Monday, December 29, 2014

How to tolerate your kids on New Year's Eve


If you plan to be at home with the kids this New Year’s Eve, then join the club. 

Scott and I will be sitting this one in...again.

But since Scotty and Kennedy can do a little more this year, we’ll be able to at least introduce them to the notion that this night is all about letting loose and having fun. 

I figure that's preferable to leaving the kids to their own devices (Read: Allowing them to run amok in the playroom while I park my behind on the couch and watch Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.)

The following is a list of awesome ways to put a family-friendly spin on a night that is otherwise accompanied by designated drivers and debauchery:
                    
Let’s toast
It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without the well-oiled tradition of raising your glass. But this year swap the hors d'oeuvres and champs for cookies and milk – and do serve the latter in flutes. You can go all out and bake your own cookies – perhaps chocolate chip with holiday M&Ms, or the sugar variety covered in colored sprinkles – earlier in the afternoon. If staying up until 12 a.m. is too much for your little one, toast midnight in a different region. Simply choose another country with a time zone ahead of your own, and let the countdown begin! Scotty and I will be making rainbow rice krispie treats (read: rice krispie treats with food coloring) and toasting with 2% milk.

Hats off to you
This activity is light on the wallet, but heavy on creativity. Swing by your neighborhood dollar store and load up on coned New Year’s Eve party hats – the paper kind that resembles a birthday hat – and while you’re there purchase an assortment of crafts: glitter, glue, streamers, pipe cleaners, etc. Then turn everyone loose to create a masterpiece of their own to be worn that evening. (If you do this, please report back and tell me how it went because we won’t be doing this activity in these parts – there would be more glue in Kennedy's mouth than on the party hat.)

Seeing into the future
New Year’s Eve is as much about reflection as it is about setting new goals for the twelve months ahead. Why not encourage everyone to design a vision board inspired by their very own affirmations and desires for the New Year? All that’s needed are white poster board, scissors, markers, glue, and an array of magazines for cutting out images. I’ve done this every year since 2008, and I still have them all.

Burst your bubble
Bubble wrap: Chances are, we’ve all got a bit stashed away somewhere, especially during the holidays. Since few occasions call for unabashed celebratory noise like New Year’s Eve bring your bubble wrap out of hiding and let the kids stomp away. Adults can get in on the action, too. Don’t think you can bear the noise? Add some music. While I’d really like to partake in this one, I’m sure Kennedy would scream her face off upon hearing the first snap. No, thanks.

Reflection
This one is easy-peasy and calls only for pads of colorful post-it notes and a mason jar. Have your family write down their favorite memories of the past year and place them into the jar to share at your New Year's Eve celebration. Not only is this activity fun, it makes for a unique centerpiece at your New Year’s Eve breakfast or evening meal.

Great grapes
Now, this one, I can’t wait to do because our entire family loves grapes, and Scotty thinks they’re candy! (I don’t know how much longer this will last, but I’m going to ride this until the wheels fall off.) This tradition hails from Spain, where party-goers toast with grape skewers containing twelve grapes, each grape representing the twelve months of the year. Make sure to have enough grapes and skewers for everyone, and as for presentation, place them all in a nice vase prior to the toast.

That’s all I’ve got. 

No, wait, I have one more thing to say:

I wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and prosperous and Happy New Year!

Join us on Facebook and Instagram. :-)



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from The Conovers

Well, another Christmas day has come and gone.

There are toys on the floor of every room in this house; shiny gift bows are rolling through the main hallway like tumbleweeds; and I'm still in my fleece duckie PJs (please see the right photo, above).

But the kitchen is clean; the dishes have been put away; and I'm enjoying a glass of sweet red wine as I write this...

We are tremendously blessed.

And I take absolutely nothing for granted.

Not our health, not the Italian feast we inhaled at dinnertime; and certainly not each other.

All I wanted for Christmas is what money can't buy...and I'm grateful to have received it.

I hope your day -- and those that remain of this holiday season -- are filled with the things that make your heart full and light.

I'll be back on Monday with another brand-spanking-new post, my last of 2014.

In the meantime, tell me this: Is the old adage really true? That kids enjoy playing with boxes and wrapping paper more than the toys inside of them?


Yeah?

Thought so.

But will she still be this way at, say, 17?

Because giving her a bow and a roll of wrapping paper as opposed to an iPhone 37 will save her father and me a on of money.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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Monday, December 22, 2014

What becomes of elementary school classmates?

It's that time of year again.

The time when we take a step back and reflect, particularly on the people in our lives -- both current and former -- and how we've treated them.

Do you ever wonder what became of your elementary classmates? 

I do.

We live a stone’s throw away from the house I grew up in and, subsequently, the elementary school I attended, which I intentionally drive past twice a week when I take Scotty to his Play & Learn class.

Each and every time I enter my old subdivision it’s like going down Memory Lane – both literally and figuratively.

Because my parents and I moved after fifth grade, I never attended school with these kids again.

But motherhood – coupled with my weekly elementary school drive-bys – have prompted me to reflect on the relationships I had with these kids.

If I could go back in time, would I change the way I treated them?

This post is about two I won’t soon forget. And while everything you are about to read is 100% true, I’ve changed their names. (What with Facebook and social media, the last thing I wish to do is dredge up someone’s past and embarrass them.)

First, there’s Heather, who was one year younger than me and lived four houses down. We met when our big wheels collided on the sidewalk one summer afternoon.

The details of our first encounter are murky, admittedly, as I was only four years old at the time. But I do remember this: I couldn’t understand a word Heather said because she had a severe speech impediment.

And I also remember that it didn’t matter.

What did matter, however, was that she knew every single lyric of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” and Lionel Ritchie’s “You Are the Sun, You Are the Rain,” which we sang together nearly every day under the large pine tree in my front yard.

And from simple activities like that one, we forged the strongest friendship of my childhood.

It was as if, seemingly overnight, my ears became trained to understand each and every word Heather said because her language issues became less and less of a barrier.

I don’t know what ever became of Heather, but I think of her – and her mother often.

As a mother myself, I often wonder what Heather’s mom must have gone through, having a child who couldn’t verbalize her own name and ended up transferring to a special elementary school because of her disability, and how relieved she must have been that I accepted Heather wholeheartedly.

Isn’t that what we all want our children to experience – acceptance and true friendship?

And then there’s Bennett.

Bennett was a classmate as well as the brother of a fellow Girl Scout member.

And his legacy, as far as I can recall, boiled down to two words: “Booger Bennett.”

Short and petite, Bennett was always the proverbial runt of the class, which, as a boy, put him at a disadvantage from Jump Street.

Then the death knell came sometime around the third grade when someone noticed him picking his nose.

Stunned by being called out, Bennett then proceeded to try and wipe his finger on the sleeve of a nearby student.

It was all downhill from there, and a vicious cycle ensued.

The more Bennett was teased, the more he wiped his boogers on people. He seemed to revel in his unpopularity, which, in hindsight, was all just a coping mechanism, I’m sure.

Thirty years later, I still wonder about Bennett, how he eventually turned out, and whether the incessant teasing he endured still affects him today.

And here’s the one regret I have: While I never teased Bennett, I never really made an effort to befriend him, either.

I can’t help but wonder if the true essence of his identity was lying dormant under the armor he had built up to protect himself.

Was Bennett ever truly able to be himself after that fateful day in third grade?

Like Heather, all he probably wanted was to be liked.

What relationships from your childhood do you remember – for better or for worse?

*This post was originally published in Gannett's Hometown Life newspapers.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Anti Type-A Mom Holiday Snack Mix

Once upon a time (Read: just a few years ago), I would bake four different kinds of Christmas cookies when the holidays rolled around.

Wait.

That's s lie.

Actually, I only baked three kinds of cookies. (One was no-bake.)

Anyhow, after the cookies cooled, I would carefully divide and place the cookies inside holiday-themed cookie tins, which had already been lined with wax paper and color coordinated tissue paper.

I would then mail the cookies off to our relatives across the country. 

I know, I know. Some moms make eleven different types of cookies -- and all of them are baked.

But, you have to understand where I'm coming from to deem my feat impressive: Prior to getting married, I used the stove in my bachelorette condo for shoe storage.

So I really thought I was doing something by baking any cookies at all.

Well, regardless, I'm not doing that anymore.

At least for now, anyway.

I'm taking a hiatus from my role as Type-A Mommy this Christmas, and, frankly, for the foreseeable future.

Wanna know what I'm making this year?

This snack mix.

And I won't be shipping it from sea to shining sea, either.

It'll remain right here at home so as to ruin any and all chances I have of exercising restraint this holiday season.

Because I'm tired.

I'm worn out.

And I want to simply enjoy this holiday season instead of shooting for the stars by being the overachieving mommy in the kitchen. 

I invite you to join me in abandoning your high hopes for a Martha Stewart-style holiday by just saying to hell with it all and making this snack mix.

Here's what it takes:

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white corn syrup
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups salted mixed nuts 
1 (12 ounce) package crispy corn and rice cereal; like Chex
1-2 cups M&M's (I prefer the green and red ones; but any color will do.)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C). 

Line 2 large pans with parchment paper.

In a medium-size microwave safe bowl, mix butter, white corn syrup and brown sugar. Place the mixture in the microwave and cook for two minutes, or until butter melts. 

Stir mixture until combined and smooth.

Place the cereal and nuts onto the prepared pans. 

Pour the melted butter mixture over the cereal and nuts and mix gently until the cereal and nuts are coated. 

Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. 

Remove the pans from the oven and continue to stir the mix so that it doesn't harden in 1 large piece -- be sure to stir them immediately after they come out of the oven. 

Once the mix is cool, add in the M&M's and toss lightly to incorporate. 

The only thing left to do is dig in.

Oh, and let me know what you think.

And if you can't pry this mix out of your hands in the middle of the night, I'm sorry.

Just know I'm doing the same thing.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Anti-Pinterest, easy-peasy kiddie holiday recipes


I'm not throwing any shade at Pinterest.

I like Pinterest!

I'm just not any good at it.

The blogosphere is full of bloggers waxing poetic about how they've made Pinterest their b!tch by creating lovely -- and, quite frankly, enviable -- crafts and recipes, particularly during the holidays.

Well, I am definitely not one of those bloggers, and this is not one of those posts.

Instead this mama, who possesses the aptitude of a preschooler when it comes to anything crafty, prefers to glean her recipes from a less intimidating venue.

Read: I obtained the following recipes from a circular that was delivered to our home by our local grocery store.

I scoured the Interwebs for high quality jpeg images of these recipes, but, no dice. 

So I actually took photos of the circular. Classy, I know. (Only the best for my readers!)

The bottom line is this: These recipes are cute, edible, and take mere seconds to make.

And there is no way you can eff them up. 

Trust me, I've tried.

Here's what's on the menu:

HEALTHY CANDY CANES
A clever arrangement turns everyday fruits into a parent-approved sweet treat. Simply alternate slices of bananas with chunks of strawberries to create a candy-cane shape. (Tip: If preparing in advance, dip banana slices into an equal mix of water and lemon juice to help prevent browning.)

I've made these for both Scotty and Kennedy and they are crazy about them!


BREAKFAST SNOWMAN
Two whole-grain pancakes set the stage for this wintry character. Add mini chocolate chip eyes to the smaller top pancake and a string of blueberry buttons on the larger bottom pancake. Trimmed pieces of bacon form a scarf, and whipped cream creates a snowy scene.

Another hit, here. Scotty flips for these. (There's too much going on for Kennedy's liking; but she'll throw down on the blueberries and whipped cream, though.)


REINDEER GAMES LUNCH
Spread cream cheese between two slices of whole wheat bread, then trim the sandwich into a triangle shape. Add two green peas for eyes and a halved cherry tomato for a nose. To create antlers, cut a hot dog in half lengthwise then make a small vertical cut at the end of each half before cooking. Place the heated hot dogs at the top of the corners of the triangle, split sides up.

Now, Scotty won't touch this with a ten-foot pole because he's not a fan of hot dogs. I kind of knew that already when I decided to live dangerously and serve this to him. He didn't bite -- even though the (vegan) hot dogs were camouflaged as antlers. But, no matter. I loved this sandwich! So it didn't go to waste.

Happy Holidays!



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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Win a Trip to Superbowl XLIX in Phoenix, AZ!

What if I told you that you could enter a raffle to win a trip to Superbowl XLIX in Phoenix, AZ and your chances of winning were 1 in 250?

You would probably be interested, right?

Well, here's your chance! Allow me to break it all down. Here's what's on tap:

WHAT:
Enter the NFL Alumni Detroit Chapter's raffle to win a trip to Superbowl XLIX in Phoenix, AZ. 
First Place Prize -- A trip for two to Superbowl XLIX in Phoenix, AZ, which an all-expense paid trip -- including airfare and hotel accommodations, OR $5,000 cash.
Second Place Prize -- $1,000
Third Place Prize -- $500

HOW:
Raffle tickets are $100 each and only 250 total raffle tickets will be sold. 

WHERE:
Raffle tickets are currently available for purchase at Hamlin Corner, located at 386 North Main Street in Royal Oak, MI 48067; telephone (248)556-5428.

WHEN:
The winner will be announced at Hamlin Corner on Sunday, December 21, 2014, when the NFL Legends will take on NBA Legends during the Spicy Wings Challenge from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m. (The contest pits the athletes against each other as they see who can withstand eating the spiciest buffalo wings.) Entry into the challenge is $15 (sales benefit the NFL Alumni Detroit Chapter's high school scholarship fund) and includes a full tailgate menu and beer specials -- although purchasing a Superbowl raffle ticket gets you into the challenge for free. You do not need to be present to win any of the three Superbowl raffle prizes. Furthermore, Hamlin Center will be broadcasting the Lions vs. Green Bay (at Green Bay) on the big screen for all to see.

ODDS:
Only 250 Superbowl raffle tickets will be sold, so each participant has a 1 in 250 chance of winning tickets to attend the Superbowl.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS:
To learn more about the Detroit Chapter of the NFL Alumni, please click here, and to learn more about the NFL Alumni chapter in your area, please click here.

Good luck everyone! 

Now get ready to buy your raffle tickets!

We've got ours:

Now it's time for you to get yours!

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Monday, December 1, 2014

What if you had a heart attack and didn't feel it?

This is the story of Ruby Brown, who suffered a heat attack in the middle of the night while she slept.

But what was arguably worse than having a heart attack -- and not even feeling it -- was what her doctor had told her after it happened:

Brown recalls, "He said, 'You know, you shouldn't have woken up this morning...' and that definitely gave me a chill...I had awakened to a pain in my arm, thinking I had slept wrong on my shoulder, came downstairs, took two pain pills, and I went back to sleep. 

"And that's what the doctor was referring to when he said that I shouldn't have woken up after I went back to sleep. I understood what he was saying from a medical standpoint, but I also believe in another standpoint. I put the two together and I was grateful."

Talk about getting a wake-up call.

Ruby's unfortunate experience ended up being just the thing to lead her down a different path, a path that ultimately led to the American Heart Association's Better U Challenge.

The Better U Challenge is a 12-week challenge (concluding January 24, 2015), which aims to improve participants' heart health through various exercise classes and educational workshops. 

Better U initiative is a joint venture between AHA and St. John Providence Health System.

I'm delighted to have been chosen by the American Heart Association to serve as one of their 2015 Go Red for Women bloggers, and this post is my second in a series that will feature stories meant to motivate, educate, and, ultimately, help all of us become our very best. (To read our first Better U Challenge post, please click here.)

Here's Ruby's Better U Challenge journey in her own words...

1.       What was your experience like emotionally?
Immediately when I found out I was going in for the catheterization, the first image I saw in my mind was of my husband and daughter, and I was like, Boy, I need to make it through this because I don't want to leave them. I was just focused on my immediate family. Following the surgery, I was grateful that I had made it, and then my focus at that point was Now you need to do everything to make sure you stay well -- and that this doesn't happen again.

2.       How did you become familiar with the Better U challenge, and what inspired you to sign on?
I became aware of the challenge through my daughter, who is interning with the American Heart Association. And when she told me about the challenge, I found it ironic because I have always said that I wanted to do this and I wanted to do that, and I would start...but then I would stop. When my daughter told me that there would be a person monitoring me, I said, "Wow, this is the kick I need to get me to my goal."  

3.       Talk about your journey thus far…do you feel like you’re on a different path already?
So far, it's like I'm excited about it. For the first time, I'm pressing toward my goal. And the changes have been subtle: I'm watching what I'm eating, I'm thinking differently and not sweating the small stuff as they say, and I totally feel lighter from the inside out. 

4.       What do you ultimately hope to achieve from participating in this challenge?
My greatest goal would be letting others see that they can do it, too. 

5.       And speaking of challenges, you recently had one of your own since staring the Better U Challenge, right?
I have a quick story to share with you: My daughter and I just came back from vacationing at the Atlantis in the Bahamas. And my biggest fear going in was We just started zumba and we're going to miss Saturday's class...and I was bummed out about that, so our instructor told us to make sure we took walks on the beach for our workouts, etc. But my other fear was Boy, we're just going to mess up our eating while we're here. But what I realized was that -- consciously, in my mind -- I knew I wanted to eat [the bad stuff], but I was at a point where when I went to eat, I was like I don't want this. I couldn't believe it! And I reiterated this to my daughter. I said to her, "You do realize that I thought I was just going to really over-splurge on this trip." But, to the contrary, I was really eating basic, I wasn't over-doing it, and I wasn't stuffing myself. I was conscious of what I was doing. And I haven't been like that for a long time.

6.       What is your message to others, to those who may be on the fence about committing to this challenge?
I would tell that person to find someone who has been there and done that to be their life safety guard -- to help them when they're slipping. Someone who can pull them up. I think that would be the ticket for them. It is important to find that person who can be their support system. 


***

Better U challenge applicants are encouraged to take a short assessment here to receive their starting heart score and then register online here and select ‘Go Red’ for access to free classes and personal improvement sessions with life coaches and health experts.  

The American Heart Association recommends incorporating a balanced diet and obtaining at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to improve heart health. 

Along the way, individuals are encouraged to post their before and new-me-in-progress photos using the hashtag #MIBetterU on Twitter or Facebook


Click here to check out the holiday giveaways we're hosting!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

How the Detroit Lions Celebrate Thanksgiving

For over seven decades, the Detroit Lions have played a regular-season game on Thanksgiving Day, which has made the team as much a part of Thanksgiving as the turkey itself.  

The tradition is, in fact, older than 24 current NFL franchises.

But few are probably aware of how the Detroit Lions celebrate their Thanksgiving.

When it’s your job to play on the national stage, a properly seasoned bird, cranberry sauce, and other trimmings kind of have to take a back seat.

My husband knows about this all too well because he played his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions.

As a former Lions offensive lineman from 1991 through 1996, he’s played six Thanksgiving Day games, so who better to put on the hot seat than him?

Sure, times have changed since then.

Most notably, the Lions now play in Ford Field instead of the Pontiac Silverdome. 

But here are a few random facts about this unique NFL tradition during the era of former Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes:

·         Following a short Wednesday “dress rehearsal” practice, the team as a whole would break bread together during a luncheon that featured a traditional Thanksgiving menu.

·         During the week leading up to the Thanksgiving game, Lions legends from season’s past were invited to share their Thanksgiving game day stories and words of wisdom with the current team.

·         The day before Thanksgiving is deemed media day in which the network broadcasting the game that year would interview the players about what the game means to them. The interviews would then be broadcast throughout the game.

·         Now this one is cruel: A few days before the game, the veteran players pull the mother of all pranks on poor, unsuspecting rookies. The veteran player of each position would send the rookies to a local supermarket to fetch turkeys for every player on the team, under the guise that the store was giving the turkeys away for free. When the rookies arrive, they would realize that it was all a prank. In lieu of free turkeys, the rookies would discover a laughing store manager and members of the media with video cameras.

·         During the team meeting on the eve of the Thanksgiving, the team would meet privately and reflect on the current season, give thanks, and express gratitude.

·         The MVP of the Thanksgiving Day game would be awarded a real turkey leg – ripped straight from a cooked bird. In 1989 former NFL coach and longtime football commentator John Madden spearheaded this tradition, known as the Thanksgiving Day award.

·         Tuesday is generally deemed a day off in the NFL, but the Tuesday before Thanksgiving is a full-blown practice day for the Detroit Lions.

·         Following the game, Lions players would be off for the rest of the week and would report back to practice the following Monday. Many players would use that time to travel and be with loved ones. (This applied to my husband, whose entire family resides in New Jersey.)

As a native Michigander, I’ve had the good fortune of attending a few Lions Thanksgiving Day games, but my most memorable experience – as far as football and Thanksgiving goes – happened during my junior year in high school in 1993: Here in Michigan, the varsity football state championship game takes place the day after Thanksgiving. And that year, my John Glenn Rockets took on the Fordson High Tractors – in the same stadium, the Silverdome, where the Lions played one day prior.

We lost, yes, but making it to The Big Dance was reason enough to celebrate. And besides, the Rockets gave it their all so they had nothing to be ashamed of.

You may recall I recently blogged about attending my high school’s homecoming football game – twenty years post-graduation.

Well, on the heels of that game, I chatted with John Glenn Varsity Football Assistant Coach John Garrett about the team’s plans for this Thanksgiving. Predictably, he said everything hinges on two scenarios: Making it through playoffs…or not.

“That week is significant to almost every team around,” says Coach Garrett. “Almost every coach plans to spend Thanksgiving with their team – particularly because the state finals are the next day. That’s your ultimate goal.”

But, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be: A few weeks after Coach Garrett rendered the statement above, the Rockets lost their Division 1 district playoff semifinal against the Saline Hornets 41-6.

Now, I’m simply waiting to watch my Lions.

And, of course, to devour one heck of a dinner afterward.


Have a very Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And please be sure to stop by the blog (between your helpings of turkey and stuffing) for a fun and festive holiday giveaway we will be launching that day!  In the meantime, click here to check out our existing holiday giveaways!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Back by Popular Demand: Ashwater Soap Co.

Allow me to begin this post by reiterating my feelings about Ashwater Soap Co.:

Their handmade soaps are unbelievably luxurious (with an incredibly fresh aroma to match); their customer service is unrivaled; and they only use the finest ingredients to craft their all-natural soaps.

And if that isn't enough to sell you on what Ashwater is all about, there's this -- the details regarding the source of their palm oil -- in their own words:

"We too are very concerned about this irresponsible harvesting of palm oil to the detriment of the environment. We use organic "RSPO Sustainable" palm oil. RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) is the authoritative voice in the field, and they have certified that the oil that we use is harvested sustainably. This is the site from which we get our organic RSPO Sustainable Palm Oil , and this site describes the RSPO sustainable certification process."

I'm telling you, folks, if you deem yourself a soap snob like me -- we only use sulfate-free soap products in this house -- then you will love these soaps.

You may recall that we hosted our first Ashwater Soap Co. giveaway back in September (you can read it here), and based on the entries alone, I know that many of you share our family's love of good, quality soaps, so we wanted to host a second giveaway -- this time featuring Ashwater's Christmas bar (pictured above), which, like all Ashwater soaps, is all-natural. Their Christmas bar is unique, however, in that it features a fruity, spicy scent.

The lucky winner of this giveaway will win FOUR (4) bars of Ashwater Soap Co.'s Christmas soap.

This giveaway will run until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, November 30, 2014. 
Thank you for participating, and good luck!

Click here to check out the other holiday giveaways we're hosting!

Disclaimer: All opinions are 100% of yours truly.

A NOTE ABOUT MY POST SCHEDULE: Between blogging for the NFL, USA Football, and wiping the noses and behinds of two little ones, I have decided that it is in the best interest of my sanity (and this blog) to dial back a bit. Therefore, I will now publish new posts here 
every Monday and Thursday, come rain or shine. 
(And I'm Type-A, so you know you can hold me to this.) 
Thanks for your understanding. xo 
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Monday, November 17, 2014

What if your child had a stroke in the fourth grade?

You read correctly.

Fourth grade.

It happened to Erica Singleton, 35, of southeastern Michigan.

But she doesn't want your pitty.

Nor does she need it.

Erica is doing far more to better her health than a lot of us, as a matter of fact, and we would all do well to take a page from her book.

More on that in a moment.

Allow me to set the stage first...

So tis the season to eat, indulge, and splurge to our heart's (and taste buds') content.

And less than two months from now, we will literally be bombarded with commercials for gym memberships, juicers, and everything else that can help create a leaner, meaner -- healthier -- version of ourselves.

But here's a novel idea: What if we could get on the good foot right now so that when the New Year rolls around, we'll be where we want to be health-wise instead of making plans to get there.

That's precisely what the American Heart Association's Better U Challenge is designed to do: The 12-week challenge, which concludes January 24, aims to improve participants' heart health through various exercise classes and educational workshops. Better U initiative is a joint venture between AHA and St. John Providence Health System.

I'm delighted to have been chosen by the American Heart Association to serve as one of their 2015 Go Red for Women bloggers, and this post is my first in a series that will feature stories meant to motivate, educate, and, ultimately, help all of us become our very best.

And few stories can inspire us like Erica's. She recently joined the Better U program to lose weight and strengthen her arm movement. 

I had the great fortune of meeting Erica in person recently -- she and I are pictured above with Melissa Thrasher (left), the Communications Director of the American Heart Association's Midwest Affiliate (Erica is on the right); and I can tell you two things: One, Erica is one of the most positive people I have ever had the pleasure of conversing with; and two, she is committed to this challenge. Here is her journey -- in her own words:

1.       I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to endure all that you have. Briefly explain the extent of the physical damage you incurred due to the stroke.
I still have limited range of motion in my right arm; I’ve had seven surgeries on my right foot – and I still have drop foot. I actually live in heels because it’s easier for me to walk. Also, my muscles just tense up out of nowhere sometimes. And with regards to the muscles in my face, my smile is corrected now, but before my smile was a little twisted. I love to smile, I’m a very happy person, and I’ve always been a big smiler. I’ve always wanted to keep that part of me.

2.       I’m sure that what you went through emotionally was arguably just as bad – if not worse, no?
I can still remember it like it was yesterday – and it was particularly difficult because I knew what life was like when I was just like everybody else. I could remember what it felt like to ride a bike, climb trees, etc…I got lonely; I was sad; and I was definitely angry. There’s a feeling of being trapped inside your own body because you know what you want to do, but your body won’t participate. But, emotionally…it was very hard to make friends – I was 10 years old! I still don’t know anyone who has had a stroke at that age. I had no one to talk to; no one to confide in. I could go to groups and talk to older people – the typical people one would expect to have a stroke. But there was no one that I could actually communicate with, and talk about school to…I was so alone. But there was a bit of self-growth that had to happen. Your self-esteem and self-worth have to be rebuilt.

3.       How did you become familiar with the Better U challenge, and what inspired you to sign on?
I filled out a survey from the American Heart Association online, and they asked what I wanted to get involved in, and I told them I was a survivor – and then I was invited to share my story. And then Melissa [Melissa Thrasher, who serves as Communications Director of the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate] told me about the challenge, I submitted my documents, and here we are.

4.       Talk about your journey thus far…do you feel like you’re on a different path now?
I definitely am: Now, the first thing I want to do is go for a run – I don’t care how cold it is; I don’t care how wet it is; I don’t care if my hair gets ruined. I just want to run! And I want to make sure breakfast, lunch, and dinner are planned. That is a big difference for me because I’ve never really planned those meals. I put more thought into what I eat, how I eat it, and what times of the day I eat it.

5.       What do you anticipate will be your greatest source of strength and support during this 12-week journey?
The fact that I’ll fit back into my clothing – that’s always a plus! And also that, through the platform of the American Heart Association, I can let other people know that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Eighty percent of strokes are preventable – and I don’t think anyone should have to go through this alone.

6.       What do you ultimately hope to achieve from participating in this challenge?
One of my personal goals is to help the world realize that a stroke can happen at any point in life, and it’s not just something that is reserved for the elderly. And I hope to bring awareness to the fact that if it happens, you can beat it. If you know the symptoms and signs, you can easily save somebody’s life.

7.       What is your message to others, to those who may be on the fence about committing to this challenge?
It can only get better. And there’s no better time than right now. By committing to this challenge, it’ll benefit you so much, it’ll impact so much of your life – it has already done that for me. We are stronger than we think we are.

***

Better U challenge applicants are encouraged to take a short assessment here to receive their starting heart score and then register online here and select ‘Go Red’ for access to free classes and personal improvement sessions with life coaches and health experts.  

The American Heart Association recommends incorporating a balanced diet and obtaining at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to improve heart health. 

Along the way, individuals are encouraged to post their before and new-me-in-progress photos using the hashtag #MIBetterU on Twitter or Facebook


Click here to check out the holiday giveaways we're hosting!


A NOTE ABOUT MY POST SCHEDULE: Between blogging for the NFL, USA Football, and wiping the noses and behinds of two little ones, I have decided that it is in the best interest of my sanity (and this blog) to dial back a bit. Therefore, I will now publish new posts here 
every Monday and Thursday, come rain or shine. 
(And I'm Type-A, so you know you can hold me to this.) 
Thanks for your understanding. xo 
If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- 
The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The 7 Stages of Facebook "Likes" Addiction

Likes.

Aren't they what Facebook is all about?

I mean, really. It's not like we have this burning desire to broadcast to the world today's to-do list, a photo of Aunt Mebel's rump roast, or the fact that little Susie possesses the innate talent to snort a Cheerio through her nose.

Okay, some people are overtaken by a burning desire to broadcast such information.

But for the vast majority of us, it's not these things that matter, per se: It's the validation and attention we receive for posting them.

And it's kinda addictive.

Which, when you think about it, is silly and scary at the same time.

Here are The 7 Stages of Facebook "Likes" Addiction:

1. Occurrence
Alright. First things first: Whether you just took some cookies out of the oven or you just hopped aboard a hayride, before something can be elevated to Facebook post status, it has to happen in the first place. 

2. Inspiration 
Because we now live in a time where we post even the most mundane occurrence the mili-second after it's happened, this stage often happens before we consciously know it. In the case of the freshly-baked chocolate cookies, we might get the urge to post a picture of them before the aroma even filters to the living room.

3. Expectation 
This stage actually commences before we hit the post button: It is the little voice inside our head -- the expectation -- that whatever it is that we will post will not only garner the attention of our friends and followers, but that they will also care enough about it to "like" it.

4. Postation
No, it's not a real word. And, yes, I totally made it up. Postation is the act of posting our words or comments onto our Facebook page. This stage has been known to be accompanied by a bevy of emotions, ranging from pride to euphoria.

5. Anticipation
After something has inspired you to post -- and you've done so -- the only thing left to do is wait for "likes" to come rolling in. Or so we hope.

6. Denial
This stage can go one of two ways and can basically be summarized by the following sentiments:
What?!? I can't believe it. Ten "likes" in TWO minutes? Damn, this post is killin' it!! 
You feel amazing. 
Or...
What?!? I can't believe it. Only one "like"? It's been FIVE WHOLE MINUTES
You feel like ish.
A few minutes later, the aforementioned thought is followed closely by...
Only ONE more "like"??? Even the pic Dan posted of his dead parrot got seven!

7. Dénouement
Like the definition of the word itself, the dénouement stage is the final resolution. The outcome. The end of the road for this particular post. And like #6, this phase is also like A Tale of Two Cities because it can either be fantastic or f-ed up, which, of course, is determined by the number of likes. If your post has attracted a ton, then, hooray for you, you're probably busy counting them like Monopoly play money or, if your post is really overachieving, you're replying to comments.
But if you're still throwing shade over the fact that you've been trumped by Dan's dead parrot, you might feel like kicking your cat. And if you don't have a cat, you may be depressed enough to buy one solely for that purpose.

But in a matter of minutes, you'll cut your losses with this post and look forward to something else happening, which will set the vicious cycle into motion all over again.

Happy Facebooking!

And if you're overcome with the sudden urge to like something -- anything -- you may start by clicking here to like The Brown Girl with Long Hair on Facebook. (Yeah, shameless plug; flame away.)

A NOTE ABOUT MY POST SCHEDULE: Between blogging for the NFL, USA Football, and wiping the noses and behinds of two little ones, I have decided that it is in the best interest of my sanity (and this blog) to dial back a bit. Therefore, effective next Monday, November 17, 
I will now publish new posts here every Monday and Thursday, come rain or shine. 
(And I'm Type-A, so you know you can hold me to this.) 
Thanks for your understanding. xo

Check out the awesome giveaways we've got going on at the moment, including one for 
a Thanksgiving turkey, and another for two FREE tickets to an NFL game!!
Click here to enter one giveaway...or all of them.
If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- 
The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers
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