Friday, February 27, 2009

It's Campaign Season AGAIN!

I know, you thought campaign season ended in November and we didn't have to think about voting again until at least 2010. Well, you're wrong.

It's LOCAL ELECTION season! Historically, local elections have embarrassingly low turnouts and I find this sad. The fact is that while the national elections are sexy, the local elections have the most impact on your day to day life. We're electing the mayor who controls the purse strings that get streets plowed in the winter and garbage collected all year long. Do you have kids or want to someday? Then you owe it to them to know who's on the school board. These are the people who determine how and what the next generation learns. That certainly shouldn't be left to just anyone. The quality of schools are a major factor in determining home sales. No one wants to live too far from their local school and no one wants to live in a crappy school district. So we simply must vote in the local elections.

To that end, I encourage you to get yourself educated on the candidates. You can do this by attending the upcoming forums. You'll see me there.

Note: The links below will take you to the candidates websites. If you know if other candidate websites, please let me know and I'll link to all of them.

Campaign Forum Season Arrives
by Sheila Ahern, Daily Herald, Feb. 27, 2009

The spring election is just a few short weeks away, and the best way to cram for April 7 is to swing by an Arlington Heights candidates forum. Here's a few:

• The Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce hosts two debates in March to discuss business issues. The two mayoral candidates - Philip Walter and incumbent Arlene Mulder - will debate on Tuesday, March 3, at the Metropolis theater. Trustee candidates will meet a week later, on Tuesday, March 10. They are incumbents Norm Breyer, Bert Rosenberg and Joe Farwell and political newcomers Tom Glasgow, Michael Sidor, Keith Moens, Tabitha Long and Barbara "Glennie" Browne.

On both nights, a reception will be held at 4 p.m. with the candidates taking the stage from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Metropolis is located at 111 W. Campbell St. downtown. The public is invited to both free forums.

• For serious government junkies, the League of Women Voters hosts a daylong forum Saturday, March 14, at the Arlington Heights Village Hall. Candidates running for Arlington Heights trustee and mayor, Northwest Suburban High School District 214 school board (LMS Note: The candidates are Miriam ("Mimi") Cooper-Spickard (incumbent), Lenore Gonzales Bragaw (incumbent & board president), James Perkins (incumbent), Leslie Pinney (incumbent and strong Christian Conservative who has attempted to ban books according to her Christian beliefs), and Mark Hineman), Arlington Heights Park District, Arlington Heights Memorial Library board (LMS Note: The candidates are Frank J. Biga III, Charles Drost, Kerry Pearson (incumbent), Deborah A. Nelson (incumbent), and Dawn E. Walter and you can learn about them all by clicking on the AHML link) and Wheeling Township should all be there.

The event is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. and end around 2 p.m. It will be broadcast on local cable later in the week.

• There will be a debate for Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 candidates at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 31, at Thomas Middle School, 1430 N. Belmont Ave (LMS Note: The candidates are Kenneth Nielsen (incumbent), David Page (incumbent), Denise Glasgow (incumbent), Michael King, Philip Crusius, and Steven Weseman).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Taxation AND Representation

When I first moved to Washington DC in May 1993, I remember being outraged about one thing. It was something I had long known, but had never affected me so I didn't spend much time thinking about.

But suddenly I had to face this thing head-on: Residents of the District of Columbia suffered from taxation without representation. Yes, they can vote in elections, but they do not have any voting representation in Congress. And Congress literally controls the purse strings of the District.

I feel strongly about voting. It's not a right or a privilege. It's an obligation. I've never missed an opportunity to visit a polling place and always voted by absentee ballot if I couldn't do it in person. Whenever I walk into the voting booth, I carry the hopes and dreams and burdens of people around the world who will never have a voice in their own lives. I think about that I'm only the 3rd generation of women in my family to vote, as are most of my friends. Nana was 4 when women were finally allowed to vote.

So living in the District became a political issue for me. Could I live within its boundaries even though voting rights were very new and the District had no voting representation in Congress?
D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights since 1801, when Congress took control of the newly created capital. It wasn't until 1964 that residents were able to cast presidential ballots, and it took nearly another decade for Congress to pass the Home Rule Act, allowing for the direct election of the mayor and other city officials.

Yet a full vote on Capitol Hill has been elusive. Although the district has elected a representative since the 1970s, that House delegate can only vote in committees.
But today that all began to change. The Senate passed a bill 61-37 that would give DC a full voting seat in the House of Representatives beginning in 2011. If it passes the House, as it's expected to do, President Obama has already indicated he will sign it. Of course, it will then have to withstand legal challenges on constitutional grounds.

Ultimately, after living in the District for almost 2 years, I decided to move to Virginia. I simply couldn't accept having no Congressional representation. In my opinion, this is a wonderful step forward for the District.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No more free lunches

The story below made my blood boil this morning. (The comments almost made my head explode, I can't begin to address the ignorance of the commenters and I won't include their comments because you can follow the story link and read them for yourself.) I understand that school districts are facing financial difficulties. Property values are down, so property taxes are down. Because most school districts are financed through property taxes, they're not getting the same amount of tax dollars. Of course, when schools don't have enough money, they must make cuts and that often means the quality suffers. When school quality suffers, people don't want to move into a neighborhood, depressing property values even more. It's a horrible cycle.

I also understand that schools can't simply be in the business of giving everyone free lunches all the time without reimbursement from somewhere. Sure there is the National School Lunch Program, but to get your child qualified for free or reduced lunches is incredibly difficult. In my own school district, a family of 4 cannot have an income of more than $755 per week. That's for a family of 4. That's not much money, especially in the Chicago area. Even if you do meet the income requirement, there is an application process. And you may not get an instant answer.

Dave and I were on the free lunch program for a year or so in junior high. I remember being worried that everyone knew. Every month, I had to go to the principal's office and ask for a new free lunch card that I used in the cafeteria. I dreaded those trips. They were humiliating. I worried that other kids in the office for other reasons would hear me ask for my free lunch card. But at least I was never singled out with cheese sandwiches. I always got to eat what my friends were eating. I felt ashamed and stressed about the situation as it was, but being further singled out would have put me over the edge. I've never forgotten those difficult times in my life and part of me is still ashamed. Heck, I can feel my anxiety rise now as I worry about what my friends who don't know about this will think when they read my blog.

It's never the fault of a child that he or she doesn't have lunch money repeatedly. Sure, every kid forgets his or her lunch money once in awhile, but the article below isn't talking about those kids. It's talking about kids who don't have the money because their parents don't pay the bill. I may be going out on a limb here, but their parents aren't paying because they don't have the money either.

There must be a better solution to the problem of parents not paying the school lunch tab than cheese sandwiches and humiliating children. When I was a member of the Arlington Heights Junior Woman's Club, I chaired a garage sale fundraiser we did and got to choose the charitable recipient. I spoke to the local high school district and learned that they had a number of kids in each school who weren't quite "poor enough" to qualify for the free lunch program, but couldn't afford lunches or who throughout the year had other financial emergencies and needed a little help with the cost of books or going on a field trip. I successfully lobbied our club to give the money we raised (approximately $1600) to the school district to help these kids who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

I'd encourage school districts to reach out to area churches, Lions Clubs, Rotary, Women's Clubs, etc. for some help in this area. There is simply no reason for a child to be additionally punished for being poor. Isn't just knowing your parents don't have any money punishment enough?

No more free lunches: Schools get tough on deadbeats
Associated Press, Daily Herald, February 25, 2009

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A cold cheese sandwich, fruit and a milk carton might not seem like much of a meal -- but that's what's on the menu for students in New Mexico's largest school district without their lunch money.

Faced with mounting unpaid lunch charges in the economic downturn, Albuquerque Public Schools last month instituted a "cheese sandwich policy," serving the alternative meals to children whose parents fail to pick up their lunch tab.

Such policies have become a necessity for schools seeking to keep budgets in the black while ensuring children don't go hungry. School districts including those in Chula Vista, Calif., Hillsborough County, Fla., and Lynnwood, Wash., have also taken to serving cheese sandwiches to lunch debtors.

Critics argue the cold meals are a form of punishment for children whose parents can't afford to pay.

"We've heard stories from moms coming in saying their child was pulled out of the lunch line and given a cheese sandwich," said Nancy Pope, director of the New Mexico Collaborative to End Hunger. "One woman said her daughter never wants to go back to school."

Some Albuquerque parents have tearfully pleaded with school board members to stop singling out their children because they're poor, while others have flooded talk radio shows thanking the district for imposing a policy that commands parental responsibility.

Second-grader Danessa Vigil said she will never eat sliced cheese again. She had to eat cheese sandwiches because her mother couldn't afford to give her lunch money while her application for free lunch was being processed.

"Every time I eat it, it makes me feel like I want to throw up," the 7-year-old said.

Her mother, Darlene Vigil, said there are days she can't spare lunch money for her two daughters.

"Some parents don't have even $1 sometimes," the 27-year-old single mother said. "If they do, it's for something else, like milk at home. There are some families that just don't have it and that's the reason they're not paying."

The School Nutrition Association recently surveyed nutrition directors from 38 states and found more than half of school districts have seen an increase in the number of students charging meals, while 79 percent saw an increase in the number of free lunches served over the last year.

In New Mexico, nearly 204,000 low-income students -- about three-fifths of public school students -- received free or reduced-price lunches at the beginning of the school year, according to the state Public Education Department.

"What you are seeing is families struggling and having a really hard time, and school districts are struggling as well," said Crystal FitzSimons of the national Food Research and Action Center.

In Albuquerque, unpaid lunch charges hovered around $55,000 in 2006. That jumped to $130,000 at the end of the 2007-08 school year. It was $140,000 through the first five months of this school year.

Charges were on pace to reach $300,000 by the end of the year. Mary Swift, director of Albuquerque's food and nutrition services, said her department had no way to absorb that debt as it had in the past.

"We can't use any federal lunch program money to pay what they call bad debt. It has to come out of the general budget and of course that takes it from some other department," Swift said.

With the new policy, the school district has collected just over $50,000 from parents since the beginning of the year. It also identified 2,000 students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, and more children in the lunch program means more federal dollars for the district.

School officials said the policy was under consideration for some time and parents were notified last fall. Families with unpaid charges are reminded with an automated phone call each night and notes are sent home with children once a week.

Swift added that the cheese sandwiches -- about 80 of the 46,000 meals the district serves daily -- can be considered a "courtesy meal," rather than an alternate meal.

Some districts, she noted, don't allow children without money to eat anything.

Albuquerque Public Schools "has historically gone above and beyond as far as treating children with dignity and respect and trying to do what's best with for the child and I think this is just another example," Swift said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

President Obama's First State of the Union

President Obama gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress tonight. Although we usually call this a State of the Union speech, tonight's wasn't because historically, presidents don't give a State of the Union just weeks after they are inaugurated.

The speech was simply masterful. It was inspiring, yet it also took us to task for the responsibility we each have for the mess we're in. He didn't simply blame the Republicans, which would have been the easy way out and certainly would have had quite a bit of truth to it. Five stars.

Watch the speech below or read the full text here. If you watch it below, click play and be prepared to sit in silence for the first 3 minutes. But you'll love it. We clearly have an adult in the White House.

After President Obama's speech, Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) gave the Republican Response. All I can say is that I'm simply confused. He actually invoked Hurricane Katrina as an example of GOP success. Really. I didn't recognize much of what he was talking about as beliefs of the Republican Party - energy independence, for example. If Jindal is the future of the GOP, then based on tonight's speech, I believe that the Democrats will be in power for many years to come.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Hosting the Oscars Naked Really Too Much To Ask?

Why would you tease us like that, Hugh?

The Oscars were 3 1/2 long hours. Despite what others may say, it was not original or funny. It was long and drawn out and often boring.

What would have made it less painful?

YOU, NAKED. Just like you promised.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rest in Peace Socks

Betsey and Ross are simply beside themselves tonight at the horrible news that their dear friend Socks passed away earlier today. Although they weren't related, Betsey and Ross felt they shared a special kinship with Socks because they all lived in Washington, DC simultaneously from 1996-2000.

Through their publicist (that's me), Betsey and Ross issue the following statement: "To President Clinton, Madame Secretary Clinton, Chelsea, and Ms. Currie, we send you our deepest sympathies and regrets. Being cats ourselves, we understand the love and devotion Socks felt for each of you. Socks was loyal and comforting to each of you during difficult times and playful and flirty during the happy times. He was a true member of the family, as all cats are. Obviously, nothing can take away the sadness you are feeling at this time, but know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Socks was a true American patriot and will be dearly missed."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pillow Fight!

I LOVE this! I love this because it proves that kids (of all ages) don't need fancy, expensive toys to have a great time. It's creative, fun, an excellent solution to cabin fever, and gets everyone outside for some (much needed) exercise.

When was the last time you had a pillow fight? I think it's high time I had one and may get motivated to organize my friends for one.

Thanks to my good friend who sent me the video. Don't worry, I'll invite you to the pillow fight!

FINALLY! Some Good News!

Stories like this truly warm my heart. It's no secret that times are tough and sometimes we forget that some people don't have enough money to feed their pets. Sure it's easy to say "well, just give Fido away" UNLESS you've ever had a beloved pet. I'm telling you right now that I'd personally go without a few meals a month before letting Betsey and Ross starve or giving them away. Pets are calming and soothing. They love us unconditionally. Ross gives massages when I have migraines (really). They are good company. Dogs give their owners good exercise when they have to be walked (the dogs have to be walked, not the owners).

After reading the story below, drop off a bag of dog or cat food at Pooch Pantry (part of B.C. Dog Training Club) in Mundelein.

Chicago, suburban pet owners look for place to turn when food runs out

The worsening economy means many animal owners can no longer afford the cost of food and care for their four-legged companions.

Tribune Staff Report, February 20, 2009

When his health-care consulting business dried up, George Olsen applied for the state's food stamp program, but didn't count on the difficulty in feeding Oliver and Gracie.

State aid doesn't cover food for his two golden retrievers, cherished family members for Olsen, of Vernon Hills.

After learning of his plight, dog trainer Cathie Sabin provided him with a 20-pound bag of dog food for free, and then was motivated to take it a step further by opening the Pooch Pantry in Mundelein.

"That animal in itself gives them comfort, gives them unconditional love," said Sabin, who hopes to keep her pantry stocked with dog and cat food, treats, used collars, and other supplies.

The food bank for pets, run out of Sabin's B.C. Dog Training Club, opened almost a month ago and is accepting dog and cat food donations, which it distributes at no cost to people suffering a financial crisis. With little publicity, she has handed out 12 to 15 bags of food every Saturday morning, mostly to senior citizens on fixed incomes, and expects the numbers to grow as word spreads.

Woodland Primary School in Gurnee has started collecting pet food to donate to the pantry.

There are several pet food pantries in Chicago, including a "foreclosure program" at PAWS, which has doled out 2,100 pounds of cat food and 2,240 pounds of dog food to needy families since September, a spokeswoman said. PAWS also offers foster care, pet food and emergency medical care and has about 40 people on its current recipient list.

Sabin believes her Pooch Pantry to be among the first in Lake County—reflecting a growing need during the economic downturn.

Nationally, animal shelters have reported rising numbers of people who are giving up their pets, skipping veterinarian visits and buying cheaper pet food. The evidence is largely anecdotal, but there's no doubt among advocates in the field.

"I think we are going to see more of these kinds of things if the economy doesn't turn around," said Steve Dale, a nationally syndicated pet care journalist.

Pet pantries have become a necessity in some areas, Dale said. "People are just opening their doors, letting [pets] out, or in some cases leaving them in foreclosed homes," Dale said.

Other owners, he said, are trimming their budgets and agonizing over how to keep their pets.

At Save-A-Pet in Grayslake, executive director Frank Corbi said he has seen about a 20 percent increase since last year in people relinquishing their cats or dogs.

Corbi described a man who had to return a pet because "he was literally living out of his truck."

Afterward, "he went outside and actually fell on his knees and cried," Corbi said. "I will never forget that."

At PAWS Chicago, the pet food bank is available only by appointment, said spokeswoman Susan Robinson. Most who need help are in foreclosure or unemployed, and their stories are heartbreaking, she said.

"We have had a couple of people whose animals have had a medical crisis," she said. "Now they can't afford" to feed them.

The hope, she said, is to try to help people for three to six months, with the understanding that they are trying to get back on their feet.

Sabin delivers a similar message. On a recent weekend, she explained to several people who dropped by her Mundelein pantry for food that she would do her best to help, but added a caveat.

Sabin also runs a non-profit dog rescue education group, and she talks to each pet food donor about the organization's mission and goals, allowing contributions to be tax-deductible.

Mary York, 57, of Round Lake Park, stopped by the Pooch Pantry to pick up some dog and cat food. She lives alone, if you don't count her Dalmatian mix, Oreo, 10; a beagle mix, Barley, 8; and a 9-year-old cat named Morris.

York, who is on a fixed income and has health problems, also has been trying to find a home for two strays a neighbor left with her.

"I have a full house," she said with a sigh. "They're my family. They are alarm clocks and everything else."

Another visitor to the pantry was Linda Plier of Waukegan, who donated food.

"People shouldn't be without their best friends," said Plier, who no longer has a pet of her own but appreciates their companionship. "I am lucky enough to still have a job."

Before he was referred to Sabin, Olsen, 60, said he was surprised to find so little help available for struggling pet owners in the suburbs. He figured he called 20 places as he tries to get his family through a tight spot after his consulting business soured.

"The thing that was disappointing and irritating to me is that when I called a few of the pet stores . . . their response was, 'No we don't do that. Maybe you should consider giving your pet up.' "

That would be a last resort, said Olsen, who hopes he can reciprocate the kindness shown him and help other pet owners.

"This is such an important piece of people's lives," he said.

Where to find pet food assistance

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - Accountability, What A Novel Concept

President Obama promised us complete transparency during the campaign. And after 8 years of Bush & Co., transparency and accountability and openness feel like a new and novel concepts. It's refreshing to be talked to like we're adults rather than as though we are 5 years old and some ideas are just too big and scary for us.

So let's all hold them accountable. Bookmark and track how the Stimulus Package money is being spent. Keep our elected officials, both local and national, on their toes. They owe us complete transparency. We deserve it after all we've been through. - Your Money at Work

Bacon Flowchart

A good friend sent me this Bacon Flowchart. And I thought you'd enjoy it. Isn't this how you think when you're hungry? To truly appreciate the flowchart, click on the picture to view it in its full size.

And while we're singing the praises of bacon, you'll probably want to try these Bacon Mac & Cheese Cups.

iPhone, Therefore I Get Off

Ladies, do you ever find yourself with an "itch" when you're out and about, but don't have your Rabbit with you?

Apple and iPhone have come to your rescue! Just whip out your iPhone, download the new "Touch Me Less" application for free at the iTunes store and voila! Your Rabbit is now unemployed!

According to iTunes:
Explore the potential of your iPhone and take pleasure to a new level! Touch Me gives you the ability to harness the power of your iPhone to provide yourself or your partner with a fantastic soothing experience.

This "Less" version with two separate controls. If you are looking for more controls and custom Presets, you might want to consider our full blown version "Touch Me" ($0.99).

Monday, February 16, 2009

Back on My Soapbox: Help Your Local Food Pantries!

Do you feel like I rant about this topic endlessly? Well I do carry on about it quite a bit. But one of my core beliefs is that we are obligated to help those less fortunate than us and it's unconscionable to me that so many people in our society go hungry every day.

It's simply not that difficult or expensive to donate extra food to local food pantries. And food donations have an incredible immediate impact in ways that other donations don't. We must have food to live. Children must have proper nutrition to grow up healthy. Going to school on an empty stomach has been shown to cause kids to have trouble with concentration, etc.

I don't know anyone who is unaffected by the current economic situation and you may be thinking that you simply don't have any extra money to buy a bunch of food for others. I beg to differ. Grocery stores are constantly offering buy one, get one free specials. Every weekend when I review the coupon inserts, I often find coupons for free items. Rather than toss out the coupons you won't use, why not use them to buy items for the food pantry? Buy one or two extra items each week and in no time you'll have a bag of food to drop-off at your local pantry. Clean out your own pantry. Do you have items you bought and haven't eaten, but are not expired yet (food pantries don't take expired food)? I'm sure you do. We all do. Pack them up.

In addition to donations being down and demand being up because of the current economic crisis, food pantries also have another blow against them: the peanut recall. Think about it. A staple in many homes is peanut butter. But because of the peanut recall, food pantries are forced to toss out otherwise perfectly good food in order to avoid sickening any of their clients.

The bottom line is food pantries desperately need our help. Will you join me in easing their burden?

Friday, February 13, 2009

"If You've Never Seen CJ Do the Jackal, Then You've Never Seen Shakespeare the Way It Was Meant to Be Done"

In case you don't know, I LOVE The West Wing. And by love, I mean, I fully believe that it is the best show ever on television - past, present, or future. It is well-written, witty, intelligent, and it speaks to our better selves. Plus, the characters are rich and represent all the folks I hope are always running our country and Bradley Whitford's portrayal of Josh Lyman is over-the-top the sexiest man in the entire world.

One of my favorite scenes from Season 1 is when Press Secretary C.J. Cregg does The Jackal. The title of this post is a line said by Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) to Mallory McGarry (Leo's daughter). This is brilliant.

I miss The West Wing, but am comforted by the fact that we now have grown-ups running the country.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What Business is Fully Erect During the Recession?

That's right . . . condom makers!

Recession seems to put people in the mood for condoms
By Charisse Jones, USA Today

With a crippled economy forcing millions of cash-strapped Americans to entertain themselves at home, it's not surprising that one particular product is seeing a sales increase — condoms.

While car purchases plummeted and designer clothes mostly stayed on the racks, sales of condoms in the U.S. rose 5% in the fourth quarter of 2008, and 6% in January vs. the same time periods the previous year, The Nielsen Co. reports.

The sales bump squares solidly with one of the nation's most common trends during any recession: nesting. At the same time, condoms make for a relatively inexpensive form of birth control at a time many cash-strapped families are hesitant to grow.

"If people don't have the money to go out to a fancy dinner or are looking to cut back, Trojan gives them some real affordable ways to stay in and make some great memories together," says Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing for Trojan, the nation's No. 1 condom maker.

Contraception may also be more popular during a time when families are stretching dollars and want to avoid having more mouths to feed. "Obviously people in general want to avoid … unintended pregnancies," Daniels says. "But in a down economy those costs are even more burdensome to bear."

Pam Piligian of Fitzgerald+CO, the ad agency for Durex condoms, says that condoms are "recession resistant."

Still, condom sales increased at a slower rate in 2008, going up 2.3% over the previous year, compared with a 5.5% increase just three years ago, according to research firm Information Resources. Marketers say they are aware of the need to continue reminding consumers that condoms are an inexpensive and healthy way to have fun.

Piligian says that in a nod to the poor economy, Durex placed coupons last weekend in newspapers and is making more coupon offers on its website,

Carol Carrozza, vice president of marketing for Ansell Healthcare, maker of LifeStyles condoms, says that her company may incorporate the idea of nesting into future campaigns, along with a focus on new products.

"We're mulling both … and trying to determine what kind of products and marketing strategies we can come out with that will help people during these recessionary times," she says.

Trojan says the message that it's good to cocoon is already part of its promotions, and it will spend more on advertising this year than last as it launches a multimedia campaign to promote two new products.

Trojan 2Go, a thin plastic case with a condom inside, hits store shelves this month while a new condom, Trojan Ecstasy, is scheduled for sale in the spring.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

48 Questions

I swear I will not do these things anymore. Between the 25 Random Things About Me that I did three times (here, here, and here) and now this, you have almost 125 tidbits of knowledge about me. And some of you (and you know who you are . . . hint, hint, hint) haven't yet done the 25 Random Things yet.

I'm doing this because my friend Fran of FranIAm blogging fame tagged me on Facebook. I love her and you should too. She writes a thoughtful, insightful blog that always makes me think. And she's witty too.

48 Questions

Here are the rules - post this list on your profile (in Notes) replacing my answers with yours.

Tag 25 people to do the same thing.

If I tagged YOU, it's because I want to know more about YOU!

Jessica Lynn - Jessica for my maternal grandfather, Jesse Paulk, who died on my mom's 13th birthday. Lynn for my mom's best friend and roommate at college, Lynn Meng.

Yesterday. Why is it that every time I get asked this question in one of these, I've recently cried. I'm not normally that tear prone.


I like smoked turkey and roast beef. My favorite sandwich is turkey and havarti.

Yes I do.


Does oatmeal count? I also love grits. If I had to choose a cold cereal, I'm partial to things like Fiber One. Yes, really.

If they're laced. Otherwise, it's difficult.


Their eyes.


I'm taking the 5th.

My paternal grandfather. Politics and baseball aren't the same without him.

It does not matter to me. I can’t believe I am doing it!

I'm barefoot and still in blue pajama pants.

CNN, but I'm barely even listening.

Happily Ever After (aka Turquoise Blue)

Lavender, Vanilla, Roses, Tulips

Someone who dialed the wrong number






I love Thai food. Caramels from Lake Forest Food & Wine. Homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Thanksgiving dinner. Shrimp. Lobster.

Happy Endings

Slumdog Millionaire



Preferably both, but it depends on the other person involved.

I don't care

Not sure

The Secret Life of Bees

I use the touch pad on my laptop, mouse free!

The 700 Club. I fell asleep with the tv on and woke up to it. I had nightmares the rest of the night. Why is porn banned, but this stuff is allowed to frighten little kids (and me)?

Betsey and Ross purring. The waves crashing on the beach. Thunderstorms, but not ice falling off my roof.

Rolling Stones



Tampa, FL

One and all!

I'm single. No significant other.

Some questions are better left unasked.

HEY! If you like to do these things, consider yourself tagged. If you don't, then don't.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Windy City Temperature Conversion Chart

I freely admit I stole this from my college friend Steve over on Facebook. I don't know if he personally wrote it or if he got it somewhere else, but it doesn't matter. It's hysterical because it's true.

The Windy City Temperature Conversion Chart

60° F: Arizonians shiver uncontrollably; people in Chicago are still sunbathing. Especially today, when we may shattering a 133-year old record!

50° F: Californians try to turn on the heat; people in Chicago plant gardens.

40° F: Italian sports cars won't start; people in Chicago drive with the windows down.

32° F: Distilled water freezes; Lake Michigan water gets thicker.

20° F: Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves and wool hats; people in Chicago throw on a light jacket.

15° F: People in Chicago have the last cookout before it gets cold.

0° F: All the people in Phoenix die. Chicagoans close the windows.

10° below zero: Californians fly away to Mexico . The Girl Scouts in Chicago are selling cookies door to door.

25° below zero: Hollywood disintegrates; people in Chicago get out their winter coats.

40° below zero: Washington, D.C. runs out of hot air; people in Chicago let the dogs sleep indoors.

100° below zero: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole; Chicagoans get frustrated because they can't start "da car."

460° below zero: All atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale); people in Chicago start saying, "Cold 'nuff for ya?"

500° below zero: Hell freezes over; the Cubs win the World Series

It's A New Day!

Today is a significant day.

First, it's the 3 week anniversary of the end of our long national nightmare known as the Bush Administration. That's right. As of today, President Barack Obama has been the Commander in Chief for 21 days. In that time, he's done some amazing things for women. First, he repealed the Global Gag Rule which prevented nongovernmental organizations around the world that accepted aid from the US from discussing birth control options with women. Second, the first bill he signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Seriously. "That one" has done more for women in the last 21 days than our former Idiot in Chief did in 8 years. On behalf of women all over the world, thank you Mr. President. Of course, I'd be happier if the women's health provisions hadn't been stripped from the Stimulus Package, but I'm going to focus on what's good right this minute.

Second, today is also the 2 year anniversary of the date on which President Barack Obama announced his campaign for President of the United States. I remember watching his speech on CNN (CNN and CSPAN are my porn, in case you didn't know) and crying. Yes, I do a lot of crying where Barack Obama is concerned. I already knew what many folks were just beginning to learn: Barack Obama is the real deal.

In case you've forgotten, here's the speech that launched it all on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

Watch President Obama sign the Ledbetter Act:

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Thank W Because . . . ???

Have you seen the website I Thank W?

The gist of it is that evidently there are folks who think W was a good president and are grateful for the 8 years he stole from us. When they visit the site, they are encouraged to complete the sentence "I thank W because . . . "

So you don't have to burn your retinas by visiting the site, here are some actual testimonials. I swear these are real. I couldn't put these words together to save my life.
Mark in Bronxville says "I thank W because he steered us through the dangerous world following the events of September 11, 2001. He kept his promise of keeping us safe. He was a good man who restored respect to the Oval Office. His heart reached across the world and sought to bring freedom to all. He was the real deal. A good man. He was not guided by being the most popular person, but instead was guided by doing what he felt was really right. Thank you President Bush for 8 years of solid leadership."

Diedre Himel of Kingwood, TX writes "I thank W because . . . Bush is a great moral leader, a true father of our country in the same honored tradition as our great forefathers, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln."

Beckye Estill of Cedar Park hails "I thank W because... he stood firmly against terrorists and worked to keep America safe. We have had no attacks on American soil since 9-11 due to his vigilance. He has stood firmly in protecting life from conception to natural death. He has stood firmly for faith and freedom. His strong moral stance has helped hold the tide of moral degeneration in our nation. He has stood firmly for marriage between one man and one woman. His work to provide help for those with AIDS will go down as one of the major achievements of his administration. He and Laura have been great examples for our nation, and I'm grateful God placed him in the position of leadership on our behalf. God bless you and your family. I look forward to seeing the good plans God has in store for you in the future."
The best part? All of these "testimonials" will be collected in a book and presented to Chimpy on January 20, 2010! Yes, really.

A (formerly good) friend of mine inadvertently alerted me to it this afternoon and I'm certain I will never be the same. In fact, I can feel the brain matter inside my head has diminished after reading just a couple of posts over there. I should have simply stuck forks in my eyes. It would have been more pleasurable than reading that drivel.

Brad's At It Again!

Have you ever wanted to be part of a New York Times Best Selling Author's next novel? Well, you're in luck! New York Times Best Selling Author Brad Meltzer is looking to cast your life in his next novel!

As you'll recall, Brad featured parts of my life in his last novel, The Book of Lies. And it started just this way. I'll be honest with you, when I answered Brad's email, I didn't have any idea he would find anything interesting in the stories I told him. And I was nervous. What I shared with him, I really hadn't shared before. But he took good care of deep secrets and I know he'll take care of your story too.

So take a deep breath and write Brad an email. It could be the best thing you ever do! And you could be immortalized in his next novel!

Be in the New Novel

Yes, it’s that treasured time again: when I offer to cast your life in a book, in the hopes that you’ll share something private, real, and most important, honest about your personal life for the benefit of this imaginary character I’m working on. In the past, some of the best details for characters have come from friends and readers, so before we go forward, let’s go through the usual disclaimer: if you reply to this (whether you post or send me a private message), I actually may use it in a book, so you waive your rights to sue me, hate me, or give me Indian burns. In fact, at least three readers/friends from this blog were in the last book (see the Acknowledgments, though a few more asked their names withheld).

Now onto the personal question:

Are you (or have you ever known) someone who grew up with an absent parent -- or more specifically -- without knowing who one of your parents was? (could be by death, abandonment, divorce or because they left or you never knew who they were) If so, how did it affect your life? (And I mean that specifically. Not just, “It made me insecure, or strong, or whatever.” How did that insecurity or strength actually manifest?) As always, personal examples (incidents/dreams/fears/stories) are always best. And if you want to send something private, please send to bradmeltzer27 [AT] gmail [dot] com. And again, thanks for the honesty -- that’s easily the most vital and appreciated part.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gratitude List - February 8th Edition

It's been a little while since I've stopped and taken stock of all that I'm grateful for in my life. This list isn't meant to be all inclusive. I have far more blessings in my life than I could possibly list here. But hopefully it represents what I'm most grateful for today.

1. I'm grateful to wake up this morning in a house full of my family. My mom and Dave are both in town and I loved waking up to the smell of Dave making coffee and oatmeal (even though he didn't make enough for me) and the sounds of their feet walking around the house. I haven't seen my mom in over a year and it's been almost 6 months since I've seen Dave.

2. I'm grateful for the reminder that Spring is on its way. I know that we'll have more snow. I'm not really in denial about this. But seeing the sun and the ground, even though it's muddy and icky, feels hopeful. Walking outside yesterday without a coat and in thongs (aka flip flops) was liberating.

3. I'm grateful for the manicure and pedicure I received yesterday thanks to the generosity of Gourmet Goddess. Back in November, I posted a list of gifts my readers should feel free to send me for Christmas. Gourmet Goddess happened to have a gift certificate for a mani/pedi she wasn't going to use and she selflessly sent it my way. My pretty toes and soft feet are ever so grateful, GG! (Note: If you didn't send me anything for Christmas and are feeling guilty about it, Valentine's Day is less than a week away and I'm still accepting gifts. Wait, I ALWAYS accept gifts. Just refer back to the list I wrote in November.)

4. I'm grateful that adults are running the country again. I can't say that I agree with 100% of all the decisions President Obama has made in the last 3 weeks, but I can say that I believe that the decisions he's making he's truly making in the best interests of the country, rather than his fat cat oil buddies. Oh, wait, he doesn't have fat cat oil buddies. WAHOO!!!

5. I'm grateful for my friends. We all seem to be going through some changes right now, some minor and some major, but we're all looking out for each other. That's a really good feeling.

6. I'm grateful for the clean sheets on my bed last night. Clean sheets always make me happy. It's a little thing, but significant at the same time.

7. I'm grateful for my business. Sure, I may be working a bit harder right now, but I have 100% control over my future. These days, that's priceless.

8. I'm grateful for the people in my life who believe in me and push me even when I'm not so sure. Most of what I've accomplished in the past year I owe to their beliefs and encouragement.

Certainly that's not all I'm grateful for. But it's a start for today.

What are you grateful for?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Bike Ride that Pleases Everyone

From the Chicago Tribune. Only problem? Delivery only in Chicago.

The Kinky Llama delivers sex toys, products in a jiff

—John Keilman, February 3, 2009

Inspiration can strike at odd times. Anthony Mikrut got the idea for his business about 3 o'clock one morning, when he and a girlfriend were in search of some ... uh ... products to enhance their ... er ... special evening.

"We figured you can get pizza any time of night," he said. "Why can't you get [sex] toys?"

Thus was born The Kinky Llama, a purveyor of adult goods that promises one-hour delivery—by bicycle, no less — to most places in Chicago. Mikrut, 33, said the company has been around for 21/2 years and that, despite the recession, he's busier than ever.

"I think people like to have a little fun when they're not having the best time in the market," he said.

His West Town home office holds about 1,500 items, from videos to marital aids to specially designed furniture, and he tosses his wares into a bag or bike trailer when it's time for a delivery. So far, he said, all of his rush orders have come at night or in the early morning — and almost all have come from women.

That surprised him; he figured men would be the ones driven by a certain urgency. But one of his customers, Alexandra Blom, said women's desire for quick service could stem from shopping habits as much as libido.

"Men might be more thought-out about it," said Blom, 28, a North Side artist. "I usually buy something in the moment of wanting it."

Mikrut said his ultimate goal is to open a classy adult boutique. In the meantime, he's just glad to be in a business that can truly claim to have satisfied customers.

"Everyone I [talk to], they're always happy," he said. "That's my favorite part."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Random Stuff About Me. Are You Bored Yet? That's Rhetorical.

I guess we now can say definitively that yes, in fact, I do bow to peer pressure. Thanks Miss Alex of Fonzie Sox and Dr. Monkey!

This will be the third time I've done this and we're beginning to get to the truly obscure and bizarre and possibly embarrassing things about me. Seriously, this must stop. I'm not doing this again. Well, at least until CERTAIN friends of mine do it for the first time . . . and you know who you are!

1. Right before Christmas, when I was in the 2nd grade, my two front teeth were fairly loose. That winter was especially harsh and during recess, a boy named Blake decided a bunch of people should play "kissing tag." I wanted nothing to do with it because I couldn't stand him, so I started to walk away, but he took that as a sign that I'd already started the game. He came after me, tackled me into a huge pile of frozen snow and knocked out my two front teeth. I spent the afternoon with paper towels shoved in my toothless mouth and he didn't get into any trouble.

2. In 1992 and 1998, I spent my birthday in Grant Park celebrating the Bulls Championships with just a few million of my closest friends.

3. Former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and I share a birthday.

4. I've always wanted a sister, but my brother Dave has grown on me over the last 34 years.

5. I miss my best friend, even though the truth is my life is better without her.

6. My first apartment in DC was in the middle of hookerville (my nickname for it), but I could lay in bed at night and have an unimpeded view of the Capitol Dome. It was the only thing I loved about that apartment.

7. I have a crazy family that sometimes embarrasses me. But I'm never embarrassed by any of my relatives I'm connected to on Facebook. Really. That's NOT sarcasm. If you embarrassed me, I wouldn't let you be my Facebook Friend.

8. One of my life goals is to be published.

9. My dad used to tell everyone I was going to be the first woman President.

10. I was named for my maternal grandfather (whom I've never met because he died on my mom's 13th birthday), Jesse Paulk, and my mom's best friend from college, Lynn Meng. I'm Jessica Lynn, but only my mom can call me that.

11. In her gut, she was so certain I was a girl, my mom never even had a boy's name picked out for me. I was Jessica Lynn from the moment she found out she was pregnant with me.

12. When my paternal grandfather was dying, I went to Florida to say good-bye. It was a very emotional trip for me because he'd been an important part of my life. He couldn't talk, but could at least understand what we were saying to a degree. The night before I was scheduled to fly back to DC, I left my hotel room to go for a walk. After about an hour, my dad came looking for me, and found me in my grandfather's room in the nursing home. I was just sitting and talking to him, through many tears, and didn't want to leave. My dad led me out of the room and as we got to the door of his room, I turned around and said "good-bye Grandpa." I have no idea how, but he somehow said "bye Jess." The only two words he'd said for ages. I could barely walk back to the hotel because I was such a wreck. Two days later, Grandpa died and those words will stick with me forever.

13. I never wanted to do anything except be an attorney. I'm not a lawyer, but I have no regrets.

14. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm always really proud when I manage to fix something around my house myself.

15. Whenever I hear U2, I think of my friend Steve, the Illinois Citizenship Experience, and that summer.

16. I didn't get braces until college and I slept with a retainer until I was almost 30. It was the most uncool thing ever and I eventually stopped wearing it, but then my teeth moved. My orthodontist had the last laugh when he put something on my teeth to keep them permanently in place, essentially braces (that's how it feels) but on the back of my teeth.

17. The dirtiest joke I ever heard came from my maternal grandmother. It had a minister in it and she didn't get how truly dirty it was. She just thought it was funny and would routinely tell it at completely inappropriate family functions (think funerals, anniversary parties, Christmas). She is this very prim and proper woman and devout Christian and it baffles my mind to think about where she happened to hear this vile joke. Don't ask me to tell you the joke. I won't.

18. My favorite song is Southern Cross and I prefer the Jimmy Buffett cover to the original.

19. I cry every time I see Serendipity. Don't judge me, you cry at cheezy movies too.

20. Casablanca and It's A Wonderful Life also make me cry and are two of my favorite movies ever. They just don't make movies like these anymore.

21. When I was 13, I played the Virgin Mary in the Christmas Eve play at church. My mother has the pictorial evidence.

22. I wasn't ever the smartest kid, just the most determined.

23. If The West Wing is on TV, don't expect me to do anything else. Ever. I've been known to have a "sick day" if Bravo is having a marathon.

24. I've never been to New York City, except for two one-day business trips.

25. On January 1, 19889, I appeared in part of a segment on the Today Show as part of the Marriage and Family class at my high school. And I'm holding the 10 pound sack of cat litter, my "husband" and I had to dress up to look like a boy. We got the 10 lb sack of cat litter rather than the 5 lb pound of flour that everyone else got because he was a pretty big guy, at least that's what our teachers said.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Reason, Season, & Lifetime Friends - A Re-Post

I originally wrote and published this post on February 12, 2008, but a year later, it remains the top post in popularity. When I review my blog statistics to see what brings people to Little Merry Sunshine, the top search is always "reason, season, and lifetime friends."

As we approach Valentine's Day, a day to celebrate love, I'm reminded of the love I have for all of my friends. Over the last 12 months, I've been blessed with some wonderful friends returning to my life - some after a 15+ year absence - and we've picked right back up and it's been like no time has been lost. In fact, we're closer now than we ever were.

And, it's for them, that I re-post what I wrote a year ago . . .

I have always believed there are three types of friends: Reason, Season, and Lifetime. None of them is bad. In fact, they are all equally important.

Reason Friends come into my life for a specific reason - to help me grow, to help me learn a lesson, etc. Once the reason is over, the friendship comes to its natural end. Sometimes work friends fall into this category. We may become very close to Reason Friends and share many intimate details from our lives, but they are still Reason Friends. I usually mourn their departure, but sometimes it's so gradual neither of us notices until it's too late. I also usually hope that our paths cross again.

Season Friends are in my life for a period of time. Some of my friends from college fall into this category. They were there for those 4 years, but after that Season in our lives was over, we went our separate ways. I always mourn when these friendships end because it means a significant time in my life is over, but it is also a time of exciting opportunity. Like Reason Friends, I hope my life path will cross again with my Season Friends.

Lifetime Friends, however, are my touchstones, my lifeblood. Without them, my life is empty. They are there through the thick and thin, exuberance, and sorrow. No matter what happens in our lives, our friendship remains. Sometimes we aren’t as close as others, but we always come back together. The thing about Lifetime Friends is that we can be apart for a decade or more, but when we finally come back together, it's like time has stood still and we pick up right where we left off. Being a Lifetime Friend has nothing to do with when the friendship began. It could be a 40 year old friendship or a 4 week old friendship.

Please don't misunderstand me. I don't treat any of my friends differently. Most of the time, I don't even consciously know which category they fall into.

Because February is the season of Love (and not just the romantic kind), it reminds me to tell my friends how much I love them. I know I don't say it often enough. But I do really and truly love each of my friends. So this Valentine's Day, I'm sending big hugs and kisses your way.