Sunday, December 20, 2015

Diversion: How many plants can you name?

Global warming, problems affecting women and girls the most, poverty, healthy eating and other vital issues are not getting enough attention. Donald Trump and other entertainment is getting too much. In the meantime, maybe it is time to take a break and think about plants and what you know and don't know about them.
(Count to 20 and a quiz will appear.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanking and Thinking on Thanksgiving

I invite you to embrace two ideas in your mind at the same time during Thanksgiving and into the new year:
There's lots that sucks right now. 
There's lots that is very good right now.

We humans are designed to recognize what sucks, what is wrong, what is dangerous quickly--and then react to that. That's how we've been able to survive over millennia.

To thrive, we're challenged to recognize what is going right, what is working, what makes surviving worthwhile--and who lights us up.

Tis the season to recognize all of the above. I invite you to actively engage it.

People LOVE to be acknowledged for their wonderfulness and positive contributions. Start there. Write a note, send an email, make a call, send flowers, whatever. If you're concerned about seeming to be sappy, risk it. Dare to use some flowery words. Dare to use some words you don't use commonly.
Live it up.
Carpe Diem, baby.
Let it all hang out.

Hmm. What to do about suckiness? How does one actively acknowledge or engage that in a thoughtful, worthwhile way?

If Mahatma Gandhi were here, he might suggest being the change you wish to see.
That's good. I suggest starting where you're at with whatever you've got. What you've got is your energy, savvy, compassion and surely more. I also suggest if you don't know enough about the particular suckiness you're focused on, find a way to learn more and dive in in some way that works for you. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but what I suspect is that you'll find it less scary than you thought it would be. I also suspect you'll learn something and gain new perspective.
Don't worry about "making a difference". You will.

I invite your thoughts about this.

~ * ~
In case the weather, your family or something else is getting on your nerves, here's Peggy Lee singing a song she wrote, It's a Good Day, which I dedicate to my sister-in-law Pam...and here's Darlene Love singing It's a Marshmellow World, for you.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Mr. Blue and Dating a Slob

From the mind of comedian, author, columnist and Skokie neighbor

Debbie Sue Goodman

I hope everyone is having a wonderful end of the summer. I had a great time at my last couple of comedy shows in Chicago and Evanston. Many readers have asked questions about, how to search for the right man or woman. I find that if you’re engaging in activities you enjoy, sometimes you’ll find Mr. or Miss Right. Go dancing; bowling, golfing whatever you’re interests are and perhaps your soul mate will be there. If not, at least you’re doing an activity you enjoy. About 5 years ago, I had a date with a guy I met at the health club. I enjoy walking and working out everyday.
I found out you can meet someone single, in a fun way. I met a guy while walking the track at my health club. We made plans to meet for dinner at a restaurant in a shopping mall.
We met inside the restaurant. He wore a BLUE shirt, and BLUE jeans. We sat at a table, talked and waited for our food to arrive. He showed me his BLUE cell phone holder. He told me he bought a new condo. He put in BLUE carpeting. He painted his bedroom BLUE. He talked during dinner about his condo. He asked if I would join him while he went to a store in the mall that carried kitchen items. I went with him.

We entered the store and he yelled, “I see what I want!” I followed him. He pointed to BLUE silverware, BLUE plates, BLUE napkins and BLUE glasses. He bought everything!

While the salesgirl was putting it in the bag he asked, “Where would you like to go now?” I replied, “How about a BLUES bar?”

Dear Debbie Sue: "For the past 5 weeks I've been going out to dinner & social events with a man that keeps wearing the same dirty jeans, sloppy shirts and his car is a mess! He's in his late 50's. I'm a bit younger then him. I enjoy being with him, our conversations are great. But, I can't look at his clothes. He doesn't care how he dresses. Nothing matches. He doesn't always comb his hair. He picks his teeth when we eat out together and sometimes burps and is uncouth. But, yet for some reason, I still hang out with him! I've dated other guys that cared how they looked when they went out with me. They wore clean shirts & their car was clean. But yet with those guys, we didn't have much to say to each other. Don't know why I'm going out with this new guy, but he is kind and seems to care about me very much. He brings me candy & flowers. He's kind to his friends and family. I don't know what to do. Should I break up with him and find someone else that doesn't have these traits?"  
'Dating a slob.'

Dear Dating a slob: You mentioned that you enjoy his conversations and his kindness. You don't sound like you want to break up with him. But, on the other hand, you are upset about his hygiene, sloppy clothes & messy car. Perhaps you can give him a 'hint' and tell him you would like to see him in a 'new' shirt. Then, if he wears a nice clean shirt on your next date tell him you think he looks great. He'll enjoy the compliment. Then, give him another 'hint' and suggest that he use floss in the men's room instead of picking his teeth at the table. Ask him to say 'excuse me' if he burps in front of you. You can tell him you both can go to the car wash together because you like a guy with a clean car. I think with these subtle 'hints' your new guy will come around and he'll want to look good for you and make you happy. I would give this relationship a chance. Since it sounds like he cares for you a great deal.

Until next time.

'Keep Smiling!'

Debbie Sue
Send comments & questions to

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Live music weekly at Dempster/Karlov Starbucks: July & August Schedule

July 2015

4th – No Music – HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!

11th – Amy Shoemaker and Friends playing Folk Rock

18th – Jerry Zabin playing Jazz

25th – Inna Melnikov playing R&B and Classical Violin

August 2015

1st – Kristin Lems playing Folk

8th – David Liljewal and Noah Ziedman playing Acoustic Rock and Pop

15th – M.K. Ness playing Acoustic Jazz and Blues

22nd – Tiny Miles playing R&B

29th – Jerry Zabin playing Jazz

Starbucks is at 4116 Dempster St., Skokie . Call 847-674-5834 for exact times.

Kristin Lems

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Listen? Solve? Give an opinion? Give a hug?

Words of wisdom from Greg Panaligan 

I had a lovely conversation with my neighbor Greg Panaligan last month. So much we talked about was memorable, but the following thought keeps coming back to me as I piss people off and they piss me off.

He's learned that when talking to someone--a friend, neighbor, colleague, family member--they usually just want you to do one of four things:

a) Listen

b) Help them solve a problem

c) Offer opinion

d) Just give them a hug

Trouble arises between you and this person you care about when you don't know which of those things they want from you.

As some online friend suggested, when in doubt go with a and/or d.


Related tangent.
Part 1.

A couple years ago at a breakfast with legislators at the Evanston Golf Club, Jan Schakowsky got heated during a discussion with a constituent. It was a awkward, painful spectacle.

I know Jan a little and like her a lot, so I offered her a hug. She accepted, we shared a squeeze and soon she was able to smile for a picture with a friend of ours (and critique my work.)

Later this kept going through my mind: Jan Schakowsky. What does she need a hug from me for? She's handled tougher folks and trickier issues than that guy. She's experienced. She knows what to do.

Soon after I saw Jan at another function and mentioned my afterthought. It went something like, "Oh, yeah, that guy. Wow. Hmm. I am not conflict adverse. I was fine, but I did like the hug. I'm a hugger."

Part 2.

Last year I was to photograph Jimmy Carter at an awards gala. I'd met and photographed him before, so knew what I wanted to talk about before the grip-and-grin picture-taking began. After our short conversation, I offered him a hug. We shared a squeeze and he remarked "If I have any trouble smiling, I'll remember that hug."

Takeaway from these stories: Hardly anyone doesn't like a hug.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thank you, Misters Bono and Pavarotti.

Ave Maria is not just for Catholics.

I love listening to Ave Maria sung, no matter what the lyrics are.
Composed by an Austrian guy, Franz Schubert -- who'd have definitely made the 30 under 30 list in his century -- the song is based on a poem composed a Scottish guy, Sir Walter Scott, The Lady of the Lake.

Bono and Luciano Pavarotti performed a lovely version of it in 2009
with lyrics relating to social justice and politics.

If you enjoy it, you'll not be able to say you don't like opera again.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~
Ave Maria
Where is the justice in this world?
The wicked make so much noise, mother
The righteous stay oddly still
With no wisdom
All of the riches in the world
Leaves us poor tonight

And strength is not without humility
It's weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen
Who will not have to fight
Ave Maria
Ave Maria
Gratia plena
Maria gratia plena
Maria gratia plena
Ave ave Dominus
Te cum
And strength is not without humility
It's weakness, an untreatable disease
And war is always the choice
Of the chosen
Who will not have to fight
Bono and Pavarotti:
Ave Maria
Lyrics courtesy of the interwebs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Compassion and Empathy: What do they look like?

Someone we care about is hurting.
What should we do?
What are we able to do?
What can we do?

We can empathize or sympathize with our loved one. We can even ignore them.

Empathizing is a great kindness. Empathy is connecting with someone and showing compassion. It's just being there for your friend or neighbors as they are, at that particular moment, as the situation is. It is about being with them as they feel what they feel. We can relate to the suckiness with them. We can ask them if there is something useful we can do for them. We can suggest something that could be useful; for example, if they're too overwhelmed to even figure out what to eat, you can offer them a sandwich. Maybe they need grocery shopping done or need a babysitter. Maybe they need a ride to the doctor, hospital, funeral home or the local pub. Maybe they just need their hand to be held.

This moment is about them. 
Keeping it about them is not easy.

Witnessing our friends in pain is difficult; it hurts us. If they suffer, we suffer too. It's uncomfortable. Some of us might want to fix the hurtful situation for them, be the hero. Making it better will make them feel better, which will make us feel better. If we can make the problem go away, not only will we all stop hurting, but we can feel that we've got things under control. We're a good friend. We helped. We're capable and powerful. 

Sympathy is seeing, and maybe feeling, the hurt with our loved one, but rather than continuing to be with them during the sad moments, we might try talking them out of feeling bad. We might try changing their perspective by helping them see the bright side of things or actions they can take. They're in a dark place and we might believe we're in the light, so we have the answers. It becomes our agenda, not theirs. It can become about us thinking for them, rather than us being with them while they experience what they are feeling.

When in doubt about what to do for a loved one, ask questions about how they are, what they need and how to be of service. Respond to what they are saying and where they are at.  Be careful about advice or suggestions. Too much input from us risks making it about us or our pain. Quizzing a loved one on the details is not always useful to them.

Judging their feelings and arguing with them is another way to react. We can tell them they are upset over nothing.  We can tell them their concern is misplaced. We can tell them they're wrong to feel what they feel. If you were in pain, do you think this reaction would be useful to you?  What about being ignored? Do you think a loved one not recognizing your pain and what you are experiencing would be useful?

Enjoy this video voiced by Dr. Brene Brown: The Power of Empathy.

Sympathy, empathy and compassion can be thought of in other ways. When it comes down to it, we just have to ask ourselves whether we are really listening and our reaction is about them or ourselves.

Tara Brach has some worthwhile things to say about listening and being present for others and ourselves.

Cartoon credit: Hugs, R. (May 20, 2013) Nest. Robot Hugs. Retrieved from