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Donna Day: Raising $$$ For Pediatric Cancer Research

Sweet Donna

Sweet Donna

Today is the 4th annual Donna Day and I am joining a huge group of bloggers in promoting a special event meant to raise money for pediatric cancer research.

Donna Day is named for the daughter of my friend (and 2013 LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER CHICAGO cast member) Sheila Quirke, who blogs under the name Mary Tyler Mom. Sheila and her husband Jeremy, who also have two young sons, lost their beloved Donna in 2009. Donna’s Cancer Story is documented in a series of thirty-two posts that Sheila wrote. Their story is hard to read but I think it’s so important to read.

No family should have to go through what they did but actually, lots of families are going through it. Before they turn 20, 1 in 285 children in the United States will have cancer, and worldwide a child is diagnosed every three minutes (source).

Sheila isn’t the only member of the LTYM Chicago family who knows a lot about pediatric cancer firsthand; unfortunately in January of this year (just seven short weeks ago!) we all found out that another 2013 cast member is having to learn about it, too. Sarah Z’s young daughter was diagnosed and is currently going through treatment. I can’t imagine how hard all of this must be to deal with, but Sarah and her husband are doing it with grace we are all just totally pulling for them and the complete recovery of their daughter.

Sarah is raising funds for St. Baldrick’s Foundation by participating in this year’s Donna’s Good Things head shaving event to benefit pediatric cancer research at the Candelite in Chicago on March 28 from 2:00-4:00, as is Charlie S., the six-year-old son of another LTYM Chicago 2013 cast member, Samantha. (What a great kid!) I’m excited that this year I will finally be able to attend and support my friends. It’s going to be a fun day.

Donna Day Candlelite

The Donna’s Good Things team has raised more than $280,000 for St. Baldricks in three years: would you help add to that total? Any donation, no matter how small, can help them reach their goal. You all know that a lot of little things add up, so if you have five dollars to spare, please consider clicking over to the team page and click the green “Donate” button. If you want to go the extra mile and get your head shaved as part of “Donna’s Good Things”, you can sign up there, too.

With your help, whether it’s becoming a shavee, donating money, or even just sharing this post, pediatric cancer awareness and research will get a boost. Thank you so much.

P.S. You can “like” Donna’s Good Things on Facebook here, if you want to stay posted on all of those good things!


Back In Time, If Only For a Moment

I was loading up the conveyor belt with my purchases at Target earlier today when I noticed that there seemed to be a hold up with the customer ahead of me. Once I could find no more space on the belt, which hadn’t moved in a couple of minutes, I looked up to see what was going on and my heart melted.

A little boy of no more than five years old was standing next to his young father, struggling to open his own adorable wallet and pull some paper bills out. I looked at the cashier in time to see her bagging a mid-sized Star Wars LEGO kit and then I looked at the dad, who was positively beaming.

It’s little moments like these when I want to open my big mouth, but I fought the urge. Instead I had an inner dialogue with myself about how adorable this sight was, how great it was that this little boy was being taught the value of money as well as the joy of buying something special on his own, and, the inevitable “OH MY GOSH IT GOES SO FAST BECAUSE BEFORE THEY KNOW IT THAT LITTLE BOY WILL BE TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD AND NOT EVEN CLAIMABLE AS A DEPENDENT ON THEIR TAXES.”

I could have totally high-fived that boy and complimented him on his actions, and I could have commended the dad on what a responsible young man he was raising, but it was that all-caps revelation that made me keep it all to myself. It goes so fast always comes into my mind during moments like that–always–but ever since my friend Keely read her essay “Just Wait” in last year’s LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show in Chicago (watch HERE), I just don’t want to be that lady.

My not saying it out loud doesn’t change a thing, of course. It really does go too fast. My boys were little and buying LEGO sets only yesterday, it seems, and then they were buying iPods and guitars and computers, and then cars and hefty slices of their own college tuition. (The things grew more complex and more expensive over the years; luckily their ability to earn and save more money grew, too.)

It’s during moments like these that make me wistful and happy at the same time. I know it’s the Circle of Life. It’s someone else’s turn to beam with pride while his little kid struggles with his wallet in the checkout line, and it’s my turn to watch and smile and reflect on my own years as a mom. Just for a second, I see my own boys in the face of that little boy. They’re small again and needing lots of extra time to count out their hard-earned savings after asking the cashier how many more dollars are needed in order to pay in full.

As the conveyor belt started moving again, the little boy and his dad walked away, excitedly talking about building that LEGO set together when they went home. I smiled, pushing away the melancholy feelings over how my years of mothering flew by at the speed of light and saying a silent thank you to the universe for letting me go back in time, if only for a moment.

This was just yesterday, wasn't it?

This was just yesterday, wasn’t it?

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Better Three And A Half Years Late Than Never…

I’ve spent hours and hours (and hours) over the past few days organizing, deleting, and consolidating all of the files on my old laptop in preparation for transferring everything over to my new laptop. Adequately describing the enormity of that job is another blog post all by itself, so I’ll save it.

In going through my folders and folders (and folders) of pictures, I was able to see, all in one place, how many trips I’ve taken over the past few years. (Counting my blessings for the ability to travel, by the way. SO LUCKY.)

I revisit some of those trips via my pictures regularly (the 2010 Germany trip, cruises, BlogHer conferences, and visits to friends are my favorites) but a few of them—if you can believe it—I had forgotten about until rediscovering the photographic evidence.

Like Santa Fe.

The funny thing is, I didn’t even write about this trip. I mentioned it in the first post upon our return and SAID I was planning to write about it, but I never did. What kind of blogger am I, anyway? (Don’t answer that.)

Better late than never, I guess.

Jim and I took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico back in July of 2011. I think it was the first “real” vacation beyond a weekend getaway here or there that we had taken without the boys. One of us was excited about the destination and the excellent bike riding conditions, and the other one of us was excited about being able to just get out of Dodge for a few days and take some pictures. I’ll let you figure out which was which. I’ll give you a hint. Here’s a picture I took:

Santa Fe train station

What stood out about that trip is we actually went there to explore the possibility of our moving there someday, post-retirement. While I am against living anywhere out west that has a mostly brown landscape and I’m really a fan of places where the seasons actually change, Santa Fe did have patches of green so at least there was that. That said, while we had a nice vacation, neither one of us liked Santa Fe as a potential future home. A server at one of the downtown restaurants summed it up nicely: “Everyone here is either a millionaire, an artist, or a server.”

Still, it was a nice getaway and I got some killer pictures. (I took 550 over just a few days!)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Toto, we’re not in Illinois anymore.

In fact, looking through all of the pictures in my “Santa Fe 2011″ folder put what’s probably a much warmer and fuzzier glow on that town for me than I felt at the time, and I actually thought for a moment that I might like to go back and visit again someday.

Then I remembered that I left there exclaiming, “If I see ONE MORE PIECE of turquoise anything, I don’t know what I’ll do!!!”

Way too much turquoise in Santa Fe. It’s those dang artists. And millionaires.

Still, the flea market near the train station was fun and it set the stage for a picture that is one of the very best images I’ve captured in my entire life, and that’s a long time.

Santa Fe bass

It’s all about the bass (no treble).

I don’t know. Maybe there wasn’t THAT much turquoise? I should go back and check.



I think about hugs a lot.

That seems like a ridiculous statement, especially for a post-opener. My blog, my rules.

Hugs, real, live, in-person ones, can be so healing. They can fill you up a little bit (or a lot) if you’re feeling empty. They can reassure you, warm you up, and make you feel more loved in that moment than in all the other non-hugging moments of that entire day. Hugs are magical, especially the ones that linger just a couple of seconds longer than you expect.

Virtual comments on Facebook or texts that say “Hugs!”? Well, the jury is still out on those but I choose to believe that if the sentiment is really there, it’s the thought that counts. That said, I’ll take a real hug over a typed-out one any day. THAT said, sometimes virtual is your only choice so in that case, go forth and type out those hugs plus demonstrative emoticons!

I spoke with a friend last night and learned that her family was tossed a huge, tragic curve ball last week. Naturally, my mind immediately started churning about what I could possibly do to help. Right now, the answer is really nothing. I asked anyway.

“Is there ANYthing I can do? I mean, I know I can’t fix it but do you need anything??”

Her honest and simple answer surprised me and made me smile.

“To be honest, I could use a hug.”

I laughed and said, “Where are you tomorrow? I deliver!”

It was all I could do not to jump in the car at that very moment and chase her down at the meeting she was about to attend, just to try and make her feel better.

The truth is, whether you’re wrapping someone in your arms to say “hello,” “goodbye,” “I missed you,” “I love you,” “Congratulations,” or just “I’m here for you,” there’s no question that the healing powers of hugs can go all the way down to your soul if you let them.

Have you hugged your loved ones today? Just asking. (If not, what are you waiting for??)

Hugger button

Best hugger pin conference swag ever, made by Lizz P. (www.amiafunnygirl.com)


Tina Fey’s Netflix Original! (#StreamTeam)

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week or so, you are well aware that Season Three of “House of Cards” (A Netflix Original Series) has just become available for streaming. I can’t tell you how many of my friends made plans to cozy up this weekend and binge-watch the adventures of Frank and Claire Underwood, played to perfection by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and in fact Jim and I won’t be far behind: we LOVE this series.

That said, there’s something else I’m super excited about that’s coming up next week, and it’s brought to us by the hilarious and smart Tina Fey.

[click to continue…]

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On Being In Tune With Teens & Their Music…

I was in Columbus with Momo this week.

Spending time with my friends is, of course, one of my very favorite things in the world. Spending time with my friends’ kids? Also a huge favorite. I love swooping in and spoiling everybody for a few days, like a very young, super cool, and extremely attractive grandma. Actually, let’s say “Aunt”, since that’s how Momo’s daughter thinks of me (She said so, and I wanted to jump across the table and hug her brains out!) or even “second momma”, which is the high honor bestowed on me by Liz‘s kids.

One of the coolest things is that I became acquainted with these kids only through eyes of their moms for a few years, and then I finally got to meet them in person and form my own relationships with them directly, having all kinds of background information that helped me relate to them more quickly without being creepy. (Thanks, blogging!)

Taking the time to sit and chat with these young people when I visit is SO MUCH FUN. I love to hear about their school shenanigans, what they’re doing in their spare time, what they’re watching on tv, and all kinds of other things. I have amazing interrogation skills, just like a good aunt/grandma/second momma should. I adore when music–which happens to be another of my favorite things–comes up in conversation because it’s such a great unifier. Like the first time I visited New Jersey and met Liz’s youngest. That evening, she walked into the kitchen while I was making dinner for them and caught me singing along with Nikki Minaj.

“YOU like Nikki Minaj?? My mom doesn’t like Nikki Minaj.”
“Well, I do!”

And then we sang along to “Starships” together, a moment I will not forget anytime soon.

This week, Momo told me that she originally intended to bring her sixteen-year-old daughter Ali to the BlogHer conference this July (squee!), but won’t be doing that now (*takes back squee!*) because “she’s crazy about this one band and is going to a concert”.

“What band?” I asked.
“Fallout Boy.”
“I LOVE FALLOUT BOY!” I exclaimed.

Ali might have screamed, “YESSSSS”! and then she and I (along with her best friend) proceeded to have a conversation about the band and which songs I like and that “Centuries” is one of my current favorite songs and did they know that Pete Wentz is from Chicago and no, I hadn’t heard “Uma Thurman” yet but let me hear it and oh my gosh Momo I can’t believe you don’t like Fallout Boy……

I’m not sure what Momo was doing at the time. I think she left the room, maybe?

A couple of days later I asked Ali if she had heard of Childish Gambino, who is one of D’s favorites right now. She said no and I proceeded to play his song “3005”, which I ADORE and which–oops–also happens to have the F word and the N word in the first twenty seconds.

“Oh gosh, your mom will not really like for you to listen to this. Forget I played it for you…but it’s good, right?”

Ah yes.

Connecting with teens over music? I highly recommend it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go study up on Screamo and K-Pop, because I’m headed to New Jersey in April and last I heard, those kids were still listening to that stuff and I’m weak in those categories.


The Stages of a Cold, Melisa-Style

Let's just say that tea 'doesn't hurt' when it comes to being sick.

One Day Pre-cold
Uh-oh. I think I’m getting sick.
I can’t get sick. I don’t have time to get sick.
I’m going to lay down for a little while to see if I feel better.
I can’t get sick. I will not get sick.
I should start drinking lots more water.

Cold, Day One
Oh gosh, I am. I AM getting sick. I feel it in my chest. My chest is SOOOOO congested.
Ugh, the congestion. It’s so tight. And right on schedule, the cough. Fantastic.
I’m not going to workout today. But just today. OMG I HATE SKIPPING WORKOUTS.
I am drinking a ton of water. I should just stand near the bathroom while I drink my water. It would save me so much time, rather than have to walk all the way across the family room when I have to go.

Cold, Day Two
I feel like crap. And this cough! It’s not productive at all. I might have this cold forever. HOW DID I LET THIS HAPPEN???
I hope I don’t have this cold forever. I can barely remember what it’s like to breathe normally and it’s only been a day and a half.
I really don’t have time for this.
I miss working out.
I should drink more tea. And water.
Drink water, go to the bathroom, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Cold, Day Three
I’m so tired. Yet I can’t sleep. Stupid cough. I can’t sleep laying down, I can’t sleep sitting up, I can’t sleep in the chair, I can’t sleep anywhere.
I hope Jim doesn’t get it. I would hate for him to feel this terrible.
I think I might die. I shouldn’t think like that. First world problems. It’s just a cold. God, stop being so dramatic.
I think my muscles are starting to atrophy.
I can’t remember what it feels like to be healthy. I’m tired. I need a nap.
And now my voice is going. I better call the doctor. I never want to call the doctor. That’s how bad I feel. Wow, Jim will really know how bad I feel when I tell him I’m calling the doctor. Not that he doesn’t already know, but this will really seal the deal.
I really don’t have time to be sick. OR to see the doctor. Yet here I am, sick and getting ready to see the doctor.

Cold, Day Four
Another night of not sleeping. Wonderful. As if I don’t have trouble sleeping under normal circumstances, now this? I can’t even with this.
The coughing. I sound like a seal. At least maybe this Mucinex is working. I feel like I’ve been sick forever.
Another canceled workout. I hope my friends recognize me, if i ever get to workout again.
My voice. Gone. Well, not gone, just froggy-sounding. I sound ridiculous, yet I keep trying to talk. I’m a talker. I’m a people person. This cold will not deny me my phone calls. I need to connect with my friends.
Thank goodness the doctor agreed that I likely have a sinus infection like I get every year at this time. Antibiotics FTW! Healthy living is right around the corner!
Why aren’t the antibiotics working yet? It’s been two hours. I have stuff to do.
But first, some tea. And water. And a bathroom break.

Cold, Day Five
Wait…I slept four hours instead of two! That’s doubling my sleep time. I may be…getting better? Dare I dream??
Is it my imagination, or do I feel less congested today?
I think I DO feel less congested today!
I’m definitely not one hundred percent yet. Maybe fifty. But that’s better than the ten percent I’ve been living for four days! Half full! Good job, me!
Liz confirmed that I’m sounding more like myself today, and Momo went “Yaaaaay!” when we chatted! I AM GETTING BETTER! I can’t believe it. I never thought it would happen. Okay, I really did have a little faith it was going to happen. I knew it would happen.
I’m still tired and I’m annoyed that I had to skip yet another workout but I’m getting better so I guess it’s good to take breaks every now and then?
Ooh, Missy Elliott’s “Work It” just came on and I did a little seat dance on the couch. That’s the most physical activity I’ve had in days. I’m so happy.
I think I’ll make some tea. Right after I finish this bottle of water and take a bathroom break.
I think I’m going to live!


Kid-Friendly Valentine’s Day Playlist? Easy Peasy!

Kid-Friendly Valentine's Day Playslist

This morning while my friend Michelle and I were trying to keep our minds off the “pain” during our Dailey Method class, she asked me for some help. “I need a Valentine’s playlist for the school party this week. Can you give me some songs that are about love but kid-friendly? Something for Musical Chairs.”

Oh my gosh, but I love when people ask me for music suggestions around a theme. Making playlists is one of my favorite things to do.

Kid-friendly love songs? Easy peasy.

Step one: eliminate Usher’s “Love In This Club” and Madonna’s “Justify My Love” because JUST NO. Sensitive ears! Also, if you’re trying to get out of being Room Parent, there are better ways to go about it.

Step two: eliminate all power ballads because have you ever tried to play Musical Chairs to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”? I have…NOT either, but there’s a reason for that.

Try this playlist just to get started:

Crazy In Love — Beyonce, featuring Jay-Z
I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) — Whitney Houston
Crazy Little Thing Called Love — Queen
Best of My Love — The Emotions
I Love You (Always Forever) — Donna Lewis
The Power of Love — Huey Lewis and the News
Can’t Buy Me Love — The Beatles
Love Stinks — J. Geils Band
We Found Love — Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
Somebody To Love — Justin Bieber
Who Loves You — Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Friday, I’m In Love — The Cure
Love Shack — The B-52’s
She Loves You — The Beatles
I Just Called To Say I Love You — Stevie Wonder
Love Is A Battlefield — Pat Benatar
Love Plus One — Haircut 100
Baby Love — The Supremes
Love Story — Taylor Swift
What Is Love? — Haddaway
Do You Believe In Love — Huey Lewis and the News

Is my playlist missing something? Leave it in the comments!
Are you volunteering at your kids’ school for the Valentine’s Day party? Save me a cupcake, please and thank you!



Today I’m joining over 100 women in spreading the message of #ChoosingHappiness. In today’s post I share how I chose happiness in the midst of life’s messiness by answering a few questions from best-selling Publisher Linda Joy, whose new book Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness, featuring the soul-inspiring stories of 27 amazing women who share their intimate stories of transformation, is being released today. Choosing Happiness also includes Reflection Questions after each story which will empower you to integrate the vital lessons of each woman’s journey into your own life.

For a limited time you can get over 40 transformational gifts with your copy of Choosing Happiness. Grab your copy today!

P.S. I am not being compensated in any way for this post; I’m writing it because a friend asked me to help and I enjoy choosing happiness in my own life.

Choosing Happiness

Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you realized that your happiness was an internal choice that could be made despite your outside circumstances? For me, I don’t think so. I think I have always been a Pollyanna-type of person (Google her, kids!). Of course, some days are harder than others but when it’s all said and done I think if you asked anyone who knows me whether I’m a happy person in general, they’d say “absolutely!”

Q: How do you remind yourself that happiness is always within and catch your footing in those whirlwind moments of life that can throw us off balance? A lot of it is mental, knowing that life isn’t happy 100% of the time, as much as we strive for that. In fact, happiness is much more appreciated when you’ve dealt with the opposite in all different forms. (Ahem but I prefer happiness…who doesn’t??) I know that if I’m having an off day (or week!) that eventually it will pass as long as I keep pushing through and looking for the little things that make me smile.

Q: What is your personal definition of happiness today? Defining happiness isn’t easy because I see it as something fluid. I guess I’d say that happiness is an overall feeling of contentment with the way life is going and/or knowing that I have done all I can do to make any tweaks towards improving anything that’s lacking. I’m a firm believer in asking for what you want instead of waiting around for things to happen, and I think that–being proactive–is one of the secrets to finding happiness.

Q. Share three things that bring you happiness. My family, my friends, and the fact that right now, I’m spending my time doing a job (jobs) that I love.

Choosing Happiness Freedom

I invite you to share how you choose happiness in the comments below.

Be sure to check out Linda’s new book, Inspiration for a Woman’s Soul: Choosing Happiness and grab your copy today at http://bit.ly/Happiness_Book to receive the bonus gift bundle.


Travel Itch

I’m getting a little squirmy because it’s been absolutely forever since I’ve gone anywhere.

OKAY, it’s been two weeks since we went to Wisconsin to move D into his new place. I don’t count that as traveling, though.

It’s actually been two months since the last time I went somewhere that “counts” as traveling, and that was a pretty awesome trip to Miami (pretty sure I’m still hungover) and then a five-day cruise to the Bahamas. I shouldn’t complain, because most of you are likely thinking “Geez, it’s been a year (or two, or five, or whatever) since I’ve gotten out of town!” but I’m complaining anyway.

South Beach, December 2014

South Beach, December 2014

These days I’ve got an increasingly bad case of Wanderlust, just when the pace of things in all of my various jobs is picking up.

I have travel plans, but they’re not soon enough.

OKAY, I lied. I have a roadtrip to Ohio to see Momo coming up in eleven and a half days (not that I’m counting). Still, not soon enough.

I am almost one hundred percent certain I’ll be heading back to New Jersey to see Liz and the rest of my Jersey family in April; I’m just waiting to find out the date of one thing before pulling the trigger on that flight reservation. Not soon enough!

I am planning to be in the audience for LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER shows in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin at the end of April and beginning of May. Not soon enough! (But not rushing the LTYM process because OMG why would I do that?)

BlogHer ’15 is in New York City this July. Not soon enough.

Well. Now that I look at all of that I can see I’m just being a little impatient. Never mind, I guess.

Seaside Heights, NJ October 2014

Seaside Heights, NJ October 2014

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