Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Mom! What's for Dinner?"

Do you get sick and tired of hearing this question? I do and I don't even have kids.

My least favorite moment of each day comes when I stand in front of the refrigerator pondering the question, "What should I make for dinner today?" Invariably, I will get an idea in my head only to discover that I have all but one ingredient. This turn of events sends me back to stand in front of my open refrigerator asking, "Okay, what should I make for dinner NOW?" The game continues.

But now, thanks to a good friend of mine, I won't have to ponder this question anymore and neither will you! Whether you have kids or are a bachelor or bachellorette, your best kitchen helper just arrived!

Let's pretend that in your kitchen, you've got peanut butter, bread, and tomotoes and that's it. And the kids are eager to know, "Mom! What's for dinner?" Being the good mom you are, you don't want to do the Drive-Thru Dash, but you know junior had a peanut butter & jelly for lunch today (you used all the jelly, so he can't have that anyway). What to do?????

Visit, type in the available ingredients and Voila! in less than 2 seconds, you've got a very nutritious dinner entree!

Okay, this may not be the most appetizing entree, but it's dinner and it's saved you time and money.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Update to "Disabled Doesn't Mean Unabled" or A Hand Up Isn't a Hand Out

This story just keeps getting better.

What I love most about it is the reminder that just because Winfred Cooper received a hand up to help him achieve his dream, it wasn't a "hand out" and it didn't guarantee him success. HE caught the ball and HE ran for the touchdown. Yes, there was some help facilitating both of those things, but the ball could have slipped through his hands or he could have tripped on his way to the end zone. There are a host of variables that could have resulted in Coop not catching the ball and not scoring a touchdown. But at the end of the day, Coop did the work he had prepared to do in countless practice sessions over the years. He probably worked harder than many of his peers to achieve football skills many of them mastered with ease.

When discussing disability services, I hear so many people try to argue that it's not "fair" to give someone extra time to take a test or services to help them with activities of daily living or whatever "hand up" they need to give them a shot at success because this gives the recipient an unfair advantage.

People with disabilities, whether physical, neurological, developmental or mental disabilities, are just like everyone else. They want to feel good about themselves. They want to contribute to society in whatever way they can. They don't want things just handed to them or to be treated as incapable. They aren't looking to be coddled or to be pitied, but they often need just an extra hand to get them to the same starting point you and I take for granted everyday.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disabled Doesn't Mean Unabled

Picture from the Daily Herald.

Have you heard the story about Winfred Cooper scoring the game-tying touchdown last week?

No? You will now.

Cooper is an 18-year-old senior at Elgin High School where he plays on the junior varsity football team. He's got a 3.6 GPA, runs on the track team, volunteers in the lunch room, raises money for kids with autism and is applying to the University of Michigan. Oh, and he's got severe autism himself.

Last week, with the help of his teammates, coaches, and the opposing team and coaches, Winfred Cooper caught the ball and ran 67 yards into the end zone for the only touchdown he's ever scored in his football career. He lived his dream and he celebrated in the end zone with his trademark dance, "The Winfred Shuffle."

Cooper's touchdown tied the game, which Lake Park High School went on to win 13-6.

So what life lessons were learned that day last week?

1. Winning isn't everything. Yes, Lake Park was winning when Cooper scored the touchdown and they ended up winning the game, but the team put their own win in jeopardy so one boy could have his own personal win that will be remembered long after everyone will have forgotten the final score.

2. You can't judge a book by its cover. I'm sure many people wondered in silence (and maybe aloud) about the wisdom in tossing the ball to Winfred Cooper who spent most of his football career on the sidelines. He proved them all wrong.

3. Sometimes the needs of one person outweigh the needs of the group. Surely, Winfred Cooper will carry this success throughout his life and when he has doubts about his abilities in the future, he will look back at this football game, relive his success and know he can do anything he sets his mind to doing. To any other kid, catching the football might simply have been another catch in a career of catches and touchdowns. But I think it's safe to say that everyone in attendance at this football game walked away a better person.

4. And sometimes the needs of one person ARE the needs of the group. I think it's safe to say that everyone in attendance walked away a better person. Everyone learned that so-called disabled people aren't unabled people, and given just a little help, they can succeed beyond everyone's wildest imagination.

My eyes welled up this afternoon as I read about Winfred Cooper's inspiring story. He's obviously had the benefits of parents who believed in him and didn't accept a diagnosis of autism to mean their son's life would amount to nothing. They pushed him and they pushed the schools to give him opportunities and to challenge their son and not simply write him off.

But I can't help but wonder with all the recent cuts in services for the developmentally disabled, how many children in Illinois and all over the country will never experience the win that Winfred Cooper experienced last week. How many kids will just get left behind because the help they need is unavailable?

We owe it to all the Winfred Cooper's in the world to give them every opportunity at success and the help they need to let their abilities shine through.

I've Changed My Mind: We MUST Protect Insurance Companies

After watching this moving video earlier today, I've changed my mind. I no longer support Health Care Reform and I most definitely do not support a Public Option. What was I thinking?

I mean, I appreciate that the insurance companies think for me by denying coverage for tests or procedures my doctors deem medically necessary, when I'm obviously too emotionally invested in my own illness or the illnesses of my loved ones to make rational decisions. If I make a typo in an insurance application, I should be punished for my sloppiness by denying me health insurance. And I agree wholeheartedly that children who fall of their bikes must learn that there are no free lunches or visits to the doctor's office - the cost of medical care should be deducted from their allowances.

Insurance companies are the real victims.

It doesn't hurt that Mad Men hottie Jon Hamm is in the video. He can come care for me anytime.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fox News: Unfair and Unbalanced?

Did you hear that ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN failed to cover the September 12th Tea Party protest in Washington DC? According to the full-page ad Fox News (Fair & Balanced™) took out in the Washington Post, none of these networks covered the event.

Except that they did. And now the networks are firing back.

Here's CNN's Rick Sanchez flat out saying Fox News was lying.

Now CNN is running an ad. I love it. You will too.

So much for being Fair & Balanced™.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Deerpath Was Nothing Like This

Not Deerpath 1989. This is Purdue 2009 via the Tribune.

When I arrived on Lake Forest College's picturesque setting that scorching August day in 1989, I was a wide-eyed 18-year old away from home for the first time, except for a couple trips to Nana's and one week at summer camp.

I moved into the freshman dorm, Deerpath, where I believed I'd have the best chance of building relationships with the men and women I'd spend the next four years with. Deerpath was a long rectangular nondescript 3-story red brick building. There were no elevators and only the halls were carpeted. It was a co-ed dorm with women living on the first two floors and the men on the third. The halls, along with each dorm room, were painted a light beige. Each room had a cold tile floor, 2 dressers, 2 desks, bunk beds that could be taken apart, 2 chairs and a small closet with a cabinet above. My roommate and I considered ourselves lucky because our furniture, albeit old, mostly matched.

Each floor had a communal bathroom. The sinks each had separate faucets for hot and cold water. In the basement, we had laundry facilities and a couple of study rooms with a computer or two. The dorm lounge, on the first floor, had a TV, although I don't think it had cable, a couple of tables, a few chairs, and a couch or two. To say it was sparse would be an understatement.

Oh, and we had to walk about a 1/2 mile each way to reach the cafeteria. That was fun in the warm weather, but during a snowstorm, it wasn't so cool. We made the walk anyway, because freshmen weren't allowed to have cars and we were hungry. The only delivery option was Domino's.

It wasn't much, but I thought I was in Heaven. I had never expected dorm life to be Taj Mahal living. I figured my dorm room was basically a place to lay my head when I got back from the library.

Twenty years later (OMG! It's been 20 years since I was a college freshman!), my inner circle of friends is still made up of those friendships forged in Deerpath and on the campus of Lake Forest College. I look back on the three years and a summer I spent in Deerpath (I went on to be a RA in Deerpath for 2 years) fondly and with many good memories.

Imagine my surprise when I opened today's Chicago Tribune online and the top story (it must be a slow news day) was titled "Swanky dorms lure undergrads" and it's all about the palatial dorms of today. Maid service. Tanning beds. Flat screen TVs. Private bathrooms. No roommates. And that's just the beginning. Nothing is too posh for Millennials.

Yes, these dorms are cool. But what happens when these students move out into the real world and discover that they can't afford such luxuries?

I remember after I graduated, my first apartment had some serious flaws (read: roaches), but I could afford it on my salary without financial help. I didn't have a TV, much less cable or maid service. I garbage picked my dresser and vacuum cleaner. My towels had been "bought" by saving my mom's grocery receipts at Dominick's (spend a certain amount and receive a full set of towels for free). My dishes were "bought" the same way. My pots, pans, kitchen utensils were hand-me-downs from my Gardner grandparents who had recently moved into a nursing home. My silverware was from a garage sale. I had a plastic 3-drawer nightstand. The only two things that were new was my double-bed and sheets. Eventually, I bought a loveseat, but I paid it off over 6-months at 0% interest. When a friend came to stay with me for 3 months, we garbage picked a single mattress and box spring for her to sleep on from someone in my apartment building. I held onto those until I left DC because that was the perfect guest bed. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

What a difference a generation makes.

Summer 2009: The Summer My Adolescence Died

I don't even want to turn on the news or check out a news website anymore. As my friend Bergsie Tweeted yesterday, "It used to be I'd see a celebrity name listed on Google trends and assume they'd made a sex tape. Now I assume they're dead."

Too many people have died in the last 3 1/2 months. This is a partial list of those with the greatest impact on my life. In one way or another, each of these people has contributed to my life and the woman I've become. I was entertained by them, dreamed of them ringing my doorbell and informing me I was rich, covetted their hair, wished I could dance or sing like them, fantasized about being romanced by them, inspired to be a better person and leave the world better than I found it by them, and loved by them.

Ed McMahon from The Johnny Carson Show, Star Search, & Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes - June 23rd
Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels - June 25th
Michael Jackson, The King of Pop - June 25th
Walter Cronkite, CBS Legend and "The Most Trusted Man in America" - July 17th
Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier, my Nana - July 12th
John Hughes of 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off - August 6th
Eunice Kennedy, humitarian - August 11th
Senator Ted Kennedy - August 25th
Patrick Swayze, Johnny Castle of Dirty Dancing - September 14th
Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary - September 16th

I truly wish I'd bought stock in Kleenex earlier this summer. I'd be sad, but at least I would have made some money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Did You Screw Up Kanye-Like?

Have you screwed up like Kanye West did the other night at the VMAs and now you've got your tail between your legs and you need to apologize? Maybe your screw up was so bad the President called you a jackass. You know you screwed up if President Obama takes a moment out of all the other stuff he's got going on to call you out on it.

You may not be too familiar with sincere heartfelt apologies. Fortunately, has come to your rescue with an apology generator.

Just click the link below, fill in the blanks, and voila! your apology will be ready for you to cut and paste onto your blog (in all caps, of course), which you can then delete from your blog 5 minutes later.

And here's my apology:


September 15, 2009

When you create your apology, please post it in the Comments section. The best apology before Friday will receive a prize from me. Of course, I get to choose the winner.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've Got Nothing Today


Zip. Zilch. Nada. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

I've been attempting to write since Saturday, but all my efforts are in vain. I've got NOTHING.

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday Mom!

You are an amazing woman and have given me so much inspiration in life. Many people see problems, but you see solutions. You have always had a purpose greater than yourself, whether it's teaching kids with learning difficulties to read when no one else could or helping people with disabilities get services and make Fortune 500 Companies comply with the ADA. I'm proud to be your daughter.

In a labor of love, you took care of Nana in the final years of her life. No one could have done what you did and you gave her your best everyday. She knew you loved her and she loved you a bushel and a peck.

It brings me so much happiness that we can celebrate your birthday together at Sam's tonight.

May this new year bring you nothing but happiness and joy. It is no understatement to say that the world IS your oyster now.

I love you.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Love Affair With Michael Jordan

I love Michael Jordan. Well, maybe lust is a better word.

I don't remember exactly when it started, but somewhere in the late 1980s, I became obsessed with #23. I can't say I was a huge basketball fan, but Michael Jordan had me captivated and never lost my attention.

Not only do I love him as an athlete and greatest basketball player ever, but as an inspiration as well. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He's missed thousands of shots over the years. He's overcome horrible tragedy in losing his father, his best friend, mid-career. No matter what, Michael Jordan gave the game of basketball his absolute best, scoring some of his highest per game point totals when he had the flu. He kept his dream alive and never let it go.

Why is Michael Jordan the greatest? Certainly because he has a gift and talent that few people in this world have. But more than that, he practiced harder and in a more focused way than anyone else. He was committed. He never played half-assed.

One of my favorite Michael Jordan quotes of all time speaks to this "whatever it takes" commitment.
"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan
More quotes here.

I got to watch him play in person just a handful of times in Washington DC. One of the most memorable was the last game of the 72-10 season in 1995-96. Of course, the Bulls went on to win their 4th NBA Championship that June, on my birthday. It was also Father's Day and the first championship after he returned from his 18-month retirement and I'll never forget watching him drop to his knees on the hardwood clutching the ball and then lying on the locker room floor crying and saying he'd won it for his Dad. Quite a few of those championships came either on my birthday or were celebrated on my birthday. I always believed that happened just for me.

And come on, didn't we all want to "Be Like Mike"? Heck, every time I pick up a Gatorade now, I still think about this commercial.

Congratulations on your enshrinement into the NBA Hall of Fame, Michael! No one deserves it more.

UPDATE 8:03pm: The enshrinement just ended and Michael's speech was amazing. His closing comment is my new favorite Michael Jordan quote: "Limits like fears are often just an illusion." You got that right. Here's the Chicago Tribune's coverage of the ceremony.

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

I'll absolutely never forget that Tuesday morning, eight years ago.

Every Tuesday morning, I attended a Business Networking Inc., a networking group with professionals from all types of industries at Kappy's Restaurant in Arlington Heights. That particular morning, Tom Gosche was speaking and I was sitting next to Mike DelleGrazie. On the other side of the restaurant, the televisions were turned to the morning news shows, just like they were every morning, but we couldn't hear the audio.

I don't remember what Tom was talking about because the news junkie in me had one eye on the news when I suddenly saw smoke billowing out of a tall building. I looked over at Mike and he had just seen the same thing. I didn't hear another word Tom spoke that morning, as I quickly realized I was watching the World Trade Center on fire. And then smoke started pouring out of the second tower.

Because we couldn't hear the audio, I had no idea what was happening and it was all I could do not to hop out of my seat to run and find out. I looked around the room and all eyes were glued to the televisions. All eyes that is, except Tom, who was still speaking. I have no idea how he made it through his talk because he must have seen that he'd lost everyone's attention.

Sitting there, none of us knew that the world we had known just minutes before no longer existed.

As soon as my meeting was over, I called home. Dave was visiting from his home in New York and my mom was on her way to O'Hare to pick up one of her best friends from childhood that she hadn't seen in probably 30 years. Dave explained to me that the World Trade Center had been attacked along with the Pentagon - I don't think we knew about Flight 93 at that point - and said he had no idea where Mom was exactly because she didn't have a cell phone.

More than the World Trade Center being attacked (I've only been to New York twice for day trips on business), I was more affected by the attack on the Pentagon. It had only been 16 months since I'd moved from Alexandria, VA to Arlington Heights, and I'd spent everyday for 6 years either driving past the Pentagon or taking the bus to the Pentagon and then catching the Metro into DC for work or pleasure. Based on the time of the impact, I knew that I would have been right in front of the Pentagon driving up 395 into the District. My mind immediately flashed to all the people I knew in DC and I worried about whether or not they'd been on that plane or in the Pentagon. None of them had.

I walked in the door of my house a few minutes later and shortly after my arrival, Mom walked in with her friend, Kathy. It turned out that Kathy's plane from Nashville was one of the last planes to land at O'Hare. She was in town for a work conference, which was subsequently canceled.

That afternoon, Dave and I went and donated blood because we couldn't think of anything else to do. Until O'Hare reopened days later, we hung out with Kathy and heard fun stories about Mom growing up.

Every generation has its pivitol events that are indelibly inked into its collective mind. For the Baby Boomers, it was JFK being shot. For me and the rest of the Gen Xers, that moment occurred when the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up. And for Millennials, their world stopped turning on September 11, 2001.

But I'd say we all lost a part of ourselves that day. We lost our sense of safety and security. Many of us lost total faith in a President we already had serious concerns over. Maybe one day we'll regain what was lost that morning.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dear Mr. President: The Letter from Senator Ted Kennedy

If you saw last night's speech to Congress by President Obama last night (or if you read and saw it here on Little Merry Sunshine), you'll recall some very emotional moments when President Obama read from a letter the late Senator Ted Kennedy wrote to him that was delivered only after Senator Kennedy's death last month. You'll also recall that health care reform was the cause of Senator Kennedy's life.

In case you missed it, here is the text of the letter in its entirety from the White House. Maybe it's just me, but I teared up reading it.
May 12, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Let's Talk About Health, Baby!

Did you President Obama's speech tonight? I did. You should too. You can watch it below. And below that, you can read The Obama Plan: Stability & Security For All Americans. Read it. You owe it to yourself to be educated and not just take some biased commentator's word for it. You can also read more about President Obama's plan here.

By the way, there are no "death panels" anywhere in this plan.

The Obama Plan: Stability & Security for all Americans

"It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government."

– President Barack Obama

Download a concise, printable version of the President’s plan (pdf).

If You Have Health Insurance

More Stability and Security

  • Ends discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. Over the last three years, 12 million people were denied coverage directly or indirectly through high premiums due to a pre-existing condition. Under the President’s plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny coverage for health reasons or risks.
  • Limits premium discrimination based on gender and age. The President’s plan will end insurers’ practice of charging different premiums or denying coverage based on gender, and will limit premium variation based on age.
  • Prevents insurance companies from dropping coverage when people are sick and need it most. The President’s plan prohibits insurance companies from rescinding coverage that has already been purchased except in cases of fraud. In most states, insurance companies can cancel a policy if any medical condition was not listed on the application – even one not related to a current illness or one the patient didn’t even know about. A recent Congressional investigation found that over five years, three large insurance companies cancelled coverage for 20,000 people, saving them from paying $300 million in medical claims - $300 million that became either an obligation for the patient’s family or bad debt for doctors and hospitals.
  • Caps out-of pocket expenses so people don’t go broke when they get sick. The President’s plan will cap out-of-pocket expenses and will prohibit insurance companies from imposing annual or lifetime caps on benefit payments. A middle-class family purchasing health insurance directly from the individual insurance market today could spend up to 50 percent of household income on health care costs because there is no limit on out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Eliminates extra charges for preventive care like mammograms, flu shots and diabetes tests to improve health and save money. The President’s plan ensures that all Americans have access to free preventive services under their health insurance plans. Too many Americans forgo needed preventive care, in part because of the cost of check-ups and screenings that can identify health problems early when they can be most effectively treated. For example, 24 percent of women age 40 and over have not received a mammogram in the past two years, and 38 percent of adults age 50 and over have never had a colon cancer screening.
  • Protects Medicare for seniors. The President’s plan will extend new protections for Medicare beneficiaries that improve quality, coordinate care and reduce beneficiary and program costs. These protections will extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund to pay for care for future generations.
  • Eliminates the "donut-hole" gap in coverage for prescription drugs. The President’s plan begins immediately to close the Medicare "donut hole" - a current gap in its drug benefit - by providing a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs for seniors who fall into it. In 2007, over 8 million seniors hit this coverage gap in the standard Medicare drug benefit. By 2019, the President’s plan will completely close the "donut hole". The average out-of-pocket spending for such beneficiaries who lack another source of insurance is $4,080.

If You Don't Have Insurance

Quality, Affordable Choices for All Americans

  • Creates a new insurance marketplace – the Exchange – that allows people without insurance and small businesses to compare plans and buy insurance at competitive prices. The President’s plan allows Americans who have health insurance and like it to keep it. But for those who lose their jobs, change jobs or move, new high quality, affordable options will be available in the exchange. Beginning in 2013, the Exchange will give Americans without access to affordable insurance on the job, and small businesses one-stop shopping for insurance where they can easily compare options based on price, benefits, and quality.
  • Provides new tax credits to help people buy insurance. The President’s plan will provide new tax credits on a sliding scale to individuals and families that will limit how much of their income can be spent on premiums. There will also be greater protection for cost-sharing for out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Provides small businesses tax credits and affordable options for covering employees. The President’s plan will also provide small businesses with tax credits to offset costs of providing coverage for their workers. Small businesses who for too long have faced higher prices than larger businesses, will now be eligible to enter the exchange so that they have lower costs and more choices for covering their workers.
  • Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice. The President believes this option will promote competition, hold insurance companies accountable and assure affordable choices. It is completely voluntary. The President believes the public option must operate like any private insurance company – it must be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.
  • Immediately offers new, low-cost coverage through a national "high risk" pool to protect people with preexisting conditions from financial ruin until the new Exchange is created. For those Americans who cannot get insurance coverage today because of a pre-existing condition, the President’s plan will immediately make available coverage without a mark-up due to their health condition. This policy will offer protection against financial ruin until a wider array of choices become available in the new exchange in 2013.

For All Americans

Reins In the Cost of Health Care for Our Families, Our Businesses, and Our Government

  • Won’t add a dime to the deficit and is paid for upfront. The President’s plan will not add one dime to the deficit today or in the future and is paid for in a fiscally responsible way. It begins the process of reforming the health care system so that we can further curb health care cost growth over the long term, and invests in quality improvements, consumer protections, prevention, and premium assistance. The plan fully pays for this investment through health system savings and new revenue including a fee on insurance companies that sell very expensive plans.
  • Requires additional cuts if savings are not realized. Under the plan, if the savings promised at the time of enactment don’t materialize, the President will be required to put forth additional savings to ensure that the plan does not add to the deficit.
  • Implements a number of delivery system reforms that begin to rein in health care costs and align incentives for hospitals, physicians, and others to improve quality. The President’s plan includes proposals that will improve the way care is delivered to emphasize quality over quantity, including: incentives for hospitals to prevent avoidable readmissions, pilots for new "bundled" payments in Medicare, and support for new models of delivering care through medical homes and accountable care organizations that focus on a coordinated approach to care and outcomes.
  • Creates an independent commission of doctors and medical experts to identify waste, fraud and abuse in the health care system. The President’s plan will create an independent Commission, made up of doctors and medical experts, to make recommendations to Congress each year on how to promote greater efficiency and higher quality in Medicare. The Commission will not be authorized to propose or implement Medicare changes that ration care or affect benefits, eligibility or beneficiary access to care. It will ensure that your tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors.
  • Orders immediate medical malpractice reform projects that could help doctors focus on putting their patients first, not on practicing defensive medicine. The President’s plan instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on awarding medical malpractice demonstration grants to states funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as soon as possible.
  • Requires large employers to cover their employees and individuals who can afford it to buy insurance so everyone shares in the responsibility of reform. Under the President’s plan, large businesses – those with more than 50 workers – will be required to offer their workers coverage or pay a fee to help cover the cost of making coverage affordable in the exchange. This will ensure that workers in firms not offering coverage will have affordable coverage options for themselves and their families. Individuals who can afford it will have a responsibility to purchase coverage – but there will be a "hardship exemption" for those who cannot.

Ten Again: Coming of Age in Arlington Heights Book Reading at Prospect Hts. Library

Hey kids! One of our favorite English teachers from Hersey, Mike Bellito, will be at the Prospect Heights Public Library TOMORROW (Thursday, September 10th) reading from his fantastic book Ten Again!

I've told you about this delightful book before (and here and here) and promised a review, which I swear is coming next week (really). So just trust me when I tell you that you don't want to miss this opportunity to hear Mr. Bellito read from my favorite book of the summer (oh, sorry, that might be a review spoiler!). I had the pleasure of attending his reading at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library in May. Listening to him read Ten Again, I was immediately taken back to my creative writing class at Hersey where Mr. Bellito first shared the stories of his childhood - riding bikes to Cock Robin, riding the roller coasters at Riverview, and watching matinees at the original Arlington Theatre.

From the Prospect Heights Public Library website:
Join author and former John Hersey High School Language Arts teacher, Michael Bellito to discuss his fictionalized memoir,"Ten Again", the endearing story of a young man’s coming of age set in Arlington Heights during the 60’s. Michael Bellito taught at Hersey High School for 32 years and currently teaches at Harper Community College. Book sale and signing after the program.

Location: Borland Meeting Room, PHPL, 12 N. Elm St., Prospect Heights
When: Thursday, September 10th at 7pm
Registration: Click here to register.
Call your friends and take your kids. It's a fun (and free) event. Trust me.

Oh, and buy some copies of his book. Trust me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

People of Walmart

Remember the fun we had a couple of weeks ago at Awkward Family Photos? Well, with a hat tip to AmericaBlog, today, Little Merry Sunshine brings you People of Walmart.

No need to thank me. The fact that I can hear your laughter all the way from where ever you are in the world is thanks enough.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Keep Your Kids Home From School! This is OUTRAGEOUS!

President Obama has clearly crossed a line. I mean, who exactly does he think he is to be encouraging today's youngsters to stay in school, attend class, do their homework, be engaged in the classroom, and do their best? What kind of leadership is that?

As a public service to you and so you can keep your precious children home and avoid having their delicate ears hear these blasphemous words, Little Merry Sunshine is providing the full text of President Obama's brainwashing socialist speech. Now, this comes straight from and we all know just how reliable that is.

That's right, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid* so you don't have to.

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.
I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.
Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.
Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.
Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.
And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

*If you read the Kool-Aid comment and don't get it, then THAT's why you need to listen to President Obama and stay in school or call up your high school history teacher and tell him or her that they failed you. Then Google it. Seriously people, this faux controversy is just stupid. Our kids need good role models and we finally have a President we can be proud of and our children can respect.

OMG! President Obama is Going to Indoctrinate YOUR Kids!

In case you haven't heard, President Obama is planning to speak to school kids on at noon on Tuesday. According to, he's going to welcome them back to school and give them a pep talk.

But Shannen Barron believes the President has other, more nefarious, ideas, according to what she told CNN. "Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me. I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now." I actually just saw her say this as she cried on CNN. Yes. Really. I swear I looked around for Ashton Kutcher because I just knew I was being punk'd.

Maybe some of the good folks in America have forgotten about other Presidents who have spoken to our nation's youth:

So this kind of thing has been going on for at least 21 years and was even done by that true Republican Hero Ronald Reagan, but suddenly there's an uproar because a man with a funky sounding name is doing it?

I'm trying my darndest to understand what has so many people in a snit about the President of the United States welcoming kids back to school, encouraging them to do their best, and reminding them that with an education they can do anything they want, but I simply can't.

Supposedly, part of what had so many people's panties in knots was that one of the exercises kids were supposed to do was to write a letter about ways they can help the President meet his education goals. Big damn deal. Did I imagine it or did President Bush ask our kids to help him out in October 2001 by each sending $1 to his relief effort for Afghanistan "America's Fund for Afghan Children." And I know I recall those famous words by President Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." Those words guided a generation and took us into space. They're probably some of the most famous words ever spoken and many people of all ages and political persuasions have taken them as their mantra even today. So what that President Obama wanted school kids to suggest ways they can help him. Or is it only patriotic and the right thing to do when a Republican talks to kids and asks them to support him?

We've got some serious problems in this country folks. I don't need to list them because we all know them. But can't some people get their heads out of the sand long enough to stop creating fake issues to be upset about? Maybe if we all pulled together we could actually solve some of what ails us.

If your school isn't broadcasting the President's speech on Tuesday, just come right back here and you can watch it live:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Have Confidence

Last night, my all time favorite movie The Sound of Music was on TV and although I've seen it no fewer than 4 million times, I was riveted. Not only does the story move me every time I see it, each song stirs my soul and inspires me.

My favorite songs in the movie are "I Have Confidence" and "Climb Every Mountain" because they speak to my better self and lift me to be better. They remind me that no matter what obstacles I have in front of me, I can do anything. I have strength and courage beyond my own imagination.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer 2009: The Summer of Our Discontent

I love Summer. It is my favorite season. I love going to outdoor concerts, packing a picnic lunch and eating in the park, long walks, the sand between my toes at Watervale, starry nights, sleeping with the windows open, BBQs with friends, and the overall relaxed atmosphere of Summer.

But somehow, Summer 2009 has come and gone faster than the blink of an eye. Yesterday was Memorial Day; today is the 4th of July; and tomorrow is Labor Day. Except I know that we've had a little over 3 months since Memorial Day.

The weather has been unusual with August nights in the 40s when we should have been experiencing the Dog Days of Summer. We've had more rain and clouds than I can remember. I think I've turned the air conditioning on for a total of one week and I even seriously contemplated turning on the heat one night last week. Heck, I never even got my garden planted.

Yes, this summer has been most unusual. Immediately after Memorial Day, Mom called with the news that Nana wasn't expected to live through the night and I walked on eggshells every moment for the next month until the final call came saying Nana was with God.

So I guess I understand why this summer has been non-existent for me. I've been to Florida three times since July and skipped Watervale. I've worked in spurts when I could, but constantly feel like I'm starting and stopping. I've been physically present for my Chamber and LFC Board meetings and conference calls, although I don't think that I've contributed anything. I can't really remember the last fun thing I did, except I have this vague recollection that there were some truly wonderful moments around my birthday and in the midst of all my sadness and stress. I feel utterly detached from life.

The truly crazy thing about the Summer of 2009 though is that I'm not the only one for whom this has been a crazy upside down and inside out Summer. It seems that every time I turn around many of my friends are experiencing their own personal crises, whether its relationships ending, family members dying, losing a job, finding out they have cancer or some other illness, or one of a number of other traumas. There's something in the air this Summer that has rocked all of our worlds to the core.

My hope and prayer is that with the impending change of seasons, we can officially all bid farewell to the tragedies and pain that has afflicted our lives this summer and find the opportunities that lie before us. May the Summer of our Discontent be over and may Fall bring with it peace, contentment, and joy for each one of us.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Debbie!

Today is my friend Debbie's birthday.

Debbie is a woman who inspires me each day to be better.

An amazing single mom of two beautiful children including a developmentally disabled child, Debbie is one of the most selfless people I've ever known. She refuses to let life's challenges get in her way, rather choosing to overcome and celebrate life's goodness on a daily basis and live out her mission of leaving the world quite a bit better than she found it.

Her many victories in the few years I've known her include founding the Random Acts of Kindness Club and being elected as an Arlington Heights Memorial Library Trustee, where she pays it forward everyday and is creating a legacy of kindness and generosity that will long outlive her.

Debbie is an amazing mom, keeping her children as her purpose for forging ahead rather than an excuse for why she can't do something. They are growing up knowing that they can do anything and that love and kindness do triumph.

Debbie is the kind of friend everyone should have. She shows up with chicken noodle soup and brownies when you are sick. She always has kind uplifting words. She sees the best in others. She's non-judgmental, electing to believe that everyone has significant value and something to contribute. And she's fun.

So please join me in wishing a very Happy Birthday to my friend Debbie! There is no one I wish more happiness, joy, love, and success in the world to than her.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Susie Wants A Pole Dancer Doll!

With Christmas fast approaching (there's only 113 shopping days left!), you probably need some helpful ideas on what to buy your little girl. In past years, Tickle Me Elmo and Cabbage Patch Kids have been big hits. This year, however, I believe I've found the new "it" toy (via Gizmodo):

The Pole Dancer Doll!

The description on the box tells us "style, interesting, music, flash, up and down, go round and round." No, I don't know if it comes with Miley Cyrus's endorsement or not. I also haven't been able to find a store carrying this self-esteem building doll, but I'm sure that's because they're all completely sold out already. Good luck getting yours.

Of course, you won't be able to get your little princess a stripper pole either because Tesco took it off the market 3 years ago. But check out this description: "Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go! Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars."

Don't have a daughter old enough for this doll or the now non-existent stripper pole? That's okay. Little Merry Sunshine has your toddler covered too. For her, we've got a t-shirt with pasties and tassles thanks to Twisted Twee! Not to worry, it comes in a variety of colors and sizes.