Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cancer Is a Bitch

Gail Konop Baker bares all in her memoir Cancer Is a Bitch: (Or, I'd Rather Be Having a Midlife Crisis). I have no idea how Gail and I connected on Facebook, but I'm so glad we did. Once I discovered that she had written a book with such a hysterical title, I knew it was one that I'd enjoy reading.

"I imagine all the biopsied areas are cancerous and it spreads and...I become a pothead because why the hell not? I'll call my old pot connection from college and order the best. I'll get a giant purple bong and spend my days with my head floating in pillows of bong smoke, except I hate smoke. Smoke hurts my throat, which is why I was never much of a pot smoker in college. So I'll move to California instead and go to one of those bakeris for medically sanctioned users, like the one I saw on Weeds, and Mary Louise Parker and I will become best friends. I really like her. She's so down to earth and real and honest, except for the whole drug-dealing thing. But I'll help her find a better guy and do something about that brother who's driving her crazy. And when my hair falls out, she'll help me find a Farrah Fawcett wig. Finally, the hair I wanted in seventh grade. Hair that can't be mussed at night and saves me time in the morning - maybe this isn't so bad. Me stoned with good hair."
Once I started reading, I couldn't stop. I fell in love with the characters, and at one point felt a little guilty, as if I were watching this family through their kitchen window. So much emotion is exposed through Gail's descriptions, conversations and she reveals her most intimate thoughts that I now feel I know her so well.
"I want to be brave. I want to be big. I want to be gracious and cool. I want to be the Audrey Hepburn of cancer. I want to be like that girl who went to my high school, Heather Arnold. Tall and lithe and wide-eyed, she had leukemia and when her long diaphanous white-blond hair fell out, she tied the most gorgeous silk scarves around her delicate head, sloped bell-bottom pants off her jutting hips, wrapped her bony wrists in loose sheaves of silver bangles. She wore it well. She made cancer look sexy. As if the very fact that she wouldn't be here forever made her mysteroius and irresistible, more valuable than the rest of us."
The funny thing about this book is that it's not really about cancer. I know, many people would argue with me. But the way I see it, this book is about life. Life as a Mom, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a lover and a woman who just so happens to have breast cancer.
"I'm not sure I trust the future anymore. It doesn't exist until it happens and it doesn't happen if you don't exist."
For many of us, the crazy, scary things that life throws our way are oftentimes more uncomfortable and more distracting to those around us. Moms will relate to Gail's need to make everyone around her comfortable and secure instead of being concerned for herself.
"I stare out the window and count illuminated mile markers and think, I don't want Mike to lose me, because he hates losing things and I hate being lost so it really wouldn't work out for either of us."
I've read other memoirs about dealing with cancer but none are so real and raw as this one. Gail's family loves her to pieces and it's obvious from the way she refers to them that they are an amazing group of people who is lucky to have her in their lives.
"The things I want, I've told him, many times, in therapy and out, can't be bought.

I want a deep and abiding companionship and partnership. I want each of us to be the soft spot for the other to land on, I want our home and our family to nurture and enrich all of us, I want our level of trust to be so solid that we can laugh and cry out loud, with our entire being. I want us to feel open and free to be our best selves and now I want my health. But he can't buy that either, can't give me what I want, and that makes him feel utterly powerless as a physician and a husband."
Gail's cancer is definitely not something she takes lightly, but the fact that life must go on allows us to see that Gail, or anyone, can live a "normal" life despite a positive diagnosis.

Friday, January 30, 2009

New Feature

When I first drew the road map for my website (over a year ago) I had envisioned a page in which I'd recommend some great parenting books but it never dawned on me that I'd be adding books to that list continuously.

I have recently created a Happy Healthy Hip Parenting Bookstore so that the books can be easily seen, purchased and shared. I've decided to use the blog as a place to highlight a book - once a day - simply because there are so many on that list and it just keeps growing.

Today's Parenting Book of the Day is
Life Lessons from Soccer: What Your Child Can Learn On and Off the Field-A Guide for Parents and Coaches by Vincent Fortanasce.

Parent-tested and approved by the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), this indispensable book by a parent, coach, and doctor shows soccer moms, dads, and coaches how to encourage children to look beyond winning and to turn every game and practice into an opportunity to teach life lessons.

Dr. Vincent Fortanasce applies his expertise in child development to guide parents and coaches on:
  • Emphasizing fun over performance and morality over victory
  • Understanding the way kids think and their capabilities at each developmental stage
  • Controlling their own touchline behavior
  • Instilling character, conscience, and courage in every player, regardless of talent
In Life Lessons from Soccer, Vincent Fortanasce celebrates the enchantments of soccer as a learning ground for family values and life lessons -- and for becoming closer to your children on and off the field.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Easiest Way to Learn

by Steve Goodier

A true story points to a universal truth about human beings: we learn best by watching how others behave.

President Calvin Coolidge once invited friends from his hometown to dine with him at the White House. Unsure of their table manners, the guests decided to imitate the presi­dent. They watched closely to see which utensils he used, what foods he ate and when.Their strategy seemed to succeed until coffee was served. Coolidge poured some coffee into his saucer. They did the same. He added sugar and cream. His guests did, too. Then the president bent over and put his saucer on the floor for the cat!

Like Coolidge's hometown guests, we, too, seem to learn best by imitation. Kids learn by ob­serving parents when they are young, and by copying their peers as they grow older. In fact, parents should probably be less concerned about whether their children are paying attention to them and more worried about the fact that their kids are ALWAYS watching.

They tell us that adults learn in much the same way. If you're struggling with your computer or want to learn to drive a car, you will be more successful if you have someone show you how to do it. You can always read the operator's manual and try to figure everything out yourself, but you will learn best by watching others and asking questions.

What if you want to become more self-confident, to organize your life, to be a better parent or to get along better with others? Again, we're told that the best way to learn these skills and attitudes is to find somebody who already is confident, or who is an effective parent or who has healthy attitudes and then mimic the traits you want to adopt. It is the easiest and quickest way to shape your life.

Just about ANY personality trait or skill can be learned: simply find it in someone you know and copy it. Then watch what happens.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Finding Your Note

by Steve Goodier

A short story by William Saroyan is titled "The Man Whose Wife's Hair Was Too Long But Whose Understanding of Music Was Too Short." If you think the title strange, listen to this: In the story, a husband plays the cello and never changes notes. He just continues to repeat the same note without variation. His wife is driven to distraction and finally protests: "Why do you play the same note over and over and over again? Other cellists play different notes."

"Other cellists play different notes," her husband replies, "because they are trying to find the right one. I've found mine."

Ahhh, the beauty of finding your note! I think I could like him. Finding your note is something like finding your purpose in life or landing where you need to be. Philosopher James Allen advised, "Above all be of single aim; have a legitimate and useful purpose, and devote yourself unreservedly to it." He could have said, "Find your note and stay with it."

I believe that is an important part of being happy. Like Helen Keller says, true happiness is attained "through fidelity to a worthy purpose."

In music, staking your claim on one note will drive everyone around you nuts. But finding the right note in life, and giving yourself to it, can be a source of unending joy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Six Figure Moms Club

I attended a great networking event last night hosted by @aaswartz of Square Martini Media. There were over a dozen women there and I did not have the opportunity to speak with all of the women but I did meet several great people and even ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while.

We created vision boards, which I had never done before and we ate some yummy food provided by dining details and shared some laughs, discussed our children, our businesses and where we picture ourselves in the next year.

Many of the people there spoke about Facebook and Twitter including @
alanunderkofler, @VPG_Printing, @missorganized, @EtsukoT, @searchguru and @katzni.

My vision board contains many interesting photos and words found in random magazines that spilled across the tables tonight. Themes that showed up on my board included family, love & romance, travel and of course, success and financial freedom.

If you haven't created a vision board for yourself, your business, or your family, check out the vision boards that people have posted online. You'll see it's as easy as putting down on paper, or in writing, what you see for your future.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Coach Cathy

A dear friend of mine is an amazing mother, a loving wife, an inspiring Life Coach and author of a journal for children. She also teaches a workshop she created, called Welcome to My World. We've sat down together a few times and each time I leave feeling relaxed, refreshed and inspired.

She's started her own blog - Coach Cathy - and I highly recommend you get to know her, either by visiting her website or by attending one of her coaching calls that are filled with inspiration.

Coach Cathy
Cathy Northcutt, Life Success Coach

Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Same-Sex Marriage Would Be the Best Thing for our Economy

Imagine for a minute you're planning a wedding. It doesn't have to be your wedding, or the wedding of a sibling or best friend. Let's say you're a wedding planner. Your job is to create the best, most beautiful, elaborate, memorable and amazing wedding for the happy couple-to-be.

The people that are getting married are career-oriented, ambitious individuals who want to have a say in the plans, but who want someone else to carry them out. They're smart because they've heard of the "Bridezillas" who become obsessed with spending disgusting amounts of money on what's supposed to be a special day and who turn into evil Bitches who will fight for the best, brightest and most expensive wedding ever, despite who they hurt (or how much debt they incur) in the process.

Your job is easy. After all, there are hundreds of vendors in the wedding industry just waiting to help you out. The couple-to-be is relying on you to guide them and help them invest in the special day that will launch their future together as husband and husband, or wife and wife.

Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage, this is your job. You are going to be making a nice-size fee for arranging all of the details for their big event. Now, where do you go? Who do you turn to?

In the U.S., the average couple spends around $30,000 on a wedding. That does not include the cost of the honeymoon or engagement ring! This doesn't even consider the cost that is spent by the bridal party themselves or the gifts that the guests purchase for the couple. Imagine what same-sex marriage could do to boost our economy when you consider the following costs:
  • Bride/Groom Accessories $125 - $400
  • Groom Suit / Tux $175 - $300
  • Wedding Dress $1000 - $1650
  • Hair / Makeup $125 - $215
  • Headpiece / Veil $225 - $375
  • Ceremony Accessories $140 - $235
  • Ceremony Decorations $420 - $700
  • Ceremony Location $490 - $825
  • Officiate/Pastor/Priest $175 - $300
  • Rehearsal Dinner $955 - $1595
  • Ceremony/Reception DJ $550 - $900
  • Boutonnieres/Corsages $135 - $225
  • Bride Bouquet $115 - $190
  • Bridesmaid Bouquets $180 - $300
  • Ceremony Flowers $325 - $545
  • Flower Girl Flowers $35 - $60
  • Reception Flowers $735 - $1225
  • Gifts for Attendants $355 - $595
  • Gifts for Each Other $285 - $480
  • Gifts for Parents $125 - $210
  • Shower Invitations $75 - $125
  • Guestbook $35 - $60
  • Wedding Invitation & Reply Cards $325 - $535
  • Personal Stationery $100 - $170
  • Save the Date Cards $125 - $200
  • Thank You Cards $65 - $110
  • Rings for Couple $500 - $1200 (each)
  • Bridal Consultant/Bridal Planner $1000 - $1650
  • Photographer $1500 - $2550
  • Videographer $1100 - $1850
  • Reception Beverages/Bartender $1660 - $2780
  • Hotel Room for Couple $200 - $350
  • Cake/Cake Knife Set/Cake Topper $460 - $775
  • Reception Decorations $800 - $1350
  • Favors $270 - $450
  • Reception Food Service $5680 - $9500
  • Reception Location $1850 - $3000
  • Reception Rentals $825 - $1380
  • Car Rental $225 - $380
  • Limo Rental $500 - $835
The above costs are estimates, based on rates found in Southern California. I didn't spend nearly half this amount on my wedding (although it was approximate to the cost of my divorce).

Weddings can be put together with a much smaller - or grander budget - but the point here is that there are vendors (that are usually locally-owned businesses) that could benefit from making same-sex marriages legal.

I have never attended a same-sex wedding or commitment ceremony but I know of many couples who would be honored to stand before their friends and family and validate their relationship just as heterosexual couples have been allowed to do for generations.

Just a little something to think about.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cruel and Unusual

Diane Hoffman tagged in a meme last month which I didn't come across until a few days ago. I felt bad that I didn't know about it when it was first posted, so I did what any good blogger would do - I followed the instructions immediately and took a photo of myself right then and there- regardless of the fact that I hadn't showered that day and was looking - and feeling - rather BLAH.

Warning: Photo is coming soon!

Diane is the blogger over at The Mommy Diaries who was tagged with this rather unusual game of GOTCHA! by Sassy Irish Lassie, who was tagged by Girl in the Glasses who was tagged by...I am determined to find out who started this madness!

OK - Before I share the startling photo with you, here are the rules:
1) Take a picture of yourself right NOW!
2) DON'T change your clothes, DON'T fix your hair... Just take a picture.
3) Post that picture with NO editing.
4) Post these instruction with your picture.
5)Tag 10 people to do this..
And, what you've all been waiting for (shield your little ones from the screen):

And yes, I'm tagging these 10 *lucky* bloggers whom I will harass daily until they participate:
  1. The Bloggess
  2. Motherlode
  3. Mommas Tantrum
  4. Busy Mom
  5. Mom 101
  6. Suburban Turmoil
  7. My Tiny Kingdom
  8. Mitch McDad
  9. Sheena "Mommyblogger" Williams
  10. Thursday Drive
Please don't hate me because I'm beautiful!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"I Forgot Our Anniversary" Contest

from The Father Life

Did you ever forget a really important date… like your anniversary? Your wife’s birthday? Kinda awkward, eh? Ever go to buy your wife a bra for Valentine’s Day (oh yeah, that’s coming up) and… can’t remember her size? Yeah, so pathetic.

Well, fear not! We recently heard about a new product (thanks to Tyler Wainright of Building Camelot!) called THE LITTLE PINK CARD, “a nifty, wallet-sized card that assists your husband, boyfriend, or significant other in always buying you the perfect gift” and in remembering important dates.

As you can tell from the picture, it’s pretty self-explanatory; but it’s a good lifeline for guys who just can’t seem to remember these critical pieces of information despite their life depending on it. So, we dropped a line to the fine folks over at THE LITTLE PINK CARD and asked if we could do a giveaway with them… and so…

With Valentines Day right around the corner, THE FATHER LIFE and THE LITTLE PINK CARD are happy to bring you our “Help! I Forgot Our Anniversary!” Contest!

Here’s how it works:

  • Post your most pathetic “I Forgot _____” story! We’ll read ‘em all and choose the 4 funniest/most pathetic stories about a time you forgot your anniversary, got you wife a flower she was allergic to, etc… you get the idea.
  • Have fun! This isn’t meant to humiliate us guys. It’s good to enjoy a good laugh reading these.
  • The last day to post your story is Sunday, January 25th.

Here’s what you can win:

  • The Little Pink Card will give away 4 cards to the 4 guys with the most pathetic story. They’ll be printed with the info you want for your lady.
  • And, even if you don’t win, The Little Pink Card is giving the rest of our readers free shipping/handling on their product (we’ll be posting a link).

Sound good? Great! Post your most pathetic “I Forgot _____” story today for your chance to win! And spread the word! The more stories, the more laughs!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Road to the White House

With the Obama Inauguration just a few days from today, I thought it was perfect timing to mention the great book series written by Mitali Perkins, called First Daughter. In the first book, Extreme American Makeover, Sameera Righton, the only daughter of Republican Presidential candidate, James Righton, is asked by her father's campaign staff, to reinvent herself.

Actually, she's being reinvented by them no matter how she feels about it. With the new clothes, make-up, hair styles and even a new blog written by a paid ghost-writer, her new All-American image is supposed to help boost her father's image despite the fact that Sparrow (as her family refers to her) is asked to subtly remove her true identity from the campaign.

Luckily, Sparrow has her own blog and even though it's only read by a few dozen inside her inner circle, it provides her with great freedom and a chance to express herself and get the love and support she needs to deal with a media campaign that's testing her and her family on a daily basis.

Sparrow is like most 17-year-olds, which is what made this story so realistic and her voice so appealing. No, most teenagers you know were probably not born in Pakistan, or adopted or have parents in the political forefront. But what does hold true is that both Sparrow and others around that age do a lot of soul searching to find their own voice that is both genuine and confident, holding on to the values, culture and beliefs that make them so unique.

Many young people, whether they're in front of the camera or not, go through a sort of crisis of identity, somewhere between being a child and becoming an adult. These 'tween years can be a challenge to everyone, parent and child.

This book is recommended for anyone dealing with someone at this stage (parent, 'tween, or teacher) since it is a wonderfully written, insightful story that deals with friendship, first crushes, politics, culture, religion, family and remaining true to oneself, despite the outside forces that tend to influence us.

The second book in the series, White House Rules, marks the beginning of Sparrow's life as a First Daughter. Will she be able to maintain her identity and her friendships as life as the President's Daughter keeps her pampered, protected and living a fairy tale lifestyle? She may need a disguise to help her survive the next four years.

Luckily, Malia and Sasha Obama are young enough to enjoy the pleasures of childhood as they move into the White House and start their new life in Washington D.C. I look forward to seeing the First Daughters grow up and find their own voices. I may even start to search for blogs written by them from behind the scenes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No Comment

About a week ago, I was contacted by BlogHer contributor, Elana Centor, after she read one of my Facebook status updates about losing my job at the beginning of the year. She was writing a post about losing one's job and how children react. She was hoping to chat about my experience for her article. We tried to arrange a phone interview but our schedules never allowed us to talk over the phone.

One night, about 2am my time, I was getting caught up on my friends' status updates on Facebook when an IM chat screen opened up. It was Elana, also experiencing insomnia, so we began to instant message about the interesting conversations I had with my son. about getting laid off. She's pretty much captured the gist of it in the final article.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Newly Published

The first weekly newsletter of 2009 has just been published. Here's what's included:'
  • Top Ten Brain Foods for Children
  • Parenting Resolutions
  • Shopping Organic at Costco
  • Free Online Courses
  • Nutrition Data at Your Fingerprints
  • Chasing Vermeer
  • Space to Express Grief
  • Get Connected
Please let me know what I can do to help support you in 2009!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beautiful Girls

Each girl has her own inner beauty: the beauty of action, caring, activism.

Every year since 2000, the May/June issue of New Moon Girls magazine features 25 girls ages 8 - 12 who are beautiful inside. The Girls Editorial Board selects 25 girls (from those who are nominated) who represent many different aspects of inner beauty. Those girls are featured in the magazine. All the other girls who are nominated receive special recognition and are honored at the New Moon Girls website.

Tell them about the inner beauty of your daughter, granddaughter, niece, neighbor or student and help to inspire girls everywhere with their own unique inner beauty.

Anyone can nominate a girl - her family, someone in the community, another girl. And girls can also nominate themselves! I encourage you to nominate one or more girls by downloading the short nomination form.

Email the completed form by midnight Central Standard Time on Monday, January 19th.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Life of Joy

by Steve Goodier

Mother Teresa teaches us an important lesson about happiness. She was one of those people who emanated joy. Born in 1910 in Skopje, Macedonia, she felt called as a teenager to move to Calcutta, India. Some months later she saw a sight that completely revolutionized her life.

Shortly after moving to Calcutta she spotted a homeless, dying woman lying in the gutter, being eaten by rats. After seeing that, compassion compelled her to beg an abandoned Hindu temple from the government and convert it into a crude, make-shift hospital for the dying. "Nobody should die alone" she would later say. Mother Teresa went on to establish homes for the destitute dying in numerous cities. But in spite of devoting her life to people in such dire straits, she radiated joy and happiness.

This incredible woman was once interviewed by Malcolm Muggeridge from the BBC News. He asked her an unusual question: "Mother Teresa, the thing I noticed about you and the hundreds of sisters who now form your team is that you all look so happy. Is that a put-on?"

Here was a woman who had none of the things we like to think of as bringing happiness: a home, a family, prosperity. Rather, she lived in near-poverty and spent her time wiping dirt and various body fluids from half-dead cancer and leprosy victims – and appeared to be blissfully happy. She replied, "Oh no, not at all. Nothing makes you happier than when you really reach out in mercy to someone who is badly hurt."

She would agree that happiness does not come from acquiring, but is a by-product of giving: time, money, love. Do you want a life of joy? Start by giving.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Brendan Fraser in Inkheart

School Library Journal praises Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, which is now being released on the big screen, featuring Brendan Fraser. This fantasy adventure involves Meggie, a young girl and her father who enjoy reading together and escaping into books. Meggie discovers, however, that her father can "read" characters out of books and real people can disappear inside the pages as well. Excitement and intrigue follow when she learns just who has been capture by the story and what villains have escaped.

Inkheart comes to theaters on January 23rd, but I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of the book before you see it. Just like Harry Potter films capture the story with great images and enhance the reading experience, I have a feeling that Inkheart will provide the same effect.

Enjoy this trailer for the upcoming release:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Losing a Child

The recent death of John Travolta and Kelly Preston's son has left many parents stepping back and taking time to slow down and enjoy each and every minute we have with our child. Life is too precious to not hold on to the memories we create and to appreciate the time we have on this planet.

The death of a child is not something that parents want to think about, but where does one turn if this sudden loss should occur?

Compassionate Friends is a worldwide organization established to help support those who have lost a child. Founded in 1972, this non-profit group provides community forums, resources and events to bring together families looking for ways to honor their child and keep the memories alive.

Those who have lost a child to SIDS, stillbirth or experienced miscarriage can also find comfort and compassion through the members of this group.

Knowing that you're not alone is one of the biggest strengths during the time of tragedy. Visit the website for details on local chapters, the annual Walk to Remember and the International Gathering.

Stop by their Ways to Give page to learn about how you can donate to Compassionate Friends.

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Lover is Better Than Yours

Have you seen it? The hearts, the red lovey-dovey Valentine's displays that get put up in retail stores the second (or a minute, maybe) after the New Year?

Valentine's Day is the next gift-giving holiday on the calendar and with the economy being what it is, there's no doubt that this year, lovers will have an even more difficult time coming up with the best present for their significant other.
That's why nominating your partner for the World's Best Lover contest is a definite win-win!

Love Guru Dr. Ava Cadell, founder of Loveology University, invites romantics to submit a FREE entry listing why their lover is the best. In return, they'll receive a FREE certificate for their partner attesting to this loving tribute. This is a perfect Valentine's gift at no cost.

Each person who submits an entry will also receive a FREE copy of the ebook 52 Sizzling Sex Secrets. Deadline for submissions is February 6th, 2009. The winner will be announced on February 13th. The winner will receive a $2000 scholarship for Loveology University or $1000 cash.
PLUS -- When you visit the Loveology University facebook page and become a "fan," we will enter you in a drawing for an ebook from Dr Ava (retail $9.95 see the bookstore for details).

Whether you are married, single, male or female - there is an ebook that can make a difference in your love life.

So go ahead, write the ultimate love letter to your partner by submitting him/her in the World's Best Lover Contest and let everyone know why your lover is simply the best!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year - New Y.O.U.

I am working on becoming a certified practitioner for the Y.O.U. Consulting Group (as if I don't have enough on my plate). It's hard to define to those who are not familiar with assessment tools, but, to sum it up, it's cutting edge human assessment technology for creating perfect relationships in business, home and life.

I had several volunteers step up to take the survey for my first homework assignment. I was asked to provide their translation based on their responses to several questions about their appearance, their preferences and their own perception of who they are.

If you'd like to take the personality assessment, please contact me for details. Y.O.U. Consulting Group works with educators, and business owners for team-building and management. There are practitioners waiting to help you succeed in your personal and business relationships.