me with respect, and for whom being a "gentleman" is a way of life - not a catch-phrase.

I believe that our life experiences and the lessons we learn make us more interesting.

I believe that quality beats quantity every time.

I believe in the healing power of hugs.

I believe in living life to the fullest and taking time everyday to stop, smell, touch, and taste the roses.

I believe in monogamy and that true love can last forever.

I believe that we all have baggage. What we do with it and how we deal with it defines us more than the baggage itself.

I believe in “paying it forward” and helping those in need. It always comes back at least ten fold and usually when I'm least expecting it.

I believe music speaks to my soul, especially first thing in the morning, in a way no amount of caffeine ever will.

I believe there are no mistakes or failures in life, just opportunities to learn valuable lessons.

I believe friends are the family I choose.

I believe pets are the cheapest and most effective form of therapy available.

I believe watching the sunset every night is the greatest test of faith. And watching the sunrise in the morning is evidence my faith was well placed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Betsey & Ross!

You're 11 today. How is that possible? I remember being talked into adopting the two of you, and but for weighing 4-5 times what you weighed at that first vet visit, I still see the kittens in both of you.

I'd never had pets before. Growing up we just didn't have them. I'm not sure why, we just didn't. I never saw myself as a "pet person" and I definitely wasn't a "cat person." Cats shed. They are moody. They are not affectionate. They are divas. They are selfish. So I definitely was not a cat person.

I had friends who had cats. Karen had Fluffy and Mikey. Kelly and Tammy had cats. But not me. I WAS NOT A CAT PERSON.

But Karen was convinced that I should have a pet. And given that I typically worked 60-80 hours a week, a dog was absolutely out of the question. So she started a cat campaign. And then she saw an ad in a DC neighborhood e-zine by a guy who'd found some cats and he needed to give them away. She set up the appointment for us to meet the guy and his cats.

When Karen, Kelly and I (I needed reinforcements if I was going to do this) arrived at his house in Upper Northwest, we sat on his porch and he explained to us that he loved cats and this one particular cat from the neighborhood had adopted him. She kept coming around his house and because she had no tags, he let her in one night. After a week of her random comings and goings, she came to the door one day and when he opened it up, she walked straight into the hall closet that was open. After building a little "nest," she walked back out and down the front steps, but she was back a few minutes later with a kitten in her mouth which she placed in the "nest." Then she walked back out and brought back a second kitten. At this point, he decided to follow her outside and discovered a third kitten in the bushes, that she picked up and carried into the closet.

He and the mom raised the kittens for about 8 weeks and he even took them in for their initial physical and round of shots. That's when he decided he couldn't keep all 4 cats. So he put two of the kittens up for adoption. And that's where I came in.

That evening, sitting on his front porch, I fell in love with a little kitten who looked like a miniature cow with his white body and black spots, but was quite skittish. I also fell in love with a black and brown tabby with a white belly and feet, who just wanted to give love.

Once we got home that night, you were both curious about everything. And we were all scared. I had no idea how to care for anyone or anything other than myself. And I'm sure you sensed that. I had no names picked out for you. In fact, I hadn't even thought about names. Because I adopted you around Labor Day and the nice man who rescued you said you were about 8 weeks old, Kelly, Karen and I figured you must have been born close to the 4th of July and that became your birthday. Kelly immediately suggested I name you Betsey and Ross (after Betsy Ross - who legend has it made the first US flag) and, although I had thought of Jordan and Pippen for Michael and Scottie, Betsey and Ross won, hands down in the vote among my friends. My sweet Betsey's name is misspelled because I didn't know how to spell it the first time I had to write it at the vet's office and didn't want to look stupid by asking.

That first night Betsey stayed on my bed and snuggled with me most of the night. Ross stayed under the bed. I remember worrying that Ross would never become affectionate, but little did I know that 11 years later Ross would become one who wants to give love 24/7 to anyone who will let him and Betsey saves all her love for me. You've switched roles from that first night.

Today, you still race around the house like you're in the Indy 500. You wake me up at 3:00am to let me know you can see the bottom of your food dish. You think chocolate ice cream is cat food. You always "tell" me about your days. You are fiercely protective of me and each other, keeping all the other cats in the neighborhood from walking through the backyard. Betsey sleeps on my shoulder so I can hear her purr all night. Ross sleeps on my feet or snuggles with Betsey.

So Happy Birthday Betsey and Ross. I guess I am a cat person after all. Oh, and yes, all those fireworks and parades today ARE for you.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Today I'm Grateful For . . .

Today I'm grateful for . . .
  • Being able to watch a gorgeous sunset over the western sky. The sky turned a number of shades of red and purple and I was reminded of the children's book about Grandpa Bunny Bunny painting the sky a multitude of colors at night. It seems to me the sunsets have been more spectacular than usual over the last few weeks, but I could be wrong.
  • The lawnmower Dave bought me last spring. At the time, I wasn't thrilled. I have a long (and proud) history of avoiding sweat and dirt and bugs, so mowing the lawn wasn't high on my "things to do before I'm 40 list." But because Dave bought me the lawnmower and made me mow the lawn myself, I started to take pride in how my yard looked. The result of that came about a month ago when I had the brilliant idea to plant a garden this year. So Dave, with his endless patience, taught me how to cut the hedges and pull weeds. Finally, the garden was ready to be planted.
  • And so I'm also grateful for the planting I did and the gorgeous flowers I have (and tomatoes too!) that I can water every morning and night. I had no idea how much peace and pleasure I would get from standing in the backyard watering the flowers and watching them grow.
  • Finally, I'm grateful for my brother, Dave. I am truly blessed that in spite of the rough start we had 32 years ago and all the fighting we did as kids, today he is one of my most trusted confidants. I love having him live in Chicago and knowing that I can pick up the phone and call him anytime or that we can get together with ease. He makes me do things I wouldn't do otherwise. And no matter what I say at the time to the contrary, I love it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Little Merry Sunshine

I often get asked if I go by Jess or Jessie since my name, Jessica, seems so formal to many (although not to me). The truth is that my closest friends call me Jess sometimes, but my preference is really Jessica. I absolutely don't like Jessie and don't answer to it when someone mistakenly uses it. I've never really been one for nicknames, except for the one my mom gave me when I was little.

Little Merry Sunshine.

My mom says that when I was little, I always had a big smile on my face to go with my big blue eyes and flowing golden blonde hair. Even in my sleep. I was never sad or unhappy. I never complained. I was just always happy, laughing and smiling as I played along the beach on Sanibel Island and Ft. Myers, where we lived. So she called me her Little Merry Sunshine. She even painted my room yellow with wicker flowers, butterflies, and a sun on the wall.

Little Merry Sunshine stuck and I still love it . . . when my mom uses it.

10 Years Ago

Tonight I'm watching "A Concert for Diana" on NBC celebrating her 46th birthday and 10 years since her tragic death. And I'm having a difficult time believing 10 years have passed so quickly.

My disbelief that a decade has passed in an instant has less to do with the death of Princess Diana, and more to do with what I was doing 10 years ago and how much my own life has changed.

In the summer of 1997, I was beginning my 5th year in Washington DC. President Bill Clinton was 6 months into his second term. The summer was relatively light at Hogan and I was working ONLY 40 hours a week (as opposed to the normal 60-80 hours I usually worked). I was playing in an intramural softball league through the Firm, enjoying happy hours with my friends and watching sunsets from the roof of Hotel Washington more nights than not. My friend Kelly and I attended the book party for up-and-coming author Brad Meltzer's first novel, The Tenth Justice, at the Mansion on O Street. Brad's wife worked at the Firm with Kelly and me, and although we knew many of the attendees, we were too intimidated to go meet Brad ourselves. He was a published author, after all, and while we were the same age he was, we believed him to be some larger-than-life figure who wanted nothing to do with us - the little people. Betsey and Ross were getting ready celebrate their first birthday, while I was still pondering how I'd ended up with two CATS! The Chicago Bulls had just celebrated their 5th NBA title in 8 years. And I was taking LSAT prep classes.

Politics and the law were my passions. It was because of those passions that I'd moved to DC in the first place. And I was headed to law school to pursue the dream I'd had longer than I could remember. I'd only ever envisioned myself a lawyer and it was finally the right time. So every waking moment and most sleeping ones too were filled with LSAT review questions. I even took my study guides to Watervale that August.

Like the SAT taken as part of college admissions, the LSAT is the Law School Admissions Test and quite possibly the worst part of application process. Law School is fiercely competitive and no place is more so than Washington DC - at least in my head. My undergraduate grades were not as stellar as they could have been, so my best bet for acceptance into an appropriate law school was my LSAT score.

Then came that night. It was a Saturday night and, although most single 20-somethings were enjoying the DC nightlife, I was sitting at my desk studying into the wee hours of the morning because The Test was just a few weeks away. Taking a break somewhere after midnight, I moved from my desk to my love seat and flipped on CNN. I don't think I ever made it to bed that night because I couldn't pull myself away from the TV. There are just some events that are permanently etched in our brains. My parents know exactly where they were when JFK was shot. For me, I'll always know where I was that night. The night Diana died.

Ten years later Princess Diana's boys are all grown up. And I never went to law school. Instead, I left Hogan, started my own business and moved back to Chicago. Yes, it all really changes in the blink of an eye.