Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Cracking the Whip!

Photo of Betty Page from Photobucket.com

Want to hang out in a lesbian, bondage, strip club tonight? Okay. Have fun. Enjoy yourself. Yes, really.

Now, it's not that I think strip clubs are fantastic. I don't. I tend to believe they are degrading to women and don't really believe the argument that no one forces the women to work there. But that's really a discussion for another day.

This blog post is about the brand-spanking new GOP sex scandal. Yes, of course, the pun is entirely intended.

Seriously, if you want to visit a strip club, that's really fine by me. Enjoy. Really. It's not really my thing and you won't find me there on a Friday night, but if you want to go, I'm not going to judge you for it.

Unless you spend your time telling me how anything outside of sex for pro-creative purposes in the missionary position and strictly within the confines of a heterosexual marriage will send me to Hell.

Then I'm going to call you a hypocrite. Why? Because that's what you are.

If you run around the country, television cable channels, and/or the internet preaching homosexuality to be an abomination, that gay marriage destroys heterosexual marriage, and that sex outside of marriage is a sin and that women should not have the right to control their bodies and make their own reproductive choices, all while you secretly frequent lesbian, bondage strip clubs, claim to be hiking the Appalachian Trail while really in Argentina with your true love (who is not your wife), cruise for gay sex in airport bathrooms, sleep with your Senate staff member's wife, frequent high-class call girls, sexually abuse children in the name of God and then spend years denying and covering it up, attempt to solicit sex from House pages, and/or your teenage unwed teenage daughter gets pregnant by her teenage boyfriend in spite of your support of abstinence-only education, I just have one thing to say to you:

Shut up.

None of us live perfect lives, but to be running around screaming your morality and superiority from the rooftops, morality you don't even live, is the absolute height of hypocrisy and frankly, makes me more than a little ill.

Seriously, just shut up. Go live your life and let other people live theirs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

How Did You Celebrate Earth Hour?

This past Saturday night, you may have taken an hour out to honor the Earth by unplugging unneeded appliances and turning off the lights to save electricity. Some friends of mine planned to host candlelight only dinner parties. The local media was hyping that even the skyscrapers were turning out the lights during Earth Hour.

That got me to thinking. I wanted to see what Chicago looked like in the dark. I have an annual pass for me and a guest to hang out at the Observation Deck of the John Hancock Building (which I got from Groupon) and I thought this would be the perfect place to spend Earth Hour and witness the city in all its dark glory.

I grabbed my friend Tony, made a quick stop at Raw, where I purchased the most amazing hummus and raw oatmeal I'll ever eat and made a new friend in the owner, Polly, and then we were off on our latest adventure.

Our first stop was the Mity Nice Grill at Water Tower Place, where we enjoyed a yummy reasonably-priced dinner and watched all the teenagers dressed up for a high school dance awkwardly navigate their over-sized suits and too-high heels. My personal favorite was the guy in the seersucker pants that did not match his seersucker jacket. He wore that suit with style.

After dinner, we made our way to the top of the John Hancock Building (or the Big John as those "in the know" call it - at least according to the recording you hear on your way to the top), where, as always, we were captivated by the 360 views of the city and Lake Michigan. I think we arrived about 8pm and with Earth Hour still 30 minutes away, the City was still completely lit.

Finally about 8:25, lights started going out. The Sears Tower (really, I just can't call it the Willis Tower) went dark, as did the Trump Tower, Aon Center, 900 North Michigan Ave, Water Tower Place and the Water Tower across the street, the Fourth Presbyterian Church, and the Merchandise Mart. Even Navy Pier turned off all the lights including the Ferris Wheel and the Golden Arches at the Rock 'n Roll McDonald's were darkened.

I was pleasantly surprised at just how many buildings went dark for an hour on Saturday, but was shocked at what a nominal impact that had on the amount of light in the city and beyond. All the streetlights were still on, as were many store lights along Michigan Ave. While all the decorative lighting was turned off, many store windows were as bright as ever.

Although I had really hoped to see the city noticeably darkened, I was impressed with the number of buildings that took the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint, even if just for an hour.

Check out these before Earth Hour and during Earth Hour pics:

Navy Pier & the Water Filtration Plant about 8pm.

Navy Pier & the Water Filtration Plant about 8:45pm. Notice the missing Ferris Wheel.

Aon Building, Trump Tower, the crown building (that's what I call it because I don't know the real name), and the Sears Tower (aka Willis Tower) about 8pm

The Aon Building and Trump Tower turned their lights out first.

Finally, Willis Tower turned their lights off and the crown building dimmed theirs.

900 N. Michigan Ave. before Earth Hour.

900 N. Michigan Ave. during Earth Hour.

All pictures taken by me.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival

When I lived in Washington, DC, this was my favorite time of the year. Not simply because it's Spring and the temperature was typically in the upper 50s to lower 70s and without the humidity that DC is famous for in the Summer. But because the city turned green and came alive again after the winter.

Washington is a town with a lot of green space - Rock Creek Park, The Mall, George Washington Parkway, and much more. My favorite apartment at Park Fairfax in Alexandria, VA was surrounded with huge lush trees and fragrant azalea bushes making me believe I lived in the middle of the world's finest gardens.

But what made this particular time of the year so extra special was the Cherry Blossom Festival at the Tidal Basin. A gift from the city of Tokyo, the first Cherry Blossom tree was planted at the Tidal Basin exactly 98 years ago on March 27, 1912, by First Lady Helen Taft.

This year, the Cherry Blossom Festival spans March 27 - April 11 with events all over DC and the suburbs. Click here for a wonderful photo gallery. Click here for a video of the 2009 Cherry Blossom Festival.

One year my friend Christopher came to DC in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival and we spent a fantastic day playing tourist. Oh, and we took what to this day is one of my absolute favorite pictures.

Enjoy the rest of my pictures from that wonderful day!
Now will someone please remind me why I left Washington?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Schoolhouse Rock: A Big F'ing Bill

I'm a huge Schoolhouse Rock fan; isn't everyone from my generation? I mean, without Schoolhouse rock, we wouldn't have memorized those important history and grammar lessons.

A lot of people are upset with Vice President Joe Biden's "big f'ing deal" comment the other day, but as Jimmy Fallon reminds us, he got that comment from Schoolhouse Rock.

h/t The Political Carnival for bringing this brilliance to my attention.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Dream Never Died

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream will never die."
- Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Address to the 1980 Democratic National Convention

Today was proof that Senator Kennedy's dream never died. It hasn't been perfectly realized, but we've taken the first steps. Today when President Obama signed The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, he made Senator Kennedy's dream a reality.

Watch the President's speech, but bring your Kleenex:

One of my favorite moments in the last couple of days came when I read in the Washington Post about Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) left a note on his father's grave (his father being the late Senator Ted Kennedy) that read "Dad, the unfinished business is done."

Vice President Joe Biden brought me my absolute favorite moment thought.

Yep, he's right. Health care reform IS a "big f*/!&$% deal!" Thank you Vice President Biden for being so right. There are some moments in life that ARE a big f'ing deal!

Monday, March 22, 2010

This I Believe

I was running out to meet a friend for lunch yesterday and was radio station surfing when I landed on NPR. What I heard was a recording of a monologue from years ago given by a man sharing his belief about living the Golden Rule. I knew it was from years ago because of the kind of scratchy quality to it and some of the language. I was mesmerized and sat in my car for the remainder of the monologue, even though I was late. I simply had to know the name of the speaker because his words resonated with me and I could not turn off the car until I knew.

As this unknown man neared the end of his monologue, he said something I cannot get out of my head and I firmly believe, as well. "It seems to me better to have a little religion and practice it than think piously and do nothing about it."

Who was this man? His name is Albert Nesbitt, President of the John J. Nesbitt Company from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and he was reading his contribution titled "How To Refill An Empty Life" that first aired as part of Edward R. Murrow's 1950s radio series "This I Believe," is now replayed on NPR, and is available on podcasts.

When I came home, I Googled Albert Nesbitt and "This I Believe" and discovered a fascinating website of the same name. I also discovered a larger international project collecting essays from people sharing their core values. So far, they have over 70,000 essays and they're taking submissions! WOW.

I can't wait to sit down and write out my core values and submit my own story. This is awesome.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Journey of 1000 Miles Began Tonight With A Single Step

I'm so grateful tonight and at the moment am at a little loss for words.

Here's what I know for sure . . .

Never again will anyone be denied insurance because they have a pre-existing condition.

Never again will anyone worry about what happens if they lose their jobs and health insurance.

Never again will young adults worry that they'll graduate from college and graduate from their parents' insurance on the same day.

Never again will insurance rates be so high that no one can afford them.

Never again will anyone worry that when they get sick their health insurance will drop them.

I firmly believe what Jesus said about what you do for the least off these, you do unto me. He also said that what we do not do for the least of these, we also do unto him. Matthew 25:31-46. Tonight, we took care of the least among us; those without a voice.

Is this health care reform bill perfect? No. Absolutely, it is not perfect. It's a start. There is still plenty of work to be done to get Single Payer. But we've taken the first step.

A journey of 1000 miles must begin with a single step.
- Lao Tzu

In case you missed it, here is President Obama's speech after the historic health care reform bill passed the House. Keep an eye on the emotion on Vice President Biden's face.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Care Reform: We Have To Start Somewhere

I have given a lot of thoughtful consideration to the whole health care reform debate.

I've listened to the pros and cons and tried to understand the variety of points of view that exist on the topic.

I've gone to sleep at night thinking about whether health care coverage is a right or a privilege and how to decide who should have it and who shouldn't.

I've been upset over the Stupak Amendment, how I firmly believe that reproductive care, including abortion, is an essential part of women's health care and how sick I am of hearing people (read: men) who will never have a uterus tell me how to control mine. Yes, I know the Hyde Amendment that went into effect in 1977 prevents federal funding of abortion and I believe it's wrong and discriminatory too.

I've believed from the beginning that the only solution to the health care crisis we face (and let's be sure, we do face a health care crisis), is single-payer universal health care coverage and struggled with the fact that the current bills don't even include a public option, yet mandate everyone get coverage.

I've heard countless people approaching or over 65 scream about "no socialized medicine," while posting on Facebook that they're signing up for Medicare and researching Medicare Supplement policies and bit my lip not to scream "Hypocrite!" and a few other choice words. I'd have far more respect for people against universal health care for all if they'd stand on their principles and turn down Medicare, which last I checked, is still single-payer health coverage for people over 65.

I've struggled with whether I support the bill currently before the House of Representatives or whether it should be voted down because it doesn't provide universal health care or even a public option.

At the end of the day, however, I think we have to start somewhere.

I know too many people in our country who go without health insurance because they can't afford it or can't get it because of pre-existing conditions. One of my girlfriends is a single mom with a special needs child who goes to bed every night worried about what would happen if she lost her job or her employer-provided health insurance. How would she afford Cobra? How would she find insurance to cover her child and that she could afford? As I've written about before, my dad lost his job last year. Cobra wasn't available to him because his company closed. He has epilepsy and asthma and went months without insurance because he couldn't get it and struggled to pay for his epilepsy drugs out of his own pocket. A friend of mine told me yesterday about attending a funeral recently for a young man in his 30s who died because he had no health insurance and couldn't afford the treatment that would have saved his life. None of these are isolated stories. Somewhere around 43 million people in America are uninsured and even more are under-insured.

The health insurance bill scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representative on Sunday isn't perfect. But it's a start. It's a start we must make because quality, affordable health care isn't a privilege; it's a right. And anyone who thinks this isn't about them because they have good health insurance, just hasn't faced a personal health care crisis, disruption, or change in the terms of their health insurance . . . yet.

Health care reform is about all of us. It's about how we care for each other. It's about the content of our character.

I Think Nana Visited Me Last Night

As I type this, my fingers are trembling.

About 10:15 this morning, I opened my front door to check out the snow. Yes, snow. It was almost 70 the last few days and this morning it's snowing. And Mother Nature is messing with my head with a migraine today. Damn, her. But I digress.

Anyway, I opened my front door. The grass is covered with snow. The driveway and walkway to the front door are soaking wet. Snow is flying around. The tree branches are snow covered. I'd say it was pretty, but it's the first day of SPRING. Snow in the Spring is not pretty.

Sitting on the wet ground at my front door was a picture. A picture of Mom, Nana, and me. In fact, it was this picture:
One of my absolute favorite pictures of us. I love the smile on Nana's face. I love how genuinely happy she looks. I love how healthy she looks. She was in the hospital for knee replacement surgery and this must have been a few days after the surgery when she was finally feeling like herself again. Notice the lipstick she's wearing. It was her belief that no matter what else was going on in the world, as long as she was wearing lipstick, everything was okay. And people wonder where I get this belief from.

The picture sitting on the ground had been on my Christmas tree, as evidenced from the hole punched in the corner, but the ribbon was missing. Not torn out, just missing. My 2009 Christmas tree was a memorial to Nana and featured about 3 dozen pictures of Nana along with snowflakes she'd crocheted, but it was a fake tree, so I'm not sure how the picture ended up outside when I put the tree away. There were no water stains on the picture from months outside and the picture was completely dry, which was odd since it was laying on the very wet ground and it was snowing. Aside from a little dirt, the picture was in perfect condition.

I'm not sure where this picture came from, but I dreamt about Nana last night. Although I don't remember the details, I do remember she was visiting me here in my dream. And she was the way I remember her. Smiling. No gray hair (seriously, when she died at age 93, she had almost no gray hair and I hope that bodes well for me). Wearing lipstick.

When I woke this morning, I had a tough few moments deciding if my dream was real or a dream. I wanted it to be real because I miss her so much. I often think about if I just had 5 more minutes with Nana how I would spend it. I'd have so many questions I'd want answers to. So many things I would love to tell her.

Maybe my dream wasn't really a dream, but was reality. Maybe she actually visited me and left the picture, so I'd know it was real and not a dream. Maybe the reason I overslept and have a migraine was so I wouldn't rush out of the house through the garage early this morning and miss the gift she left me. Maybe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Changing The World, $10 At A Time

I read this story in today's Washington Post and just love the message. Here's a man who is unemployed, but he's not sitting around crying and having a pity party. He's out there making a difference in the lives of those around him. He recognizes he's got obstacles in his life, but he sees the suffering around him and has made a conscious choice to make a difference everyday.

What if we all lived our lives this way? Who's life could we change with $10?

Unemployed D.C. Man Giving Money Away to Foster Kindness

by Susan Kinzie, Washington Post, March 19, 2010

The guy behind the meat counter is looking at Reed Sandridge kind of strangely. Giving away $10 every day to a stranger -- an idea Sandridge had soon after he was laid off from his job at a Washington nonprofit group last fall -- isn't as easy as it sounds.

Carlos Canales, a 28-year-old butcher at Eastern Market, is hesitant to take the money. "What do I have to do?" he asks.

No strings, no hook. Sandridge, 36, a businessman-turned-shoe-leather philanthropist, just wants to help. His mom, the daughter of a coal miner whom he remembers most for her kindness, always told him that when you're going through tough times, that's when you most need to give back.

So not long after he was laid off, on the third anniversary of his mom's death, he started his "year of giving," documenting each $10 gift in a small black notebook and then blogging about the people he meets. By Day 94, he had given away almost $1,000, handing out money in blizzards, in rainstorms, on the sunniest of days. He gave $10 to a guy playing the trumpet outside Verizon Center, the president of a brewery, someone dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, a hard-drinking PhD, a man who held up a basketball to block helicopters overhead from eavesdropping on their conversation, the curator of a small museum and a whole lot of homeless people.

Sandridge, who is outgoing and has a ready grin, and, sometimes, a brown scruff of almost-beard, knows $10 is precious little, even to the most down-and-out. It feels significant only when the daily donations are subtracted from his shrinking bank account. He's been using his savings and a few hundred a week in unemployment benefits to pay the mortgage on his home in Dupont Circle. But he hopes he will network his way to a salary again long before he runs out of cash.

A learning curve

But the year of giving is not about the money. Sandridge is trying to spread an idea. Doing nice things all the time is addictive, he said.

Besides, he added, "being unemployed, I was starting to go nuts."

He wanders the city looking for strangers who appear as if they might need help or have an interesting story to tell. He has a few rules: He gives only $10, and he doesn't take anything in exchange.

He's getting better at it. The first three times he tried, people refused, suspicious, and walked away. Now, he easily persuades people to take his money -- even Canales, after a few moments, accepts the $10 bill -- and to tell him what they're going to do with the unexpected gift.

Every once in a while, he knows the money really helps someone. It pays for a meal or turns someone's lousy day into one that feels lucky.

On his fifth day, in the middle of a fierce snowstorm, he met Davie McInally, a Scottish man with icicles frozen in his thick beard who was carrying his belongings in a backpack and trying to get to New York to enlist in the military. McInally hoped to serve on active duty and earn his citizenship, and the $10, added to his $14, made a bus ticket possible.

"I am sure there have been quite a few people now that those 10 dollars have really helped, or made their life or even their days a lot better," McInally wrote in an e-mail.

The generosity comes naturally to Sandridge, who grew up in a close family in a small Pennsylvania town.

He studied international business and Spanish at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, worked for a Finnish telecommunications software company, for which he started a subsidiary in Brazil (sleeping in his office sometimes because he was working so much), returned to the United States to oversee its Americas operations, and then joined the management team of a health nonprofit founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Sandridge tells people that he doesn't care what they do with his money. But that's not exactly true. When someone who is jobless and has alcohol on his breath says he'll buy a drink, Sandridge doesn't regret the gift but hopes the next $10 has a better impact than just another buzz.

His favorites are those (more than 30) who say they'll use the money to help someone else: He likes to see the $10 snowball. A woman went to a homeless shelter the night after she met Sandridge and found someone who could use the gift. A Haitian man who had just learned that his mother had died in the earthquake told Sandridge that he was going to the island to look for other relatives and would put the money toward bringing satellite phones there.

Ideas to help others

On his Web site, Sandridge keeps a list of ideas for helping those he has met: Ron, who has experience with heavy machinery, wants day-labor work. Nikki needs help with filing disability claims. Garland, a street drummer, wants gigs. Anthony needs a pair of size 9 sneakers.

Sometimes, someone following the blog, another stranger, will step in to help.

"He forces attention to people who are usually ignored," said his brother Ryan Sandridge. "I hope others maybe slow their life down just a little bit and see that there's more than just the daily grind. I don't know if that's part of his message or not -- but that's one of the things I take out of it. Look around, pay more attention, be more giving."

Canales takes the money, talks to Sandridge some in Spanish and introduces him to his father, Emilio Canales. Carlos tells him that when he was a little boy, he would sleep under the tables behind the meat counter while his father and uncles set up their stands early in the morning. He's not sure what to do with the $10. Maybe the next time someone asks him for food, he will give it to that person.

"I'll pass it along," Canales said.

Sandridge has already started to think about Dec. 16, when the year is over. "It's going to be a letdown," he said.

So he's planning a party for all the people who got his money and all the people who read his blog as he gave it away.

Sometimes people ask him: Why not give all the money away at once?

He didn't want to write a check to an organization -- he wanted something more personal. "But I get their point," Sandridge said. "If I gave $3,650 to one person, I could probably change their life.

"Maybe I'll do that next year!" Then he laughed. "I'll need a good job, first."


Here's my favorite part . . . how the money's been spent. So often I hear people say that they don't give homeless people or beggars money because they'll just go spend it on liquor or drugs or cigarettes, but Reed Sandridge proves that's not really the case.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Lost Art of RSVPing

My friend Heather posted this New York Times article, "It's My Party, And You Have To Answer," on Facebook a few days ago and it started a fascinating discussion about what I'm calling the "lost art of RSVPing" (otherwise known, in my mind, as the downfall of civilization).

I'm not really sure what's happened, but somewhere, in the last 10 years or so, it seems that people have stopped replying when invited to a party. I actually thought it was something that was just happening to me and took quite a bit of comfort in learning that it's happening all around. One of Heather's friends talked about having to add 15 seats at his wedding reception just a couple days before the wedding because people hadn't RSVP'd. WOW. If people aren't RSVPing to weddings, I suppose not getting RSVPs to a BBQ isn't such a big deal.

Thinking back to my own experiences, it seems to me that the decline in RSVPs has happened as we've all become more connected via texting, Twitter, Facebook, etc. To me, that seems counterintuitive. I would think that since we have so many ways to RSVP that it would be easier to do so. Gone are the days when the only acceptable RSVP is a handwritten response card, licking a stamp, and depending on the Postal Service to deliver it, except, of course, in the case of wedding invitations. Now, all we need to do is click "yes" or "no" to an Evite or send a text.

Do people not RSVP because they are waiting to see if something better comes along? Because they are too busy? Because they aren't interested in the event? Are they waiting to see who else RSVPs "yes" before committing to an event?

Please know, I'm not complaining or whining. This actually really fascinates me. I wonder if I'm behind the times on this. Maybe RSVPing is passé and no one cares.

And in the interest of full-disclosure, I know I've been guilty of not RSVPing the moment I received an invitation, although I do not think I've ever waited until the day of the party or had to be called to find out if I'm coming. I received an invitation a couple of weeks ago for gathering at a bar at the beginning of May. The night of the event, I already have a business conflict that night, have class early the next morning, and the bar hadn't been chosen yet. I delayed my RSVP because I wanted to see where the bar was before I said yes or no because if it is too far away, it won't work with the conflict I already have and being rested for class on Saturday morning is important. Ultimately though, I RSVP'd last week with a "maybe" and explained my situation. I hate RSVPing "maybe." But I RSVP'd because that's the polite thing to do.

What are your experiences? How do you handle RSVPs? Do you call people who don't RSVP or do you just assume they aren't coming? Do you cancel an event if you don't have the number of RSVPs you expect?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

I know that everyone loves St. Patrick's Day, but I've just never gotten into it. I'm not Irish, so that doesn't tie me to it. As for going drinking in a bar, I like to have a beer every now and again, but I've never really enjoyed going to an overcrowded bar to drink til I'm drunk, which is what seems to happen a lot on St. Patrick's Day. And I don't own any green clothing. It's not that I'm trying to be curmudgeonly, St. Patrick's Day just isn't my thing.

Over lunch today, a number of women were sharing their family traditions on St. Patrick's Day. Some of them were Irish and had corned beef and cabbage waiting in the crock pot and had spent the weekend making loaves of soda bread. One woman shared that in her house, they were having corned beef and green mashed potatoes because she's got little kids. Last year, she made green mac & cheese for dinner. St. Patrick's Day isn't my thing, but I love her enthusiasm for the holiday and how she made it fun for her kids. If I had kids, I'd probably do that too.

That reminded me of the St. Patrick's Day when I was about 5 or 6 and came out for breakfast only to discover that my mom had made us green scrambled eggs and green milk. I was so grossed out at the sight of green eggs and green milk that I don't think I've eaten eggs or drank any milk since.

Needless to say, my St. Patrick's Day celebration tonight consisted of a meeting at Lake Forest College, a visit with one of my favorite professors, a quick trip to the beach (where I did not park my car, although I did send a text message), a client appointment, and a quick Italian dinner with a good friend capped off with green frosted sugar cookies. I was going to go grocery shopping too, but why do today, what I can put off until tomorrow?

What did you do to celebrate St. Patrick's Day?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Mouse Trap Story

I received an email today from a woman who seems to know me, but I honestly can't place at the moment. I'm not really sure why she sent this email, but it arrived at the right time. I was having a tough day, so it was a nice reminder about the importance of friends and how we are all interconnected.

Here's the email.

A Mouse Trap Story

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

"What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning: "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, ""There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse, I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap . . . alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to his farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock.

To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died.

So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember . . . when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another. Each of us is a vital thread in another person's tapestry; our lives are woven together for a reason.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Professional Women's Council Luncheon: Speak Up & Stand Out: How to Present Like a Pro!

Cyndi Maxey, CSP, from her website.

It's once again time for the Professional Women's Council! As a refresher, the PWC is a networking group in the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce. We meet monthly at business networking luncheons where we also bring in a speaker on topics that are important to women in business (and also often important to men as well).

This month's luncheon is another topic I'm personally excited about. It is said that public speaking is the #1 fear of most people. I believe that anyone wanting to enjoy success professionally needs to overcome this fear and master this skill. You may be thinking that not all jobs require public speaking, but I'd argue that all jobs do. Whether you're taking orders at McDonald's, answering phones at a large company, writing speeding tickets as a police officer, working in sales, or speaking to large groups Tony Robbins style, we all speak publicly. Our audiences may be audiences of one, but we still need to be able to speak from a position of authority and confidence.

Cyndi Maxey, Certified Speaking Professional, will be speaking to the PWC about overcoming this fear and presenting your best self when making presentations.

Speak Up and Stand Out: How to Present Like a Pro
Addressing an audience can be a daunting task. Whether conducting a team meeting, leading your Board, or presenting your annual budget to your department, you only have one chance to impress the audience and make a lasting impression. This session will provide you with practical skills and techniques to use when preparing and delivering a presentation for any group. You will learn the importance of up-front preparation and will discuss how to connect with your audience and involve them in your meeting or presentation. In addition, you learn how to handle those unexpected challenges that can arise whenever you speak in public.

    • Conduct a more effective meeting utilizing time tested speaker techniques.
    • Prepare an engaging presentation for any situation that will involve your audience.
    • Overcome common speaker challenges when addressing an audience.
    • Utilize time-tested tips from the pros that will empower you and boost your confidence when preparing and delivering a presentation.
Cyndi's Biography
With a unique background in performance and communication, Cyndi is a veteran speaker who develops customized learning solutions that are energetic, entertaining, and inventive. She is a skilled facilitator who gets people interacting while inspiring change. Her programs are immediately relevant to attendees because she makes them an integral part of the learning.

Cyndi practices what she preaches – communication that connects. A Certified Speaking Professional, the highest earned designation of National Speakers Association, she speaks on average 75-90 times a year (most often to healthcare, pharmaceutical, women’s, consumer, food service, insurance, and technical audiences) and is author of over 75 published articles and four books with major publishers.


Wednesday, March 17th
Click here to register online
DoubleTree Hotel - Arlington Heights
75 W. Algonquin Rd.
Call the AHCC for more information: 847-253-1703

Cost: $18 for PWC members; $25 all others

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Email Etiquette Refresher Course

I'm not even sure where to begin on this topic. I really thought we had covered this ad nauseam, but based on the number of people who get to Little Merry Sunshine from the search terms "to vs cc" or "email etiquette" and the number of emails I continue to receive where the sender clearly doesn't get this concept, I guess not.

Just today, I received an email message from a business I've never been to in a neighboring town announcing that a woman I've done business with in the past has joined the company. Super. Good for her. Really. I'm happy she's found a new job and I've enjoyed doing business with her in the past, so might have continued until I realized that (1) the email was not from her, but was from her new employer and (2) the email was sent to me and about 50 other people, all of who's email addresses I could see.

What irked me was that she had given my email address to her new employer rather than contacting me herself, so now I'm on their email list. But what irked me more was that the business cared so little for protecting their client list (or maybe more appropriately their hopeful client list) and did not use BCC. The business in question has no idea what the recipients will use that email list for or to whom they will forward all those email addresses.

Personally, my client list is my business lifeblood and I wouldn't give or sell or trade that away for anything. When I email my clients, I always use BCC. Not only do I want to protect the privacy of my client base, but I want to protect my own business. How does this business owner know that someone won't give that list to their competition?

What did I do with the email? I wrote the owner back (I did not hit "reply all") and asked to be removed from the email list and never to be contacted again.

Just so we're clear, if the people in the group all have a reason to know the others are receiving the email, then using TO or CC is fine. For example, if you are emailing a group to confirm an upcoming meeting, use TO or CC. There may need to be some pre-meeting discussion via email between all the attendees and having those emails is useful. Sending out a newsletter, business announcement, reunion notice, etc. where the recipients have nothing in common, do not need to be in touch with each other, or haven't given you explicit permission to share their email should be done through BCC.

I know that it feels like there is no privacy in this world of interconnectedness, but a little common sense and asking yourself the question of "Would I want this email list shared outside of this group of people?" or "If I were a recipient would I want all these people having my email address?" will usually give you the right answer of when to use To vs. CC vs. BCC.

Because privacy is such a big deal, I'm reposting one of the most popular blog posts of all time on Little Merry Sunshine.
To vs. CC vs. BCC
November 22, 2008

I have a pet peeve and it's been tripped up again. Given that I have lost friends over this particular pet peeve in the past, I thought I would put this out to my blog readers and see what you all think. I'm open to the fact that I'm simply overreacting to this and have been wrong all these years.

My pet peeve is when people send out emails to a huge list of recipients who are not all known to each other and put everyone in the TO or CC field rather than the BCC field.

The TO and CC fields allow all the recipients to see one another's email addresses. In some instances, this is fine and necessary. Those instances usually include times when some sort of conversation is taking place via email and the recipients need to be able to respond to everyone.

It is my belief, however, that if an email is strictly informational (e.g., marketing emails, jokes, political, religious, newsletters, etc.) then BCC should be used.

I run my own business and work hard to respect the privacy of my clients. I never send out emails to my entire client using the TO or CC fields. I believe it's just rude. I don't know what my clients are doing with the emails (hopefully, forwarding them to their family and friends - that's how referrals are built!) and I don't want my email address book to end up in the wrong hands.

Previously, a good friend of mine (now a former friend) would send out all those unsupported urban legends to huge lists of people using TO or CC. None of them were ever true as they were easily disproved using snopes.com. I politely repeatedly asked this friend to check out snopes.com before forwarding these outrageous emails , use BCC, or take me off the list. Multiple emails later, that all used TO or CC, I hit "Reply All" (on purpose) and politely told everyone that whatever the newest urban legend was, wasn't true and included the supporting documentation. My friend blew up at me and we haven't spoken since. I know that hitting "Reply All" was rude and probably embarrassed her. But I truly did not know what else to do.

A couple of years later, I had a distant family member on the other side of the country do the same thing but with religious emails. And his friends, none of whom I knew, would repeatedly hit "Reply All" to discuss their church activities. Personally, the religious emails offended me on many levels, but I felt like I was in a Catch-22. I enjoyed the ability to keep in touch with my relatives, but did not share their fundamentalist religious beliefs. Again, I replied to my relative (not everyone) and shared with him my request to use BCC or to not send me the religious emails, but he didn't. These emails continued for weeks until I finally wrote and sternly requested, in an email only to my family member, that I be removed from the list and only contacted for family-related business. My family member hasn't spoken to me since.

This has started to happen again with someone I knew peripherally from college marketing his new business. I have written this person (not the entire group) and politely asked him to please use BCC and related how much my clients appreciate when I respect their privacy and I know his will too. But now I'm questioning myself. UPDATE: The person wrote me back, thanked me for bringing this to his attention and said he would use BCC from now on.

Do you run into this To vs. CC vs. BCC problem? How do you handle it?

I am open to the possibility that I am overreacting and that the rest of the world does not find this problematic.

I'll step off my soapbox now. Thank you for reading.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Best Compliment I've Ever Been Paid - Thanks Derek!

My friend Derek paid me the absolute nicest compliment I've ever been paid today.

Glenn Beck doesn't like me? AWESOME. I'm doing cartwheels. Seriously.

Derek, you are the best! Thank you so much for the wonderful laugh I've just enjoyed and the smile you put on my face.

Watch the video. Trust me, it's well worth it. And if you read LMS via email, come visit Little Merry Sunshine on the web.

Lake Forest Day on Facebook

Today is Lake Forest Day on Facebook. Inspired by the generosity of Grace Groner '31 last week and the way that story went viral on the internet, in the media, and especially all over Facebook, my friend Derek at the College has organized a day for all alums, friends, faculty, and families to show their own love for LFC through donating to the Annual Fund and then bragging about it on Facebook.

As Derek said in his email, "Grace made a tremendous gift that will help some of our students realize their dreams of studying abroad. But there are many other programs that need funding, and for that, we rely on hundreds of smaller gifts from people like you."

Put another way by Grace's attorney, Bill Marlatt, on Little Merry Sunshine last week, "You hit on the meaning of her gift when you responded with a desire to help the College. None of us are self made. We have all been helped along over the years. Groner Fellows will have an obligation to help and mentor other fellows coming after them. People sometimes ask who owns a college. Well it is owned by those who have graduated from it. It is strong when this shared resource is given to others." (emphasis mine)

Grace lived her life in such a way that her legacy will impact many future generations of Foresters. While her gift is impressive and makes us all proud to be Foresters, it's not enough. Even though we may not have $7 million to give today, we can each do a little. And when we each do a little on a consistent basis, that adds up to a lot and makes all the difference.

Even though I've already made my annual donation to the College, I'm making another one today because I believe so strongly in helping other students achieve their dreams. I've made no secret of the fact that I would never have been able to attend Lake Forest without the generous financial aid package I was given each of my four years. While some of my financial aid came in the form of loans and state and federal grants, a good portion of it came from Lake Forest College alumni who had generously donated over the years. As a result, I believe that I have an obligation to help other students have the incredible opportunities I had by supporting programs on campus through donations to the Annual Fund.

Sometimes, when I think back on my life and ask some of those "what if" questions, I wonder what if I'd gone to the other school I was deciding between rather than Lake Forest. How much more debt would I have had because all they offered me were loans? Would I still keep in touch with my professors the way I keep in touch with professors at LFC? Would members of the administration still know me by name all these years later? Would I have learned to take risks the way I did at LFC and graduated knowing how to have faith that the net would appear when I jumped and if it didn't how to pick myself up and start over? I have a number of friends who went to that other school I was considering and based on their experiences, I'd have to say the answer to each of those questions is no.

Lake Forest College holds a special place in my heart and I imagine it holds a special place in the hearts of other many Foresters, as well.

If you're one of those Foresters or if you're just moved by my love for my alma mater, please visit the Alumni Gateway and make a donation today. Remember, a little does a lot, so any size donation you make will have a big impact. Oh, and brag about it on Facebook*. Let's paint Facebook Red and Black today.

*When you choose to brag about your donation on Facebook, the post just says you made a donation with a picture of the College's logo. No one will know how much you donated.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I've Still Got Nothing

I've got about half a dozen blog posts in progress, but I just can't seem to get any of them done. The fact is my head and my heart hurt and I just can't seem to focus on writing anything about anything.

So I'm going to take a break for a couple of days. I'll be back. Probably Friday or Saturday. Now maybe I can stop feeling guilty when I think about Little Merry Sunshine and how I don't have anything to say.

In the meantime, check out the archives. I bet you'll find some posts you haven't read before.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Won A Lincoln Navigator! Maybe.

Because I work for myself and from my home, I sometimes get some bizarre phone calls. I also get some strange phone calls because my phone number is one digit off from a local auto parts store. Despite the number of times I explain to some people that I'm not the auto parts store, some people call back three or four times in a day. For the record, I know nothing about cars and anything I might tell anyone about car parts would surely be made up. But this isn't about those calls . . .

About 7:45 tonight I received what will surely go down as the strangest phone call in weeks.
Me (in a chipper voice): Hello.

Caller: Hi. I'm calling to inform you that someone at your house was entered to win a Lincoln Navigator by another person and you've won. Can you come to a winners' ceremony tomorrow?

Me (suspiciously): Um, for whom are you calling?

Caller: Oh, sorry. I'm calling for (name of some company I've since forgotten - probably fake).

Me: No. I mean, for whom in my house are you calling?

Caller: Oh, I don't know.

Me: Then how do you know I've won?

Caller: (Total silence)

Me: Well, then I guess we're busy tomorrow. Thanks for calling. Good bye.

And I hung up.
Yep. Just a typical Monday night at my house.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Tuesday. You Don't Have Plans. Come See Mr. Bellito.

It's a random Tuesday in March and you don't have anything to do except procrastinate doing your taxes. Sure, the kids have homework, but a field trip could do them some good. They could use a history lesson into what life was like before XBox 360.

So come out and hear your favorite high school English teacher, Mr. Bellito, read from his first novel, Ten Again, at the Arlington Heights Historical Museum. Do you remember all those stories he told us about riding his bike to Cock Robin on Northwest Highway, trips to Riverview, and life at Arlington High School? Those stories and many more have been compiled into Ten Again, a delightful book about being 10 in 1960s Arlington Heights. The book doesn't mention Arlington Heights and really could be any town in America. Although now that you know, you'll recognize all the hot spots if you grew up here.

As I've mentioned before, Mr. Bellito was one of my favorite English teachers in high school and was really the first who told me I could write. Ten Again was one of my favorite books in 2009, as I've written about here, here, here, and here. It's a wonderful book for kids of all ages.

Here's the important info:

Tuesday, March 9th
Arlington Heights Historical Museum
110 W. Fremont St.
Arlington Heights

Books will be available for purchase and signing after the program.

This book reading and signing is part of the museum's exhibit "Gone But Not Forgotten: Lost Arlington Heights" and the program is free.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Education Unlocks Doors and Changes Lives

From Urban Prep website

Englewood is one of the poorest neighborhoods in all of Chicago. It is also home to Urban Prep Academy, the first all-male, all-African American charter public school in the country. Today, it announced that 100% of its first graduating class has been accepted to 4-year colleges. I don't know of other schools that can boast that statistic, even in the best school districts.

I have every confidence that these boys will go on and graduate from college. When they do, they will change not only their lives but the lives of their future children and grandchildren. In my opinion, nothing breaks the cycle of poverty like education.

Congratulations to the boys of Urban Prep!

Every Urban Prep Senior Is College-Bound
100% of first senior class at all male, all African-American Englewood academy is accepted to universities
By Duaa Eldeib, Chicago Tribune, March 5, 2010

Four years ago, Bryant Alexander watched his mother weep.

She stared down at a muddle of D's and F's on his eighth-grade report card and threatened to kick him out. He had barely passed elementary school, and high school wasn't even on his radar.

"Something just clicked," Alexander, now 18, said. "I knew I had to do something."

On Friday, Alexander proudly swapped his high school's red uniform tie for a striped red and gold one — the ritual at Englewood's Urban Prep Academy for Young Men that signifies a student has been accepted into college.

As the Roseland resident and 12 others tied their knots, Chicago's only public all-male, all-African-American high school fulfilled its mission: 100 percent of its first senior class had been accepted to four-year colleges.

Mayor Richard Daley and city schools chief Ron Huberman surprised students at the all-school assembly Friday morning with congratulations, and school leaders announced that as a reward, prom would be free.

The achievement might not merit a visit from top brass if it happened at one of the city's elite, selective enrollment high schools. But Urban Prep, a charter school that enrolls all comers in one of Chicago's most beleaguered neighborhoods, faced much more difficult odds.

Only 4 percent of this year's senior class read at grade level as freshmen, said Tim King, the school's founder and CEO.

"There were those who told me that you can't defy the data," King said. "Black boys are killed. Black boys drop out of high school. Black boys go to jail. Black boys don't go to college. Black boys don't graduate from college.

"They were wrong," he said.

Every day, before attending advanced placement biology classes and lectures on changing the world, students must first pass through the neighborhood, then metal detectors.

"Poverty, gangs, drugs, crime, low graduation rates, teen pregnancy — you name it, Englewood has it," said Kenneth Hutchinson, the school's director of college counseling, who was born and raised in Englewood.

He met the students the summer before they began their freshman year during a field trip to Northwestern University, the first time many of them had ever stepped foot on a college campus. At the time, Hutchinson was Northwestern's assistant director of undergraduate admissions. Inspired by what he'd seen, he started working for Urban Prep two months later.

"I'm them," he said Friday as he fought back tears. "Being accepted to college is the first step to changing their lives and their communities."

Hutchinson plays a major role in the school, where college is omnipresent. Students are assigned college counselors from day one. To prepare students for the next level, the school offers a longer than typical day — about 170,000 minutes longer, over four years, than other city schools — and more than double the usual number of English credits, King said

Even the school's voice-mail system has a student declaring "I am college-bound" before asking callers to dial an extension.

The rigorous academic environment and strict uniform policy of black blazers, red ties and khakis isn't for everyone. The first senior class began with 150 students. Of those who left, many moved out of the area and some moved into neighborhoods that were too dangerous to cross to get to the school, King said. Fewer than 10 were expelled or dropped out, he said.

At last count, the 107 seniors gained acceptance to a total of 72 different colleges, including Northwestern University, Morehouse College, Howard University, Rutgers University and University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Alexander was accepted to DePaul University.

While college acceptance is an enormous hurdle to jump, school leaders said they know their job isn't done; they want to make sure the students actually attend.

To that aim, King said, staff made sure that every student has completed the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid, lest the red tape deter them.

Later in the year, the school plans to hold a college signing day where every student is to sign a promise to go to college, he said. Staff will stay in touch through the summer and hopefully in the first years of school.

"We don't want to send them off and say, ‘Call us when you're ready to make a donation to your alma mater,' " King said. "If we fulfill our mission, that means they not only are accepted to college, but graduate from it."

For now, students are enjoying the glow of reaching their immediate goal.

Normally, it takes 18-year-old Jerry Hinds two buses and 45 minutes to get home from school. On the day the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana was to post his admission decision online at 5 p.m., he asked a friend to drive him to his home in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.

He went into his bedroom, told his well-wishing mother this was something he had to do alone, closed the door and logged in.

"Yes! Yes! Yes!" he remembers screaming. His mother burst in and began crying.

That night he made more than 30 phone calls, at times shouting "I got in" on his cell phone and home phone at the same time.

"We're breaking barriers," he said. "And that feels great."

Friday, March 5, 2010

LMS Follow-up: World News Tonight & Today Show Stories on Grace Groner

Finally the World News Tonight embed code works! Here's the story. I love the old photos of LFC.

What are the lessons we can learn from Grace Groner? Over time, the equivalent of a few pennies can turn into millions or as one LFC student says in the Facebook group he started yesterday, A Little Does A Lot. Living a life of frugality doesn't mean being a miser or going without. Living within our means can mean others can live better. Humility is a virtue.

Enjoy the videos.

Good Morning America ran a story about Grace too!

Grace Groner's story even made the Today Show this morning.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Now The Huffington Post has Grace's story!

Secret Millionaire Donates Her Millions to Illinois Alma Mater

Grace Groner lived frugally in a one-bedroom house. According to the Chicago Tribune, she rarely made large purchases, and her house was decorated plainly with some furniture and an antique television.

When she passed away at the age of 100, her alma mater, Lake Forest College, was astounded to find that Groner had left them $7 million dollars.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Groner's estate, which stemmed from a $180 stock purchase she made in 1935, was worth $7 million.

The money is going into a foundation that will enable many of Lake Forest's 1,300 students to pursue internships and study-abroad programs they otherwise might have had to forgo. It will be an appropriate memorial to a woman whose life was a testament to the higher possibilities of wealth.

Lake Forest College is a liberal arts school in northeast Illinois, about 35 miles north of Chicago. Groner graduated from the school in 1931. Good Morning America covered the story.

It's a Presidential Reunion!

Because it's Friday, I thought it would be fun to enjoy some hysterical Funny or Die videos.

I love Funny or Die!

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the Presidential Reunion.

Check out all the cool people involved in this project! Dana Carvey, Jim Carrey, Ron Howard, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, and more!

Dana Carvey is by far the funniest former president.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today's Heroine: Grace Groner

Picture from Chicago Tribune.

You don't know Grace Groner and neither did I, until I opened up today's Chicago Tribune.

I love good news and reading this incredible story this morning made my heart swell on many levels including pride and gratitude. First, I'm so proud to be a Forester this morning. Lake Forest College graduates some absolutely incredible and generous people and this story gives new meaning to the phrase "you're a Forester forever." Second, being able to make a donation of this size is a dream of mine. Lake Forest College is already in my will, but if I died today, they wouldn't get much. Hopefully, I will live a long life and be able to be just as generous. Third, I couldn't have gone to Lake Forest or anywhere else without financial aid and the generosity of people like her who built LFC's endowment, so Ms. Groner's story is personal to me. And it inspired me go slip a little something to the College this morning. Will you join me?

I love that Ms. Groner is so generous and selfless that she would rather live a modest life and make it possible for countless others to have better lives. Her gift will change lives and have ripple effects for generations to come. I love that not only did Ms. Groner change lives upon her death, but she also changed lives while she was living. And she did it all anonymously without any expectation of thanks. She saw suffering and did her part to alleviate it. What a role model and heroine.

Grace's story also made my local paper, The Daily Herald; The Telegraph, a paper serving southern Illinois; the San Francsico Chronicle; the Connecticut Post, serving the Bridgeport, CT area; and The Quad-City Times. Plus, in no time at all, Foresters sent it all over Facebook. I'm sure that's just the beginning. Based on the number of visits to Little Merry Sunshine so far today and the international locations they are coming from, I'm pretty certain this story has spanned the globe. Oh, and I don't like to spread gossip, but I heard from a pretty reliable source that World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer is reporting on this story tonight. Check back later for a link if the story airs.

Amazing Grace: Lake Forest Secret Millionaire Donates Fortune to College
Woman who lived frugally donates $7 million to alma mater
by John Keilman, Chicago Tribune, March 4, 2010

Like many people who lived through the Great Depression, Grace Groner was exceptionally restrained with her money.

She got her clothes from rummage sales. She walked everywhere rather than buy a car. And her one-bedroom house in Lake Forest held little more than a few plain pieces of furniture, some mismatched dishes and a hulking TV set that appeared left over from the Johnson administration.

Her one splurge was a small scholarship program she had created for Lake Forest College, her alma mater. She planned to contribute more upon her death, and when she passed away in January, at the age of 100, her attorney informed the college president what that gift added up to.

"Oh, my God," the president said.

Groner's estate, which stemmed from a $180 stock purchase she made in 1935, was worth $7 million.

The money is going into a foundation that will enable many of Lake Forest's 1,300 students to pursue internships and study-abroad programs they otherwise might have had to forgo. It will be an appropriate memorial to a woman whose life was a testament to the higher possibilities of wealth.

"She did not have the (material) needs that other people have," said William Marlatt, her attorney and longtime friend. "She could have lived in any house in Lake Forest but she chose not to. … She enjoyed other people, and every friend she had was a friend for who she was. They weren't friends for what she had."

Groner was born in a small Lake County farming community, but by the time she was 12 both of her parents had died. She was taken in by George Anderson, a member of one of Lake Forest's leading families and an apparent friend to Groner's parents.

The Andersons raised her and her twin sister, Gladys, and paid for them to attend Lake Forest College. After Groner graduated in 1931, she took a job at nearby Abbott Laboratories, where she would work as a secretary for 43 years.

It was early in her time there that she made a decision that would secure her financial future.

In 1935, she bought three $60 shares of specially issued Abbott stock and never sold them. The shares split many times over the next seven decades, Marlatt said, and Groner reinvested the dividends. Long before she died, her initial outlay had become a fortune.

Marlatt was one of the few who knew about it. Lake Forest is one of America's richest towns, filled with grand estates and teeming with luxury cars, yet Groner felt no urge to keep up with the neighbors.

She lived in an apartment for many years before a friend willed her a tiny house in a part of town once reserved for the servants. Its single bedroom could barely accommodate a twin bed and dresser; its living room was undoubtedly smaller than many Lake Forest closets.

Though Groner was frugal, she was no miser. She traveled widely upon her retirement from Abbott, volunteered for decades at the First Presbyterian Church and occasionally funneled anonymous gifts through Marlatt to needy local residents.

"She was very sensitive to people not having a whole lot," said Pastor Kent Kinney of First Presbyterian. "Grace would see those people, would know them, and she would make gifts."

Groner never wed or had children — the sister of one prospective groom blocked the marriage, Marlatt said — but with her gregarious personality she had plenty of friends. She remained connected to Lake Forest College, too, attending football games and cultural events on campus and donating $180,000 for a scholarship program.

That allowed a few students a year to study internationally, including Erin McGinley, 34, a junior from Lake Zurich. She traveled to Falmouth, Jamaica, to help document and preserve historic buildings in the former slave port. The experience was so satisfying that she is trying to get Lake Forest to create a similar architectural preservation program.

"It affected my (career ambitions) in a way I didn't expect," she said.

But Groner was interested in doing more, so two years ago she set up a foundation to receive her estate. Stephen Schutt, Lake Forest's president, knew of the plan for the past year, but had no idea how large the gift would be until after Groner passed away Jan. 19.

The foundation's millions should generate more than $300,000 a year for the college, enabling dozens more students to travel and pursue internships. Many probably wouldn't be able to pursue those opportunities without a scholarship: 75 percent of the student body receives financial aid, Schutt said.

But the study and internship program is not the end of Groner's legacy. She left that small house to the college, too. It will be turned into living quarters for women who receive foundation scholarships, and perhaps something more: an enduring symbol that money can buy far more than mansions.

It will be called, with fitting simplicity, "Grace's Cottage."


ABC7Chicago just did a story about Grace Groner's gift to Lake Forest College. Read the story here.

World News Tonight did a fantastic story tonight, but the embed code isn't working, so click here to watch the video.

NBC5Chicago also covered the story: Watch "Everybody Loved Grace" and read the story.