Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's the End of the World!

According to the Mayan legend, the world will be ending on Friday, December 21st, which is in just 24 hours, depending on your time zone.

In fact, that's one oddity that I don't know the answer to . . . will the world end when the first time zone on earth hits 12/21/12 or will the world end one time zone at a time or will the world wait to end until the single second when in every time zone in the world it is 12/21/12? How I schedule my day depends on the answer. If you know, please let me know.

Getting back to this whole end of the world thing, I have to be honest, I'm not so sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, I think it's a bunch of bunk. On the other hand, I'm not paying bills until the 22nd, just in case.

If the world ends, and this is a big if, I suppose I should say a few things to some important people in my life.

I love you.

Yes, you. You know who you are and if you're questioning if it's you, the answer is YES, it's YOU.

So that's out there.

Now back to the end of the world. In preparation for the end of the world on Friday, I'm headed to work on Thursday, then out for drinks with some co-workers to celebrate the holidays and then back home to hang out with a friend, have some dinner, and watch "2012: The End is Now," Brad Meltzer's new Decoded end-of-the-world special. Yes, seriously. You should watch it too. It's on the History Channel at 9:00 ET/8:00 CT.

The other day, my boss emailed me this cartoon to explain this whole end of the world thing. I think it pretty much sums up how I felt about it all.

But then I saw this picture on Facebook today. I honestly don't remember who I got this from, but I think it's hilarious and now I'm worried. I mean, if the Weekly World News says the world is ending, who am I to argue?

If it's really all over on Friday, then in all honesty, I've enjoyed writing Little Merry Sunshine and I've enjoyed knowing that sometimes I entertain you. Sometimes, I know we've disagreed and that's okay. I appreciate that you've always been respectful. More than anything, I appreciate that you keep coming back. If the world doesn't end on Friday, I've got some fun stuff to talk about before Christmas, so come back on Saturday.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Streets of Heaven are too Crowded with Angels

I have struggled with how to respond to the events in Newton, Connecticut yesterday. I have struggled with how to even begin to comprehend such tragedy. 

I've seen probably too much in the news and in social media about it. Did the gunman simply make a bad choice yesterday morning or was he suffering from mental illness? When is the right time to discuss gun control? Are these mass shootings happening because there is no prayer in public schools? Who's really to blame? Could we, as a society, have prevented this or was this the despicable act of one guy who has nothing in common with any of the other mass shooters in the past few decades? I've seen these and many other questions asked since yesterday morning. 

I dont have any answers. I've got opinions, but everyone has at least a few, so I'm not sure I want to just start ranting about my opinions here.

Wait. That's not true. This is my blog and that's why I write it. So here goes. Buckle up.

Yesterday, a woman I've known since high school posted on her Facebook page that she learned in her social psychology class that life is full of choices and the shooter should have made better choices, as though he woke up yesterday and rather than having Cheerios for breakfast, he decided to blast away his family and a bunch of innocent 5 to 10 year olds. I asked if she was suggesting that mental illness played no part in this. She responded by saying that even if the gunman was mentally ill, he had choices. I think that's incredibly pollyanna-ish. Yes, we all have choices, but we also have environmental and biological factors that greatly influence us.

Mental illness is not a choice. It's also time to start talking about what we, as a society, are doing to exacerbate the problems of people who are mentally ill. We are shaming them and their families by saying "you just need to make a better choice each day." That's implying that they're weak, have no desire to be better, and are failures.

We need to acknowledge that mental illness is as much of a disability as having no legs. We need to fully fund real programs for the mentally ill, not just drugs, which we also don't even fully fund.  Somehow, in the State of Illinois, we manage to almost always slash programs for the mentally ill before we cut other programs when we need to make budget decisions. Why is that?

We also need to have honest to goodness gun control conversations. Allegedly, the guns used yesterday were purchased and owned legally by the shooter's late mother. I'm sick of the NRA screaming about how stricter gun control will take away people's rights and how every person needs to be armed in order to prevent tragedies like this from happening. You simply can't convince me that having guns in classrooms would be a good idea and wouldn't cause more tragedy than it would solves. If that works, explain the Fort Hood massacre from 2009, when a single shooter killed 13 people and wounded another 29.

It's not too early to talk about gun control. It's too damn late. It's too late for all the kids who die in Chicago every weekend (did you know that 10 people, including 4 teens were shot in Chicago yesterday and last night?), the innocent people who died in Aurora, CO, Clackamas, OR, Columbine, CO, Tucson, AZ, or in any of the countless other mass shootings, including at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech University. Of course, as a Chicagoan, I'd be remiss if I didn't include the people who died in 1988 at Hubbard Woods Elementary School at the hands of Laurie Dann. I remember that shooting like it was yesterday. Not to be flip, but the time to talk about gun control was long ago.

When are we going to learn? We simply can't take away the social safety net and not expect there to be consequences. Horrible tragic consequences.

In honor of all those that died in all of these shootings, let's finally take action and examine what role we, as a society, play in these shootings. Maybe my friend is right. Maybe it is all about choice and, we all have been making piss poor choices and passing the buck for far too long. But we can fix that and we owe it to all those who died yesterday, and previously, to do so immediately.

Finally, I'm reminded of a great scene from season four of The West Wing in the episode "20 Hours in America." A tragic shooting had just occurred on a college campus and President Bartlet speaks words that are completely applicable today. The video is just over 3 1/2 minutes. Watch the whole thing. It's worth it.

In case you can't watch the video, here's what he said:
President Josiah Bartlet
: More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. 44 people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men's team were killed and two others are in critical condition. When, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran *in* to the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They're our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

LMS 2016 Presidential Endorsement: Hillary Clinton

Longtime readers will remember that LMS came out early in support of then-Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

Truthfully, it was a tough decision. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton also announced that she was running for President and I'd been a fan of Hillary's since 1992. I watched as she handled the challenges of investigation after investigation over nothing during President Bill Clinton's administrations. I watched her grace as she was publicly humiliated by her husband's affairs, including with a certain intern that involved a little blue dress. I watched as health care reform was defeated in the mid-1990s, simply because she was leading it and the GOP hated that. I watched as, through it all, she remained true to her values and herself. She was a relentless advocate for women and children around the world. When she decided to run for Senate in 2000 from the state of New York, I wished I could work on her campaign or at least vote for her. Time and time again between 2000 and 2008, I wished she'd run for President and vowed I'd vote for her.

And then Illinois Senator Barack Obama announced he was running. I was a huge Barack Obama fan and had personally met him in 2002. I believed him to be sincere and simply felt he was the right person for the job in 2008. I'm still glad I was such a vocal advocate for him. President Obama has had the courage to do things many other people wouldn't have done. I voted for him again in 2012, but sadly cannot vote for him in 2016 because the Constitution won't let him run again.

Having watched now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wow the world these past four years, improve our world reputation, and broker peace, I believe 2016 will be the right time for her to become the first female President of the United States. Leaders around the world respect Hillary and she has spent the last 12 years winning over many of her biggest detractors from the 1990s.

It is time for the United States to have its first female President and Hillary Clinton is the right woman for that job.

Without reservation, Little Merry Sunshine endorses Hillary Clinton for President in 2016.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

LMS Bucket List #10: Create a Scholarship at my Alma Mater

After years in the planning, yesterday I was finally able make a long time goal and Bucket List Item #10 a reality.

I created the Gardner Legacy Scholarship at my alma mater, Lake Forest College.

The Gardner Legacy Scholarship will be awarded in the 2013-14 academic year to a deserving first year student with demonstrated financial need. Priority shall be given to family members of Lake Forest alumni and students who achieved a 3.5 high school GPA on a 4-point scale.

I created this scholarship in honor of my cousin, Alan Gardner '90, who was instrumental in my decision to attend LFC. But for our overlapping year at LFC, I don't think we'd still be as close as we are 26 years after we first met in 1986. It was during that year that we truly went from being family to being friends.

Aside from this incredibly important family relationship, it was important to me to help a student get through college because LFC made it financially possible for me to attend, when I didn't have the money and the opportunities I've had as a result of my outstanding college education and the network I built during those four years is priceless.

Almost on a daily basis, I find something in my life that wouldn't have happened or wouldn't be possible without all that I learned at LFC. I can't tell you that what I learned in Multivariable Calculus is something I use daily (or at all), but I do use the analytical and reasoning skills I learned in it at least once a day. Being a psychology major constantly helps me better understand people and their motivations. Participating in the Urban Studies Program taught me how to navigate Chicago, which enabled me to strike out on my own in Washington DC and know I'd be okay.

Knowing that I'm helping a student have experiences that will shape them and their dreams is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done.

Monday, December 3, 2012

LMS PSA: Illinois Toll Roads Join Twitter

A couple of weeks ago, it came to my attention that the four Illinois toll roads have joined Twitter to provide drivers with real-time road conditions. Each tollway has its own Twitterfeed and you can (obviously) follow one or follow all four.

Illinois Toll Roads Twitter Feeds:
Tri-State Tollway (94/294/80)
Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) (or as I still think of it, the Northwest Tollway)
Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88)
Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355)
Make sure that once you follow the toll roads, you enable mobile notifications for the road(s) you drive the most.

I've been following all four for about ten days now and have the Tri-State Tollway's (94/294/80) tweets pushed to my phone because I use I-94 at least a couple of times each week. I've found that knowing the traffic conditions has helped me better plan trips and is no more intrusive than any other tweet I receive.

Important Note: Little Merry Sunshine only endorses responsible mobile phone use while driving. Do not text and drive and please use a Bluetooth for phone use while driving, if you must speak on your phone. In Illinois, it's illegal to text and drive and in many towns, including Lake Forest, you can only use your phone if you're using it hands-free. The police will ticket you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Tuesday - The Way to Truly Celebrate the Season

Is it just me or is there something kind of funky and wrong about celebrating all we're grateful for on Thanksgiving and then not even 8 hours later, fighting strangers in Walmart over a Cabbage Patch kid?


Black Friday. (Now "celebrated" by some on Thanksgiving)

Small Business Saturday.

Cyber Monday.

Three days of shopping immediately following a day of gratitude to celebrate our blessings. And this is how we kick off the Holiday Season.

It just feels a little icky to me.

Rather than hoarding $188 96-inch flat screen TVs, when we've probably got perfectly good working televisions at home, it seems like maybe a better way to kick off the holidays and to honor all that we're grateful for would be to share some of our good fortune with others who may not be as fortunate. That would truly be spreading good cheer and would be honoring what I believe Christ stands for.

What if we had a day that was focussed on giving to the less fortunate and to charities that help? Hmmmmm.

It seems I'm not the only one who thinks that charities could use a day of love.

Giving Tuesday was created this year by the 92nd Street YMCA in New York, along with the United Nations Foundation and a number of other influential businesses and non-profits. The whole idea is to create a national day of giving to charities at the start of the giving season. Whether you give of your treasure or of your time and talent, I hope you'll take some time on Tuesday to give to a charity near and dear to your heart.

What are some ways you could honor Giving Tuesday?
The list of things you can do is endless. All it requires is a little creativity.

You can even share your giving through social media. Use the Twitter hashtag #GivingTuesday, follow @GivingTues on Twitter, or like it on Facebook.

This year, let's bring the Season of Giving back into the holidays by generously giving to charities on Giving Tuesday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

LMS Gratitude List - Thanksgiving 2012 Version

I have so much to be grateful for this year and am not entirely sure where to begin. I guess the best way is just to dive in.

I'm grateful for my family. For my mom, my dad, Dave, my cousins, and my aunts and uncles. It's no secret I think my family is pretty crazy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm grateful for my friends, who I believe are the family I choose. My friends are my rocks.

I'm particularly grateful for one friend who took a desperate phone call I made to him one Friday in late May.

I'm grateful for the broken heart I experienced earlier this year. And I'm even more grateful to say I'm on the other side of it now.

I'm grateful for my health. That's no small thing. The last few months have been a bit scary. I'm also incredibly grateful for my health insurance. Not having to worry about how to afford medical tests, doctor visits, or possible surgery is priceless.

I'm grateful for a job I love and that I'm really good at. Really. And I'm grateful for the opportunities that didn't come to fruition this year. If they had, I might not be in such a good place now.

I'm grateful that I got to be Betsey and Ross's mom for almost 16 years and for the past 6 months, I've gotten to be Sammy and Zoe's mom. I hope we have 16 wonderful years together too.

I'm grateful that after only 35 days on the market, we accepted an offer on Nana's house and that the sale closed today. I'm grateful for an incredibly smart broker who priced the house well and actively marketed it.

I'm grateful for you, the readers of Little Merry Sunshine. You kept reading Little Merry Sunshine even when I wasn't writing. You commented when I did. You showed concern, but never pressured me when I didn't.

By no means is this list all inclusive. My heart is so full of gratitude that it's a bit overwhelming. The bottom line is that even during the tough times, I'm incredibly blessed and when I focus on life's blessings the tough times are easier and the good times are even better.

I hope your cup runneth over with gratitude this Thanksgiving and that you're spending the day with those you love.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Goodbye to Nana's House

I dropped off my signed and notarized closing documents to FedEx today as did Dave. The closing is Wednesday. I've spoken to all of the utility companies to have my name removed from the accounts. I no longer have to remember the ADT security code. I sold the kitchen table and chairs last Thursday. Now, the house is completely empty.

We won't be at the closing. It'll just be the buyer, the real estate agent and the title company.

When the final date was set, I thought about booking a ticket to Florida to go say good-bye to the house one last time. I know it sounds silly because, more than anything, I should be relieved. I should be happy to have this chapter of my life closed and this weight off my shoulders.

Owning a home that none of us lived in has been a pain in the ass. There have been numerous, costly maintenance projects, including a new roof. Each trip to Florida since Nana died (I think there have been 8) has been work-filled and cost far more than I had budgeted per trip. I can honestly say that in the past 3 1/2 years, I have not gone to the beach, seen my friends, or done anything that was "vacation like." Each trip has been full of emotional turmoil and has been much more difficult than my optimistic self believed it could be.

So one might think I would be over-the-moon with joy about being rid of this house. Part of me is.

The other part of me is sad and bursts into tears when I think too much about it.

Letting go of the house is the final piece of saying good-bye to Nana.

Her house was a huge part of my childhood. It was my first home. I was born early and my parents couldn't take me back to their adults-only apartment, but hadn't found a new place to live yet. So we moved into Nana's house.

Although for most of my life, Nana lived with her second husband, my step-grandfather, the Reverend, in his house, she always kept her home. And her house was where she kept everything that was important to her. Letters we sent her. Extra special gifts. Family heirlooms. Awards from the bank she worked at for forty years. Thank you gifts from her best customers. Her most treasured possessions lived at her house.

Although when we'd visit, we often stayed at the Reverend's house, when I got older, I used to run away to her house and stay there. I guess I started doing that when I could drive. At some point almost every night after dinner, I'd grab her car keys and tell her I was going to her house and I'd spend the night there.

Why did I do that? Her house was air-conditioned was my excuse, but it wasn't the truth and I'm sure she knew it. The truth was that although my step-grandfather was a minister, he was the meanest, scariest man I've ever known. He was physically and verbally abusive to her. He never hit her in front of us, but he'd belittle her until the cows came home. I didn't like being yelled at by him (or hear him belittle Nana) and I didn't want to stick around and risk anything else. Mom would stay though. I think she did it because she knew he wouldn't be physically abusive to Nana in my mom's presence. It was her small way of protecting Nana when Nana wouldn't (or couldn't) leave.

Nana's house was a refuge to me and always felt like a museum of my family. My mom's wedding dress and the mother-of-the-bride dress Nana wore were preserved in the front closet, as were the prom dresses Nana carefully made her. I would take out the dresses and imagine wearing them to my own prom and wedding. More than once (including as recently as last Christmas), I tried on my mom's veil. Nana even saved my baby clothes and other dresses she made me. My uncle's boy scout paraphernalia and submarine models were there. There were family photos going back to my great grandparents and scrapbooks with all kinds of hidden treasures. Nana took great care to leave notes in all of her chotchkies telling the backstory of each item. Many of the books Mom read as a kid were still there at the house - the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Little Women, all kinds of Golden Books. Sure, they were aimed at a younger demographic with lower reading skills, but I loved looking through them and the Nancy Drew books would keep me up all night long. I could take a bath in pink bathtub (in the pink bathroom, of course) and sleep in the french provincial double bed. I'd make breakfast in the avocado green kitchen.

Nana built her house in 1968 (when she was 50) for $10,000. She and my real grandfather had purchased the property in 1956, shortly after they moved to Crystal Beach, and he dug a well on it, but they were unable to build the house they dreamed of before he died in 1961. Nana always told me how she'd come home from work at the bank, take my uncle, who was still in high school (my mom was in college), over to the house and they'd hang up sheets to indicate where she wanted the walls. Then they'd bring furniture over to arrange in each room to make sure it all fit properly before the walls were built. She was so exacting in everything she did, I can completely picture her doing this.

Initially the house was pink with a white tile roof and we always referred to it as the "pink house." Nana hated that and always insisted her house was beige, so when she repainted it about 20 years ago or so, she painted it beige. I always liked the pink better. It was just more "Florida."

Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine building my own house now as a single woman, much less having done it in 1968. Women just didn't do that back then. I've always admired how she held onto her dream and made it become a reality. I've also always admired how she always held steadfast in holding onto her house. Even though she only lived in it for the three years before she married my step-grandfather and then a few years after he died, during those almost 40 years, her house always remained the prettiest, best-kept house on the block. She spent hours and hours working in her yard and keeping her plants in perfect condition. She took great pride in it. Of course, it also gave her a good reason to get out of my step-grandfather's house.

Before I left in October, I left notes all around the house for the future buyer telling him or her which light switches controlled the outside lights, which ones controlled which outlets, which fuse switches controlled what, and other useful tips about the house. Not about flaws in the house, because there aren't any flaws in the house. Sure, the avocado green kitchen and appliances are outdated, as is the pink bathroom, and the rose print wool carpet, but all the original appliances still work well and the carpet is in incredible condition.

Now the house belongs to someone else and he will update it and create his own memories in it. I hope the house brings him as much joy as it has brought my family for the past 44 years. It's a good house.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More LMS Life Lessons: Don't Bite Your Friends

Yesterday, here on Little Merry Sunshine, we learned that, despite what the good folks at Disney tell you, being a princess is not a career. That's an important life lesson.

In fact, one of my blog readers and real life college friends, Sonya, wrote to me this morning to tell me that after watching the yesterday's video, her lovely and smart daughter decided to become a veterinarian when she grows up and she wants to be Sammy and Zoey's vet! She even promised to give them healthy treats after each check-up! Talk about awesome customer service. Sonya's amazing daughter is going to be the best vet in the world.

Today, we need to focus on another important life lesson: Don't bite your friends.

And, by the way, you can substitute "obnoxious little brothers (or sisters)," "co-workers," "enemies," "family members," "teachers," "police officers," "bosses," or "pets" for friends and it still applies. Do not ever bite any of those people.

I know, it really should go without saying, but biting is not nice. In fact, biting someone is a quick way to lose friends, your job, or even wind up in jail (I've heard). It's also rude and gross..

Bottom line: Just don't bite people.

To help us remember this important life lesson, we've got a song and video that you'll want to watch and share with everyone you know. As always, if your email of Little Merry Sunshine didn't include the video, jump out to the web and watch the video. It'll make your day.

Special thanks are in order to my high school friend Portia for posting this on Facebook earlier today and inspiring my blog post.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Okay, Fine. Justice Sotomayor is Right.

One of the wonderful benefits of growing up in the post-1960s world of feminism was being taught that I could have a career and that career could anything I imagine. I had choices.

I grew up knowing that I could be a lawyer, a teacher, a business owner (thank you Katharine Graham and Mary Kay Ash), a scientist (thank you Jane Goodall and Margaret Mead), an astronaut (thank you Sally Ride), a Supreme Court Justice (thank you Sandra Day O'Connor), a professional athlete (thank you Billy Jean King) or anything else I could imagine, including a wife and mother.

One option, however, was not on the table. As much as I fought it, my parents insisted that I could not be a princess. And now, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor agrees with them. Being a princess is not a career.

Of course, if being a princess is not a career choice, this begs the all-important question: Why do all the Disney movies seem to imply that being a princess is not only a career choice, but it's the only career choice?

I know. I know. Let's solve one problem at a time.

So yay! for Sesame Street teaching girls that they have real choices in life. And yay! for Justice Sotomayor for being such a great role model.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

President Obama Gets Emotional Thanking Campaign Staffers

Once upon a time, when I met President Obama, back in 2002, long before he was President and before he was a U.S. Senator, I was impressed by his humbleness and his authenticity. I was impressed by his belief that we can all change the world. That by holding onto hope and faith, we could each create ripples that went far beyond us, maybe even to places and people we never imagined.

On Wednesday, after winning a second term as President of the United States, President Obama stopped by his Chicago campaign headquarters to speak to the campaign workers who never stopped believing that their efforts, no matter the size, would have enormous impact on the campaign and they would be victorious. When he spoke to them, he didn't talk about himself, he talked about them and how they remain his source of inspiration. He spoke about how their futures are in front of them and to keep doing the work they believe in because they will change the world.

The one thing he didn't say explicitly, although I suppose it was implied was that no matter how the Right demonizes community organizers, great and lasting change has always started at the grassroots level and community organizers make that happen.

Watch President Obama thank his staff and watch him wipe tears from his face. If you don't get misty, I don't know what to say. This is authentic. This is who our President is.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Little Merry Sunshine Final Election Results

The State of Florida has finally finished counting their ballots and the winner is . . . President Barack Obama!

Most important, to me personally, is that President Obama easily won Pinellas County (where my house is located) by 6 percentage points! I'm so proud of Crystal Beach, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Ozona, Clearwater, and all the other towns in Pinellas County for voting for President Obama. To be honest, it never occurred to me that Pinellas County was a blue county. Based on the yard signs I saw when I was in Crystal Beach last month, I was certain the whole county was firmly behind Governor Romney.

So now, with Florida turning blue, Little Merry Sunshine is finally willing to call the election . . . for President Barack Obama.

Congratulations President Obama!

Image from Huffington Post

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President (Elect) Obama's Victory Speech

I'll have more to say on the election later tonight, but this morning, I wanted to make sure my dear readers who probably didn't stay up until the wee hours of the morning to see and hear President Obama's Victory Speech had a chance to see it.

It won't surprise you that I stayed up. I was chatting with old friends via text messaging and instant messaging. And then I fell asleep mid-speech. It was a very late night and this morning I'm exhausted, but oh so happy.

I did see Mitt Romney's complete concession speech and have to give him kudos for a great speech.

I hope that no matter what party you identify with, you'll take a few minutes to hear President Obama talk about unity and how he is the ENTIRE President of the United States. He understands there is healing that needs to happen in our country and I believe he's committed to making that happen. It's my fondest wish this morning that all of the newly elected or re-elected officials will take a deep breath, look across the aisle, work to make peace. I hope they also all take a few minutes to examine their own responsibility for why we are so divided, because this is a problem we all caused, not just "the other guys."

Watch the video and be inspired. And, as always, if you're reading this via the daily email, you'll have to visit the blog to watch the video.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Congratulations Mr. President!

The Electoral Map according to Huffington Post at 11:46pm CT. 
These numbers don't include Florida or Alaska. If Florida goes for Obama and Alaska goes for Romney, then the final tally will be 332 Obama to 206 Romney.

President Barack Obama has won a second term.

But what does that really mean?

It means that quality, affordable health care for all won. It means people with pre-existing conditions won. It means that the War on Women lost. It means that equal pay for equal work won. It means that marriage equality won. It means that civil rights for all won. It means that the auto industry won. It means that the stimulus package won. It means consumer protections won. It means that college students depending on Pell Grants and affordable student loans won. It means that science won.

It also means that fear, hate, distortions, and lies lost.

So what do we do now?

We need to get down to work. We need to demand that our Congress and President work together and do what's right for the country. The facts are the facts. There are going to have to be some cuts and some tax increases and they can't all be borne by the middle and lower classes. Let's stop the bickering about whether or not President Obama is a "real American." He is a real American and he is the President of 100% of the country.

Congratulations, Mr. President! Now get to work.

2012 Election Day Soundtrack

The post below was originally written in on Election Day 2008. The sentiments I felt that day, I still feel today. In fact, if anything, I'm more optimistic about our future now than I was then.

I have no idea what will happen today. I don't know how people will vote. I hope Nate Silver of 538 is right and that President Obama is re-elected. No matter what happens, I hope we can come together as a country and remember that we're all one and we're in this together.

Make sure you vote and listen to some good music.

We Take Care Of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen

I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas

Good Life by One Republic

Simply the Best by Tina Turner

I Feel Good by James Brown

I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff

Election Day Soundtrack! 
(originally published 11/4/08)

Yesterday as I was running some errands and stuck in my car for about 45 minutes, I kept switching radio stations (I'm bad with the TV remote too). Every station I landed on had motivating, uplifting, and hopeful music. As I drove around on this beautiful 70+ degree sunny early November day (that NEVER happens in Chicago), I couldn't help but sense the hope in the air. The whole world just feels different.

So as we end our Long National Nightmare, I think we need a soundtrack.


Yes We Can by Will.I.Am

Beautiful Days by U2

One (Live in Chicago, 2005) by U2

Better Days by Goo Goo Dolls

Big Country

Only In America by Brooks & Dunn

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours by Stevie Wonder

Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow) by Fleetwood Mac

Tuesday's To Do List: VOTE

I don't care what you think you have to get done today. There is only one thing you really need to do.

Seriously. You must vote.

Don't tell me that your boss won't give you the time off. Most states, but not all (and what is wrong with those states that don't) make it illegal for your boss to deny you time off to vote. Click that link to find out what the requirements are in your state.

The lines may be long so be prepared. Take a folding chair so you're not standing the whole time. If the weather is iffy, take an umbrella and dress appropriately. Take snacks and water. Take a book. Be prepared to wait. Whatever you do, do NOT get out of line once you're in it. Have a back-up plan to pick up your kids in case you're in line to vote. Better yet, go vote right after you drop your kids off at school. As long as you're in line before the poll closes, they have to let you vote.

Don't tell me your vote doesn't matter because Obama (or Romney) is going to win your state anyway. 537 votes determined the outcome in Florida in 2000. Have you heard of the "down ballot races"? Those are the races for Congress, Senate, your State House races and Governor races, county races, referendum issues, judges. Those races matter more to your daily life than the President. Trust me.

Don't tell me you don't know where to vote. The Googles has you covered. This is cool. Just type in your address and it will tell you the location of your polling place (and get you directions), but it will also tell you all the races on your ballot.

Leave for work super early and vote. And don't forget to ask for your "I Voted" sticker. Trust me, I will wear mine with pride.

Just vote.

And if anyone tries to intimidate you into not voting, take action. Voter intimidation and voter suppression is a big f'ing deal. Thanks to my blog buddies Dr. Monkey Hussein Monkenstein and Katie Schwartz for the heads up about the FBI Voter Intimidation Hotline. Put the number in your cell phone, even if you think you won't need it. Especially then.

And if you choose not to vote, please don't talk for the next four years.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are You Ready for Election Night?

If you're anything like me, you're busy getting ready for Election Night. You've got all your Tuesday night chores done in advance. Dinner is pre-made or you've already placed your delivery order.  All errands are run. Your inner circle knows not to call. The wine is chilled. You've got your Electoral Map ready to be colored in. And your red and blue crayons are sharpened.


You don't have a blank Electoral Map ready to be colored? You don't have your crayons ready for Tuesday night?

Not to worry. You've got time to remedy that Election Night planning failure. LMS has your back. Just print out the Electoral Map below and steal borrow your kids' red and blue crayons. With any luck, you'll really only need the blue one.

Why I'm Voting for Obama Reason #7,972

Memo to the GOP: You don't own me.

From You Don't Own Me PSA.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Your Vote IS Your Voice. Make It Count. Be Heard.

Warning: I'm going to get on my soapbox about voting. You've been warned.

Tuesday is Election Day.

I know many of you say you hate politics. You hate it because of the backstabbing, lying, highly questionable ethical practices, lack of ability to work together by politicians of different parties, and general negativity that seems to be inherent in our political system today. Oh, and the fact that campaigns seem to start the day after the elections without ever giving elected officials to do their jobs. I get it. I truly do.

The way our country practices politics is disgusting. Much like watching sausage being made, I imagine.

But here's the thing: We have this elected form of government and our elected officials make decisions on our behalf that effect our lives everyday and the only way we can influence the decisions they make is to VOTE.

There are many special interest groups (i.e., PACs) and wealthy people (e.g., the Koch brothers) who would use their money and influence to get politicians to do their bidding and don't care about the effects on the majority of Americans. When we don't vote, those special interest groups win. When they win, we lose.

What do we lose? Good question.

When the special interests win, we lose funding for education and FEMA. Ask your friends and family in New Jersey, New York and New Orleans about the importance of FEMA. We lose bank regulations and consumer protections. We lose environmental protections. Social Security and Medicare are at risk.  Our country's infrastructure suffers. Health care for women and children suffers. This is just a small list of what we lose when special interests win.

If you care about these things, the loudest way your voice is heard is when you vote. And if you think your vote doesn't matter, I'd like to remind you of the 2000 presidential election. Not only did it go down to the wire, it went past the wire. 537 votes separated the vote totals in Florida. What would have happened if another 540 voters went to the polls and voted for Al Gore? We'll never know.

You simply must vote. You owe it to yourself, to your elderly parents, to your kids, to your future grandchildren. You owe it to all the women around the world who are denied the ability to vote simply because they are women. You owe it to all the people who died fighting to ensure everyone of every race and gender in the United States was allowed to vote.

I know that there are many organizations trying to deny people the right to vote this elections. Voter suppression efforts have been widely covered in the news. The best way to fight voter suppression efforts is to vote. Show those groups that no matter how difficult it is on Tuesday, your vote matters to you and you won't be deterred by their fear of your vote.

Your vote is your voice. Make it count. Be heard.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 LMS Presidential Endorsement: President Barack Obama

After much deliberation (about when to release my endorsement), I have decided to announce my endorsement for President of the United States tonight.

Now before I tell you my pick in the 2012 election, I want you to know that my choice isn't perfect. Actually, no one is perfect. In the past four years, President Obama has made some decisions I disagreed with and put forward some policies I have felt didn't go far enough. 

Four years ago, it's no secret that I was in love with President Obama. I believed in Hope and Change. Four years later, I still am in love with President Obama and I wholeheartedly believe in Hope and Change. 

Sarah Palin rhetorically asked a couple of years ago, "How's that Hope and Change thing workin' for ya?" Well, I have to tell you, I think it's worked out pretty damn well.

We've had 31 consecutive months of job growth and 5.2 million new private sector jobs. The October Jobs Report will come out in the morning. Everyone expects it to be another month of positive job growth.

Obamacare. The GOP has attempted to make the term some derogatory slur. It's not. Thanks to Obamacare, I can never be denied insurance for a pre-existing condition and possessing a uterus is no longer considered a pre-existing condition. Young adults can stay on their parents' insurance until their mid-20s allowing them to pursue dreams without jeopardizing their futures. Insurance companies are required to spend at least 80% of insurance premiums on actual insurance benefits or send out refunds. I didn't receive a refund this year, but I know quite a few people who did. President Obama is also firmly behind the idea that women should control their own bodies and make decisions that are best for them and their families. If the right to control my our own bodies isn't enough to vote for President Obama and all Democrats, I don't know what is.

Nine words: Osama Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive. 

Oh, and Chrysler is not pulling out of Michigan and Ohio in favor of taking all their Jeep production to China. They're expanding to build Jeeps in China that will be sold in China. There's a big difference. My tax dollars helped build that.

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill to be signed into law by President Obama, gives women more freedom to fight back against pay discrimination. I think it says a lot about a President when his first major piece of legislation is to help bring equality to half our population.

DODT is no more and POTUS endorses marriage equality.

Fuel efficiency and clean energy alternatives are a priority to President Obama because he believes in leaving a healthy planet for future generations.

President Obama ended the war in Iraq. The war that was started based on a bunch of lies by his predecessor, by the way.

Middle class tax cuts that resulted in an average savings of $3,600 for typical families over the past four years.

He doubled funding for Pell Grants. That's a big damn deal. I had Pell Grants when I was in college. Today, I'm a successful, home owning, tax paying woman earning more than I could without that education.

That's a very small list at what President Obama has done. I believe that in the next four years, he can accomplish far more that will move the country forward for everyone, not just the top 1%. 

So to answer Sarah Palin's question about Hope and Change, it's working quite nicely for us, thank you. We are far better off than we were four years ago. And I'm fully committed to the path President Obama is taking us down. I know that when he's given another four years in office, President Obama will lead us to full recovery.

Therefore, without reservation, Little Merry Sunshine endorses President Barack Obama for a second term as President. As I said on October 27, 2008
If you're reading my blog and still undecided, I ask you to think about the kind of country you want to leave for your children and grandchildren. If you believe in equal pay for women, that health care is a right not a privilege, that women have a fundamental right to control their own bodies, that all people absolutely are created equal, that sometimes more gets accomplished by sitting down face to face than with the "either you're with us or against us" approach, that the politics of fear don't work, that every American deserves equal opportunity, and that government should do that which we cannot do for ourselves, then you owe it to yourself and future generations to vote for Obama.
Now if you're still undecided, I don't know what to say to you. Watch the videos below and then go vote for President Barack Obama.

Oh, and in case you're curious, yes, Sammy and Zoey are Demo-CATS and fully support President Obama.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

LMS Halloween PSA: The Guide to Trading Candy

We've all been there. We come home from Trick or Treating and someone (usually a sneaky sibling) wants to trade some of their craptastic candy for some of our kick-ass candy. But we worked hard, mapping out which houses gave full-size Snickers, changing costumes so we could go back multiple times, and suffering through wind and rain for our award-winning stash and there's no way we want to trade candy, right?

Don't be too fast to answer that question. You know that if you dig down deep into your bag of Trick or Treating Loot, you'll find some less than desirable candy that you'd happily trade.

Before you trade, know the rules so you can work the system in your favor. Watch this video and then get ready for some serious Trick or Treating. Also remember this: stealing candy from your kids is bad, but trading candy with your kids is good. Just know the rules.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You Gotta Ba-Rack the Vote!

CJ Cregg said it best, so I'm just gonna let her speak . . .

Early voting is open in many places. Go vote. Go vote NOW. Don't know where to vote or how to vote early? No problem.

Oh, and if you live in the path of Hurricane Sandy, GO VOTE NOW. Really. Remember how the Halloween Nor'easter paralyzed parts of the East Coast last year leaving many without power for more than a week? Imagine that happening just before the election. Tons of hurricane damage. No power. What would happen to your ability to vote on November 6th if you were cleaning up from a massive hurricane? Go vote now and you won't have to worry.

If you think your vote doesn't count, I remind you of the 2000 election. That was decided by just over 500 votes in Florida. But if Gore had won a couple of other states, Florida wouldn't have matter.

This election is a big f'ing deal, so go vote.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nana Visited Me Again

Yes, I know that sounds a bit crazy, but let me explain.

Two weeks ago, my mom, dad and I went to Crystal Beach to finish cleaning out Nana's house because we had just put it on the market and I wanted to be able to finish that project on my schedule, not a buyer's schedule. Plus, I thought it would sell better if it was empty. Oh, yes, you read that correctly. BOTH of my parents, who have been divorced for 30 years, went to Florida together to help me with this chore. But that's not what we're here to discuss.

One of the "must do's" while we were in Crystal Beach was to attend Sunday morning church at Crystal Beach Community Church. As a reminder, my step-grandfather was the first minister at CBCC, Nana was the second member of the church, the pews in the church are there due to Nana's efforts and sizable donation after my real grandfather died in 1961, my mom grew up in the church, my parents were married there in 1970, and I was baptized there in 1971.

As always, we sat in Nana's pew. It's actually the pew that has the plaque with my grandfather, Jesse Paulk's name on it, but I always refer to it as Nana's pew. It's the fifth pew from the front on the right side. I suppose there are other pews to sit in, but I've never sat in them. Ever.

Growing up, I remember attending church with Nana each Sunday when we visited. It wasn't optional. We just went. Nana never missed a Sunday and we never missed a Sunday with her. Without fail, at some point during the church service, she'd always reach over and take my hand. She'd wrap her little hand around mine and just hold it as long as I'd let her. Sometimes she'd pull my hand onto her lap and pat my hand with her free hand as she held it.

Nana's been gone for 3 1/2 years and in that time, I don't think I've ever felt her presence. I've seen her in dreams, but I've never felt her presence. Until that day two weeks ago.

The first hymn on Sunday was "Lord, I Want to be a Christian." As I was standing and attempting to sing along, I could see Nana and suddenly felt her presence. On my left side, I felt her right hand wrap around my left one. I could feel the softness of her skin, the delicateness of her hand, and the warmth and coolness that always permeated from her skin simultaneously.

My eyes welled up with tears, as I tried to subtly wipe them away. Needless to say, it didn't work. I spent most of the ceremony crying.

I cried because I miss Nana and because it was the last time I'll ever be in Crystal Beach. It was the last time I'll ever be in the only church I've ever felt comfortable in. Three and a half years after her death, it all felt really real and final and I just kept thinking about how soon, there would be no one in Crystal Beach who remembered her and it would be as though she never existed. I also cried because I felt guilty for having failed to take care of getting her name on one of the (almost) floor to ceiling windows on each of the walls.

Throughout the service, I couldn't shake the feeling of Nana's hand wrapped around mine. It was comforting as I dealt with the grief I still felt.

After the service was over, I was taking a picture of the plaque on Nana's pew and Mom was explaining the story of the pews to some new church members when the minister walked up to greet me.
The plaque on Nana's pew.

Pastor Susie welcomed me back to church, asked about the house, and then asked if I'd seen Nana's window.

What??? Nana's window?! No. I hadn't seen it.

And then she walked me over to it. Sure enough, there was Nana's name. Exactly as she'd want it.

In an instant, I was sobbing again. The only words I knew to say were "thank you." I can't remember the last time I felt so much gratitude.

I had dropped the ball and not gotten back to the church with how we wanted Nana's name on the window and when we'd be down to dedicate it, but there it was. Nana would never be forgotten. And she really was in church with us that morning, just as she would be forever. And she really held my hand.

The bottom pane of Nana's window.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm On My Way to Nana's House and What Do I See?

Remember when you were a kid and your family took long road trips? In between the fighting in the backseat with your brother, you'd play "I'm On My Way to Grandma's House and What Do I See?" Of course you do.

Just in case you don't, the way it worked was you named things you each saw, but you also had to name everything that had been named and you couldn't repeat anything. For example:
Dave: I'm on my way to Grandma's house and I see a car.
Me: I'm on my way to Grandma's house and I see a car and a skunk.
Dave: You did not see a skunk!
Me: Yes I did! I did see a skunk!
Mom: Kids! Don't make me turn this car around!
Dave: I'm on my way to Grandma's house and I see a car, a skunk, and the cop that pulled mom over for speeding. Officer, are you gonna arrest my mom?
Mom: Nobody's getting arrested. Now behave.
Everybody played, right?

Well, today, I'm driving to Nana's house in Florida with my dad. This is the final trip. Ever. Seriously. During the three hours we were in Kentucky, we saw some sights:
  • 1 Oscar Mayer Weinermobile
  • 1 horse-drawn Amish buggy
  • 3 fake dinosaurs encouraging us to visit Dinosaur World
  • 1 ambulance hauling a power boat
  • 1 M-22 sticker on a car with Kentucky plates
  • 2 or 3 "Hell is Real" signs
  • 1 mattress by the side of the road (a man-made rest stop, perhaps?)
  • 12 airplane wings on the back of 12 tractor-trailers and
  • Chester's Chicken to Go at the local Exxon station in Oak Grove, Kentucky
The airplane wings were the most interesting because they had to each be close to 50 feet long and weren't traveling in a caravan. They were each separate with many miles between them. They also each had a police escort.

Imagine my disappointment with Tennessee when we saw nothing of interest. Tennessee, I expect you to do better upon my return in a few days.

Fortunately, Kennesaw, Georgia saved the night by allowing me to do all my Christmas shopping at the local Chevron station.

No need to thank me. It's the least I could do for the people I love. Yes, clearly, it's the very least.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Walk & Talk the Vote - The West Wing is BACK!!

The West Wing is back! The West Wing is back! The West Wing is back!!!!!

Okay, I may have overstated that a little, but it is. Sort of.

Here's the scoop: A woman named Bridget Mary McCormack is running for State Supreme Court in Michigan and she got the cast of The West Wing (complete with Josh and Donna!) to shoot a commercial for her. How did she manage this magnificent feat? Glad you asked. She happens to be the sister of a Mary McCormack, who was part of The West Wing cast from 2004 through 2006. How awesome is that?! So her sister and all her friends filmed a 4-minute commercial for the next Michigan State Supreme Court Justice.

And while they're at it, they even manage to teach you a lesson as memorable and important as the Schoolhouse Rock lessons. Yes, I'm serious.

Trust me, I wish I'd been there.

Now watch it and remember to vote for ALL the races and issues on your ballot this year. And if you live in Michigan, vote for Bridget Mary McCormack.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Do You Know How to Load a Dishwasher?

I'm sure you think this is a rhetorical question, but I'm serious. If your dishes come out of the dishwasher and their cleanliness is hit or miss, then you don't know how to properly load your dishwasher.

I have a friend, who is super anal about how he loads his dishwasher. We'll call him Greg. Of course, that's a pseudonym. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. He won't let anyone, including his own mother, load the dishwasher because "no one does it correctly." I kid you not. I've attempted to load his dishwasher when I've made dinner and he stands over me to ensure it's done to his standards. Frankly, this is hysterical because I'm more OCD than he is.

Anyway, back to your ability to load your dishwasher. You probably aren't doing it correctly, so take 5 minutes and watch the "how to" video below. Trust me, you'll get a good laugh.

There's also a handy dandy guide right here that you might peruse.

Now that you've learned how to load your dishwasher, I'm going to tell you that I disagree with a lot of the advice, except for the part about not blocking the soap. That bit about not loading the silverware by type is just stupid. If you rinse off your dishes and utensils prior to loading, you won't need to worry about the gunky spoons not getting clean. Personally, I prefer to organize my dishes and silverware by type to make the unloading process quick and easy.

What do you think? Do you have any tips to make doing the dishes super easy?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Welcome Home Foresters! You're Gonna Make This Place Your Home!

Twenty-three years ago this weekend, my mom rented a van and drove me and my carefully selected and packed stuff to Lake Forest College to begin a four-year journey that would change my life. Like probably every other first-year college student, I was excited to be on my own and terrified, all in the same breath. I think I'd been away from home without my parents or other family twice, each time for less than seven days.

What I discovered from the moment I stepped into Deerpath Hall, which was then an all-freshman dorm and looked nothing like it looks now, was that LFC was like no other place I'd ever been. Yes, it was a small liberal arts school situated in a very affluent suburb 30 miles north of Chicago. Yes, it had a football team, a swim team, a tennis team, a basketball team, and a national-championship winning handball team. It also had an art department and theatre department. LFC had majors in everything I could imagine and extra-curricular activities in things I'd never even heard of. And yes, most of those things existed at almost all other schools around the world.

But there was something else. Something I couldn't ever quite put my finger on or verbalize during any of those four years and I've only come to appreciate in the 19 years since graduation.

Faculty, staff, and students genuinely cared for and about each other and it showed in every decision that was made and every action that was taken. Faculty members held office hours in dorms in order to make themselves more easily accessible. Administrators took students under their wings to mentor them from day one. The Admissions department didn't just recruit us to campus, they stayed with us throughout our college careers and checked-in with us.

Twenty-three years later, Spike Gummere, then the head of the Admissions Department, knows what I'm up to. I had more conversations with Ron Miller, the late Dean of Students, than I can count during my college career. After graduating, I enjoyed social dinners with him where he still challenged me to reach beyond myself and he even came to a Christmas party at my house one year. Jill Van Newenhizen, my calculus professor, not only worked with me when I struggled in Calculus, but her door was also open to me when I moved to Multi-Variable Calculus with Dr. Troyer the next year. Jill and I are still close and have dinner periodically. Nancy Brekke, Bob Glassman, and Arlene Eskilson left indelible marks on my life and fought for me when I secured an amazing internship in Washington, D.C. after graduation only to almost lose it because the agency failed to understand that I would have already graduated when I started the internship. Ultimately, thanks to their persistence, I got to keep the internship. Then President Eugene Hotchkiss knew me by name. He still does and so does now President Stephen Schutt.

When my mom tried to kill herself the summer I stayed on campus for summer school, faculty and staff came out of the woodwork to help me. They moved my final exam in my business ethics course so I could be where I was truly needed, with my family. They sent me notes. They opened their doors and arms to me. Students living in my dorm, some of whom I barely knew, helped me make the best of a very difficult summer by including me in everything.

I fell in love at Lake Forest. I dreamt bigger than I ever imagined possible. I went places I never thought I'd go. I made friends who remain my inner circle all these years later. I don't have to be anyone but me with them and they love me anyway. I explored my core beliefs and most fundamental values to answer the question, "why do I believe what I do?" In some cases, I discovered I didn't believe what I thought I did. I found my voice and believe me, it's never been silenced.

Those four years were filled with the highest highs and sometimes the lowest lows. And I wouldn't have it any other way because, no matter what, one thing remained constant.

That constant was the thing I couldn't put quite put my finger on back then, but I can now. Lake Forest College isn't just a college. It's a family. What separates Lake Forest College from all the other schools friends of my went to is the sense that LFC is home. The phrase "You're a Forester Forever" isn't just a cute catch-phrase. It's a way of life.

As I sit here tonight writing this post, I think about the new students who will be moving into Deerpath and the other residence halls on Friday. I imagine the journeys they will take. If I could give them a few words of wisdom it would be to open their hearts and minds to all that LFC has to offer. Find mentors in the staff, faculty, and the alumni. Experience everything. Be fearless. You're a Forester now. And you're gonna make this place your home.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Watervale Mail!

You'll never guess what I received yesterday from my friend Shari! Watervale Mail!!! Yay!

Okay, okay. I suppose the title of this post did give it away. Trust me, just because the title gave it away does not diminish the value of Watervale Mail.

You'll recall that a little over a week ago, I posted about how I couldn't go to Watervale this year and made a plea for my friends and family to not only have an extra great time for me (I even gave them a custom Watervale To Do List), but I also requested Watervale Mail in an effort to ease my pain.

Shari came through. She sent me the best letter I've received in ages and it sounds like she had an incredible time.

This is the card Shari sent me. It's a picture of the Outlet looking North to Frankfort.

During Shari's three weeks at Watervale, she hiked Baldy, watched the sunset, canoed to BooHoo and swam from the Point to the Millsite, water skied a couple of times each week, played in the surf, savored the creme brûlée, read, slept, wrote, drank wine, laid on the beach, stayed up to watch the Perseids, enjoyed Honey Oatmeal bread at dinner and toast with blackberry jam at breakfast, hugged many family members and friends, told ghost stories about the Farmhouse, visited Sleeping Bear Dunes. I think she also biked the Betsie Trail to Beulah and around Upper Herring Lake, had a beach fire and at s'mores, hung out at the Outlet (that's not a mall for the uninitiated), climbed BooHoo, hiked Green Point Dunes, and visited the Upper Herring Nature Preserve.

She was busy. No wonder she needs 3 weeks. Maybe I can do some of that when I do the Lake Michigan Circle Tour in October.

Even though I was at home, I had a great week too.

It started with a mani-pedi on Friday. Sunday shifted into high gear when I spent an awesome day with my friend Vincent at the Art Institute's Roy Lichtenstein exhibit, lunched at the Park Grill, had my breath taken away with one of the best secret views of the city, and enjoyed a day full of phenomenal conversation about many topics, including his new play, Venus Envy. Monday evening I attended my condo association board meeting. It was 2 1/2 hours. In the middle of it, my dad sent me a text message saying he was watching a Watervale sunset and my brother called to rub it in. They obviously love me. My work week was filled with alumni events and work lunches. On Thursday, my department enjoyed a summer outing to Arlington Park and I stopped to visit my mom. Finally, last night, I was seranaded by Tony Bennett at Ravinia with my friend Robert and a few thousand of our closest friends. The Chicago Tribune and I agree that he nailed it.

Take a look at my week. I think you'll agree it was terrific.

All in all, a solid week, although to paraphrase myself, the worst week at Watervale still beats the best week at home. At least I've got Watervale Mail to help get me through the next few months. Thanks Shari!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Take a Hike

No. No. No. I'm not telling you to get lost. Well, maybe I am, but I'm NOT telling you to go away and leave Little Merry Sunshine. That I can tell you with certainty. I like that you are here and I like that you keep coming back.

The other night, my friend Jen posted a link on Facebook about Lake County Forest Preserve's annual Hike Lake County Challenge looking for friends to join her and her husband, Alan (who is one of my co-workers), for this fun way to get fit this fall.

Lake County has a number of beautiful forest preserves and hiking through them you can see all kinds of wildlife and plant life. One of the things I love about Lake County, and Lake Forest in particular, is the commitment to open lands and the preservation of nature. Within a 5 minute drive from my house, I can be out in the middle of the country and away from the hustle and bustle of suburban sprawl. It's heavenly.

To participate in the Challenge, you simply need to hike 7 of the 12 designated trails (each less than 3 miles), record them using the Travel Log or the mobile phone app, and send your hiking log to the Lake County Forest Preserves. Plus, there's a scavenger hunt to add to the fun.

No matter where you are in Lake County, there's a trail near you:

  • Des Plaines River Trail (North) in Wadsworth
  • Des Plaines River Trail (North) in Gurnee
  • Des Plaines River Trail (South) in Libertyville
  • Des Plaines River Trail (South) in Vernon Hills
  • Fox River in Port Barrington
  • Herron Creek in Long Grove
  • Lyons Woods in Beach Park
  • McDonald Woods in Lindenhurst
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest
  • Nippersink in Round Lake
  • Ray Lake in Wauconda
  • Rollins Savanna in Grayslake

Jen, Alan and I are going to get out on the trails this fall to enjoy the beauty of Lake County and get in some easy exercise. In fact, I've heard Alan is already planning his hiking stick. Ya, we take this seriously.

Interested in joining us? Send me a message here or on Facebook and we'll make a plan.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

It's Official: I'm Not Going to Watervale

A classic Watervale sunset over Lower Herring Lake.

I've been procrastinating officially making this announcement, but it simply can't wait any longer because I'm supposed to be headed to Watervale in less than 18 hours.

For a variety of reasons, I'm not going to Watervale this summer.

Yes, I know. I've spent at least part of every summer at Watervale for three-quarters of my life. That's right, I've been going to Watervale for 30 years. And I'm not going this year.

This summer has flown by and although I haven't been able to get away, I have had quite a bit of fun. An awesome Cubs game rooftop party on Memorial Day. A great dinner cruise on Lake Michigan on my birthday. Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw concert at Ravinia. Kenny Loggins concert and fireworks in Lake Forest for the 4 of July. The Blues Brothers movie at Wrigley Field. An amazing evening at Place de la Musique where I even rode the carousel! James Taylor concert at Ravinia. Fabulous lunches, dinners, and movies with friends. This weekend I'm going to the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute and next weekend I'm hoping to see Tony Bennett at Ravinia.

It's been a good summer. But it won't feel complete because it lacks Watervale. Watervale is my touchstone. It brings me back to me. I arrive stressed out and leave rejuvenated. I sleep. I read. I write. I swim. I hike. I play in the surf of Lake Michigan. I lay on the beach and let sand run through my fingers. I drink wine with friends. I watch sunsets. I kayak. I stay up late hoping to see the Northern Lights. I count the meteors I see each night during the Perseids Meteor Shower. I swing on the swings. I eat good food.

So why am I saying all of this tonight? Am I complaining? No. I'll take a vacation later this fall, but it won't be the same as going to Watervale in August.

I'm writing this tonight because I need your help.

How can you help? I'm glad you asked.

You can . . .

You can also do one more thing for me . . . send me some Watervale Mail.  That's right. Fill my snail mail box with Watervale postcards. Need my address? Ask my dad for it or send me a message on Facebook and I'll send it to you.

Above all else, savor your time at Watervale for all the poor souls (like me) who can't be there this year or who have never experienced it for themselves.