Saturday, June 2, 2012

Summer Dreamin'

Summer is (almost) here and I’m so excited! I love everything about this time of year: the warm weather, the long sunny days, and no school! I see summer as a wonderful opportunity to slow down and concentrate on things I can’t do the other nine months of the year – either because of time or weather constraints.

Each summer, I try and make a list of goals that I want to accomplish – nothing heavy, just fun things. Here is what I have on my “to do” list this summer. Feel free to steal some. I hope they inspire you to make your own list. Don’t let this summer pass you by without achieving something fun and different.

Summer of 2012:

-Laugh more. I’m searching for the old Carol Burnett Shows to rent (hoping the local library has them; if not, Netflix here I come) but some other fun series include I Love Lucy; Mash; Seinfeld; Johnny Carson and Saturday Night Live. If they can’t get you laughing, you’re in trouble!

-Go to a midnight opening of a summer blockbuster movie. I missed Men in Black 3 but there’s still Rock of Ages (6/15), The Dark Knight Rises (7/20) and The Bourne Legacy (8/3) to see.

-Explore my town. My kids did a “Walk Through Wayne” tour with their third grade class, but I never went. This summer, I’m hoping to do a little research and find out some secret gems right here in my own home town!

-Read an inspirational summer book. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea was great!) On my list is A Walk on the Beach, by Joan Anderson. (I also added Summerland, by Erin Hilderbrand, to my list as well! Can’t beat a good beach book!)

-Keep a journal/summer blog. I find so many people ask me what I’ve done over the summer and I forget by September, so maybe if I write it down, it will help! (I also know re-reading it in February will help my state of mind during those long dreary winter months!)

-Write a poem. I’m not a poet – and truthfully, I don’t really “get” most poems, but I’m going to try and write one this summer!

-Paint a picture. I have absolutely NO artistic abilities, but every time I’m at A.C. Moore and see those blank canvases, my fingers itch. There is a new shop in town, Painting with a Twist, that offers people like me the chance to paint. I’m going to try it.

-Watch the Opening Ceremony of the Summer 2012 Olympics, also known as the Games of the XXX Olympiad. My whole family is excited to watch them. I want to remember to print out the schedule so we don’t miss any exciting events! (Opening Ceremony is Friday, July 27!)

-Get a Pen Pal – I grew up corresponding with a pen pal who was from Wellington, New Zealand. I would write her faithfully every month, and we exchanged not only letters, but pictures, currency and dreams. I would love to find out where she is now! And maybe reconnect? Or find a new pen pal!

-Get my Christmas shopping done. Okay, this is a tough one, but I’m determined to at least put a dent in my list. (Not wrapped, mind you, just purchased.)

-Start a Wisdom Circle – I recently heard about such a group and it peaked my interest. There is so much talk of mentoring these days, but I just want to gather a group of like-minded women together so we can cheer each other on.

-Go to a drive-in movie theater. I’ve never been to one. Becky’s Drive-In Movie Theater ( is in Berlinsville, PA, about 1½ hours away from our house. I’d love to pile the kids in the car and catch a summer flick. (Maybe an early one?)

-Attend a concert in the park. There’s nothing like packing a picnic dinner and cocktails and enjoying an evening with my husband listening to (mediocre) music under the stars.

-Download a summer ring tone. Some suggestions include "Summer Lovin’" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

-Dry our clothes (or at least sheets) outside on a clothesline. (And while I’m saving the earth this summer, I may also get a rain barrel.)

-Try an exercise class outside. There’s one on the beach that I see when I’m walking that I’ve always wanted to try. I can’t think of a better way to start a summer day than exercising outside to the sound of the seagulls calling and waves crashing!

-Create a summer/beach playlist. Some must-haves: "Summer in the City", by "Lovin’ Spoonful", "Summertime Blues", by Blue Cheer, "Hot Fun in the Summertime", by Sly and the Family Stone, anything by the Beach Boys, "The Boys of Summer", by Don Henley, and "Summer of ’69", by Bryan Adams.

-Go fishing and fry up what we catch. Okay, I’ll be honest: this will be on my husband’s summer list (which I’ll have to tell him about!). I enjoy fishing but after that, I prefer he do the clean up and cooking!

-Take better advantage of our local farmer’s market. I often go to the farmer’s market, at home and at the shore, but I don’t go as much as I should, nor do I buy as much as I’d like. Hoping to change that this summer.

-Make homemade iced tea and/or lemonade. I found a great recipe for Pink Lemonade at Coastal Living: Combine 1¼ cups sugar and ½ cup boiling water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in 4½ cups cold water, 1½ cups fresh lemon juice, and ¾ cup maraschino cherry juice - Enjoy!

-Create a guest book – We always regretted not doing this at my parent’s summerhouse, so I think I’ll get one for ours. It’s a great way to remember how many people helped us celebrate our summers at the shore. And it’s not just for vacation homes; imagine the number of guests you have in your own home every year!

-Have a family water fight – I’m asking for trouble with this, but again, that’s what summer is all about – family fun. (And everyone and everything dries out – right?!)

Happy Summer!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

World Book Night USA 2012

Perhaps you saw us at the train station, or in your school, or place of work. Maybe you passed us on the busy street corner and never gave us a second look. We were there. Over 25,000 of us spent the day and evening of April 23, 2012 giving out 500,000 books to readers (and non-readers) all across the United States. Why?

We were part of World Book Night USA, 2012.

Haven’t heard of it? I’m not surprised. This is the first World Book Night in the United States, but hopefully not the last.

WBN, according to its Facebook page, is a “charitable initiative designed to spread the joy and love of reading.”

It was started in the United Kingdom in 2011 and quickly gained interest here in the United States. April 23 was picked because it is UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Book Day (as well the date of Shakespeare’s birth and death).

I was lucky enough to hear about it on Facebook. Children’s Book World, in Haverford, PA, which was a book pick-up location for the event, posted a link to WBN a few months ago. When I looked into it further, I knew I would be participating.

The process was simple: review the list of 30 books offered (including Kindred, Enders Games, Little Bee, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Poisonwood Bible and The Stand) and pick your top three choices that you would like to share with others. A few weeks later, WBN emailed you your title, and included a list of locations (mostly bookstores and libraries) in your area where you could pick up your books.

I chose Dave Egger’s book, Zeitoun, which describes the trials and tribulations one man faces after Hurricane Katrina. It is a powerful book that I read a few years ago and still can’t get out of my head.

Each book giver was given 20 paperbacks of their title. Your goal was to get these free books into as many hands as possible, with the hopes of encouraging light or non-readers to get excited about reading.

What an incredible opportunity: giving out free books!

I decided to give my books to The Honickman Learning Center and Comcast Technology Labs, a part of Project H.O.M.E., in Philadelphia. I was told that the teachers were excited to incorporate the books into their daily lessons.

I know of others who were handing their books out at local colleges, train stations, retirement homes, even car pick-up lines at schools.

Why am I going on and on about this event that is now over and done? Two reasons: First, I want to encourage you to visit the WBN website ( and find out more about this incredible project. (At the very least, you will find their list of 30 inspirational titles and perhaps find a new book to read.)

Second, I have such a love of books that I want to share this passion with others, and encourage you to do the same. While we all can’t afford to buy 20 books and hand them out on a daily basis, we can certainly take a book we have read and loved and give it to someone we think would appreciate it, whether we know them or not.

So next April 23, when someone hands you a book and asks you to read it, or share it with others, take it and thank them, and spread the word.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We're All Moms

It was the quote heard around the world: Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.”

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen was discussing Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s alleged disconnect with women voters and, inadvertently, according to Ms. Rosen, restarted the age-old debate between stay-at-home moms and working moms.

Rosen has since apologized, saying she never meant to start this argument. “I respect women and moms all the time... This is not a debate between working moms and stay-at-home moms.”

But unfortunately, that’s exactly what is has turned into, and it certainly isn’t a new discussion.

Every few years, someone writes a book, publishes an article or reports on a survey that pits (stay-at-home) mothers against (working) mothers. And for what purpose?

We are all moms; we all work; we all love our children; and we are all doing the best we can. That’s it. What more is there to say?

Motherhood is the toughest “job” in the world, with no pay, often times cranky and/or sick co-workers and crazy hours. (Luckily the benefits make it all worthwhile.)

I have been lucky enough to be able to stay at home and raise my children. It isn’t easy – financially, emotionally or mentally. Many a morning, I wished I was leaving with my husband, instead of cleaning up vomit while trying to soothe a crying baby with Barney singing in the background – all on 3 hours of sleep! However, I wouldn’t have changed any of it. (Well, almost any of it!)

Many of my friends and family members work outside the house, either out of necessity or by choice. They too deal with sick, crying children and then need to “dress up” and head to an office and pretend their minds are on their jobs, and not the children they left behind.

Is one better than the other? Of course not.

One of the toughest emotions every mother has to deal with is guilt – are we doing enough for our children?

If we are at home, we wonder if we should be working to bring in extra money to help our family and/or to show our children, especially our daughters, that we can be independent.

If we are working, perhaps we feel we should be at home raising our children ourselves, instead of having others experience their first word or first step.

So many of us beat ourselves up, wondering if we are doing the right thing. Well, here’s the point – there really isn’t one “right thing” for everyone. You have to do what is right for you and your family. And that decision is no one else’s business.

I believe Ms. Rosen when she says she wasn’t attacking Mrs. Romney for her decision to stay at home and raise her children. What upsets me is that her poor choice of words has started this debate between moms - again. We battle our children, our husbands and our bosses. Do we really need to battle each other?

We are all doing the best we can. I know one mom who uses that phrase as her mantra. When things get tough – she is running late to pick up her daughter or she forgets to send in snack for Girl Scouts – she tells herself, “I’m doing the best I can.”

And isn’t that what it’s all about? Doing the best that we can – at home, at work, with our spouses, our families and in our lives. We’re all moms – let’s stick together.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fifty Days Without...

I have not had a diet soda in 50 days. No big deal, some may say, but for me, it is a very big deal. I have been hooked on diet soda for over three decades. I started out on Tab (remember Tab?) and switched to diet soda in college. It got so bad in college that, just before graduation, I was diagnosed with caffeine addiction.

I had stopped drinking diet soda for a week or so and proceeded to have terrible headaches and lethargy. I literally couldn't get out of bed. It was so bad, my mother had to drive me to school so I could take my finals.

After hearing my diet, the doctor informed me I needed to give up the caffeine.

A sensible person would have given up the diet soda then (emphasis on sensible). What did I do? I switched to caffeine-free diet soda for a few years and continued on with my life.

Eventually, I snuck in a few regular diet sodas and, after children, I switched almost totally to fountain sodas with caffeine. (How else was I supposed to get through those early child-rearing days on four hours of sleep?)

And not just one or two cans of it, but two or three 32-oz cups of the drink. That's right - some days I would consume 96 oz. of diet soda! Healthy - not! But boy, did it keep me going!

Oh yes, I heard the warnings. Friends, family, neighbors and even strangers all told me how bad it was for me. I heard them, but didn't listen to them.

When I went on a diet a few years ago, a 32-oz diet soda was the only thing that got me through the day. If I couldn't eat, at least I could treat myself with a cold fountain soda.

It was addicting, and I knew it, but I convinced myself it wasn't really hurting me.

2012 started with a New Year's resolution (I know, I hate them, but I realized I needed this one) to loose weight and get in shape. My goal was to trim the pounds and then give up diet soda. I knew from experience I would need my daily "hit" of caffeine to help me get through the days, especially the afternoons (and most especially the long, cold winter afternoons!)

Then one Sunday evening, I sat watching television and noticed that my throat was bothering me, again. I thought perhaps I was coming down with a cold, but after some consideration, realized that this scratchy throat came and went, depending on the day; depending on how much diet soda I was drinking.

That scared me.

It scared me enough to say, "Enough - no more diet soda!" It scared me enough to tell my husband that I was giving up diet soda. (For me, telling someone makes it real.) It scared me enough to go 50 days without a drink that I have consumed every day for probably 35 years.

I'm happy to say that this is the only reason I am giving up diet soda. I'm also happy to say that, as of today, there are no ill effects from my years of drinking diet soda. As of today...

Is it easy? No. Honestly, it's been one of the most difficult things I've ever done. (Other than child birth of course!) I struggle with it every day - still - almost two months later. I miss it - I crave it!

As with any addiction, the first week was the hardest. I had no energy and was not the easiest person to be around. (When my daughter heard I was giving up diet soda, her first words to me were "Maybe that isn't the best idea for you!" And my son told my husband he was happy to be five states away!)

But I'm determined to stay the course. Fifty days and counting!

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 23, 2012

"What are you doing for others?"

Marin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrated on the third Monday in January (and this year, falling on January 16), is a United States federal holiday honoring the birth of one of the great civil rights leaders of our time. People are asked to use their day off to volunteer in some way to honor Dr. King’s memory. We are challenged to make it a day “on” in service to others.

According to Dr. King, “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Service is an important word around our house this year. My youngest is receiving Confirmation in a few months and is required to complete ten hours of service. (Not much, I know, but significant enough in a 12–year-old’s world.)

Each time we approach this important milestone in our family (this will be our third Confirmation), I excitedly research service projects in our community. I happily sign them up for anything and everything I can, often accompanying them when able. Through the years, we have cleaned up halls and the outside of lockers at a middle school in Philadelphia, organized and sorted clothing at a children’s non-profit organization, cooked meals for those in need and delivered poinsettias to home-bound parishioners.

On their own, my children have helped coach younger children’s sports teams, joined the Service Club at their school, and babysat (for their siblings and/or neighborhood kids) without pay – all in the spirit of giving something of themselves to make the world in which they live a better place.

This year, for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we will be volunteering at our Church, collecting children’s clothing and toys and assembling bags of supplies for refuge children in the United States.

Service to others is always a rewarding experience for our family, and one I consistently vow to continue after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is over, or my children have completed their service hours for Confirmation.

Unfortunately, while I have good intentions, real life kicks in and side tracks us. Between school, work, homework, sports, activities and family obligations, service is often the first thing forgotten.

When this happens, I am often haunted by Dr. King’s question, “What are you doing for others?”

This year, my goal is to be able to answer that question on a monthly, if not weekly, basis. I hope to think about service not just in January, or when my children receive a sacrament, but on a daily basis. I can offer more than one day a year to serving others. Can you?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My New Year's Wish

I desperately wanted to write something inspiring for my New Year’s post. I wanted to compose something profound that would make people stop what they are doing and declare me brilliant and insightful. (Okay, truth be told, I just wanted people to read it.)

So I gathered piles of magazines and read through every “New Year, New You” article I could find (and there were many of them). I scoured the Internet and Facebook, reading countless blogs and friends’ posts, looking for inspiration.

Unfortunately, the more I read, the more anxious I became. Everyone had something to say about the perfect way to start 2012.

I realized that, in the New Year, I needed to:

-Loose weight (and there are no shortage of diets available);
-Wear orange (or tangerine tango, to be more precise, the color of the year);
-Shop small businesses (or I would personally be responsible for the downfall of the local economy);
-Exercise (this could include everything from joining a gym to yoga - or naked yoga, for those adventurous types - to pole dancing);
-Get organized (and not just my closets, but my thoughts, my life and my computer files need de-cluttering as well, I’m told).

I was encouraged to set a reading goal (finally, an idea I can get excited about), cleanse my system with a New Year’s Detox (spoiler alert: it involves avocados) and pick a word/phrase that I wanted to describe the year ahead for me. (“Who knows; who cares; why bother?” came to mind, but that may be a bit morose.)

One woman posted her 2012 resolutions on a Facebook site for all to see:

“Make my own almond milk; cook all my own beans; recycle more; add 5 corporate yoga teaching gigs and 5 more private yoga clients to my weekly calendar and book an international vacation this year.”

Really? That makes my initial resolution (wear matching socks) seem almost foolish, doesn’t it?

The problem with all these resolutions is that by the time we are finished with them, while we may be a better person, we will be too stressed out and exhausted to enjoy our new lives.

So, while it may not be profound or awe-inspiring, I’ve come up with one resolution for myself, and one wish for everyone: peace.

Peace, according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a state of calm and quiet.” That is my word of the year, my New Year’s resolution, and my motto. (It is also my tattoo, but that’s a different blog.)

I wish everyone peace in every area of their lives, for 2012 and the years to come. It may not be as impressive as other resolutions out there, but it works for me, and I hope for you as well. (Besides, how does one go about making almond milk anyway?)