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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day... If You Have a Moment

My family, like many, will grill steaks and hot dogs on Memorial Day. If the weather is nice, we may go to the pool. If it’s raining, we’ll probably play an epic battle of Trivial Pursuit. No matter what we do or eat, there will be one man in our hearts and minds all day. Uncle Brian—as my children call him. He was my brother-in-law. My husband’s brother. And Nana and Poppy’s (or McParents—as I call them) beloved son.  MSgt Brian P. McAnulty is what is on his grave.

I heard some “fun facts” about Memorial Day on the radio today (as I drove around buying groceries for our cook out).  I just wanted to share them so as everyone enjoys their day, we all take a moment to remember the reason behind the holiday.

Decoration Day
Memorial Day began as Decoration Day—a time when women’s groups in the south decorated graves of the fallen from the Civil War. Exact origins are unknown and highly debated.

May 5, 1868
General John Logan declared Decoration Day as May 30. Flowers were to be placed on the grave of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington.

May 30
This is the tradition/original day of observance for Memorial Day. In 1971, the government changed the date to create a 3-day week end.

Waterloo, NY
In May 1966, Lyndon Johnson declared this the birth place of Memorial Day. Waterloo celebrated its first Memorial Day on May 5, 1866.

Last Monday in May
It’s the unofficial beginning of summer. And since 1911, it's the week end (not the day) of the Indy 500.

It became an official Federal Holiday in 1971. (No mail. No banks.) Also the year it changed from the 30th to the last Monday. (As previously mentioned.)

It wasn’t until after WWI that Memorial Day included all soldiers killed in conflict. Until this time it was to remember soldiers from the Civil War.

The Flag
The US Flag should be at half-staff from sun-up until noon.

In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was passed. It asks all Americans to take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

I hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day. I will. I hope everyone had family and friends to share it with. I will. And I hope everyone take a moment at 3PM to remember the fallen. I will.

We miss you, Uncle Brian. And we think about you every day. We send our love. 

MSgt Brian McAnulty 
Memorial in Iraq

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I Did Not Win the $600 Million Powerball

Sunday morning I woke to disappointment. I did not win the Powerball jackpot. Then there was another heap of disappointment when I learn that someone else did. (If no one had matched the numbers, the jackpot would have sailed past $1 billion. Wowzers!) And, as of right now, I’ve checked the family tree and I’m not related to anyone in Zephyrhills, Florida where the winning tickets was purchased.

But before all this heartbreak, my family and I did have fun imagining what we would do with the money. Here’s what we came up with.

1. Puppies! 
All three kids would get a puppy of their own. Of course, we’d get them from an animal shelter. We’d want to be charitable in our new found wealth.

2. World Travel! 
My husband would like to do this aboard a luxury cruise. Sounds good to me, because as a millionaire, I don’t plan on roughing it. We’d also need to hire tutors for the children because our traveling might interfere with the school year.

3. Job Growth! 
We’d hire tutors, as already mentioned, but we’d also need a cook and a cleaning staff. And knowing my children, we’d need to hire a dog walker. My husband, the marathon runner, wants to hire a personal trainer.  Good for him!

4. Give to Family! 
Sure, we’d give to family. Maybe not to everyone on our Christmas card list but at least to those who know I don’t have an “E” in my name.
5. The Cliché Millionaire To-Do List. 
We’d pay off our debts. We’d give to charity. We’d go on a shopping spree. We’d have at least 1 awesome week end in Vegas. We’d tell off a few people (kidding!).

6. Make Big Purchase! 
I read that large numbers of lotto winners buy car dealerships. (I’ve no idea where I read or heard this.) That would not be my family. Buying a car is a painful, depressing experience. My mom always said she’d buy a golf course. I don’t golf. So if I was going to make a big purchase/investment, I’d be the proud owner of a winery or a bookstore or a publishing house. With $600 million, I guess I could have all three.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BATLLE OF THE BOOKS - A Summer Reading List

I love Battle of the Books. Kids read a group of books and then they have a contest where they answer (tough!) trivia questions about those books. The answer is always THE TITLE and THE AUTHOR. The questions are hard. For example… In what book does a character use a payphone behind a Stop-and-Shop to call for help? The characters are not mentioned and the details can be precise and obscure.

North Carolina has published their list of books for the 2013-2014 school year.
The following is basically an unrequired summer reading list for middle schoolers. I’m starting with Wonder. My daughter and husband have already read it and give it high praise. And I’m looking forward to reading To Kill A Mockingbird again. It’s been awhile.

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
Iron Thunder: The Battle Between The Monitor and the Merrimac by Avi
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Island of the Unknowns: A Mystery by Benedict Carey
That Summer by Sarah Dessen
Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
Forged by Fire by Sharon M. Draper
Under a War-Torn Sky by Laura Elliott
The Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang
Heaven by Angela Johnson
Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata
Schooled by Gordon Korman
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Legend by Marie Lu
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Ghosts in the Fog by Samantha Seiple
Bomb: the Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Crow by Barbara Wright

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Free, Free, Free

Free - Click Here!

Happy Mother's Day! I'm thrilled to offer my latest novel for free. Tell your friends. Tell your mom!

THROWN is available on Amazon Kindle for free, but only on Mother's Day.

Two women, both mothers.
One will do anything to get justice for her daughter.
One will do anything to protect her family.

If you like the book, please write a review on Amazon. Thanks!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Best & Worst Literary Moms

Happy (Almost) Mother's Day!

I thought I would take a look at the best (sometimes in the worst way) mothers from literature (and their accompanying films and TV shows).

Sure, she puts her work first and isn't really around for darling Cosette. But she does sell her hair, her teeth, and eventually her entire body. Now that's love.

EVIL MOM WHO'D KILL FOR HER CHILDREN AWARD: Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones)
Tyrion says it best. Cersei's sole redeeming features are her cheekbones and her love for her children.

BEST GoT MOM: Daenerys Stormborn
Mother of dragons! I'm thinking that raising dragons is easier than raising human children.

UNDER APPRECIATED MOM AWARD: Lori Grimes (The Walking Dead)
Poor Lori, she never gets any love. Considering the situation (zombies, a presumed dead husband, an ungrateful brat of a son) I think she's held it together pretty well. RIP.

Honestly, Mama Llama makes the rest of us moms look like evil toads. She's patient and kind and understanding. Does she threaten Llama Llama with a time-out or spanking in the middle of Walmart (I just like to assume they are shopping at Walmart)? No, she turns their outing into a game. Most unrealistic mom on my list, even for a Llama.

Another story of ultimate sacrifice. I remember being heartbroken by the sound of that gun shot when I was a child. I recently watched the movie with my own children. They didn't even shed a tear. (But they did cry when Simba's DAD died and when Marley the dog died.) There's a good moral for the children here. If you don't listen to your mother, she may be shot by hunters.

PIE-BAKING, SOCK-MENDING, BUTTER-CHURNING MOM AWARD:  "Ma" Caroline Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)
Ma might be the best of the best. Sure, she struggled to give Pa the son he always wanted, but now we all know (thanks to reproductive science) that was his fault. Ma was smart, hardworking, well groomed (for prairie living), and always had the solution.

Maybe the worst of the worst. Helene's daughter is kidnapped and she begs for her safe return, even though she is unable to provide a stable home for her child. Helene should not be charged with the care of an earth worm, yet she has custody of her daughter. (Great book. Great movie. Be prepared to get upset.)

MOST REALISTIC MOM: Susan Heffley (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
She's full of good intentions--exercise, reading, nice friends. Too bad her family is constantly getting in the way. I can relate.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tips for Husbands Regarding Mother’s Day

Note: This post is specifically intended for husbands who have young children (under the age of 21) and are married to the mother of these children. If you are a husband and you don’t have children, you can still give your wife presents and cards (Hallmark is happy to oblige) on Mother’s Day. Yes, I think it’s a little weird, if you’re wife isn’t at least pregnant, to give her a Mom gift. But I think a lot of things are weird—like the current mustache trend. I just don’t get it. If you are a husband with adult children, send them a text and remind them that Sunday, May 12th is Mother’s Day and be willing to lend them the credit card.  

1.  Mother’s Day is the One True Holiday
Sure, moms get to celebrate Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Pi Day. But all those holidays require work (sometimes lots of work and lots of money). Except Pi Day, but that’s not much of a celebration, either. On Mother’s Day, women with offspring should not have to lift a finger. Especially if the woman in question has a wee child. Mom is not allowed to cook, bathe, diaper, wipe, polish, scrub, pick up, fold, carry, list, answer, toil, trim, or do anything unsavory.

2.  About Your Own Mom
It’s wonderful that you’ve thought of your own mother. That makes you a good son. (And if you’ve thought of your grandmother or MIL, you get bonus points.) But before you order flowers online for mum, check with your wife. Chances are that your wife has already bought the gift and the card, and all she needs is your signature. If your wife has not yet had a chance to tend to these Mother’s Day needs, then yes, you must take of your mom too.

3.  Does Mom Really Want Breakfast in Bed?

I can’t speak for every mom, but I think I speak for 99% of us when I say NO. This is what you and the children are imagining…
But in reality the breakfast usually consists of soggy cereal, cold toast, yesterday’s coffee, and some questionable fruit. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I tell you Mom would rather just sleep in. If Mom can wake up leisurely when she’s ready and find the rest of the family fed (including the pets) and dressed, then I think you’ll have a happy Mom.

4.  Cards
Store bought cards are fine. Store bought cards that say “To a Wonder Aunt,” not fine. You should read the card—inside and out—before purchasing. And the children should sign or scribble in the card if possible. Homemade cards are fine, too. Probably even better, unless the child made the card on the back of a placement on his way home from dinner. Put in some time. Use handprints. Spell “mother” correctly. Extra points for the little details.

5.  Gifts

Your safest bet is to ask. Or have the children ask. Every Mom is different. Some may like a new weed eater or vacuum. Some Mommies are into jewelry or knickknacks. (Why anyone would want something that requires dusting is beyond me.) If your wife says she wants nothing, this is a lie (or worse, a trap). At the very least, you need flowers. Preferably from a florist. Second choice, a grocery store. Last option, the corner gas station.

6.   Food and Meals
If you want to cook, knock yourself out. But you need to do it from start to finish. (FYI: Finish is unloading the dishwasher.) Another common option is the Mother’s Day brunch. They’re everywhere—even more populous than Redbox machines and flu shot clinics combined. Still, reservations are highly recommended. (No joke, as I’m writing my e-mail just dinged. Opentable sent me an e-mail reminding me to make my Mother’s Day reservation.)

7.   And Above All Else
No arguing. (Mom is ALWAYS right, but especially on Mother's Day.)
Kind words of thanks are appreciated.
Kisses and hugs from all are the best.

Full Disclosure: My hubby and kids have Mother’s Day mastered. And yes, it is the best day of my year.