Sunday, August 30, 2009

Favorite Cheap Dates

Yesterday, the Tribune ran an interesting article about dating on the cheap without appearing cheap. As a single woman this intrigued me.

Sure, I enjoy over-the-top romantic Bachelorette-type dates, but that's not realistic. In my opinion, the best dates are the simpler ones that don't cost a bunch of money. I'm happy as can be with a creative date where we can laugh and have fun any time.

The Trib had 10 general recommendations:

1. Cook dinner at home;
2. Watch movies at home;
3. Pack a picnic, stargaze (I have a terrific telescope!), fishing at midnight, fly a kite, or take a walking tour;
4. Hang out at the library (I recommend the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. They have many free programs.);
5. Volunteer to babysit a friend's kids;
6. Volunteer in the community;
7. Exercise;
8. Attend free days at a local museum;
9. Attend a local high school or college football game (I recommend John Hersey High School and Lake Forest College, my alma maters.); and
10. Go out for dessert.

Those are good ideas, but I have my own:

1. Mini-golfing;
2. Visit an historic state park;
3. Watch the sunset with a bottle of wine or the sunrise with a thermos of hot chocolate;
4. Concerts in the park (many towns have free concerts);
5. Local movie nights in the park;
6. Lawn seats at Ravinia can be very cheap and pack a picnic;
7. Attend a local festival;
8. Ice skating at Millennium Park (or anything at Millennium Park);
9. Zoolights;
10. Check out the holiday lights on State Street;
11. Attend a parade;
12. Game night at home (Parcheesi and Candy Land are personal faves); and
13. Take a frisbie and a picnic to Lake Michigan.

What are your favorites?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy, 1923-2009

This summer just keeps getting sadder.

Just two weeks after the death of his sister and the founder of Special Olympics, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Lion of the Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away. (Senate website here)

I don't even have words to describe the full impact that Senator Kennedy's life has had and will continue to have for generations to come. Millions of people live better lives today because Senator Kennedy gave selflessly for decades. Voting rights; Civil rights; Education; Pell Grants; SCHIP; Medicare; and so much more.

Here are what I consider to be Senator Kennedy's two greatest speeches:

First, "The Dream Will Never Die" speech delivered to the 1980 Democratic Convention where Senator Kennedy lost to President Jimmy Carter.

Second, Senator Kennedy's speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver nominating Barack Obama for President.

Read President Obama's statement here.

Click here for the Time Magazine Photo Essay.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crystal Beach Community Church & Me

On Sunday, Mom and I went to church at Crystal Beach Community Church. I don't attend church often and have many conflicts over what I believe religiously. For this reason, I haven't been a member of any church since I was in high school and had been confirmed at the First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.

That said, I hate missing an opportunity to attend services at Crystal Beach Community Church. It just feels like home to me.

When I sit within its walls, I can feel the weight of the history of the church and my family.

My step-grandfather, Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier was the founding minister and the first member.

My late Nana was the second member, taught Sunday School, and was the church secretary and treasurer. Nana also helped found the first CBCC Youth Fellowship, which met on Sunday nights for Bible Study at the church and every Saturday night down at former Seaside Hall for recreation and Christian fellowship. Obviously, Nana's Celebration of Life service was held at CBCC last month.

At Nana's Celebration of Life Service last month, a dozen people came up to me with the same story. "I'm a member of this church because of how your Nana greeted me and my husband 20 years ago when we first walked through the door. She invited us to sit with her and made us feel like we'd always been members." Wow. What a legacy. She will certainly live on for years and years. I felt her beside me on Sunday and as we sang her favorite hymn, "What A Friend We Have in Jesus," coincidentally one of the three hymns we sang.

Before he died in 1961, my grandfather, Jesse Paulk, also a member, taught Adult Sunday School, and sang in the choir. When he died in 1961, Nana brought all the money to the church that was donated to the family, saying "Jesse had been wanting us to start a Pew Fund so that we would have pews instead of the wooden folding Army chairs to sit on. Here is the money to buy the first pew." From that beginning, the church raised enough money to buy pews for the entire church and both choir lofts. Plus, there was enough money left over to have the church walls & concrete floor re-painted, as well as to build the current alter and lecterns, communion table and the tall wooden candle holders, all of which were designed by my step-grandfather and founding pastor, Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier.

My mom sang in the choir, attended Sunday School and the Youth Fellowship Group, and was even married at CBCC to my dad in 1970 by Rev. Bredemeier.

I was baptized at CBCC by my step-grandfather Rev. Bredemeier on September 12, 1971, my mom's birthday, the anniversary of my grandfather's death, and just weeks after Rev. Bredemeier and Nana were married in the church . When I was a kid, I used to go over to the church and sit with the woman who was responsible for the chimes being played every night at 5:45 and could be heard all up and down the beach. Each night, she'd let me play the organ and let me believe that my playing was being heard throughout Crystal Beach, What I only learned last month is that the chimes had been automated since long before my days of playing them, so only the organist and I heard my "music."

No matter where I go, what I do, or even what my current internal struggle with religion, CBCC always feels like home and when I'm in Crystal Beach I have to go to church.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chivalry Is Dead

Mom, our friend Chris, and I went out for seafood after church today. I drove us all to Tarpon Springs in my 2009 Pontiac G-6 rental car.

As we walked out of the restaurant, Mom asked if I could open the doors with the keyless remote, but the car didn't come with that wonderful feature. So I walked over to the passenger door to unlock it and let her in only to discover that there was no keyhole. I checked both back doors and neither of them had keyholes either. Finally, I opened my door and hit the button on the inside of the door to open the other doors. Mom and Chris let themselves into the car.

Driving back to Crystal Beach, Mom and Chris were commenting on how surprising it was that the only way into the car was through the driver's door. I listened to them for a moment and then piped in saying, "Well, I guess this car was designed by a man who'd had it up to here with opening the car door for women. Chivalry is obviously dead."

Friday, August 21, 2009

LMS Health Tip Friday: Surgical Masks & Kissing

That's right kids! It's Health Tip Friday here at Little Merry Sunshine! You didn't know we had Health Tip Friday, did you? Well, as of today, we do!

As you probably know, Swine Flu (aka H1N1) is all the rage and not in a good way. You may have thought that no one cared about it anymore because the media coverage has died down a bit, but you'd be wrong. Swine Flu is about to be back and more vicious than ever, so now, in addition to thoroughly washing your hands on a regular basis, the good folks at the Centers for Disease Control have some new advice for you:

Heidi Montag & Spencer Pratt demonstrate how you can still be romantic while wearing surgical masks.

Now you and I both know that this possibly takes some of the fun out of tonsil hockey, but it's for your own good and it will require you to be a little more creative. So just do it. I'm going to.

You should also avoid sharing eating utensils with sick friends - whether they're wearing a surgical mask or not.

I can't help but wonder, if preventing the spread of potentially deadly germs is important, wouldn't placing a condom on your tongue or a dental dam be more effective than what is essentially a two-ply paper towel?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just Another Day In Paradise

Are you familiar with Jimmy Buffett? Of course you are. Do you know Bertie Higgins? I highly doubt it.

Bertie Higgins is a Florida-based international recording artist famous for hits from the 80s, including "Key Largo," (and here's his performance of "Key Largo" from Solid Gold hosted by Andy Gibb and Marilyn McCoo) "Casablanca" and "Just Another Day in Paradise."do

What you definitely don't know is that Bertie Higgins grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida with my mom and her best friend Jane. I don't know if he still lives in Tarpon Springs or not, but he did at least through the late 1980s. He also knew Nana and would go visit her at the bank. Nana just adored him.

During one visit to Crystal Beach during Spring Break 1983, we went to visit Bertie at his Tarpon Springs home. I remember meeting him and seeing his Gold Records (for you kids out there, you can learn about records here) hanging on the wall. He was wonderfully gracious and it was fun getting to meet someone famous my mom grew up with. We even took pictures with him, but I can't find them.

Whenever I visit Crystal Beach and Tarpon Springs, I'm always reminded of his song "Just Another Day in Paradise" because I think it's about this part of Florida.


The big cold city is such a lonely place to be
Hustle all day and dream of the islands and sea
Millions of girls but none of them seemed right for me
Til you came along, you touched me and set me free

So I slipped away last night, eased on down to the Key
Flyin' so high, we hitched a ride on a Gulf Stream breeze
Livin' on love and the fruits from tropical trees
A song in our hearts and our eyes on the West Indies

It's just another day in paradise
Love in the night, oh we do it so right
Seein' that 'I Love You' look in your eyes
Just another day in paradise

A bottle of rum, listen to the steel drum band
Laughin' in the moonlight, along the beach we ran
Splashin' naked in the sea, makin' love upon the sand
Fallin' fast asleep like children, hand in hand

It's just another day in paradise
Love in the night, oh we do it so right
Seein' that 'I Love You' look in your eyes
Just another day in paradise

I woke up this morning with the sunlight in my eyes
Guess it was only a dream, I hear the city outside
But I look at you sleepin' and honey now I realize
That anywhere with you is paradise

It's just another day in paradise
Love in the night, oh we do it so right
Seein' that 'I Love You' look in your eyes
Just another day in paradise

It's just another day in paradise
Love in the night, oh we do it so right
Seein' that 'I Love You' look in your eyes
Just another day in paradise

Natural Highs

#15 on the list of Natural Highs.
Taken by me at Watervale, August 2007.

A good friend sent me a delightful email yesterday that put a big smile on my face. It was titled "Natural Highs" and I'm sure you (like me) have seen this list before, but it's so good it's worth repeating.

How many Natural Highs have you experienced recently? I've had 25 Natural Highs lately.

Natural Highs

1. Falling in love.

2. Laughing so hard your face hurts.

3. A hot shower.

4. No lines at the supermarket.

5. A special glance.

6. Getting mail.

7. Taking a drive on a pretty road.

8. Hearing your favorite song on the radio.

9. Lying in bed listening to the rain outside.

10. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.

11. Chocolate milkshake (vanilla or strawberry).

12. A bubble bath.

13. Giggling.

15. The beach.

16. Finding a 20 dollar bill in your coat from last winter.

17. Laughing at yourself.

18. Looking into someone's eyes and knowing they love you.

19. Midnight phone calls that last for hours.

20. Running through sprinklers.

21. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.

22. Having someone tell you that you're beautiful.

23. Laughing at an inside joke with FRIENDS.

24. Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.

25. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.

26. Your first kiss (either the very first or with a new partner).

27. Making new friends or spending time with old ones.

28. Playing with a new puppy.

29. Having someone play with your hair.

30. Sweet dreams.

31. Hot chocolate.

32. Road trips with friends.

33. Swinging on swings.

34. Making eye contact with a cute stranger.

35. Making chocolate chip cookies.

36. Having your friends send you homemade cookies.

37. Holding hands with someone you care about.

38. Running into an old friend and realizing that some things (good or bad) never change.

39. Watching the expression on someone's face as they open a much desired present from you.

40. Watching the sunrise.

41. Getting out of bed every morning and being grateful for another beautiful day.

42. Knowing that somebody misses you.

43. Getting a hug from someone you care about deeply.

44. Knowing you've done the right thing, no matter what other people think.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

OMG! Michelle Obama Wore SHORTS!

Yes, seriously.

Imagine my surprise this morning when, barely awake, I opened my online newspaper of choice, and discovered an article on whether it was appropriate for First Lady Michelle Obama to wear shorts. Before reading the article, I thought "Huh, that's odd. She's usually so appropriate, why would she make such a poor choice when meeting a foreign leader?" I mean, would the media really be covering this if it weren't some major foreign relations snafu?

Evidently, yes, although it seems it wasn't an article, so much as a poll asking if it was appropriate for Mrs. Obama to have worn said shorts. It seems that she made this most egregious fashion faux pas while on vacation with her family at the Grand Canyon. You know, it's not exactly a temperate climate out there at the Grand Canyon. With an average daily temperature in August of 104, I'd say as long as folks don't go naked they are just fine and dandy with me.

I happen to be out of town this week, sort of on vacation, and it's hot. Damn hot. Drying my hair is optional and my makeup hasn't seen the outside of my suitcase. Now I understand that the First Lady is in a slightly different situation, but she's still on vacation with her family. Do people expect her to wear heels, hose, and a shirtwaist dress while traipsing through the Grand Canyon?

Since I'm on vacation, I haven't been paying much attention to the news, so I turned to MSNBC for more on this story. They called the shorts "short shorts" and they also had a poll and a video. Now I don't mean to argue with MSNBC, but these are short shorts:

And these are not:
Michelle Obama's shorts are age and body appropriate. They are also appropriate for the activity she is participating in.

To the media, I beg you. We've got real problems in this country. Health care reform, 2 wars, and an unstable economy to name just a few. Can we please focus on what's really important? This stuff just makes you look stupid and petty.

And if we can't do that, can we at least all focus on my major concern today? Should I have my nails painted "Overexposed in South Beach," "Kinky in Helsinki," "Vodka & Caviar," or "Feelin' Hot-Hot-Hot"? at my mani/pedi this morning?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tonight's Sunset from Sunset Beach

I've spent my life visiting Tarpon Springs and tonight I found a spot I'd never been before. More than that, Mom grew up here and didn't know about Sunset Beach. We just happened upon it.

It was a gorgeous night for a sunset after an afternoon of storms. I don't think I've ever seen the tide so low going so far out into the Gulf. It was so low, the seaweed made the Gulf look like it was covered in green grass.

My Day at the Beach - Before & After

I finally made it to the beach today! And what a spectacular beach it was! I absolutely love Caladesi Island and it seems I'm not the only one because it was named the Best Beach is the U.S.!

The day started a bit cloudy, but by 9am, it was bright and sunny. Mom and I caught the 10am Ferry and learned that the UV Index was 9, which means that without sunscreen a person will begin to burn in 10 minutes. Being the one of the fairest skin women in America, I slathered up with SPF 4,000 or so, sat under and umbrella, and never took my Lake Forest College t-shirt off.

I took a delightful nap, which is one of my favorite things to do on the beach. Is there anything better than drifting off to sleep listing to the waves hit the sand? I honestly don't think so. The water was a warm 87 degrees, although I didn't get in it. Salt water mixed with sand is not really my thing.

Part of what I love about Caladesi Island is that visitors are restricted to just four hours on the island, which keeps the it from getting overcrowded like Clearwater or Daytona and it also prevents me from sitting in the sun too long and spontaneously combusting. On my way back to the Ferry, I discovered this turtle and it was kind enough to pose for me - twice.

As we boarded the ferry, coming across the bay from the east, there was a huge storm complete with lots of thunder and lightning, but we made it back to Honeymoon Island just before the skies opened up. You can see how dark the skies are.

In spite of my SPF 4000 sunscreen, you can see what happened at the beach today from my before and after pictures.

Obviously, even though I have a lobster-like tan, I still have a smile on my face. How could I not? I spent my day at Caladesi Island!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hot Jimmy

Sometimes I have the most fun when I least expect it.

Take today for example. Mom and I were supposed to go over to Caladesi Island, one of my favorite places in the world, but due to a mix-up, she had to stay put in Crystal Beach. I, however, needed an adventure, so off I went to run errands and find some of my old stomping ground from when I was little.

I was headed towards my first stop in Tarpon Springs, the funeral home to pick up Nana's death certificates, when I saw a sign for Howard Park. Howard Park is a beautiful park and beach that we visited every summer as kids when we visited Nana. I hadn't been there in probably 20 years, but I figured since I'd seen one sign pointing me in the right direction, I'd surely find it with ease. Fifteen minutes later and I still hadn't found it, but I did manage to discover mom's high school, which was fun. Then I stumbled upon the bayous where the Greek boys dive for the gold cross every Epiphany and the church with all the George Inness paintings, both places I wanted to see anyway. Many people think Thomas Kinkade as the "painter of light" (because that's what he calls himself), but that's only because they don't know anything about George Inness who painted a full century before Thomas Kinkade. I love when my intuition just takes me places.

After a few errands, I decided it was time for lunch and only one place was calling my name: Waffle House. Waffle House #406 to be exact. I eat at this Waffle House every time I'm in town. Don't ask why. I honestly can't explain my fascination with Waffle House, but I love it every so often. I walked in and much to my surprise there was a very hot young man waiting to seat me. His name was Jimmy, although I nicknamed him Hot Jimmy. When I looked around, the restaurant was full of strapping young hot men and I did a double take to make sure I had walked into the Waffle House and not Chippendales. What had me confused is that while normally the waitstaff at Waffle House is very kind and efficient, it usually consists of Flo wannabes and not strapping hot young men.

As Hot Jimmy provided some of the best Waffle House service I've ever received, I learned from a co-worker that his shift had actually ended an hour before I arrived, so I asked him why he was still hanging out at work. His response was perfect: "I stayed so I could hang out with you!" Awwwwww.

Yes, Hot Jimmy made my day. He even let me take his picture to share with all of you, so his hotness can make your day too.

Do You Read Margaret & Helen?

You should. They are terrific. They write a little blog titled "Margaret and Helen: Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting . . . " I love it.

I've been reading Margaret and Helen since before the election, thanks to the amazing blog roll of Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein.

The other day, Helen wrote a brilliant post titled "I Remember An America Where Black Men Didn't Grow Up to Be President." It's a must read. So just go do it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Family That Hangs Out In Their Undies Together . . .

. . . takes REALLY awkward family photos.

I think this picture really speaks for itself, although I have some questions:
  1. How did they get everyone to agree to do this? How much alcohol was involved?
  2. Which one of the family members put this awkward family photo on the internet?
  3. Was this their Christmas card?
  4. Who told the dude on the left that bikini undies on men was a good idea?
  5. Why is Grandma the only one smiling?

Health Care Reform Isn't a Luxury, It's a Necessity

Anyone who knows me knows I believe we must have health care reform. In fact, I believe it's the moral issue of our generation. I believe those famous words of Jesus Christ (and whether you believe he's the Son of God or just an interesting philosopher doesn't really matter) in the parable about the sheeps and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46 KJV) "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:40 KJV) and then just a few lines later "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:45 KJV). What Jesus is saying here is that the way we take care of each other or don't is how we care for Him or don't.

I believe that by not providing health care to everyone now, we will eventually eliminate the middle class. It's a fact that the majority of bankruptcies are due to medical expenses. It is a moral outrage that we allow insurance companies to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, especially when many of those pre-existing conditions are not due to lifestyle choices but are conditions people are born with.

I do not understand this whole debate over health care. I mean, I understand that people have some concerns, but I do not understand the over-the-top fear-mongering rhetoric. I can't comprehend that this issue is enough to make people show up to town hall meetings with guns strapped to their legs, carrying signs declaring "Death to Obama," and all this talk about getting back to the Constitution the way the Founding Fathers wrote it. It seems to me that none of this is actually about health care reform.

President Obama wrote an outstanding editorial in the New York Times yesterday titled "Why We Need Health Care Reform." It's long, but it's well worth a read.
OUR nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America. And over the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them.

These are people like Lori Hitchcock, whom I met in New Hampshire last week. Lori is currently self-employed and trying to start a business, but because she has hepatitis C, she cannot find an insurance company that will cover her. Another woman testified that an insurance company would not cover illnesses related to her internal organs because of an accident she had when she was 5 years old. A man lost his health coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because the insurance company discovered that he had gallstones, which he hadn’t known about when he applied for his policy. Because his treatment was delayed, he died.

I hear more and more stories like these every single day, and it is why we are acting so urgently to pass health-insurance reform this year. I don’t have to explain to the nearly 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance how important this is. But it’s just as important for Americans who do have health insurance.

There are four main ways the reform we’re proposing will provide more stability and security to every American.

First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job.

Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits.

Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs.

Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium.

We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick.

Most important, we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups, preventive care and screening tests like mammograms and colonoscopies. There’s no reason that we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. It makes sense, it saves lives and it can also save money.

This is what reform is about. If you don’t have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. You will not be waiting in any lines. This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don’t believe anyone should be in charge of your health care decisions but you and your doctor — not government bureaucrats, not insurance companies.

The long and vigorous debate about health care that’s been taking place over the past few months is a good thing. It’s what America’s all about.

But let’s make sure that we talk with one another, and not over one another. We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.

Despite what we’ve seen on television, I believe that serious debate is taking place at kitchen tables all across America. In the past few years, I’ve received countless letters and questions about health care. Some people are in favor of reform, and others have concerns. But almost everyone understands that something must be done. Almost everyone knows that we must start holding insurance companies accountable and give Americans a greater sense of stability and security when it comes to their health care.

I am confident that when all is said and done, we can forge the consensus we need to achieve this goal. We are already closer to achieving health-insurance reform than we have ever been. We have the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association on board, because our nation’s nurses and doctors know firsthand how badly we need reform. We have broad agreement in Congress on about 80 percent of what we’re trying to do. And we have an agreement from the drug companies to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The AARP supports this policy, and agrees with us that reform must happen this year.

In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.

That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America.

In the end, this isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives and livelihoods. This is about people’s businesses. This is about America’s future, and whether we will be able to look back years from now and say that this was the moment when we made the changes we needed, and gave our children a better life. I believe we can, and I believe we will.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Love You A Bushel & A Peck

One of the things Nana used to always say to us was that she loved us "a bushel and a peck." Truthfully, I'm not even sure what that means. I just always figured it was some phrase from when she was growing up on the farm in Mississippi.

Then today, Mom and I saw Julie & Julia (more on that later, but I LOVED it!), and in the middle of the movie there's a scene with "Bushel & A Peck" in the background! It turns out it's a song from Guys and Dolls. It gave me a big smile to listen to the words for the first time.

Of course, I had to find the song for you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Go Back to 1789!

Did you see Senator Arlen Specter's town hall meeting on Tuesday? It featured a woman named Katy Abram asking the Senator "What are you going to do to restore this country back to what our founders created, according to our Constitution?"

In case you're not familiar with it, Ms. Abram is a 35 year old married mother of two. She and her husband run a small business, but she has no idea how much money they make because "he takes care of all the bills and money." She does have health insurance, but they have chosen a policy with a $5,000 deductible and rarely meet that so they pay all their own medical bills. And until this whole health care debate had never been interested in politics. 9/11 didn't get her interested. Neither of the two wars we've been involved in since then got her interested. But NOW she's interested.

Why wasn't Ms. Abram interested? I'm so glad you asked. She said on Hardball tonight that she just never cared and that she was too busy. Really.

Ms. Abram appeared on Hardball tonight and was interviewed by guest host Lawrence O'Donnell. He asked her some really tough questions.

My favorite questions had to do with Social Security and then with that great question she poised to Senator Specter. O'Donnell asked Ms. Abram if her parents are on Medicare and she answered that they are almost 65 and when pressed if she was going to tell them not to accept Medicare because it's Socialism and not in the Constitution, she would only say they didn't discuss politics.

Listening to her try to wiggle out of answering her question to Senator Specter was fascinating.

Just for fun, let's look at what she's advocating, but refuses to admit:

1. When the Constitution was written, black people were only 3/5 of a person. They were also slaves. They weren't freed until a lot of people died in the 1860s during the Civil War. See the 13th Amendment. While the 15th Amendment abolished race as a barrier to voting, we all know they didn't have the right to vote guaranteed until 100 years later when the Voting Rights Act was passed and those nasty literacy tests and poll taxes were abolished.

2. When the Constitution was written, women were not allowed to vote. That right wasn't granted until the 19th Amendment was ratified almost 81 years ago thanks to a lot of women who didn't put up with the BS about it wasn't in the Constitution so the answer is no and women shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about manly things like politics. Obviously, Ms. Abram isn't worried about this since she doesn't care about politics anyway.

3. Social Security and Medicare didn't exist.

4. We didn't have any of those ridiculous things like environmental laws, education standards, workplace safety rules, car safety rules (wait, we didn't have cars either), etc.

5. At age 35, Ms. Abram would be an old woman (if she had lived through childbirth) and she might not have two (presumably) healthy children. Many women died during labor and many children who survived that died during infancy or childhood because we didn't have any of the drugs we have today to prevent childhood diseases. The National Institutes of Health and the CDC certainly weren't envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

Of course, all of that is just the beginning. I could go on and on, but won't. You get my point.

What world exactly is Ms. Abram suggesting we live in?

It's Been A Month Since Nana Died and I Know I'll Be Okay

It's been a month since Nana died. As I told a friend last night, my world has been turned upside down and inside out. I don't know which way is up or where I'm going most of the time.

A month ago I felt numb and I had 10 million things to do for a two visitations, two Celebration of Life services, and a burial, dealing with two funeral homes, two churches, and a lot of family across a bunch of states. On top of that, I was headed straight to the Mary Kay Seminar in Texas 30 seconds after we buried Nana. Okay, it was the next day, but it felt like 30 seconds later.

I didn't have time to be sad or begin to grieve. Yes, I was sad and I did have moments that were unbelievably difficult. The first time I walked into the sanctuary at Crystal Beach Community Church after Mom and I met with Pastor Susie, my eyes filled with tears. So much of my life has taken place in that church that walking into it without Nana even when it was empty was filled with emotion. Driving by my step-grandfather's house next door to the church brought back 30+ years of memories. Walking out to the end of the pier reminded me of all the sunsets I watched with Nana over the years.

It all really hit me for the first time though on Nana's birthday when I arrived at the church before Mom and Dave to set up for the reception. I walked into the sanctuary alone and saw Nana in her casket up by the pulpit. I saw the pew she sat in for 50 years, the one in memory of my grandfather, Jesse Paulk. It felt empty without her sitting in the pew. Although it is the 5th pew from the front, Mom, Dave, and I sat there during the service. There simply wasn't anywhere else we could sit.

I can't say I remember all the details of any of Nana's services. Mom and I both spoke. The music and the readings were beautiful. Many people told me touching stories of their time with Nana.

A month later, I'm in full grieving mode. The tears arrive when I least expect them and mostly with little warning. Fortunately, I'm usually able to choke them back when it's not appropriate to cry (i.e., when I'm with friends or clients). There's only one friend I've really cried in front of and I'm grateful beyond words for him. Usually I tough it out.

Yesterday, I met with a new client who shared with me that she had just moved to Arlington Heights from Florida and when I asked where, she replied Tarpon Springs. She didn't know Nana though. As I picked my jaw up off the table, she told me her son was born on July 12th. Wow. What a small world.

The good news is that last night I reached a point where I could tell a story about Nana and laugh at how cute and funny it was without crying. Later, I stood outside watching the Perseid Meteor Shower and upon seeing an enormous meteor shoot from north to south across the sky leaving a trail with my naked eye, I spontaneously jumped up and down cheering and I felt myself genuinely smile for the first time in a month. It was only moments later that I realized it was midnight and I was standing alone in my backyard. It didn't matter though. I love seeing those miracles of nature happen and the smile remained for quite awhile. That is until an hour later when I suddenly erupted in tears again.

I'll be okay, but this grief thing is a bitch.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might, Have the Wish I Wish Tonight

Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Do you remember this Mother Goose Nursery Rhyme from when you were a kid? Do you remember wishing on falling stars?

I do. And I still make wishes upon stars. Maybe that sounds silly, but I do.

Usually, I wish upon the first star I see nightly at Watervale as I'm walking back from watching the sunset on the beach. Later at night, I have even more opportunities because I'm always there during the annual Perseid Meteor Showers. They usually run for about a month and seem to peak when I'm sitting on the dock or the beach at Watervale. This year, they peak tonight and tomorrow and although the moon is expected to be bright in most areas, National Geographic predicts that from anywhere in the world (!) you'll be able to see 80 meteors per hour during the peak hours (late tonight into the wee hours of Wednesday morning).

Unfortunately, I'm not at Watervale tonight, but I'll still be outside laying in the grass and watching these miracles of nature. It's truly one of my favorite events of the summer. And, of course, I'll be making some wishes. I have a long list waiting for a night like tonight.

Here's a timelapse video of the Perseid Meteor Showers. Watch closely. The quick flashes of light across the screen are the meteors.

And just in case you don't remember how to make a wish upon a star, here are some helpful tips:
  1. Find the first star. As any child can tell you, it's not the brightest or best star you must wish on, it's the first one visible in the sky. Go outside at dusk and stare at the heavens. Stars appear quickly, so start your wish as soon as you see one--even if you suspect it might be a 747.
  2. Stare intently at the wishing star. There's no need to feel embarrassed. Remember, you already know how to make a wish come true. Say the magic words we all learned as children aloud: "Star light, Star bright, the first Star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight."
  3. Close your eyes tightly as soon as you're done and silently make your wish as fast as you can. You must finish making your wish before any other stars appear in the sky. When you open your eyes, look for any other stars that may have appeared. If there aren't any, your wish is in the clear.
  4. BELIEVE in your wish. When you wish upon a star, the star knows whether or not your wish is genuine. If you feel sheepish, or make a half-hearted wish, no one will hear it. Simply put, if you don't deserve your wish, it will never come true.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My Favorite Things

This isn't exactly the version of My Favorite Things that I was looking for. I was hoping to find the video of that terrific scene in The Sound of Music where Maria is singing My Favorite Things with the kids in her bedroom during the thunderstorm and they're all dancing around until the Captain interrupts them. Unfortunately, I didn't find it.

I love My Favorite Things because it always makes me smile and cheers me up, which I need tonight after the day week month I've had. Listening to it tonight dried up my most recent tears, for a few minutes anyway.

As I explained to my grief counselor last week, I just want to feel like me again. She explained to me that I won't ever really go back there. Grief changes us. So a new me will emerge. Okay, but when? When will it stop being so hard to find a smile? When will I stop being sad all the time, except for when I pretend I'm not? When will I be able to stop pretending I'm okay and I'm happy for real?

I know there are no answers to my questions except that time heals all wounds. But I want answers. I guess I'll settle for a few minutes of smiling every now and again and hope that the distance between now and again diminishes over time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

No Socialized Medicine!

Okay, I completely stole this from AMERICAblog, one of my absolute favorite liberal political blogs. Because I said that, I know that some people won't read this post, although I hope you will.

Remember, this is NOT my original work and I have no idea who originally wrote it and neither do the good guys over at AMERICAblog. If you know, let me know and I'll happily give credit where it's due.

I have so much to say about this whole health care debate, but it's going to have to wait for another post. Too many untruths are being spewed as facts. For now, I'm going to let the piece below speak for itself.

Over at AMERICAblog, this is titled "I'm An American Conservative Shithead," but I thought that title would scare too many people off, so I changed it for the title of my blog. I also found other titles used as I searched the internet for the author including "I'm an American Conservative Shitheel" and "A Day in the Life of Joe Republican," so I feel comfortable using my own blog post title.
This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

I then took a shower in the clean water provided by a municipal water utility.

After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC-regulated channels to see what the National Weather Service of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

I watched this while eating my breakfast of U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

At the appropriate time, as regulated by the U.S. Congress and kept accurate by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Naval Observatory, I get into my National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal Departments of Transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the Environmental Protection Agency, using legal tender issued by the Federal Reserve Bank.

On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the U.S. Postal Service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and Fire Marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

And then I log on to the internet -- which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration -- and post on and Fox News forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jerry Taft Cracks Up on 10pm News

Did you happen to see Jerry Taft lose it last night during the 10pm ABC7 News in Chicago? It was hysterical. I laughed and laughed along with Jerry as it happened live, even though I honestly didn't know what he was laughing at. According to the ABC7 website, Mark Giangreco was giving Jerry a hard time off-air and Jerry just couldn't stop laughing.

It's worth a revisit. Just try to keep a straight face. Who knew reporting the weather was so darn funny?

Those Crazy Teenage Years . . .

. . . were made so much easier with John Hughes' films.

Pretty in Pink. Sixteen Candles. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The Breakfast Club.

These movies are woven into the fabric of my teen years. I can quote them with ease, just like everyone else who came of age in the 1980s.

My experience may have been just a little different though.

All of the John Hughes movies were filmed around Chicago in a town named Shermer, Illinois. Shermer doesn't exist, but John Hughes grew up in the North Shore Chicago suburb of Northbrook and graduated from Glenbrook North High School on Shermer Road.

The church used for the wedding in Sixteen Candles is Glencoe Union Church in Glencoe, another North Shore town, is the church my Gardner grandparents were members of for years, my Aunt Barb and Uncle Jeff were married there, and my grandparents' ashes are buried there in the memorial garden. And just like Anthony Michael Hall's character, I've made out in the park across the street from the church. (It was years ago and I won't tell you with whom). Every girl loved and lusted after Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles in high school. My 2-year high school boyfriend looked just like him. Yes, I was a lucky girl.

Sixteen Candles - Final Scene - Movie Ending - The most amazing home videos are here

Ferris Bueller's Day Off . . . I don't even know where to begin. We all wished we'd had a friend like Ferris who would push us to take chances and have more fun than we ever imagined, but somehow never really got caught. Ferris taught us all the most important lesson of them all. "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Freshman year at Lake Forest College, there was a woman who lived next door to me who looked almost exactly like Mia Sara (Sloan Peterson, Ferris' girlfriend). The rumor mill around campus was that it was her, but it wasn't.

Who among us couldn't identify with the characters of The Breakfast Club? The jock, the misfit, the nerd, the princess, the wastoid. They were each of us and we were each of them. They taught us that no matter what clique we belonged to, there was far more than united us than divided us.

Yes, these were the movies of my youth. The movies I watch over and over and over again no matter how many times I've seen them, how old I get, how many curse words are bleeped, or how many commercials I must suffer through. John Hughes' films told us we were normal and that the angst we all experienced wasn't unique to us and our individual social standing.

When I worked at Lake Forest Food and Wine in Lake Forest during college, John Hughes used to come in all the time. He was the nicest, humblest guy. In fact, I didn't even realize it was him at first until the store owner told me after he'd left the first time. He didn't have that air that of self-importance that highly successful people with gobs of money sometimes have. He was truly an everyman. And he will be missed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Take Me Out To The Ballgame!

Are you feeling guilty because you missed my birthday in June? Maybe you were just thinking you wanted to get me a gift "just because." Maybe you want to give me the coolest Christmas present ever. Whatever your reason, it's ALWAYS a good idea to get me gifts. And I have a gift idea for you that we can enjoy together, as long as you get yourself a ticket too.

Wrigley Field offers tours! And they're only $25 per person! That's about the same cost as going to see some crappy movie with popcorn and a Diet Coke.

Check out this video!

And then go to the Chicago Cubs website and schedule our tour!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just Like President Obama, I Was Born In Kenya!

Well, I'll be . . . I can't believe this is true, but I found it on the Internets, so it must be! Here I always thought I was born at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida, but it seems that birth certificate I've been using for 38 years may be a fake. It turns out, I was born in Mombasa, Kenya, just like President Obama. In fact, we were even born in the same hospital! WOW!

Believe me, I'm going to have some serious conversations with my parents over the next few days.

See my birth certificate . . .

Open Letter to Betsey & Ross

My mom's friend Jane sent this to me tonight. I have to say, it was brilliant of Jane to email it. Betsey and Ross are in need of some new rules, so I'm posting this over their food dishes, above their litter boxes, and at cat nose level on the refrigerator.

Unfortunately, I have no idea who authored it. If you know, please let me know and I'll give credit where credit is due.

Feel free to use it with your pets.

Dear Betsey and Ross:

The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest. Let's make a deal: I won't eat your food and you don't eat mine.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king-sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

Speaking of beds, from time to time, God willing, I may have company in mine. No, I do not need your pre-approval. I also do not need your supervision. Really.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob, or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years--feline attendance is not required.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To all non-pet owners who visit and like to complain about my pets:
  1. They live here. You don't.
  2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it "fur"niture.
  3. I like Betsey and Ross a lot more than I like most people.
  4. To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted children who are short, hairy, walk on all fours, and don't speak clearly.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. President!

Happy Birthday President Obama!

I wasn't sure who to have sing to you for your big day. So I asked Beyonce, since she did such a fine job at the Inaugural Ball, and Marilyn Monroe, since she's got experience singing to the President.

I know it's a little tacky to ask you to give me a gift on your birthday, but I'm going to do it anyway. I did get two sexy starlets to sing to you afterall. Anyway, I'd really like it if you could get me healthcare for all Americans for your birthday. Thank you!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gratitude List

One thing that's helped me feel better over the last few days is focusing on all I have to be grateful for. I thought I'd share that list tonight, as I do periodically.

Today I'm grateful . . .
  • that I had 38 wonderful years with Nana and that up until the last two years, she was in fairly good health. She had her problems and was never quite the same after her stroke in 2002, but she was feisty, fun, optimistic, loving, generous, and the kindest woman I've ever known.
  • that I have a business with flexibility so I can take the time I need to mourn and be with my family.
  • for music that makes me want to sing and dance. Of course, I'm also grateful that I can sing and dance.
  • for friends who give me space, but don't let me fall too far. It's a delicate balance, but my friends seem to have mastered it.
  • for the generosity that has poured out of friends, family and strangers these last few weeks. I received the list of donors in Nana's honor to Crystal Beach Community Church today and am blown away by the generosity of those who have donated. I am overwhelmed with gratitude on this one.
  • that I took the advice to get into grief counseling. It took me awhile to find what was right for me, but just setting up the appointment has made all the difference.
  • that I am able to spend more time with my mom this month and we've got some really fun stuff planned.
  • for Betsey and Ross. Never ever underestimate the healing power of pets.
  • that I feel like myself today.
  • for the friendships I've renewed through Facebook. Que "It's A Small World Afterall" here.
  • that the Cubs won tonight.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Snuggies for Dogs!

Does your best friend get a little chilly and nervous about going out during Chicago's sub-zero weather? For that matter, is your pooch ever a bit cold around the house?


Then I've got the perfect gift for you!

For just $14.95, plus $7.95 shipping, you can accessorize your dog in the hottest fashion item around: The Snuggie!

And what's even better, you can get a second Snuggie for free AND two free recordable dog tags! PLUS you can choose between blue and pink! Just imagine how your pet will feel walking around the neighborhood in the ultra-chic Snuggie or snuggling with you at home in your matching Snuggies!

My favorite line of the commercial: "It's just too cute for words." Um, okay. I guess that's one way to put it.

And, yes, of course, my friends with dogs can fully expect to receive this from Betsey, Ross, and Me, this Christmas. I've already ordered them all . . . in pink. Really. There's no need to thank me.