Feeding the Farm Animals!
family fun

family fun – we are all actually smiling and looking at the camera – a miracle perhaps

It was a sunny and beautiful MLK Day in Atlanta yesterday.  We wanted to do something fun and outdoors with the boys so I did what all moms do –  headed to the internet and Facebook to find a fun filled activity.

please eat my food

please eat my food

Thanks to a couple of FB friends who steered me in the right direction!  It happened to be $1 day at The Yellow River Game Ranch.  This meant the 4 of us got in for $1 each!

We opted to take the stroller in since we were told it’s a 1.5 mile hike around the trail.  It actually didn’t seem that long but maybe that’s because we were having so much fun!

hiking

hiking – well, sorda

please come here little deer

please come here little deer

We purchased the snacks of carrots and corn from the nice lady taking the money.  But we  it seemed since there were plenty of small hands stretched through the fences holding food, the animals weren’t so hungry.

The boys certainly tried their best to feed every animal they could.  They had an occasional taker.

eat this please!

yo sheep, eat this carrot please!

So often (with twin 2 year olds) these sorts of trips can go wrong … fast.  But in all, it was a great trip.  The ranch is near Stone Mountain Park which took us only about 25 minutes to get there.

sewwweeeee

here little piggy, sewwweeeee

No, the property isn’t perfectly manicured but we didn’t care.  That’s the way a real farm looks anyway.  I had been there a couple of times before doing live shots on Groundhog Day for General Beau Lee.  It was always so early and dark, I could never see all of the other animals.

PS — I did notice on their website they are having another $1 days February 17th.  Check it out!

Happy Tuesday!

 

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It finally happened — Tons of Fun — Macy’s Pink Pig! Happy Holidays!
{riding the pink pig}

{riding the pink pig}

Spending time with my boys this time of year is really, really fun.  Yes, more work but worth every bit of it.   The boys are obviously so entertained by all the bright lights, Christmas trees and the hustle and bustle of extra energy filling the crisp, cool air.

Yesterday, I finally did something I’ve looked forward to for many years.  I took my children to the Macy’s Pink Pig at Lenox Mall. 

(an amazing ride}

(an amazing ride}

It’s far from Disney World as the ride itself lasts for less than 2 minutes, we spent longer waiting in line to purchase the tickets.  But the thrill of watching my sweet little boys eyes light up will stay with me a life time.  I believe it was true joy on both sides.

(having a moment after the fun ride}

(brothers having a moment after the fun ride}

If you are in Atlanta and looking for something fun to do with your young children, check it out.

There was a nice family in front of us who has been riding the Pink Pig for years.  They told me, even though the twins and older sis are all now in college, they still make it a tradition to come back and ride the pig every year.  The mom even admitted she rode it as a child!  How cool is that?  I hope we make the Pink Pig a fond memory for our family as well.

{big hug}

{a big pig hug}

{sad to leave}

{sad to leave}

But here’s the thing.  My boys cried when they had to leave.  I bought 2 rides for each of us… but no, that wasn’t enough for these fellas.  They wanted more!  I think they could have ridden it all day long.

{put a paci in it}

{put a paci in it}

Do you have any fond Pink Pig memories?  If so, please share!

What makes the Macy’s Pink Pig even better, a portion of the proceeds go to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  One of my favorite charities.

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Look for the good in people. It will astound you.
{marcy scott}

{marcy scott}

“Live each day with complete utter joy and let go of petty annoyances and disagreements is a great mantra. Let that be my gift to you – to love with every fiber of your being to all walks of life. Look for the good in people. It will astound you.” Marcy Scott

This is a quote a beautiful lady left for all of us.  She was only 42 years old and passed away earlier this month.  I had worked with Marcy a few times on shoots at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  She was so kind, and simply a true joy to be around.

The first day I met her, she had just returned from several months off while battling  breast cancer.  At this point, she was done with the disease and ready to get on with her life. At the start of our shoot, I had no idea what she’d been through.  I could tell when she shared some of her story, whe was not looking for pity.  No sir.  She was ready to enjoy life and pick up where she left off.

Sadly, Marcy relapsed and eventually lost her battle and went on to be with the Lord, but she left behind a huge impact on so many people who loved and adored her.  Thank you Marcy Scott for being you.  A great inspiration for all of us.

With this said, I want to pass along a funny article on how to go ahead and make yourself miserable. Really, doesn’t it seem to seem far more difficult than choosing to be happy?

{happy eating a cupcake}

{happy is:  eating a cupcake}

Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.

So if you aspire to make yourself miserable, what are the best, most proven techniques for doing it? Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs, committing crimes, gambling, and beating up your spouse or neighbor. Subtler strategies, ones that won’t lead anyone to suspect that you’re acting deliberately, can be highly effective. But you need to pretend that you want to be happy, like everybody else, or people won’t take your misery seriously. The real art is to behave in ways that’ll bring on misery while allowing you to claim that you’re an innocent victim, ideally of the very people from whom you’re forcibly extracting compassion and pity.

Here, I cover most areas of life, such as family, work, friends, and romantic partners. These areas will overlap nicely, since you can’t ruin your life without ruining your marriage and maybe your relationships with your children and friends. It’s inevitable that as you make yourself miserable, you’ll be making those around you miserable also, at least until they leave you—which will give you another reason to feel miserable. So it’s important to keep in mind the benefits you’re accruing in your misery.

• When you’re miserable, people feel sorry for you. Not only that, they often feel obscurely guilty, as if your misery might somehow be their fault. This is good! There’s power in making other people feel guilty. The people who love you and those who depend on you will walk on eggshells to make sure that they don’t say or do anything that will increase your misery.

• When you’re miserable, since you have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen, you can’t be disappointed or disillusioned.

• Being miserable can give the impression that you’re a wise and worldly person, especially if you’re miserable not just about your life, but about society in general. You can project an aura of someone burdened by a form of profound, tragic, existential knowledge that happy, shallow people can’t possibly appreciate.

Honing Your Misery Skills

Let’s get right to it and take a look at some effective strategies to become miserable. This list is by no means exhaustive, but engaging in four or five of these practices will help refine your talent.

1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears, even when there’s little risk that you’ll actually suffer such losses. Concentrate on this fear, make it a priority in your life, moan continuously that you could go broke any day now, and complain about how much everything costs, particularly if someone else is buying. Try to initiate quarrels about other people’s feckless, spendthrift ways, and suggest that the recession has resulted from irresponsible fiscal behavior like theirs.

Fearing economic loss has several advantages. First, it’ll keep you working forever at a job you hate. Second, it balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!

Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and, for 15 minutes, meditate on all the things you could lose: your job, your house, your savings, and so forth. Then brood about living in a homeless shelter.

2. Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain a lot about how bored you are. Make it the main subject of conversation with everyone you know so they’ll get the distinct feeling that you think they’re boring. Consider provoking a crisis to relieve your boredom. Have an affair (this works best if you’re already married and even better if you have an affair with someone else who’s married); go on repeated shopping sprees for clothes, cars, fancy appliances, sporting equipment (take several credit cards, in case one maxes out); start pointless fights with your spouse, boss, children, friends, neighbors; have another child; quit your job, clean out your savings account, and move to a state you know nothing about.

A side benefit of being bored is that you inevitably become boring. Friends and relatives will avoid you. You won’t be invited anywhere; nobody will want to call you, much less actually see you. As this happens, you’ll feel lonely and even more bored and miserable.

Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day, and read only nonstimulating tabloids that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.

3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life. Talk about it to everybody, and make sure to read up on the symptoms so you can speak about them knowledgeably and endlessly. Practice the behaviors most associated with that condition, particularly when it’ll interfere with regular activities and relationships. Focus on how depressed you are and become weepy, if that’s your identity of choice. Refuse to go places or try new things because they make you too anxious. Work yourself into panic attacks in places it’ll cause the most commotion. It’s important to show that you don’t enjoy these states or behaviors, but that there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.

Practice putting yourself in the physiological state that represents your negative identity. For example, if your negative identity is Depressed Person, hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, breathe shallowly. It’s important to condition your body to help you reach your negative peak as quickly as possible.

Exercise: Write down 10 situations that make you anxious, depressed, or distracted. Once a week, pick a single anxiety-provoking situation, and use it to work yourself into a panic for at least 15 minutes.

4. Pick fights. This is an excellent way of ruining a relationship with a romantic partner. Once in a while, unpredictably, pick a fight or have a crying spell over something trivial and make unwarranted accusations. The interaction should last for at least 15 minutes and ideally occur in public. During the tantrum, expect your partner to be kind and sympathetic, but should he or she mention it later, insist that you never did such a thing and that he or she must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. Act injured and hurt that your partner somehow implied you weren’t behaving well.

Another way of doing this is to say unexpectedly, “We need to talk,” and then to barrage your partner with statements about how disappointed you are with the relationship. Make sure to begin this barrage just as your partner is about to leave for some engagement or activity, and refuse to end it for at least an hour. Another variation is to text or phone your partner at work to express your issues and disappointments. Do the same if your partner is out with friends.

Exercise: Write down 20 annoying text messages you could send to a romantic partner. Keep a grudge list going, and add to it daily.

5. Attribute bad intentions. Whenever you can, attribute the worst possible intentions to your partner, friends, and coworkers. Take any innocent remark and turn it into an insult or attempt to humiliate you. For example, if someone asks, “How did you like such and such movie?” you should immediately think, He’s trying to humiliate me by proving that I didn’t understand the movie, or He’s preparing to tell me that I have poor taste in movies. The idea is to always expect the worst from people. If someone is late to meet you for dinner, while you wait for them, remind yourself of all the other times the person was late, and tell yourself that he or she is doing this deliberately to slight you. Make sure that by the time the person arrives, you’re either seething or so despondent that the evening is ruined. If the person asks what’s wrong, don’t say a word: let him or her suffer.

Exercise: List the names of five relatives or friends. For each, write down something they did or said in the recent past that proves they’re as invested in adding to your misery as you are.

6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.

Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Think about how everyone around you is trying to take from you. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing you personal, social, or professional gain.

7. Avoid gratitude. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?

Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all. Such attempts to encourage gratitude and cheerfulness are common and easily deflected. Simply point out that the things you should be grateful for aren’t perfect—which frees you to find as much fault with them as you like.

Exercise: Make a list of all the things you could be grateful for. Next to each item, write down why you aren’t. Imagine the worst. When you think of the future, imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s important to be prepared for and preemptively miserable about any possible disaster or tragedy. Think of the possibilities: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease, horrible accidents, massive crop failures, your child not getting picked for the varsity softball team.

8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.

Exercise: Do some research on what natural or manmade disasters could occur in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, nuclear plant leaks, rabies outbreaks. Focus on these things for at least an hour a day.

9. Blame your parents. Blaming your parents for your defects, shortcomings, and failures is among the most important steps you can take. After all, your parents made you who you are today; you had nothing to do with it. If you happen to have any good qualities or successes, don’t give your parents credit. Those are flukes.

Extend the blame to other people from your past: the second-grade teacher who yelled at you in the cafeteria, the boy who bullied you when you were 9, the college professor who gave you a D on your paper, your first boyfriend, even the hick town you grew up in—the possibilities are limitless. Blame is essential in the art of being miserable.

Exercise: Call one of your parents and tell her or him that you just remembered something horrible they did when you were a child, and make sure he or she understands how terrible it made you feel and that you’re still suffering from it.

10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. If you inadvertently find yourself enjoying some flavor, song, or work of art, remind yourself immediately that these are transitory pleasures, which can’t compensate for the miserable state of the world. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through a forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception.

Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In other words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.

11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.

You can ruminate on the problems of others or the world, but make them about you. Your child is sick? Ruminate on what a burden it is for you to take time off from work to care for her. Your spouse is hurt by your behavior? Focus on how terrible it makes you feel when he points out how you make him feel. By ruminating not only on your own problems but also those of others, you’ll come across as a deep, sensitive thinker who holds the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair and seek out negative feelings, like anger, depression, anxiety, boredom, whatever. Concentrate on these feelings for 15 minutes. During the rest of the day, keep them in the back of your mind, no matter what you’re doing.

12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.

Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.

Exercise: Make a list of your most important bad memories and keep it where you can review it frequently. Once a week, tell someone about your horrible childhood or how much better your life was 20 years ago.

13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.

Exercise: Go to online dating sites and see how many bad choices you can find in one afternoon. Make efforts to meet these people. It’s good if the dating site charges a lot of money, since this means you’ll be emotionally starved and poor.

14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.

It helps if the things you criticize are well liked by most people so that your dislike of them sets you apart. Disliking traffic and mosquitos isn’t creative enough: everyone knows what it’s like to find these things annoying, and they won’t pay much attention if you find them annoying, too. But disliking the new movie that all your friends are praising? You’ll find plenty of opportunities to counter your friends’ glowing reviews with your contrarian opinion.

Exercise: Make a list of 20 things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day. For best results, dislike things you’ve never given yourself a chance to like.

—–

I’ve just listed 14 ways to make yourself miserable. You don’t have to nail every one of them, but even if you succeed with just four or five, make sure to berate yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still clinging to their love for you has tricked you into going—make sure your misery seems organic. If the therapist enlightens you in any way or teaches you mind-body techniques to quiet your anxious mind, make sure to co-opt the conversation and talk about your misery-filled dreams from the night before. If the therapist is skilled in dream analysis, quickly start complaining about the cost of therapy itself. If the therapist uses your complaints as a launching pad to discuss transference issues, accuse him or her of having countertransference issues. Ultimately, the therapist is your enemy when trying to cultivate misery in your life. So get out as soon as possible. And if you happen upon a therapist who’ll sit quietly while you bring all 14 items on this list to life each week, call me. I’ll want to make an appointment, too.

Cloe Madanes is a world-renowned innovator and teacher of family and brief therapy and one of the originators of the strategic approach to family therapy. She has authored seven books that are classics in the field: Strategic Family Therapy; Behind the One-Way Mirror; Sex, Love, and Violence; The Secret Meaning of Money; The Violence of Men; The Therapist as Humanist, Social Activist, and Systemic Thinker; and Relationship Breakthrough. Contact: madanesinstitute@gmail.com.

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Saying “Goodbye” is never easy… a tribute to my 18 year old puppy Zoe.
{a healthy zoe}

{a healthy zoe.  photo by pam warner}

It’s been one week ago today since we put our little Zoe down.

(young zoe}

(young zoe}

Little Zoe was almost 18 years old last Thursday when she left this world.  She had gotten so small and frail.  Her back arched like a crescent moon.  She could no longer see, hear or for the most part, think. I had been contemplating this day for at least 2 years.  Frankly, I didn’t think she would live to see the boys… but she did.  Almost 2 years after they were born.

Everyone said I would know when it was time.  But that was difficult for me.  How would I know?  Did I know?  Still not sure, but I do know, it was a very difficult decision.  Choosing to end something or someone’s life seemed as if I were trying to play God.  How could I do this?

{our only wedding guest}

{our only wedding guest}

The entire day was dreadful.  I woke early, well before the boys were up and got to spend some time with Zoe.  I made her a hotdog, which I later realized was a mistake.  She seemed to enjoy it but couldn’t keep it down and it turned in to a pretty big mess on the floor.  I knew then – this would be the day. Without too many details, I had spent many days cleaning up after her but this was a real mess and it was all over her.

{christmas 2006}

{christmas 2008}

Initially, I was planning to have a friend, who’s a vet come over to send Zoe to heaven in the comfort of her home.  But I changed my mind and took her to Banfield animal hospital.  It was the best decision for us.

When we first walked in, the moment hit me, and I couldn’t talk.  Fortunately, I’d called ahead of time and the lady at the desk looked up at my tearful eyes and asked, “You have Zoe?”  I just nodded yes.

I’m blessed with a dear friend, Michael Frederick, who was by my side the entire time.  Luck was also on our side and my husband had just wrapped up a lunch meeting and was able to meet us there as well.

Once in the room, we got to love on Zoe a little more as she stayed wrapped up in a soft white blanket she always loved.  She was typically a fairly high strung, nervous dog but not on this trip to the vet.  She was quiet and relatively calm.  However, at one point, she started barking.  It was an odd, soft kind of bark almost a yelp.  It sent more tears streaming down my face.  I wonder if she was scared and that makes me very sad.

I couldn’t watch what was about to happen, so I left the room.  However, I ended up coming back and staring through the door window until I saw her small, frail body become limp on the table.  It still makes me cry.

{with mom in law and levi who's also in heaven}

{with mom in law and levi who’s also in heaven}

It was a beautiful, sunny day when we left the Banfield hospital.  A day Zoe would have loved.  We drove her little body through the busy streets of Buckhead, still wrapped in her blanket.  We took her body to the crematory  which is a very nice facility, equipped with an upscale funeral home.  They helped us place her  little body on a table where we had a few moments together.

{good times}

{good times}

The crematory has already called to let me know Zoe’s ashes are ready.  I haven’t gotten back to them yet.  I still need a some time.  Plus, we have to decide on what our plan is for her remains.

{happy times in hilton head}

{happy times in hilton head with elsa and zoe}

While the memory of last Thursday is fresh in my mind and heart, I want to reflect on the good times of Zoe’s life.  She was a spunky, feisty little girl who was always there for me.  I remember when I was anchoring the morning show in Raleigh and had to wake every morning at 2.  There she was by my side.  I was in a new city missing my Atlanta friends but everyday when I got home from work, Zoe was always there with a smile to greet me.

{smiling}

{smiling}

I took that little girl on a few Delta flights.  Once, I was in a big hurry and ended up sneaking her on board.  Whew… glad we didn’t get caught!

This little spunky  Miniature Schnauzer also helped me train for 2 marathons.  She would run up to 6 miles with me.  She was tough.

Zoe was a handful.  She wasn’t always the friendliest of dogs.  Maybe never. The first day I brought her home from the Atlanta Humane Society, she bit a girlfriend on the leg.  Tore right through her new jeans.  I thought maybe she was traumatized because of all the changes in her life.  But it turned out she was a biter and bit several friends over the years.  (I’m sorry!)  After we put her down, my Facebook page filled up with kind comments and a few funny ones of the times she bit certain friends.  Maybe she had a sixth sense?

{zoe could occaisonally be nice to her sis}

{zoe could occasionally be nice to her new lil sis}

Saying goodby was very difficult.  Zoe was a part of me, my first dog as an adult, a part of our family. I can’t seem to find a place for her collar just yet.  I keep moving it around the house and later finding it — which results in more tears.

I did have a moment today when I recognized that she really is in a better place.  The past few years, I never knew if she was in pain or not since she never cried or barked much anymore.  The peace I find now is knowing I saved her life 16 years ago and provided her with plenty of love and some really good times.

{in kentucky after a tornado destroys my families homes}

{in kentucky after a tornado destroys my dads and other family member’s homes}

{bye bye zoe, mommy loves you}

{bye bye zoe, mommy loves you}

 

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An emotional, inspiring, moving, loving, wonderful evening. MDA/ALS Night of Hope
{me and hubby}

{me and hubby}

I was honored to Co-chair the 2013 MDA/ALS Night of Hope Gala October 18th.  It was a beautiful evening to remember with 600+ guests and several high profile and inspiring speakers such as CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and former NFL player Kevin Turner.

I  served on the committee for 3 years before being asked to Co-chair.  Mark Panfel was the other Co-Chair.  He’s the CEO of Northside Hospital Anesthesia. His lovely wife Sallie was diagnosed with ALS last year and it’s amazing how much work he’s done already in the fight to find a cure for this horrible disease.  I couldn’t have been more honored to co-chair the event with him.

Here’s why I’m writing this.  Life has a very strange way of bringing things full circle.  Or, if you are of the spiritual type (as I am), then you might think there’s a higher power involved in all of this.

{8th grade with billy cotton}

{8th grade with billy cotton}

This is a photo from an 8th grade dance I went to with Billy Cotton. Billy was a super cute guy and a few years older than me, which probably made me even crazier for him.

Billy and I only dated, or went steady, or whatever we called it back then, for a few months.  But he was definitely my first big crush.  Or my first little taste of (what I thought was) love.

After we broke up, we lost touch over the years.  Then, when I was in my 20′s, I remember hearing Billy was sick and not doing well.  I wasn’t sure what he was sick with but I later heard he had passed away from some disease I didn’t know much about.  It was heartbreaking to hear.  Unfortunately, I didn’t attend Billy’s funeral.

Fast forward to earlier this year when Billy’s sister, Sandi, reached out to me on Facebook.  She told me Billy had died from ALS. He was diagnosed at 28 and fought a good fight until he passed away at 36.  How sad for him and his family.  Perhaps this is why I have been on this mission to help in the fight against ALS. I wish I had been there for Billy at the time.

{joan & mike babul dancing}

{joan & mike babul dancing}

To add to these deep and profound feelings, one of my best friend’s mother-in-law has recently been diagnosed with ALS.  Joan Babul and her family sat at our table the night of the gala.  It was so wonderful to spend quality time with them and watch her enjoy her family so much.  She looked beautiful and I truly believe she found hope that night.  Hope that she can live her best with ALS.

{sheri hofer, holly procter, stacey elgin}

{sheri hofer, holly procter (night of hope founder), stacey elgin}

After raising $828,000 (yay!) the night of the gala, I reached out to Sandi (Billy’s sister) to let her know how well the event turned out and how often I thought of Billy.  Of course, I didn’t want to make her sad by bringing up his name, and that wasn’t the case at all.  She told me she was so glad I had asked about him because she never wants him to be forgotten.  She told me how she was 6 years old when he was born and she always felt she had her real, live baby doll at home.

{supportive girlfriends, karin smithson, denna babul, jill edgecombe, carol mathia, stacey elgin}

{supportive girlfriends, karin smithson, denna babul, jill edgecombe, carol mathia, stacey elgin}

When I was first asked by Sheri Hofer to simply make a donation for the Night of Hope silent auction several years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me.  But then again, that’s life.  None of us can be sure of what’s next.

I’m so thankful for the wonderful people who I’ve gotten to know through this organization.  I wish I had a magic wand to make ALS disappear forever.  Until then, we will keep working to help find a cure.

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I got to meet a very famous little boy and his inspiring mother.
{met an amazing family}

{met an amazing family, stacey, bill & tripp halstead}

I had to meet this woman and her young son.  I just had to.  Thanks to my sweet friend Lori Geary who walked me over to the Halstead’s table and introduced us.  There he was, sleeping right by his parent’s side, their sweet young son, Tripp.  What a little angel he is.  What an inspiration she is.  What a story.

I’ve followed The Tripp Halstead story since the beginning.  If you don’t already know, I’m warning you — it’s very sad but also very inspiring. I know if I were still a General Assignment reporter in Atlanta … I would have been assigned this story.  And, I would be friends with the Halsteads. But for now, I’m only her friend.  Meaning, I feel I know her very well, but she doesn’t know me.

In a nutshell, the story goes like this.  Almost a year ago, on October 29th, 2012, Stacey Halstead dropped her young son Tripp off at daycare in the morning.  He was almost 2 at the time and as most young boys, loved to play outside.  But the day went terribly wrong.  There was a freak accident.  Remnants from Hurricane Sandy were passing through the Atlanta metro and the ground was soggy.  As a result, a limb fell from a very tall tree, struck Tripp on his head and crushed his skull in to pieces.

“When I dropped my happy, perfect boy off at daycare that morning, it might have been the last time I saw his smile or his eyes open or him awake. I will never take another day with my baby for granted.”  Stacey says on their website.

Tripp almost died in the hospital.  But as his parents say, he’s a fighter and after several months, he finally came home.  Tripp has damage to his brain but he’s in physical therapy and has an extremely loving family who works with him constantly to get him back on track.

Since that terrible day, Stacey has gotten so much love and support from the community and beyond.  She updates her Facebook page regularly and that’s why so many of us feel we know them, love Tripp and want him to get better very soon.

{dear friends}

{dear friends, denna babul, karin smithson, me}

My dear friend Dr. Karin Smithson (center) serves on the board for the Ronald McDonald house.  She was so kind to invite us to join her at their table at the Hearts and Hands Gala at the Georgia Aquarium.  It was a beautiful event and more than $500,000 was raised for the Ronald McDonald houses. Great job everyone!

With Tripp by their side, Stacey and Bill gave a beautiful speech.  They talked about how thankful they are for the Ronald McDonald house and how much it helped them during such a terrible time in their lives.

Sunday morning when I went in to my boys room to get them, I couldn’t help but hug both of them just a little tighter than normal knowing how lucky we are to have them.  As Stacey reminds us, every day is a blessing.

Tripp Halstead is always on my mind.  I have kept him and his family in my prayers.  Who knows, with God’s help maybe one day little Tripp will have a full recovery and will play with these guys.

[with my boys before leaving, so what if there's a little stain on my white dress}

[with my boys before leaving for the gala, so what if there's a little food stain on my white dress... i wanted a hug}

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A change of seasons. New beginnings. Life in the fast lane.

There is something about the change of seasons. Fresh air, new beginnings, fulfilling goals and reflecting on the past — are just a few things that come to mind.

So with yesterday being the first official day of fall, I couldn’t help it… I just felt happy.  Really happy.  Even when someone wasn’t nice to me, or my husband was driving me crazy, I didn’t let it get to me.  But life seems to be moving in the fast lane.  The year just got started and now we’re closing in on the final quarter. How did it go so quickly? Of course, this makes me very sad because my boys will be 2 in December and they aren’t babies anymore.

I guess it’s true — staying busy makes time fly.  So, here’s a little of what’s happened in the last month or so.  Not a whole lot, but still… a lot!

my nanny got married

my nanny got married to a really great guy

IMG_2675

the boys learned how to climb on the counter and into the oven

the boys learned how to climb on the counter and into the oven

lil man lifted his first pumpkin. as he called it... "ball".

lil man lifted his first pumpkin or as he called it… “ball”

i tore the ligaments in my ankle "trying" to play tennis

i tore the ligaments in my ankle “trying” to play tennis

we had our annual block party

we had our annual neighborhood block party

i interviewed david koechner from anchorman 2

i interviewed david koechner from anchorman 2

mom and i shared a smoothie in the car

mom and i shared a smoothie in the car

 

we smile sometimes before going to school  (ok daycare)

we started daycare and sometimes we wait to put on our shoes

Happy Tuesday!!!

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Red Tricycle’s Totally Awesome! Best places in the Atlanta Metro to take kids!
guests enjoying the totally awesome party in atlanta

guests enjoying the totally awesome party in atlanta

Hey everyone!  Sorry I’ve been away from this here little blog for a few weeks… but I am back and I have some great things to share with you!

I start with Red Tricycle.  Have you heard of it yet?  If you are a parent  — then you need to know what it is!  It’s a digital city guide for parents which offers ideas for things to see, eat and do with your kids in your neighborhood. The mission is simple — help parents have more fun with their kids. It’s now in most major metro cities and recently had the annual Totally Awesome Awards.  These are so cool because moms all over won’t miss out on anything and everything fun to do in their town!

totally cute goodie bags

totally cute goodie bags

Red Tricycle had a fun little party at Baby Braithwaite in Buckhead (my favorite baby store in Atlanta) and yes, they know how to party!  Here are some photos from the event when they announced the winners in Atlanta.  Congrats everyone!!

ceo jaque talking to the crowd

ceo jacqui boland talking to the crowd

Red Tricycle announced the winners of its 3rd Annual Totally Awesome Awards, a reader-driven awards program recognizing the best parenting brands, products, neighborhood services and resources for families with children ages 0-10.

The Totally Awesome Awards included 64 national Baby & Kids Essentials categories and 31 Local categories in 12 U.S. cities.

Parents from across the nation picked their favorite family-friendly businesses throughout a 12-week period. More than 236,777 votes were cast and the results for the Totally Awesome Awards Atlanta winners are listed below.

 jacqui boland, founder & ceo with atlanta editor, phebe wahl

jacqui boland ceo with atlanta editor, phebe wahl

Art Classes for Kids: Art Attack

Baby & Maternity Shops: Baby Braithwaite

Camps for Kids: Frog Hollow Camp

Childcare Agencies & Resources: First Steps

Cupcake, Bakery & Sweet Shops: GiGi’s Cupcakes

Drop-Off Childcare Programs: Little Linguists International Preschool

Family & Pediatric Dentists: Brookhaven Children’s Dentistry

Family Camping Sites: Stone Mountain

Family Escapes & Getaways: LanierWorld

Family Hiking Trails: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Family Photographers: Up & Away Photography

Family Restaurants & Cafes: Radial Cafe

Groups for Moms & Dads: Atlanta Area Mommies

Ice-Cream & Froyo Shops: SunO Dessert

Indoor Playspaces: Catch Air

Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops: Hodgepodge Coffeehouse

Kids Birthday Party Spots: Great Play of Johns Creek

Kids Clothing & Gear Stores: Gretchen’s Childrens Store

Kids Consignment & Resale Shops: Baby Love

Kids Dance & Theater Classes: Atlanta Children’s Theatre

Kids Language Classes: Bilingual Familia Consulting & International School

Kids Music Classes: The Learning Groove

Kids Sports Classes: Great Play of Johns Creek

Midwives & Doulas: A Labor of Love

Mom Fitness Programs: Strength in Moms

Mom-Run Businesses: Yummy Spoonfuls

Museums: Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Parent Education Programs: Moms On Call

Parks & Playgrounds: Historic Fourth Ward Park

Schools & Preschool Programs: Cambridge International Preschool

Toy & Book Stores: Bean Head Toys

Red Tricycle celebrated the winners and Top 10 finalists of the TAA Atlanta at Baby Braithwaite. The evening was sponsored by Zulily, Zevia, Urbansitter and Smartypants. The party brought together all the winners, finalists and local influencers in Atlanta.

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Dragon Con 2013. Time to get your CRAZY on!
{alluring}

{alluring}

It’s Labor Day Weekend (almost) and you know what that means?  It means Atlanta is ready for Dragon Con 2013!  In case you don’t know already, Dragon Con is the largest pop culture convention featuring comics, film, television, costuming, art, music, and gaming. Held each Labor Day weekend in Atlanta, Dragon Con attracts more than 52,000 attendees!  That’s a lot of crazy in our city! It’s so fun because people are dressed in the coolest, most original, wildest outfits you will find anywhere!  It’s great people watching!

{cutesy}

{cutesy}

The weekend kicks off with the parade downtown.  It’s very family friendly.  Kids love it because there are so many super cool outfits for them to enjoy.   There plenty of panels, exhibits, costumes, and each year more and more celebrities are attending such as William Shatner, Loni Anderson and more.

{what they hey?}

{what they hey?}

I covered this event several times while working at Fox 5 and always had a great time.  The people who attend are simply — just really cool.  I know for some people, it might seem a little weird but really, it’s just folks having a good time and letting their inhibitions run wild.

Thanks Michael Frederick for the great photos from previous years.  We will be sure to get more from this year.  So check back!

Here’s a clip from covering the event. Both Clare and I were pregnant at the time.. but not telling yet!

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12 Things Happy People Do Differently
{think positive}

{think positive}

Are you happy?  Hope so.  I recently read these happiness habits and loved them.  Since it’s been so dismal and rainy in the south, I thought I would share these because the weather seems to be having an impact on people’s mood.  I wanted to remind myself of these habits and hope you get something out of them as well.

Happy Friday!

   1.    Express gratitude. – When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value.  Kinda cool right?  So basically, being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness.  And that’s without having to go out and buy anything.  It makes sense.  We’re gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren’t thankful for what we already have.

    2.    Cultivate optimism. – Winners have the ability to manufacture their own optimism.  No matter what the situation, the successful diva is the chick who will always find a way to put an optimistic spin on it.  She knows failure only as an opportunity to grow and learn a new lesson from life.  People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.

   3.    Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. – Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous.  If we’re somehow ‘better’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, it gives us an unhealthy sense of superiority.  Our ego inflates – KABOOM – our inner Kanye West comes out!  If we’re ‘worse’ than the person that we’re comparing ourselves to, we usually discredit the hard work that we’ve done and dismiss all the progress that we’ve made.  What I’ve found is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place.  If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.

   4.    Practice acts of kindness. – Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain.  (Serotonin is a substance that has TREMENDOUS health benefits, including making us feel more blissful.)  Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside.  What’s even cooler about this kindness kick is that not only will you feel better, but so will people watching the act of kindness.  How extraordinary is that?  Bystanders will be blessed with a release of serotonin just by watching what’s going on.  A side note is that the job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.  Move over Pfizer, kindness is kicking ass and taking names.

  5.    Nurture social relationships. – The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.  Did you know studies show that people’s mortality rates are DOUBLED when they’re lonely?  WHOA!  There’s a warm fuzzy feeling that comes from having an active circle of good friends who you can share your experiences with.  We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.

    6.    Develop strategies for coping. – How you respond to the ‘craptastic’ moments is what shapes your character.  Sometimes crap happens – it’s inevitable.  Forrest Gump knows the deal.  It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment when manure is making its way up toward the fan.  It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.

    7.    Learn to forgive. – Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being.  You see, your mind doesn’t know the difference between past and present emotion.  When you ‘hate’ someone, and you’re continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are eating away at your immune system.  You put yourself in a state of suckerism (technical term) and it stays with you throughout your day.

    8.    Increase flow experiences. – Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still.  It’s when you’re so focused on what you’re doing that you become one with the task.  Action and awareness are merged.  You’re not hungry, sleepy, or emotional.  You’re just completely engaged in the activity that you’re doing.  Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.

    9.    Savor life’s joys. – Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy.  It’s easy in a world of wild stimuli and omnipresent movement to forget to embrace life’s enjoyable experiences.  When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic.  It’s the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.

    10.    Commit to your goals. – Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force.  Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere.  When you’re fully committed to doing something, you have no choice but to do that thing.  Counter-intuitively, having no option – where you can’t change your mind – subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.

    11.    Practice spirituality. – When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us.  We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever.  It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.  Some of the most accomplished people I know feel that they’re here doing work they’re “called to do.”

    12.    Take care of your body. – Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be.  If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.  Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft?  Not only that, but here’s the double whammy… Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.

Studies conducted by positivity psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky point to 12 things happy people do differently to increase their levels of happiness.  These are things that we can start doing today to feel the effects of more happiness in our lives.  (Check out her book The How of Happiness.)

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