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It’s that time of year – everyone is taking stock of their lives and acknowledging their gratitude for the things in life that they are most appreciative of.  And, of course, I do the same thing.  It goes without saying – I’m grateful for my family, our home, our wonderful friends, and even the dogs.  But here’s a list of things I’m grateful for, because I’m not quite sure I could get through life without them.

Cream Cheese

Yes, I think my life would be decidedly less tasty without cream cheese.  Not only am I a huge fan of cheesecake (for which I am equally as grateful), but I can eat cream cheese on potato chips, pretzels, celery (see, it’s a healthy food!) – anything that will stand still tastes better with cream cheese.

Mickey Mouse Front Door Key

Every time I open my front door, I do it with my Mickey front door key.  And it makes me smile.  And I’m not even all that fond of rodents.

Pine Sol

I don’t smell it often enough in my house, but I love the smell of Pine Sol.  It makes me appreciate a clean house, because I know with three kids, two dogs, and a husband, not only does the house not stay clean very long, but the other, ummmm, smells soon kill that Pine Sol smell.

Hot Tub

I have only gotten to use the hot tub we bought over the summer twice.  With an open wound that has persisted since my March surgery, anytime I mentioned it, Dr. Veitia would get an eye twitch and a lip tremor.  I am, however, nearly healed, and am so excited to sit in my hot tub, with the snow slowly drifting down on me as I relax in the hot water.  I’m so grateful, I haven’t even done it yet and it makes me happy!

Comfortable Shoes

Never underestimate your gratitude for comfortable feet.  I love my Crocs, even if they look obnoxious.  I love my sneakers – even the ones that claimed they would give me buns of steel (but apparently, that doesn’t work while you’re eating buns of cinnamon).  I love my Ugg Boots.  I never leave the house without my very own Happy Feet.


This isn’t just about the coffee.  Although, admittedly, I do love me a hot vanilla latte in the morning.  I like the routine, I like the socialization, AND I like the coffee.

And yes, I am so grateful for Jim, Brighid, Eilis, Granuaile, my parents (all of them!), my sisters, and even my dogs.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!












Let Me Tell YOU What’s Shameful, Michael Avery!!

If you go to the Suffolk University Law School in Massachusetts, you can keep your damn kindness to yourself, thank you very much – at least if law professor Michael Avery has anything to say about it.

Haven’t heard this story?  Well, the school put out an appeal for donations so that care packages could be sent to our soldiers overseas.  Professor Avery stepped up in response, sending out a five paragraph email to his colleagues, calling it “shameful” to put care packages together to send to men and women who’s job it is to kill people for a living.

Well.  Let me tell YOU, Professor Avery, what “shameful” is – because evidently, somewhere among the mountains of law books you’ve studied to achieve the level of academic respect you command, you’ve lost your mind.

It’s shameful that we have to send care packages to our service men and women that include things like deodorant, shampoo, soap, powder, and toothpaste, because some of these brave men and women are defending your right to say what you said in areas where they can’t get their hands on the basic necessities.

It’s shameful that we have to send care packages that include socks, gloves, hats, and long johns, because some of our servicemembers are defending your ability to spew hate in areas where it’s cold and their units may not be properly supplied with clothes that provide extra warmth while they stand watch in the dark of night in the dead cold.

It’s shameful that we have to send care packages that include things like drink mixes, beef jerky, crackers, and snacks.  Those hard core killer over there protecting your sorry ass right to say what you want to say are often in places where the next hot meal isn’t immediately on the horizon, and this is all they may have to stave off the pangs of hunger.

And you know, Professor Avery, it’s shameful that we can’t round up people who show such disdain for the men and women protecting your right to be a pathetic excuse of an American and march you to the front lines unarmed so you can see just what shameful is. 

I hope the drive to collect items to make these care packages is a rousing success on the campus of Suffolk University, because it would be absolutely shameful if it wasn’t.


War Horse – A Movie Review

by Guest Blogger Brighid Skamarakas

So Eilis and I went to go see the press premiere of War Horse on Thursday. I vaguely remembered seeing the trailer and it not looking totally awful (although maybe not interesting enough to warrant the purchase of a full-priced ticket.) But when she asked if I wanted to go I said sure. I have to say I was pretty impressed. The story is cutesy, as to be expected, but there were actually some very powerful and very funny scenes. The movie certainly does a good job of highlighting the multinational impact of the Great War, the humanity of the soldiers on both sides, and the hardships endured by troops and local civilians alike. It was a nice departure from the heavy, depressing movies being churned out a lot lately but not so light and fluffy that you wish you were sitting in one of those depressing movies. There were quite a few familiar faces, including Mr. Weasley from the Harry Potter films. The theatre was full of happy tears and sniffling at the end and several scenes even garnered a few cheers. Based on the trailer alone I probably wouldn’t have forked over the ten bucks but I can now safely say that if you’re looking for something the whole family can appreciate this holiday, War Horse is worth the Visa gift card from grandma. War Horse is in theatres December 25.

Chemistry – the Final Frontier

Lulled into a false sense of potential personal accomplishment after getting an A in my Prep for Chemistry class, I registered this semester for a General Chemistry class.  It is the LAST prerequisite I need before starting nursing school, and I knew it would be the hardest.  But with that A on my transcript in Prep for Chemistry staring out at me, smiling, doing a little confidence boosting cheer (Go, Anna! Go, Anna!, Go, go, go Anna!), I was confident that the worst I could do in General Chemistry was a B.  I mean, who goes from winning the gold medal in the 50 meter dash to tripping on their shoelaces and falling on their face in the 100 meter dash (please note my use of the word METER instead of YARD – that alone should be worth extra credit in my Chemistry class!)?

Oh, wait…

I’m not sure where I stumbled, although I know why I’m struggling to get up.  I took the first exam of the semester, and while I didn’t walk out of there thinking I got an A, I thought, “Wow, that was harder than I expected, but I think I passed.”  I didn’t.  So now, every time I walk in there to take an exam, I walk in with these words running through my head:

“Oh, you poor, dumb, delusional thing!  Shouldn’t you be home, writing your blog?  You know you can SPELL – and even if you screw that up, you have spell check!  Is this professor giving you “Net Ionic Equation” check?  I think not.  This is so not your thing.  I know, let’s leave now and go get Starbucks – we’ll both feel better!”

I signed up for tutoring – first with a personal tutor outside of school.  That went well.  He met me at Starbucks, which enabled me to get that commiserating latte when he said, “Yeah, shouldn’t you stick with writing?  Public relations?  You know how to do THAT.”  Then I switched to tutors at the college.  I feel so smart at tutoring.  I get all of the problems right that they give me to do, and I go home with a warm fuzzy feeling about Chemistry.  Then I start my homework.  You’ll notice the bald patches I have from pulling my hair out – that doesn’t happen in tutoring.  There is no stress there.

So, I’ve decided to try a new approach for the next exam.  I debated dropping the class and taking it again in the spring – maybe at the College of Chemistry for Dummies.  But that might mean not being able to go to tutoring – which is the only confidence boost I get all week pertaining to Chemistry.  I have decided that the end result of this semester doesn’t matter.  It’s not going to break me (although it may very well convince me that my Patch Adams health through happiness and laughter nursing ambition is a pipe dream), and it’s not going to make me cry.  Much.  But I’m going to stick it out, no matter what happens, just so I know I didn’t quit.  And when I sit down in that chair to take my exam, I am going to feel like it’s okay if I don’t do well.  The last of my Chemistry tears have been shed, and the others are water under the bridge.  Raging, angry, white capped waters (yeah, I cried a lot this semester).

No more psyching myself out.  It’s like I tell my kids when they’re fighting over who gets the pink cupcake and who gets the yellow.  You get what you get and you don’t get to bitch – or you get no cupcake.  No more bitching over chemistry.  I won’t get a cupcake for keeping my mouth shut, but I will get the satisfaction of knowing that I didn’t flee in the face of failure.  It feels damn good.


Freebies For Heroes – Where to Take Your Veteran on Veteran’s Day

While I am a firm believer that our Veterans and military service members should be honored EVERY day, I always think it’s wonderful that businesses honor our servicemen and women with freebies and discounts to help them celebrate Veterans Day.  You can pretty much feed your Vet for free this coming Friday, November 11th – breakfast, lunch and dinner – with a snack or two in between.  Some locations are having their veterans day celebration on days other than November, 11th, and I’ve highlighted them below.

Here’s a quick list of Veteran’s Day offers that may be available in your area.  You may want to call ahead to make sure your local restaurants are participating in the offer.


Krispy Kreme – one free doughnut

Denny’s – one free Grand Slam breakfast – market areas for this offer are VERY limited, so please call ahead and make sure your Denny’s is participating


Applebees – free meal (lunch or dinner) from a select group of entrees.

Champss Americana – free burger

Chili’s – offering a free entree from a limited menu from 11 – 5

Famous Dave’s BBQ – the offers here vary from location to location, but the offers include a 15% discount for veterans, a free two meat meal with all the sides and trimmings, or a free entree up to $15.  Call your local restaurant to see what they are offering, or visit Famous Dave’s Veterans website http://www.famousdaves.com/promo/veterans-day/

Subway – free six-inch sub

Texas Roadhouse – free lunch from 11 – 2 – choose from a select list of entrees, accompanied by a free iced tea or Coca Cola product.


Golden Corral – this buffet restaurant offers a free dinner to veterans from 5 PM until 9 PM on MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14TH.  Golden Corral is one of the few locations that DOES NOT require a military ID.  Of special note to me, as wife of a disabled vet, Golden Corral has raised more than $5 million to support Disabled American Vets with their Military Appreciation Monday event, and this year, money raised goes to support Camp Corral, a camp for the children of wounded or disabled service members.  Please support this very worthwhile event.

McCormick and Schmick Seafood Restaurant – free lunch or dinner on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH. Reservations are very highly recommended for this event.

Olive Garden – free entree from a select menu (meal includes breadsticks and soup or salad – or you can choose a free meal of unlimited breadsticks, soup and salad)


Hooters – 10 free wings (with purchase of a beverage)

Little Caeser’s Pizza – free order of crazy bread

Outback Steakhouse – Free Bloomin’ Onion and a Coca Cola product (this offer is good from November 7th through November 11th)


If you know of other Veterans Day freebies that you’d like to share, just leave a comment!  It’s the least we can do to steer these brave men and women to a free meal!

School Friends, Teachers, Tutors – and the Christmas Shopping List Grows Longer!

With three daughters, all of whom have friends and teachers they like to give holiday gifts to, it seems that the holiday budget has to grow to nearly the size of the national debt in order for me to accommodate all the people on the list!  The kids also like to give a little something to the grandparents that’s just from them.  Add to that the people I always find at this time of year that I’d like to give a little something to – like the two girls who tutor me in chemistry and save my sanity.  And the guy who works the tutoring desk who asked me the other day if I knew the DMX song that was playing in the tutoring center (I did not) – he earned a spot on the list by insulting me when he said, “But you’d probably know it if it was Tony Bennett, right?”  He gets the burnt cookies.

But what is a mom with a budget tighter than that chunky monkey Santa’s squeeze down the chimney to do?

Let’s go to my old favorite standby – Oriental Trading.  The place has everything you could ever want to make your own inexpensive gifts!  Something cute I found that would be great for Grandmoms and teachers is this adorable gingerbread man necklace.  It’s festive for the holidays, and you can make 12 of them from one kit – that’s just over 50 cents each!  For the teacher, add a $5 Starbucks gift card, and she’ll have something handmade to help her remember your child for years to come, plus she gets a little treat while she’s out doing her own Christmas shopping!  You can find this and MANY more gift ideas at www.orientaltrading.com.

For your teenagers friends, think along the lines of something your own teen would like.  Perhaps have him/her choose a collection of songs they like and make each teen a CD that they’ll all enjoy listening to.  Teenagers also love photos of themselves with their friends, and you can find frames of all sizes and shapes at the dollar store.  Buy a simple frame, grab some wooden letters that spell out BFF at your craft store, have your teen paint them, then glue them to the front of the frame.  Print out your teen’s favorite picture with each friend to put in the frames, and viola – the perfect gift for around $2.50!

Younger kids get a kick out of snowman soup!  Again, hit up places like Oriental Trading or the dollar store, and find some inexpensive holiday themed mugs (Oriental Trading usually has plastic ones at $10 per dozen.  In each one, put a single packet of hot cocoa mix, a chocolate kiss or two, a candy cane, and a few marshmallows.  Wrap the whole thing in cellophane, and tag it with this little poem:

Snowman Soup
Was told you’ve been real good this year.
Always glad to hear it!
With freezing weather drawing near,
You’ll need to warm the spirit.
So here’s a little Snowman Soup
Complete with stirring stick.
Add hot water, sip it slow.
It’s sure to do the trick!

These also make great party favors for your holiday parties, and if you are going to make a bunch, skip the mug and put the ingredients in a holiday treat bag, twist tied at the top.  You eliminate the cost of the mug and save about .75 per gift!

Never underestimate the value of Christmas cookies and holiday fudge.  I know we all say a dozen times a year “If I eat one more Christmas cookie, I’m going to explode!”  But we usually say it as we are snagging another cookie.  What other time of the year are you going to have this many fabulous treats in front of you?  As someone who is lucky I don’t burn the slice and bake variety of cookies, homemade treats are one of my favorite gifts!

I hope this helps you save a little in your holiday budget for you to do something nice for yourself this Christmas season.  Splurge on some fuzzy slippers you can wear while sipping your snowman soup and noshing on those Christmas cookies.  You know you deserve it!.




Save the TaTas, Stress Out the Mamas

I have happily gone along for the past ten or so years avoiding getting a mammogram.  I had one once, after losing my mother’s aunt and my father’s mother to breast cancer, and I figured no cancer on the planet could be as painful and humiliating as a mammogram.  I vowed to do whatever necessary not to have one done again – even if that meant getting the name of Chaz Bono’s doctor.

Well, as you can imagine, Chaz and I don’t travel in the same circles, so it was becoming quite obvious I wasn’t going to run into him, and when my doctor shoved his “it’s breast cancer awareness in here every month” prescription for what should be a yearly mammogram, I figured, what the hell.  I had these old boobs lifted last summer, and rarely have a chance to show them off, so why not?  And really, could the mammogram be as bad as I remember?

Why yes, it can!  But I optimistically left the radiologist’s office thinking it went rather well.  I was in and out in just a few minutes; I resisted the urge to belt out a few lines of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” as the technician was squishing and squeezing me into place, and while it was way more painful than I remembered it to be, I was done for at least another year.  Go me!

Then the letter came in the mail.

Okay, can I stop here for a second and tell you – if you’d like to casually mention to me that I might possibly have a disease that could potentially kill me, maybe you could text me?  Send an email?  Gimme a call?  Something a little more personal than a letter in the mail.

The letter simply said, “The results of your mammogram indicate the need for further studies.  Hope you’re having a nice day!”  Okay, I may have made up the nice day part.

Who doesn’t go into a tailspin with that kind of letter?

I called my doctor – the evil doer that made me go for the stupid test – and they didn’t even have the results.  And it took two days for them to get them.  The surgeon who did my breast lift was quite comforting in informing me the mammogram mishap likely had nothing to do with the surgery he did, but that I shouldn’t worry about what may be just a very routine recheck.  Easy for him to say, as he has no boobs that are in need of a recheck.

I opted not to share the news with too many people in advance, knowing that I’d garner way more sympathy when I had some actual news to share, but I did find tremendous reassurances from a few good Moms and my awesome sister.  I parceled out in my head all of my most valuable possessions – my Moms Panel pink collection to my closest Moms Panel friends; my children to that awesome sister (to kinda get back at her for all the times she was a pain in my arse when I had to watch her growing up); my husband to his good pal Dr. Veitia; my Disney pin collection to Amy and Anthony.

And today was the follow up testing.

Whew, am I glad that’s over with!  I take back everything I ever said about cancer almost being preferable to the pain and humiliation of the mammogram – even though I said it in jest.  If I could have told that woman today to squeeze a little harder to make sure she was seeing everything clearly, I would have.  And then when they did the ultrasound, it was all I could do to keep from taking the wand out of the woman’s hand to find the damn lump myself!

When all was said and done, I do have a little something in there, but they aren’t going to worry about it at the moment.  Their feeling is that it is entirely benign, and really very small.  It may be something I’ve had all along, but at this point, it is definitely not something to worry about.  At least for another six months.

The sweat and tears that have poured out of my body this week living in the FEAR that something COULD be wrong have given me a renewed appreciation for everything my Sisters battling breast cancer go through.  No superhero could be stronger; no warrior tougher; no soldier braver.  I’m wearing pink in honor of you guys tomorrow.

Although not Moms Panel pink – that’s already spoken for in my will.