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30 Days of Thanks – Day 18 – Bean

When I began my 30 days of thanks, I wanted to think of things a little bit outside the box. I didn’t want to just be thankful for my home, my family, and my friends – I am so grateful for all of those things every day.  But Day 18 – November 18th – is my sister Bean’s birthday.  How could I not be thankful for her?

There were days during her life when I can admit I didn’t always quite appreciate having Bean for a sister.  She was somewhat of a slob.  No, she was an enormous slob.  I was constantly on her about cleaning up her stuff, putting things away, picking up shit she left all over.

When the holidays would come, she would take her disability checks and spend nearly the entire amount on dollar store gifts for my children.  I loved her for wanting the kids to have a huge stack of presents, but wanted to kill her when twenty minutes into Christmas, I was picking up broken dollar store toys all over.

But when her life was over, I had time to how very fortunate we were – in spite of her dollar store spending sprees.  As bad a cook as I am, I knew I could put something on the table that Bean would think deserved to be on the menu at Buckingham Palace.  She never met a person that didn’t like her, and she had friends from all walks of life.  Imagine my surprise when, just after she died, a woman I knew from a Yahoo Group I belonged to for years sent me a note to tell me she had met my sister during a stop at the store where Bean worked MANY years before.  In all the years this woman and I had chatted, she never put two and two together, but when I mentioned Bean’s passing, she remembered her from that casual meeting.  She made an impression and people loved her.

I never had to do anything alone when Bean was alive.  I could drag her to do anything with me, whether it was yet another trip to Walt Disney World, a 30 day trek across country, or to the dentist’s office to hold my hand.  She was always ready and willing to go.

Above everything, I am so thankful that I had her to help me with my youngest two children.  When I moved to Florida, I felt so isolated and alone.  Bean flew down, intending to stay for two weeks, but she always extended her stay for me.  She volunteered at school, she went to all the recitals and feisanna, and she made me a better mom by keeping me from feeling so sad and depressed that I wasn’t able to get up to be a mom.

November 18, 1965.  It is the day my sister was born, and the day I feel like I should have been ensured a partner in crime for life.  There’s so much I’ve gone through that I wish I had been able to have Bean here with me to share, but the sadness I feel at not having her here is quickly replaced by the joy I have in my heart that we had her in our lives at all.

I am forever truly thankful.

For Bean.

Disney Pixar’s BRAVE Celtic Princess


Disney PIXAR’s Brave is nothing like any other Disney Princess film. It’s better. Following along with Tangled and Princess and the Frog, Brave exhibits a princess with a head on her shoulders and her own dreams outside of getting married to a prince and living happily ever after. This is without a doubt the most relatable of the Disney Princess films – any mother/daughter pair that ever lived through high school years, college years, or those hormonal Tuesdays that come up every once in a while will definitely cry. The Queen, Elinor, wants her daughter, Merida, to learn to be the perfect princess so she can grow up to be the perfect queen, which of course includes marriage to one of the eldest sons of the Clans. Merida much prefers taking a slower, more natural approach to marriage and certainly has no interest in being a stereotypical princess. Obviously that doesn’t go well, Disney magic ensues, and Merida unintentionally places a beastly curse on the Queen in an attempt to change her mind, thus changing Merida’s fate. Merida and her mother must work together to mend the bond they broke out of stubbornness, pride, and anger. The damsel in distress this time is actually the Queen, and it is her daughter’s no-so-princess-like talents that keep them going.  On a more personal note, I really loved that Disney took a go at a Celtic princess for this movie. I think it plays extremely well into the attitudes of the characters and the dynamic of the family (which all reminded me very much of my own). I enjoyed every minute, spent a lot of them laughing, but I also definitely cried a good amount. The story of this princess really affected me in a way others just fell a little short, which is a huge part of what makes this such a new and exciting Disney Princess experience.

PS – look for a Hidden Mickey near the mischievous princes early on!

B L Skamarakas
Rutgers School of Business-Camden
A politician is someone who will tell you anything you want to hear to get your vote. A leader will tell you what is best for the country, even if it hurts your feelings.

Brazilian Wax – Who Thinks Up This Stuff?

I have this amazing friend Gary who does videos for Walt Disney World.  In the videos, there’s always Rob, an innocent bystander who warns Gary not to do the action he is about to perform.  This voice of reason always advises Gary not to do something potentially stupid.

I do not have a voice of reason in my house.  And I’m on spring break, so I’m supposed to get drunk and do crazy things.  So when the subject of a Brazilian wax came up, I found myself in the car, driving up to central Jersey, signing it at the European Wax Center.

So, for those that are unfamiliar, a Brazilian wax, it basically eliminates all of the hair from you, ummmm, hooha.  Some women opt to leave a “landing strip”, and I’ll leave to the imagination which my preference was.  Hot wax is applied, and then it’s ripped off, along with the unwanted hair.

Where is Rob, MY innocent bystander, when I need him?

If you read all about Brazilian waxes before you go to the salon, or watch some of the YouTube videos that are available, you may reconsider the whole thing.  You’ll see women, in hysterical laughter, as they lay on waxing tables trying not to cry.  You’ll read about infections, Jersey trying to ban this type of waxing, and, of course, mentions of Sex and the City, the show that apparently popularized the Brazilian.

Don’t believe everything you read – or see – on the web.

Is there pain involved?  Okay, well, yeah.  I mean, let someone yank hairs out of your vajayjay and you’re going to feel something.  But is it as bad as I expected it to be?

Not really.  Don’t tell my husband, because I expected to be able to milk this for about a week.

Yes, you’re going to experience some pain.  But I would say it’s not unbearable in any way.  And they tell me the more you do it, the less it hurts.  The hair becomes finer and more sparse, and there’s not as much “yanking” that goes on.

Things I learned today – take a Tylenol about an hour before you go.  That will help with the discomfort.  The longer your hair, the more yanking there is.  Yanking does not mean it feels good.  The top of the “V” hurts more than you think it will.  The lower bits hurt way less.

The tech that did my wax had seven years experience, and she was good.  I had to strip from the waist down (and don’t expect your tech to step out and allow you that last shred of dignity while you undress – they don’t), and lay on my back on the table.  You put the bottoms of your feet together, with your legs splayed out like butterfly wings.  You’re gonna be wishing you were at the ob/gyn office about now.  There’s no being modest if you’re going to get this done.

And then, as if there’s not enough humiliation, they do your behind.  There are various ways they make this happen, but mine was done while on my back, legs up in the air.  And the further down you go from the top of the “V”, the less it hurts.  Seriously.

The result – nice 🙂  I’m super impressed by how clean and comfortable this feels.  I’ve been bikini area shaving for years, and this is WAY better.

I already have my next appointment, so you know it couldn’t have been TOO bad!  Or else the endorphins are clouding my ability to make rational decisions.

Where’s that bystander again??

Movie Review – John Carter

If there’s one thing Disney knows, it’s how to make a movie with a princess.  The focus this time, is not so much on the princess but on her savior, John Carter.


I admit, I’m not a fan of this genre.  The quick rundown on the plot is this:

Civil war soldier finds himself transported to Mars, hooks up with a race of martians that eventually wants to kill him, and on the road back to Earth, he meets a princess, falls in love, and realizes there may be room for one more on the red planet.

I do not recognize any of the actors in the movie – this may or may not be a good thing.  I did, however, keep looking at the John Carter (actor Taylor Kitsch) and thinking he was Johnny Depp in the days before he met Tim Burton.

This is action packed.  John seems to piss off a lot of people in this film, and he goes from one battle to the next.  He nearly gets eaten by blind white apes (for those that think I’m referencing my husband, shame on you – but funny!), almost killed by a ticked off time traveling Holy man, and narrowly escapes execution by the martian creatures that remind me a little like something I’ve seen in Star Wars.

The movie is entertaining.  But it’s not without it’s problems.  John Carter himself is completely flat.  We learn through flashbacks that he’s lost his wife and daughter, but he buries them with as much emotion as you have flushing a carnival goldfish down the toilet. We know that he was in the civil war, and at some point he wanted out, but there’s no story here that we’re really interested in.  And I don’t really buy him as a civil war soldier.  He doesn’t seem all that impressed by the things he discovers on Mars – like he just saw those same things on TV while watching Stargate or something the week before.  We know he falls in love with the princess, not so much because he expresses it but because he won’t go the hell home, even after he knows he has the power to do so.

The characters all look like characters you’ve seen in other movies.  After you get beyond John Carter resembling Johnny Depp, you think he looks a lot like Hercules in some scenes, Braveheart in others, and maybe even Tarzan in a few.  Princess Dejah, who can’t be called flat because of her rather prominent, ummm, hair is a main character, but I have to say, she’s so uninteresting that I’m surprised I remembered her name without looking her up.  And at the end of the movie, the characters I favored most were the supporting characters of Sola and Tars.

If I was rating the movie on a five star scale, I’d probably give it three.  Do I think it was a complete waste of time and money?  No.  Would I buy the DVD?  No.  It was a nice way to spend an afternoon, but this is definitely not a movie you’ll walk away from blown away.

John Carter – In Theaters March 9

Coming this Friday to a theater near you, John Carter.  No one tells a story about a princess and her knight in shining armor quite like Disney.  This movie looks like it will be no exception.  The difference this time?  This is a story like no other Disney has told before.



And here’s a bonus!

Heather Traska – A One Woman Disney Magical Musical Moment

We are, in case you hadn’t already noticed, a Disney family.  The one very annoying but endearing habit my husband has is that he likes to learn the lyrics to all of the songs in a Disney movie before we go, then he likes to sing out loud in the theater when the songs he knows pop up.  And yes, we do still take him to the movies.

While browsing YouTube recently, perusing the Disney music videos, my husband came across this absolutely amazing video of a young girl, covering all of our favorite Disney songs from all of our favorite Disney movies.  I got goosebumps watching the video, and just knew I wanted to contact the maker of this magical musical moment!

And now that I know her and how wonderful she is, I wanted to introduce her to all of you.  She is talented, engaging, a huge Disney fan, talented, beautiful, and oh, did I mention how talented she is?  AND she reads the Walt Disney World Moms Panel!  AND this PHENOMENAL young woman is only 18 years old!!

Heather was kind enough to allow me to ask her a few questions so you could get to know her a little bit better.

Q. What is your favorite Disney movie?

Heather:  My favorite Disney movie (this is EXTREMELY difficult) is Mulan. I grew up watching it almost every week.  I love the characters. I love the story. I love the songs. It’s beautiful.  

Q. Have you had formal makeup training?  Your makeup changes are amazing!

Heather:  I haven’t had any makeup training. It’s just something I’ve always had “a knack for,” if you will. People used to make fun of me in middle school for taking risks with makeup, but I liked doing it. Eventually I started a YouTube channel and unleashed all of the looks that I had always been to shy to wear in real life.  

Q. Did you do the video yourself?  Have you considered a career in video production?  It’s amazing!

Yes, I did do the video myself. Believe it or not, it was shot with a basic digital camera. I was sitting on the floor for all of the filming too. It sounds strange, but it works. I record in my bedroom, so I make do with what I have. I’ve definitely considered making a career of it, but singing is my first love.  

Fun fact: I had no idea that I would learn how to edit video whatsoever when I first created my channel. I intended to do one-take, basic videos forever, and then one day I bought Final Cut Express (software) and found an unexpected passion for editing. Editing, for me, is like painting, but with screens. I like using colors and effects to enhance the video visually and emotionally. Perhaps that sounds silly, but that’s how I think. 

Q. Do you ever find yourself singing aloud in the movie theater during Disney movies?  (UGH, I do, and I don’t have a fraction of your talent!)


In all seriousness though, I went to see Beauty & The Beast: 3D a few weeks ago, and sang along the whole time. Thankfully there weren’t too many people in the theatre, but I couldn’t help myself. 

Q. Have you ever entered the American Idol Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  How about the real American Idol?  You’re very talented!

I have! I performed at the American Idol Experience last year and sang “Reflection” from Mulan. I had an unbelievable time, and ended up winning the finale show that day! The stage itself was breath-taking. 

As far as the real show goes, I auditioned two years ago, and was rejected the very first round. It was discouraging, but a great experience, and I learned a lot!  (WHAT?  What the heck was wrong with those people??)

Q. Who is your favorite Disney character? 

I was torn a bit with the first question, but this one is just brutal! I guess I would have to pick Rapunzel from Tangled. She is sassy, but can also be extremely caring. She can fend for herself, regardless to what she had been told all her life. Most importantly, she had a dream and wouldn’t let anyone or anything stop her until she got it. 

Q. What is your favorite Disney song?

My favorite Disney song? Why is this so difficult?! Well, all of my favorites are in my Disney medley, so that’s my top 20(ish), but my favorite has to be “Reflection.” The first time I heard it, I couldn’t stop singing it for weeks. There was something in the lyrics that I instantly connected to emotionally. I still sing it regularly. 

I cannot thank Heather enough for doing this with me!  To subscribe to Heather’s YouTube channel, you can click http://www.youtube.com/user/heathertraska – which I promise you, you’ll want to do RIGHT NOW!  She offers tutorials on how to do the amazing makeup she’s done in her video, and you can enjoy her incredible voice in some of her other music videos (her Whitney Houston tribute is a MUST SEE!).  


2011 – What I Learned This Year

I could sum up my year in one word.  School.  I feel like the entire year was consumed by my educational aspirations.  But aside from all the -ologies I studied in 2011, I’ve learned quite a few other things.  With a year that saw me recovering from last fall’s bout with MRSA and then a stay in ICU battling kidney failure, I had lots of time to reflect on things – the good, the bad, and what was more important.

So here goes:

I learned that it’s perfectly okay to be sad about the things I’ve lost.  My sister, who died way too young; my dad, who fought for the last ten years of his life to make sure he snatched every bit of joy and happiness he could in the time he had left; the five babies I never got to hold or cuddle or sniff the tops of their tiny heads.  I know now that it’s okay to still find myself in a puddle of my own tears over not having those things.  But it’s even more important to celebrate and appreciate the things that I haven’t lost.  I have three amazing daughters, who can melt my heart with their beautiful smiles and warm me on my coldest days with their giggles.  I have a husband who loves me – cherishes me – and through all of his own battles, always manages to make me feel like his number one priority.  I am blessed with an awesome sister, terrific parents and step-parents, and extended family and friends that I adore.

I learned that it really does take the worst to make you truly understand and appreciate the best.  The worst snowstorms help you appreciate the warmest days.  A bad grade on a test makes you truly grateful when you get an A.  A bad eye day for Jim makes a good eye day such a gift.  Laying in bed in intensive care helps you to remember to find gratitude when “it’s only a cold” or “it’s a small cut”.  I’m going to bitch way less about how sore my nose is when I get a head cold and be happy instead that they discovered Puffs with Lotion!

I have finally figured out what a “good” doctor is.  I’ve had the same primary care doctor for almost 30 years.  While I’ve appreciated everything he’s done for me, I never really appreciated what a good doctor he is.  He’s funny.  I don’t mind going to see him, because I feel I will surely be entertained, but this year, when we needed balls to the wall, he stepped up to the plate.  And you already know that I truly believe I found God’s gift to medicine when I found Dr. Veitia.  So if you’re in the area, and need a primary care doctor, it’s Dr. Gary Heck.  Looking for a phenomenal surgeon?  Dr. Nestor Veitia.  And you’ll love them as much as I do when you meet some of the other doctors that are out there.

I”d like to say that in 2011, I figured out the meaning of life.  Well, at least my life.  I haven’t.  But I have made huge strides in figuring out what was important.  Family, friends, health, education, and Mickey Mouse.  If you discover the joy in all of that, you don’t really need to know the meaning of life – you just need to enjoy it.