Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why Joan Lunden's People Magazine Cover Makes Me Happy... Then Mad... Then Happy... Then (You Get The Point)

When I was in elementary school, Joan Lunden was the face of Good Morning, America,  and my grandfather was always telling me how much we looked alike.  I never knew how to take that, as there was a big age discrepancy, ultimately I think I enjoyed being compared to someone famous.

But, my grandfather couldn't leave it at that.  At some point in the early 1980's, he felt the need to let Joan know exactly how much she reminded him of his favorite granddaughter.  (OK, I added the favorite part.  What grandkid wouldn't?)

Shortly afterward, I received this in the mail:

Well, not exactly that.  Mine is packed away at my mother's house in a trunk full of memorabilia.  I found this one on the internet (sorry, Beth).  But it was the very same headshot, addressed to me.  Correct spelling, and all.

I've often thought of that photo.  I had yet to complete even one decade of my life, and had no idea where the road would take me.  Had someone told me at the time that I'd become a bit of a journalist myself, I'd have laughed.  It's so true what they say... You really never know.

I certainly never expected this.

And have stopped in my tracks every time I have seen it thus far.  Though, not for the all the reasons you may imagine.

My father was diagnosed with brain cancer when I was in the ninth grade.  I will never forget being told that he had a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit, or the mumble like a parent in Charlie Brown that played in the background afterward.

Very, very long story short, my father battled cancer for just over 3 years.  Ultimately his brain cancer went into his bones, which is a pain I wish onto no one.  He was unconscious on the day I graduated from high school, and died less than a month later.

My father died in 1994.  That was 20 years ago.  Cancer research and treatment have come so far since then that the disease is no longer an immediate death sentence, or a death sentence at all.  And while breast cancer is very different from bone cancer, I cannot help but wonder how my father's prognosis could have changed had he been diagnosed now.  I'm not saying he'd have lived to be a centurion, but I doubt he'd have died before his forty-fifth birthday.  He could have been given some of his life back.  Maybe he'd have met one of his two daughter's husbands... or even a grandchild.

Just maybe.

When I see that photo of Joan, the newer one, I am filled with hope for her.  I am filled with a hope that those battling cancer get to live the rest of their lives, happy and healthy, in honor of those who didn't.  In honor of my Dad.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My 4yo Has Some Powerful Advice For The World

Both of my daughters love to read.  But the youngest, now four and a half, will only read aloud and in private.  I love hearing her little voice and the beautiful stories she creates, but must use my ninja skills in doing so.

Well, I put them to good use yesterday, and couldn't be more proud of the result.  Take a listen...

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why I Hid a Horrific Photo of My Daughter From Facebook (But Posted It Here)

I am not good at accepting constructive criticism, but I do love calling myself out on my own inconsistencies.  I usually view them as growth, as long as they don't both occur within a 24-hour period.  So when my husband and I brought our daughters to get their ears pierced in the end of last week, I knew this post was coming.

It was almost two and a half years ago that my eldest asked me twice within one week if she could get her ears pierced.  This was my post (and inner dialogue) that resulted:

"Now, she has also asked if she can be a waitress when she grows up, if she can take xylophone lessons and if she can go back to her old preschool because the new one doesn’t have naptime, but I didn’t take any of those inquiries seriously, as she asked only once.  I have learned from experience that once she asks twice, I will have an easier time refusing an intravenous Diet Coke drip than I will her requests."

Even more thankful for her "inconsistencies" than I am for my own, I was lucky this request was fleeting.  It was sort of like a supermarket meltdown.  Agonizing and seemingly endless in the moment, but in hindsight, over in a flash.  Phew.

But my second child... she is a whole-nother bag of tricks.  And when she started asking me for "ear holes" four months ago, I knew I wouldn't get off that easy.

I still feel the same way I did in October of 2012.  "It's the idea of making our babies grow up faster than they need to that makes me uncomfortable.  Joking that your baby has diva tendencies is one thing… forcing them upon her is another.  To pierce or not to pierce?  Either way, I feel her slipping away already.  Thank God she’ll need me to help wipe her bum later this afternoon… That’s always a decent reminder that we’ve got a looong way to go."

But, my baby isn't a baby anymore.  She is four and a half, the exact age her sister was at the time of my first post on this subject.  And to say she has a mind of her own is an understatement.  She has a voice, and we heard it.

The photo story that unfolded on my husband's Facebook was adorable.

She was so excited at the start...

Until a bit of fear set in...

But in the end, she was a BIG GIRL!

The problem with this tale, as with many told on Facebook, is that it didn't tell the whole story.  My husband managed to get a photo just as the second piercing when through the lobe, and the sheer TERROR on my daughter's face led me to say/scream that he'd be in huge trouble if he posted the picture.  He didn't.  But in retrospect, I am ok with putting it out there, because I think there is a valuable lesson to be learned.

Sometimes the things we desire most cause us the greatest pain to achieve... but if we overcome, they bring the greatest beauty.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Our Tooth Fairy Doesn't Give "Hundos", But She Gives Big in Other Ways. (Hint: It's Operation X-Mas Time!)

It was an apple, at her Nonna's house.

For weeks, Emilia had wondered where she would be and what she would be eating when her very first tooth came out.  So when it finally happened, after a long but exciting day at a the science museum, we noted all the important details.

Then I took immediately to Facebook, of course, to ask what the going rate for a first tooth is these days. See, months before Emilia's best friend had told the entire Kindergarten about a "hundy" the Tooth Fairy had gifted for her first one. I panicked a little, as my daughter has an incredible memory for a 6 year old, and I was fearful she'd hurt that her Fairy shorted her.  Our fairy doesn't give Benjamins.

A bunch of Facebook chatter (thanks, ladies!) and a trip to the craft store later, I was ready.

(It's all about the pixie dust, People.)

And $10 under the pillow.  Not bad, right?

Problem is, exactly two weeks later, Emilia lost her 2nd tooth (worth only 5 bucks).  And a third is hanging on by a thread. 

Let's face it... Emilia will receive more from the Tooth Fairy in a 4 week period than many children around the world will receive all year.

But, you can help change that.

Several years ago, I began giving two shoeboxes chock full of goodies to Operation Christmas Child, with Samaritan's purse.  I gave one box from each of my two children, that would be gifted to a child that would receive nothing else on Christmas morning.  The boxes are shipped all around the world.

I loved participating in the collection, but wanted to give more.  Once I'd imagined the smile of an ill or poverty-stricken child opening the box, I wanted to give more. And more. But, sadly, I couldn't do it alone.

For the last two years, I have asked my family, friends and readers to help me collect items for Operation Christmas Child.  The deal is... you guys send me the goodies, and I buy the plastic (reusable) shoebox size bins, pack them, wrap them, and pay the $7 donation per box. 

You can send as few or as many items as you'd like.  You can shop at the Dollar Store or Bloomies.  You can send a homemade craft.  You can collect all the soaps and shampoos at hotels you visit throughout the year and them and send them my way.  You can also send items from home that have never been used.  I promise.  I won't judge.

Or, if shopping isn't your bag, you can make a financial contribution.  I save them until the end of packing season, when I pool the donations and fill in the holes of what we need most.  I will also send you a photo of how far I helped your money go.

Whether you help me help others this coming holiday season or choose another outlet is completely up to you.  I only ask one thing.  When you gift your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors or friends, please take a moment to think about those that having nothing, but hopefully, hope.

(Then take a couple of those dolla' bills yo, and put 'em to good use.)

Now, some housekeeping.

* Click here to check out Operation Christmas Child.

* Each shoebox I pack will be labeled with the sex of the child and an age range: 2-4, 5-9, 10-14.  I  typically receive the fewest donations for the older children.

* There’s a list of suggested items (and what not to include) on their website.  I have included personal items like soap, toothpaste & toothbrush, shampoo, combs, band aids, socks, underwear, flip flops, sunglasses, clothing and sun hats.  Or something a little more fun like flashcards, toy cars, crayons, stickers, a yo-yo, a jump rope, puzzles, coloring books, sidewalk chalk or a personal holiday card.  The possibilities are endless, and stores like Big Lots are a great resource.

* Please keep in mind that the items must fit in a standard size shoe box, so it is difficult to include large items (like full size basketballs).

* Yes, I can take PayPal donations, and will provide you with a photo of the items "you" purchased.

* If you have a question or would like to donate, please email me directly at for address information. Or, I can help you find a local chapter where you can donate on your own.

* Collection Week ENDS on November 24th, so please don’t delay!

2013 Collection

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

From That #StillbornPhoto to The #ALSIceBucketChallenge and #RIPRobinWilliams, I've Had It

In the end of last week, I was brought to tears every time I read the story of a Northern California couple who received criticism for posting beautifully agonizing photos of their stillborn baby online.

Then, I spent part of the weekend paying tribute to Mr. Sullivan, the dear old man with a thick Irish brogue, who spent the last several weeks of his life with ALS in agony on a Hospice bed beside my cancer-stricken father who rested (seemingly) without an iota of pain.

Now Monday night, I am in tears once again, distraught over Robin Williams' lost battle with depression, addiction and unimaginable emotional pain.

Granted, I've used a lot of Kleenex, but hopefully not for naught.

I guarantee that thousands of people who saw this photo heard, forcibly or not, the too-often muted cry from the parents of stillborn children.

I can also guarantee that while no where near thousands of people watched me scream "oh shit" in front of my young children after pouring a very icy bucket of water over my head, I am hopeful that even one was brought to explore the movement.

And now, as I browse my Twitter feed and see the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline practically on loop, I guarantee that countless people will scroll straight past the number in an effort to find yet another celebrity response to today's tragedy.

It was exactly one year ago that a dear friend, one who touched many of you, took her own life in a way very similar to Mr. Williams.

For days afterward, I saw condolences, tributes and promises in post after post on social media.  Her life (and death) left an exquisite (designer) footprint on the world.  I can only imagine that which will be left by Robin Williams.

The only problem is, footprints fade...

I guarantee that photo of the stillborn baby won't return to my news feed until someone who checks their Facebook as often as I get an oil change logs in and starts sharing things as current as the first Sharknado.

And while the ALS Foundation has reported 1,000% increase in charitable donations in the last several weeks, let's face it... you are super unlikely to donate next year.

As for the Suicide Lifeline, or statistics on depression and addiction, they aren't going anywhere.  God only knows what starlet, icon or friend will be next to succumb to either of those terrible diseases, but one thing is for sure.  It will happen.  Too soon.

I can't speak for you,  but I know my world is constantly changing.  I am forever striving to be better, stronger, faster and more efficient.  Some would say I'm damn good at it, but I'm not so sure.

It is in moments like this that I truly fear how having so much at our fingertips leaves us with so little to leave behind in our footprint.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

If You Read Only One Thing I'll Ever Write, Let This Be It

I need to start off with an honest disclaimer that this story is not my own.  A very wise Minister shared it with me, and I must share this very paraphrased version with you.  
(Though I've a talent or two, I'm sorry a photographic memory is not one of them.)

Many years ago, a mother lost her only son in a gang related shooting.  An innocent victim, he was the unlucky target of a deadly initiation process.  Thankfully, the young perpetrator was caught by authorities and convicted.  At his sentencing, the victim's mother stood in the courtroom and shouted repeatedly, "I am going to kill you".

Months later, the still-grieving woman found herself visiting the shooter in prison.  Unsure of her intention, or even whether or not she would speak, she felt compelled to look into the eyes of the boy who had taken her son's life so prematurely.

Again and again she visited, often bringing him toiletries or baked goods.  With no other visitors, the boy was completely alone.  In many ways, so was she.

Years went on and eventually the boy, who'd since become a man, was nearing his release date. "What's your plan?", she asked fearfully.  His answer, simply "I don't have one", was unacceptable to her.  She knew where his poor planning had landed them both.

So on the day of his departure, the woman took her son's murderer to live in her home.  Helping him get back on his feet was better (and safer) than leaving him to face the world with no support, she thought.  As time went on, he proved to be helpful, responsible and committed to becoming a better man.  So through a friend, she was able to find him employment.  Eventually he saved some money, got an apartment and packed up to set out on his own.

But before he did, he reminded her.  "I remember that day, in the courtroom.  You screamed over and over again, 'I am going to kill you'".

"I did", the woman said, "I killed you with kindness".

Friday, June 27, 2014

My Daughter Ruined My Husband's Birthday Surprise (And Made Me a Better Person Because of It)

I thought renting a classic car was the perfect birthday gift for my husband.  We were headed down to Orange County to spend the day celebrating my niece’s birthday.  We could drive down there with the top down, maybe cruise the beach, and return both refreshed and sun-kissed.  Or, at least I thought that was the way things would turn out.

Granted we got on the road to pickup the 1964 Oldsmobile Dynamic a bit later than I’d hoped, but it’d be a quick transition from the safe seatbelts of our own car to those of the rental.  In fact, I’d passed on the 1965 Mustang in exchange for this beauty only because of the owner's promise that it had functioning seatbelts.

Let’s face it.  Any self-respecting, minivan-driving mama knows where this is headed (even though I will never drive one of those God forsaken things).

The car didn’t have working seatbelts.  And my daughters, who are 4 and 6, have been conditioned to NEVER ride in a car without being buckled in.  In fact, for years my eldest would say “buckle me” when she wanted to cuddle snuggly.  They are hardwired.  So when my youngest saw us trying to safely rig a broken waist belt into something the CHIPs wouldn’t lock us up for, she melted down like Erik Estrada in a nightmare over losing his hair.

The renting agent reassured us that because seatbelts were not required by law when the car was designed, it was legal to drive without them.  But regardless of whether or not I was okay with that excuse, my 4 year old wasn’t.

Fifteen minutes later, I found myself urgently releasing her from a makeshift seatbelt even MacGyver would love in order to get her out of the car before vomiting on it’s 50 year old interior.  She had worked herself up so such and extent that singing no amount of Disney songs was going to calm her.  Off to Plan B.

We returned the Dynamic, hopped back into our own car, and drove down to Orange County not in the silence of frustration or huffs of anger, but to the continued meltdown of a still unsettled toddler.  Her lengthy reaction was unlike anything I’d see her experience before, heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time.

Ultimately, she fell asleep moments before arriving at the party.  My eldest and I, more than fashionably late, rushed in to celebrate.  Twenty minutes later, my husband carried our youngest into the party, looking refreshed and like nothing had ever happened.  In fact, she’d had the best disco nap of anyone.

The rest of the day was sweet and uneventful, especially compared to our morning.  Clearly we hadn’t ended up with the beautiful day I’d dreamed up, but it was beautiful in another kind of way.

I was reminded that everyone has good days, and bad.  The key is to keep on driving forward.