Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry Christmas Crash!

The rare Tuesday post in The Monday Motivator...

There we were, it was Christmas Day night, the cleanup had begun and the tree taken down. It was dropping too many needles and Gunner didn't help with his tail-of-mass-destruction taking out ornaments that seemed too high for him to reach. Amidst all the unwrapped presents, a full belly from a delicious Christmas dinner, and snuggled up in our warm house - here was Mason long faced and looking forlorn. I sat to talk with him and he expressed his disappointment that he didn't get anything on his Christmas list and not even a single video game. I shared with him a bit about what Christmas really means and when you get right down to it, it has nothing at all to do with gifts. I recalled a Christmas past. 

I was in my early twenties and out on my own, living in a suburb of Sacramento. I had a job at a local grocery store and was getting by, barely. I could pay my rent, utilities, car payment, and put food on the table but that was about it. Christmas was a luxury I could not afford that year. My apartment was not decorated and I was anticipating arriving home to a whole lot of nothing. Driving home from work on Christmas Eve, I saw a tree lot selling the remaining trees for one dollar each. I pulled in and got a tree Charlie Brown would be proud of. The lot attendant felt pity on me and didn’t even charge me the dollar. I brought that tree home and left it on the wooden cross nailed in the trunk, placed it on a table and wrapped a bath towel around the base for the tree skirt. I had a box of Christmas stuff from when I moved out of my parents house so I had a strand of lights, and a handful of ornaments I made in high school. I made some top ramen, added leftover chicken and some green onions and sat in the living room listening to Christmas music on the radio, and enjoying the lights on my little tree. That was it, that was the extent of my festivities that year. It wasn’t much, but it was more than I thought I was going to have, it was enough.

Back to the living room with Mason, I shared this story with him. It is a true story and I tried to impress upon him that you cannot always get every thing you want, and there will be times when it will be lean and you just have to make the best of it. He's heard me say it many times, "Money comes and money goes, but the real wealth is with the people in your life and your ability to see the bright side." You see, Mason was on the post-Christmas let down. He likely had more presents to open than the rest of us combined, he got some cool and thoughtful gifts that he was happy about, but he didn’t get a couple of things he really wanted. Maybe it was all the sugar he consumed through the day, but come nighttime, he sat on the sofa pouting and crying that he didn’t even get a single video game. Here's the kicker, he hadn’t even told me what he wanted until everything was already purchased, being wrapped, and our money already spent.

As we've said (sang) to him nearly his whole life, "You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find, you get what you need." Mason is not wanting for anything, in fact he probably has too much. That is our fault, but mostly Dave, who spoils him and then when he doesn’t get what he wants, he is left feeling let down. The "Dave's fault" is printed with his permission and even agreement. Mason will go through some tough times as he leaves our nest and is on his own. He will miss the family decorations, traditional Christmas dinners, holiday movies that we’ve seen hundreds of times, and spending time with family who loves him. Maybe he will get lucky some Christmas Eve and find that dollar tree lot and remember how good it used to be. I’d rather instill in him now that doing good in school, getting into the college he wants to go to, getting a good job, and working hard will make his holidays that much better. Time will tell. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

For years I posted this poem as my annual Christmas wish. The last time I posted it was in 2013. It seems 2014, 2015, and 2016 brought more exciting news to share in my Christmas posts, but I want to come back to this because this year it means something more to me. You see, I had a falling out with some family members and I did not behave in a way that makes me feel very proud of myself. In fact, I need to step up and write an apology and hopefully mend a quarrel. I need to find the time, apologize, listen, and speak my love. I don't feel that I was completely wrong in my position, but I feel I was completely not kind in my reactions. None of that matters now, but I will be sending those apologies before the year ends. So for Christmas 2017, my Christmas wish for myself and all of you. 

This Christmas, mend a quarrel.
Seek out a forgotten friend.
Write a love letter.
Share some treasure.
Give a soft answer.
Encourage youth.
Keep a promise.
Find the time.
Forgive an enemy.  
Apologize if you were wrong.
Think first of someone else.
Be kind and gentle.
Laugh a little every day.
Laugh a little more.  
Express your gratitude.
Gladden the heart of a child.
Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth.
Speak your love.
Speak it again.
Speak it still once again. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Worst Birthday Ever!

It didn't start off all that bad, in fact, I had booked a stay in South Lake Tahoe thinking Dave and I could slip away for a few nights and enjoy some grown up time together. For the most part, we had a really good time, except for that one thing...our room ended up being a studio instead of a one bedroom, and Dave felt that I overpaid once he looked up on a military vacation site what we could have paid for the actual one bedroom we wanted. The one thing was that he couldn't let go of what I paid and proceeded tell whoever would listen, "Do you know what I could have paid for a week here? She paid this much." I saw the post about buying the weekend, I checked with Dave about the dates, and I booked it. I didn't shop it, I had the money so I booked it. Once he pointed out what we could have done, I agreed and said we would do that the next time, but for now, could we just let it go and have some fun? 

I don't need to recount all the details, but when we got home Sunday morning - the actual birthday, Mason did not do any of his chores, the house was a mess, and while I was getting on Mason about doing nothing, I got the birthday gift of a lifetime, “I can’t wait until I turn 18 and I don’t have to live in this stupid house!” Yep, my teenager was alive, well and rearing his ugly, big head.
He was butt hurt because he had 3 simple things to do while we were gone - do the dishes, clean the kitchen (wipe off the counters), and clean & slice cucumbers & carrots for pickles. He did none of it and got even more mad because I was making him do it. He thought me making him do the work was punishment enough, but not so fast Bucko!  We started an immediate media restriction through 12/27 (it was the 26th but he pitched a fit so I added another day). Yep, for my birthday I got to earn another, "Meanest Mom Ever!" award. 

The day continued along these lines with Dave and I stopping at Pete's for a drink before we were to meet friends. Dave was still talking about what I paid for the room and what he could have gotten it for, and we just couldn't get on the same page, in fact, we weren't even the same media! The night ended with, get this, Dave telling me he was so mad at me, he didn't want to come home. Yep, my son can't wait to get out of my house and my husband didn't want to come home - all on the same birthday. Suffice it to say, this was the worst birthday of my life.

Now there is a disclaimer - I am an incredibly lucky woman. I live a life that many only dream about and Dave & Mason bought me a beautiful jewelry set for my birthday so they were planning and trying to make my birthday lovely. Dave and I rarely argue or fight, but it does happen and it just so happened on December 17, 2017. I guess my point here is that I've had one really shitty birthday in 51 years, yes it was the worst, but compared to the 40-something I can recall, it's still a pretty wonderful life. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

I've Fallen Behind!

It happens to the best of us sometimes. I certainly have so much to share, just not enough hours in the day to sit and write. I take comfort in my notes on my phone and my social media feeds to keep count of what week I've missed and what happened that week, and what it is I want to document.

We are baking, shopping, preparing to wrap, and still working along the way.

I'll get caught up here momentarily...Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 4, 2017

I Know How You Feel!

This was from a friend on Facebook last week. I didn't reply immediately, but after sleeping on it and knowing I had been in these same shoes, I replied -

I read this thread yesterday and can totally relate. I've been in your shoes and thought I would offer up my thoughts on this... Back in 2012 I penned this post 

Then last year...

Ultimately, I offer you this, you are a grown woman with a beautiful family. Make Christmas what you want it to be, for you, for your husband and for your kids. Give the gifts that give you joy, and if it's from a list, great! If not, well, it's the gift you are choosing to give. Some years, I give the gift of nothing because I love you too much to give some thing, just to give it. If you get nothing one or two years and then get something, it's because I saw it and it spoke to me for you! People come around and some may even follow suit, but be you authentically, teach your kids to be able to stand up and be who they are without worrying about the repercussions of extended family natter. It may be difficult initially, but it gets easier and it makes the holidays so much more enjoyable. Go start enjoying yourself, life is too short to always conform.

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's A Wrap!

I just wrapped my first movie working in casting and let me just say, incredible, exhausting, frustrating, exciting, and ultimately so proud to be part of this film and the team at Forcier Casting. 

I've been in the business since 1996 when I turned 30 and decided that I was going to chase my dream of working in commercials. I took classes, got headshots, auditioned, worked a little here and there, and then got my big break - I booked a job for WalMart that made me union eligible. At the time SAG and AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) were separate unions and I was AFTRA eligible so I joined. Lucky for me, a few years later the two unions merged and today I am a proud SAG/AFTRA member. All of that eduction did not do much for me at the time in terms of making me the next Julia Roberts, as I married and moved away from the business, but it seems the business stayed with me. I got an email from a friend who was suggesting I audition for a local commercial, again with WalMart but this was for "real people" not actors. I auditioned and got the part. Long story short, Sally Forcier who cast me in the commercial started following me and Mason on social media and watched Mason bloom on You Tube and in the culinary world. Here we are years later and Sally is working with Mason in front of the camera and I am working with Sally behind the scenes casting and hopefully producing one day, too. Stay tuned, Mason has APParition coming out this year and it's possible Notorius Nick may be out for the holidays as well. 

Another successful “Saturday Thanksgiving” is in the books. I think I look forward to this holiday more than any other during the year. We visited, ate amazing food, drank great wine, and played “The Singing Bee.” I love these people so very much. Diana and Jennifer were missed, next year ladies!

Finally, tonight at 6 PM, StoveTots is on. This is Mason's episode. Let's all say a prayer to the editing gods that we don't come off any crazier than we really are. 
For those of you who may not know. Mason and I shot the pilot for this series that the creators used to pitch and sell the show. That was in Chicago January 2016. A tip if you ever decide you want to do reality tv, whatever you decide to wear, buy 3 of them so you don't have to film for 2-3 days in the same clothes. This is especially important when the show is a cooking competition.#MasonMade

Monday, November 20, 2017

He Holds My Hand

I am completely exhausted, but I must share my story of how I know I am wealthy beyond measure. Some things in my life have been a bit emotionally challenging lately. I've been up and down and when I was asked today how I was, I immediately recalled waking up and I smiled and said, "I must be the luckiest woman in the world. I've been married for 16 years and my husband holds my hand at night. Sometimes he puts his arm around me, and other times, he gets tangled up with me with our feet. But this morning I woke up and he was holding my hand, and I love that. How can I feel anything but loved when I get to wake up with him?" 

Monday, November 13, 2017

I Want Success For You!

Has it really been a year?
It's hard to believe that it was a year ago this week that Mason made his national television debut on The Steve Harvey Show. It was a fun excursion for Dave and Mason as I was on my own adventure with Lisa Anderson in NYC. It's amazing to me that we get to live this life, yes, I work hard for it, I earn it to be sure, but I also know that I have people on my team who root for me, help me when I need a hand, and encourage me to go for it when I'm not so sure of myself. I look around and see bullies in the world, not just middle school kids, but full grown adults, and I think to myself, how awful do you have to feel about yourself to pick on others, and even worse, adults who bully children? When Mason is struggling with middle school drama, I remind him that it doesn't end with middle school, or high school, or college, or the workplace, or, or, or... The fact of the matter is that there always will be people in this world that not only find joy in hurting others but thrive on chaos and pain. It's sad but true. I advise him to do his best to eliminate these kinds of people from his life and when he can't, he's best off to not engage in the drama. Be forthright, honest, & practice the golden rule and things should work out just fine. Who was I talking to, him or me?

With that said, let me tell you I want to see you succeed. Not just reach the goal, reach far beyond what you can even imagine is possible. You see, it's not you OR me, it's you AND me, there is more than enough for all of us.
Enough of what you ask? Enough jobs, enough opportunities, enough open doors, enough leading roles, enough first places, enough abundance, enough prosperity, enough money, enough friends, enough party invites, enough love. It is not necessary to tear down those around you who are seeing success, stand up and cheer for them! Maybe if you stand up for them, you can stay on your feet and take the action you need to see what you want to come to fruition. If you do, I'm already standing and taking action, but I will cheer for you, I will cheer as loud as I can and say, "I'm so glad you are making this happen for yourself, how can I help you?" I will be there for you, lifting you up so you can do the same for someone else. What a wonderful world this would be if more people could see the good. I see the good, I see you. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Happy Anniversary Month to Us!

2001 and 2016

Happy anniversary month to us! Who could have predicted that for all the fun things and experiences I've won on the radio through the years, the most meaningful would be my sweet Flower Dave (in 1996)? As we approach 16 years married (16 years?!), we were in Florida Halloween morning and hosting Trick-or-Treaters in Auburn that night. We met for drinks, and laughed when we should have been so exhausted and in bed. But that's what we do, we laugh. We laugh a lot, about silly stuff, like Mason playing "Frogger" on a busy street in Orlando - and that was SO not funny! After a night of laughing, the next morning we will often still be giggling through sleepy eyes - yes, we really do wake up laughing sometimes. There have been a few bumps in the road, but nothing worth talking about. Our union has been easy as far as the marriage gauges go, I know you agree. Way more laughter than tears, and even some of those tears have come with belly laughs. I am grateful every day for you, our marriage, our family, our life, and I'm the first one to say, "I won the lottery when I won this guys heart." November 9th is our day, our super special fall day.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween!

I’m writing today from 30,000 feet, in the dark at 6:30 AM EST. Dave, Mason, and I are on our way home from another awesome family vacation. This adventure was one more for the Partak Book of Epic Vacations. We traveled to Orlando and spent four days playing in the Universal Studios parks; Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, and their newest park, Volcano Bay, an amazing water park. October seems to be the month we typically travel as we also celebrate Mason’s birthday. Mason is a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and it just so happened that on Sunday, the Bucs were playing the Carolina Panthers, who happen to be Dave’s team. It all worked out so nicely, after our time in Orlando, we headed to Tampa Bay where Rod and Cat live, so we stayed with them for a few days. Mason, Rod and Dave went to the game on Sunday, and it made for the perfect family vacation. 

Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando
If you haven’t been to the Universal parks, they are worth your time and money. Keeping in mind, none of the big theme parks are cheap, there are ways to make your dollar stretch. We were able to get 4 day park hopper tickets for $218 each through the military. We typically take advantage of free breakfasts, we pick up snacks at a local grocery store to keep from paying the higher prices at the hotel, and refilling water bottles at drinking fountains saves dollars, not pennies over the course of a week. In the park, we invest in the refillable cup that later serves as a souvenir. The cup at Universal was $15 the first day and it was good for unlimited Icee’s and the very cool fountain Coke machines that have a gazillion drink combinations to choose from. We only bought one cup and we took turns choosing what to fill it with and we shared. The following days, it cost $8.50 to reactivate the cup, but understanding that drinks were $6-7 each, you can easily see the value of that initial $15 and then the $8.50. We spent $40.50 total but Mason alone refilled that cup more than 12 times alone over the course of the four days, at the lower price of $6, that would have been $72, each in a smaller serving size, and without Dave and I having had anything at all to drink. We didn’t worry too much about eating in the park, the fact of the matter is we planned to be on vacation so we budgeted to be able to get what we wanted even though the prices are stupid high. We also tend to have a day or two that we eat a little lighter in our room after a trip the grocery store. Cheese, crackers, salami, and some fruit will often be a nice break from all the go, go, go that a theme park vacation brings. We are a family of only three so it’s not as difficult to make these kinds of vacations happen, if we were a bigger brood, I’m sure they would be a little more challenging. My tips for saving money while still feeling like we are getting all the perks and fun out of our vacation are:
  • Reuse your water bottles, refill them at drinking fountains. 
  • Pick up snacks at a local grocery store.
  • Eat at least one smaller meal from the grocery trip in your room. 
  • Buy the refillable cup at the park and share one or two depending on the size of your family. 
  • If you can, make that grocery shopping trip to a WalMart as they typically carry licensed apparel for the theme parks. In our case in Orlando, they had a very extensive selection of Disney, Harry Potter, and Star Wars apparel and gifts at a fraction of the cost of the items in the parks.
  • The shopping trip to WalMart was equally fruitful in Tampa Bay as well, we were able to get Buccaneers, NFL licensed apparel and hats for more than half the cost at the stadium. Mason purchased a hat at the game and spent $25, there were two or three styles of official licensed Bucs ball caps at WalMart for just $9.47 each. 

Finally, I know kids get caught up in the excitement of the park and want to make a purchase, every family will handle that their own way. I’ve been able to help Mason see that so much of the stuff that is for sale is schlock that is an impulse purchase because we are all caught up and feeling stimulated by the sights and sounds of the park. The $15+ dollar thingy-mabob will very likely end up going to Goodwill or in the garbage within a few months. It simply won’t have the same appeal at home as it does in this moment at the park. The photos we take will be the souvenirs that will provide the most lasting and meaningful memories of our trip and time together. We try to have fun with our photos, getting creative, being silly, and not simply smiling for the camera. 

Today is Halloween and we will be home in time to get the rest of the decorations up, pumpkins carved, and some more candy bagged for our little ghosts and goblins who will be knocking on our door tonight. We are even more excited to see Spencer and Gunner, they really missed us, but I think we missed them more! Happy Halloween and remember, it’s not about the stuff in life, it’s about the experiences and the people we get to share them with. Now get ready, because tomorrow the holidays are officially here! 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Happy 14th Birthday Mason!

Where does the time go? This is said by moms, dads, and grandparents everywhere. October 20, 14 years ago, Julie and Dave were in Sacramento with me waiting for Mr. Mason to arrive. I'm not sure if Jules stayed until the after 2:00 AM arrival time, but of course Dave was there, and he will tell you all about the horror of me being filleted like a fish! It's funny now, but there were other complications that came with Mason's birth day. Those stories fall in with the hike on the fire trail to try to get him to come sooner, and me telling Dave, "He's coming, in the next 24 hours" and Dave freaking out because he wasn't due for another few weeks. You see, Dave had just gotten the call that he needed to complete paperwork to possibly deploy to Iraq, and, well, the next 24 hours were just not a good time for him. I've said it many times, babies come when babies are good and ready to come and 10/20/2003, "Mason Made" his grand entrance.
Dave did deploy, he was gone for the first 18 months of Mason's life, but it's all good. Mason is independent, smart, funny, compassionate, and you all know he can cook. Things work out, and I would not trade one minute of our life for something else, and I certainly don't think there could be something better.
Mason, you are incredible. You teach me how to be a better person every day, and you make me realize when I'm cutting corners or trying to justify taking the easy way. You say my words back to me when I need to hear them.
I can't wait to see what you do and where you go in life. I hope I get to tag along, just so I can smile and say, "I knew you would make it!" Go Mason! Don't listen to the haters, don't pay attention to the snide comments, the immature comments, or the old men, think to yourself...
"And I can see you years from now in a bar
Talking over a football game
With that same big loud opinion
But nobody's listening,
washed up and ranting
About the same old bitter things
Drunk and grumbling on about how I can't cook,
But all you are is mean
All you are is mean and a liar and pathetic
And alone in life and mean, and mean, and mean, and mean..."

You are better than that even at your worst, and if you can hear me now, you will hear me always remind you, "How they behave speaks to who they are, and how we behave speaks to who we are." Be better, do better, make your dreams come true. Happy 14th Birthday sweetie, you are the light of our lives! XOXO

As a post script to this post that I penned on Mason's birthday on social media, we have a handful of grown men in our community who think it is funny to pick on and say mean things about Mason. All stemming from me asking them to please keep their "big brother" like jabs and put-downs to private family gatherings. Yes, I know men pick on each other, it's how they think they are pushing each other to be better, or toughening each other up for the real world. Well, I don't particularly like it, especially when it comes in large doses, frequently. The mean lyrics are in reference to the antics that these men post on social media and clearly seem to have nothing better to do with their time and attention. Years from now, I want Mason to recall why I wrote this and that I mean what I tell him, "Mason, I will always have your back, and you are already a better man than all three of those men combined."

Monday, October 9, 2017

When Words Hurt

I've been informed that I'm a fraud and I am not who I represent myself to be. I put forth in my weekly Monday Motivator and on social media an image of a better human being than the one I really am. This from my family, my family that does not live with me, near me, or even within 2 hours of me. Family that presumes to know my relationship with my dad while growing up (again, we saw each other twice a year and NEVER at our house), and today suggested that I drop the facade and let people see the real me. Okay, here I am...bewildered, confused, and hurt. Interestingly, a similar situation cropped up many years ago when I wrote about feeling like I did not fit in with my family, I felt like I saw life through lenses that they somehow could not see through. That post led to the idea that I believed I was better than the rest of my family and putting it in writing in my weekly blog was a slap in the face to the whole family. Of course there was no mention of this to me, no conversation asking for a clarification of my post, just disconnection from a number of family members. At some point when I asked about how these people were, the truth came out, and again, here I am trying to figure out where the train went off the tracks. It gets old, trying to figure out where you stand with people all the time, are we good? Are we not good? if we're not good, can I know why? This is why 8 years ago when I lost my most favorite dog, I mourned for months, cried real, painful, uncontrollable tears for months, yet have nary shed a tear for the humans who have passed, who called themselves my family. I don't know how to be any more authentically me than I am every day - for better and for worse. Through my eyes, it seems feeling comfortable writing my truth, how I feel even when it's not the popular opinion, when I feel I'm not fitting in, etc would make me pretty darn authentic. I'm sad, but I am saying some prayers tonight for those people who feel that I am the one who is strong enough to bear their pain. 

The really unfortunate part of this whole situation, and there are many, is that the information that lead to this upset was brought about by a 14 year old girl who saw a photo on social media and made an assumption about it. She went and told her mom who believed her assumption, no questions asked, just, “Yep, if little Suzie said it’s so, it must be so.” This triggered an anger in the woman who then communicated all her anger and vitriol to another family member. Well, if woman one says it’s true, woman two believes it must be true as well. By the time I even found myself in the middle of a swarm of stinging bees, it was too late, the story they had created had taken on a life of it’s own. I behaved badly, I was rude to a woman (woman number two) I love dearly and even hung up on her. I know that hurt her deeply and I’m sorry I did that though I fear had I kept talking at that level of anger, I would have been sorrier about the things I likely would have said. I also sent a venomous communication to the woman who's daughter started all of this. I’m still mad. I know it’s not me, but I’m in it. I sincerely was trying to do something good and helpful and then this? Well, the truth is that this family feud is fueled by many years of the same kinds of assumptions and decisions coming from the same group of people that were hurtful to the rest. I feel like one part of our family collected anything there was to be had while the rest of us, even in the final hours paid the bills. Read that how you will, literally or figuratively, it just may be a bit of both.

I'm pretty sure this post is not going to sit well with the people in my family any more than anything else I have to offer, so just like any other day, I'm going to speak my truth and if anyone wants to talk about why I see things the way I do or feel the feelings I feel, I'm happy to discuss it. In the meantime, I'm going to get out in the world and try to make a difference, if only for one or two people, I want to leave a positive mark on today, tomorrow, this week, and more. 

Monday, October 2, 2017


It's amazing to me how caught up we as humans get in trivial nonsense. I've often said, "I hope it won't take a tragedy to make you all see how good we have it." Even now, in light of over 50 lives lost, over 400 injured, and everyone who was at that concert last night that will live with PTSD and the images and events of the night playing over and over in their heads, people are fighting about gun control, mental illness, and how politicians are using this horrific event to be heard and for personal gain.
Our world is fucked up, there is no doubt about that. There is a small population that divide the majority, that try to make us hate each other for our differences, when in fact, all I keep hearing is how every one came together last night, helped each other without question of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation - people helped other people.
If you find joy in hurting others, in making jokes that are not jokes at all, in laughing with the bullies, please unfriend me. It's not necessary for me to see Karma come full circle for you, but I will rest assured that it will.
With the awful tragedy today, I'm posting some visuals of some of the happenings of my week, things that make me smile.

This was a memory from a few years ago, but I love it even more today!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Goodbye Mom...

So this last week, my mom said goodbye to this crazy world we live in. I'm sad that she's gone but relieved she's no longer bedridden and in pains. The real angel in this story is my sister who cared for our mom and even talked with her the morning she passed, AS she was transitioning - both of them talking to each other until my mom was all the way "up." That part of that whole process is amazing to me, and it would not have happened with anyone but Teri by her side. Be free mom, and you, too Teri, you are phenomenal. Give Buddy lots of extra nubbin. he's gonna miss his mama. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sincerely Grateful

I’ve been so overrun with work, Mason’s life, family life, and life life that my Monday Motivators have been living in my head and not in print. I’m starting here and I’ll go back and “catch up” when I make time - or feel inspired, whichever comes first.

As you all know, we are now a boat family, we are loving being a boat family. In fact, if I had known how relaxing it is to take an evening swim, or enjoy a picnic dinner on the lake, I may have agreed to the boat a long time ago. In any case, as long as I’ve known Dave he’s wanted a ski boat. There have been a couple of times that we toyed with the idea but the timing was just never quite right. 

Whenever we would be out dining somewhere that provided for a boat to dock and the people to walk up and eat, Dave would say, “See, that could be us! We could be spending the day on the river, stop to eat and drink, tootle up a little further, stop and listen to some live music…that could be us.” I would typically reply, “That will be us, we’ll have that boat.” Yesterday, that was us! We took the boat to the river and did just that. We had lunch and listened to live music at Swabbies, we tootled in both directions enjoying the views from the river, the beautiful and some unusual homes, and docked in Old Sacramento where Mason took the time to visit Evangeline’s getting ideas for his Halloween costume. It was what I call a “Red Letter” day. Dreams do come true, it’s just a matter of time and timing. This is a good time for us to be a boat family, Dave is not as busy every weekend, Mason is old enough to be learning the ropes and he’s really enjoying wake boarding and tubing, and we live just minutes from the boat launch at Folsom Lake. 

With all of this said, I had a pretty profound experience as our day was winding down, the band at Swabbies played a song I’ve loved for years, I know all the words and I jumped to my feet to dance and sing along. As I started singing, I couldn’t get the words out, it was like I was making the sounds but it was more like I didn’t know the words. But I do know the the words, and I couldn’t say them and sing along…it occurred to me that I couldn’t sing the song because I don’t feel that way anymore. The song is called “Something More” by Sugarland and this is the chorus - “There's gotta be something more, Gotta be more than this, I need a little less hard time, I need a little more bliss.  I'm gonna take my chances, Taking a chance I might, Find what I'm looking for, There's gotta be something more.” The fact of the matter is, yesterday was bliss, it was perfectly perfect in that we are living an amazing abundant life. I’m sure there is something more, but it seems crazy to think that what I have right now and the way I am living in this moment should be any better. We are blessed beyond measure to have the love we have with each other, our health is good, our son who is thriving on so many levels, strong finances, and more opportunities coming our way every day. The verse in the song that I could sing, and I did, goes like this, “Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate, I believe that happiness is something we create, You best believe that I'm not gonna wait.” 

I feel like I’ve taken the actions to create an incredible life for us Partaks and to think there is something more I could need or want, well, I just don’t see it. Should more come our way, great, if not, we absolutely have more than most ever dare to dream of having and I’m grateful, sincerely grateful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Honor and Memory

September 11th is always a difficult day. For all the people who lost loved ones, I just can't even imagine. For the rest of us, it's a day to remember those Americans who died on 9/11/01. I want to honor and remember those people, but I don't like the idea of reliving that horrific day. Can we find a way to honor without restimulating all the fear and pain that leads to hatred?

For those that would argue we need those images to "Remember" and that staying mad is the best way to honor those lives lost, I say no. Staying mad and digging up all that painful, negative emotion simply keeps us in pain. We can remember without staying in a dark emotional place, there just isn't anything to gain by staying mad. #MyTwoCents

Monday, September 4, 2017

Viva Las Vegas!

We made it home from camping and did a "turn & burn" and were on a plane to Las Vegas. On one hand I think it was crazy to plan a Vegas trip right on the heels of a big camping trip. But on the other hand, it was nice to be poolside and alone with my guy after a pretty exhausting weekend camping.

I often see the crazy low airfares to Vegas in my email and by the time I go to see what's available, the low fares are sold out. A month or so ago, I got the email and went right to and there they were. I called Dave and asked if he wanted to get away and we picked the dates. We ended up planning the camping trip after Vegas was booked so we just went with it. It worked out and we had a great time.

Dave went to the airport right from work so he was traveling in his uniform. It seems I am not the only one who likes a man in uniform as when we got to the Paris, the woman checking us in said, "Welcome, thank you for your service. Let me see what I can do for you tonight." She upgraded us to a gorgeous top floor suite with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower and the Bellagio fountains. It was awesome!

We had off the hook pizza at Naked City Pizza, it may just be the best pizza I've ever had, and I've had some pretty epic pizza. We gambled, went shopping, and just had fun being together and away from home. I've said it many times and I believe it even more today, the best gift you can give your kids is happily married parents, and happily married means making your relationship a priority. I love this life I get to live, it really is pretty amazing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

A New Rising of The Grand Poobah

Yes, we did a Grand Poobah! After retiring and supporting Dave to host for a few was clear that it was more work that anyone was willing to do. Well, until Dave bought a boat, well, two boats but that's a story for another time - I digress. Dave bought a boat and I had a truck to pull it. I did gift him a Yeti, well, not 110 but limited edition cooler iced down with silver bullets (Coors Light). With that kind of MoJo going, he felt like a Grand Poobah Rising was in order. I didn't protest as I miss camping and I miss our friends, some who we only got to see at Poobah. The date was set and the plans in motion. Lots of new people, some of the old people and a new idea, "The Floatie Parade!" Yep, we got lots of big, colorful floaties and planned to pull them behind the boat in a big circle basically making a parade on the lake in the no-wake zone.

It was a really fun weekend but there are some things you just can't recreate. The Grand Poobah was an event for another time. Maybe we outgrew it, maybe it was just a collective energy that no longer sizzles with some of the people no longer in the mix. Who knows, but it was a fun weekend and like getting back together with an ex, it doesn't take long to remember why you broke up in the first place. There won't be another Poobah but there will be lots more fun times with friends on the lake. I think we will camp more as well, the boat makes it a little easier and certainly more fun.

And about that floatie parade, it was epic! Greg had Main Street Electrical Parade music and everyone was so excited. It was all well and good until the rope running through and to all the floaties caused them to stack and capsize! I have video and once I get it edited, I will post it here. For now, let the photos suffice.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sometimes it Sucks!

It's a sad & unfortunate situation. After 25+ years of dreaming about owning a boat, we bought one from a private party. It's been difficult to get boats in for diagnostics outside of 6-8 weeks and because of that, we were not able to purchase several that we thought were a good deal. Dave bought the Sanger that you all have been seeing here on Facebook. We got it into the shop and it turns out, it has an issue bigger than the boat is worth. Yeah, it sucks, and it's a pretty significant financial loss, but it's not the end of the world. It's been comforting to know that even if we had had it in the shop prior to purchase, this issue would not have been discovered. It was discovered because of something we asked be checked after having it on the water numerous times.

We have given the boat to someone who also longs to have a boat, and has the ability and resources to do the repairs. He is paying the bill for the bad news and we have purchased a newer boat on consignment, from a dealer. You will see that this is clearly a newer and bigger boat. We are so fortunate to be able to let go of the old and purchase the new-to-us new boat. I hope you never have to hear the words, "Did you already buy this boat, or can you still get out of it?" LOL! I still have my people, and even if our first boat has cancer, we can still see the bright side and appreciate how abundant our lives really are. With that said, Dave bought another boat! David It's a 2008 Calabria ProV. It's in darn near new condition, all the bells and whistles, and it has so much room. I think this boat will seat 12-14 adults! Seriously, it's pretty cool. Sometimes you need to just go with the flow and move on - we did just that!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rough Start, Happy Ending!

This week started with me feeling so, so tired and beat up - dare I say defeated? I’m not always sure how people you thought were your real friends can be mean, without even an inkling that an apology would mean so much. Maybe it's because they aren't sorry and don’t value the relationship as much as I do. I’m writing this and realize it’s not my best form, but man, I'm really hurt. Suffice it to say that the friendship clearly meant much more to me than it did to them. It's likely that this is far more about them and what they are going through in life, but it baffles me when people just drop friends and loved ones for words and acts that a simple, sincere apology could mend. Sometimes you just want "the way it is" to not be the way it is. But sadly, it is.

At the same time, a small group of us in this community organized a project for backpacks for kids going back to school who may not have what they need. To give so much money and time to a project that is intended to help so many and those who say they are in need can't even keep the appointment to meet you and collect what was put aside for them. That’s unbelievable to me. Would that person/those people who didn't get picked have shown up? Really? I think I need to start new tomorrow and hopefully my rose colored glass will be clean and clear for a new week.

Things perked up when Mason and I got invited to go stay overnight in Monterey and see the Bobby Bones stand up comedy show. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s a syndicated radio host on country radio stations. He has a great story and is really funny. Mason and I enjoy listening to him in the morning on the way to school. Tanya invited us to join her and her son Jakary and the four of us had the time of our lives! Bobby was funny, really funny, and so authentic. There were so many “best parts” of the night, we had great seats, 3 of us in the 2nd row and Jakary in the front row, we got to meet Bobby and take pictures, but the best part of the night was at the end of the show, Bobby asked Jakary to come on stage with him. He spent a good 3 minutes interviewing him - it was off the hook amazing! The night wrapped up with Mason taking some serious initiate making me so proud of him. Walking up to exit the theatre after the show, Mason picked up as much trash as he could carry and asked the other 3 of us to do the same. We did. Just being helpful without being asked, that’s one of those moments when you get a glimpse into who your kid is becoming and who they likely are when you are not with them. It was the perfect way to end the week. Look for the good, expect the best and I bet more often than not, you will get it. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Do You Believe in Luck?

Interesting lessons with luck this week. Those of you who know me well, know I am lucky. But so many people would question is there such a thing as lucky, or is life made up of a series of coincidences. I do not believe in coincidence, I absolutely believe in luck, but with that said, I believe luck is made up of attitude and intention, combined with action. I also believe whatever you think, you're right, and we get back what we put out.

Over this last week a number of things transpired. The week started with a dear friend of mine initiating a backpack drive to supply backpacks filled with all the school supplies a child would need for their school. I immediately jumped on board, shared on my Facebook page and participated in this drive. While this was underway, I fulfilled a promise to Mason to take him to ride a FlowRider in our area. A FlowRider is a surfing simulator, you may recall images and video of Mason riding one while we were in Wisconsin last December. In any case, walking back to my car I noticed what looked like money on the ground. In fact it was money, a $100 bill! On our way home the boys were so fascinated with me finding the money that we started talking about how Mason and I find money all the time. Usually it's in the form of pennies, dimes, and quarters on the ground. We stopped to grab a burger and as we got out of the car, Mason's friend Devon found a quarter. Coincidence? I don't think so. Me finding that large amount of money heightened their awareness, in addition to making it real that they can find money. After we got our burgers and we're walking back out to the car Devon found another quarter, and then a penny. I laughed noting that one more penny would give us $.52, my favorite number is 52. As I approached my side of the car, there was that second penny. 

Fast forward a few days and I was spending time with Jennifer. I was sharing with her the stories of finding the money with the boys as she has uncanny experiences finding pennies, all the time, every day, pennies. I noted that though I never pass by a penny when I see one on the ground, I typically find nickels, dimes, and quarters. Not 60 seconds later, walking through the parking lot we both lit up and hurried to what I saw was a shiny dime on the ground. I thought we were both hurrying to the dime but in fact, Jennifer saw a shiny penny. How funny is that? A penny and a dime, next to each other on the ground in the parking lot - she didn't see the dime, I didn't see the penny. Of course we are both over the moon elated, laughing out loud as we continue to walk into the grocery store. But before we got in the door, I found another dime. I looked at Jennifer and said, "When we find that next penny, that will be $.22, your number, 22." We went about our grocery shopping and as we were walking back to the car we were chatting about other things. We got in the car and as we were driving away Jennifer slammed on the brakes, jumped out of the car and wouldn't you know, she found that second penny! She saw it from the drivers seat of the car, outside the window! It's sometimes hard to believe these stories, but they're absolutely 100% true. Is it pure coincidence that I've named an amount and it has materialized? Or that the previous week I contributed $100 to an event that had some difficulty leaving the organizer holding a big bill? Or that I helped facilitate the backpack drive donating 8 fully stocked packs plus some supplies? I don't think it's coincidence at all, and I also don't think it's luck. It's me believing in my ability to manifest what I want, and that the universe is simply here to help me when I take action.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The OC Fair and SweepsCon17

Last week was pretty epic. Mason and I took a road trip to Southern California where he was scheduled to cook at the OC Fair and we were both booked to speak at the SweepsCon17, a convention for people who Sweep (enter lots of sweepstakes). The drive was long, both ways, but it was so much fun. 

Mason rocked three cooking challenges at the fair, cooking against a MasterChef Junior contestant Sean Le making the best burger, a 4H Master Food Preserver Isbella Vegh making garden omelettes, and Mason teamed up with Liam Waldman finalist from Food Network Star Kids and French Pastry Chef Stephane’ Treand to make the best macaroni and cheese. Talk about a jam packed day! We made time to go with the kids to ride some rides and play some carnival games but then it was time to head back to the room to get some sleep. 

On Friday, Mason and I got to the convention and had a blast sharing our stories. Mine were all about the crazy ways I’ve won so many prizes on the radio through the years, and Mason shared his tips for winning in the culinary arena. Mason has won recipe contests, cooking competitions, and of course, competitions on television. People are always so blown away when they hear Mason speak in front of large crowds. It seems the number one fear for most people is public speaking, and it’s clear that Mason does not suffer from that fear.

On Saturday, Mason and I took the day to just have fun and headed to Venice Beach. It was lovely! It was just about 80 degrees and the water was really warm. Mason had a blast riding in the waves and I just took in some sunshine and the smell of the salt air and the sea. Being at the beach, an ocean beach is just what I needed to rejuvenate my soul. In fact, the long drive home on Sunday was filled with so many ideas for things I want to create and some of the projects Mason and I have been working on for him. And speaking of Sunday, we had to get home because Food Network moved up the air time of Mason’s Guy’s Grocery Games. It aired on Sunday and it was really fun to watch Mason compete. All of those kids are incredible and it’s just such a cool life that they are getting to live. It tickles me pink for Mason to have these experiences at such a young age. Some day he will look back and realize how lucky he really is. All of this speaks to my post last week about getting in the game. If you don’t play, you can’t win, and sometimes winning is simply that you are playing.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Say Yes, Play!!

I won Disneyland Tickets
I’m fine tuning my speech for SweepsCon17 where Mason and I will be speaking later this week. I’m not going to share all of it here, but while preparing this talk, I realized something about the way I live my life. Here’s a little snippet of my speech, see if you can see where I’m going with this. 

Everybody here is a winner so I’m sure you've all been asked, “How do you do it? How is it you're so lucky? You win all the time." You've also all heard, "Oh, I never win. I don't win the lottery, I never win raffles, I don't win anything." You've all heard that right? Well I know I have, and my very first response is "Do you play?" It makes me chuckle, how can you expect to win if you don't play? I won my first contest when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was listening to our local radio station and the DJ said be caller number nine, and I grabbed the phone and I called, and I was caller number nine and I won a cassette tape. Yes, it was that long ago. But what happened that day set in motion a lifetime of winning for me. An opportunity to win was presented and I took it, I played. What was most important about that win was that it was effortless. I heard the announcement and made the instant decision to win the prize. It just takes one win to see that you can win, you do win. From that day forward I was a winner.

But back to the question, “Do you play?” I know you all play when it comes to a sweepstakes or contests, but do you play in life? We all say yes to that entry, or mail this many cards in, or set reminders to enter once each day online…but isn’t life more fun when you play? I say yes! In fact, I say yes a lot. I say yes when invited to a party where I don’t know anyone other than who has invited me, I said yes when asked if I wanted to fill in for someone who got sick and couldn’t go to Vietnam for 2 weeks, and I said yes when my son asked me if he could raise $25,000 to improve his school kitchen when he was just 9 years old. 

To live a full, happy life, I believe you have to participate. Saying yes, accepting invitations, calling the radio station to try to win the prize, jumping off the rock into the lake, agreeing to go on a blind date, renting the bikes to ride, and any number of a gazillion other things that might enrich your life, if even just a little bit. The truth be told, being willing to play will enrich your life by leaps and bounds. Go ahead, say yes and play!