Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Little Merry Sunshine

These reindeer were making a different kind of clatter.

A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore (1799-1863)

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Merry Christmas dear readers!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Webster Bank in Connecticut: Treating People Right & Reaping the Benefits

It's not often I have good things to say about banks. Lord knows I dislike Bank of America. A lot. Oh, did I tell you they sent me a thank you note the other day thanking me for being a Platinum Privileges client? Funny thing is, I don't do any business with Bank of America. We closed all of our accounts with them in January 2011 after we finally finished settling Nana's estate. But I digress.

I was watching the ABC Nightly News tonight with cutie patootie George Stephanopolous when the last story of the night was about a bank doing good things in their community to help "bring America back." Just to put this story in perspective and create true contrast to what happens when you do the right thing, this story was about 10 minutes after a story about Countrywide defrauding millions of Americans and Bank of America agreeing to $335 million in settlements for their fraud (BoA acquired Countrywide, as you may recall).

It turns out Webster Bank in Connecticut is almost straight out of It's A Wonderful Life and is owned by a real-life George Bailey.

Read the ABC story below and watch the video. Trust me. You'll be moved. The video below is about more than just Webster Bank, but it's well worth the 7:30 it'll take you to watch it.

by Chris Cuomo, Catherine Cole, and Linh Tran
December 21, 2011

With their high fees, foreclosures and the number of families left scrambling to keep their homes, these days banks are known more for taking than for giving.

Jim Smith, president Webster Bank, is working to change that perception. He doesn't believe that all the George Baileys, the kind-hearted banker from the holiday classic "It's A Wonderful Life," have vanished.

"George Bailey was there to help his customers when they needed him, and I think that's a lot of what we're all about, and that's why it's so meaningful to us," said Smith.

Smith's father founded Webster Bank during the Great Depression to help those who were struggling to buy and build their homes. The bank expanded over the years, and now has more than 150 branches in four states. Despite the growth, Smith said the notion of profiting by helping people is still its bedrock.

Instead of moving quickly to foreclose and cover losses, Webster Bank is committed to helping families stay in their homes.

"We have a responsibility to our customers to work with them. I think of it as being in our DNA. We're there to work with our clients, to help them through a very difficult time," Smith said.

Webster Bank owns 75 percent of the loans it services, so customers don't have to deal with mystery lenders. Customers also know who to go to when in trouble, because the bank assigns all customers a loan modification officer who works with them one on one.

Bonuses at Webster Bank are also tied to the number of loans modified, not foreclosures, and to families such as the Carapasos, that makes all the difference.

"Things went south and I was unemployed. We found ourselves starting to get behind on some of the bills," said Carmine Carapaso.

When he lost his job and his wife, Paula, suffered a heart attack and then a stroke, bills mounted quickly, and their home of 20 years was in jeopardy.

"They could have very easily just foreclosed on the house," said Carapaso.

A third of homeowners who applied for a mortgage modification through the nation's eight largest loan servicers were approved last year, according to the Treasury Department, but Webster Bank said it modifies well between 60 and 70 percent of applications. The Carapasos were one of the many the bank was able to help.

"What it means to me, being able to stay in this house, is everything. Our family was brought up here. We have so many memories, and they're wonderful. It means everything," said Paula Carapaso.

Smith said the bank's strategy of helping people who need it most is also good business.

"We think the net cost to the bank of what would have been all of those foreclosures, by doing it the way we did, we've saved tens of millions of dollars. If you do the right thing it can help you grow, and you truly can do well by doing good," said Smith.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet Your Match in 2012!

2012 is moments away and we all know what that means . . . it's time to pick your presidential candidate! Now, if you live in Iowa, you have your caucus on January 3rd, so you'd best get busy.

Fortunately, Little Merry Sunshine will once again be your go to blog for all things political.

First things first though. You must get behind a candidate. If you're a Democrat or otherwise refuse to vote Republican, then at the moment, your choice is simple: sit home or get behind President Barack Obama. But if you're a Republican or Tea Party member or otherwise don't vote for Democrats, you've got to wade through a whole bunch of candidates wishing to be the GOP Candidate for President.

I'm not going to try to tell you which GOP candidate to support because let's be honest, I can't come up with a reason to support any of them, but I will tell you how to figure it out.

ABC News has developed a new website called OTUS (Of the United States). Among the many cool things you'll find on the site is a quiz called the Match-O-Matic (not unlike the Cosmo quizzes, but far more important and accurate) to help you find the presidential candidate who best matches up with what matters to you.

I took the quiz and not surprisingly, it was completely accurate in telling me I should support President Obama. But then it took a turn I can't explain when it said that if I choose not to support President Obama, I might consider pulling the lever for Jon Huntsman or Ron Paul. Of course, I had 82% in common with President Obama and 9% in common for each Huntsman and Paul.

Go ahead and Meet Your 2012 Match and then come back here and let's have a chat. Can you convince me to support your candidate?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011: A Year of Failure With One Important Win

I'm so happy 2011 is almost over. Pretty much it's been a year of failure for me.*

I am not one of Fortune Magazine's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business. I turned 40 and am no longer eligible for Crain's Chicago Business annual 40 Under 40 List. I was not named Time's Person of the Year. Once again, I did not receive a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant or the Nobel Peace Prize. The good folks associated with The Pulitzer Prizes continue to pretend I don't exist (don't they read Little Merry Sunshine????). Barbara Walters thinks she's too good for me and continues to choose folks like Steve Jobs, The Kardashian KFamily (it's got a silent K), and Herman Cain as more "fascinating" than me. I didn't win a Grammy because evidently "best concert performed in a car or shower" is still not a recognized category. I continue to poll at 0.00% in Iowa and New Hampshire with no margin of error, yet again insuring I will not be first female President of the United States. I could go on, but you get the idea. 2011 has been a year of injustice and utter failure.

As the year winds down, I did have one very important win. I had my picture taken with Santa at the CASE V Conference this past weekend! Santa even framed the picture for me, for free, in a frame that says "friends." With Santa as my friend, I don't need all those other public accolades.

I take solace in all of my other losses knowing that all those winners may be richer, better looking, skinnier, more powerful, floozier (I also make up words and Merriam- Webster Dictionary ignores my suggestions), more electable, etc. than me, but they probably didn't have a 2011 picture with Santa. So in the end, I win.

*To be sure, this was written entirely tongue-in-cheek. I actually had an amazing year. I have a job I love and I became a first-time homeowner this year. What more could I want?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yippee! I Won Two 2010 Toyota Camrys!

This is absolutely the best news I've received all day. Possibly the best news I've received since I discovered I was being given $8.6 million almost 3 years ago exactly. By the way, I still haven't received my $8.6 million and I'm looking at you, Mrs. Theresa Brown.

Now let's be sure, I don't need a new car, much less two of them. I already drive a great Toyota Camry and while it's 12 years old, it's only got 45,000 miles on it, so it's practically new. But hey, if someone is going to give me one, I'll take it. The other, I'll give to some deserving soul.

How did I come into such luck that I'm being given two 2010 Toyota Camrys? Good question. I just logged into my email and discovered not one, but two emails from the Reverend Jerry Mark each informing me I was being given a free car. Two emails each giving me one car equals two cars. Lucky me!

Let's be clear here, you may receive copies of these emails, but obviously the good Reverend is meaning for me to receive these cars. And since he's a man of God, I'm completely confident he's truthful.

Here are the emails I received today. I've already sent Reverend Mark all of my ID, so I expect my cars to arrive later tonight or tomorrow. And no, I don't know what it's 5 and 6 are.


PHONE: +34-672-508-699

Attention: Congratulation!!!!!!!!! Congratulation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is to inform you that your Email ID has won you a brand new Toyota Camry 2010 and cash prize of (Ђ700,000 00 Euros) in the on going Toyota Automobile Company Poverty Alleviation 2011 Award SPAIN. This award was held for the purpose of reducing Ruler/Urban Poverty alleviation and Debt Settlement in Asia region. The car comes with a special Toyota Insurance Cover for one whole year that is till the next promotion in 2012. It also came with a one year warranty and free repairs at any TOYOTA AUTOMOBILES depot or service station worldwide, you are advise to fill and provide us with the information below:-

1.Full Name:
2.Full Address:

8. Winning Email:

10. Scan copy of your Identification (Driving License or any valid I.D Proof)

And Send to { }, immediately we receive the above details we shall be informing you on how to claim your prize in your country within 24 hours, Congratulation Once more and trust in Toyota Automobile for top quality automobiles.

(Contact Events Manager)

Name: Rev. Jerry Mark

(Event Manager)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Samuel L. Jackson Reads "Go the F*)& to Sleep"

At my company's holiday luncheon today, some of my co-workers started discussing the children's book Go the F&*$ to Sleep. Frankly, I'd never heard of it, but not having kids, I guess that's not too surprising. One of them mentioned that to fully appreciate the book, I must hear Samuel L. Jackson read it.

Without hesitation, I Googled the book and about fell out of my chair laughing hysterically while listening to Samuel L. Jackson. And immediately, I knew I had to share it with you.

Just a warning, the video below is NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK. Also, you probably don't want to get this book for your kids for Christmas.

Enjoy! Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Major Little Merry Sunshine Announcement

After much thoughtful reflection and consideration for the impact this decision has not only on myself, but on all of my friends and family, I have decided that I will not be making Nana's Fruitcake this Christmas. There will be no fruitcake at my housewarming party. No fruitcake as gifts. No fruitcake on Christmas.

Nana's Fruitcake has been made annually by Nana, my mom, or me for at least 50 years, but it will not be made this year. Last year, I made 25 cakes or so and gave most as gifts. I thought I'd written about it, but it seems I haven't written about my Fruitcake-capades since 2009, the year I first made fruitcake myself.

For me, making Nana's Fruitcakes the last two years has been a labor of love and it's kept Nana involved in Christmas, even though she's no longer physically here to celebrate with us.

This year, however, I'm simply not feeling it. Actually, I'm not feeling Christmas at all. I did a little decorating for Christmas last night, in preparation for the house-warming party I'm having this weekend, but I'm really just not feeling it. To be clear, I'm psyched to have friends over, but not about Christmas. I listen to holiday music on the radio in my car, hoping to get into the mood, but so far, the whole Christmas Spirit thing eludes me. I have Christmas cards to send, but haven't been able to get motivated to write them (it's actually a problem because I also haven't sent change of address cards and quite a few people don't know I've moved). I've got some Christmas presents, but can't begin to think about what I've got and where I still need a few gifts. And wrapping and mailing is just not in the realm of possibilities, at least not this week. Hopefully next week. Otherwise, I'm going to get in trouble for missing the day entirely.

I'm sure I'll feel differently when I get to Florida for what I'm fairly certain will be the last Christmas ever in Crystal Beach. I'll probably wish I could have gotten motivated when I realize that mom didn't leave any of Nana's Fruitcake in the freezer when she came to Chicago. And then I'll swear I will never fail to make fruitcake again.

But 2011 will go down as the year with none of Nana's Fruitcake.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Little Merry Sunshine's Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time of year again! Yes, it's that time when I provide you with my fully endorsed Holiday Gift Guide. Gifts perfect for everyone on your shopping list from stuffy Aunt Hilda to the love of your life to your boss. Well, maybe not your boss. At least not if you want to keep your job. We're sure you'll agree this blows away the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, the Vogue Holiday Gift Guide and Oprah's Favorite Things.

Please note: none of these gifts are suitable for me. Your shopping guide for me will be forthcoming.

My favorite part of the commercial below is how it encourages you to "party it up with friends" while wearing this zip-up Snuggie. Available in Hanky Pinky Fuschia, Workday Blues, and Asleep on the Job Gray. One thing is for sure, this gift is only suitable for those living a life of celibacy or desiring that life because I'm certain you're not getting laid again if another human sees you wearing it. Unless, of course, your significant other has a Smurf fetish. In that case, this would be the ideal gift in the Workday Blues color. The day I see someone wearing it at Jewel in Lake Forest, I'll keep an eye out for the Four Horsemen.

Because nothing says "sophisticated independent woman" while driving through the North Shore than having a stuffed bear nuzzled between your breasts to make your seatbelt more comfortable. If you act now, you can buy one and get one for free. Two gifts, one stone. Hurray!

Better Marriage Blanket
I have to tell you that the Better Marriage Blanket does not solve the problem I thought it did. I mean, who knew sleep-farting was the number one marriage problem?

Do you know a couple whose marriage is being ruined by farting in bed? If you do (or if you're the non-gassy half of one of these couples), I recommend the Better Marriage Blanket. If I understand this product correctly, it captures all flatulence inside the blanket, cleans the air by releasing butterflies and lilies into the air, and keeps peace and harmony in your their marriage. And as the commercial says, it makes a great wedding or anniversary gift! I just don't know if Hallmark makes a card to go with that.

With health care costs rising and mental health benefits at a minimum, the Pocket Therapist makes the perfect gift for your neurotic "friend" in denial. Similar to a Magic 8 Ball, the Pocket Therapist provides sage, medically sound advice "25 random diagnoses" for what might be wrong with your "friend".

Buzz Lightyear Funtime Tumbler
I'm not sure where to find this item, but I don't recommend it for kids.

This is the gift for your geeky friend who has everything and swears like a sailor. I've been known to toss around a few curse words, but I learned some new ones from the Periodic Table of Swearing. It's a coffee table and an educational aid and 100% completely unsuitable for kids.

WARNING: This video is NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK. Trust me.

Again, I don't know where to tell you to shop for the Periodic Table of Swearing, but it's sure to be a hit this Christmas.

Do you have friends who are obsessed with the gossip rags? Who can't get enough of E!? They look at the celeb lifestyle with envy? Let them be a Celeb for a Day. Create their experience in LA, San Francisco, or NY. Of course, being a Celeb for a Day wouldn't be complete without your own personal paparazzi, so that when you get out of a limo showing a little too much, you'll have a souvenir for your grandkids.