Saturday, January 31, 2009

Think You Know Everything About Me? You Don't

I keep getting tagged on Facebook with the “25 Random Things About Me” meme, even though I did it the other day. So in honor of my friends who missed my answers the first time, here are 25 more completely random things about me.

1. My favorite decadent treat is these amazing little individual caramels from Lake Forest Food and Wine. Whenever I’m in Lake Forest, I stop by and buy them 10 or more at a time. They’re huge, so I cut them in ½ when I get home, re-wrap them individually and then allow myself no more than 1 a day.

2. My house burned down when I was 10 and while it was horrible, I kinda enjoyed being a gypsy for 6 months. We mostly lived at the Hilton by Arlington Park (Sheraton now) though. Yep, I was Eloise.

3. I’m the one who discovered the fire in the back corner of the garage. No, I didn’t set it, although a fireman accused me and my brother of that.

4. And in a moment of absolute stupidity, I ran into house to get my favorite green stuffed rabbit that I couldn’t live without.

5. I’ll never forget watching the firemen on the roof with chainsaws and seeing the enormous ball of fire fly out of the garage causing all the firemen in the driveway to hit the ground. Luckily, no one was injured.

6. I’ve never had a speeding ticket (but fully realize that I will now, now that I’ve bragged about it).

7. Despite the fact that he’s not exactly my “type,” I have had a completely unhealthy crush on the character Josh Lyman (played brilliantly by Bradley Whitford) from The West Wing since it first aired in 1999. I just figured out why.


8. I’ve only been outside of the US once. I was 10 and we went to the Bahamas. I really want to go to Paris.

9. My friend Brad Meltzer interviewed me for his latest book, The Book of Lies, and used at least 1 story from my life in the book. He also mentioned me in the Acknowledgements, which was a huge and wonderful surprise.

10. I drank the Obama Kool-aid in 2002 when I met him.

11. If I don’t get to Watervale each summer, I feel incomplete.

12. I could eat Thai food every day.

13. I’ve kept all the love letters I ever received and enjoy sitting down and reading them every so often.

14. My brother Dave is one of my best friends.

15. My favorite time of day is sunrise. Despite this, I’m not a morning person at all.

16. I gave the graduation speech at my junior high graduation. My mom and Nana were also their high school valedictorians. It runs in the family.

17. I can’t stand horror films. I have horrible dreams after I watch them.

18. I also believe in ghosts and if you tell me a house or building is haunted, I won’t sleep all night because I’m scared.

19. I had my appendix out when I was 11. Luckily, my mom didn’t listen to my doctor who thought I just had cramps.

20. I am deathly afraid of needles.

21. I’m certain this irrational fear stems from the last time I gave blood in college and the person doing it couldn’t find a vein. I had bruises all over both arms and then bled really slowly so it took forever. I started to hyperventilate, but thanks to a very cute boy who came over and distracted me, I was fine.

22. My mother, however, would tell you I’ve been afraid of needles since I was a kid.

23. The last time I wrote a letter to Santa was in 2007. Yes, I was 36. And, yes, I know there’s no Santa, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. It didn’t work. The letter is on my blog.

24. I used to be a Republican and was the Secretary of College Republicans in college. I saw the error of my ways shortly after that.

25. I spent the last day I lived in DC touring the West Wing of the White House, thanks to my friend Karen. It’s not part of the regular tour. The only disappointment I had was that we weren’t allowed to take any pics except for in the press room or outside, but I love the picture of me standing behind the podium with the seal of the White House over my shoulder.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Government Bailout Solution - Damn I'm Brilliant

My cell phone notified me this morning through Fox News (seriously, I throw up a little everytime I remember that my phone gets streaming news only from FauxNews) that Exxon Mobil reported record profits for 2008. $45.2 BILLION.

We all know where this came from: $4.50 per gallon gas.

$4.50 was the necessary price, my ass. If it $4.50 per gallon was required because the cost of oil demanded it, then Exxon Mobil shouldn't be showing $45.2 BILLION in profits.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Big 3 Automakers are struggling to make it from day to day. And the Federal Government helped them out to the tune of $14 BILLION in a bridge loan last month.

It seems to me that the Exxon Mobil can thank automakers for these windfall profits. I mean, without cars, who would Exxon Mobil sell the majority of its gas to? And if the Big 3 fail, I don't really see Exxon Mobil having another banner year.

What if, instead of the Federal Government handing the Big 3 $14 Billion with all kinds of strings attached, the Feds turned to Exxon and said, "You've got the biggest stake in a healthy auto industry of anyone in the country. In 2008, you screwed all Americans with your price gouging and as your punishment, we're going to require you to turn over your entire $45.2 BILLION to the Big 3 in order to help them get back on their feet."

That's a win-win. Good jobs would stay in America. The Big 3 would have plenty of money to bring new, more fuel efficient cars onto the market. Taxpayers wouldn't be shelling out additional money to help Detroit. And Exxon Mobil would learn that there's a new sheriff in town and grown-ups are now in charge. There's no more free rides like under W.

This idea is free, Mr. President. Consider it an inauguration gift.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

News You Can REALLY Use If You Live in Chicago

Are you like me and you like to dine out, but that your eyes are way bigger than your wallet?

Fret no more. The Chicago Tribune has come to our rescue with news we can actually use today, rather than simply running more stories about Drew Peterson's new fiance and Jessica Simpson's weight gain. Side note: Chicago Tribune, please let People magazine do what it does best and you stick to the news.

As part of their on-going series, Recession Survival Guide, the Tribune has provided us with "Deals to suit your taste and budget" by restaurant critic Phil Vettel. Bon appetite!

One other great way to save money while dining out is to visit Restaurant.com and purchase their gift certificates. You can purchase a $25 gift certificate for just $10 and once you sign up with them (for free), you'll get emails offering awesome discounts. Not a week goes by that I don't receive some special from Restaurant.com where I can purchase $25 gift certificates for $6 or less. Check it out. There are tons of restaurants in all price ranges.

Deals to suit your taste and budget

By Phil Vettel, Tribune critic
January 29, 2009

What's your deal? Using this list, you can find restaurant discounts for every day of the week. But that's not how we organized them. We divided them by type, separating the beverage-based deals (half-price wines, no-corkage nights) from the burger discounts (on the cover), the multicourse fixed-price deals (you spend more, but you get more) from the limited-hours deals (happy hour, early bird, lunch). Will these deals help restaurants weather the financial storm? Only if enough people take advantage of them.

MULTICOURSE DEALS

Adobo Grill (356 Yorktown Center, Lombard; 630-627-9990). "Economy Buster" menu (any three tacos, margarita, churros dessert) for $20 Sundays-Thursdays.

Angelina Ristorante (3561 N. Broadway; 773-935-5933). Three-course dinner (any appetizer, any entree, any dessert) for $27 on Tuesdays.

Bistro 110 (110 E. Pearson St.; 312-266-3110). "Family & Friends" dinner features chicken blanquette (chicken pot pie) and gateau Breton (traditional French cake) for $15 (large carafe of wine, $10); available Sundays-Mondays.

Chaise Lounge (1840 W. North Ave.; 773-342-1840). Two small plates plus entree for $25 on Tuesdays.

Chez Colette (Sofitel Chicago O'Hare, 5550 N. River Rd., Rosemont; 847-678-4488). Three-course dinner (soup/salad, entree, dessert) for $26; available Mondays-Sundays.

Duchamp (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434). Three-course dinner (any appetizer, any entree, dessert trio) for $25 on Tuesdays.

Feast (1616 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-7100). Any two courses and glass of wine for $25 on Wednesdays.

Nacional 27 (325 W. Huron St.; 312-664-2727). Five-course tasting menu paired with wines for $45 on Wednesdays.

Park 52 (5201 S. Harper Ave.; 773-241-5200). The restaurant that displays a portrait of Michelle Obama (in the front bar area) offers an " Obama Prix-Fixe" menu, a four-course menu with wines, for $44. Available seven days.

Sola (3868 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-327-3868). Three-course menu for $30 (add wine pairings, $15); available Mondays-Wednesdays.

Zealous (419 W. Superior St.; 312-475-9112). Five-course tasting menu for $49; through Feb. 13.

Zocalo (358 W. Ontario St.; 312-302-9977). Three-course dinner for $25, Corona Light beer $3, on Tuesdays and Sundays.

HAPPY-HOUR DEALS

C-House (Affinia Hotel, 166 E. Superior St.; 312-523-0923). From 4:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays in lobby bar, two pick-your-toppings seafood tacos and a beer are priced at $9.

Carlucci (1801 Butterfield Rd., Downers Grove; 630-512-0990). $2 appetizers in the bar, 4-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

Pops For Champagne (601 N. State St.; 312-266-7677). Featuring 37 percent discount on all food items (except for caviar), 3-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

PRE-THEATER DEALS

312 Chicago (136 N. LaSalle St.; 312-696-2420). Three-course dinner $40, available Tuesdays-Sundays.

Boka (1729 N. Halsted St.; 312-337-6070). Three-course dinner $35, available 5-6:30 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. Through February.

Cuatro (2030 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-842-8856). Three-course dinner $30; available 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays.

Lockwood ( Palmer House Hilton, 17 E. Monroe St.; 312-917-3404). Three-course menu (choice in all courses) $38; available 5-7 p.m. daily.

DRINK DEALS

Adelle's (1060 College Ave., Wheaton; 630-784-8015). No corkage fee Tuesdays, half-price wine bottles Wednesdays.

Birch River Grill (75 W. Algonquin Rd., Arlington Heights; 847-427-4242). Half-price bottles of wine, with purchase of entree, Saturdays.

D.O.C. Wine Bar (2602 N. Clark St.; 773-883-5101). Wine flights $10 Sundays; 20 wine bottles for $20 each on Mondays.

D.O.C Wine Bar (326 Yorktown Center Mall, Lombard; 630-627-6666). Wine flights half-price Sundays; wine bottles half-price Mondays; wine glasses half-price Tuesdays; specialty martinis half-price Wednesdays.

Duchamp (2118 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-6434). Half-price off every bottle of wine Sundays.

Dunlay's on Clark (2600 N. Clark St.; 773-883-6000) and Dunlay's on the Square (3137 W. Logan Blvd.; 773-227-2400). Wine glasses half-price Mondays; 20 wine bottles $20 each Tuesdays; Stoli martinis $6 Thursdays.

Feast (1616 N. Damen Ave.; 773-772-7100). No corkage Sundays-Thursdays in February.

Frasca Pizzeria & Wine Bar (3358 N. Paulina St.; 773-248-5222). Wine bottles half-price Mondays; wine glasses $5 Tuesdays; martinis $6 Thursdays; $3 drafts Fridays.

Mexique (1529 W. Chicago Ave.; 312-850-0288). Half-price off every bottle of wine Tuesdays.

Shanghai Terrace (Peninsula Hotel, 108 E. Superior St.; 312-573-6744). No-corkage BYO on Tuesdays.

Tizi Melloul (531 N. Wells St.; 312-670-4338). Any wine bottle half-price with purchase of two entrees on Wednesdays.

LUNCH DEALS

Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708). Three-course lunch includes salad, any sandwich and doughnuts to go, $15; available Mondays-Fridays.

Dine (733 W. Madison St.; 312-602-2100). Express lunch (in and out in 30 minutes) soup and half-sandwich, $7; soup, half-sandwich and salad, $9. Available Mondays-Fridays.

Farmerie 58 (58 E. Ontario St.; 312-440-1818). Two-course lunch, $18, three-courses, $22; Mondays-Saturdays.

Le Colonial (937 N. Rush St.; 312-255-0088). Two-course lunch menu (appetizer, main course, rice, coffee), $22.50; Mondays-Sundays.

Prairie Grass Cafe (601 N. Skokie Blvd., Northbrook; 847-205-4433). February lunch specials include Tallgrass beef sloppy joes, $12, Tuesdays; chili made with Tallgrass beef, $13.50, Wednesdays; meatloaf and mashed potatoes, $14.50, Fridays.

Zest (Inter-Continental Chicago, 505 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-321-8766). Soup and sandwich (choice of six sandwiches, four soups), $12; Mondays-Fridays.

. . . AND A FEW MORE

Everest (440 S. LaSalle St.; 312-663-8920). Luxury Town-car transportation to and from the restaurant, $15 per route (available within 15-mile radius of restaurant).

Pizzeria Via Stato (620 N. State St.; 312-337-6634). If snow is two inches or more downtown, all carryout orders receive a free pizza. Carryout only; lunch or dinner, Sundays-Thursdays.

Zapatista (1307 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-435-1307). "Muchos Tacos" (all you can eat), $13.99, and margaritas $5; Mondays.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25 Random Things

Over on Facebook there's a meme going around that I swore I wouldn't do, but I guess the joke's on me. My dear friend Colleen tagged me this morning, so I bowed to the peer pressure and did it.

To be nice, I'm not going to tag anyone here. You can thank me anytime.

Rules: Once you have been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you!

1. I procrastinate by writing on Little Merry Sunshine.

2. I don't believe in randomness, but that everything happens for a very logical reason. I can't always explain the reasons, but everything happens for a reason.

3. I tend to get stuck in my head where the world is logical and in order.

4. Math was my favorite subject in high school. In fact, I loved it so much, I graduated with 6 or 7 years worth of math credits. Yes, I graduated in 4 years.

5. Ironically, it was my love of math that made me continue to take math courses in college until I took that one high level course with all the math majors and I failed it. Yep, I got an F.

6. Failing Multivariable Calculus was the best thing that ever happened to me. Ever. I learned that I didn't always have to be the best at everything, that risk taking was okay, and how to get up and dust myself off.

7. I always wish I was more touchy-feely, but I'm not. Sometimes I can be, but it's not usually my first instinct. Maybe that's changing as I get older though.

8. I almost gave Betsey and Ross back to their original owner because I was scared I couldn't handle the responsibility of pets. I'm so glad I didn't.

9. I'm blonde and frequently make dumb mistakes (raise your hand if you wore your non-prescription sunglasses for 3 hours indoors today before noticing like I did!).

10. My favorite snack is white grapefruit from Florida. It must be fresh, not in a jar. And definitely not the ruby red grapefruit. Ick.

11. I love that in the last year I've rekindled some really important relationships in my life, but there's one I still miss. A lot.

12. It always makes me sad when I have to let someone go from my life. Even if it's for the right reasons.

13. I hate eggs.

14. Ever since the tuna croissant incident in college, I have a very difficult time even looking at tuna.

15. It is my most fervent belief that the Cubs will win the World Series in my lifetime.

16. Family is far more important to me than I let on.

17. I love country music, but most of my friends pretend not to know this.

18. One of the happiest nights of my life was Election Night 2008.

19. It is really difficult for me to take credit for my accomplishments. I'd always rather let others bask in the recognition, but I have two good friends who loved me enough to show me the error of my ways.

20. I love peppermint ice cream and yellow tulips.

21. I've only been in love once.

22. My favorite spot in the world is a secluded beach where I can just be quiet.

23. It took me a long time to feel like I'd found MY place in Chicago and it wasn't just the place I grew up and where many of my family members are located. I think I've reached that place.

24. I believe in that eternal wisdom of the Rolling Stones: We can't always get what we want, but if we try sometimes, we might find, we get what we need.

25. Jimmy Buffett taught me to swear.

26. BONUS: 9 years later, I still miss my hair stylist in DC. He was the best there ever was and ever will be. The first time I walked in he asked how I wanted my hair done and I couldn't describe it, but I wanted a relatively radical change. I sat down in the chair and he got to work. When I left, it was the exact style I had in my mind and had been unable to describe. He's still there though, so go see him: Christopher Rosenthal at Salon Nuance.

Jury Duty Scam - Verified by the FBI

I received the following email yesterday from the Arlington Heights Police Department Citizen Alert. Many towns, in fact, have similar citizens alerts which you can sign up to receive at Citizen Observer.
Jury Duty Scam - Verified by the FBI

Many people have received a summons to appear for jury duty. Not everyone follows through on their civic duty. Criminals are using this fact as the basis for requesting sensitive information.

The caller identifies himself as an officer of the court or jury coordinator. They say that you failed to report for jury duty and an arrest warrant was issued. You explain that you never received a summons. To clear it up, the caller asks for verification information: date of birth, social security number and maybe even a credit card number. Hang Up! If you give this information away you may lose your identity and EVERYTHING that goes with it.

This scam's simplicity makes it effective. The threat of arrest catches the victim off guard and the ability to make the problem go away quickly by just giving some information is very inviting.

NEVER give out personal information when you receive an unsolicited phone call.

The bottom line is that only you can protect your personal information. Be alert and be proactive. If it smells a bit fishy, it probably is.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Time To Do The Patriotic Thing

These are certainly tough times all around. You don't need me telling you that. I, for one, have champagne taste, but live on a Kool-aid budget. Times are tough.

But I didn't realize quite how tough things were until I saw the following article in the Tribune today. I had no idea the banks were suffering so much. And it's our fault. We each need to take responsibility for our part in the suffering of the banks. We created this mess and only we can fix it.

So I implore you to get out there and bounce some checks! As George Bush told us all after September 11th, it's our patriotic duty to spend money. If it was patriotic then, well, then by God, it's even more so now when no one has any.

Now, embattled banks taking hit in service fees
By Becky Yerak |Tribune reporter
11:08 AM CST, January 27, 2009


First, banks had to worry about bad loans taking a bite out of their interest income.

Now, consumers are pulling back on their use of ATMs, and they're not writing as many checks, so fewer require overdrafts.

So some financial institutions are seeing dwindling levels of what's known in the industry as "non-interest income," which includes ATM, overdraft and other customer service fees.

An example: Amcore Financial Inc. last week reported that non-interest income was $16.9 million, off 7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 and down 16 percent from the third quarter of 2008.

One chief reason: "Service charges have declined as customers started to curtail spending during the quarter," Judith Sutfin, chief financial officer of the Rockford-based bank, said in a conference call.

Specifically, Amcore's revenue related to ATM fees and overdraft charges were down.

Fifth Third saw its deposit service charges fall in the fourth quarter, citing a falloff on lower transaction volumes and debit card usage.

"The economy is very weak, not just in credit, but where consumer spending is important, such as deposit service charges," Fifth Third Chief Executive Kevin Kabat said last week.

At TCF Bank, total fees and other revenue was $474.1 million for 2008, down 3 percent from 2007.

TCF is seeing growth in the number of checking accounts, but "due to the economy people are doing fewer transactions," said CEO William Cooper.

"They're buying fewer things, they're writing fewer checks, and their debit card transactions are smaller," he said last week in an earnings conference call. "So even though our base is growing, fee income has been pretty flat again because of the economy and higher unemployment and basically the fear factor."

The volume of transactions involving checks and debit cards is down – the "first time in my career that it's down," Cooper said. "People are simply buying less."

It has been a trend for six to nine months but has been worsening by the quarter, he said.

An analyst asked whether consumers might be getting more sensitive to overdraft fees.

"It doesn't seem to be a change in being more prudent about non-sufficient fund fees or anything like that," Cooper replied. "It more of just they're spending less so they have fewer incidents" involving bounced checks and their subsequent fees.

TCF's ATM revenue for 2008 was $32.6 million, down 8 percent from 2007, due to continued declines in fees charged to TCF customers for use of non-TCF ATM machines as TCF offers more no-fee checking products.

byerak@tribune.com

Beyonce - Single Ladies SPOOF (Barack Obama)

I know this has been going around the Intertubes for a few days, now, but I just saw it for the first time and it's hysterical! I love it!

Change HAS Come

President Barack Obama (Oh God, that sounds NICE!) has been our president for a week now and I've seen more change in the last seven days than I'd seen in the previous 8 years. Now I'm not referring to change in the country so much, except he has lifted that nasty Global Gag Rule, which is a huge step forward for women around the world.

No, I'm really referring to the change that has come in my own life and the lives of my friends and family. I wish I could discuss all the change that is happening, but I can't.

All I can say is that for me, personally (I'm not speaking for anyone else here), I feel like a huge weight has been lifted, suddenly the world feels hopeful and the changes that are happening don't feel scary like they did a little more than a week ago. Instead, they feel right. Maybe one day I'll be able to write about some of it.

So be patient with me. I've got a bunch of blog posts in the pipeline and I'll get them finished in the next day or so. Really.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Harmonies of Liberty by Rev. Dr. Susan E. Watkins

In case you missed it yesterday morning, below is the sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Susan E. Watkins at the National Prayer Service. Watch the YouTube videos (note, the first one starts about 30 seconds into the actual sermon) and the transcript is below.

It's no secret that I'm not a huge church-goer. It's not that I don't believe in God because, in fact, I do. I don't go to church very often because I have too much life experience with "good Christians" who sit on the pew on Sundays and spend the rest of the week screwing everyone over. That kind of hypocrisy makes me insane. I also abhor the whole "fear of God" aspect. Finally, I feel closer to God when I'm in nature or doing volunteer work. I'd much rather walk my beliefs than simply talk them.

That said, if Rev. Watkins were my minister, I'd never miss a Sunday. She's inspirational and uplifting. She speaks to our better angels and about how we live each day and treat others says more about our faith than sitting on a pew. As a side note, she's also the first woman to deliver the sermon at the National Prayer Service.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Transcript -

Harmonies of Liberty
The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

Mr. President and Mrs. Obama, Mr. Vice President and Dr. Biden, and your families, what an inaugural celebration you have hosted! Train ride, opening concert, service to neighbor, dancing till dawn . . .

And yesterday . . . With your inauguration, Mr. President, the flame of America’s promise burns just a little brighter for every child of this land!

There is still a lot of work to do, and today the nation turns its full attention to that work. As we do, it is good that we pause to take a deep spiritual breath. It is good that we center for a moment.

What you are entering now, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, will tend to draw you away from your ethical center. But we, the nation that you serve, need you to hold the ground of your deepest values, of our deepest values.

Beyond this moment of high hopes, we need you to stay focused on our shared hopes, so that we can continue to hope, too.

We will follow your lead.

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.

“There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.

“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . .

“The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”

His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center—crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.

We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.

We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.

This is not a new word for a pastor to bring at such a moment. In the later chapters of Isaiah, in the 500’s BCE, the prophet speaks to the people. Back in the capital city after long years of exile, their joy should be great, but things aren’t working out just right. Their homecoming is more complicated than expected. Not everyone is watching their parade or dancing all night at their arrival.

They turn to God, “What’s going on here? We pray and we fast, but you do not bless us. We’re confused.”

Through the prophet, God answers, what fast? You fast only to quarrel and fight and strike with the fist. . .

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice . . . to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house . .? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly . . .

At our time of new beginning, focused on renewing America’s promise—yet at a time of great crisis—which fast do we choose? Which “wolf” do we feed? What of America’s promise do we honor?

Recently Muslim scholars from around the world released a document, known as “A Common Word Between Us.” It proposes a common basis for building a world at peace. That common basis? Love of God and love of neighbor! What we just read in the Gospel of Matthew!

So how do we go about loving God? Well, according to Isaiah, summed up by Jesus, affirmed by a worldwide community of Muslim scholars and many others, it is by facing hard times with a generous spirit: by reaching out toward each other rather than turning our backs on each other. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “people can be so poor that the only way they see God is in a piece of bread.”

In the days immediately before us, there will be much to draw us away from the grand work of loving God and the hard work of loving neighbor. In crisis times, a basic instinct seeks to take us over—a fight/flight instinct that leans us toward the fearful wolf, orients us toward the self-interested fast . . .

In international hard times, our instinct is to fight—to pick up the sword, to seek out enemies, to build walls against the other—and why not? They just might be out to get us. We’ve got plenty of evidence to that effect. Someone has to keep watch and be ready to defend, and Mr. President—Tag! You’re it!

But on the way to those tough decisions, which American promises will frame those decisions? Will you continue to reason from your ethical center, from the bedrock values of our best shared hopes? Which wolf will you feed?

In financial hard times, our instinct is flight—to hunker down, to turn inward, to hoard what little we can get our hands on, to be fearful of others who may take the resources we need. In hard financial times, which fast do we choose? The fast that placates our hunkered-down soul—or the fast that reaches out to our sister and our brother?

In times, such as these, we the people need you, the leaders of this nation, to be guided by the counsel that Isaiah gave so long ago, to work for the common good, for the public happiness, the well-being of the nation and the world, knowing that our individual wellbeing depends upon a world in which liberty and justice prevail.

This is the biblical way. It is also the American way—to believe in something bigger than ourselves, to reach out to neighbor to build communities of possibility, of liberty and justice for all. This is the center we can find again whenever we are pulled at and pawed at by the vengeful wolf, when we are tempted by the self-interested fast.

America’s true character, the source of our national wisdom and strength, is rooted in a generous and hopeful spirit.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, . . .
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

Emma Lazarus’ poetry is spelled out further by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,: “As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich, even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live more than twenty-eight or thirty years, I can never be totally healthy . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made.”

You yourself, Mr. President, have already added to this call, “If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. . . . It's that fundamental belief—I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper—that makes this country work.”

It is right that college classes on political oratory already study your words . You, as our president, will set the tone for us. You will help us as a nation choose again and again which wolf to feed, which fast to choose, to love God by loving our neighbor.

We will follow your lead—and we will walk with you. And sometimes we will swirl in front of you, pulling you along.

At times like these—hard times—we find out what we’re made of. Is that blazing torch of liberty just for me? Or do we seek the “harmonies of liberty”, many voices joined together, many hands offering to care for neighbors far and near?

Though tempted to withdraw the offer, surely Lady Liberty can still raise that golden torch of generosity to the world. Even in these financial hard times, these times of international challenge, the words of Katherine Lee Bates describe a nation with more than enough to share: “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain . . .”

A land of abundance guided by a God of abundance, generosity, and hope—This is our heritage. This is America’s promise which we fulfill when we reach out to each other.

Even in these hard times, rich or poor, we can reach out to our neighbor, including our global neighbor, in generous hospitality, building together communities of possibility and of hope. Even in these tough times, we can feed the good wolf, listen to the better angels of our nature. We can choose the fast of God’s desiring.

Even now in these hard times let us

Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring,
with the harmonies of Liberty;

Even now let us Sing a song full of hope. . .

Especially now, from the center of our deepest shared values, let us pray, still in the words of James Weldon Johnson:

Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us . . . in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

At Last . . .

Did you see Beyonce singing Etta James' "At Last" to the for the President & Mrs. Obama's dance at the Neighborhood Ball last night? I'm not even a fan of Beyonce and was moved to tears by her rendition of this amazing song. The emotion is all over her face at how honored she is to be singing for them.

Watching the Obamas felt almost too intimate, given what we've come to expect from these dances. What I saw was two people completely and unconditionally in love with each other. Two people with a deep and abiding love that honors each of them as individuals and as a couple.

And it filled me with hope.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We Have Come So Far

In 1788, the Constitution was ratified saying African-Americans were only 3/5 of a person.

The White House and the U.S. Capitol were built by slaves.

With the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of his dreams, which he was unable to see realized thanks to a gunman in 1968.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 insured that everyone's right to vote was forever protected.

Today, January 20, 2009, we inaugurate Barack Obama as our country's first African American President.

In the last episode of the The West Wing, Keb Mo sings America The Beautiful. Even though this isn't the video of Keb Mo singing it at the inauguration of Matthew Santos, it still fits perfectly with today.



It took us too many years to get to this place, but we are here and from this day forward, every child in America can grow up believing that he or she can become President.

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

In case you missed it, from CNN.com . . . If this doesn't stir your soul, then I'm not sure what will.

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again, these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act -- not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control -- and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -- even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment -- a moment that will define a generation -- it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends -- hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence -- the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

President Barack Obama


Please join me in congratulating our new President Barack Obama!

Yes We Did!

It's Our Inauguration

Much has been made of the fact that today isn't just the inauguration of President Barack Obama (God, I LOVE saying that!), but it's OUR inauguration too.

To that end, I am taking the Oath of the President of the United States and I invite you to join me.
"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

This is me at my first press conference as President. (That actually really is me in the Press Room of the White House - the only room in the West Wing where picture taking is allowed - on April 30, 2000.)

Happy Inauguration Day!

I slept for maybe 45 minutes last night because I was giddy with anticipation of all that today brings.

In 1997, when I was in DC, I got up on January 20th, drove (with ease, as opposed to what it was like this morning trying to get into the District) into the District from Alexandria, VA where I lived, parked in my office building's garage, and walked over to the Capitol with my friend Sue where we watched President Bill Clinton take the oath for his second term as President. It was a cold, gray day, but the excitement was palpable. As we stood on the West Lawn, I remember it was crowded, but nothing like the pictures of today.

After President Clinton was sworn in, we walked back down Pennsylvania Avenue to find seats for the parade and hung out for a couple of hours.

That night Kelly and I spent at the Western States Inaugural Ball at the Hilton Washington (where Reagan was shot) working in the Green Room and hobnobbing with the celebrities - Joe Walsh from the Eagles, Stevie Wonder, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Thelonious Monk Jr. and Jimmy Smits, to name just a few. I remember when Jimmy Smits came in, I looked at Kelly and we decided we had to ask him to if we could have a picture. Frankly, it might not have been the coolest thing to do that night, but we had to ask. Graciously, he agreed.

Kelly, Jimmy Smits, and Me at the Western States Inaugural Ball, January 20, 1997

We had a great time that night and saw President and Mrs. Clinton. Without a doubt, it was a night I'll never forget.

But today is different. The feelings are different. The world is different.

It's no secret that I am no fan of President Bush (oh look - he's leaving in less than 90 minutes and I can finally refer to him as "President" without throwing up a little!) and I still believe that the 2000 election was stolen. Don't argue with me on this because you will never convince me. I wish he'd never been president to be sure. But I wonder if this day wouldn't be possible if the last 8 years hadn't happened.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the worst U.S. President's legacy was making it possible for the first African-American President to be elected? And then if that man, Barack Obama, turned out to be the greatest U.S. President ever? That may well be Bush's legacy and if it is, I suppose the old adage about it being darkest before the dawn is said for a reason.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Just Let It Go

My newish blog buddy American Girl over at She's an American Girl has written one of the most poignant blog posts I've read in a long time. Maybe ever.

As we sit on the cusp of history about to inaugurate our first African American President and on the day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you simply must read this post on racism. It will touch you deeply.

It embarrasses me to say that I know people who are racist (hell, I'm related to a few). Although these people are not part of my day-to-day life, I have been around them and heard some of the most vile words come out of their mouths and not called them on the carpet for it. Instead, I've simply walked away. That was the wrong response. It was the wrong response because it didn't address the problem and because my silence (even as I was walking away) could have been construed as condonement.

I vow that from today forward, I will call out hateful behavior of all kinds.

I'm fairly certain that each of us has had this experience. If we all spoke up to hate speech, we might affect change in some people. The ripple effect could be enormous.

Now go read She's An American Girl.

The Bush Countdown Clock Has ZERO Days Left!



We have all been eagerly awaiting this day and I admit that sometimes I wondered if it would ever arrive.

But it's finally here.

We have less than 24 hours left of President George W. Bush's Reign of Terror.

At 12:00 noon (11:00am CT) on Tuesday, we will inaugurate the 44th President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. God Bless America.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial

If you've been reading Little Merry Sunshine for any amount of time, you know how much I love music and how it influences my life.

Unfortunately, I missed today's concert at the Lincoln Memorial because I don't have HBO, but I discovered that HBO is showing it on their website!

I encourage you to grab a cup of tea or a glass of champagne and watch this wonderful celebration. It's about each of us and we worked hard for all that we're celebrating these next few days. So get cozy and be ready to laugh and cry and dance. You've earned it.

Click here to watch it now (clicking on the picture won't get you there).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I Want A Man With A HUGE . . .

snow blower and he'd better know how to use it.

What did you think I was going to say?

Perverts.

It turns out size does matter. I've lied in the past.

Friday, January 16, 2009

6 Things . . .

The brilliant Dr. Monkey has suggested his readers share the "6 Things You Don't Know About Me" with our readers, so here goes . . .

The rules are simple. I'm going to share 6 things about me that you probably don't know. Then I'm going to call out a few of my favorite blog buddies and ask them to do the same.

  1. I'm really an introvert. No one ever believes me. For one, I was a cheerleader in high school and now I'm in sales and working for myself. Those two things don't exactly mesh with being introverted. Obviously, I'm not shy and I can carry on a conversation with a wall. The thing that no one knows, however, is that it often takes just about everything I've got to go do those things and they deplete me. Being introverted or extroverted is more about where your energy comes from - do you turn inward to fill yourself back up or do you get energy from being with others. For me, it's entirely internal. If I can't find time every day to shut the world out and just be quiet for a little while, I don't function very well.

  2. I was the Secretary of College Republicans my sophomore year of college. I'm not proud of it, but it's true. I wish I could say that my reason for this sin was something reasonable like there was a hot college guy involved, but the truth is I was just young and naive.

  3. I played the flute in my high school marching band, but have no "this one time, at band camp" stories. Sorry.

  4. The night I adopted Betsey and Ross, I laid in bed, reached down to pet one of them on the floor (they were only 8 weeks old and not able to jump up on the bed yet or maybe they just weren't yet comfortable with me either) and thought to myself "what in the world have I done bringing rodents into my life?" Almost 13 years later, I don't know what I'd do without these "rodents". For the record, I didn't grow up with pets and Betsey and Ross were the first pets I'd ever had.

  5. I've saved all the love letters I've ever received and every once in awhile I sit down and read them and feel grateful.

  6. In college, I kept my socks and underwear drawer in a way that could only be described as OCD. The socks were all folded and organized by color - white went horizontally and the colors were vertical by color. One day, I came home to discover that this drawer had been ransacked and all my socks were mismatched and completely disheveled. Because I was an RA and the other RAs in my building and I liked to play practical jokes on each other (we all had master keys that got us anywhere we wanted to go), I knew exactly who'd done it - Kay Kay, Zook, Koko, and Ben (yes, my friends had and still have crazy names). I was furious, but it showed me how ridiculous this anal retentiveness of mine was. My sock and underwear drawer is still neat, but not OCD neat.
Tag! You're It! Gourmet Goddess, Fonzie Sox, She's An American Girl, The Brubakers of Round Lake, Fran I Am, and Boxer Rebellion.

I Miss DC

Maybe it's because of the bottle of wine I've had tonight. Maybe it's because we're about to inaugurate the 44th President of the United States and a man I truly admire. Maybe it's that time of the month (it's not). Maybe it's because I feel one door closing and another opening (in more ways than one). Maybe it's . . . . just because . . .

But tonight I miss DC more tonight than I have in the almost 9 years since I moved back to Chicago. And I guess, over the next few days, it's just going to get worse.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Miracle on the Hudson

Flying terrifies me. I don't like to give up control in general and always feel like I am doing that each time I'm getting on a plane. I don't know the pilots. I don't know the maintenance crew. I don't know the flight tower personnel. I don't understand how a metal tube that weighs 1 million pounds can be sustained in the air and not fall to earth in line with the laws of gravity. Random birds can bring down a plane. And yet I'm supposed to simply trust that I'll get from point A to point B safely.

Tonight, however, I feel a bit safer. Even though the general consensus is that today's US Airways flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte, North Carolina was brought down into the frigid Hudson River by a flock of birds (I don't think it was a flock of seagulls, but one never knows), the pilot and crew managed to get all 155 passengers safely off the plane with no major injuries. I've heard everyone was off the plane in 90 seconds, which is amazing to me, but I can't find it in writing.

The crew and pilot acted heroically.

We truly saw a Miracle on the Hudson today. I feel just a bit safer about flying tonight. Not that I'm going anywhere.

Today's Silver Lining: A Gorgeous Sunrise

It's bitterly cold outside today. The temperature outside right now is -4. I'm afraid that when I walk outside in a few minutes, my face will fall off, along with other necessary body parts. Although, I do have a section of my thighs and butt and hips and tummy that I'm not terribly fond of or wedded to. But that's another topic.

Anyway, Chicago had a gorgeous sunrise this morning. When I was at Lake Forest College, less than a mile from Lake Michigan, I used to love getting up early and walking down to the beach to watch the sunrise. I'm not really a morning person, so it didn't happen often enough which is something I regret.

Turn your volume down - you don't want to listen to the reporters drone on about how cold it is and that it's not getting any warmer.

Flying First Class and the Kindness of Strangers

Twelve years ago, my paternal grandmother died (not to be confused with my Nana who is still alive). We didn't have a great relationship, but missing her memorial service wasn't an option. I had to say goodbye and put some closure on our relationship for myself.

When she passed away, I was living in Washington DC and her memorial service was being held in Chicago. Because she was cremated, the service was planned for a Saturday when everyone in the family could be there ten days after her death. This was wonderful because the family was spread all over the country and it meant we could all save a few bucks on airfare.

The ten days between Grandma's death on May 1st and her memorial service on May 11th were very difficult for me at work. We were preparing to file a Summary Judgment brief in a case in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on May 10th and had been working insane hours - 14-16 hour days. I had been working 7 days a week for weeks, but this particular week I spent nights at the firm and didn't sleep at all and ate even less.

By the time we filed the brief late that Friday afternoon, I was a physical and emotional wreck and I still had to drive home, do laundry, pack, eat, get to sleep, and be at the airport in time for my 6:30 flight to Chicago. If everything went smoothly, I'd arrive in Chicago about 8:00, have enough time to have breakfast with my dad, and we'd be at the church in plenty of time for the 10:00 service.

By the grace of God, I arrived at Washington National Airport on time, but it didn't matter. We boarded the plane and about 20 minutes after we were scheduled to depart, our flight was canceled due to mechanical problems. Knowing I had to be on a plane to Chicago, I called United's customer service on my cell phone and they put me on the 8am flight, which was a full flight and scheduled to arrive at O'Hare at 9:30. The only problem was that I couldn't reach my dad to let him know he didn't need to pick me up and he should just go straight to the church. Then I called my uncles and the church and begged them not to start without me. I also managed to reach my mom who said she'd be waiting for me at 9:30 to rush me to the church. The church in Glencoe was exactly 30 minutes from O'Hare.

I got my boarding pass and discovered I was in the last row of the plane. Sitting down in the last row, I took a deep breath and suddenly all the emotions and exhaustion I'd bottled up for two weeks came rushing out as tears running down my face. My sobbing was completely uncontrollable and involuntary. Given the size of the plane, I knew that it would take 30 minutes just to get off and I'd never make it to the memorial service on time.

In spite of my best efforts to conceal my sobs, a few minutes later a flight attendant arrived. She asked what was wrong and although I tried to assure her that I was fine, I did manage to explain my situation. Without a word she left, only to reappear again and asked me to collect my things because someone in first class had offered to give me his or her seat so I would have a chance of getting to the church on time.

Now I'd flown first class a couple of summers before, but nothing will ever compare to this experience in first class. For the first time in weeks, I ate a real meal with real dishes and silverware, as opposed to take-out food with plastic silverware. I slept and woke up in Chicago refreshed and calm, two emotions I barely remembered. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was the best food and best sleep I've ever experienced.

When we arrived at O'Hare, they let me off the plane first and I ran all the way to the arrival pick-up area where I found my mom waiting. She sped all the way to the church, but the service had already started without me.

To this day I don't know who gave up their seat for me and I never had the opportunity to say thank you in person, but I've never forgotten how in one of the lowest moments of my life, a stranger came to my rescue.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I've Gotten A New Job and I'm Moving

Now I know that many of you will read that line and just assume that I've gotten a position with the Obama Administration and am moving back to DC. Well, let me tell you . . . NOTHING could be further from the truth. Sure, it would have been nice if President-elect Obama had found my resume and realzied how his administration simply could not function without me in a very high-powered position with top security clearance, but that didn't happen.

Luckily, whenever God closes a door, he usually opens a bigger one. And in this case, my disappointment at being overlooked by the Obama Administration will be soothed by my new position.

I am going to be the Island Caretaker of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia! (more info on Hamilton Island)

Now I know that sounds like some cushy job where I'd sit on the beach all day drinking mai tai's. I assure you, it will be grueling, however.

Just look at this job description:
  • stroll the white sands,
  • snorkel the reef,
  • take care of "a few minor tasks" and
  • and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates.
  • "They'll also have to talk to media from time to time about what they're doing so they can't be too shy and they'll have to love the sea, the sun, the outdoors," said acting state Premier Paul Lucas.
The accomodations are also not quite ideal. I mean, do they really think I can survive "rent-free in a three-bedroom beach home complete with plunge pool and golf buggy"?

All this for a measly $105,000 US salary.

Now the article on Yahoo says that they're accepting applications until February 22 and then they'll choose their final 11 candidates. Let's be clear: that's BS. I've already accepted the position, so your applications don't mean squat. Don't worry, I'll send you a postcard and you can always read my blog.

Stupid Criminal of the Day

I wish I could make this stuff up, but I can't. My favorite line is "The girlfriend said she knew nothing about the drugs or money." Sure because she was immune to the smell of pot. Well, either that or she ratted him out.

Arlington Heights break-in report ends in drug arrest

by Barbara Vitello in the Daily Herald, January 13, 2009

Police arrived at an Arlington Heights residence in the 600 block of Happfield Drive Friday preparing to investigate a home invasion.

They left with 350 grams of suspected cocaine, 827 grams of suspected cannabis and a total of $100,000 in cash, accompanied by a resident, 28-year-old Johnny Beltran, who they charged with possession with intent to deliver. Police have not charged anyone with the home invasion.

The defendant's girlfriend called police to report the crime, said assistant state's attorney Kristin Piper. Upon their arrival, the officers smelled pot and obtained a consent to search the residence, she said, and discovered the drugs and $70,000 in cash.

Officers found an additional $30,000 in cash in the defendant's car. The girlfriend said she knew nothing about the drugs or money, said Piper.

A Cook County judge set bail at $750,000 at Beltran's bond hearing Monday in a Rolling Meadows courtroom. However, because he has another case pending at Chicago's Criminal Courts Building, Beltran will be held without bond. If convicted of the Class X felony, he faces nine to 40 years in prison.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL 10th) Must Hate Women

I know I promised I'd work on being less snarky after the historic election of President-elect Barack Obama and lately I haven't entirely lived up to that promise. This post isn't going to live up to that promise either. On the one hand, we have a lot to be grateful for today, but on the otherhand, we have a douchebag of a Congressman and that's not such great news because we deserve better.

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 passed the House of Representatives today 247-171 (15 Congressmen/women abstained). You'll recall that this is the law that spanks the Supreme Court for its ridiculous ruling allowing women an incredibly short time to sue for discrimination even if they didn't find out about the discrimination for years after it started.

Wanna guess how Mark Kirk voted? He voted NO.

That's right. Mark Kirk voted no, just like he did in 2007.

Just before that, the House voted 256-163 (14 abstentions) in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act which stiffens penalties against companies that discriminate based on a person's gender.

You're probably not surprised to learn that Kirk also voted NO on this bill again, just as he did in 2008.

Don't ask me why he hates women so much, but he obviously does.

I'd like Rep. Kirk to remember that I will remember this in 2010 when he is up for re-election and I will make sure every woman I know is aware of his misogyny. That's my campaign promise to him.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Go Do This NOW!

I don't mean to be alarmist with that title, but I really want you to do this because I care about you and your money. Because if you have money, you won't come begging me for some. And I have none as I learned earlier this evening when I opened my year-end financial statement.

The other part of my "do it NOW" commandment is that you can only do this until January 15th and then the opportunity will be gone forever.

What is it I'd like you to do? Glad you asked.

Go visit Oprah.com and download Suze Orman's new book "2009 Action Plan: Keeping Your Money Safe and Sound."

It's free. Yes, I said FREE. Free. As in it doesn't cost you any money, which is really the first step in keeping your money safe and sound: do not spend it.

Once you download it, READ IT.

After the year we've all had financially, we could use some free advice from a financial expert on how to keep our money safe and sound.

Here's more on Suze Orman from Oprah.com and from Huffington Post.

What Is Obama Saying to Bush 1?

American Girl has given me a brilliant idea!

In a comment to yesterday's post "Picture of the Day," American Girl mentioned that she likes to imagine what people are saying to each other in pictures like the one of President-elect Obama and the former Presidents.

American Girl thinks Obama is whispering to Bush I "You're lucky you don't have to clean up after him this time."

I think Obama is saying "WOW! Compared to your boy Chimpy over here, Dan Quayle was a f*ing rocket scientist!"

What do you think? The best suggestion will win a virtual prize.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Picture of the Day

The President-elect and four living ex-Presidents all together in one room. Wow.

The collective brainpower in this picture . . . well, it's brought down significantly by the Bushes, but otherwise, it's pretty awesome.

But why won't anyone stand near President Carter?

Be The Change You Wish To See In The World

I'd say President-elect Barack Obama epitomizes this phrase by Mahatma Gandhi perfectly and evidently I'm not alone.

The Inauguration Committee has just released the official Inauguration Poster, which is available for purchase on their website. Someone should have told the Committee about the recession. At $100 that poster is a bit rich for my blood. I wish it weren't.

If "Today" Had Any Balls, They Would Ban Her For Life

Okay, I'm going to try to get through this entire post without once typing her name. I think you know the woman of which I speak. She's that narcissistic, racist with shapely legs (which she always highlights in an almost too-short-to-be-legal micro-mini skirt) and long blonde hair who somehow has a career despite being one of the most hateful puppets of the Far Right.

Yes, next time, I'll let you know what I really think and not withhold my feelings.

Anyway, she was on the Today Show this morning to discuss some new cat litter box liner book she has just released. Now I haven't read it, nor will I. I would rather spend a day shoving daggers in my eyes.

Matt Lauer called her out on her allegation that single mothers are the cause of "almost all" of society's ills. Really. That's what she says. And single moms, she claims, are the result of the nasty liberals killing marriage over the last few decades. Crime? It's the fault of single moms. Drugs? Blame the single moms! Rape? Those damn single moms. Poverty? Single moms AGAIN. Illiteracy? Single moms fault.

I'd like to point out to her that our President-elect was raised by a single mom. Of course, as much as his single mom, he was raised by a village (to paraphrase Hillary Clinton) and he turned out pretty well. He did not opt for a life of crime and drugs. In fact, he is pretty much the epitome of what we want for a husband and father. And he has called on all men out there to step up to their responsibilities as fathers.

Furthermore, it's this crazy woman's party's Vice Presidential candidate - Sarah Palin - who's teenage high school student daughter got herself knocked up. And she's not married to the father.

Finally, our current idiot in chief, seems to have never been weaned from his married parents. So what's his excuse for being the colossal failure that he is?

I'm sick of these people who insist on blaming liberals for all of the world's problems without even looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing their own hypocrisy and racism.

Now that Today has kowtowed to her, would they please go ahead and ban her for life? Her 15 minutes of fame were up years ago.

Dan Quayle has been out of office for 16 years. It's time to retire his shtick.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Rod Blagojevich-Roland Burris Saga Continues

I'm confused.

Although Governor Rod Blagojevich has been charged with crimes related to attempting to sell the senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, he has not been indicted, impeached, nor tried and found guilty of any crimes.

Now I'm no fan of Rod Blagojevich. In fact, I think that he's pretty much an abismal failure and blowhard. But he's still the Governor of Illinois.

Since he was arrested on December 9th, he's been doing his job. He's signed bills into law, most notably a bill requiring insurance companies to cover autism. He also set a date for a special election for the vacated 5th Congressional Seat vacated by Rahm Emmanuel when Rep. Emmanuel was appointed to be President-elect Barack Obama's Chief of Staff. Next week, he will preside over the swearing in of new State Senators and Representatives in the 96th General Assembly.

No one has questioned Governor Blagojevich's ability to perform these duties. In fact, many people are quite happy about them. I, for one, think the autism law was long overdue. But why are people so loudly protesting the Governor's ability to appoint a Senator? If Governor Blagojevich is capable of performing some duties (e.g., signing bills into law, presiding over the Illinois Legislature, and setting dates for special election), why isn't he capable of performing other duties? Why isn't there an uproar over every action he takes? Why are people selectively questioning his legal standing to do his job?

I don't buy the argument that since he's been charged with trying to sell the senate seat, there's no way he can appoint anyone without people thinking there was some pay to play involved. It is unfathomable to me that anyone would say that Roland Burris in not qualified to be a U.S. Senator. He's been elected to statewide office four times.

When Mr. Burris arrived at the Senate door this morning, he was turned away because his credentials were not in order, but it's been reported that even if Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White certifies his credentials, which is what is currently lacking, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that Mr. Burris will still not be seated. What? Even if he has the proper credentials, Roland Burris will not be seated? Why not?

Mr. Burris is meeting with Senate Leadership tomorrow because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to "negotiate." What? What is there to negotiate?

Why is the Senate, made up of 99 mostly white men and women, telling 1 black man that he is not welcome?