Family Starts in the Kitchen

“Mom, can I help you make dinner?” She looks up at me, her doe eyes wide and unblinking, swimming with the hope that I will say yes. It isn’t always my first inclination to give in to this request. Cooking dinner is not my favorite task. Add to it the stress of an eight year old trying to help and my initial reaction shies toward the solo act of meal preparation.

But more often than not, I stop myself from this inward longing to go it alone, and focus more on the privilege it is to share these sweet, fleeting moments with my girl while her hair still hangs in white strands over full, pink cheeks. She’s young, and I’m still the coolest person alive in her eyes. I want to soak these moments up as the gift that they are.

eMommy2

So I step back and bite my lip, staving off a sigh and instead pushing my mouth into a wide grin. She pulls up a stool, and together we get to seasoning the chicken, tossing the salad, sautéing the vegetables, and buttering the bread. She wants to do it all, even cut the onion, but when her eyes start to burn, she quickly shoves it away and settles for the less glamorous task of setting the table.

Heading into the Thanksgiving season, I’m looking for more ways to show my children gratitude. I require this act of them, but I’ve realized lately that I’m not modeling it as I should. I often act as though everything I do for and with them is some great sacrifice, and of course it is. Motherhood is one giant act of sacrifice, a constant laying down of my wants in order to pour into these little ones who have captured me.

But they don’t need to feel the weight of that sacrifice.

eMommy1This act of modeling gratitude is something I must work on every day of the year, not just during the month of November when I feel a heightened sense of obligation to be thankful. This month, however, offers a good launching point in the direction of this sacrificial love that fills my children with the knowledge that time with them is of the utmost importance to me.

With the holidays fast approaching, I see more and more opportunity to give intense quality time to my children. This all starts in the kitchen with my daughter. We have plans to cook many meals together this month. She may even plan out a menu for us to follow. As she dreams of chopping and stirring and baking all manner of desserts (because I firmly believe her menu will be 90% sweet, 10% nutrition), I look into the future and hope and pray that these moments will leave an imprint that she then passes to the next generation.

Family bonds start in the kitchen around savory dishes, sweet aromas, and the laughter and banter of parent and child. With fruit skewered on blessed plates, and tender meat cooked to perfection, we will share meals together as a family, giving thanks for the many ways we have been blessed.

Family life is hard. It’s not as glamorous as much of the online realm would have us believe. Most days my family looks anything but picture perfect. The children are dirty, and so is my house. Some days there is more bickering than laughter, and we don’t always like one another. But we’re family, and at the end of the day these are the people who matter most.

So I will continue to open my kitchen to my daughter for as long as she will join me there. I’ll exercise my gratitude in this sacrificial act, and lead us into the holidays with hearts full of Thanksgiving….and bellies full of food.

 Your turn to share! 

As you head into Thanksgiving, are you practicing gratitude with your family? I would love to hear how you point your children toward gratefulness.

My Love of Travel and My Need to Stay Connected: The APC Mobile Power Pack

I have always loved traveling. My first flight, my parents love to explain, was to the Philippines shortly before my first birthday. It’s safe to say my desire to SEE EVERYTHING and EXPERIENCE EVERYTHING hasn’t changed, but the manner I tackle doing so most certainly has.

I travel for fun and for work. Sometimes both at the same time.

And just when I think (or tell my small people) I’m home for the next month, something changes and I’m off to the airport, to another hotel, to another adventure.

This past week, it was California. Yes, both work and fun. I saw people I adore, spoke to a group I admire and learned more about how I can make the world a better place.

Latism2014 JeannetteAna

Donate A Photo Delaney

When I travel like this – I’m online constantly: on Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, taking pictures and doing something extra important: Face-timing with my babies.

Delaney Mom Facetime

Fortunately, I’ve just partnered with Schneider Electric to join their #HolidayPower campaign….this means I’m able to check out a few of their products including the APC Mobile Power Pack.

Have you ever been in the midst of something crazy important: an email that must be sent, a picture you simply must capture or a call with your kids….and you see the dreaded: battery low pop-up? I have. And, there is nothing good about it. There IS, however, SO MUCH good about the APC Mobile Power Pack – beginning with the fact that it can charge anything that connects to a USB cable – your phone, tablet, e-reader or audio player and it has enough power to charge my phone twice. The Mobile Power Pack is smart – it shuts down when your device is fully charged in order to save additional power and the LED light lets you know just how much recharge power you have left….and you can use it anywhere.

APC Mobile Power Pack: Travel on the Go

For a long time now, I’ve been jealous of my fellow travelers who had a battery backup at the ready, whipping a mobile power pack out of their bags at conferences, restaurants or airports. Now? I’m the recharge-ready one.

This is especially good as I’m hopping on a flight to New York City today. There is much work to be done, many pictures to be snapped and definitely calls home to make. And I don’t want to miss a thing.

Good thing I’m charged and ready.

If I didn’t own one, this Mobile Power Pack would be high on my Christmas list. In fact, it IS high on my list….for a few people I know.

I’m excited to invite you to follow a me and a few of my friends during this #HolidayPower time as we happily try out the APC Mobile Power Pack and share our experiences with you.

HolidayPowerAPC_FINAL (1)

Disclosure: As previously mentioned, I’m working with Schneider Electric on their #HolidayPower campaign though all thoughts and opinions are, as always, mine and mine alone.

7 Cozy Sweaters (That Are Still Flattering)

7-cozy-sweaters

Streamlined Slouch: The Sweater Holy Grail

There is nothing like a cozy, slouchy sweater for a classic fall and winter look. But often it is hard to gauge online what will be adorably comfy while still nipping in our waists and offering a femme silhouette.  The goal is streamlined slouch, the perfect profile to skim over the body but also highlight lovely wrists, collarbones and pair elegantly with jeans, trousers and skirts.

Here are seven cozy sweater styles and shopping picks that we think will flatter your bod and keep you warm this winter.

Fitted Fair Isle 

This traditional sweater style is known for its patterns and often heavy weave. Choose a modern take on the Fair Isle with a closer cut and a modern length that ends right at your hip bones.

1. Fair Isle Wool Sweater Gap $50

Cable Knit with Aplomb (or a pom)

Cumbersome cable knits are the epitome of cozy, but can add bulk to your profile. We are in love with J. Crew Factory’s clever strategic cable stitching that nips in your sides and flatters arms. We also love the personality-filled pom-poms which add whimsy.

2. Pom-Pom Cable Knit J. Crew Factory $59

Flat Knit, Fab Fit

For an ultra flattering fit, choose a completely flat knit, like this honeycomb knit from Old Navy. It comes in 11 colors and costs less than rink admission plus skate rental.

3. Women’s Honeycomb-Knit Sweater Old Navy $24

Strategic Seams 

The ribbed stitching and triangle pattern will pull in your mid-section and highlight your chest and shoulders. A fabulously feminine take on the shaker knit that gives you a great figure.

4. Olive & Oak Apres Ski Sweater Piperlime $68

Marvelous Mohair

This girly look is always a classic, but can often be itchy to wear and widening in the mirror. H&M’s blend of mohair with nylon and acrylic makes for a soft, wearable texture. The close cut and the zipper detailing in the back make it sensationally slimming.

5. Mohair-Blend H&M $25

Not Yo Mama’s Turtleneck

Say ‘turtleneck’ and one often imagines their Great Aunt Tilly serving a casserole. Not this refined drop neck number. The cropped length and push-up sleeves combine to make a very modern take on the turtle.

6. RD Style Crop Turtleneck Sweater Piperlime $40

Pared-Down Poncho

A cowl neck negates your need for a scarf. The three-quarter length kimono sleeves make it positively cool.

7. Cowl Neck Poncho Forever 21 $23

Which one of our picks will YOU be wearing in sweater weather?

 

 

Latism, Raising Caring Kids, and Using Our Voices for Social Good

I’ve long believed in the power of teaching my children to be good citizens of the world, to help others, to find a way to make our world a better place.

With a motto of ‘Give Good, Get Good’ here on ExtraordinaryMommy established when the site began, I’ve tried to help my small people to live that by showing them how to lead with kindness. I recognize that they don’t always do as I say, but rather, they do as I do. This means it is imperative I lead by example, that I SHOW them how to help, how to be kind, how to give. As a family, we have made charitable giving a priority since Cooper and Delaney were tiny (and long before that) and have tried to get them as involved as impossible.

This weekend I was invited by Latism and Johnson & Johnson to add my voice to the social good conversation, sharing the stage with extraordinary women – Susan Can, the Director of Corporate Equity for J&J, Jill Sharp, a Corporate Trainer, Performance Coach and Keynote Speaker, Melissa Hillebrenner, the Director of GirlUp and my good friend Jeannette Kaplun who, is, in addition to being an amazing human being, a TV personality, a former journalist and the founder of Hispana Global.

Our panel discussion was titled, “Raising Caring Kids: How to Make Social Good A Family Value” and gave us all the opportunity to talk about how that works for us individually in our families, how we prioritize giving, and in so many ways how phenomenal it is for organizations like GirlUp to partner with families and teenage girls who do so and how they affect beautiful positive change. We recognized the strength in the spirit of kindness, how families can continue to encourage that trait and for J&J, how giving back is at the core of who they are as a company.

J&J Social Good Panel, Latism

There are so many ways that J&J makes an impact as their company philosophy has always been to make the world a better and healthier place. They have tremendous social programs – partnering with and supporting organizations like Save the Children and  USO, but this weekend at Latism we focused on one simple way they,  AND YOU – AND US – all of US, can make a big impact.

It’s called Donate a Photo. I’ve written about it before. My favorite thing about it? The simplicity – you don’t have to have money to donate or hours of time to volunteer. You need less than two minutes a day and a heart for helping others.

Donate A Photo Delaney

Donate A Photo.

It truly is a easy as it sounds. J&J’s Donate A Photo App (once you take the less than 5 minutes it requires to download the free app) allows you to donate one photo a day to a cause that touches you – giving a young girl in Guatemala school supplies (this is through GirlUp – the organization Melissa spoke about on our panel), help a deployed service member call home (the USO), help a child who has fled to the U.S (this is through the American Academy of Pediatrics), helping a newborn breath (through Save the Children) or more. Every time you donate a photo, J&J donates one dollar. One photo = $1…even if you don’t have that $1 in YOUR POCKET. The picture above is the one I donated just yesterday. As you can see, I chose to donate to give a young girl school supplies – that’s GirlUp, but today is a new day and I can choose a different cause or the same one if I’m so moved.

You know what I love? So often my heart is pulled in so many directions…I would love to help EVERYONE, but recognize the impossibility in that statement and yet Donate A Photo lets me do a slice of just that. I can help multiple causes that matter to me every week – or I can dedicate all of my photos to the ONE cause that I think needs my help the most. It is up to me. And to you.

At Latism – J&J made it easy for everyone to understand the app, the simplicity, the GIVING. They even took some pictures for us.

Donate A Photo J&J

Here’s what I noticed…. often times when I speak at events, especially events that have social media at their core, the audience spends much of their time with their heads down, alternating time on their phones, computers and tablets with the time they engage with the speakers – in this case Jeannette, Susan, Jill, Melissa and me. But is this case, this Latism audience was with us – they were looking up, paying attention, listening.

While I’ve never minded the balance of social media and audience engagement, in this case, I was beautifully aware of the power of my co-presenters and the topic we were discussing.

Giving is good. Teaching our kids to give? It is both powerful and extraordinary.

Let’s keep it going.

Disclosure:  I am proud to be an Ambassador for Social Good for Johnson and Johnson and thrilled to have the opportunity to have spoken to the amazing people at the Latism conference. Thank you for having me. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared on this site are mine and mine alone.

Raising Kids while Honoring Two Cultures

As the world is becoming both more diverse but culturally blended , which, in my opinion, is such a beautiful thing, we are all trying to learn to navigate having more than one culture in our homes. A few weeks ago I talked about blending an interracial, intercultural family. I worked on that post with my husband to make sure both sides were covered. Having an interracial/intercultural marriage is hard enough (although completely rewarding as well!) adding kids to the mix can make it tricky!

For example, my husband isn’t a very sentimental guy. Honoring traditions aren’t necessarily a priority for him. He has fond memories of things he did with his family when he was young, but only typically recalls them when I ask him. Therefore, it makes it difficult for me to implement Bahamian traditions because I’m not familiar with them and have no memory of them. But it is important to him that his kids know The Bahamas as more than a vacation island, so he’s started to make more of an effort. Together we’ve worked on some ways to integrate both cultures into our lives. Maybe a few of the things we do might help you too.

Raising Kids while Honoring Two Cultures

raising kids with two cultures

Celebrate both Holidays

I know this may sound overwhelming. As if Americans don’t have enough celebrating to do, let’s add another country’s celebrations to the list! But maybe, instead of adding, choose! Choose the holidays that are important to each parent/culture and celebrate those. Try to do it in the most authentic way possible even if you’re not living in that culture and/or don’t have the option to travel there. We’ll talk more about blending cultures during the holidays next time I’m here.

Discover together

I think it’s a fun idea to discover the culture together as a family. For example, my kids are mostly American because we don’t get to spend as much time in The Bahamas as we wish. My husband is able to talk about things from his childhood, including playing some very typical Bahamian songs for the kids. The kids sing with him and now it’s something they all enjoy together. It’s become a regular part of our family. Now they have a list of songs they constantly request, “Daddy, play ‘just cuz she’s fat’!” (Yes, that is a Bahamian song…)

Find Like Minds

I know it could be hard depending on what culture you celebrate and where you live, but try to find families who are learning to navigate this world as well. If they’re from the same culture as one parent, even better! But even if not, I bet there are still some things that each family can learn from the other about how to ensure both cultures are honored.

Food

Oh yes, food! It’s funny how something that is such a basic necessity of life can bring back so many memories and be attached to so many feelings all at once. I just returned from Eastern Europe and tasting the many cultural meals was one of my favorite parts. Food can be an amazing way to introduce your kids to the lesser represented culture. Bahamians fry a lot of fish and other items that can unfortunately only be found in The Bahamas. However, I do try, especially on special occasions, to cook some of my husband’s favorite dishes…specifically the meals that don’t require a food I can’t find close to home. He is beyond appreciative for my efforts, our kids are trying and experiencing something new and learning about dad’s culture as well. It’s a win for everyone. Except for maybe me, who has to do the dishes… (kidding!)

Movies

Kids love movies. As we discussed this when  I talked about teaching kids a second language. Movies and YouTube videos are high on the list. Children enjoy them and it barely registers that they are ‘learning’. Try to find kid’s movies that focus on one culture or the other. If possible, target the culture where you don’t live.The extra benefit is, kids will be entertained while mom or dad get to share a little piece of their childhood with their kids.

Traditions

Finally, and the the most obvious component, incorporate traditions from both sides. For Christmas, what’s the big meal you have? When do you open presents? What do you do during the day as a family? For Easter, do you look for eggs? Is there even an Easter basket? Presents or no? Find the traditions most important to the parents and incorporate them into your holidays. Your kids, without even knowing it, will be immersed in both cultures right away. As they grow up, a ‘combined’ culture will simply be how they celebrate and therefore, how they eventually how they teach their families

I think the most important part is that you try. Like I mentioned before, not one culture is better than the other, just different, and your kids growing up seeing that will benefit immensely! Interracial, intercultural families are a beautiful thing and lives blended with such rich traditions is a really neat experience! Embrace both sides of culture in your lives and it will carry over into your kids lives. I think they will appreciate it as they get older as it opens their eyes more to the world and the beauty there is in our differences.

Do you come from an intercultural or interracial relationship? What are some tips you have about sharing these cultures with your kids?

Sharing Meals to End Child Hunger: How You Can Support Unilever’s Project Sunlight

I noticed she was paying careful attention to me as I made her lunch for school the other morning. Delaney isn’t what you’d call a ‘foodie’, so I was wondering when her intensity would find its way in to words. I knew if I stayed silent, allowing the words to manifest in her mind, she’d share when she was able to formulate the questions she needed to ask or the thoughts she wanted to say.

It didn’t take long, five, maybe seven minutes, “Mom…will we always have enough food to eat?”. I looked at her, those big brown eyes, the freckles, the innocent face asking such a big question.

Delaney Innocent

I was about her age, ten, when I first learned there were people in the world, who do not, in fact, have enough food. Thirty plus years ago it felt as though it was families who were very far away from our home here in the United States who didn’t have enough. Delaney, however, has learned there are people: families, children – right here in the United States, right here in Missouri, right here in St. Louis who do not have enough to eat.

And she wants to help. Both her class and her school are creating Thanksgiving baskets – full meals – for families who need.

But I can sense the worry too. The childlike worry that comes with not knowing. It makes sense that they call it ‘food insecurity’ to describe those who don’t know where their next meal will come from, doesn’t it? One out of every five kids right here in America is hungry. Read that sentence again if you would. I know it is a stat and stats feel impersonal, but we are talking about kids. Children. Little ones. They are ‘food insecure’. They go to school, they sit in the classrooms with our children and yet, they go home to empty cupboards and arrive at school without lunch bags.

I reassured Delaney….not only that we have enough right here in this home, but enough to give.  We are blessed by the ability to give to kids just like her who need to have the same food in their tummies she does and WITHOUT the same worry she experienced for those few moments the morning we talked.

This is exactly why we have partnered with Unilever’s Project Sunlight to fight child hunger and to share. Share what, you ask?

Unilever Project Sunlight

Share this documentary about child hunger with you so you can see the problem…and ask you to share it as well.

Share the many ways you can be a part of the solution:

Host a Food Drive in your Neighborhood or at your School – You can use Feeding America’s online Food Bank Locator to find your local food bank and then donate any food collected to them.

Help a Family in your Neighborhood or at your School – as the kids’ school is doing, each classroom is sponsoring a family. In this case, it is being done for Thanksgiving. We are donating food, items to decorate a Thanksgiving table and even utensils. You could also choose to pack an extra lunch each day for school so your child could help another.

Volunteer - Offer your time to a local food bank or community center. Do this with your family or gather a group of friends and do it together.

Donate – If you have the funds available, sharing with local organizations and food banks who support ending hunger is always appreciated.

Host a Virtual Food Drive – Set a reasonable goal with Feeding America’s Personal Fundraiser tool and then let friends, family and colleagues know that you are working towards something that matters to you.

Use Your Voice – Share your personal goals and the ways you plan to combat child hunger by joining the conversation online with the phrase and hashtag, “I #ShareAMeal because…”

You Buy One, We Give One – Beginning this weekend, November 16th, look for the Unilever “You Buy One, We Give One” coupon in the Sunday paper. When you redeem it at participating stores through the end of the month (from November 16-30th) Unilever will donate the equivalent of one meal to Feeding America whenever you purchase a Unilever product.

And then come pack and visit us again soon….as Delaney and I are planning our own ways to help. Remember that nothing you do is too small, too insignificant. Every minute of time you volunteer, every time you talk about the issue, every can of food and dollar you donate….and every child you educate to be part of the solution – it all fills the world with a bit more sunlight.

Consider this: Partnering with Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks nationwide, Unilever has contributed more than 13 million pounds of food and more than $3 million in support to families and children over the past five years. Let’s add to that together.

How does your family help this time of year or the other ten months?

Disclosure: I’m proud to be working with Unilever’s Project Sunlight. As always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are mine and mine alone. 

The Very Best Sweet Potato Casserole

HI everyone!  Kasey from All Things Mamma back with you again.  I hope you enjoyed last month’s yummy Glazed Pumpkin Muffins (you’ll have to let me know if you made them.) This month I’m back with another treat to get you ready for one of my favorite holidays of the year – Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Casserole - A Thanksgiving Side dish Favorite!

Yes, it’s already time to start planning your menu for one of the biggest and yummiest meals of the year.  If you’re anything like my family, we prepare the same dishes each year, but add in a new one here and there.  It just keeps things interesting and fun, but traditional.  One of the dishes that has always been on our table is Sweet Potato Casserole.  This was always my mom’s specialty and everyone looked forward to her bringing it each year because no one could make it quite like she could. Now that she’s gone, I get the privilege of preparing it each year and boy, is it delicious.

Sweet Potato Casserole - A Thanksgiving Side dish Favorite!

Serve this Sweet Potato Casserole right along side your mashed potatoes and corn. Though it’s another side dish, it could be mistaken for a dessert since it’s so decadent and sweet.  It’s the perfect compliment to your cranberries. I get the best results when I have it ready just before I serve the meal – it’s just so good piping hot. I hope you enjoy one of our family favorites and settle in to one of my happiest times of the year with your loved ones!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Sweet Potatoes (3lbs) mashed (canned is best)
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • Topping
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • ½ cup Flour
  • 1 Stick Butter (cut up and not melted)
  • mini-marshmallows (optional)
  • pecan pieces (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix first ingredients together and place into 13×9 pan.
  2. For topping
  3. Mix together and sprinkle over Sweet Potato mixture.
  4. Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until top is browned.
http://www.extraordinarymommy.com/extraordinary-food/the-very-best-sweet-potato-casserole/

What to Wear for Black Friday Shopping

People are pretty divided when it comes to Black Friday shopping. I personally have never been one to get up at the crack of dawn to score deals, but I will venture out of the house to pick up a few items at a discount. If you’re planning on tackling the crowds this year, here are some outfit ideas to keep you cool, comfortable, and of course, chic!

Are you one of those midnight madness shoppers who is on the go from the time the doors open until 6 am or later? Then comfort is definitely king. You’re probably attempting to nab some of those limited item deals, so be sure to wear your sneakers! I also included some super-stretchy jeggings for comfort and ease of movement. And who says sweatshirts are frumpy? This embellished one is perfect for a long day (or night)!what to wear black friday shopping

1 / 2 / 3

If you’re more of a clothing deal kind of shopper, then quick changes should be your number one goal! Wearing an open cardigan over a tank and leggings allows for quickly slipping things on. You can even try on shirts, dresses, and sweaters without dealing with the crazy dressing room lines!

what to wear black friday shopping

1 / 2 / 3

 So tell me, are you going to brave the crowds or stick in your PJ’s?!

Learning from My History, Amazed by the People in My Now

A million years ago someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I finally realized I was never going to be a Solid Gold Dancer and my love of talking AND listening might actually form itself in to a career, I landed on television anchor and reporter. A few dads from my 7th grade class constructed a ‘news’ set and our class rotated teams daily delivering news, sports, weather and special reports.

I was hooked.

I was positive I was destined to hold a mic, ask the questions, really get to the heart of the story and then deliver it when the red light came on.

High school. College. Interning at the local ABC affiliate in San Diego. I stayed focused.

The weekend team at KGTV in San Diego adopted me, teaching me the art of storytelling, how to know what questions to ask, how to know when to be quiet and listen and just as importantly how crucial it is to work as part of a team: reporter-photographer.

One of the first stories I ever covered was the opening of Planet Hollywood in San Diego and my first ever interview – even as in intern – was Sheryl Crow. I was both terrified and thrilled.

KGTV Sheryl Crow Interview

That same KGTV weekend team, specifically one photojournalist, Tim, helped me to create the tape that eventually, eleven months after college graduation, landed me a job at the NBC affiliate in Yuma, Arizona….just two and a half hours southwest of San Diego. In that eleven months I had been told I talked too fast, I looked and sounded too young and my overall ‘look’ was a ‘dime a dozen’.  (that last barb came from someone I knew who had already landed a job in the industry). The News Director who hired me offered me $16,000 a year and told me there would be no negotiating because there was ‘a stack of tapes as tall as me of people who wanted the job if I wasn’t willing to take it’ for that compensation.

I took it and initially had the time of my life sometimes working twelve hours a day.

KYMA Anchor 2

(It is pretty fantastic when your name is spelled wrong in the promo ads that run in the local newspaper)

Yuma is on the border of Mexico and California and is the home to two military bases – the Marine Corp Air Station and the Yuma Proving Ground – an Army Base. I learned more in the two years I lived there than I ever expected. I covered county fairs and elections, illegal and often heart-breaking, deadly immigration issues, military issues, plane crashes and even a hurricane.

KYMA Danielle Anchor

I flew with the Marine Corps in to the base of the Grand Canyon on a CH-46 Sea Knight to deliver toys with Santa Claus to an Indian tribe.

I met Toby Keith at the County Fair before he was Toby Keith the country super star we know now.

I worked with the Make a Wish Foundation to raise money for a little girl dying of leukemia. The family called me the morning she died. I cried with them.

I met Senator John McCain as he came through our station to be interviewed.

I met the crew of the Enola Gay and witnessed the moment THEY saw a Harrier levitate for the first time.

KYMA Enola Gay Yuma Daily Sun

All of these moments added to the AMAZING that was being a reporter. Sharing joy, helping people, contributing to a greater happy, spreading good. But for me there was a darker side to this and it ultimately lead me to make the decision to leave the industry. I decided I didn’t have the consititution, the stomach, to knock on doors and ask people to talk about the tragedies that had permeated their lives, that had unlocked their soul- no matter that I had been trained to frame it ‘for the good for all’. Sure I could do it. Sure I HAD done it. I interviewed the mother who had held her dying newborn baby after her husband had shaken her. I talked with the families who’s loved ones had tried and failed to swim across the border. And I was confident and I had been kind and respectful, that they didn’t feel taken advantage of, or that I had overstepped during our talks. But it didn’t change how I felt.

And I went on to take another reporting job after Yuma, at the ABC affiliate in Springfield, Missouri. I met my husband there. We anchored the weekend newscasts together – I did news and he did sports. I MC’d parades when the Missouri State Lady Bears joined the NCAA Sweet 16, welcomed Brad Pitt back home for the premiere of Meet Joe Black, did live cooking shows, milked cows (unsuccessfully) on air, rode in Monster Trucks and all-together fell in love with live television. But I also did my share of those heart-breaking interviews I mentioned above when unthinkable murders happened, covered the funeral of Governor Mel Carnahan and never recovered when I was forced to tell golfer Payne Stewart’s sister (before they had been notified by the authorities) that he was flying on an unmanned plane.

How, you ask? Payne Stewart was from Springfield, Missouri. Like all newsrooms, ours monitored all the major news stations. Mid-day on October 25, 1999, CNN began to report that they had unconfirmed reports that Payne Stewart was flying on an ‘unmanned’ flight – meaning no one could contact the plane. Immediately, our Assignment Editor told me to call Bea, Payne’s mom (active in the community and founding member of the local League of Women Voters). I refused. I knew ‘unmanned’ likely meant the passengers on the plane had died and did not want to be the person to tell a mother her son might be, or was dead. I refused to make the call three times. So the Assignment Editor had a 17 year old intern call.

I turned to hear my name and see the intern crying and motioning for me saying, ‘they don’t know!’ over and over again.

I grabbed the phone, only to hear Payne’s sister say, ‘I don’t understand….he said something about Payne and CNN and a plane?” I identified myself and said, “I am so very sorry to be the one to tell you this, but CNN is reporting – that they have unconfirmed reports Payne’s flight is flying unmanned over the middle of the United State.” She replied, “That’s impossible…Payne is on his way to Spain right now….. right, Mom?” And I heard Bea say ‘no….”

The next sound she made is one you hear in the movies…..the sound the heart makes when they find out someone they love has died. She mumbled, “I’m sorry, I have to go….”

I whispered, “I’m so very sorry”, hung up and cried at my desk.

And I knew. That was my moment. This wasn’t the path for me. I could do happy. In fact, I LOVED happy. I loved live. But this was something else altogether.

The hard news gods knew it too. I was one of five people let go later that year within two a two week period: the two main anchors, the main sports guy, the weekend anchor (me), and the weekend sports guy (my soon-to-be husband).

And now this is my path. And there is storytelling. And interviewing. And live TV. And even Red Carpets which I REALLY love. And just video in general. And it is good. And I want to do more of it.

My life lessons through all of this?

It is ok to suddenly take a left on your life path when you thought you had it all figured out. I learned that I love television, especially live television. And I am finally, after all these years, comfortable saying I’m good at it – having learned to slow down when I speak and realized that my ‘dime a dozen look’ is all I’ve got. Storytelling fills my soul, most specifically when the stories are uplifting, have a lesson, or can make the world a better place.  I learn something every time I speak to someone new and that is a good thing.

Each step you take prepares you for the path you are on. If I hadn’t become a reporter and then an anchor, I wouldn’t have developed the early on-camera, video, editing, producing and media training skills that have helped me to evolve in my current career and are STILL helping me to continue to figure out ‘who I want to be when I grow up’. I love that I have the opportunity to continue to take left and right turns as I go. I can feel a few turns coming in the future.

Every person I meet is a lesson and some are extraordinary. Some remind me to trust my gut – the first time, while others deepen my faith in the pure goodness of the human soul. I have often been told that one of my flaws is that my expectations of people are simply too high – that I always assume people will treat me as I would treat them and I end up disappointed. But then two people come along and surprise and amaze me so deeply that I have both cried and laughed myself silly in just the past few weeks. And, yes, it does all circle back to my life as a television reporter.

Just more than a year ago, Bridgette Duplantis and Cecelia Mecca were kind enough to invite me to be the keynote speaker at iRetreat just outside of Atlanta. While I was there, I met this kind and brilliant guy by the name of Dan Morris. While we chatted, we talked about my prior life as a reporter and Dan asked what my ‘favorite’ story had been. I told him interviewing the crew from the Enola Gay. I went on to explain, this group of gentlemen was everything you might imagine, proud, but kind….matter-of-fact men who never for one second questioned their actions in World War II despite the number of times reporters 1/4 their age had asked silly questions. But to stand behind them as they witnessed the technology of the harrier was magnificent. I told Dan the day I interviewed them,  I took a picture with them. It was taken by the Marine Corps Photographer and sent to my TV station. The station refused to give it to me when it arrived (via mail) and again when my contract was up. It is, admittedly, disappointing, that I don’t have that memento from that time.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago: Dan and his beautiful business partner, Rachel Martin (who I have not met in person, but who inspires me daily and who I’ve enjoyed communicating with online) are traveling around the country helping bloggers grow their businesses as professionals with Blogging Concentrated. They were in Phoenix and on their own decided to drive the two and a half hours south to Yuma, to my old station, KYMA. Why, you ask?

KYMA Dan Rachel

All for my Enola Gay picture.

KYMA2Inside

They introduced themselves. They told the story. They asked for the picture. This was the message the two of them sent me on Facebook as a surprise earlier this month. Yes, I cried.

Dan/Rachel/KYMA Facebook

Dan messaged today to tell me he was told the picture is gone. But in so many ways it doesn’t matter. I don’t have the picture. I DO have the memory of that experience, but even better, I have people….AMAZING people who did something like this just because…people like this who remind me there is so much good, people who remind me why I love storytelling, why I love taking a left turn, changing my path, evolving and keeping my head up.

Cheers to all of this….and to the beauty of an online space that makes it all possible.

And most of all…..thank you to Dan and Rachel for the happy tears, the smiles and reminding me that my left turns have been good ones (so far) and giving me the faith to keep making them.

Spoil Your Family with Easy and Delicious Holiday Meals

We ‘fell back’ this weekend. For me, that is the first sign that the holidays are no longer something long in the future, but rather a reality I need to begin planning for. In fact, they are my FAVORITE thing about this time of year. Anyone who knows me is fully aware of my aversion to the cold, but love of of all things holiday related – the the time with family, the decorations, the gift-giving, the opportunity to teach my small people to be charitable and yes, the food, the food, the food.

One of the things I have always loved MOST about the food is the way it brings everyone together….the sharing of recipes, the traditions, the time spent in the kitchen and absolutely the opportunity to get back to the table and enjoy the meal and each other.

From the time I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a portion of Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the kitchen cooking for the rest of the family and I’ve always loved it. Now I share some of that same time with my small people. And even better? We are using the very same recipes. While I have never considered myself a gourmet chef (my brother – the one with the talent and the job in New York City – he has that title) however, I still love the time in the kitchen and the way everything tastes when we sit down together.

Libbys Holiday Corn Pudding and Green Bean Casserole

This year, working with Libby’s Vegetables, I wanted to share two of our family favorites – not only are they easy to make, but they are the dishes I’m constantly asked to bring to every holiday gathering: Green Bean Casserole and Corn Pudding. In the video, I show you the process (just so you can see the ease!) and then I have also shared the recipes below.

Don’t forget to come back and tell me what you think!

Libby's Holiday Corn Pudding

Libby's Holiday Corn Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream
  • 2 cans of Libby's Organic Sweet Corn
  • 1 3/4 cup of milk

Instructions

  1. Blend butter, sugar, flour and salt.
  2. Add eggs and beat well.
  3. Add sour cream, continue to beat until blended.
  4. Stir in corn and milk.
  5. Pour in to buttered casserole dish.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees, stirring once 1/2 way through baking.
  7. Your Corn Pudding is done when it is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
http://www.extraordinarymommy.com/extraordinary-food/spoil-your-family-with-easy-and-delicious-holiday-meals/

Libby’s Holiday Green Bean Casserole

Libbys Holiday Green Bean Casserole

Ingredients

3 tablespoons of melted butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of grated onion
1 cup of sour cream
2-3 cans of Libby’s Green Beans
1/2 pound of grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of corn flake crumbs

Instructions

Combine 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 2 tablespoons of flour over low heat. Cook gently. Stir in seasonings and sour cream. Fold in green beans gently. Place green beans mixture in shallow casserole dish. Cover with grated cheddar cheese. Combine remaining melted tablespoon of butter with 1/2 cup of corn flakes. Sprinkle mixture over casserole. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Enjoy!

As I shared….one of the things I love MOST about the holidays is the chance to give and teach my small people to do the same. I’m thrilled to share that having partnered with Libby’s this season, they are doing just that: giving. Here’s how it works: It is so simple….it’s called #CansGiving…and it promotes, guess what? GRATITUDE and GIVING! I love it. You can enter the #Cansgiving sweepstakes via FacebookTwitter or Instagram by submitting a photo of what you are most thankful for this holiday season, and including the hashtag #Cansgiving. Libby’s will then award ten participants, chosen at random, a grocery gift card worth $350 toward their family’s Thanksgiving meal, plus an assortment of Libby’s fruit and vegetable products to help prepare your family meal. The sweepstakes opens at noon EST on Nov. 3, 2014, and ends at 11:59 a.m. EST on Nov.19, 2014. Official rules can be found here. Good luck and start sharing.

Disclosure: I’m thrilled to be partnering with Libby’s this holiday season – not only to share these holiday meals with you, but also to tell you all about #Cansgiving. (you know I love anything and everything that spreads a little gratitude and giving). As always, all thoughts and opinions shared are mine and mine alone.