Friday, March 25, 2011

Arlington Heights Native Named NEW Cubs Announcer!

Yes, it's true. An Arlington Heights native has been named the new announcer for the Chicago Cubs.

No, it's not me.

But wouldn't it be cool if it was?

Actually, the lucky guy is Andrew Belleson who grew up in Arlington Heights, attended Concordia College, and has spent the last five years announcing for the Rockford Riverhawks. He's a lifelong Cubs fan and grew up idolizing Harry Caray. He beat out 2,954 applicants!

Do any Little Merry Sunshine readers know him?

For a preview of what Wrigley Field will sound like this year, check out Andrew's YouTube video audition tape.

Mt. Prospect may have American Idol winner Lee DeWyze, but I think it's far cooler to say the Cubs announcer is from my hometown.

Congratulations Andrew!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mix Tapes

As I was driving home tonight, I heard a song on the radio and thought “that song would be perfect for a mix tape.” That thought was immediately followed by “I haven’t made or listened to a mix tape in almost 20 years.”

You remember the mix tape. You made one for your girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe you made one for your best friends that recalled your last summer together before you all went to separate colleges. People made them for you. They were party souvenirs.

Back in the day, I had a gazillion cassettes, but the ones that have stood the test of time and a dozen moves since high school are my mix tapes. I don’t have any of my Pet Shop Boys or Outfield or even Bon Jovi cassettes anymore, but I still have almost two dozen mix tapes. They span a full decade of my life, from 1984 through 1994, and represent long lost loves, forever friend, parties, vacations, my favorite workout music, and much more.

The first mix tape I ever received was from my high school boyfriend. He gave it to me just before I left for Watervale and I’m sure I spent all 6 hours in the car listening to it on my cassette Walkman. It was full of the music we loved, and listening to it, I knew without a doubt exactly how he felt about me. Unfortunately, that tape died a merciless death at the controls of my tape deck. I listened to it until it wore out.

My favorite mix tape was a surprise from my friend Kirsten in the Fall of 1991. She was studying in Hong Kong and I was back at Lake Forest College, after having spent the summer at Watervale. The tape, called "Jess's Hong Kong Express," was a mix of songs, quotes, poems, and stories of her adventures overseas and the day it appeared in my mailbox, I ran all the way back to Deerpath Hall to listen to it before even cracking a page of homework.

A couple of years ago, I was packing for a romantic getaway and I wanted a soundtrack of music to help set the mood and say the things I couldn’t. I spent a couple of hours putting together a playlist on my iPod, but then when we reached our destination, we realized we didn’t have a docking station. So much for technology. I'm not sure that playlist survived moving to a new laptop and resetting my iPod.

Getting back to my drive home tonight, I began to wonder, how do people in love express their emotions through music in the day of digital downloads? Pandora sort of creates playlists, but they're not fully customizable because Pandora chooses the music for you. Do you “borrow” your lover’s iPod or iPhone and download a custom playlist? That’s sort of romantic, but playlists can easily get deleted. And you can’t exactly create custom artwork on the cover of a playlist the way you can on a cassette. Sure, tapes wear out, melt in your car (assuming you have a cassette player), and get lost, plus the sound quality is no where near as good as today's digital downloads, but there's something really wonderful about holding a tape and knowing the hours of effort that went into making it.

I miss mix tapes and can't help but wonder if, in spite of all the wonderful technological innovations we've had in the last twenty years, maybe we haven't lost one of life's great joys. What do you think?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dinner Party Catastrophes . . . Rescued

Have you ever been in a situation where you've got a house full of guests (or maybe even just one extra special guest) for an important dinner party and for whatever reason your meal just falls apart? I think anyone who's ever spent any amount of time in a kitchen has had this experience. It's happened to me more than once. For me, the worst part is feeling like an utter failure in front of guests and not knowing how to fix the situation.

Fortunately, Christopher Carnick, co-author of Dinner for Six at 8:00 and co-owner of Casa Cebadillas in Torrox Pueblo, Spain, has come to our rescue. Watch the video below and learn how to rescue under-cooked chicken, over-cooked summer squash, and make fool-proof mousse.

Oh, and can I just tell you how much I'm lusting for that hand-held blender?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Ain't Settlin'

Yesterday morning I was driving to work and having a very serious come to Jesus talk with myself. Yes, it was just me in the car and yes, I was talking out loud to myself. Why do you ask? Anyway, there I was in the car having this serious talk with myself about the state of state of my life (I turn 40 exactly 3 months from today) with the radio on low in the background when out of nowhere I hear the familiar sounds of Jennifer Nettles and Sugarland singing one of my favorite songs. I took it as a sign from the Universe (and we all know how I believe in signs from the Universe).

I listened to the words, possibly closer than I've ever listened before and realized I was listening to the theme song for the last three months of my 30s (it hurts just typing those words).

That's right Settlin' by Sugarland is defining the next three months for me. I'm raising the bar higher than ever before. I'm joining a gym this week and will lose the 25 pounds I've committed to losing before my birthday. For those of you keeping score, that will put the total weight loss between my 39th and 40th birthday at almost 60 pounds (Okay, it's not the 100 pounds I put on my Bucket List, but it's 60 pounds closer than I was). No if's, and's or but's about it. I've got some other big goal and dreams, but at the moment, that's all I'm willing to discus publicly.

If you're not familiar with Settlin', click on the video below.

Monday, March 14, 2011

LMS's 1000th Post: Happy Pi Day!

Today Little Merry Sunshine is Party Central as we celebrate Pi Day (3/14 - get it? you'd better or I'm gonna sic my favorite Calculus professor on you) and Little Merry Sunshine's 1000th blog post (this is it!)!

To set the mood for this celebration, we'll need some music. So let's listen to what Pi sounds like. . .

Align Center

Of course, we'll need some yummy food. What Pi party would be complete without pie? Fortunately, NPR has us covered.

Now that we've had some musical entertainment and filled our bellies with Pi pie, let's watch a movie.

Yes, seriously, in 1998, director Darren Aronofsky, released Pi, about "A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature." Go ahead, watch the trailer below. You know you want to.

Even the U.S. House of Representatives finds time to celebrate Pi Day! In 2009, the House passed a resolution praising Pi. Of course, I find it a bit disturbing that 10 Republican Congressmen voted against such an innocuous bill.

Every party needs a comedian, especially a Pi party, so I've brought in Al G. Bra for your Pi Day entertainment!

Now that we've been entertained with Pi jokes by Al G. Bra, it's time for party games! We'll follow the example of the San Francisco Exploratorium and walk around a Pi Shrine a little more than 3 times.

As our party winds down, I just want to tell you how much I appreciate that you keep returning to Little Merry Sunshine. If not for you, Little Merry Sunshine would never have reached 1000 blog posts on such a momentous day. Thank you for reading, commenting, following, and emailing me with your thoughts. Here's to another 1000 posts! And here's a little Pi party favor to remind you of our Pi Day party!

P.S. A very special shout out to Albert Einstein on his 132nd birthday! Happy Birthday Mr. Einstein! Thank you for the Theory of Relativity.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Power of Kindness

Last September, I ran a blog post titled "Paid in Full With One Glass of Milk" that was one of the most popular posts in all of 2010. I had read the story in an inspirational email I receive each morning and was moved to share the story with each of you. What I find interesting about these emails I receive each day from Simple Truths is that more often than not, the message in the morning email speaks to exactly an issue I'm dealing with in my life. The power of the Universe, I guess.

This morning when I checked my email, I was once again greeted by this wonderful story and I decided I should re-share it with you too. In this crazy busy world we live in, it's important to remember how the smallest act of kindness we perform, even the ones that seem unimportant to us, can quite literally change someone's world. The other thing I know about performing acts of kindness is that being kind to someone else always lifts me up as well. Whether it's the smile I give to a check-out clerk at Jewel who's been on her feet for 8 hours, the directions I give to someone who's lost, the Girl Scout cookies I bought that I didn't really need, or the friend I gave my shoulder to the other night, I find that being nice always makes me just a little bit happier.

Straight from Simple Truths...
The Power of Kindness

The year was 1863, on a spring day in Northern Pennsylvania. A poor boy was selling goods door to door to pay his way through school. He realized he had only a dime left, and that he was hungry. So he decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal, he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry and so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, "How much do I owe you?"

"You don't owe me anything," she replied. "Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness." He said, "Then I thank you from my heart." As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Years later, that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, he went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor's gown, he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day, he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested from the business office to pass the final billing to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally, she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words:

Dr. Howard Kelly*

*Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Kelly's biographer, Audrey Davis, the doctor was on a walking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring day when he stopped by a farm house for a drink of water.

This beautiful story about Dr. Howard Kelly is one of many true stories found in The Power of Kindness. I love the quote from Leo Buscaglia: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." Quite frankly, this is the part about kindness that we all understand. But it's the other part that many of us fail to grasp.

That is...practicing random acts of kindness can change our lives!

The great English writer, Aldous Huxley, was a pioneer in the study techniques to develop human potential. In a lecture toward the end of his life, he said this:

"People often ask me...what is the most effective technique for transforming their lives?"
He then said, "It's a little embarrassing that after years and years of research, my best answer is - just be a little kinder."

This is the paradox of the power of kindness. It doesn't feel powerful at all. I n fact, it almost feels too simple to be important. But as Huxley said, it is the #1 thing that can transform your life.

Kindness, more than anything, is an attitude that brings us back to the simplicity of being. It is also the one way you can be assured of making a difference with your life.
This reminded me of a Clay Walker song from a few years ago about the power of kindness called The Chain of Love. For those of you reading LMS via email, click here and see the video on the site. I challenge each of you to find some opportunities today and this next week to perform random acts of kindness. I believe you'll find that doing so will improve your day and week and you never know when you'll be on the receiving end.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Ate a Frog Today

Watch the video and you'll understand. And then remember that I love you and that's why I share my words of wisdom with you. Well, okay, they're Brian Tracy's words of wisdom, but I'm still sharing something with you that helps make my days better.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm Gonna Be Charlie Sheen's #Winning #Tigherblood Intern!

My phone rang about 3pm yesterday. It was my friend Paul (and one of the alumni at my awesome new job).

"Jess, I've found the PERFECT job for you! But you've got to act fast!"

"Um, okay," I said, "But I've already got the perfect job. Remember? I'm the Alumni Relations & Events Manager at your alma mater!"

"No. No. No," He insisted. "THIS job is even better."

"Okay, fine. What is this gig that's even better than my awesome job I've been at for three weeks? Seriously, I thought you were calling about some alumni matter."

"Charlie Sheen is looking for an intern and you'd be PERFECT! With your #winning smile and attitude and #tigerblood instincts, he'd be a fool not to hire you."

"You do realize I'd smack him upside the head all the way to next Thursday, just for being a complete waste of a human being these days, right?"

"Ya, but it'd be fun to watch, plus, you'd be perfect."

"Okay, well, thanks for thinking of me. Is there any alumni matter I can help you with? Otherwise, I've got to get back to work."

"Nope. Have a great day. You're doing a great job as the new Alumni Relations & Events Manager, but you really should consider this Charlie Sheen gig."

So I've given it some thought ... I'm gonna be Charlie Sheen's intern because he can use my #winning social media skills, smile, and attitude, plus my #tigerblood instincts! I'll let you know how the application process goes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Geisel)! I can only imagine the millions of children who grew up learning to read with your books and developing a lifelong love of reading because of you. I count myself among them.

We all have a favorite Dr. Seuss book that we can probably still recite from memory. Maybe it was The Cat in the Hat. Or Horton Hears A Who! Or One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. Or Green Eggs and Ham.

Actually Green Eggs and Ham is partially responsible for my complete (and slightly unreasonable) opposition to eggs and milk (unless they are well mixed into other things.

When I was about 7 or 8, my mom got up one St. Patrick's Day morning and decided to fix Dave and me green scrambled eggs and green milk a la Green Eggs and Ham. I took one look at this hideous looking meal and went to school hungry that day. Dave, who at the time was the pickiest eater in the entire world, ate it up eagerly. Heck, he probably ate mine too. To this day I still won't eat eggs in any form. To quote Green Eggs and Ham, "Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not in a house. Not with a mouse. I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them anywhere. I would not eat green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am."

My favorite Dr. Seuss book is Oh The Places You'll Go, which like most people I know, I received as a college graduation gift. This charming book reminds us that life isn't always easy and certainly has its share of adversity, but "there's fun to be done." I should probably go re-read it right about now.

But above all, my most favorite Dr. Seuss creation is his poem "My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers," (click the previous link to read President Hotchkiss's memory of how Dr. Seuss came to give the speech, which until the moment he was on stage, no one knew for sure he would give) which he wrote just for the Class of 1977 at Lake Forest College.

My Uncle Terwilliger on
the Art of Eating Popovers

My uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant’s bill of fare.
And, when they were served,
he regarded them
with a penetrating stare…
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
“To eat these things,”
said my uncle,
“you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid…
you must spit out the air!”

as you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
that’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.
—Dr. Seuss

There's even a stone commemorating this speech on the LFC campus that I stop to read each time I walk by it, which is actually fairly often.

In honor of Dr. Seuss, today I'm going to sit down and re-read Oh The Places You'll Go and whatever other Dr. Seuss books I may still have. How will you celebrate?