Thursday, April 29, 2010

Things I Wish I'd Said

Something happened a few days ago and I didn't quite handle it the way I wish I would have. It wasn't a big deal, but later, there were a few things I wish I'd said. Frankly, I don't have regrets in life, for the most part, but there are times I wish I'd really said what I was feeling rather than biting my tongue because I was afraid to speak my mind and heart.

In no particular order, the list below represents most of what I wish I'd said at various points in my life, but now it's too late. The moment has passed or it no longer matters or I'm still not brave enough to say them to the people I should have said them to. If you think one or more of these are things I started to say to you at some point, you may be right, but you may also be wrong. If you ask me directly, I'll tell you . . . probably.
  • Yes.
  • No.
  • I'm sorry.
  • I'm proud of you.
  • I need a break.
  • I miss you.
  • I forgive you.
  • You broke my heart.
  • I wish you hadn't lied to me.
  • Stop.
  • We can work it out.
  • Let's fix this.
  • I'll figure it out.
  • Please help me.
  • I'm going to stay in DC.
  • I have to take care of me.
  • I think you made the wrong decision.
  • I made a mistake.
  • Don't go.
  • It really will be okay.
  • No, it's not okay.
  • I'm leaving.
  • Thank you.
  • I'm scared.
  • You can't talk to me that way.
  • Please leave.
  • I'm not strong enough to do this alone.
  • Stay.
  • Pick me.
  • What can I do?
  • How can I fix this?
  • Actually, it was you. Not me.
  • Sorry, I'm out of your league.
  • Our friendship is worth more to me than a guy.
  • I can't even remember why we fought.
  • You were right and I was wrong.
  • You are a Mean Girl.
  • I deserve better.
  • No, you don't speak for me.
  • I shouldn't have walked away.
  • No, I'm not sorry.
  • That's offensive.
And finally, the last thing I should have said, but didn't . . . . I love you.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dr. Jill Van Newenhizen: The Teacher Who Changed My World

Dr. Jill Van Newenhizen and me at my Lake Forest College graduation, May 8, 1993.

I've been thinking about great teachers for a few weeks. I've been thinking about them since Jaime Escalante died at the end of March. In case you don't remember him, he's the real-life teacher from the classic 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver," which told the story of how he turned around failing calculus students at Garfield High School in east Los Angeles. He gave those kids a future. That's what great teachers do.

Yesterday, my friend Ben Joravsky wrote a fantastic blog post about the incredible teachers his daughters have had over the years (read all of his Chicago Reader columns here). This morning, I received my daily inspirational email from Simple Truths and it contained the wonderful movie "Heart of a Teacher." Finally, tonight, my friend Hannah (Ben's super cool eldest daughter, not to be confused with his equally super cool younger daughter), posted the video below on Facebook.


I'm sure we've all had teachers who inspired us to be better, who believed in us when no one else did, who took us under their wing, or who made us stretch beyond our wildest possibilities. Maybe they gave us a second chance even though we didn't deserve it. Maybe they worked extra long hours to help us overcome learning challenges or planning lessons to keep the smarter kids in class from getting bored. Maybe they knew we had challenges at home and did everything in their power and then some to make school our safe haven.

I had many amazing teachers throughout the years, but one in particular stands out for me.

Dr. Jill Van Newenhizen, my Calculus professor at Lake Forest College.

I took Calculus in high school, but struggled greatly. One of my strongest memories of Calculus in high school was the teacher walking to the front of the room one morning and starting his lesson by saying, "this is a concept the girls might not get." Uh huh. Guess what? I couldn't get it.

Not one to concede defeat, I took Calculus again when I got to college and was fortunate enough to have Dr. J. Keep in mind that I was a psychology major and I didn't need Calculus to graduate. I took it for fun. Yes, fun.

Right away, I knew I was in the right place and would get it this time. Dr. J. made it clear that her goal was for her students to learn the material and she was always available for extra help. She had generous office hours, even keeping evening office hours in a dorm, where I was a regular. Many nights, I'd arrive to find Dr. J. in the lounge waiting on students and watching opera. There we'd sit doing Calculus and listening to opera. Not only did I learn the material and earn a respectable grade both semesters, but I also fell in love with opera, and decided to further challenge myself by taking Multi-Variable Calculus the next year (unfortunately with another professor).

Dr. J. pushed me hard to be the best I could be in her class. I wasn't an A student, but I knew that I'd gone over, around, below and through to do the best I could do, not just for her, but for me. She taught us not only about important mathematical concepts, but also taught us about how math relates to our lives. Maybe you've heard of a guy named Euclid and another guy named Daniel Burnham? She loved to talk about how Burnham's Plan of Chicago relied Euclid's Elements. She even had us write papers.

To say I didn't do very well in Multi-Variable Calculus would be an understatement. I failed the class. Who was in my corner helping me appeal to my professor to let me retake the final? Dr. J. I lost the appeal, but with her help, learned a much more valuable lesson. After losing my job as a resident assistant because of the F, she helped me see taking risks and falling flat was part of life, but what spoke louder than failure was how I got back up. I'm not sure how I would use Multi-Variable Calculus now, but I know that no matter what path I go down and no matter how it turns out, I will always be okay.

In June 1992, when my mom tried to kill herself, Dr. J. was one of the professors who reached out to me and let me know she was there if I needed anything. That fall, when I was studying in Chicago as part of the Urban Studies Program, we attended the opera together. When I moved to Washington after graduation, we spent a lovely day exploring Freer Gallery of Art and Sackler Gallery and then capped off the evening with a fabulous dinner in DuPont Circle. In the seven years I was in DC, that was one of my most favorite days.

Almost 20 years later, she has gone from being Dr. J., my professor, to being Jill, my friend. I love knowing that whenever we get together, it's like it was just yesterday when we last saw each other, even if it's been a few months or longer. And I look back on my days spent sitting in her classroom as some of my best at Lake Forest College.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

PWC: Elder Care Panel

Nana outside Crystal Beach Community Church. I'm not sure which family member of mine took this picture, but it's one of my favorites.

I can't believe it's once again time for the monthly luncheon of the Professional Women's Council! The months are flying by so quickly.

This month, we have assembled a panel of Chamber members who are experts in the field of elder care. I'll concede that this isn't the sexiest topic in the world, but the fact is that with more Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, each of us is either already caring for an elderly parent or grandparent or soon will. And, of course, we need to be preparing for our own Golden Years.

Personally, the topic of elder care is very near and dear to my heart. I have learned more in the 9 months since Nana passed away about the array of services that were available to us than I ever knew existed during the entire 7 1/2 years mom cared for her. If only we had known then what I know now, life would have been so much easier.

Knowing in advance what services are available to assist you during what can be (always is?) a very stressful time and advance planning can relieve stress, save money (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure) and allow us to focus on what's important: caring for and spending time with our loved ones, while also living our own lives.

I hope you'll join the Professional Women's Council tomorrow, Wednesday, April 21st at the Arlington Heights Senior Center for our Elder Care Panel. And bring your questions.

Elder Care Panel: Learn About the Services Available to Keep You Successful While Caring for an Elderly Relative
Click here to register
Wednesday, April 21st 11:30am - 1:30pm

Held at the Arlington Heights Senior Center
1801 W. Central Rd., Arlington Heights, 60005

For information, contact Mary Beisemann at 847-253-1703
$10 for PWC members; $25 for non-PWC members or non-Chamber members

Join us to learn about the services available for you and your loved ones as you navigate the aging process. Bring your questions about financial planning, Medicaid, when to obtain help, the different kinds of assistance available.

Panelists will include:
Samantha Breden from Lutheran Life Communities
Mary Kay Bochenek from The Moorings Health Center
Jo Segalla, Esq. from Drost Kivlahan McMahon & O'Connor
Ellen Vinzani from Silver Connections
Karie Van Grinsven from Arlington Heights Senior Center
Mary Jo Zeller from Gero Solutions Senior Relocation Specialists

If you have any special dietary needs, please contact the Chamber Office at 847-253-1703 no later than Tuesday, April 20th.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Every Penny Counts

Arranging the pennies. From dailyherald.com

I love this story so much. I love that it started with a kid questioning what he was taught in school. I love that no one told him "that's a dumb idea." I love that it's outside the box. I love that in questioning what he learned in school, Jack Gabriel wanted to do something to help someone else. It didn't raise a ton of money, as we all know, a little does a lot. I love that the community came out to support this wonderful cause.

Jack Gabriel is my hero today.

The Power of Pennies: Fundraiser for Finnertys Raises More Than $1,000

by Eileen O. Daday, Daily Herald, April 19, 2010

An inscription on a child's bookmark triggered a grass-roots fundraiser Sunday in Arlington Heights that drew nearly 100 people, raised more than $1,000, and put a renewed emphasis on the power of pennies.

Jack Gabriel, a sixth grade student at South Middle School in Arlington Heights, set the event in motion when he questioned whether pennies laid side by side for one mile would add up to $844.80.

"I thought that was amazing, and I wondered if it was true," says Jack, 11.

With that, he and his family decided to test it out. They designed the effort as a fundraiser for the education fund benefiting Bridgit and Pierce Finnerty of Arlington Heights, who survived a fire last year that took the lives of their parents and brother.

An initial e-mail blast to 40 neighbors and friends launched the effort, and then it quickly spread by word-of-mouth. Almost immediately, Gabriel family members say, donations of pennies began to pour in.

They came in plastic bags from children of all ages, as well as larger amounts from Arlington Heights merchants. They also drew donations, including one $100 anonymous donation and multiple checks that came in as late as Sunday.

The problem, according to Jack's mother, Kathleen Gabriel, was converting the money into pennies. Over the last few weeks, Gabriel said she approached every bank in Arlington Heights and then hit up those in surrounding suburbs, as far as Glenview, in search of more pennies.

She relates how tellers at Citibank in Arlington Heights generously donated $50 to the campaign, but when she asked them to convert them into pennies, they declined.

"We're out," they told Gabriel.

When families arrived Sunday, they found a wheelbarrow filled with thousands of pennies.

"This must be a world record or something," declared Caroline Ayala, 6, of Arlington Heights, as she dug into the pennies as if they were sand particles.

Children and adults worked together, each one taking a bag filled with 100 pennies and working to place them end to end along the chalk outline, stretched over the mile course laid out around the Recreation Park neighborhood in Arlington Heights.

"I feel like I'm working on a railway, laying down track piece by piece," said Max Barson, 12, of Arlington Heights.

He worked beside one of his classmates, Nick Fowler of Arlington Heights, who agreed, adding that the effort was a first for him.

"It's kind of cool," Fowler said. "You usually don't think that pennies are worth very much."

That was just the point, Kathleen Gabriel said.

"There's no such thing as a worthless penny," she told the crowd. "There's no amount too small to make a difference."

In the end, the so-called "worthwhile mile" took nearly two hours to lay, another 1½ hours to pick up, and drew more than $1,000 in donations. People still interested in contributing, may submit a check to the Finnerty Family Fund, care of Village Bank & Trust, 234 W. Northwest Highway, Arlington Heights, IL 60005.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watervale Was on the Today Show!

The Inn at Watervale, from the internet.

In case you missed it, Watervale was on the Today Show on Friday.

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


I think they did a pretty good job (although I don't think I've ever seen anyone rowboating - I'm just saying), but missed most of the highlights about what makes Watervale so amazing for me.

When you're at Watervale, you can enjoy:
  • bike riding (bring your bikes);
  • hiking for every fitness level through beautiful woods, up Baldy and BooHoo, and along the beach;
  • swimming in Lower Herring Lake (small lake without undertow or waves - great for kids) or Lake Michigan;
  • kayaking (you can rent kayaks or bring your own);
  • sailing (you can rent sailboats or bring your own);
  • beautiful sunsets you won't even see in Hawaii (yes, I've been to Hawaii and I believe Watervale sunsets are far superior);
  • playing in the sand dunes;
  • reading (I typically go through 6-7 books in a week, but if you have kids you probably won't);
  • tennis (bring your rackets and tennis balls);
  • shuffle board;
  • volleyball;
  • Bingo (on Thursdays, if I remember correctly);
  • Hayrides (on Wednesdays after the BBQ);
  • card games (there's almost always a game of Hearts or Pinochle going on in the Inn);
  • board games (my family has an annual Trivial Pursuit tournament - guess who has the most trivial knowledge?);
  • peace and quiet (There are no TVs, no WiFi, and only 1 landline phone in the entire resort. You can certainly bring your cell phone, but you'll probably have poor reception.);
  • some of the best star gazing and meteor shower watching (if you're there in early August, you can't help but see the Perseid Meteor Showers) anywhere (there's no need for a telescope, but if you have one, it will only enhance your experience);
  • actual darkness at night because of the lack of city lights;
  • naps; and
  • a few other things, but this is a family blog, so I'll stop now.
To be honest, there is no need to leave Watervale, but if you must, here are some of my other favorite things to do:
To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Field of Dreams, "Is this Heaven? No, it's Watervale."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Superman Gets Detentions?

Let me just state upfront that I know that when Dave gets wind of this post (which may take a little while because despite having been the 8th fan of Little Merry Sunshine on Facebook, he does not actually read Little Merry Sunshine with any regularity), he will probably kill me, but this story is just too good not to share. It's even possible that it's better than the famous Herpes Story (which I've now brought up twice in two days).

When Dave was little (3 years old or so to . . . ), he was obsessed with Superman. In fact, obsessed may well be an understatement. Dave pretty much thought he was Superman. He loved to dress up as Superman and even stole my blue tights and red boots I'd outgrown to wear with his Superman Underroos. Plus, our mom, who was a terrific seamstress (a talent she learned from Nana), sewed him the perfect Superman cape. Believe me, this was no made-in-China-falls-apart-after-2-wearings cape. This cape is still around and in good shape 30 years later. I could tell you where it is, but I would never give away Superman's secrets. Where did Dave go to become Superman, you wonder? Like you have to ask. Of course, he went into his "phone booth" formerly known as Dave's bedroom closet. Yes, it had a sign designating it as his phone booth.

Dave ran around the house and neighborhood in full Superman costume anytime he could. In fact, he usually wore part of his costume under real clothes. He simply loved being Superman.

One day when Dave was in pre-school, our mom received a phone call from the teacher to discuss Dave's behavior in class. It seems that day had been a Show and Tell day. When it was his turn, Dave got up appearing to have nothing to show his class. The teachers were at the back of the room, possibly only half paying attention, when all the sudden they heard him announce that he needed to undress to show the class what he'd brought for Show and Tell. In a panic, worried that he was about to disrobe, they flew to the front of the room to prevent him from stripping. Calmly, and unaware of what they were obviously thinking, Dave simply informed them and his class that he just wanted to let everyone know he was Superman (so I guess he had their backs?) and prove it by showing off the Superman costume that he was wearing in its entirety under his street clothes (a la Clark Kent?). Unconvinced, they did not allow him to show off his alter-ego.

I wish I could show you pictures of Dave in costume, but I don't have any pictures that are scanned. Believe me, if I had them, I'd post them. They're that good.

I tell you this story because yesterday, there was a feature on Huffington Post titled "Punished for Being Awesome? The Most Ridiculous Detention Slips of All Time" and it was complete with pictures. Offenses ranged from a student correcting a teacher's error in front of the class to a student receiving oral sex from another student. Yes, really. My favorite, however, was the detention slip pictured below. I honestly have to believe it may have been written for Dave about 30 years too late. What kind of teacher gives Superman a detention, anyway?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Funny Funny Kids

picture from Amazon.com
Are you old enough to remember Art Linkletter's House Party and the segment "Kids Say the Darndest Things"? Somehow, just letting kids be kids, they said the absolute funniest things. Although I never saw it as a kid (I'm not that old), my mom had a book of the same name and to this day, I love to sit down with it and have a great chuckle. If you've never seen Art's terrific show, I hope you'll enjoy this tribute video. (ignore the clock at the beginning)

My absolute favorite was the little girl who described her perfect man (who was a mix of a sugar daddy who let her have 22 kids and never put up a fight) and then said she wanted to be a nun when she grew up.

The fact is that this never changes. 50 years later, kids simply say the darndest and funniest things when we give them the chance.

You'll recall the story of Dave asking our Dad if he could have Herpes when he was about 8. Although I guess the funniest part of that story is our Mom's explanation of Herpes. If you haven't read the story, go read it. You'll have a great laugh.

Today I found a wonderful collection of kid-isms that I am confident you'll enjoy. Do your kids say wonderfully funny things? Feel free to share them in the comments.

"My Daddy Had A Hysterectomy" And Fun Other Things Kids Say
by the editors at ParentDish, Apr. 7, 2010

Sometimes shocking, at times embarrassing and almost always hilarious, we're never quite sure what's going to come out of our kids' mouths. ParentDish asked parents who contribute to Seed.com, AOL's Web site for freelance writers and photographers, to share the best sound bites they've heard from the younger generation.

Here are some of the howlers.

Debby Hall:

1. "My Daddy has to have a hysterectomy." (He was having hemmorhoid surgery.)

2. "Boys have a penis and girls have a china."

3. "When I die, I want to live with Jesus in his apartment."

4. "My teacher is old. She's the same as you."

5. "I love Gammy because she smells like the old days."

6. "My mom has striped hair." (Her mother has a weave in her hair.)

7. "I can have two childs because I have two testicles"

8. " Mommy, did you know that your underwear won't flush down the toilet?"

9. "When it gets dark it's because God turned out the lights so he could sleep"

10. "I like those lines on your face."

Kelsey G. Price:

1. "Mommy, Daddy's boss is a moron! That's what Daddy said!"

2. "Hello, 911? Hi, cop lady!"

3. "The teacher said I have listening problems, but I think she has problems teaching."

4. "Can I have this toy? It only costs five easy payments of $39.95."

5. "My baby sister ate my homework. She ate tomorrow's homework too."

6. "Mommy, please get off the phone, and wipe my butt!"

7. "I just wanted to see how much toilet paper would actually fit in the toilet."

8. "Hey, Dad, can you help me with my advanced mathematical scientific equations worksheet?" (This is for fifth grade?)

9. "Can I borrow the car tonight? I promise I won't hit anybody. Again."

10. "How does Santa Claus fit through the chimney? He's too fat!"


Suzanne Chalma Olive Hansen:

1. "Nana, I smell something ... I (leaning closer) think it's you."

2. "Mom, what happened to Bridget's penis? Did you leave it in your tummy?"

3. "Mommy, can I push the button on your butt?"

4. "At Sunday school I learned that God named all the animals and you know what? He got them all right!"

5. "Mom, I can't go to school today, I have the hiccups. And if I go to school with the hiccups, then all my friends will get the hiccups!

6. "Mama, how many times do I have to tell you that it's not my fault if I don't learn anything? It's the school's problem if they're not going to teach me anything!"

7. "Mom, if you let me watch TV, I will give you 10,000 bucks and a million kisses. I will EVEN give you 4,010 million hugs too, and I will tell you some jokes. How about that?"

8. "Oh, it is not human, Mom, it is a bird!" (After being told it's humid outside.)


Kelly Brooks-Bay:

1. "You are not the Easter Bunny because you smell funny and I can see your real hair coming out of your bunny head."

2. "Mommy, if those trees are naked, how come I can't see their butts."

3. "Everything is for sale, even my mom if the price is right, that is what daddy said."

4. "My face is ruined. How will I ever be chosen for American Idol? Simon will think I am hideous." (After a tiny scratch on her face.)

5. "Could I bleed to death?" (from a little girl being told about menstrual cycles.)

6. "You should always give someone a compliment, especially your teacher, even if it's a lie and she is really the wicked witch."

7. "Mom, I am feeding the bushes -- like Daddy did last night." (You can imagine what she was doing.)

8. "You can get away with the best stuff when we have a substitute teacher."

9. "Do you think my mom would notice if I packed up my twin brothers and sent them to China?"

10. "I can always tell when my teacher is mad. She gets real loud, turns red and doesn't blink."

Karyn Howard:

1. "You don't look anything like Commander Rabb on JAG. My mommy says he's hot." (Said to a gentleman in the Navy wearing his dress blues.)

2. "Wow, Grandma, my mommy said if your butt gets any bigger, you will have to put a wide load sign on it"

3. "Oh, yit!"

4. "Boy, your house smells funny. You should buy some air fresheners."

5. "My baby brother has a tiny wiggle. Mine is medium, but you should see my dad's. It's ginormous!"

6. "Can we say a prayer for my mommy? She couldn't come to church today because she had a operation so she won't have any more babies."

7. "I didn't know ladies could have a mustache. Cool!"

8. "Excuse me sir, when you toot, you are supposed to say excuse, and it's gross to do it in my face."

9. "Can you send help? My baby brother is choking, and my mommy is beating on him." (to a 911 dispatcher.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Little Merry Sunshine Public Appearance & Speaking Policy

It came to my attention today that I've been grossly under-compensated for my highly sought after public appearances. It seems that the most super patriotic, ordinary, down-to-earth, and low-maintenance women speakers, like me, receive some perks that I have not been receiving.

Therefore, effective immediately, Little Merry Sunshine's Public Appearance and Speaking Policy has been revised.

Transportation: Little Merry Sunshine only travels via first-class commercial jumbo jet or private plane. When traveling first-class, four round-trip, side-by-side first-class tickets must be purchased. One for Little Merry Sunshine, one for her security guard, and one each for Betsey and Ross. They do not travel under the seat or in the belly of a plane. Obviously, you will be responsible for any luggage fees for both checked and carry-on baggage or other incidentals (e.g., tips, etc.). Additionally, Little Merry Sunshine requires four additional coach class tickets for her hair stylist and massage therapist and any additional traveling companions (read: groupies).

When traveling via private plane, Little Merry Sunshine insists on flying only Lear 60 planes (or larger) or Hawker 800 planes (or larger).

Little Merry Sunshine must insist on having only single, sexy, shirtless, male pilots and flight attendants on both private planes and commercial flights. She is certain there is a safety reason for this, although it escapes her at the moment.

Ground transportation will be provided via black SUVs with tinted windows. Little Merry Sunshine does not want the riff-raff to be able to see her. Again, the driver must by single, sexy, shirtless, and male.

Drivers and pilots must be at Little Merry Sunshine's beck and call 24/7 and able to transport her anywhere at a moment's notice. No questions asked.

Little Merry Sunshine reserves the right to dismiss pilots, flight attendants, and/or drivers at a moment's notice and for no reason whatsoever, so back-ups must always be available. Little Merry Sunshine also reserves the right to change the departure and return cities at her discretion and without warning.

Accommodations: Little Merry Sunshine only stays on the penthouse floor of 5-star hotels. If your city does not have a 5-star hotel, Little Merry Sunshine recommends you move your function to the nearest city with a 5-star hotel, but reminds you that your event participants must not stay at LMS's hotel. Her suite must be west facing with no obstructing view for sunset watching. Obviously, these hotels must be pet friendly. The penthouse must be fully stocked with chilled Diet Coke, shaved ice, Watervale Cracked-Wheat Bread, bottled water, Absolut Ruby Red, cranberry juice, tortilla chips, hummus and oatmeal from Raw and multi-colored bendy straws. Because Little Merry Sunshine is concerned with germs, all items must be restocked and fresh daily. Little Merry Sunshine requires a never slept-on king-size Tempur-pedic mattress and foundation, heated mattress pad, 1600 count Egyptian Cotton sheets and Hello Kitty pillow cases (also 1600-count Egyptian Cotton), changed daily.

Little Merry Sunshine is not a morning person, but the transition from sleep to wakefulness is eased by the sweet sounds of Keith Urban, James Taylor or Jimmy Buffett . . . live. Recordings will not be accepted. A song list will be provided. Little Merry Sunshine will not tolerate alarm clocks.

With regards to Betsey and Ross, they require two litter boxes with Fresh Step scoopable litter, scooped hourly and changed daily. They only eat Purina One Sensitive Systems dry cat food, which must be served 1/3 cup at a time, but the bottom of the bowl must never be visible, per Betsey.

To avoid the paparazzi and other low-lifes, Little Merry Sunshine will provide you with her pseudonym 30 days prior to her arrival and insists it be used on all reservations.

Miscellaneous: Little Merry Sunshine does not do autographs, pictures, or spend time with anyone not previously vetted by Secret Service and personally approved by Little Merry Sunshine. Little Merry Sunshine has very reasonable speaking fees, comensurate with her talents, but if you have to ask what they are, you obviously cannot afford them. No recording of Little Merry Sunshine speeches will be allowed and all cell phones and other recording devices must be confiscated and destroyed in advance. All aspects of the Public Appearance and Speaking Contract with Little Merry Sunshine must be kept entirely confidential and all written communications regarding negotiations must be shredded. Little Merry Sunshine requires universally flattering and slimming lighting, an oak podium (not that cheap particle board made to look like oak) or a skirted table with a plush ergonomic chair (no folding chairs) and an introduction given by someone not nearly as beautiful or smart as Little Merry Sunshine (Sarah Palin?). All marketing and advertising materials must be pre-approved by Little Merry Sunshine no less than 45 days before LMS's appearance.

Obviously, Little Merry Sunshine will need to thoroughly vet your organization and will require certain information about your needs to ensure they meet her high standards. All requested information must be provided no less than 45 days prior to LMS's possible appearance.

Little Merry Sunshine will be happy to resume her Public Appearance and Speaking schedule once she receives confirmation that these new policies have been followed. Thank you for your cooperation.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Extra Degree

When you do something, anything, do you give it that extra effort that allows you to achieve excellence or do you settle for just okay?

I'll admit that in my own life, I usually give the extra effort, but sometimes I've settled. I've settled in school, professionally, and even in some of my relationships. Not always, mind you, but sometimes. Time and time again, however, I've been given evidence that when I give something just one more ounce or degree of effort, without fail, I achieve greatness. I got As in classes I might have only gotten Bs in, I've achieved my professional and personal goals with ease, and I've had extraordinary relationships when I've pushed one degree harder.

I saw this video recently about the extra degree and the difference it makes. It reminded me of the power of one degree and the power it has in my own life. I hope it inspires you too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tina Fey & Sarah Palin are Back on Saturday Night Live!

Did you see Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live last night? As always, Tina was brilliant!

First up, the Sarah Palin Network.


Saturday Night Live wouldn't be complete without Tina Fey making an appearance on Weekend Update. So I bring you Women's News.


Brownie Husband. So wrong, but so funny.


I honestly think Tina Fey is the funniest woman around.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Watervale Easter 2010

It's been almost 2 years since I was last at Watervale. I didn't go last summer because it was right after Nana died and I needed to spend some time with my mom, so I went back to Florida instead. For some unknown reason, I haven't even taken any long weekends at Watervale, which seems crazy since Dave lives there. Knowing that I needed to get away for a few days, Dave suggested I come up a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, I got sick that weekend, so I postponed until Easter weekend. That turned out to be the right move since it was about 80 the first two days I was there! It was glorious, to say the least. (Read earlier posts about the weekend here and here).

While there, I finished Eat Pray Love and read Sarah's Key. I spent hours simply sitting in silence, thinking about nothing. I napped. I listened to NPR. I relaxed with a girlfriend getting pedicures. I drank wine. I slept in peace and quiet for 8 solid hours. I tried to count the stars, but settled for marveling in awe at their splendor. I hiked Baldy. Thanks to Netflix, I watched 30 Rock and The Office, both of which I've never seen.

Dave and I spent Easter dinner with about 50 friends from Watervale, both agreeing it was the nicest Easter we've ever had. Monday night, we enjoyed a quiet dinner with 3 friends and participated in their Monday evening ritual of watching 24. Why have I never seen this show?

It was the perfect long weekend and exactly what I needed. Even though I've been home for two days now, all I want to do is go back. August can't get here fast enough.

Note to anyone planning a trip to Watervale this summer: Remember to pack the bug spray. The mosquitos were already out in force.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Arlington Heights is a Great Place to Live!


Having grown up in Arlington Heights, I know it's a great place to live. It's come a long way since I was a kid when the downtown was anything but a place to shop, dine, or hang out. Yes, there were some restaurants including La Tejanita - now Javier's (same owner, world's best salsa & reasonable prices, but completely redone restaurant) and Chin's, but there wasn't much else except the train station, churches and banks. The movie theater was shuttered in the late 1970s and shops came and went, and for years, it felt more like a ghost town than a living, breathing, thriving town where people came together. The schools were always great, as were the parks, pools, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library and the Fourth of July festival known as Frontier Days, but the downtown business district was struggling.

In the past 15 years or so though, Arlington Heights has invested a great deal of money into building a thriving downtown area and making it a true destination. In fact, one of the things I love about Arlington Heights is that I don't have to go somewhere else to have fun on the weekend or to do business. There are a ton of restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and even a live theater that puts on very reasonably priced great plays. There are a number of events throughout the year that bring residents together. Frontier Days is better than ever and the creation of National Night Out, the Mane Event, movie night in the downtown business district, outdoor concerts, the Farmer's Market and many more events, summer in Arlington Heights is second to none. Because such a variety of businesses have come to Arlington Heights in the last two decades, it's very rare that I need to shop outside the Village for anything.

Do I agree with everything that's happened in Arlington Heights in the last 15 years? No, of course not. You can't please everyone all the time. For example, I'm not a fan of the more affordable homes that have been torn down to make way for over-sized McMansions on lots the size of matchbooks. Fortunately, the change in the real estate market seems to have slowed this significantly.

Overall though, Arlington Heights is wonderful. Our leaders clearly care about the town and have a vision for the future. Lots of people love Arlington Heights, including many who haven't lived here in years. In fact, there's a great Facebook page called "Growing Up in Arlington Heights" created by a former resident who now lives in California. It's got over 6,000 fans and has a very active discussion board.

And now the Tribune knows how great our town is too.

Arlington Heights earns high marks for schools, homes, location
A thriving suburb with a neighborly feel
by Jeffrey Steele, Chicago Tribune, April 2, 2010

It was the dawn of the new millennium, and Katherine Mikkelson and her husband, Tom, were relocating to the Midwest from the East Coast. With just one weekend to find a house, the couple decided Chicago's North Shore was out of their range,and began hunting for a home in the northwest suburbs.

"We kind of stumbled on this house," she recalled of finding her 1865-era home in the heart of Arlington Heights. "It was kind of fortuitous."

In the decade since, she's stayed in touch with the woman who sold the house, and come to know everyone on her block. Her sons went to preschool around the corner and learned to swim at Rec Park. And Mikkelson has grown to feel there was no better patch to have landed on that long-ago weekend.

"Go anywhere in Arlington Heights and you meet someone who you know," she said. "It's much more stable here. I wouldn't move back to the East Coast after living here for so long."

Mikkelson is by no means atypical. Whether native-born or from some far-flung region, most Arlington Heights residents say the village's family-friendly melding of top-ranked schools, an outstanding park district, convenient access to Chicago and revived downtown represent an appealing mix.

Amy Philpott is another transplant, from the West Coast, who found what she sought in Arlington Heights. "We're big in population, but we're a village," said Philpott, owner of Tuscan Market & Wine Shop, serving up wines and homemade Italian sandwiches. "Go to Jewel and everyone's talking to each other. It's not faceless. It's ‘what's up with the kids?' "

Arlington Heights is an affluent, established suburb 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago. Given the size and economic strength of the village, Arlington Heights has managed to preserve its small-town feel. The suburb has about 77,000 residents, and is home to 48,000 jobs, says village manager Bill Dixon. Its residential base is comprised of 18,000 single-family homes and another 12,000 multifamily dwellings.

"If you picked it up and put it in the middle of Iowa, it would be self-sustaining," Dixon said. "It was once a bedroom suburb of Chicago, but it is no longer. It has a distinct identity, attributable to Northwest Community Hospital, Arlington Park Racetrack, and a renewed and vibrant downtown district that includes the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre."

The downtown area underwent a metamorphosis in the 1990s. The revitalization was somewhat controversial at the outset, with many wondering how the village would accommodate the additional traffic flowing into a compact area hosting the new Metropolis and new Arlington Towne Square with its six-screen multiplex, along with existing restaurants and shops. Three parking garages, as well as another parking amenity beneath Arlington Towne Square, have helped ease any parking issues, Dixon said.

Transit-oriented residential development has helped alleviate traffic congestion. The village ensured a stock of new condominiums and apartments would be close to the Metra station, so both young adults and empty nesters could live downtown.

"I think Arlington Heights was . . . a little ahead of the curve in transit-oriented development," Dixon said. "This was being reviewed and approved in Arlington Heights before it was commonly accepted around the country. There were those who thought it would not be compatible with the Arlington Heights they knew. But it's certainly been a shot in the arm for downtown Arlington Heights and the entire community."

The downtown district sets the tone for the rest of what is an exceptionally pedestrian-friendly village. "What I love is I can walk to everything," Mikkelson said. "I can walk to the train station, walk to the restaurants. I can walk to shopping and walk to my kids' school. That's not so common in the suburbs."

The pedestrian streetscape is so pronounced that Philpott and others are organizing a Car-Free Sunday in June. "The downtown streets will be closed to cars for a few hours, to show off the bicycle- and foot-friendliness," she said.

For more than a century, one of the village's prized touchstones has been Arlington Heights Memorial Library, which has occupied its current 500 N. Dunton Ave. building since 1968. The library is visited by 2,600 people a day, many of whom helped contribute to the record 2.4 million checkouts of books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, games and toys the library has tallied the past two years, said spokeswoman Deb Whisler. That record was part of the reason Library Journal's Index of Public Library Service awarded the library its five-star rating, bestowed upon just 1 percent of all libraries.

Noting "this is a community that really values its library," Whisler added that the library greatly benefits from its location in the downtown district. "People get off the train and visit for audio books or music to use on their commutes." Kids can reserve items online and have the library's bookmobile, serving 26 village stops, deliver to their neighborhoods.

It's not only the downtown and the library, but also the good schools, park district and housing stock, that help sell his prospects on Arlington Heights, said David Jaffe, Realtor at Coldwell Banker Northwest in Arlington Heights.

Residential home styles include vintage Queen Annes, American Four Squares, Arts and Crafts homes and bungalows, said Jaffe, himself a 16-year resident of Arlington Heights.

"A lot of the homes were built in the early part of the 20th century," he said. "But the expansion really took place after 1950, when you had the building of Georgians, Cape Cods, split-levels and ranches."

Lower-end homes start in the $200,000s, he added. At the higher end, new construction homes can command multimillion-dollar pricetags. Condos, many of which are downtown, range from $275,000 to $800,000, he said.

Arlington Heights isn't without challenges. Comparatively high housing costs and taxes have priced out some of its traditional mid-income residents, and the pricey rents downtown have resulted in several shuttered storefronts.

Like many other suburbs struggling with budget cuts, Arlington Heights is seeking to minimize the effect on local school districts.

Dixon said, "We have a number of school districts in Arlington Heights, and to the credit of all concerned, the challenges have been faced in a cooperative and collaborative fashion, so the effect has been minimized."

Still, Mikkelson and other locals aren't second-guessing their decision to settle in Arlington Heights. "Come to a show at the Metropolis, have a bite to eat at Peggy Kinnane's," she said. "You will see what a lovely community it is."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That Hopey, Changey Thing . . .

Here's what it looks like . . .


Once again, this isn't the health care reform bill I would have liked, but it's a start.

And to a certain ex-governor of Alaska, that hopey, changey thing is working out pretty good. Thanks for your concern.

35 Days to Manifest My Dream

It took me just 35 days. Thirty-five days from the day I said I was going to climb Baldy again this summer to turn that dream/goal into reality.

You may recall my blog post on March 1st called "The Power of the Dream" in which I listed some of my personal dreams and goals. One of those goals was to climb Baldy again in August when I am at Watervale. Climbing Baldy is a feat and one that I don't undertake very often. For a variety of reasons, I hadn't climbed it since 2004, and to be honest, I wasn't sure I was in good enough physical shape to do it. So I had a plan to 2-3 miles a day or more from the beginning of March until I arrived at Watervale in August and that would give me the strength I needed to climb those last two hills and survive.

What I didn't count on was being at Watervale over Easter and Dave deciding that Easter morning would be as good of a time as any to tackle this goal. I can't tell you that I enthusiastically jumped on the idea on Sunday morning. Saturday had been spent in a slug-like manner involving NPR, beer, and a nap, followed by a relatively easy and short walk, a glorious sunset, and a fantastic Thai dinner at The Fusion, where we ate way too much. In fact, my initial response was something along the lines of "Hell no! Are you out of your mind?" He assured me he was dead serious and we were leaving momentarily, so I'd better find some clothes or I'd be going in my slippers and pj's.

We set off on our hike of death, which I'm fairly certain involved a plot to kill me so he could avoid paying me back for the trip to Costco, and all was fine as long as the ground was flat. Once the hills arrived, however, I became convinced this was no longer fun, in spite of the beauty of seeing nature come back to life after a long winter.

This is the sort of first big hill I hiked. But you can see how gentle the slope was, which made it pretty easy. I'd say this reflects about the first 2/3 of the hike.
This was the first major obstacle. Notice the incline. What made it tolerable, though, was the fact that it was pretty solid dirt covered with leaves, so my feet weren't sinking into anything.
Dave pretty much ran to the top, while I took my time, coughing my way to the top (I'm still recovering from a cold last week) and not sure my lungs, still filled with cold-ick, would hold out. Once I reached the top, I knew it was all uphill from here, with just a couple level places allowing me to catch my breath before the final two hills.

Before we get to those hills, I thought this tree was cool.
At this point, Dave assured me we're pretty close to the top and I was doing great, as I grew more convinced that he just remembered that I have life insurance and he's the beneficiary.

Not one to recoil from a challenge once I've committed to it, I stared down the 2nd to the last hill determined to show it who's boss (that'd be me . . . I hoped). You'll notice it's all sand at this point. You're probably thinking that it looks easy, but I assure you that looks are deceiving. This hill actually has about a 35 degree incline, according to Dave. You also don't really see how it curves to the left. What's tricky about this is the sand and how my feet were constantly sinking. That and there's really not much to grab onto for leverage.
When I was almost at the top, I turned around to document how far I'd come. I think you have a better appreciation of the challenge I faced.
But look at what I still had ahead of me. It's almost a vertical climb. I pondered how best to do this - in the summer, I'd take off my shoes and do it barefoot, but the sand is still cold and a bit damp, so that seems unlikely. The other question was would I be able to remain vertical and not climb using my hands.
Dave was patiently waiting at the top with the bottles of water and Gatorade, so I had no choice but to take a deep breath and get up that hill.

I'm proud to tell you that I did remain upright, although I did grab hold of the tree you see on the left to keep my balance. Now, at this point, you'd think you'd be finished. That you'd reached the top. And you'd be wrong.

I always forget about what comes next: the last hill, which entirely sand without the benefit of trees or roots in the sand to give you footing. To say it is hellish is an understatement. This hill makes my calves and thighs burn like nothing I've ever experienced. Actually, I liken it to what I've heard childbirth is like - more painful than anything in the world, but you miraculously forget the pain so you do it again.
The good news is that you do have about 50 yards to catch your breath before you tackle the last hill. As you see above, there are actually two paths. We always take the one on the left. It takes you to the top of Baldy. The one on the right takes you around it. Dave offered me the option, but since I don't back down from a fight, I said I was going to tough it out and take the path on the left. I handed Dave my camera so that if I lost my balance, I wouldn't ruin it and he sprinted to the top leaving me to fend for myself. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm proud to tell you that I survived. And not only did I survive, but I conquered. I made it about 3/4 the way up the last hill, which is about 50 feet tall with at least a 35 degree incline, on my feet and without using my hands. I finally gave in and used my hands to assist me in the climb until my feet gave out and I literally crawled the last 7-8 feet on my hands and knees.
When I reached the top, I will tell you I had tears in my eyes. I really didn't think I could climb this dune, but I did. I accomplished, what I believed to be the impossible. I'll never run the Chicago Marathon, but I'm really proud to have conquered this challenge. Climbing Baldy always reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to and that if I just pace myself and keep putting one foot in front of the other, I'll get there eventually. Climbing Baldy isn't about competing with anyone else or caring what anyone else thinks. It's about me and pushing myself beyond what I think I can do.

And here was my reward. That's Lower Herring Lake on the right and Lake Michigan on the left. In my humble opinion, it's the best view in all of Michigan.
Oh, and as for the pain and huffing and puffing involved in hiking Baldy, it's all forgotten the instant I turn around and see this view. You can bet I'll be back up Baldy in August. And in the meantime, I'll be walking a lot so it hurts less. I almost forgot, it turns out that Dave wasn't trying to kill me after all. He just has more faith in me than I have sometimes. And for that, I'm grateful beyond words.

I wonder what else I can manifest in just 35 short days . . .

Monday, April 5, 2010

Making Prom Dreams Come True for All Girls

My friend Steve and me at our Senior Prom. He wasn't my date, but I don't remember the name of my date. And for the record, the tie I'm wearing was my date's tie and I don't have any idea why I'm wearing it. May 1989

For so many high school girls, attending prom is just another rite of passage. It's like turning 16 and getting a drivers' license. It just happens. No one gives much thought to whether or not they will attend because they just will.

Many girls start planning their senior prom the moment they enter high school. They read all the prom editions of teen magazines - Seventeen, Cosmo Girl, etc. - fantasizing what they would look like in each dress. They spend hours walking the malls with their girlfriends in search of the perfect prom dress, even if they're freshmen or sophomores and aren't going unless they happen to have upperclassmen boyfriends. They pick out their hairstyles and know how their nails and make-up will be done. They've got all the details planned out to the minute.

But for many girls, prom is not an automatic reality. Whether it's finances or disabilities that could get in the way, for many girls, attending prom is simply out of reach . . . or so they may think.

Over the last few years, I've seen a number of heartwarming stories about groups that come together to make prom a reality for all girls - regardless of finances or other challenges. They collect like-new prom dresses, shoes, and accessories and set up a "shop" for the girls to come try on the gowns and share in the whole "finding the perfect prom dress experience." The girls either receive the dresses for free or for a fraction of their real cost. Sometimes, the organizations even bring in photographers, make-up artists, and hair stylists, to truly allow the girls to feel princess-like, even if just for an afternoon.

Recently, I've seen two of these stories and both about brought me to tears.

The first was last month on the ABC Nightly News about an organization in Atlanta that provides prom dresses for foster girls. I wish I could find the video because the stories of the moms and the girls and seeing the looks on their faces when they find just the right dress was priceless. They call the event Prom-a-Palooza. What a great name!

The second story was in the Chicago Tribune last week.

Making more prom wishes come true

Wish Upon A Wardrobe expands mission beyond homeless girls
by Phyllis Benson, Chicago Tribune, March 31, 2010

Who: Deirdre White is president of the Elgin Junior Service Board, which runs Wish Upon a Wardrobe, providing prom dresses and accessories for girls who could not otherwise afford them.

What she does: Wish Upon a Wardrobe held its first event last year, providing homeless girls in school districts 300, 301 and U-46 with prom dresses, accessories and shoes.

"There were happy tears that day. The girls were having so much fun," White said. "With the economy, we thought why don't we open it up a little more?"

Homeless girls will have a private session, but any currently enrolled high school female may attend the public event from noon to 2 p.m. April 10 in the YWCA Elgin, 220 E. Chicago St. A valid school ID or other proof of current enrollment is required. Girls will be assisted by personal shoppers.

The dresses, which White said are in the latest styles and colors, and accessories will be available for only $20.

"The girls are super-happy when they walk away," she said. "It's empowering women, and it's supporting the family. ... Financially, it's really hard for parents these days to have to say. ‘No, we can't afford the dress for prom,' and girls can't go. But they leave here very empowered and feeling beautiful."

The goal of the Elgin Junior Service Board, which began in the 1930s as a YWCA service project, is to empower women and support families, White said. In addition to Wish Upon a Wardrobe, services include emergency and immediate dental care for children, a clothing center, financial assistance for health-related services, breast cancer awareness and mammograms, and a scholarship for single women with children through Elgin Community College's Scholarship Foundation.

Wish Upon a Wardrobe will soon expand when it receives a donation of more than 4,000 dresses from the Junior Women's League of Kane and DuPage counties. White is looking for donated space to store them.

White's wish list is a climate-controlled space (dresses can wilt in the summer and dry out in the winter) in Elgin with room for dress racks or tables, and preferably on the first floor or a space with elevator access. While she would prefer donated space, a nominal fee could be negotiated.

How you can help: A fundraiser, Game On!, a sports-themed variety show, will be held at 8 p.m. April 23 and 24 in Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin. Tickets cost $40 premium and $20 main, and are available at hemmens.org or elginjsb.org.

To view samples of the dresses, visit ywcaelgin.org. To donate dresses, volunteer to sort dresses or be a personal shopper, or to donate storage space, call White at 847-742-7930 or e-mail dwhite@ywcaelgin.org.

LMS Note: I know more organizations do this and I imagine it's done in Township High School District 214, but I couldn't find it. If you know of more organizations that provide this valuable service, leave it in the comments.


Wish Upon A Star http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/happynews/ct-x-n-0331-help-dresses-20100331,0,196573.story

Find ABC Nightly News story from a couple weeks ago about similar thing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I'm Still Finding Joy

So as I explained yesterday, I'm a little preoccupied finding joy.

After writing for a few minutes yesterday, I went back to the beach where I played on the swings. How long has it been since you played on the swings? I'm not asking when the last time was you pushed your kid on the swings - I'm asking about the last time YOU swung on the swings yourself. It had been far too long since I'd done it, so I did. And believe me, it was joyful. Feeling the wind in my hair, watching the waves hit the breakwaters, hearing the sounds of children laughing as they played in the sand.

Then I walked down to the water's edge and let the waves splash over my bare feet. I'm not sure if I have more respect for my friends who do the Polar Plunge or if I think they're crazy. Let me tell you, that water was frigid. Cold would have been a step up. But it felt exhilarating. I could see a couple guys paddle-boarding in the distance, so I walked down the beach with my camera and watched them for awhile.

Finally, it was pedicure time and I practically fell asleep in the chair. Once my toes were beautified for Spring with "Over Exposed in South Beach" by OPI, my friend Linda and I took naps on the lounge chairs outside by the hot tub. It was 80 and sunny with a light breeze.

Last night was capped off watching the sunset on the beach and digging my feet into the sand.

I can't say today was as lovely weather-wise as it has been the last two days, but as I always say, "the worst day at Watervale beats the best day anywhere else" and that held true yet again. Today started out fairly warm and sunny, but quickly grew windy, chilly, and rainy. In truth, it only rained for about an hour or so and by then, Dave and I were sitting around listening to Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! and This American Life (where I learned about hookworms) on NPR, drinking some beers, and napping.

Yes, today was good. My biggest problem today was turning my back and discovering that my beer had disappeared. Fortunately, that was quickly resolved when Dave walked back in with it in his hand (he'd stolen it) and life was great again.

Tonight we enjoyed a marvelous hike and then had dinner at The Fusion where I enjoyed a maki roll with tuna and watched a gorgeous sunset. Red sky at night, sailor's delight . . . I'm expecting tomorrow to be another fabulous day. It's a perfectly clear night, so I watched the stars for a little while from the boat house. Nothing quite beats stargazing at the beach.

Tomorrow will be a delightful day with friends, a good hike and who knows what else. Whatever surprises are in store, I can't wait because whatever it is, it will be joyful.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Finding Joy

Yesterday on Facebook, I promised that I would blog last night about the Chicago Flower & Garden Show I attended last month. I didn't do it and I'm sorry. But you see, I'm a little pre-occupied finding joy. That's not to say that writing about the wonderful time I had wouldn't have been joyful because it would have been and the pictures are outstanding, but for the next few days, my blogging time is very limited.

At the moment, I'm watching the tree branches sway in the breeze, enjoying a cloud-free sky unencumbered by buildings or cell phone antennas, deeply breathing the pollution-free air, listening to the gentle lap of the water on the lake and getting ready to go put my toes in the sand, again. Last night, I saw an incredible sunset around 8:30 after an impromptu cocktail party with dear friends and fell asleep before 10:30. I slept soundly for 8 hours and then woke this morning without an alarm excited for today's adventures.

So pardon me if I'm not blogging much for the next few days. I'll get back to it. I have many stories to share. Right now though, I just have to find my joy.

What are you doing to find your joy?