Monday, October 5, 2015


Blogging is a funny thing.

Writers spill their heart, soul – and their entire life, really – onto a blank canvas in their own little corner of the internet, and, subsequently, people read, follow along, and become invested in the stories and happenings of the blogger.

Readers feel as if they actually know the blogger – even if they’ve never met – and, in fact, true friendships are made and entire communities are built…all behind the screens of tablets, PCs, and cell phones.

And that inherent connection is taken to a whole different level when the readers are bloggers themselves. We come to know each other’s families, interests, and even pet peeves.

That’s precisely what happened with Holly Bertone and me.

Over a year ago, I crossed paths with Holly – a blogger who lives in Virginia – on a blog networking site, which led me to her blog, and I was immediately drawn in by Holly’s content and colorful photos.

But one photo in particular revealed Holly’s character in a way that few others could: It depicted Holly, eyes closed and smiling, being kissed by her husband on her closely shaved head:
Holly, who is a step-mom, author, and avid DIYer, is also a breast cancer survivor.

Her lifestyle blog, The Coconut Head’s Survival Guide, offers a unique blend of posts on tablescapes, recipes, and more, and also candidly details her efforts to beat a devastating disease.

So when Holly inquired if Scott and I would like to collaborate with her on a breast cancer awareness public service announcement (PSA), we answered with a resounding yes.

Scott then called up the Detroit Lions (whom he played for from 1991-1996) and asked if they’d be willing to provide two NFL footballs for a PSA photo, which they did immediately, and then I interviewed Holly for a blog post (which you can read here) that she and I would cross-promote on each other’s blogs – in addition to the PSA photo – for the entire month of October.

Here’s the finished product:
I know, I know: Everything is awash with pink this time of year, and there’s seemingly no shortage of messages championing this cause.

In the NFL alone, players don pink mouth guards, towels, socks, and cleats all month long.  And field turf and game balls are adorned with pink ribbons.

And rightfully so.

Awareness still needs to be raised.

Because women like Holly  – wives, mothers, daughters, and friends – who put on a brave face while enduring the unthinkable deserve to be acknowledged and honored.

Because they truly are warriors.

Because, all too often, we – their supporters – draw our strength from them.

And if a humorous PSA prompts even one woman to get a mammogram, or another person to do something to support the cause of finding a cure for breast cancer, that’s fantastic.

So, yeah. Let us all continue to paint everything pink.

Blogs, footballs, and everything in between.

Join us on Facebook and Instagram.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Our daughter Kennedy turned two a few days ago, and I decided against penning one of those sappy nostalgic posts, much like the one I wrote for Scotty.

Because, well, don't we do everything differently when it comes to our second kid?

And I'm going to be brutally honest here.

I nearly panicked when I found out Kennedy was a girl. 

Yeah, I'm a woman, so it's not like the female gender is uncharted territory for me, but I was never exactly the "girliest" girl.

I'm still not.

I clean up alright when I have an event to attend with The Hubs, but my usual uniform consists of a pair of Lululemons and a cut up off-the-shoulder sweatshirt.

So the expectation of raising a Pink Glitter Princess scared the bejesus out of me.

And after two years of parenting a girl, what have I learned?

That I'm not so much scared as I am a big, fat, walking contradiction.

Because nearly everything I said I wouldn't do...I've done:

"Ugh. Pink. Why does everyone expect me to buy pink for this child? Is there some kind of pink quota I'm not privy to? It's like nobody will be happy until her room -- and her ensembles -- resemble a bottle of Pepto. Well, I'm not giving in. I ain't buying any pink."

"Well, I bought her those shoes, but I'll be damned if I'm caving in again!"

"You know I love sports -- I've run competitively since middle school. And how I feel about the game of football goes without saying. But, riddle me this: Why do they make baby cheerleading uniforms? I mean, they're BABIES. They can't walk or yell chants, let alone do a toe touch. 
Talk about a useless piece of cloth."

Oh, that Lion's one? That doesn't count."

"And speaking of football, I bet she won't even care to watch with me. It'll probably be just me and Scotty, while Kennedy plays with a My Little Pony dollhouse or something off in the distance..." 
(And, yes, that's a Lion's Honolulu blue tutu on top of her leg warmers. Swoon.)

"I can barely get Scotty and me out of the house on time. How in the hell am I going to manage when I have another head of hair to do???" 

Well, you manage. You just do:

Back when I was pregnant with Kennedy: "I just hope they don't fight all the time, that they at least show some signs of love and affection toward each other...but they probably won't until they're 30. I just hope I'm still around to see it."

Meanwhile, every single day on the playground:

Back when I first learned I was pregnant with Kennedy: "My heart was just so full with love during my first go-round with Scotty. Is it even possible for me to love another child as much? I mean, is my heart capable of that much love? Mothers of more than one child tell me yes. 
But is it true? Is it??"

YES. Yes, it is.

Join us on Facebook and Instagram. :-)

(The girls are still wearing the ones my squad wore back in the 90s.)
Please click here for more details!

Monday, September 21, 2015


When former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete rose from his chair and headed toward the podium to give his keynote speech at the Autism Alliance of Michigan’s annual Michigan Shines for Autism Gala, Peete’s autistic teenage son RJ smiled at my husband, who played with Rodney during his tenure at the Detroit Lions, and gave him a fist bump as if to say, My dad’s got this.

And Peete did: From the moment he uttered his first word, Peete held the audience captive as he took us all on the twisting, winding, and uncertain journey that is often all too familiar for parents of autistic children.
And although Peete was cool, composed, and tempered his story with just the right amount of humor and candor, there was absolutely no sugar-coating the gut-wrenching impact of the words a therapist hit him and his wife Holly with when RJ was only three:

The therapist said that RJ would never attend a mainstream school.

She said RJ would never speak.

And she said that he and Holly should probably resign themselves to the fact that RJ would never say "I love you."

Sitting mere steps away from the podium where Peete spoke were the parents of Jay Granger. Like Peete and his wife, the Grangers also know what many other parents of autistic children have since learned: You will be told your autistic child will not be able to do something, and then you will celebrate when they defy expectation.

That’s precisely what happened one night on the football field of mid-Michigan’s Mason High School, when the school was trailing their opponent, DeWitt, by 22 points.

Mason’s varsity head football coach Jerry Van Havel sent Jay Granger, who is autistic, onto the field with a special request: Let Granger run a few steps and then stop.

But DeWitt’s defense went a step further and allowed Granger to run the ball in for a touchdown, thereby making his lifelong dream come true.

“I don’t score touchdowns in football,” said Granger while being interviewed on Lansing, Michigan’s WLNS-TV for the station’s Player of the Week feature. “I really don’t have that much talent in the sport…[but] it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my athletic career!”

Also on the field that night was Coach Van Havel’s son, Mason High quarterback Jarrett Van Havel, who has been a close friend of Granger’s since first grade.

Granger has said that Van Havel pushes him in the classroom as well as in sports.

In turn, Van Havel credits Granger for supporting the team with his infectious positive attitude.

Together, Granger, Jarrett Van Havel, and Coach Van Havel were the recipients of the 2015 Autism Alliance of Michigan’s Courage Award.

This particular brand of fellowship – which is unique to team sports; particularly football – made it abundantly clear to me that autism affects everyone.

Not just those who are living with it.

And we all have a responsibility – and the power – to affect the landscape.

How cool would it be if our schools were filled with kids like Jarrett?

And if every night they went home to parents like Coach Van Havel?

We can do this by raising our children to be more tolerant of the challenges their autistic peers may face, and we can do this by offering empathy and support – no matter how small – to the parents of autistic children.

By the way, RJ Peete attends a mainstream high school (and rides the city bus to get there); he speaks just fine; and every single day, he looks his parents in the eyes and tells them, “I love you.”

At the end of the gala, when my husband told Peete that his favorite part of the speech was indeed the “I love you” part, I will never forget Peete’s response.

He said, “Remember what coach [the late Frank Gansz, special teams coach for the Detroit Lions] used to say? ‘Celebrate the small wins.’ Because they matter…and they’re important.”

* * *

Photo Credit: LK Photographic
Caption: Granger, Jarrett Van Havel, and Coach Van Havel are given the 2015 Autism Alliance of Michigan’s Courage Award by (from left) Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, RJ Peete, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, Coach Jerry Van Havel, Jarrett Van Havel, Jay Granger, former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Scott Conover, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell, and WJBK-TV Fox 2 Detroit sports anchor (and Detroit Lions Radio Network play-by-play announcer) Dan Miller.

Join us on Facebook and Instagram. :-)

(The girls are still wearing the ones my squad wore back in the 90s.)
Please click here for more details!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...