Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Went Shopping Today!

Okay, that's sort of not exactly true, but then it is true. Just stick with me for a couple of minutes. I'll have a point.

About a week ago, my boss told me that she'd like me to wear black or white capris or shorts with our company t-shirt in a parade we're going to be in on Wednesday. Now, I have no fewer than a gazillion khaki shorts and capris and I even have dressy pair of black capris, but I have no casual black or white capris or shorts and khaki would not work with the gray t-shirt I'm wearing, nor would everyone look the same, which was the goal of the black or white.

Frankly, I didn't want to go shopping and spend money. As I've mentioned previously, I'm trying to buy a condo so every single penny counts and I'm also 12 days from going to Watervale, another good reason to not spend money. Oh, and I hate shopping. HATE. Shopping to me is usually entirely ego deflating, even as my body has shrunk into new sizes. All week long I've agonized over this whole black or white capri or shorts requirement. How could I get around it?

Finally, this morning it hit me: what about all the clothes I'd collected for our upcoming garage sale? Did I still have them and would they fit? With any luck there might be some parade-appropriate capris or shorts in there and I'd be able to find them. When I originally packed them up, I was certain they'd never fit me again.

I pulled out the boxes of stuff marked for the garage sale and started sifting. Within seconds, I discovered two pairs black capris I last wore in 2002, a dress I hadn't worn in at least that long, a great pair of workout pants, 3 pairs of shorts (khaki, navy blue and red that may actually go back to the late 1990s), two awesome button-down shirts, numerous t-shirts, and 4 or 5 pairs of khaki capris (because you know if owning a trillion khaki pairs of capris could be turned into $1 trillion, I could personally solve the debt crisis), a cute sweater, a pair of jeans, and even a bathing suit!

Into my bedroom I went with all my finds. And item after item, almost all of the clothes I pulled out of the garage sale boxes fit. Some better than others, but I could get almost each item button or zipped without having to lay down and suck anything in. I did reject a few items that fit. My body does not need pleated pants or shorts. They just don't look remotely flattering. But the timeless, classic pieces, I held onto, and will happily fit them back into my wardrobe.

I'm not exactly sure how much I saved, but to be sure, I've saved money, and more than that, I got a nice ego boost realizing I'm wearing clothes I last wore almost a decade ago because I've lost so much weight. Win!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where's Little Merry Sunshine These Days?

Dear Readers,

I feel I've let you down of late.

You've been quite faithful to me and visited Little Merry Sunshine on a daily basis, but since January, I've only written 74 (now 75) posts for you. When you consider that in 2010, I gave you 210 posts, I'm really slipping. One might think that I don't love you anymore or that I don't enjoy writing Little Merry Sunshine as much as I did in 2008 when I wrote 412 posts. One would be wrong.

I do love you. And I do love writing Little Merry Sunshine.

In fact, that's exactly where my dilemma lies. I love you and love writing Little Merry Sunshine so much that I would rather give you fewer high quality posts than give you daily posts that suck.

So why aren't I writing as much anymore? I'm so glad you asked.

You'll recall that in February I started a new job as the Alumni Relations & Events Manager at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Simply getting acclimated to that has taken some time. I've now been at my awesome job 5 1/2 months and I think I'm finally feeling like I know where we keep the good office supplies. I jest. What I'm really finally feeling is that I own my job. That I know what I'm doing and I feel confident in it. But getting to that point has taken a lot of hard work. More nights than I care to admit, I've crawled into bed at 8pm.

Additionally, I've been working out. You may have heard a rumor that I've dropped 40 pounds. That rumor is true thanks to exercise and eating better. It turns out that working out takes time and is sort of tiring. If only I could write while I swim, you'd have more to read.

Then we get to health issues. Thankfully, not mine. My mom and both cats, Betsey and Ross, have had major health issues since April, which have all consumed a great deal of my energy. For the record, I never thought I'd be a pet owner who scheduled her life around insulin shots for her cat. But I am now.

And finally, I'm in the process of buying my very first home (item #67 on my Bucket List). Frankly, this is my friend Derek's fault. And by fault, I mean that he put this idea into my brain last month when I mentioned that I was looking to rent an apartment. I've found a place I love and we're in the final stages of negotiations. I can't guess how this is going to end, but given that it's coinciding with the debt ceiling debate, I'm a little sick to my stomach until it's all signed, sealed and delivered. Once it's all over, I'll share the fun stories about my adventures in home buying.

All of this is happening, as I also try to have something that resembles a social life.

I promise to get back to LMS soon. I really do miss you all. Plus, as you can imagine, I've had a whole lot to say about Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, the debt ceiling crisis, and now Congressman Joe Walsh that I've been itching to write about.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grant Mower: (Hopefully) Fashion Designer to Michelle Obama

This was designed by a 12-year-old for Michelle Obama. If you're like me, you were embarrassed to wear that t-shirt you were required to sew in 7th grade. Image from KSL.com (Utah).

My friend Susan finds the coolest stories. I don't know how she does it, but she does. It's just one of the super cool qualities about her. Oh, that and she writes an amazing blog that you simply must read. Well, after you read this blog post.

Anyhoo, today, she posted this story on Facebook. I. Love. It.

Imagine being 12-years-old and designing a dress for the First Lady?! When I was 12, I was just hoping beyond all hope that I wouldn't fail Home Ec (I almost did because I didn't know a strainer was really called a sifter or maybe it was vice versa. I still don't know.) But I digress. What I love about this is that no matter what the bullies say, Grant Mower keeps pursuing his passion. And his mom is 100% in his corner. Don't get me wrong, I hate that he gets bullied, but his success will show those bullies who's boss. And one day, I predict those bullies will be clamoring to wear Grant's fashions.

Trust me, you're gonna be on Team Grant once you read this story. Oh, and check back on Tuesday. I'll let you know whether Michelle Obama chose Grant's dress.

12-year old boy designs dress for first lady Michelle Obama
July 21, 2011
By Nkoyo Iyamba

PARK CITY -- Designers fight for the chance to dress high-profile women. A boy with Utah ties is hoping first lady Michelle Obama will wear his work during her visit to Utah next week. And this up and coming designer is just 12 years old.

Grant Mower beat out high school and college fashion design students in a contest in Texas where he lives.

"First I was just drawing little girls stuff, then I came up to where I am now watching Chanel shows and you know sort of a growth in fashion and maturity," said Mower.

He's grown a lot from the first dress he made of newspaper. Now he's designing a dress for the First Lady, Michelle Obama. The inspiration came when he saw an orchid while visiting the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. However, it's been a painful road to get to this point. His mother Moanna says bullies at school would tease him for wanting to be a fashion designer.

"He would look for validation, and not get it, so he'd come home from school and it would take him three hours for me to just get him back," said Moanna Mower. "And out of desperation I would do things like, do you want to watch a Versace fashion show? "

"When it came to sixth grade, because there's new people, there's also new bullies, and they come," said Mower. "And I don't care, I really don't care what they tell me."

Grant left for Dallas Wednesday and will come to Utah for the chance to schedule a fitting with Mrs. Obama at next week's Utah fundraising event for the President

"He's just so happy," said Mower's aunt Shannon Barton. "He's just so happy when he's designing. He's who he really is when he gets to do things like this."

Right now, Grant is an apprentice under a designer who has dressed former First Ladies: Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton. Mowers has kept those sketches under wraps until of course, as everyone is hoping, Mrs. Obama will make the big reveal in a Grant Mower gown on July 26.

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Now, go read Yeah, And Another Thing by my friend Susan. And make sure you read the cupcake post. Why? Because I told you to. That's why. This is my playground, so I make the rules. Just come back when you're done.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

It Gets Better - Stephen Colbert Version

A few weeks ago, I posted the It Gets Better video by the Chicago Cubs. Tonight Lawrence O'Donnell took a few minutes out of his show, The Last Word, to play Stephen Colbert's It Gets Better video.

I love this video. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Of course you do! You're a bleeding heart liberal and you LOVE Stephen Colbert." To that I'd say you're right. I am. And I do love Stephen Colbert.

BUT you've never seen Stephen Colbert like this. He's not in character. He's just himself. Genuine, authentic Stephen Colbert. Not comedian Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report.

I love the story he shares with all kids who are getting teased for whatever reason. Words have power, but the power doesn't just belong to the bullies. We can disarm the bullies by not letting their words bother us, thus deflating them. When we do that, we take the power away from the bullies and things begin to get better immediately.

So watch Stephen Colbert. Because he's right. It does get better.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Been 2 Years

This is how I'll always remember Nana.

I was standing in my friend Danica's living room when my phone rang. It was Sunday, July 12, 2009 at about 3:15pm. Danica had just asked me how Nana was doing and I was telling her that after a rough few weeks, where we never knew if she'd make it through the night, I believed Nana was stable and would hold on for just a few more days until I could arrive in Florida on July 15th to celebrate her 93rd birthday with her on the 18th.

I looked at caller id, realized it was Mom and ignored it. I'd spoken with Mom about 2 hours earlier and she was headed over to the nursing home. I'd asked her to call me so I could talk with Nana. Talk is not exactly the right word. She couldn't talk anymore. Thinking back, I'm not sure she'd spoken in a month or so at that point. So I'd do the talking. I'd tell her how much I loved her and couldn't wait to see her in just a few days. We'd celebrate her birthday with cake and candles.

As I pulled out of Danica's driveway, about 15 minutes later to head home, I called Mom back. She was at the nursing home, but I couldn't speak to Nana because she had passed away at 3:10pm ET (about 90 minutes earlier).

Nana had died.

Those words didn't really sink in. I just got to work. I knew what I had to do and I did it. At that point, real tears were probably a few days away. I had to work with Crystal Beach Community Church and Batesville Presbyterian Church to arrange two funeral services. I got the obituary edited and submitted to The Panolian (Batesville, Mississippi's newspaper), St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune. I wrote the eulogy I would give twice. I worked with Dave to get him to Florida and then to Mississippi before returning to Michigan. I had to get Mom from Florida to Mississippi and back to Florida. And I had to get from Chicago to Florida to Dallas to Mississippi and finally home. I still owe my cousin Elesha huge for what she did to make it possible for me to attend Nana's burial.

The rest of the story is told elsewhere on Little Merry Sunshine (and here) and over at Remembering Frances. That's not really what this post is about.

Two years have at once flown by and dragged at a snail's pace.

I've closed Nana's estate. I've figured out how to get out of bed again, be happy, and not miss her every single waking moment. I've changed careers. Some days I don't miss her at all.

Don't misunderstand me, I miss her. A lot. I miss her smile. I miss her Southern drawl. I miss hearing "Jessica, you're my favorite granddaughter" even though I was her only granddaughter. I miss her pretty delicate hands. I miss her fingers intertwined with mine as she held my hand. I miss her remembering every single detail of life (yep, that's where I get it from). I miss receiving birthday cards that were made for little girls when I was in my 30s. I miss the boxes of grapefruit off her tree and the fruitcake she made with too much bourbon because she didn't drink and didn't understand that the axiom "if a little is more, a lot is better" wasn't really true, although when it came to bourbon in fruitcake, it actually was. I miss her weekly handwritten letters. I miss her telling me she loved me "a bushel and a peck." Holidays are different.

But she's not really gone. Well, she is. Obviously. But I feel her presence and sometimes even hear her voice. I can hear it now as I type. Sometimes I can even smell her. Once, I saw her. Feeling, hearing and even smelling her typically only lasts for a brief second before it disappears, but I'm certain in those moments, she's here. The time I saw her was in a dream, but I have no doubt she'd been here that night too.

I've thought a lot over the past two years about what I'd say to her if I had just one more minute with her. I've tried to figure out what one question I'd ask or what one profound thing I'd say one last time. But after giving it great thought, I'd tell her the same thing she said to us each night before bed or each time we'd get off the phone.

Good night. God Bless. I love you. Sweet dreams, Nana.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Pink Bat

Somehow I discovered this delightful little movie about finding solutions or innovations by thinking about problems or challenges in alternative ways.

In my experience, when I stop focusing on a challenge I'm having or on a question I'm unable to answer and reframe it, without failure, I always find the solution quickly.

I hope the movie resonates with you as much as it did for me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lust Chapter 2 or I'm Still Hot for Rick Springfield

How did you spend your 4th of July?

I spent mine lusting over Rick Springfield in Lake Forest.

Yes, we've been down this road before. As you'll recall, in July 2007, my girlfriends and I sat front-row for the Rick Springfield concert at Frontier Days in Arlington Heights. I documented that night in a post titled Lust.

My friends Lisa, Wini and I arrived at 6pm for the 8pm concert and got great seats about 25 feet from the stage. Remembering how Rick ventured out into the audience at Frontier Days, I suggested we sit right next to the marked-out walkway from the stage to the sound booth. Smart move.

As we waited for Rick to take the stage, we did some great people watching. There were three women in particular who were decked-out head-to-toe in full 80s attire. From their over-hair sprayed two-toned hair, hoop earrings the size of my face, and too heavy black eyeliner to their t-shirts with puffy paint that read "Rockin with Rick 2011," rolled-up cut-off jean shorts, and scrunchy socks with their Reeboks, these women had style. I'm not sure, but I think they even arrived in their DeLorean. They documented the evening with the same disposable camera I used in the early 90s. Truthfully, I don't think they had to look far for their outfits; I think they simply never left the 80s. You may think I'm making fun of these women, but I assure you I'm not. They owned their looks and my friends and I were impressed. I wish I had pictures, but I didn't have the courage to take them.

We also saw some women, who I swear weren't a day over 12, wearing "Mrs. Springfield" t-shirts. That's just wrong.

An 80s cover band named Sixteen Candles opened for Rick. Given that we were in the late John Hughes hometown, it should come as no surprise that they sang Don't You Forget About Me by Simple Minds and from the movie The Breakfast Club. Seriously. John Hughes Forever.


Sixteen Candles was terrific and we all agreed they'd be a fun band to see in a bar.

Rick took the stage moments after 8pm looking just as good as he looked in 2007 and immediately, all the women were squealing. Yes, me included. You did read Lust, right?

My first tweet simply stated "It's RICK! Be still my heart!" accompanied by this picture.

Do you see how good he looks? He sounded just as good belting out all the songs we all knew by heart.

My next tweet: "Forget Jesse's Girl, Rick Springfield oughta be Jessie's guy!" Don't you think?


There was no tweet to accompany this picture. I just love how much fun he's having. He was clearly as excited to see me as I was to see him.

Finally, Rick wandered out into the audience to see me, but some chick got her hand in the way of my great picture.

I tweeted "OMG! I just got a little "Human Touch" in the form of Rick's sweat from about 2ft away!" Yep, the chick got out of my way. I love this picture.


A few minutes later, the concert was over. Or so I tweeted. "Rick is done. I need a cigarette. " But I was wrong as he rushed back on stage and I tweeted, "Oh. My. God. Rick came back for an encore. HALF NAKED with rockin 6pack abs and tattoos. I can barely breathe. " In a tweet that still makes me laugh, some unknown woman wrote me saying "Um, no. You don't need a cigarette." Seriously. Didn't she get the reference?

After we came down from our Rick Springfield euphoria, the fireworks started. I don't think I've ever seen fireworks like I saw that night. They were happening directly above us rather than at a good distance, which made for a much more intense experience. I know my DC peeps are going to be upset, but I honestly believe the Lake Forest fireworks were at least as good as the fireworks on The Mall with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial in the background.

As the night came to the end, I was a little concerned that we'd be stuck in traffic getting out of the parking lot and over to Wini's condo or Lisa's house at the College. Much to my pleasant surprise, however, we were out of the parking lot within 5 minutes and through the congestion on eastbound Deerpath within another 5 minutes. Less than 15 minutes later, I was headed west on Deerpath on my way to Arlington Heights the roads were completely clear. Kudos to the Lake Forest Police Department for awesome crowd control and traffic management!

Time hasn't stood still for either Rick or me, but four years later, our relationship remains solid and he still sends shivers up my spine.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 15th Birthday Betsey & Ross!

Betsey and Ross, May 26, 2011, when we still thought they were both healthy

15! Betsey and Ross are 15 today. Wow.

In cat years, that makes them either 77 or 82, depending on which cat years calculator you believe. Either way, they're no spring chickens, as we've discovered in the past 12 months.

12 months ago, Betsey was diagnosed with Hyperthroidism, which has been surprisingly easy to manage with Methimazole, a transdermal drug that I rub into her ear. We've been really fortunate that Betsey's had almost no side effects. Almost a year later, Betsey if pretty much back to her prissy, loving self.

Ross was diagnosed this past Tuesday with a urinary tract infection, Diabetes, and Cancer, after having lost over 25% of his body weight and developing a Mast Cell Tumor on his front left paw. He's now receiving two insulin shots per day and I'm overcoming my fear of needles. Because of his age, the location of the tumor, and after wonderfully thoughtful counsel from my cousin Andrea, a vet tech for almost 20 years, and my incredible vets, Dr. Kinnavy and Dr. Guedet who have treated Betsey and Ross for close to 10 years, and Dr. Feucht, who had to deliver the news of Ross's cancer and answer my questions through my tears, from March Animal Hospital, I've decided that we're not going to attempt to remove the tumor and will simply monitor him and keep him comfortable. Don't tell Ross he's so sick though. Aside from not having much appetite, he's acting pretty normally.

But today isn't about them being sick, it's about their birthday! And we all know how I feel about birthdays!

Betsey and Ross needed a new kitty condo, so for a mere $956 (plus shipping & handling), I purchased the Fantasia Condo below.


They also received some cat caviar from AffordableCaviar.com. At only $250 (including shipping) for nine 4oz jars, that's quite affordable.

Cat caviar. Doesn't it look yummy?

I don't know how much longer Betsey and Ross will be around, but each day they bring me oodles and oodles of joy and I'm honored to have been their mom for 15 years.

Enjoy your 4th of July and remember why we're all celebrating today: Betsey and Ross.*

Happy Birthday 15th Betsey and Ross!

*Okay, that's not true, but don't tell Betsey and Ross. They honestly believe all the fireworks, parades, picnics, etc. are all about them. Did I mention they're cats and a little self-centered? Also, to be sure, Betsey and Ross did not receive the crazy gifts above. After all the money I've willingly given to the vet in the last six weeks, there are no birthday presents this year. They both received huge hugs and kisses as I told them I loved them.