Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happiness Is . . .

I wrote this yesterday, Monday, February 27th and forgot to publish it. Sorry!

All around me today, I've been bombarded with messages about happiness. I don't know what it is exactly, but something is definitely in the air.

First, this morning, I woke up feeling (tired and) joyful. I'm not sure why I was so happy first thing this morning, but I was. In fact, I'm fairly certain I woke with a smile on my face. I was just that happy. Awesome. I received my morning quote from The Happiness Project. Each day, I receive a delightful email with a quote about being happy. Love it. Then I received an email from Simple Truths with a movie about finding your way to happiness and a few lovely quotes. Love it more. Finally, a friend posted a quote about happiness on his Facebook wall. Love it best.

Clearly, the universe was telling me that I should be all about spreading happiness today.

Happiness Quotes:

"Happiness belongs to those who are easily contented." - Aristotle

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony." - Mahatma Gandi

The Road to Happiness Movie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's the Little Things . . .

I was catching up on my favorite blogs a few minutes ago when I ran across a post from my friend Elise that I'd somehow missed when she originally posted it 11 days ago. Elise is a student at Lake Forest College I've had the incredible privilege to know over the past two years. This semester, she's studying in Botswana and documenting her experience in a delightful blog, Miss Post-it Goes Global. The post, Rising to the Challenge, is about her struggle to find the little things that make her happy while learning to adjust to life in a foreign country.

Elise reminded me tonight that it's the little things that matter the most, so I thought I'd take few minutes tonight to take stock of the little things that make me the happiest.

It's the little things that make me happy . . .
  • watching the sunrise in the morning and the sunset at night
  • crawling into my pre-heated bed each night thanks to my heated mattress pad
  • being woken at night by Betsey or Ross given me "kisses" on my eyelids
  • finding a rainbow
  • lunch at home in the middle of a busy work day
  • a freshly washed car
  • fresh white grapefruit
  • freshly painted toenails
  • a hug
  • an ice-cold glass of water
  • sitting across the dinner table from a very special friend
  • a handwritten note of praise or just telling me to have a good day
  • an unexpected phone call from a friend "just because"
  • finding cash in my pocket, even if it's just a dollar or two
  • fresh off the vine, perfectly ripe tomatoes (not the ones they sell in the store, the ones off the vine 10 minutes ago)
  • tulips, stargazer lilies, and daisies
  • fresh cut lavender
  • a full tank of gas in my car
  • sand between my toes
  • a hot shower
  • thunderstorms
  • sitting in front of a warm fire
  • the Northern Lights
  • snuggling on the sofa
  • a good book
  • mashed potatoes with lots of butter and garlic
  • sweet corn on the cob
  • Michigan cherries
  • a clean condo
  • swimming
  • the smile on someone's face when I do something or say something that makes them happy
  • doing Random Acts of Kindness

There are many other "little things" that make me happy as well, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind. What makes me happiest is that I've experienced 17 of those items since Saturday, so in the last 4 days.

I hope you have an equally long list of little things that make you happy each day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mary Kay and PETA

Disclaimer: I am a Mary Kay Consultant and I have been since 1998. These are my opinions only and I do not speak for Mary Kay Inc.

Early this morning, I discovered a post on Facebook by The Huffington Post called "Avon, Estee Lauder, and Mary Kay Allegedly Testing Makeup on Animals." (The article originates on the Mother Nature Network blog). As I type this, the Facebook post has 165 comments, 202 likes, and 459 shares and I have yet to find one in support of any of these companies.

I'm not going to reprint the article. You can read the article for yourself. What I do want to tell you is that I think this is a huge blow-up over nothing. That's correct. Nothing.

I'm not in favor of animal testing. In fact, I think it's disgusting and unnecessary. My cats, Betsey and Ross, will confirm that I do not conduct any animal testing. Thankfully, the United States and many other countries around the world feel the same way I do.

China, however, does not. China requires animal testing. In order to be in the skin care and makeup business in China, you must test on animals. Let me be clear: I think this is horrible.

The Huffington Post article is very clear about an important point: Mary Kay tests on animals in China because the Chinese government requires them to do so and the company is working with the Chinese government to help them see the errors of their ways. "...the Chinese government requires animal testing for beauty products sold in China, and PETA reports that ... Mary Kay has been trying to work with the government to come up with new testing solutions for cosmetics that don't involve animals." The article goes on to say that Estee Lauder and Avon have not voiced complaints and are simply going along with China's animal testing requirements. I don't know anything about how Estee Lauder and Avon are dealing with China on this, so I'm not going to comment on it.

Mary Kay operates in over 35 countries around the world. Only one of them, China, requires animal testing. The skin care and makeup products Mary Kay tests in China are only sold in China. And again, Mary Kay is working with the Chinese government to show them that animal testing is both unsafe and ineffective.

Many people commenting on Facebook are calling for boycotts against Mary Kay, Avon, and Estee Lauder to make them pull out of China. But here's the thing: When you boycott Mary Kay and Avon, your boycott is actually against small business owners. Women, like me, who earn income from the selling Mary Kay and Avon. We live and work in every community. We are your neighbors. We spend money locally. When you stop doing business with us, you in turn, remove money from your community. You will be hurting your friends and your community.

Even if Mary Kay, Avon, and Estee Lauder pull out of China, it won't do anything to change the animal testing policy. The policy will still remain.

Here's the part of the outrage that gets me: How many of those who are calling for boycotts of Mary Kay over government required animal testing in China read the article and commented on it using products made by Apple? Apple has been in the news lately and will be featured tonight in an ABC Nightline story about its human rights practices (violations?) in building the iPhone, iPad, and computers in China. (Disclaimer: I'm an all Mac house. I love my MacBook and my iPhone. Don't try to take them away from me.) And, of those folks, how many of them claim to be "pro life"? How many of them have given up their Apple products in protest?

Why are people more outraged about animal testing than possible human rights violations?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to distract you by saying "sure Mary Kay tests on animals in China, but another company is worse." I'd really just like people to think before they get reactionary and to think about the true impact of their actions.

I'm proud to be a Mary Kay Consultant and I'm proud of our animal rights record. I'm proud that we work with governments to change policies. And I would suggest that rather than boycott companies like Mary Kay, we all voice our collective outrage to the Chinese government itself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Comment on Comments

Little Merry Sunshine received a new comment today on a post I wrote almost three years ago and was in no way controversial. It wasn't about politics, sex, religion, or even the combination of all three.

The anonymous commenter simply said that I need "alot of professional help." His or her misspelling, not mine.

Here at Little Merry Sunshine, I welcome the dialogue that intelligent comments bring. Heck, even the unintelligent comments often bring some value. And I'm very open to letting all political or religious views be expressed. I think we all have something to offer and although I can't say that any comments I disagreed with have ever changed my mind, Little Merry Sunshine readers often give me something to think about. I welcome that.

But here's where I draw the line: Bullying.

I'm a huge fan of the First Amendment. I hate censorship. I also hate censorship on my blog. I hate being that person who doesn't let people speak their mind. But if you want to be a bully and make personal attacks against me or my readers or if you want to threaten me, then I'm not going to let your words see the light of day.

If you want to be a bully, you'll have to go play in someone else's sandbox because you're not welcome here. Haven't you read the description under the title of Little Merry Sunshine? It talks about that I believe in building others up and celebrating what's good in the world. Sometimes that good is David Beckham in his tighty whities (oh, Lord, is THAT good!). Sometimes that's about equal pay for women.

Here's what it's not: It's not telling me I need professional help while hiding behind the name "anonymous." If someone has something to say to me, about me personally, have a backbone and use your name and say it to me.

I read a lot of blogs. Sometimes I disagree with what the authors say and I may leave a comment sharing my point of view. But you know what I never do? I never personally attack a writer. Why? Because it's mean spirited and 12-year-old girlish. And I sure as heck never do it under that handle of "anonymous."

I don't really have a lot of rules on my blog. In fact, I don't think I have any rules. But now I do, so here they are:

1. Play nice
2. See #1

Disagree with me if you want. Let's have a dialogue. Just play nice.

If you can't follow the rules, please don't come here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love, Valentine's Day Style

However you celebrated Valentine's Day, I hope it was exactly the way you wanted it. If you are not currently in a relationship, I hope you took today to shower yourself with some extra TLC. You deserve it. If you're in a relationship and felt some pressure to "do the right thing" (whatever that is), I hope you didn't step on any land mines and however you and your partner chose to celebrate made you feel loved.

I have to admit it, I used to think Valentine's Day was for the birds, but I've changed my mind. Don't misunderstand me, I still prefer someone who shows me he loves me through the small thoughtful vanilla everyday gestures to someone who never shows his love unless Hallmark tells him to, but there's something wonderfully delicious about the unabashed love that gets shown on Valentine's Day.

Here are a couple of great videos I discovered earlier today thanks to Scott Kleinberg on Twitter. I'm telling you, if you don't follow Scott, well, you are missing out. Just trust me. And go follow him.

First, the Valentine's Day Google Doodle. God love the Googles. What did we do without the Googles? Oh, and thank goodness for Tony Bennett. Speaking of romance, he brings it.

And my favorite video of the day, How Hollywood Says "I Love You" by Matthew Belinke from the website Overthinking It. Because I love you, (yes, that means YOU), I've included the transcript which I got off You Tube. Raise your hand if you can quote at least 75% of these lines from memory. Ya, me too.

TRANSCRIPT: I've been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I love you. You are the epitome of everything I've ever looked for in another human being. Love is too weak a word for the way I feel. I lurv you. I loave you. I luff you. I sort of feel like I'm on drugs when I'm when you. Not that I do drugs, unless you do drugs, in which case I do drugs all the time. There's only one place in the world I call home and it's because you're there. I'd feel better sitting outside your apartment on the curb than any other place I can think of or imagine. I'm not waking up another morning without being able to look at you next to me. I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.

Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you, I love you! Very much. No other love but you. I love you. Like a sickness and its cure together. I love you. (Ditto.) I should have told you every day from the moment I met you. You complete me. Te adoro, Maria. I love you Chicken. I love you Honey Bunny. I think that's the only thing I've ever been really sure of in my entire life. You are the woman that I want. How many more times do I have to say it? (One more time would be nice.) You have bewitched me, body and soul. Whatever I am... I'm yours. I am so in love with you. You're the only one for me.

I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is. Love means never having to say you're sorry. Love is a many-splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love! Some people search all their life for this and never find it. You think this happens everyday? I love you dream woman! What do I have to do to prove it to you? Huh? You want the moon? You want me to renounce my throne? The wooing, the spooning, I am all in! Because when you find the one... you never give up. All I ever wanted... was you!

I love you. I love you. I love you. I've loved you more than any woman's ever loved a rabbit. I love you more than anyone has ever loved. I love you more than my life. I love you more than band music and cookie-making. I want to be with you. I made up my mind you were the only woman for me. I've loved you since the first day I met you, and I'll never stop. I'll love you always. Until your heart stops beating. 'Til the stars turn cold. Forever. I've never felt that before.

I love you. Can't believe how many times I'm saying it! I love you. Because I came alive when I met you. And there's only one person that makes me feel like I can fly. So I will wait forever for you, okay? I will wait the rest of my life. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day. I love you. I love you. I love you! I love you! I love you. I always have. And I always will. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible.

Just shut up... you had me at "hello."
Happy Valentine's Day.

As always, if you can't see the videos when you read LMS via email, click here so you can see the videos. They're worth it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Romance Tips from Rev. Al Sharpton

It's Valentine's Day and I'm sure you can all feel love in the air. I know I can. After my birthday, Christmas, Memorial Day, Easter, Ground Hog's Day, Casmir Pulaski Day, Flag Day (aka Birthday Eve), Pi Day, National Hotdog Day, Opening Day of Major League Baseball, Susan B. Anthony's Birthday, No Housework Day, National Duran Duran Appreciation Day, Valentine's Day is my absolutely favorite holiday. (Note: Those are all real "holidays". Use the Googles. You'll find them.)

I was going to share with you my suggestions for sweeping your love off his or her feet this Valentine's Day, but then my friend Steve posted the video below on Facebook and I see that the Reverend Al Sharpton has it all covered for me.

Given how much I love politics, I'm sure you won't be surprised how many of the good Reverend's suggestions could work on me this Valentine's Day. They won't, so no one should try any of them with me, but in theory they could.

As always, if you read Little Merry Sunshine via email, please click over to the blog and watch the video.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston RIP

In the midst of my first dinner party last night, a friend blurts out "Oh my God! Whitney Houston is DEAD!" We weren't talking about Whitney Houston or anything related to her, so I thought maybe he'd suddenly been afflicted with Tourette's Syndrome. He's been fighting a head cold all week and had just popped two Advil, so you never know. Immediately, the other three of us grabbed our iPhones, began scouring the interwebs for details. I flipped on the tv, but CNN, Headline News, MSNBC, Fox News, and even E! were all focussed on other "more important" things. Fortunately, we finally received confirmation from Scott Kleinberg on Twitter.

And then the inappropriateness began. Tim, walked into the kitchen for a refill on wine, saw Betsey and Ross's medicine shelf and started snapping pictures. A few moments later, thanks to Instagram, the world was treated to this:

Yes, I know. Horribly inappropriate. The comments on Facebook ranged from "never too soon for a drug addict joke! LOL!" to "You are so not right." That was my favorite. Betsey and Ross refused to speak to Tim for the rest of the evening because they believe he violated their HIPAA rights, but the legal expert in the room claimed HIPAA laws don't apply to cats. Whatever. Clearly I was outnumbered.

As a teen, I loved Whitney Houston. I had all her albums on cassette tape and played them on an endless loop. In 1987, my mom, my friend Tiffany and I saw her in concert at Poplar Creek. Tiffany and I were in the cheap seats in the back, while my mom sat practically stage-side right next to Whitney's mom and famous singer in her own right, Cissy Houston.
Tiff and me in 1987 at the Whitney Houston concert at Poplar Creek. If you look closely, you'll see my Swatch on my wrist.

Even though it's been years since Whitney Houston was truly popular, there are a number of songs, that for me, transcend time and never fail to stop me in my tracks. In no particular order, they include her rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" at the 1991 Superbowl, her cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" from The Bodyguard, "One Moment in Time" from the 1984 Olympics, and the a cappella version of "How Will I Know."

There may never be another singer who can handle this song the way Whitney did. It was the perfect way to unite the country with pride as we entered the first Iraqi war.

Another great love song. I'm sure we've all felt this way more than once. I love this song because you've got to have real vocal chops to sing a capella. No auto tuner. Just you.

Is it possible to listen to "One Moment in Time" without being completely inspired to be your best?

Here's Whitney singing "I Will Always Love You" from VH1's Divas Live Save the Music in 1999. It's the perfect way to remember her.

I imagine tonight's Grammy Awards will be quite moving. Whitney Houston will be missed. Voices like hers are a rare gift to the world. RIP Whitney Houston.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 3: At the Wall

Today was the third day of the Run Across Palestine. For some unknown reason, Dave didn't send me a text while I was sleeping last night and my day was almost over when I finally heard from him. I had been pretty concerned most of the day, because, let's face it, the Middle East isn't exactly the safest place in the world and their group has already had one run in with Israeli military. But his text to me and his Facebook posting below put my mind at ease.

Here's what Dave had to say on Facebook:
Today, our third leg, approximately 27 miles. We all did very well, that is until the very end. The 6 miles inside Jerusalem was smooth, as was going through the wall. Having never seen the Berlin wall, I can only speculate as to its similarities, but how different can 16 -20 ft masses of concrete and barbed wire be. Once beyond the wall Reuters or the AP, not sure, wanted to interview Meryl, and she did a great job. I think I can speak for us all when I say that running was much better after the wall. Lots of support and encouragement from so many people we passed, literally hundreds, maybe thousands. I'm sure I have never greeted so many people in a day. As I said earlier the end was not easy. After gradual long climbs and slow descents we came upon a beautiful view from what seemed to be the highest point for miles only to see a very long descent leading to the steepest climb so far. Thankfully we were meet by some of the people and children of Arura that ran the last leg with us. We were greeted warmly, lots of cheers, hand shaking and good will, even the governor of Ramallah was on hand. The ladies of the town prepared a wonderful dinner of chicken, couscous, and soup, perfect after our run, which we shared with town elders. Finally, we met our hosts for the night. Josh and I slept at a home even higher up the hillside where we could see the lights of Tel Aviv and the nighttime darkness of the Mediterranean Sea. This will be spectacular in the morning. Before bed we shared good conversation and we were brought to a neighbors house where Josh jammed with new friends. After 4 days I have learned much, to much to tell it all here, but with absolute certainty I can say there are no invented people here, only real people.
Here's the new video about the day.

And check out this amazing picture of Dave in front of the wall dividing Palestine and Israel.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Run Across Palestine: Day 1 "Not So Fast" and Day 2 Update

Here's the video of Run Across Palestine's encounter with the Israeli military. Once again, Dave and the entire group are fine. I'm so proud of my brother for being involved in such a worthy cause and helping change the world through peace.

As I write this morning, the run on Day 2 is over. I heard from Dave a few hours ago.
We just arrived in Jerusalem. Today was a longer run. Maybe 17-18 miles. Tomorrow probably 26 lies. It has all felt quite safe. Our connections here have taken good care of us.
Frankly, I'm incredibly jealous that my brother is seeing the epicenter of the world's three major religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. So incredibly powerful. I can only wonder if he'll come back feeling differently about religion.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Run Across Palestine: At the Starting Line & Day 1 of the Run

Here's the next installment of The People and the Olive, At the Starting Line. It's about the planting of 500 olive trees the day before the run began and included interviews with some of the runners, including Dave. Then at the 2:30ish mark, you'll see him planting an olive tree. Note the look of joy on his face. I honestly don't remember the last time I've seen that much pure organic joy on my brother's face.

As I write this, Day 1 of the Run is over. I'm honestly not sure how far they got today, but from the article below, it doesn't sound like far. What I can tell you, from the article and from the text message I received from Dave early this morning is that everyone is fine now and that the "food and hospitality have been great" (from Dave's text). He also says he's having a great experience.

From the Glen Arbor Sun:
February 4, 2012
Project supporter, two French activists arrested; runners continue

BEIT OMAR, Palestine — The Run Across Palestine had gone no more than 10 kilometers between At-Tuwani and Beit Omar, in the southern West Bank, when the Israeli military and border control stopped the run in its tracks. Confusion over whether the runners had the right to walk on the side of the road culminated in the arrest of Run Across Palestine supporter Nasser Abufarha and two French activists. No reason was given for the arrests, and no reason was given for why the run was stopped.

The Run Across Palestine is a project of Michigan-based On the Ground to support Palestinian fair-trade olive farmers. The Run is scheduled to complete 129 miles over five days, between the Hebron Hills in the southern West Bank and Jenin in the north. The runners are staying in olive farming communities along the way. The initial delegation of 10 Americans, including six runners, three journalists and one musician arrived in At-Tuwani yesterday to a joyous community celebration that included planting olive trees, speeches, theater presentations, live music and dancing. Palestinians, French and other foreign nationals joined the run today.

Almost immediately after leaving At-Tuwani, a Palestinian village next to two Israeli settlements that are deemed illegal according to the United Nations, Israeli soldiers stopped and questioned the runners. It quickly became clear to the runners that the authorities didn’t have laws opposed to, or a policy relating to, foreigners running along public highways. Nevertheless, the runners were told that if a single participant touched the pavement, Abufarha, a Palestinian-U.S. dual citizen, would be arrested.

No more than 2 kilometers later, at the top of a hill overlooking the West Bank’s vast olive groves, Israeli military and border control vehicles stopped the Americans, French and Palestinians again, though they had not stepped on the pavement. Reinforcements arrived, increasing the police force to approximately 15. The Americans’ passports were temporarily confiscated, Abufarha was arrested and driven away by the police, and calls were made to the Palestine Solidarity Network in Beit Omar to bring the passports of the three French citizens. Two of the passports were located, but the Israeli soldiers grew impatient when the third couldn’t be found, and arrested two of the French activists, Florian and Tomas, who locked arms while lying on the ground and were forcibly dragged into a police vehicle. Immediately after the French citizens were driven away, the third passport was located.

Abufarha and the French activists were all released later in the day. Abufarha was charged by the Israelis with “ordering an illegal demonstration and march” even though he didn’t organize the run, which wasn’t political in nature.

Reuters photographers and videographers, Run Across Palestine’s media team and a smattering of other journalists documented the entire scene, which took place over two hours. Shortly after the Israeli military left, the runners took busses up the road, and then resumed their run.

“Why is it that we’re allowed to run on roads in any other country in the world, but not here?” asked Chris Treter, runner and organizer of the Run Across Palestine. “What’s different about this country?”

Last year, for example, On the Ground organized the Run Across Ethiopia, which featured 10 U.S. runners logging 250 miles over 10 days to raise money for, and awareness surrounding, fair-trade coffee farmers in Yirgachefe. The event raised approximately $200,000 to build three schools in the impoverished rural region. That run, in January 2010, was without incident, and featured hundreds of Ethiopian farmers and children running together with the American ultra-marathoners. Not so in the Holy Land.

The Run Across Palestine is a complement to the Run Across Ethiopia. In the politically volatile West Bank, 45 percent of arable land is devoted to growing olive trees, employing some 100,000 Palestinian farmers. Hundreds of thousands of olive trees have been uprooted in recent years by the Israeli military and Israeli settlers.

Videos of the arrests to come soon. Follow news from the Run Across Palestine at www.RunAcrossPalestine.org.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Run Across Palestine - Day 1 Before the Run

As I write this, my brother Dave is starting his 3rd day in Israel and Palestine and is preparing to run the first of five marathons he is running through Palestine over the next five days.

Dave is one of a handful of runners from Northern Michigan participating in the Run Across Palestine, an effort to raise money and awareness for olive farmers in Palestine, where olive farming is the backbone of the economy. As they run throughout the country (?), they'll donate 500 olive plants in each village and even help plant them in many of them.

Some highlights of journey include:

Day 1 begins in At-Tuwani, a small village in the Southern Hebron Hills where many people live in caves. They will end the day in Beit Ummar.

Day 3 finds them in East Jerusalem including the Old City and some of the holiest places to Judiasm, Christianity, and Islam, such as Temple Mount, Western Wall, Al-Aqsa Mosque, & the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This morning I received an email with the video below which gave me a far greater understanding and appreciation for the journey Dave is on and the impact his trip will have on families for generations. I think you'll be moved too. I've said it before and I"ll say it again: Words don't do justice to how proud I am of my brother and his desire to make the world a better place.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When Did "Liberal" Become a Dirty Word?

You may have seen this picture of Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC's The Last Word next to a quote about the word "liberal" attributed to him. I've seen it a bunch of times over the past week, but was never sure if it was really something he said, although the words seemed familiar to me.

And then tonight, while I was watching The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell explained the quote. For years, he has been outraged at the way Republicans throw around the word "liberal" like an ugly epithet. During the last season of The West Wing, when O'Donnell was one of the writers, he finally had the opportunity to write what he believes every liberal political candidate should say when a Republican tries to use liberal against them.

I will also wear the label "liberal" as a badge of honor. I'm liberal and I'm damn proud of it. And I agree with Lawrence O'Donnell. All liberal political candidates should memorize Senator Santos's words (aka Lawrence O'Donnell's words) and use them each and every time Republicans attempt to use it against us.

As always, if you read Little Merry Sunshine via the daily email which does not include the videos, hop on over to the actual blog and spend 2 minutes watching the video.