Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy 25th Anniversary Chicago Bears!

Congratulations to the 1985-86 Chicago Bears on the 25th anniversary of the ass-whooping they gave to the New England Patriots in Superbowl XX (that's 20 for you non-Roman numeral types).

Without a doubt, that team, affectionately known as the Monsters of the Midway, and consisting of such players as Sweetness, the Fridge, the Punky QB, Samurai Mike, to name a few, is one of the all-time greatest football teams.

For proof, I offer up the Superbowl Shuffle. What other team could make fun of themselves like this? And, no, there's no need to thank me for sticking these lyrics in your head for the rest of the day.

Now, can we please get back to football like the Bears gave us in 1985-86? I'm a little tired of saying "wait til next year" in reference to the Bears. It's bad enough I have to keep saying it about the Cubs. Thanks.

Chicago Politics: A Paragon of Virtue

By now, you've heard about Rahm Emanuel being kicked off the ballot for Chicago mayor by the Appellate Court because of his lack of residency. While I understand that there has been quite a spirited debate about whether Rahm's service to President Obama since 2009 made him a non-resident, I think we can all agree, that in Chicago and throughout Illinois, it's imperative that politicians follow the rules and act in a virtuous manner at all times. And that's all the Appellate Court was doing yesterday. They're simply reminding everyone that it's the letter of the law that matters and politicians must be held to a higher standard. It's this reason that we have no corruption in Illinois.

As always, John Stewart explains it all perfectly. You'll see that a strict adherence to the residency rule truly is the Chicago Way™.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Chicago Snubs
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Of course, if you read LMS via email, it's worth a trip to the blog itself to watch the video.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Certain Songs Say What I Can't

I was having a conversation with a Lifetime Friend today about Little Merry Sunshine and I explained how sometimes I use it to say the things I cannot say out loud. For example, when Nana died, I couldn't say all I wanted to say about the grief I felt, but I could write about her and how much I missed her (and still do) and that helped me process my grief and come out of my depression.

Today is one of those days where I can't make the words that describe my feelings come out of my mouth, but I can sort of say them on Little Merry Sunshine. Well, Bruce Springsteen and Michael W. Smith can say them for me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

Have you heard the story about the Southwest pilot who held a plane so a man running late thanks to TSA could see his dying grandson one more time?

It's true. We're 17 days into the new year and already the kindness of strangers has made me cry. Ya, I know I'm a wuss, but trust me, you're going to get misty-eyed too.

Actually, someone once did something similar for me. I never got to say thank you because the internet didn't exist and I didn't have a public forum like Little Merry Sunshine in which to shout my gratitude from the rooftops. I was flying from Washington National to O'Hare early on a Saturday morning for my Grandma Gardner's funeral. My original flight was canceled due to mechanical problems and when United got me on a later flight, they put me in the last row of an overcrowded flight. I hadn't slept more than a couple of hours most of the week because of a huge legal filing we were getting done, and once I got to my seat, I took my first deep breath and all of my emotion over the death of my grandmother came pouring out. To add to my grief and tears, if we landed on time, I had 30 minutes to make it to the funeral and no way to tell my dad, who was picking me up at O'Hare. A passing stewardess asked me what was wrong and upon hearing my story, walked away. She returned a few minutes later telling me to get my purse and follow her. Someone in first class gave me their seat so I could get off the plane as quickly as possible, run through the airport, and make it to the funeral. Wow. Even now, 15 years later, I'm still grateful for that random act of kindness by a stranger.

So maybe that's why I'm especially touched by the Southwest pilot who went above and beyond to make sure a man he didn't know got to see the person he needed to see without worrying about all the places the other passengers wanted to be.

Hero Pilot Pulls Out the Stops to Help Grandpa Reach Funeral: 2011's Most Heartwarming Travel Story?
by William Lee Adams,

The most important trips aren't about getting somewhere. They're about getting to someone. (via

But in an age of mounting airline fees, reduced in-flight services, uncomfortable security pat-downs and multi-day delays caused by erupting volcanoes, it's easy to forget that.

Amid the cries of "I've already paid for my hotel!" and "You need to get me to Atlanta!" anger and inconvenience frequently blind us to the fact that travel is ultimately about people. We also forget that airline employees—bound by big company rules and regulations—get frustrated, too.

Enter Nancy, whose travel triumph, tempered by a great deal of sadness, has turned an unnamed Southwest Airlines pilot into an online hero.

Nancy reads a blog by Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and journalist, and wrote to him about her husband's recent ordeal traveling on flights from Los Angeles to Tucson to Denver. Their situation makes complaints about leg room look downright petty.

"Last night, my husband and I got the tragic news that our three-year-old grandson in Denver had been murdered by our daughter's live-in boyfriend," she wrote. "He is being taken off life support tonight at 9 o'clock and his parents have opted for organ donation, which will take place immediately. Over 25 people will receive his gift tonight and many lives will be saved."

So early in the morning, after what must have been a torturous night's sleep, Nancy and her husband arranged for him to fly from Los Angeles, where he was traveling for work, to Tuscon, where he would step off one plane and immediately onto another one headed to Denver. "The ticketing agent was holding back tears throughout the call," Nancy wrote. "I'm actually her step-mother and it's much more important for my husband to be there than for me to be there."

Mourning the loss of his child's child, and no doubt worrying about his grieving daughter, he was likely in no state to travel. Airport stress only compounded his despair. He arrived at LAX two hours before his scheduled flight time, but quickly realized that delays at baggage check and security would keep him from making the flight.

According to Nancy, he struggled to hold back tears as he pleaded with TSA and Southwest Airlines staff to fast-track him through the lines that were moving like molasses. Even though missing his flight could mean missing a final chance to see his grandson, no one seemed to care.

Too much was at stake to simply roll over and cry. When he finally cleared security—several minutes after his flight's planned departure—he grabbed his computer bag, shoes and belt, and ran to his terminal wearing only his socks. The pilot and the gate agent were waiting for him.

“Are you Mark? We held the plane for you and we're so sorry about the loss of your grandson,” the pilot reportedly said. “They can't go anywhere without me and I wasn't going anywhere without you. Now relax. We'll get you there. And again, I'm so sorry.”

It's hard to underestimate the courage of the pilot's decision. The flight, which ultimately departed 12 minutes late, likely had hundreds of passengers rolling their eyes in contempt. And given that any delay has knock-on effects for passengers at the destination airport, his decision placed Southwest at risk of facing the wrath of travelers, and more than a few demands for compensation.

Elliott, who brought the story to the blogosphere's attention, approached Southwest about the story, half expecting the airline to be outraged by a pilot's refusal to push the on-time departure.

Instead, they told him they were "proud" of their pilot, a man who clearly understands that taking a child off life support has consequences that run deeper than a flight taking off late. As Nancy wrote: "My husband was able to take his first deep breath of the day." Hopefully, over time, his daughter can do the same.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy National Rubber Ducky Day!

You probably call today Thursday, but I call it National Rubber Ducky Day!

The Rubber Duck was first manufactured in the late 1800s as a way, I'm assuming, to make bath time easier for parents everywhere by diverting kids' attention away from the soap and wash cloth and onto the floating duck. Obviously it worked because many years later, Ernie couldn't be pried from his bath on Sesame Street while playing with his Rubber Duckie. His love affair with his Rubber Duckie is well documented in the video below.

Here's a fun fact from
During a Pacific storm on January 10, 1992, over 29,000 rubber ducky bath toys from a Chinese company were washed off of a cargo ship. Months after the storm, about two thirds of the rubber duckies had made [their] way to the shores of Indonesia, Australia, and South America. Some of the ducks also entered into the Bering Straight between Alaska and Russia where they became trapped in the Arctic ice. The ducks slowly made their way through the ice at one mile per day and in 2000, they were spotted in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Talk about some world traveled ducks!
So Happy National Rubber Ducky Day! I suggest you celebrate by taking an extra long bath with your favorite Rubber Ducky!

And on a personal note, Happy Birthday to a longtime LMS reader. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"We Can Be Better" - President Obama

Did you see President Obama's speech tonight at the memorial service in Tucson? I saw most of it and can honestly say that I was moved to tears at moments. (Surprise, I know.) It is my believe that this speech will go down as one of his absolute best. It's also my hope and prayer tonight that the President's words will help calm the vitriol.

I think that would be the best way to honor all of the victims of the horrific tragedy this past weekend. We all need to remember that words matter and have consequences. Maybe some of the recent rhetoric played a role in the shooting and maybe it didn't. I actually don't think it matters. We need to listen to each other and differing points of view. We need to remember that we can disagree without being disagreeable. We need to make sure that those on the fringes don't fall through the cracks. And we need to make sure that mental health care is fully funded.

In case you missed it, spend 30 minutes to watch the video below. It will change you or at least touch your heart and remind you of what is good. Tonight, our Commander in Chief was our Healer in Chief.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

You can also read a full transcript of the President's remarks here. Of course, those are the prepared remarks. You won't get his off-the-script comments about Congresswoman Giffords and his other unscripted remarks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Do You Remember Your "First Time Around"?

Do you remember your first crush or first love? If you're like most of us, it took place sometime during junior high or high school.

Maybe it was the boy who walked you home throughout junior high and carried your books... Maybe it was the Greek God who turned your world upside down because he was just always there... Maybe it was tennis player who wrote with the red pencil in summer school, making it difficult to read his name on his paper, but ultimately had you with that first kiss... Maybe it was the Band Geek who drove you home everyday... Maybe it was someone else.

Whomever it was, I'm sure you fell hard. And if you stop to think about it now, you can probably instantly go right back to that moment and how you felt. If you're like most of us, it didn't last. Only very few of us actually get it right the first time around.

In his second novel book, First Time Around, Michael Bellito takes us back to that time. That time of innocence, when the world was easy, yet our love seemed all-consuming and the heartbreak heart breaking.

For John Hersey High School alums, Mr. Bellito was one of our favorite English teachers and/or speech coaches. More than anything, he introduced me to my lifelong love: the love of words and how to weave them together to tell a story.

Mr. Bellito will launch First Time Around at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library on Wednesday, January 12th at 7pm. He'll do a reading and sign copies. Of course, books will be for sale. Go and say hello. Trust me, he loves nothing more than reconnecting with former students.

Can't make it on the 12th? Don't worry, he'll also be at the Prospect Heights Library on Thursday, February 3rd at 7pm. I'll be there.

Are YOU Part of The Inner Circle?

I, of course, am referring to The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. It arrives in bookstores everywhere NOW.

This book is going to be huge. How do I know? Because I do. That's how. Now go out and buy it because I said so. If you hit Barnes & Noble in Arlington Heights early enough, you'll run into me. Say hello.

Do you need more persuasion? Click here to read the first chapter. Now go buy the book.

Still not convinced? Watch the commercial below.

NOW go buy the book.

And if you don't have anything to do next Friday, January 21st, come to the city with my mom and me to meet Brad (well, I already know him, but you know what I mean). He'll sign your book and tell you all kinds of cool stuff. Really. The book signing starts at 12noon at the Border's on State Street. Then mom and I are off to lunch at The Walnut Room, as the finale of her belated Christmas present. Remember, don't tell her. It's a big surprise. If you live in another city, you can click here to find out when the Rockin' The Stacks Tour will visit your town.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

People Are Good

It seems that so much of today's news is negative. Murders. Car accidents. Robberies. Rapes. Political scandals. War. The economy. It's all negative. I often wonder if newspapers and news broadcasts are run by Debbie Downer.

And then just when I think I've lost my faith in humanity, I find a gem of a story that lifts my heart and reminds me that at their very core, people are good.

Jon Yates, the author of the Tribune's What's Your Problem? column usually writes about people getting ripped off and helps to make them whole again. Today, however, he writes of a woman who found a significant amount of cash money just before Christmas and is desperately trying to find the rightful owner. My favorite part of the story below is that at no time did she think about keeping the money for herself, like so many people would have. She's even teaching her children that "finder's keepers" doesn't always apply. That makes my heart skip a beat.

Family Seeks Owners of Missing Money
Jon Yates, What's Your Problem?, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 6, 2011

It would have been easy for Shannon Dowdle to have taken the cash-stuffed envelope and run.

After all, no one had seen her scoop it off the Skokie sidewalk, and there was no way of tracking the wad of money.

But it was just four days before Christmas, and Dowdle is no Mr. Potter.

The Glenview mother thumbed through the more than $1,000 and knew she had to find the rightful owner.

"I didn't count it until I got into the car and I was like, 'Oh gosh,'" Dowdle said. "All these thoughts went through my mind. I was just sick to my stomach."

Given the date (Dec. 21) and where she found the money (outside the Shops at Orchard Place) Dowdle was convinced someone intended to use the cash to purchase Christmas gifts.

"I thought somebody would really be missing it," she said.

Determined to figure out who dropped it, Dowdle took the envelope into three nearby stores: an Ulta cosmetics store, Best Buy and Pier 1 Imports. No one had reported the money missing.

So Dowdle waited. After almost an hour, when it became apparent that whoever lost the money was not coming back, Dowdle left her name and phone number at each store.

On Dec. 23 her husband, Rick Dowdle, went back to the Ulta store and asked if anyone had inquired about the envelope. The store manager said yes, an elderly couple came in earlier that day and asked if anyone had found an envelope filled with cash.

The manager, apparently unaware of earlier events, told the couple no.

The manager asked the elderly couple for their names and address, but they refused to give them, the manager told Dowdle.

"The manager said the couple was pretty upset," Rick Dowdle said. "She said (they) thought someone had found it and kept it."

Since then, the Dowdles and their six children have made it a family project to find the rightful owners.

They contacted e Skokie police and were told no one had reported the money missing, they said. They called security at the shopping center, but there were no reports filed there either.

They posted information about the money on craigslist, but no one responded.

Because the envelope had a bank insignia on it, the family contacted the bank. The bank sent an e-mail to branch managers in the area, but none has reported any knowledge of who the elderly couple might be.

"On Christmas Eve, we had quite a discussion about what to do with the money," Rick Dowdle said.

In the end, the family decided that if it couldn't find the owners, it would donate the money to charity. The Dowdles said their kids were adamant about finding the true owners.

"None of them said, 'Let's go spend it,'" Shannon Dowdle said. "They felt so bad about it. They baby-sit and they know how important it is, the money you make."

Last week, the family e-mailed What's Your Problem? hoping publicity would help track down the elderly couple.

Initially, the Dowdles did not want their name in the paper.

"This isn't about us," Rick Dowdle said.

But when the Problem Solver said he does not publish stories with anonymous sources, the family relented.

Keeping the money was never a consideration, they said.

"It makes you think, what would I want somebody else to do for me?" Shannon Dowdle said.

She realizes the family might never find the true owners.

"It's like a needle in a haystack, I'm telling you," she said. "Hopefully, it will have a happy ending."

If the money is yours, or you know who lost it, contact the Problem Solver via e-mail at, or call the Tribune's city desk at 312-222-3650.

The Problem Solver knows the exact amount that was lost, the denominations of the bills and the name of the bank that was on the envelope, so please do not respond unless the money is truly yours.