Monday, January 30, 2012

Does Your Day Need Some Warming Up?

Image via Huffington Post

It's Monday. In January. It's cold and more or less cloudy in Chicago. Maybe it's snowy or rainy in your neck of the woods. Either way, it's Monday and January, so your day is bound to need a quick warm up.

As always, Little Merry Sunshine has you covered thanks to David Beckhan being nearly entirely uncovered.

Watch the new H&M commercial set to officially debut during the Super Bowl (yes, it will be super with this to look forward to) and just try to tell me your day didn't get a little brighter and your winter chill didn't warm up just a bit.

Sweet Lord in Heaven, thank you for the gift that is David Beckham in his tighty whities.

Monday, January 23, 2012

So You Think We're the Center of the Universe?

Guess again. We're hardly a speck of dust.

Watch this cool video, The Known Universe, to see exactly where we stand. If nothing else, you'll enjoy 6 minutes of relaxation.

Thanks for posting this on Twitter Scott Kleinberg! If you don't follow Scott on Twitter, you should. He's one of smartest and most interesting tweeps I know. He's also a fierce Words With Friends opponent.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Must See TV: State of the Union Address

You may know that I love politics. One of the things I never miss, other than voting in every election, watching all the election coverage, and getting educated on the issues and candidates, is watching the President's annual State of the Union Address.

As you also probably know, this isn't just any old speech. This speech is actually constitutionally mandated. Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution (that's the section outlining the duties of The Executive Office, for those of you who don't just know the Constitution backwards and forwards) specifically states,
"He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States."
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 (in 2 days) is State of the Union day this year. It will be aired at 9pm ET on all major broadcast channels and cable news channels, although I prefer to watch it on CSPAN due to the lack of color commentary before and during the speech. Sure, I enjoy hearing the spin and opinions of the talking heads, but I prefer to form my own opinions first. You can also watch it on the White House's website where you'll be able to see "charts, stats and data that helped inform President Obama's policy decisions as he delivers his speech to the nation."

No matter what your political beliefs or whether you like or plan to vote for President Obama, you should watch the State of the Union because this year's speech in particular will begin to educate you on many of the issues that will be debated in this year's presidential election.

Before you watch on Tuesday night, you can watch a preview of the speech below:

I'll be on my couch in my pj's taking notes. I hope you'll join me from the comfort of your couch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Guess Who's is Quoted in Make It Better!

Do you read Make It Better? It's a wonderful magazine with the sole mission of making it easy for people to make the world better. In fact, to date, the magazine has made 67,173 lives better and helped to raise $1,464,657 for its partner non-profits, according to the Make It Better website.

I enjoy reading Make It Better, follow the magazine on Twitter, and am a fan on Facebook.

A few months ago, the magazine posted the question "Who or what on the North Shore makes you happy?" on its Facebook page and I commented that I love "sitting on the swings on the beach in Lake Forest."

It's true. I do. I love swinging on the swings at the Lake Forest Beach. It's been one of my favorite activities since my days at Lake Forest College. Looking out over the water while swinging always brings me a sense of calmness and allows me to release all my stress. Swinging on the swings is a simple pleasure from childhood that I think most adults don't do enough of, but put a swing set in front of me and I'll hop on. I don't care where it's located, but it's it's on the beach, I dare you to try to get me off the swings.

Anyway, this month, Make It Better selected nine of its favorite responses to print in the magazine. One of my co-workers brought my new fame to my attention a couple of weeks ago. I honestly had no idea my happy place was being shared with readers all around the North Shore.

Frankly, I'm relieved they didn't shorten or revise my quote. Just think how "swinging on the Lake Forest Beach makes me happy" would have sounded! ;)

You can read my quote on page 86 below. And yes, that's Julia Sweeney formerly of Saturday Night Live on the cover. She lives in Evanston and writes a delightful blog.

Friday, January 20, 2012

That's My Man . . . President Obama Sings

Did you hear President Obama singing last night? I had no idea he could sing, but he can serenade me anytime.

LMS's Winter Driving Tips Revisited

Given that Chicago has enjoyed an historically snow-free winter until this past week and as I type this we're in the middle of receiving a 9-inch snowfall, it seems that many of you have forgotten how to drive in inclement weather, at least as exhibited by those of you on the roads during my 10-minute-turned-30-minute commute home today.

Let's revisit how to drive in snow, shall we?

Originally published February 1, 2011.

You may have heard that we're supposed to get a little snow in Chicago today/tonight/tomorrow. To help you survive Snowmageddon 2011, Little Merry Sunshine offers the following driving tips:


That's right. Don't drive. Stay inside and keep warm.

Oh, and if you're coupled up inside, you may want to schedule an appointment with your OB-GYN for about 9 months from now and also reserve a room in your favorite maternity ward. Your doctor is likely to have a backlog of appointments with no rooms available in the inn (or hospital).

On a serious note, if you must leave the house to drive anywhere, keep these tips in mind:

1. It's illegal to drive with your wipers on and your headlights off. Even if you can see, your headlights make it easier for others to see you.

2. Have a full tank of gas and plenty of wiper fluid.

3. Drive slower and leave extra space between you and other cars. Better to arrive late than not at all.

4. Stay off your cell phone., but carry it with you and make sure it's fully charged. Actually, this is a good idea even in good weather.

5. Have an emergency kit in your car: cat litter or salt, a shovel, snow scraper, a warm blanket or two, extra gloves, hat and socks, jumper cables, snacks, bottled water and activities for the kids. My emergency kit is in my backseat.

The bottom line for blizzard driving is to drive defensively, have patience, and don't be a jerk.
Additional tips:

6. Scrape off your entire car. It doesn't take more than a few minutes and clearing the snow off your roof means it won't land on my windshield. Removing it from your headlights and brake lights mean others can see you better. Cleaning your mirrors mean you'll see others better. By the time you've got the whole car cleaned off, your car will be warmed up and you'll get into a toasty car. Win. Win.

7. Make sure your car is in safe operating condition. This means checking your brakes, the tread on your tires, and keeping tires properly inflated. I know brakes and tires are expensive. I just put new brakes on my car. But new brakes are considerably less expensive than your insurance deductible when they go out on you and you plow into someone else. I highly recommend Busse Auto in Mt. Prospect for all auto work. They've taken care of my cars for almost 10 years and Mark Busse is one of the most honest, ethical people I've ever known. I'll use them forever. Use my name.

8. Be patient. Everyone else on the road in is the same situation you're in and they want to reach their destinations just as badly as you do. Don't be the asshole on the road. Getting upset will only make your drive worse.

9. Get off the roads when conditions are too bad. You're not the postal service having to live up to the inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Last summer when I was driving home from Watervale, I encountered one of the worst storms I'd ever driven through. Had I been standing still, it probably wouldn't have been so bad, but the combination of wind and speeding cars made it all but impassable. I didn't pull off the road, but my dad did. I remember sweating from stress as my hands were gripped to the steering wheel. Once I got through the storm, I wished I'd pulled over. That risk wasn't worth the time I "saved" by driving on.

10. If you get stuck in your car in the snow, stay in your car, but keep your tail pipe cleaned out. The deadly carbon monoxide fumes can get into your car if the tail pipe is blocked by snow or ice. When you've got the car on, crack the window just a little to keep poisonous gases out of the car. Clear off your headlights and taillights so rescuers can see you. And, of course, call the police.

11. Bottom line: Use good judgment and common sense. If you lack one, the other, or both, think about what you should do and do the opposite.

In Memory of Etta James (1938-2012)

Etta James was one of the great ones and each time I hear her belt out At Last, I feel shivers up my spine. If there is a more romantic love song out there, I haven't heard it. RIP Etta James.

And if you didn't well up just a little when Beyonce sang At Last to President and Mrs. Obama at the inauguration, then I'm just not sure what to say.

At Last Lyrics
At last
my love has come along
my lonely days over
and life is like a song

Ooh At last
the skies above are blue
well my heart was wrapped up in clover
the night I looked at you

I found a dream
that I could speak to
a dream that I could call my own
I found a thrill
to press my cheek to
a thrill that I have never known


You smile
you smile
oh and then the spell was cast
and here we are in heaven
for you are mine at last

I found a dream
that I could speak to
a dream that I
could call my own
I found a thrill
to press my cheek to
a thrill that I have never known


You smile
you smile
oh and then the spell was cast
and here we are in heaven
for you are mine at last

ooo yea
you are mine
you are mine
at last
at last
at last
at last

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bucket List Item #36: Donate Blood Again

With a little lot of help from a special friend, I overcame my fear of needles tonight and donated blood. Actually, we did it together.

I've been afraid of needles for as long as I can remember. I hate getting shots (although I did get a tetanus shot this week too, but that's another story), still get queasy giving Ross his insulin twice a day, and the thought of acupuncture is enough to send me over the edge. Blood tests are often more than I can handle because it's difficult to hit a vein, so I end up with bruises all over both arms and I bleed slowly.

Giving blood has been out of the question for two decades. I last gave blood on April 8, 1992 in college and I was terrified. (No, I didn't know the exact date, LifeSource did today). The phlebotomist couldn't find the vein and when she finally hit it, I bled at a pace slower than molasses. I started hyperventilating and a friend arrived just in time to distract me and keep me company while the vampire phlebotomist sucked a pint of blood out of me. Since then, I've come close to giving blood a few times, but always chickened out.

Until tonight.

Last week this friend of mine suggested an evening out donating blood followed by dinner. His rationale? He knew giving blood was on my Bucket List, he wanted to help me get over my fear of needles, and he thought we'd have fun doing something to make the world better. Plus, he was going to buy dinner. How could I say no with that kind of logic?

So I pre-gamed all day by eating well (breakfast, small snack, lunch, small snack) and drinking lots of water and arrived at LifeSource in Lake Bluff at the appointed hour without fainting. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I left home this morning without my iPod or a book for distraction, and decided that at 40, I was too old to clutch my trusty teddy bear, so I left it at home too. Yes, I was going to be brave.

Brave quickly turned into a pool of raw nerves and difficulty breathing. After checking my vital signs and answering a series of health questions, I was told I qualified to give blood and to have a seat in the reclining chair. About 10 minutes later, the nice nurse found my vein and I swear put the needle through my entire arm. She kept telling me to breath because I guess I wasn't. I kept squeezing the ball because I don't particularly like to share and so my blood wasn't flowing.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, I had given away all the blood in my body, the needle was removed, I was left with a bruise that looks something like the State of Florida on my arm, and the phlebotomist was asking if she could schedule my next appointment in 8 weeks.

I survived and even have a cool shark bandaid on my arm covering the nasty bruise. Did it hurt? Yes, but not as badly as I thought it would. I think it was more the idea of the needle that hurt more than the actual needle. Am I glad I did it? I am. The blood I donated tonight could help to save up to three lives. That's awesome. Am I over my fear of needles? No. In fact, not even close. Will I do it again any time soon? I'm honestly not sure. Maybe. It will depend if my friend will take me with him again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012: The Year of Kindness

Yesterday a girlfriend of mine posted a story on Facebook about having been at the gas station and witnessed a man park his car, get out and walk over to another woman driving an older car and inform the woman that he wanted to pay for her gas. No ask for payback. No harassment of the woman. Nothing. Just a simple random act of kindness that made not only the woman receiving the gas happy, but it uplifted my girlfriend who witnessed this unabashed generosity between strangers.

Witnessing this selflessness prompted my girlfriend to decide that as she celebrates her 40th birthday this year, she's going to perform 40 random acts of kindness, one for each year of her life. She then encouraged all of her friends on Facebook to spend the year practicing their own random acts of kindness and asked, "What would the world be like with all this kindness"?

Over a dozen friends immediately stepped forward saying they were in for 40 random acts of kindness to celebrate their 40th birthdays.

Today, I saw a story on ABC7Chicago's site about Chicagoan Ryan Garcia. He's set out to perform a different random act of kindness each day this year. That's 366 random acts of kindness. His motivation? Garcia has a 4-month old daughter and he wants to set a good example for her. Some of his random acts are silly like giving hugs today while others are serious, such as sending letters to soldiers in Afghanistan. He's got a blog where he's documenting his efforts, is on Twitter, and has a Facebook page where he's taking suggestions.

Watch his story here:

I'm loving this idea of making 2012 the Year of Kindness. What would our world be like 349 days from now if we each performed even one random act of kindness per week? I imagine we'd see a seismic shift in our attitude towards each other, that prescriptions for antidepressants would drop off (you can't be doing that much selfless good without beginning to feel good yourself), our relationships would be better, and people would be nicer.

As Five for Fighting has asked, What Kind of World Do You Want? Let's go make the world better this year.

Lyrics to What Kind of World Do You Want by Five for Fighting
Got A Package full of wishes.
A Time machine, a magic wand, a globe made out of gold.
No instructions or commandments,
Laws of gravity or indecisions to uphold

Printed on the box I see,
A.C.M.E.'s built a world to be,
Take a chance, grab a piece,
Help me to believe it.

What kind of world do you want?
Think anything.
Let's start at the start, build a masterpiece,
Be careful what you wish for...
History starts now.

Should there be people or peoples?
Money, funny, pedestals, for fools who never pay.
Raise your army, choose you steeple.
Don't be shy, the satellites, can look the other way.

Lose the earthquakes, keep the faults.
Fill the oceans, without the salt.
Let every man own his own hand.
Can you dig it baby?

What kind of world do you want?
Think anything.
Let's start at the start, build a masterpiece,
Be careful what you wish for...
History starts now.

Sunlight's on the bridge.
Sunlight's on the way.
Tomorrow's callin,
There's more to this than love.

What kind of world do you want?
What kind of world do you want?

What kind of world do you want?
Think anything.
Let's start at the start, build a masterpiece, Yeah
History starts now, starts now.

Be careful what you wish for...

Start now, now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream Speech

In honor of today being the day we annually stop to reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, I bring you his famous I Have a Dream speech delivered on August 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Given the inequalities our country still struggles with, forty-nine years later, this speech is still as relevant today as it was then.

I Have a Dream
Dr. Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "For Whites Only". We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Tim Tebow: An Example for Us All

Okay, before you jump all over me for that title, let me just stipulate that I can't stand Tim Tebow's proselytizing and his politics completely rub me wrong. His Focus on the Family ad in the 2010 Superbowl made me sick to my stomach. Argue amongst yourselves about his football abilities because they don't really impress me either, but he doesn't play for the Bears, so I simply don't care.

But there's one thing that can't be denied: Tim Tebow pays his good fortune forward in ways you and I probably never will. And he does it without making a big deal about it. And that's worth admiring, no matter what else you think of him.

At each Bronco's game, both home and away, you'll find a family in the stands that was personally flown to the game, put up in a hotel, given a rental car, and had meals covered, all thanks to the generosity of Tim Tebow. Before the game, he visits with the family and then after he's done with the press after the game, he's back by their side making sure they had a good time and learning about them. Not to glad hand and pump up his stardom, but to focus on them.

Read the article below and see if your heart doesn't swell with happiness for the example Tim Tebow is setting for other NFL players and all of us. Thanks to my friend Kevin for giving me a reason to like Tim Tebow and tweeting this article yesterday.

Rick Reilly,, January 13, 2012

I've come to believe in Tim Tebow, but not for what he does on a football field, which is still three parts Dr. Jekyll and two parts Mr. Hyde.

No, I've come to believe in Tim Tebow for what he does off a football field, which is represent the best parts of us, the parts I want to be and so rarely am.

Who among us is this selfless?

Every week, Tebow picks out someone who is suffering, or who is dying, or who is injured. He flies these people and their families to the Broncos game, rents them a car, puts them up in a nice hotel, buys them dinner (usually at a Dave & Buster's), gets them and their families pregame passes, visits with them just before kickoff (!), gets them 30-yard-line tickets down low, visits with them after the game (sometimes for an hour), has them walk him to his car, and sends them off with a basket of gifts.

Remember last week, when the world was pulling its hair out in the hour after Tebow had stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers with an 80-yard OT touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs? And Twitter was exploding with 9,420 tweets about Tebow per second? When an ESPN poll was naming him the most popular athlete in America?

Tebow was spending that hour talking to 16-year-old Bailey Knaub about her 73 surgeries so far and what TV shows she likes.

"Here he'd just played the game of his life," recalls Bailey's mother, Kathy, of Loveland, Colo., "and the first thing he does after his press conference is come find Bailey and ask, 'Did you get anything to eat?' He acted like what he'd just done wasn't anything, like it was all about Bailey."

More than that, Tebow kept corralling people into the room for Bailey to meet. Hey, Demaryius, come in here a minute. Hey, Mr. Elway. Hey, Coach Fox.

Even though sometimes-fatal Wegener's granulomatosis has left Bailey with only one lung, the attention took her breath away.

"It was the best day of my life," she emailed. "It was a bright star among very gloomy and difficult days. Tim Tebow gave me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He gave me the strength for the future. I know now that I can face any obstacle placed in front of me. Tim taught me to never give up because at the end of the day, today might seem bleak but it can't rain forever and tomorrow is a new day, with new promises."

I read that email to Tebow, and he was honestly floored.

"Why me? Why should I inspire her?" he said. "I just don't feel, I don't know, adequate. Really, hearing her story inspires me."

It's not just NFL defenses that get Tebowed. It's high school girls who don't know whether they'll ever go to a prom. It's adults who can hardly stand. It's kids who will die soon.

For the game at Buffalo, it was Charlottesville, Va., blue-chip high school QB Jacob Rainey, who lost his leg after a freak tackle in a scrimmage. Tebow threw three interceptions in that Buffalo game and the Broncos were crushed 40-14.

"He walked in and took a big sigh and said, 'Well, that didn't go as planned,'" Rainey remembers. "Where I'm from, people wonder how sincere and genuine he is. But I think he's the most genuine person I've ever met."

There's not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow, and I've looked everywhere for it.

Take 9-year-old Zac Taylor, a child who lives in constant pain. Immediately after Tebow shocked the Chicago Bears with a 13-10 comeback win, Tebow spent an hour with Zac and his family. At one point, Zac, who has 10 doctors, asked Tebow whether he has a secret prayer for hospital visits. Tebow whispered it in his ear. And because Tebow still needed to be checked out by the Broncos' team doctor, he took Zac in with him, but only after they had whispered it together.

And it's not always kids. Tom Driscoll, a 55-year-old who is dying of brain cancer at a hospice in Denver, was Tebow's guest for the Cincinnati game. "The doctors took some of my brain," Driscoll says, "so my short-term memory is kind of shot. But that day I'll never forget. Tim is such a good man."

This whole thing makes no football sense, of course. Most NFL players hardly talk to teammatesbefore a game, much less visit with the sick and dying.

Isn't that a huge distraction?

"Just the opposite," Tebow says. "It's by far the best thing I do to get myself ready. Here you are, about to play a game that the world says is the most important thing in the world. Win and they praise you. Lose and they crush you. And here I have a chance to talk to the coolest, most courageous people. It puts it all into perspective. The game doesn't really matter. I mean, I'll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it's to invest in people's lives, to make a difference."

So that's it. I've given up giving up on him. I'm a 100 percent believer. Not in his arm. Not in his skills. I believe in his heart, his there-will-definitely-be-a-pony-under-the-tree optimism, the way his love pours into people, right up to their eyeballs, until they believe they can master the hopeless comeback, too.

Remember the QB who lost his leg, Jacob Rainey? He got his prosthetic leg a few weeks ago, and he wants to play high school football next season. Yes, tackle football. He'd be the first to do that on an above-the-knee amputation.

Hmmm. Wonder where he got that crazy idea?

"Tim told me to keep fighting, no matter what," Rainey says. "I am."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Paraskevidekatriaphobics: 2012 is Not Your Year

Paraskevidekatriaphobics, or people with the irrational, morbid fear of Friday the 13th are probably not very happy this year. Me, I'm not freaked out at all. I think Friday the 13th is kind of cool.

We've got three Friday the 13th's this year, each 13 weeks apart. Cool, huh? It was 1984 when this last happened. I was 13 that year. This year, like that year, is a leap year and that won't happen again until 2040.

My friends Tony and Michael are celebrating each of the Friday the 13th's with a Horror Movie Camp-a-Thon starting at 7:13 p.m. Tonight's selection is Bride of Chucky. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend because I'm having my own Friday the 13th Horror Fest in the form of some awful bug that has caused me to lose 7 pounds since Wednesday. Don't feel bad for me. Popsicles are my new best friend.

In other news, some pretty cool people have birthdays today on Friday the 13th: Orlando Bloom, Patrick Dempsey (aka Dr. McDreamy), Ginger Zee, Horatio Alger, Julia Louis-Dryfus, and Charles Nelson Reilly. Oh, and someone who's very special to me. For those of you celebrating today, here's your birthday horoscope.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The New Year's Resolution Crowd at the Gym

Have you heard about the New Year's Resolution Crowd?

You know them. They're the fine folks who swear that this year they're gonna get fit in the New Year and run out to join a gym on January 1st, work out religiously for maybe 8 weeks and then just as suddenly never return again come about late-February maybe early-March. They make your gym some kind of unGodly crowded and are slow. Not just slow, but so slow they make going at a snail's pace look like Indy Car speed. They leave their towels on the treadmills, never wipe down a machine and change the tv channels without checking to see if you're really into that episode of Price is Right because they obviously grew up in a cave. Oh, and they're in horrible shape and you don't want to watch them, but like any good train wreck, you can't divert your eyes.

I had never heard the phrase "New Year's Resolution Crowd" until a few years ago when a good friend of mine made a comment to me about how disgusted he was by all these people and he couldn't wait for them to stop showing up so his gym could get back to normal and he could work out the way he wanted to without the inconvenience of people who weren't going to stick to their goals anyway. They were clearly on his turf where they obviously didn't belong. Suddenly this year, I've seen a bunch of people make snide comments about the "New Year's Resolution Crowd" on Facebook. Maybe it was always there and I just hadn't noticed it. I'm not sure.

I haven't said anything to any of these friends of mine, but truthfully the phrase and its connotation offends me. The connotation, of course, being that somehow people who have been working out for ages, who have their routines down, and are probably in great shape are somehow more entitled to the gym than those of us who struggle with getting fit and resolve year after year that this year is it, only to fall off the wagon, but keep trying again and again.

To me, the phrase "New Year's Resolution Crowd" reminds me of high school gym class when we were divided up into classes based on our athletic ability and it was very obvious which kids were in "low gym." The kids in "high gym" looked down on us often giggling when they walked by. They learned sports like tennis while we played dodge ball and got humiliated when the male gym teacher told us to lift our shirts each quarter so he could do the fat test with the calipers (I was thin then and still did everything in my power to avoid that test each quarter). Based on my personal experiences, I've long believed that High School Gym Class should be classified as torture under the Geneva Conventions. To date, I'm still a minority in this belief.

I joined a gym last year (not at New Year's) and was really good about going for a number of months. I had a routine down and I loved what I was doing, how my body felt and saw visible results. For some reason (more than likely a variety of reasons), I got off track. One thing led to another and , until today, I haven't been to the gym since the beginning of November, because my only New Year's Resolution is to finish losing the weight I started losing over a year ago and to feel good and healthy again.

So I'm part of the New Year's Resolution Crowd. Truthfully, I was nervous about going today. I was nervous that everyone would be looking at me. That I'd feel like Shamu in my bathing suit. That I'd sink in the pool. That I'd forgotten how to swim. That the pool would be overcrowded and so my slowness would be an unforgivable liability. I all but ordered a friend to meet me at the gym so I'd actually get there today and not have to be all alone. We didn't work out together, but just knowing I wasn't alone made it easier.

While I know that the New Year's Resolution Crowd may slow gym rats down a bit and cramp their style, I'm rooting for the New Year's Resolution Crowd and hope this is the year that they (and me) finally stick to our resolutions. I know how defeating it is to know that I'm starting from close to scratch.

I imagine what our world would be like if we all finally got it this year kept our promises to ourselves. Yes, gyms would be crowded, but health insurance rates would go down for all of us. We'd all be physically and mentally stronger. Our blood pressures, cholesterol levels, and weights would be lower. We'd feel more comfortable in our skin and our clothes. Our risk for diabetes and depression would be minimized. The rates of sleep apnea would go down. The benefits are endless.

So when you see one of us, could you do us a favor? Rather than talking about us behind our backs, rolling your eyes, or getting huffy while you're waiting for a machine longer than you'd like, stop and congratulate us on being at the gym. Tell us we're doing great and to keep going, even when we're sore the next day. Tell us you remember how tough the first few weeks were when you were trying to get back in shape and we can do it. Stop and show us a tip about a machine we may not know. And when you see us again the next day, smile and say hello. Be our cheerleaders. Eventually, we'll speed up and learn all the etiquette.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Today's Gratitude List

This morning I woke up to Betsey's loud purring right next to my face in the exact spot where she fell asleep last night. Ross was snuggled up next to her. It was quite the sight, but it made it challenging to get out of bed. I was comfy and warm. They were comfy and warm. All was good.

Today I'm grateful for:

1. No snow in Chicago. Seriously. We've had something like 1.5 inches of snow so far this winter. I love it because it makes driving easy, but I suppose there are people who are not so excited about this.

2. Being able to have Mom in Florida to finish taking care of Nana's house. I swear I'm going to tell you this story soon. It's even almost funny. Of course, two weeks ago, it wasn't so funny.

3. Dave's generous spirit. Have I mentioned how incredible my brother is? I have? Oh, well, then his decision to run an Ultra Marathon in Palestine next month to support free trade olive farmers is just one more bit of proof. I'll be writing more about this in the next day or two.

4. The great friend I spent a very fun and relaxed day with yesterday. A great day. Thank you.

5. It's Caucus Night in Iowa! You know how much I love politics. I can't wait to get home from work tonight, toss on some sweats, pop some popcorn, and settle in for all the analysis. In honor of the official kick-off to the 2012 Presidential Election, I'm wearing my Presidents of the United States scarf today. A friend of mine once said that politics was my porn. I'm not going to deny that. And you're not surprised. You can buy your own scarf to have for upcoming elections here. You know you want one.
I bought my scarf in 1996 when I lived in Washington DC, so it only includes Presidents up to Bill Clinton. I would love an updated scarf that included President Obama.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting Back to Little Merry Sunshine's Roots

As you've probably noticed, I've been fairly quiet these past few weeks on Little Merry Sunshine. It's not that I haven't thought about all of you because I have. I have actually thought about my blog and my readers quite a bit lately. I've thought about where I want to go with Little Merry Sunshine in the new year and if I even want to keep writing this blog at all.

In the end, I decided that I do want to keep writing LMS and I want to get back to the reason I started it in the first place. Little Merry Sunshine was started to celebrate what inspires me and all that I'm grateful for and that's where it's going back to. That's not to say that I won't discuss politics or sports or other things I find interesting, but I'm going to focus on the good in the world because in spite of what we are constantly bombarded with in the media, life is good, people are good, and there is much to celebrate.

So to kick off the new year, here's what I'm grateful for today:

1. Being home. I was in Florida over Christmas and I may share the trip with you soon. Let's just say it was no vacation, but I'm about at the point I can laugh about it. Being home is no small thing and I am incredibly grateful for the beautiful home I have.

2. My friends. It's my belief that friends are the family I choose. Friends enrich my life in ways I am sometimes unaware of and they are always there. You laugh with me (and sometimes at me) and cry with me. You sometimes hold me up when I don't think I have the strength to get through a challenge. So whether you're real life day-to-day friend, a social media friend or a friend I haven't seen in a decade but we keep in regular touch, I am grateful for you.

3. My family. Sure, my family makes me crazy. And yes, I wish my family was more Norman Rockwell than Norman Bates, but I love them because of their idiosyncrasies (aka psychosis). As we kick off 2012, everyone is healthy, safe, and with a solid roof over their head that they own. Believe me, that's saying something this year.

4. Betsey and Ross. Okay, I get it. It's a little "crazy cat lady" to discuss them as often as I do. I own that. It's been a tough year for them as well and I'm grateful they are both healthy senior citizens (when does their Social Security check start arriving?). Ross's diabetes are finally under control and Betsey's thyroid condition is controlled as well. Those are good, if expensive things.

5. My job. In just a few weeks, I will have been at LFGSM for 12 months. It's hard to believe because the time has flown. It's a great place to work because of the people.

6. The 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates. Seriously. They provide me with endless laughter every day.

7. My own health. I got serious about working out earlier this year and it made a huge difference in how I feel. Unfortunately, that got derailed earlier this fall, but I'm getting back to it now. Well, tomorrow. Really.

8. Having the day off to spend just hanging out. After my trip to Florida, just having a day to myself is glorious.

I think that about covers it this morning. What are you grateful for today?