Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm Rubber, You're Glue. Whatever You Say Bounces Off Me and Sticks to You.

Growing up, I wasn't the most popular girl in school. In fact, I was far from it. I developed much earlier than everyone else and some girls were just nasty spreading all kinds of rumors about me - because certainly having large breasts in 5th grade of course meant I was doing all kinds of things with boys that I most definitely wasn't doing (and mostly didn't know anything about!). Sure, the boys paid a lot of attention to me, but they were just curious and I didn't pay any attention to them. The girls, however, were vicious. I was teased and taunted everyday at least all the way through junior high. The rumors that made their way back to me were horrible and entirely untrue.

At the time, I would come home from school crying most days and not wanting to return. What I couldn't understand was why they were so mean to me. Just like the girls from the movie Mean Girls. Almost 28 years later, I understand that they were mostly jealous and the only way they could deal with it was to make fun of me. What I also know now, as an adult, is that many people, both men and women, have to tear others down in order to build themselves up. Their egos are so fragile that they must feel they are superior and the only way to do that is to make everyone else inferior.

About 5 years ago, I dated a guy who was a constant jokester. Sometimes he was witty, but mostly his jokes were mean in nature and belittling. And I was often the butt of them. I had asked him repeatedly not to make such biting comments about me (and others) because they simply weren't funny and they really hurt my feelings. I remember one day we were making plans to go out that night via instant messenger. In the course of the IM, he said something to me that was rude and completely condescending. When I called him out on it, he said he was joking, but I'd had enough. I wrote that I couldn't date him anymore because I was tired of him thinking it was okay to tear me down in order to feel better about himself. He told me my skin simply wasn't thick enough, but I didn't see it that way. For me, it was about respect, both my own self-respect and his respect of me. I was done and I've never looked back. I've also never let anyone speak to me that way again.

Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend who has recently become the target of some "mean girl" behavior. I know my friend to be one of the most integrity filled women I know and the lies that have been spread by people who don't even know her are vile. I reminded my friend that the person spreading rumors is really telling the world "I think I'm worthless and the only way I know to feel better is to attempt to tear an innocent woman apart."

It makes me sad to see adults acting the way 12-year old girls act. 12-year olds act that way because they don't know any better, but there's simply no excuse for it as an adult. The fact is that "mean girl" behavior says more about perpetrator than the victim. At some point, I always thought "mean girl" behavior would just go away because we'd all grow up and grow out of it. Unfortunately, it's probably been my biggest shock about being an adult - some of the "mean girls" never grow up.

Luckily for me, I know who I am and I'm comfortable in my own skin. I'm proud of my accomplishments and I'm even proud of most of my failings. I know who I love and who loves me. My feeling is that if someone needs to build themselves up by tearing me down, go right ahead. It doesn't really bother me one bit and it says far more about them than it ever will about me anyway. But I choose not to tolerate "mean girl" behavior by ignoring it and surrounding myself with people who are secure enough in their own right to celebrate the successes of others around them without feeling threatened.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

You Were Loved

This is one of my absolute most favorite songs in the world. Whenever I need a pick-me-up, I turn it on as loudly as possible and remember all the people I have ever loved and have ever loved me. Clarence the Angel in "It's A Wonderful Life" (and here) had it right when he inscribed that book to George: "No man is a failure who has friends."

And so this afternoon, I post this video of "You Were Loved" by Wynonna (which is from the Touched by An Angel soundtrack) set to clips from The Lion King (I'm not sure why, but it's the only video of this I could find) and dedicate it to all those I love. And if you're reading this post and wondering if I mean you, the answer is yes.



For the full effect, read the lyrics too.

You Were Loved by Wynonna
We all want to make our place in this world
We all want our voices to be heard
Everyone wants a chance to be someone
We all have dreams we need to dream
But sweeter than any star you can reach
Is when you reach and find you've found someone
You'll hold this world's most priceless thing
The greatest gift this life can bring
If you can look back and know
You were loved.
CHORUS:
You were loved by someone
Touched by someone
Held by someone
Meant something to someone
Loved somebody
Touched somebody's heart along the way
You can look back and say
You were loved.
You can have diamonds in your hand.
Have all the riches in the land
Without love do you really have a thing
When someone cares that you're alive
When someone finds their world in your eyes
Then you'll know you've find all you need
You'll hold this world's most priceless prize
The sweetest treasure in this world
If you can look back and say
You were loved
CHORUS
So many roads that you can take
Whatever way you go
Don't take that road alone
Better you should know...
You were loved by someone
Touched by someone
Held by someone
Meant something to someone
Loved somebody
Touched somebody's heart along the way
You can look back and say
You did OK
You were loved.
So remember to tell that one
You are loved.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The "Homeless Problem" in Arlington Heights

Election season is in full swing here in Arlington Heights. The Daily Herald is covering all the action with daily stories, editorials full of endorsements, and legions of letters to the editor.

Reading the comments to the stories on the Daily Herald's website (and after speaking with one alarmist candidate), one could quickly come to the conclusion that Arlington Heights has become completely overrun with homeless people.

By way of background, Arlington Heights is a middle to upper-middle class village of about 75,000 in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Its motto is the "City of Good Neighbors." In the last decade or so, there has been a surge of development and revitalization in the downtown area and almost all new single family home building has come in the form of tearing down existing homes built in the 1950s and 1960s and replacing them with McMansions that in some cases fill nearly the entire footprint of the property. Like most of the other towns in the area, Arlington Heights has also experienced an increase in the number of homeless people. There are many reasons for the increase in the number of homeless citizens, but for the purposes of this post, those reasons are not important.

It's my belief, as someone who both lives and works in Arlington Heights, is a regular reader of the Daily Herald, and is also a frequenter of many businesses in downtown Arlington Heights, where homeless people are most visible, that Arlington Heights is not overrun with homeless people and that we do not have an extraordinary "homeless problem." Now to be clear, I also believe that one person without a home is too many and is problematic, but that's another topic entirely.

I also believe that those who persistently rant about the "homeless problem" are using the term "homeless" to mean "someone who doesn't look like me or fit into my image of an upper-middle class person" and as a scare tactic. I don't believe that we can simply look at someone and know with certainty that they are homeless. Given the economic times we live in, it's entirely possible that someone dressed in a nice suit and driving a car is homeless. Not all homeless people look like the stereotypical guy dressed in rags, carrying all of his possessions in a shopping cart and drinking out of a bottle in a brown paper bag. In fact, according to Journeys from PADS to HOPE, there are many homeless people living out of their cars. That could even include a Lexus.

Yes, there was a stabbing on the sidewalk that happened to be in front of the library (after the library was closed) in December 2008 and it did involve two homeless people, but from everything I've read, the stabbing was the result of an ongoing argument between these two people and not endemic of a larger safety problem in Arlington Heights.

Those who argue that we should ban homeless people from public places, such as the library, simply because they are homeless are forgetting that the library is a public place, funded entirely by taxpayer dollars, and that homelessness is not grounds for removal. I think it's a dangerous slope to suggest we start tossing people out of public places simply because we don't like what they look like. Who will decide what look is or is not acceptable? How do you know who's homeless and who's not?

Having grown up in Arlington Heights, I remember when this town wasn't "all that," when the only attraction in downtown Arlington Heights was the library, when Town & Country Mall had the only movie theater around, and residents were of far more modest means than they seem to now. The comments I keep seeing on the Daily Herald's site and the position of one alarmist candidate feel classist and completely contrary to the town's "City of Good Neighbors" philosophy.

The library and other public locations have rules of behavior that apply equally to everyone, are prominently posted, and are strictly enforced (the library's Rules of Behavior can be found here, for example). Anyone not following those rules of behavior or breaking the law should be removed from public places, but we simply cannot be tossing people out of public places because they don't look like us. That simply would not be very neighborly.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ross Ran Away

As you may know, I've been pretty sick over the last week. I'm finally starting to feel better, but did not manage to leave the house today. Working from home, this can happen sometimes and believe me, I had a lot of work to catch up on.

Because I work from home, I'm pretty used to having Betsey and Ross interrupt my day in various ways. They're usually pretty active cats, but sometimes they sleep a lot. Today was a pretty quiet day and about 4:00 I realized it had been hours since I'd seen either cat.

Betsey was asleep on the foot of my bed, but Ross wasn't. I checked all his usual spots: the heating vent in front of sliding glass door in the living room, the linen closet, underneath the bathroom vanity, inside any of the kitchen cabinets, under my bed, under the dining table, and in the rocking chair. He was no where to be found. Then I remembered I'd been in and out of both guest rooms a number of times, so I searched both rooms and the closets in them. Again, no Ross. Next I realized I'd tossed a bunch of recycling into the garage, but when I checked, Ross wasn't there either.

Panic started to set in. "Ross! Ross Gardner!" I yelled as I rechecked every location. Still no Ross.

I grabbed the container of catnip and started shaking it. Hearing it from the back of the house, Betsey came running and, fully believing she deserved a treat for her prompt response, begged until I gave her some. But no Ross.

I walked all through the house sprinkling catnip all over my freshly vacuumed floors, but Ross still didn't appear.

Finally, I remembered that about 1:30, I'd opened the front door to get the mail. Ross must have slipped out! And he wasn't wearing his collar (don't lecture me about this). I grabbed my jacket and Nike's and out the door I went still with the catnip in hand.

Before I headed out, I text messaged a friend "Amber Alert! Ross is missing! HELP!"

"Ross! Ross Gardner!" I continued to scream in a high-pitched panic as I walked all around my house and headed down the street.

I could hear the yappy dogs barking next week and fully prepared myself to find Ross's lifeless body firmly in the grips of their jaws. My eyes filled with tears at the thought of this. Again, however, no Ross.

Finally, I walked back in the house wondering how I was going to tell Betsey that her best friend was missing. And how would I sleep tonight without him? I tossed my jacket on my bed and started my search of the house again calling his name as I hurriedly searched each room.

By this point, Betsey was asleep in her favorite chair, completely unfazed or maybe simply unaware that Ross had apparently been kidnapped by aliens or run away. Me, on the other hand, I was in full hyperventilation mode and wondering if I had either enough Valium or vodka to get through the night knowing that Ross was lost out in the frigid November March weather.

Remembering that my cell phone was still in my jacket pocket, I headed back into my room to retrieve it. As I walked around the side of my bed, I noticed something wrong with the sleeping pillows directly behind the decorative pillows on my bed. And then I saw that the pillows were moving. They were moving because Ross was adjusting his position on top of them!

Yep, the entire time, Ross had been snuggled up in his new spot on my sleeping pillows. He'd heard my hour long panicked search for him. He'd heard me shaking the catnip. He'd smelled the catnip on the floor of the bedroom. And the bottom line was he didn't care. He was cozy all snuggled up in my pillows.

Ross hadn't run away or been abducted by aliens. He was taking a nap in a new hiding spot. I guess I'll add that to the list from now on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dear President Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Early Friday morning, I received a text message from my dad confirming the news I'd been expecting since Thanksgiving: He had lost his job because his company went out of business.

His company had previously been one of the largest retail bedroom furniture companies in the entire state of Indiana. And now they are out of business.

My dad had long seen the writing on the wall. Last summer, he told me about how their business had been adversely affected because the Chinese government, in preparation for the Olympics, stopped all furniture shipments leaving China. As you probably know, over the last decade, almost all U.S. furniture production has ceased to exist because it was simply unable to compete with the cost of furniture made in China. Consequently because of the Olympics, my dad's company (and I'm sure many others) were held hostage by the Chinese government last summer.

With no time to recover from that, the economy collapsed in September. You know exactly how deeply Indiana has felt the impact. You've visited the state multiple times yourself and seen the devastation to people's lives first hand.

Yes, my dad stayed with his company until the end. He's been an employee there for 12 years. What other choice did he have? I know he's been looking for a new job for months, in hopes that he'd avoid being unemployed, but so far he's found nothing.

My dad is a college graduate and has worked hard his entire career, all of it spent in the retail industry. He's loyal, patient, great with customers, knowledgeable and has always been one of the top sales people at his various companies. He's been in management, but prefers not being the boss.

It's been great hearing you talk about expanded health care benefits for the unemployed, but I don't think your programs go far enough because they only benefit those eligible for COBRA. You see, my dad's not eligible for COBRA because his company went under. So now he's completely uninsured and that's a problem. My dad has epilepsy and asthma. I can't tell you the last time he had a seizure, but that's only because of the medicine he's taken daily for the last 40 years. How will he afford this medicine now? He's not eligible for Medicare yet because he's only 63 1/2.

In fact, because my dad is 63 1/2, who is going to hire him? Yes, we both know that equal employment laws prohibit discrimination based on age, but that's nearly impossible to prove. He looks pretty good for his age, but a cursory glance at his resume by anyone with rudimentary math skills and his age becomes obvious. In spite of it being illegal to do so, I worry that companies will realize his age and not hire him because they'll think he'll retire in a year or so and not around for the long haul.

Finally, the thing that upsets me the most about this horrible situation is that because his company no longer exists, he didn't get paid for his four weeks of paid vacation and he discovered yesterday that he wasn't getting paid for his final two weeks of work. That's 6 weeks of pay he's lost and no way to recover it.

I won't get into how big of a hit his retirement savings have taken in the last 6 months.

He's got no debt, except for his mortgage, which I'm certain he's up-to-date with. My dad's a frugal guy

Mr. President, what do I tell my dad? How do I help him? I wish your health care benefits through the stimulus package also helped people who aren't COBRA eligible. It's not my dad's fault he's not COBRA eligible. He's just a guy who's worked hard his entire adult life and through no fault of his own, finds himself completely unemployed 18 months before he's eligible for retirement.

I listened to your press conference last night, but didn't hear anything that gave me reassurance that anyone really yet "gets" the plight of Main Street and not just the loud whining from Wall Street. Please prove me wrong. Please do something to help my dad.

Thank you.

Little Merry Sunshine

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Boys

In junior high, John, Pete, Gary, and I were thick as thieves. Although I've known John since first grade and we grew up just a block apart, it took us until junior high to get tight. That's when Pete and Gary came into our lives. They were the kind of guy friends my parents trusted implicitly. My parents always knew that if I couldn't be found, I was probably off causing trouble with My Boys.

When I had an emergency appendectomy in 6th grade, Pete and Gary came to visit. When my parents split up a year later, the Boys were my rocks. John's parents were already divorced, so he knew what I was going through more than the others. John and I used to walk the mile home from junior high together regularly. I always knew that no matter what, I could count on My Boys to get me through.

One of my favorite memories of My Boys took place without me the summer after 7th grade. In what I'm certain was his effort to give us some normalcy even though there was no way he could afford it, my dad had taken Dave and me to Watervale for a week and my mom was home alone. At some point that first night alone, mom was woken up by incredibly loud noises and the sounds of all of the pipes rattling as the outside hose being turned on. Believing burglars were trying to break-in, she picked up the phone and called 911 without looking out the window.

Terrified by the horrendous sound of the pipes rattling, she sat on the floor of her bedroom whispering to the 911 operator and within a few minutes was told she can go to the front door and speak with the officers. No fewer than 6 squad cars had arrived from all different directions and when she opened the door, she saw the entire house and all the trees had been tp'd, lipstick had been used to write on the garage windows, and the hose was used to make it all that much more difficult to clean up. There may also have been eggs involved. She and the officers had a good laugh.

I'm sure she knew that John, Pete, and Gary were behind this hysterical prank, but they were no where to be found. The boys and I never spoke of it.

John and I have reconnected on Facebook in the last few months. He and his beautiful family are in town this weekend and we had plans to get together for some drinks tonight, but I've been really sick and had to cancel. One of the first things he said to me when we first reconnected was about a night he and Pete, and Gary tp'd my house. We had a good laugh because he didn't know they'd scared my mom so badly she called the cops. He has also apologized profusely, which I've assured him was entirely unnecessary. Truthfully, my mom thinks it was so funny that she tells the story to this day. "Jessica, do you remember that time when Dad took you and Dave to Watervale . . . . " is all I have to hear to know we're headed down the tp'ing path.

It's been 20 years since we've seen each other, but the thing about some friends is that you just pick up right where you left off. John is one of those friends.

Since I couldn't go out tonight, I've put John on notice that if my house gets tp'd tonight, I'm coming to find him early in the morning!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

This video has touched me so much. I see parts of my own childhood in each of these kids. I was their age when our family life truly fell apart. I didn't know if I'd be able to go to college either. But, luckily, through the grace of God and a LOT of financial aid, I did get through college.

I remember what it was like when we had nothing. When things like Christmas presents didn't exist, but for the kindness of strangers. When we lived on food stamps and the generosity of the local food bank. When my babysitting money helped pay the family bills and was the only money to buy me new clothes. When I tried to get a real job the summer after 7th grade because we needed the money. I know what it's like to worry about whether we'd get to stay in our home.

After that, we had enough money for a few years, because my mom was really successful in commercial real estate. But then my mom's boss decided not to pay her according to her contract, I guess because she made too much money and she had to sue him to recover the money. Needless to say, the only people who made out from that were the attorneys.

I think the difficult times when I was a teenager have made me the woman I am today. I am certainly more compassionate and less judgmental because I've been there. I get how quickly it can all disappear, even when you're doing everything right. I try to reach out to those less fortunate and see the person behind the circumstances.

The difference between my life and the life of these kids, I think, is that I didn't tell anyone. I was so ashamed. Heck, I'm still ashamed, which is strange since I'm writing about it here and a lot of people who know me read LMS. I can write about it here, sometimes but not too often and not too indepth, but I won't talk about it. I didn't know who to turn to. I didn't want to turn to my mom - she already had too much on her plate. My dad wasn't around. I was scared to go to my friends because I worried they'd think less of me. I lived in an area where people believed (and still want to believe) poverty didn't exist.

What I love about this video is that the teacher of these kids took an opportunity to give them an outlet and created a safe place for them to express their rawest feelings. And in the process, they were noticed by President Obama. He is listening.

The story of how this video got made is inspirational. I love teachers who think outside the box. Watch and see for yourself and then read the story in the LA Times and on WhiteHouse.gov.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby!

My friend Steve posted the graph below on Facebook today with the comment "Not sure, exactly, what's to be implied here, but . . . "

So that got us to talking about the chart and trying to figure out if anything could be extrapolated to our own experiences at Lake Forest College.

First, here's the chart:

Chart from the Sun Sentinel.

There are some interesting things about this chart that make me question its validity. First, there is no information on when this study was done or how it was done. Second, Wellesley, while one of a small group of elite women's colleges known as the Seven Sisters, is a small school and it's all women. For 2007, Wellesley had only 2380 students. Did they poll them all? That's an incredibly small sample size. Third, we don't know if virginity was measured when students entered Wellesley, when they graduated, or at some point in between. Fourth, who did this "study"? Fifth, how is "virginity" defined? Sixth, how did they compensate for the fact that not all majors have the same number of students?

Putting all of those concerns aside, do you think this chart rings true?

As a former Political Science/Psychology double major who dropped the Poli Sci mid-year in favor of just Psychology, I can say that my own sex life vastly improved the minute I made the switch, but I seriously doubt it had anything to do with my major. I think it had more to do with just finding the right guy at the right time. ;)

What about you? What was your major and do you see any similarities between your major, your sex life in college, and the chart above?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm a Sucker for Romance

Okay, maybe I'm just a overly soft-hearted girl or maybe I've watched one too many Hallmark Hall of Fame specials (wait, those actually make me vomit), but whatever it is, I'm so touched by this story. Not that I live with any illusions or hopes of being reunited with my first love or any of the wonderful men in my past because I don't. (Note to each of them who reads my blog: you are all wonderful and you each brought something incredible to my life and helped make me the woman I am today, but that's where it stays, sorry.)

Whatever it is, I just love stories like this, especially in these crazy times we live in. They are hopeful and romantic and prove that in the end, love does win out.

In love at 18 -- finally married at 80
'A GUY NEVER FORGETS HIS FIRST LOVE' | Highland Park alums 'right back to the way it was' in 1940s

By John Flaherty, Sun-Times

Jack Ross and Win Cushman were students at Highland Park High School when they fell in love the first time -- more than 60 years ago.

They held hands, went to dances. She knitted him a sweater. They talked of their future.

Then, she went off to college in Iowa. His family moved to New York, and he went to school, then to war in Korea.

They ended up marrying other people, had children, then grandchildren.

By 2006, they'd gone more than half a century without any contact. They were each widowed and alone, living on opposite sides of the country. Then, each decided to send the other a Christmas card. The rest came easily.

On Monday, now living in Arizona, Ross and Cushman got married again -- this time, to each other.

"A guy never forgets his first love," said Ross, a former commercial photographer who was married for 48 years and lived in Schenectady, N.Y. "You wonder from time to time: Where is she? How is she doing?"

Just before Christmas 2006, he found an address for Cushman on the Internet. But it was wrong, and the card came back.

Cushman was married for 52 years, living mostly in the Chicago area. Her mother always liked Ross and would tell her how he was doing. She kept a picture of the two of them sitting on her family's couch in Highland Park. "I didn't want to forget him," Cushman said.

By 2006, she'd moved to Arizona to be closer to one of her daughters. She found his address in an alumni directory and sent a Christmas card. He got it.

"He called, and I just about fainted away," Cushman said.

They got reacquainted over a series of phone calls, and Cushman went to visit her old sweetheart in New York.

Neither of them thinks there's much difference between falling in love at 18 and again at 80.

"I think the both of us went right back to the way it was in high school," Cushman said.

The couple were married at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Peoria, Ariz., where they're part of a group that meets every Monday for breakfast.

"They both looked very happy," said Cushman's daughter, Lydia Bagley, who was matron of honor and who remembers hearing "about Jack periodically when I was growing up. He was the only one brave enough to date the principal's daughter."

After the guests had their wedding breakfast at Cracker Barrel, Bagley said, "We all had cake."

Gannett News Service

Contributing: Maureen O'Donnell

Jack Ross and Win Cushman are married by Dr. James Jacobson Monday with Ross' son-in-law, Tom Bagley, as the best man. They dated (inset) at Highland Park High School but then lost touch.
(Mark Henle/Gannett News Service)

Bradley Whitford on The Daily Show

If you've been a long-time reader of Little Merry Sunshine, you know about my lust for Bradley Whitford. To be sure, he and Josh Lyman, the character he plays on The West Wing are pretty much my ideal guy. Smart, political wonk, witty, kinda geeky. As far as I can tell, the only thing wrong with Bradley Whitford is that wedding ring.

My favorite Bradley Whitford line from this interview is "It's my standard autograph policy, you know, if you let me touch you down there, I'll do whatever you want." To be sure, he can touch me anywhere, anytime.

I'd be remiss if I didn't send a big thank you and a huge wet sloppy kiss to the friend who thoughtfully sent me this video this morning. There is almost no better way to wake up.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

First Sunday of Spring!

Today is gorgeous. Sunny and mid-60s with a light breeze. And I've got nothing and nobody tying me down to any particular schedule today. So what did I do with all my free time?
  • I made breakfast and read the Tribune;
  • I clipped coupons from the Tribune;
  • I wrote 2 newsletters before noon;
  • I carried an old, raggedy (yet incredibly comfy) barrel-type rocking chair to the curb hoping that someone will want to reupholster it and take it before the garbage men take it in the morning (note: I offered it up on Freecycle, but no one wanted it);
  • I put away the storm door to the sliding glass door in the living room and installed the screen door;
  • I removed the storm window from the screen door at the front door and replaced it with the screen;
  • I removed the old yellow light bulb at the front of the house and replaced it with a yellow CFL bulb;
  • I removed the extra insulation into the hall entrance to the attic, climbed into the attic (which I don't like doing) and put it away;
  • While in the attic, I found a box of old blankets my mom had made for Dave and me when we were babies. I pulled them out, discovered that mice had destroyed one, threw it out, and am washing the other 4 to better repack them and save them for possible future use with my own future kids. I also pulled some other stuff out of the attic and discovered it could be tossed out;
  • I scrubbed the mold from the bathroom ceiling and washed the whole bathroom from floor to ceiling;
  • I pulled out the outside chairs for the front porch and put in their cushions;
  • I'm currently washing my 3rd load of laundry;
  • I've started dinner and am making BBQ Chicken Pizza entirely from scratch;
  • I chatted with a friend in a heated political race and tried to offer some helpful advice or at least be a sounding board;
  • I fixed the concrete bird bath in my backyard that had fallen over from the high winds a week or so ago; and
  • Most importantly, I saved Josh Lyman and the rest of the staff of The West Wing, including President Bartlet from the hostage-taking terrorist also known as my DVD player without injury to anyone and before the rest of the country discovered the international crisis. There's no need to point out how heroic and selfless I am. I already know.
I have a bunch of other fun tasks to complete tonight. Don't you wish your Sunday was as much fun as mine?

Yep, I'm living the life!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Christian the Lion

Are you familiar with Christian the Lion?

Watch the video below and try not to cry. Trust me, nothing bad will happen. It's a love story pure and simple. And it's a reminder that true love and friendship last a lifetime. I promise you'll be moved.

Cool Free Stuff: Tomato Seeds, Aveda Shampoo, Kashi & More!

Thanks to the Chicago Sun-Times Fixer for all this cool free stuff! In these tough economic times, who couldn't use good freebies?

Seriously, I've taken advantage of most of these . . . I'm going to let you guess which ones! :)

Free tomato seeds from Campbell's! The super cool thing about this one is that when you request free seeds, Campbell's will donate seeds to the National FFA Organization to plant seeds in community gardens and schools across the country. When you visit the site, you'll need some codes from the bottom of any 2 condensed soups (try: CX and HY) and what kind of soup the codes are from (try: Cream of Broccoli). Expires June 21st.

Free Bikini Undies from American Eagle! You've got to print this coupon. HURRY! It expires March 18th.

Free Aveda Black Malva Pure Plant® Shampoo! Fill out the online form. I have no idea how long this is available.

Free Kashi Frozen Entree! Fill out the online form. HURRY! This expires March 15th!

For more great deals, visit The Bargainist regularly.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Brawl of the Century: Stewart v. Cramer

This is what you've been waiting for all week.

Here's how it began.

Now Jim Cramer finally comes on The Daily Show to answer for his sins. My only question is why can't our mainstream media do indepth pieces like this? Why can't or won't they ask the tough questions? Why do they let folks off the hook? Thank God John Stewart is beholden to no one.

Here's the entire unedited video.




Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Compliment Guys

I love love love this article!

Let's face it: we live in some truly trying times. It's often difficult to even get out of bed in the morning. But for the last three days of positive activity on the Dow, all of our 401k plans are in need of CPR.

But these two young men at Purdue University have taken it upon themselves to be the Compliment Guys and raise the happiness level at Purdue. They're standing outside for 2 hours each week, in all kinds of weather, and passing out compliments to everyone who walks by. Watch the video and listen to their compliments. You can't help but smile. It will be involuntary. They are like the oasis in the desert with their compliments in these harrowing times.

What if we each made it our mission to pass out compliments to each person who helps us everyday? The check-out woman at Jewel. The man at the dry cleaner. The crossing guard or bus driver. The security guy at our office building. The anonymous customer service agent on the phone. Each person is unique and special. I bet that in just a couple of seconds you can easily find something to celebrate in each person you encounter.

In my experience, passing out sincere compliments not only makes the recipient happy, but also has a way of coming back and improving my own day.

Give it a try tomorrow. And let me know how it goes. How did the recipients respond? How did passing out compliments make you feel? How did you feel before you started passing out compliments and how did you feel at the end of the day?

Mary Kay Cosmetics Works to End Teen Dating Violence

Many of you know that I'm a Mary Kay Consultant. I don't write about it because that's not the focus of Little Merry Sunshine, but I am very proud to work with a company who's mission statement is to enrich the lives of women.

One of the many ways Mary Kay works to enrich women's lives is through the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. The MKACF was created in in 1996, initially to fund research into eliminating cancers that affect women, but then later expanded to end the epidemic of violence against women. We take these missions very seriously. Since 1996, over $25 million has gone to support these two causes with over 98 cents of every dollar being used for charitable purposes (less than 2 cents of every dollar goes towards administrative costs). I'm very proud that among the $20,000 grant recipients in 2008 was the WINGS Program in Palatine, IL. Through this grant program alone, Mary Kay gave out 150 grants in 2008 worth $3 million to domestic violence shelters nationwide!

Additionally, Mary Kay does considerable work to prevent violence against women and teens with educational programs in the schools. The press release below describes this work.

Lobbying for Good Effort Supports Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In support of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week and the company’s ongoing commitment to end domestic violence, Mary Kay Inc. is launching a national lobbying for good initiative. Together with non-profit partner Break the Cycle and its independent sales force, Mary Kay Inc. will encourage legislators across the United State to propose laws requiring healthy relationship education in schools. According to statistics provided by Break the Cycle, as many as one in three teens will experience abuse in a dating relationship; and, one in four eighth and ninth grade students reported being victims of dating violence in a recent report by the Family Violence Prevention Fund.

“The teen dating violence statistics are alarming and Mary Kay wants to do its part. Texas and Rhode Island are the only states that require domestic violence educational programs. We’d like to see more states pass laws about teaching healthy relationships and dating violence in middle and high schools. This will help put an end to domestic violence before it starts,” said Mary Kay Inc. Vice President of Government Relations Anne Crews.

Breaking the cycle of teen dating violence

As part of the effort, Mary Kay Inc. and Break the Cycle have launched an online petition at www.enddatingviolence.com to gather signatures and support for teen dating violence prevention and awareness programs in schools nationwide.

Beauty that CountsTM

Mary Kay Inc. has partnered with Break the Cycle to sponsor a groundbreaking interactive DVD, Ending Violence. The Ending Violence DVD puts the organization’s teen dating violence prevention program into a multi-media format and will be available to schools this year.

The partnership was a result of Mary Kay’s first-ever global cause-related marketing campaign – Beauty that CountsTM. The company donated just under $2 million from the 2008 worldwide sale of Mary Kay® Crème Lipstick in Apple Berry to causes that change the lives of women and children around the world. Break the Cycle was one of the beneficiaries.

Mary Kay has an ongoing commitment to lobbying for good. Beginning in the 1980s, Mary Kay Inc. lobbied state and national lawmakers advocating insurance coverage for mammograms and over the last 15 years lobbied for the federal Violence Against Women Act, its reauthorization and subsequent appropriations.

About Mary Kay Inc.

Mary Kay Inc., one of the largest direct sellers of skin care and color cosmetics, achieved another year of record results in 2007 with $2.4 billion in wholesale sales. Mary Kay® products are sold in more than 35 markets worldwide, and the company’s global independent sales force exceeds 1.8 million. To learn more about Mary Kay, log on to www.marykay.com or call 1 (800) MARY KAY (627.9529).

About Break the Cycle

Break the Cycle believes everyone has the right to safe and healthy relationships. As the leading voice for teens on the issue of dating violence, Break the Cycle advocates for policy and legislative changes that will better protect the rights and promote the health of teens nationwide. Engaging, educating and empowering youth through prevention and intervention programs, Break the Cycle helps young people identify and build healthy relationships. For more information, please visit www.breakthecycle.org or call 310.286.3383.

Press Release: February 2, 2009
Mary Kay Inc. Corporate Communications
Kirsten Gappelberg, 214-263-5951
Office: 972-687-5332

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chris Brown OUT of the Kids' Choice Awards!

I wish I could tell you that Nickelodeon did the right thing and booted him out. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Much to my surprise, Chris Brown withdrew from the Kids' Choice Awards nominations himself. I have to say, I'm impressed with this move, although not his statement. I'm certain though that my scathing post yesterday helped Chris see the light.

According to the statement released from Chris Brown's rep on TMZ.com,
"Chris very much appreciates the support of his fans and the honor they have paid him in the way of nominations for Favorite Male Singer and Favorite Song.

Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the incident last month has shifted the focus from the music to whether he should be allowed to be among those nominated.

While Chris would like to speak to his fans directly about this and other issues, pending legal proceedings preclude his doing so at this time. Once the matter before him has been resolved, he intends to do so."
I don't like the statement because what I want him to say is "I appreciate the support of my fans and honor they have paid me in the way of nominations for Favorite Male Singer and Favorite Song. Unfortunately, as a role model to my fans, I have failed them and cannot accept their nominations. It is never acceptable to hit a woman and I have no excuse. There is nothing she did or could ever do to deserve the beating I gave her. No one should ever resort to violence for any reason. There are simply no excuses and I hope that my fans will learn from my mistakes."

What's worse is the statement from Nickelodeon to TMZ: "We are confirming that Chris Brown has decided to withdraw his nominations from the Kids' Choice Awards. We agree with and respect his decision, and are looking forward to presenting a great event for our audience." (emphasis mine).

Okay, if Nickelodeon agreed with Chris Brown's decision, why didn't they take a stand and boot him off the list of nominations? Do any adults work at Nickelodeon?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Guess Who Is One of Chicago's Best Blogs!

ME!

Little Merry Sunshine is one of the newest blogs listed on the Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs site! Scroll all the way to the bottom to see me.

According to CBB, "An Arlington Heights native, Jessica Gardner shares her thoughts on local news, activism, politics and sports."

I'm so doing the Happy Dance over here!

Seriously, this is the coolest thing to happen to me all day. Oh, heck. It's the coolest thing to happen in weeks!

Thanks Chicago Tribune!

Does Nickelodeon Support Domestic Violence?

That title isn't meant to be funny. It's a question I'd really like to have answered. My gut says that Nickelodeon would say of course they don't condone violence against women (or anyone), but that doesn't really mesh with their decision to keep Chris Brown in contention to receive a Kids' Choice Award.

"Like all our KCA nominees, Chris Brown was nominated by kids several months ago based on his work as a performer, and the kids who vote will ultimately decide who wins in the category," Nickelodeon said in a statement sent to ABCNews.com.


19-year old Chris Brown, you'll recall is being charged with at least 1 felony for beating his 21-year old girlfriend Rihanna last month, although he's trying to plea to a misdameanor and not serve jail time.

I point out their ages because they are both role models to kids. Kids love them. Teenagers love their music. And of course, they are both still young adults themselves.

I'm all for being innocent until proven guilty, but this isn't about the court system. This is about what message is being sent to today's teenagers and pre-teens. Wrigley gum and the Milk campaign have decided they don't want to be associated with an alleged woman beater. Yet Nickelodeon, through their actions, is saying that his behavior is okay and they're standing by him. By doing that, they're sending the message to kids that it's okay to beat a woman to a bloody pulp.

It's bad enough that many of today's teens already think that Rihanna must be to blame for the beating she received from her boyfriend and that dating violence is normal. And this is at a time when 1 in 10 teens suffer violence in their dating relationships.

Don't we as adults owe it to this generation of teens and pre-teens to condemn domestic violence, let them know that violence is never okay, they deserve better, they must report it when it happens, and that they should not go back to the relationship?

Nickelodeon could use their Kids' Choice Awards as an opportunity to run anti-violence PSAs and educate kids about abuse. But it all starts with removing Chris Brown from contention for an award. It's too bad the powers that be at Nick are afraid to be adults.

Update 9:53pm: Campbell Brown of CNN has just weighed in on this issue and I'd like to think that she formed her opinion after reading Little Merry Sunshine, but I'm sure that's not true. But she does share my opinion. Watch for yourself.

Toddler Says Good-Bye To George

I thought I was done. Really, I did. But this is just too good to pass up. I laughed so hard I almost wet myself.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Gifts for No Reason

Today I had this great idea to buy a gift for a good friend of mine, for no reason. It's not this friend's birthday. This friend didn't get a promotion. There's nothing to celebrate. I just felt like buying a gift for my friend. Just because.

So I thought and thought and tried to figure out what this friend might like. And then I remembered a recent conversation in which this friend casually mentioned a love of Harry Potter.

Luckily for my friend, a first edition signed copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was up for auction. You may not recognize this title from the famous series, but surely you're familiar with Harry Potter and the Sorcercer's Stone. Philosopher's Stone was the name in Great Britain, but it was changed for the US.

This book is very rare. It's a softcover and one of only 200 from the first printing issued with illustrated wrapping papers from London publisher Bloomsbury. It also includes an illustrated card signed by J.K. Rowling.

Unfortunately for my friend, the book sold a tad bit outside of my price range . . . $19, 120.

Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

You Wish You Were As Loved As I Am, But You're Not

I am the luckiest woman in the world. And clearly I'm also the most loved woman in the world. Some people used to think Princess Diana was the most beloved woman in the world, but she clearly ranks somewhere below me. Michelle Obama is also enormously popular and beloved, but again, not nearly to the degree I am.

How do I know this? Well, first, in December, you'll recall that Mrs. Theresa Brown from the Netherlands gave me $8.6 million! Then, just last week, Bollywood came calling!

Look at the wonderful email that arrived today . . .
Greetings To You.

I have a proposal for you however is not mandatory nor will I in any manner compel you to honor against your will. I have to introduce myself first, my name is Dr.Anthony Hobson a banker, working with one of the leading banks in United Kingdom.

In this bank existed a dormant account for the past two years, which belong to a Syria national who works with London Mining Plc but he is now late. When we discovered that there had been neither deposits nor withdrawls from this account for some time I decided to carry out a system investigation and discovered that none of the family member or relations of the owner is aware of this account. That is the story in a nutshell. Now I want an account overseas where I can transfer these funds and come over to meet with you for investment in your country. Thereafter, I had planned to destroy all related documents for this account. It is a careful network and for the past three months I have worked everything out to ensure a hitch-free operation. The amount at the moment, plus all the accumulated interest in this account stands at £15,000,000 (Fifteen Million Pounds Sterling GBP).

Now our questions are: 1. Can you handle this project? 2. Can I give you this trust? 3. What will be your commission? Consider this and get back to me as soon as possible.

Finally, it is my humble prayer that the information as contained here in is accorded the attention, urgency as well as secrecy it deserves. I hope my message did not come as an embarrassment to you? But if it does please kindly accept my apologies and if you are interested to proceed with me kindly send me your names and mobile number for further discussion. Thanks in anticipation.

Respectfully yours,
Dr.Anthony Hobson.
+447045729266
How in the world could this kind man think I would be offended or embarrassed by his desire to give me $15,000,000 pounds? I don't know what the exchange rate into dollars is today, but I'm sure it's okay. What will I take in commission? 100% of course. Does Dr. Hobson think I'm some sort of sucker?

Why do so many people I've never heard of keep wanting to bestow their riches (or someone else's) on me? I don't have the answer to this either, but it doesn't really matter.

The only question that remains is what in the world will I do with all this money and fame I keep receiving? Should I blow it all on some Jimmy Choo shoes, Louis Vuitton bags, a few Hermes Birkin bags, Dior, and Burberry? Nah. That's not like me at all. I mean, I'd use a little on some luxuries for me and take some fun trips, but I'd rather donate a boat load of money to Lake Forest College, feed the poor, help rebuild New Orleans, ensure my family is taken care of for generations, and share a little with my friends.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

An Engineer's Guide to Cats

Yes, I know I talk about Betsey and Ross far too often on Little Merry Sunshine. So sue me.

This post isn't about them. It's about cat ownership in general. Trust me, even if you've never owned a cat or can't stand cats, the following video will make you laugh out loud.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

John Stewart vs. Rick Santelli

Don't mess with John Stewart and The Daily Show.

Rick Santelli of CNBC was supposed to be on The Daily Show last night, but CNBC nixed that after Santelli's recent rant against President Obama and the firestorm that has occurred. John Stewart then lit into Santelli, Jim Kramer, and all of CNBC.

While it was depressing to see just how far we've fallen over the last 2 years, Stewart, as always, was spot on and the result was hilarious.


Score one for John Stewart and The Daily Show. Rick Santelli, the ball is in your court.

Update: Read "What Battered Newsrooms Can Learn from Stewart's CNBC Takedown" by Will Bunch on the Huffington Post.

Bollywood Here I Come!

I'm going to be a movie star! Move over Kate Winslet and all those cute Slumdog Millionaire kids. I'm about to be the next "It Girl"!

Last night I received an email from a gentleman named MR. "Tony" at rbrt.migliore@gmail.com with the following message:
Hi Sir,

R u interested to play a roll of Hero in bollywood movie.

Tony
I'm sure the typos and reference to me in the masculine form are no big deal. MR. "Tony" was just trying to be hip. I mean, MR. "Tony" wouldn't have sent that to me if he weren't 100% legit, right?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Mad Libs!

Do you remember Mad Libs? I loved Mad Libs as a kid. I remember on days when we had indoor recess in elementary school my friends and I always had Mad Libs that we'd complete together. We had so much fun. And playing with Mad Libs with my friends is where I learned that curse words could be used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Well, the DCCC has created Mad Libs for us to apologize to Rush Limbaugh for our transgressions against him! Yeah!

Worth minutes of fun for kids of all ages, I'm Sorry, Rush is a great website that will teach you the fundamentals of kowtowing to the biggeset blowhard of our time.

Oh, damn, I have to go apologize now. I'm sorry, Rush. Really, I am. I messed that up. I should have capitalized Blowhard.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Got a Question? Ask a Librarian

I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. The Arlington Heights Memorial Library is the best library in the world. Seriously. The librarians there are completely accessible and ready to answer any question you might have on any topic at any time 24/7/365. Really. And the best part? It's all free.

A few months ago, I was writing a blog post and needed to cite a Supreme Court case. Now I used to be a litigation legal assistant and once upon a time knew how to properly cite cases for every court in my sleep. Ya, I'm a geek. But I wanted a very specific citation and couldn't find it online.

What did I do? I IM'd the Arlington Heights Memorial Library via AIM and asked a librarian to look up the official citation for me. And within minutes I had my answer! If you've got AIM, just send your question to AHMLQuestions. I've added the Arlington Heights Memorial Library to my AIM Buddy List and they're really good about keeping their status updated so you know if a librarian is available. It's great, quick and best of all, it's free!

If you've got a business in Arlington Heights, there are also a ton of resources available to you for FREE. Call the Business Librarian, Barb Vlk and she'll answer all your questions.

The library has other ways to get help too. I received the following article from Bill Pardue, the Virtual Services Librarian at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and am reprinting it here for your benefit.

Need to settle a friendly bet on the train? Want to know if a book is on the shelf while you're in the middle of a meeting? When there's no computer nearby and it's inconvenient to make a call, you can now send a text message to the reference librarians at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library's Answer Center.

The steps are simple:
  • Send a text message to 265010
  • Start your message with "ahmlq:" (leave off the quotes though). That's basically it!
  • Here are some examples:
ahmlq: What time does the library open tomorrow?
ahmlq: Starting pitchers in game 7 of the 71 World Series?
ahmlq: Arlington Hts curfew time for teens?
ahmlq: Copy of Obama's Audacity of Hope available?
  • After the first message, you just proceed with the texting as normal (no need for the "ahmlq:" part).
  • This service is free from AHML, but other standard carrier charges may apply.

Generally, texting works better for quick questions, given the restriction to shorter messages. If we feel that the question needs more in-depth work, we'll offer to follow up via phone or e-mail.

The text messaging service is available Monday-Friday, 9 am-9 pm; Saturday 9 am-5:30 pm; Sunday Noon-5:30 pm. This is most of AHML's open hours, except for the last hour on weeknights.

Of course, you can still call the answer center at 847-506-2633 or use the 24/7/365 chat service via the Ask A Librarian Live Online links on our website (http://www.ahml.info).

The library's main number is 847-392-0100.

More Things I Know for Sure

To follow on last night's theme of "things I know for sure," I have realized a few more today . . .

I know for sure that Annie was right. The sun will come out tomorrow. Sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. And sometimes it takes more than just one day. But it always comes back out.

I know for sure that sometimes I just need a good friend to shake some sense into me, figuratively, not literally.

I know for sure that there's more than one way to look at everything. It's all in how we choose to spin things.

I know for sure that I'm loved.

I know for sure that nothing ever really gets accomplished when I get stuck in my head.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What I Know For Sure

Earlier today I wrote about how I am feeling overwhelmed. In the process of writing that post, I flipped over and read Kittens Farting Rainbows, a new favorite blog, and couldn't believe my eyes as Bergsie put many of my exact feelings into words. But she ended her post in a postive way, which I couldn't figure out how to accomplish. She ended with the things she knows. And I thought that might be the perfect cure for what ails me today.

Without further ado and in no particular order, here is partial list of the what I know for sure.

I know that Betsey and Ross are always eager to snuggle with me when I'm feeling down. They're not fair weather cats.

I know for certain that true love is out there. I haven't found it yet, but it's there somewhere. I just have to keep looking and being hopeful.

I can always count on my friends' Tweets to make me giggle.

I know that my purpose is greater than just being someone's daughter or sister or caregiver.

I know that there's some music that makes me dance and lifts me up and there's some music that makes me sad and cry. I have to stay away from the latter.

I know that I have the capacity to be a great mom. Whether that's in the cards for me or not, I'm not so sure. If it's not, I have to find a way to channel those energies.

I know that hard wood floors beat carpet any day.

I know my failings only too well and work everyday to overcome them.

Sometimes I stumble, but the only way I can recover is to get back up and dust off my knees. There's simply no other choice.

I know that when God closes a door, he always opens another one. My job is to find that door because sometimes it's hidden.

I know that most of what happens, the good and the bad, is what I choose, whether consciously or not. I am in control of my life and I can change what I don't like.

I know that every situation presents me with opportunities to learn and grow and be better.

I know that I'll keep being presented with the same lessons over and over again until I learn them.

I know that second chances don't come around very often and when they do, I have to explore them. I don't often get to find out the answer to the question "What if . . . ", but every time I've gotten to find out, it's been well worth it.

I know that the Cubs are bound to win the World Series . . . one of these years.

I Feel Overwhelmed

I feel overwhelmed. I don't know if it's the snow I woke up to this morning that just feels like the last straw (I do get that it's winter in Chicago, but this winter just feels longer and snowier than usual). I don't know whether it's the economy. I don't know if I've spread myself too thin. I don't know if I've lost my focus. I don't know if I'm just bad at time management (something I've always prided myself on). All I know is that I feel like I'm being pulled in a million different directions and achieving nothing in the process. I'm not sleeping well. Some days I have an appetite and others I don't (not that it's stopped me from eating).

Sure, in certain moments, the feeling of overwhelm disappears, but it keeps returning. I feel like I've spent the last month pleasing no one, including myself. I feel like I haven't been a very good boss to myself, friend, daughter, sister, or volunteer lately. It's partly why I haven't blogged much in the last month. I haven't known what to say or how to say it even if I did know.

I've tried the things that usually work to de-stress me and help me overcome the feeling of overwhelm . . . hypnosis and meditation, long bubble baths, a massage, a glass or two of wine, cleaning, snuggling with Betsey & Ross (I dare anyone to argue a purring cat is not soothing), exercise . . . and am not sure how to lose this feeling.

I don't mean to whine about this. Really, I don't. I'm only writing about this today in hopes that by throwing it out to the universe, a solution will come to me.

Update 2:56pm: In the midst of writing this post, I happened to jump over to one of my new favorite blogs (can we say ADD?), Kittens Farting Rainbows (seriously, doesn't that title make you giggle?) and read a post called "100% Better 60% of the Time." As I read it, I kept thinking to myself, "yep, that's how I'm feeling." But then Bergsie ends her post with the things she knows and that got me to thinking that maybe I should write about the things I know for sure (not to sound to Oprah-ish). Maybe that will make me feel better. Look for that as my next post. See, maybe the universe does give me the answers I need when I reach out.