Saturday, May 31, 2008

Watervale - All Summer Long

As I was driving home late last night, I heard a new song that immediately sent me back to the summers of youth at Watervale. In less than 4 minutes, the song perfectly captured every moment from my early teen years through my college summers and I was convinced that it must be written or sung by a new artist that coincidentally I'd grown up with at Watervale.

I also knew immediately I had to share the song with Dave because he lived it too. Hell, he's STILL living it and I'm just a wee bit jealous!

As a guest, Watervale has been part of my life since 1977 (and we still migrate there every August - just 69 days from today!!!!!), but I spent the summer of 1990 there on staff and it took on a whole new meaning for me. That summer can best be summed up with the slogan from the back of our staff t-shirts: "We died every morning, survived every afternoon, and lived every night!"

My cumulative years at Watervale are filled with many firsts:
  • My first kiss
  • My first alcoholic drink
  • I first went to a beach fire at Watervale
  • The first time I went skinny dipping
  • I learned how to drive a stick-shift car at Watervale
  • The first time I was offered pot (I just said no)
  • I first saw the Northern Lights at late one night on the beach at Watervale
  • I learned how to sail at Watervale
  • The Bulls started their six-peat as NBA champs during my summer on staff at Watervale
  • My first weekend road trip alone was to Watervale
  • I really learned to cook at Watervale - I baked bread daily and creme brulee weekly, in addition to my regular salad making responsibilities
  • My first and best drive-in experiences happened at Watervale
  • And so many more . . .
Watervale is about the simple things in life. The rooms don't have phones or tv's. In fact, there is 1 public phone in the whole resort and there are no televisions! My cell phone barely gets reception. There are no street lights polluting the beauty of the night sky. Meals are simple and amazing with everything being homemade from scratch with many ingredients coming from the herb garden and many more locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Watervale has been part of my family's summer for probably close to 60 years and loved by 4 generations of Gardner's.

So at long last, here is the song that started this wonderful trip down memory lane . . . Oh, and it turns out that it's not by a friend from Watervale. It's "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex and The City - The Movie

I just got home from the 12:05 AM showing of Sex and The City with my girlfriend Cheryl. We've been friends 20 years, so it was perfect seeing this with her.

Over the last few weeks, I've read and heard some press about how SATC is anti-feminist, just a movie about shoes and clothes and cosmos and blah blah blah. Are there fabulous shoes and unbelievable clothes? Of course! Is Sex and The City a bit fairytale-ish? Absolutely! But so what?

It's also so much more. Now I'm not going to give away any plot twists here, so if that's what you're looking for too bad. What I will say is that Sex and The City is about friendship, love, loss, and forgiveness.

For me, the most important part of Sex and The City is the 4 women - Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha - and their forever friendship. The common denominator throughout the entire Sex and The City HBO series and movie is their relationship with each other - its ups and downs - and how now matter what else happens, they always have each other's backs, even when they're mad at each other. The friendship never ends. It's all about forgiveness, even when they're not sure they can love each other any more - in both life and the movie.

I laughed and my eyes welled up with tears at a few points during the movie as I thought about my own girlfriends and how much their friendships mean to me.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Community Shred Day! Now in Arlington Heights!

You'll recall that I'm a big proponent of shredding from my two recent blog posts. In the first, I admonished Arlington Heights for not having a community shred day. And now they do! I'd like to take credit for this change of events, but even I don't believe that hype.

The Peoples' Bank of Arlington Heights (yes, they know about the typo on their website and signage) is having a Community Shred Day! Yes, they are the folks responsible for all those cute "I love Arlington Heights" t-shirts, bags, and caps and the "travelling bank."

So here's the info straight from their website:
Join us for our FREE Shredding Day on Saturday June 7th from 9:00 -1:00 at our newest location at 1104 South Arlington Heights Road.

We will provide secure, complete shredding services for any of your sensitive personal or business documents. This process not only provides exceptional security, but is environmentally friendly as all materials are used in recycling efforts.

Our FREE Shredding Day* will help you eliminate the following materials:

  • Personal and business records
  • Cancelled or unused checks
  • Insurance policies
  • Bills
  • Medical records
  • Invoices
  • Personnel files
  • Payroll records

*There will be a four box maximum for each customer.

Thanks People's Bank (the correct way) for being such great community leaders!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What Do You Know About Me?

My cousin Andrea sends along these fun little emails where I'm supposed to divulge tons of private information like in the Christmas Survey. They can be humorous, but time consuming to complete.

But last night, she sent something a bit different . . . .

In this survey, you tell me what you know about me! You can put your answers in the Comments section.

Where did we meet?
Take a stab at my middle name?
Do I smoke?
Color of my eyes?
Do I have any siblings?
What's one of my favorite things to do?
What's my favorite type of music?
Am I shy or outgoing?
Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?
Any special talents?
How many children do I have?
If you and I were stranded on a desert island, what is one thing that I would bring?

Embarrassingly enough, when I answered this about Andrea, whom I've known for almost 37 years, I got about 1/4 of the answers wrong including her eye color. Oops.

So have fun and let's see how much you know about me! But remember, I moderate the comments and my mom reads my blog, so be nice.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Could Have Been a Macy's Convert

Some of you may know that I have had a sour relationship with Macy's since their hostile takeover of Marshall Field's two years ago. In fact, to call it "sour" would be generous. I have gone out of my way to completely avoid having anything to do with Macy's. On the rare occasions I've been forced into their stores, my experiences have been less than positive and only reinforced my belief that Macy's is the devil.

Until today.

Today, Macy's did something for me that Marshall Field's never did.

Macy's sent me a birthday card and money! (Note: My birthday is June 16th)

Well, kind of.

Macy's sent me a coupon for $10 off a minimum $30 purchase during June (in honor of my birthday - it really says that).

Of course, there's a huge paragraph of exclusions, in such small print I needed a magnifying glass to read, including purses, perfume, shoes, watches, most designer merchandise, anything on, and probably not on Frango's (it doesn't list Frango's specifically, but none of their coupons are ever good on Frango's I always learn when I try to use them and they don't specifically say they exclude Frango's).

If I'm gonna buy myself something for my birthday (and I'd prefer not to, let's be crystal clear), I'd be inclined to buy myself something pretty like a new purse. Or shoes. Or a beautiful watch. Or Frango's. But all of those are excluded.

If they'd just sent me $10 CASH at least I could have gotten 2 gallons of gas. And I might have liked them more. Damn Macy's.

Monday, May 26, 2008

High Thread Count Sheets

For Christmas, per my request, my dad got me some new sheets for my new bed. Normally I don't ask for things like bedding, but I'd gotten a new bed and I only had 2 sets of sheets - 1 flannel (the winter set) and a set of white sheets that are fine, albeit boring. I wasn't specific about what I wanted, except to say "not flannel." I wanted something for the spring, summer, and fall.

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas present and discovered Egyptian Cotton high thread count sheets in my favorite color - yellow! My dad scored on that gift! Now, they weren't Oprah 600-thread count sheets, but considering I always buy whatever's cheap, I felt like I was going to be sleeping in the lap of luxury.

Unfortunately, because it was winter, I wouldn't switch my sheets. In fact, I only ditched the flannel sheets two days ago. Yes, that's right. Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, I finally took the flannel sheets off my bed for the final time. As I unfolded the luxurious Egyptian Cotton high-thread count sheets, I could feel the softness difference between my old sheets and I knew that getting into bed that night would be an event.

Well, my delayed gratification has paid off. I've slept better and with more vivid dreams in the last two nights than I have in a long time. I love these sheets. Thanks Dad!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My 1st DC Experience

I moved to DC over Memorial Day weekend in 1993. My first home was Thompson-Markward Hall, a Young Women's Christian Home, located directly across the street from the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

My first DC Experience was the National Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol and I attended with other women from the house. I remember Nana watched it on TV and looked for me in the crowd. With 50,000 people (or whatever there were), she obviously didn't see me.

That began a tradition. I attended almost every National Memorial Day Concert and the 4th of July Concert and Fireworks. Nana watched it every year looking for me in the crowd. Spending such a wonderful day on the steps of our Capitol, with all of Washington at my footsteps was never lost on me. In the 7 years I lived in DC, I never lost that sense of awe that I daily walked in the footsteps of our Founding Fathers.

Eight years later, I will once again watch the concert on PBS on Sunday night, wishing Nana was watching too. And I will be sad for a moment that I'm not still in DC. But I'll only be sad for a moment. And that sense of awe will still be with me.

Best Beach in the US . . . No Kidding

I could have told anyone who asked that Caladesi Island is the best beach in the US, but no one has asked me.

Why do I bring this up? Because some guy named (conveniently) "Dr. Beach" has declared it so, which of course, means Caladesi Island now runs the risk of being ruined by all the nasty tourists.

Here's why Caladesi rocks . . .

  • It's a barrier island located between Clearwater and Honeymoon Island (aka Dunedin Beach), Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico;
  • The State of Florida very wisely made it a protected state park 40 years ago and therefore development is not allowed on the island;
  • The only access to the island is via ferry and it's not inexpensive ($9 per person);
  • The ferry runs hourly, visitors are only allowed to stay on the island for 4 hours, and therefore the number of visitors is restricted;
  • Because of the cost, many locals don't even know about Caladesi and tourists don't want to be bothered;
  • The beach is practically empty all the time;
  • From your seat on the beach (and without binoculars), you can easily see schools of dolphins swim by; and
  • Sand dollars and starfish are abundant and you can't help but step on at least a few when you're in the warm waters of the Gulf.

How do I know about Caladesi Island? Nana introduced Dave and me to it when we were little. I assume Mom, having grown up less than 10 miles from Dunedin, had been to Caladesi many times. No trip to visit Nana is complete without a trip to Caladesi Island.

In fact, the picture below, is my favorite picture of Nana. It's grainy because it has sat on the kitchen counter for 10 years uncovered and got splattered too many times. It was taken on Thanksgiving 1992 on Caladesi Island. I love her beautiful smile and how genuinely happy she looks. I miss that smile.

Friday, May 23, 2008

When Two Cars Mate

Oh, this made me laugh so hard.

Ok, in all seriousness, it isn't so funny. It's really the picture that accompanies this story. No one was hurt.

Community Shred Day is TOMORROW - Saturday, May 24th!

As I've discussed previously, Midwest Bank is holding a Community Shred Day! And it's TOMORROW - Saturday, May 24th from 9am-12noon!

Midwest Bank
50 N. Main St.
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056

Just show up with all your papers (limit 100 lbs) and they'll be shredded for FREE!

For further information about shredding opportunities elsewhere in the Chicago Area and all over the country, visit

The Fixer, Chicago Sun-Times consumer advocate columnist, recently wrote about what should and should not be shred:

Here's what Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois had to say:

• The IRS has three years from your tax-filing date to audit -- and six years to challenge a claim. A good rule of thumb is to keep all tax returns and supporting documentation for seven years.

• Keep credit card statements for seven years if tax-related expenses are documented.

• Keep paycheck stubs for one year. Be sure to cross reference the paycheck stub to the W-2 form.

• Be sure to keep bank statements and canceled checks for at least one year.

• Bills should kept for one year or until the canceled check has been returned. Receipts for big-ticket items should be kept for insurance purposes.

• Home improvement receipts should be kept for six years or permanently.

• Items such as birth certificates, Social Security cards, insurance policies, titles or wills should be kept permanently in a safety deposit box.

• If you are going to dispose of documents with sensitive information, be sure to SHRED, SHRED, SHRED!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Food Stamp Recipients Struggle Through the Month

This article was in the Sun-Times this morning. It simply astounds me that we live in one of the richest countries in the world, yet we have so many people going hungry. We must do something about this food crisis. It's our moral obligation.

Times are tough all over, but picking up 2-3 extra items a week at the grocery store and making a monthly trip to the food pantry would be a help countless people.

The emphasis is mine.

Food stamp recipients struggle through the month
May 19, 2008

Danielle Brown stands outside a South Side market at midnight, braving the spring chill for her first chance to buy groceries since her food stamps ran out nearly two weeks ago.

For days, Brown has been turning cans of ''whatever we got in the cabinet'' into breakfast, lunch and dinner for her children, ages 1 and 3, who finished off the last of the milk and cereal long ago.

''Ain't got no food left, the kids are probably hungry,'' said Brown, a 23-year-old single mother who relies heavily on her $312 monthly allotment of food stamps -- a ration adjusted just once a year, in October.

This is what the skyrocketing cost of food looks like at street level: Poor people whose food stamps don't buy as much as they once did rushing into a store in the dead of night, filling shopping carts with cereal, eggs and milk so their kids can wake up on the first day of the month to a decent meal.

Here's what it looks like another way: The number of Americans relying on food stamps has climbed 6.1 percent in the past year, from 26.1 million in February 2007 to 27.7 million in February this year. Every state except for Arkansas and Colorado saw the food stamp rolls increase, led by Nevada and Florida -- both also hit hard by the housing crisis.

The sputtering economy, persistent unemployment and the mortgage crisis have all contributed to the increase. The U.S. Agriculture Department expects the overall number of participants to reach 28 million next year.

It all paints a picture that experts say is becoming more grim every month.

''People with incomes below the poverty threshold are in dire straits because not only are food prices increasing but the food stamps they are receiving have not increased,'' said Dr. John Cook, an associate professor at Boston University's medical school who has studied the food stamp program, particularly how it affects children.

On the South Side of Chicago, what it means is that people like Danielle Brown wait for the stroke of midnight, when one month gives way to another and brings a new allotment of food stamps.

Dennis Kladis began opening his family-owned One Stop Food & Liquors once a month at midnight nine months ago to give desperate families a chance to buy food as soon as possible.

''I'm telling you, by the end of the month they're just dying to get back to the first,'' said Kladis, who has watched other area stores follow his lead. ''Obviously, they are struggling to get through the month.''

For Lynda Wheeler, who receives $281 in food stamps each month, the rhythm of life has been one of shopping for food, running out of food and turning to churches, food pantries and friends for food. And all the while, she is doing things like cutting milk with water to make it last a bit longer.

''You get it on the first and it runs out by the 14th and 15th,'' said Wheeler, a single mom who brought her 14-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter shopping at midnight with the Link card, the Illinois version of food stamps.

The consumer price index for food rose 5 percent last year, the highest gain in nearly two decades. It is especially grim news for the poor.

Start with milk. Between March 2007 and this year, a gallon of milk jumped from just over $3 a gallon to nearly $3.80, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, eggs climbed from about $1.60 a dozen to $2.20. Meanwhile, everything from white bread to chicken to tomatoes is more expensive than it was last year.

Just last summer, the maximum food stamp payment -- $542 a month for a family of four with a gross income of no more than $2,238 -- was enough to cover the USDA's ''thrifty food plan,'' a bare-bones diet that meets minimal nutritional needs. Studies show that allotment now falls about $25 short, Cook said.

Because food stamp allotments are adjusted every fall based on the federal food inflation rate, recipients are months away from getting any relief. But even when that relief comes, advocates say, it won't come close to keeping pace with rising costs.

Meanwhile, demand is growing. The number of U.S. food stamp participants grew by 482,000 between October and February; in the same time period a year earlier, the figure dropped by 135,000.

And just getting to the store is a lot more expensive. Since October, the cost of gas has shot up nationally from $2.70 a gallon to $3.62, according to the Lundberg Survey, a petroleum market research firm. With 31 cents of that jump in the last month alone, Lundberg says there is a good chance the price will top $4 a gallon by the end of the summer.

That means the poor are spending money on gas that they might otherwise have used for food -- sometimes striking deals with people who have cars to buy them food using the only currency they have.

''Even if they don't have a car, they are using food stamps just to get a ride to the store,'' said Dan Block, a Chicago State University geography professor who has studied grocery store shopping in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods.

High gas prices were the reason 58-year-old Floyd Ogalvie made the 15-minute trip for the midnight opening this month in his electric wheelchair.

''My old lady, she drives, but she didn't want to drive to save gas,'' he said.

For starters, gas prices are not part of the equation. USDA spokeswoman Jean Daniel did say that the agency is trying to help and noted recipes for inexpensive meals are posted on the agency Web site.

But she said there is only much food stamp programs can -- or were meant -- to do.

''Food stamps were designed to be a supplement to the food budget, (they) were never intended to be the entire budget,'' she said.

If the USDA pulls $1.7 billion from a contingency fund of $6 billion this year to support the food stamp program, as it expects to do, that would be the largest withdrawal since $2 billion was pulled out after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The program saw a surge in demand that year as well, with the number of recipients climbing to 27.9 million in October and 29.8 million in November.

On Thursday, the Senate passed a five-year, $300 billion farm bill that includes $200 billion for nutrition programs such as food stamps and emergency food aid for the needy. Daniel said it was too early to say how the at will affect benefits to food stamp recipients and she knew of no provision in the bill to make the annual adjustment before the fall.

In the meantime, there are signs that the same people shopping at midnight on the first of the month may be getting hungrier sooner.

Maura Daly of America's Second Harvest, a national network of food banks, said food banks are seeing a 20 percent increase in the number of people turning to them for help. Much of that increase, she said, comes at month's end.

Diane Doherty, executive director of the Illinois Hunger Coalition, said she's seeing people more frantic for food than ever.

''The level of desperation is just frightening,'' she said. ''People are calling, saying they have no idea what they are going to do.''

But even as demand is rising, many food panties nationwide have been forced to cut back on the amount of food given to individual families because higher fuel costs and commodity prices have sliced into private donations to the pantries, Daly and others say.

What that means is the hungry are casting an ever wider net for food, showing up at pantry after pantry.

''We're seeing people come to us from further and further outside our geographical boundaries, (from) as far away as Indiana and southern Wisconsin,'' said Greg Nergaard, coordinator at Lakeview Pantry on Chicago's North Side. ''What they say is they didn't know where else to go.''

For now, many of the needy, including many in Kladis' store pushing carts laden with soda pop, bags of cookies and chips -- much of it cheaper than healthier food -- are doing what they can to stretch their shrinking buying power.

''The bottom line is, a mother trying to feed her kids is not really picky about what she puts in their bellies,'' said Dan Gibbons, executive director of the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation. ''She just wants them full.''

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Do You Find Me?

I know you lose sleep at night wondering "How do people find Little Merry Sunshine?" Well, I'm here to give you a good night's rest tonight. Here are the top ways people stumbled upon my little blog in the last 30 days. . .

1. Google search for "prostitute names." In the last 30 days, 25 people have found me by searching for "prostitute names." My mom is so proud. Ed note: I honestly don't understand this. I did 1 post a hundred years ago called "The Name Game" one night when I was bored and my cousin emailed me to tell me I'd left off the all important "prostitute name." Are there really that many people in the world curious about the names of ladies of the evening? What is wrong with all of you?

2. The blog Gourmet Goddess. Thank you for the link on your blog, Heather!

3. Google search for "frontier days Arlington Heights." I KNEW that posting that scoop about Night Ranger performing at Frontier Days would bring folks to my blog! And in case you missed it, Little River Band and American English are confirmed as well. And Dennis DeYoung is rumored to be performing too, but confirmation has been elusive.

4. Google search for "reason season lifetime friends." This is ALMOST as popular as the "protitute names" search, but not quite. Proving once again that more people are demented than caring.

5. The blog Monkey Muck. Thank you, Dr. Monkey!

6. Google searches for "Jessica Gardner." I wonder how many of them are upset they found me instead of her.

7. Google searches for "guy f'd by a horse." This post is pretty funny. It's worth repeating.

8. Google searches for "obama." For as much as I talk about my love for Obama, I'm glad I pop up somewhere in a google search for him. But you gotta look pretty deep into the 96.3 million "obama" results to find me.

9. Google search for "does being a christian mean that i must be patriotic." Um, no. It does not. And wearing a flag pin doesn't make you patriotic either.

10. Google search for "inspire me quotes." Yeah!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

This ASTOUNDS Me . . . How Could Mike Huckabee Say This?

As much as I'd like to believe we live in a completely colorblind society, where the color of one's skin or their gender truly does not matter, the fact is there are racists in this country. Some of them would like nothing more than for Barack Obama to not be running for President. And some would like that by any means necessary.

Given this fact, how is it possible for former Republican presidential candidate and former Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee to make a "joke" at the NRA about someone pointing a gun at Barack Obama? In what part of the universe is this funny? And, yes, it's not funny because Barack is African-American. In fact, I think it's racist.

Some pundits want to give Huckabee the benefit of the doubt and have said that he is known to be a funny guy who ad libs and jokes around a lot. Huckabee, himself, has issued an apology, stating last night "[d]uring my speech at the N.R.A., a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive. That was never my intention."

The thing is, I don't buy it. I want to understand that it was made in the "heat of the moment" and that it was just an "oops," but I believe that making racist (or sexist) jokes isn't just something that happens as an "oops" in public unless you do it in private.

In case you haven't seen it, here's Huckabee's "joke" that he made in front of the NRA yesterday.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Food Pantries Need YOUR Help!

It's no surprise that everyone is feeling pinched by the economy right now. Gas prices are through the roof. Food prices are at near record highs. A few days ago, the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act Conference Report was up for a vote in Congress and it passed in both the House and Senate, in spite of Representative Mark Kirk's (R-IL 10th) vote against it and President Bush's promise to veto it. Luckily, this bill should be veto-proof.

A crucial element of this Act is that 2/3 of the money in the farm bill would go to public nutrition programs like food stamps. Did you know that there are 27.7 million Americans on Food Stamps, that in Illinois 1.3 million people are on Food Stamps or in the WIC program (the largest number ever in the State) and that the average food stamp recipient lives on less than $1 per meal (yes, that's ONE DOLLAR PER MEAL)?

One way people with low incomes stretch their food budgets is with the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs provided through the schools. With school about to end for the summer, however, these programs will also be on hiatus, putting an additional strain on families.

Food pantries provide a safety net for entire communities. Because of the economic recession, more people are relying on food pantries than the in recent times - including more and more "middle class" people. As a result, food pantries across the country are finding their shelves empty and need your donations.

In addition to accepting non-expired, non-perishable food items, many food pantries also accept personal hygiene items such as toilet paper, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, diapers, etc., but you should call your local food pantry to confirm they accept these items. UPDATE: As Gourmet Goddess states in her comment below, some food pantries also accept pet food and pet care items. Please call your local food pantry before you bring a big bag of Alpo over, however.

In Wheeling Township (where I live), our food pantry is in need of quite a few items that I've listed below:

canned tuna fish
vegetable oil and olive oil
sugar (small size)
tomato products
apple sauce
beef stew
bottled juice
canned fruit - all varieties
canned meat products such as chicken, hash, ham
coffee (small) and tea
dry milk/canned milk
dried beans and dried peas
dry soups including Ramen
canned or packaged gravy
jams, jelly and honey
macaroni and cheese
pancake mix and syrup
potato products and yams
rice (1 lb bags)
salad dressing

Personal Hygiene Items
paper towels
toilet paper (2 or 4 roll pkgs)
laundry and dish washing detergent
diapers - sizes 4, 5, and 6
shampoo and conditioner
bar soap
feminine hygiene products

If you don't live in Wheeling Township, I encourage you to call your local food pantry, see what is needed, and then make a donation.

What if we all went through our own pantry and dropped 5 or 10 items off at the local food pantry? Certainly we won't starve by donating a day's worth of food, but it could keep someone else from going to bed hungry.

Update: Today, while grocery shopping, I used a bunch of buy one, get one free coupons and will be giving the free items to my food pantry. Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Just A Thought . . .

Wouldn't an Obama/Edwards ticket be the hottest looking Presidential ticket ever?

We Must All Sacrifice During War

During World War 2, there was food and gas rationing and women planted victory gardens. Heck, even the thing "most dear to a woman's heart" was rationed . . . nylons.

60 plus years later, we find ourselves in another war. The War on Terror. And we must sacrifice again. How are we sacrificing? We have $4+ a gallon gas. The real estate bubble burst in a most devastating way. Jobs are being lost. Food prices are through the roof. The economy is feeling very unstable. Let's face it, we're all feeling pinched and are making changes to the way we live.

But who is making the biggest sacrifice of all? President George W. Bush, of course.

President Bush has given up golf.

That's our president always leading by example.

To show my solidarity with our esteemed leader, I'm going to give up polo.

UPDATE 5/17/08: Oops. It turns out that President Bush made an oops. It seems he DID NOT actually give up golf in solidarity with the troops. If a guy can't tell the truth about whether he did or did not give up golf, it makes ya wonder what else he might be fibbing on. Hmmmmm . . . . I wonder . . .

Sunday, May 11, 2008

LMS EXCLUSIVE: 2 New Super Dele-CATS for Obama!

In an exclusive interview with Little Merry Sunshine earlier today, Betsey (left pic) and Ross (right pic) announced today that they are officially endorsing Illinois Senator Barack Obama for President. This endorsement is unprecedented in their 12 years.

Asked why they are taking a stand in 2008, when they were apolitical in 1996, 2000, and 2004, Ross replied, "As members of the feline race, Betsey and I believe it is our patriotic duty to not simply sit on the sidelines when so much is at stake." He continued, "In previous years, we believed that our voices were insignificant, but after studying Cats for Obama, we realized that when united, our voices are loud and they must be heard. Cats have issues that are important to them including the environment and food. Betsey and I believe that Senator Obama will work to protect the environment so we always have fresh, safe drinking water and will ensure a mouse in every food dish."

Betsey chimed in, "We were against the War in Iraq going back to 2002 and Barack Obama has a solid record of being the peace-loving candidate. We appreciate his solid judgement and fiscal responsibility. Finally, given our historical past, Ross and I felt speaking out was simply our patriotic duty."

So there you have it. Barack Obama picked up the endorsements of 2 new superdelegates (oops, I mean dele-cats) today.

Free Cool Stuff - FREE 411!

If you're like me, when you need a number, you look it up on the internet because it's free. But what about when you are out and about and your cell phone is your only option? The idea of paying Sprint $1.79 (it's more expensive calling from a landline phone - $1.25 to $3.49 PER call!) for the 411 call irritates me, especially since sometimes the number I'm looking for turns out to be unlisted.

What's a girl to do?

FREE 411!

There are three services that I've recently discovered:

Free 411 - 1-800-FREE-411 (800-3733-411) is great, BUT you have to listen to an obnoxious ad at the beginning of the call. You can receive the number via both phone and text (your cell phone provider text message rates apply). Biggest benefit: Look up both business, residential, and governmental numbers.

Google 411 - 1-800-GOOG-411 (800-4664-411) is also great and has no ads. Again, you can receive the number via phone, text, and also receive a map of the neighborhood on your cell (if it has internet service). Unfortunately, it only looks up businesses. You cannot look up residential numbers. Biggest benefit: No ads.

411 Save - 1-800-411-SAVE (800-411-7283) - another ad supported directory assistance call. It looks up both businesses and residential numbers and you can receive your number either via phone or text message. Biggest benefit: You speak to a live person!

I've already got both numbers programmed into my cell phone. The days of me paying Sprint for a phone number are long gone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Community Shred Day!

Start gathering those personally identifying recyclable papers now! You know what you're looking for:
  • credit card solicitations
  • old bills
  • anything with your social security number
  • Tax Returns filed more than 7 years ago (NOTE: Do not shred tax returns less filed than 7 years ago or the supporting documentation because if you get audited, you will need it all)
  • old bank statements including ATM receipts
  • documents with other people's personal information

I also shred my grocery bills and other store receipts because all too often they have my name on them, either from the check I've written, my credit card, or from the store's preferred customer program.

Midwest Bank in Mt. Prospect, formerly known as Mt. Prospect National Bank, is holding a Community Shred Day!

Community Shred Day
Saturday, May 24th
9am - 12noon
Midwest Bank
50 N. Main Street
Mt. Prospect

There is no charge for this service and you can bring up to 100 pounds of paper. You simply drive up and unload right into the shredder.

The City of Chicago is also holding a Community Shred Day on Saturday, June 14th at the United Center. Again, it's free and you can find out all the relevant information at Chicago Shreds.

I checked to see if Arlington Heights was doing one (the senior center did last year), but they are not. What a shame. Given the rampant rise in identity theft, I would think every community would have a vested interest in helping its residents to protect themselves. It's truly a valuable community service.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

This Will Warm Your Heart

It's been a tough few weeks in Chicago. Gun violence is sky high. Second mortgages are required to fill up with a full tank of gas. Food prices are outrageous. Bad news surrounds us and sometimes it feels like we can't escape. I don't know about you, but just once I'd like to open my newspaper and see some good news as the Page 1 Headline. Just once.

This morning I got my wish thanks to the good people at the Sun-Times.

In from the cold -- and 2 lives are changed

WEST LOOP Effort by entrepreneur to help homeless man has stunning impact

May 4, 2008

Pete Kadens, a Chicago entrepreneur, and Troy McCullough, a homeless man, met, by chance, one chilly morning eight days ago.

Kadens had arrived early for a 6:45 a.m. conference in the West Loop. He was sitting in his warm car and noticed a man in a well-worn shirt and tie, outside the offices of StreetWise, the newspaper sold by homeless people.

It was McCullough, waiting for the doors to open at 7 a.m. so he'd be first to get his bundle of papers.

McCullough, 52, looked like "he had a mission," according to Kadens, who invited him in from the cold, to wait in his car.

They started talking. McCullough told Kadens how he'd come to live on the streets. He talked about his wife's death in 1996, about a major stroke he had two years later, and how he'd lost his laborer's job after that. He was in a nursing home a while but, with no long-term care insurance, ended up living in alleys, parks and churches.

He'd had some tough breaks, McCullough said, but he kept selling his papers six days a week, didn't drink or use drugs and always made it to church, not missing a Sunday in the last year.

Kadens listened. He ended up being late for the conference.

What struck him, he said, was, "that every one of us is only a few bad breaks from being like Troy."

Kadens wanted to help. But first he issued McCullough a challenge: Be here tomorrow morning, and I'll see what I can do.

The next day, a Sunday, McCullough was there at 6:45 that morning in suit and tie.

Kadens gave him $200. Then, he went home, set up a Web site -- -- and e-mailed about 50 friends and business associates. He asked them to help him raise $10,300 -- what he figured it would cost for a studio apartment, basic furnishings, groceries and medical care for McCullough for a year. If McCullough could bank at least 70 percent of his StreetWise sales, Kadens figured, he'd have $12,480 in a year, enough to cover a second year of expenses.

Maybe it was the way Kadens opened people's eyes with McCullough's story. Maybe it was the way McCullough didn't fit stereotypes about the homeless.

Whatever the reason, the response was overwhelming. In just a week, the Web site raised $15,000, plus $20,000 more in donated items and services. Word spread quickly. Donations came from 32 states, Mexico and Canada.

"It's been unbelievable," said Kadens, who's 30.

Now, he's working to roll the extra money into a not-for-profit fund to help another homeless person.

"I helped one person, but hopefully I challenged people to think a little bit differently about people who live on the street," Kadens said.

McCullough called Kadens "an angel that's sent from heaven.

"Someday," he said, "I'll be there for somebody else, too.

Obviously, there is no telling if this will really be the beginning of a new
life for McCullough, but doesn't it warm your heart that Kadens believes in
the genuine goodness of all people and was willing to take a chance? May we
all be more like Pete Kadens.

I Love Mowing the Lawn!

I know what you're thinking . . . "Ya, RIGHT, Jessica . . . I KNOW you and you HATE mowing the lawn. You get dirty and sweaty and there are sometimes bugs, which you can't stand." Well, in the past, you'd be right. And maybe later this summer when it's HOT and HUMID 24/7, I won't be so excited to mow the lawn. But today, I LOVED mowing the lawn.


I've been looking forward to getting outside and working in my yard. The last time Dave was in town, he made sure my mower was in tip-top shape and ready for our summer together.

A freshly mowed lawn smells good and looks great. If I do say so myself, I now have one of the best looking lawns on my street. Of course, I can only say that because less than half of my neighbors have mowed their lawns for the first time this Spring. My lawn looks great! It's full and lush with minimal weeds.

And it felt wonderful to be outside with my sunglasses on and iPod turned up loudly enough to almost drown out the sound of the lawnmower. The best part may have been my tacky-ass yard work outfit. It pisses off the prim and proper GOPers, which is why it's so great. You know, this being Arlington Heights, certain things are expected - like matching when doing yard work. I don't exactly subscribe to that philosophy. I just put my hair up, put on my grubbiest clothes (matching and clean is not a requirement here), cover my body in sunscreen and minus the daily make-up and I'm good to go. Hey, I mowed in straight lines today. What do they really expect?

Plus, I know Dave is going to be happy when he arrives tomorrow and sees that I mowed the lawn. And really, that's what it's all about. Making Dave proud.

Next up: Weeding the garden.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I'm Just Curious . . .

In light of the DC Madam's death yesterday (there is actually a LOT of speculation whether it was a suicide or just made to look like one), I'm curious about something . . .

What is the difference between a woman who marries a man for his money (aka gold digger) and a woman who gets paid for each time she has sex with a man (aka prostitute)?

There are millions of women who marry men far wealthier then they are and they are not ostracized to the dark alleys of society. But aren't they just trading one commodity for another?

Why is one legal and almost respected, while the other is nasty and disgusting and vile and illegal in the eyes of society?

I would argue that the prostitute is more honest and more honorable than the gold digger. The prostitute willingly acknowledges the transaction: sex in exchange for money. The gold digger, on the other hand, often pretends to be in love with her man and won't acknowledge she's also trading services for a certain lifestyle.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

8 Years Ago Today I Moved from Washington DC to Chicago

Eight years ago today, I inhaled the sweet smell of my magnolia bushes hoping to eternally trap their fragrance in my brain, locked the door to my favorite home for the last time, stood in my parking lot and sobbed. Betsey and Ross were safely secured in their carrying cases buckled into the backseat of my car. Dave was waiting to start the truck we'd rented to move the 7 years of stuff I'd acquired while living in DC. I was overwhelmed with greater sadness and exhaustion than I'd ever experienced before. And then we left. And I never looked back.

I had mono. And if I had it to do over again, I probably would never have moved to Chicago. The reasons I moved don't matter now, but when I made the decision, I was in no physical condition to make the life-altering decision to move across country. But I did it.

And while I might not have made the same decision if I'd had all my wits about me, after all that's happened over the last 8 years, I don't regret moving back to the Midwest.

The last 8 years have flown by. I've had opportunities here that I would never have had in DC. I have a life. My immediate family is as close as 3 hours away and my extended family is all over Chicago and the Midwest. I've worked on a statewide political campaign. I've grown much closer with my family and I get to spend most holidays with them. I've become much better friends with Tim, Christopher and Cheryl. I probably would hardly know Tony, except for what Tim writes in his emails. I've made remarkable friends I would have never known if I'd stayed in DC. I was just invited to be an associate member of the Lake Forest College Alumni Board. None of these things would have happened had I stayed in DC.

And my being here has allowed my mom to spend the majority of the last 6 years with Nana. I'm eternally grateful that my mom has had that gift. For as difficult as it has been, I know my mom treasures the time she's spent with Nana.

So, if for no other reason, I'm glad I moved to Chicago 8 years ago today so that my mom could spend this time with Nana.

It's Not Everyday an Infamous Madam Commits Suicide in my Hometown

My planned post for today keeps getting pushed back because of more pressing needs . . . At least this one relates to my planned post . . . well, kind of. You'll see later.

The infamous DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, was found dead of an apparent suicide earlier today in Tarpon Springs, Fla. More information here.

Tarpon Springs is a fairly sleepy town on the Gulf Coast of Florida, just outside of Tampa. My mom attended Tarpon Springs High School and Nana worked at Ellis National Bank (now Bank of America) in Tarpon Springs for 40 years. I have spent many summers and other vacation periods of my life there since we moved out of Florida. In fact, for the first year of my life, I lived in Crystal Beach, less than 5 miles from Tarpon Springs.

Tarpon Springs is also home to one of the largest Greek populations in the United States and is famous for its annual Epiphany Celebration.

Sadly, prostitution and escort services are not a rarity in Washington. I'm certain, although I've never known with any solid proof, that some friends of one of my girlfriends were escorts. What made me think that? They travelled the world with some Ambassadors working as flight attendants on their private planes and always returned from trips all over the world with huge sums of cash and jewelry they could never afford. I only met these women a handful of times, when I would go out with this particular friend, which I avoided if I knew they would be around.

My first experience with prostitution actually came in my first apartment building. Shortly after moving in, I discovered that my building was on the most popular corner in DC for picking up hookers! I pretty much looked down on these women until I was walking to work a mid-winter morning about 7:00am and seeing a prostitute standing on the corner clutching a cup of coffee. Her clothes were torn, she had a black eye, and looked to be my age - 22. Suddenly I felt bad for her and wondered what sort of horrible turn must her life have taken to turn to prostitution. I was sad for the rest of the day.

What does all this have to do with the post I'd originally planned? Come back later tonight and you'll find out.

Tag! I'm It! And in a minute, you'll be it too!

That incouragable Dr. Monkey tagged me tonight just as I was going to bed. Since I'm not really tired anyway, I guess I'll get this over with so I can write about what I want to write about later today . . .

Here's the rules:
A) The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
B) Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
C) At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1) Ten years ago I was: I was working for Hogan & Hartson in Washington DC and had just relocated to Baltimore for a month or so for my last trial as a litigation legal assistant. I can't tell you the client or the case name, but we defended a Fortune 100 company in a multi-million dollar case that we'd worked on non-stop for about 2 years. We we won. Of course, the attorneys I worked for never lost. Good ole American Way . . . Fortune 100 company squashes the little guy and destroys his dreams.

2) Five things on today's to do list: Since yesterday was almost a total loss thanks to a crazy migraine, I gotta get busy today . . . 1. See a couple of clients. 2. Grocery shop. (done!) 3. Pick up my car from the mechanic. 4. Exercise. 5. Write my previously planned blog post.

3) Things I do if I were a billionaire: Give $1million to each of my close friends and family. That should leave me about $990 million left to play with. Give $500 million to various charities including $50 million to Lake Forest College. (Special note to Tim: This is a fantasy here. I don't really have $50million to give to LFC now). Build an entirely eco-friendly house and vacation home. Travel. Buy season tickets to the Cubs (it takes about $1 million for that, right?).

4) Three bad habits: 1. Diet Coke. 2. Too impatient. 3. Driving too fast.

5) Five places I've lived: Washington DC, Alexandria VA, Arlington Heights IL, Ft. Myers FL, Lake Forest IL.

6) Five jobs I've had in my life: litigation legal assistant, salad wench, political fundraiser, Mary Kay Consultant, legal assistant manager

Okay, that wasn't so bad was it? Now I tag the following people: Gourmet Goddess, Balancing Boyfriends, Anthony's Chicken Tracks, and Boxer Rebellion. I know that's only 4, but I've never been one to follow ALL the rules.

If any of you folks don't do tags, then that's fine, no harm no foul, I'll still love you and read you anyway. Maybe.