Friday, March 23, 2012

Betsey and Ross Gardner: July 4, 1996 - March 23, 2012

Betsey and Ross age 10. Ross is wearing a little lipstick from a kiss he received from his mom.

Betsey and Ross Gardner were born on July 4, 1996 on the rough streets of Washington D.C. to a single cat mother. They were two of three kittens born that day and quickly taken in by a kindly gentleman in Northwest DC. After eight weeks of love and nurturing, he searched online for a warm and caring home for two of the kittens, as he could only keep the mom and one kitten and quickly found an eager, albeit nervous, adoptive first-time pet mom.

Siblings, best friends, and litter mates, Betsey and Ross were adopted by Jessica Gardner, a novice pet owner, under the cheerleading and mentorship of her friends Karen and Kelly, and moved into their new home, a palatial one-bedroom apartment in upper-middle-class DC suburb Alexandria, Virginia. Their home was complete with indoor bathroom facilities, regular feedings, ample water, and many windows from which to serenade the birds perched high in the trees.

When they were adopted, Betsey and Ross had no names, but through a nomination convention and then secure voting process, the names Betsey and Ross were chosen by Jessica's friends in honor of Betsy Ross, the creator of the American Flag, that their birthday was the Fourth of July and they were born in Washington, D.C. Betsey's name has an E because Jessica didn't know how to spell Betsy. True story.

Betsey and Ross had many hobbies, including sleeping, grooming each other, purring, snuggling with and kneading their adopted mom, and playing with their cat toys and each other. Betsey especially loved tuna and would "sing for her supper" each time a can was opened anywhere in 3-home radius. Ross was particularly fond of ice cream and all "human food" often attempting to take food right off his mom's plate. On one occasion, in 2007, Betsey saved her mom's life when a mouse entered their home in the northwest Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights. Without care for her own well-being, Betsey heroically killed the beast and saved the family. Ross kept feral cats at bay when he bravely guarded the house from the living room sliding glass door.

Betsey and Ross were often featured on their mom's blog, Little Merry Sunshine, where they even penned a few posts (and here and here and here). They also have a Twitterfeed where they chat with their friends whenever they can wrangle the computer or cell phone from their mom. Their last tweet was "We have loved our mom, @Jessica_Gardner & are grateful for the life she gave us. Although we are leaving her, we will always watch over her."

Both Betsey and Ross loved to travel. Although getting them in the car was never easy, once there, Betsey would sing along with the radio or make up her own tunes, chat with Ross, and then sleep. Ross preferred to check out the scenery. Both cats had well-used passports that were stamped in many far away lands, including DC, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. They've seen the Atlantic Ocean, Lake Michigan, the Appalachian Mountains, the Chicago Skyline, and all the monuments in Washington DC. They even flew on airplanes. Plus, they went to Watervale once!

Betsey and Ross had a brief brush with fame (although fortune was not included) in 2008 when they were selected to be Super Dele-Cats for then presidential candidate Barak Obama and were featured on the website Cats for Obama (scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page). Before their passing, Betsey and Ross once again endorsed President Obama for a second term as our nation's Commander in Chief because of his belief that every cat's food dish should have catnip.

Although the final two years of their lives were filled with illness, they spent the majority of their almost 16 years in excellent health. Betsey became ill in the summer of 2010 and after countless tests, the diagnosis was hyperthyroidism and cystitis. Until just recently, neither of these illnesses slowed Betsey down. She steadfastly crawled into bed nightly to snuggle and lick her mom's eyelids. Never one to complain, Betsey was brave throughout many treatment cycles, concealing her physical pain until it was too overwhelming to hide and her body simply shut down. Ross was diagnosed with Diabetes and a cancerous Mast Cell Tumor in June 2011. Since that time, he fought an amazing battle, but in the end, the Diabetes won out and Ross was no longer able to control his major organs.

Many people believed Betsey to be aloof and sometimes mean because she was an introvert, not the easiest to get to know and would often hiss at or hide from anyone other than her mom and those she knew best. The truth was that Betsey was fiercely loyal, loving, and playful, usually greeting her mom at the front door, eager to share the adventures of her day. Recently, Betsey showed her true colors when her mom had the stomach flu. Although sick herself, Betsey stayed by her mom's side throughout the ordeal using her purring and kneading powers to bring her mom back to good health.

Ross loved everyone. Just step within three feet of him and he'd start purring and delighted in having his Budda belly rubbed. He also served as the official family doorman, greeting all visitors with hospitality and warmth. Ross loved to play Hide & Go Seek; his favorite spot was inside a dark closet or underneath his mom's bed (aka The Cat Cave).

Having moved to Lake Bluff, Illinois in September 2011, both Betsey and Ross loved exploring the family's new home and making their special places on the new sofa, in the walk-in closet, in the bathtub, on the bed, and on the wingback chair. Starting life in the mean streets of DC and ending up on Chicago's swanky North Shore, Betsey and Ross's lives were a true Horatio Alger story.

Betsey will be remembered for her outspokenness when she could see the bottom of the food dish (even if that were only possible because she'd pawed her way to the bottom of a full bowl), the way she sang in the backseat of the car whenever she visited her vet, her kisses and healing kneading powers, and her loud purr. Ross will be remembered for his love of snuggling, his racing around the house like it was his personal Indy 500 track, his loud purr and kisses, his general rough and tumble attitude, and the way he finagled liposuction in 2005. Of course, the yellow onsie he had to wear after surgery made it all worth it.

When asked for a comment, through her tears, Jessica said, "Betsey and Ross were the best first pets I could ever have asked for. Having not grown up with pets of any kind, I was terrified that first night, but they quickly came to inhabit a large part of my heart. I truly loved each and every day that I was allowed to be their "mom" and only hope I brought as much to their lives as they brought to mine. Saying good-bye to them is breaking my heart, but I take comfort in knowing that they came into this world together and they are leaving together. They have not spent more than one night apart in their almost 16 years and now they will spend eternity together running freely and in perfect health in Kitty Heaven. Knowing they are both free of their illnesses also brings me peace. I will think of them often, but especially on the 4th of July as I'm watching fireworks."

Betsey and Ross spent their final night snuggled up with their mom, purring and enjoying their favorite foods, and generally unaware of their fate. In their final hour, love filled the room as they said their good-byes.

Throughout their lives, Betsey and Ross had a few special caregivers they dearly loved, including Dr. Donna Krochak at the Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, Dr. Jennifer Kinnavy and Dr. Nick Guedet of March Animal Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and Andrea Tredway, vet tech extraordinaire and the cousin of Jessica, Betsey's mom, in St. Charles, Missouri who always took Jessica's panicked phone calls about her pet's health. For their skill, love and care, the family will always be grateful.

Betsey and Ross are survived by their mom Jessica, and many other friends and family members, including a special friend who they know is giving Jessica some TLC tonight and was there with them in their final moments.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Road We've Traveled

Earlier this evening, President Obama released The Road We've Traveled to remind us all exactly how far we've all come in the past 3 1/2 years.

Take 15 minutes to watch and remember all of the accomplishments of our great President. Yes, we've still got a lot of work to do, but we've come a great distance in the last 3 1/2 years.

Four more years. Yes, we can.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Happy Pi Day!

It's National Pi Day!!!!! And we all know what that means! Pi for everyone! 3.14 rocks!

What, you're not a math geek? Only I took math classes for fun?

Well, who cares. It's Pi Day!!!!! And that means a huge celebration!

Unfortunately, the budget to celebrate National Pi Day isn't nearly what it was in 2011 when we were also celebrating Little Merry Sunshine's 1000th post. This year is more of a "do it yourself" celebration.

Pi Day requires snacks. Pie, of course. Here's a cool recipe for Pi shaped pie from Serious Eats (pic from here too).

And here are some jokes you can tell your friends (jokes from Pi Jokes):

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a jack-o-lantern by its diameter?
A: Pumpkin pi.

Q: What do you get when you take a bovine and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Cow pi.

Q: What do you get when you take green cheese and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Moon pi.

Q:What do you get when you take a native Alaskan and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Eskimo pi.

Q:What do you get when you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter?
A: Pi in the sky.

Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a bowl of ice cream by its diameter?
A: Pi a la mode.

Of course, you'll want some musical entertainment and here are some songs you may want to sing as you enjoy your Pi pie. Songs from The Everlasting Pi.
Happy Pi Day

Happy Pi day to you,

Happy Pi day to you,

Happy Pi day everybody,

Happy Pi day to you.

(to the tune of "Happy Birthday")

Oh Number Pi

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

Your digits are unending,

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

No pattern are you sending.

You're three point one four one five nine,

And even more if we had time,

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

For circle lengths unbending.

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

You are a number very sweet,

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

Your uses are so very neat.

There's 2 Pi r and Pi r squared,

A half a circle and you're there,

Oh, number Pi

Oh, number Pi

We know that Pi's a tasty treat.

(to the tune of "Oh Christmas Tree")

Pi Day Song


Pi day songs All day long.

Oh, what fun it is,

To sing a jolly pi day song

in a fun math class like this. (Repeat )

Verse: Circles in the snow,

Around and round we go.

How far did we have to run?

Diameter times pi! (Refrain )

(to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Area of a Circle

The Area of a circle is Pi r squared

Pi r squared

Pi r squared

The Area of a circle is Pi r squared

No matter what

The circumference of a circle is 2 pi r

2 pi r

2 pi r

The circumference of a circle is 2 pi r

All around the circle

(To the tune of Wheels on the Bus)

Have a great Pi Day!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Jon Bon Jovi!

Happy Birthday Jon Bon Jovi! Damn, 50 looks good on you.

I first fell in lust for Jon Bon Jovi when I was in high school and that lust has continued for over two decades. My high school boyfriend took me to see Bon Jovi at the Rosemont Horizon during the Slippery When Wet tour. We were in the 6th row.

Since then, I've seen live Bon Jovi a couple more times, including four years ago. And in 20+ years, Bon Jovi just keeps getting better and better.

Here are a couple of my favorite Bon Jovi songs:

I'll Be There for You because of a different high school friend and all that he meant to me during my senior year.

Hallelujah - such a beautifully haunting song. One of my most favorite songs ever.

Wanted Dead or Alive

It's My Life

(You Want to) Make A Memory

Finally, You Give Love a Bad Name - because of the first man to break my heart.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Let's Talk About Apologies or How Rush Limbaugh Blew It . . . Again

You may have recently heard that Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University Law student Sandra Fluke "a slut" and many other even more vile things because she had the audacity to attempt to testify before Congress about how birth control for women isn't always about preventing pregnancy, how it is often used to treat real medical issues quite successfully, and how women desperately need birth control to be covered by all insurance plans. In short, birth control is a women's health matter.

You can imagine how repulsed I am that anyone would attack a woman in this way. It's vile, misogynistic, and shows Rush Limbaugh's ignorance. The damage of Rush's words went far beyond Ms. Fluke. (Read that, trust me.) What appalls me even more is that none of the GOP candidates for president could bring themselves to truly speak out against Rush. Instead, they all spoke around it. Clear Channel hasn't seen clear (pun intended) to do the right thing and suspend Rush. If they didn't own almost every single radio station, I would never listen to one of their stations again.

But I digress.

A number of days later, after digging himself further into the hole and losing seven (now at least nine) of his advertisers, Rush finally issued a statement "apologizing." Here's his apology:

A Statement From Rush

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Because I didn't want to mess it up and I didn't want any commentary, I got that straight from Rush's website.

In my opinion, that is one of the worst apologies I've ever seen or heard.

First of all, notice the title "A Statement From Rush." WTF? Real apologies don't take 187 words of a 196 word statement to use the word "apologize."Second, Rush was being humorous? Please raise your hand if you think calling a woman a "slut" or a "prostitute" is funny. Anyone? Okay, so I see zero hands raised. We'll just all agree that calling a woman a "slut" or a "prostitute" is not funny. Ever. Third, he didn't mean to attack Ms. Fluke personally? Why did he carry on about her for days on end? Finally, what is that paragraph in the middle? Yes, we're living in serious times and we've got serious issues, but an apology isn't the time to try to divert people's attention.

When I was a kid, believe it or not, I misbehaved sometimes. Usually, it had to do with fighting with my brother, but once in awhile, I blatantly broke a rule or misbehaved in a way that required both punishment and an apology. Apologies were taken seriously in my house and we were drilled in them.

According to my parents, apologies required three things: (1) you must take personal responsibility and own your wrongdoing (apologies never contain "if, then" statements); (2) you must be remorseful and sincere; and (3) you must make reparations.

Based on these requirements, here's what I'll accept from Rush as an apology. Anything less is just more blowhardedness:

"I am genuinely and sincerely sorry to Ms. Fluke, all women, and all of my listeners for my vile and out-of-line slander of Ms. Fluke. Ms. Fluke did nothing to call for my personal attacks on her character and I should never have used the words "slut" and "prostitute" to describe her or any woman or girl. Attacking someone personally is the coward's way out. In no way does being on birth control reflect on anyone's moral character and my accusations were misogynist and just mean. To help undo some of the damage my reprehensible words have caused, I am immediately removing myself from the tv and radio airwaves without pay for one week and donating $1 million of my personal money each to NARAL, NOW and Planned Parenthood. Again, I sincerely apologize for my cowardliness not only to Ms. Fluke, but to all Americans."

I'm guessing he won't take my advice and issue the apology I've just created for him, but because I think this is such a big deal, I'll even let Rush use my words without giving me credit for them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Owning My Own Home: The First 6 Months

Six months ago today, I woke up with a great amount of excitement and just a bit of panic. If everything went well at the final walk-through and barring any last minute surprises, I'd be a first-time homeowner before I went the day was over.

I won't tell you it all went smoothly because that would be a lie. But looking back at it all through the lens of owning my own home for 6 months, all the stress was worth it.

Within about 6 weeks of moving in, I was completely unpacked. I forced myself to live with bare walls for 2 1/2 months so I could be completely certain about the furniture placement and acquire a few important family heirlooms from my dad.

Possibly the smartest thing I did was to have my real estate agent measure each of the rooms and window and door locations and sizes during my inspection. I used her measurements to create a to-scale floor plan of each room and then drew all of my furniture to scale on separate paper and moved it all around on the floor plan until I got it right. When I moved in, I had the floor plans taped up in each room and it made placing the furniture easy peasy. I also had my entire kitchen set up before the movers arrived with my furniture. This meant I could immediately start cooking and knew where cleaning supplies, garbage bags, and toilet paper were located. All of my boxes were labeled with specific rooms with general content lists on the outside, so I could quickly unpack and not have to move boxes from room to room because they were placed correctly in the first place.

Six months later, my walls are decorated, I've got curtains in the living room and dining room (I am still curtain-less in my bedroom and office), wine has been spilled on the carpet (white, not red), I've thrown my first parties and feel settled in my home. Betsey and Ross officially have a Cat Cave under my bed, have picked their favorite pieces of furniture, and know where the warmest spots are based on the location of the sun throughout the day. They, too, have stained the carpet, but we're dealing with that. I've met a number of my neighbors and know which restaurants have the best delivery.

I've gotten into a routine in my home and I love that on the first of each month, rather than paying rent, I pay a mortgage, my condo is mine, and if I want to change the paint or the carpet or an appliance or anything else, I can do that.

Frankly, there were no fewer than a gazillion people involved in the purchase of my first home and I'm incredibly grateful for all the help and wise counsel I received. Purchasing my own home is the best decision I've made in a very long time and I couldn't be happier.