Don’t Miss Jack Daniel’s Summer Swarm #SummerSwarm

This post brought to you by Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. All opinions are 100% mine.

What are you doing this summer? I don’t know about you, but I like to make the most of my summer vacations. Zip lines in Puerto Rico, hiking in the mountains of Western North Carolina, snorkeling in Turks and Caicos – summertime is all about living life to the fullest and I plan to make every single second count! Jack Daniel’s Summer Swarm Sweepstakes is all about sharing our fun-filled summertime moments, where we show what fun things the Fear of Missing Out leads us to do!

Jack Daniel's Summer Swarm Sweepstakes #SummerSwarm

That’s right, the Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO for short! FOMO is a recognized anxiety that something incredibly awesome is happening and we’re totally missing out on it.

Trying Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey’s versatile, “something for everyone” taste is one of those can’t miss moments – that is, if you’re over 21! Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey is a blend of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and honey liqueur – a little bit of honey, a whole lot of Jack. It’s a different way to enjoy Jack’s whiskey, a new flavor that retains Jack Daniel’s core. It’s the perfect mixer for unexpected twists on summer cocktails like a Honey Julep, a Jack Honey Sweet Tea, or even as a chilled shot or beer chaser.

The Jack Daniel’s Summer Swarm Sweepstakes is simple, really. They’re asking people to submit photos of their own most awesome, FOMO-driven summer moments for a chance to win the Ultimate Summer Trip – a $5000 travel voucher to plan exactly where, when, and how they want to travel on their next fun-filled vacation!

You read that right: FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!

Summer Swarm’s winning photo is partly decided by popular vote on the site, so sharing your entry with all of your friends and family is key to winning! There are also prizes every week just for voting, as well as for simply submitting photos, so even if you don’t have a photo of your own to share (which is silly, there has to be something fun you’re doing this summer!), it still behooves you to vote for your friends!

Voting for photos could win you a weekly Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Tank Top and Koozie prize pack. You can vote every day to increase your chances of winning!

And even if you don’t win the $5000 travel voucher grand prize, any of your submitted photos could win you a weekly Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey Desk Speaker, Beach Towel, and 6-Pack Cooler prize pack!

How to Participate in the Jack Daniel’s Summer Swarm Sweepstakes

If you are over 21, you can play!

Simply go to jacksummerswarm.com and enter your birthdate to verify your age, then register using your email address. You can submit photos directly online, even add captions to make your FOMO moment more appealing to voters!

You can also submit your summertime photos right as they happen with Twitter & Instagram by tagging your pictures with #summerswarm! Just note that you must register online and link your Twitter and Instagram accounts for it to work!

Here are some of my favorite #SummerSwarm photos so far! You can vote for them too on JackSummerSwarm.com!

Jack Daniel's Summer Swarm Sweepstakes #SummerSwarm

Weekend at the Track - These guys sure know how to have fun and make the most of summer!

Jack Daniel's Summer Swarm Sweepstakes #SummerSwarm

Tubing With The New Boat - I love the water, and anything water sports-related. What a fun way to spend the summer months, having fun out on the boat!

Jack Daniel's Summer Swarm Sweepstakes #SummerSwarm

Dream - Of course, sometimes you can make the most of summer just by relaxing on the beach, listening to the waves.

I like to do a little of all of these things while on summer vacation, and I chose these submissions to vote for because they embody my ideal summertime activities: super fun, adrenaline-pumping action, fun out on the water, and relaxation and day dreaming.

Sounds like the perfect summer to me!

How do you make the most of your summer? I hope to see your own #SummerSwarm submissions pop up for voting before the summer’s over! Register for the Jack Summer Swarm Sweepstakes!

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Goodbye, Dirty Dishes! Hello, Cascade My Platinum #MyPlatinum

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Cascade. I received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

Guess what, folks? I’m a brand new Cascade My Platinum Ambassador! Yippee!

What exactly does that mean?

Well, it means that over the next few weeks, I am going to be sharing information about Cascade Platinum dish washing detergent with you as I begin to use it in my own home.

As dishwasher-owning people know, it’s ALL about the detergent, isn’t it?

cascade my platinum

When I was growing up, my parents bought a home that had a dishwasher already built into the kitchen. My dad, saying that dishwashers wasted too much water, removed the dishwasher and replaced it with shelving for my mom. My mom didn’t want the dishwasher either, as she said you still had to wash the dishes before loading it, so what was the point?

I remember the agony of seeing that dishwasher being pulled out of the cabinets…knowing full well that as the oldest daughter, that meant more work for me. I wasn’t wrong! My mom and youngest sister still bicker over who is going to wash the dishes, some 20 years later!

I remember growing up, in my teens and then my 20s, always gazing longingly at the dishwasher I saw in friend’s homes. As you might be aware from previous blog posts, Chris and I bought my grandparent’s old home…which didn’t have a dishwasher.

Not only did it not have a dishwasher, but our original cabinetry is so narrow that we can’t actually fit a dishwasher into the cabinets without remodeling the entire kitchen. Our kitchen is nothing fancy, but because the 50 year old cabinets are solid maple, I just can’t wrap my head around tearing them out!

So Chris and I got creative and we bought a portable dishwasher in 2006.

BEST INVENTION EVER IN THE HISTORY OF MAN.

While I don’t pre-wash dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, I do rinse off any food that’s leftover. Lately we’ve had some issues, even with me doing this, with our dishes coming out clean. Sometimes I have to wash the pots and pans by hand, which really stinks. I have a feeling that my spotty glasses might be the result of my budget-friendly dishwasher detergent, and I’m excited to try out the new Cascade Platinum and share my findings with you!

What can we expect to discover about Cascade My Platinum ?

  • Delivers Cascade’s ultimate clean for dishes
  • Scrubs away tough 24 hour stuck-on food
  • Eliminates the need to pre-wash dishes
  • Provides exceptional dishware shine
  • Contains the Grease Fighting Power of Dawn

Watch in upcoming weeks as I tell you about the Cascade My Platinum Instagram contest that you can enter to win super fun prizes! And the fun keeps on coming – I’ll also share more about Cascade’s partnership with one of my favorite Top Chef Judges, Gail Simmons!

Check out the Cascade website for more information and like the Cascade Facebook page here to follow along with brand new promotions!

How Do You Process Grief?

Sometimes you have to take a step back from everything you’re doing and take a long, hard look at the way you live your life.

Sometimes this is the result of something amazing happening; one of those instinctual OH MY GOSH I AM SO LUCKY moments that fills our hearts with pure joy and gratitude. I had one of those moments recently when I found out that my breast lump was just a harmless cyst…

I had a different kind of one of those moments, those life-changing, what is happening?! moments, two weeks ago.

I found out that someone I love has cancer.

It’s not a treatable, curable, this will be hard but it will all be okay cancer.

This person that I love, they are going to die.

And I don’t know how long we have left with them, because in their complete and utter acceptance of their fate, they’ve refused any additional testing, any treatment – they don’t even want to talk about it.

Where does that leave me? The rest of us?

It leaves us aimless and wandering, not knowing what to do, how to comfort, how to prepare. It leaves us helpless.

It’s all I can think about, yet the day-to-day tasks of life, however insignificant, must continue. I have a family that needs my love and attention, I have blog posts due, I have dogs and cats to feed, I have laundry to wash, dry, fold and put away, I have a checkbook to balance and summer vacations to plan.

What I really want to do is crawl under my bed and hide and pretend that this isn’t happening, that I don’t have to prepare to say goodbye to someone whom I’ve loved my entire life.

Whenever tragedy strikes, which seems to be cruelly too often in my family, I face the same struggle: do I give into the grief and let everything fall to the wayside, or do I wake up each morning and continue to live my ordinary life?

I’ve been doing the latter. I’ve gone on a trip to Mexico City, pushing all thoughts of my dying loved one from my mind. I’ve written blog posts, tweeted with my friends, cooked dinner and cleaned the house as though everything is the same.

But it’s not. I can’t concentrate. I sit at the laptop, like I am right now, trying to write a blog post and all the while, a little voice whispers  in my ear, “She is dying.”

Yesterday it overcame me and I found myself in bed at noon with a book. I had obligations to fulfill, I had laundry that needed putting away, and I had dinner to make…and I didn’t do any of it. I laid in bed and found escape in a book.

And it was exactly what I needed. A momentary reprieve from the world, from work, household chores, thinking about the fate of my loved one – from everything.

I think there’s a big difference between allowing the grief to swallow you whole and recognizing when you’ve had enough and need a moment, however long, to recognize and process your feelings.

When we’re facing sadness and despair, I have found that the best thing to do is continue living life. As much as I wanted to crawl under my bed and cry a thousand tears, it would accomplish nothing and I would become even more lost.

I am saving my grief for when my loved one is truly gone, and until then, I am doing the same thing that they are doing.

I am living my life. 

langston hughes quote about death

I Believe in the Power of Being Nice

About a year ago, I cut all ties with one of my oldest and dearest friends.

As the background story is long, I’ll give you the cliff notes version: she was romantically involved with a family member for many years, and left her fiance for that family member. When that relationship ended, I remained friends with her, to the disappointment of my family. She had treated her fiance poorly before finally leaving him, and in a strange twist of fate, her fiance ended up marrying another one of my family members.

In her younger days, she brought drama and strife with her everywhere she went. I, convinced that she had matured and left her trouble making ways behind her, had to constantly defend our friendship to my family, justifying it by telling everyone that she had changed.

And then she had her wedding photos developed by my family member – the one that married her ex-fiance. She knew that this person worked in the photo lab - she knew. She brought it up to me after that fact, in a way that made it clear to me that she knew and was trying to get a rise out of my family member.

Why? Because she needed drama. She thrived on making a scene, causing derision, upsetting others…in short, she hadn’t changed at all. It was the final straw, and weeks before my birthday last year, I deleted her from my contacts list and uninvited her to my birthday party.

We haven’t spoken since. 

I had to make a similar decision yesterday after seeing a very nasty side of someone that I considered a close friend. I had to decide to end an association with a negative, over-reactive person, which would also end an association with a group of professional colleagues. Leaving the community that I loved so much gave me pause…in the end, I decided that the attitude and behavior of one rotten apple, so to speak, was negative enough to spoil the whole bunch for me.

The negative attitude and actions of others, when it doesn’t have an immediate and concrete effect on yourself may not seem like such a big deal to some, but for me? It means everything. I believe that you are the company that you keep, and when you surround yourself with negativity and toxicity, it will slowly and surely bring you down.

I simply can not have poison in my life. 

I live my life with a Carpe Diem attitude. Life is too short to be unhappy. Our days are too numbered to be spend them thinking negative thoughts, judging others, being critical and most importantly, being unkind.

When I am on my deathbed, do I want to look back and think of all of the trouble I caused, all of the cruel words I spoke about others, all of the tears I caused others to shed. No. No, I do not.

I want to know that I brought sunshine and happiness into the lives of others every single waking moment of my life. I know that sounds corny as hell, but it’s true.

What kind of legacy are we leaving our children when we spread negativity and bitterness?

My heart goes out to people like this, people with entirely too much time on their hands and not nearly enough happiness in their hearts. Even five minutes spent judging others and tearing them down is five minutes wasted – five minutes of joy and happiness that you have robbed from yourself and the universe.

I believe in the power of being nice. I believe in spreading kindness, in filling my heart – and the world around me – with happiness.

I believe in the power of being positive, and I believe that when we wake up each morning, we have a choice to make: we can choose to be negative or we can make a conscious decision to find joy in our lives.

I choose joy every single day. 

I choose to be nice. I choose to smile, to focus on the positive, and to make a positive impact on those around me. I choose to find joy in life, I choose to be happy.

Why on earth would I choose anything else? Why would you?!

If I find myself in a situation where I do not agree with something that someone has done, I address it in a positive way, try to help people understand why something is inappropriate or just plain wrong – but I do not tear people down. I do not enlist the help of others to insult and demean, I do not try to hurt others with my words or my actions. When my friend did this, it broke my heart. I was so disappointed by her so excitedly trying to hurt someone else.

What does anyone accomplish by doing this?

NOTHING. Being negative, hateful and bitter accomplishes absolutely nothing. Isn’t there enough nastiness in the world already?

When I see people behaving this way, it hurts my heart. I pity them. It is one thing to feel strongly convicted of something – I do believe that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything – but the ways I saw my former friend handling her opinion were just destructive and cruel. They accomplished nothing but spreading negativity and bitterness.

Life is too short for this bullshit. Don’t waste a second on spreading negativity.

The Beatles once said that the love you take is equal to the love you make, and I believe that. What you put out into the world comes back to you tenfold. I don’t know about you, but I want kindness and love to come to me…

So be nice. 

the love you take quote

Top 5 Ways to a Better Life According to Dave Grohl

This is a loose interpretation of Dave Grohl’s Keynote speech at SXSW in Austin,TX and I thought it was so profound that I had to share it here with you all.

As a mom, as a blogger, as a human being on this planet; I think each of Dave Grohl’s points in itself is applicable to each and every one of us in some way.

Put them all together and this can very well be a successful plan to living a happy and fulfilled life.

Top 5 Ways to a Better Life According to Dave Grohl

1. No one is you and that is your biggest power.
“It’s YOUR VOICE. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it’s f**king gone because everyone is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last …”
“Who’s to say what’s a good voice, and what’s not a good voice? The Voice? Imagine Bob Dylan sitting there singing ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in front of Christina Aguilera.”

2. Don’t be afraid of not fitting in.
“I can truly say out loud that ‘Gangnam Style’ is one of my favorite f**king songs of the past decade. Is it any better or worse than the latest Atoms for Peace album? Hmmm… paging Pitchfork! Come in, come in, Pitchfork! We need you to help us determine the value of a song! Who f**king cares.” Don’t be someone who designs their lives to impress others.

3. Give a damn about yourself.
It’s about taking care of yourself so you can be a better human being. A 2.0 version of you is way more equipped to help others in need. Take up yoga if you’re stressed. Ask for a big raise. Walk away from a relationship that is abusive or draining. Or just take a nap, for Christ’s sake.

4. Be humble.
No one wants to go to lunch with a supermodel who says things like, “My cheekbones, if you’ve noticed, have a similar incline to an escalator.” One thing I’ve noticed is that if you are good at something, people will acknowledge it. Appreciate the hell out of those people. Should you be blessed enough to have the fortitude to work so hard at something that people celebrate you, your first reaction should be gratitude. And know that there’s a ton of people out there from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds who can still teach you something. I don’t care if you’re Bill Clinton or Jay-Z – always be learning; always be improving.

5. Spark a revolution.
Always have the highest bar for yourself. Wake up everyday and no matter how crappy you feel, want to change something for the better. Do something that makes someone happy. Create something that inspires someone. Be someone’s light when they are hopeless.

dave grohl 5 steps to a better life

The Day My Boobs Betrayed Me

I’ve been living by the motto “you only live once” for quite a while now. I’ve dealt with my fair share of deaths in the family, and when Angeline’s father died five years ago, it was a tipping point for me.

Life is short.

So Chris and I saved every penny we could, we paid off as much debt as possible, and two years later, I left the workforce in order to be more present for Angeline – for Chris too, but mostly to be 100% available to my daughter.

For the past three years, we have lived a very happy life. Sure, we’ve faced struggles and things haven’t always been as wonderful as they could be. But we’ve been happy.

I’ve been happy.

As often happens in life, when things are smooth sailing, disaster strikes.

It struck me last weekend in the form of the discovery of a lump in my right breast.

Since I’ve lost 35 pounds in the past 6 months, my body has changed – and you can imagine how that change has presented itself in my breasts!

Why is it that we always lose weight where we LEAST want to lose it?

As I was laying in bed last Sunday night, I was feeling sorry for myself because of the state of my breasts. The thought of getting a breast lift flitted through my mind and my hand instinctively flew to my breast to feel how much sagging there really was.

And I felt a lump. A rather large lump.

For a second, I couldn’t breathe. I think my heart must have stopped; it was as of all of the air had suddenly been sucked from the room.

After almost 20 years of battling my cigarette addiction, the first thought to form in my mind was BREAST CANCER.

Of course it was.

Every smoker, no matter how young or old, has that deep, dark, lurking fear of developing cancer. I think that every woman almost expects to find out that her boobs have turned against her at some point or another – breast cancer is all around us. It’s on Facebook, we see the pink Twibbons on Twitter, we see a sea of pink yogurt labels before us at the grocery store. So as a woman – a woman who has smoked off and on (mostly on) for almost 20 years, I’ve always been apprehensive.

I’ve done self breast exams since I was 20-something. I do them regularly…which is what had me so frightened when I felt that lump last Sunday – I’d never felt it before.

As we don’t have health insurance, I quickly realized the financial impact this would have on us – I don’t even have a primary doctor anymore, how was I going to deal with this?! I spent half the night alternating between quietly sobbing and running budget calculations on my iPhone to figure out how I would pay for the doctors appointments I needed to make in the morning.

I don’t know how, but I eventually fell asleep. When I woke up Monday morning, I didn’t even remember having found the lump right away. I was feeding the dogs and it suddenly came rushing back to me. I sat down and began Googling Free Mammograms in Miami – which resulted in a ton of Breast Cancer Awareness programs…that were only available during October.

I found out that the low cost clinic not too far away had a Mammogram department and went in to find out how quickly I could be seen. I had to see a doctor to have a breast exam done first, but I didn’t have to wait very long. I’m guessing that the fact that I walked into the registration department in tears hurried things along.

As the nurse took my information and we chatted about my finding the lump, she was so optimistic that she actually lifted my spirits. After the doctor came in and we discussed it, he was equally optimistic! However, while he was performing the exam, he told me not to tell him where I’d found the lump – so when he told me he felt it and it wasn’t the lump I had found? I immediately began crying.

There’s nothing more pathetic than a grown ass woman, half naked and crying on an exam table while a strange man has her boob in his hand.

What I thought was one lump was actually two, and he’d found a third. His demeanor changed when he felt the first lump and I immediately felt the atmosphere in the room change.

He told me that he wanted me to have a mammogram and a breast ultrasound after my menstrual cycle was over and then left the room.

The nurse came back in once I was dressed and gave me paperwork for my visit and a referral to the Mammogram department. She told me that I needed to be seen as soon as possible, and that if they wouldn’t fit me in right away, to come back to her and she would refer me to another place.

They didn’t have an appointment available for two weeks – which I could not handle. So I went back and she referred me to a diagnostic center, which was able to get me in a mere 6 days later. It was the longest 6 days of my life!

Once I went to the diagnostic center, I found out that not only did the doctor not print out the referral for the ultrasound, but that the diagnostic center wouldn’t give me my results of the mammogram for at least a week – and that they’d send them to the referring doctor when they came in. So I would have to make another appointment to see the doctor to get the referral for the ultrasound, then make another appointment with the diagnostic center after waiting…and waiting…

I couldn’t wait.

Chris and I left the diagnostic center and I Googled “Breast Ultrasounds in Miami Without Prescriptions” and found a place in South Miami that had state of the art equipment, doctors on staff – and they went over results immediately after doing the exams RIGHT THEN AND THERE.

They made me an appointment for the following Monday – still a week away – but I asked if they had any cancellations, to please call me. Within a few hours, my phone was ringing and they asked if I could come in the next day at 11:30, because they’d had a cancellation. Thank the heavens that I thought to ask for them to call me if they had a cancellation!

That appointment was today. 

I was terrified, sitting in that waiting room in my robe, with three other women also waiting for their appointments.

When it was my turn to see the doctor, I explained to her what I felt, we went over my family’s history of cancer – there is none – and we got down to business. The ultrasound machine was right there next to the exam table, and she poured a bunch of very cold gel on my boobies and began to check them out.

Right away, I saw the big black circles on the screen. I started to cry (what can I say, I am a huge crybaby) and she stopped and patted my arm, telling me, “These are cysts! They are nothing to worry about!”

And I cried even harder. 

As it turns out, I have a lot of cysts, so many that the doctor recommended that even though I am only 34, I begin getting annual breast ultrasounds.

While these cysts are just regular old run-of-the-mill benign cysts, and have no potential to become cancerous, I have so many cysts in each breast that if I do develop any kind of abnormal growth, I won’t be able to tell the difference between the cysts and a potentially cancerous growth! She said that these cysts can’t hurt me and that they will not need to be removed, but if they begin to grow or hurt me, that I can come in and have them drained.

Fun, right?

It’s almost funny, this entire situation. I was SO HAPPY before I found this lump, and I have had two amazing things happen to me since I found it – I won a $5000 Delta Vacations sweepstakes and I was invited on my first Disney press event – the Hollywood premier of Iron Man 3 – yet I couldn’t really find the joy in those things because, well, I had convinced myself that I was dying of cancer.

But I’m not. I am okay – I am better than okay!

And while I am okay, I wanted to share this experience with you because I learned something very valuable through this experience. The doctor told me that I have probably had these cysts for a very long time, but I never felt them before because while I was overweight, my breasts were much fuller…so if this was a cancerous growth, and I hadn’t lost this 35 pounds in the last six months?

I would not have felt it. 

Granted, everything ended up okay…but it could have very easily not been okay. There are a million reasons to get healthy and lose weight, but this isn’t one I would have ever imagined.

Go check your boobs. If you feel anything suspicious, get it checked out. If you don’t have insurance, Google “low cost clinic” or “low cost mammogram” in your city. If you need help finding an affordable option in your city, email me and I will try to help. I feel like the expert on Googling boob stuff right now.

Also? Never ever, under any circumstance, Google “Breast Cancer” and click on your images.

Trust me, you don’t want to see it. 

It Always Seems Impossible…

impossible quote

I just did something crazy.

I purchased a ticket to the TBEX Dublin travel bloggers conference.

I did it.

I am going.

I don’t know if anyone will be going with me, I don’t know if I will know anyone when I get there…

But I am going.

To Ireland.

I have decided that 2013 is going to be the year that I make my dreams come true. I have always wanted to see the UK. I have always wanted to do something crazy – like plan a trip across the Atlantic on my own, to attend a conference aimed at helping travel bloggers develop, and to meet people from all over the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

I am doing it. I am going.

And I am nervous, anxious and terrified, but I am doing it.

Attending TBEX in Dublin this fall was one of my goals for 2013. After being invited on a press trip aboard the Carnival Sunshine cruise ship, I gave up on that idea. I thought it would be irresponsible to spend the money on that trip when I was already going to see Europe.

Yet, each time I came across an article about Ireland, each time I saw a mention of the UK…my heart wept. I felt a deep, urgent longing to walk cobblestone streets, to drink good whiskey in an Irish pub, to meet other people who share the same longing.

And so I am doing it.

I am going to Ireland.

I don’t know how I will make this happen just yet, but my ticket to the conference is purchased. I have 7 months to figure the rest out…that’s enough time, right?

My First OHMYGOD Moment as a Mom

Being a parent can be terrifying. Aside from the every day challenges that raising a child brings, we sometimes encounter situations where everything is completely out of our control.

I had my first OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO? moment last week…when Angeline called me to tell me that there had been a shooting at her school and they were on lock down.

Of course, you know exactly what I thought when I heard this. It hasn’t been very long. And quite honestly, I even Columbine is still on my mind. These horrific displays of human cruelty aren’t easily erased from our memories. We go about our daily lives, we move on – but all it takes is those two words to bring it all rushing back: SCHOOL SHOOTING.

Angeline was upset, crying, terrified. She has been grounded from using her phone, so she used a friend’s phone to call me and tell me what was happening. I reassured her that she would be okay, that the police were on scene and hunting down the suspect…

And then I cried. And then I called Chris and my mom and told them what was happening – and then of course, I posted it on Facebook so that people would know what was going on.

We live across the street from the school, and I could see the helicopters flying overhead.

helicopter

As I scrambled to try to find out what was happening, I was shocked at the lack of information!

It was disturbing enough that the school wasn’t notifying parents that their children were under a lock down – I mean, really, I am disgusted with Miami-Dade County Public Schools for not notifying parents that their children were in danger.

I checked online and didn’t find anything through Google. I began searching all of our local news stations, and there was nothing there either. The only place I found anything was on Twitter.

And people laugh when I say that I get my news from Twitter!

All I could find out was that there was a burglary in the neighborhood, and that suspects had fled the scene and they thought they were on school property. That’s not a lot of information to go on, but at least it wasn’t an actual shooting at the school.  An armed suspect on school grounds is horrible, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a world of difference between a school massacre and an armed gunman on school property.

In the end, the police caught the suspects and no one was hurt. Thankfully. Yet, this whole ordeal has put me on edge.

It’s my responsibility as a mom to protect my child from harm. As much as we try to shelter her from things, we can not protect her from everything. Whether it be an armed suspect hiding on school grounds, a home invasion, a car accident – there are so many things out there that could go wrong…it is terrifying and overwhelming!

Every time I think about it, I just want to hug Angeline and tell her how much I love her. What else can I do?

Happiness is a Way of Travel, Not a Destination

I love the saying  “Life is a journey, not a destination.” It is one of my favorite quotes, and I reference it often.

I truly believe this to be true, and strive to find the joy in everyday life so that at the end of my journey, I can look back and be able to say, “My life was good.”

quotes about travel

It isn’t always so easy.

Life is not always fair, nor is it always kind.

I have my own struggles, I have faced hardships and unfortunate circumstances.

Life has not been a cakewalk. 

But at the end of the day, I have always been able to find at least one thing to be grateful for, to be happy about – even if it was just being able to hear my daughter tell me that she loved me before she went to bed. Sometimes it was something as simple as catching a glimpse of a beautiful sunset as I was driving home after a long and tedious day at work.

I have seen a few friends down in the dumps, so to speak, lately. Sometimes they feel that nothing in their life is going right, that they have nothing to be happy about.

I think that it’s all about perspective. For each thing that a friend has to complain about, I can immediately think of at least one thing that I consider to be wonderful about their life.

There IS something good in each and every day.

Sometimes we are so focused on the bad that we just can’t see the good…even if it is right in front of our face, telling us that they love us with sleep in their eyes.

5 Small Steps to Living a Healthier Life in 2013

With the dropping of the ball in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, people around the country began making their resolutions for 2013. While many were resolving to join a gym, I didn’t have any resolutions for 2013. Why? Because I got a head start on making changes to live a healthier life in 2013 back in August!

I will be turning 35 this year.

I know, I know…you’re only as young as you feel. That’s all well and good, but Diabetes, high blood pressure and wrinkles don’t follow that line of thinking. Each year that passes leads me closer and closer to the ages when members of my family developed life-changing illnesses and as I creep towards the big 4-0, I found myself following a little too closely in their footsteps.

There were 5 steps I needed to take to begin living a healthier life in 2013 and smoking was the biggest – and hardest thing to change. My other four steps were much smaller and much easier to accomplish!

Step 1 – I quit smoking in August. Cold turkey, no gum, no lozenge, no patch…I just QUIT. And while I had a few slip ups, I haven’t started back and I have no intention of doing so.

Once I quit smoking, I realized that there were more things I needed to change to make living a healthier lifestyle easier for the new year.

Step 2- Stop eating so much sugar! I used to have a strong addiction to sugar and carbs. I began working with a doctor on a strict diet plan, and I am at the point now where I am eating much healthier and have lost over 20 pounds. I still have about 15 pounds to lose in 2013, and if I continue eating as I am now, it shouldn’t be an issue. I eat much more healthy foods now, and the only snack foods allowed on my diet are fruit and rice cakes, so Quaker Popped Rice Snacks are always in my cabinets!

Step 3 – Get 20 minutes of exercise a day. This is so easy to do because it’s only 20 minutes – that’s just one dog-walk around the block, a few jumping jacks or lunges a day. If you set a small goal, it’s so much easier to accomplish!

Step 4 – Take better care of my skin. Now that I’ve lost weight, I realize how many wrinkles I have…and I don’t want to get any new ones so I am now using moisturizer every night before bed and paying better attention to what facial products I use.

Step 5 – Laugh more.  Of course I have to include this. This is the easiest thing a person can do to be happier and healthier. Laughter is free. Humor is everywhere around you, just open your eyes and appreciate it. I swear it will add years to your life!

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Quaker. I received product in conjunction with this post. The opinions and text are all mine. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.  See Official Sweepstakes Rules

Do They Sell Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream in Your City?

Wine Ice Cream. Yeah, it’s real. Have you heard of Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream ?

I came across a press release for Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream a few months ago and kept searching for it in local grocery stores and liquor stores. I couldn’t find it anywhere! I finally emailed the company and inquired about where I could find Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream – and it’s not sold in Florida!

It’s a travesty, I tell you!

mercers wine ice cream

I assume Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream isn’t sold in grocery stores because each pint contains 5 percent alcohol, and alcohol in ice cream is probably a lot harder to control going through the checkout line than an obvious bottle of wine.

For those of you lucky enough to live in a city where Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream is sold, you have the following flavors to choose from:

Cherry Merlot – ice cream with Bordeaux cherries blended with a Merlot wine

Chocolate Cabernet - chocolate ice cream with bits of bittersweet chocolate blended with a Cabernet wine filled with dried cherry & cassis notes

Peach White Zinfandel - ice cream with fresh peaches blended with a White Zinfandel wine distinguished for its fruity undertones and pleasant finish Port: Mercer’s premium ice cream blended with an award-winning Ruby Port wine appreciated for its rich, heavily-bodied flavor

Red Raspberry Chardonnay - Mercer’s premium ice cream blended with raspberry sauce and a Chardonnay wine known for its delicate vanilla nose and buttery smooth taste

Riesling - Mercer’s premium ice cream blended with a Riesling wine prized for its fruity, crisp refreshing quality

Sounds awesome, right? I am so sad that they aren’t selling Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream in Florida yet!

You can find out more about Mercer’s Wine Ice Cream – and their regular line of ice cream as well – at MercersDairy.com.

 

 

 

Did I Ever Tell You About The Time I Almost Died?

I’ve had a few conversations lately with friends about my “carpe diem” attitude.

I want to live life because I know how short it can be. 

Have you ever had your life flash before your eyes and know that you were in real danger of dying?

I have.

When it happened, I was shocked and scared and felt lucky to be alive. But as time went on, I found myself laying awake at night, thinking about what almost happened and how close I came to dying…it didn’t consume me, but it was definitely a contributing factor to my decision to leave the workforce and focus on my family.

So what happened to me?

I was almost crushed by a bulldozer on my grandparent’s farm. 

Yep.

This is how it all went down:

We were visiting my grandparents in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where they used to have a small farm. The farm is gone but they still do some work on the land and have several pieces of heavy equipment, such as a backhoe and a bulldozer.

Not the actual bulldozer, but pretty similar. Photo courtesy of Alibaba.com

My grandfather wanted to take us for a ride on the bulldozer and I acquiesced after some prodding.

Most of my cousin’s children loved riding the bulldozer, and my grandfather thought that I would love it, so I let myself be talked into it. After about 3 minutes, Angeline was bored and hopped off and ran to the other side of the farm to play.

Shortly after that, we headed over an area that they were working on, and there were pieces of concrete and re bar sticking out…

And that’s when the bulldozer tipped over on its side.

We were still inside the bulldozer. This was not a new bulldozer by any means, and had no doors or anything – it was completely open like the one in the picture above.

The bulldozer was still running and my grandfather had to try to turn it off. Me? I was frozen. I think he told me to turn it off but I couldn’t move.

I was actually sitting on the edge of the seat, because as you may know, bulldozers are only meant for one person. If Angeline hadn’t of jumped off and was “riding” when it happened? She would have been crushed to death. 

If I hadn’t braced myself against the frame and held on for dear life? I would have been crushed to death. 

And I know that many people might think that this reaction was an exaggeration  but when I was a child, my great uncle died as a result of falling off of his tractor and it running him over…it is a very real possibility, especially if there is more than one person on the piece of machinery.

I believe in being adventurous. I believe in having fun and trying new things, because you never know what you’re missing if you don’t try it…

But there are certain things you will encounter in your life that you need to think twice about.

Bulldozers aren’t toys. They aren’t 4 wheelers, they aren’t sleds, they aren’t motorcycles – they aren’t made for “having fun.”

I could have died, and for what?

To see what it felt like to ride on a bulldozer?

My daughter could have been crushed to death simply because we wanted to have a little fun in the field.

 

What’s the moral of the story?

Don’t put yourself – or your children – in dangerous situations. Sometimes the worst-case scenario actually happens.