Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Time to Fall Back!

Tonight is the end of Daylight Saving Time and the start of Standard Time or as we, at Little Merry Sunshine, prefer to call it "Night 24/7" because by the end of November, the sun will rise at 6:57am and set at 4:20pm leaving only approximately 9 hours of possible daylight.

What this means tonight is that you need to turn back your clocks 1 hour before you go to bed or you will oversleep for church or your other Sunday morning plans.

It is also highly recommended that tonight or tomorrow you also check the batteries in your smoke detectors. Personally, we change the batteries in our smoke detectors every 6 months and that's what we recommend here at Little Merry Sunshine.

We don't take the possibility of fire lightly because our house burned down in 1982. Everyone in the Little Merry Sunshine family got out okay because the fire was in the middle of the day. At the time, we only had one smoke detector located near the bedrooms. The fire started in the garage and spread to the attic. Had the fire happened at night, I don't know that we would have been so lucky because the lone smoke detector did not go off until the firemen were on the roof with chainsaws.

So change the batteries in your smoke detectors and have multiple detectors throughout your home.

And don't forget to change your clocks!

Happy Halloween from Little Merry Sunshine!

Those of us in the Little Merry Sunshine offices love Halloween and like everything else we are super fond of, we think Halloween needs a soundtrack.


Monster Mash by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Cryptkickers

Superstition by Stevie Wonder

Ghostbusters by Ray Parker, Jr.

Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones

Casper The Friendly Ghost

Devil Went Down to Georgia by Charlie Daniels Band

I Put a Spell On You by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Finally, no Halloween soundtrack would be complete without the long-version of Michael Jackson's Thriller video.

Have fun and be safe this Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Breast Way to Save a Life?

Have you heard about the bra that turns into a facial mask to protect you and a loved one (or complete stranger) in case of emergency?

I'm not kidding. This really exists. And it was invented by a woman in Chicago. And she even won an award for it - an Ig Nobel Prize given by the Annals of Improbable Research.

Now for all you 13 year old boys (yes, that's YOU) who are snickering about this, let's take a look at just how brilliant this bra actually is. The picture below is from the actual patent for the "Garment Device Convertible to One or More Facemasks" and depicts how the bra works.

You might think the inventor was a man with a breast fetish, but it was actually Elena Bodnar, a scientist who got her start in the Ukraine while she was treating victims of the Chernobyl disaster. She saw women covering their faces with their lacey bras and decided she could do better.

According to Ms. Bodnar, the bra can be used during fires, terrorist attacks, dust storms, or even the swine flu to keep wearers safe. So forget the swine flu vaccine, I'm gonna start wearing my bra over my face.

I gotta say, while I do see some potential benefits in this bra, I'm not really sure I buy into its life-saving capabilities. I mean, what makes this padded bra any better than any other padded bra?

And while I appreciate the generosity of the friend who sent me the article this morning along with a note saying he was getting it for me for Christmas, I still think I'd prefer this bra.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

George W. Bush . . . Motivator?

Well, it sounded strange to me too. President George W. Bush a motivational speaker? Really?

For the life of me, I wasn't sure what he might motivate other than my desire to hear hours of nothing but finger nails scratching chalkboards, but I might have been wrong. I'm open to that possibility.

It seems that about 11,000 people paid $4.50 each in advance or $225 at the door (yes, that's right, if you waited and made a spur of the moment decision to attend Get Motivated yesterday in Ft. Worth, you paid 50 times the cost of the ticket for your laziness) to be motivated by our former Commander-in-Chief.

And he did not let them down. Oh no. He spent 28 minutes sharing incredibly inspirational anecdotes including the memorable one about picking up dog crap and how his life had changed. Seriously. The thing is that I wonder if it occurs to him that many people in this country feel like he left a big pile of dog crap on all of us when he finally left after a very long 8 years.

I have to be honest here, there are two things I can't stop thinking:
  1. President Bush was speaking in his own backyard in the State of Texas - where he grew up, served as governor, ran for President, vacationed every weekend while President, and now lives - and they couldn't pull in more than $4.50 per person for this event? I would have thought he'd be able to at least bring in $5 per person.
  2. If I had been in that audience and spent my hard earned $4.50 to hear President Bush speak and had to endure 28 minutes of dog poop stories, I would have demanded my money back.
The reviews are in and I'm not sure they could be construed as giving him five stars. Many said "he wasn't the best speaker of the day," "[h]e wasn't the best speaker," and "other speakers were better."

Two things are certain: President Bush was successful in motivating millions of people to flee the GOP and millions of people to vote for Obama. Thank you, President Bush!

Because I don't want you to feel left out of all the motivation, here's a 2 minute clip of President Bush yesterday motivating the masses.

Oh, this just got better! Jon Stewart gave his priceless take on the whole George Bush as Motivator-in-Chief thing! God, I love Jon Stewart so much!
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
George W. Bush Hits the Lectures Circuit
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This One Time . . . At Band Camp . . .

I am a former Band GeekTM. I say that with great pride. Moreover, I am a former member of the Marching Huskies, which again, I say with great pride. I played the flute and was okay at it. I didn't practice as much as I should have, but I did memorize all my music.

My days with the Marching Huskies were limited to my freshman year and the first semester of my sophomore year of high school. I quit because I had the good fortune of being able to take drivers' ed early, which meant I'd be able to pick up my license on my 16th birthday. When I weighed the pros and cons, I decided that knowing how to drive was a more important life skills than anything I might accomplish with a flute.

In all honesty, when I was a Marching Huskie, we weren't that good. In fact, I don't recall ever winning any marching band competition. Prospect High School (our rival in everything) was the band to beat. They went everywhere including the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. They won the Governor's Trophy at the Illini Marching Band Festival 25 times.

But that ended on Saturday when the Marching Huskies captured the Governor's Cup for the first time in 26 years. Congratulations Huskies!

Hersey Band Captures Governor's Trophy
by Eileen O. Daday, Daily Herald, October 22, 2009

The John Hersey High School Marching Huskies.

For the first time in 26 years, the University of Illinois' School of Music will etch a new name onto to its Governor's Cup: Hersey High School.

The Marching Huskies from the Arlington Heights school won the overall championship at the Illini Marching Band Festival Saturday, ending a streak held by its Northwest Suburban High School District 214 peer, Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.

The Governor's Cup trophy reflects the best score of the day, combined from field and parade show competitions.

"We're really excited and feeling really proud to know that everything we worked on finally came together," said senior trombonist and section leader Andrew Birschbach of Arlington Heights.

It was battle right down to the last performance of the night, with Hersey, under the direction of Scott Casagrande, taking the field at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, followed by the final show of the night, Prospect.

In the end, Prospect's Marching Knights won the field show portion of the competition with their performance of "Rhapsody in Red, White and Blue," while Hersey finished second in the field but won the parade show, and ultimately the grand championship, with a total score that eclipsed Prospect.

Among the top five field show scores were Waubonsie Valley High School in third and Neuqua Valley High School in fifth, while Mundelein High School placed fourth in parade show competition.

"I think it's great that two District 214 schools are that strong," said Chris Barnum, Prospect director of bands. "I think it's cool to look around the district and see all these great things happening."

Hersey's field show performance was designed around the music of Aaron Copland, opening and closing with the famous "Fanfare for the Common Man." A middle section, called "Hoe-Down," from Copland's Rodeo ballet, featured musicians line dancing and the 25-piece percussion section driving its rhythm.

"All week long, we stressed striking a balance between passion and execution," said senior trumpet soloist Mike Ozga of Arlington Heights, "and that's what we did between our marching and musical ability."

Winning the Governor's Cup means the Marching Huskies end their competition season on a high note. They will perform their show one final time during halftime of Friday's home football game against Wheeling High School. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. in Hersey's Goins Stadium.

The Marching Band is led by drum majors Catherine O'Donnell and Ilona Widomska, both seniors, and junior Michael Plankey; senior soloists Birschbach and Ozga; drum captain Nick Jarosz, a senior; and guard captains Katie Rheingruber and Heather Swanke, both seniors, and junior Juliette Makara.

Prospect competes again Saturday at the State of Illinois Marching Band Championship in Hancock Stadium at the Illinois State University in Normal.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Let's Get Motivated!

I'm going to be attending a motivational seminar on October 26th and it's sure to be the best day of my life. Well, okay, it's sure to be a day of my life.

No, I'm not going to see Tony Robbins or even that chick who wrote The Secret.

I'm going to see the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush!

That's right. President Bush has hit the motivational speaking circuit. There's no word on exactly what he'll be speaking on, but I'm guessing it's not "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and he's probably not handing out financial advice given how he took that surplus President Clinton gift-wrapped and handed him on a silver platter and turned it into a ginormous deficit. But maybe he'll teach us all how to claim "Mission Accomplished" before actually achieving anything.

What do you think this kind of motivational training is worth? $500? $1000 maybe? Well, you're in luck! It's just $4.95 per person, but if we get a group together, we can all attend for the low low price of just $19 for the entire group!

Wait! There's more!

Check out who's on the line-up with President Bush: General Colin Powell (Legendary Solider-Statesman), Terry Bradshaw (Legendary NFL Hall of Fame Quarterback), Zig Ziglar (America's #1 Motivator), Dr. Robert Schuller (America's Best Inspirational Speaker), Tamera Lowe (Top Sales Expert and Author of Get Motivated!), Rick Belluzzo (President of Microsoft), and Rudy Guiliani (America's Mayor).

That's a pretty heavy-duty line-up that I'm fairly certain is worth $4.95, even if President Bush weren't going to be there. Luckily, he will be there though. So we'll DEFINITELY get our money's worth!

Hurry! Today is the 21st. We've got to make our plans quickly.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nana's Date Loaf Candy

Originally posted on Remembering Frances.

In addition to Nana's White Fruit Cake, Christmas in my house wasn't complete with Nana's Date Loaf Candy.

I'll be honest, I don't love Date Loaf Candy as much as I love Fruit Cake. In fact, I probably haven't had any in close to 20 years and at my request, Nana never sent me any.

That said, everyone else in my family loves Date Loaf Candy and I will be making it this Christmas. Shhhh! Don't tell them.

Just like with Nana's White Fruit Cake, I don't know where this recipe originated, but it came as part of the recipe collection I was given in 1999. The words are Nana's because I think it taste better made the way she thought about it.

Nana's Date Loaf Candy

3 cups sugar
3 Tbs White Karo Syrup
1 cup milk
3 Tbs Oleo (JLG Note: "oleo" is butter or margarine, I'll use butter)
8 oz pitted Dates (chopped)
1 cup Pecans (chopped)

1. Combine first 3 ingredients in sauce pan and cook until makes a soft ball in cold water. Cook about 12-15 minutes. Will turn dark while cooking. You can sample little in cold water several times and will feel kinda hard.

2. Add Oleo and stir in dates. I chop into pieces so will dissolve easier. Continue to stir.

3. Add pecans and with spoon take a big helping and roll into a sausage-type roll. I put butter on my hands to roll easier and stuff will be hot.

4. Place on a damp cloth then roll into a roll about 2 inches across.

5. I put on bottom refrigerator shelf and leave for 20-30 minutes. Then you can take out and cut into about 4 pieces and roll in wax paper or Saran Wrap and put in Ziploc bag and leave until ready to eat.

6. Slice into 1/2 inch slices. Enjoy!


JLG UPDATE 10/19/2009: I posed some questions to my mom today who informs me that Nana's recipe makes about 2 12 inch logs. The number of pieces of candy it will make depends on how thick you choose to cut each piece from the log and whether you cut the round pieces into 4 bite-sized pieces or not (Nana never did). If you are planning to keep your Date Loaf Candy for any length of time, then it should be stored in the refrigerator.

While searching for recipes of Nana's, I perused the Batesville (MS) Presbyterian Church Cookbook from 1993 and found the Date Loaf Candy Recipe submitted by Nana's sister, Dixie Gladney. They are similar, but with a few slight differences.

Louise L. Smith's Date Loaf Candy submitted by Dixie (Scruggs) Gladney

2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Cook sugar, milk and butter to soft ball stage. Add dates and boil 5 minutes. Take from heat and beat until thick. Add nuts then beat again until real stiff. Wet a cloth kitchen towel. Spread candy with spoon into long roll on wet cloth, then roll 1 ply cloth around candy to make roll. Unwrap and let set. Will be sticky at first. Slice into 1/2-inch slices.

(JLG Note: Yes, I know, there's no explanation of what to do with the vanilla. I'd suggest adding it to the sugar, milk and butter, but I haven't made this recipe.)

Nana's White Fruit Cake

Originally posted on Remembering Frances.

Nana was famous for her fruit cake. I know fruit cake gets a bad rap, but you haven't tried Nana's. It is light and airy and quite simply heaven in a bread pan. I knew I was grown up the first time Nana sent me my very own fruit cake, in December 1993, the first Christmas I was in Washington, D.C. But 6 years later, in December 1999, Nana trusted me with her fruit cake recipe was the year I knew I was an adult.

Nana baked her last fruit cake in January 2006. David and I spent a week in Florida and after church on Sunday, Mom, Nana and I made Nana's fruit cake. I savored the fruit cakes we made that January, each year having just a little, so that the first Christmas Nana wasn't with us anymore, she'd still be with us. I still have part of one fruitcake that I guess we'll finish this Christmas.

I'll be making Nana's White Fruit Cake this Christmas on my own, for the first time, and sharing it with my friends and loved ones. I'll stick to her recipe exactly, except that my cakes will probably also include a few tears. They'll be tears of both joy and sadness. Joy because of all the wonderful memories I have around Nana's Fruit Cake and Christmas and sadness because it's the first Christmas without Nana.

I don't know the origin of Nana's fruit cake recipe. I've always just thought of it as Nana's White Fruit Cake, so that's how I titled it.

Today, I'm happy to share Nana's recipe with you. I thought about keeping it a secret, but that isn't Nana's way. She'd want to know you enjoyed it too.

NOTE: This is Nana's typed out recipe. All of the notes and verbiage are hers. I didn't change a thing. I think using the recipe the way she thought of it and in her sweet words makes it better.

Nana's White Fruit Cake

3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
2 cups sugar
6 egg whites
1/2 cup whiskey
4 cups plain flour (sifted) - does not need sifting these days as flour is very fine and soft.
2 tsp baking powder
1 lb pecans
1 lb candied cherries (red and green mix)
1 lb candied pineapple

Day before you bake I cut my pineapple and cherries in halves. I think this makes slicing easier and prettier. Then chop pecans. Can use scissors to cut in half.

You will need mixer, one glass bowl to beat egg whites and a big bowl to put pecans and fruit in. You will save a little flour to pour over fruit and pecans so they will not go to bottom of pan when cooking, this is called dredging with flour. About 1/4 cup.

1. Mix first 6 ingredients in order one at a time and cream each time.
2. Pour little (about 1/4 cup) flour over the fruit and pecans and stir. I use my hands.
3. Beat egg whites until stiff.
4. Pour batter over the fruit and pecans and use hands to mix then pour egg whites in and fold into this using hands.

All done, ready to pour into loaf pans and bake.

Grease pans and flour sides and bottom, but shake to get all flour out. Then I cut from a brown bag the size of bottom of pan and place in bottom to keep from sticking. (JLG NOTE: I think parchment paper would work, but I'll always use a brown paper sack.)

Start in cold oven. Bake about 2 hours or 2 1/4 hours. I just look and feel to see if brown and if cake feels solid.

Let set about 15 minutes, then run knife around sides and turn out on board or wax paper. I let cool then dredge with whiskey (about 1/4 cup) then wrap air tight. Can open in a couple of weeks and can pour little more liquor if needed.

All ready for Christmas. I just leave in pantry in a plastic sack. Cake is first wrapped in wax paper or Saran wrap real tight.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Confession: I Am A Failure

It's true. Now before you skip the rest of the post to submit a comment telling me how utterly great I am or an email full of examples of all of my past successes, I'm going to stipulate that, in fact, I am pretty great and I am highly successful in a number of areas in my life.

But in one area, I'm a complete and total failure.

Betsey and Ross are not toilet trained. Yes, of course, they are litter box trained. But they are not toilet trained.

Having toilet trained cats would relieve me of one of my least favorite chores: scooping the litter box. It would save me money. Do you know how much cat litter costs? It ain't cheap. I could walk barefoot in my bathroom again because I wouldn't step in litter kicked out of the box or that flies out when they fly from the box at speeds faster than the speed of light.

I know what you're thinking. You don't think it's possible to potty train cats. I thought that too. And then I saw this crazy video on CNN. Yes, on CNN.

And then I discovered there's a whole website devoted to toilet training cats and books too!

Obviously, this is not Betsey or Ross. They both appreciate privacy in the bathroom.
Picture from How to Toilet-Train Your Cat

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pepsi AMP App Has Me Amp'd For Coke

Dear Pepsi AMP,

As a single woman, I'm offended. And I'm sure you know why (but I won't link to it, sorry). But you've obviously made a calculated decision that you don't care. You paid some fancy-schmancy, testosterone-laden, eternal frat-boy mentality PR firm to come up with your newest marketing campaign to try to get consumers of your product laid.

Setting aside for a moment the obviously sexist nature of this marketing campaign, let's look at exactly the man you are marketing to. He must be the dude who walks up to a woman and asks "I heard milk does a body good, but damn girl, how much you been drinking?" or "Can I put you in a doggie bag? I want to take you home and have you later tonight." or when he sees a woman walking through the rain says "Be careful! Sugar melts!" He's probably also the gent who drives the ultra-clean convertible sports car because he thinks it makes him look sexy (it doesn't). And for certain he's the bloke who, when he speaks to a woman, rather than looking at her face, spends the entire time staring at her breasts. Finally, he's the wisenheimer who's most impressive skill is that he can tie a knot in a cherry stem with his tongue (um, not so much - it just tells us this boy has a LOT of time on his hands). In other words, he's the guy who isn't so sure of himself and is afraid to simply walk up to a woman and have a real conversation.

I have never in my entire life met a woman who has fallen for any of this crap. Because believe it or not, genuine, authentic (and yes, sometimes awkward) conversation with us is sexy, but using some canned pick-up lines based on the 24 bad stereotypes in your latest marketing campaign is not. In fact, nothing makes this single woman run for the hills faster than some guy walking up and saying "Did you clean your pants with Windex? I can practically see myself in them."

The worst part of this app is that it encourages men to be total dogs and brag about their conquests on Facebook and Twitter, using the women's names, the date and any details they remember. Um, hello, Pepsi AMP? Nothing screams "I'm a jackass and can't get laid" and turns women off more than a guy who brags by name about the women he's been with all over his Facebook page.

Pepsi AMP, you're not doing women any favors by putting us into these 24 narrow stereotypes, but more than that, you're making life tougher for guys. Women aren't so simple that we can be broken down into just 24 static stereotypes and frankly neither are men. Women like men who are confident, even when they fumble a little. A guy who relies on some cheesy schtick from your new app, may find a horny woman who pities him once in awhile, but he's never going to learn how to meet a real woman. He'll never understand why he fails over and over again.

Now I get the stereotype about all men just wanting to get laid. And you obviously do too. But I know men are more complex than that and I know you know that too. So why be so condescending to both men and women in your new marketing campaign?

Of course, it crosses my mind that you've done this whole thing for the shock value and all the free publicity you're getting from the (mostly female) outraged bloggers and 24-hour cable news channels. After all, there's no such thing as bad press, right?

This morning I hadn't even heard of your product. But now, when I think of Pepsi, I think "sexist," "condescending," "anti-woman," and "blow hard." From now on, I'll stick with Coke because "it's the real thing," just the way I like the men in my life.

Little Merry Sunshine

UPDATE: Pepsi issued an "apology" but did not remove the AMP iPhone app, which I think really boils down to saying "We're sorry you're offended, but we don't care."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Night Sky h/t AMERICAblog

Thanks to the good folks over at AMERICAblog, I enjoyed a great astronomy lesson last night!

The Night Sky will teach you how to find 3 constellations, 2 stars, and 1 planet PLUS you will learn how to navigate north, just like the slaves did to escapes slavery. Now, I'll admit, I did know a little of this. I can find Casiopia (aka the Watervale W - oh, maybe it's just me that calls it that) and the Big Dipper any time, but I never knew how to find the Northern Star and did not know how to find the planets.

Be patient, it takes a little while to work through The Night Sky, but it's worth it.

The best part? It's elementary enough that your kids will understand it and can be a fun family activity.

And, for Heaven's sake, go practice your new skill!

I also highly recommend a trip to the Adler Planetarium. It's one of my favorite places in Chicago.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"This is It" by Michael Jackson

Let me start out by saying that I did not want to like this song. In general, I do not like Michael Jackson. I haven't liked him since Man in the Mirror. But I like it. A lot. It's a good song. What do you think? Will you go see the movie or buy the album? Why or why not?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life, Little Merry Sunshine!

I remember at one point in August as I was in full-mourning for Nana, my stress level was sky-high, I couldn't figure out how to deal with the weight of the world on my shoulders, and famous people who had an impact on my life were dropping like flies, I turned to a friend and said, "I just can't wait for the Summer to be over and Fall to arrive." I honestly believed that with the change of seasons, my life would get better, the joy I usually feel would return, and fun would pop up here and there. I even wrote about it.

Boy, was I right!

This weekend was all about trips down memory lane. I had expected this given that it was Homecoming & Reunion Weekend at Lake Forest College and the Class of 1994 was celebrating their 15th reunion (I was a RA in the freshman dorm that year and I had quite a few friends in that class) and it was my own 20th high school reunion. What I did not expect was that I would also reunite with one of my dearest friends from Washington DC, Karen Hardwick.

Karen emailed me through Facebook on Friday morning saying she knew it was the last second, but she and her boyfriend were coming to Chicago for 24 hours and wanted to know if I could have coffee. Without even knowing when or where she wanted to meet, I replied, "YES! YES! YES!" All I knew was that I'd drive any distance at any time to see Karen. 9 1/2 years since I'd last seen her were 9 1/2 years too many.

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity taking me from Arlington Heights to Lake Forest to Palatine to Chicago, with very little sleep. I saw friends I've known since Kindergarten; the first boy I ever had a crush on; my first husband; my debate partner; friends I sang in the church choir with; friends who had the misfortune good fortune to have me as their freshman year RA in Deerpath; friends I experienced Washington DC with for the first time in 1985; and a mentor and friend who found Betsey and Ross for me, never let me settle for less than perfect, gave me a West Wing tour, and will always be connected to me because of all that we survived in the wee hours of the morning at Hogan that no one else will ever understand (I don't think it was physically possible to work more hours than we did).

The last few months have been Hell. I actually had moments where I wondered it if was all worth it and if the gut-wrenching emotional and physical pain I felt would ever end. I couldn't see any light in the tunnel, but this weekend, in less than 72 hours, I found the light shining brightly as I revisited just about each of my 38 years. I was reminded just how blessed I am and how much my life has had an impact on others. I learned how I have far more fans of Little Merry Sunshine than I ever imagined. In each friend, I saw moments that shaped my life, made me the woman I am today, and heard stories I never knew about. In short, I lived my own Frank Capra movie.

As the wise angel Clarence wrote to George Bailey, "no man is a failure who has friends." And I've got friends in spades.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bad Hair, Bad Clothes, Hormones & Teen Angst or Surviving High School in the 1980s

I was digging through some pics the other night because this weekend is my 20th high school reunion. Now, let me just say that I'm not really convinced it's actually been 20 years. I mean, it's just not possible. I'm in touch with quite a few of my high school friends and none of us look like we are much closer to 40 than trying to pass for 21. Some of us (but I'm not naming names or pointing fingers here) still act like we're 17. Maybe it's because I'm now living in my hometown that it doesn't seem possible that it's been 20 years. I don't know for sure.

All I know for sure is that in my search for those quintessential high school photos, I was reminded of some great friends and some great times, many of whom and which I'd long ago forgotten. Although thanks to Facebook, I'm back in touch with many of my closest friends and I've become friends with some great people I didn't really know in high school, there are still a few friends I'm not reconnected with and I miss them.

Some people say they wouldn't go back to high school for all the tea in China because it was such a horrible time for them. I had a good time in high school and while I wouldn't want to be 15 again, I can honestly say it was mostly filled with great friends, and lots of happiness, laughter and hard work.

I hope this trip down memory, bad fashion and bad hair lane brings back some of your fun high school memories. Let's just be kind and remember that it was the 1980s. Richard Marx was popular for crying out loud!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Was A Teenage Bride & Mother

Me and my "first husband," Fall 1988.

Yes, it's true. I got married my senior year of high school and my husband and I had a very healthy baby boy. Like most high school marriages, ours did not last and I'm honestly not sure what happened to our son. Most likely, he ended up lining a cat litter box somewhere.

What? You're confused? Okay, let me back up a bit.

Two fantastic teachers at John Hersey High School developed a class for seniors designed to teach them about life in the real world called "Marriage & Family." It was a semester-long class and a major part of our grade was based upon our ability to work well with our spouse, who we got married to in a wedding ceremony, complete with cake. We got to choose our spouses and mine was my friend Mark. A few weeks after the "wedding," every couple had a baby - either a 5 lb. sack of flour or a 10 lb. sack of cat litter. Mark was a pretty tall and well built soccer player and I'll never forget Mr. Hannon handing me that sack of cat litter and saying "your husband is a bigger boy, so you get a bigger baby." Ugh.

We had to dress these "babies" up to look human and carry them to each and every class, equally sharing the parenting responsibilities. Gym class was no excuse to stick the kid in our locker. In fact, we had to find a babysitter. Parenting responsibilities didn't end when the school bell rang either. We were required to take our child everywhere (or find a babysitter) and if we got caught without it, we would fail the class. Mark was a soccer player and I was a cheerleader, both with after-school practices, and I have no idea what we did with our "son" during that time.

Other class assignments included finding & furnishing an apartment, grocery shopping, making a budget, etc. No money actually exchanged hands, but we had to go learn about what things really cost. It was eye opening, although not nearly as eye opening as the video we watched of a woman giving birth.

Years earlier, when the program was still in its infancy, the Today Show had done a feature on this revolutionary class. In 1988, the Today Show came back, wanting to talk to high school seniors about their views on what love, relationships, and marriage would be like in the year 2000. I was one of the lucky students to sit in front of the Today Show cameras all day long answering questions.

As I recall, Mark was a good husband and father. He treated me well and was not afraid of carrying our "son" around and doing other fatherly duties. That said, at the end of the semester, Mark and I were unceremoniously divorced and our son was taken away, but in our defense, every couple faced the same fate.

In honor of our 20th high school reunion this weekend, I thought it would be fun to revisit this video to see just how big our hair was, how skinny we were, how incredibly youthful we all were, and to see if any of our predictions panned out.

Enjoy! (I'm at the end.)

One note: Please do not make fun of my big ass hair. You had it too. It was 1988 after all. And for the record, I stand by my statement in the video about money and happiness.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Health Care: The Fight Against Death

I fell in love with Keith Olbermann tonight. Well, I was in love with him before. Maybe it's more accurate to say I fell in love with him all over again.

Like Senator Ted Kennedy before him, Keith Olbermann has enough money to pay for the best health care money will buy. He doesn't need to be concerned about what everyone else is doing for health insurance, but he is. In the most personal way, he's very concerned and he's using his pulpit on MSNBC to dare us to talk and think about it.

Yes, he's a Liberal, so I'm sure many people didn't watch his show tonight, which was entirely devoted to health care reform. But quality health care isn't about being a Democrat or Republican, a Liberal or a Conservative. It's a human issue. It's the most basic human issue. It's about how we treat each other and how we are each treated individually in our greatest time of need. In fact, I believe, as I've said before, that it's the moral issue of our time.

I honestly don't care what your political persuasion is, you owe it to yourself to really honestly and with an open mind think about health care reform. Why do you believe what you believe about health care reform? Why has health care in the United States become a class issue, giving those with lots of money and financial resources top shelf care and those without money almost no care? Why is it okay that 46 million people have no insurance in this country and that 45,000 people die annually - 1 every 12 minutes - due to a lack of health insurance? If you are against the public option in health insurance, why is that?

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, Health Care: The Fight Against Death is about an hour long in five parts. It's worth every single second. It's personal, raw, intense, and tragic. It's also some of the most important television you'll watch.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

A Word About Comments

I'm pretty liberal. You can pretty much say anything to me and I won't be too offended. I believe whole-heartedly in Free Speech. I may vehemently disagree with you, but I think you have the right to say it. Even the offensive stuff.

You may think that this flies in the face of the fact that I moderate comments on Little Merry Sunshine, but it doesn't. You see, I believe that you have the right to say whatever you want, but Little Merry Sunshine is my playground and I get to set the standards of decency. Yes, I get to say things that are outrageous and crazy and sometimes use bad words and they may even be things you disagree with, but again, it's my playground. You aren't required to read it.

I even allow comments of all types. You can comment anonymously, with a pseudonym, or using your God-given name. I don't care.

The thing about comments though is that when I allow a comment to be placed on Little Merry Sunshine for all the world to see, I'm essentially saying that I endorse (or in some cases condone) what you are saying. 99.9% of you come here and play nicely. You even disagree with me sometimes. And I'm actually happy when you do (although let's not have it happen often) because you make me think about my own views and that's good.

But when people come here and make blatantly racist, homophobic, anti-semetic comments and then suggest certain groups of people shouldn't exist, well, I draw the line at that. Especially when they do it anonymously. Have some balls. If you believe in something strongly enough to say it, use a name. I do.

In the 2 1/2 years that I've been writing Little Merry Sunshine, I've allowed every comment, except two. Interestingly, they've both appeared in 2009, were both written anonymously and both in response to the same blog post. I've even rejected them both for the same reason: they were trying to incite violence.

So no, Mr. Anonymous-Race Baiting-Homophobe-Anti-Semite, I won't publish your hate speech. If you had simply called me a name, I would have, but the fact that you included that final phrase about "extermination" shoved you so far over the line of decency you can't even see its shadow. And I won't tolerate that.

Let's all go back to playing nice. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Required FTC Disclosure

Per the new FTC rules regarding bloggers reviewing products and services while not disclosing that they have received said products and services for free, I just have one thing to say:

Where the heck are MY freebies?

I say nice stuff about people, places, things, and services and no one is sucking up to me!

For example, if you'd like to kick some first class tickets to Paris this Christmas along with a free hotel, free food, and some spending money, I'd be happy to accept and I'll write whatever you want me to say. I will make the same offer for a trip to the Virgin Islands or Australia or Fiji. Furthermore, if you'd like someone to write a great review for your new 5-star restaurant, Broadway play, spa (complete with full head-to-toe pampering), or newest luxury car then I'm your girl. Of course, I accept smaller-scale freebies too. In fact, I've had my eye on "Live on the Inside" by Sugarland, a few books (but NOT that Sarah Palin "book") and a specific gym membership.

So to sum up, I have not ever accepted any freebies in exchange for an awesome review. I even paid for my copy (and the other 14 I bought to give as gifts) of the book I was in. And to be sure, I was more than happy to pay for that and support my friend. So there.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Was Oprah Inspired by Little Merry Sunshine?

Back in June, I brought you the sad story of January "Jani" Schofield, a then 6-year-old living with schizophrenia, in an effort to highlight why as a country we are in desperate need of fully-funded human services for both the physically and mentally disabled and health care reform, on a larger scale, including the public option. On Tuesday, Oprah will have an exclusive interview with Jani and her family.

Because Jani needs 24-hour supervision, traditional treatments haven't worked, and in order to protect both Jani and her brother, her parents are now living in separate homes. Although Jani's story seems extreme, too many people suffer in silence because of the horrible stigma still attached to mental illness. Although it's well documented that people with mental illnesses are not stupid, and in fact, many of them are geniuses, they are often treated as sub-human, incompetent and lazy with little, if any, intelligence. They are ignored, ridiculed, and treated as though they have no feelings and deserve no respect.

I'm not exactly the biggest Oprah fan, but it's my sincerest hope that her popularity and influence will help bring much needed attention to the issue of mental illness and we can begin some real conversations and quit trying to sweep mental illness under the rug.

For a quick primer on Jani's story, watch the video below and then tune into Oprah on Tuesday for what I'm sure will be a story you'll never forget.

Happy Birthday Dave!

Dave, Linda, Me, and our Dad at Watervale in 2005.

Thirty-five years ago today, God brought me a little brother whom my parents named David, over my very loud protests and requests to name him Bozo.

I'll be honest, at first, David, now Dave, wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Our parents had promised me that Dave would be a great playmate, but I learned the hard way . . . not so much. One day, shortly before his first Thanksgiving, when Mom thought Dave was napping and I was playing quietly in my room, she heard a gut wrenching shriek. She rushed to Dave's nursery where she found me sitting in his crib with him and he was just letting out these blood-curdling howls. Oh, and he also had teeth marks on his cheek. Mom took one look at me and wanted to know what had happened, as though there would be any explanation that would get me out of the severe punishment that was awaiting me. Innocently, I told her that Dave and I were playing Thanksgiving and he was the turkey. We never played that game again and I'm pretty sure it was a day or two before I was able to sit comfortably.

Not to worry, Dave got me back, about 6 years later when I was 10 and he announced to everyone at Dillard's that I did not need any undershirts (Nana had taken us school clothes shopping) because I wore now a bra.

No, we were not fast friends. In fact, for many years, we were more akin to mortal enemies.

I guess it was when we got to be teenagers that we finally started to like each other. And now I can honestly tell you that Dave is not just my little brother, he's also one of my closest friends.

If I got to hand pick my brother, Dave would be the guy. Dave is fun and smart. He's really down-to-earth and he's the guy you want in a crisis. He stays calm when I freak out. He's really damn handy with fixing things and has all sorts of knowledge I don't have. He's an amazing athlete. He owns his own business, Crystal Skylights & Solarlighting, and can build anything. And I've heard he's pretty good looking too.

Happy Birthday Dave! You are not only my only brother, but you are the best brother I could ever want to have, and I hope this is the best year of your life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mrs. Bredemeier Goes to Europe

Reverend and his sister Imgard at her home in Minden, Germany.

Ed. note: This was originally published on Remembering Frances.

In 1971, Nana got remarried to Rev. CWA Bredemeier (see p. 4 of link). He was German, having emigrated to the United States during the 1920s. Reverend, as everyone including Nana called him, liked to return to Germany to visit his siblings, Imgard, Anna, Christy, and Ditmar and other family members who had remained in Germany. To my knowledge, Nana accompanied him twice. She very much enjoyed these trips and kept a diary of her adventures.

This post was originally written by Nana during her second trip to Europe in 1981. I discovered it during my trip to Florida in September and was surprised to learn of a side of Nana I'd never known. I have not altered Nana's diary in any way other than to correct misspellings.

My Second Trip to Europe, October 5 - 25, 1981
by Frances Paulk Bredemeier

Monday, October 5, 1981
My anticipation of the second trip to Reverend's homeland ran high. We were ready to leave for the airport when the phone rang and the voice told us our flight was delayed for three hours, would leave at 10:15 not 7:15. To keep us off to a good start we let the house as planned. Our good friends, Ruth Weyer and Carol Vassell, drove us to the airport but we stopped by our famous "McDonald's" for a nice hamburger and cup of tea. This made our departure perfect. Reverend failed to take his topcoat but this was not a concern as we knew there would be an extra coat on that lovely coat rack in the foyer of his German home. Bidding our friends a farewell, we boarded Pan Am flight for Frankfurt. After all passengers were comfortable we were served a delicious roast beef dinner with all the trimmings. We rested, read and relaxed knowing we had eight hours of flying time ahead. Lights were turned low and we stretched across the vacant seats for a few hours of sleep. Woke to a beautiful sunrise as we were flying over the United Kingdom. Time was announced U.S. 6:25am, German time 11:25am. A regular continental breakfast was served, temperature announced 16C, 61F.

Tuesday, October 6, 1981
Landed at the Frankfurt-Main Airport right on time, U.S. 7:25am, German 12:25pm. Looking out the plane window we could see plans from all parts of the world. We had the pleasure of waiting three hours for our flight to Hanover. We had dinner in the lovely dining room at the airport, was interesting watching people from all parts of the globe, many in their native wear. Had German sausage and potato salad for the meal. We could hear flights called to Palestine, Cairo, Tokyo, Peking, Saudi Arabia, Somali, even heard a Miami flight called, flights to Moscow, I had to think how small the world must be.

I stepped aboard my first foreign plane, Lufthansa B-737 for Hanover. Only took about 45 minutes for this flight, and stepping off plane we saw two smiling faces on other side of glass waiting for us, Siegfried and Ditmar. We were soon on our way to Minden, weather was cool and misty, a little rain. We were walking into their home with arms waiting for us, such a welcome with Imgard and Christy waiting. Once again being welcomed into their lovely home, with flowers in bloom in their yard, the flowers in every window. Red roses in bedroom to greet me. In Germany, you purchase roses in numbers of three, five, seven, or nine.

After relaxing and unpacking we went to dining room with a beautiful table waiting for us, and of course, a continental supper which we always enjoy, and a cup of tea with that special taste. We soon retired to our room and those cozy beds with the down comforters waiting for us.

Wednesday, October 7, 1981
Breakfast at eight, much pleasure to eat and talk with Imgard and Siegfried. Such a pleasure to look out at the German soil, so rich, with such blankets of flowers. Had to go into the vegetable garden, they had saved raspberries on the vine for me to pick. Much had been gathered and stored for winter use, but in the garden were also beautiful flowers, rose of colored dalhias. One would never tire of visiting just Minden. This city is in the heart of Westphalia on the Weser River. We enjoyed being home the first part of our visit and be with the family. A different world just to be in Germany and really live among the people.

Imgard had prepared a tasty dinner of meat loaf, rice and tomato and squash casserole, strawberries grown in their garden for dessert. Imgard has her own art for freezing them and also thawing, one could not tell they were not freshly picked. By now we were realizing the time difference so a nap was welcomed. We heard the East German bells calling us downstairs for coffee and dessert, strictly at four in the afternoon. The bells were in East Germany, Siegfried's home land.

Ditmar and Christy joined us. We spent the afternoon with the family, always a continental supper which we enjoy. Enjoyed German TV, the news and the end of another perfect day.

Thursday, October 8, 1981
Another interesting day, after breakfast, starting the day with a walk to the park. Weather was brisk. People of all ages, men and women, passing us riding their bicycles. Sidewalks are much wides than in the States, they were built for bicycles many years ago. Each person will carry a shopping bag as no sacks are given with purchases. Check-out clerks in grocery stores sit on a comfortable stool. Imgard served us friend chicken breast, potatoes, peas and pears for dessert. Christy and Ditmar again joined us for coffee and cake at four then for a ride to Hahlen and Hartum, small villages not too far from Minden where the family lived as children. Farmers live in the villages but their land is outside the village for farming. This is the day we seem to be over our jetlag.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, October 9, 10, and 11, 1981
Friday was the day we went to Bielefeld for Anna. Lovely drive over the mountain range, back by the Autobahn. Bielefeld is a beautiful city. Bethel, where Anna has lived and worked since a young girl, has enlarged even houses the city hospital now.

Saturday morning we watched [Anwar El] Sadat's funeral per German TV. This was interesting. I did get a glimpse of Nixon, but other ex-Presidents were not seen. Siegfried made yeast cake which we would enjoy int he afternoons. All stores close at 1pm on Saturday. Rudy and wife, Christine, daughter, Marguerti, and husband and baby Hanas from Bethel visited us Saturday afternoon. Was a pleasure to have Anna with us for the weekend. She brought gifts we will always treasure.

Sunday was the day August [Reverend] had looked forward to. Church in Hartum with Anna, Christy and Ditmar. This was the church they attended as children, pretty stained glass windows and lovely organ. Had not changed too much since his childhood, only the attendance. When they were young the pews were all filled. Today, many are empty, a Gideon speaker brought the message this Sunday.

We stopped by the old home place where a cousin now lives. Anna and August remembered many instances from childhood, passed by the old bake house. We then drove back to Minden where we knew Imgard and Siegfried would be waiting. Walked into dining room to find a beautiful table waiting for us filled with pork roast, carroli (turnips) potatoes. I still think they are the best potatoes I have ever tasted. At four, Imgard and Siegfried served us that delicious yeast cake with our coffee. I can see Ann's smile across the table now. She does not talk too much, but a real pleasure to have her with us. Sunday night we had supper with Christy and Ditmar in their attractive home. Anna rode over but the rest of us walked, was kinda raining and cold but was a wonderful walk, several blocks, we had to use umbrellas. Christy is very artistic so her table was most attractive. Ditmar's father joined us as his mother was still in hospital. She served platter of smoked pork chops, all kinds of cheeses, rice and spaghetti salad. Beautiful fruit bowl with real whipped cream for dessert. We then returned to living room where Ditmar showed slides of Crystal Beach and other points of Florida then slides of their trip by San Francisco, Grand Canyon and on to Lakewood, Colorado.

Monday, October 12, 1981
Waked to a beautiful misty rainy day. Lovely breakfast, as lovely as a queen has, and the fellowship with Anna, Imgard and Siegfried. We went downtown Minden by bus. So many sights to see in Minden, old churches, city halls and just watching the busy people. Lovely clothes in show windows, fur coats up to 10,000 Marks [approx. $4400]. We had lunch in a little street stand eating German sausage on a bun. Some of the foundations for the churches were laid 800 AD. Were home by four then watched Stalingrad picture on TV.

Tuesday, October 13, 1981
Lovely morning as usual then to Hameln, Lemgo and Bad Pyrmont in afternoon. Drove across the mountain range where the leaves were beginning to change color. Lemgo is an interesting old town with square in center, cobblestone streets, no cars allowed in square, a real tourist attraction, buildings very old.

Bad Pyrmont is a very exclusive and expensive spa. We visited a couple whose mother lived in Tarpon Springs many years. Her son manages the hotel at this spa. There are many, many hotels at spa. They served us coffee and cake in the main dining room and wanted us to stay several days and nights, but time would not permit. They will be in USA in January 1982 and will visit with us. After the interesting drive back to Minden and supper we all watched "Dallas" on TV, I had never seen this program in the States, but is a favorite in Germany.

Wednesday, October 14, 1981
Spent the morning shopping, had fun trying on clothes but did not purchase. Their sizes are so different from ours, I found that I wore a size 40 blouse, I believe that would be about size 10 or 12 here. Material was all so nice, well made. After four o'clock we took Anna back to Bethel. Was so nice that she could be home for the few days. After bidding a farewell to Anna in Bethel, we strolled through the town of Bielefeld, very interesting town. I believe I did not mention the first few days we arrived in Minden, we visited the cemetery where Mr. and Mrs. Bredemeier are buried, took flowers and found the cemetery well kept with beautiful flowers everywhere. They do have much respect for their deceased loved ones and keep the graves with beautiful plants on them.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 15, 16, & 17, 1981
These days were spent with the family with anticipation of our trip through Switzerland the next week. We did enjoy just being in Minden with the family. Ditmar showed his slides of their trip to Norway. we got a real education on Norway, pictures were interesting and comments on each were great. One afternoon Siegfried walked with us to the store and went through the big nursery department. There are so many pretty flowers in Germany, one wants to buy each, they grow so easily there, with some work and loving care. Late in afternoon we drove up to Kaiser Wilhelm's monument, could see "Little Switzerland" from the view. On way home we saw a shepherd with his sheep and his dog. We also visited with Alma and Tante Wilhelmine and fmily. Ulrich and Biggert arrived on their way to Denmark for their week's vacation. We called Peter Thoren in Hamburg, his aunt lives in Tarpon Springs.

Sunday, October 18, 1981
First two weeks we stayed close to Minden and the family. Now we are off for five days of touring by car. We will see more in these five days than most tourists see by a tour bus in three weeks. After breakfast this Sunday morning Ditmar, driving his lovely Mercedes, Christy, August and I were off to Southern Germany, first over the mountain range then through about 100 miles of flat land, then on to the Black Forest. We had our first sight of U.S. Army, they were on maneuvers this week. In this section farmers live out on their land. Leaves are turning a golden color, a picture any artist would prize to see and apture on canvas. Church steeples are noticeable in all the villages. We listened to Lutheran Church service while driving. All stores are closed on Sunday. Driving south toward Kassel [and here], bombed heavily during the war, scenery was especially pretty, little villages nestled between the mountains. Houses are white with red and the black roofs are beginning to be seen. The mountains are beginning to have many forest trees. There were very few transport trucks on the highway on Sunday, very few are allowed on Sunday.

Started noticing car license plates, CH for Switzerland, D for Germany, PL for Poland. Very few Polish cars, but the few we saw seemed to be refugees as cars were packed with belongings probably everything they owned.

Had lunch at a highway restaurant, outside under shelter with rain falling, Bockwurst and orange juice, then on to Frankfurt passing the U.S. Air Force base. Frankfurt was badly bombed, so most of the buildings are new and like new ones in America. Passed Castle Zwingenberg, then on to Darmouth, only a hello to Heildelberg as we passed, we had previously seen the castle and palace and places of interest. We are now entering the Black Forest near Baden-Baden, famous resort. All the rich sheiks from Saudi Arabia enjoy coming here, very expensive. Beautiful gambling casino here, most famous in all of Germany.

We approached Freudenstadt near evening, spent night at Hotel Lanhaus high up in the mountains in the little town of Lauterbad, just a few miles from Freudenstadt. Ditmar always found the right place to eat and spend the night. Had delicious pot roast, potatoes, cauliflower, wine and dessert in a lovely dining room, the hotel was in the square. All rooms have no closets, there is a big wardrobe for hanging clothes, big square pillows for beds and feather comforts for each mattress. All beds are king size with two separate mattresses. After our supper we walked around the square under the arcade which surrounds the city, this is the largest arcade in the world. The street lights were beautiful candelabras.

Monday, October 19, 1981
Walked down the marble stairs to the dining room, continental breakfast waiting for all the guests, red rose on each table. This is in the heart of the Black Forest. We were soon on our way to Triberg, home of the famous Coo Coo clock. We found the shop we wanted to see, owned and operated by Mr. Dohl, August had spoken to him by phone from the States. He had a big sign "UHREN Coo Coo Clocks," so this was the place we stopped. He had many, many clocks, he sold retail and wholesale. A merchant in Dunedin had been over and purchased many clocks to sell in his store in Dunedin, Florida. He had 55 employees, 33 were wood carvers. We watched some of the carving. The merchant from Dunedin had purchased two clocks in particular, price in Germany was 1480 Marks [approx. $655] and 2300 Marks [approx. $1018]. Many flowers in all the windows. People live on second and third floor of these buildings and shops on street floor. We had dinner in a quaint restaurant we found on the highway, served meat loaf, potatoes and salad, but such an interesting place. We left the Black Forest at Waldkirch and now on to Basel and enter Switerland near Nurenberg. Weather was clear and sun was perfect, such a day and new experience as I drove across the border and into Switzerland, a land I had only known from story books. We were now near the French border, no coats needed. Many vineyards in this section, the Black Forest protects the vineyards in winter and south winds brings good season for the grapes. We entered Switzerland at 2:30pm, custom officers were most friendly, sun was bright as I put my feet on Swiss ground, another thrill for me, with the Swiss Alps facing us. Switzerland has three languages, near Geneva, French is spoken, southern part, Italian and northern section, German. Their flag, a white cross with red surrounding the cross to the edge of the flag, these were flying in many places. We cross the Rhein River here, we are now about 800K (500 miles) from Minden. We left the vineyards to find apples and pears on mountain sides. Many tunnels through the maintains. Land has been turned over for winter planting or winter cover crop is up, will stay green all winter. Different forest on the Alps than the Black Forest. On to Bern. Many Swiss Army trucks on highway. Saw the big clock on the city hall in Bern as I remember in my geography book I studied in grammar school, never knowing some day I would view the clock with my own eyes. Swiss banks do not require a signature card, they only use numbers that are given to each customer. We drove along beautiful Lake Thun looking at the blue waters and little villages along the lake and on to Interlaken, nestled between the Swiss Alps. Out hotel in Interlaken was on a river, very cold glacier water and very blue. We had our stroll on the streets, passing the beautiful Hotel Victoria. We saw the horse drawn carriages leave hotel taking tourists for a tour of the city.

Many side walk cafes, heated from the ceiling, open all winter. Kursaal, which means "meeting place" was here. On the casino grounds was a clock with face made completely from flowers, big wooden hands even second hands. This clock has been here for many years, each year planting new flowers as needed. The stores were all filled with Omega and Rolex gold watches, and much fine jewelry. As we walked, we could see lights high up on the mountain side, dotting villages high in the mountains and villages we would see next day.

Tuesday, October 20, 1981
Woke to a beautiful sunshine day, looking out motel window to see the beautiful snow capped Alps and Mt. Matterhorn nestled between peaks part of the Jungfrau Region. When we first looked out window, day was clear could see the mountain very clearly but within fifteen minutes, one could no longer see mountains, mist come in so fast. After our continental breakfast we started our drive by winding roads and hairpin curves up the Swiss Alps. We drove to Grindelwold by car then took the electric train for the remaining part of the trip Scheidegg. To our desired expectations which many tourists fail to see, the sky was beautiful, not a cloud in sight, making visible the Eiger, Jungfrau and the Monch. No words can express this sight. Jungfrau unveiled her beauty and the Eiger stood in all his glory. We baked in the sun as if we were on the sandy shores of Florida. After taking in the beauty of these sights, we took the electric train back to Grindelwold for lunch. We met many Japanese ladies (teachers of tea) touring the Alps then on to Paris and London and back to Japan. Each wore their beautiful native silk kimonos. Back by Interlaken then up to Gimmelwald where we met an old man and family from Israel, many sheep on mountainsides. Then making all the curves up to Beatenberg where Reverend had relaxed a week in 1948. A small child was bringing the cows down from high meadows, the lead cow wearing the larger bell, the other cows with smaller bells, was a symphony of cow bells drifting throughout the open spaces of the mountains. The hotel was the same as in 1948. Went inside the church which was started in 1536 and restored in 1934 [ed. note: I think she's referring to the Protestant Church of Beatenberg]. Lady was working in the small cemetery on slope near church. The day closed with beautiful echoes of the cow bells and thinking, "they are led by a child, passed the church and up the town street to their proper place for the night." As the day comes to an end - my thoughts drift back to the great Alps standing before me - still wondering the strength behind those great mountains. "When I look down from the lofty mountains grandeur and tall water falls and feel the gentle breeze, I think dear God, how great Thou art. The world behind me - the cross before me - no turning back, I will follow Jesus." Another wonderful day had come to an end. I understand the dear [ed. note: I couldn't make out this word - it was handwritten] melody as I looked at the Alps.

Wednesday, October 21, 1981
On leaving Interlaken we had to stop in the middle of the town to wait on a man taking his cows to the mountains to graze, first cow wearing the larger Swiss bell, about a 2 gallon size, smaller bells on the cows. Saw a Swiss mailman wearing the traditional cape pulling a small cart. We drove along the north side of beautiful Lake Brienz to Luzern. Snowed in the mountains during the night, we could see the snow capped mountains along the drive, lovely chateaus all through the mountains, always flowers in gardens and windows. Saw much wood cut and stacked for winter use. All through this part of Switzerland the church steeples have clocks, then rooster for Reformed church and a cross for the Lutheran. Saw a mountain goat standing way up on a cliff. As we entered Luzern we heard on radio that the Hearst family from California had purchased a castle in Luzern and was going to move it stone by stone and relocate it near Miami, Florida. We saw many black ducks and sailboats on Lake Brienz. By now the lake was Lake Vierwaldstatter [ed. note: aka Lake Lucerne]. We drove through Stans built on the mountain side overlooking the lake. Buildings were old and very pretty in Luzern, covered walks, domes and much decorations on all buildings. Saw big American Express off here, many tour buses. Leaving beautiful Luzern on way to Zurich. Countryside beautiful, lake on one side, mountains on other side. Zurich is place where William Tell struggled for Swiss Independence, no traces of war destruction, economy is strong. On to Liechtenstein, country smaller than Clearwater or Minden, independent, has holding companies, no airports, no natural resources, everything must be imported.


The journal ends there. Although Nana's trip lasted another four days, there were no journal entries. Maybe they were lost. Reading and transcribing Nana's travel journal, I discovered a woman I'd never known. To me, Nana was always the woman who worked in the bank, who loved her children and grandchildren, who grew up on a farm, who loved her church and lived a very simple life. In this journal, I met Nana the world traveler. The woman who drank wine, socialized with and loved meeting people from all cultures, watched Dallas (even if only once), and called her husband August, not Reverend as I always heard her.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dude, Do You Need A Job?

Have you been having a difficult time finding a job because of your pot smoking? Do you have Glaucoma and need a hook-up for medicinal marijuana? AND are you a talented writer?

Westword, the Denver News Blog has the job for you. They are looking for someone to review medical marijuana clinics for their new blog "Mile Highs & Lows."

According to the job description,

The job is simple: Visit a different dispensary each week (without revealing you're working for Westword) and pen concise, impartial and snappy accounts of your experiences. Keep in mind this isn't about assessing the quality of the medicine on site; it's about evaluating the quality of the establishment. After all, we can't have our reviewer be stoned all the time.

The perfect candidate will be a talented writer who's not about to play favorites -- and, of course, someone who has a state medical marijuana ID (or the ability and need to obtain one). Compensation will be meager -- and no, we can't expense your purchases, although that would be pretty cool.

They'll accept informal resumes, but not ones written on rolling papers. Sorry. Oh, and they'd like a one paragraph essay on "What marijuana means to me."

I'm guessing that in this job market there will be kilos of applicants, so you'd better get rolling.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go find some snacks. I've got the munchies.

DISCLAIMER: LMS does not endorse pot smoking or the use of any illegal drugs. In fact, LMS is proud of the fact that we have never smoked pot or taken any illegal drugs. We took Nancy Reagan's advice to "just say no," preferring to just remain high on life.