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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fashion favorites on #Pinterest

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Not too long ago I was pinning a feigning-for outfit to my Pinterest board “My Style” when I realized that a lot of what I’ve pinned lately is probably best (better) for me when I was a size or three smaller and shaped waaaay differently. That got me to thinking whether I would even try on those choices.
Let’s take a look at my choices:

I love the dress above, but I haven’t had a figure like this since I was in my 30s and younger… maybe early 40s. If I wore this now people would gather and operate as the fashion police. Isn’t this a beauty?


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Top 3 Tips for Patients to Survive the Holiday Crunch

By Starla Fitch, MD

We all know the holiday rush can induce stress. But did you know that the last six weeks of the year are notoriously the most stressful weeks in the medical world?

Here’s how it shakes out:  Doctors and healthcare providers have pushed through the past 10 months toward the end of the year, just like you. They’ve managed to get their kids back to school, found last year’s wool sock stash, and determined which gas company will offer the most reasonable heating bills this year.

And then, it happens.

The phones, which were a little quiet during the back-to-school rush, start ringing. Patients who were told back in February that they needed to have surgery are now emailing the scheduling office to get on the surgery list. Patients who were told they needed to see a specialist six months ago want to be worked in for an appointment ASAP.

What gives?

It’s the annual phenomenon of when holidays and healthcare collide. It happens every year.

Patients come up for air after a brief summer solstice and the back-to-school rush. They realize they have paid this year’s deductible on their insurance. Or that their insurance coverage may change in January. Or worse, that their jobs may be in jeopardy and they may not be properly insured in the new year.

Meanwhile, the steady stream of patients who have been coming in to see doctors has resulted in an already full surgery or office schedule.

This leads to three problems:

  1. There is a big batch of patients who need tending to, who want to be seen yesterday and have their myriad of problems “cured” by December 31st.
  2. There is an already full schedule in the doctor’s office and operating room.
  3. There are a community of doctors who, already pushed to the limit and reporting record numbers of burnout, are now asked to squeeze in more patients, more procedures, more work hours into their already maxed out days.

My guess is that most patients don’t realize this. In fact, when I told a non-medical friend of mine about this, his comment was, “That reminds me. I need to schedule a procedure to be done myself. I better give my doctor’s office a call.”

This problem is well known in medical circles. Just last week, I asked a surgical colleague if she had hurt herself, as I saw her gingerly limping down the hallway of the hospital. She replied that she needed to have hip replacement surgery, but wasn’t allowed to take time off until January due to the end-of-the-year crunch. Rather than being surprised by this, I merely nodded.

What’s the answer to this dilemma?

I’m not sure there is a good answer. At this time of year, medical professionals have a phrase that we repeat often:  Patients are not always patient.

I’d like to offer some advice to you as a doctor who has family members who are caught in the game of “Can we get it all done by the end of the year?”

  1. Be flexible. Ask if there is a waiting list for patients who cancel at the last moment. If so, put your name on the list and give them your best contact number or email.
  2. Be polite. It’s nobody’s fault, least of all your doctor’s or their secretary, that all available surgery times have been spoken for already this year. Those people who made “A’s” in the plan-ahead department were in the office in August, booking their surgeries for November.
  3. Be creative. Can you alter your schedule to be available when your doctor and the operating room have an opening? Can you ask your employer for permission to work from home for a few days to recover if your procedure is done mid-week?

All of these strategies will endear you to your doctors and their staff. It may come as a surprise, but often the healthcare workers are also stuck in the same end-of-year bind. With an already overloaded schedule, nurses and doctors are also needing to sneak in to see their healthcare providers, just like you.

Is there anything we can take away from this, other than to make a note in our calendar next August to plan ahead?

Let’s all take a step back for a moment and remember what the end of year and the holidays are really about.

This time of year is a time to be thankful for all that we have:  our families, our friends, our health (beyond that procedure you need to schedule in the near future), and our world. It’s a time to reflect on the strides we have made in the past year, the struggles we’ve overcome, and the accomplishments we’re proud to have made.

And it’s a time to look forward to the future. To embrace another year of waking up with the sun shining on our faces, the smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen, the hugs of our children greeting us as we pour the breakfast cereal.

So surely there is a way we can all come together and make our healthcare and our holidays brighter. 

Starla Fitch, MD, is a practicing, board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in oculoplasticsurgery. After surviving life-altering burnout herself, she established, an online community to help other medical professionals reconnect with their passion for the practice. She is a featured blogger for Huffington Post, where “The Secret Lives of Doctors” went viral, with over 98K hits, and She has been asked to share her wisdom in an upcoming TEDx talk, is a certified life coach and makes regular CBS affiliate appearances.

If you’d like to follow Dr. Fitch, check her out on her website and social media: Facebook as LoveMedicineAgain, Linkedin as StarlaFitchMD, Twitter as @StarlaFitchMD and/or Google+

Remedy For Burnout: 7 Prescriptions Doctors Use To Find Meaning In Medicine is now available for purchase on Amazon.


Shop my holiday #gift guide – updated regularly

Let me help you get your holiday shopping done. Check out my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, which I’m updating regularly through December 24th.2014 gift guide add on 

New on the list is CHARM IT!, affordable charm jewelry for girls ages 5 to 14.


Click the logo or the photo to visit my Holiday Gift Guide for more information.


Friday, December 5, 2014

BOGO Insect Shield® to protect children from malaria

Even though Americans love their Black Friday holiday deals, they are strong givers as well. According to Charity Navigator, the time volunteers spent in 2013 was worth an estimated $163.0 billion.

In the wake of all the Black Friday and Cyber Monday madness, it is refreshing to think about ways to give back during the holidays. Two Seattle companies are doing just that with a reconfigured BOGO that works to protect children from malaria...

Insect Shield®, known for their bug repellent apparel/gear technology utilized in the outdoor/travel and global health industries, is launching a holiday Super Hero Blanket campaign to help protect at-risk children from malaria. Instead of a traditional buy one, get one free offer, Insect Shield is placing two protective blankets in the hands of a child in need for every purchase of one blanket online.

Insect Shield blankets offer built-in protection against mosquitoes, ticks and other dangerous insects that can carry diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme. The distribution of the blankets will be conducted by Insect Shield’s partner, Medical Teams International, a global health organization that sends more than 200 volunteer teams each year to provide disaster relief and surgeries, as well as general medical and dental care for impoverished people worldwide.

#SuperHeroBlanket Website_Gray2

According to the World Health Organization a child dies every minute from malaria in Africa and personal protection against mosquito bites represents the first line of defense for malaria prevention. Insect Shield repellent blankets, which offer built-in protection from mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects, can help.

To purchase and find out information visit:

In partnership with international relief organizations such as Medical Teams International and World Vision®, more than 44,000 Insect Shield Protection Blankets have been distributed to impoverished, malaria-risk areas such as Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Cambodia, Philippines, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Haiti and Nicaragua.

Insect Shield Repellent Apparel and Gear are revolutionary products designed to provide long-lasting, effective and convenient personal insect protection. The durable protection provided by Insect Shield is the result of years of research and testing. In July 2003, Insect Shield Repellent Apparel was registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Insect Shield Technology is utilized by leading lifestyle brands, work wear distributors and International relief organizations across the globe to provide effective protection against insects and the diseases they can carry. Insect Shield is an approved vendor of the US Army and US Marine Corps.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cancer Journal #6: Reclaiming my health. For me, my kids… for life.

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The second biggest concern of this journey has been leaving my children. I’ll be away from them, in a different state, for about a month and a half. The longest I’ve ever been away from them. Even when I return home – sometime at the end of December – my children won’t be returning to me right away and it’ll be about a month before I can even visit with them.

My life has been about my children since 1991 when my first baby was born. I know you can image how difficult it is to leave three of my children regardless of the reason, but what I try to focus on, and what everyone tells me to focus on, is getting better. I can’t be “there” for my children if I’m unwell.

Without my health I’m unable to keep up with the life of a single mom of four, grandmother to one, writer, blogger and aspiring author. My life. Those three beautiful children who still live at home won’t be as well taken care of… we’d all be miserable and hanging over my head would be impeding death and doom.

Of course, the end of life will happen one day, but on this day I’m fighting a life-threatening disease and I’m fighting to win. I’m going to reclaim my health because I have many reasons to do just that.

I miss my children terribly (especially since the day before I left their was discord between their father and myself)… but we’ll Skype (I hope!), chat, text and write… I’ll see them as soon as I can next year and in the end we’ll be together with (hopefully!) a brand new me.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

My only son is 11

It’s amazing that my son, who was born six weeks early and weighed just more the 4 lbs, is 11 years old. I’m quite enthralled by him and the person he is becoming. His interests, likes, dislikes and developing maturity are a source of amazement. He’s no long the little preemie whose little body would rest lightly on my forearm regardless of what I was doing.

Here he is over the years – my handsome son.

DSCF2963trio fall 2012Andre is a fabulous big brother to his sisters Anna and Amareah, and he’s a loyal little brother to big sister Amber.



He likes to be active…2012-10-20 16.29.37Andre on scooter Christmas 2012  And he’s definitely creative and talented…Andre summer '13

  He won a school lunch poster contest in 2012.

Andre poster 2

He’s a doting uncle to his little niece Autumn.

2013-02-22 16.05.53

He never passes up an opportunity to be silly.

2012-10-06 22.39.14

2012-10-10 19.29.34

Happy 11th year my precious son!


Holiday #Gift Guide – 2014 #updated

Some of the links in this post are directed to the product’s page on Amazon. If you click and purchase through the links here I’ll receive a small commission. Also, some of the products were provided for review purposes. Read my disclosure policy for more information. 

2014 gift guide

It’s unbelievable to me that the holiday shopping season is already here. Many people are well on their way to finishing their holiday shopping and planning their Christmas menus then there are those – like me – who are just beginning to think about the season. To help the planner and the last-minute shopper to finish and start their shopping here’s a little list of some products and books I believe will be ideal gifts for friends and family.

For your little girly girl

Time is slipping by quickly and you’re still scrambling for affordable and age-appropriate presents. Here’s a good one for the little girls in your life. (I’m considering these for my two young daughters.)

CHARM IT! at Gap Kids Print CHARM IT! by High IntenCity is a detachable charm jewelry line for girls ages 5 to 14. This is a product that’s been around about 15 years and is still charming (sorry, couldn’t resist) parents and their daughters. Even celebrity moms, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Heidi Klum, are fans of this popular jewelry line. What I like best about this line is it’s affordability: Charms are $5 each and bracelets and necklaces range from $5 to $16. With prices likes these you’ll be able to build a customizable and thoughtful present as well as go one step further and include a gift card with your purchase so the receiver can add charms of their choosing. These charms are easy to find – just shop independent specialty retailers and premium department stores including GapKids.

“Empowering girls with the gift of self-expression is the heart behind the brand," says High IntenCity president Renee Levy. "Our number one mission is to inspire individuality and celebrate creativity." 

Feel good gifts

I bought this Black Tear Drop Warmer for myself and am so delighted with my purchase that I’m sharing it with you. This warmer is small enough to place on a little extra space on your bedside table, but packs the punch of a full-sized aromatherapy unit. Just add an essential oil and a bit of water and your favorite scent will fill the air.


This warmer retails for $7.89 on Amazon, which is where I purchased mine along with the Top 6 100% Pure Therapeutic Essential Oils for $18.45.

Essential oils may well be the ultimate gift from nature. Made from the aromatic essences of plants, they have a remarkable ability to affect a person's well-being and improve the environment around them. Explore the many essential oils offered by Kis Natural that can help you achieve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. ~ Amazon




Aromatherapy Top 6 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Basic Sampler Essential Oil Gift Set- 6/10 Ml (Lavender, Tea Tree, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Orange, Peppermint) 

The end of the year and the holiday season often cause individuals to reflect on their life whether past, present or future, and sometimes they want to further explore those thoughts. If you have a person like that in your life, or that describes you, journaling is one of the ways to achieve that.

To explore my thoughts about my cancer journey I purchased Sunflower Spirit Workbook: 26 Simple Ways to Follow the Light of Self, Others & Spirit while Journeying with Cancer by Anne Marie Bennett. I like this journal-like workbook because it’s something you can complete over time and at your leisure, and you don’t have to complete the pages in any specific order.

This workbook, available for $17.10 on Amazon, “gives anyone diagnosed with cancer a handbook overflowing with creative, simple ways to stay mindful and self-connected during what is usually a stressful, chaotic journey. Each idea begins with a different letter of the alphabet and consists of a one-two page essay on the topic as well as an easy-to-follow activity for you to try at home.” ~ Amazon

Whether you or your gift recipient is battling a serious illness or not, you’ll find Creating Joy Daily by Tess Adams to hold a dual purpose: journal and daily planner. Adams, who is a law of attraction life coach, published this planner for people to create clarity, goals and intentions. Each page, or day, asks the reader to answer these prompts:

  1. Five Things I Appreciate
  2. Three Things I Have Already Manifested
  3. This is How I Want to Describe Myself Today
  4. Two Things I Will Do Just for Me
  5. Three Things I Want the Universe to Handle Today


I haven’t actively used this planner as of yet, but I looked it over and see it as an addition to one’s daily planner. It begins with January, which makes it an excellent choice for a Christmas gift, and spans the year. I can see how by the end of next year, if the author’s directions are followed, this would be a positive avenue for creating joy each day.

Creating Joy Daily is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Balboa Press for about $22.




 Looking for something for the traveler in your life? Try these handy products.

SF_Lea_white_inside LEA is the world's first waterless aroma diffuser that takes up little room in a suitcase. It’s convenient, cordless and rechargeable making it great for freshening up less than fresh-smelling hotel rooms. The suggested retail price is $119.99 and is available at




Jerry white_in useThe portable humidifier Jerry, which works with a standard 17 oz or smaller water bottle, is slim enough for suitcases, overnight bags and even purses. It’s the smallest travel humidifier on the market and although it’s small (weighing .4 pounds) it is still powerful; able to keep a healthy, steady humidity level in any hotel room. Jerry has an automatic shut off and includes a transcontinental AC adapter with interchangeable plugs for use throughout North America, Europe and Asia. It’s also available at for MSRP $49.99.







For the young readers on your list, wrap up these books…

book cover - grand-ma-ma Grand-ma-MA Stories: Grand-ma-MA and her Grand-grand-kids and Grand-ma-MA Stories: Grand-ma-MA’s Adventures with Her Grand-Grand Girls. Read more about the Grand-ma-MA stories, which I wrote about earlier last month, by clicking the previous link.

The ABCs of Yoga for Kids and The ABCs of Yoga for Kids 2015 Calendar written by Teresa Anne Power and Illustrated by Kathleen Rietz. The calendar uses the alphabet, rhyming poems, 56 fun illustrations and 12 child-friendly yoga poses to practice each month. The poses promote flexibility with coordination while encouraging children to incorporate healthy activities into their daily lives. From this they’ll learn lessons that will  take them into adulthood. Read my review of The ABCs of Yoga for Kids.



If you have a child dealing with loss or know of someone who has experienced the loss of a child, consider the book Jesus to the Rescue by husband and wife Joshua and Chelsea Barnes. The couple wrote about their message of hope after losing their 2-year-old son Daniel. It was a painting the toddler had created days before his death that they believe revealed intimate details from the day of Daniel’s drowning and, they believe, showed an angle carrying their child to heaven.

Jesus to the Rescue is available for $3.99 on Amazon.




Family-fun choices

Finally… There’s nothing like games for the entire family for bonding and fun. Right now our favorites are the classic game Jenga, a new one Flip2BFit and Bakari – by the same developers as Flip2BFit.

My children and I really enjoyed Jenga; the suspense of whether the pieces would fall from the tower kept us all in stitches as we each took our turns. We also enjoyed Flip2BFit, which I reviewed in September. The fitness game requires each player to perform a physical task after they’ve spun the wheel. Every time one of us pulled a card we all performed the physical challenge and the kids would crack up no matter what. With Bakari you’ll challenge your mind and your body at the same time; the object is to match two physical activity cards then earn points by successfully completing the activity on the card.


Which one of these products would you purchase for someone on your list? Let me know in the comments and share whether you’ve started your holiday shopping. Then come back again in a few days to check for any new gift ideas.






Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Benefits of yoga for children

I received Yoga for Kids calendar and book free of charge for the purposes of reviewing and/or inclusion in the upcoming gift guide; any opinions expressed here are my own. Clicking on the calendar image or Amazon widget will take you to the product page for purchase options. Should you purchase I earn a small commission. For complete information review my disclosure policy.

One of the definitions of yoga is:

 “Any of the methods or disciplines prescribed, especially a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind, tranquility, etc.”

That may sound a little complicated, but when you think about it – if you’re familiar or knowledgeable about yoga – you probably totally get it. Did you know your children can perform this method or discipline if it’s geared toward them and ultimately gain control of the body and mind? It’s true your child can achieve some of the same effects while gaining significant  mental and physical health benefits from practicing simple yoga postures, according to multiple-award winning yoga instructor, Teresa Power. Yoga can also help them to control their energy, have better concentrate, and learn to be quiet and still.

Power is the creator of The ABCs of Yoga for Kids 2015 Calendar, which uses the alphabet, rhyming poems, 56 fun illustrations and 12 child-friendly yoga poses to practice each month. The poses promote flexibility and coordination while encouraging kids to incorporate healthy activity into their daily lives. From this they’ll learn lessons they’ll take into adulthood.


“Many people are beginning to realize the many health benefits of yoga for adults,” says Power. “Children are faced with over-stimulation as they strive to keep up with the fast-paced demands of our society. Practicing simple yoga postures is the ideal way for kids to naturally unwind and obtain physical activity at the same time.”

For example, yoga breathing is one way to help redirect a child’s energy. Breathing in and out through the nose (as opposed to shallow mouth breathing) is important to reduce stress, get more oxygen into the lungs, and teaches kids how to focus on their breath to calm themselves. This has the added benefit of better performance in school.

Power explained the other benefit, “My book, The ABC’s of Yoga for Kids, serves a dual purpose by teaching young kids the alphabet and enhancing their reading and literacy skills as well. Children will be exposed to dozens of wonderful yoga positions, new letters and new ideas, while paying the way for a life-long tradition of health and fitness.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll encourage my children to do yoga on a daily basis if this proves to be true, and we’ll soon find out. I received a copy of The ABCs of Yoga for Kids 2015 Calendar and we’ll begin with using it on the first day of the new year because we also received a hardback book of the same name to give them a start on their yoga habits. Both the calendar and book are delightful. The illustrations are crisp and colorful, delightful and engaging, and the descriptions of poses are easy to understand. I think I’m rather going to enjoy participating with my children.

Do you or your children practice yoga? Tell me, in the comments, if you will use or purchase the calendar or the book for your children.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Save valuable time during the winter with IceScreen™ Magnetic Ice Shield

This post is for informational purposes only. I did not receive this product for review nor did I receive any compensation for posting this. It sounds like a good idea and I decided to share. For more information please read my complete disclosure policy.

With winter just around the bend many of us are dreading getting up in the morning to scrap ice from our car windows or blast the defroster on high for at least 10 minutes. According to the creators of IceScreen™ Magnetic Ice Shield, Dan Miller and Andy Wright, we won’t have to worry about that any longer. The IceScreen will clear windshields of ice, snow and frost in mere seconds.

This product currently has 17 more days on Kickstarter and I thought it a good idea to share with you so, if you want, you can help back this products that started with 12 backers and now has 907. Their goal was to raise $20,000 and they’ve received more than double: $45,962. Earlier this month they had $25,000 preorders and there’s still time to get your orders in. This product would be a great gift to those in the colder states. For that matter, it’s something I can probably use in Georgia; the winter temperatures have gotten lower since I moved here in 1995.

Take a look at the below video about the ice shield. Do you think it’s a product and/or company worth investing in?



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Celebrating my son’s 11th #birthday

Two days ago my son turned 11 years old and we – as a family – celebrated him. Even though I waited until Monday while he was in school to gather the necessary items to put the family celebration, which is a tradition, together I knew exactly what to get and everything fell into place. A cake selected, gifts purchased, ice cream chilling and a bit of decorations in green (his favor color) and black.

When my son walked in the door and laid his eyes on the table that was covered in black and green tablecloths with three gift bags and matching plates and forks his face broke into a wide grin and his eyes lit up. That’s when my heart melted. You see, my son’s birthday celebration and party were supposed to be planned by his father, but it didn’t work out. I won’t go into the details. Discovering that fact made me put a little extra effort into his day.

When the kids arrived I put Doritos in the bowl on the table for them to snack on (rest assured, they normally have healthier snacks in the afternoon), and promptly let Andre open one of his presents, the game Jenga. We’d all been wanting to try this game out and I knew it is one a boy would enjoy. I mean, what could be better than to build something and then eventually see it come crashing down?

The results of us – me, two of his sisters and him – playing the game? Much laughter. Again, my heart was warmed.

After two kinds of pizza, more Doritos, birthday cake, ice cream and two more presents opened, the day ended in satisfaction for all. What summed it up so beautifully was something my son said, “This is the best family birthday celebration ever!” My heart is ablaze with love.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Earn cash back on all your holiday purchases

Most of my friends and family I’ve spoken to agree that this year has passed quickly and they have a hard time believing it’s time for holiday shopping already. Are you also having a difficult time believing it’s time to begin your holiday shopping? Regardless of how quickly it has arrived, most of us will still shop online to find gifts for everyone on our lists. Since we’re going to shop anyway we might as well earn money while we’re doing it.

In order to earn cash back, all you have to do is sign up for a free account at and before you go to a store’s website to shop, visit to select your store of choice, click on the shop now button and you’re on your way to earning back a percentage of your shopping trip. The holidays are the ideal time to shop through ebates because more money is spent thus earning more cash back.

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

If you aren’t reaping the benefits of cash back through ebates then don’t hesitate any longer. Click the ebates image above or the link in this paragraph. Then have fun holiday shopping and earning cash at the same time.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Grandparents’ lasting love reaches far #guest post

I received two of the “Grand-ma-MA Stories” to preview before posting the following. *This post includes one affiliate link that, if clicked, leads to the book’s product page. I’ll receive a small commission from any purchase. Discover more information from my disclosure policy.

This year, National Grandparents Day was at the beginning of September, but being a grandparent last all year long. That’s why I’m presenting you with a guest post by Gretchen King, author of “Grand-ma-MA Stories.”

Ah, the beauty of grand parenting has no parallel. The sadness of it is that not all children have contact with their grandparents. What can be done about that? One thought is that perhaps through books – read aloud -- children can be exposed to the love and support of a grand-ma-ma and/or a grand-pa-pa. Moments of joy, the pleasure of laughter, and the warmth that is brought by sharing a vision can offer a child hope and delight.

As a grandmother with the good fortune of having 12 grandchildren, I decided to write three books to entertain children who do not have grandparents living close by or who don’t have grandparents at all. Four of my grandchildren live in Bogota, Colombia, but they also deserve the company of a grandparent even though they are far away. That’s the reason I wrote three little books to entertain grandkids everywhere.

This trilogy express the fun, adventure and love that every child deserves. The first story, “Grand-ma-MA and her Grand-grand-Kids,” is followed by the second and third stories, “Grand-me-MA and her Grand-grand Boys” and “Grand-ma-MA’s Adventures with her Grand-grand Girls.”

Children can create their own stories or pictures of what they think about adventures with grandparents after reading the books, which can be read alone, with parents or by having grandparents “visit” during Skype or Facetime. These books also help grandparents by giving them a common subject with their grands, and as grandparents age the children help bring them joy and purpose.

The interaction is a win-win; grandchildren can experience connection and love while grandparents have added joy and purpose. It’s worth a try, right?

“Grand-ma-MA Stories”
By: Gretchen King or “GigiK”
ISBN: 9781483408712
Soft cover retail price: $19.99

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Lulu online bookstores

Purchase Grand-Ma-Ma Stories: Grand-Ma-Ma's Adventures with Her Grand-Grand Girls on Amazon.*

book cover - grand-ma-ma  

About the Author

Gretchen King graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. As a teacher who taught English and history (she’s now retired), she has learned more from her students than she could ever hope to teach them.  Gretchen currently resides in Bellevue, Washington where she enjoys spending time with her eight of her grandchildren.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

ThermaCELL mosquito repellent, lantern & torch #product

I received the product written about below for the purposes of this post. Any opinions expressed are my own. Read my complete disclosure policy.

With cooler weather showing itself you may think you missed the opportunity to enjoy mother nature. The truth is there is still enough time left to go camping or enjoy friends and family under the stars for a backyard get together.

You can keep the bugs at bay or light up the area with ThermaCELL the manufacturer of area insect repellent, recently introduced their flameless torch that can also be used as a mosquito repellent and a tabletop lantern. ThermaCELL create a 15 x 15 foot silent and virtually odor-free area of protection, and it looks good too; complimenting outdoor settings.

The backyard torch can be erected and adjusted from 2' to almost 5' and when not mounted on the poles and replaced on the base it turns into a visually appealing and effective table lantern that is about 8" high.

I didn't get the opportunity to test the torch, lantern or repellent as planned because my health issue presented a problem in getting done. I did, however, take a look at the ThermaCELL: It was easy to set up for torch, lantern and/or repellent. It is about the size of a large, reusable coffee bug and costs $39.99, which includes one butane cartridge and three replacement mats. Each mat gives you up to four hours of protection and the cartridge last up to 12 hours.

In Georgia we have quite a few days left to enjoy the outdoors. Are you still enjoying warm weather and outdoors where you live? Share in the comments.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cancer Journal #5: Day-to-day living with Multiple #Myeloma

First things first, I have to get this off of my chest: I am so extremely  uncomfortable right now and I can’t seem to find that spot between reclining and sitting. It’s very annoying. One minute I’m straining my back, the next my stomach and now my neck. What’s the deal here? After a drink and a Godiva treat (that always makes a sister feel better!), I repositioned my area and sat down to a much more comfortable position. Now we can begin.


2014-08-27 10.45.29You just don’t know how much of a task it can be to get comfortable with ailments trying to play havoc within your body. One that presented itself late last week was a fibromyalgia attack. I’ve written about this invisible illness before so if you’ve missed it, please click the link to check it out. You’ll get a better understanding of fibromyalgia and other background on my multiple myeloma history. Back to the attack: I had to do a bit more than I normally do like driving, getting in and out of the car as well as running errands and doing some chores by myself. My sweet daughter Amber normally does these things, but when she walked in the door on Wednesday I immediately knew she needed to go to the emergency room.

And I wasn’t taking no for an answer.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Family fun with Flip2BFit fitness board game - #product review

School is well underway and it won’t be too long before we’ll feel the shift in temperature as summer turns to fall. For a lot of us those cooler temperatures mean more time spent indoors and less time spent on outdoor sports and activities. One thing we don’t need a break from is staying fit; the best way is to stay fit as a family.
Flip2BFit_Fitness_in_a_Box_600x600I received Flip2BFit, the fitness board game, free of charge for the purposes of review and any opinions expressed in this post are my own and honest. There is one Amazon link to my affiliate account, which will garner me a little extra spending change.
My children (ages 7, 9 and 10) and myself finally had a small window of time to test Flip2BFit and we’re all flipping (sorry, couldn’t help myself) over it. It’s perfect for a family of four and definitely ideal for kids, like mine, who appear unable to keep their bodies still and/or love to exercise and try new things.

Flip2BFit is the first, and thus far the only, fitness board game. It gets players off of their butts to twist, stretch and jump (and that’s very entertaining to watch!) by introducing kids and their families to yoga, cardio, strength and stretching activities. According to the company’s website, “Utilizing the aspects of play, this innovative, creative and super entertaining game gets everyone up and moving and inspires a healthy lifestyle while building confidence and a love for activity. Through carefully chosen mental and physical challenges, children make informed choices while developing motor skills, coordination and muscle memory. It’s a simple and fun way to introduce kids to the beginnings of a healthy lifestyle while incorporating play into gym class, a rainy day, before and after school programs, homeschooling and more. Plus, there is no equipment necessary. Just open the box and play!”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kids find adventure in “Jed, The Forgotten Egyptian Prince” by Jeanette Dixon #bookreview

From the time I was 7 or 8 years old you could find me with my nose buried in a book. That love of reading followed me well into adulthood and, when I had children, that love of reading passed onto them. It’s true, when children see you reading they often follow suit (doesn’t hurt to give them books as gifts as well as squeal with excitement when you get a new one).

The majority of my children have caught the I-love-to-read bug – three outta four ain’t bad, and my son seems to have an extra dose of that gene.  I’ve recently noticed quite a few books geared toward our younger population that also appeal to young men so I’ve been on the lookout with my son in mind. It’s a must around here) where he finds himself surrounded by females and girl-oriented materials.

When I was contacted about reviewing Jeanette Dixon’s book, “Jed, The Forgotten Egyptian Prince” I responded in the affirmative because it sounded like one my son Andre would like to read.

As excerpt from the book’s back cover:

Fourteen-year-old Jed Collins is en route to Egypt with his parents and he’s worried that he won’t be worthy of that trust and responsibility. His low self-esteem hinders his confidence, but everything is about to change.

In a village market, an old Egyptian woman gives him a valuable scarab ring and cryptic information about his real identity. Confused, he keeps the information to himself, but events soon give him the courage to solve the mystery on his own. His attention is drawn to a hawk circling high above a nearby cliff. Something tells him that the hawk is actually a messenger. He shares his hunch with the team and soon finds himself granted the honor of first descent into a newly discovered ancient tomb. Inside the tomb, though, what starts out as a frightening fall turns into a magical adventure through time.

He awakes in ancient Egypt. There, he is known as Prince Djedefre, Djed for short, first son to the pharaoh. Djed and his new best friend, Arki, encounter traitors, treachery, and tomb robbers. It’s a time of great mystery and magic for a young man stolen from his own time. Can he find his way home or is he destined to live out his new life in an ancient land?

Or was it a dream?

My son read that description and was excited to read the book, but a chapter or two into it his excitement tapered off. Each time I asked him about the book he said he liked it but… and his voice would trail off again.

Finally, I corralled him so he could give me his thoughts of the book and an explanation of what was taking him so long to read it. I’d noticed he’d read and finished a couple of books since beginning.

“I like it but it is just talking about him about to go on an adventure and he just got the ring… (silence, with a raised eyebrow from me) … they’re talking about the ancient Egyptian tombs they want to find and someone in it… (more silence.)” After some more prompting he came up with “it’s slow…”

My son has little patience for anything slow, and even though he said he was going to finish reading it he kept picking up and finishing other books. I finally began reading it…

“Do scarab beetles really eat the flesh off of people?” begins the book. That’s an excellent one that would capture the attention of any young person.

Like Andre, I read about the beginning of Jed and his parents’ adventure to Egypt to participate in excavations of ancient sites along with the details in preparing for that and his growing excitement. I read about his first views of towering pyramids and fields of vegetables crisscrossed with irrigation canals from the Nile, and I read about the magnificent, descriptive prose the author weaves. But, like Andre, I started getting bored.

When, in chapter two, Jed encounters the hawk that’s mentioned in the description, the story picks up a bit. By the end of chapter two Jed literally falls into the archeological find and discovers the beginning of his new life. Adventure? Or dream? If you can patiently enjoy the lovely descriptive scenarios and the somewhat tiring dialogue you can enjoy Jed’s Egyptian Prince experience.

Normally I enjoy young adult novels, but I’m not sure this one is quite my speed. If you know your young reader will enjoy the story of a regular kid on an amazing, slow, beautifully crafted adventure then “Jed, The Forgotten Egyptian Prince” by Jeanette Dixon is the ideal book. Eventually Andre, as will I, will pick up the book again to enjoy the story as well.

What book has your youngster read lately?



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cancer Journal: just writing

Entry 4.5

CAM01340[1]I just wanna write. Seriously, that’s it. Write. My hands have the urge to move across the page, colorful pen in hand, to create a scene of moments that is well written, so deeply understood and so moving that everyone who reads it will be moved… to tears… to action, to… something.

Unfortunately, my mind – and even my mood – has not allowed it. It won’t even let me do something as simple as journaling. Really?

There’s really no need to bemoan the point, I’m sure you understand what I mean. The longing to wrap my fingers around a pen or caress the keyboard with my fingertips, to glide my hand along the crisp pages of one of the journals or notebooks I cover, or watch the screen of my laptop fill with words. Words I may or many not sue in the end, but at least I would have the satisfaction of creating.

Wait a minute, in a way I’ve just done exactly what I said I couldn’t do. This isn’t “so well-written, so deeply understood and so moving that everyone who reads it will be moved… to tears, to action, to… something,” but it’s a start, yes?


Friday, August 8, 2014

Summer recap, school begins

When I was a child I always knew the date of the first day of school because it was the Monday after the Labor Day weekend. Quite some time later they changed it to the Monday before Labor Day and ended the week with a three-day weekend. Nowadays, the first day of school falls in August and is a few weeks before the official end of summer.

My crew went back to school this week. Yesterday, in fact. They left with smiles intact, sporting new school uniforms and positive attitudes. I, although not a fan of the stringent school-year schedule, drove them to their schools and waved enthusiastically. It is exciting, right? Their fresh little minds excited about absorbing new knowledge, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I am proud of my crew and can see how they’ve grown and changed over the past year. Even my little granddaughter started head start on Monday. Can you tell we’re serious about education?

We’re also serious about fun.

The children had a fabulous summer and spent a lot of time with their father while I focused on my health. I didn’t get to do as much with them as I would have liked, but here you can see what we were up to.


Anna celebrated her 7th birthday at Big Boot Ranch. She was sheriff, of course, and had a blast. I must admit it was one of the best parties I’ve hosted and everyone enjoyed themselves. In the end, that’s all that really matters.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Memory lane: Thoughts of Daddy

It occurred by happenstance. Flipping through some pictures in search of a couple of good ones for #TBT. There it was. The family portrait my Mom scheduled for our us. I can see it in my mind's eye, one of my favorite pictures... me, my big brother, my mom and my daddy. Forever daddy.

It's one of two photos I have with my father in them. It was taken in 1974, give or take a year, and I was 5 years old. Four years later my daddy was dead.

Thoughts of Daddy floated around in my head for years. I remember when the sound of his voice began to fade from my memory and discovering that the one recording of him speaking was lost in the theft of a "boombox." My dad's mom, Mom Mom to me and Mom Beulah to most, was a steadfast presence in my life as was his dad, Pop Pop. So when thoughts of that side of the family enter my head the first person I think about is Mom Mom who died in her 80s during the late '90s, early 00s. Through her that side of my family was kept alive, my dad's memory never too far in the background.

Just looking at that photograph was ... surreal.

I remember how he looked, the feel of his soft, wavy hair and his coarse mustache and scratchy face that he enjoyed scrapping across my cheek if I got too close. When he was home and ready to relax in the evening he would push himself back in his recliner under the pretense of watching television. We all knew he'd be asleep in a matter of minutes, but it didn't prevent me from sitting right at his feet, stealing peeks of him behind me, waiting for him to wake up or to watch TV with me. I'd quietly play nearby, wanting to be right next to my daddy.

Daddy, or Georgie - my mom's name for him, was a cross country truck driver. He loved the freedom of the open road and was out of town quite often. When he was in town I'd go with him to the shop where he and another man would work on their trucks, and possibly other vehicles. I didn't notice because I was just happy to be right near my daddy. He'd admonish me to stay outta the grease, don't get dirty, stay away from the dog, the street and don't go behind the building. Of course, I had to get a little greasy because how am I going to experiment with the nasty mechanic's soap in the bathroom if I don't have grease on my hands. Those small moment with my dad turned me into a lover of big trucks and oh how I wanted to go on the road with him. Despite tears and begging it never happened. Surprising, huh? (Yes, a joke.) I often wonder if I'd gotten the chance had he lived and I'd been older.

I wonder a lot about what life would have been like had my Daddy not died. Funny though, the thing that he loved (besides his family) the most ended up being the death of him. During a cross country delivery my dad's truck had a blow out, he lost control and the truck flipped over into a ditch. The gigantic steering wheel crushed into his gut. It's what I've been told. They also told me that my daddy looked none worse for the wear, but he was hurt internally. They say he "probably" would have not walked had he lived. I always wondered if that was meant to make me feel better. Having my daddy was the important part; I didn't care if he couldn't walk. I loved him cause he was daddy.

That photo, seeing it today... (update: I'd originally shared our 70s family photo with you, but my mother does not want her image - regardless of what year - "out on the Internet.") I was able to capture the snippets of each of us: me, my big brother and my dad.

My finger slid across the photo almost hesitantly, and I felt trepidation about looking directly at his image to the right. Avoiding his eyes and the standard expression. I didn't know whether I would smile or bust out in a nasty cry especially after the arduous day I've had.

Looking at that picture no one would guess that my dad was a happy-go-lucky kinda guy. He was always joking, laughing and rooms would brighten when he entered. Everyone loved George. One would think that's just a childhood memory and surely he wasn't that kinda guy. I've heard cousins, old church members, friends from the past, his mom, etc., talk about that guy. Always with a ready smile and willing to lend a helping hand.

What would daddy think about my multiple myeloma and the other autoimmune diseases I'm fighting? What would he do, say about this cancer fight? What would he have said about me going into the military in 1988?

There are a lot of "what ifs" and "I wishes" when it comes to thoughts of him. It seems like I'd pushed back a lot of the thoughts over the years to be replaced by life and other family member's death. Right after him, his grandparents died a year a part. That was three close family members in three years. Then I lose his dad, my Pop Pop, and finally his mom. Mom Mom Beulah. My mind tried to hold onto the stories I've heard about that side of the family. About my great great grandparents, about my grandmother's life and what Mom Mom could remember about daddy as a boy.

I've pulled that photo outta its spot in the box and I'm going to purchase a frame I love then place it where it can be seen and admired. Possibly somewhere near the shadow box I created: Within the box is a spot for Mommy and Daddy with a blue marble lead pencil my mom used to wear around her neck and a cream, pearl-handled pocket knife (sharp as heck!) that I think my father carried in his pocket

The memories will come back. My thoughts and feelings surrounding losing my dad at such a young age may return. The photo, even in its small presence, will have a big impact for quite awhile. I don't mind... it's probably necessary for personal growth. Always a reason, right?

That photo...


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sun-Protective Playwear by Little Leaves #product #review

As mothers we have an intense desire to protect our children in all areas of their lives, and when we learn of a product that will assist with that then we’re gung-ho to try it. That’s why when I heard about Little Leaves Sun-Protective Playwear I had to check out it myself.

The below referenced product was provided by Little Leaves to facilitate this review. As always opinions expressed are my own. For more information review my complete disclosure policy.

The playwear, which blocks 99 percent of skin-cancer causing UV radiation, was developed by a dermatologist and a pediatrician, doctors Carlos and Carley Gomez-Meade. The material is soft to the touch, made of hypoallergenic bamboo fabric resulting in a breathable, lightweight, odor-blocking and moisture-wicking item. With the knowledge that chronic sun exposure and sunburns are directly linked to the development of skin cancer, it seemed a smart choice to give this product a try.

CAM01054~2My son’s favorite color is green and since he’s in the pre-teen stage I chose the shark design for him. I explained to him the benefits of the shirt and asked him to wear it on a very sunny and hot day when he had to ride his razor ride-on toy to take the trash out. Andre’s first response when he returned from doing his chore, “Whew, it’s so hot out there.”

“How do you feel,” I said, “did the shirt help?”

He thought for a moment and answered in the affirmative. He said that although he was sweaty the shirt helped him to feel a little cooler. Even with the intense 90-degree sun the shirt picked up the faint breeze. As a matter of fact, he cooled down much quicker than his sisters did who accompanied him on his ride to the dumpster. His overall review: Two thumbs up.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Saving money, finding deals like Stacie Sayz So

My sister friend and fellow blogger is always making me jealous about the deals and freebies she scores. A few days ago I received an envelope from her,  along with one of her sweet notes and a gift, that contained five coupons for free products. Useful, definitely gonna need products: laundry supplies and yogurt drinks for the kids. Receiving the coupons from her reminded of this post I’d already started about my shopping adventure that I compare to one of Stacie’s deal seeking missions.

During a trip to a new Target for some party supplies I spotted their end caps about six of them had deeply discounted items. This is what I scored:

2014-03-27 12.59.49-1I’m not going to even talk about the fact that I went into the store for two things and left with all of this. However, I didn’t spend more than $25.






Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kids & Money: 5 tips to ease public school costs

Go ahead: Take the moment you need to adjust to the fact that, for some of us, school resumes before the second weekend in August. Now, another second to digest the words public school + costs together.

Ready? Smile

kids & money pic widgetIn the past, I’ve expressed my extreme displeasure over expenses required for public school. Like many others, I have more than one child in primary school so that means three supply lists, three sets of uniforms, school appropriate shoes, field trips, backpacks and extra snacks. The school supply lists include the norm: papers, pencils, crayons and glue, and other requested items are tissues, small and large Ziploc plastic bags, hand sanitizer, dry erase markers and/or erasers, snacks and numerous other niceties that my brain refuses to recall right now.

The issue for me is that the supplies are used for the entire class and thusly stored in the teacher’s cabinet. I understand my children don’t mind sharing and other children may not be able to bring anything, but I’m providing for my three on a dime and a prayer, and I need their supplies to last an entire school year. The expenses don’t end there: We still pay for field trips that DO NOT involve leaving the property. Every event is attached to a fundraiser. And in order to go to afterschool parties and dances there is an entry fee plus snacks for sale. (Snacks are always for sale.)

This constant thought has pricked my brain all school year for the past five school years, and is magnified because I always say: ‘When Amber was little we didn’t have to do xyz or abc.’ Yea, I’ve developed the old-person ability to mull over the same thing for years to come.

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