How Charity Makes You Hot!

Mission Hot Mama Founder

Jenni Hogan, Mission Hot Mama Founder

My good friend, Jenni Hogan, is inspiring all moms to get back their hotness.  One of the ways she is doing this is through her site, Mission Hot Mama, which she created shortly after the birth of her daughter. Like Jenni, I created A Mom Knows Best, shortly after the birth of my daughter.  Our girls are only a few months apart.  Jenni and I are also both TV people with normal husbands.  I say this because we are both extremely lucky to have such supportive spouses and because, quite honestly, I can’t imagine being married to another TV person.  The amount of drama that unfolds in television newsrooms makes both Jenni and I crave for normalcy once we get home to our families.

We both grew up volunteering with different organizations and, now, charity work is often an extension of our careers.  Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Recently, Jenni helped spearhead an amazingly successful mobile tweet up in her city of Seattle, which raised more than $8000 for The Moyer Foundation.

Last week, I wrote about how cancer has reared its ugly head in my family.  I didn’t want to leave you with a sad story.  I wanted you to feel like you could do something to help others who had cancer….kids with cancer.  Why kids?  Because I don’t know if you’ve ever toured a hospital, full of kids with cancer, but it’s heart-breaking. By clicking on this link and hitting the “like” button, A New England Company is going to donate $1 The Tomorrow Fund to benefit kids with Cancer.  Our goal is to get 5000 “likes”, which = $5000 for some well-deserving kids.   Jenni was nice enough to pick up the story and share it on her site MHM, because when you do for others you feel better about yourself.  After all, a truly hot mama, is beautiful on the inside and outside!

There is just one day left of this campaign, so we would love your support and any help you can give spreading the word!


How Cancer Changed my Identity (Click for a Cure)

The early morning air was frigid.  The snow crunched under my feet, and a single tear rolled down my chapped cheek.  Headphones on, I was listening to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” but this time, the words  cut through me and took up residence in my head.

He said I was in my early forties, with a lot of  life before me
And one moment came that stopped me on a dime
I spent most of the next days, looking at the x-rays
Talking bout’ the options and talking bout’ sweet times.
I asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end
How’s it hit ‘cha when you get that kind of news?
Man what did ya do?
He said

Chorus
I went skydiving
I went rocky mountain climbing
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denyin’
And he said some day I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’…

You always remember exactly where you are when you get the news.  I was a morning anchor in Cleveland,  and my husband had just been diagnosed with cancer.  Melanoma.  True to my nature, I remained optimistic, but I would be lying if I said the thought of being a widow in my thirties didn’t enter my head. My husband is a fighter, much like my sister-in-law, who at the time,  had just beaten breast and thyroid cancer.  He wanted to keep the issue private and just wanted the cancer GONE, so shortly before Christmas he had a five and a half hour surgery at The Cleveland Clinic to remove the cancer that had spread across his face, down his neck and into his chest.  It was quite possibly the longest five hours of my life. To say the wait at the clinic–alone–was agonizing is an understatement, but I’m happy to say that although he hasn’t been cancer free, he has been melanoma free for six years.

Since that day,  cancer has taken the lives of  several friends and family members-  most recently, my grandmother,  who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.

Many of you have asked where I am and what I’ve been doing since I left my job as the evening anchor in Providence.  We initially traveled around the country, but when we got to Georgia, where my parents live, they had some unexpected news for us.  My dad–the full of energy, West Point graduate, Air Force General–has cancer.  Specifically, stage 4 throat cancer. He has a tumor at the base of his tongue and the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. He has had four chemo treatments so far and, I think, 20 radiation treatments.  Honestly, I’ve lost count.  This round of chemo is over and now he must continue going to radiation TWICE a day, five days a week, for three more weeks.  Doctors will then see about removing the –hopefully dead– nodes and will check to see if surgery to remove the tumor is an option.  My dad also has Leukemia (CLL) & Diabetes, which makes all these treatments a little more complicated.

 

radiation for cancer patient

radiation

I am the youngest in the family and am used to everyone looking after me, regardless of whether I need it: older siblings to protect me, parents to be over-protective. Being here, as my dad battles cancer,  has forced me to see myself in a new light…that of caretaker. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can really be of help to my parents.  I don’t have a job that I am tied to, yet if the right opportunity presents itself I can take it. This is the first time in my adult life I’ve ever spent any considerable amount of time with my parents, and the most time they’ve ever gotten to spend with my 20 month old daughter.  She is such a welcome distraction, not only to my dad, but to my mom, who is taking my dad’s diagnosis especially hard.

 

grandfather and granddaughter

Dad & Paige amusing each other

 

grandfather & baby

Fun at the pool!

Click for a cureI don’t know what the future holds for my dad.  We can only live one day at a time and be hopeful for many more great years together. I know it will get worse before it gets better, but I am so grateful for this time we have together.  So many families have been touched by cancer, including many of you reading this article.  My hope and prayer is that we can someday find a cure.  I am not asking you to donate any money; I know times are tough and everyone has charities that are important to them.  I would, however, be so grateful if you could find the 15 seconds it takes to “like” a company on Facebook. Overhead Door Garage Headquarters has generously offered to donate $1  to the Tomorrow Fund for each facebook “like” Overhead Door gets from the start of this campaign.  My hope is that we can help “close the door” on cancer by sending  thousands of  “likes” their way and, in turn, thousands of dollars to the Tomorrow Fund to help find a cure for this horrible disease.  So, please, spread the word, re-post, and take thirty seconds to check out Overhead Door Garage Headquarters and “like” their page.  When the campaign is over, we will be doing a check presentation.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

baby & grandfather

Lasagna in Less than 20 Minutes!

I’ve made homemade lasagna ONCE in my life.  It was actually pretty good, but expensive, and it took me forever!  It wasn’t your traditional dish though, this was healthy lasagna;  using half soy crumbles, half turkey.  You could definitely taste the difference.

My family is currently in Georgia right now, with my parents, and my dad is going through chemo and radiation for throat cancer.  We are constantly looking for foods that are full of flavor, but aren’t too spicy, as they hurt my dad’s throat.  I knew my Southern parents would not be fans of my “soy-lasagna”, so I was thrilled when I was asked to review Marie Callender’s Three Meat & Four Cheese Lasagna.

Marie Callender's Lasagna reviewMy mom, dad, and husband all doubted that it would be any good because their only experiences with frozen lasagna had not been favorable.  Burnt edges, lacking in flavor, not enough cheese.  I, however, remained optimistic.  After all, Marie Callender’s must know it has a pretty decent product if it’s willing to put a money back guarantee right on the box.  I love that!  Nothing is worse than spending your hard earned money on a product and not being satisfied with it. Just sayin’.

Marie Callender’s Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna comes in a special baking tray designed to prevent the edges from burning or the center from staying frozen – even in the microwave!  Generally speaking, I think food tastes better when prepared in the oven, but I wanted to test this “no-burn” claim and it was 6:30 and my 19 mos. old was getting hungry!  The lasagna can go from freezer to family dinner table in less than 20 minutes by zapping it in the microwave, so that’s exactly what we did.

The lasagna includes three Italian-style meats (sausage, ground beef and pepperoni), layered with four different cheeses (Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano), in a hearty marinara sauce. Everyone loved it, even the baby.  Score!  Now, if only I can figure out a way to transfer it to a baking dish after it has been cooked–without it falling apart– I might just try to pass it off as my own…

Baby eating lasagnaHave you ever tried frozen lasagna?  What has your experience been?

Disclosure:  Marie Callender’s and TheMotherhood provided me with a coupon in order to facilitate this review and I was compensated for my time. Thoughts are my own and my family’s.

When Someone You Love Dies

My brother and I sandwiching two dear friends

Last year the unimaginable happened. I lost my youngest brother to a massive heart attack at the age of 49. Up until then I had felt secure in the natural order of things: the older ones go first and the younger ones get old. Our dad had died four years earlier, and while we wished we had had him longer, he’d lived a good long life of 84 years. We’ve attended several funerals for that age group over these last few years, and although they were sad occasions, we still felt sanguine about it; we even expected it.

The day my brother John died was a Sunday in late January. He had just texted his girlfriend that he loved her for the first time on his early morning ride home to his house from hers. He had planned to join us at our place for dinner that night to introduce his new love to his 15 year-old-daughter. This was a big day and he was excited. I’m sure he thought the heartburn was just a nit. After he mentioned it to his daughter on the way to her soccer game that morning he’d probably written it off as something he’d eaten. It wasn’t. He was having a small heart attack that led up to the one that took his life hours later. He never made it back to that soccer field. Hindsight is torture.

It’s the worst kind of shock and loss when someone you love, at the top of his game and happy, drops dead. My husband and I were bereft. After calling my immediate family and John’s girlfriend with the awful news, the urge to band together was strong, and we asked all the local family to come to our house that night. We knew that things needed to be done, decided, and organized. Three of my kids were at a good friend’s house, and so I called her to tell her that I needed to leave them a while longer and why. She likely started telling our other friends because by the time we arrived home, there was food being dropped off – lots and lots of food. It kept up like that for days. I personally couldn’t eat much, finding wine to be my temporary panacea, but the food was heated and consumed by others, and I was so grateful for that.

I felt a little insane during that initial period. I couldn’t write the date, for instance, because that would mean we had left behind the time when I could save John. In a plea to God I offered up a limb in exchange for my brother’s return to the living. My husband was concerned about me, but I was desperate to reverse this horrible event. Sleep was a welcome respite, but it was just a temporary escape from reality because the morning brought with it the waking nightmare one feels when death has visited. One day, in particular, I awoke late and came running downstairs to tell my husband I had forgotten to get our preschooler to school, when he met me to say that my good friend had come to get our son earlier. A deep sense of relief set in…my friends had my back. I knew then I could let myself grieve, and they would help me get through it.

This April a friend’s husband succumbed to his battle with pancreatic cancer at 43 years old. He fought it hard, but this disease is a formidable foe. Only a very few survive it. They have four young children, as do I, and that’s a lot of people to take care of when you can barely put one foot in front of the other. A plan was put into place using the Doodle website: each night someone would bring dinner, help bed the children, and be with our friend through the evening. So far, two months of weekday visits have been filled in, and our friend has expressed how much this helps her.

A new day

a new day

It’s clear to me now that those of us over 40 are going to go to more and more funerals. What is also clear is the ever-increasing need for community and support through these losses. If you haven’t experienced someone’s death yet yourself, I’m sorry to say that it’s coming, and that you will need help through it. If you know someone in the throes of grief, then by all means reach out, bring food, send a card, make a phone call, arrange a lunch date. Don’t be shy; the grieving person can always refuse your overture, but you must still make one. The gaping hole of loss can never be filled, but the more love one feels the more hope they have. So reach out, tell them how sorry you are, hug them, and one day they’ll do the same for you. It’s the natural order of things.

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Getting Bronzed for Mom 2.0 (Cancer Free)

I took the advice of my friend Carrie and decided to get a spray tan for Mom 2.0.  Not that I ever would have gone to a tanning booth…I mean, c’mon, my husband had cancer TWICE.  Melanoma is not something to mess with .  Trust me, waiting nearly six hours while your husband has his face operated on at the Cleveland Clinic is not fun.  Being the one to have to go through that surgery—wondering if you are going to survive—and being left with the scars is even less fun.

You know what is fun, though?  Walking into Airbrush Tanning in Cranston, as white as a ghost , and walking out like I just got back from a trip to Mexico. O.M.G.  This place rocks.  Seriously.  If you have a an airbrush tanning place around you, go check it out…and if you live in RI, you must stop by this place.

I’ll admit, it’s a little strange at first having someone else see your business.  Of course, you have the option of wearing your bathing suit, but since I am wearing a strapless dress this weekend, I went topless.  I figured there’s nothing she hasn’t seen.  She sprayed me by hand—let me dry—then sprayed me again. (I was thisclose to asking her if she could spray muscle definition in my arms and legs, but figured I shouldn’t push my luck.)  The whole process took about 20 minutes and was worth EVERY PENNY of the $25 I spent.  At the airport 6 people asked me if I just got back from vacation.  Nice.

I’ve had the spray done once before at Airbrush Tanning, before I was to host an Oscar show.  I loved the results that time as well.  I used a mild soap in the shower every day and cocoa butter as lotion and my tan lasted about 10 days.  Here’s to looking bronzed–cancer-free– into May!Bronzed with John Besh at Mom 2.0

Have you ever tried Airbrush tanning?  What did you think?

The Best Anti-Cancer/Anti-Wrinkle Way to Get a Tan

Could Rhode Island be one of  the first states to ban minors from the tanning beds?

According to a recent study posted on WebMD and The Skin Cancer Foundation: people who use tanning beds have a 74% increased risk for melanoma (skin cancer) compared to people who had never used a tanning bed!  The risk was four times higher among frequent users of high-pressure tanning beds, which emit mostly UVA radiation!

Before I was 20, I went to the tanning bed at least 3 times per week! I was under the blanket belief, it won’t happen to me, but now, as a wife and mom, my priorities have changed. I have had malignant melanoma not once, but twice. The survival rate is only 50% if it spreads into the lymphatic system.  Needless to say, you won’t catch me in a tanning bed.

Here are the ABCDs of Melanoma:

How’s that for a beautiful tan?

You can still get the glow without the radiation or the creepy little eye covers. Here are some of my favorite self-tanning products!
***note, you must exfoliate well and my favorite tip:  put one layer of hand cream on first, let it dry and it will keep your hands from turning orange!
L’Oreal Sublime toilettes,  Bronze One Day Gel and Neutrogena MicroMist self-tanning spray

 

 

What is your opinion on banning minors from tanning beds?  Do you have a friend or relative diagnosed with skin cancer?

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