Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giving Tuesday - The Way to Truly Celebrate the Season

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


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

Small Business Saturday.

Cyber Monday.

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

It just feels a little icky to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

LMS Gratitude List - Thanksgiving 2012 Version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2012

Goodbye to Nana's House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More LMS Life Lessons: Don't Bite Your Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: Just don't bite people.

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2012

Okay, Fine. Justice Sotomayor is Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

President Obama Gets Emotional Thanking Campaign Staffers

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Little Merry Sunshine Final Election Results

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

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

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

Congratulations President Obama!

Image from Huffington Post

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President (Elect) Obama's Victory Speech

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Congratulations Mr. President!

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

President Barack Obama has won a second term.

But what does that really mean?

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

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

So what do we do now?

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

Congratulations, Mr. President! Now get to work.

2012 Election Day Soundtrack

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

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

Make sure you vote and listen to some good music.

We Take Care Of Our Own by Bruce Springsteen

I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas

Good Life by One Republic

Simply the Best by Tina Turner

I Feel Good by James Brown

I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff

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

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

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


Yes We Can by Will.I.Am

Beautiful Days by U2

One (Live in Chicago, 2005) by U2

Better Days by Goo Goo Dolls

Big Country

Only In America by Brooks & Dunn

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

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

Tuesday's To Do List: VOTE

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

Seriously. You must vote.

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

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

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

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

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

Just vote.

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

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

Are You Ready for Election Night?

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


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

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

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

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

From You Don't Own Me PSA.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

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

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

Tuesday is Election Day.

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

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

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

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

What do we lose? Good question.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 LMS Presidential Endorsement: President Barack Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DODT is no more and POTUS endorses marriage equality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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